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Test results concern Jenkins board

The Jenkins Independent Schools Board of Education discussed possible strategies to raise test scores in Jenkins High School for the second half of the CATS testing biennium at its October meeting. Curriculum and Instruction Director Jan Tackett reported that the high school’s test scores fell slightly below the midterm goals. However, scores are averaged over a two-year period, so the high school still has a chance to meet the two-year goal for 2007- 2008. Tackett said JHS is in the assistance category for the time being, but the middle school and elementary schools met their goals for the biennium midterm.

Superintendent John Shook said it is puzzling how the system has continued to progress and meet goals since CATS testing was implemented in 1999, and did not meet the goal this year. Shook said he believes a change in the way the tests are evaluated has a lot to do with the lower scores, not just in Jenkins High but in other schools as well.

“We were injured by it,” said Shook, referring to the change in the way tests are evaluated. “If we had made the same scores this year as we made last year our scores would still have been lower.”

In response to questions from board members about an overall strategy for improving scores, Tackett said the testing is much too complex to generalize and tests contain so many variables they will have to be broken down as they apply to individual students in order to plan for future improvements. Tackett also said each grade tested gets eight different tests so it is difficult to evaluate on a student-to-student basis when children aren’t given the same test.

In a more positive test-related event, nine students from grades three to seven were recognized for scoring “Distinguished” in every category in which they were tested. Testing varies by grade, but each of the children excelled in every test they took. Superintendent Shook told the board that several of the students were involved in other activities, such as the basketball homecoming and an academic meet that evening. Shook presented plaques to each student present and said the others would receive theirs at school and a group picture will be taken. Recipients by grade are: seventh grade, Brooke Puckett, Jessica Mullins, and Michael Kelly; sixth grade, Billy Mullins and Kevin Brashear, fifth grade, Danielle Powell, third grade, Brandon Little, Kobi Johnson, and Melissa Bartley. Tests results are based on tests taken in spring 2007.

In other business, the board voted to honor Jan Tackett’s request to hire a full-time teacher for gifted and talented students rather than contracting out instruction. The state allocates $21,794 to the system for gifted education and the remainder of the salary and benefits package will come from the budget. Tackett said Kentucky is woefully underfunded in educating gifted students and that even Mississippi outspends Kentucky on a large scale, allocating over $45 million for gifted and talented programs while Kentucky spends just over $7 million. She also said Kentucky ranks 47 out of 50 in the number of engineers and scientists that come from state schools.

Tackett said at present 89 students in the Jenkins system have been identified as gifted in at least one area and several are gifted in more than one category. Shook said that with 89 gifted students and only nine students testing distinguished in all categories, the position would be money well spent. Board Vicechair Tracy Goff made the motion to create the position and the vote was unanimous. Shook told the board advocates for gifted education plan to lobby the General Assembly hard in the coming session to increase funding.

The board also voted to accept low bids on building repair work to be done on all three campuses. Architect Wayne Clayton of CS Design told the board Elliott Contractors had come in with the low bid for the interior work and Bryden Corp. was low bidder for the roof repairs. Clayton also said that after examining the old cooling tower, which Superintendent Shook said could no longer run at over 65 percent of capacity, it had been determined it would be more cost effective to replace it than to attempt repairs on the old unit. Shook asked about the possibility of delaying the beginning of work until spring break to minimize class interruptions, but the board decided to stick with the original schedule upon the architect’s recommendation.

The closing date for the bids is November 27 and construction will commence sometime after the closing date. The Jenkins Independent School District Financial Corporation voted to advertise for the sale of bonds to finance the work.

In other board business:

• The board tentatively approved a plan presented by senior sponsors to fly JHS seniors to Florida and board a cruise ship to the Bahamas for the senior trip. As in past years, numerous fund-raisers will be held so each senior can pay for the trip through school-sponsored fundraising activities rather than having their parents pay for it.

• The board approved the school configuration for testing and reporting purposes. Elementary school is grades K-6, middle school 7- 8, and high school, 9- 12.

• Director of Pupil Personnel Harvey Tackett reported that attendance has leveled out at 93.6 percent for the district. Tackett said he will visit each class in the coming weeks to discuss attendance and Safe School policies.

• Technology Coordinator Damien Johnson reported receiving new PC and iMac computers, which he said will be in classrooms soon.

• The board approved a contract with Letcher County Schools for court-mandated alternative education services. Shook told the board that students sent to alternative education by the courts would be sent to Letcher County Central Alternative School, while those placed in alternative school by Jenkins school officials would be taken care of within the system.

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