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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Browsing at the SEA website

I was browsing the SEA (Seattle Education Association) website (looking for one thing but finding others). I found this interesting paper about their views on how the district got to closure and consolidation and some grievances they have about the direction the district took over the last 15 years. This is from a paper called We Will Keep Our Eye on the Prize" dated Feb 2005. From the paper:

"As news stories have noted in recent weeks, Washington’s schools do not receive the state funding needed to ensure success for all students. School per pupil funding ranks 42nd in the country. Seattle, the state’s largest, most urban school district, has its own unique budget challenges. Seattle’s budget shortage is $12.2 million in 2005 - 06 and $30.3 million in 2006 -07. Board Directors are in the process of figuring how to address this huge problem. (Despite criticism from some quarters, the Seattle School Board consists of caring, intelligent, committed people who do exhaustive work on behalf of the children of our city. They believe in the staff of this district and showed that by trusting that staff act as professionals, make decisions that are sound and are capable of doing what is necessary to raise achievement.)
The Board is working to adopt a five-year plan for closing the achievement gap and establishing benchmarks to measure progress. That five-year plan with the groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement between the district and SEA will set the bar by which our efforts will
be measured."

This is interesting because (1) the SEA certainly seemed to be very supportive of the last Board and (2) the last bit about the 5-year plan. That Board worked very hard, with Superintendent Manhas, on this plan and yet, new Board/new Super and it all gets tossed aside and they start over. Interestingly, the Super is the one creating the plan and not the Board.

And:

"Decentralization has brought with it some significant problems. One of the most glaring is Seattle Schools’ inability to access state special education “safety net funding” because buildings have not spent all of the special ed money that comes into the building on special education. The safety net administrators look at the budgets and say “you don’t need safety net you haven’t spent all you budgeted”. The outcome is we spend 20 million dollars more than we receive on special education, some of that money could be recouped through safety net if we simply accounted for the money budgeted in a better way. Another example is the near loss of $3 million from the state last year when staffing ratios fell below the minimum required K-4 student/cert ratio by independent decisions made in schools. This problem was caught and rectified in time to recoup the money."

This is important because the issue of decentralization (or site-based management) now has the attention of the Super and Carla Santorno. I didn't know the SEA had found it a problem. This example of the Special Ed money is troubling but maybe a teacher out there can explain to me how this happens.

And this:

"Another area that the Administration and Board are reviewing is the choice programs throughout the district. The transportation costs alone make this approach prohibitive in the current financial situation. Further, the theory that competitive schools will increase enrollment in the system has not proved effective. The percentage of students in Seattle enrolled in public schools has remained constant (about 77%) since 1987.
We believe that children would be better served if families participated in school instead of encouraging parents to move their children from school to school in hopes of finding the best educational setting. This goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to make every school a quality learning environment.
Research clearly shows that every time a student changes schools the student loses 5 to 7 months of educational value, so a system that encourages nomadic education has the opposite effect of the original intent. Research clearly shows that when there is a real ownership of the school by families and community issues like discipline, expectations, attendance, and truancy are better addressed. Put another way, when anonymity and isolation are replaced with
recognition and community, good things happen."

Again, another interesting thought from the SEA. I didn't know that their stance was that it would be better to reduce the choice system. (I certainly never heard this during closure and consolidation.) I'm not sure that parents are "encouraged" to go look for another school; I believe the offerings are out there and savvy parents look for what they feel is best for their student. (I would like to see the research that says a student loses 5-7 months of educational value by just changing schools; I wonder if that research is about students changing mid-year.)

One last thing to keep in mind; the teachers will be renegotiating their SEA contracts next year. This is likely to be another huge challenge for the new Superintendent and Board.

11 comments:

hschinske said...

