Friday, July 24, 2009

Muni League Ratings of School Board Candidates

More information for your use in deciding who to vote for in the primary. Here is a link to the Seattle School Board page at the Muni League. It comes with ratings, links to candidate websites and the questionnaire that each candidate filled out. I haven't had a chance to read the questionnaires but I suspect they will be interesting reading.

Mary Bass and Joanna Cullen were rated "adequate", while Andre Helmstetter was rated "good" Kay Smith-Blum, Wilson Chin, Charlie Mas and Betty Patu were rated "very good". There is only one rank higher than "very good" and that is "outstanding". No one was rated the at the bottom which is "not qualified".

From the website:

"Each candidate is given a rating of Outstanding, Very Good, Good, Adequate, or Not Qualified. The criteria used to reach these ratings are:

  • Involvement: What has the candidate done previously in family, neighborhood, community, volunteer work, employment or public life to suggest readiness to accomplish challenging objectives? How do these activities demonstrate readiness for the challenges unique to the office sought?

  • Effectiveness: Has the candidate demonstrated promise to be productive in the office sought? Has the candidate shown the ability to work with other people?

  • Character: Do the candidate's personal traits show the ability to take on the responsibilities of campaigning for and holding the public office she or he is seeking? Is the candidate a leader, participant or observer? Is the candidate trustworthy, reliable and consistent?

  • Knowledge: Has the candidate demonstrated the willingness and ability to learn and adapt? Does the candidate understand the duties and challenges of the office sought? Does the candidate have a firm grasp of the issues important to his or her constituency and their potential effects.

The Committee gets information from:
  • Files on the candidate which include public disclosure reports, newspaper clippings, records of previous interviews, position papers, a questionnaire completed by the candidate, and other materials that the candidate is invited to supply.

  • References provided by the candidate and other people that are researched by committee members.

  • Interviews with the candidate. Each interview lasts about twenty minutes"

There is also, below the ratings, a Public Disclosure Commission report on donations. Wilson Chin is the highest with $7,000 (with two high donations from people with the same last name so it may be family members) and also a donation from Peter Maier. Michael De Bell is the next highest at $5,000 (and the only one to report expenditures at nearly $3,000). Joanna Cullen was the only other candidate to report donations with all the other candidates at zero.

24 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Let us not get too involved with muni-league ratings. Many of our current board members scored well on muni-league ranking. These ratings are more an appraisal of general governance and leadership ability and have little to do with knowledge of how to bring academic improvement to Seattle students.

So far the muni-league seems to evaluate likely rubber stampers highly.
Charlie Mas demonstrates that one can score highly even when rubber stamping likelihood is low.

Shannon said...

Hi,
I have a question for those of you who follow the development of Math Curriculum and or APP.

My son will be attending Lowell for 3rd Grade this fall. We are new and unconnected so I don't know who to ask about this.

Today we received a letter notifying us that "with recent revisions to our APP Everyday Math program that raise the level of rigor we want to make sure we can devote the time needed for new concepts. It would help if you child came into 3rd grade with these skills mastered or close to it:" It then lists 5 bullet points of math competencies we are asked to teach our kids by the start of school.

The letter suggests we try resources from Math n Stuff (great store!), flash cards, computer games, songs, oral practice, Kumon or other 'services' to bring them to this point.

My son is pretty close to the ones they ask for (despite 4 years of progressive schooling prior to this transfer) but I feel a bit put out.

During our school tours Julie B (the Thurgood principal) was explicit in saying we should do no "catch up" work with the kids over summer - let them play, do camps, be free. Now I am heading to the store for a workbook in division facts for times tables.

Has anyone else any thoughts on this. What is teh revision to APP Everday Math that is driving this 'increase in rigor'? Anyway, I am not opposed to higher level of work (as I said, my son finds math quite fun) but its a bit of a change of gear for us mid-summer and he has already asked me grand 8 year old questions like "why is math important in summer ANYWAY? And "why do I have to know the times tables quickly NOW? Like, a normal scientist doesn't walk around doing formulas in his head! Why can't I use the computer?" and "Am I supposed to UNDERSTAND these things or just answer them? Huh?"

