Monday, January 14, 2019

Seattle Schools' New Strategic Plan (Draft)

 Update: Of interest for this discussion, the district's scorecard.

Previously, I wrote about the Work Session the Board had for new strategic plan.  I had said this (partial):

The first meeting to catch up on was a Work Session on October 29th which was a presentation by District Management Group (DMG), the consulting firm that will be directing the work for a new strategic plan under Superintendent Juneau.  All the Board members were present except for Director DeWolf and Director Patu.  Juneau noted this would be the first of several Work Sessions on this topic. 
The two DMG folks leading this effort are David James and Hosanna Mahaley.  They have worked with all sizes/types of districts across the nation.

I was somewhat thrilled with the first slide which talked about DMG's beliefs:
We believe that a district must focus on meeting all three of these objectives to achieve lasting results for students: Resource Allocation and Operational Efficiency to provide Student Outcomes.
So much hope and then comes the first draft

Here's the preceding paragraph to the draft which is key:
The new strategic plan will set the course for the district for the next three-to-five years and help us focus our resources, work, and initiatives. The draft plan below includes a short list of high-impact priorities and measurable goals focused on improving outcomes for students and embodies the word strategic. While our ongoing operational work to provide excellence to all of our students persists, this plan has clarity about what we are trying to accomplish for our historically underserved students and families.
I'll be upfront - I see nothing truly new in this first draft of the new Strategic Plan.  A more explicit nod to equity and cultural awareness but nothing I would call innovative or new.  In fact, you'd think there would be some acknowledgment of all that came before and how little the district has move the needle - in action, not just words - to create change.

Frankly, this sounds like a Plan of Action more than a Strategic Plan.  For me the difference is that a Plan of Action is how to carry out the Strategic Plan and where to start.  But the Strategic Plan should include every single student in the district.  

Overall, I don't know if the consultants realize it  but parents and communities have heard these goals before.  They do not ring new or true when they are just words that have been updated and rearranged. 

Draft Priorities and Measurable Goals

Priority 1: High-Quality Instruction and Learning Experiences
Educate the whole child through high-quality instruction and learning experiences that accelerate growth for students of color who are furthest from educational justice, with an intentional focus on African American males.

We will address the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral strengths and needs of students, including providing high-quality, culturally responsive instruction and social-emotional learning supports.
Oh great, yet another term to define - "educational justice."  Still waiting for the district to define "equity."

Also, did they ever define "high-quality?"  I suppose that I, like many current parents in the system, forget all the lingo that gets thrown out.

Priority 2: Operational Systems
Develop operational systems that result in Seattle Public Schools providing a predictable, consistent, high-quality experience for students and families that allows them to focus on learning.

We will operate central office and school functions in a service-oriented, effective manner. We will ensure that every operational team establishes and consistently meets high service levels that provide students and families the information and daily experience that results in a safe and productive school day.
There's that phrase "high-quality" this time for "experience."  Should we start a Yelp for Seattle Schools?

Priority 3: Culturally Responsive Workforce
Develop a culturally responsive workforce so all teachers, leaders, and staff effectively support students and families.

We will recruit a diverse workforce using proven local and national best practices, focus on the retention of educators of color, and continue to nurture culturally responsive mindsets and capabilities with all team members so there is a warm, welcoming environment.
Priority 4: Engagement
Conduct inclusive and authentic engagement that incorporates the experiences and perspective of students, families, and communities who are furthest from educational justice.

We will proactively and consistently work in partnership with these communities (not for these communities) in identifying needs, determining solutions, and supporting implementation of the initiatives that will best meet the needs of students of color who are furthest from educational justice. We will use engagement methodologies that are appropriate for the communities with whom we partner in order to build trusting relationships.
I can say that this is the most I've seen the district articulate family engagement but I'm not sure I know what that would look like in practice.

Strategic Plan Community Meetings Additional meetings will be included as dates and locations are confirmed.

