Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bell Times Forum at Hamilton International Middle School

So sleep has restored my energy - here's what I heard and saw last night, starting with the two main takeaways.

Laugh of the Day

Good for Representative Carlyle for having a sense of humor.





Throwback Thursday

It was suggested to me to have a "Throwback Thursday"where we revisit what the district was going to do at a previous place in time.  (Luckily this reader also provided the topic.  Also, because district staff have a bad habit of not dating documents, I'll guess this was about 2009.)

Here is the Future BEX IV list, circa BTA III. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Attorney General Report to Supreme Court

Update: here's what happens when a non-legal person reads something that appears to be a legal brief - she gets it wrong.  This is a report from the Attorney General to the Supreme Court, NOT something written by the Supreme Court.

In my zeal to get this out there, I did not do my due diligence, believing I understood what I was reading.

Mea culpa.

end of update.

In what is a fairly quick read at 17 pages, here's what the Attorney General said to the Supreme Court in an update about McCleary. (Bold mine)

- they review that they had previously stated  "defer to the legislature's chosen means of discharging its article IX, section 1 duty" but retained jurisdiction "to monitor implementation of the reforms under ESHB 2261...

- they go on to review if the Legislature is to be held in contempt under their previous ruling.  They note that although the Legislature has not completed the work "however, there are a number of bills offered in both chambers of the Legislature that are responsive to the Court's orders." 
These bills contain provisions that, if enacted in various combinations, would result in compliance with the Court's January 9, 2014, Order and thereby purge contempt. 
Please note that "if" at the beginning of the previous statement.  That's a lot of lining up for the Legislature to do to get the contempt purged.

However,

Worksheets for Elementary Opt-Out Students

From the Parent to Parent Grassroots website, a local parent education and advocacy group, some worksheets for students who opt-out so they will have something to do while waiting for other classmates to finish testing. 

Also, from Crunchy Moms website, Eleven Reasons to Refuse Standardized Testing for Your Children. 

I particularly like these (partial):

Horrible Video Showing Kids Almost Hit by SUV as It Went Around School Bus

One of the worst, most aggregious pieces of video I have ever seen in violating of school bus laws.  The story here from KING 5.

In Graham, a school bus had stopped at a school bus pickup location at an intersection on a rural road.  The speed limit is 45 mph.

Three kids were at the stop with parents and the kids moved forward to get on the stopped bus.  A white SUV comes around the right side of the bus - the door side of the bus - thru a ditch and then passes right in front of the kids. 

They could have been killed. 

There is no way the driver did not see the kids or the parents or the flashing lights of the bus (unless, as one parent reasons, the driver was on the phone or texting). 

There are two camera angles from inside the bus.  One is the doorway where you see the kids for an instant before the SUV zooms by.  The other is the side of the bus where, out the window, you see the SUV drive in the ditch.

The police are trying to track down the driver of the SUV. 

While this happened in Graham, it is an important reminder to parents and all the public that school is still in session and kids need to be protect and driving laws around schools and school buses obeyed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dorn Gets Desperate

State Superintendent Randy Dorn appears to be quite upset about the opting out of the SBAC in Seattle high schools.  So much so that the Times granted him an op-ed to write about SBAC where he says "few 11th graders are grappling with refusal to take the test..."  

That would be almost a thousand juniors opting out of testing in the largest school district in the state.  That's not "a few" student "grappling" with anything.

Then the Times has a new story updating how many more SPS juniors have opted out.

Bell Times Survey Now Up

From SPS Communications:
As part of the Seattle Public Schools Bell Time Analysis, we would like staff to provide their input on how a bell time change could potential impact them. The survey asks respondents to identify a number of factors that could be affected, either positively or negatively, by a change in the start and end times of the school day. Three options meant to solicit feedback are offered within the survey.

Please take a few minutes to complete this survey and let Seattle Public Schools know what you think about changing bell times.

If a Parent of a current student, click here.
If not a parent of a current student and member of the community, click here.
If a staff member of Seattle Public Schools, click here.

If you are both a staff member and a parent of a Seattle Public Schools student, please take both the staff and parent survey, as there are specific questions for each role.  

For more information on the bell time study, visit belltimes.www.seattleschools.org
I took the survey as the parent of alumni of SPS.  Some thoughts:

BTA IV Nominations Due

Want to "nominate" a project for BTA IV?  The deadline is Thursday, April 30th.  The form seems to be just for nominations for projects but frankly, use it to weigh in. 

We would like your input regarding possible projects that may be included in our BTA IV capital levy. You may nominate a project for the BTA IV capital levy using our online form: http://bit.ly/BTA-IV-Nomination. Printable nomination forms and translated versions are posted on the Levies 2016 page. We will collect, record, consider and share your nomination with the Seattle School Board. The deadline to submit a nomination is April 30, 2015.

Read about the Seattle School Board's BTA IV project selection process, find contact links and get more information on the Levies 2016 page. Learn about all BTA capital projects at http://bta.seattleschools.org.

Here's what I said in my nomination:
The district needs to put an auditorium at Wilson-Pacific.  Why?
One, there needs to be a community space for two schools.  Converted cafeterias are not enough and certainly not enough for two schools in one area. 

Two, an auditorium would be great for the entire surrounding community.  The district owes the money they get for BTA and BEX from taxpayers and the public should see its own direct benefit.

Three, there are numerous example of multipurpose auditoriums throughout the country that are NOT converted cafeterias. 
I'll just go on record as saying that I think building two schools on one spot without an auditorium is a mistake, a big mistake.

I will on go on record that I believe Lincoln should be for APP middle school and Wilson-Pacific should be a high school.  (Yes, I know that leaves the issue of the elementary at W-P but the issue on the table is the Hamilton excess AND high school space.)   I think the decisions that have been made for Wilson-Pacific right now will come back to haunt the district if they come to fruition.  (I also think that many of those who are currently making decisions will be long gone by then.)

Don't Let Your Kids Watch Ads on YouTube

From the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood:
If we don’t act now, Google could singlehandedly demolish long-standing rules that protect children from harmful commercialism.

Research shows that young children have trouble distinguishing commercials from programming. That’s why there are laws that require clear separation between advertising and content on children’s television. But on Google’s new app YouTube Kids, it’s impossible to tell where the content ends and the ads begin. The app is rife with the types of ads that are illegal children’s television.

Kids deserve protection from unfair marketing whether they watch videos on a TV, tablet, phone, or any screen. Please join CCFC and other leading advocates in urging the FTC to stop the unfair ads on YouTube Kids by adding your name below.
Petition at the link; please consider signing.

Special Education News

Two stories come from Disability Scoop.

Tuesday Open Thread

KIRO tv will be airing a story on the ELL situation today.

There's a challenger for State Superintendent Randy Dorn and her name is Erin Jones.  Ms. Jones has taught in private schools and been an ESL instructor.  She is currently the AVID director for Tacoma School district.  She speaks four languages.  Her LinkedIn page says this:

I have worked in Caucasian communities, African American communities, and some of the most diverse communities in the nation. My 3 children have attended public schools in WA, from Tacoma to Puyallup to Spokane to North Thurston. Two of my children attend state colleges. The third is a senior in high school. My husband is a public school teacher. 

I am running for state superintendent because I want to leverage my vast experiences to serve my state in the most impactful way. What I hope to bring to the position:
1. Advocacy: I wish to advocate for educators at every level, so they are resourced at necessary levels to serve ALL students well.
2. An educator's lens: in whatever position I serve, I am always teacher. I am a practitioner who understands quality instruction and seeks to stay connected to those in the trenches to best serve them.
3. A collaborative practice: I have always engaged a variety of stakeholders in the work. Quality public schools must engage the community.
4. Systems alignment: Alignment will require my experience and connections with early learning, higher-ed, State Board, and PESB in order to ensure a clear pathway to post-secondary exists for all students.


