Thursday, March 16, 2017

Starting the List

Thinking about the comments in my thread about coming changes in public education, there was the issue of textbooks.  The thought is that hard-cover textbooks will go away and on-line curriculum will be the norm.

Except that it isn't playing out that way even in 2017.

The parents who commented expressed frustration over not enough books.  I have heard this comment, over and over.  I'll be honest; I don't remember ever not having a book for school.  They may have been old but we all had books.

Made me think, "There's one more basic that SPS doesn't provide."

So let's start a list of tangible items.  I'll start.

- cleaning classrooms on a more regular basis for sanitation purposes.  Meaning, beyond just vaccuming/sweeping and emptying garbage cans.

- textbooks.

- basic supplies especially for elementary school, like scissors, tape, rulers, etc.

- properly maintained buildings.  This includes replacing carpeting, new desks, etc.

 I was really peeved to listen to the discussion at last night's Board meeting about the district spending money from BEX II and BEX III on solar panels at several schools.  Richard Best of Facilities was quite excited about this project which would seek to get a federal grant in order to complete the project.  He said they could even build a kiosk at each school to let kids know how much energy was being generated and the savings to the district.

I do like these kinds of projects and the district loves them because it makes them look forward-thinking.  Director Burke seemed wildly enthused.  So what's my issue?

Well, as district watchdog, Chris Jackins, said, "BEX II was the levy that had Garfield High School and that project went way over budget and had to take money from other projects to complete it.  How could there be any leftover dollars?

I'd say the same for BEX III.  How can any BTA and BEX fund beyond the latest ones still have unspent dollars?  There is so much maintenance need in the district and yet it feels like staff holds money for the projects they want instead of getting the basic needs met. 

The BAR says this:

BEX II Unallocated funds Transfer  $ 647,816
BEX III Bond Underspend                $ 947,816 
Now Mr. Best said he did not know what "unallocated funds" meant.  He seemed to think it was a fancy accounting term and, when Director Pinkham asked about it, said he would check with Accounting.  
What else should make the list? 


Anonymous said...

SPS is going to get a federal grant under Trump for solar panels for Seattle schools?

1) science
2) environmentalism
3) Seattle
4) public education

Let's get serious on SPS priorities and funding possibilities.


Anonymous said...

I continually wonder about these "politically correct" directions that are completely without any supportive research.

No books, so where is that working well and for what population?

Oh right the population of publishers of online materials.

-- Dan Dempsey

Book Doctor said...

Let's add library books and librarians to the list, because if your school library has a super old, super limited collection of books, that just makes it harder to interest kids in reading. You don't have to go back very far before the books start overwhelmingly being written by well educated white men. So, if equity is a concern for the district, you would want to see some newer books in the library collections by a more diverse variety of authors with more diverse life experiences. And you would want to have a librarian available to check the books out to kids. If the librarian is only there for very limited hours, the librarian is probably busy the entire time with classes of children and won't have time to check a book out to would-be readers at recess, etc. This is particularly a problem if the in-classroom library is insufficient for a particular kid. And this can easily happen if a teacher has changed what grade they're teaching (say their whole in-class-library is geared toward fourth graders and then they are assigned to teach kindergarten). Or if the student's reading level is ahead or behind classmates. Or if the student has a strong preference for a certain type of books (i.e. non-fiction or "boy" books). If the classroom library is insufficient for any given student for any reason, the school library would need to make up for that. And they don't. And an appealing library collection ought to be a right for all kids in all classrooms at all schools.

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but the Pilling's Pond lot, that is wedged between Robert Eaglestaff and the new elementary (Cascadia?) is for sale. 450k! A little crazy that it's going on the market now.


Melissa Westbrook said...

What-the-What, I saw that as well and was going to mention it in the Friday Open Thread. Interesting.

not mc-t said...

how about teachers. duh!

no caps

TechyMom said...

On books, from The Guardian Ebook sales continue to fall as younger generations drive appetite for print. Anecdotally, I see this preference for physical objects, especially books on high-quality paper with beautiful color photos and graphics, in my own teen.

seattle citizen said...

