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Thursday, December 02, 2010

School Reports Meeting - NE

I attended the School Reports meeting on Monday night at Roosevelt. There were about 45 people in attendance. All the principals of the NE schools were there as well as Phil Brockman, the Executive Director for the NE region, Susan Enfield, CAO, Jessica de Barros, Ramona Hattendorf and Lauren McGuire of the SCPTSA and Olga Addae, president of the SEA. They had the individual school reports for all the NE schools. (I learned that Jessica de Barros has a different title/job now but I don't know what it is.)

It was structured so that staff gave a presentation and then there were small table groups (4-6) where these questions were to be discussed:
  • 2 areas at your school to focus on and 2 to celebrate
  • what do you want your principal to do to improve your school
  • areas the district needs to focus on to improve your school
  • areas you feel the district needs to have better communications
  • what can family members do to help your school
I wasn't sure how well this would work if there were 3 different schools at one table; I think some people did group by their school. (I was sitting with Olga and we ended up going to talk to various people during the table time.)

Oddly, they did not have us report out but just turn in the sheets. There was a Q&A after the presentation and after the table groups.

Phil Brockman was a good leader (he's one of the gems of this district). But his presentation was too long. It think the shorter the better and yet somehow they take 30+ minutes.

My question was a question/comment. I commented that Phil said that all the NE principals were good and I gently pointed out 7 of the NE schools' principals got lower than district average scores from their staffs. I said if we are putting a lot on the teachers and their performance, we also have to consider how the principals are doing and be honest about what the principal data tells us. (I'm sure all the principals love me now.) Phil agreed.

I asked about the C-SIPs that were clearly mentioned in the documents as being important to the School Reports data. I asked why they were late if they were so important. Dr. Enfield and Jessica de Barros said the C-SIPs were part of the School Reports and that they were done on-time just not uploaded to the district's computer.

Another parent asked about low-performing principals and teachers and getting rid of them. Phil started to answer and I think she didn't like his answer so asked again, more insistently. She wanted to know how principals ID'ed poor teaching and he said by consistently visiting classrooms and making observations.

Another parent asked about replication of good schools. Dr. Enfield said it was a goal but it is hard because "each school culture is so unique". Okay now, wait a minute. They are all public schools, they start around the same time, same curriculum (for the most part). I'm not buying that answer in total. There has got to be some way to duplicate success. (More on this in a minute.)

Olga asked whether, on the high school School Reports, if the Reading/Math scores were just for 9th graders and Jessica confirmed they were. Olga kept going over the numbers as if puzzled. I think she was thinking along the lines that Charlie was (and discussed in his thread yesterday). She knew something wasn't quite what it seemed on paper.

Ramona Hattendorf spoke briefly for the SCPTSA and talked about having an open conversation about what we want and what we see (we being parents).

I had time to look at the School Reports more carefully and it was odd how many staffs ranked the school leadership and professional culture lower than you might think. One principal came up to me during the group discussions and said to be careful to understand how a principal could be new to a building, it could be a dysfunctional situation a principal comes into, etc.

(Over the last two days I have heard all kinds of reasons why schools may not be doing well. Dysfunctional staff or staff stuck in one mode of teaching, new principal, poor principal, low PTA support, one-year blip either up or down, it goes on and on. At the end of it, you can find a million reasons why a school isn't successful. But are all the stars going to have to line up for a school to work? When are excuses whining and when are they valid? Where is the line for accountability?)

Looking over the School Reports, you see a lot of down arrows, particularly (and I don't know why) for Latino children. I don't think most of John Q. Public looking at these would be impressed. One bright and shining example: Olympic Hills Elementary and their fantastic principal, Zoe Jenkins.

