Thursday, November 04, 2010

What's Going On At Rainier Beach

The Rainier Beach High School PTSA is having a meeting on November 10 to ask community members what programs they want to see at Rainier Beach High School. [Details available in the first comment.]

While the Southeast Education Initiative was supposed to make Rainier Beach into a "school of choice" for neighborhood families, the District never came to the community to ask them what they wanted there. The PTSA is stepping in where the District failed. It is unclear how the District will respond when the community's wishes are known.

The PTSA at Rainier Beach - now 38 fully paid up members strong - has been active in other ways. They have been trying to get a meeting with District officials to express their preference for a 7th period instead of a second principal. The PTSA doesn't believe that a school of 400 students needs two principals, but they do believe that a school with a lot of struggling students needs more academics and interventions. The school wants more intervention but the District sends them more administration. They don't want more administration; they want more teaching for students. The PTSA voted and decided to ask the District to replace the second principal with 1.5 FTE teachers to take on the seventh period.

At first, Michael Tolley, the Education Director for the Southeast, wouldn't even meet with them. Then, when they tried to go over his head, he was directed to meet with them by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. He sat there and heard what they said, but they report that he has been totally non-responsive to their request. (Mr. Tolley claims that he wanted to meet with them after their initial request but his assistance misunderstood his response. Yeah. Right.)

There is no money in the WSS for a second principal at a high school with an enrollment of 400. The funding for the second principal came from the Superintendent's slush discretionary fund. I didn't know that she had this money, but apparently, even in these times of tight budgets, the superintendent can throw around $150,000 to add a second principal at Rainier Beach. Apparently, however, the superintendent can't use that discretionary money to hire teachers, just to hire principals.

In the interests of full disclosure, it's not just about the outrageous waste of a second principal at such a small school, and it's not just about a bloated administration while teaching money is short. The PTSA folks say that the community isn't bonding well with Lisa Escobar. She has alienated some of the teachers - some to the point that they have left the school (although they say that they would like to return if she is gone).

For those new to the District, you should know that there is some history here. About ten years ago Rainier Beach had about 1,000 students and was a treasured community asset. Then the community had an adversarial relationship with the principal assigned to the school. They picketed the school in weekly protests. The District refused to take any action for years. That's when the Rainier Beach enrollment declined. It has never recovered.

This time the District is wielding a rather blunt threat: protest the school and the second principal too loudly and we'll shut it down.

The Rainier Beach PTSA is getting ignored and disrespected by the District, by Mr. Tolley, by Dr. Enfield, and by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. The school and the community are ill-served by the District. The District has failed to meet its commitments to this community and they have obstinantly refused to acknowledge that failure. The Superintendent has said that the Southeast Education Initiative was a success. She will admit no failure, admit no mistakes. She continues to believe that Rainier Beach needs two principals but doesn't need a 7th period. She refuses to meet with the community or address their concerns.

By the way, Rainier Beach had the 7th period programs - paid for by an alum now in the NBA. It was very successful. It was part of the reason that Rainier Beach made AYP that year. That funding proved the value of the program, but it was not forever. It's time for the District to take over the cost of that program.

First step for the community to take back this school: go to the meeting on November 10

24 comments:

kimberly said...

This is the information I received on the meeting (I have a child in a southend SPS school):

Rainier Beach High School -

Programs to Improve Education/Life after High School and to Increase Enrollment

Wednesday, November 10
6:30 - 8:00pm
Rainier Beach Performing Arts Center

Below are 5 programs that we are exploring bringing to Rainier Beach High School.

We are holding a community meeting Wednesday, November 10 in the Rainier Beach High Schools Performing Arts Center at 6:30pm-8pm. This meeting is open to all Rainier Beach area residents.

We want to hear from you.

We want to know what programs interest you most, and would have you send your child to Rainier Beach High School.

1. IB - International Baccalaureate

2. Law Magnet (police work, social work, law, government)

3. IT - Information Technology (includes a vocational track)

4. Sports Medicine

5. Arts Program

WenD said...
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WenD said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

I have never understood what the district's plan was for RBHS. To me, it started with building that beautiful Performing Arts hall and then not giving them a performing arts curriculum and/or program. We have it at Roosevelt and so why not at RBHS?

