Superintendent Delivers State of the System Address
Robert Tomback delivered his state of the system address at Monday's school board meeting.
The superintendent's state of the system presentation began with a few laughs when Robert Tomback presented it Monday evening after a lengthy public comment session.
"Well, this may be long-awaited, but I guarantee it won't be long-winded, so let's be thankful for that," he said.
Tomback addressed his presentation to the board and staff, but singled out the two high school representatives at the meeting, Caitlin Dooling, the student representative on the board, and Tony Cofrancesco, student government president at Havre de Grace High School.
"It's these two students, that's why we're here and that's why we do what we do," Tomback said. "This is about our two students, and, if I counted correctly, the other 38,189 they represent."
He focused on goal one of his presentation, which aims to prepare students for success in postsecondary education and their careers. Tomback outlined successes in the school system, as well as the areas that need improvement and ways to address those needs.
Tomback's population data showed an increase in minority populations and the number of students receiving special services in the past few years. The school system, however, has been expecting such changes and is prepared to adjust programs to accommodate them, Tomback said.
"We don't know what the future holds," he said. "We don't know what the BRAC will bring, but we do know that we anticipate increases in our population … it's those changes that we really have to be ready for."
The number of students studying English as a second language and those receiving free or reduced meals has also increased, according to Tomback, while the number of students in special education is declining.
"Even though the number of students receiving special services has decreased, we must keep in mind that the level of severity of needs has increased," he said.
Tomback used Maryland School Assessment proficiency graphs in his presentation to show the successes of the county through high student performances in grades three through eight and grade 10, from 2005, 2009 and 2010.
"Between 2005 and 2010 the percent of our third, fourth and fifth graders demonstrating proficiency in reading and in math continued to exceed the state objective for that year," he said.
Despite those increases in MSA proficiency, Tomback did acknowledge that there has been a recent decline in the performance levels of high school students with disabilities on the MSA's.
"With the recent decline, we will examine this data to ensure that this is not a trend," he added.
The presentation also examined high school assessment data, graduation and dropout rates, SAT scores and the number of students enrolled in advanced placement courses. One of Tomback's student achievement proposals addressed Advanced Placement course enrollment and ways to increase it. He referenced a program created by the College Board, AP Potential.
"It is designed to measure the potential of those students to be successful in advanced placement programs," Tomback said. "That's not being utilized as widely as we would like in our schools."
AP potential is just one example of Tomback's plans to increase student achievement, starting with quality of classroom instruction, the initiative he said he was most excited about.
"Of all the factors that are under the control of schools and school systems, the single most important factor that will drive student achievement is the quality of a teacher in a classroom, the quality of instruction," he said.
To improve quality of instruction, Tomback suggested that all teachers and staff focus on student outcomes, effective instruction, and lessons with clear objectives.
After the state of the system, board members provided Tomback with feedback on his presentation, including comments regarding the lack of data about the achievement gap in "low-performing students of diverse backgrounds."
"I was sort of expecting to see, perhaps, that we've narrowed the achievement gap, which I know that we have, over recent years," said Mark Wolkow, board president.
Tomback assured Wolkow that the achievement gap had narrowed, but that the purpose of the plan was to provide an overview of all students and how to improve performances as a whole.
"All of our students would not have improved if in fact, all of our students had not improved," Tomback said. "While that may sound like a redundant statement, I think that there is truth in it with respect to the improvement of performance for all of our students."
Wolkow also asked when the board would be able to post progress on the student achievement goals for parents to see changes as they occur throughout the year.
"We release those data under any circumstances, because again, we don't have secrets," Tomback said. "We will certainly present them in a clear manner and then we'll do so here in the board's presence."