Thursday, August 29, 2013

The "lasts" keep coming . . .

As I visited buildings this week to observe principals, many people came up to congratulate me on my retirement.  It resulted in an odd situation as I had not really thought of it as calling for congratulations. My response was thank you, but it feels a little bittersweet, whatever that means. For me, I'm learning that it means that I believe I have made the right decision, but it is also one that will result in significant loss in my life; a loss that will be difficult to fill with the same rewarding experiences that come with being superintendent of this wonderful school system.

Bruce told me that it would be difficult as I would be experiencing many "lasts" throughout the year.  This week brought the last opportunity to observe principals share their opening message with staff and the last time that I will sign the annual budget.  Next week will be the last first day of the year as superintendent and soon after that the last retreat with our dedicated school board.  I know that there will be many more lasts as the year unfolds and I am committed to making the most of each of them.  I have learned a lot on this journey and those that work most closely with me are beginning to experience my more urgent need to share that knowledge and support their growth.

Our transition plan will result in the journey continuing as we create cultures focused on teacher growth and increased student achievement.  I am proud of what we have created and to our continued focus on adult learning and look forward to the remaining opportunities to support learning and growth.  From time-to-time I'll share a few more of the lasts and how I'm learning to work through that odd feeling.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Providing bond information . . .

I had an opportunity this evening to share bond information at a Vote Committee meeting at the High School.  Once again, I left wondering about how to get this message to ALL voters so that they can make an educated decision in November.  People in this meeting were in attendance to consider how they can support the work of the committee so it was a supportive audience.  The questions they asked, however, made me realize again just how difficult it is to condense the complexity of the bond measure into a two page document or even a series of online posts.

In previous posts I have shared some possible options for sharing information such as using an infographic to get the attention of community members.  As we rapidly approach the November election date, I find myself struggling to identify adaptive solutions to this need for disseminating information.  I'm also struggling with the lack of conversation in our schools and in the community about the bond and my inability to tell a story that results in tension that leads to an informed voter.

I'm open to suggestions as we schedule meetings with local organizations, homeowner associations, and other groups to share the over crowded conditions in our buildings and how the bond measure projects are the preferred solution.  Please consider sharing your thinking as we search for adaptive solutions.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Another honor for our young people . . .

Yesterday I received an email from Ken Riggs, our high school choir director, sharing notification that the Tahoma High School Chamber Choir has been invited to perform next March at the Northwest Division of the American Choral Directors’ Association convention.  Below, are Ken's words about this wonderful opportunity and validation of the choir's accomplishments.

. . .  Every two years, the Northwest Division of the American Choral Directors’ Association holds a convention.  This division covers the six northwestern states (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming), and hundreds of professional choir directors will attend.  As part of the convention, some of the best choirs in the northwest are invited to perform.  These are choirs that represent the true pinnacle of our art form.  Many of the groups are adult professional level, but there are also some university level choirs and a few public school choirs.  Only three high school choirs were selected to perform, and our THS Chamber Choir is one of them!  This is about the highest honor a high school choir can receive.  

The audition process requires recordings from the past three years in order to show a tradition of excellence (and not just one lucky year), and then selections are made by a panel of experts based solely on what they hear (they don’t know who they are listening to).  The THS Chamber Choir will perform at Seattle’s historic Town Hall in March as part of the convention.  

In the true Tahoma way Ken gives all the credit to the young people, but we know that without his commitment and expertise they would not be in a position for this recognition.  Thanks to him and to the young people over time whose commitment and talent  made this invitation possible.  I'm sure that they will make us proud.

2012 - 2013 Chamber Choir

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Proving difficult to find a common message . . .

Early in August I posted about the deadline the legislature has in filing an update with the State Supreme Court on progress towards meeting the mandates of the McCleary decision.  In this Crosscut piece from the 22nd we learn that they are no closer as the deadline looms.  It appears that there is agreement on the numbers, but the two parties are struggling to find agreement on what the numbers mean and how to convey the message to the Court.

The eight-legislator committee — two House Republicans, two Senate Republicans, two House Democrats, and two Senate Democrats — failed to agree Wednesday during a meeting in Burien on how to frame the basic figures in a larger picture for the court. Both sides hope to reach an agreement by next week.

