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Showing posts from March, 2010

Dealing With the District

This is the Dilbert cartoon for March 31, 2010. In it, Catbert, the Evil Human Resources Director, explains that leadership is the art of trading imaginary things in the future for real things today. This is precisely the art of leadership practiced by Seattle Public Schools. Think of all of the imaginary future things they have promised in exchange for real things in the present. Then remember how few (if any) of the imaginary future things ever materialized. When dealing with the public, the real thing they want in the present is usually your willingness to accept a change that is unacceptable and the imaginary thing in the future is some action that will mitigate the damage done by the change. For example, if the APP community won't kick up too much of a fuss over the split of the program, then the District will deliver an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum concurrent with the split. The APP community didn't oppose the split, but the District never delivered

What is the Intent of the Alliance?

The Alliance for Education was started in 1995 during the tenure of Superintendent John Stanford. Like many things Superintendent Stanford started, it continued on after his death. The Alliance, to me, was always for the business and community group folk. They were dissatisfied with the schools, John Stanford probably encouraged them to organize and voila! The Alliance. I think they did start out with their heart in the right place. It has now morphed into a group that claims it looks for innovation and reform but it all comes from two places; the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation. I'm not going to get all conspiracy theory here but yes, I believe that those two foundations (along with others; they're not alone) are frustrated/impatient/upset with the pace of education reform in this country. So, we have a lot of large foundations who basically want to change the face of education in this country through sheer force of will coupled with large amounts o

KUOW Looking For Opinions

This from KUOW-FM producer, David Hyde: President Obama's talking about education reform, and so are we: If you could change one thing that would make you a better teacher, what would it be? Call our feedback line now at 206 221 3663. If you (or a teacher you know) wants to be live on the air please include your daytime contact info for tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12:20 pm. Here's a chance to weigh in on teacher performance.

New Principal Review

There are a lot of new principals out there. How are they working out? If your school got a new principal this year or last year let us know how well that new leader has assimilated into the existing school culture, how the new principal has changed the culture of the school, and how the leadership change has impacted teacher, staff, student, and family morale? Here's a list from an earlier post. It may need some updating or editing to be made right, so let me know and I'll fix it. Roy Merca from Summit to AS1 Ernie Severs from AS1 to Sanislo Debbie Nelson from Sanislo to Jane Addams Chris Carter from Jane Addams to Hamilton Katie Cryan Leary from Hamilton to Leave Dewanda Cook-Weaver from Lowell (SpEd) to McGilvra Jo Shapiro from McGilvra to Assistant Principal at Hamilton Wayne Floyd from JSCEE (he was working on the Southeast Initiative) to Loyal Heights Cashel Toner from Loyal Heights to Leschi Joanne Hill from Alki to Leave Clover Codd from Leave to Alki Jo Lute-Ervin

Brighton Renamed as Martin Luther King

The community is invited to Brighton Elementary School on Tuesday, April 6, to share comments and learn more about a proposal to change the name of the school to Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary. Is this how they honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Is this an appropriate way to honor his work and his memory? Is there no more appropriate way?

Yea Principal Brockman!

From the My Ballard blog : Phil Brockman, the principal at Ballard High School was recently honored for his commitment to music. Last month, Brockman (shown holding plaque) received the first-ever Washington Music Educators Association Administrator of the Year Award “for advocating music as a core quality of education,” the release from the Seattle Public Schools states. He was honored during the association’s All-State Gala in Yakima. Brockman will be playing trumpet at the alumni concert, 7 p.m., April 10 at Ballard High. Brockman helped create the alumni concert in 2006. According to the release from the school district, the event has raised $40,000 for the school’s music department. I met Phil Brockman during the interim period when he served as High School Director for SPS (right before Michael Tolley). What a great guy! So calm, so decent, someone who really listens. He's a good example of a great principal and Ballard is lucky to have him.

