Monday, May 31, 2010

APP broken promises

Lifting this from the comments, Charlie Mas writes:
This year was the first year of the split elementary and middle school programs.

The program splits came with risks. The District made specific promises about how they would address some of those risks.

They promised an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum that would be fully implemented on the first day of school in fall 2009. They did not fulfill that promise.

They promised that the elementary programs would be comparable in size. The program at Lowell is nearly 50% bigger than the program at Thurgood Marshall. They did not fulfill that promise.

They promised that they would take steps to avoid a repeat of the problems experienced at Madrona when APP was co-housed with a general education program population that was academically and demographically different from APP's population. It's unclear if any of those steps were taken or if they were successful.

It is worth noting that co-housing part of elementary APP with general education students at Thurgood Marshall was specifically recommended AGAINST by the APP Review. The District did it anyway. At one time a response to the APP Review was a project of the Strategic Plan. It appears to have been dropped from the Strategic Plan and there has been no response to the APP Review. That's another promise that wasn't kept.

So where's the accountability?

If the district isn't going to apply any accountability, then what is the appropriate response from the community?
APP parents? What do you think?

Update: Charlie adds more in the comments, ending with, "We are a smart, effective, creative group of well-respected people with deep networks throughout the city ... When the APP AC stops acting like a doormat they will realize their power."

Update: Charlie writes again with specific ideas on what actions the APP AC and APP parents could take. Well worth reading.

7 comments :

Ben said...

Raises for everyone!

Shannon said...

Final APP AC meeting tonight, at Lowell. I think it starts at 6.30pm. Perhaps you can ask this question there.

Anonymous said...

I personally know 4 families who have left APP (elementary) due to a lack of confidence. And one gen ed family that moved from a middle class to a wealthy neighborhood in search of a better school.

We're still here (and volunteering), but APP ain't the program it was before MGJ got her hands on it. It's had the life sucked out of it. Mission accomplished!

I don't expect the APP AC committee to address any of Charlie's questions with anything beyond rationalizations, diversions, and perhaps a sigh.

I've learned my lesson: Leave Seattle public schools or shut up. Class dismissed!

Charlie Mas said...

Because the APP AC has been told that they are not supposed to be an advocacy group (although that WAS part of their original charge), they have balked at anything that approaches advocacy.

They do not function as an advisory group because no one is listening to their advice.

Therefore the group does not function. They have become a support group, a group therapy meeting, a pity party.

The APP AC will become relevent and will have purpose and will become effective when they get up on their hind legs and demand - yes, demand - accountability and when they begin to take effective action to get it.

The APP AC will empower itself and the community when they take on responsibility for holding the District and the schools accountable for fulfilling their commitments. And the only hammer they have is the WASL (or whatever it is being called these days).

The APP AC must actively encourage families to opt out of the test until such time as the District fulfills its commitment to these students and this program. The APP AC needs to be very clear to all of the families what this is about and they need to make it even clearer to the District what this is about.

Now that the superintendent has failed/refused to hold herself or her staff accountable, they need to go directly to the Board and demand accountability. They need to make it clear that if they do not see prompt action and the fulfillment of all commitments they will take further steps.

They will actively campaign for the removal of administrators. They will actively campaign for the removal of Board members.

We are a smart, effective, creative group of well-respected people with deep networks throughout the city. We need to tell this District that if they mess with us they do so at their own peril. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

When the APP AC stops acting like a doormat they will realize their power.

Charlie Mas said...

Did I write unkindly about the APP AC? Am I mistaken and they are actually an incredibly effective team?

I see the District failing/refusing to keep just about every commitment they have made to APP students and families and I don't see the positive influence of the APP AC.

Have I been unfair?

Anonymous said...

I suspect the vast majority agree with you, Charlie. But, after the substantial yet futile effort to oppose the split last year, after seeing all the problem that the critics of the split raised come to pass, I think everyone is too worn out to do anything.

Some people I know are eying the exits, but most people I know are focused just on making their kids' classrooms work the best they can. With the hostility of the district toward APP, the hapless nature of our APP AC and school board, and all the problems created by the widely and vigorously-opposed APP split, I'm not sure most parents see the point of trying to fight anymore, at least not in the short-term.

What might make a big difference is if the superintendent gets a negative performance evaluation and does not get her contract renewed. I think that would put the wind back in people's sails and get people to think that this board might stand up to the superintendent.

Otherwise, I suspect our only hope is in a long-term effort to replace as much of the board as possible. But that will take many years, many wasted years, during which everyone, APP and general ed, will be doing their best just to hold on as the superintendent continues her spree of incompetent destruction.

Charlie Mas said...

I will take outrage over despair any day.

You have to know that the District is trying to discourage you. That is their strategy, to dishearten you to the point that you narrow your focus down to your child's classroom and don't venture out to oppose them again.

Don't let that happen.

You don't have to beat them in any of the battles to win the war, you only need to keep fighting. In fact, I'll tell you right now that you shouldn't expect to beat them in any of the battles. After all, they hold all of the authority. They make the decisions and they are completely unaccountable. Don't expect to win even a single engagement.

That doesn't matter. So long as you continue to take the field, you win. So long as you continue to speak, you win. The moment you surrender the field, you lose, now and for a long, long time to come. It won't just be your children who lose, but all of the children who might be in the program for the next several years.

Don't let them make this about just your children. When it becomes about just your children, you will have lost.

And yes, this is a struggle. This is a conflict. There will be a winner and there will be a loser. And yes, this is between us as a community and the District leadership.

The next APP AC should be a war council. Seriously. That committee should be about rallying the community to take action against the District and to demand - yes, demand - that the District live up to their commitments.

Demand the APP curriculum - aligned, written, taught and tested.

Demand the solidarity of the high school program.

Demand elementary programs of comparable size and quality.

Demand equity for the General Education communities at Thurgood Marshall and Lowell. Demand the restoration of their Title I funding.

Demand that Lowell's enrollment be reduced.

Demand a response to the APP Review.

Demand a north-end location for the elementary north-end program.

Demand accountability from the District.

Demand the review of Policy D12.00 that the Board directed the Superintendent to do - by vote! - on January 29, 2009. Why has she ignored the Board's directive?

Demand assurances of quality and efficacy in Spectrum programs and ALOs.

Demand that capacity be expanded to meet the demand for Spectrum in the Northeast.

Demand real rationale for Spectrum program placement decisions - it should be Madrona in the Washington Service Area where Muir is too far away from the center and we need additional 6-8 capacity. It should be at Kimball in the Mercer Service Area because it is more central to the service area and it's a bigger school with a better reputation for academics than Hawthorne. The community has already rejected the selection of Hawthorne as the Spectrum site. Hawthorne needs an ALO anyway as part of its restructuring.

Take the battle to them. Bring speaker after speaker to Board meetings demanding accountability, demanding the enforcement of the program placement policy, demanding the review of Policy D12.00, demanding the promised curriculum, demanding the response to the APP Review, demanding equity for the general education populations at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall, demanding all of these things.

The APP AC should be organizing hundreds of student family members to write to the Board, call the Board, take meetings with the Board. APP families should swamp the Board members' community meetings and repeating these demands. We should not accept excuses. We shoudl not accept delays.

And, yes, we need to hold our children out of the WASL (or whatever it's called these days) until all of the demands are met.

Don't quit! Fight!