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Monday, June 20, 2011

Dick Lilly in Crosscut on the Board's Assessment

Today in Crosscut Dick Lilly wrote a pretty good piece, Seattle Schools' report card: faltering progress on academic goals, in which he credited the Board for "surprising and refreshingly candid language about where the district stands" in their annual assessment of the superintendent and themselves.

I don't think they were candid at all. Their assessment of their own work was completely without any objectively measurable outcomes, without any metrics, and without any benchmarks. It was not accountability. So the Board, who says that they will hold themselves accountable, did not bring any accountability to the evaluation of their own work.

So no one will be surprised to hear that the Board gave themselves high marks. Shocked, yes. Appalled, certainly. Incensed, very likely, but not surprised. Here's what they had to say about their own work:
The Board has succeeded in addressing many significant challenges this year. The Board took decisive action to terminate the employment of the previous Superintendent and the Chief Financial and Operating Officer. During this challenging time, the Board worked together very well, led a thoughtful investigation and decision-making process, maintained confidential information, and was able to quickly restore stability to District operations.

The Board has also led other important efforts this past year, including the comprehensive response to recent audits, addressing significant budget shortfalls, development of new oversight policies, and establishment of an employee ethics program. Board Directors all demonstrate a strong commitment to the work of the District and to improving academic opportunities for all students. Directors continue to devote significant amounts of time each week to their role on the Board. Diversity of opinion, respect, and open communication among Directors were also identified as areas of strength for the Board.

In the coming year, the Board should focus on implementation of new governance policies, be mindful of the line between governance and management, and improve its adherence to communication protocols. The Board should also review how it conducts its legislative meetings to ensure they are as effective and time-efficient as possible. The Board also has an ambitious agenda of continuing the updating, reorganization and consolidation of District policies, which will require time and focus to complete.

The Board congratulates itself for leading the audit response, addressing significant budget shortfalls, developing new oversight policies, and establishing an employee ethics program without ever scolding itself for the failures that made this work necessary.

I liked this part: "Directors continue to devote significant amounts of time each week to their role on the Board." as if logging hours were admirable despite their failure to do any of their work. Seriously, if the nicest thing you can say about yourself is that you showed up, that is damning with weak praise.

One more thing. The timing of the annual evaluation is dreadful. They want to base it, in large part, on MSL and HSPE scores, but they don't have any recent ones. Shouldn't this assessment be done in November instead when the state test results are known and analysed?

18 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

What is Goodloe-Johnson - Voldomort? We can't say her name because what will happen?

I've said this before and I'll say it again. Bless ANYONE who steps up to run for School Board. Double-bless anyone who serves on the Board. But I am not going to canonize anyone.

They know going in that it takes a lot of time. Meetings, events, reading, etc.

They know going it, they have no real salary. Still, they run.

They were elected to do a job. That it takes time to do that job should not surprise anyone. I'm always startled when people are supposed to get vast praise for doing - their - job. If someone does it well or above and beyond, gold star.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to contemplate the Board's concern with poor math scores in light of Peter Maier's comments at the April 22, 2009 Board meeting, at which he voiced his approval of the Discovering text adoption:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C88-LOcrLk8

DWE

Dorothy Neville said...

And remember Anna-Maria's theory of action that stated absolutely they would revisit the math adoption if it did not prove successful.

Anonymous said...

I would add that Peter Maier fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the Discovering texts, as evidenced by this March 6, 2009 clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ1HIry2IjA

DWE

Anonymous said...

I remember when rubber stamp Sherry told her cute little story about Anna Maria helping Sherry's daughter de-code the Discovering fuzz.

and what do the other 40,000++ kids do with such a worthless textbook?

If anyone wants to see some outstanding testimony against that fiasco adoption, check out what Marty McLaren said that night.

Who was Chief Academic Officer ... ;)

Dump 'Em.

dan dempsey said...

