JCPS Among 17 Districts Applying For District of Innovation Status

Jefferson County Public Schools is interested in developing online mentors, teacher collaboration that emulates “successful characteristics of charter schools” and more 24/7 resources if it becomes a District of Innovation.

JCPS is one of 17 school districts in Kentucky applying for “District of Innovation” status under a new state law that allows districts to waive certain Kentucky Department of Education regulations and local board policies to improve student achievement.

The Districts of Innovation bill was proposed as an alternative to charter school legislation, which has been a controversial topic in the state for the past couple years.

Jefferson County’s 63-page application has support from Mayor Greg Fischer, executive director of Louisville’s 55,000 Degrees initiative Mary Gwen Wheeler, president of Metro United Way Joe Tolan and Greater Louisville Inc. executive vice president Eileen Pickett.

JCPS will use this opportunity to focus on 32 of its lowest performing schools–including the 18 priority schools that are already under strict state mandates to turn around student achievement–which are being called “Transformation Zone Schools.”

In it’s application, “JCPS proposes creating a teacher collaboration model that emulates successful characteristics of charter schools.”

The model would use videotape and video conferencing to record lessons, give feedback and develop “intense mentoring of new teachers.” Some teachers would work with and observe other teachers one grade level above and below to increase alignment among the various grades and content. Also, “inexperienced teachers from struggling schools will be paired with more experienced teachers who have shown success with at-risk populations.”

Teacher leaders or mentors would be determined on a variety of factors, among them are students test scores, student growth, student surveys, principal feedback, and certain experience factors.

The application also includes developing a program called CatSpan, which offers students and parents a way to access school material online 24-hours a day. The program in development would allow students to manage assignments and follow up with teachers and peers outside of class.

Also promoted would be the Opporteen system, which connects students with virtual mentors that could include “professionals, business people and college representatives.”

JCPS is also interested in developing “Schools of Innovation” and bringing together “interested citizens to generate preliminary ideas for innovative schools.” The stipulation says these schools must serve a large portion of students within the state’s Gap Group, including minority students and students with disabilities. Proposals could result in Schools of Innovation receiving extra district funds and implementation in the 2014-2015 school year.

This month, the 17 district applications will be reviewed by a cross-agency group including the Kentucky Department of Education, Education Professional Standards Board and the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center. KDE says the applications must include an evaluation system for monitoring the success of getting all students ready to graduate college and career ready.

The Kentucky Board of Education will select the Districts of Innovation at its June 5 meeting. Approved districts could begin implementation next school year.

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

Comments