Showing posts from June, 2008

Community Engagement and The Strategic Plan

When the Board approved and adopted the Strategic Plan, the Community Engagement elements were incomplete - the document said as much. Those elements, when written, should also be subject to Board review. The Superintendent should bring those elements to the Board for approval and adoption or the Board should insist upon reviewing them - either way. And when the Community Engagement part comes back to the Board, it should not be the jumble it is now. There are no less than six or seven separate missions included under that umbrella, and, although they are associated, they are each distinct and indepedent. They should each have a fully developed rationale, metric, assessment, benchmark, goal, and person responsible for meeting that goal. Media Relations is the public relations effort to make the District look good in the press. This is the primary function of the Communications office. Public Information is the effort to inform the public about the District and how to negotiate the

What You Missed At the SLC

So the Student Learning Committee meeting and the sandwiched in Public Hearing on the budget was a sparsely attended affair. But it's summer and it was a beautiful day. And, of course, not to mention that the district did near to nothing to publicize the meeting/hearing. The website News and Calendar page STILL is a month old with no link to the new budget. (My remarks to the Board and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson during the public hearing reflected my deep disappointment on this issue. I know it is not incompetence that allowed this to happen; it was by design. Staff does not want parents or the general public to interfere with "their" budget. When some of you wonder why I am cynical and suspicious of staff, well, it's just this kind of nonsense that has gone on for years and years that makes me that way. Also as Chris Jackins, a district watchdog, pointed out in his remarks, the budget used to be very detailed with each school's budget as part of it. This is a v

The Small Schools Experiment, Oregon-style

In what seems to be the longest and largest effort from the Gates Foundation to create smaller high schools, results are in from the first graduating classes from throughout high schools in Oregon state. This article appeared in The Oregonian. What's the outcome? Not much improvement. It's sad because there, as here in Washington state, schools were compelled to revamp and come up with "transformation" plans. But it seems that there was so much going into planning and not enough into resources, students didn't get much further. From the article: "Instead, their statistics look a lot like results from the lumbering, impersonal high schools they are supposed to replace. Lots of students quit, and most of the graduates aren't ready for the rigors of college. At Marshall and Roosevelt high schools in Portland, which each house three academies, about half of their students didn't make it to graduation. That's the same low graduation rate as w

Student Learning Committee Meeting on Wed.

The Board is having their - now - quarterly Student Learning Committee meeting this Wednesday from 4-8 (with a break at 6 p.m. for a public comment on the budget). I called and asked and so far, these are the items on the agenda (with no details): -Special Education -a presentation by Mary Jean Ryan of the State Board of Education ( high school graduation requirements) -high school math adoption And also, just wondering, but what's up with the News and Calendar section of the district's website not having changed for a month? Some of those notices are months old. If most of the schools can update weekly, why can't the district? This meeting is not even on this page. There is to be a public comments portion of the SL Committee meeting for the budget and yet, no announcement on this page There was an article about the budget in the Times and it sounds like this budget needs to be looked at carefully. This is not accountability if no one knows about it until the

A New Day in SPS? Nah

As my son would say - are you serious? Another alleged assault at a Seattle public school (this time Aki Kurose) and the staff "can't reach" the police because they used the non-emergency call number? This story appeared in today's PI. From the story: "During an interview in a school office on June 12, the girl told a police officer that a former classmate she saw in a second floor hallway lifted his shirt and displayed what appeared to be a pistol tucked into his waistband. The 13-year-old boy -- who police said the girl later identified as an Aki Kurose student -- ordered her into the boys' restroom and pushed her into a toilet stall, according to the report. A teacher who came into the restroom took them both to the office, where the girl told about being sexually assaulted. The staff member told police the girl didn't show emotion. The teacher told police after learning what was being reported, he returned to the bathroom and found a toy gun -

Where Does Education Feature For the Next President?

There were two articles in the NY Times about NCLB. One was about Margaret Spellings and her somewhat desperate attempts to get NCLB revamped before Bush (and she) leave office. From the article: “I’m pretty sure that the new president, whoever it is, will not show up and work on George Bush’s domestic achievement on Day 1,” she (Ms Spellings) told a group of civic leaders and educators, promising to do “everything in my power” to improve the law before the White House changes hands. For Ms. Spellings, a longtime and exceedingly loyal member of the Bush inner circle, it was a startling, if tacit, admission that the president’s education legacy is in danger. No Child Left Behind — the signature domestic achievement, beyond tax cuts, of the entire Bush presidency — has changed the lives of millions of American students, parents, teachers and school administrators. Yet its future is in grave doubt." The article goes on: "Today, roughly 11 percent of schools do not meet the