I'll ding her for using "impactful" but she has wide and varied background including being named a Milken Educator of the Year and Champion of Change by the White House in 2013. 

The Board Work Session on HR tomorrow at 4:30 pm is indeed open to the public with a closed Executive Session starting around 6 pm. 

What's on your mind?

UW CSE Alegebra Challenge

UW's Computer Science and Engineering Department had kicked off a Washington State Algebra Challenge on April 21 with an end date of April 26th.  However, due to feedback from schools about state testing, they have extended the project. 

Our schools sent the message, and we got it loud and clear! April and May are busy times for testing, so why not give everyone more time to participate in the challenge? 

Today, we’re pleased to announce an extension to our end date – sign up and start the Challenge as early as April 27 (next week!), and go at your own pace until June 5, 2015, when we close up our leaderboards for the 2014-15 school year.

With our new date, we’ll be adjusting our goals and shaking things up a bit. With even more time, we can’t wait to see what the students of Washington state can accomplish together.

The Center for Game Science at the University of Washington focuses on solving hard problems facing humanity today in a game based environment. Our focus is on scientific discovery games, games that discover optimal learning pathways for STEM education, cognitive skill training games, games that promote human creativity, games that explore collective over individual intelligence, and many more. 

Visit the site! Check out all our videos Watch the main K-12 Story Challenge Video Learn more about the Common Core Problem Types Sign up now!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Urgent Action Needed on Student Data Privacy

I am a member of the Network for Public Education, a group started by elder education statesperson, Diane Ravitch.  One of our members sent this message today; I ask you to consider helping with input to elected officials on an issue around student data privacy for higher education.

What we are asking for is an e-mail to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee.  The deadline was last Friday but it has been extended to the end of the day (EST) tomorrow, Monday the 27th.  Sample e-mail at the end of this thread. Send them to consumerinformation@help.senate.gov

Synopsis:

Public Boarding Schools for At-Risk Kids

If I'm reading this article correctly, these are for parents who cannot support their child's learning because of life circumstances. 

There is one charter school in D.C., the SEED Public Charter School of Washington, opened in 1998 that is a public boarding school for poor and academically at-risk students.  This chain also has one in Baltimore and one in Miami.  From the Associated Press:

Japanese Kindergarten IS the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

From Upworthy,

A new kind of kindergarten design encourages kids to be their silly selves.
It's a story on a kindergarten space created by a top architect (his TED talk is part of the link).  You really have to see the photos/videos to get it.  Personally, I love it and one of the best early childhood classroom I have ever seen. 

Washington State DFER Creates a PAC

The Washington State chapter of Democrats for Education Reform has created a PAC and registered it with the Public Disclosure Commission.  Oh, and they dropped $100,000 into it.

Will be interesting what (and who) they spend it on.

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, April 29th

This date sees two Work Sessions; both closed.  They run from 4:30-7:30 pm. 

I am a bit puzzled by these as the calendar notation has one about HR and is an open session and the other as a closed Executive Session.  But I went to the agenda and now both are notated as "Closed" sessions.  I thought an Executive Session was always closed any way and also why are both now closed?

The HR presentation is still linked. 

Pearson Essay Using PARCC Test Words

From Diane Ravitch:

A teacher wrote this little essay and dedicated it to Governor Andrew Cuomo:
“There is a man in Albany, who I surmise, by his clamorous paroxysms, has an extreme aversion to educators. He sees teachers as curs, or likens them to mangy dogs. Methinks he suffers from a rare form of psychopathology in which he absconds with our dignity by enacting laws counterintuitive to the orthodoxy of educational leadership. We have given him sufferance for far too long. He’s currently taking a circuitous path to DC, but he will no doubt soon find himself in litigious waters. The time has come to bowdlerize his posits, send him many furlongs away, and maroon him there, maybe Cuba?
She added:
I’m not supposed to say this, but all these insanely hard words appeared on the 4,6, and 8th grade tests last week.

Ridiculous? Or just hard?

Hard? Or just ridiculous?

I can say, with no embarrassment, that I did not know at least half those words until high school (a few in college). 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Science Magic: the Power of the Bubble

Show this to the kids this weekend.

Also, here's the interview with Bill Nye (the Science guy) and President Obama on Earth Day, talking about climate change.

Also, I can't remember if I put up this story from NBC before but it's a great one about a boy who invents a machine for the blind - at a lower cost than a traditional one - with Legos.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Education News Round-Up

State Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle) announced that the Legislature passed his bill HB1240 on the use of restraint and isolation techniques in public schools.  The bill will now go to Governor Inslee for his signature.
“This bill makes sure that treating people with respect and dignity doesn’t end when a child walks through the doors of their school,” said Pollet. “Schools should create an environment where students can learn without fear of having their behavior corrected with the use of restraints and isolation. This bill prohibits the use of these tactics and promotes the use of positive interventions which are proven to be effective.”
He said that parents and advocates for people with disabilities helped mightily to win the day.  

Paramount Pictures announced today that it is sending a copy of the film, Selma, to every single high school in the U.S. (public and private). 

Seattle Schools Found Out of Compliance on ELL Programs

I'll just print the letter that Veronica Gallardo, Director of ELL and International Programs, wrote to principals.  It's fairly stunning.  It upends the ELL program almost completely, adds thousands of more kids to be tested for ELL services and shows a district that either does not make sure it is compliance or does not understand what OSPI has said.  Either way, not good.
School Leaders,

We are writing to inform you that OSPI has found the district out of compliance regarding ELL student access to schools and ELL programs. Historically, our student assignment plans included ELL service schools. It was a district belief that ELL families could opt to attend an ELL service school within their assigned service area if their neighborhood school was not an ELL school. The state does not agree. In addition, during the state review it was discovered that enrollment services did not administer the placement assessment to over 1100 students who reported speaking another language other than English at home.

As a result of this finding, several big changes are in the works. Below are the actions the district is taking:
  • Eliminate the designated ELL school model
  • Initiate ELL services in all schools (two models of service will be provided based on ELL enrollment at each school)
  • Terminate the requirement that parent's must waive ELL services to attend a non-ELL service school (formerly only available at designated ELL schools) since all schools must now provide ELL services.

News That is Spreading Across the Country

WA State Teacher Walk-Outs Continue

Eleven school districts have had their teachers vote to walk out in protest over the lack of funding for public education in Washington State as well as lack of progress on a budget that meets that obligation via the McCleary ruling.

The latest teacher group is from Lake Washington School District who will walk on May 6th.  Lakewood and Stanwood-Camano, both in Snohomish County, walked out Wednesday. 

Today Anacortes, Bellingham, Blain, Mount Vernon, Conway and Ferndale will walk.  Next week sees teachers in Sedro-Woolley and Oak Harbor walk.  

As far as I know, discussions are continuing at SEA but no vote has been taken. 

As I previously reported, the Governor has announced the Special Session of the Legislature will begin this Wednesday. 

I note that this does not appear to be happening in other parts of the state.  I could find no mention of it in the Spokane Review with two stories in the Yakima Herald plus a scathing editorial against the action.

I wish the WEA had organized a one-day strike that actually took place on one single day - either at the capital or in teachers' home districts.  I think the impact would have been much greater. 

Friday Open Thread

 UPdate:  huge shout-out to the Seahawks Richard Sherman who made a surprise visit to Rainier Beach High School yesterday. 

It's already started but the (NFFTY) Film Festival for Talented Youth is a good bet for this weekend.

Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times tries to talk about ed reform, with the premise that K-12 ed reform is over and now it's about birth to five.  (Geez, do these people just all get the same memo/tweet/fax in the morning?)  Of course, the early years are important but that's not really the point.

His real premise (as I see it) is buried in one of his three reasons why everyone should move on:

Education inequity is America’s original sin.

No, it's not.  America's original sin is a two-fold one.  It is the double whammy of slavery (and its generational legacy) and the treatment of the original peoples of this land.  That, Mr. Kristof, is our "original sin."  As well, it is not education inequity that is really the problem - it's income inequality.  My belief is that you will not solve one without the other and that is the likely reason that you only see pockets of change rather a mass moving of the needle. 

From Madison Middle School yesterday:
At approximately 10:20am a female scholar was followed from the Metro bus stop at McDonalds and California west on Stevens by a man who approached her from behind and grabbed her.  He was described as an African man in his early 20’s or 30’s, thin build, with short curly hair. Our scholar turned and yelled at him, and he ran back toward PCC on California. She proceeded to school and immediately reported the incident to school staff. Madison administration notified the family and the Seattle Police Department, who are actively investigating.

According to the Governor's office, there will be a Special Session of the Legislature, starting next Wednesday, April 29th (although budget writers will be working on Monday).  I'm with reader Eric B.  They work by day, get locked up in jail by night and it would get done in 5 days.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Quite the Day on the Opt-Out Front

First up, apparently poor Minnesota got hit by an overloaded processor AND some kind of hacking which lead to a shutdown of their testing on Tuesday.  Minnesota is using PARCC and that means our friends at Pearson had some explaining to do.  Pearson got it back and running but the Minnesota ODE was not quite prepared to say all was well.  From MPR:
"We still need to hear from Pearson exactly what the issue is, how they have resolved it, and receive an assurance that testing can resume smoothly," department spokesman Josh Collins said.

The department hopes to restart testing on Thursday if it gets those assurances, he added.
The hacker attack went away after about 30 minutes.

I'm just going to interject at this point.  Look, even without opt-outs, multiple states had to shut down testing.  ANYONE who knows how testing goes at a school, knows that it is a carefully planned event and anything that changes, throws the whole thing out of whack.

My point is that anyone - Arne Duncan, I'm looking at you - who believes that these state test results should be taken seriously is wrong.  It is wrong for students, for teachers, for districts. 

Then we have the New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition group of 50 parent/educator groups, who have come out with their demands for public education.  From their press release:
The educational program of the state is in chaos. Leadership is more important than ever. On Sunday, April 19th the Editorial Board of The Journal News declared, “The stunning success of the test-refusal movement in New York is a vote of no confidence in our state educational leadership” in calling for Chancellor Merryl Tisch to step aside. 

New York State Allies for Public Education, a grassroots coalition of over fifty parent and educator advocacy organizations from all corners of the Empire State, stands with the Editorial Board of The Journal News.
 They go on:
“Parents have been left with no choice. We will submit our refusal letters, which is our parental right, on day one of school, next year and every year and if those in power will not listen, we will free our children from a test driven, developmentally inappropriate education,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder.
 But next door in New Jersey, public education officials say they will drop the hammer.  From NJcom (bold mine):

Parent Threatens Child at Broadview-Thomson

On April 6th at Broadview-Thomson K-8 during school breakfast, a 7-year old girl was threatened by a parent (not her own) who said she would cut the girl's tongue out and showed her a boxcutter.   It is unclear why the parent did this but the little girl was frightened and went to a staff member.

The staff member alerted the office and the school staff searched the school to try to find the person in case it was an ongoing issue.  They did not find the person. 

The school says that they notified the child's mother right away.  The mother is claiming she was not told until the afternoon.

At some point, the staff did figure out who threatened the child. When she was questioned, the woman, the mother of a classmate of the victim, claimed she was "just kidding" and had the boxcutter in her coat because she had just come from work where she uses one.

The parent of the child had a previously scheduled meeting with the principal the next day and, of course, they discussed the incident.   According to the district, the meeting went well and the principal told the mother that the other parent now had a no-trespass order for a year.   The principal seemed to think the mother was satisfied when she left his office.

But the mother IS unhappy and has a Facebook page where she says:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Opting Out - Two Views

Update:  a third view from a NY parent:

Whatever test, the results need to be teacher, student and parent friendly. They should impact instruction and be understandable for parents and students,” Salazar added. “It should be like a cholesterol test, most of us don’t know the science but we do understand the results.”

end of update

One view comes from two Long Island superintendents with Long Island being the epicenter of opt-outs in NY state.  It is thoughtful and cogent.  From the Suffolk Times Review:

At first glance, the current, heated, conflict over state testing and the “opt-out” movement appears to be a dispute between those who believe in and those who dispute the value of state tests. But this conflict goes deeper. It is a conflict about what is good for children and adolescents, about how children learn and thrive, and about how to raise young people to enter into and contribute to their communities as mature members of a democratic society. 

Those who support testing contend that facing tests, and the concomitant adversity that one might experience (even if the test is developmentally inappropriate) are a part of life. To do otherwise is considered weak, and represents a failure to develop the “grit” necessary to fully engage in life’s challenges. For these people, it is inconceivable that locally developed assessments — perhaps even more purposeful and useful assessments — could accomplish that very same goal.  Living in a culture of fear as we do, many people believe that it is necessary to impose carefully guarded secret tests from above to make sure that we hold incompetent adults — untrustworthy teachers and administrators — accountable for the abject failure of some children who graduate from our public schools.

Then they get even more serious:

While not discarding other learning — the arts, science, history and other subjects — outright, self-appointed education reformers believe teachers and administrators must attend to the English and mathematics tasks above all else. They believe that education is about getting children ready for the world of work, few questions asked. To these reformers, children who go to public schools “live to work” as the saying goes, and ought to be educated to do so.

 Many defenders of current state tests also find it morally reprehensible to break the rules, even if the rules support a broken system. To be an agent of change, and seek to be in favor of a better system is considered wrong and virtually un-American to these people. The system is what it is, and everyone should be quiet and obey the rules. Our founding fathers, who were patriots, would have had a hard time understanding why they risked their lives to establish our democracy if they believed that adherence to the official way of doing things could not be challenged. We would suspect that the likes of Washington, Franklin and Jefferson would do far more than simply opt-out of tests.

Duncan Saber-Rattles in Remarks on Opt-Outs

From Chalkbeat New York:
 U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday that the federal government is obligated to intervene if states fail to address the rising number of students who are boycotting mandated annual exams. 

“We think most states will do that,” Duncan said during a discussion at the Education Writers Association conference in Chicago. “If states don’t do that, then we have an obligation to step in.”
Federal law requires all students in grades three to eight to take annual tests, and officials have said districts could face sanctions if fewer than 95 percent of students participate.
 And yet he also said this:
Duncan also said that students in some states are tested too much, and acknowledged that the exams are challenging for many students. But he argued that annual standardized exams are essential for tracking student progress and monitoring the score gap between different student groups. 
He seemed to also forget that for the overwhelming majority of districts in this country, this is a new test that may also is computer-based.  So many children it's content AND process.

Ed Issues This and That

 In what is the biggest story for our district (and all districts in this state) is the likely reality of the Legislature going into a Special Session to complete the budget.  

The impacts of this delay to our school districts is big and those impacts should have been considered at the start of the session.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Advanced Learning News

The Times has a fairly silly article (really, an op-ed because there's a lot of "I heard" and conjecture in it) about HCC.  I'm not even going to link it but it's there if you want to go see it.

I saw these items of interest at the district's website.

And Then There Was One

One incumbent running, that is. 

