Southeast Initiative Accountability

The results of the Southeast Initiative came up in the recent Board discussion of the Cleveland STEM proposal. Director DeBell said that the Southeast Initiative results were disappointing and reflected failure. Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson responded both that the Southeast Initiative was, in fact, successful and that three years is far too short a time frame for measuring results.

Both of her statements were false.

Let's take the second one first, the idea that three years is just too short of a period to look for improvement. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was superintendent when the Southeast Initiative was debated and adopted. She was superintendent when the three-year time frame was set. She was superintendent when the accountability benchmarks were set. In fact, she set them. She has been superintendent for the entire life of the project. Every decision about the Southeast Initiative has been made with her implicit approval if not her explicit approval. She has reported to the Board any number of times on the initiative's progress, usually with enthusiasm and optimism. Not once in all of this time did Dr. Goodloe-Johnson ever suggested, or even intimated - let alone outright stated - that three years is too short a time period to expect positive results. Only now, as the three year period for the effort comes to a close does she give this disclaimer. In a word: bullshit.

If three years is too short a time for change, then why weren't the benchmarks simply less ambitious? If three years is too short a time for change, then why wasn't the project made longer? If three years is too short a time for change, then why didn't she provide that disclaimer at the beginning and all along? If three years is too short a time for change, then why did she express such optimism in her updates? This excuse simply does not stand up.

Next comes the suggestion that the Southeast Education Initiative was any kind of success.

Let's remember the purpose of the effort. It was to make Aki Kurose, Rainier Beach, and Cleveland into "schools of choice" for families in the neighborhood. Lately, I have seen some revisionist history at work. Every so often it is suggested that the purpose of the Southeast Initiative is to raise student academic achievement through a combination of strengthened academic offerings and signature programs. That's simply not true. Do not accept such lies.

Here is the direct quote from the document that gives the Southeast Initiative its charter, the Framework for Revised Student Assignment Plan, approved by the Board on June 20, 2007:
The vision of the initiative is to:
• Ensure that local secondary schools are the "schools of choice" for residents of southeast Seattle by providing targeted and sustained resources that will enable each school to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for school transformation.
• Schools will include Aki Kurose Middle School, Cleveland High School, and Rainier Beach High School.

Improving the academic outcomes for students at the schools is only part of the means to that end. The accountability measures were to be:
• Enrollment Growth
• % of First Choice
• Increased Academic Achievement
• Student and Teacher Climate Survey Results
• Attendance

The Board's Audit and Finance Committee got an update on the Southeast Education Initiative at their meeting on December 10, 2009. I don't have the documents that were presented to them then, but I do have access to relevent data.

Enrollment (as of the October 1 count) at the three schools in the years 2007, 2008, and 2009:

Aki Kurose: 465, 434, 561
This represents a significant improvement, but the school is still woefully under-enrolled. Also, further analysis (below) shows that the increased enrollment was not due to choice.

Rainier Beach: 361, 453, 500
This represents a significant improvement, but the school is still woefully under-enrolled. Also, further analysis (below) shows that the increased enrollment was not due to choice.

Cleveland: 676, 706, 695
This does not represent any improvement at all.

% of First Choice:

Aki Kurose: 33.3%, 26.1%, 19.4%
This represents significant decline. We now see that the source of the improved enrollment increase was not at all attributable to first choice assignments. Only 39 students selected Aki Kurose as their school of first choice in 2009.

Rainier Beach: 17.3%, 13.3%, 12.8%
This represents significant decline. We now see that the source of the improved enrollment increase was not at all attributable to first choice assignments. Only 15 students selected Rainier Beach as their school of first choice in 2009.

Cleveland: 28.6%, 25.8%, 18.0%
This represents significant decline. Only 44 students selected Cleveland as their school of first choice in 2009.


Aki Kurose: 86.3%, 87.1%, 86.8% No improvement.
Rainier Beach: 78.1%, 76.4%, 77.5% No improvement.
Cleveland: 75.3%, 74.0%, 75.5% No improvement.

Academic Achievement (as measured by 7th and 10th grade WASL pass rates):

Aki Kurose math: 21.8%, 21.9%, 22.5% No improvement.
Aki Kurose reading: 54.9%, 44.7%, 45.8% Decline.
Rainier Beach math: 37.4%, 28.6%, 17.6% Decline.
Rainier Beach reading: 70.0%, 67.9%, 61.5% Decline.
Cleveland math: 17.9%, 12.0%, 21.2% No improvement.
Cleveland reading 62.7%, 61.4%, 64.4% No improvement.

