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Monday, December 14, 2009

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 Bafia.

Eddie Reed, teacher
And the just-designed STEM curriculum sounds an awful lot like the failed Gates-funded plan. According to Cleveland history teacher Eddie Reed, a member of the staff committee working on the plan, the reinvented school will revolve around two "academies," one focused on engineering and design, the other on life sciences. (The Gates model had a "health science academy," among others.)

"Reed, however, asserts that there's buy-in to this plan because "it was designed by staff" rather than "handed to us" by the Gates Foundation. He maintains that a bigger problem will be attracting students despite negative perceptions about Cleveland--designated an "option school" under the new assignment plan, which means that only students who choose the school will go there. He nevertheless voices optimism that this challenge can be overcome "by showing good work."

Mr. Fisher likely speaks for many teachers who have seen plans, projects, transformations, etc. come and go. Frankly, I'll bet it's very tiring to have to gear up for the next big thing. However, I'm sure that all the Cleveland teachers want Cleveland to succeed.

I liked that "look into your soul" quote from Dr. Enfield. Are they going into battle? Maybe she thinks it is that big of a personal challenge (and it probably will require a lot of personal buy-in from each teacher). Question is, if they don't buy in, who replaces them? Will they take the best math and science teachers from other high schools to make STEM work?

I give Mr. Reed points for both honesty and optimism. I'm not sure I believe that "designed by staff" is the answer that will pull this effort through (but I'm also not sure if he means Cleveland staff or district staff and if it is district staff, how much did they include Cleveland staff?).

59 comments:

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

I wonder why the district and community is embracing The new STEM school, but they ran Trish Dziko's TAF school out of town ?

Seems like Trish's intentions were genuine, and her vision for TAF was similar to MGJ's vision for STEM. Sure TAF would have been a public/private partnership, but it sounds like STEM is striving to get the a lot of their funding privately too.

So why is STEM a go, while TAF was so unpopular???

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson wasn't here, that could be one reason. I think if she had been, Rainier Beach might be TAF right now and who knows what they would be doing at Cleveland? All the money going to Cleveland now might have made its way to TAF to shore up RBHS.

What I remember is that Trish, being a strong-minded woman who had already been working widely in the community, wanted to come in and get things done. Unfortunately, she didn't court the community (and I think they wanted some wooing) and between that and the tepid support from the district, it didn't happen. I know she tried again, just trying to interest the district and then gave up.

So yes, it is surprising, given how much money it takes to get a science/engineering/math endeavor off the ground, that they didn't co-join with TAF. Maybe that will come later but I think it was a missed opportunity and I do regret that I didn't reach out more and figure it out sooner.

Gouda said...

The TAF thing was at Rainier Beach High School, not Cleveland - two completely different cultures and approaches to their schools. Rainier Beach has a handful of community members who insist that the program should remain as is. My sense is that the community at Cleveland isn't the same. It's far more transient and also does not have the legacy of sports.

I recently talked to Trish about lessons she learned in the Seattle School District. She noted that she felt it important to have support from every level at the school district, from the superintendent on down.

Federal Way wooed her, while Seattle waffled.

Charlie Mas said...

I posted a comment on the Weekly article in which I pointed out the fact that everyone else seems to be missing. The District is fixing Cleveland by replacing the people in the school who were dragging it down: the students.

They will be replacing the school's current population of underpeforming minority students from low-income homes with a whole new set of highly motivated students.

Watch the demographics change. Right now, as of October 1, 2009, Cleveland is 46% African-American and 6% White. Right now, Cleveland is 67% FRE, 14% Special Education, and 15% Bilingual.

Last year's attendance rate was 74% and the suspension rate was 14.6% (down from 27.2%).

Those are all measures of who is enrolled at the school, not what happens to them there.

Let's see what the demographics are in two years, in three years, and in four years when the last neighborhood kids have graduated out.

The underperforming minority students from low-income homes who have been going to Cleveland will go somewhere else. The school will cater to an entirely new population of motivated students who are well-supported at home. The new Cleveland students will be those who WANT to take four years (or more) of math. They WANT to take four years (or more) of science. They WANT to attend school for an eight-period day. They will all actively choose it.

Change the inputs that radically and you'll get different outcomes for sure. The outcomes will be better for the school, but I don't see much reason to believe that the outcomes will be better for the students. What will become of Cleveland's historic population? They will enroll instead at Rainier Beach and Franklin. Their outcomes won't be much different for the change in location.

This is the sort of solution that you can expect from a District that is concerned about schools instead of being concerned about students.

anonymous said...

So, what's the solution?

