Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday Open Thread

The Human Face of Big Data is an important documentary film about the masses of data being collected, analyzed and used throughout the world.  The point needs to made - and is in the trailer - that just as much as the good it can generate, there is equal ability for bad things to happen.  There's a preview tomorrow night at SIFF while the film airs on KCTS on Feb. 24th at 10 pm.

SPS and its bell change decision in the news via Huffington Post.

Schools that have experimented with later start times have found the move has paid off. Three years ago, the town of Columbia, Missouri, decided to move back its high schools' start times from 7:45 a.m. to 8:55-9:10 a.m. “Our kids seem to be more awake and more eager to learn,” one Columbia principal, Kim Presko, told education news outlet The 74.

In 2008, the Massachusetts boarding school Deerfield Academy pushed its start time from 7:55 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and the positive effects were noted in a 2014 Deerfield viewbook: Students "earned higher grades; ate more breakfasts, visited the health center far less frequently; and performed better in athletics."
 A 41-year (!) veteran education reporter weighs in on what he thinks about public education.
Q) If you had a favorite bumper sticker about schools, what would it be?
A) We need a system that asks each child, “How are you intelligent?” not “How intelligent are you?”
As we start going into testing season, an op-ed from a mom in the Baltimore Sun on the strains on the body thru computer use. The article points out that the National Educational Technology Plan encourages computer use in the classroom without mentioning any health risks:
even though the U.S. Surgeon General's Office has safety guidelines that limit screen time, as does the American Academy of Pediatrics.
She also notes her own state's technology plan also favors more computer use in schools without mentioning the downsides to children.  Among the issues for kids: blurry vision/dry eyes, neck/shoulder pain, sleep issues and, over the course of the day into night, a lack of physical activity from sitting in front of a screen.

Great NBC story from snowy Minnesota - brothers who have been creating giant snow sculptures in their front yard.  At first it was for fun but they also raise money for charity.  My favorite line comes right at the end.  Show the kids.

You don't make life memories playing video games; you make them by doing stuff like this.

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

My daughter attends a CD grade school where it seems the gym teacher has kids pick their teams in class. A friend of mine whose child attends a NE grade school says their school specifically prohibits this. I was wondering which approach is more common across SPS grade schools.


AL confusion said...

Apparently, Stephen Martin is no longer supervising Advanced Learning. Any word on what's going on?

Melissa Westbrook said...

JvA, that would be hard to know without taking a poll. I'm surprised that a teacher would do this given the dynamics of any given class (unless the task is evenly rotated among students.)

Anonymous said...

You're right, Melissa. If anyone whose school has banned the practice could let me know as a reply to my original comment, I would appreciate it. If it turns out to be more than a few, then that's sufficient. I'd especially love a link to any documentation -- such as a mention in a PTA newsletter or school website -- about it. Thanks to all.

Anonymous said...

^ Signed JvA.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, Stephen Martin is no longer supervising Advanced Learning. Any word on what's going on?

What the?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Still waiting on info from SPS Communications. AL, what led you to believe this?

Anonymous said...

There was an AL update that someone mentioned on the discuss APP blog that was signed by Janine Maddafari, Interim AL Supervisor. This was posted today on the February Open thread.


Anonymous said...

Are middle schools using the newly adopted SS materials? My child's 8th grade US History class is not...Zinn seems to be the unofficial primary text.


Anonymous said...

Melissa, the testing has been the worst it's ever been this year. The changing and unchanging of the qualification and appeals process has muddied the requirements, especially for Spectrum, the website was full of so many contradictions that parents were resorting taking screen shots and sending them to AL, the initial testing dates were missed by a mile with families never contacted for months in some cases, the screening was a fail because it actually increased the total testing hours it takes for K-2 students to qualify, and I'm sure the list goes on. Our first child tested two years in a row under Bob Vaughan, and it felt very predictable. It was the year that Stephen Martin took over that letters were not sent by Feb 1, and it's been that way every year since. I know the referrals have been increasing...but not sure that accounts for the major problems.

Another parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

SPS says Martin is still the head of AL.

Another parent, I sometimes think that not all the ins and outs of the AL department are known to all of us. It's hard to understand what is happening.

Anonymous said...

Trump on DREAMers: "I Want Dreamers To Come From The United States," They're Not Dreaming Now

Once Trump takes office all the games will stop. Next we need to rid our city of a most dysfunctional mayor.

Voting Trump

Anonymous said...

Surprised that this was not linked to :


"I’m a New York City school administrator. Here’s how segregation lives on.
Many Americans believe school segregation is a thing of the past. But it still shapes the school I co-founded – and many others."


Melissa Westbrook said...

Charters are doing a great job creating that segregation but let's not forget what SPS is trying to do at Cedar Park.