Republicans and Democrats disagree on the exact boundaries of what is "basic education," said Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia. The report needs to be able to hold up under scrutiny by the McCleary plaintiffs and to preserve flexibility for future legislatures, said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle.

Members of each party have drafted their responses that have some common components, but that also contain points not found in the other draft.  For example, the Republican draft speaks to the reform measures passed last session that they sponsored while the Democratic response is silent on this legislation.  The Democratic draft includes information on the legislature's suspension of voter approved cost-of-living increases that is not included in the Republican draft.

They have less than one week to agree on a common message.  What that message communicates and how the Court responds will set the stage for the pace of education change in our state leading to the 2017 deadline to meet the Court's mandate for fully funding public education.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Weathering a storm, I mean storms . . .

Today brought with it an afternoon thunder storm that lasted for over an hour.  It made it difficult to work through the noise and the rain in the large tents that we have called home over the last three days, but we persevered and finished the day in a session with our colleagues from Sacramento, Adams 12, Tucson, and Milwaukee.  We shared our work, our needs, and how this loosely coupled collaboration can assist ours and other school systems through the Common Core transition and other significant issues that we face.

The big storm for me, however, was not the weather.  An afternoon activity where we used some of the presencing work to identify the current reality of public education in our country and then shift that through movement into a preferred reality created a much more disturbing storm.  As the activity progressed, I found myself moving from my rational brain into my emotions as I became more and more agitated with how the current reality was playing out.  I added to this by introducing the "Reformers" as a critical player in the activity and articulating their position in opposition to the union and teacher position.  I wanted to share the significant influence that foundations and the reform community is having on policy makers at the local, state, and national level.  In doing so, I contributed to what became a cynical, combative picture so unlike our reality or that of any school system in our area.  Unfortunately, it reinforced the mental model that many have developed by what they read and see in the media.  This was true even for the visitors from other countries.

I am learning that the current reality of the large school systems partnering with us on this journey are at times polar opposite to what we have created.  Some face city control, charters sanctioned by those cities and others that receive public money, poverty, and funding cuts increasing class size, loss of materials, and significant decreases in pay.  It saddens me to see and hear passionate and committed people share these realities and wonder how to move forward.  At times like this afternoon I wonder why I am in the room and what could I possibly do to support their difficult journeys.  We are coming together to support implementation of common core practices in our classrooms, but the needs are much greater than that.

I believe that through this work we can generate collective capacities with the potential to change the structures that currently drive these current realities and that perhaps the experience of our journey can support discovery of new structures and strategies to create a better place for young people and the committed adults that work to meet their many and diverse needs.  This is a worthy journey and one that will yield much new learning and capacity as we continue our Classroom 10 work.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In some heady company . . .

I am attending the SoL Executive Champions' Workshop at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont with Tami Henkel and Dawn Wakeley.  We were invited as part of our work with SoLEd that included all conference fees paid through a grant recently awarded to support SoLEd's Common Core initiative.  We have been joined by representatives from Milwaukee, Sacramento, and Adams 12 (near Denver) school systems to continue conversations on how to move the work forward and consider individual system needs to support teachers and principals.  There are about fifty people at the workshop from eleven different countries.

The title of the workshop is "Leading Transformation in the Face of Disruption on the Level of System and Self”.  The content of the sessions over the three days deals with questions such as those below.

  1. What can we do to nurture hope that real change is possible; without relying on simplistic "the answer is...” messages?
  2. How do we identify and strengthen local, regional and global commons?
  3. What is required at a personal and collective level to extend leadership networks across space and time?
  4. What do we need to do to increase our ability for reflection on the level of system and self? As Humberto Maturana, a leading cognitive biologist stated, "It is only through reflection, that we change our history.”
The day starts with breakfast at 7:30 followed by sessions until 6:00 p.m., 6:20 this evening, followed by dinner at 7:00 that just finished a little after 9:00.  They are long days with much sitting and getting and much dialogue in small and large groups.  It is truly a learning experience that took on added anxiety for me this year when Peter Senge asked me to be one of three resource people to share our journey.  My immediate response was to decline because of my reluctance to share our story with this audience that grew into anxiety when I was asked to share more about me, something I struggle doing outside our system.  If you check the links to the three Core Faculty, Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, and Arawana Hayashi and the other two resource people, Darcy Winslow and Claudia Madrazo you will understand my anxiety.

