Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year (Make an Education Wish)

What's your education wish for 2015? 

Let's go with three wishes; one for Seattle Schools, one for the state, and one national.

1) For this district, a perennial favorite of mine, a School Board that does its REAL job.  Providing oversight and accountability. Examining the "priorities" of the district vis a vis school-based needs/parent desires.  Not accepting excuses from upper management on serious issues.  But this will not come from the majority of the current Board (clearly) so we have the work to find, support and elect four new people for the Board.  (I know - it's a big job but it has been done before.) 

2) You might have thought I would say "enact McCleary" but honestly, that's the Legislature's job and it's the constitutional mandate.  There shouldn't even be any discussion that drags on for months and months.

Nope, my wish is for the Washington State Supreme Court to overturn the charter school law.  I think the law is unconstitutional.  There is just one charter school open at this point (and it's already on probation). 

During the campaign, we were told, over and over, that this was the "best" charter law in the country.  That may be but apparently, the creators forgot to align it with our state constitution.  So, if it is overturned, they can go back to the drawing board and start again.  (My best guess is that the Court will split the baby somehow.  I don't think that will truly work and will engender more arguing so throwing the whole thing out makes more sense to me.)

3) Nationally, I would like to see every single state and the feds enact student data privacy restrictions with REAL gatekeeping and REAL punishment.  Every single entity that wants access to data should fear the ramifications if they foul up.

Wishing you all a safe and happy New Year's Eve into our new 2015.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Town Hall Presents Talk on Standardized Testing

From Town Hall:
Seattle’s recently-passed universal pre-k measure included a stipulation of standardized testing, but according to NPR’s Anya Kamenetz (Generation Debt), today’s schools are sacrificing learning by enacting such regulations.
The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing–But You Don’t Have to Be is her insightful look at the world of standardized testing in the era of No Child Left Behind, increased college expectations, and overachievers. She’ll outline the pressures these tests place on students, their families, and school districts, ultimately offering a wake up call for educators–and parents–to move beyond numbers, and refocus on the child. Kamenetz is the author of several books and NPR’s lead digital education reporter.
7:30PM, Tuesday, January 20, 2015 , Downstairs at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Avenue, $5

Tuesday Open Thread

The Onion takes a look at how to fix our nation's schools.  It's barely tongue-in-cheek but takes a fairly good swipe at corporate ed reform.

The Times had an article about how Seattle is first in the nation for kids living with both parents.  This is not altogether surprising to me.  I recall (and this was more than a decade ago) that my son's elementary class (this was a Spectrum class) had 32 students and yet there were only two divorced parents.  That seemed an anomaly to me at the time but perhaps not. 

It was also a bit of an odd article as it seemed to define intact families with conservatism (and how did liberal Seattle end up this way) via a non-traditional bridal blogger.   

But I also looked up the cities with the lowest kid population because I had been quoting San Francisco as having the lowest, then Seattle.  Turns out that has changed according to Forbes in Feb. 2014.  Pittsburgh has the lowest "youth population" followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg.  San Francisco is 7th and Seattle doesn't even make the top 10.

What's on your mind?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week (and This and That)

With the district being effectively closed, here are some items of interest.

SPS

Family Connectors University, starts Jan. 12th. 

The Family Connectors University program is a ten-week series of adult workshops that is designed to empower families with information on how to navigate the school system, how to create a college-going culture at home, and how to support their child’s, and other children’s, academic success.


New School Lunch Menus Link.


Over the past three years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has put in place many guidelines to help students make healthier choices in the school cafeteria, based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This year, in addition to further changes to the meal standards for breakfast and lunch, students will see changes outside of the school cafeteria as well. Food and beverages sold from vending machines, student stores and fundraisers will be affected by the new "Smart Snack" regulations.   Flyer with all the details.


Hazel Wolf K-8 at Pinehurst.  Work will start on this building in January.  Interesting, though, they call it "K-8" as I thought the plan was to make every new building include a preschool.  I'm sure the City is hot on the trail of this one.  (And speaking of the City and preschool, we'll have to have a discussion about what the Governor is proposing for early childhood and the City's plan.  I'm wondering if many there are too many plans afoot that may compete rather than compliment each other.) 

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?



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Title IX Update

You can visit the District's Title IX web page for the latest news about Seattle Public Schools Title IX compliance efforts.

The latest developments include the hiring of an interim Title IX Compliance Officer, Barbara Nahouraii, her addition to the Title IX Task Force (in place of Michael Tolley), and the adoption, on December 9th, of a new superintendent procedure, 3208SP, on sexual harassment.

On that same day, December 9th, I sent an email to Ms Nahouraii with eleven questions about the current status of the District's Title IX compliance efforts. They were all questions that I presumed she would be able to answer off the top of her head. She replied with a brief email promising a response "shortly". I have yet to receive that response. It's only been about two weeks. I guess it still qualifies as "shortly".

Here were the eleven questions:

UW Climate Change Video Contest

From UW's School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, a unit within the College of the Environment:

Tuesday Open Thread

This will likely be the last thread until Friday by me.  I would like to celebrate with my family and power down for a couple of days. 

What's on your mind?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Africatown Update

The District is considering an MOU with Africatown, but something familiar is proving an obstacle: Africatown's use of a District building without paying any rent or utilities.

Special Education Editorial Strikes the Right Note

Ramona Hattendorf, who has done a wide expanse of public education advocacy, writes a great op-ed at the Times on Special Education.  She is very specific in what is needed.  It's a piece that needs wide reach so I hope you send it along.

I think the topic on Special Education is finally rising to the top of the district's radar (and it needs to stay there).

