Thursday, April 09, 2015

Preschool/Families&Education - City Continues to Expand in SPS

I'm behind on my threads about work sessions and meetings so in playing catch up, I'm going to combine two alike topics.  (The Families and Education Work Session, however, was a combo with two other disparate topics but I will circle back as there is definitely a feeling of a consolidation of power that may signal a speeding up of, well, someone's agenda for public education in Seattle.)

Briefly, the Preschool Work Session took place on Feb. 27, 2015.  Since that time, the entire City Council has signed off of the Implementation Plan which means the partnership agreement between the district and the City should be making its draft appearance soon.

I'll have to add this to the list of acroynms but DEEL is the one for the City's Department of Early Learning and Education.

To Review:
  •  there will be a "First Priority Tier" which will be preschools in areas "where public elementary schools have records of low achievement."  
  •  by 2017, there will be a tiebreaker for preschools with existing contracts with SPS that have capacity to expand to new locations
  • as well agencies that have preschools within an attendance area of a school where the percentage of incoming Ks in attendance has increased by more than 10% over the last two years
  • the City wants to use the district's middle school regions for deciding who gets into preschools if there are more students than seats
  • they want to open 14 preschools by next year but it is unclear where
  • Directors were assured that Sped children will be served
  • the City says they want a geographic spread but looking at the district scattermap they are using, it appears that most of them will be somewhere in the south end  (I note that a recent mailing on meetings for preschool providers are just two in number, one in the south end and one in the Central district.  That seems rather targeted.)
Key Issues for Partnership
  • Data-sharing - this seems to be one of the top issues.  The district is already sharing data thru the Families&Education levy.  It is unclear to me, though, who else gets to see this data.
  • Enrollment - the City seems eager to use the district's already existing infrastructure and knowledge of enrollment procedures.  However, as both Directors Carr and Blanford did point out at the work session in late February, any use of district resources - personnel, resources or both - will have to be paid for by the City.  I note that this seemed to make President Burgess bristle somewhat but oh well.
  • Holly Miller, DEEL's head, said that preschool providers will be creating portfolios for each student and passing them onto kindergarten teachers.  I'll be interested to see what they look like and if the City will pass them along to any kindergarten class or just public school ones.  Who owns those? The provider?  The City?  Will parents have access to them?
  • And, of course, locations in Seattle Schools.
Families and Education Work Session - March 24, 2015

What appeared to be the 2013-2014 Annual Report to the district by the City on the programs funded and run through the City via the Families&Ed levy seemed to morph into something else.  From my view, it was a bit of "look at how our programs work versus how you (the District) are doing."

The City's Innovation Elementary School program does reach more minority, ELL and Sped students than do the average elementary school but then, isn't that the point?  (The City also has Innovation middle schools and high schools.)

The next section of the presentation was evaluation of the progress/outcomes of "innovation investments."  

Innovation Elementaries
These include: Cohort 1 (year 2) Beacon Hill, Madrona K-8, Olympic Hills, Roxhill,
Cohort 2 (year 1) Graham Hill Highland Park, South shore, Wing Luke.

There were two sections to measure - indicators and outcomes.

Surprising, the cohorts that were in year 2 did worse than those in year 1.  The worst for Indicators? Madrona K-8.  I believe - considering the long underenrollment of Madrona in a relatively newish building - that combined with these results, it means someone should be taking a long, hard look at overhauling that program.  It is wrong to underenroll any building at this point.

The worst for Outcomes? Roxhill.

Meanwhile Wing Luke aced 4 of 4 Indicators and 2 of 2 Outcomes.  So did Graham Hill and Highland Park.


What was also interesting was to read the interpretation of Innovation Middle Schools "showing positive academic growth for math and reading."  For the schools under this moniker, my reading of the chart which was from 2011-2014, was not growth but flat line.  The schools in this City group ARE doing better overall than other middle schools (about 67% for regular and 75% for City) but there is almost no growth to speak of for the City schools.

For 6-8th graders entering below grade level, the City schools were doing better than other Seattle schools in math but again, mostly flat-lined in reading.

Looking at the graphs, I'm not sure I see a huge different between outcomes but for the populations at the schools the City is supporting, a little difference is important.

Part Three of the City's presentation got the shortest shrift for Board Directors and I'm sorry that it did.  (The City just cannot seem to create presentations that fit the timeframe AND allow for questions.)

And, this was the part where, as the more I read, the more concerned I got. 

Its title was innocuous enough - "Levy Efforts to Support District Goals."  So what's the problem?

Many of them seemed to insinuate the City into more and more of the District's own work.

- promotion of "sound, standards-based grading principles throughout Levy schools" - okay, is that saying that the District isn't doing that?  And, what's the difference in grading practices?

- "provision of custom data analysis to schools to inform strategy course corrections" Yes, this is good but again, does that "course correction" come from suggestions from the City or does the district take the data and decide?

