Education Commissioner Terry Holliday made an interesting comment during hearings in the House Education Committee yesterday about House Bill 476.
He said there are encouraging early results since turn-around actions began in Caverna High School, Lawrence County High School, Leslie County High School and Metcalfe County High School. These schools are part of the ten schools in the first group of Kentucky Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.
The commissioner gets to look at some testing data that hasn’t been released to the public, but the education department did just release results from the fall administration of the EXPLORE and PLAN tests from the ACT, Incorporated, so I decided to see if Dr. Holliday’s comments were borne out in those tests.
Short answer – yes, they are!
Here is an updated listing of scores for the first group of 10 Persistently Low-Achieving Schools, which were identified in spring of 2010. This listing now includes the two middle schools, as well as the eight high schools I showed you a couple of days ago (click on the table to enlarge).
Notice that in three of the four schools Dr. Holliday cited, there has been an improvement in the Composite Score since last year. In fact, the improvement in Lawrence County High and Leslie County High are quite impressive. The fourth school, Metcalfe County High, held scores even.
Now, look at the other schools, which are all found in Jefferson County. Only one high school, Fern Creek, experienced a score increase from 2009-10 to 2010-11. Only one maintained its score. Four schools, two high schools and the two middle schools, all saw declines in scores.
Now, consider another of Dr. Holliday’s comments. He pointed out that while Jefferson County has exclusively chosen to use the “Restaffing Option” to try and turn around its low-performing schools, all four of the high schools outside of Jefferson County picked the “Transformation Option,” instead.
The Transformation Option doesn’t require a wholesale shakeup of school staffing, but it does put teachers in the troubled schools on a more accountable basis, requiring their evaluations and pay be linked to their students’ performance. The Jefferson County Teachers Association hates that idea and would rather see teachers shuffled all over the place, where they can continue their ineffective teaching, and paying union dues, largely unnoticed.
In any event, one of the ideas behind the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools program is to try different approaches to reforming problem schools to see what works best. While the data above is certainly insufficient to start drawing any conclusions, it is exciting that a real difference in the approaches selected may already be appearing. By the time next year’s group of low-performers is identified, we will hopefully have more data. Perhaps that will encourage Jefferson County to try another turn-around option in some of its schools so we can see if some other factor accounts for the differential results we see in the table above.