Spotlight on District 109

The new District 109 Dashboard, which is intended to measure the progress of the strategic plan, does not properly align to the goals of the district, and needs work.

On June 20, 2011, the Board of Education approved the district’s current strategic plan.  This five-year plan was developed by a cross section of the community and laid out five goal areas.  The plan was to have the district develop measurements of these goal areas (aka indicators), set targets, and measure progress.  The 2011-2012 school year was to be the baseline for the remaining four years of the plan.

The district recently released a “dashboard”, accessible front and center on the district website.  This dashboard houses all elements of the plan: goals, values, beliefs, commitments, indicators, and targets.  Much of the dashboard is To Be Determined (TBD).

The first goal area, Student Growth and Achievement, gets a bit of a pass at this point.  The state’s main measurement tool, ISAT, is getting a makeover.  The new test will be based on the common core standards.  However, I think there needs to be more indicators of student growth than just the ISAT (or its replacement), MAP, and 21st Century skills.  More work needs to be done to determine each student’s individual learning targets.  In terms of special education, there is one indicator, “percent of special education students on track to meet their individual goals.”  The district claims 77% are on track, with a goal of 90%, but provides no source for this data.  Needless to say, much more work needs to be done on this hot-button issue.

The second goal area, Learning Environment/Climate, is a very important area, but only has three indicators, and two of them (technology use and attendance) are TBD.  The third, bullying, sets a goal of 78% of 6th graders and 74% of 8th graders who report they have not been bullied in school in the last six months.  That’s a bullying rate of 22% and 26% respectively.  That’s the GOAL?  Really?  I don’t even think I need to explain my frustration with this one.  Nuff said.

The third goal area, Teaching Environment/Quality Staff, has some good, relevant indicators.  Things like National Board Certification, possessing more than one content area certification, and professional development participation are great ways to measure teacher skill levels.  I would also like to see an indicator of actual teacher performance, maybe using the newly developed teacher assessment tool.  In terms of teaching environment, a staff satisfaction survey has yet to be developed.

The fourth goal area, Community Connections/Family Partnerships, has some good indicators of parent participation and access to information, but many are TBD.  There is no real measurement of parent satisfaction.  That needs to be addressed.  This is especially important for special education parents.  The recent Hanover survey should be used, as it is the best statistical measurement we have to date of the progress of IEP programs.

The fifth goal area, Fiscal/Technology/Facility, is almost entirely TBD.  The selected indicators are pretty good, but I would like to see an indicator that tracks vendor performance, specifically measurements of the contractor’s adherence to project time, cost, and quality.  Historically, the district’s financial management has been excellent, so this is not a major area of concern.

So I guess the bottom line is, “good start”, but almost two years after the strategic plan was approved, I would expect more than a good start.  Developing, implementing, and measuring strategic plans is a specialized skill.  This is certainly an area where consultants may be required.  We’ve already spent
money to develop the plan.  It would be a shame to not follow through on implementing and measuring the plan properly.  Or it could just be scrapped altogether.  This wouldn’t be my first choice, but the new Superintendent should be given the option to do whatever he sees fit to manage the district, as long as he achieves all the goals that are set forth by the Board.  It’s entirely up to him, but one thing that is certain is that we need concrete measurements to assess the quality of the education our children receive.

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