Friday, March 03, 2017

Friday Open Thread

Fun vote for your kids this weekend - Google's Doodle contest. 

It's one way to talk to your teens about patience; one mom's frank talk to her son.

Remember the Matt Damon film, The Martian?  Apparently enough teachers spoke up that the author took out some of the salty language because the teachers said it would be a great book to teach science but they couldn't use it because of the language.  I can see how teachers might pause because their districts might hear from parents but if you were stranded all alone on Mars, I think you might swear sometimes, too.  From the NY Times:
“I got a lot of emails from science teachers who said, ‘Man I’d love to use your book as a teaching aid, but there’s so much profanity in it that we can’t really do that,’” said Mr. Weir, 44, who is cheerful, hyper-analytical and casually profane, much like his protagonist. “It’s hard to get that by a school board.”

Apart from the four-letter words, “The Martian” is a science teacher’s dream text. It’s a gripping survival story that hinges on the hero’s ability to solve a series of complex problems, using his knowledge of physics, chemistry, astronomy and math, in order to stay alive on a hostile planet. (The Washington Post called the novel “an advertisement for the importance of STEM education.”)

A kid-friendly version came out last year, and it is now being used to help teach science in classrooms around the country.
I don't know if you missed it but Snapchat went public on the stock market yesterday.  It proved to be a big windfall for a private high school in Northern California that listened to a parent and invested in Snapchat.  The school invested $15k and netted $24M.  
Five years ago, Natalie Eggers, then a student at Saint Francis, alerted her father, a venture capitalist, about the burgeoning social messaging app. She said all her friends were obsessed with it. 
Popular with the young people, Snapchat is best known for disappearing messages and quirky face-filters for jazzing up selfies.
Two great stories to share with your children.

One is about two pre-school boys who are best friends.  One decides to cut his hair to look like his friend so they can "fool" their teacher.

The other is about a teen overcoming perceived obstacles and making his dreams come true.

What's on your mind?


NO 1240 said...

Where is LEV and Stand for Children? I've not seen them advocating for education funding. Unlike school districts, SFC and LEV have been advocating for per pupil funding.

Is the idea to starve education and offer charter schools for relief?

NESeattleMom said...

Hi Melissa,
What do you mean by rise up against the trolls. I got the impression from before that you don't want us to respond to them. Can you please explain what you want readers to do?

Melissa Westbrook said...

NESeattleMom, thank you for the question and I should have been clearer.

If it's just a stupid remark or one you can tell is deliberately looking for a rise out of people, ignore it.

If it is a threat against me or anyone else and I have not yet deleted it, I would ask that you speak out and say that threats are unacceptable and hurt this blog that so many use as a true sounding board/resource.

Anonymous said...

I would really appreciate hearing your take (or that of readers) on Superintendent Nyland's email regarding the levy cliff. I received it yesterday and it is pretty long, but I will be happy to cut and paste here if you haven't seen it. It sounds pretty bad. I believe you have stated before that it needn't be. I'd love to understand it better. Thank you.

Melissa Westbrook said...

K/4, well, the Board passed a resolution on Wednesday night on the levy cliff but I have not seen Nyland's. Do post it.

Anonymous said...

Trump just attended a "parent-teacher conference" at a private Catholic school in Orlando, with Betsy DeVos, Ivanka and family, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and Marco Rubio in attendance... promoting school choice and vouchers (of course). He stopped by on his way to the "winter white house."

-North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

What is happening with school schedules next year? Will MS/HS add a 20 min homework/homeroom period (hopefully at the end of the day?)? Is it up to individual schools?


Anonymous said...

I'm amused that some parents think their kids are never going to hear swearing as long as they don't hear it in class.


Anonymous said...

(Dr Nyland's email mentioned in above comment. It is long; feel free to cut and put it in a post or elsewhere if you prefer. Looks like it needs to be in parts; will break it up and try again.--K/4)

Dear Seattle Public Schools Families:

This is an update on next year’s budget situation. As you know, due to the state’s delay in fully funding education, Seattle Public Schools faces a $74 million budget shortfall for 2017-18.

As a district, we must advocate for both short and long term funding solutions. It is important the Legislature’s proposed solutions address our 2017-18 deficit as well as ensure we can offer our students a 21st century education for years to come.


