Exiting Priority: Knox Central making progress towards proficiency

With the release of Unbridled Learning accountability results last Thursday, most schools were looking to see the classification assigned to their school, but teachers and leaders at Knox Central were excited to learn of what wasn’t listed.

For the first time since 2012, Knox Central High School is no longer deemed a persistently low achieving (PLA) school by the Kentucky Department of Education.

“Every decision based on the vision of college and career ready and what is best for students.”

That is what Tim Melton credits for the success that the school is experiencing following three years of state assistance.

Melton, who was named principal in July 2012 following the PLA designation, says that the turnaround process has had its challenges, but as the recent test results reflect, improvement efforts are having a positive impact on changing the culture inside and outside the school walls.

“We recognize that our students are the work force of the future, and the future leaders of our community, and we must be intentional in what we do to prepare them to make the transition to life after high school,” said Melton.

That future looks bright for recent Knox graduates according to the Unbridled Learning data.   Of the 201 graduating seniors during the 2014-2015 school year, 63.7% were identified as college and/or career ready using criteria set by the accountability system.  Additional students have been identified following a period of data cleanup that will add to that percentage once final data is reported.

“100% college and career ready,” said Melton in response to next steps in moving the school forward.

“The achievements that we have experienced are the result of the work of every teacher, staff member, student, parent, and community member; but we must continue to work together in order to ensure all students are ready for the future.”

Overall, the community has lots to celebrate when reviewing the data that was released.   Knox Central made a 10.1 gain in their overall score in comparison to the previous school year.  The school’s goal set by the state for last year, known as an AMO or annual measurable objective, was 60.5 – a goal that they exceeded by 9.1 points and a move that puts them among the top high schools for growth experienced in one school year.

In order to exit priority status, the school had to consecutively meet their annual goals for three years as well as have test scores that no longer place them in lowest five percent in the state.

Melton said the school has gone from the bottom of rankings to the 66th percentile in Kentucky, but the following years will be just as critical as the first of PLA status.  The next challenge for the school will be regaining its full governing power including a site-based council, authority that was removed in 2012.  The school must continue to show improvement before that authority will be restored.

Also with the exit of priority status will soon come the exit of on-site assistance and supplemental resources from the Department of Education.  Knox Central currently has a two person educational recovery team assigned to the school.  During the turnaround process, the team has led school leadership in creating systems that outline how school business is conducted including defined responsibilities and processes for every staff member.

15_10_KCexit“We have been asked to create a sustainability plan focused on continuous improvement utilizing the systems and processes that have been developed in the past three years,” said Melton.

A key factor in the school turnaround process is continuous improvement and progress monitoring.  The sustainability plan will be part of that continuous improvement process.  The state will use the plan as a tool to continue to monitor Knox Central, ensuring that the academic success of students exists without their on-site assistance.

“The expectations are set and our staff is here to support and inspire each student to achieve the vision,” said Melton.

Melton says that the turnaround process and opportunity to lead the school has been humbling and a responsibility that he does not take lightly.

“I am privileged to be the principal of Knox Central High School and I appreciate our teachers and staff who serve our school.

“I am especially proud of the students who make Knox Central a great place.”

Photo:  Each morning members of the Knox Central leadership team meet for 10 minutes to discuss work being completed at the school. Julie Osborne, curriculum coach at Knox Central, is shown charting her work using a linkage document developed for turnaround schools. Debra Reed, state assigned educational recovery leader, and Kim Bullard, assistant principal, provide feedback and connections to other work being completed.