Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Q: How can we build Trust? A: By being trustworthy.

I had this really good meeting with Solynn McCurdy this morning. The more I think about it the better I feel about it.

As we were shaking hands and saying good-bye the last thing we were talking about was the idea of presenting a Strategic Plan Update for the community. The Alliance would sponsor the event and it would present a comprehensive and honest accounting of the current status of every Strategic Plan Project. There would be a comprehensive list of all of the projects. For each project there would be information on the project timeline, current status, costs, and compliance with the Community Engagement Protocols.

To the extent that the projects are moving forward and meeting expectations, there would be appropriate credit given. To the extent that the projects are stalled, behind schedule, over budget, wandered astray, and closed to the public, it would be duly noted as well.

A presentation like this would accomplish a number of necessary goals: 1) inform the community, 2) expose the truth to the media and the board who seem oblivious to it, 3) openly state the truth that the District leadership is trying to hide, 4) provide the Alliance with some needed independence and credibility.

I could easily see the Alliance sponsoring a series of authentic engagements in which both sides of District issues could be discussed substansively in a moderated structure. Among them:

* Curricular Alignment vs. Standardization
* The Plan for Intervention
* Do we have struggling schools or schools full of struggling students?
* Assessing and incenting teacher effectiveness
* The role of teacher effectiveness in student achievement
* The role of principal effectiveness in student achievement
* How will Performance Management really work?
* What autonomy can schools earn? (added 7/2/10)
* How can the City of Seattle support Seattle Public Schools
* Authentic Community Engagement by Seattle Public Schools
* The Board's Role
* Successful inclusive classrooms
* Whither Alternative Schools?
* The Vision for Advanced Learning

As you can see, we have material here for a year of monthly presentations.

I would really, really, really like to see District staff answer tough questions - asked in a respectful tone - from informed citizens. Wouldn't you? Don't you think the Alliance could bring the staff to such a forum? Would sponsoring such events alter your perception of the Alliance? Would this even be appropriate work for the Alliance to do? I envision these events recorded on video and available on YouTube.

Not only do I think that we would need the Alliance - or someone very much like them - to get the District staff there, but I WANT the Alliance - or someone very much like them - to sponsor and moderate. They have a credibility with the establishment that we don't have. I think the Seattle Times or the Seattle Channel could also host. For that matter so could the Rotary, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, or the King County Democrats.

The more I think about this, the more I like it. I wonder if I could pitch it as an idea for a monthly (or more frequent) show on the Seattle Channel?

As usual, all of us are smarter and more creative than any of us. Ideas? Suggestions?

Let's Get Loud (or at least noisy)

I do believe the Times is really angling for a fight. (Kind of reminds me of dueling banjos in Deliverance - we answer them and they answer us.)

The latest salvo is an editorial about the SEA and the district (thanks to Seattle Citizen for the alert) by Lynne Varner.

She opens with the issue of the SEA putting off a vote of no confidence in the Superintendent until after the negotiations. (I find this tactic pretty funny as I'm sure it won't change a whit of what happens in the negotiations.)

If the Seattle Education Association is betting on a tactic of tying the superintendent's fate to labor talks as a way of gaining the upper hand, they are stuck in a pre-recession time warp.

Casting a cloud above the negotiating table is the latest state economic forecast showing an arduous climb out of the recession. By 2013, Goodloe-Johnson may be able to afford to buy the union's affection, but right now that check would bounce.

That last sentence is an odd one. Would any superintendent attempt to "buy" the union? Is that anyway to get loyalty and motivate a teaching corps? Maybe I'm too idealistic but I like to think it takes more than money to get the best out of people.

Fun fact: Lynne belongs to a union. (Yes, I was surprised, too, as I didn't know editorial writers had a union. You learn something new every day.)

But unions risk alienating the public by flailing at any idea or support that hints at a reform agenda. Lately, they have trained their ire on businesses and philanthropies, accusing the twin engines of "corporatizing" education. The way I see it, these groups have long been urged to be part of the solution for education and a new breed of philanthropists and corporate leaders are rightly following their money through the schoolhouse door and expecting a role improving education.

I think that unions initial response is to yes, be on guard against "reforms" especially those that are aimed right at their heads. But the bigger question is why should business and philanthropies have a seat at the table? What do they know about education that would help reform it? Certainly if they want to give money to education, they can put all the strings on it that they want to BUT their voices cannot be listened to any more than any other outsider. Why this would be, I don't know. The educational arm of the Gates Foundation has not, in any real sense, proven itself as a valid agent of change for education. They themselves have admitted a lot of mistakes. So why are they experts at this point?

Another fun fact: the American Federation of Teachers is having its convention here next week. Maybe I can get a press pass.

Then Lynne says this:

Still, whether for street cred or a sign the union isn't ready to come in from the cold, AFT President Randi Weingarten recently criticized "self-identified reformers who spend little or no time in classrooms." Not a helpful thing to say when parents, most of whom aren't trained to teach, are trying to step up and do their part crafting public schools for the 21st century.

I'm not sure Randi Weingarten was referring to parents. I'm pretty sure she was talking about business and philanthropy. (Also note to Lynne: SPS parents get no traction in our own district in "crafting" public schools unless you are speaking of the thousands upon thousands of dollars and volunteer hours we put in. Our district doesn't give a rat's ass what we, as parents, have to say about the education of our children.)

We have a confluence of favorable events: unprecedented federal money, a groundswell of interest and support from families and a new generation of teachers who don't fear a future that includes change. If all of these groups started moving in the same direction, I'm guessing we'd move rather quickly from talking about improving public education to reaping the benefits.

How come when it's ed reform there's a "groundswell of interest and support" but when it's for something the Times doesn't like, for example, petitions and votes of no confidence against the Superintendent, the Times dismisses it?

And are we all interested in moving in the same direction? I missed that national/state/city vote. That there is division over how to reform education and the lack of ALL voices at the table in what could/should happen should give the Times pause but sadly, never does.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Not the Only Ones to Find Fault with the Times

Over at the Stranger's blog (the Slog), they are discussing the laughable logic that the Times' editorial board uses for policing of our fair city. They want more cops and loudly deride McGinn for leaving our city unsafe but have absolutely no ideas on where the money would come from for said cops (meanwhile McGinn has moved some bicycle patrols to foot beats in parts of downtown to try to help the situation).

The Slog points out that their editorials make the Mayor look like he doesn't care but their own news stories show that he is trying with what he has.

I wrote in the comments section that they have somewhat the same problem with their education editorials. They love to say how great things are, especially under the Superintendent's leadership, and then never define success or give specific examples.

Good to know we aren't the only ones with issues about the Times and their editorials.

Why don't you work WITH them?

I get this question from time to time. I get it from a lot of good, well-intentioned people. "Instead of fighting the District (or the Board, or the Alliance, or the Times, or whatever other institution) all of the time, why don't you try working WITH them to accomplish your shared goals?"

The question arises periodically as new people come to the situation and so should be answered periodically.

I do, on a fairly regular basis, try to work WITH all of these groups that I appear to be in conflict with. It never seems to come off however. There are a number of reasons why efforts to cooperate fail.

1. Let's remember that, as often as not, my primary complaint about these groups is that they refuse to work in cooperation with the community. As often as not, just asking the question "Why don't you stop complaining and try to cooperate?" is evidence that the complaint has not been heard because the top complaint is "Why won't you let us cooperate with you?" So, just to be clear, the number one reason that I don't cooperate with these groups is because they won't let me. It's not personal. They won't let anyone else cooperate with them either.

I once had a meeting with Steve Wilson when he was CAO. He asked me the question "Why can't you work with us?" I instantly responded "I would LOVE to! What can I do? Give me a task. Give me work I can do." He was completely flummoxed. He had absolutely no response because he had absolutely no vision for how a member of the community could cooperate with the District. He had no vision for it because he had no interest in it. It wasn't a sincere offer, it was a feeble effort to score points in an argument. When it is real instead of rhetoric, I'll be there with my gloves and boots. The main reason I'm camped outside is because they won't let me in.

2. I can't work with some of these organizations because they are horribly misguided. The Alliance took off running with this whole teacher quality thing, but they had no definition of teacher quality, no measure of teacher quality, no idea what the hell they meant by the words "teacher quality". They might as well have been talking about pixie dust. Yet that didn't slow them down a bit because they were paid a lot of money to make noise about "teacher quality" so that's what they were doing. No matter how much money is behind it, the effort was misguided and will continue to be misguided until they know what the heck they're talking about. The Gates Foundation is, just now, undertaking a big, expensive project to define and quantify teacher effectiveness. It's going to cost millions and take years, but it is the necessary first step that they had failed to take first.

