Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tuesday Open Thread

Reason #10 on why I hate the SPS website - the main calendar does NOT reflect all the meetings. Sitting at the Curriculum&Instruction meeting yesterday,  I learned of a regional Sped meeting with district staff that will be held tonight at West Seattle High from 6-7 pm for parents.

It's important for parents/public to be able to have ONE place to know about any and all meetings that they may want/need to attend.  I'm not sure I get why this cannot happen.

 There are a couple of moms who have started a Facebook page - The Thirteen Thousand Dollar Question - about what their school could do with Superintendent Nyland's proposed raise.  They are looking for letters to him explaining the needs out there (see example).  They will be on display at the next Board meeting where the Board will vote on the raise/contract extension. 
#‎nylandsraise‬   ‪#‎donateitall‬    ‪#‎letters2larry‬

Great article from NPR about Special Education teachers - finding and keeping them.  (More on Sped as it was discussed at the Curriculum&Instruction Ctm meeting yesterday.  Despite progress around meeting OSPI mandates, I am still hearing from desperate parents and teachers that things are just not working in the classroom.

As you may be aware, Mayor Murray and King County Ex Dow Constantine recently declared a state of emergency over the issue of homelessness in King County.  Story here from Waterland Blog that the Des Moines City Council passed a city rule that homeless encampments cannot be within 1,000 feet from any school (which means many churches cannot house encampments.)  The irony?  
Lathrop said the one in 20 students in the Highline School District are homeless.

Let's talk about sex.  In two stories on sex and sexuality and teens.  This one from Connections.Mic is one dad's post on Reddit, a letter he wrote to his kids about being ready for sex.  It's pretty good.   The other story is from the NY Times about one high school in colorado where at least 100 student had been trading between 300-400 naked photos of themselves.  The youngest child involved was an eighth grader. 

The revelation has left parents outraged, administrators searching for missed clues, and the police and the district attorney’s office debating whether to file child pornography charges — including felony charges — against some of the participants.

He added that he was not interested in arresting hundreds of children and would “use discretion” if he decided to file charges.

Members of the high school football team, the CaƱon City Tigers, were at the center of the sexting ring, Mr. Welsh said.  Students at the school described a competitive point system that classmates used to accrue photographs.

The photo-sharing, some of which took place in school, was done largely on cellphone applications called “vault apps” that look innocent enough — some look like calculators — but are really secret troves of photographs accessible after entering a password.

Parents, on both counts - sex and sexting - talk to your children.  My feeling, from reading many of these stories is that many students are being bullied/coerced into these photos.  Again, talking to your children about the old-fashioned notion about privacy and the right to be private might be a good idea.


Anonymous said...

Melissa, when you can please do share information about the special education issues during the C&I meeting.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirmac1 said...

Once it was pointed out to staff in Sept that the district was out of compliance with state law severely limiting the use of restraints and isolation since July, they hurriedly cut and pasted WSSDA's "model policy" and called it their own. Peters asked whether the board should expect to concurrently review the revised Superintendent Procedure governing this harmful practice, Erin Bennett said that, well, it doesn't always heppen that way. Then the numerous staff who claim they've been doing lots of work cutting and pasting WSSDA's language (Safety & Security, Special Education, Legal), described the arduous task before them and went on a orgy of data collection and "systems in place"- you know the drill. Somehow, the child who gets restrained and harmed did not come up.

The law says use of restraints or isolation should be used as a last resort, and only in the event the "likelihood of serious harm" is "imminent", meaning:

(a) A substantial risk that:

(i) Physical harm will be inflicted by a person upon his or her own person, as evidenced by threats or attempts to commit suicide or inflict physical harm on oneself;

(ii) Physical harm will be inflicted by a person upon another, as evidenced by behavior that has caused such harm or that places another person or persons in reasonable fear of sustaining such harm; or

(iii) Physical harm will be inflicted by a person upon the property of others, as evidenced by behavior that has caused substantial loss or damage to the property of others; or

(b) The person has threatened the physical safety of another and has a history of one or more violent acts.

