"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:
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.