Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Superintendent? Maybe, Maybe Not

 Update: from Mirmac1.

RFP for a Superintendent Search firm was published 10/13. Proposals due the 30th

I would guess that means the majority of the Board decided we need a new superintendent.

End of update

Today sees a Work Session  Session with two topics; high school policies and the 2016-2017 Program Review Reports.  However the updated agenda shows two interesting things.

One, documents are actually attached.  I was just told that they would only be attaching documentation to agenda for the actual Board meetings.  I guess not.  Altogether there are 218 pages.

Two, an Executive Session has been added with the multi-purpose title -  To Evaluate the Performance of a Public Employee. 

Soup for Teachers is reporting it's about an RFP to fund the search for a new superintendent .  I find this odd that anyone would know the exact details of an Executive session.  These sessions are confidential for a reason and I have never been able to get details (except to confirm it wasn't about one or another topic).  I have to wonder who might have allowed details of the meeting to get out - a member of the Board or a staff member.

Superintendent Nyland did not get a second extension on his contract.  He himself came on saying he was an interim - they had to pull him out of retirement.  He got one extension but now, this district and this city deserve a real search for a true visionary leader.

But I am hearing there is pushback in some quarters on this.  The new Board as configured after Nov. 4th deserves to find a new leader for this district and those leaving the Board or even those continuing on should accept that.

Work Sessions

Page 2 has the memo on the high school policies about graduation.

Page 3 is the Powerpoint on the high school policies - The timeline for secondary re-visioning and the transition to 24 credits.  Middle and high school parents, you might want to take the time to read this.

Page 21 - Program Review of International and Dual Language Immersion (I have not read this.)  Page 77 starts it up again after the review of Spectrum. 

Page 43 - Program Review of Advanced Learning/Spectrum.  It continues on page 162.   I have not read this part of the review.

My take is that they want to keep the overwhelming majority of advanced learners in their neighborhood school.  (see page 76)

I have skimmed this.  The BS page is page 52 where they say MTSS should "be able to accommodate advanced learners."

MTSS isn't even fully rolled out.  MTSS needs a manager so how can it be able to manage a new level of complexity?  If having ALOs didn't do what needed to be done for advanced learners, why MTSS?

Also page 59 has some skewed thinking and unbalanced research references.

Page 69 says that teachers are interested in differentiation using technology.   Yes, but you'd have to be careful that it's not just busywork. One quote - from a principal was telling - no more work packets and "It's differentiated homework without even thinking about it. That's off the teacher's plate..."
That statement made me shudder.  Does every kid have technology at home?  That would probably make the equity gap even bigger.

Not one single word about the presentation from De Bonte at the Work Session this past spring who the Board hosted.  But staff knows best.


Robert Cruickshank said...

"It's differentiated homework without even thinking about it. That's off the teacher's plate..."

That means it's *not* instruction. For anything to be instruction, it must be led by a teacher and on their plate.

This district is careening toward a conversion to replacing teachers with iPads and I don't see nearly enough people paying attention to this or fighting back against it.

Anonymous said...

Schools need more 'boots on the ground' not fewer. Also, performance gaps between cohorts of students will not be closed with e-devices. That takes human tutors and teachers.


Ed said...

This board, like the rest, is so totally buried in minutia and fluff by the administration, they will not act until forced and allowed.

Anonymous said...

I actually find this board to pretty functional. The constant reactive nature/series of emergencies in the district does limit how much long range work they can do.

Note: the board only hires/evaluates a single employee: the superintendent. I'm not sure why the agenda is so coy about it. Of course this is related to the replacement search or pressure has forced them to offer a contract renewal after all.


Anonymous said...

Replacing teachers with technology would be a big mistake. How does a computer teach reading, writing or critical thinking? Also, I would love to see a breakdown of the cost of bringing in computers to every classroom - including the cost of maintenance, software upgrades, technology support, and life-cycle replacement. I doubt that it will save the district a huge amount of money - and if the district skimps on any support or upgrades, what use is a bunch of barely functioning computers in every classroom?

