The Jefferson County Board of Education has approved the performance objectives for Superintendent Donna Hargens’s evaluation, but measuring student performance may still be a challenge.The board approved the criteria at Monday night's board meeting. It measures three major performance objectives, including implementation of the new strategic plan, continuation assessing and organizing management and improving student achievement.Hargens received a positive first year review earlier this year for her work reorganize her central office and for effectively managing the elementary schools student assignment plan.Board member Linda Duncan said because Kentucky’s new accountability system was implemented just last year, benchmarks for student performance are still being determined.“It’s still going to be a challenge with how we incorporate student achievement in it, that’s going to be a challenge. But we have some other indicators that we’re going to look at," she said.The district will look toward college-and-career ready standards and graduation rates to help determine student achievement under Hargens' watch.Hargens told WFPL she is confident the strategic plan, called Vision 2015, is manageable. The 36-goal plan covers student achievement, resource and communication objectives.
A Kentucky lawmaker is considering introducing legislation that would hold back third-graders who don’t meet the benchmark for reading. That’s the grade by which some experts have decided reading needs to be mastered.The law--in draft form--is similar to those in over a dozen other states. According to an article in Time Magazine, 13 states adopted legislation in 2012 that would intervene in third grade if students were identified as poor readers. Fourteen states have laws that actually hold back students who don't reach the benchmark in reading.In Kentucky, around a third of high school students are not proficient in reading according to the state's assessment and results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress--which measures 4th and 8th grade students--show similar results.Rep.Joni Jenkins, D-44, works with community college students, many who struggle with reading skills. So, she’s looking to states like Ohio that have legislation in place targeting third-graders. But because many believe holding a student back is not beneficial, Jenkins is considering all options before filing any bill.“I’ve heard from some folks that say holding a child back is really detrimental, so I want to think about that. And it might be that they’re tested at the end of second grade and then go onto the third grade but with very, very intensive reading invention at that point," she said.Jenkins is considering the idea of starting interventions in the second grade, while many bills target third graders.“That gives us one year to bring them up to par with intensive interventions and hopefully that sets them on a course following their third grade," she said.Jenkins said she knows the law may not be popular but she hopes it will at least begin a conversation.
Jefferson County Public Schools is one of 893 districts that have announced an intent to apply for new federal “Race to the Top” funding.Kentucky applied for the federal government's competitive Race to the Top grants before, and last year the commonwealth received around $17 million after losing the larger grant it applied for.Now hundreds of districts across the country say they’re interested in competing for local funding.Competition for the grants will partly depend on a district’s size and whether they meet qualifications as determined by the U.S. Department of Education.The federal government is taking schools' prior academic records and a district’s transparency into account when awarding the grants.Although the Jefferson County Board of Education announced its intent, board member Linda Duncan said she wasn't aware of the specifics of the grant.Officials with the U.S. Department of Education said some Local Education Agencies--or governing bodies such as school districts--weren't required to get a board's approval to announce interest in applying.Duncan said although JCPS would have to meet several federal requirements under the grants, the amount of money is worth it.“Even though we would probably negotiate on those requirements it would make me much more receptive to them," she said.Applications are due Oct. 30 and awards will be announced in December. The Department of Education could award between 15 to 25 grants.JCPS is one of 138 districts that could vie for up to $30 million.
