Educators in the Knox County Public Schools received a good report when reviewing last year’s results of the Kentucky Core Content Test. Knox County is showing improvements in reading and math student proficiency according to test data.
Five Knox County schools met the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability goals, with four others showing gains compared to the previous year. The district met 12 of its 13 target goals, or 92.3%. Schools meeting their goals were Central Elementary, Dewitt Elementary, GR Hampton Elementary, Girdler Elementary, and Lay Elementary.
“I am very proud of the effort of our students and teachers”, said Knox County Schools Superintendent Walter T. Hulett. “Our students are learning at higher levels than ever before. We will continue to hold everyone accountable to higher standards as we work on moving Knox County to the top.”
The greatest gains in test scores were made at Dewitt Elementary, which increased the number of proficient students in reading and math by over 30% based on the previous year. Dewitt Elementary had an annual measurable objective/goal of 73.64 in reading for 2010 and exceeded that goal by scoring 79.63 (+32.78% gain). The school also exceeded their annual measurable objective of 61.23 in math by raising the number of students proficient or better to 82.41 (+31.06% gain). In addition, Dewitt had a novice rate of 4.14%, which was a reduction of 12.47% from 2008-2009.
Other notable gains in the school district include Central Elementary, whose reading increased by 10.14% and math by 7.8%; Flat Lick Elementary with increases of 11.83% in reading and 2.75% in math; Girdler Elementary with a gain of 1.33% in math; GR Hampton Elementary increased reading by 9.25% and math by 8.6%; Lay Elementary increased reading 7.04% and math 3.2%; Knox Middle whose reading increased 8.74% and math 4.73%; Knox Central gained 12.49% in math; and Lynn Camp increased reading proficiency by 1.17% at the elementary level and 1.09% at the middle/high school. Lynn Camp also had a gain of 10.89% in math at the middle/high school.
NCLB data for the 2009-2010 school year shows the district and schools combined meeting a total of 108 of 122 target goals, or 89%. In the previous school year, 2008-2009, there were 98 of 120 target goals met, or 82%. Also, during 2008-2009, only four of the Knox County Schools met their NCLB goals.
Because of federal rules with No Child Left Behind, if a district or school receives “no” in any one category on their annual report, that district or school is considered not making annual yearly progress (AYP). In the district report, Knox County scored a “no” in the “other” category. This category measures high school graduation rates and gains in all subject areas tested at the elementary and middle levels, not just reading and math.
“As a district we are taking steps to address our graduation rate”, said Superintendent Hulett. “The district is planning on using school improvement grant funds to hire a parent liaison to assist with dropout prevention efforts. Through the Knox Intervention System, we are identifying and assisting students who are at-risk of dropping out due to academic struggles.”
Gains in Reading
District reading scores for proficient and distinguished students rose 5.38% from the previous year. At the same time, the percentage of students scoring novice decreased by 3.04%. These gains along with an overall reduction of non-proficient students placed the school district in the “safe harbor” zone for their annual measurable objective in reading. “Safe harbor” means that the district reduced the percentage of non-proficient students by 10% or more.
“The fidelity of our programs and staying on course has led to the gains in reading”, said Assistant Superintendent Marion Sowders. “By integrating literacy across the curriculum and providing teachers with specific training, we are already on track to meet next year’s goals”.
Two major reading programs utilized in the Knox Schools are Success for All at the elementary level and Reading Edge at the middle school level. The school district also utilizes tests from Discovery Education and common learning checks to continually monitor student progress. Students seen needing assistance receive intervention instruction through the Knox Intervention System.
“This year we will be hiring a new literary coach through the school improvement grant”, said Sowders. “This will help the district in making the transition to the new core standards and the challenge of new accountability in the future. We want to be proactive instead of reactive to ensure our curriculum allows for continued gains in reading.”
Gains in Mathematics
The Knox County School District exceeded the math target for 2010. Proficiency rates for all students are at 61.38 for 2010; the annual measurable objective set for the district was 59.79.
“Our elementary schools are making great progress utilizing the Everyday Math program”, said Federal Programs Coordinator Pamela Williams. “Everyday Math is being used to motivate students as it targets their individual learning styles. Elementary students are starting to see growth in math because it is tailored more to their needs.”
“The math programs at the middle and high school become more conceptual based which sometimes poses challenges for students”, stated Williams. “We are working with teachers to help target the different learning styles and levels of learning at those grade levels.”
The Everyday Math program is used in the district’s elementary schools while Connected Math is used at the middle school level. Students in high school are beginning to use Carnegie Cognitive Math this year.
“I feel that our Math Blast celebration has also contributed to the growth in the number of proficient and distinguished students”, stated Williams. “Each year the number of students we honor at the celebration increases. Students are seeing the importance of math and that will carry on with them throughout school and life.”
Other improvements cited in the Knox County Schools
In addition to increases in reading and math on the Kentucky Core Content Test, high schools in the district experienced gains on the ACT which was administered to juniors last spring.
“The statewide average gain was four-tenths of a point”, stated Superintendent Hulett. “Knox Central seen their ACT scores gain by an entire point and Lynn Camp experienced a two point increase.”
While the new statewide accountability system is still uncertain due to lack of funding by the General Assembly and failure to receive Race to the Top funds, Knox County staff is concentrating on the new push for college readiness.
“Knox County is a forerunner in these changes. We know that the ACT will play a huge role in future accountability, therefore we are making sure that college readiness is present throughout the curriculum”, said Hulett.
Hulett accredited the gains in ACT scores to changes made to the curriculum last year. “Last year our staff started the process of embedding those skills into their instruction and as a result we seen one and two point gains in our ACT.”
The use of non-negotiables in Knox County is also cited as a reason for the increase in overall test results. The district’s non-negotiables include review of previous content, known as “flashbacks”, preparation of quality lesson plans, formative and summative assessments, and participation in professional learning communities (PLCs).
“Our teachers know that they must have quality, authentic instruction planned each day”, said Assistant Superintendent Sowders. “They must constantly review previous material and assess the current to make sure that students understand. Teachers are also working collaboratively in their PLCs to identify where their students need additional instruction.”
“There has never been a better time to be a teacher in Knox County”, stated Superintendent Hulett. “I am encouraged by what our staff is doing on a daily basis. We will see the hard work pay off as test scores and student success continue to rise in Knox County.”