By LISA SIMPSON STRANGE
Glasgow Daily Times
The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released test scores for the state’s public school districts on Tuesday including No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Kentucky Core Content Tests (KCCT), College/Career Readiness (CCR) and Gap to Goal (GTG).
The results for five area school districts, Barren County, Caverna, Glasgow, Metcalfe County and Monroe County, will be examined in a series of articles this week. The first component that will be reviewed is College/Career Readiness.
In 2009, Senate Bill 1 called for schools and districts to improve the college and career readiness of their students by 50 percent by 2014.
At a meeting in August, KDE approved the following criteria for college/career readiness measures: College-Ready students must meet benchmarks on either ACT, COMPASS (a test used to determine skills and college placement) or the Kentucky Online Testing Program (KYOTE). Career-Ready students must meet benchmarks for: one career academic requirement [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) or ACT WorkKeys], and one career technical requirement [Kentucky Occupational Skill Standards Assessment System (KOSSA) or industry certificates], according to Lisa Gross, KDE spokesperson.
“Schools and districts may also receive bonus points for students who are prepared for both college and career. To be considered both college- and career-ready, students must meet benchmarks on ACT or COMPASS or KYOTE and benchmarks on KOSSA or industry certificates,” Gross said.
Among the five districts, three improved their percentages of CCR students compared to last year and two showed declines.
Barren County High School improved from 40 percent CCR graduates to 43 percent ready for college or career. If bonus points are added for the students who met criteria for both college and career readiness, the percent increases to 49. The district percentage, which also includes 32 additional students who attended BAVEL, the district’s virtual high school, and the College Street alternative campus, then shows increases of 41 and 47 percent respectively to last year.
Several factors contributed to Barren County’s increasing percentages, according to superintendent Bo Matthews.
“We recorded our highest ever ACT score of the entire junior class. We have a continued emphasis on college and career readiness with industry certification in our secondary programs,” he said. “This data confirms that our Early College Magnet along with our plethora of career and technical programs making an impact in our high school. Our students have embraced our efforts to improve rigor and relevance in all of our coursework. Our teachers continue to maximize the time that they spend instructing our students every day.”
The state-assigned CCR benchmark goal in 2014 for the Barren County school district is to have 70 percent of students ready for college and career. Does Matthews think that is a realistic number to achieve?
“Yes. Our target is to see a five percent increase in scores each year. That’s the challenge we have before us, we accept it and embrace for our students,” he said.
Glasgow High School improved from 36 percent college/career graduates in 2010 to 43 percent CCR and 49 percent CCR with bonus points this year. An additional 11 students attended the Success Academy, which gave the district overall percentages of 40 and 46 percent respectively.
Glasgow must increase the CCR percentage by another 19 points by 2014 to meet the goal set for the district by the state.
“Sixty-eight percent is attainable, but obviously greater growth must be obtained over the next couple of years,” said superintendent Sean Howard.
He said school principals and teachers, along with instructional supervisors, are making the changes necessary to increase the number of graduates prepared for life after high school.
“Our growth can be attributed to a prescribed focus on such. Our instructional supervisor in conjunction with our principals and their PLCs (professional learning communities) are having meaningful dialogue and plans were put into action to carry out the plan. Our teachers are committed to making the necessary adjustments to propel us forward,” Howard said.
Caverna High School’s percent of college/career ready graduates was only 13 percent last year, but that number fell even lower to 2 percent in the latest test results.
Superintendent Sam Dick recognizes the urgency in improving CCR for Caverna students even though it’s too late for the last class of graduates.
“Regarding the college and career readiness of the graduates of 2011, it is clear that much room for improvement exists. The focus and intent of Caverna High School is to ensure that all students are ready for the next stage of their post-secondary life. Unfortunately, the implementation of the programs and interventions currently in place came too late for those of the graduating class of 2011,” he said.
The focus on college and career readiness requires an in-depth study of the background data for each group of students, according to Dick. The implementation of a more rigorous curriculum and more ACT-focused academics were not enough to push the class of 2011 over the CCR threshold.
“Due to accountability with No Child Left Behind, our focus was on the Kentucky Core Content Test. The ACT and KCCT require distinctively different skill sets with very little overlap. The skills are much more clearly defined for the ACT, and we have begun to implement strategies that will allow us to better address these skills,” Dick said.
To address the areas of weakness pointed out in the CCR scores, CHS has implemented the following intervention strategies:
• align curriculum to new Kentucky Core Academic Standards and to Quality Core End-of-Course Assessments.
• purchased and are implementing Quality Core in algebra I, geometry, English I and physics.
• address the ACT with test prep program that trains students in the content and test-taking strategies for this type of standardized testing.
• implemented ACT or Quality Core such as “bell ringers” or opening activities in classes.
• assessments are that ACT-like in composition and in administration.
• “practice” ACT and PLAN tests for juniors and freshmen.
• implemented transitional courses for all seniors who did not meet benchmarks on the ACT administered during the junior year.
• teachers have become more intentional about planning lessons at a level commensurate with the rigor on the ACT and PLAN.
• teachers receive guided planning every week to help focus their plans and to ensure that the appropriate rigor and assessments are present.
• instituted mentoring where each student is counseled on their past standardized scores and what they mean.
• leadership team and faculty are developing a plan to provide opportunities for students to become more career ready.
• explore different ways students can obtain industry certificates in vocational/technical areas.
