Showing posts from March, 2007


Two New Educational Programs Begin Outreach to Families, Teachers and Underserved Communities Two new educational outreach programs premiered this year -- the first to increase access to information and learning for teachers and underserved communities, and the second with the same mission for parents and students. The Office of the Educational Ombudsman is a new public service agency within the governor’s office and is not part of the public school system. Ombudsman Adie Simmons and her staff are neutral problem-solvers and mediators who help students, parents and legal guardians understand how the public school system works, how to find services and resources and what to do when conflict happens. For more information, call the ombudsman’s office at 866-297-2597. They are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Translation and interpretation services are available. They recently launched their Web site . The next new group is called the Center for the

Longer School Day

The NY Times had an interesting article about a longer school day at different school districts throughout the country. From the article, it sounds like a largely East coast idea. The main problem is not, as you might think, pushback from parents (although there is some) but the cost. It simply costs districts more. Some districts are toying with the idea of just schools with failing test scores (but can you imagine how the kids at those schools would feel if they knew they had a longer school day because of their scores and other kids got out earlier?). I wouldn't mind a longer school day for elementary/middle school but my preference would be that either remedial classes for those who needed it and/or homework help (for all) and/or enrichment (for all). I think many parents would be grateful to know their child came home from school with their homework done and the child had a music/drama/art enrichment class. A couple of days later, the letter below was printed: &qu

Times opinion piece

Lynne Varner of the Times had a column recently, Grad Requirement Needs Fine Tuning about Seattle School district requiring 3 classes of occupational ed/career and technical education (the state requirement is 2 classes). Her concern is that music can't be part of it. This is a problem because when you have music at nearly all the high schools (with two of them being national powerhouses for their musical programs) and kids are trying to work in 4 years of math/foreign language, AP. etc., you just plain run out of time in the day. One mom went to bat for her daughter, arguing in favor of "cross-crediting" where a subject such as drama or music can be substituted and got a waiver but that's an anomoly. It's interesting because the state is willing to work with the district but the district, acccording to Ms. Varner, seems unwilling to consider it. Given that research shows that kids who take music do better in some subjects (math comes to mind), should the

Collection of Evidence

I attended a seminar on Saturday on this alternative to passing the WASL. Since I am a math teacher, I attended the math section, so I cannot speak to the reading or writing, but here is what I saw. The easiest way for a student to receive their CAA (Certificate of Academic Achievement) is to pass the WASL. The requirements and the rigor required to have a Collection of Evidence (COE) is very demanding and time-consuming. This is just not a “portfolio”. There are very specific math content strands and math process strands that have to be met. The content strands are: Number Sense, Measurement, Geometric Sense, Probability and Statistics and Algebraic Sense. The process strands are Solves Problems/Reasons Logically, Communicates Understanding and Makes Connections. This all sounds simple enough until you dig into the details. As an example, Ratio and Proportion are an element of Number Sense. What you have to demonstrate is a proficient manner is the ability to

Seattle Times story on Madrona

A story on the front page of today's (3/28/2007) Seattle Times tells of tension between the administration at Madrona K-8 and some of the neighborhood families, particularly White affluent families who say that they didn't feel welcome at the school and their children were not appropriately served there. To me, this story represents, in microcosm, what is happening throughout Seattle Public Schools. The District has put a great focus on serving underperforming minority students living in poverty. Unfortunately, they have, as usual, been clumsy in their communication - both internal and external. As a result, they have inadvertently given the signal that they are not interested in serving any other students. People have received that inadvertent sign and responded by taking their children either out of the neighborhood school or completely out of the district. Some of you might think that the message "We are not interested in serving your White affluent child working at o

APP split update

The Board and the District staff appear ready to abandon the Superintendent's decision to relieve the overcrowding at Washington Middle School by dividing the APP community into two unequal parts and attempting to create a new middle school APP at Hamilton without any of the necessary personnel in place or any personal responsibility to see it done. The decision is likely to be rescinded primarily because the District staff have proven incapable of defending or explaining it. They have gone so long without being asked to explain or defend a decision or to show the data that supports it that they have simply lost the skill set (if they ever had it). The long period without challenge has also resulted in a number of decisions, such as this one, that cannot be explained or defended. The District's actual goal, the primary motive, was to make sure that neighborhood students had access to the Washington general education program. It turns out that there are only 8 neighborhood stude

Community Conversation Tomorrow

Tomorrow night is the first of two Community Conversations designed to focus on the academic vision of the Seattle School District. If you can't attend tomorrow night, there is another one on April 3rd. ************* From the district website: Families, staff and community members are invited to attend the second in a series of community conversations that will focus on the district's academic vision. Superintendent Raj Manhas, Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno, and Chief Operating Officer Mark Green will report on progress in implementing the district's academic vision and strategic initiatives. The meetings are scheduled for: Thursday, March 22, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Brighton Elementary School, 6725 45th Avenue S. Tuesday, April 3, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Roosevelt High School, 1410 NE 66th Street At these meetings Superintendent Raj Manhas, Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno, and Chief Operating Officer Mark Green will provide updates on implementation of the academic pl

