Saturday, September 25, 2010

Just Throwing This Out For Discussion

Elsewhere, in a discussion about the NW Regional meeting, a couple of commenters wondered aloud why Dr. Goodloe-Johnson isn't challenged more. I thought I would dive in with some thoughts and then see what others think.

First, we don't know if privately Board members take her aside and express their concerns to her. We don't know if they ever do that as a group or individually. I would suspect out of all the Board members that Michael DeBell would. Michael has a quiet, non-threatening way of saying things. However, that great ability also sometimes undercuts the seriousness of what he says. That the Board has always supported the Superintendent's actions publicly or in their votes seems to me to say they don't call her out privately.

Second, she does feel powerful and large and in charge. She's got the Alliance right in her pocket. (I smile now because an Alliance staffer once said at a meeting that the Alliance doesn't "work" for her. I beg to differ. They do nothing apparent to the visible eye that doesn't suit her agenda.) She's got the Times to back her up on everything. My surprise is kind of that I don't get how Publicola, Crosscuts, The Stranger, etc. let her off. I think some of that is the school district issues aren't on their radar (with the exception of Crosscuts) so they don't bother. The vote of no confidence from the SEA and the community polls that cast doubt on her leadership seem to be dust in the wind and so she just doesn't have to worry.

Third, even though the Auditor really called the district and the Board out, no one else did except the people here at this blog, both the writers and the readers. That must reinforce her believe that she is, indeed, untouchable. As for her new charm offensive, for her, it's probably, "okay I'll do this one thing they say I'm lacking in and then I'm golden."

As an aside, this is why it would be a good idea to vote against the supplemental levy. If you are on the fence about the direction this district is going or Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's leadership ("they're the experts so they probably? know best"), you might want to give it a good long thought. There is no one, I repeat NO ONE in this town who will stand up to her. Power unchecked is NOT a good thing. You can let everything she's doing play out and then in 3-5 years, smack your forehead and say "I could have done something."

So I come to my central premise which might explain all of the above. I was having a disagreement with someone from a city organization (not directly related to education) and I was told, "let's just say we see the glass differently." I truly get that people could accuse me of always seeing the glass half-empty and that others, believing it is more positive, see the glass half-full (the district being the glass).

BUT, I do see the glass both ways. My problem is that I don't think that the powers that be in this town (and a lot of parents/community) ever see the glass as half-empty.

They know things that are wrong and continue to be wrong in our district and yet it's rah, rah, go team. It's fine to "accentuate the positive and (try to) eliminate the negative." But it's not rational and/or good to turn away and not want to acknowledge that there are major problems in this district that are NOT being acknowledged publicly.

This isn't even about whether you like Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's initiatives or work style. It's about the basic functioning of our district. I almost laughed outloud the other day at the Audit meeting of the Finance and Audit Committee. It turns out that Director Carr and Duggan Harman, a upper classman in the SPS administration, have been visiting well-functioning districts to see how they do it. Great idea but really, a little pathetic. It's 2010 and our district still doesn't know how to function properly and with skill.

So a couple of questions. Please bear in mind that this district has been repeatedly reminded of its inefficiencies going back at least 10 years and yet we still have the same issues. I ask you to consider how the district functions versus how our schools are doing.

Do you think this district today is functioning better than it was 3 years ago? Do you think our schools are better schools than they were 3 years ago (or on their way)?

Do you think this district will be a better functioning district and/or one with better schools in 5 years?

So, for our district, is the glass half-empty or half-full (and do you, in conversations with others, acknowledge both)?

88 comments:

wsnorth said...
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wsnorth said...
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wsnorth said...

RE: "There is no one, I repeat NO ONE in this town who will stand up to her."

Frankly, I think this is not quite true. No one with any POLITICAL power will stand up to her, but I have seen plenty of teachers and parents speak out for what they believe is right.

I think a blessing in Seattle is also its curse. Although relatively few voters have children in SPS, we pass all levies with funding to the max. Our politicians are relatively enlightened and honest (compared to other large cities), so People generally trust their judgement. We always hear how Seattle has such a well educated populous, the assumption must be that something is working right! Finally, political correctness and politeness abound, making it doubly difficult to criticize someone who has broken through the "glass ceiling".

Too bad that glass shattered all over our school system. I don't know just what to do, but everyone here keep trying!!!!

seattle citizen said...

I don't believe the district is in better shape than it was thre years ago:
Alignment appears to be in Phase One, in which we are assured that it is NOT scripted, it's only text selection and teachers can supplement...But this flies in the face of other initiatives, primarily MAP, student tracking and teacher evaluation. How do you "hold teachers accountable" to a district-wide assessment if they are free to teach things aside from some mandated curriculum?
So I think we will see more standardization, and this is bad in quite a few ways (not limited to the hodge-podge way it is approached: MAP does not relate to a curriculum the district provides; MAP does not fully correlate to, for instance, new SPS LA Standards, etc.

Another reason I think we are worse off is that RtI, Response to Intervention, is, apparently, a key aspect of this new system: Teachers are supposed to do what they can in the classroom (and be evaluated on it) and there are supposed to be interventions in place to support students (and teachers) who have struggles of various kinds. Ever since the Safety Net Review of 2007, there has been a promise to support individual students, a sort of case management, but I don't see either the identification of individual struggling students (instead we still focus on "failing schools") nor the interventions that would help. To the contrary, I see support services such as IAs, counselors, career advisors, and other non-classroom staff being cut or losing FTE.

Another boondoggle is the MAP test. While it might turn out top serve some classroom purposes, and to help in identifying outliers, the way it has been introduced is not only dishonest ("we swear it's for formative assessment, not evaluation!...hee hee...") but at seemingly cross-purposes: MAP could identify a variety of levels (perhaps) but in so doing points to the fallacy of evaluating teachers on some common understanding of what student growth should be. And again, without the support, teachers are basically told, "MAP scores must rise while we cut support to you; you must differentiate in the classroom, without help, yet your class must rise to a level established by a national cohort (MAP compares students to average growth nationally)

Finally (for now), I think the district is suffering because of a continued buy-in and reliance on test scores tied to "categories." This racist practice uses the category checked by a student's parent or guardian to make sweeping assumptions about that student, and, furthermore, damages students by telling them such things as "African Americans don't do as well on tests." Furthermore, it is being used, here and elsewhere, to basically call teachers and educators racists: "AA students fail disproportionately. We refuse to acknowledge outside influences, all progress is dependent on the teacher, if there's an achievement gap it's the teacher's fault, since the gap is based on race it must be because the teacher is either flat-out racist or doesn't know how to teach to the culture we have identified this student with."

Of course, students aren't just "Black," or "Hispanic," or "White," or "Free and Reduced Lunch"...but by using these categories in sweeping assertions we are further alienating and isolating students into tribes, which is unfair, damaging, and race/classist.

The First Arnold said...

The District is good at edu-babble. The District is good at stating the Levy will make up for state shortfalls- sort of true, but not really. Levy Advocates haven't clearly stated the Supplemental Levy is for ed- reform that is sweeping our country without proven results. MAP is controversal. We live in a caring and compassionate society. I'm having trouble convincing individuals that passing the Levy won't hurt our kids. I agree, voting NO on the Levy will give a definate message to our Superintendent, politicians and business leaders. I'd love for Seattle to really be the leaders in ed-reform. Saying "NO" to this Levy is a good thing.

gavroche said...

I think you may be looking at the situation from the wrong angle, Melissa.

Why would any of these people or organizations "stand up to" the person they helped put in place, or whose agenda they share?

The Alliance is heavily funded by Gates and pushes his agenda. So you've got it the wrong way around: the Alliance for Education is not in Goodloe-Johnson's pocket -- she is in theirs.

My guess is that she and the Alliance need each other. She needs their money and behind-the-scenes manipulations to keep her in power (p.r., puff pieces placed in the Times, fake surveys to push the reformite agenda, hiring of political marketing companies like Strategies 360 to help do this, etcetera) and they need a bulldozer for their cause of public ed privatization. They have that in Goodloe-Johnson.

