Review of First School Quality Working Group Meeting
It's taken me a while to get to this, but here's my review of the first SQWG meeting which was held on May 1st. First a little background. One of the EAC recommendations to the School Committee was the creation of a group to focus on measuring and improving the quality of BPS schools. The Superintendent agreed and the group was appointed by the School Committee. BPS has created a new site, http://bostonschoolquality.org, to keep the public informed during the process.
The group has 21 members, including me. Bios should be available on the members page soon. As a member of the group, I've spent some time thinking about whether it's appropriate to blog about our work here. During the student assignment reform process I wrote extensive reviews of each meeting which were a mix of both factual information and my opinions on the proceedings. I have decided to go ahead with blogging about the SQWG, but I expect these posts to be somewhat different. The most significant difference is that I will try not to express an opinion in these posts. I will express any thoughts I have, including any disagreement with other members, during the SQWG meetings. I also expect these posts to be shorter and less detailed as I won't be able to take as many notes during the meetings.
However, I do hope that readers will feel free to discuss the work of the group in the comments. I think there have been some great conversations on previous posts and I hope that continues.
The first meeting started with introductions, then moved on to some discussion of the group's charge. The stated goal of the group is "To design a school quality accountability framework that includes public oversight." The groups chairs presented a proposed list of objectives to achieve this goal, which are listed in the meeting agenda. There was some discussion of whether these objectives were clear or comprehensive enough. I believe that a revised proposal will be discussed at the next meeting.
The next item on the agenda was a presentation on the new student assignment plan by Carleton Jones of BPS. There really wasn't anything new here, it looks pretty much like what has been presented in the past.
Next was a presentation by Nathan Kuder, Director of Performance Management at BPS, on work the district has already done on measuring quality. He spoke about efforts by BPS to develop both an School Performance Index and a School Opportunity Index. The SPI looks at measures like test scores and school climate. The SOI looks at things like teacher quality, equitable funding, and the range of learning opportunities. There was some confusion on the difference between these and how they should be used. Superintendent Carol Johnson attended the meeting and spoke of the importance of looking at opportunity gaps. She handed out copies of an article from the National Education Policy Center about the opportunity gap. Reading this, it seems to me that an opportunity index should be used to better understand why schools aren't meeting children's needs rather than to determine whether a school is meeting needs. I'm sure there will be further discussion on this at future meetings.
The meeting ended with public comment. Only a small members of the community attended. One person spoke on her concern that no current BPS teachers were included in the group.
The meeting schedule can be found in this document. Meetings will generally be the second Wednesday of the month from 6:00 - 8:30 pm, but the next meeting will be held on May 29th, location TBD.
Thanks for reading and please post any thoughts or questions you have in the comments.