Sunday, December 21, 2014

What is Happening In Seattle Schools?

It's before my time here in Seattle but during the lean years of Boeing, someone had put up a billboard that said, "Will the last person leaving Seattle -- turn off the lights?"

I'm starting to feel that way about Seattle Schools but maybe with the question, "Will the person who understands what is going on in Seattle Schools -- please clue the rest of us in?" 

Example one is this letter from Ballard High School (partial) to families with seniors:

Happy Holidays to All Our Readers

Whether you are on the naughty or nice list (as Obama put it the other day when choosing which reporters to ask him questions at his press conference), we wish you happy (and safe) holidays.

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  But we have entered Hanukkah (which ends on Christmas Eve) and Kwanzaa starts the day after Christmas. 

In case your kids want to know more about the Solstice, five basic questions answered in the Washington Post. 

Sunset today in Seattle will be at 4:20 pm.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

This and That (and Things that Make you go, Hmmmm)

First up, the Board retreat on the 6th.  Apparently, I had been expected because Director Peaslee said something to the effect of, "wait for Melissa" and Director Peters and Michael Tolley (who ostensibly must read the blog and knew I was not coming) said, "She's not coming."  I'm sure there was a sigh of relief that no one from the "angry community" was there.

I also learned via public disclosure documents that at least one director feels the need to pass on many of my e-mails to the Board to senior staff.  To note, there are about 13 people who get the e-mails you send via ""  These include the Board, Legal, the Superintendent, Communications, a couple of cabinet people and a person in the Board office. 

So now, if I'm writing to the entire Board, I'll just send it to the main e-mail address because it seems my e-mails get forwarded on anyway.  I don't really like it this way because I think if I write to the Board, that's who should see my e-mail (unless they forward it on to an appropriate person depending on the topic).  

On the issue of the various input votes on Nyland, the principals' one was an odd one because 52% voted yes, 34% said no and the rest were undecided.  This did not represent all the principals, nearly one-fourth didn't vote.  The vote total also included 11 people in Central (and it would seem if you are working at Central, you are not a principal but perhaps these are more in the legion of "coaches" in this district).  

So let's take a count here:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Want to Freak Out?

Well, here you go from Freakonomics and their podcast on education.  (No, it has nothing to do with Chic and you have to be a person of a certain age to get that one.)

I have not yet listened to these podcasts - one on teacher skills, the other on a community-based project called Pathways to Education.  From Freakonomics:

The response from listeners was huge — and, often, very opinionated. It seems as though everyone had a concrete idea for the one thing that would really improve our education system.
So we’ve decided to make an episode about … what you think is the one thing that would really improve our education system. If all goes well, the episode will be made up primarily of listeners’ voices — that is, your voice.
We want you to answer the following question:
If you had to pick one thing to change about the education system where you live, what would it be? and why?
Note, that "where you live" so they are not asking for general answers.  It will be interesting to hear what listeners around the country say.

We want you to record your answer on your iPhone, Android phone (or other recording device), and e-mail us the file at Along with your answer to the question, please include your name, where you live, and what you do — student, parent, teacher, school administrator, taxpayer, etc.

Thank you to reader, Tami, for this info.

Can't Wait for this Guy to Leave

Really, Mr. Secretary?  How about this: 

You are at a school where you feel known, safe and are part of our community. You're making friends, learning from your teacher and being a good citizen of that community." That's what you tell a 2nd grader.

Seattle Times: Board Takeover AND Sped Director Mystery Solved

In public education editorializing, the Times mantra seems to be, "keeping saying the same thing over and over and it'll work."  Well, it does sometimes but not always.  (You have to wonder about this tactic given their dropping subscription rates - people like to read about NEW things.)

Here's their latest and it's fairly boring reading because it's the same old wording.  "Dysfunctional", they get the number of students in SPS wrong ("nearly 50k" - geez, aren't they journalists?), "melodrama" and, of course, should we have a conversation about governance?

Here's my comments to them:

Friday Open Thread

I really must get to some other threads because I see the Times is at it again (right out the gate on their latest editorial "this dysfunctional district" and, as well, I heard some interesting things at yesterday's Operations Committee meeting.   Yes, the district will bid on the Federal Reserve building (but at a bigger cost than I would have thought) and Capital staff make up a new term for dollars that puzzled Director Peaslee (me, too). 

