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Showing posts from April, 2010

CPPS Survey on Superintendent - URGENT

This is what I have been working towards - a simple parent/community survey about the effectiveness of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson as SPS superintendent. It was created by CPPS (Community & Parents for Public Schools). PLEASE take this survey - it's 6 questions. I would have liked the questions tweaked somewhat differently but the last one is pretty much an up/down vote of her effectiveness (with a range to answer within). Naturally, you can only take the survey once. (They only ask for your zip code to get an idea of who is taking the survey.) PLEASE let your PTA (or parent group) know about this survey. I believe the Seattle Council PTSA may be alerting PTSA leaders about it but ask for it to be in your weekly newsletter or put on your PTSA website. Clearly, I vote no confidence in the direction/effectiveness of our Superintendent. But if you feel differently, vote that way. Either way, I know that the Board wants to hear from parents/community. I think we are reaching

Enrollment Information Update

Thanks to the heads up by RavennaJen (hey neighbor!), there is a PDF posted by the Enrollment Office over the automated phone snafu as well as other enrollment information. Among the information: An override command inadvertently downloaded preliminary assignment information for next year to the automated phone line before the information was proofed and finalized. This should not have happened and we apologize for any inconvenience. A cross-departmental team has been working hard to process assignments. At this time it looks like we will be ahead of schedule with getting letters out to families and providing information to schools. (Original estimate was late May). Schools can’t assign students to classes until this data transfer is complete. Schools need not only individual student names, but a summary report of projected enrollment, space available, waiting lists, etc. The target date for providing this information is Friday, April 30. We updated the School Board last we

A Couple of Things

I helped facilitate a caucus for the Mayor's Youth and Families initiative last night. It was a small group which actually made it easier. But two things struck me and I thought I might ask our readers about them. One, based on your own experience and/or just gut feeling, why do so many people go private? Even in these hard times, the shift to public hasn't been that great and, at some private schools, applications have gone up. After answering that, how do we get those parents back who aren't there for the name-brand (Bush, Lakeside, etc.) or for religious reasons (O'Dea, Holy Names, etc.)? What concrete steps do you think would help? Last night several people mentioned the churn/upheaval/bad news series of events over the last several years particularly the threats of closures. This was considered a huge negative that makes people stay away. Two, do you understand the Strategic Plan? Could you explain it in 5 sentences to someone? Do you think less in-the

SIG schools

You may recall that three of Seattle Public Schools were the recipients of a large federal School Improvement Grant (SIG), Cleveland, Hawthorne, and West Seattle Elementary. These schools were all identified as persistently under-performing and they were all supposed to get GOBS of cash from the federal government if they would agree to a turnaround plan. Four turnaround plan options were available, but the District (and the SEA) agreed to use the Transformation solution for all three schools. The Transformation plan at Cleveland is well-known, it will become STEM. Cleveland will be transformed by replacing the current population of unmotivated and under-performing students with other students who are motivated and high performing. But what are the transformation plans for Hawthorne and West Seattle Elementary? No one knows. There are no plans reported at all to date. There has been absolutely no effort at community engagement about any of it. These two elementary schools are suppo

What Works (Charlie is Right)

The NY Times had this article yesterday about a school in Brooklyn, where 80% of their students are free/reduced lunch, nearly a quarter receive special education services and many of its population come from a home where English isn't the first language. From the article (bold mine): In 2009, the 580-student primary school, tucked between fast-food restaurants and gas stations in a semi-industrial strip of Fourth Avenue, topped the city with its fourth-grade math scores , with all students passing, all but one with a mark of “advanced,” or Level 4. In English, all but one of 75 fourth graders passed, earning a Level 3 or 4, placing it among the city’s top dozen schools . On average, at schools with the same poverty rate, only 66 percent of the students pass the English test, and 29 percent score at an advanced level in math, according to a New York Times analysis of Department of Education statistics. And though it is less well known, P.S. 172 regularly outperforms

News From the Mayor's Youth and Families Initiative

Let the Mayor know your thoughts about funding for youth and families. From the Mayor's office: To make it easier to keep up with the Initiative as it progresses, we've added a results section to our website ; you can go there to see the top priorities identified by each small group at both the large-group workshops and the community caucuses, as well as a map showing the general distribution of our attendees so far. If you know anyone in the Ballard area who has not yet had an opportunity to participate, the Mayor will be at a community caucus at Ballard High School next Monday, May 3rd from 7-8:30 PM that will be open to the public . Also on the City budget front: There are also two very important opportunities for input coming up this week and next in the form of public hearings on the budget. The Mayor will be attending each one along with members of the City Council in order to give you as community members the chance to express your budget prioritie

District Signs MOU with UW and Chinese Non-Profit

The Times is reporting that the UW, Hanban (a Chinese nonprofit group affiliated with China's Ministry of Education) and SPS are launching a new institute to spread the Chinese language and culture in Washington State. It will be called the Confucius Institute. Hanban has several teachers in different SPS schools teaching Chinese. From the article: Hanban provided $150,000 in startup funds for the institute, which has been matched with about $150,000 in time and office space from the Washington partners. The institute's main office will be on the UW campus, and its education office, now at Denny International Middle School in Seattle, will move to Seattle's Chief Sealth International High in the fall, when Sealth and Denny move into a new, shared campus in West Seattle. The institute's director signed a memorandum of understanding with UW president Mark Emmert, Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson and Governor Gregoire. Apparently some other communities in othe

This Week's Meetings

Wednesday finds yet another Board Work Session from 4:15-6 p.m. . This one had previously been about International Education but they have added another topic: RTTT. This might be interesting to attend although exasperating because when they have two topics somehow one always gets more time than another. I'm guessing the one who will get the lesser amount of time will be International Language. (Also, I don't know what they mean by International Education - foreign language, foreign language immersion, BOC or what.) Director Sundquist has another community meeting on Thursday from 10-11:30 am at the West Seattle library. Director Patu has a community meeting on Saturday, May 1st from 10-noon at Tully's at 4400 Rainier Ave South (at Genesee).

Call for Your Assignment (but take it with a grain of salt)

( Update: 9:10 am - Nevermind. I guess the district staff really does visit us (that was fast). The numbers are not giving out information now except to tell you to call Transportation. Question is: why were they live in the first place and will the information given be valid for people who did call?) Apparently some folks have tried calling automated enrollment numbers and have learned their child's assignment. You can try one of two numbers according to our readers. 206-252-0410 OR 206-252-0760 However, here's a caveat which is don't give it 100% credibility until you get it in writing in the mail.

ADD Meds Help Non-ADD Students

Watching 60 Minutes tonight was eye-opening. Apparently a big thing on college campuses is to take an ADD drug (Adderall or Ritalin) when studying for tests or writing papers. The belief is that it sharpens your focus and you are able to get more done. The kids they interviewed seem to swear by it and one researcher thinks it's the wave of the future (neuro-drugs). Naturally, there are the old problems of addiction and side effects. How do these kids get this stuff? Lying to doctors or getting the students with real ADD to sell them a tablet or two. Here are some articles about this issue. Squidoo A Drug Recall Serendip (a student's blog at Bryn Mawr - eye-opening) One student called the usage "A prescription pat on the back that can help cheer me on." I hope this idea doesn't trickle down to high school.

Good for SPS PE

Wish I had known about this event sooner. There was a run/walk Sunday to raise PE funds for SPS as reported in the Times today. From the story: "In a city that has been said to have more cats than children, the annual walk and run is an important fundraiser that allows PE teachers to buy new sports equipment or replace equipment that's become battered and worn with use. Students from roughly 60 of the city's 93 elementary, middle and high schools participated, marching around the stadium in a show of school pride, walking or running through the University of Washington campus, and gathering on the field at Husky Stadium for a variety of activities." "On Sunday, the biggest student turnout was from Aki Kurose Middle School in Seattle's Rainier Valley, with about 100 kids raising $4,000 for their school."

SPS Good News

From SPS Communications: Seattle Public Schools middle and high school students will have 209 art works in a broad range of media on display at SAM Downtown starting April 22. Students participating in this year's exhibition have taken courses in visual arts led by Seattle Public School's visual arts specialists. Various media and techniques – including ceramics, pencil, oil and acrylic painting, collage and photography – are on view. The exhibition – displayed in the museum’s free zone in the first floor corridor – is named after Floyd J. Naramore, an architect who designed more than 22 Seattle Public Schools from 1919 to 1941. Along with the show, SAM will host a special celebration during its May 15 Family Day to honor the SPS student artists on their show’s closing weekend, and to offer awards to high school level artists selected by the community judges. For the May 15 Family Day , SAM is offering all students exhibiting work in the Naramore Art Show free admission to

Superintendent Performance Review

Well, while folks are talking about having the public kibbitz on school district labor contracts, I suppose we can't help having comments on the Superintendent's contract as well. The Board will soon take up the matter of the Superintendent's annual performance review and action on her contract. How has the Superintendent done? I suppose the only proper way to answer that question would be to review her performance relative to her job description and the performance expectations for her that were established and defined in advance. These performance expectations should, of course, all be objectively measurable outcomes. That is, after all, her definition of accountability. She wrote: Accountability means that Seattle Public Schools understands our data and we use it to set performance targets for the district, school and classrooms. We decide what our data indicators should be, i.e.: WASL, dropout rates, teacher retention, etc. A concrete example about accountability is

Open Choice Seats? What the District isn't Saying

If you live in West Seattle, go see Steve today and tell him this issue that Charlie raised and now this e-mail below confirms. Steve's community meeting is TODAY from 2-3:30 p.m. at the High Point Library, 3411 SW Raymond Street. As well, we should all be e-mailing the School Board about this issue. The issue is that students enrolled from Open Enrollment into middle and high school are highly likely (as evidenced by Sealth) to get processed differently at those schools than students who are attendance area. Meaning, fewer class choices. It should NOT be this way. From Charlie's post: AAARGGHHHH! What do you know. It is EXACTLY as I had feared. From an email from a friend: " I also called and talked to 9th grade counselor Krista Rillo at Sealth this morning about how this process will affect kids that are hoping to get assigned at Sealth through Open Enrollment. It's likely this process will be slightly different at each school, but there will be som

Special Education Caucus

The Mayor's Youth and Family Initiative will hold a Special Education Caucus on Tuesday, April 27, at 7:00pm, at the Roosevelt High School Library. The Youth and Families Initiative is an program announced by Mayor Mike McGinn during his inaugural address. The goal of the Initiative is to identify challenges youth and families face and to collectively mobilize towards solutions so that all children in Seattle can succeed. The Initiative will help shape the agenda on issues affecting youth and families from a child's birth to their successful career track. The caucus takes 90 minutes and culminates with each group choosing a delegate to represent its priority issues and potential solutions at the city-wide Congress at Seattle Center on June 5. This is a chance to focus specific attention on Special Education issues in Seattle.

Uh oh, Here Comes Vulcan

The Seattle PI has links to various neighborhood blogs around the city. It's always good to keep up so I like to pick one and read it. Today I picked the South Lake Union blog and it's by a woman who lives in South Lake Union. The title is "Vulcan's Grip on South Lake Union: the how and why of managing a neighborhood". From the blog: Y our average developer creates spaces for living, working and playing and then moves on to the next project. Vulcan's role is unique because they have the power to shape not just one building, but an entire neighborhood and they will always have a presence in South Lake Union, even after the last brick is laid. Naturally, the Vulcan team is acutely aware of their special status, which is why they also envision themselves as being responsible for connecting people in the neighborhood, their prime example being the South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce . I was also surprised to learn that, since the new public sch

The Principals Need a New Contract, Too

Just so it's clear, the principals' association (PASS) is also up to negotiate their new contract this year. Word is that the district did not even want to take this on last year and just kept the old one. One major sticking point (and I'm not sure exactly why) is that the district wants the principals to be classified more as executives than hourly workers. The principals don't. Clearly, the principals are not hourly workers; they receive a salary. But I think the issue might be that the principals have so much piled on them that they wonder how to get everything done. What came to my attention (and my surprise) was how new the idea of the principal being the "academic leader" of a school is versus just a manager. Principals now have a lot on their plate. They must manage a school and its budget, provide academic leadership to teachers (and, if they are secondary schools, to departments), be available for PTA issues and, of course, be the public face

FYI - Teacher Forum on Saturday

Just talked to John Dunn at the SEA. The forum this Saturday is for SEA members ONLY to bring them all up to speed on the various education reform issues. (It also is not at St. Mark's.) He did say that if there were events for the public, he would be sure to let me know so I can post those items here if readers are interested.

Garfield packet

My daughter, an 8th grader at Washington, brought home a Garfield High School registration packet yesterday. It included a welcome letter from the principal, a ninth grade course options sheet, a registration calendar showing dates for next week, a sign-up form for Garfield music, a sign-up form for Garfield choir and vocal jazz, a sign-up form for double period math, information on the summer bridge program, and a registration guide and course description book. It was a lot. Only thing, my daughter has no intention of enrolling at Garfield. Garfield was her default assignment, but she opted for Open Enrollment and did not name Garfield on her list of school choices. The folks at the Enrollment Office say that Garfield is just trying to get out in front of the curve and that this neither indicates that my daughter has been assigned to Garfield nor does it put students who will enter Garfield through Open Enrollment at any sort of disadvantage. The person at the Enrollment Office sai

Bellevue Makes Some Decisions

Interesting article in the PI about decision/recommendations the Bellevue District made yesterday. One was to choose the Holt math series over Discovering math. Interestingly, there are 6 members of their Board and only 3 were there and all three voted for Holt. (Which begs the question, shouldn't there have been at least 4 to vote?) Two, like Seattle, Bellevue won't be voting on their budget until July. But their survey of parents seemed to influence their superintendent's recommendations. The parents survey top five were: "reducing temperatures, increasing parking fees, cuts to central administration, raising athletics fees, and increasing meal prices." Notice that one in the middle - cuts to central administration? From the article: The recommendations from District Superintendent Amalia Cudeiro included those same items, plus: • Bussing changes • Charging for sports transportation • Putting off equipment replacements for transportation and c

Board Meeting Testimony

I attended the public testimony portion of the Board meeting (and spoke up myself). The crowd was filled with many elementary counselors hoping to get their jobs back. Director DeBell was not present as he is in South Korean as part of a sister city delegation. Princess Shariff of Cleveland accepted a principal's award from the UW. She was cited for her advocacy for STEM among diverse populations in her community. As is the Board practice, two students from a high school, this time Sealth, spoke. And again, it was interesting. A very articulate young man spoke. He had quite the resume but what was interesting was that he said he got started (partially) as a leader when he led students against the co-joining of Sealth and Denny. He made some good points about summer school being too much about credit retrieval with not enough push in it. He said that the high school core requirements are not enough for college (I don't know if he feels it is Sealth or just the di

Agenda Update

On the Board Agenda tonight there is an Introduction Item which is a Resolution by the Board and the District on RTTT. It seems to be pounding a nail with a sledgehammer and I think that's for the Board's benefit. Mainly, the sky is falling and if you don't join us, we'll never see money again. Here's the intro language: The state’s Race to the Top application is due to the US Department of Education on June 1, 2010. Signed Partnership Agreements are due to the Office of the Governor on May 17, 2010. If this Resolution is approved, the School Board President and the Superintendent will sign the Partnership Agreement and both the Agreement and this Resolution will be submitted to the Office of the Governor by the May 17 deadline. Here are the additions to the language: The estimated allocation of $54.38 per FTE is based on all 295 districts in the state signing onto the Partnership Agreement. If not all districts sign on, the SPS allocation would be

