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Friday, March 05, 2010

Items of Interest

Open House

Come learn about Queen Anne Elementary at the Open House, at the Lincoln High School site, 4400 Interlake Ave. N., Saturday, March 6, 10:00 am to 12:00 noon (no child care available).

It was reported by one of our readers that they will have a "tech" focus (not Montessori) but their web page doesn't reflect that. If you go, please report back what you see and hear.

From SPS Communications:
Seattle Public Schools filed an appeal today (March 3, 2010) of the King County Superior Court decision on the District's adoption of the Discovering Series math instructional materials.

The judge's decision, which was a surprising finding, must be appealed by Seattle Public Schools for the following reasons:
• The court decision was not confined to a review of the record that led up to the Board's vote to adopt these materials;
• The court disregarded a yearlong instructional materials process that the School District followed prior to making its decision; and
• The court substituted its judgment for that of the School Board and it is the School Board's duty to make decisions for the District about adoption of instructional materials.

Last spring and summer the instructional materials were purchased and staff was trained in use of the math instructional materials. They have been in use in our high schools beginning with this academic year.

I think that last bullet point may not help them in court. My opinion is that the judge didn't substitute its judgment for the School Board's but rather said that the district did not follow the law in how they chose textbooks. And, just because the district forged ahead with this math won't necessarily mean a higher court will say "They've already spent money so, oh well".

I assume the Board supports this action but there is nothing that makes that entirely clear. I called the School Board office and was told several Board members spoke to this issue at the Wednesday Board meeting. I'll have to listen but I hope they explain why, if all they have to do is review the math adoption of Discovery math, that they are going to spend money and resources to go to court.

Meetings
The Board will have a work session next Wednesday, the 10th from 4-5:30 pm., to discuss the Quarterly Strategic Plan Report. I would assume this is to see if benchmarks are being met for the Strategic Plan which is an item of interest to many here. Directly after that, there is an executive session about the Superintendent Evaluation. If you have any thoughts that you want to convey to Board members, this would be the time to get those e-mails and calls in. (There are no Board community meetings this weekend so no opportunities to weigh in there.)

Kudos
Chief Sealth basketball coach, Colin Slingsby was named as the All-Star coach for the Seattle Metro league by the Seattle Times.

28 comments:

Unknown said...

great, a technology school. just what our kids need. more time in front of computers and screens—heaven forbid they're not staring at a screen 24 hours a day. btwn TV, computers, video games, watching videos in the car, etc. etc i think our kids already get more than enough of the virtual world and need to learn about the real world. ANYTHING would have been better than a tech school. language-immersion, math/science, montessori, waldorf. a tech school seems much better suited to middle or high school age students, not elementary kids. have studies been done about how teaching kids "tech" at this age affects their learning and development? i can't imagine that it would be good. great job design team, michael debell and SPS.

ArchStanton said...

I assume the Board supports this action but there is nothing that makes that entirely clear. I called the School Board office and was told several Board members spoke to this issue at the Wednesday Board meeting.

Mostly, they did. DeBell did dissent and stated that he did not feel that Spector substituted her decision, but asked that they review their decision (his stock went up with that). Smith-Blum pushed back without actually "dissenting" (I'm also thinking she isn't going to be a MGJ lapdog). I was surprised that Martin-Morris rolled over.

The reason most of them gave for supporting an appeal was to prevent having a precedent set where every SPS decision would be "second guessed by the courts" and the board would always make decisions with an eye to "what the courts would do". I get their concern, but at some point they do need to make decisions with regard to whether or not they are legal, don't they?

Also, they keep repeating the mantra that the judge "substituted her decision", when clearly she did not. I guess if they paint Spector as an "activist judge" and repeat it often enough, they expect people will buy it.

ttln said...

I paraphrase ...not confined to the material that led to the board's decision,

Isn't the issue that the board did not review the material they were supposed to review prior to making its decision?

The first bullet point is odd. How does this argue against the judges finding? Doesn't it agree with it? "She read more than we read." Isn't that the issue? They didn't take into account all of the material they were supposed to? Am I missing something?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arch and TTLN both make great points. I understand the fear of endless lawsuits challenging the Board. However, (1) the law exists to protect the public from arbitrary actions from public officials and therefore the public has a right to challenge decisions in a court of law and (2) the law provides protection for those public officials and entities by allowing courts to throw out silly or invalid lawsuits. Their fear of being endlessly challenged should be allayed by those facts. (I'll be interested in what the Times/Crosscut/etc. weight in on this issue.)

The Board needs to be reminded that this appeal will cost us money that they and the district say we don't have in our budget.

Again, lesson learned. When the district and the Board feel dissed or challenged, they protect themselves and money be damned. Don't allow them to forget whose money it is.

Steve said...

I agree with magnoliamom. I would love it if elementary school could be a "screen free" environment except for very focused instruction that is integrated (completely) with the curriculum. It's a big problem with our 1st grader to get him away from the computer in our house, and I get the sense it is at school as well. I'm definitely not against computers, but I don't think they're an appropriate focus for most kids in elementary school. They have their whole lives to use them, and it hasn't been explained to me how valuable they are for actual learning (vs. learning how to use computers).

Interestingly, our school has a nice computer lab and instructor that the PTA pays for, and my understanding is that the room in which it's located isn't on the chopping block (budget cuts) as we need the computers to administer all the tests (MAP, etc.). Irony abounds.

Chris S. said...

Prepare to be TOTALLY disappointed by the majority of the board members' comments on the math appeal. Carr, Sundquist, Maier & Martin-Morris just repeated the district's talking points, in some cases not even bothering to change many of the words. Maier added that the books were bought and paid for and we ought not waste money, which is exactly what they are doing with this appeal.
I think the most interesting thing is that it was pretty clear this was the superintendent's decision, which the board was (mostly) supporting, which is contradictory to what Harium told me personally a few weeks ago. So either it was legally MGJs decision (which I doubt, given the language of the finding) or the board abdicated. I'm looking for a silver lining here, but at least the responsibility for the appeal decision is pinned squarely on MGJ, whereas in some other cases she has done her best to blame the board for unpopular decisions. Boy, I'm really squinting and using my vivid imagination to see some backbone in this board. You have my blessing on the recall, guys.

Unknown said...

By making Queen Anne Elementary a Technology school the district solves two problem. First nobody can say that Queen Anne got what they wanted, why can't other schools like Sand Point etc. get what they want? Second since Queen Anne is an option School you don't have to make other Montissori or Language immersion programs option schools to be consistent. I wish the district would do a better job actually listening to what the community wants.

TechyMom said...

To be fair, there are probably a reasonable number of families who would be excited about a tech elementary school. Depending on the implementaiton, my family might be, though QA is a bit out of my way and we'd have to drive. It is an option school, so no one who wants a screen-free environment has to send their kids there. I'm kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum, and wouldn't send my child to a Waldorf school, but I would absolutely support the creation of a public Waldorf option school for those who like that program. Option schools are supposed to be about options. Not everyone will like the programs, and that's ok.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, it was not MGJ's decision; Harium made that quite clear to me at his last community meeting.

I think there was a lot of whispering in Board members ears and it worked.

seattle said...

I agree with Techymom. Option schools are just that.....options. Not everyone will like their themes or focus. That said, I do wish that the district polled the families in QA/Magnolia to see what the marjority of families would like to see and would support in an option school. QA already has two fantastic, high performing, elementary schools, Haye and Coe. It will take an extraordinary option school with a lot of community buy in to lure families away from those high performing neighborhood schools. Not sure if a tech focus elementary will do that?

wseadawg said...

Once again the corporate backed, LEV financed gang of four supported MGJ, the BRT's Broad Superintendant. That's what they were put in office to do. Where's the surprise?

If you don't want schools run like off-shore factories, vote other candidates in next time. Anything else is a waste of time and energy.

reader said...

I, for one, agree with the board on the math thing. That is, the judge far overstepped her bounds and substituted her own opinion for those of the district and school board. The courts should not be sticking their nose into areas of educational opinion. The district is now forced to defend their actions and their academic independence. And, I believe the judge will be overturned in this case. Discovery Math, like it or not, is used many of the surrounding districts and is somewhat of a standard. Are all those districts also arbitrary and capricious? Should they be sued too? What's the legal standard for that? Oh yeah... there is no legal standard for "capricious". The texts are already bought and paid for, and there's really no sense in ditching them because of 1 judge and some noisy public opinion.

gavroche said...

Blogger reader said...
I, for one, agree with the board on the math thing. That is, the judge far overstepped her bounds and substituted her own opinion for those of the district and school board.


No she didn't. She REMANDED the decision back to the District telling them there was not enough evidence to lead to their decision. That's all. The judge also took into account the fact that the District ignored some 300 pages of public testimony and letters objecting to the choice of Discovering Math.