I am sorry to see Sped parents knocking heads - it plays into the hands of those who don't want to fully serve these students.  I believe this issue needs parents to continue to stand up to a district that is seemingly confused about its role and responsibility in this area.

Friday Memo of December 12

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

The December 12 Friday Memo has information about:

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

What is Happening In Seattle Schools?

It's before my time here in Seattle but during the lean years of Boeing, someone had put up a billboard that said, "Will the last person leaving Seattle -- turn off the lights?"

I'm starting to feel that way about Seattle Schools but maybe with the question, "Will the person who understands what is going on in Seattle Schools -- please clue the rest of us in?" 

Example one is this letter from Ballard High School (partial) to families with seniors:

Happy Holidays to All Our Readers

Whether you are on the naughty or nice list (as Obama put it the other day when choosing which reporters to ask him questions at his press conference), we wish you happy (and safe) holidays.



Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  But we have entered Hanukkah (which ends on Christmas Eve) and Kwanzaa starts the day after Christmas. 

In case your kids want to know more about the Solstice, five basic questions answered in the Washington Post. 

Sunset today in Seattle will be at 4:20 pm.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

This and That (and Things that Make you go, Hmmmm)

First up, the Board retreat on the 6th.  Apparently, I had been expected because Director Peaslee said something to the effect of, "wait for Melissa" and Director Peters and Michael Tolley (who ostensibly must read the blog and knew I was not coming) said, "She's not coming."  I'm sure there was a sigh of relief that no one from the "angry community" was there.

I also learned via public disclosure documents that at least one director feels the need to pass on many of my e-mails to the Board to senior staff.  To note, there are about 13 people who get the e-mails you send via "schoolboard@seattleschools.org."  These include the Board, Legal, the Superintendent, Communications, a couple of cabinet people and a person in the Board office. 

So now, if I'm writing to the entire Board, I'll just send it to the main e-mail address because it seems my e-mails get forwarded on anyway.  I don't really like it this way because I think if I write to the Board, that's who should see my e-mail (unless they forward it on to an appropriate person depending on the topic).  

On the issue of the various input votes on Nyland, the principals' one was an odd one because 52% voted yes, 34% said no and the rest were undecided.  This did not represent all the principals, nearly one-fourth didn't vote.  The vote total also included 11 people in Central (and it would seem if you are working at Central, you are not a principal but perhaps these are more in the legion of "coaches" in this district).  

So let's take a count here:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Want to Freak Out?

Well, here you go from Freakonomics and their podcast on education.  (No, it has nothing to do with Chic and you have to be a person of a certain age to get that one.)

I have not yet listened to these podcasts - one on teacher skills, the other on a community-based project called Pathways to Education.  From Freakonomics:

The response from listeners was huge — and, often, very opinionated. It seems as though everyone had a concrete idea for the one thing that would really improve our education system.
So we’ve decided to make an episode about … what you think is the one thing that would really improve our education system. If all goes well, the episode will be made up primarily of listeners’ voices — that is, your voice.
We want you to answer the following question:
If you had to pick one thing to change about the education system where you live, what would it be? and why?
Note, that "where you live" so they are not asking for general answers.  It will be interesting to hear what listeners around the country say.

We want you to record your answer on your iPhone, Android phone (or other recording device), and e-mail us the file at radio@freakonomics.com. Along with your answer to the question, please include your name, where you live, and what you do — student, parent, teacher, school administrator, taxpayer, etc.

Thank you to reader, Tami, for this info.

Can't Wait for this Guy to Leave

Really, Mr. Secretary?  How about this: 

You are at a school where you feel known, safe and are part of our community. You're making friends, learning from your teacher and being a good citizen of that community." That's what you tell a 2nd grader.



Seattle Times: Board Takeover AND Sped Director Mystery Solved

In public education editorializing, the Times mantra seems to be, "keeping saying the same thing over and over and it'll work."  Well, it does sometimes but not always.  (You have to wonder about this tactic given their dropping subscription rates - people like to read about NEW things.)

Here's their latest and it's fairly boring reading because it's the same old wording.  "Dysfunctional", they get the number of students in SPS wrong ("nearly 50k" - geez, aren't they journalists?), "melodrama" and, of course, should we have a conversation about governance?

Here's my comments to them:

Friday Open Thread

I really must get to some other threads because I see the Times is at it again (right out the gate on their latest editorial "this dysfunctional district" and, as well, I heard some interesting things at yesterday's Operations Committee meeting.   Yes, the district will bid on the Federal Reserve building (but at a bigger cost than I would have thought) and Capital staff make up a new term for dollars that puzzled Director Peaslee (me, too). 

(Plus, remember how the feds didn't get Al Capone on racketeering charges but settled for the milquetoast tax evasion?  This district will not see me go away from getting tired of the fight but from the traffic getting to and from headquarters.  I can tell you that, in more than a decade of being a long-distance swimmer, going back and forth to headquarters, the traffic - has - gotten - worse.) 

It also appears that the Garfield PTSA is still fighting the good fight on their teacher situation with a new idea out (something about 5 teachers splitting their classes).  More on that to come. 

I listened in on the Charter Commission special meeting yesterday.  First Place Scholars is on probation.  Also some odd stuff there but First Place has a year to get things together.  More on this to come.

Tick tock, Supreme Court, where's your charter school law ruling?  Court watchers say the Court generally issues rulings before the end of the year so we're getting mighty close.

