Board Work Session on Executive Directors/24-Credit Graduation Requirement

I attended the Work Session yesterday and was there for all the section on Executive Directors but only 30 minutes of the 24-Credit Graduation requirement.  Agenda plus PowerPoint for each topic.

All the Board members were in attendance as well as Superintendent Nyland and other senior staff.
 Executive Directors
This discussion was led by Chief of Schools, Mike Starosky.  I wish I could say this in a better way but this effort was an epic fail.  He has advanced training in leadership and yet managed to take a the short 45-minutes for the topic and let it almost entirely slip away. 

All the Executive Directors were there but Kelly Aramaki.  For whatever reason, Mr. Starosky thought it would be a good idea to allow each Ex director to introduce him/herself and talk about their journey to this job.  It could be helpful for directors to know the background of these staff members but that information could have been written down and distributed.  So between the preamble and the introductions, there went 20 minutes of the 45 minutes.

Then we had five minutes of Mike Tolley explaining how this role all started about nine years ago.  

What was a little funny is that the PowerPoint for this topic was longer than the one for the 24-credits.  Mr. Starosky also accidentally put in a slide for Special Education and even stuck in a "joke" slide (slide 27.)  Apparently he didn't consider that this PowerPoint would be read by others who were not at the meeting and would not get that joke.  Another interesting slide was #10 where he leaves out Advanced Learning as part of "Teaching and Learning."

We finally got to start with the actual talking about the job.  Starosky talked about how their job was "complicated" and how important school leadership is.  He also said that there were "no documented instances of failing schools turning around without powerful leadership." 

Director Peters, seeing time slip away, broke in to ask some questions.

1.  Has having Executive Directors made a significant difference in how principals lead our schools?

Starosky either forgot or ignored this question but it was never answered.

2. Has there been a survey of principals (confidential) about how they feel Ex. directors help guide and support their work?  

The answer is yes (I'll have to ask for the survey and its results.) Starosky said that the Ex directors now have standards for their work similar to the Danielson framework.  He said there were none until last year.   He also said that the role of EDs was rewritten last spring (I do not remember this being announced.) 

He and Mr. Tolley explained that one finding is that principals have a different idea about the term "brokering resources" than the EDs.  Apparently, principals think it is help in finding/solving problems at the district level while, according to staff, it means something else (he didn't expand on that.)

We have principals who are not on the same page with terminology as JSCEE staff?  Well, that's not good.

3. Peters said that parents had concerns about too many administrative positions at JSCEE with the EDs and principal coaches and Mr. Starosky and Michael Tolley.

That caused some shifting in chairs.  I know it was not easy for Director Peters to say those things out loud but yes, many have questioned all these people and their value to the process.

She also made the statement that she was a little sad that so many good people left being principals to become EDs.

What Starosky did say is that the principal coaches work with novice principals (less than three years as a principal) in a peer-to-peer non-evaluative role.   He also referenced the PASS contract and how there were some principals on "plans of improvement" and that the principal coaches were doing that work.  He said the principals had to show they were succeeding on their plans "or maybe they might choose another profession."    He said there were 51 novice principals in SPS.

He said that the EDs have the evaluative piece.

He said his job was there to "balance the operational side to Teaching & Learning"."  He also said that EDs are "leaders at Central Office."  I had no idea that was so.

Slides 12 and 13 outline what the EDs do but Slide 13 "Role Balance" makes it look like they give time to four different duties equally.  I'm not sure that's what he meant but we didn't even make it to that slide.

Director Harris asked about the "vertical alignment versus regional alignment" of EDs and said she would take her answer in the Friday memo. She asked for an org chart for building-based decisions versus JSCEE decisions and where that accountability is.  She said she has asked for this before.

Director Blanford asked about Slide 28 - "Span of Control" that showed the ratio of EDs to principals in SPS and other districts.   He said it really wasn't an apples to apples comparison because he knows the superintendent in Lake Washington and he knows the EDs there have different responsibilities.

Director Burke also gently called foul on this slide.

Peters chimed in that some principals were responsible for evaluating more than 20 teachers.

He said it was important to get clarity on principals because, in the past, former superintendent Olchefske had called them "CEOs" and that it didn't appear that was true today.

