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Sep 292011
 

ConnCAN  recently published the state of Connecticut’s Graduation Rates.  Click on the link below to access the report.

 

About ConnCAN

The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) is building a movement of concerned advocates who come together to make sure that all Connecticut students have access to a great public education. Through advocacy driven by our own research and analysis, we inform the public about the issues and provide a platform for advocates to take action.  www.conncan.org

 

CTGradRates-Web01

Sep 292011
 

Think academic rigor is only an issue for urban school districts like Norwalk?

The chart below provided by the authors of http://globalscorecard.org provides a short list of a variety school district test data from urban, rural,  affluent suburban and charter schools in the U.S. and ranks them against the median average  (50 percentile) for mathematics of  their international counterparts?

Increasing academic rigor is one of the major drivers behind the Common Core Curriculum standards that are to be deployed in the 2014-15 time frame.

These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 292011
 

School districts had total expenditures of approximately $596.6 billion in 2007–08, including about $506.8 billion in current expenditures for public elementary and secondary education. Of the remaining expenditures, nearly $65.8 billion was spent on capital outlay, almost $15.7 billion on interest payments on debt, and $8.3 billion on other programs (including programs such as community services and adult education, which are not a part of public elementary and secondary education).

After adjustment for inflation, current expenditures per student in fall enrollment at public schools rose during the 1980s, remained stable during the first part of the 1990s, and rose again after 1992–93. There was an increase of 37 percent from 1980–81 to 1990–91; a change of less than 1 percent from 1990–91 to 1994–95 (which resulted from small decreases at the beginning of this period, followed by small increases after 1992–93); and an increase of 32 percent from 1994–95 to 2007–08. In 2007–08, current expenditures per student in fall enrollment were $10,297 in unadjusted dollars. In 2007–08, some 55 percent of students in public schools were transported at public expense at a cost of $854 per pupil transported, also in unadjusted dollars.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). Digest of Education Statistics, 2010 (NCES 2011-015), Table 188 and Chapter 2 .

Current expenditures per pupil in fall enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools: Selected years, 1961-62 through 2007-08

School Year

Current expenditures in unadjusted dollars

Current expenditures in constant 2008-09 dollars1

1961-62

$393

$2,808

1970-71

842

4,552

1980-81

2,307

5,718

1986-87

3,682

7,105

1990-91

4,902

7,857

1995-96

5,689

7,904

1996-97

5,923

8,002

1997-98

6,189

8,214

1998-99

6,508

8,490

1999-2000

6,912

8,765

2000-01

7,380

9,048

2001-02

7,727

9,309

2002-03

8,044

9,482

2003-04

8,310

9,586

2004-05

8,711

9,754

2005-06

9,145

9,865

2006-072

9,679

10,178

2007-08

10,297

10,441

1Constant dollars based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis.

2 Revised from previously published figures.

NOTE: Beginning in 1980-81, state administration expenditures are excluded from “current” expenditures. Current expenditures include instruction, student support services, food services and enterprise operations. Beginning in 1988-89, extensive changes were made in the data collection procedures.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). Digest of Education Statistics, 2010 (NCES 2011-015), Table 190.

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)

 

Sep 292011
 

Below are two recently published op-eds from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s educational blog Flypaper Opinion and News Analysis.  Both editorials spark food for thought regarding the politics, governance and future of local Boards of Education.

Opinion: The anacronism of school boards
By Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Amber M. Winkler

“The local school board, especially the elected kind, is an anachronism and an outrage. We can no longer pretend it’s working well or hide behind the mantra of ‘local control of education.’ We need to steel ourselves to put this dysfunctional arrangement out of its misery and move on to something that will work for children.”

With that statement on the record, we’re doubly admiring of Anne Bryant and her colleagues at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) for welcoming us into their recent project—“School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era”—a survey of roughly 900 school board members. We went into it willing to have our previous impressions of local school boards overturned. For the most part, that hasn’t happened.

Because we’re serious about America’s need for bold school reform, we came away from the survey data dismayed that so many board members appear hostile to some of the most urgently needed reforms—and accepting of timeworn (and for the most part unsuccessful) tweaks to the current system. Substantial numbers view charter schools, intra-district choice among schools, and year-round calendars as “not at all important” to improving student learning. They’re cool toward teachers entering classrooms from “nontraditional” directions. Yet they’re warm-to-hot when asked about the value of such primordial yet unreliable “reforms” as smaller classes and more professional development. And they’re more agitated about school inputs—funding above all—than about academic achievement.

