So here is my un-official Strategic Plan Update to fill the empty space where the official one should be.
Before anything else, I would like to note that the stated goals of the Strategic Plan are for incremental improvement over a five-year period starting one year ago. I think that we should debate whether or not incremental improvement is what we need or whether we don't need profound change on an urgent basis. Were there annual goals to go along with the five year goals? I don't recall ever seeing any. If there are annual goals, did we meet them in the first year?
Project: Align Math Curriculum.
The goal here is to align the teaching in every classroom to - at a minimum - the State Standards and Grade Level Expectations for that grade level. In addition to the aligned curriculum, the District intends to align the academic expectations for students across all classrooms of the same grade so that work that earns a "B" in one school would also earn a "B" in every other school. This work is of critical importance to school quality and defines the idea of equitable access to quality programs. In service to this goal, the District committed to opening school in the Fall of 2009 with the aligned curriculum in place and in practice. To support this effort, the Central Staff have written the curriculum, instructional guides (curriculum guide) that associate textbook chapters with State Standards and GLEs, pacing guides, and common assessments. Teachers have been (or will be) provided with professional development on the curriculum, the proper use of manipulatives and technology (calculators), common understanding of grading, exemplary lessons, and the use of rubrics.
Come September 2009, this is supposed to be the way it is for Math in Seattle Public Schools. The Performance Measurement System is supposed to assure it. The District staff report that they are on time with this project. Come September we shall see.
There has been little or no public discussion of what teachers are supposed to do for students who are working below grade level and lack the necessary foundation to do grade level work.
Project: Align Science Curriculum.
This project is analogous to the Align Math Curriculum project but it has been indefinitely delayed as the State is late with the delivery of Standards and GLEs for science.
Project: Develop assessment tools to track student progress.
The District committed to designing, developing, and implementing common District-wide formative and summative assessments in math and reading for all students k-12 with full implementation beginning with the 2009-2010 school year. The District has selected Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) as the formative assessment tool. Students in up to 83 schools will take the computer-based MAP assessments three times over the coming year. There is difficulty in using MAP at some schools because they do not have the technological infrastructure necessary to administer a computer-based assessment. Approximately 20 elementary and K-8 schools do not currently have computer labs. The District is working to provide computers to those schools.
It is unclear if the MAP is also intended as the summative assessment. It is unclear if any summative assessment is planned. Perhaps the District intends to use the WASL as the summative assessment.
It is anticipated that data from the MAP assessments will be used to inform instruction. The Performance Measurement System should be tracking this intended outcome and should provide opportunities for accountability around it.
Project: School Performance Framework.
The District was supposed to have developed a School Performance Framework to measure and report the effectiveness of schools versus a set of performance targets. With a school performance framework, Seattle Public Schools will be able to provide high performing schools with more autonomy and lower-performing schools with the targeted assistance they need to improve.
The School Performance Framework was supposed to be complete by December, 2008 but remains unfinished. Also by December, the District was supposed to identify the different types of supports and flexibilities school along the continuum would receive. This work also remains unfinished.
Every school is supposed to have clear performance goals and beginning with the 2009-10 school year the District is supposed to measure progress toward those goals.
All of this work is unfinished, late, and apparently mired.
There was a presentation to the Board on July 1 about Performance Management which claimed "School Reports v1.0 finalized", but the school report shown to the Board on that day listed a number of the spaces as "exact methodology still to be determined" or "TBD". Only 12 schools will be included in the initial rollout of the school performance framework in 2009-2010 rather than all schools as the Strategic Plan promised. There is no sense of what, if any, support or autonomy might result from this exercise. The whole project is horribly, horribly fouled.
Project: Reform teacher hiring process.
The District was supposed to have a new hiring process up and running in the Spring of 2009 for hiring teachers for the 2009-2010 school year. At the last minute the District decided that the software they were going to use was far too expensive and they rejected it after a year of thinking about it. The District is using a jerry-rigged process in the interim.
This project is woefully behind schedule and it is unclear why the District staff spent so much time considering a software solution that is far beyond our means.
Project: improve professional development.
There has been no news on this project.
Project: Implement effective performance evaluations at all levels.
Peformance evaluations for the bulk of District employees, including teachers, principals, and school support staff, is a matter for collective bargaining. This was all supposed to be in place for fall 2009. It is part of current labor negotiations.
Project: Improve technology for district central tasks.
There are a number of technology improvement projects which mostly revolve around migrating processes from an outdated computer to more modern equipment and software. Among the tasks to be migrated are: Student Assignment, Student Information System, Academic Systems data, and Utilities. Many of these are supposed to be complete by now, but there is no public news about these projects.
Project: Develop budget protocols and evaluation tools.
The District is supposed to develop and fully implement a new budget process beginning in fall 2009 for the 2010-11 budget. This process is supposed to include some means for prioritizing budget items and evaluating the efficacy of spending. There is no public information available about this project.
The District adopted a Communications Protocol. Every Strategic Plan project is supposed to meet the standards outlined in the protocol adopted in October of 2008. No more than three or four of the projects are even trying to meet the requirements of the protocol.
Project: Upgrade District Web site.
No action to date. The District was supposed to have a proposal for a major web site overhaul complete by spring 2009. No such document is publicly available. Funding for this project has not been identified.
Project: Implement School-Family Partnership Plan.
Good progress has been made to implement the School-Family Partnership Plan. 17 schools established Family Engagement Action Teams last year and another 17 schools will start them this year.
The plan calls for a more meaningful communication channel between the superintendent and the School-Family Partnership Advisory Committee for the 2008-2009 school year. In that year the superintendent came to one of the Advisory Committee meetings - same as in previous years. There was no other contact.
Project: Engage staff as stakeholders.
There is no publicly available information on this project.
Project: Get more money from private partners.
The District has garnered money from a variety of private resources this year including the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Alliance for Education. There were no specific goals or timetables established for this project.
Project: Improve Culture.
A customer service protocol was supposed to have been established by fall 2008. There is no publicly available information about this project.
The District was supposed to have developed and shared a Dashboard to track progress on each strategy in the plan by fall 2008. There is no dashboard. They now think they will have it by August 2009.
There are some other items that are supposed to be in progress.
Response to Special Education Audit.
There is some work being done, but no information has been made publicly available. As of the 2009 Enrollment process for the 2009-2010 school year, students requiring resource room services or integrated comprehensive services are assigned to schools through the normal open enrollment process.
This week the District finally hired an Executive Director of Special Education.
Response to Advanced Learning Audit.
No information publicly available. The District is committed to having an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum for APP ready and fully implementated in the fall of 2009.
Response to Bilingual Education Audit.
No information publicly available.
Alternative Education Audit and Response.
The District hopes to have an outside agency conduct the audit in the fall of 2009, much later than initially anticipated. A number of critical decisions have already been made about alternative schools without the benefit of this audit.
"Each strategy will be developed with a detailed timeline that will include milestones and performance measurements so that we can assess our success.
We will schedule regular School Board reviews of our progress.
To honor our commitment to transparency, all materials will be posted on the SPS Web site."
Needless to say, there is a dearth of materials posted to the Seattle Public Schools web site. As promised, however, this is consistent with the District's commitment to transparency.