Showing posts from October, 2008

Board Work Session on Capacity

I attended part of the Board Work Session on capacity issues in the NE/NW yesterday. Apparently the Board meeting was standing room only. Here are links to various information/newstories: from the district website, the news release from the PI from the Times From the PI: "Closing schools is the hardest decision I've faced as a director in this school district," said board Vice President Michael DeBell. "I don't enter it lightly; on the other hand, I can't continue to keep 9,000 or more empty seats warm, dry, safe, supervised, clean and reasonably well maintained ... that's a loss of resources." And this passage echos what I have heard about the average kindergarten size in the NE: "The board also heard testimony from teachers, including Laurelhurst Elementary teacher Lisa Beneson, who said her full-day kindergarten class has 30 students this year. "I cannot be the teacher I wish to be when I'm spread so thin," she said.&q

Resolution on Wednesday Board Meeting Agenda

The link to the resolution being offered at Wednesday's Special Board meeting is now posted. It is sobering reading. From the resolution: "This projected shortfall and the negative information from the state is coupled with a number of audits that have advised that we have significant excess capacity vis a vis our student enrollment. For example, the recent State Auditor’s Report on the ten largest districts in Washington State reported that Seattle Public Schools has 18% excess capacity, compared to other districts in the state. In addition, both the Curriculum Audit commissioned by Phi Delta Kappa and the Capital Department review commissioned by the Council of Great City Schools indicated that our capacity exceeds our enrollment and recommended closing buildings. And as far back as 1990, the Washington State House of Representatives evaluation of Seattle Public Schools recommended reducing the per pupil maintenance cost of the district by reducing the number of facilit

Really Avoiding Public School

I had been following this story of the 13-year old Lake Stevens boy who ran away from home. He ran because he had been homeschooled his whole life and now his mom was going to make him go to middle school. (Parents were divorced and the family was splitting kids.) He had studied survival skills and took off. He was gone nearly 2 weeks (what a heart attack!). He got tired and lost and said, forget it, maybe middle school won't be so bad. He missed his mom and his grandmother. He sounds like a very sweet young man and I sure am glad his story had a happy ending.

Board Workshop on Capacity Management

The Board Workshop on Capacity Management will be this Wednesday, October 29th from 3-7 at the district headquarters with a Special Board meeting after it for one hour (this is the schedule at the Board webpage). The only two items on the Board meeting agenda are (1) for the Board to direct the Superintendent and staff to start looking at program moves and closure and consolidation of schools and (2) introduction of a plan for the capacity issues in the NE/NW. (The first item has a "placeholder" on its webpage for further details and won't be available until tomorrow. I'll update it then.) FYI, there is no interaction with the Board during the Workshop (although they are likely to take a break and always like to talk with audience members but keep in mind, they may need a bathroom break) but you can sign up to speak at the actual Board meeting. This article about school closures appeared in today's Times. I was surprised to see that this may come as early

Talking Heads Said It Best

In their song, Life During Wartime, Talking Heads sang: This ain't no party This ain't no disco This ain't no fooling around... That was pretty much my reaction to seeing on the district webpage - Building Closures Being Considered - the letter about building closures that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson sent to staff and community members and the FAQs on building closures. The district once again (and for once, not of their own making, well, not entirely) is in a bad way financially. From what I have seen and heard over the last week or so, there is a sober mood at the headquarters. As I posted recently, the district is facing $24M in budget shortfall for 2009-2010. (Now why it's that much, I don't know for sure.) However, it could nearly double if the Legislature pulls back on I-728 money. Washington state's economy is doing poorly (better than the rest of the country but not great) and voters may send a signal to the Legislature to pull way back on spending

Educational Items of Interest

From the UW website: The learning of science and math is a civil rights issue, and schools should give students broad participation in those areas as early as possible, says Philip Bell, a UW associate professor of learning sciences. Bell will deliver the College of Education's Fall Lecture, titled Pathways to Excellence and Equity in Science, Math and Engineering Learning , from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, in the UW Tower auditorium. Admission is free, and a post-lecture reception will be held from 8:30 to 9 p.m. People learn about science and math in a wide range of settings -- classrooms, homes, online communities. As such, Bell says, education needs to be understood as taking place across a wide range of associated institutions -- schools, families and after-school clubs. Bell directs the ethnographic and design-based research of the Everyday Science and Technology Group. He has a background in human cognition and development, science education, electrical engineering

