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PRIDE in My Child

I am the mother of three, and it just so happens that my youngest child, Elysia, is queer. For the month of Pride, I would like to tell you a little bit about them; how wonderful, kind, funny, and smart they are. I learn so much from them and have fun watching them become the person they are.

My Only Daughter

I have a strained relationship with my mother. That may be an understatement. I’m a fairly radical atheist and consider myself a far left anarchist who fights for racial justice. My parents are both Trump supporting Republicans. I don’t think I have to explain why our relationship is strained, but it’s more so with my mom for some reason. I never felt like I’ve been good enough for her. She’s white and my dad is Xicano, and my mom has had this “inside joke” she shares often with others and with me. It goes like this: “I always wanted a blond-haired, blue-eyed child. I guess I married the wrong man,” followed by laughter.

mom

To make matters worse, my cousins – her sister’s daughters – are both fair skinned, one with blond hair and green eyes, the other with gorgeous red hair. My mom has always been very public about how beautiful she thinks they are. I honestly can’t remember my mom ever telling me I was beautiful, or even pretty. She used to always remark about the bags under my eyes that reminded her of my Grandma Chavez, or chastise me for wearing tight fitting clothes because my hips, butt, or thighs were too big.

My two oldest children, both male, were born while I was a teenager, and the doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to conceive after my second son because of serious hormone imbalances. I became pregnant with Elysia, or “E” as I call them, when my youngest son was 10. I was so ecstatic when I found out I’d be having a girl. I went out and bought fairies and frilly purple things for her room. It was more than just having a girl to complete our family; I wanted so badly to have a fulfilling mother-daughter relationship. I saw this as my chance.

People Change

From birth to around the time of the 4th grade, E was as girly as a person could be. Over time, though, things started to change. They started to hate wearing dresses. They wanted to cut their hair short. One day, while riding in the car, E said, “Mom, I think I’m transgender.”

short hair

“Oh?” I replied. “Why do you think that?”

We had a long conversation about a book they were reading about a transgender child and how they didn’t feel like they were really a girl. We talked about body dysmorphia, and E decided they were ok with their body, but not ok with gender stereotypes as they felt they didn’t fit into any of the assigned female roles. Luckily, my teaching partner also facilitated the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and had some reading materials for me to share with E. After learning together, E has settled on a non-binary, or gender fluid identity.

In the 5th grade, E had a really cute “relationship” with a boy at their school. They were boyfriend/girlfriend until E moved schools in the 7th grade. Around this time, E started saying they were bisexual. We talked about what that meant, too, and E started dating girls at their school. They went from bisexual to gay, and when their girlfriend came out as trans, E discovered they are pansexual, and now they just refer to themself as queer, which is all encompassing of their gender expression and sexuality.

My Child Is My Teacher

I would like to say this has been super easy for me and all of these discoveries E’s experienced have had no impact on me, but that’s not true. Of course I’ve been supportive and love my child as they are, but it has stretched my understanding of gender and sexuality and encouraged me to educate myself on each. I still suck at getting the pronouns correct. It’s not easy when you’ve gone 40 years in a binary world, but I try my hardest and apologize when I mess up.

I’ve also had to defend E from attacks from their father and brother and my side of the family. While on vacation in Europe, I sent E’s father a picture thinking he would like to see E enjoying our trip. He went on a tirade about how I let his daughter look like a “dike.” So, not only do I have to defend E, I have to build them up to prevent these attacks from tearing them down. It hurts to see their tears caused by a person who is supposed to love them unconditionally.

glasgow

Watching E’s resilience and openness gives me so much pride in and respect for them. They are unapologetically who they are and they love everyone with their whole heart. I haven’t lost a daughter. I’ve gained a happy and fulfilled child who fearlessly expresses their authentic self. That’s better than what I expected from the mother/daughter relationship I craved. Their unconditional love makes me want to be a better person. I wish I could have grown up in a household where love was at the center of all decisions made; truly at the center in practice, and not just words. I want all children to be able to explore and discover who they are without judgment. I see in E what is possible when that exists – Love and Joy.

Happy Pride Month!

pride

Action Plan

This is the final post in my special series, “Special Edition PhD Series: The Devil in Seattle Public Schools’ racial equity data.” This paper was written in response to the data analysis papers I’ve shared previously in this series. All of the papers are supposed to be read together as one, giant analysis and action plan.

I got some ideas on how we can align data, leadership, and implementation to prioritize critical pedagogy and ethnic studies, at least in the Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction department. There are some fairly big changes coming to leadership, so now would be the best time to do this alignment! Just remember, you read it here, first!


District-Wide Instructional Goal

As a result of Seattle Public Schools’ new Strategic Plan that calls for “…[eliminating] opportunity and achievement gaps…,” “… high-quality, world-class education,” for all students, and “educational justice” (Seattle Public Schools, 2019), it is the goal of the Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction Department to move beyond culturally responsive teaching practices and into critical pedagogy in the service of delivering ethnic studies content. Culturally responsive teaching strategies are integral to the end goal of critical pedagogy and ethnic studies, but culturally responsive teaching is not an end goal because it, alone, is not anti-racist (Castro-Gill, VanDerPloeg, Alonzo, Charlton, Au, Guzmán, 2018).

Ethnic studies and critical pedagogy have been proven to increase results in all the data measures the district has set forth as indicators of successful implementation of the Strategic Plan. Increases in engagement, literacy skills, higher-order thinking skills (critical thinking), multi-lingual and multi-cultural literacy, math skills, science literacy, identity affirmation and safety, leadership and civic engagement, graduation rates, college attendance, and standardized test scores have all been linked to ethnic studies programs (Sleeter, 2011).

Critical pedagogy is a necessary practice in the successful implementation of ethnic studies content (Sleeter, 2011). Critical pedagogy was championed by Brazilian educator and activist Paolo Freire. In teaching literacy to mostly illiterate, poor, laborers in Brazil, he combined the practice of andragogy with the concept he called critical pedagogy. He argues oppression is, in part, the result of “banking education,” in which students are objects, or passive learners, in whose brains knowledge is deposited by oppressors. His answer to this is inquiry-based education in which students learn skills through solving problems they relate to in their own communities, thus transforming them from passive objects to active subjects of their learning and lives (Freire, 1968).

Ethnic studies is the critical study of the histories of various groups of color. It centers the history of power, oppression, resistance, and liberation. Ethnic studies challenges students to explore their racial and ethnic identities and how those things position themselves in history and the present. Ethnic studies expects students to act on their world, much like Freire’s vision of critical pedagogy (Castro-Gill, et al, 2018).

In addition to the goals of the Strategic Plan, the district’s stated vision is, “Every Seattle Public Schools’ student receives a high-quality, world-class education and graduates prepared for college, career, and community” (Seattle Public Schools, 2019b). Critical pedagogy and ethnic studies are proven effective strategies to meet these goals (Sleeter, 2011). As the core of teaching and learning in the district, the Department of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction cannot delay on implementing an action plan to achieve these goals.

Benchmarks and Timeline

Several deficits in the current system have been identified that need to be categorized and prioritized to reach the goal of critical pedagogy and ethnic studies. These are outlined below along with acceptable timeframes for implementation.

Leadership changes.

In the current structure of Seattle Public Schools, the human resources department is leading goal setting and professional development on instructional practices. There is no shared understanding about why this task has been assigned to human resources when the district has a large curriculum, assessment, and instruction department. The ethnic studies program is housed in the CAI department, so in terms of alignment to meet the goal of critical pedagogy and ethnic studies, instructional goals and professional development should be housed together with ethnic studies.

