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Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Couple of Things

I helped facilitate a caucus for the Mayor's Youth and Families initiative last night. It was a small group which actually made it easier. But two things struck me and I thought I might ask our readers about them.

One, based on your own experience and/or just gut feeling, why do so many people go private? Even in these hard times, the shift to public hasn't been that great and, at some private schools, applications have gone up.

After answering that, how do we get those parents back who aren't there for the name-brand (Bush, Lakeside, etc.) or for religious reasons (O'Dea, Holy Names, etc.)? What concrete steps do you think would help? Last night several people mentioned the churn/upheaval/bad news series of events over the last several years particularly the threats of closures. This was considered a huge negative that makes people stay away.

Two, do you understand the Strategic Plan? Could you explain it in 5 sentences to someone? Do you think less in-the-know parents understand it and believe it is/will make a difference in our district?

This is what drives (allegedly) the Superintendent's work. It's her vision and touchstone back to the Board for what she is doing. So what do you think?

Last, if you could change 3 things in this district for the betterment of the district/major program overall (not just your child; sorry, that's another question), what would they be?

33 comments:

Unknown said...

un-split APP!

Steve said...

I think people go to private schools because they're consistent. They know what they're getting, and it doesn't change that much year over year. This might be somewhat true at the individual school level in SPS, but the district has been providing little or no consistency since I've been experiencing it. Constant upheaval and uncertainty, and there are a lot of parents who just don't want that for their kids.

I think people could put up with closures and other disruptive things if they were done well, with transparency, quality communication and actual input from the community. Nothing, in my view, has been done well by SPS in recent years in these areas.

No, I can't describe the Strategic Plan. If you surveyed every parent in the district, I think less than 10% even know the district *has* a strategic plan. Partially a result of ineffective communication, but also because I don't believe anyone feels that parents played a role in creating it. Strategic plans that are created from the top without real input from those affected by it almost never work. (I wonder if teachers feel the same way about it)

Three things to change:

- Communication: SPS is horrible about communicating information to parents. The web site is awful, you almost never hear anything from the superintendent (who should be a public figure), and no one seems to coordinate how information gets into and out of the district. If this was a company, the marketing/communications department would be fired.

- Accountability and transparency. Decide what you're going to do, tell everyone what you decided and why, and then do it. If you don't do it when you said you were going to, tell us why and when you're going to get it done. Everyone can argue about the decision itself, but when the decision doesn't translate into a public plan that actually happens, no one trusts the district anymore. This is so basic that it hardly needs mentioning, but it has been left to people on this blog and others to even keep track of what the district has promised. It shouldn't be that way.

- Leadership. The two things above point to a lack of quality in the leadership of the district. Our superintendent is just not up to the job, or rather, not up to what the job should be. A school superintendent should be a great administrator, a great communicator, a public figure that is known throughout the city, and inspiring to teachers, kids and parents. He/She should inspire confidence in parents who are essentially trusting them with the task of educating their children. We don't have that.

Central Mom said...

um, is not this the kind of information the district should be asking and digesting on a yearly basis? or even biannually? or, heck, even every 5 years? i've been watching closely for a decade now and have not seen this engagement yet. but there's always tomorrow...

if the district does not drive the discussion, then, as you are showing, other civic interests will. which is not really in the best interests of the district, i would think.

Central Mom said...

ps: i agree with every single word of steve's comment and have consistently communicated this opinion to board members for a couple of years now. please, others, join me. we need direct letters to board members in addition to blog comments.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

Everything Steve wrote, plus:

District should NOT be using standardized tests to determine "success" or "failure" of groups of students or schools.

This habit has resulted in a movement away from individual accountability and need (on the part of the student and of the educators) and towards a sort of generalized, sometimes racist/classist broad-brush analysis of percentage points, levels, etc.

