Study Guide

Field 225: Superintendent
Sample Constructed-Response Assignments

The following materials contain:

Sample Constructed-Response Assignment 1

Objective 0001–0006
Subareas 1 & 2

Using the scenario and exhibits provided, write a response in which you analyze the educational program of the Spencer School District. In your response:

Be specific in your response, citing evidence from the scenario and exhibits as appropriate. Your response should be approximately 300–600 words.

Scenario

You are the new superintendent of the Spencer School District. Spencer is an urban district comprising ten schools—seven elementary schools with students in grades PK–5, two middle schools with students in grades 6–8, and one high school with students in grades 9–12. Total enrollment in Spencer is approximately 3,950 students. The district's student population is approximately 52% Caucasian, 30% African American, and 18% Hispanic. Approximately 65% of Spencer students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, 19% receive special education services, and 20% are English language learners. Spencer students have historically performed below state average on state assessments. The teaching staff is made up of a mix of new teachers hired in the past three years and veteran teachers who have been in the district ten years or more.

As you progress through orientation activities you learn that the district has lacked a focus in its professional development offerings. There is not an overall district staff development plan. Instead, each school plans its own professional development activities. Because of this, there appear to be inconsistencies in the type and quality of professional development. Some schools have site-based offerings as a result of data analysis, while others use less formal means to plan professional development. Some principals welcome the opportunity to lead their own professional development activities, while others resent that the task falls to them.

To further acclimate yourself to your new district, you review various types of information, including student assessment data for the past three years, as well as principal evaluations and walkthrough data. You also review a memo from the assistant superintendent for curriculum regarding professional development activities.

Student Assessment Data

Standardized Assessment Results for All Students
Three-Year Comparison

This table displays the percentage of students in all groups who "met" or "exceeded" expectations.

District State
Subject 3 Years
Ago (%)
2 Years
Ago (%)
Last Year
(%)
3 Years
Ago (%)
2 Years
Ago (%)
Last Year
(%)
Reading 55 55 54 60 61 63
Math 49 52 55 57 59 60
Science 59 60 66 80 80 78

Standardized Assessment Results by Student Group
Three-Year Comparison

This table displays the percentage of students by group who "met" or "exceeded" expectations in reading and mathematics.

Percentage (%) of School Population 3 Years Ago
(%)
2 Years Ago
(%)
Last Year
(%)
Reading Math Reading Math Reading Math
Female 51 56 50 56 53 56 55
Male 49 54 48 54 51 52 54
Grade 3 8 62 52 64 56 65 60
Grade 4 7 60 50 62 54 62 55
Grade 5 59 50 59 53 60 55
Grade 6 7 57 51 57 52 59 54
Grade 7 7 54 51 52 51 49 53
Grade 8 9 53 48 51 52 47 53
Grade 9–12 27 43 44 42 49 39 52
Economically
Disadvantaged
65 45 40 44 42 43 45
English
Language
Learners
20 35 44 36 47 34 51
Students with
Disabilities
19 34 39 35 40 33 41

Principal Evaluation and Walkthrough Data

Evaluation of Principal Practice—Number of Principals at Each Rating
Last Year's Ratings

Professional Practice
Rating
Student Growth Rating Summative Evaluation
Rating
E M H
Distinguished 1 Much above
Target
0 Excellent 1 0 0
Proficient 5 Above Target 0 Proficient 5 1 0
Basic 3 On Target 4 Needs
Improvement
1 1 0
Needs
Improvement
1 Less than
Target
6 Unsatisfactory 0 0 1

Summary of Classroom Walkthrough Data, Compiled by Principals,
Evidence of Practice

Percentage of Classroom Walkthroughs Indicating Teaching Practice

Teaching Practice Percentage (%) of Classroom Observed—Elementary School Percentage (%) of Classroom Observed—Middle School Percentage (%) of Classroom Observed—High School
Whole-class instruction 31 58 73
Small-group or paired instruction 49 17 12
One-on-one instruction 17 8 3
Independent student work 12 21 16
Students are engaged 89 71 65
Evidence of standards-based lesson plan 93 90 69
Evidence of vocabulary review 41 46 24
Evidence of differentiation 79 55 43
Evidence of support for ELL students 52 35 21
Evidence of formative assessment 62 54 33
Evidence of technology integration 62 61 68
Evidence of effective classroom management 86 74 80

Communication

Memorandum from Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum

TO: New Superintendent

FROM: Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum

DATE: August 1

RE: District Professional Development

Welcome to the Spencer School District! I appreciate the opportunity to update you on professional development in our district.

For many years, even before I started in my position, our district has had a site-based philosophy for professional development. We feel that it is important for each building to create its own professional development plan and to focus on the unique needs and challenges that face each of our schools. Each year the principal submits the plan to my office for approval.

Currently our district has five full days in the calendar for professional development and three half days. Two of the full days are used prior to the start of school. These days are primarily taken up with districtwide opening meetings, school-based faculty meetings, and time for teachers to prepare their classrooms. The rest of the days in the calendar are school based.

