Wednesday, February 28, 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 nonroutine, because there are more art, craft, and finely honed skills involved, traditional bureaucratic structures are operationally dysfunctional to the work of successful schools."

The new superintendent needs to identify and modify or eliminate the structures in the Seattle Schools that are getting in the way. But in addition, the new superintendent needs to identify what can and should be done at the district level and at the school level in terms of evaluation and support of principals and teachers.

The chapter in Rozenholtz's book I am reading talks about goal-setting, performance monitoring, recruitment and hiring, and professional development, both at the district level (focusing on superintendents and central office staff) and at the school level (prinicpals and teachers). The author contrasts high-performing and low-performing schools in these areas. The following excerpts discuss the evaluation and support of principals and teachers:

High-performing (district-level activity): "We monitor the principals' evaluations closely. We want to know what principals are doing to help mediocre or poor teachers improve. Where is the help coming from? How closely is that teacher monitored in terms of change?"

High-performing (school-level activity): "As a principal does an evaluation on teachers, they agree on the needs for improvement and develop a plan for implementing the improvement. We tailor inservice options to meet those needs."

Low-performing (district-level activity): "There comes a time when you have to transfer a poor teacher and no principal wants the teacher. In those cases, I give the most undesirable teachers to the stronger principals."

Low-performing (school-level activity): "We don't have good guidelines for principals to follow evaluting teachers. The form is only a page long. Principals are expected evaluate untenured teachers every year, and tenured teachers and supposed to be evaluated every 4 years. But really, we know that doesn't happen in many schools."

I'm guessing Seattle's practice is somewhere in between these two extremes. Or maybe it varies by school. On the Report Card post, Brita commented:
Carla has revamped the evaluation and professional development for teaching staff as well as admins—this is not going to happen overnight. She has initiated strategies focused on improving instruction in all classrooms but also has put emphasis on the historically underserved. Carla has been on the job less than one year. In her reports at board meetings, she describes these projects—that is the place to go to keep current.

Has anyone who has attended recent Board meetings learned anything about Carla's efforts in these areas that you can share? Are any teachers or principals who read this blog willing to talk about your experiences with being evaluated and receiving support in improving your work?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

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 professional development of school principals. I would also like to see incentives (in pay, perks, etc.) for principals and teachers who choose to work at schools that are struggling academically.

A few interesting articles about the job of a public school principal:

Every principal, in moments of stress, has thought, "This job is impossible!"

Increasingly, researchers and policymakers are voicing the same sentiment. The expectations have always been formidable, but twenty years of school reform have stuffed the principal's job jar with new chores and have undermined comfortable old assumptions about the nature of school leadership.

In response, some analysts have concluded that the common ideal of a heroic leader is obsolete. In their view, the task of transforming schools is too complex to expect one person to accomplish single-handedly. Accordingly, leadership should be distributed throughout the school rather than vested in one position.

For some principals who began running schools many years ago, the new focus on instructional leadership skills has been a job-altering experience. Stuart Watts, a 25-year principal who's been at Barret Middle School for the last three years, admits that he's undergoing a real change in his thinking about his work."I don't think I could claim that I have been an instructional leader in the past. When I became a principal, that's not what we were expected to be."

In Alvarado's eyes, principals were the change agents – “the most important actors on the stage of a school system.” To improve academic performance across the district, Alvarado believed in demanding constant improvement from every classroom, a responsibility he believed should be exercised by principals. “The primary purpose of a principal in a school is to lead the improvement of instruction in a school. Not to manage a school,” he said.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

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, James Kelly, president of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle said that "the debate over using tiebreakers "is really secondary to the importance of having all 10 high-performing schools," he said. "And we don't have that now." What is the district reaction to this argument?

  • Danny Westneat, in a Seattle Times column Seeing our way to diversity, suggests an idea I would like to see explored: the income-based tie breaker. Is the district considering this as an option?

So Brita and others, that is the sort of thing I had hoped to read from the district about the Supreme Court case. Can you enlighten me further?


Take a look at an interesting piece of reading on this topic; a debate between former Seatte superintendent Joseph Olchefske (who tried to attend the Supreme Court hearing but couldn't get a ticket) and Roger Clegg from the Center for Equal Opportunity on race-based school assignments.

And if you want to pretend you were able to attend the Supreme Court hearing, visit this very cool site Eric Baer sent to me, which has both the audio and the written transcript linked together.

Finally, for some necessary background on what has happened in Seattle schools regarding race in the past, read HistoryLink Essay: Busing in Seattle: A Well-Intentioned Failure.

Friday, February 23, 2007

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 are mischaracterized). Note how many of them were supposed to have shown concrete progress by now. I have my own table (see below).

It has also been some time since the "Community Conversations" that followed the State of the District address in September. The District put forward sets of academic goals, operational goals, and community engagement goals at these events. Although there were promises of further Community Conversations, none have followed. Has there been any report on progress towards the goals announced in these conversations?

The District adopted a School Family Partnership Plan, but has failed to implement all but a tiny part of it. Forgive me if I question the District's commitment to this effort. The person the District put in charge of promoting family involvement, Caprice Hollins, regards family involvement as an indicator of White Privilege. The Board bemoans the lack of dialog with the public but takes no steps to allow dialog. They haven't held any Community Conversations since their one and only over a year ago.