Director Peaslee today announced that, like Directors Carr and Martin-Morris, she will not be seeking another term on the Seattle School Board.  She says:
Although serving on the Seattle School Board has been one of the more satisfying experiences of my life, it's now time to support my two children through college.
She talks about the work still to be done and, like Director Carr, names the Seattle Pre-K program.  I have to say the public push for this program by the Board is interesting given how little attention it had before its passage by them.  (Or at least, publicly.) 

It almost makes me wonder if any of these directors will have a second act in the City's Office of Education.

What's fascinating is that the Board, with three members leaving in December is going to continue to devote a chunk of time on learning about governance.  I find that baffling for a group of smart people who have had numerous "board trainings."

At this point, I would think their time would be better served actually doing the work of the Board.

Shelter-in-Place at Nathan Hale/JAMS

It appears there was police activity around Hale and JAMS this morning.  From SPS Twitter:
Officers arrested teen suspect from assault at Nathan Hale HS after lengthy foot-pursuit. More info to come.
From SPS Communications Twitter:
Shelter-in-place: Nathan Hale, Jane Adams. @SeattlePD investigating Nathan Hale incident of student beat up on campus - suspect fled.
SPS Communications reporting shelter-in-place was lifted about 45 minutes ago. 
Lifted: Shelter-in-place at Nathan Hale and Jane Adams. Suspect in custody per @SeattlePD
April 21, 2015
Dear Nathan Hale Families -
At 10:00 AM we became aware of an incident that occurred on campus where a student was injured by another student, who is currently suspended and not supposed to be at the school. Nathan Hale staff immediately contacted Safety & Security and Seattle Police. The student was treated by the school nurse.
Because safety is our top priority, Nathan Hale went into shelter-in-place for less than an hour while SPD searched for the suspect. Nathan Hale follows Seattle Public Schools and Washington state requirements by:
• Having crisis response plans in place that address a full range of emergency situations. We also conduct lockdown drills and fire drills regularly to prepare for all kinds of emergencies.
• Our school counselors and staff will be available to discuss student concerns throughout the week and we can also provide resources for families if you need them.
I am very proud of the way the students and staff conducted themselves and I assure you that we will continue to keep you updated as I am aware of information.
Sincerely,
Jill Hudson, Ed.D.
Principal, Nathan Hale High School

Washington State Treasurer's Big Plan to Fund Education

I have to give credit to State Treasurer Jim McIntire.  He went all in on a new plan that wouldn't just fund public education but entirely revamp how our state collects taxes.  (His plan apparently would fund what State Superintendent Randy Dorn suggested for public ed spending.)

He would:
  • create a 5% personal income tax
  • get rid of the state property tax
  • lower the state sales tax (from 5.5 to 6.5%)
  • and reduce some business taxes
He says at the end of all that- with more state revenue but lower local levies - the State would be up by $4B.  He'd like to see this on the ballot in 2016.  (But it would also take a vote of the Legislature as well.)

I am not in a position to analyze (I'm not sure I even have that skill set) but I'm with him - a conversation needs to be started.

And, as usual, you have legislators like ed reform's Rep. Chad Magendanz (R-Issaquah) who says nah, we just need to shuffle around the deck chairs.  He is right that this can't be done in conjunction with meeting the mandates of McCleary on the Supreme Court's timeline. 

Tuesday Open Forum

Well, a lot of convergence on School Board races yesterday and it probably leaves just one incumbent standing for reelection - Marty McLaren.   I can direct potential candidates in District 1 (Sharon Peaslee) to people who know campaigns/School Board work for anyone who might be considering a run at the position.  Contact me at sss.westbrook@gmail.com.

I saw Director Carr's farewell e-mail.  She lists accomplishments over her eight years on the Board "working together as a Seattle Public Schools governance team" and I was astonished to see "began foundational work for a universal preschool partnership with the City of Seattle" on the list. 

Did you hear that the NSA doesn't want to go in the backdoor for your data?  Nope, they want the key to the front door....from Google (and others).  From Extreme Tech:
Instead of handing the NSA a unilateral window into encrypted communications taking place at Google or Apple, Rogers suggested a future in which the encryption keys to access such information would be divided between at least two groups — possibly more. In the simplest example, Google would retain half the key, while the NSA held the other half. Thus, the agency wouldn’t be able to unilaterally snoop inside anyone’s files — it would need Google’s support.

“I don’t want a back door,” Rogers, the director of the nation’s top electronic spy agency, said during a speech at Princeton University, according to the Washington Post. “I want a front door. And I want the front door to have multiple locks. Big locks.”
Speaking of privacy, a story about teachers remembering that showing student work on social media can be problematic and a violation of student privacy from Rafranz Davis.
We do not own student work. We cannot share personal thoughts of kids without consent. Trust matters.
Hey, looks like my post on "What Happened to..." found one answer.  Well, sort of.  The Times is reporting this morning about the story of  suspected cheating on tests at Beacon Hill  that - despite 6 months of work, $25k in contract work (with the contract extended twice) and hiring a handwriting expert - there's no answer to who did this.  FYI, I did sent an e-mail to the Board with all the questions from that thread. 

From the "Know Your Pioneers" section, here's Katherine Johnston, an African-American physicist, who worked at National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, (pre-NASA).  From Quarks to Quasars:

By the time the next year rolled around, Johnson had applied again and found herself with two contracts on her table. One was a contract to teach, and one was to work for NACA. 

You should read this because teaching's loss was the American space program's gain.

What's on your mind?

Monday, April 20, 2015

One-Day Strike in SPS?

Update: I heard from SEA leadership.  There was a vote but it was only to allow building reps to consult with membership on this issue.  There has been no vote to strike nor is any vote imminent.  
End of update.

I'm getting word that the SEA has tentatively approved a one-day strike like other districts over the Legislature's lack of action around fully funding education.

 Eight districts are striking.  According to the Times, they are Lakewood, Arlington, Stanwood-Camano, Mount Vernon, Sedro-Woolley, Bellingham,, Ferndale and Blaine.  Some are walking out on Wednesday, others may do their walk-outs in the weeks to come. 

Anyone hearing anything specific on when SEA might walk?

Seattle School Board Candidate Updates

Update: it appears that only Marty McLaren is poised to run again for her Board seat.

I'm not surprised that Martin-Morris and Carr are stepping down at the end of eight years.

This does change things considerably and frankly, probably makes it easier for anyone who wants to run.  The incumbents were not a sure thing (and I believe Director McLaren has an uphill battle ahead of her).

If you know of anyone thinking of running from District 1, Sharon Peaslee's seat, (like from the Nathan Hale community where parents are fairly active), please contact me at sss.westbrook@gmail.com.  I know people who would be glad to just walk someone thru the election process and Board work process so any potential candidate could gauge what that would be like. 
end of update

Starting to see some action now on School Board races.  To recap/update (final filing isn't until early May but these are candidates registered at the PDC):

 Update:  So the Times had the announcement that Martin-Morris wasn't running again in the afternoon edition and yet only had McGuire as a candidate for that district when Geary has been running for weeks.

As well, they didn't seem to know that Peaslee and McLaren are running again nor that McLaren has an opponent.

Makes you wonder who the Times might be supporting.

end of update.


District 1 - seat currently held by Sharon Peaslee
Peaslee is running to retain her seat; does not appear to have a campaign website yet and her Sharon Peaslee website's last entry is from 2013.
There is currently no one running against her (not good).

District  II - seat currently held by Sherry Carr
Carr has not announced nor said if she will run.  I think Carr likes this role but she has been in there for eight long years.  Hard to say.  Carr sent a message to constituents that she is NOT running for the Board again. 
Rick Burke announced last week.  Rick is a long-time SPS parent and math advocate. His campaign website.

