Showing posts from February, 2010

Tours and Choices

It seems we are starting tours (some occurred already). Let us know your thoughts on any tours you have taken. What do you want to learn from a tour? I see a couple of people of posed questions about AP in high schools. I'll try to get to that (I'm not sure there is an all-in-one document at the district). What other questions do you have about a school that someone here might be able to answer?

Local 609 Wins Victory Against the District

From the whoops file of the agenda for the next Board meeting. There a notice called PERC on the agenda which is legal public notice of what the district did wrong and what they have to do to correct it. Apparently, our district tried to withhold information/emails from Local 609 and have now gotten a bit of a smackdown. The notice states that the district committed unfair labor practices against Local 609. It looks like the union was looking for e-mail and other electronic documents and the district didn't hand them over. The union wins lawyer fees and other expenses. The most interesting part is the handslaps and mea culpas the district had to state in the notice.

What the Directors Said

From the Board Work Session on the Budget. There were numerous handouts and much shuffling of paper. The budget gap according to Don Kennedy, COO, is now $24.6. It is tricky because we do not know what version of the state budget is going to win (House, Senate, Governor). Michael DeBell said that he was having difficulty in understanding what he had before him and wished to see inputs AND outputs. He said he also needed to see clear relationships between projects and funding source available for them. Mr. Kennedy said the coaches number was down by 28 because of reduction of I-728 money. Later on, he said they had 100 coaches but this differs from a figure of 116 given at a Board committee meeting where Meg Diaz' report was discussed. He also then said they were backfilled with baseline dollars to core areas. Mr Kennedy said that next week they would announce the cuts from the Central Administration budget. He said they needed to be at $6M and are at $5.4 so far. Kay

Sophie's Choice

I wrote that title down when I looked at the choices being put before the Board at the Budget Work Session today. Later, a staff member called it the same thing. As I said from my earlier live blogging attempt, there were a large number of handouts. I could not believe the district handed these out, in no order, not numbered or coded so you could follow along. If I were on the Board, I would find this pretty unacceptable. A couple of Board members said they wanted to see the money coming in AND where it goes. Michael stressed again and again, the need for transparency and consistency between what is said to the Board and what gets published to the community. Kay Smith-Blum, as a business owner, is used to see budget spreadsheets and I think she was kind of surprised at how all over the place the documents were. (Again, one of those times when you say "Is this by design or incompetency because this just isn't a coherent way to walk a group through a complex budget.&qu

NTN Contract

I went through the NTN contract and found any number of concerns. I wrote them up and handed them to each Director at this afternoon's Board Work Session on the budget. I got there early and was able to ask Harium about it. I only asked about the issue of separate schools with separate staffs versus two academies in one school. He claims that in the appendix with the criteria this is not true. So I went back and reread that. It is open for interpretation. You could either see it as each academy is a school (and therefore has to have its own totally separate staff from the other academy/school). Or, what it means is that Cleveland can't be bigger than 450. Here's the actual wording: Size: Schools will be designated a small school with no more than 450 students for grades 9-12, with a firm commitment from the district to hold enrollment level. I would read that as saying the school can't be bigger than 450. But I still think Harium is wrong because the last

First Live Blogging Attempt

I'm at the Board Work Session on the Budget with no less than 8 handouts. It is very hard to follow (ask the Board members). Some very hard choices to make and they have given the Board a sort of Sophie's choice to keep cuts from the classroom. I will need Meg's help or some one who can try to find some order in what they presented. I think the Board is quite frustrated with trying to figure this out. Also, Board members have requested (quite sensibly) to see where money is coming from as well as where we spend it and what pots of money can be used where. Also, they claim they cut 28 coaches positions and we only have roughly 72 coaches. This seems quite different from what we heard last fall. Also, FYI - I looked thru the contract and had a list of about 15 questions about it including will Cleveland be two schools and staffed that way. I gave it to all the Directors and Harium said that it is NOT true. He claims it's in the the appendices. I think we don't h

