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Charter School Group Rallies For Improved Minority Achievement

A coalition supporting charter school legislation rallied before the Jefferson County Board of Education meeting Monday night and released a second report focusing on achievement gaps in the district.The group is calling itself the Community/Parental Choice Coalition and includes members of the Black Alliance of Educational Opportunities (BAEO). Also rallying with the group was the conservative-leaning policy group Bluegrass Institute, which released a report being used to support charter school legislation.(Click here to read the report)The Bluegrass Institute released a similar report earlier this year looking at minority achievement gaps in the school district, finding the largest gaps occurred in schools east of Interstate 65. The new report uses data under the state's new Unbridled Learning accountability system and it shows it may not be offering a full picture, said Bluegrass Institute's education policy analyst and report author Richard Innes.Some JCPS schools deemed "proficient" under the new system still have large achievement gaps between specific minority groups, he said.From the report: For example, Dunn Elementary, the leading gap school for math in our first report, isn’t far behind Norton and Brandeis. Averaged across grades 3, 4 and 5, Dunn had a K-PREP white minus black math proficiency gap of 48.8 points in 2012 yet was rated “Proficient” in the new Unbridled Learning report. That rating tells parents that this school performs better than 70 percent of the schools in Kentucky. However, that’s not true for blacks in Dunn. In fact, out of the 88 elementary schools in Jefferson County with available data, Dunn’s dismal grade 3 to 5 average 13.6 percent black math proficiency rate ranks way down at No. 71. It seems unfair for Dunn to be able to point to Unbridled Learning to claim credit for supposedly better-than-average performance while many other schools clearly did a better job for their black students.The Kentucky Department of Education has changed the way it measures achievement gaps. Under No Child Left Behind, which ended last year, the state would measure each demographic group and would be assessed on whether each group made progress.Now, KDE lumps those groups into one calculation, which Innes said leaves some groups to wonder how much progress they're actually making. For now, the state should consider both ways of looking at gap issues, he said."I think Unbridled Learning is a big step forward to what we've had in the past," said Innes.The rally Monday was mainly an attempt to push for charter schools, which failed in this year's General Assembly. Opponents of charter schools argue they direct money away from the public education system and teachers aren't required to undergo the same certifications as public school teachers.The coalition is also asking the Jefferson County school board for the following:1. Support legislation during the 2013 Regular Legislative Session of the Kentucky General Assembly for legislation that will allow for public charter schools as an additional student and parent choice option within public education. 2. JCPS to establish a contract with a proven education reform consultant that will assist in selecting a highly-qualified educational provider to create a quality academic school for non proficient middle school students that will assure that 75% will meet the new state common core test proficiency standards before entering high school. 3. Establish a contract with proven education reform academic reform organization to provide training and coordination for parent engagement and support to support their student’s academic achievements. 4. Place equitable tutoring financial support in neighborhoods where students reside who are below proficiency can find tutoring, homework assistance and computer support.