Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Interesting Film about Education Worldwide

This from the PI Education blog:

"If you're interested in seeing the film, Two Million Minutes, there's a screening May 12 at Seattle University. The viewing starts at 6 p.m. in the The LeRoux Room, and is open to the public."

It's about the uses of time by American and Indian high school students; there's a trailer at YouTube. I had heard about this film but know very little about it.

I am technically on vacation (in Tucson; it's 85 degrees and sunny - what can I say?) but had the chance to check in, saw this and wanted to make sure (in case you missed at the PI blog but I hope you do check in there) it was on your calendar if you are interested.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Surprising Math Study

This article about using real world examples to teach math appeared this week in the NY Times. About the study,

“The motivation behind this research was to examine a very widespread belief about the teaching of mathematics, namely that teaching students multiple concrete examples will benefit learning,” said Jennifer A. Kaminski, a research scientist at the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State. “It was really just that, a belief.”

Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues Vladimir M. Sloutsky and Andrew F. Heckler did something relatively rare in education research: they performed a randomized, controlled experiment. Their results appear in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

Though the experiment tested college students, the researchers suggested that their findings might also be true for math education in elementary through high school, the subject of decades of debates about the best teaching methods."

How did it work?

"In the experiment, the college students learned a simple but unfamiliar mathematical system, essentially a set of rules. Some learned the system through purely abstract symbols, and others learned it through concrete examples like combining liquids in measuring cups and tennis balls in a container.

Then the students were tested on a different situation — what they were told was a children’s game — that used the same math. “We told students you can use the knowledge you just acquired to figure out these rules of the game,” Dr. Kaminski said.

The students who learned the math abstractly did well with figuring out the rules of the game. Those who had learned through examples using measuring cups or tennis balls performed little better than might be expected if they were simply guessing. Students who were presented the abstract symbols after the concrete examples did better than those who learned only through cups or balls, but not as well as those who learned only the abstract symbols.

The problem with the real-world examples, Dr. Kaminski said, was that they obscured the underlying math, and students were not able to transfer their knowledge to new problems."

They are trying the study on elementary students next.

You Learn Something New Every Day

I attended a fundraiser for the Roosevelt class of 2010 last night. I was talking to a dad who attended our parent education night in the fall on electronic addiction. One thing we learned that night was that girls are more addicted to their cell phones and boys are more addicted to video games. But what this dad told me is that kids think e-mail is for old people (read: parents) and business uses. Texting or IMing is the way to go to communicate with friends. I don't know why that surprised me but thinking about it, being a teen is all about real-time experiences and not waiting for an answer to an e-mail.

I thought about this as I read this article in the NY Times about electronic language creeping into students' schoolwork. From the article,

"Nearly two-thirds of 700 students surveyed said their e-communication style sometimes bled into school assignments, according to the study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, in partnership with the College Board’s National Commission on Writing. About half said they sometimes omitted proper punctuation and capitalization in schoolwork. A quarter said they had used emoticons like smiley faces. About a third said they had used text shortcuts like “LOL” for “laugh out loud."

"Most teenagers do not think of their e-mail messages, text messages and social network postings as “real writing,” the study found."

What do the experts say?

“I think this is not a worrying issue at all,” said Richard Sterling, emeritus executive director of the National Writing Project, which aims to improve the teaching of writing.

When e-mail shorthand — or for that matter, slang — appears in academic assignments, Professor Sterling said, it is an opportunity for teachers to explain that while such usages are acceptable in some contexts, they do not belong in schoolwork. And as the English language evolves, he said, some e-mail conventions, like starting sentences without a capital letter, may well become accepted practice.

“I think in the future, capitalization will disappear,” said Professor Sterling, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley."

No capitalization? I'd miss that.

I thought the stats on blogging and journaling were very interesting.

"More than half of the teenagers surveyed had a profile on a social networking site like Facebook or MySpace, 27 percent had an online journal or blog and 11 percent had a personal Web site."

"Almost half of black teenagers said they wrote a personal journal, compared with 3 in 10 whites. And nearly half of the girls keep a journal, compared with only 3 in 10 boys."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bryant Meeting

There was a post under Beth's thread "Middle School and Enrollment Discussions" and one reader, Old Salt, had posted about the Bryant meeting. I thought I might add my impressions/information.

It was kind of amazing because I got there at 6:45 (and we started right at 7:00 - the Bryant principal is by the book on meetings, good for her). In that period of time (there were maybe 5 people when I got there), the room filled. I'd estimate that there were at least 60 people there.

Representing the staff were Don Kennedy, COO, Tracy Libros, Enrollment and Planning, Rachel Cassidy, Enrollment and Planning. Harium Martin-Morris and Sherry Carr were in attendance. In addition to the Bryant principals, the principals of Thornton Creek, Wedgwood and one other area school (I'm sorry; somehow my notes don't reflect who it was).

The principal, Linda Robinson, stressed that the over-subscription problem (for awhile they kept referring to it as as over-capacity problem which is the opposite but Harim spoke up). Lauren, a parent at Bryant, zipped through a presentation that was somewhat confusing (you know when someone is in the know and doesn't remember that everyone isn't starting from the same place so it seems confusing? That's what happened and it made me realize that I may do that to others on this blog sometimes. Sorry, I'll try not to do that in the future.)

She said the issues about capacity were:
-overcrowding in the kindergartens
-the enrollment model is not designed for over-subscription
-two overlapping assignment processes (reference and distance)

View Ridge, Laurelhurst, Wedgwood and John Rodgers have all been asked to add a kindergarten class.

Don Kennedy said that he and his wife had bought a house (in South Carolina when their kids were small) with the idea of where they would attend school so he understood why people were unhappy. He said that the north end is going to experience some growth over the next 5 years to upwards of 600 kids in elementary. There was more increase in the NW than the NE but NE enrollment is climbing. He said that Courtney Jones, another Planning and Enrollment person, was going through the schools in the NE, looking at spaces to see if more children could be placed in certain schools.

People wanted to know who would get in that added class first. Tracy, ever calm, said that it would go to those on the waitlist for whatever school was chosen. That didn't make many people happy because of course it is now "Who has the golden ticket?"

He stated that they would be, by April 29th, adding one more kindergarten class in the NE but they didn't know the location yet. He said it would be on the website by the end of the day on that date. He said that he was forming a project team to work on a capacity plan, that he wanted input and that by late summer they would have a plan to implement in the fall. He gave no specifics.

(Unfortunately, Mr. Kennedy didn't outline the plan getting to the assignment plan but he told me the money was coming from the BEX III Technology fund. I have no idea when they might have public meetings on what this plan should look like but I hope at least by fall. If we have the time, we should have lots of meetings. Maybe every PTA could put this on the agenda for at least one meeting next year and then report back to the district.)

I wouldn't quite call things tense but you could sense the frustration. Several people interrupted
to ask questions (which did get answered but the principal asked people to wait). One question was about putting the class at AE II (now Thornton Creek; the answer was no because it was an alternative school) or reopening Sand Point elementary ( Some suggested they could grow a school there starting with 4-5 kindergarten classes like at New School. This is pretty unlikely but who knows down the line, maybe.)

Rachel Cassidy said there is growth in the north end enrollment (above the ship canal). She said there has been an increase in demand with more families choosing this area. She said the target class size under the new staffing formula decreased K size from 25 to 23. She said that there were more bilingual seats set aside at Bryant than previously (10 instead of 2). From her sheet:

"Target kindergarten class size at Bryant was decreased from 25 to 23 this year reducing total kindergarten capacity by 6. Class size at Sacajawea increased from 24 to 25; at all other schools it is the same or less than in 2007."

Now before you ask (howl, express surprise), the answer to your question is that, obviously, each school is being allowed to set their class size (upward only to contract size) by the principal. Someone raised the question of why Bryant couldn't add on 2-3 kids per kindergarten class to help those kids who got mandatory assignments (it seems mostly to John Rodgers). The silence, especially from Ms. Robinson, was deafening.

People asked if the demographics couldn't be tracked better by using housing sales. Rachel sidestepped that (I think because they generally don't ask how old you are and how many kids you have when you buy a house.) But staff said they had done a demographic survey and did work with the county demographer (there is no city demographer any more).

Her sheet said that middle and high school enrollments would increased as these larger elementary cohorts move through the grades. (Which would point to the need for another middle school as there is no more space at Eckstein or Hamilton and that Hale is likely to have to grow as Roosevelt has no more space.)

Rachel did mention (and I think people were surprised to hear) that most people don't go to their reference school throughout the district (although that is not the case for Bryant).

