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Graves County School District, four of its schools score ‘Proficient,’ Lowes Elementary named ‘Distinguished’ on Unbridled Learning Assessment

The Graves County School District is ranked as “Proficient” under the new Unbridled Learning accountability data released Friday, Nov. 2. That means it ranks among the top 30 percent of districts statewide, along with four of its ten schools: Symsonia, Central, and Sedalia elementary schools, and Graves County High School. Lowes Elementary earned the status of “Distinguished,” ranking among the top ten percent of elementary schools.

“We are very pleased to see the district as a whole and four of our schools in that Proficient category and for Lowes to earn Distinguished is fantastic,” said Graves County Superintendent Pete Galloway.

“Our people work extremely hard to do a good job and they take a lot of pride in preparing young people for college, career, and adult lives,” he continued. “I really believe teachers influence learning more than any other factor. Congratulations to those teachers, schools, parents, and students who worked so hard and it shows!”

Kentucky education went “back to the drawing board,” completely restructuring statewide education assessment with the passing of Senate Bill-1 in 2009. Galloway said this is a transitional time for his district and others, as they seek to learn and adjust to the new rules and priorities.

“These scores are the first of their kind on the new system,” he explained. “Nearly everybody needs some time to adjust to changes of this magnitude. We’re very happy with our top scores and have great confidence that we can improve our lower scores based on our past experience.”

The Kentucky Department of Education had set a goal in 2002 for all Kentucky schools to reach proficiency – 100 on the Kentucky Core Content Test – by 2014. Graves County’s scores first entered the top 12 of the commonwealth’s 170-plus districts in 2004 and remained there through 2011, consistently ranking among the top 7.5 percent in Kentucky academics. . During that period, Graves County’s scores rose from 89.2 in 2004 all the way to 98 in 2011. With a growth rate of 1.1 points per year, Graves County was on track to reach proficiency on that scale by 2014.

Scores of the other five Graves County schools did not reach Kentucky’s top 30 percent; however, some came close. Graves County Middle School barely missed the cutoff. The remaining elementary schools include Fancy Farm, Farmington, Cuba, and Wingo.

Public schools across Kentucky will be scored on a scale of 1-100 under the new Unbridled Learning Accountability data. Schools ranked in the top 90 percent will be labeled Distinguished; Proficient for schools in the 70-89th percentile, and Needs Improvement for the remaining schools.

“I think there’s a big difference between the ‘Needs Improvement’ category and No Child Left Behind which labeled these schools as failing," Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told Kentucky Public Radio. "These schools are not failing; they just have particular components that they need to work on.”

Holliday added that the new system raises the bar on student achievement for school districts by taking into consideration student growth and college and career readiness. “They will sit down and say where are our priorities to work on and then they’ll set about writing a plan that involves parents and teachers,” he said.

Holliday noted that schools in the Needs Improvement category will have follow-up reviews from the Department of Education. The new model cannot be compared to last year’s data, so Holliday says parents shouldn’t panic when they see school and student scores that are lower than expected.

 “Each level – elementary, middle, and high school – has a different formula for measurement,” said Assistant Superintendent for secondary instruction Carla Whitis, who also serves as the district assessment coordinator. “This new data tells us where we are at each school under the new rules.”

“Over the past eight years, our achievement has resulted from an approach that was at once collaborative, comprehensive, consistent, and sustainable,” said Assistant Superintendent for elementary instruction Kim Harrison. “We continue to collaborate across the district. That’s one of our greatest strengths and it will get us on track to succeed with Unbridled Learning. The schools in our district that scored highest are the closest and best examples we could have to expand that success to all schools in all ways for the long run.”

“We know what we need to do because we have the new data and we’ve learned from our success in the past,” Whitis explained. “Schools will analyze the data to intentionally focus on the areas each needs to address.”

 “I’m completely confident that as a team, our schools, parents and communities will continue to help students reach their highest potential,” Galloway concluded. “That’s one of our five guiding beliefs and next year at this time, I think we’ll see growth from that teamwork.”

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