Sunday, March 09, 2008

Open Thread (With a Few Thoughts)

Congrats to Rainier Beach on their basketball state championship win last night.

We hadn't done an open thread in awhile so what's on your mind?

One thing I had been pondering and I wonder what others think; who should decide how PTA money raised for a school should be spent? Should it matter whether it's an elementary, middle or high school? How is it handled at your school?

And I'm talking about the big money (not the money to fund the little things like mini-grants to teachers, hospitality at PTSA meetings, etc.) raised through auctions and big fund raisers. Does your school hand the administration a check and say, "Use this as you see fit because you know the budget challenges?" or does your PTA ask for a list and then the parents vote? Or does the PTA let the administration know, based on what the feedback from parents/students is, that the PTA has decided to fund item X whether or not that's what the administration really wants?

95 comments:

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

I always wonder if our elementary school is just lucky because we have a strong Building Leadership Team. The BLT is run by the principal, and it's comprised of staff and three parent representatives. They meet at least once per month, and often more frequently during budget season.

Our "Annual Fund", which raises about $100,000 per year is run by the BLT, with assistance from the PTSA. PTSA fronts money for printing brochures, etc, but PTSA does not control the campaign pitch or control spending of what's raised.

PTSA holds several of their own fundraisers every year, and the money goes toward mini-grants for classrooms, assemblies, child care during meetings, etc. Any $$ left over in the PTSA budget at the end of the year is added on to the Annual Fund, to be directed by the BLT in the following year.

PTSA expenditures typically involve things that support staff and classroom, but BLT-controlled expenditures most often are about hiring staff. The Annual Fund $$ is used for hiring staff.

Is our school community is unusual because it has such an active, involved BLT? PTSA board and members can always provide input to school budget decisions, but we're not on the ground and in the classroom every day like the staff is. Since staff makes up the majority of the BLT, their budget decisions have always been well received by the school community.

By the way -- as for what's on my mind.... I'm wondering how our elementary schools are doing with the implementation Everday Math. I would like to know if schools, and even if specific classrooms within each school, are keeping up with the District's pacing guide. And how can parents get a copy of that pesky pacing guide anyway? And what should we do if our classrooms are behind the pacing guide?

Thanks for a great blog.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question Melissa. When our children went to an alternative school we had a site council we sent out parent survey asking what parents wanted to see their money used for. We would put all of those ideas on poster boards on the wall and then site council members would vote on them, and that's how we decided.

Now our child attends a "very good" traditional elementary school and though I have attended several PTA meetings, I have no idea who makes the decisions on where and how funds get distributed. It certainly isn't by an form of community input that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't know how my child's elementary school decides to spend the money raised, but do know it is decided via a budget, fundraisers advertise what the money is going for and the big ticket items are the same thing every year (help with class size and art/elective type programs). I also know administration has a big influence on how some of the money is spent. They make requests and I believe the requests are usually honored if the money is there. I always think it's sad that they have to request money for things like new desks to replace broken desks or carpet, etc. - things that I think that the district should be paying for.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty much a blank check to the school administration. There are several parents on the BLT, but they never sway the staff. Only once was there even a discussion questioning school funding plans, which irritated the principal to no end. She said she would "not fund" a few teachers if her the discussion questioning her plan wasn't tabled. She obviously hated real input. It seemed to me like that was an empty threat though. (but it worked for her) Staff vastly outweighs parents, so really, the threat wasn't necessary.

Anonymous said...

Everyday Math is the WORST!!!!! It has none teaches none of the problem solving flexibility of TERC, and none of depth of traditional math. It's the WORST OF BOTH WORLDS (constructivists and traditional). I guess they were hoping it would be the best of both worlds. In my kid's class, the teacher simply reads out of a book at the board for about an hour. There is no particpation by the kids at all. And everything is SO superficial. If you don't finish any subject, you never get to anything that is interesting. It is absolutely mind numbingly boring.... really, beyond belief.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 4:16 raises some interesting points. As someone active in my PTA I know it can seem very confusing from the outside. But I also know that at our elementary school every timne we have an appeal, auction, or other fundraiser, we advertise in school newspaper and fliers where the money will go-- and I still get questions showing people are confused (and very often they tell me they haven't read the school paper or the mail home). PTA's are staffed by all volunteers. Before people criticize how/what info or input, I'd suggest they 1) make sure they've read all the info home and 2) get involved. Budget decisions for one year are usually made the year before so it's not surprising that by simply attending a few general meetings (which often have forums or the like) that a person wouldn't get a clear understanding of the budget. Ask to have a copy of the treasurer's report if you have Q, they will definitely provide you one. And don't be too hard on your hard-working volunteers!

Anonymous said...

Anon at 4:16 back again....just wanted to say that I'm not being harsh on our PTA at all. What I said was I have no idea how or who makes the decisions on where the money is spent. There is no community input. No surveys. No questionnaire. They simply don't ask the community what their priorities are. They make the decisions for us. We do get a very nice letter thanking us for our donations, and an explanation as to exactly where the money will be spent. That's nice. But, it's not enough. I would like to have some say in where my money goes. I don't think you have to be one of the few PTA members or staff to have a say in where the money goes. That is one thing that I really appreciated about our alternative school, it really very community oriented.

maureen said...

At our K-8 alternative school (TOPS) the Finance Committee determines how fundraising money is spent. The Committee is made up of the Assistant Principal, a teacher representative or two, the Site Council treasurer and about three other parents.).

The process is advertised in the newsletter and biweekly Go Home and on the web site. Anyone who wants money for a program for the next year submits an RFP (request for proposal) in April and the committee talks through all of the proposals and determines who gets funded. (The RFP form asks things like who (how many) would benefit, how does the proposal fit in with our Mission/Vision/Transformation Plan, who in the community supports it, if it has been funded in the past how well did it work....)

The process begins after our fall fund drive has ended but before the auction so we tend to rank things and leave a few out to fund if the auction excedes its goal. After the auction totals are in the Committee finalizes a proposed budget and submits it to Site Council (after 2-3 discussion meetings) for approval (Site Council consists of ten elected parent reps and ten staff members.). We leave a few thousand dollars in a contingency fund that Site Council can vote to allocate to new projects during the next year. We also have a 'fund an item' at the auction that has been chosen by Site Council--whatever is raised there goes straight to that project (e.g.: Teacher professional development; A sound system and sound baffling for drama).

Each proposal funded has a project manager who submits the RFP and is in charge of the money budgeted. If a parent is the manager, they are encouraged to have a teacher sign off on it too. The budget is posted on the web site so everyone can see how the money has been allocated.

In recent years, the Site Council has had to approve supplements to the building budget in March (before the Finance Committee meets) because the District funding hasn't paid for all of the staff in the building (or enough to cover translations or copies). The Finance Committee recently formalized a policy that put a limit on how much can go to the building budget (as a percentage of the fund drive receipts) so we don't end up shorting the RFP- based grants. I'm not on Site Council this year, but I know there are hopes that the change in the budget process (to a staffing formula) might actually pay for the staff we need and make that unnecessary.

I would appreciate it if people who post on this subject could name their schools so if you are doing something particularly well the rest of us could contact your PTSA (or whatever) and compare notes. Also, parents who aren't involved might learn something about their own school that they didn't know. I'm particularly interested in hearing how the system works for schools that buy down class size.

dan dempsey said...

I wish to discuss the decision making process.

1... Administration makes a whimsical decision that is kept from the public. A decision often without any relevant data to support it.

2... In the case of Denny/Sealth the BEX III goes for a vote Feb 6, 2007 with no description of the of the previously decided co-location.

