I'll go in reverse order.
Nationally, that issue of opting out over Common Core testing/overtesting is not going away. No amount about saber-rattling, shaming or finger-wagging is going to change that.
In 2016 we will elect a new president and I can only say if you believe in "choice" via charters and voucher, vote Republican. Because that is exactly what will happen. There is not a single Republican I would trust on public education issues (and that's a sad thing to say given how many of them there are). Trump is the only one with no clear views but I'm thinking the first thing he would do for public education is to make mandatory citizenship reviews of every single student in public schools a reality.
But with a Republican president, along with vouchers and massive charterization of public schools, we would probably see a big pullback on federal reach into public education. Common Core might be weakened by this move.
But Clinton, Sanders and the other Dems are not-so-stellar either on public education issues so I'm (again) likely to be disappointed for public education, no matter who wins.
For Washington State, we will go into Jan. 2016 seeing the Legislature continue to tie itself into knots over school funding and ignoring I-1351 about class size. It's going to take some real leadership and public will to create a change that will mean a fundamental change in how we fund our STATE and Not just public education. I said this to the Governor but I'm not sure he's the guy to get it done.
As well, we continue to wait for the Supreme Court to finish its now-into-the-eighth-month of consideration over ruling on the charter law case.
In 2016 elections for state office, we will see the post of Superintendent of Public Instruction come up. Superintendent Dorn has said he may not run for re-election and there are already several candidates who are running or considering a run.
There are also the largest number of charter schools opening ever in this state this fall with more coming on-line in fall 2016. It will be interesting to see how Tacoma School District fares with four charters opening in its district. As well, Seattle will see a couple of top players in charters - Summit and Green Dot - opening schools here.
In Feb. 2016, we will have the Seattle School District's Operations levy and Capital levy (BTA IV). They have fierce competition in November 2015 from both a levy from the Mayor on transportation ($900M+) and King County (about $400M). The district's own two levies combined are likely to top $900M. Are voters going to support all of those levies? I have my doubts.
And, these will be the first school levies where, if they pass, Seattle Schools will have share dollars from both levies with charter schools - First Place Scholars (if they survive) and Summit. It is still unclear how those dollars will be figured and a timetable for payment (levy money comes into the district in pieces so it is likely that's how it would go out to charters).
The district will be holding Community Meetings in September to talk about what gets on the BTA IV levy. I'll post that schedule soon.
As for Seattle Schools itself, there's nothing on the district calendar this week so I'm thinking the top "get it done" item on the checklist is "sign a contract with the teachers." Both the Seattle and Spokane teachers unions are threatening to strike if they cannot find mutual agreement on a contract with their respective districts.
Over at the Washington Policy Center, they seem obsessed with the fact that teachers - both in Seattle and Spokane - make more than the median household income. I would venture to say that there are many businesses and government offices where workers make more than the median. I'm not sure I understand what the issue is (beyond "it's a 10 month work salary" and to that I say, most district employees do not work a full year either so why single out teachers?). Here's a funny statement from WPC:
As one comparison, average worker income in Washington is $52,540 for a 12-month year. Most working families do not know whether they will receive a raise this year, let alone what they might receive over two years.
Yes, and teachers haven't gotten a raise in seven years.
WPC says that because teachers make more than average, they should not strike. That's up for debate.
Because of the threat of a strike in the Pasco School District, the Pasco School Board has already adopted a resolution authorizing a request for an injunction if a teacher strike occurs. The Spokane School District and Spokane School Board (sic)members could seek the same thing.
I believe they meant "Seattle School Board."
The Seattle School Board would have to call an emergency executive session to authorize that request and I see nothing on the district's calendar for that to happen.
But after the contract (which I believe will get done), what's the state of Seattle Schools going into this year? My take is...
Confusion, frustration and uncertainty.
- What do the SBAC scores really mean? (I never did get to actually writing about the actual scores but I hope to sometime this week). And, what good are the scores for teaching and learning at this point?
- what exactly the City is trying to do vis a vis their role in Seattle Schools? Because I would challenge anyone who says the City is just a "partner." If that is so, it's a very uneven partnership that is balanced in favor of the City (thanks to help from key senior SPS staff).
