Franklin Co. high school offers remediation during fall, spring breaks; principal says program means students don't have to wait until summer school to catch up

The State Journal, Frankfort, Sept. 29, 2017

Western Hills, Franklin County high schools graduation rates differ greatly

By Alfred Miller

One of Mark Kopp’s first acts as superintendent of Franklin County Schools this summer was to adopt a tweetable new motto: “#OneTeamFCS.” But getting sometimes rival schools to act as a single team requires more than 140 characters — and it may start with fall break.

For many students in the Franklin County Schools district, the first week of October represents a welcome respite from schoolwork. At Western Hills High School, it represents a time for those who are struggling to catch up.

Before the start of every fall and winter break, Western Hills Principal Greg Roush sends out letters encouraging the parents of students who are failing to attend “remediation” — a kind of summer school on steroids that’s squeezed into a week in October or April.

“If they come to fall-break remediation, they’re not waiting until summer school six months down the road — it’s fresh on their minds,” said Roush, who uses Extended School Services (ESS) grants to compensate teachers for working through the break.

Whether the program accounts for the stark difference between the graduation rates at Roush’s school and Franklin County High School, which does not use the same approach, #OneTeamFCS may never know.

“I didn’t know, honestly, about the Western Hills program,” Kopp told The State Journal. “But that’s great. I hope Franklin County can do something similar to that.”

While standardized test scores at Western Hills and Franklin County are roughly comparable, with Western Hills students having an edge in math and the American College Test (ACT) and Franklin County students leading in history, English and biology, graduation rates at Western Hills are markedly better.

The four-year graduation rate at Western Hills rose to 93.8 percent last year from 93.2 percent the year before, while the four-year rate at Franklin County High School dropped to 80 percent from 81.1 percent, according to data released by the Kentucky Department of Education earlier this week.

“I want to sit down as this #OneTeamFCS, if there are things we can learn from the other side of town,” Franklin County High School Principal Charles Lewis told The State Journal. “That’s something we’re moving toward in the future.”

Lewis is instead leading a program this year that pairs a select number of struggling seniors with teachers who keep an eye on their academic progress.

“Each of those kids has a mentor teacher who checks in with them periodically,” said Lewis, who frequently monitors what his school’s graduation rate would be if commencement were tomorrow.

Socioeconomic factors could also be influencing graduation rates at the two schools. Some 47.22 percent of Franklin County’s 1,027 students qualified to receive free and reduced lunch last year, compared to 36.92 percent of Western Hills’ 826 students. Yet 66.37 percent of the 275 students at Frankfort High School — part of the Frankfort Independent Schools district — qualified to receive free and reduced lunch last year and it had a four-year graduation rate of 95.7 percent.

“We’re doing everything we can to meet students where they are,” said Kopp, emphasizing instead the atmosphere of learning that principals create.

“Our job is to create good citizens.”

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