Monday, October 15, 2007

Dr. G-J Speaks Out on Decentralization

Today's Times had this front page article about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's efforts to regain control over the direction of schools in SPS. Overall, I would say it was a fairly accurate accounting. (I surely could have done without the opining of former superintendent Olchefske but since he was the biggest cheerleader for decentralizing it must have seemed right to ask.)

It was nice to hear this from Cheryl Chow:

"This is a public education system, not a business system, if you will, so there's advantages of schools that already have built-in support, community support," said School Board President Cheryl Chow."

We went through that razzle-dazzle phase of "schools as businesses and principals as CEOs and parents as consumers" (I never knew where that left the kids.) Education is not a business or rather shouldn't be treated as a business. Good management and sound fiscal practices are needed to be sure but kids aren't commodities.

From Dr. G-J:

"The way the district is set up now, she added, "you have no quality control."

More than that, parents should not have to be detectives when enrolling in SPS. Every school should have a baseline - "here's what you can expect to see in any elementary/middle/high school" and go from there. The baseline should be the bottom line for what Dr. G-J and everyone else in administration believe is necessary for a sound education. Then schools can have their own focuses and programs (or have programs in their school that the district deems necessary for students in that area/region to have access to).

Again, from Dr. G-J:

"Goodloe-Johnson said her plan for a more centralized system isn't absolute. Schools will get to earn the right to do what they want. If students are doing well with a particular curriculum, she said, there's no reason to change.

"If you're not broken, if you're doing well, if you're meeting the targets, you don't have to change," she (Dr. G-J) said. "I don't want it to sound like a takeover, because it's not a takeover. It's about accountability and results."

That last paragraph is what I have heard called "earned autonomy". Your system is working with results and parental satisfaction? Okay, you can go on about your business. But schools that are struggling need to put their pride and differences with the district aside and work to bring change for children to their schools. (I don't mean that some schools are, for their own reasons, holding back student success but I've seen, more than once, a pridefulness in some school administrators that "this is the way we've always done it". Those days are gone.

15 comments:

Dan Dempsey said...

From Dr. G-J:

"The way the district is set up now, she added, "you have no quality control."

This is from the leader of the SPS. That would be the school district with no nationally normed standardized testing. The district that refuses to define grade level necessary skills and as a result can not test for what it can't define. The result is effective interventions are not provided. Many students with all WASL scores at level 1 are socially promoted.

Where does Dr. G-J plan to start?

Oh-yes She already started at West Seattle the high school - WOW!!! so she thought WSHS was not moving in the correct direction - despite no support from central admin.

She comes into town and instead of looking to offer support for existing programs - changes the schedule. Again no transparency - where was the public display of data?

This looks like more meaningless marketing spin.

Get ready for more Centralized Autocracy. The exact opposite of the way to improve a complex system.

Read the guru of system improvement
W. Edwards Deming. "The New Economics for Industry, Government, and Education" (1993)

Anonymous said...

Data Dan,

The FAMILIES at WSHS overwhelmingly wanted a 6 period day. They have asked for it for years. The district listened to them. Why can't you acknowledge that?? What is so hard about accepting that the majority supports it. Isn't that democratic??

Are you suggesting that the district not listen to it's families?? Just ignore their pleas and stick with the 4 period day??
C'mon.

Roy Smith said...

dan dempsey said ... Get ready for more Centralized Autocracy. The exact opposite of the way to improve a complex system.

Dr. G-J said: Schools will get to earn the right to do what they want. If students are doing well with a particular curriculum, she said, there's no reason to change. "If you're not broken, if you're doing well, if you're meeting the targets, you don't have to change"

Dan, your comments don't square with what Dr. G-J has actually said or done. While the way that she has moved on WSHS may prove to have been inept, or show a lack of understanding of how complex the transition will be, it does seem she is responding to the community concerns. The only other visible change she has made is to remove the principal of John Marshall, which by most accounts was long overdue.

She hasn't won my approval yet, but I'm still quite willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and to believe that she may actually mean what she says. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

The district is somewhat decentralized but not completely decentralized. For example, the district has centralized benefits, payroll, tech support, mentoring, facilities and so on.

The biggest distractions I have in my classroom all stem from district-related functions. Most everything at the building level runs pretty well; too much of what comes from the district needlessly wastes my time.

I'm all for improving what we're doing in our building. I'm skeptical that a central administration that already mismanages much of what it does will be any better at administering curriculum.

Teachers will do what they have to in order to survive—or they will leave the district. Parents will have more clout in deciding whether a centralized curriculum works for them and their children. You will be the judges.

Anonymous said...

test

Dan Dempsey said...

The district would have some quality control, if they were energetic enough to follow their own policies.

The board and the CAO have chosen to NOT have defined necessary skills at each grade level. There is no testing for these skills and effective interventions for those who have not learned the skills.

The way the district is set up now there is plenty of opportunity for quality control -
Past boards and Superintendents have neglected their duty.

Please Dr. G-J get off the centralization kick. There is an enormous amount of centralized dysfunction. Why would any parent trust a district that can not even list the necessary math skills for grade three - to do anything more than sharpen pencils?

The current plan in elementary math is to follow the Everyday Math pacing guide; because SPS has no idea what is important and what is not.

Since this district is unable to
1) Decide what to teach the children

2) Decide how to teach it

3) Figure out what to do when the child does not learn it.