Race to the Top - We Have Some "Winners"

From the Washington Post : Delaware and Tennessee won bragging rights Monday as the nation's top education innovators, besting D.C. and 13 other finalists to claim a share of the $4 billion in President Obama's unprecedented school reform fund. The awards are worth as much as $107M and $502M, respectively. The contest gave credit to districts with support from unions and school boards. Georgia came in third and Florida fell just short. There is still $3B in the fund for next rounds. Clearly Duncan isn't looking to spread the wealth with only two winners. What is being said about this? "It's totally remarkable," said Cynthia Brown, an analyst at the Center for American Progress. "We've never seen this major kind of policy change in so many different states, all in a constrained time frame. They're taking actions that are usually debated over an extended period, often for multiple years." Other analysts call the impact limite

Disappointing News on Science Requirements Use in High Schools

This report, from the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research, is something of a blow for the push for more science in our schools. It was passed onto me by Seattle educator, Joanne Robbins. Basically the report, Passing Through Science , found that it did not help students learn more science and may have even hurt their college chances. From the article: Though CPS high school students took and passed more college–prep science courses under the new policy, overall performance in science classes did not improve, with five of every six students earning Cs or lower. College-going rates declined significantly among graduates with a B average or better in science, and they dipped for all students when researchers controlled for changes in student characteristics over time. The report, “ Passing Through Science: The Effects of Raising Graduation Requirements in Science on Course–taking and Academic Achievement in Chicago ,” has significant implicatio

Science in High Schools

The Times had a nice article about the high school robotics competition that happened over the weekend at Key Arena. That is if you can get past the first two paragraphs: It takes a special kid to get excited about engineering. Even if their hearts cry out for angles and gears, their peers often call out "nerd" and "geek," and the thrill dies. For Pete's sake, enough with the belief that any kid interested in math or science is a nerd or geek. It's just pathetic and by writing these same old tired beliefs, journalists keep them alive. For all the mohawks and plastic gladiator caps, there was learning going on at Seattle's FIRST Robotics Competition. It is the event's second year in Seattle, after one year in Tacoma. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a New Hampshire nonprofit that organizes techie competitions to encourage kids to major in engineering and other sciences. The robotics competition entry

Appeal Rationale Doesn't Fly

I suppose this is rather late, but I just got around to watching the video of the School Board meeting in which a few Board members, Directors Maier, Martin-Morris, and Carr I believe, spoke about why they are supporting the District's appeal of the high school textbook decision. Their reasons, however, were all bogus. It ain't right. We heard this reason in a variety of ways. The position that it is inappropriate for a judge to review School Board decisions. One of them, I think it was Director Martin-Morris, even quoted the law that grants the School Board the authority to make these decisions. Yeah, well, there is another law that does, in fact, give Superior Court judges this right. So get over it. It is right and it happened. I didn't hear any of them whine about the judge having this authority all of the times when the judges upheld the Board's decisions. Strike one. We did a thorough review. No, actually, they didn't. If you will recall, all four of the Di

More Budget Info

Meg Diaz pulled together a chart (which I will post later on) that shows some of the "foundation, institutions and private donor contributions to SPS for 2009-2010 "). It's quite interesting reading to see how much some PTAs raise. There are some schools that have real money going through them like McGilvra PTA, $252,558 for a staffing grant, Laurelhurst PTA with $161,000, JSIS PTA, $280,000, Salmon Bay PTA $101,000). New School Foundation gave South Shore $1.2M. Hey, bless all these people for raising this money and donating it. But a lot of this says "PTA Supplemental Staffing". Again, the PTA is not there to backfill staff or fix buildings and it is very sad that this is what is happening. (I know at least one school that does not allow this because of the worry of it being sustainable and I'm sure it is quite a heavy worry for parents to keep up this level of fundraising.) Given that this is happening, I'm a little surprised at how little

Community Engagement Opportunity

A Family and Community Engagement Symposium has been scheduled for April 24. The symposium will feature Dr. Susan Enfield, SPS Chief Academic Officer, as keynote speaker. A wide array of workshops also will be offered to provide information to families about strategies to support learning. The symposium is FREE for families and will be held at Aki Kurose Middle School from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; interpreters will be available. Please note that the event was moved to Aki Kurose from the original location at the John Stanford Center to provide additional space for families. Click here for more information.