How does the district better serve the kids who are currently at Cleveland? How do they motivate them? How do they get their attendance rates up? How do they get their suspension rates down? What can Franklin and RBHS do to serve them better than Cleveland has? And how can the district support that effort?

As for the new STEM school: Motivated, high achieving kids need options too. They have historically not been served by ANY middle or any high schools in S/SE Seattle. Families have been forced to send their kids to private schools, to bus them across town for better public schools, and even to go out of district to Mercer Island, or home school. The South end needs the STEM school. It will offer an option to motivated kids who historically have had no local option.

But Charlie is right in that it's just logistics.The district is just shuffling the deck. Same kids, same outcomes, different buildings. So what to do about it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah but again Charlie, there's the question of "if you build it will they come?" Cleveland itself has not got a good reputation either for academics or as a safe environment. The district will need to prove to parents that Cleveland DOES have what it promises, can deliver and that their kids will have a good school environment. It will take parents like Charlie to be the pioneers and preach to other parents.

But will there be enough of them to get out there and rouse other parents to try? And if it is a smaller than expected freshman class, say 60 instead of 100, how long can the district sustain the program with low numbers? I could see it taking at least 4 years (one high school cycle) before other parents decide to join in.

Those aren't reasons not to try but if it's the same staff that couldn't make the Gates Academy system work, what makes this different? I mean no disrespect to the staff because there are any number of reasons it didn't work but parents will want to know that there is 100% commitment all around.

seattle citizen said...

adhoc,
You ask "How does the district better serve the kids who are currently at Cleveland? How do they motivate them? How do they get their attendance rates up? How do they get their suspension rates down?"

Much of it relies on the community. I am NOT saying schools shouldn't TRY, but ya know, going to a student's house (or the friend's house the student is couch-surfing at) and dragging them to school by their ear is not too effective. Teaching students how to have a culture of respect is also difficult if the culture they are immersed in is one of dis-respect. Giving students hope that they can actually achieve, and be successful, when the world often paints them as thugs, low lifes, or worse is also difficult.

There ARE ways to engage students with interesting, connected lessons that reach them where they are and provide the impetus of hope and success. But let's not leave it on the district to work miracles: If the community doesn't get its butt in gear and get these students to school, support the idea of education, and enrich these kids' lives, there's little the schools can do to remediate that.

zb said...

Well, isn't an important part of the Cleveland plan the "option" designation of the school? Were the other attempts done with option schools? (i.e. TAF, Gates Academy, whatever else you're bouncing around)?

Charlie, I think your assumption that Cleveland's population will change depends both on whether others choose to come, and whether others will leave. How will Cleveland handle those who choose it as an option (for example, perhaps, for location) and don't necessarily buy into the model? Will the kids be motivated to complete the work? If they're not, what will happen? This is clearly an issue for all option schools -- people choosing the school for reasons other than its program, and then not buying into the program.

How, for example, does TOPS handle their required parent volunteering? If families choose to come to the school, and then don't volunteer (I think I remember that there's a volunteer requirement?) is there a means for "kicking the kids out?" (the equivalent of a private school not offering a contract for next year, which, incidentally, they are able to do wholly at the discretion of the head of school).

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

At Thornton Creek there was an expectation that parents volunteer a minimum of 40 hours per year at the school. However, even though there was tremendous parent support at the school, only about 25% of the families actually met the 40 hour requirement. There was nothing the school could do to enforce it, and they didn't even "log" it. It was an expectation, not a mandate.

I have also heard from many TOPS parents that a lot of Central and South Seattle families choose the school not because of it's unique alternative philosophies, or even because they particularly like it, but because it is "better" that their other options.

ZB makes a good point. How many local kids will choose STEM just because it is in their neighborhood? Or, how many parents will choose the school not because they are drawn to the STEM philosophy, project based learning, or math and science, but because it is "better" than Franklin or RBHS? My guess is that many local families will choose the school without even knowing it's unique requirements (8 period day, 4 years of math/science, etc) What will that mean to the school? What will it look like? What if they get a large percent of unmotivated kids? How will they handle it? What will that mean for the motivated kids?

Perhaps STEM should require that families attend a tour before they can apply for enrollment. I know AS1 does this. Families have to get a signed tour slip before the enrollment center will allow them to select the school on their enrollment application. Or at least they used to.

seattle citizen said...

The point ZB brings up is an important one for any option school. The school would like people to be a part of the community, have interest in the theme, etc. Buit some people "choose" the school for other reasons.

Since no one will ever know why someone chooses a school, the best we can hope for is that the school can promote buy-in, ask for support etc, but there's little to do about rationales for choice.