District III - seat currently held by Harium Martin-Morris
Martin-Morris has just announced if he will NOT run.
Two candidates have announced in this race:
Jill Geary - a lawyer and active PTA parent; knows a lot about Sped (she has a twice-exceptional student) and seems to be raising money easily.  She and her husband gave LEV a contribution recently.  Her campaign website is here.  Her Facebook page says she is raising money at a good clip.
Lauren McGuire - just announced and was former SCPTSA president and SPS parent.  Not quite ed reform but nearly.  Website.  Close to Michael DeBell.

This is my district; I have to say it is tempting to consider running.  

District VI - seat currently held by Marty McLaren
McLaren has announced she is running to retain her seat.
Leslie Harris - paralegal and long-time public ed activist and parent of a Sealth senior.  One of the usual suspects at most Board meetings.  Her website includes many endorsements including high level ones.  (Public disclosure: I am friends with Leslie and support her campaign.)

Seattle Schools Meetings on Wilson-Pacific Naming/Bell Times

Several meetings to put on your calendar.

Seattle Schools This Week

 Wednesday is the next School Board meetingAgenda includes:
  • proposed calendar for 2015-2016
  • everything on the Action and Intro lists is about capital projects save one on "Plaques, Name Plates and Donor Walls" that the Superintendent has asked to be postponed until May 20th
This should be one short Board meeting.  As well, since the overwhelming majority of the agenda is capital projects, well, you can come and talk to the Board and Superintendent just about anything.  

Thursday is the Operations Committee meeting starting at 4:30 pm.  No agenda is yet available.

There are no Saturday Director meetings this week.

Of note:

- Rainier Beach High School principal, Dwane Chappelle, was named Metro Principal of the Year for 2014-2015.  Congrats to to Principal Chappelle doing yeoman's work at RBHS.

- Roosevelt AP Human Geography teacher Richard Katz has won a Distinguished Teaching Award from the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE). From SPS Communications:

The award recognizes teaching skills, leadership, professional development accomplishments, involvement in student activities, and development of innovative teaching materials and strategies.
 

Katz’s AP Human Geography students might explore just about anything having to do with cultural geography, languages, religions, development, urbanization – and patterns of how they impact and spread across different lands.

It is a required course for tenth-graders at the school, part of Roosevelt’s push to expand AP courses. 


Mythbuster on Learning by Doing

A reader talked recently about the robotics program at Ingraham but whether it's robotics or shop or the arts, Adam Savage is right.  Kids learn from doing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

You Can Still Opt-Out

Considering it?  You can still opt your child out of part of the SBAC testing. 

I honestly believe two things.

One, the feds will not be able to come in and punish districts/schools for the decisions of parents.  In fact, I think that states might consider suing the feds over it and boy, would that make for an interesting Supreme Court case.  (To note, the Court has sided with parents on several of these types of cases.)

Two, change on comes when people of good faith stand together.  There is no "done deal" to all of this.  Parents - and taxpayers - have the right to ask hard questions about the teaching and learning being done and how the dollars are being spent  in the name of accountability.  I'm not sure anyone can say this is the only/best way to that accountability.

As of 4/20/15, in New York, 177,249 students have already been opted out of the Common Core test.

Update:

Want to hear more about opting out?

Seattle Opt Out Group Meeting
Thursday, April 23, from 6-7:45

Douglass Truth Library
2300 East Yesler, Seattle

Our guest will be Rita Green, Education Chair of the Seattle/King County NAACP. 

We will have a great conversation about opting out and how the high-stakes standardized testing movement is impacting our students of color.  Join us!!
(I'll add here that Rita Green is a long-time parent at Rainier Beach High School and public education activist.)

Comments on both PARCC and SBAC Assessments

Comments are now pouring in on both tests.  Here are comments from the PARCC assessment in NY state and the SBAC here in Seattle.

One from The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post stands out:

An elementary principal of a well-regarded elementary school in an affluent, “gold-coast” district wrote the following:
 These three days of ELA have been torture – I had only 23 students opt out and I had at least 3 times that number in tears. If we were permitted to talk about the content, it would be over so fast. Folks would be horrified at the vocabulary, the reading levels and the ambiguity of the questions. I was unable to answer at least 25 percent of them.

Opting Out - A Growing, Loud Movement

Time magazine has this new article: Thousands of kids opt out of standardized Common Core tests across the U.S.
This “opt-out” movement remains scattered but is growing fast in some parts of the country. Some superintendents in New York are reporting that 60 percent or even 70 percent of their students are refusing to sit for the exams. Some lawmakers, sensing a tipping point, are backing the parents and teachers who complain about standardized testing.
Considerable resistance also has been reported in Maine, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania, and more is likely as many states administer the tests in public schools for the first time this spring.
In California, home to the nation’s largest public school system and Democratic political leaders who strongly endorse Common Core standards, there have been no reports of widespread protests to the exams — perhaps because state officials have decided not to hold schools accountable for the first year’s results.
 Downside for districts:
Resistance could be costly: If fewer than 95 percent of a district’s students participate in tests aligned with Common Core standards, federal money could be withheld, although the U.S. Department of Education said that hasn’t happened.
On that withholding of funds, I just don't get it.  Schools and districts will be punished for parents' civil rights choice to withhold their child - not from testing - but from a test.  I do believe there is quite the difference between "no testing" and "just not this long test that may be developmentally inappropriate." 

So if Arne Duncan wants to be massively punitive, he may have a full-out mutiny on his hands.  (And woe be to Hillary Clinton if she thinks this will not come her way.  More on that in another thread.)

Naming Wilson-Pacific Schools

It seems some names are out there for both the elementary school and the middle school at the Wilson-Pacific site.  And, there was a survey about it but that survey, somehow, was only sent to select people.  Now why would that be?  (I'll ask tomorrow but here's what I understand.)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

As If DFER Could Not Make Themselves Sound Worse

I was checking in at the DFER website to see if there was any statement walking back the one from the NY state director, bemoaning opt-outs and real estate values and I found none.

But I did find this scathing commentary on opting out and it's from Nicole Brisbane, the director of the NY state DFER.  Apparently she can't help herself.

Highlights:

- they start with their title, by immediately drawing a line in the between them and teachers unions/"affluent parents" - The Opt-Out Movement; whose kids are really at stake?

- What's interesting is they do say several nice things about teachers unions but then:

In this case, they are trying to maintain a status quo that has been inherently unfair to low income and minority students.

Yes, we are still using that tired old line of "status quo."  And again, I don't read/hear from virtually any teachers or parents who don't think some testing is necessary.

-But the reason why this opt-out movement is most offensive is the absolute disregard for the progress our country has made identifying and addressing the achievement gap between low income and affluent students.

Offensive?  Parents expressing their concern over high stakes testing is "offensive?"

 Also, I was unaware that this country didn't realize there was a gap before NCLB.  I would agree that forcing districts to report on every single type of student did reveal how Sped, ELL and other named status of student is doing but I didn't think it was a big mystery to start with.

Friday, April 17, 2015

DFER Clears Up Why Opting Out is Bad, Bad, Bad

You can read the whole article at USA Today about the huge number of opt-outs in New York State.  But this gem of a quote from the state director of Democrats for Education Reform - one Nicole Brisbane - reveals the REAL issue about opt-outs:

"Schools are one of the biggest differentiators of value in the suburbs," she said. "How valuable will a house be in Scarsdale when it isn't clear that Scarsdale schools are doing any better than the rest of Westchester or even the state? Opting out of tests only robs parents of that crucial data."

You can't make this stuff up.

