Sunday, December 26, 2010

Open Thread Sunday

Missed having an Open Thread Friday so here's an opportunity to speak out.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas (if you celebrate it) or Festivus or now Kwanzaa or Boxing Day. (I saw The King's Speech and I highly recommend it. I have to see a few more films but right now my money is on it for Best Picture of the year.)

It looks like that lame duck Congress got a bee in their bonnet and got some work done.

Maybe we'll see a fire lit under our Board in 2011 and they might get some real progress/accountability going in this district. I see some movement in that direction but I am suspicious over whether it's a election year ploy.

48 comments:

StopTfA said...

Oh, and I bet TFA gets another $50 million of our tight federal education dollars....

Santa Baby

This is social frickin' justice?

Oh well, good thing I'm tenacious as a pitbull...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, it does prove that the 9th Circuit Court ruling surely did shake things up. Interesting because our district's legal counsel said it couldn't affect us. Really?

Dorothy Neville said...

The EMS Music thread has morphed into general discussion of paying for tutoring and such. I would like to move that conversation here, as it is not really related to that thread.

When I found out that a nearby elementary had PTA and parent tuition funded math tutors coming in during the school day, I was appalled. I have since learned it is common and happens in reading as well. It is outrageous that this is not supplied by the district.

Other districts are spending modest amounts of money per student to do targeted intervention. We are spending millions of dollars to create a fancy data warehouse, so that once it is up and running, the computer can tell us which students need targeted intervention.

Oh, and the official word is that district wide PTAs are paying for about 35 core teachers. I am not sure how to interpret this, because I suspect it doesn't include librarians, art, etc. Anyone know better details?

Kathy said...

Dorothy,

It is true. WSS formula does not adequately cover expenses for nurses, librarians, counselors, math and reading specialists. I've seen this at our elementary and middle school.

Principals have to make decisions regarding WSS expenditures i.e. Should principals let go of a counselor to hire a math specialist?

Our middle school has nearly 1000 students. The principal would have to decrease nursing hours (which would put the building at risk)to fund a math or reading specialist. LAP funds pay for .5 reading specialist.

Community involvement drops off in middle school. PTA funds are limited.

These schools also have the lowest per pupil funding. Common sense would say- a school with narly 1000students needs atleast one reading and math specialist.

I've read the comment section on the budget survey. Teachers want core positions fillied i.e. counselors

School Performance Framework has a budget of $1,996,504. Exactly, how is this spent?

Additionally, Research, Evaluation and Assesment has a budget of $2,854,135. I'd like a breakdown of this number. Frankly, the information coming out of REA is unreliable i.e Ballard HS college ready number.

So, the district is spending nearly
$5M on REA and School Performance Framework. I'd like to see these dollars in the WSS.

Dollars were put back into the WSS. However, I suspect the district will try and remove them next year.

ParentofThree said...

I have also heard, I think on this blog as a comment, that Saxton Math textbooks are quietly appearing in at least one middle school. Anybody know anything about this?

Seattle said...

I agree with Dorothy in that it is absolutely appalling to think that parents and PTA's have to pay for intervention/support services for struggling students, and for librarians, counselors, and nurses. These services should be provided for by the district.

But the fact is that the district does not provide enough funding for many north end schools to have full time nurses, counselors or librarians. And they provide no funding for intervention and support services. None. Nada. Zip.

So what are our options? At the school level we can either ignore the problem and let kids continue to struggle - just like the district does. Or administration, PTA's, and families can work together to provide these services via fundraising.

We can argue, philosophies, and be appalled all we want to, but that's not going to change anything. This is where we are at.

As appalled as I am that our school community had to ask parents to pay (either directly or via fundraising) for support and intervention for struggling students, I am very grateful that they did.

If you want to lobby the district to increase funding for remedial and intervention services for struggling students that's great. Call on me and I will join in the crusade. But before the district comes through with funding, please do not ask schools to stop funding it themselves. At least at the school level teachers can identify students that need remediation, and there are scholarships for kids whose families can't afford the fees. There are no scholarships at Kumon and Sylvan.

