Friday, January 23, 2015

Seattle Schools 100-Day Plan for Customer Service

The district has updated its website with a new feature for every department.  It's called the "How Do I...?" for parents/community.  I cannot supply you with a specific link to this story because there is none available.  From the announcement:

We want to help! As part of Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland’s 100-Day Plan for Customer Service, we’ve created a quick and easy list of the most Frequently Asked Questions.
Each department across Seattle Public Schools has identified and provided the answers to your most pressing questions.

Some of the most Frequently Asked Questions include:
  • I’ve just moved into the Seattle School District. How do I sign up my child for school?
  • How do I find out if my child qualifies for gifted education?
  • And, our favorite: What is the process for getting started as a volunteer in Seattle Public Schools?
To view the Most Frequently Asked Questions and learn more about our departments, please visit the new “How Do I… ?” tab at the top of our website. We have also started to add "How do I... ?" buttons to our most frequently visited department pages, with the department's top questions and answers. We will add "How do I... ?" lists to more departments over the coming weeks.

I have only checked a couple of departments and I will say it's a good start.  Given the questions we see here at this blog, I'm not sure that all the FAQs are the most frequently asked.  It doesn't say how to add questions to any given department.

As well, there is an article at the district's homepage on the two district Ombudspersons, Ron McGlone and Margo Siegenthaler.

Ron helps families get answers to their questions and to resolve problems with things like bullying complaints, enrollment issues, transportation and whatever else families bring his way.

Last October, he was joined by a new Ombudsman for Special Education, Margo Siegenthaler, who will act as an impartial consultant for families and community members when they have questions or concerns about Special Education Services.

“I have spent a lot of years navigating and helping
others navigate the school system,” Margo says. “I am happy to help by listening to families and staff and acting as a liaison to help make connections that help all of our children thrive.”

Ron can be reached at: or (206) 252-0529.
Margo can be reached at: or (206) 252-0794.

Generally, problems end up in Ron’s office after families have gone through the family complaint process, outlined on the ombudsman’s web page, that starts with the principal or district department; if the process doesn’t resolve the concern, Ron is there to help.


David said...

Good to see these changes.

As enrollment starts, I suspect Ron is going to be a very busy guy.

Anonymous said...

Well I guess anything that helps people find the information they're looking for is a good thing, but I'm underwhelmed by the "FAQs" and am surprised they felt the need to announce them as something worth touting. There's not really any there there. They simply took 6 very basic (and easily answered) topics, put them in "How do I..." form, and then linked to the same pages that are already available elsewhere in that same set of drop-down menus. It's just duplication, and alternate path to accessing what was there all along. Yes, it can be hard to find some things on the SPS website, but I don't necessarily think these 6 items were the big challenges. I'm willing to bet that most people looking to enroll their kid in SPS will manage to find the "Admissions" link, which is listed first, and won't need to go all the way across to the "How do I..." tab and look at those drop-downs to find the enrollment question--which just links them to the Admissions page they probably already saw.

I'm happy to give credit where credit is due, but I'm just not feeling it on this one...


Anonymous said...

What window dressing.

Effective customer service means talking to the customers and finding out what they need. None of this is occurring for special needs families. There is no forum at all for the District to hear from these customers, or for buildings to do that. It's all ad hoc.


mirmac1 said...

If "impartial consultant" means talking to staff and just passing through gate-keeping and just plain &^%$#*8, then I guess that's what SPS thinks works for SpEd

Anonymous said...

What about "How do I...get results from Advanced Learning testing before the end of Open Enrollment?"

Not this year, I guess.


Anonymous said...

Is this program similar to the previous "100-day Better Communication"?
When if there was a question to the Supe, he shrugged...

- Just asking

Anonymous said...

Mar: "What about "How do I...get results from Advanced Learning testing before the end of Open Enrollment?" ditto for SPED: "How do I ... get information about where services for my special needs student will be available before the end of Open Enrollment?"


Anonymous said...

How about: How do I opt my child out of standardized tests? Is it really as easy as it sounds--just a handwritten letter to her/his teacher saying "I am refusing to have my child, ____, tested on _____, 2015. Please provide a space for them to study or read." YES, it is. SBAC is barreling down the road. Get your scrap paper out and pen those simple letters. Take a stand!


Anonymous said...

Did anyone go to the Teaching and Learning Tech Summit this morning? Any feedback?

Anonymous said...

How can I get my kid into a special ed "inclusion program"?

Where ARE there any "inclusion programs"?

How does one get to observe ANY special education, preferably without a chaperone from central office? ????


Anonymous said...


