Monday, November 30, 2009

Winter fundraising traditions

When my kids were little they attended Lafayette Elementary in West Seattle. Every year Lafayette held a craft fair in which the kids sold crafts they had made themselves. The range was amazing, the prices were impossible, and we absolutely loved it. Even after the kids left Lafayette we kept going back to the craft fair. Some of my favorite holiday and birthday gifts came from there. It will be on the evening of December 4 this year.

Coming soon is the NOVA craft fair, on Tuesday, December 8, from 6:00-8:30pm, at The NOVA Project (at Meany). It features handmade crafts for sale plus make-and-take craft projects that you do yourself. There will be food available and a non-perishable food drive. For more information, visit the NOVA PTSA web page.

What are the winter fundraising traditions at other schools?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Curriculum Alignment Meetings

There were two Curriculum Alignment meetings this week. If you attended, let us know what you were told and what you thought of them.

There are two more next week:

Monday, Nov. 30th from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Ballard High School
1418 NW 65th St.

Tuesday, Dec. 1 from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Garfield High School
400 23rd Avenue

Upcoming Meetings

Meetings for the week of November 30-December 5th

December 2nd - Board Work Session on Quarterly Strategic Plan Report 4-5:30 p.m.
New Board members Oath of Office 7:00 p.m.

December 3rd - Board Work Session about "Real Estate" - 3:30-5:00 p.m.
Likely to discuss Memorial Stadium. I can't attend so someone please go and report back.

December 5th Community Meetings with Board Members
Carr - 8:30-10 am
DeBell - 9-11 am
Maier - 10:30- noon

STEM meeting on Sat., December 5th at Cleveland High School from 9-10:30 am

Students, staff, and families of current and prospective students are welcome to attend. The meeting will include a presentation, opportunity to ask questions, and a small group discussion to include:
► the vision for the STEM program at Cleveland;
► the goals and benefits of STEM;
► course offerings and program structure;
► next steps for the STEM program and how to get involved; and
► how to determine if STEM is a good option for your student.

(There will also be an Open House/Recruiting Fair on Saturday, Jan. 23rd at Cleveland.)

If the District Messes This One Up...

The Times has an article this morning about the City and the School Board making planning to tear down Memorial Stadium. This is wrong on several counts.

First, to make clear the Seattle School District owns, outright, Memorial Stadium and the 9 prime acres of real estate it sits on. This is a very important piece of real estate if only because of the Memorial Wall. It is dedicated to those 700 Seattle high school students who went away to fight in WWII and did not come back. Some of their bodies were never found so that wall means a lot to their families. Moving away from the stadium really defeats the purpose. Now, has the district taken care of the wall properly? No. Have they really taken pains to make sure the athletes who use the stadium understand who came before them? No. They certainly can do better. Don't move the wall for design purposes.

It is the home field for both football and soccer for at least 4 of the high schools and is used for graduations. I recalled Mayor Nickels on KUOW one time saying it wasn't used that much. It is and we have nowhere else to go.

I appreciate that it is in the middle of Seattle Center but it existed in that spot long before Seattle Center came into being. I also appreciate that the City wants to do something, great. However, any deal should not cause us to lose any land and certainly not the revenue the district makes from the parking lot.

Apparently there is a preliminary MOU between the City and the District. Neither will talk about it at this point. There is to be a couple of meetings, December 3rd for the Board and December 7th for the Council, to discuss this issue.

What the City wants is more an amphitheater-style structure for concerts in the summer (the article doesn't say this but this is what was presented to the Board previously). That would be nice except that for the other 9 months when parents and other come to games either (1) the temporary seating for one side would be without shelter (it does rain a fair bit here) or (2) both sides' supporters would sit under one covered seating area. Ever been to a big football game? You don't want both sides seated next to each other. Again, to me with the district owning the stadium, the first and best use should go to the district's uses, not the City's.

Interestingly here's one thought:

"Rasmussen said the proposed agreement opens the possibility for a new high school where the Mercer Street Garage is now. The city hasn't had a large high school in the downtown/Queen Anne area since closing Queen Anne High atop Queen Anne Hill in 1981."

They could get rid of the Mercer Street Garage if they built an underground parking area under a new stadium structure. This new high school would be great news for Magnolia, Queen Anne AND Ballard (boy would that make some people very happy). However, where is that money coming from? What would happen to Center School (the City says with a new Seattle Center they could stay but I'd bet the lease price would go up)? I suspect Center School would go away.

I certainly think this could all be worked out. The stadium is decrepit and the money is not there anyway. But moving the wall should not be an option. There is a lot of history in that stadium and it should not be taken lightly.

Last thing: the person who manages buildings and their uses in this district? The same guy who help craft the contract that lost Queen Anne High. And guess who's working on this one?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Prospective Sand Point Parents (Urgent and Important)

I know someone who is now within the Sand Point boundaries. A group of these parents has organized and has a survey for parents who also live in those boundaries. They also have a Sand Point blog as well as a Yahoo group.

Here is a link to the parent survey. It is live until midnight Thursday, December 3rd. Please urge parents you know in that area to participate.

There is also another survey for parents in the newly drawn boundaries for Eckstein.

Here's info from the blog:

"Sand Point Elementary will reopen in the Fall of 2010. We are a group of parents who live in the Sand Point Elementary attendance area. We have been exchanging ideas on the Sand Point Parents Yahoo Group, and we are organizing to ensure that our concerns are communicated. To that purpose we created the "Sand Point Elementary Community Input Survey", which emerged with the help of the McDonald Community Group, and from several in-person gatherings held over the last few weeks.

Please complete the survey before it closes on December 3rd. at midnight.

Because we are mostly interested in the input from the community directly assigned to SPE's attendance area, we encourage you to only answer this survey if you are part of this community.

If you are not within Sand Point Elementary's attendance area, please consider answering the "Survey for Families Living in the New Eckstein Service Area" where you can voice your opinion of what you would like to see in Sand Point Elementary. The results of both surveys will be presented to the public in general and to the School Board Directors Michael DeBell and Harium Martin-Morris on:

Tuesday, December 8th
Center for Spiritual Living, 5801 Sand Point Way NE.

Copies of the results will be sent to all the important stakeholders. "

Curricular Alignment Meetings

If you go to a Curricular Alignment community meeting - and I encourage you to go - the question you should be asking is this one:

"We've tried this before without success. How will it be different this time?"

There are four necessary supports for curricular alignment which are NOT in place. The people who are responsible for curricular alignment do not have control over these elements, so they can't make them happen. We have tried for years without success to establish these four necessary supports, but have never been able to realize them. So the central questions to curricular alignment will be "What will be different this time that allows us to do what we have never been able to do before?"

Keep asking:

How can we be sure that the students are learning the curriculum? If students who are working below grade level do not get any intervention, then they will not be ready and able to succeed with the grade level curriculum. There will be no vertical alignment for them. They will continue to just get passed along and they won't do any better. Where are the interventions needed to make curricular alignment successful? You will be told that the District is working on them, but they are NOT in place. Without them, Curricular Alignment is doomed. Note that we have always needed these interventions. Needing these interventions is nothing new, yet we have not been able to reliably provide them. What has changed that assures us that we will be able to reliably do what we have never been able to do before? There will be references to the MAP testing to identify the under-performing students. Okay, good. But how can we be assured that the identified students will get the necessary services?

How can we be assured that the teachers are teaching the curriculum? If the teachers choose not to teach the curriculum then the whole effort is a non-starter. Where is the assurance that the teachers will teach the curriculum? You will be told that principals are supposed to observe classes and confirm that the curriculum is getting covered. Okay, good, but haven't principals always been responsible for that, yet they haven't actually been able to make it happen. You will be told that the MAP testing will reveal whether the curriculum has been covered. That's a start, but where's the effective action that creates the change following the collection of the data? The teachers, I suppose, could get less favorable evaluations, but so what? Is any teacher actually going to get fired or get paid less as a consequence of not teaching the curriculum? And, in the absence of these consequences, what has changed that assures us that teachers will teach to the curriculum?

How can we be assured that the teachers know what to do and how to do it? Will the teachers know the Standards? Will the teachers know how to differentiate instruction? Will the teachers know how to scaffold for students working below grade level? Will the teachers know how to stretch and accelerate for students working beyond grade level? Will the teachers know how to do both of these at the same time in the same classroom of thirty students? Where is that assurance that the teachers will know what they are supposed to be teaching? You will be told that there will be professional development. That's good, but we have had years and years of professional development on the Standards and on differentiation and none of it has been effective. What has changed that will make this professional development successful when all of the previous professional development has failed? And if we knew how to make the professional development effective, why haven't we done that before?

