Showing posts from October, 2009

Class Size in Seattle Public Schools

Several requests have been made to have a thread on class size. Here's what I think is out there about this issue. There was a study called Project Star done in Tennessee in 1985 over 4-years which did find that class size did matter. And, from a op-ed from Oregon Live by an Oregon state professor: "Interestingly, the studies of the Tennessee experiment have found a clear rejection of the notion that a teacher aide can offset the effect of a large class: test results were statistically equivalent across large classes with and without an aide." Also: "A second study by the same team revealed that the positive effects from small classes in K-3 remained pervasive two full years after students returned to regular-size classes." From ; "Class size reduction has now been successfully implemented in 30 states across the country, according to Education Week, and many localities. Since 2000-2001, the Montgomery County Public Scho

Seattle School Board Candidates' Perspectives on Alternative Schools in Seattle

Sorry to interrupt the open thread (please do carry on!), but… TOPS Parent Wayne Duncan hadn't heard a lot from this year's school board candidates about alternative education, so he asked each of the candidates in the contested School Board races to respond to some questions via email. The questions were: What role do you see for alternative schools in the Seattle School District? How do you think alternative schools should be evaluated in the district? What goals(s) would you have for alternative schools for the next four years if you are elected/re-elected? The responses contain a fair amount of boilerplate rhetoric in my opinion, but if you haven't voted yet, or even if you have, check them out. Thanks for taking this on, Wayne.

Open Thread

There's a number of important SPS meetings next week. The weather is gray, dreary and rainy. But it's Friday. It's the Friday before Halloween. Saturday night it's time to fall back one hour to standard time - change those clocks! (Yes, I had it wrong previously.)

Who Decides What the Reopening Schools Will Be?

I recently reported that the QA/Magnolia schools group, Successful Schools in Action (SSIA), was having some community meetings (there's one tonight) on the reopening of Old Hay as a K-5 school. The district said they thought a K-5 Montessori school could be an idea. So then there was this in the Seattle PI from the SSIA group: "With the recently released assignment plan and proposed attendance boundaries, the school district has announced the reopening of several schools, including the Old Hay school located on Boston Street. This school will be renovated and reopened in 2011 as an option school to help ease the overcrowding in our neighborhood schools. For the 2010-2011 school year, students will be bused and the program will be located in Lincoln High School. Options schools typically offer unique programs and are all-city draws, with attendance preference given to a small, local geographic area. The district has proposed this school become a Montessori K-5 school,

I Was Thinking, What Would I Do?

During the School Board campaign, there was a forum at Garfield High School. I listened to the audio and there was a question about more dances at Garfield. (High school dances can be quite the issue for a lot of people. The music, the type of dancing, size of the dance, who gets in, costs, etc.) Almost all the candidates said, yes, there should be more, good for the kids socially, blah, blah, blah except for Michael De Bell who said there would have to be some thought behind it. Michael, who I believe, is the only former PTA president in the running so he would know. Security is a huge issue at both dances and sports activities (mainly basketball and football games). There are major costs to security (both SPS security AND SPD are usually present which tells you a lot about how far we have come from having just parents chaperone). The size of the dance is always limited. I have never heard of a high school in Seattle (well, maybe Nova or Center) that had an all-school dan

KING-5 TV Piece on Meg Diaz Report

Thanks to Dorothy for letting us know about the report on KING-5 TV about Meg Diaz' analysis of central administration spending in SPS. Reporter Meg Coyle did a very good job (and I would rarely say that about any local tv reporting because of the skimpy nature of what usually comes out). She had Meg compare her charts of Tacoma and Seattle and I think it very effective and told the story in a way that words alone couldn't have conveyed. Steve Sundquist was left to say that it was interesting analysis that the district and Board would look at in the coming weeks. The next meeting of the Board's Audit and Finance Committee is next Thursday, the 5th from 3:30-5:30 p.m . I hope it's the first thing on the agenda. I'll have to go just to hear the twisted explanation from staff. I'm sure they are going to say that Meg (1) didn't use the "right" data or (2) didn't have all the data or (3) didn't understand the differences between rep

School Reform: Who Knows Best?

