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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Board Agenda November 17, 2010

There are some interesting items the Board agenda this week, as there always are.

First comes public testimony. You should expect an even back-and-forth about the Teach for America contract. If it runs true to style then those speaking for the contract will be Teach for America alums and representatives of the local Education Reform organizations. They will speak in vague generalities about how wonderful Teach for America is and how wonderful the Teach for America corps members are. They will tell inspiring personal anecdotes. They will probably also be well-dressed and well-spoken. They will alternate with more shabbily attired and casual speaking members of the public and the teachers' union who will cite data that shows that Teach for America isn't needed in Seattle, doesn't deliver very good results, doesn't reflect the direction we have said we want to follow for staffing challenging schools, may not be legal for Seattle to use, totally neglected any kind of community engagement, and just generally doesn't make any kind of sense at all.

That will be followed by the Superintendent's update. We don't yet know all of the topics that will be presented, but the chief academic officer's update will be on high school alignment. This should be interesting. Dr. Enfield has gotten rather prickly about the characterization of alignment as standardization. She really hates it. So you can expect her to take a moment early in her presentation to categorically state that alignment is not standardization. Then, as she describes the alignment effort, you can expect her to describe what is clearly standardization instead of alignment. Here's the difference. Stadardization is all about all of the classes using the same texts, the same assessments, and, essentially, the same lessons. Alignment would be completely agnostic with regard to materials and assessments and would focus instead entirely on bringing the students to acquire the knowledge and skills described in the Standards and Grade Level Expectations. Here's a handy guide: any mention of materials is a discussion of standardization instead of alignment.

Next comes Board comments, which are typically inane, and the consent agenda. The consent agenda is usually really boring - even the Board wants to skip over this stuff - but this meeting's consent agenda has one interesting item that should be teased out: the annual approval of schools.

This is a strictly administrative procedure needed to comply with state law to qualify for the basic education funding. Each school needs to have on file a "school improvement plan". Here in Seattle that plan is the CSIP. The Board Action report provides a link to the web page on the District site that has links to all of the CSIPS for all of the schools. No big deal, right? Wrong. First, go the to web page and look for yourself. See anything interesting? There are dead links for Summit K-12, the AAA, TT Minor, Cooper, and Meany. NOVA is listed as a 6-12 located at the Mann building, Sealth is listed as being at Boren, Hamilton at Lincoln, and The New School (Now called South Shore) is shown to be at Columbia. MLK appears under its old name, Brighton. There are no links for Jane Addams, Sand Point, McDonald, or Queen Anne Elementary. Wait, it gets worse. There is a link for Arbor Heights, but the CSIP for that school is blank. All of the fields are filled in with only the defaults. I haven't checked them all, but there may be others that are blank as well. Finally, and I know this is something of a minor note, almost none of the schools with advanced learning programs make any reference whatsoever to the program - or even a plan for serving advanced learners - anywhere in their CSIP. In case you're wondering, yes, they are supposed to. If the Board does not pull this off the consent agenda and ask about these irregularities, then we have further evidence that they are not yet taking their duty to oversee very seriously. If they approve this as it is, it will be a perfect opportunity for someone (Dan, you out there?) to appeal the Board decision and crush them. Losing on this will cost the District millions since they will lose their basic education funding from the State. You would think they would be more careful with it.

Then comes the action items, starting right off with the climactic moment of the meeting, the Teach for America contract approval. Don't get excited; the Board will approve it. Interesting items here include the changes in the contract that clearly state that the $4,000 annual fee will be paid with private funds - not any money from the District budget. The contract no longer allows Teach for America to share student data - although it does grant Teach for America access to the data. The new language says "that student educational records received from the District will not be disclosed to any other person, agency, or entity, unless required to make such a disclosure under an applicable law or court order." Now, I can't help but wonder if "applicable law" could include contract law if TfA has contractually agreed to share the data.

Here's another interesting feature from the contract. In appendix B it says"In order to be considered 'eligible' for employment under this agreement, each Teacher candidate presented must meet the hiring criteria set forth in the district's hiring process." If you review the hiring criteria set forth in the district's hiring process, you will see that all teacher candidates must be certificated. In other words, under the current hiring process, none of the Teach for America corps members meet the criteria. If the District changes that requirement, then I should be able to apply for a teaching job also. I just might do it, just to see if I'm stopped because I don't have a certificate.

