GLASGOW – Caverna Independent Schools had a mixed bag of scores in Kentucky's new five-star rating system.

The middle school obtained a four-star rating.

“It's really great news! … I'm really proud of them and hopefully we can keep that momentum going,” said Caverna Middle School Principal Frank Beauchamp, who is new to the role this year. He was quick to give all the credit to students, staff and the principal for more than a dozen years, Barry Nesbitt.

The elementary school received two stars and the high school only one, though.

Attempts to reach leadership at those schools were unsuccessful Friday afternoon, but Assistant Superintendent Amanda Abell, who serves as assessment coordinator, said that despite the low number of stars, the elementary school is on an upward trend and had some successes to celebrate. She believes things are looking up for the high school as well, as new strategies are planned and a new principal is settling in for what is hoped to be a long-term stay.

“We celebrated. We felt like we had a lot of success in the district,” she said.

When these assessment scores come out, schools always have positive areas and areas for improvement – where they need to buckle down and focus more – and this helps them identify those and move forward.

“But as a district, we feel very successful,” Abell said.

The star ratings include factors like proficiency levels in reading, math, social studies, science and writing, but also students' academic growth or progress over the one academic year, transition readiness, which has been historically known as college and career readiness, and graduation rate.

Caverna Middle School

Beauchamp said that, of 319 middle schools in Kentucky, Caverna is one of 60 that achieved four stars. Only 12 got five stars, none of which were in this region, he said.

Broken down by subject area, a higher percentage of the middle school students scored as proficient or above than the percentage for Kentucky middle schools in reading – at 68.8 percent compared with 59.6 percent statewide. The writing proficiency was a bit higher at CMS at 37.1 percent than statewide, 31.9 percent, as well, and mathematics was barely below Kentucky's – 45.3 percent compared with 46.4 percent.

Scores for students enrolled for a minimum of 100 days are included in the proficiency rates.

Beauchamp, who was a teacher at the school before becoming principal, said everyone there has been working really hard the past three years in particular to elevate their results.

One thing that has been implemented is called positive behavior interventions and support, he said.

“That has really helped us reward students for good behavior and academic goals,” Beauchamp said. “We really reward students a lot.”

Beauchamp pointed out that about 90 percent of the school's students are in the economically disadvantaged category and “they scored just as well” generally as the others. That was really exciting to him, because often people expect children coming from impoverished backgrounds not to do as well.

He also attributed improvements to programs called Reading Plus, which provides extra reading work for students, and an extra math skills class that helps pinpoint weaknesses with students who struggle in that subject and helps them gain understanding of those concepts.

“Students with suggested skills below grade level were given additional support during skills class,” Beauchamp said.

For the 2016-17 academic year, Beauchamp said, 15 percent of students were at proficient or distinguished, so that's more than doubled.

He said the school started having what are called writing scrimmages throughout the academic year to help students get used to focusing and being able to write under time constraints like they do when assessment time rolls around.

Social studies proficiency was at 45.7 percent at CMS compared with 58.8 percent statewide, and science was at 11.6 compared with 26.0.

The principal said the staff was disappointed that the social studies had dipped some from the prior year, but he said some yo-yo effect is not uncommon as schools reach higher levels.

Overall, the four-star rating “is something that our whole district can celebrate,” Beauchamp said.

“Credit goes to our students for their hard work and staff who have been diligent in not only their instruction but also how they care for our students,” he said.

He said he believes that when children see that caring on a daily basis, it helps them perform better.

Caverna Elementary School

Caverna's elementary school's proficiency levels for the five areas measured were between 12.3 and 28.1 percentage points lower than the statewide figures, with social studies being the closest to Kentucky's rate overall and writing being the weakest area.

Abell said the good news is that Caverna Elementary is no longer labeled a targeted school of improvement as it had been in prior years, and the teachers were able to recognize several growth points they've achieved compared with the prior year's state data.

“It does show that the elementary school has shown growth, and we're moving on an upward trend,” she said.

They've put some new strategies into place also, including having a new reading intervention teacher for the past couple of years to target that area, and PBIS.

“And we feel like over the next couple of years we will see more growth from the implementation of those initiatives,” she said.

Caverna High School

The high school's highest proficiency area was reading, at 30.2 percent, compared with 44.5 percent of high school students statewide, but its lowest subject was science, at 5.9 percent compared with 29.9 percent statewide. The largest percentage-point difference, though, was with writing, where 50.3 percent of Kentucky high school students overall were proficient or above, but 23.5 percent of CHS' were.

“We realize that we have some room for improvement at the high school, and we also recognize our hurdles we've had to overcome,” Abell said.

One of those has been frequent principal changes and other turnover in the past few years, she said.

“It's really hard to gain momentum in that environment, but Mr. Crain is here now, and he's committed to staying,” she said.

He's local, a Caverna graduate, “so he feels invested here,” Abell said of the new principal, Chris Crain.

“Our teachers have already started looking at not only the state data but our universal screening data in reading and math, and they have identified several strategies they want to put into place,” she said.

One of those will be PBIS with fidelity and implementing more intense intervention courses like the math skills course.

“We feel like that was a big thing for the middle school, so we're going to replicate that at the high school,” Abell said.

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