I met Zoe during the Closure and Consolidation process. This is a principal passionate for her students. Not her school, not her teachers (although she calls them her stars) but her kids. She is TFA with experience and years of dedication. Her school's scores were up almost totally across the board. Really impressive. I talked with her during the table discussions and she was cautious to warn me that it was one year. Her demographic is something like 70% free/reduced lunch AND 38% mobile. I told her fine but her staff is making a difference among populations that are tough to move. She also said that they have been having other schools' staffs visit (Roxhill for one) and they come away very enthused. What is she doing? It pretty much sounds like that intimate one-on-one help that has to happen to move some children along. I plan on visiting the next time another group comes so that I can see this in action. (She also said she loves hand-holding young teachers but that she felt an allegiance to the young teachers who have gone through education training and want to make teaching their life. Meaning, not so interested in TFA recruits.)

During the last Q&A, Olga gave an excellent suggestion to parents which is to look at science scores because it is an "integrated" subject using math and reading.

One parent, seeming frustrated, asked what a BLT could do to help. Phil tried to encourage her about the budget process affecting the school (and therefore what scores come out) but she seemed upset that their PTSA was raising money to help fill out the librarian position (rather than hiring tutoring help).

Another parent asked about the earned autonomy idea and when it will be defined by the district. Phil didn't have an answer. Jessica said that it is flexibility over discretionary spending and professional development in core content areas. This is the first I've heard of this.

Did anyone else attend a School Reports meeting this week? Give us feedback. I came away not feeling that it was very useful. Again, I think it might be better to have more discussion on specifics rather than overviews. I also wish the PTSA would speak up more forcefully on issues that are troubling parents.

28 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I went to the SE region meeting.

Michael Tolley is not a particularly good speaker. During the Q & A he often re-stated tough questions as ones that he would rather answer. He also gave blah-blah answers without numbers or details that frankly could not be supported by the data. For example, when asked about how the neighborhood assignment plans locks SE families into Level 1 and Level 2 schools, he said that the schools were under-performing but that they were also showing strong growth. The fact is that the Level 1 and Level 2 schools are NOT showing strong growth. Also, he seems to think that we will be so impressed with his candor about acknowledging the schools' low performance and so moved by the sincerity of his commitment to improve them that we won't mind having our kids in schools that the District says are failing.

He was asked why the District just keeps promoting students to high school when they can't read, write or do figures and he gave some edu-speak response about vertical alignment and how much better it is that executive directors are now set up regionally instead of by school level.

In similar ways he managed not to answer a single question.

Oh! He was VERY pointedly asked why Rainier Beach got a second principal - more administration - instead of more teachers. He just dodged that too.

The only thing anyone got out of the Q & A was evidence that the District doesn't hear us and won't answer us.

Anonymous said...

Surely somebody asksed Michael Tolley about the fact that in the entire south end only one student with an IEP passed the high school math test? What could possibly be more outrageous than that?

District-wide, 30% of our high schools are unable to get even 1 ICS student to pass math. 

Signed, Concerned Parent

Maureen said...

earned autonomy ... flexibility over discretionary spending and professional development in core content areas

The professional development component may make a difference, but there is virtually no discretionary funding for high performing schools within the WSS. The only way this could make a difference is if those schools are permitted to vary from the Staffing Standards.

Dorothy Neville said...

Bingo, Maureen. And weren't we all thinking that earned autonomy meant getting to use different materials? I am confused, I guess I am thinking about the waiver process.

One thing Brockman said that made me feel a little ill, was talking about Zoe Jenkins and Olympic Hills. Evidently when the budget looked like they would lose a teacher, Brockman helped her figure out how to proceed -- by getting their PTA to pay for the teacher. A school with 70% FRL joining the ranks of those with parents that pay for teachers. He made it seem like such a positive solution.

And at the same time, central admin did NOT cut 85 jobs, and the percent of executive management has tripled.

suep. said...

Yes, Jessica de Barros does appear to have a new title and job:
"Jessica de Barros, manager of academic planning and school improvement" according to the Seattle Times.

See: Seattle schools to report new rankings Tuesday

I find it interesting that the Broad Foundation now has a "Broad Resident" in charge of two key data positions inside SPS: the MAP test (which has become high stakes in SPS) -- Brad Bernatek -- and "Broad Resident" De Barros in charge of school evaluations (which will likely lead to the declaration that some schools are "failing" and therefore need to be "reconstituted" or sold off to charter franchises -- Eli Broad's favored investment in 'ed reform').