Putting it bluntly, would public education come closer to serving the country’s needs in 2011 if it were run by visionary, reform-driven leaders rather than by cautious, community-based fiduciaries?

One must wonder whether this is because they’ve grown acculturated to traditional educationist views of education—half of all board members have served in their current districts for more than five years—or because more than a quarter of them are current or former educators themselves. Could it be because so many of them in large districts (more than one in three) indicate that unions contribute to their campaigns and presumably expect something in return? Or is it that they regard their role like members of corporate boards of directors, chiefly concerned with the well-being of the organization itself (particularly its revenue streams), rather than like education policymakers, much less reformers?

There’s evidence in the NSBA data for all these possibilities—and a good many more.

Even as we applaud school board members for their service, much of it time-consuming and selfless, we cannot but wonder about some of their core values and priorities for K-12 education.

Three examples:

• School board members tend to cite inadequate inputs as the main barrier to improved school outcomes. Three quarters of them view insufficient funding as a strong or total barrier to raising achievement. That’s about twice as many as point to collective-bargaining agreements—and more than three times as many as identify “community apathy” as a major barrier. Yes, economic times are perilous, but stressed finances call for exploring uncharted waters, not waiting for manna from the taxpayers.

• Board members also favor intangible outcomes. Asked to rank education goals, three-fourths of the surveyed group say that “help[ing] students fulfill their potential” or “prepar[ing] students for a satisfying and productive life” is number one. Just 16 percent chose preparing students for the workforce or for college. One wonders, in our globally competitive world, how their sense of what’s important got so skewed. Do they really not put much stock in the most tangible outcomes of schooling? Are they possibly hiding from results-based accountability by selecting goals that cannot readily be measured?

• School board members have only a vague awareness that learning levels must rise. Though two-thirds concur that “the current state of student achievement is unacceptable,” barely one-quarter “strongly agree” with that statement. A whopping 87 percent agree or strongly agree that “defining success only in terms of student achievement is narrow and short-sighted; we need to emphasize the development of the whole child.” And a full one-third are nervous about placing “unreasonable expectations for student achievement in our schools.”

These data also show that board members are conscientious citizens who take the job seriously and work hard at it. They want to serve their communities, and they want kids to have good lives. Demographically, they comprise a fair cross section of middle-aged, upper-middle-class America. They’re better educated than most of the population, and their household income is greater than most. They’re moderate to conservative in their politics, they’re professionals or businessmen/women in their careers, and they serve on the board—they say—for altruistic, public-spirited motives, which is borne out by the fact that just 36 percent have children in school in the district whose board they’re on. (Of course, 70 percent are fifty or older.)

These well-meaning, solid citizens, however, do not manifest great urgency about changing the education system for which they’re responsible, certainly not in disruptive ways. Yes, they want it to do better. But they also cite myriad obstacles to changing it, obstacles they find outside themselves and their communities and thus obstacles that they, almost by definition, are powerless to overcome. Moreover, they’re principally concerned—the “board of directors” syndrome again—with the viability of the school system as an institution, fiduciaries, one might say, of a public trust rather than change agents on behalf of a compelling societal agenda.

This is not too surprising, considering that the “theory” behind elected local school boards as a public-school governance system was to induce selfless civic leaders to preside over and safeguard a valuable community institution, keeping it out of politics and out of trouble while solving whatever problems it encountered. The theory did not expect individuals elected to these roles to function as innovators, much less as revolutionaries.

The question that needs to be asked again, however, is whether American education in the twenty-first century would be better served by a different arrangement, one more apt to tally the considerable challenges facing communities, states, regions, and the nation as a whole and then reshape key institutions to meet those challenges. Putting it bluntly, would public education come closer to serving the country’s needs in 2011 if it were run by visionary, reform-driven leaders rather than by cautious, community-based fiduciaries? We’re inclined to think it would.

BACK TO TOP

Opinion: Back To The Future: Re-Inventing Local Control  9-26-11                                          

Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

As much as it pains me every time I hear Checker Finn say it, school boards may indeed be irrelevant.  And Checker’s new essay in National Affairs lays out a pretty persuasive case for why they will disappear; not, why they should go away, but why they will simply die on a vine that is no longer part of a healthy education system.  What is most unnerving about Checker’s argument, is that this will happen, somewhat counter-intuitively, while making “education local again.”

