Under item three on its August 2, 2010 agenda, the state School Board of Education approved the common core standards proposed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The initiative was sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
To improve their chances for September, 2010 Race To The Top funding, states had to adopt state specific common core standards by August 2, 2010. However, a year earlier, legislation for adopting instructional materials, including framework revisions, until the 2013-14 school year was passed (Subsequent legislation has moved the adoption to 2014/15).
In June, 2011, California joined 30 states to become members of the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium. Of those, California is one of 18 governing states, which allows decision-making participation.
Work of CORE
Seven school districts formed in October, 2010 to work on school district reform. The seven school districts are Clovis, Fresno Long Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and Sanger districts or California Office to Reform Education (CORE).
In July, 2011, the Stuart Foundation has announced it will spend $1.55 million to support the work of CORE. The grant supports CORE’s priority work of sharing and using data to improve instruction; improving teacher preparation and recruitment; and creating formative assessments for and implementing the Common Core standards in English language arts and math.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell released the annual report on dropout and graduation rates for the 2008-09 school year.
The 2008-09 data represents the third year of calculating student graduation and dropout rates by collecting student-level enrollment and exit data. Although this is the third year of using student-level data, this is the first year this data were collected through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). Right now the California Department of Education (CDE) is collecting the student-level exit data for the class of 2010 that will produce all four years of data necessary to transition from using aggregate rates to more accurate student graduation and dropout rates at the school level. By this spring, California will be able to calculate for the first time these longitudinal rates that are required by federal regulations.
Caution should be used when analyzing this first year of data through CALPADS. There is always some variance in the information gathered in the first year of using a new data system. Some LEAs struggled with submitting this first year of data because no specific resources were made available to LEAs to implement the more complex CALPADS data submissions. Fluctuations in the individual rates of schools and districts submitting their data are to be expected, considering this is the first year of CALPADS implementation and reliance on aggregate formula rates.
In reviewing the data for your district what governance issues for your District are raised?
The prior few posts have been dealing with our role as a Board member in overseeing student achievement in our district. We covered the basic tenets of our involvement in planning, implementing and evaluating an action plan to raise student achievement. We discussed a more specific approach of using a Theory of Action and ways that we can infuse our core beliefs into a unique plan for our districts. In this post, we finalized our discussion by examining role as Board members after the Theory of Action has been agreed upon.
After you have reviewed your customized Theory of Action, the Board needs to establish goals/success indicators in the planning phase. A good way to remember how to establish a goal statement is the old S.M.A.R.T. acronym used by many experts in goal setting, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, and Time-specific:
|Specific||State clearly what you want.|
|Measurable||How will you know you will have accomplished your goal?|
|Acceptable||Do the necessary stakeholders agree with the goal?|
|Realistic||Is it realistic for your abilities and the given time period?|
|Time-specific||How are you going to track your progress?|
The final step is assigned the goal/success indicator to the Superintendent, staff or the Board.
During the Implementation phase the Board is encouraged to support the Superintendent and staff by attending events and activities that are related to the goals. For example, visit school sites with your Superintendent and focus on assessing the implementation of the goal(s). During the year when goal related agenda items are presented for our review and we need to revisit the goals/success indicators from the planning phase to gain a deeper understanding of the connection between the agenda item and the Theory of Action.
In the Evaluation phase, we need to focus on what we have learned about changing our district practices to improve student achievement. Certainly whenever the outcomes meet or exceed the goals, we need to celebrate. However, the opportunity for learning lies in asking why the outcome met the goal. In fact, using “the 5 Whys ” as a question-asking method to explore the cause/effect relationships underlying the outcome could be even more beneficial than the outcome.
Ultimately, our primary responsibility to oversee student achievement is an ongoing process that can not be isolated to a set of goals and outcomes. This ongoing process defines another role for us as board members to be leaders of the change process within our district.
In the last post we discussed the simplistic process of PIE as a framework for overseeing student achievement. In the Evaluation process, I pointed out that the nature of student achievement is hard to pinpoint based on a simple cause and effect basis. As a result as board members we need to work with our Superintendent to develop a “theory of action” to deal with the multiple aspects of overseeing student achievement. In this post I will cover the components of a “theory of action” and in future posts we will discuss how the Board interacts with the theory of action.
