One rather startling thing she says is "Seattle Public Schools is in a position of strength, both financially and academically." Then, she spends a paragraph explaining why we are financially and one sentence why we are academically. Raise your hand if you think SPS is in a position of strength academically. I'm all for high expectations and positive thinking but this is unrealistic.
She says in one paragraph:
"Standardized curricula, professional development, rigorous evaluation, and clearly communicated plans for improvement are among our top areas of focus." (Rigorous evaluation of students or the teaching methods or the curricula or all three?) On the facing page, though, it says the "Themes" of SPS are (I'm going to shorten them slightly):
- effective, highly qualified teachers for every student
- rigorous core curriculum, assessments and instructional resources, aligned to standards
- focused District work to eliminate the achievement gap and disproportionality through the use of culturally competent strategies
- Effective service to all students, including those with special needs such as special ed, bilingual and advanced learners
- Rigorous program evaluation to understand what works
Bellevue School District has a mission statement which is:
"To provide a top-of-the-line college preparatory program to all students"
Dr. G-J has, below her signature, what I will assume is SPS's mission statement:
"Every student achieving, everyone accountable."
It doesn't take any real brain power to see the difference and what that difference makes everyone involved in education in Seattle. Every student achieving what? Everyone accountable? Parents? How? Teachers? How?
Below, I'm going to insert here something I posted elsewhere because I think it speaks to what I am attempting to say about the lack of focus here.
I'm reading a book called "Made to Stick" (Chip Heath and Dan Heath). They wrote it as something as a companion to the book "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. The Tipping Point was about "the forces that cause social phenomena to make the leap from small groups to big groups". So there's three sections: need to get the right people, the "stickiness factor" and the need for right context.
The brothers Heath are interested in the stickiness factor. They are interested in "how effective ideas are constructed and what makes some stick and some disappear".
I am only in the first chapter but it's a good example of what we seem to want from the district administration. They start with the example of the Army. There is a multitude of planning steps that occur before a soldier takes action. But "no plan survives contact with the enemy"; meaning, things change once you take action on the plan.
So what to do? They use a concept in the Army called the Commander's Intent (CI). It is "a crisp, plain-talk statement that appears at the top of every order that specifies the plan's goal and end-state of an operation."
So, in essence, there is never so much detail in any CI that the forces of war, weather or any other element can change it. So the Army recommends two things that officers think about the CI:
"If we do nothing else during tomorrow's mission,we must _______."
"The single, most important thing that we must do tomorrow is ______>"
One version of their "no plan survives contact with the enemy" is "no lesson plan survives contact with teenagers".
The idea is to KSS - keep it simple, stupid. You don't weed out ideas because they aren't important but they aren't the MOST important. Eye on the prize. In their words, "it's about elegance and prioritization, not dumbing down."
In all my years of following the district and the different reports, initiatives and ideas, I have not seen a central focus from the district. A CI that is carried out every day. That's what's missing. That's what I want Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson to do and hold every single district employee to. IMHO, that's how we will make real and discernable progress.
Dr. G-J does get one thing right; she says we are at a wonderful opportunity at this moment in SPS. She seems to be getting off on the right foot in tone, the Board will have some changes come November (and change of any sort seems to be what the public wants, rightly or wrongly) and SPS is on good financial footing. We need a clear CI intent from her.