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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Mike Riley Leaving Bellevue

Big news from the Bellevue School District this morning --- Mike Riley has resigned as Superintendent.

While I admired the fact that Mike Riley was able to create significant change in a short period of time (which is not easy to do in any large bureacracy), I know several Bellevue teachers personally who will be happy to see him go.

His implementation of a lock-step curriculum that took away much of teachers' creativity and freedom has frustrated teachers.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had a peek at the letter Dr. Riley sent to the district staff. It is ironic that in his goodbye letter he chose to ramble on about
"pessimism and pettiness". It just kind of lets you know how his mind
really does work. I'm sure that disparagement included all the South Bellevue parents who spoke up (esp. in 2002), questioned the destruction of the Humanities and then the Honors programs, and generally questioned what was being traded away for his personal vision of "pushing more kids to achieve at ever higher
levels" (which was really aimed at "urban centers" all along). Too bad Bellevue didn't fit that model. He just made it fit, darn it!
Now we just wait and see who they bring in next? I don't know much about Karen Clark (his intended interim replacement). Will Bellevue residents/PTSA/parents have any say-so in the
process of selection?

Next, I am wondering how long it will take the Bellevue District to
recover from 'Rileyitis,' so we can finally actaully address the many specific problems we DO have.

Goodbye Dr. Riley and good riddance!

Melissa Westbrook said...

So tell us about Bellevue school district? That would be interesting to hear about; what are your issues and concerns?

Anonymous said...

In regard to Mike Riley
..His implementation of a lock-step curriculum that took away much of teachers' creativity and freedom has frustrated teachers.

It also lowered the WASL math 4th grade pass rate for African Americans to 25%.

Lock-step curriculum is one-size fits all. Unfortunately it does not fit all. This current trend in education toward more lock step teaching will not serve students very well. The top students receive insufficient challenge and those below average are usually grossly under-served. The lock-step from Bellevue should be resisted in Seattle.

Seattle's current Everyday Math pacing plan is an example of a lock-step curriculum.

The SPS has still failed to define the necessary skills that students are to acquire at each grade level. This deficiency means effective interventions are unfocused or non-existent.

Hopefully our new school board can bring a better focus to following existing school board policies.

Anonymous said...

I though Bellevue had 3 high schools that made the top 100 list nation wide?

I have always heard that Mr Riley was a highly regarded Superintendent.

I don't know anyone on the inside or any teachers so can't comment on a personal level, but from all outward appearances, Bellevue is smoking Seattle. I've known families that have left Seattle for Bellevue just because of their schools?

Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Ask any kid or parent whose kid has been shuffled off to Robinswood "Alternative" against their will because the kid didn't fit the profile of the "Top 100" Schools - Seattle wouldn't have stood for that for one minute - -

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, the business about Bellevue having 3 top high schools is solely based on how many AP courses they offer and how many kids take the test. While AP indicates rigor, it is not the be-all-and-end-all for saying what is a great high school so for those rankings I don't pay attention. Lakesideoffers no AP courses and wouldn't make the list and yet is an excellent private high school.

Anonymous said...

Lets us compare apples with apples.

Anonymous at 5:40 AM said:
....but from all outward appearances, Bellevue is smoking Seattle.

Please look a little deeper. Let us compare something I shall call the difficulty number in regard to making high scores. Add the following percents: Black, Hispanic, Free&reduced meals, Special Ed, Bilingual.

Bellevue:~2.7~~8.1~17.1~11.2~~8.4
Seattle:~21.8~11.4~40.5~12.7~11.0
WA State:~5.6~14.0~36.8~12.7~~7.5
Tacoma:~23.0~11.9~54.8~12.9~~6.2

School District difficulty Totals
Bellevue:~~47.5
Seattle:~~~97.4
WA State:~~76.6
Tacoma:~~~108.8

Difficulty numbers for Seattle High Schools:
Hale 50.6
Roosevelt 56.1
Ballard 58.6
Garfield 69
West Seattle 85.5
Ingraham 99.8
Franklin 110
Sealth 136.5
Rainier B 152.2
Cleveland 164.7
------------------------
The Sums of Grade 10 WASL pass rates for Reading, Math, and Writing

Roosevelt 263.4
Bellevue 253.7
Garfield 253.5
Hale 241.6
Ballard 240.1
------------------
Mike Riley intimidates teachers from speaking publicly about anything but adding to the positive spin.
------------------
US Supreme Court case "Pickering vs. Board of
Education, 391 U.S. 563 (1968)". This was a case in which a teacher
had been fired for speaking out against the Board of Education's
spending money on athletic fields rather than on education. In the
final paragraph of the US Supreme Court's ruling, you will find the
following: "In sum, we hold that, in a case such as this, absent
proof of false statements knowingly or recklessly made by him, a
teacher's exercise of his right to speak on issues of public
importance may not furnish the basis for his dismissal from public
employment." This is but one example of many, where the right to
free speech in public-sector employment has been upheld.

