‘Academic genocide’ interview at Courier-Journal with Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday and Associate Commissioner Susan Allred
The fallout continues from Sunday’s shocker news story where Kentucky Commissioner of Education told the Louisville Courier-Journal that problems in that city’s school system were “academic genocide.”
Yesterday, the Jefferson County Board of Education held scheduled meeting where the city’s education leaders continued to conduct business in a way Holliday characterized today as being “still all about the adults.”
Today, the Courier-Journal’s editorial board met with Holliday and Allred in an hour-long webcast interview you can access here. There are many important points discussed in the interview, but here are a few highlights to look for with the approximate time in the webcast where you can find them:
09:50 Principals in the first cohort of schools did not apply the ReStaffing option properly. Also, principals were supposed to have lots of autonomy in making staffing decisions, but that didn’t happen. 30-60-90 day plans to evaluate improvement and make changes were required, but not consistently implanted. At around 17:30 into the interview it is pointed out that 30-60-90 day plans “lapsed” in some of the schools, which hampered further improvement.
13:06 Allred starts discussion of the interference principals in the first cohort schools faced during hiring of new teachers, making reference to a report from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability for a reference. Instead of having full flexibility, principals were restricted to hire only from an “overstaffing list.” As a consequence, Allred said that principals could not go recruit the teachers they needed. There is more discussion on this topic around 48:12 into the interview. The bottom line was a lot of first-year intern teachers wound up in these very low-performing schools. Per the OEA report, that did not meet the requirements of House Bill 176 from the 2010 Regular Legislative Session, which established the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools program.
13:48 Allred says it was difficult to get state provided guides and coaches into the classrooms of the Cohort 1 schools. She goes on to say there is better collaboration now, but progress was slow as a consequence.
24:30 Holliday’s reaction to a question about why the Jefferson County Board of Education didn’t even get to a discussion of the issues in the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools until an hour into the meeting: “It was still all about the adults.” He goes on shortly after to point out that the board didn’t ask the right sorts of questions, either.
28:50 Holliday points out one “adult issue” is that teachers talk about working hard, but there is no apparent attention to the fact the kids are still not learning.
33:20 Asked about what could be done right away to improve things, Holliday says the schools need to set up extended days and differentiated instruction that meets individual student needs. (Of course, the union contract does not allow that.)
34:50 Another example of “adult interests” is the issue of it should not be what teachers want to teach but what students need to learn.
35.13 Holliday mentions one reason for low parent involvement is that parents get poor treatment from the schools when they do try to get involved. (Echoes things the Bluegrass Institute has also heard from many parents over the years)
37:31 Holliday says he supports parent choice.
38:33 Holliday says he supports charter schools that have clear performance requirements and that get closed if they don’t meet those goals.
44:35 Holliday says one way to engage parents is to tell them the truth, making it clear their kids are not currently being prepared. He supports outreach efforts that go into churches and community organizations to reach parents. At 52:25 Allred says she is not sure there has been significant outreach like this in Jefferson County.
46:40 Asks if school is 10 miles away, how can parents get involved?
50:00 Asked if union is a problem, Holliday says No. But, he immediately says the contract needs to be reworked and the process takes too long. (Sounds problematic to me)
57:05 Holliday says final decision on takeovers in Jefferson County will come after spring testing and graduation rate data are available, probably in August.