Two New Studies With Huge Implications

There were two new studies recently that were discussed in two articles in the NY Times. The first article discussed a study by the College Board (which conducts both the SAT and AP tests). "The revamped SAT, expanded three years ago to include a writing test, predicts college success no better than the old test, and not quite as well as a student’s high school grades, according to studies released Tuesday by the College Board , which owns the test." The College Board put a positive spin on this, saying that the SAT continues to be a good predictor of first year grades in higher education. (This is somewhat true - the SAT plus high school grades - are good predictors but it also depends on what group of students you are talking about.) “The 3-hour, 45-minutes test is almost as good a predictor as four years of high school grades, and a better predictor for minority students.” But critics had this to say: "But critics of the new test say that if that is the best i

A Gap Year

This article appeared in the NY Times about a young woman who took a year off after high school. It was interesting because she first said she wanted it to concentrate on her studies senior year (and not trying to get into college) and also because she wanted to try two different things during her gap year. From the article, "In the fall of my senior year, I contacted the Center for Interim Programs , a company that arranges gap-year programs for students.I knew I wanted to go to a country where I hadn’t been before, and I designed a program with its help. I spent the first half of that year helping villagers in Ghana and the second half studying art history in Italy. My four months in Ghana turned out to be a defining experience. It introduced me to the field of international development." "That experience was the biggest challenge I’d ever had — emotionally, intellectually and physically, but it was also the most rewarding. After Ghana, I went home for a month and

Amazing, Dedicated, Talented Teachers

Two years ago when my oldest daughters started second grade, I wrote a post on this blog ( Teachers Excel; District Fails ) about their first day of school at Pathfinder K-8 and the two wonderful teachers (Lisa DeBurle and Missa Marmalstein) they met that day. Since today marks the last day Emma and Claire will be in their classes, I want to share my daughters' thoughts on what these two years have meant to them. · It's a Spider's World by Claire · My Thanks to Lisa by Emma While I obviously think Lisa and Missa are exceptional teachers, I also believe there are many, many amazing, dedicated, talented teachers in Seattle Public Schools. They deserve our support and help as they struggle with the challenge of how to meet accountability requirements while keeping joy and creativity in the teaching and learning process. Anyone else have teacher kudos to call out?

Sandra Day O'Connor and Web-Based Civics Lesson

With the stunning news of the recent Supreme Court ruling on Guantanamo (and I am reading The Nine by Jeffrey Tobin about the previous Supreme Court, great reading), comes this NY Times article about former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her efforts to keep civics lessons part of the public education system. From the article: "Sandra Day O’Connor , the former Supreme Court justice, began her remarks at the Games for Change conference in New York by saying aloud what the few hundred people in the audience were already thinking. “If someone had told me when I retired from the Supreme Court about a couple of years ago that I would be speaking at a conference about digital games, I would have been very skeptical, maybe thinking you had one drink too many,” she said to laughter Wednesday in an auditorium downtown at Parsons the New School for Design." What is she helping to develop? "In cooperation with Georgetown University Law Center and Arizona

Don Nielsen Chimes In ... Again

Well, he's nothing if not consistent. Don Nielsen, businessman and former School Board member, is quite the education gadfly and so, every so often will appear in the op-ed pages. Here's his latest PI piece . He starts out with this: "She just published a five-year plan that has been developed with the input of citizens and many of this country's leading education and management experts. It is a blueprint for the transformation of Seattle schools, but there is a high probability she will fail." Charlie, would you call the Strategic Plan "a blueprint for transformation"? Nope, me neither. Well, as Charlie has pointed out it is a good management plan but I thought we were talking about educational transformation. His basis premise of why it will fail? She's talented, driven and bright but her hands are tied. How? Governance - he claims that every two years her bosses change (the Board). He adds his own twist by saying, "History has sho

Inspirational Graduates

This article appeared in the Seattle PI today. (I like to read these sort of things to my son when he gets a little whiny about his life and his parents expectations.) My interest in these kinds of articles is why some people, even kids, are able to rise above circumstances and do well. Is it something in their chemistry or what? That kind of knowledge (if it's even possible to know but there must be some similar characteristics among these types of people) could help educators to reach more students. Heck, it could help all of us help students. For more inspiration, here's a link to CMU Professor Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture" speech. It is worth listening to with your kids (if they are older - Professor Pausch is dying of cancer and has only a few months to live). He really wrote this only for his 3 children, all under the age of 6, but they are too young to hear and comprehend it so he gave it to his students. It is one of YouTube's videos with t

