Sunday, September 26, 2010

Community Meetings/Work Sessions

Did anyone attend either Director Smith-Blum's meeting or Director Patu's meeting yesterday? I heard from one attendee to Smith-Blum's that there were about 40 people (including KIRO tv, interesting). Tracy Libros from Enrollment and Nancy Coogan the Central Regional Executive Director were also there.
  • Two-thirds of the discussion was around issues at Garfield. Kay and Tracy apparently said there could be some future redrawing of boundaries.
  • Why aren't their comparable quality AP classes at all high schools? (Interesting question but I'm not sure what they mean? Better teachers? Better AP course topics?)
  • Teacher from Schmitz Park came and noted how well they were doing using Singapore math and that he felt all elementaries should be free to choose their materials. Good for him.
  • Science curriculum at Garfield was also a topic (and needs a separate thread).
  • Lack of college counseling at Garfield (Kay said she had to work with her own kids.)
  • Nancy Coogan spoke about focusing on quality teachers and teaching in every classroom as well as accountable principals.
  • Tracy said that the predicted 400 extra students districtwide had grown to 700, most at the secondary level. Tracy, along with Kay, said that things would balance in 3-5 years. (Uh oh, here it comes.) Yup, some parents basically said, kids can't wait. Meaning, it's okay for my child to go through high school in an overstuffed, unresourced building while you figure this out? I would not say that is an acceptable answer.
  • Kay apparently said something quite interesting. To whit, that the district funding is strained and that some programs/positions might be sacrificed. Lowell said their school only funded a .5 Librarian and the PTA paid for the other .5 and that the Librarian was the one responsible for proctoring MAP.
Thanks to Ken Berry for this recap. Anyone have anything else to add?


Monday
Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting, 4-6 p.m.

Tuesday, September 28 at 6:30 – 8:00pm
Southeast Regional Welcome Back Meeting at Aki Kurose

Wednesday the 29th
Director Sundquist Community Meeting, 11-12:30p.m., Delridge Library, 5423 Delridge Way SW

Board Workshop on Budget Goals, 4-8 p.m. at the headquarters.

Thursday, September 30 at 6:30 – 8:00pm
West Seattle Regional Welcome Back Meeting at Chief Sealth

46 comments:

lendlees said...

I was there as well. Ken's synopsis was good--I have a few other things to add:

1) Tracy L. says district is planning on drawing geographic zones around option schools so that students who live nearby will get priority (after siblings). One parent brought up the fact that some children would then have access to two option schools while others wouldn't have access to any.

2) Options to reduce overcrowding at schools: the ever-popular program placement to make programs available at other schools (one parent brought up the fact that moving programs around is VERY disruptive), the geographic zones mentioned above, 'eventual' redrawing of boundaries, lowering of the option %, fix the Mann building for Garfield.

3) Capacity management/transition plans will be presented in January at board meetings.

3) Meany building is still not up to snuff for NOVA including...a fire alarm system that wasn't working last year. Yikes.

4) Science alignment issue. I sat next to the Garfield science teacher who brought up the 'validation' process the district instituted (3 days to write up why Marine Biology, Ecology etc... should count toward the high school science requirement). Nancy Coogan was all over this and afterwards made sure the teacher had her business card and information to discuss this.

5) KSB assured that APP would NOT be kicked out of Garfield.

I did send a follow up to KSB about the overcrowding 'surprise' at Lowell and am waiting for a reply.

Anonymous said...

At Monday's Curriculum and Instructional Policy Committee meeting a critical item is up for discussion.

d. Instructional Material – Waivers

This is where the decision is made to allow your child's school to adopt alternative curricula. Only one standing curriculum waiver exists in the district - Singapore Math at Schmitz Park.

There are two other provisional/partial waivers that are scrutinized by math coaches at great consternation to teaching staff. Those don't really count.

If you want a waiver to do Singapore Math or Saxon Math at your child's school, then a "waiver policy" must be implemented. Hopefully sooner than later.