Michael Fullan identifies what he calls, “Big Ideas for Whole System Reform.” Two of these ideas support the need for this shift in leadership on instruction: resolute leaders that stay on message, and strategies with precision (2010, p4). The ethnic studies program manager in CAI was selected to lead the work of creating a new, ethnic studies program because she is an activist that worked with the NAACP to push the Seattle School Board to adopt a resolution in support of ethnic studies in the district. She has been recognized for her work in the region on racial justice in education (Castro-Gill, n.d.). The executive director of CAI has an undergraduate degree in ethnic studies. Both leaders are educators of color committed to racial justice. The resolute leaders who have consistently stayed on message for critical pedagogy and ethnic studies exist in CAI, not in human resources. The alignment between the executive director and program manager will facilitate the development and implementation of precise strategies. This shift in leadership in instruction can and should happen immediately.

The next step in leadership change is to align the leadership within CAI so that critical pedagogy and ethnic studies are the focal point of all curriculum, assessment, and instruction. The department of curriculum, assessment, and instruction consists of the various core content programs and specialty programs like the arts and library services. If critical pedagogy and ethnic studies are to be universal, all decisions made about adoption of curricula, resources, instruction, and assessments needs to be filtered through an ethnic studies lens. Therefore, the ethnic studies program manager should be elevated to director status, just under the executive director in the organization chart.

Currently, the model is that the ethnic studies program manager is at the same level, institutionally, as the program managers of all other content areas. Other content area managers are under no obligation to follow the lead of the ethnic studies program manager. This does not facilitate the development and implementation of precise systemic strategies as outlined by Michael Fullan (2010). This shift in leadership also can and should happen immediately.

Lastly, to be sure alignment of goals, values, critical pedagogy, and ethnic studies reaches school buildings, and therefore, students, the practice of site-based decision making needs to be dismantled and replaced with a tighter version. Effective systems find the right balance between too tight of control and too loose of control (Fullan, 2010).

The current, site-based model is too loose because building administrations frequently choose to opt out of district adopted goals and curricula, or they implement goals and curricula in ways they were not intended. For example, the district recently adopted a new, K-5 literacy curriculum and even though the collective bargaining agreement between the district and educators’ union has an academic freedom clause that gives educators the right to use professional judgment in instruction (Seattle Education Association, 2015), principals have been reported to sit in on classrooms with a script from the curriculum to be sure teachers are teaching it with fidelity. Dr. Kinoshita, the Executive Director of CAI, has explicitly stated on several occasions that he is opposed to “fidelity” in implementation of curricula, and culturally responsive and differentiated instruction should be employed. Conversely, principals have refused to implement ethnic studies (Castro-Gill, 2019) even though it is a board goal (Seattle Public Schools, 2019a).

This inconsistency is a result of the too lose status of alignment between district goals and vision and site-based decision making. Fullan suggests a remedy to this is to have clear non-negotiable goals that must be met by each site while allowing freedom for each site to determine the best way to achieve the goal (2010). The fact that so many principals are opting out of doing any work on critical pedagogy and ethnic studies is dismissive of the fact that this is a prominent goal of the district that the community has repeatedly demanded (Dornfeld, 2019).

Data changes.

In response to the overwhelming evidence of the inherent racism in standardized testing (Au, 2008; Kendi, 2016), the first change to how data is collected and used to drive decision-making in Seattle Public Schools is to not use standardized test data in any decision-making. This change must happen right away. Outlined below is the process of eliminating and replacing standardized test outcomes in data-driven decision-making.

Begin with historical data and missing data.

To align with best practices in data analysis outlined by Dr. Bernhardt, a longitudinal analysis of data needs to be initiated as soon as possible (2016). Unfortunately, some historical data is missing or incomplete, particularly disaggregated student and family perceptions data, data on achievement for all subject areas, needs data from families and students, and racial equity literacy levels of educators. A gaps analysis needs to be conducted for the types of data that are missing that have not already been identified. To build collective capacity and intelligent accountability, this should be performed with various stakeholders, including, but not limited to, students, families, and educators (Bernhardt, 2016; Fullan, 2011).

Disaggregated student and family perceptions data will replace standardized test score data as the central focus of measuring success in data-driven decision-making. While testing mandates are beyond the control of district leadership, how the district operationalizes racial justice and equity is not. Research has concluded that focusing on racial justice initiatives like critical pedagogy and ethnic studies increases all measures of success, including standardized test achievement (Colgren & Sappington, 2015; Sleeter, 2011). The focus of the district moving forward will be on creating safe and just learning environments in which students and families measure how successful the district is at accomplishing its goals, instead of test scores, via disaggregated student and family perceptions data. The district has the capacity to begin this strategy immediately.

Align goals, data, practice, and accountability.

To create an alignment between the goal of achieving racial justice via critical pedagogy and ethnic studies, data needs to begin to be collected on the levels of racial equity literacy among educators. The measurement tools needed to collect this type of data will be created, again, with all stakeholders. The data will be disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and gender of educators. The development of measurements can begin immediately and be concluded within the next 12 calendar months.

Professional development has already been developed by SEA’s Center for Racial Equity. The district will partner with and learn from CRE to build capacity for all educators in the district (Seattle Education Association, 2019). This can happen concurrently with the development of measurements. At the end of the 12-month period, a process will be created to add racial equity literacy as a component of evaluations for all educators, including administrators, teachers, and instructional assistants.

Systematize and sustain goals and data.

Currently, the district lacks a consistent and reliable data feedback loop. Protocols that require regular reflection on data and action based on reflection do not exist. Frequently, professional development and PLC work consists of “analyzing” data, but, because of the site-based decision-making model, there is no way to determine if action is taken and on what level or with what degree of fidelity. Part of the work of aligning goals, data, and implementation is to create a data feedback loop that includes district and building implementation of practices (Mandinach & Jackson, 2012).

A strategy to systematize the alignment of goals, data, and implementation at the building level is to require that schools remove testing data as a measure from success in their continuous improvement plan and replace it with student and family perceptions data and other measurements previously indicated. Currently, most school CSIPS do not include any perceptions data, which is in direct conflict of best practice (Bernhardt, 2016). This change in the systemic use of data can happen immediately.

Systemic changes.

The goal of the district is to achieve educational justice for students of color. It is counter-intuitive to start with data to achieve that goal when data did not create the injustice. Systems of power and oppression laden with racial bias created the disparate outcomes between white students and students of color. In order to correct the disparities, the focus should be on racial equity, not data or the measurement of data. Currently, professional development on “closing gaps” is heavily focused on analyzing data. This needs to immediately change to focus on racial equity literacy. Equity literacy is defined as putting equity at the center of all decision-making and systems (Gorski & Swalwell, 2015). It challenges the deficit model of starting with gaps (Bernhardt, 2016).

All professional development will start with racial equity literacy before educators are tasked with analyzing data and finding gaps in the types of data that are available. This will give educators a more critical lens to evaluate data for racial equity. This work needs to be on all levels of the system using systemic PLC models. A feasible goal to align racial equity PLC work between district, building, and educator level is no more than 12 calendar months. The work needs to start at the top, so leaders have a deep understanding of racial equity literacy before they create and facilitate racial equity professional development. Racial equity literacy frameworks need to be employed at each PLC level to ensure educators are recognizing bias and inequities, responding to immediate needs to correct them, redressing long term bias and inequities, and creating and sustaining policies and protocols that systematize racial equity in every aspect of their work, including data analysis (Gorski, 2017).

When racial equity literacy is embedded in every level of PLC work in the district, collaboration and collective capacity for racial justice will be effectively facilitated between district, buildings, and educators (DuFour & Reeves, 2013). The changes in district organization and leadership will streamline this collaboration. A focus on racial equity literacy instead of data and standardized testing outcomes will make the work of meeting the goals to implement critical pedagogy and ethnic studies a reality.