I'm not going to participate in misguided efforts, but I do participate in the ones that make sense and actually help students. I have served, and served diligently, on a number of District-appointed committees and have always worked hard and contributed in those roles.

3. I can't work with some of these organizations because their idea of cooperation is for everyone to agree with them and support their idea uncritically. To join them is to join them in an echo chamber. I can't work with anyone who isn't open to discussion and who isn't open to the possibility that they could be wrong. People who are absolutely convinced that they have the one Truth scare the poop out of me. The more people are convinced that that they are right, the greater their capacity to do wrong. Of course, I could be wrong about that. As often as not, the only cooperation they seek is an end to opposition.

4. Often, the cooperation they offer is strictly one way - I agree with them, I do their work, I help them achieve their goals. That's not cooperation, that's submission. They talk of partnership, but in their give-and-take I do all of the giving and they do all of the taking. They aren't willing to start the partnership until the decisions are made, the solutions are determined and it time for the work and expense to begin.

5. They don't hold up their side of the partnership. We come to an agreement. I will do this work and they will do that work. I do my work but they don't do their work. There are multiple cases when the District did not fulfill their commitments. In fact, there are very very few cases in which the District DID fulfill their commitments. Their credit is exhausted.

Yet I persist. I do make the offer to these groups from time to time. I do contact them and ask how we can work together. Usually, they don't have an answer, or they only ask me to shut up. Sometimes they ask me to contact them first with my concerns rather than writing them on the blog. I do for a while, but they don't respond in a timely manner so it doesn't work for me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Open Thread

Mel usually does these instead of me. I think she generally starts the discussion with a topic.

Does anyone have a kid going some sort of Bridge thing over the summer. MESA or something else?

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Seat on the Alliance Board

It's a funny ol' world, ain't it?

There's a post on the Alliance blog about Development (that's a euphemism for fundraising) in which the author, Mr. Gonzalez, invites folks to make a donation online or to email him with other ways they would like to get involved with the Alliance.

It occurred to me that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson no longer sits on the Alliance Board. I think she used to be on it because the Alliance lists her as a Board member, but it isn't among the non-profit boards listed in her disclosure statement and it isn't in her bio.

Actually, when you think of all of business between the District and the Alliance, there is good reason to think that a seat on the Alliance board would be a much bigger conflict of interest than even her seat on the NWEA board.

Anyway, with her no longer in that role, I reckoned that meant that her seat on the Alliance Board is available.

So I volunteered for it.

According to Mr. Gonzalez, the Alliance's goal is to convene and engage the community in meaningful discussions about education. I have been doing that exact work right here on this blog for the past several years. He also says that the Alliance's wants to rally support to achieve the positive outcomes we are all striving for. Me too! I have been rallying support for about ten years! I have exactly the sort of experience that they are looking for.

Let's see if the Alliance is willing to have me on their Board of Directors. I think I'm qualified. Who else on their Board has more applicable experience than I have?

On top of that, I am a financial professional. I have more to offer than just a deep and broad knowledge of Seattle Public Schools and two fingers on the pulse of the community - as if that weren't enough.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Desperately Seeking Susan (Or At Least Someone Who Thinks Like Her)

I had written to Susan Enfield, our CAO, at the beginning of June to ask some questions. Here was my e-mail to her:

"I was reading the Times recently and they had an editorial on Congress and the emergency public school aid. They referenced the school improvement grants here in Seattle and said this:

"In Seattle schools teachers at Hawthorne Elementary, West Seattle Elementary and Cleveland High have agreed to be evaluated under a new system that holds them accountable for meeting student academic growth goals. In exchange, the teachers are eligible for extra compensation."

I reviewed the SPS press release on this along with each school's fact sheet and I didn't see anything about extra compensation. Could you tell me where I might find information on this or did the Times get something wrong?

Also, you may have heard (or read) that I pointed out my disappointment in your report to the Board on the Native American program issues. This is a pretty important thing to get right given how the district hasn't been doing due diligence especially around the federal grant. I was very disappointed to hear you say at the end of May Board meeting, ""I think we want to get to a place where we are not reacting to things that crop up as perhaps a 'pseudo-crisis'".

Is what happened truly a "pseudo-crisis" to you? I find that hard to believe but you that's what your statement seem to say given the context in which you were speaking. It was probably hard for the Native American parents in the audience to hear that from the very person they would think would support and help them."

She was gracious enough to set up a meeting to talk and so we did this week.

On the issue of extra compensation for teachers under this SIG grant, YES, there will be extra compensation. (Now why this wasn't in the press releases about the grant and/or how the Times found out, I don't know.) She said it will be a "group compensation" meaning the whole staff will get paid extra for meeting goals. She also said there would be school-wide professional development (as opposed to individual) and that the money for the compensation would come from the grant. In addition, there would be opportunities for individual teachers to pursue career ladder opportunities (leadership but not necessarily as a goal to leave the classroom).

It's a lot to take in and I just have to wonder what the SEA thinks and how other schools will feel and well, it's a way to pilot compensation for results.

As for the Native American issue, Susan pointed out that she has met several times with NA parent groups and feels they are making progress. She realizes that there has been damage to the relationship and is working to repair it.

Where her wording about a "pseudo crisis" was flawed was in that she was trying to say that there has never been a real long-term plan for the Native American program and rather than just muddle along, they are creating a 5-year Plan so they won't have these issues just popping up and then reacting to them. She agreed she could have phrased it better and has gone over her remarks with the NA parent group. She also said she is moving the program out of "Intervention" and under "Academics". She said she wants permanent and sustainable programs.

We spoke briefly about the new Ed Directors and she did say that each region would have a Special Ed person assigned to it. We didn't go into logistics but she seemed sincere about making sure that Special Ed was being watched over.

This is the second time that Dr. Enfield has given me time to talk to her without feeling rushed or pushed. I find that she and I seem to have common ground and that even when I don't fully agree with her, I see her points.

That said, she has commented to me that she came to Seattle based on the Superintendent and her vision for the district.

I have said elsewhere in this blog that I would be fine if, for whatever reason, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson left the district that Dr. Enfield would make a good interim Superintendent. She's a fairly calm, reasonable person who is easy to talk to on a number of subjects. (Dr. Enfield also went to a superintendent academy/charm school - this one at Harvard.)

I bring this up to report on the issues I raised in my e-mail to to Dr. Enfield but also to point out that we do have some good talent on-board and hypothetically speaking, we would not be adrift if the Board made a decision to not extend Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's contract.

Strategic Plan update

The superintendent gave the Board their quarterly update on the Strategic Plan at the June 16 meeting. Supporting documentation for it can be found here.

I started to read it and was upset almost immediately.

The first item, implementation of the Integratec Comprehensive Services is marked as Complete. The Comments section reads: "Students with IEPs learning alongside peers with additional adult supports; students receiving high-level curriculum; students genuinely part of the natural classroom environment." There's no mention of any concerns or failures. You would think, from this, that everything with ICS was going great.

The second item, a report on the impact and outcomes of the model, is marked as Complete despite the fact that it is not complete. The comments read "Report is in progress and on track for completion by the end of the school year." From the comments it is clear that the report is NOT complete, so why is it marked as complete? I hate that.

The third item claims that five high schools and five middle schools are using a common and approved curriculum to successfully support literacy for ELL students. The Comment section claims that there is a "Common and approved curriculum in place in all 11 locations." I am just curious as hell about what definition they are using for the word "curriculum" here.

The fourth item claims that progress has been made by the Bilingual Superintendent's Task Force, but the Comments acknowledge that they have not met since January and have not created Action Plans. How can they claim progress if they not only haven't taken action but haven't even developed Action Plans?

This is exactly the kind of thing that drives me mad.

Public Hearings

Well, it was as I suspected. Me, Chris Jackins and one other person (Barbara Kelley from the Seattle Council PTSA). Plus 4 Board members (DeBell, Carr, Patu, and Maier), the Superintendent (she only stayed for one hearing because of a meeting at South Shore) and some staff.

It was fun in a way because Chris had pointed out that in previous years, there were two public hearings on the budget, one for the General fund and one for Capital. So the Board decided you could testify 5 (!) times on the budget, one for each area of the budget. Chris had come prepared so he did. I only spoke on the General and the Capital.

On the General I basically read what Meg Diaz had pointed out. Why were they so specific in some areas and not others? Why be specific to the point of $.19M and yet in other places get vague with words like "some"? Why are some jobs called out specifically and yet not the coaches? Why is Performance Management not scoped out? Two specific things of note:

"Also - what is the deal in this budget with insisting on noting employees NOT categorized as Central Administration ("other support" "teaching support" "teaching") were part of central "office" reductions? Um, kids, they're central administration or not. Please stop refusing to bill them as central administration but then count them as part of a central "office" reduction.

