Posts

Showing posts from January, 2007

Superintendent Profile Voted on Tonight

The Seattle School Board has a work session tonight at the Stanford Center on the superintendent profile, from 5:00-6:30 pm, followed by a special legislative session from 6:30-7:00 pm. I'm not sure exactly what is going to happen during the work session portion (when the public can listen, but not speak), but for the 30 minute special legislative session (set up, as Mel explained in any earlier post because the Board can't vote at a Work Session) the only action item is: Superintendent Profile – Approval of this item will adopt a profile developed from community input during the month of January for use by Ray & Associates in recruiting candidates for the position of Superintendent of Schools. Public testimony on the superintendent profile is accepted. Currently, Mel Westbrook is the only person signed up to speak. E-mail schoolboard@seattleschools.org or call (206) 252-0040 if you want to speak also.

When a Teacher Should Stop Teaching

Being a teacher in a public school is an incredibly difficult job. Seattle Public Schools is blessed with many gifted, devoted teachers. But, like any school district, Seattle also has some teachers who should stop teaching. I know the teachers' union contract provides strong employment protection, but I don't think it's right to have students in classrooms with teachers who are 1) mean or disrespectful or 2) not contributing to students' learning. What can/should parents do when faced with this kind of situation? What can/should other teachers at the school do? What is the role of the principal or the district administration? And how can/should the union contract change to reward good teachers while enabling bad teachers to be moved out of teaching positions. To be clear, I'm not talking about teachers who are just perceived as average or below-average. I'm talking about teachers whose presence is detrimental to children. Below are comments from a couple of

How to Choose a School

Today's PI article, Author urges educators, parents to foster passion , is a great reminder for parents as they are choosing schools during Seattle's open enrollment period that there are things more important than test scores. Rafe Esquith, author of Teach Like Your Hair is On Fire , says: "Our schools have become obsessed with assessment," Esquith told a standing-room-only crowd Sunday at the Seattle Central Library. "You must consider the point of view of the child." In an earlier thread, someone asked me about the WASL scores at Pathfinder. I honestly hadn't looked at them before, so I spent some time doing a little research. I found they were pretty much in line with other schools with similar student demographics (racial and income), but if I had been choosing a school based on test scores, I wouldn't have chosen Pathfinder. Nothing about the test scores indicates how truly wonderful the school is and how well it meets my children's needs.

Free Movie for Teachers

Reported in today's PI: K-12 teachers are offered free admission to the movie "Freedom Writers" starrting Hilary Swank as real-life teacher Erin Gruwell at AMC theaters through Thursday. Teachers must present a school ID card or pay stub and photo ID at the box office; one pass per teacher. I wish this had been in yesterday's paper so we could have let teachers know at our respective schools but let your teachers know on Monday. The film has gotten pretty good reviews.

Why I'm Voting for the Operating Levy and the Capital Bond

With just a little over a week before the vote (2/6), the public conversation about the Seattle School District levy and bond (Proposition 2 and Proposition 1) is heating up. I am voting for both the operating levy and the capital bond. I am voting for the operating levy because passage of the levy is crucial to the operation of all schools. The state should be funding education differently, but until that change happens, a vote against the operating levy would be a vote to cut 1/4 of the operating budget and destroy Seattle Public Schools. I am voting for the capital bond because the buildings in Seattle are in such poor shape that any improvements are worthwhile. I am voting for the capital bond despite my frustration with the list of projects slated for the Capital Bond and the lack of openness and responsiveness of Mark Green and others in providing information and engaging the community in conversation. I am voting for the capital bond despite the fact that Pathfinder K-8 ha

WASL Math review

OSPI will be having an outside review of the math WASL according to an article in the Seattle Times. I am very happy for the Where's the Math group that has been very vocal about this issue. A lot of other people (myself included) have been asking for this to happen for years and I think this group made a concerted effort that has paid off (or it could just be those continuing lousy math scores). Whatever the reason, it is probably worth reviewing, by an independent reviewer(s), to see if it is problematic. I have always felt that the math portion of the WASL was more about reading and writing than math which hurts kids who aren't great writers. I think if a student is able to show his/her work so that the grader can see how they got their answer it should be good enough. Some story problems, sure, but basing it on writing skills makes it automatically more difficult for student who aren't good writers and especially so for recent immigrants who might otherwise do

Extended-Day for Students Not Meeting Standards

A district press release, New project helps students EXCEL with increased instruction time , says that: About 900 students in extended-day classes are participating in a new program that will help them become better readers and mathematicians – while increasing their test-taking skills. Following a low-hanging fruit strategy (i.e. going after the change/success that is easiest to achieve), the first students in the program will be 4th- and 7th-graders who just missed meeting the WASL standard last year. The program is taking place from January 16 to April 20. A few interesting notes from the press release: The classes are formal instruction hours taught by certified teachers and conducted beyond the school day. It is not a tutoring program. Initially, this program will start with small groups of students. Class sizes will average about eight students per teacher. As teachers become more adept with the strategies and materials, they can adapt and use them more broadly in their classro

Make-Up Days Scheduled for Feb. 2, March 16, and June 21-22

From the district website today: Seattle Public Schools (SPS) will make up four of the five school days missed due to inclement weather by scheduling Feb. 2, March 16, June 21, and June 22 as student days. The district will apply to the state to waive the requirement for a fifth day. This schedule, proposed by the Seattle Education Association (SEA), aligns with feedback from parents and guardians. The make-up days on the modified calendar are now scheduled for: - Friday, Feb. 2 (originally a day between semesters) - Friday, March 16 (originally a professional development day for staff) - Thursday, June 21 and Friday, June 22 (these two days were originally summer break for students; June 21 was a professional development day for staff). While the last day for students will be Friday, June 22, staff will work on Monday, June 25 and Tuesday, June 26 to make up the missed professional development days.The revised calendar, renegotiated between SPS and the Seattle Education Associat

Appointed School Boards

True to his word, Senator Ed Murray is introducing a bill for appointed school boards. Here's how it would work "The bill sets out a procedure for citizens or organizations to file petitions with the county auditor to transform a district from an elected board to an appointed board, or vice versa. To be successful, a petition must be signed by 10 percent of registered voters in the district and clearly designate who would appoint the board." Re-reading the article, it isn't clear to me if that puts on the ballots or, if the signatures are verified, it just changes. I'm thinking it puts it on the ballot but I'll have to go hunt down the original text of the bill. I had called the Senator's office twice this summer when I first heard about this bill. I am a constiuent of his and had expected to hear back from someone but I didn't. I don't honestly believe that he is hearing this from his constiuents. It didn't get mentioned in his newsle

Another Superintendent Search meeting

I attended another Superintendent Search meeting this morning at the Stanford Center. It was, including myself, 8 women and 3 guys from Ray & Associates. They assured us that the numbers of people they are seeing at these meetings is about par but it seems very low to me. One woman there said she had gone to the Whitman one and it was about 12 people while the Hamilton one I attended was about 8 people. I felt this meeting was somewhat different from the Hamilton meeting as the people there seemed to want to put a rosier face on our district than at the Hamilton meeting. (I offered no opinions at the meeting as I had already spoken at the previous meeting. I made one correction when one woman said she wanted the superintendent to "manage" the Board and I told her that the Board legally manages the superintendent so that wouldn't be possible. She just shrugged and said she didn't agree. If any superintendent thinks that managing the Board is part of the

Taking the Middle out of Middle school

A really excellent article, part of a series, in the NY Times today about middle schools (6-8) versus K-8 versus 6-12. This article covers the bases for me. It points out two main ideas: -what may work for one child may not be the best thing for another and, -what, in the end, makes the real difference is smaller class size and personalization. Going to a huge middle school like Eckstein or Whitman or Washington could be quite startling to a 5th grader at a 400-seat elementary school. From my experience, many kids do really well and enjoy a new group of kids, a new school building and being treated as an older student. But I can see benefits to all 3 kinds of schools. My first reaction to a 6-12 academy was no way because I wouldn't want junior/senior boys around 6th/7th grade girls (I've got boys so this is no slam against boys). The point that succeeds for me is the carrying the idea that you are working towards being ready to go to college and that a student wou

