(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – At the Feb. 8 Kentucky Board of Education meeting in Frankfort, board members learned that Kentucky’s efforts to turn around low-performing schools are among the most effective in the nation.

Mass Insight Education, a national nonprofit that focuses on school reform, recently performed a diagnostic review of Kentucky’s work on school improvement and turnaround to gauge the state’s effectiveness and ability to drive and support school improvement and turnaround efforts statewide. The study focused on seven core components of a comprehensive state-level strategy, structure and process.

“As national experts in school turnaround, we see Kentucky as a national leader in establishing a system of continuous improvement,” President and CEO of Mass Insight, Susan Lusi, told the board. “We talk about turnaround being dramatic, systemic and sustained, and we believe in many ways, Kentucky has achieved this.”

Among other things, the report lauded Kentucky for staffing levels and embedded support for low-performing schools, novice reduction efforts, and for its Hub School model. While the report praises the state for maximizing its resources directed toward school improvement, the board questioned whether the amount of money allotted for school improvement was adequate to help all the schools that could benefit from the state’s proven model.

Kentucky is a strong exception to the national trend of little or no change as a result of school turnaround efforts Lusi told the board.

Of the low-performing schools that have received state support and exited priority status in Kentucky, 74 percent are performing at a proficient level or above.

“The continuous improvement efforts and the capacity built for that improvement to continue after KDE’s support is removed from the school and district is a key to your success,” Lusi said.

The report recommends the state establish a strategic talent pipeline to recruit teachers, particularly for the lowest performing schools; redouble efforts to involve parents in school turnaround; and expand the Hub School Program.

Also, at the meeting, Commissioner Stephen Pruitt informed the board about a decrease in unmined mineral assessments, which is having a significant impact on the local tax revenue generated to support schools in 12 districts.

“This is putting these districts in peril,” Pruitt said, “and their ability to present kids with the education they need and deserve.”

Decrease in Unmined Mineral Assessments

DistrictMinimum Estimated Revenue Loss

The Department of Revenue estimates unmined mineral assessments have declined 43 percent from last year, which has resulted in an estimated loss in tax revenue for these districts of $4.3 million, at a minimum. The Department of Revenue recently notified KDE that some taxpayers were protesting the valuations, which may lead to even lower tax revenues for the school districts. Compounding the issue is the decline in tax being generated by coal that is mined, as the number of active mines has decreased from 647 in 2006 to 184 in 2016.

The Kentucky Department of Education has contacted each of the school districts impacted by this situation to discuss their current financial standing and plans to adjust to the loss in local revenue.

During its meeting, the board approved:

  • adoptions and amendments to Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) and Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) Policies;
  • new district facility plans for Beechwood Independent, Danville Independent, and Harlan County School Districts;
  • a district facility plan amendment from the Warren County School District;
  • a request from the Clark County School District to Waive Construction Project Size Limitations set forth in Section 304 of the School Facilities Planning Manual, Incorporated by Reference into 702 KAR 4:180 and 702 KAR 4:160 in Order to Construct a Gymnasium Project;
  • 2016-17 local district tax rates levied; and
  • 702 KAR 6:090, Minimum Nutritional Standards for Foods and Beverages Available on Public School Campuses During the School Day; Required Nutrition and Physical Activity Reports (Second Reading).

Also during the meeting, the board received an update on:

  • the iLEAD Academy;
  • the New Skills for Youth (NSFY) Initiative and Grant; 
  • the legislative session;
  • the status of KBE regulations;
  • the process for developing the six-year capital improvement plan governed by KRS 7A;
  • state assistance in Fleming and Robertson Counties and Caverna Independent; and
  • state management in Breathitt and Menifee Counties.

The board also recognized the 2015-16 Districts of Distinction, as well as recent nominees and winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

The agenda and supporting materials are available on the board portal.

The next regularly scheduled Kentucky Board of Education meeting is Wednesday, April 12 in Frankfort.