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Portland School Board Gets District Scorecard 2.0, Parent Survey Data

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Portland School Board Gets District Scorecard 2.0, Parent Survey Data
Posted on 12/16/2014

Portland Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk presented the Portland Public Schools’ District Scorecard 2.0 to the Portland Board of Public Education at its Dec. 16 business meeting. The scorecard reports data on student progress and sets annual performance goals, in line with the district’s Comprehensive Plan.

Caulk also presented the board with the results of a new survey of parents and high school students that the Portland Public Schools conducted during the past year, asking them about their experiences in the district.

“These two important metrics give us a robust picture of student achievement and school climate as we deliver on our promise of having all students graduate from high school prepared for college and career,” Caulk said. “Tracking this data allows us to be transparent about the return on the investment community members make in supporting our schools. The scorecard data shows areas where we’re making gains and moving in the right direction, and also areas where we’re not growing as much as we’d like. As we move into the FY 2016 school budget process in January, those will be some key areas where we will be investing in strategies for improvement.”

The parent/student survey results are very positive. “The survey data shows parents across the district are pleased with our schools,” Caulk said. “They say our schools are safe, that their children enjoy attending them and that parents feel welcomed and respected at school. And a majority of students say our high schools provide interesting and challenging courses and that they plan to graduate.”

The Portland Public Schools stands out for its District Scorecard, which it launched earlier this year. “The Portland Public Schools is a leader in the state in looking at our data using multiple measures,” Caulk said. “Our District Scorecard is not just based on one point in time or a single assessment but instead looks at where students are growing, as well as looking at other indicators of student success.”

The latest scorecard data, he said, “shows us that student performance is growing and that the longer students stay with us in district schools, the better they do.”

However, Caulk said, “The data also shows that while our students are growing, in some cases they’re not growing fast enough. We’ve got to get them to grow at a faster rate. We plan to do that by implementing strategies that include investing in early education to make sure all students come to school ready for kindergarten; increasing students’ and families’ access to prekindergarten; improving literacy at the elementary level; increasing student learning time; continuing to extend the school year for students in primary grades who are reaching towards proficiency; and increasing high school graduation rates.”

The District Scorecard gives baseline data from the past two school years for student performance on state assessments in reading, writing, math and science and for English language learners’ performance on the ACCESS test. The scorecard also includes data about student attendance, high school graduation rates, enrollment in AP and dual enrollment classes, PSAT and SAT scores and other indicators of college readiness.

Results are reported for the district as a whole and for subgroups (White, Asian, Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, economically disadvantaged, students with identified disabilities and students with limited English proficiency).

The scorecard also sets performance targets for the current school year and for 2017-2018.  The Portland Public Schools has set a goal of becoming the best small urban school district in the country by 2017.

Areas where the scorecard shows growth include Grade 5 reading and writing and Grade 11 math. There was also positive growth in SAT scores, with an increase in the number of students who scored 1550 and above. “We are pleased that we have students who are doing extremely well,” Caulk said.

Yet the data also showed that some groups of students are not performing as well as their classmates. For example, scores for third graders in the Black/African American and economically disadvantaged groups trailed well behind total scores for district third graders in reading and math proficiency. Third grade reading ability is considered a key indicator of future academic success.

“Our staff is doing a great job,” Caulk said. “But the scorecard shows that some groups of students are falling far behind their peers, and we must do more and invest more to make sure our students’ demography does not determine their destiny.”

The Portland Public Schools’ Chief Academic Officer David Galin presented the board with key strategies to help more students achieve.

They include literacy strategies such as a greater emphasis on writing; early screening to get interventions in place early; extended time for learning in the school day and school year; and continuing to provide robust professional learning for teachers.

Strategies to increase high school graduation rates include extended learning opportunities through community partnerships such as the one the Portland Public Schools has with Jobs For Maine Graduates; improved progress monitoring and early warning indicators of students who need extra help; summer programs; and improved high school transition efforts such as grade 9 teaming.

“We continue to see our students making growth in reading and math,” Galin said. “Ensuring that all students have effective educators and additional instructional time will support more students demonstrating proficiency.”

Parents participated in the recent Portland Public Schools’ survey either online or by filling out paper surveys available at district schools. The surveys were in English and seven other languages spoken by families in the district’s schools. More than 26 percent of parents participated in the survey.

Chanda Turner, Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement for the Portland Public Schools, who spearheaded the survey effort, noted, “This is the first time we've surveyed ALL parents across the district at the same time, and we’re ecstatic to have so many take the time to share their thoughts with us. We are already using this information to inform decision making and improve our schools for all students and their families.”

Portland high school students were also surveyed, and their participation rate was 50 percent.