Application of learning. The district is searching for assessment measures in addition to standardized tests. One we might want to explore is “application of learning” – demonstrations of what our students can actually do rather than what they know. Schools in Sedona, Arizona, Chicago (the Sullivan school), Missouri and elsewhere are using this approach. Coe College currently requires something like this of its education students who make presentations to actual school superintendents.
One model has students participate in shared decision-making as they develop projects. They write the letters and otherwise recruit the panels of citizen volunteers to whom they will present their written and spoken reports and from whom they will get feedback. (Thus, this is yet another opportunity to increase parental involvement with parental participation in panels.) The programs where this works best involve opportunities for both (a) the self-esteem-boosting warm fuzzies of immediate positive feedback, and (b) a subsequent more substantive set of suggestions for improvement.
Normally the projects are inter-disciplinary/professional. For example, junior high students might take on a project that would involve their jointly planning a trip to five countries within a fixed budget. This could involve their learning a few phrases in the languages of those countries. It would test their financial math skills. It would involve learning some geography – and hopefully history and culture. They would develop consumer skills in shopping for cheaper fairs for air and connecting travel, lodging, and so forth. Their panel might include a college foreign language professor, travel agents, a banker, individuals from the countries involved, and others from the community in a position to judge the students’ real world skills.
Basic knowledge. An area of public concern nationally about our schools is that graduates seem to emerge with very little comprehension of what many adults believe to be basic knowledge. Jay Leno uses this as entertainment with his NBC Tonight Show “Jay Walking” feature in which ordinary people on the street are asked, and cannot answer, the most basic of questions. (I have some examples on tape.) Two oft-cited areas are geography (the inability to find major nations on a map) and history (the inability to place even a handful of the most significant events).
I don’t know if we want to touch this one. But if we do it shouldn’t be that difficult. H. D. Hoover says it doesn’t take much training to get a kid to understand that you have to put a period at the end of a sentence. It shouldn’t take much more to get them to master a limited amount of basic knowledge. If we did want to do it the ends policy could be students’ increasing their scores on tests specifically designed to test the information in question.
Civility. Teachers report the disruption to learning caused by a breakdown of civility in students’ behavior. We already have some programs designed to help. Training students as hosts/hostesses, in-class parties where polite behavior is emphasized, and high school advisor-advisee programs are examples of what other districts do as well. It may be that incidents are already reported, such as students sent to the principal’s office, and an ends policy could be tied to reducing those incidents. There may be better, and more positive, measures.
Contract services. Most of our ends policy focus has been on our students – and now our staff. Do we also want to take a look at our contract services? The school bus operation comes immediately to mind. It’s a major budget item, and a significant part of the school experience for many of our students. The relationship students have with their bus drivers, especially in elementary school, like their relationship with custodians, can be a significant influence in their lives.
Democratizing schools. We mention somewhere in our governance policies [Prologue, par. 14] that “it is hard to teach democracy in an authoritarian manner.” There are schools in which students actually practice some self-governing rather than merely reading about democracy. Disputes can be resolved through peer mediation, rather than by administrative fiat. Student government can be taught as a class, involve all students rather than the elite elected, and take on as a project the development of a school governance system of checks and balances. My impression is that we are pretty good when it comes to students’ freedom of speech within student newspapers and other publications. But if the Board wants to explore it, there is much more we could do.
Focus groups, surveys and polling. Consistent with our pre-existing governance policies and executive limitations, we could establish an ends policy regarding the regular use of focus groups, surveys and polling of students, parents, staff and other stakeholders. Needless to say, a major stakeholder group is our students – those now in school and recent graduates. How satisfied are they with the education we offer? What suggestions do they have, if any, for improvements? Do they feel secure, and welcomed, in our schools? Do they feel free to talk to teachers and seek their advice? There are surveys available for sampling such things, so we wouldn’t have to start from scratch. Such an approach to stakeholder satisfaction is a standard practice in business. We’ve talked about doing it. Making an ends policy about it would be a way to proceed.
Goals. A suggestion was made that the Board might want to consider creating “goals” in addition to “ends.” That is, the ends would be accorded somewhat higher priority, and be more subject to measurement. The goals would identify aspirations, and activities or programs thought important by the Board but not accorded the status of ends. This would offset somewhat the possible perception by staff and other stakeholders that programs not selected for ends policies are somehow considered marginal or unimportant by the Board.
Homework. Anecdotal reports indicate that there is a wide variation in schools’ and teachers’ approach to homework in our district. Even if the board does not want to encourage an increased use of homework it may want to explore the possibility of greater district-wide consistency. Properly monitored this can also be a significant component of “parental involvement.”
Of course, “homework” need not be “drill and kill” worksheets that simply provide more of what was done in the classroom. It can involve projects in the home designed to show the relationship between what is done in school and “real life.” There is a district somewhere that has a “ten minute” ends policy; that is, every year through elementary school students are expected to increase time spent on homework each evening by ten minutes: 10 minutes five days a week in first grade, 20 minutes in second grade, and so forth.
Performance music. I have prepared a separate five-page memo on this subject. Bottom line: an ends policy of increasing (a) the number of students who enter the fourth grade strings program, and (b) stick with it (or the band alternative offered in fifth grade) through the sixth grade.