Most of the 2017-18 budget shortfall is related to salaries and compensation, something the state should be fully funding, but $30 million of our deficit is because the state has reduced how much we can collect from already approved local levies. Unless the state Legislature takes action, our local levy authority will reduce before the state has provided additional funding to backfill for the decrease.

This misalignment of state activities is called the Levy Cliff. Our Seattle Legislative delegation has been working diligently to obtain temporary relief from the Levy Cliff. I want to thank our delegation for their good work and we remain cautiously hopeful there will be a positive solution for Seattle, but it is unclear when relief may be provided and how much funding will be restored. While a Levy Cliff bill has passed the House of Representatives, the Senate has not acted upon it.


There are four state education budget plans on the table right now: the governor’s education plan, House Democrats’ HB1843, Senate Republicans’ SB5607, and SB5825 sponsored by Senator Mullet. The good news is all policies and or plans recognize that addressing school funding should be done this legislative session. The bad news is, so far, none of the proposals would cover more than half of our 2017-18 budget shortfall. The current plans or policy recommendations do not fully address the state’s constitutional duty to amply fund public education.

Timing creates additional uncertainty for the district. Currently, there is a lull in legislative action. From this point, legislators will need time to review the four different plans and begin working toward a compromise. Without clarity from the state, we must move forward with delivering the worst-case budget to schools.

[will continue in next post]

Anonymous said...

[part 2 of Dr. Nyland's email, posted by K/4]

Each school receives funding based on the projected full time student enrollment, with schools receiving additional funding for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

On February 28, because the state did not address the Levy Cliff in time, schools received reduced budget allocations that reflect our worst-case scenario for next year’s budget. Over the next few weeks, school leaders will be working with staff to make the required reductions and a prioritized restoration plan for when we get our final budget from the state.

We have been actively preparing for this scenario. The School Board has held nearly a dozen work sessions trying to minimize impacts of budget cuts to schools and the budget office, with support from the Seattle Council Parent Teacher Association (SCPTSA), has held numerous community meetings. Out of $74 million in budget reductions, $16 million will come from schools’ budget formula. Without new funding from the state, impacts families will see in 2017-18 include:
•Larger class sizes: We will need to go back to the contractual ratios outlined in the Seattle Education Association contract except for grades K-2 in schools with a high number families experiencing poverty.
•Reduced mitigation funding: Every year, we have been able to offer mitigation funds, funds outside the per student allocation, to support unique school programs and needs. For example, mitigation funds were provided to reduce multi-grade classrooms last fall. This funding has been reduced from $7M to $2M. While we will be able to provide some support, it will be significantly reduced.
•Loss of unique positions and disruptive movement of staff: While we don’t anticipate many teachers or school-based staff will lose their jobs because of typical turnover, there will be close to 200 displacements and shifting of teachers across the district. The staff changes will most likely take place at the start of school when enrollment is confirmed. Central office staff, administrator positions, including assistant principals, counselors, and specialists are at greater risk of job loss because of the unique aspects of their positions.

Meanwhile, we will continue to work with legislators to convey the gravity of this funding crisis and to prepare as best we can for various scenarios. District leaders, the School Board, and others including many families have made numerous trips to Olympia to share the severe impact these cuts will have on Seattle Public Schools and our students. The Seattle Education Association, SCPTSA, Washington Paramount Duty, and Principals’ Association of Seattle Schools continue to partner and help us advocate for full funding of education in Olympia. I am deeply grateful to our partners and their unwavering commitment to our students and public education.

I know these are difficult times. I truly wish the budget reductions were not necessary. Please share a little extra gratitude and kindness to our school and central staff over these next few weeks and months. The uncertainty is weighing heavily on many of our staff.

I do remain hopeful that at least some of our budget shortfall will be restored for the 2017-18 school year and my commitment to you is to continue providing regular budget updates as we learn more. If you have any questions regarding the budget, please email or You can also learn more by visiting the SPS 2017-18 Budget webpage.

It is an honor and privilege to serve you, your family, and student.



Dr. Larry Nyland


Anonymous said...

I hope you don't mind that I copy this here from the other post. It seem the conversation has moved here, so I wanted to add to it my take.


Oh my dear, sorry you feel harassed. BTW it usually means you're getting into something another group doesn't want known. Consider it a complement as an activist.