They then had each table talk among themselves and then write one burning question. My table had a couple who had listed 5 schools, got none of them and got assigned John Rodgers which is 4 miles from their house. Another mom, with a child at Thorton Creek, said that her neighbors had warned her they live in a no-man's land where they could never get into Bryant. This mom, Kellie Larue, explained later on how this had occurred. She said that when University Heights was closed, Bryant and other schools absorbed those kids. Because of rising enrollments, it created a situation where if you live on the outer edge of the reference area, you would never get into Bryant.

One question was what programs could be eliminated to create room at schools. People were puzzled and then aghast when this person suggested getting rid of art, music and PE. Ms. Robinson explained those were part of teachers' PCP contract and could not be eliminated.

One mom stood up and calmly stated that she did not believe that nothing could be done. She challenged the staff to take "exceptional moves" for this unique problem (although Don Kennedy had said this was not the only area that has capacity problems). Unfortunately, there really wasn't a good answer except that no, they can't. I was surprised (and told this to the mom after the meeting) that neither of the Board members spoke up because the assignment plan (and any changes to it even if short-term) are under the Board's control. It's not like the staff couldn't go to the Board and ask but the Board would likely have to vote it in. (Charlie, am I right here?)

One father said that he understood that the assignment plan was going to be changed in the future but how would that help now? And, of course, there is no answer for that.

People asked about how the waitlists worked and Tracy pointed out that the assignment plan had been tweaked about 10 years ago so that people would not game the system. John Miner, the principal at Thorton Creek, asked if the lottery system couldn't be helped so that people don't get mandatory assignments.

I think people were largely unsatisfied. The added kindergarten class with the unknown location probably depressed people more because it's like "Will it be the school I'm waitlisted for? Nah." Did the district know this was coming? Yes but you have the problem of schools wanting, because parents want, smaller kindergarten sizes and yet you have people who can't get into an elementary school anywhere near their home. One mom at my table asked me about portables but I said that unless the principal asked for it, I doubt the district would just put them at a school.

Would it be better to overfill those kindergartens and make some people happy or keep them smaller which is probably the better academic atmosphere for kindergarten? I don't think opening Sand Point is the way to go; I believe there is still room at John Rodgers. It seems like John Rodgers is not very popular but I'm not sure how many kids who are in that reference area go there.

Middle School & Enrollment Discussions

Communities and Parents for Public Schools of Seattle (CPPS of Seattle) has organized two opportunities next week for parents to talk with district staff about hot topics: middle school and enrollment. From the newsletter:

CPPS Annual Meeting: "What's Up with Middle School Education in Seattle Public Schools?" Panel & Discussion
Wednesday, April 30
Meany Middle School
CPPS Annual Meeting: 6:30 - 7:00pm
Middle School Panel: 7:00 - 8:30pm

Why do we find the middle school years so educationally challenging? What do we really want? Join us...

We know that some district middle schools are considered "good," popular alternatives and others are not; some folks shy from the public middle schools altogether. What's up? What is present or lacking in Seattle Public Middle Schools?

The panel includes:
Ruth Medsker, SPS Middle Schools Director
Bob Vaughan, Director for Advanced Learning
Princess Shareef, Meany Middle School Principal
Michael Tolley, High Schools Director
Several involved middle school parent advocates

Questions & Answers about the Seattle Public Schools Enrollment System/Process
Many people are confused and frustrated about school enrollment. In order to help, CPPS is hosting a meeting for parents and caregivers to get info and answers from Seattle Public Schools Enrollment & Planning Manager, Tracy Libros. Join us!

Thursday, May 1, 7 to 8:30pm, John Stanford Center

School choice: Fact or Fiction?
How does the school assignment process work? Why did I get a school I didn't choose? Tie-breakers: what are they and how do they work? Waiting lists: Does my child have a chance of getting in? How do they work? How/when/why should parents inform schools if their child will not be attending? School enrollment for 2008/09 is happening now. Wait lists begin to move May 1! Come learn how the system works, ask questions about your child's enrollment or find out how to be prepared for next year.
Questions/comments: kerry@cppsofseattle.org

For more information, see the CPPS newsletter.

These are exactly the kind of parent-driven, community-driven opportunities for discussion and involvement that I believe our district needs (and that we have talked about on this blog).

Please show up in large numbers to make the most of these opportunities.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Assignment Plan? Not Till 2010-2011

This article appeared in today's PI. I had tried to record the Board meeting last night because I knew that there would be discussion of the assignment plan and the VAX system (computer) they use for it. This article is all I have to go on so if anyone saw the presentation please speak up.

Good news:

"But Sherri Bealkowski, the district's interim chief information officer, suggested there may be a silver lining: There's now a detailed plan to fix the problem -- and money set aside in the district's capital budget to pay for it."

I'd like to see where in the capital budget this is coming from. I had pointed out to COO Don Kennedy that if money hadn't been taken from the BEX III Tech fund for Sealth it could have gone for this effort. Apparently, they are going to not do yet another project on the tech list and move the money to this plan.

Bad news:

"But because of the complexity of the current school-choice system and the limitations of the computer system, any changes will be delayed until the 2010-11 school year.

"We're going to have to build a custom application for this, and that's going to take awhile," Bealkowski said.

If the district were to adopt a simpler assignment plan, it might be able to use off-the-shelf software instead of having to create its own, Bealkowski said."

I'm assuming they mean that they will implement the plan in the spring of 2011 for the school year 2011-2012. That's how I read it but I'll have to ask someone in the district.

I think whatever choice/neighborhood hybrid they come up with would likely need custom software but such a plan will still save money on transportation.

Bergeson column in the Times

There is a column by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson in today's Seattle Times. It's titled "A critical juncture for education: Can our money match our vision?" and that seems to be the general topic of the piece.

Two things about this column really trouble me.

First, almost every word of it is fluff. The whole thing could be boiled down to this one paragraph:
The only way to maintain progress — to pursue our vision of a world-class education for all students, boost our competitiveness and reinvigorate our flagging economy — is to invest strategically and substantially in our education system.

And that's not really news, is it? Terry Bergeson wants the legislature to allocate more money to education. Wow. Stop the presses.

Second, although she says that we have a Vision for education in Washington State, she doesn't really describe it. I have to say that I'm not aware of any such Vision. Honestly, I don't think she has one. Lack of Vision should automatically disqualify her from this - or any - leadership position. More than that, if she expects people to rally round this Vision and open their checkbooks for it, I think she needs to put it out there over and over again.

This column would have been much better if she spent most of her words describing the Vision and promoting the Vision and then, at the end, asked for the money. As it was written, I read it through to the end and didn't remember a word of it. That hardly inspires spending.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NCLB and Margaret Spellings

Today's NY Times reported on the efforts of Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to adjust NCLB so that states would support it instead of the rising tide of efforts to dismantle it. Her explanation?

"Ms. Spellings said she was proposing the fixes because efforts in Congress to rewrite the legislation have stalled and because “everywhere I go I meet parents who are demanding change.” "

With the Bush administration on its last legs, it doesn't seem like her ideas will go anywhere but here are some of them:

-requiring states to use a single federal formula to calculate and report high school graduation rates. Interestingly:

"Ms. Spellings’s proposed regulations would require states to calculate their graduation rates in a uniform way by the 2012-13 school year, using a formula that in 2005 all 50 governors agreed to adopt. In the years since, only a dozen or so states have done so. Under the formula, graduation rates are calculated by dividing the number of students who receive a traditional high school diploma in any given year by the number of first-time ninth graders who entered four years earlier, adjusted for students who transfer in and out."

-require schools to notify parents of their right to transfer students out of failing schools two weeks before the start of each school year

-explain more fully to parents the opportunities for federally financed tutoring that are available to students attending troubled schools

Fine ideas all but how come it takes this long to figure this out?

Her ideas met a mixed reception.

“This is the boldest sidestep around the Congress that I’ve ever seen,” said Bruce Hunter, a lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators. “She’s trying to rewrite the law without benefit of Congressional action. I’d be surprised if lawmakers let this go.”

Bruce Fuller, a professor of education at Berkeley, said the graduation rate proposal and others amounted to “an imperious new set of mandates,” while others seemed aimed at giving states the flexibility they have demanded in enacting the law.

(Senator Kennedy) "Mr. Kennedy said the proposals “include important improvements for implementing No Child Left Behind, even as Congress considers further reforms to the law.”

(Representative Miller) "Mr. Miller called Ms. Spellings’ proposals “a series of piecemeal changes to a law that really needs a comprehensive overhaul.”

According to the article Ms. Spellings will issue final regulations in November and they will take effect a month later.

