MAGOFFIN – The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released school report card data this week, with all Magoffin County schools ranking in the orange category.
The KDE categorized schools using five color codes to determine performance ratings, with red meaning the lowest performance, including orange, yellow, and green, with blue as the highest performance. By their measuring system, Magoffin County schools rank low in overall performance.
Jennifer Howard, Magoffin County Schools District Assessment Coordinator and Director of Federal Programs, explained to the Independent that they have been advised by the KDE to not compare this year’s test scores to the previous year’s since there was a historically low rate of participation statewide in the end-of-the-year testing last year. In short, the statistics released on Tuesday this week will serve as a baseline of accountability moving forward.
See below for a table of the percentage of proficient and distinguished scores per school in each testing category.
“Having an overall rating of orange, meaning low, we’re not surprised by the results because we had a high rate of virtual students last year and we had many students that had to be quarantined multiple times, so we’re not panicking,” Howard said. “Most of our students are in-person, now, and we have a plan. This is setting a baseline to establish goals for growth.”
Moving forward, Howard said the district is participating in a transcend study, where students in third through eighth grade will be assessed using Kentucky’s academic standards to see where the students are excelling and what they need to work on so teachers can adjust their instruction well before the end of the year tests.
Howard also noted that while students are tested on many different subjects, reading and math scores make up 50% of the overall scores.
The biggest hurdle the school district has faced is simply getting students back in the classroom.
Magoffin County Schools Superintendent Chris Meadows said, “Right now we have the most kids in the building since March 2020 when we were all sent home. We’ve had 300 students return to in-person learning, with around 100 students virtual currently, but this time last year we had over 400 students enrolled in virtual learning. That is a positive for this year and any educator will tell you there’s no replacement for being with a teacher dedicated to a student’s growth.”
Howard said that with the transition back to in-person learning, schools are seeing more anxiety and social issues than in the past, but the district has counselors working with students in the classroom at every grade level to focus on mental health and working with others to help students navigate anxiety, building friendships and social norms.
“We’re not alone with these issues,” Howard said. “Everywhere I go and talk to educators, their kids are experiencing the same thing, and it’s affecting them socially and academically, but we have a plan and researched-based resources to help them through this.”
With more elements of education “going back to normal,” post-pandemic, Meadows said he’s excited for the growth to come.
“I’m choosing to not be disappointed,” Meadows said. “The past couple of years, we’ve all been through a lot, and we expected to see a dip here and there, but now we know where we are and where we can be.”
Compared to nearby districts with similar populations, all Martin County and Breathitt County schools also fell into the orange category, and Morgan County’s elementary and high school levels hit yellow, with their middle school also in the orange.
“Most of the schools around us are orange, with some yellow, but you can’t compare us to independent school districts, where students pay tuition and many are brought in from other districts, because their demographics are going to be completely different than Magoffin.”
Even within the county, the grade school with the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students saw lower scores than the other two elementary schools in the district.
According to KDE’s data, 79.6% of Salyersville Grade School’s students are considered economically disadvantaged, compared to South Magoffin Elementary’s at 77.7% and North Magoffin Elementary’s 72.7%. While the grade schools all scored similarly, economic factors are expected to have affected the fluctuations in results.
One thing all of Magoffin County schools ranked high in, all falling into the green category (except Salyersville Grade School in the yellow), is the quality of school climate and safety survey. All students who were tested in the spring were given a survey about how they feel about their schools’ climate and level of safety, with Magoffin County students overwhelmingly reporting that they feel safe and heard in their respective schools.
“To know our students are scoring that higher on a survey on how they feel at school, is amazing,” Meadows said. “It’s hard to grow and learn in a place where you’re not comfortable, but our students indicated they feel comfortable. That’s such a major part of learning, so I’m very pleased with that.”
Also an expected result of the pandemic and high numbers of virtual learning, Magoffin saw a dip in the four-year graduation rate, something that it has traditionally scored highly in the past, with an 89.2% four-year cohort graduation rate.
“It’s just a sign that virtual learning is not the best,” Meadows said. “It’s not bad for everyone and works in some circumstances, but if you’re not self-motivated and dedicated to doing the work, you’re going to get behind, and when students get so far behind, they tend to not be able to see any hope, and end up losing those credits. We had a system in place, with some retired teachers coming in to help those students catch back up and keep those credits, and many of these students may still graduate, but just not on time, which is what we’re seeing across the state right now.”
With more students and staff in the buildings, again, Meadows said it is an exciting time for the district.
“It’s really important to realize that this establishes a baseline, and we will use the date to form our improvement plans. We can all fix this together,” Meadows said. “We know some areas of growth we need to work on, and if you have students in a school, you have growth to work toward, and we’re ready. I’m excited. We have good staff and community members who all want the kids to be their best.”
School report cards are available on the Kentucky Department of Education’s website at https://www.kyschoolreportcard.com/home?year=2022.