3... Mr Gillmore goes to Toronto in October to present on how to make the public think they have been heard when developing a project like this one.

4... The board then votes to do what ever the administration recommends.

One of the characteristics of a profession is that it uses research to improve both practice and performance.

Here is the rub - education is not a profession as currently practiced. The new SPS Directors Martin-Morris, Carr, and Sundquist all work or worked for large organizations where process is important. Following process works for Boeing because Boeing employs professionals that meet the definition of being involved in a profession as defined above.

It appears that Director Martin-Morris was capable of doing enough independent research and thinking to realize why this district is in the shape it is in.
The Phi Delta Kappa audit gave the SPS the word: You people do not know what you are doing.

Following process when it involves the following of an administration that is tied to "GroupThink" rather than the intelligent application of relevant data is insane. We have it appears two directors at this time who realize this folly.

The Everyday Math adoption was an example of insanity. It attempted to defy both the NCTM Focal Points issued in September of 2006, which recommended greatly restricting the number of topics at each grade, and also defied the SBE Plattner Report, which specifically stated that the spiral curriculum is not a best practice.

Although the SBE report was only in draft form at that time the information was available to the SPS as I submitted important relevant data, research, and recommendations to Ms Hoste, Ms Santorno, and Ms Wise in April 2007. Much of this was also submitted to board members. All of it was ignored on May 30th when the board voted 6-0 to make Everyday Math the primary adoption for Elementary School. Singapore was never even considered as a primary adoption.

When I bought all of the Singapore materials and brought them to High School Team leaders I was shunned by JSCEE math admin. The "GroupThink"club has no interest in what works. Their principal concern seems to be what Philosophically aligns with their distorted vision of how children learn.

The board was thrilled to hear from Dr Bergeson when she spoke on Math at a board meeting, for most board members are a part of team "GroupThink".

Fortunately the state legislature has decided to drop off of team "GroupThink" this week. Dr Bergeson has spent about $1 million since September and failed to deliver the Internationally Competitive math Standards required of OSPI under HB 1906. The legislature said: sorry pencils up - no more time for you and no more money for you. They have turned the math Standards Revision over to the State Board of Education.

Recently Ms Wise spoke about a conceptual non-computational algebra for all eight graders as a possibility.

The National Math Panel report comes out on March 13. It is believed that it will state that for students to learn algebra they need to have an excellent understanding of fractions, decimals, and percents.

My point is this:
Until the Board comes to the realization that the SPS administration does not belong to a profession but are only members of the GroupThink tribe, they will be without the courage to stop the continuing parade of nonsense.

Harium has said that one of the recommended Math texts will be IMP.
Well of course it will be the recommended text. When over thirty percent of incoming 9th graders are unable to score above level one on their eighth grade math WASL you certainly would not want them involved with a real math book in grade 9.

The legislature has restrained Dr Bergeson's nonsense. Who will restrain the SPS nonsense?

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Whether the SPS care to admit to that or not, this is still the truth.

Check out what is going on in Urban LA with Singapore Math HERE.

Then think about the 2 Million dollars plus that Ms Santorno and team sunk into Everyday Math in another non-data based whimsical decision.

Where is Dr Goodloe-Johnson holding everyone accountable when we need her?

What a process, good that Director Chow does not need 100% buy-in.

If the board continues following this SPS process as practiced in recent years, they should just leave a rubber stamp on the desk for the SPS admin to use.

Anonymous said...

We bought down class size at AEII for a couple of years. We decided to try to reduce class size by adding a part time math and reading specialist. It worked like this. We had 2 5th grade classes with 28 kids per class for a total of 56 5th graders. We would take the 56 and divide them into three groups instead of two, one of which was taught by a part time math teacher. This reduced class size from 28 to 18 or 19 kids per class. The teacher rotated through the grades, an hour a day for each. We did the same thing for reading. It worked very well, and we didn't have to cap the number of students that the school accepted. We still took 28 kids per class, just divided them for reading and math. It cost our site council about $45,000 per year to fund it, but we found that this was our communities top priority.

Jane said...

We just got a survey asking how the PTA dollars should be spent a couple weeks ago, as well as questions about fundraisers, did we like the ones the PTA is having now, did we want less or more, did we have any ideas for them, etc. This is at Whittier elementary. They do this survey every year - it's nice.

Dorothy said...

Two interesting and relevant articles in today's Washington Post.

Jay Mathews: If you don't read Mr Mathews' Class Struggle column every week, you ought to start. Today a discussion with an educator who suggests putting the brakes on AP growth. The url for the column is ugly, but here it goes:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/10/AR2008031000401.html

A Northwestern Study shows that the Tennessee STAR data (the best research in class size reduction) repudiates the claim that smaller classes will reduce the achievement gap. "that high achievers benefited more from the small classes than low achievers. Since low-income students in urban neighborhoods have lower achievement, on average, than students from more affluent families, the finding in the March issue of Elementary School Journal contradicts assumptions that class size reduction might have a significant effect on the gap between rich and poor students."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/09/AR2008030901494.html?tid=informbox

Sorry for the long urls. You are better off just bookmarking the Washington Post to facilitate browsing education and other articles.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Anonymous said...

The question should be "What's equitable about one elementary school having a $100,000 annual PTA fund to spend and another 'less desirable, lower income school' lucky to raise even half that amount in a year?"

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Anonymous 3:03, (I love writing these times down; it's sort of like a convict number), that's yet another thread.

We've touched on this before (kind of like the weather - everyone complains but no one does anything). The question is, what can be done? We could follow the Portland model which is at some level, all the raised money goes into a pot which is given out on the basis of submitted proposals for use by different schools. Or we can do nothing and see the gap get larger between schools and kids (and eventually, they all meet up in high school). The district keeps mum on it because they like that parents work hard for their schools. (I agree with the post about not having to buy basics for schools. I remember at Eckstein the PTA replacing the library carpet because it was so bad and pledging to buy one room new desks each year as a way to make a dent in the number of defective chairs.)

Tired of this argument said...

Well, lucky we have the choice system in Seattle, huh!!!

Those who don't want to go to a school that does a small amount of fund raising can easily move their child to a school that does much more fund raising!!!!

We did!!!!

Stop complaining and move your child.

You are never going to change the fact that some communities are wealthier than others. Wish all you want, complain all you want, that's just the way it is. Some people have more money than others?? Is it inequitable for one person to get paid more than another person?? Should the government level the field and make every American salary the same, whether you work at Microsoft or McDonalds?? Or maybe we should all pool our salaries together and divide them evenly so everyone gets the same paycheck.

IT AIN'T HAPPENING.

But......the good news is even if you can't afford to live in a wealthy neighborhood you can still go to a school in a wealthy neighborhood. When we looked at moving our child in 3rd grade there was space at View Ridge, Laurelhurst, and Bryant!

Viola.

Anonymous said...

Dan, less = more.

Anonymous said...

Equity concerns about parent fundraising--  Anonymous at 3:03--I think we all want all kids to get a good decent education.  The issue gets complicated because the lower-income schools with higher risk kids do, as they should IMHO, get more $$-- lots more, many thousands.  Add to that the SE initiative and district-paid volunteer coordinators and family support workers and tutors and other district=paid benefits, and you get a situation where the public money goes at a higher rate to needier schools.  So that's why parent fundraising has stepped in.  At first glance it's easy to say it's inequitable, but on a close look, it's actually fair to say that if you can afford it, and want to, you help out the school your kid is at, so that the greater bulk of district $ can go to needier schools.  That's how John Stanfords set it up and despite weighted staffing standards, that's what we have today.Anon 4:16: On topic of school decision-making: different schools do it different ways, obviously-- some have site councils, some have BLT's, etc.  But all make decisions via a formal process and its mandated to have parent involvement by SPS.  If people have questions about decision-making, don't wait for someone to send home a survey.  Ask the office secretary or your PTA leader how your school does this, and ask when meetings are.  Go to PTA meetings anbd volunteer to do something-- there's usually a job even for a parent who works odd shifts.  Like anything else, everyone is busy and you have to be a consumer.  Maybe you could volunteer to craft a survey...