What I mean is to throw out the measurements that result in group determinations and remediations and return to a focus on individual determinations and remediations (or accellerations)

Seattle (and the nation) has moved away from educating individuals and now educates groups. This is a dis-service to the individuals and also a dis-service to the flexibility and innovation that makes each educational opportunity unique: It's dumbing down the expected outcomes to a mere few basic "standards"

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, Andrew K., who writes occasionally on the blog, said that we hadn't had an inspirational leader since Stanford. I don't know that charisma and ability always translate into a great leader but the ability to make people feel they are part of something that helps their family AND makes their a community a better place just can't be written off.

I would love to know what they teach at the Broad Superintendent Academy about communication with parents.

ArchStanton said...

Steve has some good ones. The first things that came to my mind:

1) Fully fund education (I can dream, right?). At the very least, divert resources away from top-heavy administration to the classrooms and troops the ground.

2) Communication is a two-way street. Engage in meaningful dialogue with families and communities about what they want and need and quit wasting everyone's resources with the usual "decorative engagement" ex post facto.

3) Stability should come with good leadership. The superintendent and board positions seem to be a revolving door. Even if I understood the Strategic Plan, I would have no confidence that it would be carried out by the successors to the board and superintendent. Closing schools one year to reopen them the next? Threatening closures willy-nilly? Playing communities off one another? Shifting boundaries? The upheaval and uncertainty give me more heartburn than anything else.

4) A demonstrated commitment to APP and not just some namby-pamby declaration that MGJ supports Advanced Learning in general.

----------

IIRC, a while back MGJ was asked a question about trying to find out why families opted out of SPS and went private - sort of trying to prompt "market research" on the "competition". I believe the response was basically that she didn't see private schools as SPS' competition, so she didn't care about why families left. Can anyone corroborate this?

seattle citizen said...

Melissa's question, what does Broad teach its superintendents about communication, led me to this document. Little about communication, but LOTS about some of Broad's key teaching points.
This is an absolutely fascinating (and informative, and well-researched) doctoral dissertation titled:
REFORM STRATEGIES IMPLEMENTED TO INCREASE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT:
A CASE STUDY OF SUPERINTENDENT ACTIONS
http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/
assetserver/controller/
item/etd-Murphy-278.pdf;
jsessionid=85E42385
BE1A5D12A0D19696292943C9

WV is the 4th Stooge, practiced at the fine vaudeville art of the NOSPULL

ArchStanton said...

Speaking of (not) funding education, I found Danny Westneat's recent column a little depressing.

How deep can we dig ourselves into this hole?

seattle citizen said...

The dissertation previously cited has reference to four documents or models:
Zavadsky, 2006; The House Model; (Shulman, Golde, Bueschel, & Garabedian, 2006); and “The Broad Foundation & The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2003

Here is a link to that last one, and two excerpts (note the reference to Olchefske at end):
http://www.edexcellence.net/detail/news.cfm?news_id=1&pubsubid=759#759
Superintendents - As the principal's job has been redefined, so has the superintendent's. No longer does he or she merely "run" a "system." Doing that job well today means intervening in faltering schools, mediating between school and state, collaborating with business, civic, and municipal leaders, engaging in complex labor relations, making tough decisions about priorities, finding resources, and selecting first-rate leaders for every school in the system. These skills are the core of what superintendents must do in today's world but they're not taught in colleges of education, and no amount of credentialing can create them, either….
Qualities Of Successful Education Leaders
Superintendents- The Council of the Great City Schools found in a study21 of large urban school districts that had improved academically and reduced their achievement gaps that their superintendents were often marked by:
• Clear vision. Successful superintendents possess clear vision about what an effective school district looks like, a strong belief system in the worth and capacity of all children, a strong will, personal humility, and a keen sense of mission to raise student achievement.
• Strong leadership. Superintendents are driven to produce results, and are able to translate their vision into clear goals, rally the support of others to attain them, and create and sustain a sense of urgency for improving student performance.
• Relentless focus. The most effective superintendents are also able to focus their own energies and the energies of others over a prolonged period on improving student achievement in ways that are unrelenting and that are not distracted from the core mission of the school district.
• Political acuity. Superintendents in school districts large and small are required to establish priorities and balance often conflicting interests, manage the expectations of their school boards and mayors, handle the well-being of staff, communicate clearly, share credit, absorb blame, and negotiate among disparate community groups.
• Personal accountability. Superintendents have a strong sense of personal accountability for the success of their students; they insist on the accountability of others for results and establish strong data systems to monitor progress on the district's goals.
• Effective management. Superintendents are capable of managing complex, multi-layered organizations. They insist on operational excellence and financial integrity, and pride themselves on identifying talented staff and organizing them into an effective unit.
• Fortitude. The superintendent must, in Churchill's words, "never surrender." The task will always be great and the work often lonely, but, as Seattle's Joseph Olchefske says, "This is the hell I have chosen."