For those of you who may not know, Scarsdale is a fairly upper-crust town in north of NYC.  The median income for a family there is about $290K.

Interestingly, here's what one superintendent in Cold Spring, NU had to say:

"Parents want to have a say in their child's education and this is one way they feel they can be heard," she said.

Want to Understand the Issues over Local Levies and School Funding?

The Washington State Budget and Policy Center does a great job unpacking these issues of why the Legislature would want to reform local school levies.  The article is about the competing bills in the House and Senate over this reform (bold mine).
Local levies – property taxes approved by voters for a specified school district – have become increasingly used to fill gaps left by inadequate state resources. Although local levies are intended to fund “enrichment programs” like extracurricular clubs and advanced learning programs, the funding from them currently supports a multitude of school’s basic needs. Things like teacher salaries and textbooks.

When the State Supreme Court ruled in its 2012 McCleary case that the state had failed to meet its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education, it asserted that this model doesn’t work. The court noted that the state’s reliance on local property taxes to support basic education – instead of broader, statewide taxes – fails to provide the ample funding required by the Constitution.

Heavy reliance on local resources has resulted in an uneven education system, in which wealthier localities are able to raise more money than poorer areas of the state (see graph). To fix this structural problem and safeguard access to basic education for all kids, adequate state funding is needed.
I don't know about you but I got my property tax bill and it is pretty high for local levies.  I can only imagine the burden for those who are less well-off and struggling to keep their homes.

I don't mind be taxed but I do mind the state using those taxes to avoid fully funding education as Constitutionally mandated.  I actually had been meaning to write a thread about the arts because even though I have yet to meet a parent who did not want arts in their child's education, adequate funding never seems to be there.  And yet we have local levies - both school district and City - neither of which truly moves any money towards the arts.

Kid Issues around the Puget Sound

Here's a sad commentary on our country.  (I think Seattle Citizen mentioned this issue elsewhere.)  A baby was shot in the head in a drive-by shooting in Kent.  The baby is likely brain-dead.

Why did this happen?

Police said the shooting stemmed from a road-rage incident when a silver car driven by Malaja’s family and a black sedan turned on Lake Fenwick Road South at the same time.

“There was some sort of exchange, and the next thing we know is the individuals in the black vehicle exchanged gunfire (at the) silver vehicle,” said a police spokeswoman on the scene.

 KIRO tv had a story and this is what the baby's uncle said:

"We need to stop the Seattle violence," the baby's uncle, Edmond "Mackie" McNeil, told KIRO 7.

"The CD [Central District], south end, whoever, wherever. It's over. We're trying to be living for our kids. Everybody needs to live for your kids, now. It's over. You ain't no gangster because you want to carry a gun. That's stupid. Live for your kids. Be a PTA parent. Do something."

Wise words.

The Times is reporting a notable uptick in the number of whooping cough cases.

Whooping cough is on the rise again in Washington State, with more than five times as many cases so far this year as in 2014," the Seattle Times reports. "Vaccination of pregnant women, children and teens is the most effective way to stop the spread, health officials said. As of April, there have been 319 cases of whooping cough, formally known as pertussis, compared with 49 cases for the same period last year, the state Department of Health reported.

In some good health news, it will sunny this weekend AND it's free admission weekend at our national parks including Mount Rainier.

Testing Woes: Will the Feds Have Any Sympathy?

The Department of Education has a message for Nevada, Montana and North Dakota over Common Core assessments - get it done.  Even though, all three of those states experienced - thru no apparent fault of their own - massive vendor problems that led to a shutdown of testing last month and this week.

From the AP:

Seattle Schools Enrollment - Assignments and Waitlist Now Available

From SPS Communications:

If you submitted one of the 5,300 choice applications we received during the Open Enrollment period, you can now view the results. The Assignment and Waitlist link has been updated for the 2015-16 school year.
Use the link to see your student’s 2015-16 assignment and any wait list placements. You will need your student’s identification number and birthdate. 


If you did not request a different assignment during Open Enrollment and have not submitted at change to your home address, your student’s assignment hasn't changed.
Printed assignment letters will be mailed to home addresses the week of April 27.  

Second applications for choice enrollment will be accepted beginning May 1, 2015. The choice forms remain posted on the Admissions main page. 

If you have questions about school assignments for the 2015-16 school year, please call the Service Center at (206) 252-0760.

But not until Monday.

Friday Open Thread

Update: forgot to include this fascinating piece of news.

Sarah Morningstar, the late Cheryl Chow's partner, applied for Sally Clark's soon to be vacant City Council seat.  Morningstar mentions her work as a school administrator in Seattle Schools in her application.  Morningstar is currently assistant principal at TOPS.

The City Council will announce the finalists on Monday at 2 pm.  There will be 3-minute presentations from the finalists on Friday, the 24th with an announcement of the winner on Monday, April 27th.  Good luck, Ms. Morningstar.

end of update

In news about First Place Scholars, it's good news.  Apparently, they have shown enough progress for their turnaround for the Charter Commission's Executive Director, Joshua Halsey, to say that things are looking good.  They just need to turn in their documentation on Special Education to meet what the CC asked for in changes at FPS.

Did you get a robo-call from Ready Washington (brought to you by OSPI and the Gates Foundation) about SBAC? From Seattle Education:

People around the state are receiving robo-calls from a (Gates backed Teachers United) teacher who was declared “Teacher of the Year” by The Office of the State Superintendent (OSPI) which is headed by the State Superintendent Randy Dorn. Mr. Dorn is also on the board of CCSSO which is an organization receiving $84M from Bill Gates to promote the Common Core Standards.

Interested in civil rights data collection?  Here's a place to search. 

Robert Kennedy, Jr. continues his ranting over vaccines and autism.  Recently, he had to walk back this statement:

This is a Holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

Here's a test question from Singapore that seems to stump everyone - When is Cheryl's Birthday?


From KUOW, a entirely outdoor preschool here in Seattle.  Wonder if they would qualify for the City's program? Nah.

Time for your science lesson - Finding the Speed of Light with Peeps

Coloring Books - they're not just for kids.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Common Core Testing Promoters Circling the Wagons

Seattle Schools has now finished just one part of the state testing cycle.  According to the schedule at OPSI, the 3rd grade reading is done.  That leaves plenty more to do before the June 15th cutoff date.  (I'm thinking the district will be done a lot sooner than that.)

CPPS and the Equity in Education Coalition are having an "informative community conversation on the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessments" on April 27th at the African American Museum.  It includes Eric Anderson, the head of assessment for SPS.  The panel also includes two people from OSPI, a teacher from Kent and someone from the Office of Education.

But this appears to be by invitation only, sorry.

The invitation ends by saying:

We hope this will be an ongoing dialogue and the first of many community conversations on Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

It's great that CPPS and the Equity in Education Coalition are trying to create an opportunity for dialog around this issue.  I wish our own district had wanted to do this in any meaningful way. 

I mean a roll-out of new standards AND new assessments over two+ years and there hasn't been much in the way of community discussion (not to mention information) on Common Core and its assessments?  Why not?

As well, today Bill Gates weighed in on the latest drag on Common Core.  And boy, did he huff and puff out some doozy quotes.  From the Huffington Post:

Reading the Friday Memos

The last Superintendent's Friday Memo on April 3, 2015 says this:


Rainier Beach:
The recent recognition of the Rainier Beach International Baccalaureate program is well deserved. Rainier Beach has benefitted from the state School Improvement Grants, Race to the Top grants, and support from many community partners. The district has supported the IB program as we do for all schools during the first five years. That funding will continue for the next two years. And we are certainly hopeful that added state support will make longer term funding possible. As a result of community complaints, the Office of Civil Rights has opened a file on inequitable funding for Rainier Beach (furniture, curriculum, staffing). Our responses to OCR will show that we are funding Rainier Beach as well or (in some cases) better than other similar schools in the district. 