Maureen said...

"Perhaps STEM should require that families attend a tour before they can apply for enrollment."

I think all Option schools should do this, and require that the parents sign a parent contract (we did that in co-op prescool). I'm sure that would be unenforcable--but would at least make sure people were informed about what the school expects of them before they sign on.

The down side would be the impact on socioeconomic diversity--so I think Option schools should make special efforts to reach out to those families (hold off site info sessions and evening and weekend tours.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Nova also requires some sort of contract as I remember. I agree that giving parents something to read and sign before enrolling (but still not binding) is one way to make sure they know what the school is about and what they are striving for.

ParentofThree said...

It doesn't matter how many students enroll, any number will be a success as far as the district is concerned and any amount of $$$ needed will be available. This is a MGJ pet project, the crowning jewel on her resume.

The board has very low standards for success as seen by the incentive pay plan. So they will see any number of students enrolled as a success.

For me, the big white elephant in the room is the gang issues. Do we no longer have any concerns about having competing gangs enrolled in the same school? I thought that was the reason CHS and RBHS could not be merged. By making CHS an Option school they are effectively "merging" students into attendance schools. Aren't there competing gang issues associated with this?

If anybody has followed the brutal beating death of a teen in Chicago you will know that what happened there was they look a neigbhorhood school "offline" to make it a charter,forcing rival gangs to cross gang boundries to get to their "new assigned school."

The rest is history, one teen involved in the beating was interviewed on CNN last night. Said nobody needs to be held accountable, it was a mistake, they didn't mean to beat the child to death.

Seems to me that the district may have unwittingly set up the same scenerio here in Seattle.

zb said...

So where does this gang information about RBHS & Cleveland come from? I ask, 'cause the only place I hear about it, including the motivation that that's why RBHS & Cleveland can't be merged, is here.

Are there news articles? gang maps somewhere?

(and, I'm not being rhetorical; I'd actually like to know where one gets this kind of information).

zb said...

And, while we're talking about Cleveland, an Americorp volunteer at the school has started a photography club there. They had a photo exhibit at Barnes & Nobles at U Village last Friday. Hopefully, we'll have a chance to see their work again.

Central Mom said...

What happens if the BTA levy doesn't pass? Do plans get delayed for a year? Does the money come out of other programming for next year? I'd really like a solid answer from the District here. It could influence votes one way or the other...

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't know what the district's plans are if the levy fails other than regroup and try again (they can try twice in a calendar year). Most of you know my feelings on this (and will hear a lot more about it) but the district/Board needs a good splash of cold water on their faces to wake up. There is money in the BTA for STEM but they have not explained, except in vague/false terms, what it will be used for. My feeling is some is for valid reasons and some is a slush fund in case things come up for STEM.

Given that the Superintendent's plan for STEM's budget didn't seem to revolve around the BTA, I'm sure STEM would move forward, levy or no levy.

However, do keep in mind what Director Patu pointed out - the district will take the money from some other school/program if there is no new money. The Superintendent said there is no new money. So unless a lot of foundations/other community groups pony up, the money will come from some other district program.

ParentofThree said...

Link to Seattle Gang maps:

http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattle911/archives/155394.asp

This was part of the closure discussion. The start times of CHS and RBHS have been jogged so the rival gangs to not see eachother on the busses. That "issue" seemed to disappear when they fiddled with the bell times. They all now start at 8am, and to date there does not seem to be an issue. So maybe rival gangs are not an issue in SPS anymore.
Hard to say for sure.

seattle citizen said...

Here's a "map" of Seattle gangs, ZB,
http://blog.seattlepi.com/
seattle911/archives/155394.asp

but keep in mind a) they are in flux; b) there are coalitions, allies, enemies...(more flux, but between and among gangs); c) some kids won't leave their houses because of gang stuff on the street and some kids won't walk through or cross perceived gang boundries.

Conversely, as I've written here before, it seems that schools are safe havens of a sort, neutral ground. There might be contact and recruitment in a building (who can stop THAT?) but minimal actual gang violence inside.

Outside, however...again, it gets to what the community is doing. Pretty sad if we need to adjust school location, etc to reflect gangs. Let's not give them the power.

ParentofThree said...
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ParentofThree said...

Article about gangs in the schools where MGJ is quoted specifically about the CHS and RHBS gang issues:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008800988_gangsandschools02m.html


A proposed merger of Rainier Beach and Cleveland high schools was postponed in part because of concerns about violence.

"Putting together two comprehensive high schools [in a plan] that integrates neighborhoods, communities, gangs and rivalries is not recommended," Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson wrote in a recent report on school closures.


So what has changed?

seattle citizen said...

SPSmom,
Rival gangs are certainly an increasing issue for the city: violence among these gang-affiliated youth is skyrocketing in the last couple of years

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/
html/localnews/
2008437401_gangs26m.html

The question is, who will do something about it? Schools can help, but who else will step up to stop this craziness?

ParentofThree said...

My point is, that last year during closures rival gangs issues was a big enough problem not to merge to schools. This year, there seems to be no problem.

I am sure MGJ would have lots of eduspeak if a reporter were to question her.

As I said, it's the big white elephant in the room.

wseadawg said...

Where ZB? MGJ's mouth, on the record, at last year's closure meeting where they discussed the second or third version of the plan, which kept both schools open. MGJ said herself that rival gang problems spilling into the neighborhoods around the school were reason enough not to merge those two populations. So, gangs win, and the rest of us lose.

Charlie Mas said...

The problem, the real problem, is a cultural one.

First, we have a mainstream American culture that puts a value on education, but puts an even higher value on a Horatio Alger myth. According to this myth, the United States is the greatest country on Earth because it is a classless, egalitarian utopia where any child, if he or she works hard enough, can achieve material success (and the happiness that buys) because this is the Land of Opportunity.

Some folks want those people in the multi-generational underclass to just stop their self-destructive ways, get right, and stop disturbing us with their daily evidence that our myth is false outside of shrinking middle-class picket fence neighborhoods.

Some folks truly despair that the myth is false and they are trying to make it real. They are trying to extend the benefits of middle class values to the inner city, but they aren't seeing much success.

While I don't think that there is any school so bad that a motivated student cannot wrestle a good education away from it, neither do I think that there is a school so good that it can impose a good education on an unwilling student.

I don't see any solution that relies on changing the students' culture. If the adults in their home do not express a high value for education, then neither will the children. People don't invest in things of little value and you cannot get a good education without investing time and effort.

So what solution is possible?

Ours is a multi-cultural society. Not only are there lots of cultures represented in it, there are multiple cultures represented in each person. Each of us is conversant and an active participant in multiple cultures. In addition to the mainstream American culture, we each have at least one heritage culture - complete with foods, language, arts, and values. Some of us have multiple heritage cultures. Then there are the tribal cultures to which we belong - the instibutional culture of our workplace, our school, our church, our clubs and sports teams, even our circle of friends.

In addition to these, we are all participants in regional cultures - here in Seattle we do things in the West Coast style, the Pacific Northwest way, and the Seattle manner (if not even the how it is done in your neighborhood or on your block).

For there to be any meaningful positive change, the Seattle culture would have to distinguish itself by placing a special value on K-12 education. That value isn't really there yet. Yes, I know that there is the Family and Education Levy, but that isn't getting it done. It would have to become part of the Seattle Way that every student is expected to work hard in school, that every family is expected to support their students, and that the community as a whole takes special interest and pride in our children's K-12 academic achievement.

It would have to be real. There would have to be real sacrifice for education. Seattle would have to find a way to throw a whole lot of money at the schools, to make school life - the academics, not the sports - a focus for the community, and to set and reinforce the expectations for everyone. A late homework assignment should come to be seen as a municipal disgrace.

I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime, how much good will it do for us to care more about a child's education than the child or the child's parents care about it? Moreover, who's to say that our culture's value system, which puts that high value on education, is superior to the family's cultural value system that does not?

Isn't it enough that the students and families who care about education have access to it? Why do we wring our hands over getting it to those who push it away with both hands?

SolvayGirl said...

The problem is, Charlie—and I think you've noted this before in other posts—when motivated children have to share a classroom with unmotivated children who will often disrupt the class and the learning process for everyone. MKD has pointed out how difficult classes at RBHS can be.

I think that's one of the reasons we all look for ways to get the unmotivated on board. Of course, the added benefit is that we end up with a society of responsible, capable adults who can not only provide for themselves (if there are jobs, of course), but more importantly, vote in an intelligent manner.

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, we wring our hands, perhaps, because while some adults might not be interested in education (or be unable to navigate it because of various issues) the KIDS deserve an opportunity.

I find it impossible to say, "this kid isn't interested in education," because, well, she/he should be. It's not the fault of the kids that some adults can't/won't/aren't able to get involved and foster that culture...so it is not only our legal responsiblity to get these kids into school, it's our ethical responsibility as well.

Of course, as Solvay says, if unmotivated students do end up in the classroom anyway (yea!) it's up to educators to try and find some motivation, or at least make their presence in the classroom conditional upon behavior that doesn't severely impact the education of other students...