Community meetings tomorrow:
Director Blanford - 10am-11:30am at Douglass Truth Library
Director Patu - 10 am- noon at Caffe Vita

What's on your mind?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Field Trips Yield Good Benefits

A thought-provoking study on day field trips has come out from the University of Arkansas and is covered in Education Next.  (bold mine)  (One irony here is that the students were taken on a tour of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas that was founded by...Alice Walton of Walmart who I perceive as not a friend to public education.)

Schools exist not only to provide economically useful skills in numeracy and literacy, but also to produce civilized young men and women who would appreciate the arts and culture. 

More-advantaged families may take their children to these cultural institutions outside of school hours, but less-advantaged students are less likely to have these experiences if schools do not provide them. With field trips, public schools viewed themselves as the great equalizer in terms of access to our cultural heritage.

Today, culturally enriching field trips are in decline.  A survey by the American Association of School Administrators found that more than half of schools eliminated planned field trips in 2010–11.

The decision to reduce culturally enriching field trips reflects a variety of factors. Financial pressures force schools to make difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce resources, and field trips are increasingly seen as an unnecessary frill. Greater focus on raising student performance on math and reading standardized tests may also lead schools to cut field trips.

When schools do organize field trips, they are increasingly choosing to take students on trips to reward them for working hard to improve their test scores rather than to provide cultural enrichment. 

Schools take students to amusement parks, sporting events, and movie theaters instead of to museums and historical sites. This shift from “enrichment” to “reward” field trips is reflected in a generational change among teachers about the purposes of these outings. In a 2012‒13 survey we conducted of nearly 500 Arkansas teachers, those who had been teaching for at least 15 years were significantly more likely to believe that the primary purpose of a field trip is to provide a learning opportunity, while more junior teachers were more likely to see the primary purpose as “enjoyment.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What is the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time (and who knows the way forward)?

I think we know the answer - it's still civil rights protections for all citizens of our country but especially for those whose rights appear to be violated every single day. (Note: this is a very long thread but I think worthwhile for the discussion.)

I will say right upfront - the only thing standing between us and the bad guys?  Cops.  These are people who go out every day not knowing if they will come home at night because of the job they have chosen.  It is a horrible, difficult job.  Everyone is always happy to see firefighters but police?  Not so much.  No one likes to be told what to do. 

But with that kind of danger also comes responsibility.  That responsibility is to be true to the goal "to protect and serve." 

We can't have police officers having different standards of interaction for one community versus another. 

We can't have police officers escalating conflict rather than deescalating it. 

Most of all, we can't have officers out there with a "kill or be killed" mindset.  Because then we have lost all that we are as a society if the people who are charged with protecting us feel their first reaction in situations with one group of people is to fire a gun at them. 

That is a terrible, terrible thing to write but given the number of these incidents, no one can just turn away and shrug.  (At least I hope not.)

I had thought of writing this thread at the time of the Michael Brown ruling in Ferguson, MO that said that the officer who killed him would not be indicted.  But then we had the Eric Garner ruling in NYC.  And then there is Tamir Rice, 12-year old playing with a toy gun in a park in Ohio.

What spurred me was a column at Education Post by Shree Chauhan, "If Education is the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time, Reformers Can't Ignore Police Killings." 

Emerson Area on Police Patrol

Apparently some kind of gun fire happened in the Emerson Elementary area this morning.  This was staff reported to the SPD who decided to have patrols before and after school.  There was a shelter-in-place at 6:30 am this morning for preschool students and staff in the building. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Testing and Opt-Out Movement

This blog is behind on important national news about several topics in public education today.  (But we've had a lot going on in our district.) To correct that, here's some reading I put aside.

Please understand - opting out of testing is your right (and many Supreme Court cases validate that).  Certainly there could be consequences as the district may use testing to gatekeep for some programs. 

But consider that our district does not listen to parents in any real way.  (In fact, Director Peaslee has been complaining about the "angry parents" or "angry public" without considering why parents might be upset.)

Several things happen when you opt your child out of testing. You certainly will get the attention of the district and your school's principal.  They are very worried you will tell other parents and then more people opt their children out.  It is a direct signal of parent unhappiness.

You also help starve the data beast.  Don't like the direction the district is going in the classroom with the emphasis on testing?  If they don't have test scores, they don't have data and that is power. 

To note, Arne Duncan talks as though he, too, thinks there is too much testing but has yet to do anything about it.  Hey, Big Talker.

Operations Committee Meeting This Week

The agenda is now available for the Operations Committee meeting this week.  There are several items that could give insight about the direction of capacity management and capital renovations.

One is the semi-annual BEX Oversight Committee report.  This is generally short and quite dry but who knows?  The Committee members may have some compelling insights (especially if they got asked their opinions on the acquisition of the Federal Reserve building).

Two, is a report from Flip Herndon about that very issue of acquisition of the Federal Reserve building. Will the district put in a bid?  They discussed this with the Board in Executive Session.  Opening bid minimum on Dec. 5th was $5M with a $100K deposit required.   There are, so far, no bids on the building.  The government requires an all-cash payment for final sale.

Three, there is the "Capital Semi-Annual report update" also from Flip Herndon.

There will also be a Bell Times Taskforce update from Pegi McEvoy. 

I also note a bit of a red flag in the form of an item about Loyal Heights and "capacity flexibility funding."  Is this money they need for the project or are going to pull from the project?


Tuesday Open Thread

The Taliban stormed a school in Pakistan today and killed about 140 people, the majority children. 

Is there really a special place in heaven for "martyrs?"  Then the corollary must also be true - there's a special place in hell for those who kill children. 