Seattle Public Schools is very good at setting goals and announcing plans, but they have not proven effective at implementing plans or achieving goals. This disconnect is rarely explored in the Seattle Times, the P-I or any of the major local media. No one with a voice louder than mine ever goes back and checks on implementation and achievement. No one with a voice louder than mine ever tries to hold the District accountable.

I hear people talk all the time about Superintendent Manhas' integrity, but I have to say that I have never seen it. I have never seen him follow through on anything that he said he would do. I have never seen him hold anyone accountable - least of all himself. I'm begining to think that everyone else has some other definition of the word "integrity" than the one I have.

I would really love to see someone at the Seattle Times or the P-I do a report on progress the District has made towards implementing plans and achieving goals made during Mr. Manhas' administration. It may be a fruitless exercise, however, because I suspect that the new Superintendent will not be expected to fulfill any of these commitments. This highlights another specific dysfunction of the Seattle Public Schools culture - it does not operate like an institution. The District's policies, practices, and promises are all personal and all expire when the person who set the practice or made the commitment leaves the job. So long as the District keeps changing personnel - and the turnover is dizzying - they never have to fulfill ANY of their promises. Institutions aren't supposed to work that way. Institutions are supposed to maintain continuity DESPITE changes in personnel.

So, presuming that the CACIEE report and recommendations will expire with Mr. Manhas' tenure as Supeirntendent, maybe it doesn't matter if the District implements their recommendations or not. Just the same, I would like to see a major local media outlet make mention of the report and the implementation status just one more time - if only to acknowledge that it is dead.


CACIEE Final Report recommendations:

Governance and Leadership Capacity

1. The Superintendent must show strong, decisive leadership to move the District forward on an aggressive reform agenda. True reform includes organizational culture change and will require clear direction, strategic decision-making, and a no-excuses approach. It is the Superintendent's responsibility to act boldly and lead the charge to align the agendas of the District, the School Board and outside groups with a laser-like focus on academic achievement.

---I don't think anyone would claim this was done. No culture change, no clear direction fromt he District leadership, no strategic decision-making, no bold acts of leadership, no focus on academic achievement. The evidence for the lack of culture change is abundant. The only strategy level decisions I have seen since then were the school closures and the project list for BEX III. Were they strategic? The closest thing to a bold act leadership from Mr. Manhas was his resignation. ---

2. We recommend the School Board more clearly define its roles and responsibilities relative to District staff through the review and adoption of a governance model such as the Carver Policy Governance model or a comparable board governance model

---Not done. The Board is incapable of governance because they have no means for holding anyone accountable.---

3. Creating a new, 3-year executive team position charged with implementing the full package of restructuring actions recommended in this Committee's final report and serving as an integrating function across all District departments;

---This they did. There is a Strategic Implementation Team. Of course, they haven't implemented anything, haven't issued a report for nine months, and that report was essentially a surrender---

4. Creating a new, permanent executive team position with responsibilities for marketing, communications and community outreach and responsiveness

---Not done. This recommendation was rejected.---

5. Establishing an executive search process aimed at recruiting outstanding talent to the District (including principals), which, among other activities, would consider retaining executive search firms for senior level positions

---Not done. No process.---

6. Establishing an ongoing commitment to leadership training for senior and mid-level managers (including principals)

---The District is doing something and calling it leadership training, but it either may or may not be legitimate. They were doing something called leadership training BEFORE this recommendation as well.---

7. Clarifying roles and responsibilities at the senior management level, especially with regard to principals and Education Directors.

---Not done. The lines of authority and accountability are just as tangled as ever.---

8. We recommend the creation of a new, permanent position exclusively responsible for developing the highest quality Principal Corps in the country, including coordinating hiring, training, growing and retaining these critical leaders.

---Not done.---

Strategic Planning

9. Develop and implement a rigorous, system-wide, annualized strategic planning process driven by academic priorities (vs. funding) and projected out at least five years at a time. This process would be owned by the Superintendent and would include:

---Not done. There is no process and no strategic plan.---

9A. Development of a sharper mission statement;

---Not done.---

9B. A thorough review of future demographics and financial realities;

---Not done.---

9C. A concise overview of the District's priorities and the strategies to achieve the goals;

---Not done.---

9D. Data to support the priorities (including past results, long- term forecasting, stakeholder input, and education research);

---Not done.---

9E. Stakeholder outreach and buy-in;

---Not done.---

9F. Measurable, year-to-year targets to assess progress against goals;

---Not done.---

9G. Ownership for each priority at the executive level;

---Not done.---

9H. Changes to normal operating procedure that will support the long- term success of the plan;

---Not done.---

9I. An on-going feedback loop with regular updates to the plan.

