Last updated: October 25. 2013 11:56PM - 595 Views
Mark Bell Contributing Writer

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Under Kentucky’s measurement system, Harlan County Schools made substantial gains in student performance for 2013 when compared to the prior year.

According to Superintendent Mike Howard, the state’s accountability measures are “designed not just to improve test scores, but to improve the entire educational experience of our students.”

During a presentation to the board of education during a recent meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Brent Roark provided members with highlights from the school and district report cards recently released by the state.

As a district, Harlan County has moved from the 14th percentile in Kentucky up to the 41st and the schools collectively met 13 of 18 goals among their “annual measurable objectives” as defined by the state’s “Unbridled Learning Accountability Model.”

In Kentucky’s measure of “proficiency,” which is a combination of math and reading scores, the district as a whole exceeded their goal and surpassed the state average at the high school level, improved but did not meet their goal at the middle school level, and declined at the elementary level.

Since the model defines schools as elementary, middle and high, each elementary school building in the district is viewed as two separate schools, Roark told the board.

“The high school is heading in the right direction,” he said. “The middle schools are headed in the right direction. We just have to get our elementary schools under control. We have analyzed the data and identified our problems. We have met with the elementary schools, discussed the needs and let them know what is expected.”

Under the state’s model, Harlan County had eight schools classified as “progressing,” three schools classified as “proficient,” and one school classified as “distinguished.”

The district had six schools included in the rewards category as “high progressing schools’ and one school, Rosspoint Middle, was named a “school of distinction,” scoring in the 97th percentile among all schools in Kentucky.

Roark noted Rosspoint’s excellent performance had been reported in a recent Lexington Herald-Leader article on the state report card, ranking the school as 7th and above magnet schools and private schools where often per-pupil spending is ten times the local level.

Rosspoint Principal Bryan Howard credited the achievement to “a good staff who cares about what their students achieve in life.”

The two facilities that struggled last year and were named as “focus” schools “showed significant improvement in their percentile ranks” and met their goals for 2013, Roark told the board.

Cawood Elementary showed the greatest gain, jumping from the 11th percentile to the 75th. Cawood Middle increased from the 25th percentile to the 48th. Cumberland Middle jumped from 22nd to 65th. Evarts Elementary improved from 18th to 69th. Wallins Middle improved from 40th to 78th, and the high school moved from the 18th up to the 41st percentile.

One of the measures holding the high school back is the inclusion of the graduation rate which still penalizes districts with declining enrollments. While Harlan County has not lost students over the past two years, the losses from the prior years are still included in the base calculation of the graduation rate, which is built on the number of freshman who eventually graduate from that school.

Harlan County High School’s “cohort” graduation rate is 85.5 percent, which is just slightly below the state’s average of 86.1.

“The only reason we missed our graduate rate goal was due to the use of the flawed model in the calculation,” Roark said.

GAP scores, which are an indication of how well schools serve their at-risk students, indicated that Harlan County was at or above the state average in 10 of 18 subject areas, Roark reported.

One area of pride for the district is that math scores at the high school were at 65.3, which exceeds the state average of 55.6, he noted.

“The math score at the high school makes our district the 25th highest scoring district in high school math in the state,” Roark said. “Last year, when we brought the math results to the attention of the teachers, they took it personally. They jumped all over it, and the results are tremendous.”

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