Disqus

Monday, February 08, 2010

NTN Vote Rationale for Each Director

Now that the decision-making of the Board has been given a bright public spotlight via the math adoption ruling, I thought it might be worth going over what each Director had to say last Wednesday on the NTN $800,000 contract ruling.

First, Dr. Enfield gave a CAO report on NTN. She had a chart comparing different programs similiar to NTN but she zipped through it so fast, I had no time to read it. She also claimed that staff, community and parents support NTN. My notes reflect: "I'd like to see the data on that." I'm sorry but I sincerely doubt that they asked parents and community about which program to buy. Her points on NTN:
  • all-school package with project-based learning
  • timeline
  • planning development
  • national network of other schools
  • web-based resources
I didn't do research and maybe Dan D. did so maybe he can help us out. But one of the biggest points (if not the main point) is the NTN is the only source of all that we need to lay the foundation to get started. Dr. Enfield made it sound like there was no other company in all of the United States that does what NTN does (has). Could that possibly be true in a country as large as ours? She compared it with Project Lead the Way, an engineering program that is in several high schools here. Of course, PLTW is not NTN because they are two totally different things. I'm not sure I understand why they were compared unless it was as part of a package of programs to cobble together.

So then there were questions and comments.
  • Harium stated that they had visited (I assume Board members) other schools in our area like Aviation High but he stated that it was not a model that was replicating itself. He also mentioned TAF (Technology Access Foundation, they have an academy in Federal Way) but said they hadn't visited there.
  • Sherry asked about a community speaker statement that there was a relationship between Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and Monica Martinez at NTN. Dr. G-J said she did not know Monica Martinez.
  • Peter spoke of the number of initiatives at Cleveland but said this one was "home-grown". I'd have to see the actual data on that one as well. I believe this was brought to Cleveland, not that community/parents/students were surveyed on what they wanted.
  • Harium also stated (and this seems key in his mind) that NTN is NOT content but a "foundational piece to support STEM".
  • Kay asked about whether they visited the new Tri-Cities STEM (Delta High). No, they didn't. What is interesting here is that Dr. Enfield said that last spring the district reached out to the Gates Foundation "that's how we made the decision". I assume she means STEM.
  • Among the competitors to NTN were Edvisions (Dr. Enfield said not targeted to STEM), Buck Institute (only workshops), Edutopia (what?! This is George Lucas' education foundation, why it was considered I don't know) and connectED (only in California). I just looked up the Buck Institute and I think the report is wrong (I'm e-mailing the director.) Their website says:
This professional development occurs in a sustained-support model, meaning we only agree to partner with organizations (districts, counties, ministries of education, states and - in rare instances - individual schools) that are willing to commit energy and resources to a collaboratively crafted multi-year program of face-to-face and virtual support.

We begin with an on-site two-or three-day PBL 101 workshop in which participants actively learn how to design, manage and assess standards-focused projects and the student work that is generated by them. We customize each sustained support program to meet the specific needs of our partners and help them develop a classroom and school culture focused on producing college and workforce ready 21st century learners.

It's a multi-year relationship where they customize the support program and help them develop their classroom and school culture for 21st century learners. Sounds like NTN to me.

