Friday, October 09, 2015

Friday Open Thread

What a week, no?  I sense a parent Spring Uprising coming (I hope so).  I am sorry that it is in the face of so many schools suddenly losing staff and parents pitted against each other over bell times.  But really, do not allow yourselves to be divided.

On the staffing front, I am aware of a group of schools forming to discuss this issue.  My understanding is that schools have until been told that final decisions have to be to the district by Monday the 12th and that changes to the classroom would start the next Monday the 19th.  That means a weekend for parents to find money (a la´ Gatewood last year).  Kids, that's crazy talk and crazy action. Do not do it.

At the Audit and Finance Committee meeting this week, grants were discussed and a document shown that had PTA grants at $3M.  That's just grants to the district and NOT all the money raised by PTAs in service to their schools.  That is generous and wonderful but PTA is NOT there to fund for staffing and maintenance.  The district is now counting on you doing this and frankly, it's some leverage.  But you have to use it.

On that note, an excellent essay by Fairmount Park PTA President, Hillary Shaw.

Ideally, our PTA — or any PTA — should not cover costs of staffing, supplies, or any other expense that meets the basic educational needs of students. Funding basic needs is as antithetical to the mission of the PTA as striking is to the values of teachers. And yet, we — along with 32 other PTAs — funded salaries for nurses, school counselors, tutors, aides, music and art teachers, librarians, and specialists last year. And yet, Seattle teachers — in a unified, unanimous group — raised a blazing red flag in September, an absolute last resort gesture. PTAs stepping in to amply fund education and striking teachers are indicative of the long-standing education funding and reform failures endemic to the Washington State government. The ending to this epic saga has yet to be written, and we can, should, and must have a hand in creating a positive outcome for all students in our school and in our state.

Interested in learning more about school levies and teacher compensationTVW has produced a short documentary on the subject.

Worried about mental health in our country?  There's a pop-up Depressed Cake Shop tomorrow only.  (I wish I could go and pick up something myself. )

The Depressed Cake Shop, a one-day pop-up bakery to encourage conversation about mental-health issues, is happening this Saturday, October 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Capitol Hill's Sole Repair. The goal is simple—and important: Sell gray-colored cakes, cookies, and other treats (all donated by local bakers) to raise awareness of and fight stigmas that often come with mental-health issues. While they look sad on the outside, all the baked goods are colored on the inside to symbolize hope. Proceeds from the event go to support the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Seattle

Please check the thread on School Board candidate forums tomorrow.  

Some good news about a great program in Detroit for teens to train teens to become firefighters, from NBC News.  This is how you get kids out of the classroom, learning hands-on skills, discipline and a greater understanding about the world of work.  

What's on your mind?


kellie said...

The whole staffing cuts really lacks transparency and context. It would just be basic best practice to create a dialogue by sharing the official enrollment data at the same time as the cuts rather than making parents do the leg work to track this information down.

Enrollment data is ultimately the most public of public data. It is the intersection of taxpayer dollars and school funding. As such OSPI requires monthly reporting of this information.

One really bizarre and short sighted decision in the staffing cuts is the cuts at JAMS. JAMS was opened quickly when Eckstein and Hamilton were both dramatically over-enrolled and once again Hamilton is dramatically over-enrolled. Per the OSPI reports, Hamilton's September enrollment is 1096, almost the same as the enrollment that triggered the last cohort split.

Continuity and mitigation funds were promised for the new school but ... there are still going to be cuts at JAMS.

This is not promising news for the families that will ultimately be assigned to Wilson Pacific, Meany and Lincoln. It takes more than ONE year of mitigation funding to get a new secondary school underway.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that schools have until been told that final decisions have to be to the district by Monday the 12th and that changes to the classroom would start the next Monday the 19th.

For the district to cut and run and JAMS now demonstrates the District's total lack of planning, or maybe it shows how deeply insincere they are, or their cheap talk about commitment and follow thru, or confusion about implementing a brand new secondary comprehensive school. Basically, this will tell all of us do not trust them, do not believe a word they say when they come looking for you to geosplit you out of your school.