Physical fitness. We read periodically of yet one more set of research findings regarding obesity and hardening of the arteries in the very young. The emphasis in our secondary schools – some would say overemphasis – is on the athletic elite: those who help us win the state championships in major sports. One response to both potential problems would be to focus on the physical fitness of every student, with gradual improvements. Standards are available from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and other organizations.
Safety. Nationally “safety” ranks very high among parents’ concerns. That may or may not be a reason for the board to address it. The safest place for most kids is in school – it’s certainly safer for them than home.
On the other hand, students’ sense of security is also important. Disrespect, threats – and worse – may be something of a problem. The board might want to track reported incidents; perhaps polls and focus group exploration would be appropriate. The ends policy, obviously, would be to reduce incidents – or increase whatever measures may be available for “I feel comfortable and safe in my school.”
Service Learning. Sometimes called “community service,” service learning involves getting students out of the school and into the community. It can involve social change projects, job shadowing, or more conventional volunteer work. It can be linked to conventional research components, and written reports. The easiest way to track an increased emphasis on service learning would be an ends policy that merely focused on the numbers of student hours involved.
Staff development. Most of our approach to ends policies has focused on students in one way or another. But research supports one’s intuition that, after parental involvement, the quality of teaching is a major factor in students’ academic achievement. So another way to get at academic achievement would be to also have ends policies regarding teachers.
This is also related, in some ways, to what the ISEA has designated its “three Rs” of recruitment, retention and respect.
Staff development is much more than an occasional in-service presentation. There is a lot of solid and respected research on the subject. I am attaching 2-1/2 pages that make this point from Carl Glickman’s Renewing America’s Schools: A Guide for School-Based Action (1993). If you have the book it’s from pp. 16-18. (The excerpt also confirms the wisdom of what the Board has been undertaking in terms of ends policies.) Staff development can involve the creation of a whole new paradigm in our thinking about school organization and governance and what Glickman characterizes as the qualities of “successful schools.”
It’s premature – especially if the Board has little or no interest in pursuing this – to try to design ends policy measurements for staff development. Many possibilities come quickly to mind, depending upon what we might be trying to accomplish.
Strategic Plan. Both because it contains good ideas, and we are to some degree obliged to at least consider the work of our predecessors, I have copied and formatted the District’s mission and strategic planning documents from the District’s Web site and attached them to this as well. You will be relieved to discover, as was I, that there is a great deal of consistency between those documents and ours. But we might want to provide even more consistency in a focused way at some point in our discussions. The document is headed “ICCSD Mission Statement.”
Those who live in and around schools may not be aware that schools are unique organizations. Unlike other institutions, schools have little control over the composition of their clientele and little control over their resources and activities. Educators are in an occupation that does not display the characteristics of a profession. Furthermore, there is little time scheduled consciously for deliberations on meeting organizational goals.
I am defining successful schools as those that have set educational goals and priorities and accomplished them over time. These include goals for student achievement, grades, attendance, climate, self-esteem, prevention of vandalism, retention, postschool success, and parental and community satisfaction. Some findings about successful schools have received scant attention in the past, probably because of their unconventional nature:
Finding 1: Faculty in successful schools are less satisfied with regard to their teaching than are faculty in the less successful schools. In a forerunner study to the effective-school research, a constant degree of dissatisfaction with current teaching and learning was found to be central to success (Brookover, Beady, Flood, Schweiter, and Wisenbaker, 1979).
Explanation: In organizations whose members are always questioning existing practices, a desire to rectify inadequacies is created. There are schools where teachers applaud themselves and speak to others of how good or great they are, displacing energy into public relations and self-aggrandizement and divert-ing themselves from the work of making their schools better educational environments. A sense of dissatisfaction with cur-rent practices and organization is not a weakness; it is a strength of successful schools.Finding 2: Successful schools are places where faculty members supervise and guide one another, plan courses together, and work in coordination. One of the most comprehensive studies of secondary schools found that the most glaring contrast between the most successful and the least successful schools concerned individual autonomy (Rutter, Maughan, Mortimore, Ouston, and Smith, 1979).
Explanation: In successful schools, faculty do not have a great deal of individual autonomy. They do not shut their classroom doors and teach in whatever ways they desire. A successful school achieves its goals and objectives through an accumulation of consistent practices. Unsuccessful schools, by contrast, have individual teachers who are left alone, who stay away from one another, and who do largely what they choose to do. If faculty members do not coordinate their efforts and plan an alignment of students' experiences, they tend, in their individual autonomy, to cancel one another's efforts.
Finding 3: In successful schools, faculty members are not treated as subordinates but instead are regarded as the colleagues of administrators and others involved in decisions and actions. In their controversial book advocating school choice, Chubb and Moe (1990) found that the most
successful schools in America were those that had the greatest degree of site-based autonomy, where teachers were key participants in decisions.