-----------------------
The above is routinely ignored by many school district administrators who visit teachers who talk with reprisals.

Mike Riley knows how to make his district look wonderful from outward appearances. If you would compare Bellevue with similar suburban districts outside Boston(Brookline etc.), Chicago(New Trier etc.), New York city(White Plains etc.) you would find Bellevue below average.

It appears that Superintendents are judged on marketing ability rather than providing an appropriate education for all. Mike Riley's lock-step curriculum fails to realize there are no standardized students. Unfortunately the lock-step fad appears to be the next coming wave in education. The great American brain robbery continues.

Unfortunately US education has become more about making administrators look good than effectively educating students.

Anonymous said...

Lakeside doesn't have AP courses as such any longer (which is a change since my day), but they have a heck of a lot of kids taking and passing AP exams, and they do advertise those scores on their website. I suspect certain courses are known as de facto AP courses.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note...the "Top 100" thing is a joke. If you actually read how it's formulated is this: Number of Students in the School *divided by* Number of AP Tests Taken. It's a ration, that's all. It doesn't factor in whether they passed the test, if multiple tests were taken by individual students or any other information. Completely worthless as far as real information about the quality of the school.

Anonymous said...

Dang, didn't proofread...so much for a "quick" note...

meant to say "ratio" not "ration"

=)

Anonymous said...

We want academic rigor.

We want more AP classes

We want IB classes.

We want hi WASL and SAT scores.

We want a low drop out rate.

We want a high percentage of college bound students.

Bellevue accomplished this.

Mike Riley helped accomplish this.

No wonder nobody wants the Superintendent jobs in Seattle, can you blame them? You are all thankless vultures.

Anonymous said...

I want a flexible curriculum that can be adapted to the needs of students. (“Rigor” means “inflexible”).

I want more academic options for students, not more AP classes.
I don’t want the WASL at all.
Bellevue’s improvement in WASL scores did not amount to improvements reached by other districts.

Bellevue’s drop-out statistics were manipulated. Ask the district how the drop- out rate was counted ten years ago versus how it’s counted today. If you add up all of the drop-outs reported by each school district across the state, it will not equal the number of drop-outs that the statereports as a whole.

There is a shortage of skilled and technical laborers in well paid professions that don’t require college degrees. See recent Times articles.

What Bellevue accomplished is by deplorable means, including extortion and intimidation. Refer to the policies imposed on students with regards to the supposed “optional” AP exam. In short, the policy is: pay for and take the exam and receive favorable treatment with respect to class grade. Ask any teacher who has ever publicly spoken out against Riley.

Please don’t resort to name calling; it’s childish. It’s the same tactic that Riley uses.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 8:39 we just disagree.

I like a flexible curriculum, but not at the expense of rigor. I have had children in an alternative school in Seattle (a highly regarded alternative school), and the curriculum was so loose and fluid (flexible) that they often flowed so off course that they missed covering the basics. When you have a fourth grader who doesn't know the 12 months of the year, or a 5th grader that doesn't know his times table, you have to wonder if giving this type of autonomy to teachers is always a good thing. In my opinion it depends on the teacher. If you have a great teacher they generally do OK with a flexible curriculum, the problems come when you have a poor teacher or a very new teacher. It can be disastrous. In that case one could only wish for a more standardized curriculum.

Second, you mention you want more options,not more AP classes. Are AP classes not an option? They are certainly in demand across the district. In fact Ingraham and now Sealth recently added the IB program. Families in north Seatte are shying away from Hale because they don't offer any AP or IB classes. The people are telling the district that they want more, not less, AP/IB classes. You're right there are many great paying skilled trades, and kids that want to go that route certainly have that option. Riley didn't force anybody into college. He said that he would like every student to take at least 1 (ONE!!!) AP class. Sounds reasonable to me.

