Novice scores increase,  proficiency decreases

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis explains the new state accountability system on Monday.

The Kentucky Department of Education released Kentucky schools’ results on its new accountability system, and the results show that students in some Floyd County Schools — once a “District of Distinction”— are struggling academically. 

Floyd County Schools received two out of five “stars” in this system, which highlights achievement gaps between low income and wealthy students, an increase in the number of students who have “little to no understanding” of subjects and a decrease in the number of students who score proficient or distinguished on state tests. 

The new rating system, developed over a four-year period following the 2015 passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, assesses schools and districts on performance on the 2018-2019 Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress, or KPREP, test scores, as well other measures.

School and districts earned between one and five stars for tests scores in math, reading, social studies, science and writing, as well as academic growth and progress, transition (or career) readiness and graduation rates. On Monday, Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis held a press conference to discuss the results. He explained that these star ratings are more than just test scores. 

He said in elementary and middle schools, a school’s growth rate — how much a student improves over a one-year period — makes up 35 percent of the overall rating. In high schools, transition — or the ability of a student to transition into a college or a career — makes up 35 percent of the score. 

In this new system, Floyd County high schools ranked “very low” on accountability scores and for transition readiness, while county elementary and middle schools ranked “very low” for growth.  

Only 56 of the 1,272 schools in Kentucky earned 5-Star ratings. The KDE reports that 233 schools earned 4-Star ratings, 643 earned 3-Star ratings, 251 earned 2-Star ratings and 89 earned 1-Star ratings. Lewis described 4-Star and 5-Star schools as “exceptional” and said 3-Star schools are “at the least, a pretty good school.” 

The Floyd County schools collectively received two stars. Three stars were given to May Valley Elementary, Allen Elementary and middle school classes at  Allen, Duff-Allen Central, John M. Stumbo and South Floyd elementary schools. 

Two stars were given Prestonsburg Elementary, South Floyd Elementary, Stumbo Elementary and Betsy Layne Elementary and its middle school classes. Two stars were also given to Betsy Layne and Prestonsburg high schools. 

Three schools, Duff-Allen Central Elementary, Floyd Central High School and Adams Middle School, earned one star in the new rating system. Duff-Allen Central Elementary is listed in the bottom 5 percent of all Kentucky schools and is federally required to be placed on a Comprehensive Support and Improvement plan. The ranking will make Duff-Allen Central eligible for additional funding and resources to support improvement efforts. 

The number of stars presented to Prestonsburg Elementary, middle school classes at Duff-Allen Central and Prestonsburg High School were reduced due to “statistically significant gaps” with disabled students, the KDE reported. 

Novice scores

increase, 

proficiency declines 

Lewis emphasized the need for school districts to focus on the number of students scoring novice on state assessments, stating that students who score novice are in “academic emergency.”

These students, he said, have “little to no understanding” of the content they’re required to learn for their grade level. 

Statewide, novice rates range from 15 percent in middle school math to 33 percent in high school reading. 

In Floyd County, the rate of novice scores increased, while the rate of proficient/distinguished scores decreased over the past year, the data shows.

In elementary schools, for example, the percentage of students who scored novice nearly doubled over the past year from 8.6 percent to 17.4 percent in reading; from 11 percent to 23.2 percent in math and from 9 percent to 16.9 percent in science. The percentage of elementary students who scored novice was nearly six times greater in social studies, which increased from 2.4 percent to 14.2 percent over the past year; and nearly five times greater in science, which increased from 5.5 percent to 27.4 percent in writing. 

The percentage of students scoring novice also increased over the past year in the middle school grades in Floyd County, but that increase wasn’t as significant. The percentage of novice in reading, for example, increased by about 5.5 percent, while the percentage of middle school students scoring novice in math increased from 9.7 percent to 14.3 percent. 

High schools recorded the highest number of students scoring novice in key subject areas in the county. The percentages of high school students scoring novice this year are 43.1 percent in reading, 45.9 percent in math, 21.5 percent in science and 21 percent in writing. The novice scores of high school students in science (21.5 percent) is the only novice scores that decreased over the past year, according to the data. 

The data also shows that the percentage of Floyd County high school students scoring novice is higher than the number of students who scored proficient/distinguished in reading, math and science. In all other grade levels, the percentage of proficient/distinguished scores is higher than the novice scores. 

In every grade level, the percentage of students scoring proficient/distinguished in these subject areas decreased over the past year, with the largest decrease in the elementary grades.

In elementary schools, proficiency ratings dropped from 71.9 percent to 58.2 percent  in reading, for example,  from 58.7 percent to 36.8 percent in math, and from 80.8 percent to 52.5 percent in social studies.

