Do our high schools make the grade?

Published 9:24 am Thursday, June 20, 2019

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A closer look at how Jessamine County’s high schools measure up in national rankings

The results are in for Jessamine County’s high schools, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings, placing West Jessamine at 28th and East Jessamine at 146th among the 382 schools reviewed in Kentucky.
West ranked 2,346 nationally. East came in at 9,168.
The publication changed its system this year so more schools were part of the ranking. U.S. News reviewed 23,000 public schools that had a 12th-grade enrollment of 15 or more and had sufficient enrollment in other high school grades, with about 17,000 schools getting rated. That is up from 2,700 last year.
The ratings were conducted based on six indicators of school quality, with the highest ranked schools’ students receiving outstanding outcomes in math and reading, as well as the ability to pass a diverse array of college level exams with students graduating in high proportions.
National rankings are based on the school’s performance on state-required tests, graduation and how well they prepare students for college.
“We believe that student success begins with strong relationships, and our focus is on meeting each individual student’s learning needs in a positive and supportive environment,” JCS Supt. Matt Moore said. “While it’s informative for us to know the ‘big picture’ of where we stand in relation to other districts, our students are much more than a number or a data point. Each of our schools is a unique and special part of our district family and I’m proud of the work that we’re doing to serve our students each and every day. We celebrate the fact that we have made enormous gains in the past few years, as we continue our efforts to improve.”
According to the report, the 10 best public high schools in Kentucky are as follows: Dupont Manual High School, Louisville; Brown School, Louisville; Highlands High School, Fort Thomas; Murray High School, Murray; Pikeville High School, Pikeville; North Oldham High School, Goshen; South Oldham High School, Crestwood; Louisville Male High School, Louisville; Glasgow High School, Glasgow; and Beechwood High School, Fort Mitchell.

By the Numbers
Coming in ranked at 28 in the state, West Jessamine High School has an advanced placement rate of 51 percent, a minority enrollment of 14 percent with 45 percent of students labeled as economically disadvantaged. In national rankings, WJHS is ranked at 2,346.
East Jessamine High School is ranked at 146 in the state of Kentucky compared to other high schools. EJHS has an advanced placement participation rate of 31 percent, a minority enrollment of 15 percent with 53 percent of students labeled as economically disadvantaged. EJHS is ranked 9,168 in national rankings.
Currently, The Providence School in Wilmore is not ranked. However, the minority enrollment at TPS is 12 percent with 82 percent of students labeled as economically challenged.
“It’s important to note that the 2019 USNWR rankings use delayed data from the 2016-17 school year. More current JCS high school performance data demonstrates significant improvement in the last two years, with gains surpassing the outdated information used for the report,” said Patrice Jones, director of public relations.
For example, Jones said the district’s 2018 four-year graduation rate of 94.1 percent was higher than the state average of 90.3 percent.
“Both EJHS and WJHS far surpassed the state average,” Jones said. “Dual Credit classes were not considered for the USNWR rankings. Advanced Placement classes were heavily weighted in the USNWR formula, factoring in two of the six criteria weighted at 40 percent combined total. Dual Credit classes, which are equally rigorous and present the opportunity for students to earn both high school and college credit, were not considered.”

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Impacting Students
Jones said there are many steps being taken to improve the quality of education at the high school level for students attending Jessamine County Schools. Both EJHS and WJHS have established an Academic Center for Enrichment. Jones said this serves students in need of academic support.
“The Centers are available to all students and utilize literacy and math specialists to facilitate individual and group sessions for academic guidance and support,” Jones said. “Program services include ACT preparation, academic skills tutoring, enrichment opportunities, writing workshops, and remediation.”
In addition to the ACE, the current JCS renovation project will increase college and career opportunities for all students, Jones said.
“With additional programs and increased access for students to explore and find their passion and purpose,” Jones said. “The project will also increase the district’s capabilities for work-based learning in the schools, increase instructional time by reducing transitions and student travel time, and enhance building safety.”
In addition to high school students, Jones said both the elementary and middle school levels of “gap groups” (African-American, Hispanic or low-income students) showed an improved performance in African-American students with a lower percentage scoring novice in both reading and math.
Changes on the Horizon
Jones said efforts continue at JCS to improve outcomes for “gap groups” and continue to show effectiveness with initiatives such as: a culturally responsive teaching and learning district team to assist with best practice to support students in specific subpopulations; coaching and other supports to help special education students to become more independent learners; and a school strategic plans to address specific performance results and needs.
Efforts to improve the quality of education at all levels of education at JCS include: Positive Behavior Intervention Systems; multi-tiered approach to social, emotional, and behavioral support; Teacher Professional Learning Communities to foster collaborative learning and share best practice; Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning district team to assist with best practice to support students in specific subpopulations; Emphasis on teaching critical literacy skills; new teacher induction program to ensure that teachers are well-prepared and supported through mentoring and professional development; training for teachers and administrators and revisions to the district’s intervention program, a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs.
Increased school site visits and monitoring of school strategic plans with additional support based on areas of need are also always being improved upon at JCS, Jones said.
“Current efforts are paying off,” Jones said. “In the last state assessment scores, JCS middle schools outscored many of their Kentucky counterparts, with a higher percentage rated as proficient and distinguished in reading and science than the state average – as well as fewer learners scoring Novice in math, reading, social studies and science.
“This strong footing helps to prepare students for the next step and to meet the demands of a rigorous high school curriculum. While K-2 performance isn’t measured by the state, assessments tell us that these efforts are also paying off. Our guided reading programs have resulted in the highest percentage of students reading on grade-level than ever before in grades K-2.”