Showing posts from July, 2009

School Board Candidate Questionnaire

For the 3rd election in a row, CPPS has assembled a School Board Candidate Questionnaire based on questions submitted to us by parents. You can read about the questionnaire and view the responses by all 8 candidates up on the CPPS web site here: .

Got Ballot?

So I received my primary ballot and voters guide this week; how about you? The Times had an article about the District 5 School Board race. I thought it was fair. It focused mostly on what will likely become the campaign issue after the primary; running against Mary Bass's record. I did ask the candidates if they were running against Mary or because they believed they had something different to offer. It was the latter. However, come the general election, if Mary comes out of the primary (and I think she will), that other person might need to try to talk about Mary's work over the last 8 years. So here is my assessment of the District 5 race which includes interviews (still haven't gotten together with Andre but I hope to and Mary never responded to my e-mail), reading the Muni questionnaires as well as other research. (One interesting thing about the Muni questions was the fact that almost no District 5 candidate really answered the question about what charact

WASL; "Had Some Good Points"

The Times had this article about the results of a study on high-stakes testing. From the article: "Researchers spent two to three days at six Washington high schools, where they observed classes and interviewed parents, students, teachers and principals. Although their sample was small, they said they chose schools they think are representative of the state's high schools as a whole. Teachers echoed many of the same old criticisms of the WASL — it's too long, the results are confusing and don't come back in time — but they also credited the WASL with improving students' writing and reasoning skills. They pointed favorably to its "extended response" questions, which are to be eliminated from new exams favored by Randy Dorn, the new state superintendent of public instruction who campaigned to replace the WASL." Also: "Of the three states the center has studied, Washington was the only one where teachers mentioned that a high-stakes test su

APP Thread

Update There is some discussion on this thread about multi-aged classrooms and kids working at their own pace. Here is an article that appeared in the NY Times about in interesting foray into those ideas. Called "School of One", kids use laptops (individually or in groups) and work on a "playlist" of work. They take a quiz at the end of each day to see if they understood the lesson and if they can move onto a new topic the next day.) Okay, discuss away but if you have a suggestion/question for a different thread, can you ask for it and not take over a different thread? The Muni reqs on School Board candidates got taken over by this discussion and then it makes it hard to stay on topic (not to mention those who might be searching for old posts). Feel free to ask for a topic to start in any thread just please do not start a completely different discussion.

Sure is quiet

The School Board generally has two meetings a month. Their work is year 'round, but things definitely slow down during the summer while school is out. Last year the Board had only one meeting in July, but still had two in August. This year, however, the Board had only one meeting in July (on the 1st), and is having only one meeting in August (on the 19th). That's a really slow meeting schedule. Consequently, the Board is not able to respond to delays, such as the delay in the grading policy reform. If the Board were meeting, they could move forward with granting high school credit for classes taken in middle school, but since they are not meeting, they cannot. I don't think the decision to skip two meetings during the summer is the reason that they also skipped their quarterly Strategic Plan update. That is usually done as a work session. But it certainly keeps them from asking about it. There is no progress on updating Policies without Board meetings. They are supposedl

Oh, So THAT'S What It's For (But Still A Bit of a Mystery)

I finally, after much back and forth with district staff, received an answer about the $127,000 in the budget for the Superintendent's office. The answer came from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson herself. (And let me just say, I had to ask, over and over for this information. I asked Don Kennedy and had cc'ed Sherry Carr who also asked Mr. Kennedy and he never answered. The district's public disclosure officer, Joy Stevens in Legal who couldn't be nicer, gave me answers that never really answered the question but did give me some food for thought. I had called the State Attorney General's office for advice about what to do when you don't get information requested via Public Disclosure and now I have a few more things I can try in the future. I did let the district know I had called them.) Here's her answer: Thank you very much for your questions. I apologize that our initial response to you was in error. Carol Rava Treat's position is NOT funded from the

Things to look for in September

On another thread on this blog I made a quick list of the things that the District promised would be in place in September in the wake of the APP split. The District has made a number of other commitments about what will be in place come September. Help us all to remember those items, from instructional and curricular guides for math teachers that align with the State Standards, to a high school ready building for NOVA and SBOC. A number of these commitments come from the Strategic Plan, some out of the Capacity Management Project, and some came out of the Math Adoptions (When exactly are the classrooms supposed to start using the Singapore materials?). Right now we only want those items that are supposed to be completed, implemented, and fully up and running when school opens in September. By the time we are done, we should be ready with handy guides for the public and the Board to use when "holding staff accountable" (whatever that means), if they should choose to do so.

