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A needs assessment is not a curriculum audit, Debra Payne, a consultant with the Flippen Group’s Learning Keys, told the PISD board of trustees Monday. An audit looks into things like finances and personnel as well as curriculum. The needs assessment reviews state assessment results, campus walkthroughs, feedback from teachers, principals, and central office administrators along with other pertinent district and campus statistics.
“The idea is to identify trends and patterns,” Payne said. “If we say we’re doing something, and we see it happening in the classroom, and it’s reflected in test scores, that’s great. If it’s not reflected in our test scores, we need to look at why. It’s all about being growth-minded.”
That mindset is why Texarkana ISD has worked with Learning Keys for about three years, she said. When Trustee Dr. Gordon Strom asked for a “success story,” she pointed to Corrigan-Camden ISD, which is about 25 miles south of Lufkin. The district was low performing, but managed to turn itself around with the Learning Keys’ help, she said. Within three years, CCISD had an improving district, including a blue-ribbon high school.
The study itself takes about two days, Payne said. That includes gathering information, two visits to each classroom and conducting teacher interviews. The interviews are online and anonymous “so they can feel comfortable saying what they want.” The walkthroughs also remain anonymous, she said.
“Most of the time we’re here, we’re collecting data. Then we take it back, and you get a hefty report,” she said.
Trustee Jenny Wilson asked what happens after the study is conducted and whether schools tended to implement the recommendations and if Learning Keys would help put those recommendations into action.
Most districts do follow the findings, Payne replied. The Flippen Group usually does help with implementation, unless there are recommendations that lie outside its capabilities. A curriculum audit makes many recommendations, but is not set up to help implement them, she said.
Strom said he would like to see what Texarkana and Corrigan-Camden had to say about the process.
“It would be encouraging to see if Texarkana says it’s been very helpful and the teachers enjoyed the process,” he said.
Superintendent Paul Jones suggested at last month’s meeting that the study focus on Crockett Intermediate School and Paris Junior High School. On Monday, he said those two were selected “at random.” A districtwide study would cost in the neighborhood of $24,000.
“If you’re not improving, not moving forward, you’re going backward in this business,” he said. “We want to go from good to great.”
Jones recommended the Flippen Group. He said he has used the company before for a program called Capturing Kids’ Hearts, but not a needs assessment.
“We’re still looking at different options,” he said. “We’ll have to amend the budget if that’s the way we want to go.”
In other business, the board: