There seems to be a great deal of confusion concerning actions being taken in Kentucky’s 10 Persistently Low-Achieving Schools. In particular, quotes from educators in Louisville concerning that city’s six Persistently Low-Achieving Schools betray massive misunderstanding, at the best.
At the worst, there is a process of denial going on in Jefferson County as educators seem to be trying to confuse the public about the process that will be used to try and turn around these low-performing schools.
Fortunately, I think better understanding is on the way.
The Kentucky Department of Education has now posted a good introduction to the School Improvement Grant process that identified the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.
Some of our educators need to read it.
Here are a few points.
• The process used to identify the 10 lowest performers is based on averaging not one (as Nate Meyer, assistant principal at Fern Creek High School claims), but THREE years of test data for math and reading from the Kentucky Core Content Tests (KCCT). Schools had to perform very poorly over an extended period on the rather undemanding KCCTs just to get on the low-performer list.
• Those test results were just the trigger for the audits, however.
• After the schools were identified, the Kentucky Department of Education sent an audit team to each school to conduct a “Leadership Audit.”
• Similar teams were also sent to the five school district offices where the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools are located.
• The audit teams reportedly spent about a week on site in each school interviewing staff and teachers as well as parents and students. Classroom observations were also conducted during this process.
• Only after the audit was concluded did the team make recommendations for actions to turn each school around. The recommendations were based on a lot more than just test scores.
• Those audit recommendations now have to be accepted by the local school systems, the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Commissioner of Education. This part of the process is still in work as I write this blog.
It is also important to note that the audit team has considerable flexibility in making its recommendations. According to language in House Bill 176, any one of these possibilities can be recommended:
• “External management option” which requires that the day to day management of the school is transferred to an education management organization that may be a for-profit or nonprofit organization that has been selected by a local board of education from a list of management organizations. The management organization may be approved by the Kentucky Board of Education after a rigorous review process, which shall be developed by the state board by the promulgation of administrative regulations. The management organization’s authority shall include the right to make personnel decisions that comply with KRS Chapter 161 and any employee-employer bargained contract that is in effect;
• “Restaffing option” which requires the replacement of the principal and the existing school-based decision making council unless the audit reports under subsection (3) of this section recommended otherwise, screening of existing faculty and staff with the retention of no more than fifty percent (50%) of the faculty and staff at the school, development and implementation of a plan of action that uses research-based school improvement initiatives designed to turn around student performance. Personnel actions shall comply with KRS Chapter 161 and notwithstanding KRS 160.380(1)(c) relating to filling vacant positions and KRS 160.345(2)(h)1. relating to transfers;
• “School closure option” which requires the closure of an existing school and the transfer of its students to other schools within the district that are meeting their accountability measures, reassignment of the school’s faculty and staff to available positions within the district, and which may result in nonrenewal of contracts, dismissal, demotion, or a combination of these personnel actions which shall comply with KRS Chapter 161 and notwithstanding KRS 160.380 (1)(c) relating to filling vacant positions and KRS 160.345(2)(h)1. relating to transfers;
• “Transformation option” means a school intervention option that begins with replacing the school principal who led the school prior to commencement of the transformation option and replacing the school council members unless the audit reports under subsection (3) of this section recommended otherwise and instituting an extensive set of specified strategies designed to turn around the identified school which shall comply with KRS Chapter 161 and notwithstanding KRS 160.380(1)(c) relating to filling vacant positions and KRS 160.345(2)(h)1. relating to transfers; or
• Any other model recognized by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 20 U.S.C. secs 6301 et seq., or its successor.
So, this process isn’t just based on one year of test scores, and removal of principals and the school council is not automatically required, either. Those sorts of recommendations only came after the audit team did some digging in each school.
If you want to go direct to the web page with the direct links to each audit, click here.
If you read through some of these, I think you will see that the audit team used a formal process to examine each school, which included considering a whole lot more than just test scores.
While no process is perfect, and I admit to some concerns about identification of some of the non-title 1 schools that resulted, most of the schools identified deserve to be under the microscope. There is no doubt that they are very poorly serving their students.
And, if educators in those school systems can’t see that, then they probably are a major portion of the problem.