Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday Open Thread

Thanks to a reader about the article at Crosscut about how, over the last six months, six Interagency students have died (either by shootings or suicide).  I take a little exception to the reporter's comment about this going "unnoticed" by the community at large.  Newspaper reports on murders of youth do not always say where the student went to school, nor are most teen suicides reported.  (And, of course, the district has said nothing about this pattern.) 

Flamin' Hot Cheetos a "smart snack?"  Apparently so under new Obama administration school food guidelines (and tweaks of the snack by Frito-Lay). 

Interesting article about the "Minneapolis Miracle" in The Atlantic including how that city has spread the wealth in jobs, low-income housing and yes, good schools.

Why tell the truth about Common Core?  That's a good question for OSPI's Ready WA organization.  They say - in a multi-language handout - that "The standards, which set learning expectations for students at every grade level, have been developed and voluntarily adopted by more than 40 states." 

That's some wordsmithing there because all they really say is "standards were developed" and then lead you think it was by the states.  No, those standards were NOT developed by the states and it's wrong to say they were.  The standards were developed by two private state leaders organizations via Bill Gates' money. 

I went to the BTA IV meeting at Nathan Hale last night.  Not so helpful and a lot of bland talk.  More on this in a separate thread.

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

Orca grades 6-8 is on my mind. Lots of folks turned out to the Patu community meeting on Saturday. About 170 students grades 6-8, and of them about 120 students are failing. And the new budget takes resources AWAY not TO Orca. What is the district's plan for these students? Is the middle school going to be closed down?

Orca parent

Joe Wolf said...

I have friends with kids in Minneapolis public schools. When I took the job here at SPS, the other offer was for basically the equivalent position at MPS.

Weather wasn't the only reason I chose Seattle. With all due respect, Minneapolis Public Schools and its families would love to have the same set of problems we face.

I discuss my work and this district with my Minneapolis friends all the time; they are engaged, active parents much like the readers of this blog. Some data points shared:

- There are about 50,000 kids in Minneapolis attending public school. Only 36,000 attend Minneapolis Public Schools. The other 14,000 attend charters or schools in first-ring suburbs (Bloomington; Brooklyn Park etc.) with free busing paid for by MPS. Both of these actions flow from state mandates (liberal charter and school choice).

Minnesota does worse by its children of color (graduation rates and other metrics) than any other state. That detail is masked in the state-wide and Cities metro data by the fact that there aren't many kids of color on a percentage basis in either geography. Zoom in to Minneapolis and St. Paul, however ... MPS is 70% kids of color, St. Paul 65%.

Some sloppy reporting on the part of The Atlantic, in my judgment.

Melissa Westbrook said...

120 are failing? Any thoughts on why?

Joe, good points on charters in Minneapolis (Minnesota was the first state to allow charters).

p2p said...

On a lighter note, a couple of us were wondering what our elementary school kids would do while opting out and decided to put together an activity packet for fun and share it. It should be finished by next Tuesday but we are still looking for some materials -- especially crosswords of interest to 3rd to 5th graders. These items would either need to be in the public domain, or if you created them, we'd need your permission to use them in the packet. Email us at p2pgrassroots@gmail.com. Thanks in advance!

Anonymous said...

From Hale Mail:

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SENTINEL STAFF for their outstanding results at the Edward R. Murrow High School Newspaper Competition!
First Place – Print Edition – The Sentinel staff
First Place – News Writing – junior McKenzie Boyle
Second Place – Best Multimedia (Video) – juniors Nick Jansen & Garrett Lawrence
Third Place – Sports Writing – junior Nathan Lowe
Third Place – Photography – sophomore Molly Nelson
Third Place – Best Website – sophomore Jason Moore



NW mom said...

I am listening to the Interagency podcast at my desk and trying not to cry. Goodness.

The homeless youth shelter mentioned in the podcast is in need of supplies - check it out here and please consider donating:


Melissa Westbrook said...

Wow, HP, that's just great!

