Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 8, 2013

Area schools showing signs of improvement

Mike James
The Independent

FRANKFORT — Three area schools listed as being among the lowest performing in the state have made acceptable progress toward improving their curriculum, teaching and test scores, according to a report the Kentucky Board of Education discussed this week.

Greenup County, Lawrence County, and East Carter high schools are on the list of priority schools, previously called persistently low achieving schools, which the state is requiring to make dramatic changes to improve.

The schools also receive state grants to hire educational recovery specialists who oversee improvement efforts.

The report showed that East Carter and Greenup County showed growth for 50 percent or more of students, that East Carter had double-digit gains in college and career readiness, and that Greenup County’s college and career readiness trend increased steadily.

It indicated that all three schools showed gains in their ACT scores in various areas and that Greenup County was above the state average in mathematics. All three schools had graduation rates above the 60 percent mark and all three showed gains in graduation rates. Greenup’s and East Carter’s graduation rates were above the state average.

Greenup County and East Carter had proficiency levels of 50 percent or better. East Carter is considered a proficient school. All three are above the state level in proficiency.

All three also are above the state fifth percentile, which was the benchmark under which they were labeled as low achieving.

All three have shown improvement in closing subgroup gaps, which are gaps in achieving between students as a whole and groups such as disabled children or children who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

However, none of the three performed at or above the state percentage for growth, and Lawrence County’s college and career readiness gain was sluggish, in single digits since it was placed in the low-achieving group.

Greenup County and Lawrence County remain in the category of needing improvement.

Improvement at East Carter comes from staff cooperation with the improvement plan, principal Larry Kiser said. “The faculty and staff embraced the plan. That’s part of our success,” he said.

Educational recovery experts launched new programs and interventions and teachers welcomed them, he said.

Among initiatives are web-based math programs and longer periods for interventions, he said.

“Students are catching the fever now. Our seniors this year know last year’s college and career readiness and they are striving to beat that this year. It’s like a friendly competition,” Kiser said.

Greenup County’s improvement has been dramatic and encouraging, from the 5th percentile level when the process started to 42nd this year, said assessment director Diana Whitt. “We are close to proficiency now, and our goal this year is to exceed proficiency,” she said.

Some of the improvement is due to the success of Greenup County’s innovative math program under the direction of Eastern Kentucky University professor Robert Thomas, who visits the district regularly to work with teachers, she said.

Lawrence County is now focusing on its gap scores, Superintendent Mike Armstrong said. The school has developed a “hot list” of students who need math and reading intervention. “We use the data to identify the students who need extra attention,” and offer them content-specific intervention, he said.

The schools will write sustainability plans for the next three years, including goals and steps to be taken the next year, and will review their ability to sustain improvement after the educational recovery staffers leave.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.