Jan. 21, 2015
Happy 2015! Like many of you, we in the Tukwila School District also have New Years resolutions. No, we’re not talking about hitting the gym (although that’s certainly a must on my personal list!)—all of our goals and aspirations for the rest of the school year are laid out in the district’s strategic plan. Voices from every part of the community came together last year to form this critical document. Based on our common values, the strategic plan lays out our student-learning targets and instructional strategies to get there. This year, my main focus—and that of the district’s—is on implementation.
Well, we are already off to a good start in 2015! Last week, we hosted one of the nation’s premiere leaders and intellectuals on the issue of social justice and racial divides. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson (you have probably heard him on NPR, seen him on just about every major news program, and/or read him in the New York Times or Times Magazine). He spoke to a packed house about how we, as public servants, need to break through institutional and personal barriers to better serve all children. Included in that was an incredible dialogue lead by our students about rebuilding trust between authority figures and communities of color. And just to make the event even more beautiful? It was on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.
There is honestly no other community in the U.S. where this conversation is more important or more relevant. As it relates to our district’s strategic plan, we understand that our main instructional strategies for educating students must include equitable access for all children, caring and effective adults, and a supportive climate with strong relationships with families and the community. In other words, we all have the responsibility of joining in a collective conversation about how we overcome our differences to focus on the success of each and every child.
That is why we started the Intercultural Speakers Series, of which Dr. Dyson was the latest presenter. We have been hosting monthly forums with diverse speakers with topics ranging from economics to special education to disproportionality in discipline. If you did not have the chance to see Dr. Dyson or any of our other speakers, please join us for a future forum.
To keep the strategic-plan goals front and center, you will also see our 2017 benchmarks—the targets we have established for every student in the next three years—at the entrance of every school and the Administration Building. These are the achievement measures for which I will be held accountable, and for which I will measure my own progress. Please familiarize yourself with them. For the 2014-16 school year, we are focused on three of the benchmarks in particular: Continuous academic growth for each student (who will make one year’s academic growth each year), accelerated growth for under-performing students (who will show at least 1.5 years growth in literacy and math), and timely interventions (reduce by 30 percent the number of students who trigger early-warning indicators in the areas of attendance, discipline, and grades).
In other exciting news, our school principals are preparing for their first “data summit,” in which they will report back to the school board and the community about their progress toward meeting these benchmarks. They will be doing a test run this month, which will kick of a regular series of data summits (every six to eight weeks). Just like taking your pulse, we need to monitor our vital signs very frequently to make sure our system is healthy and on the right track. We will begin to publically post the reports from the data summits very soon, and, of course, the public is always encouraged to attend the school board meetings when the data will be presented.
Not only do I invite you to monitor our progress, I welcome it! The strategic plan is not my document, it is OURS—the entire community’s. As Dr. Dyson said, “Justice is what love sounds like when it speaks in public.” We are all in this together; it’s time for us to speak our truth and stand up for our children.
—Dr. Nancy Coogan