And lastly, why on earth in the overview, is the loss of a funding grant of $.19m noted, but the increase of over $1m in the Superintendent's office budget not? "

Meg, you'll be happy (or at least hopeful) to know that the Board members took a lot of notes during this testimony.

On Capital I pointed out how we continue to have a backlog of maintenance (which yes, is in the General Fund, but it about the condition of our buildings). How we building new buildings and yet have problems when they reopen (see Garfield, South Shore). I pointed out how South Shore was 16 months from teardown to opening so maybe things were rushed. The odor problems seem to have been created because they didn't allow the concrete to cure (dry) and put down the carpet too soon. (I also asked where the money was coming from to fix this and how much it will be.)

(Just as a side note: what do you think the line is, if there is one, about renovating historic buildings? Because, despite the good number of buildings that have been renovated in our district, the historic ones are the most problematic and cost us the most. And, we don't always do what might seem the most optimal i.e. install double-glazed windows. I was told that some of the windows are of such a special size that it is better to NOT install double-glazed but to not install it on any of the windows?

So the question is, how far do we go in restoring historic buildings versus doing more buildings and getting kids and staff into better learning environments?)

On the supplemental levy, I just pointed out that somehow the list of priorities for year one is different in two presentations and that it confusing when staff does this. (One was some presentation to the "Levy Oversight Committee" and the other was the presentation that staff did at a Board meeting.) There was some overlap but, for example, K-12 music was on the list for year one on the Board presentation but not the oversight committee presentation.

I told the Board that their presentation had no listing for what the money would be used for after year one and that it looked kind of slushy. If this is needed money, right now, wouldn't they have it pretty much scoped out? (Also interesting is that the oversight committee presentation has "attendance specialists" listed which I presume means they are bringing back truancy officers or something like it.)

I also pointed out that the district is saying they desperately need this money. Did they do any kind of furloughs like the City and County have done? Nope. Did they freeze travel? Nope. But did they manage to find the money to keep our Broad residents? Yup.

So it's confusing. Are we really that cash-strapped or does the district not have the money to do all the things they want to do versus the absolute minimum?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's Performance, not Personality or Politics

I remember political discussions about the Iraq war that ended when conservatives, unable to counter the arguments of those who opposed the war, would ask "Why do you hate America?"

I remember how right-wing talk radio personalities discounted and dismissed oppostion to President Bush's policies by accusing those with opposing views of hating the President. This petty and obsessive hatred of G.W. Bush was the presumed source of the opposition to his policies and the fault-finding in his actions.

Let me be very clear. I don't hate Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson. I don't even dislike her. I have no personal feelings about her of any kind. I have never met the woman, she and I have never talked, I have no personal sense of her at all. It wouldn't matter to me if she were a saint or an ogre. Honestly, I wouldn't care. It's not about her personally in any way. It's about her job performance.

Her performance evaluation should be all about how well she has fulfilled the duties of her office. It should be all about that, about all of that, and about nothing else.

It should be about what she has done in the past year. Not about things she hasn't done. So it should not be about the money that the District might save next year if her promises about central office cuts come true. Nor should it be about her plan to bust the teachers union or contract out all of the schools to corporate cronies since she hasn't actually done that yet either.

What kind of job did she do last year?

Let's start with what matters: academics.

She did not make progress on curricular alignment. She pushed Standardization ahead a little further - though not much this year. We are no closer to real curricular alignment today than we were a year ago. She didn't take even a single step towards it because she has yet to address the real impediments to curricular alignment. The schools and teachers that were delivering lessons below grade level and who are neglecting to cover the state-defined curriculum are still doing it. She did, however, spend about $750,000 to consultants to support this effort.

She did not make progress on closing the academic achievement gap. She didn't even take any steps or formulate any plan to close the gap. Our best hope here might have been Response to Intervention (RTI), but after paying this idea some lip service, she abandoned it. Then she eliminated all of the elementary school counselors who were integral to implementation of RTI.

She did not make progress on improving test scores. Not everybody cares about this, but some do. We did not make our goals for test score improvement. That's just an objective truth.

At the most critical level, the student level, our academics are no better today than they were a year ago. Students who are struggling are no more likely to get early and effective intervention that will quickly bring them up to grade level. High performing students are no more likely to get the more challenging lessons that they need either. The MAP assessment was supposed to identify the strengths and weaknessess of individual students so teachers could personalize instruction, but there is very little evidence that this is happening and it isn't happening very much anywhere - certainly no more than it was happening before. This was the promise of the MAP as a formative assessment and the student data warehouse. That promise is - as of now - unfulfilled.

I can hardly give voice to the damage that the superintendent has brought to Special Education. I fully support inclusive classrooms. Done right they are magnificent. The superintendent's implementation of ICS, without training, without support, without reasonable ratios, is the direct opposite of the right way to do it. I cannot express my horror at her actions in this area. It is very likely criminal. It is certainly cruel.

The Superintendent is also responsible for the District's assets, both financial and real. I can't say that her budget of last year was well-considered or that it reflected the Board's priorities. This is the budget that spent $10.3 million on coaches. This is the budget that was reported one way to the Board and the public and another way to the OSPI. This is the budget that reflected central office growth in the face of enrollment decline. This is the budget that had hundreds of thousands for consultants working on the Strategic Plan and had lay-off notices for 200 teachers working in classrooms. Who is a fan of this budget? It isn't good work. The District has no idea what it is spending, where, or for what. The State Auditor's report was not good. The Native American program is a special failure, but it appears against a background of more consistent, if less spectacular, failure.

There is also a capital budget in addition to the operating budget. The District's capital spending includes salaries for project managers, litigation costs for Ingraham's addition, cost overruns for Garfield, and, now, costs to replace all of the carpets in the Southshore building. The capital budget, however, didn't have enough to maintain our buildings. The backlog of maintenance and repairs is growing, not shrinking. The superintendent has poured money from one capital funding source to another like a mad scientist mixing solutions. Money from BEX II flows into BEX III and then to CEP and then to grants and then back to CEP and then back to BEX II. BEX II was going to pay for Project 1 at School A, but now it will be used to buy Project 5 at School J. It is hard not to think that the complicated back and forth isn't intended to obscure the funding sources for projects. Where is the money coming from to pay for anything? This does not reflect good work.

The maintenance of the buildings - or, more accurately, the lack of maintenance of the buildings - also reflects the superintendent's poor results for protecting the District's assets. Then there is, of course, all of the lost equipment. Then there was the failure/refusal to move school equipment when schools were relocated. She is not a good steward of our assets.

I suppose Capacity Management should fall under this Facilities umbrella. Bad work there. It was just bad work all the way around the track. It did not result in the promised savings. Much of it had to be undone - closed schools were re-opened. We have overcrowded schools in the north end of West Seattle where Cooper was closed. We have long waitlists at alternative schools following the closure of two of them. During the process the District claimed that Sand Point and McDonald could not be re-opened, then, the next year, the District re-opened them. The District initially claimed that half of the excess capacity was in high schools, then they claimed that no high schools could be closed and that they had no high school excess capacity. It was a botch job.

Program Placement is squeezed between Capacity Management and the New Student Assignment Plan that will be regarded next. Program Placement continues to be totally corrupt and political. The Policy is violated at will. Otherwise it would be impossible for north-end elementary APP to be south of the Ship Canal, for Hawthorne to be selected as the Spectrum site for the Mercer service area, or for Muir to be selected as the Spectrum site for the Washington service area.

The superintendent is getting a lot of credit for implementing the new student assignment plan. I don't know why. First of all, she is two years too late with it. Second, she utterly failed with the Southeast Education Initiative which was part of it. Third, she utterly failed to achieve the stated goal of providing more equitable access to programs and schools. Her decision to make language immersion and Montessori programs attendance area schools was in direct opposition of this stated goal and doomed the goal. Finally, she didn't do very well with the sibling preference issue. Not well at all.

The superintendent is also the secretary of the Board. As such she has proven incapable of providing the Court with a certifiable administrative record. She regularly violates Board policies. She spikes any chance that the Board might have to sponsor authentic community engagement. She plays games with the Board agenda. She has not performed well in this capacity.

The superintendent's record on labor relations is very, very bad. The Board has been compelled to read acknowledgements of unfair labor practices in their official record. The superintendent was supposed to negotiate labor agreements with the teachers and the principals this past year, but she punted. Instead of making progress on this front she delayed and deferred, signing one-year status quo contracts. The quality of labor relations is near an all-time low.

I don't think that I need to explain how poorly the superintendent has peformed as the face of the District. Public perception of the District is not better than it was a year ago.

