Friday, May 30, 2008

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson Steps Up (and Maybe Flexes Some Muscle)

Beth (our fearless Blog leader) e-mailed Dr. Goodloe-Johnson about the application to take AP LA in 11th grade at West Seattle High. She gave Dr. G-J a link to my post (which came directly from WSHS's website where it outlined the application requirements). This came after 87 students signed up and the school said it only had room for 2 classes. Naturally, this is a concern because it flies in the face of what Dr. G-J and Carla Santorno said they wanted to see happen in our high schools via the new Strategic Plan.

Here was her reply in my e-mail box this morning:

"Thanks for your concern. I received confirmation today that an additional English teacher will step up and teach AP so that all 87 students can take AP. What a great problem to have. Thanks again."

No, thank you.

I think this will send a message to all within SPS that Dr. G-J is going to mean what she says and will be the final arbiter in these matters.


dan dempsey said...

Let us hope this will be a good and productive experience for all the children. If it is not, remember that Dr Goodloe-Johnson's decision was still a good one as it will have allowed some students into the proigram that will be successful who otherwise would not have had such access.

Thanks for Stepping up on this issue Dr Goodloe-Johnson.

Give the students access and then allow them to sink or swim on their background, talent, and efforts.

anonymous said...

How fantastic! Isn't this the way it should be.

Thank you Beth for alerting Dr. G-J, I had wondered if she even knew it was happening.

And Dr. G-J thank you for talking the talk and walking the walk!

I feel like we finally have some long awaited and long needed leadership.

Jet City mom said...

Good that is great-
Thanks to all who brought attention to this issue & thanks to our Supe who can get something accomplished without a poll- a round of meetings &/or a study!

Charlie Mas said...

Now she just has to step in and correct the freaky scene at Northgate as described in Denise Gonzalez-Walker's blog.

Then what fire will she run to put out next?

Will she stand over the District like the Batman over Gotham, ready to swoop down and right every little wrong? Do we need super-heroes to stop muggers? Is that an effective use of her time and energy? When can we expect these professional, responsible adults to become self-managing?

Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson took an interest in this and took a hand in correcting it, but is that the Superintendent's job? Should it be? And if it is, then why couldn't she have done the same for 10th grade Roosevelt students denied access to European History AP? Why didn't she swoop in and fix the Denny-Sealth fiasco? Why hasn't she swooped in and fixed the Everyday Math disaster? Why hasn't she used her super-strength to right-size Spectrum programs so students aren't waitlisted? Why hasn't used her super vision to find an assignment for the 30+ special education students reportedly without a school for next year? How does she pick and choose the times to exercise her heroic authority and the times to allow things to crash and fall?

anonymous said...

Charlie, it appears that this was an urgent issue, and one that needed to be solved right away. Had she not stepped in 27 kids would have been denied access to that AP class. You are absolutely right in that it is not her job to run around putting out fires. It is her job to make and enforce policy. I think she is doing that with her strategic plan. But it will take time for her to make her promises a reality. In the meantime 27 kids would have been out in the cold had she not put out this fire. I think it was great that she stepped in to fix an issue that was easily fixable. It shows her willingness to roll up her sleeves and help out on the front line when necessary. She is acting like a hero.

A) She is acting on her promises. New one for an SPS Superintendent.

B) She is communicating with the public. She answered Beth's email in 24 hours, and followed it with action.

The longer Dr. G-J is here the more I think she is just what this district needed. A mover and shaker.

We are so used to strategic plans that go nowhere. A lot of great words and promises that never materialize. I think this time we will see some get down to business, meaningful action. And I couldn't be happier.

TechyMom said...

I supsect that if she jumps in a few times to correct actions that clearly go against the goals of the strategic plan (which this did), people throughout the organization will start to realize that she means what she says. Sometimes action from the top is necessary to change organizational culture. Once the culture starts to change, you need less super-hero antics. I bet this got a few people's attention.

BadgerGal said...

I agree - it isn't a sustainable model for Dr. Goodloe-Johnson to intervene in every case. But I also agree with techymom that if she does it enough, when she can, it will send a message that she is serious.

Thank you Dr. Goodloe-Johnson!

Beth Bakeman said...

And I'll add that Steve Sundquist and a couple of District staff members (including the Director of Advanced Learning) e-mailed me in response as well.

During an interview with Dr. Goodloe-Johnson for the Pathfinder newsletter, she spoke passionately about a culture change at the district. Maybe it's starting.

Teachermom said...

I think that, until that culture change occurs, we will need MGJ jumping in where she typically would not tread.