I feel like there's something a little backhanded in that reply.  Maybe that's just me.


I know that IB schools get something like $50K extra.  I also know that you need to have an IB adviser and that would eat up the $50K right there (or leave you with very little).  I'm not sure how the district doesn't know this from the time they started the program.   

Change Starts with Each of Us

A couple of items came across my desk in the last 24 hours related to women, stereotypes and sexual assault. 

One is a powerful video  from Tumwater High School, part of the No More campaign.  As Tumwater's counselor, Todd Caffey, explains, they used national statistics to extrapolate to THS' female student population as "actual data on THS is not available."  Meaning, the district either isn't keeping these stats (which I know cannot be true) or would not give them to Mr. Caffey. 

That in itself is quite powerful - the district has to report these stats to the state and feds.  I know - from research I was doing just yesterday - that this data also goes to the federal Office of Civil Rights.

The video is quite simple; there are boys, one-by-one, who hold up a sheet with a number and explain the number of girls in each class in the high school who will likely be sexually assaulted.

One thing they leave out in their list of who these girls are - they mention friends, girlfriends, students and classmates - is relatives.  I know many high school boys who have sisters or cousins going to the same high school.  That makes it very personal.

The other item comes from the This is Not a Pattern blog, Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist.  The thread comes from a place of explaining how men are sexist in tech circles but most of it could apply to everyday life.  The writer, Kat Hagan, explains how a tweet from a guy got her started:
Dear lazyweb, looking for blog posts on "common things men in tech do that are sexist without being intentionally so."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Seattle Senate Delegation Gets SPS Capital Money Added to Budget

Seattle Senators add school construction funding for Seattle Public Schools to capital budget
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 15, 2015

The Senate capital budget would provide money for critical school construction projects in Seattle School District under an amendment proposed by the Seattle Senate delegation and adopted by the full Senate. The amendment was signed by Senators David Frockt, Jamie Pedersen, Sharon Nelson, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Pramila Jayapal, Bob Hasegawa and Maralyn Chase.

The amendment to SB 6080 would provide an additional $33 million over four years for school construction, renovations and improvements for local Seattle schools.

Washington State Ed News

First Place Scholars, Washington's first charter school, has gotten a one week reprieve for its need to show the Charter Commission that they are stable and on-track.  Multiple issues had been found by the Commission including services for Sped and ELL students.

Interestingly, former WA state legislator Dawn Mason, who now heads FPS' Board, has taken a tough stance against the Charter Commission, saying that the fault lies with the Commission, not FPS.  Her thought pattern is that the CC allowed FPS to open too soon when they were not ready.  (This, of course, is somewhat puzzling considering FS had been open for two decades as a school.)  She says FPS was concerned and the CC is a late-comer to the issues at the school. 

On April 5th she said this about the work to be done by FPS:

That will of course mean they have to give us time to raise funds, test the new systems, stress test the structures, train our teachers to the measurement systems.

That does seem like a lot of work to have done by next Tuesday.

She even said:

It baffles us that the WA Charter Commission has shown so much bravado, even suggesting that their concern for our brown, black and poor children trumps ours.

Those are tough words.  But the Charter Commission is calling this the last chance for FPS. So, by the end of the day next Tuesday, the Charter Commission will have to make a decision about FPS.

The Senate Dems in the Legislature released their idea on funding McCleary and it's a capital gains tax.  At the same time, they want to reform local tax levies.  The Times reports that their plan would raise $1.7B for K-12 public education. 

It's a multi-layered approach whereby about 98% of citizens would see a property-tax reduction by reducing local levies while the capital gains tax would pay for higher teacher pay. 

Opting Out: Some Calm Analysis of What It All Means

I really enjoy reading Frederick Hess' writing on education issues.  On the face of it, I didn't that could be true as he works for the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think-tank.  He just happens to be someone who leans right for sure but is a rational, honest thinker and bravo to that.  He'll call everyone out if he thinks what they are doing in public education does not make sense.

From the Daily News, his recent piece, "What to Make of the Testing Opt-Out Tsunami."  (I'll note that he is talking about New York state but the fact that it spread throughout the country - especially for first-year states like ours - says a lot as well.)

His last two paragraphs are good examples of clear thinking about what it all means.
In many ways, the anti-testing backlash is just more collateral damage brought by the headlong rush to adopt the Common Core standards across the nation. Frustrated parents have fought back in the ways they can, and one of the most powerful is to delegitimize the tests that make those standards matter. The backlash is not just about the Common Core, of course, it’s due also to a sense among many parents that these tests and the accountability systems linked to them are not good for their kids or responsive to their concerns.

Proponents of measured, restrained test-based accountability should not dismiss these concerns. School reform advocates have sometimes belittled this kind of pushback as misguided or malicious. That’s a huge mistake. Hundreds of thousands of New York families are sending a signal flare: that they’re skeptical of the value of these tests, don’t necessarily trust the results, and think test-based reform has distorted the nature of schooling. This is a useful and healthy warning, and one that policymakers would do well to heed.
From the article:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Uh oh, Pearson Shuts Down Entire Colorado Testing System

Update: now it's SBAC.  Nevada, Montana and North Dakota have shut down testing because of a "computer glitch."

From Diane Ravitch's blog:

Yes, you read that right. The vendor of the Smarter Balanced Assessment was not prepared for the number of tests that the server had to deliver, and the system broke down in three states.
According to the Nevada Department of Education, a spike in students taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) this morning in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota exceeded the data capacity of Measured Progress, a third-party vendor contracted by the states to provide the test.

All testing in the three states has been stopped until Measured Progress can increase its data capacity, according to an email sent to state superintendents today by state deputy superintendent Steve Canavero.
Think about it. The vendor didn’t know that so many students would be taking tests at the same time. What were they thinking?

Seriously? Is any state really going to count either PARCC or SBAC results?  Because this is ridiculous. 

End of update.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Who Has Highest and Lowest F/RL Students?

I got asked this question by someone who wanted a list of the 20 highest and 20 lowest schools for free and reduced lunch students.  (I couldn't just find this information at the district's website so I compiled the list from OSPI data for 2012-2013.)

I wasn't especially surprised at who made the list nor where these schools are located.

I was surprised at who is number one overall  (meaning all schools) for highest numbers - bet you can't guess (no peeking first).

There was a three-way tie for lowest.  Again, without looking, take a guess.

Whatever Happened To....?

Please, feel free to add to this list.
  • Ron English
  • Alliance for Education MOU
  • MOU for partnering with the City on their pre-k program
  • the issue of Africatown getting back into the Mann building (which they apparently believe is going to happen)
  • FACMAC 
  • Directors Blanford and Martin-Morris' plan for African-American boys (an idea that both have said they want to work on but have never said how)
  • a high school for QA/Magnolia
  • transparency in this district - why can't the district put up every budget for every school/department? 

Interesting Article from Huffington Post

Dale Hansen, who writes for the Detroit News posted this to the Huffington Post today. 

He realizes that the problem with American education is not the teachers or the teachers union, but everyone who is trying to deprofessionalize teaching and monetize American education. 

Please share this article with anyone who thinks the American public education system is irrevocably broken. 

Dorn Unveils Own Plan for McCleary/1351

Tell me what you think.  From the OSPI press release:

The State is currently under a court order to produce a complete plan showing how it intends to achieve full state funding of K-12 basic education without the use of local funding. Superintendent Randy Dorn has introduced a plan makes two significant modifications to current law regarding full funding: 1), It reduces class size in grades 4 through 12, but not as much as voter-approved Initiative 1351; and 2), It extends the timeline for achieving full funding from 2018 to 2021. The extension is a realistic timeline to hire more teachers and build more classrooms to accommodate the new class-size limits.

