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Notes from the August 13 Chatham County school board meeting

By Mia Munn
Posted Monday, August 20, 2012

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Pittsboro, NC - Here are my notes from the school board meeting held on Monday, August 13, 2012.

Two community members were in attendance.

Accountability (testing) update – Kelli Hulsey
http://board-of-education.chatham.k12.nc.us/modules/locker/files/get_group_file.phtml?gid=2348954&fid=17383346&sessionid=4712e6ba0cb8cbc79be36e0cd22ff756

The federal standard has changed name from AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) to AMO (Annual Measurable Objectives. There are now targets by state for individual subgroups (see slides 3-4) set based on reducing the number of students not proficient by half within 6 years, using 2010/11 as a baseline. Students must be enrolled in the school for 140 days (70 for semester courses) for their scores to be included. Here is the DPI explanation of AMOs http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/accountability/reporting/abc/2011-12/amo.pdf

Three schools (Northwood, Virginia Cross, Siler City) did not make expected growth under NC standards. End of grade test results were mixed. In reading, CCS was above the state average in grades 7 and 8, close to the state average in grades 5 and 6, and farther below the average in grades 3 and 4, which is concerning. In Math, CCS was above the state average in grade 3, 7, and 8. In Science, CCS was below the state in grade 4 and above in grade 8 (only 2 tested grades). Achievement varies among individual schools. The schools and administration is working to identify patterns in the data to see what changes need to be made. The slides comparing achievement in a given grade from year to year are less helpful because the students in those grades are different. The slides that show cohorts are more helpful (last year’s 6th grade scores compared to this year’s 7thgrade scores) because they are comparing mostly the same students (though students move in and out of the district or school). The slide showing Percentage of Students Making Growth is useful. The highest for EOGs was JS
Waters at 68.2% and the lowest was Siler City at 46.9%.

On End of Course tests (high school plus 8th grade Algebra I), the strongest results were in Biology, with Northwood at >95% (the state doesn’t report an exact percentage for more than 95% or less than 5%) and Chatham Central at 94.6%. Overall, Biology proficiency increased by 10 points. Mr. Hamm asked if this was due to a strong cohort or doe to instructional changes. Mr. Jordan said it was a combination, but that the biology teachers have been using formative test data to analyze how they are doing and to make changes. In particular, they have identified tools to improve learning (such as interactive computer labs – “science gizmos”) and have had conversations with middle school science teachers to discuss what students learn and how they are ready for biology. Mr. Logan said the curriculum councils in core areas, where teachers of the same subject in different schools discuss their instruction with peers, started two years ago, has made a difference. Mr. Jordan said there was some resistance from high school teachers initially but now there are realizing the value. Mr. Hamm said a passionate teacher (including xxx – didn’t catch the name – at Moncure) can inspire students to be passionate about science and improve scores. Mr. O’Brien expressed concern about the Algebra I scores, after there had been increases in past years from the Johns Hopkins study (and support). Ms. Hulsey said there are major changes coming to Algebra I this school year, including adding additional topics in statistics that required the district to get new Algebra I textbooks. The changes are significant enough that the DPI guidance recommends that 8th graders who passed the Algebra I EOC with a score of 3 retake Algebra I in 9th grade.

The 4 year (on-time) cohort graduation rate for the district was 81.4% and the 5 year rate (needing an extra year to finish) was 77.8%. Mr. Logan commented that this was a real increase in the 4 year rate. Over the past few years our rate has been low – the state rate was going up but ours was going down. He said that they have used Race to the Top money for targeted strategies (but didn’t specify those strategies). Mr. O’Brien asked if eliminating the graduation project had made a difference, and Mr. Logan said that was the biggest factor in the increase at Northwood.

Testing Changes for 2012/13

The testing program is completely changing for 2012/13, so it will be hard to make comparisons with past years. There will be fewer multiple choice questions and more short answer. Also, the common core standards are being implemented this year, so what is taught in different grades is changing. Here is an overview of the changes from DPI http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/accountability/nctpoverview1213.pdf
.. Retests will no longer be given, and there is now a maximum time allowed for EOGs (240 minutes) and EOCs (180 minutes). The state is moving toward testing every subject (Measures of Student Learning and using a 3-year average of those tests are part of the teacher evaluation system
http://board-of-education.chatham.k12.nc.us/modules/locker/files/get_group_file.phtml?gid=2348954&fid=17387097&sessionid=4712e6ba0cb8cbc79be36e0cd22ff756.
There is a DPI website for this, but not much on it yet http://www.ncpublicschools.org/educatoreffect/ . Additional tests in 2012/13 will include non-EOC math, English, social studies and science courses in high school, grades 4, 6, and 7 science, and grades 4-8 social
studies. For middle school and high school grades, DPI recommends that these tests be given as final exams (required for EOC tests). The list of tests is on the last slide of the accountability deck
http://board-of-education.chatham.k12.nc.us/modules/locker/files/get_group_file.phtml?gid=2348954&fid=17383346&sessionid=4712e6ba0cb8cbc79be36e0cd22ff756.
In future years, additional testing/evaluation for other subjects will be added, including district-developed tests for courses not on the state curriculum. Ms. McManus expressed concern that districts may eliminate those courses if they have to develop their own tests. The districts will receive the tests as pdfs, then print the test and answer forms themselves. Teachers will grade each others’ classes tests, since short answer tests can’t be graded by a scanner.

The district is concerned that they won’t get detailed student data back for these additional tests. Analysis of what the tests mean about a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses will be up to individual districts. Large districts like Charlotte-Mecklenberg already do this, but it will be harder for smaller districts like Chatham. Mr. Logan said these changes are due to NC’s application for a waiver from Federal No Child Left Behind requirements. There is some money attached to these changes, about $800K for CCS for 4 years. (I’m not sure if that is per year, or over 4 years.) Mr. Logan is concerned that the state is coming up with tests to tie to teacher performance but didn’t ask educators. (Note: I believe this scheme was developed and proposed by DPI and accepted by the state board of education.) A 3-year rolling average of student scores will be used for teacher evaluations, so one bad year won’t have much of an effect. This goes into effect for EOG/EOC teachers in 2012/13 and other tested areas the following year. Mr. Hamm said he suspects it will never be fully implemented. Mr. O’Brien said it will help teachers understand their strengths and weaknesses and how they can improve. Mr. Logan said the LEAs (districts) will own the data and won’t get goal summaries from DPI as in the past. Subjective student surveys will also be part of the teacher evaluation. Ms. Turner applauded this since students need a voice in their education. Mr. O’Brien commented that research shows that student surveys are very accurate when compared with objective measures of teacher performance.

Alternate to short-term suspension. This year CCS will participate in a program called Boomerang at the Chapel Hill Y. Students on short-term suspension (10 days or less) can voluntarily enroll in Boomerang as a suspension alternative. They will receive counseling and support to do their coursework, and will be counted as attending school. This is a pilot program for Chatham – eventually the program could be housed in Chatham County. The program has existed for Chapel Hill Carrboro students for 6 years, expanding to Orange County 2 years ago. At this point, there is no cost to the student or the district. It is funded by grants, including from the Juvenile Crime Prevention program.

District professional development plans. Mr. Jordan and others have developed a plan to focus professional development to help teachers know what they need to improve in the coming year. It was shared with principals this week. Everyone will know the focus for the district and for the individual schools. Mr. Logan thanked Mr. Jordan for developing an annual plan and said this planning was long overdue for the district.

Good News

The staff convocations will be help Thurday Aug 23 at 8:30 and 10. The speaker will be Peyton Holland from Skills/USA. Mr. Holland is a graduate of JM and attended Moncure (and Ms. McManus said he was national president of Skills/USA while at JM).

Mr. Logan announced the schedule for Open Houses.

Mr. Logan also acknowledged Mr. Messer, the CFO, for winning all 3 financial awards available from various school financial groups and the state board of education. He was one of only 6 CFOs in NC to win all 3 this year. Most of the work was from when he was in Scotland County, but Chatham will benefit from his knowledge and ability. This is the second time Mr. Messer has won all 3 awards.

Mr. Moody announced that we have a new vendor for random employee drug testing. The previous vendor lost some records (literally – they were found by the side of a road), and no longer has the contract. This vendor, Safe-T-Work, from Asheboro, is available 24/7 in case there is an off-hours incident that needs to be investigated.

4th Quarter Financial Statements

Mr. Messer submitted the unaudited financial statements. The annual audit will be conducted the 2nd week of September. $1.6M was added to fund balance, most due to the position audit. There was also an additional $92K in Capital and $99K in Other Local Expense, most from reimbursement grants. The Child Nutrition program had a deficit of $108K due to a combination of overhead, inefficiencies, and food costs. Participation is low at 1 middle school and 2 elementary schools so revenues don’t cover costs. There have been some adjustments. Higher participation rates in Free and Reduced Lunch program brings higher revenue. The increase lunch price this year should cover the costs in 2012/13. There was also a budget adjustment to cover moving funds from the Child Nutrition fund balance to cover this shortfall. The scholarship fund have expenses $500 over revenue, due to low interest rates, but its fund balance covered it. The budget reconciliation, which in the past has not been available until November, will be done in September. Before December, Mr. Messer will bring the board a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which hasn’t been done in the past. The CAFR including demographic and historical information. Mr. Logan commented that Karen Howard (candidate for school board in Nov 2012) attended school board training, and the NC School Board Association trainers cited Chatham for its financial transparency. Mr. Logan commented “a prophet is little noticed in his own land” and that he doubted anyone outside of the room would ever hear this compliment.