Obviously, SPS building and district leaders have not been leading, and don't seem to have gained the knowledge of how to lead through the typical channels of education, experience, and reflection. Many of them require modeling of leadership behavior, direct instruction, frequent and consistent feedback.

I think it is great that she is doing this. I remain cautiously optimistic, but she is following through on things.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, I'd agree with some the posts here; it's a matter of letting staff know that she means business.

No, she can't and shouldn't step into the fray every time. But announcing a plan and clear expectations might help people realize that they are not CEOs at their schools.

I'm hoping she will fix the math problems; it will save her huge headaches down the line.

I'm hoping that she will have better oversight of Facilities. However, sadly, with Mr. Kennedy being both COO and CFO, I doubt he will be able to oversee it well given time constraints. It thus allows Facilities to continue to operate with little real oversight. You also have the additional problem of most administrators, from the Superintendent to the Board, deferring to the expertise of Facilities staff. It's a mistake and I think the day of reckoning may be coming in the next 6 months or so.

hschinske said...

I'm wondering whether Dr. G-J did actually do anything herself, or if she just looked into it and found out that the original folks had changed their minds. Not that it wouldn't still be a good thing, but it'd be a different kind of good thing. Certainly the swift communication was good.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

Helen, that's a good comment. I don't mean to suggest that Beth's e-mail or my post had anything to do with; I suspect that the school heard from parents as well. B

ut from my past experience, it is likely it took prodding from Dr. G-J or Carla to get the WSHS administration to look for a solution other than making kids apply for an AP class. At Hale, it didn't matter what parents said to either school administration or district administration; they had an application process for certain AP classes and then the school made the decision to end most separate AP classes. Parents were not involved in the decision at all except at a couple of meetings to explain what was happening (not to ask for input).

dan dempsey said...

OK ...

Can Super-Hero MG-J now turn her attention to the Board Policies D44.00 & D45.00?

Will she now put in place ??? :

1... A description of what students need to learn at each grade level

2... How that will take place and what interventions will be used

if 3... the evaluation instruments indicate a child is not meeting the requirement to acquire any of the listed skills and knowledge.

(4) Use grade level retention for those not meeting the requirements and provide those retained with better interventions.

... currently the SPS is drawing a big Goose - Egg on this one ...the Zero for all of the above.

That is what I thought the Superintendent was supposed to do... Carry out School Board Policy.

I am still waiting for a superhero to step out of the shadows of superintendents' past and duck into a Phone Both and rescue us while Lois Lane writes about it in "The Gotham City Gazette".

Ananda said...

Before you all pat the wrong back, you should know that WSHS Principal Bruce Bivins hadlet folks know that another teacher had agreed to step up BEFORE the issue was posted on this blog. No knock to Dr. G-J or Beth, but nothing they did changed anything, the kudos belong to Mr. Bivins and his staff.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I take no credit for anything. I only put forth what was on the WSHS website so it's interesting because it begs the question of why even have a placement policy if the administration was continuing to look for a way to accommodate all the students and (2) if he let people know of this change, why wasn't on their website?

SS said...

The first public announcement of the change to allow 3 AP classes again at WSHS was made only on Wed. night at the PTSA meeting,(after the blog postings had started) although there was mention that some individuals were told sooner.
Unfortunately for those families who did not attend, all they have is a letter sent home and the WSHS website stating that there will be only 2 classes. Communication (or lack of it) is critical to any school, and even more so when an issue arises like this. We all would be able to understand more if we were also included more in the communication process.
In any case, it was appreciated to see the support shown by so many writing in, that when our students want to step up and take a challening course that it should be available to all.

Dorothy Neville said...

SS says: "In any case, it was appreciated to see the support shown by so many writing in, that when our students want to step up and take a challenging course that it should be available to all."

Certainly most here want all students to have access to the challenging courses they desire. A not so altruistic reason to be concerned about other high schools is that the Strategic Plan mentions making sure all high schools have the same graduation requirements (something that ought to be a no brainer, I'd think. How can such requirements not be district wide?)

However, recall that RHS just changed their graduation requirements with the adoption of AP Human Geography for all Sophomores. A semester length college class taught with differentiation over a year. Meaning that all those Sophomores who up until now elected to attempt a college level class at a college level pace, AP European History, no longer have such an option.

What will happen with the goal of uniformity between high schools? From the Seattle Times article about AP Human Geography: "If Seattle's pilot project at Roosevelt works out, the school could become a model for other Seattle high schools, Santorno said."

anonymous said...

Whether MGJ was responsible for the addition of the AP class at WSHS or the school had already resolved the issue on their own doesn't really matter. The Superintendent is sending a clear message that there is oversight in place when she checks in. She is enforcing the requirement that schools meet the expectations of the srategic plan and stay on track. Don't discount the affect that has. It is part of the accountability many of us have been looking for.

