Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Open Thread

A big shout out to Rancho Tehama Elementary in Rancho Tehama, California where this week a gunman, on a rampage in their town, came to the elementary school and tried to access classrooms.  The school staff, hearing the gunfire outside quickly locked the building down.  Footage shows the gunman trying to open doors to classrooms and giving up.  He then shot into the building (one child was hurt by flying debris as he hid under a desk).  Bravo to those calm and brave staff members!

Forbes magazine does a listing of "30 under 30" (30 people under 30 years old) for various categories including education.  Now Forbes is a business magazine but the category was "education," not education technology or innovation.  Not a single educator made the list.  Hmmm.  (Also, a shout out to former Board member, Kay Smith-Blum, on the inclusion of her son, Bryce, on a technology list.)

There has been no press release on this but KNKX reports the district has started its gender identity information for K-5 students.  The report includes this update:
The school district is piloting the books and lessons in 12 elementary schools over the next month, and the schools may choose to send parents information and web resources ahead of time, but are not required to notify parents. Then the district will gather feedback, make tweaks and introduce the books and lessons to other elementary schools in January. 

Love said that parents who object to having their kids take part can opt them out of the lesson, but she emphasized that the books help reinforce the importance of kindness and respect for everyone.
I would disagree with the district.  I absolutely think schools should be talking about and demonstrating tolerance and inclusion but parents should be notified about what their child is being told AND how the parent might support that at home.  This is a fairly big values issue and for some parents, they may not agree.  And, if a kid is opted out, what happens to him/her during that time?  That's something parents might want to know.

Director community meetings
Patu - Raconteur from 9-10:30 am
Harris - Delridge Branch Library from 3-5 pm (she mentioned at the Board meeting there would be food)
Pinkham - Broadview Branch Library from 4-5:30 pm (he noted at the Board meeting that he didn't get very many people so take the opportunity to have a director to talk to by yourself)

Director Geary said that the Board meeting that she would not be having a community meeting this week or next.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Seattle Times - Whose Agenda for Public Education?

I've said this a lot.  The Seattle Times has a blurred line between editorial and reporting when it comes to stories on public education in Seattle.  Their reporters deny, deny, deny this but it's too obvious to be denied. 

So what is it that is apparent?

Slant.  Pure and simple, slant.  And, to a lesser degree, omission of facts.

The Times, either via their editorial board or with the input from the Gates Foundation which solely funds their "Education Lab," is attempting to paint a picture of Seattle Schools that is neither fair nor fully fleshed out. 

Story after story, there's the same voices (which is kind of funny because they are always complaining about the same activist voices like SEA) and the same people interviewed and quoted.

It was interesting to hear the contrast between the outgoing board members - Stephan Blanford and Sue Peters - at last night's Board meeting.  Blanford talked a lot about himself and Peters talked a lot more about the work and the district.

Peters made the point - a valid one in the context of this blog thread - that it has somehow become a sport to try to take potshots at the Board and to tear the district down.  She said constructive criticism and support would be more likely to help the district. 

Blanford has been quoted by the Times in the last three stories on the district.

As if he were Board president (he's not and never was the entire time he was on the Board).

As if he is the only Board director (there are six other people). 

And the words out his mouth? Doom and gloom.  Not a good word for his colleagues or the work of the staff and students in this district.  And oddly, not a single word about initiatives for black students in the district (he said nary a word about it last night).

This week saw Superintendent Nyland give his State of the District speech.  You'd think the Times would want to cover that story.  But they didn't. 

Instead, they had a story on the release of the latest district Data Dashboard results.  Now, that's a valid story except the timing is not.  (I'll have a separate thread on Nyland's speech.) 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tuesday Open Thread

Following up on my thread about the Board's upcoming vote on the Naviance software platform, I did write to the Board.  I heard back from a couple of Board members, one of whom sent me several documents to help clarify some issues I raised.

These documents were somewhat helpful but here's the thing - why aren't they attached to the BAR?  If there is this much progress on this contract, why the lack of transparency?  It seems every time you turn around, you have to make a special request to see documentation.  And, if they could attach the general RFP for this kind of service, why not these documents?

Why? I think they just don't want to be transparent.  It wasn't an oversight or a technical issues.  They just don't want this all aired out.

I'm beginning to think that the new superintendent needs to start with being a sheriff first and cleaning up some thinking at JSCEE or some senior staff should be let go.

There was a shooting this morning in Northern California that included a school.  No one died but several children were hit with gunfire.  This has got to stop.  It is sad to live in a country where we have mass murders almost monthly and nothing happens legislatively.  I guess we have the leaders we deserve.

Roxhill Elementary was awarded a $100K grant from the City's Department of Neighborhoods for a new playground at E.C. Hughes where they will be moving next year.

There will be a showing tonight of the "Most Likely to Succeed" documentary at Nathan Hale's NHHS Performing Arts Center at 6:30 pm.

This movie portrays high schools of the past and of the future, and where we want to move our programs. Nathan Hale students will lead discussion groups after the showing. Join us for a thought - provoking evening that is sure to inspire.
Students, parents and guardians, friends and family - all are invited.
There is no charge.