Charlie Mas said...

Here's an interesting idea:

How about, instead of reducing the money provided to affluent schools by supportive families, the district, along with the local, state and federal government, provided as much money as an affluent PTA could raise to the schools with high concentrations of students from low-income households? I'm talking about six figures here.

For example, let's provide Dunlap, a schools where 83% of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, with about $340,000. How does that sound? Will that provide some equity? And let's add $250,000 to the budget at Brighton, $400,000 to the budget at Van Asselt, and $200,000 to the budget at TT Minor.

Of course, affluent schools wouldn't get anything like this sort of money. They will have to get some, but, since they have few students living in poverty, it won't be much. Maybe $3,000 for McGilvra, $5,000 for Montlake, and$10,000 for Laurelhurst.

Would this provide the kind of equity that people are looking for?

Well, if so, then I have good news for you. That's exactly what happens. It's called compensatory education funding and it appears on each school's budget.

Here's a good question: how are these schools spending that money? I don't think they are using it to buy new desks or new carpet for the library.

Anonymous said...

The Portland model doesn't send all the money to one pot. It sends one-third of all money raised by a PTA AFTER the first $5,000 raised into a general fund. That money is then used to address the achievement gap. With some success, Portland officials say. And by the way, my school has an extremely active PTA, but with more than 50 percent of our kids on free and reduced lunches, we're lucky to raise $20,000. Just pointing out that its all about the demographics of a student body, money-wise.

Anonymous said...

Viola,
We live in SE Seattle. If the school district would give us decent schools, I would keep my kids closer to home. I agree with you. With the system now in place, people like myself just clog I-5 with more traffic. I drive 40 minutes each way just to give my kids a fair shake.
By the way, I'm not interested in moving to another school. We love our neighborhood too much to do that.

Anonymous said...

How about, instead of reducing the money provided to affluent schools by supportive families, the district, along with the local, state and federal government, provided as much money as an affluent PTA could raise ...

Nope. Still not fair. Providing Dunlop with McGilvra funds would still not be close to equitable. The Dunlappers need way more than McGilvra. AND, if you really wanted implement such a plan, the weighted student (now staffing) standard, should be 0 for affluent schools. The district could provide the building, which is a huge cost. Let the auction fund the rest.

Anonymous said...

Yes there is room at affluent NE school but not Whittier in the NW. If we would have gotten in, we could have walked to school-it is that close! But we didn't get in and instead my kids are bused to our reference school of West Woodland. But we live on 64th and 11th NW, Whittier is closer!!! I think because we live in an apartment they drew us out of the Whittier boundary. Who makes up the lines? Are there any apartment dwellers that go to Whittier. I think it is all rich homeowners?

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's nice, slam the middle class yet again. Most very affluent people have their kids in private school. The majority of families at Bryant, Laurelhurst, View Ridge, Whittier are working middle class. That's right. They certainly don't qualify for any low income goodies, but yet it would be a struggle for most families that I know (we are a Bryant family) to pay for private school tuition. So we volunteer our time as much as we can, and we go to the auction and try to support our school as best we can. What is wrong with that?? Why would anonymous suggest that these schools should get nothing, and have to pay for everything themselves, so low income schools can get the entire pot?? I'm tired of the low income people getting everything handed to them and the affluent having it easy. It's the middle class that continually get kicked in the teach, and then chastised by low income folks to boot.

Anonymous said...

It is ridiculous to say that it's "equitable" if the weighted formula simply brings poor schools to the same funding level as other schools (including their donation monies). Poorer schools clearly have need for a significantly higher funding levels, not "equal" amounts. It's pretty clear nobody is really serious about equity or equitable funding in a big enough way to change anything.

Anonymous said...

I live near Whittier and own my home, but am far from rich. I am also disappointed that if my child goes there, the PTA will shake me down for money I don't have so that they can pay for an after school art program with a lottery admission system. What do I want? Core classes plus art, music, PE and maybe a foreign language at elementary level. That's what I had in school. Why is it such a stretch now?

Charlie Mas said...

I have to believe that anonymous at 12:49 was exaggerating to make a rhetorical point. The public schools are not exclusively for the poor and I don't know anyone who would wish to make them so. Likewise, the public schools are not exclusively for the underperforming, and I don't know anyone who would wish to make them so. When schools get the reputation that they are exclusively for the poor and/or underperforming they have taken the first step on a downward spiral from which recovery is difficult if not impossible.

Like it or not, the public schools must, therefore, also serve the middle class and students working at grade level as they are also members of the public and equally entitled to service from their government. And you may hate it, but the public schools must even serve the affluent and the high performing. They, too, are members of the public and deserving of services from their government. Why shouldn't they get their fair share of service? Don't you believe that the government should treat everyone equally?

Can you imagine someone suggesting that affluent neighborhoods not get an equal share of police and fire service? I suppose we could let them pay for their own rent-a-cops, private fire brigades, and ambulance services, but then why should they support your police and courts, your fire protection, or your EMTs? Out of Noblese Oblige? I wouldn't rely on it – and I certainly wouldn't demand it.

I really don't think it serves the interests of the poor and disenfranchised to propagate an attitude that says "Let those people over there fend for themselves" regardless of whom "those people" may happen to be in any given instance. These instances have a habit of changing and "we" become "them" in eyes of others.

I do hope that 12:49 does recognize that the compensatory education funding isn't a plan. It is what has been done for years. Dunlap really does get an extra $340,000 on top of the weighted staffing standard. The affluent schools aren't better funded than the poor schools. It exactly the opposite.

Anonymous at 3:05 has it right. The rich schools raise six figures from their families. The poor schools get six figures from the government. The middle class schools get neither. They are not poor enough for compensatory education funding nor are they rich enough to hold $200,000 auctions. The middle class schools are the underfunded ones.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 3:22 are you not getting it??? The district understands that it is not equitable to equally fund all schools. They give low income schools much much more money. When you get some time take a look at the numbers. You will be astonished at how much more money low income schools get than the other schools. Is that equitable to you???

Schools that don't have a high population of low income families get much less money, and HAVE TO fund raise in order to survive. We fund raise for scholarship money for the families that can't afford field trips, we fund raise so we can have a music program, for classroom supplies, to upgrade unsafe play structures in the school yard, etc.

We are not taking that money and giving our 5th grade class a trip to Cancun, like you might think. We are working middle class families trying to give our kids a fair shake just like you are.

Anonymous said...

RE the funding issue:

I have always wondered what the lower income schools are spending that money on?

I know that at my school, EVERY dollar that comes from parents has to be accounted for in the budgeting that the PTA puts together. By the way, it is not $100,000 per year, it is more like $50,000. Kind of pales in comparison to what some of the south end schools are getting this year.

Do the lower income schools have to account for the hundred's of thousands of dollars that they get?

I am honestly curious - where can you find that info out?

I guess I will call myself "Wondering", since I cannot get this blogger thing to work.

Coe Parent said...

Follow this link for actual "pre-PTA" dollars for each school in Seattle. Listed are the current WSF for each school in the district for 2007/2008. Be sure to take time to read the introduction so you can understand all the columns and see where the "extra dollars" for poor schools is broken out - per the discussions above. It can be quite large.