I think the research they mention may well have to do with students who move a lot for reasons associated with poverty. On Google Books I found the following:

Perspectives on Rescuing Urban Literacy, Robert B. Cooter, 2004 p. 131-132

"Also it must be acknowledged that mobility affected students' educational performance. The effects were less dramatic at Grades K to 2. However, by Grade 3, students who moved four or more times during the year were more than a grade level behind students who did not move or moved at the beginning of the year. Absences caused by moving greatly affected students' performance. Students who quickly enrolled in a new school scored higher than students who did not. Students with absences re-enrolling in the same school scored higher than students changing schools. The number of new students that came into a class had an impact on the scores of all students, not just those who moved. Classrooms with higher mobility rates had lower average grade equivalent scores than those with lower mobility rates -- sometimes as much as 5 to 7 months lower."

Helen Schinske

kprugman said...

This is interesting research, but you have to consider the sources for your information - this was a culminative paper using 17 studies showing grade retention was the strongest predictor of dropping out that affects all ethnicities and social classes.

Why is this important?

"An emphasis on accountability and standards has led to political pressures upon schools
nationwide in evaluating their effectiveness and overall success by test scores.

Of grave concern is that this unprecedented pressure has led to increased retention rates in order for schools to demonstrate
a commitment to standards, rather than consideration of the long-term beneficial outcomes
for students, particularly given that retention is strongly associated with high school dropout."

WINNING THE BATTLE AND LOSING THE WAR: EXAMINING THE RELATION
BETWEEN GRADE RETENTION AND DROPPING OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL
SHANE R. JIMERSON, GABRIELLE E. ANDERSON, AND ANGELA D. WHIPPLE

http://education.ucsb.edu/jimerson/retention/PITS_DropoutRetention2002.pdf

kprugman said...

"Students who move alot due to poverty."

This is certainly a possibility, but not the most interesting one. If you are poor, moving is a luxury few can afford. Most kids living in poverty will change schools or not go to school at all, because their parents can't afford to move to another school location. Most kids are chronically failing, before they resort to disruptions at school. It sort of means they've given up.

For one, you should first distinguish between different types of poverty.

Where families have experienced generational poverty, mobility is low and the most common reason given for changing schools or eventually dropping out is academic failure.

In small rural areas, where there are few choices, families will send their kids perhaps live with an extended family member, or close friend to a nearby town. Open high school enrollment and reverse magnet programs in urban areas add to the confusion.

Presently, I can think of only one magnet alternative program, but I'm not sure they provide bussing. From what I've heard their enrollment and performance have declined in recent years.

In my neck of the woods, most of the Latino boys are out of school by the time their 16. Typically, they find work in warehouses, landscaping, agricultural, carpentry, or food services.

If WS ever expects to educate this group, you will need to modify schools to reach out to them. This is a struggle that has been going on for a long time.

dan dempsey said...

The Board is working to adopt a five-year plan for closing the achievement gap and establishing benchmarks to measure progress.

like continuing the ethnically discriminatory decade of math disaster with CMP2 and EM, while dumping dollars into Edu-soft testing. Then speaking of successful actions without using any data.

That five-year plan with the groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement between the district and SEA will set the bar by which our efforts will
be measured."


Current Candidate for SEA Vice-President, Robert Femiano, told the board in his you can't afford a Cadillac testimony on the Everyday Math adoption action:

You do not have the money to put this much money on an annual basis into math. The commitments you've made in regard to teacher salaries and other programs will not allow this. The SPS must adopt a proven far less expensive solution than this blatantly expensive purchase of EM and the commitment to $2+ million annually for coaching not to mention the expensive expenditures for supplemental materials. The dollars are just not there.

... and now some marvel at the failure to follow through on the SouthEast Initiative.. Mr. Femiano foretold this 10 months ago.

{It is probably unlikely that Dr MG-J or many board members are supportive of Mr Femiano's candidacy --- they just can't handle the truth}

This is interesting because:
(1).. the SEA certainly seemed to be very supportive of the last Board and
(2).. the last bit about the 5-year plan.

That Board worked very hard, with Superintendent Manhas, on this plan and yet, new Board/new Super and it all gets tossed aside and they start over.


