The three school districts in Bell County ranked in the bottom half among school districts in the state under the new assessment and accountability model – Unbridled Learning – released by state officials today.
While a few individual schools ranked among the top half of state schools, none surpassed the level needed to exceed the “needs improvement” category.
Designed to measure student readiness for college and career performance, the new state measurement is a vast change from the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) in place over the past decade.
Officials caution parents and the public not to draw any comparisons to test scores from prior years and not to be surprised by school and student scores that are lower than expected.
Under the new system, Kentucky’s schools are scored on a scale of 1-100 with the top 90 percent of schools being labeled “distinguished.” Schools ranking in the 70-89th percentile are now to be considered “proficient,” with all others falling under the “needs improvement” designation.
Across the state, 899 of 1,296 schools are now labeled as “needs improvement” as a result of the completion of the first year of testing. This indicates that the schools fell below the 70th percentile on the bell curve that has been used as a predictor for the anticipated lower scores.
While no schools in the county were designated as distinguished, four schools in the Bell County School District – Central School Center Elementary, Frakes Middle, Right Fork Middle, and Yellow Creek Middle – were designated as proficient. No schools in the Middlesboro or Pineville districts scored above the 69th percentile.
“I think there’s a big difference between the ‘Needs Improvement’ category and No Child Left Behind which labeled these schools as failing,” said Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky Education Commissioner. “These schools are not failing. They just have particular components they need to work on.”
Holliday added that the new system “raises the bar” for student achievement within individual school districts by taking into consideration student growth as well as college and career readiness. Schools in the “need improvement” category will have follow-up reviews from the state department of education.
All but the high school within the Middlesboro Independent School District were designated as a “focus school,” which means they scored in the bottom ten percent in the state in a measure known as a “gap group score.” That score is designed to measure the performance of student groups that have historically had achievement gaps (for example: racial minorities, special education, poverty, or limited English proficiency).
There are 284 schools in the state listed as focus schools. Of those, 103 are at elementary schools, 106 are middle schools and 75 are high schools.
The higher performing schools in the county were:
- · Frakes Middle with an overall score of 62.6 and a state ranking of 85
- · Right Fork Middle with an overall score of 61.7 and a state ranking of 81
- · Bell Central School Center Elementary with an overall score of 64.9 and a state ranking of 78
- · Yellow Creek Middle with an overall score of 59.4 and a state ranking of 72
- · Frakes Elementary with an overall score of 60.4 and a state ranking of 60
- · Bell Central Middle with an overall score of 56.1 and a state ranking of 57
- · Pineville Middle with an overall score of 55.0 and a state ranking of 54
- · Middlesboro High with an overall score of 54.7 and a state ranking of 51
All other schools were below the 50th percentile state ranking, with one school, West End Elementary in Middlesboro, ranking at the 1st percentile, the lowest level in the state’s new system.
The data released today shows that among the state’s elementary schools, 507 need improvement, 149 are proficient and 77 are distinguished.
For the middle schools, there are 232 listed as needs improvement, 65 proficient and 36 distinguished.
And, as was predicted by local and state officials, the high school level shows 160 schools in the needs improvement level, while 46 are proficient and only 24 are distinguished.