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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Musing and Melancholy

Maybe it's the passing of Ted Kennedy, maybe it's the end of summer (well, at least for our kids but when their summer is over, isn't ours?), maybe it's just personal challenges but I am feeling down for the count. (Say what you will about the Kennedys and their flawed lives - as if we are all living lives of perfect virture - they were a family that gave a lot to public service in America and that's no small thing.)

Maybe it's the news from LA - how can one district declare both "it's out of our hands" and "uncle" all at the same time? How can they give up, really give up on so many kids and let the invisible hand of capitalism do a better job? Are competition and choice really the keys to great public education? It all feels like a dizzying experiment but one where the lab tube got dropped and all that is in it is slowly spreading out across the floor (the USA being the floor).

In the end, who will win from this? Will it, first and foremost, be the students? Please let it be them. How can we, as adults, look these students in the eyes in 10+ years and say, "Sorry, we thought it would work. It worked for some."

As we have learned from our own painful school closure experiences, if schools don't work, they can be shut down. It is much harder to shut down a regular public school but with charters, well, depending on the charter it could be much easier. But easier on whom? Not the kids. Most kids seem to like their school so to them it's a mystery why anyone would shut it down. And what about the kids with special needs? Where is their home and their place in the world of public education?

We have a thread going about the pending alternative schools audit. Charlie wrote this post there:

"Dr. Goodloe-Johnson writes that the District will "receive the findings of each review and then collaborate with our stakeholders as we decide which recommendations we will implement and in what timeframe." But that's not what they have done at all. There has been no collaboration with stakeholders."

And that's why I feel melancholy here today. I get parents, all the time saying, "What should we do as parents in situation X?" or "How do I make a difference in this district?" Well, it's just painful to say, "I don't know; I wish I did." Because as Charlie points out, over and over, there is so much lip service to engagement, stakeholders, etc. but no real follow-thru, no real feeling of "we're in this together", no belief that your input makes a difference.

I get a little done and a little more attention from staff because well, I've been around a long time and I'm tenacious. You shouldn't have to do that to be part of this district. I know so many parents with great skills and talents (professional skills) and would be willing to work on projects pro bono to help the district and yet, no one asks. I recently had someone in the district (who will remain nameless) say to me, "I know you offered to help, Melissa, but I just didn't know how to ask." I had no answer to that.

I know the district believes if we, as parents, just got out of their faces, shut up and go back to our PTAs and raise money, that they could get a lot more done and maybe then we would all see how smart? right? they are.

People in this district work very hard but sometimes it seems like endless planning, organizing, figuring out how to deliver information to teachers and principals, then they figure out how to get it to students. It feels like a rat maze that never ends. I know there is no A to B shortcut for great education but why is the Strategic Plan so long?

I also keep going back to candidate Joanna Cullen's words (paraphrasing here), "It shouldn't be about the effort I made but the results I got."

Probably the best thing for me is to go exercise (running stairs is a great way to not allow your mind to think of anything else - way too much oxygen involved in getting up and down), get a good night's sleep and be Scarlett O'Hara because "after all, tomorrow is another day." (You did know that was Margaret Mitchell's first choice instead of Gone with the Wind - Tomorrow is Another Day.)

Onward.

30 comments:

ArchStanton said...

I don't have any coherent thesis here, but some quick reactions:

How can we, as adults, look these students in the eyes in 10+ years and say, "Sorry, we thought it would work. It worked for some."

It's probably the same response the adults from 10 or 20 years ago would offer today. The current systems work for some, but not all, as well.

Most kids seem to like their school so to them it's a mystery why anyone would shut it down.

Most kids from dysfunctional homes love their parents even if they are abusive or alcoholic. It's often all they know and possibly the most stable thing in their lives.

there is so much lip service to engagement, stakeholders, etc. but no real follow-thru, no real feeling of "we're in this together", no belief that your input makes a difference.

That really is the frustrating part - the sense that I can't make much of a difference at the district level, the feeling that they would rather parents (or everyone) just go away and hold bake sales while the real administrators do their important (i.e. grownup) work, the obvious shams of inviting public comment only so they can say they did.

