A friend asked me to go to the Garfield meeting to listen to Dr. Goodloe-Johnson speak about the curriculum alignment in math. Because I live across the street from Garfield and I’m always up for more information about our schools, I agreed to go and take notes for them.
Ah, Garfield. I will not go on about the renovation but at sometime everyone needs to just walk into the front door and check it out. It never ceases to amaze me how much money was spent on that building.
To add insult to injury, when I walked in they were painting the walls in the cafeteria! The same color! I didn’t see any damage to the walls and could not understand why they were doing that. After they finish up there, they need to get over to the Meaney building and do a little scraping, patching and painting of those walls. Those walls have peeling paint and we won’t EVEN talk about the color.
But, I was not there to review the décor, I was there to take notes about our math and science curriculum alignment and I was ready, pen in hand.
Blum and Sundquist were there and so was the Executive Director of SEA, Glenn Bafia.
First there was the PTSA business and then an introduction to our superintendent.
There was a handout that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson referred to that I was able to obtain, they ran out. It is, according to DGJ, on the SPS website and it is titled “Strengthening Talent in Every Seattle School/ January 2010”. OK, I’m ready.
Well first of all, let me say that our superintendent can read well and very quickly. She read through those bullet points at an impressive pace. There was no time for interjection or questions. After the first set of bullet points, while she was catching her breath, a parent asked a question. Whoa, what timing!
Now I will give you my bullet points from my notes regarding this part of the conversation:
MGJ stated that there was a “Validation Process” that a suggested course could go through to ensure that it met the requirements for core curriculum.
There would be a manager for each subject such as a “Science Manager” who would oversee the process.
There would also be a manager for the Advanced Learning Department.
Then there were a lot of questions about the math and science core curriculum but DGJ said that she was not prepared to answer those questions. Well, that’s too bad because that’s why we were all there, including me.
Then there were a few questions about the graduation requirements and the core curriculum but again, DGJ did not have that information. She said that we could get it “on the web”.
Well, moving right along. At this point a member of the Garfield Foundation got up and fielded a question about an accelerated Science program. He said that a student could take an exam to bypass a particular core curriculum class but that it would be discussed in the future. Apparently that has not been worked out yet.
Next there was a presentation to DGJ about the Read/Write program that seems to be successful at Garfield. We were told that about 100 students at Garfield can read only up to the 4th grade level. Because of the number of students and the lack of funds, they are not able to meet the needs of these students and that there is a wait list. Some of these students will not be able to participate in the program and will graduate reading at that lower level. The presenter said that it takes about one semester to get the students up to their grade level. They were requesting support for this program by SPS.
Wow. Awesome program! Maybe the Alliance could pitch in here and use some of those thousands that it’s thrown away on the NCTQ report and save these children. Or maybe Mr. Gates could throw a few million this way instead of spending his money on creating more assessment tests for our kids.
The next program is the “CAN”, College Access Network”, program that is at Garfield, West Seattle and Franklin. It has been successful at placing almost 100% of its’ students into colleges. The Garfield PTSA was requesting support for this program also.
DGJ said that she had not seen the request but would review it.
The next item on the agenda was, here we go again, “Teacher effectiveness, hiring and retention”, one of my favorite subjects.
It was stated, by the PTSA Co-chair, that we lost many of our good teachers because of the rif (the rif that I still don’t see the point of since just about everyone was hired back. The district knew that there were 1,200 students over-enrolled in April and yet they were determined to rif teachers. Whose fault was that, the teachers’ union or bad management on part of our administration? More to follow on my theory later.)
I caught the quote “Ineffective teachers in front of the classroom” from the co-chair. So this is the crux of our entire problem, bad teachers and the union. Wow, how simple, or simplistic, the answer must be. Where we are in education, of course, would not have anything to do with class size, the socio-economic situation of many of our students, buildings that are too hot or too cold to be in, hungry kids, teachers having to deal with not only over-crowded classrooms but special needs students who want to be mainstreamed and children with behavioral issues.
Underfunding? Not even brought up. It’s the teachers.
“Seniority trumps” for good reason, we have “lost many young, good teachers” How many? Most of them were brought back. And the final question to DGJ, “What can we do to make it clear” that we are unhappy with this situation?
DGJ responded that there were avenues to go through but unfortunately I did not write down what she mentioned.
The co-chair piped in again and began to blame the teachers for the lower reading levels. If I was a teacher right now in the SPS system I would be truly upset at this time. They are getting blamed for everything, all the ills of the world, and what do they get for it? Low pay, little support, lousy work environment, in most schools at least, not enough materials and books, overcrowded classrooms, need I go on?
Then someone got up and suggested that there be a vote on the last seven bullet points on the handout that had been provided by DGJ. It all looked pretty good if not rather vague. One point did stand out to me though. “Align pay for our instructional professionals to the district’s strategic goals”. Hmmm, what does that mean?
Several people had that same question and concern. Was this another way of introducing the idea of merit pay? Someone ask DGJ if teacher performance should be a factor in evaluating our teachers. Our superintendent responded that there was a four-tiered evaluation process in place that was used.
More discussion ensued and then the superintendent went exit right. I don’t recall her saying good-by but she must have.
The discussion continued and I found it to be interesting and provocative. There should be more discussions like this one. Unfortunately it didn’t happen at the Seattle PTSA meeting when the powers that be were pushing through a similar statement called the Community Values’ Statement.
I won’t go into the details but it did eventually come down to a vote on supporting the bullet points and it was split down the middle. 27 yes, 14 against and 13 abstaining (not enough info or too vague).
Interesting evening, glad I went.
By the way, the acoustics in the cafeteria are horrendous. Next time I would suggest meeting in the library.
Signing off for now.