Anonymous said...

Picking teams for PE is horrible and should not be done. The same kids are picked last every time. Think about how that would feel. This is something I would fight to stop if it was being done at my kids' schools. When I was a kid it was common practice and it always made me feel uncomfortable, even though I was usually one of the first few picked. I would start by talking to the teacher, then, if needed, the principal. If that doesn't help get parents on board. I would be surprised if there are many who would support this practice.

-Battle Worth Fighting

Lynn said...

From the linked article: No amount of curriculum magic, or experienced teachers, or school choice, can overcome the fact that to overcome educational inequality, white students need to be in school with minority students.

This assumes that only white students can have supportive parents who value education - the key to academic success. If it were true, New York City might as well give up - only 14% of the district's students are white. There just aren't enough of these assets to spread around.

Here's a boldly titled article from the New York Times on school demographics: How White is Too White?

Here's a report on a study on economic integration in schools in Montgomery County Maryland. Yes, poor kids are more academically successful when they attend school with middle class children - until the school population is 35% or more poor. After a school reaches that tipping point, there is no benefit. The trouble is more than half of children in the US are living in poverty.

Anonymous said...

One of the other points in the linked Vox article (op-ed?) was about in a large district like NYC that disparate PTA funding is a source of inequity as well...


Melissa Westbrook said...

Lynn, I saw a pretty pointed article recently on white parents who want diversity but maybe not so much (given what schools they enroll their kids in.) Naturally, it is not all any district's fault especially here in Seattle with its redlining history.

Anonymous said...

From Hale Mail:

Bring breakfast items to school tomorrow - Thurs, Feb 18
Support Seattle Education Association NH members!

Why: All SEA members throughout the Seattle District are holding a "walk in to school event" to try and send a message to the Washington state legislators regarding the McCleary funding and what a fully funded school would look like!

What: Bring breakfast items/juice/coffee to school on Thursday, Feb 18th in the AM. Drop items by the main office. Join NH staff on the west side of the PAC at 7:45am. Wear Red for Public Education!

To learn more about McCleary and the Walk see the SEA website http://www.seattlewea.org/

Cindy Klein
NHHS Volunteer Coordinator and parent of student from class of 2017.

Wear red tomorrow!


Eric B said...

On the team picking, I'd probably try to fight it on anti-bullying grounds. I'm pretty sure the anti-bullying policy would have something about singling out students because of physical traits. Always being selected last because of a lack of athletic ability/desire would meet that definition. A polite letter to the teacher framed that way would probably get results. If not, going to the principal probably would. Going in with a letter makes it clear you'll take it higher if needed, framing it as a bullying issue makes it harder to ignore.

Parent said...

The North East Regional Director, Jon Halfaker, former Washington Middle School principal is so compassionate, intelligent, charismatic, and awesome. He runs his schools with grace, kindness, effectively and successfully. He is honest, ethical, skilled, and absolutely the kind of person we need in leadership positions in Seattle. I hope someday he becomes supp.t--I would go to the School Board just to tell them how amazing he is.

Anonymous said...

Battle Worth Fighting and EricB -- Thanks for the encouraging words! I've been communicating with the teacher and principal, and they have both been very responsive to my concern. I encourage other parents with similar concerns to do the same at their own schools. I think that perhaps he had just never thought about it from the students' perspective. I suggested he use a counting off model instead.


Zella917 said...

Agreed. Just went to a good meeting with him about principal hiring and planning for the opening of the new Robert Eagle Staff Middle School. A lot of questions still need to be answered down the line, but his responses were thoughtful and seemed to recognize the issues that are important to families who will attend the new school.

Zella917 said...

The meeting about Eagle Staff was with Jon Halfaker ;)

Socially Inept said...

I was that student picked last for these sports games. It was very traumatic. I felt fat, stupid, clumsy, and unpopular. I now teach and never let students pick their own partners. Because I also never was picked for partners. I guess I was pathetic as a child. Come to think of it, our staff does "shout outs" complimenting teachers in our building and even though I have done many "shout-outs" for others I have never been given a shout-out. Why am I such a loser?

Anonymous said...

Socially Inept -- Thanks for trying to help break the cycle. I was fat and picked last in gym class too, and it sucked. They even weighed us in front of other kids. Grownups should help protect kids from feeling alienated like that.


Anonymous said...


Cedar Park is simply the poster child for the segregated schools that already exist in Seattle. I'm glad you're appalled by it, but acting like it's an anomaly in this district is either naive or disingenuous.

Excusing it by citing the history of redlining in Seattle is like saying the confederate flag should keep waving because that's how it's always been done. Change it. Gerrymander, do option schools, restore some school choice. Keeping the flag on the pole isn't the answer.

--about time

Anonymous said...


