Harlan and Harlan County receive report cards from state

Published 1:05 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

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The Kentucky Department of Education has released the results of the Kentucky Summative Assessment for 2022, or School Report Card, which includes results from area school districts.

According to a news release, the results are from the Spring 2022 assessments. Starting this year, the state’s accountability system will feature a color-coded rating for all schools instead of a five-star rating system. The codes include red (lowest), brown, yellow, green, and blue (highest). Along with the color codes, schools are issued federal classifications, including Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI), and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) are all federally mandated school identifications.

The Harlan Independent School District rated in the green level for all schools and received no federal classifications.

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Harlan City Schools Superintendent C.D. Morton was pleased with the results.

“We have been anxiously awaiting these results so we could really see where we can get better,” Morton said. “The data from this assessment is a crucial element in knowing how well your schools are performing and how well you are preparing students. It is easy to assume you are doing well, but until you have statewide results to give some context, you don’t really know how well you are doing relative to the rest of the state. These results validate the strategies and focus we had during the pandemic. They also reinforce that our targeted efforts with the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds were and continue to be effectively used to impact student learning. Our district is doubling down on our focus in moving students and families forward in the classroom while strengthening a school culture where students thrive.”

According to the release, the Harlan Independent School District surpassed the state average in all assessed areas except two. In grades three through eight and tenth grade, students are assessed in Math and Reading. Science is assessed in the fourth, seventh, and 11th grade, while Social Studies and Combined Writing is assessed in the fifth, eighth, and 11th grade.

Harlan County Schools Superintendent Brent Roark talked about the Harlan County School District’s performance.

“This is a brand-new accountability model. This is the baseline year,” Roark said. “This is a totally new system.”

Roark pointed out the district’s eight elementary schools performed on par with the state average.

“At the elementary schools, it looked very similar to what we’ve had in the past,” Roark said. “Our elementary schools knew it was a baseline year. They were just setting the baseline. All eight of them are at or above state average, or very close to it.”

Roark acknowledged Harlan County High School’s score was lower.

“Harlan County High School came down in the red color code,” Roark said. “You have to look at what caused that to be…this measures a very narrow snapshot of what’s going on in your schools.”

Roark pointed out 40 percent of the score is derived from a 30-question math and reading test administered only to sophomores. Another 40 percent of the final score is derived from a science, social studies, and English test administered only to juniors.

“So, 80 percent of your score for this new accountability model comes from just two 30-question tests that are given to only one group of students,” Roark said. “We have an incredibly high number of special education students. We run 54 special education students in our sophomore class. Those students have to take the exact same online test the other students take. Where our scores came down at was our sophomore special education scores on that math and reading test.”

Roark said if the special education scores are not taken into account, this would put Harlan County High School at or above the state average.

“We’ve got to do a better job of giving accommodations – accommodations are the things you can do to help special needs kids on the test – it was far more challenging this year to provide those accommodations because it was an online test,” Roark explained. “We didn’t do as good a job as we should have with our sophomore special education students on the 30-question math and reading test. We know what we need to do. We know how to help those kids more on that specific test.”

Roark mentioned Harlan County Schools has one of the highest percentages of special education students in the state.

Roark noted he does not blame the COVID-19 pandemic for the scores.

“I’m not going to blame it on COVID, because that’s a level playing field for everybody,” Roark said. “Yes, it put our kids behind. That’s why the whole state’s scores are down. That’s not just a Harlan County or Bell County or southeastern Kentucky issue. Scores across the entire state are down.”

Roark stated the assessment does not consider many other areas of education provided.

“It’s not taking into consideration all the other programs we’re doing,” Roark said. “It doesn’t show what we’re doing with family resource centers, our arts, and humanities curriculum, our music curriculum. It doesn’t even test seniors in any way, shape, or form. It doesn’t test freshmen in any way…it’s such a narrow focus.”

Roark said next year’s test would focus on improvement, providing a different perspective.