Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Strategic Plan Work Session - And Away We Go

Thanks to a West Seattle reader for notification of the link for today's Work Session presentation on the Strategic Plan. It is 88 PowerPoint pages that someone at SPS believes they will go thru, explain where needed and answer questions in an hour and a half. Raise your hand if you think this possible. Anyone?

Naturally, I haven't read the whole tome but here's part of their page 5;
  • Changing an entire system takes time.
  • Over the last 2 ½ years, we have built a foundation for the work.
Yes, they have built the foundation for the work...on a bog. Where is the solid foundation for how this district operates? There is virtually none. I have to wonder how long they think this can go on.

Also, on page 6 they list this:

  • We know from national experience that deliberate long term plans to improve student learning take time to show results.
  • Districts who are successfully doing the work include Boston, Long Beach, Denver, Gwinnett County, GA, and Garden Grove, CA
I really have to pay attention here because some of these districts (and their work) is foreign to me. Anyone?

Also a lengthy explanation of the SE Initiative which, apparently, is still on-going.

"SE Education Initiative laid the groundwork for the larger school improvement framework."

Again, I had no idea this was true.

So I'm off to see the Wizard (or whoever is behind the green curtain).

"Someday all this will be yours."

"What? _____________ (fill in the blank; bonus points for the movie).


Central Mom said...

Quick-look notes:

Staff attempts to address Qs around Report Card stats raised by Charlie and others on the blog.

Funding situation dire next year. Some subtle positioning by staff already...look at slides showing "no funding" for programs toward the end of the slide deck. International Schools, Music program assurance, advanced learning opportunity at Ingraham.

Feedback from community budget survey...more than 2000 respondents! First glance shows that teachers and parents often line up on priorities more closely than teachers and principals. I need to do some analysis here.

Interested to hear staff comments around SE intiative. Slides look like a lot of "positioning".

Charlie Mas said...

They sure do need a whole lot of slides to explain their Colorado Growth Model bullshit number.

The large number of slides required to explain this is a strong sign of why they shouldn't be doing it.

Jan said...

As I read the Colorado Growth Model charts, it seems to me that what they are saying is -- we will use a bad (useless) measurement (progress of student relative to progress of similarly testing peers) rather than the one everyone cares about -- actual academic growth of each student over time - because the tests for actual growth are too variable (based on -- you guessed it -- a study done using the MAP!! to ferret out inconsistent performance swings on state tests). First of all, it looked to me like there were no wild "swings" on the math test results. For reading, there were some, but based on comments back from parents whose kids have taken the MAP, I have no reason to believe a study that uses the MAP to "true up" state academic achievement test results. Also, it was unclear whether they were measuring the same group of kids over 6 years, or 6 years worth of kids over 1 year. And, there was nothing in the chart that gave any indication of the amount of variability that would be expected in any case. (It is times like this that make me wish I was statistically literate.) WV says there are too many smart people on this blog, and I had better learn the "glingo."

And, in any case, it seems to me that the right result is to drill down on the year-to-year state test results to see why there are inconsistencies, and work on fixing that. (And, if some of it is just inevitable variability in tests, maybe we all would not have to flip out so much, if they removed the "high stakes" aspects of it, and just let the variability happen).

Steve said...

On slide 22, they talk about the work done Advanced Learning programs (ALO) at Dunlap, Emerson, Martin Luther King Jr., Van Asselt, and West Seattle Elementary. As I think Charlie has mentioned before, the web sites or annual reports for these schools don't appear to mention anything about an ALO program (or at least, my quick check of both indicated this; perhaps they exist, but just aren't mentioned on the web sites?).

The "accomplishment" around this area are pretty obtuse:

• Worked with school staff to develop plan to implement ALO
• Offered or scheduled professional development with staff on identification of students, strategies for differentiating instruction, and use of the ALO report card to record student progress

They worked to develop a plan to implement something, and "offered or scheduled" time with teachers for training. This sounds like the kind of non-active wording that people use during performance reviews to make the reviewer think they've actually done something when they probably haven't.

Jan said...


Bingo! You are right on! I had the same feeling reading that slide.

seattle citizen said...

The King of Swamp Castle gestures expansively towards the open window:
"Someday, lad, all this will be yours!"

Prince Herbert, clueless, plaintively:
"What, the curtains?"

Here's the quote that's relevant to SPS from the king of Swamp Castle:
"When [the superintendent] first came here, [she built a "foundation" on] all swamp. Everyone said [she] was daft to build a castle on a [foundation on a] swamp, but [she] built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So [she] built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So [she] built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad[s and lasses], the strongest castle in all of [Reformland]."

