Monday, December 22, 2014

Friday Memo of December 12

Each week the superintendent prepares a "Friday memo" for the Board. This memo is used to inform the Board about ongoing issues and to answer questions that have been asked at meetings or in emails. The Friday Memos are made public each week, one week after the Board sees them. They are posted to the district web site here.

The December 12 Friday Memo has information about:

  • Board SMART Goals set at the Board Retreat on December 6
  • Specific efforts to close achievement gaps
  • Special Education - the corrective action and the data leaks
  • John Hay/Interagency
  • Garfield Field Trip
  • Legislative issues (McCleary)
  • Bailey-Gatzert PreK enrollment rules
  • Bell Times Task Force update
  • Capital Projects update


Charlie Mas said...

Here is the story on closing gaps, quoted directly from the superintendent's memo:

Goal two of our Superintendent Evaluation SMART Goals provides greater detail about efforts to close gaps for AA Males:

 Each school set a goal for African American Males achievement growth

 Disaggregated data on attendance, behavior, and course completion

 African American think tank, ERAC and input from other groups

 MTSS – B (Behavior >> Belonging)

 Council of Great City Schools – “Pledge” around efforts to support Males of Color

 Theory of Action around our policy and equity work Principal PD with Dr. Powell at SLI/DLT/Regional meetings

 Identifying positive outliers

 Review of research and exemplars

This year will focus on identifying emerging best practices.

This is a year for identifying practices. I presume it will be followed by a year of planning. So we are at least one - if not two or more - years away from any actual action, let alone results.

Funding said...

That they would do two more years of study before any action on the achievement gap is disturbing and cynical.

But I also wonder what else they really can do. Nyland and the Board have been told to fix the achievement gap without any additional funding.

Everything I know of says fixing the achievement gap requires additional funding. The achievement gap, in large part, is due to summer learning loss and lack of resources and time in families in poverty, a disproportionate number of which are African American. Successful attempts to address the achievement gap, such as Harlem Children's Zone, do expensive things like longer school hours, no summer vacation, weekend hours, smaller classes, free food, and free clinics.

Are there any examples anywhere in the nation of being able to do what Nyland and the Board are supposed to do, fix the achievement gap without more funding? Or have they been given an impossible task, and, rather than admitting that, they're cynically pushing it down the road using lengthy task forces and planning committees?

Carol Simmons said...

There have been at least 3 Disproportionality Task Forces making many of the same recommendations to eliminate disproportionality from 1980 until the present. These recommendations were approved by a previous SPS Board of Directors and never implemented in the Schools. Most of these recommendations did not require extra dollars. The Department of Equity was eliminated after the last Disproportionality Task Force was formed, studied and re studied the issue and made the same recommendations. The Director of The Department of Equity position was also eliminated. Why doesn't the District "dust off" the Recommendations? They are still relevant and could be implemented. It is a question that deserves an answer.

Anonymous said...

Fix special ed, and you fix the achievement gap. The problem is one and the same.

The other choice, move all your under achieving students of color into special ed, claim victory for the "achievement gap", but then ignore special ed. That solution helps nobody.


Anonymous said...

Transportation issues for JAMS are listed in a "Jane Addams MS Parent Meeting notes" link. Can someone explain these comments:

Northgate Transfer Station unsafe (known human trafficking location).

The 75 Metro...past drug addicts park on Roosevelt.

Human trafficking? (did they mean drug trafficking?) What park is "drug addicts park?"


Funding said...

Carol and Speddie, I am not aware of fixes that are proven to work and that do not cost more money, whether they are from prior task forces or involve special education. Could you be more specific? What are these changes that do not cost more money and have worked elsewhere to close the achievement gap?

I am not trying to argue. I really do not know of fixes that do not involve a lot more money. If they exist, I would like to hear more about them. Can you provide more detail please?

mirmac1 said...

A mention of the status of the SpEd data breech.

Concerns shared by the SpEd PTA Executive Committee include:
 *Data breech reporting to parents
 *Concerns that the district is too legally focused in regard to Special Education
*Desire for district to get better at inclusion
 *Want to see supervisors providing more support/training for principals and teachers
Data Breech – We did recover the data and we have fired the attorney. We are researching the data released on each student and plan to mail personalized information to impacted families. It will take some time to complete the review, translate the letter and stuff thousands of letters.