Dorothy Neville said...

Culture. I hesitate to simply say we as a society ought to embrace all cultures and their values and behaviors. We don't and for good reason. Honor killing and female mutilation and all sorts of things we just do not need to accept, even if they are embraced in some cultures.

There's an article that's been mentioned here repeatedly, about four schools that bucked their demographics and did well with kids in poverty. I believe one crucial aspect was that they didn't try to make kids welcome by embracing their cultures, they made it very clear that there is a School Culture. Period. Whatever your home or community cultural practices are, these are the cultural practices of this school, no bones about it.

You know AP Euro vs AP HG? Did you know that one reason for the watered down course was because AP HG could embrace more students' cultures and therefore be more "relevant"? So instead of very important history that would add better context to current global events, we get a class where the latest edition of the textbook is updated! With great! new! sections! on microbrewing and hip-hop.

Charlie Mas said...

Even before I had children I coached Little League in the Central District. I told my team that no matter how they behaved elsewhere, there was a standard of behavior on the baseball diamond and I expected them to adhere to that standard. I explained to them that there is a way they behave at home, a way they behave in school, a way they behave with their friends, a way they behave in church and a way they behave when they step onto the diamond.

They understood that immediately and they honored it.

I put forward provocative ideas in the hope of shaking something loose. I really think that we do need to question ourselves before we impose our cultural value for education onto people of other cultures (or sub-cultures). Are we really ready to say "My culture is superior to yours so stop doing it your way and start doing it my way"?

It's cool if you're ready for that, but know that's what you're doing.

seattle citizen said...

I believe there's a disconnect between the predominant culture ("business professional" we might call it these days...) and the reality on the ground.

Id the entire school culture is geared towards "college and work" for work's sake, for the money's sake, for personal economic advancement...well, many people know that it just ain't POSSIBLE for everybody to advance to those higher levels of earnings etc.

The disconnect, if we make it all about the money, is that many know that some won't get the money, and for some, it will be apparent (or perceived) that it will be the usual crowd who won't get a piece of the pie: generationally poor, some minorities, etc.

Even if we say, "you, too, can grab that rung and join us up here where all the money is," it's apparent to many that they would thereby be leaving behind family, friends, culture...to climb to the top as not all can make it and some won't, and it might still be that the "some" are poor and non-white.

This is why school is bigger than just money: schools SHOULD teach about civics, and community, and what we can do to be happy besides grabbing that cash with both hands (to make a stash...apologies to Floyd) If it's just about the money, people see through its selfishness and understant they have to give up one culture, their friends and family, to join the moneyed class because we ain't all cimbing that ladder.

zb said...

"Isn't it enough that the students and families who care about education have access to it?"

No. It's not. Being born in the right family is great. But, opportunity for everyone, even those who chose their families unwisely, is the American promise. Opportunity doesn't mean that schools can solve of all of societies ills, but it does mean a clean, safe place with books, and labs, and computers and teachers who want to teach you.

(and, thanks for the cites about gang activity, folks).

G said...

It just occurred to me that the Cleveland Option program sounds an awful lot like a charter school. There will be barriers for entry and presumably an exit plan if the student isn't keeping up with the accelerated program. Hoping for outside funding as well as public. There are still unions, but any plans for staffing that will be able to fall outside of SEA norms? I wouldn't be surprised. We haven't voted in a charter, but seems like we're getting one anyway.

ParentofThree said...

Yep, it does look a lot like a charter school doesn't it. Especially with the Gates Foundation hiring a STEM person.

seattle citizen said...

G,
A charter school, as its name implies, operates on a charter granted to it by the Board. As no such document is in play, the school is a regular ol' public school, like Roosevelt, NOVA, Rainier Beach...

One would assume that all the Board Policies that pertain to operating a regular ol' school pertain to STEM; if not, the school would require a variance, a charter (which typically allows the charter operator some variance from policy in exchange for promises of "success." This success is typically measured by standardized scores for reporting purposes, evidently, which is one of the reasons I don't like charters: If the only thing we care about is codified through charter to be mere WASL scores, well, education is thereby dead as a doornail.
The other reason(s) I don't like charters, as everyone has no doubt heard from me before, is that they are a dilution of the public responsibility, and they also, in my opinion, break the compact between the public and the public schools: we pay taxes, we elect board members, we participate as citizens in the whole district, but we DON'T do these things to see the policies diluted, the tax money sent away, the district broken into individual schools accountable only to the Great and Powerful Wizard of WASL.

As to labor and the union, STEM is included in the SE Initiative (strange, because it's no longer a SE school, it's an all-city draw...hmm...someone has some s'plainin' to do...) and under that initiative, union teachers were given a choice: Stay, but sign an addendum that says the teacher will do extra work, etc, and also be paid $5000, or be "displaced," removed from the school but still be a district employee. The union went along with this. This wasn't too bad when a teacher could have some power as a displaced teacher in finding another slot, but the rules have since been diluted (how about that) so a) displaced staff don't have the preference they used to have, and b) they fall off the Professional Growth Cycle evaluation of experienced teachers and have to revert to the first type of evaluation, the one for new teachers. I don't know how that came about, it seems unfair because a displaced teacher is typically displaced through no fault of their own, but there you have it.

So there is already some modification going on to union CBA, and I'd anticipate in this next round further attempts to weaken the union, those mean ol' dinosaur teachers who don't care about kids, yada yada yada

anonymous said...

"There will be barriers for entry and presumably an exit plan if the student isn't keeping up with the accelerated program."

Um, G, where did you hear this? What entry requirements are there for STEM? At their meeting they stated that there would be no entry requirements, so I'm curious where you heard that they would have them?

And what specifically is the exit plan if a student isn't keeping up?

seattle citizen said...

Interestingly, STEM shows that a public district, with union employees, can put together unique programs, themed, with longer days etc....so along with our alternatives, our other option schools, and any new programs proposed by citizens or the district, we have the ability to use existing policy to create schools that vary from the cookie-cutter schools...

hmmm...So we DON'T need charters, we can do it ourselves!

Charlie Mas said...

What makes a charter school isn't the charter, it's the variance from policy in exchange for the promise of success.

STEM has that. They will have their own graduation requirements which are very different from the District's requirements (although not much different from Core 24). They will have their own schedule while every other school is being required to conform to a narrow range of start and end times. They will offer an extended day while every other school must conform to a negotiated standard. they will offer different classes while the classes at every other school is being standardized. Not just math and science but a combined Humanities block for language arts and social studies as well. They will offer a different pedagogy while the pedagogy at every other school is being standardized. Who knows what else will be non-standard at STEM while every other school is being told to get into line?

Meg said...

So... STEM sounds great. It really does. But I struggle with the idea that 1,000 kids get such detailed and resource-rich planning for what amounts to the re-launch of an existing school, and the 1,600+ kids who could be assigned to the 5 newly opening schools will get what planning dregs that may remain. With a $49M-ish shortfall, that's not gonna be a whole lotta dregs, if any. It may be that I'm missing something, but... wow. With all talk from the district about equity, access and fairness, it's hard not to wonder why resources are being used this way, even though it does sound like it COULD be a spectacular program. Or is it just me that feels that way?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, I say, that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has the skills for her job. Do I believe that she is doing the right things at the right speed for the time and place that we find ourselves in? No. I think Meg's post points that out in a fairly simple way (and there are even more issues). I get that she wants to be decisive and show she is getting things, big things done. Again, I quote Joanna Cullen, "Effort isn't results." But it will make for great bullet points on her resume.

It's interesting how many people say, "What happens if the levy fails?" I say, what happens if STEM at Cleveland fails? What happens if, because the 5 new schools limp along for a couple of years with no real program, one or more of them fail (i.e. are woefully underenrolled)? What happens to our multi-million (and in some cases hundred million dollar investments) in new buildings in 10, 15, 20 years if they are not being properly maintained? What happens to the half of the district buildings that are 50+ years old and are not being properly maintained and we have a major seismic event?

Rose M said...

That's interesting Charlie. Your description of the policy variances for STEM are what I heard at Hale.

Different start time, non-standard class time, Humanities blocks, block scheduling, different graduation requirements.

So how can some schools get autonomy when other schools, which perform well, can not.

ParentofThree said...

"So how can some schools get autonomy when other schools, which perform well, can not."

Because the district/board
1) Do not follow their own policies
and so as a result
2) can do whatever they want to do.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And, some schools, for whatever reason, are more "special" than others. AAA got a pass for years, South Shore, Madrona, etc. Cleveland will get a pass because they have so much invested in it.

SPS mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle said...

Hale and STEM do sound very much alike.

They both offer project based learning and rely on differentiation to challenge each child.

Both schools use an inclusive philosophy and are not separating kids by ability levels.

They both have start/end times that differ from other SPS high schools.

They both require more credits to graduate than the district and state require (State requires 20 credits, Hale requires 23.5).

Hale requires 3 years of math, 3 years of science, and 4 years of SS. However the overwhelming majority of Hale students volunttarily take 4 years of math and science.

