Showing posts from February, 2007

Evaluation and Support of Principals and Teachers

What does the Seattle School District do in terms of evaluating and supporting principals? What do principals do to evaluate and support teachers? These are two crucial questions, and I don't know, nor was I able to find, the answers. I did find several staff people listed under the "Evaluation" heading in the Human Resources office, so I assume something is going on, but I'd love to know more. In my Report Card for Seattle Public Schools post, I wrote: " Quality of instruction : highly variable; I question how much the district really knows about the quality of instruction in individual schools and what, if any, strategies the district has in place to improve the quality of instruction overall and especially in schools with the highest concentration of low-income students." From a book by Susan J. Rozenholtz, Teachers' Workplace: The Social Organization of Schools (New York: Longman, 1989), comes a wonderful quote: "Because teaching is nonrouti

School Leadership

The Seattle PI announced New principals at several Seattle schools today. I find the information interesting, in general, and was pleased to see that Cathy Thompson, the principal at Rainier View Elementary, will be the new principal at Roxhill Elementary. I have heard very good things about Cathy and am happy to see her stay as a principal in the Seattle School District despite the closure of her school. On Charlie's CACIEE post, he mentioned something about the principal leadership training the district was doing. One of the groups Seattle Public Schools is working with is the Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) at UW. I don't know the specifics about their work with Seattle principals, but the partnership prospectus posted on the CEL website looks interesting. The principal's job is so important, and increasingly difficult, in the current education reform climate. I would like to see the district continue to focus resources on the recruitment, hiring and profess

Race-Based Enrollment Tie-Breakers

On my Report Card for Seattle Public Schools post, both Brita Butler-Wall and an anoymous poster asked what communication I wanted or expected from the district about the race-based enrollment tie-breaker case that is currently being considered by the Supreme Court. What I wanted to learn was how important the district thinks the results of this case are and why. The only district perspective I could find on the case was from a district attorney, Shannon McMinimee, who said in a Seattle PI article in December that school district officials haven't decided whether they would resume using the tiebreaker. If, as this suggest, the district is not necessarily going to try to use race again as a tie-breaker, then why is the district spending millions of dollars in this lawsuit? If the district believes re-instituting the race-based tie breaker is crucial, then how can it defend the proposed move towards less choice in a smaller, more restricted geographic area? In a Seattle PI article

CACIEE is dead

It has been over a year since the CACIEE final report was delivered. There has been no status report on implementation from the District since the one in May - nine months ago - which not only reported little progress but expressed a lot of doubt about the potential for implementation. There is very little discussion of the CACIEE recommendations these days. So what's up with that? Has the effort been abandoned? If so, shouldn't there be an annoucement to that regard? What other large scale efforts have been abandoned? Is the Five Year Plan still in effect? I suggest that you review the Strategic Implementation Team's May 3 status report. You can see it here: The District no longer offers a link to it from any of their web pages, but you can still reach it through the PTSA pages. Pay special attention to the spreadsheet at the end that purports to show the status of each recommendation (many of them

Increased State Funding and Seattle's Schools

The Washington Adequacy Funding Project has just been completed, and the results got me daydreaming about what increased funding, of the magnitude suggested by the report, could do for Seattle schools. The project was carried out by the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC), a non-profit organization, in partnership with the University of Oregon's Center for Educational Policy Research (CEPR), and was funded by the Washington Education Association, the state teachers' union. The report finds that Washington state needs to increase funding by 45% to "amply provide all Washington students with at least a basic education." As reported in the Seattle Times article on this subject today ( Study: Raise school outlays $3.5 billion ), the study "proposes, for example, that the state fund all-day kindergarten for all students, reduce class sizes from kindergarten through grade 3, and pay many teachers more than they make now." If you are interested in how EP

Weighted Staffing Standard on Board Agenda Tonight

At tonight's School Board meeting, in the only action item on the agenda, the Board will vote to approve a move from the Weighted Student Formula to the Weighted Staffing model for school funding for FY 08/09. Read the School Board Action Report on this topic, along with a draft implementation timeline . The one introduction item on the agenda at the School Board meeting tonight is the approval of the 2007/08 and 2008/09 school year calendars . Only seven people are signed up for the public testimony time, so there are spots available if you want to call (252-0040) or e-mail ( ) to sign-up. Even if you aren't interested in testifying, if you have concerns about district finances, it might be worth attending the School Board meeting tonight to hear Dr. Art Jarvis, the new Director of Finance, give a presentation on budget and financial accountability.

