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Showing posts from 2007

Story in the Times

There was one of those articles without news in the Times today. The closest thing to news in this story is the suggestion that the District will announce changes in gifted and Special education this spring. Of course, it was also news to me that Director Martin-Morris thinks that the district has been spending a lot of time on gifted kids. Director DeBell says that the Board is looking for ways to add more Montessori programs and replicate foreign language immersion programs. I find that interesting because it would appear to be outside the Board's charge. Program Placement is the Superintendent's job and the Board is supposed to keep their noses out of the Superintendent's business. It's very weird to see the Times switch - so obviously - from a loud and vocal detractor of our public schools to a public school booster. Here's a link to the story: Seattle School Board turns its attention to middle-class families

Oh Those West Seattlites!

Boy, those West Seattle folks are a feisty bunch. Watching the Board meeting last night (in the comfort of my own home, very civilized) was inspiring. Whether you agree or disagree with their stand (and these were folks against the Denny/Sealth plan for varying reasons), they were certainly articulate and made good points. There were teachers, community members and students. One, a cheerleader, certainly earned points for being direct and not the least intimidated by public speaking. Their reasoning for not supporting the plan? students think mixing high school boys with middle school girls is a bad idea (and this from a boy) Sealth feeling that they are not being treated like other high schools (i.e. West Seattle, Roosevelt, Ballard, etc.), that they are going to lose space and are basically getting very little out of the deal. Some said they'd be willing to wait for funds for their renovation. community members feeling shut out by Facilities staff and wondering why the dis

Harium Martin-Morris Blog

One of our newest Board members has a blog . It will be interesting to see as he gets busier if he can keep it up but good for him for making the effort. I hope that the new Board members will try to have regular community meetings as Mary Bass does and as Brita Butler-Wall and Sally Soriano did. It was great to be able to go somewhere in your region and be able to talk to your director.

FYI -Enrolling in SPS

This information appeared in the Seattle Times this morning: "Open enrollment in Seattle Public Schools for the 2008-09 school year is scheduled from Jan. 22-Feb. 29. During this period, families may register and apply for school for children entering kindergarten in September 2008; for students advancing from elementary to middle school or from middle to high school; for any other students who wish to change schools; or for students who will be new to the district in September. Students who apply during open enrollment will receive priority assignment for September 2008. Information needed to apply is available at enrollment-service centers or online at www.seattleschools.org/area/eso/story.dxml . To assist in enrollment, an All-City Kindergarten and Middle School Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 12 at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence, 2445 Third Ave. S., Seattle, and the South and Southeast All Grades School Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon

Op-Ed from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson

This op-ed appeared in today's Times. It seems to try to lay the groundwork for a new strategic plan. I say try because her 5 steps are somewhat bland. From her piece: "That's why I've directed the development of a new strategic plan for Seattle Public Schools, initiated with funding from local philanthropists. Our first step is to assess our district's strengths and challenges. We are examining five priority areas that emerged from surveys and interviews conducted to date with key stakeholders: • Support high-quality teaching and learning; • Attract and support district talent; • Drive districtwide efficiency and effectiveness; • Introduce effective performance management; • Strengthen relationships with stakeholders and partners. This diagnostic groundwork will identify successes we can replicate and weaknesses we must address. It will include the findings from academic and operations peer reviews now under way by national experts. It will tap in

More WASL News

Both the PI and the Times reported that 657 more kids have passed the reading and writing WASL. Out of nearly 12,000 students needing to pass the WASL to graduate in 2008, 657 have passed their WASL retakes. "A total of 8,239 students took the WASL in August at 233 sites statewide. That number includes more than 1,000 juniors who passed one or more parts of the test." From the Times article: "Counting the August results, there are now 61,178 seniors who've passed both reading and writing on the WASL. That's 84.5 percent of the class, counting only those who are still in school, and look like they'll have enough credits to graduate. About 64 percent have passed math." Great but that means that almost 4,000 students who needed to retake the WASL didn't. I mean didn't even try . What will happen to them? As I have mentioned before, 9th graders can take any part of the 10th grade WASL (except the science). Ninth-graders who want to test n

Teachers Against McKinsey

This op-ed appeared in today's Times. It was written by two teachers who introduced the resolution to the SEA against the hiring of McKinsey, the consulting firm hired by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. They take pains to say their argument is not with Dr. G-J but with the firm itself. It is likely that McKinsey will hold either a couple of public meetings or have some focus groups. If anyone attends, you should let us know.

