Monday, August 23, 2010

Busy Busy Week for the Board

Here is the calendar for the School Boad for this week:

Monday, August 23 -
4:30pm - 6:00pm Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee
Agenda

Tuesday, August 24 -
3:30pm - 5:30pm Audit and Finance Committee Meeting (focus on finance)
Agenda

Wednesday, August 25 -
4:00pm - 6:00pm Board Workshop re FEL goals

Thursday, August 26 -
3:30pm - 5:30pm Audit and Finance Committee Meeting (focus on audit)

Friday, August 27 -
4:00pm - 6:00pm Executive Session re Negotiations

39 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I think I will try to get to the C & I Committee meeing this afternoon.

I'm interested in two items on the agenda (which was posted online this morning at about 10:30).

First, the committee is going to discuss the process by which schools can get waivers to use materials other than the board-adopted materials. This will be an interesting discussion for a few reasons.
1) The Board has no role in setting the procedures. They have delegated ALL of that authority to the superintendent. So what do they have to talk about?
2) As the audit described, the Board does no oversight of the superintendent's procedures, so, again, what do they have to talk about?
3) The superintendent has not written any procedures for this, so, again, what do they have to talk about?
4) The staff is adamantly opposed to allowing any waivers, so, again, what does the committee have to talk about?
5) Any school or can adopt whatever supplemental materials they want and use them to whatever degree they want regardless of whatever materials the Board adopts without requesting or receiving any waivers of any kind or even any official permission of any kind. So, yeah, that's right, what does the C & I Committee have to talk about?

Second, the Committee will be discussing Policy C32.00 and the procedure C32.01 which are all about complaints about materials. It turns out that there is this policy that requires the District to take complaints about materials very seriously. Moreover, the procedure allows the complaining party to take the complaint all the way to the Board if they so wish.

I can see why they District wants to reform this policy and, even more so, this procedure. People can complain about any textbook and bring their complaint all the way to the Board. Given the strong opposition to the math materials, this could keep everyone very busy going over the same issues again and again.

reader said...

Any school or can adopt whatever supplemental materials they want and use them to whatever degree they want

Then why all the crying about waivers? If everyone can use whatever materials they want, as much as they want, what's the problem?

Anonymous said...

Please answer a "dumb" question:

The public is welcome to attend any of these meetings as a silent listener; yes, or no?

ken berry

Maureen said...

Reader, I think the issue is that the use of "supplemental materials" implies that the school still needs to use the standard materials as well. So Schmidt Park would have to teach all of the Everyday Math books in addition to Singapore if they weren't granted a waiver. The problem with trying to use supplemental materials in any substantial way is that teaching time is limited.

My kid's school has been told repeatedly, oh you can do that (e.g., three day sleepover service project with hours and hours of related in class learning and debriefing) but of course you still have to teach everything else that every other 8th grade class covers. (And curricular alignment makes that increasingly difficult.)

Maureen said...

ken yes, you can attend--just not speak (I wonder if Charlie will bring his white board?!)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, you are there as a silent listener. However if you feel so moved, you can always pass a note to a Board member. They may not note it or appreciate it but it is your right to let them know something they may need to make a decision. (I wouldn't pass notes saying yay or nay.)

Even if you can't talk, it's always useful to see who does and who else is there (I really loved the day that state auditors were in the room).

Seattle Parent said...

My question is to the procedure part of the C&I Committee's job- where is the quick link to all the policy "procedures" which are being removed from the policies?
Most school districts have them side by side online, ie Policy 1502and Procedure 1502.

The new policies by the C&I Committee have reference to the district's procedure manual with this note (but no link or info. for the public on where it is found):

"The Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee(s) shall maintain the K-12 Counseling Services Manual as the administrative procedures that further implement this Policy."

Charlie Mas said...

For what it is worth, there is no rule that says that the public has to be silent at these meetings. There was a time when Board members invited members of the public to sit at the conference table and, at times, asked them open-ended questions at the dicussion, such as "Does that answer address your concerns?"

The current Board acts as if there were some rule that prohibited them from speaking to the public or having the public speak at these meetings. There is none. This odd and unnecessary inhibition reached its zenith when the Audit and Finance Committee met to discuss some of Meg Diaz's discoveries and, despite the fact that Ms Diaz was in the room, never spoke to her or allowed her to speak.

Charlie Mas said...

I was at the C & I meeting this afternoon and took a lot of notes.

Here's what happened:

The committee was discussing waivers because the Board made a commitment to President DeBell that they would do so in a deal that got him to drop his amendments to the Performance Management policy. The Committee is to define a waiver process (for materials) in the context of the autonomy that can be earned through the Performance Management system.

Dr. Enfield said that she is concerned about issues of capacity and equity.

Along those lines, Director Martin-Morris wants to de-couple waivers from Performance Management because he thinks it inequitable to reserve that opportunity for high-performing schools.

