Showing posts from August, 2008

WASL Scores Released

The 2007 WASL pass rates for schools and districts were released yesterday. Be very careful when drawing conclusions from this data. There is no attribution analysis that comes with these pass rates, so please remember that there are a number of factors that contribute to a student's results on the WASL and that the school is only a minor factor, not a determining factor. Stronger factors include the student's home and the student's teachers. For example, the pass rates at Chief Sealth High School are markedly higher this year than in previous years. Is that due to a change in the teaching and learning at Chief Sealth or is it primarily due to the recent introduction of International Baccalaureate classes there? Now that Sealth is offering IB classes, the school is attracting more high performing students. The improvement in pass rates at Sealth wasn't caused by a change in the student's classes but a change in the class of student. I remember a few years ago there

Tree Cutting Must Go Through Permit Process

King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick ruled on Monday that Seattle Public Schools must follow the City's permit process before cutting down about 100 trees at Ingraham High School to make room for an addition at the school. And, if the City denies them permission to cut the trees, the District must abide by that decision. Let's be clear. The judge's ruling didn't save the trees, it only binds the District to follow the law as it would apply to anyone else and subject their plans to the usual City process of hearings and reviews. There's no telling if these reviews will decide that the trees need to be protected or if the City will allow the District to cut them down. You can read about it in the P-I here or in the Times here . What is clear, however, is that the District tried to dodge the permit process and they did it with either the explicit or the tacit approval of the Board.

Stepping Away

Due to a illness in my family, I will be stepping away from blogging for awhile. I want to sincerely thank Beth for asking me to be part of this blog. Beth has so much integrity and I was glad for the opportunity. I know that lively and thoughtful discussions will continue on with Beth, Charlie, Michael and whoever else writes here. I hope all of you continuing reading the blog and getting the message out that it exists because it is the one place in Seattle where parents and others can come and discuss the district. It's good and healthy to make these connections. Please continue to support Seattle public schools, warts and all. There are good things happening in our schools and they need our support (and tough love).

High School Credit

Here is a state law, RCW 28A.230.090 , which reads, in part: (4) If requested by the student and his or her family, a student who has completed high school courses before attending high school shall be given high school credit which shall be applied to fulfilling high school graduation requirements if: (a) The course was taken with high school students, if the academic level of the course exceeds the requirements for seventh and eighth grade classes, and the student has successfully passed by completing the same course requirements and examinations as the high school students enrolled in the class; or (b) The academic level of the course exceeds the requirements for seventh and eighth grade classes and the course would qualify for high school credit, because the course is similar or equivalent to a course offered at a high school in the district as determined by the school district board of directors. This is pretty clear. The law says that the credit "shall be given"; i

Be the Change You Want to See

The Board says that they want the District Staff to solicit, respond to, and seriously consider public input. They say that, but they won't put any authority or accountability behind it. They also say that they will model the behavior they want to see. So how well does the Board solicit, respond to, and seriously consider public input? Not so well. The most salient public input the Board gets is the public testimony they hear at their regular legislative meetings. What happens to that public input. What evidence can we find that they listened to it, responded to it, and seriously considered it? The short answer is: little or none. First, does the Board actually solicit public input? Not so much. You can write to them, send them e-mails or call them on the phone any time you like. I suppose you could also try to schedule an appointment to meet with them, but being available for public input isn't exactly soliciting it. And then there is, of course, the public testimony - up to

The Times Weighs In

Yet another honeymoon comes to an end. The Seattle Times Editorial Board was in love, Love, LOVE with the new Seattle School Board and I think they wanted to have Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson's baby. Yeah, well, that may be over. I don't know why, maybe it was because they crossed the Mayor (the Times's One True Love), or maybe the beer goggles wore off and the Times just woke up and discovered who they were in bed with. Either way, the Times just kicked the Board and the Superintendent out of bed with an editorial in today's paper . With today's editorial, the Times acknowledges what everyone else in Seattle has long known: Seattle Public Schools - from the bottom to the top - holds public input in utter contempt. They will squash it, suppress it, evade it, ignore it, and reject it at every possible opportunity. Let's consider the various episodes in reverse chronological order: INGRAHAM The District tried to subvert the legal process throug

Denny/Sealth revisited

As a result of the kerfuffle over the BEX III project at Ingraham I found myself at the BEX III web site where I was tempted to click on the links to Denny/Sealth . Once there, I took a trip down memory lane on the Q & A from the February 4th public meeting . It's a funny thing, but here it is August, six months later, and they STILL haven't answered some of those questions. If I didn't have perfect faith in the District and the Facilities staff, I might fear that they never will. Just the same, I am curious about when they intend to answer these questions. Maybe if we could just get a timeline... Ah! And when exactly is the start time for that speedskating race in Hell? I think all you have to do is look at their record. Who is being held accountable for this? Is it the outside communications company that was hired to do the community engagement?