School Board Agenda and Facilities

From the agenda for the Board meeting on Wednesday: "The current design for work at Denny Middle School and Chief Sealth High School calls for the replacement of Denny Middle School, built in 1952; the modernization of Chief Sealth High School, built in 1957 and the construction of shared facilities on the existing Chief Sealth High School property. Denny Middle School will be relocated to the Chief Sealth High School campus. New shared facilities will include classrooms, cafeteria and commons. The current configuration is undergoing review. Whatever configuration is selected, there will not be instructional use of the replaced sections of the schools." So now we know for sure that the District wants Denny to move to Sealth's campus. This was, again, an issue that was not clear. I'm with Charlie; how much overlap is there for Sealth from the work done on it from BEX II to BEX III? Also, "The Martin Luther King property is no longer needed for District pu

Can't Connect the Dots

There are a few little things rattling around in my head - nagging detail sort of things that just don't add up or appear contradictory. None of them are very big, but together they seem like a discouraging trend. It all feels like a lack of follow-through and a lack of honesty. Sealth / Denny Project * I knew that Sealth and Denny were going to share some facilities, and I thought that was common knowledge. So how come people are now saying that it wasn't? * Similarly, the work that Sealth is getting isn't a full renovation. I can't say whether I knew that or not, but clearly some other folks thought that it would be. * As part of the BEX II levy, Sealth got a modernization of the facility to support the school's transformation plan. Scope of work included creation of a new student commons and building entry, renovating the library , upgrading 9th grade classroom for collaborative teaching, creating a multiple use science lab, and remodeling the metal shop ar

Go Diving and Look What You Find

So I was looking for a BEX III timeline on the district's website and I happened upon the BEX Oversight Committee Meeting Minutes for April of this year. I happened upon a discussion about New School which provides some illuminating information so that we can all be clear on how the District views New School. "Karin [Nyrop, a committee member] wants to be sure that this design doesn’t in any way compromise the program for the New School. Don [Gilmore, Facilities staff] responded that the building design is very flexible and will accommodate a pre-K-8. This design actually gives the New School more than is in the MOU. The District agreed that this building would be built for District needs. The New School is not a charter school or a publicly run school. It is a District school with additional funding." This is interesting for several reasons: 1) the "South Shore" project (which in the district's bond/levy brochure doesn't even mention New School) i

Seattle Times Letters to the Editor

This letter to the editor appeared in today's Seattle Times: " Bootstrap's on the other foot The problem [of racial disparity] continues after APP into AP (Advanced Placement) high-school classes, another club for white, affluent families. At least 55 percent of Roosevelt students need a level playing field that children in AP with stay-at-home/"hovercraft"-parents/Laurelhurst-privilege don't think a freaking minute about. And that's one of the Seattle Public Schools' poster-child schools, Roosevelt. I'm at a boiling point. I am not anti-APP or anti-AP. I am for opportunities for all and if we have only enough dough to fund one program, I want it to be for the kids falling through the cracks, as I believe the others will do fine in general with their notably larger variety of options. Ideally, I want individual learning plans and high levels of achievement for each in their own way but, like I said, given that apparently everyone cannot be s

Final Closure and Consolidation Finance Information

From the district's School Beat : "Director DeBell provided a summary of the final report on school closure, which is available at: Some of the highlights include: • Enrollment – just over 50 percent of students from closed schools enrolled in the designated receiving schools. Of the remaining 366 students, 154 left the District (a quarter of these were nonresidents) .• Capital costs of the move will likely come in just underbudget at $1.5 million, which includes $400,000 to build a teen parent program center at South Lake. • Long-term capital savings are estimated at $44 million for BTA-type projects and $351 million in levy projects. • General fund costs were higher than estimated at $927,000. • General fund savings in the first year, originally estimated to be $2.48 million, are $1.9 million. Savings are reduced because the Marshall building remained open for one more year, and Columbia is being used as the interim site for The New School. • $1 million of the $1.9 mill

