STANFORD — New school-accountability scores released Friday show Lincoln County's school district is ranked 79th in the state, scoring better than about 55 percent of Kentucky's school districts. The scores also show Lincoln County High School is now one of the better-ranked high schools in the state, having previously been ranked among the lowest.
District officials have been careful to emphasize that scores under the new Kentucky Performance Rating for Education Progress (K-PREP) system are not directly comparable with previous scores recorded under the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS).
“The data simply is not comparable to the results of years past," Superintendent Karen Hatter said. "It would be like looking at basketball, baseball and football scores and attempting to draw comparisons — you just can’t do it."
But despite the differences, High School Prinicipal Tim Godbey said his school's rise from the bottom 15 percent of high schools under CATS last year to the top third under K-PREP this year is still a meaningful change.
The improvement is at least partially due to efforts by staff and faculty following the school's designation as persistently low-achieving last October, Godbey said.
"Lincoln County High School is making increases in student achievement, but we still have work to do," he said.
Hatter said she is proud of the high school's performance.
"To move from a priority school to one close to the proficient mark is a tremendous accomplishment," Hatter said. "I commend the leadership of Mr. Godbey and the commitment of his entire staff.”
Under the new accountability system, seven of Lincoln County's nine public schools and the district itself received "needs improvement" designations while two — Hustonville and McKinney elementary schools — were classified as "proficient."
Schools were scored out of a possible 100 points and then ranked across the state by percentile.
The bottom 69 percent of schools have been given the "needs improvement" classification. The top 10 percent are designated as "distinguished," while those in between have received the "proficient" label.
Lincoln County High School's score of 57.6 is ranked 77th out of 230 high schools in the state, placing it in the 67th percentile, just three percentiles short of a "proficient" classification.
Godbey said looking at the breakdown of the high school's score, the portion based on academic achievement remained largely unchanged from the previous years.
"What that tells me is regardless of the system we're on, we still have work to do," he said.
Godbey credited an "intentional focus" on improving ACT scores and college- and career-readiness with helping the high school's overall ranking rise so high.
Because the new K-PREP results drill down to the individual-student level, Godbey said they provide "real good targets" for improving student performance.
The results also show that the high school has some students scoring at the lowest "novice" level in all areas.
"I'm not surprised by that, but I want to make sure that as a school, we understand we can't accept novice," he said. "We have to bring those kids up."
Middle school in the middle
Lincoln Middle School's score of 55.2 ranked 152nd out of 333 middle schools, placing it in the 54th percentile.
Sarah Hagans, an academic performance consultant at the middle school, said despite uncertainty surrounding what the new K-PREP scores would look like, the middle school actually landed right about where officials expected it would.
"We expected that we would kind of be in the middle based on how our data looked in the past," she said.
The middle school has been given the goal for next year of improving its score by one point, which Hagans said is very doable.
But because even more different measurements will be incorporated into school scores next year, it's still difficult to predict exactly what will happen, she added.
"We can't really anticipate where we might even compare to other schools," she said. "But we want to be better than where we are now."
Hagans said the individual information included in the new scores looks like it will be very helpful.
"Knowing where the problem is can help us move forward," she said. "If we can identify the specific problems within the content, then that's going to help."
McGuffey Sixth Grade Center's score of 53.2 was 179th among Kentucky middle schools, placing it in the 46th percentile.
McGuffey was also designated as a "focus" school because of "a significant achievement gap in reading between students with disabilities and those without disabilities," said Pam Hart, chief deputy of quality management for the district.
Elementary scores vary widely
At the elementary level, McKinney Elementary placed 110th out of 733 schools, putting it 85th percentile of elementary schools statewide.
McKinney Elementary Principal Jeff Craiger credited his predecessor, Don Leigh, with helping achieve the high mark and said he is extremely proud of the teachers and students at his school.
“We’re just really proud of our school, really proud of our kids and we hope to continue with the success we’ve had in the past,” he said.
Craiger noted that besides getting the highest score in Lincoln County, McKinney also received the fourth-highest score among all elementary schools in a seven-district area of Boyle, Casey, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties and Danville and Burgin independent districts.
Next year, McKinney’s goal is to jump five percentiles up the rankings and earn a “distinguished” classification, Craiger said.
“I think that the systems (to accomplish that) are already in place,” he said. “We were already doing the right things, we just need to tweak our practices.”
Hustonville Elementary, which received a "proficient" classification like McKinney, is ranked 207th in Kentucky, landing it in the 72nd percentile.
Highland Elementary was 342nd in the state, with a score better than about 54 percent of elementary schools in the state.
Waynesburg Elementary was 424th in the state, while Stanford Elementary was 560th and Crab Orchard Elementary was 630th.
Waynesburg's score was in the 42nd percentile; Stanford's was in the 24th percentile; and Crab Orchard's was in the 14th percentile.
Difference in scores
The scores under K-PREP are substantially different from the old scores because they incorporate a whole bevy of new measurements for school achievement.
Under CATS, schools were assessed largely on academic achievement. Under K-PREP, academic achievement makes up just 30 percent of the score for elementary schools, 28 percent for middle schools and 20 percent for high schools.
Schools' scores are now substantially affected by how individual students improve in proficiency over time and how well low-income, special-education, minority and English-language-learner students perform.
At the middle- and high-school levels, scores also account for how well students are prepared for college or a career.
And at the high-school level, scores are affected by graduation rates.
Hart said in order to score well in the new system, it's essential that all students are "met at their point of academic need and taught in a very intentional manner."
“This is a radical departure from the scores of the past that were primarily determined by the academic index," Hart said. "This new model requires that we develop a comprehensive learning system, where every student demonstrates academic progress every year."