The exact nature of those standards, and the steps that could be taken to make improvements, have yet to be determined.
The policy is part of the district’s ongoing effort to improve the academic performance of Washoe County students, and sets forth guidelines by which teachers, principals and schools as a whole will be evaluated.
The board’s preliminary approval of the policy on Tuesday came after a short public hearing in which no public comment was heard. The preliminary approval marked the beginning of a 15-day public hearing period.
Trustees will review the policy at the end of the hearing period and could give final approval by the end of July.
“We will bring it back before the board on July 26,” Chief School Accountability Officer Paul LaMarca said. “Hopefully we’ll receive approval by then.”
According to a press release, the creation of an accountability policy began in January when the board of trustees asked Superintendent Heath Morrison to form a committee to draft a “reform policy to enable the development and implementation of a local accountability model.” That committee included teachers, principals, district staff, parents and members of the community.
The first draft of the policy was reviewed at the June 14 meeting of the board of trustees.
“We had a work session two weeks ago,” LaMarca said. “And we had very positive feedback (from the board).”
Board President Barbara McLaury said the policy is an important first step in improving student achievement.
“We have really never had any policy or system in the past that held educators and the school district accountable for student success,” McLaury said. “With our new strategic plan and the Pathway to Excellence, which provides academic benchmarks for all of our children, we can create this system and ensure we are helping each child get to graduation ready for college and/or highly skilled careers.”
LaMarca said the specifics of the accountability policy are still under review, but schools that meet or exceed standards will receive rewards such as autonomy in staffing. Schools, teachers and administrators not meeting the standards will receive more support such as supplemental teaching materials.
“The accountability and evaluation models are built around professional growth,” LaMarca said.
“Through this policy, we … will be able to learn what our high-performing schools are doing well so we can share those practices with other schools, which will ultimately help all students across the district,” LaMarca said.
The policy will set district-wide standards based on clear expectations for performance, and will be based on the following guiding principles:
• The primary purpose of an accountability system is to identify system strengths and weaknesses so that appropriate action can be taken.
• The accountability system should be simple, clear and easily understood.
• Schools are the primary units of accountability. Schools must be held accountable for the performance of all students as well as the performance of student subgroups.
• School accountability must be aligned with principal and teacher evaluation systems.
• Student achievement must be the dominant measure of school performance. Other metrics should be included to fairly represent school performance and to stimulate attention to critical contextual variables.
• Where possible, student growth, student proficiency and trends over time should be measured.
• To the extent practical, school culture/climate, student, teacher and family engagement, and school leadership should be measured and included in accountability decisions affecting schools.
• All departments and offices in the district should be held accountable for their performance and the support they provide to schools.
For schools and district offices that consistently perform below standards, personnel changes could be an option.
“Potentially closing and reopening a school using a different model would also be a possibility for chronically under-performing schools,” the release states.
Though the school district is operating under a drastically reduced budget at this time, LaMarca said the budget will have little or no bearing on the implementation of the accountability policy.
If the board passes the initiative at its July 26 meeting, certain components of the accountability policy will be implemented during the 2011-12 school year. LaMarca said district officials will work with school principals to build the full model and have it in place by 2012-13.