Update and Op Ed

Well, I'm no fortune teller when I wrote yesterday that there needs to be some political courage about school closures but in today's PI there's a story about the Board making statements about school closures. From the article: "This is by no means a commitment to further school closures, but it is an honest realization that we have to look at every possible option because of the severity of our financial challenges," said School Board Vice President Michael DeBell. The board plans to meet Wednesday to discuss possible changes to its student-assignment plan, as well as short-term ways to ease overcrowding in schools in Northeast Seattle and Queen Anne/Magnolia. But "we now feel we have to widen the scope of this process because of the looming financial challenges we have," DeBell said. The projected deficit is a fraction of the district's annual operating budget of about $556 million, but would still mean significant cuts, such as layoffs or sch

Just Checking and Look What I Found

So I'm checking the Seattle Public Schools website and I click on information about capacity issues in the north end. They've updated it since the last Board meeting where, apparently, COO Don Kennedy presented an assessment of the different options. And boy, is it through. My head is spinning with the possibilities (and I'm still not sure what their recommendation is). I mean they give conclusions for differing scenarios but what they really think isn't clear (however, there is some spin to their rationales). And they also ran through a number of things to carry-over to the assignment plan that had been one year deals. I don't really have a problem with this (and is unclear to me if all of them passed but I suspect so). But a couple really stand out. One is the end date for waitlists. Instead of end of October, it may be moved to end of September. That's just about 3 weeks after school starts which is a pretty short time. The way the waitlists cu

At Long Last... Answers on Denny-Sealth

Seattle Public Schools Facilities Department has finally answered questions that were asked at the public meeting of February 4, 2008. After only six months, the District has answers to these questions. The answers on the web site may still appear as "Response in progress as of 2/8/08" but here are the answers from Don Gillmore: On the WEB there were four questions that had the “Response in progress” notation for which you requested updated information. They are: 1. Pink Room Question #25 Question: What are current independent security stats for each of the schools? Response: Historic security stats for each school are on each individual school website. The information on the website includes disciplinary actions by year related to suspensions and expulsions (click on School Test Data and click on School Outcome Profile and scroll down). In addition, each school website has the “Student Climate Survey” which includes questions related to the school’s general climat

FYI - High School Math Adoption

I just got this information (brief though it is) from the Seattle Council PTSA. I could find no mention of it at the SPS website. Deadline: October 24, 2008! Seattle Public Schools is now accepting applications for the HS Math Curriculum Adoption Committee for grades 9-12. Contact: Bernardo Ruiz Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement

Upcoming Assignment Plan Meetings

I'll just be brief on these upcoming meetings (the first this Thursday at Ingraham High School at 6:30). It is my understanding that these are to be informational meetings. There will be some historical overview given as well as our system now and what some of the issues are around how kids get assigned to schools. I stress informational because I doubt any real specifics will be discussed. You can bring them up but I'm not sure any real answers will be forthcoming. I attended a meeting (by invitation) at the district to talk about the format of these meetings (I believe Charlie attended another one as well). It was a bit confusing because I left not really knowing what the district was trying to get out of these meetings and what parents should leave with. I may try to attend one of them but if I don't get there, I hope someone else will let us know if they learned anything new from attending.

Education Politics

The NY Times had an interesting op-ed called "Last Call" (this was right before the last presidential debate) and here was the education question: "Last year, the federal government reported that 25,000 public schools of (90,000) were labeled as "failing" as a consequence of the No Child Left Behind legislation. There is growing evidence that most schools will become failing schools if the law sticks to its deadline that all children must be proficient in math and reading by 2014. One recent study published in Science magazine predicted that nearly all of California's elementary schools would fail by 2014 under current provisions of the law. How would you change the law so that it helps schools improve instead of stigmatizing them?" Diane Ravitch, professor of education, NYU and assistant secretary of education, 1991-1993 Nearly ALL of California's elementary schools would fail? I'm sorry, any law that creates a situation that would prono

Watch Out In Those School Zones

From the PI's Seattle 911 Blog: "Top city brass were in West Seattle on Monday morning to unveil the Seattle police speed van – a vehicle they hope will increase safety in school zones. The van's photo radar was first used in July when Seattle officers gave school-zone speed warnings during the last week of summer school. Police say the van will be used this year at eight Seattle public elementary schools: Bagley, Broadview-Thompson, Bryant, Blaine, Gatewood, Schmitz Park, Stevens and West Woodland. From July to September, 809 warnings were issued, according to the department. The $189 tickets were first issued by the van last week. But if you get nailed by the speed van for breaking the 20-mph speed limit, there is a silver lining: The violation does not go on your driving record, and photo radar can only be enforced where school zones are properly marked." I've read where and when school zones are enforced and it's somewhat vague. In light of these ne

Where are the reconstitution plans for Aki and AAA?

