- The phrase "differentiating resource allocation" came up prominently. I didn't really hear the Directors call it out but my own notes reflect "uh oh." I say that because the Strategic Plan - in its early stages - seems to lean towards closing the achievement gap rather than supporting ALL students and their learning. Differentiating resource allocation would tend to support that view.
schools could become resentful of their efforts being taken for granted as the district guides
money in certain directions.
Director Patu called this one out and Michael Tolley said that it meant not necessarily "equal
support" but to support students who need help.
- The other phrase was "academic assurances - basic education - for all students".
Staff says, on page 10, that "We have gaps in Academic Assurances that are the result of three things:
- site-based decisions to offer attractive programs
- district funding of enhancements of other programs/services
- the belief that prioritizes helping those students behind grade level in order to close the achievement gap.
My notes don't reflect a discussion around these items on page 10 which I read as problems to staff. If these are real problems that block academic assurances for all students, why wasn't that called out?
The gaps they call out specifically are:
- elementary counselors
- middle school intervention
- high school intervention
- high school career counselors
- assessments and technology
- summer school
The Families & Education levy will address at least some of those in a few schools. I know the levy covers middle school intervention, career counseling and summer school (for high school only).
Academic Assurances is defined as having four key components:
- Basic education
- Special Education
- ELL (English Language Learners)
- Highly Capable
A pyramid on page 13 shows "curricular foci" - STEM, language immersion and IB - at the top. The middle of the pyramid are the "required basic services for the 14,764 students that receive Special Ed (7,000), Highly Capable (2064) and ELL (5,700)"
It was interesting to hear the questions asked during the Work Session.
For example, when they were discussing arts funding, the directors seemed disturbed that some schools did not appear to have arts instruction. Staff explained that schools can use PCP funding but it doesn't always cover it. There was also the issue that some schools don't have a endorsed arts teacher but provide it through the integrated arts approach. It was stated that they analyzed outcomes and more students are likely to reach standard if they have an endorsed arts teacher.
They really need to get this program going stronger because the stronger this program (that will be integrating vocational ed WITH academics), the more students who will stay in school and graduate. They will graduate ready to go onto jobs (or apprenticeships) or onto further training in community college.
But staff said they need the following:
- locate space in north and southwest region for skills center
- address cross-city transportation concerns
- identify facility funding
Oh, is that all? Basically find space and money, not an easy task. I despair that this will fall by the wayside and it shouldn't.
Once again (and this is becoming a pattern), Director DeBell seemed to be complaining about the costs. Is he blaming Seattle for being a big district with services that attract more students? Is he saying the district doesn't deliver services in a cost-effective way? I just don't know.
The facts are these:
- State funding covers 12.7% of student population; SPS has 13.3%.
- the Special Ed budget is $82M and the local levy covers about $31.8M
Staff says there are more students than funding, more "high-needs students" coming online, there are related services support activities to pay for and the need for more school psychologists. But the next page, they gone on to say the next steps are to overhaul the delivery model, more PD and increase staffing-related services. Do the two match up? I'm not sure they do.
Again, as with Sped, the "gaps" the staff names don't exactly match what they say they need.
Gaps; PD for teachers and administrators (presumably because of more inclusion classrooms); teachers who are dual-endorsed in ELL and general ed; transportation; number of languages (111)
Next steps: community engagement and PD
One interesting item to note is the statement that was made that, for some ELL families, if they don't have services at their neighborhood school, they will opt out of services to stay at their neighborhood school.
I hadn't noticed this until now but unlike Sped and ELL, there is no "gaps" page for AL. There is only next steps. Those are:
- evaluate the student identification process
- evalute the current service delivery model (current model requires additional funding)
- revise Board policy
- ALO supported by PD for differentiated instruction
Again, I didn't hear any discussion around these items even though what it appears to say is "change the whole thing." And, no, I don't know what "current model requires additional funding" means (but I'll ask).
Director Martin-Morris was very unhappy about the map on page 43. He said it showed almost no students in the southern end of the city. He said, "Who can explain this to me?" and got dead silence. They just moved on.