Open Thread Friday

Oh look, this from the Times about Issaquah's adoption of Discovering Math. or this from an email from Sara Morris, head of the Alliance for Education: So you have the facts, the polling currently in-field is new and not a redux of the Survey Monkey survey. It’s a statistically valid survey being administered by a professional market research firm. I look forward to sharing the results with you. Weigh in on that or any other issue. (To note, the entire district seems to die down during breaks which I find a mystery. The schools, okay but why is it hard to contact people in the administration during breaks? )

Thurgood Marshall Loses Title I Funding

Not that this is a surprise, since this possibility was discussed on this blog during the closure and consolidation discussions, but it's final now. Thurgood Marshall has lost several hundred thousands of dollars in Title I funding because the move of half of the APP program changed the demographics significantly. Nina Shapiro writes about it in the Seattle Weekly: Afluent Kids Come at a Cost

Budget News

I was unable to attend the Board Work Session today on the budget. The PowerPoint is available and it has quite a bit of interesting information (which I'm sure was much better fleshed out at the meeting). There is another Board Work Session on the budget on April 8th. Items of interest (or amusement or annoyance, take your pick): for whatever reason, staff always has at least 2-3 pages of high-minded rhetoric. The Board knows what they are doing and why they are doing it (meaning, why this district exists and what they are trying to accomplish) and yet staff puts these pages in. For example, at the bottom of page 5 there's this (what I would call) mission statement: We are mindful of the impacts of the current budget crisis and will work thoughtfully and diligently to obtain the best outcomes possible for our students. Okay, thanks. Page 5 also has the guiding principles for the budget decisions including: Ensure lean, healthy infrastructure exists to support instru

Supporting Global Education Through Twitter

Alliance Biased Survey is Back

The odious survey by the Alliance for Education is back, but this time as a phone survey. After they get you to say what's wrong with Seattle Public Schools, they ask you to rate a list of possible solutions. But all of the solutions they offer are all "Teacher Quality" issues. They don't offer authentic community engagement as a solution. They don't offer improved curriculum and materials. They don't offer early and effective intervention. Nope. Instead, it's Teach For America, merit pay and more sophisticated performance evaluations. I know it because I just took the survey. These people suck. Their survey is biased and bogus and any results from it should be rejected for the garbage they are. Moreover, this shows that their willingness to stop the survey was false. It was a deception. They are big, fat, ugly liars.

Who is Responsible for What?

I really am not sure who's side I am on here. There are a lot of nuances here (meaning a big can of worms). When do parental rights stop and at what age? I am VERY interested to read what this group thinks of this. http://www.seattlepi.com/local/417276_abortion23.html

News of the Day

Randy Dorn, the Superintendent for OSPI, was arrested for drunk driving early Sunday morning. He has not yet been charged by the Orting city prosecutor. Here's the article from the Times. After his arrest early Sunday for alleged drunken driving, Dorn said he hopes the public understands it's a private, legal matter that he can't yet discuss. But when he can — and if he's convicted — some say his political survival will depend a great deal on what he says, and how he says it. I honestly don't know how I would feel about a conviction. Is it possible he could go to jail, even briefly, for a guilty DUI verdict? What would this say to teens? Reactions? On Monday afternoon, Gov. Chris Gregoire called the arrest a "very unfortunate circumstance. "My heart goes out to him," she said, "and thank goodness, nothing happened." When asked whether it could imperil his ability to do his job, Gregoire said: "I leave that up to him