We learn the fate of First Place charter school today since the Charter Commission rejected their corrective plan.  Apparently, there will now be negotiations over what needs to be done to keep it open.  It would seem that if this is happening this early on, that perhaps the school was opened too quickly. 

Governor Inslee announced his plan for K-12 public education funding during the next legislative session.  He gave the "what" - $2.3B - but not the "where" as in, where to get the money (that comes on Thursday).  He wants:
  • paying for full-day K (by 2016-2017)
  • smaller class size in K-3 (by 2016-2017)
  • increase basic education funding to cover school operations
  • raises for teachers
  • drop-out prevention for middle/high school
  • job training and pre-apprenticeships at community colleges
He also said that investing in early childhood education could be the best thing to do to improve graduation rates.  

For higher ed, he wants tuition to stay steady for at least two years and more money for college scholarships.

He did say he would not support repeal of 1351 but seems to only support it for K-3. 

What's on your mind?


Communication Plan

Dr. Nyland, at the Alliance for Education's State of the District address, announced his intention to launch a 100-day Communications Initiative. At first, little was known about his intentions. Dr. Nyland himself couldn't name any of the initiative's goals, other than improving the District's responsiveness to families and principals. He believed that the root problem was that people would get a question but they not only didn't know the answer, but didn't know who to call for the answer and so they would simply not answer the question. His plan was to assemble lists of the answers to the most frequently asked questions and posting that information on the district's web site. He would also create lists of staff to contact in various departments who would be ready to answer questions about their department. The goal is to get the person with the question in contact with the person with the answer. Dr. Nyland noted that he, himself, didn't know whom to call for answers - he didn't know which department to call or which person in that department.

That was on November 17. 100 days after November 17 would be February 25, 2015. What should we expect by that day? Nothing really. Dr. Nyland has revised his commitment.

Monday, December 15, 2014

View Ridge Teacher Removed from School

 Update from Principal Jolly at View Ridge (partial):

One of our teachers, Mr. X, was placed on administrative leave on November 25, 2014, immediately after the Seattle Police Department informed the district that they received a report of possible sexual misconduct involving a teenage female. Allegations of physical contact are not a part of this report. Additionally, no students enrolled at View Ridge Elementary are involved in this investigation.

Parents may understandably be concerned that a person accused of sexual misconduct interacted with their child/children. The district shares these concerns and we are working closely with the Seattle Police Department. Mr. X has surrendered his employee badge and does not have access to district property or district information, including student information. Mr. X has also been instructed not to have any written, electronic, or direct communications with any View Ridge students or return to any Seattle Public School events. If your child has indicated that he or she may have been subject to inappropriate communication by Mr. X, or has information that is relevant to the investigation, please contact Detective Lauren Truscott with the Seattle Police Department at (206) 684-5588<tel:(206)%20684-5588>.


We are working to schedule a parent/guardian information meeting with experts from the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress to share information about talking with children about these sensitive and important topics. The meeting will be held this week and we will notify you as soon as a date and time are set.


I am choosing to not print the teacher's name at this time but will if the investigation finds wrongdoing and/or the case goes to court.

End of update

Seattle Schools' Field Trip Procedures Update (Another Garfield Investigation)

In one of the stranger press releases I've ever seen come from SPS, comes this one today on field trips. 

It starts with this general district-wide information below:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Seattle Public Education Updates

Update One comes from the Charter Commission which, according to the Times, has rejected the plan that First Place charter school, created in light of issues discovered in the management and running of the school.

The plan from First Place, which has floundered since opening in September, was deficient in some key areas and not submitted on time, said Joshua Halsey, the commission’s executive director. As a result, Halsey said he didn’t have enough time to review it.
Now begins a round of stricter negotiations, where Halsey will detail what changes First Place must complete or face losing its charter.
“The next step is to go over (the corrective action plan),” Halsey said. “It will become more prescriptive, as opposed to the school having the ability to pick the plan and how they’re going to go about that.”
Update Two is that the district has hired a handwriting expert to uncovered who may have altered many test booklets at Beacon Hill International School last year.  

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, Dec. 16th 
Audit&Finance Quarterly Meeting, 4:30-6:30 pm.  UPDATE: agenda.  
A rather interesting document, Consolidated Program Review, is included in the agenda.   (Charlie, don't get too excited; no, not all programs are reviewed.)

Items of interest from minutes from last month's meeting:


1.     Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) Program Audit update (Technow)
Ms. Technow spoke about the work being done in the ALE audit.  Because of deficiencies in required documentation at Interagency, the auditors will now review whether those students qualify as basic education.  Directors noted that Alternative Learning Experience schools and programs like Nova High School may be in a similar situation and Ms. Technow spoke about independent courses that students take outside of the classroom.  Michael Tolley spoke about the flexibility in scheduling that ALE allows for Interagency Academy, NOVA and the Cascade Parent Partnership Program.  He confirmed Nova High School has changed its practice to not take period attendance.  Nova runs a variety of schedules, Interagency Academy has twelve separate locations with an emphasis on online learning, and the Cascade Parent Partnership Program allows for home instruction.

Ms. Technow summarized the audit and reiterated that the Cascade Parent Partnership Program and Nova High School had clean audits, but Interagency Programs audit outcome has not yet been determined. Mr. Tolley confirmed that Cleveland is now a traditional high school.

I thought Cleveland was an Option school but either something changed or I was mistaken in the first place.   It's confusing because that means that only students in that area can access their STEM program.

Directors asked about the Indian Education audits and Mr. Medina noted they are the focus of SAO. Kathie Technow confirmed there was a clean Indian Education audit for the first time in many years.

(I note that at last weekend's Board retreat, new committee assignments were discussed.  It will be interesting to see who lands where.)