I hope that you and Charlie et al don't get too discouraged. I'm pretty new to this involved parent business and I realize the years of time and involvement that it took for you to gain the understanding of the system that you have. At least we can make clear and obvious differences/contributions at the local school level. I am gearing up to take on a few school tasks and am already wondering if I am in over my head. But, I know that even if I do an acceptable job, I will have made a difference and will begin on the path that you and Charlie started some time ago. I can't say whether I will aspire to a similar role, but I won't get there if I don't start.

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

You captured my feelings spot on, Melissa. I know many folks (including myself) that have done lots of work at the request of the district ("input" they ask for) but not a lot of results to show for it. I continue to believe we need to advocate not just for specific issues, but for a process that *really* takes stakeholders into account. It can't just be about listening and then going off with the input -- there needs to be a "feedback loop" where the stakeholders are involved at the beginning, middle, and end (and then it starts over again with the next round of changes). A real stakeholder process also leads to buy-in because stakeholders now have a vested interest in the solution. It's not rocket science... many of us have led processes like this with success as part of our jobs. This was part of the CACIEE (Raj's superintendent's committee) recommendations (including the offer to help flesh it out with much more detail). I wish they would take us up on offers to help. They shouldn't be surprised when fewer people show up to give "input" because we've all learned the hard way that input isn't worth our time if it's not part of a bigger plan.

Charlie Mas said...

First, I seem to be immune to outrage fatigue and to discouragement. I am outraged anew nearly every week. And I am never discouraged because I never imagined that anything I did would make any difference at all. As I often say, the fact that all of my efforts are futile does not excuse me from the obligation to make those efforts.

I am not pleased that I am often cast in the role of a cynic. I am not a cynic at all. I am, in fact, an idealist. I can see, so clearly, how it should be, that I rail against the dreadful gap between the actual and the possible. A true cynic would not believe that an ideal state is possible and would not be disappointed at the gap.

I am not pleased when I am seen as negative. I am not negative, but experienced. I no more believe that the District staff will fulfill their commitments to students and families than I believe Lucy will hold the football for Charlie Brown to kick.

Every year Lucy pulls the ball away at the last moment and every time so far the District has broken their promises.

Every year Charlie Brown gives Lucy another chance to hold the ball steady, and I continue to give the District staff new chances to do the right thing as well.

I don't think it is unreasonable or negative to ask them about what consequences they are willing to accept if they do not meet their obligations or how they have prepared for that contingency.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie,

I am reminded of Mother Teresa's words.

"We are called to be faithful. Success is in God's hands not ours."

Lack of success is not cause to be unfaithful. Hang in there for what better option do we have.

dan dempsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan dempsey said...

Try this for public engagement and accountability from the CAO:

Hello Mr. Dempsey,

Thank you for your email outlining your concerns. Like you, we are committed to closing our achievement gaps and will continue to focus on this very important work in the months ahead.

Susan

dan dempsey said...

Hello CAO Susan Enfield,

In regard to your response.

You said: "We are committed to closing our achievement gaps and will continue to focus on this very important work in the months ahead."

I would appreciate something a lot more specific. The SPS has had a focus on closing achievement Gaps in mathematics for over a decade. The result has been continually widening achievement gaps in math.

I keep hearing "We should be held accountable" from the Math Program Manager. Is your response to be considered EDM accountability?

I submitted extensive data prior to the EDM adoption in 2007, illustrating why Ms. Santorno's claim that EDM would close gaps was bogus.

EDM has been an absolute disaster for disadvantaged learners. This adoption took the SPS from a bad math program to a worse one. The positive was increasing class time to 75 minutes but these materials are so bad the WASL performance at grade 4 just got worse.

The SPS inexplicably did NOT use the National Math Advisory Panel's final report in making a high school text selection. Apparently its recommendations are not used by the SPS any place in k-12 math.

The SPS still ignores the results from "Project Follow Through". It is as if the Central Administration has no concept of why EDM was completely ineffective at increasing access to a sound mathematics education for Black and Hispanic children.

