Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SIG schools

You may recall that three of Seattle Public Schools were the recipients of a large federal School Improvement Grant (SIG), Cleveland, Hawthorne, and West Seattle Elementary. These schools were all identified as persistently under-performing and they were all supposed to get GOBS of cash from the federal government if they would agree to a turnaround plan. Four turnaround plan options were available, but the District (and the SEA) agreed to use the Transformation solution for all three schools. The Transformation plan at Cleveland is well-known, it will become STEM. Cleveland will be transformed by replacing the current population of unmotivated and under-performing students with other students who are motivated and high performing. But what are the transformation plans for Hawthorne and West Seattle Elementary?

No one knows.

There are no plans reported at all to date.

There has been absolutely no effort at community engagement about any of it.

These two elementary schools are supposed to be totally transformed in four months, but, so far as anyone knows, not one lick of work has been done on the transformations so far. That's unusual. Typically the District makes a big hullabaloo about how they need a whole year to plan a school transformation. They needed over 15 months just to plan the Southeast Initiative and it came off looking like it was totally unplanned. They say that they have been working on Cleveland's transformation for well over a year already.

Yet, somehow, they will have Hawthorne and West Seattle Elementary each completely transformed in four months despite the fact that they have yet to even start the work.

How credible is that?

29 comments:

Josh Hayes said...

Charlie writes:

"How credible is that?"

In.

steve in west seattle said...

Didn't they just replace the principal at West Seattle Elementary? Reason given as part of the restructuring of the school.

There seems to be a lot of heat from the parent community at West Seattle right now.

dan dempsey said...

#1 SIG ..... Race to the Top
try this HERE.

#2 About Cleveland and NTN and Federal Cash.......

Will the FEDS allow the cash to be dumped into an NTN Cleveland?

Clearly NTN is not an approved provider as NOT currently sanctioned by OSPI.

dan dempsey said...

Of course the FEDS will throw piles of cash at Cleveland whether they use NTN or NOT .... so what kind of vetting process was used by OSPI......

Clearly past and current performance of NTN schools played no role.

See the results of this FIX here

Race to the Top is a RACKET. Look for NTN to have 500 schools up from current 41 within 5 years thanks to OBAMA/DUNCAN cash (crappy results no problem). Another fine example of well placed political campaign donations.

Everyone is going for the race for the cash .... results are not important.

Charlie Mas said...

There were two very involved parents from West Seattle Elementary at Steve Sundquist's community meeting on Saturday and neither of them had ANY news about the school's transformation plan.

The District has not even announced who will be the principal there next year, although we know for certain that the principal will be replaced.

Since the new principal will be a critical leader of the school's transformation, and the principal has not yet been announced, there is simply no way that the transformation work could have started.

Tick tock! There are only four months until the start of school in the fall. Are we to believe the District, this District, Seattle Public Schools, is going to be able to "transform" West Seattle Elementary in less than four months?!?

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a press release about the School Improvement Grants from early March. That was about two months ago.

The press release says that "the district will also work with families and other community members to develop more details of the transformation models. Family and community engagement is vital to this process, and the district will meet with each school community to share information and gather feedback and ideas as we work together to make every school an excellent school."

So where is that community engagement that is so vital to this process?

Are they just going to take the money and do more of what they were already doing? The stuff that wasn't working?

dan dempsey said...

Charlie,

Take Cleveland for a model. The District worked with the community.

The Community appealed the District's flawed 2-3-2010 decision to approve a contract that did not exist. The District worked with the community by running the entire process through over again and approving the same crappy instructional delivery plan on 4-7-2010.

Top Down decision making direct from the Billionaire Boys Club to the community. Surely there is plenty of time for a similar process at the elementary school level over the next four months.

Given the length of any appeal process involving any school board decision ... Appeals and the Judicial System in general is hardly worth the effort.

Clearly the Billionaire Boys Club bought the correct Superintendent and the correct Board members to implement practices and a system that fails unless an incredible amount of money is poured into the effort and even then potential success remains iffy. See memo to the school board from EM Anderson.

Keep in mind Mr. Anderson was working with the Cherry-Picked schools provided him by the SPS hierarchy.

Race to the BANK continues for those influential contributors that brought us OBAMA/Duncan .... and the money comes from where????

"Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."
— Eric Hoffer (The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements written in 1951)

Keepin'On said...