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/finance/budget/bluebook/08/index.htm

This changes with the Weighted Staffing Formula for 2008/2009 school year however. Here's that well-hidden link...

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/media/WSS/wss.html

At Coe we just got a first peak at how WSF to WSS transition will impact our school. It wasn't as "bad" as we initially thought but still offers some challenges for our school. We are at the upper range of enrollment for a mid-sized elementary school (at 474) but get the same "non classroom" core staffing levels as a school with 300 kids. Huh???

So, in order to keep staffing of such "non-essential" positions like librarian, music teacher, etc, the PTA had to commit to raise a set amount ($200k) in 2008/2009. Then the principle can go the school district with that promise and not have to lay off these positions at the end of this year while we wait for 2008/2009 to start.

As far as input into how the $$ are spent, we had a well publicized PTA meeting and were walked thru the details/challenges of the WSF to WSS and voted to approve it.

coe parent said...

for some reason, the entire url didn't show on my above post.

just google "seattle schools wsf" and "seattle schools wss" to get where you need to go.

And I meant to write principal, not principle :-)

I wonder if that much money can be raised....esp with current economic news. The PTA fundraisers are hiding some pretty big rocks, but when the lake drains...

Anonymous said...

You will be astonished at how much more money low income schools get than the other schools. Is that equitable to you???

I'm only astonished at how little more it really is. A few hundred grand different is NOT enough different to be equitable, and the reality is usually much less than that. (100 grand doesn't really get much more than 1 single extra teacher after bennies are thrown in). It needs to be MORE than wealthy schools get, AFTER their auction monies are figured into the equation. And more by a significant percentage, maybe even double. Only then should we talk about how effectively a differential spending policy is working.

Posters that cry about how equity is attained with by, wow, "six figures", don't really care about equity. That's cool. Just call it what it is. We have a school system working adequately for the middle class and upper middle class. It's pretty clear that no results have been accomplished by the meager efforts at weighted funding. True "extra funding" hasn't happened yet.

I don't get it said...

Anon at 9:06--

What????? I think I am missing your point. Can you explain?

You are saying: Some schools,

getting twice as much as they are already getting,

which is more than other schools are getting,

is More equitable?

I don't get it.

AND I would love to live in that world where teachers get 100 grand a year, please tell me where to apply.

Anonymous said...

I can't even form a reply to anonymous above, I am so angry. Did you hear what the folks at Coe are saying?? Clean out your ears. There PTA has to fund raise $200,000 just to keep their staffing at the rate that all of the other schools are getting. Just because someone is white (surely this is a race issue it's creeping in like it always does) white or middle class deosn't mean they are out to get you. But you won't unclog your ears long enough to listen to anything. Blah blah blah blah blah.

Anonymous said...

above post was meant for anonymous at 9:06

Charlie Mas said...

Please tell us, anonymous at 9:06, how much money is needed to create equity - $340,000 isn't enough at Dunlap and $400,000 isn't enough at Van Asselt. So how much is enough? And how do the schools need to spend that money? What are the big ticket items these schools need to buy?

tired said...

Is it always a matter of money? Here's my open thread beef. I'm sick of driving my kid to Washington because there is no real Spectrum program in West Seattle. And it's only our first year. That's not really a matter of money, is it? It's more like, Madison is allowed to reject Spectrum, even though it thrives (for now) at stone's-throw Lafayette Elementary, which should be feeding its entire Spectrum classes straight almost-acoss-the-street to Madison. Instead, they splinter off, and a few brave the miserable conditions at Denny, while a few more grudgingly make the trek to Washington like us, and even more give up and go private/parochial if they can possibly scrape together the scratch. Which we can't. OK, thanks, felt good to vent about that. And Lord only knows what we are going to do about high school...

Charlie Mas said...

Look for Spectrum to come to Madison by 2009-2010. Seriously.

I can't guarantee that it will be there, but I can guarantee you that the Program Placement will consider it this year for the 2009-2010 school year.

I can make that guarantee because I will submit the Program Placement request myself. Anyone who wishes to collaborate on it with me is welcome to join in.

dan dempsey said...

I find this whole equity issue of great interest. The math achievement gap continually expanded over the last decade for Low Income, ESL, Black, and Hispanic students - the district's answer is always throw more money at it.

Relevant data strongly suggests the the school reform movement is the problem. Children are not efficient learners when they are expected to learn by exploration and inquiry the majority of the time.

Whole language was a total joke with never any relevant data driving that train.

Tell the Administration to dump the philosophically aligned mumbo-jumbo and look at real research. Project Follow Through would be an excellent beginning.

When a school uses the worst methods, throwing more money hardly helps. Van Assault's improvement is due to a variety of expensive interventions and volunteers but a reasonable math curriculum does not appear to be one of those. With Everyday Math across the Elementary Schools look for continuing expenditures for coaches instead of teachers. There is little data that supports replacing additional teachers with coaches. Why does the school board adopt these pathetic materials that do not work?

Anonymous said...

Stop driving your kids to school across town with your WWF bumper sticker. Go Green, pick your neighborhood school and give back to your local community. Do not send your kids to private school, you believe in the democratic ideal-so live it! Be an example to your children. It is not all about how your child do in the world it is about how we can make the world (starting with our neighborhood school) a better place. Use your blogging talents to teach a group of kids at your neighborhood school how to write, how to be good citizens, how to look beyond ourselves.

WHY DO YOU SPEND SO MUCH FUEL AND TIME DRIVING YOUR KIDS TO SCHOOL-THINK OF WHAT AN IMPACT YOUR CHILD AND YOU COULD MAKE ON YOUR LOCAL NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL???

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually there's a charter school in NYC offering $125,000 a year (less than the principal makes). In return, they have to do extra work and, of course, the test scores are tied to it.

Anonymous said...

I am a democrat but it is all about my child. I want them to have the best and yes, I want to keep them away from classrooms who have to deal with 25 kids whose parents never sat down and read to them 30 minutes a day-who can't do that?
I wanted the school to be the best so yes I drive. I care about the world but I care about giving my child the best school. My neighborhood school is filled with bussed children from outside our neighborhood-my child would have nothing in common with these childen-and would be bored in a classroom with them.
All the children in our neighborhood go to private school or one of the three decent public school in the area. I feel I am doing the right thing by staying in public school and giving a great deal of money to the school of our choice so that other kids at our school benifit. We were lucky to get in to the school, and if we didn't get in we would have had to go private-and you would not have gotten our money or our time; both of which we have given a great deal of to our school.

Anonymous said...

To the parent driving from West Seattle across town to Spectrum, could you not supplement in the time your child is spending in the car? How many minutes does your child spend per day in the car? Go to Math-n'-stuff get Singapore and do some writing and vocabulary building and you child will have more play time. Children need time to play.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Vaughan said last night that getting a decent middle school Spectrum program in West Seattle is one of his objectives. Definitely on the district's radar.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

How is the WSS funding change affecting your schools?

Our school is loosing a large part of the administrative staff,the reading specialist & nursing hours. Our middle class school PTSA will not be able to raise enough money to pay for these positions.

Despite having more than the 472 students required, the school was designated a middle size school.

We were told that that designation will not change even if we seat more kids than that.

Saddened

Anonymous said...

It seems white middle class schools better start trying to pay poor kids to come to our schools. Maybe our hard-earned auction dollars would be better spent giving the free-and-reduce lunch qualified a 5k signing bonus. Then, and only then, we could get 300k thrown at our school so we don't have to loose our librarian and nurse-we already lost our part-time (read three hours per week councelor).

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 9:25 wrote:
"THINK OF WHAT AN IMPACT YOUR CHILD AND YOU COULD MAKE ON YOUR LOCAL NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL???"

