Thursday, October 24, 2013

What has Kids First's campaign claim of "continued educational improvement for all children in the district" meant for QSAC Scores on Instruction and Program? Instruction and Program scores have dropped from a high of 87% Pre-Kids First leadership to 68% (failing) according to the NJ Dept. of Education

In February 2013 the most recent Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) results were released for the Hoboken School District. QSAC is an independent district assessment that is monitored by the State of New Jersey's Department of Education and is both independent and objective. Unfortunately, Instruction and Program, THE most important and diverse indicator of competence in curriculum, programs, and professional development opportunities for the entire district, is a problematic and increasingly embarrassing area for the district under Kids First. The latest QSAC Instruction and Program area has the district receiving a failing score of 68%, down from the previous failing score of 69% over a year ago (80% is passing). This is especially disconcerting since the first full QSAC assessment after the district's curriculum writing assignment was completed in the school district led to a score of 87%. Falling from 87% to 68% in a few short years is no surprise given the turnover of building principals, turnover of superintendents and assistant superintendents (many who were interims) and academic directors, the failure to implement the revised Hoboken Curriculum and the clear failure of Board leadership in curriculum and instruction under the Kids First political group.  

The other DPR's (Fiscal, Governance, Operations, and Personnel) gains have been maintained. 

Kids First literature indicates pride in their efforts in Instruction and Program as they state how they have advocated and supported new text books, trying to make the argument that past textbooks were inadequate. Having no experience or expertise in Curriculum or Instruction, this is a common assumption to make. Unfortunately, as Kids First has concentrated on relatively superficial aspects of education such as traditional textbooks, smart boards, and laptops (things that are easy to purchase and are fine educational tools but whose acquisition has little statistical correlation with learning when not accompanied with corresponding meaningful professional development)....test scores and QSAC scores have plummeted.The graph of the QSAC Instruction and Program scores clearly show that leadership matters, that policy matters, and indicates how quickly gains and improvements can be lost when apparently well intentioned yet ill informed and incompetent people assume leadership roles in a school district. 

Why is this happening? The cause cannot be attributed to a single factor. Rather it is a systemic problem that indicates failure of the district as a complex adaptive system. Consider some of the decisions made in the past few years by Kids First: failure to implement the new curriculum, elimination of the Saturday U Program, a reduction in emphasis on the Johns Hopkins Program, adoption of Advanced Placement despite growing research indicating its problematic nature (Click here for more info), eliminating the Alternative High School, bringing 8th graders into the high school and expanding it to grades 8-12. Subsequent expansion of the high school to 7-12 by bringing in 7th graders. Increasing emphasis on test preparation. 4 principals in the high school in 3 years. 4 principals in Wallace school in 3 years. 3 principals in Connors over 3 years. 3 different assistant superintendents over 3 years. Numerous assistant principals in ALL of these schools. Most troubling is an increasing disconnect in faith and confidence in school and district leadership by the teaching staff. A district that is in constant instructional and programmatic educational flux cannot possibly be effectively reflective and responsive to the needs of its organization. 

According to the letter from the Commissioner of Education, the school district failed in a number of areas in Instruction and Program: 
Included in your district’s DPR file is a template for your district improvement plan (DIP).  Please develop your District Improvement Plan (DIP) to address the failed DPR indicators highlighted in yellow below: DPR: Instruction and Program 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 
So, this becomes yet another example that challenges the contention of "continued educational improvement for all children" made by the political group known as Kids First. Only a group with an Orwellian sense of language and communication could possibly declare that a QSAC decline from 87% to 68% would indicate continued educational improvement for all children. Objective and non partisan evaluation by the New Jersey Department of Education appears to agree. 

The following documents articulate the specific areas where previous gains were lost and where improvement must be made. 

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