Monday, May 30, 2016

Seattle Schools This Week

Entering the last month of this school year this week, always an exciting time. 

Wednesday, June 1st
School Board meeting, starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda.

Action Items
- a substantial change to program placement and school closure definitions in the first Action item
- audience participation at Board meetings. I do not agree with this policy as written because it would potentially allow all speaker slots to go to student speakers.  I think for parents and taxpayers this is just an unfair advantage especially given the first speaker slot is reserved for high school students and so is a place at the dais for a high school student at Board meetings.

Intro Items
 Fourteen items, most of them relating to BEX/BTA contracts.
Thursday, June 2nd
Board Executive Committee meeting, from 8:30-10:30 am. Agenda not yet available.

‪#‎WearOrange‬ on June 2 for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Friday, June 3rd
The Center School Art-In for the arts.

The ART-IN will take place in TCS Commons June 3rd, from 2:10-4pm. It’s a positive opportunity to show the greater Seattle community why TCS deeply matters. There will be student art on display, an open mic for poetry, music, and student testimony, t-shirt making supplies, and a button maker. TCS is located at 305 Harrison Avenue, above the stage in the Seattle Center Armory.
Saturday, June 4th
Board Retreat, JSCEE, from 10 am-3pm. Agenda not yet available.


Charlie Mas said...

The changes in the program placement policies are good changes.

1. It means that things that looks, act, and feel exactly like school closures, but are not technically school closures, will be treated like school closures. They will be given the transparency and public communication that the staff refused to provide unless required to do so.

2. It requires the superintendent to provide the rationale for program placement decisions at the time of the decision instead of promising to provide the rationale later - a promise that historically has gone unfulfilled.

3. It removes some confusing and meaningless language from the program placement policy.

mirmac1 said...

The policy change DOES NOT APPLY to Special Education programs - the most problematic area in which the district harms 40% of students with disabilities. The exclusion of SpEd in this policy is unconscionable.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mirmac 1, that may be, as we are repeatedly told, that Special Education students are Gen Ed students and that Sped is a service and not a program.

Anonymous said...

"In the event Board approval of an instructional site’s placement or closure puts students’ safety at risk, the Superintendent is authorized to make the placement or closure decision as long as the Board is informed prior to the decision being made."

So the Supe is allowed to make decisions that put students' safety at risk? I think they may need to reword this. Maybe they meant they were referring to decisions made in response to situations in which students' safety was at risk?

And while they're revising this policy, why not also include something about Program Evaluation? There's no point in having a header for it if there's nothing there. Is it really too much to ask for them to include even basic information like they did for Strategic Planning--a simple copy and paste of 1 sentence, substituting "evaluation" for "strategic"? Evaluation: Development and oversight of District-wide evaluation plan.


Charlie Mas said...

I think the policy DOES apply to Special Education programs because they were included under the current policy. A review of the quarterly and annual reports required by the policy will show that the bulk of the reported changes were for Special Education programs.

Also, the revised policy, like the current policy, refers to "programs and services", so Special Education is included in the policy even if it is re-defined as a service.

mirmac1 said...

That what they say but it is not true. Special education is administered via programs scattered throughout the district. Students are assigned wherever central staff decides. Seats are rationed unlike other programs. If it were truly a service, than children could attend the school they would attend if not disabled, but that is not so. Charlie, those reports are after the fact, and you can see the many changes they make without consideration for the students in converted or closed programs.

"The Superintendent is authorized to make the placement and closure decisions of services, except for services governed by the student assignment plan or other Board policies (e.g., Policy No. 2190 regarding Highly Capable services). The Superintendent is granted this authority in order to address time sensitive decisions that allow the district to provide instruction to students as soon as possible (e.g., Special Education services). The Board will be informed of service decisions in a timely manner, and prior to the decision(s) being made, and will receive quarterly updates."

The Superintendent makes the decision, NOT the Board. The "time-sensitive" decisions are hogwash. We're not talking IEPs here, we're talking capacity and convenience for staff.

Po3 said...

The Art-In is in response to the art teacher being cut. Help me understand how an Arts focused high school can loose their art teacher?

Lynn said...

They aren't necessarily losing their art teacher - their staff allocation is being reduced. This could happen for several reasons. The easiest to understand is declining enrollment. Another reason could be a change in the method of allocating staff to schools. Students could be enrolling at TCS but spending less time in the classroom (running start) or they could projected to be spending more time in special education classrooms. That's the craziest thing to me. Special education students are meant to spend as much time as possible in the general education classroom. You'd think that means resource room students are assigned a general education seat all day plus funding to cover staffing for the special education instructional time they're expected to receive. This is not the case. They're funded for one seat all day long. Their time in the special education classroom reduces the funding for general education staffing. Makes no sense.

