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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wake schools retain accreditation for now, but the report is blistering

Posted by on Wed, Mar 16, 2011 at 2:42 PM

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Whew, the AdvancED team didn't think much of the "governance" provided — since Dec. 2009 — by the Wake school board majority.

The full report is 15 pages and well worth reading.

It is absolutely blistering, especially regarding Chairman Ron Margiotta and his sidekick John Tedesco, on the subject of how the board majority abused the student assignment process. It concludes: “Since December 1, 2009 the actions and decisions of the Wake County Board of Education have resulted in creating a climate of uncertainty, suspicion, and mistrust throughout the community. It is critical that the Board of Education and the newly appointed Superintendent establish a cohesive governance-leadership team dedicated to serving all students attending Wake County Public Schools. Additionally, the Board of Education and Superintendent must work to gain the community’s trust and confidence in the school system and its ability to meet the needs of all students."

And then there's the board majority's refusal to acknowledge that in the area of student achievement, the school system they were ripping apart was really pretty good.

For example, from p. 7:

Each of the four newly- elected Board members, as well as Ron Margiotta, refused to acknowledge the student achievement data compiled by the school system and displayed on large posters in the Board meeting room. Each of the five Board members indicated a reliance on their 'own' data to support their conclusions and defend their actions. Board member John Tedesco asserted that the previous Student Assignment Policy distributed low achievers throughout the system so that their needs would be hidden and consequently not be met. Mr. Tedesco has repeatedly advocated for concentrating low achieving students in a school so that their needs are not hidden.

However, when Board members were asked how they would ensure that schools with a significant population of low achieving students would be supported there were no solutions or plans offered. High school principals noted deep concern that the new policy would significantly compromise their ability to meet the needs of students. Additionally, principals indicated that there is no plan for providing the additional resources for a school with an exceptionally high proportion of low achieving students. Given that the school system is facing significant financial challenges there is much doubt among administrators that the necessary resources will be available and targeted to support the need for instructional interventions.

The report really speaks for itself. In a press release, Superintendent Tony Tata takes a deep breath, expresses thanks that accreditation wasn't yanked (so does Margiotta), and says he'll take the fact that they're on a "Warning" status seriously:

"I welcome this input as I continue my listening tour of Wake County. We are already attacking many of the recommendations and intend to aggressively implement all of them," Tata said.

Being placed on "accredited warned" status, the school system will work over the next eight months to implement the action steps. In November, a review team will conduct another visit to monitor progress.

The seven action steps required by AdvancED are:

* Create and implement a strategic plan to guide the future work of the school system.
* Analyze and revise the "node" system of assigning students to schools to ensure objectivity, transparency and consistency.
* Establish and implement an agenda setting process to ensure that every member of the Board of Education and key system leadership are well-prepared for each Board meeting.
* Define in policy the purpose and role of adopting resolutions as a governance practice.
* Provide ongoing cohesive and consistent training to all members of the Board of Education regarding their roles n, responsibilities and strategic direction of the school system.
* Institute a policy review, revision, and adoption process that support related board policy development.
* Ensure that policies and procedures guiding the work of the system are in alignment and support of the newly formed mission, vision and core beliefs.

In February, following a two-day visit by a review team, Superintendent Tata requested that the findings of the report be expedited, so he could incorporate them into his work plan for his first 90 days as superintendent.

On March 8, 2011, Tata announced the formation of a Student Assignment Task Force to develop the next long-range student assignment plan. The plan is expected to be presented to the Board of Education in the late spring.

"I think AdvancED has provided us a thorough analysis that we can incorporate into the strategic planning that is already underway on the next student assignment plan," Tata said. "As a learning organization this input will help us shape the thinking of the task force as well as improve how we perform as a district."

"We are pleased that our accreditation remains intact and we have not been placed on probation," said Margiotta. "We had a constructive meeting with AdvancED officials this morning and while we may disagree with certain opinions expressed in the report, especially unfair characterizations of individual board members' motives, many of the actions which they recommended are currently under way," he said.

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