I don't mean to knock you over the head but you kind of did say you outed people to the district here,

"I remove them and the ones aimed at Board members are reported to the district along with the names of the people I think are writing them.)"

I just don't feel you need to go there, I mean why get so riled up and why give out the impression you might decide to "OUT" someone for another reason. I hope you can see the slippery slope in doing that.

-Longtime commentator

dan dempsey said...

It seems that the UW College of Education has decided to join the propaganda avalanche.

Redesigning Family Engagement in Education

Family Leadership Design Cooperative (FLDC)

My difficulty with this UW CoE focus on a redesign that emphasizes community wellbeing and justice, is simply that the UW has done a lousy job when it comes to improving learning in the classroom. A one time family engagement focused on improving learning for the children in the family. Now the redesign is about community wellbeing and justice.

It seems as if great teaching and substantive lessons are of little interest to CoE.
The UW CoE has emphasized Readers Workshop, Writers Workshop, and reform math practices.... After 0 for 3, I wonder who made the big decisions at CoE.

Now it seems that the current thrust seems to align with Mayor Ed Murray's training the voters on what to think. Notice the "Not scientific poll and report on homeless" in Crosscut.

Non-Scientific Survey - Seattle is NOT Freeattle

“One of the design principles at the heart of this new model of family engagement involves recognizing schooling as an important but not sole aspect of education,” Bang said. “Rather, this principle focuses on family and community priorities, interests, needs and their complex lived experiences, histories, knowledge and relations as starting places for redesigning education.

So the CoE has decided to step outside of k-12 education and into stuff other than schooling, but what about schooling? I thought there was a shortage of resources, what is the mission of UW CoE and what does the CoE have to do with SPS?

“We have a pressing need to support family and community leaders, researchers and educators in building cross-community solidarities with and through change-making efforts, particularly in this moment,” Ishimaru said.

The FLDC has already begun developing a series of research briefs and tools to support those interested in a new model of family engagement. Those interested in learning more about these resources and subscribing to an email list for updates can do so online.

So has UW CoE become an agent of the FLDC?

In the next phase of its work, Ishimaru said the FLDC will launch deep dives in three sites for in-depth work designing tools, practices, measures and policy to enact a new approach to family engagement.

Perhaps some of us would prefer that family engagement be focused more directly on schooling.

“We have a great opportunity to build our knowledge of what it takes to do this work both in and out of schools,” Ishimaru said. “There’s great energy to build the capacity of people doing this work throughout the country.”

Anonymous said...

“One of the design principles at the heart of this new model of family engagement involves recognizing schooling as an important but not sole aspect of education,” Bang said. “Rather, this principle focuses on family and community priorities, interests, needs and their complex lived experiences, histories, knowledge and relations as starting places for redesigning education.”

Socialist everywhere are rejoicing.


Dave said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

"I don't mean to knock you over the head but you kind of did say you outed people to the district here,"

No, I didn't. I said I reported a threat to the Board to the district. I have no idea who it was nor did I offer any thoughts to the district.

Again, when it's you being threatened over and over, come tell me about a slippery slope.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Longtime Commentator, my apologies. I went back and reread what I wrote and I expressed it poorly and have now corrected it. I can see the confusion.

dan dempsey said...

Another large difficulty I have with the proposed CoE redesign of parent involvement is that most parents who desire school involvement desire exactly that school involvement. There often is a wish by schools for increased parental involvement. This proposed redesign by UW will likely decrease parental involvement with schools. When parental involvement is aimed at community wellbeing and justice instead of school connection, it will most likely decrease parental involvement.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dan, I might have a thread on this as I see it as part of the change in Seattle schools and I wonder if it has roots or it's just something good to say.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Did anyone else grow up learning "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?" If someone thrives on the feedback, good or bad, it's best to starve them of any response. Sheesh, I'm violating my own advice just my posting this. Please, everyone, stop taking the bait, and just

ignore them

Anonymous said...

I think it is a good plan, Melissa, for you to report the Troll postings. They do present threats and evidence of instability. Furthermore, it is not true that the identity of the posters cannot be determined. Melissa may not be able to do it easily from her end but finding out their identity is imminently doable should the need arise.


dan dempsey said...


I really wonder how the CoE decides on which of these weird stances to promote.