Director Votes
  • First up, Kay Smith-Blum. She said a lot was unclear. She said there were multiple sets of information available at different times. There was unclear vetting of the other programs. "Just as we hold teachers and principals accountable, we need to hold our own process for the same quality." She said they need to vet vendors. She's worried about schools losing LAP funds (as Meg Diaz pointed out). She said that NTN's success had been in smaller schools (400-500) and smaller class sizes. NTN has fewer STEM schools in its network and yet our Board visited only non-STEM schools.
  • Harium. He did got to Sacramento and visited an NTN school (not STEM). He said he talked to a North Carolina principal of a STEM school. He mentioned he was told "interesting things" and made him feel like it was the right choice for SPS. He mentioned Thorton Creek did project-based learning. (And so what? So does Pathfinder. Neither are STEM schools. I hope they remember this when Dr. G-J is pushing to get rid of Alternatives or water them down.) He said it was a "bold and right move" and that "doing nothing was not an option." Okay, but doing something just to do something isn't much better.
  • Sherry. Here's where it got interesting to me because news flash to me: in order for the high school SAP to work, Cleveland has to work. What? Apparently, they truly did based the high school SAP around the idea that they would pull X number of kids from each comprehensive high school to go to Cleveland. (Now I knew they had projections but I thought it was just a "for example", not what they were basing high school populations on.) Seriously? Well, heck, then if Cleveland doesn't work out the gate, this could be a disaster.
  • She also said that she called NTN, PLTW and had completely satisfied herself that PLTW was not what NTN was. (But is that the point?). She said they were looking for a whole school model and it wasn't about selling curriculum. She said that Knowledge Works which assumed NTN last year checks out. (But what would Knowledge Works say about one of its partners but "they're great".) She said she wanted to support staff.
  • Peter. He claims that STEM will make Cleveland a good school and that "was a good enough reason to approve". But you're not voting on whether STEM is a good idea; you are voting on a foundation to based STEM on. He claimed (and Charlie help me out here) that there AREN'T enough kids around Cleveland to fill it. What? I thought there were but they many went north. He said that he is "satisfied that staff did due diligence". He says after 3 years the costs to run STEM would be "minimal".
  • Betty. She said she wanted to echo the other positive things said. But she questioned how many students would sign up and be successful (I think she was thinking of the Cleveland-area students.) She said the class size is an issue for her. She said she is having a hard time with the expense for one program and felt they were moving too fast. She feels that if they looked harder they would find something like NTN at a lower cost. She said she felt uneasy about the facts given.
  • Steve. He said they were back to the challenge of creating a successful STEM school. He said they could develop their own organic process to create the school or buy one. He said that NTN was the "only feasible program presented" but that they could have had clearer side by side comparisons for the public earlier. He said that implementation would matter greatly (is this a future out for if it doesn't work, I wondered).
  • Michael. Not there and it would have been interesting to hear his take on it.
I am not convinced that they looked as hard as they could have, either staff or the yes votes. For not one member to have even visited a STEM school (as far as I can discern), NTN or not, then you have to wonder. To say, we should have had this information out for a side by side comparison for the public sooner is too little too late. Given how the math decision came about, this decision has an odd ring of the familiar.

(Also, FYI, COO Don Kennedy, in his budget report, says that they will be able to get the $45M deficit down to $24M. This includes using $4.4M of reserves, hiring and spending freeze, increase in revenue and "misc strategies". Honestly, I know right now of several trips that SBOC staff are making this spring. Are they canceling those? I doubt it.)

(Another FYI, both Peter and Steve noted that because of city library budget cuts, they probably will not be having their community meetings there in the future. So check their webpages for updates.)
P.S. I know I write long posts and it's a long slog. But honestly, part of why I write as much as I do is to keep a history of what happened. Someday other parents might wonder how something came about and they'll have at least one other source besides the minutes of the Board meeting to look at.

28 comments:

Sue said...

Thank you Melissa.

I have to laugh at the thought that they think they are going to get - what is the number? 82 - kids from the Ballard attendance area to go to Cleveland. by 2015. similar numbers for Roosevelt, Hale and Ingraham.

Can't wait to see how that works out for them

There just went the 10% open choice seats for the northern high schools for the next year.

But, perhaps I am too pessimistic...

SolvayGirl said...

Melissa. Thank you for your tireless efforts on this and everything else. (Charlie too). Without you guys, few of us would have such a deep understanding of how this all work.

Dorothy Neville said...

Melissa, I am surprised that you are surprised about the SAP aspect. I thought that was widely discussed here. That the boundaries are too generous for the popular high schools and one way they could do that was cross their fingers and count on STEM. They painted the board into that corner which pretty much forced this vote. But it reduced anger last Fall over the boundaries for Roosevelt, Garfield and Ballard. Comparing the size of the RHS attendance area to the size of the distance tiebreaker in the last couple years, I have no idea how they are going to manage. Other people who know more about the GHS attendance area have echoed the same concerns.