On testing:


Mr. Medina confirmed school year 2013-14 was the last of paper-based testing and this year would be the first for online testing.  Mr. Medina noted there were early conversations around postponing the audit, but management agreed on the importance of setting a positive control environment so it was agreed the audit would proceed. The audit was designed to provide a high-level analysis of the controls in place to prevent cheating.

On Sped:

Mr. Tolley noted of the 14 open special education internal audit items, 12 of them are directly related to the revised Corrective Action Plan with OSPI. Directors asked if there are internal audit items not in the OSPI Corrective Action Plan, and Mr. Tolley confirmed there are two.
Michaela Clancy noted the online system for the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is being updated to a paperless process.  Ms. Clancy confirmed a year would be reasonable for testing, implementation and a complete data cycle review.  She spoke about work being done to change reporting processes.  Directors asked about the practices of other districts and Ms. Clancy noted that Seattle Public Schools had been using its own personalized system for years and recently began using the recognized program that other districts use.

If you ever think your voice, your input doesn't matter - it does (see below).  I have found the State Auditor's office to be especially responsive and helpful in school district matters. 

1. OSPI Program Review: Ballard Staffing Allocations (Technow/Schiers)

Mr. Gotsch noted a letter issued from OSPI saying that the matter of staffing allocations was compliant. In addition, he noted that the State Auditor’s Office letter reported that they did plan on reviewing this item on this year’s annual financial audit. Mr. Gotsch spoke about how this citizen’s complaint gave the District the opportunity to closely review and reexamine District’s school SPED budgeting practices.


Native American Community Conversation w/ Supt. Nyland
6:00-8:00PM
Duwamish Long House
4705 West Marginal Way SW

Dr. Nyland is grateful to have this opportunity to meet and talk with our Native American Families and Community members about the educational issues that matter the most to you, your family and our Native American Community. Dr. Nyland looks forward to listening to your feedback and questions.

Wednesday, Dec. 17th
Work Session: Finance and Risk Management from 4:30-6:00 pm.  Agenda (note: the presentation embedded in the agenda is for Business&Finance and Finance & Risk Management is part of that.  Not sure if a more specific presentation is coming.)

Work Session: 2014-2015 Superintendent SMART goals, 6-7:30 pm.  This might be interesting as we might finally get a hint of what the now-permanent Superintendent intends to do.

Thursday, Dec. 18th
Operations Committee Meeting, 4-6 pm.  No agenda yet available.

Saturday, Dec. 20th
Community Meetings with board directors.

Director Blanford from 10-11:30 a.m. at Douglass Truth Branch Library
Director Patu from 10 a.m.-noon at Cafe Vita


Friday, December 12, 2014

What if City Annexes Part of White Center?

I don't know this issue well enough but apparently the City Council is, once again, considering annexing part of White Center to Seattle. 

What reader asks is a compelling question: are there schools in that area and would that mean they would become part of SPS?

From the White Center Blog:

Queen Anne Interagency Meeting

Notes from an attendee who seemed to think that it was mostly calm.  The upshot is the district will need to have real plans for those who have major concerns but Interagency is going into the Queen Anne gym.

From this person's notes:

Friday Open Thread

Back in Seattle after a visit in Arizona.   My friends there told me how bad it is with their charter system.  Their districts are being drained of money and they have many poor-quality charters. As well,  the "top" charter high school, Basis, is doing exactly what we have thought - they start with one group of kids and graduate a much smaller group.  In short, they weed out anyone that they don't want there.  (Plus, my teacher friend's first question to me, "What do you think of Common Core?"  I had to smile.)

Director Community Meetings tomorrow:
Carr - 8:30-10 am Bethany Community Church
Martin-Morris - 10 am - noon - NE Branch Library
Peters - 11 am - 1 pm -  Magnolia Branch Library

The Times is asking, "What should top Nyland's to-do list for Seattle Schools?"  I know you are busy but honestly, please go weigh in (or provide a comment here).  Unfortunately, the Times gives an issue list - a very short list -

- Sped
- parent involvement
- STEM preparation 
- discipline
- other

Seriously?  STEM?  Does the district have NO idea what is happening in SPS?  Capacity management?  Testing issues?  Lack of oversight by the Board of their own policies? 

Currently, the Times' list has "other" winning (but there are only 24 votes).

Great event coming up - "Paramount Duty" - a discussion of the WA State constitution by the lead trial lawyer from McCleary, Tom Ahearne, and Andrew Nicolas from the WA State Budget and Policy Center. 

I am also sticking in my own, off-education topic opinion - we need to cut our losses on the tunnel.  Now.  (Somewhere Mike McGinn is shaking his head.)

From the Onion, now we know what's wrong - Youthful Tendency Disorder.

What's on your mind?

What is broken and how will Dr. Nyland fix it?

Board Director Sharon Peaslee said, about superintendent Dr. Nyland: "We need his steady, clearheaded and highly skilled leadership to stabilize the district and fix what’s broken."

So what, exactly, is broken and how, exactly, can Dr. Nyland fix it?

Yes, this is going to be a total rant - I suggest those looking for news just skip to the next post.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seattle School Board Votes for Nyland

From SPS Communications about the appointment of Dr. Nyland as permanent superintendent:

The Seattle School Board has selected Dr. Larry Nyland as the permanent superintendent for Seattle Public Schools. Nyland has held the interim role since last summer. The 5-2 vote, allows Board President Sherry Carr to negotiate a new contract with Nyland, which the board will vote on January 7, 2015. If approved, Nyland’s contract would be extended through June 17, and would switch from interim to permanent at the end of June 2015.