-NW Mom

David said...

Doesn't it seem like the organizational structure of the district is part of the problem with all this stuff? The board seems to have very little enforceable oversight power. I actually don't understand if that's because of the way the district is set up (ie the oversight power doesn't exist) or because of the way the board chooses to function (ie the board doesn't do its job). Staff rarely get called to task by the board, certainly not in any meaningful way. I think we would have a more responsive district if that changed.

Wondering said...

How did Soup for Teachers receive confidential information?

Anonymous said...

I need help understanding what the following translate to:
1) Removal of 150 hours per credit requirement
2) In the slide "How do the 24 Credit Graduation Requirements Add Up?" There's only 3 credits for Math, 3 for SS, and 3 for Science, does that mean that you have to use electives or the PPR to have Math, SS and Science every year?
As usual,

Anonymous said...

The elimination of the 150 hours per credit requirement is very concerning, especially combined with the timeline of new high school programming for 2018. Where in the 24 Credit requirement is the pathway for students who want to be ready for a competitive college - 4 years of science, math, and SS, plus 3 years of world language? Classes can barely cover material in the time they have now, and classes might be even shorter??

Enough with the "deeper learning" BS. I'm not buying it. It's code for lowering standards.


Outsider said...

Regarding differentiation by technology -- welcome to reality. Spend a day in a neighborhood school and you will see clearly that:
1) very little advanced learning exists.
2) 95% of the advanced learning that does exist depends on computers.
3) on a practical basis, neither of the above facts could ever change, even if there was a will among teachers and principals, which there isn't.

MTSS is a cumbersome process, and the staff don't even have time or energy to handle all the traumatized, troubled, under-performing students. MTSS will never do anything for advanced learning, not ever (except get those students parked in front of a computer even more so the teacher has time to deal with the MTSS process for the strugglers).

In SPS, advanced learning = computers, and be grateful you even get that. Advanced learning by interaction with a human teacher is like unicorns in Shangri-La, fun to talk about if you have nothing at stake.

Anonymous said...

@ Clueless,

Re: #1, that means districts have flexibility in how they reward credits. They could, for example, decide that all current classes are worth 1.25 credits per year instead of one, and voila!, problem solved for most. Or they could decide that they'll go to a 7-period day, with each class shorter than now--say 45 minutes each for 180 days, or 135 hrs per year. Kids won't get any more time to cover things--and will possibly get less--but we'll award more credits and act like we're covering more.

Re: #2, Yes. You only need 3 math and 3 science and 3 social studies to graduate, so any you take beyond that come from your flexible areas--PPR and electives. With the added Health requirement (increased from 1 to 2), students have 4 elective credits, and a little flexibility via the PPR. That basically makes it impossible to take 4 years of math, SS, and science (uses 3 electives), 3 years foreign language (uses last elective), and 4 years of music (since only have 2 arts spots left). That could change if we make district-wide changes based on #1 above, but given the current system of 1 credit per year per course and 6 courses per day, you have 24 slots. Four years each of math, science, SS and English use 16. CTE and Health use 3 more, leaving 5 for the rest. Since you have to do at least 2cr each of arts and foreign language with those remaining 5, you basically get 2 years of one and 3 of the other--and that's assuming you don't try any other electives. It kind of sucks.

I suppose one way around it might be via Running Start or summer college classes or approved online classes, since then you could earn credits at a faster rate and/or expand the number of credits you can take. But it would be a shame if students were FORCED to work outside the SPS system to get a good slate of classes--not to mention that would disproportionately benefit those with the greatest ability to navigate outside opportunities. We need a better solution, and they really need to get cracking on the outreach to really, "for realsies" engage parents this time.

Hurry-up Offense

Anonymous said...

@ parent, Yes, it absolutely amounts to a lowering of standards. Not just a decrease in the amount of time (and thus coverage) for each class, but the district is also planning to eliminate the 2.0 GPA requirement for graduation. But hey, our graduation rate will increase, so that must mean we're doing better, right?