I am looking forward to explaining between 4X7 and 4X8.

Charlie Mas said...

Shannon, I think I can help you.

As of the 2009-2010 school year, APP will have, for the first time, a curriculum. There will be a defined core set of knowledge and skills that the students will be expected to acquire at each grade level. Of course, students and teachers can (and will) cover material in addition to this core set, but this is a minimum and all of it must be included.

More than that, the principals will be checking on the teachers to confirm that they are covering the curriculum and the students will be tested to determine if they have learned the curriculum.

In the past there have been gestures at this idea and a lot of lip service paid to it, but this year the District, the schools, and the teachers are making a genuine effort to have an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum.

So the revision isn't to EveryDay Math; it is the adoption of a curriculum. Something similar is happening in Spectrum and in general education classes as well as they are adopting new curricula and trying to adhere to them.

As to the typical 8-year-old questions, I can offer these answers that you might want to use:

"Why is math important in summer ANYWAY?"
Math is always important; it isn't seasonal. Two plus two is four all year 'round.

"Why do I have to know the times tables quickly NOW? Like, a normal scientist doesn't walk around doing formulas in his head!Why can't I use the computer?""
Ummm... actually, normal scientists do keep those formulas in their heads. It is easier to memorize the information that you frequently use than to look it up every time over and over. That includes, at a minimum, the multiplication tables, a significant number of chemical formulas, physics equations, geometric equations, and chemical processes. What if he had to look up online how to tie his shoes every morning? Or google the instructions for how to prepare a bowl of corn flakes? Or research online how to ride a bike every time he wanted to go for a ride? Not very practical.

More than that, when you just know that 4 x 7 is 28, then math problems with 28 in them are easier to solve. Likewise with other numbers as well. He'll save a lot time that would otherwise be squandered in trial and error.

"Am I supposed to UNDERSTAND these things or just answer them?"
He's supposed to both understand them (have conceptual mastery) and be able to answer them (have operational competency). So he should both understand what four times seven means (imagine four weeks of seven days), understand that it is the same as seven times four (four Mondays, four Tuesdays, etc.), and also know that it is twenty-eight. If he can recognize that it is even, and therefore divisible by two, if he can reduce it to its prime factors (7 x 2 x 2), and if he notices that whatever day of the week is the first day of February is also the first day of March, all the better.

I hope that was helpful. Every child is different and you will know best what will pique your child's interest.

Dorothy said...

Charlie, what evidence do you have that this curriculum work is going to be done for APP?

Shannon. While the intro was different, not mentioning Everyday Math or Rigor, we got the same letter every summer when my son went to Lowell (he went first through fifth grade). Please make sure you kid learns the times tables etc. It's not a new thing to be asking. Five bullet points? Does sound like they expanded the request a little, though. Good for them. Frankly, their math was appallingly slow. While everyone always touted that math was taught two years above grade level, in actuality that did not happen at all. Rising APP 6th graders: the majority qualify for 7th grade honors math.

Shannon said...

Thanks Charlie and Dorothy
I spoke with someone at Math n Stuff and found some stuff to use.

The points that they asked for mastery in (seem pretty reasonable, its just the surprise for me) are:

* fully memorized math facts
* 2 and 3 digit addition and
* subtraction with carrying and borrowing.
* Times tables memorized (1-5 and 10) and fluent in the others up to 12.
* Division facts up to 12
* Money and telling time.

Also, incoming kids have not been taught a grade ahead and we were told they would be doing a catching up period to ensure all kids had the same facts. Either way, if it will help my kid we'll do it.

heidi said...

Last year in 2nd grade/Lowell our daughter did up to 12 X15 and I think division to that level as well. It was a real time comitment of flipping through flash cards but at the end of the year I do believe she was ready. We did get that letter today as well... Don't remember them from previous years.

hschinske said...

Historically the teachers at Lowell have each written their own letters, and they aren't necessarily in accordance with the principal's philosophy. I know one year we got a letter stating something to the effect that the math would be much harder next year and that the teacher was quite sorry about this, but the students should know she would help them through it. I was more than a little peeved by that, as the whole point of APP in my view is NOT TO MAKE A FUSS about higher-level work, just to go ahead and take it for granted that this is the RIGHT level of work.

In the event, the math was no more advanced than I'd expected before I got the letter. I don't know what the teacher was going on about. I did ask Julie, and if I remember correctly she said there was nothing special going on in math implementation that year.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

I have contacted Bob Vaughan and he tells me that the curriculum will be ready for full implementation on the first day of school.

And well it should be. I cannot imagine a higher priority for him and his team than that. The whole case for the split of APP was predicated exclusively on the full implementation of this curriculum from the first day of school.

I don't see how it would be possible without some teacher training and exposure to the curriculum well in advance of the school year so they can plan their lessons to match it.

If, of course, the curriculum readiness proves false - which is always a possibility despite any number of assurances - then the APP community should take action to demand some radical and immediate repair for the failure.

In addition, accountability would demand that someone in the Central Office - and it could be anyone from a consulting teacher to the superintendent - loses their job.

Sahila said...

"A child's work is play" - Maria Montessori....

The child's right to play
By Rhonda L. Clements, Leah Fiorentino
"Clements and Fiorentino offer readers contemporary thoughts from more than 60 national and international specialists in the areas of early childhood and play leadership, brain research and educational psychology, as well as playground specialists, child life specialists, movement and physical educators. All works reflect the contributors' commitment to the belief in "education through play" or "play for its own sake." The contributors also confirm the belief that play, along with the basic needs of nutrition, health, shelter, and education is vital to the development of all children. This collection is divided into five parts: Part One addresses topics of special interest to parents and caregivers concerning definitions and the importance of play. Part Two offers information concerning curriculum development, programming, and several academic teaching issues. Topics reflecting the child's props, playthings, and play environments are blended together in Part Three. Part Four offers indepth chapters linking current research connecting brain and learning with play. Part Five contains an overview of the importance and right of all children to play."

See the excerpts from this book at Google ...

Do APP children not have the right or need to play, summertime or not? Another area where SPS thinking is completely out of step with educational philosophy and best practice that's been around for more than 100 years...

And it seems some parents are drinking the same koolaid...

Shannon said...

Hi Sahila
My son has completed his first 4 years of schooling at a small alternative school which is very much of the work of play philosophy (informed by various aspects of progressive education, Waldorf and Reggio Emilio approaches). As such, I have been concerned to help my son adjust to the very different culture and 'expectations' of a large public school - especially one with accelerated curriculum. He has never seen a Grade, never had a red pen on his work and certainly never had a drill in the times table.

If I am going along with this math practice in summer it is to help him manage a transition and be prepared to focus on the social and cultural work of joining a new school. I would rather that he not face these challenges while feeling behind in academics. Despite my concerns, it is actually taking very little time from our day - about 15 minutes in the morning - and he has already learned all the 'squares' from 1-12 and is quite proud of himself.

I think it is a disservice to allow our beliefs in educational approach to deny our children the alternative views (even if these are mainstream).

Anyway, that is just why I am so quick to ask about and act on the request in the letter.

Shannon

none1111 said...

Shannon,

You said: "Also, incoming kids have not been taught a grade ahead and we were told they would be doing a catching up period to ensure all kids had the same facts. Either way, if it will help my kid we'll do it."

There's always going to be a bit of "catch-up" needed for some kids who are new to the program. Particularly in math. There's really no way around that. The fact that the teachers are trying to help minimize that discrepancy *before* September is wonderful. We've never seen a letter like this before, with 2 kids in the program for several years, and we're very pleased to see it happening now.

Your last sentence tells me that your son has a very high chance of being successful in the program (as well as in their ongoing education). You are there to support your child's needs. It's no secret that's how kids succeed.

To add to Charlie's list, here's something I told my kids about why it's great to memorize math facts:

Compare math to reading. Numbers are like letters, and basic math facts are like words. When beginning to read most kids learn to sound out letters to figure out what the words are. Then over time the words become recognizable at a glance - you don't need to think about that part anymore. When that happens, your mind gains the ability to digest larger chunks of information, and you can appreciate the stories much more readily. Same thing in math. If you have to think about how much 4+8 or 4x8 is, you're not going to be able to move to the next levels in math. When the basic math facts are as easy to recognize as words, that is what allows you see the number 32 and have 8 and 4 pop into your head without thinking.

