It's Performance, not Personality or Politics

I remember political discussions about the Iraq war that ended when conservatives, unable to counter the arguments of those who opposed the war, would ask "Why do you hate America?"

I remember how right-wing talk radio personalities discounted and dismissed oppostion to President Bush's policies by accusing those with opposing views of hating the President. This petty and obsessive hatred of G.W. Bush was the presumed source of the opposition to his policies and the fault-finding in his actions.

Let me be very clear. I don't hate Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson. I don't even dislike her. I have no personal feelings about her of any kind. I have never met the woman, she and I have never talked, I have no personal sense of her at all. It wouldn't matter to me if she were a saint or an ogre. Honestly, I wouldn't care. It's not about her personally in any way. It's about her job performance.

Her performance evaluation should be all about how well she has fulfilled the duties of her office. It should be all about that, about all of that, and about nothing else.

It should be about what she has done in the past year. Not about things she hasn't done. So it should not be about the money that the District might save next year if her promises about central office cuts come true. Nor should it be about her plan to bust the teachers union or contract out all of the schools to corporate cronies since she hasn't actually done that yet either.

What kind of job did she do last year?

Let's start with what matters: academics.

She did not make progress on curricular alignment. She pushed Standardization ahead a little further - though not much this year. We are no closer to real curricular alignment today than we were a year ago. She didn't take even a single step towards it because she has yet to address the real impediments to curricular alignment. The schools and teachers that were delivering lessons below grade level and who are neglecting to cover the state-defined curriculum are still doing it. She did, however, spend about $750,000 to consultants to support this effort.

She did not make progress on closing the academic achievement gap. She didn't even take any steps or formulate any plan to close the gap. Our best hope here might have been Response to Intervention (RTI), but after paying this idea some lip service, she abandoned it. Then she eliminated all of the elementary school counselors who were integral to implementation of RTI.

She did not make progress on improving test scores. Not everybody cares about this, but some do. We did not make our goals for test score improvement. That's just an objective truth.

At the most critical level, the student level, our academics are no better today than they were a year ago. Students who are struggling are no more likely to get early and effective intervention that will quickly bring them up to grade level. High performing students are no more likely to get the more challenging lessons that they need either. The MAP assessment was supposed to identify the strengths and weaknessess of individual students so teachers could personalize instruction, but there is very little evidence that this is happening and it isn't happening very much anywhere - certainly no more than it was happening before. This was the promise of the MAP as a formative assessment and the student data warehouse. That promise is - as of now - unfulfilled.

I can hardly give voice to the damage that the superintendent has brought to Special Education. I fully support inclusive classrooms. Done right they are magnificent. The superintendent's implementation of ICS, without training, without support, without reasonable ratios, is the direct opposite of the right way to do it. I cannot express my horror at her actions in this area. It is very likely criminal. It is certainly cruel.

The Superintendent is also responsible for the District's assets, both financial and real. I can't say that her budget of last year was well-considered or that it reflected the Board's priorities. This is the budget that spent $10.3 million on coaches. This is the budget that was reported one way to the Board and the public and another way to the OSPI. This is the budget that reflected central office growth in the face of enrollment decline. This is the budget that had hundreds of thousands for consultants working on the Strategic Plan and had lay-off notices for 200 teachers working in classrooms. Who is a fan of this budget? It isn't good work. The District has no idea what it is spending, where, or for what. The State Auditor's report was not good. The Native American program is a special failure, but it appears against a background of more consistent, if less spectacular, failure.

There is also a capital budget in addition to the operating budget. The District's capital spending includes salaries for project managers, litigation costs for Ingraham's addition, cost overruns for Garfield, and, now, costs to replace all of the carpets in the Southshore building. The capital budget, however, didn't have enough to maintain our buildings. The backlog of maintenance and repairs is growing, not shrinking. The superintendent has poured money from one capital funding source to another like a mad scientist mixing solutions. Money from BEX II flows into BEX III and then to CEP and then to grants and then back to CEP and then back to BEX II. BEX II was going to pay for Project 1 at School A, but now it will be used to buy Project 5 at School J. It is hard not to think that the complicated back and forth isn't intended to obscure the funding sources for projects. Where is the money coming from to pay for anything? This does not reflect good work.

The maintenance of the buildings - or, more accurately, the lack of maintenance of the buildings - also reflects the superintendent's poor results for protecting the District's assets. Then there is, of course, all of the lost equipment. Then there was the failure/refusal to move school equipment when schools were relocated. She is not a good steward of our assets.

I suppose Capacity Management should fall under this Facilities umbrella. Bad work there. It was just bad work all the way around the track. It did not result in the promised savings. Much of it had to be undone - closed schools were re-opened. We have overcrowded schools in the north end of West Seattle where Cooper was closed. We have long waitlists at alternative schools following the closure of two of them. During the process the District claimed that Sand Point and McDonald could not be re-opened, then, the next year, the District re-opened them. The District initially claimed that half of the excess capacity was in high schools, then they claimed that no high schools could be closed and that they had no high school excess capacity. It was a botch job.

Program Placement is squeezed between Capacity Management and the New Student Assignment Plan that will be regarded next. Program Placement continues to be totally corrupt and political. The Policy is violated at will. Otherwise it would be impossible for north-end elementary APP to be south of the Ship Canal, for Hawthorne to be selected as the Spectrum site for the Mercer service area, or for Muir to be selected as the Spectrum site for the Washington service area.

The superintendent is getting a lot of credit for implementing the new student assignment plan. I don't know why. First of all, she is two years too late with it. Second, she utterly failed with the Southeast Education Initiative which was part of it. Third, she utterly failed to achieve the stated goal of providing more equitable access to programs and schools. Her decision to make language immersion and Montessori programs attendance area schools was in direct opposition of this stated goal and doomed the goal. Finally, she didn't do very well with the sibling preference issue. Not well at all.

The superintendent is also the secretary of the Board. As such she has proven incapable of providing the Court with a certifiable administrative record. She regularly violates Board policies. She spikes any chance that the Board might have to sponsor authentic community engagement. She plays games with the Board agenda. She has not performed well in this capacity.

The superintendent's record on labor relations is very, very bad. The Board has been compelled to read acknowledgements of unfair labor practices in their official record. The superintendent was supposed to negotiate labor agreements with the teachers and the principals this past year, but she punted. Instead of making progress on this front she delayed and deferred, signing one-year status quo contracts. The quality of labor relations is near an all-time low.

I don't think that I need to explain how poorly the superintendent has peformed as the face of the District. Public perception of the District is not better than it was a year ago.

There are other elements of the superintendent's job, but I don't see any notable achievement among them. Discipline issues have not improved - student behavior is no better and schools are no better dealing with discipline matters. Equity has not improved. Political support has not improved. The District hasn't made any friends in Olympia or in City Hall.

It's not political. It's not personal. It's about performance and her performance has been poor.

Let's have some accountability. Let's have some performance management. Let's start with the superintendent. That's one definition of leadership: going first.


dan dempsey said…
Another Spectacular fiasco in her capacity as Secretary of the school board was her failure to present a contract that matched the action report in regard to the $800,000 NTN Contract vote on 2-3-2010.

Then on 2-4-10 the HS Math loss in Superior Court got some attention. The filing of the NTN appeal on 3-5-10 got the SPS attention as to the giant blunder of 2-3-10 so the fix became the redo re-run of NTN with a redo intro on 3-17-10 and a new contract vote on 4-7-10.

MG-J is simply incompetent in a variety of areas. Unfortunately "Four" directors approve of her incompetence whenever given the opportunity.
zb said…
So, I don't think any of you hates Goodloe. I just think that you're judging her by standards that no one else would pass, either. I've asked repeatedly whether our previous superintendents, or a superintendent in another city would meet the performance standard's you're saying Goodloe doesn't meet.