Lobby Directors Patu, Sundquist, Martin-Morris

Signed: Concerned West Seattle Parent

Maureen said...

lendlees, I'm not sure I get your #1. Geographic Zone kids will have guarateed access to one Option school and the same access as everyone else to ALL of the other Option schools. Outside the GZs, every kid has equal access to every Option school now. (Unless you are talking about transportation being the same as access, in which case, I would argue that GZ kids shouldn't get transportation to ANY Option school-since they should be able to walk to the one they have a guaranteed seat at and that one will be in their MS attendance area.)

emeraldkity said...

I just want to speak to the counseling dept @ Garfield.
I know three of the counselors & the registrar as a parent volunteer including when parents used to be allowed to help with college counseling and I can tell you that I know that at least those four staff are working their a$$es off for the students.

My kids are first gen college- so it was a learning curve when my first applied ( from her private very tiny prep school), but really with the internets, you can get the bulk of your info yourself.( and Garfield also provides one of the best school websites in the city/state)

You do need counselors for certain things- but at an urban school like Garfield, they are just spread way too thin .

lendlees said...

Maureen--

What will happen is that there will be a 'priority zone' so someone who lives across the street from an option school will have priority over someone who, while in the same geographic/MS zone, lives further away.

This will make the option schools a lot like the old choice system with siblings and proximity being the top two tiebreakers.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I absolutely agree that the regular counselors cannot do the work of the Career Counselors. I mean, the Garfield counselors probably haven't caught their breath yet from the overenrollment needs.

You might recall that I wanted to work with students at Ingraham on college applications. Initially I was told great but now the union says no. I talked to Olga Addae, the SEA president, about how these kids need the help. She was sympathetic but said it would be problematic for her membership. I told her that (1) I would do it only 2 hours a day each week and (2) that I could only commit to one year and (3) if the job opened up again, of course, I'm gone.

No, no and no. She said what if every high school had volunteers who did this. (Well, I think in the absence of any college counseling, it would be a wonderful thing.) But the reality is that there is no way every single high school in this district could get volunteers to be in the career counseling office at least part of a day every day. That's just not going to happen.

So I guess I could schedule a couple of times to go up to Ingraham but frankly it would work better to have solid times that kids could count on.

ParentofThree said...

"what if every high school had volunteers who did this"

Um, then every student would have access to an adult to help them navigate the college application.

It is statements like this that turns me off on the teachers union.

emeraldkity said...

[i]Meany building is still not up to snuff for NOVA including...a fire alarm system that wasn't working last year. Yikes.[/i]

What seems to be the problem?
This should be a top priority- I mean really


Karin Youngberg

seattle citizen said...

ParentofThree, I understand your consternation: students need college and career counseling.

But the district doesn't want to pay for them. If volunteers step up (bless 'em) then where's the incentive to provide staff?

It's kind of like cutting FTE and other things and "allowing" PTSAs to pay for it. Why fully staff or fund if the community will pick up the slack?

Of course, there is no good answer. Who suffers if we try to hold the district to the fire on college/career counselors by not volunteering? The students suffer.

Maybe if people could volunteer AND other people could get their butts down to JSCEE with picket signs, demanding these positions in the high schools be re-staffed...

seattle citizen said...

Does anyone know when the meeting is between the Superintendent, her bosses over at Broad, and her funders at Gates? I would like to attend and ask for some money for college/career advisors back, counseling positions to be re-staffed, FSW workers in every school, and smaller class sizes. Gates shelled out nine million for Performance Management, you'd think they could do the same to ensure adequate staffing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SC, I get that point. It's just frustrating to want to help on a regular basis and be told no.

But the bigger point is that the district, while embarking on ever-bigger and ever-broader programs that involve a lot of time and money, seem to neglecting basics. Things like career counselors, maintenance of buildings, regular textbook purchases, etc. How many of these things would be directly impacting schools and their inhabitants?

I sometimes wish that PTAs would go on strike for a week to show the district how much our schools depend on them. SC is right about how the district is allowing PTAs to pick up more and more expense and counting on parents' good will for their child's school. It's wrong and it simply isn't about fully-funded schools.

It's about the choices our district is making.

Chris said...

