Rowan-Salisbury school board OKs new accountability model

Published 8:53 pm Tuesday, October 29, 2019

SALISBURY — Initial results of Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ first accountability report could be ready for public release in June, district staff members told the school board Monday night.

After receiving unanimous school board approval of its new accountability model Monday, RSS will embark on a months-long process to refine logistics and launch a measurement tool that it plans to use to judge student success.

That accountability model includes measuring students’ academic skills, knowledge and achievement of their unique life goals and interpersonal skills. Within those broad items are smaller measurement tools — including test scores on English and math assessments; teacher evaluations; and whether students are enrolled, enlisted or employed after graduation. A comprehensive student portfolio will contain items from all three areas of the accountability model.

Superintendent Lynn Moody, scheduled to help launch the model with a “state of the district” speech in January, said school board members won’t be happy with what’s released in the first year.

“We know we’ll get better at this with time. … The first time you see the report, you’re going to say, ‘Oh my word, this is terrible,’” Moody said.

Some parts of the accountability model won’t be ready for use immediately either, including social studies and science fundamental standards and grading students based on competency rather than the traditional system.

But competency-based grading on report cards could be used sooner than expected. During a feedback process before Tuesday’s vote, teachers said they wanted to have an earlier implementation, said Chief Strategy Officer Andrew Smith. So, instead of implementing the new grading method in time for the 2022-23 school year, RSS will aim for 2021-22.

Another change based on public feedback included using the digital student portfolio as an all-encompassing tool for students instead of only unique life goals.

Smith said RSS received feedback from 116 parents through a survey and six via focus groups; 59 principals and directors in person; 26 general community members via survey and five in a focus group; and about 300 teachers.

Some of the feedback included the need for teachers to have consistent professional development and ensuring that the curriculum is rigorous and applicable to real life as well as concerns that teachers could become overwhelmed by trying to individualize instruction, how changes would affect college admissions, whether there would be enough internships in Rowan County for students and training teachers adequately.

Smith said that Monday’s approval was of the concept of the accountability model and that the staff will bring back details about the logistics of implementation.

School board members didn’t request any specific changes to the model during Monday’s meeting, instead asking questions about logistics and offering more of their input.

With RSS nearly halfway through the year, board member Kevin Jones asked whether the school system would have enough time to communicate necessary information to teachers and if there would be tension in implementing some parts of the model earlier than others.

Board member Travis Allen said that he could envision one person at each school taking sole responsibility for comprehensive digital portfolios and asked whether schools have enough counselors to handle proposed changes.

Among other things, board member Dean Hunter asked whether teachers would need more time to plan and work differently than they had in the past.