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Showing posts from December, 2009

Transition Plan To Be Presented to Board

Here is the Transition Plan that is to be presented to the Board next Wednesday. Reading through it quickly, I don't see any major changes. Transportation is Appendix A, right at the end. I certainly feel for all parents. It is a lot to absorb and considering some of it may change in a year or so, even more work is in store. There are also a few other items of interest on the Agenda. 1) Dr. Enfield's report is on curriculum alignment and STEM . Should be interesting. 2) interestingly (and maybe I just never noticed before) but they have the minutes of work sessions and the retreat on the Consent Agenda. Are there actual minutes of these meetings or just agendas? 3) Interesting capital items . One is for McClure to get some energy efficiency work done under a Washington State Department of Commerce grant. From the agenda item: "McClure Middle School was awarded a grant during the last legislative session under sponsorship of state Rep. Reuven Carlyle. The g

Times Editorial Wrong on Everything

The Seattle Times has a sort of Year-In-Review editorial about education in today's paper. Nearly every statement in the editorial is either incorrect, unsubstantiated, or misguided. " Academic standards were raised " They were? Where? How? By whom? I didn't see anyone raising any standards this year. " The Legislature amended the Basic Education Act, a giant leap forward in an 18-year education-reform effort. " Yes, they voted for it, but they didn't fund it and they are now in Court saying that they are already fulfilling their obligation to funding education, so they are denying it. The amended act is lip service - hardly a step forward, let alone a giant leap. They said that the delay in making high stakes math and science tests a graduation requirement was a gaffe. No, the gaffe has been miseducating students in math and science for the past ten years. These tests were supposed to be used to hold adults accountable, not students. Where are the a

LA Adoption Surveys Available

I found these when I had gone to The Source . (Are they on the News and Calendars page? No and why not? I think any time they have an on-going survey process on any subject, it should be on the homepage or News and Calendar page.) Anyway, here's a link to the LA Adoption page. On the righthand side are links for both the parent and student surveys. You get to see the reading lists for all 4 grades for high school and make comments on the lists, see additional books they are considering and offer new books. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed. A lot of the usual suspects except too heavy on the Shakespeare (love the work but there are other great playwrights and I think some kids get sick of it), a little light on classics in 9th grade and, overall, I think the booklists are too short for both students and teachers. For the students, I feel like they need more choice and for the teachers the ability to have a wider choice of books that they may have already taught. T

Cool Geeks

From the NY Times, a great article about computer science careers that are about being a "cool geek". Basically it is saying that there are careers of all kinds based off from a degree in computer science. (And given this is true from many other degrees, it seems obvious but many people still think computer scientists sit in a basement and write code.) It starts with a photo of Dr. John Halamka, the CIO at Harvard Medical School, with yes, the geekiest of childhood photos. "Dr. Halamka grew up to be something of a cool nerd, with a career that combines his deep interests in medicine and computing, and downtime that involves rock climbing and kayaking. Now 47, Dr. Halamka is the chief information officer at the Harvard Medical School, a practicing emergency-ward physician and an adviser to the Obama administration on electronic health records." It also highlights a graduate student from the UW Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Kira Lehtomaki, who

Oh Those Kids!

From the Stranger Slog: "On the afternoon of December 12, Seattle police officers were dispatched to my alma mater, Madison Middle School, where a "Molotov cocktail had been used to blow a hole into the floor of the school playground," according to a police report. This playground is "built on top of the roof of one of the school's buildings" and the Molotov cocktail "appears to have burned through the [cement] tiles, causing at least nine tiles to cave in." Police found several pieces of glass from a large bottle in the area, as well as a bottle cap that smelled strongly of gasoline. Officers could not identify any information about a suspect, the report concludes." Kids, don't you know we have a huge maintenance backlog? Enough already.

Times Guest Column on STEM Education

There was a guest column in the Seattle Times by Bonnie Dunbar, the president and CEO of The Museum of Flight and a former astronaut, encouraging the community to support STEM education efforts. The column itself was the usual pointless pablum that we typically see in these guest columns. Lots of goals with no action plan. The interesting bit, as usual, comes in the reader comments in which members of the community writes that we DON'T need more engineers because there are lots of them standing in unemployment lines and that engineering jobs are being outsourced to India and China or to people from India and China who come to the U.S. on guest worker visas. This article is also written completely without reference to the ineffective math education methods adopted over the past ten years.