It was little intimidating at this morning's planning meeting where I learned about what they wanted in our stories and that I would be sharing mine just before lunch.  Please know that the sessions are outside in a large tent so there is no opportunity for slides, my crutch to support telling stories.  To make it more difficult, I didn't have the opportunity to use the chart paper prior to speaking to provide structure for the story.  So, I took a few notes up to the front and shared my/our story in about twenty minutes.  Like always I was not pleased with the product, but I was pleased that I took the challenge and went beyond my comfort zone to use our experience to support others not as far along on their journey.  I received some positive feedback so I don't believe that I embarrassed us.

Once again, I am so thankful for the learning opportunities I have experienced in our school system and I leave today even more proud of what we have accomplished and are doing as I hear the struggles others are experiencing around the country.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

One more mistake, maybe . . .

After reading this Education Week article I may need to suspend my assumptions about the Federal Education Department's letter putting our state on notice that the NCLB waiver is at risk of being lost because the structures in place for teacher evaluation do not mandate the use of student achievement data.  I ASSUMED that this would automatically result in a return to the penalties in NCLB.  From the article I learned that there are a range of penalties that the department can impose. 

Officials told me: "In general, the department has a range of enforcement options that it can employ if [a state] does not implement ESEA flexibility in accordance with its approved request, which includes withholding state administrative funds...and withholding programmatic funds. With respect to noncompliance while on high-risk status, the department would likely take increasingly significant actions in combination with, or in place of, high risk.

"If [a state] cannot come into compliance while under 'high-risk' status, the department would consider whether other enforcement actions would be appropriate. For example, the department might decide to withhold a portion of the [state's] Title I, Part A administrative funds if the area of noncompliance concerns requirements with respect to standards and assessments...We also, for example, might decide to terminate ESEA flexibility and the [state] would revert to complying with NCLB."

Once again I may have allowed my emotions to influence my thinking.  That being said, I believe that the threat of a lost waiver will result in legislative action during the next session changing language that currently gives local control on the use of student achievement data to a mandated percentage based on state test scores.  I believe that the hammer imposed by the threat is strong enough to bludgeon its way through any obstacle placed in front of the legislators.  Another example of change imposed through power, in this case by withholding funds or imposing sanctions. 

When will policy makers learn that these tactics do not result in lasting change to classroom practice when the door to the teacher's classroom closes?  There are better ways to open those classroom doors that take advantage of experience and expertise while being open to the possibilities of new practices and assessments to support increased achievement for all young people, what we all say we want.  Using threats and mandates results in other assumptions leading to mental models where I begin to question the motives of those with the power.  I know that as one in a leadership position I must be able to suspend these assumptions, but actions such as this from the federal level make it more and more difficult over time.

So, once again I come face-to-face with perhaps jumping to a conclusion that may be driven by a false assumption.  More learning for me, but in the big picture not such a big deal as the final outcome will probably align well with what I am suggesting today will soon become our future reality as it relates to the use of student achievement data in teacher evaluations.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Following up . . .

In my last post I shared the federal warning that Superintendent Dorn received giving the state one more year to align our new teacher evaluation model with the federal education department's standards.  In other words, mandate that student assessment data be a significant influence on individual teacher evaluations or risk loss of the state's waiver from the requirements under NCLB.  Since then there have been many reports in local and national media.  Examples are here in the Tacoma News Tribune and here in Russo's This Week In Education.

Below, is an excerpt from an OSPI press release taking a positive spin on being given another year to conform.

The Dept. of Education objected to the word “can.” In its letter explaining the use of the term “high risk,” the Department wrote that “Washington’s interpretation of including student growth as a significant factor in educator evaluation systems is inconsistent with the ESEA Flexibility definition of ‘student growth.”

Dorn said he wasn’t surprised that the new waiver was deemed high-risk. “When the Legislature was debating 5895, I said that the language didn’t go far enough,” he said. “The Department of Education agrees with me. Now the Legislature has the next session to strengthen the law.