Anonymous said...

Most colleges require 4 years of math and science. This does not appear to align with that.


Anonymous said...

@ Hurry-up, thank you
I think I might change my name from Clueless to Dismayed

Anonymous said...

According to the state, PPR credits may replace one of two arts credits and both world language credits, in any combination of these credits up to a total of three PPR credits. Students can also get PE waivers with participation in athletics (though the later release times are making sports participation more difficult...).


Eric B said...

My dream is that the superintendent's contract requires that their pay be docked if staff are not following policy and/or lying to the board and are called on it. I think that if there were meaningful consequences at the top, bad behavior lower down the ranks would stop pretty fast.

Anonymous said...

The last thing we need is a new "visionary" leader. SPS isn't messed up because it doesn't have a vision. It's messed up because the culture doesn't drive anything to completion. We need an operationally focused leader that can voice a few, easily understood goals, and hold the people in the organization accountable for achieving them.

Fed up

Anonymous said...

Yes to Eric B. Yes to Fed up.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Fed Up, well, sure. I just want someone to be able to communicate that to both parents and staff and follow thru.

Eric, I consistently say that the Board says, "I do not have the information I asked for in order to vote. Therefore I will be voting no." Or "I have asked why Policy X is not being followed and there has been no clear answer. I will be voting no." Enough no votes will make staff understand the Board means business.

SusanH said...

I was going to wait for the Friday open thread for this question, but since we are talking about new graduation requirements: my 10th grader at Garfield says the word on the street is that there will be 7 periods starting next year. Any truth to that? Or is it still being worked out? He was deciding to not take health online since voila, next year there will be additional periods for electives and he'll be able to fit everything in...

Anonymous said...

If all advanced learning is returned to neighborhood schools, I genuinely do not understand how differentiated learning would work in an elementary school classroom. If there’s no advanced learning, how would a 2nd grade teacher manage teaching reading to 25 kids – some of whom may still be learning how to read, some of whom are reading at grade level (simple books), some of whom can read chapter books – and then some 2nd graders who are reading Harry Potter. Other than that the kids who are above standard will be left on their own so the teacher can focus on kids who need the most support? Same with math. I guess it can somewhat work if you have multiple sections of “walk to reading” and “walk to math” – but then you need to have schools that support that – and a number of them don’t.


Anonymous said...

A 7 period day would mean classes less than 50 min each, with no break other than lunch and passing periods. Would all high schools then move to block scheduling 2 days per week in order to do lab based classes? Would zero period classes be incorporated into the 7 period day? I have to admit I'm torn - they simply won't be able to cover as much in each class and I fear teachers will either increase the HW load to make up for the lost class time or reduce what gets covered (especially hard for AP classes). If each class is still worth 1 credit, would students be able to opt for a study hall for one of the periods? How do teachers feel about the possibility of a 7 period day?


Patrick said...

I had a 7-period day in high school. Classes were blocked. Periods 1, 3, 5 met Mondays and Wednesdays for 90 minutes. Periods 2, 4, 6 met Tuesdays and Thursdays for 90 minutes. Period 7 met every day, and all 7 periods met on Fridays. I was really glad to have another elective slot. Some people had a study hall period instead (or went home early or long lunch, etc.).

Anonymous said...

@ SusanH, it's just rumor at this point, so hard to say. The only public documents on it say they are working to implement the task force's recommendations, but they recommended moving to a 3x5 schedule. Word on the street is that principals nixed this idea (thankfully!), but there's never been any official word as to what they plan to do instead. I think they are planning to make a decision later this year or early next year, so it can implemented for the 2018/19 school year.

RE: your son's decision, he can probably pull it off either way. If they do add a 7th period and he wants to spend it in health class, great. If they don't, he can still do an online class then, right? It's probably not all that much work--and he should know before the summer, so could always do it then.