Both schools have blocked periods and unique daily schedules.

seattle said...

Yeah, I'd add Roosevelt and Garfield to that "special" list too. They have more AP classes than any other schools, award winning bands that other schools don't have, and a drama dept at Roosevelt that outshines any other.

While we are at it, we should add Seatlth and Ingraham to that list too. They have the special IB program.

And Ballard, makes the list too, being the only school to offer biotech.

And, NOVA, makes the list. They have a very different start and end time than other schools.

We have ALOT OF SPECIAL SCHOOLS don't we.

Stu said...

Hale and STEM do sound very much alike.

Except, of course, one of them is an option school and one is an assignment school.

stu

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ann, what I meant by "special" was special protection and/or oversight from the district. We have many speciality programs in the districts but not many schools that get protected by the district despite how poorly they are doing (AAA) or received by parents (Madrona)or the nature of their existence (South Shore).

Sahila said...

Charlie's comments about culture are interesting...

IMO it comes back to what we all buy into as the definition and purpose of 'educating' our kids... is educating our kids an exercise in teaching/encouraging them how to think, to develop a love of discovery so that they can maximise the potential contained in themselves in whatever areas of skill and talent they have (which is to their own and to society's benefit)... or is it to churn out units of economic production/consumption - which is to the benefit of the ruling merchant class?

I'd put it to you that the predominant culture's intent in educating our kids is the latter...

And I'd put it to you as I did at a meeting yesterday, that the predominant culture is happy with a success rate of around 75% and finds a 25% failure rate an acceptable business 'loss'...

There is really no intent to ensure "Excellence for All".... if there was, schooling would look very different... there is plenty of research available about what works and what doesnt FOR CHILDREN (rather than for the system) and its not being implemented because what works for children is completely contradictory to what works for the system and its intentions...

I have struggled with the question of why things are the way they are in education (and health and poverty etc) here in the US...

First I thought it was just ignorance - people didnt know anything else, didnt know that there were other ways of doing things....

But that's not true....

Ignorance cant be an excuse/justification any longer. We can all read, we have access to information - the net, libraries, electronic media, universities etc

So, if information on what works is pretty much freely available to all of us, why dont things change?

Because we deny or we choose not to look. If we did, we would be forced to take stock, make a decision, make a choice and then DO something...

If there really was an intent to do what is best for children, what children need to learn and to grow into their own, unique, individual potential, our schools and their experience in them would be entirely different....

Sahila said...

PART TWO:

Its the same with everything else here - the denial of climate change, the over consumption of food and other resources - bigger cars, bigger houses, more STUFF...

We're all connected - life, this planet and all that lives on/in it, is a web and what happens in one part of the web impacts something/someone/some other situation in another part of the web...

Do you realise that when you buy in bulk, more than for your immediate needs, someone somewhere else has to do without? That trees were cut down prematurely, that soil was eroded, that air quality was damaged further, that toxic waste from production leached into the waters faster etc, etc...

When your pantries are overfull with stuff bought in bulk, you use and waste resources faster because you have a (false) sense of security, of plenty....you feel 'entitled' to consume more than necessary because there is always more (or at least it seems like there is always more)...

And when you buy in bulk and stuff your houses and pantries full, do you think about the billions starving around the world, the billions homeless, the billions without drinking water? What do you tell yourself about the (im)balance between what you have/are grabbing for yourself and what they have?

Is it just too bad? Is it just an accident of birth? Is it or is it not your responsibility to think about it?

Basic math - the equation where basic resources are limited and consumption is infinite doesnt balance.... something has to give... and in our world its those who are already without who pay the price for that imbalance... the ironic thing happening now, is that the ranks of those historically 'without' are being swelled with additions from the ranks of the formerly well-off... a pyramid cant remain standing when the base and the middle are systematically gutted....

Its the same in education... some few are being given an education that 'fits' them for the system, and many others are not... but we're not doing anything about that except trying to force the 'misfits' to adapt to the system or abandoning them...

There's nothing wrong with the kids who are 'unmotivated' and "dont value education".... its the system that's wrong and the system that needs to be changed.... back to Peter Senge's ideas for learning institutions in THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE...

Ignornance about the intent and influence of Broad/Gates et al, about MGJ's intentions, about the wilful collaboration of the Board in an agenda and process that doesnt serve our kids, is no excuse....

Basic knowledge, available to all, and yet all in denial, because we are all afraid to think it through, to have to make a choice and then to have to ACT....

I dont really care what choice you make - that's between you and your conscience... All I want to know is that the choice you make is a conscious, intentional one....