The focus is on college-readiness and getting students into college-prep courses. Where is the assurance that all of the schools - middle and high schools - will offer these advanced classes? Will the District require schools to provide access to some set of required classes including honors classes, advanced classes, and, at the high schools, AP and IB classes? Where is the assurance that college-prep classes will be available at all schools? You will be told that the District is working on this, but surely the District has been working on this for years and we still are not there. What has changed that will suddenly make the District able to guarantee access to advanced classes? How can they reconcile that assurance with the fact that the middle schools no longer allow students to take the highest level of math that they used to offer? The District is REDUCING access to that class - despite assurances that they would not.

And then, the biggest question of all, when the District fails to deliver authentic curricular alignment due to the failure to provide one or more of these necessary supports, where is the assurance that they won't substitute standardization for alignment in an effort to emulate alignment? How do know that they won't go all totalitarian (Bellevue style) in an effort to force it?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thinking More About the New Gates Foundation Grants

[Here's a link to the Gates Foundation page with the links to each district.]

Just an update on the Gates Foundation's new grants for studying how teachers are evaluated and how they get tenure. Here's an article from the NY Times. From the article:

"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Thursday announced its biggest education donation in a decade, $290 million, in support of three school districts and five charter groups working to transform how teachers are evaluated and how they get tenure.

A separate $45 million research initiative will study 3,700 classroom teachers in six cities, including New York, seeking to answer the question that has puzzled investigators for decades: What, exactly, makes a good teacher effective?

The twin projects represent a rethinking of the foundation’s education strategy, previously focused largely on smaller grants intended to remake troubled American high schools. With these new, larger grants, the foundation is seeking to transform teacher management policies in four cities in hopes that the innovations can spread.

The foundation committed $100 million to the Hillsborough County, Fla., schools; $90 million to the Memphis schools; $40 million to the Pittsburgh public schools. Some $60 million will go to five charter management organizations based in Los Angeles: Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, Green Dot Public Schools, Inner City Education Foundation and Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools."

Okay, the last sentence of the third paragraph jumped out at me. These are not just grants to study an issue - these are grants to find solutions. And allegedly, these are going to be "innovative" solutions. Is everything that has come before really not working? There are no districts, in the whole country, that have found a good system? I hope this study finds that there is and actually reports it because otherwise this report may already have its own ideas.

Who is being studied?

"The foundation committed $100 million to the Hillsborough County, Fla., schools; $90 million to the Memphis schools; $40 million to the Pittsburgh public schools. Some $60 million will go to five charter management organizations based in Los Angeles: Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, Green Dot Public Schools, Inner City Education Foundation and Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools."

Okay but then there's this:

"Unions will be crucial to the project’s success. Teachers in the Hillsborough County, Pittsburgh and Memphis districts are represented by one of the two national teachers’ unions, both of which said their affiliates were cooperating enthusiastically with the project. Four of the five charter groups operate nonunion.

The foundation’s goal, its officials said, is to forge breakthroughs in how school systems recruit, retain and compensate teachers and how they assign them to schools.

“It’ll be difficult, once this work is finished, to say it can’t happen in other places, because this work is going to provide some compelling arguments,” said Vicki L. Phillips, an education director at the foundation."

I guess unions are crucial unless you don't have a union (and most of the charters don't). Will they study how a district that does operate without a teachers union would differ form one that does? I also hear bells with the "compelling arguments" line. Not because they might not find some good answers but again, education is local. The feds are now pushing from the top and here are the Gates pushing from another direction (both seeming to want charters and teacher regulation of some kind) so what is the takeaway for local officials? Is it, here's a great study with some good ideas that have been tested? Or is it, if you want money, do this.

And finding effective teachers?

"Most school districts give teachers tenure after three years of service and only cursory review of how much success they have had with students. The two-year, $45 million project will use cameras, student surveys and other tools to identify the characteristics of standout teachers."

This is interesting because if you want to use surveys (it could be parent rather than student except in high school) and cameras for figuring out what is an effective teacher, why wouldn't you use those tools for teacher assessment?

This may all be for the good. The Gates Foundation did not do well in pushing their small high schools idea (and have pretty much let that go) and they likely learned some lessons. I just worry that this isn't just about examining teacher effectiveness or how to assess teachers but about pushing an agenda.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Danny Westneat Weighs in on Sup's Bonus

In this morning's Sunday Times (which has a big audience), he wrote about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's bonus that was an introduction item to the Board last Wednesday. They vote on it in two weeks and what can they do? They negotiated the contract. I think they did this because they truly thought they were hiring someone who really was going to get things done. More on this in a minute.

Danny referenced this blog and some of the posts about this issue. Happy to hear Danny checks in here sometimes. Here's what he said:

"It's hardly a Goldman Sachs-style bonanza. It's no AIG outrage. But a plan to give the chief of Seattle Public Schools a pay-for-performance bonus — albeit only $5,280 — had parental jaws hitting homework tables around the city last week."

He gives some background:

"I'm willing to take the heat on this," DeBell said. "Anytime you set goals and then attach money to them, it's going to shine a much brighter spotlight on whether those goals are being achieved."

True, money raises the stakes. I probably wouldn't be writing this column about how Seattle schools met only four of 20 goals if someone wasn't getting a dubious cash reward for it.

But schools are not widget factories. Texas just spent $300 million on merit bonuses for teachers and saw no effect on student achievement. Or on teacher retention."

And this:

"For instance, she is getting a $1,320 bonus because 2,254 out of 3,019 city sixth-graders passed the WASL reading test. That's 26 more kids than the goal set by the board. And about a hundred more than passed the same test last year.Pretty specific. But I wonder: Does a central administrator in the job only two years have much to do one way or another with such small swings in citywide reading scores?"

So I have been considering two things about this. Neither is about whether or not she gets the bonus: it's in the contract and she did what she is contractually obligated to do to get it. (Whether she really deserves it or should keep it is up for discussion.)

One, to the Board and the Superintendent - good luck with those teacher contract negotiations in the spring. You certainly can push for merit pay or teacher review standards but boy, have you dug yourselves a hole. At the end of the day, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson did give direction to those teachers who raised the WASL scores her bonus is based on but the teachers had to do the work. They will be able to say, based on value-added data, we want more money for what we do.

Two, and this is something I have been thinking about for awhile, is that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has been a bit of a whirling dervish since she got here.

  • audits (not all of them done yet, not all of them complete).
  • curriculum review of core high school subjects to be followed by middle-schools
  • Student Assignment Plan and everything that radiates out from that including Transportation, Capacity Management, facilities' maintenance and enrollment.
  • opening a STEM high school. It is a huge undertaking because of the time and resources involved and the absolutely necessary outreach both to parents and to the scientific community who both need to buy-in and be a part of this effort.
  • Strategic Plan - a huge, overarching vision for this district that has (too lazy to check right now) but about 30 different moving parts
  • MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) in every single school
  • One teacher contract negotiation with another one this spring
  • closing schools and reopening schools with all the necessary planning and costs involved
All this in two years.

Plainly stated, I think our Superintendent and our district are overreaching. I think they are trying to take on too much, too fast. I do not believe that any of these things are necessarily being done well and with the thought that is needed. Some of this, of course, had to get done but not all of it.

Does that mean I think staff is incompetent? Absolutely not. Does that mean I think staff isn't trying? Quite the opposite. I think they have so much on their plates, they are barely keeping their heads above water. I think they likely are tired and worried about getting things done. I get the distinct feeling (not often but sometimes) that staff wished they could say something publicly but can't. (I think that is true about staff I've been able to communicate with easily and now get my e-mails forwarded to Joy Stevens, the Public Disclosure officer. There are a couple of holdouts and if you are reading this, thanks.)

Are we a wealthy district with the money and staff to carry this out? Not really. I suspect that is why the Broad residents were brought in. They are smart management people who know how to plan and enact broad-based plans (and hey, they're half-priced for two years). There is a huge amount of moving parts here.

So why would anyone do this to herself and her staff? Well, you would if you were ambitious. You would if you had your sights set higher than a small urban district. Your resume would look hugely padded out if you had this list that you could say you planned and were sending into motion. You could say you left the district with a lot "done".

