Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says he wants to recognize what’s working in Jefferson County’s lowest performing schools, following criticism of the school district earlier this year.
Holliday says he was quick to jump on JCPS and the teachers union earlier this year when he referred to some of the district’s failing schools as “academic genocide” in a report by The Courier-Journal. The remark was “well-planned” and meant to stimulate action, he says.
Now, Holliday plans to hold a joint press conference with JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens at the end of this month when the state’s accountability data is released, he says.
“We want to highlight progress being made and point out where we think good things are happening and start trying to replicate good things that are happening in more schools in Jefferson County,” he says.
Holliday tells WFPL he wants to be just as quick to recognize accomplishments made by some struggling schools that are showing improvement, according to preliminary data.
Holliday points to Western High School and Fern Creek High School when asked about which schools would likely post improved results around September 27.
“The vast majority of the priority schools and overall district wide we do see some progress being made,” he says, but adds, “It’s not enough, it’s not fast enough.”
Under the state’s new accountability system, schools and districts must make certain progress over previous year’s data in order to prove its success. Schools are still double-checking their data so Holliday couldn’t say for sure which schools aren’t moving ahead at the needed pace.
But Holliday plans to push strategies that are working in some JCPS schools in other schools that aren’t seeing significant results, he says.
“We probably won’t know definitely which of those strategies are the ones we want to push until after we’ve had a chance to go a little more in detail,” he says.
In a letter to Hargens, Holliday commends the school district for its action to improve its lowest achieving schools. He points to the new teachers’ contract and extended learning services for struggling students and says they are steps in the right direction.
“The action steps that JCPS has taken to ensure that the Priority Schools have effective teachers in every classroom are commendable,” he writes.
Holliday wouldn’t say whether more state invention for other schools is likely.
“Our collective challenge is not to lose the momentum and sense of urgency in our collaborations and supports for Priority Schools,” he says.