Teacher Speaks Out Against AP

This op-ed , by teacher Web Hutchins, appeared in today's Seattle Times. It's a mixed bag. He starts by saying: "Recent pages in the Times have been awash with stories about the resegregation of our schools and new Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson's plan to add tougher, "standards based" programs at low-income schools as a way to attract more upper-income, white families back to their neighborhood schools." I'm not sure I ever heard Dr. Goodloe-Johnson say the Strategic Plan included standards-based programs at low-income schools to get back more private school parents. Did I miss something? He's pretty harsh on AP courses calling them "a gilded WASL". Ouch. He then says, "Let's keep it real Seattle. If we're going to talk about social justice and equity in education, let's walk the walk. If we truly believe that all kids deserve an equal opportunity to realize their potential and achieve their dreams t

High School Yearbooks

High school yearbooks. Remember those? A permanent record or snapshot of your high school and its inhabitants and what happened during one school year as interpreted by the yearbook staff (and generally one lone advisor). How many of us still have our high school yearbooks and either (1) laugh or (2) do a slow-burn over something ill-advised that got printed or left out or (3) both? So the Times had this article about a yearbook from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in today's edition. Seems the kids got really caught up in being cool and making the yearbook cool and it offended some kids so much they asked for their money back. Now it takes a lot to offend most teenagers. They tend to take a live and let live attitude so as to not look "uncool". But apparently there were numerous references to drug use throughout, sex and drinking. Yearbooks cost upwards of $40-50 so it's not chump change that gets dropped to buy one. The principal said, "Unfortunatel

A Hard To Believe School Schedule

So I was perusing around the SEA (Seattle Education Association) website and found next year's school calendar . I thought, "I should post it to give people a heads up on their calendars." Once again, this calendar begs the question, "When are these kids in school?" (Keep in mind that you should check with your school, particularly middle and high school, for additional time off for late-start days for professional development. Roosevelt had about 12 of these a year and I know West Seattle and Franklin do as well with Hale having the highest number of them. I believe Eckstein has started but I am not aware of what other middle schools might have started as well.) To add insult to injury, the Winter Break, Dec. 22-Jan.2 has 6 weeks between it and Mid-Winter Break, Feb. 16-20 (not counting two holidays, Jan 19 and 26th). Mid-Winter Break has 5 (!) weeks between it and Spring Break, March 30-April 3. Spring Break is then followed by 3 weeks (!) of WA

SPS Family Survey

Have you received your survey yet? It's online at the SPS website and was mailed to families. Unfortunate, neither the paper version or online version allows you to elaborate. The answers to these questions are only going to give the broadest outlines about what parents want or don't get. It's unlikely to help the district understand why parents don't participate more in their child's school. I wish it had been a different survey for elementary versus middle/high school parents. The answers would be very different because, for example, if you are asked about homework policy, well, it varies from teacher to teacher in middle/high school. The question about volunteering is a bit muddled because it asks about the school communicating and not teacher or PTA volunteering. Also, here is blurb from the Seattle Council PTSA about an error on page 2 of the survey: "You recently received a Family Survey from Seattle Public Schools. Please return this survey i

As We Go Into Summer, Beware of "Dry Drowning"

You think as a parent you would have heard it all but I had never heard of "dry drowning" until I read this article . It comes from the Today show. I thought since we are all about done at school and headed off to our summer pursuits, I'd put it out there. From the article: "According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 3,600 people drowned in 2005, the most recent year for which there are statistics. Some 10 to 15 percent of those deaths was classified as “dry drowning,” which can occur up to 24 hours after a small amount of water gets into the lungs. In children, that can happen during a bath." "Dr. Rauch said that the phenomenon of dry drowning is not completely understood. But medical researchers say that in some people, a small amount of inhaled water can have a delayed-reaction effect. “It can take a while for the process to occur and to set in and cause difficulties,” Rauch said. “Because it is a lung process, difficulty breathing is the f

Strategic Plan interview/meeting

On Monday I met with Carol Rava-Treat and Holly Ferguson for about an hour to talk about the Strategic Plan. They are both very confident that this Plan will be implemented and that it will yield positive results. They expect success. Now, these are both sober, intelligent people with critical reasoning skills. They are not delusional, or star-struck, or cheerleaders. I told them that I wanted to share their confidence, but that I've already seen any number of plans or goals sit idle and fail and that I couldn't see how this plan was different. They explained three fundamental differences that distinguish this plan from previous plans. These three differences, taken together, will bridge the gap and make this plan successful. The first difference is leadership. There is a very different sort of person in charge of the District now than we saw there last year. The whole first half of the CACIEE report, distilled to its essence said: "The Superintendent isn’t doing his job

Heartwarminng and, if Science is Important to You, You Can Help

This article about a retired science teacher who is still working to help science teachers throughout the district appeared in today's PI. From the article: "Each week for the past 12 years, the Folsoms have made the trip from their Woodinville home to the Seattle warehouse. They often take work home with them, so the back of their old station wagon is usually packed with boxes of rocks and minerals for Carol to sort and label, or samples of cedar that Lee has cut up for a kindergarten science lab. "He and Carol have made a tremendous impact on student learning and teachers' work," Woo said. "It's been a godsend to have this kind of help." Folsom taught physics and chemistry before retiring in 1977. He came back into the school system in the mid-'90s, volunteering to help establish stronger science programs in elementary schools. His goal now, he says, is to try to make life easier for teachers by streamlining the science kits, making sure