One immediate way to get closer to racial equity is to center the wisdom and leadership of educators and administrators of color who have high levels of racial equity literacy. There has been a recent shift in leadership in the district that included demoting leaders of color, particularly Black men. This trend needs to be reversed immediately. Those leaders of color who are still in the district need to be immediately restored to their previous positions. This includes the executive director of CAI, who previously held the title of Chief of CAI.

Leaders of color tend to be inherently more versed in racial equity literacy, since they personally understand the impacts of racial bias and discrimination. Educators of color tend to be inherently better equipped to lead on the creation and implementation of critical pedagogy and ethnic studies because they are the subjects of their own histories and experiences. This is not to say any educator or leader of color is preferred. Racial equity literacy is still a prerequisite, but people of color should be at the core of this work and decision-making.

Conclusion

While the goal of this plan is to implement critical pedagogy and ethnic studies, the result of working toward that goal will be a shift in the system that creates a space made with and for students and families of color with leaders and educators driving the work. The current structure of the district, its initiatives and structure are for white leaders, students, and families who are trying to save students of color. This is the essence of white paternalism and saviorhood. One of the themes of ethnic studies as defined by Seattle Public Schools is “history of resistance and liberation,” which highlights the work of people and communities of color fighting against oppressive systems (Castro-Gill, et. al, 2018). This is the route Seattle Public Schools needs to take. This is what critical pedagogy and ethnic studies can and should create in the goal to achieve educational justice for students of color.

References

Au. W. (2008). Unequal by design: High-stakes testing and the standardization of inequality.

New York, NY: Routledge.

Bernhardt, V.L. (2016). Data, date everywhere; Bringing all the data together for continuous

school improvement. New York, NY: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.

Castro-Gill, T. (n.d.). TenaciousT; The “activist teacher”. Thoughts on Racial Justice from an

Activist Teacher. Retrieved from http://www.teacheractivist.com

Castro-Gill, T. (24.03.2019). Student performance data and assessment and instruction. Thoughts

on Racial Justice from an Activist Teacher. Retrieved from https://teacheractivist.com/2019/03/24/student-performance-data-and-assessment-and-instruction/

Castro-Gill, T., VanDerPloeg, L., Alonzo, A.R., Charlton, J.D., Au, W., & Guzmán, G.

(03.10.2018). Seattle Public Schools anti-racist content and practice definitions. Seattle Public Schools Ethnic Studies and Culturally Responsive Teaching Programs in the Department of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/open?id=1dXjg3s-xIWW1hdulN5UJ6LLmbH8yxB__

Colgren, C. & Sappington, N.E. (03.2015). Closing the achievement gap means transformation.

Education Leadership Review of Doctoral Research, 2(1). P 24-33. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1105741.pdf

Dornfeld, A. (07.02.2019). Seattle schools need fewer cops, more counselors, students say.

KUOW. Retrieved from https://www.kuow.org/stories/on-black-lives-matter-at-school-week-seattle-students-call-for-more-counselors-and-fewer-cops

DuFour, R. & Reeves, D. (2016). The futility of PLC lite. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(6), 69-71 DOI:

10.1177/003172171663687

Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go; The change imperative for whole system reform. Thousand

Oaks, CA: Corwin, A SAGE Company.

Fullan, M. (2011). Change leaders; Learning to do what matters most. San Francisco, CA:

Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint.

Freire, P. (1968). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

Gorski, P. (26.11.2017). Equity literacy for educators: Definitions and abilities. The Equity

Literacy Institute. Retrieved from http://www.edchange.org/handouts/Equity-Literacy-Intro-Abilities.pdf

Gorski, P.C. & Swalwell, K. (03.2015). Equity literacy for all. Educational Leadership.

Retrieved from http://edchange.org/publications/Equity-Literacy-for-All.pdf

Kendi, I.X. (20.1.2016). Why the academic achievement gap is a racist idea. Black Perspectives.

Retrieved from https://www.aaihs.org/why-the-academic-achievement-gap-is-a-racist-idea/

Mandinach, E.B. & Jackson, S.S. (2012). Transforming teaching and learning through data-driven decision making. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Seattle Education Association. (01.09.2015). Collective bargaining agreement between Seattle

Public Schools and Seattle Education Association certificated non-supervisory employees 2015-2018. Seattle Education Association. Retrieved from https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Human%20Resources/CBA/Cert%20CBA%202015-2018.pdf

Seattle Education Association. (2019). SEA Center for Race & Equity Racial Equity Team

Partner Program. Seattle Education Association. Retrieved from https://www.seattlewea.org/center-for-race-equity/ret-partner-program/

Seattle Public Schools. (2019a). Eliminating Opportunity Gaps. Seattle Public Schools.

Retrieved from https://www.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=14245065

Seattle Public Schools. (2019b). Strategic Plan. Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved from

https://www.seattleschools.org/district/district_quick_facts/strategic_plan

Sleeter, C. E. The academic and social value of ethnic studies; A research review. National

Education Association. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/NBI-2010-3-value-of-ethnic-studies.pdf

Reflections on the Week April 28-May 4, 2019

The past couple of months have been rough. My last reflective piece was about feeling like I’m constantly under attack. That still exists in a real way, but this past week I’ve had some time to reflect on the beautiful work that’s happening in our district and across the country.

I spent Monday catching up on email and preparing for the various presentations and meetings I had lined up. I also had to get ready to attend the 2019 UCLA Teaching History Conference where I presented on the work I and my teaching partner, Andrew Chase, created in our 6th grade classrooms on ancient world history and ethnic studies. Usually, Mondays are rather stressful, but this past Monday brought me unexpected joy as I had an opportunity to reflect on accomplishments as a teacher and administrator.

On Tuesday, I met with Jon Greenberg and an educator from North Seattle College to begin to implement the partnership I cultivated earlier in the school year to provide college credits to high school students at Center School for taking an ethnic studies course. On top of providing college in the high school, our hope is this partnership will encourage more students to enroll in ethnic studies in high school and college. It’s exciting to see a seed I planted in September start to sprout!

I was invited to Cleveland High School’s racial equity team meeting to give an update on ethnic studies and how educators could get involved. Putting together this talk and presentation was so refreshing and helped me remember the great effort and collaboration that so many people have put into this new program we are creating. It helped remind me that I am not an imposter! This is something I, and my friends, struggle with frequently even though we are taking on this heavy lift and having considerable success!

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, table and indoor

I was able to share about the work of our Ethnic Studies Advisory Group, who, despite barriers and limitations, has produced tools that are being used by educators across the country! I got to talk about the curriculum development and partnerships between higher ed. and community leaders to co-create a preK-12 ethnic studies curriculum.

Image may contain: people sitting and indoor

I bragged just a little bit about being lucky enough to work with one of my best friends, Marquita Prinzing, on creating a series of professional development workshops to help educators teach ethnic studies. There’s also some exciting work being led by educators on creating recommendations for cross-crediting courses at the secondary level to support an ethnic studies graduation requirement! The teacher leaders in that cadre have given so much time and careful thought to this work and have produced some bold recommendations to move our work forward!

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I talked about some of the partnerships I’m creating with community leaders and organizations and how some of those came together in January at our ethnic studies event, co-led by the NAACP Youth Coalition: Learning the Truth to Better the Youth!