The Plot Thickens

Say what? As you might recall, when I expressed my concerns over the BEX III list, some said we should just get the money and then talk to the Board because after all they have the power to change the list. Or do they? Hopping over to my favorite city blog in West Seattle, I see that the West Seattle community is a very feisty bunch. Apparently they had a meeting recently for the Westwood Neighborhood Council and Steve Sundquist said the board was trying to get a legal opinion on whether they (the board) have the legal right to cancel/change the Denny/Sealth project. Steve also said, per the Facilities rhetoric, that time is crucial because of ever-rising construction costs. (I did look this up recently and Seattle falls in the middle of the country for school construction costs. Because of the mortgage crisis, construction costs are likely to go down rather than up.) Interesting. I would think that the Board would, because they vote the projects, the budgets and hire the su

Recall Doesn't Meet Legal Standard

This post was in the blog by David Postman of the Times. As you may or may not recall, a citizen filed a recall petition against 5 School Board members in the wake of school closures. The State Supreme court ruled it did not meet the legal standard for a recall. There was a minor dispute in the opinions, however. It concerned the following: "But there is disagreement on the court about whether the Seattle School District should have intervened on behalf of the elected board members" "The majority of the court said the district was within its rights to join the lawsuit." However, "But Justice James Johnson, writing in a concurring opinion signed by Justice Richard Sanders, argues that the school district was essentially using public funds to campaign on behalf of the board members. Johnson said that despite laws against use of public funds for political campaigns, Downing's ruling "allowed the District to accomplish the same end — likely with

Go Rainier Beach!

This article appeared in today's PI about efforts to revamp RBHS and get them on the radar for high school choice. These include: - hiring four extra teachers this year, including a full-time drama teacher and a full-time music teacher -plans to add more drama, music and dance classes next year to take advantage of the school's state-of-the-art performing-arts center. -expanding the school's honors and Advanced Placement classes for next fall. From the article: The school has also gained notice for its weekly "seventh period" after-school class for sophomores, in which they get extra doses of math, reading and writing to help them prepare to take the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning." At 374 students they have nowhere else to go but up. They need more numbers as the school is large enough for 1200 although a 750-1000 is probably a good goal. The posts in the Soundoff area of the article show a lot of mistrust that things could be ch

Basic Hard Academics

This article appeared in the Times today about Kirkland's International High School. From the article: "Whatever you call it, the school's 380 seventh- through 12th-graders are performing better than most students in the country. About 95 percent go on to college and 100 percent of 10th-graders meet the standard for the WASL reading and math tests." What do they take? "Created in 1997 by a group of parents looking for a smaller educational format, ICS was modeled after Bellevue's International School, which was ranked fifth in the magazine listing. All students take six core subjects the first four years: humanities, international studies, art, math, science and Spanish. Beginning in 10th grade, only honors and Advanced Placement classes are offered." There are no sports or vocal ed offered; music and drama are offered after school. Sports can be taken through Redmond high school. "Minority enrollment at ICS is about 2 percent, while disadva

The "New" New Math

This column was in today's Times. Bruce Ramsey was writing about a meeting that State Superintendent Terry Bergeson had with people from the Where's the Math group. It sounds like Dr. Bergeson has heard, loud and clear, from parents but, after reading the column, I have to wonder what will happen if math is taught in multiple ways. Is that harder for the teacher? Confusing for the students? This is an issue that will likely not affect my child but I know many out there have deep concerns over it.

