Owensboro and Daviess County public schools officials each met Thursday, respectively, to further discuss the Tuesday release of the state assessment test results, referred to as the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress, or K-PREP test.

One thing most all officials could agree on is that the state's new five-star rating system simplifies what is actually taking place within Kentucky schools, and that in some cases it is not an entirely accurate or fair portrayal of how students are performing on a daily basis.

The new five-star system ranks schools and districts based on a number of indicators and data points, from one to five, one being the lowest, and five being the highest

OPS Superintendent Nick Brake said the state accountability is an imperfect system, and that it doesn't speak to the level of work the district, and specifically the high school, does to teach to the whole child. The district is measuring student achievement by at least a half-dozen things. The K-PREP is, essentially, just one of many.

There are many schools within the city school system that serve every student sub-group that the state has classified as "gap groups," where there is a significant difference in student achievement between majority and minority student populations.

For example, students who are economically disadvantaged compared to students who are not economically disadvantaged, or students with disabilities to students who have no disabilities.

Brake said the district prides itself on its diverse student populations, and they celebrate that diversity. There are a lot of individuals who choose to send their students to city schools because of the resources they put into gap group students, and the district is doing a lot of work to specifically target those students.

"There are a lot of people who come to us because they know we don't put all of our stock into (K-PREP scores)," Brake said. "Not to say that we don't pay attention to it. It's important, and we make it one of the really critical indicators of how we're doing, but it's not the only one, and we aren't rearranging everything we are doing because of this."

See K-PREP/Page A2

K-PREP

Owensboro and Daviess County schools have one thing working against them that other districts across the state do not: access to an area technology center. Because of that, the districts have worked together and separately to provide high school students with career and trade school options, especially in the last year.

Jana Beth Francis, Daviess County Public Schools assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said that while having access to an ATC would help some students to become more transition-ready, she believes strongly that all students need to reach a level of academic readiness before they leave high school.

Even students who may be passionate about a trade need to reach a basic level of reading, writing, or math, for example, to be a part of the community.

"I would have to look at the students who were not transition-ready, and say to myself, how many of these students would benefit from an ATC?" she said. "The assumption that people are making is that if we had an ATC, all these students who weren't transition-ready would be. But I consistently meet kids who want to go to college and aren't prepared. I don't think one or the other would help until we know about the students who aren't transition-ready."

The assessment scores also reflected poorly on some districts and across the commonwealth for English-language learner test results, including OPS and DCPS.

In January, each English-language learner completes a separate assessment, called the Access Test, which measures English language proficiency. Depending on grade level, they are then taking the K-PREP tests and/or the ACT in March/May.

Both districts expressed concern regarding how ELL students are being measured, and that they are being counted more than once within the new accountability system, especially at the high school level. Districts are required to measure their progress of English language proficiency, and they are also required to give all students a K-PREP test.

Francis said part of a state accountability system is about "forcing the hand" of districts to look closer at how some of the sub-groups of student populations are performing.

She said both OPS and DCPS are experiencing growth in ELL students, so they should be taking a closer look. Some of the ELL students fall within several gap groups. They could be ELL students who are also on free and reduced lunch and who are a minority race or ethnicity.

That is why it's important to look beyond the star system, Francis said, because the stars are "a simplification of a lot of material."

It is challenging, she said, because of course parents want their child to go to a school where they are challenged, and they are learning and making progress.

But it's also important that they are expressing themselves creatively, that they are loved, and supported in a variety of ways, both socially and emotionally. Those things aren't measured by a five-star system.

The state assessment results are a measure of five days of testing, Francis said, and she always tells parents to pay attention to what their individual student is needing.

"The stars don't tell me anything about the responsiveness of a school, if they are responding to the needs my child has," she said.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315.

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