Sunday, March 26, 2017

What's Next for Seattle Schools?

I'll ask that question because apparently, the district isn't going to ask you.

I bring this up after reading thru the presentation for last week's Work Session with one section about SMART goals and the other about the budget.  Here's the title for the SMART goals:

Selection of the 2017-18 Board Governance Priorities & Superintendent SMART Goals ... for next year.

Our goals help the Board and staff:

a) Focus on: a few, high-priority and high-impact goals. Note: Over the last few years we have gone from 12 > 9 > 7 > 5 goals

b) Aligned to the Board-adopted 2013-18 Strategic Plan. Note: Our goals are now fully aligned to our strategic plan.
First, that's great that the Board and senior staff finally realized that having too many goals dilutes the focus and the work. Also great is that their goals are aligned to the strategic plan.

However, despite the rubric that staff uses to judge the implementation and output of these goals, I'm not quite sure I have ever seen how/when they know they have achieved them.  Is complete implementation the goal or outcomes (to some degree) or both? 

So their three big goals over the last three years were:
  • MTSS
  • EOG - Eliminate the Opportunity Gap
  • Community Engagement

As a result: we are a high performing district outperforming our peers and each year we increase the number of positive outlier schools – leading the way state-wide in eliminating opportunity gaps.
This is also good news but I note that is for our state.  Nationally, still not great.

Now is the time to consider new large initiatives for the 2017-18 school year. After the adoption of these goals in June, other new initiatives would be pushed into the 2018-19 goal setting. 
Due to capacity of the Board, staff and financial considerations, we are asking Directors to select a maximum of 5 goals. There will also be budget impacts for each goal. Staff have developed a starting framework based on: a continuation of our Goal 1 (MTSS) and Goal 2 (EOG) work; and Board feedback/interests expressed during the year.
Here's the timeline for this goal-setting work:

Timeline/Next Steps

  • March 22, 2017: Work Session - Directors share ideas for potential 2017-18 SMART Goals, review and offer feedback on staff recommendations, and narrow list of possible goals
  • April 2017: Work Session - Directors review draft rubrics and refine list of possible 17-18 Goals
  • June 1, 2017: Executive Committee
  • June 7, 2017: Regular Board Meeting - Intro of 2017-18 Governance Priorities and Superintendent
    SMART Goals and Rubrics
  • June 28, 2017: Regular Board Meeting - Action on 2017-18 Governance Priorities and Superintendent
    SMART Goals and Rubrics
  • June and August: Launching this work with principals for the start of the 2017-18 school year
  • June 2018: Annual Evaluation of the 2017-18 Superintendent SMART Goals
Do you see any place that might ask what teachers and parents think?  Me, neither.  So much for community engagement.  I know that, in the end, the Board and the senior staff are responsible for deciding on the work but it might be nice to see what the people on the front lines think.

The staff is suggesting these goals:
  1. MTSS (falls under Board Governance Priority 1: Eliminate the Opportunity Gap)
  2. EOG (falls under Board Governance Priority 1: Eliminate the Opportunity Gap)
  3. 21st Century Skills/24 Credits (falls under Board Governance Priority 1: Eliminate the Opportunity Gap)
  4. Budget (falls under Board Governance Priority 2: Improve Systems and Supports)
  5. Engagement/Collaboration ( falls under Board Governance Priority 3: Create Culturally Inclusive School, Family & Community Engagement)
The only new goal is number 3; the rest are continuations of current goals. I am confused by the inclusion of "Budget" - isn't that work staff would be doing anyway?

The other options presented are:
  1. SMART Goal 4: Advanced Learning
  2. SMART Goal 5: PAR (Peer Assistance and Review which is teacher evaluation)
  3. SMART Goal 6: Strategic Plan
I'm a bit baffled by the appearance of the Strategic Plan in there because isn't that the job of the Superintendent anyway?  What Board member would say no to the creation of a new one?

So there you have it.  No one is asking you to weigh in but if you have thoughts anyway:

spsdirectors - just the Board - the Board and senior management


Jon said...

I'd really like to see the primary goals be even simpler. Increase the scores in the left column at

Washington State Report Card

especially the percentage meeting standard in English Language Arts and Math (which is about 60-70% right now).

Then maximize the efficiency in doing that, especially the efficiency of the administration, with careful auditing of the budget.

A simpler goal is much easier to track. And it's what's the state wants.

Sure, you could have secondary metrics on average test scores, increasing total enrollment, and some other factors, but why doesn't Seattle keep it simple with the main objectives?

Cap hill said...

A high performing district? Are you kidding me?

Anonymous said...



Big Bird said...

So, there was a story in the Washington Post about Washington state's 2016 teacher of the year, Nathan Gibbs-Bowling. He points out that most Americans don't really care about poor people or most black people and how this takes a toll in an educational setting. Then he talks about ways to improve the situation: teachers. He views teachers as a way to solve problems. This is totally constructive. Go, Nate!

And then the response on Soup for Teachers is to bash (white) parents who don't send their children to high poverty neighborhood schools:

I couldn't agree with [Nate Bowling] more. It is happening in our own back yard (in my case West Seattle). I have friends (white) who do anything they can go get their kids out of West Seattle elementary (very diverse) to put them into another school. Why? They say test scores. We all know that is not the reason. I send my kids to Denny and Sealth, my neighborhood schools. I have other friends who would do anything to send their kids to the other public middle and high school in our neighborhood. This time they fear their kids are not safe or won't get a good enough education. (My kids are getting a great education btw). At our high school there are around 80 (I think) homeless kids and we scramble to raise PTA funds. At other schools in our neighborhood they are making a hundred thousand or more at their auction. What is wrong with this picture?

