Showing posts from January, 2010

Board Meeting Agenda Items

The School Board has a meeting this Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 6 p.m. The agenda is quite full. Among the items: approval of the NTN contract for STEM for $800,000. As has been widely discussed here, there are some troubling aspects of this contract with the bottom line being that it might not be the best and most cost-effective way to set up STEM at Cleveland. The Board has pushed back a lot and now we will see if they stand by their objections or not. From the agenda item: "The funding source for this project will be a combination of Learning Assistance Program (LAP), Building Excellence (BEX), and Cleveland High School budget dollars. Federal and private grant opportunities are also being pursued. " Which BEX and how much from each source? It's this kind of vagueness that always comes back to bite the Board. High school LA arts adoption. The 2010-2011 schedule is being introduced on Wednesday night.September 8th will be the first day of school and June 21 (!) the


I heard back from Director Carr on her query to Dr. Enfield about NTN (New Tech Network). Her reply: Yes. Here is the text that was included in the document: The New Tech Network started in 1996 as a replication model for schools focused on building 21 st Century Learning Skills through a project-based learning experience. This network currently includes 41 schools across nine states. Within this broader network, 13 high schools (31%) have a focus on STEM content. In 2008, New Tech Network became a wholly owned subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks Foundation based out of Ohio. KnowledgeWorks was originally a student loan organization that converted into an endowed foundation. It is governed by a board of directors comprised of business, education and community leaders. A list of their board members can be found at: . I looked at the link. They look good but it does seem like NTN would have this at their own web

Program Placement

It was done as a footnote to the Student Assignment Plan and got almost no discussion from the Board, but the Program Placement decisions for the coming school year have been made. The process for Program Placement decisions was just as opaque and mysterious this year as it has been in previous years. The rationale for decisions were just as flimsy or non-existant as they have been in previous years as well. I just wanted to take a bit of space to review and discuss both the decisions and the given rationale. It seems appropriate at a time when a King County Superior Court judge is trying to determine if the School Board makes decisions capriciously. 1. The superintendent decided to place a Spectrum program at Arbor Heights. Since this decision is concurrent with the closure of the Spectrum program at West Seattle Elementary (and the creation of an ALO there), it constitutes the relocation of the elementary Spectrum program for the Denny Service Area from West Seattle to Arbor Heigh

KUOW Wants Your Input On Math Curriculum

I had had an e-mail exchange with KUOW on this issue but Dan got the information about their upcoming story. So here it is if you are interested and want to participate and/or listen: In preparation for a segment to air on Feb 3, KUOW wants to hear from you. KUOW has an item that they want parents to tell them about experiences with "Discovering" math textbooks and other inquiry-based math education. They need to hear from you by Wednesday morning. They're asking for input from parents, students, teachers, and "other," but you have to be at least 13 years old to submit. Go to and click on the light bulb on the home page. The light bulb is beside: What's your experience with the new math textbooks? Do you have a child in school who is using the new "Discovering Mathematics" textbooks? What is your experience with inquiry-based math education? Answer this question

Sorry To Bring This Up Again

Central Mom let us know about this latest school assault, this time on a Cleveland teacher by a 15-year old student. From the PI : "A Cleveland High School teacher had to get four stitches at Swedish Hospital earlier this week after a student beat him, police said. School staff called the student's father to pick him up, but didn't immediately report the alleged assault to police, a police report shows. The assault happened about 9 a.m. Monday after the teacher told the student to complete his work. The student refused and began to rip up papers. The student, 15, tried to remove the teacher's laptop and without warning slapped the teacher in the face, police said." The teen allegedly admitted hitting the teacher because he wanted the instructor "out of his personal space." As I have said before, there are probably low-grade incidents of aggression at many SPS high schools and middle schools every week. This is not one of those. What is interesti

Odds and Ends

Wanted to get this word out if you can help (from our friends at the West Seattle Blog): We just found out that two physicians friends will be headed to Haiti this weekend. They have been told that there is a great need for crutches due to amputations. If you have any crutches that you could donate please bring them by our house by Sunday night so we can get them on the flight. They can be left in the driveway or in the back of the pickup parked outside. The truck is a beige GMC with a topper.Our address is 3008 45th Ave SW. The house is blue and the cross streets are 45th and Stevens.If you have any questions please call Cathy at 206-406-6633. And, RIP to two who counted in education - J.D. Salinger and Howard Zinn.