Goodloe-Johnson doesn't give a rat's patootie about what any of us think about our kids' schools, education in general, or her because she knows she is not answering to us. She is answering to Broad and Gates. They are the ones that installed her in Seattle and are keeping her here by funneling "grants" to support her "Strategic Plan" and push their own agenda, regardless of the hundreds of "No Confidence" votes in her from the parents and teachers of SPS.

They are the ones who are sending School Board members on retreats and junkets and feeding them their corporate version -- not ours -- of how our kids' schools should be run.

The Broad Foundation, which already had its tentacles inside SPS before Goodloe-Johnson, finally got one of their trainees -- Goodloe-Johnson -- the top job in Seattle's schools -- a victory for them. There is no way that it's a coincidence that she's affiliated with Broad. As they say on their web site which boasts with a map showing where all their Superintendent-Bots have been placed throughout the country, once they have their people "in place" in Districts the Broad Foundation deems "ripe" for their brand of intervention/infiltration, they give their Supe-Bots all the support they need to implement the Broad/Gates agenda. This includes placing $90,000/year "Broad Residents" in Districts to help shore up the Broad-Bot Superintendents and demand the Districts hire these "Residents' permanently after their "Residency" is up.

Does anyone here think it is a coincidence that two of the more recent Broad Residents that have been foisted on SPS are in charge of the MAP test? (Brad Bernatek and Jessica Debarros.) Standardized tests and tying teachers to them is all part of the Broad/Gates agenda.

As for the School Board, I can only conclude that the majority is either witless or bought. Why would the Gang of Four -- Meier, Sundquist, Carr and Martin-Morris -- oppose the Superintendent when their record-breaking campaigns for school Board were all funded by the same group of Microsoft and other business interests? Coincidence? Or did these funders have the express purpose of getting people like them in office to rubber stamp a corporate-backed, corporatizing Superintendent like Goodloe-Johnson?

Who will stand up to Goodloe-Johnson? We will. Many of us -- including you, Melissa -- already have.

Do we have the power to make her accountable? Maybe not immediately. But her record is seriously flawed in Seattle, and there is no way she is leaving this town with a gold star on her resume.

She has made a mess here and all those who are either supporting her or enabling her with either their money (Gates, Broad), their votes (School Board), their mindless op-eds (Councilmembers Burgess and Conlin and the Seattle Times Editorial Board), or their silence (DeBell? McGinn? Editorial Board of the Times?), will have to answer for the failure of Goodloe-Johnson in Seattle eventually, in some cases at the polls.

Just like former-Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee in DC.

Anonymom said...
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Anonymom said...

"Do you think our schools are better schools than they were 3 years ago"

I think our schools are better today than they were 3 years ago.

We have more AP classes, spread throughout more high schools.

We have a new STEM school, two International elementary schools, an environmental science K-8, three brand new elementary schools, and a new IB school (Sealth).

North end APP is now in the north end for middle school - and it is very very welcomed by families in the north end.

We have ALO's in every school now, and Spectrum in every attendance area. And, I have not heard about any Spectrum waitlists.

We have band AND orchestra in every high school now.

Though the Discovering textbooks are not popular, I do like that all schools are using the same materials. If we don't like them we can protest as a group.

We have a new assignment plan and while it's not perfect it did bring us back to neighborhood schools -which I really like. And it's what many many of us ASKED for.

So while there have been many a folly, there has also been progress.

dan dempsey said...

I see the glass as 80% empty and 20% full.

(1) Listen to Brad Bernetek's 45 minutes on the annual OSPI tests and the direction of the District. Anyone for Academics?

(2)District appealed a Superior Court decision that prohibited them from excluding evidence in decision-making.

(3) State Audit etc. etc. etc.

Where is reality? How is reality established in Twilight Zone Seattle?

============
Oh I forgot reality is established by reprinting district press releases in the Seattle Times.

Pretty clear as the Feds use District propaganda as a means to evaluate the district rather than data.

Melissa,

Clearly you and I measure reality with incorrect instruments.

-- Dan

==========
Teachers and what they do ... a great many get a lot more than 80% full in spite of MGJ.

Chris said...

Putting aside all my biases, I would say that several notable changes of the last 3 years (school closures and the NSAP) have disruptive to many and advantageous to few. More significantly, these actions were pushed on the basis of saving money. For a valid cost-benefit analysis, we'd need to see how much was saved. Where's that report?

In the other case (MAP) we know (sort of) how much money was spent but the benefits (while you undoubtedly can find a few) on balance...? I realize it's early. Still, that was a lot of money on what is a risky, long-term investment.

emeraldkity said...

Finally, political correctness and politeness abound, making it doubly difficult to criticize someone who has broken through the "glass ceiling".


Sometimes I cannot stand Seattle.
What would the outcry be if the supe was say a white man ?

Three years ago- Strong alternative choices for high school students.
Both in their own buildings & through the community colleges.
Now?
Nova was moved from a building where they had succeeded for decades. Summit K-12 was closed. John Marshall closed. ... ...
GTA
a very successful global technology program was thriving and while my daughter wasn't able to participate until senior year- it turned her world 90 degrees and has opened up so much for her.
Parents and teachers are still trying to replicate the program after school w volunteers but pretty difficult.

Eric M said...

Our district is a train-wreck-in-progress. Darth Goodloe is destroying the good things and replacing them with crap. Collateral damage EVERYWHERE.

I'll look back, 5 years from now, and say, "I did and said everything I possibly could to stop the train wreck."

Even though, by that point, I fully suspect I'll have to add, "And it cost me my job and my health insurance."

BTW, vote NO on the Levy.

hschinske said...

Sometimes I cannot stand Seattle.
What would the outcry be if the supe was say a white man ?


Same thing, judging by what happened with Olchefske. And I have to say, while I'd like to see still more harsh criticism of the superintendent, I for one am immensely grateful that what I've seen so far has NOT been laced with racism and misogyny. (By and large, anyway; I'm sure I could find a few such comments if I really dug around.) Such weapons are poisoned at both ends.

Helen Schinske

seattle citizen said...

A friend who is a teacher in Seattle was sent an email advertisement from A+ Educators, and forwarded it to me for research. Here are day-long teacher trainings ($224 each, with free flashdrives loaded with files) offered by a corporation in Phoenix. The company, while not Broad/Gates, is doing exactly the same thing as what is happening here, and the company is profiting on this sort of techno-reform. The company is called A+ Educators, out of Phoenix, and has evidently made deals with Promethean Technology and Smart Notebooks, as these tech tools are covered in two of the workshops (which appear to make a package, when taken as a whole)

The workshops exactly match what is happening in Seattle, but we have NWEA, Gates and THEIR computers, and the Broad Foundation. All stand to gain monetarily from this sort of reform. The next comment has a list of the workshops. Tell me that these aren't exactly the sort of thing Seattle's teachers are being "trained" to do, then tell me woh benefits from such training financially:

(see next commentfor A+ Educator's workshops))

seattle citizen said...

Workshops offered by A+ Educators that are exactly the sort of profit-making trainings happening in Seattle:
First six listed workshops use the term "Style and Strategies" in their heading:
Leadership ("we will ensure greater success for every child by learning how to meet the needs of all students in mixed-ability classrooms.")
Questioning ("This workshop focuses on effective questioning and differentiation. It shows how teachers can combine the two topics to change the classroom culture and to design more thoughtful lessons.")
Mathematical ("In this workshop, participants will engage with a mathematic assessment tool, learning style profiles and how to design and deliver differentiated and standards-based instruction.")
Reading ("This workshop will provide teachers with practical, research-based reading strategies proven to raise achievement and engage all styles of readers.")
Learning ("In this workshop, participants will use the Leadership Style Inventory to identify their preferred leadership style and develop a comprehensive leadership profile.")