And, I think there's a significant cost to changing leadership, a cost we have to assess against the perceived better alternatives. I think it would be a tragedy if we found ourselves with interim, placeholder superintendents (like we currently have with police chiefs). I would like to wait and see how the new SAP, the school closures, and other changes play out, rather than kicking people out when we don't get short term improvements.

"At the most critical level, the student level, our academics are no better today than they were a year ago. Students who are struggling are no more likely to get early and effective intervention that will quickly bring them up to grade level. High performing students are no more likely to get the more challenging lessons that they need either."

Which city's superintendent met this performance standard last year? Would we want them to come to Seattle?

My questions really aren't rhetorical -- I'm trying to get a picture of what the alternative is rather than a description of what is wrong. Defining and describing what is wrong (or at least what you think is wrong) is an important step, but then we a positive vision. Who do we want to run our schools, a real person, who we think might meet these standards?
Sahila said…
I've had quite a few people say to me that there are a good handful of properly qualified (educationally and managerially) people in Seattle who would do this job wonderfully... they know the city, they love kids, they're invested already, have built up trust in the community and they understand and are competent educators and administrators/managers... the names escape me now - as a relative newcomer they dont mean anything to me, but there are others on this blog who would be able to put forward names...

And I do think you have to be careful who comes in next.... Seriously - many school districts are suffering under exactly the same conditions as ours are, and are not seeing academic improvement...

And you know what the common denominator is there? Many districts across the nation now have Broad Foundation-trained superintendents and that's a trend that's been occurring for 10 years... see the map and fellows list from the Broad website:
reader said…
The worse levels... than superintendent, are the levels beneath her. Directors and principals. Sure, perhaps she IS responsible for those levels. But anybody who is in management knows that it isn't always easy to improve the layers beneath you. You can't fire everyone.
MathTeacher42 said…
zb -
What are YOUR motives? I asked what are your motives, because in my 50 years a common tactic to shut up and stifle critics and commentators is to tell them to do the job of the person in charge!

Charlie already has a job. NONE of the people commenting were hired to run the district, MGJ was hired.

We supposedly live in a democracy - personally, I don't need any piece of paper or written rights to KNOW that EVERYONE has a right to participate in the community. For those of us who are NOT in charge, that participation means commenting on those in charge.
If those in charge don't like it, don't be in charge.

There are 6++ billion people in the world, 300 million in the U.S., 1/2 a million in Seattle. Those us who who are employed are breaking our tails to stay employed - we do NOT have time to do the person in charge's job - that is his or her job!

So, which "we" are supposed to tell her what to do in our vision positively? We is Dan and Charlie? You and Me? You and Dan and Melissa? You and the turtle in your pocket?

IF you and your turtle have a "positive vision", THEN do share! I'm busy enough trying to figure out what is going on and why it is going on, as are most of the commentators doing outstanding work keeping us working stiffs informed.

I asked what is your motive, because in my 50 years a common tactic to shut up and stifle critics and commentators is to tell them to do the job of the person in charge!
Anonymous said…
zb, it is hard to believe there are not much better alternatives. Let's look at what happened in Charleston.

As reported by the Post and Courier, the superintendent who replaced Goodloe-Johnson has a 25 point higher approval rating in polling of teachers. See

The new superintendent in Charleston is doing much better than Maria Goodloe-Johnson did there. The fact is that Seattle could do better than this superintendent.
zb said…
" zb -
What are YOUR motives? I asked what are your motives, because in my 50 years a common tactic to shut up and stifle critics and commentators is to tell them to do the job of the person in charge!"

My motive is that I think the constant churn of superintendents and other leaders produces poor outcomes and I'd like our changes to be a step forward and not a churn. I feel the same way about the constant calls to overthrow the school board and replace them. I want a vision of what I'd be replacing them with.

I'm sympathetic to your worry that asking for better solutions is "asking the critics to do the job." But, in this case, I'm not asking for Charlie to tell the superintendent how to fix all the problems, merely who and what kind of person would be better than our current choice. I want an analysis of not why this superintendent is bad, but why she's worse than the other alternatives. I don't have the optimism to believe that replacing her would fix things that aren't working now, and worry that the change itself will cause leadership vacuums that produce bad outcomes.
zb said…
It's interesting to hear that the superintendent who replaced Goodloe is more positively thought of by teachers. How does she fare on Charlie's other standards? Have Charleston schools improved test scores? Made progress in educational outcomes they've set for themselves? Again, my questions aren't rhetorical. I'll look myself for info, but if anyone else finds information, I find the process of comparing real people doing real jobs better than comparing an individual against an abstract set of ideals.
WenD said…
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WenD said…
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WenD said…
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WenD said…
zb: I think Charlie has provided an antidote to news outlets and MG-J supporters who have a stake in cheerleading instead of analyzing. To be fair, John Stanford received accolades from the same crowd. Had he lived, would he be remembered as fondly? It's unfair to criticize the dead, but how would he have handled what he set into motion? Really, has there been any sup since busing who is remembered with unanimous praise? Is it fair to measure performance based on political capital rather than independently measured results, all while the subject in question continues to bleed money?

This should be MG-J's year to prove herself. She's had time. Has she really done what the Times or her supporters praise her for? I'm not seeing it. Does that make me a crank? I find Charlie's approach a good one. The only way to dig out is to cut through the crap.
Jet City mom said…
She certainly is a busy gal- speaking at a conference in Seattle next month.

Maria Goodloe-Johnson has served as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools since 2007. She is the former superintendent of Charleston County School District in South Carolina and assistant superintendent of Corpus Christi Independent School District in Texas. Goodloe-Johnson began her career as a high school special education teacher and coach in Colorado. She serves on a variety of non-profit boards advancing public education and supporting families and children. Goodloe-Johnson currently serves on the Broad Advisory Board and recently accepted invitations to join the boards of Seattle United Way and the Northwest Evaluation Association. She also participates in the Aspen Urban Superintendents Network and the Aspen Institute - NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Program. She is a former trustee of the National Staff Development Council. Goodloe-Johnson is the recipient of The Superintendent of Education Excellence award from Mt. Pleasant District AME Hall of Fame in 2006.
Conference sponsored by NEA & AFT.
Charlie Mas said…
zb raises a valid point and I owe a response.

First, I'm not advocating that the Board fire the superintendent. I saying that we keep her on contract through 2012. I just don't see any reason to extend the contract right now. So I'm not calling for change. In fact, I'm calling for no change.

Second, I don't think the standards I have set are unfair. In fact, I need to remind everyone that I didn't set them - she did. She set the Standard for accountability. She set the goals for improvement in test scores. She set the timelines for the projects in the Strategic Plan. I didn't set the Standards; I just remember them. I didn't promise RTI; she did. I didn't promise curricular alignment; she did. I didn't promise performance management; she did.

As for the technical stuff, I don't think that's out of line either. It's not unreasonable for her to comply with the District policies. If she thinks that the policies are unreasonable then it is well within her authority - in fact it is part of her charge - to recommend revisions to the policies.

I disagree with the suggestion that the expectations are unfair. She clearly thought they were fair when she set them.
dan dempsey said…
On the subject of stability or churn.

The stability needs to be anchored in acceptable as in legally acceptable decision making. In several of MGJ's recommendations the board ignores evidence in supporting her, which makes for arbitrary and capricious decisions.

As someone who read the Appeal brief written for the May 21 appeal of the Spector Decision and the response brief of Porter et al. this lady in out of control. It would be in the children's best interests if she leaves and the sooner the better.

As for the four directors who are unable to use evidence effectively in making decisions, they should leave as well.
張盈 said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlie is right. And he has been consistent is what he has said about the performance of the Superintendent. Look, she set up all this motion. She was the one to say this district would have accountability (she put it at the bottom of every sheet of paper). She is not a lightening rod; she's the person in charge.