Do you consider your email response below adequate for the massive SPS failure to serve educationally disadvantaged learners in mathematics?

You said: "Thank you for your email outlining your concerns."

I request an outline of the SPS plan for dealing with this disaster.

I find a commitment to "continue to focus" grossly inadequate.
The last several years there has been a focus and it has clearly been misdirected.

A meeting or other remedy is urgently needed.

Sincerely.

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Sahila said...

I'm in the early stages of investigation, but it seems that my and (some) other peoples' email sendings to my AS#1 principal and staff (through the District email system) are being blocked...

My emails using my yahoo address (my primary account) have been bouncing back for the past week, with the error message saying "blocked". This happens to any message, even the ones that are about personal issues relating to my child's welfare. I've been experimenting and messages sent from my other accounts are getting through.

I heard today that another person is having similar experiences.

Its interesting that this has happened since I have been questioning changes going on at AS#1 since June, major changes that are being made without any parent involvement at all:

Since June and the ending of school, Roy Merca (AS#1's new principal, imported from Summit) and teachers have:

1: changed - edited and cut - the school's Mission/Values/Vision statement without the input of parents/students;

2: changed the structure of the cores and put 6th grade into the elementary model without the input of parents/students, and

3: put in place core assignment instead of core choice, without the input of parents/students.

If parents have been involved, I havent heard about it and I am a member of the BLT. If there are parents involved, then they are a few picked by Roy, perhaps as being less challenging to work with. All communications from Roy to the broader community are being channelled through one or two parents. I dont think this is appropriate for AS#1, it doesnt confirm with policy C54.00 or the alternative schools checklist regarding community involvement at the most basic, organisational/decision-making level. If this is part of the District's restructuring process - changing the power structure at the school into a more traditional model by minimising parent involvement - then the District is succeeding.

Call me paranoid, but then I have also heard on the grapevine that there are parents in the District who had their jobs threatened by intervention at the very highest level, for asking questions. I have this information on good authority; I came by this information after I lost my own job late June, with a major software company in very strange circumstances; I'm not free to say more; I understand there were attorney's involved; I understand that previous SPS leaders have sometimes intervened in peoples'lives...

I'm putting this out there to signal to people that there might be more stuff happening in this District than civilised (naive?) people might credit.

wseadawg said...

The response Dan received is very telling. A member of the press was recently told all inquiries will be handled through the district spokesman, David Tucker, "for fear of retribution" (said the SPS employee to the reporter).

Environments such as this emerge as the result of political means and strategies put forth as part of a larger agenda. And the larger agendas usually aren't based on facts, but on personal untested beliefs and a few anecdotes for support. At the root of it all is usually personal ambition trumping the greater public good.

Howard Dean said in and interview once, that "you can't influence and idealogue, because an idealogue will not be persuaded by facts." Ring familiar and true to anyone reading this blog?

I continue to believe MGJ is smart, talented, and capable. But I also feel her personal ambitions and reputation amongst her well-connected BRT and Broad friends is more important to her than those she serves. This is the neo-liberal rationalization conundrum we are seeing play out in all aspects of our lives at this time. They tell us and themselves that, "at the end of the day, it's all about the kids." To which I reply, "shouldn't the beginning, middle, and end of the day be all about the kids? Isn't that why you supposedly chose this profession?"

Instead we get MGJ saying, "kids are resilient." Think about that statement. Then think about who's interests are considered first and last by SPS.

My solution: Toss the Broad Foundation & "best practices" crap on the shelf, and start working with principles, teachers and parents. Try listening - really listening - and taking an interest in what parents are saying, instead of just letting people have their 3 minutes of time, which the Board and MGJ couldn't care less about, apparently.

Our SI and Board appear locked onto an agenda with what appears to be a Sempre Fi, blood oath, and consider it a sign of strength to support SPS staff and MGJ, no matter what they want. Parents interests are not represented or given anywhere near the attention that large private donors get.

To call us "stakeholders" has become an insulting, laughable joke.