Image may contain: 5 people, including Kyle Kinoshita, Marquita Prinzing and Tracy Castro-Gill, people smiling, people standing

I invited people to join our Ethnic Studies Summer Institute, which is an idea I dreamed up last summer when Jon and I were working on our “super sophisticated plan” to sustainably implement ethnic studies in Seattle Public Schools. This is another seed that has sprouted and is ready to fruit! I’m so grateful to be able to partner with Marquita and Center for Racial Equity, as well as Julie Kang and Charisse Cowan-Pitre from Seattle U, and to have a bad-ass, Kyle Kinoshita, for a boss! Look at us! Charisse said, “Look around the room at who’s here. We need to document this,” so we did.

Image may contain: 12 people, including Tracy Castro-Gill, Lara Davis, Jesse Hagopian and Tina LaPadula, people smiling, people standing

I also had the opportunity to share on behalf of Gail Sehlhorst, visual and performing arts manager, about her leadership on our collaboration to bring Theatre of the Oppressed to Seattle Public Schools. Teaching artists are taking educator created ethnic studies units and transforming them using Augusto Boal’s methods of liberatory art! It’s a magical thing. This is an exciting collaboration that we’re hoping we can expand next school year.

Right now I’m in California after a long day of presenting at the 2019 Teaching History Conference at UCLA. There I shared some of the work that we’ve produced in Seattle, including tools for educators, but what I had the most fun doing was sharing what my students were capable of accomplishing when they were challenged to think critically and engage with college level learning. People in the room were audibly impressed with the level of sophistication my 6th graders were demonstrating in their work. It made me miss the classroom, and it made me realize I’m in exactly the place I need to be. I’m sharing all of the work I outlined above with educators across the country. Keeping this in my classroom would have been easier and more narrow in reach. Everybody needs this everywhere, so I’ll keep working and sharing until I can’t anymore!

 

Technology Audit

This is a break from the special data series to talk a little bit about systems thinking as it pertains to educational technology. In the Information Age, the term “literacy” needs to be redefined. What do students need to be literate in? The answer can no longer be a single one. Students need to be literate in many things, but before we can lead that learning, we need to address our own illiteracy.

Currently, there is a push from the Seattle Public Schools Board to ban cell phones in K-8 classrooms. This is, in part, a response to our own digital illiteracy and our ignorance about the shift in how technology is being used by our youth. Here is an essay that challenges the ban that is backed by research.

Implementation and Trends

The state of implementation of educational technology in Seattle Public Schools is lacking according to the SAMR model (Common Sense Media, n.d.). While there is some evidence of individual educators achieving the “modification” and “redefinition” levels of the SAMR model, the district as a whole is still at the “substitution” level. There is currently an adoption process underway for science curriculum that would qualify as the “augmentation” level that will be district-wide once complete.

Image 1 (L., 2017)

samr

Most use of technology in the classroom is to supplement or substitute learning, or what Dr. Puentedura calls “enhancing” learning (Common Sense Media, n.d.). Teachers use programs like Read 180, websites like Quizlet and Newsela, or services like Flocabulary to deliver 20th century content with 21st century technology. The tasks are the same with only a change in delivery. In some rare instances, teachers are using more student-centered instructional design that includes students using technology to create, including assessments using technology, like podcasts, vlogs, and the like.

It is a challenge for many teachers to do blended learning of “flipped classrooms” because of inequitable access to hardware and Internet services. An over emphasis on standardized test scores creates an environment in which teachers are pressed to teach to the test, which leaves no time for direct instruction on how to use technology. Many educators, themselves, are unfamiliar with applications commonly used by students, including Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Short-term Goals

            The priority for Seattle Public Schools to implement efficient education technology is to build the capacity of leadership around education technology. While it is important to build leadership capacity among administrators at the district and building levels, it is also important to tap into the natural leadership among all educators (Fullan, 2011), because some individuals are already at the top levels of the SAMR model.

One way to build this capacity is to use the “Visionary Leadership” standards from the ISTE administrator standards (ISTE, 2009). The first step in creating visionary leadership around educational technology is to create a shared vision and goals for how to implement technology with the goal of moving the entire district to the transformative use of technology as defined by the SAMR model (Common Sense Media, n.d.).

Whatever vision is produced from this process needs to be fluid enough in language to address the speed at which technology and information changes (Daly, 2012) and firm enough to convey the urgent need to catch up to 21st century technology. Seattle Public Schools tends to “adopt” or subscribe to technology packages, which are designed as a semi-permanent one-size-fits-all solution that becomes obsolete in a matter of months. The goal should include understanding the technologies students already use and how educators can incorporate a variety of technological tools and resources to transform their instruction (Kim & Bagaka, 2005). If the language in the strategic plan for educational technology is flexible enough, this will allow for educators to alter their practice with advancements in technology.

Once a shared vision is set and goals are created, the next logical step is for leadership to engage in professional development. In Seattle Public Schools there are consistent opportunities for teachers to engage in professional development, if disjointed and heavily focused on high-stakes testing, but there is no protocol for, or consistent access to, high quality professional development for content area program managers. The ISTE standards for administrators have a section titled “Digital Age Learning Culture” which requires educational leaders to model the practice of technological education infusion in their own practice (ISTE, 2009), but there is no indication in the Seattle Public Schools Department of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction, that the content program managers have the necessary knowledge of educational technology to model these skills.

Many district level administrators lack an ability to use basic technological tools like Google Drive or even Outlook email service. Many educators refuse to engage in social media tools like Twitter and Instagram because they believe it “dumbs people down.” This belief and subsequent practice inhibit their technological literacy and use of culturally responsive technological practices in the classroom (Polly, Mims, Shepherd, & Inan, 2009). While there may be a valid argument in this belief, it is also the technology students are most adept at using (Tausend, 2013). Instead of the entire system, from administrators to students, learning a new technology platform, systems should start with the strengths students already have: social media.

A considerable amount of professional development opportunities should focus on how leaders and educators can adapt to evolving technologies instead of how to use a discreet tool like Schoology or OneNote. Adhering to a concept of technology literacy is more helpful than teaching discreet skills and tools because of the rate at which technology changes. The International Technology and Engineering Educators Association defines technology literacy as “one’s ability to use, manage, evaluate, and understand technology” (2019). ITEEA states that for a person to be literate in technology they must understand “what technology is, how it works, how it shapes society and in turn how society shapes it” (2019). This philosophy and definition of technology literacy aligns well with ISTE standards for students (2019b).

To assist with building technology literacy in the district, Seattle Public Schools would benefit from having a Technology Program Manager position. The Department of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction consists of program managers for various content areas and CAI needs. For example, there are program managers for each content area, one for professional development, one for assessments, a library program manager, and an ethnic studies program manager. Anything having to do with technology is in a separate department called DoTS: Department of Technology Services. DoTS includes everything from coding, to tech support, and “experts” on district technology like Schoology. Having this department be separate, even in location in the building, from CAI signals that technology and technology literacy are separate from curriculum, assessment, and instruction.

A Technology Program Manager position would serve to bridge the divide between CAI and DoTS. This position could work directly with educators in buildings and administrators to develop and deliver professional development on technology literacy. This position could be responsible for tracking the evolution of technology and informing the other program managers of the newest trends and how to incorporate them into CAI. This position could also educate those in DoTS, who are generally disconnected from classroom experiencesand the needs of educators and students.

This leads to the third short-term goal: systemic improvement. As mentioned above, there is a lot of siloing of work that should be collaborative. One of the ISTE standards for administrators calls for “[e]ducational administrators [to] collaborate to establish metrics, collect and analyze data, interpret results, and share findings to improve staff performance and student learning” (2009). In Seattle Public Schools, there is very little collaboration in terms of organization operation, and zero collaboration on education technology at the district level.

