The Courier-Journal reports that some of the newly identified group of Persistently Low-Achieving Schools in Kentucky share common problems.
According to the newspaper, audits of Fairdale, Doss and Seneca High Schools in Jefferson County – three of the six schools from Jefferson County in the 2010 low-achieving schools group – identified common problems:
• Classroom instruction lacks rigor,
• Teachers and administrators don’t set high expectations for students and
• Disruptive student behavior impedes learning.
These findings match some of the findings from some of the 2009 Persistently Low-Achieving Schools, such as Fern Creek and The Academy at Shawnee.
Auditors are recommending some strong actions in the three newly audited schools.
The audits found that school councils at all three lack the ability to continue to function. The ones at Seneca and Fairdale operate so poorly that they should be disbanded completely.
That is a very disturbing finding. It adds more ammunition to a long-held Bluegrass Institute position that the School Based Decision Making Councils (SBDM) in Kentucky’s schools are not functioning well in too many cases. It also should be noted that this dysfunctional SBDM situation continued on for years in these Jefferson County schools without correction from the school district. That raises questions about oversight from the school district, which the audits don’t seem to mention.
The auditors say Seneca’s principal also needs to go, which seems certain to happen because that individual has already announced her retirement effective January 1. However, in a surprise move that may run afoul of the US Department of Education, the auditors recommended keeping the principals at Doss and Fairdale on board for one more year. That could prove a tough challenge with Washington, because both have apparently been in their positions since 2001, according to the Courier. Generally speaking, the feds have not been too interested in keeping principals if they have been in a school for three years. Probably the only way to sell this to Washington will be to make a case that the principals were being undermined by their SBDMs. My quick read of the audits didn’t show that as a finding, however.
Of special note, as well is a comment from page 29 of the Doss audit. There it says the school council has experienced problems getting parents involved in the school due to transportation issues. With Jefferson County busing kids all over the place, that is probably to be expected, and it provides more ammunition to support a neighborhood schools bill for the coming legislative session.
Jefferson County still has three more schools in need of audits, and those won’t be finished until January. It will be interesting to see what those audits find and what actually happens in the 2010 group of Persistently Low-Achieving Schools after all the dust settles.