“I have chosen to evaluate Dr. Nyland not only on his last 17 weeks in Seattle Public Schools, but his past 40 years in education,” said Sherry Carr, Seattle School Board President applauding his career successes and need for stability in the district.

“We have a lot of work to do to support systems, and to better support students, said Interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland. “I look forward to working with them. Thank you.”

Nyland will hold a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 at 2 p.m. at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence. *Media, please meet in the lobby.

So it was the vote count I said it would be.  No surprise there.

It's fine that Carr wants to take Nyland's entire career into account but she chose ONLY his career to assess.

Opting Out - Think About It

From Seattle Education blog:

Would you like to learn more about what tests will be administered to your child in the Seattle Public School District, from kindergarten through 12th grade (See page 3 of this document to see how many standardized tests your child will take unless you opt out), and how to opt-out of those that are not necessary for graduation?

Do you have a testing experience with your student(s) that other caregivers and parents would benefit from hearing, or would you like to listen to the concerns and questions parents of Seattle Public School students have, to find common ground?

Join us for an informative meeting.  All are welcome!

Thursday, December 11, 2014


For additional information on standardized tests, see What’s wrong with standardized tests?

For more on the opt out movement, see United Opt Out for opt out letter forms and other information for Washington State and Stop Common Core in Washington State.

Also check out the following Facebook pages:
There are more Facebook pages about opting out. This will give you a start.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

McWilliams Resigns

The other shoe has dropped.

Zakiyyah McWilliams has "resigned" as Executive Director of Special Education for Seattle Public Schools. See the Seattle Times article here.

Tell me again how Dr. Nyland is doing such a great job addressing the district's woes.

Trouble at First Place

UPDATE: Charter Commission rejects First Place correction plan

A story in the Seattle Times describes some of the growing pains at First Place school, the first and only charter school up and running in Washington State.

The principal and nearly half of the Board have left, there is no Special Education teacher, and they didn't do the required background checks on non-teacher personnel. There is reason to believe that they can get these things fixed - or at least fixed well enough to stay out of trouble.

I think the takeaway lessons for the Charter Commission are:

  • Confirm the political unity of the leadership. An institution doesn't lose half of its Board all at once, including the chair, unless there is some serious divide at the top.
  • Pay a lot of attention to the school's plans and ability to provide Special Education services. I don't think the Charter Commission really appreciates what it takes to meet the federal requirements.
On the good side, the commission's executive director appears to be doing his job and the commission appears to be doing their job.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Title IX Update

Since the District settled with the family of the student who reported a rape during a Garfield field trip, the press attention on Title IX compliance has dropped off considerably. What about the District's attention to Title IX compliance? During the summer and fall it seemed that the District's response was more in reaction to the press attention than a recognition that they had some internal issues that needed resolution. Now that the press isn't watching as closely, what is the District doing?

BEX Oversight Committee Meeting Agenda

Sorry, I tried but could not get a link for the BEX Oversight Committee Meeting agenda for tomorrow's meeting.  In brief:

- updates of current projects
- Olympic Hills design
- Federal Reserve update (we may find out if the district put in a bid and how much)
- capacity management

I now cannot find a chart that seemed to indicate problems at the Mann project (which was supposed to be finished this month) and that Arbor Heights is getting a timeline bump to 2016.  I will ask someone for it.


Tuesday Open Thread

A reader points out an interesting issue to the Nyland version of the early signing of the Gates Foundation grant.

"I was checking out the agenda for the board mtg on Wed. and went to the technology document that was added.  It was sent from Nyland on Sept. 18, and section II clearly states that board action is necessary because the amount of money being addressed exceeds 250K.

Kinda weird that the Gates grant flew through afterwards, with no board approval beforehand.  If Nyland wrote the memo himself there is just no excuse."

So Nyland knew (or whoever wrote that BAR under his name) on Sep. 18th that any spending over $250K needed Board approval.  And yet, on September 26th, he signed the Gates Foundation grant for $750K and seemingly did not know this.  

Hmmm.

Looks like National PTA is getting in deeper with Gates/Microsoft - this is a tweet from one of the national heads:

"Great day with  advocates at  offices. Learned a lot about data privacy in education. Back at it tomorrow AM. -MLE"

I actually am hoping to talk to the head of Microsoft IT because he has said some promising things to the press.  But, of course, those pesky details.

What's on your mind?

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Director Peters And Interagency Issue

Director Peters sent me these updates and I thought I would pass them along:

At the Nov. 19 School Board meeting, noting that the John Hay community members in attendance did not have the opportunity to give public commentary (the roster was already full), I addressed the topic during my Director's Comments and acknowledged that the district needs to do a better job at communication. I also stated that the district has an obligation to meet the academic, emotional and safety needs of all 52,000 of our students.

(I note there that at the last Board meeting one director - I believe it was Peaslee - said she wished that people who came to testify (whether they did so or not) would stay for Board comments as often members DO weigh in on issues.)

Also , she will attending Wednesday community meeting on Interagency at John Hay Elementary.


Here's her letter to those who wrote to her on that topic:

Seattle Schools This Week

Quite a week to come.

Monday, Dec. 8th
Curriculum & Instruction Committee meeting, 4:30-6:30 pm.  Agenda
It would appear to be a two-hour meeting but the agenda is quite slim as well as the time allotted for each item.

Of interest: an update on Special Ed work and "pre-K work" from Early Education head, Cashel Toner.  Perhaps this is where she will explain how the new preschool classroom room at Bailey Gatzert likely won't be just for BG area students.