What got me the most about all this is that up until now, I had been under the impression that NTN was out of the box, a complete package for the STEM school. But now we are told that it is simply a foundational piece, a support for teachers to learn how to teach in a project based manner. So where are we getting the STEM curriculum from then? Where is the money for that?

Central Mom said...

What is the reason they could not have declared Cleveland an Option school beginning immediately for enrollment trend purposes, and committed to STEM as coming, but waited one full year (until 2011-12)for planning, funding and marketing, all of which is much needed to make the school a success?

There is no reason. Especially since the District plays games with the Alt school designation and uses the Option title instead, for purposes of capacity management. (A "normal" program can still be an Option school. Dumb.)

I completely disagree with Harium. Doing "nothing" on that vote was ABSOLUTELY an choice. And that "nothing" would have allowed time to examine additional alternatives, or "homegrow" the program, or even accept NTN, but fully funded by grant dollars.

Nothing wrong with STEM. A whole lot wrong with the Staff's way of doing business and the Board's reasoning on the vote.

Chris S. said...

Always happy to slog thru your posts, Melissa, rather than have to watch the thing myself! Thank you.

ArchStanton said...

Always happy to slog thru your posts, Melissa, rather than have to watch the thing myself! Thank you.

Amen to that!

Central Mom said...

And the exclamation point on Poor Decision Making is that nagging little fact that the Staff/Board's NTN school visit didn't show them a STEM implementation.

Due Diligence is Dead. There's another T Shirt for you.

seattle citizen said...

it took Melissa three-four hours to WATCH this thing, then another hour to craft a detailed and exhaustive summary.
Multiply that by four or five years and you get the picture...
Thanks, Melissa. Again!

Regarding all these issues, maybe we should send in WV's winsymen: They ALWAYS win.

SeattlePerson said...

Regarding the attendance from out of the Cleveland area (even though there really isn’t a "Cleveland area" anymore), Delta HS in the Tri-Cities had over 300 kids apply for only 100 slots. Attendance slots were allocated from all three cities in numbers proportional to the students these districts have. My take is that distance is often *not* a barrier to participating in this type of curriculum. Will that translate in Seattle? I don't know but we'll see.

TAF tried a couple years ago to open a STEM-based school in SPS but for reasons unknown to me (although I can guess) it was never realized. They are in Year 2 in Federal Way and have 200 kids enrolled. Aviation HS in Highline has kids from all over the Puget Sound region, not just the district-drawn "capture area".

I think that yes, there are a number of families who would make the effort to get their kids to Cleveland for a high-quality STEM program, especially if it's the only public one in town. Now, the question for me is "Will it be high quality?". I hope so, I really do.

SolvayGirl said...

I think one of the biggest hurdles for city-wide enrollment in STEM at Cleveland is transportation. There's just not an easy way to get to Cleveland from Ballard or many other areas of the City. Perhaps once it is up and running, and a proven success, parents will come up with van-pools, etc. However, I believe the District is being overly optimistic in thinking that large numbers will come from the three most popular high schools this fall.

TechyMom said...

Franklin would have been a better choice for an all city draw. It's a great location for transit.

However, I think the goal here was to replace an unpopular school with a popular one (as others have said, mostly by replacing the students). With that goal in mind, it was either Beach or Cleveland. Franklin just isn't unpopular enough. Cleveland is not quite is out of the way as Beach, and is a nicer, newer building.

Stu said...

Delta HS in the Tri-Cities had over 300 kids apply for only 100 slots. Attendance slots were allocated from all three cities in numbers proportional to the students these districts have. My take is that distance is often *not* a barrier to participating in this type of curriculum.

This from the Delta High School admissions page:

Must be flexible and willing to work hard (slackers need not apply)

Over achievers, strong students, students interested in this type of learning, will try to figure out transportation to come to STEM. However, this program does nothing to serve the students who are currently at Cleveland and offers nothing to those who are already hitting high school far behind in math and science. Also, note that both the Kennewick and Pasco school districts supply some transportation to Delta High School. (Richland students take the public bus; a bit easier, in some ways, than getting around Seattle.)

