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Editor’s Note: First of a two-part commentary. Read part two, including plans for the upcoming school year, here.
It is already the beginning of a new school year, and that makes it a good time to look back on some of the successes of the past year, as well as note some of our challenges and plans for the coming year.
I hope this article finds your summer happy and productive. All the data is not yet complete – especially state assessment results, which we do not expect until October – but the summer break is a good time to look back at our system’s accomplishments from the past school year and the challenges that lie ahead. We need to celebrate our accomplishments and understand that we truly fail only if we cease trying to become better.
*Ninety-five percent attendance of the 12,914 students enrolled on an average day makes the past year’s attendance the best Bullitt County has ever recorded.
If students are not in school, they are not learning what they need to learn, so this is a great accomplishment on the part of our entire school community.
*The percentage of our 3rd grade students who can read on grade level rose from 80.0 percent in the spring of 2011 to 86.7 percent in spring of 2012.
All studies show that one of the most important indicators of future academic success is that a child reads in the average range or better by the end of the 3rd grade.
For the 144 students out of the 1,087 in third grade last year that are not reading on-level, plans are in place to work more intensively to overcome this barrier to their learning.
*Our Career Readiness Center (CRC) enjoyed a successful first year. As many of you know, we started the CRC to provide options for incoming freshmen who wished to pursue technical certificates at the vocational school for half of the day while earning high school credit on-line and learning business success skills the other half day.
This program will continue and expand in the coming year so students do not have to wait until 11th grade to begin learning technical career skills.
Our Board has allocated funding to help the state operated vocational school add programs and increase the offerings for our students, probably in the area of information technology and culinary arts, starting next January.
Bullitt County has become a state and even national leader in the area of career readiness through our requirement for college or career readiness and a career seminar into our graduation requirements.
Setting the bar high for graduation and making our diploma mean something brings risks, but our Board is committed to ensuring that a student holding a BCPS diploma has demonstrated readiness to be successful in a career or in college.
*Our middle schools have embraced the Individual Learning Plan process and are working with students starting in the 6th grade to help them begin to chart a path to college or career readiness. Schools have carved out time from their schedule to make room for this very much needed focus.
Starting early provides goals and motivation through exploration of various career fields. This is important for the success of our students well beyond high school.
At the high school level, preliminary results indicate that our ACT (the key component of college readiness) results have again improved.
While our overall average score is a half-point below the state average, our students’ point gain doubled that of the state as a whole, meaning we are closing the gap. This is the second year this has happened and I feel confident in our high school faculties’ ability to overtake the state in the next year or two.
*The new district facility plan was approved and the planning for construction and renovation at all three high schools is in progress and should begin by late fall.
Plans include a Flexible Learning Center at each high school. The purpose of the Flexible Learning Centers is three-fold.
First, it will increase the capacity of each high school by approximately 300 students. This will address capacity issues just as much as new high school without the enormous cost of constructing another full high school campus, which the district cannot afford and does not need.
Secondly, the centers will be an additional site for our partnership with the Bullitt Campus of the Jefferson Community & Technical College. They will be able to use our buildings (with a separate entrance) to conduct classes in the evenings and on weekends for adults as well as high school students. This kind of partnership between a school district and a college is unique and seems to be a very efficient use of taxpayer resources.
Finally, each building will include an large space that can be used for student assemblies, musical and theatrical productions, and as an auxiliary gymnasium.
The addition of multiple sports over the years, such as volleyball, wrestling, and archery have made it very difficult to schedule the current gyms and has led to some practices being held well into the night. These spaces will be welcome additions for our high schools.
In addition to the Flexible Learning Centers, Bullitt Central will get a new library, the conversion of their existing library into computer labs, a modern kitchen and cafeteria, and a renovation of classroom spaces.