Tuesday, Dec. 9th
Audit & Finance Committee meeting, 4:30-6:30 pm.  Agenda
UPDATE:  Agenda now attached.  Looks like several updates including an issue with the SEC, the WSS (with adjusted Guiding Principles which I have some concerns about), MOA with Africatown (NOT attached as usual, still concerns there), Transportation standards for next year and Title IX and grants updates.  Wondering if there will be any mention of the Gates Foundation preschool grant.

End of update.

Community meeting with Director Peaslee at the Northgate Library from 6-7:30 pm.

Wednesday, Dec. 10
Executive Committee meeting from 8:30-10:00 am.  Agenda
Highlights:
- discussion of SMART goals for both Board and Superintendent (SMART being the latest  - "let's get this right" attempt to matrix and chart performance.)
- an update on the MOU extension for the Alliance of Education.  Did this "neutral" meeting with the Board take place?  How much more money does the Alliance want to make from the district?   Someone please go and take notes.
- presentation about the upcoming Tech Summit in January

Special School Board meeting, 4:30 pm.  Agenda

Friday, December 05, 2014

Seattle Schools Updates

School Board Retreat tomorrow - agenda.  It's open to the public and at the JSCEE from 10 am to
2 pm.

What the heck?  How many times will they discuss governance issues and communication issues?  They have been over this territory so many times and yet every retreat agenda, there it is.   And, that part is for two hours. I do note the addition of the issue of communications "how does the Board interact with the media and how is a spokesperson assigned."  It appears there is a policy but they seem to feel the need to discuss it. 

Update:

Here's the agenda for the Special Board meeting next Wednesday.  As of now, I know of two topics; approval of negotiation of a contract with Dr. Nyland to be permanent superintendent and approval of a contract for new computers.  This process for the purchase of new computers is way behind schedule and there are no vendors or prices yet available. The new computers will cost between $1.2-1.4M but they have no vendor yet.  Again, this does NOT bode well for this testing cycle that includes the brand-new Smarter Balanced assessment.

The Board seems to have made this a rather full "special session" with the addition of a couple of items:

- Intro of Capacity Management
- and looky here - the extension of the MOU with the Alliance.  Except, there is no extension document attached.  When will that come? 

I note that there is no question that there should be an MOU but it's a good question.  Oh I know, the Alliance makes money now off of managing school accounts.  (They claim it would send the wrong message.  If that's true, how come the district doesn't have MOUs with other community groups?)

End of update

The Board has decided there will be public comment.

For the 12/10 Special Meeting of the Board, public testimony will be limited to the agenda items for this meeting and will be for 2 minutes per slot, with a maximum of 20 speakers.  All public testimony rules apply, including those identified in 1430BP.

Members of the public who wish to address the Board may sign up to do so by either e-mailing or calling (206) 252-0040, beginning Monday, December 8 at 8:00am.  The public testimony list will be posted Tuesday, December 9. 

Good News

Friday Open Thread

Fascinating reading on superintendent selection from WSSDA (Washington State School Directors Assn). handbook called Superintendent Search.   Page 12 (Setting a Timeline - they recommend 4 months) and Page 14 (Involvement of Parents, Citizens, Students and Staff) are two sections worth reading.  Bold/italics mine and thanks to reader, Lynn.
The gatekeeper in the selection process and consummation of that procedure is the board of directors. It is up to the board to plan and implement a process, utilizing the consultant, to yield an accurate reflection of what is desired in a new superintendent. There are many tools for accomplishing this task and some are indicated below. It should be underscored once again that there is certainly no single approach that is superior. The pattern that fits a local district should be designed in terms of the time available, the tools that can be utilized and the perceived expectation of the constituents that the board serves.
I'm hearing word that the anti-Interagency placement group in Queen Anne is none too happy that another group - for working with the placement - has formed.  The anti-placement group truly feels dissed by the district (and around communications, they are absolutely right) but now they apparently feel betrayed by the John Hay PTA.  And, there is talk of a lawsuit against the district by the anti-placement group.

Next week's meeting - on Dec. 10th from 6:30-7:30 pm is now BACK in the John Hay Elementary lunchroom/gym.  (That is a change - they had moved it to McClure but it is now back at John Hay.)  From the district:

The meeting is intended to share information, receive comments and answer questions regarding the Interagency Recovery School program, scheduled to be located in the Queen Anne High School gymnasium beginning in February, 2015.”
 
Because of the seeming split within the Queen Anne community and the antics of the anti-placement group at the Board meeting this week, I would expect this to be a fairly tense meeting.  Cooler heads should prevail and I would suggest not taking children.  (This is a meeting for that community and not for the general public.)  
I'm going to take this moment - as former PTA co-president - to remind readers that PTAs have a fine line to walk on what they put in parent newsletters and what causes they can support.  If there does not appear to be unity for a school cause put forth by one group of parents, then PTA support of that cause may undermine relationships with other parents at the school.  

Next Wednesday looks to be a day of some drama - the Interagency meeting - and a pro forma anointment - of Superintendent Nyland (save the number of dissenting votes). 

And I'll be missing it all.  Going on a bit of a hiatus but will, of course, keep up somewhat with open threads and updates as I see them.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Queen Anne Group Created to Support All Schools in their Community

In reaction to the less-than-kind, less-than-welcoming actions of others in Queen Anne, a group has been formed to explore how to make the placement of Interagency, across from John Hay Elementary, a win for all. 

As you may or may not be aware there has been an incredibly misleading campaign against the placement of Interagency Recovery School program at the site of the Old QA High School Gym across from John Hay Elementary. 

