January 18, 2000

To: ICCSD Teachers and Administrators, via Superintendent Lane Plugge

From: ICCSD Board of Directors

Re: Sample Academic Ends Policy


1. As is widely known throughout the District, the Board has been evolving new governance policies modeled on the ideas of John Carver as described in books such as Reinventing Your Board.

The Board has already completed, and posted to its Web site for all to see, three of the four categories of policies he recommends (board governance, board-superintendent linkage, and executive limitations – along with a “prologue” of general explanation). You might find it helpful to look at those policies and examine some of Carver’s writing.

The Board has now turned its attention to what Carver calls “ends policies,” and what most people would think of as “measurable goals” for the District.

2. The Board wishes to make it expressly clear at the outset that its purposes in establishing ends are limited. (1) First, to remove any possible doubt or anxiety, the Board is expressly on record as not wanting to use the ends data for purposes of either reward or sanction of individual schools or staff members. (2) The data obtained in the course of monitoring these ends can serve diagnostic purposes for the Board, administrators and teachers, highlighting areas of greatest need (for additional resources) and methods of greatest success. (3) Because it is often the case that “you get what you measure,” the mere existence of the ends, and their monitoring by the Board, may tend to provide an incentive to performance.

3. It is the purpose of this memo to give you, our District’s experts, the opportunity to comment on what we have done so far. We want your input. But, needless to say, it’s not a command performance. It’s perfectly all right with us if your priorities are elsewhere.

Moreover, this back-and-forth exchange between you and the Board will continue. There will be other opportunities to comment on these ends, and the ends policies developed in the future.

But the Board wants you to know that it does not intend its ends policies to become “desk drawer documents” – prepared, put away, and forgotten. They, and the charts used to monitor their achievement, are going to be hung on the walls and projected on the screen at Board meetings. So participation may be worth your while.

If you do choose to participate, you may do so in any way you want. You may e-mail any one or all of us. (Our e-mail addresses are listed at the end of this memo.) You can send a comment directly to Dr. Lane Plugge, or through your principal. You can sign your e-mail or letter or indicate you want it treated anonymously. You can prepare a response as a building. It’s up to you.

Depending on the volume of input received by the Board you may or may not get an individual response to your suggestions. Rest assured that all will be read and taken seriously. But remember also that “taken seriously” does not, necessarily, mean “adopted.” The Board is quite willing to modify this, its first effort at “ends policies.” Indeed, that’s why you are being sent this memo. But that does not mean it can incorporate, verbatim, every suggestion it receives.

4. It is worth noting that, even if the Board was not inclined to follow the Carver model by establishing ends for the District, the Iowa Legislature now requires the District to do the equivalent anyway. All the Board is really doing is putting in place, for its own purposes, selected ends and data from what the State requires as a “Comprehensive School Improvement Plan.”

In no sense does the Board thereby intend to limit in any way the options of the District’s administrators and teachers to proceed with such goals as they think best – so long as they comply with the State’s standards requirements.

For example, the Board contemplates that each building will develop, within the building, its own academic goals, and plans for achieving them – as, indeed, most already do. Regular reports on the building’s progress in carrying out its own plans – in a graphic form consistent throughout the District – can be quickly presented at Board meetings without the need for any personnel from the building even being present (aside from those who want to be).

The data and measures used by the Board are somewhat unique to its role and responsibilities. They are different from the data, measures – and responsibilities – of students, parents, teachers, principals and central office administrators. At the same time, to the maximum extent possible, the Board intends to minimize any additional staff burden by drawing primarily from data already in existence, collected and analyzed within the District.

As will also quickly become obvious from the ends options themselves, the Board does not intend to involve itself with “means.” How the ends are met is being left to you, the experts. (And, with this memo, whether the ends are reasonable is also something as to which your input is being solicited.)

The Board is assuming that in most academic areas, in most schools, the ends policy will require no more than that you continue doing what you’re doing. Clearly, we do not need to improve everything, let alone at once. Nor do we have the resources to do so if the need was there.

Although it is the Board that will be establishing these “ends” (rather than delegating the task to others), it envisions a process that involves a continual back-and-forth exchange of data and ideas. The Board is very mindful of its need for the kind of expert input the District’s staff can provide.

5. Nothing the Board has done so far is final policy. This memo offers an illustration of what ends policies might look like. (Some of these may actually be adopted by the Board at some point – but not until you have submitted your comments.)

