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Does "Superintendent of the Year" mean anything?

Just a few days after it was announced that Caddo Parish school superintendent Ollie Tyler was named as the state’s representative for a national school administrator’s award, the state issued school and district accountability scores – leading one to wonder how Tyler deserved the award and, even more importantly, whether it meant anything.

First, note that the Superintendent of the Year award is doled out by the American Association of School Administrators. Not only does this organization spout the usual trendy leftist drivel all too common in the area of education (for example, see its thoughts on school vouchers), observe the qualification to merit the award: applicants must demonstrate leadership, communication, professionalism and community involvement. Does everybody see the glaring omission in here? In fact, really the only criterion that should matter isn’t on its list: results.

You can provide leadership that makes Winston Churchill seem like a soapbox agitator in Hyde Park. You can communicate in a way that makes Ronald Reagan seem mute. You can redefine professional, and you can attend every PTA meeting everywhere. None of that matters if the children don’t learn, whether you define that strictly as achieving to exceed a demanding certain level or, more generously, as making progress towards meeting that level. Reviewing Caddo Parish schools’ records over the past year, there’s serious doubt whether Tyler (or, reviewing other district’s results, many superintendents) would qualify on this account.

From 2005 to 2006, the year of Tyler’s presumed excellence, of the 69 schools tested in Caddo Parish, only 26 met the (minimal) criteria for progress (and just one of the 11 high schools). This proportion was below the statewide proportion of 40 percent. Further, the state baseline average was at 85.1, of which only 24 schools (including three high schools) met this criterion. (Keep in mind the state’s real goal was to be at least 100 this years, of which only 15 were this year, including two high schools).

(Just for comparison’s sake, next door in Bossier Parish 13 of 29 schools, 45 percent, met progress criteria, 20 exceeded the baseline, and nine got the desired target or better. This seems at the very least to meet, if not exceed, Caddo Parish’s standards, but Bossier superintendent Ken Kruithof didn’t win anything.)

This is not to denigrate Tyler’s accomplishment; I’m sure she is a great speaker and motivator who gets along famously with most of the community. But what Louisiana needs are superintendents that get students adequately educated and, from test results, they seem to be in short supply. Maybe because too many of them buy into an education establishment that strives more to make its members feel good rather than pursue policies that fulfill children’s needs for student achievement.


Anonymous said...

Did scores go up, down, or remain the same in Caddo and Bossier?

It's one thing to compare static scores, but improvement should be the measurement.

Anonymous said...

This opinion on what really counts needs to be read constantly by the Caddo Parish School Board who are somewhere in the equation. We just got through with school board elections and not much was put on the table by the candidates. Based on the record as presented, why don't we hold the board responsible for Caddo's scores. Its the voters responsibility to elect new leadership, if that word means anything.

A song writer can write good music, but it takes professionals to convert the notes written to good music.

With regards to achievement scores in Louisiana we know its politics as usual and making disinterested uninformed voters feeling good is most important.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Sadow, is if your fault if your students from one year don't do as well as students from a previous year?
Isn't it your job as a teacher to teach? If you students are not doing better each consecutive year, is it your fault? Does it mean you're not doing a very good job teaching if the students from one year do worse than the students from a previous year?

Jeff Sadow said...

But year-to-year performance isn't the main point here. You do get fluctuations (and your analogy isn't quite accurate because, unlike a school superintendent who has largely the same students from one year to the next to oversee, teachers don't) but the main point of comparison is the actual scores vs. target scores. And, when we review Tyler's record, it's not spectacular in any way; in fact, it's not even solid. That's fine, but it certainly should not deserve any awards.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Sadow, I think that you are a very articulate person, and that goes along way. But for the longest I have been attempting to write you. My name is Frederick Washington, and I recently graduated from Booker T. Washington High School (2007), and I will be attending LSU-S this fall. While everyone does have a right to their own opinion, they must be consistent and comparable with statistics while presenting them... While Bossier is performing better than Caddo, you must look at it from the point of living and diversity... Caddo is a much larger and diverse parish than Bossier, which means that there will be a variation on how schools perform. For instance, there are no schools in Bossier Parish that have over a 80% majority of a black race, schools at a magnet status, or schools that serve students living in the inner-city. Bossier doesn’t have as many obstacles to face as Caddo. Many of the children attending school in Caddo have rough issues to tackle at home, and education isn’t something that doesn’t take place 8 hours a day, it is a continuous process, and what goes on a home can have an effect on how a child performs at school. Ollie's Record is incredible compared to that of the infamous Robert Schiller. When she came to us in 2003, four schools (Booker T. Washington, Fair Park, Woodlawn and Bethune) were classified as "Academically Unacceptable", the school year after three of those schools shed that label ( BTW, FP, and WHS). ( {2005 Report})
Two of those schools showed exemplary growth... BTW was one of those schools showing a growth of 16.9 points, which was the largest growth of any high school in Caddo, Bossier, or Webster Parish. In addition to that, the District performance score went up... and has continued to climb. Under her leadership, learning environments have been improved- physically, and transportation has been improved with better operating and high-tech school buses. (That is just a few things) I am aware that more schools are labeled in the category of "academically unacceptable", but you have to look at the point that the state department of education changed the criteria from a 45.0 to a 60.0 in one single year. That is impossible... How can schools in those categories are expected to make this type of growth, when schools are awarded for growing fewer points. There is not a single school in this district that has a performance score below a 45.0, and before she came to Caddo, we were a “One Star” district- now we are “Two Star”. She is a dynamic leader and it is evidenced by the community. She has several detractors who have their negatives... but that’s usual... and about the link in the "CADDO SCHOOLS NEED TO CLOSE BOOKER T. WASHINGTON"... It can’t be accepted that BTW is a failing school... Compare us to the schools in New Orleans Pre-Katrina. This school has and is producing some of the most productive and viable people of our city and state.... Ollie Tyler is the Best, and she deserved the Award!!! Our school hasn’t failed anyone, if a child has a desire to learn, no matter where they are they can excel. Before I came to Booker T. Washington High School, I was a below “average” student, but the faculty, staff and administrators encouraged me, and I have excelled on the ACT, GEE, and Graduated 4th in my class. I also accepted 12 scholarships including one from LSU-S… So BTW hasn’t failed anyone, and Ms. Tyler isn’t a bad individual. I don’t see you receiving a “Professor of The Year Award.”