Mike McMahon AUSD
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Inquiry and Action

San Diego City Schools Process for Accountability Review (PAR)

In 1997 the San Diego City Schools Board of Education approved A District Accountability System for Improving Student Achievement. The system monitored student performance at each school, helping to identify school and student needs, and provided support to schools in improving achievement for all students. Schools successful in improving student achievement were rewarded. Schools that didn’t meet improvement targets received support and intervention from the district in order to improve student performance.

In the first phase of analysis, or “first cut,” in the spring of 1998, each school within the San Diego City Schools received data on student performance that included results from standardized tests, portfolios and exhibitions of student work, report-card grades, and other indicators of student learning. The reports, which included information on the performance of student subgroups, were intended to give schools a clear picture of how students were performing and to provide suggestions to improve student learning and achievement. This student-performance data served as a baseline for each school. From this baseline school-improvement targets were set and progress monitored over time to assess school success.

For those schools that were meeting their student-performance targets, the district provided awards and recognition. Schools not meeting their improvement targets were designated as “Needs Review” and, in a second phase of analysis, or “second cut,” participated in a review process: the Process for Accountability Review, or p ar. The review consisted of two components: an internal review and an external review. During an internal review, the school staff had an opportunity to emphasize and build on strengths and identify and analyze the issues affecting student learning. Additionally and equally important, the school assessed whether it was receiving adequate support from parents, the district, and the community to meet the improvement targets.

The external review was conducted by a team of teachers, school administrators and other district staff, parents, students, and community members. The external review was intended to clarify issues raised by the internal review and to identify other possible challenges facing the school. Additionally, the team examined whether the school staff, district staff, community members, students, and parents had all met their responsibilities in the education of students at the school.

During the school year 1997–1998, the district piloted the review process, releasing information from three years of results from standardized tests, report cards, and advanced placement course completion for high school students. A total of twenty schools with low performance or a decline in student performance over the past three years were identified as “Needs Review” and participated in a PAR. Once the process was completed, feedback was obtained and changes in the process and in the review tools were made based on observations and recommendations by teams and school participants.

In the school year 2000–2001, schools were scheduled to formally analyze student performance data against previously set improvement targets, and, if necessary, go through the review process using a revised version of the p ar rubrics, which are reproduced in the following pages. The revised rubrics were to serve as the lens through which schools themselves and the review teams assessed the schools.

The first set of PAR rubrics were designed to help a school improvement team address three critical questions, or focus areas, as part of a selfstudy process:

  • Why is school performance the way it is?
  • What is the whole picture? (Is there more to know about performance than the “first cut” indicates?)
  • What are you doing to enable students to make progress?
Each row of the rubrics contains a description of varying levels of performance in a particular area, from 4, or highest, to 1, or lowest. San Diego’s District Accountability System also held stakeholders in public education accountable to each other for improving student achievement; roles and responsibilities were defined for each stakeholder group. The second set of PAR rubrics, (along with definitions of roles and responsibilities for each stakeholder), were designed to help external reviewers assess how well three of these groups – principals, teachers, and school-site classified support staff – were fulfilling their responsibilities in schools needing review.

The criterion, or focus, of the rubrics for assessing stakeholder roles and responsibilities was: