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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Odds and Ends

Charlie posted the new STEM website elsewhere but here it is again. I was struck by the promise of an 8-period day. Where the heck is this money coming from? It is amazing how much money they have poured (and continue to pour) into Cleveland. All I can say is it better be great. You spend this kind of money on one building and one program when there are issues everywhere in this district - well, the heat is on and a medicore program is not an option.

STEM meeting details:

Saturday, December 5, 9:00 am - 10:30 am
Cleveland High Commons
5511 15th Ave. S.Seattle, WA 98108

Also, 4 of the Board members are having their community meetings this Saturday. Our two newest Board members, Kay Smith Blum and Betty Patu, are to take their oath of office tonight. We'll have to see if they join in with community meetings. Cheryl Chow didn't but Mary Bass was the originator of these get-togethers.

26 comments:

Gouda said...

I'm all for the District trying to find the right thing for this school. I'd rather that than to see schools hobble along dying a slow and painful death (Rainier Beach).

I'm encouraged by the principal there. She seems to be doing good work, and the teachers there seem to be building a real team there.

STEM seems to be a wonky fit (<< understatement), but I'd rather try something new than nothing at all. IF it works, and it can attract south-end families, over-population in north-end schools would be somewhat relieved.

If it works, win-win for everyone in the District.

Crosses fingers and chants, "please let it work, please let it work, please let it work.

Gouda said...

p.s. As a marketing piece, that website needs some help.

Joan NE said...

Dr. Enfield announced last night at the Garfied Curriculum Alignment meeting that the District has a Language Arts curriculum alignment survey. The bad news was that it was on-line for a mere one week! As far as I can tell, only those who happened to visit the LA Curr.Align page from Nov 24-Nov30 and notice the survey link, or who heard an announcement of the survey at the first two of the four curriculum engagement nights could have known about the online survey during the time that it was open.


Who in their right mind would view this as meaningful community engagement?

There was much justified concern expressed last night at Garfield about the District's proposed PE requirement. Dr. Enfield's responses were not encouraging. All she would say in response to this particular concern was "We are [/we will be] having conversations around this..." In fact, this is pretty much the only response we got to every concern expressed.

Would it not be highly desirable if the District could be induced to make a geniune effort to survey parents' preferences, and then give the survey results due consideration in finalizing any District policy proposal? Hint: Parents can make suggestions for Board policy (ref. policy B62.00). If a policy suggestion is likely to be highly popular with public, then make effort to get your suggestion as much exposure as possible - including emailing it to all board directors & announcing in public testimony to the Board.

We may focus the voters pledge - that I have written about elsewhere in this blog - on the problem of poor genuine community engagement, and failure of the Board and the District to make decisions that reflect this community's values, priorities, and preferences. This focus may be a very effective way to elicit strong community support for the pledge, and to address the weak school board problem.

I have argued elsewhere that this pledge, if strongly supported, will not pose a significant risk to student safety, since the demands will be so highly justified and reasonable that the Board could not in good conscience reject the demands and put levy passage in jeapordy.

Anyone who is interested to help the voters pledge effort by taking on a small task, or has suggestions or concerns about the pledge, please email joan@mathascent.org

Joan NE said...

I am starting to see the term "reform", as in "school reform" in the regressive sense, showing up on District materials. I haven't seen that before. Here is an example:

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/09-10agendas/091609agenda/gradingreport.pdf

That the District is starting to openly use this term may suggest that the District is highly confident that their [Broad Foundation-influenced] agenda cannot be thwarted, so they feel they can be less secretive. [I can provide documentation that the Broad Academy exerts extraordinarily strong influence on the strategic plans of the superintendents they sponsor.]

BTW, at the Alt-Schools Coalition meeting with Harium last night, I heard again the familiar refrain that Tom Payzant was merely "overseeing" MGJ's annual evaluations. Next time I hear that, I will ask these questions:

1. Of all the people in the world whom you could have asked to assist in the evaulation, why did you a person who is so strongly associated with the Broad Academy?

