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Distinguished! Ballard County Schools ranked in top 6 percent of districts in state testing

Scores from the third year of statewide testing under the new system, Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) are in, and the Ballard County School district again has shown overall improvement, including its first distinguished ranking for the district. This year’s results are from tests that students took in May 2013.

The district earned this important “first” based on large gains in accountability scores from Ballard County Elementary School, a first-ever distinguished ranking and top 6 percent statewide for Ballard County Middle School, and a second year of distinguished performance and top 5 percent statewide from Ballard Memorial High School, said Superintendent Casey Allen.

“For the last two years, Ballard County garnered the status of Proficient; this year, with the high performance of all three buildings, we move into the Distinguished category for the first time,” Allen said. “I can’t begin to say how proud I am of the successes in our district. It is only through the hard work and commitment of the dedicated staff of each school and our district, the students in the classroom, and the parents and community that support us every day that we can make such significant gains.”

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, the district’s overall score of 73.4 put it in the 94th percentile, making it in the top 6 percent of the state’s 174 school districts. Last year’s district score was 67.6.

Public school students in grades 3-8 take K-PREP tests in reading, mathematics, science, social studies, writing and language mechanics. High school students take K-PREP tests in reading, math, science, social studies, writing and language mechanics, plus end-of-course assessments in English II, Algebra II, Biology and U.S. History. Their performance is categorized as novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished.

The K-PREP ranks every school and district in the state using a combination of five major categories: achievement (student performance on tests); gap (comparing student group performance among traditionally underperforming groups such as minorities, special education, poverty); growth (comparing individual student scores to those of academic peers); college/career readiness (middle and high schools only, for students who have met standard readiness indicators); and graduation rate (high schools only, for percentage of on-time graduates). The applicable portions from each school are combined to determine the overall score of a school district.

BCES showed the largest gain, moving from last year’s adjusted overall score of 60.1 to 69.4 this year. The score places them in the 70th percentile, according to the Kentucky Department of Education, nearly a 40 percentile gain from last year’s 31st percentile rank. The school is now designated as Proficient/Progressing, meaning that the school met annual measurable objectives (AMO) and participation goals. This is not BCES’ first time as a Proficient school, but the first under the new Unbridled Learning accountability system.

“BCES refocused its efforts under the new leadership of Principal Vicki Gough, and brought the school from the bottom 31st percentile of Kentucky elementaries to an amazing top 30th percentile in just one year,” Allen said. “That means BCES faculty, staff, students, and parents worked together to raise their school from the bottom third of schools to the top third. BCES is living up to its new vision of getting everyone ‘Ready for the Next Level’.”

All accountability markers were well above last year: achievement, 75.5 (last year 68.8), gap 49.0 (41.6) and growth, 57.2 (52.5). In the achievement subgroups, the percentage of BCES students scoring Proficient and Distinguished was above state averages in reading (BCES 58.6/state 54.7), math (52.6/49.2), science (74.7/71.3), social studies (64.1/58.2) and language mechanics (65.3/51.8). The school was below state averages in only in writing (25.7/38.7).

The percentage of students scoring Proficient and Distinguished in the gap subgroup also was above average in reading (BCES 49.6/state 45.1), math (40.4/39.1), science (68.6/62.9), social studies (54.9/47.7) and especially in language mechanics (62.7/42.2). Only writing was below state average, at 23.5 percent versus 29.7 percent.

In the growth subgroup, BCES fell short of state averages in reading (BCES 56.3, state 59.6), math (57.9/59.9) and a combination of the two subjects (57.2/59.8).

BCES Principal Vicki Gough said the school had seen large increases in the 2013-14 school year in parent participation in school-sponsored events, number of parents voting for Site Based Decision Making council elections, and an increase in student attendance. She said points of emphasis for the 2014-15 year would improve those growth numbers. “We have fewer students in the novice category, but more in apprentice,” she said. “We have to move them up to the proficient level.”

