Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jefferson County educators don’t get it: They operate a lot of very weak schools

I wrote a couple of days ago that educators in Jefferson County are whining and sniveling about finally having to face some accountability for their many very poor performing schools.

Sadly, instead of buckling down to figure out how to improve their under-performers, teachers along with Jefferson County superintendent Sheldon Berman are instead trying to torpedo House Bill 176. That's the law which is finally bringing some serious accountability and hope for improvement to the state’s very worst schools, the majority of which are found in Louisville.

To hear Berman and his cohorts tell it, it’s the bill that is all wrong.

No sir!

Here are a few examples of the performances in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) low-achieving schools that demand strong action:

No Child Left Behind Reports show math proficiency rates for all students range from a low of 4.7 percent at ‘The Academy at Shawnee’ to 28.53 percent at Seneca High School. These are the top and bottom performers in Jefferson County's low-achieving listing.

• Things are bad for African-American students in Seneca High; reading proficiency is only 36.76 percent and math proficiency is a dismal 13.43 percent. But, for these children of color in Shawnee, reading proficiency is only 16.18 percent, and math proficiency is virtually non-existent at only 2.08 percent!

Twelve of the 20 Persistently Low-Achieving Schools in Kentucky are in JCPS – That’s 60 percent of all such schools in the state. For a point of reference, the district enrolls only about 16 percent of the state’s public school students.

• Among the district’s Persistently Low-Achieving High Schools, three – Iroquois, Valley and Shawnee – have gruesomely low graduation rates below 60 percent even according to the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) seriously inflated statistics.

That easily qualifies these schools as “Dropout Factories” according to a definition developed by a Johns Hopkins University team that researches graduation rate reporting.

• If the KDE reported graduation rates by race for schools, blacks in these schools would do even worse, as we discussed in our report, “How Whites and Blacks Perform in Jefferson County Public Schools” two years ago.

Anyway, teachers and their superintendent in Jefferson County don’t seem to understand what they are doing. Their fussing about such things as required staffing changes included in HB-176 is seriously uninformed (more on that later). Most importantly, their ‘shoot the messenger’ grousing about finally being held accountable for poor performance in their schools just further erodes confidence that Jefferson County educators are really interested in turning these schools around.

The whining sends a message, and it’s a bad one: Jefferson County educators are far more interested in protecting adult turf than in digging in to create positive changes for the grossly under-served students in the district’s clearly low-achieving schools.

That’s a real shame!


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