Okay, this is a weird thing that just goes to show how an issue can hop around.
Each year, the schools with Advanced Learning programs, APP, Spectrum or an ALO, are supposed to complete a program certfication process to demostrate that the Advanced Learning program meets District Standards. These started just a couple years ago. Originally they were called accreditation and involved the principal, teachers, and community members. They included a detailed self-assessment. An inspection team went to the school and did on-site inspections and interviews. The end result was a report that accurately described the program at each school, its strengths and its areas for improvement. Today, however, the certifications are a sham - every program that requests certification gets it, regardless of how good or bad the program is. They are all certified whether they even apply for certfication or not. They all get certified whether they even have a program or not. There isn't any paperwork at all anymore. The certification process, intended as rigorous and meaningful, has been quietly smothered and stuffed into a closet.
Just the same, as I was working to expose these certifications for the sham that they are, I decided to take a look at the School Transformation Plans for some of the Spectrum schools to see if they included a reference to the program. As luck would have it, the Board voted on November 15, 2006 to approve all of the School Transformation plans. The Board has to vote to approve them because these Transformation Plans also fulfill the role of some report required by state law (WAC 180-16-220). Anything the Board votes on is included in the online Board agenda with all of these hypertext links to all of the supporting documentation. As part of meeting the goals of accountability, transparency, and connecting the community with the district, the Seattle School Board is pleased to provide on-line access to all parts of the agenda for the legislative meetings of the board. Sure enough, there was a hypertext link to the School Transformation Plans associated with this vote on November 15. Unfortunately, the link was to a web page on the District's inside, password protected, web site. This is the site for District staff only. I couldn't access them.
So I wrote to the Board office and pointed this out. I asked if the School Transformation Plans could be moved to the public web site where they would be accessible. Frankly, these documents should be publicly available even if the Board were not voting on them. This request got kicked around a bit and then came back to me. They were going to try to move the plans to the public side, but were there any specific plans that I was interested in reading right away? I requested the plans for Hamilton, High Point, Lawton, Wing Luke and Washington. They sent me Washington and Wing Luke. I got the previous year's plan for Hamilton. No plan was available for High Point or Lawton.
The absence of a plan for High Point and Lawton, and the absence of a current plan for Hamilton was a little troubling. Didn't the Board just vote to approve all of these plans? How could the Board vote to approve them if they didn't exist? If they did exist, then why couldn't someone just download them, attatch them to an email, and send them to me? That's how I got the other three.
It was also troubling because these plans are required by state law. So I checked out the law that these plans were supposed to fulfill. This pointed up another problem; the plans did not fulfill all of the requirements of the state law. The law requires the reports to be data driven, to promote a positive impact on student learning by supporting goal of basic education, promoting continuous improvement in student achievement towards EALRs, or recognizing non-academic student learning and growth, i.e. Public speaking, leadership, interpersonal relationship skills, teamwork, self-confidence, and resiliency. The law requires the plans to include a continuous improvement process for monitoring, adjusting, and updating the plan and for the plans to be based on a self-review including active participation and input by building staff, students, families, parents, and community members. The plans must address characteristics of successful schools, address educational equity factors, address the use of technology to facilitate instruction, and address parent, family and community involvement. While the School Transformation Plans did meet many of these requirements, none of the ones I could see met them all. The plans that didn't exist certainly weren't meeting any of the requirements.
Here's a thorny idea: the District is supposed to have these reports for each building in order to get the state basic education funding - no report; no funding.
This is why it is a bad idea to turn over rocks at Seattle Public Schools. Dig into a little problem and you will find a bigger one. Dig into that one and you get an even bigger one. I initially requested these plans in November. They should have been on the web site. A couple days ago I got an email from the Chief Academic Officer apologizing for the delay and saying that she will get those plans to me. Still no plans. Today I called and asked if I could just go down to the headquarters and pick them up. They couldn't say. I may need a public records request to get the school transformation plans that the Board purportedly approved on November 15.