There are other elements of the superintendent's job, but I don't see any notable achievement among them. Discipline issues have not improved - student behavior is no better and schools are no better dealing with discipline matters. Equity has not improved. Political support has not improved. The District hasn't made any friends in Olympia or in City Hall.

It's not political. It's not personal. It's about performance and her performance has been poor.

Let's have some accountability. Let's have some performance management. Let's start with the superintendent. That's one definition of leadership: going first.

Central Office Jobs

Did we hear that the Central Office is cutting jobs? I think that's what is going to be said tonight at the Public Hearing on the budget (which might just have an interesting twist, I'll let you know but I don't want to tip off our friends in the district who read the blog).

But let's go check the employment page at SPS.

There's a "Chief Talent Officer" in Human Resources who will report directly to the Superintendent. This used to be the Executive Director of HR but now we call it Chief Talent Officer. Salary? $118k-$163k.

Then there's Executive Director of Schools which I think is a new position but, like the Executive Director of HR, may be a new name for an old job. This pays between $102-142k and the person reports to the CAO.

Update: Executive Director is the new name for Education Directors. The district seems to have filled 3 of the 5 positions according to HR so they are advertising for two of them. All will report directly to Dr. Enfield, the CAO.

Also, Gary Ikeda, long-time General Counsel for the district, appears to be leaving as his job is also listed.

I also want to point out what was previously mentioned in another thread by LA Teacher's Warehouse:

Perhaps this has been covered elsewhere, but I'd like to point out a couple things about the district's bargaining team.

First, Phil Brockman (former Ballard principal) is a member. No big deal--I just thought it was interesting.

What is a big deal is that Lizanne Lyons, the lead bargainer, has two assistants whose salaries are paid for by Alliance for Education: Eileen Norton and Kate Destler.

In effect, Alliance for Education is now a paid party to the bargaining process.

I find this very disturbing. I'm sure the district would say the Alliance won't be involved at all but this doesn't have a very good appearance.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More Schools Voting No Confidence

Maple Elementary and West Seattle High School are the newest schools to take a vote of "no confidence" in the Superintendent. Maple voted 17 yes, 1 no and 2 abstaining. West Seattle voted 35 yes, 3 no and 4 abstaining.

I do want to echo what someone else said in a different thread. We don't know, right off hand, how many SEA represented staff are at each school. I don't believe most of these votes are technically SEA votes. I would call them straw votes.

However, that these staff members, and a fair number at every single school, got together and took a vote tells me two things. One, there are a lot of brave people are out there because I can believe this could have repercussions for some and two, that enough staff from each school made the effort to take the vote.

I am a bit surprised that the SEA is waiting until early September to vote as a whole. They said they want to wait and see how the Superintendent handles the negotiations. Fair enough and maybe it's a bit of a bargaining chip for them but frankly, I doubt if they will see anything new from her that wouldn't already be expected. They did say they don't think her contract should be extended at this time and I agree. She's got two more years on her contract so what's the need to extend it now (except, of course, she may have let the Board know she would walk if they don't which is entirely possible)? She may have learned this tactic at the Broad Superintendent Charm School.

Lastly, some principal news. Ruth Medsker is being appointed the Interim Principal at WSHS. The parents and staff were promised a site-based process so perhaps that will come with a permanent principal appointment. Michael Kelly, from Roosevelt, is being moved to WSHS to fill one of the AP positions. Mike is good guy and I think it's a loss for RHS.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Open Thread

Sorry, forgot about the open thread.

So what are your thoughts as this school year comes to a close tomorrow?

Public Hearings on Wednesday

As a reminder, there are two Public Hearings on Wednesday the 23rd on district business. Call the Board office at 252-0040 to sign up to speak or email hearing@seattleschools.org.

The first is the Public Hearing on the final district budget from 4-6 p.m. As watchdog Chris Jackins pointed out at last Wednesday's Board meeting, there used to be two hearings on the budget. One was for the general budget and the other was for the capital budget. Without any explanation or notice, they are rolled into one hearing. This is troubling if only because this is change without any public notice.

The second hearing is about the supplemental levy the district wants to put on the ballot this fall. This hearing runs from 6-7 p.m.

Naturally, Wednesday, the day after the last day of school is a great time to have these hearings (at least for the district) because very few parents are going to show up then. And hey, not putting them on your "News and Calendar" page is a great way to make sure no one knows about them. I'm sorry but if you have to hunt for this basic information, then the district is not doing its job. But our Board doesn't care about that.

Well, at least Chris and I will be there. I can at least note Meg Diaz' finding that the Superintendent is getting a lot more money in her own office budget soon (and this is cutting Central Office funding?) as well as state that I don't support the supplemental levy if only because this district continues to spend money as if it has money. Spending disproportionally on some areas and then crying poor would seem to point to not voting for yet MORE money for the district to mismanage.

And make no mistake about this levy (and I told the Board this). After year one there are NO firm plans or explanations for how this money is to be spent. I am not voting for this levy on that basis alone.

Yet Another Silly Editorial in the Times

The Seattle Times editorial board should just stop writing about Seattle Public Schools. Every time they do it they just expose their lack of knowledge and lack of understanding. This time they wrote about the Native American program. I suppose this was some sort of effort to make themselves appear balanced regarding the superintendent. They looked for some small issue that wasn't close to her that they could point to as "in need of improvement" and invite her to apply her super-hero powers to fix it.

Unfortunately they were ill-informed about the facts of the situation.

The program isn't supposed to be just "mentoring, advocacy and cultural services". It used to have teachers and the community wants the teachers restored. The community wants an academic program, but the District won't provide it.

The Times suggests that the problems with the program are about counting the students or FAXing the forms on time. They completely neglected the District's failure to comply with the community engagement requirement for the program. The District is out of compliance with the federal law because they don't have a community advisory committee. They don't have a community advisory committee because they all resigned in protest.

The Times either didn't know that or simply chose to ignore it.

The Times pretends that there are only about 377 students who qualify instead of the 1,100 who have been counted. The District has some completely botched the count that the 377 is a horrific undercount and the $82,000 that the District is putting into the program is a horrible underfunding.

So what's the deal with the Times? Do they not know the facts or are they intentionally mis-representing them?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Growth of AP - sort of

In the Advanced Learning work session there was a slide that showed the growth of AP and IB in the District. It is true that many more students are taking AP classes than ever before. But it doesn't necessarily mean what you think it means.

Take, for example, Roosevelt High School. At Roosevelt about half of the 10th grade students used to take AP European History. This is typically the first AP available to students, one of the few open to 10th grade students on the typical pathway. The class is challenging for 10th grade students and the fact that about half of the students took it is a testament to Roosevelt's academic strength. The other half of the students took a history class similar to the one that students all across district and the state take in the 10th grade.

Some folks at Roosevelt didn't like that. They didn't like the fact that about half of the students were self-selecting to take on the challenge and rigor of AP European History. Even more, they didn't like the fact that about half of the students were NOT self-selecting the class, the challenge, or the rigor. So they came up with a solution. Now every 10th grader at Roosevelt has to take AP Human Geography. Every one of them, both those who would have taken the regular history class and those who would have taken AP European History.

AP Human Geography, although it is also an AP class, is not comparable to AP European History in rigor. It is intended to be a one semester class instead of a two semester class. At Roosevelt, it is stretched across two semesters. Moreover, the class is not taught as a college level class (as AP classes typically are), but with material with a ceiling at a 10th grade reading level. So, yes, more students are taking an AP class, but you could not say that students were taking more rigorous classes. Half of them maybe, half of them definitely not.

You might wonder why the school didn't simply substitute AP Human Geography for the old history class so that half of the students would still take the more rigorous AP European History and half would take the AP Human Geography. The answer is obvious. While that would have addressed the academic problem - lack of rigor for students in the old history class - it would not address the political problem of some students - primarily White and Asian middle class students - self-selecting more rigor while other students - disproportionately Black and Latino and FRE students - self-selecting less rigor. The politics trumped the academics.

This pattern is now repeating itself in other schools. Where high performing students self-selected challenge that option is being taken away from them and they are placed, along with every other student, in a less challenging class with a label that implies more challenge than the class represents.

Happy Father's Day

To all the dads out there, happy Father's Day.

Enjoy your time with your family and relish the role of father.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Today's Community Meetings/Tim Burgess Speaks

There were some Director community meetings today; DeBell, Sundquist and Martin-Morris. Did anyone attend?

I sent an e-mail to the Directors expressing my disappointment in the evaluation of the Superintendent. I am not willing to waste my time with them any longer (with the possible exception of Kay Smith-Blum who has shown a willingness to ask questions until she gets answers and isn't afraid to offer her own solutions). I'm not passing on research or information to them. I'm not going to testify at Board meetings. I'm not going to their community meetings (even though you can learn interesting things from other parents). But why bother? They may sometimes listen and even raise a question of staff that someone from the community gives them but really they don't seem to want input or care about making sure it is part of their or the Superintendent's decision-making process.

