Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why Advanced Learning is Behind

The Advanced Learning Office of Seattle Public Schools seems to have a lot on their plate - writing a curriculum for APP, participating in a number of program design and transition teams, responding to the APP review, reviewing PSAT test data, expanding AP classes, working to create an ALO at every school, and more.

Those special jobs are in addition to their regular work of conducting over 3,000 eligibility tests, professional development for teachers, and conducting the AP tests. All of that work certainly goes a long way to explain why the department has never been able to undertake any sort of work to assure the quality and effectiveness of the current programs.

Thank goodness, you might think, that the Superintendent made the job of the Program Manager a full time position last year. It had been a .6 FTE position in the previous year.

Well, the situation is not really as benevolent as the District would have you believe.

In 2005-2006 the department had a full time manager and two full time consulting teachers. In 2006-2007 the manager position was cut to .6 FTE. In 2007-2008 - to great hoopla - the program manager position was restored to full time. At the time, there was no mention that the same administrators who were being congratulated for expanding the job to full time were the same administrators who cut it from full time in the previous year. Also unmentioned was the loss of one of the consulting teachers, Kim Fox, who became the interim principal at Bryant and has since been appointed the permanent principal there. So while they were touting the expansion of one job from .6 FTE to 1.0 FTE, they were also eliminating 1.0 FTE for a net reduction of .6 FTE. The remaining consulting teacher has missed a lot of time due to poor health.

In other words, this year the Advanced Learning department has been seriously under-staffed while the District has piled more and more work on it. No wonder the work isn't getting done.


zb said...

So where is SPS over-staffed? I think I'm being a little bit snarky, but not really. I'm wondering where folks think staff cuts could be made effectively?

I'm guessing everyone will point to nebulous positions in central administration, but I'm wondering which one's, exactly.

These positions (for Advanced learning) aren't classroom teachers; they're support.

(and, I'm not asking for complaints about individuals, only the roles of the position)

Charlie Mas said...

Where is the District over-staffed?

That's a good question. It has been suggested in a couple of audits that the District has too many administrators, but I'm not sure who falls into that category. Apparently the math and reading coaches were counted among those.

Now, if it were up to me, I would think that the District doesn't really need that many full time math and reading coaches. I understand that their job is to provide ongoing professional development on-site for teachers. But I can't help thinking that these are some of the best teachers in the District and it is just wrong that they are not in classrooms in front of students. Couldn't they have a class and get paid a stipend to coach other teachers within the school outside of their class time?

Didn't it used to be the principal's job to coach the teachers? When did principals abdicate the role of instructional leader?

I would like to see the principals delegate their operational duties to a non-educator who is a qualified manager. I suspect one such business officer could assume the operational responsibility for about four schools. That would free up more of the principals' time to focus on their role as instructional leader.

Then there's folks working in the headquarters who are former principals on "special" assignment. They serve on a variety of committees and sub-committees, but I don't know if they have any everyday duties. What's that about?

How many people do we really need working in the various departments? Why does math need seven people, and science needs 12 professionals (plus assistants), when social studies can get buy with just two?

Stu said...


I don't mean to sound TOO jaded here but do you really believe that this district cares that much about Advanced Learning? I mean, I know that they think it's important to, at least, offer it on paper, just to show how progressive they are, but haven't they done everything possible to dilute the various programs? They've split apart APP, in the name of diversity, they refuse to support Spectrum in any meaningful way; some areas have no programs, some areas have overflowing programs, some schools have stand-alone spectrum, some schools combine general and spectrum students. Mostly, however, by pushing so hard for ALO in every school, don't you think that that's what they're going to eventually consider "advanced learning?"

Again, for some reason, this superintendent, and her board, have decided that "equal" means "same." The way they're going to save money is by making sure no one gets anything "special." Then they wouldn't have to pay for APP-qualified teachers, additional education, busing, etc.


dan dempsey said...

Math coaches .....
Look at the adopted materials ... this stuff does not work but can coaching save it?

If the District adopts Discovering Algebra with out any materials below that in high school ... the district will need an army of coaches in every high school.

You must be kidding ... with 30% of grade 8 students unable to score above WASL math level 1 ... and those kids going into 9th grade algebra.

A partial solution looks to be to cut the Superintendent, CAO, and Math Program Manager with this kind of decision making.

Charlie Mas said...

I honestly don't think that the District gives a damn about Advanced Learning or advanced learners. Of course, I don't honestly think that the District gives a damn about anybody, so advanced learners aren't being singled out for any special negligence. It's like when I hear schools threatened with closure complain about lack of District support - as if any other schools were getting District support.

Yes, they talk about caring about advanced learning, but they do nothing in support of it. Let's remember that they also claim to care about under-performing minority students from low-income households, but do they get these kids what they need? No.

It may be too much to expect the District to actually care about the kids all that much. They are really busy with their internal political struggles.

GoGloMama said...

This might not be exactly on topic but I'm not sure who else is as knowledgeable to ask. What is the best school to send your child who has tested into the spectrum and ALO programs and lives in the NW of Seattle?