Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Get Those Ballots In!

No Charter Cheerleaders in SPS

Dear Directors,

I learned from the West Seattle blog that Gatewood has a new principal, Kyna Williams.  She's a former charter school principal.  That's okay.  She was in TFA.  That's okay.

What's not okay is proselytizing in SPS for charter schools.  Apparently, the principal at Arbor Heights - who is married to noted charter supporter and head of a Washington State ed reform group - is counseling parents to consider charter schools. 

And now we have an actual former charter principal heading a school.

I would suggest that when the district knows that incoming staff have ties to charter schools that it be made clear to those staffers that their job is NOT to counsel/cheerlead for charter schools. 

I would suggest that when the district knows - as in the case of the Arbor Heights principal - when there are strong connections to charter schools, that it be made clear that their job is NOT to counsel/cheerlead for charter schools. 

While SPS is struggling to support the students it has, SPS staff should not be supporting the growth of charter schools which will - in the end - undermine our district.  If you need any supporting facts about the loss of dollars to a district, go ask Tacoma.  Or ask me and I will deliver story after story to you about how charters are hurting districts across the country. 

Sincerely,
Melissa Westbrook
Seattle Schools Community Forum blog

Blanford's KUOW Interview

KUOW released an interview that journalist Ann Dornfeld did with departing Seattle School Board member, Stephan Blanford.  It was eye-opening, both for what he said and didn't say and what either didn't get asked or was left out in the piece by editor, Katherine Banwell.

The full interview as released on KUOW is 31 minutes long; the shorter for-the-radio piece is about 7. 5 minutes.  The title of the interview is:  On being the only black man on the Seattle school board

Sadly, I didn't take a screenshot but I do recall the first time I saw the KUOW page on this story, it said that Blanford would be reflecting on his time on the Board.  Well, he does but thru one lens and that's race.


My overall impression from listening is that Director Blanford is very much the person he has been all along on the Board - quick to judge, good at never telling the full story and, most of all, good at blaming others for lack of progress in our district.

I'll go into detail but here are the issues that jump out at me:

Tuesday Open Thread

Correlation is not causation but this new data is something to consider, From Gadfly on the Wall blog:

Middle School Suicides Double As Common Core Testing Intensifies
The suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds doubled between 2007 and 2014 – the same period in which states have increasingly adopted Common Core standards and new, more rigorous high stakes tests.

In fact, it is a hallmark of other nations where children perform better on these tests than our own.
 
For the first time, suicide surpassed car crashes as a leading cause of death for middle school children.
In 2014, the last year for which data was available, 425 middle schoolers nationwide took their own lives.

To be fair, researchers, educators and psychologists say several factors are responsible for the spike, however, pressure from standardized testing is high on the list.
Remember I told you about the new Washington Slaw about driving while using a cell phone?  The ultimate in bad outcomes for one teen driving while drunk and using Instagram.
A California woman is in custody after allegedly livestreaming a fatal car crash on Instagram that killed her 14-year-old sister and injured another teen. 

Obdulia Sanchez, 18, was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated after Friday's crash, according to the California Highway Patrol.
In a super-human effort, parent Barbara Billingshurst created this:
I created a website www.waschoolfamily.com that contains all the results from my detailed analysis of comparing the State’s Current FY 2017 Budget and the State’s FY 2019 Budget (SSB 5883 and HB 2242) for public schools to the QEC Fully-Funded FY 2019 Plan.
What's on your mind?

Monday, July 24, 2017

My, My

The Badass Teachers Association held its 4th Annual Education Conference in Seattle, Washington.
The Badass Teachers Association presents Back to School with BATs - 4th Annual Education Conference on 7/22 and Open Air Restorative Justice Circle on 7/23 -

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Andre Helmstetter for District V

It took me awhile to get here but, after careful consideration, I am endorsing Andre Helmstetter for Board position V.

Friday, July 21, 2017

District V Board Race Update

If you live in District V, you may receive a mailer from candidate, Alec Cooper.  It includes a list of endorsements that include my name. 

I have not endorsed any candidate for the District V race.  I recommended Cooper along with Andre Helmstetter and Zachary DeWolf.  I find them all strong candidates for different reasons and I continue to urge those of you in District V to pick one of them.

