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Thursday, April 22, 2010

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 district in general). He also said that he had taken a few courses at a private school (and he alluded he had worked at one but I don't know doing what) and sat he saw the difference between public and private school. He hastened to say it wasn't so much that public was bad but private seemed better. He also said that it was difficult to understand the district pushing kids to take the SAT and ACT and yet they got rid of the Career counselors. Smart guy.

Many of the speakers talked about the possible RIFs and a big theme was (1) it had to be done for good reason and (2) as a very last resort after all other possibilities had been tried/considered. The SEA president pointed out that schools were given back money as discretionary money which is not the same thing as keeping with the WSS. (I don't know/understand this nuance but it was clear from both the Budget meeting on Tuesday as well as the Board meeting that there is a difference in terms of how the schools got their money back. Apparently that makes it more of a Sophie's Choice for principals.)

Several teachers came to talk about the RIFs including a Ballard science teacher who said that the RIFs are demoralizing for a school and that the RIFs last year (even with rehires) were very upsetting for all and didn't need to happen. He invited them to come for a day to his class and see what he does. He also, as the first in a line of speakers to say this, asked them if they were using standards and data in assessing if the Superintendent was doing her job/making the right choices.

Another teacher had a spreadsheet of the ratio of managers to workers at headquarters versus 1 principal to a school of teachers.

Another teacher from West Seattle High had done some work and said other districts with financial troubles had rejected RIFs. He said that we consistently run the largest ending balance in the state and have for several years. Interesting.

A counselor from Washington Middle school said that the district had said that the principals had gotten rid of the elementary counselors because it was their pick at a principals' meeting on the budget. He said this was NOT so and that no one in the district could explain how this got out there as fact. (And I heard this at a Board work session on the budget as well stated as fact. I think I even have it as part of the staff presentation.)

Long-time watchdog Chris Jackins made several points but did do well in stating that running the HVAC system at South Shore (their early solution to the problem) was not the same thing as finding the source of the contamination. As well he warned the district they need to be vigilant in making sure that other newer schools don't have this problem as well because the district had told the public that the big capital money spent on these buildings would make them better buildings for students and staff.

There were two slightly odd testimonies from different APP parents. Both were from other countries (I think Iran and China) and were very unhappy about their treatment from Dr. Vaughn, the head of Advanced Learning. One issue was making kids repeat a grade because of test scores. Any APP parents know about this in a general way?

Great testimony from Nova parent, Joe Szwaja, about the district needing to push the energy efficiency program in the district. It does save money AND schools who do really well get money back. Nova had to really push to get light switches that switch off in their school (odd but that's what he said). There were then several Nova students testifying about how great Nova is and how the curriculum alignment could be difficult for their school (they have multi-age classes sometimes and with the LA alignment you could have kids reading different books). Again, Nova is such an inspirational school.

Meg Diaz again scored well with her testimony about Thurgood Marshall and Title One. Nothing like having data and facts on your side.

Then there was the South Shore parent who just let Dr. Goodloe-Johnson have it. She said that the whole situation had been a communication crisis with some parents knowing very little about what was happening. She said Dr. Goodloe-Johnson did not attend a single community meeting. She said that there is a "deficit in trust and dollars" in the district. She also cited the movement of principals this year and the fear and uncertainty this engendered.

Finally, there was a parent from Hale who is worried about the over-subscription of Ballard. Apparently a Spec Ed program got moved, supposedly just for this year, to Ingraham but now may not come back to Ballard because of the push for more students.

So the Superintendent's update was on...South Shore. She gave just the facts about where the students would go, info at the website, orientation for the parents for the new schools, day care at Rainier Beach CC, families accessing lesson plans for this week, etc. She said health testing continues on the building. That she did not address anything that the South Shore woman said was a bit awkward given the testimony was almost just before her remarks. I think one of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's best tactics is to NEVER try to explain her position or actions. It works most of the time but I thought she might want to deflate some of what the woman had said. She didn't.

Acting President Steve Sundquist asked if there were questions or comments. Only Betty Patu spoke up and said that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson had done the right thing and thanked her for it. Okay so maybe Betty had heard grumbling about the closure but what I have been hearing was that people had been asking for it sooner. I have heard virtually no complaints about the building closing (except from some yahoos in the comments section at the Times claiming it is mass hysteria).