How easily I get confused

I am really confused now. In April as she delays the decision to split middle school APP, Ms Santorno commits to providing ample communication and authentic engagement with the APP community when the reconfiguration question comes back within the context of the new student assignment plan. However, there has been absolutely no communication or engagement in the eight months since she made that commitment. Not a word. So what did she mean by that? I'm really confused by these two apparently irreconcilable facts. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has made it very clear that changes in the size and location of Advanced Learning programs will be part of the new student assignment plan. This is consistent with Ms Santorno's April statement and the inclusion of APP student data on the new Student Assignment plan web site. Possible changes to APP have been discussed at various new student assignment plan meetings. However, in her response to the APP Advisory Committee's annual report and re

US News and World Report Rankings for Puget Sound Schools

U.S. News and World Report came out with its rankings of U.S. high schools in this article . There were 2 Puget Sound schools in the top 100 with a gold ranking. Those were the International School in Kirkland (#12) and Newport High in Bellevue (#44). Five other Puget Sound high schools, including two in Seattle, received silver rankings. Those were Bainbridge, Garfield, Issaquah, Mercer Island and Roosevelt. (The Board honored Roosevelt and Garfield at the last Board meeting.) The article has many good side articles including their methodology and a good article on a border school in Texas that is doing very well and yet may still get on the NCLB's underperforming list.

The Starting Line is the Finish Line

Very interesting article in the NY Times on a recent study done by Educational Testing Services which administers millions of standardized tests each year including the SAT. From the article: "What’s interesting about the report — which combines E.T.S. studies with research on families from myriad sources, including the Census Bureau and Child Trends research center — is how much we know, how often government policy and parental behavior does not reflect that knowledge, and how stacked the odds are against so many children. (The study is at www.ets.org/familyreport .)" Here's the crux of what they found: "The E.T.S. researchers took four variables that are beyond the control of schools: The percentage of children living with one parent; the percentage of eighth graders absent from school at least three times a month; the percentage of children 5 or younger whose parents read to them daily, and the percentage of eighth graders who watch five or more hours of TV

AP In SPS High schools

This article appeared in the Times on Friday, detailing AP in SPS high schools and in particular at Cleveland where previously there was none. From the article: "Departing Bellevue schools Superintendent Mike Riley is known for increasing AP participation by making it a goal that every student in his district would take at least one AP course. Seattle's new superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, has said she has the same goal. To reach it, she's working on spreading AP around, giving more students access to the courses. "When I say all kids should take AP, I believe students should not be denied access because it's not taught," Goodloe-Johnson said. A 2007 University of Texas study showed students who took AP in high school earned better grades in college." (I hadn't read this study but a previous one found that students who attempted an AP course in high school did better in college and those who took the test did even better.) I had been unde

West Seattle Working On Talks With District

This article appeared in the West Seattle Herald. It details how one neighborhood was trying to set up talks with the district about long-term planning for the district's properties in the area and Denny/Sealth. It didn't work out but there's disagreement on why. The district is planning one of its own facilitated discussions.

Open Thread: Any Comments or Thoughts?

To start us off, I'm attending the Board of Ed. meeting tonight at North Seattle CC on state graduation requirements. So the questions I have been pondering; - college-ready versus citizen-ready? Can we really have every student college-ready? Is that too high a goal? What about kids who don't care about being college-ready? Personally, the baseline for me is citizen-ready with the option to be college-ready. As a citizen, you need to know how to take care of yourself. That means applying and interviewing for a job. Being able to manage money and understand net/gross/percentages, etc. Being able to understand the biology of your body and the environment to take care of both. Being able to read, comprehend and do critical analysis of news stories (no matter their source - tv, internet or hard copy). Understanding U.S. and world history so that you know why what goes on in Washington, D.C. matters and how the U.S. and Americans fit into the world and why voting m

Let's Be Careful Out There

Hale was closed today due to flooding and will remain closed until Wednesday. Golden Gardens Drive is washed out and a slide swallowed a Subuaru. Be extra careful out there!