So, why in the world are we and the other 294 districts in the state struggling to find structures for using student assessment data if next spring the legislature will simply change the requirements to conform to this threat?  Will they say it needs to be 30%, 40%, 50%, or will WEA decide to take a stand and make this a divisive and more difficult task?

Please know the alternative isn't any better.  If we lose the waiver and once again are under NCLB guidelines ALL students must meet standard in 2014 on our state assessments, a worthy goal, but one that makes little sense given the current structures in the public schools in our state and nation.  So, our current reality is one of conforming to the arbitrary standards being imposed at the federal level under threat of take overs and loss of revenue.  Implement an assessment model driven more by the beliefs of education reformers than by any research supporting the use of student assessment data in improving achievement or compensation models, the next iteration of these reforms, or risk take overs and loss of revenue.

It is obvious that I struggle with this reality and with the leverage the federal education department has over our state and ultimately how we allocate our resources to support young people and teachers in our system.  If I believed that the mandates and threats had the capacity to support our journey my mental model would be more positive.  Given the current situation, however, and what I believe are the drivers for these mandates and the accompanying threats, it is difficult for me to suspend my assumptions.  I choose to take this next year and focus on what we were told was the driver for the teacher and principal evaluation legislation, supporting teacher growth over time.  As long as we control how student assessment data is used growth will be the driver for our efforts.  When, and if we are told this is how it will be used it will be more difficult to maintain this focus, one that has the potential to influence and sustain changes in classroom practice that will lead to increased student achievement.

Why does it have to be so difficult to find a vision that supports what all of us say we want, success for all young people in school and in post high school learning and work?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Provisional leads to "at risk" . . .

In this July 2012 post I shared my concern that the state's stance on using student assessment data in teacher evaluation might not meet the federal education department's expectations.  At the time, it appeared I was wrong as we were granted provisional status.  I learned today in this Huff Post that we are one of three states that have been put on notice that our waiver is on high risk status.

On Wednesday, Deb Delisle, the U.S. Secretary of Education's assistant, wrote letters to the three states saying their waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act was on "high-risk status," according to correspondence provided to The Huffington Post. Their waivers have been approved for the new school year, but might not get renewed in 2014-2015, it said.

I have not seen anything yet in the local media or any official response from OSPI.  The issue appears to be what I was concerned with, giving local bargaining units control over how student achievement will influence teacher evaluations.

Washington got in trouble for changing its teacher evaluation law. On a call with reporters, a federal education department official said that Washington is not meeting the federal government's definition of measuring student performance for teacher evaluations.

"In accordance with state law, a local educational agency (LEA) has discretion over whether or not to include data from statewide assessments in determining a teacher’s student growth rating," Delisle wrote. Washington allows student growth to be measured by teams across classrooms -- the official said the state needs to prove that the method doesn't mask the performance of individual teachers.

This is a big issue as long as we are under the old NCLB guidelines of ESEA.  If we were to lose the waiver we would once again be required to have all students meet standard by 2014, a goal that few systems, if any, will meet.  We will want to follow this closely as it could have a profound influence on our work as we collaboratively identify how to use this data in the evaluation process. The real risk lies in how OSPI and our legislators will respond to this notice.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Reaching a milestone . . .

When I first started blogging I had no idea that I would sustain through six years.  My first post in August of 2007 was about a book I shared at our Leadership Retreat and an article by Tony Wagner that I later used to support our leadership journey.  I made the decision to start blogging based on a recommendation from Kimberly Allison and can still remember reading her comment to that first post.

Kimberly said...
Well done, Mike! I look forward to reading future posts. Knowing what you're reading and thinking helps reinforce my own (and, I would imagine, others') learning and thinking. I tried to subscribe to your feed, but I think it might be locked--just an fyi. 

Yes, I did have to open up the blog for readers to add it to their RSS feeder and I now have 83 members.  Not a lot, but more than I ever thought possible for me.  So, why share this today?  Because this is my 1000th post, a milestone I never thought I would meet and something to celebrate.  Thanks to those of you that subscribe and for those of you that think my posts are worthy of your time to read.

