It was structured so that staff gave a presentation and then there were small table groups (4-6) where these questions were to be discussed:
- 2 areas at your school to focus on and 2 to celebrate
- what do you want your principal to do to improve your school
- areas the district needs to focus on to improve your school
- areas you feel the district needs to have better communications
- what can family members do to help your school
Oddly, they did not have us report out but just turn in the sheets. There was a Q&A after the presentation and after the table groups.
Phil Brockman was a good leader (he's one of the gems of this district). But his presentation was too long. It think the shorter the better and yet somehow they take 30+ minutes.
My question was a question/comment. I commented that Phil said that all the NE principals were good and I gently pointed out 7 of the NE schools' principals got lower than district average scores from their staffs. I said if we are putting a lot on the teachers and their performance, we also have to consider how the principals are doing and be honest about what the principal data tells us. (I'm sure all the principals love me now.) Phil agreed.
I asked about the C-SIPs that were clearly mentioned in the documents as being important to the School Reports data. I asked why they were late if they were so important. Dr. Enfield and Jessica de Barros said the C-SIPs were part of the School Reports and that they were done on-time just not uploaded to the district's computer.
Another parent asked about low-performing principals and teachers and getting rid of them. Phil started to answer and I think she didn't like his answer so asked again, more insistently. She wanted to know how principals ID'ed poor teaching and he said by consistently visiting classrooms and making observations.
Another parent asked about replication of good schools. Dr. Enfield said it was a goal but it is hard because "each school culture is so unique". Okay now, wait a minute. They are all public schools, they start around the same time, same curriculum (for the most part). I'm not buying that answer in total. There has got to be some way to duplicate success. (More on this in a minute.)
Olga asked whether, on the high school School Reports, if the Reading/Math scores were just for 9th graders and Jessica confirmed they were. Olga kept going over the numbers as if puzzled. I think she was thinking along the lines that Charlie was (and discussed in his thread yesterday). She knew something wasn't quite what it seemed on paper.
Ramona Hattendorf spoke briefly for the SCPTSA and talked about having an open conversation about what we want and what we see (we being parents).
I had time to look at the School Reports more carefully and it was odd how many staffs ranked the school leadership and professional culture lower than you might think. One principal came up to me during the group discussions and said to be careful to understand how a principal could be new to a building, it could be a dysfunctional situation a principal comes into, etc.
(Over the last two days I have heard all kinds of reasons why schools may not be doing well. Dysfunctional staff or staff stuck in one mode of teaching, new principal, poor principal, low PTA support, one-year blip either up or down, it goes on and on. At the end of it, you can find a million reasons why a school isn't successful. But are all the stars going to have to line up for a school to work? When are excuses whining and when are they valid? Where is the line for accountability?)
Looking over the School Reports, you see a lot of down arrows, particularly (and I don't know why) for Latino children. I don't think most of John Q. Public looking at these would be impressed. One bright and shining example: Olympic Hills Elementary and their fantastic principal, Zoe Jenkins.
I met Zoe during the Closure and Consolidation process. This is a principal passionate for her students. Not her school, not her teachers (although she calls them her stars) but her kids. She is TFA with experience and years of dedication. Her school's scores were up almost totally across the board. Really impressive. I talked with her during the table discussions and she was cautious to warn me that it was one year. Her demographic is something like 70% free/reduced lunch AND 38% mobile. I told her fine but her staff is making a difference among populations that are tough to move. She also said that they have been having other schools' staffs visit (Roxhill for one) and they come away very enthused. What is she doing? It pretty much sounds like that intimate one-on-one help that has to happen to move some children along. I plan on visiting the next time another group comes so that I can see this in action. (She also said she loves hand-holding young teachers but that she felt an allegiance to the young teachers who have gone through education training and want to make teaching their life. Meaning, not so interested in TFA recruits.)
During the last Q&A, Olga gave an excellent suggestion to parents which is to look at science scores because it is an "integrated" subject using math and reading.
One parent, seeming frustrated, asked what a BLT could do to help. Phil tried to encourage her about the budget process affecting the school (and therefore what scores come out) but she seemed upset that their PTSA was raising money to help fill out the librarian position (rather than hiring tutoring help).
Another parent asked about the earned autonomy idea and when it will be defined by the district. Phil didn't have an answer. Jessica said that it is flexibility over discretionary spending and professional development in core content areas. This is the first I've heard of this.
Did anyone else attend a School Reports meeting this week? Give us feedback. I came away not feeling that it was very useful. Again, I think it might be better to have more discussion on specifics rather than overviews. I also wish the PTSA would speak up more forcefully on issues that are troubling parents.