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Nelson County board of education discusses value of state tests, ACT scores

Nelson County Board of Education (file photo).

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 — The chair of the Nelson County Board of Education made it clear at Thursday’s board meeting that she wasn’t happy with the latest state test scores — particularly the district’s ACT scores.

Chase Goff, the district’s director of student leadership and learning, gave the board a presentation about the state assessment system and its changes for 2018-19. He said the state assessments are an opportunity for the state’s schools to come together and ask “what’s it say about us?”

He reminded the board that the assessments are one of a number of tests take create data points to evaluate student performance. But the test results don’t necessarily reflect the ongoing work in the district to improve the student’s school experience, increase student leadership opportunities, and the partnerships being built with local business and industry to give students real-world work experience.

“We have a lot of good things going on that aren’t reflected in the data,” Goff said of the test results. “There’s a lot of moving pieces to the star rating system.”

Superintendent Wes Bradley noted that the scores aren’t true indicators of the growth and progress the district is making improving students’ school experience and culture.

“We see the whole story, we recognize that the way (the state assessment) is broken down, it only tells a small part of the reality,” Bradley said. “We are excited about what’s going on in our schools.”

Bradley said the district’s two high schools may see ACT scores drop because the schools are becoming less “test-centric” than in the past.

The district’s change of focus is paying big dividends already, even in its first year, he said. “Its changing the lives of our kids much more deeply because of that,” he said.

Boad chair Diane Berry said the ACT remains an important test result that evaluates a student’s academic performance.

“Whether we like it or not, the kids are valued on their test scores,” she said.

Board member Rebekah McGuire-Dye did not agree with Berry’s view on the importance of the ACT test.

“Not all the kids are going to college,” she explained, “So what do I give a shit if a kid gets a 12 on the ACT and they’re going to get out and make $35 an hour welding? I don’t care what that kid gets on their ACT.”

Berry said the ACT test results still are an indicator that the students have been learning in the classroom.

“So the kid who gets a 28 has learned more than the kid who has a 12?” Dye asked.

“No,” Berry responded. “They applied it more, it doesn’t mean they learned more.”

Bradley noted that the overall state ACT scores have dropped, which he said is most likely due to the fact the ACT isn’t seen as necessary as it was when the state initially required Kentucky high school students to take it.

When Bradley was principal at Thomas Nelson High School, he said the state test scores improved year after year.

“I can tell you that as they went up, we weren’t necessarily becoming a better school,” he said. “We were becoming a more test-centric school.”

As the high schools are becoming less test-centric and more focused on the school experience of each student, he explained. The high school juniors and seniors who go out into real-world work experiences will be better off than if they were in an ACT prep class or a class with zero relevance to the students once they graduate.

STAR RATINGS. Overall the district’s schools as group by type fared well. The elementary, middle and high schools each earned a three-star rating.

The ratings were varied for the individual schools.

ONE STAR. The New Haven (middle school) received a one star rating. The students’s proficiency in math and reading were rated “low”. The rating for science, writing and social studies was “very low.”

TWO STARS. Five of the district’s schools received a two star rating, including: Bloomfield Elementary School, Bloomfield Middle School, Foster Heights Elementary, Old Kentucky Home Middle School, and New Haven (elementary).

THREE STARS. The district’s two high schools and Boston School (elementary grades) received three stars in the state assessment rating.

FOUR STARS. Cox’s Creek Elementary was the district’s only school to earn a four-star rating.

FIVE STARS. The district’s only five star rating was given to the middle school grades at Boston School.

None of the district’s school lost a star due to significant achievement gaps.

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