Valley High moves one step closer to shedding 'priority school' - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Valley High moves one step closer to shedding 'priority school' designation

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Valley High may soon be able to shed its label as being one of the lowest performing schools in the state, as a Kentucky Department of Education committee agreed on Tuesday with an appeal the school filed last fall.

The Accountability Appeals Committee, consisting of six people from different school districts across the state, voted 6-0 to agree with Valley's appeal, which means the school could exit status if Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt agree's with the committee's conclusion.

Valley had asked the state to reconsider the label to the school following the release of their latest test scores, which shows that the school has showed significant progress since it entered priority school status in 2010. 

In order to exit, schools must meet their annual goals for three consecutive years, no longer be identified as being in the lowest five percent in the state and score at or above an 80 percent graduation rate for three consecutive years, according to new regulations that took effect in June 2015.

Valley High principal Rob Stephenson wrote in his appeal letter that his school has met its goal for four consecutive years, is out of the lowest five percent based on their overall score, and has a graduation rate of 79.8.

JCPS is asking the state to consider using the same criteria for exiting that was in place when Valley entered priority status, which was a 70 percent graduation rate.

Kelly Foster, an associate commissioner with the Kentucky Department of Education, told the committee that she agreed with Valley's appeal, saying that they "should be able to come out of priority status.

"It's always been you get out based on how you got in," she said. "It's important for us to give credit to a school that has worked very hard since 2010 to get out of this status. They did everything they were asked to do."

Committee members agreed.

Wade Stanfield with Fayette County Schools said Valley's data "speaks for itself."

"If the data is correct, they should be able to exit," he said. "They followed all that was told to them, they dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's. To change the game mid-stream is not fair."

The committee also heard a request from Fern Creek High School, which appealed its designation as a proficient school, saying it deserves to keep its label as a distinguished school.

However, committee members disputed that appeal, saying they "found no evidence to warrant" Fern Creek's request, but just like with Valley High, Pruitt will have the final say.

Fern Creek High principal Nate Meyer had said his school was negatively affected this year by a new state calculation called novice reduction, which gives schools points depending on whether they met certain goals on moving students out of the lowest-performing category.

In its proposed appeal, Fern Creek High said the novice reduction calculation has an "arbitrary" effect on a school's overall score. He gave an example: the exclusion of one limited-English proficient student decreased the school's overall score from 75.4 to 74.3, which dropped the school's designation from distinguished to proficient.

Nancy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman with the Kentucky Department of Education, said the state is looking at how schools are being held accountable for reducing the number of novices, adding that Jefferson County was not the only district with this concern.

Pruitt is expected to give a final decision on both schools within the next month.

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Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

Copyright 2016 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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