Hurry-up Offense

Anonymous said...

Jane, your 2nd grade example is already happening. My 2nd grader's class has kids reading at all different levels. Not all advanced readers even qualify for HCC, even if they wanted to move. K classes have kids who are just learning letters to kids who are reading at a 2nd to even 4th grade reading level. Testing nominations were due 2 weeks into K so even if many of those advanced kids could qualify for HCC, if their parent didn't know to self nominate, they will be very advanced in at least K and 1st.

I don't think the real answer is HCC as it stands (though I think something is needed for *some* of those kids), but some level of walk-to/differentiation/assistants/smaller class sizes would be really beneficial for many kids and teachers. It is a huge strain for a single person to try to accommodate all learners.

NE Parent

Elsa said...

Another vote for Eric B.

The board has nothing to lose anymore.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

I agree with Eric's sentiment, however to me this is a basic responsibility of the Superintendent. If the Super cannot ensure staff follow policy and tell the truth via disciplinary measures he/she should have their contract terminated for cause.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, wait a second. HCC kids all take the same test how to do this?

"Though I think something is needed for *some* of those kids.."

Raise the bar? What?

It's as if some people want kids to be off the charts smart in order to get any services. Just being smart (not "bright") isn't good enough.

"It is a huge strain for a single person to try to accommodate all learners."

Right and no MTSS is going to change that.

At last night's forum, a very determined teacher had the last question. She said that at her school, a class of Sped kids had no permanent teacher. They has subs and, on good days, there might the same sub for a couple days but on bad days, no sub. (Not sure how that works.)

She asked candidates what they would do.

Omar Vasquez tried to flip the question back to her, "Let me ask you a question."

To which she replied, "NO, I'm asking you the question."

He said well, wait, what if we paid good teachers a bonus or higher pay for these classes.

Clearly irritated she said, "You aren't listening. More money is not going to lower a too-large workload or provide the supports." Meaning, not just a good teacher but more than that.

Every school - if the district is trying to keep as many kids at their local school as possible - will then need supports to help the varied kinds of learners.

That's just common sense. Is that going to happen? I doubt it.

Jet City mom said...

My daughter attended class where there was not a sub.
Occasionally two classes would be in the cafeteria and a teacher and volunteer parents would supervise.
It might also mean that an adult staff person, but who was not a certificated substitute would supervise and in some instances the principal would teach the class.

As far as SPED classes go, my daughter was not in self contained, but it wasnt unusual according to parents who do have children in self contained classrooms, for an aide to be in charge of the class for days at a time.

Anonymous said...

When NE Parent said "I don't think the real answer is HCC as it stands (though I think something is needed for *some* of those kids), but some level of walk-to/differentiation/assistants/smaller class sizes would be really beneficial for many kids and teachers" I interpreted it as RAISING the qualification bar for an HCC-like program in order to shrink it, then effectively LOWERING the service bar in terms of what those newly ineligible would get, since differentiation is rarely provided (and even more rarely provided well) and more assistants and smaller class sizes aren't feasible in this economic environment. Basically it sounds like sending a lot of kids back to neighborhood schools where they likely won't be well-served, allowing only a small group to continue access to some form of HCC.

How many of the teachers who don't support HCC are opposed partly out of self interest? Getting an infusion of high-performing students might be good for their stats, and think of all the extra help they can get in the classroom with all these mini-teachers? It made me think back to my elementary days, when I spent more than 50% of the day outside of my classroom, helping various school staff. I spent many recesses grading the work of my classmates, entering data into the gradebook, and even completing report cards for my teacher (yes, for my own class). I also assisted in the 4th grade classroom during their math lessons; worked in the library checking in and re-shelving books; worked in the cafeteria setting up for lunch and collecting money/making change; helped in the front office; and helped the school nurse with health screenings and record-keeping. During the limited time I was in class, the only things I remember doing are word jumbles from the newspaper each day, and free reading--often of some risque stuff, but the teacher didn't pay any attention and there weren't any assignments on the reading. To be clear, I thought it was all kind of fun, but as far as academics go, it was a completely wasted year. When I think back now I value all the non-academic opportunities I had, but I feel terrible for those in my "cluster" who got nothing. They had placed six high-performing sixth graders in a class that was otherwise 5th graders, thinking that we wouldn't take a lot of the teacher's time. Turns out we got even less than that. It was probably a lot like what it would like today to have groups of HC students pushed into GE classrooms. Some teachers might do an ok job with differentiation, but most likely won't. They can't be expected to do it all.