WV is atablama, whatever a blama is.

Sue said...

Why do people go private? I have done private and public in Seattle, and here's why.


1) Academic Rigor. We have a system that focuses on the very highest achievers (APP) and the lowest but for high achieving students who want to learn, the district basically gives a common, impolite hand gesture to middle class families and families with motivated students. Private school does not. Why do you think in all parts of the city there is flight to private school? I think this may be the biggest reason.

2) Huge middle schools. This is a very big problem in Seattle, and one that the district does not seem to care about. Make the middle schools smaller, and I bet you won't lose so many kids in 6th grade.

3) Unmotivated learners, and the district dumbing things down to close the achievement gap, rather than raising achievement to the highest level. I think this is the trickiest problem to solve. How do you fix this? Why are families and kids not held accountable? Why do we group unmotivated kids with motivated kids? I don't care what income level, race, etc you are - motivated learners should not be held academically hostage by low achievers in their class.


4) Teacher quality. Yup. I know, most teachers are wonderful, but man, get three or four in a row, and we are talking bad news. Maybe we just had extraordinarily bad luck? Add that to a struggle to get rid of these teachers (which was ultimately successful, but not without a lot of blood sweat and tears) and we had had enough. The fact that most of those teachers are gone , does say to me that the system is starting to work the way it should, so that is why this issue is last on my list, although it was the main reason we left originally.

As for the strategic plan- well I have seen these come and go, and they are just so much eduspeak.

And if I could change one thing, it would be to put a parent at the Stanford Center, who would be co-superintendant. We need voices from those of us in the trenches.

This sounds harsh - but it is our story.

seattle citizen said...

As for the Strategic Plan:
Let's use the words of the announcement that ushered in the nine million dollar Gates/Broad/Boeing donation to SPS, to be managed by the Alliance for Education:

"On March 10, 2009, Seattle Public Schools and the Alliance for Education announced more than $9 million in grants from local and national foundations to support implementation of the school district’s five-year strategic plan. The plan, called Excellence for All, focuses on improving achievement for all students by providing students and teachers with the resources they need to succeed, expanding college-ready coursework for students, improving access to student data, and strengthening professional development opportunities for teachers, school leaders, and district officials. The grants were awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ($7.2 million), the Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation ($1.2 million), The Boeing Company ($307,000), and The Stuart Foundation ($254,000)."

SPS mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rugles said...

Stop messing with popular programs. They are not like a plant you can dig up, and divide the roots, then replant in several different locations.

Create more popular programs.

Strategic Plan? Thats for education wonks only. They don't have one, wouldn't use it if they did.

Three things?

1. Dump the VAX. Should take about two weeks. How can any tech savvy parent take the district seriously?

2. Decrease no school days during the school year.

3. Get rid of "Excellence for everybody" If you start with something that rings so untrue, is it any wonder communications are so woeful.

Chris S. said...

CPPS has a survey. I think you have to join their email list to take it. It's worth it, they don't spam.

Moose said...

