Thursday, January 03, 2008

Open Thread

We got up to 106 posts on the thread about SPS and middle class families. I concur with much of what Charlie has said. I would add that I would like to see:

-an accounting of Title 1 and LAP money as well as I-728 money (help me out, are all schools' budgets available online?). I believe reduction in class size in K-3, an aggressive preschool program citywide and data-driven instruction methods are what would help.
- start a campaign (now that we have a new superintendent), to ask why we can't have more schools following models of academically successful schools. I get what Charlie means about about different groups of students and adults in each building but I'm not sure it isn't worth trying anyway.

In the end, though, it takes an adult watching over a child. Charlie's right there as well. There are a few kids (I know a couple of adults in this category) who, despite their life circumstances, strove mightily and beat the odds. But that is not possible for every child and the only way for more children to get ahead is for communities to not accept any status quo, to not accept what popular culture tells them (learning is for geeks, the thug mentality of get rich quick or die trying, etc.) and to try to get more adult mentors out there. It would be great if the Alliance jumped on that issue.

So what's going to be on your mind when school starts next week?


Anonymous said...

I am just hoping that my 8th grader does not get assigned to a far away highschool and then be left to ride the Metro bus for 90 minutes each way.....gonna be a long couple of months for many families who are "outside of the circles" and don't have gifted students!

Melissa Westbrook said...

I want to say this gently; only APP students get an automatic enrollment to Garfield (if they so choose it). No other gifted students (the largest number of whom are Spectrum). If an APP student chooses a school other than Garfield, they have no "in".

In terms of the circles, you're in a hard place. That's what is going to be used this year (for the last time probably). I think for the popular high schools there is more competition than ever (and will be for the newly rebuilt Garfield). Not to make it worse but I think (from my experience at Roosevelt) that more private school parents are considering public high school. (I recall that former Director Nielson had put forth an idea that students who had been in SPS might get a tiebreaker for them over private school entries. It died a quiet death.)

But I honestly believe with a few exceptions we have and are moving towards better high schools. Go and visit the ones you are interested in; you might be surprised.

Jet City mom said...

Re: Budget
this is from the blue book I think

you can get the school allocation

But- uh- that is just the WSF that shows where the money is aimed at- it doesn't mean that is where it is spent

I have been on budget committees and it can seem like they are writing the budget after it was spent ( which is why the Gates foundation declined to fund Seattle schools at the same level they were)

FOr example- we often hear how special education students cost the district so much money.
But a SPED student receives THREE pots of money- the money each student is allocated for their education from the district &
additional money from the state & federal.

Money that is supposed to be set aside to meet IDEA, was put into the general pot in the budget committee I was privy to.
The principals reasoning was the student would ultimately benefit by anything that benefited the entire school.

We don't read about that on the front page of the paper

but end of rant- I do think that we are moving forward.

Anonymous said...

You are right. The special education funding in SPS is really a draining of special education funds into the general pot. Then, they have the gall to claim they don't have the money to provide adequate services. Recently, 11 school districts sued the state for underfunding their special education students. The districts lost their suit because they didn't spend the money on the special education students. The judge said that each and every district failed to spend their monies on special education students. SPS accounting was too poor to ever be a party to the lawsuit, but they did file a brief supporting the neighboring districts.

Anonymous said...

Mel asked what will we do next week:
I will be calling the Special Ed office, supt. and School Bd. because Graham Hill is excluding kids in their programs. So is the New School. Bad, bad, bad.

See posts from that other thread on middle class privilege.

"Yes, they absolutely should be given the choice and a seating in both programs. In fact, they are entitled under IDEA to ALL programs availabe to others, including after school programs, enrichment, etc. And no, they have not been allowed into the Montessori. Phone the neighbors! Students in the resource room can go to the Montessori. How mighty white of 'em!"

Anonymous said...

Trying to understand peoples points on these threads, I find I have a question. What does it mean to be involved in you children's education? Do you have to be on the PTA? Do you attend all the open houses, bazaars, multi-cultural nights etc?

If it's not the parent, but a caring adult, what role do they play? Ask them how their day went? Check their homework?

How are parents supposed to know this?

Anonymous said...

Anon@9:21, Personally, I think you just do what ever you can. The most important thing is to make clear to your kids that school is a priority. You talk about it, you say "when you go to college" even if you can't even imagine how it will ever happen. If they complain about school, you don't automatically assume that your kid is right and the teacher is wrong and disrespect the teacher in front of the kid. You help them make time for schoolwork--you don't choose sports or vacation or television over school. You don't have to volunteer at school, but you should make your kids believe that you wish you could, that school is their job and that it is important. . . .

I'm not sure how parents are supposed to know this, I think that schools tip toe around telling parents how to get involved because they think it's classist and maybe too much to expect of all families.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 8:07 - regarding GH Montessori and Autism inclusion students, the district allows only one category per student. It is a fault with categories and not Montessori or GH.

