Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Alliance for Education - Big Plans for SPS

The Alliance For Education released their own strategic plan today. 

On the plus side, not so much ed jargon.  Good job. 

On the down side, well, there's a lot.

- Their foundational beliefs statement doesn't include teachers.  Seems like something of a "whoops."  (Unless they are calling teachers "leadership" which is not exactly where most people's thoughts would go when you were talking about district/school leadership.)

- The work they did on their planning process didn't include teachers or parents.  Seems like if your "singular purpose" is "promoting excellence in public education" those might be some people to ask.  (Oh wait, Alliance head Sara Morris is an SPS parent so maybe that input was enough.)

- The Alliance is taking credit for "gains" in academic progress over the last five years.  I'd like to see the data on that one.

- Still using that disrespectful "human capital" phrase. 

What do they want to do?

- "triple down" on leadership.  This is their "strategic" work.  

They cite the new Seattle Teacher Residency, a Principal Leadership Partnership and a proposed "Seattle School Board Institute."  They hilariously describe this as "a non-partisan, apolitical entity ...to prepare and support high-quality School Board leaders into the future."  Well, if you are preparing people to be School Board directors, I think that means you are picking them so there is some of a political aspect to that (it would seem to me.)

 But really, why is the Alliance constantly breathing down the backs of Directors telling them how to do their work?  That kind of direction is available - without strings - from the WSSDA, the Washington State School Directors Association.

This idea that it's the Alliance's job to tell the Board how to work and behave is troubling.  

They are also apparently going to help redesign SPS' HR department. 

I was amused to read this under "Risk Mitigation" (for a strategic plan, no less): 

"The Alliance for Education does not directly control the full body of work outlined in this plan."  

No kidding.  Not hired, elected or appointed so great to have the support but no, it is not the Alliance's call what the district and/or Board are working on or if  SPS will agree to all these Alliance endeavors.

Next there is "political noise" as a risk factor. 

They also point out "institutional resistance to change" and amen to that one. 

Another risk is "communication gaps within the district" and they say " To the degree necessary, we can serve as a conduit of information and convener of multiple stakeholder groups within the district."  

No thanks because (1) that's what the SPS Communications department is for and (2) no one needs the Alliance to facilitate and control meetings about what is happening in SPS.  To attend one of their informational meetings is a study in how NOT to engage people (unless you like being manipulated).

They then say they "must resist the urge to be all things to all people."  When did that ever happen?  I must have blinked and missed it.

They spend a lot of time in this area, with just a wave to the other two areas of their work. 

- continue to provide fiscal services to schools.  Which is great but they are making a profit off from doing that.  This is their "service" work.

- hosting " roster of public events and activities"  I, for one, know how I look forward to events the Alliance puts on.  This is their "spirit work."  

They point out that the "infrastructure support" in their claims that they moved the needle on academics at SPS came from two sources - Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation.  You cannot get more ed reform than those two groups (unless you include the Walton Foundation but I'm sure the Alliance will apply there next).

Oh and they "co-founded" the Our Schools Coalition (without naming the other co-founder or noting that they co-opted it from another group). 

What I find fascinating is that somehow Susan Enfield is getting elevated to having been a full-superintendent.  (The district has her photo up at the headquarters, along with the other full superintendents, despite the fact that she was an interim superintendent. )  They say there were three superintendents between 2010-2012.  There was one who got exited for poor performance, an interim (who decided she didn't want to apply for the job) and now a permanent superintendent.

It happens.

They also point out that between 2005 and 2013, there were 19 School Board directors.  I'm sure that number is correct but I'd also bet you'd find similar numbers for any urban district. 

Now the turnover in staff - that's mostly valid.

I always enjoy reading what the Alliance is up to.  (FYI, Alliance, page 9, last title - you misspelled spirit.  It's just that old proofreader in me there, just trying to help.)


mirmac1 said...

Interesting that A4E times their manifesto right before the first board mtg they do not control. A shot across the bow, so to speak.

Their "strategic plan" should just say "bust the teachers union". Their latest investments have all been HR-related: STR, HR "transformation". How the Heck is that producing higher test scores? I would say scores are more the result of fixation on testing. But I have about as much evidence as Sara Morris.

Anonymous said...

At least half of the members of the Board of Directors represent companies who maintain vast…..vast overseas tax havens to avoid paying taxes that would fund education. I, for one, am tired of ignoring this fact:

*Microsoft, 60.8 billion offshore, 5 tax havens
*B0fA, 17.2 billion offshore, 316 tax havens
*Boeing, 263 million offshore, 1 tax haven
*Bridge Partners LLC: manages offshore sequestration and buyouts.
*Deloitte: Runs offshore tax havens for interested companies in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

I could go on, but one would be hard-pressed to find a shadier cast of characters dictating goals for education. OK, I have to go to work now to make up the taxes that these companies have cynically pillaged.

Source: USPIRG, company websites

-Tired of the hypocrisy

Charlie Mas said...

Tired of the hypocrisy said it:

"At least half of the members of the Board of Directors represent companies."

The Alliance for Education is not a community organization; it is a corporate organization.

The Alliance for Education is not a fundraising group anymore; it is an advocacy group.

The Alliance for Education is none of the things it used to claim to be. People need to update their fundamental beliefs about that organization.

We need a new fundraising organization for the District. A new organization that is completely apolitical, that doesn't take policy positions, that only does fundraising for the District and serves as fiscal agent for school groups.

Anonymous said...

One of Banda's biggest accomplishments is making the A4E irrelevant.

They were running the district until recently.

--enough already

Melissa Westbrook said...

Enough, as I said, this Saturday's retreat is the first - in a long time - not sponsored/directed by the Alliance. It may be a positive step in the right direction.

I only know that if I ran for the Board and got elected, I would not want an outside group trying to tell me how to do my job.

Anonymous said...

So A4E is run by corporate executives whose companies off shore their profits and don't pay much in local tax. Then they establish organizations like A4E and Gates Foundation to circumvent the public process and tell us how to run our public school by (dare I say) bribing citizens with their millions and promise of "better" charters. Is this how democracy is suppose to work?

I suppose I'm repeating "tired of hypocrisy" statement, but it bears repeating.

-Also tired of hypocrisy

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