Tues., Jan. 15, 5:30 - 7 p.m.
Latinx community-focused meeting
Casa Latina Seattle
317 17th Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98144

Thurs., Jan. 17, 12 - 2 p.m.
Co-hosted with Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC)
Rainier Avenue Church
5900 Rainier Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98118

Thurs., Jan. 17, 5 - 6:30 p.m.
African American community-focused meeting
South Lake High School
8601 Rainier Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98118

Fri., Jan. 18, 5 - 6:30 p.m.
Co-hosted with Chinese Information Service Center (CISC)
Chinese Information Service Center
611 S. Lane St., Seattle, WA 98104

Tues., Jan. 22, 5:30 - 7 p.m.
Co-hosted with Somali Moms and Horn of Africa
New Holly Gathering Hall
7054 32nd Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98118

Mon., Jan. 28, 5 - 6:30 p.m.
Native American community-focused meeting
Graham Hill Elementary
5149 S Graham St., Seattle, WA 98118
Please provide your feedback using the online form published on the Draft Strategic Plan webpage by Tues., Jan. 22, 2019, 12 p.m.  

The draft plan feedback gathered during the community meetings and through the online form will be analyzed by District Management Group (DMGroup), the district's strategic planning consultant, and Seattle Public Schools. The themes from the community feedback will be shared with the Board at the Jan. 30 work session and help the strategic plan steering committee make adjustments.
I'm a bit baffled.  All of these meetings are in the south end and yet the feedback goes to the Board on Jan. 30th.  I would guess there would be more meetings and ANOTHER work session for feedback.

It is trying to figure out how to decipher what it is the district is saying and doing. 


Anonymous said...

students of color who are furthest from educational justice.

I take this odd neologism to be code for "students of color except for those of Chinese and Japanese descent, whose families generally earn enough money that we don't want to spend resources on them even though the legacy of racism still impacts Chinese and Japanese Americans today."

I'm also disappointed there is no stated focus on low-income students, LGBTQ students (who have a higher drop-out rate than others), and special ed students. In fact, the district is actively trying to reduce the number of students getting ACCESS services.

A district with close to 54,000 students needs to be able to keep eyes on on multiple balls in the air at once. Dozens of balls. These priorities are saying we're going to focus mainly black boys and young men, who certainly do need focus because they are one of our most at-risk groups with the biggest opportunity gaps. But there are lots and lots of other things wrong with the district, and the draft seems to be saying we don't care. The priorities seem to say we don't care about most of the students we serve.

I don't see one thing that's different from Nyland's priorities, tho. Not one thing.

If you look at this consultant's work in other places, the same priorities get trotted out again and again in similar wording. That's real innovation, wow! Seems like they could have dispensed with the consultant and saved us a buck.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you Neo, low income students, LGBTQ students, special ed students are all missing and yet they are very vulnerable populations according to all the research and statistics. Some low income students are also homeless. Sometimes those with the loudest advocates from the public and private sector in their corner get the most attention. Often those absent from the conversation at all, are actually those who are most overlooked and in need of support.

Two cents

Anonymous said...

"Focus" is the opposite of "eyes on dozens of balls". I appreciate some organization and focus in this document. I wouldn't have thought a consultant was needed for it. Seems like a lot of money spent on what is just a document. This is evidence of too many resources going toward talking about education and not enough resources actually spent on teaching.

Let's hire more teachers, get class sizes down to 10 or 15, and then we can implement MTSS... or sort classrooms by EDUCATIONAL NEED, and then TEACH what kids need to learn.

Do you remember last years document? There was nothing strategic, organized or focused about it. It was more like a wiki wish-list. It was as if every stakeholder thought that if they were mentioned on the document, then somehow reality would change. Seattle should know by now- talk is cheap.

Well, it would be appropriately cheap if a consultant weren't hired.


Anonymous said...

An off topic question, apologies:

I just learned that Schools First come to our PTA me to ask for our endorsement and donation. They lobby to pass school levies including the next ones for $ to build new campuses for Northgate Elementary and John Rogers Elementary. The board is going to ask the general PTA at the next meeting to support the board’s making a $500 donation.

