Tuesday, March 31, 2009

K-12 Funding

"This week, state lawmakers will release a budget proposal that will make cuts in our public education system in order to close a historic budget shortfall. Kids in our public schools will feel the real impacts of these cuts. Our lawmakers need to know that we are paying attention and will hold them responsible for investing in our children’s future. Please sign the online version of the Washington Kids Can’t Wait Petition to help us pass 10,000 signatures by Friday, April 3rd. The petition asks lawmakers to: protect funding for Washington’s children and schools and redefine basic education to pay for what our children need to succeed in college, job training, work and life. (This petition is endorsed by the Washington State PTA.)"

Take action:

Email your legislator NOW: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/Default.aspx

Sign the petition NOW: http://gopetition.com/online/25946.html

“We lead the country in science and engineering jobs, but we are one of the states at the bottom in the production of scientists and engineers” -- Mark Emmert, UW president

So how bad are the cuts to K-12 education?

Seattle could lose about $20 million in I-728 funds.

- The House maintained “basic ed” funding.

- The Senate trimmed “basic ed,” but backfilled with federal stimulus money.

- The House maintained levy equalization funds at present levels.

- The Senate cut the levy equalization funds by 75 percent.

Levy equalization funds translate to thousands of dollars per student in some property-poor districts. Seattle doesn’t receive these funds.

- The House cut I-728 funds by 56 percent (it cut more, then backfilled with stimulus money).

- The Senate cut I-728 funds by 93 percent.

I-728 set up an achievement fund to help students meet state standards. Statewide, about half the money goes to class-size reduction; the other half goes to early learning, extended learning, and professional development. Seattle gets about $21 million in I-728 funds. SPS uses it to pay for more teachers, our sixth period in high school and all-day kindergarten for low-income kids.

This school year, I-728 allocations are $458 per student.

- The House budget would trim that to $184 next year and to $152 the year after.

- The Senate budget would trim that to $31 per student.

Translation for Seattle: Under the Senate plan, a loss of about $20 million in funding. Under the House plan, a loss of $12.5 million in 2009-10 and another $1.5 million the next budget year.

Both the House and Senate eliminated I-732 funds, the cost of living raises for teachers.

House budget: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/Budget/Detail/2009/ho0911summary_0331.pdf

Senate budget: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/Budget/Detail/2009/so0911highlights_0330.pdf

Here’s where we are:

As a state, we can’t even commit to giving kids the chance to go to college. The state doesn’t pay for the instructional hours or courses students need to succeed in today’s economy. Instead it leaves it to local districts to fund that crucial sixth period as an “enhancement.” Ditto a college-prep curriculum. Some can afford to, others can’t. The quality of secondary education varies a great deal between districts.

If I-728 funds are indeed slashed to $31 per student, Seattle’s ability to prepare kids for college or advanced training will be severely hurt. As is, only 1 in 6 Seattle Public School students meet the requirements for a four-year college.

THINK ABOUT THAT. In this -- the most educated city in the nation, where half the population older than 25 has a bachelor’s degree – 5 out of 6 SPS graduates CAN’T EVEN APPLY to college.

Giving kids the chance isn’t “basic ed,” and the funding isn’t protected as such. It says a lot about our state – and none of it good – when preparing kids for the realities of today’s workforce is considered “reform.”

It’s basic. We have to address it, and we have to get started now. THINK ABOUT IT: When leaders say, Now is not the time, by default their message to kids is, Now is not your time.

What to do

E-mail your legislators, especially your senator, Senators Margarita Prentice, Joe McDermott, Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Adam Kline are on the Ways and Means Committee. They need to vote to keep ed funding reform alive. Senator Ken Jacobsen is the only Seattle representative who didn’t vote for ed funding reform last month.

Tell them: Education is our state’s paramount duty. We need to treat it that way.

“Basic education” has to be defined by what kids need to succeed. Only then will we get the outcomes our state needs to stay viable.

- Kids need Core 24 (a college prep curriculum).

- Kids need early learning – high risk kids especially need preschool.

- Kids need smaller class sizes in grades K-2 so everyone gets the foundation they need to move on to more rigorous classes.

- Kids need great teachers.

Is Your Middler Schooler Drinking? High Schooler?

Great story over at the West Seattle Blog about a mother and son who wrote a book about their journey as he started drinking. Chris (mom) and Toren (son) Volkmann will be speaking on April 8th at 7 pm at Madison Middle School. Their book is Binge to Blackout. From the article:

"A focus of Chris’s advocacy is pointing out that the human brain is still developing until age 23: “Toren and I like to talk about how much research has changed. … A lot of parents don’t realize how much damage can be done. The prefrontal cortex is the last part of the brain to form - and that’s at age 20 for girls, age 23 for boys. That’s a huge length of time to be susceptible to extreme damage.”

And if you start drinking in 6th grade, there's plenty of time to harm a young brain.

How to start the discussion? Here's some great ideas:

"So, we ask, how to open that discussion - at any age - without getting the eye roll, the “yeah, yeah, you’ve gone through all this before, I know, I know” response?
Chris replies: “In our book we have a little section of questions … to ask before your kid goes to college. These could be questions you could start around middle school.” She lists some of these open-ended questions, suggesting you might ask them periodically, to see if your child/ren’s answers change:
**How will you decide whether or not to drink?
**What will you do if you find one of your friends passed out?
**What will you do if you’re asked to ‘babysit’ someone who has drank too much?"