Let us not forget the NTN Contract fiasco....
1: The Board did not read the contract it approved on Feb 3 ... it did not match the action report
2: Board stayed silent amid mounting criticism
3: New Action report from CAO Enfield and MGJ submitted on March 12.
4: Action Report is flawed but board does not care and approves it anyway.
5: Appeal brings submission of evidence which is NOT certified to be correct by CAO Enfield ... evidence shows that documents submitted to the court show the Action Report was based on a "phony document" submitted to the court.
6: Board still refuses to acknowledge any problem.

Listen to the testimony about math direction here=>
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgcmSsrJ_c8

Find all the documents here =>
(left hand column)

The forged document on which the flawed Action Report
was based.

Guess we should not expect directors who should be overseeing the district to file any complains with the Seattle Police, when class C felony forgery is committed by the Superintendent and CAO ....
Thus Sundquist et al. can claim there is NO BASIS to fire the Superintendent with Cause.

Fire with cause .... great idea.... but when the public only has 22 hours notice of the clean sweep away, it did not happen. ..... But what else could be expected from this "Give away money Board".

Breathless said...

Thanks Melissa and Charlie for running this blog. It's a great service to the students and it really does help inform people. Public schools in the US could be so much better and with more folks like you and the hard-working teachers and interested parents that are in our district, we will see positive change. Good luck to all the grads and retiring teachers.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Breathless,

You said: "Public schools in the US could be so much better and with more folks like you and the hard-working teachers and interested parents that are in our district, we will see positive change."

We will see positive change only with new school directors. If the four directors are reelected as a block of four, look for lots more 4-3 decisions as evidence is disregarded.

Anonymous said...

Susan Enfield's job was Chief Academic Officer--she rubber stamped this mess--her hands are anything but clean.

How disingenuous for her to fire Martin Floe and talk about the significant work to do when she was MIA during her previous job.

The tone of the district will change when competent people who are not on their own Race to the Top are leading this district.

-Words are Cheap--your job history speaks for itself

Noam said...

Lilly is, and always has been, a shill for Don Neilson and the whole gang of corporate demons that are intent on promoting profit over public in education.

Throw in a huge dose of personal vanity since he was unable to deal with the pressure of the job when he served his undistinguished time on the board. He was, and remains, a "back bencher".

Those who can, serve. Those that can't, pontificate on public policy from ivory towers like the warm sponsorship of the very wealthy.

Charlie Mas said...

Just to keep all of the facts straight, it was Art Mabbott, the secondary math coach, who gave Sherry Carr's daughter two lessons from the Discovery textbook - one using Direct Instruction, and one using the inquiry-based pedagogy.

This was supposed to prove two things: that the books did not dictate pedagogy and could be used in support of direct instruction, and that the inquiry-based pedagogy was effective.

Of course it proved neither of those. Art Mabbot is an exceptional teacher and he was working one-on-one with a bright, well-prepared, and motivated student. How this - in any way - translates into a typical teacher working with thirty students with a diverse skill base and motivation defies critical reasoning.

Inquiry-based instruction is, I believe, one of those things that can work brilliantly in the lab and fail horribly in the real world. It requires nearly every advantage to be effective.

Cesium 137 said...

I'll second Breathless in that schools could be much better - but what's the answer? basically we have a system that is designed to maintain the stutus quo - keep our world going along as it has been, from one Fukushima to the next. where is the radical change that this world needs so desperately going to come from? How are we going to get kids to see beyond their busy(and self-absorbed) lives and really understand the whole picture of planet earth, from the rainforest to the wars to the sick and starving to the sad over-consuming "democracies"? I hear math, science, reading, advanced learning, achievement gap, etc. on this blog, but what about philosophy? What about these kids and their sense of what is to be done with the world we are leaving them in such a mess? We want to study them up to do...what? Design their way out of a polluted, natureless, sterile planet? Every day radiation blows across the ocean and into our kids lungs and it's our culture, the scientific culture, that has created this mess. How are we going to explain to our kids that we let the very oceans that created life turn into not just a sewer, but a radioactive dump, poisoning us and everything else in them for thousands of years?
I'd like to see some fundamental change in the way we teach students about what knowledge really is - what it has done to our planet when we, as humans, believe that we can control nature and see how it works. The truth is that we can't ever know nature through science, we will always fail and only create more misery for ourselves on that route. Our children should learn to see nature as something they are part of not as something to master and control.

