Embracing the Complexity of Education

Hilliard City Schools

marschhausen_john_hcsdFor generations we have summarized student performance in school with report cards. Parents hung them on the refrigerator, students sweated the final assignments of a quarter, and teachers would add handwritten comments.

However, our performance in school was evaluated by more than the grade . . . it was the communication between the teachers and the parents. It was the teacher’s comments; it was the conversations at conferences.

The performance of an entire school district is complex; it can’t be reduced to a simple report card. Yes, we must have accountability, we must measure performance, and we must continue to pursue improvement. You will get no argument from me about assessments and performance measures, but we must embrace the complexity of our work.

The Ohio Department of Education recently released school performance results from the PARCC Assessments. This will be the first and only year we will see PARCC results. Our students spent hours and hours – our state spent millions of dollars – on these mandated assessment. We must keep in mind that one of the greatest values of any assessment is data over time; it is measuring students from year to year and analyzing data to improve performance. In a complex system, continuity is a factor. We must keep the PARCC results in perspective.

Furthermore, the complexity of the system is part of a bigger narrative. For example, the 8th grade math results in Hilliard seem to be out of line with other subjects and grade levels. With a deeper look at this data we find that 72% of Hilliard 8th grade students didn’t even take the test. Of our 1265 8th grade students last year, 907 of our students took either the Geometry or the Algebra 1 end of course exam. 100% of the Hilliard Middle School students that took the geometry assessment met the criteria; over 94% of the students that took the Algebra 1 assessment met the standard. This is just one example of the complexities. We have students that have other native languages, we have students with special needs, and we have internal measures we use to drive classroom instruction.

Education must be personal. Our mission is to ensure that every student is Ready for Tomorrow. We have prepared our Second Annual Quality Profile, it is part of a larger narrative to share the complexity of the work we do in the Hilliard City Schools.

Just as student report cards have changed, moving on line with fewer personal comments, school accountability has changed. Just as parents now communicate with teachers via emails and electronic tools, the school district shares our story in a myriad of different modalities. We must resist the temptation to make it simple; let’s embrace the complexity of what we do and relentlessly pursue excellence in every aspect of our operation. We have a story to write . . . and we get to respond to each chapter on our journey.