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School district sets academic goals

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By Brandon Mattingly

Members of the Washington County School District discussed their hopes for academic progress within the school system over the next several years at a board meeting last Monday. Principals laid out their plans for improvement from the current school year through 2017, as well as the district’s progress as a whole being addressed.

Lee Anne Ater, director of state and federal programs, presented the district’s plan to board members, expressing hopes of increasing math and reading scores at each level.

The Comprehensive District Improvement Plan includes an overall jump in the number of students scoring proficient or distinguished on the math and reading portions of the K-Prep test (elementary and middle school) from 43.3 percent this past year to 69.5 percent by 2017. The district is also hopeful for a major hike in end-of-course scores at the high school, planning to increase last year’s 23.7 percent of students scoring proficient or above to 62.3 percent in 2017.

Schools are confident that changes made this year will be reflected in 2014 test scores, with elementary school (reading – 57 percent, math – 47.6 percent) and middle school (reading – 53.3 percent, math – 46.7 percent) goals being set. The 2014 targets set by the district for end-of-course scores at Washington County High School are 51.7 percent in reading and 26.2 percent in math.

Among the other goals noted in the improvement plan were: raising college/career readiness from 75.2 percent of students to 85 percent by May of 2015 (80 percent in 2014) and sustaining a 98 percent freshman graduation rate through 2015.

The district’s report also contains strengths and areas of improvement to be considered in coming school years. Major strides made in college/career readiness are noted, as well as the middle schools meeting math and reading delivery targets and the high school achieving reading goals.

Testing data at each level (elementary, middle and high school) showed improvements in the number of students scoring proficient or higher in math, while the middle and high schools also saw an increase in reading.

The district also notes positive feedback on the 2013 Kentucky TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning) survey with 84.7 percent of teachers agreeing that, “Overall, my school is a good place to work and learn.” It does state, however, that the score was higher in 2011.

Opportunities for improvement include several testing targets not being met, particularly within the GAP group of students. According to the Washington County Brigance screening data, only 45 percent of students starting kindergarten are ready according to the state’s definition of school readiness.

Also noted is TELL feedback that shows areas where changes may be needed:

- Efforts are made to minimize the amount of routine paperwork teachers are required to do – 51.6 percent agree
- Parents/guardians support teachers, contributing to their success with students – 64.9 percent agree
- Professional development is differentiated to meet the needs of individual teachers – 55.2 percent agree
- Professional development is evaluated and results are communicated to teachers – 50.5 percent agree

The principals from each school were in attendance to share their individual targets, including WCHS Principal Paul Terrell saying he hopes to see ACT scores clear the 19-mark in the near future.

“I realize 19.5 is lofty for this year, but if you set your goals too low, you’re not going to get (to the overall goal),” Terrell said.

Washington County juniors scored an average of 18.3 on the most recent wave of ACT exams, down from 18.5 the year before.

WCES Principal Chris Brady laid out plans for K-Prep reading and math proficiency to increase from 43 percent last year to 70.8 percent in 2017 and GAP scores to jump from 35.2 to 66.2 percent over that same span.

WCMS Principal Ty Howard said he hopes for his school to raise proficiency from 42 to 67 percent over that time, as well as increase college/career readiness through Explore test scores. An area of focus this past summer for WCMS teachers was training in handling behavioral issues. Howard said the training has paid off.

“What we have implemented this year has been wonderful. Behavior has really improved,” Howard said. “If you’ve got good behavior in the classroom, you’re going to get a little bit more done academically.”

Howard and North Washington Principal Amanda Mattingly each spoke on improvements in parent-teacher communication, with Mattingly noting that NWS teachers will be scheduling individual conferences with kindergarten through fifth-grade parents instead of hosting the typical one-night conference. She said she hopes the change results in all parties involved feeling less rushed and being able to delve deeper into each student’s needs.

NWS also hopes to continue increasing test scores, with a target of 70 percent proficiency being set on reading and math after 39.95 percent this past year and a college/career ready target of 68 percent by 2017 (up from 55.3 percent).

 Other notes
- Regina Hood delivered the Food Service Annual Assessment, acknowledging that Washington County has been approved for a six-cent reimbursement by the state for being in compliance with standards since submitting their menus in December of last year.
- The board decided to go with Kerr Office Group in Elizabethtown for the furnishing of the new high school. Kerr submitted an offer at a rate of 6.5 percent compared to a 7.75 percent rate from Hurst Business Supply and Furniture.
- Jason Simpson, director of special education and preschool coordinator, recognized Jill Settles for recently being asked to serve on the Kentucky Community Education State Advisory Council.
- Retiree Debbie Nalley was recognized for her service to the school district.

All board members were in attendance.