Director Carr asked about the funding they get for AL and asked if it was used for transportation and the AL office. Duggan Harmon said yes but not transportation, just testing and the office staff. (I believe those transportation dollars are a separate pot.)
Martin-Morris came back to his concern and said "How did this happen and what are we going to do about it?" I understand his concern but he's been on the Board for six years and nothing is any different from when he started (except for larger numbers in APP and the disintegration of Spectrum). I don't know how this is some big surprise to him.
He claims that families don't know if their child is capable. Well, that really isn't so since they started using MAP. Tolley said something I need to get clarified which was that MAP wasn't a "qualifier" for AL but a "screener."
Head of AL, Bob Vaughan, said that the distribution in the city mirrors nationwide and that there aren't that many southend students scoring that high. He said that those who do, their families do get contacted (and they use interpreters if necessary).
Martin-Morris seemed, well, to nearly blow a gasket and said his blood pressure had now gone up. He said he couldn't accept that there were so many "smart" kids in the northend and that there are not "bunches" of smart kids in the south end.
He's right, of course. What he is failing to understand is that there are many factors to not finding those "bunches." One is MAP. It's a computer-directed test. It might be possible that more students in the south-end, particularly kindergarteners, might not have as high use of computers as do some north-end students. Two, it may be the wrong test.
Shauna Health said that they need to look at a "nonverbal" test. She also said that some districts don't evaluate until second grade and use the COGAT test for all second graders (rather than the district using MAP).
Patu said that parents don't know how to access the testing. I'm not sure that's entirely true but maybe better outreach could help.
DeBell said "well we are only talking about 2% of our students and the other 98% are still waiting." That would seem to imply that he believes that AL students are getting their needs met and the majority of students are not. I will try to ask him about this.
He also started saying that there is not enough time in the school day to meet many goals (like arts). As I previously reported, there is talk of extending the day by a half-hour but that's also subject to labor negotiations.
He then said something kind of odd - He said it reminded him of our master facilities planning. "We had to measure every building and now we have to measure where things are and aren't."
This is the kind of thing that makes me go all Homer Simpson and saying, "Doh!" It constantly sound like the district needs to reinvent the wheel. They don't know where things are, why we are not compliant with the RCW around PE, how kids get access to arts, etc. Very discouraging.
What then came was a philosophical "cards on the table" discussion.
Martin-Morris said that "we need to go back to basics." He said the focus should be on basic education - how we define and compliance. He said the foundational pieces should be in place before we do other things. He said, "we may have to say no to some things until the foundation is solid."
Carr said the past is an influence. She said they can't be afford of change and that they need to ensure money that is allocated for certain things doesn't get changed because of site-based management. She also said they may have to look at another model for APP.
She also said it wasn't clear to her how program placement and the SAP will work.
President Smith-Blum said there are concerns around popular and successful programs. She said that they are getting good results with ELL students and immersion programs. She also said that they need to define "21st Century skills" like explaining a concept in another language.
DeBell said there had been 18 years of site-based management (really?) with five years of a strategic plan that was centrally-based. He said they never got all the basics into place. One fundamental mistake was never ensuring that we had a solid academic foundation at every school. He also said that "program placement is as much art as science."
Pegi McEvoy said that in terms of replicating successful programs and with new boundaries coming, they may have to consider some schools as option schools, not neighborhood schools.
Bob Boesche called for an "Assurances 2020" plan. He said that people ask him where they should move in Seattle for good schools and he wants to say "anywhere" because we can provide the academic assurances.
Carr said that defining authority is important because "if people are not clear on authority, the system won't be high-functioning and we will trip over each other."
Frankly, very worrying. I'm not sure this is the best framework and it certainly doesn't seem clear which priorities are the most important (to either staff or the Board).
There seems to be a divide on the Board about how to direct the Superintendent on what staff should concentrate on given needs and resources.
I think some on the Board have big ideas and hopes for new/exciting things for the district but I don't know. I said back when Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was here that really, the district just doesn't need a lot of new things coming at them. They need to get the foundation and the basics right - for all programs - before taking on more.