There is simply no objective measure by which the Southeast Inititiative can be said to be a success. Any claims of succes are patently false.


Thank you Charlie for fleshing this out. Send this info to the Board so that Dr. G-J's intimidation tactics don't work.

Talk about revisionist history; just got back from the BEX Oversight Committee meeting where Fred Stephens, the head of Facilities, attempts to rewrite SBOC history. It deserves its own thread.
Gouda said…
We all knew the SE Initiative wasn't going to work. It was added to the SAP to help appease anyone from SE who wanted to protest the new policy. So here we are years later with little to no improvement (though I must say the new principals at both Aki and Cleveland are fan-damn-tastic), a new SAP, and families in SE with no high quality options.
seattle citizen said…
I'm interested in your statement that the principals at both Aki Kurose and Cleveland are fantastic, yet you bemoan that families in SE have no high quality options.

If these are good principals (and I agree they are) then why are the schools not "quality"?
ParentofThree said…
"SBOC history"

Yes and I noted in the SPS LEvy brochure I received yesterday that there is not one dime in it for SBOC!

Didn't they have $10 million?
h2o girl said…
I just got the levy leaflet today, and noticed that there was no mention of any $$ for the reopening of Sand Point, McDonald, etc. Unless I missed it, of course. I did note the 100k for the security cameras at Roosevelt and thought of you, Melissa. And they're going to seismically update Memorial Stadium. When, right before they tear it down? Crikey.
ParentofThree said…
It is in there, under Capacity Management $48 million.

$5 million is in for NOVA, no mention of SBOC.
h2o girl said…
Oh shoot, I missed that page. Thanks SPSMom.
WenD said…
This is heart breaking. It confirms that SPS doesn't have the credibility to be trusted with another levy. Not now.
Anonymous said…
Supt. MGJ is adding $5M to the SPS deficit. That is a 10 percent increase. Other programs will be asked to make cuts to cover these new programs. The SE initiative has shown no gains, what a success! Why is the school board allowing this? Where are the sane voices? The Seattle Community wants to help struggling students. We have proved it over and over through the passing of levies. At the same time we do not want to pour more money into a program when we are about to have the largest shortfall in SPS history. The SPS Admin leadership is making this more painful and leading us into a more difficult financial time. Add this to the coming battle over the teacher contract, with the Supts. desire to have merit (-less) pay, and SPS will be hurting more than ever. What is happening? The board must stand up to MGJ's leadership and rethink all these ideas through the lens of a budget shortfall. Most families stop spending when they don't have the money, why not SPS.
Danny K said…
Wow, this is downright Orwellian. Why can't the Times pick up on stories like this?
Gouda said…
@seattle citizen - A good principal needs several years to make the necessary changes at a school. Several years is a child's tenure at any given school. In addition, neither of the the schools (in my not so humble opinion) are ready for dealing with the entire spectrum of students in SE.

Both Cleveland and Aki are getting better at serving their current populations, but they haven't been serving the highest achieving students in the neighborhood. STEM will likely change that at Cleveland, but I'm not sure about Aki. I know that Mia is committed to it though, so I'm watching and waiting.

There is no question, though, that Aki simply doesn't have the course offerings that Washington, Hamilton, or Eckstein have. Not even close.
seattle citizen said…
Yes, Limes, course offerings would be a good indicator of "quality."

I hope that in today's budget climate we can continue (generally, district-wide) with even the ranges of courses offered now.

I also agree that some tenure with these new principals would be helpful. Let's hope they get it.
dan dempsey said…
Looking at Charlie's fine SE analysis should I question the idea that MGJ will make every school a quality school under the SAP?

The SAP is based on the premise that every school will become a quality school at least partially via the savings from transportation.

Does the STEM plan make every school a quality school by sucking resources into one school that likely will be under enrolled.

Proven successful programs are rarely used in designing SPS programs. STEM appears to be missing the mark with its increased spending to serve a small number of students in a budget deficit environment.

MGJ has a really poor grasp of fiscal responsibility and what constitutes academic success or adequate maintenance. The board continually seems as far out of touch as MGJ when they rubber stamp poor idea after poor idea and never analyze for any accountability.

Linda Shaw needs to write a story on the SE Initiative.
Charlie Mas said…
I continue to be troubled by the Board's acceptance of false statements by the superintendent. There are plenty of other examples.

