Tuesday, February 15, 2011

News Roundup

The Seattle Times has a couple of interesting stories this morning.

The first one is - big surprise - about state budget cuts. No new news here but they do have a poll going about what to cut. Currently, K-4 class size reduction money (14.8% of the vote), Initiative 728 (19.88%) and Initiative 732 (15.2%) are leading the cuts poll.

The other story is great news for Bailey-Gatzert Elementary. Seattle University, which has provided tutoring for the last 20 years, is creating a project for $1M a year to help provide:

more tutoring and after-school help, free legal aid to recent immigrants provided by the university's law school and free health assistance from the nursing school.

The project aims to touch all aspects of the neighborhood's social, health and educational development, and will include assistance to Washington Middle School and Garfield High School.

They are trying to model the services after the Harlem's Children's Zone in NYC.

By working with the community, students will move beyond the isolated, intellectual experience of the classroom and learn how to put their knowledge to work in the community. That can help "make education stick" after the final exam, Sundborg said.

"If our students are changed through their educational experience, then they will be citizens who will work for positive changes for the rest of their lives," said Kent Koth, director of the university's youth initiative.

This brings Bailey-Gatzert on par with South Shore which receives about $750k per year from the New School Foundation for tutoring, early childhood learning, etc.

Bailey-Gatzert is led by Greg Imel who is one of our best SPS principals.

Last news item - the forum that will not die. It seems that the Seattle Channel's Town Hall forum didn't just hit a nerve at LEV; the Alliance for Education was none too happy either. Apparently, the head of the Alliance, Sara Morris, sent a letter to City Club and Seattle Channel criticizing nearly every aspect of the forum from the audience to the "facts" to the validity of using the audience voting machines. What made it particularly funny is that she included one of their push-poll telephone questions as an example of a neutral question!

She claims the Strategic Plan is doing better than they said. What is interesting is that the Strategic Plan numbers got better as the evening went along. I guess she missed that.

Here's the question that host, CR Douglas, asked that she found objectionable:

“Does the district’s move to align curriculum inhibit innovation in the classroom?”

I agree, it is not a neutral way to phrase the question but I think they were trying to get at the idea that most people think alignment is standardizing the curriculum.

Here's her idea of a good question:

13. I am going to tell you a little more about Excellence for All. It is a five‐year strategic plan to raise achievement for
all students, attract and retain great teachers, and increase efficiency in Seattle Public Schools. In the first 18 months
under Excellence for All, Seattle Public Schools increased the number of Advanced Placement classes in high schools
by 30 percent, gave teachers new tools to monitor the academic performance of their students, and developed a new
way to assign students to schools in a predictable manner with a clear path from kindergarten to high school. Guided
by Excellence for All, Seattle Public Schools is dedicated to preparing every student to graduate from high school ready
for college, careers, and life. Having heard this, do you favor or oppose the strategic plan Excellence for All, or are you
undecided?

This question ALSO doesn't outline all the Strategic Plan but that's okay with her.

What is funny is that she felt the mix of people in the audience should have been "balanced". It was a free and open process about who signed up. Fully one-quarter of the audience was City Year workers who had no visible bias at all. I recognized people from all sides of the education spectrum. What was City Club to do, screen the audience? She also claims the "twittersphere" was packed with "like-minded allies". How do you pack the twittersphere?

She claims it was "yet another 'trash the district, trash the Superintendent' forum". What? The district, the Alliance and LEV carefully control every single forum they put on. The one forum they, and everyone else, had no control over, well that's the one they really don't like. Again, just like the LEV speakout, I say go to the video. Who trashed the Superintendent? No one. To disagree with her plan is not to trash her. No one trashed the district - most people who spoke of their school spoke of it proudly.

Folks, I do believe there are people out there that want to control the message. We live in a democracy with a free and open Internet. Free speech wins.

13 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I wrote a letter today thanking the organizers of the event for providing a forum that gave the ordinary citizens a voice in a discussion that has been monopolized by self-appointed elites, such as the Alliance for Education and the League of Education Voters.

Anonymous said...

NOTE TO the Alliance for Ed:

Time to give us Seattle folks some credit here, we are intelligent, educated people who are in the trenches everyday watching:

Our Schools close and our children shuffled to other buildings. (You did hear the Aki teacher, right?)

Our popular programs being cut and or eliminated, when they should be replicated.

Millions of dollars are diverted away from our students, to insane testing programs, bloated district staff, etc.

Also, you did see the districts own school report where test results are DOWN?

You did hear the longest sitting school board director say that he has lost confidence in the plan?

So really Alliance, maybe a honest look at where we are today, halfway through the "plan," may actually begin to help turn the sinking ship around, because your silly memo to CR won't really do much of anything now will it?

Po3

Anonymous said...

With pleasure I give back to Sara Morris the exact same message the Alliance has consistently been dishing out to parents who disagree with the Alliance's direction (forcing Ed Reform down our throats via District insider lobbying, personnel placement and funding)that has become the organization's MO under her leadership.

"Sit Down. Shut Up."

-skeptical-

par said...

It's sad to hear that what was said at the forum is a shock to anyone. It seemed pretty reflective of public opinion to me. I don't meet a lot of parents that are supportive of the district leadership.

