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Thursday, August 16, 2012

School Board adopts narrow definition of program

The newly adopted policy 2200 is called the "Equitable Access to Programs and Services" policy. When you - or anyone else - thinks about equitable access to programs and services, what programs and services do you usually think of? Probably the ones with inequitable access now, such as language immersion, Montessori, Spectrum, ALO, alternative, STEM, international, and IB. Those are the ones I think of. This policy doesn't cover any of those because all of them are specifically exempted from the policy.



The policy reads:

"This policy addresses actions to make changes to existing programs or services, the development of new programs or services, the replication of existing programs or services, as well as the closing and/or relocation of existing programs or services throughout the district, to the extent that those programs or services have an impact on budgets, hiring or placement of staff, or on space within a building."
Since none of those programs have an impact on budgets, hiring or placement of staff, or on space within a building, none of them are covered by the policy. All of those programs listed above, with a few exceptions, are exempt from this policy. This policy will not bring us any closer to equitable access to those types of programs.

  • Language immersion programs are not funded differently from general education programs, the teachers have no special certifications or endorsements, and the class sizes are no different.
  • Montessori programs are not funded differently from general education programs, the teachers have no special certifications or endorsements, and the class sizes are no different.
  • Spectrum programs - except for the few self-contained programs - are not funded differently from general education programs, the teachers have no special certifications or endorsements, and the class sizes are no different.
  • ALOs are not funded differently from general education programs, the teachers have no special certifications or endorsements, and the class sizes are no different.
  • Alternative programs - except for The NOVA Project and The Center School which are not funded through WSS - are not funded differently from general education programs, the teachers have no special certifications or endorsements, and the class sizes are no different.
  • STEM programs are not funded differently from general education programs, the teachers have no special certifications or endorsements, and the class sizes are no different.
  • International programs are not funded differently from general education programs, the teachers have no special certifications or endorsements, and the class sizes are no different.
  • IB programs are not funded differently from general education programs, the teachers have no special certifications or endorsements, and the class sizes are no different.
The only programs that meet that criteria are special education programs, bilingual programs (including B.O.C.), APP, The NOVA Project, The Center School, and the few remaining self-contained Spectrum programs. Everything else that you might have thought was a program, is, in fact, a "curricular focus". By policy, the creation, replication, closure, or relocation of those are, now, site-based decisions.

Now you might think that's what the words say, but what about the Board's intent? Since there was no debate about this at any time, the only source of Board intent is the Board Action Report, which makes this one of the five stated goals of the policy.
"Last, it is hoped that these amendments can help bring the focus back to the original meaning behind the policy, and that curricular focuses can remain community driven, rather than imposed by the district."
All of these types of programs are deemed part of a school's "curricular focus" and, until the Goodloe-Johnson administration, were decided by schools without district level involvement. Only since Dr. Goodloe-Johnson became superintendent did the District start to "impose" these types of programs on schools. What else could "curricular focus" mean? The plainly stated intent of the policy is to transfer the authority for these decisions from the district level to the school level, back to how they originally were: community-driven.  There can be no question that this will be the impact of the policy.

The new policy tells the superintendent not to meddle in a school's decision to offer or not offer language immersion, or Montessori, or a STEM-focused curriculum. The District can no longer tell a school to create an ALO or an international program, nor can the district deny a school that wants to create one. Now any school can have Montessori, or Spectrum, or language immersion - or stop having it. Now any school that has a Spectrum program which does not feature self-contained classrooms can drop it. Mercer, Aki Kurose, and Wing Luke can discontinue offering Spectrum if they choose. Actually, most of the Spectrum schools can stop offering Spectrum if they choose since only a few actually have self-contained programs. Lawton and Wedgwood already have. This policy makes it a site-based decision. Any of the schools in the south-end that have ALO in name only can drop the pretense. TOPS can go traditional, John Stanford International School can drop language immersion and Madrona can decide to become a STEAM school with project-based learning. Heck, they can decide to become a Waldorf school if they want.

