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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Compare and Contrast

On the School Board meeting agenda are two action items for state waivers from the 180-day school requirement - one is for parent-teacher conferences and one professional development. Each waiver is for 3 days.

The one for parent-teacher conferences has staff stating research and data sources as being that they asked the principals. (I could quibble about that but I won't.) However, they then state that the district had a survey of parents in late December/early January and 93% (0ff over 1600 responses) preferred closing schools (instead of half-days). Great, so the district asked both principals and parents and found most in agreement.

Contrast that to the item for the 3-day waiver for professional development. The research and data is the Strategic Plan and the SEA contract. That's data but I would not call it research.

Here's what they say under "Community Engagement:

The District’s strategic Plan “Excellence for All,” which has professional development as a component was adopted after obtaining input from thousand of teachers, principals, District staff, families, students, and community stakeholders. The collective bargaining agreement between the District and SEA, certificate non-supervisory employees was approved by the School Board in September 2010 and it has a professional development component.

I do not recall at any public meeting about the Strategic Plan being asked "do you support losing teaching days for professional development?". I recall that we were told professional development is important and that most people agree.

So the district saying "Oh we have community input that professional development that includes losing school days is good with parents" seems false.

"Research and data" and "Community engagement" is whatever staff says it is and the Board (again) never challenges it. I know that on most Facilities items they are using 5 and 6-year old data sources that say that we're in a terrible time for construction. (We were 5-6 years ago but not now.) No one every says, "How come you keep using the same data info year after year?"

Why? Because staff doesn't want to have to justify their recommendations with either research/data or community engagement so they throw anything up there with little to no challenge from the Board.

It's a lot of CYA cover based on not much information/documentation. If students are losing teaching days, it should be a lot better than "because we say so."

5 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Speaking of comparing and contrasting, the Seattle Times will publish, and has up now digitally, a guest column titled "A tale of two Seattle school districts," by Nora Liu, who speaks in this piece for the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (which is believe is a part of, or put together by, the League of Education Voters.)

The column bemoans SE Seattle schools, and wonders why Seattle can't have the success they believe schools such as Harlem Zone are experiencing...

SP said...

The Waivers are another example of how this disfunctional district "works".

Did anyone notice that the district is proposing a new full day off for all middle & high school kids for conferences? Was there any mention of this extra day out of school in the parent survey (sent out over the holidays, with a Jan. 4th deadline)? Was there any survey of the middle or high school teachers as to whether or not they think another day off will be worth the trade-off? At the C&I meeting, it was announced that this new proposal was the result of the request from just one middle and one high school.

During both the C&I meeting and the last school board meeting (waiver introduction), there was not even one mention of this change for middle & high schools by any of the school board members- no pros or cons, no measure of accountability on how this extra day off for kids will be used. How can a school with over 1,000 students, typically each with 6 teachers, expect that parents will be able to have a meaningful conference with all 6 teachers when elementary schools with 1/3 to 1/2 the size of secondary schools (and only one teacher per kid) require 3 full days to accomplish this? How many parents realistically will be able to benefit from this conference day (taking time of work, during working hours)? Give us example of what school district uses this model successfully.

Incredibly, the district originally set a goal of 100% participation in the Waiver application, and lowered it to 90% at the request of a Board member. Don't get me wrong, being able to have a conference with all 6 of your kid's teachers is an admirable goal, but is it possible? At one middle school with Nav 101 parent conferences, the reality is that you only meet with the student's homeroom teacher- this is not exactly what I would call "parent-teacher" conferences! This is not worth yet another free day out of school for our kids.

ParentofThree said...

About this "input" that was given by the thousands of educators to help create the strategic plan. When did this happen? Not in Seattle, as the plan just magically appeared after the Entry Plan was "executed." MGJ brought it with her from Charlotte; I remember reading an interview online about it. The reporter asked if she was going to copyright it. The answer was no. I remember thinking at the time, how odd that she is simply renaming her strategic plan, developed for a very different district and using it here. I was also very bothered about this tag line that "1000s of educators weighed in." She wasn't at her last job long enough to conduct this amount of research and implement it. And we know that MGJ does not seek input from those in the trenches anyway.

So...is the tag line utter BS? Or were 1000s of educators asked for input into the strategic plan.

I think NO and I also do not think that the strategic plan is really MGJs. I think it is the "plan" the Broadies receive upon graduation.

And I think it was put together by a few people.

And if you dig deep you will find this "plan" being implemented in districts around the country.

And again, the board is being told something that is not true, to get the vote needed.

SP said...

Parent of Three,
I agree with Melissa-
"So the district saying "Oh we have community input that professional development that includes losing school days is good with parents" seems false."

Yes, there were some community meetings in 2008 about the Strategic Plan before it was adopted (see link below), where we very briefly were told that PD was a component in the SP (as it has been previously also), but we were never asked directly what we thought about losing classroom time for PD.

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/strategicplan/Updated_Strategic
_Plan_Input_Summary.pdf

Here is the summary from those meetings- it's pretty interesting to read- see p. 12 for feedback received from parents re: Professional development, apparently only from the Roosevelt & WSHS meetings, with just 6 parents from RHS and 4 from WSHS attending the "breakout group" which mentioned PD. That's all!

But the district can check the box and say, yes, we had community engagement "from thousands" and say, yes- families support the 3 full days, five half-days, and up to 32 early dismissals/late arrivals, depending on the school's site-based PD calendar? I think not!

ParentofThree said...

That is what I am saying, that there is this mythical input from 1000s of educators that is trotted out then they need to get something passed.

I don't think there was ever a time where 1000s of educators where asked anything in relation to this stragtic plan that was essentially copied and pasted from Charolette to Seattle via the Broad Foundation.