Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Poorest performing schools in Jefferson County get lots of rookie teachers

Probably too many rookie teachers

Management of the turn-around of Persistently Low-Achieving Schools in Jefferson County looks awfully shaky.

The Courier-Journal reports that 60 of the 135 teachers brought in to the second group of the district’s schools to be tagged as Persistently Low-Achieving are first-year teachers with absolutely no prior experience. They are going to face a demanding task: working in some of the district’s most challenged schools with some of the district’s most under-served students.

In addition, 20 more teachers coming into these Persistently Low-Achieving Schools are just transfers from one of the other Persistently Low-Achieving Schools that were identified this year. That might just be moving problems around.

Clearly, not everyone is happy about this, including the new Associate Commissioner for the ‘District 180’ program, Dewey Hensley. Hensley – who has a great reputation for school turn-around in the Atkinson Elementary School in Jefferson County – said he is not sure the district has gone far enough in its efforts to fix problems in these low-performing schools.

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday is also unhappy. He questions whether this large group of inexperienced teachers can raise performance fast enough to meet federal and state requirements.

I wonder if these new hire teachers are going to get the kind of mentoring they badly need as they start their classroom careers. With so many brand new teachers, it seems unlikely there are going to be enough experienced teachers in the school with the interest and time to do the job. After all, even experienced teachers in these schools will be facing some of the district’s toughest education challenges.

Swirling around on the periphery of all of this is the fact that at least some factors in the teacher restaffing action in Jefferson County may not be in compliance with House Bill 176 from the 2010 Regular Legislative Session. That bill established the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools program.

Among other things, HB 176 said union contracts could not interfere with the placement of teachers in these troubled schools. However, a report from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA) indicates a Memorandum of Agreement between the union and the school district could indeed be interfering in ways the bill does not permit. Check out the OEA’s comments on page 40 of the report.

One thing seems pretty certain: we are going to be spending a lot of extra money in these schools, about half a million dollars a year per school, to turn them around. Somehow, it seems like more money by itself won’t be nearly enough.

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