Editorial Response to Teacher's WASL Opt-Out

Well naturally, the newspapers had to weigh in on Eckstein teacher Carl Chew's decision to not give the WASL to his students. The PI's response was more measured while the Times let Lynne Varner loose on it with just about what you'd expect. From the PI:

"We won't pass judgment on the science teacher's decision to refuse to administer the Washington Assessment of Student Learning; he says he is willing to accept consequences. The key is for Seattle Public Schools to impose adequate discipline, which is fair to the teacher and nuanced enough to discourage escalations of the tactic on others' part."

Well, the district may be able to stop teachers but they can't stop parents. If more parents opted out, the Legislature and OSPI would have to listen to their concerns. Mr. Chew mentioned that in California teachers can tell parents about this option. I didn't know it was not possible here for teachers to tell parents about opting out. Still, I note that Denise Gonzalez-Walker's blog over at the PI has had discussions on opting out and it seems more parents are learning about it all the time.

The PI then has some reasonable suggestions to ward off this kind of action:

"A group of legislators has asked state Auditor Brian Sonntag to examine a contract for WASL testing. There's nothing wrong with looking at whether the state is getting its money's worth. A further option would be to have a genuinely fair review of where the state is with WASL and whether any refinements are in order. "

Over at the Times, Ms. Varner strikes a bit more of a bombastic tone.

"The Eckstein Middle School teacher who characterized his refusal to administer the WASL as an act of civil disobedience deserves to have his bloviated defense cast right up there with Hillary Rodham Clinton evading sniper fire in Bosnia."

As someone on the front lines, Mr. Chew probably knows better than Lynne Varner what the WASL does and does not mean to students and its effect on them. (And Hillary said she misspoke which isn't the case here so I can't figure out what Ms. Varner is trying to say.)

She continues with some pretty hard to swallow statements like:

"Benchmarks like the WASL aren't perfect. More money and flexibility are needed."

Flexibility yes but money? More money thrown at the WASL? Does she know how much we have spent or do spend to give and score it?

Interestingly, then she goes on with some of the problems with the WASL:

"Teachers are forced to spend too much time preparing students for a test too narrow to be useful. Concerns over the erosion of recess, free time and the freedom for those eclectic teachers who best captivate students are well-founded."

"But such inflexibility in the lower grades robs us of meaningful information from the WASL. We need to know whether a student's failure on the math section came at the hand of algebra or more basic calculations. Moreover, fixating just on passing WASL ignores the incremental improvements students make."

"Another weakness is the test's inflexibility when it comes to special-education students and those who don't read English. Administering the test to students who don't have a remote chance of passing it serves no purpose other than to humiliate."

Sound like some valid problems here. So why the drama?

Ms. Varner seems to think, like many, if you raise your voice against the WASL, you are against assessments. That's only true for a very small minority of parents. Mr. Chew didn't say he was against assessments. He said he and other teachers do a see the need for assessments.

The flaw is in the testing instrument not the testing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Strategic Plan - Get Involved

From the Seattle Public Schools web site:

Your input is welcome as we develop our Strategic Plan

Community meetings:
Wednesday, May 14, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Roosevelt High School - Commons Area
1410 NE 66th Street

Thursday, May 15, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
West Seattle High School - Commons Area
3000 California Ave. SW

Tuesday, May 20, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.*
*Meeting designed specifically for our bilingual community
Aki Kurose Middle School - Cafeteria
3928 So. Graham Street

Great Idea, Great Story

This article appeared in today's Times. It's about students learning more through living history i.e. talking to people who lived through a period in time (in this case the civil rights movement). From the article:

"The Rev. Samuel McKinney, pastor emeritus of the predominantly African-American Mount Zion Baptist Church, quickly takes them back to a Seattle in which blacks could work in department stores only if they weren't visible to customers, a city in which lending practices and prejudice restricted them to housing in a few segregated neighborhoods.

Instead of learning history in a classroom, the two students, Nicole Czubin and Elena Feldman, are hearing the stories of living witnesses in the places where history was made.

The yearlong program, sponsored by the Seattle nonprofit Museum Without Walls, brings together 10 suburban and 10 inner-city students to learn about the civil-rights movement both locally and nationally.

In June, the students traveled to three Southern states. They stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated 40 years ago in Memphis, Tenn. They saw the fading bloodstains in the carport in Jackson, Miss., where NAACP leader Medgar Evers was gunned down.

They learn about social activism and how students like themselves led a movement to end segregation and racial intolerance."

This program is for students from Franklin and Mercer High Schools by Museum without Walls.

The program also points out an important fact; that many who lived through the Holocaust, civil rights movement and WWII are, literally, a dying breed.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Urgent - Unused Garfield APP Assignments Needed

There is an APP student from Washington who wants to enroll in Garfield APP, but the student's enrollment form was misplaced or mis-routed somewhere in the process. Consequently the student did not get an assignment to Garfield APP.

It's not too late.

The student can get into Garfield APP if we can find three students with a Garfield APP assignments who won't be using them. Maybe the students will attend a private school instead, maybe they are moving out of the district, maybe they just decided that they want to go somewhere else.

So if there is anyone with a Garfield APP student assignment who won't be using it, please let me know right away.

Follow up on dialog

So, to follow up on the earlier thread about creating the space and opportunity for dialog, the strongest call was for something around the math curriculum. There are a number of elements of the District's math curricula that I find curious and would like to learn more about.

1. Why the delay in selecting the two high school curricula? We've been told that we're waiting for the state to set the standards, but
a) Any curriculum we choose will actually match those standards without modification
b) We already have a strong sense of what the standards will be
c) We have already narrowed the choices to three curricula and will not be adding to that list when the state releases their standards

2. We will make a dual adoption for high school - one more reform curriculum and one more traditional curriculum. We also made a dual adoption for elementary school (Everyday Math and Singapore Math), but we didn't make a dual adoption for middle school. Will the District re-open the curriculum adoption for elementary or middle school in light of the new state standards? Will the district make an additional math curriculum adoption for middle schools (a more traditional choice) so there is a dual adoption at each level? If dual adoptions are good for high school and elementary school, aren't they also good for middle school? If we aren't concerned about an elementary and middle school adoption made before the state standards are released, why are we concerned about a high school adoption before the state standards are released?

3. Where, if anywhere, is the evidence that the reform math curricula are effective with
a) students in general
b) students from historically underperforming groups

4. What are the relative costs associated with adopting the various curricula? These costs include initial purchase of materials, continuing cost of replenishing materials, professional development for implementation, continuing cost of professional development, etc.

5. How can we assure access to advanced math classes in all of our middle schools?

6. How can we assure access to advanced math classes in all of our high schools?

What questions would you like to discuss at a dialog about math?

Join the CPPS Annnual Meeting

CPPS: Action, Passion, and Leadership for Excellent Seattle Schools
CPPS Annual Meeting 2008

Featuring panel discussion: What’s up with middle school education in Seattle?

Wednesday, April 30
6:30 – 8:30pm
Meany Middle School Library
301 – 21st Ave E, Capitol Hill
Open to all
*Child care available, RSVP by April 28

CPPS Member Business Meeting – 6:30 – 7pm
· Join CPPS and help guide our planning and activities
· Participate with your vote for the CPPS Board and Officers
· CPPS activity update

CPPS Hosts Program on Middle School Education in Seattle
· Ruth Medsker, Seattle Public Schools’ Middle Schools Director
· Bob Vaughn, Director for Advanced Learning
· Parent involvement advocates

Join the CPPS community of public school advocates, and share our vision for great Seattle schools.

CPPS is a network of parents and community members working together to ensure quality public schools for all Seattle children.


Through community meet-ups, study groups and workshops, CPPS is organizing opportunities to bring parents and community members together to discuss the issues, engage, and advocate for a great public education system in Seattle.

For more info and to RSVP for child care, please contact stephaniej@cppsofseattle.org

Join us!

The Board's Focus

Have you ever noticed how many of the Board's actions are related to property management?

Look at the Board's agenda for this week.

Here's a list of the stuff they are considering:

1. Review and approve minutes of last meeting
2. Approve warrants
3. BEX III - Denny/Sealth
4. BEX III - Ingraham
5. BEX III - Nathan Hale
6. BEX III - Denny/Sealth
7. BEX III - Ingraham
8. BEX III - Nathan Hale
9. BEX III - Hamilton
10. BEX III - Denny/Sealth
11. BEX III - Ingraham
12. BEX III - Nathan Hale
13. BEX III - Denny/Sealth
14. BEX III - Ingraham
15. BEX III - Nathan Hale
16. Sale of Queen Anne Gym
17. Modify Lease on Lake City School
18. Garfield/Interbay land swap
19. BEX III - Budget transfer

Other than the minutes and the warrants, it is all about property management in one way or another. There is no mention of teaching and learning, and for sure no mention of Policy. There is no question about how the Board spends its time, but shouldn't we question whether this is how they SHOULD spend their time?

