Closing Opportunity Gaps

I want to be sure that everyone has seen this. It's important.

An Action Plan for Accelerating Achievement
for African American Males
and Other Students of Color

In this document, the District commits to some very specific benchmarks:
  1. Every student will achieve proficiency in Reading and Mathematics by end of Grade 2.
  2. Every student will have a personal learning plan and an advocate/mentor to keep him on track to high school graduation and successful post-secondary transition.
  3. Every student will meet standards of performance in Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and Science at the end of key transition grades.
  4. Every student will receive fair and equitable treatment regarding discipline and access to rigorous instructional programs.
  5. Every student will graduate from high school prepared for success in college or career.
Whenever I see commitments of this kind from the School District, I always want to ask "What if it doesn't go like that?"
What if there is a student who has not achieved proficiency in Reading and Mathematics by the end of Grade 2? What then? Will the student be assigned to summer school until proficiency is achieved? Will the student be made to repeat the grade? What? The Action Plan doesn't say. Wasn't 100% passage of state proficiency tests derided as a ridiculous goal when it was part of No Child Left Behind? Why is it not ridiculous in this Action Plan?

This Plan says that EVERY student will have an advocate/mentor. Every student? All 53,000 of them? And if it doesn't mean EVERY student, then what does it mean?

What if there's a student who does not meet standards of performance in Reading, Writing, Mathematics or Science at the end of one of the key transition grades? What then? Will the student be enrolled in summer school? Will the student be sent back to elementary school or middle school instead of advancing? The Action Plan doesn't say. Again, wasn't this goal regarded as absurd before? What changed?

How will the District assure that students receive fair and equitable treatment regarding discipline? If the District could do this, then why haven't they done it before now?

This is my favorite: Every student will graduate from high school. Really. We're going to have a 100% graduation rate. That will be nice.

I have seen this type of lie before. Joseph Olchefske used to call them "aspirational goals". That means that they are only symbols and that they should not be taken seriously and that there will be no real effort to achieve them and no one held accountable for failing to meet them. They are, in short, bullshit.

But wait! There's more!

Wait til you see how the District is going to make these things happen.

1.1 Beliefs, Attitudes and Behaviors
     Shift mindset to a high-expectation, asset based, growth orientation
1.2 Positive Relationships with Effective Discipline
     Nurture students’ sense of belonging and appropriate conduct
1.3 Culturally Relevant and Rigorous Instruction
     Cultivate students’ commitment to academic excellence
2.1 Safe and Respectful Learning Environments
     Demonstrate sincere commitment to students’ socio-emotional and academic success
2.2 Positive Support Network for Students and Families
     Provide students and their families with a seamless web of “safety nets”
2.3 Black Male Youth Leadership Institute
     Personalize each student’s journey towards college and career readiness
3.1 Authentic Family and Community Outreach
     Enhance effectiveness of district employees’ interactions with students and families
3.2 Practitioners’ Academies
     Strengthen cultural competence of teachers, leaders and staff
3.3 Cadre of Certified Equity Facilitators
     Build sustainable, system-wide professional capabilities
4.1 Equitable Budgeting, Hiring and Staff Placement
     Increase each school’s chances of closing opportunity gaps
4.2 Results-focused Planning, Collaboration and Reporting
     Ensure a focus on and continuous improvement of outcomes for African American males
4.3 Data Dashboard and Personalized Monitoring
     Pay consistent attention to each student’s progress towards individual learning goals and college & career readiness

I have to say that I have seen my share of edu-babble and PC nonsense. I have even indulged in it myself, but I don't think I have ever seen it piled quite this high. Apparently, all the District has to do to close the Opportunity Gap is be mindful.

Again, I have to ask: What are they going to do when reality doesn't conform with their Utopian dream? Where is there any real work in this? Where is the effort to provide students with the real supports they need to succeed?

It would be nice to just laugh at this and not think about it any more, but there is this one ominous element on the last page. Among the factors critical to successful implementation is this one:
Accountability for performance with celebration of progress, to honor accomplishments and renew the spirit.
Now who do you think will be subject to this "accountability"? Do you think it will be students, families, community members, the board, the superintendent, the cabinet-level project manager or principals? Or do you think it will be teachers?