Let me tell you, anonymous, and all of the others living in fairy tale land, that the impact your child - and you - can make on your local neighborhood school is exactly zero.

However the impact that the school can have on your child is immense.

Let's face it. The schools are all different. The students are all different, too. Consequently, some of the schools are not appropriate choices for some of the students. This is particularly true when the student - as in the case of tired (at 3:02am no wonder you're tired!) - has been identified as having a special academic need that the neighborhood school has specifically chosen not to serve.

So, if you disapprove of driving students across town for an appropriate academic opportunity, then don't you do it. But don't try to shame someone into surrendering their choice and their decision to do what is best for their child. If you disapprove of the travel then why don't you advocate for a more equitable distribution of programs instead of suggesting that some families will just have to go without?

Anonymous said...

Helen and others:

Did Dr. Vaughn say anthing about
Spectrum/APP for southeast Seattle?

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Dr. Vaughan did say that Spectrum needed to have much more of a presence in the south end. Of course that's been true for ages, and no one's gotten anywhere, but it does seem that Advanced Learning has the administration a little more behind them these days.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

"I feel I am doing the right thing by staying in public school and giving a great deal of money to the school of our choice so that other kids at our school benifit. We were lucky to get in to the school, and if we didn't get in we would have had to go private-and you would not have gotten our money or our time; both of which we have given a great deal of to our school."
I just wanted to restate this because this says it all: What this post is saying is:
OUR SCHOOLS ARE NOT CREATED EQUALLY AND IF YOU FORCE THOSE WHO CAN GO PRIVATE TO GO TO THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL THEY WILL LEAVE!!!

Anonymous said...

The best part of driving my kids across town is that he's buckled in with his homework sprawled across his lap. That is his quiet time to finish up school work and read his books. We also spend the time going home, talking about the day. It's such a built in routine that we never have an arguement about doing homework - or distraction.
As for 9:25. Maybe you could spend time volunteering in some of the underpriviledged schools. I think what these kids need most is some one-on-one time with adults. That would be gas well spent.

Anonymous said...

How many Seattle kids are driven to a public school each day? Does anyone have the figures? It seems every parent I know in my daughter's pre-school has chosen a school other than their reference school and most of the parents say they won't use the bus...hmmmm?

Have you ever noticed just how much more traffic there is between 2:30 and 4 pm?

I am also part of Critical Mass, and I try and ride my bike to work, but I am a parent too and my reference school seemed fine-I toured it first and STOPPED looking.

What is that song about "too much choice is driving us insane"?

I am sure if I would have kept looking I could have found something better, but my school looked great! And my daughter will not have to do homework while driving, she can ride her bike home or walk and get some great exercise as part of a routine. Hmmm? Obesity rates are on the rise they say, hmmm?

I can't beleive that I am one of the lucky ones. I think this is a cultural problem our culture thinks "choice" in everything somehow guarentees their child's happiness. Hmmm...I wonder???

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 11:27, you can stop wondering.

A lot of families do exactly as you did. They visited their reference school, found it acceptable, and ended their search right there.

A lot of families started out just as you did. They visited their reference school, found it UNacceptable, and so were compelled to continue their search to other neighborhood schools in their area, to alternative schools, and perhaps even to neighborhood schools outside their area until they found an acceptable one.

Other families also started as you did. They visited their reference school, found it acceptable, and ended their search right there. Unfortunately, their child was not assigned to that school due to high demand, so they had to make other choices.

I'm sure you can see that you were much better off than these other folks who wanted nothing different from what you wanted, but had to take additional steps for one reason or another. You are, in fact, one of the lucky ones. Believe it. Your wonder, and inability to empathize - or even sympathize - with other people's situation is kinda creepy.

Then, of course, there were other people - such as those at your daughter's pre-school - who took full advantage of the choice that was presented to them. While you may sneer at their effort - and clearly you do - they are not sneering at your indolence.

I wonder about this sneering, holier-than-thou attitude by people who don't recognize their privilege or good fortune. Does Critical Mass attract people like that or does it make people like that? Hmmm? Aggressive bicyclists are on the rise they say. Hmmm?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 11:27 I am still new to Seattle (10 years), and while I find most people here liberal and accepting, there are others like you who make me shutter. You know, the righteous. Democrats to be sure, but not democratic in any way. Pointing fingers. Looking down from the pedestal. Chastising people who aren't vegans, or bio- diesel consumers, or anything else YOU deem righteous.


What works for one does not work for another.

Live and let live.

Stop lashing out at people who do not see things just like you do. And think about this......what if YOU lived in a neighborhood with a crappy neighborhood school? What if you had a special needs child had special needs that couldn't be served by your bike riding distance school? Hmmmmmmmmmm

Anonymous said...

I have to say, since becoming a parent, I've been surprised to find how often other parents make snide remarks about choices other parents have made about schools.

I understand how it can happen on a board, such as this, where folks are cloaked in anonymity. My experience, however, has been that it extends to face to face conversations as well.

It's baffling. Finding the best fit for a child's education is a complex process and can be opaque to those not immediately involved.

No one I know would dream of making such harsh, uninformed comments about other family choices, say in religion -- or at least they wouldn't do so as loudly, as negatively, and as publicly. Schools, however, appear fair game for glib remarks.

Anonymous said...

I totally see your point Critial Mass guy/gal. I am a Seattle native who just moved from California with middle schoolers but we were just assigned the closest school for k-6, there was nothing I could do. But the test data at each of the schools were all very simular. So it was no biggy.

I think you could be onto something? What came first bad schools or the choice system? By the way, Charlie sends his daughter to Lowell and most of the people who write for this blogg cross-commute there kids all over the place. I think you will find more sympathy on GreenParenting. These folks at this site are single minded-in the same way that Critical Mass seems to be single minded. I am actually surpised you read this site, and I am glad. I think all opinions teach us something. What is your reference school? I am guessing it is in one of the top ten percent for test scores.
I do have many friend in Seattle who grew up in alternative schools or small community based schools and they are trying to find that for their kids. They seem to be searching for an ideal private school inside a public school budget-this is not easy. Because everyone knows those schools and the wait-list are crazy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:37,

I'm not a parent. I'm not "cross-commuting", whatever the heck THAT is, I'm an educator. Generalities about who contributes to various blogs are pointless, and, as in this case, usually inaccurate.
Question: You write that you were assigned the closest school (lucky you!) and that "the test data at each of the schools were all very simular. So it was no biggy." You later ask Critical Mass what her reference school is, then suggest that it you are "guessing it is in one of the top ten percent for test scores."
A) did you consider anything besides WASL test scores when looking at schools for your child?
B) If all the schools had similar scores, how could Critical (I'll say!) Mass'school's scores be in the top ten percent, and why would it matter?
C) Why do you assume her reference school is in the top ten percent?
D) Is this all meant as parody? Am I missing something? Is your entire post a parody or satire of Critical Mass? Maybe I'm just dense...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous 2:37, you obviously haven't read this blog much because as someone who blogs a lot, I find much disagreement and people who let me know they disagree. It's good to disagree (although this particular thread has gotten a bit touchy and loud so let's be calm); that's what makes a good blog.

P.S. lose for loose and shutter for shudder.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I think we have both been snookered by Anon 2:37 - I think that response to Critical Mass was a parody, and you and I both fell for it.
Well done, Anon 2:37! Beautiful!
Anon 2:59
(PS, if it ain't parody...)

Anonymous said...

I think the person who responded to Critical Mass was saying I bet the reference school, the first school Critical Mass looked at (and stopped) was probably one of the top picks with good data (all those scores). So they didn't need to look elsewhere.