2. Is it common and best-practice for this Board in particular and School Boards in general to enlist an outside consultant to oversee or assist in superintendent evaulations? How long has this been the practice in SPS?

3. Is it in MGJ's original contract (the Broad Academy pledges to provide its "fellows" with assistance on contract negotiation) that a Broad consultant would "oversee" MGJ's annual evaluations?

Joan NE said...

If anyone wants to call me a conspiracy theorist to bringing up the Broad Foundation, I can back up everything I say that is factual in tone.

And I would answer, "I dearly wish this was merely conspiracy theory, or to be more clear, mere unprovable speculation. Unfortunately, that our Superintendent has well-hidden conflicts of interest is FACT, not FICTION."

Chris S. said...

For those who didn't get to see the LA survey, it consisted of
1) rating genres in terms of importance
2) choosing the 3 most "important" titles from a screenful for each grade 9-12.

Sort of an interesting exercise, but I'd have like to see a question about how many (or what percentage of the total) books should be read by all students in the district in a given course (I've heard two to all floating around) and how many books (or what percentage of the total) should be chosen from a district-wide list of options. And of course, what fraction of the course would be open to teacher and student choice.

Sue said...

What is the PE requirement that is causing controversy?

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said...

From the beginning I thought the SE initiative was a huge waste of money. You can't just pour dollars into a school and expect it to miraculously improve. It just doesn't happen that way. I wish the district would do a survey and ask current families at RBHS and Cleveland if they chose the school due to any SE initiative benefit.
I doubt many families, if any, did. A school needs more than just dollars or an initiative to succeed. It needs vision, and strong leadership, and an attractive program, and motivated students, AND money.

STEM might be able to meet all of this criteria which could finally attract a lot of families to Cleveland. If done right I would support the district spending to build and market the STEM school 100%. But as we have all said - it will have to be done right, and personally, I don't trust this district to do it right. It's a huge gamble, with a lot of taxpayer dollars riding on the outcome.

I guess we'll soon see how this all turns out.

Charlie Mas said...

I sure hope the eight class day is optional.

And how can a school insist that students take a math class all four years and take a science class all four years? Can each school set its own graduation requirements? That should be a District-level decision, shouldn't it?

mom of 3 said...

Well, I don't know how each school can choose their own graduation requirements, but Hale and Center both require more credits to graduate than the rest of the district - Hale requires 23.5, and Center 22 (I think). AND Hale's graduation rate went up when they began requiring more credits. It's interesting.

Joan NE said...

Someone asked what is the P.E. controversy.

The new p.e. graduation requirement [http://www.seattleschools.org/area/gradreq/graduationbulletin.pdf] is 2.0 high school credits. The P.E. curriculum has a knowledge component "Five for Life"(54L). The requirement goes into effect in 2010.


Quote from cited source: "There is a dual combination of cognitive content knowledge and performance to physical education. The performance component of physical education may be waived for specific reasons such as physical disability or participation in directed athletics, but the requirement that students obtain cognitive content knowledge related to physical education cannot be waived. The content knowledge requirement must be met by either course work in fitness education or the earning of credit through taking equivalency courses or completing competency testing. RCW 28A.230.050; WAC 180-50-135; WAC 392-410-136; WAC 392-410-310; and WAC 392-410-340. Students must also complete a classroom-based assessment in health and fitness during high school."

Parents at the Garfield mtg last night asked if the knowledge content component could be waived for kids who are active in sports outside of school hours. This would give the kid a chance to take another elective, such as music, art, drama. Parents said that this elective opportunity could be the hook that helps their child stay interested in school. This appeared to be a item of deep concern, and parents predicted a big outcry from many parents if the District does not budge on this.

Dr. Enfield (Chief Academic Office) would only say "We are having conversations around this."
Noone seemed to be reassured.

According to my research, this policy has already been adopted by the Board. This appears to mean that it would take more than a District-level decision to permit the District to grant a waiver for the 54L curriculum.

