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.


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.


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

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

on Racial Justice from an Activist Teacher. Retrieved from

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

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

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

KUOW. Retrieved from

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


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

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

Retrieved from

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

Retrieved from

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

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

Partner Program. Seattle Education Association. Retrieved from

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

Retrieved from

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

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

Education Association. Retrieved from

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!

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, indoor

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)


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.


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.


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

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

everywhere [Blog post]. Retrieved from

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

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

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

Click to access 20-14_ISTE_Standards-A_PDF.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

Exchange. Retrieved from

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

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.


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:


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

Click to access 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

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

Association. Retrieved from

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


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

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

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.



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 from

Gill, T. (03.11.2018). When the devil IS the data. Teacher Activist. Retrieved from

Gill, T. (07.12.2018). Schools of distinction awards ceremony keynote. Teacher Activist.Retrieved from

Gill, T. (01.2019). Matrix. Retrieved from

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

Perspectives. Retrieved from

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

OSPI. (03.10.2016). Key facts about Washington public Schools. Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved from

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.). Initiatives and core commitments. Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved from

Sleeter, C.E. (2011). The academic and social value of ethnic studies; A research review.National Education Association. Retrieved from

The Diagnostic Process and Alignment

Warning: It’s dry and illuminating.

I have to take a course on data-driven instruction for my doctoral program in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Y’all should know how I feel about data, but I’m actually learning a lot. More importantly, the landscape of my district is becoming more clear, particularly in terms of racial equity and ethnic studies.

For this course, I have to write a rather lengthy paper on data-driven decision-making. My instructor is having us chunk it out into smaller papers due each week. I’m going to post them here in a special series. I think I’ll call this “Special Edition PhD Series: The Devil in Seattle Public Schools’ racial equity data.” No? Maybe I’ll think of something more catchy, but probably not. I know it’s very Seattle specific, but I’m sure it’s not too different from other districts. Hopefully it sparks a conversation.

District Profile

            Seattle Public Schools is the largest district in the State of Washington. As of October 2018, the district consists of 52,931 students, 102 schools, and 4,519 educators. There are 61 K-5 schools, 11 K-8, 12 6-8, 12 9-12, and 16 self-contained schools. Eighty-two percent of students graduate high school on time. Thirty-one percent of students are enrolled in free and reduced meal programs. Twenty-one percent of students come from a non-English speaking background, and 147 dialects/languages are spoken by students (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).

Seattle Public School’s mission statement is, “Seattle Public Schools is committed to ensuring equitable access, eliminating the opportunity gaps, and excellence in education for every student,” and the vision statement is, “Every Seattle Public Schools’ student receives a high-quality, world-class education and graduates prepared for college, career, and community (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).” While the district boasts that, “Our district outperforms the state’s academic average and often perform better than similar district’s nationwide (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.),” the district fails to mention that Seattle Public Schools has one of the largest gaps in discipline and achievement between white students and students of color in the nation, and has been under investigation by the Federal Department of Education because of egregious disparities in discipline rates among racial lines (Dornfield, A., 2017; Shaw, L., 2014).

The disaggregated demographic data from Seattle Public Schools tell us that 48.5% of students are female and 51.5% are male. Students of color are the majority with a 41.8% white student population. One half of a percent of students are Native American, 14.1% are Asian, 14.9% are Black/African American, 12.1% are Hispanic/Latinx, 0.5% are Asian Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, and 10.8% identify as two or more races. Fifteen and one tenth percent of students are enrolled in special education and 3.4% have a 504 plan (OSPI, 2018).

Despite the vision statement of closing gaps and providing excellence for every student, disparities remain consistent. White female students graduate at the highest rates while Native American and Latinx males graduate at the lowest rates and are pushed out (dropout) at the highest rates (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.). Black and Native American males are suspended at 6 times the rate of their white peers while attendance rates for Asian Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian and Native American females are close to ten points lower than their white peers (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).

