— Dreaming in Jefferson County
In it’s coverage of the passage of House Bill 176, the Louisville Courier-Journal notes several schools in Jefferson County would be identified as “Persistently Low-Achieving Schools” if the bill’s new formulas were applied today.
The article additionally says Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools Sheldon Berman told the newspaper that “district officials have already begun turning around most of those schools.”
Well, see if you can find much “turn-around performance” in the schools the Courier lists.
This table summarizes data found in the individual 2009 No Child Left Behind Report results for each school listed in the Courier’s article.
Only one school, Western MST High, increased both math and reading proficiency rates between 2008 and 2009, but the school still fell short of the required Annual Measureable Objective (AMO) required proficiency rate in both subjects. And, Western’s 2009 math rate only improved because its 2008 rate was truly abysmal. Western’s 2009 rate remains lowest of the group – hardly an achievement worth lauding.
The other five schools experienced DROPS in their already low reading proficiency rates between 2008 and 2009, and three saw DROPS in their very low math proficiency rates, as well. Overall, all six schools sank deeper in NCLB’s failing schools Tier listing, entering a second year as a bottom level Tier 5 school.
It’s not hard to understand some of the reasons why this might be happening in Jefferson County.
The Jefferson County Board of Education’s contract with the Jefferson County Teachers Association has a lot of restrictions that get in the way of reforming schools; so, it’s not likely that much real change can happen. Under the union contract, the district’s poorest performing schools continue to get too many of the least experienced teachers.
In fact, in October Dr. Berman and two of his middle school teachers admitted to the Kentucky Board of Education that the union contract interfered with assigning enough highly experienced teachers to two of the district’s most troubled middle schools.
The Bluegrass Institute has also written a lot (such as here) about an on-going deception using a fabricated “At or Above Grade Level” scoring scheme to fool the people of Jefferson County about the real performance of their taxpayer-supported schools. Jefferson County took it upon itself to redefine and dumb down the old CATS scores, claiming any score above “Novice” was “At or Above Grade Level.” Considering CATS scores were already undemanding, this further decay of rigor was inexcusable.
I’m concerned that HB 176’s final language won’t override that union contract in Jefferson County, especially if some of the turn-around options that leave control in the hands of the school district are applied. If the district’s leadership thinks they are turning these schools around now, I’d like to know what they are looking at.