Disqus

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Then Again, Maybe We're Wrong

Everywhere I turn in the professional press I see stories about how our tough and heroic Superintendent, Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, has been working diligently for the past three years to bring needed change and reform to an ossified public school system that was drowning in failure. And now, finally, she has broken the backs of her opponents and will bring us, almost singlehandedly, the academic achievement that we always thought possible.

I see it in the Times. I see in Crosscut. I see it from the Alliance for Education and the League of Education Voters. I see it everywhere they reprint District press releases as if they were news stories.

Yeah. Only I'm not seeing any of that.

Honestly, I think that there were a lot of things in the District that did need fixing - mostly failures of management and supervision. I think that she did a pretty good job of identifying them and, in a number of cases, identifying the solutions. Unfortunately, she has done an absolutely disastrous job of implementing solutions. She has, in a number of cases, left big problems unaddressed. She has neglected duties in a way that has allowed new problems to emerge. And, yes, her personal style and top-down view of the world has been a negative. On the whole, I see her as a miserable failure.

So what are her fans seeing that I'm missing? Could they be right? Could I be wrong?

Teacher Contract
They give her a lot of credit for the new teacher contract. I think the important part, the new performance evaluation, was done without her through a collaborative, cooperative effort of the District and the union. In fact, her proposal, SERVE, almost crashed the whole thing. Thankfully it was rejected. So where is the credit for the superintendent here? I'm not seeing it.

Curricular Alignment
Seattle Public Schools has a serious problem. There are schools where the fifth grade classes are getting third grade lessons. That ain't right. The solution is curricular alignment: assure that all teachers in all classes in all schools are delivering the prescribed content - teaching at least the baseline set of knowledge and skills for that subject and grade. It is an equity issue; a justice issue. The Superintendent rightly made this part of the Strategic Plan. But we didn't get curricular alignment. Instead, we are getting standardization. Here's the difference: in curricular alignment someone checks to make sure that all of the teachers have the elements of the prescribed content in their syllabus and that the teachers actually cover it. In standardization the teachers are all forced to use the same books at first. Then they are all forced to teach the same lessons, give the same exams, and essentially become clones of a single practice. What is the evidence that math instruction has been aligned? Nearly all schools are using the same books and the District has provided a pacing guide, assessments, and model lessons. That's standardization, not curricular alignment. So - inspired solution/tragically bad implementation. Actually, this story hasn't been presented because I think it is too complicated for the bumper-sticker media, but it is critical to students and teachers and it represents a tremendous failure for the superintendent, so maybe that's why her friends in the media aren't talking about it. Is there good here that I'm not seeing? The math scores are falling, falling, falling.

Performance Management
It is shocking to hear that almost no one in Seattle Public Schools had a job description, had regular performance reviews, or even had any set criteria for a performance review. That represents a grosteque failure of management at just about every level of District management, but primarily at the top. I don't know why people think that Raj Manhas was in any way capable, because the CACIEE final report was basically a catalog of his utter failure to fulfill any part of his responsibilities. Joseph Olchefske was no better, and John Stanford started the whole thing by failing/refusing to take on a quality assurance role when he de-centralized decision-making. I certainly appluad the Superintendent for introducing management to Seattle Public Schools. But the REAL focus of her Performance Management effort is schools. Not teachers and principals so much as schools taken a whole. Each school will have a new annual report (not yet designed) for Performance Management purposes. This scorecard will determine what level of performance management intervention the District will apply to the school. So, this is good as it represents the District's re-assertion of its quality assurance role. The idea is that strong performing schools will get less oversight from the District and more autonomy. Poor performing schools will get more oversight and more direct guidance from the District. Brilliant idea and solution. Unfortunately we're looking at absolutely disastrous implementation. First, the whole thing is epicly overdue. This simply mystifies me because the school scorecard has not essentially changed since the original mock-ups done two years ago. Second, the cake is a lie. There is no autonomy available for strong performing schools. Third, the help that the District gives to poor performing schools doesn't help. It's more enforcement than help. Finally, the external report on school excellence for the public doesn't really speak to school excellence. It doesn't report the measures of school excellence. The media gives her props for doing something about this, but they don't seem to notice that what she does isn't effective.

Capacity Management
The superintendent gets a lot of credit from establishment circles for closing schools. They don't seem to recognize that she spent a TON of money to do it, that she didn't do it very well at all, and they - amazingly - neglect that she had to re-open three of the five schools she closed at even GREATER cost. Moreover, she reneged on a whole stack of promises and hasn't produced the promised results. Jane Addams has no more students than Summit. She didn't pour enough sugar on Sand Point and McDonald to make them attractive. She botched the creation of the Queen Anne Montessori high tech alternative school. She didn't duplicate a single successful program. She left the alternative schools WAY under capacity. The APP split makes no sense as long as north-end elementary APP is located south of the Ship Canal, and she didn't keep any of the promises she made with the split. Nevermind little things like having Van Asselt and Wing Luke, two attendance area schools, just three blocks apart when the New School should have moved into the AAA building instead of wasting a K-8 building on a K-5 program - unless Van Asselt is going to expand to K-8 to provide a traditional curriculum K-8 option in the south-end (like Broadview-Thomson, Jane Addams, Madrona, and Catherine Blaine). The establishment LOVES her closing schools, but I don't see why. Where are the savings from closing Mann, which was the cheapest building in the District? Are students really better off with Genessee Hill closed and Pathfinder moved into the Cooper building? The T T Minor closing might turn out to work, but a data-driven decision would have pointed to closing Montlake instead - especially with Lowell staying open. Closing the AAA was the right move, but all of the scholars could have stayed in the building if the New School had moved in instead of Van Asselt. By the way, if Genessee Hill had been rebuilt instead of Southshore (as it should have been) then Cooper would not have needed to close.