It is best to walk a mile in someone elses shoes before judging.

I had a hard time picking my reference school it is a gem, (Whittier) but I am more of a green-hippie type, and could easily see myself at Salmon Bay.

But I am lucky I got to choose gem or gem and I did go for reference-and closeness.

Charlie Mas said...

Just for accuracy and reference, I have two daughters. This year, they both attend Washington Middle School. Washington is one of the two reference middle schools for my neighborhood, but the closest to our home is Mercer.

Anonymous said...

Green-Hippie Type, how do you handle it? That school seems way too conservative for me. It was my reference school, but I am hoping for Salmon Bay, West Woodland and Loyal Heights. Could I get Whittier if I didn't put it down?
I am worried I may have to go there since it is so close.
Can you tell me I have it wrong? The tour was a total turn off. And in the "Why Choose Whittier" it said words like "We are blessed."
Seems to be filled with conservative christians. Please tell me I am wrong???

Anonymous said...

In reference to 10:01 am's comments:

This is the problem with the choice system; a perfectly good school in the neighborhood is avoided because although it has the best teachers in the District, great art, terrific involved PTA can give someone a "bad vibe" and now they want to be bused to a school with more hippies.

I really need Salmon Bay (I have a bad neighborhood school) and now I have to compete with someone who can reject Whittier. I would love if Whittier was my reference school. Please comment on this issue? Why do I have to compete with someone who has a good school but is choosing the one I need. Can't I take her spot at Whittier? (I can't get in...I am way outside the limit). This choice system is so unfair.

Anonymous said...

Needing a greenie-hippie school is absolutely ridiculous, and a huge waste of transportation (tax) dollars. That is why our schools are so segregated, and that's why choice is a sham and a joke in Seattle. If all of the greenie-hippie folks in the Whittier area had to go to Whittier it would be more greenie-hippie, don't you think??? If you had an academic reason that Whittier wouldn't work, that's fine. Commendable. But lack of hippies??? That's outrageous. I did not hear you mention once that you were drawn to Salmon Bay due to their alternative philosophies or pedagogy, all I heard was that there were more hippies there.

And what about your kid, whom should be driving your decision anyway?? Did he/she get a bad vibe at Whittier??? Did he/she wish there were more hippies?? Or just you??

maureen said...

Oh come on :)! I read Hippie #2s post and thought, that's why it's GOOD there is choice! They feel like they won't fit in at Whittier as a family so they don't take a spot there--it goes to someone who otherwise wouldn't have gotten in and wants to. Choice keeps some families from going private or homeschooling, it allows like- minded people to get together and support programs(like Friday skiing at Salmon Bay, or using the word 'blessed' in their literature) that other people wouldn't appreciate.

Transportation is an issue, but lots of kids are bused to their reference school--it's not clear that it costs any more to bus them to another cluster school(that one may even be closer and they could walk).

I think it's great that many people get to pick a school that they feel comfortable with. I wish all of our schools were comparable at academics so people like Anon@11:36 had real choices too.

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 12:53pm wrote:

"If all of the greenie-hippie folks in the Whittier area had to go to Whittier it would be more greenie-hippie, don't you think??? "

I hear this belief a lot. Not just for greenie-hippie folks, but for all kinds of interests. "If only enough people who wanted X would enroll at the school, then the school would provide X". I hear it a lot, but I don't see any evidence to support this belief.

Where in Seattle has this happened? Where in Seattle has a school leadership ever said "We're all about Y, we believe in Y, we follow a Y curriculum, but we have a lot of X students and families, so now we're going to switch over to X."

I can certainly give you plenty of examples of when it did not happen. Consider the rather well publicized case of Madrona in which the school had no trouble resisting change in the face of a changing population.

This fairy tale that you can change your school needs to be rebutted every time it is repeated. It simply isn't true.

Anonymous said...

I don't think using "blessed" in your literature quite qualifies for "program" status ;-) No, seriously, I think lots of folks say "blessed" when they think the context is too formal to say "lucky." It's a bit of a cliche, but I don't think it has a religious overtone for everyone, any more than saying "Heavens, they're tasty!" about Powdermilk Biscuits.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Charlie said:

This fairy tale that you can change your school needs to be rebutted every time it is repeated. It simply isn't true.

This is exactly my concern for all the parents who currently can get their children into Roosevelt, but may no longer be able to with the new student assignment plan in regards to Nathan Hale being a very specific type of school with a different philosophy than RHS.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Roosevelt vs Hale issue is huge, and it will have to come to a head if the new student assignment plan changes the shape of NE Seattle families choice. If traditional families are forced into alternative Hale, then alternative Hale will be forced into serving them in a more traditional way. Alternative schools were never intended to be neighborhood, assignment schools. They were intended to be choice schools. When choice is taken away, so to will Hale's alternative philosophies. You can't force alternative on people, it doesn't work. To be a successful alternative program you need "buy in", and that only comes with choice.

Anonymous said...

"Why do I have to compete with someone who has a good school but is choosing the one I need. Can't I take her spot at Whittier? (I can't get in...I am way outside the limit). This choice system is so unfair."

You are right poster this is the unperfect part of the choice system. You may end up stuck at a crappy neighborhood school, while the Whittier-reference parent chose Salmon Bay and get the last spot (your spot? Maybe.)

But it is fair because it is a lottery and you can list more than Salmon Bay or Whittier and no one is taking bribes and you don't have to be rich or know the principal to get in.

However, what this really says it let's re-structure all crappy neighborhood school NOW. Fire everyone and hire a whole new staff based on the preferences that that neighborhood puts down for their first choice school. If people don't choose to stay in the neighborhood (say less than 30% choose the neighborhood school either close it down of fire everyone and start over with a different school model.

Anonymous said...

Amen to the above poster (just a figure of speech no religious connotation). I agree 100%

If people are not choosing a neighborhood school the district needs to find out why. They need to roll up their sleeves and go into the neighborhood and talk to the community to find out what it would take for them to choose a neighborhood school. Then they need to close the unpopular school, fire everyone, and re-open it as a new school. That is the only way that people will have any confidence. Promising change is not good enough, as we can see with the SE initiative. I feel for families that choose those schools thinking they were really going to see improvement, and to date the district has done absolutely nothing. We are still hoping for next year, but there is no accountability, bench marks or anything else to give the community any faith that there will be any improvement whatsoever.

This district needs to stop letting schools just limp along, with horrid test scores, and neighborhood families fleeing. It's high time for some accountability. A new super, a new board. No more words, lets see some action!

Jane said...

Anon at 10:01 - I am curious, what about the Whittier tour was a total turn off? I can tell you honestly that the school is in no way "filled with conservative Christians." I mean there might be some but I either have not met them or they hide it well. Heck, I am an atheist who went to Evergreen and have never felt like I didn't fit in, seriously. The parents are just your average Ballard families for the most part. But if you didn't even put it down on your application I don't think there's much of a chance you'll end up there. I wouldn't worry too much. I know folks w/kids at all three of your other choices who really like those schools. Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

I am not the one who rejected the school based on the tour.

However, even though I have friends who go to Whittier in the older grades, and was sure I would put it down without reservations, once I did the tour I wasn't so sure.

One of the moms was talking about their church and other moms just looked like they were into the heavy make-up look, and more dressy work type outfits. They did not look like they go hiking with their kids, very often or spend their time hanging out in parks etc...

Also Spanish is on hold. They can't find a teacher, but that seems strange in such a diverse city.

They were unclear how much money they had to spend for a Spanish teacher but it looked low compared to other schools (for example West Woodland).

I saw a lot of art but no math on the walls, nor much science. I know they must do these things but it doesn't seem to be celebrated.

