Westside, Eastside discuss students’ test scores

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By Josh Shepherd, News writer

Poor math scores across all grade levels was one of the major contributing factors to Westside Elementary School’s six-point drop in statewide  achievement tests scores, said Jon Hoskins, Westside principal, in a special presentation to the Harrison County School Board on Tuesday, Dec. 17.

Hoskins and Eastside Elementary School Principal BJ Maggard were invited to make a presentation regarding their respective school’s scores on the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) tests and their plans for improvement for the next round of testing this spring.

Of all the schools in the Harrison County system, Westside Elementary’s overall test scores were among the most disappointing. They  plunged from a 59.4 overall score in 2012 to a 53.1 last year.

Hoskins said that he and the faculty registered profound disappointment when Westside’s score was announced. A closer study of the numbers revealed that math scores were a particular weak point for the school.

“The drop in our math scores are big. A major part of our improvement plan is going to be focused on math,” Hoskins said.

Breaking down the numbers, however, allowed the school to pinpoint areas of success in Westside’s K-Prep scores. In scoring categories, for example, Westside’s Achievement score was the second highest in the district, Hoskins said.

In individual performances, he reported that the numbers of students scoring in the proficient and distinguished categories went up at Westside.

The school also had individual students scoring at the distinguished level in on-demand writing. The previous year no student had scored at the distinguished level, he said.

Looking forward to the new year, Westside’s improvement plan will be identifying the academic needs of its individual students. The school will also look into interventions to reinforce good behavior in school.

Reducing disruptions to the learning environment in classes, he said, will also be a major priority.

“We [Westside] are not where we want to be in terms of inspiring student achievement. With assistance from Jenny Lynn Hatter [Harrison County Supervisor of Instruction] we are going to take a hard look at reaching individual students and measuring the success of our interventions,” Hoskins said.

Eastside Elementary’s K-Prep scores exceeded their goal for 2013. It was one of the better performing schools in the district.

However, principal Maggard said it was still frustrating for the school to have earned a “Needs Improvement/Progressing” designation.

In terms of scores in overall academic categories, a number of Eastside’s students were within a few points of earning a    “Proficient” score.

In terms of the scoring range, Maggard said, a majority of Eastside students are scoring at the high end of the scale for an “Apprentice” in reading and math.

“We have a lot of students who narrowly missed scoring at the proficient level,” Maggard said.

This was particularly true in Reading and Math scores in the 3rd and 4th grades, she said. Fifth grade reading score, by contrast, were significantly higher in the proficient range than in apprentice.

Across the board, Eastside also saw improvements in the numbers of students scoring at the distinguished level. But there is still a lot of room for Eastside to perform better, Maggard said.

“What saved us the most were our scores in science and social studies,” Maggard reported.

Illustrating this point, Maggard presented school board members with bar graph representations of Eastside’s scoring. The school’s science scores weighed heavily on the proficient and distinguished level.

“One of our students managed a perfect score on the science exam,” Maggard said.

The goals for continued achievement at Eastside involve getting more students over the hump from apprentice to proficient levels. But Maggard said the vision for her school is always to help prepare their students for college and career readiness.

“I would love for Eastside to achieve School of Distinction status,” Maggard said. “But the most important goal is inspiring students to embrace learning.”

In other business, the school board:

•Approved the purchase orders for the high school renovation and field house project.

David Case, assistant superintendent, said that the renovated sections of the high school should be in use by the end of January. It will be into the spring before the fieldhouse is complete, he said.

•Heard a report for Austin Dacci concerning the school’s nutrition and physical fitness activity. Harrison County schools are keeping within the nutritional standards suggested by the state. 

Going forward, the school is considering implementing an after school snack program for students participating in academic tutoring.

Dacci said it is always a challenge to find ways to insert more physical activity into the normal school day. His office will look into after school fitness programs.

•Approved $27,271 as the match for a grant from the Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS) to continue improving the school’s access to state-of-the-art technology.

Melissa Shepherd, district technology coordinator, made an extensive presentation concerning the school’s state of technology, including a general assessment of the technology that students possess.

•Superintendent Andy Dotson informed board members that the three main components of the new superintendent evaluation system has been submitted to the Kentucky Department of Education.

The state requires all superintendents to submit evidence to the department of education that school boards are aware of district delivery targets, resources/support systems the administration has in place, and a report on the condition of facilities.

According to Dotson, the board’s regular meeting minutes provide ample documentation that its members are apprised of all the criteria they need to evaluate the superintendent’s performance.

•Heard all personnel actions.

•Approved fund raisers and field trip requests.