• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Woodford schools deemed 'distinguished' in assessment

Four of the six public schools in Woodford County were classified as distinguished, according to results from the 2015-16 statewide assessment released on Sept. 29. "Overall, I think it was a big step in the right direction," said schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins. Huntertown Elementary was identified as a "School of Distinction" after raising its overall accountability score from 75.2 in 2014-15 to 80 in 2015-16. The percentage of Huntertown students scoring at proficient or distinguished levels in the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-Prep) assessment included 72.7 percent in social studies (higher than the state average of 57.7) and 71.4 percent in writing (higher than the state's 41). The percentage of Huntertown students scoring proficient or distinguished in reading (69.6), math (66.5) and language mechanics (63.9) also factored into the school's overall score. Hawkins lauded Huntertown's experienced faculty as the catalyst for being a "School of Distinction" for a second consecutive year. "They've got some really, really good teachers there. And once they understood . that they could be a School of Distinction - now it's like they've just taken off with it," said Hawkins. He cited Huntertown's steady improvement since being classified as a "Needs Improvement School" several years ago as a wakeup call: "That's not who we are." "And you can see steady growth and steady improvement every year since then," said Hawkins. "And I think that's a tribute to that staff and to the administration there." Southside Elementary was identified as a "High Performing School" and classified as distinguished/progressing after raising its overall score from 71.7 to 74.5. The percentage of Southside students scoring at proficient or distinguished levels in reading (60.5), math (64.8), social studies (63.6), writing (59.1) and language mechanics (62.5) were all higher than state averages. Hawkins described last school year as a transitional year for Southside, with its influx of new students after redistricting. "You're trying to learn those kids. You want to get to know those kids," he explained. "And I think to be able to still be a distinguished school during that transitional year puts them in a great position moving forward." Southside was classified as a "School of Distinction" by the state for its last two years of assessment results. "They've been a high-performing school for a number of years," said Hawkins, "and I fully anticipate that that will continue to be the case." Woodford County High School and Woodford County Middle School - like Huntertown and Southside - were classified as distinguished schools. WCHS raised its overall score from 79.9 to 81.1. Only 5.4 percent of its students scored at a novice level in writing while 47.5 percent were proficient or distinguished. WCHS students scoring at the proficient and distinguished levels in language mechanics totaled 64.6 percent, while 12.3 percent scored at the novice level. "When you're already performing at a very high level," said Hawkins, "it's looking at the very small details. What adjustments can we make? "We've still got some work to do (with) the college/career readiness piece. We've still got some work to do in our gap (specific groups of students including minority students and those students receiving free and reduced lunches) . And if we can continue to make gains there we'll continue to move the ball forward - and that's the goal." He pointed out that WCHS remains the highest-performing high school in the area. In a year when scores for middle schools declined, WCMS was able to increase its overall score from 61.2 to 78.4. The percentage of WCMS students scoring at the proficient or distinguished levels far surpassed state averages in reading (63.7 WCMS/55.2 state), math (54.3/47), social studies (63.9/59.7), writing (62.4/44.4) and language mechanics (49/41.2). "The amount of progress that we saw at the middle school was just phenomenal," said Hawkins. He described the gains in all academic areas of K-Prep as "amazing." Hawkins cited the intentional focus of Principal Tracy Bruno, his administrative team and faculty as one of the reasons for the 17-point overall gain at WCMS. In addition to rewarding students for their good behavior in class, Hawkins said, students are given opportunities to "make sure they get it," with extra help from their teachers who "try to catch them before they get too far behind." "Tracy (Bruno) has set the tone with his expectations, with his passion, with his energy," said Hawkins. He said Bruno has already begun working with his faculty to determine "how can we get even better next year." Simmons Elementary was not classified as distinguished, but by raising its overall accountability score from 64 to 71, the school was proficient/progressing in the state assessment. The percentage of Simmons students performing at proficient or distinguished levels reached 57.8 in reading, 54.2 in math, 50.8 in social studies, 41 in writing and 62 in language mechanics. "They made some nice gains, moved up to the proficient category, met their targets," said Hawkins. He said first-year Principal Tiffany Cook and her faculty are already looking at their testing data so their students can continue making gains on the state assessment. "So I'm excited about them," added Hawkins, "and I'm excited about what they're going to do moving forward because I know Tiffany (Cook is) . very passionate about what she does. She's very passionate about making sure that kids have great opportunities. So I think you'll see great things out of Simmons moving forward, too." Northside Elementary was classified as a school that "Needs Improvement" after posting an overall score of 59.9 - a large decline from its 2014-15 score of 76.5. "We're a little bit disappointed with the results at Northside," said Hawkins, "but we've already met with that (school's) administrative team. We've got a plan in place, and we're going to provide the extra support needed and make sure that we get that turned around." The percentage of Northside students scoring at the proficient or distinguished levels in reading (51.5), math (53.3), social studies (38.2), writing (49.1) and language mechanics (56.8) were factored into their overall score. Its social studies score was below a state average of 57.7. "Our job is to go in now, and look at what their data says and what adjustments we need to make," said Hawkins. He noted that both WCMS and Simmons made significant gains on their assessment results when given extra support from Central Office administrators, who will provide input on what changes need to happen at Northside. As a whole, Woodford County Public Schools was again classified as being distinguished with a score of 76.7 - a significant increase from last year's 70.7. The district's overall score ranked 18th highest in Kentucky. "Now," said Hawkins, "it's how do we continue to get better each year?" The state's current accountability system for schools will be replaced next year, according to a Kentucky Department of Education news release. The Every Student Succeeds Act, which will give states more flexibility and control over the accountability process, was created as a result of Congressional action to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in December 2016, according to the KDE release. "This new law offers us an unprecedented opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of our past, and create a new assessment and accountability system that accurately and fairly measures student learning and allows educators to make good decisions for students," said Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt. No matter what changes are made, Hawkins said, Woodford County Public Schools will continue to focus on moving more students to proficient and distinguished, while also reducing the number of students at the novice level. "If we can do that and we focus-in on quality teaching every day then we'll be fine," Hawkins said.

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