• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Reading scores up, math down in state, assessment

Woodford County Public Schools had mixed results in state assessment results released Wednesday morning. Reading scores climbed, while math scores for elementary students were lower than school leaders anticipated.

The improvements in reading were made after the district’s “very intentional focus” on reading and literacy over the past three years, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said. He pointed out that the district did extremely well in increasing the percentage of students performing at the proficient and distinguished levels while reducing the number performing at the novice level.

“That is a real positive takeaway that highlights the work our teachers have done in the area of reading,” said Hawkins.

As a whole, the district’s four elementary schools reduced the percentage of students scoring at the novice level in reading from 17 to 13.9 percent when comparing this year to last year. The reduction in novice was even greater for students in gap groups (26.2 to 19.5), according to results released to the Sun.

Similar improvements were reported at Woodford County Middle School, where the percentage of students performing at the novice level was reduced from 16.5 percent in 2017 to 12.1 percent this year. The percentage of students performing at the proficient and distinguished levels rose from 64.5 to 69 percent.

“If you look at our data,” said Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm, “we’ve significantly improved reading – especially with our traditionally underachieving (gap) populations.”

Reducing the percentage of students scoring at the novice level was a district focus because students will not be able to succeed in other content areas if they are not proficient readers, he explained.

Because the district had lower-than-anticipated scores in math in its elementary schools, Hawkins said that’s an area the district will monitor to ensure more students score at proficient and distinguished levels, which declined from 60.4 percent to 57.1.

Because of the different math resources used last school year, Brehm said a dip in scores was not totally unanticipated. “We now expect to grow off of that,” he said. “But to make sure that happens, we’re going to monitor more closely this year. And if we see that’s not taking place then we need to go back… and readjust.”

In predicting an up-tick in the second year of changes to the sequencing of how math is being taught, Hawkins said, “Our teachers are going be much more familiar… with the resources that they are utilizing to help teach those concepts.”

WCMS saw math improvement in terms of raising its percentage of students scoring proficient and distinguished (from 59.4 to 641.) and reducing its number of novice (from 10 to 6.4).

Social studies was another area where the percentage of students scoring at the proficient and distinguished levels declined at the elementary schools (from 70.9 to 57.4), and also at WCMS (from 69 to 66.4). Those numbers have historically been less consistent than other subject areas from year to year, according to Hawkins. He said the district will be more intentional so students are better prepared in all content areas of social studies.

WCMS did reduced its percentage of students scoring at the novice level in social studies from 9.3 to 5.3.

Because of changes in how high school scores are calculated, Hawkins said the district was unable to compare much of this year’s results with last year’s. Woodford County High School did report a four-year graduation rate of 97.2 percent and a transition readiness score of 80.4, which district Director of Student Achievement Martha Jones said ranked 24th in the state.

“We’ve continued to improve in that transition readiness,” said Hawkins. He said the numbers illustrate the district’s ongoing efforts to prepare students for what they want to do after high school.

“And I think we have made very steady progress in terms of expanding those opportunities and doing more in those areas than we ever have,” he added.

Overall, Hawkins described the state’s new accountability system as extremely confusing. He cited math and reading as two areas where trends and comparisons are valid. Other year-to-year comparisons are problematic because of how the state’s new accountability system calculates performance, Brehm said.

“We did amazing things that aren’t going to come out in this testing last year,” Brehm said. He cited improvements in school culture so students have a safe place to learn as a positive change happening in the district’s school that cannot be directly measured by a test score.

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