Anonymous said...
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dan dempsey said...

WOW!!! The spending by District truly has become NO Vendor and NO consultant left behind.

PTAs fund teachers and interventions. Enfield says: "SPS is looking for grant money for RtI" as central admin spending expands exponentially and little is left for schools.

ParentofThree said...

"They are being used for the math intervention classes."

Interesting. I would like to know who is funding the Saxton books and why they are being used for math intervention classes only.

Sahila said...

Read this - you'll see that those of us trying to wake up Seattle to what is going on in the school district are not paranoid...

http://ksdcitizens.org/2010/12/22/waiting-for-superfraud/...

and a comment from Robert Valiant, who first posted it on his site:

"A couple of days ago we posted the attached article by Mike Martin on the ksdcitizens.org web page. It was picked up by a national blog, then by an international news service. The next thing we knew we had 900+ visits on our site alone, and many more read the piece on Education Matters or reddit.com."

Time to stop talking and start doing....

kellie said...

I think it would be great if Bruce Taylor's "Press Release" from the Conflict of Interest Thread could be posted as a thread. It is just too good too miss and I almost did miss this Christmas treat in all the festivities of the holidays.

Sahila said...

This is an Open Thread...

I posted this earlier, but it seems to have been removed, though I dont know why...

For those of you who think myself and others are paranoid about what's happening in education, please read this...

http://ksdcitizens.org/2010/12/22/waiting-for-superfraud/

its time to stop talking and start acting...

mirmac1 said...

Looks to me that the RTI grant money would be to pay yet more consultants and more vendors...

Let's teach them on the computer!

Anonymous said...

Do you mean "Saxon" math books?

How interesting they would be used for math intervention, as the CMP books were billed as being usable for "all" students.

Some advanced learners also struggle with the CMP books (too wordy, lack of worked examples, etc.) Can they also lobby for Saxon?


Math parent

ParentofThree said...

Math Parent....my thoughts exactly.

old salt said...

I have seen extra adults brought into the schools in many ways.

Funded by the PTSA through the district, like classroom teachers & counselors.

Funded directly by the PTSA like playground monitors, tutors, tech support.

Funded by PTSA through temporary service contracts like artists in residence.

Funded by grants that PTSA applied for like a local poet.

Funded by grants applied for by the teacher or staff like environmental learning specialist or Roots of Empathy facilitator, often an employee of the granting agency.

Funded by fees paid through PTSA with scholarships available, like elementary instrumental teachers.

Funded by parents to pay for tutors or aids to work under the direction of the teacher/school to help their student & any others the teacher assigned to the tutor.

Even volunteers are complicated. Some of them are paid by other people. Like the grad students who have grant hours from their department to do outreach & tutor in schools.

Or a grad student who does their lab work in a school as a counselor with one child.

Or employees of local businesses who are paid to do volunteer hours during the work day.

They all were screened by the schools they were in & had some orientation or training by the staff. They were appreciated by the staff or they would not have been allowed. Teachers who didn’t want them, didn’t have them.

Dorothy Neville said...

Seattle, I am NOT saying that PTAs should not be allowed to manage these tutoring services. No, I was just appalled at how much it is happening and how much taken for granted. It's the "taking for granted" that gets me. Too many parents think it is the status quo and don't see the problem. So they feel no pressure to try to change the system. I just want more people to be aware of this.

Example. A friend's daughter did poorly on the math wasl, so she participated in this paid tutoring. She could afford it and thought it was fine. And sure, it helped her daughter and nobody else (like the district) had another solution. So she had no concept that it is wrong and there ought to be pushback from the parents and schools to the district to fully fund schools instead of fully funding HQ.

If your child does not pass the WASL, aren't you supposed to be provided services? Isn't that part of NCLB? I thought there were legal requirements for some sort of intervention. Parents could push the district on that. (and no, I am not telling parents to do that because it is so pointless, I am being hypothetical.)

Sahila said...

I wonder if the School Board and Super ever see themselves in this light?