Report Card for Seattle Public Schools

In this era of accountability, it's time for us to fill out a report card for Seattle Public Schools. This is a difficult task in many ways. Are we grading the outgoing Superintendent? the Chief Academic Officer? the School Board? Many of us love the particular school where our children attend, but have strong animosity towards central district staff. How should that be reflected in the report card? And what standards should we use in our grading? Do we grade the district compared to what we think it should be able to do? compared to other urban districts? other districts in Washington state? Geov Parrish, former Seattle Weekly columnist and founder of the local nonprofit community newspaper Eat the State!, shared his assessment of the district in a recent article in the Beacon Hill News, Defending the Seattle School District . I disagree with some of Geov's points, but also find places of agreement, like his assertion that: ...the same problems - declining enrollment, old p

Goodbye, Anonymous?

When I like this blog best is when conversation takes place among blog contributors and commenters. One barrier to conversation is the tendency of some to move quickly to judgement, rejecting different opinions and perspectives. But other than encouraging people to keep an open mind and listen to others' ideas, there is not much we can do about that. Another barrier to conversation is the habit of many to comment as "Anonymous." I understand why people comment anonymously: for some it is because of technology issues; for others out of a need or wish to remain anonymous. But in both cases, nothing prevents you from creating an identity for the purposes of discussion on this blog. For example, if you comment as "Anonymous" because of technology issues, you can still sign your name at the end of your comment, as Gabrielle, Leslie, and several others have been doing recently. And if you comment as "Anonymous" because of a wish to shield your identity, j

Last Minute Enrollment Information

If you are looking for a kindergarten for your child, keep in mind The Top 10 Signs of a Good Kindergarten Classroom , according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Also, even though schools are closed all this week, the enrollment centers are open Tuesday, 2/20 through Saturday, 2/24 on the following schedule: Tuesday - 8:30 am to 7:00 pm Wed .- Fri . - 8:30 am to 4:00 pm Saturday - 9:00 am to noon Next week (2/26 through 2/28) the enrollment centers will be open as follows: Mon. - 8:30 am to 4:00 pm Tues. - 8:30 am to 7:00 pm Wed. - 8:30 am to 4:00 pm --- Final day on-time enrollment

School Funding Facts

Below is an assortment of school funding facts that caught my attention: In Washington state : $548 less is spent per student in public schools now than in 1992. 46th in the nation in class size 42nd in the nation in spending per student In the US : The highest-poverty school districts receive an average of $825 less each year per student in state and local funding than the wealthiest districts. And in Seattle : PTSA auctions at some schools raise $70,000 to $200,000 . The Rainier View Elementary PTSA raises about $3,000 a year. And some schools Seattle schools don't have a PTSA at all. If you can find the time, here are some interesting articles about school funding to read: Washington State School Finances: Does Every Child Count? by Washington State PTSA High standards 'meaningless' without adequate state funding by Washington Education Association Ample School Funding Project by Washington Association of School Administrators Time is now for new K-12 funding

John Marshall Alternative School Closing Delayed

John Marshall Alternative School will remain open for the 2007/2008 school year. Last year during the school closure and consolidation process, Carla Santorno promised that a review of programs at John Marshall would be completed no later than December 2006 and that she was hiring a consultant to perform the work. Today's Seattle Times article, Seattle district delays closing alternative school for a year , tells a different story. "The district's chief academic officer, Carla Santorno, said the postponement gives the district time to complete a comprehensive review of programs for students who are at risk of dropping out. John Marshall enrolls about 185 students in grades 6-12." And today's PI article, A year's reprieve for John Marshall Alternative School , adds additional details. "Already, district officials plan to move two programs: The GRAD program for teens who are pregnant or parents will move to South Lake Alternative High School, and the eve