ANY program that draws the best and brightest is going to succeed somehow; that's not the problem with this district. We're supposed to be about a quality education for ALL students.

stu

wseadawg said...

Given how the math decision came about, this decision has an odd ring of the familiar.

Oh yes it does, doesn't it. Re: Sundquist buying himself an out later on, it sure sounds like the Rationalizer-In-Chief is doing just that, as he always does when he frames every issue as though he has no choice on which way to vote. Somehow it's ALWAYS in accord with the staff's desires. Weird.

wseadawg said...

You said it Stu. And we need to keep saying it, over and over. How did splitting APP help "at risk kids?" How did closing Cooper help "at risk kids?" How will STEM help "at risk kids?"

All this crap about closing the achievement gap, but all they seem to be doing is scattering struggling populations all over the district so it looks like things are improving. What next, will they start counseling kids to take GED's to clean them off the books like Jeb Bush did in Florida, then touted his increased graduation rates? Do these people have any conscience? Any soul?

dan dempsey said...

OK folks the key words from Judge Spector were these:

The court finds, based upon a review of the administrative record, that there is insufficient evidence for any reasonable Board member to approve the selection of the Discovering series.

Now move that to NTN:

The 4 directors who voted for the $800,000 contract neglected most of the evidence. Look at this:
NTN School Data.

Harium was talking about Hillsdale New Tech in Durham, North Carolina.(Low Income = 44%)
In spite of his glowing comments, it is just like most of the NTN schools in Math it scores worse than Regular Hillsdale high, which is 56% Low Income. Also both of these schools did not make AYP and are ranked in the bottom 20% of North Carolina Schools.

Every NTN school I examined is showing poor math performance. It is quite clear that Project Based Learning does not work. In regard to Thornton Creek they no longer use PBL for math.

Did Staff feed Harium that Thornton Creek number? Or did he find it on his own. Surely Staff knew that Thornton Creek was not using PBL for math..... well who knows what staff knows.

Given Meg Diaz's report it is now quite clear that:

There is insufficient evidence for any reasonable Board member to approve the $800,000 NTN contract.

Maier & Sundquist need to more fully explain their votes .... including the part where they do not consider the evidence that either Meg or I submit to them as relevant in making their "Arbitrary and Capricious" decisions.

Of course up next will be the drastic needed for performance management of teachers because the teachers are just not making all this fine stuff work successfully.

dan dempsey said...

Although I am a tremendous KSB fan, I disagree with:
"She said that NTN's success had been in smaller schools (400-500) and smaller class sizes.

#1... I do not believe there are any NTN school of even 400 enrollment.

#2... NTN's success...... where, show me the numbers?

If success is related to significant academic achievement that can be attributed to the NTN model, I haven't found any, because I have found little of anything that could be called success.

These schools are serious under-performers.

The fact that the Superintendent's staff did ZERO research into finding any academic performance data is completely irresponsible. The fact that Carr, Maier, Sundquist, and Martin-Morris voted for this contract with full knowledge of how bad these schools are is inexcusable.


Just because our Superintendent painted you into a corner with her SAP, does not justify complete incompetence on the part of the directors. It is possible for people who look at all the evidence to vote NO as KS-B and Patu demonstrated. This puts Carr, Maier, & Sundquist as two time losers on "Discovering" and now "NTN".

I think that since Marty McLaren is on the hook for about $9,000 these directors who averaged around $150,000 each in campaign donations should donate to Ms. McLaren.
=====================

Peter and Steve can take out their check books or use paypal...

Send a check to Seattle Math Group,

c/o Martha Mclaren
7020 18th Ave. SW, J22
Seattle, WA 98106

Donate via email, through Paypal, to mmcl@pugetridge.net

dan dempsey said...

Seattle Person said:
"Now, the question for me is "Will it be high quality?". I hope so, I really do."

Well looking at all that NTN data I compiled ... High Quality is not a characteristic of any of the NTN schools.

