Monday, November 19, 2012

Alliance for Education Strategic Plan

"On a mission to ensure every child in Seattle Public Schools is prepared for success in college, career and life."

That's what is says at the top of the Alliance for Education home page. With that mission, the Alliance has no business with anything outside Seattle Public Schools. This includes private schools, schools in other districts, and, of course, any charter schools should they appear.

That mission statement is repeated on the web page for their Strategic Plan. C'mon. You had to know that they would have a strategic plan, didn't you? I suggest you read it. It is an illuminating document. This tells what the Alliance sees when it looks at itself in the mirror. It may be a different vision of what you and I see when we look at the Alliance.

The Alliance includes, among their internal strengths: "Convener of disparate voices" Yeah. Seriously. That reminds me of the claim by the woman in Bob's Country Bunker in the movie, The Blues Brothers, when she tells Elwood that they usually have bands that play both kinds of music, Country and Western. The Alliance convenes disparate voices - Education Reform Organizations funded by the Gates Foundation and Education Reform Organizations funded by the Broad Foundation.

Among their internal weaknesses they count: "Overly identified with business (positive/negative)" So it's a weakness and a strength.

Here, also, we find the fundamental flaw in all of the Alliance's work:
Of the many levers to pull in pursuit of improved educational opportunities for children, we will focus on three. Our organizational theory of action is that leadership, teacher effectiveness and establishing a college-bound culture are the three highest-leverage investments we can make to affect systemic change in Seattle Public Schools.
And what in the world has directed them to make these three areas of work the focus of their effort? Is there any credible evidence anywhere that these three points are the most critical? I don't think so. I cannot be the only one who notices that none of these three things speak to the work of actually teaching students.

And how are they going about this work? You'll be astonished. It's with "evidence based decision-making and inclusive community partnerships". Yep. The two things that would, I should think, draw them away from these areas of focus. There is no evidence to support this work, and the Alliance never comes anywhere near the community - the real community. They spend all of their time with the community that attends their Black and Orange Ball.

Honestly, the rest of the strategic plan is equally filled with unintentional humor. Such as:

Operational Goal: Brand Identity
Long-Rang Outcome: Crystallize brand identity in the minds of colleagues and partners
Action steps: Redesign website; Evaluate value of updating logo; Enhance social media presence.

Really. No kidding. That's how they are going to crystallize their brand identity? By changing their logo?

Here's a line from their self-description of their community engagement role:
It is important to note here the profile of the Alliance as a “grasstops” convener of community leaders as opposed to a grassroots organizer of community members.
I love that. They will engage the community, but only select members. That is, in fact, how I view them as well, so we're in agreement on that.

Here's another funny line. Regarding their work as fiscal agent for various school groups, they write:
"The services are provided at no cost to the groups or individual schools."
This is, in fact, false. The Alliance takes the interest earned on the money. That's a cost to the groups and the schools. The reason that the Alliance had to increase the cap on their direct compensation from the District from 5% to 7.5% this past year was because they were not earning as much in interest since rates have fallen.

Be sure to check out their financials - what role this report has in a strategic plan I can't say - but it does make it abundantly clear that the Alliance gets nearly all of its funding from the Gates Foundation. In particular, the grants that support their three primary focus efforts. The Nesholm Family Foundation, for example, provides a significant grant of $493,768, but it's for literacy in middle schools - not an Alliance focus cuz, y'know, it's about actually teaching students.

19 comments:

mirmac1 said...

It's happened. The Alliance has become a caricature of itself. I'll have to send this to those Board members who thought paying 7.5% was a bargain for the "value-added."

Anonymous said...

I think it's time to re-read Lemony Snicket.

Anonymous said...

That was me, Chris S.

Watcjomg said...

http://www.seattlemet.com/news-and-profiles/publicola/articles/fizz-for-nov-20

Who will be lobbying for a downtown charter school?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I do smile thinking that the Alliance believes the logo really matters.

Anonymous said...

There are thousands of consulting firms across the country that are great at convincing organizations/comapnies that all they need to do to increase business, gain credibility, or otherwise achieve their goals is to change the logo/branding. The consulting firms and their associates make a LOT of money—usually with very little result. Logos count when the product is consumer-oriented: Apple, Nike, Microsoft—not so much for non-profits.

