LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – About 5 percent of Jefferson County Public Schools students assigned to the district’s magnet schools or programs have left those programs annually over the past five years as part of an exit process initiated by their school or at the request of their parents.

The figures, obtained by WDRB News through an open records request, are among the many factors being considered as the district looks at possible changes to the district’s exit policy for its magnet schools.

Among the options being considered – no longer removing a student from a magnet program due to behavior, attendance and/or low academic performance. As it stands now, if a student is “exited” from a magnet school/program, they are assigned back to their regular home school.

“We want to make sure there is a fair and equitable process is taking place,” said Leslie Taylor, a program evaluation specialist with JCPS said during a special-called meeting of the district’s Magnet Steering Committee on Sept. 7. “This is just a review at this point.”

Last week’s meeting was held to gather input from the community. The district also conducted a survey, which closed Monday. Officials are expected to reach a consensus on a proposal at tonight’s Magnet Steering Committee’s meeting and then bring it to the school board for discussion on Sept. 27.

Principals, teachers and parents at some of the district’s magnet schools and programs are urging district officials to proceed with caution.

“Sometimes there is a mismatch between a student and a program,” says Angela Parsons, principal of The Brown School, a K-12 magnet in downtown Louisville that offers a self-directed learning environment. “In some cases, the exiting process can be beneficial because it helps students who are struggling find a school placement that better fits their learning needs.”

The options being considered include:

  • Retain the current policy and processes (which allows students to be removed for behavior issues, attendance issues, and/or low academic performance)
  • Eliminate the student exit process, leaving the student at the school
  • Modify the exit process to apply only to academic progress
  • Modify the exit process to apply only to behavior violations

Overall, there are approximately 75,000 students enrolled in non-JCPS magnet schools or programs and about 25,000 students enrolled in JCPS magnet schools/programs.

According to district data, 5,917 students have exited one of the district’s magnet schools or programs since the 2011-12 school year. Of that number, roughly 1,896 students (32 percent) were removed after a request was initiated by their school, while 65 percent left after a request was initiated by their parent. (Note: The reason why the remaining 3 percent were exited was not specified).

Taylor noted that only the district’s magnet schools/programs are allowed to exit students – regular schools are not allowed to remove students unless they are referred for alternative school placement. But even then, the district’s goal is to return all students to their home schools.

Some parents have questioned why the district is considering a change in policy when such few students are exited each year, while other parents have asked why magnet schools should be able to exit students, while non-magnet programs cannot.

“Why change a policy that has worked for our magnet schools for many years?” asked a Brown School parent at last week’s meeting.

The district’s current policy for removing students from magnet schools and programs has been in place since 2001.

Barbara Dempsey, director of student assignment, says JCPS removes about 400 students a year from magnet programs under the district’s exit policy, which first states that a student be placed on probation.

“If at the end of the school year, things have not improved, school notifies the parent that this will be reviewed by their exit committee,” Dempsey said. “The exit committee looks at the information and determine if it’s a situation where they will ask the child not to return the next year. If that is the case, the exit committee makes decision, notifies parent by registered letter and then student assignment office works with family to find another school location.”

Dempsey added that families do have the opportunity to appeal to the school’s principal and then to the JCPS student assignment office.

The figures obtained by WDRB show that the vast majority of students who are exited from a magnet program come from one of the district’s nine traditional schools.

DOCUMENT | JCPS Magnet School/Program exits, 2011-12 through 2015-16

JCPS defines its traditional program as one that is “designed to meet the need or desire of some students for more imposed direction and structure.”

“The traditional program emphasizes academic, moral and physical achievement in a very structured educational setting,” according to the district’s guidelines.

Over the past five years, Butler High School, Louisville Male High, Johnson Middle and Jefferson County Traditional Middle (JCTMS) have exited the most students.

Of the 582 students who exited Butler High since 2011-12, just under half were exited after the process was initiated by the school. At Male, 547 students have been exited over the past five years, but 68 percent were exited after their parent initiated the process.

Other schools who excited the most students (and who initiated the exits) over the past five years include:

  • Johnson Traditional: 448 students (215 by the school, 205 by the parent, 28 unknown)
  • JCTMS: 419 students (233 by the school, 186 by the parent)
  • Central High: 338 students (114 by the school, 208 by the parent, 16 unknown)
  • Greathouse/Shyrock Elementary: 257 students (24 by the school, 233 by the parent)
  • Barret Middle: 241 students (79 by the school, 159 by the parent, 3 unknown)
  • The Brown School: 229 students (50 by the school, 171 by the parent, 8 unknown)

Janet Owens is among dozens of parents who have independently made the decision to pull their children out of one of the district’s magnet schools over the past few years.

“We made a decision for our granddaughter when she entered kindergarten and it turned out not to be the right decision,” said Owens. “And while we saw the need to move her to another school, there are many parents who will keep their children at a magnet school, even if they are struggling. I think schools need to have the flexibility to help decide what may be best for each student.”


Should JCPS continue to 'exit' students from its magnet schools?

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