I talked to Mr. Cooper about this issue when I became aware of it.  He had thought my recommendation was an endorsement.  It was not.  I believe it was a good faith error of understanding on his part and, if he goes thru to the General election, I know he will correct that error in any other mailings or voter information.

On another note, while I believe it important to consider many facets of a candidate, I would urge readers to really look to work/volunteer background of a candidate along with their thoughts on issues that face our district and what lens each candidate may be using to view those issues. 

Friday Open Thread

First up, the South Seattle Emerald reports on scholarships won by students at Rainier Beach High School and Mercer Island High School that are named in honor of President Obama's mother.
On May 20, the Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund held its 8th annual awards ceremony at the Northwest African American Museum.

For the first time in its history, the Fund awarded a scholarship to a Rainier Beach High student.
Rainier Beach High graduating senior Emily Au, along with Mercer Island High graduating senior Christine Lee, received $5000 scholarships from the fund.
Tell your driving teens (and yourself) to put that phone down while driving.  Starting Sunday, a new law against cell phone use will see folks getting stopped and warned about the law (it goes into effect in January 2018).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Just when you think the Legislature can't do more to hurt public education, they do.  Or rather, the Republicans do.

Again, this is why you MUST support Manka Dhingra's race in the 45th district. Not only is her opponent a carpetbagger, we need people in the Legislature that want to get things done.

There are two big issues on this impasse.

From the Times:

DeVos Updates


Today she's going to the ALEC annual meeting in Denver...except her name hasn't been on the agenda.  Wonder why.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is just the gift that keeps on giving.  Let's review.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Video Messages from Seattle School Board Candidates 2017

From Seattle Channel's Video Voter's Guide:

Reading Between the Lines on McCleary

I had a bit of a dust-up with reporter Melissa Santos at The News Tribune over her story on what teachers and students get from the McCleary-driven budget and her picks for quotes from public education groups.  (I'll note I generally like Ms. Santos' reporting.)

Who did she quote?

Someone from LEV and someone from Stand for Children.

Now there is WSPTSA or Washington's Paramount Duty or Parents Across America but no, she picked two ed reform groups, both funded by Gates.  If the News Tribune and the Seattle Times want to go to the same Gates-driven well for quotes on public education, that's their call.

But then, no fair being whiny when you get called out for it.  I consider it a public service to let people know because the Times and the Tribune certainly aren't telling their readers who these groups are and who funds them.

Oh and speaking of LEV, here's a few tidbits at their website:

Tuesday Open Thread

I'm disappointed that the Mayor says he's staying put.  He's now the lamest of lame ducks and frankly, it hurts our city at a time when we need leadership.  From The Stranger:
His statement came after City Council Member Lorena Gonz├ílez called for his resignation by July 24. She said the council should consider looking at steps for his removal if he does not step down by that deadline. But a number of Gonz├ílez's colleagues, including Debra Juarez, Bruce Harrell, Sally Bagshaw and Lisa Herbold, seem to be more skeptical. The four city council members released a statement saying Murray did not "willfully violate" his duties. But as Daniel Beekman of the Times pointed out, the statement did not address another potential cause for impeachment: "an offense involving moral turpitude." 
From University of Washington Communications about new Learning Gardens in SPS:

Monday, July 17, 2017

Education News Roundup

New Study Backs Academic Rigor for Preschoolers. Oh, Please; from the Washington Post:
A new study finds that preschool classrooms — those in which teachers provide “high doses” of activities “emphasizing language, preliteracy and math concepts” — give “positive” academic benefits to children as measured by standardized tests, and that black students generally get a bigger boost than others. Think flashcards.

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early-childhood-development expert, recently wrote:

We have decades of research in child development and neuroscience that tell us that young children learn actively — they have to move, use their senses, get their hands on things, interact with other kids and teachers, create, invent. But in this twisted time, young children starting public pre-K at the age of 4 are expected to learn through “rigorous instruction.”
And never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we would have to defend children’s right to play.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mayor Murray Needs to Step Down

The Sunday Times story revealed a report from the '80s about Mayor Murray and his role as a foster parent.
An Oregon child protective services investigator in 1984 determined that Mayor Ed Murray sexually abused his foster son, according to documents published by the Seattle Times today.
From The Stranger's reporting:
Finding the child sex abuse allegations to be credible, a child protective services investigator recommended that Murray stop fostering children all together. 

