I caught the very end of the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting yesterday just as discussion of the waiver process was wrapping up.
At the end of the last meeting Director Martin-Morris said that he would come to this meeting with a draft process or policy or something, but he spaced it and didn't do the work.
The Committee did get things done on the matter at this meeting, thanks, in significant part, to the presence of Director DeBell. The Board members, along with Dr. Enfield, discussed the elements of a waiver policy/process and want her to come back to their next meeting with a sort of bulletpointed outline of the main topics to be considered (equity, purpose, duration, professional development, revocation, etc.) and some thoughts on each. One of the ideas to promote equity came from Director DeBell. He noted that the District didn't have to buy Board-adopted materials for schools with a waiver and that savings - such as the money that was not spent to buy EDM materials for Schmitz Park or North Beach - should go into an "account" to help pay for alternative materials at schools that need that help.
Again, the Board is really focused on the idea that waivers should be part of a District-managed innovation plan with the purpose of discovering ways to improve instruction across the District. So, for example, if a school gets a waiver from the Board-adopted math materials, and state math proficiency test pass rates at that school are demonstrably better than the pass rates at the schools using the Board-adopted materials, then the District should take and apply that lesson across the District. Right now, there is no effort to derive benefits for the District from the waivers.
The waiver policy/process will walk a careful line that should go a long way to clarify the distinction between thoughtful curricular alignment and mindless standardization.
After looking around, the staff can find no example of a district that is doing this sort of managed innovation. Districts seem to fall into two distinct camps: they are either cookie-cutter standardized (Bellevue model) or they are totally laissez faire (old Seattle model). There doesn't seem to be any in-between - or at least not a thoughtful and managed in-between. I'm sure they can find districts that intend to be standardized but fail to enforce the standardization. There is no district they can find that tries to derive any broadly applicable benefit from the variety of materials, professional development, or pedagogy at their schools.
It's at times like this that you see the depth of disaster and the utter lack of management across the whole freakin' public K-12 education industry. The culture of the industry frees people from the need to make any effort to connect rhetoric to action.