Test scores show progress in local school district

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By Brandon Mattingly

No school was left out as the Washington County School District received high marks for the progress it has made over the last school year.

The Kentucky Department of Education’s Kentucky School Report Card, which has a major focus on college and career readiness, gave those associated with Washington County Schools a lot to be proud of when recent test scores were released.

The district as a whole received an overall score of 60.4 (out of a possible 100) in 2012-13, which is almost nine points above the previous school year’s 51.7 score. Washington County was also classified as a “proficient/progressing” district, compared to a “needs improvement” designation in 2011-12.

Washington County was also named a “high progress district,” which the Department of Education’s website indicates means the district met its yearly goals and was in the top-10 percent of the state as far as making improvements.

Washington County placed in the 83rd percentile for the 2012-13 school year, a major jump from the 30th percentile in 2011-12.

Washington County Superintendent Robin Cochran said the results came from the entire district’s hard work to make a change, and that the work that led to this recognition began years ago.

“We are very excited and proud of all of the shareholders (staff, students, parents and community members) in regards to the recent test scores,” Cochran said. “As many people know, we have undergone some significant changes in Washington County over the last four years. Any time you implement change, it takes time to see progress and for results to come out of the ‘implementation dip’ that we often fall victim to.”

After overcoming that dip, test scores in Washington County have taken off over the last year, particularly at North Washington Middle School and Washington County High School.

North Washington Middle was the lone school in the district to earn a distinguished rating, being denoted as a “high performing school.” WCHS also received high marks, earning a proficient rating and being listed as a “high progress school.” Each of the district’s remaining schools (accountability performance scores listed below) received a designation of “needs improvement/progressing.”

School    ‘11-12        ‘12-13
WCHS        48.9             62
WCMS        45.5            54.8
WCES        54.8            60.4
NWMS        61.3            66.1
NWES        50.5            57.1
Overall    51.7            60.4

North Washington Middle was already named a proficient school following the 2011-12 school year, but was able to take it even further last year. The middle schoolers tested above the state average in each of the six categories of K-PREP testing, highlighted by an 86.4 score in social studies (state average - 59.2) and a 79.2 score in science (state average - 61.2).
The school also got a major boost in writing (63.2) and language mechanics (60.3), areas with a state average of around 43 percent.

The high school was able to maintain close to state average grade 11 ACT scores last year on their way to a proficient rating with an average overall score of 18.3.

“We were very pleased that we showed the gains we did,” said Washington County Principal Paul Terrell. “It’s a credit to each and every one of those teachers and staff members who worked hard to bring those scores up.”

Perhaps the biggest move made at the high school over the last year has been in relation to college and career readiness, which showed on the district’s most recent report card.

The report states that 100 of 133 graduating seniors from WCHS in 2013 were college and/or career ready upon completing their time at the school, which compares to just 54.1 percent for the state average. WCHS’ overall accountability score of 89.1 in the category soars above the state average of 60.7.

“That was our focus last year, having more students college and career ready,” Terrell said. “We broke it down to where students had more one-on-one assistance to get more direct instruction in those areas.”

“Our work with SCC and ECTC has been incredible,” added Cochran. “The opportunities that our students have in the areas of dual credit, Early College and Advanced Placement are endless and truly able to meet individual student needs.  WCSD has also committed to providing career pathways and opportunities for industry certifications and preparatory coursework that allow students to receive instruction in the areas of their interests.”

Another noteworthy stat was Washington County’s high rate of students acquiring vocational and technical training during their time at the high school. On average, just over six percent of Kentucky students are trained in vocational fields, while that average balloons to more than 22 percent (31 students) in Washington County.

Cochran said the district’s initiative to provide training that in turn benefits the community will continue into the coming school year.

“Our focus for this year is geared toward extending opportunities in the areas of pathways and we are working with the community to determine the needs,” Cochran said. “We are looking to add areas where students are able to specialize and receive training while in high school that will enable them to be ‘work ready’ upon leaving high school.”

“We increased our numbers last year at the Marion County Technical Center, we have a relationship with ECTC and want to build upon that and we’re looking at starting our nursing program and enhancing that with St. Catharine College,” added Terrell. “We’re trying to open more doors for those tech ed students.”

While the recently released test results show positive progress for Washington County as a whole, Cochran said it’s just one piece of the formula that allows the district the feedback it needs to continue to move in the right direction.

“What is interesting is that the Washington County School District sees the test results as a piece of data that demonstrates that students are learning at high levels, but this isn’t the only way we are measuring progress,” Cochran said. “With the new common core state standards, our working in english language arts and math is aligned according to standards and targets. The ongoing assessments we are implementing (universal screeners, diagnostic, formative, benchmarks and summative) enable all shareholders to know where they are in regards to progress and provide ‘just in time’ support so that students do not get behind and gaps are eliminated.”

With the impending move to the new high school facility in 2014, change is on the way for Washington County. Among those changes will be included a facilities plan, which will determine the use of the existing high school. No decision has been made on what the current high school’s future role will be, but Cochran said moving to the new facility should make an immediate impact.

“Moving into the new high school will allow students the opportunities for experiences at higher levels,” Cochran said. “With the new project-based learning labs/classrooms, teachers will be able to collaborate in student-friendly environment where students will be able to engage in hands-on, real-life problem solving. This will allow for more differentiation and movement amongst students and teachers. The science labs will also allow for teachers to plan a variety of activities.”

The superintendent went on to express that everyone who’s had a hand in the district’s success deserves praise, and said no matter what the test scores are each year, the mission remains the same.

“The culture has shifted in Washington County. We realize that our youth are our future and the work to be done is never-ending,” Cochran said. “I am so thankful to work in a district where the board of education allows the administration to take risks and try new things, where staff has high expectations for themselves and their students, where parents want the best for their children and where students are demonstrating that they care and want to learn.

“In the end,” she added, “it is not about test scores, because there will be years where our scores are not as strong. It is about student achievement and students graduating with knowledge and a plan for the achieving their dreams, hopes and future.”