Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Through our initial 10-month effort and outreach the community engagement task force has:
· Increased our understanding of the current educational issues and community organizing efforts in Seattle
· Created a community engagement strategic plan for the 2009 – 2010 school year
· Began community dialogues on improving the graduation rate with over 300 participants
· Supported community conversations on teacher quality
This work is truly a collaborative effort between the Alliance and the broader community. I want to extend a huge thanks to some of our community based partners including Seattle University, Youth Ambassadors, City of Seattle Mayor’s Youth Council, YMCA of Greater Seattle, West Seattle High School, Garfield High School, Urban League Scholars, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, the Mockingbird Society, Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition, Refugee School Impact Grant Partnership, and WAPI Community Services for their involvement in our engagement. Each of these partners has provided us the opportunity to interact and create a meaningful conversation on student academic success. We have gained tremendous insight on the concerns of the public, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
Our community partners are committed to hosting dialogues, informing and enhancing our outreach, and even planning the upcoming Youth Education Summit over the next few months.
It is our hope that efforts like the Education Summit will ignite Seattle youth and adults in community engagement and empowerment around key issues of student academic achievement, education reform, and social justice.
In the next six months we have made the commitment to:
· Continue community dialogues on graduation rate (at least 15 events district wide)
· Use school performance data to drive our community dialogue
· Coordinate the work of a Youth Advisory Council to host the Seattle Youth Education Summit
· Complement the work of the Seattle Public Schools Family and Community Engagement effort through participation with the School Family Partnership Advisory Committee
· Continue to share information with and between our community partners
As the Alliance moves forward with this work, it will be important to consider opportunities for program sustainability and effectiveness. We are confident that this campaign will be a tremendous benefit to the Seattle community.
I encourage you to lend your support, comments and ideas on our community engagement efforts. Our dialogue is even more powerful with your voice and action at the table. Happy Holidays to you and your families. See you in 2010!
-Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager
Monday, December 21, 2009
Here's a quick update on our work.
As I mentioned in a previous post, we are working with community partners and SPS staff to explore the potential of a Community Schools initiative here in Seattle. There are already two schools within SPS that are recipients of a federal grant to implement a community schools model, and the leaders of those programs are closely involved in our work of looking at this on a larger scale.
I mentioned previously how many resources we have in our city, and although there are some exceptions, most are not delivered in a coordinated structure. Last year we did an initial piece of work, identifying approximately 300 providers. We surveyed those and about 50% responded and shared where they are in schools across Seattle. The results of that survey were not comprehensive, but showed a lot of resources for students. You can find that information here: www.alliance4ed.org/community/csp.htm
We are building on that previous work and have now identified upwards of 500 potential service providers for students in SPS. A new survey has gone out and we will follow up in a variety of ways to put together as comprehensive of a picture as we can.
Over the next couple months we'll share this on our Web site and through community partners. Stay tuned...
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
- Seattle Public School System
- Local Education Fund - Alliance for Education
- The Funding community - Collegespark, Gates Foundation, College Success Foundation
- Higher ed institutions - University of Washington, Seattle Community College Districts, Seattle Pacific
- Policy and Advocacy groups - Seattle Education Access, League of Education Voters, and El Centro de la Raza
This past year, the network primarily focused on building sustainable relationships within the network and beginning to build a structure within SPS high schools and middle schools that have the highest population of low-income and students of color.
Our four key areas of work include:
- Building capacity with SPS
- Identify and engage community partners
- Build a sustainable structure including metrics for collaboration between schools, community organizations, and families in supporting all students for college access and success
- Push areas of policy that have an impact on the success of this effort
Since the network began, all providers have been energetic, enthusiastic, and committed to the network mission. It is apparent that we are resource rich around the issue of college access and readiness. Coordinating our efforts in a way where we can eliminate inefficiencies and work in concert will be the task ahead.
We welcome your thoughts and participation!!
Mark Yango, AFE
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
- Community Schools
- College Access (includes all post-secondary educational opportunities)
- Support for Teachers and Teacher Quality
- Community Engagement
For this blog I want to share a bit more information about our work in supporting teachers and teacher quality, adding to information previously posted. During the past several months, we have been working with Seattle Public Schools, parents, and a variety of community organizations and individuals to engage in a dialogue about how we sustain strong teaching in every classroom.
The primary goal of this work is to help Seattle Public Schools support strong instruction throughout the city. A system that nurtures new teachers, supports continuous learning, and encourages strong educators to work in high needs school.