I can see here a line in sand starting and for this community I would say go big. Look, you have nothing to lose except the shadow of school RBHS is now. A shadow largely of the district's own making.

Yes, it seems absolutely weird and out of place to have two principals when it seems what is need is student support and intervention. If RBHS was doing what they do up in Everett, I bet their graduation rate would go up, too.

I will say that a little of this is the community's fault (and I can hear it coming at me as I type) but look folks, just saying you know your community best and being angry won't change things. A good example of this was the TAF initiative. I have said before that was one of the biggest mistakes I have made; I didn't support TAF. I misread Trish Dziko's let's go attitude for arrogance and I was wrong. And the district lost a great opportunity.

Here's a BIG opportunity for Betty Patu to step up and she should. She should show up at this meeting and tell the rest of the Board that something has to change.

Again, like TFA, the Board will signal their direction with these decisions. If they allow TFA to go forward under this current motion, then public engagement as part of district decisions will be nothing but show. The motion has to have adequate public engagement or they should reject it and tell staff to start over.

Here, the Board should tell the district that what they are doing is not working and direct the Superintendent to change course. The evidence is in that the SE Initiative didn't work and RBHS is in a fast decline.

What will the Board do?

WenD said...

Who can forget Marta-Cano Hinz? While I'm not sure she's solely to blame for the arts center fail, she deserves at least a dump truck's worth heaped at her door. Her most notable achievement at RBHS? Demonizing the memory of Paul Robeson, preventing the arts center from being named in his honor because he was an alleged communist.

After SPS, she used her pay-out to start a mink teddy bear business.

I'm glad to hear the PTSA is active and pushing downtown to listen to them.

ParentofThree said...

Maybe in the past some blame can be placed on the community. But remember up until this year the community was probably mostly engaged in getting their children assigned to a different high school.

Now that RBHS is a neighborhood high school the district should be working with them side-by-side to build it into a strong school.

But instead they have an education director who refuses to meet with them. They have a great point about using the funds for a 7th period v. 2nd principal, they have a great list of ideas for the school.

But ya know what...they are not gonna get any of it. They are going to get TfA teachers.

I would say bring out the big guns and start the protests again.

agibean said...

Luckily now, WenD, the performing arts center IS named after Paul Robeson (and a lot of the community has always referred to it as such).

Patrick said...

Back when I was in high school, the community was saddened that the day was shortened from eight periods to seven. Hardly any students took more than seven classes, but the extra period made schedules more flexible and made it more likely that everyone would have the opportunity to take all the classes they wanted.

Asking the people what they want to have happen? What an idea!

emeraldkity said...

I realize that the PTA charges dues- however- everyone should be able to feel that they are part of the parent community at the school regardless of whether they can afford to pay the dues to belong.

When I had a child at Summit K-12, ( and incidentally was co-chair for part of that time), we had a parent group not a PTA, and we did not require dues to be paid.

Also when I had a child at Seattle Academy, ( I was also a rep on the parent board) we did not have dues per se. Yes we paid other ways, but I just don't like the whole idea of having to pay money to be able to vote.
( it's possible I just don't remember- it has been a while)

ESPECIALLY at schools like RBHS, you need every single person you can get to be involved- they don't need artificial barriers.

I realize that there are positives which can go along with participating in the national PTA organization and I realize that it is a huge undertaking to write the bylaws for a parent group.

But I am willing to contribute to a fund to sponsor more parents who wish to belong to the RBHS PTA- anyone else?

Disgusted Seattle Teacher not TFA said...

