Louisville’s Shawnee High School has earned more than its share of Bluegrass Institute attention over the years.
In our “How Whites and Blacks Perform in Jefferson County,” Shawnee produced some of the lowest high school graduation rates for both white and black males of any school in the Jefferson County school district, and the five-year decline in black male graduation rates in this school was the largest of any high school in Louisville.
In the Institute’s “Bang for the Buck,” Shawnee turned in the worst performance in the state when we compared test scores (the “bang”) to per pupil expenditures.
Others agree that Shawnee is a troubled school. It has failed to meet No Child Left Behind goals for years. According to Ann Elmore, a Jefferson County school board member, the school struggles with test scores, attendance rates, and discipline issues.
Now, the Courier-Journal reports a proposed district-wide attendance plan for schools – aimed at improving all of Louisville’s schools – is raising more concerns that Shawnee will be left behind, again.
Per the Courier, the district’s plan is supposed to leave no school with, “more than half its students from low-income, low-education and high-minority neighborhoods.” But, the plan won’t accomplish that for Shawnee, where 87 percent of the students will still come from disadvantaged homes.
The “fix” is supposedly making Shawnee into a magnet school. But, hold on. Shawnee already is a magnet school with a special aviation program, and that has not worked. The district appears to be out of ideas to fix this troubled school.
If ever there was a need for more school choice options such as charter schools largely free from the restrictions that tie Jefferson County’s hands, Shawnee has to be a prime example. For example, the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools in other states do a great job despite high ratios of high poverty enrollment, but Kentucky first needs to legalize charter schools before we can adopt a KIPP model.
Maybe our legislators will finally learn from Shawnee’s long-time plight and finally give our state what kids in more than 40 states already have – a charter school law that can really work for our students – even when they’re in high poverty situations.