Thursday, November 20, 2014

Preschool or Pre-K; There is a Difference

It's too late for 1A but from The Atlantic comes a great story of this issue of why "pre-k" and what it means.

Background (partial)

"Pre-k" and "preschool" are often used interchangeably in education circles and by the news media.  After all, the two can mean the same thing: schooling that happens prior to kindergarten. But rarely do politicians who’ve declared early education a top priority say they want to expand access to preschool. 

Pre-k is seen as a solution to those problems. Preschool, on the other hand, connotes nursery school. And when people imagine nursery school, they think of daycare. A babysitting arrangement.

 It’s all about the single year that precedes kindergarten: pre-k.  In edu-speak, pre-k typically refers to a specific category of early learning that focuses on ensuring kids are prepared for kindergarten.  

Framing the final year of preschool as pre-k, some say, implies that it’s an essential building block in a child’s educational experience. The benefits of early education aside, critics question the accuracy of that message, particularly because pre-k isn’t considered compulsory. After all, few states even mandate kindergarten.

It also highlights the growing emphasis placed on the quality and accountability of early education programs and the widespread belief that access to early learning should be a basic government function—something to which every child is entitled. And this is deliberate.

But Steven Barnett, director of NIEER, says there’s a societal value to thinking of preschool as pre-k because it promotes equality. Rather than treating early education as a private service to which only wealthy kids have access, thinking of preschool as pre-k makes it a learning experience that is—or should be—available to every child, rich or poor. The preschool-prekindergarten dichotomy, in contrast, creates a two-tiered education system. 

Remember this Date: It's the Day We Lost Control of our District

November 19, 2014.  Mark it on your calendar or in your journal.  Because today, to my mind and experience, marks the beginning of the reform movement of our district.  (I say "our" district meaning the parents and taxpayers of Seattle.  I leave out staff because they have unions and contracts to protect them.)

In a couple of days, if you watch the meeting online, you might be puzzled.  Sure, it's a packed house (and very few who came to the meeting actually got to speak about their issue) and sure enough, droning reports from staff, so what's so different?

The difference is - as Charlie points out - that lawlessness has taken our district.  The manipulation of district processes are now being controlled but surely not by the Board.

The Board had to vote - under Board policy 6114 and 1620 - on the Gates Foundation Preschool grant.  That Action Item, so lovingly written as to make it sound like the district had to fire this shot against the injustice over the lack of aligned preschool spaces in Seattle.  And, if the Board didn't do this NOW, the money might go away.  From the Gates Foundation.  Please.

All this testifying and commenting was just a show.  

Because it was a done deal.  (See the grant agreement.)

The Superintendent signed the agreement two months ago.  Two months.  Before the Board vote.  In fact, according to the grant, they got $250K sometime in October.  The Board vote?  No real meaning.

Once you cut out the Board on these deals, despite Board policy to the contrary, AND the Board knows it and still votes yes, we're done as a democratically-driven district.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Crazy Board Meeting

No, not the crowd but the people on the dais.  Who are they?

To bring you up-to-speed:
- big crowd of Garfield/RHS students in support of Latin
- big crowd of Hay/Coe parents against placement of Interagency
- big crowd of Native American parents/community
- Director Martin-Morris on phone from somewhere

Then, the Superintendent (and staff) went off on a looong tangent about "Program Evaluation and Assessment Annual Report.

1) no program reports - not one.  Did School Board speak up?  Nope.

2) lengthy report from Tolley, Heath and others that was more like a Work Session.  I could not believe how long it went on.  Tolley said 10th and 11th graders  are taking Smarter Balance test and 10th grade counts for graduation.  I will have to ask how they can make 11th graders do this.

McLaren spoke up and said how great Common Core is ("there are quibbles") and it's already approved.  I could not believe my ears.

3) Superintendent had remarks about City preschool program, again praising voters and noting he was with Mayor today and there is a "committee" being started with district leaders on it (unclear who).  He said that the district needs to help "all our students." News flash: preschoolers that are not Sped are NOT SPS' responsibility.  Get State dollars for that and we can talk.

4) He also said parents of students affected by data breach were being contacted "as best we can" electronically.  WHAT?  They need to send a letter to every single family.