Don't know if any of you have yet seen the school/district reports but some SPS staffs have. While putting the spin "Students took a new state test so don't worry about the drop in scores". Here's some of those district stats taken from a 2009-2010 School Report" to be released next week?:

Proficiency on State Tests
Passing Reading
American Indian. 69% down 1%
African American. 57% down 9%
Chicano/Latino. 60% down 15%
Asian. 74% down 9%
White. 90% down 2%
Free/Reduced Lunch. 60% down 9%
Eng. Lang. Learners 16% down 22%
Special Education 45% down 5%
Advanced Learning 100%. No change

Gets worst...or better?!
Mathematics passing
American Indian. 29%. No change
Africa American. 12%. Down 4%
Chicano/Latino. 24%. Down 7%
Asian. 50%. Down 3%
White. 68%. Down 2%
free/reduced lunch. 22%. Down 4%
eng. Lang. Learners. 8%. Down 3%
special edducation. 9%. Down 4%
advanced learning. 99%. No change

And no one's screaming really really loud because?
Melissa and/or Dan hopefully you have already seen a copy so you know the stats above are not made up but didn't want to "drop the bomb" before next Tuesday?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Nope, haven't seen those scores. Someone send me a copy, please.

Clean ClutterFree Simple said...

I am feeling so grateful now to be in a school (private, Catholic) where parent input is not just valued, it's actively sought out and encouraged.

The Seattle School district needs to listen to parents--they are stakeholders and their support is crucial.

Disgusted... said...

melissa will scan a copy tomorrow and try to do that.

wseadawg said...

Disgusted: What do you expect SPS's reply to be to those dropping scores? "Oh well. Change is Hard!"

Yes, it sure is. Especially on the kids affected by closed, relocated and blown-apart programs (Summit, Cooper, etc.).

With all the churn, I don't see how, even with the best efforts and support, kids' performances wouldn't suffer, especially in the most vulnerable communities.

Yet, I'm sure the district will not slow down and take a second look at anything, but will continue to introduce more changes and turmoil at breakneck speed. It's just what they do.

And by the way, I heard testimony at the Board Meeting that the old rule of thumb of 20% attrition from closing schools happened again as a result of the '08-'09 closures. So, turns out Meg Diaz was right. Away went a whole bunch of kids, taking all that per-pupil funding with them.

Closure savings? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

kid not like the others said...

the native population faired well despite the jscee drama. it would be interesting to find out why that group is the outlier. this data is district wide, do we know if it is similar across all buildings or if certain programs suffered more than others?

hschinske said...

Are those changes in scores actual percentages, or percentile drops?

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

Helen, thanks for your question. I suspect that you already know that those are percentage point drops, not percentage drops.

I'm very troubled by the sloppy language used in this District when talking about assessments and numbers in general.

They often speak of test scores when they actually mean pass rates. Test scores and pass rates are NOT the same thing. The average test scores could go up while the pass rate falls.

They often speak of percentage changes when they really mean percentage point changes. The difference is real and it is not subtle.

If a pass rate goes from 10% to 20% it is a 10 percentage point increase. It is NOT a 10% increase. On the contrary, it is a 100% increase. Likewise, when pass rates fall from 50% to 40% it is not a 10% decline; it is a 20% decline. It is, however, a 10 percentage point decline.

Another place we see this sort of sloppy talk is when they speak of sub-groups within groups. For example, "20% of our students are Asian. 80% of them passed the Reading MSP." That means that 16% of the students are Asians who passed the Reading MSP. However, I often hear it expressed as "20% of our students are Asian. 16% of them passed the Reading MSP." That would mean that only about 3% of the students are Asians who passed the Reading MSP. There's a big difference.

I sometimes wonder if the inability of the District staff to speak clearly and correctly about numbers isn't part of the math trouble in the District.

Maureen said...

I'm very troubled by the sloppy language used in this District when talking about assessments and numbers in general.

I agree and I worry that pushing all of this 'data based decision making' down to the school admin level and even to teachers is creating real issues at the level of the kids. SPS devotes real resources to trying to train administrators in data talk, they spend big chunks of teacher professional development time on it, but I still hear admins saying things like--look our 7th graders improved their Reading MSP scores by 11%. Let alone the % issues Charlie pointed out, and that the MSP might not map to the WASL, the fact is those particular kids might have actually done WORSE on the test than they did in 6th grade. They are comparing this year's 7th graders to LAST year's 7th graders (who may have been very artistic rabble rousers but sucked at tests.). When you point that out, they say 'oh yes, we know about "cohort impacts",' and go right back to saying how great it is that those scores went up. Drives me nuts.