What we are seeing in our district right now mirrors alot of what people in Chicago, Oakland, New York and D.C. have already seen. The reform agenda platform is a square peg trying to fit into Seattle's round hole (leave it alone, it's just an analogy), and come hell or high water it seems, the SI is trying to force it upon us while our Board seems impotent and fearful to say no, especially when so many board members are taking huge contributions from private donors to their campaign war chests.

This is what corruption looks like, close-up and real. Hopefully the upcoming Board elections will allow the public and parents in so far unaffected schools to get tuned into what's going on.

In the meantime, thank heaven for this blog and the hard working parents in this district who bust their butts to protect what we have that works. I cannot imagine where we'd be without them. Especially Charlie and Melissa.

dan dempsey said...

Dear CAO Susan Enfield,

In your email you mentioned a focus on reducing achievement gaps in mathematics.
In May of 2007, CAO Santorno listed gaps from 2006 WASL and said they would be eliminated within 5 years.

Whether measured from WASL Spring 2006 or 2007 the gaps keep getting bigger.

Until the district actually uses practices shown to be effective in empirical research, it is hard to believe any true focus on meeting the needs of educationally disadvantaged learners in mathematics is being attempted.

The SPS plan up to this point has been to act without regard to practices that actually work for disadvantages learners in mathematics.

Here is the current situation: (spreadsheet attached)
Gap size in 2009 for
32.1 Amer.Indian
14.8 Asian/Pacific Islander
49.8 Black
40.8 Hispanic
57.3 Limited. English
43.4 Low Income


Change in Gap (2009)
since 2006 since 2007 for

3.50% 1.60% Amer.Indian
5.10% 1.70% Asian/PI
5.10% 2.00% Black
4.40% 4.50% Hispanic
8.90% 1.10% Lim. English
12.70% 11.60% Low Income


Change in Gaps from 2008 to 2009

1.90% Amer.Ind.
3.40% Asian/PI
3.50% Black
0.40% Hispanic
1.20% Lim. English
-0.90% Low Income

From 2006-2009 the PD^3 project had a special program at Cleveland H.S., that was unsuccessful.

The SPS has a clear record of futility in Closing achievement gaps and a clear pattern of Expanding achievement gaps.

It is time for a plan based on what works for disadvantaged learners.

I would like a plan of practices from you that will be used and measurable goals that can be measured annually to assess progress.

Given the track record of the last decade saying the SPS will focus on anything in math without a written plan and goals is unacceptable. A significant change in direction is needed.

This district has used poor practices and poor materials and has the results to prove it.
A written plan to change a decade of futility is in order. In looking at NMAP, Project Follow Through and effect sizes from John Hattie's "Visible Learning", it is very apparent that SPS math is misdirected if the goal is to effectively serve disadvantaged learners in mathematics.

Sincerely,

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, nevermind being seen as cynical or negative, here's what really kills me: being asked why I can't cooperate with the District.

Anyone who asks that question clearly isn't listening to me. My primary complaint is that the District will not allow me to cooperate with them. I am banging on the door begging to be let in.

I had a meeting once with Steve Wilson, when he was the Chief Academic Officer, and he asked me why I couldn't use all of that energy to cooperate with the District. I pounced on the suggestion. I told him that I would absolutely LOVE to cooperate. What would he like me to do? How could we work together? What tasks would he delegate to me?

He had no answer. He had no answer because he never imagined or envisioned cooperation with the community. He had no idea what it would look like or how it could work. He wasn't really suggesting cooperation. He had no interest in cooperation. He was just trying to score rhetorical points and it back-fired horribly.

Sahila said...

I made the same point (as Charlie) to Harium when he came to my house for the Broad meeting...

I said to him the District has a rich resource of knowledgeable, well educated, well skilled people sitting right in its lap - parents/guardians/community members - that is just itching to be asked to roll up its sleeves and help...

I reminded him of the work Meg Diaz and others did, anaysing the District's data used to justify closures, and pointing out the mis-assumptions, flaws and plain old wrongness of some of that data, and how the District/Board ignored that, closed schools and now is faced with housing and resourcing 1200 more students for this coming year than it counted on...