Curtains and all.

lendlees said...

Things that scare me in the presentation are all of the "reallocation of existing resources" under the funding of strategic initiatives in the back.

Why do I feel the existing resources are the funds going to our schools?

And, sorry to be so darn nit picky, but can't they have slides that look the same? Follow some sort of framework so that you know where to look for information? /end rant

Sahila said...

Melissa, you forgot to include the BS tag when you posted this...

Melissa Westbrook said...

SC, you're the winner but what's the movie?

Lendees, I marked that on so many pages - reallocation of existing resources. What resources coming from where?

seattle citizen said...

Of course it's Monty Python's In Search of the Holy Grail!

So I've skimmed about 30 pages, here's my comments:

“Excellence for All – Refresh” Huh?

“• Dramatically better results for all students means that the entire system must change.” Do students performing above level, having a great educational experience, need “dramatically better results”? Do they have to endure change of the “entire system”? Will those changes hurt them?

Page 12, Strategic Priorities – It’s hard to tell if the listed priorities are desired goals or actual to-date results….
Special Education: Next Steps(page 20) “Will continue to partner with Instructional Services on Writer’s Workshop training and with ELL on instructional assistants’ training.” So one of the two things to do next for Special Ed are to continue working with ELL IA training? I don’t get it.

How come all the “what we’ve done”, walk-throughs etc, on pages 15 or so to 25 or so are related to Level One and Level Two schools? Did they walk through other level schools?

Lots of stuff about south-end schools. I'm fearful that a lot of what I see lately is either about south end schools or struggling students. Not a lot about students who are doing just fine, thank you. Combine this with "Dramatically better results for all students" meaning change the whole system, when the "all students" seems to mean "below level" students, and I worry very much that the entire system will be changed to the detriment of at-level or above-level students. The baby will be thrown out with the bathwater. It's already happening.

seattle citizen said...

This is one of the biggest problems of "Reform": It requires that people continue to look at the trouble, not at the success. In order to change the whole system (merit pay, high-stakes tests, charters) it is necessary that the entire focus be on "oh, the trouble!" If there is attention given to the many, many students who are doing just fine, then the can't reform "the entire system" in order to "dramtically increase success for all students."

So where are the eighty pages about success? Did anyone but me notice that ONLY Garfield has "Advanced Learning" students on the School Reports?

The School Reports, those wonderful reports to the community, show that students are struggling, but not the many, many students taking AP, IB, Honors and other wonderful programs. NONE of the high schools as Advanced Learners on the School Reports, except Garfield. Why is this? I think it's because they used the APP percentage at Garfield, but I'm not sure. But there are APP students at Ballard and Roosevelt and elsewhere...

My point is that the School Reports have falsified information that perpetuates the "all is gloom" scenario used by the Reformistas. No mention of Advanced Learners in every high school: That would point to the good things happening and mean that we SHOULDN'T change the whole system.


cascade said...

still no principals' contract sez the slides. want to bet it's over the significant increase in work they have to do to do teacher evals but at the same time with way more central admin paperwork paired with less resources to do the evals?

cascade said...

And did anyone else notice today that the state yanked bonuses for teachers who get their national certification? So while we're paying for all those coaches and encouraging teachers to strive, we're tearing them down at the other end.

If I were a teacher, after wading through the strategic plan update (lots of shuffling, no noticeable increase in performance at our worst schools, loss of resources and control at our best schools) I'd throw something against a wall right about now. Especially since it will eventually be All The Teachers' Fault.

dan dempsey said...


Also a lengthy explanation of the SE Initiative which, apparently, is still on-going.

"SE Education Initiative laid the groundwork for the larger school improvement framework."

The SEI ended August 31, 2010.

Quick someone tell them.

dan dempsey said...

Hey let us talk about the money.

State Steals $208 million from local districts

From the Tacoma News Tribune comes ......

State snags money meant for school jobs

Congress threw school districts a lifeline. State government yanked it away.

dan dempsey said...

Shocking not enough money for next year!!!!

This was easily forseen.

So what was all that spending about for Cleveland STEM?

$800,000 alone to New Tech.

How much did it cost to transform Celveland in our latest giant experiment, which was modeled on others' failures with NTN?

So CHS wanted to use Project Based Learning as the foundation of every class. Well we bought it. Did not have the money but we bought it.

There is an incredible leadership vacuum. The Superintendent is right something does need changing and that change would be difficult for her, as she needs to leave.

dan dempsey said...

Now I am really confused.

