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SUPERINTENDENT: District is focused on success

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The state legislature is raising the bar for our students and we, as Oldham County Schools, support this effort. 

When the state enacted Senate Bill 1 in 2009 it called for the immediate adoption of new academic standards that are more challenging and focused on readying students for college and 21st century career skills. 

SB1 also ended the state’s previous manner of assessing student learning and mandated that a new student assessment system be developed. In conformance with this mandate, last spring, students throughout the state were given this new assessment, the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress, or KPREP, for the first time. 

We are looking forward to receiving our test data when it is released in mid-October. However, KPREP is an entirely different assessment system from the one it replaced. 

Note the following differences:

• The new test is based on national college readiness standards in math and English/language arts (ELA) that are much more rigorous than the previous state standards; 

• Because the standards are higher, fewer students throughout the state will meet proficiency levels in math and ELA (including language, reading, and writing)

• On the previous assessment schools were scored on a scale that ranged from 0 to 140. The new scale will rate schools with scores ranging from 0 to 100.

• Currently schools earn an “academic index” in each content area based on the achievement of students in that particular area. 

Under the state’s previous assessment system only these achievement scores were reported. While the new system will also score and rank schools throughout the state on achievement levels in each content area, schools will also be evaluated using “Gap” and “Growth” measures.

• The Gap score for a school will be calculated by measuring the difference in achievement levels between students in the majority groups (example: white students, non-disabled students, students who do not qualify for free/reduced lunch, and who are not English language learners) and students who are in these groups. Each school is expected to close the achievement gap between these groups of students.

• A school’s Growth score is based on the degree to which individual students achieve one year of growth in reading and math. Schools are expected to create learning opportunities that will result in each student growing academically each year. Once consequence of the new assessment system is that there will now be a measure of the extent to which this is happening in reading and math.

• Middle and high schools will also be evaluated on how well they are preparing students for post-secondary education and employment. “College and Career Readiness” will be gauged using standardized assessments measuring college readiness standards. 

For example all 8th grade students must complete the Explore test, and students in 11th grade are required to take the ACT. High school students must also complete “End of Course Assessments”, which are state-level proficiency tests, when they complete English 2, Algebra 2, Biology, and US History. This combination of assessments is part of the system the state will use to determine a CCR score for each middle and high school.

These differences underscore that KPREP is a more in-depth look at student learning that will provide new perspective on preparing students for their future. 

This year’s scores cannot be compared to previous years’ scores. 

Proficiency levels throughout the state will initially be lower under the new system because the standards are higher (college readiness standards) and the scale has been changed to 100 points from 140 points.

This is a complex system that will take time to understand. We have been analyzing the new system and revising our road map for students in math and ELA, our curriculum, over the past two years. 

Our teachers and instructional leaders at the school and district level have embraced these changes and are using this opportunity to raise the bar for our students. 

This is only a brief overview of one aspect of SB1. For more information, visit the district’s website, www.oldham.kyschools.us. Oldham County Schools will  host a community information event at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 in the North Oldham middle and high school’s shared auditorium. 

We will give a more in-depth presentation on KPREP and SB1, and board members, as well as school and district leaders, will be available for questions and informal conversation. 

We hope to see you there. 

Will Wells is the superintendent of Oldham County Schools. He can be reached at 241-3500 or will.wells@oldham.kyschools.us. The views in this column are those of the writer.