A logical question was asked – how many schools are going to wind up tagged as Persistently Low-Achievers subject to sanctions and support to be offered as a consequence of the RTTT program?
The answer from Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday is that when his department did a trial calculation using past testing data, only 12 schools would be tagged as “Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.” Six are Title 1 schools, which means an appreciable portion of the students are low income and the school gets federal Title 1 dollars for them. Six other schools are from a separate group of more well to do schools that don’t qualify for the Title 1 designation.
The 12 schools are listed in this table along with their 2009 Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT) reading and mathematics scores and their 2009 ACT Composite Scores from 100 percent testing of the 11th graders. School names in red are the Non-Title 1 schools. I should emphasize that the schools in the table were only identified as a trial run and are not official RTTT Persistently Low-Achieving Schools. Still, there are some important implications from this trial run data.
A comparison of the high school ACT data in this table is particularly revealing. Note that the Non-Title 1 high schools perform notably better than the Title 1 schools. That is particularly true for the Non-Title 1 schools near the bottom of the list.
By definition Non-Title 1 schools have wealthier students. That raises a rather serious policy question – will RTTT money go to the most deserving schools?
Henry County High, for example, doesn’t score much below the state average on the ACT. In fact, 102 schools had lower ACT Composite Scores for their 11th graders in 2009. Still, Henry County, in this trial run, would qualify for a lot of attention and financial help while there are undoubtedly some other Title 1 schools with lower performance than Henry County that won’t get a dime from this program (I have not checked that, but with the majority of the state’s schools in Title 1 status, and with over 100 schools scoring lower than Henry County, I’d be very surprised if I’m wrong).
So, here we have another federal education program that may throw literally millions of dollars at the wrong schools, while other, lower performing schools get nothing.
This is very much like what happened in the early days of KERA, when our KIRIS test wound up identifying some of the state’s top schools as low performing.
It didn’t make sense in 1993, and this RTTT business is starting to look like it might not make sense now.