Schools classified as such must implement one of four intervention options, including replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of faculty and staff; replacing the principal and school council; closing the school and transferring students to a higher performing school in the district; or transfering school management to a private or non-profit organization.
LCHS, a non-Title I school, did not meet NCLB standards in 2009, 2010 or 2011 and its test scores were poorer than the majority of the state in 2011, according to KDE data. A combined 44.15 percent of LCHS students scored proficient or higher in reading and math, compared with more than 53 percent at Boyle, Danville and Garrard county high schools and more than 60 percent at Casey County High School.
Lincoln County Superintendent Karen Hatter said she was saddened but prepared for the news of LCHS’s PLA classification after studying KCCT and NCLB data earlier this fall. She noted that, with nearly 62 percent of students eligible for free and reduced lunches, LCHS has a higher poverty level than surrounding high schools. But Hatter did not use the statistic to explain why the school continually fails to meet expectations. “If we could have answered that question, we probably wouldn’t be here,” she said.
“We have a lot of hope that being a part of this process will help us to identify the underlying causes of being persistently low achieving.”
LCHS will soon undergo a leadership audit by a team of state-trained former and current educators, parents and others. The team will spend a week at the school, assessing its curriculum, instruction, school culture, community support and more, to determine the capacity of the principal, school council and district leadership, KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross said.
The team will make recommendations to Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday regarding whether or not to take school control from the principal and replace the school council.
Holliday and the Kentucky Board of Education must act on these recommendations shortly after receiving them, but the Lincoln County Board of Education must decide which of the four intervention options to implement.
Hatter said ideally she would like to use a version of the transformation model — which involves “instituting an extensive set of strategies designed to turn around” the school and replacing the principal and council.
However, she hopes to retain Principal Tim Godbey, who has made marked improvements at LCHS during his four years as leader, Hatter said.
If the leadership team’s audit recommends keeping Godbey or the school council members, the school may do so, according to the statute.
Godbey said he was surprised by the news of LCHS’s classification as PLA because the school’s KCCT on-demand writing and math scores have risen and its ACT scores have increased slightly over the past few years. He voiced his strong desire to remain at the helm at LCHS but said he understands the state targeting leadership positions.
“I know that we live in a day of high stakes testing,” Godbey said. “I want what’s best for the school, if that means me, if that means someone else, I want to see results from our school.”
However, he hopes newly-implemented initiatives will show the leadership team that the school is moving in a positive direction. Freshmen and sophomore students have year-long English and math courses for the first time this year, and teachers are working in professional learning communities to strengthen and align curriculum, as well as regularly evaluate student performance, Godbey said. The state leadership team and audit ideally will help identify other areas where LCHS can make improvements, he said.
The school’s PLA status also could come with federal School Improvement Grant money, Gross said. The first two groups of PLA schools received an average of about $500,000 a year, but Congress has not yet approved the allocation of those funds this year, she said.
Hatter said she’s confident the leadership team will recognize the work of LCHS’s administrators, faculty and staff, and she’s prepared to act on its recommendations. But she hopes the PLA classification will rally the community behind the school.
“Lincoln County is a district that has high poverty, and we know how that impacts education. But it also tells us that we must see the value of education, and we, the community and all the parents and the teachers, have to support the schools,” she said. “We will work to overcome the achievement shortfall that we have.”