I’m responding to Sally Reyes’ commentary “Many Failings in BUSD Report Card,” Daily Planet, Sept. 12-15), regarding the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) report issued in July 2003 to the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD). Of course, the Planet’s headline for the commentary was inaccurate to begin with. However, I believe it will do more good to offer information regarding the FCMAT report, rather than to argue over Ms. Reyes’ opinions in her commentary or the Planet’s biases. There has been a general misunderstanding and misreading, as well as a misuse, of the FCMAT report since it was released to BUSD in July. The report chronicles about 500 legal, professional, and educational standards for the BUSD as part of FCMAT’s advisory role with Berkeley. One section of the FCMAT report deals with Facilities Management, and this is the section that Sally Reyes’ commentary refers to. In this one section there are 111 standards addressed, with recommendations in several areas for improvement and progress.
At the Aug. 13 Special Board meeting in which the Board and District staff and the FCMAT team discussed and reviewed the submitted FCMAT report, the Board hardly “bristled” (Ms. Reyes’ term) at the FCMAT report. In fact, Board President Joaquin Rivera has appointed a two-boardmember subcommittee consisting of Director Shirley Issel and myself to help facilitate communication and understanding of the FCMAT report for the Board (a 750-page report, in five major District areas). Further, anyone attending the Aug. 13 Special Board meeting, or reading the preface, summary, and conclusions of the full report would have known several facts that expressly contradict several statements and assertions in Reyes’ Sept. 12 commentary. The preface to the FCMAT report contains these two paragraphs:
“The findings presented in this report represent a snapshot of the district, and the recommendations are based on the improvement of student learning. In the time since the data-gathering portion of the review, the district has begun to address certain areas of concern, making progress that is not reflected in this report. FCMAT would like to acknowledge the cooperation of the district Governing Board, administration and staff during the review process.”
I wouldn’t characterize any of this as the Board “bristling” at the report. And although it is very easy to misconstrue the nature of the 10-point scaling system that FCMAT employs in this and other reports, FCMAT, in its preface to the report and at the Aug. 13 Special Board meeting emphasizes and reemphasizes that the report is a deficit analysis, and that the 10-point scale is to be used to measure progress and improvement from this point forward:
“Every standard was measured on a consistent rating format, and each standard was given a scaled score from zero to 10 as to its relative status of completeness. The following represents a definition of terms and scaled scores. The single purpose of the scaled score is to establish a baseline of information by which the district’s future gains and achievements in each of the standard areas can be measured.”
A scaled score of zero indicated no significant evidence that the standard has been implemented. This could mean very simply that indeed the standard has not been implemented, or that the paper trail and compliance forms necessary to document the implementation of the standard were not readily available.
A scaled score of between 1 and 7 indicates a partially implemented standard, lacking completeness, or met to a limited degree. This range is further broken down and defined as follows:
Scaled score of 1: Some design or research regarding the standard is in place that supports preliminary development.
Scaled score of 2: Implementation of the standard is well into the development stage, appropriate staff is engaged and there is a plan for implementation.
Scaled score of 3: A plan to address the standard is fully developed, and the standard is in the beginning phase of implementation.
Scaled score of 4: Staff is engaged in the implementation of most elements of the standard.
Scaled score of 5: All standard elements are developed and are in the implementation phase.
Scaled score of 6: Elements of the standard are implemented, monitored, and becoming systemic.
Scaled score of 7: All elements of the standard are fully implemented, are being monitored, and appropriate adjustments are taking place.
It is important to note that the district scaled score for the Facilities Management area that the commentary piece addressed received a 5.67 by the FCMAT reviewers, meaning that staff is engaged in the implementation of the standard, or that elements of the standard have already been implemented and are becoming systemic.
For those interested, the scores of 8, 9, and 10 are defined as such:
Scaled score of 8: All elements of the standard are fully and substantially implemented and are sustainable.
Scaled score of 9: All elements of the standard are fully and substantially implemented and have been sustained for a full school year.
Scaled score of 10: All elements of the standard are fully implemented, are being sustained with high quality, are being refined, and have a process for ongoing evaluation.
The FCMAT report is a massive, daunting document that requires days of careful reading, rereading, area comparisons, and further research to fully make use of. It is of course tempting to view the scaled scoring as a “report card.” However, that was not FCMAT’s intended use of the scale, and the report and the FCMAT consultants at the Aug. 13 Special Board meeting explicitly stated that. Using the report as a baseline, a snapshot of our current operations, systems, and practices, and as a basis for continued monitoring and evaluation, is much more demanding, much more difficult, but in the long-term much more beneficial and positive for BUSD, our schools, our staff, our community, and of course, our children. This board is committed to using the FCMAT report as the tool it was intended to be.
John Selawsky is vice-president of the Berkeley School Board.