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is a professional who is out to cut a big swath through this district. I think she takes no prisoners and is certainly not out to make friends or have any emotional attachment to our district. I wouldn't really call her a superintendent because I don't think she truly cares about this district as the living, breathing organism that it is. (Contrast that with John Stanford who embraced this place from the minute he took the job. I don't think he was the saint many have made him out to be but I did like his style and I felt he reached staff, the powers that be AND parents better than any superintendent I've seen. It does matter.)

I think the Board thought "here's someone to get it done and we don't care if she's touchy-feely."(Again, I said previously that I don't have to like her to respect her ability to get things done. Problem is, I see a whole lot of churn and not a lot of good things coming out of it.) I think they are a little surprised to see they got a gun for hire. I think they are hoping positive, forward things will come from all this effort and action.

Despite her raise last year and bonus to come this year, I'm still waiting.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bye, Bye Spectrum?

There is a Yahoo group for Spectrum/APP which is largely inactive but I do, from time to time, get an e-mail from it. Here's what I received today:

"Did you know that the Seattle School District says that "We anticipate that we will phase out the Spectrum program over time so that its closure will not affect current students."

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/newassign/faq_advancelearn.html#al64<http://www.seattleschools.org/area/newassign/faq_advancelearn.html#al64> (last question-and-answer)

(The writer also said she had e-mailed the AL office but no answer. I'll try on Monday.)

Okay, so here's the original Q&A:

If a school loses its Spectrum program under this plan, what will happen to the students currently enrolled at that school and in that program?

This situation will be addressed in the transition plan. We anticipate that we will phase out the Spectrum program over time so that its closure will not affect current students.

It's a little unclear because the question is about School X and the answer seems to cover all schools but maybe just School X.

What do you think?

Cleveland STEM update

I just wanted to bring everyone up to date on the Cleveland STEM program. I could have added this to the existing thread, but it's getting down there and harder for people to monitor.

To recap - our family is interested in Cleveland STEM as a possible high school choice for our daughter, who is now in the 8th grade. I looked for information on the program without much success. Then, on Monday, November 9, I sent a message to the email address for the program, stem@seattleschools.org. I also got the number for the STEM hotline, 252-0046, and left a message there. No response.

On Thursday, November 12, I sent an email to the principal of Cleveland asking for information. No response.

On Sunday, November 15, I sent a follow up message to the STEM email address. No response.

I wrote again on Tuesday, the 17th. I got a response to my message of the 15th from Dick Lee in the "Office of Partnerships" saying that either Princess Shareef or Susan Derse would "respond shorty". I wrote back to Mr. Lee asking him why HE couldn't answer me. What was the point, I asked, of someone who doesn't have the answers responding to the questions?

Three days later, on Friday the 20th, I wrote back to Mr. Lee and asked him if I should have heard from someone by then. I have yet to hear back from him.

I called the Communications department and asked about Cleveland STEM. I told them that no one was answering the email box and that no one was answering the hotline and I asked to speak to someone who had information about the program. I was connected to David Tucker.

I spoke with Mr. Tucker for about 15 minutes. He told me that there will be a community meeting about Cleveland STEM on the morning of Saturday, December 5. He said that there will also be an Open House on January 23rd. He said that there will also be events at the middle schools some time in December or January. He and I compared these community engagement efforts with those described in the presentation to the Board on September 16. The actual efforts will be much less and much later than what was promised. He had no explanation for that. Nor did he have any explanation for the lack of response from the hotline or the email. He said that he would have Susan Derse get in touch with me.

I also sent an email to Princess Shareef describing my difficulty in getting information about Cleveland STEM. She forwarded my message to Susan Derse, Michael Tolley and David Tucker. I got an answer from Ms Derse:

"I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiries about the new STEM High School program at Cleveland. Unfortunately, the high volume of correspondence precludes our being able to answer each question individually."

She also told me about the upcoming community meeting on December 5 and said that there would be a STEM web site posting on Wednesday, November 25. She did not, however, answer any of my questions.

I wrote back to Ms Derse: "If you are not able to answer email messages to the STEM email address and you are not able to answer calls to the STEM hotline, then what is the point of having them? I don't understand. Why invite people to contact you with questions if you have no intention of answering them? Are you trying to make people feel angry and alienated? Who benefits from this system?"

These people are so infuriating that I wonder if there is any point to trying to talk to them at all.

Dorn's recommendation to delay

State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, is recommending that the legislature delay, yet again, the "pass the math test" requirement for high school graduation. See this news story in the Seattle Times.

The Times, in this editorial, complains that this delay "lowers the bar". Instead of delay, they write that "The Legislature must exchange Dorn's plan for one that does something for students. A better effort would include more experienced math teachers and up-to-date textbooks. After-school tutoring, summer school and other ways are needed to give students more lesson time. Science must be injected into core curricula with all the teacher training and other resources required to place science on par with reading, writing and arithmetic."

Ah, the idealism of the Seattle Times. It's refreshing, if naive. They are, of course, correct. But so what? The legislature is not going to pony up any money to pay for these proposals. So after all of the adults who are actually responsible for the education system fail to fulfill their responsibilities: the legislature, the OSPI, and the various district leaders, the Times believes that the solution is to hold the students accountable. The students, the only people in the system with absolutely NO power to influence it, are the only ones who are held responsible for the system's failure. The legislature underfunds the schools, the OSPI directs schools to miseducate students in math, the districts miseducate students in math and fail to implement early and effective interventions, and who pays? The students. Not only are they denied an education, they are denied diplomas.

If when it comes to graduation requirements Randy Dorn blinked, as the Times wrote, then he is willingfully squeezing his eyes shut when it comes to confronting the failures of the adults in the system.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Persona Non Grata

Okay, so I'm convinced now because it happened yet again. Every time I ask for information, basic information, from any staff member (usually people up the food chain), I get a polite message that my request has gone to Joy Stevens (the public disclosure person for the district). I'm thinking there's some e-mail saying, "Don't give this woman information or at least make it take a long time." I suspect Charlie's in the same boat.

This is basic stuff like terms (seismic diaphragm versus seismic upgrade versus seismic mitigation). Yes, I could look it up online but, as we discovered from Meg's work, the district sometimes has its own language and definitions.

I understand not having multiple people trying to answer the same question but I know who to direct a question to (and I try to ask if I have the right person if I am not sure).

I suspect that the pushback the State Auditor is getting from the district on BEX information isn't just inability to access it or find it but the district dragging its feet because they don't want the audit to come out before the levy election.

It's pretty frustrating.

Talk Among Yourselves

There are some education news items we could get to like Randy Dorn's idea of a two-tier diploma or the Gates Foundation and yet another education initiative (one part is $45M to study 3700 teachers to figure out what an effective teacher is which reminds me of the Supreme Court Justice Potter on a case about pornography said, "I know it when I see it"). I also have some interesting research on BTA III after going over the final project list.

However it is Friday so talk about anything.

If you aren't at Twilight Moon (I would be if I were a tween but frankly I don't care how dark Forks is, vampires can't go out in the daylight. First rule of being a vampire.), here's something to do with the kids under the category "now for something completely different". It's called Smash Putt, sort of a Rube Goldberg version of mini-golf (indoors). It's only open for families this weekend and next (they serve alcohol at other times). There clearly seems to be some physics involved so it could be called educational (and hence its appearance here).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Humbled

I had heard that McDonald parents had a meeting with the head of International Instruction, Karen Kodama, on Saturday. And boy, I thought, how fair is that to these other reopening schools? Who knew you could just ask for a meeting? And mostly I thought it unfair to Sand Point who seems to have no real focus yet. (Rainier View and Viewlands aren't opening for awhile and McDonald seems in the lead for foreign language immersion and Old Hay has Montessori.)

Luckily, I have a friend who steered me straight.

The McDonald parents did set up a meeting with Ms. Kodama but they also had the courtesy to invite Sand Point parents. Ms. Kodama apparently did not talk about specifics but did talk about what an international school is and said she was there unofficially. She also said every elementary should have foreign language (she and Kay Smith Blum will get along well).

There was also a meeting with De Bell and Carr to go over McDonald's survey results about their school. Sand Point is also planning one and when it goes on-line, I'll post a link.

This is what I get for hanging around headquarters too long and being suspicious. These McDonald area residents have put my faith back into our parent-to-parent network. Bless them for their thoughtfulness.

