Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday Open Thread

Update: just missed my e-mail letting me know that SPS has just released its "Facility Condition Assessment Report for 2014."  This should make for interesting reading.  

The district will engage the community over the next 13 months and ask for input and feedback with regard to projects to be included in the BTA IV capital levy.

I know something - don't use it like BEX to build/renovate (like $100M downtown high school and $53M to renovate the Federal Reserve building.)  If those are on there, I'm voting no.

Is there no end to the number of people in government who suddenly want to invest in early childhood programs?  It's almost as if they all got a memo.  Or something.

The latest one is KC Executive Dow Constantine who plans to ask voters for a new levy for early childhood programs by next fall.  The Times reports that he calls it "Best Starts for Kids." 

In yet another curious item, the PI's Joel Connelly, in reviewing the Mayor's budget, says this:

Murray is creating a cabinet-level Department of Education and Early Learning to work with “our diverse communities” and Seattle Public Schools to “close our city’s opportunity gap.” It will have the ability to go around the not-very-functional Seattle School Board and widely disliked bureaucracy of the school district.

Really?  Did yet ANOTHER memo go out about taking over Seattle Schools?  Because, of course, the idea that the Mayor would create a new department and be able to go around the Board and the district is complete nonsense.  The City certainly can decide on how to spend the F&E levy dollars; it's their tax-payer voted on dough.  But no, a new department is not going to allow any city official to go around the district.  But I'll ask (just to be sure).

There certainly is some kind of drumbeat going on out there.   

Our new Washington State Teacher of the Year, Lyon Terry from Lawton Elementary, sits on the district committee that is aligning reading and writing curricula to CCSS.  

The public meetings for the newest charter school applications (all four of them) have been going on.  The one in Sunnyside from a group that received good marks in its first application (except in financials) has reapplied again.  They would run a K-8 that will be a mix of in-class and online instruction (sounds like Rocketship).  The Superintendent in Sunnyside spoke out against the charter, saying that his district was doing well with an over 80% graduation rate (above the state and national average).

Have an anxious child?  Some pretty good tips on being a good parent in that situation from the Huffington Post Education blog.

From Disability Scoop, a story about the feds spending money for several research projects on how to help kids with autism nearly from birth to high school to job searching.

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

(reposted from Friday's open thread)

Textbook question: When in a high school class where the teacher is using an adopted text, especially math or science, aren't students supposed to have their own copy of the text to take home? Our child is reporting there aren't enough books and they won't have a copy to take home. How typical is this?


Anonymous said...

Push for preschool


IMHO bring back summer school, counselors, after school tutors and get rid of all the portables.


Anonymous said...

Push for preschool


IMHO bring back summer school, counselors, after school tutors and get rid of all the portables.


Anonymous said...

I personally cant wait for the city to take over and put an end to the BS.

Some TFA grade are going to get jobs, but it's a small sacrifice for real change.

New Start

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wait, how would that work? You think because the City would run the district, more TFA teachers would be in there?

As far as sacrifice, I guess you mean your own child (in multiple classes, grades) with TFA teachers, right?

Anonymous said...

Yes, everyone will need to sacrifice for the kids. Removing most of ineffective leadership at the district will be a good start.

Once the mayor is coupled with the school district the mayor will have re-election skin in the game along with the mayor's administration.

Currently the part time unpaid board has no skin in the game and it shows. I think it's worth trying a change.

New Start

Joe Wolf said...

The updated District Facilities Condition Assessment was made public and posted this morning. Link:


Here, a link to the FAQ & responses.


Please email me directly with questions - thanks. jawolf@seattleschools.org

Anonymous said...

I just read an article in the British newspaper, The Guardian. Both the UK and the US are trying to overcome the achievement gap (attainment gap in UK), and a British study found the greatest problem with overcoming the gap is poverty.

The achievement gap must be overcome in order to break the cycle of poverty, but the US has had the wrong focus - blaming teachers. Blaming teachers is much easier than dealing with the real issues.

The Guardian



Eric B said...

Bookless, I think it depends on the teacher. Some of my high schooler's teachers send books home, and some keep them in the classroom. Most of them seem to want the books one place or another, and we appreciate the lighter backpack!

Anonymous said...

There is a good editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, Sept. 23. Barbara Oakley, engineering professor at Oakland University in Michigan, writes that repetitive work in math achieves positive results. Achieving conceptual understanding doesn’t mean true mastery, which requires practice.

Common Core’s approach to teaching STEM builds on the culture that conceptual understanding trumps everything. She makes a good argument that the development of true expertise involves extensive practice. Her students did much better with fundamentally sound techniques to learning math.

S parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Once the mayor is coupled with the school district the mayor will have re-election skin in the game along with the mayor's administration."

What? He's Mayor and yes, already has "skin in the game" to get reelected whether he has control of the schools or not. Your point on the Board, though, is true.

Anonymous said...

Math curriculum adoption question: Was wondering what we are to expect with regard to math adoption for middle and high school? Will there be any movement on this soon?

If we don't get a move-on with the middle school adoption, how will this work for kids in 4th and 5th grade? They finally have a good curriculum with Math in Focus. Are the kids going to get whiplash switching back to CMP in middle school? This seems like a really bad situation for our 5th grade cohort now (and possibly 4th graders as well depending on how long we sit on the middle school and high school adoptions).

Any insights anyone?


opt out said...


If you'd rather not have Rupert Murdoch load up on your kids' testing and personal data, make sure you opt out of the Amplify testing right away.

This test is already being administered around the district. JANE ADDAMS, for example, is on another round THIS WEEK!

It's very easy to opt out of these tests, you just need to give the school a letter that states you are opting them out of all Amplify testing for the entire 2014-2015 school year. Yes, you need to do this each year, but it's easy. To be safe, make sure your child knows they are not to take the test, and give them a copy of your opt-out letter so they can show their teacher or test administrator on testing day if there's any question.

Anonymous said...

We were never informed that Amplify was going to be administered at JAMS for Algebra. By chance, my kid didn't eat breakfast that day and was really mad at me for that. Or possibly we were informed but I didn't realize it.

opt out said...

Also, make sure to tell other parents!

Most parents, especially this early in the year, do not know about this new series of tests, nor the Murdoch tie-in.

Anonymous said...

How do we find out if our school is using Amplify or MAP?

-Questioning Testing

Lynn said...

On the topic of testing, what does it mean when the school informs you that all 11th graders will be REQUIRED to take the new Smarter Balanced exams in both ELA and Math? If my student has passed all the tests required for graduation, what is the mechanism to require taking these additional exams?

These computer adaptive exams are expected to take 8 1/2 hours for a student in the 11th grade.

This year my student will lose in-class instruction for the PSAT (3 hour late start), EOC exams (3 hour late start for 5 days) and the HSPEs (2 3/4 hour late start for 3 days.) Now we can add 8 1/2 hours for the (meaningless) SBAC.

That's a lot of class time, particularly when a student is also preparing for AP exams.

Anonymous said...

From the Facility Condition Assessment Report, re: JAMS "lack of a complete fire protection sprinkler system". That's pretty disturbing.

~yet another parent

Anonymous said...

An interesting look at character education in schools:

Is Character Education the Answer?

While I always hope for teachers that model positive traits (thoughtfulness, fairness, honesty, zest for learning, the value of hard work, etc.), I'm not comfortable with the schools pushing the latest pop psychology on my kids in the name of social emotional learning. Having recess and an active PE class seem to do more for my child than the contrived behavior lessons.

another 2cents

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Any mayor that pushes for control of the SPS, I will not support. Don't take away my right to vote for the school board. I don't want mayoral cronies in there calling the shots.

Seems like another reason not to vote for any preschool measure.


Anonymous said...

reposting for unsigned, above...

Anonymous said...
Some schools have NO fire sprinkler protection system.

9/23/14, 12:32 PM

Yep. John Rogers, for instance.

-North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

Lynn, the district has no mechanism to require students to take the 11th grade Smarter Balanced assessment. The school/district is required to administer the assessment to at least 95% of the students since it will now be the NCLB accountability assessment for high school.

You may opt your child(ten) out of this assessment if you so choose and, until it is a graduation requirement (starting for the class of 2018), there should be no consequence for your child(ren).

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, I looked into this issue of fire sprinkler systems awhile back. Imagine my surprise that it's legal. Naturally, they have to have some kind of fire protection but not a complete sprinkler system.

It's just one of those many high-maintenance items is troubling and not getting done.

Patrick said...

Mayors are reelected based on potholes and snowplows, not schools. So a mayor would be free to bring in all the TFAers the Gates Foundation wants and increase class sizes to 45 if it would save some taxes, and still be reelected.

mirmac1 said...

I dunno Patrick. No mayor has been stupid enough to muck with voters' children.

Could make Snowmagedon 2008 look like cakewalk.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm with Miramac. There are other cities that might react that way but Seattle is a unique town for public education.

It could the one mistake that haunts Murray.

Anonymous said...

There is no need to prepare for AP exams. That is the whole year-long AP curriculum = test prep. My kid took 10 of them, never studied but got some sleep the night before & got all 5's. (Gen ed student, not APP.)

Lots of college credit that will not be used, because "why would I want to miss out on great college classes?" Oh & don't forget to take the SAT subject exams a month later, in the same subjects & pay the same company for them. What a racket.

-college now

Anonymous said...

Dominic Holden is leaving The Stranger. With Goldy gone, now Dom, look for attention to SPS continue to dive. Anna is the last one there with anything to contribute.


Anonymous said...

Some pretty shocking stuff in the building survey released today.

I only browsed the reports quickly.

In another thread a few days ago I asked "does the district not have enough money to take care of routine maintenance or is it not happening because of dysfunction and neglect?" Crickets.

There are pages and pages of simple, basic, maintenance items that should be resolved during the school year as normal maintenance, listed as needed in the report. I'm not talking about replacing boilers (should be a capital investment?) or installing double-pane windows for energy efficiency ... I'm talking about broken door handles, dented and/or non-functional lockers, gym dividers that are inoperative, exterior lighting fixtures that are inoperative, etc.

So I'll ask again - is the district not handling what i consider to be day to day maintenance items because they are up against their budget or because their systems and processes are not in place to effect these repairs in a timely manner?

Meanwhile, take a read through both sections of pdfs on Lincoln High School. In 1997 Lincoln was quickly put back in service as a high school to house Ballard after fifteen years of utter neglect. The renovation of Lincoln was covered closely by the now shuttered Seattle Press (a free, weekly paper distributed in the north end). Good luck finding those back articles. Lots of stuff in there about a leak roof that was allowed to leak for years, causing major structural problems (I seem to recall a floor collapsing due to water damage, but alas, its been so many years) in the main building. Thus, the center, main building got a rapidly done full renovation, and the outer wings, which were slightly newer, were not touched. Ballard operated for months using only the north-wing, the south-wing, and the arts/shop wing until the renovation was complete.

So here we are, many years later. Since Ballard moved out, the school has been in continuous use as an interim site (except for maybe one year? immediately after Ballard moved out?) and now as APP @ Lincoln.

The district has done very little upkeep to the site, and in fact, has allowed the physical plant to continue to degrade.

How much of this site is actually in use by APP @ Lincoln? This has been asked before by other commenters who question the APP parents that claim a building that on paper can house and has housed 1500+ High School students is unable to hold the 800 or so elementary school kids currently on site (and I'm not talking about playground issues - that's a real deficiency. I'm referring to instructional space).

If you read the facility reports you will see that the north wing - which contains the two older gyms, and a huge library space in what was originally the auditorium. There is an additional, large, open room on the west side of the library space that for years was used as an enrollment center. I have no idea what is there now. Anyways - the report notes that the heating distribution system for this entire wing has failed. It also notes that temporary heat has been set up for the small gyms, but does not say anything about the huge library or that west-side room. Are these spaces being used currently? Do they have heat? That library is enormous and has a drop ceiling installed (you can see the drop ceiling from about half way on the huge north-facing windows). I can't imagine this space being effectively heated with just a "temporary" solution. What is the district's plan for replacing this distribution system? It's not as if this school was just reactivated from mothballs ... they've had 17 years to address these facility issues. The physical plant at Lincoln (in north and south wing) was life expired in 1997 - where was the planning to get these systems replaced proactively? Are they waiting until the BEX renovation starts? How many more years without heat is that?


Lynn said...

Thanks swk,

I think the only tool they have is the caps lock. (The email really did say REQUIRED.)

college now,

When I mentioned preparation for AP exams, I meant classroom instruction. Too many class periods are missed for testing. The testing window for SBAC exams is April 6th through May 29th. AP exams are given May 4th through the 15th.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Northwesterner, sorry I missed your question:
"does the district not have enough money to take care of routine maintenance or is it not happening because of dysfunction and neglect?"

The district has been cutting back on basic maintenance since the late '70s. It's pretty sad. I have been advocating for more spending for a long, long time but the district does not get it. I think the $2.6M from rental/lease revenue should go to maintenance (but I doubt that it did).

I am sure you are right on all counts on the maintenance at Lincoln. As I just told Eckstein parents tonight, if you own a home and don't maintain it, you know exactly what will happen. Times that by 90+ buildings.

Because even those bright, new shiny buildings? Do you think they get maintained any better than the old ones? Nope.

As well, this district has huge issues with HVAC (especially the high schools). Heard an earful at Eckstein tonight.

Transparency Please said...

" It will have the ability to go around the not-very-functional Seattle School...."

This comment makes perfect sense. The city's prek plan is to align prek-3 curriculum and align prek-5. In essence, the city is putting their nose under the education tent. Remember: the Prek Oversight Committee is comprised of the Family and Ed. Committee and 4 mayoral appointments. Essentially, the district will have 2 out of 16 representative voices.

Holly Miller and Burgess have been trying to figure out an end run around elected officials. Let's remember: The city's department of education is not answerable to voters. Let's also remember: We voted for the Family and Ed. Levy to support low income families NOT support a BLOATED bureaucracy; Family and Ed. dollars will be used to support the city's new department.

The city's prek program must be voted down.

Bertha said...

"Once the mayor is coupled with the school district the mayor will have re-election skin in the game along with the mayor's administration.

Currently the part time unpaid board has no skin in the game and it shows. I think it's worth trying a change."

Are you suggesting that there will be a paid and appointed board?

I am really starting to take issue that we voted for Family and Ed. dollars to support low income schools and Murray/Burgess/Miller want to use those dollars for a bloated bureaucracy for their educational offices.

As said in a previous thread, how is the city doing with transportation, unaffordable housing, police, BERTHA, homelessness etc? Thoughts that the city could take-on education is silly.

I've never understood the "skin in the game" comment.

Anonymous said...

Library in Lincoln is Library for 700 APP kids. And computer room. It's not "huge" when compared with Ballard, Roosevelt, etc libraries. If you subtract the computer room, it seems like size of places like Greenwood Elem. library.

"West of Library" - 2 fifth grade classes. Not huge by any means. And really really crappy maintenance. No lockers at all in that wing for the 60 fifth graders there. Parent offered to buy hooks for wet coats and was told "not allowed to drill into wall". Sigh. Why does SPS micromanage to the level of "can't" but not to the level of "thanks for your help!"

Stuff under library = off limits.

Stuff east of library: small rooms, used for instrumental music (small!) which hundreds of kids take. Really bad shape.

One reason a school's capacity is reduced when used for elementary vs. High school is that the class sizes are contractually lower than for high school, so the same number of homerooms can't house as many kids. Even when high school teachers have a planning period, they can be evicted from their room and another class use that space - but in elem. that doesn't work (not like a roving 3rd grade teacher can go room to room, unlike a roving high school math teacher), and the class sizes are smaller, especially at the lower grades.

Lots of broken stuff still in the building, but parents try super hard to fix things up as much as they can.

FYI heard that the $40 million to remodel Lincoln in BEX has been cut to $20 mill already. AND THEY WANT AN EXPENSIVE DOWNTOWN BOONDOGGLE AT THE FED BLDG? And SPS wants to get involved in preschool (=black hole for money)?

Signed: sighing

kellie said...

@ Northwestener,

Thank you for raising such thoughtful questions. Plus I am glad to know I am not the only person that reads some of those reports.

I do not have a child at Lincoln, however, I have some answers to your questions about why Lincoln parents raise so many concerns about capacity and so many students in the building.

As you mentioned, Lincoln is pretty much an elaborate maze of wings with a pretty uneven set of connections and disconnections. As such, the the "core resources" of the building are not necessarily easily divided among the many tenants in the building. Until the Oct 1 numbers come out, I have no idea about how many students are in the building but I believe that there are now 4-5 schools/programs in Lincoln and likely a 1,000 bodies amongst all the programs.

APP @ Lincoln, Licton Springs, a portion of Interagency (formerly at Wilson Pacific), evening school and maybe one more. The diversity of programs put an additional strain on the building that would not exist when Ballard had access to the entire campus for their program.

This means that core facilities are in serious demand and that many of those core facilities are over taxed by the demands of an elementary population that uses the building differently from a secondary population. For example, high schools are not designed to efficiently support lunch and recess.

A good rule of thumb (because it was SPS's rule) is that you reduce the capacity of a secondary building to suit the program. When South Shore was built, the capacity was labeled 1,000 as a middle school and 750 as a K8 and 600 as an elementary school. So a 1500 student high school would be a 1200 K8 or about 1,000 seat elementary school. (roughly)

kellie said...

I wish that Mayoral control would fix this but I think Patrick summarized the problem most aptly.

Mayor are elected and defeated on issues of potholes and snow plows. If the City in charge of schools, it will just be ONE issue amongst dozens that influence a person's vote. There won't be any skin in the education game for a Mayor. There are just too many issues that will go into the dollar-cost-averaging of people's votes.

Garfield Mom said...

Received this from the Garfield PTSA today. From one extreme to the other:

"A Message from Principal Howard.....

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is currently conducting trainings and restructuring the District field trip policies and procedures. At this time, I cannot approve any overnight field trips, until I am assured systems are in place to provide educational, empowering and safe experiences for all participants.

Seattle Public Schools is seeking feedback and task force involvement to review and improve our field trip policies. I have attached here for your review, some of my input. It is crucial that our Garfield community lead by example, and unite to advocate for a resolution. I encourage you to be part of this dialogue.

Here is the link to the task force. Please sign up by September 26, 2014.

Contingent on the task force recommendations and the resulting District field trip policy revisions, I hope to again accept field trip applications in January 2015. This deadline may change, depending on the recommendations from the task force. As Principal of Garfield High School, I am responsible for all areas of our school, including the safety and security of all students and faculty. Please understand that I fully appreciate the value of field trips and am making every effort to work with the District to complete the field trip policy update, as soon as possible. At this time though, there are no Garfield overnight field trips approved for the current school year.

I always welcome and appreciate your feedback and concerns.

Ted Howard II
Principal, Garfield HS"

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Ted got privately slapped (one can only hope) and in addition was given 'legally acceptable' wording.

If this is followed by making Garfield's VP write "I will take full responsibility for chaperone screening and training" 1000 times in chalk at the front of the Garfield Common Space, I will be even more pleased.

Butts need to be on the line publicly as well as privately.


n said...

Since this is an open thread, I'm going to rant a bit. Why do principals change schools that are working? Also, I'm an older teacher and I'm seriously considering supporting charter schools after long campaigning against them.

The District is wearing out its good teachers. Too many egotistical, controlling principals who wear their staffs down. And at our school, our principal surrounds her/himself with new teachers who haven't the confidence nor the intellect to speak independently. Also, as someone who considers herself fairly well educated and intellectually spirited and knowledgeable, I see a dearth of really smart young people coming in to teaching. If we are going to fill the schools with tradesman-type teachers, why not charters?

Melissa Westbrook said...

N, sorry to hear that you see this happening. We can lose good veteran teachers if principals don't recognize their worth, both as teachers and people who know how a good school runs.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had a chance to delve too deeply into the Facilities Condition Assessment Report (2014), but one thing I did notice is that the enrollment numbers given as an October 1st 2013 headcount do not seem to be accurate.

When reading the summary for my son's school, John Rogers, I noticed that the Oct 1 2013 count given in the Facilities report is listed as 280.

This is much lower than the actual Oct 1 2013 count of 323, but it matched the count from Oct 2010 (280 students).

I did a quick check of a handful of schools, and found that the enrollment number given in the facilities report also matched the 2010 counts for those schools. I haven't searched for 2013 count numbers for these schools, since the 2013-14 School Report data has not been posted on the SPS website.

It is troubling to me that updated enrollment numbers (2013 counts) were apparently not given in the facilities report. Also, I'm wondering which numbers (2010 or 2013 counts) were factored into analyses such as enrollment stress on core facilities, etc...?

- North-end Mom

Privitize said...

Disturbing article on venture capitalists' interest in public education:

Are Venture Capitalists Poised to 'Disrupt' Education?

"The market size of K-12 education is projected to be $788.7 billion. And currently, much of that money is spent in the public sector. 'It's really the last honeypot for Wall Street'"