Seattle Public Schools is, without a doubt, one of the largest landowners in King County if not the state. There is hardly a school site that isn't worth at least $1 million and many of the hundred or so which are worth considerably more. For all of the property that the District owns and operates is there anyone who would like the District to manage their property for them? I don't think so.

The District should not be in the property management business. It isn't their focus, it isn't their core competence, it isn't critical to their mission. They should outsource this work to someone who knows how to do it and do it right. Then the District should focus on teaching and learning and the Board should focus on Policy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Teacher Refuses to Administer WASL

From a press release


Date: April 20, 2008

Contact: Juanita Doyon, Director, Parent Empowerment Network, Spanaway, 253/973-1593
Carl Chew, Seattle Teacher, 206-265-1119 email ctchew@earthlink.net

Carl Chew, a 6th grade science teacher at Nathan Eckstein Middle School in the Seattle School District, last week defied federal, state, and district regulations that require teachers to administer the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to students.

“I have let my administration know that I will no longer give the WASL to my students. I have done this because of the personal moral and ethical conviction that the WASL is harmful to students, teachers, schools, and families,” wrote Chew in an email to national supporters.

School District response to Mr. Chew’s refusal was immediate. After administrative attempts to dissuade his act of civil disobedience had failed, at the start of school on the first day of WASL testing, April 15, Mr. Chew was escorted from the school by the building principal and a district supervisor. Mr. Chew was told to report to the district Science Materials Center where he was put to work preparing student science kits while district administration and attorneys consulted on an appropriate penalty for what was labeled, “gross insubordination.”

Mr. Chew attended one hearing at Seattle School District Office, where he was accompanied by a Seattle Education Association representative. On Friday, April 18, Mr. Chew received a letter from Seattle School District Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson which began, "This letter is to inform you that I have determined that there is probable cause to suspend you from April 21, 2008 through May 2, 2008 without pay for your refusal and insubordination to your principal's written direction to administer the WASL at Eckstein Middle School."

During his weeklong struggle with the district over consequences, Mr. Chew was supported by allies throughout the state and nation. “Carl Chew is saying ‘No!’ to high stakes testing and a resounding ‘Yes!’ to student needs and to teacher professionalism,” stated nationally renowned education activist and author Susan Ohanian of Vermont.

“There are many more teachers who are ready to follow suit. They just need an example and leader,” states one Washington teacher.

Organizations and individual allies are now working to replace Mr. Chew’s lost wages. “Though a minor gesture in response to your so much larger gift, I plan to contribute to your salary for the two-weeks the schools aren't paying,” was the response of one colleague from Washington.

Parent Empowerment Network will be presenting Mr. Chew with a check for $200 to help alleviate his loss of wages and is encouraging organization members to also support Mr. Chew with words of encouragement and monetary contributions. The Vermont Society for the Study of Education and Colorado’s Coalition for Better Education have also pledged contributions.

The following is a full statement of Mr. Chew’s reasoning for his refusal to administer the WASL.

On April 15 I refused to give the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to my 6th grade students at a Seattle Public Schools middle school. I performed this single act of civil disobedience based on personal moral and ethical grounds, as well as professional duty. I believe that the WASL is destructive to our children, teachers, schools, and parents.

It is important for me to note that my disobedient action was not directed at any individual. I love being a teacher; my students are fantastic; my fellow teachers collaborate with and help me every day in numerous ways; and my school administration has always shown a willingness to listen to and support the teachers. I understand that my action has caused people pain, and I am truly sorry for that, but I could no longer stand idly by as something as wrong as the WASL is perpetrated on our children year after year.

Though my act of civil disobedience was individual, I do not stand alone in my strong beliefs. Any Internet search for high stakes testing will reveal highly regarded educators, distressed parents, and sensitive teachers with a wealth of thoughtful writing and case studies supporting my views.

The WASL is bad for kids.

To my mind the measure of successful childhood is that each child learns about who she or he is and how the world works, gains an assertive and confident self image, and feels safe, well fed, and happy. Schools, along with parents and communities, need to contribute wisely to this goal. Unfortunately, the WASL creates panic, insecurity, low self esteem, and sadness for our children.
o It is written in the language of White, middle and upper class students, leaving all others behind.
o It is presented to children in a secretive, cold, sterile, and inhumane fashion.
o There is no middle ground—children either pass or fail—which leaves them confused, guilty, and frustrated.
o Numerous questions on the test are unclear, misleading, or lacking in creativity.
o It tests a very narrow definition of what educators know children need to become well-rounded human beings.
o The WASL is given at a prescribed time regardless of a child’s emotional or physical health.

The WASL is bad for teachers.

For meager pay teachers are asked to work in extremely challenging situations, keep absurdly long hours, and, when it comes to the WASL, function in an atmosphere of fear.
o A majority of teachers loath the WASL but feel unable to speak out freely against it due to their fears of negative consequences for doing so.
o Because administrators are constantly pushing to meet federal guidelines for yearly score improvements, their relationships with teachers can become strained and unpleasant.
o Administrators and teachers suffer under the knowledge that if they do not achieve improvement goals (measured by WASL passage alone) they can be sent to retraining classes, lose their students to other schools, or have their “failing” school handed over to a private company.
o Before administering the WASL teachers mandatorily sign a “loyalty” oath promising they will not read any of the test questions.
o Teachers feel devalued by the amount of time most of them have to devote to test practice and proctoring—upwards of four weeks for actual testing and many more weeks for WASL prep in many cases.
o Teachers feel used and depressed when, half a year after the test is given, they are presented with dubious WASL results—amateurish and misleading Power Point charts and graphs telling them next to nothing about their students’ real knowledge and talents.
o Teachers’ relationships with parents are compromised because they cannot talk freely with them about opting their child out or other WASL concerns.

The WASL is bad for parents and families.

o Parents have been shut out of this costly process.
o Most of them are misled by official statements about what the purpose of the WASL is.
o Many of them do not realize that they have the right to opt their children out of testing with no consequences, though in practice schools have illegally put inappropriate pressure on parents and children who have opted out.
o Many of them do not realize that teachers are, in many cases, not allowed to discuss any reasons why they might want to opt their child out. (Teachers in California went to court to secure the right to inform parents of their right to opt their children out of that state’s testing.)
o Like children, parents suffer from the same feelings of guilt and unhappiness when their children fail.
o Parents are not informed that the test is biased, culturally insensitive and irrelevant, and not a real measure of anything.
o The WASL graduation requirement has kept thousands of families from knowing whether or not their students will be allowed to take part in graduation ceremonies and celebrations—the culminating reward for 13 years of public school attendance and achievement-- with friends and families.

The WASL is bad for schools.

Even in the best of times purse strings are rarely opened adequately to public education. Where a private school needs to charge $20,000-$30,000 to educate a child well, public schools are given a third or less of that for each student. Simply, schools are strapped for cash, many of them struggling each year to fund their needs with an ever shrinking pot of money.
o While schools are generally underfunded, Washington will spend a projected $56 million in 2009 to have a private corporation grade WASL tests. These tax dollars are needed right in our schools providing more teachers, smaller classes, tutors, and diverse educational experiences for our students.
o While the federal government requires that school districts use high stakes testing to qualify for federal dollars, tests are not fully funded by the federal government.
o WASL is one of the most difficult tests used to fulfill the federal requirements, with one of the highest failure rates.
o Instead of safe, exciting, and meaningful places for our children to spend half of their waking hours, schools have become WASL or test mills bent on churning out students who are trained to answer state-approved questions in a state-approved manner.

The WASL is just bad.

o Most, if not all, teachers will agree that assessment is vital. Wise teachers know that assessments which are also learning experiences for students and teachers are the best. The WASL categorically is not a learning experience.
o I believe that individual students are entitled to their own learning plans, tailored to their own needs, strengths, and interests. Teachers know it is definitely possible to do this in the context of a public school. The WASL categorically treats all children alike and requires that they each fit into the same precise mold, and state-mandated learning plans based on WASL scores fail to recognize individual strengths of students.
o Passing the WASL does not guarantee success in college, placement in a job, a living wage, or adequate health care.
o WASL will decrease the high school graduation rate. Thousands of students who have completed all other requirements and passed all required classes will be denied diplomas because of WASL failure.
o High-stakes testing has not proven beneficial to students, teachers, schools, or communities.

