Showing posts from 2006

Teachers and Magic

There's an interesting website (and now a book) called Post Secret . PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. Are they all for real? I don't know but many of them seem quite heartfelt and it certainly makes you feel like you aren't alone in the world. They put up a new set every Sunday. The reason I bring it up is in this week's batch is one with a photo of an empty classroom. The words stuck over it say, "Every day I am asked to be a magician in a world where magic does not exist." Someone wrote in agreeing that much is asked of teachers and yet many or most go back because they believe it is possible. Do we ask too much of teachers as either individual parents or a society? Is it reasonable to ask anything of them due to principal direction contraints? What is asking too much of a teacher? Teachers, weigh in.

The Media, Public Perception and School Reform

I came across the following quote in a book I am reading, Spinning Wheels: The Politics of Urban School Reform by Frederick M. Hess. Individuals without firsthand evidence about politics or policy rely heavily on the cues provided by local activists, community leaders, and the media. The result is that media coverage has a bigger impact in large districts than in small districts. The community's reliance on local leaders and the media for cues about a district's performance reduces district leaders' ability to directly shape perceptions of system quality. This situation encourages the school leadership to emphasize visible and dramatic initiatives that will translate well to the general public. Is this true for Seattle? Certainly the media has a large amount of influence on public perception of schools. And depending upon which paper someone reads (Times or PI), the perception may vary significantly. But what about the tendency for leadership to "emphasize visible and

Spectrum, APP and Teaching

The hot topic of conversation this past week on this blog deserves a thread of its own. This is not a topic that I have much knowledge on, so I'll just pose a few questions: 1) What happens in schools where there is a Spectrum program? Are students in that program treated differently? Taught differently? Are they clearly identified as "Spectrum" students, and if so, what is the effect on the school community? 2) What happens in schools where there is NOT a Spectrum program? Do students leave the school to find a Spectrum program? Does the school group advanced learners anyhow? And if so, how? 3) What happens to gifted students when they don't have advanced learning opportunities? Do most students who test into APP choose the program? What are the benefits of part-day pull-out groups? What are the benefits of a separate program? 4) Can the same teaching strategies used for students in the Spectrum program be used with all students?

Schools and PTA Fundraising

New article in the Times today Schools Bank on Parents' Ability to Raise Cash about PTA fundraising. Some of these sums take your breath away but that 's the reality of the system we live in and work with. There seems to be a growing awareness of this inequity but there seems to be little that can be done because between no one in leadership wants to address it. The article doesn't go very deep and I think there are deeper issues than the ones addressed here.

Superintendent Search Firm

I attended the School Board meeting last night. It was Director Chow's first foray as President of the Board. She was fine if a little tentative. Michael deBell and Mary Bass could not be there. The main business was approval of the search firm for superintendent. They voted unianamously to hire Ray and Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I looked up the firm on the web. Not a great website but they look good. They do recruit (not just put out notice of the job and wait for candidates) so that's good. I didn't seem to find much in the way of how they help Boards with the process but I hope there is some public involvement. There will be a meeting on Wed, Dec. 27 from 5-7 at the Stanford Center between Ray and Associates and the Board to go over parameters. It is open to the public but I do not believe there will be any public input allowed.

New Chief financial officer

In this morning's PI: He sounds very good as an educator. I'm hoping he has the financial background for the job. SPS is a lot larger than Enumclaw.

Program Placement decisions memo

Here is the memo with the program placement decisions that were due in December: Memorandum To: Superintendent Manhas From: Carla Santorno, Mark Green, Michelle Corker-Curry, Courtney Jones CC: Pat Sander, Ruth Medsker, Patrick Johnson, Gloria Mitchell, Louis Martinez, Shannon McMinimee, Linda Sebring, Nan Stavnshoj, Holly Ferguson, Duggan Harman, Kathy Johnson, Tracy Libros, Rachel Cassidy, Hajara Rahim, Fred Stephens, Ed Heller, Dave Anderson, Ammon McWashington Linda Hoste, Colleen Stump, School Principals Date: December 15, 2006 Re: Program Placement Recommendations for the 2007-2008 School Year ________________________________________________________ The following program placement recommendations are for implementation in the 2007-2008 school year. The committee works to recommend the placement of programs in support of school transformation and academic achievement efforts; to place programs equitably across the District ; to place programs where students reside; to utilize

