Even the Prichard Committee doesn’t understand
The high performing high school
First, let’s talk about a very high performing high school in Kentucky’s “Unbridled Learning” school accountability program. This school’s summary of “Accountability Performance” from its 2012-13 school report card (PDF available from menus here) says this school is one of Kentucky’s best performers.
In both of the years that Unbridled Learning has been in operation, this school has scored among the top 30 percent of all high schools in the state, earning an overall classification of “Proficient.” Furthermore, the school’s progress apparently outpaced others in Kentucky because its overall Percentile Rank rose in the second year of Unbridled Learning from the 71st to the 87th Percentile. That seems like notable improvement.
Even more remarkable, based on math and reading scores from Kentucky’s old CATS assessments, on October 19, 2011 this school was named a Persistently Low-Achieving School under rules Kentucky enacted to compete for Race to the Top money.
Imagine that: just one year before Unbridled Learning was launched, this high school’s performance was near the bottom of the heap, ranking among the lowest 15 percent of all schools in the Bluegrass State and perhaps even lower.
By any measure, making an apparent jump from such a low ranking to such a high ranking in so short a period of time is truly remarkable.
The low performing high school
Our second high school was also tagged as Persistently Low-Achieving in 2011, but its tale seems far different from our first school’s story. All Persistently Low-Achieving Schools must receive a management audit every two years, and this school just received its new audit during the week of May 4th.
It isn’t a happy report.
A few of the stunningly critical key findings include:
• The 2012-13 School Report Card shows that the school scored below the state average and decreased from 2011-12 in the percentages of students who scored at the proficient/distinguished level in English II, Algebra II, Biology, writing, and language mechanics.
• Most students interviewed indicated that they were not challenged in the majority of their classes.
• In addition, students stated that they did not feel prepared for post-secondary level work in most content areas.
• The process provides students with minimal feedback of little value about their learning.
• Few or no school personnel are engaged in mentoring, coaching, and induction programs that are consistent with the school’s values and beliefs about teaching, learning, and the conditions that support learning.
• Professional development, when available, may or may not address the needs of the school or build capacity among staff members.
In the end, the audit team concluded:
“After reviewing all the information and artifacts, the review team has determined that the principal does not have the ability to lead the intervention and should not remain as principal of Fleming County High School.” That’s a pretty serious indictment of non-confidence in the principal.
Do you think it sad that after 24 years of KERA we have schools with such dramatically different performance? Well, hang on to your hat, because there is more to the story.
You see, both of these schools are actually the SAME school!!!
The shocking truth
It seems like our first and second schools could not be more unlike each other, but that is not the case. In fact, both schools are actually the same school, the Fleming County High School here in Kentucky.
Incredibly, the very same school that Unbridled Learning showered with praise and a high overall ranking is one and the same with the school that has all the major problems the recent audit revealed.
So, Kentuckians face a paradox: how can a top ranked school in Unbridled Learning actually perform so poorly in key academic areas? The reality is the saga of Fleming County High, a story so incredible that even the Prichard Committee is asking questions, shows us that Unbridled Learning has some serious problems and needs some important improvements. I’ll be talking more about that in a later post, so stand by.