Students and families of Hamilton and Washington and the future Meany and Eagle Staff comprehensive schools should be shaking in their boots if this goes through, because it will be the poster child for how this District does things: push the new school out of the blocks, and then just simply turn your back on it and wish it luck. Because if the District is willing to cut FTE from JAMS in these circumstances, (geo split children, promises made about equity and SpEd, inability to access world language or music as electives because of a master schedule with too many constraints because of the stitching together of multiple communities from different middle schools, etc), then it will certainly do it to all the next new secondary schools and their seeding school communities too. Parents will know this, and find a way to slip the noose, so the new schools will resemble a falling knife no one wants to catch. Cutting JAMS is the harbinger of bad things to come for all new schools and it will ultimately end up making parents run for the hills. Further eroding of parent trust and support is not what this District needs right now as we stare down 2 major school levies in February. The system is much too brittle for these short-sighted antics.

Write the district now, HIMS and WMS families! Before it is too late. Tell Nyland, Herndon and Tolley to keep their commitments to kids pushed into new schools. This is your only chance.

Waste Not

Anonymous said...

Are there any other schools in SPS with interventions and extensions coordinators besides Bryant? Am trying to figure out what this will actually look like. Also, if Bryant parenst aren't voting until the 13th, how will the school give their decision by the 12th?

Bryant mom

Meg said...

Final decisions? So the district says, "you can come up with the money or someone goes?" Again? And once again without releasing enrollment data?

It is really troubling news for Lincoln HS and the middle schools that will open that the district's version of "support" is for the first year. I would be really, really worried about sending my kid to those schools. If the district only provides additional support for freshly opened schools in the first year of operation, it will be incredibly difficult for those schools to provide their students with the array of classes of established comprehensive schools. JAMS should be getting mitigation staffing for the first 3 years.

October staffing removals mean that a huge number of schools - and so a really large percent of students - are experiencing serious upheaval and disruption. If there are 20+ schools losing staff (this is surmised from a list - I don't have the official numbers), approximately 20% of district schools are going through turmoil that directly affects student learning.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Still working on a list but I hope to publish one soon.

Anonymous said...

No, other schools do not have interventions & extensions coordinators. Most other schools don't have any paid tutors to be organized. Are you sure that with the new scope & sequence requirements there will be any flexibility anyway?

I can see why it is attractive to have someone responsible for coordinating a more consistent approach to serving outliers, but it would be far down my list. Frankly it is really the responsibility of staff to serve whoever is in the building. There have been coordinated plans to address every grade level for differentiated math & reading, from the days before standardized lessons with MGJ. Maybe someone should look in the file cabinet.

-Bryant Alum

Anonymous said...

I agree. If there really is a principal in place who supports flexibility for advanced learning, and there are smaller class sizes and/or paid reading and math specialists working with the teachers, the teachers should be coordinating with each other and working together in grade bands to serve the range of abilities. This is ridiculous coming from a school with a staff that says its too hard to implement walk-to programs. Its like they are exposing their own flaw. We shouldn't be paying to fund this position at the expense of other items in the budget.


Anonymous said...

Lack of planning. Lack of transparency. Lack of confidence. Lack of trust. Vote down the upcoming levy. Short term pain--long term gain. Perhaps Central Staff would get the message....they would have to cut headcount. And in 6 months the levy can be put back out for vote. Get rid of the dead wood and reset this district.
-SPS Tired

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Maybe someone should look in the file cabinet."

Laugh of the day - thanks

SPS Tired, agreed but only the BTA.

Anonymous said...

Targeted Universalism??? From Teaching and Learning's Friday memo:

Formative practice benefits EVERY student. This work exemplifies the concept of “targeted universalism” – the practice of following targeted strategies to reach universal goals. Formative practice targets struggling students but ultimately benefits all students, universally. Our strategies target struggling students, but when we can document that opportunity gaps are closing for them, this helps confirm our overall success. In other words, a boost in their achievement tends to reflect a universal boost for all.

Are they basically saying they're going to teach to the bottom, but no need to worry about high performing students, because positive outcomes for them aren't based on their own learning, but rather that of their classmates?


Anonymous said...

Hey look at Meg's posting above.
In the interests of transparency ... ???
The SPS fails on enrollment stats.
===== ====

On to Valerie Strauss and the Answer Sheet
about Arne Duncan's tenure largely in his own words....

The tenure of Education Secretary Arne Duncan — in his own sometimes startling words

May 2009
And so we have to stop lying to children. We have to tell them the truth. We have to be transparent about our data. We have to raise the bar so that every child knows on every step of their educational trajectory what they’re going to do.

In this May 29, 2009, speech at the National Press Club, Duncan sets himself and his Education Department as the truth-tellers in education.

