EDITORIAL: Audit responses

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Lee County School District’s administrators and teachers wasted no time in responding to a newly delivered curriculum audit with an in-house summer institute to determine what changes and improvements must be made to cover the deficiencies and capitalize on the recommendations in the report.
The Lee County schools’ audit, which assesses the whole curriculum, was among eight districts in a three-county initiative underwritten by the Toyota Education Enhancement Fund and conducted by assessors from Phi Delta Kappa, a professional education services organization.
Earlier this year, in meetings with county school leaders and teachers, then in public sessions, assessor John Murdoch of Phi Delta Kappa said the key to improving the district’s declining English II scores is to analyze the skills it is teaching in all 13 grades.
The summer institute last month directly addressed that concern with thorough analysis of what’s been done and what needs to be done.
Murdoch also said the district should make its policies more specific and more specifically define what it expects from teachers.
The institute also addressed those issues.
Murdoch is the lead auditor in a team that visited the district in February.
Curriculum audits aren’t performed to find reasons to praise districts but to identify areas for improvement, and nationwide findings generally relate to deficiencies in management practices of school systems. The goal isn’t condemnation but correction. More specific policies, as recommended, is an example.
National studies have shown students who benefit from the most effective instructional approaches may come up short if the K-12 curriculum is weak or support for instruction is not strong.
W. Edwards Deming, the American who was father of the quality movement (first widely used by Japanese automakers), taught that people can be making their best efforts (a delivery issue) and yet be unable to improve if the system is poorly structured (a design issue).
Auditors find that most deficiencies relate to design issues. Poorly thought-out policies, planning documents, or curriculum guides are some examples. Lack of alignment between the written, taught and tested curriculum, system inequities, ineffective budget design, and inadequate facilities are others in almost all systems with deficiencies.
Improving systems for developing and delivering curriculum reaps great rewards: more efficient operation of schools, improved achievement, optimized staff use, equity for all students, improved superintendent-board relations, sharpened focus and more community involvement, to name a few.
That’s been the goal and on-going work of the Lee County schools, and curriculum changes will be evident when school begins in less than a month.