My own testimony was to point out that we just spent about $433k for 4 portables that Hale used during their construction. That's about $108K each. Now when parents were asking for portables as a way to expand enrollment in the NE, staff said too expensive and at least $200K. (When Facilities wants something, it's affordable; if not, it's expensive.)

I also again asked the Board if they would provide any kind of input solution for parents who had comments or concerns about the teachers' contract. I can't believe they won't be having any public hearing or put it on the Board agenda or even have a webpage for parents to give input. They're our elected officials and they aren't forming their goals for the negotiations around any input?

Then I explained how poorly I thought the Budget meeting went on Tuesday night with specific examples. And Gavroche, I quoted you (but not by name) because I thought what you had posted about the overhaul being needed to be done at the headquarters and not in our schools was dead on.

My last sentence was from that post:

"Above all, it is increasingly evident that when funding does get allocated to our school district, most of it never finds its way to the classrooms, but instead gets hijacked by the central administration and redirected to fund excess staff, excess salaries, "teaching coaches", outside consultants, unproven testing products, layers of management and an overpaid Superintendent."

It seemed well-received.

Anybody else stay (or watch) the rest of the meeting?

26 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Meg Diaz again scored well with her testimony about Thurgood Marshall and Title One. Nothing like having data and facts on your side.

Except that decision-making by the SPS has ZERO to do with Data or Facts.

W. Edwards Deming said:
"To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data."

We rarely see improvement, instead we see bizarre priorities and spending.

Time for "Bye Bye Broad + MGJ"

Maureen said...

The SEA president pointed out that schools were given back money as discretionary money which is not the same thing as keeping with the WSS.

Interesting, I saw this as a good thing--BLTs could take that discretionary money and buy back their counselor if it was their priority, or they could spend it on a librarian or math specialist or whatever they thought the building needed most. It hadn't occured to me that SEA would prefer less flexibility.

I lean toward more building-based autonomy and feel the WSS formula for building budgets can be too restrictive. Now I'm wondering if the mass counselor rif was a strategy on the staff's part--ie, they were pretty sure they would get that money back, but they wanted to give the principal's more flexibility in their final budgets. (I haven't heard even a whisper of that from anyone, but it would be interesting if it were a deliberate move.)

seattle citizen said...

Maureen, it IS a good thing to have discretionary funds, but the money that was initially pulled was WSS - WSS is dedicated to staffing: so many teachers, so many librarians, so many counselors...This is partly a union issue, I think, as the union would probably want some say in staffing, but I think it's also a sort of agreement between interested parties that WSS is the minimum staffing (of various sorts) for ANY building: District would fund these positions because they are necessary.

When the money was reinstated, it was not as WSS, but as discretionary. SEA pres Addae's comments reflect that the District sort of passed the buck - it didn't determine which crucial position would be refunded (counselor? support? librarian?), so, in that view, it didn't take responsibility for the cuts to BASIC staffing.

Discretionary funds are funds for that stuff BEYOND the basics that the district would provide. By pulling WSS and then adding discretionary, it didn't meet its obligation under WSS to fund the basics.

dan dempsey said...

Try the timing of this:

"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 I remember this NTN STEM was entirely top down in is origination ... Princess Shareef was only fulfilling her role as a cheerleader for MGJ directives. {Guess that is SPS leadership in regard to Principals. ..and Clearly good enough for a UW Award}

Just after huge concerns had been raised about the lack of preparation so many of those... diverse populations in her community have received k-8.... and the dollars diverted from supporting struggling students in elementary schools and funneled directly into Cleveland STEM NTN, comes the AWARD. (how convenient)

Anyone have any idea as to how this UW award originated and what process was involved? {Perhaps a phone call from central admin to UW for hot air support cover}

Maureen said...

Citizen says By pulling WSS and then adding discretionary, it didn't meet its obligation under WSS to fund the basics.

But what does it mean if a K-5 BLT decides to use that money to pay for something other than a counselor? (maybe a nurse or a kindergarten IA?) It seems to me that they don't agree that a counselor is part of "the basics" for that particular building. Given that the defined basics are so very minimal, I'm not sure the WSS (one size fits all)restrictions always make sense.

acr said...