---Not done.---


10. Implement a priorities-based budgeting process that clearly aligns financial decisions with academic priorities in which:

---Not done. The budget was done this year without any discussion of academic priorities at all.---

10A. Activities and programs are ranked by the District's senior leadership team according to their importance to the core priorities of the District;

---Not done.---

10B. Activities and programs are required to have clearly articulated goals and success metrics;

---Not done.---

10C. The costs to produce any given activity are re-estimated and justified anew annually;

---Not done.---

10D. Programs that are deemed not to align with District priorities, or are deemed ineffective relative to established success metrics, are eliminated and those resources are redirected;

---Not done.---

10E. Reviews of spending against budget are conducted on a quarterly basis;

---Not done.---

10F. Weighted Student Formula is carefully evaluated to determine if it is indeed meeting its strategic objectives and is benchmarked against other districts to determine where opportunities exist to significantly simplify the administration process and reduce costs.

---This was done. I don't know how careful the evaluation was, or if the WSF was judged on these criteria, but it was weighed and found wanting. It is being replaced.---


11. Ensure consistent quality across the system by implementing a rigorous accountability plan that:

---Not done. There is no accountability plan. I STRONGLY recommend that everyone read the Superintendent's original Accountability Plan. It is, without a doubt, the funniest official government document I have EVER read. The irony is so thick you could pave a street with it.---

11A. Establishes clear lines of accountability for every District employee;

---Not done.---

11B. Is rooted in the concept of earned autonomy;

---Not done.---

11C. Puts in place common success metrics for schools, including an annual assessment process that carries consequences, both positive and negative;

---Not done.---

11D. Focuses central office functions on continuous quality improvement and the elimination of inefficiencies.

---Not done.---


12. Expand and enhance District communication and marketing capability by:

---Not done. The May status report from the Strategic Implementation Team essentially acknowledged that this recommendation was dead on arrival.---

12A. Creating a new, permanent executive team position with responsibilities for marketing, communications and community outreach and responsiveness;

---Not done. The Communications Director quit. He was an honest man who wouldn't participate in the District's misinformation campaigns.---

12B. Enhancing public engagement through professional and objective research and the use of statistically valid marketing surveys, including regular parent satisfaction surveys. Such an enhanced effort should extend particularly to communities of color, immigrants, refugees, those with special needs, and the poor;

---Not done.---

12C. Providing support to local school marketing committees, parents and community groups to help attract students through the powerful tool of parent-to-parent marketing and to encourage parental involvement;

---Not done.---

12D. Enhancing and improving the media outreach capability of the District with expanded staff and updated systems, including regular direct communication with parents and all stakeholders;

---Not done.---

12E. Hiring a professional communications/marketing firm with expertise in public education;

---Not done.---

12F. Investing in limited yearly budget for paid media to communicate the accomplishments and attractions of Seattle Public Schools.

---Not done.---

Data-Based Decision Making

13. Prioritize the use of student data to aide District-wide and school-based decision making, inform instructional practices and foster greater parental involvement. Specifically:

---Not done---

13A. Implement periodic student assessments in core subjects. Use data to improve instruction and to gauge student progress;

---Not done---

13B. More accurately disaggregate student data for bilingual, immigrant and refugee students;

---Not done---

13C. Complete full implementation of The Source, an excellent on- line information system whereby parents and teachers can obtain information about students' coursework, attendance, grades and other assessments; ---This has been done. The Source is really great.---

13D. Perform a uniform kindergarten readiness assessment to all incoming students. Communicate data to Seattle-area early learning providers.

---Not done---

Teaching and Hiring Development

14. Aggressively recruit, develop and retain quality teachers by:

---Not done---

14A. Providing competitive compensation, including pay and benefits (i.e., funding the current negotiated contract); ---This was done before the CACIEE report.---

14B. Placing special emphasis on potential teachers with particular expertise and content knowledge in the areas students are struggling most (i.e., math and science), teachers of color and bilingual teachers;

---Not done---

14C. Increasing stability by reducing turnover at high-need/low-performing schools by providing incentives to teach in these schools, including strong and ample support to staff, small class size, quality leadership, and active and productive professional learning communities;

---Not done. There are no real incentives to teach at these schools. I'm not aware of any special effort to support the staff at these schools. There is no special effort to reduce class sizes at these schools. There is no special effort to change the leadership at these schools. The only concrete effort to reduce turnover is the suspension of seniority rules on lay-offs for teachers at "flight" schools.---

14D. Funding the Flight One incentive pay provision included in the current negotiated agreement. The Committee recommends a thorough, regular analysis of all policy changes - such as this one - to ensure they have the desired result;

---The incentive pay may have been done, as the District committed to doing before the CACIEE report, but the thorough regular analysis was and is not done---

14E. Retooling recruitment and hiring procedures to enable the District to hire teachers earlier in the process and making it easier for candidates to apply;

---Not done---

14F. Targeting professional development to training that supports teachers' ongoing learning in a way that is aligned with the District's top instructional priorities (e.g., training on the new math curriculum, AP courses, college readiness assessments, grade level coordination, etc.). This could also include targeted use of subject specialists (e.g., math and science coaches) to work with teachers to improve instruction;

---Not done---

14G. Providing incentives and support for teachers who earn a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certificate.

---This was done before the CACIEE report---

14H. Developing and implement a rigorous teacher evaluation program to assess performance, encourage and support professional growth, create and recognize excellence and remove poor performers at all levels.

---Not done---

Curriculum Enhancements

15. Establish system-wide consistency and rigor within the curriculum that first emphasizes mastery of reading, writing, mathematics and science as foundational skills and then extends beyond to expand dual language opportunities and system-wide K-12 music offerings. This could include:

---Not done---

15A. Aligning all actions, policies and investments with strategies aimed at ensuring all students meet or exceed grade level standards set for reading, writing, math and science.