And what about the kids, like mine, who will go to college? Shouldn't we do everything possible to prepare them and make sure that they will be able to "get in" to the ever more competitive Universities? I think the answer is yes.

And by the way, please give specific examples of both the "extortion" and "intimidation" that you claim Bellevue used. I'm very interested.

Anonymous said...

I think another anonymous poster said it best.... good bye and good riddance. Riley is a pompous a$*#(! And all these years no one ever looked into his personal character. First he cheats on his wife (who put him through school) with his then high school principal (why do you think they moved out west?). Then he estranged his daughter from her biological mother with psychological manipulation when she was very young. Look up "parental alienation syndrome" and you should see Mike Riley's picture. And this is the man we trusted to lead and educate our children?! One who screws up his own daughter!? Oh he is smart...no doubt about that. But soulless and manipulative. And why no one would ever take him on is beyond me. Good riddance Riley and I feel sorry for those getting you next!

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think it unfair for the last post to say a lot of very personal things about Mr. Riley (without some kind of proof-how do you know this?)but it does raise the eternal question: can a person do a good job professionally and be a train wreck personally? Does it depend on the activity?

Was Clinton a bad president because he had an affair? By the same measure, Rudy Guiliani is on his 3rd marriage (a result of cheating on his 2nd wife)and is estranged from his kids (who won't talk to him). Would he be a lesser president? Did Mr. Riley's alleged behavior make him a worse superintendent? If people in power make rationalizations for bad behavior or judgment in their private lives, does it spill over into their public lives?

Anonymous said...

Melissa...

Yes, I would say that a person's character in his personal life is going to spill over into his professional life. A liar and a cheater is going to be a liar and a cheater in whatever he/she does.
You raise the question about Bill Clinton...who I voted for. I think he was a good president, yes, but it certainly did taint my opinion of him after the whole affair. Giulianni....a joke. I most certainly hope the public looks at his most intimate of relationships to extrapolate what kind of president he will be. If you aren't honest, truthful and loving to the people closest to you why would anyone think you'd be any different anywhere else?

As far as Mike Riley...he certainly tooted his own horn and just dismissed his detractors...of which there were many. Whether he was a good superintendant or not I guess is up for debate.

Anonymous said...

I personally think a persons private life can and should be kept completely separate from their professional life. Could you use any of this "personal" criteria in a job performance review? Of course not. It's not relevant. You may not like his cheating (if in fact this is true, and I am not sure of this), but you can not evaluate his performance as a superintendent on this. At least not legally or ethically.

Anonymous said...

"I want a flexible curriculum that can be adapted to the needs of students. (“Rigor” means “inflexible”)."

Actually, in the eyes of the Seattle School District, "rigor" has a very peculiar definition: one of the pages on the district site mentions "key qualities associated with rigor (i.e., complexity, ambiguity, emotional response, and provocativeness)."

Might explain something about why TERC and Connected Math were chosen ...

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Regarding "the district site mentions 'key qualities associated with rigor (i.e., complexity, ambiguity, emotional response, and provocativeness).'":

Thanks to that posting to indicate that Seattle Schools at least attempts to clarify what it's doing when it uses the word "rigor".

The current definition of "rigor", according to Miriam Webster on-line:
1 a (1): harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2): the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness (3): severity of life : austerity b: an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
2: a tremor caused by a chill
3: a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially : extremity of cold
4: strict precision : exactness

I have a question: When English students in Seattle schools are asked to know the definition of "rigor", which definition are they expected to know, the standard English definition, or the one according to the Seattle School District? My next question would be: Should schools practice what they expect students to learn?

My point is that school districts ought not to be creating their own definitions of commonly used words such as "rigor". To do so can be misleading when such words are used in communications with people not accustomed to the Seattle Schools' definition.

Furthermore, I don't see how anyone can extrapolate "ambiguity", "emotional response", and "provocativeness" out of the definition of "rigor" as provided in a standard English dictionary.

The discussion around whether schools should administer rigor leads to the question of exactly what our schools should be doing for our children. Our constitution, Article IX, Section 1, states that the paramount duty of this state is to provide a public education. I think that it's important to note that the constitution says nothing about having to make things harsh, cruel, severe, complex, or provocative for our students. The provision of education to me simply means that schools must impart upon students the information and skills needed for them to conduct their lives as members of a community.

