Resources for District Accountability Committees

Here is the state law governing DACs. As you can see, they have a wide range of critical oversight responsibilities. As Cherry Creek notes on their excellent DAC site, "This committee has broad responsibilities for ensuring the district’s continued educational success and cost-effective management. The committee is organized in compliance with Colorado state law.  Members of this committee advise Cherry Creek School District Board of Education members on spending priorities, review applications for charter schools, and report the effectiveness of district programs."

This is a new report on the extent to which states' policies and practices are aligned with college and career readiness standards.

Here is CDE's District Accountability Handbook.

Here is a recent OpEd explaining why it is critical that school districts (encouraged by their DACs) need to set explicit targets for the percent of students meeting or exceeding the College and Career Ready standard on the national ACT test that every Colorado 11th grader takes, and why districts need to regularly and visibly report their results on this critical metric.

Here is an example of an analysis from Jeffco that DACs can use to estimate the true size of the student achievement problems they face.

Here and here are two new reports from different organizations that both focus on the appalling state of college and career readiness among US high school graduates.

Worried about your school or your district's math scores? While Canada's math scores are still among the highest in the world, a recent slippage has triggered a national debate about how to improve them. Learn more by reading this report from the CD Howe Institute, Canada's leading non-partisan national think tank.

Many schools and districts are today confronted with rising demands to address a growing number of increasingly challenging student mental health issues. Here is a draft project plan you can use to make progress in this critical area. It includes key background data, and initial hypotheses to guide the diagnostic phase of your work. Here is a report on how Social/Emotional Learning fits into the new ESSA accountability framework. Here is a comparison of 25 different Social/Emotional Initiatives you could use to address the issues facing your district. And here is a very throught-provoking report on how East Asian nations are integrating Social/Emotional Learning to prepare their students to survive and thrive in the 21st century economy.

Another issue facing many school districts is whether to shift away from the traditional middle school model, in favor of a K-8 configuration. Here and here are two new research reports from Canada that find that moving to K-8 has significant benefits, particularly for struggling students.

And here is a research report that demolishes the four most common excuses for the slowdown in achievement improvement that happens in too many high schools.

Two new OECD reports that accompanied the December 2016 release of the most recent international PISA test results make for very interesting reads. One looks at the US results in more detail, and the other takes a deep dive into the results in Massachusetts, which is our best performing state.

Achieve, Inc. recently released the last of its report on the results of its survey of students, employees, higher education, and parents on the extent to which high school students are graduating college and career ready. The results are sobering. Here are Report 1 Report 2 and Report 3.

From the Harvard Business Review comes this research on the four different types of school leaders in the UK, and which does the best job of improving long-term student achievement performance. A must read.

One of the problems that keeps coming up in many districts is the failure to link goals to the changes in activities that are intended to achieve them, and to link activity changes to budget changes. People coming to K12 from the private sector are inevitably surprised by the relatively low quality of the cost data that is available, and the slim use of activity based costing (ABC) to provide high quality management cost data for use in decision making. This research paper provides an example of how ABC was used in one K12 situation, and the insights that it produced. Closely related to this issue is this new paper on how more effective K12 CFOs -- who see their role as closer to a private sector "strategic partner" CFO, and less as a traditional "controller" focused K12 CFO -- can help to accelerate performance improvement in a district.

Canada's leading think tank, the CD Howe Institute, has just published a new analysis of whether increased teacher compensation leads to better student achievement results. It is a thought provoking read. However, it misses what to us is an essential point. One of the hallmarks of being a professional is to give your best to your clients, regardless of what you are paid. Hence, it comes as no surprise when researchers find (as they repeatedly have), that compensation is not a strong incentive for excellent performance by professionals.

However, that does not mean that professionals do not expect differentiated compensation as a reward for superior performance — just look at the spreads in pay you find in typical professional service firms, even among professionals with the same level of experience/seniority. Of course, this line of argument frequently triggers the counter that it is impossible to measure teachers’ performance in a manner that would yield a “fair” performance compensation system. There are at least three responses to this objection.

First, if other professionals have managed to devise metrics to support performance based compensation systems, why can’t education professionals do the same? Second, no performance measurement system will ever be perfect — for example, just look at the wide variation that exists in the standards teachers use to grade students, even within the same school. The issue at hand isn’t creating a system that is perfect; rather, it is creating a system that is good enough to enable us to offer significant differentiated rewards to our best teachers and school teams, with an acceptable degree of confidence that our compensation decisions are, in the aggregate, reasonably accurate. And third, the research shows that teacher evaluation systems are working reasonably well.

One of the key ways that private sector governance and K12 governance differ is in the frequent use by the latter of the “Carver Governance Model.” People with private sector board experience usually have concerns with the Carver Model, not the least of which is their fear that if they scrupulously follow it, they might face claims that they are failing to act with their fiduciary duty of care. You can learn more about these issues here.