Click here to see how Phenix City Schools scored in the categories that Superintendent Randy Wilkes discusses below.
By Denise DuBois
Phenix City Schools has something to be proud of in the way of educational scores. This month, Superintendent Randy Wilkes received a comprehensive report from AdvancedEd, an accreditation service, that shows the school system is well above average. Phenix City schools received a score of 340 out of 400, 60 points above the global average of 280, which was also the school system’s score in 2014.
“This is a tremendous evaluation and is probably a better indicator of where we are,” Wilkes said. “If I had to put this on a curve, it would put us in the top 10 percent in the world. That’s how huge this score is. It speak well of our community and our school system. This is the new norm. Anything less is unacceptable in Phenix City Schools.”
To get the score, AdvancedEd representatives gathered 20,000 surveys from community stakeholders, teachers, parents, students, and board members and conducted 95 observations and interviews on site. Those results were put into categories and a rubric to generate a numerical score.
In the report, AdvancedEd grades three pillars: Leadership Capacity Standards, Learning Capacity Domain, and Learning Capacity Standards. The school system also self evaluates. Ratings of Needs Improvement, Emerging, Meets Expectations, and Exceeds Expectations are given. In two particular areas, the school system was given an “Emerging” rating.
“We get to talk to the committee and tell them what we think we need to work on,” Wilkes said. “And they’re going to leave you with something to work on.”
The first was in the school system having a “formal structure to ensure learners develop positive relationships with and have adults/peers that support their educations experience.”
Wilkes said the school system has a mentoring program for students, but he knows they need to do and can do better with it. The mentoring program goes beyond parental involvement and connects students with professionals who can speak with students about their goals and how to get there. Wilkes said the school system is looking into programs that can be implemented over the summer to help be more intentional about the mentoring program.
The second was in the school system implementing a “process to continuously assess its programs and organizational conditions to improve student learning.”
Wilkes said that category has to do with data and evaluation and longevity of reporting.
“We have a ton of programs and we evaluate everything we do. For it to (improve), there needs to be longevity. We’ve been doing well for a couple of years, but our assessments have changed and are changing now,” Wilkes said.
He added that it will be an easier item to improve on because it deals with data and analysis.
Every other standard was rated “Meets Expectations” or “Exceeds Expectations.”
In the category of Leadership, Wilkes said he was most proud that AdvancedEd recognized the vision and direction of the school system.
“I attribute that to the entire school system. We developed the vision of the school system together, so there is ownership in it,” Wilkes said.
In the category of Learning, Wilkes said the standards that deal with school culture are the closest to his heart.
“The things we’ve done affect our culture. It transcends reading, writing, and arithmetic,” he said. He noted student ownership in what they do and responsibility of learning being on the learner.
“(The learner) has to come with a proper attitude and belief. We’ll help you develop those skills. That’s been a paradigm shift in this community and the school. We’re promoting creativity and innovation.”
He added that he is blown away by students’ abilities to create useful apps with code and work on things that are beneficial to today’s jobs.
In the category of Resource, Wilkes said that the school system has been blessed in all that it’s been able to do. He noted renovations of schools, purchasing Creekside with cash, getting devices in all kids’ hands, building learning centers and more.
“We have been very frugal and tight with the budget, and we have been very fortunate. Every one of those standards is about providing for students what they need. That’s what resource capacity is all about. I’d have given us some (“Exceeds Expectations”) in that category, but that’s okay,” Wilkes said.
The the school system’s standards is available online at citizenofeastalabama.com.