Adding a bit to what Steve and others have said re: private vs. public...all that AND in my higher SES neighborhood, racism and classism rears its head as well. The peel away to private in middle school is high. I've heard parents in the neighborhood say that they are happy to have the new SAP because it will eliminate "the riff-raff" in the school. Makes me sick.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Keepin' On, you're not being harsh, you're being honest. I sometimes wonder about why being frank and honest (without yelling, swearing or name-calling) is a bad thing. I think people feel it is being aggressive.

I think you had some good and honest thoughts here (everyone has) and the district/Board SHOULD listen.

ParentofThree said...

People go private for small class sizes, to make sure their children get a traditional education and to avoid low performing schools or overcrowded successful ones. We are light years away from getting students back from private, no way to even begin to address that issue.

The Stratigic Plan is an expensive plan that is costing our children dearly.

Three changes I would make:

1. Replicate successful programs, like Ballard Bio-Tech instead of spending millions of trendy programs like STEM.

2. Dump the K-12 math and adopt a curriculum with a proven track record.

3. Eliminate coaches and give the money to schools to spend hiring teachers to work directly with students. (I know, novel idea working with students.)

Bird said...

If we ever leave for private it will be because a lack of rigor in the basic curriculum. My kid's only in elementary, and I worry more about rigor in middle school and high shcool. I'm worried about the recently release Math Pathways document.

People I know who have left or tried to leave for private have done so because of a perceived lack of rigor in the curriculum, instability and uncertainty in the district, a negative and punitive attitude towards kids in a school, and bad experiences with particular principals and teachers in particular schools coupled with the inability to find an alternate placement in the district. These are all very bad things. The district has always exhibited a very low interest in why people leave, figuring, I suppose, it's not their problem. But clearly all these reasons are probably problems for the students and families left behind as well. The district should really attend to the whys when families leave.

Top 3 things would I change about the district? I'll stick with thing that I think are relatively easy to achieve...

1. Survey parents about satisfaction and publish the results as part of the school report cards. These surveys should include break downs by special programs and populations, like advanced learning, special ed, and ELL. The survey questions should rate the general ed program, as well as satisfaction with particlar programs and satisfaction with the Central Admin and Superintendent.

2. More optional language immersion programs and make the existing programs option programs instead neighborhood schools.

3. More funds spent directly on struggling students. Less money on testing, managing, coaching and professional development and more money spent directly on providing more instructional days for kids who are behind.

seattle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Westbrook said...

I did hear at the caucus that to come back to SPS can be daunting for the reasons that Sully gave. Lack of information, bureaucracy - it's sad to lose people who actually might want in.

seattle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

I agree with Sully about offering more AP, etc, but would add that the same thing goes the other way: more below-level classes and a culture that supports a range of skills an abilities (i.e. students understand that each student has high level and low level abilities, each student has opportunity to be at the appropriate level without it being "punishment" or "a bad thing" to be working at whatever level....

I would like to see schools that meet the needs of all levels.

Of course, this is a somewhat expensive proposition - scheduling-wise, it means having a greater range of classes in any given subject (or pull-out opporunities) which means staffing FTE goes up (the more variety of classes and/or pull outs, the bigger the odds of those classes not being filled to capacity, so FTE is not maximally utilized - More AP? Might end up with a section only half full, teacher teaching 15 students. More pull-outs? Might end up with a teacher teaching ten students.

But in my opinion this is a necessary expense: The only alternative is "differentiation" of curriculum, and while I think many teachers do this informally (and some with actual planning) it is a difficult skill, it risks watering down the classroom experience for students (teacher is, in effect, teaching two or three or four "groups" so attention and effort is divided)

I think there's more bang for the buck with adding FTE and broadening course offerings. But this flies in the face of the current trend of standardizing everything and maximizing student/teacher ratios, alas

SolvayGirl said...

After investing much time, money and energy for 8 years in SPS, we fled for private middle and now high school. I think Steve's first comment was probably our number one reason.

