School Community Summit

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Last Saturday I was at the gorgeous Everett Middle School to attend the School Community Summit where parents, teachers and principals had their first real taste of the new Balanced Scorecard and a chance to hear what going “Beyond the Talk” might mean for their school communities.

The  first unusual thing I noticed on walking in was that the registration table was enthusiastically staffed by several very senior SFUSD administrators who were busily welcoming attendees, signing us in and handing out packets. I got some coffee, greeted a few friends, then took a seat in the auditorium. A very passionate poetry performance kicked off the morning assembly – a nice and unexpected touch.

pullquoteSuperintendent Carlos Garcia and Deputy Superintendent Tony Smith took us through the expectations of the district’s new strategic plan and the Balanced Scorecard. I have been reading a book about the Balanced Scorecard tool and how it works, and I’ve been concerned that all of this theoretical framework is not getting communicated down to the school sites as concretely and completely as it should.  But Smith did a good job of describing the three key strategic goals each site must consider in developing its own plan for success: Access and Equity; Academic Achievement and Accountability. The focus must be on learning and our efforts must be coordinated: schools must be empowered to try radical things to improve outcomes for their communities, and their progress on those radical goals must be measurable. If individual schools succeed, we need to have mechanisms in place to make sure those successes can be used as road map for change at other sites. And if one school’s efforts fail, we need to be able to quickly understand why we weren’t successful so that other sites can learn from our failures as well as our successes.

Then it was off to the workshop sessions. I attended a presentation by Ritu Khanna (Executive Director of Research, Planning and Accountability) and Kevin Truitt (Senior Executive Director of Leardership and Equity Initiative as well as the rock star former principal of Mission High School). Dubbed “The Matrix” (no, not THAT one), it took us through the district’s newest tool for visualizing school performance data – the School Quality and Access Matrix.

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The Matrix: the Y-axis represents raw scores on the California Standards Test. The X-axis represents the gap between actual performance (the vertical line is the district benchmark) and predicted performance based on demographics. To oversimplify, the closer you are to the upper-right corner, the better.

This tool is a work in progress–its interface and functionality are clunky and the presentation of data is quite confusing even with the benefit of the explanation and walk-through Ritu and Kevin gave us at the workshop. Only the wonkiest folks will have fun with this tool at the moment, but in the long run I have high hopes for the Matrix. Creating this tool–and letting parents and community members bang on it before it is absolutely perfect–says great things about this administration’s commitment to data and to transparency.

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