Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's Constitution Day

Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognizing all who, are born in the U.S. or by naturalization, have become citizens.

Our Constitution still stands as our country's guide.   I don't think that it's some kind of "in stone" document.  I believe our founding fathers meant for it to be a living, breathing document.  That we have some strict Constitutionalists on the U.S. Supreme Court is a pity.

In honor of our Constitution, it's pop quiz time from the Washington Post's Answer Sheet.

Also, don't forget about Civics for All, our local home-grown initiative.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Seattle Schools' Meetings Update

Tonight is the regularly scheduled Seattle School Board meeting starting at 4:15 pm at JSCEE.

A few updates.

One, there are only five people signed up to give testimony.  If you have anything you might want to convey to the Board, this would be a good time.

Two, at the end of the Board meeting, there will be a closed Executive Session for "potential litigation."  

This closed session will begin at the conclusion of the regular Board meeting and last approximately 30 minutes.  The legislative session will not reconvene after the executive session, and mo action will be taken as a result of the executive session.

Is this about the Sped Director?

Three, the Operations Committee meeting on Thursday will only be an hour, from 4:30-5:30 pm.  The agenda is still not available for this meeting.

Four, the Executive Committee meeting of the Whole, on Thursday the 18th starting at 5:30 pm, is indeed about the Superintendent Search.

Public Education Updates

Get a cup of coffee/tea - there are a lot of them (and big news items at that).

Good News

The governor of Tennessee just signed into law that every single high school grad gets a free ride for two years at a community college.  From Yes!:

The bill provides two years of tuition at a community college or college of applied technology for any high school graduate who agrees to work with a mentor, complete eight hours of community service, and maintain at least a C average. High school graduates will start to reap these benefits in fall 2015.

Oregon Sen. Mark Hass is selling the idea to his state, too. He sponsored a bill that passed earlier this year to study whether a similar system in Oregon would work. The results should be out later this year.

Education Satire

Hey, you 3-year old slackers!

It has come to our attention that your older brothers and sisters have been showing up to Kindergarten completely unprepared for the requirements of a rigorous education. It is time to nip this indolent behavior in the bud. You probably don't even know what 'indolent" means, do you? Dammit -- this is exactly why Estonia and Singapore are challenging the U.S. for world domination!

My Take on Preschool Measures for Publicola

Update:

Consider attending/viewing a debate on this issue at a Town Hall presented by Seattle Channel, Town Hall Seattle and Seattle CityClub.  It's next Wednesday, the 24th at 7 pm.  It's cable channel 21 (or HD 321).  They will be having polling during the event.  It's free but you have to register.  (I am not on the panel but did a pre-recorded interview with host Brian Callanan that will be shown.)

Register at www.seattlecityclub.org or call (206) 682-7395. Doors open at 6 p.m. with audience instructions at 6:30 p.m. and the live televised program at 7 p.m.

End of update.

My concerns are outlined - for both preschool propositions - at Publicola.   I flesh out those concerns in detail there but broadly:

- did the City and the unions really try to find unity?  Because I believe a joint-measure would have passed easily.  Instead, we have two nearly completely difference measures.  What happens if one side wins?  Will we see complete unity from the other side (for example, if the unions' measure - Prop 1A - wins, will the City fund it?)

- why didn't the City do the groundwork to find out how many preschools there are in Seattle and who they serve?  They admit they don't have any idea in their early documentation.  How do they know where to start if they don't know where the starting line is?

- and, of course, my concerns for Seattle Schools in the City's Prop 1B (as the unions' plan does not include the district).