Our Schools Coalition Teacher Quality Town Hall

The Our Schools Coalition held a "Teacher Quality Town Hall" at South Lake High School tonight. The turnout was good, about 70 people, many of whom were already members of the OSC. The food was good, it was from Maya's. The conversation and the structure were only fair. Everyone was civil and courteous, as we typically are at these sorts of things. There were some quick presentations on what the OSC has done so far and then they got to the questions for small group discussion. There were eight groups and they had four groups tackle one question while the other four took on another. Then came the report out from the small groups. Then with did it again with another two questions and reported out again and then they closed it up. There were a lot of people there to disagree with the OSC and what they were doing, but there really wasn't much opportunity for that. There was one thing that the OSC folks did that was irritating, paternalistic, and disrespectful. Everytime

Budget Meeting? BS,BS, BS

( Update: I had asked the question if the two Broad Residents had been hired permanently but left before it got answered. Apparently the answer is yes. Folks, these are two people up the food chain who the district could have easily let go and we now have TWO more people on the payroll each making about $90K. So when they tell you they have made Central cuts and blah, blah, well, don't believe them. I'm still waiting to find out if the third person that Broad was paying for, Carol Rava Treat who makes $144k, is also now being paid by SPS. Between those 3 people that's 5% of the $6M they are looking for. Just unbelievable and so disrespectful.) Now what is it they say about waiting before you hit the SEND button? Sleep on it, give it time, reflect. Yeah right. No, I'm going to say exactly (well, minus the swearing) what I think of the district's "budget" meeting. It was a load of insulting nonsense and boy, my phrase "decorative engageme

FYI Meetings

The Board Calendar had previously listed at Board Work Session on Performance Management before the Board meeting tomorrow. It is no longer listed and I'm assuming it is not happening. So heads up if you had planned to attend. The regular Board meeting is still scheduled for 6 p.m. I note there seems to be some kind of figure adjustment in the item on the Agenda for the website update costs but I'm not sure what it means. Also, as a heads up there is to be a Board Work Session next Wednesday, the 28th on International Education from 4-6 p.m. if that is an issue of interest to you.

Buddy, Can You Spare $6M?

( Update : This story appeared in today's online PI, complete with quotes from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. I would assume this $6M gap is valid but I think all will be revealed at tonight's budget meeting at Roosevelt at 6:30 p.m.) The PI reports (and I use that word loosely because they again are using a UW journalism student to be their reporter) that after the district got the numbers from the Legislature, the district's budget is $6M more in the whole. This is in addition to the $25M already cut. I have to say I am quite torn about going to the Alliance Teacher Town Hall tonight or the budget meeting at Roosevelt. Anyone planning on going to the budget meeting who might report back? The budget meetings were about trying to explain the budget process and get feedback for next year's projected cuts at $24M but I suspect now they will ask what to do about this additional $6M. (Note: the district now says these meetings are to talk about the budget gap for this year

Redmond Teacher Wins "Green" Award

Nooksack Valley High science teacher, Mike Town, won the National Education Association's Green Prize in Education for creating the Cool School Challenge . From the PI Big Blog: The curriculum, with materials available for download here , helps students gather information about their school's carbon footprint and develop a plan to reduce it. Thanks to Town's program, Redmond High has saved over $30,000 per year in electricity and waste costs and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 200,000 pounds. The prize comes with a $25,000 award. Town, a teacher for 25 years, was the unanimous choice of a panel of national environmental, education and business leaders. He developed Cool School Challenge in 2007. I think this could be a great idea to start - across the district - to challenge students and staff. Let kids take the lead and make it competitive (hey Alliance, there's something to spend money on).

Strategic Plan Update

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I now have the spreadsheet which was used as the basis to report, on the District Dashboard, that 82% of Strategic Plan projects are on schedule. I will need time to thoroughly review it, but even at a glance I can see that it is full of thin deceptions. So I was just thinking about the progress on the Strategic Plan. I know I shouldn't. It only serves to upset and frustrate me. Nevertheless... Focusing just on the primary themes and elements of the Plan, it still doesn't look good. 1. Ensuring Excellence in Every Classroom 1A. Adopt an aligned curriculum in math and science They haven't done this. They're nowhere with regard to science; I don't think they've even gotten started. They're not much further along with math. They have standardized the textbooks (for the most part), and they have posted pacing guides, but there's no evidence that they have aligned the curriculum. In fact, it doesn't appear that they have any abil