In my opinion, the increased attention on rigor is a cop-out on the part of schools because it focuses on students' responsibility to learn rather than on schools' responsibility to teach. Too often have I seen my kids doing school work that is made difficult only for the sake of difficulty without adding value to the lesson being taught. Yet, schools take credit for such busywork on the premise of "rigor".

Anonymous said...

I think the educational implications of "rigor" have to do with the strict precision or exactness definition, as in logically or mathematically rigorous. The implication is that you've learned something that is strong enough and solid enough to bear some weight. To my mind, rigorous teaching means that you expect students to do things thoroughly, and to learn things thoroughly. It's not related to level; remedial instruction can be as rigorous as any other.

The district's definition appears to be based on the need for children to learn to grapple with complex topics, to accept that not everything can be spoonfed, that some subjects are inherently messy and upsetting. While in its origins that's a reasonable and desirable goal, trying to codify such expectations goes completely against their spirit and lands you in absurdities.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I have always defined rigor as it relates to my children's education, as a truly challenging curriculum or classroom teacher. You can have a rigorous curriculum and not so great teacher and it can be disastrous. Or you can have an average so-so curriculum with a fantastic teacher who challenges, engages and helps children reach their potential...with excellent results. In my opinion Rigor doesn't have to be rote. And it doesn't have to be standardized necessarily, but it does have to assure that a child is working a high level and pushing himself, sometimes above his/her comfort level. It also means taking on new challenges and trying new things.

Anonymous said...

Rigor can be a valuable aspect of a complete educational system. However, while rigor is just one means by which to educate, it is not the objective of education. To set up hoops for kids to jump through, hurdles for them to clear, does not constitute education. Rigor, in the absence of corresponding support services unfairly burdens students. Too many educators, Mike Riley in particular, feather their caps by claiming to have "raised the bar", while doing little or nothing to help students clear that bar. In that manner, they fail to fulfill their obligation under the constitution. The key word in the constitutional language is "provide", not "demand", not "expect", not "impose".

Anonymous said...

I fully agree that students need to be taught and supported, not just have high expectations placed on them and told to muddle through. I've seen far too much of the latter in my own kids' education. But rigor can occur in situations where the learning isn't difficult at all.

To give an example: one of my kids' teachers (I think it was my son's kindergarten teacher) labeled the table groups in her room with the names of the continents. When she gave instructions to line up, or some such task, when she didn't want the whole class rushing for coats at once, she'd send them off by "Asia, go get your coats now ... All right, now it's Australia's turn ..." and so forth.

Those kids ended up knowing the names of the continents cold, no question. That did, to my mind, constitute "rigor" in a way that a much more "academic" approach (e.g., worksheets, admonitions to parents to have the children "work on their continent names") would not necessarily have done.

Incidentally, children who already did know the names of the continents were not bothered by this approach, and not made to do busywork by it.

Obviously not all tasks lend themselves to this kind of little trick, but my point is that rigor is not necessarily a question of strictness, of detailed rubrics, tough grading, etc.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Helen you are absolutely right. I had a child in an alternative school where I felt the program was rigorous, but was not rigid strict or rote. The children did tons of art (visual and performing). Progress was sometimes hard to see and define as it was inter woven with layers of hands on engaging and often fun projects, field trips and art. Progress didn't feel as tangible as seeing a worksheet. Despite decent WASL scores, and many "testing into APP and Spectrum, I found myself questioning the rigor of the school. Only now, with a son in a traditionally rigorous middle school, taking all honors classes, do I appreciate the way rigor was achieved in his alternative elementary school. Just FYI, he is doing great in honors classes, many of his friends went into in the Spectrum program and private schools such as Northwest. All are doing great. A friend of mine whose daughter attended our alternative school and who just graduated from High school got into Brown. So did 4 other students from that kindergarten class.

Rigor doesn't always come in the same rote flavors. It can come any way that works for kids. And if there is a way to engage children and foster a love of learning instead of the dreaded pile of two hours worth of homework, then I say...yahoo!

Anonymous said...

"Ask any kid or parent whose kid has been shuffled off to Robinswood"

if your kid was put in Robinswood, then you have a bad kid. There are plenty of parents that think their kid is a little angel....get a clue.

As to Riley leaving the district, he at least was a strong leader, and very respected around the region. He helped make Bellevue a great school district.