As you may know we contracted with the National Council on Teacher Quality to conduct a report on how Seattle is doing in recruiting and retaining effective teachers. We held a public event, and you can read the summary in a previous post. The recommendations that resulted from this report are listed in a link on our web site and we have created a summarized document here: http://www.alliance4ed.org/docs/NCTQ%20Recommendations.pdf
Here are the activities we are currently engaged in:
· With the help of an in-kind grant, we sent a copy of the full report to every teacher in SPS. We included a cover letter stating that although we contracted with NCTQ we don’t agree with all the recommendations, but believe it’s a great opportunity to start the conversation.
· We invited teachers to provide feedback as to their areas of priority for this work. For example, is compensation the most important issue? Evaluation? Tenure?
· Community groups are having the same conversations and sharing with us priority areas for us to focus our efforts.
· We will be conducting teacher focus groups to ask additional questions.
· We are compiling responses from all of these activites and we will ultimately share all this information with the district partners, the union and the greater community.
We know that teachers are the most important component of a classroom. They are there to teach our children and are a vital part of student academic growth. But they are also part of a child’s human growth from helping dry tears in Kindergarten to connecting students to college access resources in high school. It’s a tough and complex job and we’ve got to figure out a way to support and provide partnership so we can really all serve all students in the city.
As a parent, my two daughters have overall had great experiences in Seattle Public Schools. My eldest daughter’s first connection to school in Seattle was at Lafayette Elementary after we moved back here from Portland. She had an incredible teacher, one who truly paved the way for her to love school and learning from an early age. Graduating from college this month, she still loves learning. Being a first-generation college graduate, who received my degree much later in life, I’m pretty excited about that.
And I want that for all students in our city.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
There have been several questions and comments about our work. I would like to share with you some of our priority areas of work, and will do so over the next few weeks. You may or may not know that over the past few years the Alliance has gone through a variety of structural and philosophical changes, from what our priorities are, to how our board and committees are structured (and everything in between). We've changed our staffing structure and worked to strengthen relationships, both with internal SPS staff, and with external community, business and civic partners.
We are now moving forward on specific initiatives. In addition to securing private resources to support the district’s strategic plan, our staff also focuses on other areas of priority. I’ll share more information about each of those, but the four we will talk about primarily are:
· Community Schools
· College Access (includes all post-secondary education options)
· Support for Teachers and Teacher Quality
· Community Engagement
I’ll start with Community Schools. Over the past year and a half, the Alliance has been working in partnership with about a dozen other community-based organizations to explore the idea of coordinated, comprehensive services for students based upon a through needs assessment.
We are resource-rich in Seattle, with literally hundreds of community, non-profit, and government organizations working to support students in our schools. Although there are pockets of coordination, often around specific areas of service, there is not a district-wide structure in place to build strong partnerships between these organizations and schools, limiting our collective ability to serve as many students as possible.
Over the past several months, this conversation grew from just coordinating services to exploring the idea of Community Schools.
So now at the Alliance we are working with partners to explore this concept. Although defined differently in different areas, a community school is generally one that is open for extended days, say from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and provides services ranging from academic supports to family support. At a very early stage, we are looking primarily at the following categories: Academics, Early Learning, Arts, Recreation, Health, Social/emotional support, Family support, and resources for College Access.
We’ve looked at models across the nation, and you can find some really interesting (and varied) examples at this site: www.communityschools.org. We’ve seen and learned many interesting things, including one in Lincoln, Nebraska. At one community school there, they have set up a WIC program right in the building. Parents were developing early, trusting relationships with schools. This transitions to early learning and students are more prepared when entering Kindergarten.
One thing that became very clear is that a community schools initiative needs to grow from the community within which it exists. So we would need to build this collectively.
This is a very large concept, not one easily structured or implemented. And there are many questions that would need to be answered before we could effectively move forward with this work. But we're asking the questions and exploring possibilities.
I could talk endlessly about community schools because such potential exists in bringing together the internal strengths in schools (teaching and learning) with the external resources that students and families need. But I can't do that here (back to work) but as always invite you to call or meet if you have any questions. (206-205-0333). www.alliance4ed.org.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Alliance Board Chair, George Griffin assured the community that the Alliance is in a healthier position as a result of the Patrick’s great leadership which include making great strides in expanding community engagement, increasing college access, and improving teacher quality throughout the Seattle Public School System.
The Alliance Board has convened a search committee for a new President and CEO. And the hope is to find a new President and CEO by early February.