There is NO language in the proposed 3246BP language discussing the child who may have experienced trauma, neglect, abuse, or disability and how the district will do its utmost to PREVENT use of restraints and isolation or, as the policy reads, "use of reasonable force". It is really horrendous that our kids (75% are SpEd students) are really just data points and legal/"safety" matters to be managed. SpEd PTSA is actively engaging on this issue.

Anonymous said...


Does anyone know what our district is doing in light of the above?

N Seattle Dad

Unsurprised said...

N Seattle Dad - you are likely aware it was the district's inaction on this specific incident that caused Dr. Warkov to found this organization. Then Director Peaslee seemed to publicly apologize to the perpetrator, not the victim. There was some lip service on Title IX officers and compliance reviews, but nothing further that I know of.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually, the district has just hired Kelly Schmidt as a Civil Rights officer. They have also had to meet some fed mandates on Title IX. What this will all translate down to at the school level I don't know.

Unsurprised said...

Thanks Melissa. I hope the district improves on their compliance with Title IX.

VotedNO 1240 said...

The pro-charter folks are beginning to amp-up their campaign.

mirmac1 said...

And their compliance with ADA.

Anonymous said...

When you consider OSPI's systemic failure to insure our state's LEDs provide FAPE to special educational students, then it's reasonable to believe the time has come for Washington state to enact a special education voucher system.

One of the most frequently heard claims is that such vouchers are unnecessary, as disabled students already have the right, under IDEA, to private placement, if that is the appropriate setting for their education. Andrew Rotherham, the well-known blogger for Education Sector, dismisses the need for such vouchers on the grounds that “many (in real numbers not percentage terms) special education students attend private schools at public expense as a result” of a provision in the “Individuals With Disabilities Education Act…for students with exceptional needs that the public schools cannot meet,” and this existing provision is “adequate to the task.”

But this claim ignores the complex procedures that must be followed in order to arrange for a private placement, a primary reason such placement is quite rare. As the United States Supreme Court noted in its recent Forest Grove School District decision, pursuing private placement through the legal system is “‘ponderous’ and therefore inadequate to ensure that a school’s failure to provide a [free and appropriate public education] is remedied with the speed necessary to avoid detriment to the child’s education.” And school districts win most legal struggles with parents over private placement. According to Thomas Mayes and Perry Zirkel’s empirical analysis of this type of case, “school districts won the clear majority (62.5%) of the decisions.”

Given the low probability of victory as well as the considerable time, expense, and psychological discomfort involved in waging a legal battle, it isn’t surprising that private placements are rare, especially among families who lack the wealth and sophistication required to navigate the legal system successfully.

Special education vouchers essentially use public funds to democratize access to private placement by reducing legal and financial barriers. In Florida, where the McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities program has offered vouchers to disabled students since 1999, vouchers allow 6.7 percent of special education students to be educated in private schools at public expense. That is six times the nationwide average for private placement. Current practices for securing private placement elsewhere are hardly “adequate to the task,” that is, if the task is helping disabled students find an appropriate alternative to their assigned public school.

Please join me in supporting the push for special education vouchers.

Guy Fawkes

Melissa Westbrook said...

I wish I could support you, Guy. But you open the door to one kind of voucher, as they did in Arizona, and then it becomes, "Vouchers for all." Nope.

Anonymous said...

How would a voucher system work?

According to the latest SPS budget, SPS allocates each building between $16K and $25K per SPED pupil. Could SPED students possibly use the voucher funds for supplemental service and continue to be a SPS general ed student?

It seems the vouchers would need to be at least $16K if the student where to seek private placement, possibly less, if used for supplemental services. I think there would be a huge benefit for our district and its students since SPED is still failing to serve a large amount of students. This could help reduce the legal expenses and costly lawsuits.