I'm pretty sure that's where these school "report cards" are heading.

How accurate they are is another question.

Bernatek's invented 17 percent figure for SPS college-ready grads does not leave me with much confidence in the "data" produced by people who have been trained by a foundation that has a specific agenda.

And it does seem like the "school report cards" are being used to write off an entire swath of south-end schools. I find it hard to believe that there is nothing positive happening in any of these schools.

Is there anyone reading this blog from south-end schools who can share what's really going on?

I also believe it is damning of SPS if it gives up on these schools and hands them over to privatizers. I would view that as a huge admission of failure. And a sellout.

sue p.

Chris S. said...

I agree with Maureen and Dorothy, and I will add that I have heard that earned autonomy line before, at least a year ago. No one has ever been pleased with the answer so we keep asking.

I interpret it a little differently than Maureen but draw the same conclusion - even if there are discretionary dollars, they are -um- discretionary, so they are really "giving" high-performing schools something they already have. Does this mean low performing schools will lose discretion on those dollars? Did they have it anyway, or it this whole thing a restatement of the status quo?

Chris S. said...

And about this "breakout" format...I know Melissa has complained bitterly before.

Is this a national standard or something? What's the rationale? I'm pretty unhappy about it - just from the basic level that the district is trying to control the agenda, and limit the two-way dialogue opportunities to ten minutes or less. It's like the district doesn't want to have to answer questions in a public setting. What are they afraid of?

If this is community engagement it's pretty pathetic.

hschinske said...

The divide-and-conquer strategy the district often employs is called the Delphi Technique, and while the original idea probably had some usefulness, it seems nowadays to be often used as a tool of manipulation. See http://www.seanet.com/~barkonwd/school/DELPHI.HTM

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

There are lots of good things happening at South Seattle schools. There is no doubt that some schools are stronger than others, same as the rest of the city.

It seems obvious that demographics play the biggest role in a school's so called success. In South Seattle there are many kids who don't attend preschool, perhaps don't speak English at home, come from families without economic resources, don't have parents who are able to support them academically, etc. When a school has a high concentration of kids from such backgrounds, it is extremely challenging for a school to fill in to meet all of these needs. It just is not the same thing as a middle or upper middle class school with a few challenged kids.

There are societal problems that schools can address but can't fix. I think the single most helpful thing that could be done to level the playing field would be to ensure that all kids have access to high quality early education so that they at least arrive at kindergarten on a similar level with their more well prepared economically advantaged peers.

Then make sure that elementary schools with large FRL populations have the resources they need, independent of PTA resources that may not exist or come and go. Catch problems early and over time middle & highs will improve too.

Replicate and grow successful programs here. There are programs with long waitlists here (particularly preschools), but the District fails to act. Make schools attractive to us before limiting our choice of schools. We want the same things the rest of Seattle wants.

And, I know it is controversial, but level PTA fund raising. It is tragic that some schools can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for extras when others do not have PTAs at all and are having the most basic services cut.

We're lucky to be at a school with a functioning PTA but we're lucky to raise a fraction of what most schools North of the Ship Canal do, and most of that money goes for things like tutoring and helping to pay for an essential Counselor. (Our school missed out on Title 1 funding by 1% when they raised the eligibility requirement...)

Sadly, as I feared, under the new SAP many who can are choosing to leave the area for access to higher performing schools, particularly middle & high. This will of course only increase inequities. Few are willing to sacrifice their kids' education for the opportunity to work their you-know-whats off for the small chance of "turning a school around" while their children are there.

It was cause for concern when our school received a Level 2 report card. But I know the teachers are doing the best that they can with the resources they have. And my kids are happy and thriving so I'm grateful.

Southie

Central Mom said...

Southie, I'd like to give props here to Betty Patu who has walked every one of the schools in her district and seems singularly focused on learning what the school communities and geographic communities need, then advocating for that at the Board level.

