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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Creative Approach Schools

There was a meeting Tuesday afternoon to answer questions about Creative Approach Schools. The meeting, led by Phil Brockman, Executive Director of Schools for the Northeast Region, went through the timeline, process, and rules for Creative Approach Schools.



It was a second meeting, following an introductory meeting for principals. This meeting was for principals to return with their school teams to learn more. A number of schools were well represented, including Cleveland, Rainier Beach, Lowell, and Thurgood Marshall among attendance area schools. Lowell identified as "Lowell Capitol Hill". There was also one woman there from Emerson and two teachers from Madrona. The option schools were also represented.

It was made clear that Creative Approach isn't the way to get a waiver from board-adopted instructional materials. There is a different process for that.

Whatever your creative approach, it has to be budget neutral. Budget neutral includes transportation, nutrition, facilities, and instructional materials. Any outside funding required has to be sustainable. Sustainable means three years, the life of the Creative Approach license.

CARs must set annual benchmarks and a three-year goal for student academic improvement and gap closing. The schools set their own goals and benchmarks, but it if they are not aggressive enough the application may not be approved. No targets or standards were specifically stated.

The authority to approve CARs and, if necessary, revoke them, is held by a committee of SEA and SPS officials. This committee, not yet appointed, will determine if the school has sufficient community engagement. They may have some sort of rubric for that, but they expect that it will be different for each community. It's going to be highly subjective and schools may not have a clear target or standard that they have to meet. Unfortunately, the people making the decision are not themselves community members. So district staff and union officials will decide when families have enough input into the development of the creative approach. This does not fill me with confidence. I don't trust them to protect interests other than their own.

Some of the school teams at the meeting did include student family members. Most did not.

The timeline for Creative Approach Schools was explained. Statements of intent will be due in May 2012 and schools' applications will be due in October 2012. The committee will return decisions in November 2012, and the programs can start in Fall 2013. Since the MOU is part of the collective bargaining agreement, and the CBA expires in 2013, they will have to be included in the next CBA to be continued beyond then.

They asked some questions about how the 80% buy-in would be calculated and how they could do hiring this spring in anticipation of a CAR next fall. It wasn't a tough question for Phil Brockman to answer. It's okay to tell applicants about your plans for a CAR and ask them if they would be onboard with that. Everyone who works in the school two days a week or more gets a vote - even if their program or work isn't directly impacted by the change. So if there's an OT in the building for .5 FTE, that person gets a vote. Some folks expressed concern about getting the approval of these folks, but Phil Brockman asked why they wouldn't vote to approve if it doesn't impact them directly. Why would they want to monkey-wrench your effort?

New schools which are not yet planned by the District cannot apply to be Creative Approach Schools, but new schools which are planned by the District (such as STEM at Boren) can apply. They will have challenges getting community engagement since their community isn't already brought together.

Creative Approach Schools can be exempted from District Policies and terms of the CBA, but not from state or federal laws. Any policies they want waived must be listed on the application and must be integral to the creative approach. The Committee will decide which, if any, District policies and CBA terms will be waived. Additional requests for waivers must also go before the committee.

I have a few more bits of information but it's in a pretty scattered form. The meeting was largely a Q & A session which makes for a less cohesive narrative.

7 comments:

David said...

Sounds a little heavyweight and bureaucratic, doesn't lean enough toward letting people test ideas and measure whether they work, but perhaps it will be sufficient to get the job done.

Perhaps what will happen is that one school will put in the considerable effort to go through this process (for example, changing the math curriculum) and get good results, then other schools will see the results and attempt to duplicate the first school's success. Copying the application and example of another school should make this all easier.

I just wish the process itself encouraged looking for successes and copying them. It is unfortunate that it appears we'll have to rely solely on the initiative of principals for that.

mirmac1 said...

"Some folks expressed concern about getting the approval of these folks, but Phil Brockman asked why they wouldn't vote to approve if it doesn't impact them directly. Why would they want to monkey-wrench your effort?"

Well, maybe they don't want to give up their collective bargaining protection? Did anyone as Brockman that?

Come to think of it, do the principals give up their collective bargaining goodies, bonus etc? I was reading through their contract. Geez, it looks like some will be in the +$120K range.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"So district staff and union officials will decide when families have enough input into the development of the creative approach."

Exactly so. You can give input but they don't have to take it.

They can change your neighborhood school - take your support or unhappiness input - and you have no vote AND no one to go complain to.

How will this committee decide? Will that be made clear or is it a backroom decision?

