Grayson County Schools were recently named bright spots by the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) in the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky, which partnered with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

According to a press release from the Grayson County Board of Education, only 12 of 173 school districts in the state received this recognition.

CBER’s Michael Childress said, “We specify a district as a bright spot if two things are true: (one) when looking at all students, the district performed better than expected in at least one year, and (two) the free/reduced-lunch students showed improvement over the time period that resulted in a better-than-expected outcome in 2017.”

Grayson County was recognized for Math and College and Career Readiness.

“We’re excited for both our staff and our students to be recognized at this level of success," said Grayson County Schools Superintendent Doug Robinson. "It’s a testament that we are preparing students for life beyond the halls of Grayson County Schools, ready to be competitive and successful wherever that may be. It’s also a strong validation of the vision and leadership of our GCHS Math Department and those teachers.”

The report and its findings were showcased at the Prichard Committee’s annual meeting on Sept. 27 in Lexington. Copies of the report can also be viewed online at the CBER web site at cber.uky.edu.

The schools have also been working toward narrowing the achievement gap, which is a comparison made of one student group to another.

According to a press release, the Kentucky Department of Education released the 2018-19 Assessment and Accountability results recently, and these offer a new look and emphasis on proficiency, growth and transition readiness.

The updated accountability system reflects changes to state and federal laws under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act in 2015.

This also comes with a five-star rating system for schools. According to schoolreportcard.com, all Grayson County Schools are currently ranked at three stars due to the achievement gap.

The schools see this as a way not only to show positives across the district, but to show opportunities for growth within the district.

According to the GCBOE, at the elementary and middle school levels, schools received scores in three areas: proficiency, based on reading and math tests; separate academic indicator, based on science, social studies and writing tests; and growth, based on year over year individual student academic progress in reading and math.

High schools received scores in proficiency, based on reading and math sections of the ACT; separate academic indicator subjects of science and writing; graduation rate; and transition readiness, or the percentage of graduates who demonstrate academic or career readiness through AP and/or dual-credit coursework, industry certifications, work experience and other criteria.

According to Grayson County High School principal Josh Baldwin, the high school's math department was found to be one of the top 10 in the state.

He said that, in order to improve, the high school has implemented data teams in every department to analyze student progress and determine what learning gaps are present, after which they use RTI time to focus on these learning gaps.

According to the press release, the elementary schools were a particular bright spot compared to state averages with proficient and distinguished writing percentages. Collectively, the schools bested state averages in all subjects except social studies. Individually, each school had at least one subject area that surpassed state averages, and most were higher in all areas except social studies.

According to Robinson, both state and local focus is increasingly concentrated on transition readiness, or how schools are preparing students for life after high school. He added that the district’s work-based learning program and its Profile of a Graduate initiative will be powerful tools in meeting that goal.

“We continue to increase the opportunities available to students to learn about careers in a hands-on way through our work-based learning program, mentoring at the middle school, CTE training and certifications,” said Robinson. “The addition of Transition Coordinator Brandi Lee has increased our momentum in providing workplace opportunities, and we’ve been excited with the degree of enthusiasm local businesses have shown in hosting our students.

“In addition to AP and dual-credit coursework, students also have the ability to graduate high school with both their diploma and an associate degree,” he continued. "They have more opportunities than ever before to learn and apply the life- and future-ready skills they’ll need after they leave Grayson County Schools."

At the elementary level, the schools currently provide a primary reading block of protected time to focus on necessary reading building blocks and success strategies.

GCMS outperformed statewide proficiency and separate academic indicator scores in all subjects except science, falling short by a slim margin.

At the middle school, focus is currently centered on transitioning and college and career readiness through the use of a transition coordinator, the community mentorship program, transition day, and tours of the high school, as well as local industries and guest speakers.

High school proficiency, determined through ACT math and reading benchmarks was ahead of state averages in math, but slightly short in reading. The district was recently named one of 12 bright spot districts statewide due to high school Math ACT scores.

The high school provides several opportunities for students including CTE programs, AP and Dual Credit classes, job shadowing, signing day events for both job placements and college scholarships and greater community involvement.

According to the press release, the high school’s graduation rate stood at 92.1 percent, compared to the state’s 91.1.

While the school’s Transition Rate, or student preparedness to successfully transition to postsecondary education and/or the workforce stood at 62.3 compared to the state’s 66.8, nearly half of 2018 graduates of Grayson County High School were considered to be academic ready, and nearly one-third earned career ready designation.

Of those, 15 percent of graduates earned industry certification in their chosen field, according to the press release.

“We continue to make progress,” said Robinson. “There are also real opportunities for improvement and growth, as we work to prepare every student to successfully transition from high school to the real world. It’s not just about being ready for college or career anymore. It’s about being ready for life and equipped with tangible and intangible skills for success in whatever path they choose.

“Thanks to the dedication and tireless efforts of our teachers and staff, we’re heading in the right direction," he continued. "Thanks to open communication, feedback and tremendous support from our community we’re able to provide more opportunities and create the kind of win-wins that will benefit our students, our workforce and all of Grayson County.”

For more information on the accountability system, visit schoolreportcard.com.