He said something about him and Sherry Carr working on a way to bring the community into the process - something about issuing a bunch of questions/problems with some suggested solutions and asking for community input that would be taken back to the staff... no guarantee though that community input would actually be used, let alone drive what goes on in the District...

So far, I havent seen anything of this initiative, nor his making good on his promise that he and Sherry Carr would deliver a white paper on Broad influence in the District...

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

Charlie's comments here are great. A sense of humor is veeeery useful.

That's creepy about Sahila's email.

Here is one way to get some perspective about district staff:

Have you ever tried to get an 8-year-old kid to "help" clean the bathroom? Or chop carrots? If you have, you might have some insight into why district staff don't want too much "help" from parents. Maybe an extreme example, but it's probably not too far from how they think about it.

After having both success and failure with lobbying school board and district staff, I'm with Charlie. The failures feel somehow normal or expected. But when I'm successful I feel like it's probably white privilege. So then I end up feeling guilty.......

adhoc said...

Charlie said "I told him that I would absolutely LOVE to cooperate. What would he like me to do? How could we work together? What tasks would he delegate to me?"

What do you vision this "cooperation" looking like at the district level, Charlie? What tasks do you see the district delegating to parents?

There are many many ways to work cooperatively at the school level (planning auctions, volunteering in a classroom, being on the site council or BLT, being an art docent, or science fair mentor, etc, etc.) But what would the opportunities look like at the district level? Aside from taking input from families and using it in a meaningful way, and being included on district committees, how else could we work cooperatively with the district? What could they delegate to us?

I'm very interested to hear ideas from Charlie and others.

Melissa Westbrook said...

1) we have many, many parents with professional talents. For those Board members who need the research help, crunch numbers (provided by the district) for them. Organize data that they can use.

2)Other professional talents like marketing are ones this district could sorely use. Ditto on grant-writing and exploring public-private partnerships. Remember when I said I wish Kay S-B could be appointed Czar of public-private partnerships? It's because she has that kind of savvy and that kind of phone list. It takes time - that district staff do not have - to develop these relationships.

3)the district could work the the Seattle Council PTA much more in reaching out to different school communities.

Of course, you have to vet such parents and put parameters around what they say or offer but it's a waste of talent to ignore what parents could bring to the table.

wseadawg said...

Folks I posted these three articles elsewhere, and I'll post them again here. They are must reads from a former Charter supporter and proponent of Critical Thinking, now fully disillusioned with how the charter movement has been coopted by commercial interests and how NCLB's renewal under Obama will be as bad, if not worse than under GW.

The Charter School Hype and How It's Managed
http://counterpunch.com/weil08242009.html

Obama and Duncan's Education Policy: Like Bush's, Only Worse
http://www.counterpunch.org/weil08252009.html

The Future of Charter Schools
http://www.counterpunch.org/weil08262009.html

As I also said elsewhere, Charters, like Corporations, are not inherently evil, but become the perfect vehicle for many bad things, depending on those hiding behind and running them.

While the discussion on this topic has moved toward cooperation vs. non-cooperation with the district, I think it pays to know a lot about why the district staff act as they do, from the SI on down. Parental cooperation is not what they want, IMHO. Not at all, for they do not truly want us to know what they are doing until the trains of reform are running at full speed and we can't stop them. If they let us see what the SI really wants for the district, I think the staff know we, the public and the parents, won't like it.

That explains all the rhetoric and the apparently nonsensical moves the district is making. They make no sense for a district trying to respond to the needs of its population. They make alot of sense for someone trying to impose a one-size-fits-all, supposed silver bullet plan that will close the achievement gap and make the SI and staff look like miracle workers, providing them with big promotional opportunities in the future with educational think tanks and institutes. Only later will the real data emerge that tells the truth, long after the implementers are gone.

Call me a conspiracy nut, but one becomes that way after being shined on and BS'd repeatedly by the SI, Board, and staff. (All or many of whom have no children caught up in their experiments.)

Sahila said...