In high schools, proficiency levels dropped from 26.5 percent to 19.7 percent in math, from 45.7 percent to 27.3 percent in writing, but it actually increased from 31.9 percent to 34.2 percent in reading. 

Floyd County’s proficiency rates are higher than the state in reading and social studies but lower than the state in math, writing and science. 

The percentage of county students who scored proficient are 60.7 percent in reading, 59.2 percent in social studies, 41.5 percent in math, 27.3 percent in writing, and only 17 percent in science. 

Achievement gaps 

Lewis reported that African American students scored lower than white students, and that low income students scored lower than wealthier students on state assessments. 

He said low income students make up about half of the student population in the state. The number is higher in Floyd County, at 74 percent. 

The KDE reports that low income students scored lower on state tests in reading, math and science than students who are “non-economically disadvantaged” in Floyd County. 

The data shows 55.2 percent of low income elementary students in Floyd County, for example, scored proficient in reading, while 67.9 percent of wealthy elementary students scored proficient. In math, 33.3 percent of low income students scored proficient and 48.2 percent of wealthy students scored proficient. In science,  23.9 percent of low income students and 35.1 percent of wealthy students scored proficient.

These gaps were seen in all grade levels, and they were the highest at the high school level — where wealthier students, in some cases, had proficiency levels that doubled their low income peers. 

In high schools, 29 percent of low income students and 48.5 of wealthy students scored proficient in reading, 16.7 percent of low income students and 27.8 percent of wealthy students scored proficient in math and 14.4 percent of low income students and 30.5 percent of wealthy students scored proficient in science. 

Gaps between students of different nationalities were also wide in some parts of the district. In elementary schools, Hispanic students scored 38.5 percent proficient in reading and 15.4 percent proficient in math, while white students scored 58.3 percent proficient in reading and 37 percent proficient in math. 

In middle schools, Hispanic students scored 35 percent proficient in reading and math, while white students scored 61.3 percent proficient in reading and 41.5 percent proficient in math. 

Scores drop for 

special needs 

students 

These results mark a stark change from the district’s assessment rankings in previous years. 

The district earned “District of Distinction” honors under the old testing system in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 — the last year those labels were given to districts. 

In 2016, under the old system, Floyd County Schools reported that it ranked sixth in the state, had 18 schools that were labeled proficient or better and had 12 schools honored as Schools of Distinction. 

The KDE required the district to implement a corrective action plan after a scathing audit accused the district of “over-identifying students” with disabilities to improve test scores, among other things. KDE staff substantiated “systemic findings of noncompliance” under the federal disabilities act, as well as dozens of violations of state regulations.

The release of test scores shows that the percentage of special needs students scoring proficient/distinguished on state tests has decreased dramatically since the audit. 

In elementary grades, for example, the percentage of special needs students scoring proficient/distinguished in reading dropped from 68.5 percent to 41.6 percent, while the proficiency in math dropped from 71 percent to 27 percent. 

In middle schools, the number of special needs students scoring proficient dropped from 61.3 percent to 32.7 percent in reading and from 57.4 percent to 22.4 percent in math. In high schools, the number of special needs students scoring proficient dropped from 14.1 percent to 8.7 percent in reading. High school math proficiency increased from 13.9 percent to 14.9 percent in the special needs classes.  

Adkins: Tests 

aren’t ‘end-all, 

be-all’ anymore 

Superintendent Danny Adkins has overseen numerous changes in the district, including reorganization of the central office, among other things. 

He was among officials throughout the state who helped set parameters for some of the items used in the new 5-Star accountability system. 

In addition to the corrective action plan that was required after the state audit discovered problems with testing, administrative staff at Betsy Layne Elementary were fired and replaced after the KDE found evidence of a high number of erasures on state tests there. Addressing the board of education on Sept. 23, Adkins said the district is no longer seeking high test scores. 

“I bet there’s not a person in this room that’s not heard me preach that test scores are not the end all be all anymore,” he said. “We’re not here to educate for test scores. We’re here to educate the kids for opportunities. And, as we move through things, if we’re doing the right things in the classroom, we’re taking care of business, then our test scores are going to be okay, bottom line.”  

The district issued a press release announcing the test results, with Adkins reporting the district will not highlight specific schools.

“We’re  intentionally not pointing out specific schools because we want to focus on growing,” he said. “If you look at just about every school and every level in the Growth Indicator, we do not fare well. So, we are focusing on growth this year. And growth is based on kids’ performance levels getting better. So we are going to get better for our students.” 

His statement also said, “Would we like to have 5 stars in everything? Of course, we would. I think everyone wants to be at the top, but our focus, our intentional focus, will be on getting better, on growing so that our students get a better education and have more possibilities and opportunities available to them. We aren’t focusing on scores; we are focusing on growing and growing students.”

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