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Oldham among the tops in CATS scores - again

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By John Foster

The mid-term report card is in from the state. The marks are mixed. Oldham County Schools are among the top performing in the state on the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System accountability index – again.But some schools did not see the improvement expected from last year and the district is no longer ranked as the top county district in the state.At least four schools are performing at high levels not expected by the Kentucky Department of Education until 2014. Goshen Elementary at Hillcrest was the 26th top performing school in the state.Four other schools – while still above the state average – need to step up before final exams come rolling through in the spring to meet their two-year goals for school improvement.The Kentucky Department of Education released the midpoint scores for the CATS two- year cycle Oct. 2 which factors in scores on the Kentucky Core Content Test and non-academic data such as attendance and drop-out rates.The test has been retooled this year, which has created some volatility in the scores compared to last year. It has also created the need for the Kentucky Department of Education to issue two scores – one that is purely the score for the test, and another, adjusted, score that can more nearly be compared with last year’s scores.Based on those adjusted scores, Oldham County took a familiar place among the top districts in the state, increasing over last year’s score of 94.9 with an adjusted accountability index of 96.7. The state average is 81.8. That places the district as the sixth top performing district in the state, a drop from third, and the second county district behind Hancock County, a drop from first. Superintendent Paul Upchurch said while he does look at how Oldham County compares to other districts, “that’s the least important thing we look at.” More important is to look at how to improve student learning, he said. In that respect, the district is succeeding, he said. He said based on the non-adjusted test scores eight schools have reached the point where all students understand and can explain the subjects on the state test to a “proficient” level – represented by a score at or above the 100 mark on the index. The state has required that all schools reach that level by 2014. Oldham County’s goal is 2010.In addition, two schools that have been on the edge of missing their goals in the past – La Grange Elementary and South Oldham High School, saw significant gains.La Grange jumped 3.5 points while South Oldham jumped 8.5 points. Four schools – Crestwood and Kenwood Station elementaries and Oldham County and South Oldham middle schools – are short of their two-year improvement goals. Crestwood was the lowest scoring at 83.4 and has 10.8 points to gain in the next year in order to reach the two-year goal. Principals deferred all comments to the superintendent.“I wouldn’t say I’m not concerned,” Upchurch said, “but I’m confident they will meet their goals.”He said those schools are doing the same things as other schools – aligning curriculum, paying close attention to what students are learning and working to improve instructional practices. He said there are no Band-aids or quick fixes, just sound practices that will lend results in the long run.Scores lower than expected are no reason to panic, but a reason to examine results during the next several weeks and see what concepts the students haven’t mastered, Upchurch said.“I told [Crestwood principal Lori Wright], ‘you just need to keep doing the things you are doing now,’” he said.The scores come two weeks after the national No Child Left Behind results were released stating that all Oldham County schools achieved adequate yearly progress in all areas.In some ways, CATS results succeed in ways NCLB falls short, Upchurch said. “The bottom line is ‘No Child Left Behind’ is a beautiful concept, a wonderful philosophy and a very flawed design to measure student learning,” he said.He said the CATS also holds schools accountable, but is more specific measure of what students are learning. The open response questions require students to know the material instead of just guessing. The short- and long-term goals of CATS are realistic and encourage all schools to improve, not just underperforming schools.He said although this is the test that has rewards and consequences, the district uses other methods to measure student learning and look for ways to improve, including the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Explore, PLAN and ACT tests.“We value this [assessment] and look at it, but it’s not the whole picture.”

E-mail us about this story at: jfoster@oldhamera.com.