The NY Times had an article about Education Secretary Arne Duncan who used to head Chicago schools. The article explains how his turnaround strategy of closing schools and reenrolling students elsewhere didn't help students much, if at all. From the study: "This report reveals that eight in 10 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students displaced by school closings transferred to schools ranking in the bottom half of system schools on standardized tests. However, because most displaced students transferred from one low-performing school to another, the move did not, on average, significantly affect student achievement. The report demonstrates that the success of a school closing policy hinges on the quality of the receiving schools that accept the displaced students. One year after school closings, displaced students who re-enrolled in the weakest receiving schools (those with test scores in the bottom quartile of all system schools) experienced an achievement loss of more

CPPS Meeting, Tues, Nov 10 with Scott Oki

Tues, November 10 at 7:00 P.M. Garfield High School (400 23rd Ave) * Meeting will be held in the school LIBRARY Featuring: A Community Conversation with Scott Oki In his book, "Outrageous Learning: An Education Manifesto," Scott Oki describes the ills facing public schools and applies the same frank, no-nonsense analysis that made him one of the most successful executives at Microsoft and co-founder of the Oki Foundation. Mr. Oki is meeting with community groups across Washington State in order to offer his common-sense solutions to the challenges facing our schools and solicit input from his audiences. Whether or not you agree with his ideas, please join us in a spirited conversation about ways to improve our schools. To learn more about Scott Oki and read excerpts from the book, including his 11 planks for systemic school reform, visit .

Rainier Beach High School and Books

I did some checking after our many discussions about helping Rainier Beach High School. I was sad to see that in a recent thread, MKD has pulled her sons out. She and I had a talk as well and she did like many things there including teachers. But I certainly stand by her decision as each of us has to make what we believe is the best choice for our children. I had discussions with both Mr. Gary and a couple of teachers. There is no issue with math books; they are all new and enough for all. Mr. Gary was going to get back to me on the U.S History books but I haven't heard from him. He said they could use books in 9th grade biology as they have more students than anticipated and the district doesn't give them extra books. Mr. Gary said they have an issue with students leaving their school (and they have a lot of movement going on) and not returning books. I believe the district has to reenroll a student in a different school whether or not they have paid fines. I will c

Library Hours in Danger

Do you use our public libraries? I do. I think our libraries are one of Seattle's greatest gifts to its citizens. We taxed ourselves to renovate them and nearly every neighborhood can see the benefits. The City is proposing a 23% reduction in hours. The City Council is having a public hearing today on the budget. I don't say go down there (unless you are so moved) but please take a minute to write to our City Council members and tell them the benefits to your family as well as to others in these hard times. Here's info from an article in the Times this morning: "Under the proposal, 21 out of 27 branches in the city would be closed Fridays (when all branches are now open) and Sundays (right now, 16 out of 27 branches are open). On Wednesdays and Thursdays, these 21 branches would open an hour later (11 a.m.) and close 2 hours earlier — 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. On Saturdays, they would open an hour later, at 11 a.m., closing at 6 p.m. (the way they do now) .

Dear Mr. New Mayor (Whoever You May Be)

Dear Mr. New Mayor, Contrary to what some believe, we, the parents of Seattle Public Schools and the taxpayers of Seattle, need your office to pay some attention to the state of Seattle Public Schools. I recently read a couple of articles with some real action you and your office can take to help SPS students. One article is on Crosscut, a local news blog, by former School Board director, Dick Lilly. It is entitled, "Hey Kids: Get a job!" His premise is that we need to find jobs for all high school students who want one. They need the job experience, they need the training and the belief that having (and keeping) a job is something they can achieve. From the article: "What happens — and it’s been this way for a long time — is that teenagers in general and particularly high school kids from low-income families don’t have a clue what the world of work is like. Lots of them have never even been inside an office building. Almost none has ever been on a construction

Open Thread

Open thread for anything on your mind. I noticed there were 3 Board director community meetings yesterday. Did anyone attend any of those?