We had experienced extreme principal churn (9 in six years) and as a result saw first-hand the inner workings of SPS concerning these issues. We went through he-double-heck trying to remove a toxic principal (something I never want to experience again). And, we experienced an unwarranted attempt at a school closure (the following year it was named a "school of distinction" by the state).

On that note, we really liked Center School, but when it was briefly placed on the closure list, alarm bells went off. I wanted consistency for my child's HS years. And I knew how important the principal was to a school and did not feel secure that the wonderful Lisa Escobar would remain in that post (and I was, unfortunately correct in my hunch). I hope TCS gets someone good to replace her, but I know there are still "ineffective" principals floating around looking for work.

Keepin' On's first comment was also a factor. My child is VERY bright, but a lousy standardized test-taker, so there weren't a lot of options for her. She always passed the WASL, but never scored high enough to achieve official Spectrum status. I believe she would have been lost in the crowd in the middle schools we had available to us. She's also the type that will work hard to reach the bar—as long as the bar is high. If it's not, she'll stop when she reaches it. So for her, expectations have to be high, if not, she'll coast. She did great at our private MS and is doing well in HS too.

Class size, rigor, course offerings, REAL math, electives...and now all of the "reform" and standardization are all factors that keep our family scrimping and sacrificing to give our only child a quality education.

And, her HS has a full-time college counselor who will work with her to select colleges, prepare her admissions applications, research financial aid and even decide which one to accept.

STRATEGIC PLAN – Edubabble.

1. Change leadership and hire from within the area. I'm tired of these hired gun supers who care only about their careers. Seattle is a unique urban area and our school district reflects that. We need someone who understands the city's history and needs.

2. Back-off the NSAP and instead create more alternative schools (including ones geared toward at-risk kids) and reproduce popular programs.

3. Start looking at the trees instead of the forest. Invest in individual students and serve their needs. Each kid is different and cookie-cutter approaches won't do the job.

Meg said...

I think people go private for the stability. They're often aware of the weaknesses at any given private school. But the school won't close or undergo a sudden major programmatic change without parental input, either. Sure, at a number of public schools you go in knowing what the weakness might be, and where you, as a parent, may need to pick up the slack. But what you don't know is what will happen to the program next year, or the year after that. It could be a fantastic, highly functioning program and the district might still shake it up without warning or community input. Or the district could change the funding, ham-stringing the program. And community input, no matter how rational and well-considered, will be ignored. If I could scrape together the money for private school, I would give it serious consideration. And I'm not sure I can, but I'm giving it serious consideration, anyway.

Yes, I understand the strategic plan. But... no. I cannot explain it in 5 sentences. Generally, it's all apple pie and rainbows and happy children, which makes it hard to argue with. In general themes, it's hard to argue with statements like "we'll stay in budget" and "district leadaership will model good behavior." Implementation has been another matter entirely. It could be compared to Gallipoli. It would have been great if, in WWI, the allies had been able to take the Dardenelles. In theory, great strategy. Hard to argue with. But the tactics deployed were ineffective, and compounded by poor, ineffective leadership (assertively making bad decisions, by the way, counts, in my book, as ineffective leadership). Sound familiar?

I would have educational stability be a district priority. Most kids may be resilient, but the degree of churn the district rather cavalierly deploys (principals through appointment shifts, programs because of district-level decisions, etc) threatens the viability of even highly functioning schools and programs.

I would have the district alter their budgeting process to make sure that schools have the money they need, first, as a top priority, and then work with what's left over to fund things like central administration. I am strongly of the opinion that a great deal of harm can be done to any given student's education when their school is shorted on staff and money, but considerably less educational harm will happen to a kid if central administration is forced to run at a bare minimum for a few years.

I would have the district actually engage the community and consider their input. Will there be crazy, ridiculous suggestions? Yup. Will there be people who have good suggestions but act crazy and angry? Yup. Will it be difficult? Yes. But curent community engagement is, as you've noted, Melissa, decorative. The only way that community input appears to be taken into account is in order to dismiss it with PR spin.

Charlie Mas said...