I have also been told that Marty McLaren told SCPTSA should would be voting Yes on the Gates Foundation grant for preschool.  I am astonished.

The real beneficiary of an approval of the grant is the City.  Not SPS.  I can only hope that other Board members vote on fiscal and prudent grounds i.e. get a partnership agreement FIRST.

The biggest shocker?  I had read all the attachments for the Gates Foundation grant action item. But somehow I missed (and it was pointed out to me) that Superintendent Nyland signed it...on September 26, 2014.

How this happened and why, I don't know.  I think this very wrong.

Just starting Speakers List now.

Contempt for Policy - Annual 2090 Edition

There is a school board policy, 2090, titled "Program Evaluation & Assessment". It is, of course, about program evaluation. I encourage you to read it - it's only one page long and written in fairly simple language.

The policy requires an annual report. Here is the actual policy language:
"The Superintendent shall prepare an annual report which reflects the degree to which district goals and objectives related to the instructional program have been accomplished."
Pretty straightforward - evaluate the instructional programs to determine if they are accomplishing their goals. Instructional programs include each school's general education program, each option school, language immersion programs, International Education programs, Special Education programs, Spectrum, APP, A.L.O.s, the Skills Center, bilingual education, Biligual Orientation Centers, and anything else that you could identify as an instructional program.

Each year the staff puts together their report, as required by the policy, and each year it utterly fails to even address the instructional programs. Instead, the annual report is all about assessments. Here is this year's annual report to be presented at tonight's board meeting. The policy does not require an annual report on assessments; it requires an annual report on programs. You would think that the Board - or at least one Board member - would ask for the report required in the policy but, shock, not one of them ever does.

This is yet another example of how everyone in the District Leadership conspires to ignore policy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Seattle School Board Meeting - Will the Board Say No to Gates?

Update:  I spoke with the Board office and they are likely to take five more people from the Speaker waitlist.  I believe President Peaslee may have some discretion in this area but that remains to be seen.

Also to note, it appears that the Mayor and the Superintendent will be appearing at Rainier Beach Boys & Girls Club this morning.  I have not been able to find out why nor does this appear on the Mayor's published schedule.  I have another meeting so I cannot attend. 

end of update

Looking at the Speaker roster, it appears that the topic is "P-5 Schools Aligned with Seattle Preschool Program."  Out of 30 spots, all are on this topic, except for 4 of them for the 2015 State Legislative Agenda and on on Lunch/Recess Times.  (I have one spot about the preschool issue.)

Then, there is quite a large waitlist of 30 people.  This may signal the Board may hear 10 more speakers as they tend to open it up if this many people are coming.  Those speakers are mostly wishing to speak on the Garfield staffing reduction/Latin program, a couple about Interagency location, and various other topics.

I had thought the speaker list would be more varied especially because of the data breach, Garfield staffing/enrollment numbers, and the Interagency issue.  But somehow all these people who wanted to talk about the Gates grant got there first.  

I find the main speaker list interesting as many of these names are new (which, of course, is a good thing) but I wonder if perhaps people are being asked to speak (rather than coming on their own accord).  We'll see.

I'll say here what I will tell the Board on the topic of the Gates Foundation grant in support of a preschool at Bailey-Gatzert under the City's new preschool plan.

State of the District? A Mixed Assessment at State of District Speech

Update: I note that neither the Mayor's Facebook nor Twitter account mention the State of the District event at all.  The Mayor sat there for an hour and a half with elected leaders in our city and it was not enough to note on either social media.

End of update

It was a packed, smallish room for this event.  There was nothing that happened in that room that could not have happen at JSCEE.  Alliance head, Sara Morris, introduced many of the notables in the room.
There were a lot of district staff there (including PE teachers who saw their leader, Lori Dunn, speak about their work).  Elected officials included  Mayor Murray, City Councilman Burgess, Senator Pedersen, Rep. Carlyle, Rep. Walkinshaw, Rep. Pollet,  Directors Blanford, Peaslee, Patu, Martin-Morris and McLaren and Jonathan Knapp (SEA). 