Given the ongoing failure of these folks to perform,should these folks have greater centralized power?

Of course not.

Dan

Anonymous said...

Seems that many believe "set the bar and fail 'em if they can't make it". Followed up with "oh yeah, we'll provide some awesome remediation someday." Really?

My child is autistic. There are quite a number of "quality, grade-level expectations" that he doesn't meet. However, he WILL be in his age appropriate non-remedial general education classroom. The general education teacher WILL be required to teach him, exactly where he is. I WILL be there making sure his teacher does just that. He learns a ton, and it is the ONLY placement possible for him. He may not learn exactly the same thing as everyone else... and nor does he have to under IDEA. This is a big misconception. So far, we've done great with this and so has everyone else in his class.

There are many, many more autistic students every day. And many of them will be in these general education classes. Since the teachers are going to have to teach them, why not extend the courtesy to everyone else who doesn't meet some crucial "bar"? Shoreline, btw, does an incredibly poor job with students with disabilities... and many flee into Seattle. Seems none of the posters here care or are aware of that.

My next goal is to get him into his school's ALO program for math. He is light years beyond the whole school and it is really the class he needs. Unfortunately, he isn't able to answer or understand questions like "Why is 143 more that 121?". Frankly, neither am I.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 6:08, did you mean to post on this thread? It doesn't seem to correlate with the conversation thus far. You seem very angry. I would not want to be your child's teacher, as it sounds like you are lashing out.

I haven't seen anybody on any thread post anything regarding special ed children being left behind for not meeting standard, or anything else even close.

Why are you so defensive and ready to attack?

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 6:08 what is your issue with setting a bar?? Why not set a bar? Could your autistic child have a customized bar (I thought that's what IEP's were)? Or should he/she have no bar at all? Do you think your autistic child should be held accountable for anything?

What goals do you think we should have for our children's achievement, and how could they be measured? Or should we not have not goals?

Anonymous said...

We have goals, we have measures: GLE's, IEP's of 13% of the students, WASL, classroom based assesments. And on and on. Goals and measures will never be a guarantee of results... and no "accountability" will make it so.

I'm not defensive with my school or it's teachers. I'm defensive of parents and others who wish to exclude people. There are many. The fact is, teachers have to differentiate and instruct where the students are. It is the law. It is IDEA. Many, Dan, Charlie, etc would be perfectly happy with exclusive educations, educating the few, which require little of the teachers.

The other point is, each year has plenty of review and overlap from the previous one. This has always been true. It's how people learn.

Anonymous said...

Can you answer my question, please?

Do you think there should be any bar? Do you think your autistic child should meet any bar (even if it is a customized or modified bar such as an IEP would provide_?

What would a school look like with no bars for any students? How would a school, or teacher be accountable for what they teach? How would they even know what to teach?

You talk around the issue a lot, but if you could answer these questions it would help me understand your issue. You don't seem to think having a bar is appropriate, so what is your vision?

Anonymous said...

You're right. I don't think any more bars are appropriate. I don't think they add any "accountability". I don't think they're appropriate for anybody. It doesn't make anybody's experience better. And, in fact, we don't have them. We have already enough bars.

Is that clear?

All the crying we hear about accountability, is really just a lamentation of the obvious: There are no guarantees of performance. We might all have a goal to play in the NFL... but no accountability plan will make it happen. It doesn't mean we should give up on PE though.

On the positive side, we can revisit education plans when sufficient progress isn't being made. Unfortunately, that usually means parents must be the watchdog of "sufficient".

Since you seem interested in my personal case. I can tell you, when my son is having some particular difficulty making progress, we usually meet, revisit the goals and revisit the instructional approach. I'm not sure what "bar" you would be talking about? Should he "fail" some grade because he didn't meet a "bar" I wrote? Absolutely not. What sense would that make? My goals are only that: goals. If he failed to make ANY progress in some setting, then we would either adjust the setting, change the setting, or change the goals. That is exactly the IEP process. It's pretty rare for someone to make no progress.

Since teachers are already required to do this for IEP students, they should (and usually do) just do it for others. Should a "bar" be erected, it will just drive people to get IEP's under the LD category to get around the bar.

Anonymous said...

On occassion my son has failed to make progress on an IEP goal because "the goal has not been initiated"... meaning, the school never even started working on it even though they agreed to do so in a legal document.

Should he be "failed" in that case? It really means there were too many goals, the goal really wasn't that important, or the teacher was irresponsible.

Charlie Mas said...

anonymous at 9:29pm wrote:
"Many, Dan, Charlie, etc would be perfectly happy with exclusive educations, educating the few, which require little of the teachers."

Speaking for myself, I deeply resent this accusation and I strongly refute it. I am now and have always been an advocate for all students. I defy anyone to cite an instance when I EVER advocated educating the few.

I do advocate for some special populations and programs at times, but that doesn't mean that I think any other populations should go un-served. Over the past several years I have spoken up for nearly every population.

In case I haven't written it overtly enough or recently enough I believe in and support universal education. I believe that every student should be taught at the frontier of their knowledge and skill. I believe that every student is deserving of an appropriate academic experience.

I am beginning to strongly resent this sort of anonymous and groundless sniping. It's making me prickly and defensive.

Anonymous said...

I thought a "goal" was a "bar".

Can you explain the difference.

Having a bar does not mean that there must be a consequence like being held back, it just means that there is an expectation to meet, very similar to a "goal".

So what is the difference???????