I think most everyone has read or at least has heard about the status of our high school. We have been identified as a Persistently Low Achieving school (PLA) by the Kentucky Department of Education. As the principal of LCHS, I think it is important for me to explain to the community what the PLA status means, how we found ourselves in this situation, and what we have been doing and will continue to do to foster school improvement. There is so much information to share that I thought it would be best to explain this in a two part letter to the editor. I will focus on the PLA status and what it means for our school this week, and describe how we arrived here along with our action steps next week. I believe the taxpayers of our county deserve to have a better understanding of what is going on in our school and what the leaders in place are trying to do about the situation.
Before I explain the PLA status, let me first say that I am proud to be from Lincoln County and to have earned a high school diploma from LCHS. I consider it a privilege to be the school’s principal, and I am thankful to have the opportunity to work for the young people of our community. My desire for them is that they leave LCHS with the skills and confidence to be a productive member of their family, community, and workplace. I tell our students that we all have a “Grade 13,” and it starts the moment we walk away from high school. I take this preparation of students very seriously, and I want them to take it seriously as well.
The PLA status is given to a school when it meets three specific criteria. PLA’s must have a poverty rate of 35 percent or higher, performed in the bottom 5 percent of Kentucky schools in reading and math, and have failed to meet their Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals for three consecutive years. Schools that meet the criteria are subject to a Leadership Audit to determine the effectiveness of the current leadership and identify areas of instructional leadership improvement. The leadership audit for LCHS will occur during the week of February 12, 2012. This committee of former and current educators will make recommendations to the Commissioner of Education at the end of the week-long audit process. The PLA status also makes the school eligible for Educational Recovery staff to be place in the building to help teachers and leaders improve student learning. These additional staff members assist in the areas of math, reading, and leadership. Finally, PLA schools are also eligible for additional monies to fund school improvement strategies and increased student achievement.
The PLA identification has been in place for three years now. Ten schools were identified during the spring of 2010 with 12 additional schools added for the fall of 2010. This year, 19 schools were identified as Persistently Low Achieving with Lincoln County High School as one of the 19. Many of the high schools identified in the previous two groups saw significant gains in their reading and math scores during the spring testing of 2011. If you are interested in seeing more about these schools and their performance, you can go to the KDE website and click on the PLA link.
As a result of this PLA status, the LCHS staff is currently preparing for a leadership audit and we look forward to the additional help from the Educational Recovery staff assigned to our school. We will approach the tasks ahead with urgency and unity as we strive to provide the best education possible for the kids of Lincoln County. Next week I will discuss the specifics of how we arrived at PLA status and what we have been doing to ensure that our students have what they need to be successful. If anyone would like to discuss the PLA status in more detail and how it affects our school and community, I would be happy to talk with you. I would encourage you to call me at 606-365-9111.
Timothy W. Godbey