School Closures in Shoreline

Our neighboring district to the north, Shoreline, is in the middle of their own school closure and consolidation process. The current proposal is to close two schools: Sunset Elementary (west of I-5) and North City (east of I-5), cut seventh period from middle school, and move two programs to other sites. Now, the latest news is that the proposed cuts are insufficient and further cuts need to be made or the state may have to take over the district. (See The Enterprise Newspapers article " School Budget Hole is Bigger" ) I've been following the closure process with interest to see how Shoreline approached the challenge differently from Seattle, and what the result was in terms of community reaction to the proposal. One of the affected schools, Sunset Elementary, has organized to protest the closure plan. They have created a web site ( www.saveshorelineschools.com ) which, at first glance seems to be against the closure proposal in general, but on further reading is real

Superintendent Selection Meetings Tuesday & Wednesday

Important reminder: Superintedent selection meetings are being on Tuesday and Wednesday this week at several times and locations. See Superintendent Search Meetings Schedule Update for details.

Middle School seminar

Help! I Have a Middle-Schooler Here’s your chance to hear some practical advice for families of middle-schoolers and/or soon to be middle-schoolers. The Eckstein Annual Campaign and PTSA have invited Dr. Susan Quattrociocchi, author of Help! I Have a Middle Schooler, to lecture on the subject, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 23, in the Eckstein Middle School auditorium. Quattrociocchi earned a B.A. in Sociology and an M.A. and Ph.D in Education — all while raising five children. A popular speaker and writer nation wide, she is a respected authority on the power of parental involvement and the educational/career needs of young people. Her broad experience with youngsters prompted her to reach out to parents to let them know that they, not educators, have the greatest impact on their children’s educational and career success. Seating begins at 6:30. A $5 donation is suggested at the door to support Eckstein. Help! I Have a Middle-Schooler 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 23 Eckstein Middle School 30

A District without Spectrum?

What would the Seattle School District look like without a Spectrum program? This is not an item being discussed by the School Board or administration, but it is something I have been spending a lot of time thinking about. Who, if anyone, would benefit? Who, if anyone, would be harmed? Recent research suggests that getting rid of tracking can be beneficial to all students, but that the students who benefit most are those who have been identified as "low achievers." One of the reasons behind this is that in a mixed-ability classroom, the curriculum is often more interesting and engaging than what the "low achievers" are offered in tracked or segregated classes. Another is that many of the types of instructional methods used in Spectrum or other "high achieving" classrooms would benefit all students. And separate from the achievement issue, getting rid of the Spectrum program change might also improve the social climate of Seattle schools. Read the commen

Superintendent Search

So I attended the Hamilton search meeting tonight. Got there at 5:45 for a 6:00 start and there was no one there but a lone staffer. Finally Sherry Carr, Seattle Council PTSA president, shows up with food and 2 guys from Ray and Associates. (That woman never sleeps, I swear.) So it ended being me and about 7 other people. I'm hoping it was the revision of the schedule because it was just strange to have so few people. The format was to go over the schedule of dates first. Jan. 31 - all information from all sources will have been tabulated and a profile of a candidate would be presented to the Board at a meeting. The Board would then vote on a resolution to adopt this profile. So, there will be a Board meeting (although I assume truncated) between now and the next one in Feb. About March 27th - Ray &Associates will bring the Board a list of semi-finalists, they think between 40-60 people. The Board will narrow this down to 10-12 to consider. Then they will narr

Online Survey on Making up Snow/Ice/Wind Days

Seattle schools have lost 5 days since November to snow, ice and wind. If the days are made up at the end of the school year, the last day of school will be June 27th. The issue of what to do about the missed days has been discussed on this blog ( Taking a Vote ), in a Seattle Times article today ( Will students make up snow days before WASL? ), in a Seattle PI article yesterday ( Time slips away for school kids ), on a Seattle PI blog ( What's a district to do? ), and in every place where parents and teachers congregate around the city. Today, while our kids were at circus class, I heard some Seattle Public Schools teachers (who are also parents) discussing a survey they took about alternative ways to make up the days missed. Now parents and guardians are being asked to take the survey at: On-line Parent/Guardian Survey . Take a few minutes to fill out the survey and share your opinions.