To read the press release on Patrick’s resignation, please visit http://www.alliance4ed.org/PatrickDAmelioResignationNov32009.pdf.
Although we at the Alliance are saddened by Patrick’s departure, the blog posts will continue because the Alliance’s mission -- to ensure every child in Seattle Public Schools achieve academic success – never ends.
We urge the entire community to continue blogging and using this site as a vehicle for public discourse on education issues. As Patrick mentioned in the first blog, “topics such as teacher quality, the achievement gap, student assignment, community schools, education reform, and equitable access to college” will continue to be a rich source of discussion. It is important that we get healthy participation from the entire community.
So, please, keep on blogging!!
Mark Yango, Director of Communications, AFE
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
It’s clear that people feel strongly about the topic of education. We are dealing with the single most important factor in parent’s lives: their children. Non-parents also have perspectives about education, as employers, community members, and stakeholders in other ways.
Since I came to the Alliance almost three years ago, it has become clear to me that the more you learn about public education, the deeper you understand how complex the issues are. We, as a school district and community fail too many children across our city. The number of students who don’t graduate is too high; 33.5%. As an organization, we want to find ways to actively support them and keep them in our schools.
At the Alliance for Education our agenda is about supporting a public school system in Seattle that can effectively address the needs of a diverse population and help all students graduate ready for college, career and life. It’s that simple.
I will answer a couple of the questions you’ve brought up here, but for other questions I’ll point you to the web, or invite you to call us directly.
Our investments are listed on our web site, with a few updates needed (we’ve been without a communications manager, but that position is filled and he will be starting soon). We currently support academic investments such as Readers and Writers Workshops, a highly successful literacy program, and local college readiness programs that have not previously had consistent support, training, or outreach materials. We also invest in long-neglected infrastructure needs, such as the performance management system. This tool will be used to help teachers better understand student needs, principals better understand teacher and individual school needs, and for central office staff to direct resources to the areas that need additional support, starting in the classroom.
These are a few of the investments, but more are listed on our web site and in our report to the community:
There are also new investment initiatives that take place regularly, for example one that is not currently listed is supporting leadership development for principals and central office staff. To Charlie’s point from a previous thread, this might be a place to talk about the chain of accountability.
There has been a lot of conversation about the recently released NCTQ report, in schools and in the community. We’re hearing about conversations taking place in the teacher’s lounges, some positive, some not. We’re excited because that’s where we need to start.
Charlie’s point about defining teacher quality is an important one. It’s a conversation that needs to take place between teachers, administrators, community members and others. There are many definitions out there already, but it is up to us as a community to learn about the context here and have the discussion here in Seattle. And we absolutely need teachers at the table, as they are the ones that know the challenges and barriers firsthand.
Here are some thoughts to start the conversation:
One definition lists five primary factors of teaching success: www.nbpts.org/index.cfm?t=downloader.cfm&id=594
· Teachers are committed to students and their learning
· Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students
· Teachers are responsible for managing student learning
· Teachers think systematically bout their practice and learn from experience
· Teachers are members of learning communities
But this is just the beginning of the conversation. As with all complex issues, working through an issue like defining teacher quality brings up more questions. For example, if a teacher has the ability and skills to engage students successfully in learning how do you measure that? And how do you measure that equitably across student populations, with vastly different resources and individual school challenges, e.g. leadership? Clearly it is difficult to address all of the pertinent issues, but our suggestion is not that we back away from the challenge, but take it on.
On a personal note, my older daughter went to Seattle Public Schools graduating from Garfield a few years back. She had fabulous teachers. She still talks about many of them, keeping in touch with Mr. Acox, and wondering where Mr. Cerquitella went. My younger daughter started middle school this year at Eckstein. Many teachers there have been there for years. It’s been a wonderful transition at a really difficult age for kids.
From my perspective, the vast majority of teachers have been incredible: supportive, pushing the kids, and going the extra mile when the kids need help. On a personal level, I have no complaints about my kids’ experiences. But I don’t face the barriers that many people face in our communities in supporting and advocating for their children. And our schools have low teacher turnover and strong leadership. That’s great for my kids. But I want that for the other kids too.
I’m sure in the context of addressing the societal challenges of supporting all students in our schools, we will not all agree. But let’s start from the place that matters: the students, the children in our communities. Our commitment is to them. And I invite you to come to the table to talk about what we can all do to improve opportunities for all kids in the system.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I was personally impressed with their honesty, and found them to be bright and courageous young people with brilliant ideas about the meaning of quality education. They represent many public and private schools such as Garfield, Madrona K-8, Washington Middle School, Holly Names, and Lakeside. Take a good look at their comments and give us your feedback.
