Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 - The year to come

Happy New Year!

As we leave behind the first decade of the 21st Century it's a great time to reflect and think big about what lies ahead.

The end of this first decade came much faster than I anticipated. I wonder how we would score ourselves over the past decade? Let me know what you think, but I feel as if we've been caught at the end of the race without really reaching our full running potential.

In some ways we've done very well, and in other areas we've struggled. And in education you can see examples of how we've done both. We can easily find challenges we have not met, such as the achievement gap. And we can also find great examples of where classrooms across the city are building a love of learning in their students.

So how do we keep moving in the direction of all students succeeding? At the Alliance we are continuing along a path that we've carved out over the past few years which prioritizes working on sustainable programs that will result in equitable support for all students in all schools (equitable does not mean "the same").

Our programs include community schools, teaching quality, college access and success, and engaging all communities in support of students. Our work in these areas is progressing steadily, and we are enjoying the potential that we see in our work, and the work of many other individuals and organizations.

For the community schools initiative we are currently working on two areas of research and outreach. Primarily we are working to get a handle on what services exist for students in Seattle Public Schools, and find out where they are located. Last year we conducted a survey of community based organizations, sending to roughly 300 organizations. We received 147 responses, giving the first real glimpse at what organizations are serving students in our schools. This next level of research adds additional organizations to the original list, and updates the information through a variety of channels including survey, school information, and outreach to the organizations.

This work will also feed into the college access initiative as we better understand the resources available to students. There are many programs providing mentoring, financial assistance, course planning and other support to keep kids on track to be able to choose whichever post-secondary educational opportunities they desire.

Education is an incredibly complex topic. Let's start with the fact that we're dealing with children, the single most important thing in a parent or family's life. And let's compound that by the fact that most of us have been through school with widely varying experiences. Those two things alone make it difficult to start a conversation from the same place. Then add a lot of economic and racial diversity, and we've got a complex mix of ideology, culture, opinion, and reality.

But the bottom line is, we all care about the kids. Let's start the New Year in that place, thinking about what we share. Happy New Year to you all and I look forward to working with you in the coming year.


(Isn't it amazing to think that there are young people out there who have no idea what Y2K means?)


  1. Happy new year to you, too, Karen

    You write that "we're dealing with children, the single most important thing in a parent or family's life."

    I beleive this is an inaccurate statement, and one that puts blinders on us. Yes, children are important, but so are their parent/guardians and the community that supports them.

    I don't believe it pays off to say that children are "the single most important thing..." what's important is the entire family unit and the community, so all can flourish. Each part is equally important: without healthy adults, children suffer. Without a healthy community, children and adults suffer (so children suffer more)

    A common statement is that educators should focus on the children...well, yes of course, but without healthy educators, there is no healthy educattion. So educators are as important as children: they're in a symbiotic relationship and both are equally important.

    Of course we all want to help children, this goes without saying. But they are not "the most important"; Everyone is equally important and responsible.

  2. Karen,

    Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson has made a number of false statements in the three years that she's been here in Seattle, but I can't help noticing that she has really stepped them up lately. She is making them more frequently, and the lies have become more outrageous.

    For example, at the January 6 Board meeting she claimed that Aki Kurose and Cleveland had made significant gains.

    Here's the direct quote:

    "I would just add that in the Southeast Initiative effort and in the metrics – I'm not sure what you got in the Finance Committee – but part of the performance measure presentation that we're going to do in February is going to illustrate the Southeast Initiative efforts and the increase in academic achievement for students. While it may not be where we want it to be, certainly at Cleveland and at Aki this past year they made significant gains."

    Karen, this is categorically false. It's not even open to interpretation. It is just flat out objectively false.

    Now there's a quote in the Seattle Times from her saying that Rainier Beach needs two principals due to the anticipated increased enrollment. That's crazy. Even with all of the students that the District is going to steer into Rainier Beach, the enrollment won't be more than 700. Every other comprehensive high school gets along just fine with one principal despite having many more students.

    How does it promote the District or the District's community engagement efforts when the superintendent spouts lies like this? How can the District build any credibility?

  3. Karen,

    You write that you are working on a teacher quality program. Do you have a definition of teacher quality yet? Do you have a metric? An assessment? A benchmark? Do you have anything that even looks like a measurement of teacher quality? How can you move forward on this program without even knowing what you're talking about?

    As you move forward on the college access program I hope that you will keep a broad definition of "college" to include ANY post-secondary education including two- and four-year colleges and universities, but also including vocational schools and apprenticeships. Let's adopt Shep Siegel's definition of college and let people know that is the one we are using.

    Thanks and Happy New Year!

  4. Charlie,

    You might have missed in a previous post how we define college access. This work is committed to ensuring that students have access to whichever post-secondary educational opportunities they desire. That includes 2 & 4 year colleges, as well as trade and technical.

    The language is challenging, and we've heard from some that we shouldn't call it "college." I would love to have us come up with some language that will accurately convey the message but also inspire students beyond "post-secondary educational opportuntiies!"