Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fayette School Superintendent's Actions Hard To Justify

Kentucky policymakers scramble to advance education in science and mathematics, hoping to compete in the world economy. Educators scramble to reduce achievement gaps found along economic and racial lines.

When Fayette County merged its two worst-performing elementary schools into Booker T. Washington Academy in 2005, district leaders knew they needed a special person to create success where there had been mostly failure.

They brought in Peggy Petrelli and she cracked the code. Under Petrelli, fourth grade science scores accelerated at a blistering pace. Learning surged with a military precision. Students entered class to immediately face a short quiz over information from prior lessons. Breaking into thirds, the class cycled orderly through laboratory stations for a systematic, hands-on approach found to be remarkably compelling to the kids. An end of class quiz tested mastery of the day's curriculum. And children who needed extra help got it immediately.

Peggy Petrelli should be doing seminars about her techniques. Instead she is unemployed.

Inexplicably, Petrelli was forced out of Booker T. Washington Academy this fall by Superintendent Stu Silberman, whose actions then and subsequently seem more than a little suspicious. Silberman's unprofessionalism reached a crescendo Tuesday when he announced to the cameras at a public, televised event that Booker T. Washington is "under investigation for its test scores."

The Kentucky Department of Education as of Wednesday had no official record of any complaint.

A spokeswoman for the school district couldn't specify today when the "investigation" started, what it involves, or who initiated it.

Digging deeper into this controversy seems to generate a lot of questions Silberman can't, or won't, answer.