NW Mom, I haven't listened yet to the podcast for that reason. I'm sure it's sad.

Jet City mom said...

How can anything packaged by Frito-Lay be considered healthy food?
I admit when I was in junior high, our school sold milkshakes & French fries at a separate window, about 20 minutes after they started serving lunch. ( supposedly you would eat it only after you finished your lunch- )
But they made the French fries & milkshakes there- out of FOOD.

If what they are serving only has to meet some arbritary standard, why don't we just follow China's example and add melamine to increase measurable protein?

Tracy said...

Good point that the story about the Interagency students makes a sweeping assumption that the deaths went unnoticed. We reported one when all we knew was that it was a shooting ... then, a self-inflicted, deadly shooting ... and as often happens in such cases, the ID, and tributes, emerge in the comment section, which I would say involves "the community" taking "notice":

Watching said...

Joe's message comes one week before the Seattle School District has scheduled a work session for the board regarding charter school authorizing.

I'm not sure who/why is pushing the notion of charter school authorization, but the school board would be smart to stay clear of this endeavor.

Tacoma School District declined to become a charter school authorizer and had plenty of good reason to do so.

District officials will spend a lot of time putting this presentation together and we don't even know if the Supreme Court will consider charter schools Constitutional. Such a waste of time and effort, and quite a diversion.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So the Board has time for endless navel gazing on their interactions with each other and senior staff and now has time to consider (why?) charter schools?

While Rome burns via school budgets.

Anonymous said...

Melissa wrote: "Thanks to a reader about the article at Crosscut about how, over the last six months, six Interagency students have died (either by shootings or suicide). I take a little exception to the reporter's comment about this going "unnoticed" by the community at large. Newspaper reports on murders of youth do not always say where the student went to school, nor are most teen suicides reported. (And, of course, the district has said nothing about this pattern.)"

Of the 77 words Melissa has chosen to devote to the deaths of 6 Seattle Public Schools students in 6 months, 51 of them are to quibble about whether, or why, the deaths were described as “unnoticed.” The tone is defensive, as though the primary wound here were an aspersion on the media.

She does not indicate that she will be following up the story, as she will be with the “bland” BTA meeting. She does not indicate that a separate thread will be coming in the future on these 6 deaths. She then transitions abruptly to a link to a story about Cheetos and nutrition guidelines.

I invite Melissa and all readers to listen to the podcast (perhaps again), and engage in the thought experiment that the Crosscut interviewer poses at the start of the podcast: what if 6 students from another Seattle High School—let’s say Roosevelt to make it more concrete—had died from murder or suicide in the past 6 months? How might this blog have responded in that circumstance, contrasted with how it did in this one? I think this is a fruitful point of reflection.


Anonymous said...

Those deaths did go unnoticed. If their deaths even made the news, you may get an age, possibly a name, cause of death, but little else that speaks of who they were. That's how the news operates these days. It picks and chooses who to honor, highlight, and sell to its reader. The tragic death of a young Magnolia girl received much news coverage and elicits great sadness. The missing lovely Minneapolis student got national news recognition and energized a whole city wide search.

None of this is by coincidence.

The mayor did look awfully good taking on the state of Indiana, didn't he? These homicides and suicides didn't trigger a heartfelt editorial like the one by the young Palo Alto student. It should. But then I didn't even know they died or were one of our own.


Anonymous said...

Catherine, some lives matter more. Others rendered invisible. That should make everyone angry. But it doesn't. I think many caring people have given up trying to understand or don't want to be bothered. I give credit to Melissa for bringing it here. She did noticed.


Melissa Westbrook said...

This is an open thread and I always have disparate stories. I did not mean to slight the Crosscut story; I only just became aware of it thru a reader.

I do plan to listen to the podcast but, with my own situation, it may be hard for me to listen to. I don't think I need to apologize for that.

But again, I'm not sure we would know if there were several suicides at any given school (unless a reader told us). That's not info that generally gets out there.

The murders are important to note but again, if the newspaper does not mention the students as SPS students, I might not know. It does not mean that I don't care.