In the real lives of students, teachers, and parents the WASL is an ongoing disaster.

o When I was a teacher at Graham Hill Elementary in Seattle, a number of my students received their WASL scores to find that they had “failed”. When I looked at the notices being sent to their parents I saw that each student had come to within just a few points of actually passing and that their scores were well within the grey area, or “margin of error,” for the test. The “test scientists” aren’t sure whether the student passed or failed, yet the school tells the student he or she failed. These students cried when they saw the results.
o When I first started teaching, Graham Hill could afford Americorps tutors, numerous classroom aides, and had money for fieldtrip busses and ample supplies. By the time I stopped teaching there, Americorps was gone, there were no classroom aides except for parent volunteers, and everything else was in short supply.
o Teaching and testing during my last year at Graham Hill was challenging. I was on my own in a room with 29 students, 10% did not speak English, 50 % of them spoke another language at home, several of them were homeless, and many of them had severe emotional challenges due to parental pre-natal drug use, violence, and abuse.
o No one ever asked me or any of the teachers I know whether high stakes testing was a good idea. In fact, we teachers are made to jump through seemingly endless hoops to prove our worthiness to be professional, certificated educators. Public school teachers are responsible for the educational lives of over a million students in Washington State, yet, in the end, no one actually wants to listen to what teachers have to say about what is best for the students in our care.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Are you kidding me? Another molester in SPS gets sentenced?

This article appeared in the PI today. This particular useless bit of human flotsam was quite the operator. Here's a guy - a former police chief from a small Eastern Washington town - who comes to Seattle to be a PE teacher. I'm pretty sure the district probably was quite happy to have him. (He worked first at BF Day and then Rainier View.) A friendly fellow, he ran an after-school ballroom dancing class. But he fixated on a group of sisters from an immigrant Cambodian family where mom didn't speak English. And he groomed those girls (and buttered up the mom) and then molested them.

BF Day officials reprimanded him for this unseemly relationship. But he continued the relationship with the girls (unknown if the school knew this) but gets accused of molesting his own granddaughter. But the parents of his granddaughter didn't want a trial and let him plead to a lesser charge. Okay, but during that investigation the girls at the school were questioned (so someone, somewhere told the prosecutors about those relationships if the girls were called in) but the girls denied it. (They only told each other. One told her mom but mom did nothing and the girl figured no adult would believe her. That's just heartbreaking.) So someone told the prosecutors about these girls or they got the file from the school and - based on what was in the file - followed up with the girls.

(It is unclear from the article how long he was at each school.)

He was placed on leave from RV during his trial and there was a court order barring him from being around minors but naturally, he ignored it and continued to molest these poor girls (until one, a 7th grader, read a book that opened her eyes and she told a teacher who - and this too is unclear in the article - told someone who called the police.) The conviction made it easy for the teacher/principal/district to act on what the 7th grader said but I worry that if he hadn't been convicted of assault on his granddaughter, would anyone have believed the 7th grader?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Joe Drake gets two years pay to leave

Here is the story from the P-I and here is the story from the Times.

So, help me to understand. Is this the accountability that everyone has been talking about, or is this a prime example of why we need accountability? I wonder what sort of performance evaluations Joe Drake got up until he was put on administrative leave. Is there a long paper trail of education directors and superintendents who have complained that his work was inadequate? Or did he have glowing performance reviews up until - and possibly through - last year?

I'm serious about this. If Joe Drake was meeting expectations in his work, is there any justification in terminating his employment? And if he was not, then why did the District have to pay a settlement? Don't we have a process in place to terminate employees who are not meeting expectations without buying them out with two years' pay?

In the story in the Times, the District claims that Dr. Drake

was viewed as a "threatening person" by his staff. In addition, the investigation said he "engaged in a campaign of profane, intimidating and bully behavior, using the 'F' word during a meeting with central-office staff members"; bullied University of Washington evaluators working on a report about his school; "created an atmosphere of mistrust and 'my way or the highway' approach to policies and practices at the school"; and "impugned the character and competence of the District staff."

Which of these is grounds for termination?
- Being viewed as threatening
- Using the "F" word (what, are we in the fourth grade? "The "F" word"?!?)
- Being a bully to your staff
- Being a bully to UW evaluators
- A "my way or the highway" approach to policies and practices
- Impugning the character and competence of the District staff

Which of those gets you fired, because various District central staff - including leadership - have been guilty of each of them or all of them.

Accountability means that people have clearly defined expectations. What clearly defined expectations did Dr. Drake fail to meet? And if he failed to meet the requirements of his contract or meet the clearly defined expectations, then why do we have to grant him two YEARS severance?

Teacher Pay

This interesting article was published by the League of Education Voters. I can't comment because I haven't read all the links nor do I know much about teacher pay variables. I'll just post it for others to read.

Our spelling word for today

There is an op-ed piece in yesterday's P-I by David Marshak. In it, he questions why we ever listened to Washington Mutual CEO Kerry Killinger on education issues and suggests that now, with that corporation's troubles, why we should ever pay attention to Mr. Killinger or continue to respect his proposals.

Mr. Marshak is, of course, absolutely correct. Mr. Killinger does not have any expertise in education and never did. Mr. Killinger's favored view on education is absurd at its face. Mr. Killinger should never have been as influential on education issues as he has been and now, with the downturn in his company's fortunes - not to mention his questionable integrity - he is likely to exercise less influence going forward.

Just the same, there was a distinctly bitter flavor to the column.

Our spelling word for today, boys and girls, is schadenfreude - \SHOD-n-froy-duh\, noun: A malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others. For a great number of people, few things are as gratifying as an enemy's downfall.

WASL Week(s)

ss wrote:

I don't know where/how to request this. How have your students responded to the WASL this week?

All elementary, middle & high schoolers are in the grind. Do they feel comfortable and prepared? What subjects do they feel at a loss with?
In Science, my 10th grader says they haven't at all covered the subjects in the WASL. Is this an individual school gap or do the SPS not cover what the WASL covers?

What about the younger ones?


So... nu? How's the WASL going for your family and friends?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

No, Tracy Libros is NOT Leaving SPS (Thank Goodness!)

Elsewhere in this blog someone mentioned that Tracy Libros, head of Planning and Enrollment, was no longer head of it. Panic seized me as Tracy is only one of a handful of staff that we cannot live without. Her long background in enrollment planning coupled with her institutional knowledge of this district (and the major factor that she does her job superlatively and with grace and calm) means we CAN'T lose her.

Luckily, we're not.

When she got bumped up to manager of Planning and Enrollment, it left her previous position as head of Enrollment Services empty. Well, they have finally filled it and Mary Brown is in that role and Tracy is her boss.

Whew! Carry on.

Week of Action for Global Education-April 21-27

This op-ed appeared in today's PI by Mary Njoroge, the former director of basic education for Kenya's Ministry of Education (and now an ed consultant).

I hadn't heard of this week before; apparently Wednesday, April 23rd is the World's Biggest Lesson. From the op-ed:

"Millions of schoolchildren will simultaneously learn about the importance of allowing all the world's children to have access to an education, and what they can do to help their counterparts in their own countries and around the world. Although this lesson will primarily be taught in classrooms, it is a lesson we can all learn."

Anybody's teacher mention this to your student?

I think it sounds great. Education is the great leveler in the world. It's easy to control people if you keep them uneducated and poor especially in countries that don't emphasis education. With our presidential election coming up, it is important to keep education as an issue. The war is major, the economy may be tanking but, in the end, if we don't educate our children properly, these problems will not only not go away but will get worse.

New Principal Announcements

This announcement was in the PI this morning about principal appointments. Most are first time principals which is interesting; I wonder if our principal corps is older.

News From the Seattle Council PTSA

Strategic Plan Updates
Be sure to review the work done so far on the Superintendent’s Strategic Plan for Seattle Public Schools. The final plan will be presented to the community in mid-May, including at the Alliance Breakfast on May 14 (see below), at the SCPTSA meeting on May 19 (see above) and at other to-be-determined dates and times. (Now Hale is supposed to have Dr. G-J at the end of April; I wonder if she'll unveil it there or wait for a larger event like the Alliance breakfast.)

Everyday Math Family Engagement Training available in May

Seattle Public Schools Family Partnerships program has developed a training session to help share how families can help their students with the Everyday Math curriculum. This session is designed for parent leaders who will share this information with their school communities. Please contact info@seattlecouncilptsa.org if you’re interested in attending a training in May; date(s) to be determined based on interest.

