Monday, May 09, 2016

Seattle Schools News

Good News
Mark Perry, the long-time principal at Nova High School, was honored by the Alliance for Education's Thomas B. Foster Award for Excellence as a distinguished principal.  Perry will receive a $50,000 cash grant for his school.  He has been principal at Nova for 16 years.

The district arranged a fake fire alarm in order to get Perry and the students outside their building where he was surprised by a crowd there to congratulate him.  I'm told the ruse worked well and there were many parents and past students in attendance.

Congrats to Principal Perry!  He is the heart and soul of Nova and Nova saves lives like almost no other school.

The fourth and fifth graders at Bagley Elementary was the grand prize winners in a drawing from the Water for South Sudan's Iron Giraffe Challenge.  According to the district, the students and their families raised about $6,000 for WFSS to help them drill more wells for clean drinking water for families in the Sudan.  The head of WSS, Salva Dut, will be visiting Bagley sometime in the future.  Great job, kids!

The Interagency Academy is working with Fare Start to give their students skills in the art of cooking.   
Every eight weeks, students from the district's Interagency Academy trade in their more traditional classroom instruction for julienning shallots, chiffonading basil, and dicing carrots inside the kitchen at non-profit, culinary organization, FareStart.

The district is looking for volunteers to serve on the district's Preschool Task ForceDetails here.
The deadline is Wednesday, May 14th. 

Bad News
According to the FYI Guy column in the Seattle Times this morning, Seattle Schools is fifth in the nation for the widest gap between white and black student outcomes for grades 3-8. Number one is Washington, D.C.

White students in SPS are performing about two grade levels above the national average. But black students are testing about a grade level and-a-half below the national average and three and a-half-times below at the district level.  (District-wide, Hispanic students are testing two and-a-half times below.)  This information comes from Stanford University's Center for Education Policy Analysis and their study, The Geography of Racial/Ethnic Test Scores.

Interestingly, the Times interviewed the former head of Race and Equity for SPS, Caprice Hollins.  Her job ended when the district got rid of that department.   She was something of a flamethrower but she is right that things have come full circle and now the district is making more of the specific efforts that she had advocated for.

But she throws this out there,
And white parents might start to say 'what about my kids?' They're not recognizing that their kids already have what they need," she said. "But just having this conversation becomes a very sensitive, political thing.
 I wish the Times had asked her what she meant by "what they need" because it is unclear if she means at home or academically or both.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that among the top 5 schools with the greatest achievement gaps, one was led by Michelle Rhee (DC) and two were led by Maria Goodloe-Johnson (Charleston and Seattle). As we are experiencing in Seattle, it takes years to recover from the damage their "leadership" forced on school districts.


Anonymous said...

Wow it seems like the change to neighborhood schools should have saved lots of money from reduced bussing requirements and that that money could be put back into schools. I've always thought it would be great if schools with strong PTSA's that earn lots of money could adopt a school that didn't have a strong PTSA and provide a % of funding to their adopted school. Or if there could be a volunteer bank of people to provide in-school tutoring for things like reading or elementary and middle school math. Maybe these things already happen but if they are happening they are not publicized very well.
NW Mom

Robert Cruickshank said...

Yeah, it seems that MGJ's fingerprints are also on the elimination of the Office of Race and Equity, as this 2008 P-I article makes clear:

And MGJ's appointees have led the racist attack on Middle College, Courageous Conversations, and other efforts to address racial inequities in schools. They seem to believe that turning schools into test prep will address the problem, when evidence is clear from across the country that it won't:

So while the article blames the school board (an attempt to rally support for a mayoral takeover?), the facts seem to implicate education reform-minded administrators. Of course, the ed reformers on the previous school board went along with that, but the voters fired those board members and replaced them with board members who do take this work extremely seriously.

Hollins's quote is interesting. There's no doubt that white families on the whole have access to more resources, but it wouldn't really be accurate to say "their kids already have what they need." We know that's not true if those kids are homeless, have special education needs, are twice-exceptional, have a chronic illness that requires a regularly available nurse, and so on. That said, while white kids in SPS do need more resources and funding, kids of color need a LOT more, and a one size fits all approach wouldn't be right.

So I was really disappointed, if not all that surprised, to not see any mention of funding in that article. The way WA funds schools is inequitable and unconstitutional, as the Supreme Court has found. While we make sure all schools get more funding, we ought to find ways to make sure schools with kids who have the most needs - especially kids of color - get the biggest increases in funding. All need more, some need a lot more.