Review of Gifted Programs (not so much)

So it was announced that the review of the gifted programs was completed in an article in today's Times. The article only talks about APP so I wonder if Spectrum or the ALOs were even looked at. Maybe it's only the programs that get state funding that were reviewed. If so, that's not very useful. From the article: "An outside review of gifted education in Seattle Public Schools said the district should act aggressively to diversify its program. Almost three-quarters of the students enrolled in the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) are white, compared to about 40 percent districtwide." I know, for a fact, that huge outreach has been done so I'll be interested to see what else the district comes up with to find more minority students. Also, "But according to the report, APP is perceived to be "elitist, exclusionary and even racist," and that some of its African-American students are bullied and isolated." Okay, perceived by who

Really Interesting Article in the Economist

Anonymous 3:51 p.m. posted a link to a great article in the Economist about McKinsey and Company, the consultants for the district's strategic review (thanks!). It was more about their review than the company itself but the article had a lot of fascinating findings. To whit: "There are big variations in educational standards between countries. These have been measured and re-measured by the OECD 's Programme for International Student Assessment ( PISA ) which has established, first, that the best performing countries do much better than the worst and, second, that the same countries head such league tables again and again: Canada, Finland, Japan, Singapore, South Korea." What do these successful school systems have in common? "Not more money. Singapore spends less per student than most. Nor more study time. Finnish students begin school later, and study fewer hours, than in other rich countries." "Begin with hiring the best. There is no question th

Uh Oh, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson Hits a Bump

This article was in Sunday's Times about the SEA not wanting to participate in the development of a "strategic" plan that a consulting company will be creating. Individual union members, meaning teachers, can make their own decision but the union as a whole is advising against it. Here's their rationale from the article: "But teachers say McKinsey has a history of recommending tactics the union opposes, including privatizing schools — putting a private organization or company in charge of public schools, something that's happened in a handful of other U.S. cities." "In school systems across the country, the firm has recommended "empowering"principals to be leaders at their schools and greater use of charter schools. In a 2006 review of Ohio's schools, the firm recommended tying student performance to teacher pay — a method Seattle's union opposes." One of nine recommendations McKinsey made this fall to Mi

The Alliance for Education

So there's this full page ad in the PI today (maybe the Times as well) where the Alliance is thanking the people who attended their Black and Orange Ball in October. It's quite a list (SilverCloud Inns and Hotels?). I read a few of their publications. In one place they say this is what a Seattle public school graduate should have: have the foundational skills for reading, writing, math and science and have the capacity for change communicate effectively (they could have used this for point one; what does that mean?) be a critical consumer of information and be able to utilize changing technology think analytically and solve problems understand and value themselves and others work respectfully and productively in teams value democracy, diversity and community stewardship appreciate the arts be prepared for careers and life-long learning That's quite a laundry list. Maybe we should add to the list of everything else we want in a high school graduate. I'm being sa

Good News About Rainier Beach HS

Hello I wanted to pass along this article about Rainier Beach High School that appeared in the Seattle Times on Friday. As all of you can imagine, we are pretty proud of this, but are nowhere near satisfied. We still face huge challenges every day, but I would just like the larger community to know that real learning does take place at RB and that there is dedicated, talented and focused administration and faculty that are committed to the education of every child that enters the doors at RBHS. When it comes to academic achievement, I wonder when the last time Roosevelt, Nathan Hale and Rainier Beach were used in the same sentence? http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2004043795_rainierbeach30m.html

Spotlight on Chris Jackins

The West Seattle Herald has a nice piece highlighting the work of Chris Jackins: School critic remains focused on his task . While I sometimes agree and sometimes disagree with Chris on particular issues, I respect the time he has invested in being a district watch dog and the knowledge he has accumulated during that time.

It's Official: We Have Four New Board Members

I attended the swearing-in ceremony at the John Stanford Center last night for the 4 new Board members. It was very sweet with relatives swearing in new members (Sherry Carr had a close friend who was the former principal at Bagley). They each gave a brief speech; one went on a bit long (which might be an future indicator). Ellen Roe, the grand dame of the Board (she served 4 terms at least) was there as well. One oddity which may also be a future indicator (or something to hold them to): apparently Dr. Goodloe-Johnson found a directors' "affirmation" which they all agreed to recite. Cheryl Chow read most of it but they all chimed in at different places. They agreed to "abide by the policies and bylaws" of the Board. (Hold them to that, Charlie.) They agreed to "leave the day-to-day operations of the district to the superintendent and staff" - great but it is sometimes a gray area. They agreed to "no independent comments or actions&q

