UPDATE Number 2: I asked Communications today about the lack of information in this Action Item. I was told that they would be following state regulations and all would have the same seat hours. Am I sure this is correct? No. But, I find it hard to believe that both the news release and the action item would not mention seat hours if they were to be voted on. So I'm going to be patient and see what actually happens.
UPDATE: Here is a link to the News and Calendar page on this issue. You will note there is NO mention of the vote including the variance of seat time at high schools. Now did staff not tell Communications staff about this or were Communications staff instructed to leave it out? Either way, if they believe this is the right thing to do, why is it not in the motion for the Board vote OR in the news release? Speaks volumes about this district.
An op-ed appeared in the Saturday Times by Garfield parent, Kevin Larensen. It was about the issue of seat time in Seattle public high schools. A lot of this we have all heard before: there is a big difference in the number of hours that students spend in class at different high schools. So 1) does it matter and 2) why is it allowed?
The "does it matter" vote seems to go to yes. I have heard several Hale parents saying they support how things are done at Hale (which has one of the lowest numbers of seat hours). I do wonder if parents are told on tours that there are more late-start days at Hale than any other school (in the interests of full disclosure). But when I talk to parents, most say time with the teacher does matter. I know it sounds small if you are talking 10-15 minutes in a day but it adds up (as the research these parents have done shows).
From the op-ed:
"In districts outside Seattle Public Schools, 150 hours or more of classroom time fulfills each high-school credit. Inside the district, with the exception of Garfield and Roosevelt, the comprehensive high schools provide the lowest number of classroom hours among major districts in the state and the greatest range of classroom time inequity, according to an analysis by a group of parents whose children attend three Seattle high schools."
I hadn't known if the seat hour requirement was being met by other districts but it seems it is.
Also from the op-ed:
"Seattle high schools do not follow present district policy with regard to classroom time and the high-school credit definition. Instead, as a function of the Seattle Education Association (teachers union) contract, individual school staffs are free to create their own calendars and bell schedules that have, in many cases, miserably failed to respect the time component of learning."
Ah, and this is what I mean when I say that staffs are very invested in their schools and we see this is from the point of being able to set calendars and bell times per their contracts. When teacher contracts come around again next year, this is something to address to the Board.
The most damning part of the op-ed which I hadn't known about (bold-faced mine):
"I and other parents voiced concerns last year to the Seattle School Board and district executives regarding low and inequitable high-school classroom times. Without engaging the community, district staff has responded by introducing policy redefining the district's high-school credit definition from 150 hours of classroom time down to as low as 120 hours while providing no board discussions or comparisons to other districts. On Wednesday, the School Board will vote to approve the lowered requirement for classroom time, along with the policy reforms making a "D" average sufficient for graduation and for sports participation.
This is not reform. It is organizational avoidance that directly conflicts with student achievement. The bar is not being lowered; it is being removed. The School Board must vote against these proposals."
What?! I thought that staff told the Board they were going to talk to parents about this issue. How can these parents do all this work and be ignored? I went and looked at the Board agenda for Wednesday and did not find this issue on it. However, it is still a draft agenda. I hope it doesn't somehow pop in there as an Introduction item on the sly. Whether or not it is on the agenda, the fact that staff may be discussing this without also bringing parents in is not right.
He closes with a strong argument about the new SAP:
"Seattle parents are on the verge of a new assignment plan whereby families are essentially forced into their neighborhood school, regardless of that school's quality or classroom time delivered. The lack of equity will define upcoming discussions and conflicts. Addressing equitable delivery of classroom time will offer great hope to parents relying on district promises that the more elusive delivery of overall quality will also be steadily improved in years to come. Now is the time to start the heavy work required to make all our high schools equitable and help all our students achievement."
And he's right. Where's the baseline that you can expect in every high school if the district is now marking boundaries for high school and you will likely have less opportunity to go to a different high school?
Another reason for a parents' union. Where is our voice at the table on any issue? We'll see with the SAP boundary meetings.