19 June 2015
Josh is an incredibly passionate educator who has transformed Tacoma Public School from a system that was derided for its low standards to one which has significantly improved measures of performance.
His work for Tacoma has involved working with the School Board, district leadership and school staff to focus attention and resources on:
- improving the academic achievement of students.
- creating a system to track student performance data that allows early intervention when students fall behind.
- establishing a series of detailed public benchmarks to track the district’s performance on its strategic goals in academic achievement, safety, early learning and partnerships.
- giving students more ways to gain credits toward graduation.
He is keen on flexible learning approaches and has no problem with standards and Common Core (WA’s standards mapped onto CC about 80% anyway), as long as they aren’t seen as the only measure of performance.
- 2010 – every high school in the District was in difficulty, with ~55% graduation rates and a community activist group calling for charter schools (and raising money)
- 2012 – Josh’s administration publicly sought community agreement on what actually counts as educational achievement
- 2014 – District has 78% graduation rate. The activist fundraising group is now almost unnecessary, as the situation is now so different and the purpose is unclear.
- When conversations and agreements are negotiated in a public manner, all parties are driven to abide by them.
- Wise use of the media and public channels such as newspaper and TV, along with open use of data, can be very powerful.
- Data is transparent and neutral.
- Data transparency is a way to build trust and accountability.
Specific considerations for DoE Tasmania
- Public discussion of student and school achievement data appears to be valuable.
- At present we gather less data than Tacoma. In particular, we have no systemic way to store teacher markbook level data and neither the system nor even school principals have a way to see these markbooks or analyse them in a meaningful way.
- If we intend to use data for learning analytics, the data has to be in a meaningful and consistent form. That is, a common way of recording it is required. It is impossible to compare a 17, a B-, a Somewhat, 48% and a smiley frog.
- Better use of the media including social media, radio, newspaper and TV could bring greater transparency and accountability.
- We need ways to track where our students go. We seem to have a lack of data on where students go on completion of education, and universities seem unaware of the source schools for their current students. We should be able to fill that gap.