Capacity Management Policy

There are two grave problems with the draft Capacity Management Policy . First, the direction from the Board is for the Superintendent to match capacity with enrollment. This is a bad idea. Capacity should not be matched to enrollment; it should be matched to demand . The difference becomes clear when the capacity is inadequate for certain programs. For example, if there are only 180 Spectrum seats at Washington Middle School and they are all full, but there are another 40 students who want to participate in the program, then capacity is perfectly matched to enrollment (180:180) but is poorly matched to demand (180:220). Similarly, if there are 450 seats in an alternative program and it is full with 200 students on the waitlist, then the capacity perfectly matches the enrollment (450:450), but it is poorly matched to demand (450:650). In each of these cases, good capacity managment would have the capacity of that program expanded to meet the demand rather than be limited to the curre

Get Your Halloween/Fall On

The Times had a pretty astounding list of things to do for Halloween/Fall. So take the kids to get a pumpkin, go through a haunted house, go to a carnival (I have a particular affinity for the Whittier Elementary Carnival - they have a cakewalk!); get out there and have fun! Halloween is my favorite holiday because: no presents no relatives to visit costumes CANDY!!! C'mon, what other holiday truly brings such joy? Sadly, I won't be partaking in my recent favorite activity which is dressing like a zombie and doing the Thriller dance. It was big fun. Conversely, you could stay home and watch a scary movie (although it would be hard to find a scary movie you could show someone under 10 unless you didn't care about their sleeping habits for the next several days afterwards). There's always It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or Coraline or Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit.

Board Postpones Vote on D Average for Graduation

The Seattle PI online reports that at the Board meeting last night, they voted 7-0 to continue the the graduation requirement with a C average. Here's a story link . Here's what Cheryl Chow had to say: "(The data) very clearly is stating that when students start getting lower grades in the 9th grade, by sophomore year they don't see the light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "We need to get our PR better because a lot of work has been done for close to two years on this issue. It's unfortunate that a headline made us back up and take more time because that many more kids are going to drop out of school." Michael De Bell also noted the staff's hard work. Okay, but clearly the public and parents didn't like the idea. What does it say - to an employer - if we change this policy? So, maybe we didn't all understand the underlying reason for the position but we all see the public face ramifications. I'm glad the Board recogni

Mayoral Candidates on Seattle Schools

If you missed the debate on TV last night, here's a clip of the two candidates' views on what the Mayor's role should be regarding Seattle Public Schools:

Seattle Weekly Stories

The Weekly had a couple of stories on SPS issues. The first one by Nina Shapiro was about the issue of reopening schools just after the district closed schools . It had a couple of interesting things that I hadn't known. "No one knows for sure why this turnaround has occurred, but one factor is surely an influx of students from private schools due to the recession. The state's 528 private schools have seen a cumulative drop in enrollment of about five percent this year, to 80,000 students, according to Judy Jennings , executive director of the Washington Federation of Independent Schools ." Really? I had heard that they had many more applications at private schools than space. But 5% is a lot. I wonder what it was in Seattle. "DeBell notes the district went to the city during its 2006 decision-making to ask for demographic guidance, but the city could offer none. Tom Hauger , manager of Seattle's Comprehensive Plan, says that the city does not keep

Community Meeting with Director Maier

From a reader: Attention NW/N Seattle Community – TUESDAY OCTOBER 27th 2009, 7pm Loyal Heights PTA, SCPTSA, and CPPS members would like to invite you to a lively evening of discussion and coffee with Peter Maier. Learn what you can do to influence capacity/boundary issues, address I-1033 and the upcoming levies. Loyal Heights Elementary Cafeteria 2511 NW 80th St Connect with your local PTA/CPPS people. We would like to involve every school in our region so all kids and communities have a voice! RSVP is appreciated. Questions? Concerns? Carmen Hudson cell 206-310-9576