More Clarity in What Did (or Didn't) Happen At Broadview-Thompson

Some might say it's done but I give the Times credit for doing some actual investigating into how a child molesting teacher managed to stay on at Broadview-Thompson. I had some questions myself (and a few remain) but just so it's clear, what really happened is that some teachers were protecting this guy ( obviously unaware or not wanting to believe what they had heard or observed) and the principals who were there (not the current one Jeanne Smart) did not make note of complaints they received about him. There was no trail to follow because these principals, for whatever reason, did not note them in his file. There are any number of reasons that someone might have a complaint against them that might not be justified including unhappy parent or co-worker. But every complaint should be filed and followed up because it would allow a better picture should something valid actually be happening. However, we find out from the article: "teachers kept their concerns in-hous

Differences in News Coverage on Announcement of WASL Scores for Seniors (Updated)

( Update : here's what the PI Editorial board had to say. "The state's WASL testing regimen has proved to be less than a total success. It is merely a smashing success, one that must be carefully nurtured with adequate state financing, more investments in good teaching and rising expectations for our capable young people." A smashing success? C'mon, I'm not sure Terri Bergeson would go that far. How can it be a success if we don't even know what happen to all the kids who started in the class of 2008? They just drop-out and drop off the radar? Don't look at the man behind the curtain? It would be one thing if we could clearly know where those kids are, why they dropped out and why so many were reclassified as juniors but we don't. Mission not accomplished.) The PI had a story yesterday about OSPI releasing information on the number of seniors who had passed the reading and writing WASL. Then the Times had theirs today. Here's

Article in Seattle Times

This was in the Times today. I have to say I find this to be incredibly sad and disturbing. As a Seattle Schools employee this embarrasses me and makes me question my commitment to SPS when questions of child abuse get swept under the rug like this.

Part Three of Times' Series on Diversity

This article appeared in today's Times. There is a common theme in this one; namely, that quality schools trump diversity. From the article: "Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson hopes Seattle residents see the value of living and going to school with people from a wide mix of backgrounds. But she says she can't change where people live. And as much as she values racial diversity, she values high-quality schools more. A quality education, she says, "trumps diversity." "School Board Chairwoman Cheryl Chow puts it more bluntly: "It's not my job to desegregate the city," she said. "We serve the kids that come to our doors." "This is probably heresy and I'll probably get in trouble for this," says School Board member Harium Martin-Morris. As long as a school's academic program is strong, he says, "I'm not so much worried about the ethnic makeup of a building." Fellow board member Michael DeBell, whil

Open Thread - Special Education

There is always a thread, in every discussion, about Special Ed so I thought we might just have one just for Special Education. (Public disclosure; I came into Special Ed late in my older son's life. We only asked for a few accommodations in high school and they were granted. However, I did get an inkling of what might have happened if he had needed more. Additionally, despite letting my son's teachers know about his disability - which he did not choose to disclose to classmates - the very teachers who could have protected him did not. There was something very unkind written about him in his senior yearbook which hurt and puzzled him deeply. This did not have to happen and the manner in which our complaint was handled gave me a taste of what Special Ed parents may go through long-term.) I only know some basics about Special Education; there are different levels, different ways of supporting those students, programs with special equipment at a few schools, a growing

Follow-Up Times' Article on Diversity In SPS

Actually, this article is more about one woman's determination to make more families in her neighborhood aware of the neighborhood school (Muir). Kudos to Lisa Olszewski (and too bad she's moving to Australia). The article details her efforts to change thinking. There was one point, made towards the end, that echoed the problems at Madrona K-8. Here it is: "When Olszewski's daughter entered kindergarten last fall, white students made up 13 percent of the school's population — more than in recent memory. When she runs into people on the street and they ask her where her daughter attends school, she says she now hears: "Oh, I've heard some great things about Muir." The demographic changes have raised concerns and fears among at least a few of Muir's nonwhite parents that their families may be marginalized. Scott, for example, welcomes Olszewski's efforts to improve Muir's image but worries that the school's outreach effort

Times' Front Page Article on Schools' Make-Up

I haven't had time to properly read through this article (although there is one glaring mistake) so no assessment but thought I would post so people could read it. Check further down when you get to this page; there are accompanying parent perspectives, a link to an interactive map, a place to register your thoughts and there will be a Q&A on Wednesday live with Harium Martin-Morris to which you can post a question in advance.