The Board believes that providing specific illustrations can better communicate the concept of “ends” than dealing in general descriptions and definitions.

There are many categories of potential ends policies. “School safety” might be one. But the Board believes that academic ends are certainly among the most important. And, of those, it believes that reading represents a good place to start.

Illustrative Possible Academic Ends Policies

Global academic ends policy: The District will ensure that students become responsible, independent, lifelong learners capable of making informed decisions in a democratic society as well as in the dynamic global community. This end is encouraged with the District’s execution of the State of Iowa-mandated “Comprehensive School Improvement Plan,” the Board’s “academic ends policies,” and the monitoring and management information reporting systems that measure progress towards those ends.

[Those familiar with the District’s “Second Strategic Plan 1996-2001” will recognize the first sentence as using language taken from that document.]
Level 1 - Comprehensive School Improvement Plan and Management Information Reporting System Policy
[This set of ends involves “process” rather than measurable standards. The Board directs “the District” to implement the State-mandated “Comprehensive School Improvement Plan” requirements and report to the Board progress in meeting the Plan’s goals.]
1. The District will adopt short and long term goals designed to improve students' achievement and performance. Progress against the goals will be reviewed and assessed in accordance with the District's Comprehensive School Improvement Plan, as mandated by the State of Iowa. Tracking of the improvement goals and other key measures that support the goals will be reported to the Board as part of the District's management information reporting system.

 2a. Measurable goals and action plans designed to achieve the goals will be established annually for the District and each school. The goals will be approved by the Superintendent, reviewed by the Board and reported to the community. Progress against the goals will be reported to the community no less often than annually.

 2b. Progress against the action plans for the District, and each of its schools, will be reviewed periodically with the Superintendent and provided to the Board as necessary. The focus of these action plan reviews will be to insure that the District and individual schools "do what they say they are going to do."

 2c. The progress against the goals and other key measures will be assessed at the end of each trimester and the end of each school year by the Superintendent, the Board and other District units such as the Comprehensive School Improvement Advisory Committee and Curriculum Review teams. The results of the assessments may determine if changes to policy, curriculum or standards are necessary.

Level 1 Board’s Academic Ends Literacy Policy: The Board believes literacy is the highest priority for students, and therefore the District will allocate the necessary resources to ensure that students demonstrate mastery as measured by the following standards.

[This begins the statement of a set of Board “ends” that can be measured and will be reported to the Board.]
Level 2 Literacy Policy, Reading
[Note: These are now merely possible ends options. The Board expressly seeks expert comment as to (a) the inappropriateness of any of these ends, (b) modifications that would improve them, (c) whether all, any subset, or only one would be most appropriate, (d) other alternatives not listed here, and (e) assessment of the probable impact, if any, of these ends on other District programs.]
2a. Ninety percent of all students who have been in the District for at least one year shall make at least one year’s growth in reading comprehension during each year in school.

2b. Seventy-five percent [or ninety percent] of all fourth grade students who have been in the District for at least one year shall test at or above the “proficient” level in reading.

[Seventy-five percent is a pre-existing District goal. “Proficient” is currently defined as an ITBS reading test score at or above the 40th percentile.]
2c. Ninety percent of all fourth grade students who have been in the District for at least one year shall read at grade level or above.
[Presumably this would be measured by the ITBS tests, but the measure would be left to the Superintendent.]
2d. All students shall make some growth in reading comprehension during each year in school.
[This end is designed to provide a standard for that 10%, or 25%, who do not make the standards set for the other 90% or 75%.]
2e. Over time, for any given age group of students who have been in the District for at least one year (a) their mean reading score shall increase, and (b) the gap between the highest and lowest scores (i.e., standard deviation) shall narrow as a result of improvements in the reading comprehension of the lowest performing students.
E-mail Addresses of Superintendent and Board Members

Dr. Lane Plugge pluggel@iowa-city.k12.ia.us
Board Members:
Matt Goodlaxson Goodmat@aol.com
Don Jackson wyoiowa@msn.com
Nicholas Johnson njohnson@inav.net
Al Leff  aleffschbd@aol.com
Lauren Reece lauren@mcleodusa.net
Dale Shultz dfs001@yahoo.com
Pete Wallace pdwvpmsa@aol.com