Saturday, May 24, 2008

Strategic Plan released

Here is the Strategic Plan as it was presented to the Board at their regular legislative meeting on the 21st. This is a living document and it will change both before and after Board adoption.

In general, I like this plan. What's not to like? The goals given the initial focus are appropriate, as are the tasks listed to make steps towards achieving the goals. For each task the plan describes the Background, the Need, the Recommended Work, how they will be Measuring Impact, their Immediate Actions, and their Longer-term Actions. That's all good.

I wish they would add two more sections: "Known Barriers to Success" and "Overcoming Historical Barriers". None of these goals or tasks are new. The District has announced them all before - some of them more than once. The District has even claimed to have achieved some of them before. If we're supposed to believe that this plan is different from the failed plans of the past, then they are going to have to be more explicit about how. They are going to have to answer two questions: "Why hasn't this already been done?" and "Why are we going to be able to do it this time when we never could before?"

In addition to the well know first tier goals and tasks, there are some second tier goals and tasks, such as Improve Our Systems, Engage Stakeholders, and Revive Our Culture. These second tier goals and tasks are less developed. I hope more is coming for them. They need to approach these with the same level-headed and systematic attitude they brought to the first tier goals and tasks. What they have now is strictly a sketch of what it needs to be. Facilities, in particular, needs more examination, thought, and work. That department is in serious disarray.

Still, this is a good start.


dan dempsey said...


I am confused on page 10 it shows
2006-2007 graduation rates as:
four year 62%
five year 66%

The WASL summary page on school report card at OSPI shows for Seattle:
On-Time Graduation Rate (2005-06) 44.7%
Extended Graduation Rate (2005-06) 48.6%

How are these numbers calculated?
Very Confusing...

Looks like in 2006 44.4%
and 2007 62%

That is almost a 50% improvement in graduation rate in just one year.
I had no idea the SPS was doing this well.


Charlie Mas said...

The calculation of graduation rates is notoriously inaccurate.

Let's say that there is a student named Pat. Pat enters the 9th grade at School A and attends that school for two years. Then, after the 10th grade, Pat leaves School A and enrolls at School B. Pat attends School B for 10 years and then graduates from School B.

By the OSPI's count, School A's graduation rate will be reduced because of Pat. On the OSPI's calculation of graduation rates, Pat counts the same as a drop-out because Pat did not graduate on time from School A.

That simply is not an accurate way to measure graduation rates.

If School A and School B are both Seattle Public Schools, the District will know that Pat graduated and will count Pat as a graduate.

If School B is not a Seattle Public School, but, for whatever reason, the District knows that Pat graduated from School B, the District will count Pat as a graduate. But a lot of times the District does not know if students enrolled in other schools and graduated from them or if the student simply dropped out.

In addition, the graduation rates do not include students who graduate after four years - students who stay on an additional summer semester or fall semester or year to complete their credits. They graduated, but are not included in the graduation rate.

Consequently, all graduation rate statistics are faulty because they are based on some pretty poor quality data. And they don't match because everyone calculates them differently and has different sets of information.

Charlie Mas said...

Oh! And they err on the other side because they don't count students who drop out BEFORE high school - there are more than you would imagine.

dan dempsey said...

Hey Charlie,

This plan is going absolutely no where in math.

It remains apparent that the Fix is in Statewide and was in place when Ms Santorno unilaterally selected EDM in the Spring of 2007.

I see virtually nothing in the Strategic Plan to inspire confidence for math improvement. The SPS remains wedded to EDM and CMP2. This pair still have all the defects they had when adopted. The solution seems to be to devote more student task time and more dollars to keep the sinking ship afloat.

This is clearly a decision being made in the best interests of certain administrators not students or families.

My complete review of the Strategic Plan's approach to math improvement follows HERE

This is not a pretty sight for Math. It brings back memories of the totally ineffective 5 year plans from the Soviet Union. In math there is not much that looks like a substantial significant improvement will be coming in the next five years.

This looks more like a defensive document in support of past poor choices.

Of interest in Math is the presentation that 36 year veteran Middle School Teacher and National Math Panelist Vern Williams gave to the Prince William County School Board HERE.

Charlie Mas said...


So long as the District continues along the path they are currently following with math, they will fail to get the results they want and children will continue to be miseducated.

If they actually follow the Strategic Plan, however, they will abandon the current course and adopt a new one - just as the State K-8 math Standards and Grade Level Expectations have changed.

reader said...

I am concerned about this last paragraph of the Special Education Appendix, which seems to pretty much sweep the rug out from underneath any reform agenda any time soon:

"Implementing the Special Education Review

The special education department has identified a project team that is developing implementation timelines for the recommendations in the review. Implementation of many of these recommendations will require significant collaboration and negotiations with the teachers’ and principals’ unions, and may also be impacted by the timing of other strategies included in the proposed plan and the timing of other projects currently underway.

anonyms said...

How are they going to implement anything related to the special education review when they've fired everyone who was working on it? Ooops. I mean, eliminated their positions.

Charlie Mas said...

They will get new people to do the work. It may be that changing the staff was the first step to removing the obstacles to implementation.

Seriously, you have to ask yourself, "Why wasn't this already done? Why wasn't this already our practice?" If it leads you to the perspectives of the decision-makers, then maybe it's the decision-makers who have to change.