This is where slavery starts

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I got my $828 Pay4K bill on DECEMBER 24!! Really, SPS? I knew it would be coming, although I NEVER once got any information about it before school started - I never got a Welcome to Kindergarten packet from the district, but I have been saving my money while waiting to learn how to Pay4K- but to send them out Christmas week? I just think about all the families that could barely pull Christmas together this year, who are not FRL...makes me sick.

Annoyed K Parent

Kathy said...

The district unfairly places blame on principals for lack of core resources.

Parents are told "The principal can hire a counselor etc. with discresionary funds.". Yet, discresionary funds are insufficient to hire core staff.

dan dempsey said...

Here is a summary I wrote 2 pages.

http://www.box.net/shared/1bu4r7o0oc

The first audit MGJ commissioned was from Phi Delta Kappa for around $125,000 and ran 375 pages. It was very critical of the district, and so she ignored the entire thing. This was less tan 6 months after her arrival so it would not have reflected poorly on her. Apparently she wanted to go a different direction.

I am writing a response to her 88 slide powerpoint. It is looking like around 50 pages. Lots of data etc.

Linked are the two pages, which are of particular importance. I wish to talk with legislators about how little control our system has for the illegal actions of MGJ.

I am looking for legislation to correct the incredible lack of accountability for this non-elected $300,000+ dollar position.

Drop me a line if you want to see the 50 pages.

Also drop me a line if you have edits of the two page summary.

I am looking for a positive way to change the structure of the District.

Thanks,

Dan

dempsey_dan@yahoo.com

dan dempsey said...

Whoa,

You may have difficulty with the link above as it is an .rtf file.

Here it is as a .pdf

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

Dan, the pdf won't open - link take us to box.net, but file doesn't open or download.
Looking forward.

zb said...

"It's the "taking for granted" that gets me. Too many parents think it is the status quo and don't see the problem. So they feel no pressure to try to change the system. I just want more people to be aware of this."

So what happens in schools where the parents can't afford to pay (or raise private funds)? Do those schools have access to other funds that allow the same kind of math tutoring to occur? There's a suggestion here that they do (through government funds). But, another commenter int the Eckstein thread said that they knew of examples of kids who don't get tutoring when they do poorly in the WASL.

I'm guessing that students in other schools don't get offered private instruction in music (even if their parents were to offer to pay for it).

I continue to find the degree of private financing in SPS to be troublesome and problematic because of the inequities it creates. Bake sales to put some paintings on the walls, well, I'm not upset about that. But, extra teachers, privately funded? That sounds a bit too much like my tax dollars being used to create publicly subsidized private education. Yes, anyone who lives in the neighborhood zone can attend, but if those zones are writ sufficiently small, they become pretty exclusive (as they are for McGilvra & Montlake, the two schools folks cite most frequently as having hired extra teachers).

I believe that the SPS policy has changed about hiring teachers on private funds, though, hasn't it?

If not, one has to wonder if this could be another backdoor subsidy/plan for TFA teachers.

Seattle said...

I think you'd be surprised how much support south end schools get. Financially. And how that translates to services. I just had a quick look at Rainier Beach HS to see what they offered.

They have:

algebra lab :This support class, offered currently both after school and during the day, is designed to help students be more successful in their regular Algebra A/B class.

Geometry lab which is the same as above but for geometry students

Applied mathematics: Taught through vocational education department.

Life Science: This is a second science course for students who were not successful at biology.

University of WA Tutors that work on sight with RBHS students.

Resources from the community: support programs including MESA (Math,Engineering, Science Achievement), Upward Bound (federally funded college prep program), Steps Ahead, ATLAS community, Natural Helpers, Conflict Managers

Drug/alcohol intervention team, and re-entry specialist.

An integrated performing arts program. With multiple community partners, students have unique opportunities to learn from visiting artists while building skills in music, visual art, and movement/dance

A total of 29 community partners, in addition to the PTSA, supporting academics, college planning and social/emotional needs

Full-Service Community Schools provide comprehensive academic, social, and health services for students, students’ family members, and community members that will result in improved educational outcomes for children.

old salt said...