Increasing High School Requirements

An article in the news today, High Schools Raise Diploma Requirements , discusses both the reasons for increasing high school graduation requirements, and some of the concerns that have been raised about the idea. Our neighbor to the south, Oregon, is considering such a move. Oregon is the latest state to consider action in a nationwide movement to raise graduation requirements after a speech Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates gave to the nation's governors in 2005. Students were leaving high school with diplomas, Gates said, but without the skills needed to succeed in college or the workforce. I want to see this idea debated in Washington state. With Christine Gregoire's proposed increases in education funding, it seems like a good time to push a proposal for change that would align high school graduation and college entrance requirements. The Higher Education Coordinating Board is discussing the idea, as mentioned in a November Seattle PI article. And, according to comment

Yahoo Group for File Sharing

Several times, authors on this blog have wanted to post files, and this blog format does not support that. As a temporary solution, I have created a Yahoo group that is not designed to be used for conversations. Rather it is a place that authors and readers of this blog can post and read files. The first file I have posted on the group is Mel Westbrook's BEX III report (see Seattle School Levy/Bond Measure ). If you want to see and download her full report, click here to join the SaveSeattleSchools Yahoo group. Then go to the File Sharing page to view Mel's report and other files that may be posted in the future. If you have any difficulties making this work, click on the E-mail Beth link to the right and I'll try to help you resolve the problem.

Tonight's School Board Meeting

Although the superintendent search community meeting was postponed from tonight to next Wednesday night (see Superintendent Search Meetings Schedule Update ), the Seattle School Board meeting is happening as scheduled, from 6 pm to 9 pm at the John Stanford Center. On the agenda for this evening , several speakers are signed up to discuss each of the following issues: Migration to Metro Superintendent Search Weighted Student Formula/Funding Math teaching/curriculum South Pacific Island students The other topics, being addressed by only 1 speaker, include: district governance, state audit, the African American Heritage museum and the generic "school matters." The items that grab my attention on the agenda are not the Public Testimony or the Action Items, but the Introduction Items for this evening. 1. Resolution 2006/07-12, Parent Conference Waiver (SLC) – Approval of this item would authorize the district to apply for a three-year waiver to consolidate elementary parent-tea

Taking a Vote

So which would you rather see to make up these lost school days; add on days to end of year or take them off of Winter/Spring break? Wendy Kimball, the head of the SEA, said it would probably be too late to do it for Winter Break but that would be my first choice. I can't believe in a couple of weeks these kids will be off for a week. Spring Break is my second choice with end of the year the last choice. End of the year has a lot of impacts. Whether it's Winter, Spring or summer vacations, that can't be the district's concern. But end of the year it makes it impossible to give seniors a full year (they'll show up for graduation but good luck after that), makes it hard for teachers trying to take summer classes, students trying to get summer jobs or parents trying to enroll students in summer camps. And winter isn't even over yet.

Superintendent Search Meetings Schedule Update

According to the Seattle Public Schools website , the superintendent search meetings scheduled for today (1/16) and tomorrow (1/17) have been postponed for a week until 1/23 and 1/24. The meetings for Thursday will be held as scheduled. The Community Meetings page says: January is the most important month in the Superintendent Search process. This is the time when we want to hear from community members about what qualities the new superintendent will need to best lead the district. Please come to a community meeting, share your thoughts about needed traits and qualifications, and complete a survey. This information will be used by board members to develop a profile of desired characteristics. The profile will direct the search consultants as they recruit qualified candidates from across the nation. Community meetings will be facilitated by Ray & Associates, the search consultants assisting the School Board, and hosted by Seattle Council PTSA. Light refreshments and childcare will

Seattle School Levy/Bond Measure

This morning's PI has an editorial supporting Prop.2, the operations levy for the Seattle School district, Seattle School Levy:Essential Vote . I'm probably reading too much into it but it seems that the PI usually endorses linked measures at once and there is nothing about the school bond measure. It may just be a separate editorial that is coming. This is a good time to speak out about my opposition to the list of school renovation/construction projects that is on Prop. 1, the school bond measure. I took a special interest in the list because of my work on closure and consolidations. I had expected to see some nod to that situation because of the buy-in the Board and the district need (and seem to want) from parents and the public. There is nothing on this list that supports C&C. I heard from a reporter that an administrator way up the food chain said the district would have liked to align it with C&C but that the staff had a plan of how buildings are chosen