Inclusion programs (or lack thereof) are something I'm rather frustrated with myself at the moment. For elementary school, if your child is at or near grade level academically, there are the ACCESS programs which are now at 15-16 schools throughout the district. If your child is NOT near grade level academically, the only option is the SM4-inclusion programs (5-6 locations at elementary school level).

At the middle school and high school it gets a lot murkier - I don't have a lot of details as my child is not that age yet, but I have the impression that inclusion tails off dramatically as the kids get older; the district webpage shows some middle school ACCESS classes and one single high school SM4i class (at Nova). Other than that, there is just the catch-all phrase in the descriptions of the service models: "Students participate in the general education curriculum and activities as determined by IEP," so you get what you can argue for at your IEP meeting.

As far as I know, the way you “get in” to an inclusion program is to have the IEP team (which includes you, of course) recommend that. After that, in the absence of any clear info, you do the open enrollment paperwork & hope for the best. If anyone has better information than this, please, let me know!

My personal frustration here is that there used to be a few SM2 inclusion programs, but they have been eliminated (in theory I think they were replaced with ACCESS, but in practice, since many kids in SM2 have cognitive issues, and ACCESS does not take kids that aren’t close to grade level, they do not serve the same population). I guess that clause about spending part of the day in the regular classroom per their IEP is supposed to cover it. There is SM4i as an option, but this means moving kids without behavioral issues (SM2) into a class where the other kids do have behavioral issues, which brings its own concerns (since even in an inclusion model, the kids spend a good portion of their day in a self-contained classroom).

I guess it is just frustrating to me that the ACCESS program, with almost twice the staffing of SM2 (10:1:3 for ACCESS vs 9:1:1 for SM2) can deal with social/adaptive/behavioral issues, but if a child is not at grade level academically that is apparently too much to cope with.

The nearly total lack of inclusion programs at a high school level is just bizarre to me also. What do they think happens between 8th & 9th grade that a child who is in an inclusion program in middle school can’t continue on in one?

Mom of 4

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry -- kids in ACCESS don't spend most of their time in gen ed? Someone explain to me why kids in an inclusion model are spending a good portion of their day in a self-contained classroom. What kind of inclusion model is that?


Anonymous said...

ACCESS was NEVER, NEVER, NEVER supposed to be limited to students with high academic ability. What the heck is sped for... if not to deal with academic ability and academic issues? Sure there are some other issues, but by high school, and usually way before, those other issues become academic. The current claims by the neophyte director triumphirate "if you're more than 2 years behind... you can't be in ACCESS" is pure BUNK! That means, special ed kids have to perform better than many ordinary kids in order to be in a special education program. How stupid is that????? Your kid has to be smarter, and more academic than general education students-- in order to get into a special ed program. ???? Does that make any sense???? No. It doesn't make sense. Although people on this blog have kids who are light years advanced, the average school has a huge ability range - that includes several years behind - for plain old typical kids. The district is now saying, that you have to be ahead of all those typical kids - to get into the most expensive special ed program yet - ACCESS. In other words, they're saving their most expensive program, for the kids who need it the least.

So, we dump anybody but the very highest students, who mostly don't need support - into programs that are the most expensive.... and dump the rest in expensive self-contained warehouses... and wonder why the costs are driven up.

And by the way. SM4i was supposed to go away and be REPLACED by ACCESS. They nearly killed it off, but couldn't. And by the way. ACCESS programs were supposed to be located in buildings with self-contained programs so that the EXTRA staffing in ACCESS programs, could support "inclusion" for students who actually need to be self-contained for whatever reason. Now we incur the costs - but none of the benefits.


Anonymous said...

I know this is not a new complaint, but how in the heck are parents supposed to participate in placement decisions if they don't even know what the programs look like in practice? I mean, 10:1:3 doesn't tell me all that much. I still don't understand the difference between sm4i and access except that it is a different staff ratio.

Maybe current parents could write up descriptions of what special education is like at their children's schools and compile it into one document? It could be done anonymously for those who fear retaliation. Just a thought. (Or maybe something like this already exists?)


Anonymous said...

Yes. SEAAC had this. Of course SPS killed SEAAC because they don't want you to know where any programs are, or what any programs look like. That way, they can ship your kid off to any place where there's a spare chair in a room. And, also noted by SEAAC, the place they will always want to ship your kid to - is the place nobody else wants to go to. That is, SPED kids go to the emptiest school, usually the worst one.

And as they told Mom of 4 - inclusion really means self-contained. The main point, they want your kid a room, out of sight, out of mind, and without any accountability.

