Adding more accountability measures isn’t the answer, superintendents tell legislators
Friday, February 15, 2019
Tigard-Tualatin School Board member Maureen Wolf (left) and Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith shared with legislators Tuesday how their district tracks program investments and student outcomes. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
School districts are already awash in accountability measures, superintendents told legislators Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Assessment tests. Student data. Federal regulations. Oregon Department of Education reports. Accounting documents. Budget councils. School boards.
Districts need to be able to monitor student growth in key areas with tools already in place, not answer more data demands and chase ever-changing state goals, panel members said.
The Joint Committee on Student Success Accountability and Transparency Subcommittee is meeting Tuesday and Thursday evenings as legislators wrestle with how to make sure additional school investments will be effectively spent.
On Tuesday, they brought in school administrators and grilled them on how school success should me measured.
Tigard-Tualatin School Board member Maureen Wolf and Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith pointed to their district’s use of the Smarter School Spending approach and Forecast5 Analytics to track the effectiveness of programs. Both systems help the district calculate an academic rate of return on student investments.
Rieke-Smith said that with their program tracking they could look at cost and effect, such as changes in the number of classroom disruptions and disciplinary measures with the hiring of more counselors.
Wolf, OSBA Board secretary-treasurer, emphasized that it was important to engage the community in oversight work and be transparent.
North Santiam School District Superintendent Andy Gardner offered four key metrics indicative of school success: the four- and five-year graduation rates, absenteeism rates, ninth-grade on track evaluations and third-grade literacy.
Gardner said a uniform statewide data collection system would make it easier for districts to evaluate their work.
Gladstone School District Superintendent Bob Stewart urged legislators to look at statewide goals rather than district goals because of the differences in resources and challenges at the district level.
The Joint Committee on Student Success is considering more than $3.5 billion-worth of school improvement measures, but it can’t fund them all. The committee is trying to prioritize where Oregon can get the most bang for its buck.
The superintendents’ recommendations touched on goals already favored by the committee, including early learning, staff training, social and emotional support for students, and engaging hands-on learning.
The superintendents agreed that consistency would be key to the success of any new initiatives. Education programs take several years to roll out and see results, and shifts in direction waste time and money.
Laurie Wimmer, government relations consultant for the Oregon Education Association, also testified. She reminded legislators that factors such as housing, food security and health care affect student achievement as well and that “success” can be mean different things for individual students.