In short, the new essay, “Beyond the School District,” is an ambitious rethinking of school governance, top to bottom, that weds the best of our past (true local control) with the best of our present (charters, vouchers, mayoral control, technology) to create a workable school system for the 21st century.

And I hate say it, but from where I sit, on a local school board, it makes sense.

As Checker says, with an understatement that should require no argument, our current system isn’t working.  And his attribution of cause surely matches my experience: we have a “confused and tangled web” of local, state, and federal rules and regulation, not to mention a web of “adult interests” like teacher unions, textbook publishers, tutoring firms, bus companies, and the like, that has thwarted the best of reform intentions. Despite spending billions of dollars to fix things, the results continue to be lousy: “millions of children still can not read satisfactorily, do math at an acceptable level, or perform the other skills need for jobs in the modern economy.”

I surely see this dysfunction at the local level, where I sit on a school board that seems to have as much influence over our schools as the deck chair manager had over the direction of the Titanic. (I would temper that statement with one that I make to my local parents and stakeholders all the time: there is no law that says we can’t have a good school.  Unfortunately, the tangled web has a way of complicating that message.)  Checker helps explain the problem by taking us on a grand tour of American education governance history, from the hopeful sprouting of tens of thousands of locally-controlled (and funded) school districts through the “professionalism” wave of the Progressive Era of the last century, and the ensuing consolidation craze, which reduced the number of schools districts from 130,000 in 1930 to fewer than 14,000 by 2008.

Checker skips most of the recent federalism era, which, in this account, might be redundant. But the federal role is surely an issue that will need to be addressed in Finn’s future, since it has contributed mightily to the “tangled web.”  By the same token, as someone who has experienced first-hand the wonder of NCLB, which shined a light in to the dark corners of our schools, where the poor, the ethnic minorities and the disabled had been hidden from view, we will need to make sure that such abuse is not the result of unfettered local autonomy (rather than too much outside influence) and identify a federal responsibility to protect the constitutional rights of our children to equal educational opportunities; indeed, despite some wonderful people in my community, and though I know that Checker’s suggestions will go a long way to restoring “the good” of local control,  not a day goes by that I don’t thank God – and James Madison and Thomas Jefferson – for our federal Bill of Rights.  We will also need to recognize the debilitating influence of federal micro-managing and decide what to do about it; indeed we are in need of a robust discussion about the good, the bad, and the ugly of federal intervention and in future posts I intend to argue, among other things, that keeping the feds out of the curriculum-writing business has only lured them into creating huge highways of waste and inefficiency in much less essential educational territory.

But there is certainly no disputing – or should be no disputing — the need to “restore a true sense of local education,” as Checker argues, because “families and communities—more knowledgeable about their own desires and their children’s needs—[have to] make crucial decisions about how to educate children, rather than leaving those choices to distant, scattered, self-concerned bureaucrats and adult interest groups.”

And as I read Checker, the answer is to untether the promising reform strategies now bubbling up all over the country from the multi-layered governance system that thwarts them. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!  We have plenty of talented people working within the system, Checker says, but “they seldom have the capacity to innovate, to make judgments about matters beyond their customary duties, or to stage successful interventions in failing districts and schools” (per the “tangle” described above).  Indeed, as Checker says, “new forms of local control have started to take root.”   Mayoral control is one of those new governance structures — and we need that direct connection not just in big cities.  My small school district, for instance is an amalgam of five local towns, none of whose mayors or legislative councils have anything to say about education. It is a disconnect between a huge part of their constituencies – parents and children – and a significant part of their economic health and well-being — education — which the local school district has little stake in.

Also, “less visible, but far more widespread,” says Checker, are the many alternatives to the traditional Local Education Agency (LEA) model: choice and charter schools, vouchers, magnet schools, virtual schools, homeschools, etc.  Says Finn: “it can accurately be said that slightly more than half of all American students today attend schools that they or their parents selected.”  Finally, there is technology, the invention that allows “local control…to be brought right into parents’ homes.”  As a member of a dysfunctional LEA (for all the reasons Checker suggests), I would welcome the opportunity to return our schools to a system of true local control, including spinning individual schools off to their own governing bodies.

