In 2009, Kentucky’s legislature passed Senate Bill 1, now called Unbridled Learning-College/Career for All, and revolutionized the assessment and accountability system for public schools as well as putting in place new academic standards in core subjects. Starting in the 2011-2012 school year, Next-Generation Learners, the first of four components of Unbridled Learning’s accountability model, began. Rowan County Schools’ students along with students across the Commonwealth in grades 3-8 completed tests collectively named the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP), in five content areas: reading, mathematics, (both of which are tested at all levels) science, social studies and writing. In addition, high school students complete End-of-Course exams in Algebra II, English II, Biology and U.S. History. These secondary students also complete a writing test and language mechanics test (10th grade) and a writing test (11th grade.)
The Next-Generation Learners portion of the Unbridled Learning Accountability Model includes student achievement growth measures with emphasis on college and career readiness, high school graduation rates, student achievement in the six content areas, and increased focus on closing achievement gaps. Additionally, the accountability model holds all schools and districts accountable for improving student performance and creates three performance classifications: Distinguished, Proficient or Needs Improvement.
With Unbridled Learning-College/Career Readiness for All, each school and district was scored on a 0 to 100-point scale and given an annual measurable objective or AMO to meet for the 2012-2013 accountability year. The Rowan County School District met and exceeded its AMO and earned the classification as Progressing.
“While we were happy to see that the district exceeded its AMO, we know, though, that we still have a lot of work to do,” said Rowan County Schools Superintendent Marvin Moore. “It is important that our focus remain on ensuring that our students – our Next-Generation Learners – have the tools they need to become college/career ready.”
Two schools in the Rowan County School District now have the distinction of being labeled as Proficient and Progressing, well exceeding their AMO goals. Clearfield Elementary School is one of only 101 elementary schools across the Commonwealth to be labeled as Proficient and Progressing. Only 41 high schools, including Rowan County Senior High School, have been labeled as Proficient and Progressing.
Obviously proud of Clearfield Elementary School’s designation, principal Tamela Buttry spoke of the dedication of her staff and the students to exceed the AMO goal. “I am so proud of our school. It took a lot of hard work, collaboration, persistence and dedication among the teachers, staff, students, parents, community and district administrators to get us where we are.
“Progress is impossible without change, and, even though change is hard and difficult, most of the time, our staff understands that this job is truly all about the students. We had to take risks; we would try something new and if the data showed that it wasn’t working, we would step back and try something else. Wholeheartedly, though, I can say that our staff works together to educate the whole child, and we jump in and help each other, which, in turn, helps our students.”
Stephanie Kidd, a teacher at Clearfield Elementary School, “We are a family and we care about one another. When one of us needs help, we all come running.”
Ray Ginter, in his first year at the helm of Rowan County Senior High School, praised both the faculty and the students for the dedication and hard work, helping the school exceed its AMO.
“Awaiting the release of this year’s results was like sitting on pins and needles. When I was able to finally see the results, I was filled with pride – pride in our students for the efforts they gave on the tests, pride in the teachers who worked diligently to prepare our students, and pride in the administration for supporting our students and staff,” said Ginter.
Schools and districts receive points in each of the five main areas covered by the accountability model – achievement, gap, growth, college/career readiness, and graduation rate. Rowan County Senior High School made extraordinary growth in both college/career readiness and graduation rate.
Speaking of those gains, Ginter remarked, “We are looking at this as a win-win in that we feel that we can maintain the growth in college/career readiness and graduation rate while, at the same time, concentrate on continuing to improve in the other three areas. We want to empower our students and give them ownership in both the school and the progress that has been made.”
While high schools receive points in each of the five main areas covered by the accountability model, middle schools are scored on only four of the five areas – achievement, gap, growth, and college/career readiness. Rowan County Middle School, which has been identified as Needs Improvement, showed growth in achievement scores. Growth was shown in each of the six tested areas – reading, math, science, social studies, writing, and language mechanics – with the greatest rise in writing and language mechanics.
The elementary schools in the Rowan County School System are working hard to provide a strong foundation of learning for the district’s young students, with teachers helping them move toward proficiency in the common core areas – reading, mathematics, science, social studies, writing and language mechanics. Tilden Hogge Elementary has been identified as a High Progress school, rising from the 15th percentile ranking to the 48th percentile ranking. Student scores rose in reading, math, science, and language mechanics.
Brandy Breeze, the new interim principal at Tilden Hogge Elementary School, shared her staff’s elation at the news of the scores. “Preparing students to be college and career ready has changed standards, academic accountability for schools, and the way teachers teach. The teachers and students of Tilden Hogge Elementary have risen to the occasion and embraced the changes in education to meet the needs of our next-generation learners,” Mrs. Breeze remarked. “The intentional focus on individual students’ academic needs proved to benefit students and increase student achievement at Tilden Hogge. Using the data, we are able to know what our students need, and how to help them meet their goals. As educators there is no greater feeling than to follow the continual progress of your students and celebrate their achievements.”
Superintendent Marvin Moore remarked, “I have to congratulate the faculty, staff and students at Clearfield Elementary School and Rowan County Senior High School for having been identified as Progressing and Proficient Schools as well as Tilden Hogge Elementary School, which was identified as a High Progress School. These schools have demonstrated the importance of students and staff working together as a team to meet, or in the case of these schools, exceed their goals.”
Ensuring that 100% of the Commonwealth’s students reach proficiency is the goal of Unbridled Learning. An important part of the accountability model is the gap score, the percentage of students in non-duplicated groups such as ethnicity/race, special education, free/reduced price meals, and limited English proficiency earning a proficient score on the tested areas as compared to the general student population. It is important to see a rise in gap scores, demonstrating that the gap is being bridged. McBrayer Elementary School saw a rise in their gap scores in the areas of math and writing, and a dramatic rise in the gap score for language mechanics.
Growth, the third element of Unbridled Learning’s accountability model, looks at typical or higher growth and compares an individual student’s score to those of his/her academic peers. At the elementary level, this growth is based upon annual reading and math tests. While not meeting the state’s growth scores, Rodburn Elementary School did see growth in reading and mathematics from the 2012 accountability year to the 2013 accountability year.
Patty Brown and Allison Mathews serve together as the district’s assessment coordinators. Mrs. Mathews stated, “States across the nation are watching Kentucky. We were the first state to adopt the Common Core standards and our accountability system has become a model for other states, testing over more rigorous standards.” This system provides us with growth data allowing us to see how all students are growing regardless of the performance level (Novice, Apprentice, Proficient, or Distinguished) they fall.
Mrs. Brown added, “We’re not measuring basic skills with this new accountability system; we’re measuring our students according to the college and career ready standards that make up the new curriculum. Across the district, our teachers are working hard to help our students learn and master these standards and prepare them to reach their goals.”
“The statewide data clearly show we are making progress, though slower than we would like,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “We’ve raised expectations and aligned them with what students need to be successful; we are moving in the right direction toward the goal of providing a world-class education for every Kentucky student and ensuring all children graduate college/career ready.”