Youth Ambassadors' Comments:
1) “There is a gap between what teachers say they will teach and what they actually teach you. They say they are going to enhance your understanding of the culture of the language you are trying to learn and then all they teach you is a cultural song or dance. It gives you a false impression of what you are actually supposed to learn. Don’t have inflated goals; it you are going to do it [teach], do it.”
2) “School leadership should raise teachers' salary. Teaching is a profession that many people cannot do well because it does not have high pay. If we want our society to be more educated and get more teachers, then the best thing we can do to attract them is offer a higher salary.”
3) “I have been in the lowest math classes possible during school because I’m just not good at math. I was in Integrated Math II last year. I was like the “white person” in my class because I’m half Asian and everyone else was East Asian or African American. The teacher that I had also had AP classes that she treated differently than our class. She was really happy and polite and nice [to the AP class]; she brought them cookies, she had a really good attitude and she really helpful. And then with our class it was the complete opposite. She called my friend Kevin a ninja. I don’t know what that was about, but it was bad. She would talk back to students and snap her fingers at them. I don’t know if that was her idea of getting through to those kids. It was just interesting seeing the difference in how she treated them. She was like the least helpful teacher of all. She never ever would help a kid [in my class] out. The other Asians would be dispersed among the other student’s tables. I guess she expected us to be the smart ones. It was pretty shocking; the way she taught. It disturbed me and made me really angry. It’s just interesting seeing the difference in how AP and regular classes can be taught by the same teacher. “
4) “To be honest, I have never been at risk of not graduating just because of how I was raised. My parents always pushed me to take harder classes and go to college, but still I can think of three or four teachers that have had the biggest impact on me and I’m still in touch with all of them. Because they ask me how I am doing; they know what is going on in my life and they will share parts [stories] of themselves with me too. And so, I actually feel like I have a relationship with them. I feel like I have someone who makes me want to come to school and go to class. I feel like if there were more teachers like that then there would be more students who actually want to go to school.”
5) “Teaching is not always engaging. A lot of what we do is a lot of textbook work and reading the answers back. There is a not hands on learning and that means a lot of students are not successful. A very small part of the [student] population is good at that. The people who are good at SAT’s and good at WASL and good at tests can learn like that. We need more hands on things in the class. Make it relevant to our lives now.”
6) “I went to Washington Middle School and I felt fortunate to be able to go to one of the better schools. With all of the budget cuts and kids being relocated, even if students are at a higher level, it [quality learning] is not accessible to them because they are forced into a school they don’t really want to go to. I think that if they [school district] are going to have this whole geographical thing it’s not really fare to have a separation between good and bad schools. At Washington, I had some really good teachers that affected me and wanted to make me do better and I think that those kinds of teacher are really needed at the schools that are considered “bad schools”. Without teacher motivation there is no student motivation.”
7) “Counselors; there need to be more of them. At my school, we have 1600 students and like three or four counselors. That’s like 400 kids per counselor; they can’t possibly cater to each student’s needs and be accessible to them to really help guide them. People [students] have to be self motivated to get all the credits they need. Accountability [for students] is one thing, but for counselors that’s their job.”
8) "I think there should be a better system of getting students to know what classes they need to take. I know that there is counselor night, and my mom was about to not go to that, but at the last minute she did and figured out that I have an occupational ed issue. If she hadn’t of gone I wouldn’t have been able to graduate on time. That would have been horrible if she had not have gone and a lot of people deal with that [same issue]."
9) “Stuff like gang violence and drama make it hard for some of us. Me and my friends get a lot of threats from other kids. They say they’re gonna’ kill us or blow up the school and stuff like that. They [gangs] just don’t care about finishing school. One of my friends said he is going to get a job working for his uncle and make money that way. He thinks, 'why go to school if it doesn’t make adifference?'”
10) “I really like how you came out here to ask us about what we think. I would really like it if school leaders [principals, the superintendent, school board] took the time to talk to us. I think that would make a difference.”
-Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager
*Learn more about Youth Ambassadors at http://youthambassadors.net/
Friday, October 16, 2009
It’s no surprise how passionate people are about public education and how deeply people care about the children in our community. It is surprising to me how that passion translates into some of the content and tone throughout the various threads this week – but, that’s what makes blogging interesting.
