Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday Open Thread

As several readers have noted, more information has come out about the suspended View Ridge teacher and how he came to this time and place.  Q13 had the story.

Apparently the teacher had reached out to a 16-year girl that he knew had attended View Ridge to ask if she would like to volunteer in his classroom (it is unclear if she had been in his class when she was at View Ridge).  How he knew how to contact her is also unclear but he then allegedly sent her texts and anonymous comments in chat rooms.  The girl felt uncomfortable and did the right thing and told her parents.

I report this because, as another reader suggested, parents (and teachers and school staff) should know what "grooming" behavior by an adult to a child looks like.  It is important to know that if you see inappropriate behavior, you report it.  School staff have been trained in how they should interact with children.  Sometimes an action can be innocent or even accidental but on-going actions mean someone is not following training or there could be something more serious going on.

Dr Phil tips
How to talk to your child

Looking like the storm a'brewin' in the Legislature is growing over K-12 funding.

First up, critics are asking why Governor Inslee is not considering levy equalization.  From the Times via the AP:
When the Washington Supreme Court told the Legislature it needed to fix the way the state pays for public schools, it also ordered lawmakers to stop relying so much on local levy dollars to pay for basic education.
Levy reform has been a topic of discussion at every legislative session since the 2012 Supreme Court decision in the McCleary case, but Gov. Jay Inslee sidestepped the issue when he announced his education budget plans last week.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn says the governor is pushing the state toward a constitutional crisis by not addressing levy reform. The court held the Legislature in contempt earlier this year and said sanctions would be coming if lawmakers do not make significant progress on the issues in the school-funding lawsuit.
Then, the Republicans are - yet again - bringing up the idea of an education budget first, then the overall state budget.  Naturally this make the Republicans look like they really care about education but can also look like a good way to push money to K-12 (good) at the expense of then slashing budgets from health and human services (bad).  From the Times:
MacEwen’s bill would mandate lawmakers fund education before anything else. It would require the Legislature to pass a stand-alone education budget and send it to the governor in biennial appropriation years no later than March 31 — weeks before the state’s budget is traditionally finished, MacEwen said.
In shorter, supplemental budget sessions, that deadline would be Feb. 15. Early action would give school districts more time to plan for the year ahead and put pressure on lawmakers to prioritize education, he said.
His bill would also require schools to be funded from existing revenue sources, not with new taxes.
What's on your mind?


cmj said...

I've been looking at the Sept and Oct district enrollment numbers school-by-school because I thought that they were rather strange. I've posted them in a spreadsheet here. I had a little free time over the past week (it's quite relaxing when you're not in charge of running Christmas) and was quite curious about where all the students were going. Data (unless otherwise specified) came from the P223 data now posted on the district website.

The district's explanation for the drop in 9th graders between September and October was that the procedure was changed between September and October such that students were categorized by their age (or credits, if they were overachievers?), rather than by their credit standing. However, the policy (SP2420) governing that procedure was revised back in July, so theoretically SPS should have been using the updated procedure in September. The procedure itself was revised back in the middle of August -- but it doesn't seem to reflect the July updates to SP2420.

Strangest thing that I saw:
What is going on with the NOVA 10th grade? It looks like half the NOVA 9th graders were reclassified as 10th graders between September and October. Did half the NOVA 10th graders fail enough (10 of 12 semester-long) classes as ninth graders to be considered 9th graders by credits? I wondered if maybe NOVA 9th graders got to the school, didn't like it, and transferred, but that didn't happen in previous years (see "Misc" sheet of spreadsheet -- it's the right-most one).

I'll post more later when I have some more time -- there are some things that are really confusing me about the enrollment numbers.

Lynn said...


After a recent discussion of the differences between traditional, alternative and Creative Approach schools, I read NOVA's Creative Approach School Application. It states that Historically, Nova has served populations of high school students who prefer a more personalized educational experience where choice is an expected dynamic from both student and teacher. Many students at Nova do not conform to the mold required to succeed at traditional comprehensive high schools, including the negative impact of decades of institutional racism (Watkins, 2001; Wagner, 2010). Additionally, during the past two years, the demographics of a typical Nova student have begun a significant transformation. Our free and reduced lunch population and increased threefold to over 35% and the majority of new students to Nova are transfers from SPS comprehensive high schools with minimal credits and GPAs averaging 1.5.

NOVA's application (which was approved) stated that by year three they will have developed a middle school component. Year three is the 2015-16 school year. I wonder if we'll see NOVA listed as a middle school option on this spring's enrollment forms.

cmj said...


Thanks for the link. It's very interesting. I hadn't known about the demographic changes at NOVA. If there were a lot of transfer students with few credits, that would explain the changes in grade level at NOVA this year. Do you know how many students transfer into NOVA after their freshman year? From the 2012-2014 data, it looks like kids are transferring/dropping out of NOVA rather than transferring in (see sheet named Misc). I added a little color coding in to track the age-cohort graduation classes.

Do you know how strict the grading is at NOVA? My impression was that students at NOVA tended to be fairly self-driven. Their website says " Nova is a place where your work will be honored, where you can get credit for any work as long as you don’t fake it." I'd assume that any students making the choice to transfer to NOVA are trying to do well -- that they're not "faking it." So if students aren't transferring in with few credits after freshman year, then are many NOVA students not earning enough credits each year because they're "faking it"?

cmj said...


Did half the NOVA 10th graders fail enough (10 of 12 semester-long) classes as ninth graders to be considered 9th graders by credits? It should be 9, not 10, semester-long classes.

Anonymous said...

Depending on whom you speak to NOVA is of course super duper and others who go its a hot mess. Several former students and a few teachers have nothing good to say about the program. They also dislike the space they are in and that may contribute to some of the issues. It has a non-existent SPED program and the Principal is another one much like the Interagency where its a fiefdom, as in my way and that is the only way. That is pretty much also a summary of many alternative schools and programs in SPS. They have inconsistency as their mantra and unaccoutablity as a their aspiration. Kids who are really in need need more than sitting on PC's all day doing "work" and all the extrinsic bells and whistles do nothing for kids who really need a more directed and guided program as opposed to self directed. But what do I know having taught for 2O years.

- Bitter and embittered

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

I have a question about how FRL percentages are calculated (and when).

I had assumed that FRL percentages were updated/re-calculated according to the October 1st counts, so that they could be factored into any necessary budget adjustments, but I recently heard that the percentage determined in May (as part of the budget process) is the "official" FRL for the following school year, regardless of whether or not it reflects the actual demographics of the school in the Fall.

This seems odd, since the WSS is based, in part, on FRL percentages. It also can affect eligibility for grants that are based upon need.

Our school became an ELL assignment school this year, and there has been an increase in low-income housing in our attendance area. Our "official" FRL percentage seems on the low side.

Are FRL percentages really only determined once per year, in the Spring?

- North-end Mom

cmj said...

North-end Mom,

I'm not sure and I realize that I'm probably not being much help, but I'd assume that most ELL students would also be an FRL student. ELL% data is reported to OSPI every month, so it's on the district website. Monthly SPED data is also available there, but FRL is not, which is odd.

OSPI tracks FRL data, but I can only find annual data, and only through fall 2013.

Anonymous said...

The Seattle Times has posted an article on the View Ridge teacher as well.

The victim could not have been in his class, doing the math, he began teaching 2nd grade at View Ridge when she was in an older grade. But they would have been at View Ridge at the same time.

It really bothers me that so much identifiable information has been released about the girl, in both the parent meeting, and details in the press. I imagine the dots will be connected once school is back in session and her name will be known. Bravo to her for replying to the texts in the manner that she did, and for involving her parents right away. I hope she isn't embarrassed, and holds her head high that she took care of business.

The biggest lesson to me in all this is that it can be "the person you least expect". My child was in his class, and I never would have pegged him as someone to watch out for. He is a dad of little girls, was a part of teacher social circles, and socialized with parents outside of school. Everyone seems to feel surprised and betrayed. It's definitely a lesson to never let down your guard.

View Ridge Parent

Ryan said...

The thing about the levy swap is that it's the appearance of action without really doing anything at all.

The problem is a lack of funding overall, with the reliance on local levies being a small subset of that. The levy swap lets the Ross Hunters of the world say, "Look, we increased school funding by billions!" when the actual amount of money in the system is the same.

That's why I applaud Inslee for the Capital Gains tax idea--new revenue is going to be required from somewhere.

Watching said...

Re: Levy swap

Does Hunter want present levy dollars to go into a general pool? Seattle's levy dollars account for 25% of the district's funding. It would appear that there needs to be additional funds for Seattle and the rest of the state.

McLeary states funding should not be dependent upon levy funds.

What am I missing?

Watching said...

FWIW: Seattle voters approved over $1B operational and capital dollars in their levy.

Seattle needs these dollars to manage capacity issues.

Lynn said...


Students aren't graded at NOVA. They provide some kind of narrative transcript for college applications. They've had high SAT scores - so I'd guess there are bright, self-directed kids who do well there.

It seems from the application that NOVA's mission may be evolving in a different direction.

cmj said...

Students aren't graded at NOVA. They provide some kind of narrative transcript for college applications.

Thanks, Lynn. I've heard great things about NOVA, but am not very familiar with the school.

NOVA teachers have to decide whether to award credit or not. I checked their website (sorry, I should have done that first) and it says that "Students must meet or exceed all competencies at the equivalent of a “B” or above to receive credit. Full credit or partial credit is only given for student work that is the equivalent of a “B” or higher." Hopefully, that information is up-to-date.

If the 567 missing 9th graders (14% of the 9th graders) are truly just credit-deficient 10th graders who failed 1/4 of their freshman classes, then what is going wrong in the high schools? (Some of the missing 9th graders may also have transferred out of the district, but there shouldn't be too many of those.)

Also, a correction to my previous comment: the Start of School Procedures were not updated this August. They were updated in August of 2012.

Lynn said...


It's not just credit-deficient ninth graders. If you look at Roosevelt on your chart, there was no net change in student numbers between September and October. There were 39 fewer freshman, and increases in the other grades of 18 (10th), 19 (11th) and 2 (12th.)

The district has a four year graduation rate of 72.6%. I think these numbers for ninth grade (though unfortunate) make sense. Students don't start to fail in school as juniors or seniors. (I've read that it's possible to predict whether a student is likely to graduate on time by the end of third grade.)

Anonymous said...

The Times article implies a coincidence in running into the girl again but to me it sounds like he was targeting at least when she was in middle school when the baby sitting was occurring if not earlier when she was in elementary school.
This guy needs help and SPS needs to explain how teachers with pedophilia problems are not discovered until it reaches this point.
Who is responsible and for this one, I'd like to see somebody get canned.


cmj said...


I think that the district's numbers are correct, but the number of 9th graders failing courses is just rather startling. It only takes a D to pass classes at most high schools, right? I've been focusing on 9/10th grade data because it's easier, but you're right that students don't stop failing after 9th grade.

(I've read that it's possible to predict whether a student is likely to graduate on time by the end of third grade.)

You raise a good point about predicting academic failure at a young age. Do you remember if that focused on reading ability? I've heard some things about a critical window for learning how to read that closes around the age of 10 or 12.

John said...

Recently Burgess told citizens that the tunnel is 70% complete and voters approved the tunnel. We have two articles that state differently.

Just two more reasons to vote-out Burgess:

It is also worth noting that Murray sponsored legislation for the tunnel and Reuven Carlyle supported the legislation.

Burgess, Murray and Carlyle are menaces to society and they need to get voted-out.

Charlie Mas said...

The Seattle Times has a story about the Garfield High School Black Student Union which is all about hearing from community voices. They have the comments turned off, to avoid hearing from community voices.

mirmac1 said...


That's because the Times "community" often is racist, ableist, and misogynist. Who wants to give them a platform to spew their hate.

Charlie Mas said...

The Times wants to give them that platform. And they usually do.

Murray said...

Patty Murray will be sitting on the Education Committee and she will seek to revamp No Child Left behind.

She is a corporate shrill and it will be interesting keep an eye on Murray.

mirmac1 said...

Good point Charlie. The Times seems to have no problem harping on the cost of special education, including when just settlements are made to a child denied its right to an education and civil rights - to the point where they were complicit with English's outing of a SpEd student's identity on the district website. The expected hate speech about "ineducable morons" fill the comment section.

But if a story leads to hateful racist comments, the Times sees fit to suppress the comments.

I'm not saying either situation is right or wrong, just different.

Dear Santa said...

Larry Nyland signed an$750K grant ith the Gates Foundation and violated board policy. We've learned that the Gate's grant skipped normal routing procedures.

For Christmas, I would like the State Auditor to look into this situation.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"We've learned that the Gate's grant skipped normal routing procedures."

Okay, I'll bite. The district's procedures or Gates? And how do you know this for certain?

In any case, yes, I reported this to the Auditor.

But the real problem? It's the Africatown program.

mirmac1 said...

Here's the internal process:

Watching said...

Seattle Times:

"When the Gates Foundation sent Nyland an unsigned form outlining the terms of the grant agreement, he simply signed and returned it, bypassing necessary staff signatures, according to his letter to the board.

In the letter, Nyland said he did not know he should have been the last one to sign the contract.

“What I know now, but did not know then, is that we have a routing form for all contracts which require multiple signatures by different departments — ending with the superintendent,” Nyland wrote. “That did not occur in this case.”

Kevin Corrigan, the head of grants for Seattle Public Schools, said the first time he saw the Gates contract signed without approval was at the board meeting last week, according to Nyland’s letter to the board. He did not know why Nyland signed the grant agreement two months before the board voted."

Charlie Mas said...

Dr. Nyland's claim of ignorance is not credible. Even in the short time between his hiring and his signing the agreement, he had been made aware of the policy and had seen it in action.

Anonymous said...

The comment about knowing if a 3rd grader will graduate or not refers to studies specifically in reading. Unfortunately there is a fairly high correlation between students who were a certain statistical amount behind in 3rd grade reading and their on-time high school graduation rate. Not sure there has ever been enough follow up to determine if the correlation is just descriptive or causative (although I do recall some targeted reading interventions starting in response to at least one of the studies).

Students too often are under the impression that 9th grade doesn't matter in terms of either graduation or college. Attendance is probably the biggest factor (some start 9th grade with poor attendance, others develop bad habits later). For many of us high school teachers most of our failing students are attendance related. The district lawyers decision several years back to more or less disallow credit (or force an appeal process) for greater than 12 absences per semester course did a great disservice to the students by allowing them to skip as much as they want and then approach teachers telling them "What are you going to do to fix this".


uxolo said...

Attendance for 9th graders in their first 20 days of school is predictive of graduation. This is one of the findings in the Road Map.Check out the Youth Ambassador program's success in Seattle.

We know how to do the right thing for our students, teachers, and administrators. Putting it all together into a system - that's the tough part.

cmj said...

Thanks for the information, Observer and uxolo.

Observer, you said that The district lawyers decision several years back to more or less disallow credit (or force an appeal process) for greater than 12 absences per semester course did a great disservice to the students by allowing them to skip as much as they want and then approach teachers telling them "What are you going to do to fix this". Forgive me, but I'm rather confused. How would that work? Why would the students be able to go to the teachers and demand that teachers give them credit?