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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Academic Goals Should Drive Facilities Decisions

Imagine if academic goals were driving the decisions about what facilities to close and which school programs to merge!

Citywide, we could be discussing whether APP students should be in one building together, or whether having APP programs in each cluster would improve the quality of neighborhood schools. We could talk about whether more K-8 programs would help with the issues facing middle school students. We could share ideas about the role of alternative schools in the Seattle school district and talk about the creation of more schools with language immersion programs. We could debate how to address the growing segregation across the district, both racial and economic, and discuss how the proposed changes to transportation and choice may create further divisions.

Instead, we are discussing which buildings to close --- who wins and who loses, and what budgetary factors (capital costs, hope for state funding) are pushing those decisions.

I want the closure plan to be scaled back. I want the district to use better data and a better process for decision-making. But today, what I want most is to get beyond this closure process and start working on some of the big picture topics, with the goal of academic excellence for all continually in our sights.

I just hope the closure decisions don't cripple the district's ability to make necessary changes to reach that goal.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

A worthy suggestion. There's just one problem:

Seattle Public Schools doesn't have any Academic Goals. Seattle Public Schools doesn't have an academic plan. The CACIEE was pretty darn surprised to discover this and recommended that the District get an academic plan pronto.

You can attribute the absence of an academic plan to the absence of executive proficiency. Mr. Manhas is in way over his head. As a result, he has not fulfilled any of the primary executive duties. Again, refer to the CACIEE report for the total lack of executive action.

Anonymous said...

Well, you may recall that one year ago the district made their decisions not using academic goals. This year, the CAC was told, by Board and then a vote of parents at Town Halls, that academic effectiveness should be the number one criteria. So, yes, academics were a big part of the closure decisions.
The CAC discussed every single program issue you raise both in meetings and in their final report.
Describe "better" data.

Beth Bakeman said...

Better data means complete data, used equally as applied to all programs. Using one year's WASL score for Reading only to put Graham Hill on the closure list is not a good use of data.

Better data also means using ranges for demographic projections, as is the accepted best practice in the field, not single point numbers. It also means using demographics only to describe possible changes in larger areas of the city, not at the neighborhood level where that data is almost useless for long-term predictions.

And while the CAC discussed the issues I raised, the decisions are not clearly based on them. First have the discussion about whether (and where) to have a K-8 program in the Southeast. Then decide which schools to close.

Likewise, if the capacity is cut as drastically in the Southeast quadrant as is currently proposed, that closes doors on some possible solutions to academic issues.

Beth Bakeman said...

Also, academic criteria may have been part of the closure decisions, but academic GOALS and VISION were not.

Anonymous said...

The CAC didn't use one year's data; that was an example, not the complete data use.

The SE does have a K-8 program; African American Academy.

The SW only has two programs closing; Hughes is an interim building. That's not drastic.

Beth Bakeman said...

Thank you, anonymous for your comments. I would love to discuss them with you further if you want to e-mail me directly. Always good to keep sharing ideas and learning on these issues.

In response to your specific points.

1) In the Graham Hill case, more than one year's data on more than one test puts Graham Hill in the top 50% schools in the quadrant.

2) The AAA's educational mission is to celebrate African heritage. By definition, that is an alternative K-8 and is not designed for people from other ethnic and racial groups.

3) The drastic cut in capacity I mentioned was the Southeast, not the Southwest.