HAZARD – The Perry County Board of Education last week received an update on the progress made at Perry Central High School since its inclusion in 2011 on a list of the state’s persistently low-achieving schools.
The school has undergone several changes since last school year, including the hiring of a new principal and the presence of an educator with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) tasked with helping administrators and teachers turn the school around from its status of persistently low-achieving (PLA).
In order to become categorized as a PLA school in Kentucky, the school must fail to meet benchmarks for three straight years. There are currently 40 schools in Kentucky categorized as PLA, according to Ann Burns, a representative with the KDE who addressed the Perry County Board of Education during its regular meeting held Oct. 18.
Perry Central’s status as a PLA school triggered the work of a state assessment team, which culminated in the release of a report detailing recommendations for Perry Central’s turnaround. That report included six items needed to begin the process of improvement, the first of which was that staff and faculty should be more accountable for the success or failure of each student at the school. So far, in the early going, Burns said that is happening.
“Based on the data so far, since that identification, the sense of urgency is there, they do have that,” she said. “The teachers know that it’s important, as well as the students understand that is it important that they do well, the test means something, and after graduation there is a reward for them. They can go out and be college and career ready.”
The assessment team also found that teachers should have common planning periods in which they can converse with their fellow educators. Burns said this is important because it allows for an open dialogue between teachers on what works best with students in terms of instruction.
Other recommendations included monitoring of curriculum assessment instruction to ensure that classes being taught align with the tests students will be taking at the end of year; a reduction of the site-based council’s role to an advisory capacity only; a system of interventions where students not meeting benchmarks have an opportunity for added instruction; and more community involvement.
Burns said it appears that each of these recommendations are being followed, such as the inclusion of math and reading labs, and the school has also held open houses and parents are being kept up to speed on what is happening.
The assessment team also included next steps for the district level as well, including that the district’s administrators ensure a culture of high expectation for all students and to maximize a personnel evaluation system.
Burns, who oversees the work at several PLA schools in the eastern half of the state, said ultimately Perry Central’s work, while still early in the process, is moving forward on the right path.
“My opinion is they’re doing all the right things to help move the district forward, to help move Perry Central forward,” Burns relayed to the board. “Just continue doing what you’re doing, and when they ask for your support, please give it to them, because they need it.”