Glad someone has time to count the number of words written for any given story. It's always interesting to see what this blog does or does not say that sets people off.

Unknown said...

Thank you Melissa for informing us about this podcast.
I encourage people to take the time to listen to it and hopefully take some action to make a difference if you so choose.

-West Seattle parent

Anonymous said...

I wish to clarify my intent. I hope to engage a discussion of the question that the podcast asks us to consider--why weren't these stories covered in the same way that 6 murder/suicides at most other high schools were.

I can accept that Melissa probably received the link to the Interagency story right before doing her Tuesday post, and that she may not at this time wish to take in a story focused on death; I accept, too, that some of the news stories did not identify the students as Interagency students, but I must also point out that this blog regularly goes beyond what is reported in the newspaper in its investigations. (Notable example: this blog reported on the pushback that Interagency received in opening its Queen Anne site, and engaged in some powerful advocacy for welcoming the new school into the community when other voices were speaking out of fear and mistrust)

I am not seeking to assign blame so much as encourage sincere reflection. Is it fair to say that 6 Roosevelt High School deaths would have generated their own separate thread? If the story felt like too much for Melissa to work on at this time, is it fair to say she would have asked a colleague for help in covering it? If she hadn't had time to investigate it on a first posting, is it fair to say she would have indicated some follow-up to come? If the same post had been written about 6 Roosevelt High School students, is it fair to say that readers would have demanded more information?

I believe reflecting on how we respond to stories like this is useful, because it can cause us to notice the insidious ways that white supremacy is still a part of our reality (in case the subtext hasn't been apparent, all the Interagency students who died were young black men), and also because it can generate our action toward a better world. Perhaps the more important question is, now that we all know that six SPS students have died violent deaths in the past six months, what will future reporting on this look like? Will these students' stories get something like the real estate given to the wonderful editorial recently posted under its own thread about the Palo Alto community's string of suicides? I do hope so.


Rufus X said...

I attempted to listen to the Crosscut podcast while at work today and had to stop at about 2min in because I could feel the tears welling up. It took me 3 more times to listen to the entire thing. Truly heartbreaking. I'm very glad the link to the Crosscut interview was included here.

Anonymous said...

Yes Catherine. Yes.


Anonymous said...

So very difficult to listen to this podcast and contemplate these young men's lives. One of my daughter's friends was a teacher of one of these young men who was shot. In a way, the sadness of his death felt worse because it seemed like the city took no note. It is a very difficult podcast to listen to, but it is important for communities to take notice of these deaths.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Catherine, you make a lot of assumptions.

I just found about these Interagency deaths. Not a single reader contacted me about any of these deaths when they occurred. Why didn't you? That you want to attack me for timing issues, some of which are out of my control, is strange.

I decidedly do not like being called racist. Once again, there is the assumption that I am "white." I am part Mexican and proudly so.

I have come back to activism and blogging for two reasons. One is selfish. I wanted to think about something else besides my grief. The other is because I know that this blog is important to many readers and public education issues are still here.

As for "colleagues," who would you suggest? FYI, I am generally working alone (except for tips). I have asked if there are any readers who want to write and
no one responded. That does not surprise me because the attending meetings, research and then reporting takes time. A lot of time.

I'm not sure where this chiding/shaming is supposed to go but it's not the way to get me into working on any particular story.

Anonymous said...


I'm truly sorry for the grief you are experiencing. Part of what this story reminded me about is whose grief gets to take center stage and whose grief does not get a speaking part. I believe that part of what motivates you to maintain the blog is a desire to see justice done--but sometimes all of us stumble, and our good intentions are belied by a thoughtless, even unconscious, action. I think you are one of many, many people--including myself, as you rightly point out--who might have done better by the memories of the six young men who died. I felt it important to say so, and did. I hope I will grow into a writer who can express this in a way you can hear.


Ann D said...

I have to agree. Catherine, perhaps you have never done community activism but Melissa goes a thousand times above and beyond for our community. Rather that attack her and this blog, why not write to the Seattle paper of record who should be looking into this stuff for our community -- The Seattle Times.