With all that, I decided to make it my second choice.

Anonymous said...

"One of the moms was talking about their church and other moms just looked like they were into the heavy make-up look"

I have found that Seattlites are so liberal that they are conservative.

This is a prime example. Schools can not talk about religion, god or Christmas. They can't say the pledge of allegiance, or sing patriotic songs. That's all well and good, but now a parent can not talk about going to church??? A parent can't wear make up?? What next?? What more can you prejudice against in the name of righteousness??? Do you see how very conservative YOU are?? How very unaccepting?? It's funny because these very unaccepting conservative types are almost always democrats fighting for peace and social justice??

Let me be straight and clear. you are never intimidated about preaching your atheist, vegan, green-hippie, organic, bike riding lifestyle, so why should someone be intimidated to talk about church, wear make up and even, oh my god do I dare say it....Christmas??

Live and let live!!!! For god sakes.

BTW I am an atheist so no religious propaganda here. I just believe that we should be more accepting of one another, and point less fingers. Leave the hissing to the cats.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 2:41

Thank you , thank you thank you for your wonderful rebuttal of the posters who wrote above you. I can only imagine this is a first time parent - one who has put a few kids through the system would look back and think - was I really that intense?


And to the poster who made Whittier their second choice: aren't you glad we have a choice system - so that you were not forced to confront people who might possibly (gasp!) have a differing point of view than yours. Because we sure wouldn't want to teach our children to respect and value others, no matter what their beliefs or background.

Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

The two latest posters have not spoken to the issues and I think the issues the Whittier tour raised are valid. Where is the math and science? Why is Spanish on hold? Why are the class sizes so big?
Those combined with not seeing parents you can identify with seem like perfectly good reasons not to choose a school.
Whittier probably needs to address those issues.

Anonymous said...

By all means address math and science, address spanish. All ver valid. But, hippies?? Make up?? Someone going to church?? C'mon now even you have to admit that is not only way over the top, it is intolerant, unaccepting, and conservative, to say the least. Lighten up. Respect others rights, and beliefs. Celebrate diversity, and remember that diversity is not only ethnic and socio economic. It is also celebrating different religions, different political views, and even to wear make up or not to wear make up, dye your hair or celebrate your gray. It's all diversity. So what I'm trying to say is judge the academics, or lack of academics (even though Whittier has stellar test scores) but don't judge people for who they are. Be tolerant and good karma will come to you.

Anonymous said...

Call me a biggot but people who only focus on test scores really creep me out. Then they say in the same breath to celebrate diversity. Just not diversity in test scores. Some say that Albert Einstein could not have passed the WASL. Why is this such a focus Whittier???

Anonymous said...

Yes I guess you are a Bigot. Once again condemning someone for a personal choice that they make. Using test scores as one of many tools to evaluate a schools performance.

If you don't look at test scores that's fine. It is your right, but if you degrade people that do use test scores as part of their evaluation of a school, then I guess you are right. You are a bigot. And, I thought bigotry was dying off. Still alive and well apparently. Would a school with black students, Hispanics, Jews bother you too?? Or just make up, religion, test scores and who knows what else???

Bigot

Anonymous said...

I toured every school in the NW cluster. In my tours I did notice some schools did seem to have more to show off in the area of Math and Science.
Later I did look at the test scores and climate survey. I have to admit this is my first child so I am looking at every little thing. And since I work for SPS in HR I have heard that Whittier is one of the best schools (The teachers are known to be highly skilled, love kids and it is a popular choice for teachers-lots of applications whenever a spot opens).
Interestingly, some of the worst peforming schools (in terms of math and science) seemed to have more math and science on the walls.
The best tours were West Woodland and Loyal Heights, and one of the worst was Whittier but then I went back on non-touring days to all the schools and went to the assemblies and I talked to the principals and some parents before they left the assemblies and then I felt really good about Whittier.
The assembly at Whittier had more diversity than I expected and the parents all seemed relaxed and seemed connected to the school. The principal seems to really like the children and the children seemed to really like her-there was laughing and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. And this is the principals first year at Whittier.

The tour at Whittier was a very different experience. It seemed strained-and not very open and they seemed conservative--but not really politically--but in what they chose to share about their school. We didn't get to see enough of the classes and they made Spectrum seemed different from the school. I think they had a seperate tour. This seemed odd when you have a preschooler and you want to find a good school regardless of whether my chid needs advanced work. I would have like to see a music class, and gym class with younger kids. There was no one there from the chess club, or spanish program and I would have liked to look into more class rooms. When I went up to the Library the librarian didn't talk with us and it would have been nice to see how she is with kids. At the other schools I was taken in so many clases, library, science rooms, and the schools was showed off more. At West Woodland the Chess Coordinator was there, the Spanish program was highlighted, I felt like I had seen the whole school by the time I left. At Whittier it felt like there was more behind a curtain that I wasn't allowed to peek through.

I honestly walked away and felt like I didn't really get to know the people or the school by the tour. If I didn't have the information I did, I may not have given it a second chance. I hope someone from Whittier is reading this so they know how their tour was received. If I get in I will try and make the tour better next year. One of the main thing Whittier could do is tour the other school just so they can see how much better other tours are. Also there was no evening tours for working parents. This give the perception that they are not trying to attract working parents, or they are not accommodating to those of us who work.

Frankie said...

To the anonymous bigot at 7:51, your list of intolerance is growing.

So far we have:
working mothers
people who wear dress clothes
Make up
families that are religious
families who care about test scores
parents that don't hike
parents that don't hang out in parks

What else would you like to add??

Like the above poster said, if you don't like a school due to their academic performance, lack of spanish, etc. that is fine. That's why we have choice. But to shun a school based on parents wearing make up, working moms, and religion is just intolerant and wrong. Think of what you are teaching your child. You are teaching that she should only be comfortable around people just like her. She should not appreciate diversity in politics, religious beliefs, a womans right to work outside of the home, or even wear make up!! Don't pass on your uptight bigoted views on your kid. It's just wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Interestingly, some of the worst peforming schools (in terms of math and science) seemed to have more math and science on the walls."

I can't help connecting that with the use of pretty projects in math and science, rather than more solid curriculum. Granted, science should be hands-on and you should see "stuff" all over the classroom for it, but there aren't always a lot of nice two-dimensional results that you can hang in the halls. But you should certainly have seen things like plants or jars of worms or whatever.

I had twins in regular and Spectrum classes for two years at Whittier, and can say that there wasn't a lot of talk about it. It took some time for the kids to know that it was more than being in Ms. X's and Ms. Y's classes.

Tours are a volunteer effort and are bound to vary in quality from year to year. That was something that frustrated me about tours: it was so obvious that I was making decisions based on what was really very little data, little vibe-y things that might in reality mean nothing in the long run.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

To Hippie-
Very few people really make any difference in the world without pointing out when the world is on the wrong track. Those people had very few friend but in the end we remember their names, because they stood for social justice. You, you feel you can make a difference with your child. You hope you can teach him or her to stand strong for what you believe in. And maybe trying to find people who have the same values as you in a changing Seattle (wealthier, private-school attending, bigger houses, bigger cars) by finding a public school where your child could learn the values you hold dear. And you can't get into AEII or Salmon Bay so you search, and no they all seems to be different than what you want for your kids. Your kids wear recycled clothes, you drive and old VW, and you can't possibly afford to have a house in the city, and you don't want them to feel excluded in their new school. They wear their hair long and maybe your family doesn't eat meat and you are worried your son won't get playdate. You are accepting but you have seen it before. People don't want your child over bacause then their kids will want to wear their hair long, etc...
Maybe you were hoping that public school is a place where the old Seattle hung out. But it is not. Alas, the old Seattle is gone and you and I should move on, because, I have a second and third grader at a NW Ballard school and although I have tried to be accepting about half of the parents look at me like I am corrupting their child. Then they say we should live and let live and stop being bigots. While our children continue to feel the pain of being not like them. The new Seattle is greedy, too busy to change the world, to help save the earth. Alas, the biggest problem facing our globe is poverty and global warming and no one in Seattle gives a damn, and instead use old Hippie quotes, "live and let live" to stop all debate.