STEM Update for January 28

I know you're all probably tired of hearing the daily STEM news story, but this one is GOOD. The Board discussed STEM at a work session on Wednesday afternoon, January 27. It began with Michael Tolley delivering a memo that clarified some misunderstood points and answered some questions from the Board. Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson was there but let Mr. Tolley do all of the talking. Then Steve Sundquist and Harium Martin-Morris described their visit to an NTN high school in Sacramento. Most of the Board members asked a few vague questions and got a few vague answers. The only memorable point to come out of this is that NTN is about project-based learning, not exclusively about STEM. So a lot of the NTN schools are not STEM schools, but all of them employ project-based learning. Then just as it looked like it was going to end, the good stuff came out. Director DeBell started asking questions about the performance numbers from NTN schools. He mentioned Dan Dempsey (who was there

Feb 5th Talk on Denver Innovation Schools

There's an upcoming talk that got my attention: Innovation Schools: A Blueprint for Student Success Featuring Rob Stein, principal of Manual HS in Denver Fri, Feb 5, 11:30am - 1:30pm, at the Westin in Seattle $35. For more details, see Let me first say: I am not pro-charter nor anti-union, despite the anonymous slings others have tossed at me. I'm just a parent who is convinced we can do better with our schools, and like many of you (including some great principals and teachers), frustrated at the seeming lack of vision, progress, or accountability. I'm not strictly against charters like others who often speak up on this blog, but I share their concerns about outsourcing a public service to non-public entities who might too easily be tempted to increase profits at the expense of the kids most in need. I should also add that I am not a member or supporter of the Washington Policy Center. While education can and should be non-partisan

The Other Side

( Update and just to make clear - I totally support Prop. 2 - Operations levy. My discussion here is ONLY about Prop. 1 - BTA.) Just to make sure, why are you voting for the BTA levy? As a SPS parent and certified (in one way or another) PTSA member, of course my first impulse is to vote YES. I mean, all of us here are regularly saying how there aren't enough resources for so many things and so the district needs money. So I'll give you a survey at the end and you tell me. But first, I am curious about how people feel about the building that houses your child's school. Does your school have facilities issues (of a maintenance kind, big or small)? The district has to figure out somewhere between $35M-$45M in cuts for the budget. I do know that most people want to believe that cuts are made to keep money going to the classroom. But where is the visible proof of that? Is that wishful thinking or can we look at the district budget and say, oh here's where it is

Thread for Other School Visit Opportunities

It seems there are other school visit opportunities not listed at the district website's page on Open Houses and Visits. Here is one but let me know and I'll update this thread. Come learn about Sand Point Elementary! Meet and Greet with Principal Dan Warren Sand Point Elementary Auditorium 6208 60th Ave NE Monday Feb. 8 7-8:30 pm Refreshments will be served SPE is shaping up to be a great option for families looking for a small school led by a proven leader! To see one review of Dan Warren and his leadership, check Reuven Carlyle's blog,, the January 12th entry. There will be an additional opportunity in March (3/6 9-11 am , children welcome!) To learn more, please email us at or visit our blog at Ingraham's IB Information Night February 10th @ 6:30 p.m.

