It was one of the major surprises in last week’s meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education.
The Robert Frost Middle School is upset that it is losing its School Based Decision Making (SBDM) authority. Frost appealed that decision from education commissioner Terry Holliday to the state board, which rendered its verdict (Frost will lose SBDM control) on June 9, 2010.
During the board’s deliberation, astonishing information from the Frost appeal was revealed.
I was so surprised that I obtained a copy of the appeal package from Kentucky Department of Education Chief Legal Council Kevin Brown after the meeting to be sure I heard correctly.
After looking at this material, it was quite clear: whatever Jefferson County Public Schools looks at when it does its own evaluation of SBDM performance, it isn’t looking at some really important “stuff” that kids need to learn.
And, Jefferson County’s SBDM inspections help set up schools to get into trouble with better conducted audits.
Click the “Read More” link below to see more details.
The Frost appeal package contained this letter from the Jefferson County Public Schools Office of SBDM.
Well, a lot of evidence says that just isn’t so. It starts with the fact that after looking at three years of test data for reading and mathematics for every school in Kentucky, Frost wound up at the very bottom of the list for student performance.
That triggered a “School Leadership Assessment” by a Kentucky Department of Education audit team in March 2010 (one month previous to the Jefferson County evaluation shown above, by the way).
Overall, the state audit concluded:
• The school leadership assessment team has determined that the council does not have sufficient capacity to manage the recovery of the school and recommends the council’s authority be transferred to the Superintendent.
More detailed discussion found in several areas of the audit says [with my added comments in brackets]:
• The school council’s policy, program, and resource discussions are sometimes focused on academic performance. [Only sometimes]
• The council’s minutes sometimes reflect an attention to data but do not reveal a consistent vision for school transformation and the resulting increase in student services and student success.
• Monthly meetings do not indicate a consistent focus on gaps and gains in student achievement and a systemic plan of intervention for at-risk students.
• The school council policy addresses the social and personal transition between schools (e.g., elementary to middle, middle to high), but regular or systematic discussions among and between schools to ensure the proper sequence of standards across all levels and to eliminate gaps and overlaps in the curriculum are not addressed in the policy nor are these discussions being initiated and facilitated by the district.
• The council submits plans to district leadership for review. These plans are primarily developed by the principal. [Like SBDMs or not, their efforts are supposed to be collaborative among all members, not just the principal]
• Most teachers are unable to use technology as an instructional approach because either the technology does not work or the principal and school council have not ensured that adequate technology is available (e.g., smart boards, Classroom Performance Systems) to have a meaningful impact on instruction. Many of the computers in the labs do not function, and the bulbs in some projectors have not been replaced, rendering projectors useless. [With such widespread outages, as overall management agency in the school, the SBDM should have taken notice, but apparently didn’t]
This is just a partial listing of audit findings.
Perhaps the most compelling findings are in the first four bullets, which relate to performance of students. Certainly, these findings are not consistent with top-level performance.
So, to reiterate, here’s my first point: What is Jefferson County looking at in their SBDM evaluations? Whatever that is, it isn’t looking at the most important “stuff,” which is what the Kentucky Department of Education says kids need.
I have another point.
During the state board’s discussions, several members noted that not one person from the Robert Frost Middle School took the time to come to the meeting. While such attendance wasn’t mandatory, if you were an educator involved in an action that was going to take power away from your school and you had filed an appeal, don’t you think you’d have sent at least one representative to the board meeting?
Robert Frost’s last day of school was June 2, 2010. Mr. Brown of the KDE informed me that the school was sent a fax with the state board’s agenda to hear their appeal at least two days before the meeting. The board meeting and the agenda item to hear appeals was posted in the Kentucky Department of Education’s web site even earlier.
Still, no-one showed up from Frost.
Somehow, after looking at the audit report, this absence fits. “Suspension” for the Frost SBDM seems highly warranted.
However, the responsibility for the Frost SBDM now shifts to the Jefferson County superintendent. Given the issues with his SBDM Office, I’m not sure if this will work much better for the students.