Is this normal and I was just unaware of this? My first response towards donating is the school district's job to support their proposed levies. We are already using PTA funds to pay for things that the school district should be paying for - like school counselors and library books. Yes, the district as a whole is underfunded, but I feel like they should be looking for efficiencies within central admin first before coming to the schools parents to donate even more for things that the central admin should be funding on their own.

Am I missing something? Is this normal? What is the history of this?


Robert Cruickshank said...

A school district cannot use public funds to engage in campaign activity. So Schools First has to go to PTA groups to help fund the campaign to pass the levies.

Anonymous said...


There are rules about how and how much PTA's can be involved in political campaigns. Levies are a bit of a grayer area than candidate races, but regardless I believe no more than 20% of time or money can to go political endeavors. PTA funds also have to be taken from line items on the budget approved by the membership (membership = families), so if the $500 donation isn't already designated for political donations, it would likely need to be approved by the membership. Contact the WSPTA Region 9 chair to ask what the rules are: ptareg9 (at) wastatepta.org exactly.


Anonymous said...

Thank you!


Van said...

You know what doesn't help create identity safety for African-American male students in the district? Making the primary goal of the entire district fixing their gap. Talk about stereotype threat! Fixing this gap should absolutely be a priority for the district, but the district should make it very clear that the district is fixing district failures and weaknesses and shortcomings in educating young African-American men. These priorities can make it sound like the the students aren't working hard enough. I would like to see it made clearer that it is the district that hasn't been working hard enough at the right things for a long time and that the district is going to shape up. The students are going to show up and do their part, but their part is not fixing the institutional shortcomings and failures and abuses. This could be clearer if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

You might want to update your page sidebar, Seattle Schools Senior Staff E-Mail Addresses, since there have been some personnel changes.
-Long Road

Melissa Westbrook said...

NW, you open a big topic which I may try to address separately. But yes, Robert is right; the district cannot advocate for its own levies nor spend money on them (they do pay for the election itself which is about $1M).

Asking is not giving; if your PTA feels the district should run on the money it gets from the state and various sources, then you shouldn't feel like you should give them money if it might be dollars better spent at school.

PTAs can give money and even endorse levies but they cannot tell their members, "Vote for the levy!" They can say, "Our Board/membership endorsed the levy" or "We believe in the levies" but they can't tell you how to vote.

Carol Simmons said...

Dear Van,

I totally agree with your statement that the "district should make it very clear that the district is fixing district failures and weaknesses and shortcomings in educating young African -American men." And not faults of the students. Other groups of students in addition to A.A. students should be included also. This is what the Disproportionality Task Force Recommendations that were made in 1985 intended and recommended. There were not only goals but educational strategies included to obtain these goals. Some were to :Replace the E (failure) grade with the N (No credit earned yet) letter grade; Eliminate suspensions for non violent offences; compile and publish in printed form Student Data in academic achievement and discipline sanctions by race and special program placement in the District Data Profile Book; provide in- service training for teachers in multi ethnic curriculum; eliminate the 2.0 g.p.a.requirement for student participation in athletics and activities, and there were many more. These were approved by the School Board in that year and never implemented in the schools.
Rather it appeared that the fault was with the student, not with the policies and procedures and strategies of the District.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this strategic plan isn't that it lists educational justice first - that is the right thing to do - it's that the plan doesn't mention anything else. It's as if there aren't any other kids in the district. SPS's obligation is to meet the needs of every child. There is no justice in telling one child their education must suffer or be neglected in order to help another. Justice is addressing past wrongs without creating new ones and bringing all children in and up. So it's clear that SPS has a lot more work to do and that this draft should be considered the first page of a document - and we should insist they produce the other pages too.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Please, please weigh in at their feedback page. The Board and the consultants need to hear this.

Realist said...