On that note, here's some interesting information. There's a Seattleite named Kent Kammerer who has monthly discussions with politicians and other newsmakers. I get his e-mail summary from the meetings. This month he had Councilman Tim Burgess. Apparently the councilman went to Boston (on his own dime) to talk to the Mayor and other city officials to learn about their tunnel and other issues. Education came up in the conversation. Here's what Kent reports he said:

Burgess emphasized that he and the full council were dedicated to making Education and Public Safety a high priority. On the education front Burgess is dedicated to do all he can to make Seattle Schools better.

When he visited Boston he was obviously impressed by some of the new school policies, at least in a pilot school they visited. The City of Boston took over the school system and run schools as part of the City administration. Burgess has investigated various charter school options and while not advocating Seattle take over the school system as has Mayor McGinn, he does believe that the City can do much more to support public education.

A new mentoring program has started. Seattle police provide security and even the City demographer has been providing services to the school district to enhance their student placement and building needs. Seattle, through the special levy also supplies health clinics and other services. Burgess likes performance based systems where teachers pay is linked to students' test scores. Teacher pay in Seattle has never been equal to what garbage truck drivers are paid. Burgess was asked if teachers pay is linked to students' willingness to study might they not want to work in troubled schools where kids aren't doing well? Burgess responded that teachers will flock to schools to teach where their pay is linked to student performance.

A lot could be said about these statements. Councilman Burgess has been talked about to run for mayor someday. He clearly has some ideas. I have no idea what a garbage truck driver makes versus a teacher but I think he might be surprised. And there's the charter talk again. Also, teachers will "flock" to schools to teach if they make more money based on student performance? Where has he heard this or what data is this based on? I'll have to call his office.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Last Day as A Seattle Schools Parent

You honestly think, that first day of kindergarten with your oldest child, that you'll never see the end. Those 13 years stretch far, far out in front of you. There's school and friends and sports and activites and PTA and family and it just seems like a hazy daze of life. And that's just for one child.

Then one day (actually one night), your youngest child puts on a gown and a mortar cap and sits with his classmates and walks across the stage and they hand him a diploma and they tell you he's all done. What?!? Where was I when this time passed?

Well, it does. And then you get charged with creating a slide show for a graduation party for him and his friends. You sort through photos and see ones you forgot and ones you love to look at and see those chubby baby legs and then the hilarious middle school haircuts (it's always middle school) and the first signs of stubble. You smile while your eyes well up.

You remember teachers and principals and how it is you remember kids' names but not moms' names. Most of all you remember the fellowship you received from working with other parents at your children's schools. All those wonderful men but mostly women who put in the time to make things better. To make school days happy days.

You look at class group photos and look at those bright, shining faces and wish, truly wish, the best for each and every child.

You watch as your son and his friends eat you out of house and home. You wonder why it is they all want to be at your house and then you remember you have Tivo, cable, the World Cup is on and you made nachos.

So many times this year I thought, "A year from now my house will be just be me and my husband." So quiet and so lonely. So if it's loud and noisy now, who cares?

But this is what you work for. So that your child has a good basic education and makes his way to college. We raise them to set them free someday. That's the way of the world.

It just all went by so fast, that's all.

Good luck Nick and all the graduates of the class of 2010.

Who can we get to run for the Board in 2011?

Four Board positions will be up for election in 2011. They are the seats now held by Steve Sundquist, Sherry Carr, Harium Martin-Morris and Peter Maier.

Honestly, I think that all four of these directors should get strong opposition and three of them definitely have to go.

Peter Maier has made it very clear that he is working for the superintendent, not for the community that elected him. He has to go. I often say that I don't want people to step down, that I want them to step up. That's not the case with Director Maier.

Sherry Carr has proven a profound disappointment and does not deserve a second term. She puts more value on going along to get along than she places on representing the public. She refuses to provide the needed oversight, refuses to demand accountability, and refuses to take any sort of stand. She has proven too timid to do the job and, as she simply lacks the courage to step up, she must step down.

Steve Sundquist appears reasonable, but refuses to be skeptical. He will accept anything the staff tell him - no matter how absurd - as the gospel truth and will not consider any evidence that it is false. I cannot believe that he was EVER in the investment business where critical analysis is the name of the game. He clearly was never a buy-side analyst. Since this sort of fact-proof frame of reference isn't really open to change, we will need a change in personnel instead. Steve Sundquist has to go.

Harium Martin-Morris is the only one of the four that I'm on the fence about. I would prefer a stronger candidate. Director Martin-Morris starts so well, but he finishes so badly. He sometimes raises legitimate concerns and begins a line of inquiry, but then, at the first sign of resistance, he quits. He went nowhere with his list of commitments. He went nowhere with his opposition to the inquiry-based math. I do like his blog. He knows that he should be rocking the boat, but he lacks the courage - or the conviction - to do it. He joined Mary Bass on the losing side of more than a couple 5-2 votes, so there's reason to believe that he would do better with some company. Let's get him some. Better still, let's get somebody who is willing to go it alone if they have to.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Principals

A number, actually a Large number, of schools will have new principals next year, although not all of those principal appointments have been announced.

As we get answers, it will be Stacey Loftin at Coe, we get questions, who will it be at Southshore?

Let's put together a list. We talk about churn in the principal's offices, let's get a measure of it.

Facing Forward

Okay. The annual review of the Superintendent's performance is pretty much over. Yes, the Board doesn't actually vote on it until July 7, but, let's face it, it's over. The three motions will all be approved as they are written. I think we can let go of the issue and face forward.

It's time to move past complaining and get on with action.

So let's consider each area in which the District's actions have been either deficient or misguided and find ways that we can work for improvement.

What, if anything, can we do about:

* implementing Special Education services in inclusive classrooms
* improving math instruction
* closing the academic achievement gap by bringing all students up to grade level
* implementing early and effective interventions
* protecting academic freedom
* protecting alternative programs
* assuring the quality and efficacy of advanced learning programs
* providing more equitable access to programs
* reducing the backlog of maintenance and repairs
* driving spending out of the central office and into the schools
* assuring well-rounded educations for all students
* engaging families in their children's education
* empowering families to participate in the decisions that affect their children
* removing ineffective teachers, principals, and administrators

* and everything else

Admittedly, there isn't much we can do. We are not in a decision-making role within the District. Those in the decision-making roles don't much listen to members of the community. Just the same, let's think of what we can do and get to work doing it.

KUOW Story on Superintendent

I missed the report from KUOW reporter, Phyllis Fletcher, so I looked it up. Guess what? The Superintendent has this to say:

Goodloe–Johnson: "They don't really get the opportunity to see the humane person that I am as it relates to children, and that I've committed my life to this work. And I don't think they get to see that, which I'm gonna work on, because they don't really know me. They know the Superintendent, the CEO of a business. And our business is about children. But they really don't know me as a person and as a mom."

So much can be said about these comments. I always get scared when I hear that education is a business but now Dr. G-J says children are her business. Great. And frankly, I don't want to know her as a person or a mom. I don't need to know the School Board that way to know if they are doing their jobs and I don't need that from her.

And she wants to be thought of as "humane". So now we know one personal thing about her - she's funny because if she thinks what she has done in our district in her tenure here is "humane" then she needs to look up the definition.

She also said this:

Goodloe–Johnson admits the special ed rollout hit some bumps. And that it's personal for parents whose kids are in special ed.

Really? She's used the argument before - in public, repeatedly - that she can't really listen to parents because school issues are too personal to them. And now, she gets it?

This "reinventing of Maria" (otherwise known as How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?) should be very entertaining.

I should note as well that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson had two Superintendent's reports. One, was congratulations to the 2010 graduates. It was so pro-forma and rushed (go listen to the tape), I have to wonder why she bothered. Because the second one, dear to her heart, was that South Shore has no real organic problems and so they are still going to rip out all the carpet and redo all the flooring. No mention of the cost of course because we are rolling in money.

Recess

Recess will be one of the topics on today's The Conversation starting at noon. Call in if you have thoughts, 543-KUOW. Here's their report on it. Interesting finding:

Another big difference between the schools is that at Thornton Creek, most of the students are white and middle–class. At Dunlap, nearly all of the students are black, Latino or Asian and from low–income families.

That corresponds to what KUOW found when we surveyed recess times across the Seattle school district. For instance, we looked at the 15 highest–poverty and lowest—poverty schools. Kids at the low–poverty schools average 16 minutes more recess than kids at the high–poverty schools. That amounts to about one whole recess more.

