Monday, October 12, 2009

How weak is Jefferson County?

Jefferson County is delivering weaker performance than most other districts in the state at the elementary and middle school levels. The high school results are relatively strong. The elementary and middle school results are the ones that deserve serious discussion within Jefferson County, and I'll share those first. Throughout, I'll compare results based on the percent of students who were at or above the state standard of proficiency on the 2009 Kentucky Core Content Tests.

In elementary and middle school reading:

  • 87% of districts delivered better third grade performance than Jefferson County
  • 89% delivered better fourth grade performance
  • 74% delivered better fifth grade performance
  • 86% delivered better sixth grade performance
  • 82% delivered better seventh grade performance
  • 85% delivered better eighth grade performance

In elementary and middle school mathematics:

  • 85% of districts delivered better third grade performance than Jefferson County
  • 81% delivered better fourth grade performance
  • 71% delivered better fifth grade performance
  • 82% delivered better sixth grade performance
  • 77% delivered better seventh grade performance
  • 82% delivered better eighth grade performance

In other elementary and middle school subjects:

  • 94% of districts delivered better performance in fourth grade science than Jefferson County
  • 90% delivered better performance in seventh grade science
  • 81% delivered better performance in fifth grade social studies
  • 82% delivered better performance in eighth grade social studies
  • 62% delivered better performance in fifth grade writing
  • 67% delivered better performance in eighth grade writing

As promised, the high school picture is importantly better:

  • 57% of districts delivered better tenth grade reading performance than Jefferson County
  • 37% delivered better eleventh grade mathematics performance
  • 64% delivered better eleventh grade science performance
  • 39% delivered better eleventh grade social studies performance
  • 17% delivered better twelfth grade writing performance

Before high school, though, the elementary and middle school results ought to startle any community. It should be especially startling any community as close to the very top of Kentucky adult educational attainment, household income, per pupil spending, and statewide leadership as Jefferson County.

Backup detail: the chart below shows the numbers behind the reporting above.


  1. Thank you for reporting this plain and simple data. I hope this will help bring attention to our situation and that there really is something to worry about!

  2. At the JCPS school board meeting tonight, the main point of discussion was that Jefferson County receives the lowest in percent of funding from the state. We have 1/7th of the state's students and the funding is not adequate. Highly funded districts in the state have beautiful facilities compared to what exists in Jefferson County. That will be their leading argument. Oh, and I guess the fact that we have more than our fair share of "difficult" students.

  3. JCPS has better funding per pupil than almost any district in the state. The ratio of state and local money is different, but the dollars buy exactly the same things--and your district has more of them to spend.

    And Starting tomorrow, I'll be blogging on how your district's work with those "difficult" students compares to other district's work.

  4. Good bakers know that when you bake a batch of cookies, the larger the batch the greater the risks of not obtaining the desired results. Good bakers know that good baked products come from baking in small batches where adjustments can be made to the recipe to obtain the best outcomes.

    Good teachers know that the smaller the class, the smaller the school, and the smaller the district, the greater the chance of achieving the desired results. Good teachers also know that good education comes from students, parents, and teachers partnering together to provide the best opportunities to learn and grow. Divide JCPS into the size of the average school district outside of Jefferson County and I wonder what the results would be?

  5. Thank you for working so hard to present all of this data to your readers. Thank you, thank you. I appreciate all of your hard work.

    I think an interesting post can present some information about JCPS teacher salaries - which are considerably higher than those for teachers in other districts. A teacher at my kid's school who has less than 10 years in JCPS makes $70K as an arts and humanities teacher - and she solicits donations so she can subcontract her instructional time to outside organizations. Sounds a little corrupt to me but this is Kentucky!

    JCPS is rife with corruption and overpaid administrators. I'd love to see posts about how the money is squandered - and you may have already done that in past posts - I just need to start digging. A friend of mine sent me the link to your blog and I am so grateful to see someone is out there doing this kind of work.

  6. Most of the results that are coming at the high school level might be coming from the fact that the high school drop out level is so high in Jefferson County! So, don't just drop it all on elementary and middle school teachers. This is a systemic problem that is very common place in diverse counties all over the country!

  7. @ Anon,

    I agree that dropouts are part of why Jefferson high schools have stronger results. Only, don't think it can be the whole explanation. Here (copied from my reply to a commenter on another post) is why.

    All districts lose students from grade 8 to grade 12, with Jefferson County losing an unusually high proportion.

    As a thought experiment, I considered what would happen to twelfth grade writing if all the missing students reenrolled and none of them were proficient or above.

    I think Jefferson County would add about 1,400 students, and from the new total, only 36% would be proficient in writing--compared to the current 45%.

    For the state as a whole, about 6,500 would be added, and only 31% would be proficient--compared to a current 35%.

    Or, more briefly, a 10 point lead for JCPS would shrink to 5 points.

    I think that suggests a ballpark answer to the overall question.

    On the one hand, Jefferson County loses an unusually high proportion of students, and that probably does contribute to making the remaining students more competitive.

    On the other hand, Jefferson County would still have a lead in writing if all the mislaid students reappeared, suggesting that dropouts aren't the only reason the district is more competitive.

    So I'll throw in one more factor: high school improvement has generally been sluggish compared to the other levels.

    The main explanation may be that we're comparing Jefferson elementaries and middles to schools that are mostly on the move, and Jefferson high schools to schools that mostly aren't.

    In any case, I think the pattern is important: Jefferson is not as far behind at the high school level as it is for earlier grades, and in writing it simply is not behind. I also think that pattern would still be there even if there were no dropouts anywhere in the state.


Updates and data on Kentucky education!