Monday, February 15, 2016

Work Session Thursday on Race and Equity Initiative

This week the Board will hold a Work Session on SMART Goal #2 – MTSS-B. (The district has now created an MTSS-A and MTSS-B. “A” is about “success in academics” and “B” is for “attitudes, beliefs and belonging.” They wait until pages 13-14 to define MTSS overall.)

This is such a large issue that I’ll write two parts to this thread. One, what this Work Session going to be discussing and two, the theory behind these ideas. The work session is three hours long for two topics (the other is the Board self-evaluation.) But it would appear the bulk of the Work Session is for the first topic. The Powerpoint is quite long and, sadly, is so chockfull of ed jargon on race and equity that you can’t quite make out what will truly be happening. And that’s a pity because this is work that is needed.
Missing – and shockingly so – is what lessons this district has learned from past efforts. One is the African-American Academy which was created for African-American children in the district, with planning and direction by mostly African-American educators and leaders. I know there is a whole story in there why this school failed with many reasons. But the district did try and, in the end, failed. Is there nothing they can learn from that painful and lengthy experiment that they might bring to bear here? Not a mention.
Also, missing from this large and overarching initiative? Costs. Not a word about what it will all cost or where the money will come from.
Here’s the goal for all of this:
To transform the Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behavior of every adult and educator in order to recognize the brilliance and genius of every single child in Seattle Public Schools.
I think the intent is great but I'm not fond of the phrasing. The first part of the sentence is a transformation that I don’t think ANY entity can make happen. It’s not because “adults and educators” don’t want to learn better ways to learn about their students and support them, but changing attitudes, beliefs and behavior all rolled up into one is a heavy lift.
Second, it’s probably just me but I don’t believe every child is brilliant and a genius (even my own.) I think every single child has the ability to learn and that we seek out the best ways to maximize that learning. I think every child has gifts to share (my version of brilliance) but I think aspirational language can sometimes get in the way of action. It’s like giving every kid a gold star. At some point, they will understand that you are giving everyone a gold star so what does it really mean?
The presentation goes on to say:
The biggest shifts will not come from “changing” our students; rather, they must evolve from the transformation of our teaching practices, leadership practices and organizational practices.
Again, that’s a HUGE sea change for an entire system.

One item that jumped out at me - on page 12 – the district says that “strong differentiated core instruction” is “foundational.” Also in this category are “school-wide behavioral expectations identified, taught, re-taught, and reinforced.”

As well, here’s other good news:
Expands intervention and supports to students below, at and/or above benchmarks.
This may be where a revamping of Advanced Learning comes into play.

Under this umbrella of MTSS-B are:

  • targeted universalism,
  • best practices for African-American males,
  • school racial equity teams,
  • cultural proficiency,
  • CIPs and community engagement.

“Signature Strategies” include: Positive Beliefs, Positive Relationships and Positive Learning.
I get a bit confused when they start the charts and graphs in page 18. The graph on page 18 shows teacher survey results from what they are calling “high growth” schools versus “low-growth” schools. Clearly, there appear to be things happening at high-growth schools – given their test scores – that may not be happening at low-growth schools. Some of that could seem a principal issue. And nowhere do they account for income which I would guess is a concern at many schools.

Page 20 is interesting and confusing. It’s a Comparison of Discipline Data. It looks from Sept-Jan. 2014-2015 to Sept-Jan 2015-2016, “all discipline incidents” dropped across all categories of elementary, middle and high school. It is especially dramatic in middle schools from 1124 to 707. At the bottom is “out of school time” (which I’m going to assume means suspensions) for African-American students and they give a percentage for that group from the total (without actually giving a total which is not so helpful.)

Page 22 talks about “Hattie” and that is a reference to John Hattie.
John Hattie developed a way of ranking various influences in different meta-analyses according to their effect sizes. In his ground-breaking study “Visible Learning” he ranked those influences which are related to learning outcomes from very positive effects to very negative effects on student achievement.
The page says that “classroom management is fifth” but from the “Visible Learning” page, it appears to be sixth.

Page 34 has a list of the current equity team school sites. It’s unclear to me whether the ones in 2014-2015 are still going and the ones listed for 2015-2016 are added to that list.

Page 35 lists dates and times for Race & Equity Institutes on different issues surrounding the subject but I am unclear who might be able to attend these.

What I think I understand about this initiative (whose name I am unsure of except, “MTSS-B.”):
By the end of October, they will finalize plans and start to enact them to improve academic outcomes for African-American males and other students of color. These strategies, and the lessons learning, “will be applied to support the learning of each and every student, as needed.

The Central office will need a program manager to “collect and use district-level and school specific behavior data and reports” and a program manager “to develop behavioral Health Services Delivery Model.” It is unclear if it’s one or two managers.