Below is a sample of the types of professional topics from various schools during the last school year.

Elementary School Middle School High School
Differentiated instruction Academic vocabulary Teaching in the block schedule
Using data to drive instruction Digital storytelling Discipline in the classroom
ncreasing student engagement Developing adolescent readers Integrating technology into the classroom
Project-based learning Effective writing strategies
Strategies for teaching ELLs Differentiated instruction
Expanding content literacy

As you can see, our district offers a robust combination of professional development to the teachers. I hope you have found this helpful. I look forward to working with you to bring our district to the next level.

Again, welcome to Spencer!

Sample Strong Response to Constructed-Response Assignment 1

The strength of the Spencer School District is the professional development at the elementary level. The elementary schools have clearly focused their professional learning on meeting the needs of all students. They have provided professional development on differentiated instruction, using data to drive instruction, increasing student engagement, and strategies for teaching English language learners. The evidence indicates that the professional development has positively impacted the classroom. Assessment scores in reading are close to twenty points higher than the high school. Math scores are ten points higher. In addition walkthrough data indicates that elementary teachers are more likely to engage in small group instruction, differentiation, support for ELLs, and use assessment to drive instruction.

The primary concern for the district is poor academic performance. District-wide, scores in reading have either remained flat or declined over the last three years and are significantly lower than the state average. The lack of progress is particularly evident at the high school, where assessment scores are five to ten percentage points lower than the district average across all subject areas.

The data reveals many clues that may be contributing to the lack of academic progress, particularly at the middle and high schools. Walkthrough data reveals a large amount of whole class instruction (68,73 percent), minimal student engagement (71, 65 percent), lack of differentiated instruction (55, 43 percent), and lack of formative assessment use (54,33 percent). In addition, there is evidence that the district has lacked focus and leadership at the middle and high school levels in providing professional development. In addition, two of the three principals at the middle and high schools were rated as either "needs improvement" "unsatisfactory" last year. This calls into question the leadership taking place at these schools.

Based on poor student academic progress at the middle and high school levels, and the issues revealed in the walkthrough data, it appears that these levels require a renewed focus on and belief in the high achievement of all students. To address this I would work to improve the professional culture. I would begin by working with principals to organize data analysis teams at each school. The function of the teams will be to analyze various forms of data to determine areas for teacher learning, and possible curricular changes.

Once each building team has analyzed the data and determined areas need, the information will be shared with faculty at individual school faculty meetings to demonstrate trends and illustrate the need for change. The team will illicit input from faculty on possible next steps.

Finally, each team will develop a long term school improvement plan. The plan will include specific goals, timelines, and people responsible for each step. Data analysis will be ongoing, and any staff learning will be job embedded, and will include individual coaching.

While this process is underway, I will be working with the three principals who were rated below standard. Each will be placed on an improvement plan, and I will monitor their progress frequently.

This improvement process will be enhanced by tapping into the successes realized at the elementary level. I would call upon quality elementary teachers and administrators to take a leadership role and assist other schools' improvement teams.

I would obtain the resources for this plan by paying staff to participate in the building data teams, and paying for supplies, and professional development. The funds would come from the local budget, and I would also review the grants available to the district for possible matches to this project.

This will be a long process, but the result should be improved student achievement.

Sample Constructed-Response Assignment 2

Objective 007–0011
Subareas 3 & 4

Use the information in the scenario and exhibit to:

Be specific in your response, citing evidence from the scenario and exhibit as appropriate. Your response should be approximately 150–300 words.

Scenario

You are the new superintendent of the Essex School District. Essex is a large urban district with a diverse student population. During the first weeks in your new position you meet with various stakeholders to gain an overall understanding of your new district. You learn that generally academic progress is on target, and the community provides strong support for the schools.

However, one area of concern you hear frequently from district parents/guardians and school board members is that district schools do not feel welcoming. Although they understand the need, families do not like that exterior doors of all schools are locked and visitors must be buzzed in before reporting to the office. In addition, parents/guardians are not permitted in classrooms unless invited by teachers. Parents/guardians also report that communication from the school is often lacking. For example, many families feel that it is difficult to know what events are happening at the school at any given time. The schools' calendar posted on the Web page is out of date, and flyers students bring home rarely provide sufficient information.

As part of your overall orientation to the district, you review survey data collected last year from district teachers and families.