Ms. Morris also went out of her way to tie the event to John Stanford (which I'm pretty sure he didn't start).  I note that the Alliance has not one word about their own event  nor even notice of the speech in general on their website.


Update on What You Can Do if Personally Affected by SPS Data Breach

I've made queries in several directions; one was to OSPI.  Here's what they have to say:

Can parents file a complaint thru OSPI or just DOE? If parents can file a complaint with OSPI, what is the process?  What could be the outcomes for the district?

The complaint process you identify (in sec. 300.151) refers to a citizen complaint, which is a written statement to OSPI alleging that a federal or state special education rule or law has been violated by a school district, among others. The citizen complaint process is defined by federal law, and all states are required to have one in place as a condition to receiving IDEA Part B grant funding. The U.S. Department of Education does not have a similar process of its own for special education complaints.

Has OSPI seen a case like this before involving a legal case and student data at a law firm?

To the best of our knowledge, we have not.

Is there any kind of regs/rules that any entity receiving student data from a district should check to make sure it IS the data that was asked for and/or that it has been properly redacted before releasing out on discovery?

Under the federal FERPA rules, outside contractors with legitimate educational interest in a student record can be considered “school officials” for purposes of the FERPA privacy rule, and may obtain copies of the records without parental consent in certain situations. But these officials are subject to all of FERPA’s limitations regarding the disclosure of personally identifiable student information. So, generally speaking, they should be aware of FERPA’s rules and best practices.

Does OSPI have any kind of statement in specific on this case and/or about student data and the handling of it by districts?


End of statement by OSPI

I do find that reply to the FERPA question interesting because OSPI is saying the law firm should have known these limitations and "best practices."  It would seem whether or not the district is the law firm's client (and has lawyer-client privilege), the law firm may be responsible to have followed FERPA guidelines.  

Tuesday Open Thread

Went to the "State of the District" event yesterday hosted by the Alliance for Education and sponsored by Group Health.  (I'm sort of kidding about the the sponsorship but somebody paid for that.)   There were some interesting things said from the Superintendent (frank talk, very long and a reference to God), Mayor (how many times can he say "collaboration" until you realize that it may just be a talking point) and Washington State Teacher of the Year (tests are NOT everything but he likes Common Core). 

You will not hear all this today when the Superintendent gives his speech again at JSCEE at 4 pm.  It's a 20 minute speech.  Also, no food or wine for you as at the Alliance event (but I was rushing out the door to see David Sedaris so I didn't get any either). 

All part of the SPS puzzle (especially around enrollment) - the City announces community open houses around housing.  (What? no love for West Seattle or NW Seattle.)

Monday, November 17, 2014


I am seeking information far and wide on what parents with students affected by the data breach can do in terms of filing complaints.  I believe there may be multiple avenues of complaints about the district and at least one for the law firm.  I have no idea if you can sue (maybe for negligence?), so you need to get a lawyer to answer that question.

I am troubled that so many call this "a mistake."  Once maybe but more than once? Incredibly sloppy.  I still don't get that the law firm, when they got that data, didn't do a random check just to make sure it was redacted (if only to protect themselves.) I mean, isn't the district paying them to do due diligence?

Stay tuned and I'll let you know what I find out.

As for the John Hay/Interagency situation, an update from the Queen Anne View (bold mine):

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tell the Board to Wait on ANY New Preschools in SPS

 I applaud the SCPTSA for this stand and support it.

Please, write to the Board and ask them to, politely, say no to this Gates Foundation grant, school

As the SCPTA says:
  • the district should negotiate any partnership with the City on preschool BEFORE signing off on any other agreement about preschools
  • any new City preschools must be borne by the LEVY dollars, not district dollars.  This grant would put the district on the hook after year three
  • what are the demands on district resources - facilities, staff time, etc - on an already stretched district
I would add:
  • this grant application is vague
  • Bailey-Gatzert, under BTA III, IS scheduled to get a preschool classroom.  This grant is not needed for that to happen.
  • the application says SPS will "lead the work and design the program."  This is NOT what was said during the preschool campaign and again, the district needs a partnership FIRST, then any grants. 
SCPTSA Letter to Directors and Superintendent