I for one would put up my hand to help research solutions to issues in the district... and I'd do that for free!

Spend time finding out what's been done in other places/times... what worked, what didnt... find the data and the anecdotal evidence ...

I would welcome an approach from the District/Board such as this:

We have this problem... what shall/can we do about it?

And I would go find as many alternative possibilities as possible... this was the situation here and they did this and these were the factors they had to take into account; they did that there, and these were the factors they had to take into account.... this group had these resources and this one had those...

Then I would expect the District/Board to use that information to craft a shortlist of three solutions that were specific to the Seattle situation... they might be a copy and paste job from somewhere else, they might be a hybrid of already proven strategies or they might be something totally original...

THERE WOULD NOT BE A SOLUTION THAT HAD ALREADY BEEN DECIDED, WITH IT BEING A CASE OF FITTING THE DATA TO JUSTIFY THE SOLUTION....

And then I would expect the Board to ask the community for final input on those possibilities... and then I would expect the Board to incorporate any suggestions that had a clear public mandate/support before committing to and implementing the most appropriate solution.

I dont really know what's so hard about that? Takes time, yeah... takes patience, yeah... takes getting out of one's comfort zone to be open to consider more than one way of approaching an issue, yeah.... but wouldnt we be more likely to come up with some real, long term, relevant problem solving, rather than mere bandaiding?

Sahila said...

I so agree with WSEADAWG... there is an agenda in place; there is no transparency about that; we are being set up ... none of what's been happening over the past years makes sense otherwise - how could reasonable, educated people act in this illogical way, otherwise; on the other hand, if you assume all of the above, it makes perfect sense...

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

It's not that parents don't have these skills -- they do. But that doesn't prevent district staff from still thinking of them as 8-year-olds with knives.

How do we change that?

But Wseadawg's remarks about how "education reformers" may not want parents to know what they're doing does ring true. That may be more of a barrier that we can overcome with good intentions from Seattle Council PTSA or individuals offering high levels of skill.

Eckstein and Hamilton MSs may both be eliminating honors math classes in favor of a more "de-tracked" (experimental) method of grouping math students. Both Hamilton and Eckstein administrators have been less than forthcoming with information about that.

The high school math adoption also comes to mind.

Parents are inherently kind of conservative about certain district or administration initiatives that may or may not work (like desegregation, reform math, and even language immersion was very unpopular when it was first introduced). But the district likes to experiment -- so you're right, they like to keep some changes quasi-hidden from parents. Which is incompatible with good communication or real engagement.

WenD said...

I'm going into another year with the same misgivings that have dogged me since we stopped home schooling. My kids need things that won't happen during their regular school day. I'm limited in what I can finance, but do I dare hold them back? We make creative wardrobe choices so I can fund music and language lessons. The cost of a tutor for Russian or Japanese is what burns me. Like single payer health care, other countries don't force parents to pay for world language classes. It's part of the regular school day. Not here, yet it's a subject that I believe will be a make or break for the future of my children. Meanwhile, districts like SPS pay for more audits and consultants, then disregard the findings. Rinse and repeat.

I never doubted I'd go to college. With my younger children, I am beginning to doubt, and this doubt is feeding my anxiety about paying for two college educations. What will they need to do in order to win scholarships, to stand out? We ask so much of students. Will they meet the challenge only to be let down by a higher ed system that will close the door in their faces? What I paid for a state U has quadrupled, with no end in sight. Do I encourage my children to take out loans, only to be saddled with years of debt? How much more jumping through hoops do I encourage before telling them we've been privatized to death?

Still, I’m optimistic about their schools for the coming year. Our Jr High principal is going into his fifth year. He won my confidence at the parent orientation. (Emeraldkitty: no pitchforks!) I'm still looking at a lot of outside enrichment, and in the case of my EDM survivor, math tutoring. As our district makes more cuts, what else will I have to start paying for? When will I reach a point where I can't pay for more?

Perhaps I should worry less. The new big question many parents are debating is whether or not they're obligated to pay for college. I never thought I’d rethink this, but now I’m wondering what other plan Bs and Cs I should recommend to my children, just in case.

