A word from superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

Closing thoughts: Community based accountability

The following is an article provided by Supt. Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

As we worked through the process of writing our Strategic Plan, several strands of
conversation resonated emotionally with teachers, parents, community members, and
students. Perhaps one of the more profound moments of the entire process was when a
student addressed the entire strategic planning group saying, “I am more than a test score.” If there was a mic drop moment in the entire process, that was it. The adults in the room clearly recognized that our kids are more than a test score, and yet that was not the message they were receiving, and thus not the message we were sending. The collective will in the room at that moment was profound. We need to do better for our kids. They deserve better from all of us because they are way more than a test score. This is an area of growth for us not just in our schools, but in our community.

When that student declared themselves more than a test score, they were pointing out
they weren’t in school to take tests or be judged through them but to accomplish something. This student has a relationship with a Victoria school and rightly expects to benefit as a result in a way test scores miss. This students’ parents expect certain benefits as a result of entrusting their child’s education to us. And our community expects certain benefits as a result of their investment in and support of our schools.

The idea of benefit is nothing new. Every organization exists to provide a benefit to its
stakeholders and schools are no different. Where schools are different is that for a host of
different reasons, we haven’t been very good at identifying what those benefits are or our
effectiveness at delivering them. That creates a distance between a school and its community and that I believe is a mistake.

Closing the gap requires complete honesty as to where we are being effective and
benefiting our children and where we are not yet as effective as we must be. You will hear the words Community Based Accountability a great deal from me in the coming months, which is a tool designed to generate and share this information. What will be very different about this information as opposed to the more familiar test-based accountability the state does is that a community-based accountability system is in easy to understand language and formats and designed to create a partnership between Victoria ISD and the Victoria community.

In the coming weeks, I am going to write a lot more about educational benefits and ask
you to get deeply involved. As we build our community-based accountability system, your voice is critical. We will collect a great many insights from you in the process of building this system and central to those insights will be the answers to a simple but powerful question. To the students we will ask: what are your hopes and dreams for this year, for next year, and after you get out of school? To our parents we will ask: what are your hopes and dreams for your child and their life? To the community we will ask, what are your hopes and dreams for this community and what do you need schools to contribute?

The resulting system will be one that embraces a radical, easy to understand transparency as we share where we are effective and where we are not yet effective.

Importantly, the process never ends. Our community will change as will the needs of our students. Schools are dynamic institutions and will need to constantly stay on top of where they are and are not yet effective, as that too will change and shift over time. The best way for us to become irrelevant or obsolete is to stand still which we do not intend to do. Our community-based accountability system will be our mechanism for partnering with you to see that doesn’t happen and sharing our efforts.

I plan on revisiting this with you on a regular basis so you can stay updated on our
progress and I will make sure to let you know when we need to hear from you at various points along the way. As always, your voice matters, and I will thank you in advance for your support, guidance, and insight.

By Supt. Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.