Changes due to General Assembly direction and CCS administration initiatives

There are a number of changes for the year to improve academic learning, not just test scores.

K-3 reading

CCS scores are lowest at grade 3. Starting in 2013/14, all schools will use mClassReading 3D (DIBELS) for diagnostic and formative testing. This is an electronic tool, currently used in 3 of our schools, JS Waters, NCE, and PES, which were part of the state pilot in 20120. This is the program Gov. Perdue requested funds for 2-3 years ago (which the democratic legislature did not fund). There are funds for devices and licenses, but it is not clear if it will cover all costs (conflicting documents - $400/teacher or 100% of costs). The state will replace the devices every 4 years. Mr. O’Brien suggested something like Android tablets that have lots of functionality. Mr. Hamm said they need something faster and cheaper than what they currently have. There is some choice for the district in what device to purchase. It is not too different from Aimsweb, used in most CCS schools. All K-3 teachers will be trained by fall 2013. There is qualitative reports that teachers find use mClassReading 3D easier to use, but Mr. Jordan didn’t know of quantitative research showing it is better. There may be a dip in performance during implementation. A new 3rd grade retention policy will be in place fall 2013. The district must provide a 4-6 week summer institute/summer school for students who don’t pass the 3rdgrade reading EOG. (There will no longer be retests. Mr. Logan noted that our students did much better on retests. Mr. O’Brien asked if that could be a crutch – it’s ok to not do well because I have another chance. Ms. Frazier said 3rd graders are tested for the first time. Some students go from a 2 to a 4 just because they didn’t know what to expect on the first test. Also there are strong increases at the high school level. Mr. Jordan mentioned that it could be that the students don’t have the stamina for a long test, and teachers need to think about what they do during the year to get the students ready.) Students whose parents don’t put them in the summer program will be retained. If students don’t pass the EOG after the summer program, they will be placed in transitional 4th grade classes with a more intensive focus on mastering reading, instead of being in a class of mixed levels with teacher differentiation. Mr. Logan said he is trying to be positive about these changes. The district will use the 2013 results for planning numbers for the 2014 summer program. There should be state funds for transportation and other costs of the summer program. Mr. Hamm noted that there is still superintendent discretion (instead of principal discretion) to move students to the next grade. Mr. Logan noted that the legislature was concerned about the low number of non-proficient students who were retained, so they will be looking at the numbers and could remove that discretion. The effectiveness of the summer program depends on what is done, how the time is spent, and the funding available. Ms. Turner noted that parents need to be involved. If an 8 year old gets the best teachers but goes home to a family that doesn’t support education, nothing will change. She said we need parent programs related to reading. Mr. Hamm noted that SCE and VCE do have parent programs (through Title I funds). Mr. Jordan said DPI will be providing guidance so the district can be ready for 2013/14.

Military family data collection

There will be a statewide one-time collection of data on families with a family member in the military since 9/1/2001. It has become clear that there is an impact on students when a family member is in the military. The data will help the staff support these families. The data collections will be done through parent letters/ surveys 9/15-10/15/2012. Mr. Hamm noted that Cumberland County already gets federal funds to support military families.

School Performance Grades

2011/12 was the last year of the current state ABC model (school of distinction, school of progress, etc). This year schools will get A-F grades. They will be based on similar metrics for elementary schools, reading, math, and science EOGs, but will have additional elements for high schools besides EOCs (Alg I, Eng II, Biology) and graduation rate: 10thgrade WorkKeys, 11 th grade ACT, percent taking math beyond Algebra II. (These additional high school requirements were announced last year.) At this point, they don’t include a measurement of growth (how well schools are moving toward proficiency), but that may be added in the Jan 2013 legislative session. The plan is modeled on Florida’s plan, which does include growth. Using the current formula (without growth), only 17% of high schools statewide would have received a passing grade for 2011/12.

CPR certification

CPR is currently taught in 8th grade Healthy Living classes. The high schools will need to screen records to ensure all students have taken CPR starting with 2014/15. Most Health/Phys Ed are already certified to deliver CPR training.