Anonymous said...

When is Singapore going to start in schools? I have a third grader now done with the fourth grade Everyday Math Book (Spectrum class) but he hasn't been given Signapore instead he is allowed to do the 5th grade Everyday Math book.
Is Singapore ever going to start with WASL starting soon?

Anonymous said...

Yes I would like a thread where we can talk about what our kids are doing with math, but I don't want to hear what someone is doing at home or five grades ahead of my kids. Can we get something on specific grades?

Anonymous said...

My son (4th grade) has done nothing but Everyday math...all he seems to do is worksheets. I asked his teacher a few weeks ago about the traditional (Singapore?) supplement, and she said right now they are just using the Everyday math. I didn't want to over burden my son with after school supplements, but it looks like I will be forced to.

How sad.

Anonymous said...

I have a Whittier Spectrum third grader who has also finished the Grade Four Everyday Math-he reports that about five kids are done and everyone is close to being done. My son's good friend and neighbor is at Lowell who is in third grade and just brings home stuff that is below my sons Third Grade Spectrum class. We compared and it looks like stuff that was done in first and second grade at Whittier.
This is frustrating to my friend who feels like she sent her son to Lowell for advanced work and now can't get back into Whittier Spectrum (waitlists).
My son reports that when you are finished with the Everyday Math you get other "Fun Math". I am hopeful it is Singapore??? I will asked the teacher this week and report back.
By the way this is a great teacher and she moved them along well, and allowed the kids to work in groups above where the class was but kept the rest of the class moving along. I am really impressed, the kids are never, never, bored!!!

Charlie Mas said...

The story from anonymous at 3:18 provides an excellent illustration or the dilemma we face:

Which do we prize more highly: differentiation - in which every student gets the a lesson at the frontier of his or her knowledge and skills and advanced students are supported in their work beyond standards - or standardized curriculum complete with fidelity of implementation and near uniform pacing across the system.

I'm not sure what benefit students get from the standardization.

Now, I know that some would say that the two are not mutually exclusive - that advanced students can investigate the concepts to greater depth or apply them across a greater range of contexts - but there is just no substitute for acceleration. And it is acceleration that advanced students really need.

Every time that anyone mentions any sort of fidelity of implementation or standardized curriculum, be sure to ask them how that is compatible with differentiation and how advanced students will get the acceleration they need. Again, expanded depth and breadth are great, but they are not substitutes for acceleration.

Anonymous said...

There has been a big push lately to get math standardized at Lowell (not all teachers were on the same page about what level of acceleration was appropriate). I would urge anyone who has concerns about the level of math instruction to consult with the teacher and principal about it. It should certainly *not* be the case that APP math should be falling behind what a Spectrum class is doing (unless you happened to be looking at a page of work that was meant strictly as review). There are definite standards that should be making a difference here.

That said, some enrichment topics are suitable for more than one grade. It isn't necessarily a terrible thing if a particular math enrichment topic happens to get taught in second grade in one place and third grade in another. There are also standard topics that get revisited every year, like probability -- to be frank, I have never seen much difference in those from one year to the next anyway! possibly slightly higher numbers used in later grades, or whatever.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

We are in a second grade regular class in a good school in the NE. They first started with second grade Everyday Math (EM), it proved too difficult for some kids so the teacher started over with the first grade EM books and rush through them now they are around halfway through second grade everyday math and my child seems lost in all the stuff. Forgets concave shapes vs. convex, mixes up obtuse vs. acute angles and his mixes up the different ways he is discovering to multiply. It is all just a jumble for him and he has spent no real time becoming adept at anything.
Are others like us out there. The poster from the Spectrum class has me worried.

Anonymous said...

our children attended an alternative school that had mixed grade classes. The concept was such that if you had a 2nd/3rd grade class, the same topic could be taught to both grade students but the older or advanced kids could explore the topic in much greater depth. If they were doing a book report a struggling second grader could handwrite a short synopsis, while an advanced 3rd grader might do a full book report, with a power point presentation. In reality id just didn't happen. Differentiation is difficult to do efficiently across one grade, but stretching it across two grades just didn't happen. The curriculum was suited to something between 2nd and 3rd grade expectation, and you had struggling 2nd graders in the same room with advanced 3rd graders. The struggling students were frustrated and often needed tutoring, and the advanced students were bored, bored, bored. The other issue is that many times you repeated the curriculum. For instance if you were in a 2/3 class as a 3rd grader and went to a 3/4 class for 4th grade, there was ALOT of overlap. Causing even more boredom and frustration. This is why I am a huge fan of self contained classrooms for advanced learners, and a reasonable amount of standardization or at least the utilization of the GLE's.

Anonymous said...

We are in a school that says it does Advanced Opportunities. My child is in third grade and has always loved math. The class is working slowly on the grade level book and he is not allowed to work ahead.
The class is about on page 110 or so, and there are no suppliments.

Anonymous said...

My son is not getting any advanced math at Lowell. The principal did not want the teachers to have to start with both a new writing and math program. My son is bored, and he's at Lowell!!!
It is painful to read above that a neighborhood spectrum school, is getting advanced math and my child who is bused far from our home for advance opportunities is not getting what he needs.

Anonymous said...

This is the inequality of the choice system. There are still some neighborhood schools that are far above others and really it has to do with teachers. Whittier has the best teachers in the district. There is plenty of parking, the parents help out, the kids are motivated. If you are highly skilled, and good at what you do, you go where you get the most support and you have the least amount of troubled kids. Who wouldn't want to work there?

Anonymous said...

At one time I had one twin in a regular fourth grade class at Whittier and one in fourth grade at Lowell. The next year they were in fifth-grade Spectrum at Whittier and fifth grade at Lowell. I can assure you that the math at Lowell was *definitely* advanced over the regular or Spectrum program math, even if it doesn't look that way. I do agree that it's probably not as high as it should be for most of those kids, and not always a full two years ahead. Unfortunately, the Washington State math standards are low enough that you have to get about a year ahead just to stay even with what most of us think of as grade-level math.

My youngest is now in fourth grade at Lowell, and pretty much all the math he brings home at least says sixth grade on it, either Connected Math booklets (essentially the same that one of my daughters did in 6th-grade math at Washington, though they aren't doing all of them this year), or photocopied curriculum from some sixth-grade workbook.

The attempt to align math teaching among the various teachers is an effort that's been going on for some time -- well before the introduction of the new writing curriculum. They should be doing better at it by now -- if they're not, call 'em on it. Support should be available from the Advanced Learning Office as well.

I'm glad to hear someone at Whittier is doing good work in differentiation. That was a weak point when my kids were there, and it's terrific that they're working on it. Julie has talked about math differentiation happening at Lowell as well: I don't have personal experience, as my kid isn't as far out there in math as some, but it's certainly supposed to be possible. Again: call 'em on it.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately, the Washington State math standards are low enough that you have to get about a year ahead just to stay even with what most of us think of as grade-level math."
This is so true. We are at least a year behind California, where I most recently taught. As an educator, I feel all my kids should be doing work on grade ahead of where this Everyday Math is taking us. But then what happen to them next year? The teacher above me is not in agreement.