National Education News of Interest

Two articles of note in the NY Times last week. One was about how the US is training math teachers and that they earned a C on a new test compared with students in other countries like Singapore and Taiwan and Germany. The tests were created by an international consortium and the study done in the U.S. However, there were few European countries in the study. From the article: On average, 80 percent to 100 percent of the future middle school teachers from the highest-achieving countries took advanced courses like linear algebra and calculus, while only 50 percent to 60 percent of their counterparts in the United States took those courses, the study said. “The study reveals that America’s middle school mathematics teacher preparation is not up to the task,” said William H. Schmidt , the Michigan State University professor who was its lead author . However, other voices stated: “There are so many people who bash our teachers’ math knowledge that to be honest these resul

School Board meeting of 4/21/10

A few comments on the agenda for this week's school board meeting. 1. University of Washington Excellence in Educational Leadership Award – Princess Shareef, Cleveland High School I happen to respect Ms Shareef, but I don't really see how anyone can give an award for excellence in educational leadership to the principal of a school that is getting transformed due to persistent low performance. It sends a strange message. I thought the idea was to hold the education professionals responsible for student achievement and for their evaluation to be based, in part, on student achievement. The low performance by Cleveland High School students would seem to disqualify Ms Shareef from any sort of award, regardless of her indisputable talents. 2. "Curriculum" Adoption action items All of the action items for materials adoptions are mislabeled "Curriculum Adoption". This misuse of terms contributes to the confusion of these terms. They should correct the titles

What to Do about the Fun Forest?

Dipping my toe somewhat outside of education (but related to kids), I wanted to ask you readers what you thought should happen to the Fun Forest and the area around it. As you may be aware, there is outside funding for a Chihuly Glass Museum to be placed there. I personally am against this idea as (1) I don't think his work is really art for the ages (2) EMP is already an expensive museum at Seattle Center and do we need another one (3) there is a glass museum in Tacoma already and (4) we need the green space. What I (and some others) are putting forth, for at least some of the space, is an adventure playground. These playgrounds take different forms. I have seen some in Europe that have these enormous sturdy rope climbing areas, others have imaginative play and others have ziplines. I sent an e-mail to the City Council on this issue and I had found some good examples so I thought I would pass them onto you as food for thought. I think having open spaces in downtown would

New Tenant for TT Minor?

The Times is reporting that Hamlin Robinson, a non-profit private school that serves students with dyslexia and other language-problem issues, may be leasing the TT Minor building. They had previously put in an application to buy the MLK, Jr. building but got beaten out by another private school, Bush School. The use of TT Minor by Hamlin would likely be only 5-7 years as the district feels they might need it back by then because of enrollment trends. Hamlin seems okay with the deal and the Board expects to vote on this by the end of the school year. On a separate topic, did anyone attend the district Budget Meeting yesterday? Any of the community meetings?

FYI

The Seattle-King County Health Department says a woman who was visiting from British Columbia has measles and visited the Seattle Aquarium April 3 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m . People who were at the aquarium at that time and who develop a rash should see a doctor. People who were at the aquarium at that time and who develop a rash should see a doctor.

Joint School Board/City Council Meeting

I attended the joint meeting yesterday morning. There were a handful of other interested people including Ramona Hattendorf, the Seattle Council PTSA President. The entire City Council was there except Sally Clark and the entire School Board was there except for Michael DeBell. The Superintendent was also in attendance. As I mentioned elsewhere, I saw Tracy Libros, head of Enrollment, before the meeting started and asked her about the district decision to enlarge the enrollment at both Ballard and Roosevelt. I asked her how many students that might be. She said up to 25% of the functional capacity of each school except if the school did fill with attendance area students, they would need to keep the 10% Open Choice seats. A bit confusing but I'm sure it will all become clear by the end of May. I had forgotten that all City Council meetings have a public comment portion at the beginning so I did get up and speak. I just told the Council that as someone active in the dis