At the Joint District 65/202 Committee meeting on Nov. 13, Bill Stafford, chief financial officer of District 202, summarized 24 areas in which the School Districts are currently partnering with each other in an effort to promote efficiency and reduce costs. The Committee’s discussion focused, though, on a suggestion made at the Committee’s Sept. 10 meeting to look at consolidating the Districts’  research and evaluation departments.

At the Sept. 10 meeting, District 202 Board member Jonathan Baum said using one research and evaluation department to present data on student achievement for both Districts may reduce costs, “but more important is the value of operating with the same set of numbers.”

He said in the past the Districts have debated what the results on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT, given to third- through eighth-graders) meant and what the results on the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE, given to eleventh-graders) meant.

As he had on Sept. 10, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon reiterated his position that the Districts crunched numbers on different tests, and that staff at both District were already kept busy. He said consolidating the departments would not yield any efficiencies or cost benefits. Lora Taira, chief information officer of District 65, advanced a similar position.

Tracy Quattrocki, president of the District 65 School Board, said the fact the Districts were using two different tests was a reason for consolidating the research departments. Consolidating the research and evaluation departments would better ensure that each District was measuring student achievement using the same benchmarks for success and provide data for the K-12 grade levels.

Candance Chow, a member of the District 65 Board, said that from an efficiency standpoint, consolidating the departments might not yield any particular efficiency in terms of how the Districts are doing things now. But an outside consultant could look at it through a different lens and suggest ways in which a tightly knit team might operate in the future and offer more breadth, more depth and a more insightful analysis that might lead to academic improvement.

The Committee did not reach consensus on whether to retain an outside consultant to evaluate this issue. Ms. Quattrocki suggested the Committee take advantage of an opportunity to use students from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management to provide research assistance. Committee members concurred, with the proviso added by some that any research project be specifically defined.

Mr. Stafford suggested that any research project be limited to the area of technology. Ms. Quattrocki suggested the students do a case study focusing on school districts that had one research department covering the K-12 grade levels. A subset of the Committee will agree on the research project.