JCPS Board Hears Results of Audit, 10 Recommendations Offered

by Devin Katayama on January 24, 2012

The Jefferson County Board of Education has received its much anticipated curriculum management audit from Phi Delta Kappa International.

“We didn’t find chaos. We didn’t find a reason to abandon the system,” lead auditor Dr. John Murdoch told the JCPS board.

The board requested the audit last year to help support staff and student achievement. On Monday night, the firm presented the board with 24 findings and 10 recommendations including the one provided to JCPS last November. Auditors found several inadequacies and areas for improvement, but the district’s status is not as bad as the public may think, said Murdoch.

The district’s “cooperation was phenomenal,” and all the necessary data was handed over, making the process more transparent, said Murdoch. Now, Superintendent Donna Hargens and the board will likely undertake the arduous process of reworking policies and curriculum structure over the next several years in an attempt to change the culture surrounding the district, he said.

Twenty-five on-site auditors visited the district’s 156 schools and reviewed hundreds of documents and interviewed hundreds of JCPS staff members to produce its 500-plus page report.

The first step is one JCPS has already accepted, which is the restructuring of its central management office. The district is in the process of hiring four new chief positions that will streamline communication to Hargens, replacing 17 previous positions, many of which were loosely defined, according to the firm.

The audit recommends JCPS implement and organize clear directives and goals for teaching curriculums, organizing system-wide management and for student assessment. Auditors found the district’s scope of the written curriculum in core academic areas for elementary schools is adequate, however for middle and high schools it is not. The district must find a way to align the goals across the county to build a more well-defined curriculum structure, said Murdoch.

It further suggests the district’s resources are not organized and are not being used efficiently. The firm has recommended ways to track and assess the nearly 800 programs and interventions offered by JCPS, which should allow the district to shed any inefficient programs it wishes.

The audit was provided as a tool for district leaders, said Murdoch. But change may take time.

Certain recommendations have been offered as priorities, like the restructuring of the central administration. Others involve careful planning, like the development of a three-year plan that aligns district and building level resources with curriculum goals.

While district’s that regularly use the audit process might revisit the audit every six to seven years, the development of the curriculum is a constant on-going process, said Murdoch.

The cost of the audit was $302,000.

Below are the 10 recommendations as listed by JCPS:

  1. Adopt policies governing the management of the organization and job descriptions.
  2. Review, revise, adopt, and implement Board policies to provide a sound local system of curriculum management and control. Review and revise school based decision making sample policies to be consistent with Board policy.
  3. Redesign the planning process to provide a coherent focus and improved system connectivity to fulfill the vision of the Board and the new leadership.
  4. Design and implement a comprehensive curriculum management system that integrates curriculum development, staff development, and staff appraisal, and provides continuity and consistency across all grade levels and schools. Consolidate curriculum guides and resources for all courses offered, integrating curriculum expectations for special populations within the documents.
  5. Develop and implement a comprehensive plan for student assessment and program evaluation.  District and site levels will be required to use data that is focused on closing achievement gaps among subgroups, raising achievement for all students, and providing feedback for decisions about curriculum management, program adoption, implementation, continuation, expansion, modification, or termination.
  6. Institutionalize instructional best practices for effective curriculum delivery.
  7. Establish procedures requiring formal monitoring of instructional practices to promote district-wide consistency.
  8. Design and implement a coordinated, system-wide professional development program that supports the curriculum and focuses on improved student achievement.
  9. Provide equal access to comparable programs, services, and opportunities to impact student achievement. Eliminate the achievement gap between ethnic and socioeconomic student groups. Take further steps to allocate resources based on student needs.
  10. Develop and implement a three-year plan that aligns district and building-level resources to curricular goals and strategic priorities. Include systematic cost-benefit analysis to ensure that expenditures are producing desired results.

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