School Board Meeting on Wednesday

The agenda for the upcoming School Board meeting this week (Wednesday at 6p.m.) is rather light. This might be good given that I suspect there will be a larger than normal sign-up for the speakers list (me included). I hope the Board and the Superintendent have tough skins because there are likely to be a lot of slings and arrows directed their way because of the recent unhappiness over their plans for the cutting of trees at Ingraham. (As an aside, I had been reading the BEX III Oversight Committee agenda for August and saw that a presentation had been made by Pacific Communications - a company doing work for the district and, I think, being paid by the Alliance - about a construction outreach program. I asked to see that presentation but sadly, it's not available online but the legal department did send me a hard copy. Naturally, I had to request this through them because of the still-continuing policy of Facilities to never give out information without forcing you to go t

Metrics for the Southeast Initiative

Hello I have been meaning to do this for quite sometime, but I just found my copy of this. There are concrete metrics that Rainier Beach , Cleveland , and Aki Kurose are going to be held accountable to. These metrics will be used to determine if the SE Initiative is a success or failure. There are 4 Academic Milestones, each with multiple Academic Achievement Metrics. I don't know how this will come across, since I am copying an Excel Spreadsheet, but here are the metrics: Academic Milestone Academic Achievement Metric Cross-Milestone 1-1 Annual Enrollment 2-1 Annual Average Attendance 9th Graders Ready for High School 3-1 On-time 9th graders earning at least five credits (%) 10th Graders Passing WASL 4-1 Reading WASL (%) 4-2 Math WASL (%) 4-3 Writing WASL (%) 4-4 Science WASL (%) 4-5 Met AYP Students Ready for College & Work 5-1 Graduates meet

The Lorax Strikes Back

Following up on Charlie's post, the PI had an article today on the tree grove at Ingraham. "A grove of trees near Ingraham High School received an 11th-hour reprieve Wednesday when a King County Superior Court judge ordered a temporary hold on school district plans to fell them." "Chief Civil Judge John Erlick's decision Wednesday afternoon bars the district from felling the trees until Aug. 27 at the earliest and gives neighbors a chance to seek a permanent restraining order against removing the trees. Erlick also ordered the neighborhood group to pay a $7,500 bond to offset damage to the district if its case is found not to have merit." The district now has some new things to say about why they withdrew their city permit request, things they never said before. "District officials say they plan to cut 63 trees to make way for an expansion of Ingraham High School. The district had applied for city permits to build a new wing at the school but has

This Is Why High School Choice Should Continue (and Why the SE Initiative Can't Solve Everything)

The PI has been running a two-part series on young men and gangs throughout the region. In the second part published today, they examine the scattershot approach across the board from public entities. There was also a sobering letter to the editor about the first part of this series which I believe reflects how many people feel (frustrated). From the article: "Common wisdom holds that kids involved with gangs are long gone from school, unseen and vanished into street life. But James, a sophomore at Cleveland High last year, would disagree. To him, they were everywhere, congregating in the halls, getting high just outside the building, urging him to step into their circle. At 16, he loved sports - track, in particular - and while he clearly feared parental wrath, he could not help pulling away from a mother frantic to keep him safe. Almost from the day school began last fall, James was torn between worries about where gang life might lead and his equally powerful wish

The Tree Issue; the PI Editorial Board Weighs In

This editorial about the issue of Seattle School District and tree cutting on their property(ies) appeared in today's PI. It was very direct: "The School Board should map a path for reversing course quickly, perhaps beginning at a closed-door Tuesday meeting. Neighbors have legitimately fought the district's plans to cut dozens of trees for a needed Ingraham High School expansion. A district review recently upheld the tree removal. But with city rules apparently blocking any cutting while a master-use permit was pending, the district sent a letter to neighbors saying it would withdraw its city permit applications for the construction plans, cut the trees and soon resubmit the project. Too clever by half, and even more cynical." The closed door meeting is an Executive Session of the Board today (members only). The PI suggests: "We understand eagerness on the district's part to improve facilities, hold down costs and stay on schedule. If the tree removal i