New Student Assignment Plan
The Superintendent is getting a lot of credit for the new Student Assignment Plan, but just about EVERYTHING about the plan was determined three years ago by the previous Board in their Framework document. The implementation, however, was totally weak. First there is the whole mess around re-opening recently closed schools. She wasn't able to make them attractive. She didn't improve access to quality programs - as the plan was promised to do - because Montessori and language immersion programs were made attendance area schools. Program Placement was as corrupt and political as ever. It was driven mainly by operational preferences instead of academic policy. And, of course, there is the Southeast Education Initiative. How can anyone regard this as a success? As we enter the first year of the new plan we can also see that some of the attendance area boundaries are inexplicable. Garfield, for example. What a botch job!

Southeast Initiative
This was all Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. This is the only project that she has overseen from start to finish and it was an abject failure. Epic fail. This project was supposed to show everyone what she meant by accountability. It remains the highest profile example of accountability in the District. And what accountability did it show? NONE. The establishment media is absolutely silent on it.

Capital Projects
What was the original budget for Garfield? What did it end up costing? The establishment is absolutely silent about the superintendent's management of capital projects. They pretended not to notice when she tore down new work that cost millions to re-locate Denny onto the Sealth campus. They pretend not to notice the shell game played with the money shifting from this budget to that budget to the other budget and back again. BTA projects become CEP projects become BEX projects and then BTA projects again. Then there is, of course, the Small Projects team and the $1.8 million of capital funds misspent there. Then there's the political way in which capital projects are chosen. Southshore moves ahead of Genessee Hill. STEM moves ahead of EVERYBODY. We don't have money for anything else but we have millions and millions for STEM.

Fiscal Management
The superintendent isn't a teacher. She's a chief executive. It's an administrative job, not an academic one. As an administrator she's a freakin' disaster. Just read the state audit to get a sense of the utter lack of management. The Seattle establishment has chosen to completely ignore the audits. Odd. When they do mention them, they brush it off and dismiss it as crumbs - a few thousand dollars out of a half billion dollar budget. I think the audit findings - which are all hers (these things were not found under previous superintendents) - are incredibly damning.

Strategic Plan
The establishment LOVES this plan, but they don't seem to notice that every single part of it is overdue, overbudget, and short-cut. How can they not see that?

I could go on. The superintendent has her fans. I would dearly love to speak with some of them and find out what they like about her job performance, because I'm just not seeing it. What am I missing?

50 comments:

Greg said...

I'm not sure, but you know the Crosscut folks pretty well, don't you, Charlie? Perhaps one of them could do a guest post here on this?

gavroche said...

Charlie, one part of your observations that I disagree with is this sentiment:
"The Superintendent is getting a lot of credit for...[FILL IN THE BLANK]"

Don't confuse genuine plaudits for a job well done with spin, damage control and dishonest media puffery. The last three are what we have been seeing from the Times, the Alliance, Crosscut etc., and misinformed bandwagon-jumping politicians like Councilmembers Burgess and Conlin who both have greater political (mayoral) ambitions but haven't done their homework on what's really going on in SPS and ed reform.

(By the way, the Alliance and Crosscut both receive money from the Gates Foundation.)

The Seattle Times's mindless kneejerk support of the Superintendent manifests itself in various idiotic editorials that are not based on the facts.

Those who are actually in the schools, sending their kids to the schools or teaching in them are the ones who really know how the Superintendent is performing, and a large majority of us have given her a serious THUMBS DOWN, as demonstrated by all the NO CONFIDENCE votes.

The more parents get informed about what's really going on in SPS, the less they like what they see.

As for the teachers' contract, it was a loss for the Superintendent. She didn't get "SERVE," despite the fawning support it got from the likes of Burgess, Conlin, the Times and others. If the levy fails, numerous provisions of the contract become moot.

dan dempsey said...

Hey just because the School Board completely fails to supervise their Superintendent don't think they don't have an opinion.

The Seattle School Board likes MGJ. They had the State Audits and voted 5-2 to extend her contract from two more years to three more years.

September 23, is the Superior Court hearing on the sufficiency of charges for the recall of each of 5 school directors.

If charges are ruled sufficient, then the public can at least give the Board a heads up on how we view the actions of each of 5 school board members.

Central Mom said...

Olchefske had a disasterous fiasco on his hands when the District's accounting system was found to be so flawed that millions of dollars available for operations were actually double-booked. So a whole lotta money wasn't there. That was an enormous audit/accounting fiasco and he lost his job over it.

Other than this clarification that other supers have failed at accounting too, I fail to find much to argue about in your assessment of the situation.

zb said...

So, what's the scoop with Sand Point & MacDonald? Whose there, how are people doing?

Is that question a thread hi-jack? and if so, can we discuss how things are going at different schools, especially the ones that are experiencing changes?

kprugman said...

How can you be a board member and sit on the board of directors for the alliance of education and not have a bias?

Reform's solution - do everything possible to disrupt public education, so taxpayers will throw more money at expensive, unproven policies that drive students out of school, teachers out of education, and families out of the district.

Charlie Mas said...

I would say that it's a bit early to make any statements about how things are going anywhere. The first two days is just not enough time to know about anything.

Also, the official enrollment numbers are always based on the October 1 count, so we have to wait for those before saying anything definitive about enrollment.

You can definitely look forward to blog posts about enrollment after October 1 and, around the same time or a bit earlier, reports on how things are going at McDonald, Sand Point, the renovated Sealth, etc.

G said...

My kids came home from Garfield this afternoon and announced that Mr. Howard reported at their class meetings that there are 630 freshman, almost 1900 students in the building. How's that for the success of both capacity management and the NSAP? And thanks to the NSAP, more students can walk through the doors everyday.

We are not wrong!

Melissa Westbrook said...

ZB, I'll start that thread but it's a little early to know.