Our legislature doesn't care. Most legislators campaign on lowering taxes and keeping the building industry happy. WA isn't Arkansas, and I'm grateful for that, but this crying poor from Oly is wearing thin. My children work so hard. They love to learn, but is their hard work going to have a pay-off, beyond satisfying their love of learning new things. I see a lot of shakedowns from foundation and private consultants couched in the fear we must pay them or we'll never meet standards. Achievement must increase. Ed Inc. makes money, while I keep seeing less in the classroom, never mind what it must feel like for our teachers to see the bottom line continually cutting into their day.

My bright spot for the day was the letter my older received. She'll be in honors math. She told me, "I didn't want it so I didn't try very hard on the test." Her 6th grade teacher told me otherwise, but I go along with the protest. I'm looking forward to a good year, but with reservations: what will we lose after the coming year?

PS: Sahila, something is rotten here. I have no respect for Roy Merca. I hope you’re documenting what’s happened, and will happen during your school year. I hate to say this, but I think Merca has been sent in to mop up. I expect you're going to stand up for what you feel is best for your son and the other students. I find what's happened to AS 1 a heart break. Had we moved back to SPS, we'd hoped to enroll at AS 1. I still want you there if we move next year. If this is the end of your school, have you considered hiving off and starting an independent school? I'd be interesting in what you and others decide to do.

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

WenG,

Oh, I was sad to hear that your bright spot was your child's enrollment in honors math.

There is a serious movement in Seattle schools against honors, or "tracked" math. Google Jo Boaler, author of "What's Math Got to Do With It" to read about where the idea comes from.

Eckstein MS will place 6th graders who qualify for honors math in "regular" 7th grade math classes this fall. (7th and 8th grade honors math students will still have separate honors classes.) The math coach at Hamilton tried to do the same there, but it was stopped by a few teachers.

Sorry to digress from the topic.

adhoc said...

What did honors math for 6th graders look like at Eckstein before this year? Was it 6th grade math at a quicker pace? Or did 6th graders do the 7th grade curriculum while remaining in a 6th grade classroom?

My son went to Kellogg MS in Shoreline. He took honors math in 7th grade, which meant he did the 8th grade math curriculum in a 7th grade classroom. In 8th grade he took INT I, the 9th grade math curriculum.

Just wondering.....

What is so different about the way Eckstein will be doing it t

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

In the recent past (at least as long as I've been in the know about middle school) 6th grade students who qualify for honors math have studied the 7th grade curriculum together with other honors 6th graders. That's "honors math".

But the new system will place the honors 6th graders in a "regular" 7th grade class. That is, with a mix of "honors" 6th graders and "regular" 7th graders. They will use the 7th grade curriculum.

In the new system the curriculum will be the same for honors students (6th grade studying 7th grade curriculum), but it's the mixed-age mixed-ability model that is new.

The great thing about honors math has been that everyone in an honors class is quick/ready to study hard at math. No longer in the new system.

This is kind of off topic for this thread, but also kind of not. Parents (and students) love honors math -- see WenG's post. But SPS feels free to substantially shake it up without significant input from families. When I tried to get information about the change from the Eckstein principal -- dodging like I've never seen!!

Charlie Mas said...

Opportunities for cooperation are all over the place.

Everytime I hear members of SPS staff say that they don't have time to do something that they know they should be doing, I think that's a job that can be delegated to a volunteer.

One of the most common tasks that a volunteer can do is draft reports to the community. Community members can write newsletters. There is no reason that web sites have to be out-of-date or inaccurate. A volunteer can draft an updated and accurate replacement for the web copy, so the staff person only needs to review it and forward it to the webmaster for posting.

Every staff committee can have a volunteer member of the community on it - the Program Placement Committee, the High School Steering Committee, every one of them.

Members of the Board could have the staff they need to do their own independent research and analysis.

Members of the Board could have the staff they need to respond to email and to follow up on public testimony.

District staff could have the volunteers they need to respond to email - so long as it does not involve confidential information.