Let me write that again, because it's totally true. Right now, effective immediately, Wedgwood, Jane Addams, Lawton, Wing Luke, Mercer, and Aki Kurose can choose to discontinue Spectrum entirely. This policy gives them the authority to do it.

No programs of these types should ever appear on any of the District's quarterly or annual reports to the Board on program placement. So there won't be any notification to the Board when a school either creates or closes one of these programs.

The solution, of course, is to strike the words "to the extent that those programs or services have an impact on budgets, hiring or placement of staff, or on space within a building" from the policy. I have described the harm that they do; can anyone say what good they do? Was there a problem with the superintendent dictating schools' curricular focus inappropriately? Is it likely to become a problem?

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually Language Inmersion and Montessori have an impact on budget in that they involve hiring Instructional Assistants outside of the WSS.

SWWS

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with the new language. Those things are indeed curricular foci and should be under the authority of the building leadership. Look, there's no entitlement program here.

-Parent

cpvmac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Ditto on SWWS, plus I think Montessori may have materials they use specific to the program (at least if they are doing it right).

"entitlement program" - what does that mean?

Well,then maybe all Bob Vaughn needs to oversee is APP then because of Spectrum and ALOs can be whatever a school says (or they can even drop them), then forget Advanced Learning.

This certainly makes the work of the Advance Learning Taskforce easier.

Anonymous said...

How can this work (or work well) with the NSAP? For ex, if it's our neighborhood school and we have to go there (essentially), what happens if the school (principal, staff) wants to become a X school, but we don't want to go to a X school? (I'm not thinking Spectrum necessarily, but Montessori or STEM or STEAM something that is an entirely different curricular focus.) Theoretically, we can try for an option school or placement in another attendance area school, provided there is room.

And how much notice do they have to give? What happens to families who have moved their kid/s to a Spectrum school this year? Does the intent of the school (regardless of which program they intend to convert to) at least have to be made known before open enrollment ends, so parents can have shot at moving?

Parent, I see what you're saying and I agree that a degree of local decision making can be good because they are the 'boots on the ground' so to speak, but too many decisions under the authority of building leadership can be problematic (not always, but can be) For example, many building there have had a great deal leadership turnover. One principal can want one thing and they move in that direction, then s/he leaves. Then what? Another switch depending on what the next principal's vision for the school? Potential for lots of yo-yoing there (as if the leadership turnover isn't enough) Also, I think SPS needs to have some say in placement/changes to programs in order to make sure programs are distributed throughout the district. Especially since transportation is ever-changing and/or being restricted, so you can't "choose" a school outside your attendance area. What if there were no advanced learning or STEM options in an entire attendance area? Are those kids just out of luck?

Charlie, question about impacting the budget at your school. Say your school goes STEM. Wouldn't there be costs associated with training your staff to be able to teach to meet the change to STEM? Doesn't that impact your schools budget (and staffing too if you have to hire new staff)? What about supplies, teaching materials etc that you need to use in the STEM school? That impacts budgets right?

thanks..
curious

Anonymous said...

Who in "the school" gets to decide about program or curricular focus? Is it the community (and how to define that?) or the principal/staff only? If both, it's incredibly difficult to prove that "the community" wanted it, as only a portion of community shows up to these kinds of community organizing events.

Another parent

Jan said...

curious and another parent both make good points -- as does parent. I think two things:

First -- for those talking about how change happens, how notice is given, etc. -- those thing happen now as well, with little, or insufficient notice. I am not saying that is "good," or "acceptable," -- just that this is a problem that exists regardless of how we allocate "program decision-making" between downtown and the schools.

Second -- with respect to the allocation -- I think that downtown needs to have some umbrella decision-making authority with respect to some things. For example, we need places for advanced-learning, special-ed, and ELL programs, irrespective of whether individual schools want them or not. Depending on how those programs are sited, and moved, available space for other programs (or curricular foci) will change. Stepping down one level, I agree that to the extent there is support city-wide for Montessori, language immersion, STEM, the District has to come up with some framework for figuring out how programs get sited -- and how to deal with the movement of kids for whom a specific program will not work (like certain language-disabled kids, who can easily be in regular classes, but maybe not in a language immersion school, or a STEM school where virtually all classes are discovery-oriented. A high school may want to move towards a NOVA model, but those work badly for some ADD and ADHD kids who need much more structure and organization from the outside.