SC is right about how the district is allowing PTAs to pick up more and more expense and counting on parents' good will for their child's school. It's wrong and it simply isn't about fully-funded schools

Aargh. It's wrong because it's a huge driver of inequity. Further, it doesn't make any sense. There spending all this money centrally to reduce inequities while increasing conditions that create inequities in the first place. Kind of like running a race while continually shooting yourself in the foot.

seattle citizen said...

Nine million is ninety 1.0 FTEs. Instead of trying to "manage performance," maybe they could hire back all the counselors, career advisors and other non-classroom staff that has been cut lately, along with maybe a few certs to lower class size.

But no, we get computerized tests and consultants....

Josh Hayes said...

I take lendlees's point - to wit, my own kids' "reference" option school is Salmon Bay, which already has a wait list at every grade level. It's absurd to think that because it's "our" option school we're guaranteed a slot there next year should we want one (for my 6th grader) - the reality is, there's not a chance in hell we'd get in there.

A secondary reality is, we don't WANT in there. Not dissing SB, it's just not our scene. But the fact is, there is no option school for a lot of kids in this district even now. I think it's likely to get even skimpier next year.

dan dempsey said...

About the Singapore Comment at Schmitz Park. There were 1084 elementary schools in the State with 5th grade MSP scores. Here are pass rates:

#3 Schmitz Park 94.5%

#5 Loyal Heights 93.2%

#8 Wedgewood 92%

Statewide five schools scored a 0% and four of those were Indian Schools.

#1 was in Edmunds:
Challange Elementary scored 100%

dan dempsey said...

Thinking about math waivers?
Here are the cohort scores for those high scoring 5th graders in 2010 from grade 3 in 2008 and grade 4 in 2009:

Grd Three - Four - Five
LH .: 83.3 - 88.5 - 93.2
WW: 92.6 - 83.3 - 92.0
SP .: 96.2 - 78.6 - 94.5

Here are the current percentages of students scoring at the highest level: level 4 in grades 3, 4, 5 on the 2010 MSP Math

Grd Three - Four - Five
LH .: 56.7 - 57.4 - 61.0
WW: 57.1 - 58.7 - 48.0
SP .: 57.1 - 35.1 - 65.5

Note these all were low poverty schools in 2010. Low income percentages.
LH . : 5.4%
WW: 13.7%
SP . : 9.6%

Laurie said...

Original post reads, "Lowell said their school only funded a .5 Librarian and the PTA paid for the other .5 and that the Librarian was the one responsible for proctoring MAP."
This year the librarian at Lowell was cut to .5 (which is what the Weighted Staffing Standards funds for elementary schools). There is no additional library staffing at Lowell right now. The PTA has proposed to fund a .5 library assistant position (I don't know any more about this, but it is on the agenda for the PTA meeting on 9/29).

My husband spoke about this at Kay Smith-Blum's meeting. The concern he raised is that at Lowell, and other schools, the librarians, who may only be half-time, are being assigned to proctor MAP testing rather than teaching and working with students. Between staffing cuts and testing, student access to their libraries and librarians has been drastically reduced at some schools.

Laurie Amster-Burton
Lowell parent
and librarian at Washington MS

ParentofThree said...

Reading that librarians could be forced to proctor the MAP test is a really good example of where the union needs to step in and not allow this to happen. (and I hope they do) The union needs to ensure that any remaining staff we have in our schools are used for the jobs that they have hired to do. And they need to ensure no teacher is being forced to work outside of the contract(i.e. 40 kids in a class). That is where the union should be focusing its efforts, not blocking parents from picking up the slack.

We are not talking about 100s of parents, putting in 100s of hours helping 100s of students. Rather a handful of parents, like Melissa, spending a few hours helping a few students.
This doesn't distract from the unions argument that that the district is cutting staff, it just changes it. (Unqualified parents are stepping in to do the work that should be done by people with such and such experience and and education.)

I am sorry, but I think the union is diluting its power by focusing on parent volunteers, when the big battle in downtown!

hschinske said...

I don't actually see why proctoring a test is any bigger a deal than helping with bus duty or playground supervision (as Lowell librarians and teachers have been doing for years and years). Yes, at some point all these ancillary tasks become ridiculous and take away too much time, but it's not the character of any one of them that's a big problem to me. In fact proctoring tests seems like a more traditional expectation of librarians than recess duty does.