Peters then asked a question about the chain of command and help for school communities.  ED Jon Hafaker said it's "a balance in communication around the CBA."  He then went on to say something about the situation at Loyal Heights and there were a number of factors there including race.  I had no idea what he meant except possibly the equity lens that is now the go-to factor for JSCEE staff.

Director Pinkham had a question about CSIPs and losing principals.  Starosky said they lose more elementary principals but that would be true more because of their numbers relative to middle and high school. 

Slide 22 is called "Lack of Clarity in the Role."  No kidding.

24-Credits for Graduation
This was interesting because Slide #2 came right out and said:
Interrelated Initiatives 2017-2018: 
Transportation Standards, 24-Credits, Cascadia Capacity, Boundaries, Additional 20 Minutes and Late Arrival or Early Dismissal.  

Right away you can note that except for 24-Credits, these are mostly operational issues, not academic ones.

This discussion was led by Dan Gallagher who I don't know and it's not clear to me what his title is.   Also with him were principals from Hale (Jill Hudson) and West Seattle (Ruth Medsker) who are part of the team working on this issue.

Michael Tolley said they are working on surveys that should go out next week as part of community engagement.

Gallagher said that the district had ask for - and received - a two-year waiver on implementation of this issue but that the law did not allow for any more waivers.  So the current 8th graders (class of 2021) will be the first ones to have to pass the 24-credit mark for graduation.

Dr. Hudson referred to Slide 13 saying they are "re-visioning what the profile of a high school graduate" is.  She said they are seeking a "collaborative model" for principals and then said that principals had not met as a group in over six years.  How could that be?  The high school principals have not met as a group to collaborate/share successes and failures in the last six years?  

Software called Naviance was referenced as a tool that might help in this work .


Anonymous said…
Dear God. Sounds about like the Capacity Taskforce meeting two weeks ago where they wasted most of 90 minutes and finally touched on the Cascadia capacity problem during the final ten mins.

I am happy to see some leadership at the district publicly acknowledging the interrelated issue of neighborhood boundaries and the Cascadia capacity issues, because Flip and team act as though they are separate issues.

Will a board director please stand up and and call bullsh*t on this horse and pony show called neighborhood boundary community meetings? There is no way the plan as it stands is okay. No way!

Total Chaos
Po3 said…
1. Has having Executive Directors made a significant difference in how principals lead our schools?

3. Peters said that parents had concerns about too many administrative positions at JSCEE with the EDs and principal coaches and Mr. Starosky and Michael Tolley.

I must be having a mind meld today with Director Peters as those are my questions.
Anonymous said…
Dan Gallagher was the Science Program Manager. He is now the Director of College and Career Readiness.

-North-end Mom
Po3 said…
I know that the goal was not to increase APP/HCC diversity at TM, my question is: did it and if not then why not? Seems to me it should have.
Watching said…
" He said there were 51 novice principals in SPS."

We are looking at a lot of novice principals and principals need support. However, it doesn't make sense to take principals out of schools. Perhaps the district should hire those outside of the district to provide support.
Anonymous said…
Naviance was a tool my oldest kid's private high school used for college prep, college applications, etc. I think almost all the private high schools use it.

Anonymous said…
They are "re-visioning what the profile of a high school graduate is"? Uh-oh, this sounds bad.

Didn't the state kind of do that already, with the new core-24 requirements?

And when exactly do they plan to come up with this new vision? The first group of students impacted by the new requirement is signing up for high school this February, and they'll be picking classes a few months after that. As yet, however, SPS seems to have no idea how to address the new requirements, how to make sure students can get what they need. How about they focus FIRST on the various schedule options that are feasible, and THEN consider the implications for the "profile of a high school graduate," whatever that means?

Anonymous said…
Personally, I think powerpoint slide shows should be banned from all Board interactions. 99% of the time they convey nothing of value that couldn't be said in a 10 minute intro and then they all could just get to the dang meat of the question.

Which to me is: How is that pretty much everybody sees the EDs as a drain on financial resources, except SPS admin? Why does SPS need to be so top heavy when the point of all this folderol is the classroom - the place that always seems to comes last, dead last, in SPS budget considerations.

blood pressure went up a few points just reading this...

