Monday, April 14, 2008

The Power of Dialog

I went to hear the Dalai Lama speak on Saturday at Qwest Field. A lot of his talk really resonated with me. He spoke, in significant part, about peace and non-violence.

Peace, he said, is not merely the absence of war. Peace is in how we address conflict. There are conflicts everywhere on every scale. This is natural and normal and not, in itself, a bad thing. There are global conflicts, national conflicts, regional conflicts, community conflicts, and conflicts at work and in our families. He said that the path to conflict resolution was not through violence, but through dialog. The Dalai Lama is a big fan of dialog.

More, he said that it isn't enough to acknowledge the principle. It isn't enough to accept the principle. It isn't enough to adopt the principle. We must act on the principle.

Let us act on these principles. We can open dialog in our homes with our families and in our workplaces. Let us act on these principles in our community by working to establish dialog over the conflicts within Seattle Public Schools.

Seattle Public Schools has conflicts. There was - and continues to be - conflict regarding the Denny-Sealth co-location, conflict over math instruction, conflict over the elimination of the AP European History option for 10th grade students at Roosevelt, conflict over the Southeast Initiative, conflict over program placement, conflict everywhere. There is not, however, much dialog anywhere. This blog provides some opportunity for dialog, but its structure allows only limited opportunity for real interactivity. For genuine dialog, people really need to be face to face.

The trick to getting started is to get started. So let's pick a conflict and invite people to a dialog. Where should we begin? Something of the right size for which the timing is appropriate. Is the Strategic Plan too big a place to start? Is it too early to discuss planning for BEX IV? Does the Southeast Initiative offer us anything to talk about? Student Assignment? Program Placement? Who wants to have a dialog with the district staff and on what topic? Let's see if we can find a path to conflict resolution through dialog.

11 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sounds good. I am willing to talk abut anything. Maybe, since the Superintendent is formulating her plan, we could help her out. If we want her to laser focus on issues.

It's interesting that Charlie brings this up because I had a great dialog with Patrick D'Amelio, the new head of the Alliance for Education. Among many things, the Alliance is VERY interested in helping the district create authentic dialog. I told Patrick that I (and I think I can speak for a lot of people) do not like that feeling of being facilitated or steered in a direction at a public meeting. I told him that it is annoying to go to a meeting, be divided into groups, report back and then leave. He agreed and the Alliance had some ideas.

Real dialog can be messy. We won't all be coming from the same frame of reference (whether it's where our kids are in school - grade level or school, beliefs about education, where we live in the city, etc.) but that's what we truly need a good facilitator for; we need that kind of professional help to guide the conversation so it's civil and gets to a point of agreement.

The end of the school year is just around the corner. So if we are serious, really serious, we need to plan it now.

Charlie Mas said...

Director Harium Martin-Morris has announced, on his blog, his intention of calling a "Math Summit".

I honestly don't know anything more about it than that. Here is the whole reference:

"I want to make sure that the teachers at all levels are heard. That is why I am call of a math summit."

Perhaps this Math Summit could be a dialog opportunity.

Ad hoc said...

Oh, please let the math summit be an opportunity for dialog. Can we (parents) organize, and be a part of it?

dan dempsey said...

I went to the Work Session on High School math. Here is the context of that Math Summit.

Rosalind Wise was speaking of a math summit of all the school districts along the I-5 corridor and getting them together to talk about what they each are doing in math as well as the materials they are using. Then lobbying OSPI as to what materials they think should be used.

Harium said he liked the Math Summit idea. He did not directly comment on Rosalind's specific idea. Harium's plan was for two Math Summits. The first #1 would involve SPS High School teachers and UW, Seattle U, and Western Professors about what they are seeing in the way of math skills from SPS grads and what they would like to see in the future.

Math Summit #2 would involve SPS HS Math teachers telling SPS middle school math teachers what they are seeing and what they would like to see. Then get working on how to make it happen.

Dialog is messy but....

how well is that centralized autocratic decision making working for us??

EM - CMP2 - IMP WOW!!!

dan dempsey said...

Timing Size etc. for dialog...

I think starting small but relevant and timely is the place to start. The High School Math adoption is definitely off for another year. So are we just going to waste another year?

We have the National Math Advisory Panel recommendations from March 13, 2008 which the district admin apparently planned to totally ignore with the IMP adoption recommendation. From my communications with Ms Nicole Fedio, the district has no plan to alter the Everyday math k-5 plan. If that pacing plan stays in place the needs of a diverse population are ignored. Schmidz Park has been using only Singapore this year, they were given permission to avoid EM this year as they had other fish to fry in terms of other programs and adoptions. The EM books have been delivered for their use next year. SP should be able to continue their use of Singapore as a pilot for two full years to get a grip on data and allow the district to learn something. That is as far as I know not the districts plan as they've delivered EM books to SP. That would be an interesting discussion.

It would be interesting to have the district explain their lack of interest in producing results in math. They have a decade of poor performance and they continue to make poor curriculum choices.

It is really interesting looking at the Phi Delta Kappa report trying to use those vague failed GLEs and trying to make some sense out of what the SPS is doing in math.

Where are those interventions promised in D44.00 and D45.00?

I think this could have a major impact because the issues are fairly clear cut. The district has been very evasive and would rather not admit that they have blown the last two adoptions. I say blown because if you look at results or the authentic data based recommendations these confirm blown adoptions.

