Strategic Plan update

The Board (and, through them, the public) are supposed to receive quarterly updates on the progress of the Strategic Plan, "Excellence for All". The Board, however, has not had an update since March 11, four months ago.

So here is my un-official Strategic Plan Update to fill the empty space where the official one should be.

Before anything else, I would like to note that the stated goals of the Strategic Plan are for incremental improvement over a five-year period starting one year ago. I think that we should debate whether or not incremental improvement is what we need or whether we don't need profound change on an urgent basis. Were there annual goals to go along with the five year goals? I don't recall ever seeing any. If there are annual goals, did we meet them in the first year?

Project: Align Math Curriculum.
The goal here is to align the teaching in every classroom to - at a minimum - the State Standards and Grade Level Expectations for that grade level. In addition to the aligned curriculum, the District intends to align the academic expectations for students across all classrooms of the same grade so that work that earns a "B" in one school would also earn a "B" in every other school. This work is of critical importance to school quality and defines the idea of equitable access to quality programs. In service to this goal, the District committed to opening school in the Fall of 2009 with the aligned curriculum in place and in practice. To support this effort, the Central Staff have written the curriculum, instructional guides (curriculum guide) that associate textbook chapters with State Standards and GLEs, pacing guides, and common assessments. Teachers have been (or will be) provided with professional development on the curriculum, the proper use of manipulatives and technology (calculators), common understanding of grading, exemplary lessons, and the use of rubrics.

Come September 2009, this is supposed to be the way it is for Math in Seattle Public Schools. The Performance Measurement System is supposed to assure it. The District staff report that they are on time with this project. Come September we shall see.

There has been little or no public discussion of what teachers are supposed to do for students who are working below grade level and lack the necessary foundation to do grade level work.

Project: Align Science Curriculum.
This project is analogous to the Align Math Curriculum project but it has been indefinitely delayed as the State is late with the delivery of Standards and GLEs for science.

Project: Develop assessment tools to track student progress.
The District committed to designing, developing, and implementing common District-wide formative and summative assessments in math and reading for all students k-12 with full implementation beginning with the 2009-2010 school year. The District has selected Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) as the formative assessment tool. Students in up to 83 schools will take the computer-based MAP assessments three times over the coming year. There is difficulty in using MAP at some schools because they do not have the technological infrastructure necessary to administer a computer-based assessment. Approximately 20 elementary and K-8 schools do not currently have computer labs. The District is working to provide computers to those schools.

It is unclear if the MAP is also intended as the summative assessment. It is unclear if any summative assessment is planned. Perhaps the District intends to use the WASL as the summative assessment.

It is anticipated that data from the MAP assessments will be used to inform instruction. The Performance Measurement System should be tracking this intended outcome and should provide opportunities for accountability around it.

Project: School Performance Framework.
The District was supposed to have developed a School Performance Framework to measure and report the effectiveness of schools versus a set of performance targets. With a school performance framework, Seattle Public Schools will be able to provide high performing schools with more autonomy and lower-performing schools with the targeted assistance they need to improve.

The School Performance Framework was supposed to be complete by December, 2008 but remains unfinished. Also by December, the District was supposed to identify the different types of supports and flexibilities school along the continuum would receive. This work also remains unfinished.

Every school is supposed to have clear performance goals and beginning with the 2009-10 school year the District is supposed to measure progress toward those goals.

All of this work is unfinished, late, and apparently mired.

There was a presentation to the Board on July 1 about Performance Management which claimed "School Reports v1.0 finalized", but the school report shown to the Board on that day listed a number of the spaces as "exact methodology still to be determined" or "TBD". Only 12 schools will be included in the initial rollout of the school performance framework in 2009-2010 rather than all schools as the Strategic Plan promised. There is no sense of what, if any, support or autonomy might result from this exercise. The whole project is horribly, horribly fouled.

Project: Reform teacher hiring process.
The District was supposed to have a new hiring process up and running in the Spring of 2009 for hiring teachers for the 2009-2010 school year. At the last minute the District decided that the software they were going to use was far too expensive and they rejected it after a year of thinking about it. The District is using a jerry-rigged process in the interim.

This project is woefully behind schedule and it is unclear why the District staff spent so much time considering a software solution that is far beyond our means.

Project: improve professional development.
There has been no news on this project.