ZB

When I was working on school budgets it was during WSF. We always looked at other school budgets during the process. Our students, in a middle class school with low F/R lunch got less than half of their state per student funding. Similar size schools in the south end got double the amount of funding (including title 1 & LAP $)

Our budget was so slim that there was no funding for any adult other than classroom teachers, minimum PCP, Principal, cafeteria person & office staff. We were below contract minimum for office staff, for which we were given a waiver, not more staff. We also had less than minimum required lunch staff that had to be made up with volunteers. It was deeply ingrained in our school culture that we should not ask for more money because schools with higher F/R lunch numbers needed it so much more. We should make do anyway we could including asking retired teachers to give the DRA & charging fees for things like tutors or instrumental music. Those fees didn't even come close to making up the difference. We were never able to hire an actual teacher or counselor just extra help here & there. We resented the poor state funding levels, but not the WSF.

I have not seen school budgets from the poorer schools since WSS came in. But my impression is that everyone got cuts & more of it went to the central admin. I think that changing the Title 1 qualifying percentage took many extra staff out of buildings that desperately needed them.

StopTfA said...

I see that Congressman Jim McDermott voted FOR the stopgap appropriations bill. In that case, he voted FOR recognizing recent college grads with five weeks training as "highly qualified" under No Child Left Behind.

I briefly discussed ed reform with McDermott this summer. He said he was opposed to many of the corporate-minded moves to screw up public education. I am going to ask him why he voted for this assinine language in the bill (pun intended).

Contact Rep. McDermott

ParentofThree said...

"Do those schools have access to other funds that allow the same kind of math tutoring to occur?"

Hasn't the board approved contracts for outside tutoring services as required by NCLB. I seem to recall Sylvan getting a $1 million contract. How does that work in the schools?

dj said...

A number of rising Madrona kindergarten parents are writing to board members to urge placing a language immersion program in the school. You want the building full? Access to language immersion in Central? Diverse students with access? No need for a middle school pathway because Madrona is K-8? That is how to do it. If anyone wants to help out by writing to the board members to help out, that would be just super. And if these schools became option schools, Madrona is well-located to take in kids from a lot of neighborhoods.

Wv: This would really get the school pappin

zb said...

I have a question about the language immersion programs. Is there information about what level of fluency non-home speakers are acquiring from these programs? Anecdotal would be good, if anyone has personal experience. I know that they're highly popular with a particular population in Seattle (i.e. higher SES families who think that language immersion will be an enriching opportunity for their families). But, do they work?

I'm particularly interested in knowing how well they work for families where the language being learned in school isn't a language that the family/parents have familiarity with. I've heard good things about the private French school in the Seattle area. Are people similarly pleased with John Stanford?

I am of the opinion that non-immersion language enrichment classes (offered in a number of private schools) in elementary are not particularly effective and I'd like to know more about the success of the immersion programs.

Bird said...

My kid is at John Stanford. It's too early for us to tell from personal experience, but from what I gather from teachers and other parents the program is worthwhile.

I've talked with a language teacher at Hamilton and was told that the kids from the immersion programs often don't come in with very good grammar, but that their oral comprehension is excellent. The teacher felt that she could talk to kids as she would talk to a native speaker, and they all would understand what she was saying.

That teacher also said that she didn't feel like kids gained much in the way of real language skills in the supplementary lanaguage classes offer at non-immersion schools. She said kids usually come in knowing things like numbers, animals, body parts and not much else.

Parents have told me that native speakers often compliment their immersion kids on their accents, so the kids do get some value on the productive language side as well.

I get the impression that the middle school language classes try to fill in the formal details of the language that aren't emphasized in elementary classes.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm not advocating for any more language immersion programs until they are Option schools. It's just not fair to have a wildly popular program only available to certain neighborhoods. There is no equity in this program and there needs to be.

Jan said...

So, Melissa: is it possible to advocate for an OPTION immersion language program at Madrona, to run side by side with the regular attendance area program -- and with a geo zone that takes in the entire WMS middle school area?

