Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education committee of the whole (March 20, 2013): At its committee meeting the trustees focused on identifying the metrics they will use for the formal evaluation of superintendent Patricia Green.
Green is the one district employee for whom they are directly responsible. Earlier that evening, the trustees met in closed session with Green to go over her interim mid-year evaluation. Because it was an informal evaluation, the board did not release an official statement.
Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, at least 25% of the superintendent’s annual year-end evaluation must be based on student growth and assessment data, according to a state mandate. In 2014-15, that percentage increases to 40%, and in 2015-16 school year, at least 50% of the evaluation will be based on student growth and assessment data. This mirrors the criteria in place for teacher evaluation. Up to now the superintendent’s evaluation has been largely narrative.
Board vice president Christine Stead noted that the board was implementing the metrics ahead of time, since they were not legally required to be in place until the next school year.
Superintendent Evaluation Process
As vice president of the board, Stead is charged with coordinating the annual evaluation of the superintendent. As she did last year , Stead presented the board with an evaluation rubric for their consideration and led the trustees through a discussion about which metrics for student achievement and growth they would use to evaluate Green.
Superintendent Evaluation: Survey Instrument
The rubric Stead presented was developed by the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) and contains suggestions for rating superintendents as ineffective, minimally effective, effective, or highly effective in 11 categories: relationship with the board; community relations; staff relationships; business and finance; educational leadership; personal qualities; evaluation; progress toward the school improvement plan (SIP); student attendance; student/parent/teacher feedback; and student growth and achievement.
The last five of those categories are mandated by the state to be included in the superintendent’s evaluation. Student growth and achievement is the only category out of the five that has a percentage attached to it. For the rest, the board has latitude on how each category is weighted – and what additional areas to include in the superintendent’s assessment. The rubric was meant only as a suggestion.
Superintendent Evaluation: Student Growth and Achievement Data
The trustees quickly coalesced around the four indicators of student growth and achievement they will use to evaluate Green. Stead’s initial recommendations were to use the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), the Michigan Merit Examination (MME), the ACT, and the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) scores.
Green suggested looking at the two major reports that guide the administration’s work: the achievement gap elimination plan (AGEP) and the discipline gap plan (DGP). Those were the measures Green’s administrative team was focused on monitoring. Trustee Glenn Nelson expressed surprise that the district strategic plan wasn’t on the list of major reports. Green responded to Nelson by saying that while everything the administrative team did was aligned with the strategic plan, the AGEP and the DGP could be analyzed for student growth measurability.
Stead agreed with Green, saying the evaluation “should align with the work we want to do.” For future consideration, she suggested exploring the idea of measuring student character. As more research focuses on character as a better indicator of future success than test scores, Stead said it could be “could be uniquely distinguishing for our district” if the district were to measure student character. This would be important if the district really wanted to measure the areas they believed were indicative of lifelong success, and if they wanted to measure the results of the “robust education” traditional public schools offer, Stead concluded.
Nelson suggested looking into the National Student Clearinghouse Student Tracker for High Schools, which is designed to help districts “more accurately gauge the college success of their graduates,” according to the organization’s website. While several trustees agreed that would be interesting information to have, trustee Irene Patalan asked how it would fit into the evaluation. President Deb Mexicotte noted they they needed to think about what was useful for this context. And college completion rates would not be useful, Mexicotte ventured. Green added that it wouldn’t be fair to be held to a metric that just got introduced in March.
Stead asked Landefeld if district information from the NWEA MAP could be summarized – because ideally, the board would be analyzing measures the district is already using for student achievement and growth. Landefeld confirmed that such information could be aggregated.
Trustee Simone Lightfoot established that the metrics could be changed as the information from the state changes, or as the tests are replaced. The MEAP is scheduled to be phased out in 2014 and replaced by Smarter Balanced, an exam produced by The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a state-led effort to provide consistent and comparable standards aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Stead also acknowledged that these indicators could change the following year, if there was more direction from the state. But for this year’s evaluation, the board has some flexibility in choosing its own measures.
“Not everything that counts can be counted … that’s true in education, and it’s true in executive leadership,” asserted Nelson. While the board continues to move towards a more quantitative evaluation, the narrative piece they do will be important to “count that which cannot be counted.” While a narrative piece was still allowable, Comsa again emphasized that at least 25% of the total evaluation needed to be weighted towards objective measures of student achievement and growth data.
The board ultimately decided to look at the MEAP, the NWEA MAP, graduation rates, and the MME and ACT together – because those two are similar tests. The information, according to director of student accounting and research Jane Landefeld, could examined district-wide, building by building, or in disaggregated groups. The board will determine the weighting for categories that are not already mandated by the state.
Superintendent Evaluation: Community Feedback
The trustees spent some time talking over how community feedback should be included in the evaluation. Stead stated that the survey tools the board has traditionally used to solicit feedback from the community were good. The feedback would be gathered, then included in the overall evaluation.
Lightfoot was in favor of having community feedback stand alone in the evaluation – not included under another category heading. Both Mexicotte and Stead seemed inclined to take community input and capture it as an aspect of the rubric. Stead said that one of the board’s jobs is to not just use a tool when evaluating Green, but to draw upon their collective experience, data, and reports for the evaluation. And part of that would include the community’s feedback.
