Elizabeth A. Feser’s reflections on her first year as Superintendent in the Milford school system at Monday’s Board of Education meeting asked as many questions as it answered in an effort to prompt a dialogue about what would further improve curriculum and instruction, leadership, and other elements representative of a high-performing district.
Feser’s remarks dovetailed into the presentation of Assistant Supt. Michael Cummings, who talked about the comprehensive District Continuous Improvement Plan, which includes goals and strategies related to the common core, instructional framework, the climate for learning, and standardized testing.
“If you’re not improving you’re declining,” Cummings said, adding that there is no room for the status quo in education. Cummings said there is always room for improvement and that one of the marks of a high-performing school district is that “everybody is rowing in the same direction.”
That wasn’t the case during the lengthy discussion of the plan, which centered on the way to measure improvement and set new achievement goals for students. Jack Hammer, a Foran High School chemistry teacher and data specialist for the district, proposed using a three-year running average of standardized test results as the indicator over time of instructional impact on students, much the way stocks are analyzed.
Board Chair Tracy Casey expressed concern that such a method might result in a lowering of expectations because of the fluctuations in test results from year to year. “We want to take the results from 2011 and improve them,” she said.
“Data point fluctuations may not be what we’re looking for,” said board member Earl Whiskeyman Rather, he said, they are looking for continual improvements.
But board member Mark Stapleton said data has severe limitations and only offers one piece of a large puzzle anyway.
Casey asked board members if they wanted to re-open the year-old plan to reconsider the baselines but they opted to keep it as it is.
More Questions Than Answers
In Feser’s reflections, she shared what she knows about the district and what questions she has, including how better to utilize teachers as instructional leaders, is the district embracing every child, are educators sufficiently and appropriately challenging all students, and are they reaching out to parents who are disengaged or feeling disenfranchised.
“I don’t have an answer to that but we need to answer that,” she said several times.
Feser said she believes Milford has the ability to become a high-performing district. It’s not there yet, she said, but has the capability and desire to do so.
During her first year as superintendent, Feser said she has most enjoyed spending time in classrooms seeing the work of students and teachers. She said she has never been involved in a school district where the Board of Education recognizes the achievements of so many students.
The meeting opened with the introduction of several students who had won awards and achieved special goals, among them Geroan DeGuzman, 11, a student and the first place winner of the Junior Women’s Club’s 28th annual City-Wide Spelling Bee.