Teach All

Anonymous said...

Teach All, fourth grade was much like that for me too. I read books most of the time which I thought was awesome but I didn't learn anything new. It was until I went to the gifted program in 5th grade that I was challenged.


Anonymous said...

I was happy I stayed in General Ed through 4th grade because I had a lot of social skills that I needed to "learn". Keeping me in a classroom with a diverse population definitely helped with that.

And that is why I am choosing to keep my kids in their neighborhood school for elementary school as well.

-Another viewpoint

Anonymous said...

@Another viewpoint, kids can learn social skills in HCC classrooms, too.

Teach All

Anonymous said...

I think that there are some kids in HCC who truly need advanced education. Not strict acceleration, but different education. I think that the kids who work 2+ years ahead in Gen Ed and don't qualify deserve way more than they get (which varies from some walk-to acceleration to nothing depending on where in the city you live) and I think that kids who are behind need support, of which what you get also varies significantly depending on where you live.

I'm not saying that kids who have high aptitude do not need differentiated education. But I am saying that there are clearly kids who just miss the cut for a variety of reasons (or who squeak into it by private testing) who aren't being well served.

A strict acceleration program really seems quite weak compared to what other places are doing and looking at the wide variety of learning needs. I think it's better than nothing (which is why so many people fight to get into it), but it really seems to me that we could do way more and actually serve a lot more kids a lot better.

NE Parent

Anonymous said...

As an HCC parent, I'm not under the impression that a lot of people fight to get into the program. NE parent seems to discribe a program full of students not really worthy or needing to be there. I'd like to see the data on this claim because it doesn't seem that way from our vantage point.

Reality Check

Melissa Westbrook said...

"A strict acceleration program really seems quite weak compared to what other places are doing and looking at the wide variety of learning needs. I think it's better than nothing (which is why so many people fight to get into it), but it really seems to me that we could do way more and actually serve a lot more kids a lot better."


I'm not sure that NE Parent described a program full of kids who don't need to be there but rather, what are we calling highly capable? Is it just acceleration needed for some? Acceleration plus a deep dive plus cohort for others?

As well, the point also is that this district knows there are kids of color who could benefit from this program and is unable to find/enroll them. Not good.

mirmac1 said...

RFP for a Superintendent Search firm was published 10/13. Proposals due the 30th

Anonymous said...

What about the superintendent in Everett who has ACTUALLY improved data by increasing graduation rates dramatically? I've also heard decent things about the superintendent in Tacoma. Please not Tolley and I'll take out a loan for private if it's Herndon.

Small Shoes

Melissa Westbrook said...

Small Shoes, I asked the guy in Everett. He's happy where he is but who knows? He would be one of my top picks.

Sandy said...

I'm so relieved they're going to look for a new superintendent. Maybe we can get one who doesn't mock some of the families/students and kiss up to others and one who's not a criminal. It'd be nice if we got one who could shepherd the district into the modern era by helping refocus education to be less eurocentric and more welcoming and empowering and inclusive, while at the same time understanding that students come to school with varying levels of readiness and capacity and that any combination of skills and traits can occur in any demographic and the schools need to meet the kids where they're at and teach them from there even if they're not (gasp) all exactly the same as each other. It'd be nice to have a superintendent who's not anti-intellectual and at the same time realizes that there are great local jobs in the trades (electricians, plumbers, welders, pipefitters, fire suppression installation, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Amen, Sandy!