Thought-Provoking Column on Teachers

This is the latest column from Leonard Pitts, Jr., a syndicated columnist. It has a lot of interesting thoughts based on a tour through a KIPP (chain of charter schools - one of the most successful charter systems in the country). I found this section particularly compelling: "Having spent the past year studying educational success stories, I find myself increasingly convinced that much of what ails American schools can be traced to a bureaucracy that: (a) doesn't pay enough; (b) does too little to encourage and reward creativity; (c) doesn't give principals authority over who works in their schools; (d) makes it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers. As Dolan put it, " I don't think you can pay a good teacher enough and I don't think you can fire a bad teacher fast enough." (italics mine). "Teachers are generally very optimistic," said KIPP co-founder Dave Levin. "Unfortunately what happens is, you don't have a lot of exam

Should Newcomers have to Pass the WASL?

There were two recent articles about the subject of immigrant students and WASL requirements. This article about Dr. Bergeson's efforts on this front appeared in today's Times. The other article appeared in the Times earlier in the week about teachers who know their students are passing classes but cannot pass the WASL. Part of argument seems to be whether these students should be treated like special ed students who get different measures of assessment. From the second article: "For those who are recent immigrants, however, she's not sure what to do. No matter how hard they work, she says, most haven't been in the country long enough to have much — if any — chance of passing a 10th-grade exam in English. And that, she says, is "extremely unfair." That's a sentiment shared by many of her colleagues in Seattle and across the state who are concerned about the roughly 2,000 students who probably won't graduate because they don't know eno

Constituent School Boards

I went to the Charleston county website to look up how they enroll students. I was wondering what Dr. Goodloe-Johnson had used in her past job to see if I might discern her thinking on the assignment plan. Oddly, I could not find a blessed thing. I searched everywhere and used their search feature and nothing. (Also, no staff directory. We may have a better district website than we think.) Anyway, what I did find was that they have a 9-person School Board but then they have these regions with something called Constituent School Boards. There is absolutely no explanation of who these folks are or their role but I was intrigued. Has anyone ever heard of this before?

Okay, We Passed Simple Majority But There's One Catch

So I'm reading the Times online and see this story about the first levy elections after the Simple Majority passed. This will be happening in Snohomish county (and probably some others) in Feb. In a way, it's not a real first test because it will also occur the same time as the presidential primary which is likely to have high voter participation. Here's an interesting thing to keep in mind about the changeover (from the Times' article): "Snohomish County adopted all-mail voting in January 2006, but it didn't take effect until the September primary, making the seven districts the first to run finance measures under the all-mail vote. When Thurston County changed to all-mail voting in 1993, one of the first casualties was school-finance measures, said Auditor Kim Wyman. Instead of running one campaign, which often consisted of mailings and phone calls to supporters on the eve of the election, Wyman said districts had to shift to running campaigns timed to

High School Credits

This was in our student bulletin at RHS: "NEW APPROVAL PROCESS FOR ANY OUT OF DISTRICT COURSEWORK - Students who want to take ANY courses outside of Roosevelt for which they want credit towards Roosevelt graduation requirements, whether through BYU Distance Learning, Dartmoor, ETC or EA2, summer programs at UW or at Georgetown, take note: There is a new district policy which takes effect immediately, requiring students to get documented approval from their counselor and fill out paperwork PRIOR to enrolling in the course. " This kind of follows up on Charlie's questions about getting math/language credit in high school for middle school work. Looks like some new district policy has taken effect.

New K-3 Libraries; How are They Working at Your School?