Alternately, you could have requested that Melissa set up a separate discussion thread about these deaths.

Be the change you want to see in the world and all that.


Anonymous said...


You have already made your point that you want a volunteer activist spend time on the story YOU want them to spend time on - I am not sure why you keep repeating yourself. You don't get to dictate how anyone else spends their time. You are not "hearing" the realities of what this blog is. Melissa is one person who can't be everywhere, but she spends an amazing amount of time going to meetings, posting school information and writing about various school news from all over the city. I would be much less informed without it.

You also don't seem to understand that Melissa does this blog mostly by herself. You would be much more likely to get a large organization like the Seattle Times, or maybe the Stranger, to do the kind of investigation this story would require. Someone with paid employees who would have the time to spend talking to people at the school, friends of the kids and their families. This American Life sometimes does stories like this. Maybe KUOW.

I look forward to reading the story you write about this. Make sure to post a link here so we can all read it.


Anonymous said...

Recieved this today:

To: Nathan Hale Parents of 11th Graders
RE: SBAC Testing Choice note for your student due this Friday, 4/3

Just a reminder that if you have decided NOT to have your 11th Grader take the SBAC test later this month, you will need to do one of the following by this Friday, April 3:

1) Send an email to JSHudson@seattleschools.org OR
2) Send a signed note with your child, to be turned in to the main office.

In either case, please state that you do not want your child to take the SBAC test, and provide your child’s name, and your name. As a reference, attached is a copy of the original email explaining why the Nathan Hale Senate voted not to give the SBAC test to our 11th graders this year. If you are interested in seeing some of the practice SBAC tests, go to: http://sbac.portal.airast.org/practice-test .

Lynn Jensen, Parent Representative on the Nathan Hale Senate


Anonymous said...

I want to opt my children out of this test, because it is the ultimate idiocy to test children (or anyone) for competency in new knowledge standards when they haven't been taught in those standards . It's like evaluating employees on skills that they haven't been trained for.
However, I want to know how opting my kids out will affect their hard working and caring teachers. I know Mr Nyland is threatening their jobs unless they follow a gag rule. But I'd much appreciate anyone who could hypothetically go to a public computer (not a district one) and post here on whether kids opting out will harm the school staff and faculty.
Thank you.


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

Wait - because Melissa didn't happen to have the time or the...spirit lets say, to listen to a podcast that automatically makes her part of the "white supremacy"???

Choose your battles Catherine - you are tilting at the wrong windmill.


Anonymous said...

does anyone know the policy (or where i'd start to find out) regarding kids playing on elementary playgrounds outside of school hours? i'm hearing that staff at our school are not allowing neighborhood kids to play on the playground unsupervised (though with parents' permission), prior to "staff supervised" time in the morning/afternoon. outside of school hours, SPS playgrounds are public, and for the neighborhood to use, correct?

-- Let kids play

Anonymous said...

It's important to understand the high rate of suicide of students with dyslexia. It's the one area NEVER addressed in special education intervention.

SPS is notorious for not providing academic success to these children. SPS actually inflicts emotional damage that compounds with the academic failures leading to problems.

Some teachers erroneously think the "tough love" approach is what these students need. Dyslexic students are labeled lazy, unmotivated or stupid.

If you look closely you will see a direct correlation between Learning Disabilities (LD), public schools and drug use or crime. Every single student in the Interagency program has experience one or more of the above. I say this from experience and conversations with parents and students. SPS does not track this information and will not for legal reasons distribute the information needed to definitively study the issue, so it's considered subjective. The UK government has studied the link between crime, suicide and dyslexia.

SPS in it's current state has no business running special education services for dyslexic students, these services should be provided by highly trained experts and reclassified to be outside of special education.

Dyslexic reformer

Po3 said...


There was a suicide at Roosevelt last month that also went unreported. Sometimes, it's not color of the persons skin, but family wanting privacy, that creates the media silence.