If someone says watch me and if I don't do what I say, call me on it, then you should believe them.

Understand, changing superintendents is not just something that happens here. It happens across the entire country. It is very two-way as well, meaning that superintendents leave on their own accord just as often as they are asked to leave.

ZB, we had previous school closures and didn't really see the benefits (and, in fact, are now reopening buildings). What makes these school closures different?

I don't think that what Charlie has said is unfair or above expectations at all.
Unknown said…
I tried various google searches, and didn't find anything that discussed the substance of the performance of the schools in Charleston since McGinley became Sup. As to her performance, it appears that McGinley's support from her Board is mixed. Her last performance review barely passed, on a 5-4 vote.

I've also got to react to Sahila's comments that there are other people here in Seattle who could do this job. I'm not sure vague references like that are helpful. The job is hard and thankless. Unless you can state the name of someone who is both qualified and is willing to do it (or there's a reasonable possibility that they could be persuaded to do so) then really, zb's legitimate question remains unanswered.
MathTeacher42 said…
Rosie and ZB -

I'm still confused.

WHY is OUR job to fix their job? They're in charge, it IS their job to fix their job.

The Superintendent makes over $200,000 a year. She has at least 6 people making over $100,000 a year working for her. These people are making more than appx. 224,000,000 Americans with money income in 2007.

(See the Statistical Abstract of The United States, 2010, Table 689)

WHY is OUR job to fix their job? The Superintendent and the members of her team make MORE than appx. 224,000,000 Americans. They're in charge. It is their job to fix their job.

So we're all going to be held accountable, EXCEPT those at the top?

Charlie has done MORE analysis than almost anyone - where is YOUR analysis?

IF you want different analysis, THEN do it.

I am probably misinterpreting things, BUT, you both sound like you're basically defending the people at the top.

IF you want different analysis, THEN do it.
Unknown said…
MathTeacher42, you are misinterpreting this. The point is pretty simple -- when you're considering a course of conduct you need to take into account the alternatives. For example, I may hate my job, but before I quit I'm going to consider how I will feed and shelter my family until I find another job. I will also consider whether the job I get is likely to be any better, especially in contrast to whatever it is that's bugging me about my current job. If I don't have answers to those questions, then in my estimation, quitting my job is a pretty risky proposition.

Charlie suggests that MGJ's performance is so bad that the Board should not extend her contract. Zb suggests, and I agree, that that's a strong action, and not one to be taken without considering what would happen in that case. Those big issues include will happen if we have an "interim" for some period of time? Another is the need to take into account the superintendent "churn" we've had in recent years, because some of us feel that that has had negative negative consequences that should be avoided. Another is the likelihood of whether we'd like anyone else better - -which, in turn, begins with a discussion of who alternatives might include.

From my perspective, you consider all that with the knowledge that there has been strong criticism of each of the Superintendents since John Stanford, raising the very legitimate question of whether we, collectively, will ever like anyone.

No, I don't expect Charlie, you or anyone else to do MJG's job. I do expect that the Board will consider the impact of alternative courses of action before they do anything.
Charlie Mas said…
Thanks for the support, MathTeacher42, but I wouldn't say that I've done any analysis. I've just run through a checklist. I made an itemized list of the superintendent's duties and I compared her performance - using objectively measurable outcomes - to the benchmark that she set.

I'm not sure I can think of any other reasonable way to review her performance.

I do want to say that I'm a bit concerned that this blog not become an echo chamber full of people who share a single perspective. Towards that end, I really try to be respectful of other viewpoints. When I disagree, I make an effort (at least on my good days) to understand the other perspective, to seriously consider its merit, to note areas of agreement, and, when discussing areas of disagreement, to provide a rationale for my view.

Not every day is a good day, but I work at having them.

There are people who don't share my perspective and I want, very much, to positively engage them. I want to be open to their perspective just as much as I want them to be open to mine. I'm happy to explain my rationale; in fact, I am delighted to have the opportunity. It is a precious invitation for someone to ask for your rationale - it shows that they are interested, that they give you credit for having one, and that they are open to hearing it. I hope to respond to those invitations in a way that encourages them.
Unknown said…
Amen Charlie. Positive engagement is how we all get smarter and better. Considering the points of view of people who disagree with us is of huge value. Sometimes it helps us make our own arguments stronger. Sometimes it changes our opinion. Even when it just makes us mad, at least we are feeling passion about a common issue.
Anonymous said…
Rosie, are we reading the same article? The article you cited says McGinley, the superintendent who replaced Goodloe-Johnson in Charleston, "greatly exceeds standards" and got "top marks" for "doing a great job" meeting "clear, measurable, and objective goals [that] directly benefit our students" including "student test scores" and "finances".

Here is another article, this one from the Post and Courier, saying that Goodloe-Johnson's replacement got "the highest rating possible" on her evaluation from the Charleston school board.

Charleston is very happy with their new superintendent. There is no question that Maria Goodloe-Johnson's replacement is doing much better than she did in Charleston. And there is no question we could do much better in Seattle.
Charlie Mas said…
Rosie, do you believe that the consequence of not extending the superintendent's contract would be her resignation? If so, then that would be her choice. It's a choice that she always has.

As to whatever would we do in her absence? I presume that her duties would be shared among her "C" level staff (Susan Enfield for the academics, Don Kennedy for the operations, and possibly Gary Ikeda for the Board Secretary work) until such time as an interim could be put in place.

Then who would we get?

Any competent executive would do. I think we need to stop looking for a hero, a rock star, a visionary, or a savior in the role of superintendent. We don't need that. We just need someone who can fulfill the duties.

In fact, I think that it has been a mistake for the District to look for someone to swoop in and save our district. I think that it has been a mistake for the District to think that superintendent is such a crucial job.

Honestly, all we really need is a clear thinking and effective executive with management skills and enough public relations skills to not be a negative. We don't need to pay this person $264,000 a year. Districts of our size typically pay their superintendents about $195,000. That should be enough to get someone's best effort.

Losing a rock star superintendent not only wouldn't be bad for Seattle, I think it would be good for the District and the city. Remember when the city was swept up in the mania about being "world-class"? Aren't you glad that's over? I never want this city to aspire to be world class ever again. That sort of pretension does not suit our character.
Unknown said…
CharlestontoSeattle - -You're right, the paper gave the Board's actions a positive spin. But I prefer to focus on the fact that her rave performance review passed on a divided vote. That says that 4 of 9 Board members didn't think it was an appropriate assessment of how she was doing her job.

Most posters on this blog are extremely skeptical of the Seattle Times' support of MGJ. That leads me to conclude that if the Seattle Times put such a positive spin on a 5-4 vote like that this blog would challenge the Times' coverage. I'm just holding the Charleston paper to the same standard.
zb said…
My post is by no means an attack on what Charlie has written, or against it having been written. I think it's perfectly reasonable to "provide an antidote" that holds everyone's feet to the fire about what our goals should be and whether they've been met. I think that both Charlie & Melissa do a tremendous job in bringing issues to my attention I have no desire whatsoever to silence them.

My questions are geared towards what I feel I can do with the information: does it convince me to throw this superintendent/board out and try for a new one? Not really.

I think on follow-up I'm being asked a narrower question, whether I should oppose the extension of Goodloe's contract. The argument is a bit esoteric for me, not something I can get fired up about (though I honestly appreciate it that others try to find the information that will let them make the decision). I do think that trying to disrupt her contract, firing her, would be bad, though.
zb said…
"Any competent executive would do. I think we need to stop looking for a hero, a rock star, a visionary, or a savior in the role of superintendent. We don't need that. We just need someone who can fulfill the duties."