Done right, I think that "changes" at the school level require enough time to determine whether (and what portion) of the attendance area families support the change, how to deal with families who want/need a different model, and how to handle (long term) the school's leadership and teaching staff when a change occurs. I think if we were more serious about involving staff and communities in choosing principals, the leadership problem would go away -- because by definition a principal coming in would be behind the school's programs (or in favor of whatever changes the school and its community have agreed on). This is one place where policy -- a really good, vetted policy, would and could do wonders to empower specific schools to move, in ways responsive to their neighborhoods. Again, it seems to me that schools like Bagley (and its move to Montessori) are the poster children on how to do this right -- and schools like Madrona (where the principal's style and decisions drove out much of the neighborhood families) -- and the District sat on its hands -- are how to do it wrong.

Charlie Mas said...

SWWS, schools with language immersion and Montessori programs are funded through the WSS just like any other school. Those programs have no impact on the district budget. The funding for their IAs comes from other sources - not from the District.

Or, if we were to accept your interpretation, then EVERY school is a program because every school has some money that doesn't come from WSS that is spent on staffing. The money may come from a grant, the PTA, Title I, or some other source.

The "budget" that has to be impacted is the District's budget. Every school, obviously, has things that impact the school's budget.

Charlie Mas said...

curious asked:

"Say your school goes STEM. Wouldn't there be costs associated with training your staff to be able to teach to meet the change to STEM? Doesn't that impact your schools budget (and staffing too if you have to hire new staff)? What about supplies, teaching materials etc that you need to use in the STEM school? That impacts budgets right?"

Again, it impacts the school's budget, but not the District budget so, from the District's perspective, it has no fiscal impact. If the school doesn't get any extra money from the District specifically to fund the STEM program, then it has no fiscal impact.

Anonymous said...

If such changes don't impact the district-level budget, in reality can't any change in "curricular focus" impact space to some extent? Say a popular program--I mean curricular focus--is implemented in an already-crowded neighborhood school, such that a higher proportion of in-zone families elect to stay. All of a sudden the school is overcrowded with guaranteed placements, necessitating portables, conversion of non-classroom space, and/or new boundaries. This in turn may impact space at surrounding schools, including pathway schools. Implementation of unpopular programs could have the reverse effect, with families increasingly opting for alternate schools. Although space at the alternate schools wouldn't be guaranteed, large enough drops in students at the newly focused school might result in changes to staffing patterns. And so on.

All in all, this seems to be just one more example of the district's short-sightedness. What I can't figure out is whether they don't know how to plan ahead, or just don't want to...

ELB

Anonymous said...

Um, isn't the Districr paying for the IAs at MacDonald? Didn't Denny and Sealth get extra money from the District to become international schools? I think you are so stuck on having this be a catastrophe that you are downplaying any definition that isn't yours.

SWWS

Charlie Mas said...

Many get no funding at the start. There was no extra funding for Queen Anne STEM or STEM at Boren. There was never any extra funding for Montessori at Bagley or Leschi. There is no extra funding for Spectrum or ALOs.

The District might be paying a little extra to get a some of these
programs - uh, I mean curricular foci - started, but once they are up and running, there is no special funding for them. And yes, while there is additional funding then the programs are ruled by the policy. The District can buy their authority over the program.

Even for the ones that get some funding for start up, there's no continuing funding. At that point they drop outside the authority of the policy.

Anonymous said...

SWWS - You re are so right

-Just sayin

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, more than Charlie saying what is and isn't a program - where is the opportunity for parents to advocate for a program to stay or a new program at their school? Apparently that ability -despite the lip service in the policy - is gone.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's all just wait and see the first quarterly report on Program Placement from the superintendent. Let's see if it includes any of these programs.

Let's also wait and see if any schools that have ALOs or blended Spectrum take the opportunity to drop them.