Co-sponsored by Nathan Hale High School and the Nathan Hale Community

What's on your mind?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Naviance; I Have Some Questions

Update:  The Board voted to put this off until further inspection of issues.

Here was the portion of my testimony about Naviance:
  1. Why did this pass out of Ops five months ago and yet is just getting here for a vote? Then, it was at Ops in September and yet still is just getting here?
  2. Why is there no list of other vendors to compare to? 
  3. The student privacy info is minimal and lacking. There are NO penalities to Naviance/Hobson if the data is breached and in all cases with student data, there should be penalities.
  4. Documentation was NOT available to the public until yesterday. That is not transparency and it is unacceptable.
One key item is that the district is in control of what different aspects of the platform they wish to use (some things are part included and others cost more). AND this:

Each school or district configures the product in a way they see fit for their students.

Different features are available to to be turned on or off at the sole discretion of the school or district. None are compulsory. 

Also, the documentation talks about "parent data." My understanding is that parents will have access to see what their child is doing but any data on them should be restricted to their name and a possible ID number. Are we going to track which parents are using this?

The costs are NOT clearly delinated. We are paying Hobson for their services but staff did not address the costs for an additional FTE at headquarters AND paying a staffer at each school to be the Naviance whisperer. Where is that money coming from and how much is it?

What's odd is that the BAR mentions a couple of alternatives but not the obvious - the Coalition for Access & Affordability. This a coalition group of colleges and universities - including UW - that work together to making applying for college easier for underresourced students. And it's free to districts to use.

Also, the contract with Naviance should clearly state:

- no third-party vendors have access to any data without parent/district permission and Naviance has refused to tell parents in other districts who third-party vendors are and what data they will see.

- parents should be able to opt their kids out of using Naviance without any kind of repercussions to students

- all data on students who leave/graduate from SPS that is in the hands of Naviance will be destroyed within three months.

end of update

On Wednesday night, the Board is to vote on whether to accept a contract with Hobson's Naviance system of college/career supports for over $600K over three years.

I admit I am a bit late to the party but I have finally looked into this and I have mixed feelings.  As usual, the devil is in the details and there are very few details in the BAR to go on.

Clearly, a 400-1 student-counselor ratio for high school is terrible.  Most of our high school counselors do a lot more scheduling than advising on college/career.  And, most high schools no longer even have a college/career counselor.  (Those that do either have principals that rearranged money or, more likely, the PTSA is funding.).

While that is a sad state of things, it's one that the district decided to go with, just as they have consistently decided to underfund regular maintenance.  And, this BAR for the contract states that they need at least one FTE - at JSCEE - to oversee this implementation and, as well, someone at each high school to run it there.  (I would assume there are costs to both things but that isn't mentioned in the BAR so the $600+K contract is much higher.)

Meaning, the district got itself to this place and their answer

What's odd - and thanks to a reader for much of this help - is that the BAR mentions a couple of alternatives but not the one that seems most obvious - the Coalition for Access & Affordability.  This a coalition group of colleges and universities - including UW - that work together to making applying for college easier for underresourced students.  And, did I mention, it's free to districts to use.

So what is my recommendation?

Durkan Names Transition Team

And there are a few familiar names on the K-12 education side.

One is almost-gone Board member, Stephan Blanford.

Another is Mary Jean Ryan (she ran for the Board once and lost) who is the head of the Road Map project, dedicated to better outcomes for low-income students in south King County schools.

The other is Trish Dziko who started the Technology Access Foundation, TAF Academy and sits on the Washington State Charter Commission.

I can almost hear what Blanford will tell Durkan and I'm sure he would support any overthrow of the Board.

But while Ryan and Dziko lean ed reformer, they are not hard-core.  Both are thoughtful, smart people who just want to move the needle on the achievement gap.

I suspect in the the next couple of weeks/months - given the fast timeline for Durkan taking office - that we'll see more familiar names.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Seattle Schools Week of Nov. 13-18, 2017

Tuesday, the 14th
State of the District speech by Superintendent Nyland from 5-7 pm at West Seattle High School.  I would suspect that all the current Board as well as the newly-elected members are likely to show.  Wonder if Mayor Burgess or newly-elected mayor Durkan will show?

Special Education PTSA meeting at JSCEE at 7 pm.

Wednesday, the 15th
Regular Board meeting starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda


Action Items:
- lifting the 2.0 GPA requirement (a district one and SPS was only one of two in the state to have this requirement).  Reading the BAR, you can see why this had been problematic.

- Superintendent Nyland's COLA raise of nearly $7,000.

- Award of contract for college/career services for high school students to Naviance.  I will have a separate thread on this one so please stay tuned.

- Approval of a contract for a search firm for a new superintendent.  This one perplexes me because the RFP seems to have dates that conflict with this vote (unless this is an after-the-fact BAR).  I'll more to say on this one as well (unless the Board has already picked) because some of the contendors either don't look well-suited for this job and/or have ties to ed reform.