Anonymous said…
The problem is that the most logical solution to 24 high school credits is a near 7 hour / 7 period day which would cost a lot of money to implement.

Lynn said…
The reasonable solution for the 24 credit requirement is to implement more extensive credit recovery programs. This could include zero hour, after school, Saturday and summer school supervision of progress in online classes. That wouldn't have to be terribly expensive because supervision doesn't have to be provided by certified teachers.

The more complicated issue (and I can't believe they're not working on this) is coming up with personalized pathway classes and new science classes. The PP classes can be substituted for world language classes - these should be rolled out next year because there's already a shortage of world language teachers. The science classes don't have to begin until September of 2019.

Garfield's Honors for All program won't be workable next year. Students won't be able to take a noncredit-bearing reading support class during the school day because they'll have to earn six credits in their freshman year.
Anonymous said…
Does anyone know the process for getting high school credit for classes taken in middle school? This is clearly permissible per the state's webpage about the 24-credit graduation requirements. For example, many kids are doing Algebra I in 8th grade, so per state law they can get credit for it as a high school class. Also, the required semester of WA state history is done in middle school, so that should be .5 credits as well. It seems that it would be in the district's best interest to award as many credits for middle school classes as possible, as it gives some lee-way in case of scheduling issues in future years.

Mom of 4
Anonymous said…
@Mom of 4

I believe that any classes eligible for HS credit taken during MS automatically make it onto their transcripts. My kiddo took Alg 1 and WA State history in MS, and she passed the Alg EOC exam then as well (which doesn't apply now since they have to take SBAC). All ended up on her HS transcripts.

Whether the pathway to those classes in MS is accessible for many/most students is another question altogether though. My daughter was at WMS and I got the impression she was able to get into those classes b/c that was how the Spectrum program was administered. Since she was in MS, I understand that Spectrum has changed significantly (school to school) though so I can't speak to the current offerings. (My daughter graduated last year so our experience there was 2009-2011).

~(former)Franklin Parent
Anonymous said…
@ Lynn, but kids need at least two--and often three or four--years of a foreign language for some college. Taking PP classes instead of language could really hurt someone in the end.

Lynn said…
Yes HF. College entrance requirements haven't changed - but we've always had students who chose not to take languages in the past. Now students whose post-graduation plans don't require foreign language classes have to take them in order to graduate.

It seems to me that the state wants every student to meet the college entrance requirements before they graduate - unless they've made other specific post-graduation plans. Makes sense to me. I think we should offer useful alternatives to languages for those who want them.

On a practical note, high schools find it difficult to hire world language teachers already. If we don't provide alternatives, a school of 1,800 students would have to offer first and second year world language classes to 900 of them every year. (A school that size would require six full time language teachers for this.) I don't think that's possible. There'd be no way to provide third year and AP language classes either.
HS Math Teacher said…
@Mom of 4 - Students can and do receive certain MS credits (mostly math and foreign language), but can only do so if the middle school teacher was certified to teach high school math (that is to say, if they have a Mathematics 5-12 endorsement). Most MS math teachers have that endorsement, but some just have the Middle Level Mathematics or Elementary Education endorsement. Tough luck for the students who have those teachers.

In terms of adding those credits to the HS transcript, sometimes it happens automatically and sometimes it's a larger family decision, especially when those credits might affect GPA in a negative way. Washington State History is a HS graduation requirement, but non-credit bearing. Transcripts end up with a note saying that the requirement was met in MS, but no credit is brought forward on the HS transcript.
Anonymous said…
@ Mom of 4, be aware that there is a potential drawback to getting credit for classes taken in middle school. MS classes are graded on the 4-pt scale, whereas high schools generally weight honors classes an extra 0.5 pt and AP classes an extra 1.0 pt. I don't think the weighting affects GPA (they stick with 4.0 scale for that), but it does affect class rank. Including a couple MS courses, even if you got A's on them, would lower your rank compared to someone with all the same grades and classes in high school. Maybe not a big deal for most, but some kids might care. After all, it's the more advanced students who tend to take potentially credit-bearing high school classes in middle school.