Seattle Public Schools has two schools in Step Five of sanctions under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) elements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA): Aki Kurose Middle School and the African-American Academy. Those schools in step five are required to restructure. When the schools were in step four of sanctions last year they were required to write plans for their restructuring. This year, in step five, they are required to implement those plans. So what are they doing? How is Aki Kurose or the AAA getting restructured? Where are their plans? What is being done to comply with the federal law? Why isn't everyone in the District leadership talking about this? From the OSPI's description of NCLB sanctions: Step Four In this step, school districts are required to undertake "school restructuring." The district has one year to prepare a restructuring plan with an implementation timeline for schools in this step. The plan must be implemented the fo

Instruction Time

There is an article in the Seattle Times today about the number of hours of instruction a student receives in the 10 comprehensive high schools. Only 2 of the schools meet the criteria of 150 hours of instruction per class per school year. I have to say that this is one of my biggest gripes. At Rainier Beach, we have twenty 2-hour late arrival and early dismissal days during the year. On those days, each of the 6 periods only meets for 35 minutes. I don't feel that is enough time for any sort of new instruction, so I have these days be "work and review" days. I hate this for a couple of reasons. The students get cheated out of instruction and the time the teachers spend in the morning or afternoon is usually very unproductive. Last year, for example, most of the twenty days was spent on district-mandated training for a Language Arts program called Reading Apprenticeship . Now I'm sure this is a fine program, but when I talked to our LA teachers about it, they kind of

Say no to vouchers

In last night's final presidential debate, John McCain raised the subject of school vouchers as a solution in Washington DC.  Unfortunately, Sen. Obama did not refute the argument as strongly as many of us would have liked.   Vouchers are essentially government funded scholarships that enable some poor kids to attend private schools.  They are different from charter schools, which are essentially public schools outsourced to private companies.  (The two are often confused.) Vouchers are one of those political talking points that sound great in theory:  give poor kids a chance to go to private schools instead of failing public schools.  In reality, this equates to spending precious funds to add a couple more lifeboats to the Titanic rather than spending that money to save the ship from sinking.  McCain ( as Bush before him ) touted how the millions of dollars spent in DC gave a few thousand kids the opportunity to attend private schools.  And what about the other kids in the faili

Once again, the District is at risk

Every year the Board routinely passes a motion about every school having a school improvement plan. Every year it is a lie. Every year it puts the state basic education funding - $200 million - at risk. Here's what the motion says: "I move that the Seattle School Board approve the method of review of C-SIPs outlined by the Chief Academic Officer, accept the Chief Academic Officer’s certification that each school in the District has complied with WAC 180-16-220, and approve the schools within the District." You will notice that the motion is very careful to say that the Board does not, itself, attest to the fact that each school in the District has complied with the law. No. They only vote to approve the method used by Ms Santorno to confirm the fact and they then accept her certification of it. Based on this certification, they attest to the state that each school has a plan that complies with the state law. There is, however, no reference anywhere in the motion or in

More on Assignment Plan and Capacity Issues

There's a Board Workshop re Student Assignment Plan, Wednesday, October 29, 3-7 pm in the Auditorium followed by a Special Board Meeting re 2009/10 Student Assignment and Capacity Recommendations at 8 pm. I wouldn't go mixing those two up. I believe the Board Workshop is just to work on the new assignment plan which will encompass many issues including capacity issues in the north. The Special Board Meeting is just about the tweaks for the current assignment plan for the 2009-2010 school year. Whether these tweaks survive to the new and improved Assignment plan remains to be seen. So if you have nothing else to do for 5-7 hours during that time period, you should make plans to attend.

