JCPS: Poor students in high poverty schools face "double jeopardy"

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- "Poor students in high poverty schools are faced with double jeopardy."  That's just one assertion from the Envision Equity Scorecard Jefferson County Public Schools released on Monday. 

The scorecard looks at various inequities that can affect how well children do in school, but calls concentrated poverty a "common thread."  It examines how poverty and other factors can affect student literacy, discipline, and readiness for college and careers, as well as the climate and culture of schools.

It also says families and the community can have positive influences, especially parents making sure students spend time reading at home, and having the expectation that their children will go to college.

Judi Vanderhaar led the research on the district's first equity scorecard, and says, "We have to look at our systems and our policies. That's why were doing this work. There's a renewed since of urgency.  We cannot continue the way we are."

The scorecard finds a "significant correlation" between poverty and reading proficiency.  In what it calls extreme poverty schools, 28 percent of students are considered proficient in reading, as opposed to 66 percent in schools with low levels of poverty.

It also found correlations between race and poverty, stating that only two in 10 African-American students who are on free or reduced lunch programs are proficient in reading.  The scorecard also noted concentrations of novice readers in Newburg, the west end, and south end.

A more positive story comes out of Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary, which is an extreme poverty school that made substantial gains in reading in the 2012-13 school year.  The principal is quoted as saying, "It's about good teaching, data-driven instruction and exposure to activities that will support proficiency."

JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens says that means not just identifying problems, but bringing those involved to the table for solutions, including, "Utilizing community centers and people in the community to, as one team member said, get the school out of the school."

Regarding discipline, the scorecard reports that 66 percent of suspensions were given in high to extreme poverty schools, and it asserted, "Just one suspension doubles the chance of dropping out."  It also stated that 85 percent of students who receive suspensions are not proficient in reading.

One solution was suggested by the actions of the Phoenix School of Discovery, which focuses on supporting students with behavioral problems and teaching positive behaviors.

Poverty is also considered a factor in whether students become ready for jobs or careers, with 21 percent of students in extreme poverty schools being ready and 75 percent of students in low poverty schools considered ready for college or a career.

Fern Creek Traditional High School is considered a "best practices" school for its emphasis on preparing students for college and careers. 

In looking at poverty and schools' climate, the scorecard says the percentage of students, parents, and teachers satisfied with their schools varied greatly, no matter the level of poverty within those schools.

JCPS intends to follow the class of 2025, which began kindergarten last year, to monitor its progress based upon the scorecard.

JCPS leaders joined parents, business leaders, community organizations, and others on Monday to discuss the scorecard.  Superintendent Hargens said the district would follow up on ideas from the summit and feedback from a survey giving feedback on the scorecard.

Khalilah Collins sat in as both a parent and someone who works with teenage girls.  "I really appreciated being able to have some kind of input on what we are doing," she said.  "My suggestion to them was we have youth be part of the conversation as well. I think it's great to come together and have these conversations but we can't keep talking about people who are not even in the room."

To view an electronic version of the Envision Equity Scorecard, visit

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