So did a foster care specialist, who wrote, "Under no circumstances should Mr. Murray be certified in the future."

A prosecutor declined to press charges against Murray due to concerns with meeting the burden of proof, not because she didn't believe Simpson.

In a separate document, a foster care specialist wrote, "Although he was not indicted, the Protective Services department feels that the allegations are true, as does the district attorney’s office.”

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Conversation on HCC, Part Two

For this part of the discussion, I want to reiterate a few things I said in Part One.

There are some parents don't believe that there could be that many children who are highly capable.  To that I can only say that the feds, the state and the district all believe it is true and have allocated resources and services to that end.  I note that the new McCleary budget includes extra dollars for programs like Sped, ELL and yes, highly capable.

There are some parents believe it's all based on a single test score in order to get into the program.  That is not true and you can examine the application process and how the district's own committee decides on admission.

There are some teachers/administrators don't like HCC because some of their best learners leave the school after they are admitted into the program.  One reason could be the loss of test scores.  Another reason is the loss of students who help teachers drive the classroom by being generally engaged.

I can understand their unhappiness but it is not the right of a teacher or principal to decide what program parents want their children to be in for the best academic outcomes.

If your belief system on highly capable students falls into either of those two groups, you probably won't be interested in what follows.

Last Community Meeting with a Director Today

I forgot to post this on the Friday Open Thread but Director Leslie Harris is having a community meeting today.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Open Thread

The Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Washington State #28 in education just as in the same week we are ranked #1 for business climate.  I did tweet the Governor that it would be a great day for public education in Washington State if we ever get to #1 in that category.  

Speaking of public ed, the budget is done but not important legislation attached to it.  From Washington's Paramount Duty Facebook:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Education: The Great Leveler and the Great Divider

David Brooks had an tense (and some would say awkward) column in the New York Times last week.  It was called, How We Are Ruining America. 
Over the past generation, members of the college-educated class have become amazingly good at making sure their children retain their privileged status. They have also become devastatingly good at making sure the children of other classes have limited chances to join their ranks.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Stranger vs The Seattle Times: School Board Endorsements

District IV:
Times - Eden Mack
The Times gave Mack their strongest endorsement for school board as compared to Chelsea Byers (tepid, both with what the Times said and what Byers said) and Alec Cooper (short).
Eden Mack is fully prepared to be on the Seattle School Board.

The Stranger - Eden Mack
"Eden Mack is the wonkiest education wonk who ever wonked."

Me - Eden Mack
Ditto on the comments made by the Times and The Stranger.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Back to the PTA Fundraising Sharing Discussion

We're revisiting this issue because it seems to be receiving more and more attention, both nationally and here in Seattle.  Again, this comes back to the question of equity which gets trickier because PTA is a private organization that encourages both kinds of parent engagement -  funding and volunteering in their child's public school.

I was reminded of this by a recent op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald.  Here's their headline which flips the idea of contributing money to your child's school on its ear:

Contributing to Inequity: White Parents Must Act to Change Seattle Public Schools’ Opportunity Gap
The piece was written by Hayden Bass and Vivian van Gelder who are parents of students in Seattle Public Schools.  Here's their basic premise:
White parents, then, are uniquely situated to challenge institutional racism in our education system – and conversely, to uphold the status quo by resisting the understanding that our system, as it is currently designed, does not distribute opportunity fairly.
So what to do?

Tuesday Open Thread

A Mercer Island student newspaper did an interview with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (who hails from Richland, WA).  As I like to say, if it's not rude or illegal, it never hurts to ask.  The Times does a good job on this story and it's fascinating.  (Also, the student, Teddy Fischer, brilliantly noticed,in a photo of a Trump bodyguard carrying a stack of papers, that there was a Post-It with Mattis' phone number on it.  That got the ball rolling.)

The Times is endorsing Chelsea Byers over Director Betty Patu.  I'll have more to say on endorsements soon as The Stranger will be dropping their endorsements this week as well as ballots going out this week.  The Times' blaming Patu for the $74M budget deficit is laughable.

They also cite votes they claim she made against the City's Pre-K program.  Absolutely wrong.  She never voted against it.  It would help if the Times would actually get that kind of info right.  Shame on them.  Byers has a good background - if all you cared about was STEM - but knows very little about this district.

