Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says his comments this week in a Courier-Journal article referring to JCPS’ lowest performing schools as “academic genocide” were “purposeful to get the community involved.”
Holliday addressed the C-J’s editorial board Tuesday afternoon. He was joined by associate commissioner Susan Allred, whose presentation last week to the Kentucky Board of Education showed 16 of 18 JCPS schools have not made adequate progress, according to the state’s metrics.
Holliday echoes similar remarks by a judge referring to a public school system in North Carolina several years ago. He says he’s received “tons” of feedback for the comments that have been mostly positive.
Some concerned citizens addressed the JCPS board Monday night, saying improving student achievement is a community wide issue.
This week board members also heard from three principals of priority schools—formerly called persistently low achieving—who gave progress reports on their turnaround efforts. But Holliday says the board should also be hearing from leaders in the district’s lowest performing schools that aren’t making enough progress.
“I hope the school board will start asking those important questions to ensure not just equity of opportunity, but equality of learning outcomes for children,” he says.
Allred reiterated that JCPS has not always welcomed state involvement—similar to remarks she made during last week’s presentation—although she said Hargens’ administration has been more cooperative this year including more collaboration with school recovery teachers that are working with the district’s priority schools.
“We accept our responsibility. We are a part of it,” Allred told the C-J.
There are seven schools statewide where the education department has assumed authority to improve student achievement, Holliday said.
Holliday says the state will wait for spring assessment results to make a final decision on whether to intervene further in JCPS priority schools. That decision could be made in the fall. But he says the community shouldn’t be surprised if leadership audits and more state management happen in JCPS middle and high schools.
Allred said the state did not do a good job overseeing turnaround efforts in JCPS’ priority schools and that some JCPS schools did not do a good job implementing their plans. But she told the C-J that the state and JCPS are now making sure plans are being followed.
“I don’t know the solution,” Holliday said. “We’ve left that up to the local board; however the local board has not been able to solve this issue yet.”