Student A shows up to class, doesn’t pay attention and is disruptive. Teacher calls Parent of Student A to try and address the issue, and the parent calls the teacher a racist. Teacher sends Student A to the office. The office sends Student A back to class because Student A is a protected minority. Student A continues to be disruptive and knows that the teacher can do nothing. Student B complains to their Parent B that Student A is disrupting their learning. Parent B complains to the teacher. The teacher tells Parent B there is nothing they can do. Parent B complains to the district. District yells at the teacher. Student A gets pushed along and eventually graduates but has problems with basic literacy and math skills.

This goes on in Seattle Public Schools every single day. But sure, let’s bury our heads in the sand, and blame the district and the teachers.

Anonymous said...

Focusing exclusively on AA males is a brilliant strategy. It can be used as an excuse to do practically nothing, everywhere you look. A.A. male performance gap is a widely accepted nationwide issue. Who could argue with this basic apple pie goal? I recall Nyland called the achievement gap as “THE issue of our time” 2 or 3 years ago. Then he used that proclamation, that basic issue identification, as an achievement in and of itself. Really, where is there a model for fixing this achievement gap? Luckily, (for the district) nowhere! There’s no standard for success, and no expectation that this problem is anything but intractable or that it will be solved or even dented. So the district doesn’t have to actually fix the problem or actually do anything at all for AA males. Nor does anyone think they will have success. There have already been decades of failed initiatives. Anybody remember the A.A. Academy or the A.A. males afterschool academic club which was Pritchard’s pet project at McClure? She was propelled to a plum district executive director mantle. Not much evidence of success for AA students though. Since this is the only strategic objective, nothing can be expected for any other also-ran goals other constituents may have hoped for. Special ed? Sorry we’re still doing AA males, and will be for generations. Science scores? Nope, not yet. Global warming? Not “THE issue of our time”, sorry.

A key factor in maintaining this problem is the assessment methodology. So long as we insist on standardized academic measures, Eg test results, we’re sure to keep the problems they report. The tests themselves are an instrument by the white people, of the white people, and for the white people. Using these instruments means it’s going to be pretty hard for others to close any gap. The gaps are maintained by design. The district’s failure to move the needle is a perverse achievement for them. It serves to lower community expectations of any sort on the district. Basically, it’s in the district’s own interest to maintain its current state of utter un-accountability.

Of course AA male achievement gap, (5% of the district’s students) are indeed a worthy and needed focus. An equity lens is a necessary start if it is applied systematically to every decision. But a haphazard approach, with no meaningful measures, and with no incremental steps to take, won’t be useful in fixing a problem.

Accountability Please

Anonymous said...

GENDA ~ January 16 ~ SpEd PTSA
General Membership Meeting

Our first meeting of the year will feature two presentations!

- Superintendent Denise Juno and her team - Feedback from special education parents on the strategic plan.

See strategic plan at www.seattleschools.org

- The Arc of King County, Rachel Nemhauser presents “Ten Tips for Advocating for Your Child”.

JSCEE - 2445 3rd Ave S, Seattle
7:00 – 9:00pm


Melissa Westbrook said...

You might ask Juneau (that's the correct spelling, not Juno) why Sped kids are not mentioned in the plan so far.

Anonymous said...

You might also ask why the “Sped Ptsa” has its very first meeting of the year (which included 2018) at the end of January. And then, the only agenda item is to review a strategic plan that doesn’t even include them at all. Must be going great in Sped. If parents can’t be bothered to advocate for their own kids with disabilities, why should anyone else care about them?

Another Parent

Anonymous said...

@Another Parent

They meant their first meeting of the calendar year. Their first meeting of the 2018-2019 calendar year was October 23. They have rescheduled for January 16, and they have one in March (3 per school year, which is normal for a non-school-level PTSA). In addition, the sped PTSA and greater community have tons of other things going on:

Jan 22 Sped resource fair
Feb 5 SEAAC meeting
Feb 11 2E Seattle (Processing speed)
Feb 12 Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community Meeting
Mar 5 SEAAC meeting
Mar 11 2E Seattle (Anxiety)
Mar 23 Inclusive physical activity fair
Apr 2 SEAAC meeting
Apr 15 2E Seattle
May 13 2E Seattle