Math Q&A in Times Article

For entertainment value read the Discovering Math Q&A in this article in the Seattle Times. The Discovering Math guy (1) doesn't always answer the question asked, (2) answers but doesn't address the topic properly - see the question on if Discovering Math is "mathematically unsound" and (3) sounds like he works for the district. Here's one example: The Discovering books have been criticized by parents, but they've been the top pick of a couple of districts in our area, including Seattle and Issaquah. Any thoughts on why the textbooks seem to be more popular with educators than with parents? Ryan: I think because (parents) lack familiarity — this doesn't look like what I was taught. I don't know how you get students to a place where more is required of them by repeating things that have been done in the past. That's not how we move forward in life. What? I thought the Holt person was able to answer the questions in a more straig

Some Surprising Elements in the NTN Contract

The NTN contract has some surprising elements. First is the fact that the contract is for two schools, not one (see Exhibit D). The two schools are the two academies of the STEM. We know this because Exhibit B of the contract requires: " Size: Schools will be designated a small school with no more than 450 students for grades 9-12, with a firm commitment from the district to hold enrollment level. " My old style drill and kill math skills tell me that the total enrollment is capped at 900 - not the 1,000 referenced in the community engagement. Exhibit B of the contract also has this requirement: " Unique School Name and School Code: School will have its own identity, with a unique school name and state school code. School will have appropriate signage for recognition as unique site. " and this one: " Separate Facilities: Schoolfacilities are physically separate from other schools and support a unique identity. " So the Academy of Engineering and Des

Mayor's Town Halls on Youth Starting

I missed last night's Town Hall on Youth and Families Initiative by Mayor McGinn at the Rainier CC. Here's an account from Publicola . In several crowded meeting rooms (including one room filled with about 75 Burmese speakers), hundreds of participants divided up into a dozen groups to answer three primary questions: What do we want for our children and families? What are our most critical challenges and how should we prioritize them? And what are the solutions? Their top five suggestions weren’t terribly surprising: Making schools more accountable; providing more support for families to make kids ready to learn; creating more affordable housing; closing the academic achievement gap and reducing the high-school dropout rate; and giving kids more opportunities to get engaged. But the overwhelming community response to the forum—hundreds of people, many of them with young kids in tow, showing up for a two-hour community forum on a Monday night?—was. There are fo

No Textbook Police

I'm going to re-post some items from Director Martin-Morris' blog that I think are worth noting: This is from a thread called "Sinapore(sic) Math in the district" Charlie Mas said... What are the rules for materials use? To what extent are teachers required to use the district-adopted materials? Must they use them at all? Must they use them some minimum portion of the time? To what extent are teachers required to use the district-adopted supplemental materials? Must they use them at all? Must they use them some minimum amount? To what extent are teachers free to use other materials? May they use them at all? Are they restricted from using them more than some maximum amount of time? Could a teacher exercise the academic freedom to primarily use his or her own supplemental material instead of any district-adopted materials? A math teacher at Washington had used the same textbooks for over fifteen years. Could he still use those books if he so chose? Teachers ha

Dump Mid-Winter Break

I totally don't get Mid-Winter Break. To me, it seems not only unnecessary but an interuption. Kids just started the new semester and they will soon have Spring Break when - BAM - they get a week off in the middle of February for no clear reason. Apparently Nicole Brodeur thinks so too.

Making it Easier to Demote Seattle Principals

The Seattle Times ran a story today on an amendment to a bill in the State Legislature that would change the rules on demoting public school principals in Seattle. Currently, the District is required to show "probable cause" to demote a principal. The amendment to the Race To The Top bill, if passed, would reduce that requirement to "valid reason". The principals, of course, are opposed. The District is apparently also opposed. Here is one of the more ironic exerpts from the article: In Seattle, Jennifer Wiley, Franklin High principal and president of Seattle's principals association, says Carlyle's proposal isn't needed because the district already has the tools it needs to demote principals. "If the tools aren't being used, then the responsibility lies with the leadership," she said. While principals don't shy away from increased accountability, she said, they also need to have appropriate resources, supports and authority, whic

