Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Community Engagement 2009 in Review

As thousands of students, teachers, and staff enjoy winter break and many families finalize their plans for the holiday season, I wanted to share a few highlights with you on the Alliance’s community engagement effort.

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

6 comments:

  1. Oh goodie. A whole lotta nothin'.

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  2. I just love the prospect of open and free dialogue, when we know very well the agenda and outcomes are predetermined and its really just a PR exercise so that you can say 'we engaged with the community and this is what they want'....

    Pity so many people here cant identify when this blog's creators have come straight from kissing the blarney stone... pity one cant paste in links to definitions/history entries... but that would mean that people reading this blog and the comments might be exposed to information supporting the criticism posted here... cant have that now, can we... seeing keeping people in ignorance and spinning only one view is what you need to have happen to get what you want...

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  3. Ms McCurdy, I'm sorry that folks have not been more positively impressed by the Alliance's community engagement efforts.

    As you wrote, the Alliance 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
    "

    That's just sad. Have you really increased your understanding of the current educational issues? I don't think you have. What do you think these issues are? Does it include the concerns about the math pedagogy? curricular alignment? the standardization of texts and pedagogy? the pressure on alternative schools to conform? the inequities among schools? Even if you did improve your knowledge, how does that constitute community engagement?

    You created a plan. Whoop-te-do. What is the plan? Where is the plan? Will the plan actually be implemented? Is the plan any good? Does the plan include any actual community engagement? How does creating a plan constitute community engagement?

    I like the sound of dialogue about improving graduation rates. That sounds good.

    The Alliance did NOT support conversations about teacher quality. You cannot even say what teacher quality is. In the absence of a definition of teacher quality (let alone metrics, assessments, or benchmarks), there can be no conversations about it. Instead, you whipped up a lot of hysteria about teacher quality. Plenty of noise, but no signal.

    In the coming year you commit 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
    "

    I'm not sure to what extent these have anything to do with community engagement or with the work that you did last year.

    Whatever you do, please be cautious about using school performance data. There is almost no such thing. Here in Seattle folks seem to have a lot of trouble distinguishing between the performance of schools and the performance of students in those schools. Often, when the students are not performing well, people mistakenly conclude that the school is not performing well. And vice versa - people mistakenly conclude that schools are performing well when it is actually the students in the school who are performing well, not the school. It's astonishing, but when the students struggle, the District tends to send help to the school instead of to the students.

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  4. Other current educational issues:

    The inclusion of special education students in general education classrooms

    The questionable effectiveness of the advanced learning programs

    The District's failure to properly maintain properties (while spending hundreds of millions to build de luxe palaces)

    The inadequate funding by the State

    Seattle Public Schools $10 million annual commitment to teacher coaches as a means of professional development

    The District's inability to manage their capacity

    The absence of effective and timely interventions for students - K-10 - working below grade level

    The Board's inability or unwillingness to manage the superintendent

    The hundreds of broken commitments to students and families

    The inadequate and inequitable access to popular specialized programs

    The routine violation of Board Policies without comment, let alone consequence

    The District's refusal to constructively engage the community - adopting an adversarial position instead and forcing community members into the role of critic (instead of partner)

    The consequences of CORE 24 and the negative impact it will have on graduation rates

    The myth of differentiated instruction

    The mythical benefits of neighborhood schools

    The transition plan for the new student assignment plan, including siblings, special programs, option schools, and re-opened buildings

    STEM - is this going to happen or not? If it does happen, who will it happen for?

    I'm sure there are others. Are these the issues that you have educated yourselves about? If not these, then which?

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  5. Differentiated Instruction is certainly not an easily-identified, monolithic movement. Indeed, the movement is multi-faceted. There is no DI uniform. Check out 23 Myths of Differentiated Instruction.

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  6. Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!
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