Cracked Foundations: Jefferson County Public Schools (KY)


Foundation: Wallace Foundation

Grants total: $1,890,000

US News and World Report Test Score Proficiency:

In 2021, Jefferson County Public Schools was awarded a $1,890,000 introductory grant in order for the district to participate in the Wallace Foundation’s Equity-Centered Pipeline. The initiative was created to “produce school leaders capable of advancing their own district’s vision of equity.” As part of the program, school districts will work with “local community organizations, two university leader-preparation programs, and the state education agency to develop its own, local definition of equity and define what an equity-centered leader needs to know.”

The Wallace Foundation allotted up to $8.2 million over five years to the district to implement the initiative. Through the funding, the district created the “Jefferson County Leadership Academy (JCLA), which will offer aspiring administrators workshops and programming to introduce them to the duties and expectations of an assistant principal and principal, along with mentoring and internship opportunities.”

As part of the overall program, the school district is partnering with the University of Louisville, Spalding University, and the Kentucky Department of Education to “provide certification programs, professional development and mentoring based on equity-centered leadership to new and aspiring principals.”

Jefferson County Public Schools’ Racial Educational Equity Plan states that the policy requires planning that “contains strategies for achieving and maintaining racial educational equity for all students.”

Included in the plan is the district’s strategy for communicating with families and the community. Strategic communications include district staff writing “racial equity policy opinion editorials that detail the status of the racial equity policy,” and offering “face-to-face trainings for parents/students at community and open house events for diverse populations.”

In another document aimed to improve racial equity in the district, the Affirming Racial Equity Tool was curated to “fortify anti-biased, anti-racist, and racially equitable pedagogy and practices for all students every day.” The document focuses on “diverse cultures and identities,” which defines “diverse” as “pertaining to any and all cultures that are NOT heterosexual, male-centered, white, Western, and/or Christian.”

The Racial Equity Policy Resource Handbook for the district includes a resources section containing a link to a presentation titled “Overcoming White Fragility and Becoming an Abolitionist Teacher.” A slide in the presentation states: “Just as systemic racism is reduced to individual bad actors, privilege is misunderstood as something individual rather than a system in which white people as a collective are centered and prioritized.”

The district’s Envision Equity webpage states that the goal of the report is not to “reach a conclusion; rather, it is to raise the collective level of awareness about equity and access within our institution and, more importantly, provide the evidence necessary to support institutional changes in culture, practice, and policy.”

As part of the district’s Diversity, Equity, & Poverty Professional-Development Sessions, trainings include a session on “Culturally and Historically Responsive Education for Equity and Excellence: Introduction to Theory and Model.” The session description states that “participants will gain an understanding of culture, equity, anti-racism, and culturally and historically responsive instruction (CHRE); learn why youth and teachers need CHRE to advance equity and excellence.”

Foundation: Wallace Foundation

Date: November 8, 2021

Grant amount: $1,890,000

Purpose: To participate in the Equity-Centered Pipeline Initiative


Kentucky Department of Education

Date: December 6, 2021

Contract amount: $150,000