We reported on Monday that incoming San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten would be starting from scratch to create a system to measure local schools according to the district’s 12 indicators of quality schools.

It turns out that’s not true.

The district already has a draft list of detailed measurement tools, or rubrics, designed to assess how well schools and teachers are performing according to the 12 indicators. The draft document was passed on to Voice of San Diego by a source who wished to stay anonymous because he or she isn’t authorized to talk about the plans. The rubrics have been in the works “for a couple of years,” the source said.

Last week, District Chief of Staff Bernie Rhinerson told me the district had not yet started to implement the 12 indicators. “We’re driving a car and we haven’t arrived at the destination yet,” he said.

Rhinserson said it was correct that Marten would be “starting from scratch” in setting up a system to measure the 12 indicators.

On Tuesday, when confronted with the draft plan, Rhinerson acknowledged a “working document” exists but said that it’s far from final.

The document is meant to form a basis for a dialogue on how best to measure schools, he said.

“That document could change 100 times between now and implementation,” Rhinerson said.

But why keep the document, and the process that went into producing it, so secret, I asked. Rhinerson didn’t have an answer.

One reason might be some of the measurements the rubrics cover. Perhaps most controversially, the draft document lays out in detail how the district will measure the first of the 12 indicators: quality teaching.

According to the document, the district will measure quality teaching on five main fronts. It will look for whether teachers are:

• Engaging and supporting all students in learning (40 percent of the assessment)

• Creating and maintaining an effective environment for learning (20 percent)

• Understanding and organizing subject matter knowledge (10 percent)

• Planning and designing learning experiences for all students (10 percent)

• Assessing student learning (20 percent)

There’s no mention whatsoever of measuring teacher performance (or teaching quality) using data mined from test scores.

That’s sure to irk education reformers, who want to see teachers held accountable, at least to some extent, for the performance of children in their classrooms. It’s also affirmation that San Diego Unified doesn’t currently have any plans to use data to measure teacher performance, something we’ve been covering for a while.

Labor unions have not been involved in the draft’s creation at all (involving the unions in the evaluation process was one of the three hurdles we identified to implementing the 12 indicators of quality schools).

The district has been talking recently about making its effort to evaluate schools an open and transparent process that involves all stakeholders, yet it hasn’t yet involved the main groups it will have to persuade about the new system: the San Diego Education Association, which represents teachers, and the Administrators Association of San Diego City Schools, which represents principals.

SDEA President Bill Freeman was not immediately available to respond to the document, but Rhinerson confirmed the teachers union hasn’t been involved in the draft rubrics. He stressed that the document is a working staff draft.

Juan Romo, president of the AASDCS, said his union hasn’t been involved in the process either. He gave the district the benefit of the doubt.

“Maybe they’re planning on scrapping those rubrics and starting again when Cindy Marten starts,” he said.

Marten couldn’t be reached for comment.

You can read the full draft document here. Let me know what you think about it, and what questions I should be asking about the district’s process for evaluating schools.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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