She isn't the most articulate or even knowledgeable of our Board members, but I believe her focus is spot on. She believes in the south end community and is fully invested in seeing better opportunities and outcomes for those students. Go to one of her community meetings, put a bug in her ear about a south end issue, and she'll work her tail off for you.

I'd like to know which of our other board members have walked all their schools annually. I think Kay Smith-Blum has. I don't know about any of the others. And if the excuse comes up that they don't have time, then my feedback is that they shouldn't be on the board.

Patrick said...

About equalizing the donations, Southie, while I have some sympathy, people give donations to their schools because they are their schools. If the money was redirected elsewhere, the result might be fewer donations everywhere.

The problem is not that donations are unequal. The problem is that basic services rely on donations at all. The fault lies in many places -- the district, the legislature, the voters -- but not with the people who make donations to their school.

Central Mom said...

@ Earned Autonomy:

The superintendent, as she has been centralizing and standardizing curriculum and school decision-making, has been throwing that carrot out to schools since the first year she was here. It has NEVER been defined, but various definitions have been thrown out by various staffers: Jessica's definition at the NE meeting being only the latest.


It absolutely started out as a nod to deviation from District-mandated materials. But note that the concept appears to be significantly morphing, and is in fact toothless as Jessica outlined it.

Another issue to be daylighted, discussed and -- I believe -- pushed back on for the good of individual school communities.

Anonymous said...

@ Patrick. You're right about the root causes of lack of funding. And yes, of course people want to support THEIR school and have the right to do so. Still, it is hard to watch schools in more homogeneous, wealthier areas pay for things like rain gardens while some schools are struggling to raise any money at all for the most basic needs.

Southie

Charlie Mas said...

Southie, that's exactly the point. School communities shouldn't be "struggling to raise any money at all for the most basic needs" The basic needs should all be provided by the District, not the school communities.

Lynne Cohee said...

Southie, your post about the problems faced by south end schools and the need for early intervention programs is spot on. I would caution you, however, about buying in to the assumption that schools with greater resources and the ability to raise dollars use those dollars to fund frivolous non-essentials. During the "weighted student formula" funding days north end schools received significantly less dollars from the school district than did south end schools. I'm assuming that this continues today. Where PTAs have the ability to raise funds, the district is increasingly relying on those PTAs to fund what we generally think of as basics, such as a school nurse or reading specialist.

Anonymous said...

@ Lynne C

Fair enough, you're right. Most PTA spending is not frivolous. The state is not meeting its paramount duty to fund education, simple as that.

Doesn't change the harsh reality of disparity though. Especially harsh for schools who barely lost Title 1 funds when SPS seemingly arbitrarily changed the FRL % requirement.

The fact is that some populations have more needs and require more resources to educate. Even when our school received Title 1 funds, we weren't exactly rolling in cash. Those dollars were spent chiefly on tutors, aides, scholarships & translators. All things we still have to find means to provide.

Southie

Eric M said...

I followed Helen's advice, and read up on the Delphi technique. Superinteresting link here:
http://www.learn-usa.com/
transformation_process/
acf001.htm

Be sure to read about how to disrupt the technique at the link at the bottom of the page.

Very slick, & sounds rather like the meeting...

Chris S. said...

EricM, that's so good it deserves a live link:
Delphi Technique
Some teaser quotes:

The need exists for advocates to maintain an iron grip on the process. They cannot, for instance, withstand open public debate of the issues.

In Educating for the New World Order by B. Eakman, the reader finds reference upon reference for the need to preserve the illusion that there is "…lay, or community, participation (in the decision-making process), while lay citizens were, in fact, being squeezed out."

This district doesn't even need to use facilitators to make us think what they want us to. They just take our questions and ideas back and chuck them in the circular file.

So, does Bellevue do this? Tacoma? Chicago? The article makes it sound like a central feature of the corporate-ed-reform toolkit.

Chris S. said...

