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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Strategic Plan - Align Math Curriculum

I have my first response to an inquiry about Strategic Plan progress.

Karen Kodama is the project manager for the project to align our K-12 math curriculum.

Here is my email and her response:


RE: math adoption and the strategic plan‏
From: Kodama, Karen
Sent: Tue 1/06/09 8:59 AM
To: Charlie Mas; Medsker, Ruth
Cc: delaFuente, AnnaMaria

Thank you for your e-mail. We are in the process of updating the strategic plan implementation pages for our Website. Please contact Bridgett Chandler for additional information.



Karen Kodama




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Charlie Mas
Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 4:57 PM
To: Kodama, Karen; Medsker, Ruth
Cc: delaFuente, AnnaMaria
Subject: math adoption and the strategic plan

Ms Kodoma,

You are the person named by the superintendent as responsible for the math/science curriculum alignment project of the Strategic Plan, "Excellence for All", in the update to the Board on September 3. It is in that role that I hope that you can clarify some points of confusion for me.

The Strategic Plan says:

"SPS will write a scope and sequence for math and science and will adopt common grade level

instructional materials where these are not already in existence.

Math

• Grades K-5 Everyday Math and Singapore Math (implemented 2007-08)

• Grades 6-8 CMP2 (implemented 2006-07)

• Grades 9-12 (to be developed Fall 2008)
"

Has the scope and sequence for math been written for grades K-12? Where can I find it?

The Strategic Plan clearly sets a timeline that has the district adopting common grade level instructional materials for high school math in the fall of 2008. It is now winter. Have we adopted common grade level instructional materials for high school math? I don't believe we have. The Strategic Plan was written and adopted in June. At that time, was there reason to believe that this task would be accomplished within the coming four months? Did you set that timeline for the process? Were you responsible for meeting that timeline? Are you being held accountable for that timeline? If so, then who is holding you accountable? Is it Ruth Medsker, the Executive Sponsor of the Project?

What is the timeline for the other work commitments in the Strategic Plan, such as curricula alignment, ensuring coherence, writing curriculum/instructional guides; writing pacing guides; identifying best practices or high leverage practices; reaching common understanding on use of manipulatives, equipment, and technology; reaching a common understanding on use of grading; identifying mastery/core standards for PK-12 in math and science; developing common assessments and pre-post assessments; developing exemplary lessons for each grade; determining the use of rubrics; and making appropriate modifications for Special Education, English Language Learners and Advanced Learning students?

The timeline was supposed to be set during the summer of 2008. Where is it? Can you send me a copy? Alignment of elementary and middle school instructional materials to the new state standards was also supposed to be done during the summer; is that work complete? Is the Curriculum Guide written? Where is it? Wasn't every math teacher supposed to get up to four days of professional development to learn to use it?

Is there a detailed timeline for longer range actions and the full scope of work for development and implementation of key materials and related support. That work was supposed to have been completed by the Fall of 2008. Where is it? Can you send me a copy?

There have been absolutely no updates to the information available about the Math/Science Curriculum Alignment project of the Strategic Plan since the project was originally announced. Isn't this project expected to comply with the Community Engagement Protocols that were finalized in October? Are you aware of the Engagement Protocols? Are you aware that informing stakeholders is a GUARANTEED level of enagement that this project is expected to meet? Do you believe that you are meeting that guarantee? Does Ms Medsker believe that you are meeting that guarantee? How will you know if you are meeting the requirements of the community engagement protocol? Are there assessments, metrics, and benchmarks for that?

Frankly, Ms Kodoma, from my perspective - and I'm sure that you can see my perspective - it doesn't appear that any progress is being made on this project and that the project is woefully behind schedule. While I find it hard to believe that is is the case, I have no evidence to dispute that conclusion. Please write back and assure me that the project is, in fact, making progress and is on schedule. Please advise me of your near-term intentions to fulfill the requirements of the Community Engagement Protocols that were finalized in October.

I look forward to hearing from you.

- Charlie Mas


Pretty disappointing. She didn't answer ANY of the questions. I did forward her email and a repetition of the questions to Ms Chandler. Let's see if she can answer them.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a great start Charlie.

A very useful aspect of doing it in a widely-read public forum like this is that it makes it difficult for the staff to ignore, hide and/or repeatedly redirect without looking really foolish. To many, many people. It's easy to ignore one person's private questions, far less so when we're all watching and waiting for answers together.

So far you have one redirection. That's reasonable. Let's hope that now you (we) can get at least a few of these questions answered without undue delay!

Robert said...

Agreed! Perhaps too busy clambering through the red tape to put together the magical design teams during a hiring freeze. (You know the ones responsible for solving all the ills of this poorly designed capacity reduction plan). I am just mortified that we get to go through this all over again next year with the reassignment plan.

Melissa Westbrook said...

She told you to go the Communications person? What use is that? You're not a reporter asking for a statement. Strange.

Dorothy Neville said...

I may have asked fewer, and more simpler questions, just to get going and not appear argumentative to begin with. Perhaps with bullets to make it clear that there are exactly five (or however many) direct questions to respond to. Then it becomes absolutely clear that specific questions were not answered. In the past, when I have sent a long letter with specific questions AND some general arguments, I got a sort of response to the theme of the argument, but the specifics were ignored.

