Louisville’s Robert Frost Middle School and Myers Middle School have been a major problem for years.
Frost was tagged as a Persistently Low-Achieving School (PLAs) in the very first “Cohort” named in the spring of 2010. Myers followed into Persistently Low-Achieving status about a year and a half later when Cohort 3 PLAs were identified in October of 2011. Since then, both schools have blazed a trail of continued mediocrity so bad that the Jefferson County Board of Education essentially closed them at the end of the past school term.
But, the fix adopted by the board already shows disconcerting evidence that failure to educate former students from Myers and Frost continues.
To be sure, the school district, then under the leadership of Superintendent Sheldon Berman, wasn’t being much help in these schools when they landed in Persistently Low-Achieving country.
For example, around the same time Frost was identified as a Persistently Low-Achieving School in 2010, the district issued a report claiming the school’s School Based Decision Making Council was operating with “high efficiency” and had been for years.
Furthermore, in an extraordinary example of logic-devoid denial, the Jefferson County educators tried to say there were no low-performing schools in the district even after Frost got tabbed for posting years of lowest-in-Kentucky test results in math and reading.
Such nonsense clearly didn’t lead to much of a sense of urgency to really get something done in Frost and Myers.
Flash forward to the 2013-14 school year – and many extra aid dollars later – and both schools were still seriously under-performing. A staff assistance audit of Frost Middle released in March 2014 found serious problems such as these still remained:
• 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.
So, what does the Jefferson County School Board do? They essentially closed Frost and Myers Middle schools for the older students and transferred those kids to newly created middle school sections at two high schools. This year former Frost Middle kids became seventh and eighth graders at the Valley High School facility. Meanwhile, former Myers kids were just rehoused at Waggoner High School’s campus.
But, it appears that in the education world in Jefferson County, just moving problems does not solve them.
Instead, as the Courier-Journal’s Allison Ross reported several days ago suspension rates for middle school age students at the reformed Valley and Waggoner high schools are running sky high. That is ominous.
You see, as Ms. Ross points out in her article, there is “a growing body of research showing suspensions’ limited effectiveness and potential harm to students.” This is supported by a new report from UK, as well.
So, the implications of high suspension rates are ominous.
We won’t see how this chaos impacts test results for some time, but you can bet a lot of very concerned eyes are focused on Jefferson County – again.
And, one more thing: You have to wonder what might have happened if Frost and Myers had kept students in place but had been reformed as charter schools. Thanks to Kentucky’s lack of a charter school law, a law now on the books in 42 other states, we will never know.