Thursday, September 06, 2007

Guest Column in the Seattle Times

Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson has written a guest column in the Seattle Times announcing a New Day in Seattle Public Schools in which she lays out something of a Vision and has told us what to expect from her administration. Raj Manhas also did this shortly after he was made Superintendent.

Here's a link.

Here's the text:

Guest columnist
A new day has come for Seattle Public Schools
By Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson
Special to The Times

This week, we welcome more than 45,000 Seattle students — and their families — to a new school year. It is a time full of hope and change, especially for those of us who begin the year in a new school — or a new city. My first two months here have been filled with focused work as well as opportunities to enjoy the magnificent Pacific Northwest. My family and I have been warmly welcomed to this wonderful city, and I am delighted to be here!

The start of each school year holds the promise of discovery, growth and academic achievement. At Seattle Public Schools, our responsibility is to fulfill that promise. We do so through high-quality instruction in every classroom and strong leadership at all levels. All of us are committed to — and will be held accountable for — these outcomes.

I am fortunate to assume leadership of a school district on strong academic and financial footing. On the academic side, the district created a vision supported by key milestones, and funded programs for 2007-08 that support achievement of each milestone. These include a project that places 500-book libraries in every K-2 classroom to promote independent reading; introducing an aligned elementary math curriculum and continued focus on middle-school math; expansion of the "Readers and Writers Workshop"; and serving more students through Project Excel, which provides extended learning opportunities.

Additional support for the arts and physical education is also in place. The "Flight Schools" program, which fosters family engagement activities and staff collaboration across the K-12 spectrum, will expand to include 25 schools in the southeast, south and southwest parts of the city.

Fiscally, Seattle Public Schools has a sound reserve and recently received top ratings from Moody's and Standard & Poor's. This position means we can focus on directing more resources to support excellent instruction in every classroom. I want to thank the Seattle community for your continued support of the levy and bond measures that provide critical funding for academics and excellence of our learning facilities.

Important work has been accomplished in the past year, but we have much more to do in the future. Overall, our students are making progress, but we can and must do better so that every student succeeds. My focus in the months and years to come will be to increase the use of proven best practices to create high-quality schools systemwide. Research in large urban districts shows that academic gains are based on a series of key elements — most important of which is excellence in the classroom. So, we will:

• Focus on quality curriculum, assessment and instruction across our district;

• Deeply examine data, which will drive our decisions in academics and operations;

• Provide focused training and development for our teachers so that they have the tools they need to effectively serve all students;

• Promote genuine family and community engagement, including expanding our capacity to be culturally competent in our community interactions;

• Build outstanding leadership — in the classroom, at the school and at the district;

• Conduct systemic audits to ensure we are operating in the most effective manner possible and using academic programs that work;

• Establish measures — and clear accountability — for outcomes.

These are proven effective strategies, but specific actions must be based on a deep understanding of the strengths — and challenges — of Seattle Public Schools. That is why I continue to be guided by the entry plan announced in July. Over the past two months I've met key leaders throughout the city and state; had insightful discussions with numerous community members; begun to meet teachers and staff; and worked closely with principals and district leaders to set clear expectations. I continue to analyze an array of data on academics and operations. A districtwide curriculum audit is under way and comprehensive reviews of district finances and operations are planned.

As this work is completed, we will know more about what is working, what needs improvement, and, most importantly, what our students need to succeed. Based on this knowledge, I will create a longer-range strategic plan for our system. The plan will be focused and practical; it will build on our successes, and be structured to improve the areas of challenge.

As our plan is implemented and adjusted based on results and changing conditions, I expect that the statement, "Every student achieving and everyone accountable," will accurately describe Seattle Public Schools. My goal is that every school will reach the same high standard that I, as a parent, desire for my own daughter. When I ask the question, "Would I entrust my own child's education and well-being to this school?", I want to answer a resounding "yes" for every school in the district.

I look forward to the work of the coming year, sharing with you a more detailed plan for Seattle Public Schools that will accelerate our progress toward this vision of excellence, and to meeting many of you as I visit our schools and communities.

Dr. Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson is the superintendent of Seattle Public Schools.


Charlie Mas said...

I like this Vision. What's not to like?

I particularly like her ultimate unified goal:

"My goal is that every school will reach the same high standard that I, as a parent, desire for my own daughter. When I ask the question, "Would I entrust my own child's education and well-being to this school?", I want to answer a resounding "yes" for every school in the district."