Has work been done? What was the original timeline? What's the current timeline? How has the community engagement policy been followed? Who's your boss (holding you accountable)?

So.... what's stopping me? Will get right on it and compose my version myself. No reason I should just observe you doing the asking.

dan dempsey said...

This is typical of the SPS. The person supposedly in charge is unable to answer questions directly.

What is she planning on doing reading the answers off the eventually finished webpage?

Accountability?
None with this person yet.

Strategic Plan was posted in early June. It had specific math tasks to be completed by fall.

January 2009 and no answers are available. Must be the SPS because where else in life would this be considered acceptable?

dan dempsey said...

Charlie,

It seems to me that the reason so little gets done in the way of making competent math decisions is because of a lack of expertise.

Could you find out if Dr. MG-J or Ms. Santorno have taught any high school level math classes?

It may well be that the Math Program Manager has not taught any high school math classes either.

This is a rather widespread problem in WA schools. Elementary teachers often become math program managers because they spouted the edu-speak of the time.

Dr Terry Bergeson staged a 12 year math calamity. The districts apparently are only able to follow the leader. (Example Everyday Math adoption for SPS, Bethel and Issaquah for 2007-2008 school year).

Now when something else is required (the following of specific instructions in the strategic plan) the SPS is unable to perform.

It appears that the SPS hierarchy is stocked up with many Edu-Speak pros who know little if any math. To rise in the math coaching business over the last decade required a dedication to the Nonsense of the decade.

Look at the results a decade of decline in SPS math. Is there a competent decision maker in the house?

Likely not ... when the person in charge can not even answer simple questions about the tasks at hand as well as those long overdue.

I guess it takes a lot of time to make up an answer that will cover neglect.

Few in this SPS outfit have answered a question in a long time. Good luck on trying to make that the norm.

Interestingly when MG-J first showed up, she made several promises among those were:
those who testify at SPS board meetings will be quickly contacted by administration and those on the waiting list would also be contacted. Those never happened either.

Michael Rice said...

Hello

I need to jump in here. Thank you Mr. Mas for taking the time to ask these questions.

Mr. Dempsey wrote: It may well be that the Math Program Manager has not taught any high school math classes either.

While I don't know her total history, Ms. delaFuente spent several years teaching at Rainier Beach before she was head of the MESA program at the UW. She is a highly experienced, effective teacher who excels in teaching mathematics to the undeserved population that attends Rainier Beach. I have a high degree of confidence in her ability to lead the math program in the Seattle Schools.

Charlie Mas said...

I have an answer from Bridgett Chandler:

"Hi, Charlie,

with respect to the questions in this email and the others that have come to me and to others about progress on the strategic plan, we will be updating information on the web site soon to keep the community informed of progress on our key priorities.

Cheers,

Bridgett
"

Hmmmm.

I wrote back to her:

"Ms Chandler,

When should we expect this "web site update"? Please offer a calendar date so I can have confidence that a benchmark has been set for accountability.

A number of the questions I ask are unlikely to be included on any update or progress report about the strategic plan. I want to know:

1. Was there good cause, in June, to believe that we could adopt common grade level instructional materials for high school math within four months?

2. Did Ms Kodama set that timeline for the process?

3. Is Ms Kodama responsible for meeting that timeline?

4. Is Ms Kodama being held accountable for that timeline?

5. If so, then who is holding her accountable? Is it Ruth Medsker, the Executive Sponsor of the Project?

6. Is the math curriculum alignment project expected to comply with the Community Engagement Protocols that were finalized in October?

7. Is Ms Kodama aware of the Engagement Protocols? Is she aware that informing stakeholders is a GUARANTEED level of enagement that her project is expected to meet?

8. Does Ms Medsker believe that she is meeting that guarantee? What active steps has Ms Medsker taken to encourage Ms Kodama to meet the Community Engagement Protocols? I ask because I want to know if having accountability is any different from not having accountability.

9. How will we know if Ms Kodama is meeting the requirements of the Community Engagement Protocol? Are there assessments, metrics, and benchmarks for that?

Can you answer these questions or give me confidence that these answers will be included in the vaporware update?

Aren't there answers to these questions? Why am I getting a runaround when I try to get those answers?

Thank you for your attention,

Charlie Mas
"

Well see... If nothing else, I can ask these questions again at the community meetings on the Strategic Plan.

Charlie Mas said...

I have no response from Ms Chandler on my request for a timetable.

She suggested that I attend one of the District's quarterly community meetings. I did attend the one at Mercer on January 12, but there was no meaningful update on the Strategic Plan.

Ms Rava-Treat, who is in charge of the Plan, was there but she was not prepared to provide an update in any detail. Instead, she told me that all the work was getting done and that my email requests for updates were not helpful.

I reminded her of the District's commitment to provide the informatiion, noted the District's failure to fulfill that commitment, and asked her how else I was supposed to get the data.

She said again that the email requests were not the way. I replied that she should then have replied to the emails with that statement instead of ignoring them.

We were kind of yelling at each other at that point and so both decided to shift the conversation into another direction. She said that she would send me a copy of an update document that went to the Board and that should have been posted to the web.

I look forward to receiving the update or seeing it posted to the web.