So I'm wondering, what is at the root of it?

Maybe the Board simply isn't sufficiently familiar with the facts. I'm often surprised by how little the Board members know about how things work and what goes on in the district. So this is often the case.

This time, however, the Board members couldn't have actually thought that Aki and Cleveland had shown the improvements that the superintendent claimed. We know they didn't. The data had been reviewed in the Audit and Finance Committee meeting and, as Director DeBell mentioned, it showed no improvement in academic outcomes. If the staff had some positive interpretation of those numbers they would have presented it in the Committee meeting. They did not.

Maybe the Board members don't want to contradict the superintendent in public. I think this is the more likely case. The Board members just don't want to call attention to the superintendent's habit of making false statements in public because they don't want to call attention to that practice. It would tarnish her image, diminish her effectiveness and prove a detriment to their relationship.

Of course, by not correcting her, they tarnish their own image, diminish their effectiveness, and negatively impact their relationship with the public.

I can only hope that they set the record straight in private.
I asked a Board member if they see any of the presentations before the Board meeting. They don't. I know, for myself, to try to read AND follow along as a staffer tries to nuance the presentation out would be difficult to get. I just don't understand why the Board doesn't say they want the presentation two days before (on the promise to reveal nothing) and read it at length, check "facts" and then be ready to ask questions.
dan dempsey said…
But Melissa your plan would make it more difficult for staff to deceive the board members.
dan dempsey said…
Speaking of things that do not work.
What is the plan for academic coaches for next year?

It seems that 111 academic coaches for $10+ million was likely not enough for adequate improvement.

How many are planned for next year?
dan dempsey said…
Charlie said:
"Of course, by not correcting her, they tarnish their own image, diminish their effectiveness, and negatively impact their relationship with the public." BINGO

The board seems completely out of touch when they let MGJ float this stuff without correction.

In the Cheryl Chow years the board rubber stamped everything and look where that got us. This board by their inaction make it look like dysfunction is a permanent characteristic of Seattle School leadership.

The public has only one recourse lawsuits. This is a pathetic situation.
Charlie Mas said…
Dan used the word "dysfunction". It's one that used to be applied to the Butler-Wall board, but I never saw them that way.

To me, "dysfunction" suggests that the institution did not function, it did not fulfill its role. I think the Butler-Wall Board DID fulfill its role. It is the current Board, or, more precisely, the Chow Board, that failed to work.

What is the Board's role? It is not to produce unanimous votes. The Board's role is to set policy and provide oversight. The Chow Board brought policy work to a near standstill and chose to be a rubber-stamp instead of an oversight body. It was the Chow Board that was dysfunctional.

Is the DeBell Board dysfunctional or does it work? It almost works. It is temptingly close to working. They come very very close to fulfilling their role. The current Board is writing policy - although they are not enforcing it. Is it providing oversight? Almost. After debate in which they acknowledge that they have serious doubts they make optimistic statements and then rubber stamp.

I also frequently hear them say "We'll approve it this time, but this was not good enough. Next time we'll expect to see better work." Of course, next time comes and the work is no different. Program Placement is supposed to be better this year, but it isn't. The Transportation Plan is supposed to be better this year, but it isn't. A whole slough of other reports, projects, and initiatives have been warned that they need to do better work next time. But do they? Won't the Board just approve the shoddy work next time just as they approved the shoddy work last time (and every other time before)?

Finally, the Board does not follow through. Just as they do not maintain the promised high standards "next time", they don't remember what they asked for. Examples abound. The Board directed the superintendent to review and revise Policy D12.00 on January 29, 2009. It's been a year, but no one on the Board has asked for the result. They forgot that they asked for it. They forgot all of the stuff that was supposed to come with the Denny/Sealth co-location until they were reminded of them. They forgot the original budgets for all of the capital projects. They forgot the promise that the staff made with the closures (such as a written curriculum for APP), they forgot the community engagement that was supposed to be part of the Strategic Plan, they forgot their own quarterly update on the Strategic Plan. There are others.
dan dempsey said…
Charlie thanks for the detailed review.

Well the board does remember somethings....The board did remember to give MGJ a $5,280 bonus for fulfilling 25% of her own goals.

Shouldn't there have been a deduct for only 3 out of 4 required quarterly reports ... oh they did not ever mention missing reports. Well ya jus' cain't 'member all this stuff when there is so much new stuff to approve.

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