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Editorial: Incentive goals lacking specific measures for student achievement

By Staff | Oct 5, 2011

The Lee County School Board has given its new superintendent five performance incentive goals for the upcoming year, all but one keyed to school or teacher achievement.

In addition to minimum job requirements and strategic plan goals, Dr. Joseph Burke will work to achieve:

A 4 percent increase in the number of schools earning a state-determined “A” or “B” school grade.

Maintaining the school system’s status as a state-classified “A” district.

A 4 percent increase in the number of students identified as “college or career ready.” The benchmark will be determined by the number of students who obtain a credit or credits in algebra II or higher-level math courses and by the number who complete career certification.

Implement a teacher evaluation system that provides for a compensation model that includes student learning outcomes and develop a career ladder options plan for teachers.

Present a revised student assignment plan that reduces the transportation budget by 6 percent.

The target date for accomplishment is Dec. 12, 2012 and each goal is worth up to $2,000 if fully achieved.

It’s an ambitious scope of work and does target areas that are appropriately marked as top priorities: district achievement, a local option to state efforts to find an appropriate way to tie teacher compensation to the classroom, and the need for transportation efficiencies in a “school choice” district.

We are disappointed, however, that while there is an emphasis on school and district-wide “grades,” strategic plan priorities that are student-specific were not among Dr. Burke’s board-set incentive goals.

Goals not included? More graduates, fewer dropouts and, an area of particular lack, measurable academic improvement for minority and Exceptional Student Education students. Also not included were increases in the number of students achieving level 3-5 scores on the state-required FCAT or measurable improvement in student SAT scores.

It’s nice to be an “A” school. It’s nice to be an “A” district. There’s lots of each in Florida, which is improving its ranking among the states in terms of academic achievement.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Nearly a quarter of fourth graders are not reading on grade level. Math scores are just marginally better. For older students, standardized test scores do not improve. The number of students not meeting state benchmarks is, in fact, worse at higher grade levels.

Whether this measures up favorably against comparable districts or state averages is not the issue. The number of students leaving the district with solid reading and math skills – or not – is.

This is where we, and we suspect parents, will be measuring Dr. Burke’s, and the district’s, achievement of goals come next December.

It’s too bad key student-based strategic objectives were not formally prioritized with incentive goal designation.

– Reporter editorial