And those last two could mean life or death for your child. So many kids who drink, especially in college, can be in a situation where either everyone else is drunk and doesn't notice how bad off he or she is OR can see someone slipping away and doesn't know what to do.

Learning about drinking, at an early age, is important in our country where we do have a lot of advertising for beer and wine, alcohol problems starting younger and younger and sadly, parents who either don't know enough ("not my kid") or don't believe it's a problem ("everyone drinks when they become teenagers") .

Don't believe, especially if your child is in middle school, that they won't try it. You may want to believe that but think back how you felt under peer pressure.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Program Placement update

At the March 18th Board meeting Courtney Cameron told the Board that she would release detailed information about the decisions made on the nine program placement proposals, including the rationale for them. There is now a link for that information on the Program Placement page of the web site. Unfortunately, the link doesn't work. It connects to last year's decisions.

I'm sure the link will be fixed soon and we will all be able to see the rationale for each of the program placement decisions made for the coming year. Then we will see how they comply with the policy that governs program placements.

The link is now fixed. You can read the Program Placement decisions here.

There is some interesting stuff here.

First, under a section titled "Communications" it says:
Families and Community Members:
The approved recommendations will be posted on the Program Placement website:
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/progplace/index.dxml. Individuals who submitted requests will be notified by email or by a phone call. Specific departments will work with principals, teachers, families, and students to determine where students can receive appropriate services.

The interesting part of this, of course, is that I submitted a request but was not notified, not by email nor by a phone call.

Second, here is the rationale given for denying the request I made:

This request was submitted in the fall prior to when any decisions about the capacity management were made. No change in location is recommended for the 2009-10 school year.

Bob Vaughan, Manager of Advanced Learning, will continue to work with schools to improve services as he begins to implement recommendations from the Advanced Learning

You will notice that there is no rationale in that rationale. Apparently the request was denied simply because it was denied. There are no recommendations from an Advanced Learning Review for Bob Vaughan to implement because there was no Advanced Learning Review. There was only an APP review that specifically DID NOT cover Spectrum.

Moreover, I have no idea how the Program Placement Committee reached this conclusion about Dr. Vaughan's work since Bob Vaughan told me that they never invited him to the Committee to discuss the proposal.

This really stinks.

YMCA Summer Camp Scholarships

It's that time to start thinking about summer. Here is information that was forwarded to me that I hope you pass onto any counselors or teachers you know.

I have 50 scholarships for students this summer and I would love your help getting these scholarships into deserving hands. Can you please nominate a deserving student and/or forward this email to any teachers, youth workers, or partner organizations you might know? Thanks!

B.O.L.D. - Boys Outdoor Leadership Development - is now accepting registrations for our summer Mountain School. Our 5 - 16 day backpacking, rock climbing and mountaineering expeditions provide an opportunity for boys 11 - 18 years of age to develop communication, decision making and multi-cultural leadership skills through outdoor adventure, challenge and fun! This is a fantastic opportunity for young men to develop the leadership skills necessary to thrive in school, college and life all while exploring the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. For more information about our exceptional and affordable programs check out the attached brochure or www.ymcaboys.org. The priority deadline is April 30th.

In addition, Please pass the attached scholarship recommendation form to teachers, counselors and youth workers so they can directly give a deserving student a $250 or $450 scholarship (that's about 80% of the cost).

I also am currently coordinating school visits and if you would like to have me come to your school or parent meeting and do a 15 minute presentation and slideshow about the BOLD Mountain School and one of my sister programs for girls please call me at the number below. Information on similar programs for young women can be found at http://www.ymcaboys.org/girls.php .

Many thanks for all your help!

Andrew A. Jay

B.O.L.D. - Boys Outdoor Leadership Development

Metrocenter YMCA, Seattle

www.ymcaboys.org - ajay@seattleymca.org – Office: 206.587.6119 – Fax: 206.382.7894

Tracy Wants Your Input

Per Charlie's thread about boundaries, I mentioned I thought that since some K-8s are going to be used as reference schools, that Jane Addams would be as well to take pressure off of Eckstein. But the question was raised that maybe only for elementary, not middle. (The assumption may be that kids who start there will stay for middle school but how many? Enough to take 300 out of Eckstein?) So I wrote to Tracy Libros, head of the Enrollment department and said:

A question came up on the blog as we were pondering possible boundaries. So, as currently put forth, some K-8s would be reference schools. Does that mean reference for elementary only or both elementary and middle? I know the new plan has middle school regions so would Jane Addams be a middle school for its region?

Tracy's reply:

"I’d like to hear thoughts on this from families. As I’m sure you know, we’ve switched the order of the work, concentrating on getting the assignment rules approved in June so the technical folks have enough time (hopefully!) to get the new system developed. Then we’ll work on the boundaries for the fall. (The computer system doesn’t need to know what any of the boundary lines are – just needs to know where to “get” that information, which will be our GIS mapping database.)"

No, I didn't know that we were just working on assignment rules. I honestly thought they were working on boundaries and they were next. The fall is a ways off. I also thought high school maps were coming out sooner. Hmmm.

