Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Oversight of Teaching and Learning

This afternoon we will finally get a management oversight work session for teaching and learning, you know, the school district's core mission.

Here is the presentation that will be made to the Board.

Here are some questions that the presentations makes me want to ask:

Slide 1: Why is this Part 1? How many parts will there be? What is included in each part?
Slide 3: The Slide is titled Department Functions but the divisions and groupings are odd. They are not by function. Why, for example, are Native American programs and Advanced Learning grouped with assessment and professional development? How are these part of a single function? Why are international education and ELL grouped together? Where would MTSS fit in this graphic? Isn't MTSS  one of the functions of Teaching and Learning?
Slide 4: Equitable Access: Can anyone provide an example of how Equitable Access replicates quality education? What work has been done to replicate our most successful programs? Where is TOPS II? How is access to authentic, legitimate advanced learning programs equitable?
Special Education: Who is providing Special Education compliance (the first function of the department listed on the previous slide)? 
Curriculum Assessment and Instruction: Where is the promised aligned curriculum for APP? How does the central administration "ensure" the delivery of instruction in classrooms? What action is taken when a deficiency is found? Where is MTSS in this support? Shouldn't it be listed here?
Slide 5: How did the Alliance for Education qualify as a Key Stakeholder? What is the criteria for membership to that group and what does it mean to be included? Why isn't the Alliance included among the "other community advocacy groups"? How are tax payers and the general public listed as both internal and external stakeholders? When did the District start to regard student families as internal stakeholders? How, exactly, are they treated as internal stakeholders?
Slide 6: Shouldn't relevant state and federal laws be listed here also? I'm thinking particularly of Title I, Title II, and IDEA.
Slide 7: How have we gone from having one Executive Director of schools in the Southeast, to having two, to now having none? How many years in the field for Zakiyyah McWilliams? Where are the program managers for Advanced Learning, Native American programs, Professional Development, and Equitable Access, the other functions listed on Slide 3? They are supposed to be part of this oversight session. Meanwhile, Special Education, REA, Executive Directors of Schools, and ELL, listed here, are supposed to be included in a separate Board Oversight session. Why are they included in this presentation? This slide has the first reference to College and Career Readiness and the first reference to Early Education. Where do they fit in the functions listed on Slide 3? Why doesn't the Org Chart match up with the Functions? Why doesn't the org chart match up with the Department Objectives? Who on this chart has responsibility for MTSS?
Slide 8: This has the first reference to Library Services. Where does Library Services fit in the functions on Slide 3, the support given on slide 4, and the org chart on slide 7? Why do elements shift in and out from slide to slide? Why don't we see all of the same elements on every slide? What is the budget for MTSS? Where does it appear on this spreadsheet?
Slide 10-12: What is the source for the Department Objectives? Who determined them? Some of them are from Board priorities for the year, but others have murkier origins. What is a Teaching and Learning Framework? Why does this slide claim that the Strategic Plan is complete? None of these measures are actual measures; they are vague goals. What are the metrics and benchmarks? Why don't the measures and the targets match? Isn't the IB program at Rainier Beach a curricular focus (as defined by policy 2200) and therefore not a district-level concern? Isn't Cleveland STEM a "rigorous college-level program" accessible to the southeast? What other regions do not have access to a "rigorous college-level program" or is it only the Southeast? Does every other comprehensive high school except Rainier Beach offer a rigorous college-level program? Is this an academic assurance? Are we committed to providing equitable access to this? Why isn't the implementation of MTSS a Department Objective?
Slide 13: Why aren't the contracts with tutoring companies listed here?
Slide 15: Why does this slide - number 15 - have the first mention of MTSS? If it is a major program then why isn't it in the org chart, the budget, the list of objectives, or the list of department functions?
Slide 16: What are program audits? When has there ever been a program audit? Where is the most recent audit of the Spectrum program, for example? Where is the most recent audit of our Special Education programs? Are there any audits of our math programs? Of our alternative programs? Of any programs? Are there any efforts whatsoever - through audits or otherwise - to determine the quality or efficacy of any of our programs? Let's remember that on slide 18 you list "Lack of program evaluation" as a weakness. How can we include program audits as an internal control on this slide and then, two slides later, acknowledge that we have no program evaluation? Board Policy 2090 requires the district to use a variety of assessment processes to determine the effectiveness of the instructional programs. How is this done? How do "training and interactions with other districts and organizations" constitute an internal control? The Native American Advisory Committee is listed as an internal control. What controlling authority do they have?
Slide 18: "Lack of program evaluation" is listed as a weakness. How do you intend to address this? How is the District fulfilling the requirement of Policy 2090 to assess the the effectiveness of our instructional programs? Couldn't the "Content area specialists with a high level of expertise" perform the evaluations? How can you identify this as a weakness, yet claim to have an "existing capacity for rigorous analysis of program effectiveness" as an opportunity? What is the existing capacity? "Core curricular and pedagogical expectations are not consistently defined and applied" is also identified as a weakness. Isn't this the principal's job? How is this a central administration duty? The "Lack of accountability structures to ensure fidelity of implementation" is listed as a threat, but to what extent are we seeking fidelity of implementation? How is this reconciled with academic freedom or even simply allowing teachers the necessary opportunity to innovate, improvise, and differentiate? Why is the collective bargaining agreement listed as both an opportunity and a threat? What other competing priorities in the district can trump our core mission of teaching and learning? Why are they allowed to take priority over academics?
Slide 19: The high school graduation rate represents a success. The other two measures do not.
Slide 24: There are only two goals described on the following slides, Implementation of CCSS and Academic Assurances. What happened to all of the other goals?
Slides 24-28: How can we be sure that the standards are treated as a floor rather than a ceiling? Why isn't Advanced Learning among the persons responsible along with ELL and Special Education on slides 27 and 28?
I'm sure that Mr. Tolley will have excellent answers ready for all of these questions and he would be delighted by the opportunity to demonstrate the strength of his department and the quality of their work by having the questions put to him by Board directors.


