Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Holliday's 'academic genocide' comment intended to spur community action against existing JCPS 'apartheid' system

"Now it’s clear that this is not a “school only” issue. 
This is poverty. This is low expectations in the community. 
This is isolation of these kids in certain schools. 
This is a community issue, not just a school issue."

 "You have very different systems in Jefferson County."

"The state is just as guilty as Jefferson County."
-- Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

This from The Courier-Journal:

Holliday says 
state may take over some JCPS schools
Several of Jefferson County’s persistently low-achieving public schools could be facing a state takeover of their overhaul efforts as early as this fall unless they show improvement soon, the state’s top education chief warned Tuesday.

In an interview with The Courier-Journal editorial board, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday put Jefferson County Public Schools on notice that he is ready to order a fresh round of audits for most of the district’s 18 low-performing schools if their graduation rates and college and career readiness statistics don’t improve this spring. Those audits would be used to determine if the state needs to assume oversight of the schools’ turnaround efforts.

“I have great hope that we won’t have to do this, but I don’t want anyone to be surprised come August if that’s what I have to do,” Holliday said.

His warning comes after a state analysis released last week showed that 16 of the 18 persistently low-achieving schools have made little or no progress since they were ordered to undergo overhauls — a situation that Holliday likened to “academic genocide.”
In response to Holliday’s comments Tuesday, JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens said the district and the community “share the urgency to improve student achievement expressed by the commissioner. ... Based on the test results from the 2011-12 school year, we agree that there is much work to be done to make certain our students are college- and career-ready.

“However, based on the current analysis of our daily work, our student-centered efforts with professional learning communities in the implementation of common core standards and expansion of out-of-school-time opportunities for all students, we believe we will see a positive impact on student outcomes.”

During a meeting Monday night, JCPS officials and school board members defended their handling of troubled schools and questioned Holliday’s use of such terms as “academic genocide.”
Holliday told The Courier-Journal he chose his words intentionally.

“I used that term purposefully to get this community involved,” Holliday said, adding that he first heard the term a few years ago when a judge overseeing academics in North Carolina public schools ruled that all children have the right to obtain a sound, basic education.

In a letter to North Carolina State Board of Education, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning called Halifax County's academic performance “nothing less than an academic disaster.”

“The bottom line is that Halifax County Public Schools children are suffering from a breakdown in system leadership, school leadership and a breakdown in classroom instruction by and large from elementary school through high school,” Manning wrote. “This is academic genocide, and it must be stopped.”

Holliday said Manning’s letter prompted community groups in North Carolina to organize community forums and the NAACP to organize a “March Against Academic Genocide.”
“The community really rallied behind those schools, and that is what needs to happen in Jefferson County,” he said.

In the past three years, 41 public schools in Kentucky have been selected for overhauls because of chronically poor academics — including the 18 in Jefferson County.

The state analyzed academic measures at all 41 schools, including test scores, graduation rates and ACT scores. It found that 23 were failing to make sufficient progress, including the 16 in Jefferson County — Shawnee, Valley, Western, Doss, Iroquois, Seneca, Southern and Waggener high schools and Frost, Western, Knight, Olmsted Academy North, Myers, Stuart, Thomas Jefferson and Westport middle schools.

Only two of Jefferson County’s low-performing schools were on the right track — Fern Creek and Fairdale high schools.

Holliday said the state is already leading the turnaround effort at seven of the 41 overhauled schools because leadership assessments determined that the districts couldn’t do the job themselves. He warned JCPS that it could be next.

“It’s possible we may need to bring some more state management to some of these schools,” he said.
 Holliday said he followed the JCPS school board meeting Monday and came away with the assessment that the emphasis “is still all about the adult” — not the students.

“It was ‘Well, you know we are meeting, we are working hard’ — I know they are working hard, but the kids aren’t learning,” he said. “Some of these schools are in the bottom 2 percent in the state.”
He said Friday that Louisville should be “outraged” by wide learning gaps between schools such as duPont Manual and Valley High School.

Asked Tuesday if Jefferson County had created a system with two different levels of expectations, Holliday agreed.

“Some have suggested that I should have used the word ‘apartheid,’ because I think that is exactly what has happened,” he said. “You have two very different systems in Jefferson County, and the data would support what you're saying.“

Holliday said he hopes the school board will start asking important questions to ensure “not just equity of opportunity,” but that there is “equity of learning outcomes for all children.”