Anyway, you can read what she said. I'd say put this on the agenda of your next PTA meeting.

On the one hand, they could wait a couple of years and see how Jane Addams does. Will it get enough middle schoolers to take the pressure off of Eckstein so they could reduce by at least 300? That would be great. On the other hand, Jane Addams has to ramp up so it might take a long time to see how well this works out.

What I'm trying to say is they might not have to make Jane Addams middle school portion a mandatory assignment if enough people go there voluntarily.

This also depends on how full Hamilton is but with APP coming in and a new building, I'm sure it will be full. I also agree with one post from Charlie's thread about Hamilton becoming a stronger school all the time. It may make whatever boundaries get set up more palatable however they are drawn.

Assignment Plan Boundaries


But if you take a moment to think about it, which elementary schools do you suppose would be in the assignment area for Eckstein? Since there is no middle school further north or east of Eckstein, then any elementary school attendance area north and east of Eckstein will likely be in the Eckstein area. In fact, when planning this, you might start in the northeast corner of the district and work out from there in an expanding radius until... until Eckstein is full.

That would make the Eckstein feeder schools to be John Rogers, Olympic Hills, Sacajawea, and Wedgwood with high confidence. Then I reckon would come View Ridge, Northgate and Olympic View. After those six, would there be room for any more?

By this reasoning, Whitman's feeder schools would be Greenwood, North Beach, Loyal Heights, Whittier, Adams, and maybe Bagley. That's six. It doesn't seem that Whitman would have room for Northgate and Olympic View.

That would mean that the feeder schools for Hamilton would be West Woodland, Greenlake, B F Day, JSIS, Bryant and Laurelhurst. That is also six.

If Laurelhurst and/or Bryant were added to the Eckstein region, then Northgate and Olympic View would have to rotate out to Whitman which would bump Bagley at least to Hamilton, but what other school? I'm not seeing it. Also, those Northeast schools are big. There are only so many that Eckstein can take. I'd be interested in hearing other projections.

The feeder schools for McClure would, rather obviously, be Lawton, Coe and Hay, plus Old Hay when it comes back online. Queen Anne/Magnolia students at B F Day would have a cohort tie-breaker to go to Hamilton.

The Washington feeder schools would be Montlake, McGilvra, Stevens, Lowell, Gatzert, Leschi, and T. Marshall - seven.

Mercer's feeders would be Beacon Hill (which is why Mercer would have to become an international middle school), Muir, Kimball, Hawthorne, Maple, and maybe Dearborn Park. That would be six.

Aki Kurose's feeders would be Graham Hill, Brighton, Wing Luke, Van Asselt, Dunlap, and Emerson - six.

Madison's feeder elementaries would be Alki, Lafayette, and Schmitz Park for sure, plus some share of Gatewood, West Seattle, and Sanislo.

Denny's feeder elementaries would be Arbor Heights, Concord, Highland Park, and Roxhill for sure, plus some share of Gatewood, West Seattle, and Sanislo.

The biggest question in my mind is the division of the West Seattle middle school reference areas. The rest is pretty clear to me.

Doesn't that make sense?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This Week's Assignment Plan/Math Adoption Meetings

Update (3/26)

There was a blurb in the Times this morning about the math adoption but I can't find it at the Times' website. Here's the lead sentence:

"A math committee has recommended new math textbooks for Seattle's high schools, but it's unclear whether the Seattle School Board will approve them.

At a work session Wednesday, a number of board members voiced concern that the committee's choices might be too heavily weighted toward one side of what's often a heated debate over how best to teach math."

Apparently, Ms. de la Fuente argued that the texts selected strike a balance. Well, there is some disagreement. As has been stated by others previously, OSPI rates the series by Key Curriculum Press (selected for all SP high schools including Precal w/trig and calculus; the lone exception is a book by Pearson Addison Wesley for statistics)is rated highly but a recent report to the State Board of Education concluded they were "mathematically unsound". De la Fuente said other math professors disagree with that report. Okay, I'll bite - who are these math professors?

I'm sure some math professors disagree with OSPI as well. Is there not a series that they all say is worthwhile? It's hard to believe there isn't and I think it troubling to go with a series that someone(s) who know math well think is unsound.

According to the blurb, the Board is scheduled to discuss the recs on April 8 and vote on April 22nd whether to approve them.

Previous post
If anyone attended last night's meeting or goes to the one on Thursday at Ballard, please let us know what happened, what you thought and any new information that might have come from these discussions.

Thursday, March 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Ballard High School, Library
1418 N.W. 65th St.
Seattle, WA 98117

Pronouncements From The Times

I love the Times editorial board (at least when it comes to editorials about the school district.) They make these grand declarative statements about the Board and the Superintendent and then back them up with uninformed details. Here's their editorial today about the bell times.

First they intone about the Board (and no editorial about the school district would be complete unless they referenced how little they thought of the last Board):

"It is slowly dawning on the board that many more tweaks of the 46,000-student district will be necessary before its costs are brought in line with its budget. In a departure from past boards, this one is not shying away from the task."

