Thursday, September 30, 1999

Local schools 'just average' on state tests

Gleaner staff

Henderson County Schools are performing at an "average" level overall, according to preliminary data released Wednesday from the first round of Kentucky's core content tests.

In comparison to state averages, however, Henderson County High scored roughly four points lower and the district's elementaries about two points lower overall. Together, the junior high schools turned in a score right around the state average.

"We're just kind of average and we want to be better," said Nancy Satterfield, the district's director of support programs.

The Kentucky Core Content Tests are a part of the new Commonwealth Accountability Testing System designed by the Kentucky Board of Education to replace KIRIS in the spring of 1999. The new tests include multiple choice and open response questions in reading, science, mathematics, social studies, arts and humanities, practical living and vocational studies, and writing.

Fourth-, fifth-, seventh-, eighth-, 10th- 11th- and 12-grade students participate in the testing process.

Due to changes in the testing system, direct comparison to previous KIRIS scores is not possible. However, the CATS sets an absolute goal of 100 for each school. A student scoring 100 on the core content tests is considered proficient.

The other levels of performance are 0-39, novice; 40-99 apprentice; and 140 distinguished.

In Henderson County, the elementaries averaged 57.8 compared to the state average of 59.5. The junior highs averaged 49.9 compared to the state's 49.6, and the high school averaged 56.4 compared to the state's 60.3.

"So we're kind of in the apprentice level as a district," Satterfield said. "I guess it's hard to say why we're not making the progress. We're up and down, and we're not making the gains that the students and teachers are capable of."

Each school's 1999 scores will be averaged with the 2000 scores to set a new baseline for long-term accountability, rewards and assistance.

No rewards or assistance will be given based solely on the 1999 scores.

The goal of the new system is to bring each school to an overall score of 100 on a 140-point scale by the year 2014.

"We think we can reach the goal and it will be our effort to do so -- whatever the goal is," Supt. John Vaughan said. "We saw some good things in the scores and we saw some things we need to improve."

Among the elementaries, Spottsville (67.4), Niagara (66.7), East Heights (64.2), Cairo (61.7), Bend Gate (60.3) and Seventh Street (59.7) had overall scores higher than the state's average.

Central (53.1), Jefferson (51.1), Chandler (49.4) and South Heights (41.3) scored below.

"Six of our elementaries are way above state average," Vaughan said. "The majority of our elementary schools would rank right up there in the top 30 to 40 systems in the state. Now, we've got some others we need to work on."

The district's average elementary scores were lower than the state's in all tested categories except reading.

In reading, all of the elementaries earned scores in the apprentice level, with Spottsville (88.4) at the top of the list and South Heights (63.9) at the bottom.

"As a district, we're a little above the state in reading," Satterfield said. That's one of our strengths. That's the case in the junior highs too."

The district's junior high average in reading was 68.8 compared to the state's 67.6. The junior highs also surpassed the state average in math, science, and practical living and vocational studies but were below in social studies, arts and humanities and writing.

Overall, North turned in a score of 49.3 and South 50.5

Henderson County High had scores below state average in reading, math, science, social studies, arts and humanities, and practical living and vocational studies.

The school's reading score was 57.5 compared to the state's 66.6. Its writing score, 56.2, was slightly above the state's 56.1.

Comparing the percentage change of students performing in the novice category does provide a valid comparison between years, Satterfield said.

For example, in the district's 10 elementaries, three schools reported fewer students reading in the novice category in 1999 than in 1998; three more; and four remained the same.

Cairo, Central, Chandler, East Heights, Seventh Street and Spottsville had no novice readers in 1999. All had progressed to a higher level, according to Satterfield.

At the junior high level, the number of students at North reading at the novice level increased from 2 to 3 percent between 1998 and 1999. At South the percentage decreased from 5 to 1.

At the high school, 25 percent of students were reading at the novice level in 1999, compared to 13 percent in 1998, a jump Satterfield attributes in part to the first-time testing of sophomores.

"We're not where we need to be at all," she said. "And we'll address that Thursday night at the council of council meetings."

Representatives of each school's site-based decision-making council will meet tonight to discuss realigning and standardizing the district's curriculum.

With the advent of KERA, curriculum decisions were turned over to each school's SBDM council. With the agreement of the councils, the district intends to set certain standards, but will allow individual SBDMs to select the curriculum needed to support them.

The district began planning the council of councils meeting after scores from the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills were released in August.

Locally, sixth- and ninth-graders performed better than the state average on the national test of basic skills, while third-grade scores came in below it.

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