Toward an Evaluation of the Educational and Sports Sectors in Nigeria: A Preamble to the Implementation of Vision 2020
For the past two months, since returning from Nigeria in July after living in America for 30 years, I have been thinking and reflecting on my observations of how the educational and sports sectors work. The article below is an attempt to shed some light on the challenges a new superintendent faces at a school district in America to set the stage for my evaluation of educational and sports sectors in Nigeria.
The state of Florida education policies are administered through the state board of education and the Florida Department of Education (FDOE). The Miami-Dade County School Board, a nine member strong committee, is elected by citizens living in the school district or appointed by the local government in which the school district is set. They are agents or representatives of the state government. The school board sets school policy within the broad framework established by state laws. Some of the important powers of the school board include the appointment of the superintendent, approving the school district budget, negotiating collective bargaining agreements with the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) and acting in all district employee hiring and dismissal decisions.
In September 2008, the school board confirmed Alberto M. Carvalho as the new superintendent of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) system when former Superintendent Rudy Crew was summarily removed from office. Crew had introduced a controversial and costly innovative program called the School Improvement Zone (SIZ) which targeted 39 failing schools in the district. Schools in the zone have been historically and financially neglected and marked by poor leadership and poor student performance. Carvalho has two basic functions. The first is to serve as the leader of the educational staff, responsible for providing direction and supervision for all aspects of the school district activity. The second is to advise the school board on all matters relating to school operations including making recommendations and implementing policy matters.
Superintendent Carvalho may have inherited some structural and infrastructural problems. Some of the problems are related to administration, finance, budget, curriculum and instruction. All of them impact directly or indirectly student classroom performance and to some extent faculty and staff morale. Because the M-DCPS is the fourth largest school district in the country with a student population of about 357,494 (California, New York and Chicago have more students), about 21, 200 teachers, and an operating and capital budget of over $6 billion a year, the school district is infested with competing interests which are vigorously vying for a share of the pie. And because the district is also the second largest minority public school system (next to California) with over 60 percent Hispanics, 28 percent Black, 10 oercent White, and 2 percent other, pressure from the Hispanic (particularly the Cuban community) is all too evident. Take, for example, an urgent challenge for Carvalho is to critically examine how students are prepared for graduation. The high school graduation rate in America is 70 percent. It is 75 percent in Florida. It is below 45 percent in some of the under-performing schools.
To overcome these problems, he must endeavor to strengthen relationships between teachers, perhaps through UTD, school-site administrators, the local business community partners and parents.
Superintendent Carvalho understands that there are significant differences between the way teachers and administrators and the nine school board members see and understand the deep historical problems facing the school district, how they reach their decisions as well as the parental and business community expectations. Carvalho understands the impact of global education and its influence on student’s overall development and on the community at large.
Superintendent Carvalho, a seasoned and often pragmatic administrator, knows full well that he faces a daunting task of overcoming these challenges. But he knows how to play the politics. He is a product of the system. I expect that he first tackles the institutional norms and frameworks that are undermining productivity in the district, in the classroom, and at the school sites. Although he has made strong commitments to transform a school system that has been eroding in human and academic values since the days of Superintendent Johnny Jones in the 1970s, Carvalho must show political prowess if he wants to achieve his vision. He understands the interface of theory, research, politics, and policy. He also understands a shared-leadership and management philosophy of governance, accountability, and transparency.
Superintendent Carvalho must improve relations with school site principals. He seems to have done this. He has given principals a blank check to do whatever it takes to get the job done. For example, a principal who can provide evidence that a teacher is under-performing can be involuntarily transferred at the end of the school year. The concern, however, is that if a principal does not like a teacher or a staff member for whatever reason, he or she may now have incentive to let an effective teacher or staff members go. Second, he needs to develop an effective system of managing and organizing the curricular issues, instructional strategies, assessment and evaluation of faculty, staff, and administration to meet the challenges of the 21st century workforce and global demands and expectations. Third, he needs to continue to fight for sustainable funding through local efforts and legislative and executive wrangling. This power struggle for more funding will be done through budget proposals. He has proposed a balanced budget, which the school board seems to be pleased with at the present time. As a result, his contract has been extended for two more years.
Superintendent Carvalho has many supporters. Some of the support is coming from the Hispanic community and from the local universities such as Florida International University and University of Miami, and from local government in the form of compacts to support his vision to increase student academic achievement.
In Region V, for example, the City of Homestead Education Committee and the newly formed Foundational Committee, a not-for-profit business corporation, have positioned themselves to raise necessary funds to support the newly appointed Regional Superintendent Valencia Brown’s vision. Other area of focus for Carvalho will be in the area of global education. Carvalho strongly believes that our country has become part a global village. He has argued repeatedly that national boarders around the world have become open and accessible for easy travel. Mass migration, easy access to information and technology are now changing the way we teach and relate to students. He has also argued that the way we educate our children must change. This is one area that Carvalho can leave a legacy.
The restructuring efforts in M-DCPS are a deliberate attempt to overhaul a school system that has not only been imperiled, but also plagued with corruption, ineptitude, lacking continuity in the implementation of programs, policies, and of highly qualified teachers and administrators. State, district, and school policy implementation must be taken very seriously- it must take on a new life.
The lack of communication, resources, dispositions or attitudes and bureaucratic structures continue to undermine genuine efforts to improve student achievement and faculty and staff morale. Carvalho must endeavor to implement a program of evaluation of administrative performance by stakeholders, including teachers (school profile survey, IPEGS). This evaluation system will measure administrators’ performance in these areas: processing
of referrals, support for teachers with classroom disruptions, timely answering of e-mails and consistent follow-up with the code of student conduct. Teachers will rate administrators via a written document. He must endeavor to monitor the monthly meetings with the region, district, and superintendent cabinet members. He must endeavor to allow teachers to meet with these high profile officials in the absence of building administrators in order to discuss concerns without intimidation and the fear of reprisal.
What questions this article raises in your mind? What can leaders in education learn from Miami-Dade County School District in Florida, USA.