---Not done---

15B. Developing aligned curriculum for all core subjects for all schools. The curriculum must align with state learning standards for each grade level.

---Not done---

15C. Implementing the planned math curriculum adoption and ensuring adequate funding of implementation and early evaluation.

---Not done. There has been a middle school math adoption, but I don't know anyone who is happy with it. There has yet to be any adoption for elementary or high school. The new middle school curriculum does not integrate with the existing high school curriculum.---

15D. Stating in clear terms that science is considered a core part of K-12 offerings. This would include moving rapidly to complete the implementation of a high-quality science program K-12 – with special focus on middle school and high school science.

---Not done---

15E. Developing a comprehensive approach to implementing and evaluating professional development. All investments should be aimed at successful implementation of the laser-like focus on mastery of the basics and the new curriculum adoptions.

---Not done---

15F. Providing access for all elementary and middle school students to the District's award-winning instrumental music program as well as other arts offerings.

---Not done---

Targeted Class Size Reductions/Improved Student-Teacher Ratios

16. Reduce student-teacher ratios for core subjects in the early grades and for struggling students to:

---Not done---

16A. 20:1 in grades K-3; and

---Not done---

16B. 15:1 for very low-income and/or academically challenged K-3 classrooms;

---Not done---

16C. Please see section on remedial assistance for an additional class size reduction recommendation specifically related to remediation.

---Not done---

High School Rigor

17. Strengthen high schools and better prepare students for college and work through:

---Not done---

17A. A series of curriculum reforms aimed to setting appropriately high expectations and ensuring all Seattle

---Not done---

17B. Public School students have access to a college-prep curriculum including a) funding six periods per day of relevant coursework for all high school students; b) enacting a higher course-load requirement for graduation; and c) expanding offerings of and access to Advanced Placement, honors and International Baccalaureate classes;

---Something close to six periods has been funded, but there was no change in the graduation requirements and no noticable expansion of AP, Honors, or IB since the CACIEE report---

17C. Increased graduation requirements to include, at a minimum, four years of English, three years of math, and two years of foreign language;

---Not done---

17D. Examining and adequately funding the "foundation" needed for high school administration at the school level.

---Not done---

Remedial Assistance

18. Provide adequate remedial assistance to students in need through:

---Not done---

18A. Partnerships with community colleges, four-year institutions and OSPI to establish a Summer College program for high school students who do not meet the WASL standard.

---Not done---

18B. Beginning in the 2006-07 school year, increase learning opportunities for the classes of 2008 and 2009, such as providing double doses of math and literacy/reading for students struggling in these areas.

---Not done---

18C. Shift toward a preventative strategy of identifying incoming middle and high school students who are at-risk of not meeting standards, and providing extra learning opportunities (i.e., more time on task) to keep those students on track with college- and workforce-preparatory requirements.

---Not done---

18D. Carry out OSPI's Project Graduation 9th Grade Transitions and Extra Help Program:

---Not done---

18E. Place the most highly-qualified high school teachers in 9th grade. Criteria for high-quality teachers should include past student performance and the teacher's area of study.

---Not done---

18F. Lower teacher-student ratios to 20:1 in 6th and 9th grades, on a targeted as-needed basis.

---Not done---

Pre-Kindergarten & Full-Day Kindergarten

19. Serve as a partner (rather than an administrator) of early learning programs, and establish procedures to better coordinate existing early learning programs:

---Not done. The District could have done this at T T Minor and chose to go in the other direction.---

19A. Work with pre-K providers to ensure curricula are aligned with the skills students need to enter kindergarten;

---Not done---

19B. Place pre-K programs in elementary schools, especially in areas with high-need populations, to ensure smooth kindergarten transitions and reduce the "preparedness" gap that often contributes to the achievement gap;

---Not done. Again, see the T T Minor example.---

19C. Perform a school readiness assessment for all incoming kindergarten students. This will provide feedback to pre-K administrators on the impacts of their programs;

---Not done---

19D. Assign one point-person to oversee and coordinate the District's partnership in early learning;

---Not done---

19E. Work with other early learning partners to coordinate and streamline the multiple early learning programs in Seattle to create a true system that will prepare all children for kindergarten.

---Not done---

Family Involvement & Community Partnerships

20. Better leverage the time, skills and decision-making power of parents, community organizations and community volunteers to help students, especially at-risk students, to achieve. Specifically:

---Not done. In fact, aggressively not done.---

20A. Create additional Family Resource Centers to be located in strategic geographic areas (this may be best accomplished by partnering with the City's existing Family Support Centers program);

---Not done---

20B. Better coordinate communication between staff teams within the district who are points of contact for parents and community;

---Not done---

20C. Develop community partnerships with nonprofit groups to maximize District resources and finances.