Monday, July 10, 2017

HALA and Public Schools

You may recall that when the Mayor's HALA plan for our city came out, the plan consistently referred to schools as "amenities."  That's just wrong because no city is great without great schools which are part of the infrastructure of a city.  (They also had it in the plan that if the City built housing that could support a school at the street level, that school would go to a charter group.  When I challenged that idea, the word "charter" mysteriously disappeared.  No one at any HALA meeting will explain how it got in there and why it went away.)

You may have recently received an e-mail about the EIS for the HALA plan with a link for public comments.  I have to smile because while I think it important that citizens have access to the entire plan, it's a huge document.  I think if you really wanted input, a detailed synopsis would have been helpful. That's if you really wanted public input.

A reader did alert me to a section I had missed in the plan, called Public Services and Utilities (with public schools being part of that).   (And thank you to this reader; I depend on readers to send me this kind of information.)

Friday, July 07, 2017

Governor Vetos Portion of Budget Bill for Tax Breaks

See, sometimes if you band together, good things happen.

Washington's Paramount Duty statement:

Conversation on HCC - Part One

Let's talk about giftedness first.   (Note that this thread is not about HCC so any comments about it will be deleted.  I will once again state that no one will be allowed to name-call or sneer at someone's children.)

To start, after decades of thinking about this issue, here are some conclusions I have come to about how some parents think about giftedness.

Let's just start with the idea that ALL children have gifts to share - leadership, empathy, artistry, humor - many good things.  But...

Friday Open Thread

Very disturbing study from Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality:
Adults view young black girls as less innocent than white girls of the same age, a new study has found, indicating that children’s race may affect how their actions are perceived.

“This new evidence of what we call the ‘adultification’ of black girls may help explain why black girls in America are disciplined much more often and more severely than white girls – across our schools and in our juvenile justice system.”
Speaking of better understanding, summer reading ideas for your woke kid from NPR.

What girls want have come a long way since The Spice Girls asked that question 20 years ago - good for Victoria Beckham.  Girls and women want equal rights to men and for some men to quit abusing/exploiting/holding down women and girls.  (Although Cindi Lauper was right - girls do just want to have fun.)

Want something free and fun to do with the kids this weekend?  Try the Goatalympics in Monroe.

What's on your mind?


Thursday, July 06, 2017

Upcoming School Board Candidate Events

Update: the Squire Park event will be just for District V candidates

Squire Park Community Council School Board Candidate Forum and BBQ

Saturday, July 8th, 2017 10:00 AM-2:00 PM
:
Centerstone
722 18th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122


mail:

SPCC thanks Centerstone for the donation of meeting space for our quarterly Meeting. In appreciation we encourage all to bring a donation of food for their food bank.

District V candidate Alec Cooper is having a meet-and-greet event
Thursday, July 13 at 6 PM - 8 PM
North Capital Hill; RSVP for location and details

District IV - Eden Mack
Sunday July 9 from 3-5pm
Meet and Greet with Eden Mack hosted by David Kaplan & Susan Devan
At Kaplan & Devan home in Magnolia
RSVP to 206-283-2362 or davidkaplan@pipeline.com
 Tuesday July 11 from 5-8pm (kid friendly!)
Meet the Candidate (Eden Mack for School Board) hosted by Margaret Gheen and Kristeen Penrod
At Margaret's home in Magnolia
RSVP via Evite

Tuesday July 18 from 5-6:30pm
Cocktails and Conversation with Eden Mack
At Mirchandani's home in Queen Anne
RSVP via nicole.lapsys@gmail.com 

District Doesn't Seem Interested in Nutritional Improvements

As you may recall, the district hired a consultant group to do a review of Nutrition Services.  The report had a lot of good things to say especially about the staff but offer numerous suggestions for improvements.  The district and Board seemed to take that report and put it on a shelf. 

It's unclear why they paid the money for it and are largely ignoring its work.

One program that was begun in the Fall of 2015 (just before the Prismatic staff came through and which they gave high praise) was the “Pilot Program at NOVA High School”. The pilot has now been left as just that.

The program is supported by both students/staff and nutrition staff.  But even though the program doubled student participation, staff is being told it didn't meet enough benchmarks.

It's hard to understand ignoring the report.

Magnolia or Seattle Center;Where Should a New High School Be Located?

