Pep rally kicks off new year at Whitley County High School

WHITLEY COUNTY — By using a new five-star accountability scoring system, Kentucky Department of Education officials revealed little overall improvement. However, there are several five-star schools named in area districts.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne D. Lewis said the release of accountability data is an opportunity to engage in data-informed dialogue with schools and school staff about the strengths and areas for growth for both schools and students.

The Kentucky Department of Education has been working with the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to align the new 5-star accountability system with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The system does not rely solely on students' proficiency on state standardized examinations. Instead, as recommended by the many stakeholders who have had a hand in designing the system during the past four years, the following diverse accountability indicators factor into a school's overall five-star rating: Reading and math proficiency at all levels, Proficiency in separate academic indicator (social studies, science and writing at elementary/middle school levels) (science and writing at high school level), students' academic growth/progress over one academic year at elementary and middle school levels, transition readiness (historically known as college and career readiness) at high school level and graduation rate at high school level.

For the 2018-2019 school year, 89 schools (by level) received one star, 251 received two stars, 643 received three stars, 233 received four stars and 56 received five stars.

Locally several schools received a five-star rating.

The Corbin Independent District overall is a four-star district with two schools named as five-star schools.

Corbin Middle School was rated a five-star school but was reduced to a four-star school due to a large achievement gap.

“Is there a gap there, yes,” said Corbin Independent Deputy Superintendent Cindy Davis. “Do we need to work on it? Absolutely and we’ll move forward with that,”

Corbin Intermediate was also rated a five-star school with no significant gap designation and a Proficient/Distinguished index of 92.1 in Math and Reading. This placed them in the top 10 of all elementary schools.

Deputy Superintendent Davis said one thing the district is really taking pride in is their significant increase in math scoreS across every grade.

“Cindy and others worked really hard,” said Superintendent Dave Cox. “They sat down and looked at test scores and got back to basics.”

The Corbin Independent School District also hired a Chief Academic Officer with a focus on curriculum and instruction.

“Right now with each school she has been leading professional development in standards so that we can now focus on reading, science and social studies,” said Davis.

Davis said they worked hard to be sure all teachers understood the standards and students were all learning the same things. Davis said it is still a work in progress and Cox added that many of the schools in the district have went through transitions and the district is now being very intentional with regaining their focus.

Corbin High School was ranked as a four-star high school with Corbin Elementary falling just short of a four-star by .6 of a point, landing as a three-star school.

Corbin improved Proficient/Distinguished percentages in 12 of 16 academic areas measured.

“We are now seeing our math scores run parallel with our reading scores,” Davis said.

Based on the five indicators used for reaching a total school/district index (Proficiency, Growth, Separate Academic Indicator, Transition Readiness, and Graduation Rate), all schools made improvement in Proficiency and Growth.

Corbin High School made improvements in Transition Readiness and Graduation Rate. Of all 10 indicators measured, Corbin improved in 9 of 10. Corbin Independent Schools received a categorical rating of very high or high in 9 of the 10 indicators as well.

“From the time we got test scores last year, we were very focused on teacher professional development and getting back to the basics of assessment,” said Cox who is very pleased with the district’s scores.

The Whitley County School District also had a school receive a five-star rating with Whitley East Elementary.

All other elementary schools in the district performed well. Receiving a four-star rating were: Boston Elementary, Oak Grove Elementary, Pleasant View Elementary, Whitley Central Intermediate, Whitley Central Primary and Whitley North Elementary. Furthermore, Whitley County Middle School also received a four-star ranking and Whitley County High School received a three-star ranking.

Whitley County schools had no reduction in their star ratings due to significant gaps.

“We know we have devoted teachers in Whitley County that are always working hard to ensure that our students succeed. Their work ethic and initiative for high achievement are instrumental in the accomplishments of our district. We are proud of the hard work of our students and their continuing motivation,” said Deputy Superintendent Paula Rickett.

Superintendent John Siler agreed.

“We are pleased that the results indicate that we have decreased the number of students scoring novice. Our district is continually analyzing data, identifying areas of improvement, and then ascertaining the next phases that are needed to continue to provide high quality education that meets the needs of our students,” said Siler. “The extraordinary level of commitment by our students, faculty, and staff is evident by the results of this past year’s assessment data. These outcomes could not have been achieved without the collaboration of teachers, administrative staff, and community stakeholders.”

Siler said the district has something for everyone.

“We offer a wide variety of supplemental programs, for example: after school tutoring and enrichment through our 21st CCLC programs, reading intervention provided by our Save the Children and various early childhood literacy grants, and GEAR UP services are just a few of the many initiatives we offer,” he added. “The implementation of these programs, in conjunction with the dedication and diligence from our faculty and staff, administration, and students are what made this success possible.”

All schools in the Williamsburg School District received a three-star rating.

The overall result is that all schools and the district earned three stars as part of Kentucky’s new accountability system.

"Schools in our district received results in 13 categories and we are very pleased to report that Williamsburg's scores improved in all 13 categories from Spring 2018," said Loren Connell, Director of Instruction.

Williamsburg Elementary, Middle, and High are all improved from previous results.

"We are very pleased with this growth as everyone in our district worked exceptionally hard during the 2018-19 school year and our efforts have paid off," said Connell in a press release.

Williamsburg Superintendent Tim Melton said the school is continuing to progress and they want to get better.

"As for the star rating, we are happy where we landed in that," said Melton. "With the feedback from the state we will continue to build on the the areas where we are excelling and focus on the areas that we need some work."

Lewis offered sincere congratulations to the first five-star rated schools.

“Being rated at the pinnacle of Kentucky’s school accountability system is no small feat, and comes only as a result of strategic leadership, hard work, and partnership,” said Lewis.

Lewis also added in a press release that the accountability system and the School Report Card are both about increased transparency and communication with parents and stakeholders, and driving school improvement.

“My hope is that families, districts, schools and community stakeholders use the information on the School Report Card as a starting point for honest and productive conversations about a school’s many areas of strength, areas for growth and plans for working collaboratively to ensure each and every student is well-prepared for his or her future,” added Lewis.

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