The courts should not be sticking their nose into areas of educational opinion.
The court didn't 'stick its nose' into this case -- the case was brought to the judge by the plaintiffs. If someone appeals a District decision, it's exactly the court's duty to evaluate the appeal. That's what judges and courts do.

Interesting choice of the word "opinion," by the way. That may be the crux of the problem here: the District used mere opinion, not data, facts or input from the parents of SPS, when it voted for Discovering math.

The district is now forced to defend their actions and their academic independence.
Damn straight. And this is as it should be. If the District continues to ignore public concerns and input, sound research and data, and act and vote in, yes, arbitrary and capricious ways, then taking the District to court is the only recourse SPS families have. It shouldn't have to be this way, but it is.

Besides, the District claims "everyone" should be "accountable" so the plaintiffs and many more who support them are simply holding the District to its own commandment.

And, I believe the judge will be overturned in this case. Discovery Math, like it or not, is used many of the surrounding districts and is somewhat of a standard.
Standards can be poor, weak and wrong. And actually, there are also other districts, like the San Diego School District, which used Discovering -- and then got rid of it. Why didn't SPS learn from San Diego's experience?

Are all those districts also arbitrary and capricious? Should they be sued too? What's the legal standard for that?
You are completely missing the judge's point. The judge did not say the texts or the use of them was arbitrary and capricious. She said the method by which SPS arrived at this choice was flawed and therefore amounted to an arbitrary and capricious act. (Dan D. can correct me if I'm wrong about that.)

(continued on next post)

gavroche said...

(continued from previous post)

If the other Districts chose those questionable texts using a process that was somehow sound and inclusive of public input (maybe parents like weak math in those other Districts you alluded to, who knows?), then it's an irrelevant stretch to apply Judge Spector's verdict to them too.

Oh yeah... there is no legal standard for "capricious".
Sorry if that bugs you, but it fits the bill here. In fact, much of the District's decisions can be aptly described as "arbitrary and capricious," from the school closures and re-openings to the proposal that graduation grade average be lowered to a D, the Superintendent laying off 165 teachers and counselors at the same time enrollment increased by 1,200, the Board's vote to award the Supt. a 10 percent bonus (during an economic depression no less) after only meeting 4 out of 20 goals. This list could go on for quite a while. But I'll move on.

The texts are already bought and paid for, and there's really no sense in ditching them because of 1 judge and some noisy public opinion.

Have you always had this disdain for justice and democracy? "Noisy public opinion" has thankfully and historically led to many crucial and positive changes in our society and democracy, from Civil Rights to ending the Vietnam War.

Silence is what kills us all. But I digress (perhaps).

You have a curious sense of value and priorities if you believe that the cost of ditching bad textbooks should override the very real risk of teaching our kids weak math, leaving them unprepared for college, and of making the School District accountable to the genuine concerns of parents.

Reader, why are you defending the District so fervently here? Do you have children in SPS? If so, are you happy with the math texts they are being given to use? Are you happy with the way this District is being managed? If so, why?

reader said...

Gavroche, believe it or not, I do have children in the district; I also do not work for the district either. And, I am very happy with the math texts and the math education my kids are getting. Arbitrary and capricious is not illegal. And, I look at this the other way around. Democracy doesn't mean we all get to vote on textbooks. It doesn't mean we all get to vote on hmmm.... desegregation either. If it were up to public opinion, there would be no desegregation.

The fact is, people have been whining about "math education", and "math fluency" in the younger generation since the beginning of time... or at least the beginning of math. Don't you remember it? I actually once read a history of it, so I guess it really has been going on forever.

There are lots of arbitrary and capricious decision I do not like. Some of the school closures (the ones that will be reopened) I opposed. But, "arbitrary and capricious" isn't really the problem. Unfortunately, the math whiners have shot their wad on the wrong battle.

But, we shall see how this works out. My guess is that it will be overturned.

reader said...

PS. Why do you think the judge "remanded her decision" back to the board? Could it be that she just didn't like the decision?

dan dempsey said...

If the fear is of endless lawsuits, they are going to be looking at more lawsuits unless they establish a different precedent than the precedent for violation the RCW...,which they surely have going in spades at this time.