Really? Who closed schools first? Oh yeah, it was the last incarnation of the Board. Also, "slowly dawning" is pretty dismissive. This Board has been well aware of the problem and if only "tweaks" could solve the problem, they would have done those first.

Then they move on to the superintendent:

"Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson is unapologetically aggressive and focused in her pursuit of cost-cutting measures to finance academic improvements. Good."

Really? If this were so, why did she take a pay raise before being here a year? I'd lay money if the Board gives her a good review, she'll take a raise this year as well.

Then comes the funniest paragraph:

"Beyond the budget, Seattle's hodgepodge of start times was never an efficient use of transportation dollars. It never made sense for school A to have a different start time from school B. The exception is high schools, where start times are more likely to be based on other reasons, from circadian rhythms to school safety."

If the Times was keeping up, they'd know that we are going to still have a hodgepodge of start times (albeit in a narrower window of time). Every school (principal and staff) gets to decide when they will start - it's in the district press release. You'd think the editorial board might read this stuff before they write anything.

Also, the start times for high schools are not based on anything but money. The district hasn't done its homework about "circadian rhythms"; heck, they're not convening this transportation taskforce until AFTER they have changed the times.

The Times is nothing if not entertaining when they write these things but they should try to get it right.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Michael McGinn Running for Mayor:Seattle Schools One of Top Three Focus Areas

From the Times this afternoon:

"Michael McGinn, the former chair of the local branch of the Sierra Club and founder of the Seattle Great City Initiative, in the past hour announced he will take on Mayor Greg Nickels this November.

McGinn, 49, lives in North Seattle and is a former president of the Greenwood Community Council. He joins one other candidate for mayor, political newcomer and executive recruiter Norman Sigler."

I listened to most of Mr. McGinn's YouTube announcement with, of course, special interest in his words on education. He said that education is always treated by public officials as a "hot potato". He says the mayor should be accountable for the success of the public schools. He said his first 2 years in office he would work to shape up the schools and listen to parents, teachers and others. He said if the schools didn't shape up, "we need to see about the City taking control of the school system."

Interesting. Well, I applaud a candidate who puts education at the top of the list. I do get what he says about holding someone accountable. We have superintendents who come and go, get kicked out and who skip out but are any of them truly accountable? We don't pay Board members enough or even give them enough power to be accountable so is it fair to say they are the ones to be accountable?


he's a little late to the party on this one as Mayor Nickels has voiced the opinion that the City should take over the schools several times. However, I think Mr. McGinn's reasons are not the same as the Mayor's even if they say they both want the same thing. I think the Mayor sees other cities doing this and it's kind of a consolidation of power for him. Mr. McGinn may see it more as one last best chance towards a better education system.

I think the jury is out on whether cities know how to run districts better than superintendents and school boards. But, in the end, it isn't their choice. The power of a mayor to run a school district would come from the state.

"Reading Test Dummies"

This thoughtful (and thought-provoking) op-ed appeared in yesterday's NY Times. I feel the writer, E.D. Hirsch Jr., does a brilliant job in outlining how to have easier-to-take tests that are meaningful assessments. Mr. Hirsch is the author of "The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children." From the piece:

"Before we throw away bubble tests, though, we should institute a relatively simple change that would lessen the worst effects of the test-prep culture and improve education in the bargain.

These much maligned, fill-in-the-bubble reading tests are technically among the most reliable and valid tests available. The problem is that the reading passages used in these tests are random. They are not aligned with explicit grade-by-grade content standards. Children are asked to read and then answer multiple-choice questions about such topics as taking a hike in the Appalachians even though they’ve never left the sidewalks of New York, nor studied the Appalachians in school."

"This is because the schools have imagined that reading is merely a “skill” that can be transferred from one passage to another, and that reading scores can be raised by having young students endlessly practice strategies on trivial stories. Tragic amounts of time have been wasted that could have been devoted to enhancing knowledge and vocabulary, which would actually raise reading comprehension scores."

He discusses a 1988 study of readers:

"A 1988 study indicated why this improvement in testing should be instituted. Experimenters separated seventh- and eighth-grade students into two groups — strong and weak readers as measured by standard reading tests. The students in each group were subdivided according to their baseball knowledge. Then they were all given a reading test with passages about baseball. Low-level readers with high baseball knowledge significantly outperformed strong readers with little background knowledge.

The experiment confirmed what language researchers have long maintained: the key to comprehension is familiarity with the relevant subject. For a student with a basic ability to decode print, a reading-comprehension test is not chiefly a test of formal techniques but a test of background knowledge."

How it would reading link all subjects on a test?

"Better-defined standards in history, science, literature and the arts combined with knowledge-based reading tests would encourage the schools to conceive the whole course of study as a reading curriculum — exactly what a good knowledge-based curriculum should be. Schools would also begin to use classroom time more productively, which is important for all students and critically so for disadvantaged ones.

Reform of standards and tests needs to begin in the earliest grades. Knowledge and vocabulary are plants of slow organic growth. By eighth grade, after the cumulative benefits of a more coherent curriculum and more productive tests, students would begin to score much better on all reading exams, including those that aren’t based on a school curriculum. More important, they would be prepared to be capable, productive citizens."

I love his last line:

"We do not need to abandon either the principle of accountability or the fill-in-the-bubble format. Rather we need to move from teaching to the test to tests that are worth teaching to."