I read slide #15/88 seems that 2010-2011 has $1.1 million spending in the SEI......

Last I knew the SEI ended August 31, 2010. At what Board meeting was an extension approved or a new SEI authorized.

I must have missing something along the way or was it the Board that missed it?

dan dempsey said...

Oh now I get it. The performance management money is being used. So even though the SEI ended on August 31, 2010, the Central Administration wants to pretend it is still continuing.

SPS the land of never ending Fairy Tales.

Eric B said...

I especially liked the little gem hidden on slide 86: The "School Performance Framework" gets funded from $8.7M reallocated from...

"WSS Free and Reduced Lunch Dollars"

You got it, they're doing a reverse Robin Hood, stealing from the poor to pay for central admin. I'm looking forward to seeing the staff try to defend that!

wseadawg said...

SPS Translation Dictionary.

Procured = Bought.

Implemented = a. Told someone to do or use something; b. made a power-point slide.

Developed = a. Thought about; b. copied from DC/NY or Colorado.

Intervened = Butt in (likely inappropriately).

Examined = Read.

Measured = Talked to co-worker.

Surveyed = Asked Gates/LEV/Stand/Alliance what they wanted.

Reviewed = That lie didn't work; try another.

Feel Free to add to this list.

Meg said...

I saw the $8.7m for performance management, too. So... a bunch does go to schools, but from what I saw of the allocations, it's highly prescribed. That said, since we're talking about SPS, I would guess that there's 10-15% in administration costs as part of that $8.7m (or in addition to it).

The thing is: did the SE Initiative move the needle? No.

Have the schools that have been part of the first couple of years of performance management improved as a result of the district's targeted interventions? No.

Does the district continue to pour resources into an effort that does not appear to improve schools, and at this point, takes so much funding that it is in direct competition with the WSS for coveted dollars? Um, yes, and for some reason, the word "Gallipoli" floats to mind. Again.

WASL scores are an imperfect measure of student outcomes. However, based on WASL scores, you cannot tell the difference between schools participating in performance management and schools that are not. The grant arm (and you can call it a "framework" all you want, but the funding arm looks, acts and quacks like a grant program) of performance management should be cut, and the money kicked back to support the WSS. Because of the amount of Title and LAP money the performance management grant program uses, cutting it would likely allow the Title floor to drop back down to 40% (or 45%, or 50%, but, lower), and increased LAP funds to be distributed to schools.

I have similar feelings about continuing to spend money on alignment. Money's got to be cut from somewhere. Alignment efforts to date have been crap, and have not improved student learning or outcomes. So why does SPS continue to follow the same path on current alignment efforts? Admit, if not failure, a lack of total success. Cut the money. Go back to the drawing board.

Melissa Westbrook said...

More on this from attending later but I did want to point out that I found a document that shows that last year there were 8.6 "executive leader" positions and this year there are 15.5.

Tell me there's been a hiring freeze and central adm has gone down.

I'll post it soon.

Charlie Mas said...

We are throwing $8.6 million into Performance Management.

The Performance Management Framework has been essentially lifted directly from the Southeast Education Initiative. The School Report, the funding plan, the whole concept and execution.

But - and this is a big but - the Southeast Education Initiative didn't work. It was a complete failure. No part of it worked at all. It utterly failed to achieve its primay objective. It utterly failed to achieve any of its secondary objectives. It was a total wash-out.

We are duplicating a failure. More than that - we're duplicating a monumental failure. More than that - we're taking a monumental failure to scale district-wide.

Does no one else see this?

Does no one else have any qualms about this?

Charlie Mas said...

Anyone else notice that all of the parts of the Audit Response that have to do with the Board have not yet started, despite the fact that the audit was delivered six months ago?

Check out slide #10

They have created the project team and they claim to have developed a comprehensive audit response. They claim it has been reviewed by the Audit Committee. I haven't seen it. Have you? Has anyone?

They say that resources to strengthen internal controls will be included in budget development, which means it hasn't been done yet.

The first governance work session to provide management oversight of the district’s business systems is tentatively scheduled for January. It took them seven months to schedule a meeting?!? That's pathetic!

On slide #11 they claim that a review of the Board Governance policies and practices is underway, but when you look at their table you'll see that they haven't started yet. Again, it has been six months and they still haven't gotten started!

Charlie Mas said...

The slides on advanced learning, #22 and #23, confuse the hell out of me.

"At targeted elementary schools, 10% of students at each grade level have been identified as ALO-eligible."

What does that mean "ALO-eligible"? This term has not been defined. Aren't all students ALO eligible? Isn't that one of the main features of an ALO, that any student can self-select for it?

