Monday, April 25, 2011

Courier’s opinions on ‘Fixing schools’ uninformed

A recent Courier-Journal editorial warrants an informed challenge. Putting it politely, the editor is seriously uninformed.

The major thrust of the editorial is that Jefferson County Public Schools are getting too much sniping from Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday and his staff. Per the Courier, the local school folk in Jefferson County are all great souls, all interested in doing the right thing for kids.

The editorial claims:

“There is no evidence at all that any party dealing with the problem of low-achieving schools in Jefferson County — JCPS, state or union — is exhibiting ‘no regard’ for students.”


Fact: In December, 2010, the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA) reported to the Kentucky Legislature’s Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee that the Jefferson County Teachers Association and the Jefferson County School District entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on how restaffing in the district’s Persistently Low-Achieving Schools would be conducted.

However, the OEA says on page 40 of its report “Analysis of Collective Bargaining Agreements in Kentucky Districts” (read the draft version approved by the EAARS in December – the final has not been posted):

“While the statute clearly stipulates that ‘professionally negotiated contracts by a local board of education shall not take precedence over the requirements’ associated with the option selected, JCPS and JCTA entered into an MOA as to how the restaffing would take place.”

Basically, OEA says the MOA violated provisions in House Bill 176 from the 2010 Regular Legislative Session. That legislation created implemented the accountability program that led to the identification of the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.

The OEA report also identifies a high level of inexperience in the teaching staff following restaffing in the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools. That was not the intention under HB-176.

The OEA report further says:

“As recognized in the Greater Louisville Education Report, ‘staffing provisions in the teacher union‘s contract need to be altered to insure the distribution of quality teachers can be more equitably spread across high and low risk schools’ (p. 7). Since this report was published in 2009, it appears little progress has been made to address the distribution of teachers in the district. JCPS‘ draft version of the 2011 Comprehensive District Improvement Plan does not include any policies or programs related to teacher distribution or transfer provisions.”

Imagine that! Louisville’s own education report called for staffing changes two years ago, yet the union continues resisting these badly needed improvements over two years later. How is that in the interests of students?

So, it is clear the Courier’s editor is far off base in claiming there is no evidence that parties in Louisville are not interested in students. When obviously needed changes go unmade for years, and laws apparently are being violated in the process, it looks like the education crowd in Louisville – not Kentucky’s education commissioner – is the problem.

And, the commissioner is right on target in getting firmer about the chronic lack of progress in Kentucky’s largest school system.

And, maybe, the education challenges in Louisville extend to the editor at the Courier, who apparently didn’t do his or her homework with the OEA report, or even his hometown created Greater Louisville report, either. As long as the editor runs cover for those who stand in the way of kids getting the experienced teachers they need, he becomes part of the problem, too.

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