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Showing posts from December, 2007

Story in the Times

There was one of those articles without news in the Times today. The closest thing to news in this story is the suggestion that the District will announce changes in gifted and Special education this spring. Of course, it was also news to me that Director Martin-Morris thinks that the district has been spending a lot of time on gifted kids. Director DeBell says that the Board is looking for ways to add more Montessori programs and replicate foreign language immersion programs. I find that interesting because it would appear to be outside the Board's charge. Program Placement is the Superintendent's job and the Board is supposed to keep their noses out of the Superintendent's business. It's very weird to see the Times switch - so obviously - from a loud and vocal detractor of our public schools to a public school booster. Here's a link to the story: Seattle School Board turns its attention to middle-class families

Oh Those West Seattlites!

Boy, those West Seattle folks are a feisty bunch. Watching the Board meeting last night (in the comfort of my own home, very civilized) was inspiring. Whether you agree or disagree with their stand (and these were folks against the Denny/Sealth plan for varying reasons), they were certainly articulate and made good points. There were teachers, community members and students. One, a cheerleader, certainly earned points for being direct and not the least intimidated by public speaking. Their reasoning for not supporting the plan? students think mixing high school boys with middle school girls is a bad idea (and this from a boy) Sealth feeling that they are not being treated like other high schools (i.e. West Seattle, Roosevelt, Ballard, etc.), that they are going to lose space and are basically getting very little out of the deal. Some said they'd be willing to wait for funds for their renovation. community members feeling shut out by Facilities staff and wondering why the dis

Harium Martin-Morris Blog

One of our newest Board members has a blog . It will be interesting to see as he gets busier if he can keep it up but good for him for making the effort. I hope that the new Board members will try to have regular community meetings as Mary Bass does and as Brita Butler-Wall and Sally Soriano did. It was great to be able to go somewhere in your region and be able to talk to your director.

FYI -Enrolling in SPS

This information appeared in the Seattle Times this morning: "Open enrollment in Seattle Public Schools for the 2008-09 school year is scheduled from Jan. 22-Feb. 29. During this period, families may register and apply for school for children entering kindergarten in September 2008; for students advancing from elementary to middle school or from middle to high school; for any other students who wish to change schools; or for students who will be new to the district in September. Students who apply during open enrollment will receive priority assignment for September 2008. Information needed to apply is available at enrollment-service centers or online at www.seattleschools.org/area/eso/story.dxml . To assist in enrollment, an All-City Kindergarten and Middle School Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 12 at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence, 2445 Third Ave. S., Seattle, and the South and Southeast All Grades School Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon

Op-Ed from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson

This op-ed appeared in today's Times. It seems to try to lay the groundwork for a new strategic plan. I say try because her 5 steps are somewhat bland. From her piece: "That's why I've directed the development of a new strategic plan for Seattle Public Schools, initiated with funding from local philanthropists. Our first step is to assess our district's strengths and challenges. We are examining five priority areas that emerged from surveys and interviews conducted to date with key stakeholders: • Support high-quality teaching and learning; • Attract and support district talent; • Drive districtwide efficiency and effectiveness; • Introduce effective performance management; • Strengthen relationships with stakeholders and partners. This diagnostic groundwork will identify successes we can replicate and weaknesses we must address. It will include the findings from academic and operations peer reviews now under way by national experts. It will tap in

More WASL News

Both the PI and the Times reported that 657 more kids have passed the reading and writing WASL. Out of nearly 12,000 students needing to pass the WASL to graduate in 2008, 657 have passed their WASL retakes. "A total of 8,239 students took the WASL in August at 233 sites statewide. That number includes more than 1,000 juniors who passed one or more parts of the test." From the Times article: "Counting the August results, there are now 61,178 seniors who've passed both reading and writing on the WASL. That's 84.5 percent of the class, counting only those who are still in school, and look like they'll have enough credits to graduate. About 64 percent have passed math." Great but that means that almost 4,000 students who needed to retake the WASL didn't. I mean didn't even try . What will happen to them? As I have mentioned before, 9th graders can take any part of the 10th grade WASL (except the science). Ninth-graders who want to test n

Teachers Against McKinsey

This op-ed appeared in today's Times. It was written by two teachers who introduced the resolution to the SEA against the hiring of McKinsey, the consulting firm hired by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. They take pains to say their argument is not with Dr. G-J but with the firm itself. It is likely that McKinsey will hold either a couple of public meetings or have some focus groups. If anyone attends, you should let us know.

