Last night, the school board of Suffolk Public Schools heard an update related to student achievement. I want to add a couple of thoughts about the content of the presentation as I am concerned about the lack of what is needed to improve student learning.
One of the pieces of data not presented to the school board is that of subgroup achievement. In fact, persistently missing from staff reports is the achievement of the subgroups of students for which schools are held accountable. Subgroup achievement is often why schools in the division do not get accredited and it is important to monitor.
Let me show you what I mean.
If you look at #1, you can see this visual shows SOL Pass Rates by Subject – over a nine-year period.
At #2, you can see this part of the report is for reading.
If you will look at #3, you’ll see a column for subgroups, whose performance is part of the accreditation process and why you might want to consider monitoring subgroup achievement.
In Column #3, find the row for black students. Look across the row and you will see a red swarm. It is the same for economically disadvantaged, English learners, and students with disabilities. SPS has a nine-year pattern where achievement for these student groups has been problematic – and it’s not getting better.
But not to worry, right? In the achievement presentation, staff shared almost 60 solutions the division will implement. I want to alert the board that these actions will not turn the achievement pattern around.
Let me show you one of the ways I know.
Please look at the visual, Where’s the Meat? At #1, are the interventions planned by the school division.
At #2, there are three parts of the teaching-for-learning process: curriculum, instruction, and assessment. I went through each of the suggestions from the earlier session – and all are related to either instruction or assessment. At #3, you can see there are no checks at all under the curriculum category. And therein lies the problem.
In the set of interventions given to the board, none are related to curriculum and this is what must be dealt with first – as all interventions should be aligned to the curriculum.
Please know that even though the solutions are mostly directed to teachers, this is not a teacher problem.
The curriculum is in the hands of central office staff – and it’s a big job. Curriculum is the most comprehensive and complex work a central office tackles, but the central office has to tackle it.
The curriculum has to be right or the school division will continue to have patterns of red in its achievement results. Staff in a school division can work as much as they want on instruction and assessment, but if they do not work on the curriculum piece, the work is in naught. And it’s the students who lose out. You already see this in your nine-year pattern – and in many of our division’s schools.
A most important role board members play is that of ensuring student achievement for all students – and not just those who are easy to teach. We need the board to reassess what is going on (or not) in the area of curriculum.
You see, SPS has a staff that can do this work, but nobody is setting the expectation. The board would be the natural entity to direct the superintendent to get this important work done. We can only hope.