The Jefferson County Teachers Association is prepared to fund campaigns for three candidates it recently endorsed for open school board seats, but union officials have not yet determined how much they may invest.In previous races JCTA has pumped thousands of independent contributions to candidates and last week a 12-member JCTA committee endorsed David Jones Jr. in District 2, Lloyd “Chip” White in District 4 and Chris Brady in District 7.The candidates represent diverse backgrounds, said JCPT president Brent McKim. Jones Jr.--recently endorsed by Mayor Greg Fischer--is a prominent public figure and has strong business relationships, White has public policy experience and Brady is a parent of two. Not all of the endorsed candidates have announced publicly where they stand on key issues in the district, including the recent student assignment plan changes, which many other candidates are running campaigns against.White told WFPL that he would like more time to meet with constituents before taking any formal stance. Meanwhile, Brady--who has also received an endorsement from exiting District 7 board member Larry Hujo-- said he supports the recent changes.Brady lacks policy experience, but retired or former JCPS staff is already well represented on the school board, said McKim referring to District 7 candidates Marty Bell and James Sexton, both whom previously worked in the district. McKim said a parents perspective will provide a good balance on key issues.The JCTA is standing by its endorsements, said McKim who would not speculate on how much the union might spend in the elections.“I would expect that the committee would probably work very hard for all their candidates and would probably commit resources both in terms of funds and individual efforts to help the candidates," he said.Other candidates in the race include:District 2--Elizabeth Berfield, Phil Haming, George TolhurstDistrict 4--Melissa "Missy" Smith, Eric Bullock, Chester Flake, Chuck Haddaway, Steve RyanDistrict 7--Christopher Fell, James Sexton, Marty Bell, Jonathan RobertsonThe elections are November 6.
The Jefferson County School Board has approved a 3.4 property tax increase.The increase was proposed in light of dwindling state and federal funding. It will generate about $17 million for the district, and cost homeowners about $23 for every $100,000 their houses are worth.The revenue will be used to support the district's dozens of new assistant principals and updates to the JCPS transportation plan.The board can levy tax increases of up to 4 percent each year. Last year, the board approved a fraction of a cent increase.Additional reporting by Devin Katayama
The Kentucky Department of Education has released the latest ACT scores for graduating public high school students, which show slight improvements over the previous year.But only half of students meet the state’s standards for college readiness. Kentucky's graduating seniors went from 19.2 to 19.5, which is still short of the national average. However, the national average includes private school results as well.Under the state’s new accountability measures, ACT graduate scores are one factor used to determine whether a student is ready for post-secondary education. The scores are also factored into a larger accountability measure, and the first report using this measure is due later this year. JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens said that system has created stricter standards, and when the results are released in the fall, it’ll be a reality check. She said many students may find themselves less proficient in many subjects under the new accountability system, but that may better show where students need help.“When you know where you are and you know where you want to go then you create a way to get there. So that’s an opportunity to help our students achieve, even a higher standard," she said.The state also released data for public school juniors. Kentucky students went from 18.8 to 19.0, while JCPS went from 18.5 to 18.6.JCPS juniors that met the ACT benchmarks for college readiness include: 37.4 percent in reading, 38 percent in math and 46.9 in English.JCPS made gains in the number of students meeting benchmarks in English and Math, but numbers fell in reading.
Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens appeared live in our studios for a WFPL News Special today.She spoke with WFPL's Devin Katayama and took questions from listeners about the first day of school, student achievement and graduation rates, district management, the school assignment plan and transportation logistics, the proposed tax hike, lunches and nutrition, language issues, and more.A few excerpts follow.On graduation rates dropping to 67.8 percent from a level of 69.3 percent the year before:It wasn’t good enough before it dropped, not acceptable and we know that, and certainly we want the arrow going in the right direction. So my gut reaction was we’ve got to do better, and we will do better, but also we’ve got to learn from what caused the drop. We’ve put a lot of things in place, for instance with 9th graders, like academies at the 9th grade level and project proficiency at the high school level. Some of those things are in progress and we won’t know the impact of those until we get to the graduation of that class.Using GPS technology with student busses:I believe the GPS in the busses will eventually save us money, and it gives us information so that we can solve problems. So yesterday on the first day of school we knew when a bus actually arrived at the bus stop; we knew if they were delayed at the bus stop in taking off from the bus stop; so any route that was longer than what we expected, we can actually track the point at which the bus spent a lot of time at the bus stop. So if a parent thought that a bus was coming at a certain time, and they called and said the bus never came, we know where that bus went instead, or we know the parent or family was maybe at a different intersection.Addressing achievement gaps:Everybody needs to learn the same thing and master the same thing, but some students need different time and support given their circumstance, so that’s what we try to do in a system, is try to provide that extra time and support. So the student that doesn’t read well, the way to get them to read well is to give them extra time around reading. There’s no way to teach them faster about how to read. A student from an advantaged background who has read throughout their pre-K years, versus a student who hasn’t had that opportunity or hasn’t heard a lot of vocabulary – that’s the gap that we’re trying to close. But we know from the kindergarten assessment, we know at pre-K where the gap is, so the solution is extra time and support.
Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens will be live in our studios for a WFPL News Special today at 1:00 pm.She'll talk with Devin Katayama about the first day of school, district management and the upcoming school board elections. We'll also be taking your calls at (502) 814-8255. You can also leave your questions or comments here.
All Jefferson County Public Schools buses were cleared from the last bus depot at 6:38 Tuesday evening, ending the first day of school.That beats last year time, when the final students were reportedly delivered home after 7:20 pm. The morning commute was also slightly better than last year, according to a JCPS spokesman.Over 950 JCPS buses carry some 70,000 students throughout the county on any given school day.
As part of our new series UNIQUE, we’re spending the next year finding the stories of students, teachers and families that make up our local public education system.Today we visit with 17-year-old Hannah Watkins, a student at South Park TAPP, one of the district’s two schools serving teen mothers and mothers-to-be.Watkins plans on graduating this year after spending the last two years in the program. She shares her experiences and gives us her perspective of a much needed program.
Jefferson County Public Schools students will begin the year this week with 1,770 iPads in over a dozen different schools. While the past few years teachers have been trying to figure out where new technology and social media fit into the classroom, iPads, Nooks, even phones are becoming more prevalent in the district, and schools have begun connecting the dots between teachers, students and parents.Chancey Elementary kindergarten teacher Karen Stone said she surveys families at the beginning of the year to find out who has access to the Internet and who has a cell phone. Nearly all parents in her classes have one or the other.So, students send tweets and short online voice messages--what she calls "I Can" statements--to parents throughout the day. “They can hear what their child’s learning,” she said.Stone has been on the forefront of pushing technology to the hands of JCPS students. She was recently granted $17,000 to have an iPad for everyone in class and she's the only one-to-one kindergarten teacher in the district.But she also uses Skype, which is a free video chat program.“We had a dad in the military two years ago and he was in Afghanistan and we Skyped with him. And he Skyped with us for Veterans Day and he was able to tell use the different things people do in the military besides carry a gun...and the kids chief thing is they just thought they carried guns and so he was able to show us what he was able to show us on this base in Afghanistan," said Stone.There’s no doubt that online learning is here to stay and it will be growing, said Dr. Paul Lanata, director of JCPS library media services.The role of the librarian hasn’t changed much the past decade; they still promote literacy, provide resources and work with teachers to enhance the curriculum, he said.“But the tools that they use have changed dramatically and continue to change every day," said Lanata.There’s no single prescription for how much technology needs to be in the classroom and each school needs to serve its individual programs and students, he said.But some schools have put a larger emphasis on 21st Century learning.All schools receive the same amount of per student funding. But Lanata said it’s up to each school's School Based Decision Making Council to allocate funds to the library and schools spend anywhere from $0 to $25 dollars per student annually.“I’m sure they’re making some difficult decisions," he said.This is likely why Brandeis Elementary, which is a technology magnet school, is ahead of the curve. The school boasts a green screen and lights, like a small broadcast studio, and the students use Flip cameras to make videos.Librarian Malaissa Bell has posted over 500 student podcasts to the cloud. A podcast at Brandeis is a short book recommendation that exists online for others to see.“We had one girl who took nine different books home, and she took them home to India, and they visited over the winter break, and they used a Flip camera and you would see people with a backdrop of something completely different from what we have and there’s our Brandeis book right there,” said Bell.The students do their own editing with Bell’s assistance, and the editing programs the school uses don’t cost a dime.“The reason we use free programs is because our kids are leaving me and I want them, once they leave here, to have all the skills that they need when they go home," said Bell.Pat Macnamara is the librarian and media specialist at Chancey. Like Bell, her school podcasts book reviews, and she uses QR (Quick Response) Codes that connect parents with a cell phone to their child’s reviews.