Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Worst Audit Yet

"Ad hoc, incoherent and directionless."

"Highly fragmented, weakly defined, poorly monitored, and producing very unsatisfactory academic results."

"The school district has not articulated a clear vision for what it wants to see in its English language learners and possesses no strategy or coherent program that would boost the academic chances of those students."

These quotes are from the audit of the district's bilingual programs. Blunt is the word for it. Both the Times and the PI ran stories on it this morning. Here are some notable quotes from the usual suspects

From the PI:

"This review, the latest in a series commissioned by Seattle Public Schools in the past year, was the toughest yet – but necessary, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson said Wednesday.

"If you want to go from good to great, you have to look at the brutal facts," she said."

From the Times:

"At the School Board meeting Wednesday night, Sherry Carr called the report "sobering," and Michael DeBell said it was "disquieting." But all the board members expressed appreciation for the council's efforts.

"Thank you for not sugarcoating this report," said Harium Martin-Morris."

From the Times:

"The Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of 66 of the nation's largest urban school systems, conducted the review with a team that included educators from several large districts that are making progress with English-language learners. The evaluators donated their time, and a grant from the Broad Foundation covered the rest of the costs. The team traveled to Seattle twice, interviewing more than 60 people and visiting about 100 classrooms."

What to do now? From the report:

  • Create a series of 10 or so "dual-language" magnet programs throughout the city, similar to the one at Concord Elementary.
  • Streamline the enrollment and registration process for families of non-native English speakers
  • Guarantee those students a seat at a school within their cluster
  • Transform the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center into an "international high school," where students earn academic credit and graduate
  • Stop pulling students out of class for 45 minutes a day of English instruction, and help them learn English in regular classes in part by providing some instruction in students' native language.
  • • Strengthen the academics in the district's Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center — the first school that many older immigrants attend — so that students can learn English and earn the credits they need to graduate from high school. (Students now don't receive credit for the classes they take at the center.)
    • Establish a Bilingual Orientation Center specifically for students in grades 6-8.
    -Track the progress of students even after they've left the bilingual programs.

    Very, very sad to hear this about these programs being so pathetic. When I visited the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center, I was so impressed with the dedication and caring I saw from their principal and staff. But it was disheartening to see so much of what they do put last on the list. (Secondary BOC was supposed to get a modest $14M upgrade or use that money to upgrade a a different building but the money got taken over by Garfield's project. Don't ever let Facilities or anyone else tell you that BEX projects have no shortfalls or cost overruns. Supposedly, they are getting the money, sometime, from some other pot. Secondary BOC is up on Queen Anne, a long way away from where the majority of students live.)


    Melissa Westbrook said...

    There was this interesting post in the comments section of the PI article:

    "As a bilingual educator, let me tell you that I work with children who have no academic background, many of them illiterate in their native language. They come as refugees from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Burundi, Honduras and Guatemala. Others - like Mexican, Vietnamese and Chinese students - come somewhat better prepared. Only a third of my students speak Spanish. Upon registering with the district, students take a test. Those who can more or less speak English, go directly to regular schools. Those who cannot read, write or speak three words of English together, are sent to my school, the Secondary BOC. And that's when my job starts: I teach them everything, from alphabet to English structure to finer points of text analysis... Other teachers teach math, science, social studies... In a year - and some in 4 months- my students deliver Shakespeare on stage... And then they leave for regular schools... By the way, do not believe the report that says schools do not have a streamlined ESL curriculum. Streamlining has been done 5 years ago, with all schools participating - and a VISIONS curriculum and testing package has been adopted and is being used in all schools. When you face a report of any kind, first, ask - who it was done by and why?"

    reader said...

    "When you face a report of any kind, first, ask - who it was done by and why?"

    And so what's the answer? Was there a motive on the part of the reviewer to misrepresent streamlining of curriculum? The thing I find interesting is that the audit that is free to the district.... also presents the most damaging results. I wonder if these other reviews would be different if somebody besides the district was paying for them.

    dan dempsey said...

    Let us not forget the Phi Delta Kappa curriculum audit. It was highly critical of the district in a variety of areas.

    The district's response was little more than thank you very much for the report.

    Click Here for the PI report from February 2007 on the audit.

    Charlie Mas said...

    The bilingual audit results are a direct consequence of the lack of leadership and management the district experienced under the past two superintendents.

    The District has known for some time how they should be conducting their bilingual education. Unfortunately, neither Mr. Olchefske nor Mr. Manhas felt it was within their authority to direct schools in this matter. Under the banner of "site-based decision-making" and "Principal as CEO" they allowed the schools to continue ineffective practices when the Central office staff was aware of the effective ones. I have sat in Student Learning Committee meetings and heard practically the same language that was used in the audit report about the style of bilingual instruction in the schools and the preferred method - which wasn't used.

    I don't think the superintendent needed this report to exert her authority to dictate a bilingual education model to the schools, but that will be the net effect. The report will significantly diminish the resistance to change.

    They will, of course, take a planning year, but then you can expect to see the central office telling schools how to conduct bilingual education for the 2009-2010 school year. And it will become more effective.

    reader said...