BTW I first encountered this at the meeting where "the public" "decided" closing Summit was the way to address capacity in NE Seattle." The same meeting where they said opening buildings and portables were "impossible."

I don't know if they had manipulative facilitators or whether they just removed every other choice. I do remember I was in a group with a Summit parent and we DID NOT choose that as our option, but our "reporter" got up and said we did. Hmm, I guess you can skip the facilitator charade if you "reporter" is an insider. Either that or he was a big big chicken.

Anonymous said...

Wow Concerned Parent. Yes it is interesting... that all these parents who throw their arms up about the 17% pass rate, and the big travesty in error that was... care not one tiny little bit that in fact, 1 student in the south end passes math. 1 and only 1. Who cares? The 17% might have been made up... but the number 0 passing at Franklin, Ingraham, Ranier Beach are all real.

Sped Parent

peonypower said...

Thanks for the link of the Delphi method

I will become a ninja at deflecting the Delphi technique. I will slay the orcs with my smile and charm. I will persist in asking - Why, why, why, why.

Anonymous said...

The Delphi Technique was employed by the facilitator brought in by Carla Santorno during the elementary math adoption. Several of us pointed out the divide and conquer strategy being used, but were shouted down by kool-aid drinkers. Some of us even named it as "Delphi" to the group. You should have heard the K-Ad's when we suggested that the process was rigged. OMG...it was like we had just passed gas in a crowded theater.

If you really want to know why we have EveryDay Math in the Seattle Schools...look no father than Rosalind Weiss, Carla Santorno, and the Delphi Queen they hired to ride shotgun over the process.

To my colleagues who were duped by this process...all I can say is...I told you so.

Signed: Former Math Adoption Committee Member

BTW...Elementary Science Adoption coming within a year. Get ready for Delphi II.

Dorothy Neville said...

Sped Parent and Concerned Parent. I want to know more. Yes, I think that is a travesty. What to do about it?

Comparing the factual close to zero pass rate of special ed kids in South end HSs to the 17% figure is not a fair comparison though. See, the district using the 17% is playing to the wrong audience. By making that the shock and awe figure, they can add chaos and their agenda. And that ignores even further the truthful real issues, like this one. I assert that the solutions that the district wanted to do to "fix" the 17% figure wouldn't do squat for the kids you are talking about.

Does that make sense? Anyway, what is the best plan to change that outrageous failure statistic? My first guess would be 1-1 tutoring and targeted help from as early as possible. But from Brockman's report to the NE, any 1-1 tutoring is strictly up to the school itself, and therefore PTA funded. No district wide intervention in the works.

My sense is that parents all over see 1-1 tutoring the first line of defense, but that the district is absolutely against agreeing to it.

Anonymous said...

Look Dorothy. It's very simple to look up HSPE scores. Kids on IEPs (and these are resource room kids, you know, they call it ICS now. Learning disabled, cognitively NORMAL) are simply ALL failing in the south end. ALL. It's not about close to 0... many high schools get 0. And that isn't close to 0, it is 0. Only 1 kid passed in the south end at Cleveland. Yeah, yeah. Somebody lied about 17%. They wanted CORE24 or some other stupid idea. So what? But really, only 1 kid passing math in the entire south end isn't a lie. We need Brad! No. The best thing is kill the resource room. Or change it drastically. It isn't working! Let's not assign more people there. 1-1 obviously isn't an answer to anything nor practical.

Sped Parent.

Dorothy Neville said...

Sped Parent, yes, I can look that up. But I have no power and not enough knowledge to do anything about it.

The powers-that-be made the 17% figure a big reason for pushing Core24. They are the ones who are ignoring the low pass rate for special ed kids. If I could change that, if I could make anyone with power pay attention to the HSPE for special ed kids, I would.

The reason folks here are excited about the media attention on the falseness of the 17% is that it shows cracks in the armor that we can possibly expand.