I think the understanding would need to be that if the non LI program dwindles to a certain size (or the option program expands to fill the entire school), the District would have the option of moving the non-LI attendance portion to another school (like Leschi).

I totally concede your points on equity, but I hate to see the District's willful mismanagement undermine parental support for needed changes (like more LI programs, and LI programs in areas now underserved). I have a feeling that if we could get ENOUGH LI programs going, we could maybe convince the board to "switch" them all to option programs, and to direct the Supe to "fill out" any remaining gaps -- so that they exist in all parts of the city -- but one program at a time. Think how long it took to get them to replicate JSIS at Beacon Hill!?! And now, we suddenly have McDonald. We haven't had any success getting the Board or District management to see this issue on a global, "logical" basis. Maybe we can achieve our objective on a more incremental basis -- one school at a time.

Jan said...

Sahila: thanks for the ksdcitizens link. I thought it was persuasive, and I have sent it on to a number of people with whom I debate education funding/education reform issues. There are an astonishing number of people who somehow sense the untruth of the current edreform issues, and yet want to see the influx of money and "help" as good, not bad, things. I especially like it because of its absence of any if the sort of things (inflammatory language, sarcasm, etc.) I fall into sometimes. It makes it easy to send to people who are not (yet at least) "outraged" without making them feel like they've landed on another planet. Great resource.

Maureen said...

A number of rising Madrona kindergarten parents are writing to board members to urge placing a language immersion program in the school.

dj, have they made any attempt to include the Madrona staff? At a recent Sherry Carr coffee, she made it clear that they are trying to take staff and community member opinions into account when they design new programs--the implication is that programs don't succeed without buy in from the staff. That, of course, makes it much easier to place a new program in a new school as opposed to an established one (I thought I heard recently that Madrona families (and staff?) were asking the board to consider a performing arts focus?)

Or are the preK families advocating Madrona be closed (due to lack of AYP under NCLB) and reopened as an immersion school?

JamieC said...

Very interesting article in the NY Times today about teacher rankings based on test scores:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/nyregion/27teachers.html?src=me&ref=general

Sorry I still can't do the live links.

dj said...

Melissa, how about advocating that Madrona be turned into an *option* K-8 with an immersion program? That would seem reasonable, and would get a program into an area of the city that doesn't have one and would I think make it easier to argue that all of the immersion programs be option programs (as they would be more equitably distributed and easier to get kids to, transportation-wise).

I have not talked to a single parent around here who has said they would send their kid to Madrona if the school only had a bit of a performing arts focus. The fact of the matter is that the school is not being used by the neighborhood and it is going to take something fairly attractive to get it filled.

I have not personally talked to staff at Madrona about such a program. I would think you'd have to do a fair amount of staff reshuffling to open an immersion school, not because of buy-in, but because of the fact that most teachers in a non-immersion school probably aren't fluent in another language.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Madrona needs an overhaul, for sure. What is there isn't working and that there are reasonable numbers of parents who want to send their child to the school but don't like the program should be enough to move the district (at least this time around).

I leave it to those involved to figure out what will work. I have to wonder about a half immersion/half regular school but again, that could be worked out.

But I'm sorry, I do not buy into the idea that somehow with a few more schools the Board will suddenly see the light and make them Option schools. The buy-in needs to come now and not later. Staff is working the whole enrollment plan around them being neighborhood schools so they don't want to change them.

I'm surprised this hasn't been a big topic before now. The Board votes on the Transition Plan mid-January.

Charlie Mas said...

This year and last year I proposed the relocation of the the Washington Service Area Spectrum program to Madrona. It would, at once, provide area families with the confidence that the school would serve high performing students, attract high performing students to the school, provide the service area with a more central location for the program, and provide middle school Spectrum seats for when the Spectrum program at Washington fills.

dj said...

Charlie, a lot of parents around here are skeptical about Spectrum at Madrona based on Spectrum at Leschi. I think if Spectrum were a standardized, high-quality-at-all-sites program, that would not be the case, but you know better than anyone that this is not the case.

uxolo said...