NYT Article on Charter Schools

Hello I saw this about charter schools starting to organize and thought many of you would find it interesting reading.

Muni League Ratings of School Board Candidates

More information for your use in deciding who to vote for in the primary. Here is a link to the Seattle School Board page at the Muni League. It comes with ratings, links to candidate websites and the questionnaire that each candidate filled out. I haven't had a chance to read the questionnaires but I suspect they will be interesting reading. Mary Bass and Joanna Cullen were rated "adequate", while Andre Helmstetter was rated "good" Kay Smith-Blum, Wilson Chin, Charlie Mas and Betty Patu were rated "very good". There is only one rank higher than "very good" and that is "outstanding". No one was rated the at the bottom which is "not qualified". From the website: "Each candidate is given a rating of Outstanding, Very Good, Good, Adequate, or Not Qualified. The criteria used to reach these ratings are: Involvement: What has the candidate done previously in family, neighborhood, community, volunteer work, empl

Muni League Ratings on School Board Candidates

The Municipal League issued their ratings for candidates in upcoming elections. The Municipal League conducts non-partisan ratings of political candidates across King County using a time-tested methodology that strives for objectivity. Candidate ratings are among the most important good-government services provided by the League. Ratings are based on four criteria: Involvement, Effectiveness, Character and Knowledge. The ratings provide the only independent non-partisan, non-agenda driven evaluation of candidates. This year marks the 99th round of Municipal League ratings, conducted annually since 1911. Here are the ratings: In the District 5 race: Mary Bass ADEQUATE Joanna Cullen ADEQUATE Andre Helmstetter GOOD Kay Smith-Blum VERY GOOD In the District 7 race: Wilson Chin VERY GOOD Charlie Mas VERY GOOD Betty Patu VERY GOOD Candidate questionnaires are also available from the Muni League web site.

Seattle Times story on District Audit

A story in the Seattle Times reports the results of a State audit of Seattle Public Schools. This is an annual audit done as a matter of course on the financial practices of local government institutions. The State auditor raised a number of issues that have been raised on this blog, including the use of funds from the capital budget for salaries. You can read the audit and the District's response for yourself here .

Open Thread

If anyone attended either forum (Tuesday or Wednesday night), let us know your thoughts. When the link to the Seattle Channel taping is live, I'll post it.

A Little Peeved and Getting More So Everyday

Normally, I try (with great effort) to do my research and hold my tongue until I have all my facts straight. But the District stinks like a fish on a hot Seattle day with its highly touted efforts at transparency and frankly, I am losing patience. So what the heck, why not call them out on what I see (and don't see). This year's budget references (twice) that the Superintendent's office is getting $127,000 for some workers (I phrase it this way for a reason to become evident). Here are the references: Page 15 Additions to administrative and support staff of 9.0 FTE include: a 1.0 Broad Resident, a Senior Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent’s Office, Page 22 Addition to the Superintendent’s office of Broad Resident, and a Senior Administrative staff position. Cost increase of $127 thousand . The administrative position is referenced in different ways ( see above) and the word "addition/additions" in both references would imply new hires. I

School Board Forum District 5

(Update: here is the audio from the forum from KUOW 94.9 FM) I attended last night's forum sponsoring by the Seattle Council PTSA, ESP and CPPS at the Garfield Community Center. There were about 50 people in attendance. All the candidates were there as well with Charles Rollins moderating. Overall, I thought I got a pretty good feel for the candidates. I did come away with a few thoughts. not all the candidates are as good at communicating their views as they need to be very few specifics were offered (with a couple of notable exceptions) Mary Bass seems to be running more on longevity than on her record The format was a bit confusing (as were some of the questions). There were different time amounts for questions which seemed to disorient some candidates. Some questions were multi-part and made for some muddy answers. They also got asked questions about issues that have now been voted on (like the math adoption and the SAP) so while it was good to hear what they though