The first step to breaking down barriers in systemic effectiveness is to collaboratively complete an audit of current hardware, software, and other IT services, including surveying staff to understand how user friendly these tools are. The guiding question to the audit should be, “How is district technology helping leaders transform their leadership?” If educational leaders are still in the “substitute” level of the SAMR model, they are not capable of leading educators out of the bottom rungs of the model.

Another strategy to break down barriers and collaborate is to partner with community-based organizations, preferably non-profit organizations whom are less likely to dictate policy and procedure than larger organizations, like the Gates Foundation. In his book, All Systems Go; The Change Imperative for Whole System Reform, Michael Fullan emphasizes the need to include all stakeholders in collaborative efforts. “[A] powerful feature of all systems go,” he says, “is that shared commitment, allegiance, and responsibility for results becomes collectively owned” (2010 p. 49). Partnering with community organizations, who may have greater access to and funding for the most up-to-date technologies not only strengthens the school district’s efforts and opens opportunities for student experiences, it also creates that collective accountability, or what Fullan calls “intelligent accountability” (2010). When students are successful, so is the community and vice versa.

Long Term Goals

            Once district and building leaders have built their understanding and skill in technology literacy, they can then lead by example. This is what the ISTE standards for administrators calls “Excellence in Professional Practice” (2009). As Will Richardson points out in Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere, much of what education leaders do to “improve” their practice is to make better what they have been doing, which is rooted in practices that originate from practices 150 years old. Richardson argues that much of the information deemed important to teach and model 150 years ago can now be accessed with a quick Google search (Daly, 2012). If education leaders are going to model “Excellence in Professional Practice” they should do it in such a way that will promote the critical thinking and technology literacy students should be using currently and will need to use after high school.

Michael Fullan argues that theory will not motivate people to change. People are resistant to change and will be most likely to change when they see success for themselves. One characteristic of a great change leader is to “motivate the masses.” Fullan claims change leaders can do this through helping others realize the effectiveness of the change (2011). If educational leaders practice the change they are trying to convince others to partake in and can share successful stories, educators will be more easily motivated to try it out themselves.

One ISTE standard for administrators is to “facilitate and participate in learning communities that stimulate, nurture, and support administrators, faculty, and staff in the study and use of technology” (2009). Being experts in their own practice is the only way to effectively “stimulate and nurture” faculty and staff. Education leaders need to commit to being life-long learners, not only for their own practice and leadership, but to model the importance of this for their faculty and staff.

The second long-term goal is for educators to “Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments” (ISTE, 2019a). This goal will require educators to learn alongside district and building leaders who have developed their practice and technology literacy. Teachers will need to do their own work with identifying and understanding the tools students are using.

An important consideration during this phase of implementing education technology is creating curricula centered on critical thinking skills. As Will Richardson points out, finding information is easy. Assessing it is the tricky part (Daly, 2012). With the rise of questionable, online “news” sources (Adornato, 2016), teachers will have to first know how to assess information themselves before teaching students how to do it. The fact that 6 in 10 Americans get their news from social media (Gottfried & Shearer, 2016), which is where much of the “fake news” is shared (Adornato, 2016), supports the earlier claim that educators and education leaders need to take social media more seriously and include it in their technology literacy learning.

Much of the language in the ISTE standards for educators that fall under learning and assessments includes student-centered learning that is “customized” and personalized to address curiosity and different learning styles. They call for relevant experiences that use “contemporary tools” (2019a). This is more language to support the need for technology literacy and use of social media tools instead of large, expensive, and cumbersome one-size-fits-all “solutions” like Schoology.

The next long-term goal is to prepare teachers to facilitate learning for students, or what the ISTE standards for educators calls “Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity” (2019a). There is a push currently underway in Seattle Public Schools for culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy. The ISTE standards for educators align with this work, but technology has not been part of the conversation. Part of this could be the result of administrators and educators not having the foundational knowledge as previously discussed.

Culturally responsive and relevant pedagogical strategies center student experiences and strengths, moving them from dependent to independent and co-dependent learners (Hammond, 2016). Since culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy is such a huge focus in Seattle Public schools, the time is ripe to include the ISTE standards for teachers and students. The fact that the district and school leaders are not prepared, however, is disappointing. There is still much learning on the part of adults before the two concepts can be effectively integrated. Therefore, it is a long-term goal.

Summary

For education technology reform to be systemic, district leadership needs to take the lead. There is some infrastructure at the district level, in the form of program managers, to build capacity in different content areas. Before this can happen, however, there needs to be an audit of current resources, practices, and organization structure. Barriers to collaboration need to be removed. Vision and goals for implementation of education technology need to be co-created with leaders, educators, and community members. The district needs to also remove internal barriers to collaboration and consider creating an education technology program manager position to facilitate collaboration between CAI and DoTS.

Before effective classroom teaching can be planned and facilitated, there needs to by systemic support at the district and building leadership levels. Systemic, effective professional development can only happen after district and building leaders have done their own technology literacy work. District level policy and practice needs to move away from one-off technology solutions to adapt to rapidly evolving technologic advancements. Policy needs to embrace technologies like smart phones, apps, and social media because that is what students are using most.

If these goals were realized, the district has the potential to move from the “substitute” rung of the SAMR model to the “redefinition” rung. Achieving “redefinition” cannot happen unless the reforms are systemic and barriers at all levels are addressed and removed. Starting with classroom practice and student learning will not achieve this. District leaders and educators need to redefine how they view technology, first.

References

Adornato, A.C. (09.05.2016). Forces at the gate: Social media’s influence on editorial and

production decisions in local newsrooms. Electronic News, 10. P 87-104. DOI: 10.1177/1931243116647768

Common Sense Media. (Producer). (n.d.). Introduction to the SAMR model [Video file].

Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/videos/introduction-to-the-samr-model

Daly, J. (2012). Why school? TED ebook author rethinks education when information is

everywhere [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://blog.ted.com/why-school-ted-ebook-author-rethinks-education-when-information-is-everywhere/

Drew, P., Clif, M., Shepherd, C.E.,  Inan, F. (2009). Evidence of impact: Transforming teacher

education with preparing tomorrow’s teachers to teach with technology (PT3) grants. Teaching and Teacher Education, p 1-8. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/acaemia.edu.documents/4927205/pollyetal.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Epires=155436526&Signature=hiEwHBErhQ3Gvav0t%2FuZGP24%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3Bfilename%3DEvidence_of_impact_Transforming_teacher.pdf

Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go; The change imperative for Whole System Reform. Thousand

Oaks, CA: Corwin, A SAGE Company.

Fullan, M. (2011). Change leader; Learning to do what matters most. San Francisco, CA:

Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint.

Gottfried, J. & Shearer, E. (26.05.2016). News use across social media platforms 2016. Pew

Research Center Journalism & Media. Retrieved from https://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/

Hammond, Z. (2016). Culturally responsive teaching & the brain; Promoting authentic

engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, A SAGE Company.

ISTE. (2009). ISTE standards for administrators. ISTE. Retriever from

https://id.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_ISTE_Standards-A_PDF.pdf

ISTE. (2019a). ISTE standards for educators. ISTE. Retrieved from

https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

ISTE. (2019b). ISTE standards for students. ISTE. Retrieved from

https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students

ITEEA. (2019). Technologically literate citizens. ITEEA. Retrieved from

https://www.iteea.org/48897.aspx

Kim, S.H. & Bagaka, J. (2005). The digital divide in students’ usage of technology tools: A

multilevel analysis of the role of teacher practices and classroom characteristics. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 5(3/4). Retrieved from https://www.citejournal.org/volume-5/issue-3-05/current-practice/the-digital-divide-in-students-usage-of-technology-tools-a-multilevel-analysis-of-the-role-of-teacher-practices-and-classroom-characteristics/

L., H. (30.10.2017). SAMR model: A practical guide for edtech integration. Schoology

Exchange. Retrieved from https://www.schoology.com/blog/samr-model-practical-guide-edtech-integration

Tausend, J. (27.08.2013). How students use technology inside of the classroom; Mobile devices

and free Internet tools have changed the way students learn. EdTech Magazine. Retrieved from https://edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2013/08/how-students-use-technology-outside-classrooms

Taking Hits

My Privilege

I have privileges. I am a woman of color, and I have privileges. Part of doing racial justice work is being able to reflect on your positionality and how you show up in different spaces. It’s also important to reflect on how that has changed over time.