Teaching ("In this workshop, teachers will learn how to design lessons and adapt their teaching styles in order to engage all styles of learners.
Other workshops:
Differentiated Instruction ("In this workshop, participants will learn how to maximize classroom engagement by incorporating research-based strategies of processing, constructing, and developing differentiated teaching materials.")
Response to Intervention ("In this workshop, participants will learn a multi-step, problem solving approach for providing instruction and intervention at increasing levels of intensity.")
Six Traits ("In this workshop, participants will explore the 6+ Traits of Writing. You will learn a common language framework, how to maintain consistency in assessment and what knowledge students need for effective revision.")
Smart Technology ("In this workshop, participates will learn how to make their classrooms more interactive with SMART Notebook, incorporating research-based strategies proven to positively impact student achievement. ")
Promethean Technology ("In this workshop, participates will learn how to make their classrooms more interactive with Promethan [sic] ActivInspire, incorporating research-based strategies proven to positively impact student achievement.")
More about Promethean, from their website (http://www.prometheanworld.com/) Promethean Technology - The ActivClassroom is a 360-degree, classroom technology-enabled learning environment comprising interactive white boards, Learner Response Systems, software, training, professional development and resources all proven to improve educational results.
Promethean Planet is the world’s largest interactive whiteboard community. Access 21,000 free lesson plans, professional development resources, ActivLearning courses, get support and inspiration via lively forums, and much more. Join now and connect with over 600,000 teachers.

peonypower said...

I agree that folks seem reluctant to criticize MGJ, and I agree that she is in the pocket of the Broad foundation. In Ohio the Broad affiliated Super left, and Broad pulled out of the town. I also sense that some of Seattle's smile and make nice but don't really say what you think is part of the problem. She is intimidating, and I think she likes it that way.

Nevertheless, not everyone is sitting back and watching. Social Equality Educators is very active in writing articles and organizing teachers and community members. People are putting the hot poker to Board members and politicians at the Saturday Coffee Chats. I am with Eric- it will take saying and doing everything we can think of to stop this train wreck. Hopefully, it won't mean losing our jobs or our health, but I know I am feeling the strain of all this chaos in schools.

For example, I had a crazy dream after attending that NW regional meeting Thursday night. I was at school and there were parents visiting and lots of students were about when a huge fire started. I ran to hit the fire alarm, yelled at people to get out, and then put out the fire. It is a pretty accurate picture of what it feels like right now in SPS. My school, my students, and their parents are in grave danger, and I am trying to put out the fire before everything is destroyed.

What can people do they wonder? My suggestions are contact your school board reps and ask the hard questions, contact their principals and ask how programs are being affected by MAP and curricular alignment, go to PTSA meetings and ask other parents what they know, write letters to the newspaper about what is happening in your school and to your children. Just don't sit back and watch the fire burn.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Goodloe-Johnson doesn't give a rat's patootie about what any of us think about our kids' schools, education in general, or her because she knows she is not answering to us."

For me the more serious idea is that she doesn't care about this district in any real way. I believe that. I think our district is the means to a rung up her career ladder.

Anonymom, these are things in motion. Are you saying they are working? It's the result and what don't have those yet. I am not challenging you as wrong but I have some questions for you:

Are the new schools enrolled even half-way? So we closed some schools and then reopened new ones? How much savings have we realized there?

"We have ALO's in every school now..."

And you know this for certain because..? Because I'd be willing to bet money there aren't. And Spectrum in every attendance area? It's easy to say on paper but the reality?

Again, what is your proof there are alive and function Spectrum programs in every area?

"We have band AND orchestra in every high school now."
Again, only on paper. Did you miss my post about the NE Regional meeting? There are parents fighting to save the orchestra programs in schools that don't have strong ones. The district isn't doing this, parents are.

I can see how you might believe there has been progress but frankly, the jury is out on how successful any of it will be. And Dr. G-J will be LONG gone when we finally get those results.

emeraldkity said...

All Olchefske did was totally f*up the money.
He had never been vetted for the supe position & while we did get rid of him- For instance he met with ( Summit) several times @ Summit just to talk to us about adding another 6th grade class to take some of the pressure off of Eckstein.

He didn't close the program without attempting to give it some support first.

Sahila said...

I am soooooo tired of all this going over and over the same old ground...

I have been saying this stuff for two years now... the evidence is all around you - me and half a dozen others have done all the digging and posted it all here for you to read... we've posted the links for you to go check for yourselves... heck - Dora Taylor and Sue Peters set up a blog tracking what's going on in the district and nationally... they started it around the time of the school closures...

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/

and the first version of their site:
http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/

We have spent hours and hours tracking stuff down, following the money, connecting the dots...

Why cant you people accept that this District has been taken over by Broad and reform is nearly fully implemented here... IT HAS, IT IS... SIX MORE MONTHS WITH THE WORK OF THE LOBBYISTS IN OLYMPIA AND ITS DONE...

This education deform agenda, this takeover of public education has been carried out quietly behind the scenes for the past 10 years, (Eli Broad's words) and is now coming out of the closet with this self-proclaiming propaganda extravaganza...

Have any of you looked outside the city to see what's going on in New York right now, and on the Oprah show, and in Time Magazine???

And people are blinded by the dazzle, deafened by the fanfare and believe the hype....

They refuse to see these are conniving rich boys who think they know what this country - actually what business - needs....

Why do you think Diane Ravitch calls them the Billionaire Boys Club - arrogant, bored, meglomaniacal fools who think they have the knowledge and right to direct our childrens' lives, as well as, by extrapolation and by the ripple effect, the lives of every citizen in this country? Did any of them ask you and I what we want for our child? No, No, and NO again....

Sahila said...

PART TWO:

And do any of these people have a track record of squeeky clean business dealings? No they dont... Gates has been found guilty of monopolistic unfair business practices, Broad's KB Homes are shoddy and subject to lawsuits and then there's the AIG mess, the Waltons are ranked as the country’s worst employers, Mike Milken’s a convicted and jailed junk bond trader, Sacramento Mayor and former basketball player (buddy of Arne Duncan and Obama) Kevin Johnson (Michelle Rhee's fiance) is now doing the national rounds cheerleading the deform effort - he's under investigation for having sex with under age girls and misappropriating funds to pay hush money.... and that's just the tip of the iceberg... You really think any of these people have the right to take over public education? I dont....

What is it with you – so blinded by the bling of the uber rich, that you think that just cos some rich men managed to fleece millions they're qualified to design a school system? What they're qualified to do, what they've proven they're good at, is fleecing the last public institution that has not yet fallen to privatisation... What they are good at doing is a hostile, clandestine takeover, sucking the resources out of the target enterprise and leaving it a shell of it former self....

Now, the only way this takeover of public education is not a stupid thing, is if you consider it in the light of a social engineering exercise, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that is also what is going on... Call me a crazy dutch woman, but that's what I - and many others - see going on... And many of you are too asleep or too busy fighting shadows to see it...

There is no point in writing to the directors, in testifying at board meetings, writing to The Seattle Times, talking to principals, talking to the PTSA (they've bought into the agenda)...

The only thing that will stop/change it now is protest, actual physical protest - parents, teachers, community together...a united, loud, national NO....

Anonymom said...
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Anonymom said...

From the SPS Q&A on the new student assignment plan - on the SPS website.
Q:"Will every school have an ALO program under this plan?"
A:"ALO programs will be offered in every elementary school, and available to all enrolled students." Timeline: ALO in every elementary school by fall 2010. Glass half full.

Next up: Orchestra. Every comprehensive high school, as of this year has an orchestra. Sure some are stronger than others. Hale's is not as strong as Roosevelt's, and RBHS's is not as strong as Garfields.If parents at Hale want an orchestra like Roosevelt's they are going to have to work hard to build it up - just like Roosevelt did. But before MGJ, and the NSAP, Hale didn't even have an orchestra, so I see this as a step in the right direction. Glass half full again.

Next: Melissa asks are the new schools enrolled even half way? No, not yet. It takes time for schools to establish themselves and begin to grow. Jane Addams started out with 80% mandatory assignment just last year. It was very unpopular. But this year they had a very strong enrollment surge, with no mandatory assignments. According to a few families they expect to fill the building within a couple of years. Give McDonald and Sandpoint a chance, or come up with an alternate solution to begin to address the overcrowding in the NE

As for Spectrum in every attendance area, Charlie just posted a comprehensive list of the options a week or so ago on this blog. You can refer back to that.