WA State Board of Education Science Standards Survey
Deadline April 21, 5pm

The State Board of Education (SBE) has released an Interim Report on their review of WA State Science Standards. They are taking feedback and recommendations through an on-line survey until 5pm on April 21. [Note: You will probably want to read at least the Executive Summary of the Interim Report recommendations (pages 3-5) as the survey relates directly to the recommendations.] The State Board of Education is also planning to vote on new K-8 Math Standards on April 18 and new High School Math Standards in July (see: Mathematics Standards for more information.) The SBE’s two other key initiatives relate to System Performance Accountability and the Meaningful High School Diploma Project.

UW Head Lice Survey: Have Your Voice Heard Regarding Head Lice!

Note from researchers: Please participate in an important University of Washington survey of parents/caregivers of K-6 kids, regarding head lice policies in schools. The survey is anonymous and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. In order for us to learn more about this bothersome problem it is important that as many parents/caregivers as possible respond.

English version: https://catalysttools.washington.edu/webq/survey/tiffad/48839

Spanish version: https://catalysttools.washington.edu/webq/survey/tiffad/49806

For more information contact Itzhak Gur at the Dept. of Family Medicine, UW. Also, please send him an e-mail to let him know when you forward this survey link to your PTA members.

(I don't know how my kids managed to avoid head lice - we got enough notices in elementary school - but somehow we did.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Action driven by enrollment numbers

Some of the enrollment numbers provided through the P-I education blog are just astonishing.

I have written to Ruth Medsker, the education director for middle schools, about why enrollment at Denny was cut off at 128 and 11 students were put on a waitlist. At that rate, the school would only have 384 students. It now has 629 (210 per grade). Perhaps the numbers were wrong. Perhaps not.

Given the imbalance between Meany and Washington, some action is required. I'm thinking that the best interests of the students and the District would be served if middle school APP moved from Washington to Meany. That would, over time, move about 420 students from Washington to Meany. Meany would still have room for a general education program of either 270 or 360 students. Does anyone have any other ideas? I'm not sure how the District would feel about Meany housing APP and Spectrum with no general education students. It wouldn't provide APP and Spectrum students time with a more academically diverse community and it wouldn't provide space for non-gifted siblings at the school. Spectrum-eligible students at Meany could be served through participation in the school's ALO. I'd like to discuss this idea for a while, refine it, and then I would like to prepare a program placement proposal to effect the change.

I'm also thinking of preparing a program placement proposal to suggest moving the AAA out of their building. I'm thinking it could go into T T Minor. There is sufficient surplus capacity in the Central cluster that any T T Minor student who didn't want to join the African-American Academy could find a seat elsewhere. I will then suggest that the AAA building be the home of a new program: The Option Program II - a K-8 school duplicating The Option Program at Seward (TOPS) in philosophy and implementation. This is also an idea that can be refined through discussion.

I'm not sure how to address the imbalance in the Central cluster where four schools have waitlists and four schools didn't attract enough first choices to form a class. I think it would help if we were to make Lowell a neighborhood school because it would provide general education peers for the Special Edcuation students there, and it would add so much capacity to the cluster that the District could close two schools. If the AAA did move to T T Minor, Lowell could take a lot of the reference area that T T Minor used to have.

Actually, now that I think about it, we can put these two ideas together. What if we create a new TOPS at the AAA, move the AAA to T T Minor, re-purpose Lowell as a neighborhood elementary school, move elementary APP to Meany, make room for the Meany students at Washington by moving middle school APP to Marshall, and put 300 general education students at Marshall with them to create additional middle school space in the northeast? I think the increase in elementary capacity in the central cluster, along with the surplus capacity already there, would allow the District to close one of those elementary schools.

Does that sound like a good proposal?

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Power of Dialog

I went to hear the Dalai Lama speak on Saturday at Qwest Field. A lot of his talk really resonated with me. He spoke, in significant part, about peace and non-violence.

Peace, he said, is not merely the absence of war. Peace is in how we address conflict. There are conflicts everywhere on every scale. This is natural and normal and not, in itself, a bad thing. There are global conflicts, national conflicts, regional conflicts, community conflicts, and conflicts at work and in our families. He said that the path to conflict resolution was not through violence, but through dialog. The Dalai Lama is a big fan of dialog.

More, he said that it isn't enough to acknowledge the principle. It isn't enough to accept the principle. It isn't enough to adopt the principle. We must act on the principle.

Let us act on these principles. We can open dialog in our homes with our families and in our workplaces. Let us act on these principles in our community by working to establish dialog over the conflicts within Seattle Public Schools.

Seattle Public Schools has conflicts. There was - and continues to be - conflict regarding the Denny-Sealth co-location, conflict over math instruction, conflict over the elimination of the AP European History option for 10th grade students at Roosevelt, conflict over the Southeast Initiative, conflict over program placement, conflict everywhere. There is not, however, much dialog anywhere. This blog provides some opportunity for dialog, but its structure allows only limited opportunity for real interactivity. For genuine dialog, people really need to be face to face.

The trick to getting started is to get started. So let's pick a conflict and invite people to a dialog. Where should we begin? Something of the right size for which the timing is appropriate. Is the Strategic Plan too big a place to start? Is it too early to discuss planning for BEX IV? Does the Southeast Initiative offer us anything to talk about? Student Assignment? Program Placement? Who wants to have a dialog with the district staff and on what topic? Let's see if we can find a path to conflict resolution through dialog.

New Blog Contributor & SBOC Event

Maria Ramirez, the Executive Director of Campana Quetzal, has agreed to join this blog as a contributor.

She will make her first post soon, but meanwhile, here's an upcoming Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center she is involved with as well:
The Seattle School District’s school for newly arrive immigrant and refugee youth will host a community Open House on Saturday, April 19, from 2:30-5:00. The Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (SBOC) is at the corner of Boston and 4th “Ave. N. on top of Queen Anne Hill.

See http://www.seattleschools.org/schools/secboc/index.htm for more details.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Internet and Your Child's Future

I've mentioned this subject before but after doing some research and seeing last night's CBS '48 Mystery' about Amanda Knox, the UW student accused of helping to murder her roommate in Italy, I decided to write and advocated harder. I recently wrote an article for the Roosevelt PTSA parent newsletter on this subject and I'll just excerpt some of it here.

My main push is to get parents to realize how much what gets put on the Internet about your child can follow them around for a long, long time. None of us grew up with the Internet so this is new territory. We are charting a path for our children that is growing and expanding as we speak. Stressing to our kids, over and over, the problems, the pitfalls, and yes, the dangers of posting information on the Internet cannot be underestimated. If you are the parent of elementary or middle school student, the time to have these discussions is NOW.

Here's what I found from my research (this from my article):

Facebook, for example, has 7 million members from more than 2,100 universities and 22,000 high schools and is now the seventh-most-trafficked site on the Net.

Facebook isn’t just about blogging. It shows a scary array of offenses from drinking and drugs to hazing and harassment all in full-color photos and posts. And, once these things are downloaded, it can be virtually impossible to get rid of them.

What’s at stake? Well, internships, entrance to college, staying in college or getting and keeping a job. Some employers use the Internet to check on potential hires because it’s easy and cheaper than doing a background check.

What else? The Italian police are pouring over the MySpace and Facebook pages for possible information about the UW student who was studying in Perugia, Italy and is accused of murdering her roommate. Her Italian boyfriend, as well, had a MySpace page.

Looking at Google for information, I found dozens of stories about colleges and universities creating policies about social networking sites and student use of them. Most colleges and universities do not regularly check sites for violations. However, most of them do follow up on any reports they receive about students who may be violating the college/university code of conduct. (By not monitoring regularly, colleges and universities protect themselves from charges of uneven application; by following up on every single report, they protect themselves from charges of not upholding university code of conduct policies.)

In an excellent article by Steven J. McDonald that outlines the policy at Cornell University, he states:

  • Cyberspace is not a separate, law-free jurisdiction. You can be held responsible for any actions shown on a social networking site that violate campus rules and policies.*
  • What is technologically possible is not the same as what is legally permissible, let alone the same as what is ethically advisable.
  • Free access is not the same thing as free speech, nor is free speech the same thing as unfettered speech. Many colleges and universities have speech policies against what you can say against other students or staff.
* You can be held responsible for anything you do that is illegal and that you post on-line. Indeed just recently a group of Florida girls, upset over another girl's posts about them on the girl's MySpace page, videotaped themselves beating her unconscious. They then posted it to YouTube. Somehow they didn't quite get that what they did to this girl was against the law and they all got arrested. The sheriff in Florida, noting that some of them are 16 and 17, wants them tried as adults.