Focus Day 2007 in Olympia Tomorrow

From the Seattle Council PTSA website ... On Focus Day, Washington State PTA members from across the state congregate in Olympia to advocate for changes that will positively impact children in our state. On Thursday, February 15, we want legislators to focus on the PTA, our children, and our priority issues for this year. This past October, delegates selected the following to be our top issues for 2006-2007. - Redefine and Fully Fund K-12 Education - Strengthen Math and Science in Washington State - Simple Majority for School Levies and Bonds - Reduce Class Sizes - Protect School Recess See the Seattle Council PTSA website for more details on transportation to Olympia and scheduling appointments with legislators.

Readers and Writers Workshop at Middle Schools

The Alliance for Education has granted money to train teachers and support the implementation of the Readers and Writers Workshop at middle schools. (see Stanford Grant Press Release ) I'm pleased to hear this news because Pathfinder K-8 already uses Readers and Writers Workshop, and from what I have observed, I think this is absolutely the way more schools should go. Carla Santorno is quoted as saying "This is an approach to teaching from which all students—from those not meeting standards to those exceeding them—can benefit," and I agree. This method encourages students to push themselves to their full potential, and works well with groups of students at varied skill levels in reading and writing. I'd be interested to know if there are other elementary and/or middle schools in Seattle that were already using Readers and Writers Workshop before the grant and, if the district staff and the Alliance for Education even knows about them. Seems like this would be an e

Quality Education for All; Increasing the Pie

A while ago, Charlie Mas asked me why I thought there was so much animosity in Seattle towards the APP and Spectrum programs. At the time, I replied that I wasn't aware of any animosity. If Charlie asked me the question now, I'd have a very different answer. The animosity towards the APP program (on the previous thread) and the Spectrum program (on several previous threads) is amazing and alarming to me. The purpose statement for this blog, "Joining together across Seattle to fight for high quality public schools that educate all students to become passionate, lifelong learners" is something I really believe in. I agree that students who struggle in school sometimes need extra help from the community-at-large in advocating for their needs and rights. And I believe deeply in the need to advocate for equity in public education. But animosity among parents, by school, geographic area, or program, is disturbing and counterproductive. Every child deserves to have the

APP Update

In December, the Superintendent approved a recommendation from the Program Placement Committee to resolve the overcrowding at Washington Middle School by re-locating about half of the middle school APP students to Hamilton International Middle School. Many members of the APP community strongly oppose this split of their community and nearly all of them have grave questions about the yet undetermined details of this plan - how will students be assigned, who will teach APP classes at Hamilton, how will those teachers be prepared, will Hamilton offer a music program, will the students get an appropriate academic opportunity at either school, how will this impact the high school program at Garfield, how will this impact Hamilton, etc. In addition to the community's anxiety about this decision, the decision violates District Policy D12.00 which prohibits expansion of APP to additional sites except following Board Review and substantial district wide enrollment growth. There has been nei

40% Rule Causing Problems for Bond

As Mel Westbrook told me yesterday, and as reported in the PI today ( School levy passing, but bond struggles ), the bond may not pass because of the requirement that 40% rule. As I understand it, the bond needs not only at 60% "yes" vote (which it is getting without a problem) but also to have more than 90,000 votes cast on that issue in total, which is 40% of the total ballots cast in the Fall 2006 election. With absentee ballots still in the mail, the bond may get enough votes to pass eventually, but it is far from certain. What seems odd to me is that the levy is passing without a problem, yet these votes were on the same ballot. Does that mean some people voted on one issue but not on the other? Or maybe I don't completely understand the 40% turnout rule. Anyone want to enlighten me?

T.T. Minor Pre-K to Be Closed?

