Senate Bill 211, a bill to allow school districts to reform Kentucky’s 41 Persistently Low-Achieving Schools (recently renamed “Priority Schools”) as charter schools, has cleared the Kentucky Senate and now moves to the Kentucky House.
This action to implement charter schools comes none too soon.
Case in point: the Frost Middle School in Jefferson County. The Courier-Journal reported today that a new performance audit of this school shows that more than three years after this school was identified as one of the very first Persistently Low-Achieving Schools, efforts by the traditional school system to fix Frost have been a serious failure.
Some of the continuing problems in Frost are simply depressing:
• There is an absence of high expectations for students,
• High expectations for academics and behavior do not exist,
• Higher-level work such as applying knowledge, analyzing information, creating projects, writing authentically or providing presentations were rare,
• Many students are not reprimanded for misbehavior, some are allowed to sleep during class,
• Test scores are falling
• Observations show poor classroom operations, and
• Limited use of digital learning.
Frost’s problems came to wide public attention in the Spring of 2010 when Kentucky added new laws in its quest to win “Race to the Top” and “School Improvement Grant” dollars.
Now, four years, and about $1.5 million in extra School Improvement Grant funding later, Frost Middle continues to be an academic disaster for its students.
Clearly, nothing the traditional public school system has to offer has worked in Frost, and it is time for legislative action to allow new tools, tools that are proving successful around the country, to finally come to Kentucky. Kids in Frost and a lot of Kentucky’s other Priority/Persistently Low-Achieving Schools deserve at least that much.
SB-211 is not a very strong charter school bill, and there are plenty of policy examples from places like Louisiana where the House can add to SB-211 to make it more effective. It will be interesting to see if the Kentucky House, which has traditionally been hostile to charter schools, will go back to school itself on situations like Frost Middle School and come to realize that it is time for more public school options in the Bluegrass State.
The Frost example screams for charter school options.
One provision in Kentucky’s 2010 law was that the state would identify its very lowest performing schools in math and reading as “Persistently Low-Achieving Schools” and then would launch one of four “Turn-Around Options” in each school.
Frost was in the very first group of schools, called Cohort 1, to be identified.
As a part of the turn-around process, Frost received a management audit in March of 2010 and began working on a program that saw about $1.5 million spent in this school alone over the following three years.
It’s now four years later, and Frost still clearly has serious and continuing issues. It is a school in chaos – with unstable leadership changes as well as the other issues mentioned above – and it is clearly past time to transform this school into a better model, a model that has shown particular success with inner city public schools.