Education Heats Up as Issue for Mayor and City Council

Education definitely seems to be on the radar for both Mayor McGinn and the City Council. In today's PI, Joel Connelly reports: "The Council's priority list contains one hint that Seattle taxpayers will be called upon once again to show their legendary generosity. Burgess said the Council will soon begin consideration of renewing the city's Families and Education Levy almost a year earlier than in previous renewal cycles, due to low high school graduation rates. "The fact is that more than one-third of our students are not graduating from high school and that failure has gone on for years: It's time we take bold steps to change our school results," Burgess said." I think these people are getting serious about results. At this rate, the Board and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson might want to think about what life might be like if the City took over.

Race to the Top/Teacher Negotiations

We haven't had a lot of discussion here about the upcoming teacher negotiations and how they may (or may not) be tied into Race to the Top money. For some reason, some here believe that the coalition group of education groups that I belong to that wrote a Values Statement on the upcoming teachers' contract and the issues around it, is a sinister group bent on supporting Race to the Top and undermining teachers. (Or we are naifs who have been hoodwinked.) Here's the first thing to understand (and the takeaway message): every single thing in the teacher's contract affects how your child may be taught, the length of time they are in class, everything. That is why the teacher's contracts should interest every single parent and anyone who cares about education. The Values Statement we created was about PARENTS. As I have said in the past, NO one is going to advocate for children except parents. Not teachers, not principals, not the Board, not the district. We

I Need a Little Help

The District had committed to providing quarterly updates on the Strategic Plan for both the Board and the Public. They skipped one for the Board last year and there hasn't been one for the public in about nine months. I have contacted District staff about this, but have not received the courtesy of a response. Perhaps some other folks would like to try to get an answer. Why were the community updates suspended and when will they resume? Who is accountable for meeting this commitment and who has the job of holding that person accountable? There is a community engagement protocol for the Strategic Plan, but no more than a couple of the plan initiatives are even trying to meet the requirements of that protocol. I have written to the Board and the staff about this a number of times without response. Perhaps some other folks would like to try to get an answer. Who is accountable for meeting the community engagement protocols and who has the job of holding those people accountable? Th

Legislatively Speaking

I attended Harium's Community meeting and the 43rd Dems meeting (partial) yesterday. Here are some updates (add on if you attended either or Michael DeBell's meeting). We covered a fair amount of ground with Harium but a lot on the math ruling/outcomes. Here's what he said: t he Board will decide what will happen from the math ruling . I asked Harium about who would be doing what because of how the phrasing the district used in their press release - "In addition to any action the School Board may take, the district expects to appeal this decision." It made it sound like the district (1) might do something different from the Board and (2) the district had already decided what they would do. Harium said they misspoke and it was probably the heat of the moment. He seems to feel the judge erred. He said they did follow the WAC rules which is what she should have been ruling on but didn't. I probably should go back and look at the complete ruling but it

Upcoming Events and Meetings

Tomorrow Director DeBell and Director Martin-Morris hold their community meetings. DeBell's is from 9-11 am at Cafe Appassionato, 4001 – 21st Ave. W Director Martin-Morris' is at Diva Espresso, 8014 Lake City Way NE from 9:30-11:30 am . Director Sundquist has a mid-week meeting on Wednesday the 24th from 10-11:30 am at the High Point Library at 3411 S.W. Raymond Street. Also tomorrow, Saturday the 20th, there are Town Hall meetings for legislators to hear from constituents about different issues (this is not just about education issues just so you know). You might want to weigh in with your legislator about education issues like funding for basic education (i.e. what happens now?), lifting the levy lid or applying for Race to the Top money. I can't seem to get the link to the times and places for each legislator but I'll try to get it up. Most of the Town Halls are in the morning. There is also a Pathways Lecture Series for Parents sponsored by Parent Map mag