The community engagement remains horrible and the referenced research remains horribly one-sided. Nevertheless, the Board will approve it. Move on.

Oh! I almost forgot Director Maier's amendment to the TfA contract. That's probably because it is so forgetable.

This item is followed by two other action items, a non-controversial policy update and the introduction/action of a levy certification.

The items for introduction aren't very exciting either. There's a decision, rather early in the game, to set the reserve at 3.25% of the annual budget. It's arbitrary and meaningless. There are a couple of grants that will be approved. The District's Legislative Action priorities represents how feeble the district is in Olympia. Guess what they want? Money. The community engagement on this was pretty darn bad. They consulted only with the usual suspects. Everything else for introduction are BEX or BTA contracts all destined for the consent agenda at the next meeeting.

The meeting will wrap up with the upcoming calendar items, and then adjournment.

Now, go back to each and every one of the action items and items for introduction and review the community engagement done on them. There is essentially no community engagement done on anything. Isn't that charming? What would it be like if the Board routinely voted to table any motion that was without meaningful authentic community engagement? Weird to think, isn't it?

12 comments:

ParentofThree said...

"almost none of the schools with advanced learning programs make any reference whatsoever to the program - or even a plan for serving advanced learners - anywhere in their CSIP"

I noticed that also in school reports, which I believe pulled their info from the CSIPs. If you were an outsider looking at SPS you would not know about any of the advanced learning programs.

Do any of the CSIPs make mention of SPEC Ed programs?

Melissa Westbrook said...

That the Board continues to allow staff to run over policies and governance, well, I have seen them walk erect so I know they have spines but it's hard to tell when they are seated.

seattle citizen said...

Maier's amendment is very confusing (though note that it requires the superintendent to make a full report on every aspect of TFA hires and program ("contract") implementation before contract is renewed. That will be an interesting power point.):

"...contract may not be renewed or extended without the Superintendent first providing to the School Board a report on the outcome of the contract's implementation. To the extent that such data is held by the District, the report shall include data and other information about the TFA teachers hired by the District under the TFA contract, such as demographics, educational background, positions filled, longevity of employment, subsequent positions in education, and the results of teacher evaluations (provided that the data and information does not compromise the privacy of any individual teacher)."

Let's see...can't renew/extend w/0 supt's report on outcomes. Outcomes will be many, if TFA is hired, but Maier is only interested in the "data" of the TFA hires. AFTER the hires are hired (before contract renewal) he want's to know the educational background of TFA hires?

Then he wants to know the "positions filled, longevity of employment, subsequent positions in education" of TFA hires? Umm, isn't the TFA's big rah-rah point that they recruit from college seniors about to graduate? Aren't they ony working one position during their short contract before TFA renews with SPS? And how on earth would anyone know what their "subsequent positions in education" will be while they are still employees of SPS, probably, when the TFA contract expirse in a couple of years? I'll save the supt, her wok on this one: When the contract comes up for renewal, the TFA hires will not have had any subsequent positions.

But really I'm more interested in the TFA Report the supt will have to make soon at renewal time.

joanna said...

While I wonder if TFA is great fit for Seattle, I want to clarify that all are certified teachers before they enter the classroom under an alternative certification process.

TFA candidates attend something called Institute, five-week intensive training program designed by the corps, take the required teacher test and then go through certification with a local four-year Institution of Higher Education. I think in our case it is UW (not sure).

Charlie Mas said...

Why does Director Maier think that the Teach for America contract will be renewed at all? Why does he presume that it will be approved in the first place?

That said, he is, in fact, doing the right thing by investing each motion with some sort of accountability measures. Every single thing the Board approves should have a feedback loop like this so we can judge the efficacy of the initiative. He should not have named the specific data points, but simply said "data that measures the efficacy of the effort and truth of the claims" and let the staff choose the data points.

seattle citizen said...