Project Based learning has dismal results unless the situation has very highly skilled teachers using incredibly well designed projects.

I guess we are not buying that as Harium kept saying this is not about content we are buying a foundational ...... damn I fell asleep.

These NTN schools are terrible and we are not buying content... what are we buying just the smoke and mirrors.

When I look at KnowledgeWorks Foundation the parent of NTN it looks like we are helping them with their race to the bank.....

Wow what goes on in the heads of the gang of four?

ParentofThree said...

The had to approve the contract because they had no other choice. If they asked for another company to be brought to them for review they would be told there is none. And with the deadline for enrollment on the horizon they had no other choice but to vote yes.

Bird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bird said...

Also, FYI, COO Don Kennedy, in his budget report, says that they will be able to get the $45M deficit down to $24M.

So how do these "deficits" work? I don't understand how a school district can have a "deficit" that doesn't get addressed in the same fiscal year. It's not like the district sells bonds for operating expenses.

Didn't we have a deficit last year? Where did the money come from to operate in the face of that? Do deficits build up year to year?

Can someone in the know give me a 101 on how district finances work?

FWIW, I don't think we should be throwing around $800K that we don't have. If we have $24M deficit, we need to cut the budget down to the essentials.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Bird, I am not exactly the budget person but I can tell you the district has to have a balanced budget. The first figure of $45M came from state budget cuts (estimated), enrollment money, etc. So now they have a better idea from the state and enrollments and the figure has gone down to $25M. Plainly speaking, it is likely they will RIF more teachers.

BUT does our district live within our means? No, they don't.

I'll try to work up some sort of overview but again, I'm not the budget person.

dan dempsey said...

Parent of Three said:
"And with the deadline for enrollment on the horizon they had no other choice but to vote yes."


Yes this points out that if one is a follower of and believer in MGJ's design, implementation, and execution of her Strategic Plan, then it is necessary to make decisions that no reasonable board member would ever make.

At least we have two reasonable board members KSB and Patu, who did have another choice ... NO.

The gang of four "yes-voters" had to ignore the empirical evidence submitted by the public to once again make an "Arbitrary & Capricious" decision.

If it gets to Superior Court, this one will look even worse than the SPS Math defeat as the Staff had no empirical evidence to advance their position.

Those four board members clearly think that "Happy Thoughts" and SAP plans trump empirical evidence in decision making. Yes for these four that is the case because on a regular basis they make decisions that no reasonable director would make.

gavroche said...

It does sound like there is a compelling case to be made for the Board's NTN/STEM decision being "arbitrary and capricious."

But where would the plaintiffs get the funds to make such an appeal?

How many "Arbitrary & Capricious" T-shirts would they need to sell? (By the way, I would like to order 3!)

Charlie Mas said...

It is possible that a case could be made for the NTN contract as the only possible way that the District could get a comprehensive project-based learning program up and running by the fall. Let's remember that NTN's expertise is in PBL, not specifically in STEM.

Of course, that would then leave the task of justifying the need to have a project-based learning program and the need to have it fully implemented by the fall. The case for those decisions is less clear.

Why, exactly, did we need to have a school wholly devoted to project-based learning? Why, exactly, did we need to have it fully implemented by the fall?

Let's remember that there was no such urgency to have other curricula fully implemented. APP, for example, was split - a split for which the justification was predicated on the concurrent implementation of a written, taught and tested curriculum - without a curriculum. Special Education services will be delivered in inclusive classrooms all across the District in the fall with less planning, less training, and less support than STEM. So what was the urgency around having the project-based learning up and running for STEM? Without the urgency, the expense of the contract makes no sense.

Actually, without the commitment to project-based learning, the contract makes no sense, so what, exactly, is the desperate need for project-based learning? The Board resolution approved a STEM school. It did not specify that the school had to use project-based learning. So what other pedagogies were considered? I don't think any were. How was PBL chosen? Not through any transparent process. Perhaps not through a rational or data-based one.

So while the selection of NTN as the provider of services may have been well-considered...

