Friday, April 24, 2015

Education News Round-Up

State Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle) announced that the Legislature passed his bill HB1240 on the use of restraint and isolation techniques in public schools.  The bill will now go to Governor Inslee for his signature.
“This bill makes sure that treating people with respect and dignity doesn’t end when a child walks through the doors of their school,” said Pollet. “Schools should create an environment where students can learn without fear of having their behavior corrected with the use of restraints and isolation. This bill prohibits the use of these tactics and promotes the use of positive interventions which are proven to be effective.”
He said that parents and advocates for people with disabilities helped mightily to win the day.  

Paramount Pictures announced today that it is sending a copy of the film, Selma, to every single high school in the U.S. (public and private). 

Seattle Schools Found Out of Compliance on ELL Programs

I'll just print the letter that Veronica Gallardo, Director of ELL and International Programs, wrote to principals.  It's fairly stunning.  It upends the ELL program almost completely, adds thousands of more kids to be tested for ELL services and shows a district that either does not make sure it is compliance or does not understand what OSPI has said.  Either way, not good.
School Leaders,

We are writing to inform you that OSPI has found the district out of compliance regarding ELL student access to schools and ELL programs. Historically, our student assignment plans included ELL service schools. It was a district belief that ELL families could opt to attend an ELL service school within their assigned service area if their neighborhood school was not an ELL school. The state does not agree. In addition, during the state review it was discovered that enrollment services did not administer the placement assessment to over 1100 students who reported speaking another language other than English at home.

As a result of this finding, several big changes are in the works. Below are the actions the district is taking:
  • Eliminate the designated ELL school model
  • Initiate ELL services in all schools (two models of service will be provided based on ELL enrollment at each school)
  • Terminate the requirement that parent's must waive ELL services to attend a non-ELL service school (formerly only available at designated ELL schools) since all schools must now provide ELL services.

News That is Spreading Across the Country

WA State Teacher Walk-Outs Continue

Eleven school districts have had their teachers vote to walk out in protest over the lack of funding for public education in Washington State as well as lack of progress on a budget that meets that obligation via the McCleary ruling.

The latest teacher group is from Lake Washington School District who will walk on May 6th.  Lakewood and Stanwood-Camano, both in Snohomish County, walked out Wednesday. 

Today Anacortes, Bellingham, Blain, Mount Vernon, Conway and Ferndale will walk.  Next week sees teachers in Sedro-Woolley and Oak Harbor walk.  

As far as I know, discussions are continuing at SEA but no vote has been taken. 

As I previously reported, the Governor has announced the Special Session of the Legislature will begin this Wednesday. 

I note that this does not appear to be happening in other parts of the state.  I could find no mention of it in the Spokane Review with two stories in the Yakima Herald plus a scathing editorial against the action.

I wish the WEA had organized a one-day strike that actually took place on one single day - either at the capital or in teachers' home districts.  I think the impact would have been much greater. 

Friday Open Thread

 UPdate:  huge shout-out to the Seahawks Richard Sherman who made a surprise visit to Rainier Beach High School yesterday. 

It's already started but the (NFFTY) Film Festival for Talented Youth is a good bet for this weekend.

Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times tries to talk about ed reform, with the premise that K-12 ed reform is over and now it's about birth to five.  (Geez, do these people just all get the same memo/tweet/fax in the morning?)  Of course, the early years are important but that's not really the point.

His real premise (as I see it) is buried in one of his three reasons why everyone should move on:

Education inequity is America’s original sin.

No, it's not.  America's original sin is a two-fold one.  It is the double whammy of slavery (and its generational legacy) and the treatment of the original peoples of this land.  That, Mr. Kristof, is our "original sin."  As well, it is not education inequity that is really the problem - it's income inequality.  My belief is that you will not solve one without the other and that is the likely reason that you only see pockets of change rather a mass moving of the needle. 

From Madison Middle School yesterday:
At approximately 10:20am a female scholar was followed from the Metro bus stop at McDonalds and California west on Stevens by a man who approached her from behind and grabbed her.  He was described as an African man in his early 20’s or 30’s, thin build, with short curly hair. Our scholar turned and yelled at him, and he ran back toward PCC on California. She proceeded to school and immediately reported the incident to school staff. Madison administration notified the family and the Seattle Police Department, who are actively investigating.

According to the Governor's office, there will be a Special Session of the Legislature, starting next Wednesday, April 29th (although budget writers will be working on Monday).  I'm with reader Eric B.  They work by day, get locked up in jail by night and it would get done in 5 days.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Quite the Day on the Opt-Out Front

First up, apparently poor Minnesota got hit by an overloaded processor AND some kind of hacking which lead to a shutdown of their testing on Tuesday.  Minnesota is using PARCC and that means our friends at Pearson had some explaining to do.  Pearson got it back and running but the Minnesota ODE was not quite prepared to say all was well.  From MPR:
"We still need to hear from Pearson exactly what the issue is, how they have resolved it, and receive an assurance that testing can resume smoothly," department spokesman Josh Collins said.

The department hopes to restart testing on Thursday if it gets those assurances, he added.
The hacker attack went away after about 30 minutes.

I'm just going to interject at this point.  Look, even without opt-outs, multiple states had to shut down testing.  ANYONE who knows how testing goes at a school, knows that it is a carefully planned event and anything that changes, throws the whole thing out of whack.