I, amongst many many others, strongly support the implementation of this clean and sober academic wrap-around program at this site. The program is unique and small, and will begin with less than ten students and will eventually grow to a maximum of 80 students. It fills a critical need for students whose success is so vital. The program supports students who have addressed and made the commitment to facing their addictions and remaining clean and sober. For many of these students this is their stepping stone to also returning onto a path towards achieving academic successes and graduating -- some may graduate high school through this Interagency program, while others may mainstream back into traditional high schools when they are ready. 

 These students are not "criminals" nor are they "safety threats", these are children, vulnerable, young and emerging adults (and please know that two of the first registered students are QA residents) whose resilience in addressing and maintaining sobriety should be supported by communities and neighbours not turned away, shunned or feared. Interagency's zero-tolerance policy and drug testing, assures that this unique and critical program is, from my perspective, the cleanest and most assuredly drug-free of all our middle and high-schools. 

I personally look forward to opportunities to support, volunteer, work with and celebrate the continued success of Interagency, this program and its students.

I urge you to sign and share this petition and continue this momentum of community support for a vital and critical program that is of benefit to all now and in the future. Let us achieve and exceed the goal of having more than 500 signatures by the December 10th Community Meeting at John Hay Elementary.

Thanks for your time and consideration... and continuing to spread the word!


Lisa Reibin Evans


Petition in support

This Will Revolutionize Education

So we are told.  By Edison over movies, then closed-circuit tv, then use of computers and now online learning.

This is a great video which does a good summing up at the end.

Learning is, and has always been, about connections.  How a student makes the connections in his/her brain to what is being said to now being embedded in their brains.

But most of all, it is the ability of one person - a teacher - to get those students to a place of learning. 

So the next time Bill Gates (or anybody for that matters) says, "this will change learning," you can just smile.

Board Meeting Wrap-Up

Personalities
- I note that Nyland and Blanford were chatting before the meeting.  Nyland said something to Blanford and Blanford nodded and said, "Yes, let's get this nonsense over and get to work."  (No I wasn't eavesdropping; the room was fairly empty and Blanford's voice carried.)  Sorry that Blanford thinks that discussion over the selection of a superintendent is nonsense.

Superintendent Comments

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Seattle School Board Meeting Updates

New Board officers:

President - Sherry Carr
VP - Sharon Peaslee
Member at large - Marty McLaren

All by unanimous vote.

Updates:

Well, I can only say it's a done deal.  The bombardment of words from Peaslee and McLaren were like them taking turns reading Nyland's resume.

Apparently, according to Carr and McLaren, the public, including staff and parents, real have no role in the selection of a superintendent (but do keep those e-mails coming).  Why should you give any input?  They've already said they won't use anything you say in their decision.  (Although the noticeable absence of any SEA Board member tells me that if they have issues, they got addressed.)

I will have more in the morning but right now I can tell you that he WILL be voted in as permanent superintendent of SPS by a 5-2 vote next Wednesday.

As I say, I don't think anyone should show up for this lazy vote.  I say lazy because sure, "change is hard" and working with the public is messy but that's democracy.

SPS Updates

Looks like the Highly Capable item on tonight's Board agenda has an updated superintendent procedure draft. The most interesting part is this:


Identification
A Multidisciplinary Selection Committee reviews each candidate's test scores and Teacher/Educator Rating Scales to determine eligibility. SPS’s established eligibility thresholds are not absolute qualifiers or disqualifiers; teacher input is also an important consideration. In order to provide equitable opportunities for all students and to uphold the intent of WAC language regarding protected classes [WAC 392-170-035], the MSC will give special consideration to and assess the impact of the following factors: cultural diversity, SES, linguistic background, and identified disability.



In the field of gifted education, students who are both gifted and disabled are considered twice-exceptional learners. Seattle Public Schools' Advanced Learning Office recognizes the importance of identifying and serving these students both with specialized educational services and through 504 accommodations. Working in close collaboration with school and Special Education personnel, our staff supports these students in a number of important ways. Advanced Learning staff provides accommodations for students during intake assessments, observes students in classes to determine the best accommodations and specially designed instruction (including individual classes in a student’s areas of strength), and participates in Student Intervention Team and Individual Education Plan meetings as needed to ensure students’ needs for gifted services are recognized. Advanced Learning staff also collaborates with experts in the Special Education Department and from the community to provide ongoing professional development for teachers in advanced learning programs. 

As well, it seems that Director Blanford has decided to have a December community meeting after all.  It will be December 20th at the Douglass Truth Library from 10-11:30 am.

Interested in Tech in Seattle Schools?

The Technology Department is having a "Teaching and Learning Technology Vision Summit."  From the SPS webpage:

This summit will bring together representatives from SPS leadership, faculty, community partners, students, City of Seattle, business, members of the SPS Technology Vision Taskforce and others to help create a vision for Teaching & Learning at SPS, and how technology will enable that vision.

A technology understanding is important...but representatives should also have a passion for creating an educational environment for SPS students to flourish in, be able to share the views and visions of the organization they represent, and provide a vision on how technology will enable that environment. All discussions and activities will focus on a vision for our students...not on specific technology products or services. 


That comes later!


The summit will be facilitated by Mr. Jim Lengel (see bio) and will focus on "A day in the life of a 21st Century SPS student" - What the student is doing from when he/she rises in the morning to when he/she goes to bed at night.

Your participation will help create the vision for a world class K-12 environment in Seattle where every SPS student can flourish and achieve their dreams.

Interested? Click here to register
 
Nothing on student data privacy but we'll see.