The District 202 School Board reviewed results of the District’s 2010 -2012 goals and heard about plans for a comprehensive goal-setting process for 2012-2015 at its Sept. 26 meeting.
The District has four overall goals: Literacy, Numeracy, Well-Being and Budget/Financial.
Many students did not perform well on the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE) and did not increase their reading or math scores from EXPLORE, given to eighth-graders, to ACT, taken in 11th grade. These fall under the Literacy/Numeracy goals. In addition, the percentages of D/F grades, a component of the Well-Being goal, increased in many cases.
Some improvement was seen in the percentage of black and Hispanic students in honors and AP level English, history, world languages and science classes (Literacy/Numeracy) and the number of suspensions were reduced over the previous year (Well-Being).
The Budget/Financial goal showed the most consistently positive results. The only problem was an estimated $2 million operating deficit, “due mainly to late state payments,” according to the report.
Board members, who had already heard the disappointing PSAE results at the Sept. 12 meeting, focused on other issues.
“I’m … troubled by the data on D’s and F’s,” said Board member Deborah Graham, “particularly for 11th- and 12th- graders.”
Dr. Peter Bavis, associate principal for Teaching and Learning, told the Board that in past years, the District had had 37 different grading scales and in the past year moved to only two. About 80 percent of the school uses a scale which sets requires at least 93 percent for an A; the rest require 90 percent for an A.
“The clearer we are around grading scales, the more accurate it is to compare D’s and F’s because you have a consistent metric to do so,” Dr. Bavis explained. He said the District hoped to move to one grading scale. “Then the data will take on more meaning,” he added.
Superintendent Eric Witherspoon also pointed out that some of the earlier grading scales were not as demanding as the 93 percent scale.
“We have moved to more demanded grading scales,” he said. “We want to expect more of students – we believe in the long run it’s going to benefit our students if we demand more and expect more.”
Much discussion ensued among administrators and Board members about the process, or lack thereof, which had been used to establish the goals, which in some cases, placed a requirement of an increase in performance that was not linked to any underlying data in particular.
“I don’t think anyone is comfortable with how the goals have been set,” said Board President Mark Metz.
“In dealing with this every year …we struggle. … There are some goals you can put a number to, but there are some you can’t,” said Dr. Judith Levinson, director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment. “It ends up being kind of silly – some goals should be narrative or qualitative.”
“A lot of it was arbitrary,” said Dr. Witherspoon. “It was well-intentioned, but we’ve learned from that.”
Assistant Superintendent/Principal Oscar Hawthorne provided an overview of the future goal setting process, which was scheduled to begin immediately, culminating in final Board review and approval in February 2012.
“We recommend that goals be written with broad input from all constituent groups: students, teachers, staff, parents and community members,” Mr. Hawthorne said in his presentation. “Coherence is the key: specific initiatives will be modified, added or deleted, but any change efforts need to be part of an overall, coherent plan,” he added.
After Board discussion on Oct. 11 and 24, and a review of the plan with Dr. Witherspoon, Mr. Hawthorne said, the input from other stakeholders would take place between Oct. 30 and Dec. 16.
“The process Mr. Hawthorne has described is more organic [than in the past],” said Mr. Metz.
“This is very different,” said Board member Gretchen Livingston, who had abstained in protest from voting when the last set of goals was considered. “I’m really happy to see we’re going to get broader input to come up with the framework and structure.”