Thursday, August 16, 2001

Schools above average on test

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For the first time, Kentucky students have performed at or above national averages on a basic skills test.

        And Northern Kentucky students continued to outperform their peers, scoring above state and national averages in reading, language arts and math on the 2001 Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills.

        Results released Wednesday showed improvements in nearly every subject, including some Northern Kentucky schools that leapt by more than 10 percentile points.

        Third-, sixth- and ninth-graders took the test in April. Reported in percentiles on a scale of 1 to 99, each school's score represents what percentage of students nationally the school outperformed. The national norm is 50.

   More scores are coming. The 2001 results of Kentucky's main state test — the Kentucky Core Content Test — are set to be released in October.
   This test holds the most weight in the state's school accountability system, which determines whether schools get monetary rewards or state assistance.
        But the scores have little effect on schools' standings in the state's accountability system, which determines if schools get monetary rewards or state assistance.

        CTBS, a standardized test, accounts for 5 percent of Kentucky's testing system. The majority of schools' accountability scores, set to be released in October, come from the state's own content test.

        Kentucky's third-graders made the biggest improvement, moving from the 55th to the 58th percentile overall. Sixth-graders' average score held steady at the 52nd percentile, and ninth-graders increased from 49 to 50.

        Sixty-five percent of schools in Northern Kentucky meet or exceeded those state averages.

        Among those was Gallatin County Elementary, which nearly doubled its position this year, jumping from the 34th to the 67th percentile.

        “We have really focused on reading and literacy,” said Principal Diane Morgan. “Nobody leaves this school if they can't read.”

        Two years ago, the district separated its fourth- and fifth-grade students from the primary grades creating two schools.

        At that time, the primary school launched a new reading program to target struggling readers and boosted teacher training in math and science, Ms. Morgan said.

        “It's taken us two years to get it into place, but it has really paid off,” she said. “Our goal was 50. Now, we've just raised the bar. We're shooting for 70 next year.”

        Fort Thomas Independent Schools continued to be Northern Kentucky's top-performing district, posting the highest scores for all grades and all subjects.

        Covington Independent Schools remained on the bottom, with the region's lowest scores despite reform efforts launched last summer.

        Covington's third-grade scores dropped at three of the district's six elementary schools, while sixth-grade scores fell at four of those six schools. Ninth-grade scores also fell.

        Among those losses was Latonia Elementary, the district's highest-performing school. Latonia's third-grade scores fell from the 55th to the 47th percentile, while its sixth-grade scores dropped from the 66th to 57th percentile.

        Ninth District Elementary's sixth-graders, who had seen gains for the past four years, fell 17 percentile points to the 26th percentile.

        Covington Superintendent Jack Moreland said he didn't expect much improvement on the CTBS because the district has concentrated on the more heavily weighted state content test. The district's teacher training and curriculum revisions have focused on state standards for the past year, he said.

        “Everybody wants to see gains in all areas, but with a finite amount of time, you have to pick your spots,” Mr. Moreland said. “The other tests are the ones we feel we have to make progress in first.”

        Boone County Schools made gains at 14 of the district's 18 schools. Most notable is Kelly Elementary in Burlington, which jumped to the district's No. 1 spot boosting its score from the 61st to the 77th percentile. Kelly was one of 10 Northern Kentucky schools that made gains of 10 or more percentile points.

        “The scores are great,” said Boone County Superintendent Bryan Blavatt. “That's a big thrust in our district. It's the best indicator we have for making a check to see how much progress our kids are making.”

        For more details on the 2001 CTBS test scores, go to the Kentucky Department of Education's Web site at


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