Survey Results

Excerpt from Teacher Survey Results, Last Year

% Agree or Strongly Agree
Elementary School Teachers (96% responding) Middle School Teachers (92% responding) High School Teachers (94% responding)
1. Our school environment supports teaching and learning. 84 79 66
2. All students at our school can learn at a high level. 92 89 77
3. Our school is focused on meeting the needs of all learners. 98 93 87
4. I feel supported by administrators at my school. 82 75 62
5. Teachers at my school are respectful to all students. 99 97 92
6. The school maintains clear, two-way communication with families and the community. 71 69 65
7. The school does a good job of encouraging parent/ guardian involvement. 79 55 43
8. Teachers keep parents/ guardians informed about student progress. 95 91 84
9. Parents/guardians support teachers, contributing to their success with students. 74 69 55
10. The community we serve is supportive of this school. 75 74 69

Excerpt from Teacher Survey Results, Last Year

% Agree or Strongly Agree
Elementary School Parents/Guardians (64% responding) Middle School Parents/Guardians (55% responding) High School Parents/Guardians (35% responding)
1. My child feels safe at school. 92 85 78
2. Most students are kind to one another. 83 79 68
3. My child's school keeps me informed of upcoming events. 72 63 48
4. It is easy for me to communicate with my child's teacher. 62 55 36
5. My child's teacher keeps me informed of my child's progress in school. 78 67 54
6. Parents/guardians support teachers, contributing to their success with students. 88 83 82
7. The community is supportive of this school. 92 88 80
8. Overall, I am happy with my child's school. 85 77 75

Sample Strong Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

Research reveals that family involvement in school and school related activities has a positive influence on student achievement. Parents and guardians should be seen as the schools’ partner in the education process. Without that partnership, student achievement suffers, and teachers’ jobs become more difficult. Based on data from the surveys provided, both teachers and parents/guardians agree that communication and support can improve.

To gather data on the extent problem, I would first ask principals to report the parent/guardian involvement activities currently in place in their schools. Next, I would invite families to attend a forum to share their experience and offer suggestions for improvement. Finally, I would conduct an online survey focusing on parent/guardian involvement, and things that could be changed to make the schools more welcoming. I would also survey district teachers to determine the level of parent/guardian outreach in which they are currently involved, and barriers they see to parent/guardian involvement.

To begin the process of making district schools more welcoming I would form a committee consisting of building administrators, teachers, and parents/guardians to review the data collected, and begin developing a plan. The plan would include goals for communicating the importance of creating welcoming schools to our staff, providing suggestions, and requirements to staff for increased communication with families. The plan would include goals for improving the district and school web pages, and social media presence. Any school not currently providing newsletters will begin doing so. We will also reach out to parents/guardians to let them know that we have heard their concerns, explain the steps that we are taking, and solicit input for further steps we could take. We will begin to develop a relationship of trust between families and the schools, and create a partnership for the benefit of the children of Essex.

Rationale

Response fulfills the purpose of the assignment, by thoroughly responding to all charges, and does so using the given scenario and exhibits in a thorough accurate and appropriate fashion. The importance of making schools welcoming is explained with the academic success of the students, as well as the effectiveness of the teachers as the focus, which shows a clear understanding of the need to work toward this goal. Identification and explanation of additional information necessary shows candidate’s understanding that more specific questions, need to be asked and that solicitation of potential solutions from the stakeholders would lead to a more positive relationship between all interested parties. Steps to be taken, including the formation of a committee of representatives comprised of all interested parties, with specific goals in place to improve relations between the school and parents/guardians, shows a thorough understanding of the process. All exhibits are clearly used in the response and strong rationale is evident.

Performance Characteristics

Purpose The candidate fulfills the purpose of the assignment by responding appropriately to each specific task in the assignment.
Application of Content The candidate accurately and effectively applies the relevant content knowledge and skills.
Support The candidate supports the response with appropriate examples, evidence, and rationales based on the relevant content knowledge and skills.

Scoring Scale

The four points of the scoring scale correspond to varying degrees of performance. The following statements describe typical responses at each score point.

Score Point Score Point Description
4 The "4" response reflects a thorough understanding of the relevant content knowledge and skills from the test objectives.
  • The response completely fulfills the purpose of the assignment by responding fully to the given task.
  • The response demonstrates an accurate, highly effective application of the relevant content knowledge and skills.
  • The response provides strong supporting examples, evidence, and rationales based on the relevant content knowledge and skills.
3 The "3" response reflects a general understanding of the relevant content knowledge and skills from the test objectives.
  • The response generally fulfills the purpose of the assignment by responding in a general way to the given task.
  • The response demonstrates a generally accurate, effective application of the relevant content knowledge and skills.
  • The response provides some supporting examples, evidence, and rationales based on the relevant content knowledge and skills.
2 The "2" response reflects a limited understanding of the relevant content knowledge and skills from the test objectives.
  • The response partially fulfills the purpose of the assignment by responding in a limited way to the given task.
  • The response demonstrates a partially accurate, partially effective application of the relevant content knowledge and skills.
  • The response provides limited supporting examples, evidence, and rationales based on the relevant content knowledge and skills.
1 The "1" response reflects very weak or no understanding of the relevant content knowledge and skills from the test objectives.
  • The response fulfills little of the purpose of the assignment by responding inadequately to the given task.
  • The response demonstrates a largely inaccurate, ineffective application of the relevant content knowledge and skills.
  • The response provides very weak or no supporting examples, evidence, and rationales based on the relevant content knowledge and skills.
U The response is unscorable because it is illegible, not written to the assigned topic, or written in a language other than English or does not contain a sufficient amount of original work to score.
B There is no response to the assignment.