The Strategic Plan, to me, is not an academic plan but a management plan. It is an effort to impose some management on the operation of Seattle Public Schools.

Anyone walking into Seattle Public Schools could see that the basic elements of management were completely absent across all levels and departments in the District. This absence was directly attributable to the failure of the past three superintendents, particularly the last two, to take any role in the administration of the District. "Failure" isn't really the right word. "Refusal" would be a better choice.

The basic elements of management begin with each employee having a job description, a prescribed set of duties, metrics, assessments, and benchmarks that measure their performance, and consequences - good or bad - for that performance. Performance Management is the core of the plan. In fact, most of the rest of the plan exists to support the Performanace Management effort.

There is nothing in it for the students other than increased assessments. The students aren't employees, so they aren't subject to management. These assessments provide the raw data needed to impose management on everyone else.

The teachers get, for the first time in a long time, a job description. This is expressed through Curricular Alignment. The teacher's job is to deliver, at a minimum, the core set of knowledge and skills prescribed for students (by grade and subject). The District measures their performance a few ways, but the basic concern and criteria is "Did the students learn the core content?" The student assessments not only answer that question for the managers, but they also provide the teachers with some of the feedback they need to determine where the gaps are that need to be filled.

The plan includes other Performance Management measurements for Central Staff that begin with clearly written job descriptions, expectations, and performance evaluations.

The Principals, for some strange reason, are basically excused from the exercise. In lieu of measuring and managing principal performance, the Plan attributes the performance to the School.

And so we have the School Report Card. This is how Performance Management is expressed at the school level. Unfortunately, the School Report Card doesn't really speak to how well or poorly the School works. Instead, it's an aggregate of the student peformance within the school. Since there are a number of factors that determine student performance and since most of them and the greatest of them are outside of the school, this is a poor measure of the school's effectiveness.

Oddly, although teachers are going to be held responsible for student performance, principals will not be. That's okay. Principals should be held responsible for teacher performance. Unfortunately the Strategic Plan doesn't hold principals responsible for anything.

There is a lot of focus on infrastructure in the Plan. Again, that's because it is a management plan rather than an academic plan.

There are some references to academic programs within the plan, but they are only implemented to the extent that they reflect the Superintendent's bias to make operations more efficient. ELL and Special Education reviews came back promoting inclusion so they moved forward with it. APP review came back saying keep it separate, so that was ignored. Alternative ed can only say to keep it separate so that hasn't even been done.

The Plan's drive for operational efficiency subordinates academic concerns. Operational convenience outweighs academic necessities time and time again. This is the source of the effort to Standardize as much as possible - even when it is ill-advised or unnecessary.

I understand the Plan. Much of it stinks because its aim is to make the District more managable instead of improving academic outcomes for students.

Charlie Mas said...

The Plan promotes the growth of Central Administration because it was written by Central Administrators. Given the authors, there is little surprise that it calls for more central management.

A plan written by school staff would promote greater investment in the schools. A plan written by tax protesters would have reflected their bias. A plan written by student families would have reflected their interests.

Shannon said...

We have also done private and now public. We are not sure which we will do for middle school in two years time.

I was also registrar for our small private school (alternative) and heard many reasons why people do not choose public for elementary:

1) Didn't like the school to which their child was assigned. Even more, thought it was not a good fit for their child.

2) Felt public class sizes were too large.

3) Wanted to have a role at school and to be heard. In my public school experience, teachers sometimes allow or even like volunteers but you have limited opportunities to be involved or provide feedback. At private schools there is more of a stakeholder community than most public schools.

4) Wanted teachers chosen for their dedication and excellence.

5) Wanted "the best" for their child and described public school as "average", "mediocre", "unimaginative", "routine", "stressed", "underfunded" and "teaching to the test".

6) Felt comfortable with the school because it was "like the school I went to."

For me, I would choose private school if I felt it would inspire my son to love learning and provide a strong and positive peer group through his teens. This would have to be assessed on balance with the major hit to family finances which would remove some travel and fun in other areas!

