State review of Fayette Schools says district is not doing enough for Bryan Station High
Board Members lack Unity, Clarity in duties, Role in school improvement
District has Capacity, but has not delivered
A state review of Fayette County Public Schools has found that, for the second year in a row, the district is not doing enough to help Bryan Station High School.
Bryan Station High is the only school in Fayette County that the state designates as a priority or persistently low achieving school.
"In general, the diagnostic review of Fayette County Public Schools found that while the district has the capacity, including resources, personnel, leadership and community partnerships, to support Bryan Station's turnaround efforts, it lacks the policies, procedures, monitoring and intentionality to assist the school's continued improvement," said Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez.
"The district will now use the report's findings, including a list of comprehensive improvement priorities, to improve its turnaround efforts at the school. The Kentucky Department of Education will continue to provide assistance, support and guidance to the district as it undertakes this work," said Rodriguez.
In March, a team from the Kentucky Department of Education came to Fayette County to review whether district officials were doing enough for Bryan Station High.
The answer, according to the April report, was that in many cases, the district is not.
In 2014 as well, KDE officials found school district officials were not doing enough to help Bryan Station improve.
KDE will conduct another review next school year, according to Associate Commissioner Kelly Foster.
Fayette school board chairman John Price said the board has not reviewed the report, but the board is likely to hold a work session on it.
"The superintendent search continues to be our primary focus and priority," said Price. "The hiring of a permanent superintendent will help us address the student achievement issues at Bryan Station High School and across the district," he said.
District officials told the Herald-Leader in February that they were making significant efforts to turnaround Bryan Station High School.
In an earlier report that Foster presented to the state school board on Feb. 4, Bryan Station was among 28 high schools that showed a big gain — more than 20 percentage points — in students graduating from college or being career-ready over the past four years. Bryan Station was among 12 priority schools that had double-digit gains in the percentage of students meeting the ACT math benchmark from 2010 to 2014. And the school has closed student achievement gaps over the past three years, important because it has more students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch than other high schools in the district.
But several areas of the district's efforts to help Bryan Station High School need improvement, according to the April 16 Diagnostic Review Team report.
Following 94 observations of classes, the team saw clear differences between the opportunities provided to students in grade-level core courses and those in advanced courses such as calculus and Advanced Placement history, the report said.
The review team noted several instances of student behavior impacting learning. Several students were observed not attending classes, using cell phones, listening to music during class, and disengaging from the lesson. Attempts by teachers to redirect students were often met with ambivalence or initial compliance followed by students returning to the inappropriate behavior soon after the correction, the review team found.
On a 4-point scale, the district received ratings of 1 or 2 on several fronts.
The Digital Learning Environment was rated 1.48 on a 4-point scale. There was little student use of technology tools to conduct research, solve problems, or create original works for learning or opportunities for students to communicate and work collaboratively for learning. Students were often observed using digital devices, but most of that use was not for learning, as evidenced by the fact that they were redirected by adults.
The state team observed that digital devices for learning occurred most often in the accelerated core classrooms, highlighting again the discrepancies between the learning environments experienced by average or low performing students and those in the advanced classes.
Interviews with staff at both the school and the district levels revealed inconsistencies in the defined roles, responsibilities and authority of the District Directors of Improvement/Innovation assigned to Bryan Station High.
One person interviewed by the state team questioned the district's ability to bring about change to Bryan Station High School.
The district has the benefit of a multitude of community partnerships, including nearby universities and colleges, businesses, and faith-based organizations, the report said. But the team found that there was no formal structure for organizing and using these benefits.
Some community members expressed to state officials their frustration over failed attempts to get their services to students and families. Comments from community members indicated a desire to ensure the improved performance of Bryan Station High, but said that a lack of clearly defined procedures for providing assistance may be impeding improvement.
While school board members articulated a commitment to their roles, the report said evidence suggests that members are not in agreement regarding the manner in which they are to execute their duties. Board members were not able to articulate a clear understanding of the board's role in the district and school improvement processes. Board members were inconsistent in describing the manner in which they address community complaints or issues, and individual board members varied in their beliefs about the extent to which they should hold each other accountable for their actions as board members.
A systematic process for reviewing and updating the district mission and vision statements is not formalized and does not include representation from all stakeholder groups, the report said.
Further, little evidence exists to confirm that there were concerted efforts to monitor and adjust annual goals, the report said.
The report said the district does not have a process to support individual schools in the development or implementation of the school's improvement plan.
Staff at the district and school level were unable to articulate the mission, purpose, and goals of the school, and records to indicate that the goals are monitored were not provided.
The school based decision-making council governing policies are generic and often lack the specificity necessary to address the needs of Bryan Station High School, the report said.