Project: Implement effective performance evaluations at all levels.
Peformance evaluations for the bulk of District employees, including teachers, principals, and school support staff, is a matter for collective bargaining. This was all supposed to be in place for fall 2009. It is part of current labor negotiations.

Project: Improve technology for district central tasks.
There are a number of technology improvement projects which mostly revolve around migrating processes from an outdated computer to more modern equipment and software. Among the tasks to be migrated are: Student Assignment, Student Information System, Academic Systems data, and Utilities. Many of these are supposed to be complete by now, but there is no public news about these projects.

Project: Develop budget protocols and evaluation tools.
The District is supposed to develop and fully implement a new budget process beginning in fall 2009 for the 2010-11 budget. This process is supposed to include some means for prioritizing budget items and evaluating the efficacy of spending. There is no public information available about this project.

Communication Protocol.
The District adopted a Communications Protocol. Every Strategic Plan project is supposed to meet the standards outlined in the protocol adopted in October of 2008. No more than three or four of the projects are even trying to meet the requirements of the protocol.

Project: Upgrade District Web site.
No action to date. The District was supposed to have a proposal for a major web site overhaul complete by spring 2009. No such document is publicly available. Funding for this project has not been identified.

Project: Implement School-Family Partnership Plan.
Good progress has been made to implement the School-Family Partnership Plan. 17 schools established Family Engagement Action Teams last year and another 17 schools will start them this year.

The plan calls for a more meaningful communication channel between the superintendent and the School-Family Partnership Advisory Committee for the 2008-2009 school year. In that year the superintendent came to one of the Advisory Committee meetings - same as in previous years. There was no other contact.

Project: Engage staff as stakeholders.
There is no publicly available information on this project.

Project: Get more money from private partners.
The District has garnered money from a variety of private resources this year including the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Alliance for Education. There were no specific goals or timetables established for this project.

Project: Improve Culture.
A customer service protocol was supposed to have been established by fall 2008. There is no publicly available information about this project.

The District was supposed to have developed and shared a Dashboard to track progress on each strategy in the plan by fall 2008. There is no dashboard. They now think they will have it by August 2009.

Miscellaneous Projects.
There are some other items that are supposed to be in progress.

Response to Special Education Audit.
There is some work being done, but no information has been made publicly available. As of the 2009 Enrollment process for the 2009-2010 school year, students requiring resource room services or integrated comprehensive services are assigned to schools through the normal open enrollment process.
This week the District finally hired an Executive Director of Special Education.

Response to Advanced Learning Audit.
No information publicly available. The District is committed to having an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum for APP ready and fully implementated in the fall of 2009.

Response to Bilingual Education Audit.
No information publicly available.

Alternative Education Audit and Response.
The District hopes to have an outside agency conduct the audit in the fall of 2009, much later than initially anticipated. A number of critical decisions have already been made about alternative schools without the benefit of this audit.

"Each strategy will be developed with a detailed timeline that will include milestones and performance measurements so that we can assess our success.

We will schedule regular School Board reviews of our progress.

To honor our commitment to transparency, all materials will be posted on the SPS Web site."

Needless to say, there is a dearth of materials posted to the Seattle Public Schools web site. As promised, however, this is consistent with the District's commitment to transparency.


Thanks Charlie for the update. How odd this comes from a citizen rather than the district. And, no glossy paper or pictures or charts necessary; just the facts.

Wasn't there a "Dashboard" element in all this to keep people up-to-date? Maybe I missed that.

This is exactly where the Board is supposed to keep the Superintendent on task. This Strategic Plan is her baby and she talks about it constantly. Where's the accountability?
Maria Ramirez said…
"Fidelity to implementation"
MGJ, 9/6/2007.
dan dempsey said…
Here is my Math Update:
K-8 math was to be aligned to state standards by school year 2008-2009.
Never happened but supposedly will happen for 2009-2010 as work is finally all done.

I had an extended phone call today with an SPS k-5 teacher. Here is her report:
For 2008-2009 we were still supposed to be following the EDM pacing guide but...
At the start of school kids were given a test, which had nothing to do with prior EDM instruction from last year.... for it was based on State Math Standards. Periodically throughout the year children were tested on State Grade Level Expectations NOT EDM goals. ..... So when I figured this out EDM became a supplement and I taught to grade level expectations. The result was my kids scored extremely well on the year end assessment. (So why did district spend huge bucks for more EDM consumables?)