---Not done---


21. Re-size the District's physical capacity to accurately fit current student and enrollment and projected future enrollment by:

---This was partly done, but done clumsily and without strategic vision---

21A. Closing a number of active schools to eliminate underutilized space by 1.0 to 1.5 M square feet;

---Partly done, but done clumsily and without strategic vision---

21B. Developing sensible school closure criteria and a decision- making process that supports academic goals;

---Not done. The connection between the closures and academic goals was never properly established---

21C. Implementing an immediate moratorium on committing new capital expenditures aimed at improving existing school facilities (i.e., water quality improvements or building remodels) or building new school facilities until this activity is completed.

---Not done---

Real Estate Management

22. Generate a new, ongoing revenue stream to support academic strategies through improved stewardship of Seattle Public Schools' vast real estate holdings, including under-utilized and non-school based real estate assets.

---Not done---


23. Reduce the gap between transportation services provided by Seattle Public Schools and transportation funding allocated by the state.

---Partly done---

Centrally-Run Functions (Non-Academic)

24. Reduce central office infrastructure expenses through aggressive changes in processes and systems. This would include:

---Not done---

24A. Thorough examination in each area for the most cost effective way to deliver the given service;

---Not done---

24B. An approach that prioritizes the elimination of unnecessary work and inefficiency and a culture of continuous improvement with direct employee involvement. Some examples include:

---Not done---

24B1. Reducing the considerable staff time spent on analysis and recommendations for the Board and senior management by making such work more efficient, strategic and actionable. We recommend engaging the staff to solicit their suggestions on how to streamline this process.

---Not done---

24B2. Breaking down barriers between different functions to reduce the incidence of organizational silos, which often lead to duplicative or uncoordinated work.

---Not done---

24C. Consideration in many areas for alternative ways of delivering a given service than by the District itself, including school security, facilities and grounds maintenance, payroll administration, warehousing and purchasing. In some cases this may entail outsourcing; in others it may entail seeking other entities to provide the service.

---Not done---

24D. Benchmarking against other districts' methods for delivering services as a means of identifying possibilities.

---Not done---

Centrally-Run Programs (Academic)

25. Analyze all central office academic expenditures and reprioritize for the '06-07 budget based on the District's top academic priorities to realize savings and eliminate inefficiencies wherever possible.

---Not done---

Special Education

26. Close the gap between special education funding and expenditures.

---Not done---

Bilingual Support

27. Restructure bilingual support services to better serve bilingual students while improving program efficiencies. Specifically:

---Not done---

27A. Develop and Integrate a Quality Instructional Delivery Model – Align all resource allocation with a deliberate and strategic instructional model grounded in research. After a thorough review of the bilingual department's service models, resource allocation and staffing patterns, the District should create an overall strategy and implementation plan for all bilingual education programs. Program decisions should be guided by and measured against the plan, and the plan should be benchmarked and evaluated annually for progress and modification. Until a program evaluation is completed, all new program development should be halted.

---Not done---

27B. Bilingual Orientation Center (BOC) Programs – Perform a professional evaluation of current Bilingual Orientation Center (BOC) programs. Examine future academic achievement levels of BOC students against their non-BOC bilingual peers and alternate service delivery models where staffing is reduced and service delivered in neighborhood schools. Also examine possible savings associated with closing or relocating underutilized BOC facilities.

---Not done---

27C. Grouping Language Services – Consider grouping language services within clusters at individual schools. This would allow more precise matching of language-specific Instructional Assistant (IA) staff with the predominant languages of students in each building, and reduce transportation costs.

---Not done---

27D. Consolidate Program Management – Consolidate program management between Title I/Learning Assistance Program (LAP)/Migrant and TBE and fully integrate bilingual programs with Title I/LAP programs. Program planning should be conducted as part of the District's academic plan and integrated with Title I and LAP planning.

---Not done---

27E. Evaluate and Clarify IA Roles – The current IA staffing ratios should be evaluated to ensure that the costs associated with current and future funding requirements are aligned with increased academic achievement. The evaluation should also include professional development and cultural competence challenges and opportunities. Estimated annual savings of $1.5M, beginning in '09-'10.

---Not done---

27F. Bilingual Immersion – Considerable research supports bilingual immersion programs as a highly effective strategy for closing the achievement gap for bilingual students. Bilingual immersion programs are also wildly popular with parents who want their children to learn a second language. If bilingual immersion programs are indeed the best instructional model and may increase market share, restructure the bilingual program to support expansion and integration of this model.

---Not done---

Alternative School Configurations

28. Support alternative schools while managing operations to bring cost into par through:

---Not done---

28A. Eliminating free transportation to alternative school students (except for those eligible for FRL). Please see the Committee's recommendation on transportation for details.

---Not done---

28B. Co-locate compatible learning programs.

---Not done---

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 EPIC & CEPR arrived at this large a suggested increase in state funding for education, look at the project abstract. What caught my attention in the Seattle Times article is that if such an enormous increase in funding actually occured, Washington state would still not be outspending all other states. Instead, the increase would take Washington from near the bottom in state funding to in the "top 10."

With the current lawsuit by several districts in Washington over inadequate state funding, how to determine "adequate" funding is a hot topic. In fact, two other adequacy studies are currently going on in Washington: the Ample School Funding Project, which began in 2003 and is funded by the Washington Association of School Administrators; and a project that started recently being carried out by Lawrence O. Picus and Associates, funded by Washington Learns and sponsored by the Governor.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

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 (pjoakes@seattleschools.org) 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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

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 physical plants, poor tests scores (especially among non-white students), overtaxed special-needs programs - face nearly every other major urban school district in the country. Seattle is not unique and, in many ways, is doing relatively well.