Sahila said...

http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity/index.php?%2Farchives%2F1260-Finding-the-Strength-to-Write.html

Finding the Strength to Write

"...But the reason that this post has its title is because, despite all these reasons to write, I haven't been. And here's why. I'm feeling a bit defeated these days. Between Oprah and Waiting for Superman and $100 million for mayoral control to Newark and an increasingly hostile and simplistic rhetoric about public education, I've started wondering what a blog entry here and there or a speech in front of teachers here and there can really do. I mean, how do you go up against the PR machine of Bill Gates and Eli Broad? How do you make a difference when you are outmanned and outgunned on what feels like every front?

And then I listen to the voices of my students in class as they dig deeply and powerfully into complex ideas. And then I read the emails and tweets from the first SLA class at college talking about how prepared they are. And I realize that I have to keep writing and talking and teaching, because this isn't about unions and charters, and it's not about what Oprah wants or about what Bill Gates wants or even about what Arne Duncan wants. It's about a vision of what we want our schools to be and therefore a vision of what we want our world to be.

And I realize the way you do it is to do it.

You write the blog entry.

You speak truth to power when you have the opportunity.

And you serve the children who have put their faith in you.

You let their voices rise.

And you let their voices inform and embolden your voice.

Because that's what's needed.

And that's how we win."

wseadawg said...

Anonymom: SPS can name and place a program anywhere, with great news and fanfare. This is nothing new.

But it takes staff, teachers, parents, and appropriate district support and resources to grow and develop the programs. This is where SPS fails repeatedly. The mentality of "if we build it, they will come" sure hasn't worked in the Southeast, has it?

The press releases look good, but it's premature to conclude that things are better based on what you cite.

I can say, based on my family's experience and my neighbors in my community, that things are much, much worse at all three schools my children have attended. Two of three are massively overcrowded, prompting concerns about fire safety, among others. (So, capacity management gets a D- from me so far). Aside from overcrowding and stuffing kids into portables again, successful programs are being slashed and gutted in favor of standardization and alignment. This is not a good thing, and more importantly, is a flat out contradiction and lie from this Superintendant, who promised everyone she wouldn't touch successful programs, but would instead seek to "replicate them" throughout the district. She's replicating them alright, but in name only, and with gutted, hollow curricula where there used to be substance.

Finally, I too favor neighborhood schools and I believe in the idea of making all the schools consistent and full of quality offerings. But promising it and talking about it doesn't count. Delivering on it is the only thing that counts. That can only be done by recognizing the needs and particulars of each school community, which I see zero evidence of. So, are MGJ & Co. delivering? Not by a long-shot IMHO, but in general, I'd have to at least conclude the jury is still way, way out.

Sahila said...

Democrats for Education Reform... active in Washington...

DFER supports high-stakes testing, the rapid expansion of charter schools, mayoral control of school systems, market-based reforms, merit-pay tied to test scores, competition between schools, and private school vouchers.

http://my.muckety.com/8BB41755B2465C4F24AAB79536F99DD1.map
http://dferwatch.wordpress.com/

Anonymom said...
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Anonymom said...
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Anonymom said...

"But it takes staff, teachers, parents, and appropriate district support and resources to grow and develop the programs. This is where SPS fails repeatedly. "

I don't think SPS fails at this. I believe they have done a good job fulfilling their responsibility to make all schools equitable. They can not however make all schools equal, and shouldn't be expected to.

For instance the district now makes it mandatory for every school to offer orchestra. And they fund it. That is equitable. In my opinion that is the end of the districts responsibility. Anything above that is the staff, students, and families responsibility. If families want an award winning jazz band like the one at Roosevelt, then they have to work at it like the Roosevelt community has done for years and years. The district can't and shouldn't be expected to do that.

Likewise it is the districts responsibility to fund a sports program at every comprehensive high school. That is equitable. However some schools, like RBHS, have much higher participation, and thus a stronger program. So programs at schools, though equitable, are not equal. Is the district responsible to make every program equal? I don't think so. I don't think they could if they tried to.

Same for Spectrum. The district funds and offers Spectrum, equitably, in every attendance area. They can not however force families to sign up for the the Spectrum program. For instance there are what, 5 kids, enrolled in Spectrum at AKI. Is this the districts fault? I don't think so. In fact instead of the district being faulted for the low enrollment at AKI, I think they should be commended for continuing to offer the program despite the AKI community shunning it.

There is a HUGE difference between equitable and equal, and though the district can make things equitable for all schools, they can not make everything equal.

wsnorth said...

Just had to repost this from ParentofThree here (assume you don't mind).

"My dreaded sense of what is going on in the highschools is that instead of bringing every school up to the level (and course offerings of GHS, BHS, RSH) they are bringing the levels down to meet the other schools without extenstive offerings.

It's called equity and access"

That is my sense, too, about Elementary and Middle school, too. They are not just trying to extend offerings to other schools, the district is trying to destroy good schools so students will voluntarily "spread out". That is just sick - instead of replicating quality programs, they are trying to dumb them down in the name of "equity".
.

Anonymom said...

wsnorth or parentofthree can you give some specific examples?

The First Arnold said...

Yes, let us not forget the Walton family in the mix of Gates & Broad influences. The Walton Family contributes to human right abuses in China. I won't shop at Walmart.
There is no reason on this green earth that I would trust the Walton Family with my children's education. Yet, these are the voies being heard in America. Gads!

wseadawg said...

Anonymom: You're being ridiculous. I said "consistent and full of quality offerings" and you ran off on a tangent about equality. If you equate the two, that's your mistake. I invite you, and everyone else who reads this blog to tell me where I said it was the district's job to make all schools equal. I didn't, and you know I didn't, but you crafted a nice little Fox News "seed planting" myth to try to combat my points, instead of just responding to them. Real sincere.

If you like what the district is doing, that's great, and you're free to say so to your heart's content. But deliberately misrepresenting what other bloggers say is not only a breach of ethics and protocol, but also incredibly lame. I don't care if you're a district plant or the happiest SPS parent in the world. You demand specific examples from others, while fabricating your own facts and arguments. Feel free, but its your own credibility going down the toilet.

Patrick said...

This blog has the most vocal skeptics of the superintendent. But it's not the only one by any means. When MGJ and the principal are at the same meeting, parents clap when their principal walks in and are conspicuously silent when MGJ walks in. Then there's the teacher's union vote of no confidence. Then there's many comments made in private, one parent to another. These people don't all read this blog. There's enormous skepticism out there. The only place you're not seeing skeptics is in the mainstream news outlets.

Anonymom said...
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Bird said...

"We have ALO's in every school now..."

And you know this for certain because..? Because I'd be willing to bet money there aren't. And Spectrum in every attendance area? It's easy to say on paper but the reality?


ALO's aren't in every school. It isn't available in my kid's school. I asked several SPS officials at the NW regional meeting when they would finish the roll out. No one knew.

I concur that Spectrum is so far a paper program in many schools rather than a real program.

Hopefully this will change as families choose the new programs. I heard BF Day, in our region, only has 8 students in Spectrum (totally unofficial, but I'm sure when the numbers come out from the district they will be very low for that school).

Dorothy Neville said...

Patrick, how can we harness this skepticism among others not on this blog, other parents who are feeling the disaster and would like to help foster change?

How can we reach more people to give them the facts that this levy will not help kids, that this levy will support the HQ culture. That voting against this levy is our only way to make the media and the district pay attention.

Defeating this levy will not hurt kids because school budgets are not in the equation. Passing the levy will hurt kids because most of the plans for the levy money are ongoing projects that will need to be funded after year three. So passing the levy will reduce our available funds in the future that could be used more wisely for education.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymom, thank you for explaining that most of what you know is from reading the district website. I would tell you that if you believe everything written at the SPS website, you're in for a lot of disappointment.

You are absolutely right on equal and equitable but that's not really the point.