“Caverna High School is being proactive to meeting the needs of our students. With the implementation of Senate Bill 1, the accountability system is directed more toward preparing our student’s for life after graduation. We are aligning our curriculum, instructional strategies and assessments to the new accountability system. The focus on graduating students college and/or career ready has become integrated into the fabric of our curriculum. We feel as we continue to implement strategies and interventions to improve our instructional practices we will meet the goals set forth by the state,” Dick said.
Caverna’s benchmark goal for 2014 is 57 percent of graduates being college/career ready – 55 points above the current score.
Metcalfe County High School increased the number of graduates prepared for college and/or career from 24 percent last year to 36 percent CCR and 45 percent with bonus points. District percentages were 33 and 42 this year with an additional 11 students attending the alternative Metcalfe Academy High School (MAHS).
Superintendent Patricia Hurt credits a nursing program at MCHS for helping to bring an increase in the number of graduates who are career and college ready.
“Most are as a result of our MNA program, which is a certificate-bearing nursing program offered within our high school. The teacher is employed through Barren County Vocational School and is placed in our high school setting every day, all day. The opportunity to learn provided by this program being physically offered in our high school is making a tremendous difference in our total number of students who can earn an industry-bearing certificate,” she said.
Another factor is the addition of a CCR coach in the district.
“We also hired a career/college coach that works directly with students at MCHS, Metcalfe County Middle School and MAHS. He joined us in this work at mid-term last year,” Hurt said.
The district’s 2014 CCR benchmark goal is 62 percent and Hurt believes that it is attainable.
“I think we can make the goal within the time frame allowed. I know it is our goal to do so and it is amazing what you can do when you set your sights on a goal and attach a deadline,” she said. “I am encouraged by the increase and we will all continue to give this aspect of student accountability ... the same significance in future years. ... In the end, it is all about our students being competitive in the workplace and in line for admission to the college of their dreams.”
Monroe County High School slipped from 46 percent of graduates ready for college or career in 2010 to 38 percent CCR and 42 percent with bonus points this year.
Lewis Carter, Monroe County superintendent, said there are several reasons why his district saw the decrease.
“Our ACT scores fell slightly during this one-year period, which impact the college-ready criterion. However, we will point out that we have become a COMPASS testing site in the spring of 2011. COMPASS is yet another indicator of college readiness. We feel that as we become more familiar with that assessment and the use of its measurements, we will see even more students meeting benchmarks through its testing,” he said.
KOSSA certificates for 2010-11 were given to 41.4 percent of students, down from 56.8 percent the year prior, according to Carter.
“This 15 percent drop is for several reasons, but the most prevalent one is that many of our students chose to enroll in college credit-bearing classes and/or dual credit classes during the past year. We have many seniors who leave campus each day for dual credit courses on Western’s campus. When this occurs, they are unable to be in the career-track electives – lowering the number of completions by MCHS students. However, we do not view this decline as a negative – as we see these students taking college-level courses while still in high school – but it does have an adverse effect on the number of students who can participate in the career-track elective classes. This is evident by the decline we see with this latest figure,” he said.
A plan has already been developed and put into action at MCHS including the addition of ASVAB testing to all seniors, continued COMPASS testing, offering more individual certificates within the career and technical programs at the high school, and a monitoring tool that will be used to track performance on tests of individual students.
ACT-prep classes with individualized RTI (Response To Intervention) are occurring with small groups and one-on-one tutoring. Mathnasium interventions for students who did not meet benchmark in the area of math are under way with reading targeted for later this fall. TCA (Triumph College Admissions) is available for every child at the high school.
“The Monroe County School District enjoyed being first in the GRREC region and fifth in the state in College and Career Readiness for the 2009-10 school year. Again for College and Career Readiness for the 2010-11 school year, we are in the top third of the GRREC region. Even though our district scores declined slightly we are willing to make this sacrifice in order for our students to begin their individual path to receiving college credits,” said Carter.
Monroe County has a 2014 CCR goal 31 points higher than this year’s percent.
“We feel confident that the goal of 73 percent by 2014 will be very attainable for Monroe County. We remain in the top 11 in the GRREC region after being the top school last year as well as one of the top counties in the state. There are many programs in place which we feel, over time, will lead to greater gains for our students. With the change in format for this year’s figures, we will adjust accordingly,” Carter said.
Kentucky has 174 public school districts. More than half achieved their yearly CCR goals this year.
“We are making progress,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “More than 100 school districts met their yearly goals, and a focus on career-ready and high school senior support through transitional classes are the main reasons for improvement this year. We expect an even larger increase next year, since college/career readiness will be part of the new accountability model. Now, school districts must take this information to the school level and let their communities know about strategies to reach their goals.”
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2011 High School Graduates College/Career Readiness Percentages
DISTRICT 2010% CCR 2011% CCR* 2011%CCR BONUS** 2014 GOAL% CCR
High School 40 43 49 70
District+ 41 47
High School 13 2 2 57
High School 36 43 49 68
District+ 35 40 46
High School 24 36 45 62
District+ 23 33 42
High School 46 38 42 73
STATE 34 38 42 67
*Percentage of graduates college and/or career ready
**Percentage of graduates college and/or career ready with bonus points for additional number of students meeting both College Ready and Career Ready technical benchmarks
+Districts that have alternate paths to graduation in addition to a normal high school degree have two sets of scores.