And amount of recess?

Dornfeld: "A lot of schools in the district give kids 45 minutes to an hour of recess every single day. Is that something that you see as realistic for this school?"

Thompson (principal at John Muir): "Um, so I would be interested to know who is giving 45 minutes to an hour of recess. Because I actually wasn't aware of that. And I would say that it's pretty unlikely. That's just a tremendous amount of time out of the day."

In fact, 17 Seattle elementary schools give students that much recess.

KUOW found that schools which offer the most recess, 45 minutes or more, have relatively few low–income students – an average of 20 percent. Compare that to an average of 71 percent low–income students at schools with the least recess: an average of half an hour or less each day.

An expert says:

Dr. Lenna Liu says that disparity is troubling because kids from low–income families often need recess the most. Liu is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist at Odessa Brown Children's Clinic. About 40 percent of the kids she sees are overweight or obese. She says that's typical for low–income families.

Liu: "But from a health and childhood obesity standpoint, taking recess and physical activity away from children in lower–income schools is sort of putting fuel on the fire.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

She Stays (but no raise and no incentive pay)

The Board has decided to extend her contract, if I'm reading it correctly, by one year but is not giving her either incentive pay or a raise because of the budget difficulties. If we are correct about her contract having two more years, the motion extends it to 2013. Here's what the motion says (and oddly is from the Board office assistant, Joan Dingfield):

I move that the Board of Directors accept the Executive Committee’s recommendations to amend the Superintendent’s employment agreement to extend the existing employment agreement between the School District and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013.

Steve Sundquist read the entire annual performance evaluation (and that's about when I left, I just couldn't take it and I wasn't alone). And understand, the entire Board agrees with this. I have a hard believing that they won't all vote for the three motions next time if they signed off here. Key points:
  • The Superintendent’s strength as a leader comes from her knowledge of education, her decisiveness, her commitment to serving all students well, and her focus on implementing our reform priorities for the benefit of our students. The reform of an urban school district is challenging and controversial.
  • Overall, the Board believes that Seattle Public Schools is making forward progress, but that there are several areas where improvement is still needed.
  • In these situations we evaluate the Superintendent’s performance on the quality of the
    District’s restructuring and implementation.
  • The most significant thing she accomplished was the new SAP.
  • Eighty-four central office positions were eliminated effective next year, amounting to a $6 million savings. (To which I say, just like school closures - prove it.)
  • They admitted to struggling with the new special education services plan.
  • Separate from any particular program, the general and long-term academic success of our students in all of our varied programs and schools hinges upon our families, educators and communities being informed, having confidence, and being in support of the school district's reform efforts. This will call upon the Superintendent to become increasingly engaged and responsive to our communities. Community and educator feedback must inform our decision making and will increase commitment to the implementation of our strategic initiatives. We understand that we must strengthen our communications with our civic and governmental partners to increase their support for the improvement of the school district. (Memo to Board: she can't do it and she won't. We aren't being informed, we don't have confidence and we are not in support of the reform efforts.)
  • Her range of scores (with 4 being great to 1 being poor) were 3.86 for the new SAP (way high given the unhappiness) to a low of 1.86 for Stakeholder Engagement (way too high again). Whoops, she got a 1.71 for math.
This was ALL said about "relationships" and "stakeholder engagement":

Relationships. A priority going forward will be for the Superintendent to foster more effective
relationships and collaboration with the Seattle community.

Stakeholder Engagement. The Superintendent’s visibility and transparency in public interactions are keys to gaining understanding and support of our programs. Community engagement has been focused on delivering information and reports on major initiatives. More effective two-way communication is expected, particularly around budget development.

Wow. That's it, kids. All of her incredibly dismissive and disrespectful treatment of parents and that's all our Board has to say.

The Board's Performance Report is a lot of blah, blah, blah. They describe their relationship with the Superintendent as this:

The Directors’ working relationship with Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson is strong and forthright. We recognize the Superintendent as the educational leader of the school district. The Directors worked to maintain constructive and respectful discussions with each other and the Superintendent and were effective in working through complex problems at committee and full Board level. We recognize that we will need to communicate more effectively within the
governance team and with our community as we work to advance our policy agenda in the face of continued challenging financial conditions.

Not one single word about them being her boss or overseeing her work. That is scary.

Where the hell is the Kool-aid machine in that building? Or, as one speaker put it, who paid them off? Who do they work for? Because, they don't work for me. Those seven people work for somebody but they do not represent me. I just don't recognize those people who I thought at least had our backs a little.

It's a line in the sand, folks and if you don't like quicksand, then you better be ready to fight in the next Board elections. Otherwise, this district will turn into something cold and corporate and unrecognizable. Everything that we find special, innovative and interesting in our public schools will be gone.

The upside? She's an ambitious person and I doubt she'll be here much longer. And then? They'll throw her a goodbye party at our expense.

Updates

Quick updates from our readers:
  • Green Lake Elementary voted no confidence; 26 yes, 1 no, 1 abstained
  • Ballard's principal, Phil Brockman, is leaving. Big loss as Phil is one of the best principals we have. I hear he's going to be at the headquarters but I haven't heard in what position.
And because it is so hard for teens to find jobs, I saw this as well:

Be a Microsoft Apprentice! The Microsoft Apprentice program is designed for teens, who are going to be juniors and seniors in the fall, and have a strong interest in business, marketing, and Microsoft. Microsoft is looking for students who have great attendance, a positive attitude, like to learn new things and have great communication skills. ($9.00 per hour) Apply online at www.teenjobs.org or contact Aaron Eggers at 206.334.3310 or email aeggers@postiveplace.org see career center job board for information.

Another Update: Checking the agenda I see two things of note. One, there are 5 open spots for speakers so if you want to speak, call the Board office, 252-0040. Two, there are a couple of places highlighted yellow where motions have changed. What is different is that normally you would go to the motion and it would be highlighted where it is changed. None of them have that so unless you copied the original motion somewhere, you wouldn't know what changed. There's transparency for you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Waiting to Exhale Indeed

That was the title of the latest cheerleading effort by the Times - Seattle Public Schools: Waiting to Exhale. I'm not sure what that means except maybe we are all holding our breath to see what the Board says tomorrow about the Superintendent's annual review. Will they...
  1. just review her work for this year and say nothing about her contract?
  2. review her work and say they are, at this point, renewing her contract another three years?
  3. review her work and say they are waiting one more year and then they will decide about her contract?
  4. review her work and thank her for efforts and say they will not be renewing her contract in two years?
Given the quivering over at the Times, I think they are worried it may be 1 or 4. I personally am betting on number 1. She's got two more years on her contract (so why the need to say anything at this point unless she's made it clear they better) AND it's a good way to show they are going to do the minimum at this point and wait and see.

I know some of you want her fired. You need cause and really, the Board has voted thru everything staff has brought forward. It would be difficult to prove. Find the evidence, not just how you feel about her efforts, and maybe then it could happen.

Buy her out? Again, a bit of a hard sell especially to a public who doesn't keep up except to see a general unease out there.

I have no idea when tomorrow her review will be released. It's on the agenda but I don't know when it will be available for the public.

Please consider coming to the rally at 5:30 pm. I'm pretty sure there will be media and it would really be a good idea to have numbers. You don't have to stay for the meeting and there's usually easy parking there at that time of day. Really, please make the effort.

Kooky Seattle Times is at it again

The Seattle Times printed another love letter to Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson on the editorial page. They can't print them on the news pages because they have an obligation to print the truth there.

====UPDATE====
Here's yet another Seattle Times editorial that lauds the work done by philanthropic organizations, blames teachers, and dismisses concerns about corporate influences in our schools.

Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee 6/14

The Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee met yesterday afternoon. Directors Sundquist and Martin-Morris (chair) were present. Director Patu was absent.

The meeting began with a discussion of the idea of waivers for schools that want to use something other than the Board-adopted materials as their primary texts. Schools are free to choose supplemental materials, but they are expected to rely primarily (there is no enforcement or objective measure) on the Board-adopted materials. The only Board-adopted material currently in use are the math textbooks - although this list will grow starting next year - and there are only two schools that have a "waiver". There is no formal process for granting a waiver and no formal process for revoking one. The discussion at this meeting was to confirm that the only waivers would be for materials and then to set a timeline for drafting procedures. Dr. Enfield committed to having draft procedures ready for Board review in the fall.

Special attention was paid to the extent to which alternative schools will be expected to use the Board-adopted materials.

