This year’s testing scores for students and schools have been released, and parents of school-aged kids across the state may want to sit down for this one.
Numerous changes have taken place since last year’s scores were released, and these changes will likely result in numbers that appear significantly lower than expected.
However, before parents head out the door to give a piece of their mind to school administrators or plan a move to a different school district, they are encouraged to take a few moments to look at how these scores were derived, and what, exactly, they mean for each student and for the school district as a whole.
The first year of the state-wide “Unbridled Learning” program has upped the ante for students and teachers, requiring many concepts to be taught earlier and in greater depth. Additionally, achievement tests are no longer based on the minimum level of competency, but are instead going to challenge students more during testing than they may have been in years past.
As if that were not enough to reset the way we look at scores, a number of categories, such as growth, college/career readiness, gap, and graduation rate have been added into the mix, and in the case of elementary schools, may count even more toward the school’s final score than do the students’ actual test scores.
Add to all of this that the rating scale is now 0 - 100 instead of 0 - 140, as it has been in the past, and we are likely to come up with not only confused and potentially angry parents, but also school administrators who are scrambling for a better understanding of these foreign concepts and a way to explain them.
In looking over the scores for Grayson County’s schools and the district as a whole, Superintendent Barry Anderson said that, as always, “we have pockets of excellence and areas of concern.”
He expressed the district’s disappointment in some of the overall scores given, which look low compared to the middle-of-the-pack rankings he said our schools typically earn.
The district’s overall score was 53.3, giving them a 39 percentile ranking, and putting them very solidly in the ‘Needs Improvement’ category, which encompasses anything below the 70th percentile. 70th to 89th percentile schools are ‘Proficient,’ and rankings above the 90th percentile are titled ‘Distinguished.’
Anderson explained that the group’s goal now is to take these scores and “figure out what that means in the classroom.”
“I know we’re going to see changes next year,” he said.
The bulk of the blame for the lower-than-expected scores, according to District Assessment Coordinator Carla Purcell, goes to the ‘growth’ rankings, which are based on a statistical comparison of how much improvement is shown by children of different performance levels from year to year.
In the case of the county’s lowest-ranking school, H. W. Wilkey Elementary, which earned a 13th percentile ranking, Purcell said that it is mainly this low growth score that is being reflected, and not the children’s actual achievement test scores.
Purcell explained that the difference between testing scores at Wilkey and the highest-ranking district school, Clarkson Elementary, were practically nil. Each of the elementary schools within the district scored within a point of each other in the achievement category, she said.
However, while students at each school were testing at around the same level, Wilkey students were determined to have potentially shown less individual improvement over last year’s scores. Since the growth category counts for a whopping 40 percent of the school’s total score (achievement only counts for 30 percent), the school’s overall score took a big hit.
This year’s scores will most likely come as a big surprise to parents of Wilkey students, who saw that last year’s test scores for the school were “as high, if not higher” in comparison to other local elementary schools, according to Anderson.
Anderson also explained that “it’s a different assessment, and maybe what they did well on in the past didn’t translate.”
Whatever the cause for the less-than-desirable scoring, the big question now for school administrators is how to improve for next year.
“We’re just trying to be a little more aggressive from the district level to bring a part of the solution,” Anderson said.
Administrators were adamant about finding solutions and ways to improve scoring, but admitted that their plan for doing so is still under construction.
With testing scores having been released to the schools just this past Tuesday, Anderson said that they have “only skimmed the surface,” of the information handed down to them at this point, and they intend to “look more in depth, even down to each individual student.”
Anderson said that the most important thing that administrators and teachers can do is to focus on individual kids and build relationships.
“I believe it starts with relationships. You build a relationship with each kid, stretch your instruction to reach every kid in this room. Don’t teach to the middle,” Anderson said.
Secondary Instructional Supervisor Sheila Meredith added that parents can be a big component in improving scores as well by getting involved in their kids’ school.
“It takes a village to raise a kid,” Meredith said, “but it takes a village to educate one, too.”
Parents will be receiving their child/children’s individual test results within the next few weeks, but in the meantime, anyone interested is encouraged to visit www.education.ky.gov for district and school results or to learn more information about “Unbridled Learning: College and Career Readiness for All.”