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Showing posts from April, 2009

Madrona K-8 closed due to swine flu

Seattle Public Schools has been informed by local health officials that there is a suspicious flu case, that may be Swine Flu, reported for a student at Madrona K-8. As a result of Public Health's ongoing investigation into the swine flu infection of a student at Madrona K-8, health officials believe that the infected student may have been ill during school last Friday. Out of an abundance of caution, Madrona K-8 will close for 7 days, starting Thursday April 30 and will reopen on May 7. All other schools remain open. For Madrona K-8 students and families: To avoid spreading infection, students should not gather outside of school during the week that school is closed. If students or staff do become ill, avoid contact with others and remain at home from work and school either for 7 days after illness starts or for a full day after the illness is over, whichever is longer. If your symptoms are more severe, call your health care provider to discuss if you need to be seen and evalua

High School Language Arts Materials Adoption Committee

Seattle Public Schools will adopt an aligned curriculum for Language Arts classes 9-12. Students in any one grade in Language Arts classes throughout the District can expect the same high expectations and the same high quality materials. An aligned curriculum will allow Seattle Public Schools to provide targeted support for teachers and schools. A common set of expectations across the District will allow us to better focus our professional development offerings. All SPS instructional materials will be designed to meet cultural relevance and accessibility standards, and will incorporate methods for teaching all students, including those with Special Education, English Language Learner, Advanced Learning needs. The instructional materials adoption process for high school will be completed by August of 2009. If you have any questions about the adoption process, please contact Kathleen Vasquez, High School Language Arts Adoption Coordinator. Getting questions answered early in the proc

Why Advanced Learning is Behind

The Advanced Learning Office of Seattle Public Schools seems to have a lot on their plate - writing a curriculum for APP, participating in a number of program design and transition teams, responding to the APP review, reviewing PSAT test data, expanding AP classes, working to create an ALO at every school, and more. Those special jobs are in addition to their regular work of conducting over 3,000 eligibility tests, professional development for teachers, and conducting the AP tests. All of that work certainly goes a long way to explain why the department has never been able to undertake any sort of work to assure the quality and effectiveness of the current programs. Thank goodness, you might think, that the Superintendent made the job of the Program Manager a full time position last year. It had been a .6 FTE position in the previous year. Well, the situation is not really as benevolent as the District would have you believe. In 2005-2006 the department had a full time manager and

Election Season has begun!

The Alki Foundation , the political arm of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, will host the first political event of the 2009 election season. On May 7, candidates will take the field for Alki's signature lightning round, where they face a series of fast-pitch yes/no questions on how to fuel a job-growing economy. Local political strategists Cathy Allen and Randy Pepple will moderate the discussion. Participants include: Seattle City Council Position 2: Hon. Richard Conlin and David Ginsberg Seattle City Council Position 4: Sally Bagshaw and David Bloom Seattle City Council Position 6: Hon. Nick Licata, Jessie Israel and Martin Kaplan Seattle City Council Position 8: David Miller, Robert Rosencrantz, Jordan Royer and Rusty Williams Seattle Mayor: Hon. Greg Nickels, James Donaldson and Michael McGinn King County Executive: Hon. Fred Jarrett, Hon. Dow Constantine and Hon. Larry Phillips Port of Seattle Commission Position 4: Robert Holland and Thomas Albro You will

Math Instruction Theory of Action

At the Board meeting of April 22, Anna Maria delaFuente made this presentation during the Superintendent's update. Key to Board member's support of the adoption of the math textbooks from Key Curriculum Press were the commitments listed on slide #3, Theory of Action. Here is the text of the slide: Theory of Action • Common Instructional Materials that are well-aligned with the new State Standards for Mathematics • Professional Learning and Support for Teachers, Administrators, and Support Staff • Family/Community Engagement, Support and Involvement • Accountability: Assessments and Indicators • Direct Student Support: Intervention and Acceleration; Team Math • District-wide College Readiness Focus • Effective Teacher Recruitment and Retention through Strategic Partnerships with University Pre-Service Programs It was clear that Ms delaFuente was telling the Board that it is okay for them to throw the kids out the window because the District staff are down below and they pro

Board Meeting of April 22

Well, well, well. This certainly is a big, important Board meeting coming up this week. On the agenda are action on such long-discussed topics as: High School Math Adoption Revised Student Assignment Policy Transfer of another $1.45 million to the Garfield capital project A technical amendment to the Transportation Service Standards (for introduction and action) Also introduction of high school grading policy reform and the annual Reduction In Force. There are a number of capital projects on the agenda. I believe that a number of them are related to the Capacity Management project. If you're going to this Board meeting, I suggest you pack a snack. It's going to be a long one.

Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee

The Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee will be meeting this afternoon, Monday, April 20 from 4:30 to 6:00. The Committee's agenda is posted to the District web site and features just two items: 1. Policy Review Process 2. Update: Promotion/Non-Promotion Policy

What's Going On at Whittier?

I have heard, more than a couple times now, of some dissatisfaction with the building leadership at Whittier. Would anyone with first-hand knowledge care to share what this is all about? Those who want anonymity can either use an invented alias as their user name or send me an email and I will re-post it. I just want to know what the deal is.

Special Ed in flux

There's a lot going on in the Special Ed community these days, almost more than folks can keep track of. There is, of course, the District's effort to change the very nature of Special Ed from program-based to service-based, and to deliver those services primarily in general education classrooms. Then there's the school closure issues, a new assignment plan for special ed students that is not yet fully defined, program placement changes, program design changes, and, of course, the new student assignment plan layered on top of everything. Here's a link to an article in the SEA newsletter on how the District isn't working with teachers on the new SpEd model. Those looking to follow these issues can subscribe to the Seattle Special ED PTA yahoo group , and can attend meetings of The Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Council (SEAAC). There's a special ed Services Fair coming up on Saturday, May 16 at Meany Middle School. Fred Row, the interim executive di

Where's the Accountability?

Mark Twain famously said: "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it." In Seattle Public Schools everybody talks about accountability but nobody ever does anything about it. There can be little dispute that accountability is much discussed. It is literally referenced on every single piece of paper the District produces. It appears right there at the bottom, "Every student achieving, everyone accountable". The Superintendent cannot speak without mentioning it. The concept is unrelentingly ubitquitous. Likewise, there can be little dispute that accountability is practically non-existant in practice. In the past two years I can only think of one instance in which accountability was imposed - and I'm not so sure about that one. It was the end of the reduced walk zone for Rainier Beach and Cleveland. That may have been a consequence of accountability, but the District never touted it as such. Other than that, however, I can't th

A New Path to Changes in Math

Under the District's upcoming Performance Management system, schools with strong results will be granted more autonomy. You may wonder what this means in real terms. Consider this: It occurs to me that any school where the pass rate on the math WASL is 80% or better should have the freedom to choose an alternative math textbook. North Beach is already doing it, so there is a precedent. In fact, I presumed the 80% pass rate requirement because that's about the pass rate at North Beach. It also occurs to me that it should be easier if an elementary school wants to use the Singapore math books since the District did adopt the Singapore series and does claim to support it. Let's say that you have a child at one of the many elementary schools where the pass rate on the math portion of the WASL is 80% or better. Let's say that you are dissatisfied with the Every Day Math texts and the reform/investigation/discovery/constructivist pedagogy dictated by those texts. You could

Performance Management Advisory Committee w

Something weird happened to me last week. Here's the story: The District has a Performance Management Steering Committee, headed by the Superintendent, that is working on the criteria, metrics, assessments and benchmarks for performance management for students, teachers, principals, schools, and the District. You know, all of the scorecards and dashboards and such for the Strategic Plan. The Steering Committee, in turn, has a Performance Management Working Group that serves as an advisory committee to the Steering Committee. The Working Group, made up of central office staff, representatives from SEA and PASS, and a few consultants that foundations have funded to help do this work, makes recommendations to the Steering Committee and then the Steering Committee makes the final decisions regarding the performance management work. The Working Group is scheduled to meet for a couple hours every other Thursday through July of this year. Their work will focus on measuring and supporti