Choosing a School: High Schools

If you have knowledge and insight about high schools, share them here with other parents. ****** Remember, however, that a school which is great for you and your children might be a nightmare for someone else, and vice versa. So read and learn from others opinions, but definitely explore the schools and reach conclusions on your own. Take part in as many school tours as possible, and visit the Enrollment Services page on the SPS website for enrollment guides and other information. ******

Choosing a School: Middle Schools

If you have knowledge and insight about middle schools, share them here with other parents. ****** Remember, however, that a school which is great for you and your children might be a nightmare for someone else, and vice versa. So read and learn from others opinions, but definitely explore the schools and reach conclusions on your own. Take part in as many school tours as possible, and visit the Enrollment Services page on the SPS website for enrollment guides and other information. ****** The only middle schools I know anything about are alternative K-8's: Salmon Bay, TOPS, AS#1 and Pathfinder, and I've heard very good things about all of them. As Carla Santorno points out, if you choose a K-8 school, you can't expect to have as large a variety of course offerings as in a traditional middle school, but there are tradeoffs in terms of size and community connections that make it worth it for many parents and their children.

Superintendent Decider

I want to share this with you. Most folks won’t care about the actual issue at stake – it’s about middle school APP – but I want you all to check out the ambition it reflects. The program placement committee recommended and the Superintendent approved splitting middle school APP between Washington and Hamilton starting in 2008-2009. Never mind if this is a good idea or a bad idea; there just happens to be a District Policy, D12.00, that prohibits creating any more APP sites. I raised this issue – I’ll spare you the little drama over getting a response – and learned that District staff says that two subsequent policies superseded D12.00. These two were F21.00 and B61.00. F21.00 is about which decisions are made at the District level and which are site-based decisions. It is three pages long and has only this to say about program placement: “The Superintendent makes the final decision on all program placements.” The District staff interpreted this to mean that the Superintendent’s dec

Choosing a School: West Seattle and Queen Anne/Magnolia Elementary Schools

If you have knowledge and insight about elementary schools in the following clusters: West Seattle North, West Seattle South, or Queen Anne/Magnolia, share them here with other parents. [I know these clusters aren't close to each other, but they are the clusters that are left at this point.] ****** Remember, however, that a school which is great for you and your children might be a nightmare for someone else, and vice versa. So read and learn from others opinions, but definitely explore the schools and reach conclusions on your own. Take part in as many school tours as possible, and visit the Enrollment Services page on the SPS website for enrollment guides and other information. ****** The only school I know anything about in these quadrants is Cooper Elementary in the West Seattle North cluster. I got to meet parents and teachers from Cooper during the Pathfinder/Cooper merger discussion, and was very impressed with the passion they had for their school.

Amazing Phone Call

I wrote to Gary Ray who is the head of Ray and Associates, the company doing the superintendent search. I outlined recent history (not completely objectively, I'd be the first to admit) , talked about many people wanting an educator (after no selection process of the last 2 who were not educators) but that I wasn't not wedded to the idea but I wanted the best fit for our district. Unbelievably, a lead from the team doing the search called me to thank me for the e-mail! Very unexpected and very appreciated. He said they did double-search candidates on the web using two different search engines and that they had Mike Riley over in Bellevue on their radar. For me, a ray of hope and promise. I'm going to go into these meetings next week with an open mind and suggestions. I hope every one of these meetings is packed.

Choosing a School: North Seattle Elementary Schools

If you have knowledge and insight about north Seattle elementary schools, share them here with other parents. (including North , Northeast and Northwest clusters) ****** Remember, however, that a school which is great for you and your children might be a nightmare for someone else, and vice versa. So read and learn from others opinions, but definitely explore the schools and reach conclusions on your own. Take part in as many school tours as possible, and visit the Enrollment Services page on the SPS website for enrollment guides and other information. ****** Since I live in South Seattle, the only school in the North I have visited is West Woodland. I was working at setting up a computer lab at Graham Hill Elementary, and the interim principal (Ed James who used to be the principal at West Woodland) put us in touch with the computer lab teacher, Steve Sorensen, who was generous in sharing his time and information. If you are interested, visit his web site .