RCW 28A.320.015
School boards of directors — Powers — Notice of adoption of policy.

section:

(2) Before adopting a policy under subsection (1)(a) of this section, the school district board of directors shall comply with the notice requirements of the open public meetings act, chapter 42.30 RCW, and shall in addition include in that notice a statement that sets forth or reasonably describes the proposed policy. The board of directors shall provide a reasonable opportunity for public written and oral comment and consideration of the comment by the board of directors.

------------ --------- --

The board in the materials they submitted to the court in the 20 days after the appeal filing of June 5, 2009

Had:
#1 a DVD of testimony at board meetings.

#2 No written comment was given consideration as the Board did not submit any of it to the court within the required 20 days time..
-------------------
===================
Watch the tape of the board meeting beginning at minute 107:00 with Director Sunquist.

=======================
While I certainly find much of what Director DeBell says and does worthy of praise. He is I believe mistaken on a statement he made before the start of the pledge of allegiance. His statement was to the effect that these are difficult times but luckily we live in a democracy..... I take issue with any belief that the SPS operates as a democracy ... check the definition and you will find both our nation and state operate as republics:

In a republic the citizens are protected by Constitutional rights and certain laws that support those rights. (The sway of more than 50% of the voting populace was little weight when in conflict with the basic rights that are guaranteed by the constitutions state and/or federal) Unfortunately the SPS operates as neither a Republic or Democracy but rather an Oligarchy.

Mote follows.

dan dempsey said...

It is not surprising that: the PERC violation recurred for the SPS has little accountability for it operates in many ways as an Oligarchy NOT a Republic.

It seems in reading and watching that the SPS has no system in place or mechanism for the Board to consider written public comment submitted to the board in the Board's decision making.

I know from observation that Directors Sunquist and Maier prefer Vendor claims and SPS action report "Happy Talk" to the established relevant facts I submit from hard data mined from Official State records and other reliable locations.

It appears from observation that rather than observing the requirement of the RCW above several directors prefer the unwritten "Triple D" policy when handling email of
"Dan Dempsey Delete".

This is clearly an operating model of an "Oligarchy" for there is as near as I can see no mechanism in place to make RCW 28A 320.015 section #2 happen.

Since the board is clearly operating outside the law... although I am not a Lawyer believe a solid argument could be made that none of the board's decisions are valid.

Could the board now have the opportunity to watch every decision currently under legal scrutiny be decided against them because they ignore the requirements of the law?

See my point in a "Republic" the populace would be protected by article IX and protected by the law.

In the oligarchical SPS the "elites" know best and operate outside the law ... and that is just the way it will be for the foreseeable future.... Because MGJ and four directors seemingly operate outside the law with impunity.

On Friday March 5, I filed the next legal action in the continuing parade of lawsuits that need to be filed against this IMHO "outlaw" organization.

Perhaps if the 4 directors elected in 2007 (with election spending in excess of $450,000) were recalled, then the SPS could start operating in the style of a republic and give the "chuck it heave ho" to the current oligarchical mode of operation.

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

I'm no fan of Discovering, but....

Last year, before the adoption of Discovering the district used Integrated. 9th grade students took Integrated I which combined Algebra and Geometry in a fuzzy mess of a way. Kids didn't get a full year of either algebra or geometry. This year the district adopted Discovering. Discovering does not integrate algebra and geometry but rather separates them into three different year long classes: Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. With the transition to Discovering this year, the district counted the year of INT I that my son took in 9th grade as Algebra I, though it was no such class. He will take Geometry in 10th grade which should be fine, but then in 11th grade he will be expected to take Algebra II. He and the rest of his cohort will not be prepared for algebra II, because they never took algebra I, remember he was in fuzzy integrated instead. Algebra II will be tough for this group of kids and will require plenty of tutoring, catch up, and home support. In fact my kids teacher said "I wouldn't want to be a 10th grader this year".

I can't imagine changing texts again, and transitioning this group of kids yet another time. The chaos of this district is interfering with the quality of education our kids are getting. At this point we need to stick with Discovering for at least 3 more years, until this group of kids, who have already had a tough transition graduate

Charlie Mas said...

The judge did not substitute her judgement for the Board's. Quite to the contrary. She didn't tell them what to decide. She ordered them to exercise theirs instead of granting a knee-jerk and thoughtless approval.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, did you read the judge's opinion? She didn't tell the district what books to use.

As I said previously,

"However, (1) the law exists to protect the public from arbitrary actions from public officials and therefore the public has a right to challenge decisions in a court of law and (2) the law provides protection for those public officials and entities by allowing courts to throw out silly or invalid lawsuits. Their fear of being endlessly challenged should be allayed by those facts."