The district is the one that needs to give Sandpoint and McDonald a chance. Not me. I didn't reopen buildings with no programs and expect people to come running. I didn't direct all the money to one program - STEM - at the expense of having decent programming at reopening schools.

I'll get back to the orchestra issue after I do some research but you cannot expect something to go full-blown when the kids who primarily play string instruments self-select to other schools. You need a critical mass or yes, the district will let it die on the vine.

RBHS has the strongest sports program in the district? Really? What do you base that on?

That Spectrum and ALOs exist on paper don't make them real programs.

Yes, it IS the district's fault on Spectrum. One, the district allowed principals, for years, to bad talk the (then) Highly Capable program. So you had years of mistrust from parents whose principals said, "don't go." Then, there's placement. Yes, Charlie did flesh out where the programs are but is it really the best placement for growth? Probably not. That Spectrum is wildly popular in the schools where it is a strong program should tell you something.

emeraldkity said...

So, for our district, is the glass half-empty or half-full (and do you, in conversations with others, acknowledge both)?

I do, but as most of the people I see either have kids who have aged out of the district or don't have kids, they aren't terribly interested in what is happening.

Ya, that confuses me too.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I do want to say that I truly understand people both with children in SPS and those who don't (or their children have aged out) who want to believe that this district isn't as bad off as many of us believe (and there is plenty of evidence to support).

The reason is probably two-fold. It's scary to think that an important government entity isn't doing well. We depend on SPS to educate the children of Seattle. Dollars are tight and we want to believe our district is being a good steward of public funds. (And we, as parents, have a special responsibility for oversight to our taxpaying friends and neighbors who vote in our levies and bonds.)

The other reason is the basic goodness of people in their belief of the rightness of public education. It's an institution that is now under attack from all sides with those with the most money having the loudest voices (and most access to those in authority). But I think that in Seattle, people do believe in our schools otherwise they would not keep voting for levies and bonds.

ineedagyro said...
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Dora Taylor said...

"How can we reach more people to give them the facts that this levy will not help kids, that this levy will support the HQ culture."

There is group that was recently established under the name Parents Across America Seattle. It is a group of parents and teachers who want to take action whether it's the levy, state legislation or bringing speakers from around the country to share their information. Our first event is the forum with Diane Ravitch which is coming up on October 5th.

We meet, communicate, plan and then take action whether it's leafleting, speaking to Patty Murray at a campaign soiree or doing outreach to the communities whose voices have not been heard.

There are enough of us now to take action and be effective. If you would be interested in finding out more, you can e-mail me at dora.taylor@gmail.com and/or check out our website that has all of the information about Parents Across America,

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/

If you look at the top of the page, you will see a tab that says' Parents Across America". That will take you to the different chapters.

The First Arnold said...

-Dorothy- Any desire to attempt getting on the Oprah Show? Looks like there is a petition being signed to have Diane Ravitch on the show. Why not? Worth a try!

Sign a petition to have Diane Ravitch on the Oprah Show.

http://www.change.org/classsizematters/petitions/view/petition_to_oprah

zb said...

Anonymom -- I agree with you and agree that a lot of positive steps towards equity are being made within the SPS. As you point out, world-class orchestras are not something that the school district can give a school. I think we should all fight to keep that so (even if the subject is under-enrolled).

I think the NSAP, with automatic assignment to neighborhood schools is a big step in the right direction, with the potential that it will mitigate the self-selection of students that resulted in such dramatic differences between school populations. I say mitigate, because, of course, people can still move to segregate themselves, but, again, that's not something the school district can do anything about. They can do something about how students are assigned to schools, and they have.

I believe there have already been improvements at Sealth and Ingraham. I believe there will be improvements at Franklin. I'm hopeful about Cleveland (though not confident). I am still worried about RBHS, but not less hopeful than I have been before.

So, yes, I do believe that the school system will be better in five years than it was five years ago.

wsnorth said...

anonymom, zb, and parentofthree (since I quoted you in agreement).

Here is a quick starter list where I fear the district is intentionally or unintentionally causing harm to existing schools:

There has been extensive blogging here about damage done programs/courses at Garfield, RHS, and Ballard, including this post and comments:

http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2010/09/central-region-welcome-back-meeting.html

In West Seattle, we are very happy with the improvements at Sealth (which West Seattle parents have been working on for years), but the district seems to have practically abandoned WSHS. It was formerly full with (small) wait list, but now has had its budget cut, its attendance area slashed, and hasn't had an effective principal for at least 6 years!!

At the elementary level, 5 of our 10 local elementary schools (after closing 2) in West Seattle are overcrowded, overflowing into moldy, rusty portables and in need of serious maintenance or upgrading. Yet practically no capital levy money is allocated to West Seattle for the next 5 years.

I hope the ratio is not this bad elsewhere in the city.

As far as I can tell, nothing is being done at the other 5 elementary schools to make them more attractive to parents, other than the allure of avoiding putting your kids in an overcrowded and potentially unsafe building.

In fact, it almost seems like the district purposefully set up Highpoint elementary (now West Seattle Elementary) to fail, and now it has officially been listed as a failed school.

All in the name of equity?

Anonymom said...

I feel that NE schools have improved.

1) Summit is gone. I know it was emotional, but the school was just not popular, and did not perform well. It was replaced by Jane Addams, which does seem to be gaining in popularity and growing very quickly.

2) Eckstein used to be the only middle school in the NE that offered Spectrum, and they had a huge waitlist for it - turned away many families. Now families have the option of choosing Spectrum at Jane Addams.

3) Schools in the NE that did not have ALO's, like Bryant, now have them.

4) We have a new school, Sandpoint, to help relieve the over crowding. And yes, I do believe it will grow, and become another very popular NE school, but it will probably take a couple of years.

5) Hale is being rebuilt to add 200+ seats. They have also added stand alone AP classes during the past couple of years, and orchestra.

6) Families living north of Wedgewood didn't get in to Eckstein prior to the NSAP. Those families were forced to bus their kids an hour (each way) to Hamilton every day, or go out of district to Shoreline. Now those families have guaranteed access to their neighborhood school, Eckstein, while families living in the south part of the NE cluster have guaranteed access to Hamilton (much more logical geographically).

7) Transportation has been streamlined with the NSAP. My child used to have a one hour bus ride each way to his nearby elementary school, now he has a quick ds15 minute ride.

8) With the NSAP NE elementary school families can now go to their neighborhood schools. Last year families living in the Bryant neighborhood received mandatory assignments to far away schools like John Rogers, Jane Addams, and even Olympic Hills. That can't happen any more

It's not all been rosy, I acknowledge that. Change and transition come with bumps and bruises, trials and errors. I can't speak for the entire district, but all in all, I see progress in the NE, my neighborhood. I believe our schools and community are stronger over all now, and I expect they will get even stronger over the next 5 years.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think one thing that strikes me in this discussion is that I haven't really heard an admission about the serious issues in this district.

Those of you who believe we are going in a good direction - you do understand about the audit? The backlog maintenance? The no line item in our budget for textbooks for the last decade or so? Spending $7K on a party and then saying we are a very poor district?

I just want to hear what your reaction is. Do you believe this par for the course for a district? If the Auditor doesn't think the School Board is doing due diligence, do you believe them?

Anonymom said...
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Anonymom said...

Yes, yes, yes, Melissa. I get loud and clear that there are serious concerns in the district. Those issues and problems are discussed over and over again on this blog - they are drilled firmly in my head. But you asked your followers if we thought the district was functioning better today than it was three years ago. I believe, despite the issues that you mention (and many others), that overall the district is in a better place. I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. That doesn't mean that we ignore the negatives, or accept them as par for the course, we need to work on them, and address them. But again, overall, I think we are in a better place. That is just my opinion though. I clearly understand that you disagree.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I actually asked three questions and I did ask if people acknowledge the glass both ways (if they think if half-full or half-empty).

I asked because I can tell readers, on almost a weekly basis, something very troubling about our district. It gets pretty quiet out there.