Mayor's Final Youth and Families Forum

I finally managed to get to one of the Mayor's forums (did anyone else?). It was a very mixed bag. This was in the gym at the Garfield Community Center. They had entertainment before it started which was fine except African drumming in a gym is really loud. Meanwhile, there were about 23 circles of chairs (about 14 per group). No one directed us to get into a group and we got closer and closer to the 7:00 pm start time. Seven comes and goes and the Mayor was there and I asked one of the deputy mayors "tick tock, when do we start?" He said yeah, okay. Then it was 7:15 and it finally starts. You'd think if you start late you (a) would keep the speakers to a minimum and (b) go the total hour and a half. Neither thing happened. So we finally get started about 7:30. The Mayor threw out some sobering stats: 40% of SPS students are F/RL, 53% failed the math WASL, 33% gap in 3rd grade students among different races, 40% of our students miss 10 or more days a year

WSS Data Compiled by Meg Diaz

Here's a new spreadsheet from Meg Diaz with the WSS data for almost every school in the district for 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11. We can each draw our own conclusions. Meg notes that one of biggest hindrances for reviewing the district's data is that anyone wanting to analyze it has to first be willing to sit down and do tedious line by line data entry. It's incredibly tedious, and is a considerable barrier. I have done some of it myself and I know exactly what she's talking about. Meg wanted to know what the community makes of this data.

District Backs Off PTSA Fee

( Update : The Times weighed in and with a lot of skepticism over this idea. To whit: District leaders must develop a better ear for what works and is acceptable to city families. Floating a ridiculous idea only to pull it back amid an uproar weakens the district's already fragile bond with families. Parents cannot help but wonder what other ideas at central administration are awaiting their ride up the flagpole. Yes indeed, what next?) Thanks to a parent and activist, Kellie LaRue, for this update: the district is not going to charge a fee to cover administrative costs to PTSAs for funds raised for school budgets . (I will name this person after I find out if it is okay. Thanks to all of you who contacted the Superintendent, the Board and for offering to take public action on this issue. Here is what they had to say via Bridgett Chandler, Executive Director of SPS Communications: We want to express our sincere appreciation for the hard work and dedication of our

Performance Evaluations

With all of this talk about Performance Management I thought it would be a good time to review the Performance of the Board Directors and the Board as a whole. I know that the Board does their own self-assessment, but I can't find it. Besides, it is impossible for anyone to hold themselves accountable. I simply have no faith in self-policing. For accountability purposes we need some objectively measurable outcomes for the Board job. The Board job, as I have often written, has three components. First is to serve as the elected representatives of the public. This includes: A. Representing the public's interest B. Representing the public's perspective C. Advocating for the public's perspective D. Advocating for community engagement E. Providing community engagement Second, the Board is supposed to oversee the management of the District, to supervise the Superintendent. In that role they should: A. Confirm that the Superintendent's decisions comply with state and fe

Rep. Reuven Carlyle Writes about SPS "Tax" on PTAs

Thanks to Julie for the alert about Rep. Reuven Carlyle blog thread about the so-called PTA tax that the district is levying on funds raised by PTAs (3.3%). The district hasn't even publicly announced this but it has been confirmed by several school principals. Shame on the district for not even having the courage of their convictions to publicly say this. I haven't had a chance to said the Seattle Council PTSA President, Ramona Hattendorf, about this but I'm sure she's not happy.

Interview With Queen Anne Elementary Principal

From the Queen Anne blog, an interview with current Coe principal, David Elliot, who will become the principal at the new Queen Anne Elementary. From the interview: At first Seattle Public Schools said that Queen Anne Elementary was going to be a Montessori school. Now it is going to have a "technology" focus. How did that change come about? In the design team survey that was taken in late February assessing Queen Anne and Magnolia interest in different kinds of schools, there was interest in a technology or elementary STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] program for the new school. We need to attract families from our cluster into this school to relieve the overcrowding we see in our elementary schools right now, and there was a concern that a Montessori program wasn't going to do it. Plus, it is very difficult to find enough highly qualified Montessori teachers within the District. There were teachers who might be willing to do Montes

