Well, guess again
Back in early 2009, the Union County Public School District was in trouble. Its performance under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was slipping. According to a Kentucky Department of Education “Staff Note” from February 2009, the Union County School District had reached Tier 3 status under NCLB and also had a school that had reached Tier 5 status under NCLB.
That was based on results from 2008 and earlier testing in math and reading with the Kentucky Core Content Tests (KCCT), the tests used for NCLB accountability.
However, the district hired Joshua E. Powell as its new superintendent in July 2008, and his program started to have impact in the 2008-09 school year
So, I was interested to see how this school district did on the 2009 state tests used for NCLB accountability.
To put it mildly, there was improvement in every area I examined. In fact, improvement was extremely high in elementary schools in both math and reading and middle and high school reading, as well.
Here is how the district ranked in 2008 and 2009 for reading and math proficiency in its elementary schools on the KCCT.
In reading, the Union County elementary schools’ average proficiency rate shot up from 148 among 175 districts with schools at this level to a rank of 55 in just one year. Things were even more spectacular in math where the rankings improved from 156th place among those 175 districts to 52nd.
The next two graphs show the rankings for middle and high schools.
Again, middle school reading improvement was spectacular, rising from 165th place to 76th place among the 175 districts with schools in this grade span. While not so notable, the district also showed a bit of improvement in math, as well.
Here is the high school ranking graph.
Now, considering that this school system was one of only a handful that performed so poorly that it had been placed on “watch” status by the Kentucky Board of Education, you would think these first-year results would be garnering some praise.
Well, guess again.
This is Kentucky, and the bureaucracy apparently can’t stand success unless it comes from its approved programs.
You see, the Union County superintendent, Joshua E. Powell, went against the grain of the education crowd in Frankfort.
He started out by declining help from a Kentucky Department of Education ASSIST team, essentially saying he had an alternative that was better.
That was a good way to make enemies with all the bureaucrats who are involved with the ASSIST team. And, those bureaucrats have friends.
So, now, Mr. Powell finds himself in hot water, accused of violating numerous rules for School Based Decision Making Councils.
There is just one problem with the charges against Powell. His program seems to be working.
If the bureaucratic crowd wins out, we might just lose another educator who seems to be making it work for kids, but not for the adults in the system who really don’t want any boats rocked.
Before we start chopping off heads in Union County, we’d be smart to wait for the next KCCT scores, which should come out around August or September. If Powell can keep up the type of improvement he showed in his first year, then maybe what we really need to do is look at changing whatever rules the bureaucrats are trying to use to get rid of him.