When Will the School Board Demand Answers?

The following letter was forwarded to us from one of our contributors. It was sent to Milt Johns, Chairman of the PWC School Board. I have to say that I agree with the sentiments expressed in the letter. It is mid-December and the district still hasn’t presented the elementary school mathematics performance data. As the report summarizing that data isn’t on the agenda for the next board meeting, it’s not likely we’ll see it until January 2010.

That’s unacceptable.

It’s the school board’s job to hold the school district accountable. I wonder if they will?

****Letter****

As you know, I’ve been trying to get PWCS staff to let me know when the Year Three Math Investigations survey and test scores report will be presented to the public and the school board. This question should be very simple to answer. Apparently, it’s complicated.

I, and several colleagues of mine, have been attempting to obtain the report entitled “Student Performance by Question” for 2006 – 2009 for our children’s schools for the past couple of months. We have not been successful.

I can not express how disappointed I am with this. The school district has had the survey results since the end of last school year. The SDMT results have been available since July. The SOL results have been available since August. The report listing student performance by question is provided by Pearson and has been available for 2009 since August.

It’s December – almost Christmas – and the school district still has not been able to consolidate those results into a coherent format to present to the public. Worse, based on the response I got from XXXXXXX, it appears that the senior staff is either unwilling or unable to estimate when their review of the report will be complete so that the data can be presented.

Your job, as an elected representative of the people, is to hold the district accountable. To demand that they present unvarnished data in a timely manner about student performance and teacher and parent satisfaction with the instructional programs in place in our public schools. At a minimum I’d expect that you’d ask senior staff to commit to a reasonable date to report on student performance under the controversial and questionable math program they selected to the school board.

The agenda for the next school board meeting has been released and the report is not listed. Do you honestly believe that presenting a report on student performance in the 2008 / 2009 school year is timely if it’s presented in 2010 – just four months before students sit for the next SOL exam? Middle and High school results were presented months ago for every subject. Why does elementary school lag so far behind, just for math?

Worse yet, what if the results indicate that there’s cause to be concerned. Presenting the results in January, or later, doesn’t leave enough time to address concerns. Imagine if the rate at which our children pass the 3rd grade math SOL has declined from the 74th percentile in the state to the 52nd percentile since 2006, despite unchanged overall pass rates. Imagine if student performance reports indicate that our children consistently fail to grasp a topic from year to year. That that lack of comprehension carried forward from grade to grade and was compounded when more complex concepts that built upon that topic were introduced. Would you be concerned, would you ask district officials to indicate what changes they’d implemented in the instructional program to address these concerns? I know I would.

Last year the district failed to report the increases and decreases in pass rates at each school because they were never asked to do so. District officials even had the audacity to tell Mrs Ramirez that pass rates at the schools in her district were improving when they were down at all but one. Do you think district officials would inform you of our district’s decline in state percentile rank, assuming they’ve even considered it, without you asking? Do you think district officials would report areas of concern, based on our detailed SDMT and SOL reports, and inform you of the adaptations they’ve made to the instructional program to address those areas of concern, assuming they’ve examined that data and made adaptations, without you asking? Would you ask?

Our math department is wedded to the Investigations program. The only way they will change the instructional program is if you direct them to do so. The only way you can direct district officials to change the instructional program is if you and the public have enough information to identify areas of concern and those areas of concern are identified early enough in the school year that changes can be implemented in a timely manner.

January isn’t timely.

A colleague of mine was given a copy of the 2009 student performance report for his school. He asked if the report was available for prior years so that he could examine the results to see if we could identify trouble spots and trends. The Principal told him she wasn’t aware if the data existed and that it would be really hard to get at.

Clearly, district officials are not examining our children’s test results to determine if there are areas of concern. While my children’s teachers are exceptional, I can tell you from experience that the math instructional program hasn’t been adapted in my children’s classrooms. The program is still all Investigations with only slightly more emphasis on facts and a little more practice.

School districts the size of Prince William County don’t turn on a dime. Learning the survey and overall test results in January doesn’t give you enough time to do anything but nod politely and pat the district on the back. Meanwhile gaps go unaddressed and another grade gets left behind.

As a citizen, a taxpayer, and a voter I expect you to demand timely and complete reporting of student performance to the public from the district. I expect you to challenge district officials and hold them accountable when they spin results, misrepresent them, or refuse to provide them without excessive charges. And I expect you to demand change, when it’s justified, in enough time that the district can reasonably implement such changes.

None of that is happening with our math program. It’s all just whitewash.

I am very disappointed.

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3 Responses to “When Will the School Board Demand Answers?”

  1. When Will the School Board Demand Answers? « PWC Education Reform Blog School’s Rate Says:

    […] the original: When Will the School Board Demand Answers? « PWC Education Reform Blog By admin | category: school education | tags: chairman, district, district-still, […]

  2. MATH INVESTIGATIONS: HOW IS IT DOING? « Citizen Tom Says:

    […] So what is the current status of our school’s math program?  The predominate proponents of Math Investigations claimed to be data driven.  Do we have any data for the last school year?  I am not sure.  I just know I did not find any on the school’s website.  The PWC Education Reform Blog, however, expresses a more definite opinion.  The following letter was forwarded to us from one of our contributors. It was sent to Milt Johns, Chairman of the PWC School Board. I have to say that I agree with the sentiments expressed in the letter. It is mid-December and the district still hasn’t presented the elementary school mathematics performance data. As the report summarizing that data isn’t on the agenda for the next board meeting, it’s not likely we’ll see it until January 2010. (continued at When Will the School Board Demand Answers?) […]

  3. pwceducationreform Says:

    UPDATE: It appears the PWC School Division has FINALLY compiled the report on the Elementary math program and will be presenting the Spring 2009 test and survey results to the public at an upcoming school board meeting. The report should be posted to the PWCS site Thursday morning.

    I’ll refrain from questioning the relevance of this report when it comes almost half way through the school year and just a few short months before the kids sit for the next SOL. I’ll let you all contemplate the stupidity of that.


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