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Education Commissioner Terry Holliday Says More State Oversight for 'Priority' Schools is Possible

The Kentucky Department of Education is changing the way it assesses the state’s lowest performing schools and Commissioner Terry Holliday says some may be subject to more state oversight soon.

The school board’s Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee heard testimony Wednesday from KDE officials who are rewriting current regulations that manage the way the state assesses its 41 priority schools, formerly known as persistently low achieving (PLA) schools.Under state law, schools deemed priority (or PLA) must undergo a leadership assessment every two years and principals must create a comprehensive plan that sets goals the school must meet.The change in regulations is partly necessary because the education department has lost the $1.4 million that went to train the 50 to 70 professionals it once had to assess these schools, said KDE associate commissioner Susan Allred.Instead, KDE has contracted with the organization AdvancEd, which for $200,000 will send its leadership teams to schools after priority school principals have performed a self-evaluation.The biggest savings come from AdvancEd’s volunteer staff that is trained to administer the assessment, said Allred, who told WFPL despite the smaller on-site presence, the changes will result in a more comprehensive assessment by using a continuous improvement model.Commissioner Holliday says when schools are assessed next year, those schools that haven’t made adequate improvements will not have the luxury or more time. He said some schools have already had three years to make changes.“Our audit teams are going to be less likely this time around to give them another three years," he said.Holliday also alluded to more state oversight for schools that haven’t seen enough progress, which he said may be politically unpopular for some schools and called it a “hot topic” for next year, but he didn’t provide more details on what that oversight may look like.Several schools, though, have seen significant improvement and Allred told the board that KDE has systems in place to report what’s working and what’s not.Twelve priority schools from previous PLA cohort 2 (including seven schools from Jefferson County) will undergo the state’s new assessment process next year, likely in February or March, Allred said.

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