Innovative new programs abound in San Diego Unified but they are rarely evaluated to decide whether they have met their goals, according to a report that will be presented to the school board on Tuesday.

Failing to assess programs was one of several key weaknesses noted in the report, which was created by district staffers. Such reports are a crucial element of the governance policies that were adopted by the school board and Superintendent Terry Grier last summer, and set regular times to evaluate district procedures and policies.

The report also notes shortfalls in regularly evaluating ordinary, core instructional programs — the bread and butter of schools — and in tailoring classes to fit the different learning styles of different students. It recommends a few changes:

  • Core instructional programs and innovative programs should be evaluated annually against their stated goals. This is a big one: You might remember from my story on the City Heights Educational Collaborative that it is difficult to judge whether the effort has succeeded because nobody established specific, concrete goals for the initiative.
  • Educators will get more training on how to design classes that are engaging for all different kinds of learners by the fall of 2009. The estimated cost is $200,000 in training materials, preparation time for educators leading workshops, and substitutes to help cover classes while teachers are being trained.
  • Instructional time needs to be protected against intrusion. The report is a little vague about what, exactly, those intrusions are, but parent blogger Paul Bowers might have some suggestions. He was alarmed by a December school visit from Ronald McDonald:

Staff, teachers and parents lemminged up the children to hear the benevolent Clown (doubtless an authority in child education and psychology) talk about friendship and bullying. … There were happy magic tricks and the Clown and children sang happy jingles. And linked that positive friendship message directly with the McDoo brand.  All during time that would have otherwise been wasted on classroom instruction. It’s brilliant.

The report recommends that staffers create a protocol about how instructional time should be used — and how it should not be used — that would be distributed to schools annually


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