And, a big THANKS to Kimberly for the gentle push - it has been a rewarding and a learning experience for me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A possible learning tool . . .

I learned about another graphic at Ian Jukes 21st Century Learning Project that reinforces my lack of understanding and engagement with social media.  The graphic called a Conversation Prism was first developed in 2008 by Brian Solis and has been updated each year since then.

What is a Conversation Prism?  The answer from an internet search.

The Conversation Prism is a visual map of the social media landscape. It’s an ongoing study in digital ethnography that tracks dominant and promising social networks and organizes them by how they’re used in everyday life.

The next question that popped into my mind is what is it good for.  So, exploring a little further I come across this explanation at TNW.

In the center of the Prism is the business or the person spearheading the social campaign: you. From here, you can shift the outer circles accordingly to fit your intent, whether it’s about value, purpose, transparency, commitment, or vision. After that, it’s just a shift of circles in order to find the tools that properly align to your business goals.

I think there may be something here for our school system to consider as we work to increase collaboration with our community and engage them in our Career Ready initiative.  I like the organization and focus around purpose in the middle of the Prism.

Below are the 2008 version of the Conversation Prism followed by the 2013 version that graphically shows the proliferation of options over that period as well as those that are no longer in place.  The images are courtesy of Solis and design firm JESS3.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Experience changed my mental model . . .

I appreciate the anonymous comment to my last post on New York's Common Core assessment results.  The comment ends with the following paragraph, a mental model that I once held, but one that  no longer influences my behavior.

Education really is an enigma. Everyone, for the most part, has had an experience. Everyone believes how they went to school and the way THEY learned is how it should be done now. You would never ask a doctor to make the incision a bit more to the right or question the lawyer in your case is that they right way to argue the point. You trust them, with the most important decisions in your life. I too, would like that kind of trust.

For a long time I believed this was the case for the majority of parents and community members, but over time I have come to believe that it doesn't need to be that way.  In our system we have implemented many changes to delivery models and to classroom practice, some of which have sustained and others that didn't.  Through these changes, however, our parents have trusted us to do what we believe is best for their children.  Though I don't believe that it is the norm in all school systems, for most in our community I believe it to be true.

Why is this the case?  I believe that it starts with a School Board that understands and supports the need for adult learning and for creating the capacity to adapt to changing demands.  It also requires a belief in transparency and understanding that collectively we have greater capacity to support the needs of our young people than we do as individuals or isolated teams.  Though there are many other factors supporting our current reality these are three essential components.  If you could add one, what would it be?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Common Core faces another big test . . .

Will the results of the first Common Core aligned tests in New York State feed the slow to ignite movement to move away from the standards?  The results are lower than some expected and even with an intentional campaign to prepare the parents and community for lower scores the state and city are experiencing push back.  This Wall Street Journal article from April 14th is an example of trying to prepare people for lower scores.

New York state education officials have been sounding the alarm for months: English and math tests that schoolchildren will take this week and next will be harder than before and scores will drop.

"In fact, we expect them to be lower," warns a video released Thursday by the state Education Department.

The tougher tests awaiting New York's third-through-eighth-graders are aligned with the Common Core standards, a national set of guidelines intended to boost academic rigor.

While students across the state have spent hours drilling for the annual tests, a small but vocal group of parents is planning to boycott them, saying those hours could have been better spent.

Will the results fuel more parents to boycott the tests and push politicians who have promised increased achievement to rethink their policy decisions?  It is possible when considering comments like that below in this New York Times piece from yesterday.

Chrystina Russell, principal of Global Technology Preparatory in East Harlem, said she did not know what she would tell parents, who will receive scores for their children in late August. At her middle school, which serves a large population of students from poor families, 7 percent of students were rated proficient in English, and 10 percent in math. Last year, those numbers were 33 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

“Now we’re going to come out and tell everybody that they’ve accomplished nothing this year and we’ve been pedaling backward?” Ms. Russell said. “It’s depressing.”

The following comment from Secretary Duncan supporting the shift to the Common Core and new tests is for me another indicator of how far removed some of the key policy makers are to the reality that teachers and students have in their classrooms.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Duncan said the shift to the Common Core standards was a necessary recalibration that would better prepare students for college and the work force.