I heard an NPR story yesterday about this, and Susan Enfield was on. She and the story said all schools would get a longer school day, that the elementary schools were looking at starting a week earlier, and that staff had to sign on to commit to raise student improvement, or if they would not, they would be transferred elsewhere.

Seems to me they have some plans in place.

lendlees said...

If you go to the OSPI site, they have the very looooong grant application as well as the three two-pagers for each school outlining the plan.

The only thing I've seen for WSE and Hawthorne is that they will start school 4 days earlier to get the students 'ready to learn' and they will have more planning time. Also, I saw that they will have interim measuring to see what kind of progress they are making.

Nothing really concrete, though.

Sully said...
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Sully said...

So, what would it take to truly transform a school? What would need to happen to effect that change? And how could it be done in a holistic, supportive way, for staff and students?

District staff read this blog, let's give them a little community engagement right here.

Sully said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm glad Dr. Enfield has a plan but you would think that the communities might be part of it. That Charlie could interact with two caring parents who know nothing about it seems odd. Neither school's website mentions it.

Transforming a school? I think a good principal is vital and that can't just be the judgment of the district. If teachers/staff and parents don't believe in this person, it will not be a good school.

I think asking parents and staff, what works here? What doesn't? What are our school-wide challenges? Do parents feel welcomed? Is there a parent group? Staffing? Do we have the staff we need? Would it be better to have a half-time librarian if we really need a counselor on staff? Are there mentor teachers (or successful teachers willing to mentors)? Is our school full? If not, what are factors that might me it more attractive to parents?

That's where I would start.

dan dempsey said...

""staff had to sign on to commit to raise student improvement, or if they would not, they would be transferred elsewhere."

What does raising student improvement mean???

How is this to be accomplished??? and assessed??

I can think of several reasons for NOT signing on to this.

A "Much Better Definition" of what is to occur and how it it to be accomplished is needed.

Example "Cleveland PD Cubed" lots of happy talk and commitment and three years worth of pathetic results, which made Cleveland a Failing school selection.

Given the requirement for Project Based Learning in every class .... if I was a Cleveland Math teacher I would be leaving.

So what is defined thus far for the two elementary schools???

What are teachers committing to at the two locations?

Charlie Mas said...

As coincidence would have it, there was a story in the Times today about this grant and these schools.

The Times story, however, didn't have much news or information.

It did, however, have a link to the OSPI where I read that the grant to the District was $2.1 million. That amount was not allocated among the schools. The OSPI site also had a link to these documents:

The Hawthorne Plan
The West Seattle Plan

I've read these "plans" and, frankly, there ain't much here. What little there is ain't much either. By that I mean that the "plan" for West Seattle says that students will be offered "an increase in opportunities for academic intervention, including before- and after-school sessions"

The "plan" also includes "providing instruction and a classroom environment that repects and embraces all backgrounds and abilities."

If that represents a transformation, then I weep for West Seattle students.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Families will be deeply
involved in the design of Hawthorne’s transformation."

What does that mean? Really?

Also, FYI, the City has announced it's not providing the funding for family engagement in SPS anymore (this was at the joint session meeting where the folks from the Education office gave a presentation). I don't how much of the funding for the SPS Family and Community Engagement office is thru the City but I'm sure it will hurt. (The coordinator, Bernardo Ruiz, is one of the most genuinely nice and dedicated people in the district.)

Where is all this "engagement" activity going to come from?

Charlie Mas said...

Is it just me, or do these things read more like a laundry list of good ideas - the sort of thing that a small committee could write in a 90-minute bull session - than like a real plan?

Doesn't a plan have, oh, I don't know, more timetables, more specific goals, more specific staffing and assignments and such? Shouldn't a plan have some details?

Take the Hawthorne "plan", for example. Here's what it says about Arts Education:
"Arts education—Hawthorne will expand its current partnership with
Powerful Schools, a community-based organization, to strengthen
arts opportunities in the classroom and after school. Powerful Schools and a new arts teacher will expand a program that brings artists into the classroom. Hawthorne will also work with a coalition of arts organizations to provide students with a wide array of afterschool opportunities.
"

So they are going to work more with Powerful Schools - how much more? There will be a new arts teacher - how is this different from what Hawthorne was doing about art before? How did Hawthorne choose an arts focus if they didn't have arts before? Who are the wide array of organizations they will work with and what after-school arts opportunities will they create?