As I fill out my report card for the district however, doing "relatively well" only merits a C+. I expect more from the public schools in this well-off, well-educated city. I take little comfort from the fact that Seattle's schools are in better shape than Philadelphia's or New Orleans' schools. I want Seattle's schools to be among the urban schools cited as making unusual progress in combating the problems faced by urban schools around the country.

I want Seattle to win the Broad Prize for Urban Education, a "prize awarded annually to the best urban school districts in the nation that make the greatest improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among ethnic groups and between high- and low-income students," but Seattle has never even been named a finalist. This year, Boston won the prize, which brings with it $500,000 in scholarships for graduating seniors. Four districts who were finalists (Bridgeport Public Schools, Jersey City Public Schools, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the New York City Department of Education) each got $125,000 in scholarships for graduating seniors. Learn more about the Broad Prize for Urban Education and why Boston won this year's award by reading the press release.

You could argue, pretty convincingly, that Seattle will never be in a position to win the Broad Prize for Urban Education as long as the state funding is so poor. But the lack of funding, while a real problem, is not a sufficient excuse for the current state of affairs in Seattle Public Schools. Unlike Geov, I believe that district "regime change" can make a real difference for our schools, and that while working to increase education funding in our state, vital organizational cultural and structural changes can be made by a talented, visionary superintendent.

So, with that said, here's my report card for Seattle Public Schools for the 2006 calendar year. I encourage you to fill out your own report card, changing and adding categories as you wish, and send it to the School Board and to Carla Santorno.

Introduction: This report card is based on my limited knowledge of the school district during the 2006 calendar year. With better and more frequent communication, and more genuine community involvement, you could see more accurate report cards from me and other Seattle citizens in the future.

Fiscal stewardship: B; according to the newspapers and School Board members, this is one area where concrete progress has been made.

Educational leadership: C, but showing signs of improvement including Carla's six key academic milestones presented in the fall, and recent moves toward more international schools and more arts in the schools.

Resource development: C-, for multiple reasons including losing the confidence of the Gates Foundation and a major grant along with it, and thumbing your nose at Stuart Sloan and the New School Foundation during Raj's first proposal for school closure and consolidation.

Equity: C-. While the weighted student formula does not appear to be achieving its stated goals, I'm concerned about a possible move towards equal funding rather than equitable funding.

Communication: D; really horrible throughout the school closure and consolidation process; inconsistent and unclear on topics including WASL scores, district finances, and the current Supreme Court Case on race-based tie-breakers for enrollment.

Community relations: D-; the lowest grade for any of the categories; too many reasons to list here; feel free to contact me for details or clarification.

School leadership: highly variable; the district practice of frequently reassigning school principals has contributed to problems at many schools.

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.

Overall: C+

Suggestions for improvement: Take a careful look at other urban school districts in this country that are doing a better job of meeting the needs of all students. Identify the similarities and differences in funding, structure, leadership, staff development, communication, etc. between those districts and Seattle and then develop a strategic improvement plan with priorities for short-term change (2-3 years), and long-term change (5-10 years).

Note: This suggestion does not mean the creation of another document like the district's five-year plan. That plan is almost meaningless; an everything-but-the-kitchen sink plan with too many action items and almost no follow through or accountability. Instead, I want to see a clear, concise document that outlines top priorities in ways that everyone in the city can understand, buy-in to, and keep tabs on how much progress is made towards them.

Monday, February 19, 2007

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, just create a blog identify, whether it is another person's name or a made-up name, and use that consistently when you comment.

If everyone identifies themselves in comments, whether by a real or fictious name, it will make it much easier to respond to individual comments and maintain a feeling of conversation in this online discussion place.

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

Friday, February 16, 2007

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:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

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 evening school will be moved to an as-yet-unnamed traditional high school, Santorno said. The alternative middle school will be discontinued, and the handful of students enrolled eventually will be dispersed to other middle schools. The other programs at Marshall aren't in any danger of closing, Santorno said, but there are also no guarantees they'll move together to a new location."

The lack of plans for the students at John Marshall has concerned me through the school closure and consolidation process, so I'm glad the closure is being postponed. However, it bothers me that the review of programs was not completed as promised by the end of 2006. I'm also concerned about some of the problems identified in an earlier Seattle Times report continuing unchanged for another year.

For more information on John Marshall Alternative School and its treatment during the school closure and consolidation process see:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

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.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

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 excellent chance to build on the knowledge already present at Pathfinder (and perhaps other schools) and give the teachers already using Readers and Writers Workshop a chance to earn some extra money and/or recognition as trainers for other teachers around Seattle.

Visit the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project page to learn more about this instructional approach, and check out this elementary teacher's website from California that details how she uses the method in her classroom.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

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 their educational needs met in our public schools. Every child deserves our support.