Good News Club comes to SPS

A group called The Child Evangelism Fellowship has established after-school Bible clubs in two Seattle elementary schools, Loyal Heights and Whittier. See this story in the Seattle Times. I know how this could be a hot-button issue. Believe me, I know. Personally, I'm not a Christian and I'm sensitive to evangelical efforts. That said, I am devoted to fairness and transparency. The same rules should apply to everyone equally - evangelical groups, the military, corporations, whatever. I'm not alone in this view. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled this way. The District can set some rules. They could, for example, set a rule that any after-school group must be non-discriminatory in their admission policy. That would prohibit the Boy Scouts thanks to their anti-gay policy. It doesn't apply to this group because they welcome participation from non-Christians - that's what the evangelical effort is all about: getting new people to join. So people could get all worked

Enjoy Your Break

I just want to say Happy Holidays to all the readers and writers of this blog. I plan on using the next two weeks to rest and plan for the rest of the school year. I know that many of you feel that the SPS is a very disfunctional district and I am hard pressed to disagree with that assessment. Please know that inspite of this, real learning is taking place in most classrooms everyday and students are learning (even when they don't really want to). The teachers in the SPS are passionate and dedicated to the education of your children. I am proud to be a teacher and I love what I do. I think most of the teachers in the SPS would say the same thing if you asked them.

Transition Plan (Part 2)

Tracy had 75 slides. Holy cow! She was very careful to try to cover every situation and it showed. Okay, what do we suppose is one the barriers to our NSAP and the transition? Yes, it's the VAX. Mr. Kennedy says they are making progress but it's still a problem and yes, they will be using it for assignments (hopefully) one last time. (Sherry really gave them an out by saying, "You'll let us - the Board - know if we bumps into any VAX issues in our questioning." I mean, you could blame the VAX for almost anything. Handy.) Slide 6 reflects "We are unable to support additional scope (scope creep). Coding is currently underway and changes would result in project failure and our inability to support Open Enrollment." Slide 8 started the discussion of the Transition Plan and I find it somewhat vague. This is for one year only and there will be subsequent transition steps in years to follow. How they follow depends on the enrollment patterns.

Budget and Transition Plan (Part 1)

I attended the Budget/Transition Board Work Session yesterday (well, 4 hours of it before I left). I had seen they were going to discuss the Budget and, as usual, the Board bit off more than it could chew in one sitting. The budget portion went long and the Transition Plan got started late. I regret I couldn't stay for all the Transition Plan (and yes, grandfathering was at the end). However, I saw several familiar faces there and I know they will fill in. As it turns out, it was good to hear about the upcoming budget issues because my belief is that the budget and the new SAP are on a collision course. We are headed for a huge budget crisis of proportions we haven't seen since the Olchefske era. We are losing almost $24M from state money alone. The gap as of yesterday was $35M BUT, if they want to enact the new SAP, it could rise to nearly $45M between the new SAP and what is called Budget Enhancements. They are likely to dip into reserves again. This is going to la

Feedback from Alt Meeting?

Anyone attend? This was from Gavroche on Dr. Goodloe-Johnson on the subject of blogs: "Btw, about 70 people showed up for the meeting last night. And Supt. Goodloe-Johnson says she doesn't read the blogs. "No, I don't. There's no way." Ha ha ha. Maybe she doesn't, but someone in the District does and you can bet that G-J knows what the unwashed masses (that would be us) are talking and concerned about. Actually, I found it pretty disdainful and dismissive of her to say that (multiple times and emphatically, I might add). There is a lot of valuable, genuine and informed discussion that goes on in the blogs -- that the District would be better for if it acknowledged and heeded." I'm interested in why blogs would come up multiple times and not because I'd care if she read them or not. Rather, if the district is challenging any information put out here, I'd like to know. Charlie and I take pains to try to get it right and if we

Murder Mystery Theater...in MIddle School?

Okay, so maybe because it is the season of cheer, giving and, for some, the celebration of someone's birth but I saw this in this month's School Beat and I had to shake my head. McClure Middle School is putting on an fundraiser that is a "true audience interactive murder mystery with dinner" called Three Doors to Death or...The Choice is Yours. I saw the script and it's not bloody and the corpse even talks. But if you want to put on a play, why a murder mystery? (And corpses don't talk unless you are talking about the forensic evidence on their bodies.) There are so many good plays and musicals I just wonder at this choice. Maybe I just feel melancholy for the deaths of the 5 polices officers in one month. Maybe it's because I listened to "This American Life" and the subject was about how the murder of a loved one can change how you view murder (no watching Law and Order, no murder mystery theater, no Clue). The way one person put it, &q

Seattle Weekly's STEM Article

Great article in the Seattle Weekly about STEM. What is most amazing is that (1) she got teachers to talk to her (as I said to her in an e-mail, I would have thought they would be muzzled) and (2) they were quite frank in their comments. Here's what they had to say: David Fisher, teacher "I've been here for 15 years and every other year we do this," says math teacher David Fisher, referring to a long string of ballyhooed overhauls that the Beacon Hill school has embarked on at the behest of the district." Glenn Bafia, SEA/Susan Enfield, CAO The staff probably won't change much. The district's contract with the teachers union allows it to move people out, according to Glenn Bafia, executive director of Seattle Education Association. But, in a meeting last week with Cleveland staff, district Chief Academic Officer Susan Enfield downplayed that and instead asked people "to look deep in their souls and decide if they want to stay," recounts

Meeting Tomorrow Night for Alternative Schools

Alternative Schools Coalition Meeting with Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and Chief Academic Officer Susan Enfield. This will be an informational meeting explaining the unique challenges alternative schools face and a moderated questions and answer session. If you have concerns about the role of Alternative Schools in Seattle Public Schools is here is your chance to show your support. TOPS K-8 SCHOOL 2500 FRANKLIN AV E Seattle, WA 98102 7:00 p.m. (I can't attend but I hope those who do will please let us know how it goes. I'll be interested to hear if it is a real Q&A or you all write questions and they pick which ones to answer.)

This Week's Meetings

(Update: Reader Dana let us know this meeting is not happening. See her post for details.) Monday the 14th - Eckstein's PTSA Parent Forum about inclusion in Spectrum classes. I will have to check if this is still going on; there is no information at the Eckstein website except the date. I'll probably pop up there to check it out if it is happening. Tuesday, the 15th, Board Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting, 4:30-6:00 p.m. No details on the discussion here. Wednesday, the 16th, Steve Sundquist is having his Community Meeting from 10-11:30 am. I'm not sure where. Anyone? Also on Wednesday, the long-awaited Board Work Session on the Transition Plan from 4:30 -8:00 p.m. (It also says it is about the budget). I did write the Board and ask them to press for clarification on this "one-year transition rules" and what it means. Here's what I wrote: "Is the transition plan to be just for one year or is it a multi-year transition plan

Harvard Steps Up for Educational Leadership

Interesting news from Harvard via a column by Bob Herbert of the NY Times : they are, for the first time in 74 years, offering a new degree...and it's free. "It’s in that atmosphere that the Harvard Graduate School of Education is creating a new doctoral degree to be focused on leadership in education. It’s the first new degree offered by the school in 74 years. The three-year course will be tuition-free and conducted in collaboration with faculty members from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The idea is to develop dynamic new leaders who will offer the creativity, intellectual rigor and professionalism that is needed to help transform public education in the U.S. This transformation is a job the U.S. absolutely has to get done, and it won’t get done right without the proper leadership. Kathleen McCartney, the graduate school’s dean, explained one of the dilemmas that has hampered reform. “If you look at people who are running district

Pulling Out Some Good Posts

Many times I see posts and think I should start a thread and then I see a ball of string and get distracted by that thread (wait, that's my cat). Anyway, there have been several, thought-provoking posts on different topices that I decided to just put together. Comment on any or all of them. (P.S. There a Christmas gift topic at the end.) From Central Mom: Phyllis Fletcher just had a fabulous piece on KUOW about the funding and achievement issues at Indian Heritage High School, one of the re-entry District programs. It's a "must listen/read". http://kuow.org/program.php?id=18958 From AdHoc: Nathan Hale families received this Q&A yesterday in regard to the budget cut: "How does this effect Seattle Public Schools?: The Seattle School District is estimated to lose between 30 to 50 million dollars -- a devastating blow for every student's educational goals. What could happen at Nathan Hale?: Dr. Hudson estimates that our school could lose five

