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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Fort Thomas Independent Schools earn high marks across the board in new state system

Kentucky Department of Education Rolls Out New Accountability System 


For the first time ever educators, parents, students and education stakeholders were able to see how their local schools are performing under Kentucky’s new 5-star accountability system and Fort Thomas Independent Schools have reasons to celebrate.

All five schools earned a 4- or 5-star overall performance rating based on the strength of performance on school-level measures and indicators.

The district's elementary, middle, and high school overall performance ratings were all 4 stars.

For context, only three elementary schools in northern Kentucky earned five stars and Fort Thomas Schools boast two of them in Woodfill and Moyer Elementary.  Johnson Elementary is one of only eleven 4-star elementary schools in northern Kentucky.

While there were no 5-star middle schools in northern Kentucky, Highlands Middle School was one of only three 4-star middle schools.

Highlands was one of only two 4-star high schools in northern Kentucky and qualified for the highest overall performance rating of 5 stars but, due to an achievement gap, the school's level was lowered to 4 stars.

Highlands performed at the highest performance level ("Very High") for the Proficiency Indicator, Separate Academic Indicator, and Graduation Rate and performed at the "High" performance level for the Transition Readiness Indicator.

“We are once again very proud of our students’ academic status,” said Dr. Karen Cheser, Superintendent of Fort Thomas Independent Schools.

“These results are a good measure of success but we have been increasingly intentional about building our Portrait of a Graduate skills, as well.

With the input of educators, the community and business and entrepreneurial leaders, Fort Thomas Independent Schools crafted a yearlong blueprint for the five skills that they’d like for their graduates to possess. They are:

- Courageous Leader
- Empathetic Collaborator
- Global Communicator
- Curious and Critical Thinker
- Creative Problem Solver

“We understand that our students will need these skills for the future workplace. Strong academic success is only part of the whole student. We know it takes committed teachers and staff, supportive families and community, and strong leaders to continue to excel.”

Fort Thomas Independent School Board Chair, Jeff Beach, said that he is thrilled with the direction the District is moving toward.

“The Board has recognized that despite the exemplary accountability results our students achieve every year, we have to do right by them by fortifying skills they need to blossom in their next stages of life, whether that’s earning a post-secondary degree, certification or credential, or creating their own entrepreneurial path,” he said.

“We’ve invested heavily in this process and absolutely believe we are on the right path to set our students up for success.”

Fellow board member, Karen Allen, agreed.

“We understand that our students will need these Portrait of a Graduate skills for the future workplace. Strong academic success is only part of the whole student. We know it takes committed teachers and staff, supportive families and community, and strong leaders to continue to excel and we’re leaning it to this trend to best position our students for future success.”

The Kentucky Department of Education has been working with the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to align the new 5-star accountability system with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The system does not rely solely on students' proficiency on state standardized examinations. Instead, as recommended by the many stakeholders who have had a hand in designing the system during the past four years, the following diverse accountability indicators factor into a school's overall five-star rating:

- Reading and math proficiency
- Proficiency in social studies, science and writing
- Students' academic growth/progress over one academic year
- Transition readiness (historically known as college and career readiness)
- Graduation rate
- Kentucky’s accountability system complies with ESSA requirements and follows USED's guidance on measures in each of the required indicators and for the identification of schools.

“Kentucky's new school accountability system is giant leap forward for our public education system,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis. “This system will be a key policy lever for increasing student achievement and better preparing each and every Kentucky student for success in postsecondary education and the workforce.”

Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Bill Bradford took a deep dive into the district’s scores.

“As measured by the 2019 state assessment and accountability system, FTIS demonstrated very high levels of student learning and achievement, which is the primary goal established by the Kentucky Department of Education,” he said.

“Through the indicators and measures included in the accountability system, FTIS ensured that students are well-rounded, transition-ready, and prepared with knowledge, skills and essential dispositions to successfully pursue the pathway of their choice after graduating from high school.”

Cheser said that while she’s pleased with how Fort Thomas Independent Schools has performed and enthusiastic about the skills put in place to set up their students for their next stage in life, there are some indicators that she’s looking to help the district improve.

“We need to work on transition readiness. That is making sure 100% of students meet these standards, increase career certifications, ensure every student grows and decrease the achievement gap for students with disabilities,” said Cheser.

We are able and ready to accept these challenges and looking forward to continuous improvement.”

Additional performance data for Fort Thomas Independent Schools:

- Highlands Middle School performed at the "Very High" performance level in the Proficiency Indicator and at the "High" performance level in the Separate Academic Indicator.

- Johnson Elementary School earned a 4-star overall performance rating.

- Johnson Elementary School performed at the "Very High" performance level in the Separate Academic Indicator and at the "High" performance level in Proficiency.

- Moyer Elementary School earned a 5-star overall performance rating.

- Moyer Elementary School performed at the "Very High" performance level in the Proficiency Indicator and the Separate Academic Indicator.

- Woodfill Elementary School earned a 5-star overall performance rating.

- Woodfill Elementary School performed at the "Very High" performance level in the Proficiency Indicator and the Separate Academic Indicator.

- All of the FTIS data includes "Very High" or "High" performance ratings in the academic areas within the assessment and accountability system: Proficiency Indicator, Separate Academic Indicator, and Transition Readiness.  The Proficiency Indicator refers to reaching the desired level of knowledge and skills as measured on state-required academic assessments.  The Separate Academic Indicator includes reaching the desired level of knowledge and skills in science, social studies and writing.  The Transition Readiness Indicator includes expectations for academic readiness as measured by the ACT, AP coursework, and college dual credit coursework.

- The Graduation Rate Indicator for Highlands High School, which measures the percentage of students earning a high school diploma compared to the cohort of students who started in grade 9, increased from 97.6 in 2018 to higher than 98.2 in 2019.

- The Transition Readiness Indicator for Highlands High School, which measures the attainment of the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions to successfully transition to the next level of his or her education career, increased from 82.9 in 2018 to 86.8 in 2019.  Transition readiness includes career ready expectations, such as students earning industry certifications, scoring at or above benchmark on Career Technical Education end-of-program assessments, or college dual credit coursework in CTE areas.

- No FTIS schools were identified for state and federal improvement or support.

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