Choosing a School: South & Central Seattle Elementary Schools

If you have knowledge and insight about south and central Seattle elementary schools, share them here with other parents. (including South , Southeast and Central clusters) ******* Remember, however, that a school which is great for you and your children might be a nightmare for someone else, and vice versa. So read and learn from others opinions, but definitely explore the schools and reach conclusions on your own. Take part in as many school tours as possible, and visit the Enrollment Services page on the SPS website for enrollment guides and other information. ******* Here are a few of my insights about these schools: Kimball, Beacon Hill, Maple and Wing Luke are "open concept" schools, with no walls between classrooms. As a result, these schools have strong team teaching and what goes on in the classroom is not secret. Maple has won awards this year for increased WASL scores. John Muir has an excellent principal and an active group of parents. New School at South

Choosing a School: Alternative Schools

When my daughters were in preschool, I spent hours talking with other parents about elementary schools. For the open enrollment period, I would like to provide the same opportunity to readers of this blog. Each day (until all schools are covered) I will post a thread about choosing a school, divided by level (Elementary, Middle, High) and cluster. Because Alternative Schools often cross levels and, in some cases, draw from several clusters, I'm grouping them all together on this thread. ******* Remember, however, that a school which is great for you and your children might be a nightmare for someone else, and vice versa. So read and learn from others opinions, but definitely explore the schools and reach conclusions on your own . Take part in as many school tours as possible, and visit the Enrollment Services page on the SPS website for enrollment guides and other information. ******* I'll start this discussion, since I have toured six alternative schools in Seattle anad cu

School Transformation Plans

Okay, this is a weird thing that just goes to show how an issue can hop around. Each year, the schools with Advanced Learning programs, APP, Spectrum or an ALO, are supposed to complete a program certfication process to demostrate that the Advanced Learning program meets District Standards. These started just a couple years ago. Originally they were called accreditation and involved the principal, teachers, and community members. They included a detailed self-assessment. An inspection team went to the school and did on-site inspections and interviews. The end result was a report that accurately described the program at each school, its strengths and its areas for improvement. Today, however, the certifications are a sham - every program that requests certification gets it, regardless of how good or bad the program is. They are all certified whether they even apply for certfication or not. They all get certified whether they even have a program or not. There isn't any paperwork at

Are we obsessed with the WASL?

Interesting op-ed by former Governor Booth Gardner in today's Times, Obsession with WASL Unwise. At first, I was prepared to be annoyed. Is this another Terry Bergson, "the WASL isn't everything but I sure made it the focus of my career" whine? (Harsh I know but I bugged me that during her campaign she kept trying to shift the focus away from the huge amount of time the WASL takes in her professional life.) Governor Gardner had many thoughtful things to say. He points out the need for several assessments and not just one. He focuses on the need to tailor assessments to the individual and that the WASL was NOT developed for student to student assessment. (It was developed for teacher assessment or at least, that's what I was told.) He further states that the WASL "cannot be used reliably for this purpose (individual student assessment)." He suggests taking the WASL every other year and using other assessments in off years and revisiting using th

A Teacher's View of John Marshall Alternative School

A teacher posted on a comment on a previous thread ( John Marshall Alternative School ) that I thought was interesting enough to warrant a separate posting. Anonymous said: I wish I had found this thread a month ago...I am a teacher at Marshall, and I felt relief when the Times article was published that finally the truth is being told. There is some learning going on at Marshall, in spite of Joe Drake, because of a handful of good teachers who care very much about the students who end up at the school. The story the Times told was only the tip of the iceberg as far as the disservices that are being done to many students. The education of those who want to learn is being stolen by Dr. Drake and a few others, and because the students are mostly poor or otherwise marginalized (like Kathy Graves) their concerns are never heard by the district. I believe that the district knows that they need to get rid of Drake, and are using the school closure as an opportunity to get rid of him. He real