"the bumper-sticker media" - ha! Great line because it is the truth. You have to try to distill either a lot and/or complex information into some kind of phrase. So the phrase I'd use for BEX and BTA is "shell game".

And this is something to consider for the supplemental levy. No one should have to explain why they aren't voting for it. Think of it like an old Reagan line: are you better off? Is this district better off than 3 years ago? Better academics? Nope. Better building condition? Nope. Better fiscal management of our district?

So why vote to give money to a district that isn't showing progress? Wouldn't you want them to be accountable for lack of performance?

What is interesting as well in all the various "updates" the district churns out is that, for example, in the Excellence for All: A Two-Year Perspective document that:

-ten outside reviews were done of critical services and departments, district performance, data and public input. What is lacking is that very little that is visible was done in follow-up. Great to review and see what needs to be done; so when will those recommendations get done? And, were those reviews done correctly? For example, there is an entire Advanced Learning program and yet only one part - APP - was examined.

- it states that one of their primary strategies in Excellence for All is to strengthen performance in 5 areas, one of which is Stakeholder Engagement. They are updating the website (good but it seems a weak effort so far) and "to engage SPS families, community and staff more often and more effectively." Was that written with a straight face because c'mon, they get told all the time what would be better engagement, more useful engagement and ignore every suggestion.

What is also hilarious is that they say "a demonstrated increase in public perception shown through a telephone survey conducted by the Alliance for Education in March 2010. Results show a continued increase in satisfaction with the quality of education provided and satisfaction with wise use of tax dollars has improved by 13 points over 2006."

Seriously? Because I do have a call into the Alliance but if the Alliance did not conduct the same survey in 2006 as they did in 2010, I'm not sure those statements are factual. I'm pretty sure 2010's survey was very different from any other done in 2006.

The District also has stated, in their 2009 Annual Report on Excellence for All, that they saved $50 million over 5 years in capital and operating expenses by closing 5 schools. This report isn't dated but I'm thinking it came out towards the end of 2009 or after. So they knew they were going to reopen buildings AND knew there would be a big price tag to do it.

I can hardly wait to see how this spins for the 2010 Update.

seattle citizen said...

Speaking of Tim Burgess, here's his letter to the editor in today's Times. It's great that he appluads the union, but he is very confused about how student growth is used in the new contract (see second paragraph, starting "First...a check, or verification"? No, it is a trigger to signal deeper inspection of a teacher's work):

Your editorial “Adding value to teacher evaluation” [Opinion, Sept. 5] was right to encourage reform of public education, but very, very wrong on the details.

First, the new, teacher-approved contract will use student academic growth as a check or verification of performance evaluations for all teachers; it’s not a voluntary process. Second, and perhaps more importantly, we don’t have “retrograde union leaders” at the Seattle Education Association. The school district and union bargained in good faith and reached agreement on a three-year contract that is fair, protects the rights of teachers, and puts our teachers and schools in the forefront of innovation and reform. The new contract is a huge step forward and that’s very good news for the children of Seattle.

Public-education reform would have been better served had your editorial affirmed and celebrated the significant role the leadership of the Seattle Education Association played in reaching an equitable resolution of the contract. They deserve praise for their willingness to stretch beyond the norm, to embrace new ideas, to become national leaders for reform. All for the sake of our kids.

— Tim Burgess, chair, Public Safety and Education Committee, Seattle City Council

Dorothy Neville said...

Tim Burgess said "forefront of innovation and reform" today?

FWIW, that is exactly the phrase Heidi Bennett of SchoolsFirst used on Sept 1st in support of the levy and contract.

Jan said...

Charlie: with respect to the NSAP, it could fairly, I think, be said that the primary thing Goodloe-Johnson and this board WAS responsible for (that was not to the credit/blame of the prior administration) was the implementation -- the drawing of boundaries, the decisions with respect to tie breakers, sibling rules, attendance version open choice schools, etc. You are correct that we may not have numbers until October 1, but it appears to me at this point that GHS is completely screwed up (a result that could easily have been avoided by gathering and interpreting data correctly to draw better attendance boundaries). The preliminary numbers from last spring indicated that all three of the new northend schools were screwed up (a result that could have been avoided by listening to the various stakeholder groups and siting programs that would better fill those schools). And if what G says is true -- and RBHS is nearly empty (now that they cannot force kids there by mandatory assignment), well, they could have solved that one too -- by succeeding with the Southeast Initiative -- and providing for Excellence for All in SE schools BEFORE implementing the SAP. ALL of these problems were entirely forseeable (and forseen by parents -- but they didn't want to listen). ALL of them are directly attributable to failure by the District to collect, analyze, and use available data.
Where is the accountability? And this is only 4 schools (5 if you count RBHS, but I am not sure where G got his/her data on that one -- so maybe we need to wait until better numbers come in). I hope that things are working out better for the others!

G said...

My information about RBHS enrollment came from someone in the district. That person also said they have 2 principals at RBHS. And it is true, there are coprincipals, Robert Gray and Lisa Escobar (moved from Center last winter).

SPS enrollment for RBHS as of June 1, 2010 was 415 as reported on the SPS website under Reasearch, Evaluation and Assesment/enrollment. This is certainly not far off under 400. Severe underenrollment at RBHS has been an ongoing problem. June 1, 2010 enrollment for GHS is reported at 1605. Back in the day when they capped enrollment!

seattle citizen said...

Dorothy, while Councilman Burgess is purportedly the chair of the council's Public Safety and Education Committee, it has been apparent, to me at least, that what little he knows about education is predicated on his conversations and politically-based machinations with various power-players around the city. This was glaringly apparent when he signed his name to the faux "Our Schools Coalition," which is nothing but four or five business groups and twenty or so minority community advocacy groups.

Burgess, I've heard, is running for mayor, and is busy building a base by mouthing the utterances of the usual "reform" crowd. What a shame. What transparent toadying at the expense of the education of this city's children, to whom, in his position, he is at least partly responsible.