Patrick said…
The only people's names on the document are Nyland and the board. The board are elected, so they can't be fired. Perhaps Nyland should give up his raises until they are achieved. Or until the District stops spouting BS as if it were a plan.
GarfieldMom said…
The goals refer to AA males. It's written right above the goals.
ProSleep Mom said…
Wow. My daughter sometimes talks about reading stuff where 'there is so much frosting piled on, you think there must be cake underneath" but there actually isn't. The intentions are good, but wouldn't a plan that has more concrete actions, like providing tutors for kids who aren't succeeding, or reducing class sizes, be more likely to succeed?
GarfieldMom said…
I hope people do go read the linked document. Measures of progress are listed right below the goals.

As for accountability, it lies with the superintendent. That's what SMART Goal 2 is, the one that was discussed at the last board meeting. You'll have to look to Amendment 1 to see the language for the final version of what was passed.

BAR on SMART Goals and Superintendent Eval for 2015-16
Anonymous said…
I would trade this nonsense for a good math curriculum. They had one in elementary schools until the staff undermined it. Now that would actually achieve some goals.

S parent
So Charlie you must have missed my post on this (I linked the same item.)

This is part of the discussion around "targeted universalism" that Martin-Morris, Wright and Blanford are pushing. I confess to ignorance so I need to do work to understand this.

But it caused quite the back and forth at the last Board meeting, with tussling over whether to name all groups or just AA males.

I have no problem with this effort but where is the money (which the document says they need) for this program. A dedicated, "cabinet-level" project manager?

But, in the end, you are only as who is held accountable for this much high-level expectations.
Anonymous said…
At which schools will these "African American male only clubs" exist? Looks to me like just another over the top PC initiatives to NOWHERE!, great job SPS. Does SPS come up with these ridiculous programs on its own or is there some sort of federal hand-out attached to perpetuating this program.

This must be good for someone's business. How many central hires will this non-sense require? More importantly, who do they expect to pay for this program?, let me house.

Can you imagine a school district designating a "White only program" , shame on you SPS!

Voting NO
Anonymous said…
It's an action plan devoid of any clearly defined actions. A meaningful action plan would lay out who is going to do what, and when. This sound like another set of recommendations that wil sit on a shelf.

And what's with that final statement, that closing opportunity gaps for every student rests on implementation of this plan? How exactly will this plan help girls? Or ELL students? Or high achievers? What does it even mean to close opportunity gaps for every student?

n said…
We all know these are hollow words and missing any sort of concrete action plan. I'd like to know how many highly-paid assistants/directors/associates/consultants, etc, were paid to sit around and brainstorm one over-wrought meaningless phrase after another. It is just so much bureaucratic jabber.

Teachers, get ready for the next round of scapegoating.
Anonymous said…
What has the African-American community said about this? Do AA males and their families desire this plan?

Why isn't smaller class size #1 on the plan?

SW Mom
SW Mom, many in the AA community do support this and, in fact, were at the Board meeting supporting AA males as the first group recognized. A couple of people were pressuring Betty Patu, who had sponsoring an amendment that would name all groups but focus on AA males. One guy even called her out during the meeting for mentioning that the African American Academy did not work out (and had a lot of support including hers.)

SPS is not interested in class size. I rarely hear them address this issue. I wouldn't say they don't care but it's too much for them to tackle with capacity management.
Anonymous said…
Thx, Melissa. Interesting meeting dynamics.

SPS can't fix class size but is going to tackle historical racism?

SW Mom
NB said…
Are they going to hire Africatown to implement this initiative?
Anonymous said…
That was a great description by ProSleep mom's daughter. I will remember it in the future. However, I do disagree that "the intentions are good" behind this document. In fact, the intentions are quite sinister - it is a cleverly crafted PR document devised to serve as a substitute for substantive action.