Well, That's Not Good

From the Associated Press: SEATTLE - A drug-and-alcohol counselor at a Seattle high school has been indicted on drug conspiracy charges. The U.S. attorney's office says Robert Henry Smith, an intervention specialist at Rainier Beach High School, was arrested Thursday night. Court papers say a confidential informant made four controlled buys of oxycodone from him beginning last month. The 59-year-old was scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court Friday on charges of conspiracy to distribute and distribution of oxycodone. Prosecutors say none of the alleged drug dealing occurred on school property or involved students. Smith has been placed on paid leave from the Seattle School District. However, from the story in the Seattle PI online: While the first two purchases took place at Smith's Skyway home, the third drew Smith away from Rainier Beach High to meet with the informant, prosecutors allege. "Law enforcement observed Smith leave Rainier Beach High S

PSAT Results

No, of course I don't have them. But finally attacking some backlogged e-mail, I wanted to update you on the PSAT results from last year. As you may recall, Boeing generously funded the district so that all the 9th, 10th and 11th graders could take the PSAT. This was about rigor we were told and to show the kids what they would need to do to get to college. The parents received their individual child's score but oddly, no data came out for the district, each school, grade level, etc. I first got the answer that there was no time or staff available for this work. Then I received this reply: "In response to your request below, as I mentioned before, the data is not in a format that can be incorporated into our database, so at this time I am unable to provide you with the statistical results you have requested without compromising student confidentiality." So I called the College Board (who gives the PSAT) and the woman there said she couldn't understand

Governor's Cutting Everywhere

From the Governor's proposed budget, the education cuts (chart from Publicola ): Education •Eliminate state funding for the Career and Wage Ladder, a pilot program that provides wage incentives for child care providers to advance their professional development. ($1.5 million) •Eliminate state funding for the Child Care Resource and Referral Network, which will continue toreceive federal funding to operate local referral hot lines and provide training. ($425,000) •Eliminate the kindergarten through 4th grade staffing enhancement, a statewide program that reduces class size in the early grades. ($110.6 million) •Suspend levy equalization assistance, a program that provides extra support to districts with a lower than average property tax base. ($142.9 million) •Suspend the student achievement program, which provides smaller class sizes for students and professional development for teachers. ($78.5 million) •Suspend the state program for gifted education, which affects ne

She's Giving the Bonus to Charity

From the Seattle Times , the Superintendent is donating her bonus to charity. From the article: "The School Board approved the bonus Wednesday by a vote of 5-0, with the two newly elected members, Betty Patu and Kay Smith-Blum, abstaining." And that follows what you might expect. Also: "School Board President Michael DeBell said he hopes the incentive bonus eventually will be the main way superintendents can increase their pay." Interesting. Is he saying instead of a raise, you show progress/success and get better paid through bonuses?

Board Meeting Part Two (Transition Plan)

Transition Plan discussion. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson started off the overview saying that transportation and grandfathering of siblings were two of the key issues for the Transition Plan that will be discussed next Wednesday the 16th at a Board Work Session. She said that "transition rules are for one year and may continue or change based on actual student enrollment". Meaning, " we won't know how the SAP is actualized until students are in the seats" and then they will make adjustments. My interpretation (and again, if you watched or were there, help me out) is that: the transition plan will be for one year only (but may extend depending on the outcomes of that first year. Does this mean grandfathering siblings for only one year? It might and that's a key question to ask Board members to get clarification on at the Work Session. I understand that no one knows how this SAP will work out but I worry about that "one year only" business as a up-fro

Board Meeting Part One

Looks like another long one. I was at home and I got worn out at 2.5 hours. There were a few laughs (thanks Chris Jackins - he made a joke about the Superintendent's bonus being a math lesson because it's $5,280 which is a mile in feet. ) We finally heard from our two new Board members - interesting. So the community speakers spoke on several topics including the MLK,Jr bldg as a community meeting site for Madison Valley, several different speakers on the need for Career Center counselors in our high schools, grandfathering siblings, the Superintendent's bonus and several student speakers. (Those kids from Nova always make me smile. So committed, articulate and wonderful. There was also a young man from Ingraham, in a sport jacket and tie, saying how they need their Career Counselor.) There was a really long report from the Family Engagment team. This is a wonderful diverse group of people working hard on outreach as well as figuring out ways to do new and better o