This is standard operating procedure for large Urban School districts. Decision-making by political knee-jerk reaction or by philosophical alignment with the unproven but highly recommended PC thoughts floating in the ether.

Interestingly, the Super is the one creating the plan and not the Board.

Perhaps the Board has misinterpreted the fealty to the Queen oath they all signed shortly after the last election.
I can't remember the name of the document perhaps someone could provide a link.

I do not think it mandated that a majority of the board be rubber stampers of administrative whims and actions. Given the last 6 months I could be wrong on that.

Jet City mom said...

This example of the Special Ed money is troubling but maybe a teacher out there can explain to me how this happens.

I have been on building budget commitees.
As you know, principals are in charge of budgets- without enough training or time.
Each special education student has three pots of money.
One- is the pot that every single student in the school recieves.
Two- is the pot that comes from the state- to cover their IEP
Three - is the pot that comes from federal government.

Legally- each student who has an IEP has to have their IEP addressed with the money that is earmarked for them- However- the money comes in the building, in the school I was involved with- it got dumped into the general pot & it was not tracked at all- the rationalization was - and this was vocalized, that the student was enrolled in the school- so they would benefit.

This is not a way to track what the money is being used for- hence the denial of safety net monies- or to be more accurate because documentation & accountability would have to be in place to apply for safety net money- this is why the district didn't even apply for extra money they insisted was needed.
Because they couldn't track the money they already recieved.

anon said...

It is ridiculous for the district to claim that "We simply have an accounting problem, we really should be able to get special education safety net funding. The special education kids are spending all our money." Notably, SPS was NOT a party to the lawsuit by 13 districts who claimed special education was underfunded. Why not sue the state if special education were actually underfunded? Because obviously the district knows they have NO CASE, and are not using special education money on special education students.

And if, by chance, the district is overspending on special education as they claim. Uhhhhh. Then apply for "safety net", that's the legislated mechanism for high cost students. It's the law. Don't blame the students, blame the administrators who can't account for it and cost millions each year.

dan dempsey said...

Anon,

Good point about where the funds may be going.

How does Dr MG-J's plan for massive main streaming of special education students into regular classrooms fit your fiscal model?

hschinske said...

kprugman writes:

"If you are poor, moving is a luxury few can afford. Most kids living in poverty will change schools or not go to school at all, because their parents can't afford to move to another school location. Most kids are chronically failing, before they resort to disruptions at school. It sort of means they've given up."

I don't follow you here. Moving frequently is often the opposite of a sign of luxury. There is a long-established link between poverty and constantly changing addresses ... that's one of the major problems for schools in low-income areas, classes where only 20% or so of the students are there all year. The study wasn't about students changing schools on purpose at all: it was about students who were forced to change schools *because they had moved*.

Helen Schinske

Maureen said...

I wonder if the change to Weighted Staffing Standards (WSS) will have any impact on how Special Ed funding is allocated? WSS seems to give less leeway to principals, maybe the additional 'pots' will be more likely to go to the needs of the special ed kids now? I wasn't involved in the building budget this year, so I don't know how it worked in practice.

anon said...

Dan, your comments are ignorant and fear-mongering. Dr. GJ didn't propose any sort of mass "mainstreaming". And none is happening now. Do you know of any plans? Oh do tell. She simply agreed with the results of a review which was critical of the incredibly restrictive special education system we have now. The review was contracted, and mostly finished before she even got to town. At least she didn't throw it out, and commission another study. Most parents and teachers agreed whole-heartedly with the review recommendations to ease restrictiveness and improve results. They actually couldn't be much worse as they are now.

dan dempsey said...

Blogger anon said...

Dan, your comments are ignorant and fear-mongering. Dr. GJ didn't propose any sort of mass "mainstreaming". And none is happening now. Do you know of any plans?

Let us see what happens over the next two years. What this district discloses will occur and what occurs are often very different.

Most parents and teachers agreed whole-heartedly with the review recommendations to ease restrictiveness and improve results.

I am unsure as to how you arrived at the above statement. It will be interesting to see what agreement there is among both parents and teachers in two years time.