Here's a very comprehensive look at the situation over in Magnolia at Fort Lawton as written by Outside City Hall's George Howland, Jr.

It comes down to this:
Twenty-eight acres of surplus federal property should be a great opportunity for Seattle. Instead, it shows signs of becoming a terrible civic imbroglio. I fear that the interests of homeless people will be lost in the melee.

The feds have also designated the city of Seattle as the Local Redevelopment Authority for the site. The city can have the land for free provided it be used for public purposes like housing, a school or a park.
So again, like the situation with the former Federal Reserve building in downtown, the feds are offering this land first for public uses. 


There are three things that could be done:

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

WPD Urges Governor's Veto on Part of Budget

From Washington's Paramount Duty:
ACTION NEEDED!
Please CALL GOV. INSLEE: 360-902-4111 on Thursday, July 6! Parents are asking Gov. Inslee to veto a huge new tax cut for businesses that was created in the budget deal. 

Here’s the story: Even as legislators failed to fully fund public schools, they added a section to the funding bill (SSB 5977) that reduces the Business & Occupation Tax for manufacturers. That’s a 40% reduction in the business tax rate, and could cost as much as $40 million per year. (For perspective, the state could fully fund the Breakfast After The Bell program for just under $3 million a year.)

Please call Governor Inslee (360-902-4111) on Thursday, July 6 and ask him to veto this new tax cut. Doing so wouldn’t require vetoing anything else. This tax cut never got a hearing in the House Finance Committee — there’s no way to justify this. If you can't call on Thursday, please email the Governor using this linkhttp://governor.wa.gov/contact/contact/send-gov-inslee-e-message
Here is the letter that WPD sent to Governor Inslee's Chief of Staff and Director of External Affairs on Sunday, July 2.

Waitlist Resolution

 Update 2:  I kinda got it right but it is much harder to track an issue when there are many Q&As, motions, etc.   From VP Harris via Soup for Teachers Facebook:

Wednesday Open Thread

 On the waitlist vote tonight: I again note that Director Geary will not be at tonight's Board meeting (I believe she's gone on a trip) so it will be six directors.  In my head I was trying to parse how I think the vote might go.

Staff was pushing back over providing some additional analysis that the Board requested and so I expect a pro forma type document from them.  Will that be enough for the Board to say, "Well, they did what we asked?"  Or, will the sheer volume of proof of what they have said in the past versus what they are saying now allow the Board to say, "You can do this next year after a carefully, clearly stated procedure is done.  Right now, we don't have that - we told parents one thing and now another, and we'll have to live with that for next year." That would be a big step towards letting the Superintendent and staff know that they must live up to their words.

The main thing is the district has to take responsibility for its own inaction on the lack of trying to make underenrolled schools more attractive AND its own whiplash statements on procedures. 

I haven't listened to it yet but KUOW has done a piece on Director Blanford.

Monday, July 03, 2017

McCleary and Funding Updates

There was a very good discussion at KUOW today between Daniel Zavala, director of policy and government relations with the League of Education Voters and Summer Stinson of Washington's Paramount Duty about the Legislature's funding of public education.

Zavala says the Legislature made "significant moves toward structural inequities" across the state and says this budget provides  $7.3M in "additional funds."  I don't even need Summer to chime in before I call BS on that one.  We had a recession, remember?  So districts had to make deep cuts and those cuts have only been slowly backfilled.  How is that new money?

But take it away, Summer.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Seattle School Board Meeting This Week - Waitlists

An oddity in the SPS calendar; two board meetings in two weeks.  There will be a couple of special board meetings in July - both about the budget - and then not another one until, well, I don't know because neither the district calendar nor the Board calendar reflect when the next one is.  I would guess late August or early September.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Seattle Schools' Statement on Budget

(Bold mine)
“We thank the Legislature for their effort to create a new basic education funding model. It is no small task, and those of us in the field of education recognize their challenge.

“As we review the budget and McCleary plan, we have been evaluating whether the money we get from the state will meet constitutional needs and district needs.

“We appreciate the increase in learning assistance funds, and that the budget retains the funding model based on staffing allocations.

“The budget shows a net increase for Seattle, and we are appreciative. The challenge is, most of these new dollars are restricted to spending in certain categories. This puts us behind because we lose the flexibility to use local levy dollars where needed and the state doesn’t backfill the gap.