McLean County's Marie Gatton Phillips Elementary School was one of just 56 schools in the commonwealth to receive five stars in the Kentucky Department of Education's new five-star accountability system, according to the 2018-19 assessment scores that were released Tuesday.

The new system rates schools from one star to five, one being the lowest and five being the highest possible score. There were 89 one-star schools, 251 two-star schools, 643 three-star schools, and 233 four-star schools, according to KDE.

Of the 56 five-star schools across the state, 37 of those were elementary, 12 were middle, and seven were high schools.

First-year principal Jeff Jones of Sacramento's elementary school was quick to attribute the school's success to the hard work of previous principal Jon Farley, teachers and students.

He called the accomplishment "awesome," especially for such a small school in a small community.

There are 117 students who attend Marie Gatton Phillips Elementary School, and eight certified teachers, and a number of other core staff members who assist with the education of students.

"For such a small community to be this successful is great," Jones said. "It's great for the community, it's great for our kids and our families, and it's also great for our teachers."

His goal is to maintain this momentum and to continue to build upon this level of success for years to come.

The Sacramento school was not the only school within the McLean County Public Schools district to perform well in the state assessment scores. The district as a whole had one five-star school, three four-star schools, and two three-star schools.

Superintendent Tommy Burrough said he is very proud of students, teachers, and other staff members for their accomplishments reflected in the 2018-19 assessment scores.

"You can't beat what has come out here for us and where we have landed," he said.

A main contributing factor to the district's success is that in the 2018-19 school year, each educator came together to formulate a district plan, where they targeted and worked on reducing the level of novices.

"We need to keep doing what we know, and just keep improving," he said. "We started out with a strategic plan, a central overall focus, and then we let the principals come in and decide where they want their numbers to be. They came up with their own targets and they took it to the teachers, who made strategies for how to reach those measures."

The result was the district scoring well, and focusing on numbers at the student level, he said.

"We have a little gold mine here," he said. "We have a lot of great things, and we are proud of it. Our kids are getting a great education."

KDE Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis specifically singled out the five-star schools in a press release, offering his sincerest congratulations.

"Being rated at the pinnacle of Kentucky's school accountability system is no small feat, and comes only as a result of strategic leadership, hard work, and partnership," Lewis said.

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

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