What you need is to pay teachers/counselors to call students at home or on their cell phones every night and check to see if homework is being done. Sound crazy?? We've had dedicated SPS teachers call us at home to remind about homework. There are already sparkling gems of pro student activism existing RIGHT NOW within the SPS. No new "ideas" from central administration are needed - only money and elbow grease. Why do we pay administrators to come up with scintillating prose instead of employing more teachers to help students?

-SPS Parent
leilamas said…
@GarfieldMom. Yes, there are measures of progress for each of the goals. That's not what is missing from this plan.
GarfieldMom said…
leilamas, what is missing in this from your perspective?
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
" historical racism?" Wrong! Those of you who think SPS is racist can't back it with facts.

Sour Grapes
Anonymous said…
There is historical racism in SPS and in Seattle. It isn't as blatant as in other parts of the country but it is there. You only have to look at Rainier Beach High School to see that it still exists.

I don't have a problem with this plan primarily addressing AA males but I do have a problem with it not offering any concrete ideas of what they are going to do. It is true also, that if they lift up AA males and improve their situation, they will learn what works and be able to apply that to other groups with some tweaks for different cultures.

Charlie Mas said…
What's missing from this action plan is the action part.
The authors of this plan acknowledge the historic and persistent gap in outcomes for African American male students and others. They have set goals for closing that gap and they have metrics to assess the size of the gap. What they don't have are action steps that will close the gap.

Instead, they have this sort of stuff:
"Demonstrate sincere commitment to students’ socio-emotional and academic success by fostering attitudes and behaviors that are free of bias, ridicule and intimidation, and that affirm an appreciation of cultural differences."

For us to believe that this change (and other things like this) is what it will take to help every African American male student pass the state proficiency tests, we would have to believe that the failure to do this (and other things like this) is what is preventing so many African-American male students from passing the tests.

We would also have to believe that the District is somehow capable of making this happen. How will the District get all of the staff who come into contact with students adopt these attitudes? Oh, right. Like this:

"Enhance effectiveness of district employees’ interactions with students and families by providing formal training and continuous learning opportunities that break down barriers,
increase understanding of 'cultural cues,' and promote open, proactive communication.
Charlie Mas said…
You know. I would really much rather see something that said:
1. We are going to dramatically reduce class sizes in schools with high concentrations of students from historically underperforming groups. The goal is a maximum class size of 17.
2. We are going to extend the school day and the school year in these schools. The goal is to have school extend until 4:30pm and have a half day on Saturday.
3. We will actively recruit volunteers to tutor and mentor students before school, after school, and on weekends. The goal is to have a volunteer for every 8 students.
4. We will significantly increase the number of field trips for these schools. Many will be conducted during the extended school day or week. The goal is to take every student on a three field trips a month.
5. We will assign significantly more Family Support Workers and they will have a set of students for whom they are responsible. They will address the individual barriers to these students' success. The goal is for each FSW to have a case load of 75 students and for them to bring their charges up to 95% attendance.
6. We will revise our school rules so they no longer criminalize male culture or African-American culture. The goal is to acknowledge that the school culture should reflect the culture of all of the school's community, and not just the teachers' culture.
7. We will make intentional efforts to motivate students. We will foster a culture within the schools that celebrates education, intelligence, creativity, and the life of the mind. Principals will be required to establish a culture plan and implement it.
8. We will make intentional efforts to motivate students by granting them greater opportunities to exercise autonomy, achieve mastery, and to work in service to a goal greater than themselves. These opportunities will be counted and monitored. Goal to be determined.
9. We will provide individualized instruction for the students who need it. This may come during the school day, during class time, during small group time, in a pull-out, in a push-in, or in the afternoon, morning, or Saturday.
10. The schools must assiduously adhere to the MTSS practices of data collection, review, data sharing, collaboration, the quick application of interventions, and the escalation of interventions as necessary. The smaller class sizes are intended to allow this.
11. These schools will be treated like Creative Approach Schools. Teachers who choose to teach in these schools must agree to work in concert with the culture of the school.
12. The teachers must feel supported. Principals at these schools must retain the confidence of their teaching staff to retain their positions. They will be subject to swift replacement if they fail to be effective leaders.