Anonymous said...

I live in Pittsburgh and we have so much in common with Seattle

Is there anything we can do as a group?

Here is the Pittsburgh blog.


http://purereform.blogspot.com/

Charlie Mas said...

Ah! That reminds me. I need another category: labor relations and staff assignments.

Staffing
The superintendent has made some very counterproductive principal changes, keeping them moving all around the carosel. In addition there are the 100+ teacher coaches at a cost in excess of $10 million. Then there are the Broad interns at a very high cost. There is the whole growth of the central administration concurrent with the false claims of cuts in the central administration. There was the attempt to hide the cost of central administration in the budget reported to the Board which was different from the budget reported to the State. The big savings from closing schools was to come from saving the cost of a principal, but there are two principals at Rainier Beach High School - the smallest comprehensive high school in the district. Why does Rainier Beach, a school of little more than 400 students need two principals when one principal is enough for Garfield and the 1900 students there?

Maureen said...

On the new schools thread Michael Rice (who FWIC is a RBHS Math teacher) posted:

RBHS had 357 on day one and 392 on day two.

Above, Jan says: GHS is completely screwed up (a result that could easily have been avoided by gathering and interpreting data correctly to draw better attendance boundaries).

I agree that the GHS boundaries were too big (given the APP set aside at least). But I wonder if drawing 'better' boundaries would have helped much? I wonder how many of those kids found new addresses (or switched from private) once they had a guaranteed seat? The old Assignment Plan allowed the District to smooth capacity across schools, that is no longer true. Now we will see much larger variation from year to year in all of the schools. Also, have they devoted any resources to actually verifying the kids' addresses? Are their classmates expected to turn them in?

Patrick said...

Charlie, you mentioned Jane Addams enrollment, so I may as well pass this on: Jane Addams' principal reported in her August 20 letter to parents that Addams enrollment was 470, with 463 expected to show. I believe this is now above Summit's enrollment in its last year.

It also means there's about 120 more students in JA than last year.

PurpleWhite said...

Charlie and G. Garfield is overcrowded. We don't have enough space for our students. There are students waiting in the Commons during every period that have huge holes in our schedule. I have 32 kids in every class. We don't have enough teachers. The District is holding applications of people we want, so kids have subs. THAT's putting kids first. How is it fair that RBHS has SO much administration? 2 principals and I believe 3 assistant principals? For 1/5 the students they get twice as much administration? I'm fairly certain Roosevelt and Ballard are in the same boat. So much for the SAP. I wonder - did Cleveland STEM get LOTS of people? The Super sure lauded it in her insulting email she sent to us today.

The standardization is going to destroy unique and amazing schools so that we are all cookie cutters - its already happening with alignment meetings that teachers are FORCED to go to all this week and next. Indoctrination. I liked your distinction, Charlie, about the difference between curricular alignment and standardization and how it affects students and teachers. They think an automaton could teach just as well as someone National Board Certified and someone who changes and adapts to each classroom? Just give them a pacing guide and textbooks and everything will be equal everywhere right? Yeah, we're seeing how that is going with the SAME schools overcrowded as before. These meetings and standardization is insulting to me as a professional. The District has also communicated that ONLY the courses that are part of the alignment will count towards high school credit (as communicated to us this week - if someone comments and wants to talk to me, I can forward the email). Why do they say they even want highly qualified teachers if all we're going to do is test prep (for the end of the year tests that will come with the standardized / paced curriculum?).

It is all so much. This is the first time I cried so early into the year bemoaning what will happen to our Seattle Public Schools under this leadership. Will they even look the same after 3 years?

wsnorth said...

I - and I'm sure many others - emailed the district early in the process suggesting they got the Garfield numbers wrong.

Either they (a) don't care, (b) don't know what "data driven" means, or (c) can't add.

Let's hope it is, um, well... I don't know what to hope for any more!

dan dempsey said...

Judge Laura Inveen,

Where is your ruling on the New Student Assignment Plan boundaries appeal?

You promised a ruling that should have been done weeks ago.

Did the School Board make an "arbitrary and capricious" decision in their decision-making given the evidence available at the time of the decision?

You have 12 boxes with over 40,000 pages of supposed evidence. None of it is certified correct by the District as required by RCW 28A.645.020

We have the most expensive court system in the world.

Are we getting what we pay for?

Justice delayed is justice denied. How about a ruling?

-- Dan

dan dempsey said...

The foundation of the New Student Assignment Plan was that it would make every school a quality school. The Board gave about two minutes thought to that with:

The Transportation savings will be spent on schools in such a way that every school will be a quality school. OK done with that now let us draw boundaries.

{[Fact checking and logic are not Board priorities ... as thought processing slows down their rubber-stamping of the flow of MGJ's proposals.]}

I remember Mary Bass thinking the Superintendent and Board had cart before horse. Making the quality schools needed to happen before drawing boundaries and enacting the plan. Well My Oh My ... Mary got that right .. look at the current mess.

Separate and unequal schools is hardly a great starting point but it was good enough for the Board. The Superintendent wanted this thing done. {It fits the "Reform Plan" so it needs to be done ASAP. No questions allowed.}

For three years the Southeast Education Initiative failed to demonstrate that "more money" could make either Cleveland or RBHS a quality high school (at least by enrollment figures). The Board chose once again to believe in fairy-tales. Note the Superintendent failed to provide rubrics or reports on the progress taking place annually at CHS, RBHS, or Aki Kurose even though those were requirements of the SEI.
{[Note Charlie did a fine assessment of the SEI and found it wanting in every imaginable category ... perhaps that is why TEAM MGJ never "created rubrics for" or "made annual reports" on SEI. ... UW gave Cleveland Principal Shareef an award .. so good enough.]}

Cleveland STEM is yet another planning fiasco. The data for academics at virtually every NTN STEM school in Math are pathetic. The "Project Based Learning" as the primary instructional base in every class is yet again another acceptance of "unproven nonsense" as "gospel truth". In Sacramento, NT Sacramento spent at least $1500 more annually per student than other high schools to achieve lower graduation rates and lower academic scores than similar schools. NTN Biz Tech in Portland has never been able to crack the 300 student line. About half of the NTN schools are designated "Demonstration Schools" meaning a cut above. They have horrible academic scores as well.