School Board Agenda and Facilities

From the agenda for the Board meeting on Wednesday: "The current design for work at Denny Middle School and Chief Sealth High School calls for the replacement of Denny Middle School, built in 1952; the modernization of Chief Sealth High School, built in 1957 and the construction of shared facilities on the existing Chief Sealth High School property. Denny Middle School will be relocated to the Chief Sealth High School campus. New shared facilities will include classrooms, cafeteria and commons. The current configuration is undergoing review. Whatever configuration is selected, there will not be instructional use of the replaced sections of the schools." So now we know for sure that the District wants Denny to move to Sealth's campus. This was, again, an issue that was not clear. I'm with Charlie; how much overlap is there for Sealth from the work done on it from BEX II to BEX III? Also, "The Martin Luther King property is no longer needed for District pu

Can't Connect the Dots

There are a few little things rattling around in my head - nagging detail sort of things that just don't add up or appear contradictory. None of them are very big, but together they seem like a discouraging trend. It all feels like a lack of follow-through and a lack of honesty. Sealth / Denny Project * I knew that Sealth and Denny were going to share some facilities, and I thought that was common knowledge. So how come people are now saying that it wasn't? * Similarly, the work that Sealth is getting isn't a full renovation. I can't say whether I knew that or not, but clearly some other folks thought that it would be. * As part of the BEX II levy, Sealth got a modernization of the facility to support the school's transformation plan. Scope of work included creation of a new student commons and building entry, renovating the library , upgrading 9th grade classroom for collaborative teaching, creating a multiple use science lab, and remodeling the metal shop ar

Go Diving and Look What You Find

So I was looking for a BEX III timeline on the district's website and I happened upon the BEX Oversight Committee Meeting Minutes for April of this year. I happened upon a discussion about New School which provides some illuminating information so that we can all be clear on how the District views New School. "Karin [Nyrop, a committee member] wants to be sure that this design doesn’t in any way compromise the program for the New School. Don [Gilmore, Facilities staff] responded that the building design is very flexible and will accommodate a pre-K-8. This design actually gives the New School more than is in the MOU. The District agreed that this building would be built for District needs. The New School is not a charter school or a publicly run school. It is a District school with additional funding." This is interesting for several reasons: 1) the "South Shore" project (which in the district's bond/levy brochure doesn't even mention New School) i

Seattle Times Letters to the Editor

This letter to the editor appeared in today's Seattle Times: " Bootstrap's on the other foot The problem [of racial disparity] continues after APP into AP (Advanced Placement) high-school classes, another club for white, affluent families. At least 55 percent of Roosevelt students need a level playing field that children in AP with stay-at-home/"hovercraft"-parents/Laurelhurst-privilege don't think a freaking minute about. And that's one of the Seattle Public Schools' poster-child schools, Roosevelt. I'm at a boiling point. I am not anti-APP or anti-AP. I am for opportunities for all and if we have only enough dough to fund one program, I want it to be for the kids falling through the cracks, as I believe the others will do fine in general with their notably larger variety of options. Ideally, I want individual learning plans and high levels of achievement for each in their own way but, like I said, given that apparently everyone cannot be s

Final Closure and Consolidation Finance Information

From the district's School Beat : "Director DeBell provided a summary of the final report on school closure, which is available at: Some of the highlights include: • Enrollment – just over 50 percent of students from closed schools enrolled in the designated receiving schools. Of the remaining 366 students, 154 left the District (a quarter of these were nonresidents) .• Capital costs of the move will likely come in just underbudget at $1.5 million, which includes $400,000 to build a teen parent program center at South Lake. • Long-term capital savings are estimated at $44 million for BTA-type projects and $351 million in levy projects. • General fund costs were higher than estimated at $927,000. • General fund savings in the first year, originally estimated to be $2.48 million, are $1.9 million. Savings are reduced because the Marshall building remained open for one more year, and Columbia is being used as the interim site for The New School. • $1 million of the $1.9 mill

The Plot Thickens

Say what? As you might recall, when I expressed my concerns over the BEX III list, some said we should just get the money and then talk to the Board because after all they have the power to change the list. Or do they? Hopping over to my favorite city blog in West Seattle, I see that the West Seattle community is a very feisty bunch. Apparently they had a meeting recently for the Westwood Neighborhood Council and Steve Sundquist said the board was trying to get a legal opinion on whether they (the board) have the legal right to cancel/change the Denny/Sealth project. Steve also said, per the Facilities rhetoric, that time is crucial because of ever-rising construction costs. (I did look this up recently and Seattle falls in the middle of the country for school construction costs. Because of the mortgage crisis, construction costs are likely to go down rather than up.) Interesting. I would think that the Board would, because they vote the projects, the budgets and hire the su