Stu said...

First . . . Steve, that was really nicely written and I agree with everything you wrote.

Second, I want to echo the consistency line of thought. If our son hadn't gotten into APP, and we thought we could have gotten the aid, we would have run to private school. As it is, we were so upset with the split -- it was all working so beautifully for our family -- that we started looking into private middle schools. (It wasn't just the idea of a split, it was the reasoning behind the split that started the alarms; this was a political decision that had nothing to do with anything other than a desire to bury under-performing schools under APP scores. And they're still trying to pass off the "other students will benefit from having APP kids around" argument which is incredibly ignorant, patronizing, and insensitive. The general ed kids at TM and Lowell don't need APP kids around; they need full funding and a plan to educate them.) The fact of the matter is that, pre-split, there was some consistency in the APP program. We might not have liked the idea that our son was going to have to be bused to the south end every day for the rest of his school career, but at least we knew that every other kid in his group was going through the same thing. We saw how this core group of teachers, pre split, had worked together over the years to create a program that was educating the APP students in a positive and effective way. The split took away that team work, added unnecessary turmoil, split funding, and will eventually drive us away. This district has no consistency from neighborhood to neighborhood, school to school. The ALO program is dependent on each school's definition and there's no overall "plan" or consisten guidelines for Spectrum. Our families want consistency, predictability, and transparency . . . that's really not too much to ask.

Leadership. The two things above point to a lack of quality in the leadership of the district. Our superintendent is just not up to the job, or rather, not up to what the job should be.

There's one other missing element under leadership. We need a board that will actually challenge the staff and superintendent to communicate and effectively plan; we need a board that demands coherent answers and not just edu-speak; we need a board that's willing to get rid of people who don't do their job and reward the people (and the programs) that work.

stu

seattle said...

As Shannon points out some parents choose private school in an effort to shelter their kids by surrounding them with a positive peer group. While I understand their motivation, it's not what I wanted for my kids. I purposely chose a very diverse public high school for my child - A school where there are kids of all colors, all socio-economic backgrounds, and who arrive there with many different attitudes about school. Some kids are straight A honors students, others skip school and drop out. Some kids do drugs and drink, others join clubs like SAAD (Students against alcohol and drugs). Some kids you could trust with your life, others would steal your ipod if you set it down and took your eyes off of it for a minute. It was very important to me to immerse my kids in this real world situation where they would have to learn how to navigate these challenges on there own (with our guidance and support when necessary of course).

I think this is a very important life lesson, and one of the most valuable gifts you can give your child.

That's why we chose to stick with our public high school.

Anonymous said...

We should talk numbers here. And the numbers are dismal. Seattle has one of the lowest public school participation rates of any major city in the US. Only about 68% of Seattle children attend public schools compared to 80-90% for normal US cities.

This is aggravating most of our other issues with our Seattle Public Schools. High market share is critical to have community support for public schools, to be able to pass taxes that fund the public schools, and to maximize the involvement of parents in helping the schools. Seattle Public School funding from state and federal sources also is directly tied to enrollment.

Cutting costs by increasing class sizes, closing schools, and eliminating alternative programs may yield short-term gains, but only at the cost of larger long-term losses in enrollment, revenue, and community support. This is a death spiral that has been going on for many years because the district focuses on the short-term and does not prioritize the public school participation rate as a measure of success.

Until most parents see Seattle Public Schools as an attractive option, our schools will have little support, fail to improve, and fail to educate the children of Seattle.

spedParent said...

There are some references to academic programs within the plan, but they are only implemented to the extent that they reflect the Superintendent's bias to make operations more efficient. ELL and Special Education reviews came back promoting inclusion so they moved forward with it.

Uh... they moved forward with inclusion? Who? Who is now "included" that was not "included" before? If you kill inclusion programs, you're specifically NOT moving forward with inclusion. You're move BACKWARD.