Weird ambiguity

The assignment plan, as currently proposed, includes a number of program placement changes. Among them are: Creation of a Spectrum program at Madison Creation of a Spectrum program at B.F. Day Creation of a Spectrum program at Hawthorne Creation of a Spectrum program at Arbor Heights Closure of a Spectrum program at Leschi Closure of a Spectrum program at West Seattle Elementary Creation of a Montessori program at Old Hay Here's a simple question: Are these program placement changes described in the new student assignment plan proposals or are they decisions? For example, has it been determined that Hawthorne will be the Spectrum site for the elementary students living in the Mercer middle school service area, or is that merely a proposal that will be discussed and decided in the Program Placement Committee? The person at the District with administrative responsibility for program placement is Courtney Cameron. I sent her an email asking this simple question, but I didn't get

Central Administration Spending Highlighted on KUOW

Analysis whiz, Meg Diaz, discussed her findings on central administration spending on today's Conversation on KUOW. It is the first 5 minutes of the show. Meg was really on-point in her answers and KUOW has put a link to her report on its website. It's good to know it will be more widely known about than just here.

Old Hay Meetings

From a reader: SSIA Announces Two Collaborative Community Meetings to Discuss Old Hay School Successful Schools in Action will host two Collaborative Community Meetings to discuss Old Hay K-5 program options and a new name for the school. WEDNESDAY, October 21st 6:30-8:00 pm Coe Elementary Cafeteria 2424 7th Ave. W. and THURSDAY, October 29th 6:30-8:00 pm Catharine Blaine Elementary Library 2550 34th Ave. W. Background With the recently released assignment plan and proposed attendance boundaries, the School District has announced the reopening of several schools, including the Old Hay school located on Boston Street, the location until this year of the SBOC. This school will be renovated and reopened in 2011 as an Options School to help ease the overcrowding in our neighborhood schools. For the 2010-2011 school year, students will be bused and the program will be located in Lincoln High School. Options schools typically offer unique programs and are all-city draws, with atten

New FAQ Info

I haven't had time to peruse this myself but a reader said there was new information at the SAPs including about Option schools. I did find this one funny/odd because it is obvious that they don't want to answer the question. Why is South Shore designated as an option school under the proposed attendance area boundaries? What distinguishes option schools is that their buildings are not tied to an attendance area. No one is assigned to an option school unless they apply and are assigned based on the approved tiebreakers. (Not picking on South Shore; our reader pointed this one out.)

Counselors Taking on More Students Nationally (Plus, High School Staffing in SPS)

This article about high school counselors in the NY Times parallels what is happening in Seattle high schools. Last year the district cut funding for Career Center counselors at the high schools. (Some SPS high schools may have paid out of other places in their budgets to retain career counselors; Roosevelt did not. We have parents trying to fill in.) In SPS, the Career Centers offer help with all aspects of going to college, vocational ed, career search, job search and volunteer work to fulfill the graduation requirement for 60 hours of community service. From the article: "Nearly half of public schools have raised the caseloads of high school counselors this year, compared with last year, with the average increase exceeding 53 students, according to a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling . At the same time, the report said, the pressures on applicants (and, by extension, their counselors) are growing, as the number of applications to four-y

Arts and Education

There was a short article in the NY Times about a link in NYC schools between those who do well academically and arts offerings. (Is it the chicken or the egg?) From the article: "The report, which analyzed data collected by the city’s Education Department from more than 200 schools over two years, reported that schools ranked in the top third by graduation rates offered students the most access to arts education and resources, while schools in the bottom third offered the least access and fewest resources. Among other findings, schools in the top third typically hired 40 percent more certified arts teachers and offered 40 percent more classrooms dedicated to coursework in the arts than bottom-ranked schools." Here's a link to the full report .

