Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Open Thread

Thought I would put this up in case readers attend Director Community meetings and would like to let us know what was said.

Also, from SPS, how feedback from the Strategic Plan Town Halls is to be used (see link for details):

1. Additional translations of District communications. Many families said they want to receive more translated versions of our communications.

2. Improvements to the District website. Families said the District website can be difficult to navigate.

3. Ensuring robust Strategic Plan metrics and accountability. We heard from family and community members alike that we must be more proactive with respect to disaggregating our data and explicitly naming and addressing the opportunity and achievement gaps.

4. Closing the opportunity gap for our African-American students. Seattle Public Schools has an unacceptable achievement gap. We heard that from our families, who also asked what we are doing to close that gap.

5. More Superintendent communications/robocalls. We heard from families they want more regular communications from the District. 

Mark Zuckerberg, this time with his wife, Priscilla Chan, are putting $120M into Bay Area schools.  They now have their own education foundation - Startup:Education.  We'll cross our fingers that they do better than in Newark (which they are dong their darnest to make it sound good but was mostly a windfall for consultants). 


seattle citizen said...

"4. Closing the opportunity gap for our African-American students. Seattle Public Schools has an unacceptable achievement gap. We heard that from our families, who also asked what we are doing to close that gap."

Why is the bullet point focused on African Americans, while the body discusses the achievement gap generally?
I DO understand that, according a test I don't like but is the basis for most discussion about the achievement gap, African Americans test lower than the other groups, but scores for Hispanics, Asian-Pacific Islanders, American Indians are also low (though scores, generally, are rising for all groups over the last six years)

I find the focus in the bullet #4 lead to be odd in its omission of these other groups.

2012 SPS 2007-2012 HSPE Results

Melissa Westbrook said...

SC, I won't say it out loud but I think if you ponder it hard enough, you'll come to the answer.

Anonymous said...

Director McLaren's meting was most informative.

Many Schmitz Park parents, 3fr K5STEM, 1 fr Sanislo, 1 fr Sealth,

Schmitz Park rightly upset about the data sent round on Friday showing the last years there, with high staff turnover, huge overcrowding, etc. someone was told only the last three years could be used, accd'g to policy - no policy cited. Recall Director McLaren calling this issue out to staff at the last board meeting.

Director Martin Morris has apparently been responding to emails that waivers are inequitable as would be dual adoption - the failure in logic was discussed in depth.

The fear that principals will request Envision's curricula if dual adoption is selected given central staff's strong support of that program to further their career paths and what advocacy can be done to those principals, BLTs, PTSAs before 06-20th as written, decision would lay in Principals' hands.

The uniform distress on how the process has been "managed" without information going to the committee, that MIF Prof. . Develop firms/coaches are avail locally to teach the Singapore system at far less cost then from publisher and that PD can be done in house in school using building trainer models on days already paid for, that ELL would be better served by MIF, etc., K5 STEM had most impressive data on this issue, the lack of benchmark data req back in early April and again at Boardmeeting by Dir. Peters, e.g., Highline (MIF) still has not been rec'd by Board, that the data regarding students switching schools data to back up Banda and staff's claims has not been rec'd by the Board, that in the SW community, teachers and parents addressed fluidity between SPS and Highline, that counsel English will give an opinion on the "legality" of adopting dual (and apparently other lawyers are looking at as well), that Shauna Heath is wedded to Envision because it worked so well for her in Decauter, GA, but no data given to inform, that information shared with staff was not passed on to the committee as was referenced in the public disclosure documents.

Other attendees, pleas feel free to fill in the blanks.


Anonymous said...

I attended Patu's and McLaren's meetings this morning.

First I attended Patu meeting. She planned to support the Peters amendment for dual adoption. She wants a proven, language-neutral curriculum that works well for ELL students, and she sees that in MiF and not EnVision.

(As an interesting aside, she also mentioned that Tracy Libros has announced her imminent retirement. I wonder who my new foe will be this fall as I fight to stop SPS from pulling us out of our overlapping walk zones for our two nearest schools and force us onto buses to go to the 8th farthest grade school away.)

I then rushed to the McLaren meeting. Marty said that the legality of the Peters amendment has been questioned, so Peters is working on an alternative amendment that would call for use if MiF as the sole curriculum. McLaren strongly supports MiF over EnVision.

McLaren declined to predict what would happen on Wednesday, but I don't see where the votes would come from for adoption of EnVision as the sole curriculum.

Thanks to everyone here for fighting the good fight. I've been discouraged for so long, it was great to see so much support for a strong curriculum.


Anonymous said...

Regarding #4, I will say that at the Southeast town hall, most of the spoken commentary referred to need for better outcomes specifically for African-American students. From what I could tell and from what I remember, there were few to zero participants from the Asian and Latino communities. It was basically black and white.

My own specific written commentary addressed the need for more and better native-language outreach, but that was not a recurring theme at the meeting.

FWIW, here were the notes I took that night:

"Here are some of the requests that came up at the SE Town Hall:

--Teach in culturally responsive ways.

--Hire faculty who represent racial diversity in the schools.

--Announce solid plan to address the disproportionate discipline of African-American boys.

--Any bell time changes should consider children's safety, not just in terms of darkness, but local factors. For instance, don't let South Shore children out when gang members from Mercer, Aki, Franklin, Rainier Beach, and Renton are all congregated outside the community center right next door. (Sounds like this happens with some regularity after those school gets out.)"


Anonymous said...

Hooray for Director Patu! There is still hope.

In the state of CA, math textbooks are chosen at the state level and schools will get textbook funding only for the specified texts - it's not too different from the dual adoption being proposed in that schools get a choice.

CA Mathematics Instructional Materials

(Of added interest is the document on evaluation criteria - it includes a one page document of general math topics K-8)

All three programs selected by SPS are on the CA approved list (noticeably absent are EDM, CMP, and Discovering Algebra).

-MIF please

Kathleen V. said...

One other thing to note from McLaren's meeting. When asked what we could do to further support the amendment(s), Marty indicated that the Board needed to hear from more staff and principals around the district. She encouraged us to contact everyone we know from other parts of the city and ask them to advocate for MiF. I know from keeping track of this throughout the weeks that West Seattle is not the only region that has families eager to embrace MiF.

Anyone out there, beyond the WS peninsula have communities that are eager to use Singapore? Are your teachers and principal on board with the idea? Apparently, it is your voice that is missing in this conversation (at least for McLaren).

JvA, am I remembering this part correctly?

Anonymous said...

City Schools of Decatur, GA, has approximately 4000 students with 5 elementaries, one middle school, and one high school. It's home to several colleges.

Some other interesting facts:

- Decatur City School District is 1st in Georgia out of 180 other school districts in Home median value, 1st in Georgia out of 184 other school districts in Income per capita, and 1st in Georgia out of 184 other school districts in Residents with college degree. this the district where Shauna Heath was previously? Not sure how comparable it is...


Ragweed said...

@Seattle Citizen,

I'll leave alone the issue of the African-American achievement gap (though I agree with Melissa - read your own statement and see if you can figure it out).

However, I have to correct something - the achievement gap for Native American students at SPS has widened, not narrowed in recent years. Even Jose Banda has acknowledged it is the only demographic that has gone backwards in terms of the achievement gap.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's the problem with the Academic Achievement Gap.

For the last thirteen years the District has claimed that closing the gap was their number one goal and priority, yet the district has never, in all of that time, ever written a plan to achieve that goal or to pursue that priority.

What kind of organization - of any kind - neglects to develop and implement a plan to achieve their primary goal? One that is either hopelessly dysfunctional or one that isn't being honest about their goals and priorities.

Following the occupation of the Mann Building, the absence of any such plan to close the gap - specifically with regard to African-American students - was a very prickly point. The superintendent and his senior staff had to essentially admit their insincerity about their priority for closing this gap.

Let's remember that the District has commissioned about half a dozen committees over the years and they have all made essentially the same recommendations and the District has refused to implement those recommendations every time.

Carol Simmons said...

Thank you Mr. Charlie Mas. You are correct. I served on 3 of the 4 Disproportionality Task Forces since 1983 and we did make the same recommendations over and over. The former School Boards even approved these recommendations but most were never implemented in the schools. One of the recommendations was eliminating the 2.0 G.P.A. requirement for extra curricular activities as we all know that activities often hold students in schools, the playing field is unequal and grades are subjective measurements. The Board needs to at least do this and not approve the 2.0 requirement for Interscholastic Athletic participation which is being discussed currently. It is interesting that the 2.0 requirement was left out of the language of the policy and was enforced anyway. Good grief, what does that say?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what is happening with the old Van Asselt building? There are so many ever-changing rumors. Head Starts? Special education programs? Interim site for ? Offices? Is there a principal or administrator? Is any of this in writing anywhere?

Still Confused.

seattle citizen said...

I think the Strat Plan point on the Achievement Gap should include all groups. Yes, I can suppose some reasons why African Americans are mentioned and others are not, but as Ragweed points out, Native Americans are going backward....The phrasing should be changed to be inclusive of all students who are suffering under the achievement gap.

As Charlie points out, though, without a plan and action on the plan and monitoring the plan, stating that we will get rid of the gap is just empty air. I was on one of the committees, and while some suggestions seem to have been folded into various operational structures, the proof is in the pudding: will there be observable ("transparent") monitoring of progress, adjustment as needed, etc, to achieve the state goal?

Melissa Westbrook said...

STill Confused, I'm confused as well. I have heard several things - including space going for the City's PreK program.

Charlie Mas said...

Officially, the Van Asselt school building (not to be confused with the Van Asselt school at the African American Academy), is regarded as an interim site. (See the Superintendent's letter to Pinehurst families dated October 24, 2013)

It is not currently available for lease. In fact, no school buildings are currently available for lease.

It was offered to the AfricaTown folks, but they rejected it.

mirmac1 said...

I believe Old Van Asselt will hold the special education offices that were at WP, and a Transitional program.

Anonymous said...

Is there someone in the district that can actually give a definitive answer? Or an answer of the moment? Is it going to be a special education building?

Still confused

Patrick said...

More robocalls is really what people want? I'm surprised. I find most of the calls are invitations to nonproductive media events, or announcing early release or nonschool days which are on the calendar already. I listen to them all for the maybe one a year that's important, but mostly they're just an annoyance.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the plan at one point to use Old Van Asselt as an interim site for World School, until TT Minor is ready?

-North-end Mom

David said...

I also remember the district offering Van Asselt to the Northwest Center, which I believe they rejected.

Anonymous said...

So now "I hear" that Van Asselt will have some special education offices and special education classes. Not sure where they are coming from. Surely someone in the district can answer this riddle? Public information?

Still confused

Joe Wolf said...

Response re. Use of the Old Van Asselt campus

(Note: The 20-classroom 1950 building is the context for what follows. It is in the final stages of a significant modernization project, funded in BTA III. The 1909 building needs significant capital work prior to any future occupancy.

Van Asselt photo set:

Per work/conversation with Special Ed and Early Learning, an extended day Pre-K from Thurgood Marshall is relocating to Old Van Asselt, as is the equivalent of one Pre-K (0.5 from Van Asselt; 0.5 from Dearborn Park).

Confirming mircac 1's comment upthread: A SpEd transition class and the SpEd support teams - ChildFind/Assessment, Itinerant Pre-K teachers, Assistive Technology - currently housed at Wilson-Pacific are also relocating to Old Van Asselt.

The Van Asselt campus has a very interesting history. Link to its "Building for Learning" chapter:

Anonymous said...

Joe Wolf: Thanks for the photos and info! I keep forgetting to say Old Van Asselt and New (?) Van Asselt! Does Old have a New name?

Sounds like, so far, at least 9 rooms of the 20 will be SPECIAL ED related. That seems like a step backward!!! There must be some other surprises in store!!


Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, the "new" Van Asselt is housed in the AAA building while we are now speaking of the "old" Van Asselt building.

Anonymous said...

I was at one of the meetings where we mentioned how much we liked the weekly phone calls our principal sends out over robocalls. We weren't asking for robocalls from the district but just acknowledging that they are great weekly updates from the principal at Nathan Hale and that other schools might want to copy it. Typical that the district decides we want more calls from them.


Anonymous said...


I know that you don't typically like to advertise some organization's events, but I really think that folks might find this panel discussion about McCleary at Town Hall last week interesting.

The facilitator was Paola Maranan from the Children's Alliance and the four panelist were Shawn Lewis from the WEA, Sharonne Naves from Equity in Education, Rep of the 48th district (Medina) Ross Hunter, and the Frank Ordway, LEV Government relations. Introduction by the Washington State budget and Policy center.

Video of the event is here:

Whether or not folks agree or disagree with these perspectives, becoming informed about what legislators and the various leaders/staff of these organizations are advocating for is worth understanding, IMHO.

I'm interested in hearing what people think about the points brought up on this panel, and what needs to be done to get the legislature to fund the McCleary.


Anonymous said...

Joe wolf, how were you able to access that information about the old van asselt site? any idea how long they plan to stay there I keep seeing that it is an interim site..