So unconstructive! First, 28% of Seattle kids go to private school. Second, school assignment in this city is geographic and the population is not distributed evenly geographically in terms of economic or racial diversity. This is a school district with serious achievement gaps, funding gaps, poverty gaps, racial distribution gaps, opportunity gaps, etc.

Instead of shaming and scapegoating a few families for not sending their kids to high poverty schools, we should take a more holistic, constructive approach. When families who have choices choose not to send their kids to a specific school, that is a canary in the coal mine. The canary didn't use up all the oxygen in the coal mine. The canary didn't put toxic fumes in the coal mine. It's just a bird. And the canary is a bird with a family that will move it to a better educational environment.

This city sucks for allowing the rest of the kids to stay in the coal mine. When we know the educational air quality is low down there. THAT is what we need to fix. Bringing 30± less poor kids back into a school with 85% F/RL isn't going to fix the educational air quality. And it sure as heck isn't going to make up for centuries of abuse and neglect to Americans whose ancestors were bought and sold and deprived of their names and traditions and raped and segregated and subjected to more surreptitious forms of oppression like redlining and a lower likelihood of getting interviewed for a job because of the name they put on their resume.

We've got to wake up as a city and fix the coal mine for the kids who are in it. Not feel smug and blamey because we're better than the families who send their kids to private schools and option schools or choose to rent in a different neighborhood to get our kids assigned to a school with less poverty.

In the end, we should want to improve the city's worst-performing schools because we are sending children to them. Children who are human beings. We should not be focusing on the canaries who leave the coal mine, but all the birds with all their wonderful plumage and unique songs who are still in the coal mine. That's what I'd like to see our district aiming for.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Very well put, Big Bird.

Anonymous said...

@Big bird--good points. If you read "Smartest Kids in the World" you will find that Finland has raised the bar for all kids and treats their teachers with great respect. Their results have been incredible. They still have examples of inner city schools with high diversity and some loss of students who are looking for white pastures, but those schools don't suffer from the loss and the students continue to perform extremely well.

Fix AL

Anonymous said...

$3.2 trillion of social welfare and programs since President Johnson's Great Society launch in 1965 hasn't been enough.

So unconstructive

Anonymous said...

Why do people always assume people leave schools for racist reasons--or "whiter pastures" as Fix AL calls them? It is so unthinkable that people leave for stronger academics? I don't

get it.

Measuring Stick said...

Here is a decent article with arguments against the histeria around AP courses (and the preceding race to nowhere and in south Seattle a segregated HCC program):

Lynn said...

Kids take AP classs for lots of reasons. They provide an opportunity to earn low-cost college credit. AP, IB and UW College in the High School are often the only rigorous, engaging classes offered in high school.

What is the alternative? It can be difficult to set up a Running Start schedule that works for kids who want to take a class or two in high school at the same time. High schools could create their own challenging courses but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that.

Anonymous said...

@measuring stick--a rebuttal to the Atlantic article and attacks on AP:

Fix AL

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to Matthew's article (from 2012).

A commenter makes a similar point to Lynn's: "The problem with an honors course, compared to an AP class, is that the honors class does not have any outside verification of the rigor. AP(and IB) have external assessments to validate that the material was taught at the appropriate rigour."

Though some schools may teach to a high level without the AP label (Lakeside and Seattle Prep come to mind...), AP and IB offer some minimum guarantee that the class will be taught to a higher standard. Even then, teacher quality and school resources vary, so students may go into AP/IB exams poorly prepared. A more interesting development is AP options, similar to the IB Diploma program, with its Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Extended Essay (EE) components.


Anonymous said...

I agree that AP classes are often not really "college level" courses, but they're still more challenging than typical high school GE or honors courses. For students ready for more challenge, these are often their only option. And in some cases, at least based on our experience with online AP courses through programs for gifted students, AP courses can be very rigorous indeed--much more so than their introductory college equivalents. Like all high school classes, it's a crapshoot.

@ Measuring Stick, what's this supposed hysteria over AP classes? And what's your evidence of this supposed "race to nowhere" in Seattle's HCC program? Most academically gifted students I know don't feel overburdened with school, but instead find it too easy and would appreciate more challenge.


Education Rationing said...

You know what? It's almost like people are using the words "social justice" or "equity" to fight for things that harm students of color.

I had read both the Atlantic article and the WaPo article about AP exams. Right around the time when Garfield, the city's preeminent high school FOR academically advanced kids, started its war on AP classes. Or education rationing as I like to call it.

But what's fascinating is "The number of black students earning 5s on AP tests — the top score — went from 796 in 1992 to 6,865 in 2012. The number of Hispanics getting top marks in that period went from 8,110 to 41,715. Black and Hispanic AP participation went from 11 to 23 percent of all test takers."

I'm white, but far from rich, and for me the AP exams I took gave me almost a full year of college credit at a fraction of the cost AND prevented me from having to repeat the exact same coursework I had already done (often with the same textbook) AND gave me satisfyingly challenging coursework to do in high school. Anyway the non-rich part of me is also strongly in favor of allowing students to take AP exams if they think it makes sense for them.

I don't get why people who want talented students of color to succeed and/or talented students without much money to succeed are standing in the way of students trying to succeed. Students aren't forced to take AP exams. Students aren't forced to go to college. Students aren't forced to graduate from high school. But some of them want to. Why would we stand in their way? And why would we stand in their way at THE high school the city says academically advanced students are supposed to attend???????

Kind of seems like people want to lower the ceiling for what public school students can achieve. The 28% of Seattle students in private school? They can learn as much as they like. But somehow it's important, in the name of equity, to ration the amount of education students in public school have access to? The danger of low expectations...