Even in the grip of materialistic greed, I can see that I don’t need a new dress, or a fabulous pair of shoes. The latest and greatest is alluring and desirable, and the desire to possess it can feel urgent to act upon. But it’s not necessary. And for me, budget-wise, fashion comes behind an army of real obligations – to Stumpy, to my children, even to my goofball goats.
For instance (and here's a link in case this cannot be read from your device):
Is it just me or is the fact that it's so interchangeable more than a little creepy?
It's all the more unsettling because SPS is a hot mess of education fashion trends: Formative data assessments! Strategic Plans! Teacher Evaluation Systems! Curricular Alignments! New Student Assignment Plans! STEM! IB! STEP! Performance Management! Professional Development Coaches! Best Practices! Whatever the Gates Foundation says could be the next hot thing, even if they admit they’re not sure and could be totally wrong! Stuff that can have an acronym that isn’t as ill-considered as the South Lake Union trolley!
The results, whether you overtrend in fashion or education, aren’t pretty.
A huge screw-up in fashion is pretty entertaining. Seeing a woman wear a phenomenally expensive dress that looks like it was made from a flock of flamingoes with bedazzled feathers and could be worn for interpretive ice dancing about formal balls for disco birds is... well, kind of awesome, as both fashion road-kill and... fun. In education, it’s just depressing, because keeeeeds are getting screwed.
SPS has a ton of latest! greatest! implementations and initiatives. And almost all of them are hot messes.
Curriculum alignment? Great theory, dreadful practice. If a science class that you can get college credit for is considered an “elective” instead of core science, something is awry in the state of… well, curriculum alignment. Clearly, we’re not in Denmark.
NSAP? Say it with me! Great in theory, mixed bag to nightmare on implementation (yes, I'm aware some people are happy as clams, usually because they landed a spot at a school that is good and not near the fire code limit of over-crowded).
MAP, the formative data assessment? I’m not actually sure it’s a great theory, given the amount of time it takes. But we’ll give Our Professional Educators of The Stanford Center the benefit of the doubt. So: great in theory, decidedly lame in practice.
Professional Development Coaches? Look, the theory is actually fine. The practice, in SPS, has been so poorly tracked – and do not attempt to insist that the data cannot be disaggregated – that SPS has no idear whether or not it’s working. Yup, that’s right. SPS is spending between $8M and $11M on something, every year, and nobody’s tracked it well enough to see if it’s working, other than some “really positive” feedback from teachers. And yes, I like teachers to be happy. But are you kidding me? That’s a whole lotta money to spend without paying close attention to the results.
We could go point by point, but it would take a while and be really, really boring. But feel free to point out your personal, most loathed example of "good in theory, lousy practice" in the comments.
The thing is, fashionable efforts cost gobs of money. In fashion and education, whether you pull it off well or badly, being at the front of a fashion is expensive. And in education, money spent on new trends always includes the following accessory: administration.
You personally may dislike top-down management or strong central administrations, as a management structure, it can work. The management structure itself is not the primary issue. The management of the structure, however, is a major issue. Because it's dismal.
And, well, let's be honest: in SPS, the structure itself is fat. If a fat, strong central administration also delivered strong support to schools and better results for students (the sumo-wrestler of administrations?), I’d be all for it.
But it doesn't.
In Seattle, a fat Central Administration hasn't delivered better results for students. A growing Central Administration is slowly strangling good schools and it's not helping schools with large numbers of struggling students.
Now, you could tell me, as SPS management is saying, that Central Administration is enormously reduced. Which... is kind of true, in a shell game, telling only a narrow part of the truth sort of way. It's sort of like if I said that I am 5'7". Which, if I'm wearing 4" heels, I am.