For example – I have been very poor. I’m not anymore, and now I have middle-class privilege. I’m also more educated than I used to be, which gives me more privilege. While I want to believe that I can relate to poor people, I have to ask myself why I’m trying to relate. I’m not in that position anymore. My new experiences have reshaped my perceptions. That’s not saying I can’t relate, it’s just to say that I have to reflect more when trying to relate.

Reflecting on my privileges is the easy part. The hard part is acting because of them. We teach people to use their privilege to defend the less privileged. This is true in racial justice work, especially in places like Seattle, home of the “passive progressive.” I feel like if we’re not constantly pushing progressive Seattleites to do better and be less racist, they’ll fall right back into their false sense of racial justice Nirvana. Becky in her Uggs and North Face jacket with her pumpkin spice latte will put up her Black Lives Matter yard sign and be done with racism.

Pulling Back the Veil

I see my job as a privileged person working in a racist institution to be the one pulling back the veil. I see and experience things I had only heard about before as a classroom teacher. Teachers experience microaggressions and hostile work environments, for sure. As a district leader, I get that and then some. I have heard second hand about racial equity leaders being bullied out, or being set up for failure to the point it affects their physiological and mental health. Now I know why.

I am the ethnic studies program manager. I have my job because of my experiences and understanding of racial justice. The thing is, until now, I’ve only ever talked about “the system” without understanding how the individuals made the parts of the sum. It’s not “the system” that doesn’t want to change. It’s the individuals who enjoy the system and attack anyone who challenges it.

We are currently in a situation in which the superintendent meets with and receives counsel from a group of all white leaders with the exception of Dr. Brent Jones, a Black man. Guess which role Dr. Jones plays? Yup, racial equity. He’s technically the chief of community engagement and partnerships, but the director of the Department for Racial Equity Advancement reports to him. That’s his “department.” Sounds a lot like tokenizing to me. And many of the white leaders in the superintendent’s cabinet have been in the district long enough to legitimately blame for the existing racial disparities.

Taking Hits

As I am apt to do, and because I believe my privilege comes with certain responsibilities, I call racism out when I see it. This has earned me titles like “divisive,” “trouble-maker,” and my favorite, “not a good fit” for my position, ethnic studies program manager. I want to take a moment to claim credit – which I rarely do, because I recognize my work is supported by the labor of many – but I created this program and made it what it is today. In a racist system with racist people in power, that’s not enough.

A dear friend and sister of the heart told me she respects me because I’m willing to take the hits. This is true, again because of the privilege thing, but how many hits can I take? My job has been threatened. My integrity has been questioned and my social media stalked. I have been reprimanded and told I cannot directly contact the superintendent or board of directors over “contentious” issues. I have been accused by leadership of trying to sabotage the work I created because I have called out principals for obstruction (which I have evidence of). My social media is followed and reported to the superintendent. She had a stack of my Facebook posts, tweets, and blog posts in hand the last time she called me into her office.

I can take the hits. It’s not martyrdom, it’s necessity. If I’m not doing it, who will? I suppose there are a handful of leaders of color in the district who are taking the slow but steady route, but I don’t have time for that. Our students don’t have time for that. I’m tired of sitting around and having meetings about plans that we never implement. I’m tired of talking about racial equity with people who have never experienced racism and who can’t even define equity. These are the people driving our district. These are the people advising the superintendent. These people are the system I’m taking the hits from.

I can take the hits for now, and I believe my work speaks for itself. I have the respect of the people who matter the most and the people I believe have the answers and can actualize change. But I’m at a point where I’m questioning how much more I can take before I have to exit, too. That’s if they don’t get rid of me first.

Creating a Data Culture

This week I was asked to write about my thoughts on data culture. Before I started this class I would have just written that data culture makes me want to vomit, but after learning thus far I realize I only felt that way because SPS has been doing it SO WRONG! I have a deeper appreciation for the power of data – when it’s the right data and it’s created and analyzed by the right people.


Data Culture and Collaborative Inquiry

In creating a data culture, the science of andragogy needs to be considered. Andragogy is the practice of teaching and learning for adults. Knowles, Holton, and Swanson explain how collaboration and need to know are central to the practice of andragogy. They argue that first, adult learners must understand why they are learning a new concept and how it will improve their experiences, then they need to work collaboratively toward solutions while learning the new concept (2015).

When creating a self-sustaining professional learning community (PLC), collaboration is key, as it creates a sense of group ownership in the work, learning, and accountability. DuFour and Fullan posit that data PLCs must be the driving force behind systemic change (2013). For this to happen, all stakeholders must be active in the work. Dr. Bernhardt states that if a school or district is to have an effective data culture, all data must be analyzed, not just data that indicate gaps (2016). Again, this approach requires collaboration on levels that does not frequently exist in schools.

How to Create a Sustainable Data Culture

            Some of the literature on successful data culture indicates that data literacy is the key to effective, sustainable data culture. There are two types of data literacy according to Mandinach and Jackson: being able to read and use data to change practice and being able to assess the validity of the data. They argue data are only as good as the tools and instruments used to collect them (2012). While this makes sense, Bernhardt argues that to best engage educators in data is to challenge them to discover data that is missing (2016).

Bernhardt’s argument is aligned to the inquiry-based approach to andragogy. Simply giving data to educators and telling them what they need is the antithesis of the science behind andragogy. Knowles, Holton, and Swanson identify six characteristics at the core of adult learning (2015):

  1. Learners need to know why, what, and how.
  2. Self-concept of the learner is autonomous and self-directing
  3. Prior experience of the learner is utilized.
  4. The readiness to learn is dependent on how the learning is related to the life of the learner.
  5. The learning must be problem-centered and contextual.
  6. The motivation to learn must be intrinsic and must be linked to personal gain.

If the process of creating a data culture starts with tasking educators with finding data they are missing, that starts the process with self-directed autonomy. It provides space for educators to determine the why of learning which is dependent on their prior experience, readiness to learn, and their professional need and context. When educators are looking for data that will address very specific needs to improve their instruction, it is more likely their motivation will be intrinsic.

Starting with what is missing makes it easier to have a PLC in which educators are leading instead of building or district leaders. Dr. Bernhardt believes that putting principals or other people in authority as leads in PLCs prevents true, collaborative, inquiry-based planning (2016). Professional Learning Communities that start with authority figures are what DuFour and Reeves call “PLC Lite.” PLCs lite are characterized by “[m]eetings that only address standards, that focus entirely on disciplinary issues and parent complaints, or that center on [human resource] issues” (2016). Since school principals and other authority figures are evaluated on these topics, it makes sense they center data about them. These issues, however, rarely relate to daily teacher and student experiences nor do they inform how to change instruction to meet the needs of students.