Community Meetings for Curriculum Alignment

The district has announced public meetings to "share" information about curriculum alignment in our high schools. (I really doubt they will change their plan but you can try.) From the press release:

The high school curriculum alignment projects will result in aligning high school Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies and World Languages core classes to college-ready standards, revising course offerings in academic subjects to better prepare students for college, careers and life and providing professional development for teachers to support their delivery of the aligned curricula.

Seattle Public Schools instructional leaders will discuss our alignment work and provide more information about the upcoming instructional materials adoption for high school Language Arts courses, to be followed by adoptions for World Languages and Social Studies for 4th and 8th grades.

So there you elementary and middle school parents; it's coming your way as well.

Now don't laugh at the timing of the first two meetings but here's the list:

Monday, Nov. 23
6:30-8:00 p.m.
Rainier Beach High School
8815 Seward Park Ave. S.

Tuesday, Nov. 24
6:30-8:00 p.m.
West Seattle High School
3000 California Ave. S.W.

Monday, Nov. 30
6:30-8:00 p.m.
Ballard High School
1418 NW 65th St.

Tuesday, Dec. 1
6:30-8:00 p.m.
Garfield High School
400 23rd Ave.

I know, Thanksgiving week, who has anything else to do?

I Should Have Known

I ran down to the Board meeting to give my remarks and had to leave right afterwards. (I then went to the Roosevelt PTSA meeting to be the opposition side to Schools First support of the BTA III levy. More on this later as it was interesting and I may need your input.) But, I had set my Tivo to record the meeting. Silly me, the meeting ended at 11 and I only recorded 3 hours of what turned out to be a 5 hour meeting. They didn't get to the Action items until almost 2:45 minutes into the meeting (they did start late though). So I missed the SAP votes. So help me out.

Here's the story from the Times.

About the amendments, here's all that was said:

"The boundaries approved Wednesday reflect small adjustments in the lines around five pairs of elementary schools: Bryant/View Ridge, McDonald/Green Lake, Whittier, West Woodland, Loyal Heights/Adams, and Alki/Lafayette."

So I am thinking the Executive Board's passed, Harium's amendments passed, Mary's didn't and that Steve may have introduced one for Alki/Lafayette. According to the West Seattle Blog, the maps with new boundaries will be out sometime next week.

If you attended (or watched) the whole thing, do weigh in.

As far as the public testimony, there was some differing opinions about the boundary change around Ravenna Creek. Again, for some reason, people seem to think anything in print is concrete. There was unhappiness over these amendments being introduced at the last minute but they did say at the boundaries meetings that it could happen. (I know the district gives out timelines but they likely should say "here's what can happen at each point".)

The president of the West Seattle High PTSA along with Chief Sealth's both were not happy over the boundaries. They are quite worried about the loss of students projected for both Madison and WSHS.

A couple of parents spoke about grandfathering sibs. One offered that they wouldn't mind extra big classes for a couple of years to accommodate all sibs. That's an interesting take. He also said it could take 5 years. I have no idea if the district is thinking a 1-year or 5-year transition. That info has been pretty closely held. Again, if I had to guess, I'd say 1-2 years but frankly, I don't think it depends at all on what parents want. I think the driver is the VAX. If they can migrate off it and everything is working, I would predict a shorter transition period.

One speaker mentioned gathering sibling data now so that they have the best knowledge going forward on the transition plan.

Under next steps (a timeline sheet was available), there is this date, December 18th, as when design teams for opening schools will be established. The intro for the Transition Plan will be Jan. 6th and the final vote January 20th. This will come right on the heels of the start of tours for schools (mid-January) so folks will have to figure out what the transition plan means to them and then get out there and tour.

The Sharples naming of Old Hay brought a bit of family drama to the proceedings. We had a historian and several family members. It seems some family members feel that Old Hay is not an equal trade for a middle school (that was the original use of the name) but others are fine with it. I don't know what the final vote was on this one; I'll have to check with the Board office. I do wonder why they didn't just do the obvious which is to name South Shore for Sharples. South Shore is just a vague place name and putting the Sharples name on that shiny, new K-8 building might have been a good idea.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson did acknowledge that she is on the NWEA Board but said it was a non-paid position on a non-profit board and that she in not involved in reading or receiving bids. There was a MAP presentation by staff. Harium asked how long, on average, it took to take and he was told 40-50 minutes. Steve asked if we did use multiple assessments so that we were not depending on just one and he was told yes although not all at once. The staffer also said the middle schools were hungry for this data and had the best completion rates. Peter asked about ELL and Special Ed kids taking MAP. He was told that they are trying to accomodate as much as possible. Apparently elementary kids take it using earphones and that those are available to both ELL and Special Ed students. SBOC is not taking MAP at the request of their principal until they can figure out its best use for them.

This was the last Board meeting for both Directors Chow and Bass. Both were acknowledged for their service and both gave remarks. Cheryl was funny saying she was looking forward to her free time and occasionally tuning in to the Board meetings in her PJs.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Steve Sundquist Weighs In

Thanks to reader Yumpears who linked us to the update from Steve Sundquist's last meeting before the vote tonight at the West Seattle Blog.

Steve said he was not "inclined" to change the boundaries except for one (far south end of California SW) and that there would be an amendment for that. (It's still not on the website but they can introduce them without them actually being on the agenda. At least that is what has happened in the past.)

He said some pretty interesting things about high schools. He was trying to make people feel better about their assigned high school saying that many kids from areas all over West Seattle/SW go to either high school. Here are the stats from the article:

1,000 students - 550 from its “drawing area,” 200 from northern West Seattle

More than half its 1100 students come from southern West Seattle (574)

Most from its “drawing area,” 136 from north West Seattle

Even split - 449 from north West Seattle, 423 from south

Here's what he said and pay attention because if this is what he thinks for WS/SW, well, it might be for other areas as well. (Note, bold mine.)

"For starters, he says, given the potential underenrollment at some West Seattle schools, he sees the potential to propose that the high schools set aside 20 percent of their seats for choice, rather than the 10 percent stipulated citywide in the assignment plan.

Second, Sundquist said, he’s also interested in grandfathering current middle-schoolers who are now at schools outside their new attendance areas, not just to be able to stay at those middle schools till they’re done there, but also to be able to follow the new tracks into high school - in other words, if a current Denny student’s home is going to be in the newly drawn Madison area, for that student not only to get to stay at Denny through 8th grade (which is already part of the plan), but also to be able to continue on to Chief Sealth High School.

Then he voiced a suggestion that had several people all but jump out of their chairs with excitement (and a smattering of applause): “I am also currently exploring - though I need help from staff, with possible legal implications, possible dual feeders for the middle three schools - Gatewood Elementary, West Seattle Elementary, Sanislo - to enable those parents to choose to take their kids either north (on the Madison/West Seattle HS track) or south (Denny/Chief Sealth). This would enable us to deal with the kind of imbalance I don’t think we could deal with on a map - and it’s getting to be a little eleventh-hour for major map changes.”

One rule change he said he’s not leaning toward is some kind of “distance tiebreaker” .

"...he said, an “additional high-rigor high-school option” for Southeast Seattle is under consideration."

Yes, I know. Very interesting. The problem is that he is viewing it from WS/SW. I can't see this working all over the city. WS/SW has a very individual situation because they are more isolated. I wish I had time to look up all the numbers for the high schools there because I suspect there aren't that many out of WS/SW students there simply because it is harder to get to.

I can't see the other directors signing on for the 20% open choice seats. Ballard, Roosevelt and Garfield areas would be very unhappy. I think it would take a lot of convincing of other directors.

Grandfathering middle schoolers? Again, a very individual situation because I would bet most middle school kids in that region probably go to either West Seattle High or Chief Sealth. I could see doing this for WS/SW but I also could see how the rest of the district saying, what about us? Ditto on the elementary/middle/high school feeder pattern. It makes sense for that region but is it what an overall SAP should do?

Additional rigor? Chief Sealth has an IB program already so maybe he means more honors/AP courses at West Seattle?

Board Meeting Tonight

The speakers list for the Board meeting tonight is full. (I'm speaking near the top of the list but it has me down for the SAP and I'm speaking on the BTA.) There are 5 of us on the list who are regulars and interestingly, there are 5 people from the Sharples family speaking, probably asking why their family name is being moved to another school and why there is a motion to postpone this vote.