Helen Schinske

salmon bay parent said...

oddly, salmon bay had no waitlist this year for middle school. lower grades had the usual waitlist. may be due to new assignment plan and confusion over whether anyone in all areas could apply. so it might be a good time for people (who want to) to apply for middle school.

ParentofThree said...

Helen, the district is only funding .5 of a librarian. Should they spend that limited time being a librarian or test proctor?

And if the PTA is funding .5 of the librarian should they be spending PTA funded time as a proctor? I know that is not how I would want my PTA money being used.

I think you start on a very slippery slope when you bundle test proctoring with bus duty.

Patrick said...

It depends how much proctoring they're doing. The MAP has every class, times two exams, allowing up to two hours each. Say there are six grades in an elementary school with two classes each grade, a half-time librarian is spending a week and a half doing nothing but proctoring exams. Then the whole thing is repeated in the winter, then in the spring. That seems like a lot to count as "other duties as assigned."

hschinske said...

Oh, I don't think a half-time librarian really has time to do anything but handle the library. It's just that as and when extra duties ARE reasonable and to be expected, test proctoring is one of the ones I would be *least* surprised that librarians were asked to perform.

Helen Schinske

Roy Smith said...

Yup, some parents basically said, kids can't wait. Meaning, it's okay for my child to go through high school in an overstuffed, unresourced building while you figure this out? I would not say that is an acceptable answer.

I'm going to play devil's advocate for a moment, and ask, what do you propose to do to fix this (whatever problem it is) this year? Does your solution depend on making it work for your children at the expense of somebody else's children? Or does your solution depend on increasing funding? If so, who pays for it?

While saying something like "this will be all better in 3-5 years" may not sound like an acceptable answer("students can't wait!!!"), it may be the only realistic answer. Unless of course, you prefer the "we are going to continue slapping on band-aids which do little to relieve the pain and nothing to solve the underlying problem" approach that has been so thoroughly perfected by SPS.

Bird said...

There was an amusing New Yorker article sometime ago about the phrase "3-5 years" and how it gets used a lot as a substitute for saying "someday" or, I suppose the ever so slightly more precise "Not now, but sometime in the future. I'm not sure when, but relatively soon."

Keep your eyes open for the phrase "3-5 years" and you'll find it crop up in a lot of places where people don't really what they are talking about.

Some things really do take "3-5 years", but when people use that phrase, it's often a good idea to ask people for the details on how they arrived at that figure.

ArchStanton said...

It depends how much proctoring they're doing.

At the beginning of school last year, at Lowell we were told that the library would basically be closed during testing days, but that kids could get stuff from the library on a case-by-case basis (e.g. if they were working on a school project)

Jan said...

Roy said:

While saying something like "this will be all better in 3-5 years" may not sound like an acceptable answer("students can't wait!!!"), it may be the only realistic answer. Unless of course, you prefer the "we are going to continue slapping on band-aids which do little to relieve the pain and nothing to solve the underlying problem" approach that has been so thoroughly perfected by SPS.

Ok, Roy. I will bite. I believe (this is TOTALLY my opinion, based on remediation with my own child and watching remediation with others) that, with decent curricular choices, extremely small class sizes (7 to 14 or 15), and building-wide, programmatic attention, the "deficit gap" for many kids could be solved in one year, and for most kids -- in 2. I leave out of this equation SOME special ed kids who simply learn more slowly (they may benefit from attention and small class size, but not all of them can be accelerated -- and they should not be subjected to an accelerated pace that cannot be supported by their learning styles -- they just need more time) and kids who, for whatever, reason, simply refuse to do the work (substance abuse/addition, borderline personality disorder, conduct disorders, etc.) I also exclude ELL kids because I know nothing about that area. But -- IF we took the truly vast amounts of money being thrown at curricular alignment, performance management, teacher coaching, huge contracts for computer support of STEM, wasted book purchases for Discovery Math, costs of opening/closing schools when those actions are unsupported by data, etc. -- and put all that money and effort back into schools -- I believe that we would move the needle on student learning (measured in any number of ways) now, THIS year, in year ONE.

