These schools just got a free ride.
The US Department of Education announced yesterday that it is releasing $56 million to Kentucky as School Improvement Grants (SIG) to turn around some of the state’s lowest performing schools.
However, there is a catch. To get the money, some principals in Kentucky schools will have to be replaced.
The question is, will that really happen in this state which has a long record of protecting school staff in low performing schools?
To get the SIG money, the US Department of Education’s announcement says individual schools have to undergo some serious reforms using one of the following four models:
“TURNAROUND MODEL: Replace the principal, screen existing school staff, and rehire no more than half the teachers; adopt a new governance structure; and improve the school through curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.
RESTART MODEL: Convert a school or close it and re-open it as a charter school or under an education management organization.
SCHOOL CLOSURE: Close the school and send the students to higher-achieving schools in the district.
TRANSFORMATION MODEL: Replace the principal and improve the school through comprehensive curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.”
Notice that all four models require replacing the school principal.
That is what has me holding my breath. Will Kentucky finally step up to the plate and actually take such strong action? Will principals really be sent packing due to poor performance?
As a note, I read elsewhere that under the “Transformation Model” principals who have been on the job less than two years won’t necessarily be fired. That provision seems reasonable to me, but it is notable that this exception isn’t mentioned in the new announcement from the US Department of Education.
Anyway, to see how the two-year provision might play out in Kentucky, I assembled the following table using the current on line 2009-10 Kentucky Schools Directory, which lists current principals, and the school report cards for Kentucky’s SIG schools, which is also on line at the Kentucky Department of Education.
The rows shaded in light red identify schools where the principal apparently has been on duty for roughly two years.
Depending upon exactly how the service of two years is defined, two schools, Shawnee High and Western MST Magnet High may or may not hit the two-year tripwire.
In any event, five of the 10 schools, Caverna High, Fern Creek Traditional High, Western Middle, Robert Frost Middle, and Valley Traditional High definitely would trip the two-year rule.
Now, the question becomes, will Kentucky actually do what it told the federal government it would do and replace those five principals?
And, what will the ever-militant Jefferson County Teachers Association do if principals are replaced?
Kentucky’s chances could be ‘toast’ without charter schools
We already pointed out that other states like Florida are taking a look at the Race to the Top (RTTT) Phase 1 awards and will up the ante considerably with their Phase 2 submissions.
If Kentucky really wants a shot at Phase 2 RTTT funding, which could amount to as much as $175 million, it must get on board with a good charter school program.
That requires legislation, which Governor Beshear recently announced he is considering. The governor may include such a legislative request in his anticipated call for a special legislative session to adopt a new state budget.
It’s great to see new groups forming and joining the Bluegrass Institute’s quest for school choice.
One of those is Parents for Improving Kentucky Education (PIKE). PIKE member Lauren Morgan notes in a recent Lexington Herald-Leader op-ed:
“… the true promise of charter schools is realized when they are generally free from many of the state and local regulations that stifle the innovation and creativity of teachers and administrators.”
The Bluegrass Institute welcomes all Kentucky parents to join this collaborative effort to bring school choice to Kentucky.
Nothing — not even the powerful teachers unions — can drown out Washington’s cash registers. Amazing, isn’t it?