News From the Seattle Council PTSA

Alliance for Education Community Breakfast

Wednesday, May 20. Doors open 7 a.m. Program 7:30-8:45 a.m.

Seattle Westin, 1900 5th Ave.

Featured speaker: Superintendent Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson will speak on the state of Seattle Public Schools and on the progress of SPS’ Strategic Plan: Excellence for All. RSVP: www.alliance4ed.org or 206-205-0334.

Boardwalk 5K Run/Walk Fitness Carnival

Sunday, April 26, 8:30 a.m.

University of Washington, Husky Stadium

Cost: $30 adults; $10 18 and under

Proceeds help raise funds for physical education programs in Seattle Public Schools. Includes 5K run/walk, Walk of Champions and fitness carnival.

Prepare for the SAT FOR FREE

Take the practice test at the library, receive your score at a follow-up session and learn how to improve your scores through smarter test taking. Registration is required. Times, info:


… for other great teen programs at the library: http://www.spl.org/default.asp?pageID=audience_teens

College workshops (free)

Spring evening workshops include: Paying for College; Understanding Your Financial Aid Package; Setting the Stage for College Success; Financial Literacy 101. Visit www.centerforstudentsuccess.org for details. The Center for Student Success is run by the Northwest Education Loan Association and is located at 309 23rd Ave., Seattle 98144. Its mission: Offer free college and career planning services to students and families. The center is open Monday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. NELA’s website is: www.nela.net

--IN OLYMPIA----------

How are Washington PTA’s top five legislative priorities faring?

Redefine and fund basic education: SHB 2261 and ESB 6048 are the vehicles for ed finance reform. Both passed out of fiscal committees.

Strengthening math and science education: HB 2000, which aimed to increase the number of math and science teachers, failed.

Improving the WASL: SSB 5414 calls for redesigning our state assessment system. Moved out of the senate.

Support Core 24: Part of ongoing discussion about SHB 2261 and ESB 6048. Focus is on programs in K-8 to lay the foundation, and on more rigorous high school diploma requirements. Terminology has shifted to “meaningful high school diploma.”

Rational approaches to teacher compensation: Part of ongoing discussion of SHB 2261 and ESB 6048. At this point, both bills would set up working groups. Topics under discussion include comparable and regional wage analysis and options for a salary model aligned with a certification system.

FYI on recess (a top priority from years past): SSB 5551 passed out of the Senate. It would require children be given the opportunity to participate in daily recess. … FYI on increasing parent support and community involvement: 2SHB 1762: Creates a very basic bill of rights for students, parents and guardians. Originally sponsored by Seattle representatives Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney and Sharon Tomiko Santos, along with District 25 Rep. Dawn Morrell. (If you like the bills, thank you’s to sponsors are always nice!)

Take action: Please keep up the emails; please email the governor regarding redefining and funding basic education; please email your state senator regarding redefining and funding basic education. Action alert: http://capwiz.com/npta2/wa/issues/alert/?alertid=12972481

Pay for K?

Seattle schools are going through or finishing up their budget process right now. One budget problem all K-5 and K-8 schools have to deal with is the fact that the state only pays for a half day of kindergarten; Schools who offer a full day (most of them), have to pay for those FTE’s somehow.

In past years, most north end schools use a “Pay for K” scheme, with varying amounts paid each month by families. Most south end schools have not. For schools that have not had a Pay for K scheme, federal Title 1 funds apparently have been used to make up the difference, since many of them have the required high percentage of FRL (Free and Reduced Lunch) students. But even some schools without Title 1 funds have managed to avoid Pay for K.

This year things seem to be different, for a variety of reasons. One, the state budget shortfall has seriously affected the district, and school budgets are feeling the pain. Two, the percentage of FRL required to get Title 1 funds has increased. Three, the closures and consolidations have resulted in situations where schools that in the past would qualify for Title 1 no longer do.

Our school is strongly considering a Pay for K program. I’m interested in hearing if there are any other schools who have not had such a program in the past now suddenly having to consider it, or if schools are needing to increase the amount they are getting from families each month.

Here is a spreadsheet, based on the 2009-10 enrollment guide, with each school’s “Pay for K” comments. I’m guessing some of these might not now be accurate.

Monday, March 23, 2009

UW's Foreign Language Requirement

I had heard about the change at UW for their foreign language requirement at the last RHS PTSA meeting where we had the World Languages department come in for a presentation. Then I saw this article at Crosscut. Basically, if your child has three years of one language in high school, that meets UW's language requirement. From the article:

"The current policy is that students must achieve first-year proficiency in a foreign language in order to graduate from the university with a B.A. There are basically two ways that students can show that proficiency; they can complete the third quarter of a first-year language class with a passing grade, or they can take a department-administered proficiency exam."

"As of next year, students who have taken three years of a language in high school will automatically satisfy the university's graduation requirement. This will have the effect of reducing, dramatically for some languages, the number of students enrolled in first-year classes."