Here are two links that describe the 54L curriculum [at a glance, looks very good to me]:

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/07-08agendas/012308agenda/pewel-pro.pdf

http://www.focusedfitness.org/index.php?id=45&title=advanced

KSG said...

Given the issues that we have with population density and the new high school boundaries in inner Seattle, why are wasting so much time on a school that no one will want to attend?

It just seems like another example of the school board not looking at the big picture. It's like they got stuck on Cleveland STEM and are just stuck on it now, regardless the cost.

Melissa Westbrook said...

KSG, I think the answer is Dr. G-J.

Joan NE said...

KSG - very good question, and begs for an answer. The only explanation I can think of is quite cynical, and, most probably (and hopefully) totally off the mark.

School reformers are always pro charter, at least I haven't found any exceptions yet. So, if MGJ is one of these, and if you are right that the project is unlikely to succeed, then a plausible explanation is that the purpose of the CHS project is to create an example that proves the assertion that no amount of money can save a failed public school.

Can you see why a charter advocate would want to make this case?

I predict that one day in the not too distant future (maybe even as soon as a couple months from now when the RTT buzz picks up again), MGJ will point to Cleveland and say, "We have tried our best to turnaround CHS, and have not succeeded. There just doesn't seem to be any way for us to successfully revitalize an SPS high school by pouring district money into it. If we had a charter school law, we could turn around CHS, and make it a world class high school. Too bad we don't have a charter school law. Charters have been very successful at turning around failed schools."

I hope that I am completely off the mark with my line of thinking in response to your question, and that my prediction turns out to be wrong.

The very best outcome would be that the CHS project is wildly successful.

BTW, what is the amount of the extra resources budgetted for the CHS turnaround, and how does this compare to the typical annual budget for a high school of CHS's optimal size? I am wondering if the amount being spent on the CHS turnaround project is large enough to make much of a difference. How much money would they need to upgrade the facility AND attract a full complement of high quality experienced teachers? Is the amount committed already to this project enough to achieve these objectives?

My neighhor, who is on the Board of the League of Education Voters, told me that the Education Trust has done a project to identify successful turnaround projects that don't involve charter schools. This might be worth looking into. There maybe some good ideas there that could be invoked for this CHS turnaround project.

Syd said...

Living in the the SE, I sure think something needs to happen to make the schools my children now have to attend better. We will not be allowed to go north, as many families from our neighborhood have done in the past. We can't just bail and go to private school. On the other hand, if my kids have to go to Ranier Beach, they sure better pour some resources into it. I think money counts.

ParentofThree said...

"We are [/we will be] having conversations around this..."

To bad nobody pointed out that if they are having "conversations" around every concern brought up, then they clearly are not ready to be addressing concerns with the community.

Such silly people....

Charlie Mas said...

Conversations?

With whom are they having these conversations and how can we join these conversations?

Joan NE said...

I think what Dr. Enfield meant is that the District employees are having in-house conversations. It was pretty clear that the purpose to the Curr. Alignment meeting wasn't to gather community input. Rather it was to market the concept and answer questions and give assuaging non-responses (like, "I hear you; it would be premature for me to say anything definitive right now, but rest assured that [choose from these: we are/we will be] ahaving conversations around that...").

So I think the answer is that these are not conversations that the public is invited to join in. They don't really want our input. If they did, they would make a serious genuine effort at engaging, such as conducting well-publicized, long-window, easily found/accessed on-line surveys with relevant, important, questions. They would publicize the results, and then give it heavy weight in their decision making.

Charlie Mas said...

Here are two more odds and ends:

1. Apparently the District is looking for people to serve on the Instructional Materials Adoption Committee. This is a standing committee reviews the process and product of the ad hoc committees that come together to select materials for specific subjects. I have volunteered to serve.

2. Director Sundquist tells me that he will come to Saturday morning's STEM meeting. I believe all four of the other continuing Board members are having their community meetings that morning.