I agree with Bird that "3 to 5 years" is a great way of avoiding any accountability for programs that are quite clearly NOT working right away (and may even be causing harm) -- and by the time 3 to 5 years comes around -- the promisers will either be gone, or (they hope) people will have forgotten or lost interest (see the Southeast Initiative for an example of this) or they hope they can come up with something intervening on which they can blame their lack of progress (example -- well, we WOULD have made significant progress in student scores, but the teachers thwarted our efforts by refusing to approve the meaningful teacher evaluation changes we sought, or "but the levy failed, or --etc. etc.)

I also believe that the 3 to 5 years often does not get discussed up front. MGJ never said, when the Board was hiring her, that she was expecting no accountability for her actions for 5 to 10 years -- while she got things up and running -- and that kids lost during that time were just "collateral damage" as we pursued the "greater good" to be achieved at a later date. We weren't told then "Change is difficult" or "accountability starts for me 3 to 5 years after all my changes are in place," which will take 3 to 5 years" or presumably, those bonuses would not have happened in the early years, right? Why is it that when she wants incentive bonus payments, the jury is "in" (and she wins) but when she doesn't want to be held accountable, the jury is still "out" (so people should just shut up and trust that all this will bear fruit in 3 to 5 years)?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm sorry but the district says they expected (and with data and research, not just making up a number) 400 extra kids in the district and got 700 mostly at the secondary level. How could they be that far off?

I think if by Oct 1, 2011 that Garfield/Eckstein and whatever NE elementaries (or any other places in the city) are so overenrolled as to not be able to provide sufficient services/classes to students, the boundaries should be tweaked. It is ridiculous to sit around and wait for 3-5 years for things to "balance out."

If not, then yes Roy, the district is going to have back off their pet projects and GET THE MONEY TO THE SCHOOLS.

This is the precise premise of our education about the supplemental levy. That levy is about maintaining and expanding existing central office programs, not about putting money in classrooms.

There is not real priority setting here. All things being equal, we can do new initiatives for the long term outcomes but ONLY if we are managing day-to-day operations. Right now, they are not. The Auditor says it. I say it, too.

Class sizes? Getting bigger all the time. Levy addressing this? Nope.

Textbooks? Finally getting some replacement ones in the levy for high school science and social studies but hey, why doesn't the district have a line item in the budget for this (since OSPI only provides funds every 18 years)? Oh, that's because textbooks, one of the staples of the classroom, was taken out of the district's operating budget as a line item 10+ years ago. That's why the district has its hand out; they made a choice a long time ago about priorities.

Maintenance? Well, you might get the leak fixed faster or painting done sooner than in previous years (but don't count on it) but if you think rundown schools will get better sooner, no. The district does not care about maintenance on either our many older pre-1960 schools OR our brand-new schools.

So if the district doesn't balance its new initiatives that are supposed to support student learning down the road WITH day-to-day operations, which do you think they should go with first?

I vote classrooms.

wsnorth said...

I don't think being 300 students off district wide is "that far off" in total, but by school, they have really botched capacity planning. From the sounds of it, they are 300 off at Garfield, 100 off at Eckstein, and 60 off at Schmitz Park. THAT is outrageous.

wsnorth said...

...oh, and by the way, Schmitz Park Singapore Math ROCKS!!

lendlees said...

They are also 100 off at Lowell...20% error anyone? Also, it's a significant 100 off as it changes Lowell's status to 'large school' giving it more resources under WSS.

And, how could I have forgotten a good nugget from KSB: she is determined to change the WSS formula and how schools are funded from the district.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Did anyone attend Patu's mtg?

Maureen said...

lendlees do you know if those 100 Lowell kids were mostly identified/registered by spring or if they showed up for the ALO program with a Lowell neighborhood address sometime over the summer? I wonder if WMS has also seen an increase in new students? It would also be interesting to see how many of these new kids have sibs at Garfield.

lendlees said...

Maureen--the biggest increase were in 2nd and 3rd grade APP. The ones who tested and had to apply in the spring. The ALO increases were in Kindergarten where you would expect it. The upper grade ALO classes are all split grades (3/4 and 4/5)

Maureen said...