How are decisions made at CoE?

Would be nice if there was a lot less focus on politics and more on intelligently planning to improve school academics.

Is anyone ever responsible for serious missteps?

Sure reminds me of the TfA fiasco.

Anonymous said...
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Patrick said...

Posters who really care enough about remaining anonymous could use an anonymous forwarding service which would defeat any but the most serious and determined investigation, supported by a warrant.

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

More thoughts on UW CoE and the Mission.

It seems to me that the core mission of UW CoE should be to prepare teachers to teach in the classroom. Improving skills of teachers currently in service is also important. Many colleges of education are not doing a good job of teacher preparation.

Researchers reported at several schools that on average students who are prospective teachers had lower pre-college test scores than the average student and the Ed students had a higher collegiate GPA than the university average.

Universities like their colleges of Education as they are cash positive. The university spends less on educating these students than in many other majors.

My big concern is in the UW CoE's failure to stay on task. The diversion of Parental Engagement into Justice and Community Well Being may be an example of taking the eye off the ball.

Currently in highly regarded Massachusetts about 50% of prospective Elementary, Early Childhood, and Special Education teachers fail the elementary math content exam for teachers.(40 items). In Indiana since changing from Praxis II to a Pearson product the failure rates are even higher and college grads cannot begin teaching because they are unable to pass the math content test.

This raises the question "What Math content" is being taught in high school and college to prospective teachers?

Crisis in the classroom: Indiana Teachers repeatedly failing state exam

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


Is it legal for the district to monitor our web use? How do you know they can see and record what we do on the web? Are they watching what students do on the web?


Anonymous said...


Can you post instruction on how to shield our web use from the logging described?


Anonymous said...

Yes, Concerned, it is legal for the district to monitor your web use if you are using district-owned devices/computers and/or the district network to do so.

And furthermore, the public has a right to see that information. If you are an SPS employee, you work for the public and the work you are doing while on the clock and using public equipment MUST be to the benefit of the public. It is NOT for your personal benefit.


Anonymous said...

Concerned, the Student Network Use Agreement per district policy reads as follows: "School district personnel have the right to review any material sent, mailed, or accessed through a District computer or District provided network account. School district personnel have the right to inspect all material stored on a District computer. By accepting these terms and conditions, students waive any right to privacy or confidentiality to material that was created, sent, accessed, or stored using a District computer or District provided network account."

So, yes, the district has the right to "watch" what students are doing on district computers and the network.


dan dempsey said...

HR 899 Bill to abolish US Dept of Education

Rep. Massie’s bill to terminate the U.S. Dept. of Ed raises questions

Anonymous said...

Wait, do you mean to tell me that the district can track my interactions with this blog? What about the emails sent to you Melissa, can people get a hold of those?

I now feel really stupid for thinking I was anonymous. Melissa you should put up a warning notice to people not to visit your blog or email you while on the districts WiFi or computers. Who else can see my tracks?

What was written in the deleted comment that everyone is responding to?

Sucker Punched

Anonymous said...

When Beth ran this blog it was required for everyone to have a registered ID in order to comment. It was much more civil that way. Why don't you put it back the way it was?


not mc troll said...

now up to six different monikers. that is a record for such few post.

no caps

z said...

JD said: When Beth ran this blog it was required for everyone to have a registered ID in order to comment. It was much more civil that way. Why don't you put it back the way it was?

Unless you're talking about some time prior to 2006, that's not true. The blog has always been open to anonymous comments for as long as I've been here, and there are anon comments still posted on the earliest blog posts back in 2006 - you can go look for yourself. Was there a short time in the interim where accounts were required?

There are a couple problems to consider with your suggestion.

A fully-moderated board is a lot of work for moderators; in particular, it doesn't allow for conversations with back and forth to happen unless a moderator is actively working at the time it's happening. A conversation killer.

A board that requires pre-registration would also kill most of the conversations here. Currently, anyone that wants to post with their real names is free to do so, and a few people do (good for them). But the vast majority of readers/commenters here do not want to do so, for a variety of reasons, which have been discussed in the past. Very few regulars here (known by moniker) would register, so again, a conversation killer.

