Dr. Randal A. Lutz knows that it's not an easy job—for him or for anyone who works under him in the .
But that doesn't change their duties, and Lutz, in his first year as Baldwin-Whitehall's superintendent, says that he's ready to work even harder.
During a B-W School Board meeting on Sept. 5, district administration reported that . The board responded by charging Lutz with the task of leading the district to drastically improved scores on students' standardized tests—sooner rather than later.
"There was a lot about it (the AYP report) that was very difficult to see," Lutz said a week later during Wednesday night's board meeting. "It was very difficult to hear ... The sweat was rolling down my back, and I know that it was rolling down a lot of other people's backs, too."
In accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) determines AYP performance based on students' scores each year in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams (PSSAs). According to the PDE website, NCLB requires that all students reach at least a proficient level in the subjects of reading/language arts and mathematics by 2014. School districts and schools must show adequate yearly progress on several measurable indicators, including attendance or graduation rate, academic performance and test participation.
Baldwin-Whitehall is not on track. Specifically, hit 17 out of its 19 AYP targets this past school year, while hit 12 out of its 15. All targets must be hit.
Lutz said on Wednesday that he believes that full AYP is possible in Baldwin-Whitehall with a "back-to-basics" educational-practices approach.
"What is it that we're here for?" Lutz asked rhetorically. "What are the most important things? And how do we maintain the focus on those items?
"We've (educators) been pulled in many different directions, oftentimes. Even for my (past) role as assistant superintendent, (I've) been involved in many things that did not impact curriculum, instruction and diversity."
Lutz said that that split attention will be a thing of the past.
He also talked about "implementation of accountability measures" in the district, and although his handout to board members on Wednesday could not be seen by the audience, Lutz said that "administrative counsel meetings, leadership excellence forums (and) monthly principal reports" have been implemented to stress that educators are being held responsible for their work.
"We have the resources in place," Lutz said. "It's a matter of using them with fidelity and using them in a consistent manner across all classrooms, across all grade levels."
He also pointed out that educators are having success in some parts of the district. For example, the B-W schools that made AYP this past school year were (13 out of 13 targets) and (29 out of 29). ( students are not tested for AYP.)
"There are people that are doing great things," Lutz said, mentioning that educators could be copying some best practices. "How do we build a structure to ... ensure that that knowledge is shared?
"How can some teachers move some kids forward, and in other situations, it doesn't happen? And that's the essence of what we need to dig deeper in."
Lutz acknowledged that, because of its standardized scores, Whitehall Elementary has fallen to the PDE's "School Improvement II" level, meaning that the B-W School District must now offer supplemental education services to offset poor AYP there.
But Lutz is taking things a step further, saying on Wednesday that each B-W school will receive the same services as Whitehall.
"Whitehall's required to do it this year," he said. "All schools will do it, regardless of their status.
"What it forces you to do is have those deep conversations about, really, the sacred things in the building: curriculum, instruction and how kids learn—looking at assurances, looking at assumptions.
"It really forces a school-level team ... to have those very, very difficult conversations about where they're really not meeting success and how to break down the processes to move forward."
School board President John B. Schmotzer instructed Lutz to share his educational-practices plan with the parents of students in schools that need improvement.
Board member Larry Pantuso took that a step further and requested Lutz to share the plan with the entire B-W community, at least on the district website.
"AYP affects everybody," Pantuso said, "whether you have a child in school or not. If you have a school district that has AYP issues for a couple years in a row, you're definitely gonna see your real estate transfer taxes affected. People don't tend to rush to buy a home in a school district that has AYP issues, so I think it's important that every citizen get this."
Board member Kevin J. Fischer said that, in addition to making AYP across the district, he would like to see at least one of B-W's schools earn a Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education.
"We still need that marquee school, that marquee achievement," Fischer said.
"I know we need to crawl before we can walk. We need to achieve this (AYP) first. We need to do so consistently. I can't harp that enough. But we also need to put a mark on this district that makes it stand out as opposed to just being in the middle of the road as just an adequate achiever."
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch throughout Thursday for more from Wednesday's board meeting.
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