ICCSD School Board Academic Ends Policy (Literacy)
Draft for Discussion Only; Not Yet Discusssed or Approved by Board
April 7, 2000; Scheduled for April 25, 2000, Board Meeting Discussion


1. The ICCSD Board has been evolving new governance policies modeled on the ideas of John Carver as described in books such as Reinventing Your Board. It has already completed, and posted to its Web site, three of the four categories of policies he recommends (board governance, board-superintendent linkage, and executive limitations – along with a “prologue” of general explanation). Anyone who wants to pursue the matter of "ends" in greater depth may find it helpful to look at those policies and examine some of Carver’s writing.

The Board has now turned its attention to what Carver calls “ends policies,” and what most people would think of as “goals” for the District.

On January 18, 2000, it posted to its Web site a "Draft Illustrative Possible Academic Ends Policies." It requested response from District staff. Given the Board's focus on literacy and reading, it received a special presentation by the District's Language Arts Resource Specialists (LARS). On April 4, 2000, it summarized staff comments (including those from LARS), and provided Board responses to them, in a Web-posted document entitled, "ICCSD School Board Response to Staff Concerns Regarding Sample Academic Ends Policies." This followed a presentation to the Board by Dr. H. D. Hoover, Director, Iowa Statewide Basic Skills Testing Program, and a professor at the University of Iowa College of Education. He spoke on March 21, 2000, and lengthy quotes from his presentation are available on the Web at "H. D. Hoover and 'Ends Policies.'" The Board's April 4 response to staff contains some references to Dr. Hoover's presentation.

This current version of the Board's academic ends policy clearly reflects its commitment to an ongoing dialogue and its willingness to change. There have been substantial modifications of the Board's January 18 document as a result of the responses from staff, LARS, Dr. Hoover and the Director of Instruction. Indeed, virtually all of the Board's original standards have been abandoned!

2. The Board wishes to make it expressly clear that:

(a) it does not intend to use test scores, or any other standards, as "high stakes" measures. ("High stakes," especially in the context of test scores, refers to the practice of some states and school districts to pay bonuses to schools and teachers, retain students in grade, or even close schools, on the basis of rising or falling standardized test scores.) It is the Board's expectation that the data obtained in the course of monitoring these ends may serve diagnostic purposes for the Board in highlighting areas of greatest need (for additional resources) and methods of greatest success.

(b) Although others are, of course, free to utilize the Board's data, its choice of a particular "end" or measure is not intended to limit in any way whatsoever the use of other assessments and measures found useful by students, parents, teachers, principals or Central Administration Office (CAO) personnel.

For example, each building may want to develop, within the building, its own academic goals and plans for achieving them – as, indeed, most already do. Regular reports on the building’s progress in carrying out its own plans – in a graphic form consistent throughout the District – could be quickly presented at Board meetings without even imposing on anyone the obligation to attend (although, of course, all who would want to be present would be more than welcome).

(c) It is the Board's intention to minimize any additional burden on the CAO or other staff. Although the Board's responsibilities, need for and use of data are somewhat unique, it will, for the most part, use data that is already being collected and analyzed. Some of what it may use in the future will be similar to that assembled by the CAO as part of the District's "Comprehensive School Improvement Plan" now mandated by the State of Iowa.

3. The Board contemplates that its academic ends policies, like all its other policies, will always be "a work in progress." Although the policies are, and must be, those of the Board, the back-and-forth exchange between the Board and the District's staff, administration, outside experts and public has, and will continue to, impact on Board members' thinking and their future drafting, and revision, of policies.

4. The Board does not intend for its ends policies to become “desk drawer documents” – prepared, put away, and forgotten. The ends, and the charts used to monitor their achievement, will regularly be reviewed by the Board as they relate to future Board policies or agenda items at its meetings.

5. It is worth noting that, even if the Board was not inclined to follow its governance policies that call for it to establish ends for the District, the Iowa Legislature now requires the District to do the equivalent anyway. All the Board is really doing is putting in place, for its own purposes, selected ends and data not unlike those the State now requires in the form of a “Comprehensive School Improvement Plan.”

