I see it in the Times. I see in Crosscut. I see it from the Alliance for Education and the League of Education Voters. I see it everywhere they reprint District press releases as if they were news stories.
Yeah. Only I'm not seeing any of that.
Honestly, I think that there were a lot of things in the District that did need fixing - mostly failures of management and supervision. I think that she did a pretty good job of identifying them and, in a number of cases, identifying the solutions. Unfortunately, she has done an absolutely disastrous job of implementing solutions. She has, in a number of cases, left big problems unaddressed. She has neglected duties in a way that has allowed new problems to emerge. And, yes, her personal style and top-down view of the world has been a negative. On the whole, I see her as a miserable failure.
So what are her fans seeing that I'm missing? Could they be right? Could I be wrong?
They give her a lot of credit for the new teacher contract. I think the important part, the new performance evaluation, was done without her through a collaborative, cooperative effort of the District and the union. In fact, her proposal, SERVE, almost crashed the whole thing. Thankfully it was rejected. So where is the credit for the superintendent here? I'm not seeing it.
Seattle Public Schools has a serious problem. There are schools where the fifth grade classes are getting third grade lessons. That ain't right. The solution is curricular alignment: assure that all teachers in all classes in all schools are delivering the prescribed content - teaching at least the baseline set of knowledge and skills for that subject and grade. It is an equity issue; a justice issue. The Superintendent rightly made this part of the Strategic Plan. But we didn't get curricular alignment. Instead, we are getting standardization. Here's the difference: in curricular alignment someone checks to make sure that all of the teachers have the elements of the prescribed content in their syllabus and that the teachers actually cover it. In standardization the teachers are all forced to use the same books at first. Then they are all forced to teach the same lessons, give the same exams, and essentially become clones of a single practice. What is the evidence that math instruction has been aligned? Nearly all schools are using the same books and the District has provided a pacing guide, assessments, and model lessons. That's standardization, not curricular alignment. So - inspired solution/tragically bad implementation. Actually, this story hasn't been presented because I think it is too complicated for the bumper-sticker media, but it is critical to students and teachers and it represents a tremendous failure for the superintendent, so maybe that's why her friends in the media aren't talking about it. Is there good here that I'm not seeing? The math scores are falling, falling, falling.
It is shocking to hear that almost no one in Seattle Public Schools had a job description, had regular performance reviews, or even had any set criteria for a performance review. That represents a grosteque failure of management at just about every level of District management, but primarily at the top. I don't know why people think that Raj Manhas was in any way capable, because the CACIEE final report was basically a catalog of his utter failure to fulfill any part of his responsibilities. Joseph Olchefske was no better, and John Stanford started the whole thing by failing/refusing to take on a quality assurance role when he de-centralized decision-making. I certainly appluad the Superintendent for introducing management to Seattle Public Schools. But the REAL focus of her Performance Management effort is schools. Not teachers and principals so much as schools taken a whole. Each school will have a new annual report (not yet designed) for Performance Management purposes. This scorecard will determine what level of performance management intervention the District will apply to the school. So, this is good as it represents the District's re-assertion of its quality assurance role. The idea is that strong performing schools will get less oversight from the District and more autonomy. Poor performing schools will get more oversight and more direct guidance from the District. Brilliant idea and solution. Unfortunately we're looking at absolutely disastrous implementation. First, the whole thing is epicly overdue. This simply mystifies me because the school scorecard has not essentially changed since the original mock-ups done two years ago. Second, the cake is a lie. There is no autonomy available for strong performing schools. Third, the help that the District gives to poor performing schools doesn't help. It's more enforcement than help. Finally, the external report on school excellence for the public doesn't really speak to school excellence. It doesn't report the measures of school excellence. The media gives her props for doing something about this, but they don't seem to notice that what she does isn't effective.
The superintendent gets a lot of credit from establishment circles for closing schools. They don't seem to recognize that she spent a TON of money to do it, that she didn't do it very well at all, and they - amazingly - neglect that she had to re-open three of the five schools she closed at even GREATER cost. Moreover, she reneged on a whole stack of promises and hasn't produced the promised results. Jane Addams has no more students than Summit. She didn't pour enough sugar on Sand Point and McDonald to make them attractive. She botched the creation of the Queen Anne
New Student Assignment Plan
The Superintendent is getting a lot of credit for the new Student Assignment Plan, but just about EVERYTHING about the plan was determined three years ago by the previous Board in their Framework document. The implementation, however, was totally weak. First there is the whole mess around re-opening recently closed schools. She wasn't able to make them attractive. She didn't improve access to quality programs - as the plan was promised to do - because Montessori and language immersion programs were made attendance area schools. Program Placement was as corrupt and political as ever. It was driven mainly by operational preferences instead of academic policy. And, of course, there is the Southeast Education Initiative. How can anyone regard this as a success? As we enter the first year of the new plan we can also see that some of the attendance area boundaries are inexplicable. Garfield, for example. What a botch job!
This was all Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. This is the only project that she has overseen from start to finish and it was an abject failure. Epic fail. This project was supposed to show everyone what she meant by accountability. It remains the highest profile example of accountability in the District. And what accountability did it show? NONE. The establishment media is absolutely silent on it.
What was the original budget for Garfield? What did it end up costing? The establishment is absolutely silent about the superintendent's management of capital projects. They pretended not to notice when she tore down new work that cost millions to re-locate Denny onto the Sealth campus. They pretend not to notice the shell game played with the money shifting from this budget to that budget to the other budget and back again. BTA projects become CEP projects become BEX projects and then BTA projects again. Then there is, of course, the Small Projects team and the $1.8 million of capital funds misspent there. Then there's the political way in which capital projects are chosen. Southshore moves ahead of Genessee Hill. STEM moves ahead of EVERYBODY. We don't have money for anything else but we have millions and millions for STEM.
The superintendent isn't a teacher. She's a chief executive. It's an administrative job, not an academic one. As an administrator she's a freakin' disaster. Just read the state audit to get a sense of the utter lack of management. The Seattle establishment has chosen to completely ignore the audits. Odd. When they do mention them, they brush it off and dismiss it as crumbs - a few thousand dollars out of a half billion dollar budget. I think the audit findings - which are all hers (these things were not found under previous superintendents) - are incredibly damning.
The establishment LOVES this plan, but they don't seem to notice that every single part of it is overdue, overbudget, and short-cut. How can they not see that?
I could go on. The superintendent has her fans. I would dearly love to speak with some of them and find out what they like about her job performance, because I'm just not seeing it. What am I missing?