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    Seattle Excellence: A Progress Report for 2019-20
    Posted on 06/19/2020
    Seattle Public Schools strategic plan logo

    Seattle Excellence: A Progress Report for 2019-20

    We are engaged in a historic moment. Now is the time to make real and lasting changes in public education.

    In these last few months, we have seen a global health crisis further reveal white privilege in our educational system. At the same time, 400 years of anti-Black racism and systematic oppression of our Black communities have been brought squarely into the national spotlight. As we wrap up the 2019-20 school year and look towards next fall, the work of our strategic plan, Seattle Excellence, is more important than ever.

    We are committed to ensuring every student is prepared for college, career, and community. Our Kings — Black boys and teens in Seattle Public Schools — are at the heart of our strategic plan and commitments. Our students are Black Excellence, and with the wisdom of the community, we are reimagining and rebuilding a school system that advances their wellbeing and cultivates their academic, cultural, political, and social-emotional strengths.

    Seattle Excellence focuses on changing the broken, racist educational systems and practices that have existed for far too long. We will no longer place false limitations on students. By beginning our work in support of Black boys and teens, students who are furthest away from educational justice, we will radically transform our teaching practices, the learning environment, resource allocation, and adults' held beliefs to fulfill our commitment to students and their families. When we are successful, learning conditions across the district will improve and every student in Seattle Public Schools will benefit and thrive.

    While past initiatives have drawn important attention to the lack of educational opportunities for Black students, very little improvement has been made. Current outcomes continue to reflect a system that was built to support and accelerate the success of some students, but not all. Our data compels us to do things differently and with urgency.

    Now is the time for change. Creating a more just and loving tomorrow is in our power. It starts with Seattle Excellence, and it starts with a focus on our students who need us the most to provide the education they deserve — students of color furthest from educational justice, beginning with our Black boys and teens.

    You can read more about Seattle Excellence.

    Our Progress

    Seattle Excellence was launched at the beginning of this school year with bold goals over the next five years to ensure all students receive a high-quality, world-class education. In doing this work, we pledged to dramatically improve academic and life outcomes for students of color by disrupting racism in our educational system.

    This work is about changing broken systems and shifting adult beliefs and behaviors. We will continue to work over the summer and into next school year on our four priorities:

    High-Quality Instruction and Learning Experiences

    High-Quality Instruction and Learning Experiences


    Culturally Responsive World

    Culturally Responsive Workforce


    Operational Systems

    Predictable and Consistent Operational Systems


    Inclusive Engagement

    Inclusive and Authentic Engagement


    "Education for African American children has never been about learning to read, write, and do arithmetic in any singular fashion. Education for our children has fundamentally been about freedom and healing."
    – Baayan Bakari, We Dare Say Love: Supporting Achievement in the Educational Life of Black Boys

    Central to our Seattle Excellence work is this year's launch of the African American Male Achievement (AAMA) department and focus on four strategic areas: culture – rituals, routines, and practices that honor students’ strengths; conditions – policies, structures, and systems that support welcoming and safe learning spaces; competencies – skills and knowledge that educators must have to effectively reach and teach Black boys and teens; and community connection.

    Systemic and sustained change in public education begins by asking Black boys and teens what they need in these four strategy areas and co-developing solutions. This year, the AAMA department launched an African American Male Student Leadership Council (SLC). Students on the council, who we call Kings, are influencing policy decisions and representing student voice on districtwide engagement teams, including the fall re-opening work groups. The perspectives of Black boys and teens are also being gathered through focus groups and surveys. This data is helping us better understand our students' experiences and how to build a more supportive and just educational system.

    As we create a school system that unapologetically advances the achievement of Black boys and teens, alignment of work and practices across the district and with community partners is essential. As a first step towards system coherence, the AAMA department launched an analysis of central department work with a focus on supports for Black youth. In the next few months, a citywide Listen and Learn Tour will launch to engage Black families and youth-serving organizations. This data will help us further refine our focus and strategies. Read more about the AAMA department and this foundational work.

    In these last three months, the inequity in our educational system has become even more clear. While we have focused on providing thousands of meals for students, working with community partners to distribute laptops and wi-fi hot spots, and provided multiple ways to access learning, we must do more to provide an equitable education for our students. Students of color who are furthest from educational justice need us to continue making urgent progress on our commitments outlined in Seattle Excellence.