If anyone in the district is surprised, maybe it's time to start having real forums for public engagement at SPS, instead of the process that is designed to dampen the sense of discord.

Charlie Mas said...

The message I get from the Alliance is that people who disagree with them just need to be educated. Once they learn the real truth, they will agree.

That's the message I would like to send the Alliance: I understand that you disagree, but once you learn more about the situation you will come to agree.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.

This is similar to what Laurie Rogers (a parent advocate in Spokane) experienced when she and others held a public forum about math education in Spokane schools. District people didn't like the message and tried to disrupt the forum (that members of the public organized).

Perhaps we need more forums where the message isn't controlled.

She writes about it here:

http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/

-A parent

zb said...

The example question is very funny. "Do you approve or are you neutral?" Hilarious.

I think curriculum alignment is a good thing, and do think the question should have been posed more neutrally (as well as some other questions). But, that poll was an example of what happens if you just throw together a group of questions without vetting them using proper polling technique.

But the LEV example question is so ridiculous that it's a spoof. It's an example of what you do when you use all the info you know about polling to create a deliberately biased instrument. Deliberate, rather than accidental bias.

wseadawg said...

Sara goes into the same pile as Korsmo: Deficient infants in charge of influential organizations, shaking their reptilian brain rattles, finally exploding into a tantrum and throwing their mush across the room because nobody's paying enough attention to them! Waaaaaahhhh. Grow up, whiners.

Central Mom said...

To the Alliance, Gates and MGJ:

Do not make the Mubarak mistake. Do not convince yourselves that you have the only sustainable answers and do not engage in conversation only with each other while outside the walls of JSCEE the community does a slow burn.

It behooves us all to listen to a diversity of opinions and to understand the circumstances that lead to those opinions.

That meeting wasn't an attack session on the Superintendent. It was, however, uncomfortable for her supporters. I would think such a night would be an opportunity for MGJ and company to digest the questions and mood of the community and to move forward with an understanding of the criticism.

seattle citizen said...

Speaking of LEV, it's interesting that Mike Itti just today posted a statement prepared by Randy Dorn's office regarding his position that Washington should NOT pass HB 1609, on teacher evaluation. It's strange because this runs counter to LEV's usual rah-rah-reform stance, and also because the post just below it is LEV's request for people to call in support for SB 5399, on teacher evaluation.

I hope LEV continues to post both sides of debates (even tho' they won't post my comments, boo hoo!)

Here is MIke Itti's post on LEV. Note Dorn's eloquent rebuttal of the Reform's bills:

February 15, 2011 By Mike Itti
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction just released this prepared statement by Superintendent Randy Dorn on teacher evaluations. He testified today on House Bill 1609, however the statement below is not a verbatim transcript of his testimony.
[Dorn's statement below:]
The issue of teacher quality is a national one, not just a state one.

My experience as a teacher and a principal has taught me that a quality teacher has the largest positive impact on student learning. The most critical interaction in a student’s education is that between the teacher and the student.

Students deserve for that interaction to be one of quality.

How do we determine that? Unfortunately, at that moment we don’t have a system that properly evaluates teachers. We’ve talked about it for many years, and we’ve made a little progress. But the system we put in place years ago did not help ineffective teachers improve. And it did not go a good job of removing ineffective teachers.

In any business, a manager needs to objectively identify those who aren’t performing as well as others and give them the opportunity and assistance to improve. If they don’t, they should be removed.

That sums up my philosophy pretty well: “Improve or remove.” A teacher evaluation system first must do its best to improve teachers who need it most. If that doesn’t work, we need a reasonable process to remove teachers, regardless of seniority.

It’s important to understand that this is about funding. The bill we’re discussing today involves tying reductions in force to evaluations. RIFs occur because we don’t have enough money. But an evaluation system shouldn’t be tied to budgets; it should exist strengthen our teaching corps.

Last year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6696. That bill was in response to President Obama’s Race to the Top program. At the time the bill was being debated, I supported an amendment going farther on teacher evaluations. Even though my amendment wasn’t adopted, we wound up with a historic bill.

The probation period for teachers was increased from two years to three. And we started pilot projects that will help us develop a new system of teacher evaluations. This new system will place teachers on a four-tiered system, instead of just satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

This will help principals to work at improving teachers and, as a last resort, to remove ineffective teachers.

We must give SB 6696 time to work before passing more legislation. The pilots need to be developed and tried. They must be fair. If they are to be changed before they get fully off the ground, no one will have confidence in the process. And they won’t have confidence in the final product: a new evaluation system.

As a result, nothing will get done.

We can’t let that happen. This issue is too important – both to our teachers, who need our support and help, and to our students."

Word Verifier says, lucli LEV is posting both sides of an issue.

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

Yaaaaah! Sara Morris, put on the big-girl pants! I have no idea what that expression means, but I've been dying to use it anyway.

(I cleaned that up for a family audience.)

joanna said...

Yes, I'm sure that Bailey Gatzert will benefit. Remember though that Seattle U still uses a specific school in Shoreline for their teacher training where they demonstrate by sharing professors and teachers to demonstrate great teaching.