Every letter I have written to the board, every comment I have made, has pointed out that the 17% lie is damaging BECAUSE it hides the true problems in the district. According to collegetracking, the district is actually doing fairly well for kids heading off to 4 year colleges (with a few exceptions, notably, African Americans) but we are NOT doing well with others. The retention and graduation from 2 year colleges is abysmal. The solution there is NOT Core24, but something else, perhaps more remedial or something. That's why the 17% lie was so damaging.

I am not saying 1-1 tutoring should be resource room. I am sorry if you think that. That's not the model I am speculating about, but I really do not know what the right model should be. Can you please share what a better solution would be? Are there other districts doing better? What are they doing differently? What should we fight for?

Anonymous said...

The best model is not dumping kids in special ed. Also "when at first you don't suceed try try again". You try some more, you try something different, you persist, you differentiate, you keep going until you get something that works. And most of all, you stop lecturing. I hate being lectured, yet we see teachers who can do nothing else. How about small group instruction? That seems to be pretty forgotten. Access to everything is also key. Anyway, that's what I would recommend. Instead of killing inclusion programs in favor of resource rooms (which are segregated) KEEP the inclusion programs! So long as we have a special ed, which is simply a dump, and a loop-hole in any standard or accountability,... the achievement gap is unavoidable. Otherwise, when confronted with a challenge, like a minority group not performing well, students will just be shuffled out to the location of lowest accountability (sped) and the systemic problem like the achievement gap will be avoided. That happens now.

Persistance not what happens. At the first sign of a problem... it's off to the resource room you go, the big black hole of no expectations. Segregation at its worst. Actually the resource room isn't the worst, you keep going down the chain of self-contained programs until you get to the sleeping, finger-painting, wall-licking classrooms to find the real worst. We do not need pullout models, which do not work, we need push-in. We need general education ownership. We need access to the same curriculum instead of worksheets etc.

I agree with you though. CORE24 is the height of stupidity. My guess is that the CORE24 will be so watered down it will become worthless. We won't be able to stomach failing whole ethnic groups of students... no matter how well meaning people may be. I'm all for having lots of options available, but not for forcing them down people's throats.

Sped Parent

SP said...

Don't get me started on CORE 24 (and the Delphi technique)! The first time I heard about the Delphi technique was in 2007 after the WA State Board of Ed had a CORE 24 roll-out meeting somewhere in the north end of Seattle. I've always hated those divide & conquer break-out groups, the little yellow stickies put on boards for questions that are never answered, etc. used during the earlier school closure meetings for crowd control by the district, but this was a meeting held by the State with the same techniques- not surprisingly, even though many parents had serious reservations about the CORE 24 proposals, they were marginalized down and not even included in the table feed-back session (controlled by the table reporters). After that meeting, someone said, just Google "Delphi Technique!"

Anyway, even though the CORE 24 has almost been guaranteed (but still without funding), there are a ton of controversial issues with it that the State Board has chosen to ignore. As one community activist testified, where is the actual proof that increasing the credits is going to increase the quality (and "college readiness"!) of the education for our students? It simply isn't there, despite an indepth report presented to the state Board of a survey of all WA high schools which showed that districts with increased HS credit requirements had no better "college ready" results (as measured by the real HECB requirements, not Seattle's!) than others. It was not the # of credits required but the quality and rigor of the instruction which mattered -imagine that!

And yes, the watering down has already started. There will no longer be a minimum 150 instructional hour per credit seat time requirement- the State is tired of regulating that so now they agreed to just let each district, "do the right thing"! The final CORE 24 proposal is really a CORE 22 with waivers allowed for kids in 2 credits if they fail a class and re-take it (even if they don't pass it). There's HS credits in MS, "2 for 1" CTE classes, etc. My middle schooler has already figured how to game the system & get out in 2 years.

Yes, and there's lots more...

hschinske said...

Yes, Jessica de Barros does appear to have a new title and job:
"Jessica de Barros, manager of academic planning and school improvement" according to the Seattle Times.


That's outdated per LinkedIn, which says she's the Director of the Teacher Incentive Fund as of December 2010.

Helen Schinske