Charlie Mas said...

Sahila asks: "IMO it comes back to what we all buy into as the definition and purpose of 'educating' our kids... is educating our kids an exercise in teaching/encouraging them how to think, to develop a love of discovery so that they can maximise the potential contained in themselves in whatever areas of skill and talent they have (which is to their own and to society's benefit)... or is it to churn out units of economic production/consumption - which is to the benefit of the ruling merchant class?"

Wow. Are those the only two choices? Are there no other options? Is there no middle ground?

Sahila said...

Sad to say Charlie... in this world there seems to be only one option... to churn out units of economic production/consumption... That's according to Mike Milken of the Milken Foundation... another big player in the education 'reform' movement, allied with Broad and Gates et al...

old salt said...

Sahila, there is a cultural difference between the expectations you & I have for the role of schools.

You said that " educating our kids an exercise in teaching/encouraging them how to think, to develop a love of discovery so that they can maximise the potential contained in themselves in whatever areas of skill and talent they have"

I see that as my role as a parent.

I would not surrender that to a school or other institution.

Sahila said...

Old Salt -

I see that role as one that belongs to the community - the community (society) has a vested interest (on multiple levels, including economic) in our children being raised to be curious, capable, happy, healthy individuals... that's not just a parent's job, unless you (as a society) are willing to make sure that all parents have the appropriate resources (internal and external) to accomplish that... and right now, we dont do that as a society...

It takes a village to raise a child....

SolvayGirl said...

Sahila
If I didn't buy toilet paper and other such items in bulk, at lower prices, I would have much less money to contribute to the many causes I support. Just because I try to save money by buying in bulk doesn't mean I am a money-grubbing miser who cares little about the rest of the world. I wish you wouldn't generalize so.

Sahila said...

Paying less than the true production cost for goods contributes to human exploitation in other countries and the degradation of the environment...

See Buckminster Fuller's comment about the true cost of a gallon of gas... from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller ...

"Buckminster Fuller was one of the first to propagate a systemic worldview, and he explored principles of energy and material efficiency in the fields of architecture, engineering and design.[16][17] He cited Fran├žois de Chardenedes' opinion that petroleum, from the standpoint of its replacement cost out of our current energy "budget" (essentially, the net incoming solar flux), had cost nature "over a million dollars" per U.S. gallon (US$300,000 per litre) to produce. From this point of view, its use as a transportation fuel by people commuting to work represents a huge net loss compared to their earnings.[18]

Fuller was concerned about sustainability and about human survival under the existing socio-economic system, yet remained optimistic about humanity's future. Defining wealth in terms of knowledge, as the "technological ability to protect, nurture, support, and accommodate all growth needs of life," his analysis of the condition of "Spaceship Earth" caused him to conclude that at a certain time during the 1970s, humanity had attained an unprecedented state. He was convinced that the accumulation of relevant knowledge, combined with the quantities of major recyclable resources that had already been extracted from the earth, had attained a critical level, such that competition for necessities was not necessary anymore. Cooperation had become the optimum survival strategy. "Selfishness," he declared, "is unnecessary and hence-forth unrationalizable.... War is obsolete."

I'm not saying people are money-grubbing misers... I'm saying they are living without consciousness and intention and without thinking things through... and there really is no excuse for that ignorance any longer...

All the information we need to make better choices is available...

The only reason we dont change things is because we are scared and because a powerful system has its very existence at stake in the current paradigm and works hard to counter any movement to change...

If you think that's OK, fine... if you dont, then what are you going to do about it?

Someone said to me a week or so ago:
"But you're talking about culture change. You cant change the culture"...

Thats not true....

A culture is a set of beliefs that a critical mass of people buy into...

If enough people change their beliefs, the culture changes...

For proof, a native woman friend snorted with derision when I reported this comment about culture being unchangeable to her last week. She said "that's just rubbish. Look at history here with the invasion of Christianity and its influence over indigenous people. Nearly all natives were assimilated and are christian now...."

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, nearly all of the natives are dead. The indigenous population was almost entirely wiped out as a result of epidemics, dislocation, and genocide. Seriously, well over 80% - maybe more than 90% - died as a direct result of the European invasion.

Of the remaining few, they were under tremendous pressure to assimilate - more pressure than our public schools can bring to bear - and they lacked the critical mass of population necessary to sustain their culture.

Our public schools do not have the same sort of influence and the critical mass of population to sustain these cultures is in place and instilling their values in the current generation.

Charlie Mas said...

Culture change is possible, but it comes slowly, more with the change in populations than with a change in the individual people.