Ed Week Free Open House

I missed the start of this but there is still time to access a ton of good education articles at Education Week , the online education news website, during their free Open House week. It started March 17 but goes thru Wednesday, the 24th. Most of the time you have to pay to read articles there. Here's some good ones that I found: STEM - a lot of good articles. STEM Defection Seen to Occur After High School - Schools produce a strong supply of STEM candidates but many go into other fields once they graduate from high school, a study says. STEM as a Curriculum - "We must first recognize STEM as a unitary idea, not simply a grouping of 4 disciplines in a convenient, pronounceable acronym," write Jan Morrison & Raymond V. Barlett. This is written by the woman who runs the institute, TIES (Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM) which I had hoped the district might use to create the program at Cleveland. Going from STEM to STEAM - interesting article about addi

School Board Meeting Roundup, Part 2

The Directors did their comment section, mostly about community meetings. However President DeBell did make a fairly major announcement. He read a formal statement that he would be recusing himself from any discussion or vote about certificated staff negotiations. His wife is a certificated nurse with SPS. He said as a practical matter his wife's employment would not affect his impartiality or judgment but he concluded that the statutes regarding his role would indicate that he should refrain talking to other Board members about that issue. He said he would attend Board meetings about this particular negotiation but only to listen. Steve Sundquist, in his role as Vice-President, would chair those meetings. Also as I said elsewhere, he said that they are in the processing of figuring out the non-compliance for Native American Students funding. (He also complimented Director Carr for meeting with some Native American parents.) He said now they are on a path to compliance.

Saturday Director Community Meetings

Directors DeBell, Martin-Morris and Sundquist are all having Saturday community meetings in their districts. Check the Board calendar for times and places. At the Board meeting, Director Smith-Blum referenced being at a Squire Park community meeting tomorrow but I can't find it at her webpage or at the Squire Park Community Council page. (You could e-mail her for this info if you are interested. She also said she was going to have coffee at different schools in her district soon so again, check with her for dates and times.) Betty Patu has no meetings listed at her webpage. Does anyone know if she has had any community meetings? I think she may be following Cheryl Chow's path of few community meetings. I just don't get this from directors who serve an area that has been ignored a lot in the past. (I am very disappointed in Director Patu. I have found her charmingly blunt on some occasions but she openly admitted at the Board meeting that she didn't read up

Times Editorial on the Native American Spending Issue

The Times' editorial board weighed in this morning on the Native American overfunding issue. (I was wondering when the Times might cover this.) This has been going on longer than we thought. The district seems unable to follow federal and state guidelines. The problem with the program was discovered in 2007 when the federal Department of Education audited their Title VII grant, a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrepancies in Seattle's program were brought to the district's attention, including the lack of a Native American parent-advisory council, a requirement of the grant. The district also did not, and still does not, have a system to verify students claiming membership in a federally recognized tribe. Washington state auditors, aware of the federal audit's findings, turned recently to the Seattle schools to see if it had complied with the federal audit's requests. It had not. An upcoming state audit report is expected to underscore cont

School Board Meeting Roundup, Part 1

As I said, it was quite full and quite rocking at the beginning with many counselors with signs about their job loss and teachers with signs against the performance policy. Also, as previously mentioned, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson left because of her daughter's preschool event and the crowd was not happy. (As it turns out, she magically appeared almost to the minute when the testimony ended which seemed odd. Maybe she had to make sure to give her Superintendent's remarks but it did not leave a good impression.) Some of the speaker comments: "It sounds like blame the teacher is the message." Meg did a great presentation that the audience really appreciated. Her data-driven testimony really strikes a chord. She explained how the Superintendent had given an explanation in a letter about Title One and LAP money but did not give a full picture/details to the story. Her specific example was what will happen to Thurgood Marshall with the loss of Title One dollars. an execut

