School districts named ‘Bright Spots’ in the state

2 October 2019 - Jonathan Wright (The Ledger Independent)

Fleming and Robertson County Schools were recently recognized as two of 12 “Bright Spot” schools in a report released by the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky.

According to the report from CBER, researchers from the center, with support from and in partnership with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, analyzed six years of education data from the state’s 173 school districts, between the years. 2012-2017. They identified key factors affecting academic achievement and constructed statistical models to predict an expected level of performance on state assessments.

“We looked at elementary and middle school performance on the K-PREP reading and math assessments, as well as the performance of high school students on the ACT,” said Michael Childress, research associate with CBER. “Student, community and district characteristics were also taken into consideration.”

Fleming County Superintendent Brian Creasman said for years, Fleming County Schools has been emphasizing its intent to become a “district of distinction.” Now with this recognition as a Bright Spot, he said it validates the district’s approach to learning and helping each student to succeed.

“The report highlights Fleming County Schools as an exemplary district, specifically for KPREP middle school mathematics,” he said. “Simons Middle School continues to be one of the top performing middle schools in Kentucky, as a result of a dedicated and innovative staff willing to take risks all while having a laser focus on each student. We commend the growth of our students at Simons Middle School and across all schools.”

Creasman added that what the school district has accomplished would not have been possible without the dedication of staff, parents, guardians and community.

The report further reads that two key findings of the analysis, which were consistent with other analyses across the nation, are that teacher experience and the socio-economic status of students have a significant impact on achievement levels.

“We know that teachers matter, and these results can offer insight into how Kentucky can continue to improve education, while also breaking the cycle of deep poverty in our state,” Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee, said. “These results can inform additional research designed to reveal best practices that facilitate better-than-expected educational outcomes ⁠— given that Kentucky remains near the bottom of the nation for families living in poverty.”

Given the economic background of Robertson County, Superintendent Sanford Holbrook said being designated a Bright Spot in spite of that comes as a great sense of pride.

“We battle every day with social economics, we have a high free and reduced lunch rate in our county,” he said. “If you’ve been to Robertson County you know there’s not a lot of opportunities there, I think it’s one of the higher poverty rate counties in Kentucky. A lot of our kids come from tough backgrounds and the only hope they have is education, and we try to provide that.”

One of the main goals the school district strives to meet, Holbrook said, is to provide students with the opportunity to be successful in life, whether that student wishes to pursue post-secondary education, join the armed forces or even head straight to the workforce after high school.

“Doing better than what was predicted of us shows that not only are kids working hard to be learners but also the staff, and when I say staff I’m talking about everybody — teachers, aides and everybody, are working hard to make sure we give our kids every opportunity to be successful in life,” he said.