Kathy said...

What circumstances will allow for Family and Education Levy support?

dan dempsey said...

Looking at:

CARs must set annual benchmarks and a three-year goal for student academic improvement and gap closing. The schools set their own goals and benchmarks, but it if they are not aggressive enough the application may not be approved. No targets or standards were specifically stated.

So similar to School Improvement Grants, an OSPI program with three years of funding to fund the improvement of low performing schools. The winners all had extremely aggressive (pipe dream) proposals based on huge test score improvement in annual increments over three years. (Note ... the newly identified Low performing schools last year did not need to file applications for a SIG because we are out of money..... This creative approach school idea looks a lot like an unfunded SIG proposal.)

By my calculations after one year, only one school was on target (West Seattle Elementary) and 17 were not. OSPI put out a progress report on these (Cohort I 2009-2010) schools for the first year analysis of results and completely neglected any reporting or evaluation of the failure to meet goals. The OSPI report apparently did not take the year one timeline for results seriously as it glossed over this dismal and statistically unreported failure to perform with "getting results takes time".

It seems like making outlandish proposals and knowing if they are selected .... there will be no accountability (because perhaps it would make OSPI look bad for making the initial selections based on fairytale proposals).

Here is something called the school accountability index.

I am still looking for the OSPI report released in Jan 2012 on the results from year one for Cohort I 2009-2010. I link it later if I find it.

Results are not nearly as important as making big big promises. .... Promising a Better Tomorrow -- Tomorrow.

(Carla Santorno's Everyday Math promises sets a high bar for complete BS ... and will NOT be surpassed by those that advocated for "Discovering". The "Disacovering" advocates never claimed all the outlandish stuff that Santorno claimed.)

In attempting to fool the folks regularly add LEV to the mix with the LEV Blog Post on SIG grant recipient Totem Middle School. All of the comments that corrected the posting have been removed. There are now no comments.

SeattleSped said...

Dan Dempsey,

Now that you mention it, that could be why WS Elem's principal has done her utmost to "persuade" some SpEd families to leave by denying their students the services they are due.

Of course that principal is not alone.

dan dempsey said...

Let us look at the SIG results for a hint at what might be expected from Creative Approach Schools.

District Views on School
Improvement Grant Requirements


Key Findings
(1) ... ARRA SIG funds were concentrated on a small number of districts, as intended. An estimated 12% of the nation’s school districts had at least one school that received ARRA SIG funds for school year 2010-11.

These recipient districts comprise almost three-fourths (73%) of the districts eligible for ARRA SIG funds.

(2) ... Most ARRA SIG-funded districts received assistance from their state in implementing improvement models. About three-fourths (74%) of the districts with one or more schools implementing the transformation, turnaround, or restart models in school year 2010-11 received assistance from the state in carrying out these reforms. The remaining 26% had not received state assistance at the time of the survey.

(3) ... In the early months of 2011, half of the districts receiving ARRA SIG funds said it was too soon to tell about the results of implementing the transformation, turnaround, or restart models. About one-third of recipient districts reported positive results.

(4) ... ARRA SIG-eligible and ineligible districts differed in their views about the effectiveness of key program requirements. A larger share of eligible than of ineligible districts agreed that the SIG requirements for identifying low-performing schools, concentrating funds on a small number of schools, awarding funds by competitive grants, and using external contractors are effective, while larger proportions of ineligible districts were not sure about the effectiveness of these key SIG provisions. Notable minorities of both eligible and ineligible districts disagreed that these provisions are effective.

(5) ... Half of the ARRA SIG-eligible districts believe that more than three years may be necessary to improve the lowest-achieving schools.

{{{ This is particularly interesting as when reading the actual SIG grant requests that OSPI chose to fund ... huge increases in performance were planed for in each of the three years. }}}

Seventeen percent of eligible districts were not sure whether three years is an appropriate amount of time. About one-third of eligible districts agreed that three years was enough time to show improvement.

{{{ If three years is not enough time to get things headed in a positive direction, then why is all this money being spent? }}}

(6) ... Among all the nation’s districts, there is no clear consensus about the effectiveness of current ARRA SIG requirements. Only one-third or less of the nation’s districts agreed that key requirements for targeting and distributing ARRA SIG funds are effective. These overall views are likely influenced by the large proportion of
districts that were ineligible for ARRA SIG funds for 2010-11.

=====

So what is up with the planning and requirements for Creative Approach Schools? Is this just another voyage through fantasyland like MGJ's Southeast Education Initiative?