Thursday, March 31, 2011

Counselors or Coaches - Vote Now

Charlie reported that Robert Boesche, CFO, wants budget ideas so let's give him some.  My thought is inspired by the Kia car commercial with the gangsta hamsters (I cannot say why this commercial so entertains me but it does.)  The tag line is:

You can go with this or you can get with that.

So in that vein, I thought we might put together a list (and feel free to do this at your elementary school).    First up,
School Counselors or Academic Coaches?
This or That?

Which do you think make the most difference at your school?  Which would you be willing to do without for a year or two or three?  (And none of this, "I don't really know" stuff.  You know your school; what do teachers or the principals talk about more?)

What else would make a good "this or that"?

61 comments:

basically said...

Counselors.

Anonymous said...

Counselors.

Po3 said...

Counselors

Greg said...

Given the choice, I'd rather have more teachers than either counselors or coaches.

I would rather have five extra teachers in a school, especially math and science teachers, and the smaller class sizes that would provide than have five people doing counseling or coaching.

Wouldn't everyone?

misswaterlow said...

But Greg. Don’t you know that research shows class size doesn’t matter. It’s teacher quality that matters;)

That’s a big wink in case you missed it.

Counselors at middle and high schools. Academic coaches at elementary schools.

Anonymous said...

Dumb question, but can one of you explain what is an academic coach? I have heard it on this blog (though don't see it defined on district website), but I've never seen or met a "coach" at our elementary school. I volunteer a fair bit there.

Do the coaches work with kids or just teachers? What do they do exactly and why does the district want them? Can they work as math and reading/writing tutors? Because if that is so, our school can use a coach in that capacity. It would save our PTA a bundle.

I think our BLT uses the money for a counselor for some other position to cover PCP time. Our school is in a middle class to upper income neighborhood with low FRL (< 16%).

The school where we used to live (in the CD) definitely had many more problems and needed a FT counselor.

Seeking answers

Bird said...

And none of this, "I don't really know" stuff. You know your school; what do teachers or the principals talk about more?

Neither. They talk about neither at my school, at least to me.

Do academic coaches even come to my school? I don't know.

Just for claficiation, is the "math specialist" at my school, a teacher or a coach?

I've never heard anyone talk about the value of coaches, but since I've never heard anyone articulate the pro side, it makes me not entirely certain on the con.

Coaches seem like shadowy figures. They didn't have them when I was a kid or, I believe, in the many years my mom was a teacher. When and where did they come from?

I suspect they grew out of some 'reform' minded intiative to make people hew to some particular curriculum or teaching style, and now that that has had no impact, we are just stuck with them because no one remembers why we added them in the first place.

I'd love to see a history, or at least some information from a teacher with first hand experience. Everything I know about them is rumor.

In the absence of additional information, I'd have to say counselors, since I can at least imagine what value they provide.

But to be frank, while counselors sound like a great idea, I'd pick targeted academic support for struggling students in my elementary over a counselor in my school, or a PE, music or art teacher.

We didn't have of any of those things when I was a kid, and I got an acceptable education.

My top priority would be more instructional time, and free summer school for kids who are below grade level. As long as we're not offering that, I'd like all the extras to be taken out of my school to fund it.

(Sorry to anyone who might freak at the prospect of losing these "essentials")

jamie said...

counselors (elementary parent here)

jamie

Northender said...

counselors!

hschinske said...

Given the choice, I'd rather have more teachers than either counselors or coaches.

Sure. But that doesn't just mean salaries; that means more classrooms, which most schools have not got, and the school assignment plan doesn't allow for any pockets of small class sizes, so it would have to be in all schools or not at all. Just look at the McGilvra situation.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

Oh, and my vote is for counselors. Karen Harmon at Lowell went to bat for my kids more than once, whereas I can't think of anything an instructional coach has ever done that I've even heard about, for good or ill.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Counselors are pretty essential in schools with high rates of poverty/kids at risk. The counselor at GH (60% FRL when my daughter was there) had to deal with everything from serious behavior issues to possible abuse/neglect. He had to work with DSHS to make sure kids were getting what they needed at home.

On top of that, he ran a very good and pretty successful anti-bullying curriculum and worked with the kids with special needs—everything from ADHD to dyslexia and autism. And, he worked in tandem with the Family Support Worker to put on parent education nights, etc. A wonderful young man, he was loved by all kids at the school—especially when he came in costume to DJ the annual Halloween Party.

As long as public schools are expected to be social service providers as well as educators, counselors will be necessary.