Below is a summary of the complete plan:

The State must:

- Complete the funding of House Bill 2776. In their McCleary decision, the State Supreme Court requires the State to fund HB 2776, which includes statewide full-day kindergarten; lower K–3 class size; materials, supplies, and operating costs; and transportation. The House and Senate budgets proposals would make significant progress to get this done.

- Reduce class size in grades 4–12. The Dorn plan recommends reducing class size to 24 in grades 4–6 and 27 in grades 7–12.

- Hire additional support staff. The Supreme Court also cites need to fund the “prototypical school model,” as defined in HB 2261. The model includes increasing the number of para-educators, librarians, school nurses, guidance counselors, office and technology support, custodians, and classified staff to keep students safe.

- Fund more teachers, more classrooms. As class sizes decrease, we must ensure we have high-quality teachers prepared to enter the profession — and space for them to work. This is the biggest obstacle to meeting the 2018 deadline.

Tuesday Open Thread

State Superintendent Randy Dorn is having a press conference this morning to talk about his funding plan for McCleary   He says:
“I want to make sure that every student, from Cape Flattery to Clover Park to Clarkston, has an equal opportunity to a basic education,” Dorn said. “That isn’t happening today. My plan will ensure that.”
Also from OSPI, the announcement of math and science partnership grants to seven districts including Seattle.
The grants will be used to help increase student achievement in math and science. Specifically, the grants allow for partnerships between schools and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) faculty at institutes of higher education.
State funding for the projects totals $1.9 million, to be split among the grantees. Awards, which have yet to be determined, range from $500,000 to $1.5 million and will be distributed during the course of the three-year grants.
The MSP grant program is part of the federal Title II, Part B section of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The size of awards for each state is based on student population and poverty rates. Partnerships through MSP grants develop and implement programs that, among other benefits, focus on the education of mathematics and science teachers as a career-long process.
I won't be able to follow-up with the district this week due to the Spring break but I'll ask which schools this might affect.

Speaking of ESEA (NCLB), the Senate bill on this issue is scheduled to be discussed in the Senate this morning with Senator Patty Murray and Senator Lamar Alexander leading that discussion.

KUOW reported this morning that Spokane School district is removing students whose parents have not submitted full accounting of vaccinations.  The students will be allowed back in class if their parents either submit proof of vaccinations or file a request to waive vaccinations for religious or personal reasons.  The district is offering immunization clinics all this week.

Also from Spokane School district:

The school day will be 30 minutes longer for elementary schoolers starting with the 2015-16 school year. 

But this action only brings Spokane in line with the rest of the state who have longer school days for elementary students.

Interestingly, while their high school time stays at 8 am, they move elementary to 8:30 am (from 9 am) and middle schools to 9:00 (from 8:45 am). 

And check out the chart out for elementary school time for districts around the state from their FAQs.  It ranges from a high in Yakima of 7 hours, 15 minutes to a low in Spokane of 6 hours.  Where is Seattle?  Second from the bottom with 6 hours and 10 minutes.  Eyeballing the chart, I'd say the average looks to be about 6 hours and 30 minutes.  Kind of shocking to see that much difference from district to district.

What's on your mind?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Charter Talk

Let's start with the local which would be the Work Session on Seattle Schools becoming a charter authorizer.  This work session on was April 8th and the staff leads were Ronald Boyd (Legal),  Erin Bennett, Director Policy and Strategy Research, and Clover Codd, Executive Director of Strategic Planning & Partnerships.

All the Board members were present as was Superintendent Nyland.  Nyland led with "From some time ago, the Board opposed them (charters) and that was then and this is now."  He said something about SPS being the biggest district.  He said the deadline to apply to to be an authorizer was in June and "we have just enough time to get on-board."  

He also said SPS had "no option of not playing" as part of future levies will be going to charters (which is true).  He said SPS would want to know about charters located within district; what their focus is, location, etc.  He failed to mention that that information can be easily gained without the district being an authorizer.

Clover Codd said the Executive Committee had asked for more information in January and staff had promised they would "come back after studying the issue."  Codd referenced Tacoma Schools' FAQ page on charters as being helpful.  (I note that Tacoma has not become an authorizer and, in fact, had asked the Charter Commission to limit the number of charters that can be authorized into one district.  More on this in a minute.  The mayor of Tacoma supports them.)

(At this point I was wondering about the efficiacy of having Creative Approach schools if the district wants to be a charter authorizer.  I can say - with some authority - that within our own district are many schools that in other states would only exist as charters.  You don't need to be a charter to be innovative.)

At this point, directors asked some questions.

Amplify's Struggles

Reader N provided this news about Amplify's tablet division via Diane Ravitch's blog.

Bloomberg News reports that Rupert Murdoch’s effort to cash in on education is “riddled with failures.” 

“The education effort has been riddled with technology failures, fragile equipment, a disconnect between tablet marketers and content developers, and an underestimation of how difficult it would be to win market share from entrenched rivals such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co. in the kindergarten to high school education market.

“Amplify’s experience shows how even the most deep-pocketed new players find it challenging to change the way children are taught. Billionaires such as Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and real estate and insurance investor Eli Broad have expressed frustration their philanthropy hasn’t done more to improve student achievement. Murdoch is discovering his own challenges as he seeks to make a profit from overhauling education — as have other education entrepreneurs before him.”

From Mercedes Schneider's blog in a 2013 story about Amplify and Common Core:

Just a reminder of Murdoch’s comment upon his purchasing Wireless Generation in 2010. Pay attention to how he begins his comment:
When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching,” said News Corporation Chairman and CEO, Rupert Murdoch in a statement.
When it comes to K-12 education, Rupert Murdoch “sees a $500 billion sector” first.
The “great teaching” part is not what is foremost in his mind.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Helping Kids to Grow Up Emotionally Intelligent

We've heard of this issue of "emotional intelligence" before from Daniel Goleman who wrote "Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence."  In this NY Times article, he puts together a succinct list of qualities for leadership and emotional intelligence that I think can translate well to raising kids who cope.

Add to that David Brooks' column on The Moral Bucket List.  (I don't always agree with Mr. Brooks but I thought this was a worthy bit of writing.)
  • The Humility Shift (note to Kanye West)
  • Self-Defeat - His example of Dwight Eisenhower is a surprising and interesting one.
  • The Dependency Leap - Character is defined by how deeply rooted you are.
  • Energizing Love - That kind of love decenters the self.
  • The Call Within the Call 
  • The Conscience Leap
 The last couple of paragraphs of this piece are wonderful.  

Madeline L'Engle's Take on Education

Madeline L'Engle, who wrote A Wrinkle in Time which won the Newbery Award in 1963, said in her acceptance speech:

"Because of the very nature of the world as it is today our children receive in school a heavy load of scientific and analytic subjects, so it is in their reading for fun, for pleasure, that they must be guided into creativity. These are forces working in the world as never before in the history of mankind for standardization, for the regimentation of us all, or what I like to call making muffins of us, muffins all like every other muffin in the muffin tin. This is the limited universe, the drying, dissipating universe, that we can help our children avoid by providing them with “explosive material capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly.

1963.

And bravo to Linda Myrick who posted this on Facebook who said:

It seems that today's muffins have multiplied astronomically with technology and the addictive appeal of data that can be sliced and diced into so many tasty treats for those who seem to be convinced of their unquestionable value. 

MentalFloss had this article - 12 Fantastic Facts about A Wrinkle in Time - also food for thought.