Junk food in high schools

This was a timely article (for me) because the Site Council at Roosevelt High School was just discussing this issue with our student leaders. They are all very unhappy with the loss of money which, of course, is more keenly felt at schools that have fewer resources. This was one of the first pieces of work that Brita took on as a new director and it was very important to her as she started and headed a nutrition in schools group that received national attention. However, as the article reveals, there was no real idea of what to do when the revenues dropped (as they surely knew they would). It wasn't fair of the Board to not work with the schools on what to do. I found a couple of Brita's remarks interesting. One, that she says that schools, student bodies, will need to do some soul-searching on what projects they fund. Well, when your funding for things like a schoolwide spirit day or the yearbook gets cut by tw

Separating Fact from Fiction in our schools

Separate Fact from Fiction in our schools This is a good opinion piece in today's PI. The two authors have a calm tone and good outlook. You should also check out the two sound off letters that accompany it on-line.

The Conversion on KUOW today

I was listening to the last half of The Conversation today on KUOW. Their topic had been Seattle as the most literate city. Then that ended and the host said they would talk to the new head of Neighborhoods and "the crisis in Seattle Schools". I was kind of surprised as there was only about 17 minutes left in the program. He briefly interviewed the Neighborhood head and then went on to the schools. He was talking to Venus Velazquez who was a member of the CACIEE, the Superintendent's Committee. (She had previously been interviewed, along with Don Nielson and Lynne Varner of the Times editorial board, on the Seattle Channel.) I was not happy with most of her answers and some of how the interview went. Here's the e-mail I sent: Hi, I was listening to the tail end of The Conversation today and heard the piece about Seattle schools. I am saddened by a couple of things. 1. I noticed that Ross Reynolds said it was going to be an occasional series called Are Seattl

Positive PR for Seattle Public Schools

In contrast to the Seattle Times, the Seattle Weekly has provided more balanced and in-depth coverage of Seattle Public Schools. Last week, Nina Shapiro wrote an interesting article about Trish Millines-Dziko, TAF and Rainier Beach ( Schooling the District ). This week, she provides some positive PR for the Cleveland High School in her article, Southern Exposure , tying the issues of perception of quality, race, and choice together, and relating these issues to the current Supreme Court case on using race as a tie-breaker.

Leadership in Seattle Public Schools

Many of us, including me, have been complaining about Raj's lack of leadership skills as Superintendent. Others, including the Seattle Times, have been complaining about the School Board's lack of leadership skills. Because I am, quite frankly, really tired of that discussion that seems to be getting us nowhere, I'd like to raise a different leadership issue today --- principals, and their leaderships skills or lack thereof. I saw what happened at Graham Hill Elementary with constant principal turnover and a few very week principals. I've read and heard stories about weak principals at various schools around the district and the effect they are having on teaching and learning at the school. For example, after years of having a strong, talented principal, Kimball Elementary now has a principal who, faced with budget problems, left it up to a staff vote whether to increase class sizes or let go staff, who were named in the discussion. I'm all for participatory decisio

School Boards are Dysfunctional

Interesting op-ed in the Times today, Confessions of a Beleaguered School Board Member. I had expected it to be from a Seattle School Board member and it's a guy on Vashon Island. He touches on concerns I hadn't really considered. I think there is some sub-text to it that I may be missing (he writes it somewhat like a confessional).

2005-06 Annual Superintendent Evaluation

The School Board has completed the annual Superintendent Performance Evaluation and it is posted to the District web site. If the link doesn't work, here is the URL:

John Marshall Alternative School

What is the truth about what is happening at John Marshall Alternative School? The picture presented in today's Seattle Times article, One school's legacy: "There's no learning" is quite disturbing. However, during the school closure and consolidation process this past year, and in my recent class at UW's School of Education, I have met several teachers from John Marshall who seem extremely devoted to the students there and the incredibly difficult work they are doing. If you know someone connected with John Marshall, either as a student, teacher, staff person or parent, please ask them to comment on this post. The fate of the multiple programs at John Marshall is supposed to be decided this month. The students at John Marshall are the only ones in the district affected by the closure and consolidation vote who don't know where they will be next year.

