Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Firing the wrong folks?

Lawrence High School principal and Site Base Decision Making Council out under new accountability program

We discussed schools in trouble under the federal education program known as School Improvement Grants in an earlier blog.

Now, it looks like staffers at Lawrence High School are going to get the axe under this new accountability program.

However, I still am not sure that the right schools are even on the School Improvement Grants list, and I don’t understand why the principal at Lawrence High is being shown the door after only about a year of service.

Do we have the right schools?

The problem with the selection of the School Improvement Grant schools is something I wrote about earlier in another blog.

In that second blog post, I pointed out that in 2009 Lawrence High ranked 218 out of 231 for its average proficiency across both reading and mathematics in the state assessment program. Clearly, more than 10 other schools did worse in 2009.

Furthermore, Lawrence High ranked 170 out of the 229 high schools that had ACT scores for 11th grade students reported in 2009. Certainly, this isn’t great performance by any standard. But, it is far from bottom 10. Sadly, the ACT performance isn’t considered in the School Improvement Grant process. I think it should be.

I know the way the schools were actually selected for the School Improvement Grants was a bit different from the analysis I outline above, but the point is the latest, 2009 testing results do not support wrecking havoc in Lawrence High while other, clearly lower performing schools get no special attention.

The issue is: are we using the right identification process for schools?

Should we axe principals who have not had enough time to make a difference?

There’s more. I’m also not sure the right person is leaving in the case of Lawrence High.

The Big Sandy News reports (subscription) that Dr. Laney already submitted his resignation, effective at the close of this school year.

But, here’s the problem.

Among the principals in Kentucky’s 10 School Improvement Grant schools, Dr. Laney has had the shortest incumbency of all. According to data I extracted from the school report cards at the Kentucky Department of Education’s web site (summarized below), Dr. Laney has been the principal for something less than two years (In fact, the editor at the Big Sandy News says Dr. Laney only started this school year). I read earlier somewhere that in cases of very limited incumbency like this, the principals would not automatically be replaced.

Maybe Dr. Laney came across really poorly during the school audit, but he still hasn’t had much of a chance at Lawrence High.

One last point to consider: Dr. Laney is the only one in this listing with a doctorate. If his removal is appropriate, then we need to find out where he got that advanced degree and do some research on the program he received.

There is still more to question with the School Improvement Grant process, so stay tuned.

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