So, these many reform vehicles add up to the “direction that the future of American education should point,” as Checker says. But how do you do it? What does it look like?   Here’s what he suggests:

  • “Self-governing, charter-style schools should become the norm, not the exception.”
  • States (the governor and legislature not some “independent” body) would “both increase and shrink their roles.” They would “authorize” every school and hold it accountable “for academic results, for complying with essential rules, for properly handling public dollars, and so forth….”  They would also ensure that there are “enough approved schools to accommodate all children.” But they would “back off from their customary micromanagement and regulation of the K-12 space….”
  • Local funding of schools “as we know it would vanish.”  States would pay for schools – and this is one of Checker’s key proposals — through a “weighted student funding” formula in which “the amount of money devoted to a child’s education varies with his needs and educational circumstances and accompanies that child to the school of his choice.”

Again, I do worry about placing undo faith in states, whose leaders and legislatures have shown themselves to be plenty receptive to special interests, and I encourage more discussion of the federal role in thwarting monopolies, whether of private or public making.

We won’t find the answers to all our questions here, but “Beyond the School District” is a much-needed start to remaking school governance for modern times. It imagines a refreshing Tocquevilian system of free associations that would, concludes Checker, “endeavor to make education local again.”  And that, for America, is to make education whole again.

 

Sep 292011
 

Maintaining discipline in the classroom is critical, in order to ensure a safe and nurturing academic environment.  Listed below is a research report entitled:  Teaching Discipline: A Toolkit For Education on Positive Alternatives to Out of School Suspensions, that was first published by the Connecticut Voices for Children in June, 2010.  The report  explores preventative measures and examines alternative punishments for disciplinary offenses and finally provides benchmark data on school districts across the state of  Connecticut on pages 33-36.  Listed below that is a compilation of  the Norwalk Public School District’s suspension data by school as provided by the state Department of Education.

Education Discipline and Suspensions

 

Suspension Data 2006 to 2009 per DOE

Sep 292011
 

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.  Forty-five (45) of the fifty (50) states have adopted this standard, including Connecticut.

The NGA Center and CCSSO received initial feedback on the draft standards from national organizations representing, but not limited to, teachers, post-secondary educators (including community colleges), civil rights groups, English language learners, and students with disabilities. Following the initial round of feedback, the draft standards were opened for public comment, receiving nearly 10,000 responses.

The standards are informed by the highest, most effective models from states across the country and countries around the world, and provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students, regardless of where they live.

These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based.

 

Source:  From the Home Page of The Common Core State Standards Initiative

For detailed information on the Common Core Curriculum go to their website:

www.corestandards.org

 

Below is the Norwalk Public Schools Presentation on Common Cores Standards and how Norwalk plans to implement

Common Core State Standards

Common Core Standards Initiative

 

Sep 292011
 

Overall, Norwalk students have made widespread gains on state CMT exams this year in an effort to raise the academic bar and close the achievement gap.  This past spring the State Department of Education congratulated Norwalk on its narrowing of the achievement gap.

Norwalk is one of 15 school districts that have made significant progress since the Connecticut Accountability For Learning Initiative (CALI) began 4 years ago.  The following cities have been part of the original program to close the achievement gap:  Ansonia, Bridgeport, Danbury, East Hartford, Hartford, Meriden, Middletown, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Norwich, Stamford Waterbury and Windham.

When one considers  how Norwalk  fails to get its fair share of state Educational Cost Share (ECS) funding as a City, it puts into further context the positive strides that Norwalk teachers are making. (Refer to previous posting on May 16th regarding ECS funding-comparisons)

 

Below are the CMT Test Score for the 12 Elementary Schools Grades for 3-5,  as well as, the 4  Middle Schools  Grades 6-8 and a  positive report (if not challenging to read for the average parent) from the state.  To view CMT across the state go to http://solutions1.emetric.net/CMTpublic/Index.

 

 

Copy of Elementary CMT Scores by Norwalk School

Report[1] CMTs 6th Grade

Report[1] CMT 7th Grade

Report[1]-CMT 8th Grade

 

District Improvement Plan Monitoring Report

Sep 162011
 

The headline in The Hour Today, demonstrates how the status quo in this town is eating good people up and spitting them out.   Between Board of Education members lackluster support on both sides of the political aisle (after having hired her!)  and union leaders wanting to keep their political hold,  superintendents have become human pinyatas.   There are about 10 individuals in this district that are wreaking havoc in the sandbox, throwing sand in the face of the  most simple of reforms.  Until parents and the community  demand that Norwalk  political leaders make education reform a cornerstone in their platform, this City will continue to suffer.