KCTS program Sunday 5am

A KCTS CONNECTS LEARNING CURVE SPECIAL REPORT Thursday, December 7, 2006, 7:00pm Repeats Sunday, December 10th, at 5:00am LEADING SEATTLE SCHOOLS Learning Curve reporter, Jenny Cunningham talks with School Board President Brita Butler-Wall and Paul Hill, Director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, about the growing concern with the leadership of Seattle Public Schools. A panel discussion on school district leadership features Don Nielsen, former School Board President Wendy Kimball, President of the Seattle Education Association. A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GIFTED KID – IT'S HARDER THAN YOU THINK This segment includes a visit with a local family whose three children are all gifted. The family moved to the area from California because of the Accelerated Progress Program at Seattle's Lowell Elementary School; the program offers classes for students who perform within the top one percent on standardized tests. Interviews with the family members show how tough it is to find

1+1=0 versus 1+1=3

It's unfortunate the most visible critics of Seattle Public Schools have been so negative about the extent of the crisis in our schools. It's equally unfortunate that the leaders of the district have responded by exaggerating in the other direction. They are correct that there are many positives to cite regarding academics and finances. And, we appreciate that they are sticking up for the district. But, their leadership blunders have had a real cost even if they don't show up in the WASL averages or this year's budget. They can dismiss the Seattle Times and other critics, but they cannot dismiss the valid concerns of many parents, citizens, and staff who value attributes such as stability, vision, and community participation. The message to the School Board and district leadership is simple: You cannot earn back our confidence without first acknowledging your mistakes. Only then can we take the next step of working together to make sure we don't repeat those

NOT Moving to

Two changes happened today. One is the move to a new version of the Blogger beta, which has created some technical hiccups for people, including the need for some people to create a Google account in order to post comments. Sorry for the inconvenience, but the new version of Blogger should be easier for me to manage, and hopefully eventually have more functionality. Based on feedback, I decided NOT to move this blog to a different URL.

PI editorial: Changing Leaders

Another rational editorial from the PI, this time about finding a superintendent. Changing Leaders talks about this issue in the context of how Board members are elected. They also have a poll about how good a superintendent people think the Board will find. As of 11 AM Friday, it stands: 9.9 %- excellent 6.1% - good 34.1%-adequate, more or less 25%- poor 12.2%-disasterous 12.2%-don't know An admittedly unscientific poll but at least the majority believe in adequate and above. I wrote to another group this morning saying that if anyone has any suggestions for the Board on what is important in a Superintendent or how to help the process, now is the time to e-mail them. Also, if you know any candidates (Mike Rielly in Bellevue comes to mind), e-mail them as well. It is important to be help the process and not be a naysayer or obstructionist. I do worry about a lot of PC needling. My main suggestion to the Board is to talk through their entire plan before they outline it to the publi

Seattle Weekly Article

Nina Shapiro wrote an article, Schooling the District , about the proposed TAF (Technology Access Foundation) academy at Rainier Beach. Nina does a good job in giving voice to what TAF's perspective is. She highlights past problems with the New School Foundation and the mistrust it engendered coming into TT Minor. I am quoted (from this very blog!) as to what I saw and heard at the Rainier Beach Community Center meeting a couple of weeks ago on the TAF Academy. What has happened since then is that new information is on the TAf website about the academy. I believe the district should probably have asked TAF not to write anything else about the academy because of the confusion/misunderstandings that could come out of it. What the website says is that TAF envisions RBHS ending as a comprehensive high school and that it would become another academy (them to be decided by staff and the district). They further state that they expect the district to find another "funding mecha

School Board Meeting Last Night

I was unable to attend the School Board meeting last night. I'd love to read comments from those of you did. The Times and the PI had short articles about the School Board meeting: School Board elects Chow president (PI) and Chow picked to head Seattle School Board (Times) Chow's election as School Board President is not a surprise, but I find it depressing. From Chow's recent quotes regarding the Mayor, to her distance from and lack of responsivenss to parents she serves, to her desire to have tightly controlled behavior during School Board meetings, I feel that Chow's election as School Board President signals change in the wrong direction.