3. For the next two years the Board will be the least experienced Board I can remember. There will be only one member with four years of experience (DeBell), four with only two years of experience (Carr, Maier, Martin-Morris, and Sundquist) and two with no experience (Patu and Smith-Blum). They should take special steps to mitigate the drawbacks of inexperience.

Charlie Mas said...

Ha! Nice counting. It was three more odds and ends.

seattle citizen said...

FOUR odds and ends: #2 is properly two - STEM meeting and Director meetings (which everyone should attend, let's pack 'em!)

phhhhhht!

owlhouse said...

SPS has published their Request for Proposals for leasing 7 closed schools- Columbia, Fairmount Pk, Mann, TT Minor, Genesee Hill, Van Asselt, Hughes. Proposals are due 2/20/10.
Thanks to Central District News for the update.

Each school's data page has a footer I haven't seen before. Is "Delivering on the Dream..." a new SPS slogan? Are we re-branding, or have I just not been paying attention?

Joan NE said...

"Delivering on the Dream..."
Doesn't say whose dream. Somehow I don't think it refers to this community's dream, unless this community's dream for SPS is:

closing schools, displacing 10% of SPS students in the process, breaking up the G1-5 and 6-7 APP programs, transforming alt schools to traditional, elimination of school choice system, making all the schools indifferentiable, forcing fuzzy math on all SPS students.

I have noticed the word "reform" appearing recently on District material (first saw it just a couple days ago), which I intrepreted to mean that the District is getting quite confident that they will pull off this whole reform project here in Seattle.

So to now see this: "Delivering the Dream..." is creepy.

I have been hearing that many parents - those with any means - are looking to private schools in order to avoid assignment to their neighborhood school. This is a highly predictable consequence of the SAP. So why is this O.K. with the District? Why are they willing to pay this price for implementing the SAP next fall? If I were the Broad F., I would see this outcome as desirable. It will free up more buildings that can later become charters, and will be one of the factors that helps to stimulate a local appetite for charter schools. The SAP necessitates Curriculum Alignment; Curriculum alignment makes SAP justifiable. SAP serves another purpose: By forcing resegregation, it will increase the number of schools that can use the Title I funds for whole-school programs, and that will be good candidates for "turnaround", and for conversion to charters (at such time as charters become legal).

If the District shows great reluctance to taking a survey to determine to what extent SPS parents are contemplating private school for next year, this attitude would support my hypothesis.

So the fact that the SAP is a done deal, and Curriculum alignment is basically a done deal (there is no organized opposition to it), the biggest local hurdles for Broad-style reform have been surmounted. If the dream is for charter schools and merit pay, then the most important local groundwork is nearly complete, and it is not premature to begin gloating.

Notice how fast the reforms are coming? They are coming on so fast that the public doesn't have time to understand the implications and to organize effective opposition.

This is the "shock" part of "Shock and Awe". Shock and Awe is a concept the "Chicago Boys" (Milton Freidman's proteges from University of Chicago School of Economics) lifted from the Military. Read Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine to learn about this. This book is a must if you want to understand today's domestic and international politics, and it helps one to understand more deeply the nature, forces, and dynamics of reform of Seattle Public Schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Delivering on the Dream? I think that was from the Olcheske era. Odd that they drag it out now. What happened to
"Every student achieving, everyone accountable."

SP said...

Job announcement today, under the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

Job Description:
WASHINGTON STEM CENTER
Chief Executive Officer

Position Description

THE SEARCH

The first Chief Executive Officer of the Washington STEM Center will lead and formally launch an organization designed to become a powerful advocate for improving student achievement and opportunity in areas critical to the state’s economic prosperity: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The Center aims to catalyze innovation in the state’s K-12 education system, increase teacher effectiveness and student learning, and dramatically raise the number of Washington students graduating ready for college and work and succeeding in STEM degree programs. These efforts are intended to benefit every student in the state, with a particular emphasis on accelerating the achievement of low-income and minority students.

(con't.)