Lynn said...

Decreased transportation funding doesn't increase money available for classrooms. Instead it results in decreased transportation funding by the state.

Do schools want volunteer tutors from the community? If so, I'd be willing to split my time between my child's school and another. I think the real benefit here would be an increase in voluntary contributions to less wealthy schools as parents become aware of their needs.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, I think this is why Spectrum was killed. Same as the Northshore Challenge program Melissa blogged about earlier. I didn't know about that story, so thank you for posting.

Districts don't seem to have any better solutions for kids wanting challenge but they'd still rather make that programming error than have 'you perpetuated the achievement gap with your program' on their resumes. Addressing inequities in educational outcomes is a big reason many seem to go into education administration. Addressing the needs of highly capable students is not. In liberal Seattle, the issue closest to administrators' hearts, coupled with pressure from politicians, is going to win the priority pyramid every time.

I agree with others that killing the current self contained HCC model is also just a matter of time for the same reasons.

"Watching Closely"

Anonymous said...

The June 2006 "brouhaha" included this definition of racism on the district website: "The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). The subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society."

Ouch said...

Self contained is already gone away at MS (except science) and HS and now TM is blending soc studies classes. And yeah this all fell apart with MGJ.


Anonymous said...

OK SPS Facilities and Enrollment. Look us in the eye and tell us again why the building - Olympic Hills - whose physical plant, faculty and services are geared to families of poverty and families in need of ELL services, many of whom are students of color one-generation removed from African countries, are being shunted up to the subpar Cedar Park facility?

Don't care whether the thought is to bring in other general ed students or HCC students. The result is the same. Disproportionate ill effects on the same population outlined in the Seattle Times article.

Get over your planning suppositions and fix the situation. Stat.


Anonymous said...

Too bad that the thread ended with yet another "dog whistle" remark--white parents getting what they need (oooooh threats to HCC) and sure enough, the comments follow.

Of course, the article was about the horrendous acheivement gap, not about what this report may do to the standing of those whom the district is already serving well (by public school standards, which Speddie correctly states is not required to give you everything you want and need--that's for private school). But more naval gazing isn't surprising when it comes to this blog.

MGJ has run out of the statute of limitations for blame. Here's a sampling of the real blame:

segregated schools (that can't be blamed on segregated neighborhoods--look at Louisville after the Supreme Court case); schools that warehouse students with highly impacted numbers of students on free and reduced lunch; inequitable resources due in part to SPS reliance on PTAs and PTAs who don't share (look at the libraries); lack of emphasis district-wide on achievement gaps outcomes and data; advanced learning that does not include historically underrepresented students fairly and violates state law for HCC; lack of curriculum (particularly in elementary literacy) that is linked to success for at-risk students

The statistics should come as no surprise to anyone in this district. This is the direct result of the priorities of the district, and many of the power people (including parents) who only look at what is best for their own children. This is
about to change.

--about time

Anonymous said...

Caprice Hollins? Oh lordy. The FYI Guy must be new around here. No one did more to undermine the obvious SPS need for better attention to racial disparities in student outcomes than Hollins. I am not new. It was public blunder after embarrassing public blunder with that one. And a tie to the didn't-solve-a-thing African American Academy to boot. It was so bad that even MGJ's biggest non-fan (me) has to admit she did something right by getting rid of Hollins who was more divisive than MGJ herself. The whole racial equity office had to go with her, it was so bad. Think about that: an office that is needed had to be cut to get rid of that one.

Racial disparities and income disparities (which are more to the point IMHO but that doesn't mean racial issues are not also glaring) need attention in this district and part of the the fix lies with Downtown. But let's not go back a decade and choose as a mouthpiece for the issues the same ineffective spokesperson 'leader' that we tried before. You'd think I wouldn't have to spell this out but with the crowd Downtown it is always better to spell it out for them.


Anonymous said...

On a better note of recognition, Mark Perry rocks and during MGJ's time I suspect she was looking for a way to can him. Way to go Mark! Too many parents write off Nova when in fact the school is a gem and its students are some of the most well-spoken kids you'd ever want to meet, which is a testament to Mark's school stewardship and faculty leadership.


Greenwoody said...

The article wasn't actually about the achievement gaps. It showed the data and then went off on a tangent about a ten year old issue so that the Seattle Times could make white parents look like the bad guys. We'll never solve this problem by telling parents they're wrong to want the best for their kids.

SPS relies on PTAs because there's not enough state funding. Making PTAs share doesn't solve the problem - not having PTAs fund things in the first place is what solves the problem.

You want SPS to focus even more on "data"? Even though we have tons of evidence from all over America that focusing on test scores alone just reinforces the existing gaps?

The answers to this are clear. Give the schools as much money as it takes to help kids overcome the effects of poverty. Give the schools small class sizes, experienced teachers - especially teachers of color. Maintain and expand curriculum that teaches race and social justice - right now SPS staff are waging war on that curriculum because they think all kids should be treated like robots, trained only to take tests. SPS staff replaced Middle College with Bill Gates' "Big History" nonsense. It doesn't get more racist than that.

In other words, do what teachers of color and students of color all over the country are demanding, but aren't getting, because a bunch of privileged white people who work for ed reform groups think they know best what Black and Latino kids need.

Anonymous said...

about time - wasn't the New Student Assignment Plan devised under MGJ? Sending everyone back to their neighborhood schools and eliminating any choice? So no, the statute of limitations on that one has not run out. And the transportation savings apparently did not transfer to the classroom. But if you live near a poorly performing, high FRL school, you have to go there, because you have no choice, except where to live.


Anonymous said...

Looks like Seattle schools aren't doing that bad.


Anonymous said...

MGJ enacted the plan with district buy-in. Since that time, the effects of
neighborhood schools have been obvious. The parents who are benefitting from
from this plan and the district abettors have kept it in place. They could
have gerrymandered boundaries but have not. SPS could have made more schools
choice schools but haven't. They could have proposed overturning the plan. They
have not.

She is gone. Nothing has stopped anyone from changing what clearly is having
terrible effects on those it is not benefitting. Having no choice but a poor
school is wrong. Continuing to blame someone without fixing it is complacency.

Blaming Ed Reformers for these statistics isn't going to work. Neither is talking about state funding. The fact is that some students are excelling and others are suffering. If all students were not achieving, you could use this argument. However, I totally agree about Ed Reformers and the funding being huge problems. There are only certain demographics suffering these realities in their education, and they are the same groups who have suffered historically in this country. The blame for this significant gap is squarely on SPS, squarely in SPS.

Seattle Times, like many media, wants to create a drama, in part by quoting someone who is known for extreme comments and proposals. So what? The facts remain and they need attention.

Blaming the way the article is written doesn't change the statistics. They are appalling.

--about time

Anonymous said...

Seattle is segregated and the schools reflect that segregation.I'm not saying I'm pro-busing, but I think it would make a difference in achievement having more racially, economically, and ethnically diverse schools.

Anonymous said...

Another school just lost its 5th grade trip because the school (Cascadia/Lincoln) didn't get a "reservation". Not sure whether to believe that it was as simple as the camp refusing our reservation because the group is too large.


Melissa Westbrook said...

About Time, some of your comments, I believe, are out of line:

"...schools that warehouse students with highly impacted numbers of students on free and reduced lunch..."

There may be schools with high F/RL students but "warehoused?" Bailey Gatzert has the highest F/RL in the district and they have a fine and caring principal in Greg Imel and I do not consider them "warehoused." Tell me a school that is doing that.

"...inequitable resources due in part to SPS reliance on PTAs and PTAs who don't share (look at the libraries);"

What PTA has even been asked? Do you know of a PTA that was asked to share and didn't? We've had this discussion and it's a tough one but I will always be glad for ANY parent who raises money for their kid's school. It's on PTA leadership to talk about how we all might balance out those inequities but making it sound like PTAs don't care is wrong (see Soup for Teachers.)

District Watcher, I thought it interesting they talked to Hollins.

"Sending everyone back to their neighborhood schools and eliminating any choice?"

That plan limited choice but no, there are several choices parents can make for their kids. Options schools exist in every corner of the district.

I would agree that SPS has some real issues that seem to never get address for all the day-to-day operations issues there are. It's sad.

The Times seems like they have a plan but the FYI Guy is not the one they should be using to roll it out.

Anonymous said...

Research is clear that students who are in schools with above 35-40%
FRL have significantly lowered outcomes compared to those with similar
demographics in more integrated schools. Warehoused, ghettoized, take
your pick. All correlate to housing patterns. It would be more productive
to address the inequity other than your choice of my wording about the

I have been bringing up PTA funding for years, both in the district and
on this blog. Most don't want to share and threaten to stop giving if
they have to.

Thankfully, Soup for Teacher is on this issue, like many other issue
having to do with equity.

--about time

Anonymous said...

Ha! MGJ is still on the hook because all the sups since haven't done a $%#! thing.

Chris S.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Research is clear that students who are in schools with above 35-40%
FRL have significantly lowered outcomes compared to those with similar
demographics in more integrated schools."

Sorry, but yes, the outcomes are not as good but saying those kids are warehoused as staff valiantly try to help is just not fair. And it's certainly what I have seen.

Address the inequity? That's pretty much what Charlie and I have built this blog on - trying to get equitable outcomes for all students.

"Most don't want to share and threaten to stop giving if they have to."

Again, back that up with some real data. Because that's a wild and damning accusation. When we have discussed PTA sharing here, I've heard parent say they don't want to but never that they would not give if they had to share. Where did you hear differently?

Anonymous said...

Rainier Scholars is successfully able to scaffold kids who start with disadvantages. I would like the opportunity to sponsor spots in a similar program in some of our public schools.

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

May 2016

Dear 4th Grade Families,

We are very excited about the upcoming 5th graders for the 2016-17 school year! As you may know, the 5th grade traditionally attends the IslandWood Outdoor School on Bainbridge Island as a team building experience for our students. We applied to take our classes again for the 2016-17 year, but we did not receive a reservation. Although there are a few reasons for IslandWood’s decision, one of the primary reasons is our group size. IslandWood is limited in the number of students that they can host and our size limits the availability to other schools. We, the 5th Grade Team and Administration at Cascadia, understand and support their decision. But we also know that future 5th graders may be greatly disappointed. Please know that we are actively pursuing new programs for our upcoming 2016-17 5th graders.

As soon as a final program decision and reservation is confirmed, we will announce the program and details to all of you. We look forward to having a community building experience just as powerful as IslandWood with all of your children.

We appreciate your understanding in this matter and, again, we look forward to building a fantastic 5th grade community with you all this autumn!

All the best,

The Cascadia 5th Grade Team

-Cascadia 5th

Anonymous said...


You can search your blog about parents threatening to stop giving to their school if the PTA shares. It's been a response given time and time for years. I'm not sure why this seems like news to you.

Your observation about the dedicated teachers/staff in highly impacted schools is correct. I should know since I have taught in them for years. I'm talking about
outcomes, and the research is clear: Students fare significantly worse in schools past a certain FRL threshold. There are some instances that beat the odds,but they are few and far between.

Not sure why you are trying to rebut highly documented research and facts instead of focusing on the appalling statistics and what to do about them. Fortunately, this report is a wake-up call that the standard bearers in this district will no longer be able to avoid.

--about time

Anonymous said...

Gosh. about time has the inside scoop on everything. I'm really impressed.

fiddle faddle

Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to whether any district (anywhere) has made a push for lower class sizes and more teachers for higher FRL schools - using the 35% FRL as the metric for more staffing. "About time" seems to call out all the time for equity - but what is really needed is an influx of staff to these schools - so reverse inequity. Equity is not going to work. Let's face it, equal access to programs like HCC isn't going to help kids who haven't been "groomed" for these programs. Eliminating the programs (as is happening now) is just sour grapes and cuts off motivated learners at the knees. One thing that teachers in this district have told me is that Spectrum classes (when Spectrum existed) could be larger because the kids tend to have fewer behavioral problems and were fairly motivated learners. That was our experience as well. A colleague of mine from China notes that classes there are routinely 60 kids. Furthermore, there have been many discussions on this blog of data suggesting that smaller class sizes are not more effective for academic learning. What they are most effective for is to decrease the probability that students with non-academic challenges will act out and disrupt class - and that is how they enhance academic learning overall. Has any district ever tried this? Is it happening now and I am not aware of it? Mandated smaller class sizes in high FRL schools? Because it seems like a good idea to me. Just curious.

-SPS parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Rainier Scholars is successfully able to scaffold kids who start with disadvantages. I would like the opportunity to sponsor spots in a similar program in some of our public schools."

Great idea.

"You can search your blog about parents threatening to stop giving to their school if the PTA shares. "

If you are the one saying this is true, then YOU go find and show us this. It's not on me to do that work when you are the one making the accusation. I am saying I do not recall this ever being the case.

And you are the one saying that kids are "warehoused." That's a not great phrasing for a school with majority poor kids and hard-working staff. The district has been told, by many people, that they should do everything they can to NOT create schools like this and they don't seem to listen. But "warehoused" makes it sound like no one cares and that's just not true.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it's systematically happening in SPS high schools, but warehousing certainly happens in CA

And there have been commenters to this blog who described special ed students assigned to "recycling" class at a SPS high school.


Ouch said...

"Spectrum classes (when Spectrum existed) could be larger because the kids tend to have fewer behavioral problems and were fairly motivated learners."

SPS Parent that is really the crux of what MC/About time is saying that the gen ed kids then have a higher percentage of behavioral problem kids when there are tracked programs. But lets be real, only science in MS really can't be called a tracked program especially when each school can decide how it is taught. So I wonder if the HC kids are the ones being warehoused as they are not getting nearly the education that they could.

As for the wide gap it works both ways. Two grades higher widens the gap right? What is the causation here verses other other places... Is it that Seattle has more SES disadvantaged AA than other areas? Which is what I would say is the root cause in achievement disparity.

Anonymous said...

Agreed Ouch. Also, another problem with not providing a decent advanced learning program is that kids who go through the Rainier Scholars program (I know several of these awesome kids) end up getting poached by private schools. They qualify for HCC but what is there for them - nothing. Meanwhile, because these kids are from disadvantaged backgrounds they can get scholarships to private schools that are willing to educate them in the rigorous manner they deserve.

-SPS parent

Ouch said...

That too, -SPS parent. So true.

Charlie Mas said...

First, congratulations to Mark Perry and the entire NOVA community. They have fostered a wonderful culture at NOVA and I'm delighted that my daughter and family were a part of it.

Second, Caprice Hollins said a lot of things that upset people but I was most bothered by her statement that the district should not spend one dime supporting students working beyond grade level until every student is working at grade level. That's a call for equality, not equity. We should be working for equity - in which every student gets what they need - instead of equality - in which every student gets the same.

Third, along those lines, there are a lot of students who are not getting what they need right now, across all demographics, ages, and skill levels. As we advocate for some students, we cannot pretend that they are the only students who are not well-served. The neglect of students with disabilities in Seattle Public Schools is literally criminal, the mis-education of African-American students is immoral, the refusal to serve students working beyond grade level is inexcusable, and the failure to offer meaningful curricula to all students is intolerable. It is not a zero-net-sum world and we can, as a society, work on multiple initiatives at the same time. Advocacy for one group should not be seen as neglect of other groups, should not be dismissive of the needs of other groups, and must not be contrary to the needs of other groups.

Anonymous said...

@about time. I agree with you about having better outcomes for students with schools having a smaller FRL population. I wish you would stick with that. Moving staff may help a little, probably not all that much. Having money from PTAs may help a little in terms of better libraries perhaps, but the issue is beyond money. The reality is that kids in poverty often has many issues that get in the way of them doing well in school. I am not blaming kids or parents in poverty. Everyone has more issues to deal with when they are poor. To me, the issue is what to do about the poverty. The school district can not change the problem of poverty, but I wish there was a way to diversity schools so that there is more diversity of income level at each school. Teachers can do well with some kids needs extra, but when the whole class needs's really hard. I don't know how to do it, but I would love to diversify schools more by income.

Anonymous said...

Were students of color thriving academically before MGJ's time?
Were they being placed on suspension or expelled at equal rates as their white peers prior to her tenure?
Only then can you place blame at her feet. Otherwise, teachers should sincerely start tackling the equity issues they went on strike for.
Even the school librarians are trying to integrate Bernie's policies for how money and library materials are distributed throughout the district. When the news proclaims Seattle Feels the Bern, it makes me chuckle.


Anonymous said...

According to the Washington Post, it's real estate that matters the most.

Makes sense. Try mentoring and the reality hits. It's a challenge for poor schools to find parent volunteers in the classroom, form auction committee, have money making booster clubs, write grants, to chaperone on field trips, or come in to lead a genetic project based learning unit. All that stuff takes access, time and money. When you have parents working to make ends meet, there's not a lot left to write a $1,000 check or take off work to volunteer. Richer schools have enough parents able to pick up the slack for other parents who can't or won't. That's why schools with very high FRL struggled the most, but even those with 40-60% FRL are challenged too. For those successful schools profiled in the media, each one needed enough dedicated and motivated adults behind the students to succeed.

