Sutherland for Schools blog
A parent posted below asking about the CBAs, saying her child is afraid of these tests. Children should not be afraid of these tests, as they have no real meaning. Some people think the purpose is to target teachers who don't teach the curriculum as dictated by FWISD.
Major problems recently surfaced re the CBAs. Here is Dr. Sorum's message to principals and teachers:
"Principals, I regret having to send this communication however I believe that it is very important that you and your tested content teachers understand that I am very upset about the quality control issues of the last couple of CBAs. I take the work of the Teaching and Learning Division very seriously so I am also embarrassed by this. Additionally, I want to make certain that you and your teachers understand that I take these things very seriously and that we are developing a new process for quality control. A component of this is that we will be asking for a teacher from each high school and middle school, each content area, and a good representation of elementary teachers, to participate in a committee that not only review the CBAs for accuracy but also review the CBAs for alignment with the state standards and the curriculum.
"In addition to decreasing the errors, this will also be a great professional development opportunity for your teachers that they can share with other teachers on your campuses. A request for participants will be coming to you in this Friday’s principal packet.
"Please share this communication with your tested grade and appropriate content teachers.
"In the spirit of our Baldrige model of continuous improvement, every error is an opportunity for improvement. Thank you for bringing these issues to my attention. I have always appreciated when you bring problems directly to me."
As a board member, I oppose further work on this project which has never been shown to improve student performance--to the contrary, it is a likely cause of the decline in FWISD student performance since it was implemented.
This from the TASB public info office:
The FWISD board will be evaluating the superintendent at our March 25 meeting (warning: it will take awhile.). For me, a central issue is the continuing overuse of testing and prescriptive requirements for teachers. I am still collecting information from district teachers, but here is part of what I have found:
The operation of our curriculum department continues to result in unsatisfactory levels of student achievement. Staff must identify and evaluate possible causes of this continued deficit in student performance and present findings to the board. My candidates for investigation include at least these:
--The overprescriptive curriculum does not meet all students’ needs.
--There are too many tests, especially CBAs, which do not predict student success.
--There is insufficient support in classrooms, especially at the early elementary level.
--The curriculum should follow the texts and supporting material rather than skipping around.
We also need to reduce class size, at least to the level of 2011-12.
Because of the severe financial constraints, class size throughout the district was increased in 2012-13 throughout the district, resulting in a $20 million savings to the district. This formed a part of the $70 million in added reserves enjoyed by the district.
Thanks to the curriculum department for providing a spreadsheet with all the schools of choice. It's available at the data list (right on the top of the list).
I've been concerned for some time about the expenditures for staff development, and recently was able to obtain the following data. These are federal fund expenditures only and do not include the cost of teacher time. (Source: email from Elsie I. Schiro, FWISD Senior Financial Officer, 2/19/2014)
2010 $9.9 million federal funds (partial year)
2011 $24.6 million
2012 $24.7 million
2013 $18.5 million
2014 $6.2 million (7/1/13-12/31/13 only)
A 2012 assessment I did suggests that expenditures for teacher time are approximately $28 million additional. This is truly a staggering sum of dollars. That data is at SutherlandforSchools.org/substitutes.html. This includes the costs of teacher time when students are not in school. Superintendent Dansby reduced the number of these days by 2 for the 2013-14 school year.
Some teachers, particularly in the early elementary grades, are finding that the curriculum is too advanced for many students. As a result, the lessons are targeted at too high a level. Students who are below grade level receive less attention as a consequence.
This may be part of the reason that FWISD scores declined from next to the top of major urban districts to next to the bottom.
Elementary teachers, what are your views on the reasons for this situation? I don't mean the part which comes from children arriving at school unprepared. I mean the part that we could do better.
If you come up with ideas which I can form into a consensus, I will work to get them adopted. Remember that we are conducting the superintendent's evaluation over the next few weeks. Your comments are important.
I received a message today from a member of the community who is concerned that we won't allow parents who can't provide "proper" identification to visit their children's schools. He writes:
After pressure from a leading community member was applied to board members skeptical about the need for $5.4 million in new hiring and training support, board members voted 8-1 to approve it.
Staff proposes to allocate a sole-source contract to The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit vendor to recruit and train teachers, for $1.5 million per year for 4 years. I will not support this proposal at this time. I have three reasons.
Tuesday's FWISD board meeting will feature several items, including the contract for the 2013 bond which was enacted in November with 72% voter approval.
Jason Stanford is calling for an investigation of Pearson in TX. He points out that the NY Attorney General just won a $9 million settlement from Pearson for commingling business and its charitable funds.
The Stanford 10 technical manual states, "Although normal growth from the fall of one school year to the fall of the next is defined as one year (1.0) in grade equivalents, one year of growth is typical only for students who were tested in the fall of each year and who obtained average scores. Below-average students usually 'grow' less than 1.0 and above-average students tend to show a pretest-posttest difference greater than 1.0."
A review of teacher absences during August, Sept. and October 2013 reveals that our 5,132 teachers were absent a total of 17,834 days, or 3-1/2 days, on average. A short presentation is here: www.sutherlandforschools.org/substitutes.html
Only 41% of these absences were for sick leave. Nearly 25% of the absences were for staff development.
A growing percentage of absences, 6.3%, were unfilled.
I am concerned about the huge number of teacher absences for workshops. Surely there is a better way to communicate information to staff.
Tuesday's board meeting featured an excellent presentation of a new program to require our staff to greet the public and each other with more professionalism. Board members are supportive.
But why should it take 20 people meetings over 6 months to put this program together? And why should it be "rolled out" via dozens of meetings? I think the cost, in time, of these meetings should be calculated and posted.
As an example, the workshops that teachers participated in prior to November cost $12 million. Is this really the best way to spend $12 million? Is it the most effective use of teacher time? What do you think?
Have a great holiday. You deserve it.
A reader posted this question after the Tuesday board meeting:
Which employees are supposed to live in the district boundaries. We know of
several people, including senior officers, assistant supeintendents,attorneys
that do not live in the district. i hope that is ok. maybe we just should
change the rule instead of working around it.
Policy DB (local) says, "Each person employed I the positionof assistant superintendent, chief informationofficer, associate superintendent, division chief, deputy superintendent, or Superintendent shall,as a condition of employnt, ither reside within the District or agree to and establish residency within the District within 12 months of the effective date of employment. Employees in these positions must continue to reside within the boundaries of the District while an employee in one of these positions."
We waived this policy for a single employee who has been residing in the district but for whom a significant family situation indicated that a waiver was in order.
I agree with the writer: all individuals who are governed by this policy should be abiding by it.