Pollio ‘confident’ JCPS test scores will improve

He stressed that gains have been made in a number of areas and that recent initiatives will help students boost their academic success.

by Kevin Wheatley –

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio says the district is looking for “sustained and systemic change” to improve student outcomes a day after state testing data released Wednesday yielded mixed results for the Kentucky’s largest school system.

But he stressed during a news conference Wednesday that the district had made gains in a number of areas and said that recent initiatives, such as the Backpack of Success Skills and the Academies of Louisville program, will help JCPS students boost their academic successes and transition readiness.

“I’m confident now that we have the systems in place, that we are laying the foundation for great work that is to come,” Pollio said during the press conference at Alex R. Kennedy Elementary.

“Especially in a large district, accountability movement is not an overnight or easy thing, but I truly believe year by year we will stand up here and be able to celebrate the great changes that are in store from this systemic work that we are beginning to do.”

Testing data released by the Kentucky Department of Education showed that proficient and distinguished test scores at JCPS from the 2017-18 school year rose compared to the prior year in middle and elementary reading and writing as well as middle school social studies scores.

However, JCPS scores fell in other areas compared to the 2016-17 school year. The district’s average scores also lagged the state’s in every academic category, and JCPS made up most – 21 of 51, or 41 percent – of Kentucky’s lowest performing schools.

Pollio noted that the district’s share of schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement, or CSI, dropped by 34 percentage points compared to last year’s priority schools, when JCPS schools counted for 75 percent – 18 of 24 – of the state’s  lowest performing schools.

CSI schools, which get help from the state, are those in the bottom 5 percent of their peer groups. JCPS had 64 schools identified for targeted support and intervention, which happens when at least one student group scores as low as the bottom 5 percent of schools at the same level and requires intervention at the local level.

One aspect of the new method to determine which schools need assistance that concerns Pollio is that if TSI schools remain on the list for three years, they’re automatically classified as CSI schools. In all, the state listed 418 TSI schools on Wednesday.

“It’s something that we will be watching closely and ensuring progress, especially through our interim assessments,” Pollio said.

Pollio also said he was proud to see a “significant” drop in novice readers throughout JCPS.

“We had 101 schools reduce their percentage of novice readers in this district, and I think that is something to celebrate,” he said.

The district has already begun using an online assessment, known as Measures of Academic Progress, to identify students who need help catching up with their peers in reading and math, something teachers can’t get with year-end accountability testing, he said.

“We needed to have a system where we could provide assessment of where every student is in math and reading three times a year so we could measure proficiency and growth,” Pollio said, noting that that information is taken to provide help for students in need.

“For our principals, I have said the most important data in our hands right now is not necessarily this accountability data because that’s over with,” he continued. “More importantly right now is the MAP assessment window data that just closed, and by the end of this week we will have assessed over 90,000 JCPS students in math and reading for progress.”

Pollio didn’t shy away from improvements that the district needs to make in terms of academic performance.

For instance, the achievement gap between white and black students grew in several subjects, something Pollio acknowledged Wednesday. That was an area the superintendent said he wanted to see “significant movement” toward progress.

“We had a couple areas that I think we saw some decrease in that, an area or two, but overall that’s a major issue for us,” he said. “We’ve said that many times, so I’m not going to hide behind the fact that we’ve got significant work to do.”

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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