Dr. Sundquist asked what autonomy could then be earned if not waivers? Dr. Enfield answered that earned autonomy isn't going away, just restricted to budget, professional development, schedule, and such things. Earned autonomy remains, however, undefined and unstructured. They haven't gotten around to thinking it through yet.

Dr. Enfield and Director Martin-Morris wrote some guiding questions around waivers. Her issues are capacity and equity.

Capacity issues include whether the District has the central staff needed to support other materials in addition to the Board-adopted materials and whether the District has the resources (money) to support additional materials.

The Equity issues are first, if only high performing schools can seek waivers and the variance in schools' fundraising ability to pay for alternative materials.

Dr. Enfield went on to say that we have Board-adopted materials and we have them for a reason. To consider waivers undermines the Board's goals in having adopted materials. The Board's goals go beyond assuring a baseline of quality in the materials.

Dr. Enfield was asked if she explored what other districts were doing about waivers. She said that she found too few examples to be meaningful. Instead, her contacts questioned the whole point of autonomy. Autonomy for what? they asked. To what end? They really didn't appear to see any value in it. Dr. Enfield seemed to share that sentiment.

The few examples they found were akin to the District's structure for high school Language Arts in which the District set a list of books from which schools and teachers can select. Director Martin-Morris also raised the possibility of dual adoptions and allowing schools to select from the A or B menu.

Charlie Mas said...

Director Patu then asked if the District ever piloted the use of texts prior to adoptions.

Ms Ferguson answered that piloting a text for a full year would require the materials selection process to get down to a short list over a year in advance of the selection decision.

Director Maier continued on this theme about the possibility of using waivers as a means of pilots, trials, etc. in advance of a materials selection process. He also supported the use of alternative materials for alternative schools and for schools who had a special population to serve, such as ELL, who would have a clearer need for an alternative text that would address their special learning need.

Dr. Enfield then set a clear limit on discussion by saying that she was gravely concerned about using different materials for different populations because she absolutely wanted to avoid the implication that certain groups of students cannot learn with the board-adopted materials. She regarded this as philosophically incorrect and inconsistent with the District's stated belief about all children being able to learn.

Director Martin-Morris said that whatever the course of a waiver that he wanted reports on the results from the use of the alternative materials and, if the results were poor, a mechanism for discontinuing the waiver.

Dr. Enfield expressed her surprise that some teachers got the message that they must use the adopted materials exclusively and in a prescribed way. She had no idea how these teachers got that idea or heard that message but SHE always understood that teachers were completely free, and, in fact, expected, to supplement the board-adopted materials and that they were, of course, free to teach the materials in the manner they thought best.

No kidding. She said that.

At this point the discussion about waivers moved from taking place within a context of performance management and autonomy into a new context of innovation.

Charlie Mas said...

Director Sundquist said that we're doing experiments with these waiver schools, but we're not gathering any data from the experiments. Instead, they are only working as local indulgences.

Dr. Enfield agreed that we should be learning from our alternative schools and other experiments but that we aren't doing that now.

At this point it was made clear that alternative schools were experiments in their entirity and would not have to seek waivers to use alternatives to Board-adopted materials. The discussion of waivers continued in the context of reference area schools only.

Director Sundquist spoke of how the District should gain central control of waivers as experiments to inform the District.

Director Martin-Morris was emphatic that these waivers/experiments be monitored and, if they prove ineffective, ended. He wondered what limit should be put on these waivers and experiments in light of the District's finite capacity to support and monitor them.

Dr. Enfield spoke of the need for innovation, and the need to learn from our innovations.

I can't help noticing that he desires no such monitoring of the results from Board-adopted materials and no such sunset provision for them.

Director Maier suggested that the District allow only one elementary school in each middle school service area a waiver in each discipline. So elementary schools would be denied a waiver from the board-adopted math text if another elementary school in the service area already had one. They could, however, seek a waiver from the Board-adopted materials in another discipline.

Director Patu then said that schools should have to make a case for why they wanted the waiver and that the criteria for allowing waivers should be consistently applied to all schools. This is, of course, the purpose of the whole discussion - to set a process for permitting and discontinuing waivers. She went on to say that schools might request a waiver because "If you have a school with kids who cannot learn a certain way". This was, eerily, the very words that Dr. Enfield was so concerned someone would say and were anathema to the District's stated beliefs. Dr. Enfield did not make a note of it.

Director Martin-Morris asked about next steps. He wants to set come process.

Director Sundquist wanted to confirm that the committee and the staff had reached a consensus around a frame for materials waivers. Here's that frame:

1) We do want to do experimentation
Waivers for schools to use materials other than Board-adopted materials is now seen as centrally managed innovation or experimentation instead of local indulgences.

2) We want to learn from our experiments
Monitoring will be required as the frame of reference shifts. This is also a tie to central management.

3) The District should share some of the costs
This is fair since the District is taking a benefit from the waivers and it would address the remaining equity issue of fundraising ability.