School Funding Lawsuit and Advocacy

Problems in how schools are funded are being addressed by a lawsuit in Washington and by advocacy work at the national level. In Washington, an affiliation of nine school districts, the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS), has filed a lawsuit against the state asking a judge to increase funding. The suit claims the state has violated the state constitution by providing insufficient funding for basic education. At issue is the definition of "basic education," and whether student achievement data can be used to prove that state funding is inadequate. Read the Seattle Times article, Lawsuit aims to force state to boost money for education , for more details. At the national level, the National Education Association (NEA) has named maximing education funding as one of its top priorities for the 110th Congress. The information that follows comes from the NEA website : Funding increases for core programs like Title I, IDEA, and Pell Grants are necessary to help s

Hiring, Moving, and Evaluating Principals

A December post on this blog, Leadership in Seattle Public Schools , has had heavy traffic among Whittier Elementary parents discussing the principal Alex Coberly. A blog posting Friday on the Seattle PI website includes some interesting perspectives on the same topic: Life goes on without Mr. C. The issue that interests me is not the specifics of the Alex Coberly case, but rather the larger question, raised by many people, of how principals are hired, moved among schools in the district, and evaluated. At one south Seattle school, the staff, after exhausting other options, took a "no-confidence vote" in the principal, with approximately 90% of staff saying they had no confidence in the principal's ability to run the school. The results were posted on the front door of the school for everyone to read, but the principal stayed on for the rest of that year and into the next year before she disappeared on administrative leave with no explanation or indication of how long

Longer Life with More Education?

Here's long and in-depth article from the NY Times I wanted to pass along. It's called A Surprising Secret to Long Life; Stay in School. The research in this article shows that the more education a person has, the longer they live. It looked at data world-wide and even looked at country like England that have universal health-care (on the idea that with education comes more money and thus, more health care) but that wasn't borne out. Naturally, like all research, there could be other factors but it's interesting reading.

NY Times article on Middle Schools

A very interesting piece in the NY Times, Trying to Find Solutions in Chaotic Middle Schools , on Thursday. I think it speaks to exactly what I thought about middle school when my sons were there. I'm not sure I believe K-8 is the cure-all, though. I do think a later start and smaller middle schools would make sense. It was interesting that all through the Gates mantra of "smaller schools" for high schools, our middle schools in Seattle (some of them; Eckstein, Washington and Whitman) just got bigger and bigger. And while they are mostly successful, I think they are all too big for the age group they house. There is also a marked drop-off of parent involvement at the middle school level and it really hurts the schools.

Seattle Schools Data

With the kindergarten and middle school enrollment fair this Saturday (9 am to noon at the Stanford Center) and the open enrollment period beginning on January 16th, this seems like a good time to point out some of the data that is available about Seattle schools. The Seattle Public Schools website does a good job of providing a lot of information about each school, including annual reports, links to the school's website if one exists, and standardized testing data. But by far, my favorite data to explore is the survey data of teachers and students at each school. Looking at staff surveys, you can get a good picture of their opinion of the principal, the working relationship among teachers, and some of the core beliefs held among teachers at the school. Looking at student surveys, you can see whether students feel safe at school, how they feel about their teachers, and can get a general sense of the overall atmosphere at the school. You can also look at several years of survey d

Is TAF Toast?

According to a story by Nina Shapiro posted to the Weekly blog today, TAF is no longer planning on using Rainier Beach High School as the location for their Technology Academy. They are now setting their sights on the African American Academy. Ms Dziko says that she learned a lot from the pushback they got at Beach and they are going to do it better this time. Nina Shapiro's entire post follows:Plan for Rainier Beach Fizzles Posted today at 3:49 pm by Nina Shapiro The backlash at Rainier Beach High School seems to have proven too much for former Microsoftie Trish Millines Dziko, who had proposed partnering with the public schools to create a high-tech academy there. (See " Schooling the District .") "There has been no movement at all in the Rainier Beach community to even talk about this," says Dziko, who heads the Technology Access Foundation (TAF), a non-profit that teaches computer skills to minority kids. "We are strongly looking at alternatives.&quo

New Superintendent Needs Political Skills

In a January 2nd Seattle Times article, Seattle schools aim to change image , Raj was quoted as saying: ...he's not good at politics, preferring instead to let the accomplishments of the district speak for themselves. But over the past months, Manhas said, he learned a belated lesson about the importance of managing public opinion."I've become more aware of the fact that sometimes perceptions become real," said Manhas, who announced in October he would step down at the end of the school year. The new superintendent needs political skills. In any public service job, managing perceptions and public opinion is a crucial part of the job. I find it hard to believe Raj is just figuring that out.