There. How's that for an action plan with some actual action in it?
Charlie Mas said…
@Sour Grapes, before I offer any facts to support the statement that historical racism exists, I have to know, what facts would you accept? If there was proof of historical racism, what would it look like?

I don't want to be in the position of offering up a bunch of data only to have you respond that it doesn't prove anything. So tell us, what would be proof of historical racism?
Anonymous said…
Charlie -- Good start. I would add that in their next contract negotiation, SPS should incentivize teachers to teach in schools with large populations of historically underserved students. It has always amazed me they don't do this.

Charlie, there's the action plan for the country.

These are the real, intimate items that are kid-focused (not data-focused, kid-focused) that will move the needle for all students.
Anonymous said…
"no longer criminalize male culture or African-American culture."

Really? Do you mean black male culture(BMC), like that which is shown on MTV? Africa has NOTHING to do with these men, unless they are African transplants. Have any of you ever spoken to an African young man (AYM) in Seattle? I think you would be surprised by what a AYM thinks of the BMC here and around the US.

The BMC legitimized by MTV has NO place in Seattle public schools.

Can someone articulate which BMC attributes we wont criminalize?

Sour Grapes
Tresanos said…
Charlie, as a teacher I LOVE your action steps. I know many teachers who are working to reduce gaps by including similar elements in the structure of their classrooms. Charlie knows this but did not state so I will in support of his suggestions-- each of his suggestions has significant evidence behind it, often years of uncontroverted research, demonstrating that such action steps are likely to reduce opportunity and achievement gaps. We know what to do. In some cases it will take $, in other cases political will-- or both. The only thing I'd add to Charlie's suggestions is a complete overhaul of school breakfast, similar to lunch overhaul that occurred around a decade ago. Students living in poverty in Seattle are still fed a high-sugar, low-protein, low calorie breakfast through the school nutrition program. Half a cup of cheerios and some milk does not cut it. Students need significant protein at breakfast to feel good and learn (especially if dinner the night before was not filling). Another thing I'd add to Charlie's fabulous list is increased unstructured active time for students. Lots of research behind bursts of self-directed activity supporting cognitive growth. Thanks also Charlie for pointing to the potential of MTSS. Other districts that have put muscle behind RTI and PBIS are seeing significant results where data is truly examined carefully and interventions are implemented with fidelity to the research supporting them.
Anonymous said…
"1. We are going to dramatically reduce class sizes in schools with high concentrations of students from historically underperforming groups. The goal is a maximum class size of 17."

It seems like you are advocating for "separate and not equal" systems and you will decided by your criteria who will get the betterment.

Sour Grapes
I had commented last night but it wasn't here this morning so I'll try to restate what I said.

1) I believe this initiative has been a year or more in the making but there was never any real effort to let anyone know it was happening.

2) I believe there is a community group made up of adults who are African-American males that help guide this work (I cannot seem to find or remember the name of the group.)

3) This program seemed to be shepherded by Charles Wright, Harium Martin-Morris and Stephan Blanford. (Director Martin-Morris mentioned this effort over the last year but I remember wondering why it wasn't a focus for him the other seven years he was in office.)

4) Looking at the stats, all the group the district wants to better-serve have academic issues. There is no one group that commands all the worst outcomes. I think that was the issue for Peaslee and Patu. They didn't care if the focus started with AA males but wanted it noted that other groups will need to see their outcomes rise as a result of this work.

Sour Grapes, you seem to be annoyed this is happening nad/or that societal issues outside of the classroom are not be addressed. I cannot speak to the latter - it doesn't appear to be part of this discussion of work.

I think the larger issue is the ignoring poverty is folly if you want to change academic outcomes for under-served groups.

I would disagree that there is no racism at SPS. I think there is but how and where it translates out is another subject. However, I don't work for SPS so it's harder for me to judge.
Anonymous said…
There is no evidence of systemic racism at SPS. Some level of racism does exist, but it's not just a black and white issue and it's not a white oppressing black issue.

For anyone to say there's "targeted racism against black American males" in SPS is unfounded and serves no purpose, except to advance someones agenda.