People say these poor schools get more money per pupil and that's the greater equalizer. Not really. That money is controlled by school admin and not all those dollars are well spent. The thing is when a school relies on parents for these differences, there's an odd power shift. While many may disagree and say parents have no power, the fact is they do. They act as a check. When people give personal money and time, people want it to mean something. Parents have more leverage, more public presence and more know how when they clash with a teacher or school admin. It's easier to dismiss concerns and queries when people don't know how to navigate the system or don't know their rights.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks, AP. Really interesting article.

Anonymous said...

So it's the poaching? and the dime comment(again)

the elite always gets to write the narrative

if only Lakeside didn't nab all our talented kids of color, HCC would be diverse!

No extras for HCC!!!not a thin Dime!

But that's what defenders say is a reason to perpetuate the program, remember?

It's not better! It costs nothing extra!

Get your story straight.

Also Human

Anonymous said...

We are asking schools to do the impossible: completely offset deep societal problems that affect a child's intellect, desire to learn, and ability to succeed in school.

Long-term issues of societal racism are certainly a, if not the, major factor. But racism and other issues driving poverty are at the root of the problem. How many words a child hears in the first 3 years of life is a major driver of IQ, that researchers find persists long-term. Some kids come from homes where parents are unable to provide the support, interaction, role modeling and motivation the child really needs to succeed in school. You compare the kids who have been read to, interacted with, talked to about school, shown the college where their parent attended, visited relatives at colleges, and had rich life experiences, to kids who have none of that, and you damn the schools for failing to achieve the same outcomes across the board. It's just not possible to offset the differences with school. It'd be nice to think so, but it's not.

The achievement gap is more an indictment of society as a whole than of teachers and schools.


Anonymous said...

I think that's exactly the kind of thinking that got SPS in the top five of the study: think "it's not our problem" and do nothing.


Lynn said...

Seattle is in the top five because the city is losing its black middle class. Kids living in poverty have lower test scores. In Seattle, the majority of black children are living in poverty. If most of our short children or left-handed children were living in poverty, they'd have a huge achievement gap too.

Charlie Mas said...

IMHO, we need to move the discussion from blame to action.

Let's say that you are entirely right and students are arriving at the classroom with varying degrees of preparation, support, and motivation and the schools had nothing to do with any of it. Okay. Now what? Do we continue with a school system that doesn't do very much to address these deficiencies? That's not very helpful.

The action that people are asking for is not to find the right element of society to blame nor to continue to fail to educate students who lack the critical elements for success, but to start providing the necessary preparation, support, and motivation when it is absent.

It's not impossible.

We can replace the missing preparation with universal, high quality childcare and pre-school. Paid family leave would be another step forward as well as increased efforts to support and educate new parents. Schools can offer support for students such as Algebra support classes taken in the same semester as Algebra class to backfill the missing preparation.

We already offer support in form of breakfast and lunch for students living in poverty. We also offer some healthcare in schools, including mental health. We should offer more support in the form of before- and after-school care that provides a snack in the afternoon as well as safe, stable, and supported study and homework time. We should expand the public health function of our schools by extending the healthcare services available to students to include dental and vision and to bolster the mental and behavioral health services. We should also greatly expand the number of field trips students take. Show them a wider world.

The most critical element, motivation, is, I'm afraid, the least developed. We're not going to do much with Spirit Week or codified cultures like "The [school name] Way". Honor student rewards are not the way to go. The Teach for America motivation plan of putting college banners on the wall and talking to students about "When you're in college..." doesn't do much either. We know what motivates people to do cognitive work and it isn't carrots and sticks. People are motivated to do cognitive work with autonomy, the opportunity to achieve mastery, and a purpose greater than themselves. Our traditional schools, however, do not allow students much in the way of autonomy. You might think they are all about mastery, but they are really only about proficiency - sometimes only familiarity. And there isn't enough done to give students the idea that their schoolwork is in service to a Purpose. This is where we have the greatest opportunity for change and improvement.

SPS parent said...