Director Maier talked how about 82 students will need to be coming to Cleveland from Ballard by 2015 and similar amounts from Garfield, Roosevelt etc.

The NSAP boundaries were based on premises that had an underlying foundation devoid of truth.

There certainly are five school directors in need of recall. The recall sufficiency is based on the State Audit. There sure are a lot of other reasons for recall as well. (Extending MGJ's contract for one.) The Audit did mention that NSAP boundary discussions were held at retreats and work sessions at which no notes were taken. A violation of the open meetings act.
I wonder if anything of substance was said at those meetings?

Charlie Mas said...

Regardless of the efficacy of the NTN brand of Project-Based Learning at STEM, the school is probably going to show stellar results. The strong results won't be the result of anything happening in the classrooms, they will be a result of WHO is in the classrooms.

Knowing that STEM, separate from all other Seattle Public Schools, requires 24 credits for graduation including two years of world language, four years of science, and four (or five) years of math through calculus, only high performing students will enroll. This self-selected group of strongly motivated students will deliver very strong academic results regardless of the instruction they receive.

And when those results come in, the Superintendent will falsely claim that they prove the efficacy of the program and they constitute a turn-around for the school.

The two easiest ways to fix a school are to close it (T T Minor, Cooper, AAA) or to replace the students (STEM, Thurgood Marshall). Of course, the students do actually perform any better - they may in fact perform worse - but the school numbers - the ones that politicians see and the District reports - will improve dramatically.

Maureen said...

PurpleandWhite I am so sorry that you and your colleagues are not being treated with respect by the Superintendent. You have a great school and I hope it can survive all of this intact.

I would appreciate seeing the emails Maria Goodloe-Johnson sent. I agree that there seems to be a drive towards only supporting classes that are part of an aligned (standardized) curriculum at the risk of alienating both the kids and our professional teachers.

ParentofThree said...

PurpleandWhite, please post the emails from the super.

I am VERY concerned about your statement that "The District has also communicated that ONLY the courses that are part of the alignment will count towards high school credit."

What does this mean for students currently enrolled in highschool classes such as Minorities in America, SCULPTURE, CREATIVE COMPUTING 1, MARKETING - all classes currently offered at GHS, and I assume classes that are filled with students?

Meg said...

I’d like to chuck some additional data at the disastrous implementation of capacity management.

The district’s explicitly stated reasons for closing five schools were to concentrate the district’s resources on “fewer facilities and programs in order to protect our long-term fiscal health and strengthen our ability to support student learning.”

As we all know, in the same calendar year that the closure plan was approved, plans were afoot to open five new schools and re-purpose Cleveland into a STEM school. Sound like fewer facilities and programs to anyone? No? Not to me, either.

How about the money? The closure plan estimated operating savings at $16.2m over 5 years, and capital savings at $33.2m over 5 years. Much of this was from not operating staffing in 5 schools. Now, over those 5 years, the district will end up spending more in operations, because there is additional expense associated with getting 5 new schools off the ground, even when you don't bother putting in programming to attract families out of over-crowded schools. On the capital front, it'll run $45m-ish to open 5 schools, which means the district will have spent $12m-ish more than the closure plan "saved" them. Capacity management isn't looking like a triumph of fiscal management.

And let’s not overlook the additional sums being poured into STEM and the fact that the transformation of the school, as Charlie has pointed out numerous times, hinges on flushing out Cleveland's current students and bringing in a totally different population. I’m all for great programs for nerds (of course I am – I am one), but I'm not cool with this.

And in terms of balancing out to reduce capacity in some areas and open it up in others? Jane Addams, at 470 students, is still below Summit’s very lowest enrollment (which hit its lowest after being repeatedly threatened with closure). West Seattle’s elementary schools, particularly Lafayette and Schmitz Park, are packed to the gills, possibly even past fire code... which was completely foreseeable, and in fact, was pointed out numerous times during the closure process. The “too many seats in the south end” issue is hard to make a case for when the district plans to re-open Rainier View.

If only the editorial board of the Seattle Times would comment on this blog, I’m sure they could come up with a happy spin on this. But to me? Crash and burn failure.

@purplewhite – if you’d (please) click on through to my blog and leave a comment. I’ll give you my email. I would very much like to see the Superintendent’s email.

Maureen said...

Here's a link to Meg's blog Dolce and Nutella, where she is currently posting a recipe for Spam sliders! Personally, I would advise you to go back into the archives to August '09 and get her recipe for Midwest Succotash -- a near perfect end of summer side dish in my opinion!

reader said...

In some ways it's fair. In order to make the schools more equal, the district has over funded the unpopular schools. RBHS has lots of support, lots of space, etc. If your popular school is too crowded for you, if you're not getting the attention you need, you can still sign up for those schools you'd never dream of liking. Next move, equalize the amount of teaching staff. And equalize the AP offerings. You'll have the choice of sitting in a class of 45 at Garfield without a locker, or a place to eat lunch... or a sitting in a class of 10 at RBHS. Same for the teachers. Would you rather teach 45 eager beavers.... or 10 students in a challenging school. At some point, RBHS will actually look good to everybody. And maybe that actually was the point.