With that said, I do look forward to your in-depth reporting on these tragic deaths plaguing our district. I am sure Melissa will publish it for you.

Anonymous said...

Some weekend event reminders for geeky, nerdy, parents and kids:

I don't attend, myself, but in the past, Charlie Mas has plugged the annual Sakura-Con (Presented by the Asia Northwest Cultural Education Association, Sakura-Con is the oldest and most well attended anime convention in the Pacific Northwest, which is happening this weekend at the Convention Center downtown.

Also this weekend is Norwescon (the Pacific Northwest’s premiere science fiction and fantasy convention), which I do attend. It takes place the Doubletree near SeaTac airport.

I know that George R. R. Martin is the guest of honor at Norwescon and my understanding is (though I don't see it on the website) that the "Iron Throne" will be on site and people will be able to sit in it and take photos.


Anonymous said...

Let kids play:

Hm, I haven't heard of an actual policy. Our elementary school has a sign posted that asks people not to bring their dogs on school grounds (the amount of poop the staff has to pick up is astounding). But the neighborhood kids play on the grounds all the time when school is out. Maybe start by approaching the school you're interested in?

North End Parent

Anonymous said...

and a 17 y.o. suicide in Shoreline this month. nothing in the news. Regarding the boys in the Crosscut article, how could Melissa have written about it if she hadn't heard about it? Why blame Melissa? She published the link. The conversation is started. And it is not about Melissa.

ElemParent said...

CCA, on the whole I think it's better for teachers if kids opt out. I know the legislature is trying to get student test scores to count in teacher's evaluations, but they can't do it if they don't have the scores! All the teachers and staff I've talked to have been supportive of parent opt-outs and very upset by what the tests will put kids through.

Anonymous said...

There was a suicide at Hale in the last two months as we'll.


Anonymous said...

For the ethics of reporting on suicides, which explains why news orgs typically don't report on suicides, please see http://www.imediaethics.org/News/959/The_ethics_of_reporting_on_suicides.php,.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I had heard a student had died at Hale within the last two months but not a word that it was suicide. Makes it that much sadder.


Watching said...

Litzow added an amendment into a professional development bill; HB 1345.. It appears he is trying to link test scores to teacher evaluations.



Please call your representatives and urge a NO vote. If this bill passes, our kids will be tied to ridiculous standardized tests for ...who knows how long.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I asked Chad M about this and he said he wasn't involved. But I would say this is a desperate move and unworthy of passing.

This is not how you make good law.

cmj said...

A thank you to Mary for posting the link about why the media generally doesn't report on suicides. Often, media coverage of a suicide increases the risk that others will kill themselves. Some people have argued that we should avoid reporting on school shootings -- or at least focusing only on the victims and saying nothing about the shooter -- because there may be a similar copycat effect.

NW Mom, thank you for mentioning the YouthCare shelter.

Anonymous said...

@HP and Entropysime, Yes, a Hale student did die recently, but it is my understanding that the death was accidental. - Hale Parent

Anonymous said...

Wondering if any elementary kids who have already started SBAC have done so on a laptop without a mouse? I looked at the interface and that was my biggest concern -- all the scrolling/dragging etc., which is very difficult for third graders on a laptop with no mouse.

Lincoln mom

Lynn said...

News from the district website on Bailey Gatzert:

“What makes this really different is that it’s truly integrated into the public school,” says Cashel Toner, Director of Early Learning for Seattle Public Schools. The school’s reading specialist and counselor visit regularly with the class, and Chamberlin is collaborating with other teachers to have fourth- and fifth-graders work with the younger students.

A $750,000 Gates Foundation grant pays for Chamberlin’s salary, classroom materials, staff professional development and all other program expenses for the next three years. The PreK at Bailey Gatzert is not part of the Seattle Preschool Program that voters approved last year, but Toner suggests it has the potential to serve as a model while the city and school district continue to work out details.

Unless the Gates grant is paying for the time of the reading specialist and counselor this preschool program is taking resources from the K-5 students.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lynn, I also found this blurb odd because it says that the pre-K at BG is NOT part of the City's plan.

