TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

October 2, 2013

Corbin Middle School in the Winner’s Circle

School recognized for working conditions, student achievement


TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer

In March, state education officials wanted to hear from Kentucky’s public schools about what it’s like inside those schools’ buildings.

Fifty were selected as exemplary schools. From that, 10 were recognized for their teaching conditions, student achievement and school safety.

Corbin Middle School was one of those put in the Winner’s Circle.

They got the recognition Monday in Louisville, during the Kentucky Continuous Improvement Summit.

The summit was sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Education and AdvancED Kentucky — part of AdvancED, the world’s largest education community. It serves more than 30,000 public and private schools and districts in America, and in more than 70 nations.

For their work on being named in the Winner’s Circle, Corbin Middle received a certificate and a 4’x6’ banner at the summit.

“I think it’s an amazing accomplishment for our school to be recognized amongst all schools in the state. It’s also a direct correlation to our test scores and the hard work by our teachers,” Corbin Middle School Principal Jennifer Parsons said.

Ramona Davis, assistant superintendent for Corbin Independent Schools, added, “We had an excellent year last year. Historically, the middle school has always had high scores and last year was no exception. We think we’re second in the state among middle schools. They have a great staff there. They work well together, and that’s what the state found out. Our teachers are leaders, they’re collaborators, they’re part of the decision-making process.”

Davis, who served as principal at Corbin Middle before being named assistant superintendent in May 2012, made the trip to the Louisville conference with Parsons, along with Michelle Anderson, a math and social studies teacher at Corbin Middle, and Superintendent Ed McNeel.

Corbin Middle made the Winner’s Circle because of data from the TELL survey — the Teaching, Educating, Leading and Learning Kentucky Survey — that was given to all public school teachers and principals back in March.

“All teachers in the school participate in the survey. The survey data is used for continuous improvements within the school. Questions are asked about facilities and resources available, managing student conduct, opportunities for teacher leadership, instructional practices and support. We had 100 percent participation by teachers last year. So we felt the information gathered is valid,” said Parsons.

Davis agreed.

“This survey, the TELL Survey, is the voice of the teachers. The state had an 84 percent participation rate. Corbin Middle School had a 100 percent participation rate. The teachers at Corbin Middle School chose to lead, and they give their voice,” she said.

Finding the 10 who made the Winner’s Circle came from a four-phase process.

In what the state education department called Phase I, those schools reaching the minimum 50 percent survey response rate threshold were identified.

Phase II involved student test scores from the 2011-12 school year. A cut-off point was set to ensure that those successful schools continued to the next selection phase.

Corbin Middle’s overall score that school year was 67.7, with their percentile rank in Kentucky being a 94. The school also received a Distinguished Classification and was rewarded as a Highest Performing School by the state.

In the 2012-13 scores released last Friday, Corbin Middle was the highest performer in the district. This year, their overall score went up to 73.5, with a percentile rank of 98. The school was classified as Distinguished/Progressing, and Corbin Middle was rewarded by the state education department as a School of Distinction.

In Phase III, the schools were examined for details involving their TELL Kentucky results, along with other criteria such as school safety, using a rubric designed by TELL Kentucky Advisory Team and the New Teacher Center — a national non-profit group dedicated to improving student learning by accelerating teachers and school leaders’ effectiveness.

Those schools meeting all of the minimum criteria were put in Phase IV. From that, the Advisory Team reviewed the schools, and picked 50 exemplary schools from across Kentucky.

Corbin Middle, Whitley Central Intermediate School and the McDaniel Learning Center in Laurel County were the three schools in the Tri-County among those 50 picked as TELL Honorable Mention Schools.

Parsons remembered when the state told her that Corbin Middle was in the hunt.

“We found out about a month ago that we were among those schools the state would be visiting, to find out if we would be among the top 10 in the Winner’s Circle. They went into our school, they talked to teachers, and they wanted to know how we used our TELL survey results. The results allow your administrators to know if there are better ways we can improve any of the categories we used in the state’s criteria. The next day, we found out we were in the Winner’s Circle,” she said.

Monday in Louisville, Parsons, Davis, Anderson and McNeel presented information about Corbin Middle — and what the school’s strengths were — to other schools at the summit.

“Some of our strengths were our community support and involvement, how we manage student conduct, and opportunities for teachers to lead within our school,” Parsons added.

Said Davis, “They liked our teacher involvement, our teacher leadership, and they really liked how the conduct of the school was handled appropriately. That was a very high score for us. We had very little negative comments. Our lowest? Not enough bandwidth from the state level. That’s a good problem, because we’re using technology in instruction, and we’ll address that next year.”

Along with Corbin Middle, the other nine schools inside the Winner’s Circle are West Liberty Elementary School in Morgan County, Elkhorn Crossing School in Scott County, Conner Middle School in Boone County, the Boone County Area Technology Center, Carter Traditional Elementary School in Jefferson County, Cub Run Elementary School in Hart County, McLean Middle School in McLean County, Murray High School in the Murray Independent School District, and Cuba Elementary School in Graves County.

“It was an excellent conference. We learned a lot from other top-notch schools who were there,” reported Davis.