Recall Doesn't Meet Legal Standard

This post was in the blog by David Postman of the Times. As you may or may not recall, a citizen filed a recall petition against 5 School Board members in the wake of school closures. The State Supreme court ruled it did not meet the legal standard for a recall. There was a minor dispute in the opinions, however. It concerned the following: "But there is disagreement on the court about whether the Seattle School District should have intervened on behalf of the elected board members" "The majority of the court said the district was within its rights to join the lawsuit." However, "But Justice James Johnson, writing in a concurring opinion signed by Justice Richard Sanders, argues that the school district was essentially using public funds to campaign on behalf of the board members. Johnson said that despite laws against use of public funds for political campaigns, Downing's ruling "allowed the District to accomplish the same end — likely with

Go Rainier Beach!

This article appeared in today's PI about efforts to revamp RBHS and get them on the radar for high school choice. These include: - hiring four extra teachers this year, including a full-time drama teacher and a full-time music teacher -plans to add more drama, music and dance classes next year to take advantage of the school's state-of-the-art performing-arts center. -expanding the school's honors and Advanced Placement classes for next fall. From the article: The school has also gained notice for its weekly "seventh period" after-school class for sophomores, in which they get extra doses of math, reading and writing to help them prepare to take the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning." At 374 students they have nowhere else to go but up. They need more numbers as the school is large enough for 1200 although a 750-1000 is probably a good goal. The posts in the Soundoff area of the article show a lot of mistrust that things could be ch

Basic Hard Academics

This article appeared in the Times today about Kirkland's International High School. From the article: "Whatever you call it, the school's 380 seventh- through 12th-graders are performing better than most students in the country. About 95 percent go on to college and 100 percent of 10th-graders meet the standard for the WASL reading and math tests." What do they take? "Created in 1997 by a group of parents looking for a smaller educational format, ICS was modeled after Bellevue's International School, which was ranked fifth in the magazine listing. All students take six core subjects the first four years: humanities, international studies, art, math, science and Spanish. Beginning in 10th grade, only honors and Advanced Placement classes are offered." There are no sports or vocal ed offered; music and drama are offered after school. Sports can be taken through Redmond high school. "Minority enrollment at ICS is about 2 percent, while disadva

The "New" New Math

This column was in today's Times. Bruce Ramsey was writing about a meeting that State Superintendent Terry Bergeson had with people from the Where's the Math group. It sounds like Dr. Bergeson has heard, loud and clear, from parents but, after reading the column, I have to wonder what will happen if math is taught in multiple ways. Is that harder for the teacher? Confusing for the students? This is an issue that will likely not affect my child but I know many out there have deep concerns over it.

How easily I get confused

I am really confused now. In April as she delays the decision to split middle school APP, Ms Santorno commits to providing ample communication and authentic engagement with the APP community when the reconfiguration question comes back within the context of the new student assignment plan. However, there has been absolutely no communication or engagement in the eight months since she made that commitment. Not a word. So what did she mean by that? I'm really confused by these two apparently irreconcilable facts. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has made it very clear that changes in the size and location of Advanced Learning programs will be part of the new student assignment plan. This is consistent with Ms Santorno's April statement and the inclusion of APP student data on the new Student Assignment plan web site. Possible changes to APP have been discussed at various new student assignment plan meetings. However, in her response to the APP Advisory Committee's annual report and re

US News and World Report Rankings for Puget Sound Schools

U.S. News and World Report came out with its rankings of U.S. high schools in this article . There were 2 Puget Sound schools in the top 100 with a gold ranking. Those were the International School in Kirkland (#12) and Newport High in Bellevue (#44). Five other Puget Sound high schools, including two in Seattle, received silver rankings. Those were Bainbridge, Garfield, Issaquah, Mercer Island and Roosevelt. (The Board honored Roosevelt and Garfield at the last Board meeting.) The article has many good side articles including their methodology and a good article on a border school in Texas that is doing very well and yet may still get on the NCLB's underperforming list.

