One of the more important features of the impending revision to Kentucky’s public school assessment and accountability program is the ending of the state’s current Priority Schools program, which started life back in 2010 as the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools program. Since its inception in 2010, a total of 47 schools have entered Priority/Persistently Low-Achieving status, as data in this table, obtained from the Kentucky Department of Education through an Open Records request, shows.
Note in the list above that 31 of the schools have never exited Priority status. Among those, four schools were actually closed while in Priority status and the remaining 27 schools remain in Priority status today.
A large proportion of the schools in the table – 31 total – also lost their School Based Decision Making Council (SBDM) authority. Of these 31 schools, 20 up to the present have not received their SBDM authority back.
Notice, as highlighted in the table, that Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS) accounts for the lion’s share of schools in the listing above. A total of 24 JCPS schools, more than half of the total of 47 schools in the table, have been in Priority status at one point or another. Of those, three were closed while in Priority status. Only three other JCPS schools ever exited Priority status. That leaves 18 JCPS schools currently in Priority status, a clear majority among all of the 27 schools currently still in Priority status. For a bit of reference, based on enrollment figures (membership) in the 2016-17 Kentucky School Report Cards, JCPS enrolled 96,744 students out of a statewide total of 656,588 students, or just 14.7 percent of all students. So, the fact that a majority of all the Priority Schools are in JCPS is clearly a problem.
So, what is going to happen to the Priority schools?
Apparently, the program is just going to end, essentially letting the schools still in Priority status off the hook.
For the 20 Priority schools that lost their school council authority and still have not regained it, the Kentucky Department of Education advises training in School Based Decision Making will be conducted in those schools and they will then get their authority back.
In other words, these schools will never earn their way out of Priority status nor in the cases where SBDM authority is still suspended will they ever earn the right to self-govern with their own school councils. It’s all just going to be given back to these schools.
And, the extra assistance these schools were getting and certainly still need apparently will go away, too.
Somehow, that doesn’t seem like a very good idea, but there is more to the story.