Superintendent Manny Caulk has brought stability to Fayette County Public Schools and district officials have made strides in the past year, but “they still have work to do,” state evaluators said in a report released Thursday.
The District Diagnostic Review conducted in March was the fourth in as many years and the most extensive review the Kentucky Department of Education had undertaken to date, district officials said in a statement. Officials said the review included 8,691 surveys, 180 classroom observations, site visits to 12 schools, interviews with nearly 200 students, teachers, principals, and others; and the review of more than 1,200 pieces of evidence.
The state report said during interviews, people expressed their confidence in Caulk’s ability to move the district forward and increase “instructional and leadership effectiveness.”
“Superintendent Caulk has brought stability to the district,” the report quoted one person telling evaluators.
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The report said that Fayette’s district leadership has the capacity to make needed improvements.
District leaders had made a concerted effort to address the issues found in the March 2016 Diagnostic Review Report, evaluators said.
But the report said that implementation of some new academic initiatives was inconsistent across the district.
Evaluators found that the district had a system of supports to meet the academic needs of all students and close achievement gaps, but the system had not produced consistent results in all schools. Student performance data in 2015-2016 indicated that the district did not meet targets to close the achievement gaps between various groups of students at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
One concern of the eval uators was the inconsistency in the type of support from some of the district-level school directors to all schools.
“Similarly, data indicated that some district level school directors did not consistently monitor the effectiveness of classroom instruction or provide clear directions to principals on how to improve conditions.”
District officials on Saturday night did not immediately say whether they were making changes as a result of the state review.
In sum, the report said, “one staff member captured the essence of many others with the comment, ‘The current administration is putting initiatives in place to close the achievement gap. We realize we have made strides, but we are not there yet.’ ”
In an area of the review concentrating on learning environment in the schools, Digital Learning Environment received the lowest average rating with a 1.42 on a four-point scale. Evaluators were told that technology resources in the district were good and that a plan existed to keep technology up-to-date; however, the team observed few students using technology to extend their learning.
But the news for the district from the state was better than in the past.
In 2015, after a similar review before Caulk was hired, a letter from then-Commissioner Terry Holliday cited “several causes for alarm.”
In 2016, Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt sent a letter to Caulk saying that prior to his arrival, the district had taken “little to no action.”
“Your leadership is crucial in making sure that systems are put in place to remedy the deficiencies cited,” Pruitt said.
A month after he received that letter, Fayette officials said, Caulk unveiled a “Blueprint for Success” outlining 100 specific strategies to help students during the 2016-17 school year.
Changes included the addition of college and career coaches in every high school and hiring more teachers to work with students who have special needs, students whose home language is not English, and students who are identified as gifted and talented. School officials cited as accomplishments the purchase of an English language arts curriculum, a year-long induction program for new teachers, additional leadership development for principals, learning guides for families, annual surveys of staff, students and families, and more strategic planning.
Since district leaders began working on the 100 strategies in July 2016, 43 strategies have been completed and substantial progress has been made on 52 others, Fayette school officials said.
The report said that evaluators learned that district support to schools had greatly improved, but “the district must ensure that the momentum is maintained and their efforts are sustained over time.”