Ballard County Middle School earned its first ranking as a distinguished school, scoring 73.1 and landing it in the 94th percentile in the state – the top 6 percent of middle schools in the state. Last year’s score was 68.4, with a 77th percentile ranking. The change also means that BCMS received a Progressing distinction like BCES, as well as being named a High Performing school. The latter means that the school met its AMO and participation goals, and scored in the 90-94th percentile.

All accountability markers were well above last year: achievement, 80.8 (last year 74.2), gap 49.9 (44.5), growth, 73.0 (65.6), and college and career readiness, 50.4 (44.8).

As for the school’s first-ever distinguished ranking, BCMS Principal Amber Parker said, “It just goes to show that hard work pays off. Teachers have worked long, hard hours, and it shows. The expectations are there across the board, from students to staff. We’ll be looking at some different strategies for writing, and we’ll keep working hard. It’s like when I was a coach: I used to tell my players that the only time success before work in the dictionary.”

In the achievement subgroup, BCMS again bested state averages in all but one category. The percentage of students scoring Proficient or Distinguished was higher than state averages in reading (BCMS 61.5/state 53.2), math (55.5/44.8), science (80.4/64.2), social studies (68.0/59.4) and language mechanics (BCMS 58.9/40.3,). The only shortfall was in writing (34.2/43.7).

The percentage of students scoring Proficient and Distinguished in the gap group subgroup also was higher than state averages in reading (BCMS 50.8/state 42.2), math (42.5/33.0), science (71.4/53.5), social studies (54.5/47.5) and especially language mechanics (52.5/29.8). The only subject below state averages again was writing (24.1/34.1).

In the growth subgroup, BCMS outperformed the state in all three categories: reading (BCMS 64.7/state 59.8), math (81.2/60.0) and a combination of the two subjects (73.0/59.9).

Middle schools also include scores on the Explore test as part of their accountability. The test measures all eighth-graders on their ability to meet prescribed ACT benchmarks for their age of 13 in English, 17 in math, 15 in reading, and 20 in science. BCMS beat state averages of the percent of students meeting benchmarks in three categories: English (BCMS 68.8/state 64.6), math (40.6/34.6) and science (16.7/15.2). The only shortfall was in reading (41.7/44.1).

Ballard Memorial High School was ranked a distinguished school for the second consecutive year. Their overall score increased from 74.4 to 77.6, placing them in KDE’s 95th percentile in the state, or the top 5 percent of all high schools.

The school again received all 100 possible points for college and career readiness, the highest in the state. The school also achieved all of its AMOs for the second straight year, as well as its participation rates. All other accountability markers were well above last year: achievement, 65.9 (last year 58.9), gap 42.7 (32.5), growth, 52.5 (50.1), and graduation rate, 93.5 (92.4).

In the achievement subgroups, the percentage of BMHS students scoring Proficient or Distinguished was above the state averages in reading (BMHS 55.8/state 55.4), science (44.0/39.8), social studies (68.6/58.0), writing (51.5/43.3) and language mechanics (51.0/49.9). The only shortfall was in math (34.4/37.9)

The percentage of students scoring Proficient and Distinguished in the gap group subgroup also was higher than state averages in math (28.6/27.2), science (40.4/26.9), social studies (61.4/45.0) and writing (44.6/31.8). The only subjects below state averages were reading (40.4/42.2) and language mechanics (34.7/37.4).

In the growth subgroup, BMHS outperformed the state in reading (BMHS 57.3/state 56.4), but not in math (47.6/56.2) or a combination of the two subjects (52.5/56.3).

BMHS Principal David Meinschein attributed gains in achievement and gap scores to the school’s focus last year on moving each individual student. Other contributors were the schedule change to a seven-period day, and improved/increased college curriculum and skills that are transferrable to careers. “I can’t say enough good things about my staff,” he added. “They have been great all year, making all the adjustments necessary to move forward.”

A complete report on all schools in Kentucky can be obtained at http://applications.education.ky.gov/SRC/Default.aspx.

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