TO: Members of the Board of Education, Interested Others
Now in its 6th consecutive year, I present the current year Annual Report from the Superintendent’s Office to the Board of Education, and in turn to the community of East Lansing. As in previous years, the intent of the report is to reference common information from year-to-year in order to determine if trends in data are moving in a positive direction; and, if not, then do the actions of the district as noted in other sections of the report correlate to making improvements? You will find a significant section devoted to student achievement data, followed by information pertinent to fiscal matters, public opinion data, two significant reports from citizen committees and an update on the 2007-2011 strategic plan. Reports with similar information are also available through the Superintendent’s Office for the years 2006 through 2010. I trust you will continue to find this report helpful and will use it, as you deem appropriate, to stimulate positive, student-centered dialogue within our school district.
As I have in recent years, I provide you with editorial comment on several significant elements within this report as follows:
- A year ago I reported, “traditional indicators of school district performance peaked in 2008-09 as all eight schools received a letter grade of “A,” and all were recognized for making Adequate Yearly Progress.” The most recent set of letter grades issued by the Michigan Department of Education, reflecting criteria from 2009-10, show a similar pattern. Although our high school received a letter grade of “B,” all other schools received letter grades of “A,” and all eight schools were determined to be making Adequate Yearly Progress. In addition, East Lansing High School received state and national recognition from the Washington Post (this list of nationally recognized high schools was previously published by Newsweek). To the best of our knowledge, the US News and World Report gold, silver and bronze medal rankings were not awarded to high schools in 2010-11.
A breakdown of the individual data shows some very modest changes in comparing curren year data to previous year data. These changes could be attributed to a wide range of factors, including the issues controlled by the East Lansing Public Schools (e.g. teacher quality, coherence of curriculum, expectations for students, school climate, instructional leadership). At the high school level, with the exception of English, the ACT scores representing the current junior-year class showed an improvement in comparison to the past two years. A review of the grades 3-8 Reading and Math MEAP data shows some slight changes that we will continue to view closely in the years to come: 1) while it is not yet significant and widespread, there are modest improvements in two sub populations – the economically disadvantaged and African-American populations, and 2) math scores improved slightly more than reading scores, leading to a logical conversation about the coherence of these respective curriculums. This could also link to the high school ACT scores (i.e. “withthe exception of English”).
Graduation rate data was a source of discussion and concern during the 2010-11 school year. Ensuring that all students are able to graduate with their cohort remains a clear goal in our school district. A study of relevant data and the factors that contribute to achieving this goal will be a focal point in 2011-12 and, furthermore, will receive significant attention is this same report a year from now. (Tabs 2-8)
- Consistent with a new statute signed by Governor Granholm in January of 2010, every teacher and principal was evaluated in the same school year, 2010-11, in our district. In previous years, probationary teachers were evaluated every year, while tenure teachers were evaluated every third year. In addition, a joint committee representing the faculty and administration met throughout this past year to develop a new teacher evaluation instrument better reflecting current research and best teaching practices. While this document is still waiting for formal approval from all parties, the process of improving teacher evaluation, and subsequently delivery of instruction to all students, is well underway in our district. Quoting the highlights from the 2010 Phi Delta Kappa Gallup Poll, “For the first time, we asked Americans, ‘What are the main things the school has to do before it could earn an A.’ By a considerable margin, the top three responses were: 1) improve the quality of teaching, 2) implement a challenging curriculum, 3) help students be more successful.” Tracking all of these traits using an improved annual teacher evaluation process should correlate to improved communication with our faculty and better experiences for all students. Change is imminent. (Tabs 2-8, 12)
- “Working as one” is a theme that gained momentum throughout this school year within our district and one that I trust will gain increased support in the years to come. In fact, it must gain support. Pooling resources, common professional development, coherence within the curriculum, common assessments, common materials within the core curriculum, successfully implementing the response-to-intervention model, among other things, are all key elements within effective public school districts. Improved communication, expectations, and accountability are current priorities and will increase in the coming years as we work together as one in the East Lansing Public Schools. This is not to suggest that individuality is not appreciated, or that good debate is unhealthy; but it is to suggest that we need to find a better balance between working together as a district and working as individuals – all on behalf of our students who work with us for up to thirteen years. Our students need continuity, consistency and high levels of communication between teachers, classrooms and schools. (Tabs 2-8, 17)
- The district benefited from the expertise of two very effective citizens committees in 2010- 11. The Achievement Gap Task Force (AGTF) was chaired by Ms. Hamilton-Wray, Ms. Mel Hernandez and Mr. John Brandenburg and communicated a well-articulated action plan to the Board of Education in March. The plan is centered around five primary goals and fourteen sub goals, which served as the focus of a community forum in May. The goals will have a direct impact on future professional development and the priorities of the district in the years to come. The chairs and the committee will continue their work in 2011-12 and beyond.
Committee chairs, Ms. Amanda McClanahan and Mr. Eric Schertzing, guided an ad hoc citizens committee designed to analyze the K-8 facilities within the district and present a set of options to the Board of Education. Their fifteen page report, presented in May to the Board, detailed the process and drew five conclusions for the Board of Education to consider. The report also contained a very comprehensive appendix. A community forum was held in May prior to the presentation to the Board of Education.
- Quoting the Gallup Poll from Phi Delta Kappa, “ School funding has been identified as the biggest problem throughout this decade; this year alone, it increased 4% over last years findings. Public school parents consider it an even bigger problem – 46% of them selecting it as the No. 1 challenge facing their schools. For the first time, government interference moved toward the top of the biggest-problem list, moving from 15th last year to a surprising fifth place.”
Again, this past year in East Lansing we spent a considerable amount of human energy managing a very difficult budget cycle. In an unprecedented move, decisions were made by our state policy-makers to draw from the School Aid Fund to support higher education, and thus reduce funding for all K-12 public schools Changes in the process in which public schools are funded, coupled with several pending statutory changes to the school code have the potential to significantly impact the status quo within the public school community. While these changes are being implemented fairly quickly, the impact on the East Lansing Public Schools is yet to be determined. The organization that adapts is the one that best serves the students. (Tabs 9-11, 17)
In closing, it is significant to note the 2007-11 district strategic plan adopted in 2007 is now approaching its expiration date. The plan served us well. As we move forward in to the 2011-12 school year and beyond it is critical we find the time and energy to create a secondgeneration strategic plan. The next plan will have the distinct advantage of following a first generation plan that assisted in building a strong foundation for the betterment of the East Lansing Public Schools. I envision a well-crafted 2011-15 plan that respects the changing conditions surrounding public school education and yet, nonetheless, enables our district to excel on behalf of our students. This is our era, our conditions and our opportunity.
David B. Chapin