Submitted by John Arbeeny.
A drowning man strives mightily expending far more energy than an accomplished swimmer. The result of all that striving? A drowned man.
So too it is with organizations; specifically Clover Park School District striving mightily but drowning academically.
I reviewed the 28 February 2022 Clover Park School Board retreat on YouTube and read the 3 March 2022 Suburban Times article “CP School District February 2022 Board Review” and came away with this impression of CPSD.
Central to the retreat were the briefings on attendance, discipline (more on these in future articles) and Accountability Plan Review which contains the District’s six goals and the basis for assessing the Superintendent’s performance:
- Student Achievement/Growth (3 slides)
- Parent and Community Engagement (4 slides)
- Communication with Stakeholders (3 slides)
- Supportive Learning Environment (3 slides)
- Human Resources (4 slides)
- Fiscal Responsibilities (3 slides)
Cultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (CCDEI) was conspicuously absent and should have been Goal #7. CCDEI has become a central theme in the District, affecting Goals 1 – 6. What has been lacking to date are CCDEI definitions, metrics for measurement, and accountability: perhaps they don’t exist in quantifiable terms. Indeed we are paying $250,000 in salary and benefits to two District employees to do just that since 2018.
Goal #1, Student Achievement/Growth is fundamentally different than Goals 2 – 6. Goal #1 is in fact why we have public school systems: student achievement and growth. It is the primary goal. Functions in Goals 2 – 6 can only be rated based upon the extent that they support Goal #1, not in and of themselves. Yet in actual retreat coverage we have but 3 slides for Goal #1 and 17 slides for Goals 2 – 6.
That in itself shows where the District’s emphasis is: expending a lot of energy but to what purpose? It matters little how “successful” the District is in pursuing Goals 2 – 6 if in fact the expenditure of all that energy, like a drowning man, is for naught in achieving Goal #1.
The District’s 3 March article about the 28 February retreat, as well as the retreat briefings themselves, give little insight as to the actual trends in any of the six Goals or their support of Goal #1. So rather than depending upon the “vanilla” recitations I went directly to the sources of how well the District was accomplishing Goal #1.
The following data was taken directly for the “OSPI Report Card” and School Digger and is just a sample of where the District and select schools rank in terms of Goal #1 achievement, statewide between school years 2019 and 2021-2022. It’s not good!
- Clover Park School District ranking: bottom 29%; DOWN 6%.
- Clover Park High School ranking: bottom 6%; DOWN 10%.
- Hudtloff Middle School ranking: bottom 12%; DOWN 21%.
- Lochburn Middle School ranking: bottom 5%; NO IMPROVEMENT (sadly the average ranking unchanged since 2016).
Blame it on COVID? Not so fast! All schools have faced the same challenges but with very different results. There have been other schools such as Lakes High School and General Harrison Prep that have weathered the COVID storm and actually made gains.
- Lakes High School ranking: 56%; UP 12%.
- General Harrison Prep ranking: 83%; UP 17%.
This disparity in performance begs the question: why? How come the District generally and some schools specifically are drowning while others are swimming? If District policies and efforts in Goals 2 – 6 are the same for all schools, then why the stark differences?
I’d suggest that the primary factors for success or failure are the schools’ administrators and not Board policies, Superintendent implementation, District staff activities and or the energy expended in Goals 2 – 6! It’s all about local school leadership focusing their energies with Goal #1 in mind. It’s not about doing lots of “stuff” but rather doing only the right “stuff” to accomplish the primary mission: Goal #1.
Clearly a more focused approach to leadership and mission accomplishment must be forthcoming from the Board in policy and accountability through Superintendent implementation to correct these disparities. Simply expending more energy in Goals 2 – 6 is not the answer to solving the disparities in Goal #1. The key to high performance is changing how you do what you do rather than just piling on more people, “stuff” and money so you can do it poorly faster.
The Board needs to take a serious look at schools that are drowning versus those that can swim upstream. The Board must begin to make changes in policy that creates a “rising tide” that will elevate all schools in their achievement of Goal #1 without flailing in an attempt to do so and hold the Superintendent accountable for the results.