Associate Commissioner Hiren Desai and Associate Commissioner Susan Allred speak with the Kentucky Board of Education about state managed schools. Photo by Amy Wallot, Feb. 6, 2013

Associate Commissioner Hiren Desai and Associate Commissioner Susan Allred speak with the Kentucky Board of Education about Breathitt County public schools, which are under state management. Photo by Amy Wallot, Feb. 6, 2013

By Matthew Tungate

Eighteen of the 41 schools receiving state support based on low achievement on state achievement tests over the last three years have made acceptable progress, according to a report presented to the Kentucky Board of Education last week.

Associate Commissioner Susan Allred discussed the report and the schools, called Priority Schools, with the board during the meeting.

Three factors, Allred said, seem to have the greatest effect on whether Priority Schools improve. The first factor is whether a school’s staff was willing to accept assistance. The second is how quickly the state’s three-person education recovery team can become effective in helping implement changes in the school. The third, she said, is “how long it takes for the adults to get over themselves and realize it is about kids.”

“It is hard, grueling, intensive work to determine root cause in the chronically low-performing areas of the commonwealth. They must be willing to solve it together instead of individually surviving,” Allred said.

The report focused on data from several sources and included reports on how effectively federal and state money had affected instruction, leadership and student outcomes and how results of the 2011 TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning) Kentucky Survey from priority schools compared to district and state averages.

While data is what drives school improvement, it is schools’ beliefs that they can be successful that decides whether or not they will be, Allred told the board.

“Hope is the container where we put the data,” she said.

Sustaining change in the schools will continue to be a challenge for several reasons, Allred said.

First, federal money that has been paying for assistance in 22 of the schools will end this year, she said. However, Allred said Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) staff hopes to build a regional network of support in which a school in each region can serve as a hub for innovation and study. KDE, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the University of Louisville also are developing a turnaround-leadership program to train leaders on how to improve low-achieving schools.

Allred told the board that school leaders who embrace change have a great effect on turning around schools, but that there are too few trained in doing so.

The board also made some changes to the regulations that governs when and how low-preforming schools are assisted by the state. The board repealed two older regulations and combined them into one new regulation. The new regulation creates a new system of leadership reviews that incorporates the best elements from the previous regulations, retains those elements necessary to assure continued compliance with federal requirements, and provides a more streamlined and flexible approach for addressing the needs of priority schools, according to KDE staff. The new regulation includes team selection and membership requirements; leadership review processes, timelines and criteria; and selection and implementation of intervention processes.

Allred told the board that the regulation only applies to the existing 41 priority schools or those that are added to the list as others come off.

Kentucky’s accountability system also recognizes high-achieving schools. During its meeting, the board and KDE recognized eight school districts as Districts of Distinction.

The districts earned the recognition under the first year of the Unbridled Learning: College and Career Readiness for All accountability system. To qualify as a District of Distinction, a district had to have an overall accountability score at the 95th percentile or higher (based on achievement, gap, growth, college and career readiness and graduation rate), meet its current year Annual Measurable Objective, a 95 percent participation rate, and not have a Focus or Priority School in the district. The achievement data is based on K-PREP testing in spring 2012.

The Districts of Distinction for the 2011-12 school year are:

  • Anchorage Independent
  • Beechwood Independent
  • Boyle County
  • Corbin Independent
  • Ft. Thomas Independent
  • Murray Independent
  • Pikeville Independent
  • Walton-Verona Independent

KBE board Chair David Karem and Education Commissioner Terry Holliday presented each district superintendent and local board of education chair with a recognition banner and letter of commendation. Each district also will receive a District of Distinction logo that it can display on its website, letterhead or promotions.

The board also took the following action during the meeting:

  • approved district facility plans for Carlisle, Daviess and Fayette County school districts
  • did not approve the Monticello Independent school district working budget
  • approved the Monticello Independent school district tax rate
  • approved the site of proposed Phelps High School (Pike County) athletic fields subject to several conditions
  • approved a series of recommendations on middle school athletics from the Kentucky High School Athletics Association (KHSAA) in response to a report by the Task Force on Middle School Interscholastic Athletics

The board also heard updates on several items:

  • state management of the Breathitt County School District
  • state assistance of Monticello Independent School District
  • the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System
  • the board’s strategic plan
  • elementary and secondary legislation
  • designation of KHSAA to manage high school interscholastic athletics and revisions to the KHSAA Bylaws, and to regulation 702 KAR 7:065 to implement steps in middle school athletics deemed to be health- and safety-related including coaches requirements, medical training and policies, limits on games and competitions and the requirement for sports physicals

The Kentucky Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Feb. 20, 2013, in Frankfort on the Monticello Independent school district’s state management appeal and will hold its next regular meeting on April 10, 2013, in Frankfort. For more information about the board, visit click on the Kentucky Board of Education link on the Kentucky Department of Education’s homepage.