I agree with this. But, I think that when we find such a person, we're going to find that they also fail to meet the standards you're raising here. They might, though, produce more competent management, including keeping projects on budget, . . . . I think there's a good argument for not looking for a "superman" but instead just a competent person. I don't think that's what we'd get if we kicked this person out, though. I think people would keep looking for a savior, and we'd just start the process all over again.
"Any competent executive would do. I think we need to stop looking for a hero, a rock star, a visionary, or a savior in the role of superintendent. We don't need that. We just need someone who can fulfill the duties."

Amen. And the Board who hired G-J was looking for a hard-ball, hard-core overhauler. They got one but forgot that maybe overhauling everything all at once is difficult for all and expensive. They forgot that some rock stars have their own agenda.

Frankly, the Superintendent has the Board by the throat (and they let her). She can let them know if they don't extend her contract, she'll walk (I'd bet money she already has done this). And, of course, if she gets a better offer someplace else, she'd be gone like Flash Gordon. Either way, she wins what is best for her. It's a very powerful position to be in but the Board has not put themselves in a management position with her (or maybe even even footing) so I can't blame her at all.

I'm with Charlie; she gets the big money and the help she needs from other big money employees. Did we ask her to write "everyone accountable" across the bottom of each SPS sheet of paper?

What we say has very little to do with her job performance so are we not giving her enough time to see results? When would be enough time to judge her work?
Anonymous said…
Rosie, you're purposely being very selective in your reading of the data.

I've given you two data points now showing that Goodloe-Johnson's performance is widely viewed as much worse than her replacement's in Charleston: a poll of teachers and the most recent evaluation by the Charleston school board.

Your complaint about the board's split vote is speculation and likely wrong. The article I cited gives an example that suggests that the nay votes were from board members who opposed multi-year contracts and high executive pay, not because of a dispute of the evaluation itself.

I think we're driving this into the ground at this point. Despite your attempts to ignore it, there is strong evidence that Maria Goodloe-Johnson's replacement is doing much better than she did in Charleston. And there is little question we could do much better in Seattle too.
seattle citizen said…
Charlie, we not only need a competent administrator (and maybe JUST a competent admin, not a "superstar"...but I think passion and ability to motivate ones staff helps)
but we also need a competent board that carefully fulfills its duties: Make Policy, enforce it, be the boss its sole employee, the superintendent, represent the interests of the children and citizens of Seattle, and myriad other duties (for which each board member should have an assistant, full time, paid for by the people and not some "foundation" or "non-profit" or "coalition")

This is even more crucial that a competent administrator: an elected board that represents the public's wish for fine public education.

And oh yeah, the last necessary component is an educated and active citizenry, for we are the bosses of all of these people, and we allow them (or not) great latitude in standing in loco parentis, in teaching our kids.

As the boss of the Board and thereby the superintendent, it's my job to evaluate both.
Sahila said…
Rosie - I told you people here had names to offer; pardon my personal failing in forgetting names that dont have any meaning for me because I've only been in the thick of the SPS education morass for the past two years and dont know all the people that make up the history of the district....

Just because I cant give you specific names, doesnt mean they are not there....
Charlie Mas said…
zb wrote:
"But, I think that when we find such a person, we're going to find that they also fail to meet the standards you're raising here."

I want to be VERY CLEAR. I didn't set the Standards for the superintendent's performance - she did.

A new superintendent could come in, take one look at the Strategic Plan, and offer a revised timetable for implementation and revised expectations for outcomes. Then that superintendent would be held to those Standards - the standards that the new superintendent set for him- or herself.

One of my greatest concerns about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is the dishonesty in her reports of her work. She reports that 82% of Strategic Plan projects are on-time, when it is patently obvious that nearly all of them are behind schedule. It may be that the timetables for the projects have been revised, but we haven't seen any revised timetables - we haven't even seen the original ones. She didn't publish the timetables for each project as the Strategic Plan promised. She is absolutely loathe to admit or acknowledge any errors or failures. That is EXTREMELY dangerous.

Nothing frightens me more than people in charge of people doing creative work who are psychologically incapable of acknowledging failure. Failure is an absolutely necessary part of any creative endeavor.
Sahila said…
Risk - interesting concept...

if we look at MGJ not just in terms of her performance but in terms of her linkages, what are we risking if we dont get her to leave/be sacked/not have her contract extended?

You cannot look at her in isolation... you need to look at who/what stands behind her (and some members of the Board)... and then you need to realise that her performance evaluation might be appropriate, under the criteria of the agenda those who stand behind her have... it might not be appropriate for what we citizenry think/know we want for our children...

And when we finally acknowledge who/what stands behind her, do we want what's coming down the track from those people?
ParentofThree said…
"As to her performance, it appears that McGinley's support from her Board is mixed. Her last performance review barely passed, on a 5-4 vote."

Interesting how her last review was a 5-4 vote and so many board votes are 4-3. Seems to me like she is hanging on by a thin margin.

Betting the contract extension is another 4-3, unless DeBell has some good sense about him.
Charlie Mas said…
Sorry to be off-topic, but this reminds me of one of my all-time favorite jokes.

The rabbi fell gravely ill and was hospitalized. While in the hospital he received this Get Well card:

"Dear Rabbi,

The Board of Directors of the Synagogue wish you a full and speedy recovery... by a vote of 7 to 5."
Charlie Mas said…
I was just reviewing the Board's actual evaluation of the superintendent and I saw that she got a low score for Stakeholder Engagement. It was 1.86. That means that of the seven Board Directors, six of them gave her a score of 2 and one of them gave her a score of 1.

2, by the way, is the score for "meets expectations" while a score of 1 means "needs improvement".

This means that six of the seven Board Directors believe that the Superintendent's Stakeholder Engagement meets their expectations. Six of the seven are not disappointed with the level of the superintendent's stakeholder engagement. Hmmm. Really?
Hard to believe.

Actually, I think Susan Enfield would be a good superintendent and I certainly would have no problem with her being an interim. I suspect she would actually be a good superintendent.
zb said…
Well, Susan Enfield being superintendent (though not an interim one) is an idea I could get behind, if Melissa thinks she'd be good at the job. And, really, there's no hint of sarcasm.

I think folks like the Broad/Gates/CEO types think that you need superstars, because they think they are superstars, that they got their success because they are enormously talented people who created miracles. I, on the other hand, believe that they were talented, capable people who happen to be in the right place at the right time. I don't think they're particularly well-suited to solving a deeply difficult problem like how to give equal opportunity to all of our citizens children.

But someone like Enfield, with a knowledge of the system, who Melissa judges to be capable, well, that kind of person might do a fine job. And, presumably, since they aren't a superhero, we (or they) wouldn't expect to make miracles, and wouldn't be so arrogant to believe that rules shouldn't apply to them.

What I don't want is a messy loss of a superintendent followed by a nationwide superintendent search that takes years.

Not sure what to do with the fact that the superintendent needs to work with the titans of industry who do think they're supermen, though (the same problem, incidentally, applies to the new search for the UW president that's been forced upon everyone)
I think the "titans of industry" should go back to what they do best and quit trying to micromanage education. (Funny how other people get that rap but not Bill Gates.)
Jan said…
When MGJ applied for this job, it was evident in what she said that she was a "top down" superintendent who would centralize control of schools. She has, and although I was steeled for it, it has been more painful than I had thought it would be. But I am a "choice/local control" advocate, and others may like what she has done, on grounds of school equality, or whatever.