Spam and unwelcome comments are an issue on virtually all public forums. The question is a balance of how much control Melissa (and Charlie) want vs. how much time they have. For the past few years this balance has seemed to work pretty darn well. If that balance starts tipping too far, then one thing that might be possible would be for Melissa to pull in a couple other trusted moderators who have the ability to delete certain kinds of posts, like obvious spam or offensive stuff. There's a fine balance between control and time requirements, but I feel like this blog has been managed very well over the years.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You can't make this stuff up,

Friday, April 04, 2008
Change to Blog
After reading the blog comments posted while I was camping the last two days, I decided it's time to experiment with a change to the blog.

I have changed the settings to require "registration" in order to post a comment. This doesn't require you to reveal your true identity when posting, but it does require you to register with some kind of a name and use that when commenting.

If you have technical problems with doing this or want to voice your opinion privately, send me an e-mail message.



--OK Now

z said...

Also, just a quick FYI. If Melissa ever does get to the point where she wants to enlist help with moderation, Wordpress has a bunch of tools that help with stuff like that.

z said...

Ok, sure, I remember some periods when moderation has been in effect. Melissa has done that for short times as well, when things got ugly, but always come back to the current model.

JD's statement above was simply "When Beth ran this blog it was required for everyone to have a registered ID in order to comment", which is misleading without some qualifications.

Anonymous said...

Sucker Punched, if you sent an email to Melissa (or anyone else) using a district computer over the district network, the district can certainly get hold of those (and probably have them stored somewhere now).

Most large organizations, including school districts, use and employ network monitoring software. This is SOP. Upon employment and probably since, you have likely signed a Network Use Agreement (like the students) and this would have been spelled out. You can ask IT and/or HR for a copy.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Sucker Punch, I would think - given the district gives employees training on district policies - that you would know the district can track anything you send on their computers. That said, I'm not sure how they would know you sent a comment to this blog but I'm not tech-savvy. They would know if you sent me an e-mail.

But I would not and have never shared any employee e-mails with the district. Ever.

JD, I am considering registration and I may go that way. Charlie and I thought it might get in the way but honestly, I think it would help.

My problem is not spam; the filter gets 98% of it and delete the rest. The problem are a few trolls.

Anonymous said...

I dont see any heavy trolling. There are people that disagree with you and sometimes you take it too personal. I would say it's obvious you control the narrative sometimes, but it's your choice.


kellie said...

As a old timer on this blog, I first started to read during the anonymous time but I only started to comment during the era when registration was required.

The registration was not a burden to the comments or conversation. There were many regular commentators who kept their handles over time and there were also regular commentators who changed their handles quite regularly, because it was easy to just register a new handle.

The "incident" that caused the blog to return to full anonymous comments was when one regular commentator who used her full name as her handle "outed" the full name of a person who changed their handle regularly. That was unfortunate.

I truly preferred the era where folks needed to simply sign in. It was still easy to preserve anonymity, but the threads were much easier to follow and regular commentators developed a voice over time. Plus we didn't have the challenges of a new anon adopting the signature of a long time follower.

Melissa Westbrook said...

For the last time, people like Good Choice, I see ALL the comments. And, when they are threatening or demeaning, I copy them to a file I have and then delete them.

You just don't see that many simply because I eliminate them quite quickly.

And again, for the last time, if someone threatened you with bodily harm, put up your home address - that kind of thing - it would make you feel uneasy as well.

But you do make a valid point - I certainly do have the choice of what I want to do to fight it off. Ignoring and eliminating has not done the trick.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Outsider said...

Requiring registration is the best way to eliminate critical voices and turn the blog into an echo chamber. It becomes a sort of choir in which everyone takes turns singing the same safe, politically correct song.

There will always be low-class trolls who say nasty things for the thrill of it, like writing bad words on the wall of a middle school boys room. (If this blog is helping to keep middle school boys room walls cleaner, that's a public service. Cleaning is easier here.)

Someone like Albert, on the other hand, seems to be a paid blog-warrior or someone whose paycheck depends on ed reform. Melissa regards him like a spider on the ceiling, understandably, but still his posts are very informative even if you don't agree. He acts as a sort of spokesman for ed reform. Even when he makes veiled threats or puts on a hardball attitude, it reveals a lot about how these people think and operate. I say let him post. Choirs and safe spaces are boring. You learn by getting out in the wild.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And I think we'll end it here.