Upcoming primary for State Superintendent

Here's an interesting wrinkle in the State Superintendent primary: if any of the candidates get a majority of the votes in the primary, that's it, it's over. In that case there would not be another vote in the general election. There are six candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction, but most of the attention is focused on two: the incumbent Terry Bergeson and one of the challengers, Randy Dorn . I'm under no obligation to be unbiased here, so I'll be very clear: I don't believe that the incumbent has been leading state education in the right direction. Of all of the challengers, Randy Dorn strikes me as the one most likely to bring the right kind of change. Honestly I would love it if Mr. Dorn won a majority of the votes in the primary and sewed up the whole thing on August 19. What do you think?

Do We Expect Too Little of our Students from Pre-K On?

This article , "U.S.-British 'learning gap' a Real Education for Mom" appeared in today's Times. It is by Associated Press reporter (and mom) Nancy Zuckerbrod. Ms. Zuckerbrod was living in London and she and her husband had been looking at schools for their 5-year old Olivia. From the article: "The head teacher and I exchanged pleasantries, and then she laid it out. My daughter, who commonly invokes the Mandarin word for little brother and usually wins at the game of hangman, has a significant "learning gap" when compared with her British peers — especially in literacy." "An e-mail from the school followed. It politely spelled out exactly what the kids in that school were expected to master by Olivia's age: telling time; fractions — whole, half, quarter and thirds; counting in 5's up to 50; reading books (something called the pink new level) and starting to write "news" independently. I thought about Olivia's

Facilities Department Goes Unchecked (Further Updated)

So here we go again. I had seen at the BEX webpage that the Ingraham neighbors against having a grove of trees cut down for a new addition lost their battle in a hearing. More than 65 trees out of grove of about 130 are to come down. That in itself is sad considering most of those trees are healthy. But the district says that's the best way to build the addition and that they are replanting trees (although not the same kind with the same canopy size - I'm no expert but apparently it matters in a city what the tree canopy is). Okay fair enough but then I heard on the 5:05 local news on KUOW yesterday that the district has dropped OUT of the city permitting process. Why? Because they own the land and can do what they want. So what they want to do is cut down as many trees as they want and THEN apply for a city permit to build. Apparently, this tactic was done before in SW Seattle, again amidst protest from the neighborhood. The district said then that it was a &qu

Why is the SPS Website So Lame?

Yet another post on a thread that deserves its own space. This was from the AP thread from NEMom: "Solvaygirl is right - there should be something provided by the district showing families what programs, services, assistance, etc is available at each school, and to whom it is available. Why do parents have to be detectives and go through every school's website or attend every open house just to find out bits and pieces of info?" NE Mom I have been saying this exact thing for years. Why indeed to we have to be detectives? Why are the Enrollment Guides not clear? Why do we have a district website if it is not the central clearinghouse for information rather than just a place for each department/school to post information? There is no FAQ page for the district; some departments have one, others don't. Bellevue School District has one. The information on any school's website can vary; some don't even put bell hours. Why not a page that has an or

Follow-Up on AP Thread

On the post about the assignment plan, we diverged off on high school. One post was this that I wanted to follow up on: "And...a friend just told me that her daughter, a junior in the fall, has already taken all of the AP classes Franklin has to offer. With many colleges using AP classes as admittance markers, we can't afford to have any student who wants to attend college unable to take AP classes at their school. People keep talking about running start...but, it is not free, nor am I ready to have my 16-17-yr-old sitting in a class with college-age young men. And, I'd like her to get to experience the social aspects of high school: dances, student clubs, etc." My son did Running Start (in the evenings rather than during the day) and it was a great experience. However, it is a challenge to work it in and I'd bet it's harder for kids who try to make classes during the day. (High schools lose money when these students leave campus so I think there are mi

City Council Weighs in on Math Standards

This from the City Council webpage : The Seattle City Council has expressed strong support for increasing high school math requirements, as all nine council members signed a letter to the State Board of Education in support of a new law that increases the math requirement for graduation. The issue currently before the Washington State Board of Education after the Washington State Legislature passed 2SHB 1906 directing the Board to increase math requirements for high school graduation from two to three credits. `“In order for our young people to succeed, they need to be academically ready for post-secondary education or job training programs,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell. “They need three credits of math.” While only 38 percent of Washington’s school districts meet the three credit math standard for high school graduation, the minimum college admission standard for freshmen is three credits -- one credit each in Algebra, Geometry, and Intermediate Algebra II or three credits of