I don't expect gnashing of teeth or pulling of hair but that so many people, here and in other venues stay silent and turn away, well, then I just wonder if it registered or all or if they believe it all to be greatly exaggerated.

dan dempsey said...

Here is how some "big decisions" are made in the SPS.

How could anyone see no problem with this process?

Looks like a firing offense for the Superintendent (who is also secretary of the school board) to me. Not to mention filing for Recall of four school board members.

This declaration of 9-27-10 is for a summary judgment hearing on the NTN contract approval of 2/3/2010. Happening on Tuesday.

If you want the full document of 12 pages and 123 pages of exhibits then write me at dempsey_dan@yahoo.com

It is a .pdf with a file size of 16MB
gmail will handle that file size but some Comcast accounts will not.

Here ia a five page Declaration of 9-12-10. Not nearly as interesting as the 9-27 declaration.

Anonymom said...
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Anonymom said...

Yes, I do think a lot of things are greatly exaggerated on this blog. That's not to say there are not real issues that need to be dealt with, but really, to read this blog you'd believe the sky was falling every moment of every day.

For instance upon your request of "proof" that the district was requiring all schools to offer ALO's, I went to the SPS website to find the information you requested. I found it and posted it here, to which you said "don't believe everything you read on the SPS website". Huh ??? I guess you'd have us take the word of anonymous posters like wseadawg over the official information in print on the SPS website?? Well guess what, besides reading it on the website, I see it in action here in my area. Schools like Bryant and John Rogers now have ALO's when they never have before. There are now more Spectrum seats in the NE, enough for all kids who qualify to get in the program. Like it or not, that IS progress. And yes, I know not all ALO's and all Spectrum's are equal, just like every orchestra is not equal, but this is a start, and a step in the right direction. IN MY OPINION.

I believe the glass is half full. Not full, but half full. I see the issues but I also see and acknowledge the progress.

But again, just my opinion, and perspective.

seattle citizen said...

Anonymom, you write that "I see [positive change] in action here in my area. Schools like Bryant and John Rogers now have ALO's when they never have before."

I then assume you have seen the ALOs in action at Rogers and Bryant. Could you describe these ALOs in action for us? What is happening in those classrooms?

Anonymom said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymom, I'm not trying to attack you. I'm not asking you to believe every post here.

But I am telling you that after 16 years in this district, that you just can't believe everything you read at the district website.

I AM an education detective so I'll let you know what I find out.

Anonymom said...
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Bird said...

I agree with Anonymom. There are a lot of people who have benefitted from the NSAP. Their situation is better in the ways that are most important to the, at their school.

Of course, there are plenty of families in the district who consider themselves losers in the NSAP as well. If your neighborhood school is one with a lot of problems, you won't think things have improved as Anonymom does.

I got the impression that Melissa's question was more about the adminstrative functioning of the district, however. I can't speak to whether it's better than three years ago. I wasn't a close watcher of the district before then.

I can say it needs an enormous amount of improvement. The Board's really doesn't provide the oversight that it needs to. I think the financial priorities of the district are way out of whack with what families and teachers need and want.

Operationally, from what I've seen the district is a mess. It's hard for families to tell what's what in the district, but it's also hard for staff. I've heard more stories about parents getting different answers to their questions with each person they ask in the district.

Most importantly, where the district really needs to improve, closing the achievement gap, there's been no improvement. I don't see how anything the district is doing now will change that. I don't think the problem is unsolvable, but I don't think that it really is a high priority for the district. There's been no improvement in the past three years and in two years when Goodloe-Johnson leaves we'll still be where we were when she arrived.

That, more than anything, makes me think the district is headed in the wrong direction.

Anonymom said...
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Anonymom said...

"I then assume you have seen the ALOs in action at Rogers and Bryant. Could you describe these ALOs in action for us? What is happening in those classrooms?"

What's your point SC? What are you digging for? Are you trying to find out if the new ALO's are working well? Because I can't answer that, I have no idea how they are working. What I do know is that schools that have never ever offered any ALO's at all, now must, and are, offering them. And that's what I posted.

In the NE in addition to Bryant and John Rogers, Laurelhurst and Sacajewea are now offering ALO's. I realize this is just my little corner of the world. Not sure how things are working in other parts of the district.

Charlie Mas said...

I think some things are better than they were three years ago. Some things are no better. Some things are worse.

Among the things that are better:
* Management structures initiated, if not complete
* Families assured of enrollment at a nearby school
* Expanded access to advanced classes in high schools
* Spectrum capacity increased in the NE
* Spectrum added to Madison
* Spectrum moved from West Seattle Elementary to Arbor Heights
* Improved access to ALOs in the southeast - at least in name
* Creation of STEM school at Cleveland
* Added language immersion program at Beacon Hill
* Transportation costs reduced (not sure about this one)
* Expanded access to music programs (not sure about this one)
* Family engagement improved at a number of schools with Family Engagement Action Teams
* Increased centralized authority for those things that should be directed centrally
* More schools renovated (Garfield, Hamilton, Sealth, etc.)


Among the things that are no better:
* Still no reliable interventions for struggling students
* Still no quality assurance for advanced learning - lots of programs in name only
* Enrollment/perception of Aki Kurose and Rainier Beach no better
* Curriculum alignment is no better
* Math instruction is no better
* Science instruction is no better
* No control on capital spending
* Poor access to advanced learning in West Seattle
* Student test scores are no better
* Teachers under contract
* Still no accountability anywhere
* Site for NOVA, SBOC swap problems at previous locations for new problems at new location


Things that are worse:
* Special education students un-supported in general education classrooms
* Inadequate alternative school capacity
* Honesty and transparency from central administration actually worse (hadn't thought that was possible)
* Unique programs either destroyed or threatened at Roosevelt and Garfield
* Schools are overcrowded and enrollment is out of control
* Board isn't providing any oversight at all (three years ago they did)
* Community engagement at the District level is actually worse (wouldn't have thought it possible)
* Reduced support in schools (librarians, counselors, etc.)
* Increased class sizes
* Food cooked centrally - not on site
* Diminished academic freedom for teachers
* Maintenance backlog is deeper with no recovery in sight
* Tens of millions wasted on poorly planned capital projects
* Over $10 million spent on coaches without notable benefit
* Centralized control exercised foolishly on demonstrations of power
* Van Asselt moved to within three blocks of Wing Luke

wseadawg said...

Anonymom: Things may indeed be improving in your neck of the woods, but there's an inverse relationship between the NE and WSN. We had great schools with great programs, great parental involvement and such already. Now, those great schools are stressed to the breaking point because of bad planning and hear-no evil, see-no-evil School Board members and SPS staff who literally said "What increase in the # of kids? The # of kids aren't increasing in Seattle." Really? Then where'd all these kids come from?

I lived in the NE in the mid 90's when kids were scarce and empty nesters dominated the landscape. It's not that way anymore, as you know. West Seattle is the same way. The population of children has exploded and the moms and strollers are everywhere. But instead of opening schools, we're closing them.

So, suffice it to say, we're experiencing the inverse of what you are in the NE. Things are going downhill in WS while apparently going uphill for you in the NE.

But as I said, and MW reiterates, you can't simply rely on what the district says it's doing or will do. It reminds me of Carla Santorno's (former CAO) infamous reply to Michael DeBell's question as to why no elementary schools were receiving the supplemental Singapore math instruction & materials that the district had promised in '06 or '07 when adopting the New math at that time. In 2009, Santorno said, "It's not that we haven't done it; we just haven't gotten to it yet." (Going on 5 years now, and counting...)

Do you see where my skepticism and cynicism come from?

Your point that there's only so much the district can do, and the rest is really the obligation of the parents is understood, but I don't think you've experienced yet, and can therefore appreciate, how effective SPS is screwing up things that work great already, because they drag everything into their broader, one-size-fits-all planning. Ask any Board member and they'll claim MGJ is a "systems thinker" (Translation: Top-Down).