And the reason this impacts the kids is that they go ahead and design interventions based in these misunderstandings. Writing is only measured in 4th grade, so they do something to the 3rd grade then congratulate themselves if the next years 4th graders do better. Who knows if it was the intervention or the cohort? Maybe the MAP will help redirect attention to the individual kids and get us out of this. (But think of all the PD time spent on WASL data interpretation.)

Maureen said...

You know, this is an area where TFA tactics could be an improvement. They seem to give their corps members very structured systems of evaluating individual kid's progress. If they have a play book of intervention strategies to go with it that might be worth spending money on. But as I've heard Charlie say, if this is the best way to train teachers, why don't we just do it? I'm pretty sure that is not what our coaches have been doing. Am I wrong?

klh said...

Yes, thank you for pointing out the problems with how test scores are reported and interpreted! It's one of those little things that drives me crazy. Just a week or two ago I was reading something from OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) that praised raising test scores. Of course, it was number of students who passed that went up. There was no information about the kids' actual scores, so no way to know if the scores went up, or if we had 100 kids go from one point below passing to one point above passing. Wish I could find the document again...

Anyway, thanks for bringing it up. Correctly describing the facts that we do have can often change discussions in very positive ways!

Charlie Mas said...

Damn! Maureen is really on to something!

We shouldn't hire Teach for America teachers, we should hire Teach for America trainers!

If you listen to the folks from Teach for America talk about what makes them better - and they truly believe that they are better - it is the quality of training and support they get. Well, let's just get that training and support for the teachers we already have!

I find it painfully ironic that the Board and the superintendent want to bring in TfA because their teachers get that invaluable mentoring while the Board and the superintendent cut funding for mentoring for our teachers.

Chris said...

Speaking of numbers, I keep thinking about that TFA person who said her kids gained 0.54 years of growth in 9 weeks. Is anyone familiar with these metrics? It seems to me I'd need to know a bit more about the standard error of measurement to know if anything real is happening here. Not to mention some comparison groups.

seattle citizen said...

I'm not so sure about TFA trainers (oh, I'm soo sorry for being all negative, ack, I am bad bad bad...)

I've can't remember which TFA document I saw it in, but my understanding is they train by first having their trainees come up with the test questions, then work backward from their to design curriculum.

This scares me. Teachers used to use actual content-based standards to teach, and worked up from those. This is back before content became a political football when the National History standards were released back in the 1990's and all heck broke loose - since then, NO standards have content, it's all skills. Then the "accountability plus high-stakes tests" crowd took over, and now it's all about the tests.

So if TFA is training its teachers to work back from test questions to design curriculum, it's only a short hop to working back from standardized test questions to design curriculum...as a matter of fact, I believe I read (over on the LEV blog, in comments to the TFA person who posted) that the standards used in his school, for in-house assessment, were based on and correlated to the Maryland state standards.

So TFA is teaching its teachers to just teach to the test, literally.

If the stuff on tests was inclusive of everything we want done in a classroom this might be alright (tho' it might also be a straight-jacket for the teacher, limiting flexibility) but we know that there is a lot more going on in a classroom than mere standards instruction.

So, no thanks - no TFA trainers. I'd prefer teachers to be able to take content-based standards and work UP from them to the classroom assessments, deciding what will be taught and THEN deciding what will be tested, rather than the other way around. The TFA Way seems very limiting.

seattle citizen said...

Chris, I can't find it now, but TFA trains using some tool that has teachers start with tests and work backwards. If you look over on the LEV blog, at Cullen's post (TFA person) and the his principal's comment (#8) you'll see that the principal says the growth Cullen cites is not on the state test, but using some district assessment that is correlated to, or mimics, the state test. Kind of like out MAP. Heck, maybe it IS MAP.

And I as I indicate in my previous post, TFAers are taught to use these tests and work backward from them to determine curriculum and lessons.

So yes, data data data, and probably some good growth on it, but really, is that all there is to the education of these students? Test answers?