- why does more and more money seem to be firmly planted at JSCEE, both for new initiatives AND higher salaries?
- capacity management. I've said this before but I truly believe the district is saying - to schools and parents - "You'll have to just suck up this crowding and its painful outcomes, sorry." I think the district believes that they are doing all they can at this point.
Have they? I can't say for certain. I can say they have not been as clear and transparent as they should have been all along with communications. If parents and staff have questions - at this late date as schools are just about ready to reopen - about allocating space at their school for their students and staff, then someone has not done their job properly.
- Special Education. What's the plan? Again, if parents of these students and their teachers/principals don't know the plan, then what happens? We already saw a situation at one school last year where there was a revolving door of teachers and aides and a ramping up of frustration on the part of several parents of Sped students who saw their students' school year slipping away.
- Advanced Learning. What's the plan? Just muddling thru as Spectrum dissolves away (without public notice), ALOs are mostly a joke and APP seems in a steady state?
- Bell Times. I missed the Work Session last week on Bell Times. (Here's the link - scroll to page 17 - the district's website is still unable to provide links in documents so they put everything on one big doc.) According to the presentation, the Superintendent will first make a recommendation sometime in October to the Operations Committee and then it goes to the Board on October 7th for Introduction with a final vote likely on October 21st.
The district will be holding community meetings on Bell Time Analysis at the end of September/beginning of October. (Sadly, they have chosen to have those community meetings overlap with BTA IV levy meetings.)
- Lunch/Recess. It is just plain sad that this should even be a discussion. No one should be given 15-20 minutes to get and eat lunch. No adult and no child. And yet, here we are.
- The City comes out in both the Confusion/Uncertainty categories. What's the end game? Will members of the Seattle legislative delegation try again to split the district and/or allow the Mayor to appoint School Board members? I perceive both to be losers for the Seattle public but apparently there are those who believe one or both items could pass. I look forward to being part of that discussion.
- Who gets elected to the Board? The majority of the School Board is once again up for grabs. All four seats could turn over. What will this mean? Listening to the candidates, even I have a hard time knowing how different this Board would be. I do think that the more like-minded group will swing from a more hands-off, "let's trust the staff even though they don't give us full information in a timely manner" majority to a "I need to see full information before I can approve what staff wants" Board.
I don't care how many times staff tries to rush this new Board - I don't think they will buy that argument.
Naturally that may mean a hurry-up state at JSCEE - in these last months before the election - for senior staff to get as much as what they want done as possible. Look to Sherry Carr to facilitate this process on the Board with the Superintendent getting backroom help from the Mayor.
I also think that the new Board is going to have new members who come to create a team but are not interested in being directed by staff. That means that things like Board retreats being endless rehashes of "governance" and "communications" will end. As well, it may be that staff will no longer direct Board retreats and the Board will actually plan their own retreats.
I do have one prediction here. No matter what the powers that be say, the new Board is very unlikely to renew Superintendent Nyland's contract, especially given the Superintendent's public statements when he came to the district about being here temporarily. He has done his job as a figurehead stabilizer and the district will need to move onto someone who is a leader.
- How much money will the district lose to charters, both from students leaving and levy dollars leaving? The district might not even notice the students (or care at this point with all the overcrowding) but the levy dollars? Ouch.
Confusion, Uncertainty and Frustration all rolled-up into one?
Now fully into its second decade is the perplexing situation of What is Happening at JSCEE?
Why are issues like lunch/recess, fully explaining where taxpayer dollars go, inability to adequately apprise staff on basic issues like field trips, Title IX, and so on, so difficult for our senior staff to address?
We now have a Chief of Schools (an internal hire who looks good - Mike Starosky) who is there to supervise Executive Directors. Who is officially going to get all the system basics of managing this district done? Parents and the public continue their long vigil.
A lot of these issues are School District 101 and we should be long past. And yet, here we are, churning and reinventing the wheel.
The district cannot move forward mired in bureaucratic nonsense and ill-ranked priorities.
Are we getting set up for a major battle or one with little skirmishes with the City.
Will the district finally follow priorities and policies set by the Board? And, what will the Board do if that doesn't happen?