Directors Bass and Martin-Morris will be introducing amendments. Here is Director Bass':

1. I move to amend that the attendance area boundary for Stevens Elementary School be those set forth in the attached.

Rationale: The current eastern boundary for Stevens Elementary School should be retained.
2. I move to designate Madrona K-8 as an option school.

I don't know enough whether number one is good. With number two, her rationale is all over the place. Here's the last paragraph:

"Our priority should be to serve the families at the school. Over half of the families live within a mile of the school. Some of the families are concerned that if it becomes an option school, neighborhood families won’t be able to attend. Some of the families are concerned that if it is an attendance area school, central area families who want a K-8 will not be served."

Families (obviously) can't have it both ways. So someone will be unhappy. Whatever the answer, we all know that Madrona would likely have even more neighborhood families if their program wasn't so rigid and the principal was more welcoming to new ideas.

Martin-Morris Amendment;

"I move to amend the Bryant and View Ridge attendance area boundaries to incorporate the area south of Northeast 68th Street between 34th Avenue Northeast and 40th Avenue Northeast into the Bryant attendance area. The north side of Northeast 68th Street will be in the View Ridge attendance area and the south side Northeast 68th Street will be in the Bryant attendance area, while the east side of 40th Avenue Northeast will be in View Ridge attendance area and the west side of 40th Ave Northeast will be in the Bryant attendance area.

Rationale: If passed, it is anticipated that the Executive Committee’s amendment to adjust the McDonald attendance area boundary will create additional projected capacity at Bryant. There are 19 students projected to live south of Northeast 68th Street between 34th Avenue and 40th Avenue North in 2015. A portion of this area is not in the walk zone for either View Ridge or Bryant. If this amendment and the Executive Committee’s amendment pass, it is projected that View Ridge will be at functional capacity and Bryant will be 5 students over functional capacity. It is anticipated that a projection of 5 students over functional capacity will likely have minimal impact."

I don't have much to say here because again, I don't know this area well. What do other parents think?

I guess I wish I could know what moved some Board members to create amendments while others didn't. Meaning, what swayed their thinking?

Superintendent Bonus Pay

Remember all of that talk about the Superintendent not getting a raise this year due to the tight budget and how inappropriate it would be for her to make more money while the District is laying off teachers?

Did you believe that? You did? You must be new.

Here it comes; item for introduction tonight: Incentive pay for the superintendent. Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson will receive performance based-incentive compensation of $5,280.00 for the 2008-09 academic year because the students in the District met four of the twenty academic goals. Man! If I met four of twenty goals at my job I'm not sure that I would be allowed to keep it, let alone get incentive pay. She is eligible for up to 10% of her pay in incentives based on twenty point system of 16 academic measures (three are double weighted, one is yet undetermined). She got four of the twenty points, one fifth, so her incentive pay is one fifth of the possible amount, 2% of her pay: $5,280.00.

The superintendent already makes more money than the governor or the mayor. Just how much do we have to pay this woman to get her best effort?

While this whole idea is a little whacked, there is a paragraph in the Board Action Report which makes no sense:
Seattle Public Schools has a rigorous five-year strategic plan, Excellence for All, to raise the academic quality of our schools and achievement for all our students. Excellence for All is focused on setting high expectations for every student, our teachers and school leaders. Performance Management is one of the key initiatives of our strategic plan. The Performance Management system aligns the District’s work at all levels with Excellence for All by using tools including the District Scorecard, School Reports and Individual Performance Evaluations for staff. The Performance Management system establishes clear expectations for the District, for each school, and for every individual.

Does this mean that the superintedent is already working under the Performance Management system before anyone else? Does that mean that she is now accountable?

Here's another wacky item: at her performance evaluation, I recall that the Superintendent got a C- in the area of curriculum and instruction. I can't confirm that because her report card isn't attached to the July 1, 2009 action that supposedly held her salary at the previous year's level. So she got a C- for curriculum and instruction, yet got incentive pay for student's academic achievement. How do those two match up?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Minor Note (But It Should Be Noted)

Someone pointed this out to me even though I should have known it if I had thought about it enough.

I don't know where all the directors live (obviously within their districts). I do know where Director Carr lives. The first boundaries put her home within Ballard's boundaries. ( As you may recall, she has a child at Roosevelt as does Director Martin-Morris). So that map would have sent her second child to Ballard. (But under the 10% Open Choice seats, her second child would easily get into Roosevelt via that choice.)

The second map has her neighborhood in Roosevelt. And personally that is the way I thought it should have been for her neighborhood. (But part of that change was for west Green Lake and I'm still not sure why west Green Lake is in Roosevelt's area because no one from there is going to walk to Roosevelt which is the given reason for the change.)

I point this out because I have gone to many boundary meetings, large and small, and I never heard Director Carr point this out. (I don't believe any other director has younger children that will be affected by the boundaries - De Bell's last is at Ballard and I believe both of Sundquist's are already at Chief Sealth and Martin-Morris' youngest is at RHS.)

I think she should have in the interest of public disclosure.

Monday, November 16, 2009

HIring at SPS

Look, I am not a business person so I am probably wrong on this one so help me out.

Once again, while looking for one thing, I found another. I was looking for school maintenance information and found a link for a SPS job listing...at a headhunter firm called Waldron and Company (they cover the NW/SW). Now the listing I found is old but they currently they are looking for someone for another SPS job.

I do understand that higher-end people are harder to find but we have a bad economy (read, more people out there looking for jobs even high-end jobs) and SPS has no money. So how do we have money for a headhunting firm?

I went and looked at the SPS jobs listings and it was maybe 25 jobs. Maybe there's more openings that aren't advertised? I don't know. (The one that the Waldron group is working on is there as well.) Don't we have a Human Resources department?

Executive Board Amendments

Thanks to Central Mom for alerting us to the amendments made by the Executive Committee of the Board to the Superintendent for the SAP to be presented at the Board meeting on Wednesday. They include McDonald, Whittier, Alki/Lafayette and Loyal Heights. Here's a link.

Note that other individual amendments may surface. I think it unlikely but it is possible.

Also to note, Dr. Enfield, our CAO, is doing a presentation on MAP. Here is one bullet point:
  • 100% of elementary & K-8 schools will share results with families during parent-teacher conferences
So okay, you heard it from her, all of you elementary/K-8 parents, if you attend a parent-teacher conference, will get results.

Middle and high school? A little less clear what will happen:
  • Middle & high schools will share results in conferences (if applicable), send results home with report cards or designate one staff to share results with families.
Also, Dr. Enfield has hired 4 "data coaches" to train a MAP trainer for each school. I see the need for this but please tell me they aren't permanent because if MAP needs this much oversight after you have launched it, then it sure costs a lot. (We have to pay a fee to use it every year plus pay for updates. There is also $4M in the BTA III levy for computers to use for MAP.)

Lastly, I love Dr. Enfield's sense of humor. She has what is termed a triangulation to show how you would use the data to make decisions (and frankly I don't get it) but she chose to put the triangle over a ...glacier. Is that a message that she thinks MAP will melt away under global warming? Just an easy pick off Google? It's kind of funny (see page 10).

Policy on New Schools

There is a Capacity Management item on the Board agenda for Wednesday. Here is one of the new Superintendent Procedures about new schools. In total, it says:

"The new Capacity Management Policy (H 13.00) contemplates actions that might be taken to
address fluctuations in enrollment, including the possibility that new schools may need to be
opened to accommodate enrollment growth.

While all final decisions about a new school’s programmatic direction, budget, facilities
modifications and principal selection are the purview of the Superintendent, it is important to
gather community input on the new school. The level of public participation is defined as
“Involved” indicating the District will work directly with the public through the process to
ensure that public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered.

If and when new schools are opened, the following actions shall occur:

• An Instructional Director will be appointed to guide the opening process
• A hiring process and timeline shall be established for hiring the principal and staff
• A Design Team will be created to help identify the school’s programmatic direction,
to establish the initial Parent-Teacher Association, and to participate in the various
decisions that must be made
o The Design Team will include the Instructional Director, representatives from
the budget and facilities departments, representatives from academic
departments as appropriate, and community members from the area that the
new school is expected to serve. After the principal and staff are hired the
design team shall be expanded to include the principal and representative staff

The design team shall develop a communications plan, including how to keep the broader
community and School Board updated on the work. In addition, design team shall develop an
engagement plan to engage their anticipated community in the work."

"...to ensure that public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered." And we'll know this how?