Your take on the article--that somehow the author is perpetuating the Great White Hope fallacy--misses the entire point of the article: namely, schools are being resegregated decades after Brown v. Board of Education and the resources and power still do not belong to historically oppressed populations proportionally.

Your Scalian attempts to reframe what is obvious rings empty and false to anyone who lives and works with children whose families struggle on a daily basis.

The author of the article is an example of someone who has lived it.

--about time

Anonymous said...

About Time --

I agree with you on a couple key points. One thing that's been proven to have positive outcomes for black students is to be placed in desegregated schools with children who have more resources http://m.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with. But instead of proposing legal solutions that would have this effect, such as placing wealth-drawing programs in the lowest-income neighborhoods and iterating on making them attractive enough until the schools are de facto desegregated, SPS assembles a 50-page jargon Powerpoint that is dependent on them doing something they've never proven capable of doing (effective in-classroom differentiated teaching).

IB at RBHS was a good start, but SPS should figure out what is needed to help desegregate the school. Is it the lack of IB funding? The dearth of IB diploma graduates so far? The state of the building, the safety of the neighborhood? They should determine the problems and work to fix.

You also mentioned gerrymandering. Heck, first they should just take care to draw lines in a way that don't increase segregation. They did that in my own SE zone, after a white neighborhood complained the loudest about a move, and when I called them out on it, their response was that the increased segregation fell within the amount allowed by law.

But as the This American Life teaser says, "Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there's one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation."

It doesn't seem that many in the SPS community are interested in desegregation. I think that white communities see that schools with higher concentrations of white students get better test scores, and are therefore considered "better" schools, and they are therefore drawn to those schools. In terms of the district administration, it's harder for me to see why they don't pursue desegregation as a proven means of closing the achievement gap. It could be that the solution would be too simple, and require more resources in schools rather than more program managers in the central office. Or it could be that they fear the backlash from white communities, who would not necessarily complain about a 50-page MTSS and targets universalism plan that no one understands anyway. Or both.

I am not so cynical as to suggest they don't actually want to close the achievement gap -- I think they actually do. Though maybe not enough to take effective action. It's puzzling.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"I'm glad you're appalled by it, but acting like it's an anomaly in this district is either naive or disingenuous."

It was an example. I've been around quite a long time and I have seen what this district does. I make no excuses for me.

I think JvA makes some very good points.

Charlie Mas said...

I remember a gentleman who spoke frequently at Board meetings. He spoke on behalf of African-American students and his primary intention was de-segregation. It was his belief, which he plainly stated, that White families would never tolerate the deplorable conditions in predominantly Black schools and that when those White families complained about the conditions the school district would respond.

I'll say it again. He wanted White children in schools with Black children because the White families would complain and the district would respond to those complaints. That was the value he saw in desegregation.

Anonymous said...

SPS tried to pursue desegregation; they were sued by a group of parents and lost. http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/551/701.html and here's a link that is a little less legalese and provides some more historical background https://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/The_Story_of_Parents_Involved_Sandberg.pdf


Anonymous said...

LisaG -- That case is exactly why I suggested SPS pursue desegregation by legal means, such as placing attractive programs in low-income neighborhoods and iterating upon that approach until they find success.


Anonymous said...

Want to see redline gerrymandering? Check out the new Meany Middle School draw. Poor kids will go to Washington. But there's a long dog leg gathering all the white wealthy homeowners on the shores of Lake Washington and sending those students up to Meany. Pathetic. Why is no one calling it out? Because the poor families don't get it and the dogleggers don't want to be left at Washington when the wealthy white flight happens next year.


Anonymous said...

Yesterday I took my daughter to walk around a few middle schools (She's in 5th grade.).

My question is... Why in the world is McClure so filthy? It felt like the whole school was covered in a layer of grime. I guess this is a rhetorical question.... but why doesn't SPS (or I guess we the people) take care of our schools?!? It's maddening!

I can't imagine trying to learn in that environment. My daughter currently attends Bagley, which is a super run down school, but it doesn't feel dirty like McClure.

Anyway, I guess I'm just venting. And feeling sorry for students who have to attend there. And super ANGRY SPS doesn't do basic deep cleaning of schools.

Mag mom

Lynn said...

JvA - Do your children attend their neighborhood school? If not, what would it take to get you to make that change? What would it take for you to send your children to RBHS? If I lived anywhere near the school (and I don't), I would not send my child there until I felt the neighborhood was safe. Even then, I'd want to see a track record of successful IB diploma candidates. I'd also want to see electives and extracurricular activities that reflect my child's interests.

What kind of programs are you thinking would draw wealthy families out of their neighborhoods into poor schools? I'm not arguing, I'm truly wondering because I can't think of anything that has worked. It seems to me that option schools in poor areas pull the most involved parents out of the neighborhood schools, leaving them more economically segregated.