They're losing the art teacher because they choose to (or are required to) use the funding they receive for teachers of other subjects. For example, TCS has to offer four years of English to its students. At 240 students and 30 students per classroom, that would require 8 English periods per day. If they hire two full time English teachers, those teachers will have to teach one elective class each to fill their five period days. That elective isn't likely to be art. The school must offer three years of science. 180 of the 240 students taking science requires six class periods of science per day. How do they staff that?

This is the problem with staffing small schools.

Po3 said...

Lynn- I toured Center school several years ago and learned they use a blocked schedule, with LA/History rolled into Humanities so there are not 8 periods of LA that need to be staffed. Same w/ sciences, it's blocked they don't run 6 classes a day there either. I think maybe math is the only subject taught daily, all other subjects meet every other day, if I recall.

The school has been around long enough that enrollment should be fairly predictable. If the reason is decline in numbers, is it 5 students or 25 students? If the former, they need to buck up and fund the teacher, if the latter the district needs to find out why the decline at a time when high schools are over-enrolled and address it.

In any case, staffing issues should not be the responsibility of the students, that needs to be handled by the principal. (Just like the GHS principal needed to get a teacher to teach choir!)

This pattern of students taking on the jobs of the adults in our schools is getting old.

Lynn said...

Po3 - I don't get your comment - are students at TCS teaching classes?

There might not be 8 periods of English a day, but there has to be about 40 instructional hours of English per week. A full time teacher provides 25 instructional hours each week. The staffing problem is the same.

I don't think the students should be responsible for solving this either. I do think until we have enough money to fund everything we believe is necessary, we can't spend extra money to provide small school options. Schools should be funded to provide students the opportunity to meet their graduation requirements. If a school wants to offer a wider variety of electives, it has to attract (and keep) enough students to provide the funding for those classes or hire teachers who can teach multiple subjects or who want to work less than full time. TCS seems to lose students between 10th and 11th grades. I wonder what they would need to change to keep those students (and their basic education funding).

This is what the superintendent said about the situation in last week's Friday Memo: Center School Enrollment and Staffing –We have about a dozen such staffing situations that should be mitigated because we mitigate them every year due to the school’s unique program configurations (K-8; dual language, etc.). We could approve this year’s requests if we give up some of the $2M being held for Fall enrollment losses or use one-time, non-sustainable underspend funds.

So, should we allocate money to small schools or ensure elementary students don't lose teachers in October?

mirmac1 said...

Lynn is correct. TCS has 39 Resource students projected for next year. Resource is for those with the mildest disabilities. Yet the WSS presumes that these kids will spend 20% of their day in a separate classroom. Therefore they're only counted as 8 AAFTE. As it stands, TCS is projected to have 33 AAFTE fewer students in 16-17 than the current year.

Lynn said...

I'd like to see a new method of budgeting - one that starts with defining the minimum staffing and supplies required at every school and the average annual costs of new textbooks and then allocates the remaining funds to administration. That way, if a new supervisor of executive directors is going to be hired, staff will have to displace another administrator or look for a grant to fund the position.

Greenwoody said...

I continue to wonder if SPS is deliberately underenrolling The Center School. It's the same game they played with Middle College: block new enrollments, then gut the school on the basis that enrollment is low. I have a hard time believing that there aren't more kids or parents in SPS who want an arts-focused school.

mirmac1 said...

BTW, I know a number of SpEd families who would love to enroll their student at TCS but are told they must win TWO lotteries: a) a choice seat; AND b) an available seat in the program in the building (oops, I mean "service"!) This is inequitable and sets a different standard for disabled students and their families, compared to others.

Po3 said...

If they don't staff Center school then they will ultimately have to close the school, because nobody will sign up for an arts-focused school that doesn't staff for the arts. That means that they need to find 250+ seats in the surrounding high schools.

So guess Nyland needs to make a big decision here!

(and what I meant is that students shouldn't be fighting to retain staff or teaching classes in the absence of staff, we need more adults in the room!)

Melissa Westbrook said...

End PC, who are you talking to? Please do not be cryptic in your comments.

Anonymous said...

End PC, who are you talking to and what remark are you referring to?

Anonymous said...

Mirmac, the wss for secondary students is actually fair, if not generous, for sm1. Every resource, sm1, student in high school I know of, spends at least one period in special Ed classrooms. And many students, probably most, spend 2 periods or more periods in special Ed resource rooms. These periods include study skills, modified content courses, support math and/or la, remedial math and/or la, life skills, daily living, financial algebra, food science, etc. At TCS, I'm fairly certain, resource services are offered as a separate class, not as a push in service. As such, an 80% gen Ed seating is about right. Why should students without disabilities get extra seats, just because there are some special Ed students in the Modified LA class across the hall? Schools should get general Ed seats funded for special Ed students, only when those special Ed students are actually sitting in a general Ed seat. This is a lot easier to do in secondary schools, because classes are separated into periods. Typically, students are either in a special Ed classroom for a period, or in a regular Ed classroom for a period. The best thing to do would be to provide schools general Ed funding for the exact amount of student usage. The current scheme which rewards anticipated usage for secondary schools is the next best thing.