The Worst Audit Yet

"Ad hoc, incoherent and directionless." "Highly fragmented, weakly defined, poorly monitored, and producing very unsatisfactory academic results." "The school district has not articulated a clear vision for what it wants to see in its English language learners and possesses no strategy or coherent program that would boost the academic chances of those students." These quotes are from the audit of the district's bilingual programs. Blunt is the word for it. Both the Times and the PI ran stories on it this morning. Here are some notable quotes from the usual suspects From the PI: "This review, the latest in a series commissioned by Seattle Public Schools in the past year, was the toughest yet – but necessary, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson said Wednesday. "If you want to go from good to great, you have to look at the brutal facts," she said." From the Times: " At the School Board meeting Wednesday night, Sherry Carr

More What Works

This paper , Lessons Learned: New Teachers Talk about their Jobs, Challenges, and Long-Range Plans , is a survey of first-year teachers. (This is based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 641 first-year teachers in March/April 2007.) From the NYC Parent blog: "76% of teachers overall said that reducing class size would be " a very effective " way of improving teacher quality, and 78% of teachers who work in high needs schools. 21% of teachers said reducing class size would be "effective", for a total of 97% -- far outstripping every other strategy mentioned, including : Increasing teacher salaries (57%), increasing professional development opportunities (54%), making it easier to terminate unmotivated or incompetent teachers (41%), requiring new teachers to spend time under the supervision of experienced teachers (35%) requiring graduate degrees in education (21%), requiring teachers to pass tough tests of their knowledge ot their subjec

What Works

Ever wonder what IS working in education today (and how do you know)? I found this great paper called "Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported Rigorous Evidence: A User Friendly Guide" put out by U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. It starts out with this information: "This Guide seeks to provide educational practitioners with user-friendly tools to distinguish practices supported by rigorous evidence from those that are not." "If practitioners have the tools to identify evidence-based interventions, they may be able to spark major improvements in their schools and, collectively, in American education. As illustrative examples of the potential impact of evidence-based interventions on educational outcomes, the following have been found to be effective in randomized controlled trials – research’s “gold standard” for establishing what works: ■

Summertime and Homework Assignments

There's a thread over at the Editorial page at the Times about summertime homework following from a story (linked at the blog) in the Washington Post. The dilemma is the belief that kids lose a lot of learning power during the summer so some schools have reading list assignments or even homework assignments. The flip side is "it's summer, let'em relax". I'd be somewhere in the middle. When my kids were younger, we always participated in the Seattle Library's summer reading program. They got charted for progress, got little prizes and a there was a party at the end. Pretty painless and it kept up their reading. I'm not big on assignments because it feels punitive. However, if your child had a poor grade in math or was struggling with reading, giving them the whole summer off is not going to help. It also brings up the point of whether year-round school makes sense. Is 6 weeks in the summer enough of a break? Would it keep the learning level

An Open Letter to the Board

Members of the Seattle School Board, I have been watching this Board with growing concern. Last month, however, when the Board conspired to evade public discussion of the superintendent's evaluation, I became convinced that the Board has lost its way. It makes me heartsick to have to remind you that you are the elected representatives of the public and to call upon you to remember your better selves. You are the elected representatives of the public. Think about that for a bit. It was the public who elected you – not the District staff. The members of the community are your constituents, not the people who work in the JSCEE. After the students, you owe your loyalty to the public, not the superintendent. We're not seeing that. In your Affirmation of Responsibility, I see a lot of duties you owe the superintendent and each other, but the only duty you name for the public is to refer their concerns to the appropriate staff person. Don't you think you owe the public something

An Outside Firm to Craft the Assignment Plan?

I received an e-mail from a parent who asked me if the district might be hiring an outside firm to create the new assignment plan. My first instinct was to say no. The Board hasn't in the (recent) past. But this is a Board and Superintendent who used a lot of outside help in their audits that were done this year. Could they be thinking along those lines for the assignment plan? The parent sent me a URL for a company that works on assignment plans. It's called the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice . I only browsed the site but saw some interesting reading there. They created plans for NYC, Boston and Portland, Oregon. Of particular interest is their publications page . What I told this parent is that it might be a good idea but with some major caveats. One, where would the money come from to hire them? The Board just gave the Superintendent a raise and passed a budget that they can't sustain. There is no extra money. Well, maybe the Alliance w