4) We need to set a time frame on experiments
Waivers are not perpetual. They have sunset provisions that would end the waiver if certain performance benchmarks are not met. It is worth noting that there are no sunset provisions or performance benchmarks for board-adopted materials.

Director Sundquist wants the staff to produce a proposal along these lines for the Board to consider.

Charlie Mas said...

Dr. Enfield said that this discussion was now paralleling her conversations with our alternative schools. She seems to be saying that they are experimental sites - designated innovation zones, as it were.

Dr. Enfield said that we aren't talking about waivers; we're talking about innovation. How do we manage and benefit from our innnovation - all sorts of innovations? Dr. Enfield asked "How do we create and foster innovation in our school sites?"

The answer, of course, is that we don't. Entirely to the contrary, we suppress innovation in our school sites - a fact made plain by the high number of teachers who got the message that they were prohibited from deviating from the adopted materials or the mandated pedagogy. Again, Dr. Enfield's feigned surprise and disingenuous mystification at how teachers got that message was the tragicomic moment of the evening.

Director Maier stopped that talk and made it very clear that he did not want this process to stall as the District did navel-gazing around the larger question of innovation. He acknowledged that waivers are a subset of innovation, but he insisted that we move forward with this element now and achieve a working process by the winter so school can start using their alternative texts in the fall of 2011. He did not want this moving river to pour into a lake of discussion about innovation in the wider context and therefore stall.

The Committee agreed that they are seeking a finalized waiver process by January or February so schools can get their waivers in the spring and start using their alternative texts in the fall.

Dr. Enfield stressed, once again, that the waiver has to be about innovation, not just about materials. In other words, a school can't ask for a waiver from Everyday Math just because they hate it. Their alternative text has to have some legitimate experimental value that would add to the District's knowledge base.

Director Martin-Morris will work with Ms Ferguson to write the first draft of the waiver process for the committee to review in advance of their next meeting. He also targets a final process in the winter for requests in the spring for texts in the fall.

Charlie Mas said...

The discussion then turned to the consideration of Policy C32.00 and the procedure C32.01.

Ms Ferguson called them unworkable and suggested that the policy and the procedure be repealed entirely and replaced with a Board-adopted procedure C21.01 that would achieve the stated purpose in a more forthright way. She distributed a draft.

In the draft, if a person had a complaint about school materials they would have to submit their complaint in writing and it would be considered by a five person committee consisting of the school principal, the education director for the school, the manager of the content area in question and two people chosen by the CAO. That committee would reach a decision about the complaint and write a report on it and send their report to the CAO. The CAO would then decide about the complaint. There is no appeal unless the materials are Board-adopted materials, in which case the complainant may appeal the decision to the School Board.

Director Sundquist noticed that the committee that decided on the complaint appeared to be a stacked deck lacking any community representation and requested that one person of the five on the committee be a community person of the CAO's choosing.

Director Maier suggested the addition of an initial opportunity for a lower-level response. People should just go to the principal first.

Director Martin-Morris said "Let's revoke the old policy. It makes for interesting reading but you don't have to go read it."

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks for the recap, Charlie.

"Dr. Enfield then set a clear limit on discussion by saying that she was gravely concerned about using different materials for different populations because she absolutely wanted to avoid the implication that certain groups of students cannot learn with the board-adopted materials. She regarded this as philosophically incorrect and inconsistent with the District's stated belief about all children being able to learn."

What? Of course, all children can learn but as parents, we know that they all have different ways of learning. That some kids might find it difficult to learn using board-adopted materials is a reflection on the board/district, not the child.

This info about teachers being able to supplement should go out far and way so that teachers can use their best judgment/experience in what to use to reach ALL children. (I'm not saying you can differentiate for each child but many teachers have at least a couple of methods to present material.)

dan dempsey said...

Super Job on the notes Charlie. The auditor mentioned that the Board failed to take notes on several occasions. I believe the Board always fails to take notes this good. It will be interesting to read the Committee's notes on this meeting.

=======
The message that I get from this is the District wishes to continue operating pretty much without significant change in regard to instructional materials and practices.

So if Singapore Math is wildly successful at Schmitz Park, it will be the only elementary school in that sector allowed to use it. All other schools in the sector must stick with EDM for math or find some other math program to experiment with.
============

Particularly interesting that "Specific Situations" were ignored.

There is Data available from Schmitz Park available right now. Have a look at testing and in particular what is happening for exiting 5th graders from Schmitz Park.

Contrast that with Everyday Math taught without modification using the District preferred "Fidelity of Implementation" and provided pacing plan. When the District Plan takes up 100+% of available time ... where is the teacher allowed to supplement?

Where is the reference to Cleveland's fall 2006 to spring 2009 whole school math experiment that was a complete disaster? .... That only ended with the adoption of the "Discovering Math" materials.

dan dempsey said...

Dr. Enfield "absolutely wanted to avoid the implication that certain groups of students cannot learn with the board-adopted materials. She regarded this as philosophically incorrect and inconsistent with the District's stated belief about all children being able to learn.

