A Look Back at JCPS Testing Performance
The Kentucky Department of Education is phasing out its accountability standards and scores that have been in place for over a decade. The new standards will take effect for the 2018-2019 K-PREP test scores. The last year that KDE assigned and released accountability scores for schools and school districts was the 2016 school year.
Even though the state will soon be operating under new standards, the last year of results under the old standards reveal areas of concern in the Jefferson County Public School system.
Definitions In the past, KDE designated each school and district as Distinguished, Proficient, or Needs Improvement by the percentile ranking in the state of its overall scores. KDE assigned overall scores based on the percentage of students scoring Proficient and Distinguished (%P&D) on K-PREP exams. Anything below a Proficient or a Distinguished score (Novice or Apprentice) is not considered a passing score.
A Distinguished school or district had an overall score at or above the 90th percentile; a Proficient one had an overall score at or above the 70th percentile; and a Needs Improvement one had an overall score below the 70th percentile. In addition to the designation based on overall score percentile, KDE could attach a designation of Progressing to schools and districts. This designation indicated that a school met its AMO (annual improvement goal), its student participation rate for all groups of students, and its graduation rate goal - essentially this meant that the school had made headway over the last year.
Beyond these basic designations, certain schools would be assigned special designations like Focus School, Priority School, or School of Distinction.
Focus Schools and Priority Schools were generally among the lowest performing schools in a district. Focus Schools were usually determined based on two years of combined data. A school must either have a non-duplicated student gap group score in the bottom ten percent of all corresponding scores in the district, an individual student subgroup by level in the bottom five percent for individual subjects, or graduation rate below eighty percent for two consecutive years (for high schools) to be considered a Focus School.
Priority Schools are often severely underperforming schools. A school must have an overall score in the bottom five percent of overall scores by school level for all schools that have failed to meet their AMO for the last three consecutive years.
Schools of Distinction are among the highest performing schools in a district. They must not be a Focus School, must meet their current year AMO, student participation rate, and graduation rate goal, and must have an overall score at the ninety-fifth percentile or higher. High schools must have a graduation rate above eighty percent for the past two years.
Although the standards are changing, the last accountability scores received by many schools in Jefferson County should still raise concerns.
The Summary Statistics Chart summarizes the KDE’s 2016 Accountability Data based on school level compared to the district as a whole. The school levels are compared based on the proportions of Distinguished, Proficient, and Distinguished schools; progressing schools; and schools with special distinctions as well as the average percentage of students scoring Proficient and Distinguished in various KPREP subjects.
During the 2016 school year, more than half of JCPS schools were considered Needs Improvement schools (57.86%), but less than half of all of the schools in the district were considered progressing (42.14%). JCPS elementary schools had the highest proportion of Progressing schools of the school levels (48.91%), but less than a third of middle and high schools were identified as Progressing.
An especially high percentage of middle schools were identified as Needs Improvement schools (78.57%) and Focus schools (46.43%). Elementary and high schools generally had average %P&D above the district average %P&D, but middle schools were consistently below the district average %P&D.
The Designation Statistics Chart divides up the district’s schools by their designation of Distinguished, Proficient, and Needs Improvement. The schools in each designation are examined by the proportions of progressing schools and schools with special distinctions. The average percentage of students scoring Proficient and Distinguished in various K-PREP subjects is noted as well as the highest and lowest %P&D in each category.
The most striking numbers on the Designation Statistics Chart are some of the lowest %P&D in each category. Valley High Middle School - a Needs Improvement school - had some of the lowest %P&D in the district. Only 4.9% of students at the school scored Proficient or Distinguished in Math and 3.3% scored Proficient and Distinguished in Writing. Any score below a Proficient or Distinguished is considered a failing test score – so at Valley High Middle School, 95% of students failed the Math K-PREP exam, and 96% of students failed the Writing K-PREP exam.
Proficient and Distinguished schools also had some surprisingly low %P&D for being above the seventieth percentile in overall scores. Several Proficient schools had below a quarter of their students passing certain K-PREP exams. One Distinguished school only had 22.1% of its students pass the K-PREP writing exam.
Nearly three-quarters of Proficient schools and nearly half of Distinguished schools were considered Progressing. Less than a third of Needs Improvement schools were progressing.
The Special Designation Statistics Chart looks at the schools that were assigned special designations - like focus school, priority school, and school of distinction - compared to schools without special designations based on school level and progressing status along with the average, highest, and lowest %P&D in each testing category.
All of the district’s Schools of Distinction were identified as Progressing schools, but only 41.67% of Focus Schools and 35.39% of Priority Schools were considered Progressing.
The distributions of achievement scores for the entire district and the district’s elementary schools are roughly normal. The achievement scores for middle schools skew toward the low end of the spectrum. The distribution of high school scores is almost bimodal - with many schools doing poorly and many schools scoring well.
The distributions of the average %P&D for the district also tend to skew toward the lower scores - especially in Reading, Science, Writing, and Language Mechanics. The distributions of elementary and high school %P&D tend to skew toward lower scores. The middle school %P&D distributions tend to be at lower scores, but more evenly distributed.