LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A new round of leadership assessments have been conducted by the Kentucky Department of Education at seven of Jefferson County's lowest performing schools – reviews that will determine whether more intervention is needed.

The reviews took place at Iroquois, Seneca and Fairdale high schools the week of Jan. 11 and at Southern, Doss, Knight and Waggener high schools last week.

The seven schools were placed in “priority” status as a result of a 2010 law that called for the Kentucky Department of Education to identify the state's lowest-performing schools and outline a range of interventions aimed at turning them around.

“We take these leadership assessments very seriously,” said Dena Dossett, the director of planning for JCPS. “It provides an opportunity for our schools to reflect on their effectiveness and it also allows a different set of eyes to provide feedback on our progress.”

The interventions include: replacing the principal and site-based decision-making council, replacing more than half the faculty, closing the school and transferring its students to higher-performing schools or restarting the schools under the management of a private or nonprofit operator.

Dossett said the assessments bring a certain level of stress to the schools – they require a lot of data and time. Principals and staff members spend months preparing for them, she said.

Over the past five years, a total of 18 schools in Jefferson County have been identified as priority schools for having chronically low test scores. Overall, there are 36 priority schools in Kentucky.

“Priority schools are required to receive a diagnostic review every two years,” said Nancy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education. “They are completed by a team of current and former educators, parents and others trained in the process." 

“The assessments gauge school effectiveness, reviewing academic performance, learning environment and efficiency within each school,” Rodriguez said.

As part of the review process, the review team spent two or three days at each school where they collect test data, interview faculty and staff, observe teachers and speak with parents and students.

The leadership assessments come at a time when Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is expected to brief the state board of education about the state's priority schools on Wednesday.

In his report, Holliday says of the 39 priority schools that were assessed during the 2013-14 school year, three came out of priority school status.

“Kentucky's priority schools have made tremendous gains and are improving the culture and climate for students,” he says in his report. “However, there are many areas that present opportunities for improvement and will drive our next steps.”

Last year, reviews were conducted at nine JCPS schools – Olmsted Academy North, Myers Middle, Frost Middle, Stuart Middle, Thomas Jefferson Middle, Westport Middle, the Academy @ Shawnee, Western High and Valley High.

In addition, Fern Creek High and Western Middle were given shorter two-day reviews, in part because they have shown progress, Dossett said.

As a result, the review teams called for major overhauls at Frost and Myers. The district later decided to
and send its seventh and eighth graders to Valley High.

In the past, the reviews have called for principals to be replaced.

Dossett said district officials expect to get the results of the leadership assessments for these seven schools by the end of the month.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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