This month's Seattle Woman features something of "The Women Of Seattle Public Schools" and the cover is, naturally, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson with features on Tracy Libros (Enrollment), Susan Enfield (CAO) and Cathy Thompson (Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction which seems something of an overlap with Susan Enfield).
The cover title: Seattle Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson & her changing district.
First, great to let people know who is leading the district so I'm not complaining about the publicity. However, there are so many errors (mostly small but still), it was hard to read without wondering if the author, Karen Rathe, had done her homework.
In the piece on Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, Ms. Rathe says of the SAP:
"Also driving this sea change are cultural and demographic issues. The data repeatedly show that “families want neighborhood schools,” says the superintendent, who believes in using research to guide decisions. The process will be easy for families to understand."
I'd like to see "the data" that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson used. Because for every parent who says "neighborhood schools", I'll find you one who says "choice". And the process will be easy to understand? C'mon, it's an all new SAP, there's going to be a learning curve.
Describing the process of tours:
"Each winter during open enrollment, schools would gear up for tours. The result often felt like a kind of sorority rush in which teachers, administrators and parent volunteers worked to make a good impression on prospective parents."
I found this funny for two reasons. First, show of hands; how many of you have been through sorority rush? How many even know what it is? (Good to know their audience.) Second, are tours really going to become less important for schools because of the SAP? That's an interesting outcome to contemplate for a new SAP and we'll have to see what happens during the enrollment period. I almost think it might be worse because every school who isn't full will have to work overtime to try to get parents to tours.
What else does Ms. Rathe get wrong?
- Center School is called an alternative school. It is not. It is a non-traditional school and there is a difference. It was not started by parents and did not create its own focus.
- She says the tiebreakers are going to be used for the open seats at schools that are not filled. They are not. The tiebreakers are for overenrolled schools. She also says the tiebreakers are "to determine who gets into schools with all-city draws". Only for sibs.
- "Five schools will continue as international schools — so-called because of their language-immersion programs — including Beacon Hill and Concord elementaries, and Denny Middle School. And Chief Sealth High School offers the rigorous International Baccalaureate program." Continue? Denny is just coming on-line and Sealth is not the only IB school.
- About school closures, "While predicted to save millions, these moves traumatized hundreds of families and staff. (It must have been affirming, a month or so after the board passed these difficult changes, to have the Gates Foundation announce it was giving the district $7.2 million.)" Now I don't count this as wrong but to say closing schools must have pleased the Gates Foundation seems an odd outcome to be happy about. I'd be happier if the district tried to please the Legislature but that's clearly not their goal as they continue to ignore at least half of what the State Auditor tells them they should do.
"Managing this much change, this fast, in economically and ethnically diverse Seattle (and don’t forget the recession) requires exceptional leadership talent that encompasses vision, tenacity, communication skills and — perhaps most important — the ability to motivate and inspire others. "
First, if I didn't know better I'd think either SPS communications wrote this or the Alliance did. And communication skills? Of all the things to praise either Dr. G-J or the district about, communication is not one of them. I can say that many things the district does do to motivate me but I don't think that's what Ms. Rathe meant.
And a quote from Charlie:
“When you’re working to be a change agent and asking people to abandon everything they’ve known, it’s frightening; you have to work with patience and enthusiasm,” he says.
Ms. Enfield's piece also had some interesting reading.
"In her new position, Enfield essentially manages the district’s schools, including the highly visible job of setting policy on curriculum, teaching and testing."
I'm sure Don Kennedy is breathing a big sigh of relief that in his job as COO/CFO, he no longer has to manage the schools. What? I think she's the academic leader for the district (although as I said above, what is it that Cathy Thompson is doing?). I hope she's the academic leader for the district.
"Enfield also doubled the number of students enrolled in AP classes in Vancouver. “We took down the barriers,” she says. “Instead of a test, if you were interested and showed commitment, with instructor OK you could enroll in the class.” Information was provided to parents about expectations so students could be successful.But wouldn't having a wider range of capabilities in an AP classroom make it less challenging? Enfield says AP classes must meet national standards, and the district will not reduce the rigor. “Providing more access doesn’t mean diluting,” she says."
Great except that I don't know any AP classes here that you have to test into (some need prerequisites but not a test). Not diluting? Well, the jury is still out on whether the AP Human Geography class that Roosevelt requires all sophomores to take (which is really a one-semester class but is stretched over the year at RHS) is diluted or not.
In the piece on Cathy Thompson, it's explained that this position is new and created to support the Strategic Plan. (I thought we didn't hire anyone new at headquarters and yet all these new people keep popping up.)
"She defines alignment as “quality control.” Most surrounding school districts already have this in place, she says, and the goal is not “standardization,” but aligning learning goals so that all students at a given grade level are taught the same general material. “We’d never tell the teachers what to do,” Thompson says. “Part of alignment work is making sure students aren’t reading the same book three years in a row.” For now, curriculum alignment efforts are aimed at math and science at the high school level."
Quality control? Interesting. Are the teachers to be assessed in this? Because that's the surest way to measure quality. It seems it may be more about equity than quality. And I love that; "not the same book three years in a row" and "we'd never tell teachers what to do". Except that the district will create a single book list and tell them to pick. Also, the curriculum alignment efforts are now in LA, not math or science. That's to come.
On the Tracy Libros piece, Tracy says a curious thing:
"In Ballard, there has been much ado about the northern boundary of Ballard High being drawn at NW 67th Street, the northern edge of the school. Then it was said to be set at NW 85th. “These rumors seem to spring from nowhere,” says Tracy Libros, who is head of Seattle Public Schools’ Enrollment and Planning Services."
C'mon Tracy, these people see the writing on the wall (and not just in the bathrooms at Ballard). No new high school for Magnolia/Queen Anne? Those kids have to go someplace and Ballard High only has so much room.
Last, I found this answer from an exit interview that Dr. G-J did with the Charleston Courier-Post - there's some irony here:
"Let's talk about failing schools. We should not be in a situation anywhere where kids are not given what they need because they don't have parents who have voice or who have political clout or come to school board meetings and make noise. We have a responsibility to ensure that poor kids, that black kids are educated well. We shouldn't have the kinds of divides that we do. And that's all about people not having voice. Just think about, if everybody had voice, how different the school district would be. Because people would not have sat back and settled for things. Or, people wouldn't allow for schools — why do we allow schools to fail for 10 years and then fight to keep the structure? Help! I just want to scream! Don't fight for failure. Fight for what's right for kids. Fight for excellence. Fight to be at the table to be a part of the conversation. Nobody is enslaved anymore. This is 2007. You can go and do anything you want to."
Parents don't have a voice? Political clout? Fight to be at the table to be a part of the conversation? Thank you for the invitation, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.