Dualing Op-Eds for Terry Bergeson

A few threads back I posted an op-ed in the PI by David Marshak, a professor education, about Terry Bergeson, the state superintendent. He felt she had started off with the best of intentions for the WASL and allowed it to slowly get out of control. Now there is an op-ed in today's PI defending her. It is by former "education" governor, Gary Locke, and Bill Brinstein, the chairman of the state Higher Education Coordinating Board. They contend she has done a good job. (Mr. Marshak's op-ed had the word "tragedy" in it and this one has the word "triumph", hence the dualing titles.) From their op-ed: "Today our students have the nation's top SAT scores among states that test at least 50 percent of their students. We have quadrupled student participation in Advanced Placement courses. We see record numbers of students with record test scores applying to our state's colleges and universities. And we are strengthening our career and t

A New High School Choice for SPS?

Here's something I missed on tonight's Board agenda; okaying a joint agreement with Highline School district (directly south of SPS) as Highline's Aviation High will be housed in the Museum of Flight by fall 2010. There was this article about it in today's PI. From the article: "Technically, the site is on Seattle Public Schools' turf, about one-third of a mile from the district's southern boundary. So the two districts want to strike a deal, one that would allow Highline to build and operate its school at the new site and to ensure the Seattle district benefits from having the high school within its boundaries." Also, "There are still key points to work out. Seattle school officials want Highline to promise a certain number of the high school's spots to Seattle students, for example, and that the agreement would be reviewed annually. There are also logistics to consider, such as whether transportation would be provided to the school, an

North Capacity Plan(s) to Be Unveiled at School Board Meeting

Capacity plans for the NE/NW/QA/Magnolia will be presented at the School Board meeting tomorrow (it's from 6-9 p.m. at the headquarters). I am unable to attend. Here is the link to the agenda item. From it: "A Board work session is scheduled for October 29, after which it is anticipated that – based on the work session as well as on public input – a revised motion will be developed to reflect specific recommendations on capacity issues. This will allow for additional Board consideration and public input prior to the November 12 meeting at which action on these issues is scheduled." They are considering making tweaks to the student assignment plan this year based on items that would sunset for the upcoming school year. They include: • Extend provisions for dual waiting lists at John Stanford International School to other dual language/international school programs. • Eliminate the distance tiebreaker for The Center School and for South Lake Alternative School. •

Education Advisors to the Presidential Candidates

Next Tuesday, Columbia University's Teachers College is holding a fascinating event live on the web. I'm guessing it will be more interesting than the debate happening this week between the two candidates, particularly for those people who want to know what education policy might look like under the next administration. On Tuesday, October 21st, at 7 pm, Teachers College will host "Education and the Next President," a debate between Linda Darling-Hammond, education advisor to Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, and Lisa Graham Keegan, education advisor to Republican nominee John McCain. It will be Web Cast live. See the website below for more information:

Student Assignment Meetings Announced

Tell your friends, your neighbors, anyone you know with a child who may be enrolling in Seattle Public Schools - the district has announced public meetings on this issue. Here's the web page at the district's website. Here are the meeting dates: Thursday, October 23, 2008 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Ingraham High School Library 1819 North 135th Street Interpreters: Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese Monday, October 27, 2008 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Rainier Beach High School Paul Robeson Performing Arts Center 8815 Seward Park Avenue South Interpreters: Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese Saturday, November 1, 2008 10:00 AM - 12:00 Noon John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence Auditorium 2445 3rd Avenue South Interpreters: Amharic, Chinese, Somali, Spanish, Tigrigna, Vietnamese It doesn't say on the website but I believe they are still aiming for a new plan for enrollment in Spring of 2010 with students under the new plan (well, many of them) starting in Fall of 2010. I cannot

Op-Ed on Math Wars in Sunday Times

This is a good op-ed from Ted Nutting, a math teacher at Ballard high school who teaches, among other courses, AP Calculus. He is clearly on the side of old-school math and makes no apologies for it. From the piece: "The problem is national in scope, but in Washington state our difficulties can be traced principally to Terry Bergeson, superintendent of public instruction for the past 12 years. She oversaw the writing of our state's weak, vague math standards, basing them on a "reform" idea to promote "discovery" learning. This has turned teachers into "facilitators" who "guide" children in learning activities. It has promoted "differentiated instruction," placing students of wildly differing abilities together where some students cannot do the required work, often to the detriment of those who can. She has moved away from rigorous testing. The "reform" math she champions encourages such things as journals, portfo