In the past, Patalan noted, some survey respondents took the feedback very seriously and did not comment on the areas on which they had no knowledge. Stead acknowledged that was true for some, but also noted that “some people comment on things they wouldn’t even know.”
Mexicotte and Stead reviewed how the collection of community feedback has been done in the past. First, board members, including the superintendent, make a list of people they would like to survey, which is intended to reflect a broad range of people in the district. No limit is put to the number of people trustees can include on their lists. Surveys are then sent to those people confidentially, along with representatives from a set of “usual suspects,” Mexicotte said. Those usual suspects including bargaining units, principals, staff members, board associations, and parents. All the input that’s received is then aggregated and presented to the board during a closed session.
Before last year, the names of people to whom the survey was to be sent and the feedback was aggregated by Amy Osinski, the executive assistant to the board of education. Last year, Susan Baskett raised the issue of confidentiality and suggested asking someone from outside the current administration to perform that task. Ultimately, Mexicotte sent out the documents and was the only person to see the list in its entirety. Mexicotte and Stead did the aggregation by themselves using a team approach.
The trustees supported keeping the aggregation of data in-house. Stead said that it provided the kind of confidentiality people wanted, and, as Patalan noted, “it keeps it within the board.” Nelson thanked Stead and Mexicotte for the work they did in compiling the data.
Again this year, the trustees will provide Mexicotte with the names of the people they would like to survey. Mexicotte reported that last year 90 surveys were sent, and more than 60 were returned. This return rate was higher than usual.
Superintendent Evaluation: Next Steps
It was ultimately decided that the evaluation statement will be made up of the goals and objectives with the required metrics, plus the narrative and discussion of the trustees, community feedback, and the judgements of the individual trustees.
The trustees spent some time talking over what portion of their documentation would become public. For the 2013-14 evaluation, a quantifiable result must be made public – most likely the composite rubric score. For the 2012-13 school year, a statement similar to the one the board released last year would suffice, said Comsa. Stead suggested releasing a blank rubric and the weighting they decide to give each category. Lightfoot said she liked being transparent with their evaluation. She contended that anything they put together will shape not only the superintendent evaluation, but teacher evaluations, as well.
Stead concluded the discussion by formulating the next steps that need to happen for the evaluation. At the April COTW meeting, the board will review the community survey content for changes and make any needed changes. Towards the end of April, the trustees will be asked to provide nominations for the community and key stakeholders. The survey will then be sent out by Mexicotte to the community members, who will have one to two weeks to respond. After the compilation of the feedback, the board will meet in executive session in June to conduct the superintendent evaluation.
Legal Action Review
Simone Lightfoot said she was keen to revisit a suit against the governor and the state “for what they are doing to public education.”
It would be “irresponsible” to not pursue it, maintained Lightfoot. She asked if they could re-entertain a conversation about pursuing legal action, or at the very least, have an update to their previous charge to look into legal action against the state for its misuse of the School Aid Fund (SAF).
Several concerns were brought up related to pursuing legal action. Trustee Andy Thomas was concerned with the lack of specificity of Lightfoot’s request. He recalled that the last time they looked at pursuing legal recourse against the state was when the legislature was shifting money from K-12 to higher education. He didn’t see the same kind of targeted approach with this request. Green emphasized the district have already been advocating for legislative change and was hesitant to call upon her contacts without first having “very specific direction from the board” about the grounds on which the district would want to sue the state.
Lightfoot said that she was not advocating for a “shotgun approach,” but had heard from other districts that they were mulling such an option. She wanted to “tap into those conversations” because she believed that was something the AAPS board of trustees were interested in. When Green said she hadn’t heard anything like that from her colleagues, Lightfoot said she would gather information and provide it directly to Green.
Nelson was concerned that such a request would burden the executive team too much. It was determined, however, that an update could be provided with just a few phone calls to outside counsel by Comsa and his team.
Outcome: The board charged the administration with an update to any recourse on legal action towards the state’s misuse of the SAF.
Board Policy Changes
During agenda planning, Mexicotte told the board she would like to bring introduce two new policies for discussion at the March 27 meeting.
While she did not get into the specifics, she said the policies would focus on time and meeting management, boardsmanship, and committee structure. She said she would like the board to engage in discussion around “how we are running out meetings in terms of policy and procedure, how we are interacting and getting our work done in terms of identifying important agenda items as well as how we are accomplishing our work.”
The trustees recently made changes to their agenda setting process, which has led to more discussion about adding agenda items. Recent meetings have lasted until 2 or 3 a.m.
Mexicotte said the board would also review and discuss the “affirmation of boardsmanship” she had presented to the trustees at the Jan. 16, 2013 meeting. The affirmation is a result of the Mexicotte’s effort to address the board’s goal of building trust and relationships, a goal set at the board’s August 2012 retreat.
Present: President Deb Mexicotte, vice-president Christine Stead, treasurer Glenn Nelson, secretary Andy Thomas, and trustees Susan Baskett, Simone Lightfoot, and Irene Patalan
Next regular meeting: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, at 7 p.m. at the fourth-floor boardroom of the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown branch, 343 S. Fifth Ave.
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