As for voting, here's how the City Attorney explains it:

City Attorney’s Explanatory Statement

Tuesday Open Thread

Yesterday, Google and Mayor Murray surprised Highland Park Elementary with a major announcement about their request via DonorsChoose.org. Google "flash-funded" classroom requests from every teacher in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties who had made a request at DonorsChoose.  From Seattle.gov:

Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students. - See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/google-highland-park/#sthash.5JaQd8iB.OIwpVLVw.dpuf
Mayor Murray joined representatives from Google today to announce that the company has fully funded classroom requests from every teacher in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties on the education crowd funding site DonorsChoose.org. Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students.
“There’s no better way to start off the school year than with this surprise funding for our local teachers. This generous donation to our classrooms is greatly appreciated,” said Murray, who made the surprise announcement in front of teachers at Highland Park Elementary School.
- See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/google-highland-park/#sthash.5JaQd8iB.OIwpVLVw.dpuf
Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students.
Mayor Murray joined representatives from Google today to announce that the company has fully funded classroom requests from every teacher in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties on the education crowd funding site DonorsChoose.org. Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students.
“There’s no better way to start off the school year than with this surprise funding for our local teachers. This generous donation to our classrooms is greatly appreciated,” said Murray, who made the surprise announcement in front of teachers at Highland Park Elementary School.
- See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/google-highland-park/#sthash.5JaQd8iB.OIwpVLVw.dpuf
Mayor Murray joined representatives from Google today to announce that the company has fully funded classroom requests from every teacher in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties on the education crowd funding site DonorsChoose.org. Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students.
“There’s no better way to start off the school year than with this surprise funding for our local teachers. This generous donation to our classrooms is greatly appreciated,” said Murray, who made the surprise announcement in front of teachers at Highland Park Elementary School.
- See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/google-highland-park/#sthash.5JaQd8iB.OIwpVLVw.dpuf
Mayor Murray joined representatives from Google today to announce that the company has fully funded classroom requests from every teacher in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties on the education crowd funding site DonorsChoose.org. Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students.
“There’s no better way to start off the school year than with this surprise funding for our local teachers. This generous donation to our classrooms is greatly appreciated,” said Murray, who made the surprise announcement in front of teachers at Highland Park Elementary School.
- See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/google-highland-park/#sthash.5JaQd8iB.OIwpVLVw.dpuf

FYI, from CNN:

Travelers who passed through the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport earlier this month may have been exposed to the highly contagious measles virus, local health officials say.

The King County Department of Public Health in Washington state is investigating "a confirmed case of measles infection" in a traveler who was at the airport while he or she was contagious. The traveler was in the airport's North Satellite Terminal, on the interterminal train and at baggage claim between 8:10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on September 6.

"If you were at either of these locations during the times listed above and are not immune to measles, the most likely time you would become sick is between September 13th and September 27th," the health department said in a statement.

CPPS has a good overview of discipline rates in Seattle Schools (taken from OSPI data).   Not good - the majority of students were from low-income families, half were African-American, and "dozens" were K-1 students.  What I find odd was this stat:

Statewide, most suspensions and expulsions were for “other behavior” — not for fighting, bullying, weapons, or drug use.

Teachers, what would fall into "other behavior?"  Swearing? Oppositional behavior? Threatening behavior?  

What's on your mind?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Director McLaren Op-Ed

Recently I learned that Director Marty McLaren had written an op-ed for the Seattle Times about the good things and hard work happening in Seattle Schools. According to McLaren, the Times encouraged her to edit her op-ed and resubmit it (which she did) but then the Times declined to print it.

They then published the editorial about SPS and its leadership (and egging on the Mayor and the City Council to try to take control of the Board).

I find this quite troubling because frankly, it seems like the Times is hell-bent on doing everything they can to undermine the Board to the point of undermining the entire district.  It is hard to get the message out about the myriad of good things in this district if media only wants to write about the problems and/or bang out the same tired stories about the Board and district leadership.

But the Times' loss is our gain.   Here's what Director McLaren has to say.

Seattle Public Schools are Thriving
August 29, 2014 

This week many Seattle Public Schools families received a “failing school” letter, required by law, because our state’s schools did not receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. Seattle Public Schools applied for a waiver, but as of this writing, the district not been notified whether our unique teacher contract qualifies SPS for it.

We who participate in the District’s work know our schools are not failing. In fact, most of our schools are flourishing and showing more improvement each year. Our teachers are teaching and getting results. Seattle Public School students keep doing better and better, despite the frequent turnover of district leaders, and severely inadequate funding. Why? The answer tells an important story about an extraordinary community of educators, support staff, volunteers, and families – all becoming more expert at meeting the challenges of urban public education. The heart of this tale is that incredibly vibrant leadership abounds within Seattle’s community of educators and their allies.