Not surprised that The Alliance is buying and selling the usual BS.

Solvaygirl

Anonymous said...

Oh for pete's sake, it's just a business plan and like such well thought out MBA piffel, err... plan, it presents A4E as a catayst, a convener, and a conduit.

From their website, you find things like:

Under the section on SWOT (for stengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Threats section has "tenuous relationship with labor" listed.)

-- "EMT" as in "Excecutive Mangement Team" (vs. the kind that saves you when you have a heart attack. I know which one I want to keep.)
--" 'new alchemy' of community partnerships"
--"statewide actors looking to Seattle as example"

Their organization goals include:

--"to be a thought leader"
--"to effectively catalyze strong inclusive community partnerships"

My personal favs are under operational goals:

--"establish the Alliance board as one of the most desirable civic boards to serve"
--"crystallize brand identity"

Yeap, this is what college education gets you these days, endless puffery. Plus a chance to go to the ball.

AAK IKR? (all about kids. I know, right?)

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you, AAK IKR?, for highlighting some of the goopier language in this piece. There are more.

It's easy to get distracted by the purple prose, the inaction verbs, the passive voice, the stalking elitism, and the delusional self-perception. I tried to focus on what they really think they're doing, and it troubled me.

They make no pretention about being, well, prententious. "grasstops"! Where in the world did they get that word? They know that they are not getting any community support and they are totally okay with that. They are not interested in retail. They only want to interact with community leaders, not community members.

The real problem with the Alliance is that they looked at Seattle Public Schools and decided that what was really needed to help the students succeed was leadership classes for the Board. That is so disturbing. That stinks so badly of the hubris of executives who think that it is they who create the value in a company when they don't actually produce any goods or provide any services.

They want to close the opportunity gap by establishing a college bound culture. That's all it takes? Just put up some college pennants in the lunchroom and the gap gets closed? Who are these people and who is informing them?

Anonymous said...

The Alliance functions as the mafia. They started out playing the protector and now they own the district's soul.

If Banda has any integrity at all, he will cease doing business with this group ASAP. If he continues to play the CYA/survival game with them (deluding himself that he's just keeping his enemies closer rather than being the sellout he's being), he'll lose--because they started undermining him before he arrived.

If the union membership has any brain cells left, getting the district to cut ties with this racket with be agenda item number one during the next contract talks.

--enough already (Happy Turkey Day,
Mirmac)

mirmac1 said...

If Banda is kowtowing to A4E, it's because he kowtows to DeBell.
I can't WAIT until the change in leadership on the Board. After the first SB meeting in December, no more turkies!

Enjoy your turkey, enough already!

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SPSLeaks said...

More interesting correspondence among friends...

Schmoozin' in wine bars

SPSLeaks said...

Pg 18. Chris Korsmo toots:

Why Melissa Westbrook? Who's her constituency? Just Curious.

SPSLeaks said...

pg 36. Oh puhleeze.

I do so tire of the slickness TFA requires to embed itself like a parasite. I do not mean the individual teachers, rather the org and its paid staffers. If UTR takes hold and displaces TFA (Stritikus' supplications notwithstanding), it will be worth it!!!!

Charlie Mas said...

What comes through in these email chains is a set of "usual suspects" who are brought together to represent Education Reform Organizations on any issue (TFA, CAS, CBA, etc.). They are the self-appointed "leaders" without any followers: Chris Korsmo, Tom Stritikus, Holly Miller, Sara Morris, etc. They re-group to discuss each new topic, but it's the same group each time.

Funny how the Board can quickly begin to kvetch about hearing from the same group of people some of the time but not complain about hearing from the same group of people the rest of the time.

SPSLeaks said...

Chris Larson says:

I'm rich. Do as I say.

SPSLeaks said...

More kvetching with the shadow school board Morris/Miller/Burgess et al

Charlie Mas said...

Wow. That email from Chris Larson sounded so... imperious.

Can you imagine the response if you or I sent such a message?

The problem with some rich people is that they think they can buy anything.

Anonymous said...

Damn straight, it sounded imperious. It WAS imperious. When somebody thinks they have "paid" for you, they expect you to jump when they say "jump." What do people think money is for, if not to buy power and results? What, what? You say you thought it was "philanthropy?" . . ."charitable giving?"



HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA -- how quaint.

Braessae