Director Martin-Morris said that whatever the course of a waiver that he wanted reports on the results from the use of the alternative materials and, if the results were poor, a mechanism for discontinuing the waiver."

=======

"She regarded this as philosophically incorrect"

Oh yes lets not have reality intrude upon philosophical beliefs ...... because if that was allowed in would be the end of Seattle's current k-12 math program's materials and practices ..... and materials and practices that actually are effective would need to be considered.

============
The Philosophy over reality mode of operation is rampant in educational circles .... it explains "The Whole Language" phenomenon as well as New Math and New New Math.

The neglect of solid research and reality is at the foundation of Race to the Top and WA's SB 6696.
============

It was good that Dr. Enfield explained to us why things in the SPS are so screwed up and are likely to remain so. We no longer need to wonder.

Now we just need a mechanism for discontinuing adopted materials and administrators, which are ineffective. That would be a real "Value Added Plan".

The value that I want added is ...
the intelligent application of relevant data .... and trash the philosophical "ed elite" crap.

Instead we get giant experiments into the unproven ... consider NWEA/MAP as a "Value Added tool" there is one monstrously expensive experiment.

Apparently teacher "VAM" is desired because the Central Administration is reluctant to look in the mirror and notice that they are the authors of ongoing chaos ...

=========
Seattle Schools District motto ....
"We invest in Fairy-tales"

dan dempsey said...

J. Hayes said it:

Hostages to True Believers.

Central Administrators like Koolade.

Meg said...

Thanks, Charlie, for the recap, followed by your take on the meeting.

Although Director Maier raised the possibility of only one elementary and middle school per reference area gaining a waiver, it doesn't sound like that was absolutely confirmed (?).

Dr. Enfield's disingenuous remark about having no idear how teachers got the message they were supposed to strictly use the board-adopted materials gives me considerable pause over the "innovation" issue for waivers. What if central administration decides that however strongly kids at one school may perform with, say, Singapore math, it's not "innovative?" Does the waiver get revoked, even if the kids are doing better than kids using regular district materials?

I find the idea that the central office must decide that a school's request for a waiver must have some kind innovation or experimentation somewhat troubling - it's a very subjective judgment. Even more troublingly, that subjective judgment will come from a central office that is renowned for poor judgment.

And, lastly, is "earned autonomy" going to devolve into being able to decide what color to paint the school lockers (should they require repainting) in "highly performing schools" with an eventual revocation of such an unbridled freedom because it isn't "equitable?"

A Mom said...

In Massachusetts they actually have done a longitudinal study with Singapore Math materials:

http://www.utahsmathfuture.com/

I'm guessing Schmitz Park would show similar results.

Maureen said...
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Maureen said...
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Maureen said...

I was at the C&I meeting as well. Great notes Charlie! I may not bother to type mine up!

At this point it was made clear that alternative schools were experiments in their entirity and would not have to seek waivers to use alternatives to Board-adopted materials. The discussion of waivers continued in the context of reference area schools only.


I didn't interpret the discussion this way--I am under the impression that alts will still need to go through the waiver process. My impression was just that they anticipated alts asking earlier and more often so would bascially be piloting the waiver process, but it would be open to all schools alt or not. I did note that Enfield repeatedly (4-5 times) referred to her talks with the Alt School Coalition and Alt principals and talked about Alts as logical places for experimentation that could be applied District wide. (Thornton Creek's principal and three Alt school parents were the entire audience, so she may have been playing to the 'crowd'.)

Later you say: Dr. Enfield stressed, once again, that the waiver has to be about innovation, not just about materials. In other words, a school can't ask for a waiver from Everyday Math just because they hate it. Their alternative text has to have some legitimate experimental value that would add to the District's knowledge base.


I didn't note an explicit statement that a waiver has to be about innovation--that it's not enough that you hate the materials. What I heard was an agreement that innovation should be a goal of a waiver and that the District should manage the experimentation to inform and improve the system.

Meg, the one school per MS service area thing was proposed by Maier and not necessarily agreed on. The point seemed to be to limit waivers in some "equitable" way.

It was funny that Enfield didn't call Patu on her flat out contradiction of Enfield's previous strong stement--I just took that to indicate that Enfield didn't take anything Patu said very seriously.

One point, I was surprised that they all seemed to agree that waivers would be on an all-school basis (like Singapore math for Schmidt Park). I was thinking that there could be a role for waivers by the grade level at least. It seems like waivers should at least be based on what grades the Board selected materials apply to, e.g., 4th grade social studies waiver--not necessarily a K-5 (let alone K-8) social studies waiver. I can also imagine waivers for single grades worth of materials, or waivers to allow schools to move through the materials at a different pace. E.g., skip Writer's Workshop only in kindergarten, or cover 5th-8th grade math or science over 5th-7th grades, and teach 9th grade math or science in 8th grade. That sort of thing. I bet they haven't thought that through (especially wrt K-8s). (As Enfield pointed out--innovation is about more than materials. It isn't clear to me whether they agreed to explicitly acknowledge that in the waiver process or not.)

spedvocate said...

absolutely wanted to avoid the implication that certain groups of students cannot learn with the board-adopted materials. She regarded this as philosophically incorrect and inconsistent with the District's stated belief about all children being able to learn.