Open Thread on School Violence

Someone had requested this thread. I just saw yet another story of school violence, this time at TOPS. Unfortunately, it was characterized as a "brawl" when it was between two students. It also sounds kind of sketchy like the officer who got called - yes, they called the police - couldn't quite figure out the whole story. So what to make of all this? I'm sure the reality is that on any given day in SPS, with over 10 high schools and 9 middle schools and what? 8 K-8s, that there is likely to be some kind of violence. It's hormonal, high emotion time in middle and high school. I'm not saying that violence is okay but we can't overreact to the fact that it IS a fact of life. Kids get upset and act out. Does the district keeps accurate stats and if they do, are they available? I don't know. I know the head of security, I could ask her. I wonder if schools have to report everything or just things of a certain uptick factor. Screaming and yel

Rigor at Rainier Beach High School

I was reading the comments in an earlier post about the new assignment plan and there were many comments about the rigor or lack there of at Rainier Beach High School. I would like to dispel the myth that Rainier Beach does not offer rigor to the high achieving student. If you have a high achieving 8th grader and are in the RBHS attendance area, here is just a sample of what you can expect: In math as a Freshman, you will start in at least Honors Geometry with Ms. Lessig who is our best math teacher. Once you get through that, you will take Honors Advanced Algebra with me, then Pre Calculus with Mr. Bird (a math major in college) and then as a Senior, you take AP Calculus with Ms. Day, a highly experienced and skilled teacher. As a bonus, in either your Junior or Senior year, you get to take AP Statistics with me. All of these classes are demanding and well taught by teachers who know what they are doing and are passionate about teaching math. In Language Arts, Freshman Honors is an


So you've had the primer on BEX and BTA. So let's get specific on the BTA and what it will and will not do. First, some flyer corrections/omissions (some of these given to me by Schools First). 1. Front page under Operations Levy. Voters have not supported the levies every three years "since 1976" . There was a gap in the early '90s for capital. 2. Top of page 5 under Technology: the amount for STEM technology was left off - it's $1.1M (or was on the preliminary list) 3. Same page, under Core 24 graduation requirements. It says " needed to support new state graduation CORE 24 requirements." That should be PROPOSED new state graduation requirements. CORE 24 isn't law and it's in danger as a bill. Rep. Sharon Tomiko-Santos of Seattle doesn't want it and is fighting it. 4. Page 6 - Meany/Nova enhancements. Odd but SBOC is also in that building. Why wouldn't they be mentioned? General points: How the levy breaks down. In

School Tour Schedule Up

Here's a link to the Enrollment Services page ; click "school visits" in the middle for the list. I didn't crosscheck the entire list but I think all schools are represented. The number of tours per school? These range from a high of 10(!) at Bailey Gatzert to 0 for STEM at Cleveland (you have to schedule an private appointment to tour). The average for each school looks to be about 3. Important to note: The dates are ALL over the place. Some schools are doing 1 tour in Feb. and then 1 in March. Some have them all in Feb. or all in March. Many K-8s have dates for K-5 and then a different date for 6-8; be sure to check carefully Many schools say you need to reserve a space first. Check to make sure. (I have to wonder if they really would turn someone away but they might.) Some schools say kids can come. (The issue here is that many people who have elementary-aged students might also have toddlers/babies. It can get noisy on a tour if there are a lot of sm

Lynne Varner editorial on Education Reform

I don't pay much attention to education reform bills in Olympia. First, I don't think there is much I can do about them. Second, I don't think they have much impact on what happens in schools. Third, I don't think that state legislators have any idea of what should be done or how to do it. Fourth, the legislators will write education reform legislation in response to political pressures, not to improve education. Yet the League of Education Voters and a lot of other groups are all very involved in these education reform battles in Olympia and a lot of other people seem to think that they are important. So, just in case I'm wrong, reading this editorial may give you some insight into what the fight is over.

Danny Westneat on the Discovery Math case

Danny Westneat wrote a column about the appeal of the high school math textbook adoption now in King County Superior Court. He is dismissive of it. The comments following the story are more thoughtful than we usually see in the Times.