Increasing Crime at Roosevelt

I had heard about these incidents at and around Roosevelt and now they made the news in today's PI. There has been an uptick in crime around Roosevelt, mostly robbery with assault. Only one incident that I know of happened near the school on the sidewalk outside the school grounds. (Interestingly, my co-president witnessed it - she knew the student since he was in kindergarten - and rushed to try to help. I myself stepped in to break up an assault at our get-ready day at Roosevelt between two girls at the start of school. Those of you who know me know I'm pint-sized and yet I was surprised at the number of adults who praised me and yet said they wouldn't have stepped between the two girls. I get that I could get hurt but who is going to intervene if adults don't? That said, I would likely only call 911 or shout at attackers on the street because of the possibility of a weapon being involved.) I give our principal, Brian Vance, props for sending home informat

Former Bellevue Super Dies

Highly influential former Bellevue superintendent, Mike Riley, died yesterday. He was 58. Here is the story from today's Times. I bring this to your attention because Mr. Riley brought real and concrete change to the Bellevue School District. Whether you agree or not with what his vision was, he was a force for change. He had left Bellevue district to work for the College Board that administers SATs and AP tests. When the Bellevue teachers were on strike this fall some of their grievances stemmed from his legacy of trying to laser-focus curriculum and encourage all students to aim higher. The teachers' complaint was the the curriculum was too automated and left them with little room to individualize. Interestingly, an article in the Times during the strike had a chart that laid out his legacy. I had read it (and saved it) intending to blog about it because the results were so striking. Here is some of it:

Who Mentioned Education at Last Night's Debate?

It was Obama. When McCain and Obama were asked to rank what order they would place different issues (entitlement reform, health care or energy) to work on, Obama said energy, health care and then, instead of entitlement reform, he said education. "And, number three, we've got to deal with education so that our young people are competitive in a global economy." I was really pleased and surprised even though it was only one sentence and the only mention of education. It seems to rank high in his mind. For the record, Senator McCain said (and I'm just putting in the last sentence because it covers the question), " But we can do them all at once. There's no -- and we have to do them all at once. All three you mentioned are compelling national security requirements."

BTA Meeting

I attended the first community meeting to discuss the future BTA levy. I came away somewhat confused and not feeling good about public engagement. There were 3 staff members, 1 Board member (Peter Maier) and about 8 members of the public. One thing to correct from the get-go that I erroneously stated before is that this is a maintenance levy. This is NOT a maintenance levy. It is the smaller scale capital projects in the areas of buildings, technology and academics. Maintenance, as it was explained, are projects without a hammer (landscaping, painting, small repair). The BTA projects range from roofs and window replacement to carpeting. It is a workhorse levy as I termed it previously but it is not a maintenance levy. (My apologies for any confusion.) Here's the PowerPoint that was presented. As Charlie mentioned in my post announcing the meetings, it's not all that helpful and somewhat tedious. There were 5 pages of "district" information which I was to

Reminder about BTA Community Meetings

UPDATE 10/6/08 - Here is a link to the Powerpoint that will be given at each community meeting. Just a reminder that this week are the district-sponsored meetings on the BTA levy (Buildings, Technology and Academics) that is coming up for a vote in Feb. 2010. True to form, these meetings are all in one week. (It is a never-ending mystery to me why all these meetings have to be the same week. I realize staff doesn't like having to work into the evening but it's also the nature of the job they have.) I'm going to the Broadview-Thompson meeting. When: October 6,8,0 and 10th from 6:30 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. Where: Monday the 6th at Broadview-Thompson in the library Wednesday the 8th at Meany Middle in the library Thursday the 8th in Mercer Middle School Friday the 10th at West Seattle High in the library From the district website: "SPS is in the process of identifying capital needs and developing alternatives for the BTA III levy that will go before the voters in Fe

Capacity Planning and Management Work Session

Here is my account of the Board work session on capacity issues in the north end which was held on Wednesday, October 1st, 2008. Please note, this is not verbatim. All the Board members were present as was the Superintendent who did the overview sections of the presentation. Also at the table were Tracy Libros, head of Enrollment, and Kathy Johnson, from Facilities who the Phase I Manager (there are going to be two phases for this process; one started already and Phase II in January). Here is a link to the district webpage on this subject. Here is the link to the PowerPoint given by staff to the district. No handouts were available for the public but here is a link . (And, they seated the Board members in a u-shape around the screen so it was difficult for the audience to see the screen - the Board had handouts.) Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson said the goal of the meeting was to get a clear indication from the School Board on what measures to take for the school year 2009-