This is a DRAFT of our legislative priorities for 2020. We want your input! Please help us rank them and provide examples of each of the categories listed below. Suggested edits and additions also welcome.
ACHIEVING EDUCATIONAL JUSTICE in JCPS “with E’S”
FROM OUR JCPS BOARD MEMBERS & SUPERINTENDENT, we demand:
Public school advocates such as myself do not disagree that Kentucky is graduating some of its students with fewer skills than should be considered “college-ready.” However, adding more requirements to graduate, without adding resources and supports to ensure they can meet these goals, is tantamount to adding more thermometers to a patient’s care and expecting that to make them well.
In fact, peers in other states tell us that this tactic has been implemented in their schools, not as a means to improve outcomes, but as a means to perpetuate the “failing schools” narrative, to justify further attempts to privatize public schools.
Most students, like my son, had little difficulty meeting the requirements before, and would sail through these new standards as well. However, what is not being taken into account is the harmful effects they will have on our most vulnerable students. It’s already happening in our lowest performing schools, and these new requirements will only worsen their plight. Opportunities to “game the system,” and “teach to the test” will escalate, vulnerable students will continue to graduate unprepared and now they will lack the basic certification that allows them to gain real world experience, further feeding the pipeline to prison.
Please delay this decision until you can visit a school like the one my son graduated from, and talk to impacted students, teachers and families. Instead of adding another means to measure what we already know, lets introduce more opportunities to intervene in the student’s academic career, EARLY AND OFTEN, so they are more likely to succeed.
Thank you for your consideration,
Parent of graduate of Shawnee High School (one of the “lowest performing” schools in the state)
Send your email here: http://www.saveourschoolsky.org/2018/10/02/tell-kbe-to-delay-vote-on-new-high-school-requirements/
With the vote on new graduation requirements looming, several educational organizations and leaders have already named specific concerns with many aspects of the Kentucky Departments of Education’s proposal. The issues they’ve identified should be sufficient to at least pause the approval of the proposal. But, the debate has become one over details which often implies a concession to the main premise. In other words, the Titanic’s course may be approved because we’ve been focused on the deck chairs.
Most agree that we need to find ways to help our students be better prepared for the next stage of life. However, we are not asking whether setting the minimum requirements for graduation is the appropriate place for this conversation. Minimum requirements should be achievable by all within our current system. A diploma should be work, but it only needs to show that a student has completed the minimal course work requirements, as our current system does. Colleges and employers all look at test scores, resumes, previous experiences, portfolios, recommendations, etc… in addition to a diploma. It’s neither necessary nor should a diploma have to carry the weight of having to certify that a child has preemptively completed the additional training, education, or development that may be required in the future. A diploma is a noble accomplishment, but it should not represent our highest expectations of education.
In fact, it is a best counter-productive to set the policy and practice for reaching our highest goals though minimum requirements. When we do, we shift the burden that should belong to adults onto children. Figuring out what type of teaching and learning most engages and challenges our students, and then training and preparing educators to implement it is an adult problem. Creating learning experiences for students that are both personalized, but also equip them for a diverse world and an unknown future is an adult problem. Finding ways to stretch the teenage need for instant gratification towards long term decision making and investment is an adult problem. Marshalling the resources, funding, and connections to facilitate authentic workplace and research experiences for students is an adult problem.
I know many hard working adults in education, and I think most would say that we are making progress on the problems above, but they are by no means solved. Our schools still don’t have sufficient or equitable access to resources. Our teachers don’t have access to the full training and support necessary to truly transform practice. Our policies aren’t always fair, up two 21st Century standards, or in the best interest of students. Solving these problems is the real work of raising expectations. Of course, children need some measure of responsibility and personal investment when it comes to their futures. But, the proposed graduation requirements takes this too far. We should never create a policy that holds children accountable for things adults should be working on.
As first reported by Toni Konz, WDRB, a state audit recently forced JCPS to reassign many of its non-certified instructors to supporting roles instead of supervising classrooms, since state law does not allow them to do so without a certified teacher present. This has apparently resulted in modification or discontinuation of certain optional classes in many schools.
We have heard that 270 instructors were affected, so we want to hear what kind of impact this has had on your school and your child. Please take a moment to complete the following survey. Your information will be aggregated into a report for others to view, but personally identifiable information will be kept confidential.