Over the last few days, I've been thinking about why such animosity exists. I thought about how I feel about that fact that some PTSA's raise enough money to hire additional staff for arts and music. I thought about how I feel when I hear parents from the more affluent parts of Seattle discussing their varied after-school offerings, including classes in several foreign languages. I thought about how I have felt, in any aspect of my life, when I am in a position of less power, money, or voice than others around me. I thought about how, when an organization disappoints me consistently, I begin to expect that behavior, while resenting it at the same time. With these thoughts in mind, the animosity that has been expressed on this blog and in other places begins to make sense.

As long as there are differences between school communities and their offerings depending upon the wealth of the neighborhood, as long as there are limited resources in a school and competition between academic programs for those resources, as long as there are differences among parent groups, whether real or perceived, in power, voice, and access to the district decision makers, as long as the district staff maintains a culture of inadequate communication and poor responsiveness to the needs of students, the conditions are ripe for divisive and non-productive animosity.

Parents, teachers and community members across Seattle need to acknowledge this reality and the roots of it, and then work together to combat it. The first step, in my opinion, is to organize around increasing funding of public schools in Washington. This is an issue that everyone can and should get behind. Maybe, by increasing the funding pie, we can begin to decrease the fighting over the crumbs.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

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 neither a Board Review nor district wide enrollment growth.

Although no one in the District staff was bothered by the violation of the Policy, when it was pointed out to members of the Board, they took an interest and asked the Superintendent to explain.

The Superintendent initially replied that Policy D12.00 was superseded by other Policies, notably F21.00 and B61.00. I spoke to the Board and showed them, conclusively, that these other Policies not only do not supersede D12.00, they actually confirm it.

The Superintendent then asked the Board to interpret the Policy. The Student Learning Committee concluded that the Policy allowed the expansion of APP to an additional site if the Board conducted a review of the decision, so they wanted to schedule a work session of the whole Board. The Executive Committee, however, decided that this matter did not warrant a work session. The Executive Committee delegated the duty of conducting the Board Review back to the Student Learning Committee.

So the Student Learning Committee will conduct a review of the decision to split the middle school APP students between Washington and Hamilton at their regularly scheduled meeting on February 27 from 4:30 to 6:30. They will determine the format of that review at their next meeting on February 13.

The Student Learning Committee is chaired by Brita Butler-Wall and includes Directors Soriano and Flynn. They will make a number of decisions.

  • They will decide whether the Board Review has the authority to reject the decision.
  • They will decide whether the Policy requires Board Review AND substantial districtwide enrollment growth or if the Policy requires Review OR substantial districtwide enrollment growth.
  • They will decide whether districtwide enrollment growth means program enrollment growth or district enrollment growth.
  • If they believe they have the authority to say, they will decide whether to approve or reject the split.
Background information:
There are about 1,300 students in APP, the program has as many students as a high school.

APP students attend elementary school at Lowell, middle school at Washington, and high school at Garfield.

APP is a community.

Lowell is also overcrowded, but the District deferred a decision on resolving that problem to the end of this year.

The Superintendent proposed dissolving high school APP in his Preliminary Proposal for Reshaping Seattle Public Schools; he later revoked that decision.

While there is strong animosity towards gifted education in Seattle Public Schools, it is highly regarded nearly everywhere else in the country.

Enrollment at Washington is not markedly greater this year than it has been over the past several years. Most of the increase in Washington's enrollment this year is not attributable to APP.

Enrollment in APP has grown in the past few years due to a number of factors including the District's efforts to expand the program through outreach, liberalized eligibility criteria and a liberalized eligibility process, and lost confidence in Spectrum programs and neighborhood schools.

The District spends no general fund money on APP, it is funded by a grant from the State. The grant pays for the eligibility testing, the administration of the program, and professional development for teachers.

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?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

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 for the second half of the day.

􀀹 All of this at NO COST TO THE DISTRICT.

For over a month Principal Brown steadfastly fought to keep our Pre-K program. But in the end, T.T. Minor was given options that don’t benefit the children at all:

1. Allow the District to install a developmental AM/PM Pre-K program. These would be half day classes consisting of 9 students with developmental challenges and 3 students receiving general education.

2. If we don’t choose option #1, then we either must shut down our Pre-K or pay for it with the general fund (which of course barely covers K-5).

This is not just about Pre-K! It’s about protecting our children from a system that clearly doesn’t care about our children’s education!

It’s time to let the Seattle School District know that we’re tired of them making decisions for our kids that end up harming instead of helping!

􀀳 In Spring 2005, T.T. Minor was put on the closure list. This led to a severe drop in enrollment for 2005-2006.

􀀳 In Spring 2006, T.T. Minor was on phase 2 of the closure list.

􀀳 Fall 2006, T.T. Minor must release a teacher because of poor District transition planning.

Now we have 2 overcrowded 2nd/3rd grade split classrooms.

We need everyone to FIGHT NOW because if we’re not protecting our own kids, then we can’t expect anyone else to care!

1. Attend the special parent meeting February 15th 6:30-7:30 concerning this issue
2. Give testimony at the next two School Board meetings (Feb 21st and Mar 7th).
3. Attend the March PTA meeting on March 6th from 6:00pm-7:30pm
4. Spread the word about what’s happening

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 education services are delivered to school buildings and programs. High on the list of priorities for the new manager and team will be to maximize the potential for partnerships with Seattle's vibrant arts community.