That said, I would LOVE to see her contract NOT get extended (which still gives her two years here). And while I don't want a "savior" superintendent, I hope we get more than an "efficient administrator." I would love to see someone with vision around learning, rather than test scores, someone who empowers the professionals in our schools (teachers, principals, etc.) to really use their talents -- rather than being tied to "pacing guides" and "fidelity of implementation" schemes. I love the fact that RHS has (had?) an entire program of semester-long English classes that inspired teachers had developed. I love the Marine Biology/Genetics/Ecology track for sophomores at Garfield (though my child tells me it is getting thrown out so Garfield science will match the "approved science track" for all high schools -- I hope he is wrong, but?) Now that we are more tied to neighborhood schools, I realize people can't go wild on choice in the old Stanford mold -- but if there is room for immersion, IB, Montessori, etc., there MUST be room for some of the great stuff, the stuff that teachers and kids are most passionate about) that she is so blithely throwing out. It feels to me like MGJ has spent so much time taking apart things that DO work and replacing them not with things better, or even things that work equally well -- but with worse, more disheartening solutions, and ones that squander money to boot.

Jan said…
When she came -- we had a number of problems that had persisted for years -- financing for deferred maintenance, financial stuff that was wrong per the state audit, persistent problems with access to, and quality of, Spectrum, horrible math curriculum, problems in providing equal opportunities in SE schools, racial disparity gaps in the WASL (though I consider the WASL so flawed as to be ENTIRELY useless, so I can't really get worked up about WASL stuff, though I guess I believe, based on pure hunch (in the absence of any meaningful data) that a test gap exists and - to the extent that it reflects a learning gap - needs to be addressed.) But it seems like we were all having a conversation about these things, and she arrived and immediately began a much louder "reform conversation" -- talking over all of us (or most of us -- as there must be a "reform minded" crowd out there that likes all this.) Every single one of those problems still exists at its former level, or has gotten worse, while she is preoccuplied with this "reform agenda" (high states testing, basing teacher pay to test scores, standardizing materials/curricula/whatever) that I wasn't aware we were all clamoring for (maybe that just shows how clueless I was).
I want someone who will push money/resources back out of Central administration to the schools, who is genuinely interested in empowering schools (and teachers) to do their best, creative work, who will look at what is working (Singapore at Schmitz Park, etc.) -- and help other schools import or adapt those solutions if they think it will work for them. I want someone who has the vision to do what Everett is doing -- the much less "corporate/CEO" work of meeting the needs of each student -- EACH of them, wherever they are -- to help get them where they need to end up, whether that is Julliard or UW, or something altogether different. But instead of focusing on SPS's problems - or its children, it is like she is tuned into some OTHER station (KBROAD?) -- so all of our problems are getting worse -- and she doesn't care, because they are not on her "reform" agenda.
Maureen said…
Jan, I agree with everything you said, thank you for writing it!
dan dempsey said…
Jan => very nicely done.
Seems like the same folks, looking for a super-star Supe, that would believe if we "only" had the "correct president" all the problems of the economy would be solved.


You suggested that it was
six => 2 scores
and one => 1 score. (=13 points)

How about our often 4-3 vote split from the board, say something like this:
two => 3 scores
and two => 2 scores
and three => 1 scores (=13 points)

Is this a possibility?

{I have a hard time believing that only 1 director finds that MGJ's community engagement needs improvement ...... Do these folks ever use relevant data in making any decisions? Another Grim fairy-tale from the majority of the board ...AGAIN}
Chris S. said…
Yes, great post Jan.

I've wanted to respond to zb all day; yes, those of us who would like to see the back of MGJ DO have a realistic picture of the alternatives (good, bad, ugly, etc.) and we DO NOT think we could do much worse. Period.

I don't want a savior. Mostly, I just want someone who isn't hell-bent on ruining the things successes we have now. But there is a good point in there that we could be careful selecting the next superintendent. We should NOT, for example, use a headhunter specializing in Broad graduates. Candidates should also be vetted with Google so we don't waste time on interviews with someone whose skeletons are going to be discovered (most likely by a blogger!) The interview and selection process should not be desparate and rushed like MGJs was. The interview process should include some community input, preferably before the hire.

Unfortunately, it's the board's responsibility, and I'm not sure we'll have any say at all. Which brings me to the point - maybe they should extend her contract so we can elect a competent board to hire a new super!
gavroche said…
Can we please dispense with the ridiculous "rock star/superman" references? My understanding is that Goodloe-Johnson was the last candidate left, so SPS went with her by default.

Her record in Charleston also did not make her a "star." Two 'miracle' schools on her watch have since come under investigation for cheating on tests (the principal may have encouraged or participated in erasing incorrect answers and replacing them).

Her contract was not going to be extended by the Charleston School Board, until the very last minute.

She was not "super," she was the last person standing, and she probably had some powerful interests propping her up, such as Broad and Gates.

Having now witnessed and experienced Goodloe-Johnson's School District management firsthand, I believe the more accurate assessment of the Superintendent's performance is gross mismanagement and mediocrity.

By the way, the Board has given her high marks for the New Student Assignment Plan, and is using that to justify their proposal to extend her contract yet another year to 2013. But how can the Board reward her or even grade her for the Assignment Plan when it hasn't even been implemented yet?

We likely won't know until Sept or Oct. how everything will play out, and right now it isn't looking good -- seriously overcrowded schools remain overcrowded, underenrolled schools are still underenrolled, kids are stuffed into portables, very few families are choosing the schools the District is paying $48 million to reopen (Queen Anne Elem has attracted about 60 kids at last count, McDonald about the same or less -- these two schools will share a building and have TWO principals, each costing $100,000+. Meanwhile, John Hay and Coe, the two crowded schools that were supposed to be helped by the opening of QA Elem. are going to be as crowded as ever), siblings have been split and parents are angry -- it's a mess.

This seems like a suspiciously front-loaded reward by the Board, very similar to the Board's equally suspect decision to give Goodloe-Johnson a 10 percent raise in 2008, after only one year on the job, simply for "creating" the "Strategic Plan." None of it had been implemented yet, but the Board rewarded her anyway, raising her already indulgent $248,000 salary up to a whopping $264,000.

What good is a written plan that fails in practice?

And if it is true that Goodloe-Johnson's "Strategic Plan" was actually written by McKinsey & Co. (of Enron fame), then she got credit for something she didn't even create.
dan dempsey said…

I am still extremely puzzled by the accolades for write a plan and start a plan.

How odd that results are never included.

Seems like in a lot of cases the planning never includes what is known to be effective. This is just rolling insanity on the part of those four board members that lap up this nonsense.

The board seems to believe that the reform direction is the goal .... and that results do not matter.

Talk about distain for parents and kids .. When planning for positive results based on past experience is neglected as in the case of math and NTN, who can trust anything the board does.

Sure looks like corruption from here. Thanks for the classic reminder of Pres. Cheryl Chow slapping herself on the back for her great pick of MGJ as Supe by giving her a 10% raise and contract extension for nothing accomplished.

gavroche said…
Jan said...
When MGJ applied for this job, it was evident in what she said that she was a "top down" superintendent who would centralize control of schools. She has, and although I was steeled for it, it has been more painful than I had thought it would be.

But she also said: "If it's working and it's not broken, then I'm not going to fix it."
(--Supt. candidate Goodloe-Johnson, West Seattle Herald, April 10, 2007

Yet, look at all the damage she has done to our District, including to schools and programs that were working just fine until she messed with them.

Was her statement a lie?

Does she have a credibility problem?
Rose M said…
I heard MGJ on KUOW when she was new to the district. She assured parents that she was “not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater”. Strong schools & programs would get “earned autonomy” so that they could continue doing the great things they were doing. Change would come to low performing schools & programs to advance those students more quickly. She also claimed that she did not support having “every 3rd grader on the same page, the same day, across the district”.

Instead, she has given more effort to dismantling & diluting any excellence that existed than strengthening the weaknesses in our schools.
seattle said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle said…
MGJ lacks vision and she refuses to engage the families of this district. And that is her downfall.

Families from the NE came out in droves when the district opened JA to say that it would take an innovative, new, program to draw them away from their high performing neighborhood schools. They asked for a Spectrum K-8 school, Immersion, or K-8 IB school. But they got a half baked, rushed, Environmental math and science school, that does the same math (EDM and CMP) that the rest of the schools in the district do, and the same science kits that the rest of the schools use too. No vision. No innovation. No inspiration. Blahhhh.

