They then published the editorial about SPS and its leadership (and egging on the Mayor and the City Council to try to take control of the Board).
I find this quite troubling because frankly, it seems like the Times is hell-bent on doing everything they can to undermine the Board to the point of undermining the entire district. It is hard to get the message out about the myriad of good things in this district if media only wants to write about the problems and/or bang out the same tired stories about the Board and district leadership.
But the Times' loss is our gain. Here's what Director McLaren has to say.
Seattle Public Schools are ThrivingAugust 29, 2014
This week many Seattle Public Schools families received a “failing school” letter, required by law, because our state’s schools did not receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. Seattle Public Schools applied for a waiver, but as of this writing, the district not been notified whether our unique teacher contract qualifies SPS for it.
We who participate in the District’s work know our schools are not failing. In fact, most of our schools are flourishing and showing more improvement each year. Our teachers are teaching and getting results. Seattle Public School students keep doing better and better, despite the frequent turnover of district leaders, and severely inadequate funding. Why? The answer tells an important story about an extraordinary community of educators, support staff, volunteers, and families – all becoming more expert at meeting the challenges of urban public education. The heart of this tale is that incredibly vibrant leadership abounds within Seattle’s community of educators and their allies.
Seattle Public Schools can point to myriad accomplishments, despite having had four Superintendents over the last 7 years. The state Superintendent of Public Instruction website details SPS’s steady increases in most measures of student academic success, at a rate that outperforms students statewide. What drives this progress? It is the relentless focus of remarkably talented, dedicated educators, aided by support staff, district leaders, volunteers, philanthropists, and civic leaders – people who eagerly shoulder responsibility, to motivate and empower our students.
SPS educators are learning to do what works. Teacher practices that bring continuous improvement are many, varied, thoughtful and systematic. Our new Strategic Plan says it succinctly: “Every Student, Every Classroom, Every Day.” New this year, metrics for our Strategic Plan goals clearly identify Opportunity Gaps so that we can measure our progress in closing those gaps for historically underserved groups. Also, SPS’s “Multi-Tiered Systems of Support” expands in this, its second year. MTSS assists teachers in offering individualized help to struggling students.
In classrooms, I see students stretching to master stimulating challenges, and teachers stretching to inspire and support students seamlessly. Last year: One third grader had written a story about her extended family in English, yet she read it out loud to me in her native Spanish, translating effortlessly. A fearless sophomore volunteered to participate on SPS’s Math Adoption Committee. A group of multi-racial high schoolers created a video of interviews, with classmates speaking out honestly and insightfully about their experiences with racism.
Strong leadership is also evident among the School Board Directors--a group of smart, passionate individuals, people of integrity and courage, who give over a large part of their lives in service to our students. I am honored to be part of that Board. The work we do, in constant dialogue with staff and community members, often challenges and stresses us. We practice patience, perseverance, and flexibility. Board turnover is likely every two years with the election cycle, so relationships need continual rebalancing. Tensions arise and sometimes come out publicly-- a sign of strenuous, ongoing work by Directors and Central Office leaders. The surprising unanimity of this distinctly varied School Board derives from our determination to function productively-- together, with staff, and with all of our constituents – we all participate, both in leading and pushing the district towards excellence. Our goal is to understand and meet the needs of our students and inspire them to their highest potential.
So to our families, who have received this letter telling them about their failing school, I want you to know that we members of the district are proud of Seattle Public Schools. Our 52,000 students – each and every one of them – are on paths to success.
It’s true we have enormous work still to do, yet the citizens of Seattle can – and should -- justly take pride in Seattle Public Schools. With our collective knack for leadership, our schools are making real progress. That’s news worthy of front page coverage!
Seattle Public Schools, District VI