It’s a new day in Fayette County Public Schools.
The release of the 2018 state accountability data by the Kentucky Department of Education makes our path forward clear, and we now have the flexibility to move with a sense of urgency to do what’s right.
Our school district is embracing this opportunity to examine existing practices, reconsider current strategies, identify innovative solutions, and make mid-course adjustments that benefit students.
Changes in state and federal law have prompted significant differences in the accountability ratings for our elementary, middle, and high schools. The new system represents a paradigm shift for all of us in public education.
Members of our district leadership team attended the continuous improvement summit hosted by KDE last week to get additional information about the new accountability system and its requirements. Our executive leadership team met on Saturday to begin planning adjustments to ensure our schools have the resources and supports necessary to be successful.
We share the same sense of urgency that those working directly with students have each day and are committed to working side by side with school leaders and teachers. We will not be satisfied until we catalyze equity and drive dramatic gains.
This once-a-year check-up is critical to help us gauge how well our schools are doing to help all students master the content they are expected to learn each year. We have a moral imperative to accelerate the learning of students who have not yet reached proficiency while also challenging students who have surpassed those standards to be globally competitive.
Since the accountability system is completely new, few comparisons can be made to previous years. However, we can look at ACT data and the percentages of students scoring novice, apprentice, proficient, or distinguished in reading and math to gauge progress.
The results show us that we’re doing well in many areas, including district ACT scores above the state average, and increases in the percentage of students scoring proficient or distinguished, and decreases in the percentages of student scoring novice.
The results also identify opportunities for improvement.
The new accountability system is designed to not only look at schools as a whole, but also to determine whether we are meeting the diverse needs of students in our buildings. The performance of every group of students must also be above the cut scores set by the state.
In Fayette County, 25 of our schools were identified for “Targeted Support and Intervention” because the scores for individual groups of students were below the state requirements. At 11 schools, that designation was for a single student classification.
The district will be working with teams in each of the TSI schools to rewrite their Comprehensive School Improvement Plan to refocus their work on how we are deliberately supporting students who are reaching toward proficiency.
The data shows that the most frequent groups where additional attention is needed are for students with disabilities, students learning English, and students of color. We will be providing support and professional learning for our TSI schools to ensure that our teachers are equipped with evidence-based high-yield instructional strategies, implementing them with fidelity, and providing high-quality instruction each and every day so that our students experience victory in the classroom.
Fayette County also has seven schools identified for “Comprehensive Support and Intervention” or CSI.
Under the new state law, the CSI designation will mean significant changes for those schools. First, the statutory authority previously granted to the School-Based Decision Making council will shift to the superintendent. We are all grateful to the members of our SBDM councils, who have worked hard and given countless hours of their time in service to students and families. The current SBDM councils will now serve in an advisory capacity.
It will be critical for us to focus on family empowerment, which is different from engagement.
We will be working closely with families and the surrounding community to reimagine public schools in those neighborhoods.
CSI schools will also undergo an audit by an external group sometime in the next few months to determine ways we can better serve our students. Once that report is complete, we will write a specific turnaround plan outlining the transformational changes we will implement in 2019-20 school year to ensure that every child is on track for proficiency.
On Tuesday, I met with the principals from our seven CSI schools and discussed our next steps. They were excited about the additional resources and committed to making the changes necessary to improve student outcomes. This is personal for them. They care deeply about the children and families they serve, and they take ownership of the outcomes.
While we’re excited about the audit process, we are not waiting for that report to get to work. We will be taking deliberate action to provide just-in-time support in those classrooms to ensure that evidence-based instructional practices are implemented with integrity in order to make dramatic gains this year.
We have a strong track record of improving student outcomes in our schools in just a short period of time.
Two years ago our district began administering the Measures of Academic Progress, known as MAP, three times a year. Based on that data, last year we identified four elementary schools where we were not seeing adequate growth and created an Empowerment Zone.
The district placed additional resources into those schools, including onsite school-based instructional specialists, a leadership coach, job-embedded professional learning, culturally responsive teaching and learning support, research-based strategies for meeting the needs of specific student groups, a support team, and a permanent substitute to help with intervention or to cover classes while teachers were planning or analyzing data.
Two of our EZ schools made such good gains that they were identified as other this year, and a third missed other by a tenth of a point in growth.
We know that model of support works, so we’re going to replicate those resources and more in our CSI schools.
During my first week here in Fayette County, I was quoted in the newspaper saying that urban superintendents did not have the tools to take swift and decisive action to support our high-asset schools and intervene when necessary.
Our district will make the most of the opportunities afforded under the new laws to intervene aggressively and intentionally to do transformative work. We are committed to doing everything we can as a school district to provide a world-class education for all students and invite the community to partner with us to make a difference in the lives of children.