Volunteers can translate public information into other languages.

Volunteers can help the District with outreach into hard-to-reach communities.

And, yes, there is the opportunity for professional services as well.

A lot of schools have found ways to make good use of volunteers; this isn't new ground. Anything that doesn't involve confidential information or require the staff person's professional attention can be taken off their desk and done by a volunteer.

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

Charlie,

Could you start with Sherry Carr? Her background in PTSA means she understands volunteers and what they can do.

Sherry could get a community newsletter, research/analysis and follow-ups on public testimony just for a start. Then, when other board members see how well it works, it might catch on.

WenD said...

Isabel, adhoc: My older will start 7th grade in Northshore. Her 6th grade testing was used to place her. NSD is piloting two new texts, Holt and Prentice. By next week, we'll know how this will play out.

WenD said...

Isabel: Thanks for info on what's happening with honors math at Eckstein. My older longed to go there, because she could study another language starting in 6th grade. Most NSD jr high schools don't offer a world language until 9th grade.

Without knowing more, I think honors math in NSD is taught as an honors class. You tested in, so you're ready for more. My happiness for my older comes from the hope that she'll be challenged.

gavroche said...

Fear & Loathing in the School District?

Sahila said:
Call me paranoid, but then I have also heard on the grapevine that there are parents in the District who had their jobs threatened by intervention at the very highest level, for asking questions. I have this information on good authority; I came by this information after I lost my own job late June, with a major software company in very strange circumstances; I'm not free to say more; I understand there were attorney's involved; I understand that previous SPS leaders have sometimes intervened in peoples'lives...

wseadawg said...

The response Dan received is very telling. A member of the press was recently told all inquiries will be handled through the district spokesman, David Tucker, "for fear of retribution" (said the SPS employee to the reporter).


I have heard similar stories of threats and retribution as well, coming out of SPS.

To wit:

A former principal who did not agree with an aspect of the Capacity Management Plan was told by a current principal that s/he should not publicly air his/her opinion "if s/he ever wants to work in this District again."

A teacher, who was a vocal critic of the Superintendent and the school closures, got a visit in her/his classroom from the Superintendent the day after publishing an editorial that was critical of the Superintendent, and then found her/himself among the RIFs, even though s/he was a third-year teacher.

A teacher in a school that was closed by the Superintendent, and who was a vocal critic of the Supt., and joined the anti-discriminatory legal appeal against the District, is suspended without pay and accused of filing the appeal on school time -- something the teacher denies.

An influential member of one of Seattle's school communities was contacted by someone from the District before the Capacity Management Plan was officially announced and told to "sell the plan to his/her community." This person refused, and the District person no longer took calls from him/her.

Member of the news media tried to contact School District employees at JSC for a news story. Employee told reporter they cannot speak to him/her (media) anymore for fear of "retribution." All inquiries must go through SPS spokesperson David Tucker. Reporter says this not how it used to be at SPS. Reporter says this began with the arrival of MGJ and D. Tucker.

In two cases, parents whose kids were negatively impacted by the Capacity Management Plan, and were subsequently critical of the Superintendent, had employment ties to Microsoft. One parent's boss was contacted by the District, the other was summarily fired without explanation despite having gotten consistently high performance reviews.

Coincidence?

If so, seems like a lot of "coincidences" lining up here...

Does anyone else know of stories like these?

What's going on?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I e-mailed one of the Broad residents not to ask her about Broad but to ask about her job. I got an e-mail from someone in Legal in reply to an e-mail I sent on another topic that referenced that e-mail. Clearly, they had told the Broad residents not to talk to me.

I think it is a very different thing for the public versus employees and I think many employees have paid a price. I would not want to work for the district with Dr. G-J as my boss and upset her.

Sahila said...

Melissa - what's worrying is that its not just people working within SPS who have reason to be careful about what they say about what's going on...

As Gavroche pointed out, there is the beginning of evidence that there are SPS parents and community members whose non-SPS professional lives have been affected by direct influence/intervention from the District, after having been critical of the District and Superintendent...

Where does that leave us all? Where will it take us?