Somehow pre-K is part of this, I assume, in schools that have pre-K. This is on page 29.

The African-American Think Tank is developing a 5-year “action plan,” says

  • establish an African-American Males Scholars department,
  • implement “cultural (sic) responsive professional development” for AA males
  • streamline efforts to eliminate opportunity gaps and break down silos,
  • intentional collaboration between proposed AAMS dept and other departments/schools.

I can’t support a whole department for this effort. The district has a Race and Equity department that can have this initiative as part of its mission.

Page 39 has a number of items but I’m not sure what it all means or how it will be implemented. One of them “equity onboarding” for all new employees will add another amount of time/cost to HR.

Pages 41-43 are schools with CSIPs but I’m not sure how they picked what schools to put here, but probably those with higher African-American student populations. I was surprised to see South Shore Prek-8 is below district average in four out of six testable levels in Reading. The numbers included there are not good.


Anonymous said...

Link to presentation:


Anonymous said...

" The Powerpoint is quite long and, sadly, is so chockfull of ed jargon on race and equity that you can’t quite make out what will truly be happening. And that’s a pity because this is work that is needed."

I agree. The presentation does not inspire confidence in the plan. I got especially frustrated by the end, pp. 41-43, where it appears that no one even bothered to read through the sentences before publishing them. At first I was heartened that the CSIPs named an individual as the owner of each specific goal (accountability!), but then they reverted to illiterate vagueness (e.g., "the person responsible for this goal is 3-5 Teachers").

(Also, the slide header "Evidence of CSIPs" is comical. Evidence of what, that they exist?)


Charlie Mas said...

Are those CSIPs supposed to be good examples or bad examples?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, I found the whole thing unwieldy and hard to follow. The titling for each page didn't help.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering the same, Charlie. For one, they focus on academics, not behavioral, which is supposed to be the whole point of this presentation. And two, at Chief Sealth the targeted academic gains are LOWER for the groups they are trying to boost, meaning they would lose ground overall.


Anonymous said...

I've never met a African American. I do personally know many black Americans and when asked, responded they find the label African American to be offensive. They are Americans.

Who's driving this new cultural divide? Somewhere in this there must be more welfare cash for SPS.

Just American

Charlie Mas said...

For the past fifteen years one of my top criticisms of Seattle Public Schools has been that despite claims that closing the gap is their top goal, they have never developed a plan to achieve it. What kind of organization fails (or refuses) to draft a plan to achieve their top stated goal? Now, after fifteen years, they are actually writing a plan to close the gap, and that is good. I fully support that. I just can't make heads or tails of their plan.

They have all of these diverse initiatives that are all part of the effort to close the gap and they are right to note the lack of coordination among them. It's good that they see that and are working to address it. But I can't tell if MTSS is the effort to close the gap and all of the other initiatives are folded in under the MTSS umbrella, or if MTSS is just one element of a diverse set of initiatives to close the gap. What's the organizational structure at work here?

Anonymous said...

Hattie's Visible Learning considered six areas, below, that contribute to learning, and ranked factors within each area:
*teaching and learning approaches

The SPS report cited one area, school, and the relative rank given to classroom management. Where to begin? The ranking shows effect sizes as well. For school specific factors, the ranking (and effect size) was as follows:

Acceleration (0.88)
Classroom behavioral (0.8)
Classroom cohesion (0.53)
Peer influences (0.53)
Classroom management (0.52)
Small group learning (0.49)

...and the list goes on. It's not just the rank that's important, but the relative effect size. "Classroom management," "peer influences," and "classroom cohesion" have similar effect sizes. But, wow, look at "classroom behavioral." It has an effect size of 0.8, much higher than the factors that are ranked 3rd, 4th, etc.

Do you know what curricula factor had the highest effect size? "Vocabulary programs" (0.67), followed not far after by "phonics instruction" (0.60). "Whole language" was ranked dead last, with an effect size less than 0.1.

Under teaching and learning approaches "direct instruction" had an effect size of 0.59 (still higher than classroom management), and "inquiry based teaching" had an effect size of only 0.31.

If SPS were really going to use Hattie's analyses to inform their teaching and learning approaches, then we'd see a very different SPS, with no Discovering Algebra or CMP, and with phonics based reading over whole language instruction. To use the ranking, while ignoring the effect sizes, shows a limited understanding of Hattie's work.

-long sigh

Charlie Mas said...

