After posting this in mid-November, you cannot imagine my excitement when I came across the following memo to all city and county superintendents from Dr. Craig Pouncey, Chief of Staff (and chief finance guy) requiring all school districts to have their public accountability reports ready by December 31, 2012 (ok, so they’re almost ready):
And then,the icing on the cake:the Certification
After learning from a state legislator that he always receives a letter from this particular legislator’s school districts in December letting him know that these reports are available, I can’t help but wonder why I have never seen any of these reports when combing through school district web sites, and why I have been asked to complete Open Records Requests when I have asked for Student Incident Reports. Or why our Alabama media has never let us know that these reports are available in the past.
Here’s what the accountability report is supposed to contain, as codified in the Code of Alabama requires:
Accountability reports to the public.
(a) The local board of education shall prepare an annual accountability report for each school and area vocational/technical center under its jurisdiction, and for itself, to be provided to the public under regulations promulgated by the State Board of Education. Such accountability reports shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(1) A Funding and Expenditure Report which shall include those documents specified in Section 16-6B-4 and which shall include the amount of Foundation Program funds or vocational/technical education funds, or both, earned and of all funds expended and any other data deemed necessary by the local board of education or the State Board of Education to inform the public about the financial status of each school.
(2) A Student Achievement Report which shall include a comparison of the immediately previous school year with the previous five years regarding student performance on testing required by the State Board of Education, dropout rates, attendance rates, graduation rates, college attendance, and any other data deemed necessary by the local board of education or the State Board of Education to inform the public about student achievement in each school.
(3) A School Safety and Discipline Report which shall include statistical information relating to student safety and discipline in each school and any other data deemed necessary by the local board of education or the State Board of Education to inform the public about safety and discipline in each school. [We know this as the Student Incident Report, or SIR]
(b) These reports shall be released to the media, presented to parent organizations, members of the Legislature who represent the schools covered in each report, and the State Superintendent of Education. These reports shall be made available to the public upon request on or before ninety (90) days after the end of the fiscal year.
(Acts 1995, No. 95-313, p. 620, §7.)
On the Good Side, already one Alabama school system has notified the media that their accountability reports are available for review. And on the Even Better Side is this notice from a school district (even though it was buried in the legal notice section of al.com) that they are making their reports available on their web site! Hooray!
[NOTE: Take a look at the reports they share. They have done an excellent job presenting these reports. Kudos to Birmingham City Schools!]
So that makes 2 systems. Out of 132 that have reports from last year. Wait a minute. That’s not a very high percentage. I’ll keep searching.
There are two problems here: the first is the vague “made available” language in the law. There is no mandate in the law or from the ALSDE in the memo about what form in which it is to be made available. The second problem is that the student achievement data does not comply with what the law requires.
In what form the reports are made available should be standardized. Yes, it would have been better had the ALSDE mandated that the reports be made available on the district’s web site. I cannot imagine many of us will race down to our school district’s Central Office to stand and review the accountability document while personnel are hovering about (been there, done that).
I wonder, too, how the information will be shared with our state legislators: will they be notified that they can drop by the Central Office to look at a copy? The legislator that I spoke with indicated that he is given the opportunity to review the report at the Central Office but is not sent a copy.
With the simplicity of turning documents into PDFs and e-mailing them, it would seem to be easier for districts to turn the documents into PDFs rather than station a copy in their Central Offices. The reports are all computer-generated, and most programs can turn documents into PDF with the touch of a button. I suppose we will learn which districts truly want to share the information with their school community and which ones are going to simply abide by the letter of the law.
The second problem is that our districts are still not complying with the 1995 law as they are not including five years of comparison student achievement data as the law clearly states they should. Pouncey indicates that districts can point interested parties to the ALSDE’s accountability system, which only provides one year of comparison data (this year’s and last year’s). I have sent an e-mail to the ALSDE to ask why this is the case, but have not yet received a reply.
So if you have ever wondered about discipline or student achievement or financial accountability stuff, now’s the time to get your answers. The report must be made available to you not later than December 31, 2012 (that’s Monday).
And if you do take the time to review this report, why not ask for it in electronic format? Or ask your district to make it available on their web site (like Birmingham City Schools has)? Please fill me in on any response you receive, either here, through e-mail (asc[at]alabamaschoolconnection.org) or on the facebook page.