Melinda Gates on The Measures of Effective Teaching project

From the Washington Post article The article explains why the Gates Foundation is focused on effective teaching: "The key to helping students learn is making sure that every child has an effective teacher every single year. Teachers are at the center of our strategy at the Gates Foundation. Since my husband and I started investing in education 10 years ago, our foundation has partnered with more than 1,000 high schools. Our grantmaking wasn't always oriented around effective teaching, but gradually we noticed that the schools with the biggest gains were those doing revolutionary work inside the classroom." She asks the question, " So why hasn't education policy focused more on raising teacher effectiveness? The country has tried a lot of (outrageously expensive) reforms that don't improve student outcomes -- such as reducing class size by one or two students and paying teachers to get master's degrees. Part of the problem is that it's so hard

Key Curriculum Press Response to Court Decision

Key Curriculum Press is in quite a snit over the Court's decision about the high school textbooks. Check out this web page they wrote in response. There are some erroneous statements here. Particularly this one: Discovering Mathematics was chosen in Seattle because the School Board could see the potential to serve a diverse student population and improve mathematical achievement across the district. The School Board made no such statement of rationale. This was invented from whole cloth.

It's An Interesting New World for Our Children

There were two articles in the NY Times last week that both gave me pause to wonder about what a different world our kids are growing up in and what, in turn, their children will find to be the norm for their lives. The first article was about a school in Vail, AZ (right outside of Tucson, area-wise, a large district) that had kids on buses who were stir-crazy and noisy. So they got a plan and put an Internet router on the bus. Voila! Problem solved. Now it's really quiet with everyone typing on their phone or laptop. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared. “It’s made a big difference,” said J. J. Johnson, the bus’s driver. “Boys aren’t hitting each other, girls are busy, and there’s not so much jumping around.” (Yes, I'm sure they are all studying.) An early test came in December, when bus No. 92 carried the boys’ varsity soccer team to a tournament nearly four hour

Spectrum in Name Only

Spectrum is distinct from an ALO in only one way: the self-contained delivery model. A Spectrum class is supposed to be composed entirely of Spectrum-eligible students. If there are not enough Spectrum-eligible students to form a class, then all of the Spectrum-eligible students are supposed to be in that class and the rest of the class is supposed to be filled with high performing students selected by the school staff. These students are supposed to be the ones that the staff believes are ready and able to succeed with the Spectrum curriculum. The entire class is then taught to the Spectrum Standards. Again: the self-contained (or nearly self-contained) classroom is the hallmark of Spectrum. Schools may develop their own ALO model, but they are not free to develop their own Spectrum model. The peer group is an essential part of the program. Without the peer group, it isn't Spectrum. I'm not saying that it can't be good without the peer group or effective without the self

Times Writes about Singapore at Schmitz Park

Seattle Times editorial writer, Bruce Ramsey, wrote about the success of Singapore math taught at Schmitz Park.

Open thread

How are things at your school? My kids are having a phenomenal year which proves to me that their school can handle just about anything the district throws at them and still thrive.

Another Election Coming (It Might Have Slipped Your Notice)

The Stranger reports that there is an election coming up for the King County Conservation board on March 16th . You can only vote at a King County library . I normally wouldn't bring this up here but I honestly never heard of this before (and apparently not a lot of other people have as well - there were only 2500 votes in the whole county last time). From the Stranger: The state-mandated board oversees a budget of about $3 million to work on issues ranging from habitat restoration, farm plans, forest plans, and even seawall restoration, explains Jesseca Brand, King County Conservation Voters spokesperson. It seems that conservatives are trying to control the Board and since so few people register to run and so few vote, it's not hard to do. From the Sound Politics blog (a local conservative blog - it's a fairly entertaining blog): "Help keep control of this King County board in conservative hands." Look, I don't care if you are conservative or libe