This wasn't the place for detail, but I would like more detail on what, exactly, she means by:

"genuine family and community engagement"

"clear accountability"

"data, which will drive our decisions in academics and operations"

I am oddly confident that these details will be forthcoming.

I think of Raj's Guest Column when he was made Superintendent and all of the promises he made of accountability and how they all proved false. Again, I am oddly confident that this Superintendent, if reminded of these words she published today, will choose to live up to them rather than deny them (as Raj did).

If there are three things that can address the root of the troubles at Seattle Public Schools they are genuine community engagement, data-driven decisions, and any kind of accountability.

I don't know why, but for some reason I sense that this Superintendent will have the courage of her convictions and will actually do what she says she will do.

Why in the world would I think that?

Beth Bakeman said...

That's funny, Charlie. I had a simliar feeling after reading Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's piece --- somewhat skeptical, but mostly hopeful.

Maybe it's that beginning of the year feeling of a new start that is making me feel optimistic.

Or maybe it's just relief at no longer having Raj as superintendent.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to change the subject on this post. Maybe a new thread could address my question?

Does anyone have information about the new weighted staffing model of funding? I can not find anything. I heard that a timeline will be presented at the executive committee meeting today.

Dan Dempsey said...

Charlie and Beth,

I am not nearly as hopeful as you.

The following two points continual leaving me scratching my head:

• Focus on quality curriculum, assessment and instruction across our district;

• Deeply examine data, which will drive our decisions in academics and operations;

As a statistics crunching person focused on system improvement, I see little here than more words without substance.

Given the Everyday Math fiasco that involved only fradulently presented data, I find it impossible to muster much hope for improvement.

At the Sept 5, board meeting Dr. G-J placed emphasis on WASL data and a connection to the WASL data driving improvement.

If you've spent much time with WASL data, that cannot fill you with confidence.

My thoughts:
I am disappointed that our new Seattle School Superintendent made reference to using WASL data to make centralized instructional decisions. A 2006 report commissioned by the legislature found WASL math and reading strand data cannot be used to diagnose areas needing improvement. Relevant data intelligently applied can improve our schools but the WASL is an inaccurate measure of academic achievement. It is largely an expensive public relations tool for Dr. Terry Bergeson and our education industry.

From Spring 2000 to Spring 2005 the state gave both the Iowa and the WASL tests.
At grade 7 the WASL Reading passing rate improved 66%.
At grade 6 the Iowa Reading percentile rank improved 1 point.
At grade 9 the Iowa Reading percentile rank was unchanged.

Our schools lost any testing connection to reality in 2005 as OSPI ended Iowa testing. The WASL does not test high school level mathematics. If you believe that middle school reading competency improved 66% during the six year period mentioned, do you also believe that I-pods, and video games have an enormous positive impact on reading ability? I choose to think the nationally normed and relatively inexpensive IOWA tests have greater accuracy than the very expensive WASL.

Seattle is using a lot of expensive Edu-Soft testing but could probably learn a lot more with cheaper standardized testing. Then SPS would have to deal with a connection to academic reality.


Anonymous said...

I guess I'm not as optimistic...

After reading the article I felt like I'd read a lot of words, but little real "meat". Some good words, certainly, but I just don't have faith at this point on follow through.

Maybe that's not entirely fair, since she's new to the district.

Maybe we should all give her the benefit of the doubt that Charlie seems to be giving.

I certainly hope to be singing a different tune by this time next year. Guess we'll see.

It's easy to emphasize "clear accountability", but when is the last time you've heard someone in the administration say "Wow, I really botched that. Guess I'll step down." For the little credit he gets here, Raj is the only one who actually followed through in that regard.

Charlie, you ask yourself a good question, but where is the answer? As for your confidence that the new superintendent will actually follow through on her words: Why on earth would you think that?

Anonymous said...

Do you really think that article was the place for all of the detail that you are asking for??? The Times surely limited her comments to a certain number of words in which she could just give a brief introduction and general first steps, vision etc.

Please give her a chance folks.

Charlie Mas said...

I think that one reason that I feel this confidence - perhaps better described as optimism - lies in the Superintendent's responses to the Board's initial requests regarding public testimony. She put things into action immediately. While she overstated the work that was done, I was very encouraged that there was some done right away.