Sour Grapes
I think many would disagree with you, including me, Sour Grapes, but you are entitled to your opinion.
Anonymous said…
From what you've posted, you currently do not have any students attending SPS, so your experience is subjective at best.

My students attend schools with a large population of non Caucasian students and there are no systemic racial issues...none.

We haven't see or heard of one racial issue in 10 years at 6 different schools. Perhaps the "systematic racism" you and your "many" insist exist must occur at the other 91 schools in the district?

I also suppose the school board members of color simply have ignored the "systematic racism" in the Seattle school district.

I'm trying to understand what is driving this "in my opinion" a "fairy tale" of "systemic racism" and what part you play in it.

Why does a middle aged, apparently unemployed, white women get from running this blog and persisting such a derogatory views of the district's staff and families?

I think it's a very fair question and it's not meant to be an attack, so I ask you, what do you get out of it?

Sour Grapes
Carol Simmons said…
I commend the District for the Goal and the Action Plan (as ambitious as it is) I only wish it could have been extended to other underserved groups. Amendment 2, which was offered by Directors Patu and Peasless and supported by Peters, would have at least named other disproportionately affected groups, while keeping the emphasis on Black Males.

Many of Charlie's action item suggestions were recommended in the First Disproportionality Task Force These recommendations were adopted by the School Board in 1975, but never implemented in the schools.

The first group of underserved students that was brought to the attention of the District were Black students. A task force was formed by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Collin Williams in 1975 and chaired by Alex Stevens to study the disproportionality that existed between Black and white students in academic achievement. Later discipline sanctions, drop out and push out rates were examined and recorded. A District Data Profile was published ( discontinued in 2010) and other groups such as "Bilingual" and Special Education students were included in the disproportionality data.

There were some educators/administrators/community members that supported this data recording effort. There were many others who did not. District wide human relations training was implemented throughout the District. Cultural/ethnic/training was included. Desegregation was achieved without a court order and in many schools, integration was achieved. However, groups formed and insisted on school assignment plans where students could walk to school Busing was eliminated and neighborhood school assignments were put into place. Many Black students who had been bused to north end schools were suffering from suspensions at the end of the bus ride and their parents and others joined in the desire for neighborhood school assignments. This re segregated many schools and the recommended goals of the Disproportionality Task Forces were ignored and/or eliminated. Cultural/ethnic curriculum had not been representative unless there was a "cultural specific" school like the African American Academy or Indian Heritage School. The AAA had a higher level of academic success and fewer drop outs for Black males than those enrolled in "traditional" schools. The Indian Heritage School success rate is well documented. Both schools although successful were closed by the District.

Finally, the Black community got tired of waiting. Africa Town was built. And now the Black male Initiative has been approved. Community members got tired of waiting for equal,let along equitable treatment to be achieved and they organized. They met with the District administrators to formally address the disproportionality that continued to exist.

There are other groups who are getting tired of waiting also.

GarfieldMom said…
Sour Grapes, you might choose to ignore it, but systemic racism exists in SPS. Claiming it doesn't makes you look foolish and uneducated.
SPS Mom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
SPS Mom said…
ne thing that Melissa gets from running this blog is the undying appreciation from hundreds of parents who, because of this blog, have a way to get and share information about this district. This district is a better organization because of this blog.
Anonymous said…
Sounds like it's a very good time to split this district. If you think our district is going to have small class sizes for BLACK male students and large class sizes for the rest, then you are fools. Tell me, how is Seattle segregated? Are you falsely claiming Seattle is segregated by race? and what exactly is a "cultural specific" school? Have you bothered to see what programs schools offer in Africa? Have you ever spoken to an educated African? I think not.

I can see there's little hope as long as white middle class liberal women continue to try and run this district from the outside.

Anonymous said…
"This district is a better organization because of this blog."

Really? You mean it could be worst?

Sour Grapes, ALL parents' experience, past or present, is subjective. C'mon.

ESIW, of course Seattle is segregated. There was massive red-lining for decades here. Why do you think neighborhoods, for the most part, look as they do? Really, go join the conversation over at Publicola and Crosscut where this issue has been widely discussed since the HALA report.

