Thomas Jefferson

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Framework Evaluation Provides Outline for Change at TJ

Posted 11/22/2008 by Vince Crespin

DPS grade book leaves TJ with many chores for the upcoming year.
by Vince Crespin
photo by Kevin Fleming
20081122011011_tjsmall.jpg    While Thomas Jefferson High School excels in many facets, when the new DPS School Framework Evaluation was released (focusing on five different levels in which the district and the Superintendent would like to see improvement), it became clear to Principal Sandra Just that there is a lot of work to be done.

    The School Performance Framework Spotlight grades schools based on 48 different criteria that fall under five categories: student progress over time, student achievement level, post secondary readiness, student engagement, and school demand.  Although the school did not perform up to standards on some of the criteria, some critics of the report say the evaluation can be misleading on a grading scale that is limited to “Does not meet”, “Approaching” and “Exceeds”.

     TJ received an “Approaching” on student progress, based on the CSAP scores of only the freshmen and sophomores, and another “Approaching” on student achievement, again based on CSAP’s.

    The students achieved an “Exceeds” on post secondary readiness, which comes from on-time graduations, graduation rates and AP testing. “I was pleased to see our success in the post secondary; this is an area we have worked on with the College Board. The staff is committed to making sure students have lots of educational opportunities and to have the chance to be successful,” said Just.

    The school received a “Does not Meet” on student engagement, based on attendance and surveys; if there are unexcused absences or bad reviews on surveys the school loses points. “The school is working on efforts to increase attendance. Currently we have teachers trying to get parent involvement, in order to accumulate the information we need,” said Just.

    TJ received an “Approaching” on school demand (how many students attend the school verses the capacity, as well as how many new students attend), even though TJ received all its possible points on its re-enrollment rate, but lost all points on its enrollment change. Scott Lessard said, “The school enrollment is currently at 1158 students and the district feels the school can hold 1650 students, thus TJ is 70 percent occupied. In order to score on the enrollment change category, TJ would have to grow at least 10 percent in one year, or 116 new enrollees, which would overwhelm the teaching staff, since the staff numbers are based on projections in march (which come from the district, the previous year). Last year when the school was 85 students over projections, TJ has to find four new teaches in October to reduce class size.”      

    Although the scoring of some categories might not be comprehensible to some, other categories such as the student progress (which is scored from each section of the CSAPs) are troubling for the administration and staff to see Thomas Jefferson doing so poorly. TJ has traditionally done well on its scores for the CSAP; however, the past two years have been a little down from what they normally are, thus leading to the sub-par framework scores. Principal Just explains that the CSAP is only taken by first and second year students; thus, it does not fully gauge all of TJ’s student performance, especially considering that the only criteria that the upperclassmen were graded on was their post-secondary readiness, in which TJ’s students excelled. “It’s disappointing that we are not displaying the progress that we would like to be making in regards to the CSAP. The staff as a whole is working to increase the scores for CSAPs. Our students have generally done well on the ACT, so we would like to have the CSAP scores start to reflect the same degree of success as the ACT,” stated Just.  

    Just was disappointed in the scores, but believes they can be turned around. “While our overall performance information is disappointing, the initiatives that we have set as a school will move us ahead in the right direction. We are focused on a curriculum to prepare students for college, and have created intervention opportunities for struggling students. I fully expect that we will see increases in the Performance Framework next year,” said Just.

    Another subject revealed by the Framework that Just found troubling was the student engagement segment, which indicates that TJ students get to class tardy more often than the average for DPS, and that the students did not give the school  a good review on the surveys they took (or the majority did not turn them in), which means that the students get to class tardy, more often than the average for our district, and the student Spartans did not give it a good review on the surveys they took (or they did not turn them in).  The student engagement section includes attendance information and data taken from the school satisfaction survey. In response, additional initiatives have been added to monitor attendance this year. The parents of students who have less than 85% attendance are given a personal phone call. Counselors are following up with these students by implimenting attendance contracts. The Attendance Data Committee, comprised of a group of teachers, is working on creating opportunities to reward students for positive attendance, as well.

    “In terms of the school satisfaction survey, the administrators and I are hoping to get more in-depth information to meet student needs through the use of student voice forums. We know that the students get to class tardy, more often than the average for our district, and that the students did not give us a good review on the surveys they took. It is also clear that not every student responded, so TJ will work towards making sure every student has the opportunity to respond to the survey in the future,” said Just.