GH's Principal has been fighting this battle with the district this year over Montessori vs. bilingual. Can't have both categories although there are ESL kids in the program.

GH Principal, Chris Morningstar, would be most happy to talk with any family that needs more explanation.

Again, it's not Montessori it's the district policy of only one category per student.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Sp Res, this isn't really the case for students in special education who are in inclusion programs or resource rooms. They are actually in general education and can participate in all programs.

Jet City mom said...

right kids who have pullout- who are level I or II special education are required to have least restricted environment or mainstreamed.

However- this seems to be what is behind the reasoning to make Lowell a APP school rather than a school that has facilties designed for SPED and APP because to follow the letter of the law- for someone with disabilties to attend a school with kids that are gifted means that they don't have access to the gifted classrooms the way that they would in a "regular" school.

However- as a parent- I see the kids in APP being much more involved and more kind with the kids in special ed, than the "regular" students are in a "regular" school.

Anonymous said...

Class of 75 said "However- as a parent- I see the kids in APP being much more involved and more kind with the kids in special ed, than the "regular" students are in a "regular" school."

I know this is a separate topic, but on that same note I had a discussion with a friend over the last week. Her child is being bullied at a very good elementary school in North Seattle. She is not in spectrum, but at this school spectrum kids are totally separated from regular ed. The result is that a lot of the more behavioral issue kids are in class together with not as many of the higher academic motivated kids causing more behavior issues. My friend is upset enough where she is considering trying to switch her daughter out of her neighborhood school to a school that doesn't separate the spectrum kids.

Reading the comment above about how students at Lowell treat the sped kids, it doesn't surprise me and again I think it comes down to how the parents are raising their kids - more academically motivated and nicer and more open to people who are different from them.

Anonymous said...

On a thread that's fallen off the bottom of the page, someone asked Laura Korn what math curriculum the New School uses. I'd love to know the answer to that question, and how well it's working. Laura are you there?

Anonymous said...

Laura has answered this question on this blog before. They use Everyday Math just like most other elementary schools. Laura, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

There are behaviorally challenged kids all over the district. Avoiding Spectrum will probably not solve your friends issues. We had our children at AEII (no Spectrum) and found that, being an alternative program, they attracted many more kids with behavioral issues. Especially kids with ADD, that continually distracted the entire class, without reprecussion. Our other child attended a Seattle middle school that had a special ed inclusion program, and we found that the special ed kids were very distracting in class, and aggresive at times. I remember incidents where the child just sat in the corner and pulled his hair and screamed, and another kid who threw his chair across the room, or pens, pencils, whatever he could get his hands on when he got angry.

You may not escape the bullying in Seattle, because I don't think the root of it is Spectrum. I think it is a lack of discipline that is rampant in Seattle schools, low behavior expectations, very large class sizes, parents who protect instead of discipline their children, and a district that doesn't seem to mind it all. accountability

Anonymous said...

Interesting guest editorial about gifted education in today's PI:

From feds on down, AP students are being neglected

Anonymous said...

There are 14 open special ed teacher positions and 22 open special ed assistant positions in the district right now. This is typical. And many special ed teachers are overloaded. This is why the special education students are disrupting the regular ed classrooms - it is not because the special ed students don't belong in the regular ed classrooms. They are kids and they have a right to be with their peers and receive the services they need, and they are not receiving them consistently.

I also don't believe that APP kids are naturally "nicer" to kids with disabilities. I think that kids who are having their basic needs met are nicer to kids with disabilities. I also think that if the school encourages (with actions, not words) the interactions between students with severe disabilities and those without, the kids do great, gifted or not.

As school starts up next week, I am thinking about many things, as I am an SPS teacher and an SPS parent.

I am wondering if my students will come back from break rarin' to go, because we had a strong first few months, and they were wearing down the last few weeks.

I am wondering if my son will be challenged and valued (I think he is/will be, but spring is coming up, and that is his wild energy time!). I am wondering what bright, quirky, energetic little boys all over the district are getting out of their education, because I see them being tamped down a lot, but I am not sure what they need. More discipline, more recess, more drawing upon their skills and interests (legos! and building, creating in general), direct social skills instruction? I have a lot of ideas floating around, but I am not sure which are the right ones.

I am really on the edge of my seat about all of the plans that are supposed to be revealed to us by district leadership in the spring. It will be either a very exciting time for SPS, or same-o, same-o. I hope that something dynamic happens.


Anonymous said...

Teachermom, you bring up such great ideas about how to challenge and engage boys (and I would add girls too).

I am not a teacher, but what I would love to see along with a strong core academic curriculum, is tons of room for creativity. Creativity keeps kids engaged, in my opinion. I would also like to see a renewed interest in the arts, and allow kids a lot of self expression in this area. If we allow children enough self expression in appropriate areas, then we can expect, and enforce appropriate behavior in the classroom.

And, on my wish list, the icing on the cake, I would like to see reasonable class sizes. 20-22 kids PK-2 and 23-25 kids in grades 3-5.