From SPS Schoolbeat Newsletter

In order to more consistently place exiting fifth-graders into advanced math courses , and to give more students the opportunity to gain access to those courses, a placement test will be administered to current fifth-graders on May 4-8. This placement test is a collaboration between the Advanced Learning department and Mathematics department. Students to be tested include those who: • scored 80 percent or higher on the fifth-grade winter benchmark assessment, or • scored a 4 on the fourth-grade Math WASL, or • are currently in Spectrum, or • are recommended by their teacher or principal, or choose to take it (student/parent request). For more information, contact Anna-Maria de la Fuente, Mathematics Program Manager, at 252-0062, ahdelafuente@seattleschools.org or Robert Vaughan, Ph.D., Manager, Advanced Learning, at 252-0134, rcvaughn@seattleschools.org . The Pathfinder K-8 PTSA will host Dr. Vern S. Cherewatenko , d

Carla Santorno Leaving Seattle

What do others think about Carla Santorno leaving Seattle? Seattle school official Carla Santorno going to Tacoma (Seattle Times) Does this open the doors for a different approach to math education? With a superintendent with as strong a personality as Goodloe-Johnson, what type of Chief Academic Officer would be a good match?

Anyone Want to Be a Teacher?

Interesting news in the New York Times. This article details how the baby boomer generation of teachers is going to retire and take large numbers of teachers out of the pool. Aggravating this situation are the large numbers of rookie teachers who leave the profession within 5 years. According to the chart given, 50% of the teachers in Washington State are 50 and over. From the article: "Over the next four years, more than a third of the nation’s 3.2 million teachers could retire, depriving classrooms of experienced instructors and straining taxpayer-financed retirement systems, according to a new report ." “The traditional teaching career is collapsing at both ends,” the report says. “Beginners are being driven away” by low pay and frustrating working conditions, and “accomplished veterans who still have much to contribute are being separated from their schools by obsolete retirement systems” that encourage teachers to move from paycheck to pension when they are stil

The Good, the Bad/Ugly and Other News

Good From today's Times: "Three teams from Ingraham High School in Seattle have qualified for the finals of the world's largest rocketry challenge, to be held in May in Virginia. Ingraham's program, in its third year, qualified one team for the finals last year. This year, Ingraham's three teams are the only ones from the Pacific Northwest to qualify, said Peter Schurke, an Ingraham teacher and the teams' advisor." Bad/Ugly From the Times, an article about TT Minor students playing in the park adjacent to the school picked up and played with a hypodermic needle. It is unclear if the needle pricked the skin of any of the children. Several SPS schools have adjacent park areas that students use. Other News of Interest From the Seattle Council PTSA: ParentMap, which provides parents with tools and resources, has two upcoming events geared towards parents of Teens & Tweens. Dr. Laura Kastner "Psychologist of the Year", has just written the

High School Math Adoption

Hello At the School Board meeting on Wednesday night, 15 of the 20 public comments were about the high school math adoption. Of those 15 comments, 11 were comments from people opposed to the adoption of the Discovering Series and 4 were from people in favor of the adoption. I was in the opposed group. The 11 speakers opposed were from all over the district and included teachers, parents and math professors. Of the 4 people who spoke in favor, 3 of the people were on the adoption committee and the 4th person was Mr. Boyd, the Principal at Chief Sealth, who said that all the high school principals are in favor of the adoption of the Discovering Series. I have to say, I don't know why anyone would care what the principals think on this topic, they are not the ones who have to teach the class. I know that our principal never asked any of the math teachers here how we feel about Discovery. It was interesting that no one outside of the adoption committee came forward to speak for

BEX Oversight

[ Update: I did speak with someone at the State Auditor's office today. It seems that this audit is taking longer (and they do release preliminary findings to the district - but not to the public - so they can try to provide answers/background/information to the Auditor) and may not be released for many months to come. ] I try to keep up, really I do. But sometimes you find things out after the fact. Case in point, I attended a meeting in Feb. of the BEX Oversight Committee. This committee is made up of volunteer individuals, most of whom have a background in administration and/or construction, who watch over BEX projects. I find most of them very good people and I am glad for their contribution. But, as they likely know, their work is only as good as the information they get which isn't always fully fleshed out or complete. So I had to leave this meeting early but right before I left they were discussing Garfield cost overruns. (This is yet another project to investigate