She found EDM to be as described in NMAP "a spiraled jumbled incoherent mess", that should be avoided. That would be the NMAP that despite being the definitive math document was not used in the High School Math adoption.

In regard to math decision-making the Central Admin always avoids peer-reviewed empirical data.
Look here for my letter to CAO Enfield in regard to this matter.

As we seek to not only learn from the past but hold everyone accountable, what happened at Cleveland HS with the UW directed 2006-2009 math project that can only be termed an abysmal failure?

Sorry sweeping this under the rug as some aberrant anomaly just will not cut it. This was to be expected and bears great similarity to the District's "Discovering Math" plans for high school.

We are witnessing "Fads that Fail" but are continually retried by an arrogant administration.(next victim will be science) See Fads could end with corrected beliefs
, which features this "These proponents do not need, as Dennett says, “to get others to help in making the corrections” because they have no intention of correcting their beliefs and prescriptions based on empirical evidence."

Conclusion of My Math Update:
Delusional administration continues to live in Fantasy Land and requires all to suffer. Still disregards article IX of state constitution refusing to provide an adequate education for all students.

"Discovering Math" series was adopted for High School because after defective k-8 math program of EDM and Connected Math this is the only program that offers any hope for most students being able to get a passing grade.

Learning Math remains unimportant in the Seattle Schools.
dan dempsey said…
For a brief history of how we got the constructivist inquiry-based "Reform Math" and why it will never work go HERE .

I have permission from Australian Professor John Sweller to send you his article. If you would like a copy of his article:

Instructional Implications of David C. Geary’s Evolutionary Educational Psychology

write me at:

John Sweller is pleased that McLaren, Mass, and Porter are pursuing legal action over the high school math adoption.

Charlie Mas said…
I have a quote in my calendar page for this week. It is from Thomas Edison and says "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

EDM would be less of a failure if the District would learn that it doesn't work.

It's okay to try things. In fact it is good to try things. But we have to be ready and able to acknowledge when they don't work. This can only happen, however, in a culture in which it is safe to admit that things you tried didn't work. That isn't possible in the dysfunctional culture of Seattle Public Schools.
Charlie Mas said…
For me, the two most troubling elements of this - far more troubling than the projects that are behind schedule or the failures to inform the public - are:

1) The staff's failure to do the quarterly update, and

2) The Board's failure to demand the quarterly update.
Mr. Edelman said…
Thank you very much for the update, Charlie. I've been wondering if there had been any changes in bilingual education. In a district where about 12.3 percent of the students have limited English proficiency, bilingual education is a very important part of closing the achievement gap and attaining the strategic goals the district set for itself.

In your article, you stated, "I think that we should debate whether or not incremental improvement is what we need or whether we don't need profound change on an urgent basis." In addressing this question, we should consider what the Strategic Plan is supposed to heading towards: the strategic goals I linked to above.

Consider what it takes to raise the on-time graduation rate. The changes we would have to see in high schools would be profound. As evidence, I cite a study of six California high schools that beat the odds. These are high schools whose free-or-reduced lunch percentages ranged from 54% to 73%, whose minority populations ranged from 79% to 98%, whose total enrollment ranged from 548 to 2,224, and whose graduation rate ranged from 84.5% to 100%. I'm skeptical that the strategies the district is using will get it anywhere near its stated goals of a four-year graduation rate of 75% and a five-year graduation rate of 80% by the 2012-2013 school year.
LA Teacher, thanks for the links. Lots (!) of interesting reading.
dj said…
Charlie, I will take you up on your invitation. Do we need incremental change, or profound change on an urgent basis? If we're about to change school assignments so that a bunch of people are going to be in schools they'd never otherwise choose, I'd say "urgent" is the appropriate time frame.

I don't think we need to panic and make bad decisions, but I also don't think we need five years of developing performance measures and aligning curriculum to be able to start making serious changes in schools that need it. It is obviously quite easy to identify the schools with high drop-out rates. It is also really quite easy to identify the schools where families line up to enroll (and to therefore think about what program aspects should be replicated at less-successful schools). We already have data on those things. I also don't think it's really rocket science to figure out which schools parents avoid, and which schools people in general don't consider successful. That category is going to be too large, for sure -- certainly there are bound to be perfectly successful schools that parents for irrational reasons avoid. But it would be a good starting place for figuring out what schools need we go piling a bunch of new students into those schools.

