St. Charles schools’ audit report released

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 5, 1999

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / December 5, 1999

LULING – St. Charles Parish’s public school system, widely regarded as oneof the best in Louisiana, is looking for ways to maintain its reputation and find room for continual improvement.

With that in mind, the St. Charles Parish School Board invited theInternational Curriculum Management Audit Center of Phi Beta Kappa International to conduct a curriculum management audit in May 1998.

The audit team first arrived in November 1998, and its report was delivered in August of this year, after which the district central office developed its action steps to deal with each recommendation.

Considered a bold step in in-depth analysis, only 300 school systems across the nation have submitted themselves to this degree of study in the past 20 years.

The results of the study were released this week, together with a detailed action plan to address the shortcomings discovered in the audit.

The management audit examined the system using five standards of quality control: governance and control (the extent to which the district uses its time, money and people effectively); direction and learner expectations (establishing written expectations and defining the tools for effective teaching to meet those expectations); connectivity and equity (developing an effectively-monitored and coordinated curriculum with oversight at all levels); assessment and feedback (developing a comprehensive system of assessment and testing, with an eye toward eliminating ineffective programs); and productivity and efficiency (focusing more on the district’s economic management).

The audit team reviewed a roomful of documents, Felecia Gomez, executive director of restructuring and curriculum and instruction, explained, as well as conducted interviews with personnel at all levels and made visits to the schools.

Gomez said the district had already been working to improve itself on all levels, with its own standards and benchmarks in place before the state department of education launched its own program to bring up districts across Louisiana.

“As our teachers had input, they readily bought into it,” Gomez said of the local program.

Each step of the management audit was coordinated with school board members, and the members were brought up to date on a regular basis.

“They agreed to the action steps which need to be taken,” Gomez added.

The audit prompted the district to develop action steps to address various recommendations developed by the audit.

Nine main recommendations were put forth by Phi Kappa Delta, and the district central office has action steps, along with time lines for completion, estimated resources and defining who will be responsible to see each action step carried to completion.

Gomez stressed that many of those action steps are the initiation of ongoing programs, besides those several more time-defined projects.

Among those with a clearcut time line are the design and implementation of a comprehensive set of policies to provide quality control in curriculum design and delivery.

A curriculum policy document will be developed for board approval by January 2001.

The design and implementation of a comprehensive curriculum management system is the next recommendation, and this will include a review and revision of all job descriptions, improved training in curriculum guides and instructional materials and developing standards and benchmarks for health and physical education.

Most of those projects are due to be completed by mid-2000.

Ongoing projects will include the development of annual reports on each school’s progress in all areas, including instruction, budgets and goals.

Elimination of the gap in student achievement and student placements based on ethnicity will include a pilot program at Luling and St. Roseelementary schools, where ethnic population is highest of the elementary schools. Luling has 68.2 percent black population, and St. Rose has a 49percent black population. On the other end of the scale, R.J. VialElementary has a 12.46 percent black population, and AllemandsElementary has a 14.19 percent black population.Development of a comprehensive student and program assessment program is another recommendation, and the district is already begun, with development of customized assessment programs in mathematics, social students, sciences and arts. A new GEE (Graduate Equivalency Exam) isalmost ready for use, and a LEAP test for social studies and sciences in grades four and eight will be ready by summer 2000. Also, core exams forforeign languages are being developed (French and Spanish) as well as for health and physical education.

Developing budget reports for all departments is another goal, as well as a budget for curriculum review, development, implementation and evaluation.

An upgrade is also planned of the district’s organizational structure, together with an accurate and more detailed table of organization and development of classified employees’ job descriptions.

A four-year plan for implementation of a program-defined budget and allocation system for improved effectiveness and efficiency is also in the works, including clear defining of each individual program and its financial needs and resources, and including quarterly reviews, necessary capital projects and preventive maintenance.

Finally, the last recommendation was to focus and connect staff development to student achievement.

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