Would it be possible get a voucher system just for the Seattle school district? I would vote YES on that.

SPED Parent

cmj said...

Nyland clearly doesn't understand PR. He may keep the $6K (he's promised to donate half of his raise to SPS), but he's making more parents hate him by being so ridiculous petty about it. He's making a quarter of a million dollars a year -- what's he going to do with an extra $6K? Burn it in his fireplace?

Maureen said...

Are there spaces for kids with special needs at existing private schools. Do independent schools generally accept those students? Schools like Hamlin Robinson seem pretty specialized and small. One of my concerns is that SPED mill schools would arise just to collect the vouchers and the kids would end up back in SPS, even further behind.

Anonymous said...

Of coarse there are students with IEPs at private schools. It's a myth that private schools don't serve students with IEPs. Look, if parents don't want to use a voucher then don't apply for one, it's really that simple. Why limit our students to more of nothing. Private schools understand they are in service and that the student is their customer, SPS will never understand that.

I'm for vouchers and will vote yes.

I see no other workable solution for a large percentage of students with IEPs. I find it hard to believe MW would use the straw man on this one.

SPED Parent

Lynn said...

SPED Parent,

Where and when do you expect to have an opportunity to vote on this idea?

Anonymous said...

I guess I will have to lead the way.

Here is what the State of Tennessee has passed.

State of Tennessee

SB0027 Actions Date
Pub. Ch. 431 05/26/2015
Effective date(s) 05/18/2015; 01/01/2016 05/26/2015
Signed by Governor. 05/18/2015

Go and check it out.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

For some issues with special education vouchers, look at Florida: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2011/12/as_the_number_of_private.html


Anonymous said...

Reason #11, for me, is that there isn't a way to subscribe to the SPS calendars in iCal format. Last year I had a general SPS calendar and a calendar for my kids' school set up in my google calendars. As events were added and changed, these were reflected immediately on my calendar.

This year we can "export" to ical, but that means our calendar is out of date unless we do this daily. And we can "subscribe" but that means we get emails about every event, which is too much, unless we set it to "weekly", which is then pointless.

They do provide an RSS feed, and someday I'll try to parse these instructions and see if I can figure out a workaround for SPS calendar lameness - http://gcaldaemon.sourceforge.net/usage3.html

It shouldn't be this hard. It's as if they don't want us to have access to this info...

seattle citizen said...

Under the voucher for IEP student system, how would we know the money was being spent appropriately? Not saying it is now, but that seems to lead to less accountability.
How about, instead, streamlining the application process to take the student private, along with, say, a list of approved facilities that are vetted?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't use a straw man argument.

Please, do Google this issue and see the problems.

Most private schools don't serve Sped kids but if there were vouchers, maybe so. Please prove your research on this.

Also, you'd have to pass a law on this. It may be something that legislators in Eastern Washington like (on the premise that eventually ALL public ed will be vouchers) but it's a short session - I can't imagine that anyone would really push this kind of ed reform with McCleary.

TechyMom said...

My anecdotal experience is that a lot of kids with specific learning disabilities go to private school, often after failing to get what they need in public schools. These students typically did not have IEPs. Some had 504s, some were barely passing and not getting any accomodations at all. Would special ed vouchers help these families cover tuition?

Anonymous said...

Techy Mom.

Yes, you can.

In most states only 5-7% of the parents choose to use an IEA voucher. The IEA is a perfect fit for SLD students. $6-8 K isn't enough to cover 100% of tuition, but in many situations, something is better than nothing. I would push for IEA vouchers to equal the district's average allocation per SPED student. That would put the IEA dollar amount around $16K for students in Seattle public school district.

Let's make this happen.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

UPrep has a program designed for dyslexia, you pay extra for it.


Anonymous said...

Techy Mom,

The student would have to qualify for an IEP first. IEA would not cover situations where a students are on a 504 plan, but we could possibly add that into WAs system?.