Jan said...

reader: I must have missed the slide in the SAP presentations that said -- we have abjectly failed on, and in fact have quit trying on, the SE Initiative. Instead of having the adults, with lots of extra money and support -- which was what the SE Initiative provided -- actually make the SE schools an attractive place for people to choose, we will instead, trash the schools that are CURRENTLY attractive, so that kids will also shun them -- and maybe some will end up at the places we already gave up on, and they will magically get better.
Because I am thinking, if that slide had been in there, the SAP wouldn't have been approved.
And if, as you say, that was the plan all along -- then the slide SHOULD have been in there -- and it would be another example of dishonesty and lying on the District administration's part.

reader said...

Well gee Jan. Why would they provide a slide that would never get approved? They aren't that dumb. Everyone predicted the attendance area borders around various high schools would result in way too many students being admitted, don't you think SPS knows that too? My guess is, 1/2 of APP will be cut loose, perhaps shipped over to RBHS.

BTW. The adults aren't going to ever make anything attractive. It's about the kids, and who they are. Haven't we heard over and over about how the kids are so hopeless that we can never expect that much out them? We can't expect the teachers to really teach them, right? So, how could a SE initiative work either? It's all about their home lives, right? How can we have it both ways: teachers shouldn't be accountable for student performance, AND, xyz initiative should be accountable for student performance? The best way to get students out of somewhere popular, is too assign so many that there's some pain. If you choose not to suffer the pain, you'll be happy because you had a choice. That was the plan, that was the motivation, even if it wasn't articulated exactly that way. No, they don't have to write it down on a slide for it to be true.

Jan said...

Sorry, reader: I will not give the District that pass (well of COURSE they had to lie. We wouldn't have approved the plan if they had told us the truth). The District works for the taxpayers, represented by their elected board. They owe us their best efforts, and when they tell us "x" is a fact or "y" is our best estimate, based on research -- then it needs to be a fact, or their best estimate -- and the research needs to not have been "cooked."
I have never believed that MGJ should be fired (I believe she should not have been hired -- and I believe that her contract last spring should not have been extended -- but I have not been one calling for her dismissal. But, if what you say is true, I am joining that camp. If any CEO came to the board/shareholders and told blatant lies to try and push through an agenda they KNEW would not be passable if fairly and honestly presented -- he or she should be fired -- if the SEC doesn't get their first with an indictment.

seattle citizen said...

I wish we could stop using MSP/HSPE scores alone to measure "success" or "performance" or whatever the broadly applied term du jure is.
If we only see RBHS as a HSPE score, we'll never really know what success and failures students are having there, what will attract them or repel them ("Ooh, look, RBHS had an increase in HSPE last year! I'M going THERE!" I don't think so.)

WV suggest we DALLY over this issue some more. For some reason.

Jan said...

seattle citizen: I agree (especially as I think that the WASL was fatally flawed for ANY use, much less as a high stakes graduation requirement). The HSPE may be better, but in essence, I agree. The reason I think RBHS is a bad school is not its test scores (though I suppose, taken in aggregate - not individually-, they must stand for at least a little). The reason I think it is in trouble is -- no one wants to go there. Something tells me that is NOT just because it has bad test scores. But, maybe I am wrong. Is that why you think attendance is so low?

PurpleWhite said...

Hello everyone: Thanks for the support. I'm posting as someone not under my usual name that I do on this blog due to "big brother" type issues. I'm sorry if I gave the impression that the information was directly from the Super - it is from one of the Coaches when we asked about alignment, and I quote: "If the course you teach is not part of the aligned courses then you can select the alignment session you would like to attend. Also, only the aligned courses will be accepted for high school **** credit." (sorry I'm x'ing out the name of the subject, buts its what I am comfortable doing on a blog). I am seeing the writing on the wall and am very sad about what seems to be happening at the school. It has already made me break out in tears.

reader said...

Nobody is saying MJG blatantly lied. BUT, there's no way SPS is going to leave the high performing schools (high school or otherwise)with a comfortable enrollment. If they're high performing, they should be available to as many as can possibly be stuffed into them. And who would argue with that? Not the people on the outskirts who want in, not the siblings living outside the reference area, not the people in special programs. It's an equalizer... since people aren't willing to sign up for less possible schools.

reader said...

I meant... since nobody is willing to sign up for less popular schools.

And Jan, there's no way to prove that what I say is true. You have to figure out what YOU think motivates the district.

The SEC? That's totally off topic; irrelevant to the discussion. Motivation is a matter of opinion. There's no crime, lie, or punishment... and certainly the "SEC" isn't a relevant venue. The district needs to fill up schools, and it's doing what it can to do so. Some may think they've got a better plan, but those aren't clear winners either.

seattle citizen said...

Jan, the reason I think RBHS has perenially low enrollment is a) it has become the butt end of jokes, misrepresentation, abusive comments, misconceptions, and lots of other negative feeling in the city.
and b) that part of town has ALSO suffered the same fate.

These two things, combined, are an onus RB has to bear, fairly or not (my opinion is mainly that it is NOT fair.)

It is my belief that these outside perceptions and opinions about RB have, perhaps, doomed it to suffer no matter what is done down there.

My thanks and best wishes to all the students and staff at RB, who continue to go there and teach and learn and interact in a zillion ways not measured by stupid standardized tests and not, to the staff and students' credit, unduly influenced by all the trash-talk people throw their way.

seattle citizen said...

reader, I would say that MGJ lied by omission...twice: Once when she failed to disclose her relationship with the company she would recommend as the sole-source, no-bid winner of millions of dollars of district money; and again when she said MAP was purely formative, without mentioning what I percieve to be its bigger purpose in her eyes, evaluating teachers. That she continued this charade at the last board meeting only confirms my belief.

Lying by omission is the same as flat out lying, no?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Haven't we heard over and over about how the kids are so hopeless that we can never expect that much out them?"

Nope, never. But tell us, where did YOU hear that?

Maureen said...

reader says: If they're high performing, they should be available to as many as can possibly be stuffed into them.
and If you choose not to suffer the pain, you'll be happy because you had a choice. That was the plan, that was the motivation, even if it wasn't articulated exactly that way.

