Josh Garcia, deputy superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools, has received his second national award in two years, named a “leader to learn from” by Education Week, a national newsweekly.
For the most recent award, Education Week heralded Garcia’s role in building Tacoma Public School’s accountability system, which goes well beyond the usual reading and math scores. In Tacoma, the district and its schools are judged by about 40 measures, everything from how many students participate in extracurricular activities, to how many families are registered as school volunteers. The full list can be found here.
Test scores simply don’t reflect everything that’s valuable in education, Garcia said Tuesday.
The 40-some measures were chosen after months of discussions with parents, teachers, and other community members, he said. The district started putting them into effect in fall 2012, and he credits them with some of the progress Tacoma schools have been making. The district’s graduation rate, for example, has risen to 78 percent from 55 percent in four years.
Garcia said one important lesson from the whole effort is the power of writing goals for students rather than adults.
“That’s helped the often-divisive conversation about how to do things,” he said.
In 2013, ASCD highlighted Garcia’s role in establishing in opt-in program for advanced high school classes, something he also supported in the Federal Way School District, where he worked before accepting the deputy superintendent position in Tacoma. The idea is that students who pass state tests are automatically enrolled in advanced classes, with an option to decline. That’s led to a big increase in the number of students taking Advanced Placement and other rigorous courses, he said.