STANFORD — Tests could not have been farther from most students’ minds this winter break. But Lincoln County school officials spent the holidays preparing for a state evaluation that will in part decide the future of Lincoln County High School.
The Kentucky Department of Education identified LCHS as persistently low achieving in October because it did not meet No Child Left Behind standards for three consecutive years, and its test scores were poorer than the majority of the state in 2011. As a result, a state leadership assessment team will spend a week in the school starting Feb. 12, determining the capability of the principal, school council and district officials.
After receiving the team’s audit in March, the school board 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 transferring school management to a private or non-profit organization.
However, the leadership assessment team could recommend keeping the school council in power and principal in place, in which case both may have a say in how LCHS is restructured, KDE spokesperson Lisa Gross said.
An assessment allowed this for three Jefferson County schools in December. But about 20 middle and high schools on the two previous PLA lists replaced principals.
LCHS Principal Tim Godbey is now in his fourth year at the helm and said he hopes the assessment team will consider the improvements the school already has implemented and plans to institute in the future when considering his and the school council’s competency.
“All I can do is present what we have been doing and what we are doing, and if there is someone who can do a more effective job than what I’m doing, then I’m OK with that,” he said. “But I don’t believe that person is out there.”
Godbey and schools officials already have decided to switch from a 12-week trimester schedule to a year-long, seven-period schedule to keep students in math and English classes for 36 weeks instead of 24 or less.
Some other adjustments already have begun. All faculty members now meet weekly to standardize curriculum, which Godbey said has been “all over the place,” and track student progress with “probe” assessments that different groups of students take every two weeks.
Intervention courses for those who did not meet college and career readiness benchmarks as juniors are also in place and proving effective for improving standardized tests scores that the state monitors for accountability, Godbey said.
“I feel that the team is going to walk out and say, ‘As far as a PLA school is concerned, that’s the best PLA school we’ve ever been in,’” he said. “In some ways, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to our school because it inspires a sense of urgency with all.”
Superintendent Karen Hatter said the school board passed a three-prong strategy for district improvements this month. Following the approach KDE has taken with former PLA schools, the Lincoln board approved creating three part-time positions for specialists in leadership, literacy and math, who will lead the district in specific changes. Former Danville High School Principal Win Smith has filled the leadership position, but the district has not yet been able to fill the other two spots.
The board also approved new evaluation and professional growth programs from teachers and administrators, which include an online assessment called Leadership 360 that KDE may soon use statewide, Hatter said.
She said she supports the work of the current LCHS council and Godbey and is anxious to see what the state’s leadership team reports about the underlying causes in the school’s achievement problems.
“Mr. Godbey and the current council have made some really good decisions and had already implemented a lot of the things,” she said. “We’re very hopeful that the team will recognize the path we’re on as the path to improvement, and will make the decision to keep the principal and school council intact.”