The subject of Kentucky’s Persistently Low-Achieving Schools (PLAs) – which have been euphemistically renamed “Priority Schools” – came up in yesterday’s meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education. I am still sifting through a large amount of information that was presented, but the overall summation of this expensive program is disappointing.
Kentucky Department of Education Associate Commissioner Susan Allred said that only 17 of the 41 PLAs/Priority Schools were making progress despite massive amounts of money and external staff assistance. That means only 41 percent of the schools are getting bang for the considerable millions of bucks (over $32 million and still growing) that have been loaded into this program.
Overall, a clear majority of these very low performing schools – 22 of them – are not progressing.
Many of the laggards are in Jefferson County.
Does anyone really need any more evidence that Kentucky needs to try something different? Throwing more money at the same old, “adult interests” (read – UNION) dominated traditional public school system isn’t working for far too many students.
If Kentucky had gone with charter schools models when the PLAs program started (which was done in other states) instead of trying to shoehorn something into the unresponsive, traditional public school system, might kids in all 41 PLAs now be getting benefits?
Turning around low-performing schools takes imaginative and talented leaders who have not just accountability but also the authority to select and manage, and yes, fire, staff when necessary without fetters of the “adult interests” getting in the way of what is best for kids. States with good charter school laws have that.
Meanwhile, kids in low-performing schools in Kentucky, which has no charter schools, simply are getting left behind. Even the Kentucky Department of Education admits that. How much longer will we go on treating “adult interests” as more important than our kids?