We are interested in learning from all who have been affected, instructors included, and see if we can’t compile your responses and propose solutions to district leaders and state legislators. We believe this is a problem that has been evolving over time as a result of district leaders’ admirable attempts to make quality programs available under tighter and tighter budgets. As with many public education issues, when unintended consequences like these occur, some grassroots advocacy work may be required to get everyone back on the same page.
Dear JCPS’ goal is to find commonality among all groups affected and use that messaging to communicate to try to bring state and district leaders to a solution that benefits our students and staff, instead of losing valued programs and putting unfair burdens on our beloved instructors.
Click here to join our support group for SBDM members.
Tomorrow, the Kentucky house and senate education committees will be holding a joint meeting to discuss, among other things, taking power away from SBDMs. Read more from KASC’s post: Keep Your Voice.
Koch-Brothers aligned “free-market” proponent BIPPS is one of the anti-SBDM speakers tomorrow. In an opinion letter that appeared in several papers across the state recently, they say teachers and parents are not equipped to make curriculum decisions. That’s ludicrous. Teachers are among the BEST equipped persons to do this. They have master’s degrees and certifications in education, are current on what’s going on in education and classrooms, and they know their students. A superintendent who, in a district the size of ours, may not have taught in decades and may only set foot in our building maybe once a year. A school in a high poverty area has many different needs and learning styles than a more-affluent magnet-only school. A superintendent has their own “adult-centered” agendas and when the state puts demands on them that force them to pay more attention to how things “look” than what they know to be right, they don’t always have the ability to do what’s best for the school. And depleting power from the local school level will only make matters worse.
I know this first hand.
My son graduated from an “Advisory SBDM” school. As a high-poverty school, we were in the first cohort to hit priority status under the new regulations, and the SBDM was made “advisory” prior to our arrival. When we found the school, the principal was dynamic and the school was in the midst of a turnaround. Despite being the lowest performing school in the state at the time, the energy was electric, and my son absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, at the end of my son’s first year there, because the principal did not get the school out of priority status in the state’s allotted 3-4 years, he was forced to resign.
His school went the next several months with interim principals, each having to leave after completing 6 weeks of service so they didn’t jeopardize their retirement plans. Soon into the school year, JCPS considered reimagination of several schools with innovation in mind and a district-devised “plan” was proposed and pitched to board members as something “everyone loved.” We were told the plan was necessary in order to “prevent us from being taken over by the state,” even though we had no leadership and no one representing the students or teachers or parents had been consulted in crafting “the plan.” And it was FAR from being “loved.” Finally, after numerous objections from parents, teachers, staff, students, alumni and community members, and speaking at board meetings and to the media, by Christmas break, JCPS Halts Redesign Of Shawnee High, Considering Principal Applicants. Soon, we had a new principal. SBDM meetings resumed and capacity was beginning to resume. However, our new principal left abruptly a year and a half later (two weeks before the end of the school year) and the next principal was not selected until 36 hours before the next school year started. Shawnee was the FIRST school to know they needed a new principal and, despite repeated appeals to the superintendent, it was the LAST one to get one. That would not have happened if we had an empowered SBDM.
Each principal selected by the superintendent was loyal to her, not the students and parents and teachers in the building. With the most recent replacement, the superintendent overlooked the overwhelming support from the SBDM advisory council to name one of the HIGHLY qualified APs in the building who knew the kids and could keep the momentum going. Instead, she put someone she either owed a favor or who she knew would do her bidding in the open slot. And she did so at the last possible moment. Our SBDM implored the superintendent to realize that our kids needed consistency. We even asked if this had been communicated to the new principal. Instead, this new principal changed EVERYTHING. She killed our mentoring program. She realigned the staff and put them in jobs that they weren’t suited for. Not knowing what worked or didn’t work, and not being given time to prepare, she got her marching orders from the superintendent who only saw us as “failing.” Our new principal clearly intended to make her mark, even if it upset the apple cart for these kids, AGAIN.