Charlie Mas said...

Hey, Cesium 137, if you want to take the bigger view, then consider this: the District says that they are preparing students for college, career and life. I see how they are preparing students for college. I see some students getting a little bit of career preparation. But I don't see ANY preparation for Life.

Where are the classes on how to:

* plan, shop for, and prepare healthy meals
* keep a clean home
* raise children
* maintain healthy relationships
* file your taxes
* manage your checking account
* manage your debt
* invest for retirement
* buy a car and insure it
* seek medical attention when appropriate
* manage your legal affairs
* civics

How can Algebra II be a required course and human development not be when few of us will ever use trigonometry in our adult lives but a great majority of us will parent?

Think of all of these life skills that need explicit instruction but for which little instruction is available. Wouldn't the District have to teach these things to fulfill the commitment to prepare students for life?

And, yes, Cesium 137, some sort of course on each individual's role as a member of society and as an organism on the planet would be good too.

Patrick said...

Charlie, I agree about the life skills classes. It seems like they could be scheduled for days when the teachers of the core academic subjects are in professional development activities.

Josh Hayes said...

Oddly enough, when I was in high school I was thrown out of a (terrible) "world history" class for sassing back to the teacher, in her view. (In retrospect, I guess I was sassing: she told the riddle of the sphinx wrong, and I corrected her, politely, and she threw me out.) The principal tossed me into a "personal finance" class, where I learned how to write a check, manage a checking account, write a household budget, and so forth. It was a terrific class, and somehow, it was targetted at the "slow" kids. Like the rest of us weren't going to have to write a check?

The moral is, I guess, that it IS possible to teach such a class.

Jan said...

Charlie: I think, when the idea of "free public education" was born many many decades ago, it was assumed that children would learn skills like cooking, meal planning, budgeting, housekeeping, etc. from their families and other community resources OUTSIDE of school. The reason that you needed "school" to teach "school" was because many of the capable, bright hardworking adults out there lacked the necessary information (and any way to obtain it) to teach reading, algebra, history, etc.

I think it depends on how you look at education. Do we need "schools" to teach EVERYTHING that is necessary in life? Or do we need them only to teach what cannot be (or is not being) taught at home and elsewhere in our communities.

And, if the latter -- then what ARE those things that cannot be, or are not being, taught at home?

Personally, I find that classroom based education, in groups of 25 to 30 kids, in a larger herd of 500 to 1500 kids, has many downsides. Wasted time, stupid rules (not necessary in homes or smaller groups, but necessary to control huge groups of kids), peer pressure and "group kid unkindness," and over-exposure to "kid" culture as opposed to "adult" culture -- to name just a few.

Interestingly, in the internet age, with things like the Khan Academy, the MIT online course materials, etc. etc. -- I am no longer convinced that kids need to spend the amount of time they currently spend, to learn what we need them to know.

I think kids need to learn more -- but to be in school less. And the time they spend there needs to be used MUCH more efficiently.

Sahila said...

thanks for the question and for the wisdom carried in it, Cesium 137.... that's been part of my beef with public education also...

but I think its maybe time to realise that public schooling is not now about educating our children.... they are units of economic production that will be schooled just enough to generate a respectable ROI... as one of the privatisers said publicly - the purpose of education is to churn out the next generation of workers and consumers...

what's next

Anonymous said...

@Cesium 137

"I hear math, science, reading, advanced learning, achievement gap, etc. on this blog, but what about philosophy?"

Every IB school in the world offers a philosophy class in Theory of Knowledge. It is the one subject that all IB diploma candidates take, whether they go to school in Africa, South America, North America, Europe or Asia. IB is a program that puts a high degree of emphasis on critical thinking, personal characteristics and a sense of justice. It's not for everyone, but from what I've seen in this country and Germany, it has much to recommend it.

DWE