FRANKFORT — Harlan County Schools Superintendent Mike Howard said he was pleased to learn the district is one of 111 statewide that delivered on a pledge more than five years ago to improve the college- and career-readiness of its high school graduates by 2015.
“The fact that we are made this list is a testament to a lot of folks in our district and high school,” said Howard. “A very strong, concentrated effort was put forth by our personnel to help the students attain the standards for college readiness distinction. We have a few members of our staff assigned to spearhead this task. Everyone went well above and beyond to make it happen. The proof is in the results. It is a great day for everyone involved when you receive word you met or exceeded your goal in these days of high stakes testing and state and federal mandates.”
All of the state’s 169 P-12 superintendents and local board chairs signed the pledge – known as the Commonwealth Commitment to College and Career Readiness – in 2011. (In Kentucky, five public school districts do not have high schools). Each of the districts had a unique goal based on increasing its 2010 college- and career-readiness rate by 50 percent by 2015.
Harlan County had a goal for at least 60 percent of the school’s students to graduate college- and career-ready in 2015. In reality, 69.5 percent graduated ready as measured by the Unbridled Learning Accountability model.
Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt recognized the Harlan County School District at the Kentucky School Boards Association conference in Louisville on Feb. 27.
“As a result of the commitment being met, at least 15,000 more students statewide graduated in 2015 than did in 2010 ready for postsecondary opportunities,” he said. “This is tremendous, and puts the Commonwealth on the right track as we look to build on the accomplishments of the past 25 years and provide each and every child with a world-class education that will lead them to success in their postsecondary endeavors, in the job market and life.”
In 2010, only 34 percent of Kentucky’s high school students were considered ready for college and careers. That rate jumped to 66.8 percent in 2015, based on Unbridled Learning accountability results released last fall.
Districts across the state used many different strategies to help their students become college- and career-ready. In Harlan County, district and school administrators, teachers and the board of education implemented a variety of measures designed to boost the number of students graduating and meeting the set goal.
For example, in Harlan County intervention classes were scheduled for all students who did not meet the ACT benchmarks in their junior year. Highly motivated teachers were assigned to work with students in these classes.
Harlan County Assistant Superintendent Brent Roark said “That is one of the best things we did. The teachers do a tremendous job and really enjoy what they are doing to help these students meet the goals.”
Also in Harlan County, a teacher was assigned to oversee and organize efforts to boost success on the college ready assessments, COMPASS and KYOTE.
Roark said he was pleased to learn of the success and was quick to commend all the staff working on college and career readiness for their commitment and dedication to making the results successful for the students and the school.
A collaborative effort between the Career and Technical Education Department at HCHS and the college readiness team helped to advance the scores as well, added Roark.
“We are very, very pleased,” he said.
The Commonwealth Commitment was tied to the passage of Senate Bill 1 (2009), which required that P-12 and postsecondary education leaders produce a plan to reduce the number of high school graduates needing remediation when they enter college by 50 percent – effectively saving students from paying tuition for remedial courses for which they do not earn college credit and increasing the likelihood they will persist in college and graduate with a degree.