Friday, November 20, 2015

Good News About Long-requested Improvements

One of the recurring themes among the criticisms of Seattle Public Schools centers on annual reports. These reports are required by policy but either the reports simply are not made, such as the report required by Policy 3208, Sexual Harassment, or the reports clearly fail to meet the requirements listed in the policy, such as the quarterly and annual reports required by Policy 2200, Equitable Access to Programs & Services.

You should all be familiar with the routine. Each year the superintendent and staff submits a woefully inadequate report. Each year I complain about it and beg the Board to demand a compliant report. Each year the Board accepts the report without complaint. Each year the culture of non-compliance is strengthened and transparency is weakened.

But this year there's something new. This year the superintendent and the staff are bringing forward a different kind of report for Policy 2090, Program Evaluation & Assessment.

Take a look at the agenda for the Board Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting of November 9. Scroll all the way down to page 163 - five pages from the end - and you will see the draft of the annual report.

The staff has taken a few important steps:

  1. They have acknowledged that the policy requires a report.
  2. They have acknowledged the value of such a report.
  3. They are working on a plan to deliver a report.

Now, before we go out and get all mushy with gratitude, please remember:

  • The District staff are not providing a report that meets the requirements of the policy this year. They continue to be out of compliance with the policy.
  • The staff haven't promised that they will deliver this report next year either. They will continue to be out of compliance with the policy for at least another year.
  • The staff has promised to provide this report in previous years; a promise they have failed to fulfill. This is nothing more than a more elaborate promise to do better in future. It works as a stalling tactic and may be nothing more than that.
  • The staff haven't made any promises about which programs the report will review - it clearly will not review them all as good management practice would suggest and the policy requires.
  • The plan for producing the report is the usual District-style "inaction" plan. The are developing a timetable for crafting a plan to determine how they will fulfill the requirement. Not only are they not taking any action, they are at least three steps away from feeling ready to start taking action.
  • All they have really produced is about forty-five minutes worth of brainstorming. They have some draft goals for the report, some draft managerial elements of the report, some draft analysis elements of the report, and some examples of the sort of programs they might (or might not) review. Some of those programs, such as the community partnerships and the "Strategic" programs, are not covered by the policy which speaks specifically to academic programs.
It would be great if someone on the Board saw this and said "No. This doesn't meet the requirements of the policy. You have promised this report for years without delivering it. Time is up. You have 90 days to produce the required report. No more delays, no more action plans, no more excuses, we want the report and we want it in 90 days. And give us the sexual harassment report by the time as well."

Even if that didn't happen in the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting, it could still happen at the full board meeting where this report will be presented.

But we all know that isn't going to happen, so we have to be satisfied with this stalling tactic and pretend that it represents progress. Yes, this sad, back of the envelope Powerpoint will buy the superintendent and the staff another two years - maybe more - before anyone on the Board wonders why they still refuse to provide the required report.


Anonymous said...

Certainly the lack of report was discussed as part of Nyland's review.

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