I hope this email finds you well. I am writing with an update about TUSD.
1. Academic achievement and data collection. As our AzMerit scores confirmed, TUSD has great room for academic improvement, despite that there are wide differences among individual schools. Some programs are excellent; others are not. As such, I have begun asking for data-based evidence that shows that the curricular materials the Board is asked to authorize for purchase are effective—before we buy them (or more of them).
a. Collecting and analyzing data to evaluate curricular decisions is not only a best practice in education, TUSD was also ordered to do it by a court in 1978. Read the Unitary Status Plan, which outlines TUSD’s responsibilities, here: http://deseg.tusd1.org/Portals/TUSD1/Deseg/docs/main/USP.pdf, and see the post-script for some specific examples from the USP regarding data collection.
b. In case the USP did not motivate the district to engage in data collection as a matter of course, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 should have. The NCLB Act forced educators across the country to improve data quality to close the achievement gap. The idea is that without tracking and measuring our activities, it is difficult to know what we are doing right or wrong. Despite its many faults, the NCLB Act did lead to a huge proliferation of data and thus a clearer (data-based) picture of what works in schools and what does not.
2. The Superintendent search is over. I am confident that our choice, Dr. Trujillo, will do a fine job.
a. Although the Superintendent tends to change every couple or few years, the complaints about and criticisms of TUSD and its culture have not changed in the same fashion. I am left believing that the Supt. is not the main issue; rather, it is TUSD’s culture that is the main problem, and it has a negative impact on student achievement levels. Much research indicates that leadership, including the school board, sets the culture in a district (see, for example: http://www.seenmagazine.us/Articles/Article-Detail/ArticleId/6140/Creating-a-Strong-School-Board-Superintendent-Relationship). We are working on it.
3. Sustainability Partners continues to look forward to helping TUSD be more efficient and effective in terms of our facilities and operations. TUSD is not the fastest moving district when it comes to implementing change, but I trust that the Request for Proposals (RFP) bidding process has begun and that TUSD will do everything in its power to take advantage of the opportunities SP has offered to help us improve our efficiency measures.
4. I continue to work with our teachers, Tucson Education Association members, and determined educators to achieve better working conditions for our employees. If you have ideas or concerns about any of our schools, please reach out.
a. See the TEA Consensus Agreement (which does not, in my personal opinion, provide adequate protections for covered employees) here: http://tusd1.org/Portals/TUSD1/District/docs/Employment/17-18TEA.pdf. According to the head of TEA and others, this agreement does not reflect current practices or policies; that reality no doubt enhances the feeling in TUSD that written policies are not followed. Indeed, they are not. I am determined to change that, in the name of what is best for employees and families. Ask about it if you would like to know more.
b. To see a comparison, check out the ELI Meet and Confer Agreement (which provides adequate protections for our administrators) here: http://tusd1.org/Portals/TUSD1/District/docs/Employment/17-18ELI.pdf.
5. I have also been learning from members of the Arizona School Boards Association. The School Law Conference was exceedingly interesting, for example. I was also fortunate to be a part of the ASBA Legislative Committee, which works with school board members across the state to set the ASBA lobbying agenda. The experience, which concluded this past weekend, was fulfilling and worthwhile.
6. Discipline continues to be a concern in TUSD. It seems that a Positive Behavior Instructional Support system has not been well-implemented in many of our schools. This is a difficulty that is not easy to solve, as the experts say that PBIS should be a practice that teachers and administrators decide to implement of their own accord; the process should be organic. In TUSD, as I understand it, a court ordered us to implement PBIS. That discrepancy will likely continue to cause problems, which we will have to solve.
7. Parents and educators at Utterback Middle School have shared that many people and organizations came through with assistance for them—THANK YOU!!! Still, many of our schools and families continue to experience great need. If you can help or know someone who can, please reach out to a school or to me. Together we will make TUSD great.
8. I hosted Sit & Chats on 8/12 and 9/2, which were enlightening. The next Sit & Chat will take place on 9/30 at noon at CeeDee’s Jamaican Kitchen on Speedway. Please RSVP if you plan on attending, so I know how many to expect. Just FYI, I plan to hold Sit & Chats at noon at CeeDee’s on:
a. October 14
b. October 28
c. November 11
d. December 2
e. December 16
If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to reach out. I do not promise that I will respond immediately, but I will respond eventually—I am still trying to figure out how to juggle many emails and phone calls! Nonetheless, your feedback is appreciated.
Thank you for your time. Have a great week!
P.S. Examples of USP directives regarding data collection:
Page 22: Section H: Evaluation
1. By July 1, 2013, the District shall review, amend as appropriate, and adopt teacher and principal evaluation instruments to ensure that such evaluations, in addition to requirements of State law and other measures the District deems appropriate, give adequate weight to: (i) an assessment of (I) teacher efforts to include, engage, and support students from diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds using culturally responsive pedagogy and (II) efforts by principals to create school conditions, processes, and practices that support learning for racially, ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse students; (ii) teacher and principal use of classroom and school-level data to improve student outcomes, target interventions, and perform self-monitoring; and (iii) aggregated responses from student and teacher surveys to be developed by the District, protecting the anonymity of survey respondents. These elements shall be included in any future teacher and principal evaluation instruments that may be implemented. All teachers and principals shall be evaluated using the same instruments, as appropriate to their position.
Page 24: Section J: Professional Development:
3. The District shall ensure that all administrators, certificated staff, and paraprofessionals receive ongoing professional development, organized through the director of culturally responsive pedagogy and instruction and the coordinator of professional development, that includes the following elements:
. . .
b. Practical and research-based strategies in the areas of: (i) classroom and non-classroom expectations; (ii) changes to professional evaluations; (iii) engaging students utilizing culturally responsive pedagogy, including understanding how culturally responsive materials and lessons improve students’ academic and subject matter skills by increasing the appeal of the tools of instruction and helping them build analytic capacity; (iv) proactive approaches to student access to ALEs; (v) the District’s behavioral and discipline systems, including Restorative Practices, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, and amendments to the Guidelines for Student Rights and Responsibilities; (vi) recording, collecting, analyzing, and utilizing data to monitor student academic and behavioral progress, including specific training on the inputting, accessing, and otherwise using the District’s existing and amended data system(s) . . . .
***PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS NEWSLETTER REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION, NOTHING MORE.