That is good news. We really don't want special populations like ELL or special education getting the "special" materials, the "direct instruction" or other unenriched, anti-exploratory curricula and approaches. That would only exacerbate the gap that is created by segregated education. I like the idea that alternative schools are for alternative curricula. And otherwise, materials should be standardized (for the most part). If there are better curricula and textbooks, they should available to everyone... not just a particularly demanding group, or a group of high performers. If there's better texts, then the district should standardize around the better texts.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Spedvocate,

You said:
"the "direct instruction" or other unenriched"

I take issue with your understanding of direct instruction. The idea that direct instruction is not enriched is incorrect.

Can you name the characteristics of direct instruction?

Please investigate the National Institute for Direct Instruction HERE

Jan said...

Spedvocate: I also take issue with what you seem to imply about direct instruction. "Direct instruction, like "curriculum" is used to reference many different things. It can be very highly scripted lessons, or it can mean far less rigid materials and methods, but that still work in the same way (example-based, mastery methods, as opposed to discovery or "spiral" learning methods). It can be "unenriched," but it need not be. As the parent of a bright child with learning disabilities who has to be taught in fairly "directed" methods -- and who needs lots of practice and repetition before he understands concepts well enough to be able to go off and use them in creative ways, I am opposed to centralized curriculum decisions that require that what works best for my child be imposed on others, or vice versa.

Per Charlie's notes:
Dr. Enfield then set a clear limit on discussion by saying that she was gravely concerned about using different materials for different populations because she absolutely wanted to avoid the implication that certain groups of students cannot learn with the board-adopted materials. She regarded this as philosophically incorrect and inconsistent with the District's stated belief about all children being able to learn.

I absolutely disagree with this. While I believe all children are "able to learn," that is not what was at issue. The question is: can all children learn with exactly the same materials/teaching methods? I think that books like "All Kinds of Minds" have pretty conclusively established what seems like common sense -- no, NOT all children learn well (or in some cases, at all) with the same learning methodologiies. And, contrary to Dr. Enfield's views, I think that, in fact, "certain groups of students CANNOT learn with the board-adopted materials" -- at least as far as their math materials go. It is unacceptable to me that children who require direct instruction to be able to master concepts be required to endure "discovery teaching" methods that waste their time and talents -- and equally unacceptable to me that children who may not learn well through direct instruction be forced to endure the hours of "direct instruction" that have been so instrumental to the success of my child (and no, the district cannot be counted on to provide that instruction -- I do it myself.)

Sahila said...

I have asked some of the direct instruction advocates why we cant have an and/also situation, exactly for the reasons put forward by Jan...that children learn in different ways and its unreasonable to force them to learn using methods antithetical to their norm...

I wrote:
What if some of us really like what you call "fuzzy math"?

What if some of us think you can learn math experientially, through art and music and architecture and cooking and gardening etc (because numbers and shapes and ratios and proportions and relationships etc are all at the core of those subjects/activities)?

What if we think not all kids need to learn algebra and trig and calculus?

What if we think you ought not to need higher math to get into college?

What if some of us think its perfectly possible to have a happy, fulfilling, successful life without the kind of math and style of teaching you push so hard for?

What if some of us dont want to buy into the social and economic stratification that is implied by needing to achieve success in higher math?

What if some of us honour the work of the artisan as much as we do that of the engineer?

What if some of us want to give our children success in whatever arena their talents lie, and not force them to plough through muddy swamps that have no interest (or inherent ability) for them?

Can you not allow for a world where there is a place for both?

Can we have a case of and/also, not either/or?

I received replies focusing on children fitting into/achieving competency in a "technical" arena/world...

That is not all there is to life and to focus only on that is, in a spiritual sense, a very masculine approach, denying the feminine. In fact, some would argue that that very masculine, left brain, focus is why the world is in such a mess....

an interesting place to start thinking about some of this:

http://www.funderstanding.com/content/right-brain-vs-left-brain

http://www.mathpower.com/brain.htm

http://bama.ua.edu/~st497/pdf/rightorleftbrain.pdf

To force anyone into using their non-dominant processing method to learn "math" seems to me to be counterproductive at the least and cruel (and doomed to failure) at the worst...

I am asking you to allow for the fact that there are many paths to the same destination, and to allow for a wider definition of "success", both in skill competency and in life path taken....

Sahila said...

I have asked some of the direct instruction advocates why we cant have an and/also situation, exactly for the reasons put forward by Jan...that children learn in different ways and its unreasonable to force them to learn using methods antithetical to their norm...

I wrote:
What if some of us really like what you call "fuzzy math"?