Changes in Elementary Licensure

There are revised coursework and competencies for students studying to be Elementary teachers. The Praxis will be replaced with the Massachusetts teacher exam. The programs will teach the use of the required technology-based reading assessments. There is additional coursework in integrating arts into the curriculum. It’s unclear when these take effect.. Mr. Logan said usually students graduate under the licensing rules in effect when they started the college program. Mr. Hamm was concerned that the coursework in the arts meant elementary art and music teachers would be eliminated. Mr. Jordan said the intent is to increase the amount of arts education in elementary schools.

Educator Effectiveness (Teacher Assessments) – Ready for Success Initiative

This is a DPI initiative as part of the Race to the Top funding the state received from the federal government. Why? There is a new curriculum, new assessments, and new technology. The success of all of these depend on effective personnel. Mr. O’Brien noted that they had removed effectiveness goals from the superintendent assessment. Mr. Logan said there are still goals, they are just not based on EVAAS data, but they may need to add that back in next year. Mr. Logan said a standard had been added to the principal evaluation and teacher evaluation standards. Teacher evaluation will be based on observations (current), student assessments (some current, plus additional), and student surveys (tbd – Tripod survey). The ratings are In need of Improvement (did not meet expectations), Effective (meets expectations), and Highly Effective (meets or exceeds expectations) on standards 1-5, and a 3-year rolling average on standard 6 (student test scores). Students have to be enrolled for 140 days (70 in semester classes) to be included in the teacher evaluation. In 2012/13, teachers who teach
EOG/EOC tested classes will have student achievement included in the evaluation. In 2013/14, other teachers will be included, with the new tests that are being added (or district developed student evaluation). DPI is currently back-populating student test data into the NC Educator Evaluation System. DPI won’t analyze this data for districts. The goal is a standard measurement of student learning, that is fair and consistent for teachers. The new tests will be written by 1,000 NC teachers (using in some cases obsolete state tests). It is recommended that the new tests replace final exams in middle school and high school. During this school year, there will be training and communication on these changes. The legislature gave LEAs permission to develop merit pay systems, but it is not required at this time. There is no additional money yet. Mr. Logan suspects that this is the first step toward tying student performance to teacher salary increases. Charlotte has already been doing this to an extent, and Guilford had a program (Mission Possible) that was grant-funded and ran out of funding. Someone asked about Media Coordinators and Counselors, and Ms. Frazier said they are not on the teacher evaluation system. Mr. Leonard asked if parents would eventually see the teacher-level data. Mr. Logan said the teacher effectiveness data will only be available at the school and district level now. Mr. O’Brien commented that the legislature eliminated EOCs then added new tests. (Note: I’m not sure, but I think the additional tests were added by DPI, not the legislature – I’ll try to confirm.) Mr. Logan noted that EOC/EOG testing started in 1995 as a teacher evaluation/merit pay program to pay teachers ABC bonuses, and had been planned to extend to all classes originally.

District Initiatives – Mr. Logan said the district is using all available resources to plan and implement a number of changes.

- Implementation of the Comon Core State Standards and NC Essential Standards, Educator Effectiveness evaluations. A state consultant on Common Core said the Chatham is in better shape to roll out the standards than most districts, in part due to Mr. Jordan’s planning efforts. Mr. Logan noted that there has been little statewide support for the rollout, which is different from many states. Mr. O’Brien asked about a consortium of counties working together. Mr. Jordan said they had tried that but it fizzled after 3 meetings because different districts wanted different things, and there was no state guidance on what should be done.

- K-3 literacy (creating a literacy culture); an AIG program review; additional strategies for students with autism.

- Changes to the School Improvement Plan form and process to make it less burdensome and more flexible.

- Changes to non-traditional learning (dual enrollment, virtual classes, interactive video conferencing class with NC School of Science and Math).

- Changes to Technology Support Services reorganization (regional, not school-based, to best use resources).

- Expanding AVID to middle school English Language Learners (an outcome of administrator and principal attendance at the AVID conference. Mr. Logan noted that to save money, they touch a charter bus together for the 10-hour trip to Philadelphia. The discussions on the bus home led to the idea of the expansion of the program.)

- Mr. Leonard asked about Early College Programs. Mr. Logan said there are no longer startup funds, and those programs are relatively expensive to run..

- Calendar – 180 or 185 days. The legislation now says 185 days or 1025 hours, which is possible in 158 school days. Wilkes Co (4-day week) has a 162 day school year. Mr. Logan said we need to ask what’s best for students, a longer school year or a longer school day. Mr. Hamm asked about Wilkes Co scores since changing the schedule and Mr. Logan said they would look at that.

