An internal review of Warren County Public Schools’ efforts to promote equity in student academic achievement and its school discipline practices has revealed expansive gaps between student groups, with black students often falling the furthest behind their white peers.
Using 2018-19 state assessment data, WCPS’ fifth annual Equity Scorecard notes that many students face significant barriers to learning, with as much as 56 percent of the district’s total enrollment that year qualifying as “economically disadvantaged.” The full report may be read with this article at bgdailynews.com.
However, when it comes to black students’ performance on state tests for reading and math, they rank near the bottom compared to their white classmates in a trend that plays out across the elementary, middle school and high school levels.
For example, only 10.6 percent of the district’s black 11th-grade students were deemed to be meeting state mathematics standards at grade level when they took their state assessments during the 2018-19 school year.
Compare that to the same figure for white 11th-grade students – 46.3 percent – and the gulf between them is nearly 36 percentage points.
Nearly a quarter of the district’s black students are English learners, with many of them representing countries such as Tanzania, Congo, Uganda, Kenya and other African countries. Other English learner students represent several southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar and Thailand, among others.
English learner students in general also fell significantly behind when compared to all students in the aggregate.
In reading, for example, the percentage of third-, fourth- and fifth-grade English learner students who were meeting state standards at grade level during the 2018-19 school year was just below a quarter – 24.4 percent.
At the middle and high school levels, when students in general stop learning to read and read to learn, English learner students fell even further behind – only 4.3 percent were deemed to be at grade level when they took their 11th-grade reading test, the Equity Scorecard shows.
In explaining the Equity Scorecard’s findings Thursday to the district’s board of education, Director of English Learner programs Dee Anna Crump noted WCPS’ significant English learner student population. That includes many refugees, she said.
“We do have approximately 1,200 refugee students within our district, and many of those students have experienced either interrupted schooling … or very limited schooling at all when they come to us,” she said.
When an English learner student arrives at the district, students are exempt from the first year of state testing, “but then after that they do test just like all of the other students,” she said.
Taking stock of the report’s findings, WCPS Board Chairman Kerry Young noted that “(with) a lot of our gaps we’ve got within our district, we’re still higher than state.”
Young also made note of the district’s performance on “transition readiness,” a metric under the state’s accountability that states “students should be able to enter and succeed in entry level postsecondary courses without remediation or can enter the workforce possessing the knowledge and technical skills needed for employment in their desired career field,” according to the Kentucky Department of Education.
Thursday’s school board meeting also brought a decision about WCPS Superintendent Rob Clayton’s annual evaluation.
After meeting in closed session for about 45 minutes, the board members emerged and granted Clayton the top rating of “exemplary” across the two evaluated standards of instructional and cultural leadership. The high marks do not come with any change in compensation, with the exception of any raise the rest of the district’s staff has received, Young said in a follow-up text message.