Ted Van Dyk Column in Today's PI

Ted Van Dyk had a column in today's PI, The Search for Solutions Continues. I wrote to Mr. Van Dyk explaining the following: -he says that the 4 Board members up for election in the fall (should they run) should be replaced by "qualified, dedicated people". You can say a lot about those 4 but dedicated? They have worked very hard in their positions. Qualified? Brita has a PhD in education and 30 years experience in a classroom. What does he want? The voters looked at Irene, Sally and Darlene's qualifications and decided they were qualified. Oh, qualified means what the editorial boards and the Mayor want it to mean. -he says that an appointed Board would be less politicized than an appointed one. Oh, you mean an appointed board appointed by an elected official? How does that make it less likely? -He says that former Mayor Rice should "run for School Board chairman". There's School Board directors, there's a School Board President but no cha

Mayor Nickels Endorses Levies

Mayor Nickels has added his name to the list of Endorsers of the Seattle School levies on the Schools first ! web site . Still no endorsement from Norm Rice. I found three former Board members' names on the list, but Michael DeBell is the only current Board member whose name appears. Raj Manhas has not added his name, nor have any of the district senior staff. If they do it from home, I don't think there is any prohibition against their coming out on political issues. In fact, the Board as voted to endorse votes in the past. There is a resolution in support of Initiative 884 on their web page. Of the fifty-seven members of the Alliance for Education Board of Directors, only five have put their names on the list: Jon Bridge, John Warner, Peter Maier, Sherry Carr, and Greg Nickels, although the Alliance for Education is there as an organization. How do you vote to endorse the levies as a group but not take forty-five seconds to do so as an individual? CPPS and Charles Rolland are

Today's editorial in Times

The Times has yet another Sunday editorial about Seattle schools, Closing Seattle's Gap through Innovation . It's actually kind of funny in its ignorance. It states this: "So what to do about this nagging dilemma? Turns out, according to Seattle's CAO Carla Santorno, eveything educators need to know about closing the gap they already know. At Montlake, Maple, Van Asselt and Loyal elementary schools and a K-8 called The New School, the gap has narrowed or been eliminated." Okay, Montlake is a small, white, relatively well-off school. They have paid for tutoring for every student who needs it. They have no achievement gap; good for them! Van Asselt is trying teaching to the top, with great results, but have had to put major money from the budget into tutoring (so something in their budget probably had to go). I don't even know what Loyal is; might be Loyal Heights but I don't recall it having stellar WASL scores. And the New School? It's abou

Income-Based Tie-Breaker

Danny Westneat suggests an idea that I and many others have been talking about --- the income-based tie breaker for enrollment to desirable schools. Read Seeing our way to diversity . He also discusses some of the arguments in favor of the race-based tiebreaker, while his colleague presents the opposing viewpoint: There's no compelling reason to manage race in schools .

My link errors

I am sorry I am so lame at these links. I listen to what Beth tells me and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I wish I knew what I was doing wrong. My apologies
More from the media. First up, Danny Westneat from the Times. Pretty simple and to the point. Schools in crisis? Not really A new editorial from the Times, this one a little less shrill and strident. However, they now say, grudgingly, that the Mayor could have handled his plan better, Mayor Rice should come in because he knows the lay of the land (no, he doesn't, he knows a lot of people and there's a difference) and that Mayor Rice should not have any time limits on his interim period. The school district's credibility deficit . And, an interesting op-ed piece from a former Times editor who moved to Penn. Kind of sobering. Maybe education matters more here