Unknown said...

Hm. Very interesting point, Charlie. I had sort of lost sight of the fact that EVEN IF STEM makes sense, there is nothing compelling it to be 100% (or any percent) PBL.
I had been thinking that this was a LESS compelling case for an "arbitrary and capricious" argument -- especially one based on disparate minority impact, because:
1. It is an option school, and no child will be sent there unless he/she selects it.
2. Your EARLIER arguments on a different thread -- a large, newly renovated school, with NO neighborhood population (after the SAP lines were drawn the way they were) and with the need to create some sort of compelling draw (so all those "fictional" kids at Ballard, Roosevelt, Garfield, Hale, etc. will flee THEIR neighborhood schools to ride across town to go there -- which is the ONLY way there will be room for the option seats at those schools).
It seems to me that the really arbitrary and capricious decision was the one to implement SAP next year, rather than waiting a year, and using that year to strengthen RBHS, develop a curriculum and delivery model for Cleveland, etc. -- this could all have been done so much less expensively.
But since this is not a disparate impact case, it seems to me it all comes down the the wisdom and cost of the "hurry up" campaign. How an "arbitrary and capricious" argument will work with those facts, I don't know (but, if they intend to challenge it, hopefully the attorneys who argued the math decision do).

AtticusRus said...

STEM and NTN are two totally different things. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other.

There is no data to show that STEM or NTN were home grown ideas at CHS because they were not. Staff has discussed and given input about how they will deal with it, but not about whether or not they wanted it.

Charlie Mas said...

So that's where we are. The choice to go with NTN only makes sense in the context of needing a PBL school up and running completely in the fall. If we don't need the school to be completely PBL or if we don't need it to be completely PBL by the fall, then the contract with NTN doesn't make any sense at all.

Do we need the school to be completely PBL? No, we don't. It won't be tragic if the school is only part PBL.

Do we need the school to be completely PBL by the fall? Again, we don't. Even if we decided that we did want it to be completely PBL, there is no reason that it couldn't work up to it. It could start out with some PBL and then convert more to PBL over time.

So... if we don't need the school to be completely PBL and we certainly don't need it to be completely PBL by the fall, then we don't need the NTN contract, do we?

We already have home-grown examples of Project-based learning. We have Project Lead the Way, which offers project-based engineering and global health classes, and we have The NOVA Project, an entire high school that is project-based in every class - language arts, social studies, math, science, art, and electives. We don't need outside expertise unless we're working under a heavy deadline.

News Flash: there was no heavy deadline.

Charlie Mas said...

Melissa asked me to speak to Director Maier's rationale regarding the number of students in the Cleveland High School area.

There is no such thing as a "Cleveland High School area". The District can draw the high school attendance area boundaries any way they like. They could draw them so that there are thousands of students in the Cleveland area or so there are none.

The real truth is that when the District added up the functional capacity of the ten comprehensive high schools and the two Option high schools, they found that they had thousands more seats than they needed. The Capacity Management plan called for the closure of a high school because the District had excess capacity. That excess capacity was in the south-end, so the high school to close would be either Cleveland or Rainier Beach. Do you all remember this at the end of the capacity management process?

They couldn't close Rainier Beach because it is the only high school close to thousands of students living south of Graham. They didn't want to close Cleveland because they just renovated it (at great expense).

The District didn't want to close a high school, so they started to monkey with the data. They tried a lot of things. They were wriggling like a fish on the hook. They tried adding back the students in Service schools. That didn't work. They tried a lot of other things, but the only that worked was to artificially remove Cleveland from the capacity management formula without closing the school. They did that by making it an Option School.

This is bizarre. They acknowledged that they had too many high school seats. They reclassified Cleveland as an Option school and then considered the problem solved. Making Cleveland an Option school alters neither the number of seats nor the number of students. So how in the world does it impact capacity management? It doesn't. It's a statistical shuffle that doesn't change the real numbers or facts in any way.

By the way, the District could have legitimately fixed their capacity management issue by making Cleveland the location of the SBOC.