Oh the Irony to What Followed

Before the Board meeting yesterday, there was a Board Work Session on the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (better known as SBOC) which is a long name for the 6-12 immigrant school. SBOC has long been neglected and put in that "To Do" list for many Boards and many Superintendents. I think some of it was because that they just didn't know what to do (the needs are varied and large) and some of it was because they are an easy population to ignore given their parents may not speak any English nor have any understanding of how to navigate our system. Currently, SBOC is a transitional school. Students come and go, staying from 3 months to maybe a year. The idea is to get them to a place where they can go to a regular school. The basic change is to have SBOC be transitional for those students who do want to leave BUT be a real middle/high school for those who want to finish there. Basically, they would be a comprehensive ELL high school serving about 500 student

Ask the Community? There's a Thought

The Bellevue City blog had this post about their budget woes and how they are figuring it all out: In an unusual but likely to be appreciated move, leaders are seeking direct input on how to reduce the school district budget from all stakeholders, including parents, using two methods: community information sessions and a budget priorities survey. There are two scheduled community information sessions on the 2010-11 budget remaining: March 18 (today!), Sammamish High School Cafeteria, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 24, Interlake High School PAC, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. At these meetings, you will have an opportunity to learn more about the context and background of the reductions/increases needed, as well as where Bellevue fits among area school districts in its spending priorities, before you complete your survey. Give you background and context? And, they provide a PDF document that explains terms and issues so when you are taking the survey you don't say, "I wonder what that is?

School Board Meeting

I'm not going to live blog all night but it's a packed house of angry/unhappy school counselors and teachers. Lots of signs (I'm hiding behind a post so I can have plug access for my laptop) all around me. Room is already getting hot and they just started. You might want to tune in on Channel 26. Grab a green beer and here we go!

How to Pay for Those School Reopenings?

There had been a placeholder in tonight's Board agenda for what they are calling "Acceleration of BTA III for New Student Assignment Plan". Basically, it should be titled, "How the Hell Do We Get This Done?" Here are their ideas: Seattle Public Schools has several options for financing the work required. These include: Internal financing such as borrowing from the Capital Eligible Projects fund (CEP) and Short-term public financing such as Revenue Anticipation Notes. Internal Financing Internal Financing offers the lowest total cost of borrowing. The District can borrow from CEP reserves. The CEP fund balance as of January 31st, 2010 was $13.9M. Based on anticipated property sales for this year, the CEP fund has the capacity to lend $8.5M to the BTA III program this year. Revenue Anticipation Notes Although the District has the ability to use Revenue Anticipation Notes to fund the $8.5M needed to accelerate construction on the

School Budgets

There have been requests to talk about school budgets. I am not an expert in this area so if you have info, please let us know. To repeat from my post on the Audit and Finance Committee, here are dates discussed: There was discussion over the timeline for the budget process. There will be discussion about it at the Board retreat this Saturday. Apparently the Board is working on "guiding principles" for the budget for staff to work with. But it seems that they need to add yet another Work Session to get it all done. This will be on April 8th. So hear this: SPEAK UP NOW. Tell the Board what matters to you and your school. Michael was trying to get a kind of drop-dead date to restore money to school budgets but staff really circled around it. One issue is that the legislature did not finish today and so will go into Special Session starting on Monday. (They did some education bills passed but obviously, not the final state budget which includes educ

Local Coverage of SPS

The Weekly's Nina Shapiro did two stories on SPS this week. One was about the Native American funding audit issue that I mentioned in the story on the Audit and Finance Committee meeting. The only thing here I feel like she missed was saying it was discovered by an "internal audit". That's true but it was by the State Auditor and not by the district itself. The district's explanation? District spokesperson Patti Spencer-Watkins says the district, in many cases, simply failed to keep accurate records on students who had left Seattle schools. In a few other cases, she says, students may have been Native American, but weren't enrolled members of federally-recognized tribes. Some context was provided by a comment by "Indian Educator" I run a similar program using funds from the same source. The program guidelines are quite clear: A "qualified" student is one who is enrolled in a state or federally recognized tribe or whose paren