No mention of the SpEd PTSA's expressed wish to look closely at the individuals in Legal who okayed release of these educational records.

Anonymous said...

The bell time task force: mysterious...

Who is on it? How were they selected? Who was rejected?

Seems like Charles Wright and Pegi McEvoy are just buying themselves time... time to do nothing.

Task force it; then study it; then talk about it; then say almost nothing to the Board; then a new crisis comes along and then they won't have to actually do anything.

Besides, high school is going to tip into an 8 or 9 or even 10 period day; aka "high school in shifts", so why bother even pretending that you are thinking about aligning bell times to the adolescent brain? As if the District cares about student learning.

Instead of a later start, our children are going to be saddled with an earlier start.

Yes, it is that bad.

This is not about transportation, or learning, or SpEd. It is about capacity. That is what is going to drive bell times.

The task force, like so many others, has the feel of a magician's ploy, distract us with shiny object while the other hand is actually doing the thing we are not suppose to be noticing, which in this case is the fact that the whole bell time discussion is irrelevant because they don't even have enough capacity for the kids in the first place. Psyche!


Anonymous said...

So, does that mean that recoverd drug addicts have cars that park along Roosevelt avenue, perhaps near their homes? Perhaps there are some former fraternity members or baby boomers that live in the area?

The scary thing is that a school district has identified an active human trafficking marketplace and has not notified police, or police have not acted. Human trafficking is a problem here. We are a port city. Many human trafficing victims are held in slavery in the sex industry.

Lynn said...

I sent Cashel Toner an email the day after the board approved Dr. Nyland's (premature) acceptance of the Gates Foundation preschool grant - explaining that district enrollment procedures don't allow her to set up a preschool at Bailey Gatzert for children in the attendance area. I also asked her to let me know when the enrollment period was scheduled. (Maybe I'd like to enroll my child in a free high quality preschool conveniently located near downtown.)

It annoys me to no end that she told the board at that meeting that this was a preschool "for the Bailey Gatzert families." She hadn't considered how enrollment would work - and wasn't willing to tell them that for fear it would result in the grant acceptance being delayed. Also - why didn't someone working on this project realize this was a problem? How hard is it to read the policies and procedures? It shouldn't take a reminder from a parent or community member.

Finally, the updated enrollment procedures tell us this: Effective January 2015, Bailey Gatzert will open a new preschool program. Enrollment period will occur on December 11, 2014 through December 22, 2014 by 4pm. If more students apply for a school during Open Enrollment than can be assigned, tiebreakers determine assignment and waiting list status is determined by the following:
1) AttendanceArea
2) Sibling
3) Distance
4) Lottery.

Has anyone who is not already a Gatzert family received notice from the district that this enrollment period was scheduled? It closes at 4:00 today.

Anonymous said...

Is the B-G preschool opening in January, hence the open enrollment in December?

Anonymous said...

Focus on achievement in special ed, instead of focusing solely on placement and you will be addressing the achievement gap. That is already a HUGE difference from current practice.

Our central sped administration performs only 1 thing, student placement. That is, its only real job is to find an available seat for every student. The reason they need 50 people to find seats, is because students with disabilities have no assignment plan and are assigned on a space available basis. That's tricky when there's no space. Then there's a little bit of C-CAP paper pushing, the excuse de jour for deprioritizing sped students.

So, prioritizing special ed achievement would be a tremendous difference and change in practice. And since sped is predominantly minority, that would directly affect the gap most people worry about. No, it's not cheap. But minority students are already in special ed.

What specific recommendation is proven to work? Well lets start with having a book or two in sped classrooms. Last I heard, books were a proven tool in teaching literacy, and for teaching just about everything else. Yet, we have many sped classes with no materials. That's a start right?


Lynn said...

There's another preschool issue that should have been addressed before the open enrollment period closes. Are families required to commit to the full day, full week schedule? The state compulsory attendance law doesn't apply to four year olds. There's no mention in our attendance polices of the repercusions of unexecused absences in preschool.

Watching said...

Seattle voters approved the LARGEST Family and Education Levy in the history of Seattle at $232M. This levy was passed BEFORE I 1240. I 1240 mandated that levy funds approved BEFORE the passage of I 1240...would not be permitted to go to charter schools.