Organizations Helping Schools

I can't recall if I ever mentioned this School Kids Come First but thought it worth mentioning again in light of discussions here about inequities in fundraising. From their website:

"School Kids Come First solicits proposals from teachers throughout the Seattle Public School system. Projects must involve direct student benefits, and must also provide an experience or an opportunity beyond the textbooks and supplies needed for basic education (which School Kids Come First does not fund).

All proposals are screened by School Kids Come First to verify the teacher, the school, the principal’s support, the exact purchase requested, the vendor, and the cost. After a project is fully funded, School Kids Come First makes the purchase,delivers the materials to the teacher and notifies the donor(s) that the project has been fulfilled. When possible the donor will also receive a thank you letter and photos so they can see and read about the results of their donations. The 15% fulfillment fee included in the funding cost of each project covers the cost of the web site, verification, administration, and documentation."

Sort of a district-wide mini-grants for schools and teachers and akin to the foundation related to PTA fundraising in Portland.

School Kids Come First was founded by Dick Lee and Rich Carr; thanks guys!

There's also a group called Team Seattle Athletics which supports middle and high school athletes. There isn't a lot of info at the website. It looks like Mr. Lee started this program as well. It looks like Tully's and the Sonics/Storm Foundation are the main partners of this group.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Assignment Numbers

Checking in with the PI's School Zone, there was an thread about the assignment numbers (they included a link to some draft assignment numbers at the district). There was a lot of the usual suspects numbers (Roosevelt and Garfield with large waitlists, Beacon Hill doubling its numbers with their new international program, TOPS and Bryant with large waitlists).

Checking out the numbers, there are definitely some trends. (Please note: when I reference numbers I am generally talking about first choice, not enrollment.)

Roosevelt was down on numbers on its waitlist but Roosevelt and Garfield are the only high schools with any significant waitlists (Ballard had 3 and West Seattle had 4). Sadly, Rainier Beach continues to decline with only 20 9th graders listing it as their first choice. Sealth, which had what looks like an IB surge last year (2006-94, 2007, 127), did well holding on with 107 first choices despite the Denny-Sealth controversy. Hale seems to be experiencing a slow decline from a high of 299 in 2005 to 164 for 2008.

Eckstein and Washington remain popular; Eckstein seems to be drawing back on its numbers with 449 students in 2006, 436 in 2007 and 400 for 2008. Denny was the only middle school to be experiencing steady growth. It has a waitlist this year and had none for the past 5 years. But true to discussions here about dissatisfaction with middle schools, 5 middle schools are experiencing declines as first choices. They are Hamilton, Madison, Meany, Whitman and Aki Kurose.

For K-8, TOPS continues its dominance. Why, as Charlie has asked repeatedly, doesn't the district replicate this program if it is so popular? African-American Academy continues its decline with 1 first choice in both kindergarten and 6th grade.

On the elementary school front, Bagley, Lawton, Loyal Heights, Lafayette, Olympic View, Schmitz Park and West Woodland are making steady climbs up (maybe there's something to having an L or a W in the name) . TT Minor is making a comeback with only 1 kindergarten first choice last year to 14 this year. They enrolled 18 kindergarteners last year; this year there are 54. There were some extreme jumps with Bryant holding steady for 4 years at about 105 and then jumping up to 151 this year.

Declines? Madrona is experiencing a steady decline in both its kindergarten and middle school first choices. They enrolled only 5 sixth graders for 2008. Kimball seems to have fewer first choice votes but still have a waitlist. Whittier is slowly declining from 105 in 2004 to 77 in 2008 but they, too, continue to have a waitlist.

One puzzling one is Wedgwood which has jumped around a lot from 2004-2008; 50, 83, 50,89, 64 as a first choice. They have also jumped from 90 kindergarteners last year to 114 for 2008. Another puzzler is McGilvra which has been hugely popular since 2004. However, their steady average K enrollment of about 45 has dropped for 2008 to...24 . Huh? And they have 45 students on the waitlist. Odd.

These are just draft numbers but they are interesting to try to parse out.

Latest District Budget News

This article was in the Times this afternoon. The District has announced a hiring freeze in anticipation of a tough budget cycle next year.

How the Middle Class Negotiates and Justifies School Advantage

I am looking forward to hearing from an author's whose book has generated lots of discussion about class and influence in public schools.

From the UW Bookstore website:

Friday • April 25 • 7pm
Ellen Brantlinger
Dividing Classes: How the Middle Class Negotiates and Justifies School Advantage
Reading & Book Signing U District store

Ellen Brantlinger studied the relationship between social class and educational success in her Indiana hometown. And instead of simply looking at the way the historically marginalized lower classes fail or succeed based on class, she looked at the middle and affluent classes as well to see how their value systems corresponded to their educational goals. Sponsored by the University of Washington School of Education.

And from the UW College of Education website:

Brantlinger’s book is receiving acclaim as a “take-no-prisoners ethnography” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Dividing Classes: How the Middle Class Negotiates and Rationalizes School Advantage combines observation and interviews in an analysis of how social class structure affects educational success.
According to Jeannie Oakes, Presidential Professor of Educational Equity at UCLA, “Dividing Classes forces us to confront perhaps the most troubling and least studied challenge to equitable schooling: Middle-class Americans’ presumption that their own superiority accounts for their school success and the life chances that successful schooling brings.”

Dividing Classes challenges the notion that our school system is progressive or that it is based on equality. Brantlinger, a retired professor of education and Curriculum Studies Doctoral Program Coordinator at Indiana University, builds her researchon 31 candid interviews with administrators, principals, teachers, and parents in a small Midwest town.“Many students and colleagues are uncomfortable with my slant that advocating for your children may not be a very democratic or a fair thing to do,” explains Brantlinger. “But that is a great discussion starter, talking about how schools are shaped by class dominance.”

The College of Education has housed many of these discussions since Dividing Classes was selected as a College of Education “common book” by faculty president Philip Bell. Since its selection, Dividing Classes has been read by the College of Education community, built into coursework, and anchored into the broader community dialogue through focused events. “Sometimes educators will see progress in race and class inclusiveness, although in truth progress has been reversed recently,” Brantlinger states. “As the wage gap grows, as the suburbs become more exclusive of particular types of people, and as residential areas become less diverse, there has been a reversal of race and class inclusiveness.”

“As a radical humanist, I believe that virtually all of us have a tendency towards social reciprocity, particularly in times of crisis,” Brantlinger summarizes. “I think that times are difficult right now – we are in a war, our country is viewed negatively, there is a growing wage gap – and this time of crisis is an opportunity for people to come together.”

I think Ellen Brantlinger's book is absolutely worth reading. Whether you agree or disagree with what she says, it provides an excellent starting place to tackle a difficult and controversial issue.

Want a preview? Click here to listen to Ellen Brantlinger talk about school choice and self-selected segregation on NPR’s Talk of the Nation program.

Education Reform Talk

This from the League for Education Voters:

Hear one of our country’s leading education reform advocates, Kati Haycock, President of The Education Trust.

Mark this important conversation with Kati Haycock on your calendars:

Monday, April 28 at 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Seattle Public Library
No cost, but please RSVP to let us know you will attend.

Kati Haycock carries a message of urgency, change and hope that the League of Education Voters Foundation will embrace as we embark on a new campaign to promote and support bold education reform solutions.

More on the Southeast Initiative


I saw this as a sidebar to an article posted on March 28th in Seattle's Child:


Rainier Beach High School’s enrollment has been dropping for years. Now, with about 300 students, it is smaller than some Seattle elementary schools.

Seattle Public Schools estimates at least 1,300 high school students in the southeast part of the city pass by Rainier Beach and go elsewhere – many opting for north end schools. Rainier Beach is one of three schools “in glaring need of assistance,” says Carla Santorno, the district’s chief academic officer.

The district is helping with a new effort called the Southeast Education Initiative. They’ll spend between $800,000 and $900,000 each year – for the next three years – to increase enrollment and academic achievement at Rainier Beach, Cleveland High School and Aki Kurose Middle School.

Each school received $25,000 in September to figure out what their needs are. The schools have until the end of November to come up with a reform plan. In other words, decide how the rest of the district’s allocation will be used. The schools’ plans will include benchmarks, targets and all the usual accountability standards that tell educators if they’re on track or not.

Santorno says she has been involved with reform plans before that haven’t worked, but this one is different. “Reform efforts fail when people aren’t given enough time or resources to do the job. That’s not the case here where we’re giving these schools the support they need to pull it off,” she says.

If the schools don’t pull it off, then the district will “have to come up with an alternative solution which could be lots of things,” Santorno says. “If it’s not working we have to fix it.”