- the City asks the question, "Is the Levy helping the district achieve their key goals?"  In slide after slide, the answer is "yes."  Which is great but the charts seemingly base that answer on one "milestone."  Can the City say - with certainty -that it's their work that is moving the needle or a combination of factors?  And, if it is a combination of factors, how to weight the City's efforts?

(The City does say that the needle has not moved - for two years - for 9th graders earning enough credits for on-time promotion.)

What comes nearly at the end is a chart that shows a decidedly mixed outcome for programs in schools across the board.

So then we come to "course corrections."  And here's where the City seems to be giving a lot of advice/direction to the District.

Need Identified - Consistency/Stability in School Levy Team staffing

- collaborate with District to minimize impact of school leadership changes
- develop "systems and tools" for Levy team staff to insure that "course corrections" and strategies get implemented from year to year
- "deploy" annual calendar, walk-through templates, quarterly checklists and intervention reports.  Could this all be useful?  Yes.  Is some of this already done within SPS?  Probably.  That's a lot of paper flying around.
- support schools in deploying 'Professional Learning Communities' to help principals and tecachers use data " to inform instruction and refine levy strategy implementation.

That last one is disturbing.  Are our schools not already striving to be 'professional learning communities.  Is it the City's job to inform instruction?  

Need Identified - Teacher PD to implement Common Core standards

- launch a summer "teacher and leadership academy" with UW's College of Ed to help teachers/principals the opportunity to analyze CC math and reading.
- provide four full-day professional development opportunities focusing on non-ficiton reading for all 9th grade content area teachers.  

Need Identified - Support for school-level data analysis
- collect and report school-specific intervention-level data.  Yikes! That is code for "more data and more in-depth data."  Funny that the title of the need didn't say that but that is exactly what it would mean.
- coordinate with SPS' Technology department to "refine district-issued school reports."  The City wants to help/advise/tell the District how to shape data for school reports?
- collaborate with SPS to release two new Community-Based Organization reports containing early warning indicator information (e.g. attendance, courses, behavior data) for students served.  Ding, ding, ding.  Again, more data and more PII data.  

I'll be blunt - a lot of this smacks to me of thinking the City thinks the District:
- either doesn't know how to do its job
- either isn't doing its job
- the City wants the job

I will have another thread on this troubling trend that leads me to believe that the Families and Education has morphed to a Trojan horse in SPS.  Or like kudzu in Florida, spreading itself everywhere and gaining a greater and greater foothold in what the district does.


Robert Cruickshank said...

The Families and Education Levy was intended to help fill in the social services gaps that existed thanks to the lack of state funding. It originally funded valuable "wraparound services" like before and after school tutoring, school based health clinics, and more. These services are extremely important and make a big difference.

The 2011 Levy was sold to voters on those lines. Unfortunately, the Levy has morphed into something different under Tim Burgess. It now is a vehicle for imposing standardized tests and all sorts of other undesired education reform policies on our schools. Burgess and Holly Miller even wants to give Levy funds to charter schools, despite strong and deep opposition among Seattle residents to charter schools. They also refused to provide desperately needed funding from the Levy to Rainier Beach High School for several years.

The city has lost its way on the Levy, and it is in danger of failing to meet its original objectives of filling in the gaps and providing important services. We need to urge all City Council candidates in this year's elections to fight against this trend and restore the original promise and purpose of the Levy.

The Councilmembers elected this year will shape the next Levy when it comes up for renewal in 2018. They need to step up and rein in the DEEL, and it is up to us to insist that they do so.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, interesting that between the work session on the F&E levy and the work session on charter schools, no one at the table ever asked or raised the issue of whether F&E dollars HAVE to go to any charters in Seattle.

The language of the charter law is somewhat vague on this point.

Very Creepy said...

It is more than creepy that Seattle's Mayor- Ed Murray- hired Jesus Aguirre for the Parks Department.

Aguirre worked as Superintendent of Operations in Washington DC under Michelle Rhee's watch. He owned a charter school and worked as Superintendent of Washington DC schools.

Arguirre does have parks experience, but I find his extensive experience in education a bit concerning- especially since we see a mini Arne Duncan in Burgess, and we're seeing more Family and Education dollars being used in a different manner.

Rumor: Holly Miller will leave Murray's brand new Department of Education. Who will fill Miller's spot? It is worth watching to see whether or not Murray places Aguirre into the city's education department.

We all know that Murray/Burgess seek mayoral control of public education.

It is time to reign in the city. Yet, Nyland has proven himself to carry water for the Gates Foundation (by asking the board to consider becoming a charter school authorizer). Would Nyland help the Gates Foundation transfer governance systems to the city?

The city has enough staff to run SPS and I've never felt comfortable with the city hiring 42 individuals for their prek program.