Teachers in the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools (PLAs) don’t come close to the experience level of the teachers in other Jefferson County schools.
Facts about Louisville’s long-term, chronically under-performing schools are finally coming out since Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday unleashed a Tsunami with his recent remarks that performance in Jefferson County’s lowest-performing schools amounted to “educational genocide.”
The media jumped all over the “education genocide” issue all week. Not surprisingly, the local school board quickly started the same old low performance denial dance for which they have long been famous.
But, it’s time to flesh the discussion out with some hard facts instead of “adult drama” plus lots of whining and sniveling.
The Kentucky Office of Education Accountability charged in a recent report that when the first group of PLAs got restaffed, they wound up with a lot of inexperienced teachers. But, is that still a problem?
An answer can be found in new Unbridled Learning state accountability documents. These contain an Excel spreadsheet with some very interesting data about teacher qualifications in every school in Kentucky for the 2011-12 school year. I have been looking at that data, running comparisons between Jefferson County’s PLAs high schools and statistics for the other Jefferson County high schools. This table summarizes some of what I found.
First, when you average per pupil spending in the two sets of schools, it is very clear that funding isn’t an excuse. The PLAs high schools got, on average, nearly 50 percent more per pupil funding than the non-PLAs received in 2011-12.
However, despite more financial resources, the PLAs, on average, were staffed with notably fewer highly experienced and qualified teachers.
For example, PLAs averaged notably fewer National Board Certified Teachers than were found in the non-PLAs. If Jefferson County was really serious about helping the PLAs, shouldn’t the district have sent in a lot of these highly qualified teachers?
There is also a huge gap in average years of teaching experience. Even though the PLAs clearly should have top priority for experienced teachers, when the dust settled, the PLAs didn’t get close to the level of experience they needed, not even in the most recent school year. Instead, at least as of the 2011-12 school term, the massive amount of teaching experience in Jefferson County is still found overwhelmingly in the non-PLAs. In fact, teaching years of experience are over 6o percent higher in the non-PLAs per the 2011-12 Unbridled Learning documentation. Now, how’s that again about the union doing all it could to help the PLAs?
Surprisingly, the number of teachers with Masters’ Degrees is about the same in both sets of Jefferson County schools. However, when we look at the number of Rank 1 Teachers, the most experienced category, the PLAs lose out notably, once again.
By the way, the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board says of teacher ranking, “Rank 1 is the highest rank in Kentucky and may allow for an increase in salary for teachers based on the local district pay scale that considers educational level and experience.”
That sure sounds like something the PLAs needed, but didn’t get, in Jefferson County. WHY?
Bottom line: the locals in Jefferson County can do all the denial dancing they want, but the facts are starting to come out, and they show a disappointing lack of any sort of really aggressive effort to do the most badly needed thing in the PLAs – namely, sending in sufficient numbers of highly experienced teachers to the most demanding schools in the system.