I said at the beginning of the week that we’re new at this and would make mistakes – still true -- but I also think we learned something every day this week. My only disappointment is that we spent more time thinking about blogging and getting our feet on the ground than actually getting to the important questions. Stick with us – over the next weeks we want to address as many of the substantive questions raised as we can.
Let me say this in the meantime – this week for us was about teacher quality. The NCTQ report sparked an enormous amount of conversation. That alone is probably a good thing but I would be the first to say that it is insufficient if the conversation doesn’t inform our thinking and drive change. The report is one resource. This blog is another. We as a community have a lot of work to do and I am confident we’ll keep at it.
Patrick D'Amelio, CEO
Have a great weekend!
Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Here's a quick rundown of the evening. We started a little late because of issues with microphones that worked during soundcheck but were unreliable at a few points during the evening. But that's the beauty of a live event, right? We're flexible when we need to be.
After a welcome delivered by Patrick, our president, and George, our board chair, Kate Walsh, the president of NCTQ gave her presentation which ran longer than expected, but covered all of the key points of the report including:
- Teacher Compensation
- Transfer and Assignment
- Work Day and Year
- Developing Effective Teachers and Exiting Ineffective Teachers
Immediately following the presentation, Glenn Bafia of SEA and Maria Goodloe-Johnson of SPS gave a short response to the presentation.
After a shortened Q&A session (due to being behind schedule) we broke into table discussion. There was a facilitator at most tables who captured responses to questions and additional comments. Individuals sitting at tables without facilitators were invited to join the conversation at other tables. Those comments are currently being consolidated and will be display on this blog asap.
Below are the questions we asked the individual groups. Having been a blogger for a full day now I'm getting better at this (I wouldn't say good yet). I'll anticipate that these questions will not be some of the same questions you would have asked. So I invite you to ask your questions on the blog. Our commitment is that we keep this a constructive dialogue and invite you to do the same.
1. Do you agree with the recommendations for improving teacher quality that were proposed in this report? Why or why not?
2. What opportunities can the following groups create in making sure all students in our schools are learning: school leaders, the teacher's union, teachers, parents and community members?
3. What is the concern or issue about teaching quality that you find yourself most often telling?
Additional comments were invited along the way.
I will separate individual questions into a separate thread because there were a lot of responses to sort through. This will also allow for a conversation specifically around tonight's comments which I will post as soon as possible.
We're quickly posting the raw comments. Over the next few days we will compile them, and summarize consistent themes and comments, but for now you have it to review.
Click on "comments" to see most of the discussion which took place at the event. PLEASE NOTE: not all comments have been posted yet... stay tuned!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
It is absolutely our intention to create a space that allows dissent and supports a full public dialogue both in our public engagement events and online. Join us tomorrow evening for a great example of how we want to put this commitment into practice. The Alliance is hosting a community forum to discuss a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), titled Human Capital in Seattle Public Schools. Check out the details here. As part of this event, we’ll post participants’ reactions and feedback here on the blog in the coming days.
This blog is a work in progress and, as noted in one of the early posts, there are many other fine blogs that follow issues related to public education. It’s our intention to add to the rich mix and to better inform our own efforts as we continue our work to help every child in Seattle Public Schools achieve academic success.
Patrick D’Amelio, CEO
Monday, October 12, 2009
The event will take place on Wednesday, October 14th at the Seattle University Campion Tower Ballroom. The event will begin promptly at 6:30pm. Please refer to the attached flyer for program details.
You may also be interested in the attached Lynne Varner editorial that references the NCTQ report.
The forum will include a presentation by Kate Walsh, President of NCTQ, followed by roundtable discussions about what this report means for our community and students. It is our hope that this forum helps to provide teachers with the tools, structures and support necessary to ensure all students are prepared in school, work and life.
To RSVP or request more information, please contact Rachel Hug at 206.205.0322 or Rachel@alliance4ed.org. We look forward to your attendance at this event.
Community Engagement Manager
We hope that this will become a forum for asking tough questions, surfacing the best ideas and a true gathering place for community insight.
As we launch this new effort, we want to make several commitments to you:
· This is your voice. Be assured that we will listen.
· We will not script or edit content.
· We’ll work hard to understand and analyze your insight.
· We’re committed to sharing that insight directly and frankly.
Seattle is a bright and diverse community with limitless possibility. Imagine for a moment that we can harness all of the collective insight and passion that is so evident in our community and focus it strategically on support for all of our students.
We hope you will find this blog useful. If you do, we’ll be happy to hear that and if you don’t we’re sure we’ll see that on the blog!
Let the blogging begin.
AFE President & CEO