None of this means that students with ieps are not general Ed students. all day long. They are. But the seats have to be funded somehow.


mirmac1 said...

Forcing students to fit into a strict model of "study skills" class etc is hardly "individualized" education.

Po3 said...

It occurred to me that $2 million is a pretty big pot of money. Nyland says there are 12 cases that will need to be mitigated. That is $162K/mitigation. If you add Center school, then the pot needs to be divided by 13 or $153K/mitigation. What is the average salary/benefits of a teacher?

Lynn said...

The $2 million is being held to avoid massive upheaval next October if enrollment projections are off.

mirmac1 said...

According to the WSS School Allocation spreadsheet, the schools getting mitigation are:

Franklin HS
Bailey Gatzert
Beacon Hill
Graham Hill
Highland Park
M.L. King
Madrona K-8

The mitigation is in the form of a 0.5 AP at $73K a pop, with the exception of Franklin which is getting 1.0 HS AP at $160K.

Po3 said...

Sorry, still not understanding why Center isn't part of the mitigation funds. Seems like all the schools that need mitigation funds are going to get them, except one just because the upheaval is happening in June not October.

Makes no sense to me what-so-ever.

Anonymous said...

Mirmac - most SM1 students in high school do take study skills OR modified LA. Many high schools require study skills - or automatically enroll students in study skills. People have to go to the mat to get out of study skills, and teachers definitely don't want to do push in services. Maybe this will change under Core 24 - because how will there be room in anybody's schedule for 4 years of study skills? A smaller number take something like "general math", a special ed class OR a math support. Some take modified social studies. There may also be a modified science offering - but this is rare. Special ed kids, of all stripes, are driven out of most science offerings - and there are rarely modified lab sciences anywhere. Why not? Self-contained versions of science are predictably about volcanoes and weather. Guess science isn't all that important after all.

Right. Of course not very individualized. But... If schools are going to make students with disabilities sit in special ed classes to get their specially designed instruction - for any amount of time - then the district should not be sending one dime to schools to pay for a general ed seat that they will not be using. Let's reward schools monetarily for the inclusion they actually do, and stop stripping funding away from our students with disabilities.


Jan said...

Speddie -- wish I had gone to "going to the mat" school before my kid entered GHS. He didn't need, and we didn't want, "study skills" class, but were told that our only other option was to sign a paper declining all SPED services (cant recall the B.S. rationale -- because it was pure B.S. and not worth remembering. In the end, I think their ability to collect X dollars for his disability depended on his wasting an our a day in study skills). I suppose we could also have sued, but we had neither the time nor the money, nor the desire to make our child's 9th grade year a battleground. In our case, it wasn't all bad, as he needed a slightly lighter schedule anyway to compensate for language processing issues that meant he took longer to read, write, etc. -- and he wasn't keen on dropping all extra curricular activities to spend ALL his extra time keeping up on academics that took him twice as long to do as others. So it wasn't altogether a horrible thing. We ended up having to go "out of district" to supplement with a couple of classes so that he could graduate on time -- and he had to catch up a bit in community college on classes that he missed while cooling his heels in a wholly worthless study skills class.

It is a broken system, though.

Anonymous said...

We had a new case manager one year who advocated to give push in services instead of study skills in high school. Gave up & moved back to Texas the following year, saying 'Can't believe you guys are 30 years behind Texas in Sped here.'

-Sped parent

Anonymous said...

The other bizarre thing, is there Study Skills I-IV? If your kid had it for a year, then what? After the big lawsuit about study skills aka Learning Lab, the classes don't even get any actual work (homework or classwork) done from regular classes. It used to be the case that kids could at least get caught up in study skills. So now it's Study Skills, but no studying actually allowed. It should be renamed Study Appreciation.


PreK said...

I'm glad one director voted against the city's prek program. To date, the district has not provided the costs of implementing the city's prek program. Are we going to see more private prek providers leaving the district? Will the city continue asking the district to fill these spots? Why did the private prek provider leave the city?

The Seattle Times did a piece on the city's prek program. The cost of 15 prek classrooms is $14.5M. Essentially, the city is paying almost $1M per preK class. The city is providing the district with $220K- $250K per classroom. In essence, the city has plenty of funding for their prek program. Where the dollars are going is anyone's guess.

Melissa Westbrook said...

But PreK, it's "high-quality" pre-K (with that kind of spending.) I note that many of the commenters at the Times latched onto the cost per student with that kind of spending.

As well, not only are they spending from the stand-alone pre-K levy but there's $7M in the Families&Education levy for pre-K as well. Wish a bit of that $7M could go to shore up all the IB programs.