Friday, March 19, 2010

"NTN" Deja Vu "Round #2"

On Saint Patrick's day CAO Dr. Susan Enfield made a short presentation for the introduction of the Planned reDo "Do Over" vote on NTN April 7, 2010.

She pointed out that the reason this "Do-Over" was needed was so the contract more carefully reflected what had been proposed. ....hummm Perhaps "Bait and Switch" caused civil unrest.

Two things of great interest have occurred since the orginal approval of the mismatch $800,000 contract of Feb 3.

#1 On March 3, OSPI released the list of approved providers for "Race to the Top" funds which are dispensed by States not Feds and "NTN" is not on the list of approved providers. This is a major blow as Seattle still has insufficient funds to meet a necessary component of the deliverables, which is the funding requirement to move forward.

With the loss of "Race to the Bank" funds dispensed by OSPI, this would be a crippling blow, if Seattle used intelligent decision making based on relevant data.

#2 The new action report for the "Do Over" is substantially different than that used on Feb. 3, 2010. Of great interest in the new Action Report is a memo written on 1-29-2010 just 5 days before the original $800,000 contract approval. The summary section ends with this sentence:
"Knowing ahead of time that the NTN model does not guarantee strong results only enhances the degree to which the burden falls on the district and the schools to achieve success."

Thus the district has insufficient funds to buy a lousy extremely risky instructional component....... WOW this is NOT Deja VU #2 ..... This is Deja Vu ... same old story for Cleveland yet again. I just do not know? Maybe Deja Vu #10

At least the faculty is reported to be excited and enthusiastic about moving forward with this exciting new revised transformation of instructional practice .... yup Cleveland is clearly at the Deja Vu reported enthusiasm stage and ready to move forward. I do not see this as encouraging but certainly do see Director Maier voting to approve whatever the contract might say once again. Yogi was right it is "Deja Vu" all over again....and again ... and again.

Cleveland you have my condolences. Bill Murray's Groundhog's Day characters feel your pain.

Check out The NTN Vision Thing at Kitchen Table Math

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Download of the legal filing of March 5, 2010

Initial filing of appeal, Anderson et. al v. Seattle HERE:

Also note in Briggs v. Seattle the continuing preference for excluding written public information from the decision making process HERE:

despite RCW requirements to do so.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

$800,000 New Tech contract appealed
Press Release

Education activists are challenging Seattle Public Schools' plan to pay New Technology Network (NTN) $800,000 over the next three years to provide curricular support for the new STEM high school in the Cleveland building. The School Board approved the contract at their February 3 meeting, but state law allows aggrieved citizens 30 days to appeal School Board decisions to Superior Court. The appeal, filed on March 5, contends that the Board failed to adequately review the decision.

On February 4, a judge found that the Board's high school math textbook adoption decision was arbitrary and capricious and upheld an appeal of that School Board decision. She remanded it back to the Board. Now the Board's decision-making process will be questioned in Court again.

Key to the appeal are the discrepancies between the information provided publicly and to the Board about the plans for the school and the terms of the contract. The contract calls for two completely separate schools with separate identification codes with the state, separate facilities, separate principals and staff, and a maximum enrollment of 450 students at each school. The District has always spoken of one school with a capacity of 1,000. The Board never asked any questions about the terms of the contract. It appears that the Board members never reviewed the contract before approving it. It has since been learned that negotiations are continuing and the contract has yet to be finalized. It is unclear what contract the Board approved.

The District claims that they have had discussions with NTN and they have assurances that NTN will not void the contract based on the differences between the terms of the contract and the plans for the STEM high school. The contract, however, has a clause that nullifies any such outside agreements.

There have also been serious questions raised about the veracity of information provided about New Technology Network (NTN). NTN was promoted as having expertise with STEM schools. The District staff claimed that 2/3 of the 41 schools in the NTN network were STEM schools, but it has since been revealed that no more than 1/4 of them really are. NTN doesn't provide assistance with STEM specifically, but with Project-Based Learning. This distinction was muddled when NTN was chosen as a vendor over others that support STEM education specifically. NTN claims that students in their schools have higher test scores and higher graduation rates than their peers, but independent research contradicts these claims. The Board never asked any questions about the independent research nor did they ever seek to verify the claims.

The contract with NTN is necessary if the STEM school is to have wall-to-wall project-based learning in every class starting on the first day the school opens. The Board never questioned the need for project-based learning, never questioned the need for project-based learning in every class, and never questioned the need for every class to use it starting on the first day the school opens.

Seattle Public Schools is struggling with a $24 million budget gap. The District is laying off teachers and eliminating the school counselor position at elementary schools in an effort to balance their budget. The contract with NTN costs as much as ten teachers.

The value or benefit of a STEM school is not questioned by the appeal. The appeal is specifically about the quality of the Board's decision-making process. If the appeal is successful the judge will direct the School Board to review their decision - just as the high school math textbook decision was remanded back to the Board for an authentic and well-considered review.

--- Press Release written by Charlie Mas

Note: the SPS Board failed to provide the legally required reasonable opportunity for public comment since the contract terms were not made available to the public until Tuesday 2-2-10 the day before the voting of approval. Now it turns out we are still waiting for the contract to be finalized and disclosed, over 30 days after the SPS approval of "The" contract by the Board. (Confused yet?)


Don't miss Melissa Westbrook's NTN Huh? of the day on the S P S community blog.