Yet, the city decided to fund a charter school with funds approved BEFORE I 1240 passed. FOIA documents have been redacted and it is impossible to tell whether or not the city's attorney advised AGAINST providing funds to charter schools.

First Place has proven itself to be incompetent and they are on probation. Dora Taylor asks the question: Will the city continue to provide First Place with funds:

It is worth noting that the city's Office of Education approved these funds for distribution and these individuals are not responsible to the voting public.

Tim Burgess, Ed Murray and Holly Miller have been silent on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Sad, sad: the numbers of homeless students. And, those numbers are growing.

But here is the oddest thing:

McKinney-Vento Homeless Program:
In order to understand some of the budget impacts to transportation, the Audit and Finance Committee asked for the homeless data for the last several years. The matrix below displays student information is based upon the OSPI state reporting system data. The grade with the largest number of homeless students is 9th grade; however all grades are impacted.
The 2013-14 school year data was impacted by the Power School conversion rather than a reduction in students served and staff indicate that homeless numbers continue to grow about 500-600 students per year.

Is this the smoking gun?

Right here, in the memo to the Superintendent forwarded to the Board, the District admits they can't count?

How is it that the District just glosses over this fact?

How is it that the Board doesn't write a STRONGLY worded memo back to the Super, asking him for his advice for how they are to rely on the enrollment numbers he supplies them in order for them to rubber stamp his big, costly, impactful decisions, such as get $53 million to do a capital project (the downtown school)? The district apparently cannot count students, let along project them. Anyone else see how Meg Diaz's Board testimony fits in here? She asked them what happened to a bunch (like, 900)of missing students from this year, and, they still haven't answered this question.


Lynn said...

Yes - the target start date is January 20th. Here's a link to the district page with some information.

Julie said...


Keep your eye on the cit's prek program and Seattle Public Schools. The Gates grant was very vague and I suspect we may see an attempt to form a Harlem Zone type of charter school.

White Rabbit said...


Former school board member, Kay Smith-Blum- was an advocate for later high school start times. I heard that she wanted to be on the later high school start time committee, but was rejected because she no longer has children in the district.

Lori said...

Curious, I wasn't at that meeting, but I do suspect that it is listed correctly.

Human/sex trafficking is a horrifying, growing problem here in the Northwest. It's been reported by the Times and by KUOW for a few years now.

King County officials have been working on policies and procedures to try to reduce it. The average age of kids forced into commercial sex services is 13-14 years of age, and they are recruited at malls, at transit stops, etc. You can read more about the County's effort to work on the problem at the intersection of trafficking and public transportation in this report, starting on page 7:

apparent said...


"Human trafficking? (did they mean drug trafficking?)"

No. Human trafficking means human trafficking. Because it's such a problem facing vulnerable teens approached by predatory pimps, Seattle has cracked down on known locations including Westlake Center -- now apparently Northgate Transit Center should also be on that list. Very scary.

mirmac1 said...

Looks like the Mann building will be completed in good time.

Anonymous said...

WTF are "sped classrooms"? SpEd is a service not a location, until you stop with these types of discriminatory classifications nothing will improve.

Stop please

Anonymous said...

Stop Please,

No need to get your undies in a wad. "Special education is a service, not a place" is the mantra of school districts everywhere. But the fact is - special education happens in a place - like every other type of education. Do we say, "first grade is a service"? Well, not really, but I guess you could look at it that way too.

And the places that special education happens in SPS are the most impoverished imaginable, and without any materials or anything. And, kids are often stuck in those rooms. So great. Call it a service. But, in the place that the "special ed service" happens - there is not arrangements designed to confer academic progress, because academic achievement for students in special education is not a priority. Have you ever once seen any goal, or any measurement, or any comment about special education academic achievement, ever published by the district - for any group of students with disabilities? Ever? Anything? Never happens.


Anonymous said...

@Red flag - interesting - there does not appear to be another place where they "admit" that Powerschool rollouts might have impacted enrollment data. hmm....


mirmac1 said...

As always, the district blames the latest software system they claim they had to have.

Their bumbled implementation of IEPOnline led to considerable lost state funding AND an inability to use the data to process other reports. Now their undoing it. One step forward, two steps back.

Anonymous said...

The majority of students with IEPs are suppose to receive SDI in general education classrooms considered the least restrictive environment(LRE).

I thought it was about 73% vs 27%.

The 27% most likely are in self contained classrooms that could be called " sped classrooms ", but most people fine that term derogatory in nature. In fact the term "special education" is derogatory and wrong. To most students with IEPs there is nothing "special" about what they are getting and these students are general education student first.


Carol Simmons said...

Dear Funding,
The several sets of DTF Task Force Recommendations should be somewhere in some office at Stanford Center. I hope you will be able to locate them.

Some recommendations included:

No suspensions for non-violent offenses, such as non-attendance.

Elimination of the E grade, replacing it with the N Grade

Continuous Progress opportunities

Partial Credit opportunities

Staff Inservice training on cultural competency

Student workshops on cultural competency

Elimination of policies that exclude students from school- related activities based on GPA requirements.

Elimination of the requirement of excused absences especially from Homeless students, students living independently or in group homes or Students on the Witness Protection program

Expanding the definition for the identification of students for admission into APP classes.

Alternatives to suspension.

Elimination of the mis identification of students into Special Education Programs

Translations provided to all homes in native language

Data collection required from all schools. Each school required to submit a Student Disciplinary Action Report (SDAR) that lists by ethnicity, gender, special program the type of infraction, the interventions attempted, the discipline procedures determined

and many more that did not require extra funding.....although that should not be an excuse. It is not the funding, it is the priority of how we use the funds we have.

Anonymous said...

Michael, you've got your data wrong. Overwhelmingly, students receive SDI in a plain old special ed room. End of story. It might be a resource room, it might be a self-contained classroom. Around 30% or so have self contained placements. I think this is the data you are referring to. Also, district reports total times in Gen ed, but not SDI in Gen ed. BUT, students who are mostly in general ed, and are so-called SM1, have their actual special ed instruction in segregated environments. Yes it is oh so special. There is a tiny fraction of schools actually providing a push in special ed model. That is, special ed teacher goes to Gen ed class, instead of students getting pulled out... Or receiving the catch all study-skills class in secondary schools. Hardly ever hear about push in options nowadays.


cmj said...

Red Flag, there was an earlier Friday memo after the meeting when Meg Diaz spoke (11/19?) that stated the the discrepancy in headcount was because they changed the way that students were counted this year. The "we just lost ~600 high school students" came from a Friday memo from September that claimed that there were an even 14K high school students in SPS (disagreeing with the Sept 1 and Oct 1 headcounts submitted to OSPI, which were about 13.4K high school students). If you go to the guest post by Meg, it should like to all of those documents except the most recent Friday memo I mentioned. So the September Friday memo was wrong, but the headcounts are presumably correct -- except for the part where the district says that Garfield BLT and JSCEE disagree about how many students are actually at Garfield.

From the Friday memo,
Data Breech – We did recover the data and we have fired the attorney. We are researching the
data released on each student and plan to mail personalized information to impacted families. It
will take some time to complete the review, translate the letter and stuff thousands of letters.

No mention of an investigation as to why the law firm had the student data in the first place.

Concerns shared by the SpEd PTA Executive Committee include:....Concerns that the district is too legally focused in regard to Special Education. Wonder what that means? That the district spends too much time fighting legal battles? That the district is too legalistic when providing services?

cmj said...

except for the part where the district says that Garfield BLT and JSCEE disagree

Correction -- "except for the part where Garfield BLT and JSCEE disagree." Bad proofreading on my part.

Anonymous said...

If your right then SPS is going to have more CCs to deal with. Studies skills class is not to be used to provide SDI in anything other than studies skills. SPS can't seem to define what SDI for studies skills looks like or any class for that matter. It's a violation for schools to place a student in studies skills class or learning lab and use that time to count against other areas of service like math or LA. SPS was instructed in CC 13-60 to STOP this practice. I know there's a current CC against RHS and IHS around the same problem. SPS latest trick is to try and place struggling students into studies skills class for SDI in LA when is not studies skills they need, but SDI in LA with classroom support!

Each high school's 2013/14 staff signed a CAP from OSPI last year stating they have received training and
guidance around the proper use of studies skill type classes. If SPS is violating the district specific corrective action plan, then each offending school's principle should be terminated for cause.


Anonymous said...

Concerns shared by the SpEd PTA Executive Committee include:....Concerns that the district is too legally focused in regard to Special Education. Wonder what that means? That the district spends too much time fighting legal battles? That the district is too legalistic when providing services?

It means, the district's legal risk management plan is deny every allegation or make up baseless excuses. The data breach resulted from a case where the district should have provided compensatory tutoring which would have cost a few thousand dollars over 2 years maybe much less. The district chose to fight and so far has spent over an estimated $20,000 dollars.

Other cases are similar and have resulted in over $200,000 in legal fees from outside firms.

There are other cost the districts won't publish,one Washington state district administrator said that one year after a district engaged in a due process hearing requiring extensive time and paperwork by two special education teachers and three related service professionals, only one of those professionals continued to work in the district. Almost a quarter of school administrators stated that 10% to 25% of the time, teachers either left the district or requested a transfer out of special education after being engaged in due process hearings or similar proceedings.


38 Boe, E.E., et al. (1997). “Why Didst Thou Go? Predictors of Retention, Transfer, and Attrition of Special and General Education Teachers From a National Perspective.” Journal of Special Education 30 (4): 390-411.
- 13 -

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact that neither Hale nor RHS do in class SDI. RHS requires SM1 students to sign up for special ed everything. Eg. Separate class, which conforms to the requirements you describe around study skills, but violates the notion of LRE because allegedly most gen ed teachers won't do either SDI or modifications. Hale, on the hand, does all SDI in study skills classes, which are required. Check out their catalog. That requirement is listed there. Franklin has a hierarchy of sped classes, all predetermined. They also publish this.


Funding said...

Carol, I do support most of those things you listed, but there is no evidence I know of that implementing any or all of them would make any difference for the achievement gap.

I also disagree that there is sufficient funding if it was only allocated differently. There isn't enough funding to help kids who come to school hungry, without proper clothing, who don't have books at home, or the many other problems caused by poverty. The only solutions that have actually worked anywhere in the nation involve more funding.

You're making suggestions of things you hope would help, and they're all things I mostly support in general, but we have no evidence at all that they would make any significant difference for the achievement gap. The only things that are actually proven to work are things that require a lot more funding such as longer school hours, no summer vacation, weekend hours, smaller classes, free food, and free clinics.

It is very frustrating that every discussion of fixing the achievement gap breaks down like this. This isn't a problem that just cultural training will solve. This isn't just a problem with racism. There are big, hard problems here that require a lot of money to fix.

Anonymous said...

Golly gee whiz Funding. Where's the proof that a if district that spends tons o dough, it will get great results? We don't have any proof for that either, do we? Because, well, the achievement gap is absolutely ubiquitous. No matter where you go, and how much you spend - you still have it. And, because there's no proof anywhere for anything. And no district that has stamped it out.... Yep, yep, we can just keep doing nothing.

Look. It's pretty obvious, there are many, many things that can be done - that are just common sense. Pointing that out, isn't a "break down you see here".


Jet City mom said...

Improving attendance doesn't cost anything AND makes a difference.

Funding said...

Reader, here is evidence that funding matters and here is information on summer learning loss, which is responsible for the majority of the achievement gap.

I appreciate that the achievement gap is a hard problem, but doing nothing or doing things that are ineffective won't help. There are solutions, but they do require more money, as many of the problems causing the achievement gap are rooted in poverty and expensive to solve.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think both sides are right.

More money won't necessarily solve this issue. Much of it is societal and schools can't change that by themselves. Schools can't become defacto parents (no matter what KIPP thinks).

But I think dollars are misspent and Reader is right about common sense with these dollars.

But Funding is also right about summer school. How SPS decided to let that go (and I'm not sure I understand how it works now with the F&E levy because they have backfilled some), I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Data BREACH - if they can't even spell it correctly, how seriously are they taking the issue? Geez.

QA parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

QA, Principal Howard at GHS made the same mistake. Sigh.

Jet City mom said...

How much does it cost for student to improve attendance?
Npt as much as it costs when there are empty seats.