FRANKFORT — Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told lawmakers Monday that state officials would work with Fayette County staff to develop a plan aimed at closing the achievement gap.
Holliday, speaking to the Kentucky General Assembly's Interim Joint Committee on Education, said he hoped the program would serve as a model for the rest of the state.
"The whole purpose would be to improve the performance" of minority, disabled and low-income students, he said.
Holliday said he met with Fayette County Acting Superintendent Marlene Helm and two Fayette school board members Thursday.
The meeting was in response to a May letter Holliday wrote Fayette officials saying he was concerned about the district's achievement gap between low income, minority, and disabled students and other students. In the letter, he warned that the district needed to improve its support of low-achieving schools or face state action.
"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.
Holliday told lawmakers the plan would be implemented at Bryan Station High School, the district's only priority or persistently low-achieving school, eight to 10 elementary schools, five middle schools and two other high schools, which he didn't identify.
"We are working closely with Fayette," he told lawmakers.
Holliday noted in one of several examples in the May letter that in 2013-14, in the reading section of a test called the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress or K-Prep, 21 percent of the district's elementary students scored at the novice level. That compared with 36.2 percent of blacks and 51.3 percent of students with limited English skills.
Fayette County has several lower achieving schools or schools that are not making progress closing the achievement gap.
Helm has said that she and Fayette school board chairman John Price and Daryl Love had asked to meet with Holliday to hear his concerns.
"We fully appreciate the gravity of the work that lies before us," Helm said Monday. "As soon as we concluded the 2014-15 school year, we commenced our strategic planning for the 2015-16 school year and have been working to pull all possible resources together to support our most struggling schools.
"We welcome the opportunity to work more closely with the Kentucky Department of Education and to have their resources and knowledge brought to bear here in Lexington. Our students deserve the very best we have to give, and we feel confident that working collaboratively we can and will make a positive difference."
Price characterized the meeting with Holliday as productive.
"We share a common goal of improving the achievement of all students and agree that reducing the number of students who earn novice ratings on state performance assessments is a high priority," he said.