Thursday, August 22, 2013

Superintendent's mid-cycle review: notes from me

Because I can't take notes on what I are my notes for myself.

Procedural recommendations:

I went through the back-up over several days, and the connections between the written self-evaluation and the items backing up the evaluation was not always clear. The back-ups themselves overwhelmed the narrative and were repetitive. We did not need, for example, 4 copies of results of the parent survey (a 50 page PowerPoint), nor the other pieces that appeared repeatedly, nor the 300-plus PowerPoint on the new Dibels system--in the back-up. They did not support the evaluation, they were not valuable, and they were in some cases erroneous.

Likewise, I was concerned with the unevenness of the self-evaluation itself. One expects with a document such as this that much of it will be based on information from others. This was clearly written by several hands, which troubles me on a document that is, while a document about a system, mainly an evaluation of an individual. I would ask that this be a focus of future evaluation, as it is disconcerting to see such unevenness in such an important document.

The self-evaluation, I initially was going to say, needs internal citation. We need to know which part of which document is backing up various assertions in the self-evaluation.
The superintendent’s proposal that this be done electronically makes this substantially easier. I would propose that the self-evaluation simply be internally hyper-linked to the particular part of the various back-up documents that demonstrate that assertion. This is simple to do and would make reading the self-evaluation and back-up documentation much more meaningful.


It’s important to recognize in this year that gave us the 2012 MCAS scores, the results of the first Worcester Compact, presented to the School Committee in December of 2009.
The assertion from the superintendent was that on the 2012 MCAS:
  • 80% of third graders would be proficient in ELA
  • …41% were (up 11%)
  • 80% of third graders would be proficient in mathematics
  • ...41% were (up 3%)
  • 80% of eighth graders would be proficient in ELA
  • ...61% were (up 4%)
  • 80% of eighth graders would be proficient in mathematics
  • ...34% were (up 7%)
I bring this up not because I think that this is a valid way to evaluate the superintendent. The relationship of the superintendent to MCAS scores is beyond tenuous. I do think it important to point out that when these asserted benchmarks were not met, they simply were changed.
When one of our high school’s did not make graduation benchmarks, the principal was replaced, and when three of our elementary schools did not make MCAS benchmarks, their principals were replaced. My objection is to the inconsistency. Either this is a valid way, in the judgment of this administration, of evaluating school and district leaders, or it is not. If it is, we should be judging based on the December 2009 Compact. If it is not, it should not be applied to principals. You can’t have it both ways.
Finally, I want to mention two of the phrases used by the state in the standards: “nurturing a professional culture” and “cultivating a shared vision.” As I read through the evaluation and the back-up, I kept coming back to these as significant weaknesses in the documentation. “Nurturing a professional culture” is about the education of our students being something we do together, and being sure that the educators--because no one in this room is actually teaching students--are supported as the professionals they are. “Cultivating a shared vision” is about being with teachers and our other professionals as they educate students and wanting what’s best for them.
What I saw instead was a lot of talking AT people: talking at parents, talking at principals. I saw very few mentions of teachers at all, which is alarming. I saw very little about students. And when it comes to SHARING a vision: I didn’t see that at all.
Because sharing goes two ways. What we instead have had a great deal of is imposing ON people.
I really doubt that if you ask our third graders what they want from school they’re going to tell you that they want an 80% proficiency rate. I venture to bet that their parents won’t say that either. If you could get them to be honest--and with their jobs now riding on it, that’s going to be hard--their teachers aren’t going to tell you that either.
We’ve really got to get to cultivating our Worcester vision--not a ready-made in Malden or D.C.--of education for our students. And it needs to show up not only here, but in the goals and in everything we do and say. That means listening to those who work for us, whose children attend school with us, and who attend school themselves with us.
I will raise these issues as we discuss the goals, Mr. Chair.

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