Carla Santorno Leaving District

The Times (and others) report that CAO, Carla Santorno, is leaving SPS to become deputy superintendent in Tacoma. From the story: "Santorno, 58, said she hadn't been looking for a job, but Tacoma recruited her heavily. "It's just an opportunity that I couldn't pass up," she said." I have mostly good feelings for Carla - she works hard, she does listen and I think she did lay down some good foundation for the district. But I will say that people often think that this district drives good people away when, in fact, in the top administrative posts, many people are on the move. I don't expect Dr. Goodloe-Johnson to be here more than 5 years (if that). Notable quotes from the article: "Seattle Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson supports the move, she said. Goodloe-Johnson "is where she is because people gave her an opportunity to move when she wanted, and she needed to. She gave that gift to me." I'm not sure it's a &quo

Ballard Principal Gets a Major Award

This story was in the on-line PI about Phil Brockman, the principal at Ballard. From the article: "Ballard High School Principal Phil Brockman has won an award that will bring $50,000 to his school. The cash comes from the Thomas B. Foster Award for Excellence, which recognizes one Seattle Public Schools secondary school principal every year for outstanding leadership. Brockman's key achievement was boosting his school's 10th-grade scores on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning test, said David Tucker, Seattle Public Schools spokesman.Ballard High School Principal Phil Brockman has won an award that will bring $50,000 to his school. The cash comes from the Thomas B. Foster Award for Excellence, which recognizes one Seattle Public Schools secondary school principal every year for outstanding leadership. Brockman's key achievement was boosting his school's 10th-grade scores on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning test, said David Tucker, Seatt

Assignment Work Session (More Thoughts)

I, too, attended yesterday's Work Session on the Assignment Plan. While there was good discussion, time ran out and they didn't really talk about the Option schools (which seems to much of the discussion from Charlie's post). I did e-mail Tracy Libros with some questions so I'll let you know what she says. All the members of the Board were present save Sherry Carr who was ill. They started discussing high schools first with an interesting chart about capacity now and in the future. What I was most surprised at was the figure for "students at Intervention Services Schools/Programs - 910". That seems like a high figure out of total of 13,554 total high school students. It was indicated that Nova could grow to 340 (from its current of around 300) due to moving to Meany. Dr. Brown and Mr. Tolley went over intervention programs with the Board. Here I got a little confused because the handout indicates 300 students, not 910 (but it may be that I'm j

Option Schools

This is from the Board work session on the Student Assignment Plan on Wednesday afternoon, April 8. The latest proposal for determining access to "Option" schools (what we now call Alternative schools) would be: 1) siblings, 2) geographic zone, 3) lottery. The Geographic Zone would be a defined area in proximity to the school. So students who live close enough to TOPS to be in the TOPS Geographic Zone would practically be assured of access to the school (presuming there's room left in the class after siblings enroll). It is unclear, or, more precisely, undetermined, how large the geographic zones would be. First question: what is your reaction to granting students who live nearby preferred access to option schools? It happens now at TOPS and I believe the Center School has or had a distance tie-breaker. These are the Option schools: Jane Addams, AS #1, ORCA, Pathfinder, Salmon Bay, South Shore, Thornton Creek, TOPS, The Center School, Cleveland High School, and NOVA.

Open Thread (We Hadn't Had One in Awhile)

What's on your mind?