The Conflicting Views at the Seattle Times

The Seattle Times today ran two opinion pieces about Seattle Public Schools. One, by Danny Westneat, Schools in crisis? Not really , was straight-forward, reality-based, data-supported, and calm. He says that Seattle schools are doing alright and compares scores to those in other urban Washington districts. As Mr. Westneat writes: "The mayor and the former mayor and the editorial board for this newspaper ought to back off. My kid goes to a Seattle public school, and from where I sit you all are starting to do more harm than good." The other, was a long unsupported and self-contradictory rant by the editorial board, The school district's credibility deficit . They call for both new long term leadership and for an interim Superintendent. They anguish over a nine-month lame-duck period for Mr. Manhas and prefer an eighteen-month lame duck period for Mr. Rice. They say that Mr. Rice could go right to work when Mr. Rice has demonstrated his ignorance of District issues and per

Joel Connelly column in today's PI

Yet another take on the push by Mayor Nickels to run the schools. Mr. Connelly's column is a dead-on commonsense take on the issue (which I happen to agree with). My favorite line is when he asks anyone to name one specific improvement that would come from letting the city run the schools. There's also a couple of good letters to the editor in today's PI. :)

PI editorial/Times op-ed today

Another reasonable editorial from the PI today, this one about having Raj finish his contract. It is well-reasoned. My favorite line is: "The district's financial and classroom progress argues for hiring a superintendent who wants to spend years accelerating the improvements, not rethinking everything." I wrote just as much to the mayor last night. I think starting with a new superintendent AND having an education summit would just muddy the waters. The PI has it right to say we need acceleration and, I would add, someone supporting all that Carla Santorno is doing. Seattle Schools: Staying on track The Times had an op-ed by Steve Pulkkinen of the SEA. He gives the realities of school funding and points out that changing the Board is unlikely to increase state funding. Seattle schools crisis highlights need to boost state funding

The Effects of School Closure

Read a good article in the Seattle Times today on the effect of the MLK closure on other Central area schools: Closure affects nearby schools . "The district says it's taking the opportunity to learn from its enrollment-planning mistakes before attempting next year's challenge." I sure hope so.

The PI Perspective

As a welcome contrast to the Seattle Times articles mentioned by Melissa Westbrook in More from the Times , the Seattle PI today has an editorial presenting the opposite perspective. Read Seattle Schools: Is there a 'crisis'? and then compare the ideas and opinions presented there with the ones in the Times' editorials. I support the idea of Norm Rice as an interm superintendent, since I believe it will improve the chances of the levy and bond votes passing February, and will increase the chances of having a successful search for an excellent permanent superintendent. However, the writing in the Seattle Times has been so slanted and one-sided that I'm happy to see the editorial in the PI today presenting the opposing view.

More from the Times

Two editorials in today's Sunday Times about Seattle Schools. One is about the TAF Academy at Rainier Beach. Don't miss opportunity at Rainier Beach High The other is another over-the-top editorial about the Board and taking over Seattle Schools (by some unnamed entity): Why Seattle must control its schools The Rainier Beach piece is actually measured in its tone. They do miss the point; this isn't about charters or not because they are not legal in this state. It is about what the relationship between private entities that want to come in and create schools and our district. They point out how well the foundation that the Academy is based on has done. Good and well but running a program is not the same as running a school. They point out, rightly, how poorly Rainier Beach is doing but don't delve into why. They completely miss the point that it is just plain common courtesy with any group or established school to make the effort to include everyone at the table in disc


I hear people talking about the governance of Seattle Public Schools and saying that the District has a serious governance problem. I would agree with them. All of them say that the source of the governance problem lies in how School Board Directors become School Board Directors. This is, of course, absurd. That may strongly influence the persons in the positions and to whom they owe their alligience, but it will not impact governance one whit. The District's governance problem is this: The Board has not been afforded the tools necessary to do their job. I see a lot of confusion around the Board's job. Many of the people who give public testimony seem to think that the Board is the Complaint Department; they are not. Other folks seem to think that the Board writes the District's budget; they don't. The School Board is not supposed to get involved in the day-to-day administration and operations of the District. It is, after all, supposed to be a strictly part-time volunt

Finally, from Norm Rice Himself...