Given what the Board has been saying that they don't know if there is money for this and they don't know where the money is going to come from, I find what Ms. Santorno says here to be very troubling. Is there is or is there not the resources to fully and completely fund the SE Initiative? Ms. Santorno is stating that if enrollment does not increase, there will have to be an "alternative solution". That is fine. However, please don't promise a great new program and then not fully fund it. I know Mr. Mas has asked Director Martin-Morris what the outcome of this weeks meeting on the SE Initiative was, but as of 10:00 am on 4/14, Director Martin-Morris had not responded yet on his blog. I know the staff at Rainier Beach is very excited and fired up to implement this program, but given how the district has acted, you can safely say that the faculty and staff here are very skeptical of anything the district says or does.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Everyone "Accountable"?

Probably because the PI had an editorial a couple of days ago about the whole situation at Broadview-Thompson over the teacher abusing children, there were a number of letters to the editor. All were in the vein, " Why weren't (aren't) the principals/administrators involved being held accountable?" It's a fair question; if ever there was bad judgment used, it's here.

From a letter by Dan Reeder:

" The district's response? Mandate staff training about 'reporting suspected abuse.' According to your article, at least 15 teachers and staff members made at least 30 reports to the principal and assistant principal of the school about the sexual misconduct. Sounds to me like staff members already know how to report."

There was a long letter from former SEA president, John Dunn, who said:

"And yet, the article goes on to say that two of the school administrators accused of failing to act on warnings about the perpetrator's behavior are still employed by one school district. For God's sake why were they not terminated for not taking actions that are required by state law in reporting such allegations to their supervisors and the proper state authorities?...I have witnessed investigations and hearings of termination for far less egregious behavior of school employees. The P-I should be calling for an end to the "Good Old Boys and Girls' Culture" of school administrators."

Tough talk. I didn't attend the Board meeting last night; I wonder if there was any mention of this at all? I would guess the district is waiting until after the court case involving the former principal, Terry Skjei, is settled.

But the district can't just pay out the money, say they'll do better and call it a day. Parents are trusting administrators every single day to watch over their children. The fact that this kind of thing extends up the ladder to high school administrators not calling police when assaults take place is troubling. Administrators can't be, and legally shouldn't be, making these decisions on their own.

Which leads me to wonder; was it just the principals? Did any of these principals go to their education director or to the CAO at the time and ask for direction? It's not like principals were never asked about life at B-T. When ed directors, who make regular visits to schools, came to Broadview-Thompson and asked "so how are things here?", what was the answer?

I have to wonder what the parents at View Ridge where Terry Skjei is now principal think. I'm sure Ms. Skjei can't say anything to these parents with her own lawsuit pending.

If the district waits long enough, this might go away. But they should do better than just say that there will be more staff training. If everyone in this district is "accountable", then that includes school administrators.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Wanted: Princess Fiona

This appeared in today's Times:

Wanted: Young Fiona for "Shrek the Musical"

Does your dress-up-loving little girl dream of becoming a princess? Even if that princess moonlights as an ogre?

Well, assuming she can sing, here's her chance. DreamWorks Theatricals and the 5th Avenue Theatre have announced open auditions for the role of 8-year-old Princess Fiona in the upcoming Broadway-bound musical. Girls 8 to 10 years old with great singing voices are encouraged to audition for the role, which will be for the Aug. 14-Sept. 21 Seattle engagement only.

"Shrek the Musical," also co-produced by Neal Street Productions, is the first foray into Broadway by DreamWorks. Most of the cast has already been announced, and includes Broadway veterans Sutton Foster and Brian d'Arcy James, as the adult Princess Fiona and Shrek.

Auditions will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 19 at Seattle Children's Theatre, and appointments for a spot can be made by calling the 5th between 1 and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. To audition, girls need to prepare one song and bring sheet music; an accompanist with be provided at the audition (no a cappella singing or taped accompanying music permitted). They also need to bring a résumé and photo, but it doesn't have to be a professional headshot.

More information: 206-625-1418 or www.5thavenue.org.

Break a leg, princesses!

Various Board Meetings

The Board will be meeting this week for their regular legislative meeting. The agenda is posted here. As you can see, most of the Board's work is either routine approvals as required by law or property management work. They spend very little of their time on learning and teaching and less still on policy work.

The Finance Committee meets on Thursday at 3:30. Their agenda is supposed to be here. As of this moment, however, they have yet to post the agenda. The one they show now is the agenda from their last meeting on March 20.

The Operations Committee meets the same day, Thursday, at 4:30. Their agenda is here. The two elements I find interesting here are the Garfield/Interbay Land Swap (what the heck is that?), and the BEX Communication Presentation. There are other references, here and there, of a BEX Communication Plan, but I can find no plan nor any evidence of a plan. According to the Operations Committee agenda, Don Gillmore will be presenting community engagement opportunities. I wonder if they will be engagement opportunities or communications opportunities. The difference is who is talking and who is listening.

Yesterday the Board had a four hour "workshop" regarding the 2008-2009 Budget and the Southeast Inititiative. I wonder how that went. No materials from that meeting are publicly available right now.

Prior to tonight's Board meeting, the Board will have a "Work Session" regarding High School Math Adoption. That's from 4:00 to 5:30.

On Monday, the 14th, there will be a Public Hearing on Use of I-728 Funds.

So in the span of seven days we have a Regular Board Legislative Meeting, a Board Workshop, a Board Work Session, two Committee Meetings, and a Public Hearing. Busy, busy, busy. The only meeting for which information is available is the Regular Board meeting which may well be the least interesting of them all: mostly routine BEX II and BEX III approvals.

If anyone was at the the Board Workshop yesterday, please do report on it. I expect we'll get a report of this afternoon's Math Adoption meeting from Dan. If anyone attends the Committee meetings or the Public Hearing, I hope they will report on them as well.

Hello Dalai!

Over at the Chalkboard blog at the PI (by parent Denise Gonzalez-Walker), she reports that the district is doing two amazing things. One, on the first day of WASL, on Monday some students (she doesn't report which schools or how many kids) are going the Seeds of Compassion event with the Dalai Lama (I'm assuming after they take the WASL). Two, the bus transportation is free. (Parents can opt to not have their children go.)

Over at the Times today, there's an article by Emily Heffter about parents who are troubled about sending their children to hear a religious leader speak. From the article:

"Melissa Jones is a Christian. Patricia Gorham isn't affiliated with any particular religion. But both women have the same concern about Seattle Public Schools arranging for their children to hear the Dalai Lama speak Monday.

"It's a public school, and we're having a religious leader come and speak to our kids," Gorham said. "While I think he has great ideas about compassion — don't get me wrong — it's a bit of the principle of the thing, I guess."

Their kids, both John Hay Elementary School fifth-graders, could be among 14,500 schoolchildren from around the state to hear the Dalai Lama's message of compassion at KeyArena."

And later in the article;

"The Dalai Lama is "not here as a religious leader, nor is he here as a political leader in terms of the Seeds of Compassion event," said Patti Spencer, a district spokeswoman."

Hmmm. At the heart of it, the district's heart is in the right place. We should be fostering compassion in our children, an empathy will allow them to "get" what is happening to others (and perhaps act on it or, later in life, work towards or vote on an issue). But, I agree with these moms and disagree with Patti Spencer.

Saying he isn't here as a religious leader is just wrong. He is a religious leader and he himself is unlikely to ever shed that moniker and I'll lay odds he's addressed as "his holiness" the whole time he is here. I also agree that if it were the Pope coming, the district would not be jumping to let kids out of school and facilitate bus service (it is unclear how much the district is paying for the bus service). (The Pope is both head of state and head of a religion.)

And the Dalai Lama may not be here for a political event but he is the leader of Tibet. The entire Olympic flame relay is being disrupted because of the clash between China, the host of the Olympics and Tibet. The Olympic Committee is behaving in about the same way as the district in their thinking. The OC wants to say the Olympics isn't political; it's about athletes from around the world striving to do their best. That's all very noble but the flame relay? It was started by the Nazis. The networks and countries? They keep a medal count almost hourly. And now, in 2008, in a global economy with global concerns over the civil wars in Africa, global warming and the worldwide spread of disease like bird flu? And then you bring all these people together for a little friendly competition between countries and say ignore all of this especially the host country and its actions that affect people worldwide (toys anyone?)?

It likely would have been better for the district to acknowledge who the Dalai Lama is and say he is possibly, from his words and deeds, one of the best people to impart knowledge about compassion and how to live it every day. That's the reason to let them out of class but don't try to ask people to look the other way on who he is and what he represents.