Possible outcomes:
  • Is three years as good as one year of university level teaching?
  • "Indeed, The Daily reports that 20 percent of College of Arts and Sciences TA positions will be eliminated next year. Languages that are popular in high school and hence attract those who seek to fulfill the minimum requirements look to be hit hardest, e.g., French, with a projected 41 percent cut in 100-level sections."
  • The Daily also notes that these cuts will "also allow... teaching more sections of less-commonly-taught languages at more advanced levels." Robert Stacey, divisional dean of Arts and Humanities, is quoted as saying, "There is a huge demand for Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian."
(One aside here as pertains to the SAP (Student Assignment Plan). At our group session on Saturday, I was puzzled to see, again, that the district has created (and continues to create) international schools with now two middle schools for the elementaries to feed to and yet, nothing for high school. As with Advanced Learning, the district thinks that APP/Spectrum just end when you get to high school and AP/IB is it. So it also is with foreign language, there is no international high school but just "go take a foreign language at any high school". Roosevelt is already feeling pressure from parents of incoming Hamilton students who are looking to keep their cohort together and try to receive the same kinds of instruction that they have been receiving. Except that would mean creating separate classes for them (which isn't possible) and RHS rying to do it all on their own with no support from the district.

If the district creates these programs/schools, there should be some follow-thru.)

Solving the Safety Issue for High School

There was a terrible police shooting in Oakland this weekend. Four officers were killed (one is brain dead from the shooting) when a parolee started shooting after being stopped in his car. Two of the officers were killed when they were trying to find the shooter at his sister's apartment after the initial shooting. From an article in the Times today:

"The parolee who shot five Oakland police officers Saturday, killing three and gravely wounding another, was hiding inside his sister's apartment just around the corner, where he ultimately was shot dead himself.

And neighbors knew it. But they didn't call the cops for nearly an hour.

If neighbors had spoken up sooner, said one woman who lives two doors down, some of those lives might have been saved. But in East Oakland, lamented the woman, Elaine, who refused to give her last name, that just doesn't happen.

"I've been crying all day. It makes you feel bad," she said, wiping her eyes just steps from the blood spatters that clung stubbornly to a broken sidewalk on 74th Avenue. "Because all the time, you knew he was in that apartment. But you just don't want to be a snitch. The word, 'snitch,' it's almost worse than murderer."

So why am I writing about this incident? Because of the shootings of several young men in the south end of Seattle over the last 6 months. Virtually nothing has happened in any of the cases because no one saw anything or no one wants to speak up (either out of fear or being labeled a snitch). (I guess reporting something anonymously isn't any good because the shooters will presumably believe a family member reported it and retaliate against them.)

As we talk and discuss the assignment plan with regard to high schools, there is clearly a safety issue for many south end parents. Some of it may be the perception that schools in the north are better but I believe it is much more about safety. I've seen a few comments here that seem to imply that if parents at those schools got more involved the problem might be lessened.

Public safety is one of the number one services of government. That includes the City and the district. They can't stop the number of people running around with guns but they can make sure there are metal detectors at schools that need them, security, police and violence prevention programs (especially in middle schools). And if we have a no-tolerance policy for any kind of gang dress, signs or activity, it needs to be enforced. Where parents could likely help is to let police know if they see any kind of gang activity (even hanging around) around schools.

If you have a community culture that refuses to believe in law enforcement and/or lives by their own code, then we will never have safe streets or safe schools.

Press Release on Bell Times

Here is the press release from the district on bell times.

According to it, schools with the earlier time( "Tier 1" )will start somewhere between 8:10-8:20, "as determined by the school". End time just says "buses available at schools by 2:45 p.m.."

Schools that start later ("Tier 2") will start between 9:25 and 9:35 a.m. "as determined by the school". The buses will be available at schools by 3:40 p.m.

So, again, at your next PTA meeting, sit down with the principal and ask what your principal and staff have discussed (as they are the only ones the district mentions as who may decide this issue) for your school's start and end times.

One other thing that I neglected to mention. Mr. Kennedy did say that some schools may apply for waivers if their request didn't cost the district money. This might be Hale for example as they already have an 8:30 start time but if the district is claiming "consistency" as one of the major reasons, then there should be consistency and schools should need a major reason for any change of the proposed schedule.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Few Items from the Board Meeting

I finally watched all of the Board meeting (or all I taped). A few items I thought worth mentioning.
  • They said that there were a total of 9 program requests with 3 granted. These came from principals and the public but they did not show a list nor state which ones were granted. Was one of those yours, Charlie?
  • On the bell times, Mr. Kennedy said, repeatedly, that the transportation times are NOT start times. He self-corrected several times as he really wanted to make this clear to the Board. He stated that principals and staff can decide (hello, what about parents?) on the actual bell time which, I believe, can be within 10 minutes of 8:15. Beth? So, if you are middle/high/K-8, go to your principal or PTA and ask about what the real start and end time will be for your school.
  • It was also interesting to see the list of bus ride times for the K-8s. New School has the shortest at 38 minutes. (I'm thinking because of their preference for the Rainier Valley, they don't go too far away - wonder if New School will get to keep that preference under a new assignment plan.) The next closest is Pathfinder/Orca at 47 minutes.
  • A district transportation guy (I missed his name) stated that they have a pilot program for community stops (where kids and parents gather for one pick-up) and want to work with neighborhoods who are interested in this program.
  • In regard to a query by Director Bass about other pockets of transporation problems, he also said that after the WASL is done, the transportation folks will talk with principals about other potential transportation "hot spots".