Also, be aware that among highly gifted kids, learning rote information is generally a weakness. It's not something of interest compared to the more intellectually stimulating concepts. It doesn't make it less important, but if you know that ahead of time I think it helps. Memorizing PI or other similar irrational numbers may be an exception! ;-)

And you said: "If I am going along with this math practice in summer it is to help him manage a transition and be prepared to focus on the social and cultural work of joining a new school. I would rather that he not face these challenges while feeling behind in academics. Despite my concerns, it is actually taking very little time from our day - about 15 minutes in the morning - and he has already learned all the 'squares' from 1-12 and is quite proud of himself."

You are a wonderfully insightful mom. For a child coming into a totally new environment like Lowell, size-wise, culture-wise, and perhaps academically, the best thing you can do is to make sure that the academics are not a burden in the beginning (probably won't be, by the sounds of it), allowing your child to manage the social and cultural changes much more easily. APP kids are generally a pretty welcoming group, but anything you can do to make the first few weeks and months enjoyable will pay off over time. There may be different social dynamics now that the program has been split, with general ed in the building. We'll just have to see how that goes.

Robert said...

Shannon, one other thought is that right now they are planning a 2/3 split class which I think is a terrible idea _except_ for new 3rd graders who need to catch up. But how you accelerate and have splits is really besides me. And for you folks that are keeping score... With the students on the Lowell wait list they could have two full classes but they haven't made that call... Wonder why?

none1111 said...

Sahila said: "... Do APP children not have the right or need to play, summertime or not? Another area where SPS thinking is completely out of step with educational philosophy and best practice that's been around for more than 100 years...

And it seems some parents are drinking the same koolaid..."

Wow, speaking of drinking the kookaid...

Where did Shannon (or any other APP parents) ever say she doesn't allow her kid free time to play? I get quite the opposite impression.

Free time to play is an important part of childhood. As is the need for some level of study/academics - less for younger kids, more as they grow older. Exhortation of one completely at the expense of the other is inappropriate, and in the long run, damaging. In either direction!

My kids are as creative as they come. Drop them down in an empty field and they will come up with a game that uses grass and rocks. Or if there's nothing at all they'll sing songs, play hand games or make up something else entirely.

But when the time comes to sit down and study, they can do that as well. That set of skills comes more easily to some kids than others, but much of it is learned, not innate. Waiting until middle school to learn these skills is a Very Bad Idea. It's like not learning to drive until age 25. You're unlikely to be a good driver no matter how long you drive.

And don't cherry-pick data. "best practice that's been around for more than 100 years..."?? Looking internationally, we don't emphasize academics nearly as much as many other countries. Much of Asia spends hours every day "after school" basically continuing their school day, studying. And Saturdays as well. I'm NOT advocating that mindset, but it's no wonder so much of our technology jobs are going to foreign-educated young people!

At the end of the day, Shannon and her kid are going to spend a short time working through some math facts each day, and he is going to be better off for it. And it's not going to affect his ability to play, have fun, eat and sleep during the other 23.75 hours of each day for the rest of the summer.

I appreciate your advocacy for our kids in general, but to bring this up in the context of a mom trying to help her kids work through a change in schools, and to say it in a way that is insulting was really uncalled for.

none1111 said...

Robert said: "Shannon, one other thought is that right now they are planning a 2/3 split class which I think is a terrible idea _except_ for new 3rd graders who need to catch up. But how you accelerate and have splits is really besides me. And for you folks that are keeping score... With the students on the Lowell wait list they could have two full classes but they haven't made that call... Wonder why?"

Yes, the splits suck, no matter how you slice 'em. (pun intended). It's a substantive downgrade in the program that the administration (and board) refused to acknowledge this past winter, no matter how many times we nagged about it. Even using them as a "catch-up" class for the older 1/2 isn't great because splits don't allow the teacher enough time as it is to adequately learn and teach 2 separate curricula. It ends up being a hodge-podge mixture of the 2 curricula out of necessity.