Interagency students, 12 and 14, arrested for armed robbery

Here's a grim little story that was in the Times. It appears that two students from the Interagency School at Wilson-Pacific left the school at about 11:00 in the morning and tried to hold up a gas station at 84th and Aurora with a BB gun. The older student stood at the door while the younger student threatened the clerk with the gun and demanded cash. They received none. After the failed hold up attempt, the two of them, aged 12 and 14, returned to the school where they are students. They were arrested there after being identified by the clerk and a school administrator who watched the store surveillance video. I don't really have a lot to say about this. There really isn't a lot to say. I will note that I am surprised and concerned that young students at the Interagency School can come and go from school in the middle of the day like that. Is it an open campus? Did the school officials know - or have any way of knowing - that the two students were off campus? What abo

Transportation

District Transportation - what are the issues? What does the new SAP mean to it?

Odds and Ends

UPDATE: The Audit and Finance Committee meeting today is Executive so no outsiders allowed. Sorry, I missed that word.) Anyone attend the Sand Point meeting last night? I'd be interested to hear about what you heard. This was a meeting that Michael De Bell and Harium Martin-Morris attended. Also, FYI, there is a new photo at the School Board webpage with our two new Board members. Here are their e-mail addresses: betty.patu@seattleschools.org kay.smith-blum@seattleschools.org If you have an issue, now would be the time to engage them. They likely have the least e-mail of any of the other Board members. They will both be at their first Board meeting tonight ; it should be interesting. There is also Audit and Finance meeting Committee meeting today about real estate from 3-4 pm . Oddly, there is also another Audit and Finance meeting tomorrow from 3:30-5:30 p.m. I'm thinking one of them is about Memorial Stadium and one might be about properties that are being

"Bloomberg to Tie Student Test Scores to Decisions on Teacher Tenure"

You can't say it more plainly than that so I reprinted the headline from this NY Times article . Apparently NYC already uses test scores as a factor in teacher/principal bonus pay (yes, they have that too), for the grade a school gets (A-F) and for which schools are closed because of poor performance. A lot of this effort is to get Race to the Top money. The article suggests that the Mayor (he just won his third term despite having said he would follow the law that he couldn't run again - he got that changed) may put forth his political capital to take on the teachers union. And from the article of interest to us: "The mayor also said the state should allow teacher layoffs based on performance rather than seniority, as they are now." “The only thing worse than having to lay off teachers would be laying off great teachers instead of failing teachers,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “With a transparent new evaluation system, principals would have the ability to make layoff

High School Math Text Adoption Court Challenge

A brief was filed Monday, Nov. 23, in King County Superior Court appealing a May 6, 2009 Seattle School Board vote to adopt the Discovering Mathematics high school textbook series. The brief contends that the school district acted arbitrarily and capriciously in voting 4 to 3 to adopt a type of textbook associated with a widening achievement gap between minority students and white students, and between low-income students and other students. Seeking to prevent the school district from adopting this series are plaintiffs DaZanne Porter, an African American and mother of a 9th-grade student in Seattle Public Schools; Martha McLaren, retired Seattle math teacher and grandparent of a Seattle Public Schools fourth grader; and Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington. According to the brief filed Monday, Seattle Public Schools began eliminating "traditional" math texts in the 1990s, moving toward an approach called "reform," "d

Interesting Community Meetings with Board Members

I attended two community meetings with Board members this weekend. I stopped in first at Sherry Carr's meeting and there were about 5 people there. They were first talking about Memorial Stadium so I was, of course, happy because it is an issue that matters to me. I was able to put in my plug for (1) not giving away the farm and (2) protecting the integrity of the Memorial Wall. (The MOU is up at the website and I'll start a separate thread on it.) Then a mom spoke about her concern over the new PE plan to measure the BMI of every SPS child starting in 3rd grade. She said that she had concerns over it being hurtful and detrimental to children and that this needs evidence-based research on why we would do it as a district. She stated that PE teachers are not health-care providers and really don't have a good way to communicate to either parents or students about the measurements. And, she pointed out how much time it would take to measure and record every student (