Income-Based and Race-Based Enrollment Tiebreakers

Based on the comments on the Assignment Plan/Math Adoption Meeting Today from yesterday, I thought I'd share some history/background on the income-based and race-based enrollment tiebreaker discussions.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tuesday Night's Meeting

I checked out Urban Impact, the location of Tuesday night's Assignment plan/Math adoption meeting. As I posted in a previous thread, I wondered why the district chose a non-district location in a faith-based building when there are other school buildings nearby.

I had to drive around a bit (for reasons that will become clear) looking for this building. I managed to overshoot it and passed Dunlap, South Lake AND Rainier Beach High School. (And FYI, the new South Shore building for New School is HUGE. I couldn't believe how large this thing is and they aren't even done. That's one school opening I'm going to attend.)

So the reason I couldn't find Urban Impact is because the name on the green sign in front of the building is "Emerald City Bible Fellowship, Mission Outreach". Urban Impact is nowhere to be seen on the outside of the building so keep that in mind as you look for the building.

I went inside to see the meeting room and a very nice piano teacher told me it was upstairs. (At the front desk there was Urban Impact signage.) I went upstairs to the auditorium which is a large room that had lots of sound equipment on it and a large cross at the back of the stage.( I was told by someone at today's meeting that they would be taking the cross down for the meeting.)

I did ask some staff at the meeting about this location and no one seems to know why it was picked. I did mention that, personally, I would feel uncomfortable in a meeting room that was clearly faith-based when there are other buildings available for meetings.

It all seems quite odd to me.

Budget Issues at Schools

A request was made for a thread on budget issues at your school. What's happening on this front at your school?

Assignment Plan/Math Adoption Meeting Today

Charlie and I (and a handful of others, about 20) attended this morning's district meeting. There were plenty of staff including interpreters. (I was really glad that one determined Latina mom sat at our table and had the interpreter telling her everything. Her concerns were quite revealing.)

(Charlie, Leslie, anyone else that was there; help me if I get anything wrong.)

I don't have a lot to say about the math adoption except that a recommendation has been made to use the Key Curriculum Press' Discovery books. The Math Manager, Anna Maria de la Fuente, did note that one study had said it was not a good series but that other math experts had said it was fine. I asked and she said it was used in the Lake Washington and Everett School districts. There is a Board work session on it March 25th, with introduction at the Board meeting on april 8th and approval/or not by the Board on April 22nd.

I do have quite a bit to say about the new Assignment Plan. Here is a link to the outline given to the Board. In reading through these recommendations/issues that start the outline, keep this quote in mind:

"These recommendations will not be fully in place when assignment plan changes are made. However, neither needs to delay progress on the other."

(Charlie calls this kind of thing "aspirational goals" that the district would like to, in good faith get done, but won't.)

I'll start with some quotes from Tracy Libros, the head of the Enrollment Office that everyone should keep in mind.
  • "Nothing is a done deal." There is quite a bit to get frothy at the mouth about and we need to keep watch over this plan as the process goes on but I believe Tracy on this one.
  • "Everyone will start out with an assignment." This is a key piece of the new plan. There will be assignment areas with feeder patterns from those areas and every single person, based on their address, will know where they will be assigned. (Naturally, you can go and enroll at another school if you don't want your assignment but that's how it starts off.)
  • "Some K-8s will be part of assignments for elementary." I didn't get to ask but I would assume this means regular ed K-8s and not alternatives.
Those are actual quotes. So here are the (very) rough outlines of the plan. (Note: this will be somewhat confusing because of the nomenclature. If you have ideas, TELL Tracy.)
  • As above, everyone will have an assignment. The clusters go away and are replaced by middle school attendance areas. This is because all the middle schools will have a feeder pattern from elementaries assigned to them. So this is a KEY point: your elementary assignment will flow from what middle school your address assigns you to. And, in turn, your high school assignment comes from what middle schools flow into it as well. Your predictibility/guarantee is based on the address you use (and I suspect they will really enforce these address rules to prevent cheating).
  • Every middle school attendance area will also be a service area, meaning, services will be available in all these services areas. The idea is to not send kids into regions far from home just for services. Not every school can support every special need but there will be one school in your service area that will fill special needs.
  • There will be three kinds of schools: Attendance area, Optional and Safety Net. The first is your regular neighborhood school, the second covers alt/non-traditional and Safety Net are those schools/programs that are for at-risk students. (Enrollment did make a big - and good - point about how hard it had been for at-risk students to access these programs and the idea now is earlier intervention with case management for each student.)
  • The tiebreakers will be simplified (and not as listed in the outline). For elementary and middle they would be sibling and lottery. You don't need distance because of the Attendance Area - you are either in that area or not. However, it does get tricky in high school because they throw in a yet-undefined "socio-economic" tiebreaker for diversity right after sib and attendance area tiebreakers. Important point here: that means they will draw the attendance areas around high schools SMALLER than the capacity of the high school to allow these outside assignments. It also means that when they draw the lines, if they could include, for example, more diversity by drawing the line to the east rather than the west, the line will likely go east. So when we eventually get to a map with lines and you are wondering how they picked some of them for high school, it might be for economic diversity. (We wondered aloud why this tiebreaker would only be for high school.)
Okay so what's unclear/unknown/troubling:
  • under this plan, APP middle school students get directed to Garfield OR they can choose the high school in their assignment area. This also applies to middle school students with an IEP. You could look at this and say, "Wait a minute. That means they get two choices where others get only one." The answer was that the district could ask those families to declare a school before they enroll so that the district knows how many seats they are looking at for students not in these programs.
  • I didn't get to ask but currently, students in Special Ed/bilingual get assigned separately from the General Ed population. I don't know if that would hold true for this plan but it's a question mark.
  • The plan says that "all" elementaries would have ALOs available which made me (and Charlie) laugh because we wonder how that would be enforced. The outline also says that the district, when using K-8s as assignment area schools, will decide which of those may have Spectrum in them so that each assignment area has a Spectrum program.
  • There had been previous discussion of "Open Choice" seats to allow students to access any high school they wanted (for any reason; program, safety, friends, whatever). There had been discussion that these would be "set-aside" seats of some unknown number. Now, it seems there would be these seats but they would come AFTER the tiebreakers of sib, assignment area and economic. How many seats that would be is really an unknown.
Personally, I feel very concerned over the Open Choice seats as I feel it unfair to not have a certain number of seats truly "open" for students to access high schools. What if IB programs get full at Sealth and Ingraham? It seems there should be at least an application method for these programs. What about the speciality programs/features like the radio program at Hale, biotech at Ballard, etc.? What about CTE programs that vary from school to school?