Color me confused because I sat at the Board meeting when this was voted on and I swear that in year two, this DID become part of the City's plan.

I wrote to Communications for clarification.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa,

I watched that board meeting, too. From what I can recall, there was confusion in the wording of the agreement, which left open the possibility that by the second year it could become part of the Seattle Preschool Program, with the remaining funds from the Gates grant going on to seed new preschool programs.

There was some discussion about this, and lots of evasive speak from SPS staff.

I absolutely agree with Lynn on the counselor and reading specialist piece. With the current WSS, only a fraction of SPS elementary schools qualify for counselors. Most small elementary schools do not meet the weighted staffing requirement to receive a funded 0.5-time counselor, and larger elementary schools are automatically given an AP instead of a counselor (they can waive the AP for the counselor, but how often does that happen?).

Until EVERY Seattle elementary school has a counselor funded by the District, we should not be funding counselors to serve preschool classrooms!

Reading Specialists are sometimes funded via LAP dollars. Does LAP funding cover pre-K?

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

Lincoln Mom - yes, both my kids that are old enough to take the SBAC used laptops without a mouse. They did spend a bit of time in class getting familiar with how a touch pad works (we don't have a laptop, so they'd never used one before, and of course other kids are in that situation also). I think the district bought new computers just for this test, and they were all laptops without a mouse. The school has enough computers to test about half the kids, so each classroom took one section of the test (either math or English) on a PC with mouse, and the other on a laptop. I'm curious to see if there is any difference in the sores based on what type of computer was used, but I doubt we'll ever find that out.

Mom of 4

Anonymous said...

that should be "difference in the scores" not "sores", of course.

Mom of 4

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mom of 4. Interesting. At our school, I believe certain classes are scheduled for the laptops for the entirety of the test while others are scheduled for the computer labs.


Anonymous said...

Our school doesn't have the space for a computer lab.

All testing is being done in the classrooms, on laptops. In the past, the library was used for testing of kids who needed accommodations. I don't know if that is the case this year.

The testing schedule started this week, and runs through the end of May. The Science MSP for 5th graders is scheduled on Fridays, following an entire week of SBAC testing in the mornings.

Some of the old laptops had mouses. All of the new laptops have touch screens, so there are mouses available for only about 1/3 of the laptops.

Laptops are being plugged in, so that we don't have to deal with batteries dying (a big problem last year, during a trial run of doing portions of the MSP online).

Our building is supposedly at its electrical capacity...so I hope there are no circuits blown. Maybe if enough parents opt their kids out, adequate electricity won't be a problem?

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

Re. B-G Preschool - It still bugs me that in the King5 interview, (link from district website,) the principal of BG said that in the past there has not been a preschool at BG.
NOT TRUE. There has been a district funded preschool for students with special needs for YEARS, which has in the past included typically developing kids from the community for FREE : often siblings of kids in the elementary school. Located just inside the front door, in a very small classroom., limited budget, small playground. Curious: have they gotten the services of the school reading specialist and the school counselor?


Anonymous said...

OSPI is co-sponsoring a summit, "When Vulnerable Readers Thrive Dreams Come True," May 8 in Seattle. The keynote speaker is Dr. Richard Allington, a "world-renowned intervention expert."

Dr. Allington has this to say about learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD (from a February 2012 article in The Journal Times):

"Some of the biggest excuses [that get in the way of reading] are learning and attention disorders such as dyslexia and ADHD. They provide excuses for not bothering to provide high-quality reading instruction to students, but they don't exist. Teachers and schools create (those) disorders...doctors and parents think they exist because they've been convinced by people at schools that they do exist. It's a psychological tool that schools use to protect themselves from looking like it's their fault."

The flyer for the summit is here:


If you want to join others in letting OSPI know how dangerous this approach is to educating children in WA, contact Liisa Potts at liisa.moilanenpotts@k12.wa.us or 360-725-6228.