Bill Speaks

In yet another speech, more opining from Bill Gates; we need better data. From an article in the AP: "The U.S. must improve its educational standing in the world by rewarding effective teaching and by developing better, universal measures of performance for students and teachers, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said Tuesday. Speaking at the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual legislative summit, Gates told hundreds of lawmakers how federal stimulus money should be used to spark educational innovation, spread best practices and improve accountability." Sadly, I don't believe any stimulus money will be used for innovation but likely to backfill sagging budgets. Best practices? How come we know things that work and don't replicate them? "It's not possible." "They have a different district." Okay, so which best practices? That's what I wish the Gates Foundation would help with; not creating new things but spreading exi

Revised High School Math Requirements

When the State Board of Education recently increased the high school math credit requirements for graduation to three credits the wrote the rules in such a way that students who took a high-school-level math class without credit as an eighth-grader were required to repeat that same course for credit in high school. In Seattle, that would mean that students who took Integrated 1 or those who will take Algebra 1 in eighth grade would have to take the course again in high school to fulfill the graduation requirements. Of course, that wouldn't be necessary if the students were awarded high school credit for the class, but, in defiance of state law, Seattle Public Schools does not allow that. Fortunately, on Friday, the state board gave students more flexibility in their choices for high-school math so it will not be necessary for students to repeat classes. Now students can choose to start with a different math class in high school and don't have to repeat the eighth-grade class

Southeast Seattle Candidate Forum

Southeast Seattle Candidates' Forum for City Races Wednesday, July 22, 2009, 6:00 - 9:30 pm Aki Kurose Middle School Auditorium, 3928 South Graham Street (Betweek MLK Jr. Way and Rainier Ave S) Schedule: . School Board Position 5 & 7 - - 6:20-7:00 . City Council Position 8 - - 7:05-7:50 . City Council Position 4 & 6 - - 7:55-8:40 . Seattle Mayor - - 8:45-9:30 The forum will be moderated by C.R. Douglas from the Seattle Channel, and it will also be recorded for future broadcast on the Seattle Channel. C.R. Douglas is the host of City Inside/Out, the SEATTLE CHANNEL'S weekly news/interview program. He also serves as a reporter for the Seattle Channel and has appeared numerous times in local media as a political analyst, including KCPQ-TV, NWCN (Northwest Cable News), KING-TV, KONG-TV, KIRO Radio, KPLU Radio, and BBC Radio. C.R. has been named "The Charlie Rose of Seattle" by Seattle Magazine; "Best On-Air Interviewer" by the Seattle Weekly; &qu

Article from

I guess this should come as no big surprise. I would love to hear about some solutions, though.

District 5 School Board Candidates Forum

School Board Candidate Forum for District 5 of Seattle Public Schools Monday, July 20 from 7 – 8:30pm Garfield Community Center (2323 E Cherry St, corner of 23rd) For full details, see: The four candidates are: Mary Bass Joanna Cullen Andre Helmstetter Kay Smith-Blum Don't forget: Primary is August 18th.

What About Vocational Education?

This is a thread I've been meaning to write for some time. It is an issue I don't even claim to know a lot about but that I have heard about from many parents. I'm not even clear (even though it did get some discussion at the last Board meeting) what direction the district is taking overall. The district does have a pretty good webpage, Career and Technical Education . They are creating a Skill Center but I'm not sure how it's part of an overall vision for CTE. So I will make it a goal to try to get a better overall picture of this area of the district because folks, not everyone is going to college. There are skill sets that all students can use (like everyday life skills and family/child skills). The newer CTE courses go way beyond those skills to construction management, green industries, etc. These issues are why CTE is still relevant and viable in today's schools. So the particular CTE I want to speak about is the Maria Montessori Language and

Where Seattle Public Schools is Failing

Let me quote extensively to you from the book I'm reading. The first question every board member should ask him- or herself, and the question that opens up the entire Reform Governance Framework, is, Am I satisfied with incremental improvements in the status quo, or am I profoundly dissatisfied with the status quo and determined to change it as quickly as possible? This is the big question. One answer leads to governance primarily as oversight, the other to governance primarily as leadership for change. Why would a board member be satisfied with only incremental improvement in the status quo? Is there a district anywhere that has all children performing at grade level, all children peforming at their potential, and no academic achivement gap? Leadership starts with core beliefs and commitments. Beliefs and commitments go together, for beliefs not tied to commitments are of little value. There is a big difference between "It can be done" and "It will be done".

