Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Holliday Regrets Release of Public Information Naming Low-Performing Schools

OK. I get it. The Commissioner certainly doesn't want to demoralize any faculty that is working hard, trying new things, and is showing improvement. Having been in the trenches, I know how that sort of thing plays within the faculty. It is not good. Those who are working hard in the worst conditions are demoralized by the apparent lack of support.

So let's assume, for the sake of argument, that despite a long-standing record of failure, all of these schools have turned a corner and there is new leadership a new plan and a new burst of optimism that positive change will at last occur. Then the Commissioner is correct to apologize (whether he was wrong or not) and go support the new initiatives.

But absent any evidence of significant change, there is no reason for Holliday to have to apologize for releasing public information, which is his obligation under the law, anyway.

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:

Holliday: release of list of 12
“worst-performing schools” a mistake
There are all sorts of meaningless “worst” lists: actors, movies, songs, inventions and, of course, Mr. Blackwell’s worst-dressed list.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says a list of “worst-performing schools” identified in news stories last week is, at least for now, just that: meaningless.

In his Jan. 11 Monday Superintendent E-mail, Holliday said last Thursday’s release at a legislative hearing of a list of 12 “persistently low-achievement schools” was “inadvertent…and is not an official list.” And in an interview late Monday, Holliday acknowledged he had heard complaints from several superintendents and vowed to “visit every one of those schools we named and apologize to those faculties.”

The commissioner explained that the list made public at last Thursday’s House Education Committee meeting results from three separate requirements for the Kentucky Department of Education to define schools that have regularly missed academic goals.

“We had to have that list in last Friday to show the feds that we had actually defined and named these schools for the (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s) stimulus stabilization program,” Holliday said. “Then we had to put a definition in our Race to the Top application (due Jan. 19). And Senate Bill 1 (the 2009 General Assembly’s school-reform law) also requires that we identify low-achieving schools.

“But the thing to remember is that we won’t be identifying schools for real consequences under House Bill 176 until after the release of the 2010 state test scores,” the commissioner said. “There are no sanctions for these schools (named last week). Our regret is that it was made public.”

An official list of persistently low-achieving schools will be produced after the 2010 school accountability tests are scored. “It may be the same schools, but there could be big changes,” Holliday said. “We hope (the schools named last week) are working hard to improve student achievement as we speak, and I’m sure that they are.”

House Bill 176, designed to improve Kentucky’s chances for Race to the Top federal funding by giving the state more authority to turnaround low-performing schools, passed the House Monday and is due to be heard in the Senate Education Committee Tuesday afternoon.
Holliday said in his message:

Update on HB 176 and Development of Low Achieving Schools Language

Late last week, a list of schools was inadvertently released to the public that identified Kentucky’s “persistently low-achieving schools”. It is important to understand that this list is not an official list and the schools were identified using a definition that is still under development through HB 176. In addition, KDE is also developing definitions to address other low achieving, non-Title I schools that are not covered under No Child Left Behind requirements, but are covered under Senate Bill 1 for the purpose of KDE being required to provide assistance. The thing to remember is that we won’t be identifying schools for real consequences under HB 176 until after the release of the 2010 state test scores.


Richard Innes said...


I agree with you on this one. Dr. Holliday shouldn't need to apologize, and release of the results of the trial run of the RTTT formula was quite appropriate.

In fact, that release allowed independent analysis of exactly how the formula worked to identify the schools most in need of intervention. That raises questions, a Henry County High School in particular, and perhaps some others, on the list don't perform so poorly on things like the ACT 11th grade testing as a RTTT designation would lead one to believe.

Like any new, and complex program, RTTT may need some more work in Washington.

Anonymous said...

I found it interesting that the apology from Holliday, JC BOE meeting, and JC's approval of the RTTT memorandum of understanding came together at/around the same time.

Richard Day said...

You see a pattern there, do you? Me too.

But the Commissioner's post is afterall a political job. It is Holliday's duty to support the improvement efforts of JCPS (and all districts) strongly, right up to the moment when he has to kick one of them in the pants.

This whole effort will take time...patience....millions....but it foreshadows what NCLB is likely to look like when it is reincarnated under a new name.