This article appeared in Monday's PI about the new mini-libraries in every K-2 classroom in Seattle. The plan is to extend it to 3, 4, and 5th grades. This from the article: "The libraries aren't intended to replace regular school libraries but complement them. The hope is that students' interest in reading will be sparked by the classroom libraries and, in turn, circulation at school libraries will get a boost, Coles said." A couple of things I had wondered about: -from the article: "Thanks to new libraries installed in each Seattle kindergarten, first- and second-grade classroom this fall, Meisner and her peers have instant access to hundreds of books, each labeled with a letter from A to Z to indicate its level of difficulty." Who determines an "R" versus an "S"? Isn't that a pretty detailed level of difficulty? What staff member has this job and who labels all the books? - I hadn't heard about it being extended

High School Graduation Requirements

From a CPPS e-mail today: How High Should We Set the High School Graduation Bar? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Are our children getting a world-class education to prepare them for 21st century life after high school? The WA State Board of Education wants to hear your thoughts as they review high school graduation requirements for the first time in 22 years. Background information/presentations will be provided to help inform this critical discussion. Join this important community conversation: Wednesday, December 4 6 - 8 pm North Seattle Community College College Center Bldg Cafeteria 9600 College Way North The WA State Board of Education will use feedback from this meeting and from community meetings across the state to define the purpose of the high school diploma and to draft recommendations for new high school graduation requirements. The outcomes will be shared with the public in spring 2008 with another round of community outreach meetings pre-finalizat

Advisory Committees

There are a couple District Policies regarding advisory committees, E08.00 and E08.01. E08.01 requires the appointing entity to respond to the recommendations from an advisory committee within three months. The Superintendent is the appointing entity for most advisory committees, and a number of them make their reports and recommendations at the end of the school year. If a committee made their report and recommendations in July, the Superintendent's response was due in October. The Superintendent, however, has yet to make some of these responses. They are a month overdue and approaching two months overdue. There are, of course, a number of legitimate reasons that the Superintendent's response might be delayed - new Superintendent, new program managers, various outside evaluations, etc. Just the same, I would think that professionalism, courtesy, and respect would dictate that the Superintendent get in touch with these committees with an apology for the delay, an explanation f

A Schramie for Caprice

So I'm watching the local news one night and, at the end, there's Ken Schram. He's a newsman (to some degree) and he basically gets to do a semi-rant about whatever politicians/leaders do that bug him. To those he really disagrees with or whose actions he finds ridiculous, he gives out a statue dubbed the Schramie. So who did he give one to this week? None other than our director of Equity and Race Relations , Caprice Hollins. He was upset about her sending a letter to teachers about Thanksgiving saying it was a time of grieving for some Native Americans and shouldn't be cast in a rosy glow. Okay, first when the first Thanksgiving did occur, there was obviously some outreach between the settlers and the Native Americans. (Before and after we became a country? Obviously, the way Native Americans were treated was a complete disaster on so many levels you'd have to be an idiot not to get that.) It seems like you could take Thanksgiving in the light of which it

Follow-up on School Closures

The implementation of the school closures has been quiet compared to the discussion of the plan. Personally, the only impact I have seen has been some new children in Pathfinder who came because their previous West Seattle elementary schools closed. But I have been wondering about the schools and families more directly impacted, and would love to hear from families and teachers at those schools about what it has been like this year. The Seattle PI today, has a piece that tracks the numbers: After 5 schools closed, 157 students left Seattle district , which certainly gives a partial picture of the impact, especially financially for the district. But I want to know more. Stories anyone?

WASL - Guest Column in the Times

This op-ed appeared in today's Times. It is by David Marshak, a respected educator in the College of Education at Seattle U. He details how Superintendent Bergeson's pass rate claims for the WASL are, by his measure, not true. He says at the end: "Is this really a great achievement after 14 years and who knows how many hundreds of millions of dollars spent on testing? And, are our schools not pretty much where we were in 1992 before we started with this unproven yet very expensive obsession with standards and high-stakes testing?" That is an understatement (posed as a question).