What if some of us think you can learn math experientially, through art and music and architecture and cooking and gardening etc (because numbers and shapes and ratios and proportions and relationships etc are all at the core of those subjects/activities)?

What if we think not all kids need to learn algebra and trig and calculus?

What if we think you ought not to need higher math to get into college?

What if some of us think its perfectly possible to have a happy, fulfilling, successful life without the kind of math and style of teaching you push so hard for?

What if some of us dont want to buy into the social and economic stratification that is implied by needing to achieve success in higher math?

What if some of us honour the work of the artisan as much as we do that of the engineer?

What if some of us want to give our children success in whatever arena their talents lie, and not force them to plough through muddy swamps that have no interest (or inherent ability) for them?

Can you not allow for a world where there is a place for both?

Can we have a case of and/also, not either/or?

I received replies focusing on children fitting into/achieving competency in a "technical" arena/world...

That is not all there is to life and to focus only on that is, in a spiritual sense, a very masculine approach, denying the feminine. In fact, some would argue that that very masculine, left brain, focus is why the world is in such a mess....

an interesting place to start thinking about some of this:

http://www.funderstanding.com/content/right-brain-vs-left-brain

http://www.mathpower.com/brain.htm

http://bama.ua.edu/~st497/pdf/rightorleftbrain.pdf

To force anyone into using their non-dominant processing method to learn "math" seems to me to be counterproductive at the least and cruel (and doomed to failure) at the worst...

I am asking you to allow for the fact that there are many paths to the same destination, and to allow for a wider definition of "success", both in skill competency and in life path taken....

Jan said...

Amen, Sahila! I will run a school district with you any day. (Well, actually, maybe I won't. You'd fire me for sitting around dithering about the risks of being hasty while you got on with things.) Back in "the day" when alt schools were celebrated in Seattle, and were exciting learning communities with which to be involved (hopefully, they still are -- but I get the idea they feel "under siege" and have largely gone quiet and internal, hoping that if they don't stick their heads up, they won't get them shot off --)
At any rate, my hope was that one day there would be a public Waldorf school or schools to go along with the Montessori ones, and one or more following an Italian model -- whose name eludes me right now -- that is based on Piaget's theories, and a high school that looked a lot like the Puget Sound Community School model, and another on the Summerhill model -- and something that the area's ballet dancers, amateur tennis players, golfers, etc. could "go to" on their totally odd schedules. But no, now we have things like Dr. Enfield's position (as reported by Charlie):

Dr. Enfield stressed, once again, that the waiver has to be about innovation, not just about materials. In other words, a school can't ask for a waiver from Everyday Math just because they hate it. Their alternative text has to have some legitimate experimental value that would add to the District's knowledge base.

I get that this "show" belongs to Dr. Enfield and the Board -- not to the parents and kids (I don't agree with that, but I get it. This is ALL about top down management. That is the way it is) -- but -- why not? Why shouldn't a school be able to say -- "you know, we DO hate this stuff. We teach better, and our kids learn better, with X materials. We want a waiver." Why can't a school say -- we have figured out how to teach 2nd through 5th grade science in 3 years, not 4, and we have two fifth grade teachers who want to spend the entire fifth grade year's science time doing an experiential learning unit on ecological systems and alternative energy issues -- and have come up with a dynamite curriculum to pull together biology, environmental studies, statistics, chemistry, and physics to do that? Why is the DISTRICT'S knowledge base the holy grail here? We aren't trying to "educate" the district, we are trying to educate our kids!! THEIR knowledge base, not the district's is the goal.

Sahila said...

Jan... this is what's happening in public education in Queensland, Australia... around the corner from where I lived... one daughter is a graduate of this school and my other two grown up kids attended for several years each....

http://kelvingrovesc.eq.edu.au/wcmss/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,94/

this is not 'alternative' enough for me, but it demonstrates what can be done in giving kids access to an vertical curriculum and subjects outside 'the norm'... as well as the early start on university education....

Sahila said...

How many kids in an American public school get this kind of education....

http://kelvingrovesc.eq.edu.au/curric/junior/JuniorSchoolHandbook2010.pdf

Meg said...

I went to yesterday's Audit & Finance meeting (which was really just "Audit"). I took notes. However, my intent to take objective notes quickly devolved into snarking and opining as I typed. So my notes are a little useless to share with other people. There was a handout with a "matrix" regarding the audit findings, listing response and "addressed." Although Director Carr said she wanted to address all issues that came up in the audit (which includes "exceptions," a matter of public record but not in the audit report), it appears that the only issues on the matrix were findings from the reports. The Superintendent's conflict of interest exception (in which the auditor noted that yes indeedy, it was bad form not to disclose her position on the NWEA board before the board voted on a contract with NWEA) was not part of the matrix. Nor was the exception that noted that the district should disclose the extent of its financial relationship with the Alliance.