Hawthorne students will get an additional 45 hours of instruction each year. The four day early start will be half of that time (4 days at 6 hours a day equals 24 hours). The other 21 hours of additional instruction, spread over the 150 school days, works out to an extra .14 hours a day. That's less than ten minutes. Does that means that, at Hawthorne, school will start five minutes earlier and end five minutes later? Is that the extended day?

As usual, the District's primary solution is to send in more coaches for the teachers.

Finally, the "plan" says that families will be deeply involved in the design of Hawthorne's transformation, but what is left to design? The District has already decided to make the investment in coaches and an arts teacher. Can the community change that?

It's just all so vague and empty of meaning - except for the part about hiring coaches.

Josh Hayes said...

I'm with Dan on this one: teachers are supposed to "raise student improvement"? How the hell do you raise improvement? Is that like deepening digging? Bigging largeness?

Isn't improvement itself a rate? So we're talking, what, second derivatives here? Increasing the RATE of improvement? I suspect that, although that makes sense, it's not what they're talking about.

Rather, they're blabbing lots of words around with no explicit meaning attached. Later, they can insist they meant whatever seems to make sense at the time, and then they'll say that moreover, they want teachers to flibbulate the frajistang.

Charlie Mas said...

And check out the stated goals:

For Hawthorne:

Year One: 2010-2011
* Implement early start to the school year for all students
* Schedule additional professional development for teachers during the summer to focus on meeting the needs of all students
* Launch and support Family Engagement Action Teams
* Communicate regularly with families and provide engagement opportunities
* Provide formal mid-year evaluation feedback sessions for teachers
* Establish monthly progress monitoring with the District

Years Two and Three: 2011-2012 and 2010-13
* Implement principal and teacher evaluations based on improvements in student achievement
* Provide coaching and support for teachers and principals Provide regular updates on SIG progress
* Implement performance-based budgeting

There are no goals here. There is no intent to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts. They can claim to have done all of these things - regardless of what they actually do since there are no benchmarks. And then they can say that they did everything they were supposed to do, regardless of the outcomes.

This is totally unacceptable. Where is the Board?

dan dempsey said...

Where is the Board?

When last seen the Board was approving a contract with a non-OSPI turn around provider for a turn around. {Bungled this on 2-3-10 (omission of contract).... by 4-7-10 board realized you need to have a contract to approve one. (well at least when there is an appeal).}

Of course all this made no difference to OSPI as there were 47 failing schools and 41 applied for funding and only 18 received funding and Cleveland with NTN (mentioned or not in the application) received funding.

Not only are the books cooked but the applications are cooked as well.

Is there anything going on these days that isn't a racket?

Charlie Mas said...

My timing must be just amazing. Within a couple days of posting about the SIG schools, the School District issues a press release about them.

The superintendent has this strange quote in the press release. She (purportedly) says:
"Congratulations to the teachers, staff, and families who are collaborating on the work of the School Improvement Grants"

Congratulations? Really? Don't you usually reserve congratulations for people who have done something? Why is she congratulating them for something that is in progress and has yet to show much in the way of results?

She goes on to say "These grants are an important validation of our work to improve academic achievement and create excellent schools in every neighborhood." Which makes it sound like the grant won't cause them to do anything that they weren't already doing.

Let's remember that these grants were awarded because these three schools were some of the worst and most persistently low performing schools in the state. I don't think that fact validates anything the District has been doing.

The press release says that "The grants will allow each school to provide additional focused instructional time to meet the needs of every student; increase support and accountability for teachers and staff; and provide additional community and family outreach tools and resources"

But, as those of us who read the plans for Hawthorne and West Seatttle Elementary know, the schools will not meaningfully add to instructional time or take any effective steps to reach out to families.

A lot of time, money and effort is going into Cleveland to replace it with STEM, but there isn't much of anything planned for Hawthorne and West Seattle. The only plans at these schools is to continue the coaching already in progress and to pilot a teacher evaluation system that is already planned (and required by law).

There is no evidence of community engagement on either of these plans. There are no benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of these plans. There are no real plans here. Sending out a press release is no substitute for actual work.

Charlie Mas said...

You can check out this document from the federal Department of Education, flip to page 18, and read for yourself the guidelines for a Transformation Model.

