Wednesday, August 17, 2016

August Curriculum and Instruction Board Committee Meeting

Monday was the latest C&I  meeting. At the end, members discussed the revisions to the Advanced Learning Procedure (2190).  This included the  language to allow Thurgood Marshall to implement blended Social Studies.


Previous Post on the subject:

Official minutes will not be published until next month but from what I heard, the edited procedure was adopted with a set of concerns raised. There will be a followup board work session on October 5th regarding advanced learning and some of the larger philosophical issues.


"Dear Thurgood Marshall Community:
Last night the School Board Curriculum Committee met to discuss changes to the Advanced Learning policy including a suggested change that would allow us to apply for a social studies waiver so that we can blend students from our various programs to learn together. Because the current policy states that Highly Capable students will be taught math, writing, reading, social studies and science in a self-contained setting, this has been a subject of much discussion and some contention. I am so happy to let you know that with much support from district central office leadership and from all of you, we have received approval to apply for our waiver!
School Board Directors Burke, Harris and Geary asked me to pass on their appreciation to our staff for their hard work and innovation on behalf of our students. They were clear that while innovation must be balanced with oversight, they did not want to stand in the way of a creative new approach that we know will benefit our students. I want to thank all of you for your involvement in this process. The social studies plan was truly a grassroots effort, begun by our Equity Team and taken up by our staff and parents. It is the positive beliefs and thoughtfulness of our staff, as well as the supportive efforts of our parents that made this a reality.
Of course, this is just the beginning! Other schools have been watching our journey to get to this place. Superintendent Dr. Nyland has repeatedly stated that closing the achievement gap is THE educational issue of our time. As we begin this work of coordinating our efforts to educate our diverse students body about social studies and to teach them the skills that will allow them to live and work successfully in a diverse community, our progress will be watched by our parents, the district, the board and others who might also want to consider changes to the ways they deliver instruction to create more equitable learning environments. We will approach this work carefully and thoughtfully, keeping and eye towards evaluation of our efforts. This is exciting work we are embarking on!

I look forward to seeing you and your children in just 3 short weeks. I’m excited to start our next year together!

Katie May, Principal
Thurgood Marshall Elementary"

Principal  May: 
I am writing this from my personal email because I cannot get on to the new Outlook system other than through my IPhone.  
I am going to be posting this to the Seattle Schools Community Schools forum blog to clarify my position about remarks attributed to me transferred from a letter from you [Principal May]  to your school that was posted on the blog from the "results" of Monday's (C&I) Curriculum & Instruction meeting. 
 I also wanted to give you the heads up that I have asked General Counsel Noel Treat to research whether or not the proposed Supt. Policy violates or conflicts with the current HCC / AL Policies that allows for a waiver for Thurgood Marshall to blend Social Studies and HCC classes.  I believe other Directors also have concerns.   
I strongly believe that this SPS SP waiver procedure is not clear and is in violation of our current policies.  Though Superintendent Procedures do not have be passed by the Board, they do need to be in synch with current policies.  If the policy is poorly written and confusing and (out of date e.g.,Spectrum and ALO) (as I believe it is) then the policie(s) should be changed and vetted.    The Board has a Committee of the Whole to address Advanced Learning on October 5th.    
I absolutely have enormous respect for our teachers at Thurgood Marshall and others in other communities who are attempting to bring forth creative changes, e.g., Garfield Honors for All in the 9th Grade, Chief Sealth a number of years ago, etc. 
 I do though as an elected Boardmember have a duty to uphold policies, attempt to change them or make them more clear, not to ignore them.  Notice of these proposed changes doesn't appear on the Board's radar until well into the process and that's distressing because then the communication, such as it is, becomes polarized and good intent is lost.  Our waiver policy for curriculum is also not clear, nor is enforcement of same, or of the involvement and counsel of BLTs in any such decisions clearly articulated.  And, the BLT process throughout the district is not consistent.  
My hope is that on Oct. 5th and before and after, we address issues such as identification processes for advanced learning and highly capable opportunities for previously unidentified children, especially those children of color and low SES; whether or not we need and should mandate differentiation professional development training in our increasingly crowded classrooms to be able to meet an even wider population of learning needs; and, where the 25-30% of Seattle's children who have chosen other educational resources are and why - have they given up and lost faith in SPS to meet their children's needs?  
That does NOT mean that I think policies and waivers done without a consistent mechanism in place and without robust engagement and notice to our families is acceptable.  I feel often that we have not identified what part of our process is "site-based management" and what accountability layers are in place or need review and examination, e.g.,  where do the Executive Directors fit in this pattern?  How do the different departments and Exs., Chiefs, and Supts. fit in?   I used to tease former Director Shauna Heath - that we should set the table for 98 other places so every school can do what it likes or needs.  The evaluation process/measurement of changes of narrowing the opportunity gap has to be looked at as well.  What has worked in the past?  What did the U of VA. study say that SPS paid big money for?   
I am in absolute favor of meeting all of the learning needs of our children.  How to do that, I believe deserves very intense and thorough review for unintended consequences and should be approached in a systemic and thoughtful manner - taking into account the hard work and opinions of our teachers who toil every day.  
Most cordially,
Leslie Harris
SPS Director, Dist. 6
Exec., A&F Committees


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