Sunday, June 13, 2010

Essential KBE discussion: councils, standards, demographics, and doing what's right

After Robert Frost Middle School was identified as one of the state's persistently lowest performing schools, a state leadership audit reported that the Frost school council lacked the capacity to lead the needed turnaround.  In appealing that finding, the Frost council pointed out that Jefferson County had rated them as having the highest level of efficiency three years in a row.

At last week's Kentucky Board of Education meeting, KBE member David Karem asked Commissioner Terry Holliday to explain the disconnect that allowed the state team to see such weakness where the district had seen strength. Here's the discussion that followed:
TERRY HOLLIDAY: Well let’s cut to the chase.

DAVID KAREM: Okay, help me.

TERRY HOLLIDAY: You guys hired me to be honest with you, I’m going to be honest with you.

As I understand it (Sally you correct me if I’m misstating here), ever since we’ve had site-based councils, Jefferson County has owned their training and support and coaching for site-based councils. They have not utilized state services for that purpose, and they’ve had their own standards for site-based councils.

Our standards focus much more on these proven standards of school improvement that are very much aligned with accreditation for Southern Association and Advanced Ed. A huge difference is our focus on student achievement.

If we look at the thirty-two lowest achieving schools in Kentucky, twenty-two of them are in Jefferson County. We also have to look at the demographics of Jefferson County. I applaud the superintendent for their work on trying to balance schools there. because if you have a tremendous population of poverty and at-risk kids, it’s difficult.

So we looked at two different things, David, that’s the bottom line.

DAVID KAREM: It seems then that from the point of view of the state board of education and the commissioner that we should communicate to Jefferson County that it would be helpful in the future if we had an integrated dialogue that would suggest that we’re looking at the same kinds of standards.

The numbers are the numbers, which suggest that we should be supporting your finding, which I do, but I would also suggest that we ought to be communicating to Jefferson county that we ought to have this integration, that’s a polite way to say it.

And I am (maybe I won’t be safe in going back to Jefferson County today in saying this) but I’m exhausted with people saying that the demographics of the student population are so horrific (I mean I guess that’s the only word I can come up with) that we get a forgiveness for not doing what’s right for the students. I mean, it just drives me up a wall.

As I understand it (and Terry you can correct me)...we have examples in the state of Kentucky where there’s one school district that has hideous demographics if that’s what you want to call it, and we have another with the same hideous demographics, and the one school district has decided to gird its loins and do the right thing and they’re successful. That just drives me up a wall.
Jefferson County has long operated as its own jurisdiction, but this discussion definitely sounded as though Kentucky expectations will indeed be applied to its future work.  On behalf of the Kentucky children living in Jefferson County, I certainly hope that proves to be the case.

Source note: I transcribed the dialogue above from this webcast, with this portion coming about an hour and 55 minutes into the morning deliberations.


  1. Mr. Karem hit the nail on the head "that we get a forgiveness for not doing what’s right for the students. I mean, it just drives me up a wall."

    Forgiveness - high expectations. I ask, who will be the gate keeper to decide who excels and who will be forgiven (translation allowed to fail)?

  2. JCPS SBDM Best Practices 2009, page 3,"The SBDM Council has the responsibility, in accordance with KRS 160.345, to set school policy that is consistent with Jefferson County Board of Education policy that provides an environment to enhance student achievement,..".

    KY PTA SBDM Handbook 2009, page 3, the single most important reason to have a SBDM council is to improve student learning.

    JCPS SBDM trainers must attend specific training to become endorsed KDE trainers. This training specifically states that student achievement is the number one goal of efficient council work.

    So where is the disconnect? Surely no one within JCPS can plead ignorance with a clear conscience on this one.

    How does a rubric get created that deems Frost's SBDM council consistently efficient yet it is persistently failing by state standards? Why does Frost's SBDM Council think they have a valid appeal? Does the JCPS superintendent allow them to place more value on their home-grown rubric vs. the state standards?

    If SBDM Council minutes never reflect focused discussion, planning, and monitoring of student achievement and district school board minutes never reflect focused discussion, planning, and monitoring of student achievement, why do citizens of Louisville expect a different outcome in student achievement for all students?

    This concern is no longer limited to just the citizens of Louisville. As we saw with the RTTT "negotiations", JCPS plays a heavy hand in the state's ability to compete for federal funding.

    Our state legislators are the primary reason for allowing JCPS to be the playground bully. Maybe Mr. Karem can continue with his leadership on this issue and call a meeting of the minds to change the culture of "get a forgiveness for not doing what’s right for the students."


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