I think a huge factor driving this is income inequality. Yes, the black middle class (and lots of white middle class) people have been driven out of our city by rising costs. Further, the white people moving in tend to be upper middle class. But it isn't just Seattle that has this issue. The upper middle class is growing nationwide, but over 50% of kids in American public schools qualify for F/RL. The income gap is widening all over. If that is the case, how can we ever sufficiently balance school populations with majority middle and upper middle class kids? The math simply doesn't work.

Given that, it would seem like the best approach is wrap-around services for kids in their neighborhood schools, rather than attempts to balance school populations. If you try to balance populations, you run out of middle class kids (even before some of those kids choose private school options instead).

Anonymous said...

Lynn's argument that the reason SPS is ranked fifth in the white-black achievement gap out of the 200 largest school districts in the country due to Seattle "losing its black middle class" just makes the results that much starker. (We should also be asking why Seattle is apparently losing its black middle class.) Seattle's not the only city with African American kids living in poverty, yet 195 other school districts are doing BETTER than Seattle Public Schools. What are the other school districts doing differently than SPS?

Lynn's casual comment that "if most of our short children or left-handed children were living in poverty, they'd have a huge achievement gap too" does nothing but trivializes this VERY damning finding of SPS's failure to address the educational needs of students who are the most in need. Seattle's benefactors don't need to look beyond 20 miles for a worthy philanthropic cause--there are kids who need time and materials and concern NOW, right here in Seattle.

Charlie's right, we shouldn't get so hung up on where the blame lies. We should be asking: where does SPS go from here? But for those who would like to just write this study off because of "poverty," don't stop there, go deeper. Why are certain peoples growing up in poverty? What, in their families' histories happened to where their life circumstances don't match yours? (Hint: Slavery.) How will poverty eventually be eradicated? Everyone chime in here: EDUCATION!

If Seattle continues to just shrug off its African American students, then prepare to be embarrassed (like I am) next year when the results come back the same. In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, lean in SPS, lean in.


Lynn said...

I'm not writing off kids - I'm pointing out that this should not be a surprise to anyone. Of course there's a gap. Seattle's not the only city with African American kids living in poverty - but when you look at the largest 50 cities in the country, we have the ninth lowest median household income for black families. When you consider that we have the fourth highest median household income (when looking at the 20 largest cities), of course this achievement gap is the result.

Education is not the key to eradicating poverty - it's MONEY! When children have financially secure families, they are more likely to be successful in school. The premise that if schools just did the right thing in the right way, we'd have no more poverty is false. Here's an interesting study on the affect on children when their parents are given cash:

Anonymous said...

You say you're not writing off kids Lynn, but yet you are. So your solution is money? These families are just going to be given money (so they can start competing with richer families)? From whom, to be spent where?

How do you propose SPS starts eliminating the white-black achievement gap Lynn? Because your comments are fatalistic, as in poor African American families here will always stay that way and there's nothing that Seattle or its school district can do about it.

Is Seattle and its citizens just waiting until the poor African American families move out so it doesn't have this problem or ranking anymore?


Anonymous said...

Lynn wrote "When children have financially secure families, they are more likely to be successful in school" and added a link that showed this.

Does that mean when the legislature gets around to increasing education funding, that we should give the money directly to low income families instead of to school districts?

Or do you think that the money should be given to schools with high FRL student rates because increased school spending has a larger effect on students from low income families than on other students?


Anonymous said...

I think giving money to poor families would definitely be the most effective way to close the achievement gap. I would be for it in a heartbeat. There was a study last year, right? It's the most effective thing we can do.
I think it is worth saying that the root cause of the gap is inequality because no matter how much money we spent in schools on the gap- if we spent literally all of the dollars on only that- we would never close it there. And we do still have to educate everybody. We should continue to spend more on lower income kids for equity reasons, because they are more expensive to educate and we should bear that cost, but as long as we have widening inequality, the achievement gap will continue to grow. Nothing we do in the schools will help that.


Anonymous said...

Giving families money reminds me of the fable, "Belling the Cat".
It's a great idea but who's going to do it?

"Nothing we do in schools will help that" is not only incorrect,
but is a way of washing one's hands of responsibility.

There is no single response that is enough, but research
proven approaches have increased outcomes, including:

more integrated schools, better teachers in schools with
vulerable children, fair access to advanced learning, smaller
class sizes for highly impacted classrooms, wrap-around services,
and authentic community involvement.

The effects of poverty may still exist, but we can certainly
mitigate them and increase the achievement of our students.

--about time