Mike Borkowski commented that the Board meeting is being held at Deer Path Middle School in support of the Board’s goal of increasing community engagement. Hopefully, it makes attendance more convenient and it allows us to celebrate the work we have done here – the Haskins 2.0 and our classroom transformation project. It also gives board members a chance to learn more about the current state of our science labs, as we consider upgrading those spaces. The physical environment is only one small piece of the District’s overall Vision.
Mike discussed that for-profit news organizations recently came out with their annual school rankings and noted that we are awesome on some and non-existent on others.
Different rankings look at different factors and weight them differently. Some rankings value test scores and achievement heavily. Others put an emphasis on attendance and extra-curricular activities. Others include diversity measurements and weight low-income students more heavily. Some use survey results from their subscribers, asking if their subscribers enjoyed their experience at a certain school, as part of their algorithm. When a person starts looking at the details behind the rankings, the vastly different ranks that the same school can achieve starts to be more understandable.
The one thing that all the rankings do have in common is this: they all take their different measures of success and they boil the school down to one number. Mike commented that is NOT how this board, this administration, and this school district thinks. We have a Vision for this District that we strongly believe in, and we remain focused on that. Having said that, metrics are very important. And we DO need to know if we are actually doing a good job. Not only does this Board and Administration need to know that, but our entire community – all our taxpayers, parents, staff, and students – need to know that, as well. So, if the newspaper rankings are not the answer, what is the answer?
Mike suggested a two-part answer to that question: Key Performance Indicators and Communication. Key Performance Indicators - or KPIs as they are often called – are the first part of the answer. How do we as a School Board, as a School District, and as Community define success? We first must define what metrics we care about most – what factors do we believe really move the needle and indicate we are being successful? We then determine baseline data for these metrics, and then we measure those metrics again and again over time. The metrics are closely aligned with our Vision. If we are doing well on the metrics, it is an indication that we are getting closer to our Vision. If we are not, we need to figure out why and adjust accordingly. Mike shared that we are in the midst of doing that work – determining our district’s Key Performance Indicators, obtaining the baseline data, and creating a Data Dashboard to easily show how we are doing.
The second part of the answer is external communication – communication with our entire community. Mike noted that District 67 has an awesome story to tell. That story is described within our Vision statements, and it is coming to life within our school buildings, our staff, and our student population. Telling our story includes so many things: sharing the Data Dashboard, explaining how differentiation in the classroom is optimal for all students, educating the community on our new Report Card, which includes social emotional well-being, growth AND test scores, discussing why third grade reading is so important, demonstrating how physical environment matters, etc. As that occurs, we look at the news rankings differently.
We constantly rank our District, but we use a different methodology. We rank our District against how close we are coming to achieving our Vision. Mike’s hope is that over time - as we roll out the KPI Data Dashboard and as we tell our story in a proactive, consistent, and engaging manner – the community may come to adopt that view.