Epic Failure on the part of SPS Staff at the Board Work Session on "Closing the Opportunity Gap" on Sept, 30, 2015

No the SPS Staff did not lie ...Staff simply failed to present any Opportunity (achievement) Gap data. Good luck kids with knowing "educational trajectory"... the Board apparently does not even know.

Is Alfred E. Newman on the Board? What me worry?

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

@ HF. Yes. That's what they're saying. Explains why Advanced Learning will always be a two-bit afterthought of a program.

Equity4All Y'all

Anonymous said...

What a load of edu-babble in that Memo. I could picture Shauna Heath cutting and pasting this from one of her edu-mag articles.


Anonymous said...

More on Arne Duncan from Valerie Strauss (above)

Think about Seattle when viewing Duncan's words below.

June 2015

“I want to describe a set of educational rights that I firmly believe must belong to every family in America — and I hope you’ll demand that your leaders in elected and appointed offices deliver on them. They come together as a set of rights that students must have at three pivotal stages of their life, to prepare them for success in college and careers and as engaged, productive citizens. First, every child should have the right to attend a free, high-quality preschool…. Second, I believe all children have the right to high, challenging standards and engaging teaching and leadership in a safe, supportive, well-resourced school….[And] I believe we must see an affordable, high-quality college degree as every child’s right.”

Classic one size fits all rhetoric ..

Duncan used the occasion of a speech to the National Parent Teacher Association Convention and Expo in Charlotte to talk about a new set of educational rights for parents. The question for Duncan is what he has done to ensure those rights for parents.

As I wrote at the time he made the speech:
Were his policies geared to achieving educational equity for each student? (No.)
Or was his chief policy initiative something called Race to the Top, which forced states to compete for federal funds by promising to implement specific reforms Duncan favored, such as expanding charter schools and requiring that teachers be evaluated in part by student test scores. (Yes.)
Did he take any important steps to bring about a change in the way public schools are funded so that the poorest schools don’t wind up with the fewest resources? (No.)
Did his department talk about the need for high-quality teachers but then support with many millions of dollars a program called Teach for America, which recruits new college graduates, gives them five weeks of training and then sends them into the neediest public schools? (Yes.)
Did he make a major push on early childhood education and quality preschool in the first term of the Obama administration, given that it is the No. 1 right of parents? (No.) Etc., etc.

Remember Duncan's successor is worse than Arne.

The coming school board elections in Seattle are extremely important.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

JAMS did get mitigation funding this year, they just needed more when enrollment ended up lower. They got a bit more mitigation funding, now they're facing teacher cuts just like everyone else...

--budget curious

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me?? from the Friday memo as posted by HF:

Our strategies target struggling students, but when we can document that opportunity gaps are closing for them, this helps confirm our overall success.

WOW ... documenting that "opportunity gaps" are closing. How rich is that phrase?

Hey is that why the SPS Staff failed to present any data on "Opportunity Gaps" at the "Closing Opportunity Gaps" school board work session?

Transparency and accountability are nowhere to be seen just an enormous pile of edu-babble is evident and the Superintendent and Staff march on apparently unsupervised.

-- Dan Dempsey

Karen said...

What I don't understand is why the only measure of achievement in SPS's eyes (and many overly PC Seattleites) is if the children all score the same on some stupid test. Why wouldn't there be different achievements for different kids or groups of kids? Then, showing improvement in those areas would be closing the gap. I mean, a kid who comes to the US speaking NO English in 4th grade from a war-torn country should not have the same achievement goals as a well-fed, well-loved child born in the US with a good support system at home. Also, people can yell at me, but a child born in the US in extreme poverty who is hungry and possibly living with a single drug-addicted parent should be considered closing their own achievement gap if they make progress toward a life away from the life they are living. Let's call it closing a gap if we make sure this child is fed and feels that someone loves him.

We are a very, very diverse country with many non-English speakers and a huge socio-economic range. It would be great if each child had their own achievement gaps to close, but that's not possible so let's make goals for the various groups since they are facing really different challenges than each other. I think it is important to give the child coming to the US from, say, Somalia, mental health counseling if needed, transition support to the US and goals of mastering our language. Once those goals are met, we can talk about test scores.

Keeping down the top is not Equity 4 All. Not giving specific children the additional support they need to succeed is not Equity 4 All. Coming up with stupid, unsupported saying like Equity 4 ALL is just keeping someone's $200k job downtown.

Anonymous said...

Tell it to the back of Tolley's hand, Karen.
As well as Arne Duncan's.
Race to the Top and the failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress was built on this stuff. Hella Edupreneurs, charters and big testing companies making $$$$$ of of it too.