Where the heck have you been? That is the whole point of the NSAP--It was designed to force as many kids as possible to go to the school closest to them. NOT to allow as many as possible to cram into the 'high performing' schools. CHOICE used to exist at a certain level. Choice was REDUCED.

The RBHS area kids were supposed to go to STEM (or Franklin or private) so RBHS could be closed down and perhaps reopened. The real problem is that too many families figured out how to lie about their addresses or move or live with an aunt or uncle or third cousin twice removed so they could sit in a guaranteed seat (or 4 square feet out in the hall) at a school that they perceive to be GOOD.

MGJ had a plan, but she didn't have control of the second or third or fourth order effects and so Garfield has 230 more freshman than it should. I wonder if she ever took calculus? Might have come in handy.

Reader, do you really believe that the NSAP was correctly designed to increase access to successful schools? Do you really believe that choice was INCREASED under the NSAP? What world do you live in?

Jan said...

reader: my allusion to the SEC was not meant to imply that they have any part in educational discussions. Of course they don't. It was part of an analogy (and an imperfect one, I concede) to the effect that MGJ is the CEO, if you will of an entity with the school board as her board of directors, and all of us, parents and Seattle taxpayers, as investors (customers, too, I suppose -- but I concede, the analogy is imperfect). My point was -- when in the real world, a corporation speaks to its investors and lies, there are sometimes -- not always -- adverse legal consequences. What I was attempting to do was refute the position I thought you were taking -- that it was logical (and acceptable?) that she had been less than candid with her board -- or they would not have approved the SAP. Getting her numbers wrong is bad no matter what the reason. But having them be wrong because of poor management style, a distate for having to deal with data, carelessness, etc. is one thing. Having them be wrong because of a deliberate attempt to deceive the Board and the public, if that was what she had done, would be vastly worse.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm sure that we have all read the comments at the end of Seattle Times articles in which thoughtless people post bumper-sticker solutions to the school district's problems.

One of the popular ideas from the "free market" crowd is to allow students to enroll at the school of their choice. When they write this drivel I often respond by asking them how to fit 2000 students into Garfield.

Although none of them has yet shown the courage to respond, reader has provided the correct free market response:

When Garfield becomes so overcrowded that the quality of the experience is diminished, then it will become a less popular choice. The free market will provide the solution to the problem created by the free market. Eventually the enrollment at Garfield will reach an equilibrium. The invisible hand will set all things right.

We need only wait a year or two for Garfield to become like the restaurant in the Yogi Berra line: "No one goes there anymore; it's too crowded."

Don't think that I hadn't considered Rainier Beach High School for my daughters. I did. I imagined them in AP classes of six or ten getting tons of individualized attention. It was a pretty appealing idea. I saw the same sort of opportunity at STEM, which has surprised me by enrolling almost twice as many students as I thought it would get.

As it is, the huge population at Garfield is one of the reasons that neither of my daughters are there, despite having a guaranteed APP seat. So that free market force is at work.

Charlie Mas said...

I do not, however, think that this was the Plan all along. I do not think that the District knew that Garfield would become overcrowded, that the overcrowding would diminish the quality of the Garfield experience and that, as a consequence, people would seek enrollment elsewhere and the problem would fix itself.

I really don't think that was their plan from the start. I can't say for sure; I cannot peer into their hearts or minds; this is just conjecture.

They claimed, all along, that they were trying to right-size the attendance area boundaries to fit the functional capacity of the school. That doesn't really seem credible, however, because any fool could see that the attendance area for Garfield was drawn too big.

Let me, instead, pose a few other conjectures about how this came about.

1) The plan is to overcrowd Garfield to provide cause to relocate, split, or disburse high school APP. Yeah, I know, but just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you.

2) The Enrollment Planning folks really screwed up and forgot that APP students take up 400 seats when they drew the attendance area boundaries for Garfield.

3) The Enrollment Planning folks didn't understand how many students, like Tony Wroten, have access to an address in the CD that they can legitimately use for purposes of enrolling at Garfield.

4) There were a lot of students in the area who chose Garfield over an alternative once they were guaranteed a seat there. In previous years, without the guarantee, they had made other plans. The Enrollment Planning folks had not anticipated how their guarantee would impact families' school choice decisions. Certainty has a value.

G said...

I think there is another factor that wasn't taken into consideration with the NSAP and Garfield. Kids are enrolling everyday from within the GHS boundaries. When enrollment was capped, GHS filled with on-time enrollment in February of the previous school year. New students, either those who had not enrolled on time or those new to the neighborhood, were placed at a school that did have room (probably why RBHS had 500 students to start last year and only 400 this year). The CD has a fair share of low income housing, transtional housing, shelters, group homes, etc, which are likely populations that were not enrolling their kids in high school last February. But they are now, and GHS is their placement. So on top of just being overcrowded to the detriment of all, I worry about these vulnerable kids placed at this overburdened school that does not have the resources to deal with them, at least right now.

seattle citizen said...

G,
That is an excellent point: if the students who are "extra" at a school are the students who are unexpected because they are transient, or their parent/guardians weren't "with the program," or other reasons that might be considered "at-risk," then the extra students might predominantly be "at-risk" students, and the schools might not have support networks in place.

WV says they might get CURBED

Maureen said...

I think G is right, but I find this reason for overenrollment especially frustrating because it was totally foreseeable. Tracy Libros has umpteen years of data that shows where the kids who enroll late live. There is no reason to believe that any FEWER kids would enroll late this year. And in fact, with a guaranteed seat, you would expect late enrollment to be much MORE common. I, personally, brought this up with Tracy and at multiple SAP meetings and they always resonded that they knew kids would enroll late they always do and they know how to deal with it.

Jan said...