After weeks of hearing from everyone except Norm Rice, Melissa Westbrook (and others) got their wish --- an interview with Norm Rice in the PI in which he tells us more about his opinions about Seattle schools and why he wants to be interim superintendent. Ex-mayor wants to run schools The time period Norm Rice mentions for being an interim superintendent (about a year and a half) matches exactly with what I think would be beneficial --- long enough for the levy to pass, some trust to be restored in the schools, and an excellent superintendent to be hired. I found this exchange interesting and surprising: "[PI]What do you think about the seven school building closures that have already been approved for this fall? Is it a good idea to go forward with those? [Rice] I can't answer that. I haven't gotten involved in that on purpose. My instinct says you ought to just shelve it. You ought to really maybe have a cooling-off period, look at some other objectives and come back to

Recent News Articles on Seattle Schools

The discussion about the future of Seattle Schools continues to appear on a regular basis in the city's two local papers. Recent articles include: Rice could lead district out of morass , Seattle PI (11/24) Nickels suggests role on schools , Seattle PI (11/23) Mayor wants summit on future of Seattle School District , Seattle Times (11/23) Our big drawback: schools , Seattle Times (11/22) I completely agree with Hubert Locke's take on the issues in his article "Rice could lead district out of morass." It will be interesting to see what happens in the next week or so.

Giving Thanks for the Good Things in Seattle Public Schools

For Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to give thanks for some of the good things about Seattle Public Schools. My list follows. Please post what you are thankful for about Seattle Public Schools in the comments. ******* On a personal level, I am thankful for: Missa Marmelstein and Lisa DeBurle, my daughers' fabulous teachers in Pathfinder's Earth hall, teaching 2nd/3rd grade classes with an amazing mix of kindness, joy, inspiration and rigor. Lou Cutler, the Pathfinder teacher who makes PE fun while helping my girls get good exercise habits, and chooses to spend his Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Seattle Kids Marathon leading a group of Pathfinder kids. The PTSA leaders and other parents at Pathfinder who run a well-oiled volunteer machine with many, many adults contributing time, energy and money to support the teachers and the school. On a more global level, I am thankful for: The resignation of Raj Manhas as Superintendent. The hiring of Carla Santorno as Chief Academi

Seattle Schools on "The Conversation" at 10 am Today

ADDED : Link to the archive of today's show if you want to listen to Mel, me, Andrew (via e-mail) and others speaking on this topic. ********* Today on KUOW (94.9), the first hour of "The Conversation" (from 10 am to 11 am) is about Seattle Public Schools. *********** Who should supervise Seattle schools? With the upcoming departure of Superintendent Raj Manhas, what's needed to solve the problems facing the Seattle Public School system? Should the entire school board resign? Does Mayor Greg Nickels' need to assert some control? What role should the state play? We'll take your calls and hear your proposals. ******* Call: (206) 543-KUOW or (800) 289-KUOW; or e-mail to get your perspective on this issue on the air.

Updates on Seattle Weekly article on the Board

I did some research today about the Nina Shapiro article in the Weekly about the Board. I didn't read it closely enough (or misunderstood some of it) but there are a couple of things to point out. One, that it seems that Ed Murray is largely abandoning his legislation on appointments to the Board due to lack of interest from other legislators. (I have a call into his office to confirm this but it's pretty much Nina's impression from her discussions with him.) So, unless the Mayor gets some other legislator to put up the legislation, it's a non-starter. Also, Murray's comment about connecting schools' performance to "a group of people who get paid really well" had confused me. It turns out that he was referencing the city council and the mayor and not suggesting that board members get paid. Also, on the issue of Brita's comment that likened school closures as a crisis like global warming. Brita said to me that she meant school closures are

Suggestion Blocks...