One week, when student fights had gotten out of control, the principal denied it was a problem. She also apparently didn’t log them in the system, because she didn’t want to look bad or she was following a directive to not report. When pressed, our superintendent claimed she couldn’t help us with added resources, because the “data didn’t support it.” So, our students videotaped the fights and sent them to the media. A few days later, we got the support we needed. Unfortunately, in the school that already had the highest turnover in the district, and where relationships matter, we also got an unwelcome consequence. Three of our most beloved staff members were intentionally moved to different schools. Intimidation tactics were employed that sent the message that more retribution would be necessary if these “factions” continued. One of the displaced staff members was our only high school counselor during critical scholarship and college application window — in a high-poverty school that NEEDS help with college applications and scholarships more than most. This retaliation would never have been able to happen if the SBDM had been involved in staffing decisions.
Our new principal also was able to select members to serve on the advisory SBDM who were not engaged enough to ask hard questions, and often missed meetings. Business could not get done. She chose what she wanted to share for input, and made the important decisions behind closed doors. At one point, I had to do an open records request when we wanted to simply see the budget. This lack of transparency is one of the reasons we have been opposed to charters. We do not need it in our public schools too. It almost seems like someone has an agenda to make public schools on par with charters, doesn’t it? So charters can be more competitive.
My son’s school met its AMOs for several years in a row, but because they couldn’t get out of the bottom 5%, they couldn’t get their SBDM powers back. Such an arbitrary and moving target should not be used to hold decision makers hostage. However, the superintendent could have helped his school meet this goal by simply changing the student assignment plan, since the inequities had never been made right after being assigned the highest poverty levels in the district in 2008, and since test scores are an indication of wealth, nothing more. (Makes you wonder if his school wasn’t set up that way so other schools could be more successful.) Anyway, who is held accountable for the failings of a school when decisions are not in their control? The superintendent is supposed to be, which is why you say you want to give them this power. But there is no evidence anyone is paying the price at my son’s school except the kids.
So, while one county has indicated that there are problems at their schools, there is no reason to abandon parental and teacher involvement in decision making at the local school level in other districts. I can assure you doing so will create many, many more opportunities for delays, lack of transparency and corruption than it solves. Not just here in Jefferson County, but in districts across the state.
Parent of 2016 JCPS Graduate
Former SBDM Member
White privilege is real. So is generational, institutionalized racism. Nowhere is it more prevalent than in our public school system. But often, those who make the rules have a hard time seeing how those rules can limit access to opportunity for others. While these issues are nothing to make light of, sometimes you need a hands-on approach to help white students or family members understand their privilege. We hope this example is of benefit to those who wish to approach these sensitive, yet undeniable, issues with an open heart and open mind. (Download a PDF of the flyer here.)
There are two sets of CARDS. Educational injustices experienced by students of color go in the FAT CHANCE pile (click here to print your own cards). Tax breaks, stock market gains, work bonuses, opportunities due to “who you know,” etc. go in the PRIVILEGED COMMUNITY CHEST.
They choose their TOKEN (the IRON, because it’s the only one that’s left), and the game commences.
When they notice that the board is not set up equitably, they complain. You respond with, “That’s in the past. We’re all equal now. Let’s play!“ You roll and proceed to move forward the correct number of spaces.
When a player lands on a “DRAW A CARD” SQUARE, you draw from PRIVILEGED COMMUNITY CHEST. Your opponent draws from the FAT CHANCE pile. These distinctly different stacks of cards represent the systemic disparities still in place from generations of targeting, profiling and redlining of the black community reflected in policies and norms throughout society today.
When your opponent lands on YOUR PROPERTIES, they pay you RENT. If you own all properties in a COLOR GROUP, their rent is DOUBLED.
When you land on THEIR PROPERTIES, same thing. Except, they probably don’t own any properties, you bought most of them (or inherited them) before they got there.
Eventually, they will inevitably land on one of your HOUSES or HOTELS and they won’t have enough cash to continue. If they happen to have purchased a property, they have the option to MORTGAGE their property to the bank in order to stay in the game. However, they only get half the LOAN AMOUNT on the back of the card.
When your opponent runs out of cash, they have to GO TO JAIL, while you continue to roll the dice until all assets have been acquired. If they complain about any of the rules, you say, “That was one of the rules that was decided on before you got here. Don’t like it? Get here earlier next time.”
OBJECT OF THE GAME:
To inspire whites to understand their privilege enough to research it and develop talking points so they can respond to others who try to marginalize it by saying racism or privilege don’t exist, and to commit to fight to create equitable learning opportunities for our children of color.
