Local schools to start achievement gap pilot

Superintendent Mary Ann Gemmill places a ribbon on the Christian County High School Air Force ROTC flag signifying the unit as a Distinguished Unit with Merit. The unit was the only unit in Kentucky to receive the distinction.


In an attempt to close persistent achievement gaps in Christian County, the local school district plans to implement a pilot program targeting students in gap groups.

The pilot will identify 20 students from both high schools based on practice ACT data and work with those students throughout the school year with individualized support during school hours and after school hours.

The pilot program was announced during a Christian County Public Schools board meeting Thursday evening. It is part of a Kentucky School Board Association effort in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Achievement gaps have been observed in Christian County and the United States at every level of education. In Christian County high schools, differences in student achievements exist between white students and African-American students, students with English as a second language, students receiving free or reduced lunch and students with learning differences.

Although achievement gaps are prevalent throughout America, they reflect poorly on the U.S. education system and suggest not all students who go through it receive equal treatment.

The goal of the pilot will be to increase the number of 11th and 12th graders from traditional underrepresented populations who are taking advanced coursework by 15 percent by next August.

Kentucky School Board Association hopes to create a best practices network among Kentucky schools, whereby districts can learn from each other of what works and what does not.

“Because we’re all facing the same challenges,” said District Superintendent Mary Ann Gemmill.

Board member Susan Hayes said the district would attempt to engage the community during the process.

“Some of the barriers are really common sense, but are things that we don’t necessarily think about,” said Chief Instructional Officer Amy Wilcox, referring to some of the reasons students could not be achieving their full potential in the schools.

In an effort to decrease the amount of habitual truancy offenders, the district will reduce the amount of procedure that used to be required before action could be taken. If a student has six unexcused absences, he or she becomes criminally absent and must go to truancy court.

At the meeting, the district changed the way it intervenes with frequently absent students, before that student reaches six unexcused absences, in order to help that student come up with a plan for getting to school on time.

The changes mostly involved eliminating some procedural requirements the district had been required to follow in order to give it more flexibility.

“If we could move quicker, we could help students with their education better,” said Director of Pupil Personnel Melanie Barrett.

In other business, the district added terms to the code of acceptable behavior to reduce the amount of disorderly conduct tallies reported to the state. In a report, the Kentucky Center for School Safety found the district had the highest rate of law violations in Kentucky.

The district said most of the violations came from misreporting classroom incidents as disorderly conduct violations, when in reality, the incident was not that severe. To counter the reportedly bloated disorderly conduct tally, the district added “abuse of a teacher” and “disruptive behavior” which are not law violations, but should more actively reflect classroom behavior.

The school board also improved the 2017-2018 school year budget. The superintendent noted cuts will be made to the budget as the state needs to reduce the overall state budget by approximately 17 percent cut from the current working budget.

The total budget for the school year currently equals $86.5 million, a $2 million increase compared to last school year’s budget.

The district needed to pass the budget by Sept. 30 to meet a state deadline.

Reach Sam Morgen at smorgen@kentuckynewera.com or 270-887-3241.

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