Kids Need to Read

This article appeared in the NY Times and says that kids appear to be reading less for fun and that reading and writing scores are declining. From the article: "In his preface to the new 99-page report Dana Gioia , chairman of the endowment, described the data as “simple, consistent and alarming.” Among the findings is that although reading scores among elementary school students have been improving, scores are flat among middle school students and slightly declining among high school seniors. These trends are concurrent with a falloff in daily pleasure reading among young people as they progress from elementary to high school, a drop that appears to continue once they enter college. The data also showed that students who read for fun nearly every day performed better on reading tests than those who reported reading never or hardly at all." There is argument over whether this is indeed true. The study, this time, did include all kinds of reading including literary and

Testing Dangers

Yet another troubling story about testing and testing flaws. This from an article that appeared in the NY Times about an international test (which I had never heard of) that is given to students worldwide (including US students) that had not been proofread...by anybody. The pages were numbered incorrectly and students had been directed to "the question on page X" rather than the opposite page. From the article: "The problem came on a test known as the Program for International Student Assessment that allows students’ proficiency to be compared with that of their international peers. It was administered to 5,600 American 15-year-olds last fall, as well as to students in the 30 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and in 27 less developed countries. Scores are scheduled for release next month." It's serious because: “We need to recognize that the testing industry is under immense pressure at a time when scores are b

FYI Meetings

The next meeting for the Seattle Council PTSA is Monday, Nov. 26th, from 6:30-7:00 p.m., social/light dinner and 7-9 p.m. General Meeting. It is at the John Stanford Center. They will be talking with Tracy Libros from Enrollment and Planning on the Assignment Plan. There will also be a guest speaker, Ortencia Santana, from the Beacon Hill PTA about their approaches to increasing family involvement in multicultural communities. Childcare provided. If you need childcare, call 364-7430 or info@seattlecouncilptsa.org. Also, the Washington State Board of Education will have a Community Meeting on Improving Graduation Requirements on December 4th from 6-8 p.m. at the North Seattle Community College Cafeteria (in the College Center Building). (Start with making the math portion of the WASL about math and not reading and writing and drop either the senior project or community service. Any of that would help.)

Rethinking Homework

I've been doing a lot of thinking and reading about homework and the its impacts (both positive and negative) on kids of different ages. I believe there is too much homework assigned, in general, and that much of it does not have a positive learning impact. Below are a few resources and quotes on the homework debate: 1) Parent Map's "Should we kill homework?" "Should kids get to turn away from schoolwork when class time finishes? At Valley School, a private K-5 school in Seattle’s Madison Valley, the answer is yes. Barry Wright, formerly a fifth-grade teacher at Valley and now its director, says, “People don’t stop and think about the harm homework is doing. When you’re really in touch with kids, it seems apparent.” Valley teachers assign no homework until third grade, and even then Wright says it is “very light.” Minimal homework is a longstanding Valley policy. “We’re efficient during the [school] day — we’re good at it — and when kids go home we think they

Alternative Schools Matter

This was a great article that appeared in the NY Times about a public alternative high school in Great Neck, NY that, to my limited knowledge, sounds a lot like Nova, one of the alternative high schools here in Seattle. Nova has one of the worst buildings in the District (and it's a badge I think they wear proudly) but they do good work for kids who need a different way of learning. And, Nova students produce results, doing well on the WASL and many of them going to 4-year colleges and universities. "Nationwide, alternative schools and programs are not closely tracked — the last count was 10,900 by federal education officials in 2001 — but some estimates have put the number at more than 12,000 when private schools are included. Districts from Farmington, Conn., to Vista, Calif., have started alternative schools in the past three years, while many others are considering them, including the Roslyn district on Long Island, which has not had an alternative school for more tha

ADHD and Future Academic Success

This NY Times article seems like a hopeful view of the possibilities for kids with ADD. From the article: "Educators and psychologists have long feared that children entering school with behavior problems were doomed to fall behind in the upper grades. But two new studies suggest that those fears are exaggerated. One concluded that kindergartners who are identified as troubled do as well academically as their peers in elementary school. The other found that children with attention deficit disorders suffer primarily from a delay in brain development, not from a deficit or flaw. Experts say the findings of the two studies, being published today in separate journals, could change the way scientists, teachers and parents understand and manage children who are disruptive or emotionally withdrawn in the early years of school. The studies might even prompt a reassessment of the possible causes of disruptive behavior in some children." One side note is that they found that math