Anyway that's my recommendation.
Fixing needs to happen and the SPS admin has demonstrated an inability to fix this.

So let's dialog -- thus far impossible as they do not dialog on this topic.

dan dempsey said...

Sub topic for dialog:
Interventions
(one of Charlie's favorites)

Where are those Interventions in Math??

Let us see if they might be needed??

Lets check the data and see what it shows.

Check the growth in Level 1 scores in the SPS as students get older.

WASL Spring 2007:

Grade 3
Level 1 (well below standard)
446 12.60%
No Score
73 2.10%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
39 1.10%
Total 558 15.71%


Grade 4
Level 1 (well below standard)
671 19.90%
No Score
66 2.00%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
36 1.10%
Total 773 22.96%


Grade 5
Level 1 (well below standard)
617 18.60%
No Score
69 2.10%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
40 1.20%
Total 726 21.89%


Grade 6
Level 1 (well below standard)
863 27.90%
No Score
57 1.80%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
18 0.60%
Total 938 30.37%


Grade 7
Level 1 (well below standard)
863 28.20%
No Score
69 2.30%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
31 1.00%
Total 963 31.45%


Grade 8
Level 1 (well below standard)
906 29.20%
No Score
97 3.10%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
32 1.00%
Total 1035 33.35%


Grade 10 (2007)
Level 1 (well below standard)
675 22.90%
No Score
353 12.00%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
108 3.70%
Total 1136 38.51%


Grade 10 (2005*)
Level 1 (well below standard)
1146 32.60%
No Score
337 9.60%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
n/a n/a
Total 1483 42.25%

*2005 was the last year that all students who had been enrolled in high school for two years were encourage to take the test.

After 2005 the SPS appeared to require 10th grade credits to take the grade 10 WASL thus eliminating many students from the tested group who likely had lower skills.

WE DO NEED INTERVENTIONS.
Can someone get a dialog started on Board Policies D44.00 and D45.00 ?

Melissa Westbrook said...

A Math Summit sounds great.

Another suggestion: assignment plan.

In another thread of discussion at this blog, we were discussing the draft assignment numbers and that was quite a lively conversion.

The assignment plan has been delayed so what better time to have a dialog about:

-kindergarten size - should there be a guarantee of size?
-program distribution
-program expansion to other schools; what do parents want?
-transportation - who should get transportation where?
-alternative schools; do we have enough, what about the uneven distribution of them, are some even still viable

If the district truly wants to make a plan that will keep current parents happy AND attract back private school parents, it would be a good idea to know what makes people happy.

seattle citizen said...

"-alternative schools; do we have enough, what about the uneven distribution of them, are some even still viable"

The question might be: What are the district's intentions regarding alternative schools? The Alternative Education Committee spent a year crafting a report and a checklist, which were given to district administrators. What action has been taken on that report? Will there be an Alt advisory committee? Will there be an Alt "lead" at District? Some of the schools have been pulled out of "alternative" and are now called "safety net". These are IA, MC, Marshall, and South Lake. There are consolidations proposed for these programs. All that will remain of Marshall are the MS and HS Re-etnry, to be located at Wilson Pacific.
What is the future for Alts in the eyes of the District? How will they fair under new assignment plans? What about transportation?
Many questions...

dan dempsey said...

Dear Seattle Citizen,

Great Idea----

What are the district's intentions regarding alternative schools?

This could also include -- ideas on how students learn and whether the current thrust toward uniformity including curriculum uniformity (ala pacing plans) is a good approach.

parent2 said...

Math scores. It seems like the big jump in failures is in the "no score" category. What is that? It isn't unexcused or refusal (opting out). What is it? It accounts for about a third of the failures.

dan dempsey said...

Parent2,

Trying to honestly explain much of anything about SPS math is difficult and rarely attempted by anyone.

In High School you must take the WASL test on a given day and at a given time. Thus for grade 10 math you may see more no scores.

At the grades 3 through 8 levels there is more retake flexibility. You will note that from grades 3 through 8 there is a fairly constant no score rate of 2% and refusal rate of 1%. The scoring percentage at level 1 is increasing.

WASL Spring 2007:

Grade 3
Level 1 (well below standard)
446 12.60%

Grade 4
Level 1 (well below standard)
671 19.90%

Grade 5
Level 1 (well below standard)
617 18.60%

Grade 6
Level 1 (well below standard)
863 27.90%

Grade 7
Level 1 (well below standard)
863 28.20%

Grade 8
Level 1 (well below standard)
906 29.20%

The rise in the math clueless level (level 1) says a lot about Dr Bergeson, the WASL, and the SPS Math decision makers. All likely need to be replaced. Reform math is an astonishing failure in Seattle as well as the nation.

Remember education in WA and Seattle is about relationships not about results.

Clear to me the SPS has no meaningful interventions as required by School Board policy, No grade level skills necessary for grade promotion ( another violation of School Board policy). No way of accessing the necessary skills because the SPS admin has chosen to never identify them.

For a rollicking read try the Phi Delta Kappa report as the Phi Delts try to assess what is going on in math in the SPS by trying to figure out something about Seattle Math from the WA Grade level expectations from OSPI. Now there is a unidentifiable stack of nonsense words.

Again if we fail to get on board with internationally competitive math programs, we are wasting time, money and our children's futures.

blunder on ....