Now, two years later, in a 900 seat building, and in the districts most over crowded cluster the school has over 400 empty seats. It's a tragedy really.

And you'd think MGJ would have learned from her mistakes with JA - but sadly, she didn't. The same scenario is playing out again with McDonald, Sand Point and QA. She didn't listen when the community told her what it would take to get them to try these new schools, namely Montessori, language immersion, or a K-5 or K-8 Spectrum only school. MGJ refused to acknowledge what the community asked for, and consequently, all three schools are unpopular, grossly, and embarrassingly, under enrolled . Families did what they could to avoid them. In the NE which is the most over crowded cluster in the city, where families have been pleading for years for the district to open a new school , Sandpoint is opening with all of 40 or so students. A lost opportunity, and a tragedy. And an expensive one at that.

All it would have taken was a bit of vision and some real community engagement. But MGJ has no vision, she's just a corporate manager (and a bad one at that), and she has no use for community engagement whatsoever.

It's pretty sad.
reader said…
Last I heard, Sandpoint had more than 70 students. You're right, not that many, but getting not that far from Montlake either considering it's the first year.
Unknown said…
Thanks for the thoughtful post Jan. Here's my question, based on your comment criticizng MGJ for her "preoccup[ation] with this "reform agenda" (high states testing, basing teacher pay to test scores, standardizing materials/curricula/whatever) that I wasn't aware we were all clamoring for (maybe that just shows how clueless I was.)"

From what I've been reading, including the reports from Arne Duncan's first round of Race to the Top grants, the enhanced federal funding that is out there is only going to be available in those places where many of the innovations you decry. Aren't you concerned that if we reject the current innovations (or call them "forced stupid ideas," I don't care) as you suggest, we will be losing access to those funds?

To be specific, from the Dept. of Education's press release on the first awards ( here's what they're looking for:

The Race to the Top state competition is designed to reward states that are leading the way in comprehensive, coherent, statewide education reform across four key areas:

* Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;
* Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction;
* Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
* Turning around their lowest-performing schools.

How does the District (or the State) accomplish any of this if the focus is on, as you suggest it should be, on the kind of programs that would get priority if our superintendent was "someone who will push money/resources back out of Central administration to the schools, who is genuinely interested in empowering schools (and teachers) to do their best, creative work, who will look at what is working (Singapore at Schmitz Park, etc.) -- and help other schools import or adapt those solutions if they think it will work for them."
Sahila said…
Rosie - I'd refer you to the threads on RTTT, where all the questions you ask have already been answered...

Several of us here, notably Joan NE (Joan Sias) have carried out a deep analysis of RTTT and its a Trojan Horse... see here for more info:



Check around the nation - I dont think you will find one real educator who thinks ed 'reform' (in its present guise) and RTTT is a good idea...
Sahila said…
Not sure if I posted this yesterday or not - apologies if I did; so busy countering the propaganda that's springing up everywhere, that it gets confusing sometimes...

Read here for a fuller picture of RTTT and all the players/proponents involved... and then follow the money/connect the dots between all those players and you'll see its not about putting money in the classrooms, but about putting money in the back pockets of hedge fund managers and testing companies and charter school franchises and private colleges etc, etc...

for what? A measly one-off payment of between $22-75/child (estimates vary, but that's the range) in Washington state?
Unknown said…

Yes, I know the low opinion that you and others hold of reform. Should I just assume that you think we need to walk away from all federal monies that are or might in the future be tied to that reform?

Right now the funds at risk are the Race to the Top funds. Are you willing to walk away form all federal dollars if they are tied to similar efforts?

And if the answer is yes, then my ultimate question is to ask how, in the near term (5 years) you propose we fund education? Of course it would be great for the state Legislature to meet it's constitutional duty, but I'm not holding my breadth.
SPS mom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said…

RTTT = 4.3 Billion
Best (or fairest) case scenario: divide by 50 states = 100 million or so (being generous) per state.

Seattle alone spends ten times that in one year.

There is no possible way a fear of "losing the money" or not being able to "fund education" generally should influence our state and district's decision about whether to drastically reform our public education system. There is no need for us to privatize and standardize education just because someone dangles something like $75 per student in front of our faces.

Plus, all these reforms take money: look at the article in today's NY Times about a charter in LA - hugely expensive; 15 million over four years, mostly donated by "foundations."

How is that scalable? How will we Washingtonians pay for all these crazy reforms when our $75 per student is spent?

The money that we might get from RTTT will surely be used to pay for MAP tests (4.3 million so far to NWEA, on the board of which sits our superintendent)

So "reformers" run companies that lobby Duncan to "reform" with RTTT - taxpayer money thereby is awarded IN A COMPETITION, in which there are LOSERS! KIDS! and the money goes to the "non-profit" NWEA, whose CEO pulls half a million, and which employees 40 people being paid more than 100k

RTTT money will go into the pockets of the reformers and their supporters: test companies (see article about possible new national "adaptive" test....can you say "NWEA" again?), curriculum paster-togetherers, foundation CEOs and employees, hedge fund managers, property owners, tax-break profiters, and anyone else who can grab a piece of the reform pie.

I don't want my tax dollars being pulled out of the hands of some kid in Montana and put into the hands of profiteers just because Montana didn't "win" a competition.
seattle citizen said…
Plus, Title One and other federal monies are a vastly bigger pool of money than RTTT, and they are distributed equitably, based on need, rather than via some dog and pony show put on to ram through the reformers agenda. Everyone, critics and supporters, agrees that Duncan's RTTT was a masterstroke of genius because who would turn down money?

I would. Texas would. Others around the country are understanding that RTTT doesn't pass the sniff test. Unfortunately, there is serious lobbying going on in support of it: Gates, Broad, Boeing, hedge funds, "Alliances," and others are actively driving for "reform" and they have money. I don't have Gates money, but at least I can voice an opinion here
(Thanks, Melissa, Beth and Charlie! Long live free speech unfunded by lobbyists! Long live soapboxes!)

WV believes that a bible you keep in your car is a mobible
Patrick said…
Rosie, the methods Race to the Top uses are unlikely to have any positive result.

* Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;

There's a huge emphasis on standardized testing both in Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind. Standardized testing by itself never taught a child anything. It takes money out of the schools and puts it into consultants and the educational industrial complex. It takes children out of their classes where they might be learning something and into testing rooms where they definitely aren't learning anything. If there was just one standardized test, maybe the lost days of instruction would be worth it. But there's state tests and MAP tests and college board tests all taking time away from instruction.

* Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction;

We know how to improve student growth. You have to address many factors in the students' lives, homework time, nutrition, etc. The education business doesn't like that answer because it's expensive and puts the money into schools instead profit for their shareholders. So they build the fantasy that privatized schools will teach better than public ones.

* Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and

Unfortunately, "effective" here is a code word for "young, nonunionized, and willing to work for peanuts". In other words, effective at saving money for charter school profit margins, not at teaching.

* Turning around their lowest-performing schools.

The privatization crew is great at PR campaigns promising turnarounds for low performing schools, but test results show they do the same or worse than public schools when compared to similar student populations.