Lynn said...


Staff originally suggested sending Gatzert kids to Meany and Leschi and (I think) Muir to WMS but there were protests that kids from Gatzert needed a walkable school and access to tutoring provided by Seattle U more than they needed access to economically or racially diverse classrooms. The state requires a district to ensure that opening new schools does not exacerbate disproportionate enrollment between schools. Staff determined that the current plan does not - because the HCC students at Washington will balance out the low income kids assigned to the school. Washington is going to be a very weird place in 2017-18.

Anonymous said...

Lynn --

"The state requires a district to ensure that opening new schools does not exacerbate disproportionate enrollment between schools."

In my understanding, from what I was told by either Flip or Brent when I complained about how their suggested boundaries increased segregation, there is an acceptable percentage of increased segregation.


Lynn said...

I'd like to hear about the deplorable conditions in predominantly Black schools. What are the differences between Black schools and others in Seattle? Is it facilities, teacher quality, less attention to social and emotional issues, curriculum or administration quality? I know that I hear about schools that require uniforms, reduce recess to unreasonably low amounts, require silence in the halls, etc and I would never subject my kids to that.

On another note, here's a link to the demographics section of last year's enrollment report. Did everyone else know that only 5% of the SPS students in Rainier Beach's assignment area are white? I did not. The story I've heard over the years is that white families in that area choose to send their kids to option schools. In reality, either there actually aren't white families in the area or they're choosing private schools.

Lynn said...


Yes - I think that's true. The point is that if you take the HCC kids out of the calculation, the Meany/Washington split is over the acceptable limit of increased segregation.

Anonymous said...

Lynn -- I don't have the answers as to what would draw wealth to segregated low-income schools. I think this needs some thought, some studies (e.g., surveys), and iteration. One idea that immediately comes to mind is language immersion, as that has proven to be extremely popular wherever it is located. What if RBHS were the only high school that offered language immersion?

I live in the overlapping walk zones for two Title 1 schools, and would be happy for my neighborhood to be assigned to either one. The district wants to allow a white neighborhood not in the walk zone for any school to stay at our assigned school, and start bussing my majority non-white and ELL neighborhood to a faraway school (I think it's like the 8th grade school from our house).

My kid attended K at our assigned school and then tested into HCC on the school test. Because she is highly advanced in both math and language, it's been a good fit for her.

Neighborhood safety would be my primary concern about RBHS right now. The offerings need to be strong enough to overcome those concerns, which are likely shared by other parents. I would also love to see that the program can help kids earn the IB diploma, but that's lesser concern of mine. I've seen the coordinator speak at Board meetings, and he's impressive. I believe that most kids from the HCC program would likely be able to earn IB diplomas from the RBHS program.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I have told both Mayor McGinn and Mayor Murray that while it's the district's responsibility to keep the inside of the school safe, the streets outside are theirs. I believe the Mayor, in his most recent speech about adding more cops, mentioned more safety for Seattle schools.

As to McClure, that would have been a good question for the principal if the building was so noticeably unclean from others you visited. But SPS isn't big on maintenance in general.

I think that if you had a different director in the Meany/Washington area, you'd likely hear more pushback on what is likely to happen with assignment.

Anonymous said...

Nathan Hale was on lockdown today:

February 18, 2016

Dear Nathan Hale families,

This morning Seattle Police reported pursing several home break-in suspects in the local area. One of the suspects ran into our building. Both Nathan Hale and Jane Addams Middle School were placed into lockdown status and police apprehended the suspect on our campus within minutes. Police continue to look for the two other suspects and the lockdown for the two schools was lifted. Nathan Hale was in lock down for approximately 32 minutes.

Please know that we take safety in our buildings very seriously; the well-being of our students is our top concern. I am proud of how our students and staff responded to this incident. District procedures were followed and the situation was resolved quickly and safely.

We will continue to investigate to assure you that we are committed to doing everything we can to keep our students safe at school. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to speak with families and guardians directly.


Jill Hudson, Ed.D., Principal


Ensuring that ALL students become honorable, thinking, skillful citizens


Really? said...

Mag Mom -

I'm really surprised by your comment about McClure. My child attends the school and I was actually there today for a meeting; since I had just read this post, I took an extra careful look around to find the "grime" and came up short. McClure is an old building, to be sure, but dirty? My kid seems to be learning - and surviving - just fine there.

seattlemama said...

I have been at Loyal Heights and Cascadia a lot. Both are old buildings. Loyal Heights always seemed much cleaner than Cascadia. Bathrooms are where I really notice it but really all common areas. Not sure if it is the principal prioritizing common area cleaning over classroom cleaning at LH or just custodial work ethic. The head custodian at LH is amazing.

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