Explanation: Successful schools exercise collective auton-omy, apart from external agencies (districts, school boards, state departments), in making professional decisions about matters of schoolwide teaching and learning. Faculty members willingly decrease their individual autonomy in their own classrooms, in order to gain greater collective autonomy in the school.Finding 4: Faculty members, administrators, and others in successful schools have established norms of collegialiy for discussing and debating the big questions about how to constantly renew and improve the educational environment for all students.
Explanation: Successful schools are places where the larger questions about educational practice are constantly kept in the forefront of meetings and conversations (Rosenholtz, 1989). The words "what we should do for our students" are more typical than "what I will do for my students" or "what I as a principal want for my faculty" (Little, 1982). Successful schools have
Finding 5: Successful schools seek, produce, and consume information, and they see educational renewal as a continuing process, not as an event. Successful schools are always in the mode of change and renewal. They watch other successful schools at work and keep abreast of the research on topics and activities being considered. They collect data on their students and educational programs, and thus they set priorities that are based on thoughtful study.
replaced condescending parochial, paternal, or maternal attitudes with earnest and serious discussion about what the members of a school community should be doing together for students.
Explanation: Most schools' goals and priorities are after-thoughts to external directives for school plans. Such goals and priorities usually come from the decisions of a few individuals or from surveys of what faculty members "feel" are the strengths and weaknesses of the school. Successful schools do not deal at the cardiac level. They expand their knowledge base by seriously studying their students and programs and by considering outside information before making schoolwide decisions. Successful schools know that school renewal is a continuing, everyday occurrence (Fullan and Miles, 1992). How to educate students better is regarded as a perennial question, always worth the time and energy its answer needs.
The mission of the Iowa City Community School District is to ensure all students will become responsible, independent learners capable of making informed decisions in a democratic society as well as in the dynamic global community; this is accomplished by challenging each student with a rigorous and creative curriculum taught by a diverse, professional, caring staff and enriched through the resources and the efforts of families and the entire community.
STRATEGY 1: Using the curriculum review process,
we will complete the identification of standards in all curricular areas
and develop assessments to measure students' success
in meeting or exceeding curriculum performance standards.
STRATEGY 2: We will evaluate resources, programs, and policies within the district to prioritize expenditures and staff efforts to maximize effectiveness in achieving the mission.
STRATEGY 3: We will proactively respond to the needs of our increasing diverse student body population.
STRATEGY 4: We will actively involve families as partners to help all students to achieve our mission and strategic objectives.
STRATEGY 5: We will identify and teach the essential skills necessary for students to expand opportunities to engage in meaningful career preparation.
STRATEGY 6: We will increase the integration of technology into the curriculum to encourage student involvement in their own learning.
STRATEGY 7: We will provide a safe school environment.
STRATEGY 8: We will explore the possibilities of alternative use of time, curriculum arrangements, delivery systems, and facilities to best achieve the mission and goals.
1.To consistently increase the percentage of students who meet or exceed performance standards outlined in our curriculum.
2.To annually increase the percentage of students who are actively engaged in their own learning.
3.To continually increase students' knowledge of and experience with their responsibilities as citizens of a diverse democratic society and global community.
4.To prepare every student choosing to enter the work force upon graduation for a successful transition to a meaningful career of choice.
1.Each person has intrinsic worth.
2.Working collaboratively with others promotes achievement and growth.
3.A democratic society depends upon the active participation of educated citizens.
4.Free exchange of ideas is essential to education and successful learning in our democratic society. (02/11/99)
5.Self-esteem enhances personal motivation and achievement.
6.All people can learn and lead productive lives. (02/11/99)
7.Individuals learn in different ways.
8.Life-long learning improves the quality of an individual's life.
9.The entire community is responsible for education; the individual is ultimately responsible for learning.
10.Challenge is vital to achieving potential; expectations are directly related to performance. (02/11/99)
11.The understanding of and respect for human diversity are fundamental to individual rights and enrich community life.
12.A supportive environment promotes risk-taking; risk is a part of growth.
13.Creative expression enhances people's lives.
14.Each person has a right to be in a safe environment. (02/03/98)
15.A rigorous curriculum and effective teaching emphasize active learning thereby fostering critical understandings. (02/11/99)
1.We will not tolerate behavior that diminishes the dignity, self-worth, or safety of any student, staff, or community member. (02/11/99)
2.We will not tolerate ineffective staff performance.
3.Programs and services will be created or retained only if the programs:
are consistent with the strategic plan,
have benefits which clearly exceed cost,
have provisions made for staff development and program evaluation. (02/11/99)
4.We will ensure effective delivery of the district's approved curriculum throughout the schools.
5.Standardized achievement and college entrance
tests will be used as one measure of student and academic district performance.
6.Site-based and shared decisions will always be consistent with the strategic plan.
7.We will use shared decision making through all levels of the organization to improve student achievement.
8.Those making a decision will remain accountable and responsible for the decision.
1.Annually ICCSD high school graduation rate will be maintained at 98%.
2.By 2002, 25% of ICCSD high school students will participate in job shadowing and/or internship programs.
3.By 2001, 75% of ICCSD ninth grade students will use technology to successfully access, evaluate and communicate information.
4.By 2002, 75% of ICCSD students in grade four will perform at the proficient or advanced proficient level or reading comprehension.