Next came a discussion of the 150 hours of planned instruction required by law and how the District is meeting this requirement. The people at the table all agreed that this is not an issue for them and that it should not be a priority, but that because members of the public are worked up about they should do something to emulate concern. They believe with high confidence that they are meeting the legal requirements but they would like to issue a statement that they are meeting the requirement without counting passing time or professional development time. Before they do, however, they want to check to see if it is true. They are not particularly concerned by the variety of instructional hours from school to school. They agree that when CORE 24 is adopted the 150 hour rule will be repealed, and so, since they anticipate CORE 24, they don't want to invest in the 150 hour thing.

The only thing they said about the NWEA contract is that they want to fully disclose the Superintendent's involvement with NWEA as a member of their Advisory Board - not their Board of Directors - and that she will not participate in the decision to use their product (or some such incredible nonsense).

The District has a signed contract to offer an additional Project Lead the Way class at STEM but PLTW wants Board approval of the relationship. The District doesn't require it, but PLTW does. The Board will do so via resolution since the contract is already signed.

The annual revisions to the Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook were distributed.

Holly Ferguson distributed a draft calendar for Policy revisions which was cross-referenced by both the Policy Area, a time period for the policy to get review, and the Board committee that will review it. She had to allow for policies to need revision that had escaped notice before.

An example of such a policy is C32.00 and the accompanying procedure C32.01. No one in the District had noticed this policy until recently, for the first time in anyone's memory, someone used the policy to complain about a text. It was a book used in Language Arts in high school. That suddenly brought the policy to everyone's attention and they realized how much they didn't like the policy.

I had my whiteboard with me throughout the meeting and wrote on it from time to time, but without noticable effect.

Whiteboard volunteer needed

Dan had an absolutely brilliant idea. We need to use it.

During Board meetings there is a seat in the auditorium - on the aisle, on the left (north) side of the room, about two rows in front of the big pillar - that is on camera when people are speaking at the podium.

If we could place someone there with a whiteboard, whatever they wrote on the board would be captured on camera. It would be broadcast to the home audience and it would become part of the official record of the meeting. It's not so important when members of the public are speaking, but it would be absolutely critical when staff are speaking.

Who can do it? I will be happy to provide text for the whiteboard - as will a number of other folks on the blog. You don't have to have something on display all the time. You want to be selective and leave things up long enough for them to be seen.

Comments? Thoughts? Volunteers?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Final Warning (At Least From Me)

Charlie and I (and the other occasional bloggers) rarely talk to each other about what we are going to write about on the blog. My basic rule of thumb is to try to wait at least 3 hours before posting if Charlie has just posted a thread (unless it's strictly informational like a meeting time). And sometimes, I hit "publish" and he has done it at nearly the same time so there's no accounting for that. We don't have a lot of hard and fast rules here.

However, I have tried, gently but firmly, to ask people NOT to hijack a thread and go off-topic for the simple reason that it makes it frustrating for people who start reading only to find the topic started is not being discussed. For me as the writer I wonder, "What happened to the original topic? Not interesting?"

There are a few readers who do this on a regular basis (and even have blogs of their own) and yet ignore this rule. So, just for my own threads, if I see this happening, I'll delete anything severely off-topic. (I completely understand how one thought leads to another and that's okay but if it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand, then it goes.) I'll try to be consistent but I may not always be able to keep up.

I am mainly thinking of trying to keep the threads on topic especially for those who go searching under a certain subject and then they waste a lot of time reading posts that have little to do with the topic. Better fewer posts but linked than a lot of comments that aren't.

One Girl, Lots of Hope

A great and hopeful story from the Central District News about Garfield freshman, Jessica Markowitz, who single-handedly started a Seattle group to raise money to educate girls in a village in Rwanda. From the article:

In that time, Jessica has visited Rwanda three times, earned national recognition for her work, including a spot on CNN and a cover story in Parade Magazine, and built lasting friendships with the 30 girls in the rural area of Nyamata.

The goals of the organization are:
  • Enable girls to finish primary school and attend 6 years of secondary school;
  • Reduce the gender discrimination that prevents girls from completing primary and secondary education. Develop an on-going cross-cultural exchange program between high school students in Seattle, WA and primary and secondary girls in Nyamata and Kigali Rwanda.
  • Support the mentorship provided by girls from Fawe Girls School in the Rwandan capital Kigali, to low income girls in the rural district of Nyamata.
  • Collaborate with local NGOs in Rwanda to maintain the support for girls to complete their secondary education.
  • High school students in Seattle will raise funds to support program activities through proposal writing and fund-raising activities.
  • Increase community awareness and understanding of the issues surrounding the Rwandan genocide by organizing speakers, remembrance events and community outreach activities.
They are looking for donations to help match a pledge from the Paul Allen Foundation for $25,000.

Gives you hope to read a story like this about youth in our SPS schools. Any other good news?

At Least We Don't Have a Kook Like Marysville

There was an article a week ago in the PI about an argument among the Marysville School Board over e-mails sent by one member. It is so hard to believe that initially I thought the Onion got one thru.

A relatively new member of the Board, Michael Kundu (elected in November), had sent an e-mail to another Board member and the executive director of teaching and learning for Marysville, about the work of a psych professor at the University of Western Ontario as "evidence that certain ethnic groups possess biological advantages and disadvantages compared to others, in areas including brain sizes and intelligence levels."

The Board member, Michael Kundu, said in the e-mail:

"I think what is safe to draw from this is that there is a definitive factor played by racial genetics in intellectual achievement, but we, as a society, are striving to offset that foundation by increasing educational and social opportunities to 'offset' the racial achievement gap,"

Kundu wrote in the subject line "race and achievement (please circulate)."

He actually TOLD people to circulate the e-mail.

Naturally the NAACP and other groups were very upset. The head of the Snohomish county branch of the NAACP, Janice Greene, said:

Rushton "is a known white supremacist and that his pseudo-scientific theory has been effectively and consistently debunked by well regarded scientists."

The Board meeting where this was all aired went on for 4 1/2 hours as speaker after speaker came forward. (It did make me wonder if our School Board would allow that many speakers?) Many of the speakers talked about how expectations can affect minority achievement and how damaging this kind of "research" is.

How did Board members take this?

Board members Darci Becker and Cindy Erickson objected to the guest speakers' focus on race, with Erickson expressing concerns that students who didn't fall into certain categories could fall through the cracks, while Becker noted that her own child faces learning difficulties in spite of being white and economically comfortable.

"Diversity is not only about race," Becker said. "It feels like I'm being punished for being white."

Kundu, at the meeting, said,

...that he doesn't consider biology to be the only cause of the achievement gap, but even as he acknowledged Rushton's racism, he defended genetics as one of a number of possible influences, along with a student's family dynamics and relative economic prosperity.

"We don't know what's behind the achievement gap," Kundu said. "If we did, every school district would be making significant progress in correcting it. No one has the formula for it. A lot of people have elements of the formula, but this achievement gap has been around for decades. I'm saying almost precisely the same things as a lot of you."

But he left before the end of the meeting, accusing the Board president of "mischaracterizing" the e-mails and another Board member left, saying the president wasn't supporting Kendu. The president's reply:

"I was offended," Crenshaw said after reading the e-mail aloud. "I think it's racist. I saw it as my responsibility to speak up and let you know that people who are making decisions about your children could be this ignorant.

Holy mackerel! Now there's a Board with problems.

Alternative School Article

There is a nice story in the Times today about Ida B. Wells School, part of the Middle College, by Jerry Large.

It's very clear that this school, which is an Alternative Learning Experience, is not part of the Curricular Alignment effort. That bodes well for the NOVA Project, another ALE that cannot standardize texts and course titles.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

School Board Meeting Agenda

Tomorrow is the sign-up day for speaking at Wednesday's School Board meeting. You can either call 252-0040 or e-mail the Board office, boardagenda@seattleschools.org.

As previously noted, there will be a rally at the John Stanford Center at 5:30 pm prior to the Board meeting to voice concerns over over superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson. If you are not coming to the rally or Board meeting, I urge you to write to the Board with your opinion/thoughts about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's abilities to guide and lead SPS.

The agenda has some interesting items:
  • a resolution for the $48M supplemental operations levy to be put on the ballot in November. I had written about this in depth previously so I won't go into again. The cost to the district is $525k but they are hoping that would go lower if more items get on the ballot. One thing, though, is that there is language in here both specific on its uses and vague on its uses depending on the year. The first year 2010-2011 is specific but after that it says:
Funds received in the subsequent years of the supplemental levy would be used to create or enhance programs across the district and to provide instructional services to our students that would otherwise be cut due to reduced State and Federal funding.

