JCPS board discusses college readiness and teacher success


Board member Linda Duncan asks JCTA president Brent McKim why the TELL data does not desegregate high and low priority schools. The presentation received further criticism from the board about its lack of comparison data. Photo Kate Hater

Alex Coburn

The JCPS board heard presentations on the gradual improvement of ACT scores over time and the quality of teachers’ work environments at their Sept. 14 meeting.

The board first heard a presentation regarding the Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning Survey (TELL) from the Jefferson County Teachers Association.

Board members listen to the TELL Survey presentation. Photo by Kate Hatter.

This survey, administered every two years, is designed to quantify a teacher’s feelings toward his/her work environment and how that environment affects the ability to teach effectively.

JCTA President Mr. Brent McKim argued that positive feelings about one’s work environment can increase teacher retention rates, and that this low turnover can improve student success.

Data Management and Resource Specialist Dr. Marco Munoz then discussed the efficacy of the survey itself.

“Response rate matters when it comes to data,” he said. 76.5% of teachers responded to the most recent TELL survey rate, and JCTA leaders hope to improve that number to 80% with the next poll.

Representative from the Academic Services Division speaks about ACT scores. Photo by Kate Hatter.

The TELL survey is broken down into eight constructs, or topics, that each contain a number of items, or questions. According to Munoz, JCPS is currently performing well in six of the eight constructs, but there is room for improvement in the constructs relating to time and student conduct management.

“If something shows up as an issue, it probably needs work regardless of the cause,” McKim said.

Board member Chris Brady stated that he was disappointed with the lack of data comparing JCPS’ TELL survey results with those at the national level.

The board also discussed JCPS schools’ 2015 ACT scores.  According to the presentation by the Academic Services Division, JCPS has improved in all areas of college readiness, though 40% of all students are still not college-ready. However, college readiness has jumped from 31% to 62% in the past five years, with biracial students demonstrating the greatest improvement in scores across all demographics.

Board members agreed that the 2015 results still leave significant room for improvement.

“When I look at those numbers, it scares me that 40% of our students are not college ready,” Board Chair David Jones Jr. said.

The board examined creation of a college-ready culture starting from grade school as a potential solution.

Jefferson County Teachers' Association (JCTA) president Brent McKim presents the 2014-2015 TELL survey results to the board. Photo by Kate Hatter
Jefferson County Teachers’ Association (JCTA) president Brent McKim presents the 2014-2015 TELL survey results to the board. Photo by Kate Hatter

“It’s important for students to see themselves as future college students,” Amy Dennes, who heads the Academic Achievement K-12 Area Two division, said.

This culture would start as early as third grade, when students may be required to commit to learning how to read before the end of the school year. According to the Academic Services Division, illiteracy after the third grade sets students up for failure.

The board also discussed the implementation of intervention programs to assist students in danger of not meeting their ACT benchmarks. These could include classes in or outside of school, one-on-one tutoring, or tutoring with peer groups.

“We know that one size does not fit all,” Chief Academic Officer Dewey Hensley said. “We are a district that believes in continuous improvement.”