Interesting New Study on Math

From the Chicago Tribune, a story on University of Chicago research that shows that elementary school girls do poorly in math if their teacher is female (and has math issues). From the story: "The findings are the product of a year-long study of 17 first- and second-grade teachers and 65 girls and 52 boys who were their students. The researchers found that boys' math performance was not related to their teacher's math anxiety while girls' math achievement was affected." "At the beginning of the year, the students' achievement was unrelated to their teachers' level of math anxiety. By the end of the year, however, the more anxious their female teachers were about math, the more likely girls--but not boys--were to endorse the view that boys are better at math. Girls who bought into the stereotype scored six points lower in math achievement than other students." Why is this? "We are not sure whether it's something overt, whether i

Another Take on the Levies

This article appeared in Crosscut today. It is probably the more thoughtful of articles on the levies although Mr. Lilly does make a few assumptions. Also the title, "Seattle school levies; thoroughly hated and extremely effective" is over the top. Yes, we hate them because they are work to pass AND the recognition that our state won't pay for basic education. But extremely effective? He'd have to prove that. I give the district a lot of credit for the amount of renovations done but it has steadily slipped from a high of BEX I at about 37 projects to BEX III with about 6 major projects and a few minor. We're doing less with more money. And, of course, then not keeping up the maintenance on these major investments. Yes, that makes perfect sense. From the article: "Not surprisingly, school boards choose the classroom over maintenance pretty much every time. This year Seattle will spend only 0.3 percent of its operating budget on upkeep. That’s ty

Consequences of the New Student Assignment Plan

It was suggested in the post about AP classes, that under the New Student Assignment Plan it might be harder for south-end students to gain access to Ingraham and the IB program there. Why might that be? Under the old plan Ingraham did not fill. While that makes us wonder why the school needed to expand, it also means that any student from anywhere in the District was certain that they would get an assignment there if they requested it. They had predictability. Ingraham has been very popular with south-end students. There are 143 students there from the Rainier Beach area. But under the new plan Ingraham will be more full and assignment to the school from outside the attendance area might become uncertain. Who, you might wonder, will be going to Ingraham - and taking up those seats - under the new plan who wouldn't be going to Ingraham under the old plan? Students living north of Ballard who don't already have a sibling at Ballard. For the next few years I think most of the

Levy story in the Times

The Seattle Times ran a brief story today about the upcoming levies. Mel was quoted.

Somali Outreach in West Seattle

Great story from our friends over at the West Seattle Blog about Denny Middle School's principal, Jeff Clark, and his efforts on outreach to the Somali community which a growing population at his school. From the story: "According to Denny principal Jeff Clark , this was the third weekend that Denny has housed a new program partnering with local Somali families – a cultural education program in which the families use the school building on Saturday and Sundays, as a supplement to regular school. Clark says Denny will probably have about 100 Somali students next year; he pointed out that district managers announced recently in West Seattle (mentioned in this story) that Somali is now the second most common non-English language in the district." and this great partnering with other community groups: "Part of this new phase in encouraging Somali families’ closer involvement with the schools involves partnership with Neighborhood House , parent organization of th

AP Tough on Kids (Is That What It's Really For)?

Eye-opening video from NY Times on AP and its pressure on students. Isn't AP supposed to get kids working hard and ready for college? Or is it a rush through too much content that no student can really master? It saves you money if you make a 4 or 5 on the test and you can skip some college classes. Or is it a rush to have the perfect college application? Is it a money machine? Have we been duped? This video is a little short and a little short-sighted. You could make a video of the opposite side as well. AP has real faults but yes, it does pace out at a college rate. There are colleges that don't want an SAT or ACT score but I've never heard of one that doesn't give a higher ranking if you took AP. I don't believe any high school here expects any "signed contract" as in the video. Some say you have to take the test but don't enforce it. (It does cost $83 and the free/reduced reduction isn't that much lower so it's not possible

Times Weighs in Again (But Let's Talk Reality)