In response to the Mayor's interest in Seattle Schools, Cheryl Chow said he should focus on potholes and the viaduct instead. Hmm... By that logic, Seattle business leaders should just focus on their products and profits. Communities should just focus on parks and recreation centers. And, parents: we should just focus on feeding and dressing our kids. After all, we elected the Board to make the school decisions for us, right? Wrong! Strong leaders welcome input, and use it as an opportunity to hone and defend their vision. If the district had the right leadership, they wouldn't be so threatened by outside opinions. Even if you don't agree with the Mayor's opinion, you should be concerned by the School Board response. If they eschew the Mayor's input, what do you think they will do with input from you or me? I hope the Board considers this before they go off to decide the fate of the district all by themselves. Listening to input doesn't mean they have to make ev

CPPS Position on Leadership Change

Today's article in the Seattle Times, " Nickels urged to take control of Seattle schools " continues the recent pressure in the media for leadership change at Seattle Public Schools. The article includes a quote from CPPS president, Charles Rolland, supporting the idea of an appointed School Board. ""If I'm a stellar superintendent, what makes me want to come to this kind of place?" said Charles Rolland, a community activist who has twice trooped to City Hall in recent weeks to meet with Nickels, along with other activists, business people and educators." Charles Rolland and Venus Velazquez also weighed in last week with a guest column in the PI, " Norm Rice for interim superintendent ." And below is the CPPS response to Raj's resignation posted on their website : "Seattle’s school system is in crisis because of a failure by our district leaders to provide a comprehensive vision and corresponding strategy. The trust and confiden

Leadership Change Needed for Seattle Public Schools

Leadership change is needed for Seattle Public Schools, and it is needed now. Whether it is the reality or just a perception (fueled by very biased media coverage in the Seattle Times and elsewhere), many Seattle residents think Seattle Public Schools are in crisis. Allowing that perception to remain unchanged over the next 10 months could be quite harmful to the health of the district. In the Informal Poll - Hire Norm as Interim? or Keep Raj Until Next August? on this blog today, the majority of respondents felt that hiring Norm now as interim superintendent made sense. As I've talked with people over the last few weeks, I've been surprised at how many people share that opinion, both those parents deeply involved in working to improve the school system and the taxpayers/voters who don't usually pay much attention to education issues. The support for hiring Norm Rice seems to cross racial, ethnic and income lines. I have found support for the idea among some people who sup

Academic Achievement Gap Event

I found this on the Alliance for Education website. Please join us at a forum on the Achievement Gap Wednesday, November 29 featuring Dr. Terry Bergeson Superintendent of Public Instruction Darlene Flynn Seattle School Board Member There is a significant and persistent Achievement Gap in Seattle and Washington State. We are going to talk about it. · What are the root causes of the academic achievement gap between students of color and their White and Asian counterparts? · How big is the gap? · Is anything working and what are effective gap-closing strategies? · Why should we care about an Achievement Gap? Hear answers to all of these questions as well as your own! Event Information: Wednesday, November 29th 11:45 am – 1:30 pm Seattle Public Library Downtown Branch 1000 Fourth Avenue Please RSVP to Constance Yee at (206) 205-0324 or by email Parking information

NY Times article on math

Seattle was featured in this article about how we teach math in the United States. As Math Scores Lag, a New Push for the Basics

Informal Poll - Hire Norm as Interim? or Keep Raj Until Next August?

I'd like to take an informal poll, asking everybody who reads this to click on the comment button below and leave your response to the question. Should the Seattle School Board: Hire Norm Rice as Interim Superintendent and postpone the national search for a year or so until the reputation of the Board and the district improves? - OR - Keep Raj Manhas on as Superintendent until the end of his contract next August, and launch into a national search for a new superintendent right away?

Bill Gates' Op-Ed in Times

Getting our children ready for school, college and work Some of what he writes about we have been discussing. What should high school graduation be based on? Getting into college? Being able to walk out into the world knowledgable enough to be a productive citizen? Trained for work or educated to be a citizen? Are they the same thing? Mutually exclusive? He's off on his bit about not being able to do anything about failing schools. Under NCLB, there are penalities and they kick in pretty quickly. In fact, the whole school is damned rather than just one teacher. I agree with finding some alternatives to teacher certification for people who would be able to demonstrate, based on experience, that they have the skill to teach. My husband is a UW professor who would like to teach high school math/physics. He certainly knows how to teach (although good luck with those high schoolers, honey) and knows how to teach math. But he's not going to go and get more training to do it. Gates mo

