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May 6, 2014 2:05 AM by Sean Mooney

Audit reveals TUSD failing its students

TUCSON - A newly released curriculum audit reveals the Tucson Unified School District is failing its students. And those deficiencies go beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.

For three months, a group of independent auditors from the International Curriculum Management Audit Center took the massive machine that is TUSD apart, piece by piece. What they found is a school district with an engine in desperate need of an overhaul.

The 535-page report detailed how the district currently operates. The man who called for the audit, TUSD Superintendent, H.T. Sanchez, said the study is going to make the district better, "This document will help us make good, smart decisions and where we put our dollars, there will be measures to ensure a return on our investment, that investment is student learning."

The audit cost an estimated $200,000. During the study 89 schools were visited and more than 300 people were interviewed. The report's lead auditor, William Poston, did not sugarcoat what his team uncovered, "For 34 years they have been trying to overcome the inequity in its educational program and it's a massive failure."

The study cited numerous problems, including major gaps in student achievement based on a family's income level. But the overriding factor in the district's failure was the lack of a unified curriculum. The executive summary stated, "Several policies in the curriculum management areas of control, direction, connectivity and equity, feedback, and productivity were either weak or absent."

Sanchez said the curriculum issues came up early on in the study. "That's the first thing they identified, that there wasn't a curriculum department," Sanchez said, "without one you don't have a comprehensive written curriculum, rather you have good teachers working hard with students and making gains in an isolated matter, not in a cohesive or unified manner."

There is some good news. The CMSI audit included recommendations to improve the district. William Poston said there is a path to success. "The first thing you have to have is a curriculum that is well defined and is achievable," said Poston, "what teachers teach, needs to match what's being measured out there in the world."

Poston said he believes it will take the five to seven years to turn the district around.

On the positive side high marks were given to teachers in the district. Tucson High School sophomore, Abraham Hudak, said he believes it is not just the curriculum that keeps them from being even better, "It's hard to address every student because the classes are so large," Hudak said, "so I think it is tough for them to teach each individual student."

It may be coincidence that announcements from TUSD regarding initiatives to reduce class sizes and teacher salary adjustments coincide with Teacher Appreciation Week.

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