My point is that anyone - Arne Duncan, I'm looking at you - who believes that these state test results should be taken seriously is wrong.  It is wrong for students, for teachers, for districts. 

Then we have the New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition group of 50 parent/educator groups, who have come out with their demands for public education.  From their press release:
The educational program of the state is in chaos. Leadership is more important than ever. On Sunday, April 19th the Editorial Board of The Journal News declared, “The stunning success of the test-refusal movement in New York is a vote of no confidence in our state educational leadership” in calling for Chancellor Merryl Tisch to step aside. 

New York State Allies for Public Education, a grassroots coalition of over fifty parent and educator advocacy organizations from all corners of the Empire State, stands with the Editorial Board of The Journal News.
 They go on:
“Parents have been left with no choice. We will submit our refusal letters, which is our parental right, on day one of school, next year and every year and if those in power will not listen, we will free our children from a test driven, developmentally inappropriate education,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder.
 But next door in New Jersey, public education officials say they will drop the hammer.  From NJcom (bold mine):

Parent Threatens Child at Broadview-Thomson

On April 6th at Broadview-Thomson K-8 during school breakfast, a 7-year old girl was threatened by a parent (not her own) who said she would cut the girl's tongue out and showed her a boxcutter.   It is unclear why the parent did this but the little girl was frightened and went to a staff member.

The staff member alerted the office and the school staff searched the school to try to find the person in case it was an ongoing issue.  They did not find the person. 

The school says that they notified the child's mother right away.  The mother is claiming she was not told until the afternoon.

At some point, the staff did figure out who threatened the child. When she was questioned, the woman, the mother of a classmate of the victim, claimed she was "just kidding" and had the boxcutter in her coat because she had just come from work where she uses one.

The parent of the child had a previously scheduled meeting with the principal the next day and, of course, they discussed the incident.   According to the district, the meeting went well and the principal told the mother that the other parent now had a no-trespass order for a year.   The principal seemed to think the mother was satisfied when she left his office.

But the mother IS unhappy and has a Facebook page where she says:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Opting Out - Two Views

Update:  a third view from a NY parent:

Whatever test, the results need to be teacher, student and parent friendly. They should impact instruction and be understandable for parents and students,” Salazar added. “It should be like a cholesterol test, most of us don’t know the science but we do understand the results.”

end of update

One view comes from two Long Island superintendents with Long Island being the epicenter of opt-outs in NY state.  It is thoughtful and cogent.  From the Suffolk Times Review:

At first glance, the current, heated, conflict over state testing and the “opt-out” movement appears to be a dispute between those who believe in and those who dispute the value of state tests. But this conflict goes deeper. It is a conflict about what is good for children and adolescents, about how children learn and thrive, and about how to raise young people to enter into and contribute to their communities as mature members of a democratic society. 

Those who support testing contend that facing tests, and the concomitant adversity that one might experience (even if the test is developmentally inappropriate) are a part of life. To do otherwise is considered weak, and represents a failure to develop the “grit” necessary to fully engage in life’s challenges. For these people, it is inconceivable that locally developed assessments — perhaps even more purposeful and useful assessments — could accomplish that very same goal.  Living in a culture of fear as we do, many people believe that it is necessary to impose carefully guarded secret tests from above to make sure that we hold incompetent adults — untrustworthy teachers and administrators — accountable for the abject failure of some children who graduate from our public schools.

Then they get even more serious:

While not discarding other learning — the arts, science, history and other subjects — outright, self-appointed education reformers believe teachers and administrators must attend to the English and mathematics tasks above all else. They believe that education is about getting children ready for the world of work, few questions asked. To these reformers, children who go to public schools “live to work” as the saying goes, and ought to be educated to do so.

 Many defenders of current state tests also find it morally reprehensible to break the rules, even if the rules support a broken system. To be an agent of change, and seek to be in favor of a better system is considered wrong and virtually un-American to these people. The system is what it is, and everyone should be quiet and obey the rules. Our founding fathers, who were patriots, would have had a hard time understanding why they risked their lives to establish our democracy if they believed that adherence to the official way of doing things could not be challenged. We would suspect that the likes of Washington, Franklin and Jefferson would do far more than simply opt-out of tests.

Duncan Saber-Rattles in Remarks on Opt-Outs

From Chalkbeat New York:
 U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday that the federal government is obligated to intervene if states fail to address the rising number of students who are boycotting mandated annual exams. 

“We think most states will do that,” Duncan said during a discussion at the Education Writers Association conference in Chicago. “If states don’t do that, then we have an obligation to step in.”
Federal law requires all students in grades three to eight to take annual tests, and officials have said districts could face sanctions if fewer than 95 percent of students participate.
 And yet he also said this:
Duncan also said that students in some states are tested too much, and acknowledged that the exams are challenging for many students. But he argued that annual standardized exams are essential for tracking student progress and monitoring the score gap between different student groups. 
He seemed to also forget that for the overwhelming majority of districts in this country, this is a new test that may also is computer-based.  So many children it's content AND process.

Ed Issues This and That

 In what is the biggest story for our district (and all districts in this state) is the likely reality of the Legislature going into a Special Session to complete the budget.  

The impacts of this delay to our school districts is big and those impacts should have been considered at the start of the session.