Opting Out of Middle School Math

I'm starting to hear about people who want to take their children out of their middle school math class and replace it with something else. There are a variety of reasons for their decision, and, I suspect, they are having a variety of success with the process. Perhaps we can share our situations here and share our understanding of the process and its requirements. Why opt out of middle school math? I've heard a variety of reasons including: 1. The quality of instruction is dreadful. A number of people have reported to me that the teacher just isn't very good and isn't communicating the curriculum. When last I heard, they were going to the principal as a group with their problem in search of a solution. In this particular situation there is also some trouble with the teacher's rude manner. 2. The style of instruction doesn't work for the student. No pedagogy works for all students, so there are, of course, students for whom the inquiry-based style of teachi

Sign Language in the Classroom?

I saw this Washington Post article and thought it interesting. The premise is that some teachers are using sign language to communicate with students who need permission to go to the bathroom, get water, sharpen a pencil, etc. In that way, they can see the signal from the student and give back a yes or no signal without interrupting the lesson. From the article: "The very first year I taught, I realized how much time I was wasting in my classroom for my students to be constantly raising their hands," said Fran Nadel, 25, a second-grade teacher at Woodburn School for the Fine and Communicative Arts in Falls Church, Va. "I realized if they could do this without talking, I could send them somewhere with a flick of my finger." "On a recent morning, Nadel huddled with a reading group of four students while the rest of her students worked independently at their seats. Every so often, a hand would shoot up from the back of the room. Nadel would respond almost im

Look hard for 1033 on your Ballot

I nearly missed voting on Initiative measure 1033 because of where it is located on the ballot. It is in the lower left corner of the first page at the bottom of the instructions. Do not presume that the whole left column is instructions - Initiative 1033 is at the bottom. Look for it. Find it. Vote NO.

Board Work Session on BTA Levy

I mentioned a bit previously from the last Board Work Session on the BTA Levy . (It was that the figure for Sand Point was changed; it seems they forgot to include the portables space. The figure they gave was 225 for the building, with portables, it's 325.) From the Work Session: I need to get clarification on this but they referenced a "ghost law" (just in time for Halloween). It seems that there is some I-728 money that could accelerate levy collection. I am unclear on how I-728 money (which I believe is for operations) could be part of capital funds. They went through, building by building, the rationale for reopening each and each time Tracy said we are going to need the capacity. Board members seemed to have some unease with reopening McDonald which had the weakest case for the capacity issue and the biggest price tag. Michael said it might be an opportunity to consider opening McDonald as an option school to draw off attendance area kids from other schools th


This post recently appeared in the MAP 101 thread . That's an old thread, so the comment is a little buried. I think it needs to be brought to the surface. Elizabeth said... When I asked my kids how the MAP testing was last week (at North Beach elementary) I was really alarmed. Tell me what you think of this story: I asked if it was hard, etc., my younger child said that it wasn't hard at all and that the person administrating the test told them "to try to get the first questions wrong so that it's not too hard." I asked if maybe there was a misunderstanding and then then my older child chimed in and said that yes, the teacher administering their test had told them they shouldn't try to get the questions right at first because then the tests later on in the year will show that they have learned a lot. The MAP test is responsive to the answers being given so that if I child is getting everything right it will make the next questions harder and if they are get

Mercer Morning SAP Boundaries Meeting

So initially I had my doubts about this meeting. So rainy and there were more staff than attendees. It ended up being about even - I'd say there were 20 people there. (FYI, I did draw Cheryl Chow aside and tell her about concerns about lack of books at RBHS. She said she hadn't heard anything but was glad to know about it. I did talk with the principal and still have a few more phone calls to make before I can say how we might help the situation. It's a little unclear about what the situation is and why it is the way it is. More on this next week.) So the theme here seemed to be that people felt the district had been really trying with this plan and they appreciated the effort. But as one person who read for their group said, "We preface all our statements with "if the plan is done correctly". But I did learn a couple of new things. Here's what came out here: Everyone gets an attendance area assigned; we all know that, right? So if you choo

Reopening Buildings: What Should They Be?