In their never-ending quest to explain to us how wise all the district/Board's decisions are, the Times had an editorial on the grandfathering of siblings. I love the title, " Sibling Preference, Yes, but no guarantees" simply because the district's previous goal had been to keep siblings together so there is some irony that is lost on the Times. "The Seattle School Board isn't unsympathetic to parents with more than one child in the public schools, but the board is right to make no guarantees that siblings can be with older brothers and sisters when new school assignments take place next fall. These parents are caught between a rock and a hard place. Participating in two schools can be inconvenient." I think inconvenient is an understatement for many families. Now the Times manages to leave a couple of things out. They mention the steps the district is taking to manage enrolling as many sibs as possible but leave out the possibility that some s

The (Nearly Daily) STEM Update of 1/23/2010

STEM Open House this morning began with people drifting around a gym filled with booths from STEM "partners". The skeptical quotes are because many of the groups represented, such as UW School of Dentistry, didn't actually have any plans to partner with STEM. At 10:00 the presentation began with Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson reading powerpoint slides to the audience. When will she stop doing that? Why does she do it? Does she think that we can't read? Does she have nothing to add? It creates the impression that this is the first time that she is seeing the slides. The woman commits death by powerpoint at every opportunity. Not only was the superintendent there, but so was Susan Enfield, the CAO, and Michael Tolley, the High Schools Director, and, oddly, Don Kennedy, the CFOO. Two school board directors attended, Sherry Carr and Peter Maier. I was disappointed that the Director for the Southeast, Betty Patu, was not there. They ran through a slide presentation and then

Odds and Ends

Just to be clear about the grandfathering of siblings, here's the official word from the SPS News and Calendar piece on the Transition Plan : In-coming kindergarten siblings: The School Board and staff at Seattle Public Schools have a sincere desire to enable incoming, non-attendance area kindergarten siblings to be assigned to the same school as their older sibling if requested by the family. While we are not able to guarantee sibling grandfathering, we are fully committed to making every reasonable effort to accommodate as many kindergarten siblings as possible in their older sibling's school. The Transition Plan outlines a series of steps to accomplish that goal. For families whose preference for the Kindergarten sibling to attend the older child's school cannot be honored, we are committed to a "safety net" so the students will not have to attend a different school. (bold and italics mine) STEM STEM Open House @ Cleveland Saturday, January 23, 2010 9:30

Aki Kurose Middle School

Southmom asked for a posting about the middle schools in the South. I've been writing for some time about how it is unreasonable for us to expect Rainier Beach High School to show strong academic achievement among its students when they arrive at the school working below grade level. Many of those students are coming from Aki Kurose middle school. Aki Kurose is the middle school in the Southeast Education Initiative. Academically it is in terrible shape. The WASL pass rates are abysmal. Aki Kurose WASL pass rates, 2009: 6th Grade Math: 30.8% 6th Grade Reading: 61.9% District Average 6th Grade Math (comprehensive middle schools): 60.6% District Average 6th Grade Reading(comprehensive middle schools): 76.1% 7th Grade Math: 22.5% 7th Grade Reading: 45.8% District Average 7th Grade Math (comprehensive middle schools): 59.6% District Average 7th Grade Reading(comprehensive middle schools): 64.4% 8th Grade Math: 38.6% 8th Grade Reading: 63.7% District Average 8th Grade Math (compreh

Good News from the District

From Communications: Seattle Education Foundation officials will present a $20,000 grant check to Dr. Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent, on January 21 at Olympic Hills Elementary School. Funds from the grant – ranging from $134 to $1,000 – will be distributed to 25 Seattle Public Schools teachers and benefit students throughout the District. Click here for list . The presentation will take place in the classroom of one of the grant recipients, Paul Brown, a second-/third-grade teacher at Olympic Hills. Another grant recipient from the school, kindergarten teacher Jennifer Johnson, will be joining Brown for the presentation. The Seattle Education Foundation awards the grants to prekindergarten through Grade 12 teachers for proposals in innovative activities that will improve and enhance the quality of education for Seattle Public Schools students. The foundation has distributed approximately $500,000 to SPS educators over the past 20 years. Thanks to