Standardized test scores continue to underline these racial disparities in achievement. The district website only provides standardized test score outcomes up to the 8th grade because there is such a high incidence of opt-out rates in high school that the data become inconsistent (OSPI, 2018). In 2017, 60% of all students met standard on the “Smarter Balance” standardized test for English language arts. Forty-nine percent met standard for math. When the disaggregated data is analyzed, however, the data is much less favorable. Thirty-three and nine-tenths percent of Native American students meet standard in English language arts and 24.9% for math. Seventy-nine and two-tenths percent of Asian students meet standard in English language arts and 74.5% for math. Thirty-five and three-tenths percent of Asian Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian students meet standard for English language arts and 22.6% for math. Forty and five-tenths percent of Black/African American students meet standard for English language arts and 27.5% for math. Forty-two percent of Hispanic/Latinx students meet standard for English language arts and 30.7% for math. Sixty-seven percent of white students meet standard for English language arts and 55.4% for math. Sixty-two percent of students who identify as two or more races meet standard for English language arts and 49.6% for math (OSPI, 2018).

The district recently created a new strategic plan. While this plan identifies the types of data to be collected to measure success, there is no indication of a plan for analyzing or sharing data (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.). The district has identified a set of strategies to help reach the goals outlined in the strategic plan. The district has a SMART goal it has identified as priority 1, Eliminating Opportunity Gaps, which includes the following strategies:

  • CSIP’s Equity Goals / Building Leadership Teams (BLT) training
  • Ethnic Studies Planning and Pilot
  • Race and Equity Teams (RET)
  • Preventative and Positive Discipline
  • Family Engagement/Partnership
  • My Brother’s Keeper (MBK)

The district does not, however, identify any strategies to monitor the efficacy of these programs, nor are there any data immediately available to determine their current impacts (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).

Accountability traditionally has been a site-based model in which individual principals and building administrative teams have determined which data to focus on and how to hold educators accountable. The district does have a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) that acts as a form of accountability, particularly for those schools that are struggling with high rates of discipline and low rates of achievement. The MTSS team consists of special education educators, English language learner educators, school counselors, and content coaches for math and literacy. There is no racial equity component of the MTSS team or interventions.

The strategic plan calls for the collection of the following data, again, without any advice on how to analyze data or measure success:

  • Academic performance in early literacy and math for students of color who are furthest from educational justice
  • On-time graduation and college and career readiness for students of color who are furthest from educational justice
  • Social-emotional learning and welcoming school environments for students of color who are furthest from educational justice
  • Families are well-informed regarding district services
  • Improve operational performance in support of student learning
  • Improve diversity of staff and leadership at school and central office
  • Improve cultural competency and responsiveness of educators
  • Improve the environment for employees of color
  • Increase voice and leadership in school and district initiatives for students of color who are furthest from educational justice
  • Improve engagement around school and district initiatives with families and communities who represent students of color who are furthest from educational justice (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).

There is no public or visible evidence of any system that gives educators access to district-level decision making, goal setting, or planning. There are partnerships between the district and the local bargaining unit, but these partnerships rarely involve classroom educators, and meetings and discussions generally consist of district and union leadership.

Data Analysis

            The data available to analyze all relate to instruction because they inform about who is achieving at various levels, who is engaged in instruction, who is delivering instruction, and how instruction is being delivered. They cover a variety of inputs and outputs including demographics of students and educators, graduation and push out rates, attendance rate, and discipline rates. Each of these data can be measured at classroom, school, and district level. Only testing data is disaggregated by grade level, and it is only disaggregated by content area as it pertains to “tested subjects.” No data exists for achievement in social studies, arts, language, physical education, or other content areas.

While all data can be disaggregated by race and ethnicity, not all the data collected by the district is disaggregated, specifically student climate data and educator data. The district reports on the race and ethnicity of teachers but does not collect disaggregated data on teacher attrition.