“This isn’t about the adults, its about our kids learning,” Holliday said. “That’s all we want out of this. I want to see all of Jefferson County’s schools do great.”

KSN&C submitted a question to C-J about the commissioner’s intent, which Debbie Vedder (I think, if I recognized her voice from Comment on Kentucky) worked into a larger set of questions. Here’s the exchange:
C-J: [Academic genocide] was a such a powerful expression in that [North Carolina] community that parents and different groups started having marches against academic genocide - and that was what it was called. Did you deliberately use this to try to engage the community? These numbers were out there. Everybody in the community knew about these numbers. We’ve done lots of stories. And we’ve known for years that some of these schools have languished. What is it going to take to get people up and going, and figuring this out?
Holliday: Well, you’re exactly right.  This was purposeful, to get the community involved.
C-J: Have you heard anything?
Holliday: Tons! (chuckle)
C-J: Have you been criticized for it?
Holliday: Both.  Overwhelmingly though, positive comments that I’ve received… and even the negative ones know that this situation exists. We just don’t know what to do about it as a community.  I saw the mayor this morning and said that I’d be happy to come to a community forum. I have turned around school districts. This is a big one. And I definitely want to work with the board and the current administration to help more kids be successful. But they’re not going to do it on their own.  We’ve got to have a community that says we want to change expectations.


Anonymous said...

I am more than a little surprised that fewer readers, and the moderator, have not spoken up about Dr. Holliday's use of the term "academic genocide" to describe what is going on in Louisville poorest performing schools.

Genocide is, as we all know, "deliberate, planned murder on a massive scale" and I simply think the commissioner, who obviously has a limited understanding of the Holocaust would use the term.

There is simply no evidence of a planned attempt to rob Louisville students of their education by the Louiscille Board of Education, the teachers there or the administration. What is definitely a part of the problem is the lack of parental involvement, poverty, and and, I suspect, an overemphasis on testing.

Daily, I lose respect for our commissioner, and I feel compelled to say that one factor that divides good politicians from bad ones is word choice. The use of academic genocide is a visceral term that only incites and diverts attention.

If Holliday must take over and run these poor performing schools ---and he has the authority to do so ---let him do it devoid of such grandstanding and misuse of vocabulary.

Anonymous said...

I think it should be further added that the term "academic genocide" was first used by North Carolina District Judge Manning in regard to the Halifax County Schools.

Sadly, I think the commissioner, who hails from North Carolina, has simply plagiarized from Judge Manning, who made the statement in 2009.

Anonymous said...

If he meant the word apartheid, then it should trigger a public education moment at the very least. The Metropolitan Housing Coalition Annual reports show a strikingly segregated city divided east and west on race and income lines. To announce JCPS is running a school system with two sets of expectations and the main ladder out of poverty-education-has collapsed, gives further evidence of an insidious racist bias in which all the benefits are directed to white students and white areas of the community.

Anonymous said...

Apartheid? He said genocide so I am thinking that is what he means. It is my understanding that these identified schools actually had significant amounts of additional funds focused on them.

The reality is that larger districts are not budgetarily shorting schools which are more densely populated with student poverty, as a mater of fact they actually qualify for more financial support. The difference is student of parents from middle to affluent backgrounds have parents filling in the financial gaps when the schools come up short. Its got nothing to do racial bias.

Anonymous said...

Just like when Stu went from being a savior in Daviess County to less than super-successful in Fayette County, the Commissioner is in deeper waters and swifter currents in Jefferson County than simply sending a team of folks down to an isolated low achieving rural school in Appalachia.

Some could argue that the Commissioner's ability to garner tangible resources and genuine support systems for teachers across the state would be equivalent to "academic genocide". He is intentionally forcing conditions upon educators and students without adequate planning, processing or implementation resources, knowing full well that educators cannot maintain long term success without adequate support under the expectations which he has framed.

I personally am quite fed up with workshops and webinars lead by KDE staff or the vendors they have spend our money upon who can't answer basic implementation questions about unilaterally imposed programs and operational expectations, much less long term vision. All I get is "we are working on that now," " a steering committee is developing that in the near future," or "we hope to..."

Anonymous said...

For all the words of song or pen
The saddest are these:
What might have been....

We lost Gene Willhoit, who will be
back at UK shortly. In his place we have Doc Holliday, a shameless self-promoter who uses inflammatory phrases to supposedly spur change. SHAME ON YOU, DOC!