EDITORIAL: Curriculum audits

Lee County gives public ownership with openness
No one enjoys having personal shortcomings pointed out and weaknesses exposed. That’s human nature. It’s doubly painful when it’s done publicly.
That goes for institutions as well as individuals. The first impulse of most institutions, like most individuals, is to shift into defensive mode when criticized.
But personal and institutional growth and improvement require honest self-assessment. Without knowing where we’re weakest, we can’t be our best. It takes courage to voluntarily undergo a process designed specifically to point out areas for improvement.
Eight Northeast Mississippi school districts have done just that. They’re in the PUL Alliance counties – Pontotoc, Union and Lee – and they’re all undergoing a curriculum audit by outside educational experts. The purpose is to show gaps in alignment of the curriculum, what is being taught in the classroom and what the state measures in assessing schools.
Lee County this week became the second district to publicly air the results of its curriculum audit, first in a meeting with school personnel and then in sessions with the general public. The audit cites specific areas for improvement and provides recommendations.
In Lee County, for example, a focus was on improving English II scores, and the audit recommended a thorough examination of all K-12 English skills instruction. Phi Delta Kappa auditors also recommended, among other things, clearer standards and expectations for teachers and more specific school board policies.
Lee County school leaders now have a road map of sorts to improve student performance by attacking deficiencies in instruction and policy. While we’d all much rather hear about all the good things we do, this kind of candid assessment of weaknesses lays a foundation for getting better.
There’s little question that all schools, no matter how well they stand in relation to others in the region or state, have to get better to meet the challenges of a complex world for which Northeast Mississippi students must be prepared. Toyota recognizes that improved education for its workforce is an essential component of its future success in this region, which is why the company committed $50 million to an Education Enhancement Fund in the three counties. The curriculum audits are the first project to be paid for by that fund.
Lee County and Tupelo school systems have now laid open for public view as well as internal use and action their curriculum audits. Going public wasn’t easy, but it acknowledged the public’s ownership of the schools and its legitimate interest in knowing where they stand and what they will do to improve. We hope the other districts follow suit.

NEMS Daily Journal