“Last year, when I had some of my book reviews hanging in the hall with a student picture on them, a parent walked by, he didn't know anything about it or how to work it and so Karen came by and downloaded the app to his phone and showed him how to scan the QR code to listen to his child’s book review," said Macnamara.The idea with all of this is to expand media literacy and to engage students in the technology, which they now use to communicate, said Stone.“This is the 21st century. The students we’re teaching today, they’re digital natives. We’re the immigrants, they were born into this. And so its our responsibility to provide them with an experience an opportunity to engage technology meaningfully and responsibly. And it’s their right to have access to it," she said.As more technology has become integrated in schools, it’s become another way for students to engage in content, and to strengthen their communicating skills, but it’s also becoming another way to connect parents to their child’s education.
More than eight thousand Indiana public school students have been awarded vouchers allowing them to use public funds to attend private schools this academic year. That’s more than double the number awarded last year. Adam Baker with the Indiana Department of Education says the program approved by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2011 allows for 15,ooo vouchers this year. "Next year, there’s actually no cap on the number of vouchers available, so we’re hoping that we continue to see this number rise year by year," he said. The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the voucher law by the state teachers’ union, which argues that it violates the separation of church and state because many of the private schools in the program are religious-affiliated. The law also has prompted some struggling Indiana public school districts worried about losing funding to launch marketing campaigns aimed at persuading parents not to move their children to private schools.
The Jefferson County Board of Education will soon consider its largest tax increase in the past four years, as district leaders say the hike is needed to offset a lack of state and federal funding.Last year, Superintendent Donna Hargens and the JCPS board said the district would only raise taxes a fraction of a penny. The taxes are based on property values, and the increase meant homeowners would pay $1 more for a home assessed at $100,000.The more than 3 percent increase being proposed now would add over $20 more to the same tax bill.Hargens told WFPL last year the district was losing over $15 million by not increasing taxes by the maximum 4 percent allowed. Now it hopes to generate nearly the same amount to fund dozens of assistant principals and other initiatives this year.A public hearing is scheduled for next week.Last year, members of the Louisville Tea Party spoke in opposition to the increase. They’re expected to do the same this year. School Year/Tax Increase (per $100,000 of assessed property value)2011-2012: 67.7 ($677 per year)2010-2011: 67.62009-2010: 64.62008-2009: 62.5
Nearly 70,000 Jefferson County Public Schools students are taking the bus Tuesday for the first day of school, adding over 900 buses to the roads.District officials expect some bus delays in the first week while drivers and parents figure out where students need to go after school, but they hope the new GPS-enabled buses will make transportation in the district more efficient. “GPS is going to be used to monitor where buses are and to help locate a student, possibly, if there is some confusion about where the student is supposed to be. But our hope in the very near future is that we’ll be able to use GPS to help us with our routing," said JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey.It hasn't always been easy. Two years ago the district couldn't get some students off the bus until after 9 pm on the first day of school.Last year was much more successful, nearly 30,000 students were home in under half-an-hour and this year JCPS officials expect a similar result, although Jackey said it could take up to two weeks to get all routes on their regular schedule.“Unfortunately that is what comes with having a school district that is as large as ours, that transports as many students as we transport. We’re transporting about 70 percent of our student population," he said.To find the right bus for your child call 485-RIDE (7433) at the available times below.Sunday, August 19, 4 to 7 p.m.Monday, August 20, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.Tuesday, August 21, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.Wednesday, August 22, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.