Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Education News Roundup

Dual-language in Washington State - a view from Seattle Globalist.

A MacArthur Genius award went to an educational researcher, Angela Duckworth.  From Ed Week:

Educational research psychologist and former teacher Angela Duckworth has devoted her career to understanding traits beyond IQ or test-taking abilities that predict a student's success— including grit and self-control. It is perhaps her own possession of these traits that helped lead the MacArthur Foundation to name Ms. Duckworth as one of this year's 24 MacArthur Fellows.  

Duckworth and her colleagues began by developing ways to empirically measure grit and self-control. Even when controlling for cognitive ability, the presence of these traits were important predictors of success. Unlike simple measures of IQ or natural intelligence, these are traits that can be taught.

From Ed Week, an article, Misdiagnosis in the Gifted (sure to start a fight here but I hope not). 

As information from the organization SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) points out, "behaviors directly associated with giftedness may mimic medical or mental health disorders." While it is entirely possible for gifted children, just like all children, to be susceptible to and diagnosed with the wide array of medical and mental health disorders that exist, there have also been documented cases of gifted children being misdiagnosed with a medical or mental health disorder because their gifted traits were misinterpreted by a medical professional who lacked training in and information about quirks and characteristics of giftedness. 

Seeing the importance of this issue, SENG has launched a "Misdiagnosis Initiative" this year "to alert the pediatric healthcare community to the potential for misdiagnosis."

Logging and Washington State go together but it looks like a new logging bill passed by the House on September 23rd may threaten school funding in rural areas.  From Ed Week:

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act has given rural communities in national forest areas federal money to compensate for revenue lost because of restrictions on harvesting timber. School districts have relied on that money for decades, but the legislation expired last year. It was reauthorized last summer for one year, and this site gives a state-by-state breakdown of the funding (Oregon leads the pack with $63 million, followed by California at $35.8 million).

Although schools likely would see a funding cut, groups such as the National Education Association and the National Association of Counties were supportive of the legislation.
"This bill provides a path forward to providing a lifeline for rural schools in great need: dependable sources of funding," according to a letter from the NEA to members of the House. "Among its five titles, it provides an approach for long-term funding for communities that currently receive Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act dollars, as well as crucial transition funding."

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill, and every major U.S. environmental group views the bill "as an ecological nightmare," according to the Huffington Post story. Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities called it "disappointing that the Obama administration continues to ignore the stark realities facing our forests and communities by threatening to veto the legislation."

To note, I went to check out where Washington State falls under in this legislation but got this message from the USDA:

Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.
After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.


Mary Griffin said...

I am confused about the dual language article. I am confused because the articles veers between dual language program and ELL programs, which I believe are separate programs and should be funded separately. The examples listed are schools with dual language programs, however. Is ELL money being used to fund/staff dual language programs and is that legal and/or appropriate?

Can someone who is more knowledgeable about this issue comment on this?

Anonymous said...

Interesting article -- I'd suggest that they are suggesting that immersion programs + ELL programs are what they are calling "Dual language programs." I'm just interpreting the article, with no special insight, but I can imagine that a "dual language program" containing a mix of english speakers who want to learn the language & native speakers in the language itself could be effective in both teaching ELL learners English and English speakers the target language.

If the dual language method was the best way of teaching ELL, there could be an argument for combining ELL funds (but only if it helped the ELL students).

I like the idea, naively. I wonder what it would require in our current programs -- it would have to give priority access to native speakers of the language to the program (but not so much that there weren't native English speakers). I wonder if this concept is part of the motivation behind the language immersion school expansion.


K. Voss said...

The MacDonald PTA is raising almost $350K JUST for immersion supports (immersion IAs at $47K a pop and more).

I'm not sure that #5 on her list is true at all. A lot more clarification is needed regarding what specific program types she is referring to because I doubt MacDonald and Stanford fit her mold.

Anonymous said...

Holy cow on the McDonald PTA fundraising goal.

Not sustainable.


mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I just had a deja' vu moment at the board meeting. Except that instead of a bunch of JSIS parents complaining cuz Suzie's little brother couldn't walk with her to JSIS, he was condemned to eternal damnation at XYZ neighborhood school. In response, the board language immersion nuts turned MacDonald into ANOTHER LI school.

Except tonight it was BHIS residents complaining because the sibling might have to, egad, go to Kimball! And Smith-Blum made a point of saying "we should draw boundaries to put a few more native Mandarin speakers" into one of our blessed International School so that they (and their IAs) can subsidize this pipe dream.

These schools appear to create a new entitlement that leads some of our elected leaders to jump through hoops to deliver on that entitlement. At whose expense? Those ELL students who are trying to learn English while catching up to grade level.

District leaders need to get a grip and figure out something. Do they intend to scale up this marvel? Or continue to create unsustainable islands of privilege for English speakers who want their children to grow up bilingual, without the expense.

BTW, the use of ELL funds to subsidize dual immersion is a perversion of the permitted uses of these federal funds.


Mary Griffin said...

I ditto the holy cow on the McDonald fundraising goal. That's a practice that the Washington state PTA discourages and many districts around us forbid. Bellevue School District, Issaquah School District, and LWSD are on record to disallow the practice of a PTSA or any other group to pay or subsidize teachers or classified staff as it could lead to inequitable situations, lack of continuity, violations of the collective bargaining agreement, union grievances, etc.

Clearly either #5 is incorrect or the district is doing it a different way than the article says.

Anonymous said...

#5 on the list can definitely be true, even if that's not the case here. We came from an immersion program in another state, and there were no IAs. Class sizes may have been a bit smaller (although they have been increasing there as well), but teachers did it solo so there were no additional costs.

I think there were a couple key factors that helped make it cost neutral. For one, this was full-day immersion, not half-day. Kids were exposed to the new language all day--in the classroom, via school signage, in morning announcements, etc.--and they learned the language much more quickly. By the time the smaller class size limits for younger grades were no longer in effect, kids were more proficient.

Also, there was only one immersion language, rather than two. This resulted in greater economy of scale--no need to order duplicate materials in each language, there was increased ability to move students around to control class size or provide differentiation, etc.

Additionally, some languages are likely easier for families to help with. In our case, the immersion language was Spanish. For the families at out school, it was a lot easier to look things up and help with Spanish homework than it would have been, say, in Mandarin or Japanese. I assume that the increased ability of parents to help provide support at home could also contribute to success in the classroom.

There may be other factors as well, but all in all, it can definitely be done. Our old PTA raised about 20k per year! It was a shock to learn how much additional fundraising is required with these programs here in SPS, and I still don't really understand it. And given what appear to also be poorer outcomes* re: foreign language acquisition under the SPS model, there's always a part of me that has a tough time writing that check each year.


*No, I don't have proof. But based on our experiences--as well as those of others we know who have participated in both SPS and other models--the level of fluency attained in the other model is much greater.

Anonymous said...

It's my fourth year as an SPS parent. My children have been gen ed, although tested into Spectrum. They are in elementary school. There is a lot I still don't know about the district and the programs and why people choose them.

With that background, let me toss out the new idea I had last night. I have no idea why a public school district supports SO MANY different special programs. Yes, there should be special programming for special needs kids and the very smart, like APP. I won't say here whether those programs should be stand-alone, integrated, or co-located -- different debate.

But it seems to me in era of less than enough funding, it's a crazy waste of money for a PUBLIC school district to offer language immersion schools, alternative schools, experiential learning, and the like. Yes, those are neat and great approaches. But a public school district can't be all things. If you want something different and special like that, you'll need to look to private school. The district should focus on putting on a QUALITY education experience in each neighborhood school, using the same general model of fully differentiated but general education.

I grew up in Bellevue in the 70s and 80s. We had excellent classrooms that could reach everyone from ELL to the smart. But we had none of the unique, different, specialized offerings that SPS offers.

-- Still Getting Used to SPS

Lynn said...

Holy Family in West Seattle just down the road from Roxhill has been rolling up a new 50/50 Spanish immersion program - beginning with preschool and kindergarten. I think it's a brilliant idea. It gives their ELL students an opportunity to be successful math and science students (taught in Spanish) while learning English. The native English speakers get the advantage of learning a second language. I like too that it puts the students on equal footing - there is something challenging for both groups. (It's a school with a tiny budget too.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Still (next time, a two-word name please), you hit a sore spot especially with the capacity management issues today.

However, a couple of things to note:
- we have had alternative schools for over 20 years. Long before charters, parents in this district got together with good ideas for different kinds of learning and foci for schools. They do not cost any more than other schools. The only real benefit they get (under district rules, not their own) is that they can keep their enrollment lower. Meaning, no one has to be assigned to their schools. Most of them, though, are full with waitlists.
-foreign language immersion - a good idea but yes, they cost money (and many costs are passed on, via guilt, to parents in the schools). Very popular and the district is hell-bent on expanding them. I wish they would hit the "pause" button on these.

But this issue of the neighborhood GenEd school versus everything else seems to be rising. At the Hale meeting, I heard several parents - arguing against APP in a neighborhood school - saying they want a GenEd program for their neighborhood kids.

We are at a point where we need to - this is me - streamline and get down to basics. All the extras won't be worth anything if we aren't getting basic academics and facilities right. But the district can't even do that at headquarters so I'm not sure what that means for the district at large.

Anonymous said...

"The MacDonald PTA is raising almost $350K JUST for immersion supports (immersion IAs at $47K a pop and more)."

This makes me so angry, knowing the many families of students with special needs who have been managed out of MacDonald (and forced to the new area SPED GHETTO for MacDonald and JSIS - BFDAY)to make room for this immersion program. I think the somebody has run the #s -- both these programs, MacDonald and JSIS -- are not accessible to students with special needs.

This District and the Board of Directors have seriously lost the moral and legal compass. I think this is totally corrupt, what is occurring at JSIS and MacDonald.

- reader

Lynn said...

Do you feel this way because they were neighborhood schools - and will changing them to option schools make them acceptable to you?

Anonymous said...

Headline passed by yesterday without my reading the article. Three more school districts are applying to be charter authorizers. Can't remember one and can't find the headline now. The other two are Tacoma and Highline, both of which expressed past interest but didn't have the ability to support paperwork in the first round.

Spokane is the first WA district on the road to be its own charter authorizer.


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