- Merit Pay – Mr. Logan said they are not ready to discuss this yet, though Mr. Hamm noted one teacher has volunteered to help design a merit pay system. Mr. O’Brien asked about a principal merit pay program, since research shows school-level leadership matters. Can we check if principal bonuses help school performance. Mr. Logan was concerned about the effect on teacher morale if principals were eligible for merit pay but teachers weren’t. Mr. Logan noted that all 3 high school met all of their AMOs and two had performance composites in the high 80s. Mr. Leonard asked if that was a result of the 1:1 computer initiative, and Mr. Logan said it has contributed.

Gym HVAC bids

All 3 high schools will get new HVAC systems in their gyms by November. The bids were all very close. Total cost will be $552K. Right now there is no AC, only fans, and radiant heating.

Parcel adjacent to CCHS

There is a 1-acre foreclosed property adjacent to CCHS. The current property line jogs around this property. No one bid on it when it was offered for auction. The board approved acquiring the property for the back taxes of $2,198.

Instructional Allocation for Student Activities

Mr. Logan showed a video from the Alliance for Student Activities that they saw at the AVID conference. (It’s not posted yet, but I asked if it could be.) Nationwide, a student drops out of high school every 26 seconds. That’s 1.2M each year. Dropouts are ineligible for 90% of jobs. They make 40% of the salary of college graduates. They are 8 times more likely to go to prison. They vote at 50% of the rate of graduates. NCLB narrowed the focus to math and reading, but still, 30% dropout. What increases graduation? Student activities and relationship with adults.

Since the budget is back on solid ground, Mr. Logan proposed increasing instructional supply funds to the schools to support student activities. The proposal was $10K to each high school for athletics, $2K to each school with middle grades for athletics, plus $10 per student in high school, $8 per student in middle grades, and $5 per elementary student for other activities. Ms. McManus was concerned that there was more money for athletics than non-athletics. So the board increased the high school and middle school total to equal the amount for athletics. (By my math, that makes it $12.77 per student in high school and $8.08 per student in middle school.) The additional $110,800 will be added in a budget amendment in September. Mr. Hamm asked that the schools keep track of how this money is spent, so they can learn from other schools. He wanted to continue support for CTE competitions since we are a leader in the state. This can be used for Beta club, student government, competitions, and other activities. Ms. Turner was concerned the ESL is not enough to serve students, that we need
language programs. Mr. Logan said Dual Language programs are the best way to address language learning, but finding personnel is difficult. Ms. Turner said there is personnel available in our Hispanic community. The new kindergarten dual language program at North Chatham will be 60% native English speakers/40% native Spanish speakers. The Middle School language program had only taught the basics, not anything cultural. If we restore middle school foreign language, it needs to be much more, for Spanish literacy. Mr. Logan said Northwood added a dance teacher this year due to student demand for dance classes. Mr. Logan said Mr. Foust at Northwood was one of the ones who suggested this, to help support student government. Ms. McManus said that most leaders in the country are on stage in some way by the time they are 12. Ms. Turner said that most Fortune 500 leaders had participated in drama. There was also mention of speech and debate programs.

Mutual Emergency Fuel Agreement with the county

In case of an natural disaster, the board agreed to allow the school system to provide fuel to the county to keep emergency vehicles on the road. There would be no cost to the district since it would be reimbursed (by federal emergency funds). The county and district eventually want to have a shared garage to save expenses. This is a first step toward that shared vision.

School Reassignment Policy 4150

Since NC received a waiver for NCLB requirements, the district no longer needs to offer school improvement choice transfers to students at Title I schools in school improvement status (two years of not meeting AYP). Since all 8 Title I schools will be receiving Title I funds this year, there are few choices for transfers, and some of the remaining schools are still overcrowded. 50.6% of all students in the district at the end of the school year qualified for Free and Reduced Lunch. Mr. O’Brien moved to keep the school transfer option without providing transportation. Mr. Leonard seconded so there could be discussions. Mr. Hamm said the change in the testing model will complicate things next year. Ms. McManus commented that the students who transfer are not in the subgroups with low achievement at the Title I schools. Mr. Logan said that the students who transfer are typically not low-performing. Mr. Leonard said there are good teachers in the struggling schools. Mr. O’Brien said he supports good schools and parental choice. Ms. McManus said if we had choice we would end up with have and have-not schools. Mr. O’Brien’s motion was defeated 1-4. The board voted to approve the 1st reading of the change in policy to eliminate school choice transfers. It will be voted on again in September. Mr. O’Brien said he appreciated the opportunity for discussion of his alternative.

The meeting adjourned at 10:25.

Mia Munn is a former educator who ran for the Chatham County school board in 2008.

 
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