A “theory of action” builds on our beliefs and educational research about how children learn, the conditions that best promote learning, and the policies, management systems, and culture that best promote the commitments and high performance of our employees to serve an economically and demographically diverse student population. It also reflects our commitment to exceed accountability standards at state and federal levels.
The work of developing a theory of action usually starts with the Superintendent presenting their thoughts/ideas/concepts on improving student achievement in a Board planning workshop setting. The theory of action is a coherent set of strategies that should ensure academic rigor and maximize student learning at all levels by shaping management goals, policies, strategic planning and budgets. This begins with a review of content standards, performance standards, assessments, and consequences with two primary objectives:
(1) to align the curriculum and materials, instructional strategies, assessment and data, and professional development around the curriculum to ensure that teachers have the necessary supports and empowerment
to make effective instructional decisions for the full range of students they serve; and
(2) to ensure that all students have access to a rigorous academic program in every school.
Performance Standard s – defines what students are expected to know and be able to do, and the quality of student performance needed to meet those standards.
Curriculum and Materials – presents what is to be taught at each grade level and in each course in order for students to meet the performance standards. The curriculum must be coherent, aligned, and detailed down to individual lesson plans, teaching materials, and sample assessments, all of which must be available to teachers for easy and timely access.
Instructional Strategies – describes the way in which the curriculum is presented; focused on the needs of students and is, therefore, differentiated because of a student’s background knowledge and experience, learning style, and personality. The maintenance of a workforce of effective instructional leaders and teachers is essential. Human resource policies, structures, and practices must support this objective. Interventions by child, by teacher, by subject, and by school must be carefully calibrated,
appropriate, and timely.
Assessment and Data – designed to provide teachers, schools and districts the information necessary to improve teaching as well as to provide directed instruction and intervention for students.
Periodic formative and summative assessments of student achievement must be conducted, and the results must be disaggregated by classroom, subject, ethnicity, gender, poverty level, teacher, or in any other way useful to drive continuous improvement. This will require the establishment of a comprehensive student information system.
Professional Development – focuses on standards and strategies as well as the ability of personnel to use the assessment and data systems, and apply the knowledge gained through instruction to ensure access and rigor for all students. A comprehensive professional development system that
centers on the curriculum and effective ways to teach it, based on the best evidence-based research is needed. This system may include curriculum coaches in the schools, daily monitoring (including observation) of teaching, and just-in-time professional development to support teachers in the classroom.
One of our main responsibility as school board members is the oversight of student achievement in our community. It is a large responsibility and sometimes gets overlooked when we are faced with the day to day issues of our school districts. To maintain a focused effort we must establish a framework between the board and the Superintendent that allows us to revisit this important responsibility on a consistent basis.
Simple as PIE
One of our roles as board members involves setting the direction for the school district. While there are many methods for setting direction it usually boils down to some variation of the PIE approach. PIE stands for Plan Implement and Evaluate. As board members, we contribute in planning portion, let staff primarily implement and then we are involved in the evaluation of results.
While some of us rely on the annual goal setting for the Superintendent Evaluation as our total planning effort, planning for oversight of student achievement requires more effort. Ideally, your Board and Superintendent have developed and published a Mission Statement along with a commitment to oversee student achievement as one of your top priorities. With that commitment you are ready to work on the identifying the plan for overseeing student achievement that will have clear and measurable goals with multiple success indicators. The oversight of student achievement is a multiple year process so your timeline can reflect that.
During the implementation phase, our role as board members is to support the staff. We can support staff with public recognition of student achievement progress as well as being visible at key events that promote student achievement.
Regardless of what the data shows in terms of results, nothing in education is simple to evaluate. Much like research into health, simple cause and effect is hard to pinpoint. As a result, using a long term approach of constant and never ending improvement is the preferred method. By making the commitment to consistently oversee student achievement we will begin to understand the deeper issues involved in improving student achievement.