Charlie:

Speaking to your reasons:

1. I have suspected #1 is a factor ever since they split APP elementary in such an odd way (I actually think that the middle school split may be working well, but the Lowell one is truly bizarre -- and in general, I get the feeling MGJ thinks of APP as a burden, not a program that should be supported or preserved.

2. I don't think that #2 is true, because last spring, when all of the charts with data went up, I specifically checked the ones for Garfield, and they had the APP kids added and accounted for within their projected enrollments.

3. As for #3, this one might be true -- but they certainly are and have been aware that kids have used alternate addresses (grandparents, etc.) to get within the geographical tiebreaker boundaries (legally-- as long as they are really living there) for years. Maybe they forgot to account for how much this might multiply given the larger area -- but that one is just plain error on their part. It was clearly foreseeable -- as was the idea that some families with high mobility (apartment dwellers with month to month leases, or expiring annual leases) might just move to similar housing in a more desirable attendance area.

On #4, I hope they were not so foolish as to not predict the effect of certainty on families who, historically, never had a chance to make the geographical tiebreaker. If they missed this, what were they doing? Anyone could have just counted heads. Figuring out how the SAP rules would affect decision-making in families was the whole point of the exercise. Oh well.

Here is a hypothesis -- what if, in the case of all of the "popular" high schools (and probably many of the elementary schools as well, though I am only aware of overcrowding issues at JSIS, because of a post on another thread), they drew the boundaries to "placate" as many people as possible, in order to diminish opposition to the SAP. If this were true, it means they would have known that the numbers were "cooked" in the sense that they were way underestimating enrollment in some schools -- but by promising the schools (Ballard, RHS, GHS, JSIS, etc.) that families wanted to the largest possible number of families, they would have "greased the skids" for SAP passage -- and then they would just have to deal with the fallout (however bad it was) this fall, when all the kids showed up -- which is exactly what is happening. Now, the kids are just "furniture" or "cordwood" or [pick your own inanimate object] to be moved around, stacked in corners, stuffed in classes with subs until they figure out the next "fix" -- which will undoubtedly be much less palatable than what is in the SAP -- but which will now "have to be passed" because it is such an"emergency."

Jan said...

Charlie:

Speaking to your reasons:

1. I have suspected #1 is a factor ever since they split APP elementary in such an odd way (I actually think that the middle school split may be working well, but the Lowell one is truly bizarre -- and in general, I get the feeling MGJ thinks of APP as a burden, not a program that should be supported or preserved.)

2. I don't think that #2 is true, because last spring, when all of the charts with data went up, I specifically checked the ones for Garfield, and they had the APP kids added and accounted for within their projected enrollments.

3. As for #3, this one might be true -- but they certainly are and have been aware that kids have used alternate addresses (grandparents, etc.) to get within the geographical tiebreaker boundaries (legally-- as long as they are really living there) for years. Maybe they forgot to account for how much this might multiply given the larger area -- but that one is just plain error on their part. It was clearly foreseeable -- as was the idea that some families with high mobility (apartment dwellers with month to month leases, or expiring annual leases) might just move to similar housing in a more desirable attendance area.

On #4, I hope they were not so foolish as to not predict the effect of certainty on families who, historically, never had a chance to make the geographical tiebreaker. If they missed this, what were they doing? Anyone could have just counted heads. Figuring out how the SAP rules would affect decision-making in families was the whole point of the exercise. Oh well.

Here is a hypothesis -- what if, in the case of all of the "popular" high schools (and probably many of the elementary schools as well, though I am only aware of overcrowding issues at JSIS, because of a post on another thread), they drew the boundaries to "placate" as many people as possible, in order to diminish opposition to the SAP. If this were true, it means they would have known that the numbers were "cooked" in the sense that they were way underestimating enrollment in some schools -- but by promising the schools (Ballard, RHS, GHS, JSIS, etc.) that families wanted to the largest possible number of families, they would have "greased the skids" for SAP passage -- and then they would just have to deal with the fallout (however bad it was) this fall, when all the kids showed up -- which is exactly what is happening. Now, the kids are just "furniture" or "cordwood" or [pick your own inanimate object] to be moved around, stacked in corners, stuffed in classes with subs until they figure out the next "fix" -- which will undoubtedly be much less palatable than what is in the SAP -- but which will now "have to be passed" because it is such an"emergency."

reader said...

And Maureen, where have you been? There's still choice. There's choice available at unpopular schools. And the boundaries have been drawn so large, that the popular schools will be less attractive due to overcrowding. It was obvious from the start. Enrollment didn't overlook anything, they planned with a vision you don't like.

Jan said...

Here is the text of letter Ted Howard, the GHS principal, posted on the school website today:

Dear Garfield Families –

First of all welcome to Garfield! I wanted take a moment of your time to update you on what we have been working on at Garfield. Increased enrollment has made us get ‘very creative’ in trying to schedule classes for students. Currently we have 1,918 number of students assigned to our school with only 1,784 actually registered for classes and attending Garfield, which is an increase from the years past. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson (Seattle School District Superintendent) is aware of Garfield’s increased enrollment problem and is working with our Administrators to find a solution. Our first priority is to make sure that every student has a full class load (all 6 classes) as soon as possible. We appreciate everyone’s patience and continued support during this adjustment period. We look forward to a wonderful school year and want to continue providing a world class education for all of our students!

Sincerely,
Principal, Ted Howard

Because Mr. Howard does not break down numbers by class, it is hard to know how today's total number fits into the preliminary freshman numbers that teachers/kids were reporting last week. The school profile (from 2009) says this:

About 1,600 students attend the school. Of the approximately 300
who graduate each year [later, it says that 337 graduated in June 2009], about 70 percent attend
four-year colleges, and about 20 percent attend two year
colleges.

I guess that we should be thankful that ONLY 1784 of the assigned 1918 kids showed up, and hope that "solutions" from MGJ come soon!