And right of course. How can you participate in "placement", if you don't know where the programs are. ??? (you can't) Ratios are simply a funding level, they are not a service description. You have a legally protected right under IDEA to an IEP team placement decision. You can not exercise this right if you are kept ignorant. The way to take back that right, is to ask for it, and to complain to OSPI, if you are not afforded true IEP team participation - which includes meaningful discussion of placement - which means know where and what the programs are... beyond their pricetag, BEFORE you are assigned. SM4(x,y,z,i) is still just a pricetag.

If you don't ask, you surely will not receive the information you need to participate in your IEP. The meek do not inherit the SPED earth.


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

Re: the 7:33 post by HP above, that seems like a lot of personal info to post about someone else's kid and family... Delete?


Anonymous said...

Confused - kids in ACCESS & inclusion programs do spend the majority (over 50%) of the day in the general classroom, but are often pulled out for a substantial portion for therapy or to work in a more individual setting(kind of like kids in gen ed going to the resource room). How much of the day they are in vs out of the regular classroom depends on their needs & their IEP, but they could be spending up to 50% of the day in a separate class, if they need that level of support. For my child, 50-50 that would probably be realistic. Right now she is in a self-contained class, but spends about 25% of the day in the gen. ed class, and I'd like to see that increase, which is why we are looking into inclusion programs. For other kids in inclusion program, who don't need as much support, it may be more like 75% or more in the regular class - it really depends on the child's needs.

Mom of 4

Anonymous said...

Speddie - I just noticed - did someone tell you that kids more than 2 years behind can't be in ACCESS? Because what I was told (in writing yet) is that you have to be "at approximate grade level" which seem a much higher requirement that within two years of grade level. It would be hard to make a case for a kindergartner or first grader being more than 2 years behind.

Mom of 4

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks, HIMS Mom.

Folks, please do not post information about other people's children that would identify that child. His or her parent might not appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

A large group of SPS students qualify for services based on the discrepancy between their equivalent IQ and current academic performance levels.

I believe this is the root of special education.

When considering the non-cognitive impaired special educational group of students vs general educational students it's not uncommon for the special educational students to have higher measurable IQ levels between 17-29 points.

If a child's full scale IQ is say 137, but their total score on an achievement test is 103 there is an LD present since they're not performing up to their potential for some reason (maybe they have an attention, memory, visual or auditory processing problem etc). They may have some area of considerable weakness and in some cases they may be able to compensate for the weakness, but in other cases the discrepancy may be so large that they cannot compensate using their strengths. These children are called twice-exceptional since they are gifted, but also learning disabled in a certain area. Students with high IQs with an LD need intervention to help them with that weak area of cognitive function that impedes them from reaching their potential in school.

Not to bash teachers, but the average IQ of public school teachers is commonly advertised as 105.


Anonymous said...

Michael, you are absolutely wrong about this. A student who functions academically as if he had an IQ 105 - won't qualify for special ed, even if, theoretically, his IQ is 137 (unless there are other deficits, like speech, OT, behavior) IQ 105 isn't an impediment to the general education curriculum (even if parents and well wishers want him to perform at 137). Access to general ed curriculum is all the district is required to provide for under IDEA. And there is no right to progress either. Most 2E students do not have the profile you mention, and academic discrepancy is not what qualifies them for special ed. Typically, 2E students qualify based on their social and behavioral profiles. That is, they qualify in the social domain, but not in an academic domain. IDEA does not provide for "maximization" of skills, or to "fix" the 105 average student.

Think Ford, not Cadillac. Your kid is entitled to a "floor of opportunity". That's it. If the district gives you more, great. IDEA doesn't require it.

And another thing. Most students who qualify in the LD category - are more likely in the IQ=80 range academically. Meaning they are more than a standard deviation BELOW THE NORM academically in some area, or areas. Sure their intelligence may be higher, as in your hypothetical case - or maybe the tests just aren't accurate. Low or borderline IQ is highly stigmatized, and many psych's prefer LD as it is less stigmatizing. Main point. Academic deficit gets you sped, not aspirations.

-Another Reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Not to bash teachers, but the average IQ of public school teachers is commonly advertised as 105."

Source, please.

Anonymous said...

About the supposed 105 teacher IQ -- when I googled, I found it on a site that was trying to derive (not the best word) IQs of people in different professions based on their median incomes. So surgeons were listed as having an average IQ of over 200+.


Anonymous said...

Sorry about that. Anyway, the SPED students at Hale do seem to participate in many of the classes. The one I spoke of earlier has been an ambassador to Olympia and the keynote speaker at other events.


mirmac1 said...

mom of 4 - could you send me a redacted copy of that ACCESS communication? Speddie is absolutely correct. ACCESS is but one element of an improved service delivery model developed by a joint task force. But of course SPS takes it and promptly screws it up royally. Send to