Unless you're planning to graduate early, I don't see much value in getting a couple extra credits in in middle school. It might allow you some wiggle room in case you can't get a class later, but I'd rather see SPS come up with a strategy to ensure that students have reasonable opportunities to get their high school classes in high school. In the even that a student really can't get all 24 in HS, taking some college classes might be a better option--they'll be weighted higher, and will look better on your transcript.

TechyMom said…
There's value in it for a kid who wants to take more electives, or have a lighter course load.
Anonymous said…
@ TechyMom, maybe. But remember, the students who have the option of doing this are the ones who have been taking the most advanced coursework, and these are likely also the students most concerned about getting into good colleges. That means they are sill likely to want to take 3-4 years of science in high school, 4 years of math, etc. Taking more electives instead of core classes sounds fun, but might not be a good idea. Taking a lighter load could similarly work against them, as colleges like to see that you've taken challenging schedules. There are always exceptions, though, and students might be able to explain away any potential red flags. For example, if a student had a good reason for the lighter load (e.g., they were forced to work to help support the family, they were conducting research or starting a business on the side, etc.), it might be seen favorably.

seattle citizen said…
This from HF is THE issue:
"They are 're-visioning what the profile of a high school graduate is'?...Didn't the state kind of do that already, with the new core-24 requirements?
And when exactly do they plan to come up with this new vision? The first group of students impacted by the new requirement is signing up for high school this February, and they'll be picking classes a few months after that."
Anonymous said…
Hale already requires 23.5 credits to graduate. Maybe Dr. Hudson is looking into whether that can be applied at other high schools? A lot of kids at Hale actually end up graduating with 24 credits already. My kid graduated with at least 24.

Anonymous said…
HF- You are mistaken. It is NOT just kids who have been taking advanced coursework by which I suppose you mean HCC kids? There are buildings in general ed SPS middle school that offer strong educators and strong curriculum. Students can and do move out of basic math and science and English based on their general education middle school work and as Techy Mom points out there are valid reasons for doing so without worrying about the weighting of a high school class ranking. Let's thank the stars that the majority of families in our city are not so wound up about high school class ranking while their kids are in middle school that they fall prey to your worries. There is prepared and then there is setting up students to have mental breakdowns from that sort of pressure. The most valuable high school learning is not a fight to the Ninja warrior death to achieve a top class ranking. Sheesh.

Seen It
Lynn said…
Students who take Algebra, Geometry and Biology are the ones taking the most advanced courses
- which is exactly what HF said. You're the only one bringing HCC into it.

There are no middle schools in SPS that offer English classes that are eligible for high school credit.

Expecting a student to take four years each of English, math, science, history and a world language is not setting them up to have mental breakdowns. The homework load might do it - but that's on teachers not parents. What do you think a senior in high school should be learning?
Anonymous said…
@ Seen It, what Lynn said. Sheesh. Nothing I said was in absolutes, and it really is only HCC students who are eligible for high school credit for their middle school science. Algebra and Geometry can be take by non-HCC middle school students, but taking both in middle school puts them two years ahead of schedule--I'd call that advanced.

But maybe we're misinterpreting your outrage, as part of your statement makes no sense. You said that "students can and do move out of basic math and science and English based on their general education middle school work." Of course they do. Nobody suggested they don't. But if students are doing "general education middle school work" by taking "basic math and science and English" in middle school, why exactly should they be getting high school credit for that? That was what this conversation was about.

As to getting all wound up about high school rankings, your biases against anything that sounds remotely HCC are showing. I don't care it myself, but some students (HCC or not) do care about class ranking, so they deserve to know how taking credit for middle school classes might impact that in the end.

You seem to be missing the point, though. Do you really think that many of the students who take Algebra 1 and Geometry and Biology in middle school are going to want to have high school schedules that don't include very much math or science? I have a hard time believing that such a student is going to take Algebra II in 9th grade then call it quits as far as math is concerned, so they can take electives instead. Rather, a student who is that advanced in middle school is likely to want to go to a good college--and opting out of math in 10th through 12th grades isn't a great way to get there, right? They are going to want to take math in high school, in which case getting "credit" for middle school math probably didn't help them any--and may have hurt their ranking a little. But each student is different, and best pathways differ, too. To each his own.


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