Most Covington elementary students show improvement in reading, data suggests

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Internal reading assessment data from Covington Independent Public Schools suggests gradual improvement in reading skills for most elementary school grade levels.

This data was presented by district staff members at a special board of education meeting Monday night. Additional data suggests that more English language students are improving their English enough to exit the district’s English language program.

Scott Alter, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, presented the reading assessment data to the board. The figures go back to 2021 and show changes in student reading levels from term to term. Overall, the data suggests gradual improvement.

Aggregated reading assessment data for kindergarten through sixth grade students at Covington Independent Public Schools. The red indicates students who need intensive reading instruction and help. The blue indicates students who need some help but not intensive help. The green indicates students reading to standard. Data & chart provided | Covington Independent Public Schools.

“I think it’s unbelievable what some of our teachers are doing,” Alter said. “You know, coming into the year with 60%-70% intensive students [represented in red on the chart] and the amount of work that it takes to bring these kids back in and, you know, teach them how to read… is amazing.”

The assessment the district uses is the Star CBM, which is produced by the company Renaissance. The test is computer-based and given on a one-to-one basis with teachers and students. The computerized test allows for easy data collection and analysis. A version of the test also exists for math.

“We’re teaching our kids how to read at the elementary level, and we’re sending them to the middle school and the high school better equipped to be strong students in all the classrooms,” Alter said.

He added that he hoped the improvements displayed with the Star CBM data would translate into improved scores on state assessment tests administered regularly throughout elementary and high school.

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The only exception to the improvement trend was sixth grade, something that Board of Education president Tom Haggard pointed out.

“I guess my only question is, I think we see some great trends here in the elementary grades, but the sixth grade looks like it’s trending in the wrong direction,” Haggard said.

Data trends in reading levels for sixth grade students in Covington Independent School District. Note the decrease in students reading to standard during both the 2021-22 school year and this school year. Data & chart: provided | Covington Independent Public Schools.

The middle school’s principal, Superintendent Alvin Garrison, and the school’s reading specialist “are already working on how we can improve that,” Alter said.

Other data presented at the meeting suggests that more students learning English as a foreign language have improved their English well enough to exit the district’s English language program compared to previous years.

Exited English language students at Covington Independent Schools from 2019 to 2023. Data & chart: provided | Covington Independent Public Schools. Note: Small edits were made to save space.

The number of non-native English-speaking students has grown throughout the years, according to Dr. Susan Pastor-Richard, the district’s director of exceptional children.

Numbers of English language students in CIPS from 2007 to 2023. Data & chart: provided | Covington Independent Public Schools.

According to Pastor Richard, the district has students from “Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Uganda, Federated States of Micronesia, Congo, Syria and Haiti.” She added that they speak a variety of languages as their native tongues.

In spite of these internal improvements, Covington has consistently scored poorly on state report cards, according to the Kentucky Department of Education. During the 2021-2022 school year, the district had an outsized proportion of its student body scoring poorly on reading and math state assessments. It also has one of the lowest graduation rates in the region, with rates below the state average.

State assessment scores for reading at grade 3, math at grade 8 and graduation rates over the past four school years. Data: provided | Kentucky Department of Education. Charts: provided | BE NKY. Note: Figures may not add due to rounding.

To see more in-depth data on school report cards–for CIPS and any other public district in Kentucky–visit the Kentucky Department of Education’s school report card dashboard.

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