Where is the accountability in Oshkosh Public Schools?

While state statutes provide specific details of the duties of a school board, generally speaking, the three primary functions include setting policy, setting a budget and tax levy, and finally, ensuring accountability in the operations of the district. Although our present board members like to talk about accountability, their actions tell a different story.

This last decade, the OASD achievement scores have declined significantly in math, and has stagnated in English language arts. Our board claims that they have achieved accountability by setting targets for English in board policy back in the summer of 2022. Of course, these targets were provided by the administrative team. Six months later, the board saw its first result which was significantly lower than the target goal. A month later the board provided our superintendent a significant increase in total compensation even though he was already one of the top earners in the state.

The following year, we again saw a results significantly below the targeted value. This time we heard from individual board members that they were brought to tears or that if this were private industry, someone would be fired. The only action that was taken was to ask for an improvement plan. This was provided a month later. However, at the last board meeting data was again provided showing that, in fact, this action plan has again led to no significant increase in achievement. The reaction from the board was basically non-existent.

To be fair, the original presentation to the board presented the data in a manner that was impossible to make this determination, and therein lies the problem. The board is charged with holding administrators accountable. However, they then rely on the administrative team to tell them what data is most important to review. One shouldn’t be surprised that the data that is presented comes in a form that obfuscates the fact that no real improvement has occurred.

In addition to how data is presented, another problem that limits accountability is access or timeliness of the data. Take for example the data on racial disparities. The district will report this data to the DPI on an annual basis and then waits for them to publish the results. However, clearly the district collects the data on an ongoing basis. To really evaluate whether any new interventions are effective we should be looking at results on an ongoing basis and comparing this to the same time point the year prior. The failure to do this could mean that we miss an opportunity to intervene on a strategy that is ineffective as early as possible, or potentially celebrate the success.

The appropriate use of educational data is the primary means the board has to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of our educational programs. Unfortunately it seems that this skillset is lacking in our board members. Clearly electing a statistician would fix this problem and might begin to challenge our administrative team to achieve more for the benefit of the children of our community. In fact, electing me might well be the only way our community can hold the board of education accountable.


Read more issues:
Fiscal Transparency
Voice of the Teachers

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It is time for change and accountability in Oshkosh public schools.

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