More Classrooms in Southwest To Be Added

Thanks to Speducator for the alert about the article in the West Seattle Herald about the district adding classes to Lafayette and Schmitz Park. From the article: "Schmitz Park will add a third kindergarten class and Lafayette will add a third class at the kindergarten and first grade levels. According to Seattle School District spokesperson David Tucker, enrollment needs have increased this year, forcing the district to provide more seats in West Seattle schools. Parents at both schools are concerned that the schools will not have enough space or administrative resources for the added classrooms. "I was surprised like everyone else,” said Geoff Patterson, a parent with two children at Lafayette Elementary. “It struck me as odd that one of the biggest elementary would be getting two more classrooms." There was also concern over movement (within the building) of Lafayette's autism program. The students from Cooper's program had to go somewhere. Some may b

Strategic Plan update

The Board (and, through them, the public) are supposed to receive quarterly updates on the progress of the Strategic Plan, "Excellence for All". The Board, however, has not had an update since March 11, four months ago. So here is my un-official Strategic Plan Update to fill the empty space where the official one should be. Before anything else, I would like to note that the stated goals of the Strategic Plan are for incremental improvement over a five-year period starting one year ago. I think that we should debate whether or not incremental improvement is what we need or whether we don't need profound change on an urgent basis. Were there annual goals to go along with the five year goals? I don't recall ever seeing any. If there are annual goals, did we meet them in the first year? Project: Align Math Curriculum. The goal here is to align the teaching in every classroom to - at a minimum - the State Standards and Grade Level Expectations for that grade level. In

Is The Writing On the Wall?

I read the the NY Times. I grew up believing (though never reading until adulthood) that the NY Times was THE national newspaper. I tend to agree, overwhelmingly, with their editorials. So imagine my chagrin? sadness? resignation? over this one (with some confusion added in, to boot) about the direction of education under the Obama administration. The Times sets out two directions they believe the administration should go in. From the editorial: "Mr. Duncan has said from the start that he wants the states to transform about 5,000 of the lowest-performing schools, not in a piecemeal fashion but with bold policies that have an impact right away. The argument in favor of a tightly focused effort aimed at these schools is compelling. We now know, for example, that about 12 percent of the nation’s high schools account for half the country’s dropouts generally — and almost three-quarters of minority dropouts. A plan that fixed these schools, raising high school graduation and col

FYI - School Board Candidate Forum

The 43rd Democrats are having their monthly meeting next Tuesday, the 21st from 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. at the University Heights Community Center. Their agenda calls for a business meeting until 7:30 and then for King County Assessor candidates to speak from 7:30 -7:45 p.m. Then at 7:45 there will be a candidate forum for School Board candidates from District 5; Mary Bass, Joanna Cullen, Andre Helmstetter and Kay Smith-Blum. If you hear of any other candidate forums for School Board, please post them so that others can hear candidates' views on the issues facing our district.

When It Suits Their Purposes

Boy, you have to love this district's chutzpah. I mean to blatantly say one thing one year and then say something else. The consistency in this district is how inconsistent they are. Where to start? Let's start with Don Kennedy's repeated statements that there was a "hiring freeze" at the district headquarters. Nonsense. It's just in how you interpret it I guess. I mean they likely didn't fill any positions currently open so sure maybe that's the hiring freeze. But they just created a new position in the superintendent's office for an aide and, as we have been discussing, our new Broad resident . Wonder where he or she will put their MBA/MPA talents at? (And, still waiting for Mr. Kennedy to answer my e-mail on the hires, their salaries, their job descriptions, etc. but why wait? I'll just fire off my public disclosure request to Legal and skip the middle man.) And that hiring freeze was only on the operations side because the c

Math Wars: I Guess It's Not Over

Many of you may be aware of the advocacy work of UW Professor Cliff Mass who has worked tirelessly to try to get the powers that be and the public to understand the effects of discovery math (and, as UW professors are some of the end users of the students of SPS, he does have an interest). It appears that even though the vote has gone through for the math curriculum SPS will be using, he is continuing the fight and put out a bit of a smackdown to the UW School of Education which has been waging its own battle. (And Dan D., if you printed this elsewhere, I may have missed it; my apologies.) Here's a link to the UW School of Education Research page (it has links to the right on Where's the Math). It is headed by Pat Wasley whom I have heard speak several times. Here is her letter to her colleagues on the subject of math education. I have to say I don't agree with many of her views on education so I would tend to side with Professor Mass on this point. Professor Mas