“LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The President of the Jefferson County Teachers Association admits ineffective teaching troubled Myers Middles School, but says those teachers should keep their jobs.”
This would not happen if Myers were a charter school. In charter schools principals have the authority to get rid of poor performing teachers – they don’t stick around forever, under-serving students.
I have already written here and here about the puzzle presented for Unbridled Learning by a recent “Internal School Review Report” for the Fleming County High School. This scathing report, a type often referred to simply as an audit, calls for the removal of the principal at Fleming County High while in the 2012-13 Unbridled Learning school accountability program this school was rated “Proficient” and ranked very high at the 87th percentile for all schools in Kentucky.
That report versus Unbridled Learning disagreement simply does not compute. The report also triggered a student revolt in support of their principal, a rather remarkable thing all by itself.
Here is some more information.
I checked how Fleming County performed on reading and math in 2011, the year it was named a “Persistently Low-Achieving School.” I then checked the school’s performance for reading and math in 2013. This graph shows what I found.
Notice that in 2011 Fleming County High scored near the very bottom for all schools in Kentucky in these critical subjects. Things had changed notably by 2013, when the school moved up to rank better than more than one in three schools in Kentucky. That performance still isn’t good enough, but the improvement does seem significant.
I also checked where the other schools that were named Persistently Low-Achieving in 2011 fared in 2013 on combined math and reading proficiency rates. This table tells that story.
Fleming County didn’t turn in the best performance, but it certainly was far from the worst.
So, I am wondering – should we retire Fleming’s principal, who has only been on the job for two years? He certainly has not produced the stunning performance of a Hopkins County Central High School or a Franklin-Simpson High, but he has done notably better than a lot of the schools in the list above.
I’m also getting a bit concerned about the Internal School Review Report. They never discuss how very low Fleming’s performance was in 2011 and how it really has made a notable jump up since. That bothers me. While I certainly think Fleming County High should not have made it to the 87th percentile in the official Unbridled Learning results in 2013, I am not really sure the school has done quite as badly as the report indicates. It may be the people doing the report were expecting too much, too soon.
Also, I wonder why the audit ignored that 87th percentile rank in Unbridled Learning. Shouldn’t there be some comment about that in the audit?
I certainly hope the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky legislature give this situation a thorough look. Things just seem very unsettled to me on this one.
Even the Prichard Committee doesn’t understand
The high performing high school
First, let’s talk about a very high performing high school in Kentucky’s “Unbridled Learning” school accountability program. This school’s summary of “Accountability Performance” from its 2012-13 school report card (PDF available from menus here) says this school is one of Kentucky’s best performers.
In both of the years that Unbridled Learning has been in operation, this school has scored among the top 30 percent of all high schools in the state, earning an overall classification of “Proficient.” Furthermore, the school’s progress apparently outpaced others in Kentucky because its overall Percentile Rank rose in the second year of Unbridled Learning from the 71st to the 87th Percentile. That seems like notable improvement.
Even more remarkable, based on math and reading scores from Kentucky’s old CATS assessments, on October 19, 2011 this school was named a Persistently Low-Achieving School under rules Kentucky enacted to compete for Race to the Top money.
Imagine that: just one year before Unbridled Learning was launched, this high school’s performance was near the bottom of the heap, ranking among the lowest 15 percent of all schools in the Bluegrass State and perhaps even lower.
By any measure, making an apparent jump from such a low ranking to such a high ranking in so short a period of time is truly remarkable.
The low performing high school
Our second high school was also tagged as Persistently Low-Achieving in 2011, but its tale seems far different from our first school’s story. All Persistently Low-Achieving Schools must receive a management audit every two years, and this school just received its new audit during the week of May 4th.
It isn’t a happy report.
A few of the stunningly critical key findings include:
• The 2012-13 School Report Card shows that the school scored below the state average and decreased from 2011-12 in the percentages of students who scored at the proficient/distinguished level in English II, Algebra II, Biology, writing, and language mechanics.
• Most students interviewed indicated that they were not challenged in the majority of their classes.
• In addition, students stated that they did not feel prepared for post-secondary level work in most content areas.
• The process provides students with minimal feedback of little value about their learning.
• Few or no school personnel are engaged in mentoring, coaching, and induction programs that are consistent with the school’s values and beliefs about teaching, learning, and the conditions that support learning.
• Professional development, when available, may or may not address the needs of the school or build capacity among staff members.
In the end, the audit team concluded:
“After reviewing all the information and artifacts, the review team has determined that the principal does not have the ability to lead the intervention and should not remain as principal of Fleming County High School.” That’s a pretty serious indictment of non-confidence in the principal.
Do you think it sad that after 24 years of KERA we have schools with such dramatically different performance? Well, hang on to your hat, because there is more to the story.
You see, both of these schools are actually the SAME school!!!
The Courier-Journal reports that the Jefferson County Board of Education has thrown in the towel on trying to fix the endemically troubled Myers Middle School. Essentially, Myers is going to be closed. Scheduled incoming sixth grade students this fall instead will enter a number of other schools.
Myers current sixth and seventh graders, who will be in the seventh and eighth grades this fall, will all transfer along with most of Myers’ current teachers to the Waggener High School campus.
This little shuffle will play nice tricks on the state’s school accountability program because the new Waggener Middle School will have all of its state assessment goals reset. Waggener Middle can’t get back in trouble for several years. However, with the only real change being the building location, it’s hard to see how Myers’ problems will be fixed by this chair shuffle.
In fact, with the middle school students now closely located with the Waggener High kids, all sorts of new problems could raise their ugly heads. One comment found under the Courier-Journal’s article from Rich Gimmel points out that Waggener was a middle-high school once before and that arrangement didn’t work out well.
The really sad part of this story is that Myers would be a perfect situation for Kentucky’s first charter school, if we just had a law allowing them. Charter schools across the nation, especially in places like New Orleans, New York City and Boston, are stepping out dramatically in exactly the sorts of situations that plague Myers Middle.
While tradition-bound Jefferson County Board of Education members bemoan the fact that they have no clue why Myers continued to fail, charter schools in other states are sifting through all of that confusion to create student friendly situations where students who enter years behind can catch up and even surpass their traditional public school counterparts.
It’s time for Kentucky to jump on a school reform program that has now been adopted in 42 states. It’s time for Kentucky to move beyond a “protect the traditional public schools at all costs even when they don’t know what they are doing mentality” and do something right for kids, instead. It’s high time Kentucky offers the kids at Myers a real choice with a solid public charter school option.
Continuing Update – ACT follows Kentucky’s lead and outlaws use of smart calculators on COMPASS tests
In a growing story, the ACT, Inc. has told the Herald-Leader that it will now outlaw use of calculators augmented with algebra software on the COMPASS college-readiness test. This provides further evidence of an assertion from Northern Kentucky University professor Steve Newman that the use of such calculators was inflating student scores.
The new move could have impacts on Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning school accountability system because success on COMPASS was one way a student could demonstrate College and Career Readiness (CCR). CCR rates rose rapidly in Kentucky over the past few years, but the rise is not due to notably better performance on the ACT college entrance test, which is another way students can show they are College and Career Ready.
It would be interesting for the Kentucky Department of Education to do a quick study to see how much of the CCR rate increase was due to COMPASS test results. That might give us a bit better understanding of how the CCR rate has really progressed. This data might actually be helpful to the department if the CCR rate falls this year due to the new testing restriction. Kentucky Board of Education, are you listening?