So they knew most of those kids were coming when they did the budget and just underfunded them anyway (probably to try and keep the spring numbers in line).

CCM said...

They did the same thing with WMS when they estimated Fall 2010 enrollment under 1,000 kids. WMS has never (in recent memory) had under 1,000 kids. Guess what -- this fall we have 1,060 kids! Shocking!

It had to be because they needed to artificially get to a certain number for spring budgets - because no one in their right mind believed the enrollment estimate at the time.

It also led to the unnecessary lay-off of the 7th grade counselor - who has since been reinstated (thank goodness).

dan dempsey said...

Anyone go to the meeting at Aki Kurose on Sept 28th ??

Disgruntled Assessor said...

I am going to try to get a slot to present to the School Board some of the more absurd questions I have noted on the most recent fourth grade MAP test. I am bringing a reporter from the Seattle Times with me who will be doing an article on this. I have noted these questions: what form of speech is lance, where would you place a book on Eisenhower next to in a library, a book on Wonka or a book on Hoover, does a caveman in a cave without fire feel nervous or tough, what is the homonym for pear, what is the rhyming scheme for a sonnet. What I need is for teachers/administrators to blog in about the absurd questions they have noted and I will present these also to the School Board and for this reporter. Thank you!

Mary Tate said...

I am going before the School Board with a reporter from the Seattle Times to just show the Board some of the more absurd questions being asked at the Elementary level on the NWEA MAP. If you have noted any questions you find a bit inane please blog in so I can bring them with me. The ones I have noted are: 1. what is the rhyming scheme of a sonnet 2. what part of speech is lance 3. what is the homonym for pear 4.what book title would you find next to a book on herbert hoover--wonka or eisenhower 5. a caveman in a cave without a fire feels nervous or tough. Please blog in the questions you have noted so I can present this and hopefully the NWEA test makers will start making tests more aligned with the state standards!

MJ said...
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MJ said...
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lendlees said...

Mary Tate-

A second grader last year got the question: "What is the symbolism of the rose in The Scarlett Letter". Granted this was an APP student...

Lori said...

interesting, lendlees. I talked to someone with a 5th grader in a neighborhood school who got that exact same question, which isn't too surprising since the difficulty is supposed to adjust in a child-specific way.

Of course, I don't know if this is a "fair" question for anyone. Is The Scarlet Letter required reading at some point during a child's SPS career? I know nothing about curriculum beyond my current elementary experience.

It seems to me that questions that are this specific should directly tie into a list of required readings, if such a thing even exists.

Mary Tate said...

Lendless,
Are you telling the truth about the Scarlet Letter question? A second grader--are you sure about that? Is that verifiable?

Maureen said...

Mary I think grade level really matters. My 7th grader answered that sonnet Q no problem. They wrote sonnets with the Writers in the Schools programs last year.

By the way, as I posted on a different thread, my 7th grader was given the same passage (about Art and Philosophy) to read three or four times in the course of her 1 hour exam. I asked our "test coordinator" (or whatever they are called) about it and she said that the instructions say it is not uncommon for passages to be repeated in exams. So it wasn't a bug. I wonder how many times a topped out reader will have seen the exact same questions by the time they get through 9th grade spring MAP?

My 11th grade AP Lit and Comp student couldn't have answered the Scarlet Letter Q. In my experience, classic American lit is not covered in SPS (RHS did have a Shakespeare course, I think it may have been displaced by required AP LA though.)

Mary Tate said...

Okay, I will use the Scarlett letter question. The sonnet question was asked of a fourth grader. To be honest, the reason the school district's MSP test scores have dropped, I feel, is that it is the fourth test our kids have taken and at that point they have either burned out or just don't take it that seriously. Someone explain to me again why our children are taking all these tests again? I mean, I'm fine with the one state test but why these three other district tests? I feel it puts my children in a position where they think education is about tests and not about discovery and the pursuit of knowledge. I think very few people are still reading this blog and I have only had that one question to take with me to the Board meeting on Wednesday. Maybe I should put this on a newer posting?