Portrait of Eli Broad

The NY Times had an article about Eli Broad, founder of the Broad Foundation(s) which has wings for education, arts, science and civic life. The article was in the Arts section but did manage to mention his educational forays and give insights into how he gives out money. From the article: A billionaire philanthropist whose beneficence comes with not just strings but with ropes that could moor an ocean liner, he is known to pull his support, resign from a board or, in some cases, decline to fulfill his financial promises when a project comes together in a way he does not like. This explains the wording for the Broad residents (the district has two people who are coming to the end of their two-year residency with SPS - if they get hired, then I know the fix is in. We can't afford to keep these people on but the Broad website makes it fairly clear that the expectation is they will be hired at the end of the residency.) An interesting take on his influence: His remarkable in

Raising the Levy Lid

Raise the school levy lid. That's what a bill that the Washington State House passed on Saturday would allow. Why (from a Times article ): Gov. Chris Gregoire has promised help to struggling school districts, and the bill would help them make up for school budget shortfalls. The bill would allow school districts to ask for more money and would let them go back to the voters for more money in the middle of a levy cycle. Background: "The levy lid law took effect in 1979 and sought to limit levy revenue to 10 percent of a school district's state basic education allocation. It had a grandfather clause, however, and allowed some districts to exceed the 10 percent limit." Under current law, most districts may bring up 24 percent of their budget through levies, although some are grandfathered at as much as 33.9 percent of their budget. The bill passed Saturday would raise the levy lid by 4 percentage points, from 24 to 28 percent, plus districts grandfathered in at hig

KUOW Seeking Parent Feedback on ICS Model

Ann Dornfeld, a reporter for radio station KUOW, is seeking families to interview about the way services are being delivered under the ICS model. If you wish to contact her, you can reach her at 206-816-5434 or

Impact of Court Decisions on School Board Decisions

There was a story in the Times on February 13, 2010 about how the Court decision on Seattle School Board's selection of high school math textbooks is having an impact on similar decisions being made by other local school boards. It's pretty clear that most people are completely misunderstanding just about everything here. They are misunderstanding the roles of the School Board, the OSPI, the State Board of Education, the teachers, the District staffs, and, most of all, the Courts. No one seems to misunderstand things worse than the Times. The Times either misunderstood the two recent decisions or they are trying to intentionally muddy the water on them. I see the two decisions and I see that they both went against the Discovering Math series very hard. One said that Seattle's choice to adopt the books was arbitraty, the other said that the OSPI's decision to drop the books from the recommended list was well-considered. Two different Courts spoke against these books i

Is this how it is for all the reopening schools?

The Queen Anne & Magnolia News has a pretty interesting article from Feb. 4th that basically seems to imply that the parents are going to decide what program is at their school. Good for them but my question, after reading the whole article - is this what is happening at all the reopening schools? (And note, there is a link for 3 of the 5 reopening schools at the schools page at the SPS website but none describe any program.) The opening header says "Decision on QA Elementary curriculum halted after parents voice dissent." There doesn't seem to have been anyone from the district there so I'm wondering if the reporter got the impression that the parents have more sway over the the final decision than it would seem likely (given that we know the district will have it). From the article: Though Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson announced Queen Anne Elementary would have a Montessori program a couple weeks ago-a decision that caught m

Thoughts on Funding

Joni Balter of the Times had a column about how we fund services in our city. Here's how she puts it: "It is an increasing tradition in our region to offer government a la carte." And before I go any further, I'm not against taxes. Compared to other countries (and even other states), we aren't taxed that much. But we do have a struggling economy and many people who are stretched to their limit (read: seniors and low-income folks). She goes on to talk about how many levies/bonds may come before voters in all of 2010. We just had our first one with the school levies. Next up is likely to be a seawall levy. "To that end, the Seattle City Council recently asked McGinn to review all the voter "asks" on the horizon to have a more holistic sense of what is coming up. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen says the council is not on board for the mayor's requested May election for the sea wall and may pursue other funding options, including use of th

Talking about Kindergarten-12 (that's age 12)