I am not interested in running this district nor is this issue is not about me. (And again, I always smile at people who think they can look at someone and know what their race and upbringing is. I'm not all white and I was raised in a mostly minority area.)

If you have a problem with this initiative, I'm not the one to take it up with - that's the Board and the district.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous GarfieldMom said...

"Sour Grapes, you might choose to ignore it, but systemic racism exists in SPS. Claiming it doesn't makes you look foolish and uneducated."

Like I wrote, it must happen at the 91 other schools, but go ahead and prove it.

And just so we are all on the same page, define "systemic racism" and declare which "races" are being targeted.

Sour Grapes
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
"ESIW, of course Seattle is segregated. There was massive red-lining for decades here. Why do you think neighborhoods, for the most part, look as they do? Really, go join the conversation over at Publicola and Crosscut where this issue has been widely discussed since the HALA report."

Oh I see, because a community won't let low income housing in , then they are naturally racist.

Go talk to your buddy over in Laurelhurst, my neighborhood is well diversified.

Sadly, I think we have reached the end of reasonable discussion on this topic.
Charlie Mas said…
Three responses to Sour Grapes:

1. I asked what evidence you would accept that would prove that historical racism existed. You could not or would not answer. Instead, you said “There is no evidence of systemic racism at SPS.

Well, I guess if there is no evidence that you would accept, then you would have to conclude that there is no such evidence. But is that based on your refusal to accept any evidence or on the actual absence of evidence? Take a moment and consider what I asked you: What evidence you would accept? Consider this: If there were systematic racism, what would it look like?

2. You wrote:
"1. We are going to dramatically reduce class sizes in schools with high concentrations of students from historically underperforming groups. The goal is a maximum class size of 17."

It seems like you are advocating for "separate and not equal" systems and you will decided by your criteria who will get the betterment.

Yes. That is precisely what I am advocating. Equality means that each student gets the same. Equity means that each student gets what they need. Since students all need something different, equity and equality are opposites. I’m pursuing equity in education, not equality.

3. You wrote:
"no longer criminalize male culture or African-American culture."

Really? Do you mean black male culture(BMC), like that which is shown on MTV? Africa has NOTHING to do with these men, unless they are African transplants. Have any of you ever spoken to an African young man (AYM) in Seattle? I think you would be surprised by what a AYM thinks of the BMC here and around the US.

The BMC legitimized by MTV has NO place in Seattle public schools.

Can someone articulate which BMC attributes we wont criminalize?

I was very clear about what I meant. I wrote: “The goal is to acknowledge that the school culture should reflect the culture of all of the school's community, and not just the teachers' culture.” Since, as you write, the students’ culture is not the culture depicted on MTV, then of course I didn’t mean that culture.

Your failure to understand a simple statement and your outlandish interpretation of it suggests that you are being intentionally obtuse. That’s neither helpful nor productive to the conversation and reflects an interest in derailing the discussion or ending it rather than contributing to it. I'm a little curious about why you would want to derail this conversation and a little sad that you were successful in that effort.

As for cultural attributes that we should not criminalize, I can offer some examples:

A. Moving around. Boys are kinetic. It is unreasonable to expect boys to sit still in a chair at a desk for hours on end. What harm does it do the class if they move around a little bit? They need time and opportunity to do so.

B. Self-defense. In both male culture and African-American culture people are expected to defend themselves when attacked. It is, in fact, virtuous to do so. Our school rules do not distinguish between the one who started the fight and a participant who was attacked and defended himself.

C. Students who defend themselves from teachers are seen as insubordinate. Teachers sometimes don’t recognize when they have insulted a student of another culture and are shocked by the student’s response. The teacher might not even recognize it as a response but as an action initiated by the student. A review may reveal that the teacher initiated the incident.

D. Social talking. African-American culture is a talkative culture. Again, let’s create time in the class when it is okay for the students to talk and collaborate.

These are just a few examples. I'm sure there are others that you, as a person who is in touch with African-American culture, can identify.

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools