She complimented KSBA, KDE and the districts for getting involved in this work. “This is one of the central issues related to our responsibilities as board members – how do we address these achievement gaps, which we understand are part of opportunity and access gaps. But it takes concentrated work because so many factors are involved in it.”
Jennifer Steidel-Jones, a novice reduction coach for the Kentucky Department of Education (and Silver Grove Independent school board member) assists a delegation from Covington Independent in sifting through district data in KDE’s Open House portal. From left, Superintendent Dr. Alvin Garrison, board Vice Chair April Brockhoff and Dr. Janice Wilkerson, assistant superintendent for student support.
The project coordinator for KSBA is Dr. Jacqueline Pope-Tarrence, a former Bowling Green Independent school board member and retired associate dean for accountability and research at Western Kentucky University. Pope-Tarrence said she expects boards to tailor their strategies to district needs; because of this, the plans they devise for closing gaps will be different.
“What we hope is that they will determine what those strategies look like,” she said. “Hopefully those will become key strategies or best strategies so they can impact policy, strategic planning, resource support. Then in late August we will come back together and look at what took place.”
At the May meeting, KDE staff provided the group a state overview on the achievement gap and how to access district and school data online through its Open House portal. The agency has assigned a staffer to work with each of the school districts in the Gap Closure Project. The board teams also will get help from Fertakis and other partner groups.
Silver Grove Independent school board Vice Chairwoman Jennifer Steidel-Jones is one of the KDE staff who will be working with the project. She said it gives the participating boards a chance to understand the same data that district educators work with and understand.
“For somebody that’s not in the education field, this is very empowering to be able to learn what all this means: ‘What is this data, why is it important, what is it telling us, what is it not telling us, how can we help pass policies and ensure programs that are happening and the funding is allocated correctly to meet the needs of all of our students,’” she said.
As part of the project, which wraps up Oct. 31, KSBA will be developing on-site and online training for all board members to keep the achievement gap issue at the forefront. Each of the participating boards will come out of the project with a district gap plan to be approved at a fall school board meeting. There will also be a workshop featuring district representatives summarizing the project and sharing district efforts at the March 2018 KSBA Annual Conference.