Sunday, October 12, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, October 13th
Curriculum&Instruction Committee meeting from 4:30-6:30 pm at JSCEE.
There quite a jam-packed agenda here including discussion of Advanced Learning/Highly Capable programs and discussion about the Board endorsing Prop 1B, the City's preschool measure.

I note that the name of this item has changed:

BAR for P-5 Schools Aligned with Seattle Preschool Program Universal Pre-K Initiative

It a bit amusing as the City rebrands the name of their preschool initiative over and over.  But again, pre-k is NOT the district's state mandate nor are they state funded for it.  

At Publicola, there is one person saying that Cashel Toner, who is the district's person for Early Learning, has been working with the Gates Foundation on aligning SPS with this effort via a $750K grant.  (This person says there are e-mails to show this and I hope to see them soon.)  I can only say that in e-mails I have obtained, Toner is very in the loop with many City people on this initiative to the point where I wonder who she works for.

I said before that it would be a very bad idea (and precedent) for the Board to endorse one preschool prop over another. It may be legal but it is unethical. There could be several reasons why this is unethical but for starters, the Board allowed the City to provide information on their preschool plan INCLUDING the levy. If they didn't give the same opportunity to 1A, the unions' plan, then they are being patently unfair.

I would hope that if this resolution makes it out of committee and goes to the full Board, that any Board members who vote for it understand that voters will remember this unfair attitude if any of them run for the Board again.  We can't have Board members who are not objective in their votes.

There are also items about: "equitable access", "research activity and test administration", "assessment update", "Garfield High School Post", "MTSS update" and Special Education update.

All are vague terms about important items.  You have to wonder what it all means.  

Wednesday, Oct. 15
School Board meeting starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda

- Although Seattle voters approved the Operations levy for $185M, it appears the district will be receiving about $500K less than that because of RCW regulations.
- the settlement for the Garfield field trip student of $700K is on the agenda with the funds coming from the General Fund.  I am probably not reading the settlement correctly but it looks like to me, that the family will not continue a claim under Title IX.  (It may be the family isn't but the government is as was alleged by the family in an e-mail.)  This is an Intro/Action item.
- Grant from the Gates Foundation for $700K "for support the development of P-5 schools that deliver high quality PreK within the context of P-5 buildings in collaboration and alignment with the City of Seattle’s Universal PreK initiative. This initiative will be put before the voters in November 2014. These funds will be used immediately at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School. (No match is required or promised)."

"It is understood by the funder that Seattle Public Schools will determine external sustainable funding by the end of Year 3 or programming will be discontinued. Internal funding will not be requested. "

"If Seattle Public Schools can identify funding for high quality PreK classrooms and supportive systems, we will be able to connect, teach, and inspire our youngest learners while at the same time addressing one of our major systems goals: to close the opportunity gap."  


Look, what is this rush to develop P-5 schools?  Gates Foundation dangles money in front of the district for something that is NOT a primary duty and the district is supposed to fall into line?  

Given the election hasn't even happened and no one knows the outcome, why the rush?  Why not wait until AFTER the election?   

I also see disturbing language in this BAR like creation of these schools "will achieve" higher graduation rates.  Research may show that it helps but the district is going to guarantee that this will happen?

There are several documents attached with more disturbing information.  I have to smile at the idea of a pre-K "6 hour academic day" which would mean that Seattle pre-K kids would be funded for a longer school day than what the state funds for kindergarten.  But that would be the case if 1B passes.

As well, there are two scenarios in these documents - one if 1B passes and another if it doesn't.  Guess who is on the hook to find dollars for this work if 1B doesn't pass?  Seattle Schools.

No, no and no.

Parents, I think you might want to give consideration about what this may mean for your school if you are at a K-5 or K-8.  Resources and staff time are going to be taken from existing work at your school (not to mean their need for space).  You might want to write to the Board at schoolboard@seattleschools. org.

You might also consider mentioning that you don't want the district to worry about a downtown school which is also on the agenda.

It is absolutely jaw-dropping to me to see the change in the attitudes downtown on this topic.  Now the district (and apparently the Board) are willing to send this district into more bond debt for this.  They are willing to divert staff time to yet another huge capital project.  And they believe they can add on this project to BTA IV and recover the dollars to pay off the bonds there.  

I said it before and I'll say it again - this is a time and money suction that this district can ill afford.  To put the district into debt, to take on another huge project as there are voices pointing out the coming high school capacity crisis and to put a huge project on BTA at the expense of existing school community needs (and when BTA is NOT about huge capital projects) is utterly ridiculous.

Again, you might want to remember all these actions by any Board members who say yes if any of them run again.  I know I will.

Thursday, October 16th
Curiously there is both an Operations Committee meeting from 4:30-6:00 pm following by an Operations Committee meeting of the Whole from 6:00-7:30 pm.  No agendas yet available.

Saturday, October 18th
Community meetings

Director Blanford from 10:00-11:30 am at Capital Hill library
Director Martin-Morris from 10-11:30 am at NE Library


Magic Money said...

What I don't understand is where the $700,000 settlement is coming from. How is that money available? How is it just magically free to make this payment? Shouldn't they be cutting 2-3 people in administration to make up for this loss of $700,000? How about 2-3 of the upper management who were supposed to be preventing things like this from happening? How can they just make $700,000 appear at a time when our schools aren't being maintained, when they don't have enough books, and when they don't have enough teachers?

Where is this money coming from and how come no one has been fired?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Magic, well, they did transfer $2.6M from the revenue from leases/rentals into the General Fund but never said what they would use it for. Maybe this was it.

As to why it appears no one has been disciplined (let alone fired), that's a mystery. But CYA for all.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

I wrote to the Board and asked they not support a pre-K resolution. Especially because prop 1b's largest donor Matt Griffin is also the largest campaign donor for Carr and Martin-Morris. The board should step away and focus on the many issues the district is facing.

mosfet said...


Thank you for mentioning the connection between prop 1b donors and campaign donors for board members.

Anonymous said...

It's time to purge this board. I wont vote for any seated member again and will work against anyone of them that runs again.

sw showdown --

Disappointed said...

The manner in which the city's preschool initiative was changed on the BAR is very upsetting and I'm glad we have the opportunity to see the red line.

The same type of tactics are used in the legislature. Legislators change the titles of an attempt to hide something voters may not want to hear.

I am disappointed in the person leading Early Learning.

I can understand being invested in a program, but truthfulness and transparency are very important.

Anonymous said...

Page 3 of the preK BAR reads: "By funding the PreK year, we will capture 180 days (equal to 5,850 hours) of instruction."

Wow, those are some pretty long days! I can't imagine they'll find a lot of preK teachers willing to work 32.5 hr days, though...


Anonymous said...

Re: the preK program, the grant narrative also says this: "Providers will be required to adopt the approved curricula as detailed in the Implementation Plan." It says elsewhere that the Implementation Plan will be developed by the City of Seattle’s Office for

So have district officials actually reviewed this curriculum, or are they willing to agree to a curriculum they know nothing about? Does the curriculum need to go through SPS's formal curriculum adoption process?


Melissa Westbrook said...

HIMSmom, good points and to the main point: who is in charge of classrooms and curriculum in SPS schools?

It feels very much like the district is being lead by the nose and it should not be that way. Especially if it is to come at the cost of students currently in SPS.

Po3 said...

Who are the providers?
What is the curriculum?

Anonymous said...

If you're the type of parent who blindly trust SPS will do the right things, then you are playing Russian roulette with your child's education or possibly worst. Even with a great teacher you have the problem of many students. I find teachers just do not have the time to help students, it's the chicken feed method and it seems to be getting worst.

You need to find an online supplemental program, especially for middle and high school. SPS appears to have lost control over schools and curriculum. At one local high school there are 3 different math books being used for the same grade? The principle couldn't coherently articulate to parents why that was happening? You don't need to hire a tutor, just find one of the free online sources and have your child perform the assessment testing then start the course. You have nothing to lose.

concerned parent

Eric B said...

Most budgets have a contingency or reserve line item built in. The $700K probably comes out of that.

@HIMSMom, maybe the Pre-K teachers will be learning from SPD. A few of them managed to bill 30+ hours of overtime in a 24-hour period.

Anonymous said...

@concerned parent, what you describe as inconsistency in materials and what we parents may consider a bug, some SPS folks consider a feature. What they tout as academic freedom for teachers can mean no rules or defined curriculum from class to class, even within buildings. All we have are the standards and the district is allowing a free for all when it comes to meeting the standards. In some cases, you can't even assure the standards are being covered. It's not just happening for math, but across subjects.

As a parent, I'd like to see more of a mix - a more defined curriculum that still allows for some teacher freedom. We've experienced the downside of teachers that have too much freedom, too little content knowledge, and too little oversight.

-tired parent

Anonymous said...

concerned parent said: "SPS appears to have lost control over schools and curriculum."

Did they ever have control? Are they even supposed to? It makes sense that they should, but at the recent APP AC meeting when Kathleen Vasquez presented re: the HCC middle school LA/SS scope and sequence under development, she was clear to point out that the scope and sequence is just a guideline, and that they can't force teachers to follow it.

Is this really the case, or does it say somewhere that they need to follow the approved scope and sequence, curriculum, etc.? Do other districts operate like this too?

Anonymous said...

For HS math, you will see different sequencing depending on ability level within the same grade. You see this even in elementary school with differentiation. Different text and work sheets depending on student's ability. Much like different books and even different vocab lists used depending on reading and writing levels in ES.

another parent

Anonymous said...

@ another parent, you seem to have a lot of faith that differentiation is alive and well. Care to share some details? From what we've seen in middle school, differences between classes have nothing to do with student ability level. I'd be willing to bet a fair sum that's the same with high school.

In elementary school, teachers have more time to get to know students well, and if they aren't too overloaded with large class sizes, wide ranges in abilities, and other challenges, then they might be able to do as you say. I've seen it on occasion, but not as the rule.


Anonymous said...

We have seen in middle school where one class taught by the same teacher is both Algebra and 8th grade math. Same book, same work and same teacher. The teacher decides who gets the EOC Algebra test and credit.

Most of the female students and disabled students are placed in 8th grade math. The girls are happy because they think they are getting off easy. They don't realize they are being discriminated against and will be behind in math come high school.

We want to say something, but have heard the teacher is known to retaliate against students who's parents complain.

Middle schoolparent

Charlie Mas said...

If anyone is at the C & I committee meeting, please report.

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

Well, the parents aren't told anything by the school. The students come home with homework and a story about how they are either in Algebra (looks more like pre Algebra) or 8th grade math. To me it appears to be a process to pad the EOC scores and make the school look better. Most Algebra II high school teachers are seeing a lack of algebra I competencies even from students that pass the EOC at level 4.

I don't really have the time or energy nor do I want to risk possible retaliation against my daughter, so I will let it go.

Middle schoolparent

Inside as well said...

After many years of watching this district, it is our feeling that "truthfulness and transperency" bounce of SSD like bullets of Superman.

Linh-Co said...

@ Middle schoolparent

Are you at Salmon Bay? I hear the kids do better on the EOC1 than the 8th grade MSP.

TechyMom said...

Wouldn't the settlement be paid by insurance?

Charlie Mas said...

According to a Seattle Times article the $700k settlement will be paid from a reserve established to cover legal liabilities.

Anonymous said...

Half Full, grab a HS course catalaog and leaf through math pathways. You'll find different paths depending on where kids are coming at. Some 9th graders will start with pre-algebra, some at algebra, some at geometry or honors geometry, etc. Where they end up once they meet the HS graduation minimum depends on their interest and ability. I say ability in the sense most students are not going to sign up for AP stat or AP cal unless they think they can hack it and taking AP classes often require passing pre reqs with A or B grade.

another parent

Linh-Co said...

I don't think any high school in Seattle offers pre-algebra.

Anonymous said...

An eye-opening report on vaccination rates in Seattle area schools, from KUOW:


Anonymous said...

another parent, I think we were talking about two different things. I had interpreted the earlier poster's comments to refer to situations in which different teachers, even within a school, teach the same subject/level class using very curricula. For example, say you have a middle school in which one teacher uses the district approved curriculum for Alg 1, while the other uses their own homegrown curriculum.

Yes, I'm very aware there are kids taking different levels of each subject in high school. Middle school, too. I didn't get the sense that the original poster objected to that, and I certainly don't as well. The issue is consistency of curricula for individual classes, not grade levels.


Anonymous said...

Many HS offer classes for students who are not ready for algebra (or geometry). They are called by different names. These classes help students to beef up on knowledge and skill sets so they can tackle algebra successfully. These pathways are common and you see them in many, many school districts.

another parent

Charlie Mas said...

I believe the current trend for 9th grade students who aren't quite ready for Algebra is to enroll them in an Algebra class and to also require them to take an Algebra support class (for no credit) in which they get instruction that supports their Algebra classwork.
This strategy was very successful in the schools that started it (like Cleveland STEM) and I believe it has been adopted by a number of others. It has also spread to some middle schools.
That may be the "pre-Algebra" found in course catalogs. It is taken concurrently with Algebra, not before it.

Linh-Co said...

Charlie is correct. Students are automatically enrolled if they failed the MSP test. It is not by choice. They also lose an elective.

mirmac1 said...

It looks to me that the Operations Committee of the Whole will be looking at the intro item to authorize the Supt to, among other things, borrow 48M for a downtown school.

Anonymous said...

No what I'm saying is,

Students pass the EOC algebra test in 8th grade are not ready for Algebra II even with a score of 4. High school math teachers are telling parents the 8 grade EOC test if flawed. 8 grade Algebra teachers teach to the EOC test and not to insure students are ready for high school algebra.

There is a failure of grade schools to prepare students for middle school then a repeat of the problem going into high school.

It's getting to the point where students need supplemental support in every class except recess. Some classes are pointless a complete waste of time and money. Students that CAN read, should stay home read the book and take an online assessment. They can arrive at 2nd period well rested and ready for the chicken feed general education style SPS has embraced.

There is zero corrective action with any issues in SPS. I hate to generalize, but there's no one in charge of anything that really matters. There's now a class system in many schools which is some sort of advanced learning and every body else and god forbid your child has a disability.

middle schoolparent

Anonymous said...

My kids attended one of the private schools that I am sure has a lower rate of vaccination than Thorton Creek, Salmon Bay or Pathfinder. Disease was not rampant there and when kids had whooping cough they stayed home. In fact, parents there were much more likely to keep their kids home if they were sick with a fever and wouldn't let them go back to school until said fever was over for 24 hours. Kids ate healthier there, got lots of outdoor exercise and the building was maintained in a green manner to limit chemical exposure to the kids.


Anonymous said...

When the ebola vaccine becomes available, I'm sure these absentees will suddenly get on board.

Vaccinations are used as a method of group health. Some people don't seem to get that concept.

--enough already

Melissa Westbrook said...

"In fact, parents there were much more likely to keep their kids home if they were sick with a fever and wouldn't let them go back to school until said fever was over for 24 hours."

You know this how? You know that all the parents in Pathfinder kept their kids home with a fever? That "in fact" makes me wonder.

You think that a building being "maintained in a green manner" is protecting kids from germs and disease? I would think it would, as you say, limit them to chemical exposure, so how does that relation to disease and vaccinations?

Anonymous said...

@middle schoolparent,

Can't parents log into The Source and see whether their kids are in Alg 1 or 8th grade math? Or are you saying that the teacher doesn't really distinguish between the two, and that some kids officially in 8th grade math will take the Alg 1 EOC and some kids in Alg I won't be allowed to?

The issue of how well middle school math prepares kids for high school math is a larger one, not unique to your school. It's also probably largely a curriculum issue. We need a new middle school math adoption, and pronto.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with you re: the need for supplementation. SPS schools are weak in many core academic areas, and parents who see what's missing and have the resources to fill in are doing so--math tutors, writing tutors, online history courses, summer programs, etc. When I was a kid this type of extra work was done to help a kid catch up to where he/she should be, but now it's often an attempt to get the curriculum to catch up to where parent think it should be.


StrawManArgument said...

The C&I committee will vet a grant from the Gates Foundation for prek at Bailey Gatzert.

The Family and Education Levy is withholding $60M for prek efforts.

It is possible for Bailey Gatzert can have prek funding, without the BMGF grant. The city can easily provide Bailey Gatzert with funds.

Any effort to say Bailey Gatzert can NOT have prek because the BMGF doesn't move forward is false. Any effort to say Bailey Gatzert can not have prek is built upon a tactic of fear and intimidation.

The city has already provided Bailey with Family and Education Levy funding and they should continue to do the same.

Anonymous said...

As a parent trying to supplement in a desperate attempt to salvage what is shaping up to be a lost year at school, I'd love to hear what other parents are using at home in middle school. For those that can't just hire a tutor, what resources have you found useful (besides Khan Academy)?

I'm finding writing is not as easy to supplement as something more sequential like math. For math skills practice, Kuta Software has free worksheets online. For history, we've purchased inexpensive used texts to read at home, one for world history and one for US history. Our child's school doesn't seem to believe in HW, so an extra 20 min. or so of history reading hasn't been a big deal.

Is it somehow getting worse with each passing year? Or maybe I'm just more concerned with high school on the horizon? Hard to say.

I get what @middleschoolparent is saying about the math, though I disagree that the EOC is a flawed test. The EOC is testing for basic mastery, and I actually think it's a fair test, which is very well aligned to the standards. I am more wary of the new CCSS assessments on the horizon. That said, the EOC is only testing basic skills, kind of the "A" level of problems in a text vs the "C" level of problems in a text. So a child can pass with a 4, yet still have only rudimentary algebra skills. The Discovering Algebra text is partly to blame for weak algebra skills.

-tired parent

Charlie Mas said...

Isn't there a set process for middle school math placement. Surely it isn't up to a teacher to decide unilaterally.

Anonymous said...

Melissa I can't speak for Pathfinder but I know this to be the case at Seattle Waldorf, at least while we were there. Children were kept home if sick and until a fever had been gone for 24 hours. In general also, people who selectively vaccinate are very health conscious about eating healthy foods and building strong immune systems.


Anonymous said...

At my daughters school, it's the 7th grade teacher who suggest what math the student should take in 8th grade. The 7th grade math teacher left the school this year (along with many other staff members)so we could not question why she did not recommend the algebra class, it's strange because it the exact same book, work sheets and test.

The 8th grade teacher picks who starts out in algebra based on the 7th grade teachers recommendation.
We hired a very good tutor in 7th grade which bent the teacher the wrong way. It's a mess to figure out what's going on. Our son was in the class last year and we had to deal with the same BS, he was in 8th grade math in the end. We forced the school to allow him to take the EOC and he almost aced it. The same for the EOC geometry test, but when we had him take the Kahn academy assessment we found large holes in his knowledge of both subjects.

The missing mastery would cause struggles down the road if not corrected before moving forward.
The high school teacher did not even attempt to teach the missing knowledge..WTF

We reviewed the work materials for both classes and found that the teachers knew the sweet spot for the EOC tests and taught to the test. Maybe the MSP is better for measuring true skills in math?

I would recommend trying the Kahn academy, it's really slick and easy for parents to follow and learn along with you student.

I will be trying chemistry next.


Anonymous said...

middleschool parent, just to be clear, there is no 8th grade Algebra I EOC. There is only one Algebra I EOC and students take that exam when they complete Algebra I, whether that's 7th, 8th, 9th, etc.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

HP, you said "in fact" and named some Seattle schools. If you are not clear on these kinds of things, it leads to confusion.

"In general also, people who selectively vaccinate are very health conscious about eating healthy foods and building strong immune systems."

Again, you know this how?

Anonymous said...

From my experience with people who do not vaccinate or selectively vaccinate or delay vaccination. I am sure there are those out there who do not vaccinate because they are lazy or do not care about health in general but I don't have any experience with those. At the Waldorf School and in discussions with others who practice Natural Parenting, there is a lot of conscious thought given to what is best for the health of the child. It usually includes breastfeeding until 1 or older, organic whole foods, limited to no sugar, natural fabrics, no chemicals or limited chemicals in the house and yard, lots of time spent outdoors appropriately dressed, limited medications when sick ie letting low fevers do what they are supposed to do, and so on.

This area of the country is considered very 'crunchy'. If you think Seattle has high rates of incomplete vaccination, check out Vashon Island, Whidbey Island and the Peninsula.


Anonymous said...

Melissa, I think your understanding of modern virology could be incomplete and suggest you are simply projecting your unsubstantiated beliefs about vaccines. Months back I believe you in other words stated that?

There several new progressive studies that strongly support the limited effectiveness of many vaccines. One in particular speaks to how vaccinated host become mutation labs for the viruses. So if you believe these studies or the scientist then it's the vaccinated who if fact are the more dangerous to public health.

I would suggest you go and find these studies, read them and see what you think. It's possible you could have a change of mind.

Open mind

Melissa Westbrook said...

Open mind, could you refresh my memory about what I said? Because if not, I have no idea what you are talking about.

If I have time, I'll read any new studies. I have a lot on my plate right now.

But having experienced polio in my own family, I doubt I will change my mind.

Linh-Co said...

Passing the EOC1 does not guarantee algebra ready. First of all, the cut score for passing is quite low. Secondly, a lot of middle schools that put all 8th graders in algebra are teaching to the test. I have had many students who supposedly had algebra but can't work with polynomials, factoring, exponents, scientific notation, can barely solve for x, and have never worked with complex fractions. A lot of these middle school teachers use 8th grade CMP, and Discovering. Both books are inadequate in the fundamentals of algebra. The majority of the focus is linear function.

I think part of the problem is not offering a lower math class than algebra in high school. I graduated from Seattle Public School in 1986 and back then general math was offered to students who were not ready for algebra. In fact, most honor students were put in algebra in 9th grade. It was not seen as being behind. Both my husband (an engineer) and me (B.A. in Mathematics) started in algebra in the 9th grade at Ballard High School. We both completed calculus in our senior year. Back then, Algebra I was an authentic algebra class.

These days with algebra being the lowest denominator, parents in the know are all jockeying for their 9th graders to be in Geometry are higher. I've talked to many high school teachers, and the reality is many do not want to teach Algebra I. Most of the students placed in this class are ill-prepared and many do not have a firm grasp on basic arithmetic. These classes are a management nightmare.

I think the system has created this mess. Math class is now a race instead of teaching for mastery. Algebra for some 8th graders and even fewer 7th graders is a good idea, but pretending that every 8th grader is ready for algebra is a joke.

Anonymous said...

Linh-Co what is your assessment of the Khan academy online math?

I found the site very clear and useful, but since I've been exposed to and used most of the algebraic equations in collage I can't speak to how well the coarse addresses the needs of novice students.

I did struggle with Radical Equations since I have never needed to use them since school, but after watching the video tutorial and working out 20 problems, I passed the section.

It also does what I think is called spiral review when I would finish a couple of problems the site would then post a review problem like solving by elimination or solving multiple unknowns or Polynomial. I think most 7 graders could master Polynomial equations 2x and maybe 3x in a week with the site.

What I liked about the coarse is the instant feedback, it stops you from going down the wrong solution path and provides a breakdown of each and every solution step by step. I can't tell you how many times I've seen kids complete and entire worksheet incorrectly to only be completely frustrated at grading time. Check it out and let me know what you think.


Linh-Co said...

Khan is useful especially for brushing up on skills. I looked at a few lessons. I thought the lesson on logarithm was good. I think it does a good job of teaching procedures, but does lack explanations for conceptual understanding.

My favorite textbooks for middle school is Saxon Course 1 (6th), Course 2 (7th) and Saxon Algebra I. The 7th grade Course 2 book is so good in teaching negative integers, ratios, proportions, scale factors, exponents, unit conversions, strategies for problem solving, scientific notation, and (introduction) linear function.

I find I can skip most kids out of 8th grade math and go directly to algebra using Saxon. I have many students that make double digit gains as much as over 20 RIT points in one year. Typical growth is 6-8 points.

Kuta Software is a personal favorite for worksheets. Many high school teachers use it for skills building. I hear some of the Whitman teachers have started using them in the class in place of CMP. This is good news. It is an easy push from parents since it's easy to use and it's free.