And, of course, there is the question of whether there is equity at the high schools (or will be) by the time this assignment plan begins. The Latina mom I referenced said her worry was violence at school and that her son just plain didn't want to be there because of that and, as Charlie put it, anti-academic peer pressure. I absolutely agree that if you don't have a large and solid core of kids who are working hard academically, it drains the school and makes it harder for those who do want to succeed academically.

So, your homework:
  • nomenclature - what would you call some of these things?
  • tiebreakers - what do you think?
  • what is missing or needed?
Timeline (according to the outline):
  • Draft policy by April 8th
  • Board approval by April 22nd
  • High School maps by April 29th
  • more public meetings May 5, 7,9
I know what you're thinking and I agree. This is too fast, too underdeveloped and, most obviously, where are maps for elementary/middle. Well, if you refer back to the Work Session posting, staff had asked if the Board might vote for an overall plan with only the high school part fully-fleshed out. De Bell said he would be uncomfortable with this. (NO KIDDING!) The Board cannot and should not vote if they do not have a fully-fleshed out plan. This is Job 1 for the Board for their parents constituents and they cannot ignore that. I do not know why the plan isn't ready but it is clear to me that it is not. Fine, let's keep talking but no voting until we have an entire plan. No piecemeal plans, no "trust us" plan - we want an entire Assignment Plan.

Alternative Schools Coalition of Seattle prepares for the Alternative School Audit

The Alternative Schools Coalition of Seattle

Monday, March 23 2009

Potluck at 6:00 PM

Meeting 7:00- 8:00 PM

At TOPS K-8 2500 Franklin Ave East


A coalition building event in anticipation of the audit of alternative education in Seattle Public Schools

Please personally invite friends from other alternative schools and programs: those facing closure or change, those burned out but still caring students, families, teachers, supporters, principals, all are welcome. Numbers will count as we face the next challenge.


Follow up information from March 9th meeting.

Focused small group discussion of common ground between programs using the Seattle School Board Policy C54.00 on Alternative Education and report back to group at large.

Potluck A-F Treats G-Z Hearty Salads

We need help with small items like plates etc… Call Marilyn 722-0793

Here is a link to the FAQ. In the optional schools sections the question is

Will the District support optional schools under these recommendations?

Currently called alternative, non-traditional, and/or K-8 schools, optional schools offer a range of choices to students from across the District. We have asked the Council of Great City Schools to conduct an audit of our alternative schools so that we can better define the programs, assignment guidelines, and transportation choices available to families. We expect their work to begin in Spring 2009.

Does the district's word choice of "optional schools" reveal a lack of support for alt schools? An AS#1 parent sent the following letter to the Superintendent and Board:
Dear Directors and Superintendent,

I am writing in hopes that the terminology used in the latest FAQ's about the new student assignment plan is not set in stone. I find the term "optional schools" to have a negative connotation, and I think it will be yet another obstacle to success for many schools across the district. "Optional" to me says: unnecessary, not needed, excess, weak, disposable.

I understand the need to combine several types of schools into one category for assignment purposes, but I hope the district will find a way to present it to the public as a positive and exciting feature of Seattle Public Schools that people would not get in another district. SPS is a great place for education because of its unique offerings and because of its structure, which takes into consideration the needs of each family and each child. I hope the district will not belittle its own accomplishments by labeling these important schools as "optional".

Some other terms that would be much more suitable, leaving the negative connotation behind:

Choice Schools
Non-Reference Schools
Preference Schools
Elective Schools
Select Schools

Please, I hope you'll take this seriously. Terminology that is not carefully planned can easily sabotage a product's success in business; the same is true for our schools. Not everyone can look past the cover of a book, and this change will negatively impact schools that are enrolled through the choice process.