This is somewhat troubling because that leaves a lot of money for whatever the district wants to throw it at. I feel like some of that should go to developing programs at the newly reopening schools to make them attractive to parents and making it worthwhile to have reopened those buildings.
  • The $1M funding for laptops for Cleveland STEM students. These would be for 9th and 10th graders for this fall, 11th graders next fall, and 12th graders in 2012-2013. It seems that if they are going to spend this money, Cleveland STEM is a go.
  • Most interesting is the introduction items of the "Extension of superintendent contract and compensation" and "Resolution on the superintendent incentive measure". The agenda states that both will be posted prior to introduction in conjunction with the evaluation reports. I'll ask how soon they will be posted. The title of the first item gives me pause. I'm thinking that it is just a formal title and not the reality of what the Board will be doing, namely, extending her contract.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Board Community Meeting reports

Directors Carr, Maier and Patu held community meetings today.

Any reports?

Whiteboards

This may seem incredible today, but it used to be that the Board would talk to members of the community who attended Board Committee meetings. Members of the previous Board would usually invite members of the public to sit at the table if there was space available and would often turn to informed people and ask them questions during Board committee meetings. This Board never does that. They didn't even talk to Meg Diaz or afford her an opportunity to speak when they were discussing her analysis. Ivory Tower much?

How I wish they would re-engage with the public this way, but it's a fantasy.

Other fantasies:

I would love it if, during the discussion of a motion at a legislative meeting, a Board member would ask a question of someone who testified on the topic. Wouldn't it be great if a Board member asked Chris Jackins to offer a response to a statement by the District staff?

I would love it if, during a work session or a committee meeting, a Board member had an informed member of the public sit next to them and suggest questions for staff. Wouldn't it be great if Steve Sundquist asked Meg Diaz to sit next to him and whisper in his ear during the next Audit and Finance Committee meeting?

Those ideas are fantasies because they rely on other people taking action. Here's an idea that we can enact ourselves.

Lately, I've had this idea - which doesn't have to be a fantasy - of bringing a whiteboard to the meetings and writing questions on it. Weird, right? Could you just see that? While the staff are showing the Math Pathway I would be writing on the whiteboard: "What about Running Start? What about CTE classes for dual-credit? What about classes beyond Calculus?"

Actually, the whiteboard idea isn't a bad one. We just need a couple folks to hold the whiteboards while someone else writes on them. Whiteboards aren't that expensive and a lot of people have them for their businesses anyway.

So... how weird is this idea?

Race to the Bottom

Consider, for a moment, the Performance Management System as designed by Seattle Public Schools.

All schools get some funding and resources from the Performance Management System.

Schools with low performace or slow performance growth and deemed in need of help will get more additional funding and resources. Schools with high performance and adequate performance growth will get less additional funding and resources.

So the worse your scores, the more funding and resources you get. They reward low performance. The downside is that the Education Director decides how those funds are spent at your school. Presumably the Education Director makes the decision based on a knowledge of the school's needs.

And what is the reward for high performance? You get less money but the principal decides how it is spent. That, by the way, is the extent of "earned autonomy". That's the autonomy you can earn: the right to determine how your school's small allotment (less than $50,000) of Performance Management money is spent. And it isn't that autonomous. The principal has to choose off of a set menu.

So there isn't much upside or reward for doing well. First, you just get less money. Second, the autonomy you win isn't that autonomous. And it's kind of insulting to the professionals to think that the Education Director would spend the money in ways that are wildly different from the way the Principal would spend it, or that the Education Director would do it without any consultation with the principal.

The upside of doing poorly, however, is significant - hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Anyone regarding these incentives would teach the children as best they could, but also do whatever they could to spike the assessments. In short, encourage children and their families to opt out of the MSP or the HSPE (the tests formerly known as the WASL) so your scores are artificially bad.

It's a race to the bottom.

I don't know if this scenario will be much altered by performance pay for teachers or principals, but those folks are really much motivated by money and the performance pay for professionals shouldn't be predicated much on student test scores when there are other measures that show that the students are learning. The Performance Management scoring system for schools isn't nearly as insightful as we expect the peformance evaluation system for professionals to be.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Breaking News - West Seattle High

Thanks to Yumpers for alerting us to this news: now all of the leadership of West Seattle High are leaving. This from the West Seattle blog.

It had previously been announced that the principal, Bruce Bivens, was leaving for a job in California. Now both the assistant principals are leaving as well, one to the Highline district while the other one has just resigned.

That a lot of leadership gone at once. Look for a lot of juggling of existing principals/vice-principals to WSHS and/or bring some out of retirement (I'm looking at you, Chuck Chin - Mr. Chin has come out of retirement at least once to take over a school.) That this comes so soon before school ends means we may not know for sure until school starts.

Open Thread Friday

Tomorrow finds 3 School Board directors community meetings;

Director Carr - 8:30-10 am at the Greenwood Neighborhood Service Center, 8515 Greenwood Ave North

Director Maier - 10:30-noon - Bethany Community Church, 1156 N. 80th, upstairs Classroom A

Director Patu - 11:30-1:30 - Rainier Beach High School library, 8815 Seward Park Ave. South

I do want to take this time to acknowledge the Board members who regularly respond to my e-mails and mostly with thoughtful responses - Sherry Carr, Kay Smith-Blum, and Michael DeBell. Sherry and Kay frequently follow up on my questions. I occasionally hear from Harium Martin-Morris (but he has a blog) and Steve Sundquist. I have never heard from Betty Patu.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

From the "Are You Kidding Me" File

Well, this one takes the cake. The Times has been following the saga of what will replace the Fun Forest at Seattle Center as it renovates itself. Early on, the owners of the Space Needle wanted to put in a Chihuly glass museum which seemed to get a lot of blowback from people who were not wildly enthused given (1) it seemed a bit like merchandising for a guy who already gets a lot (2) there's a glass museum in Tacoma and (3) most people (and I say this confidently) want more green open space in the center of the city.

So the owners of the Space Needle, in an effort to get what they want, sweetened the deal. To wit:

In a second attempt to sell the city and the public on a Dale Chihuly glass exhibit at Seattle Center, the Space Needle Corp. is proposing to add an art-inspired playground for kids and develop a partnership to bring more art to Seattle public schools.

And how would SPS be involved?

On the defensive, the new Chihuly proposal seeks to address those concerns. Its proposal includes a letter of support from Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson for a plan to develop an 8th-grade science and art curriculum about glass that would culminate with a field trip to the exhibit, all funded by the Space Needle Corp.

I'm sorry but I don't care what the Wright family pays for. Is learning about glass already part of our science and art curriculum? Just that one subject and oh boy, at the end, a field trip? How does this fit the Strategic Plan? How does it help low-income students? How does this truly, in a global sense in our district, support better academic outcomes?

Look, I applaud public/private partnerships but this is nuts. I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth but is this money, given in this way, for curriculum that yes, the staff would still have to divert its attention to work on, really what we need right now? No, it's not and that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, with all the things in front of her to get done, would take the time to sit down with these people, listen and then say yes and give them a letter of support just baffles me. (And did she ask the Board?)

Board Work Sessions - Math and Advanced Learning

The Board has two work sessions scheduled for this month.

The first, today, Thursday June 10 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, will be on Math. No agenda details are available but there is sure to be a powerpoint and it is sure to appear on the District web site soon. I have to believe that the Board is looking for a report on the implementation of the curricular alignment, the implementation of the Theory of Action from the High School textbook adoption, and some update on student academic progress in math.

Next week, on Wednesday, June 16, from 4:00pm to 5:30pm, will be a Board Work Session on Advanced Learning. I honestly cannot imagine what the District staff will have to report

They cannot report on the response to the APP Review because they have quietly dropped that project from list of Strategic Plan strategies.

They cannot report on the implementation of the APP curriculum because they have not implemented the APP curriculum - the one that was supposed to have been fully implemented with the start of school in September 2009.

They cannot report on the quality or efficacy of the Advanced Learning programs because they make no assessment of the quality or efficacy of the programs.\

They cannot report on progress reviewing and revising Policy D12.00 as the Board voted to direct them to do on January 29, 2009 because after a year and a half they haven't done any work on it.


Here are some other things they won't report:

They won't report that Spectrum capacity in the Northeast is inadequate.

They won't report that - with a couple notable exceptions - Spectrum programs south of the Ship Canal exist only on paper.

They won't report that there are no assurances of quality in any of the Advanced Learning programs.

They won't report that elementary APP at Lowell is 150% the size of elementary APP at Thurgood Marshall.

They won't report that the District has broken every commitment ever made to Advanced Learning communities.

They won't report that the District has gone against every recommendation made in the APP Review.

They won't report that program placement of Advanced Learning programs has been political and in violation of the Program Placement policy.

On the whole, I really can't think what in the world they will report other than the number of students in the various programs.

This is the moment when I wish more than ever that I were a Board member. I would not hesitate to ask about ALL of these things.