Seattle School Board Candidates

The Saturday Seattle Times article, 3 already running for seats on School Board , identifies two people who have already announced they are contesting Seattle School Board seats (Peter Maier and Lisa Stuebing). Sally Soriano has confirmed she will be running for re-election. What interests me in this article is the closing piece: Former board member Barbara Schaad-Lamphere, who lost to Flynn in 2003, said she has spoken to others interested in running, though she would not provide names. The would-be candidates share common traits, she said. "People have a distinctly different approach from the School Board members now in terms of making the difficult decisions that lie ahead. They are determined to work more effectively as a board," Schaad-Lamphere said. She is kicking off a nonprofit group that will hold a series of meetings to generate interest in the election. "We are at a fork in the road," she said. "We have tough decisions in the future. I think all Sch

Town Hall Meetings on Education This Saturday

I got the following announcement from CPPS today about town hall meetings on education this Saturday hosted by the League of Education Voters: Use your voice this Saturday, March 17, to let our legislators know that great public schools for Seattle’s kids are our TOP priority! The League of Education Voters is hosting town hall meetings across the state so you can urge your state legislators to make Washington’s children and education their TOP priority in Olympia. Go to your Town Hall Meeting! Click here to find your town hall meeting. The Issues: Early Learning : The Legislature is likely to follow the Governor’s lead on investing in early learning and fund more preschool enrollments and a quality rating and improvement system for preschools and day care. Let your legislators know that you support making quality early learning a top priority. K-12 Budget : The Legislature is poised to match or exceed the Governor’s proposed $927 million in new investments for K-12. Among

Superintendent Selection Process

Yesterday was the application deadline for the Seattle Schools superintendent position. The rest of the selection and hiring timeline is as follows: March 13, 2007 - All application materials due to Ray & Associates. March 27, 2007 - Executive Session regarding Personnel; the board reviews applications. TBD - Executive Session regarding Personnel; the board interviews candidates. TBD - Finalist(s) announced; optional on-site visits with leading candidate(s). TBD - Offer of contract and press release regarding the new superintendent. It is the Board’s goal to have a new superintendent hired by the end of April. I'm glad the Board is keeping the recruitment process quieter this time. I don't believe it's possible to do a good job of recruiting a superintendent in a fish bowl with everyone watching and commenting from the outside looking in. However, I sure am curious about the quantity and quality of applications received. I continue to be skeptical about the ability of

Call to Action: Blog Contributors

This blog currently has 5 contributors (people who can write and post entries on the blog), and, depending upon the day, about 150-200 daily readers . My latest call for action is a request for some additional blog contributors . I would like to see new posts on this blog on an almost daily basis, and need help from others to make that happen. If you are interested in becoming a blog contributor, please e-mail me with a short description of why you would like to be a blog contributor, a description of your connection to Seattle Public Schools (i.e. teacher, parent, district staff, Board member), a list of a few of your areas of concern/interest and a sample of your writing.

Sinking Seattle Public Schools

I know that this blog is titled "Saving Seattle Public Schools", but what if someone had a beef against the District and wanted to make trouble? Think of the SOCKED folks who dragged the District into Court over the school closures claiming, among other things, that the closures violated anti-discrimination laws and the notice provided prior to the closure of Rainier View was inadequate. SOCKED made use of RCW 28A.645.010 which allows people to have school board or school official decisions, actions, and in-actions reviewed in Superior Court. That's quite a hammer to be swinging around. The law is pretty vague about what sort of things can be appealed. It's also unclear about what remedies the Superior Court can order. The one thing that is for sure is that this law is a gold-plated license to be a royal pain in the ass. Take, for example, a routine School Board vote, such as the one taken on November 15, 2006 in which the Board voted unanimously to approve the 20

Call to Action: Recommendations from Learning First Alliance

Comments on this blog recently have really spurred my thinking about what, if anything, this blog is doing to contribute to positive change in Seattle Public Schools. I'm hoping to write a series of posts that are "calls to action", suggesting specific, concrete steps parents, teachers and others can take to improve our schools. To start off, I'd highly recommend everyone read a report called " Beyond Islands of Excellence: What Districts Can Do To Improve Instruction and Achievement in All Schools ." It is a report by the Learning First Alliance , which is a "a permanent partnership of 17 leading education associations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America's public schools." You can download this and other publications of the Learning First Alliance after completing a free registration process online. The whole report is quite informative, but if you are short on time, skip to page 49 to read th