LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Three weeks after a state diagnostic review found that the principal of Moore Traditional School does not have the capacity to lead the school's turnaround efforts, the school’s Site-Based Decision-Making council decided Monday it will not appeal.

The move means that Vicki Lete, who has been the principal at Moore since 2008, will leave at the end of this school year.

Nikki Eskridge, a middle school teacher on the SBDM council, made the motion to "accept the (Kentucky Department of Education) report as is and makes no appeals to the state on behalf of Mrs. Lete."

Lete made a recommendation that she stay as Moore's high school principal and that they hire an additional principal to lead the turnaround efforts at the middle school level.

"I am a qualified principal with proven track record of achieving academic success," Lete said during the meeting. "The audit says I don't have the ability to lead intervention and should not remain principal of Moore Traditional Middle. It did not address our high school. Our high school had no stakes in the game. The decision affects the whole school."

Tim Amshoff, a teacher on the SBDM, told Lete during the meeting that no one was "questioning your passion for educating the kids."

"I don't think that's at all at stake," he said. "We have to make a decision based on facts. A motion exists...and we as a council have to make a decision to move forward."

Eskridge then restated her motion, which passed 7-4.

Moore Traditional serves both middle and high school students in grades 6-12, but it was Moore's middle school that was identified by the Kentucky Department of Education as a persistently low-performing school in 2015.

Priority schools are those that haven’t met annual goals for three consecutive years and whose overall performance – as measured mostly by test scores -- places them in the bottom 5 percent of the state. To shed the label, they must show three consecutive years of meeting goals and climb out from the bottom 5 percent.

Last school year’s standardized tests – given to all sixth, seventh and eighth graders – show the vast majority of students at Moore are behind.

Only 35 percent of students tested “proficient” in reading (compared to 45 percent in JCPS and 54 percent in the state); and 23 percent in math (compared to 35 percent in JCPS and 42 percent in the state).

During Moore's diagnostic review, auditors interviewed 57 people – administrators, staff, students and parents – and observed 28 middle school classrooms. Overall, the review team found "inconsistent use of instructional strategies that required student collaboration, self-reflection and development of critical thinking skills."

Auditors found several needed improvements in the school’s culture and climate, leadership structure and function and classroom instructional practices.

The review stated that Moore’s current middle school configuration consists of three student teams at each of the three grade levels.

“One team at each grade was ‘advanced’ and consisted of the academically highest performing students as well as some students who were included, because they were ‘well behaved,’” the report states. “The other two teams at each grade level were viewed by the staff as containing students with behavior problems that interfered with teaching and learning.”

Auditors noted that “almost all school leaders acknowledged that this configuration had resulted in lower academic performance expectations and “influenced teacher perceptions of their own teaching skills and limited input into school decisions.”

The team also found:

  • Students seldom had opportunities for differentiated learning and/or alternative lesson content and activities and students typically were not provided feedback.
  • The lack of connection between classroom instruction and students' daily lives and backgrounds was a theme prevalent across many classrooms
  • Classroom observation data indicated inconsistent use of instructional strategies that required student collaboration, self-reflection and development of critical thinking skills
  • Few students used any type of technology for their learning.

State auditors indicated that Moore middle school students "interacted respectfully with their peers and teachers and demonstrated knowledge of classroom rules and routines and demonstrated positive attitudes."

But survey data revealed that 18 percent of teachers agreed strongly agreed with the statement, “Our school's leaders engage effectively with all stakeholders about the school‘s purpose and direction.”

Over the past five years, 21 schools in JCPS have been identified as priority schools for having chronically low test scores. During that time, the district has received more than $38 million in federal grant money to help turn them around. Only two schools -- Waggener High and Fern Creek High -- have exited priority school status.

Under the law, the range of interventions the school board can choose from 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.

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

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