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Schools in Letcher must do better in math, officials say

Officials with Letcher County’s two public school districts are pleased with some of the most recent results of the state’s Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) exams, but see an urgent need to improve math scores at the high school level.

With the high school math index set at 68.2 for the state, Jenkins High School scored 48.2 and Letcher County Central High School scored 54.

“We need to keep improving math scores and make sure we don’t leave any child behind,” said John Shook, superintendent of the Jenkins Independent School System.

Letcher School Superintendent Anna Craft is also disappointed with the math scores at Letcher County Central High School.

“The main concern is math at the high school and we are working with the math department to turn that around,” said Craft.

At the middle school level in math, the Letcher County School System scored 82.7 and Jenkins Independent School System scored 71. At the elementary level in math, the Jenkins Independent School System scored 66.1 and the Letcher County School System scored 84.4.

Last spring, more than 400,000 Kentucky students in grades three through 12 were tested in different subjects depending on their grade level. The seven subject areas are reading, mathematics, science, social studies, arts and humanities, practical living/vocational studies and writing.

Not only are schools held accountable for their students’ performance on the tests, each school is held accountable for nonacademic factors such as dropout rates, attendance and retention rates.

Under the state’s assessment system, student performance is categorized with four levels: novice, apprentice, proficient and distinguished, with distinguished being the highest level. Schools are expected to meet unique, overall goals every two years. The ultimate goal is for every school and district to reach proficiency, or 100 on a 140-point scale, by 2014. Other than proficiency being set at 100, the Kentucky Department of Education has not established points for the other performance categories.

Sixty-six of the 2,265 students who were tested in the Letcher County School System and nine of the 60 students tested in the Jenkins Independent School System scored distinguished in every subject area in which he or she was tested.

The Letcher County School System scored a 77.1, making large gains in arts and humanities, which Craft attributes to the increased emphasis on band classes at the elementary and middle school levels.

Craft said she is pleased with how the district is progressing.

“We had an increase at every school,” she said. “We are proud of every school. All of them made some significant gains.”

Scores across the district are as follows:

• Martha Jane Potter Elementary School, 90.8.

• West Whitesburg Elementary School, 83.5.

• Letcher Elementary School, 79.2.

• Cowan Elementary School, 78.9.

• Whitesburg Middle School, 78.2.

• Beckham Bates Elementary School, 77.8.

• Fleming-Neon Elementary School, 76.6.

• Arlie Boggs Elementary School, 73.5.

• Letcher County Central High School, 71.9.

• Kingdom Come Settlement School, 67.2. (The Letcher County Board of Education closed Kingdom Come Settlement School at the end of the 2006-2007 school year.)

The Jenkins Independent School System scored 70.4, with reading being its strongest subject area.

“Overall we are pleased, but we would have liked to have better test scores,” said Shook.

Jan Tackett, district assessment coordinator of the Jenkins schools, doesn’t think that the CATS data for Jenkins is as accurate as it could be. She said the Jenkins CATS results include scores of 16 students she says for whom the district should not be accountable.

“In order for their scores to come back to a school, they must have been enrolled in that school for 100 instructional days,” said Tackett.

Tackett said the district’s data will be recalculated once the Kentucky Department of Education reviews the documentation that Jenkins provided to verify its attendance records.

“At that time, we will have a more accurate picture of where our scores really are,” said Tackett.

Scores across the Jenkins district are as follows:

• Jenkins Elementary School, 73.8.

• Jenkins Middle School, 71.6.

• Jenkins Middle High School, 65.3.

Scores in school districts across the Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD) are as follows:

• Breathitt County, 83.3. • Knott County, 74.7. • Lee County, 78.5. • Leslie County, 75.7. • Owsley County, 71.6. • Perry County, 78.4.

• Wolfe County, 76.6.

CATS data has gone through several changes this year making it difficult to compare this year’s score with scores from previous years. The Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT), the test from which the CATS data is calculated, used a new design this year based on a revised version of the document containing the core content all students should know. Assessments in on-demand writing and practical living/vocational studies were moved to different grade levels. Assessments in reading and mathematics were added for grades three through eight to meet requirements for the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Legislative requirements were passed that all high school juniors must take the ACT college entrance exam beginning this spring. Eighth-grade students will take EXPLORE, a readiness exam for high school, and tenth-grade students will take PLAN, a precursor to the ACT. Both the ACT and PLAN will be calculated into CATS scores.

The alternate assessment program was revised and includes portfolios, attainment tasks and transition attainment record. Separate scores are reported for each content area.

The Kentucky Department of Education used a concordance table to link the old CATS data from 2000-2006 with the new CATS data of 2007. The statistical link allows comparison of two different tests from two different years.

Because of all of the changes in CATS, schools and districts were given two scores. The nonadjusted accountability, or raw score, has been changed from the previous years to be in compliance with federal and legislative requirements. The adjusted accountability has been calculated using the concordance table making it possible to keep the set goals and baselines.

Even though the state adjusted scores so that this year’s scores could be compared to previous years, officials still cautioned about drawing detailed comparisons to previous years.

Because this is the halfway point of the two-year accountability cycle, there was not a specific goal to have met this year. The scores listed above are the adjusted accountability because those scores will be combined and averaged with those in 2008 to determine if schools have met their unique goals.

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