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NAPLES, Italy — The head of Defense Department schools worldwide laid out some of the system’s challenges and some planned new programs this week for parents and teachers in Italy.

Shirley Miles, director of the Department of Defense Educational Activity, said chief among her concerns were stagnant test scores, and a lack of accountability by teachers and administrators.

Just one day shy of a year on the job, Miles said parents and commands share those concerns.

“We are a very good organization, but we could be great,” Miles told the roughly 75 people in attendance at a town hall meeting Tuesday night. “Good is not good enough for our children, because they have a lot of challenges ahead.”

One of the bigger challenges for Miles is to find out why test scores for DOD students, though above the national average, have stagnated for the past decade.

“We know that across the board ... our test scores have flat-lined for the past 10 years, and in some areas declined,” Miles said.

An evaluation to start in August will focus on principals and assistant principals, and superintendents and assistant superintendents. Miles said she would be involved with the superintendent evaluations.

“We’ve established task groups working on recommendations for a lot of different problematic areas, like math, literacy and assessment,” she said. “There’s a number of areas we will see changes in.”

That was welcome news to Courtney Kellogg, who has one child in middle school and one in elementary school.

“As a concerned parent, I want my children to be challenged. Flat-lining test scores do not indicate a challenge to me,” Kellogg said. “The fact that she specifically addressed that I think is fantastic.

“It’s nice to have a forum where you can you have your concerns addressed by someone at her level.”

Miles was in Naples to speak at a commander’s conference earlier in the week. She also met with teachers and staff members.

Miles told the audience during the nearly three-hour meeting that change was imminent.

“We have been sitting on our laurels a little bit too long,” she said. “There needs to be a little more level of anxiety. There needs to be a little kick in the bottom for folks to move along, and some don’t want that. They will be dragged into the 21st century or they will be put on another path.

“I ask you to be patient. Change is coming. The accountability will be strengthened and enhanced. ... That will affect the competency, complacency and apathy. ... The bar has been raised.”

One of the new initiatives Miles spoke of was the DODEA virtual school, due to be accredited and operating by August 2010.

The virtual school is a distance-learning program that will allow students to earn credit and ultimately a high school diploma via computer classes, without having to physically attend school.

“This isn’t just online,” Miles explained, adding that it is a program that involves “asynchronous instruction” in which students interact with a teacher or facilitator and with one another, but not necessarily at the same time, through a computer.


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