I can tell you many SLD students move to 504 plans because parents are just tired of their child being jammed into a studies skills class.I believe if there were an IEA system in place that practice would decrease.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

Are staff working today, or are district offices closed?

Trying to get in touch with someone. Thanks.

SPS Parent

Anonymous said...

SPS is closed today.

-WS Parent

Anonymous said...

Vouchers for special education are a fraud. What we should be pushing for is 1) adequate funding, 2) adequate training, and 3) adequate staffing so that the public schools can do their jobs.

I think it's quite possible that a person who most recently was a candidate for Seattle Public Schools board is now forcefully pushing vouchers for special education on this blog, which is rather ironic.


Anonymous said...

OK. "Sped Parent".... who can't spell "of course". "Coarse" is a texture - not an idiom. Not very many students with disabilities are actually in private school, as a percentage of population. Why? Because private schools are even more discriminatory than the public schools. Because it is WAY more expensive than any voucher could possibly cover - and more than most well heeled parents can cover.

Let's look at some special ed school tuitions. Hamlin Robinson(disability school) - $21,000. (only takes students with minimal disabilities) Morningside Academy(disability school) - $22,000. (only takes students with minimal disabilities that are only a tiny bit behind). Neither of these serve high school students. Their total enrollment is less than 200 students. And that covers the entire Puget Sound region. That's a tiny fraction of the Dyslexia, ADHD population in the region. Academy for Precision Learning(disability school for significant disabilities). $21,000 - $40,000, depending on service level needed. Students with significant needs pay $40,000. High school is probably even more. Then there's CHILD on Mercer Island. I believe CHILD is around $50G. Yellow Wood Academy - around $60G for high school tuition. It's somewhat less as an a la carte menu for elementary and middle schoolers. Guess what? The district ALREADY pays for students with disabilities in all these places! Hard to believe, but true. They contract with a few, like CHILD and Yellow Wood, but do a secret family "reimbursement" for others like APL - because they don't want people to learn about the possibility of private placements.

Then we have other private schools. Billings Middle(de facto disability school) - $32,000 for students with disabilities. That's another 60 students with ADHD, mild intellectual disabilities, and dyslexia. Go look at it. These are not typical students. Then, there are a few schools like UPrep, NW, and even Lakeside - which are highly selective, serve high performing students, but offer some "disability" services. These students would most likely NOT qualify for special ed services if they were in public schools. The pricetag for this option is around $30,000 for a high end private school and then another $2K or $3K for extra resource room.

So - it's pretty simple. If the district could save money by "going private" for special education - they would have already done it. If the "voucher" rate is $16,000 - $25,000, as you say the district is already paying for sped.... that will only cover the most minimally disabled students, and cover them at a much higher freight than the district is currently shelling out for them. Bottom line. No. They ain't doin it! Unless you sue them. And then they'll silence you as they pay your tuition. They don't want the "floodgates opened".

Another Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

And Sped Parent. The district's "average" sped cost, is more like $10K. The BEA is about $5K (basic education allocation). And the Excess costing allocated for sped is about the same. That means - another 5K. Note "the special ed" cost is only $5K.

If the district gave out vouchers - that only covered partial educations ($10K, or even $16K) then that would grossly unfair to poor families. They could get the voucher - but wouldn't be able to pay for an education. Therefore - the voucher would be worthless to anybody who wasn't rich.

Another Sped Parent

mirmac1 said...

You're spot on Another Sped Parent. By my analysis, average sped student funding (BEA and levy) is around $13K, counting levy funds, BEA and SpEd state funding.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but you need to actually read the district's own budget document. You will see in the actual document they break down each building's budget and it's explained that "All students are regular education first" SPED students are GenEd students first and each building in allocated both the GenEd allocation and the special ed allocation.

Take a look at SPS own numbers.