6. As is obvious from the academic ends, and as is consistent with its governance policies, the Board does not intend to involve itself with “means.” How the ends are to be met is left entirely to administrators and staff.

7. The Board assumes that in most academic areas, schools, and classrooms, most of the time, the ends policies will require no more than that staff continue doing what's already being done. Clearly, the ICCSD does not need to improve everything, and everywhere, let alone at once. Nor do we have the resources to do so if the need was there. The Board is fully aware that such improvements as may be desirable will only be possible over time. "Dramatic improvements" are even suspect. Besides, we have numerous reasons for pride in our present accomplishments.

8. There are many categories of potential ends policies. “School safety” might be one. But the Board believes that academic ends are certainly among the most important. And of those it believes that literacy -- especially reading comprehension -- is, if not ultimately the highest priority, at the very least a rational place to start.

9. Although in accordance with its governance policies the Board looks only to the Superintendent, references to "the Superintendent" in this document, as elsewhere, necessarily include anyone to whom the Superintendent may delegate his or her responsibilities.

Academic Ends Policies (Literacy)

Global academic ends policy: Academic achievement is the highest end of the Iowa City Community School District. As the District's "Second Strategic Plan 1996-2001" declares, the District will "ensure that students become responsible, independent, lifelong learners capable of making informed decisions in a democratic society as well as in the dynamic global community." This end is encouraged with the District’s creation and execution of its own Iowa-mandated “Comprehensive School Improvement Plan,” the Board’s “academic ends policies,” and the monitoring and management information reporting systems that measure progress towards those ends.

Level 1 - Comprehensive School Improvement Plan and Management Information Reporting System Policy

1. The District will adopt goals designed to improve students' achievement. Progress toward those goals will be monitored, reviewed and assessed in accordance with the District's Comprehensive School Improvement Plan, as mandated by the State of Iowa. The results will be reported to the community; they will be reported to the Board as part of the District's management information reporting system.

 2a. Measurable goals, and action plans designed to achieve the goals, will be established annually for the District and each school. The goals will be approved by the Superintendent, reviewed by the Board and reported to the community. Progress against the goals will be reported to the community no less often than annually.

 2b. Progress against the action plans for the District, and each of its schools, will be reviewed periodically by the Superintendent and provided to the Board as necessary. The focus of the Board's action plan reviews will be to insure that the District and individual schools do what they say they are going to do.

 2c. The progress against the goals and other key measures will be assessed no less often than annually by the Superintendent, the Board, and other District units such as the Comprehensive School Improvement Advisory Committee and Curriculum Review teams. The results of the assessments may determine if changes are necessary in policy, curriculum or standards.

Level 1 - Board’s Academic Ends Policy (Literacy -- Reading): Children will (a) over time (b) read, (c) independently, (d) increasingly complex text, (e) with understanding.

2a. The Superintendent is responsible for selecting, or designing, the methods for measuring the achievement of the Board's academic (literacy -- reading) ends.

3a. The measurements will be quantifiable.

3b. The measurements will be multiple, but at least one will be a national, standardized test such as (but not limited to) the ITBS and ITED (tests currently used by the District).

3c. Student achievement will be measured at various grade levels.

3d. The measurements will provide data that enables the Board to evaluate trends.

2b. There will be an annual increase in the percentage of students who make more than "average growth" (as defined in 3.c., below) in reading comprehension as they progress from one grade to the next.

3a. Data will be reported to the Board, by each grade level for which it is available, but only on a District-wide basis (not by schools or classrooms).

3b. It will be reported no less often than annually.

3c. "Average growth" is defined as the numerical increase in national average test scores (on whatever tests the Superintendent has selected) from one grade level to the next. To illustrate: The Superintendent will have been provided by (or will request from) the national testing service being used by the District the median reading comprehension score from, say, the national scores of third graders and fourth graders. The third grade median score will be subtracted from the fourth grade median score. The difference is "average growth" in reading comprehension from third to fourth grade. "More than average growth" for an ICCSD fourth grader is any increase larger than this national "average growth."

3d. Each individual ICCSD student's "growth" (i.e., increase in his or her test scores) from one grade to the next will be compared with "average growth." The percentage of students exceeding "average growth" will then be reported to the Board District-wide by grade in school.