Instead, DuFour and Reeves suggest the following characteristic for student and instruction-centered PLC work (2016):

  1. Collaborative teams that take collective responsibility for student learning
  2. Establish a viable, student-centered curriculum
  3. An assessment process that includes frequent, team-developed, common formative assessments based on point 2 above
  4. Use the data collected from formative assessments to identify students who need help
  5. Create a system of interventions that do not remove students from primary instruction

DuFour and Reeves’ emphasis on formative assessments is supported by Bernhardt’s emphasis on the same (2016) and is in line with andragogical theory about context and linking learning to personal gain (Knowles, et al, 2015). Summative assessments, like high stakes testing data, does nothing to help educators adjust instruction during learning. Data from formative assessments are the most appropriate for use in creating a sustainable data culture.

Examples of Effective and Ineffective Data Culture in Seattle Public Schools

Most data analysis work in Seattle Public Schools is centered on high stakes testing and discipline data, and most data analysis work starts with gaps in existing data. The language in the mission statement of the district explicitly names gaps: “Seattle Public Schools is committed to eliminating opportunity gaps to ensure access and provide excellence in education for every student” (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.c). The mission statement mandates that educators start with gaps in the data culture. This is in direct conflict with prevailing wisdom on how to create a data culture (Bernhardt, 2016).

The mission statement also infers that students lack access to opportunities instead of educators lack the ability to meet needs of their students. Data from Seattle Public Schools indicate that even when students of color have access to opportunities (higher socioeconomic status), they still achieve at the same levels of white students who have less access to opportunities (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.a). By naming a gap in students’ opportunities, we remove the onus from educators to do deep, reflective work on their practice.

More student-centered language (Fullan, 2011) would be, “Seattle Public schools is committed to providing excellent education for every student by providing anti-racist, culturally responsive educators for every student.” The latter statement puts direct accountability on the district and educators for doing personal, reflective work to meet the needs of students, regardless of the students’ “opportunities.” It still addresses the racial disparities by calling out anti-racism and culturally responsive practices while shifting the deficit from students’ “opportunities” to educators’ practice.

An additional factor to consider is that the research and evaluation team in Seattle Public Schools consists primarily of white people, with the director being a white male (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.b). When Bernhardt writes about finding data that is missing, this is one crucial piece of datum. When the goals of the district, including the Strategic Plan, specifically call out racial disparities, it would make sense that the data culture be led by a person who identifies with impacted groups. A racial equity literate (Gorski, 2015) person of color would be best suited to set the parameters and purpose of data collected than a white male who cannot fully understand the needs of students of color.

An example of a successful data culture exists in Seattle Education Association’s Center for Racial Equity. This is a department committed to furthering racial justice in the school district operated by the educators’ union. The Center is directed and operated by mostly women of color. Most members are currently classroom teachers. The director is a teacher on special assignment (Seattle Education Association, 2019b). While this group uses district data as a starting point, they frequently do a gap analysis of the existing data, looking for what is missing. Since most of the members are people of color, they have a better sense of the needs of students of color and the types of data to look for.

Within the Center is another group called Racial Equity Team Coaches. This is a group of mostly women of color who are currently classroom educators that work to support the data analysis of racial equity teams across the district (Seattle Education Association, 2019a). The success of this program can be attributed to the fact that the coaches are educators of color who are doing the work they expect others to do. Educators are leading the work instead of administrators which leads to increased experiences of efficacy (Dunn, Airola, Lo, & Garrison, 2013), if only vicariously through the coaches at first. Those being coached, however have been observed to respond better to their peer coaches than to administrator coaches.

References

Bernhardt, V.L. (2016). Data, data everywhere; Bringing all the data together for continuous

school improvement (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

DuFour, R. & Fullan, M. (2013). Cultures built to last: Systematic PLCs at work. Bloomington,

IN: Solution Tree Press.

DuFour, R. & Reeves, D. (2016) The futility of PLC Lite. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(6), 69-71. DOI:

10.1177/003172171663687.

Dunn, K. E., Airola, D. T., Lo, W-J., & Garrison, M. (2013). Becoming data driven: The

influence of teachers’ sense of efficacy on concerns related to data-driven decision making. The Journal of Experimental Education, 81(2), 222–241. DOI: 10.1080/00220973.2012.699899.

Fullan, M. (2011). Change leader; Learning to do what matters most. San Francisco, CA: Jossy-

Bass, A Wiley Imprint.

Gorski, P. (03.2015). Equity literacy for all. Education Leadership. Retrieved from

http://www.edchange.org/publications/Equity-Literacy-for-All.pdf

Knowles, M.S., Holton III, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2015). The adult learner: The definitive

classic in adult education and human resource development (8th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Mandinach, E.B. & Jackson, S.S. (2012). Transforming teaching and learning through data-

driven decision making. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Seattle Education Association. (2019a). RET Partner Program. Seattle Education

Association. Retrieved from https://www.seattlewea.org/center-for-race-equity/ret-partner-program/

Seattle Education Association. (2019b). SEA’s Center for Racial Equity. Seattle Education

Association. Retrieved from https://www.seattlewea.org/center-for-race-equity/

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.a). Eliminating opportunity gaps. Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved

from https://www.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=14245065

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.b). Research and evaluation. Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved from

https://www.seattleschools.org/cms/one.aspx?pageId=15164

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.c). Strategic Plan. Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved from

https://www.seattleschools.org/district/district_quick_facts/strategic_plan

Student Performance Data and Assessment and Instruction

In this segment of my paper on data-driven instruction, I was asked to do an analysis of how data is used in decision-making and reflection to support standards-based learning across the district. I was asked to analyze how this process is systematized (hint: it’s not) and what I believe the relationship between data and curriculum, assessment, and instruction is.

Notice – I have cited my sources for some of my claims about the disconnect between district and building leadership…


Using Assessment to Drive Instruction

Mandinach and Jackson identify two different forms of assessment from which to collect data: formative, or assessment for learning; and summative, or assessment of learning (2012). Formative assessments are generally given in the classroom by the teacher, while summative assessments are more formal, like state testing. Interim assessments are a combination of both formative and summative. They sum up the learning that has been achieved and help steer the teaching in the necessary direction to fill gaps (Bambrick-Santoyo, P., 2010).

One example of a formative assessment is the Bethel School District’s grade 1 reading fluency assessment (Braun, D.H., 2011). First grade educators administered what they and Mandinach and Jackson call “benchmark” assessments of reading fluency at different points in the school year (2012). The data is disaggregated to show gaps in fluency between different groups of students. This helped educators target these groups and identify what these students needed in order to improve their fluency by the end of the year (Braun, D.H., 2011).

The Oregon Reading Assessment is a summative assessment that is used in Bethel School District to measure student learning. Data from the 2002-03 school year indicated that only 51% of students were proficient in reading in the Bethel School District. This informed district leaders of the need to shift academic focus to reading instruction and improve practices. In the 2007-08 school year, proficiency jumped to 70% (Braun, D.H., 2011).

District Practices: Standards-Based Teaching and Learning

            The Mandinach and Honey conceptual framework for data-driven decision-making maps out how the authors envision the use of data to drive decision making in districts and schools (Mandinach, E.B & Jackson, S.S., 2012). For the Seattle Public Schools district, some of the data Mandinach and Honey identify as integral to this process are missing. Mandinach and Honey’s framework suggests data should be organized and collected, analyzed and summarized, synthesized and prioritized, and then a decision should be made. It also suggests that more data should be collected after the decision is implemented to measure impact and fed into a feedback loop of collecting, analyzing, synthesizing, decision making, implementation, and impact (2012).

Seattle Public Schools provides the first few steps to this process, but there are no data available about implementation, impact, or reassessment of the decision-making process. Seattle Public Schools has had a focus on racial equity and closing “opportunity gaps” for nearly a decade, but it appears they have been looking at the same types of data while expecting different results (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).