Oddly, no actual transformation appears to be required. In fact, the requirements for the transformation model, as I read them, are extraordinarily modest. I would say that nearly every school in the District meets these requirements. It seems strange that schools must follow one of three truly dire and revolutionary models or this fourth one that asks almost nothing. It like being found guilty of a crime and being offered a choice of four punishments: hanging, the electric chair, lethal injection, or a write a sincere letter of apology and go free.

wseadawg said...

Hmmmm. Sounds like the district hasn't found the right "partner" to sub-contract the work out to yet. I don't mean to launch a conspiracy here, but when I hear of big plans but little action, I start thinking "pre-packaged product" or "outsourcing" as the most convenient route to a turnaround (in the minds of SPS), versus turning everything around within existing SPS frameworks.

Charlie, they might be shopping around right now. Maybe that's why you aren't hearing of or seeing much action. They might be importing alot.

Charlie Mas said...

Honestly, I think they're just trying to get the cash. They put some high-falutin' sounding words together, call it a "transformation plan", and cash the check.

The problem with this, of course, is that it doesn't do anything for the kids.

They aren't just cheating the federal government by taking their grant money and doing nothing special with it, they are cheating the students by doing nothing special for them - even when they have the money to do something genuinely helpful.

Charlie Mas said...

I had a nice chat on the phone with Dr. Libros the other night. In the course of that call she assuaged all of my concerns about out-of-area students having equal access to electives. At the end of that call she encouraged me to contact her first, BEFORE I write any sort of conjecture or when I have only second- or third-hand information. I said that I would make every effort to do so in future.

So, in that spirit, let me say that I did try to contact Scott Whitbeck, the Director of School Improvement, regarding these grants. I have no response as yet from Mr. Whitbeck.

dan dempsey said...

SIG it seems the goal is school disruption. Check the OSPI questions asked Seattle.

Seattle sure has the correct Superintendent for Disruption. READ HERE.

Charlie Mas said...

I got a reply from Scott Whitbeck, but there isn't much answer in it.

It would seem that there just hasn't been much time for planning since these School Improvement Grants became available, so there just hasn't been much planning done. There is no plan to do anything transformational yet. There may never be.

Community engagement on these plans is likely to be very fringe and very small. There are a couple of community members on the Design Teams, and that's the extent of the community engagement.

Charlie Mas said...

Dan forwarded me some documents that make it pretty clear that Transformation is supposed to be "bold and disruptive". It's not supposed to be the incremental stuff in the "plan" documents we have seen from the District.

The District, oddly, regards the idea of evaluating teachers on a four-point scale instead of a two-point scale as bold and disruptive.

They have no intentions to do anything different with the structure of the schools, the instructional strategy, the structure of the school day, or anything else that the students or families would notice.

The District intends to continue to do pretty much what they are already doing, they just intend to do it a little better. That's not Transformational and it certainly isn't bold or disruptive.

Frankly, it's inadequate, both for the Grant and for the students.

Too bad there's no accountability. Too bad there's no one who will smack them down for their failure/refusal to make radical changes at these schools.

Charlie Mas said...

So what could be a meaningful transformation?

I think a community school sort of model would be a meaningful and viable transformation.

Imagine a school that is busy and occupied from 7:30am to 6:00pm or later.

From 7:30 to 8:30 there's time for an optional zero period. It can be used for PE, art, music, or individual student tutoring.

The day begins for everyone with breakfast at 8:30 in the morning - with a Halal breakfast option for Moslem students (how's that for cultural awareness, the District doesn't have a halal breakfast option at West Seattle Elementary).

Then the core part of the school day runs from 9:00 to 3:45 and has four 90-minute blocks, each focused on one of the four core subjects: reading, writing, math, and science. There's a 45-minute break in the middle for lunch/recess.

What happens in the classes should be different. It should be accelerated to get the kids up to Standard. It should be more individualized, so let's use the coach FTE to get the class size down to 20 or lower. Then the teachers may be able to really differentiate.

After another break with a snack comes the afternoon session.

The afternoon session could be spent a number of different ways including: structured study/homework time, individual student tutoring, art, music, world language, or a field trip. It could be divided up. There could be structured study time from 4:00 to 5:00 and then art from 5:00 to 6:00.

There should be a lot of field trips. Take the kids to the zoo, the aquarium, museums, fire stations, concerts, plays, businesses, and factories. Bring in people to present on topics of interest.

In the evening, after 6:00, the school could be used for adult education classes, for concerts and performances, for pot luck dinners, for all kinds of events.

How would that be as Transformational?