(Plus, remember how the feds didn't get Al Capone on racketeering charges but settled for the milquetoast tax evasion?  This district will not see me go away from getting tired of the fight but from the traffic getting to and from headquarters.  I can tell you that, in more than a decade of being a long-distance swimmer, going back and forth to headquarters, the traffic - has - gotten - worse.) 

It also appears that the Garfield PTSA is still fighting the good fight on their teacher situation with a new idea out (something about 5 teachers splitting their classes).  More on that to come. 

I listened in on the Charter Commission special meeting yesterday.  First Place Scholars is on probation.  Also some odd stuff there but First Place has a year to get things together.  More on this to come.

Tick tock, Supreme Court, where's your charter school law ruling?  Court watchers say the Court generally issues rulings before the end of the year so we're getting mighty close.

Community meetings tomorrow:
Director Blanford - 10am-11:30am at Douglass Truth Library
Director Patu - 10 am- noon at Caffe Vita

What's on your mind?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Field Trips Yield Good Benefits

A thought-provoking study on day field trips has come out from the University of Arkansas and is covered in Education Next.  (bold mine)  (One irony here is that the students were taken on a tour of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas that was founded by...Alice Walton of Walmart who I perceive as not a friend to public education.)

Schools exist not only to provide economically useful skills in numeracy and literacy, but also to produce civilized young men and women who would appreciate the arts and culture. 

More-advantaged families may take their children to these cultural institutions outside of school hours, but less-advantaged students are less likely to have these experiences if schools do not provide them. With field trips, public schools viewed themselves as the great equalizer in terms of access to our cultural heritage.

Today, culturally enriching field trips are in decline.  A survey by the American Association of School Administrators found that more than half of schools eliminated planned field trips in 2010–11.

The decision to reduce culturally enriching field trips reflects a variety of factors. Financial pressures force schools to make difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce resources, and field trips are increasingly seen as an unnecessary frill. Greater focus on raising student performance on math and reading standardized tests may also lead schools to cut field trips.

When schools do organize field trips, they are increasingly choosing to take students on trips to reward them for working hard to improve their test scores rather than to provide cultural enrichment. 

Schools take students to amusement parks, sporting events, and movie theaters instead of to museums and historical sites. This shift from “enrichment” to “reward” field trips is reflected in a generational change among teachers about the purposes of these outings. In a 2012‒13 survey we conducted of nearly 500 Arkansas teachers, those who had been teaching for at least 15 years were significantly more likely to believe that the primary purpose of a field trip is to provide a learning opportunity, while more junior teachers were more likely to see the primary purpose as “enjoyment.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What is the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time (and who knows the way forward)?

I think we know the answer - it's still civil rights protections for all citizens of our country but especially for those whose rights appear to be violated every single day. (Note: this is a very long thread but I think worthwhile for the discussion.)

I will say right upfront - the only thing standing between us and the bad guys?  Cops.  These are people who go out every day not knowing if they will come home at night because of the job they have chosen.  It is a horrible, difficult job.  Everyone is always happy to see firefighters but police?  Not so much.  No one likes to be told what to do. 

But with that kind of danger also comes responsibility.  That responsibility is to be true to the goal "to protect and serve." 

We can't have police officers having different standards of interaction for one community versus another. 

We can't have police officers escalating conflict rather than deescalating it. 

Most of all, we can't have officers out there with a "kill or be killed" mindset.  Because then we have lost all that we are as a society if the people who are charged with protecting us feel their first reaction in situations with one group of people is to fire a gun at them. 

That is a terrible, terrible thing to write but given the number of these incidents, no one can just turn away and shrug.  (At least I hope not.)

I had thought of writing this thread at the time of the Michael Brown ruling in Ferguson, MO that said that the officer who killed him would not be indicted.  But then we had the Eric Garner ruling in NYC.  And then there is Tamir Rice, 12-year old playing with a toy gun in a park in Ohio.

What spurred me was a column at Education Post by Shree Chauhan, "If Education is the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time, Reformers Can't Ignore Police Killings." 

Emerson Area on Police Patrol

Apparently some kind of gun fire happened in the Emerson Elementary area this morning.  This was staff reported to the SPD who decided to have patrols before and after school.  There was a shelter-in-place at 6:30 am this morning for preschool students and staff in the building.