Credits: Created by Gay Adelmann. Inspired by Shelton McElroy and Jane Elliott.
Disclaimer: We realize this post will probably upset some of our white followers. However, in this current climate, and the increasing suffering of our students of color, we believe it’s a chance we must take. If you disagree with the examples presented in this post, it’s possible that you are not one of the ones impacted by them. The FAT CHANCE CARDS were created based on actual examples experienced by students of color in our district. These hurdles continue to happen every day in our schools. And we cannot end them until we acknowledge they exist.
The following letter was sent to @BradyJCPSBOE on April 23, 2017 from a Maupin parent:
Mr. Chris Brady,
I am following up on our conversation on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 after the Townhall meeting w/ Pruitt.
As I recall you had stated that you thought this year would have been the 1st year to consider since last year was a transition year. Also that you thought that the implementation at Maupin was horrible. That you had set up a meeting with Mr. Leffert and were going to discuss my questions and concerns with him.
You also stated that at that time no one had released any information regarding the audit or the parent meetings that occurred afterwards to the board. That you were requesting that as well as the questions/concerns that the parents/caregivers sent to Joe Leffert and/or Maria Holmes.
Lastly I recall you stating that once you received that information you would fight for this program to both the School Board and KDE if need be.
So now I’m asking:
1. How did your meeting with Mr. Leffert go?
2. Are you still going to try to save this program and convince the school board and possibly KDE if needed to support it?
There has been so much misinformation and piece-mealed information lately that I feel that I have to ask you my District Representative where you stand in regards to this program.
Thank you for your time and consideration. Also for all you do for the children in the communities you serve by being on the School Board. I know it can’t be easy continually dealing with some parent and their schools’ issues. So I thank you for doing it.
Please vote “NO” tomorrow night for the removal of magnet status from Maupin Elementary School’s Catalpa School of Innovation Magnet Program and the discontinuation of the Catalpa Waldorf model for the 2017-18 school year.
I have spoken to a number of individuals who share my concerns about the discontinuation of the Magnet Program and Catalpa Model and the likely impact on the students who are presently enrolled in the school. Parent engagement is up, attendance is up, the number of behavior issues are down, and test scores are trending back up. But the message being communicated publicly is that parents don’t participate, students are poorly behaved and failing, and teachers have given up. We must use extreme care and ensure that yet another effort to close the achievement gap and improve the lives of students and their families in Louisville’s West End is not terminated before it has a chance to deliver on its promised results.
The application for designation as a School of Innovation clearly spells out the change that is required and the need for a strong well-trained staff to execute the vision. How is it then that the principal appointed to lead the school is not trained in the Waldorf method? And, that the training that was to occur for teachers throughout the school year has not been done—not to mention that in the first year of implementation 8 of the teachers were in their first year of teaching? Is it no wonder that some of the teachers are encountering problems teaching the new curriculum and managing student behavior in the new instructional environment? Not to mention, being forced to perform under the watchful eye of State administrators whose focus is on student testing and Common Core standards and call for bolder thinking but who fail to do their part in creating the conditions for this to happen. Unfortunately, it is the children and their families who will suffer if the program is terminated prematurely as is currently proposed by Dr. Hargens and her executive staff.
As a Board you have taken steps to address the divide that exists between JCPS administrators and the communities they serve by negotiating Dr. Hargen’s resignation. I ask you now to take the next step in voting NO at tomorrow night’s meeting. I implore you and the other Board members to step back and look anew without prejudice at this program and its performance. Please allow adequate time for parent and community input and counter-arguments. And, before you decide to terminate it, first ask what it would take to make it successful. We need to demonstrate through our actions that we recognize the potential of each and every student who resides in West Louisville—and that while we too often have labeled them and their families as the “problem” (e.g., the students poor behavior and lack of parental involvement), it may in fact be our own impatience and lack of commitment that are the problem.
In these times where we are witnessing an assault on public education, I so value your stewardship over our public schools. Thank you for your service to our community and your commitment to our children and youth.
Did you know Dear JCPS is 100% volunteer run and every expense is paid from our own pockets? But volunteers don't have unlimited resources, and burnout is high. If you think we are providing a valuable service, isn't it worth at least what you pay for your annual PTA membership? Please give today.
Submit an Open Letter:
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