Since the forum, the arts commission's education committee - consulting with teachers, administrators, parents and arts advocates - has represented the community, working with Ms. Santorno and district officials on the job description and hiring plan for the new district manager. We are pleased to report the district will post the position February 12."

That news led me to look at other open leadership positions in the district right now and, so I read with interest the posting on the 2007-2008 Principal and Assistant Principal Selection Process which says:

"At this time principal openings are; The New School, Bagley, Sacajawea, Stanford International, Stevens, African American Academy, Aki Kurose, Hamilton, Whitman and Roosevelt." The deadline for applying is February 23rd and hiring decisions will be made the first week in April.

"Recommended candidates [from school site-based interviews] meet with Superintendent and CAO and are assigned to schools at the Superintendent’s discretion."

In addition (emphasis is mine):

For transfer and reassignment of current principals:
Transfers and reassignments may occur at the request of a current principal and/or at the discretion of the Superintendent. The Superintendent will consider the leadership needs of schools in his decision. After the Superintendent announces principals recommended for transfer, the Principal and Instructional Director will meet and dialogue with the staff and community.
Don't they have that backwards? Who really wants to "dialogue" about a decision that has already been made? And why do schools were a principal is being transferred or reassigned have so little say in who the principal will be compared with schools where principal openings are officially announced?

Also, there is no mention here of the principals who have lost their jobs due to the closure and consolidation decisions and whether or not they will have any preference for principal openings. The decision about who will be the principal at each of the merged schools has already been made (see the FAQs and the Key Dates and Implementation Timeline). The school principals are:

Dearborn Park --- Barry Dorsey
High Point --- Gayle Everly
Emerson --- Marion Vinson
Broadview-Thomson --- Jeanne Smart

I find the Dearborn Park announcement to be surprising. It is the only school at which the current principal is being replaced by the principal of the incoming school community. But of course, I have no idea what Evelyn Fairchild's plans are for next year. For all I know, she could be applying to be the new District Arts Manager.

But no matter what the specifics of that particular decision, I would like to know how the district is handling the displaced principals from the closure and consolidation process. What is happening to Evelyn Fairchild from Dearborn Park, Davy Muth from Fairmount Park, Cathy Thompson from Rainier View and Joanne Bowers from Viewland? Do they get priority in placement for the open positions announced above? or in transfer/reassignment decisions? If so, why isn't that clearly stated? And if not, why not?

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.org, (206) 252-0636

Don Gilmore (BEX III Manager): dgillmore@seattleschools.org, (206) 252-0647

Kathy Johnson (Facilities Planning Manager): kjjohnson@seattleschools.org, (206) 252-0653

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

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.

Monday, February 05, 2007

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?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

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.
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 Stanford Center.

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 Schools) or other important issues that affect children resolved, try to work through official district channels and then report back on what happens.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

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.

Friday, February 02, 2007

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 1st-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 was developing a couple at high schools but I can't verify this for certain. (There is no language immersion high school for students from Hamilton to attend. My thought had been that after Garfield and Hamilton were finished with their rebuilds, that Summit K-12 could be moved to Lincoln. Summit had expressed interest in adding language immersion to their program. The move to Lincoln would mean all 3 language immersion programs - John Stanford, Hamilton and Summit - would be located very near each other and that closeness could facilitiate both community and staff interaction.)

In a recent article in the NY Times, the Palo Alto, CA school board turned down a Mandarin language immersion program at one elementary by a narrow 3-2 vote. In that case, parents against the plan felt it gave a small group of students an unfair advantage and hurt funding for other programs. I don't think I ever heard dissent against our program - just that more parents want more programs.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

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 would play out?

Two, I have never heard from staff or seen in any document anything about capacity being used as part of the considerations. I guess this means Montlake, McGilvra, Nova, all the small schools are just not going to ever get a rebuild. (Take that back; McGilvra could be rebuilt to be larger, they have the site for that but Montlake and Nova don't.)

Three, they put academic improvement before building condition? Buildings in bad condition or worse, with safety issues, are behind other buildings where they believe that a rebuild will improve academics? What can I say to that? I've got to assume this is their new reason for New School's rebuild.

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 school there next year.

I hope all parents and children can find as good a match for their children's educational, social and emotional needs during the enrollment process. Below are links to previous threads on this blog and other resources to help you learn more about Seattle Public Schools.

The tie-breaker system which determines how children are assigned to schools continues to confuse people. So below is a short explanation (copied from a comment I made on an earlier thread) I hope will help:

Regarding the question about the chances of getting into Salmon Bay (or any school), the probability varies every year. But, it is important to remember it doesn't matter what the chances are. Why? Well, it's convoluted and difficult to understand the enrollment system, but if you just list all the schools you would like your child to attend in your true order of preference, it works out.

You are not penalized in any way by listing many schools. And, if you don't get into your top choices, you still have just as good a chance of getting into the other schools on your list. For example, if you really want Salmon Bay first and Adams second and Loyal Heights third, then list them that way. If your child doesn't get into Salmon Bay, then you have the same priority for Adams as if you put that one first. If your child doesn't get into Adams, then you have the same priority for Loyal Heights as if you had put that one first, and so on. See pages 40 & 41 of the Elementary Enrollment Guide, for details on assignment tiebreakers.