Seattle Schools This Week

Update: A&F Tuesday meeting agenda.    

The minutes from the previous meeting reveal that the next district audit will include Ballard High and Special Education.  (The previous audit included Garfield and guess what?  They were found to have several volunteers not screened or had no application at all. )

Also, the Internal Auditor, Andrew Medina, said this:


Mr. Medina spoke about an additional finding for personal service contracts (PSC). He noted that there have been instances where work started before the PSC is approved, as well as sole-source contracts that lack adequate supporting justification. Mr. Medina also noted a lack of administrative procedures, an employee handbook, and clear channels of communication. The audit also cited that the District lacks procedures covering the delegation of purchase approvals to administrative staff. 


Ms. Technow listed some of the forms, contracts and checkout lists currently in place, noting it is typically the same departments allowing work to begin before contracts are finalized. 

For anyone new to the district, understand these are concerns that have been going on for years.  Why do they continue?  Because staff knows no one will hold them accountable.  I can remember this issue of personal service contracts (shades of Silas Potter) coming up several times.    And, per Technow's remarks, they even know which departments start work before contracts are approved/finalized.  

Directors noted their disappointment that previously chronicled internal audit findings are recurring. Directors asked about corrective action for individuals and departments not in compliance. 

Really?  They're disappointed?  And, will they actually do anything about that disappointment?  Nope.

On data security:

Mr. Dizon thanked Directors for their recommendation to better protect staff privacy by having restrictions on access to and storage of sensitive information. Directors noted incidences where laptops have been stolen from cars leading to personal identifiable information being compromised. They asked that work be done with the Department of Technology to develop indestructible controls to ensure data cannot be shared or stolen. Directors spoke about systems and controls to protect data and employee training. 

But there are no "indestructible controls" that I know of.  What's odd is that the Work Session on Technology made it sound all under control and Board members didn't do much challenging on that issue.  It's very confusing.

There's also a fascinating section of the A&F minutes about private schools and input from them on Special Ed students they serve. 

End of update. 

Tuesday, September 16th
Audit&Finance Committee Quarterly Audit Meeting, 4:30-6:30 pm.  Agenda not yet available.
As Charlie noted elsewhere, this is the meeting where staff has to report back on various issues raised.  I am hoping to see Director Carr hold some feet to the fire but we'll just have to see.

Wednesday, September 17th
School Board Meeting starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda

Title IX Work List from SPS

Here's a link to the current status of Title IX work as presented to the Board Audit and Finance Committee on August 19.

A number of the action items on this list are familiar to those of us who have read lists of action items before. Of course the expected completion dates have all been pushed out later. I can't help noticing that a number of the "next action" dates fall before the meeting where this table was reviewed.

Editorial comments after the jump...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Monday! Let Senator Murray know you value Student Data Privacy

The Senate HELP (Health Education Labor and Pensions committee) is negotiating over the re-authorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act.  We were told that there are Democrats on the committee who are pushing for relaxing limits on access to personal student data, and are saying that researchers should be able to obtain open-ended access to complete student data sets– and that they shouldn’t have to even specify which specific student level data they want for what purposes.

Please call Senator Patty Murray, who is a senior member of the HELP committee, and let her know strong controls and oversight of student data are important to you.

It is especially important that parents/advocates who live in the states represented by Dems below call on Monday.

Senator Murray's D.C. office:  (toll-free) 866-481-9186

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Seattle Schools Updates

Tweet from the district about priorities for 2014-2015:

During a retreat today, the School Board picked its top governance priorities for the 2014-15 school year: bell times analysis, multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), special education and stewardship of resources/internal controls.

First, shouldn't these "priorities" have been set at the end of the school year (so that everyone comes to the first day of school with those in mind)?

Second, someone would have to define the last priority, "stewardship of resources/internal controls."  If it means getting on the good foot for operations and watching over the dollars (like not spending them on pre-K junkets), great news.  

In other news:

On district-given assessments: