Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Open Thread

Boy do I like public disclosure laws because that story out of LA about the iPad debacle only gets better/worse.  I'll have another thread on that soon.

Kids and Uzis - I'm not sure there is anything that could better demonstrate a lack of common sense.  

Very funny story from the Scary Mommy blog about going back to school in the 1970s (some of us were doing that) and going back today.

In a big "what were you thinking," the clothing store, Zara, had to withdraw this offensive t-shirt for kids.  

Hey, maybe it's still useful to take notes...like with a pencil or pen.  (Even the Cleveland Browns coach thinks so.)  From the Washington Post.

There's a new high school space in town - Seattle Waldorf just opened its new high school building at Magnuson Park.  Interestingly they absorbed another Waldorf high school in 2007 called Hazel Wolf High School

Oklahoma got denied its NCLB waiver so Washington State is not the only outcast.

According to the newest education ranking, Washington State ranks 15th in the country.   They give WA state a "mixed" rating because it's 29th in spending but somehow has better outcomes than other states.  (This supports my belief that legislators don't want to fund education more because hey, look how well we do in spite of the low dollars?)  

What's on your mind?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

No Internet for Your Kid

I regularly check the district's website for updates.  Here's the latest one (bold mine):

All Seattle Public School students in grades K–12 will be able to access their personal email accounts from District computers beginning this fall. This change comes at the request of District principals with approval of senior leadership.

SPS is not providing email accounts to students, nor is SPS recommending that students get personal email accounts if they do not already have them. SPS is instead allowing students to access their personal email accounts from District computers for academic and learning purposes only.

Access to personal email from District computers will not reduce or eliminate other filtering of Internet content and does not conflict with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). However, access is governed by all applicable SPS policies and agreements including:
•  Student Network Agreement
•  Students Rights & Responsibilities
•  Policy 2202 & Procedure 2022 SP (Electronic Resources and Use of Internet)

Point in fact; Electronic Resources is 2022, not 2202.

Parents can elect to "opt out" and not allow their students to access personal email by completing theInternet Opt Out Form included in their Start-of-School Packets and on the District website under Forms.
Please Note: Students who opt out of Internet access will not have access to any Internet services including email.

For general information, contact: 
Carmen Rahm, 
Chief Information Officer

Where - to - start?

Look What's Arriving at Seattle Schools

Guest Post on Garfield Field Trip Rape

Please support a much more critical demonstration next Wed, Sept 3rd, at the Seattle School Board meeting.  The District is making decisions about its next step regarding the Garfield HS rape victim. We know the District’s response was outrageous, but the general public must also become educated. The self-serving Seattle Times reporting did nothing to inform the public of the facts. We know the District still pretends that no assault occurred (despite the assailant's testimony to raping/sodomizing and medical information); the District takes no responsibility for its deplorable chaperoning, nothing is wrong. The victim wasn’t even the recipient of sexual harassment, they determined.  Yeah right.  A successful student’s life was ruined on a school field trip where chaperones and staff failed to supervise. It was entirely and easily preventable.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

School District in Florida Votes to Opt-Out of Common Core Testing

 Update: will you look at that?  Another Florida district is considering this idea (Palm Beach County School Board). 

“They say testing has gotten out of control and creates too much pressure for students and teachers. After discussing the opt-out idea at a recent meeting, board members asked their lawyers for further study. They will discuss it again at a workshop in the next few weeks.

“Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward,” School Board member Karen Brill said. “We must explore the consequences, but we cannot allow fear to hold us back.”

In what can only be called unbelievable courage, a school district in Florida, Lee County, has voted to opt the entire district out of Common Core testing.

The school board vote was 3-2 with the superintendent warning, "This will hurt children."

From News-Press:

Throughout the tense three-hour meeting, more than 33 people came forward to share their thoughts on the matter.

Emotions came to a head when mother Lori Jenkins took the stand. She said her son was on leave from school due to a terminal heart condition, yet the district still sent someone to proctor the FCAT exam at his home. The audience gasped with disgust.

OSPI Releases State Test Results

Someone at OSPI has a sense of humor.  Their press release is called, "State Test Scores in a Waiverless World." 

Seattle's Test scores  I have to say that those 10th grade scores are looking pretty good for reading and writing:
Reading: 81.2%, Writing 84.5%
Math and Science EOC - looks they are holding steady at about 61-64%, not great.

From the press release:

I Have a New Twitter Follower

Welcome, Mr. Gates (no, I don't believe he reads anything I write but it brought a smile to my face).

Bill Gates @billgates_s
Inspirational quotes from Bill Gates
Following: 1409 · Followers: 1115
Follow

Finding Common Ground

I have been an education activist for a long time and I have never had any delusions about my effectiveness. After all, the district officials have all of the power and all of the authority, so they don't have to do anything they don't want to do and they are free to do whatever they like. We have seen that there is almost no accountability or consequences for them, so they really aren't answerable to anyone. They have carte blanche. You have to presume that they are already doing things the way that they want to do them, so there can't be much expectation that community activism is going to have much of an impact.

For all of my time as an activist I have been getting advice about how to be more effective. - usually from people whose behavior I'm trying to change. They will say things like "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar." They have suggested that they would respond to me more if I didn't contact them so frequently. They say I should be nicer. They say that I should try cooperating with them. I have tried all of these techniques and I can assure you that no matter what I did or said and no matter how I did it or said it, they had no interest in changing anything that they were doing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Issues with Test Scores for a Seattle School?

A letter sent out from Superintendent Nyland:

Dear Seattle Public Schools community,

 I’m writing today to let you know that on Wednesday we will receive our final state Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) test scores. 

Earlier this month, while reviewing preliminary data, we discovered an anomaly with Beacon Hill’s test results. We requested that the scores at Beacon Hill International School be reviewed by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). We hope to receive the results of that review in the next several weeks. 

Seattle Public Schools is conducting its own review of the situation, and is in the final stages of a review of our policies, procedures and practices related to testing. 

We will keep you informed as more information becomes available. Thank you for your patience as we review this matter. 

Sincerely, Dr. Larry Nyland Superintendent Seattle Public Schools

I do not see this letter at the SPS website but a parent received it and sent it along.  I'll have to ask about the "anomaly." 

Seattle Schools' Equity and Race Advisory Committee

The district is looking for new members via nominations.

This committee is a commitment to transforming our current practices at a systemic level to eliminate disproportionality in education and in all aspects of its administration. These efforts require a long-term commitment from our advisors that includes both making recommendations and staying engaged as our work progresses over time.

The Superintendent will appoint members to this committee. Nominations will be sought until Monday, September 15, 2014.

Download the complete information about this committee and its charge.
Download the nomination form

Term of Committee and Length of Term

The Advisory Committee is a standing committee. The initial term of membership is September 2014—September 2015. It is expected that one-year to two-year terms will apply.

Process for Soliciting Nominations and Appointing Committee Members
Nominations for the committee will be sought via public notices and program contacts. Calls for nominations will be disseminated via: in person, website, email contact lists, including key community leaders, school newsletters, and ELL staff. A slate of recommended candidates will be submitted to the Superintendent, who will be the final appointing authority.



I do think it a bit troubling that the Board has no role in this committee at all. 

Tuesday Open Thread

 In the "grrrr" edition of Open Thread:

In Jurupa Valley (a small city near Irvine, California), school officials apologized to parents of high school Sped students because, as part of a "functional skills program," the schools had them dig through trash for items that could be recycled for money. 

The Superintendent carefully phrased his apology:
“I personally apologize to any students who may have been humiliated,”

but also said:

Duchon said Tuesday that “this is standard curriculum” for the program’s students, who routinely collected recyclables such as cans and bottles.

“Up to last week, there has not been one complaint,” he said.

Gee, I wonder why students didn't feel they could stand up to their teachers over this nonsense. (It was discovered after complaints appeared on Facebook.)

Their Sped ex director said it was a common project to teach life skills.

Next, remember that HUGE planned iPad buy for Los Angeles Unified School District?  It's been called off because it was discovered - through public disclosure e-mails - that two years previously, the LAUSD Super and his deputy had been plotting with both Apple and Pearson for the the contract. From the LA Times:

The suspension comes days after disclosures that the superintendent and his top deputy had especially close ties to executives of Apple, maker of the iPad, and Pearson, the company that is providing the curriculum on the devices. And an internal report that examined the technology effort showed major problems with the process and the implementation.

Among the findings was that the initial rules for winning the contract appeared to be tailored to the products of the eventual winners — Apple and Pearson — rather than to demonstrated district needs. The report found that key changes to the bidding rules were made after most of the competition had been eliminated under the original specifications.

Gee, changing the rules to fit a bidder.  Where have I heard that before?

I cannot believe LAUSD isn't throwing their superintendent out.

The upside of today's Open Thread: the Seattle Times gets called out for their Gates-funded "Education Lab" by one of the top education writers in the country, Mercedes Schneider.  (Mercedes, whom I met at the Network for Public Education conference earlier this year, is absolutely tenacious, thorough in her research and brilliant.)  Her blog is Deutsch29. She starts:

Bill Gates lives in Seattle.
His money buys experiments there, too.

I added some details in the comments but she did find out something interesting:

That’s $450,000 directly from Gates to the Seattle Times, right?

Not according to the Gates Grants search engine, which indicates no grant paid to the Seattle Times on or around October 2013 in the amount of $450,000. The search engine also indicates no $450,000 grant paid to either Solutions Journalism Network or Education Lab.
However…
…the Gates grants search engine does include this this July 2013 grant for $700,000, paid to New Ventures Fund of Washington, DC, for “communications” and “strategic partnerships”– specific to education journalism in the Seattle Times:
New Venture Fund
Date: July 2013 Purpose: to test solutions-oriented education journalism that leads to problem-solving and positive outcomes with the Seattle Times Amount: $700,000 Term: 18 Topic: Communications, Strategic Partnerships Program: Communications Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia Grantee Website: http://www.newventurefund.org
As she says about the Times and their "disclosure" on the "Education Lab," so much for transparency.

What's on your mind?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Later school start times for teens - Doctor's orders

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement calling on school districts to move start times to 8:30 am or later for middle and high schools, so that students can get at least 8 1/2 hours of sleep a night.

Full story here.

If You Want to Transfer Your Child under NCLB, Get that Request In

I was reading the Spokane newspaper and it was stated that for Spokane's school district, the deadline to request a transfer to a new school under NCLB is August 26th.  So I wrote to SPS to ask what their deadline is.  Here's the answer I received:

Parents have to request a transfer by the first day of school by 4 pm. They will then be sent an application with their PSC options.

That PSC is "Public School Options" and here is the form you must submit to ask for it.  Understand, this form I'm linking is a request for the PSC form, NOT the actual form. 

Note - only via mail or fax (which seems not-so-helpful); I would suppose you could also submit it in person.


Transportation would be provided but:
- your new school may not have services your old school did and the district does not have to provide them
- transportation would end if that new school did not meet AYP (annual yearly progress) under NCLB

For more information about Public School Choice, please call 206-252-0852.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wondering about how to Get Your Kid Ready for College?

https://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/financial-aid-process.pngHere's a great website from the DOE, chock-full of good advice and information.

Whether you’re a student or parent, years away from college or just about to start, the following checklists will help you get ready.
  • Elementary School Checklist: Student and parent checklists that start the student on the road to enjoying learning and point the parent to resources for college savings accounts.
  • Middle School Checklist: Student and parent checklists that get the student thinking about high school and possible careers and encourage the parent to keep an eye on the student’s progress.

Seattle Schools This Week

Update: I had forgotten that tomorrow is the date that WA State Supreme Court answers the Legislature on the McCleary decision.  That should be illuminating.

end of update.

Seemingly, the quiet before the storm that is the reopening of school next week.

The only item on the district calendar is one I erred about in the Friday Open Thread.  Director Patu's Saturday Community meeting is this Saturday, the 30th from 10 am to noon at Cafe Vita.

There is also, on Saturday, September 6th, the first Community meeting with President Peaslee in a very long time.  (She has previously apologized, saying her duties as president left her no time to have community meetings.) It is at the NE Library and it is one hour long from 3:30-4:30 pm.  I would imagine you might want to get there early to get a seat.

I've received a report that Arbor Heights and STEM K-5 have been able to equitably share space in the Boren building.  It's great when school leaders can work together for everyone.

Anything happening at your school?

Seattle Preschool - Time to Start Thinking about Your Vote

 Update:  Here's an event to talk about this issue from the League of Women Voters/King County:

Help lay a foundation of understanding for the continuing public discourse on early learning and the role of public policy. Participate in the LWVS-KC conversation on September 4 with panelists representing the Puget Sound Educational Service District, University of Washington, and Thrive by Five. Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

Event Date & Time:
Thu, Sep 4 - 7:00 PM
Seattle First Baptist Church
1111 Harvard Ave, Seattle
end of update

We're seeing a ramping up of the start of campaigns for both preschool measures.  Sort of.

Garfield Field Trip Rape Case

I need a little help (although I know this info is out there somewhere, I'm trying to find it quickly).

Aviva (Garfield parent), you had said you might be able to fill in some info for me.  Something new has come to light and I'm hoping you might be able to tell me about it.


Fix the omission

Something's missing and we all know what it is.

It's the unfulfilled commitment I have been requesting for over ten years. It's the hole at the heart of the district's dysfunction. It is the emptiness at the root of the complaints and protests about the Garfield rape case. It is what was absent from Director Peaslee's understanding of the protests and it was omitted from Dr. Nyland's letter.

The District staff does not comply with procedure, policy, regulation, or law and they do so without consequence. No matter if the violation is trivial or tragic, they are not only neglected, not only forgiven, but even defended.

A sea of outrage rose up against Director Peaslee's tonedeaf remarks at the Board meeting. We were shocked by her misunderstanding of the protests. They were not calls to hold the boy accountable for his actions but a call to hold the district staff accountable for their actions (and inactions). How was it possible for Director Peaslee to get this so wrong?

She was not alone. No one else on the Board spoke about compliance. Review Dr. Nyland's letter to the community. Nowhere does it mention the district staff's past failures and, more to the point, nowhere in this letter does he make a commitment to comply with the rules or enforce the rules going forward. He comes close to making such a statement. He creates the suggestion of such a statement, but he does not actually make any such statement.

Please. Take a minute. Go and re-read Dr. Nyland's letter to the community. Look for any commitment to address the real concern. It's not there. There is nothing in this letter about complying with procedure, policy, regulation, or law, nor is there anything in this letter about enforcing those rules, nor is there anything in this letter about holding people accountable for violating these rules.

This is the central focus of the protests. This the central failure. Yet Dr. Nyland, like the Board, has neglected to address it.

I have written to them asking them to address this omission. I have little hope that any of them will.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Seattle School Updates

I neglected to mention Director Patu has a Community Meeting from 10 am to noon today at Cafe Vita.

I read thru the general letter from SPS to families about NCLB.   As I previously noted, the Washington Policy Center is claiming 33 letters went out about different schools (I need to get confirmation from the district on this) but they also claim there isn't info on tutoring and/or changing schools.

Under NCLB, students at "failing" schools are offered free tutoring and/or the ability to change to another non-failing school.  The district has always made this option available as their legal obligation.

In addition to the notification, SPS Title I schools that did not meet AYP now must offer to move students to school that made AYP or is not in one of the Steps of Improvement required by the law. This is called Public School Choice. The law also includes free tutoring services in reading, language arts and/or math at schools that do not meet AYP. 

This time, though, if only 3% of the schools are "non-failing," it's ridiculous to say everyone can transfer.  It's not possible (and WPC knows this but wants to stir the pot).

The letter sent to elementary school families explained the option to change schools under Public School Choice.

The letter sent to middle schools and high schools explains that there is no school in the district that made AYP to 100 percent of students meeting standards. This means that there is no school available to transfer to under Public School Choice.

As for tutoring, the district says this:
Families at all affected schools at all grade levels will receive an information packet on tutoring in September.

A whole packet of information, not just a letter.

Here's the district's FAQs on "Public School Choice."

The district has a complete page on Volunteering in SPS.  Part of that list is the "Application for Overnight Chaperoning."   Looking it over gives me an idea as relates to the Garfield field trip rape.   At the bottom of the form:

Principals are responsible for ensuring that appropriate levels of supervision are provided, with required ratio of district employees and properly background checked volunteers to students. 
January 2014 <

Friday, August 22, 2014

Critical Incident Response Plan

I'm sorry to report that the Critical Incident Response Plan referenced in Dr. Nyland's letter to the community is total bunk. It is, at best, a PR plan. It is designed to respond to potential sources of bad press.

It basically calls for district officials to gather information, comply with policies, procedures, regulations and laws, and to inform stakeholders. I can't believe that executives at that level of responsibility have to be specifically directed to do these things.

Worse, I have no confidence that these written directions to do these things will result in the actual fulfillment of these duties.

The only thing that the superintendent needs to do is require compliance with procedure, policy, regulation and law, and to hold staff accountable with meaningful consequences if they violate the rules. That would fix the problem.

Friday Open Thread

Feel like your child does not return your phone calls/texts in a timely manner?  One mom was frustrated with the low/no response of her own children and created, Ignore No More.  If your child doesn't answer, you have a code so that you can block incoming calls/texts and disable gaming on their cell phone.  That'll get their attention.

Did you get a phone call from School Messenger with a message from Superintendent Nyland? I was hearing that this was going to happen but didn't know the content of the message (which I believe may be about NCLB.)

What's on your mind?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Duncan Offers Olive Branch (to teachers), and Carrot (to states)

Secretary Arne Duncan issued a statement today as schools start up around the country. 

Rather than saying how poorly our schools are doing, Duncan said this:

First, the thanks. America’s students have posted some unprecedented achievements in the last year – the highest high school graduation rate in the nation’s history, and sharp cuts in dropout rates and increases in college enrollment, especially for groups that in the past have lagged significantly. For these achievements, we should celebrate America’s teachers, principals, and students and their families. These achievements are also indications of deeper, more successful relationships with our students. All of us who’ve worked with young people know how much they yearn for adults to care about them and know them as individuals.

He even thanks teachers:

I have heard from many teachers that they have not received all the support they’d want during this transition. Yet America’s teachers are making this change work – and I want to recognize and thank them for that and encourage their leadership in this time of change.

He then talks about teachers' concerns:

Increasingly, in those conversations, I hear concerns about standardized testing.

Assessment of student progress has a fundamental place in teaching and learning – few question that teachers, schools and parents need to know what progress students are making. And few question the particular importance of knowing how our most vulnerable students are progressing. Indeed, there’s wide recognition that annual assessments – those required by federal law – have done much to shine a light on the places and groups of students most in need of help. Yet in too many places, it’s clear that the yardstick has become the focus.

There are three main issues I’ve heard about repeatedly from educators:
  1. It doesn’t make sense to hold them accountable during this transition year for results on the new assessments – a test many of them have not seen before – and as many are coming up to speed with new standards.
  2. The standardized tests they have today focus too much on basic skills, not enough on critical thinking and deeper learning.
  3. Testing – and test preparation – takes up too much time.
I share these concerns. And I want our department to be part of the solution.

To those who are reading the last sentence with surprise, let me be clear: assessment is a vital part of teaching and learning, but it should be one part (and only one part) of how adults hold themselves responsible for students’ progress.

Bottom line:

My Plea to Superintendent Nyland

I spoke at last night's Board meeting.  My remarks were about the MOU with the Alliance for Education (more on that in another thread as the Board discussion with Charles Wright was telling) and to welcome Superintendent Nyland and ask for his help.

My remarks to the Superintendent:

I want to say welcome to Superintendent Nyland.  Please understand, you may truly be the guy in the white hat who just rode into our district.

You can be a figurehead, a follower or the change agent that our district needs so badly.

The change? Creating a headquarters that is well-run and, in turn, a district that is well-run.  Our district is not well-run.

We need a central headquarters staff that follows policies and procedures and that any deviation from that will be handled appropriately.  That attitude needs to funnel down to the last staff member in every single school.

Because the Title IX issues - and the case they stem from - are appalling.  Everyone wants to be one of the three monkeys - see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.  Oh, and "it's not my fault."

When policies are not followed, you get bad outcomes, big and small.  This case is one of the most tragic and yet not a single person has taken even the slightest responsibility.  The creation of a Crisis Response Team does not even come close to what needs to be done.  

I say, in all sincerity, please Superintendent Nyland, please help our district.

Downtown School for Seattle Schools - Some New Twists

(This is going to be an excerpt from the Audit&Finance Committee meeting held on Tuesday.  I note that this information is likely to be again discussed at today's Operations Committee meeting from 4:30-6:30 pm.  Also at the Operations Ctm meeting, there will be a bell times analysis update, a
Facilities Condition Assessment and Study and Survey by the group, MENG, 2015-2016 proposed growth boundaries adjustments and Title IX update.

I also know that many of you are waiting for updates on MAP and other testing and I promise to get that up in the next day or so. It's been a very busy week to cover.)

There were two rather extraordinary presentations (and a couple of just plain "huh" ones that I will also get to later) at the Audit&Finance committee meeting on Tuesday.  One was about Title IX and sexual harassment which I just covered in the Garfield field trip rape update thread posted today.

The other was the discussion lead by Flip Herndon, the head of Facilities, about the downtown school idea for the old Federal Reserve building.

Gaps in the Garfield Case

This is a lengthy post and has new information so I urge you to read to the end.

Gaps abound in the Garfield case.  You can see this just from the Times' story this morning on last night's School Board election.  (And welcome Times to this story - very late to it, no?)

Some have suggested that the Times article is slanted?  I would say it is underwritten and has several parts wrong.  I can say that just from a cursory reading of it.  (The Times is not allowing comments but I think that is their policy on rape cases as the comments can get very unpleasant.)

Update 1: the girl did not go back to Garfield as a student.  From an e-mail from her parents:

One point, she never returned to GHS. the chat you likely read referred to going to GHS after school to see friends. She then had a huge melt down concerning the retaliation.

 The District granted her a school transfer with rape as the basis (we have that document), so they know she was raped.  The 504 coordinator, Rusimovic, ceased communicating so we never were told the accommodations she could have for PTSD.  This is detailed in the staff complaint posted on leaks.  Also the OCR complaint posted on July 16 on our FB page. Rusimovic's refusal to explain accommodations earned her a part in the federal investigation which is investigating the "alleged failure to provide your daughter with a Section 504 plan."


end of update 1.
 
Another issue - I am trying to get a response from the family on the issue of why they did not give the district copies of the Parks Service investigation and FBI investigation. 
The district continues to use that against the family, saying it made their investigation incomplete. 

Update 2:
The District was denied access to the records and we were initially concerned about the legality of providing materials they couldn't obtain.

The medical records were rolled into the report.  Owing to the victim's age, the law states she must give permission to hand them over.  She was in another state, deep into therapy, discussing this was contraindicated, and the whole prospect of others knowing about her body  ("private parts") was overwhelming, as we wrote the District numerous times.

In its typical disregard for the law, the District continued demanding these reports, thereby requiring us to break the law.


end of update 2.

That is only partially true because the district was NOT doing a criminal investigation - they were trying to figure out what happened - I believe - primarily to find out why district policies either failed or were not followed.  The district has no authority to do a criminal investigation and while it might have been helpful to cross-reference what staff told Parks and the FBI (and then what staff told the district's investigator), it wasn't altogether needed.

As well, last night at least two Directors cryptically said there was more to the case than the public knows and implied that they knew other information.

I find that troubling because if they didn't see the FBI/Parks Service reports AND had only read the district's investigation, then does that mean the district's investigation was not publicly fully released?   Or were they given other information not in the investigation? 

Either way, I'm not sure how they can keep that info from the public unless it is covered under FERPA or HIPAA.  There's no on-going criminal investigation. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Seattle Schools' Letter to Community on Garfield Rape

Update: in the Board Comments, each Board member addressed this issue (in his/her own way).  There was a range of verbiage used.  I was surprised at how they spoke out now, given their silence the entire summer (except for President Peaslee's letter months ago.)

Director McLaren is the only Board member to say anything nearing this:

"I regret whatever lapses occurred on part of district, both in communication and systemic organizational responsibility."

She is also the ONLY person, to the best of my knowledge, who has acknowledged that mistakes were made and that she is sorry it happened.

A couple of Directors support several speakers' call for a taskforce of BOTH community/experts and district staff.  I could support this taskforce only IF it was run by an outside entity.

Director Martin-Morris acknowledged the issue but went on to say that Seattle could be a leader in this kind of advocacy of providing information to students on sexual harassment/assault.  That's great but let's first get the actual protection procedures clear to ALL staff .  Safety first.

Carr talked about improvements being "impactful" and Patu pleaded that the district "isn't perfect" but trying to get it right and make changes.

(Have we heard this tune before on any number of issues?  We have.)

Director Peters had the good grace to point out that Board duties "include policy, law,ethics and, if we followed policies and laws" that our district would find themselves in fewer of these circumstances.

But oddly, a couple of Directors felt it necessary to say that the public doesn't know the whole story.   So the district's investigation is not comprehensive?  Why not?  Because we all know the students had a sexual encounter so since that is already on the table, what has been left out?  It seemed like a whiff of blame to the girl.

But it was left to President Peaslee (who always goes last in the comments and seems to always want to get a last and final word in) to push this issue of what happened.

She asked the audience and the public to consider that no one was charged with a crime and that there were two criminal investigations and no charges. She said not to create a new victim out of this incident.  (Clearly she meant the male student.)  She said not to use "retaliation" to correct a situation.     She said to respect all the Garfield students.

I'd like to believe she was just awkward in her statements but she also said that the public didn't know   all the facts.  I can only say in that moment it sounded like she thought there was some blame to the victim and that, by the male student not being charged, there was no crime (so don't make him a criminal).

I can only say that many, many jaws dropped in the room as she made these statements.  I appreciate and understand her statement that there were no charges made.  BUT that does NOT mean there was no crime committed.  She seemed to be trying to say that.

It is also troubling that she spoke of retaliation when the girl's family says that the girl was not notified by the school that her attacker was returning to the school and that his friends harassed her, both at school and in social media.

I thought maybe it was just me but in discussions after Board comments, it was clear that I was not alone.

end of update.

There is much that can be said about this letter.  It is rather vague, in my opinion.  The Board and the Superintendent is being urged to create a taskforce with both district staff and outside experts/community members.

The district cannot pat parents on the head and say, "Don't worry."  It's just not enough.

The letter to the community on the Garfield field trip rape:

Live Blogging From the Seattle School Board Meeting

I'm going to try some live blogging tonight as it is Superintendent Nyland's first meeting AND I believe that the district - via legal counsel - will have something to say about the Garfield field trip rape and Title IX issues.

I attended the Audit & Finance Committee meeting yesterday and boy, what a meeting.  But that's another thread.

I will note, however, that lead counsel, Ron English, gave out a "Legal Action Log on Title IX Issues."  It is lengthy and troubling.  The district is to create a "Crisis Response Team" for such incidents.

Superintendent Nyland gave his first superintendent remarks.  He talked about the Garfield fieldtrip rape issue and read a letter from the district.  The letter will be available on the district website soon.

 It was fairly vague and nothing new that we haven't heard after OTHER incidents.  There was a gap between the beginning of the meeting and Public Comment.  I asked if I could speak with the Superintendent but was told the letter was the statement and he wouldn't be taking any questions.  Not a good start.

On a different note, Director Carr said that there will be a Work Session, on September 10th, for the Board as a whole to discuss preschool issues.  She said that there would be some people from the City but did not name anyone.  The meeting will be from 4:30-6:00 pm followed by an Executive Committee meeting of the Whole.

 That should be an important discussion as the City continues to call the district a partner in this preschool effort but, if you read their documentation, the City will be the one making the majority of decisions around this program and its funding.  By my read, the district is just there to provide space and some curriculum alignment.

Common Core; Slip Slidin' Away

ednext_XV_1_poll_fig01-smallPoll results on public education including Common Core from two sources.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Power Was Out at District Headquarters

Just went to the SPS website and saw a notice "Power has been restored at the JSCEE.  Thank you for your patience."

I don't know how long it was out but if you were trying to access the building and couldn't, that's the reason why.

Tuesday Open Thread

A wealthy person trying to buy a basketball team?  Well, that would be Steve Ballmer buying the LA Clippers but according to a very well-done story from the Seattle Times, he cut his teeth doing it at Lakeside.

I note that some of the comments call out Bellevue School District for this kind of thing as well as Rainier Beach High School.  The activities at RBHS have been covered in the Times previously but I don't really know what the story is in Bellevue.

But when parents want sports to become the focus at a school (and the school allows it), it benefits no one.  There is no "you're helping low-income/minority students" when they are allowed to play as they are not passing classes.

From the John Rogers Elementary school community:
"John Rogers will have 4 kindergarten classes this year!  With that many kindergarteners (85) the school is scrambling to move classrooms, offices and closets around.  Staff have asked if anyone is available to help ..."
So this community finds itself scrambling for space and are now down to closet space.  The district says, "these kids are coming; find the room."  That seems like a very heavy lift at a very late stage.

And where will all these preschool rooms come from that the City wants?  It's a fantasy.

Please keep the students, teachers and staff of the school district in Ferguson, Missouri in your thoughts.  Three out of four schools continue to be closed today.  I'm sure it must be a confusing, difficult time for all involved and helping students make sense of what is happening is a big job.

I'm at the Charter Commission meeting this morning.

What's on your mind?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Highland Park Elementary Discussion

 Update:  there was this new comment at the West Seattle blog:

As a HP resident and a parent who sends her kids elsewhere I’d just like to point out that the creation of neighborhood schools and the lack of available busing to get away from failing schools has only further segregated poorer kids and families. Segregation by income is just as wrong as segregation by race.. The district needs to change the policies that only exasperated the income inequality issues at HPE. If not, parents with the financial means to make other choices will just continue to do so.

Actually, parents at failing schools always did have the ability (with busing) to get away.  Under NCLB, parents were supposed to be notified of this option (along with tutoring options).  I would be fairly sure the district did send those letters but many parents may not have realized what it meant.

If your child was enrolled at a "failing" school, you could request being moved to another non-failing school within your region (maybe district).  I know some kids left MLK, Jr. (in its old location) to go to McGilvra under this option.
 
The irony for the here and now is that with Washington State not receiving its NCLB waiver, all the districts have to send out "failing schools" letters that say nearly every single school is a "failing school."  So you could ask to transfer but now, there are virtually no schools to transfer to under this new designation.

end of update.


 A couple of West Seattle parents let me know of discussions over Highland Park Elementary and its struggle to right itself.  The school is a very low performer and has issues over discipline and bullying.  But, the good news is that the community wants to support it and help move it in a positive direction.

To that end, a member of the Highland Park PTA asked the Highland Park Action Committee, a local community group, if they could work together to raise money and awareness for their neighborhood school.  The community group agreed and the meeting was held last Tuesday.

The great West Seattle Blog covered it in depth.  That was some frank and illuminating discussion that included information about other schools I had not heard before.

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, August 19th

Audit& Finance Committee meeting from 4:30-6:30 pm.  Agenda
Wonder if the Committee might consider where money was taken for the various staff members to go off on their preschool junket.

Update: Wonder no more, there is nothing on the agenda about the preschool junket or replacing those funds from the various sources that were used to fund it.

Lots of interesting items like:
- redirection of selected lease and rental earnings to General Fund (because, really, why do buildings need maintenance?)
- policy for unpaid holidays for reason of faith or conscience
- restrictive covenant agreement terms review
- downtown school financing options

Wednesday, August 20th
School Board meeting starting at 4:15 pm.
I am aware that a rally over the Garfield field trip rape is to occur outside of headquarters right before the meeting at about 4 pm.  Supporters of the student and her parents are also likely to be at the meeting.

Agenda

Selected Action Items

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Local Ed News

The AP is reporting that the State Supreme Court will announced on Friday that it would consider if the charter law of Washington State violates our state's constitution.

I would say that's a rather large piece of news as I have been repeatedly told that it was "highly unlikely" this would happen.  Oral arguments are scheduled for Oct. 28th.  I just might have to go and listen.

A King County judge had earlier ruled that parts of the law were unconstitutional and both sides asked to skip the appeals and go straight to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court issue centers around our Constitution's wording about "common schools" and whether charters meet that specific definition (and therefore are entitled to be funded in that manner).

NCLB letters are reaching mailboxes soon.  (SPS is holding back to see if their individual district waiver comes thru based on the district's belief that the CBA covers using test scores for teacher evaluation.)  Here's the phone message from Kent School District (good for them). 

 It's interesting to see how across-the-board dumb many people think this action is.  (And I still wonder how much it costs a district to create and send them.) 

Anyone attend Director Martin-Morris' community meeting this morning?

It appears that there is something going on at Salmon Bay.  Here's what I am hearing:

Friday, August 15, 2014

From Two Sides: Ed Reform versus the Most Famous Teacher in the U.S.

That teacher would be 5th grade teacher Rafe Esquith from Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles.  He has taught for nearly 30 years and written several books.   But I'll let Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post's Answer Sheet tell you more:

*When he goes to China he is so popular he needs security guards to protect him from the crush of the crowds.

*He is the only K-12 teacher to be awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts.


*A documentary, “The Atticus Finch of Hobart Elementary,” was made about the famous Shakespeare program he has run for years at Hobart, where all of his students appear in at least one full-length production a year. The English actor Ian McKellen actually noticed some of Esquith’s young students mouthing the words to a Shakespearean play in which he was performing in Los Angeles.


*He has been given the Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award, Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award, and Disney’s National Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. He’s gotten more awards and honors, but you should have the idea by now.


So I think we can all agree; the guy knows his stuff.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates is pushing hard on Common Core.  From Diane Ravitch:

The long arm of the Gates Foundation reaches out to create a rating system for Common Core-aligned materials. Not content to have paid for the writing of the CCSS. the evaluation of the CCSS, the implementation of the CCSS, and the promotion of and advocacy for the CCSS, the foundation wants to take the next step to make sure no one uses anything less than stellar CCSS.

The story from Politico:

Friday/Saturday Open Thread

I've been out of town so a bit behind on this.

I see that teacher John Greenberg has been reinstated at The Center School (this from a story in the PI).  The story does NOT say what if he will be teaching his Citizenship and Social Justice class. 

The petition for a new principal at Garfield (on the heels of the outrage over the investigation of a rape on a Garfield overnight field trip) has over 2,000 signatures.  I hope to talk to some alum next week about this move.

Is ballet a sport? Under Armour thinks so with this great video of ABT's Misty Copeland and an apparent letter she received about becoming a ballet dancer.  It's good to defy the odds.

What's on your mind?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Advanced Learning Task Forces' Recommendations

Advanced Learning Task Forces
Report & Recommendations                  
August 2014

The Advanced Learning Task Forces met for more than 50 hours during the 2013-2014 school year to studyidentification and service delivery models for Highly Capable students. They found that many aspects of our Highly Capable/Accelerated Progress Program work well and do not require changes. The task forces believe the current delivery model should remain in place with the recommendations below providing additional opportunities and direction to enhance equity of access to Highly Capable services.

This task force was not asked to address Advanced Learning programs beyond those for Highly Capable students. The task force recognizes, however, that Spectrum and ALOs are a valued aspect of Advanced Learning, and the District should continue to address the opportunities for advanced learners beyond students identified as Highly Capable. Enhancing those opportunities will ultimately benefit all students.

Seattle Landmarks Board Votes to Hit Pause on Wilson-Pacific

From Indian Country Today media network:

Plans to demolish a public school with strong ties to Seattle’s Native community have been sent back to the drawing board.

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted 7-1 on July 16 to designate Wilson-Pacific School a city landmark. That prevents Seattle Public Schools officials from proceeding with plans to demolish the school so a new school can be built in its place.


Ironically, the school was nominated for landmark status by the very agency that wanted to demolish it. Under the state Environmental Policy Act, the school district was required to make an assessment of the school’s cultural and historical importance and present it to the landmarks board.

Erin Doherty, Landmarks Preservation Board coordinator, said the school met three of six criteria for landmark designation: it is “associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the City” (Eaglestaff); it is “associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community;” and it embodies “the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period.”
 
What comes next?
 
Next, landmarks board staff and the school district will negotiate a controls and incentives agreement for landmarks board consideration. “Controls define those features of the landmark to be preserved and outline the Certificate of Approval process for changes to those features,” the board website states. “Incentives may include, but are not limited to, zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives.”

UNEA members, its youth council members, and possibly some landmarks board members will attend Indigenous Cultures Day on August 16 at Seattle Center—within view of a memorial pole raised in honor of Nitinaht First Nations carver John T. Williams, who was killed by a Seattle police officer in 2010. The day’s events will include a viewing of the Robert Eaglestaff documentary.
Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/08/11/seattle-landmarks-board-votes-save-indian-heritage-school-156324

Tuesday Open Thread

 A bit of dark place I find myself in. 

Robin Williams, a giant talent who I saw twice live in San Francisco (and once in a little bookstore), killed himself.  Very sad.

Then there's the essay by Joe Williams of DFER who says that "Suburbs Hold Key to Resolving Democratic Party's Tensions over School Choice."

It's hard to know which is worse - the idea that the "school choice" is the REAL issue among Dems (hint: it's not).  Cue violins and wringing of hands - if only we could get the "huge swaths of black and Hispanic families" on the same page as "as the nation's soccer moms" where"no cul-de-sac left behind," why we'd all be singing Kumbaya, no?

(Note to Mr. Williams, you may have missed the World Cup but those of us who watched and who know soccer as the world sport, know there are MILLIONS of black and Hispanic soccer moms.)

  According to Bazaar magazine, we have "the Savior in Seattle." Not "a savior" but "the savior."  That would be one Mrs. Bill Gates, Jr. 

Now an odd thing I find about nearly every article on the Gates Foundation - it seems when they want to look good (and/or not be challenged), their Foundation is all about world health.  But public education in the U.S. and their efforts to mold it just never seems to come up.  And so it is with this article.

She takes a seat in a conference room, wearing black trousers, a tan silk blouse, and a subtle Van Cleef & Arpels flower necklace.

(But she must have changed clothes for the photo.  I was going to put the photo up but the only place you can do that is ...Pinterest. You can't make this stuff up.)

Gates's worst trait, she says, "is being too hard on myself. Bill reminds me often, 'You know way more than you think you know, Melinda. Just be nicer to yourself.' "

That's what big money (and Big Data) will do for you, I guess.  It buys you the power to believe in yourself.

And then there was the C&I meeting.  I'll let others report out but honestly, Director McLaren telling staff to enjoy "this sweet moment" while speaking of getting the Highly Capable report "done" was a little more than I could take.   They really should go back to calling it Highly Capable because pretty soon, that's all that will be left.

What's on your mind?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Highly Capable News

Just kidding.

There are no recs in the handout at the C&I meeting.  Apparently they will be in the Friday memo sent out by the Superintendent.  So unless someone who is on the Committee wants to let us know about them, I have no idea what they are.

There was a funny moment when it was pointed out how old the Board's policy is (from 1993).

They will be working with secondary counselors on what 9-12 students ,per the new WAC will receive as they had been getting "nothing in particular."

First Stephen Martin said the vote on the recs was unanimous and later on, said it was the majority (he and Shauna Heath, head of C&I, exchanged glances on that one).  No idea what the real story is.

They are hiring a couple of curriculum specialists (a good thing).

Marty McLaren praised staff for this "sweet moment" to get this done.  I'm glad she's happy but I see no clarity here yet.

Again, I see the end of Spectrum because they so clearly don't want to talk about it.

Seattle Schools' Sped Director Goes on Leave

Update:  The Times is reporting that Williams leave is based on the issue around the consultant hired to work on the C-CAP.  The district says it is not disciplinary but that they are investigating.

end of update.

From Deputy Superintendent Charles E. Wright (bold mine):

Dear Seattle Public Schools principals, teachers and staff,

I am writing today to let you know that Wyeth Jessee, who is currently Executive Director of Leadership Development and former Broadview-Thomson K-8 principal, will be temporarily serving as Interim Executive Director of Special Education while Zakiyyah McWilliams is on leave.

Wyeth has experience in Special Education and will step in to ensure this important work continues. As you all know, it is our goal to make sure each and every student has access to a high quality education. For the last several years, we have made Special Education services a high priority, and will continue to do so. In addition, we are supporting the Special Education team by adding a project manager, who will make sure we continue to meet the goals and deadlines of improvement.

I want to thank the Special Education team for their hard work over the summer, and assure our staff and community that we are diligent about meeting the requirements and timelines outlined in our revised Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan (C-CAP) and to ensure we are meeting the needs of all of our students.

We will keep you posted on the progress of our C-CAP, and I want to thank Wyeth for stepping in before the school year to continue this work in the interim.


Mr. Jessee "has experience" in Special Education.  What does that truly mean and what should it mean to Sped parents?

What does it mean to the C-CAP?

Not inspiring, for sure.

I'll be interested to hear what is said at the C&I Committee meeting today.

Reclaim Your Domain - Who Owns Your Student's Work?

Ramping up to the start of school, I hope to (finally) get several threads on student data privacy going.  I also hope to draft a template letter that I'm going to offer to parents to ask their school about any kind of signing up for online groups that a school asks students to do.  I don't know why the district would not think this important enough to even inform (no less ask permission from) parents about online services that their child signed up for and what information their child was asked to give away.

Don't let anyone tell you that you do not have the right to ask - you do.  

Education writer, Anthony Cody, has left Education Week and is writing his own blog, Living in Dialogue.  Anthony is a gifted thinker and his work is worthy reading.   He has guest bloggers on occasion and this piece by high school teacher, Mary Porter, is very good and very troubling.  Her thesis?

Teachers must protect student agency and identity from the “templated self” demanded by edtech entrepreneurs, cloud based corporate products, and data-fixated institutions.

As you read it, ask these questions:

- who owns student data?  Because increasing there is "ownership" of your child's data even without your knowledge.  I have been reading some e-mail between various entities working on the City's Preschool for All program and I find that there is a lot of data-sharing going between groups.  Meaning, Group A may have asked OSPI for this data.  Group A then goes and gives that data to Groups B and C, as they may all be working on the same topic OR Group C would find it useful to have that data even if not working on that topic.  (I'll post some of these.  Everyone is just so chatty and cozy over sharing of data they have obtained.)

Here's where I see the problem.  Most of the data appears to be public data BUT the hitch is that many times a district may have not told parents or the public about data they got from signing students up to an online program.  Or not told the public they did a limited survey but they have results and data and if you are one of the few entities to be told this data exists, well, just ask for it. 

Meaning, you can't ask for data that you don't know exists.  Sure you can do a public disclosure request but those are only as good as the specifics given to the public disclosure officer. 

- so many of these "helpful" programs that schools/districts sign up for come with giving data to the company. The district doesn't just buying the software  for its own uses and only the district gets the data from its students - the company does as well. 

- these "helpful" programs also have a learning curve (see teachers) and even ask teachers to fill out questionnaires.  In short, both students and teachers may be guinea pigs for fleshing out a program. That would be okay if both groups were compensated in some way but that's rarely the case.

Remember this (and I will say this over and over) - data is the new coin of the realm for business and government.  Don't just give it away (and if you want to, what does your child get out of it?)

So what is Ms. Porter's story?

I’m thinking about the threat of data-driven helplessness to my students, and how it affects their emerging sense of self. There is no mechanism whatsoever for this generation to defend itself from a deep, new kind of school-imposed identity theft. Is there some way teachers can shield and empower our students? Would you put your job on the line to do that? 

OSPI HC Program Requirements

On another thread, nitpicker referenced the Highly Capable Program Requirements for All Districts document produced by OSPI. The 2013-2014 school year was the transition year, so everything is supposed to be implemented and up and running at the opening of school in a few short weeks. We're likely to be missing some required elements here in Seattle. And that's saying something because the OSPI has set the bar really, really low.

Here's what's required:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Charters - The Gift that Keeps on Giving

There's almost something humorous about charter stories today.  They come faster and faster; stars who start charters that fail, financial scandals, and promises made and then broken.

What's the funny part?  Well, the supporters of 1240 said "we have a lot to learn from charters."  I would agree and in more ways than one.  We should be the state to be uber-careful about who comes through that charter door.  No backdoors for anyone.  No one who has been indicted in another state.  y

Here's the examples of what NOT to do:

- In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the FBI, not just the state auditor, have moved in on a charter group. From AP:

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Gifted Students: What are the Coming Changes for Seattle Schools' Students?

I came across two articles recently on gifted students.  One is quite good, the other somewhat useful but over the top (and the tone is distracting from the content, in my opinion).

NOW, to start, if you don't agree that there are gifted students or the need for gifted education, please don't comment.  Because many readers here already know that conversation.

Tomorrow we will find out what the Advanced Learning Taskforce has to say about how Seattle Public Schools might view these students and their programs.  This work may or may not guide what changes the Board approves district staff to do.

I offer these articles as both educational and thought-provoking.

Nearly every "gift" that a child has can come with/have a double-edge to it.  For example, athletes are only as good as their health/lack of injury.  Gifted kids have the ability to go faster and farther but often have behaviors that backfire on them from this ability.

No one has a better child or a perfect child; we all have children with gifts, flaws and struggles.

In the first article, the authors point out that states that do well overall in testing, usually have better scores on BOTH the high end and the low end.

A rising tide lifts all boats. 

Seattle Schools This Week

As a heads up, the district is offering (at nearly every elementary and K-8), Jump Start for kindergarteners.  Sounds like a great program.  From the flyer:


It is a weeklong experience for new kindergarteners and their families to learn about their new school. Children will become familiar with the school building, staff, and typical school-day activities and practices.

This summer, over 50 elementary and K-8 schools across the city of Seattle will offer Jump Start the week of August 18-22. Jump Start will run for five consecutive half-days (usually 9 a.m. to noon). Parents/guardians will have a chance to meet with the school principal during the week. Interpreters will be available for children who are English-language learners.

Families who have enrolled their child in kindergarten will receive a letter from their assigned school inviting them to participate. Families will need to reserve a space and return needed health and safety forms ahead of time. Not every school offers Jump Start, so call Seattle Public Schools Early Learning Department at (206) 252-0186 or Enrollment Services at (206) 252-0760 to check. 
Monday, August 11th
Curriculum and Instruction Committee Meeting from 4:30-6:30 pm.  Agenda (which looks to have been heavily revamped)
Well, this should be interesting.  Between Charles Wright's letter about the consultant for the Special Ed C-CAP being reviewed and the announcement of recommendations from the Advanced Learning Taskforce, it could be quite the meeting.  

The Committee is also to get an update on assessments,  the BAR for School Funding model, update on "Indigenous People of Washington State" curriculum and discussion around community engagement for interscholastic activities, high school grade/credit marking and high school graduation requirements.  
The BAR for the TIERS consultant contract (for Sped C-CAP) has been taken off the agenda.  
But, the BARs for other Sped issues, are still on the agenda. 
I also note the appearance of a BAR on "Selection and Adoptions of Instructional Materials Action," Policy 2015.  This confuses me somewhat as it was revised in October 2013.


Tuesday, August 12th
The second meeting about a possible downtown school will be held, from 6-8 pm at the Belltown Community Center, 415 Bell Street.  (I saw an article in the Times today about how Vulcan is buying up buildings in the South Lake Union area to convert into apartments.  Not a word about helping create a downtown school even though the City has zoning up for building heights for that area if a developer puts in a school.)  

Wednesday, August 13th
Executive Committee Meeting from 8:30 am-10:00 am.  Agenda.
A seemingly light agenda for this Committee as they go over the agendas for the next two Board meetings, discuss the next Board Retreat and talk about naming the new building at Decatur.  Note: they will be having an Executive Session at the end of the meeting; the public cannot remain for that so the meeting will likely end around 9:30 am.

Saturday, August 16th
Community Meeting with Director Martin-Morris at NE Branch Library from 10 am to noon.  I'm sure there must be a plethora of topics that parents might want to discuss with him. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Updates and Pondering the Issues of Capital Building in Seattle Schools

Went to the BEX Oversight Committee meeting this morning.

In terms of notable people at the meeting, Director Sharon Peaslee was there, Lead Counsel Ron English was not.

Issues mentioned/discussed
- Seems to be some kind of portable placement issue for Blaine and Laurelhurst.  No specifics given.

- Only $1M for technology left in BEX IV.  Head of Technology, Carmen Rahm, gave a presentation where he noted that 75% of SPS schools don't have wireless.  But he repeated, again and again, that for the here and now, you still need "wired" buildings for all kinds of reasons.  Meaning, to have a totally "wireless" building for technology is not the desired outcome.

There was this interesting back-and-forth with Director Peaslee and Mr. Rahm over smartboards.  She was under the impression that they were $10K apiece.  He said no, you could get 5-6 of them for $10K.  I looked this up and it really depends on what you want to spend.  But the total cost - of buying and installing them - is certainly not $2K each.  

Project Updates

Special Ed Update

The district has sent out a letter to "principals, teachers and staff."  It does not include parents but I'm supposing that is not an omission but rather, a separate letter to be sent.

I think there will be a few readers here who will say, "I told you so."  I myself have told various Board members, through the years, that in Seattle Schools, if there is smoke, there IS a fire somewhere.

Evidence that your voice(s) can make a difference.  I believe in this case, that it has.  (Bold mine)

Dear Seattle Public Schools principals, teachers and staff,

Making sure each and every student has access to a high quality education is our goal at Seattle Public Schools. As part of this work, we have spent the last several years working to improve our Special Education services.

More than 7,000 students receive Special Education services and we know we need to do a better job to meet their needs. Last year, the state Office of Public Instruction (OSPI) directed the District to develop and implement a Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan (C-CAP) to help improve results for our students in special education. We have made some improvements, but we still have work do to.

The School Board will vote next month on a revised C-CAP that will outline our work for the 2014-15 school year. As part of that plan, we will focus on writing and implementing new internal procedures, outlining a professional development plan and improving both our program and fiscal accountability, which will help us better support our students.
Last spring, the Special Education department worked with a consultant to help meet the requirements of our C-CAP. The department issued a request for proposals and considered four consultants. In April, the District signed a contract with the TIERS Group (Teams Intervening Early to Reach all Students) to evaluate special education services and make recommendations for improvement. 

TIERS visited the District this spring to collect data for initial analysis on the special education department. They released a report on July 22 that highlighted 12 recommendations to improve the department.

On August 5, the District learned that all proper procedures may have not been followed during the contract procurement process. While we review this, a second contract with TIERS has been put on hold. We know there are likely many additional questions and we will move quickly to resolve this matter.

I want to assure our staff that we will not waiver in our commitments to improving Special Education services. We will work swiftly to meet the requirements and timelines outlined in our revised C-CAP.

Sincerely,

Charles Wright
Deputy Superintendent
Seattle Public Schools

Friday Open Thread

I'm at the BEX Oversight Committee meeting this morning; I'll let you know if anything news-worthy gets said.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

C & I Meeting on Monday, August 11

The agenda for the 8/11 Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting has already been posted.

There's a lot there for folks interested in Special Education along with a couple of tasty items for those interested in high school graduation requirements, creative approach schools, Native American education, and discipline.

Gates to ConnectEDU: Where's Our Dough?

When we last left this story, ConnectEDU, a company that had an interactive program to try to connect middle school students with info on college/career.  From the story in the Wall Street Journal yesterday:

In July 2013, the well-known foundation awarded a nearly $500,000 grant to ConnectEDU to develop an interactive program to help students master literacy under the Common Core standards that many states use to guide how public school students are caught.
 
The money came with some conditions, including a promise to only use the funds for the development of the new technology as well as a timeline requiring benchmarks to be met along the way. The grant, paid out in two installments, was set to expire this December. 

I pause here to note that I didn't remember that the Gates grant to ConnectEDU was around Common Core.

ConnectEDU filed for Chapter 11 earlier this year.  Apparently since then, ConnectEDU has not answered the Gates Foundation's questions about the grant money. 

Well, guess who wants their money?  The Gates Foundation. 

They want the Court to put the money they gave Connect EDU (however much that is leftover at the point ConnectEDU went bankrupt) to be put in a separate account and given back to Gates.  (They also want ConnectEDU to give them documents they asked for and has asked the Court to make them hand them over to the GF.) 

It's as if the Gates Foundation thinks they are the most important company/group in the list of entities that want a share of any assets.  I have a feeling that the Court is going to say to Gates Foundation, "Get in line."

What is still unknown is how much SPS student data that ConnectEDU has and, in general, what ConnectEDU is going to do with all the student data from many districts that they have.  They could, in theory, sell it off to the highest bidder.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Vermont's NCLB Letter

Update: as Charlie points out, Arne Duncan has really decided - without real authority backing his actions - to be large and in charge of public education in this country.  (I suspect this is one reason so many conservatives, not just in the Tea Party, don't like the DOE.)

One conservative education writer, Michael Petrilli,  advocates for Washington State to go to court over the NCLB waiver issue.  Now the head of the state group for Washington school superintendents says he thinks that's a good idea as well. Bill Keim of the Washington Association of School Administrators said this:

For me, one of those continued sources of irritation is the unfettered federal intervention into what used to be the states’ domain—operating our public schools. I was amazed when the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation passed that there was so little debate regarding the expanded role it created for the federal government to dictate how schools in each state must function. It was a classic case of the tail (represented by the 7 percent that federal funds contribute to our education funding) wagging the dog. It also represented an unprecedented intrusion into what previously had been the states’ right.