Huberman to principals: Focus will be on data

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If you know data analysis, there’s probably a job for you in CPS administration. If you know only about teaching—well, maybe not quite so much. In his first address to principals Tuesday, CEO Ron Huberman didn’t go into specifics about what positions are going to be axed this week in central office. But he said he plans to streamline central office, get more money into schools (though not this year, given the budget crunch) and get teachers and principals data about student performance in real- time by having diagnostic tests done online so that results are more immediate.

Principals seemed excited by the news. They’ve often complained that the results of periodic student assessments are delayed for so long it is hard to react to them and adjust teaching accordingly.

Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins talked about the restructuring of area instructional offices. Existing area instructional officers will have to reapply for the new positions, renamed chief area officers, and the number of offices has been cut to 21, down from 25.

If you know data analysis, there’s a job for you in CPS administration. If you know only about teaching—well, maybe not quite so much.

In his first address to principals Tuesday, CEO Ron Huberman didn’t go into specifics about what positions are going to be axed this week in central office. But he said he plans to streamline central office, get more money into schools (though not this year, given the budget crunch) and get teachers and principals data about student performance in real- time by having diagnostic tests done online so that results are more immediate.

Principals seemed excited by the news. They’ve often complained that the results of periodic student assessments are delayed for so long it is hard to react to them and adjust teaching accordingly.

Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins talked about the restructuring of area instructional offices. Existing area instructional officers will have to reapply for the new positions, renamed chief area officers, and the number of offices has been cut to 21, down from 25.

Area officers will now be focused on helping teachers and principals interpret data, figure out students’ problem areas and come up with improvement plans. Each officer will get a data analyst, and the reading and math coaches will become data coaches, but with expertise in their subject area.

Huberman, however, didn’t talk at all about how schools should come up with improvement plans, or about providing additional support to schools.

Huberman’s claim to fame is performance management, and he told principals that they are expected to have performance management meetings at schools and to participate in those held at the area level. The chief area officers will sit down weekly with him, Eason-Watkins and other department heads to figure out what needs to happen to make sure that students are progressing.

Huberman also told principals that the district’s professional development department will be trimmed. Principals know better what type of professional development they need, he said.

Eason-Watkins piped in at times during the meeting, mostly to tell principals that they are doing a good job and that CPS is well on its way to being the premier urban school district—a line that is a remnant from former CEO Arne Duncan’s days.

Huberman also promised to stop running so many pilot programs, narrowing offerings to a handful and taking them to scale. One of the criticisms of former CEO Arne Duncan was that he initiated pilot programs, but had trouble implementing them districtwide.

However, Huberman was careful not to critique Duncan, saying he wanted to build on progress the district has already made. He also made it a point to tell principals that while MBAs are all over central office, educators will still be responsible for what goes on in the classroom.

“We are just trying to bring some business acumen to it,” he said.