On Friday, the Kentucky Department of Education released results of its statewide school accountability tests, showing for the first time measurable data against the previous year under a new testing system.
The new system focuses much more on ensuring kids are not just only proficient in key subjects, but that they graduate college-and career-ready. Jefferson County Public Schools met the annual objectives for last school year and made gains in the number of students who graduate prepared.
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I spoke with Superintendent Donna Hargens about the results:
“Overall, we’re pleased that we met our goal, that 75 of our schools met our goal and that thousands more kids are proficient and distinguished. What we know [about] the work ahead is, to take what we know works and to make sure that that’s present in every school for every kid. We’re not, obviously, satisfied. It shows progress but is also shows that we have a lot of work to do.”
Is there anything happening at the district level to make sure those best practices are happening district wide and in struggling schools?
“What we want to do is share that information with the schools [which] didn’t do as well, to make sure they have the systems and structures in place. So for college and career readiness over two years we increased 19.2 percentage points. You don’t get kind of increase without a system in place. So we know that tracking kids and making sure that every kid is named, and you know if they’re college-and-career ready, making sure that the student knows what that means and what they have to do to get there, is really what led to that increase.”
What’s one area you’re most pleased with, if you can just choose one?
“I would say the college-and-career readiness and the graduation rate and meeting our goal. If I had to pick one I’m saying for the first time Jefferson County Public Schools met our goal.” (Note: this was the first year schools could meet its goals under the new accountability system).
What’s one area you’re most concerned with on the other hand?
“Reading, reading, reading, reading. In order for use to do well as a district we have to make sure all students can read by third grade. That means we’re going to have to reach into pre-K and early childhood education because we have so many of our kids that don’t come ready for kindergarten. So if I have to say the one thing that’s the focus of the district is, we really need to focus on reading. That’s why we re-launched everyone reads. That’s got to be the primary focus.”
Are you pleased with the overall results of the district’s 18 “priority” schools? (These are schools that were previously the lowest achieving in the state over a period of years)
“We had 13 out of 18 meet their targets. Absolutely. All the high schools did. Absolutely we’re proud of those 13 schools and again we stand ready to assist the schools that did not meet their target. Not that they didn’t make improvement.”