One of their accomplishments was to use MAP spring and fall data to identify the top 10% of students at each grade level. Whoop-te-do. Now what?

Oh my gosh! Are they the "ALO-eligible" ones? Is that what ALO-eligible means - scoring in the top 10% of your school on the MAP?

I see that they have developed a plan to implement the ALO, but have they implemented it?

In the Next Steps you will find more planning that they will busy themselves with as they defer the day when they will have to do any actual work.

Where's the part in which they actually teach kids stuff?

On slide #23 we learn that they have set the goal of 100% of ALO-eligible students at each grade level participate in ALO programs. But ALO participation is supposed to be voluntary. I guess it won't be for the top 10% performers at the targeted schools.

Will these students appear as "advanced learners" on the school report?

Where is the assurance that the ALO is real? Where is the assurance that any advanced learning program is real?

These two slides were deeply discouraging.

Charlie Mas said...

More encouraging was the Math slides. They reported that most students were getting direct support. That's great. The support is going to the students more than to the teachers.

I like the milestone:
"At targeted elementary schools, at-risk students receive direct support". That's wonderful.

dan dempsey said...

In writing about the Huff Post on education, Melissa wrote about successful systems in other nations:

"One of the key things that such systems have in common is that they take teaching seriously."

Read through those 88 PowerPoint slides .... How can anyone believe the focus on things so far removed from the classroom, that are clearly not working, is part of taking teaching seriously?

How much longer will the Board allow Dr. No Confidence, this job is so far over my head, to continue?

Note on page 15, second bullet is about an accountability framework with components that were never done.

Page 19 second bullet, Original Scorecard screwed up (so where was any score card ever?)
Goals are also messed up. Last line has "different" (as 3rd word) but it should be "difficult"; it would have been better to use the word "impossible". Those annual reports were never issued.

Third bullet is all about a "comprehensive strategy" ... "to drive investments in differentiated pay".

There is almost nothing to indicate the differentiated pay plan, that the superintendent desires, will ever produce improved student outcomes for students. Where is any data in support of MGJ's beliefs?

She has no real plan to drive improvements in students' academic achievement.

Apparently her focus is only on peripherals. She is so concerned about the silverware that she provides no meal. How long will the Board makes us starve?

dan dempsey said...

I like the milestone:
"At targeted elementary schools, at-risk students receive direct support." That's wonderful.

But is it true?
Has it made a difference that can be attributed to the direct support?

I've seen so much BS from this crew, how can such stories be verified?

dan dempsey said...


About slide #10:

As of 12/6, approximately 75% of the audit issues have been addressed

What does this mean?

Is this like I've addressed 75% of the envelopes?

But I haven't bought any stamps or written any letters to put in the envelopes. I am thinking about writing something soon.

Sarah said...

If Strategic Initiatives are unfunded; will Bill Gates pick up the tab?

Let's see type of "private funding" the school procures.

Charlie Mas said...

A lot of the Strategic Initiatives have already been privately funded.

Amazing that these education philanthropies have money to tinker with management strategies but no money to support struggling students.

Sick of Empty Promises said...

Slide #82:

Academic Assurances APP; New School for Gifted within Ingraham High School.

Non-Grant General Fund $0

* Program assumes all staff cost increase at Ingraham funded from school's budget. Costs for the following will be covered with existing resources:
-Marketing and Public relations
-Website updates

Wow! Ingraham must have some budget!

Jan said...

Charlie, in light of budget cuts, I think the message to the board needs to be NO Strategic Initiatives unless (A) they are 100% privately funded (including District overhead -- and any costs of funding any "solutions" like MAP tests, coaches, etc.) and (B) their accomplishment does not detract from the basic administration of the District (fixing the audit, running the district's functions well -- including half day Kindergarten pay, repairing freezers, getting agendas up on websites in a timely manner, following up on Board requests for information/analysis, etc.)

Charlie Mas said...

I wrote to Director Smith-Blum and asked if I could join her when she gets her tutorial on the Colorado Growth Model.

I also wrote to Mr. Bernatek and the Board with my response to the District's plan to address the "miscommunication".

The Colorado Growth Model doesn't measure anything we want to measure and doesn't measure it very well at that.

A comparison of student Level results (1, 2, 3, or 4) on the MSP with their level score on the previous test would be more to the point and more illustrative of the work done at the school. We would be able to discern how well they serve low performers separate from how they serve high performers and grade-level performers. More to the point, it would measure exactly what we want to measure and it would do it using a scale that the state regards as valid and one that the District has used as well (and therefore must regard as valid).