It's bad enough that Race to the Top endorses only one ineffective method of school reform. It's further insulting that the amount of money offered as incentive is trivial.
Jan said…
Rosie: I am not sure that I have a lot to add that others have not said since you asked your question, but you were kind enough to ask, so here goes:
As others have pointed out, the dollars (by the time they get to any district) are quite small, in comparison to what they need to accomplish. (And in this district, they seem to take another cut, to the Administration's "special project" fund, so MGJ can do whatever she wants to with as little accountability as possible. Oops, sorry, I am straying -- I have always believed that education should be a local -- not a state or federal -- thing (within broad limits, I suppose). So, I was surprised, but cautiously so, when Bush came out with NCLB -- I mean, heck, we were already testing -- we HAD the WASL, and for the first time, it was forcing schools (a) to split out groups like special ed -- and (b) "be accountable" for them. But it hasn't worked well. While I have not had time to read Diane Ravitch's stuff on her disillusionment with high stakes testing, etc., I suspect when I read it, I will agree with her view that HST and some of the reforms that accompany it are all wrong. Not only is it not helping (and thus, it is a waste of tax dollars and school/teacher/student time), it is actively destroying much that is wonderful about children's learning. Kids never get these years back. When they ought to be reading The Incredible Journey, or Charlotte's Web, and becoming competent in math, or studying their eyeballs out to keep up with Spang in Marine Biology, we are squandering their lives and love of learning -- and our time and money -- doing things like practicing for WASL exams or taking "health class."
Jan said…
Cont'd from last post.
Sorry, Rosie -- my kids know better than to get me started on this --
Why is it, I wonder, that some of the happiest (or maybe they are just happy and outspoken) SSD high schoolers I know go to NOVA? Mine are/were at Garfield for reasons having to do with orchestra and IEPs - so I really don't know the answer, but I suspect it is because learning is highly individualized there -- which empowers students. Does practicing for and taking the math WASL make any kids' hearts leap? Doubtful.
So, yes -- I would do what Texas and other states are doing -- Recognize that we are being asked to sell our learning souls to a bunch of bloodless test scorers for a mess of pottage -- and I would turn it down. In fact, at this point, I wish someone would just kill NCLB altogether, in favor of some sort of a "best practices" clearinghouse that looks at smaller educational units and encourages states/districts/schools (on a nonprofit, collaborative basis -- not an expensive packaged curriculum basis)seeking better practices to figure out what works. How is it that Massachusetts seems to be doing so well? What schools, districts, etc. use math programs that DON'T place huge numbers of kids into college remedial math. Eighty percent of what we need requires no more money than what we already have. The money we are being promised through RTTT won't begin to close the funding gap, but worse yet, it won't even be trying! It doesn't go to solve the other 20% of the problems. For that, we need stuff like the supplemental Singapore materials, and the restoration of counselors at the elementary schools so teachers are freed up to teach and kids needs are being met. And money (a lot of money) to do inclusion right for SPED kids. Instead, it goes for HST -- which leads to highly standardized curricula (sorry Charlie -- no clue of whether that is the right word of the several out there), because HST leads to teaching to the test, which leads to close alignment between the exact facts/skills that get taught and those that get tested. will be agressively used to dismantle much of the stuff that works well!

There -- done. Sorry for the length. WV says usnxzwor, which I greatly fear may be snoring sounds from people who wish I had stopped long ago.
seattle said…
"What schools, districts, etc. use math programs that DON'T place huge numbers of kids into college remedial math. Eighty percent of what we need requires no more money than what we already have."

Well said Jan. I totally agree that much of what we can do to improve our schools takes vision, not a lot more money.

It wouldn't cost any more to have adopted Singapore or Saxon than it did Discovering.

It wouldn't cost any more (just shuffling teachers and classes around) to add enough SPECTRUM classrooms so that all students who qualify can be served. Same for remedial classes for the kids are struggling and need help.

It wouldn't cost anymore to put a Montessori program in at Sandpoint. Whether you have Montessori or a traditional, standard, school, you still have to pay for the principal, staff, maintenance, utilities, etc.

These things don't take piles of money but they do take vision. And vision is what MGJ is sorely lacking.
Charlie Mas said…
Rabbit wrote: "It wouldn't cost any more (just shuffling teachers and classes around) to add enough SPECTRUM classrooms so that all students who qualify can be served. Same for remedial classes for the kids are struggling and need help."

Here's the thing, Seattle Public Schools doesn't have a remedial classes for the kids who are struggling and need help.

This is something that has completely astonished me for ten years and continues to completely astonish me.

The District's stated goal - for at least ten years - has been to close the academic achievement gap by bringing every student up to Standards.

I think it pays to explain this every so often because there are always people who are new to it. The academic achievement gap doesn't describe the difference between White kids in honors classes and Black kids in regular classes. It is the difference in pass rates on the state tests. While 78.8% of White 4th grade students in Seattle pass the math portion of the WASL, only 29.1% of their Black peers do. That's quite a difference - nearly 50 percentage points. That difference - that gap - would be closed if the pass rates for Black students were equal to the pass rate for White students. The best way, of course, to make them equal would be for them both to be at (or near) 100%. So the goal is to get every student working at Standard. As a consequence, that would close the academic achievement gap.

Let's be clear. The academic achievement gap would still be regarded as closed even if one group of students all got Level 4 scores and the other group of students all got Level 3 scores. So long as they all passed.

Here's the weird thing. Any normal, rational person given the assignment to close the academic achievement gap by bringing every student up to Standard might first make a plan for how to do that. Seattle Public Schools has never made a plan for how to close the gap. How weird is that?

Any normal, rational person given the assignment of closing the academic achievement gap by bringing every student up to Standards might approach the problem by identifying every student working below Standards and targeting some support to those students. The District has never provided targeted assistance to students working below grade level. How weird is that?

Instead, the District sends coaches to schools that have a lot of students who are working below grade level. The coaches, however, work with the teachers, not the students. Much less is done for struggling students at schools were most of the students are performing at Standards.

The District doesn't see students. The District only sees schools. If they see a school with a lot of struggling students they regard it as a struggling school. They then send help to fix the school.

That is a tragic outcome of not being able to distinguish between statistics and reality.
Sahila said…
PART ONE... sorry, need now to learn how to do tiny links...

Regarding achievement gaps and Charlie's observation that coaches are sent to schools to coach teachers, but kids dont really get any meaningful individual help... and I'm focusing here primarily on math cos that's a dialogue I'm having elsewhere, but its also relevant to the gap in language (reading/writing etc)...

By nature, I'm a synthesist, something I dont see much in the people around me, which I think is a shame as I see a major disadvantage in people (individually and collectively) clinging to there being only one way to do something...

In addition to incorporating using more of the right brain/creative activities to discover and explore mathematic principles, perhaps all our kids would also do better being taught Vedic Math (or Mayan Math, or African Math, or Chinese Math or Islamic Math etc)... but I dont think this culture and education system will ever give us the chance to find out...

And there are also neurological/physiological reasons why kids dont do well in math, just as there are kids who have trouble reading/writing, but I dont think this is ever tested for here in the US...

New Zealand schools now test at school entry for mixed laterality, recognising that this phenomenon contributes to learning difficulties when it comes to remembering patterns (in math and reading/spelling and foreign language learning)....

My elder daughter (30)has this condition to a marked degree, my other two grown children to a lesser degree (they were diagnosed around 1992 - my girls were well into their schooling with the elder daughter in her first year of high school, my other son was starting school and was tested as part of his school entry health and development screening.)
Sahila said…

Teacher trainees at colleges of education in New Zealand have been taught strategies for helping children deal with this difficulty since the late 1980s, with much of the pioneering work coming out of the Christchurch Teachers College... one of those strategies is cross-body physical activities, which helps rewire the brain...

My youngest (7) has not been tested far, I havent found any US teachers in the schools we have dealt with who know anything about this at all...

For all the factors above, plus VERY REAL cultural and cognitive learning differences, I think the reasons for the achievement gap are much more complicated than we are allowing for and I think we are looking at too narrow a range of strategies to deal with this issue...

And we are assuming the white way is the right way - resistance is futile, assimilate or be classed as a failure...See below for references/evidence to support my contentions... .htm
Sahila said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sahila said…
I wonder how African American and African immigrant children might do in math if they were taught with input from their own genetic/cultural roots...

previous reference: ...