Seattle Public Schools is committed to standards-based teaching and learning to the detriment of their students of color. Disparities in achievement continue to grow along racial and ethnic lines because of the fact the district continues to rely on standardized test scores so heavily as a measure of achievement (Morton, N., 2018). The new strategic plan that says the district will, “unapologetically address the needs of students of color who are furthest from educational justice,” also says they will achieve this, in part, by, “[d]elivering high-quality, standards-aligned instruction across all abilities and a continuum of services for learners;” however, there is no indication the standards that have failed students of color for decades will be changed in any way (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.). The same standards will be used hoping for different results. This could be attributed to the fact there is no feedback loop present in Seattle Public Schools data-driven decision-making framework.

Abbott’s framework of improvement and readiness has the same components as the Mandinach and Honey framework, but it adds a “collaboration” and an “internalize” component to their process of data-driven decision making (Mandinach, E.B. & Jackson, S.S., 2012). This is in line with Michael Fullan’s writing on systematizing decision making and building collective capacity to use data to inform system reform (2010). Seattle Public Schools, however, is lacking the ability to “internalize” or systematize any kind of consistent, effective use of data-driven decision making because it does not have a solid foundation for collaboration between various stakeholders in the system. Mandinach and Jackson identify the following components of a successful “data culture,” in which each component interacts with and acts on each other: leadership (district and school), resources, vision, data culture, professional development, data system and tools, data coaches, data teams, common planning time (2012).

Of the identified components of a successful data culture system, Seattle Public Schools struggles with nearly all of them. Most schools do have data/literacy coaches. Some have data teams, but professional development and common planning time continue to be sporadic, disconnected, and fought over. In the last two bargaining years, the Seattle Education Association has fought with the district to provide common planning and collaboration time for educators across the district and consistent racial equity professional development. Although it is currently in the collective bargaining agreement, educators regularly report their administrators deny access to inter-district collaboration opportunities.

Seattle Public Schools employs a strategy called “site-based decision making” which gives building administrators considerable power to either implement or not implement district strategies. Principals can do their own data analysis and decision making that may or may not align with district goals. For example, the district has officially made K-12 ethnic studies a strategy for closing gaps between white students and students of color (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.). The district collected and analyzed the racially and ethnically disparate data, identified ethnic studies as a solution based on data that indicate improved outcomes for all students (Sleeter, C.E. 2011), resolved to implement ethnic studies, and yet there is no collaboration or systemization of ethnic studies because of the disconnect between district and building goals.

The ethnic studies program manager has reached out to 29 of the 101 principals in the 2018-19 school year to build a relationship and provide support. Only four schools have agreed to pilot the ethnic studies program thanks to the activism of educators in the building, not because of principal leadership. Nine of the principals have not returned calls or emails. Two schools are in planning phase and will not open until the 2019-20 school year. The remaining principals declined to implement ethnic studies for various reasons (Gill, T., 2019).

Mandinach & Jackson have identified leadership, both district and school, as the cornerstone of a data-driven decision-making culture (2012). The disconnect between district and school leadership creates a fractured foundation upon which it is impossible to build collective capacity and collaborative practice in a data-driven process. The disconnect also makes effective systemic implementation of decisions impossible.

Describing the Relationship

It is challenging at this point to adequately describe the relationship between assessment, data, and instruction. Mandinach & Jackson make this claim stating, “data-driven decision making is seen as an emerging field. . . Research cannot measure what has not been implemented broadly or deeply (2012).” If Seattle Public Schools is an indicator of how data-driven decision-making is “implemented,” it cannot be said that data-driven decision making has been implemented “broadly or deeply.”

Bambrick-Santoyo claims data can inform educators about how to transform their instruction to better meet the needs of their students. Data and anecdotes are used to support this claim, but the data is not disaggregated by race or ethnicity (2010). Increases in achievement on standardized tests, which are measure of standards-based teaching and learning, can be great and still leave behind students of color. In fact, schools are winning awards in Washington State for “closing achievement gaps,” while simultaneously leaving behind students of color (Gill, T., 07.12.2018).

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi asserts the current standards-based model of teaching, learning, and assessment is inherently racist (2016). If the standards are racist from the beginning, the outcome of the decision-making based on the analysis of the data will be racist. From this perspective, the relationship between assessment, data, and instruction is one that perpetuates oppression for people of color and maintains the white supremacist status quo. This perspective is supported by history and research other than Dr. Kendi’s. Dr. Wayne Au has written extensively about the relationship between the racist, pseudoscience of eugenics and standards-based teaching, learning, and assessment (2009).

Dr. Bernhardt, in her book, Data, Data Everywhere; Bringing all the data together for continuous school improvement, indicates that relying only on standardized test outcomes to drive teaching and learning is faulty, and district and schools need to also be looking at climate data for students, as well as other, social factors (2016). Gill argues that even when climate and other social factors are used to drive teaching and learning, the people determining the parameters and purpose of the data are not racial equity literate enough to collect data specific to the needs and experiences of students of color (03.11.2018). The fact that 89.9% of educators in Washington State are white (OSPI, 2016) and approximately 80% of educators nation-wide are white (Geiger, A., 2018) support this claim.

In a district that proclaims it will, “unapologetically address the needs of students of color who are furthest from educational justice,” it may be necessary to reassess the relationship between assessment, data, and instruction and standards-based teaching and learning. Doing more of the same is not working, and that is supported by the data.

 

References

Au, W. (2009). Unequal by design (critical social thought). New York, NY: Routledge.

Bambrick-Santoyo, P. (2010). Driven by data: A practical guide to improve instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bernhardt, V.L. (2016). Data, data everywhere; Bringing all the data together for continuous school improvement. New York, NY: Routledge.

Braun, D.H. (2011). Bethel School District results [PowerPoint presentation].

Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go: The change imperative for whole system reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, A SAGE Company.

Geiger, A. (27.08.2018). America’s public school teachers are far less racially and ethnically diverse than their students. Pew Research Center. Retrieved fromhttp://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/27/americas-public-school-teachers-are-far-less-racially-and-ethnically-diverse-than-their-students/

Gill, T. (03.11.2018). When the devil IS the data. Teacher Activist. Retrieved fromhttps://teacheractivist.com/2018/11/03/when-the-devil-is-the-data/

Gill, T. (07.12.2018). Schools of distinction awards ceremony keynote. Teacher Activist.Retrieved from https://teacheractivist.com/2018/12/07/schools-of-distinction-awards-ceremony-keynote/

Gill, T. (01.2019). Matrix. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_qgaIi5h_ikFEksjT9MdBjkfIhTeQfyh1PhtgpW6Qyg/edit?usp=sharing

Kendi, I.X. (20.10.2016). Why the academic achievement gap is a racist idea. Black

Perspectives. Retrieved from https://www.aaihs.org/why-the-academic-achievement-gap-is-a-racist-idea/

Mandinach, E.B., & Jackson, S.S. (2012). Transforming teaching and learning through data-driven decision making. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Morton, N. (12.01.2018). Racial equity in Seattle schools has a long, frustrating history – and it’s getting worse. Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/racial-equity-in-seattle-schools-has-a-long-frustrating-history-and-its-getting-worse/

OSPI. (03.10.2016). Key facts about Washington public Schools. Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved from http://www.k12.wa.us/AboutUs/KeyFacts.aspx

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.). Initiatives and core commitments. Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved from https://www.seattleschools.org/district/district_quick_facts/initiatives

Sleeter, C.E. (2011). The academic and social value of ethnic studies; A research review.National Education Association. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/NBI-2010-3-value-of-ethnic-studies.pdf