We had a thread about pay for K that got into an interesting discussion about the length of day for a kindergarten and then, what they should be doing in that day. I think one of the issues is that the role of kindergarten has evolved. We started having longer days (because parents either thought their child should be learning more and/or wanted to have someplace for them to be while the parents were at work). But I'm not sure that evolution had a huge discussion following it. Another issue, that I vividly remember from my own experience with putting my sons into kindergarten is the wide range of abilities coming in the door. You had kids who could already read and you had kids that couldn't name colors. For a kindergarten teacher, that's a huge range of ability that he or she is supposed to bridge. Some of the kids have been in daycare/pre-school where it may have been babysitting or it may have gone from child care to introduction of ideas/concepts. So along co

Here and There

A roundup of news tidbits, big and small. Mayor McGinn didn't get his levy ballot in on-time (some kind of mix-up or put in the wrong box). So his vote never registered. Big whoops on his part. Peter Maier has his monthly community meeting tomorrow, the 13th, from 10:30-noon at the Bethany Community Church at 1156 N. 80th. Lawton has a new principal (yet another mid-year principal change). From the Magnolia Voice blog: "Beverly Raines has taken a family leave of absence for the remainder of the school year. Kathy Bledsoe started this week as interim principal and will remain at the school for the rest of the year. Bledsoe is no stranger to Magnolia, having been the principal at Blaine for seven years. She retired from the Seattle School District two years ago. This was Raines first year at Lawton and prior to coming to the school she filed a lawsuit against Seattle Public Schools, accusing the district of discrimination based on age and sex." The distri

Legalizing Pot

The Seattle Channel will be airing a show about marijuana policy on Friday, February 12 at 7:00 p.m. Two members of the panel are Chemical Dependency Professionals, Kelly Kerby and Gary Hothi, who will be talking about how decriminalizing/legalizing marijuana would affect young people and youth substance abuse prevention efforts. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and a representative from the ACLU will be talking about the merits of decriminalizing/legalizing marijuana. Seattle Channel is channel 21 on Comcast and Millennium but the program can also be seen at:"

Foreign Languages Fading Except for Chinese

I have a bunch of stories I've been holding onto because we had so much breaking news. This article was in the NY Times about a government -financed survey found how thousands of public schools in the U.S. have stopped teaching foreign languages (not the trend here, clearly). But the one lanaguage that does seem to be growing in popularity is Chinese. From the article: "Among America’s approximately 27,500 middle and high schools offering at least one foreign language, the proportion offering Chinese rose to 4 percent, from 1 percent, from 1997 to 2008, according to the survey , which was done by the Center for Applied Linguistics, a research group in Washington, and paid for by the federal Education Department ." “It’s really changing the language education landscape of this country,” said Nancy C. Rhodes, a director at the center and co-author of the survey." And AP Chinese is rapidly taking over German as the third most take AP foreign language test (after

Pay for K

As requested. The issue has never made sense to me. Some schools offer free all day Kindergarten and other school charge. I believe the schools in the NE cluster talked about creating a standard fee because it wasn't fair for families to get assigned to a school with a higher monthly fee. My understanding is that each school's Building Leadership Team (BLT) determines how many Kindergarten classes to offer and whether they want to charge parents to pay for additional FTE (full time employee) since 1 kindergarten teacher could teach 2xs as many 1/2 day kids. Title 1 schools have free all day Kindergarten and kids who qualify for free/reduced lunch don't have to pay either.

She Says We Have It

Reading thru the comments of another thread, I noticed that there is this talk of accountability by the Superintendent. I got interviewed for a segment for the Seattle Channel's City Inside/Out program . (I thought it was to be a show on the levies but they devoted only 5 minutes to levy discussion.) What it ended up being was a discussion with former School Board member Dick Lilly, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and Seattle Council PTSA President, Ramona Hattendorf about the state of SPS schools. Both Mr. Lilly and Dr. G-J had a couple of whopping good statements. As I stated previously, Mr. Lilly said that if a student takes a class and takes the state assessment test, he or she should graduate. Basically, seat time = diploma, no matter the grade. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said (in reference to a question on the state of the schools), "We have accountability in place." but that it would take time to show improvement. So now you know. We have accountabil