Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has given the Fayette County school district notice to either improve its support of low-achieving schools or face actions from the state, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader's Valerie Honeycutt Spears.
The commissioner wrote a letter on May 14 to Fayette County school board chairman John Price expressing concern over several issues, primarily the "significant" achievement gaps in reading and math between minority, disabled, and poor students and other students in the district.
"If district support of low performing schools does not immediately improve, all options must be considered to narrow Fayette County's significant achievement gaps at the elementary, middle and high school levels," the letter said.
The commissioner also noted in the letter that a state Diagnostic Review cited the Fayette County district for insufficient support of Bryan Station High School, which is designated persistently as a low-achieving school. Holliday wrote of 13 findings which the review detailed including the district's lack of systems to ensure improvement, lack of a district-wide instructional plan, and lack of a process to retain a qualified, diverse pool of teachers. The Fayette County district currently has an interim superintendent, Marlene Helm.
The most alarming case, reports WKYT-TV, is that 28% of all high school students scored at the novice level, or the lowest possible performance level on the English II End-of-Course exam. For minority students, 51% scored at the same level, and 86% of students with limited English skills scored at that level as well.
The Associated Press reports that the the district's low-achieving schools became more of an issue this school year because a redistricting committee developed a proposal to redraw school attendance boundaries. Some families disagreed strongly with the changes because it would mean that their children would be moved to low-achieving schools.
"The interim superintendent is doing good work in an effort to address these matters," Holliday wrote. "However, as the local board of education is looking for a new superintendent, this is a perfect time to make all candidates aware of concerns regarding a lack of capacity at the district level."
Price told WUKY Public Radio in a recent interview that:
"The goal is to allocate more resources to our schools of highest need and right now there doesn't look like there's many dollars to do that, because we're just trying to maintain the status quo if you will."
Holliday's letter gave notice to the district that an improvement plan would have to be submitted to the state by December 1 or the district would "face a possible comprehensive management audit."
According to US News and World Report, during this school year Kentucky has four gold medal schools, 29 silver medal schools, and 54 bronze medal schools.