Charlie Mas said...


Let me see if I have this right. West Seattle High School was ready to offer two sections of AP English but three sections worth of students applied for the course. The school considered their alternatives and decided to create barriers to entry to reduce the demand for the course down to two sections' worth. After selecting this course of action they dutifully informed the community of their decision by posting a notice on their web site and sending out letters.

Then, all on their own, without any outside influence, they changed their minds and decided to create a third section. After making this decision, however, they did not update the web site or send out any follow-up letters. Instead, they planned to reveal the news at a sparsely attended PTA meeting.

It's hard to congratulate anyone for anything here.

Maureen said...

"Whether MGJ was responsible for the addition of the AP class at WSHS or the school had already resolved the issue on their own doesn't really matter."

Actually, it might. What if WSHS had NOT decided to add the 3rd class when MGJ called? Do we know if she would have insisted that they do? Maybe she would have gone along with their decision. I would say that the jury is still out.

I think Dorothy's points are really important. Right now HSs seem to have the power to determine their own graduation requirements. There seems to be a trend to standardize this. What does that mean for RHS's AP Human Geography and 9th grade 1/2 year science? What does that mean for BioTech at Ballard? If every student is required to pass Algebra II, what will the math curriculum look like for kids who are on track to take AP Calculus? Will those teachers be diverted to teach remedial math? Will the kids be required to take it?

Will the District HS requirements be general (so many credits of math, science etc) or specific (no Bio until 10th grade for anyone, everyone takes AP HG in 10th grade)? If general, could a kid take four years of arithmetic? If specific, what happens to cool programs like Biotech?

Too many questions, not enough answers.

SS said...

There's a chance this Wed. for Seattle families to weigh in on graduation requirements with the State Board of Education (see announcement below).

You all bring up some excellent points- why should there be so many differences allowed for the bottom-line academic requirements? Where is the equity in Seattle when one school only offers 131 hours in the classroom for one credit whereas in another high school as much as 160 hours for the same class? Both schools operate with 6-1/2 hours at school total. The state minimum per credit required by law is 150 hours- how can this happen in Seattle? (see the 5/28 strand, "High Schools Still Making Their Own Decisions").

That's 19 hours less time in the classroom per credit, in one school than the state minimum. It's also approx. 27 hours less than the two high schools with the highest number of seat hours (Garfield and Roosevelt- are you surprised?). That's just for one credit!

Accountability and equity can go a long ways in improving the bottom line academics in all schools.

CPPS announces:
The State Board of Education will hold a community outreach meeting to hear your thoughts on our state's graduation requirements and accountability:

Wednesday, June 4
4:00-6:00 PM
University Heights Center
Room 209 (Auditorium)
5031 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

reader said...

Maybe you have to be the parents of children in special ed to know that some children are forever waiting for an advocate. We learned recently that several new special ed programs have been opened in NCLB failing schools. So we read of Dr. MG-J's selective advocacy with sadness. Could be that she just does not know about it so then we have to ask, why are not the people who are forced into making these cynical decisions making it known to her.

Charlie Mas said...

Do not students with IEPs also have the right - under the federal law - to request a transfer out of a school that is failing (as defined by NCLB)? Or perhaps they have the right, so long as there is a school with space for them, but since they are assigned to a "program", and that program does not exist in any nearby school, the District can claim that there is no seat for them at another school. Is that how it is?

AutismMom said...

Special education students have the same rights as everyone else, regardless of the type of program the district has lumped them into. They have the right to transfer out of failing schools under NCLB. Colleen Stump confirmed this right to SEAAC a few months ago. "Seats in programs" is NOT what IDEA requires. IDEA requires service in schools, specifically the school that you would have attended if not disabled. So what will the district do when people exercise this right at Madrona? They'll have to force some other school to open a program. Alternatively, they could not decide not to inform people of their rights, or hope and pray they don't find out. I believe this is the course of action now. As to programs placed at Cleveland High School. It's a failing school, but so are all other high schools except for Ranier Beach. The key here is disproportionality. Special educaction students also have the right to schools which are not disproportinately filled with special education students. Cleveland High school has about 50% more special education students than other high schools... as a percentage of enrollment. And the families are from the north east.

AutismMom said...

And one last point about the "right to transfer out" under NCLB. The district is also required to provide transition services to special education students enrolling in a school. By neglecting to place 35+ students in a timely fashion, they are neglecting their responsibility to provide adequately for their transition. By putting kids in schools where they know they will transfer out, they have also failed to provide adequate transition, because the transition location is unknown.