For example, Hamilton's funding per SPED student is $20,460 and is the sum of Basic $5,238 and Spec. Ed. $15,222.
West Seattle elementary is $21,703 per SPED student.
Thurgood Marshall is $25,598 is SPED student.
Sacajawea is $21,203 per SPED student.

Are you saying those numbers are not accurate?

It's clear that SPS could save millions if just 7% of students went with a IEA, call it a win-win. No one would be forced to an IEA, but it's clear that an IEA would clearly be a welcome escape for many.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

Who said life was to be fair? Is it fair for people to work 2080 hrs a year and because they make over $60K a year have to pay for other's benefits? I say no.

We are taking about special education, not vouchers for Gen Ed private schools. No one would be forced to accept an IEA. By your reasoning a special educational student should be punished because of his parents income...really? Is it the student's fault their parents are not poor?

I think your anti middle class bias is telling.

SPED Parent

mirmac1 said...

JSIS = $11,563
Sandpoint = $11,425
Wedgewood = $11,527

Do you really think students with SLDs are sent to low ratio programs at Lowell or West Seattle Elementary, that bring far more for student?

Anonymous said...

GL said,

"Vouchers for special education are a fraud. What we should be pushing for is 1) adequate funding, 2) adequate training, and 3) adequate staffing so that the public schools can do their jobs."

Really? Speaking to items 2 AND 3, What do you think parents have been doing for the last 10 years! As for item 1, come on GL, wake up and see the light. 22 states have vouchers and you think they ALL are fraudulent systems? Wouldn't you agree the Seattle public schools are committing fraud? What is SPS doing with the $150,000,000 annual budget for students with IEPs?...not much.

You can sit around and hope for SPS to change, I'm done with waiting and will start a honest conversation about creating a IEA program in WA.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

With whom are you expecting to have that conversation?

West Seattle

mirmac1 said...

No more conversation on my part, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

No I wrote,

"Take a look at SPS own numbers.

For example, Hamilton's funding per SPED student is $20,460 and is the sum of Basic $5,238 and Spec. Ed. $15,222.
West Seattle elementary is $21,703 per SPED student.
Thurgood Marshall is $25,598 is SPED student.
Sacajawea is $21,203 per SPED student.

Are you saying those numbers are not accurate? "

Well, are you saying those numbers are not accurate? There are many more +$20K schools, but you get the point.

In the big picture, it's impossible to explain to many parents at any of the above schools, how it's possible the building is spending $20K plus on their child, when many of the students on IEPs can't read or write close to grade level.

So, exactly what are these buildings doing with the $20K the district gives them for each student on an IEP?

SPED Parent

mirmac1 said...

The $$/Sped student includes their basic ed funding. Do some serious analysis into k-12 funding in our state. Don't just look at at pdfs posted on the SPS website as gospel. It's reduce for basic consumption. School Finance 101.

Anonymous said...

Read my post "For example, Hamilton's funding per SPED student is $20,460 and is the sum of Basic $5,238 and Spec. Ed. $15,222." "All students are regular education first"

It was made clear to me by the district, that those are the actual dollars and reflects what each school building is allocated. This was confirmed with the district more than once.

I don't think it matters what comprises the SPED dollar allocation. What's important is the total and what exactly each building uses the money towards. If a school doesn't need $25K per pupil, then the budget should reflect that and those dollars should go elsewhere.

It's clear that schools are being allocated funds per pupil listed in the budget, but in reality the buildings are not spending those funds on that pupil. It looks to me like they are robbing from Peter to pay Paul. In other words, taking the maximum per pupil $20K at TM, but in reality diverting those funds to other students needs, perhaps even using the money for non SPED services.