mirmac1 said...

"Why are international education and ELL grouped together?"

Because the brilliant minds downtown wish to build the international schools on the backs and dime of ELL students. Use their aides and teachers, use the students as "peer models" for little johnny. Could this be why a vietnamese immigrant student would get a spanish-speaking IA? Because one of the language offerings at the international school is spanish, maybe?

Carol Simmons said...


Thank you for your continued interest in our District's goals, objectives, and in this case the Teaching and Learning oversight. Thank you for asking important questions. Defining "stakeholder" is certainly of interest, among other questions.

Jon said...

This is a shockingly bad presentation clearly designed to obfuscate rather than provide information.

If the goal was to allow the board to do oversight, the presentation would start with a clear budget with each line item briefly explained and justified, the measurable impact of that spending per line item over the last few years, and then the plan for future spending.

This presentation obscures the budget picture, makes no attempt to tie metrics to the budget, and detaches "goals" from the budget. It's not a management plan, it's a smokescreen. It's designed to confuse. It's designed to keep the board from understanding the budget and what spending is going for so they don't change the spending.

The last half of the presentation is like a sad joke. Goals with measures that are the completion of the project (not measurable impact of the project) and where the person responsible isn't a person. This entire thing reads like someone who thinks the point of a bureaucracy is the bureaucracy itself.

Charlie Mas said...

Jon wrote: "This entire thing reads like someone who thinks the point of a bureaucracy is the bureaucracy itself."


Note the slide on strengths and threats - they are all about the bureaucracy, not the mission.

mirmac1 said...

Wow, thanks Jon. I thought I was just really dense.

You can figure that staff has been meeting one on one with directors, keeping them mollified and content. Then the smoke and mirrors come out, and the few parents in the audience will hear the powerpoint read aloud and the jargonspeak. Eyes will glaze. This is what Tolley will do for T&L.

mirmac1 said...

