Have you ever had one of those socially awkward moments when you said something and immediately wanted to take it back? I had one last week when I happened upon Jefferson County Superintendent Donna Hargens at the Prichard/KEAT meeting. I wanted to just say "Hi," but what came out was "Welcome to Kentucky." She mumbled something about her having been here two years now. Arrgh. I walked past mumbling something about how damn stupid I could be at times. But I doubt it concerned her for a moment. She has much bigger issues.
This from C-J:
The differences are stark.
• Nearly half of western Louisville students read below grade level, compared with just 15 percent from eastern Jefferson County.“This is data that we really haven’t presented before, and it highlights the vast disparities that exist within our schools and our communities,” said Judi Vanderhaar, an evaluation specialist with JCPS, the nation’s 28th largest school district.
• Less than 35 percent of West End students are ready for college or the workforce vs. 71 percent from the East End.
• And more than 40 percent of Jefferson County students who were suspended at least twice or more in 2013 came from the West End, compared with less than 30 percent from the East End.
Those are just a few of the disparities that Jefferson County Public Schools identified as part of a newly published scorecard that for the first time tracks equity across the district in college readiness, literacy, discipline and school culture — barriers that can mean the difference between success and failure for thousands of students.
Armed with that data, JCPS reached out Monday to community organizations, business leaders, educators and parents as part of a summit intended to help develop solutions that will bridge the gap, they said, between the “haves” and “have nots.”
The district also is investigating its policies, system structures, resource allocation and intervention strategies to find ways to equalize education opportunities among its 101,000 students and 155 schools.
“Finding and examining obstacles was a challenging and, at times, uncomfortable process,” Superintendent Donna Hargens said in a statement. “The issues are steeped in centuries of complex social, political and economic factors. We must address these inequities together as a community if we are to move our students and our city forward.”
But others expressed dismay at the continued inequities plaguing JPCS students, particularly the fact that black students are suspended far more than their white counterparts.
“It’s infuriating,” the Rev. David Snardon of Joshua Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in western Louisville and co-president of Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together, said in a statement. “ ... If we as a community don’t rise up and tell the superintendent that this is unacceptable, then we will lose an entire generation of African American children in Louisville.”
Vanderhaar said some of the biggest gaps are directly linked to poverty.
For example, students who live in the Newburg area and in the West End — among the poorest communities in Jefferson County — are more likely to score at the lowest level on statewide reading tests.
“However, just because you from a low-income family doesn’t mean you can’t succeed,” Vanderhaar said. “While some of these statistics are grim, we also have some success stories.”
View an electronic version of the Envision Equity Scorecard at http://www.jefferson.kyschools.us/Programs/mcconnections/EquityScorecard/.
To provide feedback, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/L2T5T35.
For example, Young Elementary School — on 35th and Muhammad Ali in western Louisville — is considered an extremely high-poverty school, and 94 percent of its students are minorities.
But last spring, Young students surpassed their statewide testing goal by 10 points. In addition, teacher retention and disruptive classrooms — problems that typically plague high poverty schools — aren’t a problem there, according to school officials.
“You have to know your students and adjust everything you do to fit their needs,” said Mary Minyard, the school’s principal. “We are also mindful of not asking our families to participate in costly activities. There are other ways to get them involved and to have fun.”
And another high-poverty school — Breckenridge Franklin Elementary — produced one of the largest gains in reading proficiency in JCPS between 2012 and 2013 and made gains among all student groups.
Hargens said the goal of releasing the scorecard is to “put the data and the evidence out there, so that our community knows what we are dealing with and can help us find some solutions.”
She said the district will follow up on the ideas developed during the summit and feedback from a community survey in the coming months.
Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville NAACP, which has called the district’s education gap its most pressing issue, said Monday’s summit was “a very positive step in the right direction.”
“We are not really surprised by the findings, but this is the first time they have been presented to us in a concise manner,” Cunningham said. “That’s important because in order to address the problem, you have to know exactly what you are dealing with.”
Cunningham said he was also encouraged by the turnout — nearly 200 people attended the summit.
“When you looked around the room, you saw various aspects of our community,” he said.
“Hopefully, the entire community will now be ready to get involved and offer some solutions.”
Derrick Mason was among those who participated in sharing ideas at the summit.
“There seems to be a disconnect between what is happening in our schools and the knowledge of those of us in the community,” said Mason, who lives in St. Matthews. “I think there are a lot of people who can’t get past the West End vs. the East End mentality, but in reality, where a kid lives shouldn’t matter.”
Some of the solutions discussed include increasing transportation opportunities for parents, increasing awareness of community programs and resources, partnering with universities and exploring alternatives to student discipline.
John Marshall, JCPS’ assistant superintendent for diversity, equity and poverty programs, said students only spend “9 percent of their time in our classrooms, and achieving equity requires support from 100 percent of the people who have an impact on their lives.”
“Everyone in this community can have an impact on their lives,” Marshall said.