LCMS earns top rating in KDE star system

Contributed photo

Lyon County Middle School students smile with a banner celebrating their five-star rating achievement.

This year, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) switched to a new star-rating accountability system which is designed to help identify which schools are excelling and which could use more work.

Lyon County Middle School was one of only 56 five-star schools in the entire state, and their score ranks them ninth among the state's 319 middle schools.

"Everything that we're looking at in all this data comes down to five days. There is so much that goes into a school year based off of that," said Lyon County Middle School Principal Drew Taylor. "I feel like at a five-star middle school the work has got to continue to improve… Yes, we're happy, we've celebrated, and now it's back to work. We know what we're capable of. The teachers in that building, a considerable amount of them have been there for an extended amount of time, and they know what it's like to be successful, and that they want to do that."

"Students are well-aware of the hard work that it would take to get those results, and teachers every day strive for that," he continued. "When I go back to those relationships that you build throughout the year that lead up to those five days, when you go back to the culture that's instilled in the building that leads up to those five days; so much of that is crucial when it comes to getting those results.

"Yes, we are excited. We are thrilled to be where we are, but at the same point in time we know the work that lies ahead, and that's what we're going to strive to do every day."

These tests don't just exist as a way to help parents choose the best school districts for their child. They also give school administration a gauge for where their students are academically, and how best to help them grow.

"Right now, the elementary is a three star, and we're right in the middle of the bell curve statewide on those percentages, and that's OK, but good is not good enough. We want to be great," said Lyon County Elementary Principal Amy Perdue. "Some of the areas that we see that we're weaker in are math and writing, so we've really been strategic about putting our efforts in those two categories, for sure; sending teachers to workshops and having more vertical alignment with teachers.

"We have school-wide plans from kindergarten to fifth grade, so even if they're tested in math in third, fourth, and fifth, it's our K, one, two building up for them. And writing is only in fifth grade, but they can't wait until fifth grade to start writing; so just making sure we have those schoolwide plans in place."

Perdue said this year they have put a new math interventionist, Leighann Summers, in place to aid students who are performing in the bottom 15-percent for math. Michelle Austin also remains as the elementary school's reading interventionist, and is helping them with their new guided reading program.

Perdue said the guided reading program has already proven returns after students were evaluated at the end of their first nine weeks.

"In kindergarten we started out with 42-percent below grade level. We're now at 28-percent, just after that first nine weeks," Perdue shared. "And then in first grade we went from 58 to 32-percent below grade level."

For Lyon County High School Principal Thomas Radivonyk, the fact that the high school fell just two-tenths of a point short of grabbing a four-star ranking has left him with mixed feelings.

"To miss the four-star rating by two-tenths of a point was bittersweet," he said, "but the factors that lead into that weren't 100-percent a revelation to us, because we were above state average in math, writing, and science, but below in reading. That's something that we knew last year was an issue because of our benchmark testing and our attention to that, so our work last year on PLCs was centered around literacy, so we've got a new literacy plan in place; writing across the curriculum, reading across the curriculum, of course."

Last year, the high school implemented a program they call "Drop Everything and Read (DEAR)," in which students school-wide are required to stop what they're doing at the same time and pick up a printed publication to read. This year, they've added "Drop Everything and Write." Drop Everything and Write requires all students to sit down and write to the same prompt simultaneously.

"It's not as good as 'DEAR,' because 'DEAW' doesn't really mean anything… We're actually flying without an acronym, which is not normal for education," Radivonyk joked.

He said there have been some complaints from students about being forced to go analog for these activities, but he believes taking them out of their comfort zones--and away from their devices--is a positive thing.

Despite their insistence on having students put away their devices periodically, Radivonyk said he's pleased with the way the school's new one-to-one Chromebooks have enhanced, though not replaced, traditional instruction in the high school.

Since the ACT test, generally taken by juniors, is also used as a benchmark in this rating system, the high school has taken steps to ensure those students are better prepared for that exam. Last year, the school paid for all sophomore students to take the actual ACT test.

"This will be the first set of testing juniors-- 46-percent of our accountability is through the ACT-- so this will be the first group that will have tested as sophomores as well," Radivonyk said. "So that exposure, practice, and familiarity with the format should have a big impact on that, as well."

The KDE establishes each school's index score using the following criteria:

*Proficiency in math and reading scores (from K-PREP tests for grades 3 through 8, and the ACT for juniors);

*Separate academic indicators (science, social studies, and on-demand writing);

*Growth (progress in math and reading for students year-to-year);

*Transition readiness for high schoolers; and

*Graduation rate for high schoolers.

Based on these criteria, schools are given a rating from one to five stars, with five being the highest performing.

For the 2018-2019 school year, Lyon County Schools scored as follows:

Lyon County Elementary School

*Index score of 62.6 (Three Stars)

*Proficiency- 76.3 (increase of 8.7-percent from previous year)

*Separate academic indicator- 63.7 (increase of 2.8-percent from previous year)

Lyon County Middle School

*Index score of 76.6 (Five Stars)

*Proficiency- 86.3 (increase of 2.3-percent from previous year)

*Separate academic indicator- 73.9 (decrease of 6.8-percent from previous year)

Lyon County High School

*Index scored of 71.8 (Three Stars; 0.2 points away from four stars)

*Proficiency- 56.5 (increase of 2.8-percent from previous year)

*Transition readiness- 89.9 (increase of 3.8-percent from previous year)

*Graduation rate- 98.4 (decrease of 0.1-percent from previous year)

"I think we're all proud of where we're standing," Lyon County Superintendent Russ Tilford shared. "We're proud; not necessarily satisfied. We all want to be sitting where Drew Taylor is with a five-star, top 10 in the state school… There's a lot of things in place that make our future even brighter than our present."

To view the full scores of Lyon County Schools, and other schools in the state, visit www.kyschoolreportcard.com.