Do you not agree that both sides, the public and our public entities/officials, are both protected and entitled to be protected? I do.

Dorothy Neville said...

Rob, here's the deal. The Integrated 1 text is not that bad. Well, I don't really like it, because it scatters around and isn't solid and doesn't cover enough foundational stuff, but if your son had that and a couple years decent work with CMP (some middle school teachers do a pretty good job with it), then he has been exposed to the main concepts one ought to get in algebra 1. I have not looked at the Discovering Geometry book. However, I used to teach Geometry (25 years ago) and have seen some texts since. It's a fallacy to say that there's no algebra in Geometry texts. Any text I have seen or used incorporates some basic algebraic manipulations into the problems and will have a chapter or so on polynomials, especially reviewing factoring quadratics, and some work on linear equations.

Algebra 2 starts with reviewing all the basic algebra content, especially all about linear equations, (solving simultaneous equations as well) and digs deeper into quadratics and more. So your son's class is really not that bad off. Everyone will be in the same boat and the review sections just would (should) be covered a little deeper. But CMP and Integrated 1 should have at least introduced all those concepts. Just not for mastery.

That said, the Discovering Algebra format is perhaps not the best for this. (Although I have looked a lot at Algebra 1, I haven't looked at Algebra 2) Why? Because it is word heavy and short on clear summary of the concept and applications. But I believe each section has an on-line quick and dirty lesson, where instead of beating around the bush, it simply tells you what the lesson was supposed to teach. So if you are trying to tutor your kid, or teach your kid how to help himself, print off the brief versions of the lessons from the publishers website. Or find a used traditional algebra 2 book somewhere and use it as a reference and source for extra practice problems.

Practically speaking, even if the board did the honest thing and simply redid the vote, and it said no to discovering, it would take time to adopt something new. And very likely the district and board could simply delay the new adoption process because there's no money for new books anyway. That's what happened for the last 10+ years or so. So most likely your son will get Discovering Algebra 2. But if he were to get something else, a more traditional text, he would be better off. Either way, he'll have gaps. But a more traditional text will be easy to read and easier -- on its own -- to become fluent in the material. So if money were to magically appear to purchase new books, that would work out well for your son.

dan dempsey said...

Arch said: "I get their concern, but at some point they do need to make decisions with regard to whether or not they are legal, don't they?

The way I read the RCWs the district is operating outside the law on a regular basis.

There is an "Outside Chance" the WA State Supreme court may address SPS style in the future.

dan dempsey said...

I could not disagree more strongly with continued use of "Discovering". Check the WASL Math data for the 18,000 student Bethel School district which has used Discovering for 3.5 years.

Bethel began with Discovering in fall 2006
Check the test scores for 2007, 2008, 2009 HERE.


Be sure and look at those numbers and the graphs thru the lens of both 9th & 10th with Discovering results...Spring 2008 and Spring 2009 WASL Scores.

Compare these with Spring 2005 (there was likely some piloting of Discovering in a class or two in SY 2005-2006.

Also be sure to get the full picture by changing the selector from all to each of the following groups:

White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian, and Low Income.

In Bethel "Discovering" is an equally poor text series for all, it does not work for any group.

But Reader,
article IX of the state constitution requires providing "an ample education for all".

Terrific that your kids are well served by the SPS's "Minimally Guided Instructional Practices" that fail most children.

That does not mean that all of Seattle should be subjected to books that do not work for most because the Superintendent and school board have a regular pattern of excluding evidence when making decisions.


Some of us still prefer a "Republic" with legal protections to living in an "Oligarchy".

Really if we must have oligarchs, can't we find better ones than this crew?

Gavroche your thoughts as expressed above (much earlier) are 100% spot on and Excellent.
I rate them as:
Presentation 10 out of 10
Content 10 out of 10.

Fruitbat said...

The board members who agreed to an appeal are mainly the same ones who agreed to the Discovering adoption, and would probably agree to covering themselves in honey and sitting on an anthill if the District officials requested it.

Until a majority of the school board starts (1) representing the public and (2) actively overseeing the District, they are going to be facing lawsuits.

dan dempsey said...

Note Bethel SD has 18,000 students so we are not taking small sample sizes.

Bethel has almost the same percentage of low income students (at 40%) as Seattle.

Earlier I should have made that Asian/Pacific Islander instead of Asian so you get the full span of years.