“Too many school systems lied to children, families and communities,” Mr. Duncan said. “Finally, we are holding ourselves accountable as educators.”

So, telling students in our state that they do not meet a standard for which there was no aligned curriculum, insufficient support for the changed instructional practices required of the new standards, and no opportunity to learn is better than providing students and families with feedback on how well they did against the STANDARDS that every state identified as a required component of NCLB?  I disagree with his portrayal of what we have been doing and ask him to reflect on how appropriate it is to hold a tenth grader accountable to standards that require learning experiences beginning in Kindergarten when he or she may have had one year of opportunity to learn.  I use the word may because that will depend on the school system and school's capacity to provide the aligned curriculum, formative assessments, and teacher support necessary to meet this high demand.  

I support the move to a common set of standards, but disagree with implementing assessments aligned with standards until teachers and students have had the opportunity to learn.  Phasing in assessments beginning in the lower grades makes more sense to me.  I am also concerned with the standards moving towards a national curriculum as states, districts, and schools search for the silver bullet that will not be out there.  There will, however, be schools that perform at a higher level and others will naturally want to know what curriculum they are using.  We know that the answer is not in the curriculum though that is a necessary component.  If not the curriculum, then what is the answer?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The first of many lasts . . .

Today was the beginning for me of what will be many "lasts" over the course of this school year. At the conclusion of our Leadership Retreat I announced my retirement effective at the end of my contract year.  What was going to be a challenging year became even more so as I struggled for the words.  So much of my life has been spent in the Tahoma School District and all of that came to my mouth as I started to speak.  I was able to get through it, but as the year progresses the emotions will build and at some time be too much to suppress.  Not looking forward to that day or to those obligatory occasions to share with others and have them thank me.

The second major announcement of the day came from our School Board President, Tim Adam, when he announced that our own Rob Morrow would be our new superintendent effective July 1, 2014.  Rob then graciously accepted the honor of continuing and building upon the foundation that we have created.  Having this young man assume these responsibilities and the School Board members continuing in their roles gives me confidence in the leadership and direction of our school system.

I don't plan on retiring just yet and find myself looking forward to being a significant influence and support as we move forward on our Classroom 10 goal and the challenges we face.

Always a BEAR!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Supporting growth . . .

Day one of our Leadership Retreat is complete.  I had an opportunity to share my thinking, to revisit what I believe are important parts of the foundation necessary to successfully support teacher growth, and add a couple new tools to our support inventory.  Building teams were also provided with data collected on last year's Classroom 10 goal to influence the decisions they will make to support teacher growth.  There was a moderate to high energy level through most of the day.  So, what did I learn?

Our buildings are at different places on our journey, This is not new learning for me, but the conversations confirmed that my support will need to be differentiated.
  • There is a significant gap in the knowledge and tools that building leadership has intentionally shared with staff over the course of our journey with a range of 3 to 32.
  • There are culture issues in some buildings that require an intentional focus to support building-wide movement on a stated aspiration.  
  • There is still concern that the focus of the two days may not be aligned with what all individuals and teams see as meeting their immediate needs resulting in increased anxiety. 
  • The Current Reality/Aspiration activity assisted some teams in focusing on an aspiration, identifying structures and strategies to support change, and uncovering issues that result in resistance to the change.
  • We are making progress on our Classroom 10 goal that should be celebrated, but we also have more to accomplish.
  • Building teams are concerned with progress on our Classroom 10 goal and are committed to supporting all teachers in meeting this year's goal.  (See slide below)
  • This is an exciting and rewarding place to be!
Below, are the Knowledge and Tools that have been shared in our leadership work to support the journey.  One building has shared 32 of these with staff, one has shared, 3 and others are in the teen to twenties range.  Which have been shared with you?  How might this knowledge and these tools influence our building and system cultures?

Our 2013-14 Classroom 10 goal.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sneak preview . . .

As I shared in this earlier post, tomorrow is the first of two days of our Leadership Retreat.  Below are the slides identifying the learning targets for the day.