As for why they won't allow the wait list to move? Because there's already and 80+ student differential between T.Marshall APP and Lowell APP programs. Of the 22 students waitlisted for Lowell, most are kids assigned to Marshall that want back into Lowell, which would exasperate the split disparity even more. :-(

Charlie Mas said...

There were a number of promises made with the APP split:

* an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum for APP
* equitable APP programs in size, quality, and resources
* an effective ALO at each elementary site
* academic inclusion with typically developing peers for the special education students at Lowell
* a full blown music program at Hamilton
* and more, resulting from the Design Team process

In September we will all start to see if those promises will be kept.

For now, while there is no evidence one way or the other, I don't think we should presume that the promises either will or will not be kept. Come September, however, folks may want to consider what action is appropriate to either acknowledge the District's success or hold the District accountable for failure.

Again, let's be clear about that each of these things were promised to be in place on the first day of school - not "started", not "in development", not "making progress towards" - that means complete, implemented, up and running.

As I have mentioned before, I think a WASL boycott is the only tool available to communities to hold the District accountable. I would much rather we were challenged with finding ways to acknowledge the District's success. Either way, the results will be ready by the end of September.

Shannon said...

Hi Folks
Thanks for the ideas and encouragement.

Robert, I just wanted to say that at Lowell they told me they are having 2 3rd grade classes and one 2/3 split. Were you talking about 2nd grade when you said one class and one split?

I would prefer my child to be in a fully 3rd grade class. He has been in multi-age classes since K and for the last year it hasn't worked well. As well as the academic concerns, socially tt seems to limit the group available, no matter what we want to have happen. Perhaps this is less of an issue in 2/3 than 1/2 but I really noticed that it led to more cliques among the older kids despite lots of 'education' and 'community building' exercise.

Shannon

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
owlhouse said...

Kay Smith Blum has a full size billboard on Rainier Ave/Jackson. I've seen a number of yard signs for Mary Bass, one for Charlie Mas. No mailers yet. I'd appreciate hearing about other advertising/outreach campaigns and am especially interested in "following the money" this round.

Robert said...

Shannon, I meant with the addition of the wait list folks you would have an addditional 3rd and 2nd grade class at Lowell instead of the one split 2/3 . Below are the numbers at the end enrollment (still in flux).

Regardless of how you slice it Lowell will have a bunch of to-legal-capacity-rooms and Marshall will not. And instead of one split (1/2) with the old single program they are going to have to have three splits: two at Lowell and one at Marshall.
Lowell
1st grade: 33 students
(4 on the waiting list)
2nd grade: 55 (2)
3rd grade: 69 (7)
4th grade: 79 (5)
5th grade: 62 (4)
total 298 (22)
Thurgood Marshall
1st grade: 22 (0)
2nd grade: 34 (0)
3rd grade: 48 (0)
4th grade: 54 (0)
5th grade: 58 (0)
total 216 (0)

One other thing, these numbers are already skewed because some folks outside of the assignment area have already found spots at Lowell (assigned by lottery) and it appears that they drew the line at two reasonable sized classes in 3-4-5 grades at Marshall.

dj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dj said...

Robert, what's the alternative? The programs are already lopsided population-wise, and moving TM kids to Lowell would exacerbate the problem. And it wouldn't necessarily help in the long term, because we don't know how many kids will test in from each area every year. This year's split class may be next year's full class. So you move seven third graders over this year to fill out a third-grade class, and next year you get an extra half-class of fourth-graders and begin the problem anew.

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

Yeah DJ everything is always changing but we do know that this year it is something that 22 families want... I say give those that makes sense now at least some say in all this turmoil.

dj said...

I disagree. In the long term, if the split is going to work, the campuses have to be relatively equal in size. Of course people don't want to move their kids. I didn't want to move mine. But the fact of the matter is that if one site has more than 100 more kids than the other, one is the "real" APP school and the other is some little branch down south. And the problem will continue, ad infinitem, because people will want to send their kids to the "real" site and there will always be that waitlist.

It's hard in the short term, but I think better in the long term to have equal populations. I wish the district had done a better job of equalizing the populations for next year.