But what I would imagine is taking place is that we are having several years of talking about improving schools with absolutely no concrete plans for doing so.
dan dempsey said…

Spot on with:
"But what I would imagine is taking place is that we are having several years of talking about improving schools with absolutely no concrete plans for doing so."

Does improving schools mean improving learning?

Consider that Curriculum and instruction score of 2.0 on the audit. Then look at how much of the Strategic plan as currently designed is aimed at curriculum.

Then look and see if the aim is anywhere near a target.

A target as in concrete plans for improvement.
SpedWatch said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
SpedWatch said…
Response to Special Education Audit.
There is some work being done, but no information has been made publicly available. As of the 2009 Enrollment process for the 2009-2010 school year, students requiring resource room services or integrated comprehensive services are assigned to schools through the normal open enrollment process.

What does the above statement mean? ??? What progress? Please do tell! Has a single teacher been hired to do ANY work on the audit? Yes, we do know about the hiring of 3 costly people, no real experts, for the one job of "executive director of special education". (Add it up. More than $300,000.) Has even one actual teacher been hired to implement "integrated comprehensive services"? Has even one teacher been hired to do anything else related to the audit? Charlie, you seem to know, so DO TELL.

As far as students with disabilities "using normal enrollment". That is a sham. True, families were allowed to use the building. But, their enrollment forms were not processed by any normal process. They were processed individually and separately.

How do we know the enrollment of special education students was not "regular"? Because some people selected "Jane Addams" first on their list... only to be rejected. Any normal kid, selecting Addams would have been assigned a seat at Jane Addams. And gladly. Not special education kids... (that means their enrollment application was processed differently)

Another group of students received no assignment at all after enrollment. Does that EVER happen if it's just plain old "regular enrollment"? No, of course not. All plain old regular enrollments got assignments. SPS has tried to cover it up this year, because it is a repeat of last year's problems. That isn't "progress". We do not even know if they're all students with disabilities are assigned to schools even now. I do not consider the "right to walk into the enrollment center building" as any sort of progress. Sorry Charlie.
Charlie Mas said…
It appears that the District staff have misinformed us about Special Education enrollment.

This is not uncommon. It is, in fact, part of the benefit of this blog. I can post reports here and people can confirm or refute them.
SpedWatch said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
SpedWatch said…
More evidence that students with disabilities were not placed normally, using the same process as everyone else. One graduating fifth grader from Thorton Creek, with a disability, but using resource room services was planning to attend Salmon Bay for middle school and selected it first. (This child is not autistic, and wasn't in Thorton Creek's autism self-contained program.) She was denied a spot at Salmon Bay, unlike every other kid in her class. Enrolling at Salmon Bay for middle schoolers is something all non-disabled students at Thorton Creek get to do. The enrollment process gives TC grads first priority for Salmon Bay 6th grade seats..... unless you have a disability. Upon further investigation, her family discovered that not only was her enrollment different than everyone else's... but Salmon Bay keeps a separate "waitlist" for students with a disability, even for students not enrolling in any program. No students in the self-contained program at TC, would get to attend Salmon Bay either.

So, it is quite obvious, that the district's line "you get the same enrollment process as everyone else" is false. And, nobody really believes it either. Making such statements damages their credibility.
SpedWatch said…
And to add one more wrinke on the assignment facts 2009. The kid who selected "Jane Addams" but was rejected... and who happens to live nearby Jane Addams, was instead assigned to.... the ever popular: "Salmon Bay", at the same time the kid who had priority at Salmon Bay as a Thornton Creek grad, was rejected from Salmon Bay.

To review, Kid 1 selects Addams but gets Salmon Bay. Kid 2, in line for Salmon Bay by normal priority order, doesn't get Salmon Bay, and instead gets "special waitlisted".

(Kid 1 is happy with the Salmon Bay assignment. And perhaps Kid 2 has been de-waitlisted by now. Who knows? The issue is the process.)

Why does this happen? How can it happen? Obviously the all-knowing hand of the special ed department was at work. And that all-knowing hand was assigning people as they know best, by their idea of "best fit". It didn't matter to them that Kid 2 had been going to school with the same kids for 6 years and was still not allowed to matriculate with everyone else in her class. That bit of equity wasn't important even if it violated her civil rights under 504.

That's not the "normal" enrollment process is it Charlie? How would you like the district enrolling your child...where ever they thought "best"?
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