The district proposes reopening 5 buildings to house new schools to help with capacity issues. We already know that Old Hay (which will be renamed soon using the previously used name Sharples) will be a K-5 Montessori. The district has some experience with Montessori (although not a full school) so it could be assumed they know what they are doing. So then we have Sand Point (original name was Pontiac), Rainier View, McDonald (and note it's Mc, not Mac), and Viewlands. All will be K-5s (likely). So the question is how to open these schools and as what? Should they open as full K-5s? Start with a couple of grades? I think just K is out because of two factors. One, for parents who already have a child at a different school (and if grandfathering for sibs at the original school doesn't happen), then you would have a mandatory assignment of two schools. Two, Lincoln is a big building and it would seem odd to have two little schools with just kindergartens as their start

West Seattle SAP Boundaries Meeting

Open thread for comments on the meeting.

Times endorses Smith-Blum, Chin, and DeBell

This morning the Seattle Times came out with their endorsements in the School Board elections. They, predictably, endorsed Kay Smith-Blum in District 5, Wilson Chin in District 7, and Michael DeBell in District 4. My perspective on the candidates in District 7 is simple. If you like the way that Mary Bass works on the Board, vote for Betty Patu. If you like the way that Peter Maier works on the Board, vote for Wilson Chin. The Seattle Times clearly does not like the way that Mary Bass works on the Board. They have endorsed Kay Smith-Blum instead. Not liking Director Bass' style, they don't like Ms Patu's either. Regardless of their choices, the reasoning that the Times provides strikes me as weird. They like Ms Smith-Blum in large part for her refreshing energy and her track record of raising money - as if this were a charity board rather than the legislative body of a government entity. I never hear them mention it as a qualification for the state legislature, City Coun

Just Don't Lose Sight of the Dates

After tonight's West Seattle SAP boundaries meeting, there is one tomorrow night at Denny from 6:30-8:30 and two at Mercer on Saturday (10-noon or 1-3). That's it for public input at meetings (or so it is said). Then comes the Tuesday, November 3rd Board Work Session on the SAP boundaries . This is when all will be revealed on the high school boundaries. (My understanding is that ALL the boundaries will be clear before regular enrollment starts including geographic zones for Option Schools but that is much later.) Then on Wednesday, November 4th, the SAP boundaries will be formally introduced to the Board. Final vote is Wednesday, November 18th. The meetings AFTER November 3rd, called Community Information meetings (one at Roosevelt and one at Rainer Beach, on the 5th and 7th respectively), are to clarify any questions. I personally feel that we should all advocate for those meetings to be feedback meetings as well. First, because all options should still be open.

FYI - Town Hall on K-12 Funding

From Directors Carr and Maier, a Town Hall to discuss the K-12 Education Budget and Funding Issues from a state and school district perspective. This is with Representative Scott White who represents the 46th District. 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 20 Olympic View Elementary 504 NE 95th St State Representative Scott White"> Director Sherry Carr Director Peter Maier"

Ballard SAP Recap

Well, we squeezed in like sardines in the Ballard library last night. (Apparently the cheerleaders had the Commons area so we had the library. Hard to believe.) I guesstimated the crowd at over 200. Directors Carr, Maier and DeBell were there (I think Sherry and Michael may be trying to attend all these meetings). Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was not in attendance. There was quite a different focus at this meeting than the Eckstein one I attended. And that focus was the high school boundaries. So first, did you know that the Ballard area goes north almost to N 125th? I didn't but several Blue Ridge, Crown Hill and other far northwest parents assured me it did. (I should have asked, "When people ask you where you live, you really say Ballard?") I don't mean this in a snarky way, honestly, but it's just not what I always thought. Many people did not like the format for the meeting (big surprise) although somehow, this meeting had a much longer Q&A at the end