I read some disturbing news about the T. T. Minor Pre-K program today. Since I believe there is always more than one side to an issue, I'd love to hear from district staff or insiders who could provide a different perspective on this. What I read (below) sure doesn't sound good. ********** Seattle School District Trying to Close Successful Pre-K at T.T. Minor T.T. Minor has been informed by the Seattle School District that its Pre-K program that has been successfully operating for eight years must be either replaced by a district program or shut down! 􀀹 Our Pre-K program has been funded by the generous contributions of the New School Foundation. That funding ended this school year. 􀀹 Knowing that, Principal Laura Brown went to work to ensure we could keep Pre-K for the 2007-2008 school year. 􀀹 Principal Brown made arrangements with First AME Church to provide half day Head Start modified to align with T.T. Minor’s kindergarten program and the YMCA to provide enrichment

Leadership Positions Open at Seattle Schools

Edited at 4:15 pm on 2/7 to delete a mistaken reference I made to negative "buzz" about the Whitworth principal, which was actually about the previous principal, Scott Coleman, and not the current Whitworth principal, Barry Dorsey. My apologies. --- Beth I received an interesting e-mail from the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs today about the new Seattle Schools District Arts Manager position: " At our last forum on October 25, Seattle's Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno announced the plan to hire a new district manager of visual and performing arts to provide innovative leadership and strengthen arts education district wide...The announcement launched a multi-year commitment between the district and the city to create a core leadership team comprised of the new arts manager and four arts "coaches." The district's arts leadership team will support principals, teachers and arts partners with the goal of transforming the way in which arts educ

School Bond and Levy Will Pass

According to Seattle Times and Seattle PI articles this morning ( 2 Seattle school measures appear to have passed and School measures likely to pass ) the Seattle School District Bond and Levy will pass, with numbers not too different than the last time. In 2001, the building levy passed by 71%, and the operating levy passed by 72%. As of midnight last night, the building levy is passing by 67%, and the operating levy is passing by 70%. I'm very glad both measures appear to be passing, and I'd encourage everyone who has concerns about the bond to keep talking about it and keep advocating for increased accountability, improved communication and, perhaps, shifting of some of the dollars to address the valid concerns that have been raised. The three people I met with at the district office about BEX III were knowledgeable and open to hearing opposing viewpoints. Contact the following people with your opinions: Fred Stephens (Director of Facilities): festephens@seattleschools

Achivement Gap Forum at Town Hall

I'm planning on attending the University of Washington's free Achievement Gap Forum at Town Hall next Thursday night, February 15th. As one of the "hot topics" in education right now, I'd encourage people to consider putting this on your calendar as well. The Seattle PI article, Professors to speak on school demographics , provides details.

Please Vote Tomorrow on the Bond and Levy

No matter what your view on the Seattle School District Bond and Levy (Proposition 1 & Proposition #2), please vote tomorrow. Or, if like me, you vote using an absentee ballot, please mail it tomorrow. Even with a 60% "Yes" vote, neither the bond nor the levy will pass without a good turnout. At least 40% of the total number of votes that were cast in the November 2006 election need to be cast tomorrow in this special election. Want some last minute reading about ths issue? School Operating Levy - Municipal League of Seattle Bumpy path for school levy vote - Seattle PI Facts about 2007 Seattle Public Schools Levy and Bond - Seattle School District

Wednesday's School Board Meeting

The agenda for the February 7th Seattle School Board meeting has been posted. It includes a reminder about the new public testimony sign-up process: Sign-ups for this meeting will begin Monday, February 5, 2007 at 8:00am. The list will be developed in the order of testimony on board action items first, board introduction items second, and then comments of a general nature. The public testimony list will be posted by close of business, Tuesday, February 6, 2007. The one new introduction item is the funding plan for 2008-09. 2008-09 Weighted Staffing Formula Allocations Because money drives everything else, the changing in funding formula from a Weighted Student Formula to a Weighted Staffing Standard is an item of crucial importance. I'd encourage as many people as possible to attend not only this meeting, but also ongoing meetings throughout the next 8 months as the new staffing formula is developed. The Finance Committee meets every other Thursday from 4 pm to 6 pm at the Stan