Equity 4All Y'all

Anonymous said...

Here is a great link to:
15 recent articles on Valerie Strauss's Answer Sheet

Answer Sheet

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Equity 4All Y'all wrote:

Race to the Top and the failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress was built on this stuff. Hella Edupreneurs, charters and big testing companies making $$$$$ off of it too.

So let us examine all that Big Testing Companies' data for which we pay.

Teacher: Why the ‘rich’ student data we get from testing is actually worthless

Read the above to find out about the Value Added Baloney Model so popular with Education Reform advocates.... remember if a state wants RttT dollars ... teacher evaluations need to include student test scores for VAM.

Another Big Thank You goes out to Mr. Gates and Obama/Duncan for this VAM requirement. Do not forget to thank members of the WA legislature and Superintendent Randy Dorn for this as well.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

I wanted to watch Wednesdays board meeting, but I can't find the link from the board page on the SPS site anymore.

Anyone know how to get to the video archives?


Dead Horse

Anonymous said...

"Formative practice benefits EVERY student. This work exemplifies the concept of “targeted universalism” – the practice of following targeted strategies to reach universal goals. Formative practice targets struggling students but ultimately benefits all students, universally. Our strategies target struggling students, but when we can document that opportunity gaps are closing for them, this helps confirm our overall success. In other words, a boost in their achievement tends to reflect a universal boost for all."

HF, as a teacher I find that quote so depressing. Seriously, you think struggling students improving will help non-struggling students. HOW!! That's like saying advanced students succeeding helps non-advanced students OR sped students improving helps non-sped, non-sped improving helps sped... What!! They are different populations. So much for differentiation.

As a teacher I can't teach well to anyone when I trying to differentiate my lessons for students who are below standard, on-level students, advanced learners, sped students,and ELL students. I don't have time to prep 5 different lessons a day for each subject. Apparently, I don't need to worry anymore. If the struggling students are improving, apparently they're all getting what they need. (sarcasm)

SPS has always had issues, but this is the worst I've ever seen it. It's almost as if someone is actively trying to destroy the district. It used to be that I could ignore downtown, close my door, and teach. But now...they are messing with teaching. It is becoming harder and harder, with all the crap they are sending us and requiring of us, to be able to teach.

Anonymous said...

So, I'm sure this is on this blog somewhere, but I can't easily find it. Do I have the legal right to opt my kid out of Amplify assessments? Are they state-mandated? And do teachers like these assessments at all? I'm fine having my kid do them if it's helpful for teachers, but I'm kind of getting the vibe that's not always the case...

Amplify Curious

Anonymous said...

@Dead Horse

I couldn't find the link from the SPS website, but they are now posted to YouTube (!). Search for seattle public schools board meeting, and you should find it.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

I read this sentence differently. It's something Ux School of education comes up with to describe what's happening as you teach- modifying style and techniques as you go along while assessing for student's learning. It's gobbledygook academia talk. But it sounds like learning how to teach some of the most challenging students successfully can help teachers develop successful teaching strategy with all learners. Or something like that. I don't think it means to "let's dumb things down" or teach to the lowest level. I get it in a way because in my line of work, taking on the most challenging and sickest patients really pushes me to think fast, think outside the box, be creative, be patient, use all my senses, don't assume the obvious, and constantly reevaluate.


mirmac1 said...

No. I'm not playin' that "woe is me" line!

Differentiation is what we need. I've learned to ignore Tolley, his inept C&I Ex Director, and their all-around insipid ed reform script. They're just spewing what they think will hypnotize the majority of this sorry-ash Board.

As long the billionaire(s) decide the success measure (closing the achievement gap), ya better build that into the plan.

Just because SPS Central thinks it can set the bar low enough its Supt boss can meet it doesn't mean that the ultimate goal is wrong. I will NEVER take that insular approach.

If ya want to go after me, do it on the APP thread.

Anonymous said...

Mirmac1, I am more than a little confused.

#1.. you wrote:

"As long the billionaire(s) decide the success measure (closing the achievement gap), ya better build that into the plan."
Does this make any difference? The Staff ignores those Gaps and did not report them in the last Work Session. So who cares?

#2.. you wrote"

"Differentiation is what we need."
What does this mean? Can you give an example of where this "Differentiation" is being successfully used? How is that success verdict determined?

SIGH and I would profit from a fuller explanation of #2.


Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

My answer to the mewling letter I just received by email from the district:

This enrollment “discrepancy” is less than 1% of the total enrollment in the SPS district. Yet, you are willing to cause much more harm, hardship and upheaval than is justified by this number.

The district loses much more money engaging in these adjustments than is saved.

Try doing nothing - the parents, students and teachers of the Seattle Public Schools will thank you for that.


Anonymous said...

My daughter says Whitman is losing 2 teachers because of lower 8th grade enrollment.

N by NW

Anonymous said...

I also want to add an observation after a friend asked me to speak with a new immigrant parent who moved here . She and her husband have 2 children in SPS. This parent has encountered interesting assumptions about herself and her children. Not all ELL students are poor, illegal, or come from uneducated background. It might not be obvious, but many immigrant parents have professional degrees and are recruited to come here. Others were not recruited and may not be fluent in English and came under various immigration status. They may have been doctors, teachers, architects, scientists, and successful business owners in their native countries. Some families have fled conflicts and are here under refugee status, while others came under lottery visa, work visa, etc. to this country. They may work in low wage jobs, drive uber/taxi, or own a small store. The more recent refugees from Burma, Iraq, Syria, and other conflict areas are usually not settled in Seattle because it's simply too expensive. These refugees are relocated in Seatac, Kent, Burien and it's the Highline, Auburn, and Kent SDs which get these students.

I wish our schools, the PTAs/PAs are more enlightened in how we deal with immigrants. This is something we can learn from Bellevue SD on how to accommodate cultural difference and language barriers to welcome immigrant students and their families into the community.


mirmac1 said...

My parents immigrated decades ago with advanced degrees in engineering and finance. In Seattle they found jobs as construction inspector and homemaker. Yeah, that makes this nation the lesser for it.

dj said...

OK, am I being an idiot? One of my kids opted out of SBAC, the other took the tests, but I can't seem to find anything that lets me check that child's scores, although some people seem to be talking about their kids' scores. What am I missing?

SPS Mom said...

DJ - your child's principal has their scores. A lot of schools are giving out the hard copies at curriculum nights, but you should be able to just ask for it. The scores won't be posted on the source.

SPS Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Odd said...

TVW is promoting a video to explain the problems with funding education through levies. LEV's Frank Ordway and Highline schools financial analyst- Duggan Harmon- are prominent individuals in the video. Then, there is an individual from Gig Harbor saying they don't want to pay more taxes because educational outcomes have not improved.

The video contrasts Highline School District and Bellevue, and talks about teacher salaries around the state- with the exception of Seattle Public Schools.

Very odd that Seattle is NO mention of Seattle Public Schools. I'd feel better if an individual from LEV wasn't featured.

Odd said...

The video is available on You Tube:

'Unconstitutional:' The Problem with School Levies and Teacher Compensation

Lynn said...

The executive committee is meeting next week. On the agenda: Seattle Preschool Program (60 minutes), Alliance for Education (30 minutes) and the communications protocol. Isn't there anything relevant to our K-12 students they should be working on?

cmj said...

Regarding the memo quote below:
Formative practice benefits EVERY student. This work exemplifies the concept of “targeted universalism” – the practice of following targeted strategies to reach universal goals. Formative practice targets struggling students but ultimately benefits all students, universally. Our strategies target struggling students, but when we can document that opportunity gaps are closing for them, this helps confirm our overall success. In other words, a boost in their achievement tends to reflect a universal boost for all.

I can see this being interpreted two different ways.

The first way is that modifying lessons makes them easier to teach to struggling students, but still effective (and no less effective than the previous teaching method) for the rest of the students. For example, I was talking with a friend a while ago about teaching geometry to autistic students. She was saying that the way that geometry is currently taught is incredibly confusing to some high-performing autistic students, because it's being explaining in a way that's inherently confusing for them. You can modify the lessons to explain geometry to them in a way that they can grasp more easily. It doesn't require dumbing things down or spending more time on the lesson -- just changing the way that information is presented. The same methods work fine for neurotypical students, as well. I would love to see SPS do this, but they can barely agree on a math curriculum. I'm not holding my breath.

The second way is that SPS wants to teach to the bottom. Given SPS, this interpretation makes more sense.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, you can opt out of Amplify. There's no mandate to take it (unless it is going to be used as some gate-keeper.)

Ebenezer said...

A bit late on posting, but this article from Thursday's Washington Post details how Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians children's school performance improved after profits from a casino raised Tribal per capita income by $4,000 a year. I know there's been a lot of discussion before whether many issues with kids and school are a result of poverty - this case supports that view.