Five more JCPS schools added to failing list - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Five more JCPS schools added to failing list

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Five more Jefferson County Public Schools have been added to the list of failing schools. At Thomas Jefferson Middle School, for example, only 41 percent of the students are proficient in reading and math.

But Vanessa Wicinsk, a former finalist for Teacher of the Year, says the low-achieving label doesn't define her students or her work. 

"All I know," she says, "is that we work hard and this hurts. It really does hurt, because tomorrow we're going to get up and work just as hard as we have been."

T.J. joins Fredrick Law Olmstead Academy North and Myers, Stuart, and Westport Middle as persistently low-achieving schools. They earned the distinction for failing to meet annual yearly progress on state standardized testing for three years in a row.

JCPS already had 13 other schools on this list.

Principal Kimberly Gregory says despite the latest numbers, there is growth: "My staff and I, we were shocked, and so now we have the task of digging into the data and see what numbers tell us."

Gregory continues, "One of the things we discovered is that our kids can read but maybe they couldn't make the connection with their writing."

Some of the district's other low-performing schools saw 20 percent gains in state tests scores last year. 

Hargens says, "It is disappointing for schools that have worked hard not to escape that designation, but they're committed to students and we will continue to support them."

Hargens points to the outside auditors who have been hired to evaluate the district's curriculum as a way to help right the ship.  "We're not satisfied with the status quo," she says. 

When asked what the next step is, Principal Gregory says, "I think we're in the middle of all those steps.  We've assembled a phenomenal team at T.J....We just need more time for all of the structures and systems that we have in place to be working."

Time is the one thing that may not be on their side.  Other low-performing schools have seen teachers moved to other campuses and principals fired.

T.J. has this year to develop a plan to raise scores.  "There is an urgency, and we are very aware of that," Wicinsk says.

Low-performing schools receive more resources and specialized teachers and are eligible for a school improvement grant.  However, that money is in flux and is contingent on federal funding.

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