Why wouldn't the folks funding the STEM project jump at developing a k-8?

How about this for anticipated dollars coming in:

"Operating Budget: $5.4 Million (Projected 2011), to $10 Million annually Projected funding: $100 Million Over 10-years"

"Washington STEM is a newly formed nonprofit organization that works to catalyze innovation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning in Washington State. Washington STEM advocates for and impacts policies and practices that will rapidly scale STEM education innovation, support educators in preparing students throughout Washington State for success in postsecondary education and work opportunities, particularly those students who have historically been underserved."

Central Mom said...

Please note that Washington STEM is a sub-group of Partnership for Learning, a big Downtown Biz group along the lines of the Alliance.

Here is the link that shows how it is in partnership with the omni-present Our Schools Coalition as well as a big backer of Stand for Children and the UW's Center for Reinventing Public Education.

Charlie Mas said...

I understand that it is hard to believe that Spectrum at Madrona would be, well, anything.

You would have to rely on the District's pride being tied up in the program's success.

I wonder about the ALO programs they created at Dunlap, MLK, Emerson and Van Asselt. At the time Dr. Vaughan told the Board that these would not be "ALOs in name only". So what are they like?

Jan said...

I don't know if Spectrum at Madrona would suffer the same problems as Spectrum at Leschi, or not. There was a time (many years ago) when the reputation of the early Spectrum grades at Leschi was fine -- but there were problems in one of the upper grades. Many parents either chose different Spectrum programs because of that (our solution) or put their children in Leschi for the early grades, and then removed them to Muir's spectrum program (or another one) thereafter. Given the passage of time, I would think that issue may well be resolved. So -- if Spectrum is placed at Madrona, it may well have more success than Leschi's program did. As I see it, its success depends on three things:
1. The backing of the principal (principals who fundamentally disapprove of any ability grouping, or are ashamed of having a Spectrum program -- and my impression is that there are schools where this appears to be the case) are unlikely to have flourishing Spectrum programs.
2. The staff. A principal can only do so much, and few want to try replacing their entire staffs if they hate Spectrum. Because Madrona has been SO focused on academic achievement, perhaps staff there will welcome the opportunity to have a series of self-contained (as defined and implemented by the District) classes working one grade advanced, and with "deeper" curriculum. If they have the staff, students, and parents to do it, they may even be able to do what one school (Kimball?) did and make the whole school "Spectrum" -- with the right supports for struggling kids, of course.
3. Parents: the very idea of giving Madrona two "tracked" programs creates a certain degree of anxiety, given the horrible problems of trying to house APP there years ago. But, the neighborhood may have become more accepting. If a significant number of parents want it in, and are willing to work with the rest of the school community to try to make it a "win" for the school all around (this is what it seemed to me Spectrum parents at Wedgwood tried to do when we were there -- with some success), it might be a great solution.

dj said...

In honesty, even besides the possible quality issues, I don't see a self-contained gifted program as a solution to the problem at Madrona. First, my older daughter attends Thurgood Marshall, and I have not seen that the presence of APP there (in probably larger numbers than would be present at Madrona with a Spectrum program) has increased the appeal of the school for non-APP parents. Co-locating a program does not automatically improve a school. Second, a self-contained Spectrum program would by definition not be accessible to neighborhood parents, unless they happened to have a Spectrum kid, and parents making the decision whether to send their kindergarten student to Madrona wouldn't be able to access the program, period.

Now, locating Spectrum at Madrona might make more sense for the Spectrum kids themselves, because Madrona is more centrally located than Muir. But I don't see Spectrum as the solution for the non-Spectrum Madrona kids.

Sahila said...

For January 4th - nationwide sea of red to show support public education...

http://goanimate.com/movie/0d8pwXAs_oag?utm_source=facebook

Charlie Mas said...

Since it is extremely unlikely that Madrona could actually fill a class with district-identified Spectrum-eligible students at any grade level, there would be plenty of seats in the "Spectrum" class for high performing neighborhood students who didn't meet the eligibility requirements. That's how local kids who are looking for a more challenging academic opportunity would benefit.