    "They will, of course, take a planning year, but then you can expect to see the central office telling schools how to conduct bilingual education for the 2009-2010 school year. And it will become more effective."

    Charlie, I wish ths same could be said for the special ed review which was equally devastating and which should have mobilized someone around here. Instead, we are nearing the end of an entire year following the review, with not a single sign of responsiveness to change at ANY level anywhere. Not even a gesture towards ending the forced and unnatural transitions which wrench children from their schools and cohorts at four times the rate of their peers w/o disabilities and pass them around the district from school to school like popcorn. It troubles me greatly that no one seems to be able to make movement on behalf of these children.

    Charlie Mas said...

    Chris in Seattle, it is time for you to become familiar with the Program Placement Proposal process.

    Get yourself this this form, and fill one out for every school that should have a Special Education Inclusion Program. I believe there are about 85 of them. With a copy of the criteria for program placement and a copy of the Special Education Review at the ready, the forms should be easy to complete.

    Don't feel you have to do it all by yourself. See if the SEAAC won't help you. Many hands make light work. Let's remember also that most of the forms will be filled out identically. All you have to do is change bits of the data for each school and save or print a new copy of the form.

    I know that this suggestion seems flip, but I am totally serious and sincere. The way to beat a bureaucracy is to fill out their paperwork better than they ever thought you could. Then you get the relentless bureaucracy working for you. After you submit these Program Placement Proposals the District will have to seriously consider each one. They will have to draft a response to each one.

    Now it is likely that their response will be that they don't want to make any changes before the new Special Education Czar is hired, but you need to take pre-empitve action against that excuse. You need to include some reference to that idea in your proposals, but discredit it as putting bureaucratic preferences ahead of academic necessisties and putting adult issues ahead of student issues. You could also reference the fact that students have already waited too long, that the District isn't moving any too fast in hiring a SPED Czar, and that the new person will need time to get their feet under them so it will be further delayed.

    AutismMom said...

    Wow. Not a bad idea, but... Isn't that a bit of wishful thinking? The district ALREADY didn't follow the policy for program placement this year when creating special education programs. What makes you think that filling out a bunch of forms will motivate them into following that same policy now? They didn't contact stakeholders as required by C56. Not SEAAC, not special ed pta, no disability groups like FEAT or ARC, no parents, probably no schools either. They didn't consider ANY academic goals as required by C56, as those were prescribed in the special education review. EG. No excessive transitions, all programs were age limited. EG. No extreme disproportionality as at Roxhill (29%). They didn't consider where students live and transportation as required by C56. The aspergers students live in extreme north end, nowhere near Cleveland HS. And you could fill up all the central clusters failing schools and claim it was close to home.

    The fact about recommending special education program placement is that you really need all the data. And that data is mostly confidential and unavailable to parents. So yes, parent advocacy groups could make some good guesses, the district is the only one privvy to the IEP's and requirements... which makes their redlining practices easier for them to accomplish.

    AutismMom said...

    In case the point wasn't clear...

    Who knew incoming students needed 5more autism programs? Not SEAAC, not sped pta... nobody knew about that need except the district, not even the parents who selected their favorite autism program to enroll in... with no clue there was no chance they could have them. How would anybody even know that a program was needed? The district would have to TELL US... and THEN we could argue about where to put a program. This isn't biotech academy or montessori... there's got to be a specific need on somebody's IEP for a program to be made.

    In fact, Harium is the only person that's even yet disclosed where those new programs are.... if you can imagine that, it's still a big secret that some of us know about. Go Madrona!

    anonymous said...

    Speaking of Harium - he doesn't seem to be blogging much these days. Last toptic posted was June 7th, and prior to that May 18th. With all of the things going on, there should be much to blog about.......even in the summer.

    I hope he will continue his commitment to be communicative and provide some transparency. It has really set him apart from the other 6 Directors and I truly hope he keeps it up.

    Dorothy Neville said...

    Re Harium's blogging. Either in a radio interview or somewhere in the press recently, Harium said that his main reason for blogging is to give folks a chance to be heard. That he feels that's what most people want, simply a chance to be heard. Fits his style of simply posting topics to discuss.

    He sometimes comments within threads, but that is not always easy to find. You can subscribe to comments in your favorite rss feed service (like Bloglines, free and easy).

    Dorothy Neville said...

    Oops, looks like he doesn't have a general rss feed set up for comments, like this blog does. You can subscribe to comments for individual threads, or you can ask him to set the template up with rss feed for comments.

    anonymous said...

    He hasn't posted a thread for anyone to comment on since June 07.

    AutismMom said...

    Well, I hope the comments on Harium's blog are more than just some sort of sounding board. We need him to actually act on the information he receives. My hope is that he will do exactly that.

    teacher99 said...

    Establish a Bilingual Orientation Center specifically for students in grades 6-8.

    Hmmm, remember how the BOC was used as one of the models to suggest that the Denny/Sealth concerns were a non-issue as the BOC is a successful 6-12 model.

    Now the outside consultants are suggesting that the BOC be split into separate schools.