    The 2019-20 focus goals

    Earlier this month, we updated our strategic plan website, including a report on our three focus goals and progress, which include:

    • Our educators and staff will effectively support students and families with culturally responsive practices
    • All students will feel welcome and safe in school
    • 100% of students will read at grade level by third grade, with an intentional focus on students of color, beginning with Black K-3 male students

    Highlights from 2019-20

    Strategic Plan Highlights from this School Year

    • Representation matters and Human Resources is taking active steps to hire and retain staff of color. In 2019-20, 57% of school leaders hired self-identify as people of color, compared to 35% in 2018-19.
    • Implemented special education transportation improvements, including the district's snow response plan. Nearly all students are now provided a bus route or alternative transportation during inclement weather.
    • Updated school meal menus to include more culturally specific foods and vegetarian options in response to family and student engagement.
    • More than 60 schools participated in training to improve classroom climates, support students' social-emotional wellbeing, and minimize lost instructional time.
    • Launched Seattle Super Readers in 2019 and sent home more than 30,000 books to K-5 students in 13 priority schools.
    • 1,400 educators across 25 schools participated in Racial Equity Literacy training.

    In responding to the pandemic, we used our Seattle Excellence priorities and goals to guide decisions:

    • Created a COVID-19 Racial Equity Analysis Tool to inform planning and decision-making while shifting to remote learning.
    • Developed the second semester high school "A" or "Incomplete" grading policy to ensure no harm during this unprecedented time.
    • Thanks to our community partners and staff, we created a family technology help line and distributed 20,550 devices, including 9,000 donated Chromebooks, to support remote learning. Students furthest away from educational justice were prioritized.
    • Launched 26 student meal sites and 38 bus routes to deliver nutritious meals during school building closures. In 12 weeks, more than 712,000 meals were served. Partnerships with Fare Start and Amazon supported dinner meal delivery to families, and thousands of weekend meals were distributed through the Backpack Brigade, a coalition of community partners.
    • Launched, in partnership with community-based organizations and the City of Seattle, 18 childcare sites for essential workers, prioritizing families furthest away from educational justice.
    • Distributed meals, technology and learning supports, and art-making kits to thousands of students in partnership with Seattle Housing Authority and other affordable housing organizations.
    • Distributed K-8 learning videos on cable television, local television, and online. Videos were supported with aligned learning packets distributed to all 26 meal sites, affordable housing sites, and community organizations. By the end of our school year, we will have distributed more than 105,500 printed learning packets and produced 618 learning videos for SPS TV. The videos have been viewed more than 300,000 times, with greatest viewership from families and students of color.
    • Launched "The Summer of Learning" and opened the district's successful summer learning program to all students with enhanced supports for students that need them. More than 15,000 students have enrolled, an increase of 12,500 students from Summer 2019.

    Seattle Excellence Highlight: African American Male Student Leadership Council

    AAMA LogoSeattle Public Schools is centering the perspectives and ideas of Black students as we work to rebuild a school system that supports the success of all students.

    In February 2020, we launched the first African American Male Student Leadership Council (SLC). The SLC promotes a network of student leaders who support each other at their schools and across our district while also providing guidance to district leadership on priority initiatives of the district and the African American Male Achievement department.

    These Kings are engaged in the creation of initiatives and programming that impact them directly. They act as role models and leaders for each other, as well as for other Black boys and teens in our schools.

    When asked why they want to be a part of this student group, here were some of their answers.

    Hear from a few of the Kings:

    Tijar AmanuelA photo of Amanuel

    My name is Tijar and it means wealth. I want to be a part of the AAMA Student Leadership Council so I can do something that is positive and proud for my culture. I am serving for my community and my family. To give voice to people that don’t always have a voice.


    Napoleon BattleA photo of Battle

    My name is Napoleon Battle and my father named me after UW running back Napoleon Kaufman, but to me it means something different. I want to be a part of AAMA to give people an insight into what a minority goes through in a majority school. I want to give my little cousins and friends a role model to look up to.


    Demarcus BelleA photo of Belle

    My name is Demarcus Belle and the origin of my last name means beauty in France. I want to be a part of the AAMA Student Leadership Council because there’s much to be changed in this world and in our community. I am humbled to represent the community I live in and want to help end our struggle.


    Quentin BerryA photo of Berry

    My name is Quentin, and I’m not completely sure about the origin of my name. I think I’d have to ask my mom again. When I started high school, I didn’t think there would be something like My Brother’s Keeper. And I like being around Black kids, around my age, older or younger. It’s fun for me. That’s why I was interested in participating on the AAMA Student Leadership Council. I want to let Black kids know they can make a difference.

    Learn more about the AAMA and SLC