Our intent is for the teams to use all the data in front of them to describe their current reality as it relates to our Classroom 10 goal and to an aspiration they have for growth this year.  In the absence of a shared aspiration they will not see growth and change that sustains over time across all building classrooms.  Basing decisions on the structures and strategies for moving forward on inaccurate descriptions of current reality lessens the potential impact that these supports will have on change.

In addition to these learning targets, we want teams to leave feeling tension between their current reality and their aspiration.  It is this gap that will motivate them after the meeting to continue their conversations, to share their work with their colleagues, and to ensure that they find and implement the supports necessary for growth across all building classrooms.  We will share information and tools to assist them in making the critical choices necessary to support all teachers while remaining focused on building cultures focused on growth in instructional practice and improved student achievement.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Using the ambiguity . . .

It seems that the legislature has until August 29th to file an update with the State Supreme Court on progress towards meeting the mandates of the McCleary decision.  This is proving difficult as there are questions with no definitive answers and differences of opinion on what progress has been made.  This Crosscut article shares the status of this update being put together by eight legislators.

Pieces of that question include: What's "steady progress"? What does a 2018 deadline really mean? If you measure progress on a make-believe linear graph, where does Washington stand? How does the lack of a cost-of-living raise for teachers factor in?

The Crosscut piece is a factual accounting of what has taken place and current status of the conversations attempting to bring clarity to what the Court expects.  This Education Week article on the same topic paints a different less flattering picture of what the legislators are trying to do.  The title captures it well.

WA lawmakers may add year to ed reform payments

The article suggests that the legislative team may use the ambiguity in the decision to create an additional year to come up with the billions that all sides agree will be necessary to meet the "ambiguous" McCleary  requirements.

At a Wednesday meeting to discuss the Aug. 29 report, lawmakers got into a side discussion about what the court meant by its 2018 deadline.

Does it mean Jan. 1, 2018? Does it mean fiscal year 2018, which begins July 2017? Or does it mean the 2018-2019 school year, which begins in Sept. 2018.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Dave Stolier said the court has not been clear on what the deadline means. He noted that the ruling mentions several pieces of education reform legislation that was equally vague about the deadlines the Legislature set for itself.

"There's some room for interpretation," Stolier said.

It didn't take long for lawyers from the successful coalition to respond.

"The Supreme Court ordered full compliance by 2018 - not 'during' 2018," Thomas Ahearne said Wednesday in an email.

"Full compliance by 2018 requires full compliance in the 2017-2018 school year," Ahearne added. "Delaying full compliance until the 2018-2019 school year might be compliance during 2018 - but it would not be the full compliance the Supreme Court ordered be completed by 2018."

Same situation reported with two different takes.  Had I not read the Education Week article I would be thinking that the task before the legislator team is daunting, but I would not have seen the ambiguity as an opportunity to add another year.  Interestingly, I haven't seen anything in the blogs I read about this situation.  It is time to move forward on meeting the McCleary requirements by 2018 and that means by the 2018-19 school year.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Full speed ahead . . .

This evening was a Special Board Meeting for the purpose of making a final decision on the dollar amount for a November bond measure.  The process has been ongoing for a number of weeks and difficult as the estimates shift with new information about the high school site, current and projected construction costs, and different estimates from the groups supporting the work.  Going into the meeting we knew that all of the project components were estimated at this time to cost $243 million.

After much discussion, the Board made the decision to ask the community to support a $195 million bond measure.  Passage of this bond would support projects totaling $215 million with the remaining $20 million coming from projected state matching funds on the multiple projects.  I applaud the Board for their understanding of the issues that we face and for the thoughtful decision that they made this evening.

Passage of the bond will allow us to eliminate our current over-crowded conditions and accommodate projected enrollment growth.  Increased capacity will come from constructing a new comprehensive 9-12 Tahoma High School in the middle of Maple Valley.  This will then allow us to change grade level configurations in the current buildings resulting in six smaller elementary schools housing grades K-5 and two middle schools housing grades 6-8.  The increased capacity and alignments will provide greater control of class sizes and significantly reduce the number of portables n our system.
It is now time to continue sharing with the community our needs to ensure that they have the information necessary to make an informed decision.  With this decision it is full speed ahead.