“The superintendent has said to us there are only two types of workers in the school system: teachers and those who support teachers,” Ewing said. “My job is to offer support to teachers. We are going to have a laser focus on what happens in the classroom.”
On May 29, Ewing was tagged by Ragsdale to be the district’s chief accountability and research officer.
In this role, Ewing will analyze test scores and other data compiled by the school system to help focus on goals and objectives. Ewing is part of Ragsdale’s seven-member executive cabinet. The role is a new position created to help analyze data.
Ewing and the 11 employees he supervises are responsible for reporting test data and information throughout the school year on several different types of exams. His department also gathers College and Career Ready Performance Index information sent to the state and used to record the academic progress of individual schools.
“My role is about providing data, and the data will tell the superintendent what our challenges are,” Ewing said. “My job is to give him the most accurate data possible. Once I present the data to (Ragsdale), there are other individuals who can begin to make operational and curriculum decisions that will impact student success.”
One challenge for Ewing and the school district is the implementation of new tests, such as the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, which will replace the End of Course Tests and the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test starting with the 2014-15 school year.
“The first thing we have to do is gain a thorough understanding of what the test will be testing,” Ewing said. “Once we have that understanding, we have to share that with principals to share with students and teachers in their buildings.”
Part of Ewing’s role is to make sure test information is accurate. For example, if a school had unusually low math scores, Ewing said his department would first make sure there wasn’t an issue with the tests not being read correctly by scoring machines.
Once the data’s accuracy is verified, Ewing’s department sends the information to the curriculum department and school principals. Ewing said instruction is then tailored to meet the needs of individual students based on the test data.
Ewing will be critical to the school system, according to Ragsdale.
“That position will provide the executive cabinet team and then the rest of the Cobb County School District with the appropriate data to make decisions on,” Ragsdale said. “He’s familiar with what kinds of data we need and how to go about compiling that data and giving it to the necessary departments.”
Ewing’s nearly three decades in the Cobb School District are another reason Ragsdale decided to include him in the cabinet.
“He understands how we do things in Cobb, the processes and procedures and also the areas where we can improve,” Ragsdale said. “That’s the benefit of people already experienced with Cobb.”
Ragsdale added the most important step is what the school system does with the data after it has been collected. The data is sent to curriculum leaders and analyzed to see how instruction can be tailored to individual students.
History at Lassiter, central office
Ewing graduated from Wheeler High School in 1982 and finished college four years later. Fresh out of Georgia State University, Ewing began teaching foreign languages at Lassiter High School in January 1987 and stayed there for the next 16 years.
He started out teaching Latin and later taught foreign exchange students. In December of 2002, Ewing came to Cobb’s central office and joined the English to Speakers of Other Languages and Foreign Language department.
Around the same time, the immigrant population in Cobb County started to grow, Ewing said.
“In those early days, I think we had 1,000 students who were what we’d label as international,” Ewing said. “Today, when we ran the latest numbers, we have 19,000 students who speak Spanish as a first language and over 10,000 in the ESOL program.”
The school district has 108,000 students.
Ewing added some students who speak Spanish as their first language are fluent enough in English they don’t need to enroll in the ESOL program.
“My life always has been about data, because ESOL students always were a subgroup under No Child Left Behind,” Ewing said. “We’ve always followed their progress to make sure they’re doing well, so in turn the district would do well.”
Foreign language has always been a passion for Ewing, coupled with his love for travel. He has been to every continent except Antarctica, is certified to teach Italian and Latin, and knows some Spanish.
“One advantage I have is my ability to come into some communities and use some words in their native language,” Ewing said. “That always brings a comfort level.”
One well-known Cobb County educator who has a long history with Ewing is Judy McNeill, principal of Walton High School. McNeill started her career at Walton in 1988, the year after Ewing arrived at Lassiter. They met through Beverly Titlow, who taught Latin at Walton.
McNeill said she’s always been impressed with how smart Ewing is.
“He’s very insightful and he’s very intelligent,” she said. “He is just so insightful of putting programs together and putting curriculum together. We’ve worked very closely together. As a curriculum person, I’d tell him we needed something, and he’d say, ‘Okay, let’s develop a program for this so it will work.’”
She thinks Ewing will serve Cobb schools well in his new role.
“It’s about interpreting data and guiding instruction to make sure that we are strengthening our weaknesses,” McNeill said.