On slide #3 they talk about Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behavior.
On slide #4, 5, and 11 they talk about Attitudes, Beliefs, and Belonging.
On slide #6 they talk about Beliefs, Relationships and Learning.
Why aren't these aligned? Why aren't they mentioned again? Behavior shows up again on the MTSS Progress graphic (slide #8), but to represent all of MTSS-B. Is that the relationship? If MTSS-B the Behavior part of Attitudes, Beliefs and Behavior, then why, on slide #11, do they say that MTSS-B focuses on success in attitudes, beliefs, and belonging? Is MTSS-B really about attitudes and beliefs or is it only about behavior? Slide #12, which describes MTSS talks about behavior, but not attitudes and beliefs. Slide #16 repeats this, with MTSS divided into two areas: academic and behavioral. Slide #47, the last slide in the deck, finally reveals that it is the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the adults that need to change - not the kids. Sorry. I should have said "spoiler alert".

On Slide #15, which bemoans the isolated efforts of different teams, the elements are broken out differently as academic, behavioral, and social-emotional. I'm not sure how social-emotional are different from behavior. What team is working on social-emotional but not behavior and what team is working on behavior but not social-emotional well-being? Is it the MTSS team? They are about behavior with no mention of social-emotional. But on slide #29, MTSS Tier 1 includes social-emotional learning.

What's in MTSS and what is not? Can we get some clarity on this?

Slide #9 is interesting. It suggests that a belief in equity gave rise to the policy, which gave rise to the plan, which required Equity Leadership Development, which supports the Cultural Proficiency Continuum, which results in Cultural[ly] Responsive Pedagogy. But what the heck is Cultural[ly] Responsive Pedagogy and how will we know when we have it?

Slide #18, with the teacher survey results makes it pretty clear that leadership is the problem. The biggest differences between the "good" schools and the "bad" schools is "The school has a consistent process..." and "The school implements a clear plan..." This is on the principal. That should be clear. I'm not sure it is.


Charlie Mas said...

... continued

The Hattie stuff has been reviewed more expertly than I can review it, so I won't speak to that.

I do like this statement: "challenges faced by particular segments of society are
not individual problems or isolated circumstances". This speaks directly to the discipline data. The disproportional outcomes in academics and discipline is often brushed off as a set of individual choices - they are not.

I'm also happy to see people talking about the consequences of trauma, which we see on slides #26 and 27. I see a number of slides about Central Office Infrastructure and Support, but I don't get any sense of what any of these Central Office people will do. For example, there will be a Central Office Review Team that will make a monthly review of the data. Then what? What action - if any - will result? And now I see that the District is establishing a new service: Behavioral Health Services. Is this akin to Advanced Learning Services, ELL Services, Special Education Services, and the other Services in the District. If so, this is huge undertaking, if not, then what the heck is it?

Slide #31 says that the establishment of a African American Male Scholars Department is in progress. So they have decided to move forward with that?

Slide #34 says that there are Equity Teams at 21 schools. And what are they going to do? Seriously, what do they do? Let's say that they identify some inequity. Then what?

I have read slide #37 and I have no idea what a Cultural Proficiency Continuum is. No idea at all. It's completely opaque. Same with Culturally Responsive Pedagogy on slide #38. It looks like lip service.

I see that, going forward, all CSIPs will be required to include strategies "to create positive outcomes for African-American males and other underserved groups". And what if they don't? Let's remember that all CSIPs are supposed to include strategies for serving Advanced Learners, but they don't. Who will enforce this rule? Who will require the CSIP to be anything more than a meaningless form? The sample from Aki Kurose specifically calls out African American male students, but I cannot believe that this is being held up as a good model with the horrendous lack of care exercised in writing it.

The community engagement slides, #45 and 46, are just as tone-deaf as ever.

mirmac1 said...

It appears that, based on this presentation, it's still okay to have inequity, bias, disproportionate discipline and bias against students with disabilities. SPS once again embarks on a path that excludes and divides.

Yeah and Just American (native?), I'd love Boeing's or Microsoft's welfare cash.

Anonymous said...

It's nauseating listening to LEV members speak to helping black students like they're referring to pound dogs and all the while sipping their cocktails.

Middle class

Charlie Mas said...

All of this is predicated on the implementation of differentiated instruction, which is not in evidence. Seattle Public Schools has not demonstrated the ability (or inclination) to implement differentiated instruction on any scale or with any reliability.

In the absence of differentiation instruction (that is to say "In the real world") this is all nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, why do you equate MTSS with differentiated instruction? I thought MTSS was just the new jargon for RTI, and lots of tier1 RTI interventions are things like move student's chair, provide homework checklist, provide fatter pencils, and other interventions not directly linked to curriculum.


Melissa Westbrook said...

LisaG I think he did because it is part of the presentation and that's what they say they will be doing. It's in the thread.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think I get it now. Slides 13 and 17 seem to be SPS saying "strong differentiated core instruction" is the basic education model, and interventions (for ~20% of students) would be on top of that. And then slide 9 seems to be saying that SPS is already delivering the "strong differentiated core instruction".

And then Charlie is calling BS that they're delivering the foundation, so why bother talking about the tiers on top of that?