PSAT Update

As you may recall I was wondering how come the district had no results (by grade or school or district) for the PSAT given last fall to 9th, 10th and 11th graders. Bob Vaughn in Advanced Learning told me they had too much on their plate to get it done.

Joy Stevens, the Public Records officer said this:

I am writing in response to your email below requesting PSAT test results. In doing so, I learned that the test results that we receive are in a format that cannot be easily incorporated into our information, which would allow us to release statistical information without violating individual student confidentiality. I am looking into whether it would be possible to redact or remove student identification from the results we get from the College Boards and/or extract statistical totals.

I also placed a call to Boeing and got a very nice guy who was puzzled but said that they were expecting a report by Dec. 31. He got back to me on Friday and said he got a report and that the district said they would be releasing the results shortly.

I had also called the College Board to find out if the data was given to districts in such a way that they couldn't redact out students' names. The person at the College Board said she didn't know why the district would say that but that they are given raw data that they can use anyway they want so giving results by grade or school without any students' names shouldn't be a problem. Oh.

So we can see a baseline soon of where we are starting on the "more rigor in high schools". According to the district, giving the PSAT was providing rigor and identifying students who should be trying the harder classes. Since they did test the 9th graders, then a good check of how the district's efforts to put more rigor in all the high schools, should be showing some evidence by the time these students graduate in 2013.

(I just want to point out how ludicrious it is to have done all this work for an answer I already knew. I have no idea why people in the district don't get that some of us will follow-through so if you give me a BS answer, I won't just say "thanks" and go on with my day. Why can't they just tell us the truth? I don't really believe that they didn't put the results together earlier this year. It would be hard to believe they went to all this effort and then hadn't put the data together and were using it to form the basis of the push for rigor in high school. It would absolutely make no sense.)

School Violence: Students' Perspective

There is a fabulous story on the West Seattle Blog today that tells the story of a school violence incident from the perspective of the students.

Classroom interview: SWYFS students’ side of the stabbing story

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Teachers Sell to Teachers

This article was in the Seattle Times today. It's about teachers selling lesson plans they have created to other teachers. It's an interesting idea but, as you can imagine, some issues.

"Thousands of teachers are cashing in on a commodity they used to give away, selling lesson plans online for exercises as simple as M&M sorting and as sophisticated as William Shakespeare.

While some of this extra money is going to buy books and classroom supplies in a time of tight budgets, the new teacher-entrepreneurs are also spending it on dinners out, mortgage payments, credit-card bills, vacation travel and home renovation, leading some school officials to question who owns material developed for public-school classrooms."

"Teachers Pay Teachers, one of the largest such sites, with more than 200,000 registered users, has recorded $600,000 in sales since it was started in 2006, $450,000 of that in the past year, said its founder, Paul Edelman, a former New York City teacher. The top seller, a high-school English teacher in California, has made $36,000 in sales.

"To the extent that school-district resources are used, then I think it's fair to ask whether the district should share in the proceeds," said Robert Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents."

The two main issues are apparent. Who "owns" a lesson and shouldn't teachers just want to help other teachers without a cost benefit?

I can see a district trying to say that their professional development aided a teacher in being better and that the development helped the teacher create a lesson. But can they prove that? Many companies make employees sign a contract that has a clause about anything created during employment at place of employment. (Of course, you could work anywhere with a laptop so that's a problem as well. Should school districts?

I note that in the story several teachers talk about using the money in their classroom but some said they used it for themselves. I see neither crime nor sin in either use.

I'm not a teacher so I don't know how teachers feel. I think that anything that you create is yours unless you had specific training. And should these lesson plans be patented? I would think it possible for two teachers worlds apart could think up the same lesson plan but who thought of it first?


Board Meeting on Boundaries and Levies

The School Board meeting for votes on both the new SAP boundaries and the levies is this Wednesday, the 18th at 6 p.m. You can sign up to speak starting tomorrow at 8 am by:

calling 252-0040 or e-mailing boardagenda@seattleschools.org

Here's we are, almost to zero hour. I don't want to disappoint anyone but I'm not sure I believe any amendments will come forward. I think only a broad-based one like the "soft" boundaries one (allowing anyone within a block of a school to have access even if it isn't their attendance area school) or the "one-time" option (which would allow anyone within, say, 3 blocks of a non-attendance area school to make the one-time choice to commit to that school). Those would not require moving boundaries. But I think the Board will say they just can't at this point. (And that's why I do not like staff saying, "Oh yes, the Board can do anything up until the vote.")

Please let us know if you attended Director Carr or De Bell's community meeting yesterday. I heard from someone who attended Director Carr's that there were a couple of issues. One, that when parents pressed about amendments, Sherry said it was too late because of staff issues. Two, that many parents were pressing for changes based on personal issues for their children. However, this person did end with this:

"Either way, we'll work to make our kids' school the best it can be."

The truth is that may be all that can be done. Of course, if it is either a brand-new school or a school with challenges that may be easy to say and hard to do.

If, after the vote, we do a post-discussion of the new SAP, we may all agree that despite thousands of types of input, the Board largely went with what staff created, and that maybe that means they don't listen. Or they listen but feel helpless to push back against staff. Or feel they can't challenge Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. But we might want to think about the changes from Boundary Maps 1 and 2 and see if they reflect parents' input or mistakes staff made (see Denny-Sealth).

As per the Agenda for the Board meeting on Wednesday, here's the Resolution for the SAP:

I move that the School Board approve the New Student Assignment Plan Attendance Area
Boundaries. I further move that the Superintendent be directed to: (1) develop a transition plan to begin implementation of the NSAP and these attendance area boundaries in the 2010-2011 school year, and (2) review existing policies to identify those which need to be eliminated, revised, or put on hold pending revision to bring them into alignment with the New Student Assignment Plan.

Hmm, "review existing policies to identify those which need to be eliminated, revised or put on hold.." That is a very broad-based statement. SAP policies or other? That certainly leave a wide-open space for staff to claim the need to change policies here and there.

Meg Diaz Report Follow Up

I was at the meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee and I heard, very clearly, the Board members ask that Meg Diaz's presentation and the District Staff response both be posted to the District web site. I heard, very clearly, Mr. Harman say that they would be. He looked right at Communications staff when he said it and they gave him the nod.

So... where are they?

Has anyone been able to find on the SPS web site? I couldn't find them on the Budget web pages, not on the page for the Operating Budget either. I couldn't find them on the Board web pages or attached to the agenda for the Audit and Finance Committee.

So where the heck are they?

I found them! They are in the District News section.

Here is the presentation by Duggan Harman and the one from Meg Diaz.

I notice that the link to Meg's report is an external link. That means that Meg can edit her report to respond to Mr. Harman's presentation - if she wants to - and the link from the District will take people to the updated version.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Public Hearing On Operations and BTA III Levies

(Update: I totally left out parent Bruce Taylor's great remarks about how we might be making a mistake opening Sand Point when the district projects more than 100 open seats at Laurelhurst in just a few years. He asked if it was worth spending $7M for 134 seats. Saying Sand Point will fail if Laurelhurst is a choice people can make because there's space at a good program, he urged them to put in an international program there. )

This was a quiet affair, 4 Board members, 7 staff and 7 speakers. We were in and out in 20 minutes. However, that didn't mean it wasn't interesting.

First of all, Peter Maier ran thru the pleasantries and it was announced that the other 3 Board members AND Dr. Goodloe-Johnson couldn't be there because of a commitment to attending a fundraiser at Chief Sealth. Good on Sealth for getting all these people to attend. However, this was a public hearing, a legal obligation, and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson couldn't be there? There were already 3 Board members at the function. (I mentioned this at the end of my remarks and said I thought it disrespectful of her. Do I believe Dr. G-J is going to listen to the audio of these remarks? I do not.)

So there was one speaker, Dora Taylor, worried about seismic issues at Meany (and rightly so except that the district's version of seismic is shoring things up, not necessarily bringing everything up to code - there are different levels of seismic safety allowed). And, some of the work at Meany wouldn't be done until 2014/2015 which is quite a long way off.

Chris Jackins mentioned numerous issues including oversight of BTA (there is none), green initiatives and yet the District still wants to cut down some of the grove of trees at Ingraham, an accounting of closure and reopening costs for Rainier View and Viewlands, the loss of Cleveland as a comprehensive high school, etc.

