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Schools, students perform well

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Guest Column from Will Wells, Superintendent of OCS

The leaves are turning and fall break is just around the corner — I can’t believe how quickly the first two months of school have gone by. I have to give credit to our teachers and staff for their amazing ability to quickly get students back into the swing of things. From day one, they hit the ground running and got students engaged in learning. I am so thankful we have that kind of staff. 

I also owe a debt of gratitude to our parents and community who provide endless support to students both inside and outside the classroom.

While it is a time of change in our district — redistricting for next school year, revising curriculum to coincide with new core standards — know that our mission is not changing. Every day we are committed to ensuring the learning of every child. 

The size of our district is also changing — we’re growing again!

Many of you remember years of rapid growth in Oldham County when we were adding 400 students a year. We’re not back to that level, but we are excited to see more families wanting to join our community — and in most cases, they’re moving to Oldham County because of our schools. As has been proven by numerous studies, quality schools are good for the community — they help maintain strong property values, lower unemployment rates and lower crime rates.

In total, we have 179 more students enrolled compared to the first month of the 2012-13 school year. Enrollment decreased slightly at the middle school level, while showing gains at the elementary and high school levels. Elementary students accounted for about 60 percent of this year’s growth. 

Overall, enrollment is up 1.52 percent compared to the first month of last year.

Harmony, Locust Grove and North High showed the biggest gains over projected enrollment. The district’s enrollment is currently 11,805 students after month one, 176 students over projections.

These figures make sense — home sales in Oldham County are on the rise. According to an article published in Business First, July home sales were up 27 percent this year compared to July 2012. That was an increase of 105 new homes.

These new numbers will, however, be a factor as we revise our enrollment projections. Those projections will be presented in October and are historically very reliable.

We’re excited to welcome these new students to a district that continues to shine. Recent state assessment results show we remain in the top tier of districts on KPREP — we are the top-scoring large county district, which is an honor and testament to the hard work of our teachers, staff and students and the involvement and support of our parents and community. We remain in the top four percent of districts statewide and are proud to be in such great company.

Out of our 17 schools, 14 earned proficient or distinguished classification. Only three schools scored in the “needs improvement” category, which is all schools that are not in the top 30 percent across the state. Last year we had six schools in the needs improvement category, so this is a great step forward.

Several schools achieved big gains in overall scores this year, including South Oldham High School (7.8 points higher than last year), Liberty Elementary (6.1 points higher), Kenwood Station Elementary (4.8 points higher) and Oldham County Middle (3.6 points higher).

But, as easy as it is to get caught up in the classifications, it is important to remain focused on ensuring the learning of every child. The KPREP assessment helps us do that by providing great information on various population subgroups. We can see those scores for every school and can use that data to identify the areas where we need to improve.

It is also important to note that, under KPREP, schools and districts are required to meet arbitrarily-assigned goals each year. For instance, any school or district that was considered proficient or distinguished last year had its goal set at a half-point higher this year. Schools that were “needs improvement” last year had goals a full point higher. We are, of course, very happy to see Kenwood Station Elementary, Liberty Elementary and Oldham County Middle School leave the “needs improvement” category and join the ranks of proficient schools.

This same arbitrary goal-setting also applies to graduation rates — an area in which our district does very well. We were very pleased to see the district’s graduation rate at 96.2 percent. However, one school did not meet its assigned goal, and thus the district is considered as not meeting AMO. This is interesting because OCHS, where the graduation rate remained about the same this year as last year, has a graduation rate of 95 percent. 

We believe this year’s scores reflect our commitment to excellence for every student and look forward to using this data to become even better. If you’re interested in the success of our district and our students — and I hope you are — I encourage you to get involved. We are always looking for volunteers and for business and community partners. You can stay informed about the district by visiting our website, http://www.oldham.kyschools.us or finding us on social media.