"Dear Seattle Public Schools community:

I am pleased to announce that Cashel Toner has been appointed as the new Director of Early Learning. This is a key role that we have been eager to fill with the right candidate.

In her new role, Ms. Toner will work with the Head Start manager and key public and private partners to create and implement a cross-sector plan. She will also provide professional development for early learning for those working with Pre-Kindergarten through 5th Grade.

Ms. Toner is currently the principal at Leschi Elementary, a position she has held since 2009. Previously, she was the principal at Loyal Heights Elementary and a teacher at Bagley Elementary. She has experience teaching Montessori pre-school, kindergarten, Montessori kindergarten/first grade and second grade summer school. She has been extensively involved in the work that has been occurring in the Early Learning department.

The hiring team — which included the Executive Director of Schools, the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, content managers, principals and city partners — was particularly impressed with Ms. Toner’s leadership style and her district work with Montessori focus and PreK–5 literacy. Her knowledge of PreK–5 instruction, engagement with current partners and grants experience provide a basis for the work to continue. Her vision for Early Learning will enable the department to grow.

Ms. Toner earned a Master’s in Teaching from Seattle University with an elementary endorsement and completed her undergraduate degree from the same school, majoring in humanities. She holds an Educational Specialist degree (Ed. S.) in education administration with principal certification, and received a Readers Workshop Administrative Supervision certificate.

For the remainder of the school year, Ms. Toner will continue to serve as Leschi principal, while also beginning her new duties, and will divide her time between the school and JSCEE. We will be providing additional administrative support to Leschi Elementary.

Please join me in congratulating Cashel Toner on her selection as the Director of Early Learning."

Anonymous said...

Are there really 5.2 FTE assigned to Advanced Learning? If so, who are they, and what do they do? The AL page doesn't show this many staff, and it's always a chore to reach anyone in that office...


Melissa Westbrook said...

HIMS, that struck me as odd as well.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

regarding the AL FTE count, is it possible it's not full-time employees, but the cost of all the testers they use in October? it seems impossible they have 5.2 year-round FTE given how very little comes from that office.

parent of 2

mirmac1 said...

repost (Anonymous sign your post):

"Did you see the letter yesterday to Leschi families from Jose Banda and the flip side of the letter the letter from Cashel Toner saying that she is leaving Leschi to be the new Director of Early Learning and in the meantime SPS will give administrative support to LEschi to make up for the days that Toner is not at Leschi for the remainder of the year?"

My concern is that, it seems nearly every Banda appointment is part of the old MGJ/Enfield crowd. The only outside hire has been Z Williams for SpEd. I seem to recall seeing Toner's name on emails among the reform insiders....

Anonymous said...

My concern is that the board are too busy to follow up on these matters, let alone notice them in first place. More and more, I think the board is falling behind. We should have a paid board, not a volunteer board. The district is too big and the board is really becoming a little worse than window dressing, because you can always choose not to look at what's in the window but can you choose to not be impacted by reactive poor decision making? I also think the teaching and learning ppt presentation is quite awful. It was a mistake to put Tolley in charge of that department. What does he bring to organizational change and good management? When I look at the presentation, I see a bunch of silos that are going to continue to be a bunch of silos. It goes along with the really poorly targeted professional development plan they rolled out last month - something for everyone standing for nothing changing for anyone. It's all so squishy and fuzzy and we are the world. Like a mini strategic plan where they aren't getting beyond the vision statements. Really, this is Seattle Public Schools 2013.


mirmac1 said...

well, reader, gotta keep those folks at JSCEE relevant somehow, huh.

Note that A4E/LEV got their wish, we'll be paying for a raft of consulting principals, consulting teachers, mentor teachers etc etc. Yeah, we got money for that. Those are the folks who are set up for training, not the people actually teaching our kids.

Eric B said...

I don't know about any recent history, but I had a good experience with Cashel Toner as principal. She did what principals are supposed to do--supporting the teachers doing the right thing and holding feet to the fire where they weren't.