I spoke about my usual issue with BTA. I did include some new information so I'll just exerpt my remarks here:

"The BTA III levy will NOT get us out of this mess. It will barely make a dent and that’s because nearly about 18% of the $270M sought for the levy is for just 5 buildings, all of them over 50 years old, that aren’t even schools yet. One of these buildings, McDonald, was toured by Director Carr who said she was appalled and shocked at the condition of the building and couldn’t imagine its stated use as an emergency site.

Additionally, I note that the “B” in BTA spending is slowly going down. The first BTA was at about 65% for buildings and the second was 53% and now this one is down to 51%. With the lack of basic maintenance AND spending on buildings going down in this BTA, realistically, how do you expect to get ahead on maintaining our facilities?

I ask for two things BEFORE the levy election. One, a good faith measure by the Board to show that they will, in the next budget, put more money into basic maintenance by bringing spending up to 1%. That good faith measure could either be putting it in writing that you will bring up the spending in the next budget OR dipping into reserves slightly to prove you are serious about change. The second thing is a promise that there will be a bi-annual accounting report made available to the public that shows where the BTA and BEX money goes. Not a mere list of projects but actual accounting."

Heidi Bennett, who is the Legislative person for the Seattle Council PTSA, spoke about good things on the BTA list (and yes, there are lots of them) but interestingly, had issues with the Operations levy. She feels there isn't as much transparency in what happens to the money (although she said she just saw some newly-updated info at the SPS website).

Then, there was Betty Hogland. Betty is another long-time education activist and she is currently the president of Schools First which is the citizens group that runs the levy campaigns. Betty, like me, has been around a long time and is very knowledgable about the district.

So she came out first with her Schools First talk about BTA being the workhorse levy affecting every school, needing technology in every school, etc. Then, unbelievably, she took off that hat and put on a taxpayer's hat. She, too, said we have a huge backlog of maintenance that needs to be addressed. Yay, Betty!

She said, "We need to protect these investments." and it's a great point. What schools are at the very bottom of the basic maintenance list (besides the closed ones)? That would be the newly-remodeled schools. That makes sense, right? However, just like every building that is not being maintained, these spanking-new buildings will start looking shabby sooner. They will have issues long before they should. What will Roosevelt look like in 10, 15, 20 years? These are building that are supposed to be built for a 50-year cycle because we have poured tens of millions of dollars into them. Quite the investment to allow to decay quickly.

She had an interesting thought. She said that in the next BEX cycle (which will come up in 3 years and the list is forming now), they should NOT redo a school and take that entire sum of money (which could be anywhere from $55M to $100M depending on what type of school leaves the list) and use it towards basic maintenance. Very intriguing because that would be a HUGE amount to put towards getting things done and righting this ship. However, that is more than 3 years off (and things will only get worse) AND I'd have to see it in writing that the district/Board will do this.

My takeaway is that the district has a lot of dissent out there from many corners. It's not going to be enough to say, "It's for the kids." and think it will win the day.

Friday Funny (If You Like Teenagers)

Oh those kids! Turns out there's a high school in Danver, Mass. where the principal has banned a word from school. And the word is....meep. Yes, that's right - meep.

Now there is allegedly some character from the Muppet Show who said this word (but I seem to recall that on Sesame Street there were two alien-like characters who communicated with this word and I think it might have been what the Coneheads from SNL used to say when they touched cones).

The kids say it's just a greeting and it has no real meaning. Well, if you Google it (as a verb, meeping), the urban dictionary has quite the meaning and this being a family blog, I won't repeat it. (Really, don't be me and Google it - it's not good. This is the second time in a week I Googled a word and was sorry I did.)

But these kids, whether they mean it in a dirty fashion or just the cool greeting of the day, are teenagers pushing the envelope. I'm surprised the principal (who I'm thinking must spend a lot of time in his office instead of out in the halls) would react this way. Ignore them. It will go away and they will move onto the next thing.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for civility and discipline in high schools. Anything does not go. But teens love to annoy/challenge/shock/(insert adjective here) so you have to pick your fights carefully.

Performance Management

The District has released a number of seriously overdue documents relating to Performance Management.

The first is the District Scorecard. There are a number of interesting points about this document. First, there is absolutely no reason in the world that the District could not have delivered this scorecard on time in December 2008. There's nothing here that reflects 18 months of design work. Second, the scorecard, while it does show the results for each year does not show the annual benchmarks. Are there no annual benchmarks? Moreover, it doesn't show if the District had growth or was on pace in previous years. That could have been done with some simple color-coding. I don't understand the reason that the AYP data box in the lower right was included. Do we care about that? Does that tell us anything that we want to know? I would much rather that they used the space to show how many students scored 1, 2, 3, or 4 on the WASL. Pass/fail isn't as meaningful.

The School Report Card, which is also dishearteningly late, is still incomplete. That's just shameful. I was curious by what they mean by "Students making gains on the state math test." Do they mean this year's fourth graders over last year's fourth graders? Do they mean students who got a level 1 last year and got a level 2 this year? Is it a net measurement; did they deduct for students who suffered losses? What the hell does this mean? I read the explanation, and I still don't know what the hell the number means. They still don't have measures for engagement? They still don't have measures for leadership instruction or environment? What the hell are these people working on? After nearly two years they still haven't got anything here! I'm happy to report that the average class size is based on class size as of the October 1 enrollment for the respective school year, for all scheduled homerooms and classrooms, excluding special ed and elementary BOCs.

On the Middle School Report Card I wondered how they would determine if 8th graders are leaving middle school ready for high school math? What's the measure for that? According the explanation, it is "8th graders earning a C or better in an on-track or advanced math course. Advanced math courses include any Integrated Math course, Selected Math Topics, Mesa Math 8, Mathematics 8H, Mathematics 8, Middle School Math, and Mathematics 8E." Wow. The people who wrote this thing don't know that integrated math has been replaced. And what are all of those other courses? Hasn't middle school math been aligned?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Donors Choose: You Could Help a Classroom By Shopping

I'm on the Donors Choose e-list and received this e-mail that I thought might be of some interest. I'm only posting because Donors Choose is a good organization that helps teachers fund projects. So, if for any reason you shop at The Gap, Banana Republic or Old Navy, you can get a good deal AND you will help teachers fund projects in their classrooms. (Gap owns BR and ON so you can shop at any of them and money will go to Donors Choose.) Note: it says in-store and not on-line.

From today through Sunday (November 12-15), you can receive 30% off any in-store purchase at the GAP, Banana Republic and Old Navy.

You'll be doing good at the same time -- the GAP will give 5% of what you spend to high-need classrooms through DonorsChoose.org.

Print the 30% off coupon and take it to the store with you.

What's Due and What's Overdue

Today's board work session on the District scorecard serves as an excellent reminder of all of the things that are either due or overdue. It also serves as an excellent reminder of how horribly slack the Board has been about holding the superitendent accountable for all of the things that are due or overdue.

The District scorecard was supposed to be ready by fall 2008. See page 45 of the Strategic Plan, "Excellence for All".

Other items from the Strategic Plan that appear overdue:

Math curriculum alignment - should be in place this year.
Science curriculum alignment - should be in place this year.
Common formative assessments K - 12 for math and reading - should be in place this year. We have the summative assessments (MAP).
Teacher training on analyzing MAP results - should be in place this year.
School performance framework - was supposed to be completed by December 2008, still absent.
The performance management system, including the school performance model - was supposed to now be operational across the District.
New hiring process - was supposed to be in place in the spring of 2009.
Expand the STAR mentoring system - no particular schedule
A detailed professional development plan - was supposed to be completed by fall 2008.
Expanded professional development programs - was supposed to be implemented in fall 2008.
Teacher evaluation processes - was supposed to be determined for the start of the 2009 school year.
Principal evaluation connected to the school performance framework and school-specific goals - implemented beginning in 2009
New performance evaluation for Central Office staff - implemented beginning in 2009.
eSIS Enhancements migration - was supposed to be complete by summer 2009.
Academic Systems data migration - was supposed to be complete by summer 2009.
A new budget process - was supposed to be fully implemented beginning in fall 2009 for the 2010-11 budget.
A proposal for a major Web site overhaul - was supposed to be complete by spring 2009.
The Communications team was supposed to work closely with the Family Engagement staff and the School Family Partnership Advisory Committee to evaluate what we learn in the engagement process for the Strategic Plan and propose recommended changes. They have not.
A more meaningful communication channel between the superintendent and the School-Family Partnership Advisory Committee was supposed to be established for the 2008-09 school year. It wasn't.
Develop a customer service protocol, including a measurement tool, and send two groups through training (beginning with Transportation - was supposed to be done by fall 2008.