Intro Items:

- two BEX IV items involving technology - one for $1M for new student computers and carts and one for $5.5M for mobile devices for all certificated staff.  Is a $1M enough for new student computers and  carts as compared to $5.5M for mobile devices for staff?

- the 2018-2018 Transition Assignment Plan - better get your concerns into the Board.

Saturday, the 18th
Director Community Meetings
Leslie Harris at Delridge Branch Library from 3-5 pm.
Scott Pinkham at Broadview Branch Library from 4-5:30 pm

District Updates on Boundaries (and a Survey)

Update 2 (from yet another reader who noticed this about the survey):

An FYI in case you didn't know...  Your post today about boundaries and the survey includes several tracking URLs.  i.e. the survey link looks like it's a direct link to survey monkey (, but if you hover over the link in your browser you can see that it's actually a tracking link that ties to your schoolmessenger/email account.

And indeed that seems to be the case. Hmmm.

End of update

From from a reader from a previous thread:

I went to the HCS AC meeting last night. First, we were told the 5 pathway plans was not the only plan the Directors would see. Odd. Right? That was from staff! There are four plans they would propose. Stay tuned. Only one was put through operations committee? And that is after none were even explored publicly as the ThoughtExchange had ZERO proposals. ZERO. Change is coming to all who have a kid in SPS. Not HCC kids. ALL kids. What if they did the same to SpEd? What would you like to see with changes coming to SpEd? This is asinine. 

It turns out that staff got the answers they wanted from Thoughtexchange: people wanted equity (no real understand how that very finite word is being used; where is Charlie when you need him) and close to home (again close may mean not 2 metro bus stops away or walking distance). Both of these answers are useless. USELESS. 

They both are relative to any who may SEEK them. They are also based on questions without true query behind them. They also talk of AL as it relates to education when in fact we are talking about HCC. Minor point? NO. 

The "district" also said the principals will have to do what they are told by staff. When has that ever been the rule? I know in the south that WMS, GHS and TM have done whatever they wanted when it comes to AL. JAMS and Hamilton as well have completely disregarded established classes/"curriculum." As I have watched my kids progress through the classes they have become less and less and later and later on subjects. Even math surprisingly. 
End of update

This is a missive the district sent out to parents on Friday about boundaries and it includes a very brief and uneven survey.

I'll just say upfront - yet ANOTHER district effort that is scattershot, vague and leaves parents worried and confused.  I hope the Board doesn't give them much credit for this sad effort.

There is now yet another survey about the boundaries.  I suspect - as others do as well - that the district is getting loud and widespread blowback on what they have put forth to parents.

And who can blame parents?  None of what is being said is clear.  These community meetings saw parents wander from staffer to staffer and sometimes getting less-than-clear or even conflicting information.  As well, that information is NOT backed up in writing so staff can easily later say, "I didn't say that" "It was misunderstood."

If it's not in writing, it's not real.

I took the survey.  It first asks for demographic info.  Then it asks you to rank order seven items.  Two of them shouldn't even be in there.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Open Thread

Rep Suzan DelBene stood up for teachers at a recent Congressional hearing for the Republican tax plan over tax deductions that would go away for individuals but not for companies. One of them is a tax deduction for teachers who spend their own money to buy supplies for their classrooms.

I wasn't able to attend the Executive Committee of the Whole meeting but the discussion was listed to be about the RFP for search firms to find a new superintendent. I have not had a chance to read it but it should give a peek into the thinking about what the district wants in a new superintendent.

Eight schools were named Schools of Distinction from the Center on Educational Effectiveness.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Former Head of Enrollment Passes Away

From district communications:
Tracey Libros, who retired in 2014 after a dozen years of service as head of the SPS enrollment planning office, passed away on Nov. 2 at Swedish Hospital in Issaquah, following a two-year struggle with cancer. 

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Tuesday Open Thread

Sorry so tardy; I have a big personal project.

Here are the results for Seattle School Board:

District IV: 
Eden Mack       85.97%. (which I believe is a record for a Board election)
Herbert Camet 14.03%

District V:
Zachary DeWolf   61.17%
Omar Vasquez.     38.83%

District VII
Betty Patu        64.11%
Chelsea Byers. 35.89%

As you might expect, I'm quite happy.  I have confidence in all three of these newly-elected Board members and I believe it is a very strong Board.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Upcoming Seattle Schools Committee Meetings

Update: Director Geary has a regular Tuesday morning coffee at Zoka behind U Village from 8-9:30 am.

end of update

There is a bevy of School Board committee meetings this week; quite unusual to have so many in one week.

Sadly, there are no community meetings with Board members next Saturday so your opportunity to talk to a Board member face-to-face is nil (unless you go to a committee meeting early and buttonhole one of them).

Friday, November 03, 2017

Still a Heads Up on that School Bus Driver Strike

From the district (bold mine):
Fri., Nov. 3, 2017 Update: First Student and the bus driver’s union are still in negotiations. We encourage you to check your email and the district website daily for updates. If a strike is called, we will alert you by email, phone, website, social media and local broadcast news.