SolvayGirl (Google is being fussy again)

Peon said...

Q. HS college and career counselors VS academic coaches.

A. Counselor

Q. Summer school VS. MAP

A. Summer school

Q. Direct, individual, intervention and support for struggling students VS New Ed Director for the SE

A. Individual intervention and support

Q. Extra teachers VS new web site

A. Extra teachers

Q. New science text books VS healthier school lunches

A. Healthier lunches

TechyMom said...

I think there are different kinds of coaches. For example, I think the math specialist at Lowell is called a coach, even though he teaches kids rather than teachers. There are lots of split classes at Lowell, and he takes half the class during math. IMHO, this type of coach should just be called a teacher, and should be kept.

The coaches who train teachers? Those seem way less important than councelors.

seattle citizen said...

Counselors.

seattle citizen said...

And all the choices on Peon's list, which is a very good one.

Jamie said...

Career counselors back at the high schools!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seeking answers, I think I know most of the answers but let me do some checking tomorrow.

Upfront, we are talking about the coaches who work with teachers only, not students.

Counselors needed said...

Look at the budget survey.

An overwhelming need for counselors was expressed.

Anonymous said...

counselors. NO. More. Coaches. Period.

-SLP

Salander said...

Coaches were created to fix all those BAD teachers whose students didn't meet the bar on the MAP test or some other criteria created by principals who must root out all those BAD teachers in order to meet the criteria for being a GOOD principal.

Counselors.

Anyone who holds a valid teaching certificate should teach. Principals should teach at least one class per day in middle and high school. If we are keep ridding ourselves of teachers someone needs to do the job.

All this administrating is just an excuse for not teaching.

moon mom said...

Well said, Salander!

Counselors are essential, even in neighborhoods that don't have high FRL ratios. Counselors at elementary are proactive in teaching students how to resolve conflict and focus on learning, in addition to working with DSHS and behavior issues. It's a big and necessary job.

Their ounce of prevention is worth a pound of suspensions.

Anonymous said...

counselors.

the academic "coaches" frequently operate operate under a constructivist edu-babble approach which works like this --

you're swamped, you're sinking ... and you get someone who paddles up & asks you to visualize a boat made out of ... bark? straws from starbucks? recycled wheat stalks?

how would you build it? did you do a pre-assessment of it? do you feel it will float ... have you read this 14 page article based upon 3 classroom observations of 49 kids, and clearly the research shows that ... you should reflect! ...and the someone paddles away!

'yippee!' thinks the swamped serf,' thanks for ... the ... 'help''.

IF the academic coaches were useful, there might be something to debate ... ?? On the other hand - why aren't we debating firing all the useless "researchers" at the U.W. to hire people who are useful - like counselors for little kids!

Dr. PowerPoint To DaMoon.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just want to point out that we aren't benefiting from the supplemental levy in this budgeting process. I'd like to see how that money figures in all this.

KG said...

Counselors are infinitley more important as they intervene and help the child in elementary school before they get to middle or high school. Elementary is where they are needed the most. Prevention and pro-activeness is what the counselors are about. I work in the schools and see that the counselors make a daily difference in the lives of students whom which we are all here for. They also assist the teacheers with bullying problems and support of the overall classroom. In elementary schools the counselor helps before problems get to large, especially today and for years to come in the economic crisis that the wealthy have created. It is obvious here and that is to eliminate the Coaches.

Susan said...

"As long as public schools are expected to be social service providers as well as educators, counselors will be necessary."

Thank you, Solvay Girl.

Counselors are critical in our SE elementary schools. Our counselor KNOWS the kids, really knows them, and interacts with them beautifully, and intervenes and teaches proper problem solving skills to kids when they are still in first grade. I do not want to think about what those kids would be like in 7th grade or 10th grade without the crucial intervention they are getting now.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see lots of support here for counselors, including those at the elementary level. Smart group of bloggers.

Central funding has been cut for the .5 elementary counseling positions that were just added back to the Weighted Staffing Standard this past fall. Please speak up to save these services for our kids. Email the school board at schoolboard@seattleschools.org. If we don’t speak up now we may never get these crucial services back.

These services were cut last year (based on Don Kennedy's lies to the school board)and it was all the emails that got funds back in the schools to save 68% of these positions. Please bombard the board. You can make a difference.

notsoanonymous

bbbb said...

Teachers.

StepJ said...

Isn't the budget for counselors about a third of the budget for coaches?

I vote keep counselors and fund teachers for actual current enrollment.

Especially, as the "Sails Might be Trimmed" for portions of the Strategic Plan.

Why pay to enforce something that will no longer exist?

dan dempsey said...

Do any of the gangsta hamsters live in West Seattle? Better leadership is needed on the Board.

Skip running on the wheel ... gangsta hamsta ... run for real this summer.

Anonymous said...

Counselors benefit the kids more. Specially, students who need help. Coaches value is peanut buttered throughout the system, at best, but my guess is the lack of accountability, lack data driven focus and lack of follow up result in ineffectiveness.

However, the above is my lay person's opinion. I'm curious what the Principals are saying? Melissa, do you know?

A friend of Seattle

Teachermom said...

Counselors. The district should be partnering with a mental health organization to provide basic/preventative counseling services and a link to more intensive services.

Eric B said...

It's not just the high FRL elementary schools that need counselors. My second grader was threatened on the playground the other week, and two kids from her class were suspended for fighting.

+1 more for Peon's list as well.

Wondering said...

Will counselors be in Level 1&2 schools with a funding mechanism different than WSS and eliminating counselors from higher ranking schools?

Kathy said...

Step J,

Good point. How much are instructional coaches costing the district vs. cost of counselors?

If counselor costs are only a fraction of instructional coach costs- shouldn't we retain counselors while eliminating a portion of instructional coaches?

How many of those instructional coaches are in the JSS without direct student support?

Anonymous said...

Counselors counselors counselors. For all schools, not just RFL. For all levels, elementary to HS.

PAL

Rosie said...

Dare to distinguish among the challenges different schools face. Counselors but only at elementary schools with a certain threshold of FRE.

Wondering said...

Rosie,

Social, emotional and behavorial issues occur across the spectrum of ALL socio-economic groups. Every school needs atleast a half time counselor.

Will some schools be getting counselors, while eliminating them from higher level schools?

Meg said...

$6.2M of Coaches or $8.2M of Counselors?

Counselors.

It's not quite a perfect swap, but not every counselor in the district is going to be cut, either. And it's possible SPS spends more than $6.2M on coaches - some may be titled differently, making them difficult to locate in the FY11 line item budget. In late 2009, SPS (according to the CFOO and Exec Director of Finance) spent $10-11M on coaches. I haven't gone through the line item budget with a fine-tooth comb yet, so the $6+M is what I've turned up easily.

I would consider keeping the $1M of coaches who are assigned to schools (and answerable to the principal in the building), and by cutting the remainder, return any counselors who have been cut back to schools.

Meg said...

Consulting Teachers or more staff in ICS buildings?

More staff in ICS buildings.

There are at least 11 SpEd consulting teachers, plus a couple of other varieties of consulting teachers. All are billed to teaching, and none actually, you know, teach.

I would dump what IDEA doesn't require and put more staff, whether teachers and/or IAs, in the classrooms and schools.

Meg said...

More alignment initiatives or direct support for struggling students?

Direct support for struggling students. Alignment is expensive (although I will admit, it's not totally clear exactly how expensive). Despite the fanfare surrounding alignment efforts, they don't appear to have lifted student achievement - but those efforts have threatened some of the best programming in the district. SPS's alignment efforts have mostly edged to standardization, not alignment - I would dump it, and give struggling students active, direct support.

Alignment can be tabled without harming kids - if it hasn't really helped them to date, it's hard to argue that tabling it would harm them. But maybe someone else thinks that alignment has been marvelous. I like the idea of alignment, but I think SPS's implementation efforts have been lousy.

Meg said...

Capital spending:

More investment in the IT infrastructure, or seismic retrofitting for safer buildings?

Seismic retrofitting for safer buildings. A slow IT network is an annoyance. Safe school buildings are more important.

Is it purely as simple as that? No. But it doesn't really sit right to watch a decent IT infrastructure get upgraded while the half billion dollar maintenance backlog - which includes seismic issues - continues to be neglected.

Meg said...

Administrative and office assistants for JSCEE or less money chopped out of schools?

Less money chopped out of schools.

I will admit, I feel some guilt suggesting this one. Secretaries, office specialists and administrative assistants aren't in the ranks of overpaid, over-populated management running around downtown. However, they do add up to some $2.2M of Central Administration expense. I would expect that this could be halved, helping to prevent cuts to schools.

Just Saying said...

Counselors vs k-5 music alignment.

Counselors.

Laura said...

Counselors.
And like Greg, I'd mostly prefer more teachers in the classroom in general.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks Meg for that astute this or that. I think I'll forward this thread to the Board.

Name said...

Anyone think they could make up a table like this one but for SPS spending priorities?

http://jackdean.posterous.com/must-see-chart-this-is-what-class-war-looks-l

Melissa Westbrook said...

Name, that's a mighty fine chart.

You can go with this or you can get with that, government-style.

Did you see the CEO of GE trying to defend GE not paying one cent of taxes? Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Meg said: "$6.2M of Coaches or $8.2M of Counselors?"

Actually its mainly the elementary counselors that have been cut plus some reductions at the middle school and I believe the high school level.

Last year when elementary counselors were cut from all the schools it was said to be a $2.6M budget item. Replacing cut counselors therefore would be more around this number $2.6M than $8.2M.

We can pay $2.6M now or pay much more later. Costs aside kids deserve a safety net. Counselors save lives, literally and figuratively.

elementary counselors v. map upgrades? counselors
elementary counselors v. map?
counselors
elementary counselors v. consultants?
counselors
elementary counselors v. $700.000 website downgrade?
elementary counselors

Next August the state will have new stronger anti-bullying laws. Just like the district to cut counselors at such a time.

Just like the district to end up paying millions after being sued for bullying problems rather than preventing them and getting so much more for the money. Could happen and it wouldn't surprise me.

oynonymous

Anonymous said...

Counselors, counselors, counselors. Prevention works and it needs to start in kindergarten. Investing in elementary counselors will pay-off in fewer disciplinary actions, less instructional time lost dealing with behavioral issues/peer conflicts/bullying, fewer bullying-related lawsuits, and a greater number of individuals in our society who can solve problems peacefully and manage their emotions effectively.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, counselors.

Jennifer said...

Counselors are for the kids. Academic Coaches are for professional development, nice but teachers should come with training. They have already paid for their training.

Counselor said...

Bryant Elementary will have close to 600 students.

You can't tell me elimination of .5counselor will be anything less than a disaster; even if it doesn't have a high FRL.

Anonymous said...

counselors. as a teacher who dealt with 'coaches' I found them nothing but a disruption and a mouthpiece for a failing curriculum. My time is better spent in the classroom providing continuity and stability, than working with 'coaches' who tell me to read the teachers guide and keep a journal. Never did a 'coach' come to my classroom and see how things worked with my particular students, never did they provide any insight into making the curriculum work for reality of my classroom.

former teacher

joanie said...

I'm a teacher in the north end and we need counselors. I know teachers need professional development and experts sometimes but it almost seems as if we are treated as dummies. We are educated people. Most schools desperately need counselors. Even the ones that think they don't. Sometimes parents don't know how much guidance in kindness and friendship is need at younger ages.

joanie said...

Research can be manipulated. Class size does matter. Although there is such a thing as too small. I think it is the range of needs that makes the difference. Sometime common sense needs to prevail. And yes, there are poorer teachers and better teachers just as there are poorer and better in every profession. Ask me about doctors!

We used to honor the needs of the majority and the common good. What has happened? Education and labor - why have we abandoned the badge of honor for these people.

joanie said...

Sorry for that poor first post: PD and experts are needed sometimes but counselors are crucial.

joanie said...

Sorry I didn't say it all in one post. Teachers' plates are getting fuller and fuller. I watch the board meetings fairly often and the teachers and parents who appear seem to be ignored most of the time. I agree with much of what I hear. Now Dr. Enfield is creating another way for teachers to communicate with parents: turning the school website into a potential blog site that will be monitored by teachers. Good Lord! That's not what we need. How much money has been spent on IT in the Distrist already. Put it at middle and high schools where kids can make more of it. Elementary schools do not need more IT. More bandaids for appearances. They need to change the paradigm.

And, with all the money that has gone into IT, TEACHERS ARE STILL DOING REPORT CARDS BY HAND. Can anyone explain that? At least at my school.

I'll stop. This is turning into a rant. First time on the blog. Guess I had a lot on my mind.

joanie said...

I forgot one: Counselors and Nurses. Every school should have a full-time nurse as well. I teach elementary. Our nurse is busy every day she is there which - with PTA help - is 3 days.

joanie said...

If you take secretaries out of schools. you add to teachers' duties. Is that what you want? Cutting off your nose to spite your face? That's a poor choice. I hope it doesn't happen

Anonymous said...

Just realized something. For many larger elementary schools > 450, you get an assistant principal and $0 for counselor. So perhaps the 2nd principal is covering the 0.5 FTE counselor in big school now.

Number cruncher