Pardon the cliche symbolism.
But, Wednesday’s gray, blustery weather provided a fitting backdrop to announce yet another five Jefferson County Public Schools had been tacked onto the state’s list of persistently low-achieving (PLA) schools. The schools are all middle schools: Olmstead Academy North, Thomas Jefferson, Stuart, Myers and Westport.
That makes Jefferson County home to 18 of the 41 PLA schools in Kentucky. The recent crop will now be eligible for federal funds and have to undergo some kind of mandatory makeover that in the past has meant overhauling staff in the building.
This is the third year that, under state law, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has had to identify the bottom 5 percent of the lowest performing Title I schools and non-Title I schools.
For the most part, poor standardized test scores determine who gets on the list. But there are other factors. It’s complex. Confusing. And as the C-J writes today, most everyone who’s labeled a PLA thinks its unfair.
While that may be, the tangled bureaucracy of this process is best exemplified by one middle school that escaped the PLA label. Lassiter Middle School in south Louisville hasn’t met federal testing benchmarks in several years.
According to the KDE’s online database of report cards, Lassiter hasn’t made adequate yearly progress in math or English since No Child Left Behind’s early days — the 2002-2003 school year. (Whether NCLB is a fair measurement of schools is a whole other conversation.)
According to a spokesperson for KDE, Lassiter was on the cusp of being labeled a persistently low-achieving school this year, but earned an exemption. Why?
With the district’s new student assignment plan in effect this school year, a couple hundred students from a different region of Louisville enrolled in the middle school. (Three other middle schools also experienced this demographic change, but their test scores were not low enough to put them at risk of being a PLA.)
In essence, because the student population assigned for Lassiter has changed, those students shouldn’t be “held accountable” for last year’s low scores, says Dena Dosset with JCPS’s research department.
AND because of that population shift, the school won’t be at risk of being labeled a PLA for three years. So, a school that’s struggled for years is spared.