Addressing Seattle Public Schools Concerns

On the Seattle School Board home page , there is now a Comments or Concerns link which displays a flow chart that includes contact information and guidelines about who to contact to "get help" with a concern. According to the flow chart, if you have a classroom concern and have already spoken with both the teacher and the principal about your concern without resolution, you should contact one of the school supervisors: Elementary Schools Michelle Corker-Curry..........252-0055 Gloria Mitchell..................252-0399 Patrick Johnson.................252-0397 Pat Sander.......................252-0393 Middle Schools Ruth Medsker....................252-0398 High Schools Louis Martinez...................252-0395 A link to the Complaint Form is also provided from this page. So everybody who has been unsuccessful in getting a serious concern about a teacher ( When a Teacher Should Stop Teaching and A District without Spectrum? ), a principal ( Leadership in Seattle Public Scho

The Money Gap

Interesting article in this month's Seattle magazine. (I'd provide a link but they only put parts of their content online and this article isn't one of them.) It's about the fund-raising gap between schools in Seattle and elsewhere. Apparently, Portland Schol District has enacted a policy on this issue. A school can keep the first $5,000 raised and after that a one-third rule kicks in. The third goes to the Portland Schools Foundation to determine how the redistribution would work. They decided that the third would be set aside in a citywide fund to decrease the achievement gap. (It doesn't say how schools apply for the money or if it is just distributed). Apparently it isn't hurting fundraising; in 2004-2005 the Equity Fund raised $650,000 and in 2005-2006, the fund raised $840,000.

Immersion Language programs

This from the District's School Beat: The Bilingual Office is developing Chinese partial immersion courses at Beacon Hill, Graham Hill and John Muir elementary schools. The courses will be offered at Beacon Hill beginning Feb. 6 where kindergartners and 1 st -grade students will attend classes every day for 30 minutes. Similar courses will start after the mid-winter break at Graham Hill and John Muir. In addition, the Bilingual Office – with help from several partnerships, grants and programs – is developing several summer camps for teachers so they can qualify for a conditional teaching certificate. Languages to be offered include Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Russian, Farsi and Turkish. I knew that the district was developing more programs. At these new schools, I wish they were immersion such as they have at John Stanford because 30 minutes isn't much but at least they have it every day and it's getting started in the middle of a school year. I thought CAO Santorno

KCTS Connects

Cheryl Chow was the guest on KCTS Connects tonight (the program will be re-aired on Sunday at 5 am and noon). I was asked by the producer to call in and I did. The host, Enrique Cernas, was really trying to cover a lot of ground. He asked about the levy/bond measures, the superintendent search and the problems with board. I was sorry he was trying to cover so much ground in such a short time. I only discussed the levy/bond measures. I found what Cheryl said to be confusing. She first said the district was all about safety. When I pointed out that the worst buildings/those with the most seismic problems were not being addressed, she said that back in Jan 2006 when they looked at the long range plan, that they decided it would not be based just on capacity and building condition but improving academics. First of all, this means that they made the list before they had any idea about school closures. I find that very odd. How did they make plans without knowing how that wo

Choosing a School: 27 More Days

Amazingly, it is February already, and therefore there are only 27 more days until the on-time open enrollment period ends for Seattle Public Schools. I took a school tour myself this morning at Pathfinder K-8. It was unnecessary, since I have already decided to enroll my youngest daughter in kindergarten there next year and I have two children at Pathfinder already. But my 4 year-old wanted to see more of the two Kindergarten classrooms. Spending two hours on the tour with the school principal, a couple of Pathfinder parents, and a group of prospective parents turned out to be very interesting and enjoyable. David Dockendorf, the Pathfinder principal, spoke passionately about his commitment to the Pathfinder educational vision and his admiration for the teachers and other staff. Current parents and random people in the hallway shared their enthusiasm for the school. And, in general, I was reminded why I love Pathfinder so much, and my daughter is now even more excited about starting