Last Night's Board meeting

Entering the Board meeting last night, I was startled to see kids doing backflips in front of the dias because the Board generally doesn't get that kind of reception. Oh. It was the Dearborn Scats team doing tumbling (which kind of freaks me out because they don't have a spotter at both ends) and juggling. It was fun to watch. The public testimony was mostly well-behaved until the end. I spoke against the capital bond measure. There was the man who loves to shout out racist remarks but he seems to have some sort of mental problem (I mean that) so he gets off the hook for that behavior. Also, Omar Tahir let loose and said something vaguely racist to Cheryl Chow (mentioned Wei Meng - not sure of spelling - which I think is some Chinese gang) and pointing out that Raj was Indian but not even Native American Indian (his words, not mine) and where were the Native Americans? He also threatened the Board (not clear what he would do but it sounded more physical than legal) over

Align High School Graduation Requirements with College Entrance Requirements

Out of yesterday's Washington Learns report, comes one recommendation that makes so much sense, it's hard to believe it hasn't been put in place already. In the PI article yesterday, Offer students more help, state's colleges are urged , is the suggestion that "The state should align high school graduation and college entrance requirements to ease the transition to higher education." As James Sulton, executive director of the HEC Board explains, "there is no clean mesh between what students are told they need to do in order to finish high school and told what they need to do in order to get admitted to college." In other words, students in Seattle (and elsewhere in Washington state) can finish high school with a diploma and a high grade point average and still be ineligible to apply for entrance as a freshman to a state university because they didn't take the required number of years of English, math or other required coursework. Many kids who a

PTSA Legislative Roundtable

I attended the Seattle Council PTSA Legislative Roundtable last night at Eckstein Middle School. It was slow to get started as the legistlators were late in coming. There were about 50 people from around the Puget Sound area. We mostly networked and talked while we waited. I get the impression that there is consensus on the idea that former Mayor Rice should step in as superintendent. The sheet passed out listed the WSPTA 2006 legislative Assembly voting results. Out of about 21 topics, the ones that got the most votes were: 1. K-12 Education Funding 2. Math and Science 3. Simple Majority 4. Reduction of Class Size 5. School Recess (The last one puzzled me. I know it's an issue in other parts of the country but I hadn't heard anything about it in Washington state.) Other top ten issues; student supports, sex ofender registration, Washington state tax system, highly capable programs and tie between assessment system improvements/special ed funding. The legislators who att

City Hall shouldn't run Seattle Schools

There was an op-ed piece in the Times today written by Cindy McMullen, the incoming president of the Washington State School Directors' Association about the Mayor and his increasing interjection in school district direction/politics. What she says is not surprising but her calm tone and reasoned argument are good. City Hall shouldn't run Seattle schools

What's Wrong with Seattle Public Schools?

What's wrong with Seattle Public Schools? Mayor Greg Nickels answered that question and many others on KUOW's Weekday today. Below is a transcript of the conversation. *********** Reynolds : What’s wrong with Seattle’s schools? Nickels : I think that there’s been a real issue of accountability and confidence in the public schools. For an awful lot of parents, as their kids approach school age, their default is to move out of the city in order to send their kids to suburban schools or, if they can afford it, to send their kids to private schools. We have the highest per capita private school attendance in the country. And I think that the Seattle Public Schools ought to be, if not the first choice, at least in contention with those, and that we keep more of those kids in our city and in our public schools. And the confidence is not there amongst a lot of people that they are going to get a good education by going to the public schools, and we need to change that perception. Rey

Washington Learns Final Report

The Washington Learns Final Report: World-Class, Learner Focused, Seamless Education was released today. If you get a chance to read through it, please post your reactions here. You can read the Seattle Times summary of the report at Governor's panel recommends changes to education . If, like me, you are curious about who the people are on the Steering and Advisory Committees, go to the Washington Learns Steering Committee page . You can read information there about the Steering Committee members ( Committee Members tab in the main page) and the Advisory Commitee members ( Members link under each of the three Advisory Committees listed at right). You can also look at meeting agendas, read consultants' reports, and have fun digging through all the documents created by or used by these committees by clicking on any of the Materials links.