I agree, Charlie, the Director Maier is doing the right thing by asking for accountability. I just wonder about the named elements of accountability. The amendment starts by saying that there will be "a report on the outcome of the contract's implementation." This is good: It will require the district to analyze all aspects of the implementation, who it went, the various data and performance of the TFA plan and personel...But then it suddenly narrows, to some rather odd pieces, a couple of which are impossible: How does the district, in three years (at contract review time) know the subsequent placement of TFA alum, where they go to work next?

Hmm, actually, the Senior Policy analyst at LEV was only in TFA for a couple of years, then got out of teaching and started policy work...so I suppose that some of the TFA people will have left their positions and be elsewhere when contract renewal time rolls around...

But yes, there will be a "report on the implementation of the contract" in two years, nine months (so we can read it over before the contract expires in three years.) That is good: We'll see how it went.

I'd recomment putting that on your calendar and asking the district in two years six months how the report is going and when it might be expected. (Oh, and how much does THAT work cost, compiling a report on TFA? Add that to the unfunded mandate....education is all about unfunded mandates, isn't it?)

ParentofThree said...

Also, looked again at HIMS school report and no mention of APP in the school, yet there is this:

"We are proud of the increases we made in our 2009‐2010 State test scores."

Isn't this jump due to APP moving into the school? Bit disingenuous. Yet as an outsider looking in you would think wow, this school is doing something amazing, look at those scores!

Personally, I question the intgrity of the principal for taking credit for something his leadership was not responsible for.

Wonder how many more things like this are embedded in the school reports and the CSIPs plans.

seattle said...

I would agree with Parentofthree that the Hamilton principal, and district, are being disingenuous by making statements that they are so proud that Hamiltons test scores improved this year. Well, of course they did, but not because of anything the school did. The school swapped a large group of their south end students for a large group of APP students, who are among the highest performing students in the district. Of course the test scores are going to go up.

But, Parent of three, at least the report does break out advanced learning test scores, as well as low income, ELL, and different ethnic groups.

Also found this on the school report that was impressive.

"We offer math improvement classes, an after‐school Math Academy, and test‐taking camps during school breaks for students who need extra help. We use a program called “I Can Learn” to help strengthen basic math skills. We hold math content nights to help engage students and families in our math program
and to share strategies to help students succeed."

Chris S. said...

Joanna, that is not my understanding at all. I am under the impression that TFA recruits come in with a BA/BS and 5 weeks of TFA training. If they complete their two year stint plus some higher ed classes during that time, THEN they are certified.

Correct me if I'm wrong. If they are in fact certified, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

seattle citizen said...

TFAs are CONDITIONALLY certified - they do not have a full cert. But some would argue (including the district at the Nov 3 meeting, when Legal said the California HQ ruling wouldn't apply here) that since they're conditionally certified they're certified. It's this magic morph: They both have the word "certified," so they are the same.

It just ain't so.

A conditional cert is not a cert, it's a conditional cert...an almost-cert.

dan dempsey said...

My thoughts on the Actions that need to be taken these days and the reasons why are contained in my article:

Shakedown: The Current Conspiracy against the American Public School Parent, Student, and Teacher.

Since there are apparently no forces with vast resources advocating for the American Public School Parent, Student, and Teacher, the only solution is self-defense.

Immediate steps to take:
(1) Oppose the TfA contract proposal at the Seattle School Board meeting on Wednesday November 17 at the JSCEE at 3rd and Lander at 6:00 PM.
You can express your opposition by writing to the school board at
schoolboard@seattleschools.org

(2) If we are successful in the "Sufficiency Hearing" for the Recall of four school directors on November 18th, please join in the effort to gather at least 32,000 valid signatures of Seattle registered voters on the recall petition. Here is the current form of the recall synopsis.

If you would prefer a Republic where the citizens interests are protected by laws, it appears your action is needed to oppose the current ruling oligarchy. So get moving or don't.

For Public Education is in need of your help.

The Bureaucracy explosion needs to end. Resources are needed for the classroom but that is not where our supposed education leaders are directing them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Joanna, the certification program they go through is WHILE they are teaching. They are new teachers with 5 weeks training AND working on certification at night in schools with large numbers of low-income students.