The Times Weighs in on Education Cuts with a Compelling Question

This editorial appeared in today's Times. Their opening sentence is pretty blunt: "The cuts in state money for public schools in the proposed Senate and House budgets are unnecessarily deep. They need to be shifted to programs less urgent." Their discussion was over cutting a state program for adults who can't work but aren't covered by other programs. Their take: "Some in the Legislature would save the unemployable program and cut public education on the belief that the people would vote to tax themselves to save education. But what if they don't? " That's a big gamble on the part of the Legislature (if, indeed, that's the thinking; make cuts in education and ask voters to pay more elsewhere to restore them) and a big question. Would voters, some of whom aren't parents with school-aged kids and some of whom have very bad opinions of public education anyway, vote to add more taxes to their bill? I think the answer might be a very

PI (yes, the PI) on Assignment Plan

This article appeared in today's on-line PI. It's a good basic article with a quote from Charlie. I thought some of the parent comments from the community meetings were interesting: "I like the idea of being simple and streamlined, so that parents can understand and bring equity," one parent noted. But another disagreed with "an assumption that simpler is better" because of the complexity inherent in the process. A parent liked the emphasis on "economic diversity at the high school level, but perhaps it should be at every level." Another called the tiebreaker "patronizing" and said that "allowing people to flee prevents people from investing in their schools." Still another questioned the legality of using economic diversity as a tiebreaker and asked if the proposed plan would "foster diversity in schools or ... increase segregation?" Courts have shot down the use of a racial tiebreaker and the district has not u

I'm Worried and Maybe We All Should Be

What's happening in our country? Here's what I wrote to Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and the Board: From the NY Times: "In the last month, 25 people, including 2 gunmen, were slain in three mass shootings, in North Carolina, California and Alabama." This terrible trend is frightening because as the economy continues to slump and, for whatever reason, people are feeling tense and frustrated and life is getting more and more unsure for many of them. So again I say to you - we need security cameras at Roosevelt High School. The police in Binghamton, NY, the site of the latest shooting, waited for hours because they had no idea what was going on inside. This would be the exact same scenario at RHS. You might get cell phone calls from inside the building but they would likely be confusing to police. The police could not know, with any accuracy, what was happening, who was hurt and where any shooter might be. If we had cameras, they likely COULD get into the building, go

Strategic Plan Update - for real

Unable to get information about the progress on the Strategic Plan through any other source, I made a public records request. The first batch of documents arrived today. There's 55 pages and I've been through them twice. Here are some selected elements: 1) There are now thirty-six projects in the Strategic Plan, "Excellence for All" 2) The projects are in various phases of completion in this order: "Not Started", "Define", "Plan", "Execute", and "Close Out". 3) You may be surprised to learn that as of 3/26/09 the Southeast Initiative was listed as "Not Started" and the Curriculum Audit Response was listed as "Close Out". 4) The Not Started label means that there is no Scope of Work document. Other projects listed as "Not Started" are: * Phase 5 of the Special Education Audit Response, Behavior Audit * Phase 2 of the Bilingual Audit Response * Technology Roadmap * Leadership Developme

Bill Gates...Redux

The Times printed an editorial this week by Fred Hiatt editorial page editor at the Washington Post. It had a modest title, "How Bill Gates Would Repair the Nation's Schools". So pull up a chair and let's see what's new. (I'm being sarcastic here because I, like most of you, applaud anyone interested in furthering public education. However, Mr. Gates' past efforts, at least locally, did not produce much in the way of results. His Foundation's education wing seemed to get schooled in their early efforts when they found that national high school reform isn't about one thing such as smaller high schools. To boot, when the district either didn't do what the Foundation wanted or the Foundation didn't like the outcomes, the money was pulled. So a lot of what got started in SPS ground to a halt when the money disappeared.) From the editorial: Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder turned full-time philanthropist, visited The Post last week

A Sad Reminder

Last week I heard a story on KUOW by Phyllis Fletcher about the sale of Queen Anne High. As you may recall (this from her story): "The district closed Queen Anne High in 1981, and leased it to a developer. The lease let the developer turn the school into apartments, and then condos. State law says the district should have gotten the school appraised, and sold it for at least 90 percent of its value. The district realized the Queen Anne contract broke that law three years ago. District lawyers said it wasn’t worth it to try to get out of the deal. So they’re stuck with the terms: 12% of each sale. Even at prices from three years ago, the District’s take would have been less than the assessed value of the land alone." So the news that Phyllis was reporting was that all the condos did not sell (including the $1M penthouse) and that the remainder were going up for auction. They were expected to sell (for example, the penthouse was starting at $650,000) for