The latest testing data released by the Kentucky Department of Education was discussed at a special called meeting of the Harlan Independent Board of Education on Thursday. Director of District Services for Curriculum and Instruction, Jennifer Parsons shared the school and district results with board members.
Highlighting the results was Harlan High School, which was rated as a distinguished school continuing a trend of distinguished ratings over the last several years. Each year schools are classified determined largely by the percentile in which a school scores based on all Kentucky schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels. School classifications have three categories: distinguished (90th percent to 99th percent), proficient (70th percent to 89th percent) and need improvement (below 70th percent).
“The data we are sharing with you paints just part of the picture,” said Parsons. “The classifications, percentiles and overall scores are broad stroke labels for schools and districts. The real work begins when you drill down to determine what those scores mean to individual students. We never want to lose sight of trying to reach every kid that walks through our doors.”
Harlan High School had several areas of distinction as noted by Parsons, highlighted by 88.6 percent of all students scoring proficient or distinguished in U.S. history end-of-course exam and 75 percent on the English II exam. U.S. history has experienced some of the highest scores in the state among all high schools for the last three years. Additionally, in the area of language mechanics Harlan High School only had six students score novice at the high school level.
End-of-course exams factor into the overall score accountability and data shows that Harlan High School had only 3.6 percent score novice in biology, 8.8 percent novice in algebra II and 5.7 percent novice in U.S. history.
“Single digit novice scores are great. We ultimately want to eliminate all novice scores, but this is a clear sign that our high school students are performing at a high level,” Parsons said.
Another area highlighted was college and career readiness scores, which is an area Harlan High School out performs the state with an overall score of 70.7, while the state score is 66.8. College and career readiness reflects how many students are ready for college and/or career based on meeting ACT benchmarks and/or earning industry standard certificates. Parsons said nearly all points earned were from students meeting ACT benchmarks.
While the middle school classification fell from distinguished to proficient this year, it did not come as a surprise to school leaders who had been reviewing preliminary individual student testing data since August.
“We were afraid this might be the case, based on what we had reviewed and based on some of the internal assessment we had given last year,” Parsons said. “We have already been reviewing this data with teachers and working on a variety of strategies to help make improvements. Everyone loves being distinguished so work has begun to get back to that classification.”
Harlan Middle School continues to post strong scores in social studies with zero students scoring novice at the eighth-grade and more than 80 percent scoring proficient or distinguished combined at fifth- and eighth-grades. Eighth-grade social studies scores have had the top possible score of 100 for three years in a row, Parsons said.
Scores from students in grades three and four showed a slight gain, but not enough to help move Harlan elementary from the “needs improvement” classification. While they are progressing, that progress must move at a faster rate, according to Parsons.
“As you can tell the accountability system is very complex and takes into consideration multiple ways of accumulating points,” said Parsons. “Of particular concern is the area of gap students and how well they are progressing. Gap students are identified as groups of students that include ethnicity/race, special education, gender groups and poverty. Addressing the needs of students from these groups and poverty will be key moving forward.”
Noting that the district ranked in the 88th percentile of all Kentucky school districts, which resulted in a proficient rating, missing a distinguished rating by only two points, superintendent C.D. Morton said, “We look at this as a process and recognize there is no magic bullet to the educational journey. Every teacher, parent and family in this county wants a quality education for the children we serve. It is a challenge, but I can think of no work more important to the future than getting this right. So, we will continue to look at this data and try to support our students and teachers in this process.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or on Twitter @Nola_hde