What if they were taught mathematical principles by doing, by creating, as their people have done for millenia?

What about Latino children? Pacific Islander, Maori and Aboriginal children?...

See this very interesting document on closing the math achievement gap between Maori and pakeha (white) children in New Zealand

many researchers in both transpersonal psychology and quantum physics are coming around to the (very old indigenous and metaphysical)concepts that all knowledge is stored and transmitted from one generation to the other via the DNA and cellular memory....

If that's true, wouldnt it make sense to teach children via culturally and biologically relevant techniques and processes, rather than to force them to abandon their natural learning styles?

Its a bit like the old-fashioned idea that we had to force left handers to become right handers (because left-handedness was a mark of the devil).... How much misery did that create? We know acknowledge that practice was an unfounded prejudice and a mistake... why cant we do that with learning?
seattle citizen said…

The district does provide funding and support to some remedial reading and math classes in schools. That funding has diminished recently, due to cuts, but there is some support at district for reading and math remediation.
seattle said…
"If that's true, wouldnt it make sense to teach children via culturally and biologically relevant techniques and processes, rather than to force them to abandon their natural learning styles? "

And how would a public school do this? There are over 40 nationalities and cultures represented at the average Seattle public school. Would we have 40 different "biological techniques and processes"? How would teachers be trained?

It's fun to imagine, but in reality, I don't see how it could possibly be done. SPS is having a hard enough time figuring out how to effectively teach the one technique/curriculum they currently use.
Maureen said…
... identifying every student working below Standards and targeting some support to those students. The District has never provided targeted assistance to students working below grade level.

From what I have seen of the CSIP/Building budget process at our school, the achievement gap is addressed on the school level by identifying the numbers of students who have not met standard in a given WASL subject and targeting those students with CSIP 'strategies.'

The District doesn't provide resources to support those students per se -- although a school gets slightly more 'cash' for FRL students (whether or not they meet standard) and if a kid has an IEP, they come with some credit for a 'resource room' teacher (and in MS a correspondingly smaller credit towards their classroom teacher).

During the past five years or so, our parent body chose to devote about $10K per year towards personal tutoring for kids who did not have IEPs, but were struggling and couldn't afford to pay. This year, the staff reps decided it would be better to use that money to buy what are the de facto SPS 3rd-5th grade adopted literacy materials with the hope that that would meet the needs of the whole range of students we have, including those who struggle. (The District has not formally adopted/paid for K-5 materials in about 10 years, but they give these (Readers Workshop) materials to Title 1 and new schools--the rest have to pay for them (and the training, by SPS employees) themselves.)
Josh Hayes said…
Charlie sez:

"The District doesn't see students. The District only sees schools. If they see a school with a lot of struggling students they regard it as a struggling school. They then send help to fix the school."

This is the most sensible, succinct description of the District's wrong-headedness I think I've ever seen. It may also illustrate why management seems so mystified when we parents complain: after all, we see kids. They see lines in spreadsheets, and it's hard to blame them for that. It's what they've been trained to do. I really do think they're acting in good faith - it's just that their faith is misplaced.

WV - no question, it's a real facer.
Charlie Mas said…
seattle citizen, please tell us more about the remedial classes that are funded and directed from the District level. I keep hearing that the high schools will not offer any math lower than Algebra.
seattle citizen said…
As budgets seem to be more building-budget generated recently (as opposed to extra funds given by district for various things), I suppose that the district is not really targeting interventions, as it is providing, on paper at any rate, less funding for those who provide the remediation: Fewer counselors to help direct students towards remediation, and fewer Title One and LAP funds, for instance.

But some buildings are using their own budgets to pay for FTE that provide remedial reading and/or math.

The district has a program called Read 180 (Scholastic) that is a curriculum and materials that provide: whole group, small group, independent, and adaptive computer based instruction in reading. This is the favored district remedial program, and some accounts its a pretty good one.

But as I mentioned, where in the past the district might direct LAP or other funds towards FTE in buildings for this new program, currently budget constraints mean fewer dollars given to schools (in addition to their base budgets) so some schools are opting not to provide FTE to such classes. But I believe many high schools, and a couple of middle schools, are using Read 180 currently.

Math remediation is not as programatic - this would be a school-to-school basis as FTE is available, but as the district's strategic plan includes a focus on math HSPE scores, I'm sure that it is providing some sort of leg up to schools that are finding difficulty in staffing such positions.

The sad fact is that in this economic climate, schools are retrenching to the core subjects - "fluff" is being cut as funds are needed to address the very core classes and subjects.
dan dempsey said…
At the time of the Discovering adoption in April and May 2009, Ms. de la Fuente stated that schools who had materials and classes aimed below Algebra would be allowed to continue those.

All I have heard reference to recently has been an additional support class to support those students enrolled in Algebra I.

I seem to recall KS-B questioning the decision to send extremely mathematically deficient 8th graders into Algebra as entering 9th graders.

Ms. de la Fuente seems to believe since other districts do it that is reason enough for Seattle to do so.

There is a significant volume of research available that demonstrates this "Algebra for 9th graders no matter how unskilled" is not a good idea. (of course none of that research comes from UW)

One could begin by looking at NTN schools that have this same approach to see pathetic results.
Charlie Mas said…
I have to say that I have read a lot of CSIPs, and there are few that make a lick of sense to me. After you've read a few you begin to recognize the boilerplate language and you see that some of them are 100% boilerplate. The overwhelming frequency with which the space-holding words, such as "Enter the method here", are left in place on the final document bespeaks the low level of interest in these documents.

I would not look in the CSIP for plans for remedial education. It just ain't there.

Moreover, with curricular alignment, I'm not sure that teachers will be allowed to teach any lesson that isn't on grade level.
seattle said…
My sons high school has homework help center for two hours a day, MOnday through Thursday in the library. The librarian is there, as well as several teachers, and parent volunteers. A student can get one on one tutoring at the center, for free, in any subject, 4 days a week.

Homework help center is open to all and is a fantastic resource for students that are struggling.

Our school also offers a Focus skills elective class as well as a study skills elective. Again, great for struggling students.

Now for the meat:

In LA they offer LA-M for 12th grade students. It focuses on reading and writing improvement for kids that are working below standard. Prepares them for transition out of school, and offers individual instruction.

In Math they offer General Math. This class is designed for students who have skills that are lower than those needed to go into ALG I. It is open to 9-12 graders, and teaches basic skills, consumer math, basic algebra.

So there are some remedial offerings - certainly not enough though. As I said in my earlier post - it doesn't take piles of money (because you are still serving the same number of kids), but it does take some creativity, and willingness to shuffle teachers around and create the classes that can meet every students needs.

What's hilarious to me is that this administration has been so focused on aligning curriculum, and standardized offerings, yet they have not addressed remedial courses at all. Some schools obviously offer them but they do so on their own outside of district standardized offerings. No consistency at all.
Sahila said…
@ rabbit...

they cant teach the one curriculum effectively because kids don't come in one 'size' or style'... so plainly, logically, using only one curriculum will fail a huge percentage of kids...

Part of the problem is the system's insistence on 'scaling up', justifying that by saying its cheaper and more efficient...

Well, just about everywhere around the planet, in dealing with humans and ecosystems (rather than with manufacturing and IT) we have found that 'scaling up' doesnt work - what works is keeping things small and relevant to current, local conditions with buy-in (and direction) from the local population ... and in the end this is cheaper because its more successful and doesnt need as much adjustment and remediation...

This is something the Gates Foundation doesnt understand (or refuses to accept), as you can see in its efforts in global health... ignoring basic problems affecting women and children, focusing on expensive solutions that local communities cant afford without external funding and imposing solutions from outside and top down... there are numerous reports from 3rd world countries about local unhappiness with these strategies.... and that's exactly what we have happening here in education....

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