Superintendent Search Public Meetings

This just in from the Board: "We are delighted that the Seattle Council of PTSA has agreed to host a series of general community meetings. Their meetings will have light refreshments, childcare, and translators. January 16th 6:00pm McClure Middle School Lunchroom 6:00pm Eckstein Middle School Lunchroom January 17th 9:00am Stanford Center, Room 2776 7:00pm Madison Middle School Lunchroom 7:00pm Aki Kurose Middle School Lunchroom January 18th 6:00pm Hamilton Middle School Lunchroom 8:00pm Whitman Middle School Lunchroom 8:00pm Washington Middle School Lunchroom The consultants will be gathering all input and assembling a packet for each board member. We will see all surveys that people submit and will get a summary report. From this information we will develop a superintendent profile that clearly states what Seattle is looking for in a superintendent. This profile will direct the consultants in their recruiting nationally for us." Once again, the district/Board h

School Levy and Bond News

Campaign Kick-Off Rally – Sunday, January 7, 1:00 pm 1051 1st Ave. S., kitty corner from Safeco Field on the NW corner of 1st & Royal Brougham. Hosted by Cuauhtemoc Escobedo - Golden Apple Award Winner and Director of the Eckstein Middle School Band With featured speakers: Mayor Greg Nickels, Superintendent Raj Manhas, School Board President Cheryl Chow and Schools First President Peter Maier Th election day is one month away. If you are interested in getting involved, contact the campaign office - (206) 652-1433 or campaign@schools-first.com.

Closing the Achivement Gap

The "Achivement Gap" is a phrase heard everywhere in discussions about public education. But what does it really mean? And what can school systems do to decrease it? I started taking a class last night focusing on this issue and learned that there are two different meanings for this politically and emotionally loaded phrase. 1) The gap between test scores of students grouped by race and/or income; and 2) The gap between overall student achievement and standards. These two definitions for the "achievement gap" could potentially suggest different solutions. I like the second definition because it focuses on improving teaching and learning for all students who aren't meeting standards. Anitra Pinchback-Jones, an assistant high school principal and former teacher at the African American Academy, said in a Seattle Times article last fall that "I'm more than confident that if we have the right environment, leadership, highly skilled teachers, connections wi

Recall Election for Board members

I was wondering when this might happen. The Times reports a recall election drive. It is focused on 5 board members; Cheryl Chow, Brita Butler-Wall, Irene Stewart, Darlene Flynn and Michael DeBell and it's alleging that those members did not do their duty as Board members during school closures. Now the Times originally called for a recall election for Brita, Irene, Darlene, Mary and Sally, claiming they are ineffective. This recall drive claims "acts of malfeasance, misfeasance or violation of the oath of office". I don't hang around school playgrounds anymore so someone help me out. Has this been a big issue for discussion there or at PTA meetings? I haven't heard any parents except a few at board meetings call for this action. Of course it begs the question as Brita, Irene and Darlene (as well as Sally) are all up for re-election (should they choose to run) in November when the recall election would take place should it go forward. I don't th

Advice for Superintendent Search

According to an article in the PI last week ( Seattle schools told to pay next chief more ), the search consultants, Ray & Associates, provided the following advice on the superintendent search: If Seattle Public Schools wants to attract top-notch candidates to become the district's next superintendent, it will need to pay a higher salary, rethink how it gathers public response and keep the names of candidates under wraps until late in the process. Sounds like good advice. But, here's what worries me. The principal search director also said that " The most important part of the process is creating a "profile" of exactly what kind of person the district wants to have in the superintendent role." In a district without strong current leadership and no clearly articulated vision for the future, how is that profile going to be created? Is the Board working on this profile independently? Does Carla Santorno and other district staff have a voice in it? Publi