Below is an editorial opinion piece that was submitted to The Hour several weeks ago.  How timely, if not sad that it is printed on the day it is made public that our new superintendent, who heralds from one of the top school districts in the country is considering a leave of absence.

______________________________________________________________________________________

To:  Letter To The Editor

Re:  Leadership – Who Is really In Charge of Education?

 

I’d like to comment on how deeply offended I was by Mr. Mellion’s most recent comments at the BoE meeting  last month and his repeated attacks, since DAY 1 to impugn the character of our new Superintendent.  Whether it’s his regular public assaults on Dr. Marks in BoE meetings, or appalling rhetoric in his Vanguard newsletter, or his union report card on the Superintendent; they are ALL just tactics to undermine her effectiveness in straightening out this district.

Here are a few of my quick observations of the matter: 1) It’s progress in and of itself that the BoE assessed the new Superintendent after her first year on the job. Mr. Mellion might have been more effective to simply ask when the evaluation would be made public rather than accusing her and everyone else of impropriety.  2) The last time I checked, the teacher’s union only made publicly available their “grade” for the Superintendent.  We weren’t made aware of the categories or criteria nor how many of the 902 teachers actually participated.  3) Why is it the Superintendent the only NPS employee whose evaluation is made public? Where are the evaluations for the other 1400 employees in this district?

But speaking of evaluations and surveys, results are pending for another one conducted this past spring.  Dr. Marks, with the help of NPS staff, parents, union and the community, compiled a list of questions for parents and staff on a host of district issues ranging from: student progress, academics, communication, principal leadership, atmosphere, food, safety, technology access, transportation, etc.  Results are due this fall.  (Note:  The Superintendent DID include Mr. Mellion in its compilation.) 

Sadly, the term LEADERSHIP, as it applies to anything in the U.S. these days, is a bit of an oxymoron.  For education in particular, the U.S. has carved education up into so moving parts, that it’s hard to keep track.  With over 14,000 public school districts across the country, and over 150 in our small state, a super structure has been created that has left parents and taxpayers not knowing WHO is in charge of WHOM, particularly when one takes into account federal and state agencies, unions district and building administration.

While Dr. Marks is the leader of the school district, she does get more than a little local help from her friends.

As NFT President, Mr. Mellion leads the majority of teaching employees in this district and does an excellent job protecting their  rights, which is probably why he’s been consistently re-elected  by them for the past two decades.  But I take issue with the fact, that residents contribute $40,000 towards his salary and yet have ABSOLUTELY NO say in how he, alone powerfully controls EVERY aspect of Norwalk’s education system from teacher evaluations, to professional development, to faculty meetings, class size, and teacher placement, just to name a few.  He has not been in the classroom for years.  While, it is great that approximately 40-50% of our teachers live and pay taxes in Norwalk, the others do not.  The most powerful person in Norwalk education is not elected by the people of Norwalk, nor accountable to them in any way, shape or form.

Mr. Mellion might have many believe that if you don’t support him and the NFT, that you don’t support teachers. That’s simply false. The truth is we respect our teachers and 95% of them do a great job! And another thing, most of the teachers I’ve spoken with are disinclined to ‘rock the boat’ when it comes to the distributed leadership in the system and simply want to just teach the kids.  But one thing that many teachers might not know is that on the biggest issue that I hear complaints about, namely individual building leadership and administrative issues, that Mr. Mellion and his peer Mr. Ditrio, the union leader for the principal’s and administrators, often sit side with one another whenever challenging the Superintendent at any meeting I’ve attended.  I am frustrated, as I witness firsthand the manipulation of a very convoluted and historical power structure that chews up and spits out those that would reform and challenge the status quo.  Both have held their leadership positions in Norwalk for over two decades and have been in the district for a combined period of over 60 years and probably more!  Stack that up against a new Superintendent from one of the leading school districts in the country!

So, the next time somebody mentions LEADERSHIP or the need for change or reform in the same sentence, especially here in Norwalk, be very clear about which leader they are referring to.

 

 

 

 

Sep 122011
 

Attached is the Superintendent’s  Appraisal from the Board of Education (BoE) and her response.   REd Apples supports this degree of transparency from the leader of the Norwalk Public School district  and considers this a  step in the right direction.    Below the  appraisal documents is a statement commending the Board of Education for their efforts and encouraging this degree of accountability for all leaders across the school district, as well as, an article written by The Hour regarding the superintendent’s appraisal process.