A longitudinal study of data would be relevant in meeting the district’s goals of closing achievement gaps, but there seems to be a lack of such data. An analysis of instruction, in particular, would require longitudinal data. Longitudinal data would inform educators how changes in instruction, or lack thereof, have contributed to existing gaps. Only through longitudinal data can themes, patterns, and inconsistencies be discovered. Starting with data about existing gaps is not a systems approach to data analysis (Bernhardt, V.L., 2016).

Data as tools to measure growth need to be formative and summative. Formative data are attendance rates, student climate surveys, historic data, and educator data. Summative data are data on graduation rates and test scores. The formative data are a measure of where we have been and where we are, and the summative data are measures of where we would like to be.


The district’s mission and vision statements and strategic plan are very clearly crafted around the needs of students of color and the disparities in achievement that exist between white students and students of color. The district has a wide range of data available that indicate a need for their stated mission and vision statements and strategic plan.

The districts goals and strategies are consistent with racial equity in instruction and outcomes, but there are gaps in the ways in which they intend to measure the success of these strategies. Despite the wealth of evidence about the inherent racism and ineffective practice of standardized testing (Au, W., 2008), most data used to measure “achievement” are related to standardized testing outcomes, and while most data are disaggregated by race and ethnicity, no data seems to be collected about race and ethnicity. Collecting disaggregated data on teacher attrition, the racial equity literacy level of educators and administrators, and student climate survey disaggregated by race will paint a clearer picture about how educators and students of color feel about instruction and learning in Seattle Public Schools. By only collecting racially disaggregated data on outcomes, education becomes “about” students of color instead of “for” students of color.



Data Analysis Worksheet

Name of District:                Seattle Public Schools                                                                

Diagnostic Purpose: To improve instruction

Data that are available What do the data tell us? To what extent do they inform us about instruction?
Demographic data Who the students are Alone, they do not. When disaggregated they tell us which students instruction is effective for and which it is not.
Test score data Who is “meeting standard” These data tell us exactly how racist testing is and how we should not align instruction with testing data.
Graduation rates Who is graduating. If instruction is not engaging all students, some will leave school before graduating.
Push out rates Who is not graduating See above
Attendance rates Who is engaged in learning If instruction is not engaging for all students, some students will not make school a priority.
Educator data Who is teaching How well educators are relating to the lived experiences of their students and how that is seen in instruction practices and content
Free and reduced meal data Income levels of families How well educators are differentiating instruction to meet the socio-emotional needs of students
Multilingual data How many students speak more than one language How well educators are differentiating instruction to value the strengths of multilingual students.
ELL data How many students are learning English See above
Special education data How many students need extra services and supports How well educators are differentiating instruction to meet the needs and provide supports
Discipline data How many students are being pushed out and who those students are How many instruction hours are being missed and which group of students are missing the most


Data that are not available: Gaps in the data What could the data tell us about? To what extent would they inform us about instruction?
Racial equity literacy of educators and administrators How well educators are prepared to meet the needs of currently underserved students How racially biased instruction practice and content are
Student climate survey data disaggregated by race Which students feel safe and welcomed in their school environment How well instruction is meeting the needs of currently underserved students
Historic data about instruction and discipline How the gaps were created These data would tell us if instruction has been changed to close gaps or if instruction has remained unchanged which perpetuates gaps
Disaggregated teacher attrition rates What the district is doing to retain educators of color Teachers of color have  a tendency to be more culturally responsive in terms of instruction.