Outside of the Strategic Plan there are plenty of other missed commitments:

Making Meany high school ready
An aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum for APP
A review of Policy D12.00
Development of the STEM program at Cleveland
A response to the APP review
Responses to the list of unmet commitments on Director Martin-Morris' blog

So when is the Board going to start holding the superintendent accountable for getting this stuf done and getting it done on time?

Public Hearing On Operations and BTA III Levies

The Public Hearing for the Operations and BTA III levies is tonight at 6 p.m. at the district headquarters. There are 40 spots and 5 people (including me) signed up to speak. (I'm thinking it'll be an early evening.) These levies have huge ramifications for our district so it's important to at least be thinking about them.

You are likely to be hearing from your PTA (or PTSA) soon on these levies. Many PTAs do donate to the levy fund, Schools First. I am hoping to be able to make a presentation to some PTAs on the BTA III levy so if you are a PTA leader, you might be hearing from me.

I am hoping that the Board does make some good faith efforts to show both parents and taxpayers that they ARE going to hold staff accountable for the state of our facilities and the capital money that is spent on them. If not, then it is likely that there is going to be active opposition to the BTA III levy. The district has many things going against them going into this levy so they have their work cut out for them. Just saying, "It's for the kids" is not going to work.

I would like nothing more than to tell the readers of this blog to vote for both levies. I absolutely endorse the Operations levy. I would like to do the same for the BTA III levy but I won't and I can't unless something changes before the levy election.

Rainier Beach Donations

After much back and forth and looking at various options, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to give money to Rainier Beach High School in support of any book needs (which are likely to be for AP books as it is not certain there is a shortage elsewhere) is to donate to RBHS via the Alliance for Education. One hundred percent of your donation goes to RBHS.

The one caveat is that the money is administered by the principal. There is not a way to designate the donation solely for books. Mr. Gary is a caring and enthusiastic principal and I don't have a real reason to doubt that if money comes in that he won't spend it for books. However, as the principal, he has sole authority over the money and if he really thought it was better spent elsewhere, he could do it. I did try to get Mr. Gary on record as promising to spend any donations on books but I wasn't able to get an answer from him.

The AP teacher, Mr. Moriarty, waved me off trying to go through the PTSA. He left me with the impression that they are small and struggling and it might be too much work for them. I also researched Donors Care and suggested to Mr. Moriarty that it might be a way for the money to go directly to his project (more AP classes) but he did not respond. (Only teachers can apply to start a project at Donors Care, not parents or administrators. I had thought it might be too much work for him to take on.)

However, I feel Mr. Gary is sincere and since he knows that Mr. Moriarty had asked for books for AP that he will indeed follow-thru and direct any donations to a book fund. (According to the Alliance, the RBHS fund at the Alliance has been largely inactive for quite awhile so any new donations would signal to Mr. Gary that it came from readers here.)

Here's how to donate. Be sure to in the appropriate area, either on your check if you mail it inor in the space designated through on-line donations, Rainier Beach High School. All donations are tax-deductible.

I personally cannot thank you enough for your caring and support on this issue. By helping a struggling school, you send into motion a number of things like getting more AP sooner, improving morale and sending a message to the district that parents are willing to step up in support of schools not their own. By making RBHS a better school, we make our district better for all of us.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Parents Divided or United

Once again, the district's "feedback" process has pitted families against families, neighborhoods against neighborhoods. Unfortunately, for every family that is unhappy about being assigned away from a popular school, there's usually another family happy to be assigned to it. So, how can we win?

The real problem is: The district has failed to convince us that they have a credible plan to improve the less popular schools. (Are they even trying to convince us?)

I applaud Melissa's "don't give up" sentiment and think everyone should continue to advocate for boundary changes they believe are necessary, but please ALSO advocate for developing a credible plan to improve more schools now. And I'm not talking about more "excellence for all" lip service -- I'm talking about specific steps they will take to improve schools.

Examples of specifics? We all have our own. We need more money from the state, but it's not just about funds. For me, I'm convinced it comes down to giving the schools more freedom to try. I didn't agree with everything Scott Oki had to say last night or in his book, but I did agree with a bunch of his proposals:

- Every school should have its own Board made up of community leaders, charged with actually listening to people who are served by the school. That Board should have the power to hire or fire the principal (just like the School Board should be holding the Superintendent accountable.)

- Every principal should have the freedom to do whatever it takes to improve their school -- including hiring and firing teachers, developing their own assessments, and finding innovative ways to make instruction relevant and fun. We don't need charter schools in Washington, but we do need schools that are not shackled by bureaucracy.

- We need more teachers, fewer central administrators. We have more non-teachers in SPS than teachers! What are we getting for that? In countries like Japan, they typically have a ratio of 4 teachers to every 1 administrator. The primary business of schools is teaching and that is where our dollars should be going.

- Let's work to get more volunteers (parents, business, organizations, even older kids) into all neighborhood schools. Together, we have to keep up high expectations for all students and schools. (That means rigor -- not D's to graduate.)

How can we get there? For one thing, we need the unions to work with us. There could and should be a win-win partnership between parents and the union -- once we agree to put kids first. If we fight for hiring more teachers and improving more schools, then the Teacher's Union benefits. And let the union lead the discussion for what defines a poor performer (teachers know which of their peers are struggling) and let peers review all teacher dismissals to ensure nobody is unfairly targeted for whistle-blowing or to free up salary.

If you disagree with me, I'd love to hear other suggestions for changes that don't pit parent vs. parent and neighborhood vs. neighborhood. If we want to fix things, we need to find more positions we can all agree on because right now parents don't have much a voice in the process. And at the end of the day, there just aren't enough seats in (insert popular school name here) for everyone who wants to go there.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't Give Up

There seems to be a feeling of resignation over the maps in this second round. Is it worth it to continue advocating for what you believe needs to be changed or modified?


There's a couple of reasons. One, the Board needs to know that parents can and will stand up. If you won't stand up for your beliefs on the assignment plan, when will you? Otherwise, staff will be the louder voice (and the Board already gives them a bigger nod because of their knowledge base).

However, as I said in my remarks at the public hearing, parents are on the ground, every day, in their neighborhoods and schools. You walk in the walk zones, you know the rise and fall of streets and you know what makes your neighborhood tick. Staff CANNOT know this as you do and that is your strength. Use it.

If you (or a group) feel strongly, then lobby hard. Send e-mail every day (but have a different tweak on your message each time). Better yet, know what the Board rarely gets? Snail mail. If you are in a group, all send the same color envelope.

Also, Sherry Carr and Michael De Bell both have community meetings on Saturday. Show up in huge numbers. Do not let people around you say, "It's too late" or "They won't listen." There's also a Curriculum and Instruction Meeting at 4:30 on Monday. Show up at 4:00 p.m. in the lobby and grab the members (Chow, Carr and Martin-Morris) of that Committee and give them even more information.

Mary Bass. Mary is still a Board member for this vote and guess what? Get her in person and she listens.

BUT, don't make threats. Don't say you'll leave the district or sue; it never works.

Don't give up. It ain't over until it's over (ask Mike McGinn).

PSAT Results

It never hurts to ask.

So I had sent a Public Disclosure request for the PSAT results by grade at each school, school, grade level across the district and district overall. I had spoken to the head of Advanced Learning, Bob Vaughn, briefly about this and he said they had not had time to break out any results.

Then I called Boeing. (They paid for it.) Turns out they don't have those results either but are due a report by the end of the year from the district. The guy I spoke to said the results are public data.

The response I received from the district's Public Records was this:

"I am writing in response to your email below requesting PSAT test results. In doing so, I learned that the test results that we receive are in a format that cannot be easily incorporated into our information, which would allow us to release statistical information without violating individual student confidentiality. I am looking into whether it would be possible to redact or remove student identification from the results we get from the College Boards and/or extract statistical totals.

I anticipate being able to give you another response or update on or before December 4, 2009. Please let me know if you have any questions."

I really respect Joy Stevens (who the the district's senior legal assistant and handles public records). I'm sure she get plenty of requests and has her work cut out for her. But I find it hard to believe that they would have formatted them in such a tight fashion that you could not find results in different forms (grade, school, district) without revealing students' names. What use would they really be to the district except as an exercise in getting a large number of students to try this test? Hmmm.