SALYERSVILLE – The Independent sat down with the superintendent of Magoffin County Schools on Thursday, September 28 to review the 2016-2017 test scores released earlier that day by the Kentucky Department of Education.
Superintendent Scott Helton explained that this is a transitional year in testing, so it’s difficult to compare the scores to previous years, though he reported that the district saw improvements across the board. The Department of Education is not releasing an overall score for school districts this year, as well, so school districts cannot be compared against one another. The state is moving toward a star ranking system, instead of numerical rankings, in order to find gaps in student performance.
Overall, Helton explained that in reading the number of proficient and distinguished scores increased at the elementary level, with each grade school scoring above the state average.
In math the Magoffin grade schools each saw significant gains in scores from the previous year, with the district as a whole jumping over 15 percent and each grade school testing well above the state average. Salyersville Grade School saw the biggest jump in math scores last year, with 23.2 percent more students scoring proficient or distinguished.
Field tests were done in science across each school level, so there are no comparison rates in that field.
As a district, the elementary schools saw some gain in social studies, though they are still below the state level. Both Salyersville Grade School and South Magoffin Elementary made significant gains in social studies, with South Magoffin scoring above the state average.
In writing on the elementary level, the district saw significant gains in proficient and distinguished scores, especially at North Magoffin Elementary, with 25.2 percent jump from last year and well above the state average. Salyersville Grade School had a slight decrease in scores from the 2015-16 school year, and South Magoffin Elementary improved some, but both were below the state average.
North Magoffin Elementary Principal Keith Isaac told the Independent, “With the release of the 2017 KPREP scores, students at North Magoffin Elementary have once again exceeded expectations. Though no overall school score was provided by the Kentucky Department of Education, based on student achievement, large gains were made in the majority of content areas, especially in writing and mathematics. North Magoffin students scored far above the state average in reading, mathematics and writing content areas. During the current school year, North Magoffin will continue on the path for continuous improvement, by striving to decrease novice, increase proficiency, and close the achievement gap.
South Magoffin Elementary released the following statement regarding the test scores: “The principal and staff at South Magoffin Elementary were very pleased with the results of the recently released K-Prep data. Based on test data, SME will continue to focus on increasing the number of students performing at the proficient level in reading and math. Although reading and math scores did show an increase, we will implement additional strategies to improve student success in order to maintain and further increase scores. Areas identified as a weakness during data analysis were writing and language mechanics. A school wide focus will be placed on strategies to reduce the number of students performing at a novice level in these areas. We appreciate the continued support of our parents and their dedication to our students’ success.”
Herald Whitaker Middle School saw gains in all areas tested, except writing, with their best increases in math and social studies, however, the school was below the state average in each area.
Magoffin County High School saw a decrease in reading, which Helton identified as one of the areas the district needs to work on. There were improvements in math and significant gains in social studies, though the school was below the state average of proficient and distinguished scores in all areas except writing. Though there is no accurate data to compare the 2015-16 and 2016-17 writing test scores at the high school level, MCHS scored almost 12 percent above the state average.
The graduation rate increased from 93.5 percent to 94.4 percent, which is above the state average of 93.8 percent.
Scores decreased slightly in college and career readiness, but remained well above the state average.
Magoffin County High School Principal Chris Meadows said, “After reviewing the most recent state assessment results, the Magoffin County High School faculty is proud of the gains students have made in writing and in college readiness. Seventy-two percent of our students assessed in writing scored proficient or distinguished and our students' average composite ACT score increased by 1.1 points. Our graduation rate continues to increase yearly and exceeds the state average. While we have made some important gains, we must intentionally focus on reducing the number of students scoring novice on end-of-course assessments. This year, teachers are meeting with administrators weekly to plan and implement intervention strategies to target novice reduction in all core academic areas. Additionally, all freshmen are being assessed in reading and math throughout the year using iReady diagnostic assessments to better inform our teachers of their individual needs. We would like parents to understand that there will soon be some changes to our assessment system but we will continue to focus on novice reduction and college and career readiness.”
“Based on the previous two years, each school showed improvement and this past year we gained more than in the past two years,” Helton said. “We have some areas of tremendous growth, but there are still areas that need improvement.”
Helton said that in light of the recent cuts to the budget, they are working to allocate the funding in ways that benefits the students.
“With limited funding, we are trying to put all of our resources to the students and we’re already seeing improvements for that. We’re not looked at as being beneath any other district around us, now.”
Helton also attributed much of the district’s growth in the 2016-17 testing to the curriculum alignment that was implemented last year.
“We’re seeing better collaboration between teachers,” Helton said. “We’re finally not competing with each other and focusing on improving the whole district.”
He explained that they are continuing to map each individual students’ strengths and weaknesses, looking for the gaps and why they are scoring the way they are, and sharing the data and former year’s test scores with this year’s teachers. Even if the student is coming from a different school, the teachers will already know the student’s needs and not have to take up some much of the school year trying to get the know the student before being able to address his/her needs.
“We want each child to have success,” Helton said. “We’re in the early stages and children will get frustrated by these new strategies, but they (the administration and teachers) are focusing on the skills that will allow them to go to college and be career-ready. It’s all about focusing on the whole child.”
Helton explained that he is proud of the district’s united front in addressing each student’s needs.
“I am so proud of our administrators, teachers, parents and students and how hard they have worked and how smooth it all went.”
While cuts to the school district’s budget have been in the headlines lately, with the changes to the unmined minerals assessment for the county and retirement funding, Helton told the Independent about more changes to the budget.
The state education commissioner told the school district their textbook funding will be cut 50 percent for the current school year, 50 percent for professional development and 17 percent for family resource centers. All in all, they are trying to cut $22 million across the state in education in efforts to meet Governor Bevin’s request for a 17 percent budget cut across all state departments.
“Every cut hurts us here,” Helton said.
The Lexington Herald-Leader ran a story recently entitled “Why aren’t your kids in school? Kentucky has a truancy problem. See how bad it is.”
Helton explained that truancy has always been a problem in the district and referenced the article’s graphic, which showed Magoffin as being one of a handful of counties with the highest average rate of chronic absenteeism in the state last year.
“If we can improve our attendance rates – have more children in school and be present – it will improve our tests scores and give the students more opportunities for their future.”