So, some points of interest:

1. District management has put together an Audit Response Project Team (I probably got the name wrong), in addition to the matrix of audit findings. There are A LOT of people on it. To name a few: Ron English, Bill Martin, Julie Davison, Elaine Williams, Holly Ferguson, Kevin Corrigan, Bob Westgard, Duggan Harman. I think I missed a couple. I probably spelled a couple of names incorrectly. Given the number of people on that team, it's hard to believe it can operate very effectively. We'll see.

2. At several points, there was talk about "consequences" for "noncompliance" but no examples of a possible range of "consequences." This was generally coupled with talking about training (which, okay, makes sense by itself, within reason). Included in the talk about training was: payroll staff was sent to CHICAGO for training. (my notes included ?!?!?! and thoughts about the "consequences" for "noncompliance" apparently including trips. And maybe cookies. And cute shoes. If I reprinted precisely, there would be lots of %^&#@*$&#^ , ?!?!?! and snarking)

3. Mr. Kennedy noted that as they reinforce the internal control system then the internal control system would be able to detect points of noncompliance. Which... okay, but how are they going to stop current issues of noncompliance, and what if it turns out the internal control system isn't strong enough (which is the current problem)? It seems like there are a couple of crucial tactical issues missing from the strategy of “reinforced internal control system.”

4. Don Kennedy, in particular kept bringing up what seemed like a theme, by saing "Issue X was, indeed, messed up, but it was because it was inadequately resourced." Maybe it wasn't intentional, and it was his genuine assessment looking over issues. To my cynical mind, it smacked of trying to position central administration as under-staffed and doing the best they can with inadequate resources. However, that's my opinion. What he said could be absolutely accurate.

Meg said...

Audit meeting notes (okay. "notes")continued...

5. Inventory is only taken every three years. This came up in regards to asset tracking. Carr noted that although the auditor only cited $7k of missing crud, it represented 25% of the assets the auditor's office tested, which indicates possible significant problems (and here "possible" is fair, as the sample tested is not necessarily precisely indicative of a similar percent of total assets. Still. Worrying.) in managing equipment and resources. Harium was all over the asset issues, saying "… if you don’t manage and control your assets, you cannot be an effective organization."

6. The district has issued only about 40 credit cards. Think on that, given the number of problems the auditor found with them. A significant number of cards are issued to departments (shops, as in "maintenance shop"), which need them to conduct daily business.

7. DeBell said that in the executive session, the committee discussed having the board president review, on a quarterly basis, the expenses that accrue in the Superintendent's office. Interesting. But it will only be useful as a reprimand (which it is) if they're all willing to redirect her should the expenses be deemed inappropriate.

8. Carr basically said that the board was going to discuss finding #5 (rather than have district staff provide input), the one that said they weren't providing oversight. Board members have been in touch with the Port of Seattle and the Mukilteo school district already (and I think Bellevue, too), and are looking to chat with the Northshore school district. They're looking to learn both about effective management and how boards dinged for oversight managed to sack up and do better. So, on the one hand, good for them. On the other? An awful lot of this is not about benchmarking or researching best practices, it's about using common sense and showing even a little tenacity and conviction when staff pushes back. An interesting little fact that popped out from this part of the discussion is that the Superintendent's intern has been helping Director Carr on some of this. That's right. The Superintendent has an intern. Huh?

Others may be able to provide a more balanced view than I can. I was a little surprised (in a good way) that the board has asserted that they need to sort out their own issues by themselves... but assistance from the Superintendent's intern balanced out the happy feelings.

There was other stuff, but I am not great on notes. My opinion comes out of my fingers as I type, which makes it tough to present the issues objectively. Overall, my impression from the board members in attendance (only Patu and Sundquist were missing. My impression is that Patu would like a tighter ship with focus on delivering the goods to students before dorking around with fancy central project, and that Sundquist will vote yes on anything that has “aligned with Strategic Plan” stamped on it) was that they are taking the audit reports pretty seriously. And that’s good. Unfortunately, I have not seen any evidence that as a board they have the tenacity and will to truly enforce oversight onto management that will very likely resist increased oversight. So their serious intent may well evaporate into continued going along to get along. Many members of the board will retreat from their initial positions if opposed; they appear, in many cases, to be more concerned about conflict than proper oversight.

Dorothy Neville said...

I was also at that Audit meeting, but I arrived a few minutes late and had to leave a few minutes early. So I did not have a chance to chat and review with Meg or others afterward. However, we did share raised eyebrows at the revelation that payroll went to training in Chicago. I took fewer notes, but will fill in with a few random observations.

The $7K lost stuff. I heard that a little differently, but was confused. I thought Carr said the auditors gave that a 25% margin of error.

There was a lot of talk about SAP. Confusing because this was about the numerous problems with payroll, not any student assignment plan. My husband informs me that SAP is a large company that writes business software. That fits. Evidently, before MGJ and DK arrived, the district bought SAP software program for payroll. The plan was that the uber complicated and uber expensive program would pay for itself because it would allow a much smaller payroll staff.