The Starting Line is the Finish Line

Very interesting article in the NY Times on a recent study done by Educational Testing Services which administers millions of standardized tests each year including the SAT. From the article: "What’s interesting about the report — which combines E.T.S. studies with research on families from myriad sources, including the Census Bureau and Child Trends research center — is how much we know, how often government policy and parental behavior does not reflect that knowledge, and how stacked the odds are against so many children. (The study is at www.ets.org/familyreport .)" Here's the crux of what they found: "The E.T.S. researchers took four variables that are beyond the control of schools: The percentage of children living with one parent; the percentage of eighth graders absent from school at least three times a month; the percentage of children 5 or younger whose parents read to them daily, and the percentage of eighth graders who watch five or more hours of TV

AP In SPS High schools

This article appeared in the Times on Friday, detailing AP in SPS high schools and in particular at Cleveland where previously there was none. From the article: "Departing Bellevue schools Superintendent Mike Riley is known for increasing AP participation by making it a goal that every student in his district would take at least one AP course. Seattle's new superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, has said she has the same goal. To reach it, she's working on spreading AP around, giving more students access to the courses. "When I say all kids should take AP, I believe students should not be denied access because it's not taught," Goodloe-Johnson said. A 2007 University of Texas study showed students who took AP in high school earned better grades in college." (I hadn't read this study but a previous one found that students who attempted an AP course in high school did better in college and those who took the test did even better.) I had been unde

West Seattle Working On Talks With District

This article appeared in the West Seattle Herald. It details how one neighborhood was trying to set up talks with the district about long-term planning for the district's properties in the area and Denny/Sealth. It didn't work out but there's disagreement on why. The district is planning one of its own facilitated discussions.

Open Thread: Any Comments or Thoughts?

To start us off, I'm attending the Board of Ed. meeting tonight at North Seattle CC on state graduation requirements. So the questions I have been pondering; - college-ready versus citizen-ready? Can we really have every student college-ready? Is that too high a goal? What about kids who don't care about being college-ready? Personally, the baseline for me is citizen-ready with the option to be college-ready. As a citizen, you need to know how to take care of yourself. That means applying and interviewing for a job. Being able to manage money and understand net/gross/percentages, etc. Being able to understand the biology of your body and the environment to take care of both. Being able to read, comprehend and do critical analysis of news stories (no matter their source - tv, internet or hard copy). Understanding U.S. and world history so that you know why what goes on in Washington, D.C. matters and how the U.S. and Americans fit into the world and why voting m

Let's Be Careful Out There

Hale was closed today due to flooding and will remain closed until Wednesday. Golden Gardens Drive is washed out and a slide swallowed a Subuaru. Be extra careful out there!

Review of Gifted Programs (not so much)

So it was announced that the review of the gifted programs was completed in an article in today's Times. The article only talks about APP so I wonder if Spectrum or the ALOs were even looked at. Maybe it's only the programs that get state funding that were reviewed. If so, that's not very useful. From the article: "An outside review of gifted education in Seattle Public Schools said the district should act aggressively to diversify its program. Almost three-quarters of the students enrolled in the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) are white, compared to about 40 percent districtwide." I know, for a fact, that huge outreach has been done so I'll be interested to see what else the district comes up with to find more minority students. Also, "But according to the report, APP is perceived to be "elitist, exclusionary and even racist," and that some of its African-American students are bullied and isolated." Okay, perceived by who

Really Interesting Article in the Economist

Anonymous 3:51 p.m. posted a link to a great article in the Economist about McKinsey and Company, the consultants for the district's strategic review (thanks!). It was more about their review than the company itself but the article had a lot of fascinating findings. To whit: "There are big variations in educational standards between countries. These have been measured and re-measured by the OECD 's Programme for International Student Assessment ( PISA ) which has established, first, that the best performing countries do much better than the worst and, second, that the same countries head such league tables again and again: Canada, Finland, Japan, Singapore, South Korea." What do these successful school systems have in common? "Not more money. Singapore spends less per student than most. Nor more study time. Finnish students begin school later, and study fewer hours, than in other rich countries." "Begin with hiring the best. There is no question th

Uh Oh, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson Hits a Bump

This article was in Sunday's Times about the SEA not wanting to participate in the development of a "strategic" plan that a consulting company will be creating. Individual union members, meaning teachers, can make their own decision but the union as a whole is advising against it. Here's their rationale from the article: "But teachers say McKinsey has a history of recommending tactics the union opposes, including privatizing schools — putting a private organization or company in charge of public schools, something that's happened in a handful of other U.S. cities." "In school systems across the country, the firm has recommended "empowering"principals to be leaders at their schools and greater use of charter schools. In a 2006 review of Ohio's schools, the firm recommended tying student performance to teacher pay — a method Seattle's union opposes." One of nine recommendations McKinsey made this fall to Mi