Kentucky Department of Education officials were in Lexington this week to review the Fayette County school district’s efforts to help Bryan Station High School.
A state review in 2015 had found that, for the second year in a row, the district wasn’t doing enough to help the school.
Marlene Helm, the district’s acting senior director of academic services, said district officials thought they were ready this time. The review team came in Sunday and completed its on-site work Wednesday, education department spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said. The state will issue a report on its findings.
School district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said the team’s findings, coupled with Superintendent Manny Caulk’s review of the district, will frame how district officials proceed.
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A report from the 2015 review said the district has the resources, leadership and staff to improve Bryan Station but lacked the “policies, procedures, monitoring and intentionality.”
Bryan Station High is no longer classified by the state as a “priority” or “persistently low-achieving” school. It has improved academically on several fronts, but it did have the lowest scores among Fayette County’s five traditional high schools in the state’s accountability system in 2014-15.
District officials don’t have the state’s latest report yet, but Helm told school board members recently that she thought the district would make a stronger showing.
In 2015, evaluators from the Kentucky Department of Education pointed out some areas for improvement. About that time, then-Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday sent a letter to district leaders expressing concern about the district’s achievement gap between low-income, minority and disabled students and others, Rodriguez said. Helm said district leaders met with Holliday in June.
After 94 observations of classes in 2015, the team saw clear differences in the opportunities provided to students in grade-level core courses and those in advanced courses such as calculus and advanced-placement history, the 2015 report said.
The 2015 review team cited several instances of student behavior affecting learning. Several students were observed not attending classes, using cellphones, listening to music during class and otherwise disengaging from the lesson. Teachers’ attempts to redirect students were often met with ambivalence or initial compliance followed by students returning to the inappropriate behavior, the review found.
The 2016 team conducted a similar review to the one in 2015 and paid particular attention to the issues that were noted then as well as the district’s efforts to reduce the number of students who perform at the “novice” level on statewide tests, Rodriguez said.
In the 2015 review, evaluators gave the district a rating of 1 on a scale of 1 to 4 in several areas, with 1 being the lowest score.
Some improvements since then are aimed specifically at Bryan Station and others in the district as a whole.
District officials have focused on standards, curriculum, instruction, learning, culture and environment.
A team of district staff members met every day for a month “to make sure we did not lose focus,” Helm said.
The district has had a 30-, 60- and 90-day plan. In addition, officials developed an achievement plan for each child who scored at the novice level. The state paid for a facilitator from North Carolina to come to Fayette County and work with district officials every month. District leaders have been meeting with principals to draft a six-month plan.
The district has also developed “partnership zones” with elementary and middle schools that feed into Bryan Station High School.
In another initiative, district officials will walk through schools to see how students are engaged in work. They want to make sure that students understand what it will take for them to improve.
Many of the improvements are in process, Helm said. “We are not there yet.”