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Messages from the Superintendent

Posted: January 26, 2024

Parent Involvement Key in Efforts to Improve Student Outcomes

In his Friday message, Superintendent Scott Elder delves into the voice and engagement guardrail.

Superintendent Scott Elder welcomes a La Mesa Elementary School parent on the first day of school.

Superintendent Scott Elder welcomes a La Mesa Elementary School parent on the first day of school.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year talking about our plan to improve outcomes for all students.

I’ve talked extensively about the five-year goals approved by the board last year: raising our third-grade proficiency rates in English language arts and our eighth-grade proficiency rates in math by at least 10 percentage points; getting students to take more advanced placement and dual credit courses, among other efforts; and ensuring that our students have the skills, mindsets, and habits they will need to be successful in life. We’ve talked about our Emerging Stronger strategic plan, which is effectively the roadmap we will use to achieve our goals.

To a lesser extent, I’ve touched on the guardrails in my Friday messages, but those are just as important and worth delving into. The five guardrails are lines the board doesn’t want us to cross as we work to meet the goals. Today, I’m going to focus on the voice and engagement guardrail.

One of the reasons I’ve shied away from talking about the guardrails is because the format we’re required to use to state the guardrail is a bit awkward, and that leaves most people scratching their heads. Specifically, the voice and engagement guardrail states, “The superintendent will not exclude parent/legal guardian, student, and community voice and engagement in school and district operations.”

I know, it’s a lot to wrap your head around. Through this guardrail, board members are telling us we need to listen to and engage with our students, their families, and the broader community, and we need to factor what they’re telling us into the decisions we make.

How does one monitor that? We’ve come up with interim goals and interim guardrails to help keep us on track, and every month we’re going before the board and discussing our progress toward one of the goals or guardrails. On this particular guardrail, we’re tracking:

  • The number of times district leadership meets with an advisory group to provide information and get feedback on the implementation of the strategic plan. We want to go from twice in the 2023 school year to four times in the 2026 school year.
  • The percentage of parents who report that school staff consider their opinion when making decisions about their child. We were at 77% in May of 2023 and want to be at 85% in May of 2026.
  • The percentage of families participating in the Quality of Education and Family Engagement Survey. We were at 20% last school year and want to grow the response rate to 60% in 2026.

We presented on this guardrail last week and had a very constructive dialogue with board members. None of us are happy that only one in five families is participating in the Quality of Education survey. It provides a wealth of information on the experiences our families are having with their children’s schools, and we’re hopeful that tying it to the strategic plan will mean that our schools will talk to families about how important this survey is and encourage them to fill it out.  

On the flip side, I’m happy that 77% of families who participated in the survey last school year reported that school staff consider their opinion when making decisions about their child. Of course, there’s room for improvement there, but that’s a good starting point for us. 

As we continue to work to improve student outcomes, we need parents involved. We have great teachers, and they understand the importance of building these relationships. I’m hopeful that we can grow that favorable percentage while also increasing the number of people who take part in the survey.

Finally, it’s important to note that we’re in the first year of a five-year plan to improve outcomes, and while it would be amazing if we could tackle everything all at once, that isn’t realistic. Progress takes time, commitment, and hard work. I have no doubt that APS will get it done!