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Saturday, April 09, 2011

I Met with Dr. Enfield

I had a half-hour meeting with Dr. Enfield on Friday.

At first I had this long outlined list of topics of concern, but it simply wasn't realistic. Instead, I chose to focus the meeting on a single concern: What is the mission of the academic side of the Central Office?

I'm not usually interested in Mission Statements. In fact, I freakin' hate them because they are useless and typically create unreasonable expectations. Just the same, I think people should know what they are trying to do.

We know the District's mission - to educate Seattle's students. That work is done primarily in the schools. The mission of the schools - to educate students - no different from the District mission. The Central Office has two sides: Operations and Academics. The mission of the Operations side is also clear - to take on all of the non-academic work to free the schools to focus on academics. But what is the mission of the academic side of the Central Office?

What academic tasks are the proper work of the Central Office?

The lack of a clearly defined mission for the Academic side of the Central Office has led to two unacceptable consequences: tasks that the central office should do have been left undone and the central office has squandered resources and irritated colleagues by taking on work they should not be doing.

I suggest that the Central Office has three academic duties:

1. Quality Assurance. Someone needs to follow up on the schools and make sure that they are doing a good job. Someone needs to make sure that they are providing appropriate interventions for students working below grade level. Someone needs to make sure that they are providing appropriate challenge for students working beyond grade level. Someone needs to make sure that they are delivering - at a minimum - the core content in each subject at each grade level. Someone needs to make sure that the teachers understand that the Standards are a floor, not a ceiling. Someone needs to make sure that they are following the IEPs, that they are providing appropriate services to ELL students, that their Advanced Learning program meets the expectations for such programs, and so on. Someone needs to make sure that the schools offer all of the classes and opportunities that they are supposed to offer (music, AP classes, etc.). This work, Academic Assurances, is the District's work. Much of it has not been done. Much of it still is not done.

Along these lines, Dr. Enfield wanted to clarify her "Spectrum is Spectrum is Spectrum" remark, but she didn't really manage it. I will follow up with her.

2. Curricular Support. There is some curricular work that would be more efficiently done centrally and then shared with teachers rather than having each teacher develop their own. This begins with defining the baseline set of knowledge and skills that every student is expected to learn in each subject at each grade ("content" in District jargon). That's a District-level decision. From there it extends to adopting materials that support that content. I am not convinced that it extends, from there, to somehow mandating the use of those materials. It may (or may not) extend to writing pacing guides - it certainly doesn't extend to requiring adherence to pacing guides. I think this work requires a few curriculum area experts to do this work. Not many.

3. Teaching Support. Any support that a teacher needs that cannot be found within their own building is a District level responsibility. This includes facilitating - if not producing - professional development opportunities, coordinating collaboration between and among schools, sharing of best practices, and - on a very limited basis - coaching. The principal's primary duty is to serve as the instructional leader and should be the teacher's primary resource for coaching. However, sometimes the teacher needs expert support in a particular curricular discipline and that expertise can and should be found at the Central Office in the curriculum area experts referenced above. It is important for math teachers to have opportunities to network with other math teachers and language teachers with other language teachers, etc. Again, the curriculum area experts should take on the responsibility for building and maintaining these networks. This networking needs to be both vertical (8th grade teachers talking to 9th grade teachers) and horizontal (8th grade teachers talking to other 8th grade teachers).

I'll say it again. The lack of a clearly defined mission for the Academic side of the Central Office has led to two unacceptable consequences: tasks that the central office should do have been left undone and the central office has squandered resources and irritated colleagues by taking on work they should not be doing. The superintendent should clearly set the Academic duties of the Central Office and then build teams to fulfill those functions while eliminating the departments and dismissing staff members who are doing work outside the limits of that mission.

12 comments:

LouiseM said...

Hey Charlie, it's hard to get a grasp of what her position was or what she said because this entire post is of what you think. So what did SHE say in the 30 minutes? Surely she said something (good or bad) that you can share with us. It would be good to know what to expect when folks get the 15 minutes on Thursdays with her.

Maureen said...

Charlie, I'm confused by this thread. You say you met with Enfield, then say:

I suggest that the Central Office has three academic duties:

Which makes me think all the text describes what you (Charlie)think should be true.

And the only mention of Enfield is how she tried to explain her Spectrum remark, but didn't succeed.

Did she say anything about the academic goals of Central Admin?

Anonymous said...

Also wondering what Dr. Enfield had to say, that seems to be missing here.

thanks,
g

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, YOUR suggested three academic duties of the Academics side of district are spot on: Quality Assurance, Curricular Support and Teaching support. I would posit the list is not exclusive of other tasks, but that's for further comment.

I have to agree with the other posters: You're a tease, you "met with Dr. Enfield" yet tell us nothing about the meeting!

Was this post a promo? Will need to pay a penny a word for your upcoming exclusive? I mean, how often does one get a half hour one-on-one with the Superintendent? We'll PAY for the story!

Anonymous said...

Same old simpleton stuff. Why should Susan waste a moment with you? Better to cede the time to someone else.

parent

KG said...

The Central office has 3 central duties,

1.Do not listen to school based staff

2. Do not follow collective bargaining agreements and their own Board policies which= mega $ in lawyer fees to outside firms.
The District usually loses all of these.

3. Pretend they are helping the students with the 19 million extra they are spending on the Central abuse. Everyone accountable.

Nick said...

In all my years teaching high school math in Seattle, I have never been asked buy an administrator to increase the rigor in any way. Why would you think that someone downtown would know anything about quality control? It has always been the other way around – dumb it down please…As for Teacher and Curriculum support, no thanks I have enough useless text books and crazy experiments. An example of downtown quality control is I suppose the MAP; a incoherent test taken for its own sake (and paid for) while Khan Academy (which is not only free but has many other merits) has been blocked by the down town powers.

Anonymous said...

You can't use Kahn because it is direct instruction!

Thousands and hundreds of years of fiddling and thinking and exploring has been boiled down into a few years of high school math, and

IF you were competent with group work, IF you were engaging, IF you were dedicated, IF you were caring, IF you had high expectations, THEN our kids would construct the knowledge from four score of centuries by themselves !

Silly Math Teacher!

Nick said...

Thanks Ammoniums, I finally get it, a little more work and we will have rediscovered it ALL.
I am confused as to why Bill Gates’s kids get to watch Sal Khan’s videos and my students not.

Charlie Mas said...

What did she say?

She didn't say anything that you could write down.

She is the superintendent and does not say anything definitive. Even her effort to clarify her "Spectrum is Spectrum is Spectrum" remark remained unclear.

She just made noises that sounded like agreement but didn't commit her to anything or even clearly signal her agreement.

Sign up for her office hours and let me know if she makes a new, clear statement about her position on a controversial issue.

She is having these meetings to listen, not to announce new initiatives.

She agreed that the Standards, intended in theory as a floor become, in practice, a ceiling. And she asked me what I thought could be done to fix that.

She told me that a teacher asked a visiting Executive Director what the State Standards are and where to find them.

So, in short, LouiseM is right. It is hard to get a grasp of what her position is. She didn't say.

Sorry, Maureen, she did not say anything about the academic goals of Central Administration.

Charlie Mas said...

Ah! There was one thing that Dr. Enfield said that was pretty encouraging.

She said that the current dissatisfaction with the status quo in the District creates an environment in which she feels she has license to implement sweeping reforms and changes if she sees fit to do so.

dan dempsey said...

"She said that the current dissatisfaction with the status quo in the District creates an environment in which she feels she has license to implement sweeping reforms and changes if she sees fit to do so."

WOW ... does that mean she might venture into new territory and make an evidence based decision?