Well... That hasn't worked out as planned. That's where Kennedy may have a point. They got this fancy software but evidently screwed up the implementation, not enough people to get it running properly. Were these the same folks who were going to lose their job once the SAP software was running well????

So anyway, Kennedy points to that as the root of all their payroll woes. Thus the training in Chicago. (He also early mentioned a retreat for payroll staff, but I do not know if this was separate from the Windy City jaunt.)

DeBell demanded/asked for an investigation into why the situation got this way when the board voted for purchasing SAP on the promise that it would be better and cheaper than having a lot of employees.

Dorothy Neville said...

There was also some talk about how confusing the payroll is, because not everyone is paid on the same schedule. Evidently there's a State Schedule for salaries (based on experience and degrees? I think) and we have some teachers on that schedule and some on other schedules, and that is just too complicated to manage effectively, thus, multiple findings related to payroll. No one knew for sure, but that's due to some contract negotiations a ways back?

Well, what I want to know is: given that they are going to complicate this even more with this opt-in program that affect salary -- how are they going to manage that accurately?

Oh, and back to inventory. Evidently the inventory data base is in R:BASE and therefore very old. There are no plans to update it or anything, who has the time and money and expertise to port the information to something newer? This made Harium Martin-Morris very upset, as this is in his area of expertise. "If you don't manage your assets, you cannot be an effective organization."

It sounded to me as if someone said that the SAP software actually has a data base for inventory, but that we don't use it because it is an "expensive and difficult conversion." So did we purchase the database as part of the SAP package, but just have never utilized it? I cannot say, the discussion was fast and technical.

another mom said...

Meg and Dorothy -thanks for information on this meeting.

"An interesting little fact that popped out from this part of the discussion is that the Superintendent's intern has been helping Director Carr on some of this. That's right. The Superintendent has an intern."

Hmmm is this a paid intern, and if so who paid for this person? I thought that there was a hiring freeze.

"Mr. Kennedy noted that as they reinforce the internal control system then the internal control system would be able to detect points of noncompliance."

And what exactly IS the internal control system and how does it work and how does he propose to reinforce it? I suppose that piece of the puzzle is not yet in place and I am impatient and need to give them time to work out the details?

StepJ said...
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StepJ said...
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StepJ said...

SAP -- Payroll

Placing the blame on SAP for overpayments to employee's is not valid.

Once it is set-up and implemented it can be operated very efficiently.

The problems - such as overpayment of employees for an extended period of time would not be a result of SAP but most likely the result of a poorly executed implementation and also likely non-documented procedures.

The data would only be as good as what was initially transferred to SAP.

When you transfer data from the old system to the new you do need to run some payroll simulations and cross check information to make sure the employee is still receiving the right amount of pay, and deductions like 401-k and such are coming out correctly, etc.

You can easily compare the total payroll run dollars -- for example you transferred in a payroll run that was normally for 2 million dollars, but when you ran the simulation in SAP it came out as 2 million five hundred thousand -- well, there is an issue somewhere!

The Payroll module of SAP is probably the most complicated of the modules. It is a 'known' going in (at least in the SAP consultant world) that not every employee currently on staff will be able to 'get it' and be able to function properly going forward. If you can operate an Excel spreadsheet to the level of filters, macros and such you should be able to learn SAP Payroll. If not - then the employer does need to decide about re-assigning the folks that can't get it - or bring in staff that is capable. This is something a good project manager would have brought to the attention of management at the start of the project.

It is also not difficult to run payrolls on different cycles, or different pay amounts per employee.

Much of what is described sounds like user error of the most negligent type (as in not double-checking the payroll result following input.)

You can double-check results by running a simulation for individual employees, a group of employee's, or an entire payroll run.

If for example you are told an employee is receiving a bonus pay amount of $2600 a year and the employee is paid every other week (26 pay periods per year) - divide 2600 by 26 and they are to receive $100 extra per paycheck (prior to taxes.) BUT - if you don't discern (by looking at the codes) that the employee is paid every other week but think they are paid monthly and calculate the bonus as 2600/12 = 216.67 and input a bonus amount of $216.67 for each pay period then the employee would actually end up getting paid $5633.33 bonus. ($216.67 x 26.) Just from the descriptions I've read it sounds like something similar to this happened.

Dorothy Neville said...

StepJ, you have hit the nail on the head. That is exactly what seems to have happened. The local staff that handled the implementation were not capable of doing it well. Don Kennedy said that means they didn't have enough staff. I suspect they didn't have the right staff.

And since my husband writes business software (completely different sort) I know that a LOT of that sort of contract is often in support, training and implementation. If either SAP or the district agreed on a contract without sufficient support for implementation... That just doesn't make sense to me.

Kennedy said that this past Spring --- so after at least 4 years of SAP and several audit cycles with these issues, they have reassigned the fellow in charge -- who never was an expert in SAP -- and hired someone new. (Reassigning the other fellow, new hire, sounds like the same old song of a central administration that grows and grows.)