Local autonomy, involvement, support, and action indeed make the difference between great and so-so programs, but the district has to seed, support, and resource the programs, as well as control rogue leadership that undermines such programs. They can't just say "here's Spectrum: Do with it what you will." Without oversight, and support, especially in struggling communities, it goes nowhere. SPS has the money and resources but they don't spend it well at all, nor do they respond very well to community needs and desires. Until that mold breaks, you might benefit from ALO's and newly opened schools now, but it won't be long before your community is cannibalized and guilt-tripped for being a "have" when so many "have-nots" are suffering, by the SPS crew, as they pick apart your programs in the name of the greater good, in order to deflect criticisms and cover their arses.

But maybe you have to see and experience it to believe it.

Maureen said...

I agree with Bird. I think Anonymom (great name!) is providing her perspective. She, and maybe most of the NE area, is a winner under the NSAP. The other District level issues are not negatively impacting her or the people she talks with right now. I think there are many parents in Seattle Schools whose view of the District is almost exclusively determined by their interactions with their kids teachers and principal. (I'm not saying this is necessarily true of anonymom) That is part of the reason the repeated call to arms over Broad/Gates infiltrating SPS goes unheard. Many parents don't go any further than if their kids are learning in school everyday and are happy.

I'm sure there are quite a few activists represented here who got involved because they were unhappy about something that impacted their kid (Melissa and Spectrum, I believe). I started paying attention to the District in part because they kept threatening to screw up my kids' school in various ways. That pulled me in, but I have kept following because I truly want every kid in Seattle to have access to an education that brings them to their full potential. The lack of improvement in the achievement gap, despite all of the rhetoric that has been thrown around about it over the past ten years is really troubling to me.

Lori said...

We were part of the Bryant community last year, and I followed the ALO issue pretty closely. Bryant has a long history of claiming to offer differentiated learning instead of a formal AL program. In my opinion, the new ALO is essentially just a codification of this practice. The main difference between last year and now is that Spectrum- and APP-eligible kids will now get the AL report card and maintain eligibility for middle school AL programs without having to retest. The ALO does not have ability-based classes nor pull-outs; it is all based on in-class differentiation.

Now, maybe I'm not the best person to opine because we moved our child to the APP program this year. But, in-class differentiation did not work for our family. I was hopeful the ALO would provide enough rigor that we could keep our child at her neighborhood school, but in the end, it didn't look to me like anything new would be offered. Of course, to their credit, the school now advises families with APP-eligible kids to consider Lowell because the ALO is not really designed to work 2 grade levels ahead.

Of course, I also wonder if our child's experience might have been better if classes weren't filled to their contractual limits. I suspect it's easier to differentiate in a first grade class of 22 versus one with 28 students. To me, the biggest issue in the NE at this time is how crowded all of the schools are and what is being lost as a result. In the last 3 years, Bryant lost a science room (yes, that was probably a luxury relative to other schools), lost to ELL program to Sandpoint to make more space, and turned the Resource Room into a classroom. That last part bothers me because it's occurring simultaneously with changes to special ed that move students back to their neighborhood schools. Maybe the change is working well; I'd love to hear that it is. But when a school has to lose its Resource Room to fit in 125 Kindergartners, it points out some serious deficiencies in capacity management. And given that each incoming cohort is 30-40 students larger than the graduating 5th grade cohorts, one has to wonder what rooms will be lost next.

As an aside, I asked the Superintendent about capacity in the NE at the meeting the other night. I was told that there is basically no "global" answer and that each school will require a unique solution. Boundaries will not change before 2015, and they will find ways to fit the students in while also meeting contractual obligations. If we were still at Bryant, I'd be very worried about what room will be lost next and how that will affect the educational opportunities for current students.

Meg said...

Boundaries won't change until 2015? So... what happens to insanely over-crowded schools and the kids in them until then?

On the ALO discussion: ALOs are general ed with a different report card. SPS, from everything I've heard, is a big believer in differentiated teaching, and students in any general ed classroom should expect differentiated teaching. So... ALO kids sit in general ed classrooms, where there is differentiated teaching. How does getting a different report card make it into a program, or an "advanced learning opportunity?" I don't see it. What I do see is an opportunity for families with longer commutes to Spectrum or APP programs a chance to retain their child's eligibility and keep them in their neighborhood school for as long as that's working for them. If you disagree, I'd love to understand why.

hschinske said...

SPS, from everything I've heard, is a big believer in differentiated teaching, and students in any general ed classroom should expect differentiated teaching.

Cue hollow laughter.

Helen Schinske

Meg said...

Helen- well... okay. I might have cued a snort, myself. I didn't say I think that differentiated teaching is as effective as the district seems to think it is, particularly when classes are getting filled to the brim.

But supposing it did work, consistently, it doesn't seem like there's anything to make an ALO different, other than the report card.

Anonymom said...
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Anonymom said...

I agree with your list for the most part Charlie. And thank you for acknowledging the PROS, along with the cons, as you see them.

It is very frustrating to me when I hear people focus so heavily on the issues and problems in the district that they lose the ability to see anything positive, or to acknowledge any progress. It's almost like a disability.

Melissa's quote pretty much says it all "I don't expect gnashing of teeth or pulling of hair but that so many people, here and in other venues stay silent and turn away, well, then I just wonder if it registered or all or if they believe it all to be greatly exaggerated."

Melissa, maybe people aren't as dumb, or stubborn, as you seem to think they are? Maybe they just flat out don't agree with you? Maybe they just aren't as negative as you? Maybe their kids, like mine, are having a good experience in SPS? Maybe, gasp, they are actually happy and satisfied? Maybe they believe in President Obama and Arne Duncan, and their reform agenda and think you are insane to fight it? Maybe some people would welcome in charters? Have you ever thought that maybe your views are just not widely accepted, or popular????????

Charlie Mas said...

ALOs are supposed to be a programmatic response to the need to provide high performing students with additional challenge and acceleration. Schools are supposed to submit documents describing their delivery model and making a case for it. ALO students are supposed to be taught to the Spectrum academic expectations.

When ALOs were created, the District committed to providing quality assurance - they were going to annually review programs for quality and efficacy. The District has never kept that commitment and there are a number of programs that exist in name only. The requirements for program re-certification process were made less and less each year, and yet, each year, schools failed to meet them. In the end, the only requirement was to reference the program in the school's CSIP. Despite the near non-existance of this requirement, the vast majority of schools that purportedly had programs did not meet it. Nevertheless, no school has ever had their program de-certified by the District.

hschinske said...

Meg, I'm sorry if I was rude to you. I didn't mean to be. But I don't think it's that differentiated instruction has failed. I think in most cases it hasn't been tried. In these days of crowded classrooms and ultra-alignment, I can't say I blame teachers that can't find time for it; it's certainly not a method of instruction that's getting much concrete support.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

There are some things that are better than they were three years ago. There's no question about that. Not all of those things are thanks to the superintendent.

I give the superintendent credit for trying to introduce management to the District. But that effort, like all of her projects, is still hypothetical. It's on the drawing board or under construction. Her implementations - of all her projects - have been VERY rough. In a number of cases they have simply failed.

I don't mind creative failure. I acknowledge that failure is an inevitable part of trying new things. I wouldn't count any such failures against her. But arrogance has been at the root of her failures, and that is intolerable. She refuses to accept input from people who have direct knowledge and experience. She refuses to accept input from the community. This input, if accepted (not even solicited), could have brought success instead of failure.

It's just sad.

seattle citizen said...

anonymom, people have voted three times to NOT welcome in charters.

I'm glad you're happy that your students are getting a good education. This points to why people usually discuss negative things here: the positive stuff doesn't need attention, it's the many, many serious negatives that are screwing our public schools over that need attention.

Again, I'm glad you're satisfied with your chidlren's education. That's fantastic!

But that doesn't mean that serious issues in the district shouldn't be discussed.

Pointing to people who point out the craptitude of many of the "reform" efforts and saying, "people might think you're insane" doesn't really further any discussion, does it? I mean, Melissa? Insane? Melissa is one of the most honest and hard-working reporter on SPS news that has ever reported on SPS news. Yes, she comments, but her comments come out of a deep knowledge. If she worries about something, we all ought to pay attention, instead of implying she is insane.