Dr Marks Eval 2010-11

Supt Evaluation response

 

September 6, 2011

To: Members of Norwalk Board of Education

Re: Superintendent’s Evaluation and Accountability Across NPS

From:  Lisa Thomson, Red Apples of Norwalk

____________________________________________________________________________________

I’d like to thank the BoE for its evaluation, contract extension and recommendation to put forth a new evaluation tool for administrators.  You should all be commended for assessing the work of our Superintendent after her first year on the job and for making it public. Dr. Marks should be congratulated for the transparent example she is setting for all NPS staff.

I was however, a little frustrated that I couldn’t reconcile the BoE evaluation and the grade given by the teacher’s union last June; as Mr. Mellion didn’t make the evaluation categories public, nor how many of the 902 teachers actually participated in the assessment.  And, I was just little suspicious of the Opinion Poll which appeared in the Hour this weekend, showing a majority of people disagreeing with the BoE’s assessment of the Superintendent. Who had the time to respond to a survey, on an evaluation that had just only been made public? Especially, after IRENE knocked power out across the city this past week, and folks were cleaning up this Labor Day weekend?

Why is it the Superintendent the only NPS employee whose evaluation is made public?  Where are the evaluations for the other 1400 employees in this district?

Perhaps I can illuminate?  In my hands are two NPS staff appraisal documents. The red one is for principals and administrators and is 38 pages long. The peach one is for teachers, and is 57 pages long.  I can’t tell you how long the actual evaluation form is, as its intermixed and convoluted within the document.  Perhaps that’s why there haven’t been any meaningful appraisals in NPS for years.  Honestly, the IRS code is easier to comprehend than these documents.  I invite the public to come and take a look for themselves.

Speaking of evaluations, results are pending for another one conducted this past spring.  Dr.  Marks, with parents, Mr. Mellion and the community, compiled a list of questions for both parents and staff on a host of district issues ranging from: student progress, communication, building leadership, atmosphere, food, safety, technology, transportation, etc.  A FIRST for this district!   Results are due shortly.

I expect this SURVEY to be made as publicly available as the superintendent’s evaluation has been.

As a parent, I see a lot of leaders in NPS.  While Dr. Marks is superintendent, she gets a lot of help from members of the BoE and from the leaders of the administrators and teachers unions, each of whom have been in their union leadership positions for more than twenty years.  As a parent, I am sometimes frustrated, as I witness firsthand the manipulation of a very convoluted and historical NPS power structure that chews up and spits out those who would reform and challenge the status quo.

The Board has put its stamp on the national issue of accountability.  Evaluating the Superintendent, full disclosure of the Spring Survey and new evaluations for NPS staff is a GREAT START!

9-2-11

Superintendent eval released; praises outreach and recommends changes to budget process

By DANIELLE?CAPALBO Hour Staff Writer

NORWALK?–?The Board of Education has praised Superintendent Susan Marks for community outreach and her strong work ethic while recommending that she build more trusting relationships with staff members and improve the budget process, according to her first job evaluation.

Marks released her two-page evaluation Friday, as well as her response to the Board of Education.

“I?appreciate the feedback and the time that the Board of Education has taken to review the 2010-2011 school year,”?she wrote.

A yearly evaluation of the superintendent is required by Marks’ contract with Norwalk schools and may be used to determine salary and benefits in the future.

The process took place during three closed-door meetings in June and July.

The Board of Education used six criteria to gauge Marks’ job performance, including general management, the performance of the school system, community outreach and awareness of the “larger political, social, economic, legal and cultural environments”?that impact education.

Marks was commended for establishing relationships with potential fundraising sources, seeking input from unions and parents during the budget season, visiting city schools and demonstrating a strong work ethic.

The board also highlighted the committees that Marks established this year, called “workgroups,”?to address matters such as the calendar, teacher evaluations and high school reform. The committees include school employees, parents and community members.

The board made a series of recommendations, as well. Marks has been encouraged to establish “more trusting relationships with the staff and community” by acknowledging their needs and resources, and engage a more diverse cross-section of the city in school decisions.

The?Board of Education also recommended that Marks create a new evaluation tool for administrators, create a thorough plan for reorganizing Central Office and “clarify and improve”?the budget process. In particular, she has been asked to refine the way that information is “solicited, collected and disseminated”?during the budget season.

–?The Hour will update this story. —