Data that are available Data that are not currently available
Less Important Must-Have Less Important Must-Have
Test score data Demographic data   Racial equity literacy of educators and administrators
Free and reduced meal data Graduation rates   Student climate survey data disaggregated by race
Multilingual data Push out rates   Historic data about instruction and discipline
ELL data Attendance rates   Disaggregated teacher attrition rates
Special education data Educator data    
  Discipline data    


List the data you want to include in this district’s Data Collage/Data Profile.
Element of Data Collage/Data Profile Describe what these data contribute to the Data Collage/Data Profile
Demographic data Without this data we cannot accurately define the gaps and target the groups of students who need the most support.
Push out rates This will tell us who is the least engaged in the education process.
Attendance rates This will tell us who is the least engaged in the day-to-day learning.
Educator data How well educators are relating to the lived experiences of their students and how that is seen in instruction practices and content – who do we have and who do we need?
Racial equity literacy of educators and administrators These data will measure the degree to which the district prioritizes racial justice.
Student climate survey data disaggregated by race These data will give us insights into the experiences of students in school based on their racial and ethnic identities.
Historic data about instruction These data would tell us if instruction has been changed to close gaps or if instruction has remained unchanged which perpetuates gaps.


The data profile I am creating consists of the data I believe is the most relevant to the district’s mission statement, vision, and strategic plan. All three involve closing gaps between white students and students of color. These disparities have existed since I began working with this district in 2013 with some disparities increasing in the past year despite a recent push for racial justice. If we are going to address racial disparities, the focus on data should highlight the racial and ethnic backgrounds of students, educators, and outcomes.

The process I used in selecting these data was researching the data that are readily available on the Seattle Public School’s website and the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website. I used this worksheet to help me find the data that are available versus the data that are not available or are not collected. In some instances, the data are available but not disaggregated by race or ethnicity. I then went through the list of available and unavailable data and prioritized them using the district vision and mission statements and the strategic plan as guides.

Demographic data are important because we are focusing on specific groups of students in our district goals. All data, especially demographic data should be disaggregated by race and ethnicity in order to ensure we are analyzing the correct data to meet our goals. I chose to include push out rates instead of graduation rates, because graduation rates tell us how well we are doing with instruction and push out rates will help us determine whose needs we are not meeting. While push out rates are a summative assessment of engagement, attendance rates are a formative assessment. Student climate data are often left out of this discussion. They are often used in building level discussions on how teachers can improve practice and instruction, but I have not seen them as part of the district level planning. I have left out testing data because of their inherent racism (Au, W., 2008).

The last few data sets are about educators instead of students. I believe that focusing solely on students is deficit thinking. We do not need to fix the kids. We need to fix the system that is failing the kids. Since the district claims it is committed to racial justice in schools, key data that are missing is how literate educators and administrators are in racial equity. Racial justice initiatives are only as effective as the people creating and implementing them, and our district has neither mandated district-wide training on racial equity nor does it have a way to assess the levels of racial equity literacy in its staff. It is also important to know the racial and ethnic backgrounds of educators since studies show student engagement and success is linked to the racial and ethnic background of their teachers (Anderson, M., 2015).

Historic data about instruction is important because it seems that the district strategic plan is beginning and ending with achievement gaps. In her book, Data, Data Everywhere; Bringing all the data together for continuous school improvement, Dr. Bernhardt emphasizes the need for data to show an organization where it has been, where it is, and where it needs to go (2016). The district’s strategic plan skips the first layer of data analysis. This is particularly important in terms of instruction and assessment, because we tend to do more of the same in hopes the outcomes will change. Data on previous instruction and assessment is needed to understand how gaps are created. Data on the types of instruction and assessment are needed, not only the outcomes of each.



Anderson, Melinda. (06.08.2015). Why Schools Need More Teachers of Color – for White Students; Nonwhite educators can offer new and valuable perspectives for children of all backgrounds. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Au, Wayne. (2008). Unequal by Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality. New York, NY: Routledge.

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

Dornfield, A. (06.08.2017). Fewer Seattle students are getting suspended, expelled, data show. KUOW. Retrieved from

OSPI. (2018). Seattle Public Schools [Data set]. Washington State Report Card. Retrieved from

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.). About Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved from

Shaw, L. (27.03.2014). A year later: What’s up with school discipline case in Seattle? The Seattle Times. Retrieved from