Anonymom said...

Wrong SC. It is Melissa who implies that if people don't take up arms and fight for what SHE believes to be right then things are just "not registering" for them (IE they must be dumb). It is she who should acknowledge that her opinion is but one of many, and that other people have a right to their own opinion, without being told that things just don't register for them. What an insult.

Meg said...

Helen - I didn't think you were rude, at all.

Anonymom - my kids are having a good education experience. Perfect? No. But I don't expect that. I see a ton of good things in our district. My read is that Melissa and Charlie both see a great deal of good in the district and are fighting both to improve what is bad, and keep what is good.

But I think you are overlooking too much of what's gone wrong, possibly because your own children have landed in a good place. And I'm glad they have. But I hope you're able to recognize that there are many students in SPS that aren't being well-served, and it's just a little bit of luck that's landed your children - and mine - lucky perches. But there has been a confluence of multiple serious issues: the nearly unanimous vote of no confidence from the union, the disastrous pair of audit reports (which are in no way typical for any district in the state), and the district lost in court over a flawed math adoption. Even the school board president noted that any single one of these issues could potentially be shrugged off as problems that sometimes arise in an urban district but that all of it happening simultaneously is a signal that something's gone seriously awry.

seattle citizen said...

Anonymom, things could "not register" for people and that doesn't make them "dumb." Melissa isn't calling anyone dumb, she is suggesting (and rightfully so, I would add) that there is what's posted on the district website and then there's other information. She's right.

That's not to say that everything on SPS.org is wrong, but that just because it says on the website that something is so doesn't make it so. I mean, heck, look at the Board Policies posted on the website - many are out of date, or not enforced...As we've heard on this thread, there is much, um, variety in ALO offerings, so just because the district website says ALO is offered all over the district (if it says that) doesn't make it true, if you account for the ALOs that are weak...

There are a lot of people who don't know everything, including me. But there are also people who know quite a bit, including me. Just because we want to put out ideas and information for people to think about doesn't make people "dumb"; that's like saying we think students are dumb because we want to educate them.

Yes, we can disagree. You think, evidently, that many of the tenets of reform are the cat's meow; many people disagree. Because the reformers have bought the microphone, those that want to get alternative ideas out there must seek other venues, such as this. If you disagree with some of them, fine, make your arguments like we do. But to accuse Melissa of thinking people are "dumb" is just mean and it's a diversion. By pointing fingers you redirect the discussion, an easy way out. Make an argument and argue its points, that's what education is all about.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymom, I'm thinking you don't read the thread that starts the conversation. I did say I see the glass BOTH ways and I wonder about those who only see it half-full.

I have never said anyone was dumb and I think it wrong to think I would. Charlie and I do this work to help educate people so they have a fuller picture of the realities of the district that runs the schools their children attend.

Of course, I know that some people like charters but yes, charters have been turned back three times on the ballot so well, I think the voters of Washington state have spoken. Three times.

That I may be insane might be something to take up with my children but that I may have a different opinion than anyone else (including Obama and Duncan), well then call me insane.

I didn't say things didn't register with people or they don't have the right to their own opinions. Yes, it would make perfect sense for me to have a blog with open comments and make sure people are allowed to voice their...opinions.

I have ALWAYS been proud that both my sons have graduated from SPS and have said so frequently. I have been a cheerleader for this district on many occasions AND thanked for by many who work in the district. That you miss those threads, well, I don't know what to say.

I want this to be a better district. And believe me, I know many people don't agree with me but sometimes you have to be brave, sign your name and be the cheese who stands alone. But that's not for everyone.

Charlie Mas said...

We each, on our own, can only see a narrow slice of the Seattle Public Schools picture. You know what's happening at your child's school or at your children's schools, and maybe you hear about what's going on at schools where your friends have children.

Beyond that, if you were interested, there are the ocassional news reports about schools and there is always the great stack of data that the District publishes about what is happening in schools - at least the parts that can be expressed as data.

Beyond what is happening at the schools, there is a lot that happens at the District level. And, beyond that, at the state and federal level as well.

Most of us, however, must acknowledge that - unless we were working hard to get a larger view - the scope of our views are narrowly limited to a small number of schools.

Melissa and I are among those who are working to get a larger view. We then try to share that larger view. One thing the larger view allows people to do is compare their situation to the situations of others. Sometimes you find out that pretty much everyone is in the same boat. Sometimes you find out that other folks have it better and sometimes you find out that other folks have it worse. More than anything else, the thing to know is that rarely is anyone's experience universal.

Then, what you do with that larger view is up to you. If your situation isn't as good as others, will you work to improve it? More to the point, if others' situations aren't as good as yours, will you work to improve theirs?

One of the first lessons you will learn is that things are almost never as good as the District makes them out to be. That's the most discouraging lesson from this experience, and the most repeated one: the District isn't honest about their own performance. The District claims that things are done when they are barely started. They claim success where there is none, and when things fail they just turn around, walk away, and never mention them.

I will say that my children have, on the whole, been well served by Seattle Public Schools. The math curriculum is a painful exception, but the rest of school has been either good or tolerable. My expectations are not out of line.

I'm not doing this for my children. The first time I went to a Board meeting to kvetch to the Board about my issues, I heard everyone else who was there with their concerns and their complaints. Many of them were far more dire and more urgent than mine. I felt an obligation to advocate for them before my family. I'm still doing that.

My children's generally positive experiences with the District are not unique. Lots of kids have it pretty good - or good enough. But there are a lot of kids who do not have it anywhere good enough. I don't deny the existance of the positive things - there are LOTS of them - most of them originating in the schools with the teachers and principals and staff. Nor do I deny the existance of the negative stuff - there is LOTS of that also - most of it originating in John Stanford Center.

That's all. As with anything that you do for a long time, it waxes and wanes. I sometimes lose focus or perspective. On the whole, though, I think we do pretty well.

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, I've said it before and I'll say it again - When Marshall was being closed (through the application of a series of "reviews", until one came along that had the "data" the district was looking for) I remember some few people went down there to speak at the public meeting the district held. You had no personal interest in John Marshall, no children there, yet you took time to go down there and speak on behalf of those students, you went there to argue that they needed services, whether Marshall was the right place for those or not.

You had no horse in that race, yet you went to speak on behalf of those powerless students (many had parents that couldn't, or wouldn't come to that meeting. If I recall, there were a few staff, soem district admins, and about two "outside" people, you being one of them.

No one could ever tell me that your efforts are selfish. You evidently desire to effect positive change for ALL students, most certainly those whom no one else speaks for sometimes.

Thank you.

wsnorth said...

I hope things are better in the NE, but I agree 100% (122% in every day math terms) with wseadawg. In West Seattle we are being decimated. With the exception of Chief Sealth (a parent driven initiative) our hard work has been destroyed. Location by location the worst possible decision for the kids was made time and time again. Before the NSAP boundaries came out, for instance, I remember my spouse and I joking - Q: "what could they do to us, we live 4 blocks from one great school and 6 blocks from another". A: cut us off from both, AND overcrowd both to the point of breaking. What, indeed?

Anonymous said...

Lori, contractual limits make differentiated teaching a requirement. Of course, it doesn't make it easier... but no 28kids (or 35 as at one school) are going to be anywhere close to the same level. And even if they started out that way, they wouldn't end up that way. And plenty would be new kids or unknown so really... differentiation is a MUST.

As to special education. Hooray. Kill the resource room! Bryant did it, so can everyone else! People don't want to go back to their neighborhood school, only to be stuck for the whole day in an overcrowded room with a frazzled special ed teacher, trying to make up for inadequacies everywhere in the building. In class service please! It's the ONLY way to go. My kid has done it for years.

Special Education Parent

Sandy Blight said...

The District is not doing any better now compared to three years ago. This is because MGJ has systematically destroyed existing structures within the Finance, Family Support Program and Human Resources. The Superintendent has created initiatives that ignore existing structures and in the process discouraged and lost critical staff in the District.