"...basic supplies especially for elementary school, like scissors, tape, rulers, etc."

Ummm, and for middle and high schools?

This thread reminds me of Sherman Alexie's oft-told autobiographical tale )which he included in his National Book Award winning, often censored book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) about how when he was in school on the very poor Spokane Reservation he found his mother's name on list of student names on the inside cover of one of his textbooks. Finding that indicator that his text we over twenty years old, he decided to he needed to get off the reservation - go to the white school off-rez, which had the resources to at least buy new textbooks once in awhile...

Bulldog Mom said...

Wait, @Seattle Citizen, are you saying we ought to move our students out of SPS?

We could quote Jerry Maguire (it is St. Patrick's Day after all) and say: Show me the textbooks!

Anonymous said...

A list of things I've taught my children at home (the basic intangibles that SPS does not consistently provide):

-reading phonetically
-basic grammar and punctuation
-math facts
-adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing with standard algorithms (these were the days of TERC and EDM)
-real algebra

What I wish we had more time for:
-history, lots and lots of it
-writing skills

-counting down

Anonymous said...

Us too, counting down, to that whole list including the two wishes. I spent $100 at Half Price Books last month on books my middle schooler needs to read to be an educated person but never will in SPS's PowerPoint and YouTube heavy lack of curriculum state. I also just realized yesterday my 5th grader has never heard of a demonstrative pronoun, and cannot identify adverbs and adjectives in a sentence. I guess we're getting the grammar books I used for my oldest out again this summer. I'm not a professional teacher. This sucks.

Reluctant tutor

Anonymous said...

A good friend of mine has a child at University of Puget Sound. In one of her classes she was the only student who knew much grammar. She graduated from Tacoma Public Schools and knows grammar because her father taught grammar to her.
Dad said, it was clear the only way she would learn grammar was if I taught it to her.

So the lack of grammar is way more than an SPS problem.
Let us look at SPS Readers and Writers workshop instructional models.
Are the teachers not teaching the curriculum pushed by the SPS?

California public schools suffered through a 20+ year instructional disaster known as "whole language". The reading deficits of the children were quite obvious from the beginning but philosophical theories trumped reality.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.
If there is a grammar deficit in student performance?
Is grammar of any importance?

If the above two answers are yes, then what is the district doing about it?

[Ed schools seem bent on producing philosopher kings when it comes to thinking. Perhaps reading and writing skills should be a higher priority.]

The district, in the interests of teacher accountability, seems more interested in having all teachers follow the mandated program than effectively and efficiently educating the students. .... Remember Carla Santorno and Everyday Math with Fidelity of Implementation and at least 75 minutes of math per day (complete with Math Police er coaches) .. results were abysmal for a large number of students, but Sylvan and Kumon did well.

Could building based decision-making bring back grammar competence or has the situation become so bad that teachers also have huge grammar deficits?

What is the SPS doing about grammar? Apparently very little.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

To follow up on Seattle Citizen's Sherman Alexi story.
Alexi was in school at Wellpinit HS (home of the Redskins)
He transferred to Reardan HS (home of the Indians)

Alexi remarked about the Reardan HS mascot, that he was the only Indian enrolled at Reardan HS.

Today Readan HS has 4% American Indian enrollment.
Wellpinit HS has 73% American Indian enrollment.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Could building based decision-making bring back grammar competence or has the situation become so bad that teachers also have huge grammar deficits?

I have been appalled at some of the things I've seen come out, in writing, from teachers. Typos are one thing, but clear spelling errors and incorrect grammar are unfortunately pretty commonplace. The same is often true with letters from principals. And superintendents--although I loved the repeated references to data "breeches."

My favorite, though, was when the middle school APP LA teacher got confused by her own vocabulary words and wrote a nearly impossible quiz. For example, who would have guessed that the "correct" vocabulary word to fill in the blank in the sentence "Early man had to overcome many ______(s) to survive" was "hurtle"?