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Tacoma schools chief evaluation skips student achievement

Post by Kim Bradford on June 26, 2009 at 10:30 am with No Comments »
June 26, 2009 10:30 am

In reviewing the Tacoma school board members’ evaluations of Superintendent Art Jarvis, I was struck not by what they contained, but by what they didn’t.

The “teaching/learning” category listed three “essential functions and goals” on which the board judged Jarvis. Not one of them mentioned student achievement. Rather, the school board considered whether teachers and students were assigned to schools and classes on time, and whether the district had a plan to provide sufficient curriculum resources, especially in math.

That’s all important stuff, but as we said in today’s editorial, all is for naught if kids aren’t learning.

The school board has set rather ambitious goals for the district as a whole; reducing the dropout rate and increasing student achievement by 10 percent a year are among them. Jarvis should be evaluated, at least in part, on how whether the district achieves those goals.

I wrote board president Kim Golding to ask her if the board had a reason for not wanting to tie the superintendent’s evaluation explicitly to student performance. Here’s her response:

Hi Kim,

The board recognizes the need to change/improve the tool it used to evaluate Dr. Jarvis. We did not want to do this just before evaluating him; it would be unfair. Therefore, we plan to work on this in the near future in preparation for next year.

We asked Dr. Jarvis for information on how the district is doing to meet the board’s goals. His response was shared during the board’s retreat on June 13th. The board most definitely wanted to know about the progress being made. However, because it was not included on the evaluation tool, it couldn’t be specifically addressed as part of the evaluation.

Dr. Jarvis provided board members with a packet entitled “Year-End Reports” during the retreat. The reports cover the work that has been completed in 2008-2009 and the challenges that remain. It was a very thorough group of reports from K-12 Support, Program and Learning Support, Human Resources, Business Support, Student Services, General Support Services, Public Information, Equity & Diversity, and Legal Services. Answers are provided, and where there are no answers, there are details explaining the progress being made towards providing the

information we still expect.

The state requires the board to evaluate the Superintendent. The board could set performance goals based upon student achievement, but the board would then neglect the rest of the school district while doing so. An evaluation must include multiple key areas, not just student achievement. What if the student achievement goals were met as the district heads into bankruptcy? The system is much too complex, and the Superintendent’s responsibilities do not begin and end with student achievement alone.

Thank you for keeping your eye on “results.” They matter.

Kim Golding

I don’t have a copy of the report she mentions (district offices are closed today), but when I get one, I’ll take a look to see how the district met the board’s goals and post here.

Editorial outtakes
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