School board members and administrators heard reports about Carroll County Schools' low assessment and accountability scores Thursday.

Pam Williams, elementary instructional supervisor, told the board Kentucky was the first state in the nation to test with the Common Core standards. State officials had warned school districts and parents leading up to the release of the test scores that they would not be as high as in previous years.

"We knew the scores were going to drop, but that was quite a drastic drop," Williams said.

The district saw the biggest drop in the elementary school assessment scores. Also, proficiency in reading and mathematics dropped by one-third in all schools.

Elementary school students are evaluated on three areas of assessment percentage of achievement, growth and gap. Middle school students are evaluated on four areas - achievement, growth, gap and college/career readiness. High school students are evaluated on five areas - achievement, growth, gap, college/career readiness and graduation rates.

Cartmell Elementary School received an overall score of 47.9 after combining the percentages of the three areas of assessment. Carroll County Middle received an overall score of 46.1, and the high school received an overall score of 52.6.

"You can't really compare the schools because the percentages are different," Williams said of the scoring system.

Each of the schools in the district was ranked as "needs improvement" because overall scores were lower when compared with other schools throughout the state.

"That's not where we want to be," William said. Nearly 70 percent of all schools in Kentucky are listed as "needing improvement."

Williams said Carroll County Schools has a large population of "gap" students, or students in underperforming groups such as poverty, special education, limited English proficiency or ethnic minorities. "Gap" scores could account for some of the decrease in this year's assessment scores, she said.

"You can see that our 'gap' categories have fewer points than the other categories," Williams said.

Other categories - graduation rates, achievement and growth - were at or above the state average.

Williams said the school district has begun a process to focus on key areas of improvement including critical thinking, writing and language development.

Superintendent Lisa James said teachers throughout the district are already addressing ways to improve test scores next year. All school principals will present these updated plans at the school board meeting in December.

"The continuous improvement is important to us," James said, "And we are showing constant, continuous improvement."

In other business:

• James said the school district began the process for finding someone to serve on the school board. Board member Tommy Unker did not to seek re-election and no one else ran. Three people will be interviewed for the position. Someone should be appointed by January when Unker's term expires, James said.

• The school board also recognized high school students who volunteered with S.T.E.A.M. week activities at Kathryn Winn Primary School.

Principal Gerda Wise said the students provided help needed for the activities, as well as leadership to the younger students.

"They were so excited and jumped right in," Wise said of the volunteers. "It did go very well."

James recognized each volunteer with a plaque of appreciation. Alex Layton, Jacob Wise, Pooja Patel, Brittany Dunn, Michael Hall, Megan Harris, Brandon Stewart and Vanessa Arteaga were recognized.

"Thank you for your leadership," James told the group.

• Carroll County Middle School Principal Dana Oak told board members an "Explore" night will be held at the school from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday to help parent understand state test scores. Also, S.T.E.A.M. presentations will be on display and there will be door prizes.

• Jeff Fremin, who is in charge of grant writing and public relations for the schools, gave reports on the annual community food drive.

"The schools have usually provided about half of the cans in the food drive," he said.

Donations have been lower this year than in the past, but Fremin hopes donations will pick up during the last day of the drive.

• School board members met in executive session to discuss proposed litigation against the school district, board members and employees.