Blame it basic 101 accounting if you like, but there's more to this and I think we need a clear explanation.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

Sped Parent, you're missing the basic accounting fraud perpetrated by the district. The district purposefully overstates sped spending.... so it can justify service cuts. Here's how:

1. Students sitting in self contained situations, kids who are self contained classrooms, or students who are in resource rooms part of the day...are supposed to be funded by GENERAL ED DOLLARS. GENERAL ED DOLLARS are supposed to follow students to self contained settings, all day long. The district claims special ed teachers should be paid for by special ed dollars. This is only true if they are co teaching with a Gen ed teacher. Every second a sped teacher is teaching kids in a sped room, general ed dollars should be partially funding her.

This NEVER happens Therefore, special ed expenditures are overstated.

2 Special ed teachers shouldn't be teaching general ed students unless the special ed teacher is funded by general ed. Special ed teachers teach general ed students ALL THE TIME! Sometimes it's just a few kids in a resource room. Other times its a whole regular ed class with a single sped kid on the roster.

This is very common. Therefore, special ed expenditures are overstated

3. Equally pernicious,use of sped staff for subs, recess, hall, lunch, bus monitors.

This is common and robs sped students of time with staff. And it overstates the sped funding for a staff member.

Another Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

This has more detail on JSCEE debt than I have seen before at least, but I haven't followed too closely. It's amazing that they are just recopying old slides though - an update is definitely necessary.


Also, I like how they claim 11 speakers at the levy board meeting. While factually true, a good percentage where there disclaiming interest in the levy due to QAE situation not the levy per se.

- B

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree with "B" -- That is some whopping interest they'll be paying off on the JSCEE.

If you are interested, the JSCEE stuff starts on page 88 of the doc "B" cites above -
Page 97 that gives the yearly payback schedule thru Fiscal Year 2027 is eye-popping!


Chris S. said...

To change the topic: SBAC question. On the source, one kid has a green "Tested" for ELA but a red "No Booklet" for Math. (Score=0, met standard=N.) My older kid has two nice red "Refusals" which are accurate 0- a junior who did refuse. But the younger wanted to and did take the SBAC. So I told her, "Guess what, they lost your test booklet!" She then reminded me that it was a computer test!

So...has anyone else seen this? How exactly do you lose a digital test? I Don't Care (With Capital Letters) and not going to make district track it down, but it's curious. I'm curious.


Anonymous said...

Also related to testing, it looks like Amplify/Beacon testing for 3rd- 9th grades starts on MONDAY for SPS. I'm going to opt out my APP middle school 7th grader at WMS. I hope others might consider doing the same to stand for the teachers and kids and against the testocracy.

I don't know if we need to use a specific opt out letter, but maybe someone has one to post. For reference, here are the assessment schedules for k-8 and high school. Note: The use of the word "required" on the K-9 schedule is misleading, since it apparently means that schools are required to give the tests, not that kids are required to take the tests.



-Seattle parent

Anonymous said...

Remember what Amplify is - a Rupert Murdoch company, selling tech to schools. It's a big business, without a single educator listed in a leadership position. They are selling widgets, lots of them, to schools. Why anyone has any faith in the accuracy or appropriateness of these tests is beyond me. This does not seem to be an educational or intellectual endeavor - it's sales. And they are doing that, apparently, quite well.




mirmac1 said...

"A popular riff on the idea that special education students are bleeding public school budgets blames private place ments. A large number of mostly undeserving disabled students and their clever parents, critics allege, have managed to get public schools to pay for attendance at expensive private schools. Tales of the “greedy needy”—disabled students who receive unreasonably expensive services—appear regularly in the media. "

A good article to educate yourself on.

Anonymous said...

The reality... a district full of greedy needy administrators see students with disabilities as cash cows to fund their pet classes, reduced class size advanced learning or IB, or enrichment opportunities, like language immersion or athletics, for other students. These pet projects cost more than the state funding provides, and can only be paid for by extra building funds. Special Ed is the largest source of extra funds. Students with disabilities are routinely stripped of their funds, and sit in the largest classes in secondary schools. This is because the district views them as nonexistent, or partially existent. Tales of these greedy needy administrators and the entitled parents driving them, almost never appear in the media.

Another Sped Parent

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