A Curriculum Audit™ of the DeKalb County School District (Summary of Key Findings)
Full document available here: CIA2 – Curriculum Audit – FINAL_R (532 pages)
STANDARD 1: The School District Demonstrates Its Control of Resources, Programs, and Personnel.
Finding 1.1: Board policies and administrative regulations are outdated and inadequate to provide quality control and direction for effective management of curriculum and other district functions.
Finding 1.2: DeKalb County School District’s planning efforts are inadequate in terms of curriculum design, deployment, and delivery as well as in other system functions, but the district’s instruction Continuous Improvement Plan met audit criteria; however, individual school plans were inadequate, the District Strategic Plan was missing many critical components, connections between the budget and curriculum design and delivery were absent, and many other dimensions of planning were deficient or not found.
Finding 1.3: The DeKalb County School District is undergoing a Comprehensive Restructuring process. The organizational chart was not available for analysis at the time of the audit, and job descriptions were being updated based on revisions to the organizational chart. Chain of Command was noted as an area of weakness during auditors’ preview of district documents.
STANDARD 2: The School District Has Established Clear and Valid Objectives for Students.
Finding 2.1: The district has no comprehensive curriculum management plan or documented process in place to coordinate systemic design, delivery, and evaluation of curriculum.
Finding 2.2: The scope of the written curriculum meets audit standards in core content and non-core content areas at the elementary level and middle school level, but is inadequate in both core and noncore content areas at the high school level to direct instruction.
Finding 2.3: The quality of the written curriculum is inadequate for core and non-core courses and lacks the necessary components to provide direction for classroom instruction.
Finding 2.4: Classroom artifacts, instructional resources, district assessments, and instructional strategies lack consistent congruency to the district curriculum framework and the Georgia Standards of Excellence to ensure student mastery of the state standards in all content areas across all grade levels.
STANDARD 3: The School District Demonstrates Internal Consistency and Rational Equity in Its Program Development and Implementation.
Finding 3.1: Policies and plans provided substantial but inadequate guidance for equal access to educational programs and equitable distribution of resources to students. That guidance was not effectively implemented in programs reviewed by the audit team. Access was limited to academically advantageous programs; some student groups were over-represented in programs that were not advantageous. Substantial achievement gaps existed between white students and other ethnic groups.
Finding 3.2: The abundant DCSD professional development endeavors are ineffective in revealing a cohesive, system-wide focused on improving the quality of teaching with evidence of enhanced student achievement.
Finding 3.3: Monitoring of curriculum delivery is inadequately defined and does not promote effective implementation of the written curriculum.
Finding 3.4: Classroom snapshot data did not reflect district expectations for rigorous instruction and culturally responsive teaching.
STANDARD 4: The School District Uses the Results from System-Designed and/or -Adopted Assessments to Adjust, Improve, or Terminate Ineffective Practices or Programs.
Finding 4.1: The district does not have a cohesive plan to guide the use of assessment data for evaluation and improvement of district functions. Practices in the use of summative assessment data to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs are developing.
Finding 4.2: Core areas from kindergarten through grade 8 are all formally assessed, but the scope of assessment for the district as a whole is inadequate to monitor and evaluate student learning and to assure equity throughout the district and in all areas of the curriculum.
Finding 4.3: Formative assessment of student learning is inadequate to guide teachers’ ongoing assessment of student mastery of curricular objectives.
Finding 4.4: At the district level, student performance on state and national assessments consistently trails state and national averages, and improvement trends are insufficient to close existing gaps. At the school level, large differences exist between the highest and lowest achieving schools, and the gaps are not closing.
STANDARD 5: The School District Has Improved Productivity.
Finding 5.1: District policy and regulations do not reflect tight linkage between the budget and design and delivery of the curriculum. Financial goals and objectives address financial reserves, but do not support academic goals, objectives, plans, and programs. Cost-benefit analyses are not formally and routinely incorporated into budgeting processes.
Finding 5.2: The Local Facilities Plan met audit standards, adequately addressed district priorities, and was adequately funded within resource constraints. However, maintenance, space, and other problems diminish the quality of the teaching learning environment.
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE PDK-CMSI CURRICULUM AUDIT™ TEAM FOR THE
IMPROVEMENT OF THE DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
Recommendation 1: Revise system level structures to provide clear direction and control for the design and delivery of curriculum. Revise the Superintendent’s Organizational Chart consistent with sound curriculum management principles for quality control. Configure personnel to reestablish quality control positions in curriculum design (development) and curriculum deployment (implementation) to ensure that the essential functions relating to curriculum design and delivery, assessment, program evaluation, professional development, monitoring, and school support are properly managed. Prepare, update, and adopt a set of quality job descriptions congruent with Curriculum Audit criteria and representative of the completed district restructuring process.
Recommendation 2: Modify planning processes to include linkages to budget/resources and aligned professional development, and create cohesive district-to-school direction and support for effective design, deployment, and delivery of the curriculum. Incorporate into the district strategic plan, division plans, and school plans the needed characteristics to align plans and create a cohesive system of improvement for student achievement and other district functions. Ensure that all divisions, departments, and schools are using the Continuous Improvement Plan model, and that all other program plans are incorporated into that model. Improve processes for evaluation, monitoring, and support for effective implementation of school continuous improvement plans.
Recommendation 3: Develop and implement a comprehensive curriculum management system to provide district-wide direction for the design, delivery, monitoring, and evaluation of curriculum. Review, revise, and further develop existing curriculum documents to ensure the alignment of the written, taught, and tested curriculum, beginning with the core content areas.
Recommendation 4: Develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate a comprehensive professional learning program that provides for (1) centralized coordination of all professional learning, (2) development of cohesive departmental and campus professional learning plans aligned to the district plan, (3) systemic coordinated delivery of knowledge and skills focused on improvement of student achievement for all staff, and (4) evaluation of professional learning effectiveness in terms of improved student performance.
Recommendation 5: Establish and implement standards and procedures for monitoring and evaluating the delivery of the district-adopted curriculum and the use of quality research-based instructional strategies. Support the implementation of effective instructional practices and monitoring by developing and adopting a district level model for instructional practices.
Recommendation 6: Establish and implement an explicit, centrally-directed plan for all aspects of student assessment and for using assessment feedback to monitor the effectiveness of the district’s work at all levels, including the academic progress of individual students, the long-term effectiveness of instructional programs, and the use of data for operational decision making.
Recommendation 7: Revise policies and practices to eliminate achievement gaps and provide equal access and equity for students; monitor district operations and correct practices that do not support policy.
Recommendation 8: Develop and implement a performance-based budget process that links resources to instructional priorities to improve educational program effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency.