Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Roosevelt Teacher Named Finalist for National Language Teacher of the Year

Taeko Tashibu of Roosevelt High School in Seattle, who is a Japanese language teacher.  Congrats to Ms. Tashibu!  From Ed Week:

According to the ACTFL, the Language Teacher of the Year takes on the role of spokesperson for the language-teaching profession, promoting the importance of teaching foreign languages and cultures. The current LTY is Noah Geisel, a Spanish teacher at East High School in Denver. (Check out his presentation on engaging students in cultural studies.)  

This year's winner will be announced at the ACTFL's Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., in November.

In addition to administering the award, the ACTFL, a membership organization, provides professional development, certification programs, and language-education resources. It also offers scholarship and grant opportunities.

The other finalists are three Spanish teachers and one Latin teacher.  

Seattle Council PTSA News (and there's a lot of it)

Want a job with the SCPTA interfacing with SPS staff?  Here you go.  (I would actually be swell at this job but they would never hire me.)

They need folks to represent most areas of the city.

Do you have an interest in issues that go beyond your local school and affect children throughout the district? If so, we need you! Transportation, capacity, family engagement and district policies are just a few areas that SCPTSA is currently working on. SCPTSA board members have a number of opportunities to serve on committees in the district, as well as meet with district officials and school board members. SCPTSA works with all local PTAs throughout Seattle, including outreach, education, training and troubleshooting.

We are looking for Area Directors for : NE, NW, SE, SW and Central Districts.

The board meets monthly at the John Stanford Center, or via conference call. Are you interested in helping, but are not sure what role is right for you? Contact us so we can learn about your interests! Please email Linnea Fichter at vicepresident@seattlecouncilptsa.org


Fundraising news (I didn't see this at the SPS website nor have I seen a press release but this is what the SCPTSA is reporting):

Bouncy houses and dunk tanks are prohibited on school grounds.  Contact Richard Staudt, SPS Risk Manager, for more information on this kind of usage.

Also, starting this fall, SPS will take "a 10% cut, up to $1,000, for the use of school grounds if the fundraising activity takes place during school hours (like Walk-a-thons).  Please contact president@seattlecouncilptsa.org for further info."

Update: I did leave out the new SCPTSA President's comment (that's Katherine Schomer) - We're trying to think of it as a "use fee" for the space.  I'll have to ask her if SCPTSA plans any pushback or will leave it to individual PTAS.

I'll put a call in for more info on both these fundraising issues.   I can only say that the PTAs put back into the district far more than they take out.  I think these fees are foolish and will make PTAs rethink some fundraising and/or what they put those dollars towards.

Quarterly Program Placement report due today

Today is July 31st, the due date for the quarterly program placement report.

I was recently reminded of an email I sent to the Board at the end of January in which I asked about the status of the program placement process and the equitable access framework - both of which were overdue then. I was reminded of that email because I just saw it among the documents sent to Linda Shaw of the Seattle Times as part of a public disclosure request about all email traffic between Director Smith-Blum and Mr. Banda in January.

Director Smith-Blum forwarded my email to Mr. Banda and asked him:
"Just fyi below, and it is accurate - would love to have an update on the EAF - program placement - so we can start to get on top of the process and comply with the policy. Is it possible for Aleta to set a date for us and whoever else might be appropriate in the conversation so I can determine where on the Board calendar we might need an entry point in the plan as well?"

Here we are, six months later, with no progress on the program placement procedure or the Equitable Access Framework during the past six months. I don't expect the quarterly report on program placement to be any more compliant with the policy than any of the previous reports - which did not meet the requirements of the policy.

This work has been passed around like a hot potato. The last person to have the job was Phil Brockman. I don't think anyone has it now.

Common Core Roundup

The fight is still on in many states over Common Core.  New wrinkles have emerged like all kinds of products "aligned" to Common Core and being pushed to states.

First (and thanks to Dan Dempsy) is a YouTube video from Ben Swann on the issues around Common Core.   This is the best, most distilled down information on CC I have ever heard.  Recommended.

Think CC isn't linked to DOE money?  I'll let Diane Ravitch tell you what happened to Georgia:

A few days ago, Georgia announced that it was dropping out of PARCC, the Common Core testing consortium funded by the U.S. Department of Education. State officials said the state could not afford the technology or the cost.

The U.S. Department of Education was swift to respond. It wrote Georgia to warn that it is withholding $10 million from the state’s Race to the Top funding. Maybe the timing was a coincidence. Maybe not. 

The state says it needs more time to fix its educator evaluation system before it can be implemented, but the Feds insist that Georgia must start evaluating teachers and principals based on test scores without further delay.

New York State is the first state to have a real bill against the use of Common Core (and this is pushed by parents, not Tea Party people).  Great website with good solid information.

The New York state site has a great list of all the items they want to use in your child's classroom (or even that your child will wear) and biometric bracelets are one of them.  This from the group in Illinois trying to stop Common Core.  From Stephanie Simon of Before It's News:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured more than $4 billion into efforts to transform public education in the U.S., is pushing to develop an “engagement pedometer.” Biometric devices wrapped around the wrists of students would identify which classroom moments excite and interest them — and which fall flat.

Gates officials hope the devices, known as Q Sensors, can become a common classroom tool, enabling teachers to see, in real time, which kids are tuned in and which are zoned out.

Existing measures of student engagement, such as videotaping classes for expert review or simply asking kids what they liked in a lesson, “only get us so far,” said Debbie Robinson, a spokeswoman for the Gates Foundation. To truly improve teaching and learning, she said, “we need universal, valid, reliable and practical instruments” such as the biosensors.

“In high school biology I didn’t learn a thing all year, but boy was I stimulated. The girl who sat next to me was gorgeous. Just gorgeous,” said Arthur Goldstein, a veteran English teacher in New York City who has long been critical of Gates-funded education reform.

The engagement pedometer project fits neatly with the Gates Foundation’s emphasis on mining daily classroom interactions for data. 

It does not fit neatly with what ANY other country in the world is doing to better K-12 public education.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Smile of the Day

I received an e-mail that Peter Maier is promoting Estey and Blanford for School Board.   And that's fine.

What's funny is how he describes them (and given what he writes, I'm pretty sure he DID write it):

Estey

Suzanne Dale Estey is running to fill the District IV position vacated by retiring Seattle School Board Member Michael DeBell, who has endorsed her. From our work together on the School Board, both Michael and I understand the importance of having strong School Board leadership. Suzanne is a passionate, knowledgeable and experienced leader who will be a strong advocate for high quality education. I have no doubt that Suzanne will make a positive impact on the School Board at a time when we need it most.

Suzanne was born and raised in Seattle, and served as the chair of the Inter-High Council and student representative to the School Board while she was a student at Roosevelt High School. Suzanne has two young boys who attend Catharine Blaine K-8. I have given Suzanne my full support in this three-way Primary, because a solid education lays the groundwork for our children’s future.


Blanford

Stephan Blanford is another very strong candidate, who has a doctorate in education leadership and policy and significant experience as an executive director of education and youth development organizations serving Seattle school kids 0 – 18 years old. He has studied more than 100 schools and districts nationwide, and is an authority on evidence-based approaches used by schools to close achievement/opportunity gaps. He is also a Seattle Public Schools parent, with a daughter entering fifth grade at Beacon Hill International School.
A bit of a difference, no? He kind of makes her sound like a housewife (which she isn't) while Blanford is this uber-education expert.  I guess that high school experience is really paying off for Estey because there seems to be many people impressed by it. (And FYI, Estey has one child at Blaine; the other starts there this fall.)

This e-mail was paid for by the Estey campaign (no love from the Blanford side?).

Naturally, I am of the mind that if you want Peter Maier's endorsement, you probably don't understand what being a good Board member looks like.

Thoughts for STEM and APP in West Seattle

K-5 STEM at Boren needs a permanent home. The District is currently thinking of using the Schmitz Park building, but the school is already too big for that building. Are we spending tens of millions of BEX IV money to take kids out of portables at Schmitz Park just to put a lot of other kids into portables at Schmitz Park? That doesn't make any sense. E C Hughes is another possible location, but it's not much bigger. Either choice would mean moving the kids out of a real building at Boren and into portables at the other site. Either choice would mean committing the District to spend tens of millions to renovate the chosen site to make it suitable. It will be difficult to find the money in BEX IV or BTA.

Fairmount Park, by the way, is really needed as an attendance area school. Not only does West Seattle need the additional capacity, but take a look at the map. West Seattle has a string of elementary schools in the north and a belt of them in the south, but none in the middle - except the Fairmount Park site. Attendance area schools are geographic communities and they need to be distributed geographically. A big hole, like the one in the middle of West Seattle, should be filled.

If Schmitz Park, E C Hughes, and Fairmount Park are all bad ideas - and they are - then where can K-5 STEM at Boren go? Why does it have to go anywhere? Why can't it stay at Boren?

Tuesday Open Thread

The Great Gatsby Original Cover Design
Kind of an interesting story from Indie Reader to tell your art-inspired kids - the story of the first cover of The Great Gatsby and the ones that came after. 

Remember kindergarten?  I do and it wasn't like this (from Boston.com).

Yet there is a growing disconnect between what the research says is best for children -- a classroom free of pressure -- and what’s actually going on in schools.

Take the example of a girl who was barely 5 when she entered Gerzon’s classroom. She didn’t know her ABCs, but one day in class she made up a song and taught it to the other children. But because of new requirements, “I had to send a letter to her parents saying that [she] is not proficient,” says Gerzon. “You tell me that [she] is not proficient in language skills!” The Concord resident, who usually exudes a gentle presence, bristles. “It’s destructive, even abusive. That’s a pretty strong word, but what do you call it when you take a group of children and you force them to do something that they are not developmentally ready to do? What do you call that? It’s abusive.”

 Important reading from The Washington Post's The Answer Sheet by Brian Langley - A Primer on Five Basic Education Facts you should know.

THE SHORT VERSION
Lesson #1:  Americans think the nation’s public schools are troubled, just not the public schools their kids attend. Lesson #2:  The U.S. has never led the world on international exams. Lesson #3:  We are not a country of average students. Lesson #4:  Teachers are the most important school-related factor, though out-of-school factors matter more. Lesson #5:  Nothing in education is simple.

But do read the long version because it's worth it.

For Lesson #1, a survey of Americans about public schools.

For respondents  with children in public schools,   77% gave an A or B grade to their child’s public school.  77%!

Gallup has been asking this same series of questions for years and has consistently demonstrated  a  perception  gap.  What  this perception  gap  represents  is anyone’s  guess. Perhaps  people  are  biased  in  favor  of  their local schools.  Perhaps parents simply have low expectations.  Perhaps parents value other aspects of their local school over standardized test scores and similar data often reported.   Perhaps parents see low standardized test scores as more reflective of the child than the school. Perhaps while Americans have seen the test scores and understand problems exist, three out of four parents are pleased, even impressed with the experience provided by their public schools.  Most likely the data reflects a mixture of these options plus more.

We know that the perception of the nation’s public schools as a whole undoubtedly involves information gathered from outside sources: news reports, documentaries, political discourse, etc.  The parental perception of local schools, on the other hand, relies heavily on personal experience.  This data therefore delivers an encouraging correlation:  The stronger one’s relationship with the public school, the more favorable one’s opinion.  

What's on your mind?

Monday, July 29, 2013

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

So continuing on the parade that charters are better, more innovative and, above all, allow more accountability, we have Exhibit 1.  That would be former Indiana and now current head of schools in Florida, Tony Bennett.  I'll let the Fort Wayne Journal tell you what "Mr. Accountable" did (bold mine)(graphic by Jersey Jazzman):

But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett's education team frantically overhauled his signature "A-F" school grading system to improve the school's marks.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan's school received an "A," despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a "C."

"They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence's chief lobbyist.

The emails, which also show Bennett discussed with staff the legality of changing just DeHaan's grade, raise unsettling questions about the validity of a grading system that has broad implications. Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive.

Where to start?

He had to game the system to save a signature charter school for a wealthy donor.

He needed to game the system to save his own work.

He tried to change just ONE score to save face.

This would not only help the charter system in Indiana but also the voucher system (because those A-F grades help determine what public schools get taken over and the money for vouchers for those students to go to private schools).

Now, who was it that thought giving a simple (and simplistic) A-F grade for schools is a good idea for Washington State?  

 I know how many of you think that getting access to e-mails via public disclosure is terrible but when you see this:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday,  July 30th
Charter Commission Meeting, 10 am - 5 pm in Tacoma.  Tacoma Public Schools, Central Administration Building, 601 South 8th Street, Tacoma. Agenda not yet available but I do know a couple of things:

- Public Hearing on proposed rules: Tuesday, July 30 from 10:15am to 11:15am.  Written comments can also be submitted to RaShelle Davis by mail or email before Monday August 19, 2013 to the following addresses: PO Box 43113, Olympia, WA 98504 or rashelle.davis@gov.wa.gov
- After both the Public Hearing and Public Comment period (from 11:15 am to 11:30 am), the Commission will go into Executive Sessions from 11:40am on.

A bit troubling is that the first Executive Session is about "potential litigation" about the Commission and/or a member.  That seems quick for a group that hasn't existed even a year.

Then there are four Executive Sessions to discuss the candidates for Executive Director.  I am not happy to say that one of them is a former Alliance for Education person.

So if you are interested in attending, the meeting is only open to the public in the morning and then for about 10 minutes at the end of the day. 

The Rainier Beach Boys and Girls Club is hosting Superintendent Banda for a discussion of student discipline.  It's from 5:30-7:00 pm at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club., 4520 MLK, Jr. Way South.

Jane Addams K-8 Project Meeting about the Pinehurst building project from 7-8:30 pm @ Jane Addams.  
The meeting will be presented by representatives of Seattle Public Schools capital projects team and the architect and will include information about the project’s early design progress. You will be able to learn more about the project scope, schedule, and design explorations and ask questions. We hope that you can join us! For more information, please visit: http://bex.seattleschools.org.







What is the Mission of Public Education? (And where does it stop?)

Reader Syd said this in a comment to Charlie's thread on Equitable School Funding:

Poverty is a real societal problem, and realistically the best place you can serve impoverished children is in a place they are mandated by law to attend. We should feed them, clothe them, doctor them, nurse them (it is different), and mentor them using schools as the center. That's not the schools mission you say? Change the mission.

I'm going to express some thoughts on this issue but please understand that they are a jumping off place for a conversation and not necessarily my opinion/belief.

1) Sentence one - that makes sense to me.  If students are not being adequately supported at home and given they are mandated to be in schools, should schools be the place to fill that void?  You'll notice I said "the place" and not that the district itself should necessarily organizing it and/or paying for it.
2) Sentence Two - what services?

Seattle Schools provides:
- food for F/RL students (breakfast and lunch) - And many teachers have expressed to me their concern for summer when they worry these children will not receive adequate food.

- health services - all 10 comprehensive high schools have a health center providing mental and physical health care.  These services are accessible for ALL students whose parents sign a release for treatment.  These are paid for via the Families and Education Levy and federal dollars for low-income students. 

-counselors - I am not sure where we are at with elementary and middle schools counselors in terms of numbers but they are there to help provide assistance with a wide variety of services especially for high-need students.

- ELL teaching for non-English speaking students

This is a federal mandate and rightly so.  As well, in Seattle there are a number of students who are older immigrant children and/or may not have been in a school before.  This is a different case than younger children who may have been in school previously.

But, I note that it seems to take much longer than I remember for younger children to come up to speed in English than in my own experience living on the Arizona-Mexico border.  How long should these services go on?  Should there be a set number of years? 

3) So what is the mission of public education?  Has it gotten taken over by testing, services, cultural competency, etc. to the point where teaching is almost secondary?  Or are we finally recognizing that there should be a "whole child" methodology where it isn't just about teaching? 

I note that on a recent News Roundup show on KUOW, one commentator was saying how great Bellevue Schools was doing with a lot more immigrant children.   Let's look the breakdown:

                              Bellevue                Seattle
Enrollment            18,500                   just under 50,000
Asian                           30%                18%
Black                             3%                18.5%
Hispanic                   10.5%                12.3%
White                        48.3%                43.4%
Two+ races                 7.9%                  5.7%
Native American           .3%                 1.2%
Pacific Islander              .2%                 19%
F/RL                          21.3%                43.2%
Special Ed                    8.9%               14.4%
ELL                              9.1%                10%

What's interesting about Bellevue is the concentration of poverty/ELL and Sped in just a few schools.  It may be where people live or Bellevue may be trying for economies of scale to provide services but it is glaring to see several schools with F/RL of 68-50% and Sped rates upward of 23% and then most of the rest of the schools are way down at 20% or below.  (I also noticed that Bellevue has a pretty even breakdown of white, Asian and Pacific Islander students in each school.) 

What I was glad to hear on KUOW was C.R. Douglas chiming in to say that Bellevue has fewer F/RL students and Sped.  As well, the people who immigrate to Bellevue are distinctly different from those who come to Seattle, both in poverty and parent level of education.  It makes for a different school district (but no one can claim that Bellevue is just a white, middle-class district today).

Should we change the mission?  Should there be a clear state/city/district distribution of duties rather than a less-than-clear and uneven level of services?  Maybe this is how the City could contribute to SPS. 

Thoughts?


From the Washington State PTA

WAPTA will no longer have a lobbyist at the Legislature.   Expect to be asked to send someone from your school/region to the Legislature to testify; it will become more important than ever.

Dear WSPTA Members:
As you may have heard, WSPTA took action this week to align our staffing and expenditures with our mission. In particular, WSPTA eliminated three positions on our staff, and made other spending plan changes to align our actions with our mission. We acknowledge these changes will be difficult for the three employees who have left us and for those of you who had meaningful relationships with them. We wish those affected the very best in the future. I want to explain why we took the staffing and cost realignment actions and what we can expect in the future as a result of these changes.

As the WSPTA Executive Director, I understand that “everything we do is for kids.” Every dollar we receive from a member must be spent on our mission. Members must be supported with the tools they need. I was hired by the Board to ensure the organization’s current and future sustainability. When they hired me, the Board sought to supplement membership dues with grants and other resources. Also, the Board wanted better communications with membership. My first action was to direct a complete review of all operations. This included all staff positions for current and future contribution to our mission requirements. No position, including my own, was exempt from the review. It included consideration of new potential positions. More on that later.

The Board had already begun an assessment of the IT infrastructure and our database. Recently we completed this work. We determined that the organization was better served by outsourcing most IT functions. As a result of the decision, the database administrator position was eliminated, at a substantial budget savings. We expect service levels to rise significantly and will hold our database vendor accountable. This will provide the best service to our members, board and staff.

Also, we eliminated the governmental relations position. The present Board seeks to return the organization to the grassroots efforts for which we have been known historically. Our greatest impact has and will come in the future from parents, teachers and students, passionately testifying before the legislators. We will not leave those who take up our cause unsupported or unprepared. WSPTA will engage lobbyists as needed to prepare our members and staff to testify and lobby our agenda. This may take many different forms in the future.

Finally we eliminated an administrative position, primarily with bookkeeping functions. Our remaining staff is now asked to absorb additional functions and we will supplement with outsourcing as needed. These staffing changes alone will allow us to devote about $120,000 each year to our core mission at a time more critical than ever for Washington’s schoolchildren.

Our review did not involve only staffing. We scrutinized expenditures and budget as well. We reduced the cost of board and other meetings. Some Board members, have elected to donate meeting expense reimbursements as an additional contribution. All these changes are expected to result in savings of about $100,000 per year. This is again, more money for our mission-critical actions.

Our great organization cannot survive or sustain itself without making tough decisions. We acknowledge they are painful for those affected. But we must move forward together. We truly believe that these changes will drive forward our mission, ensuring that every child has the education and tools they need to be successful in life.

Thank you for your support! If you have questions, please communicate with us. I promise we will return every phone call and email on these issues.

Kathryn Hobbs, Executive Director, WSPTA

Worthy Reading from Warren Buffet's Son

And you'd think he would know as he explains in this op-ed.  He doesn't just take on philanthropic giving and investing - he takes on capitalism.  (Bold mine)

Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to “save the day” in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms. 

Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.  

What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there. 

Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine. 

It’s an old story; we really need a new one. 

Bill, are you listening or are you still stuck in the echo chamber you helped create?

(Thanks to GB for noting this for us.)

Friday, July 26, 2013

District V Candidate and Cheryl Chow

KIRO news is reporting that District V candidate, LaCrese Green, sent the late Cheryl Chow (as she was dying), a letter telling her that she might want to repent her homosexuality if she wanted to get to heaven.

Green’s letter from last October acknowledged she had Chow had disagreements, saying Green fought bitterly for her views, “but I never considered you a personal enemy.”

“To hear of your medical problems saddens me,” Green wrote, “but to think of you as a lesbian is troubling in that I don’t want to believe it. It’s more troubling because of my personal belief is that it won’t go well for you in the hearafter.”

KIRO will have a full story with Ms. Green's thoughts on their 5 pm news show.

Unbelievable.

Friday Open Thread

Very good valedictorian speech from New York State.  It's worth a listen as this is Common Core on-the-ground experience from a student perspective. 

The young woman, Amber Kudla at North Tonawanda HS, is not a great public speaker but she takes on Common Core and gets some great zingers off.  She received multiple applause points (and, at one time, all the adults behind her on the stage were very happy - I think as educators they were happy to hear someone stand up for them). 

She was also thoughtful enough to say that yes, their class was now graduating and leaving so why worry?  Because she is concerned for all the students who come after her. 

What's on your mind?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Seattle Chamber of Commerce Jumps into Board Election

Here's the link to the flyer that was apparently mailed to homes in District IV.    It is troubling for several reasons.

One, it does not have all the candidates in the race - it leaves out Dean McColgan.  This is a signal that Estey's supporters don't consider him an issue or consider Sue Peters, her opponent, a real threat.

Two, it tries to look like an apples to apples comparison but conveniently leaves out details that might make it look balanced.  For example, it leaves out that Sue Peters also has a Master's (in journalism from Stanford) and has been a journalist (not just the dreaded "blogger").

It grossly overdoes it when comparing supporters, showing only a poor Times quote about the majority of the Board (who support Peters) and not even putting their names.  Peters is also endorsed by many more Dems groups and other media/entities.

I have not seen or heard Sue Peters say that her priority as a director is to "Get the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation out of public education."  It's not at her website.  I checked with her and she said no, she has never said that.  She has said that she welcomes organizations who want to partner with the district or give money to the district but that too many strings can be problematic. 

Estey's priority on the flyer is stated as "Support our teachers instead of blaming them for the challenges our schools face." 

But, if you go to Estey's website, under priorities, she only mentions teachers in this way," Every school needs strong leaders who will foster authentic partnerships with teachers, staff, families and the broader community."  Sounds more like she supports principals, not teachers.  I have not seen or heard any statement from Estey that is the same or similar to the priority listed on this flyer.

The flyer calls Estey "candidate for change" and Peters "more of the same."  I also think the reverse could be said - it really depends on which camp you are in.

On School Funding
Estey - Believes Seattle Schools need strong community partners including the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and the Gates Foundation.
Peters - Believes the Seattle Public Schools should not accept funding & support from organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

I checked their "sources" and nowhere does Peters say about the Gates Foundation what they are saying on this flyer.  As well, I cannot find the support they say Estey has for teachers anywhere at her website.

It finishes with the funny phrase "Get the facts and vote."  It's good advice that this PAC might take for itself.

Estey cannot control what supporters write but if this is any indication of how campaigning may go, fasten your seatbelts.

Seattle School Board Votes in Budgets

I wouldn't call yesterday's work by the School Board especially stellar.  (I think the staff did a pretty good job on the budget but, as usual, what was left out is just as important as what was put in.)

First came the Audit&Finance Committee meeting of the Whole to discuss the budget.

It is unclear to me when the Board received their copies but there had been some small edits.  I am also not sure when the appendices all got put in.  Director Carr told the group she had not read the appendices as she had been on vacation.  President Smith-Blum and Director Patu were absent.  (Smith-Blum is out of town and Patu has a family illness.)

I can only point out that one the Board's main duties and powers is to review the budget and then vote on it.  What I saw yesterday did not inspire confidence that the Board understood the budget they voted on.

Here are some key links you may be interested in. 

Budget Book
Appendix A
Appendix B
Ore-Level Budget Comparison FY14 vs. FY2013

Highlights:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Equitable funding for schools

The budget is supposed to treat every school fairly, but there are seven schools singled out for unfair treatment. The Board should address this unfairness - which clearly violates policy and the strategic plan - when they vote to today to adopt a budget for the coming school year.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Peters Tops Seattle Metropolitan Elections Assessments

That means she got a better score than ANY of the candidates including Blanford.

Peters is racking up in points and the endorsements.

To update, here is the link to 411, the online guide by the League of Women Voters.  Please note the LWV does NOT edit any replies so what you read is what the candidate themselves wrote.

TFA in Washington State: No Surprise to Us

Via Mirmac 1, there is this public disclosure e-mail that is quite telling but of no surprise to anyone who reads this blog.  We asked these questions from the start.  From the e-mail (italics Dr. Ginsberg's, bold mine):

1) Whose interests are we serving and, related to this questions, how are we serving the interests of our most historically under-served K-12 students?
2) How are we serving the interests of TFA teachers? of our students and graduates who are working as instructors in the program?
3) How are we serving the effectiveness and morale of state-funded and fee-based funded full time CoE faculty when TFA instructors teach a class with as few as 2 students, while other CoE faculty are currently teaching unprecedented numbers of students.  (Some of our EDLPS colleagues are teaching 60 students in very complex disciplines.)
4) How are we serving the interests of the CoE when faculty have not had a chance to actively and collectively probe the implications and consequences of decisions that are being made? 
5) Assuming that corporate donors who are interested in funding important programs such as the proposed urban residency program are behind TFA and are more like to look favorably upon the College if we provide support for TFA...as Washington's top educators, what is our responsibility to try, as a faculty, to engage in conversations with corporate funders?  Where are the opportunities for faculty to sit at a table to respectfully deliberate, teach, and learn with potential funders

Although some might suggest that this is a naive proposition, I see this as fundamental, symbolically and constructively, to democracy. 

End of e-mail portion.

It is hard to know what to say to what is clearly frustration, maybe some despair and some anger here.

First Washington State Charter Applicant

And it's a bit confusing.

The Enumclaw Patch is reporting that the Cedar River Academy, currently a private school, is applying to become a charter school.  It's confusing because, under the law, a private school cannot become a charter school. 

Reading on I see that CRA is a non-profit corporation and, I assume, is going to spin-off a charter. (I am trying to reach them to confirm this.)  Their current school is about 160 students, pre-K to 12.

CRA is conducting a "survey of Washington State families to learn of the level of community support for the creation of public schools that provide active learning, project-based and constructivist education."  They are trying to get this backing as a level of support from the community for their application so they invite you to read about them and then take their "survey."

I hadn't thought of exactly how charters would be showing this support but I guess a one-sided survey might do it.  Because, if you take the survey, you are endorsing their application. 



Is Seattle School District Too Big?

Pop Poll:

Should Seattle Schools be more than one district?

If so, should it be two, a north and south? 

Five, with a NE, NW, Central, SE and West Seattle?  

What would be the ramifications, good and bad?  (Many believe in the north-south divide in our district so I would expect it to be even more pronounced if there were a divide.)

Would a split mean districts more focused on regional issues and parent needs/wants? 

I note that in Tucson, AZ, there are multiple small (and I mean small districts) and friends tell me it is a challenge when considering where to live there.


The Times Has at the School Board...Again

With the blazing headline, "Will election be a solution to Seattle School Board turmoil?", the Times lights into the current Board. 

Some of what is said is pretty face value, that some Board members "don't trust top district staff."  Actually, that's not what any Board member said in the survey.  (I can go back but I don't remember that said.)

What I believe was said is that staff felt the Board didn't always trust them.  And who can blame the Board given how many issues of trust have come up?  The Board's job IS oversight and yes, watching over the shoulders of top staff until the Board has regained its confidence.

Again, you have earn trust.

It is also stated that the Board is "supposed to stick to policy and oversight."  And that oversight does include accountability so yes, they must be sure their policies are enforced.  As well, the definition of what the Board is to do is in the RCW which is widely interpreted in boards throughout this state.  Just because the Alliance says what they think the Board should be doing (and more on that in a thread to come), doesn't mean the Board has to do it.

Stephan Blanford, a District V candidate who seems to be something of a naysayer about SPS, says this, "We as a city deserve better."  I'm not sure what is the "better" - Board members, maturity from Board members, outcomes?  Blanford has also said (elsewhere) that Seattle is a "national laughingstock" as far as education.  I'm sure hoping he will explain that sometime because I have never seen any evidence of that except from groups like DFER.  (In fact, in a recent study by Harvard and UC Berkeley, Seattle was cited as one of the cities where children can expect better possibilities for their lives and part of that is based on - wait for it - the education system.) 

The Times piece points out there has been a majority of Board members for "several contentious votes in the past year" and fails to acknowledge the fact that the MAJORITY of votes on the Board have been unanimous or 6-1.   But, later in the article, it is pointed out that school board "strife" isn't new to Seattle or other boards across the country. 

(Oddly, District IV candidate Dean McColgan told the Times that he isn't going to campaign unless he makes it through the primary.  (That's one way to run an election.  I actually have some suspicions over why McColgan is running and that he may have been put up to it.)

The Times also continues to go for the black and white sides, saying that first Seattle voters elect activists and then elect business-minded candidates.  Actually, I think there is a lot more nuance than just one versus the other and I give the voters more credit.

I also note that the Times article does not cite one single good thing that top staff or Board members say about each other in the survey and there were several.  Again, the Times has an agenda it would help if they actually had a balanced look at what was truly said.

Also, if you are keeping score, the story labels APP@Lincoln, a "program", not a school. 

Tuesday Open Thread

Want to review the Gates Foundation?  There's an open forum at Yelp.  Very empowering.

It is being reported that the City Council voted in unison to use the money from the school zone camera ticketing just for road/ped safety projects by our schools.  So far the tickets have delivered at whopping $3.3M (but I'm thinking that's ticketing and not money collected).  Mayor McGinn had wanted to leave those dollars in the General Fund.  Usage of the funds could include new sidewalks and repainted crosswalks.

I note that Buckingham Palace says that Kate "was delivered" of a baby boy.  Well, that's one way to put it, almost as if the stork ran the bell and handed over a baby.  Yes, that's just how it works.  (But I give William lots of credit for being there for the birth and staying the night with his wife and newborn.)

What's on your mind?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Seattle Schools Announces Big Leadership Changes/Shifts

From SPS(bold mine):

With an increasing number and complexity of Seattle Public Schools’ capital projects underway to accommodate enrollment growth, safety upgrades and technology infrastructure, Superintendent Jose Banda announced today that he is making organizational changes to provide additional leadership in the District's Capital, Facilities, Operations and Technology departments.

Voters approved a $694.9 million Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) capital levy, the largest and most comprehensive in Seattle Public School’s history, in February 2013. This, along with the current Building, Technology and Academics (BTA) capital levy, has significantly increased the scope of work in capital projects over the next six years. To ensure that the district is organized effectively to implement this work, the Superintendent asked for two independent reviews of the district’s organization related to capital projects and operations. The reviews were conducted by the national Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) and a group of content experts from the Puget Sound region.

One of the concerns raised by both capital review groups was the significant span of control assigned to the Assistant Superintendent of Operations. Both groups recommended appointing a new cabinet-level position to oversee capital and facilities programs. In response, the Superintendent has decided to create a new department of Capital, Facilities and Enrollment Planning. The Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Pegi McEvoy, will now have a more reasonable breadth of responsibilities including Logistics, Transportation, Purchasing, Child Nutrition Services, Family Support Program, Coordinated School Health, School Climate Program, and Safety and Security.

Seattle Education This Week

I was mistaken when I previously said there were no district meetings until August.

Wednesday
Audit and Finance Committee meeting of the Whole from 4-5 pm.  The only agenda item is to debate any last issues on the budget for 2013-2014 and presumably move it forward to the Board meeting.

Public Hearing on the 2013-2014 Budget
Your opportunity to weigh in on any topic in the budget.  If you have a real concern, it really is important to get it on the record.  You may sign in to speak starting a half-hour before the hearing. You will have three minutes to speak.

Special Meeting of the Board from 5:15-6:00 pm
Just one action item - voting on the new budget.  They will be taking public testimony so there are speaking opportunities for any topic.  

The City Council will be debating and voting this week on whether to create a separate fund for the money from the school speed zone tickets. 

So if these are about safety around schools and the City wants to help the district, here's a couple of things:

- fund crossing guards. The City used to do this and then cut it. The district funds a few (and so do PTAs). It would be a big help.
- fund sidewalks near schools that don't have them like Nathan Hale High School. Now that we are on a neighborhood enrollment plan, there are far more students walking to schools. Sidewalks would make it safer for everyone in those neighborhoods.
- fund community resource officers for middle/high schools (police officers)

Also, fyi, two meetings about upcoming BEX IV projects for Jane Addams and Arbor Heights.

Jane Addams K-8 @ Pinehurst site, new replacement
7-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 30
Meeting to be held at Jane Addams Building

Arbor Heights Elementary, new replacement
7-8:30 p.m., Wednesday, August 7
Meeting to be held at the Arbor Heights Building

From SPS: Representatives of the Seattle Public Schools capital projects team and the architects of the two projects will provide information about the projects’ early design progress. Attendees will be able to learn more about the projects’ scope, schedule, and design explorations; and ask questions and give feedback.

Other meetings of interest are SDOT meetings for feedback on four proposals for the NE 75th cooridor (by Eckstein Middle School).   This from the Ravenna-Bryant Community Assn.

Your feedback is requested at these two community meetings:
  • Wednesday, July 24th, 7-9PM in the Fellowship Hall (downstairs) at Wedgwood Presbyterian Church (8008 35th Ave NE)
  • Thursday, July 25th, 1-3PM in the Fellowship Hall (downstairs) at Messiah Lutheran Church (7050 35th Ave NE)
There are also these improvements that will happen in the near future:
  • Photo enforcement cameras for the Eckstein school zone on NE 75th Street ($ from these to be used for road/pedestrian safety projects near schools city-wide)
  • Traffic calming on the non-arterial streets near Eckstein (SDOT will work with residents before installation of traffic calming devices such as speed bumps)
  • New crosswalk at 28th Avenue NE and NE 75th Street
  • New pedestrian countdown signals at several intersections
  • Crossing improvements at 9th Avenue NE and NE 75th Street (near the entrance to southbound Interstate 5)
  • Spot parking restrictions throughout the area to improve sight lines

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The One-Two Punch of NCLB and Common Core

The fight is on.  Some in Congress are trying to rewrite NCLB (as this work has been put off/ignored for years).  Some of this push is about the use of Common Core which several states are now dragging their feet on.  This rewrite by Rep. John Kline (R-MN) and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) is called the Student Success Act and passed the House on Friday.  Rep. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has released his own bill called Strengthening America's Schools Act of 2013

Via Diane Ravitch comes this great editorial from the LA Times on this issue.  From the editorial:

After Congress dragged its heels for six years on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, House Republicans suddenly passed a jumbled bill Friday that could best be described as the No Accountability Act, eliminating virtually all the school improvement mandates that were in the original law. President Obama has rightly vowed to veto it in the unlikely scenario that it reaches his desk, but even as he does so, he should not ignore the more valid sentiments behind the vote. The nation is ripe for rebellion against the rigid law and the Obama administration's further efforts to micromanage how schools are run.

To its credit, the law raised awareness about just how little students in impoverished areas were learning and resulted in modest improvements for those students; at the same time, it overemphasized standardized testing and fostered an unhelpful "everything is the teacher's fault" credo.

The federal government has the right to demand value for its education aid, but not to dictate the minutiae of school operations.

I have very mixed feelings on this bill because I am not feeling secure - in any way - that the money and effort are there to help teachers enact Common Core.   This reworking of ESEA Act (NCLB) would allow more local control (and bye-bye Common Core).   States and districts would still have to show this disaggregated data but there would be no goals or consequences for any results. 

However, it also, as the editorial says, would take away accountability from districts especially for ELL and Special Ed students.  Not good.

Diane says:

In the future, I believe, the period that began in 2001 and continues to this day will be remembered as the “Bush-Obama era” in education. It will be recalled as a time when a liberal Democratic president watched in silence as states attacked the teaching profession, lowered standards for entry into teaching, enacted laws to end collective bargaining, authorized privatization with federal funding and encouragement, and passed laws permitting vouchers for private and religious schools.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Is Signing of new SEA Contract Near?

In the comments section at the Times about an education op-ed, there was this recent comment:

Just in from "the bargain." SEA Prez Knapp guarantees they will get what they came to the table for - 1% across the board. All that other stuff is just confusinggggg. Membership will vote on the 500 page package in two hours at a place to be named later. SEA recommends passage as the best contract the district would offer.

A bit hard to decipher.  They will get a raise but everything else is up in the air?  Is a raise all teachers want (hard to believe given their rising workload).

We'll keep you up-to-date as news comes in.

Seattle School Board Race District IV

Update:  I noted in this thread that Suzanne Estey's campaign manager is former Seattle Student Senate rep, Dexter Tang (who is a great kid).  Which is kinda sweet but also to note, her consultant in the campaign is none other than Christian Cinderman who has been a very high-powered consultant to numerous campaigns. 

Also to note, Stephan Blanford's and Suzanne Estey's newest contributors?  None other than the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, who both maxed out at $900 each for each candidate.  I believe Mr. and Mrs. Ballmer reside on the eastside.

End of update.

The District IV race seems to be shaping up along two lines (and no surprise what those lines are).  (District V seems to be all Blanford and there sure are confusing signs from him.  That's another thread.)

I refer to Suzanne Estey and Sue Peters.  (Dean McColgan doesn't seem to be a strong candidate and is seems to be on the ed reform side although I think it is more a case that he doesn't clearly understand the district or education issues in general).

Back to Estey and Peters.

Statements by Estey to the press and/or organizations (I note that Estey and McColgan did answer the questionnaire from the Seattle Human Services Coalition where some of these quotes come from - Peters did not):

Crosscut
In addition to the achievement gap, she says the board’s biggest challenges are addressing overcrowding and successfully implementing the Common Core standards. She worries this is an unfunded mandate for the state. Is there adequate professional development for teachers?

Well, which is it for Common Core because it sounds a lot like her stand on charter schools (she says she doesn't support them because the money isn't there - if schools were well-funded, would she be for charters?).

Does that mean she will speak out against implementing Common Core if teachers aren't prepared? 

When it comes time to make decisions, “its hard to not just respond to loud voices,” she says. “But when we set goals, we have to keep our eye on the ball.”

Which loud voices would those be?  Well, then the "notable" quote for her in the Crosscut article is this:

“I am a policy maker; not an activist or an agitator at school board meetings.”

Two things.

One, is that a stab at those who DO show up at School Board meetings, month after month, year after year (unlike Ms. Estey). Are we wrong to come and advocate for children - not just our own? Are we wrong to come to Work Session after Work Session or Board committee meeting after Board committee meeting (again, unlike Ms. Estey), in an effort to understand the workings of the district we pay taxes into?

Apparently so. Duly noted.

Two, the Board does not just sit in a room and make policy.  If that were their main role, it would be a much easier job.  They also have to commit to listening to the public (and yes, that includes "activists and agitators.")  And, per the many times Charlie has said this, they must commit to enforcing those policies.  Will she make that commitment and what would it look like?

Interesting side note: her campaign manager is the former Student Senate School Board rep, Dexter Tang (who just graduated from Roosevelt).

From the Seattle Human Services Coalition questionnaire:

- She is opposed to the suspension of the "Courageous Conversations" component in the Center School's race and social justice curriculum.  

- She would be the only School Board director with young children and "recent experiences with preschool and pre-K."  Point taken but that also means she may not know Seattle Schools all that well (at least as a parent).

- Estey also talks a lot about pre-school and pre-K which I think are vital to children being ready for school. BUT that is the role of the state and the city, not the district.  While I think the district should partner and do what it can (make room for pre-Ks in some buildings), the district's purview, under state law, is K-12.  That would seem like enough work for any director.

My main issue with Estey is her vagueness.   She's has many broad-ideas but she never gives any real ideas of what she would do in specific. 

For example:

As a director, I will help develop policies and support programs that address the basic needs of students."  What policies and programs does she think are missing?  What would this support look like?

Sue Peters

Crosscut:
She’s a member of the Seattle Math Coalition and advocates review of the current secondary math curricula. She supports “meaningful tests that are aligned with curriculum” and is concerned about over-testing. She is concerned about inadequate funding for the Common Core curriculum. How, she asks, will we pay for new assessments, textbooks and training?

Those are some pretty specific things to address.  She also asks that question that Estey doesn't ask about Common Core? How is this going to be paid for if the district does indeed support Common Core?

Her "notable" quote - “Too often the district makes decisions that pit one group against another. I want to find solutions in which everyone wins.”

That's pretty inclusive talk.   I like it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Seattle School District Updates

Both Green Lake Elementary and Genesee Hill Elementary buildings are being considered for city landmark status.

From the Landmarks Preservation Board:

The Landmarks Preservation Board will consider landmark nomination for Green Lake Elementary School at 2400 N 65th Street. The meeting will be on Wednesday, August 21 at 3:30 p.m. in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Avenue, 40th Floor in Room 4060.
 
The public is invited to attend the meeting and make comments. Written comments should be received by the Landmarks Preservation Board by 5:00 p.m. on August 20 at the following address: Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods, P.O. Box 94649, Seattle WA, 98124-4649.

A copy of the nomination is available for public review at the Green Lake Branch Library, 7364 East Green Lake Drive North (206-684-7547); and at Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Office in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave, Suite 1700 (206-684-0228). The nomination is posted on Seattle Department of Neighborhoods website atwww.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/preservation/landmarks.htm under the heading of “Current Nominations.”

The Landmarks Preservation Board will consider landmark nomination for Genesee Hill Elementary School at 5012 SW Genesee Street. The meeting will be on Wednesday, August 7 at 3:30 p.m. in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Avenue, 16th Floor in Room 1600.

The public is invited to attend the meeting and make comments. Written comments should be received by the Landmarks Preservation Board by 5:00 p.m. on August 6 at the following address: Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods, P.O. Box 94649, Seattle WA, 98124-4649.

A copy of the nomination is available for public review at the West Seattle Branch Library, 2306 42nd Avenue SW (206-684-7444); and at Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Office in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave, Suite 1700 (206-684-0228). The nomination is posted on Seattle Department of Neighborhoods website (in three files on this page).

From SPS:

Now that the Washington State Board of Education has denied Seattle Public Schools’ request to waive the 180-school-day requirement to accommodate three professional development days, SPS has adopted the Option B calendar for the 2013-14 school year.

Friday Open Thread

Coming threads:

- Some in Congress are trying to rewrite the legislation that brought us NCLB.  And it's a dozy and it's started a real fight (just like Common Core).

- Interesting event put on by the Alliance yesterday at a school board conference here in Seattle.  Much was said that was surprising given the Board infighting.  (Also, look for that to continue in the Times soon.  I wonder how that could be if they all agreed, just recently, to support each other.  I think there's the fine hand of Michael DeBell at work - again.)

- also the Inside Man series on CNN with Morgan Spurlock is featuring the MAP boycott this Sunday, the 21st, at 7 pm.  

What's on your mind?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gifted Student Information/Advocacy Next Week

From Education Week:

Next week (July 21-27, 2013) marks National Parenting Gifted Children Week, a time of focused awareness and advocacy regarding the needs of gifted children. The week, which is listed on the National Special Events Registry, is sponsored by SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) and coincides with SENG's annual conference, taking place this year July 19-21 in Orlando, Florida.

One feature of this year's celebration is an offering of four free webinars about parenting gifted children. (Each of the offered webinars certainly has helpful insights for teachers, administrators, counselors, and other education and mental health professionals, too.)

Hamilton Assistant Principal moves to become Principal at McClure

Word has come that Shannon Conner, assistant principal at Hamilton International Middle School, is leaving to become principal at McClure Middle School.  She has a child who will be attending there this fall.

This year, like others past, certainly has been a principal version of musical chairs.  West Seattle seems to have been hit the hardest.

  • Ex. Director Carmela Dellino is leaving (after a year in that post) to work for the City for the Families&Education levy.

  • The next Chief Sealth International High School principal is Aida Fraser-Hammer; she's new from Kentwood High.
  • Chandra Oatis is leaving Alki Elementary for Van Asselt Elementary
  • Rhonda Claytor has been appointed principal of Leschi Elementary, leaving Gatewood.
  • Henterson Carlisle is leaving as principal at Madison with Robert Gary, Jr. coming in as interim.
  • Bruce Rhodes moves to Sanislo as principal from JSIS as ass't principal.
  • Robert Gallagher is the next principal of Lafayette Elementary (after a lot of turnover there over several years). (He was previously at a Catholic school.)
Thanks to the West Seattle Blog for their eagle eye on these comings and goings.

What's Going to Happen to the Money from School Zone Tickets?

The Stranger follows up on this question with some answers (but still with question marks):

As you may have noticed, the city began using automated cameras to enforce speed limits near four schools in December of 2012, and they're going to expand the program to install cameras near five more schools next year. By June, the city had issued 30,400 tickets at $189 a pop. While initially estimated to bring in some $800,000 in revenue for the year, they're now expecting closer to $5 million.
Five million? Wow, wouldn't that fund crossing guards (the City used to pay and stopped several years back)?
This morning, the council's government performance and finance committee approved a bill that would create a separate fund for those traffic-camera dollars, so that how, when, and on what the money is spent would be more carefully restricted. There's been talk of simply making sure whatever amount is raised from traffic-camera tickets would then be budgeted toward school-zone safety improvements over the year—it's a bureaucratic headache to deal with specialized separate funds—but this committee, at least, wants to take the extra step and segregate the money, starting in January 2014. The full council will likely vote Monday.

APP/Lowell/Lincoln

A reader, Budget Reader, asked some questions about the seemingly low budgeting for APP@Lowell/Lincoln (which to most people's minds are two schools but not to the district).  BR followed through and asked the district's Joe Paperman.  I thought it worth having its own thread for institutional memory and because several parents have asked the same questions.

This is NOT a thread to start in on APP (so please don't).

A thank you to both BR and Joe Paperman for doing this work.

From BR:

As a follow-up to my earlier post about the budget document and APP @ Lincoln, I sent my questions to Joe Paperman, who is in charge of budgeting for the District. He was kind enough to send a detailed response:

Institutional Racism, a primer

This comment appeared in the Trayvon Martin thread:

"Could someone calmly describe the institutional racism is Seattle Public Schools? Whose actions are racist - and what exactly are they doing? Is it a policy issue? What policy is it? I'd be happy to read something if you could direct me to it."
I'll try to respond to this because I think it's really important. There is a range of opinion here and there will be others with views very different from mine. Those views have equal merit. Since the request was specifically to do this "calmly", I know that I will disappoint a lot of people with the gentleness of my answer. I ask their forgiveness in advance. I also apologize for the incomplete nature of my answer. I believe that members of the dominant culture come to understand institutional racism as a voyage of discovery, so I'm not going to connect all of the dots for you. You need to connect them for yourself.

Stranger Endorses Peters, Blanford

The Stranger's endorsements for School Board were pretty much on point.  (The Times hasn't issued their endorsements for School Board but does have a sweet editorial about how expensive it is to go to weddings.  No, really, apparently that's the burning issue of the day.)

District No. 4
Sue Peters
As if you needed more proof that the Seattle School Board is a dystopian shithole, the board members, in a self-evaluation released this summer, anonymously described themselves like this: "The poster-child for a dysfunctional school board." "It's like Kabuki Theater." "A board like this will repel all people of quality."

Seriously, we didn't even have to make any of that shit up. Consequently, school board races are normally filled with wackos. But this year, the candidates were thoughtful, intelligent, and for some god-awful reason, engaged in the minutiae that makes up school board work.

Take Sue Peters, for instance. An education buff who started the group Parents Across America and edits the wonky Seattle Education blog, Peters opposes the corporate education reform agenda, including charter schools and Teach for America, and she's skeptical of the state-mandated Common Core curriculum soon to be rolled out in schools.

Opponent Suzanne Dale Estey is well-qualified, but despite saying she opposes privatizing public education with charter schools, she's in bed with the corporate education "reformers" behind charter schools. Most notably: Tania De Sa Campos, sponsor of last year's charter schools initiative, gave to Estey's campaign. Estey is also backed by problematic past board members who should have prevented the district from losing millions of dollars in a scandal a few years back. Specifically: She's been endorsed by retiring incumbent Michael DeBell and former school board member Peter Maier (they received a report about the risk of theft years ago and did nothing). We don't need another candidate perpetuating dysfunction. The other guy in the race, Dean McColgan, is a charter schools supporter who says he'd bring a "business background" to the board. Yech. Peters points out, rightly, that "the last time we had a board with business backgrounds... we ended up with a superintendent and CFO being fired."

Vote Peters.

District No. 5
Stephan Blanford
Stephan Blanford seems a little, well, bland (ha-ha, Stephan Blandford!), and he hedges on issues more often than we'd like. But he's more familiar with the district and its problems than opponent Olu Thomas, a parent and social worker. An education consultant who's worked with the district before, Blanford prioritizes early education funding and addressing the achievement gap. Thomas thinks we should move money from the capital to the operations budget (which isn't possible), was unfamiliar with Teach for America, and has a bit of an anti-teacher bent, which plays poorly for someone looking to help direct a school district. LaCrese Green, a tutor, didn't even show up to our endorsement meeting.

Vote Blanford. 

If you live or have friends/relatives in District IV, you might considering letting them know how you might vote if you lived there.  (It is apparent from fundraising notices that Michael DeBell has turned all his contacts over to Estey - he's practically her campaign manager.)  

Yes, I'm agreeing with The Stranger - Sue Peters is the best choice.

I will also point out what I believe could happen, depending on the final vote in November.

If Estey and Blanford win, there's a fairly solid majority vote (with Martin-Morris and Carr).  

If Peters wins, then there's a fairly solid majority vote (with Patu, Peaslee and McLaren), although I think Peters also goes her own way.

What is interesting is if Blanford and Peters win, you then have a "Supreme Court" kind of situation. 

McLaren has shown herself to listen AND change her mind.  She is kind of the Anthony Kennedy of the Board.  And, as well, despite Blanford's outward leanings, I sense a streak of independence and he may well surprise some people with his votes.

To my mind, it would be better to have people on the Board who don't have clear alliances and/or bents.   


Washington Board of Education Denies SPS' Request for Waivers

From reader DK:

Looks like the 2013-14 school calendar will not be what the district originally assumed- our kids will actually be with their teachers for 3 more days than planned, as Seattle’s request for the 3 full Waiver days for professional development has been denied for a 2nd time by the State Board of Education last week.

From the posted July 10-11th meeting highlights:
BASIC EDUCATION ACT WAIVERS
The Board considered requests from 13 school districts for Option One waivers from the basic education requirement of a minimum 180-day school year. Six of the requests are resubmittals of requests presented but not approved at the May meeting, with additional information provided by each district as requested in May…The Board directed staff to provide written notice to Columbia (Walla Walla), Fife, and Seattle districts that their requests were not approved.”

Among the reasons given for the final denial for Seattle- lack of community support or engagement (required by state law). The district did not even release the information to the public (or to the Board, which had to vote approval of the 1st application) that they were changing the original application. The 2nd application stated that all 3 professional development days would be directed by the district, for district initiatives (and not left to the discretion of each building, as before). 

Unfortunately, there are no state (or district) laws or rules limiting the number of half and/or partial-day releases, on either a district-wide basis, or individually on a site-based basis. Partial days are in many ways more disruptive than the full-days off. Will see more of these?

End of comment

On the one hand, bravo to the BOE for denying an application that did not meet their requirements.  The district did not do their due diligence to the public AND wanted to direct those days (rather than allowing schools to decide how the time could best be used).  

On the other hand, half-days off seemed, to me, as annoying as full-days (and I suspect for people with childcare issues, they are worse).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday Open Thread

In the lull that is summer, it seems that there is more behind-the-scenes action around the School Board than you might think.  At the end of the week, I'll have a thread about this subject but understand that there are people who are up the food chain who want to either bully or limit the School Board's power.

In good news about teenaged boys, two 15-year olds saw a 5-year old get kidnapped and took off after the car.  They chased the car for 15 minutes before the kidnapper stopped the car and let the little girl go.  Very brave boys.

Q13 news story about the number of Washington state seniors who did not pass the math test to graduate.  I'm one of the speakers in this story.

What's on your mind?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ugh. The Seattle Times

Today's Seattle Times features this guest column: Education reforms for state students blocked by WEA by Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center.

In this one, brief guest column she manages to squeeze in nearly every single lie about public schools. It is a remarkable achievement.

Washington Charter School Doom and Gloom from the Washington Policy Center

Honestly, they have some of the most entertaining posts over at the WPC.  Omit details, pump up (to the point of near explosion) any point they feel they must - it's all good fun.

So they have one post about how a Highline School Board director, Susan Goding,  wrote - on her education blog how she thinks charter schools will hurt districts.  I can only say that she is entitled to her own professional opinion (indeed the state directors association came out against 1240).   She also explains how Highline has many of the programs that Spokane addresses in their application (and so does Seattle).  Almost seems like Spokane is too lazy to do any of this development of programs on their own.

But the WPC?  Not buying it.

This article is a clear attempt to discourage implementation of the new charter school law.
This statement shows an elected school board director actively campaigning to influence school districts to deny their students access to charter schools. 

Note to WPC - Ms. Goding can't do a darn thing to discourage implementation of the law (at least not statewide).  That's up to the courts.  And, that she says this while she is running again for the board, that's some courage.

Washington State Agencies Ask for Feedback on Charter School Regulations

Both the Board of Education and the Charter Commission are soliciting feedback for draft rules for charter schools. From the BOE:

At its July 10-11 meeting, the State Board of Education approved for public hearing draft rules pertaining to annual reports by charter school authorizers under RCW 28A.710.100(4) - proposed WAC 180-19-210.

We are seeking public comment on these draft rules. We encourage you to review the proposed rules and provide feedback by contacting us atsbe@k12.wa.us.

Your input will be valuable to the board as they consider these rules for adoption. The Board intends to hold a public hearing on the proposed rules at its September meeting in Yakima, Washington. Formal notification of the date, time and location of the public hearing will follow through the process prescribed in RCW 34.05.

KUOW Interviews with School Board Candidates

KUOW's Ann Dornfeld interviewed all the candidates and got some telling responses. The transcript of each interview is what you will see and not a recorded interview.

I will also encourage those of you whose children enjoyed Glee to read the NPR story about Cory Monteith who was found dead in his hotel room early Saturday.  To anyone who watched Glee, Mr. Monteith was a fresh-faced talent and many thought his high school football star persona on the show was real.

It was not.  He got into drugs when he was 13, dropped out of school at 16.   Didn't get into rehab until he was 19.  It took a long time for him to get where he was when he died.  He had tried rehab again in April of this year.

We don't know the cause of death (except it does not appear to be foul play).  In some ways, I hope it is something like an undetected heart issue and not caused by drug/alcohol use.  If it is from drug use, it's terribly sad.

From the story, what he had to say earlier this year:

If I can, through my experience, shed light on the way out of a difficult situation, that I know many kids are experiencing, just like I did when I was a teenager," he said, "that's that's huge."

Both the Trayvon Martin story and the Cory Monteith story could be on the minds of middle/high school students.  Might be worth a conversation.

The Value of Connections

What is the value of having School Board Directors with connections to the Seattle Establishment and the ruling elites in Washington? How does it benefit the district and the schools for the Board to have positive relationships with the City Council, county officials, members of the State legislature, powerful non-profits, and corporate leaders? I think we have enough data to decide. In the last ten years we have seen four boards - two with good relations and two with poor relations with the Seattle Establishment. What does the evidence show?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Value of Experience

Odd as it seems, most school board candidates have little or no direct knowledge of the District prior to their election. Most of them never went to Board meetings before filing for their candidacy. Most do not follow the board of the district closely. They are unfamiliar with the schools, the programs, the departments in the central administration, the current issues, and the history of how we arrived at our current status. Consequently, they spend their first couple of years just learning who people are and how things work. During this period, when they don't know much of anything about the district, they are not only ineffective, they actually cause damage.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I'll Say It - the Trayvon Martin Verdict is Wrong

First, if states have these dumb "stand your ground" laws, then you're going to see some very odd verdicts.

That issue notwithstanding, I find the verdict innocent (of even manslaughter) is completely baffling. 

For me, mainly it's about the "trail" that Zimmerman left behind.  He was the source of his own problem.  From start to nearly finish, he lead the way.  In the end, Trayvon, like many young men before him, decided to fight back from being stalked.  (And, it is likely he wasn't just annoyed but probably a little scared.  After all, his father lived at that complex so why would this guy continue to follow him?)

Mr. Zimmerman complained, at two different times, to police/911 that "these punks always get away."  He might go look in the mirror because I think he's right.  

One thing we did learn from OJ Simpson, if you cannot find justice in the criminal court, go after the person in civil court.  

One thing that cannot be denied - this whole issue of teenaged boys walking around by themselves - is a problem.  

My experience is that people fear/worry about teen boys (and especially boys of color).  But one of my sons has a disability that could present itself wrongly to police and I always lived in fear that something might happen and his behavior be wrongly interpreted by police.  So we talked about how to talk to police (as ALL parents should be things - do - happen, no matter what great kids you have).

I am saddened and disappointed.  


Seattle Public Education and Mayoral Candidates

I have attempted to interview all the mayoral candidates with different measures of success.  I am not going to endorse one candidate at this time but, for our purposes, hope to give you guidance on their thoughts on public education in Seattle.  (Personally, I don't vote for candidates based on one issue but offer this to help broaden your outlook on the candidates.)

There are nine candidates.  I have tried to reach each candidate a couple of times but was unable to connect with or secure interviews with some.

Given that the primary is in the depths of summer - August 6th - and that older voters tend to dominate the voting ranks, every vote will count.  If you care, you will vote.  Otherwise, some may get a surprise when the candidate they favor doesn't make it out of the primary.  As supporters of public education, please let friends and neighbors know what you think because it matters to our city.

Summary:

Who seems to know public education in Seattle?  
Peter Steinbrueck, Mike McGinn, Bruce Harrell, Kate Martin

Who seems to have ideas about what he/she might do as mayor to support public education in Seattle?  The same four.

What has impressed me about all four is the energy and enthusiasm they all have for public education.  It doesn't seem pro forma nor do they use a lot of ed reform jargon.

For public education, I favor Steinbrueck and McGinn.

I think Harrell is almost there.  I wish Kate were running for City Council because I would vote for her in a heartbeat but I don't think she's ready to be mayor.

I did not interview Ed Murray (and I even spoke with him and his coordinator but still got no interview secured.  That said, he was in two Special Sessions in the Legislature.)  I also did not interview Joey Gray, Charlie Staadecker, Tim Burgess (when he was still a candidate) or Mike McGinn (but I do feel that McGinn has a track record and he and I have a good working relationship so I think I know where he stands).

(Both Ed Murray and Charlie Staadecker have said some interesting things about public education elsewhere but I sure would have liked to have my own conversation with them.  It would have been interesting to hear what Murray would have said from a legislative standpoint.)