FRANKFORT — Lincoln County High School is showing the most positive indicators for improvement out of all 41 state-designated "persistently low-achieving" schools, according to a report presented to the state board of education this month.
The progress report on the state's lowest-performing schools awarded a maximum of 13 points to each school for accomplishing things like out-performing state averages on the ACT; showing growth in student performance; and increasing graduation and college-readiness rates.
Two schools — including nearby Pulaski County High School — scored 10 points, while three schools scored 11. Lincoln County High School was the only school to score a 12 out of 13.
Lincoln Superintendent Karen Hatter said the report, which amounts to a report card of sorts for PLA schools, shows just how much effort has been put into improving the high school by administrators, teachers and students.
"The students are very tuned in to what's going on here and the effort to improve," she said.
The only point Lincoln County did not score would have been awarded for performing among the top 30 percent of high schools in the state. Lincoln County High School was ranked in the 67th percentile on the most recent assessment, leaving it three percentage points short of that level.
Sam Watkins, who leads a state-funded education recovery team at Lincoln High, said many of the school's high marks are thanks to work done before he and his team arrived this school year.
"A lot of these things were a culmination of things that were started before this year," he said. "It was good to see that Lincoln County was shining among the priority schools, which gives us even more determination to continue to improve."
The report, assembled by Associate Commissioner Susan Allred at the request of the state board of education, attempts to gauge the effectiveness of state interventions in low-performing schools.
About 40 percent of the schools have made "acceptable progress" on improving their performance, according to the report.
The state began intervening in poorly performing schools several years ago, when it designated a first group of persistently low-achieving schools.
Since then, the state has designated two more groups of PLA schools, with Lincoln County High School being among the last group. News of Lincoln's designation was first made public in October 2011.
State intervention programs have cost at least $32 million since 2009, according to the report, with much of that money going to schools designated in the first two groups.
With the help of federally funded school improvement grants, the state has been able to spend $5 million annually on schools that were designated PLA in 2009 and around $8 million annually on schools designated in 2010.
Because the federal grants are no longer available, less than $1 million was spent on Lincoln and 18 other schools after their PLA designations in 2011, according to the report.
While schools like Lincoln County and Pulaski County — which is performing among the top 18 percent of schools in the state — have seen dramatic improvements, many of the PLA schools in the Louisville area have not seen similar success.
Of the 16 PLA schools still performing among the bottom 5 percent in the state, 14 are located in Jefferson County, according to the report.
Hatter, Lincoln's superintendent, said she believes her high school's turnaround was made possible by faculty and administrators who "embraced the idea of transformation" after the school was designated PLA.
"You can either accept your place and try to improve and look at it objectively, or you can make excuses," she said. "They didn't make excuses."