Hi there - I'm the South Shore parent that let Maria Goodloe-Johnson "have it." I actually posted the whole testimony on my own site: http://alyssaroyse.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/goodloe-johnson/

Additionally, I URGE EVERYONE to let the school board members know how you feel about her leadership, ASAP. Email them, let them know how you feel so that they can take it into consideration as they review her performance.

ttln said...

DeBarrios gave a MAPS update. I have to get to work to get my grades posted, so I will only give the 'gem' - when asked by HMM about parents wanting access to the data and tests to see which items their students missed, it was shared that it is impossible to get a copy of a student's test. Each test is different and impossible to track. The audience reacted surprised, shocked, and the boards' eyes widened.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ttln, only two response. BS and why are we paying this much for MAP if the only feedback to parents is a score?

SolvayGirl said...

Agreed Melissa. At least with the WASL, if a parent was willing to jump through some hoops they could review their child's test. Seeing my child's 4th grade test was a huge help in figuring out why she doesn't test up to her true knowledge level on the math, though the writing portion was useless—no feedback or comments what-so-ever.

I assume that also means a teacher cannot see individual tests. So just how is MAP supposed to help that teacher determine what each individual child needs in order to improve. THis is truly troublesome if that teacher will now be "graded" on children's improvement. What a mess!

hschinske said...

While you can't see the exact test, I thought it was possible to get a report of how the student scored in different areas, rather than just the overall scores.

Incidentally, no one got to see the ITBS, either, did they?

Helen Schinske

Lori said...

but, for a contrarian view of this latest MAP issue, the teachers do get reams of information on each student that describe the child's strengths and weaknesses in "eduspeak," if you will. I remember a teacher taking one of the reports to a board meeting maybe 2 months ago. It was pages long, and it's supposed to be used to guide instruction. (Whether it is too much information for a teacher to absorb for every student is another issue...)

The MAP results report that I got describes several domains, such as Problem Solving, Number Sense, Computation, etc. I assume that these things mean something to my daughter's teacher, and if my daughter were weak in any of the areas, the teacher would know what to do about it (in a perfect world with a reasonable class size). If I had concerns, I would hope that the teacher could explain these things to me without me having to actually see the questions that my daughter got right and wrong.

The MAP isn't a replacement for the WASL, so I guess I don't really understand why people are upset if they can't see the results. You'll still be able to see the results of whatever test replaces the WASL, right?

Unknown said...

I echo Lori on this. MAP rocks!

SPS mom said...
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Bird said...

From what I've seen as a parent, I don't see the MAP as a test that genuinely helps parents understand what their kid's specific gaps are or helps teachers in a way that would genuinely inform instruction.

The closest I've seen are these docs

http://www.nwea.org/support/article/1140

which clearly aren't enough to interpret the results of the test in any useful way.

It seems to me that MAP is optimized is as an administrative tool. The district gets results quickly and several times a year. That's a real change, and an improvement for them. They get a decent, broad picture of how students are doing which is probably the relevant measure at the district level.

Ultimately this makes me mad. Not because I'm against administrative review of a schools progress or because I fear BroGa. (my new abbrieviation about the Broad-Gates conspiracy theories. Feel free to adopt it! Just put down BroGa! and save yourself the effort of a screed. )

It makes me mad because I think its obvious where the district's problems lie and feel the MAP wastes precious resources that could be spent addressing the problem.

You don't need to test three times a year with a fancy new, expensive, adaptive test to know where you need to put more attention and resources in the district. It's the same place every year. If you just use the crude tool of demographics, you'd be able to hit the target with fairly good accuracy.

All this tinkering with tests and "performance management" across the district is grossly inefficient. Why spend this money on my kid and my kid's school, where almost all the kids come from economically secure, two parent households. The kids in that school? Fine! Fine in the fall, fine in the winter, fine in the spring! Stop wasting money and time by testing them three times a year.

Put the money where the kids' demographics are working against them. We don't need a fancy three times a year test to tell us that kids with precious few family resources will be struggling in the fall, struggling in the winter, and struggling in the spring.

Take the money you are wasting across the district with this silly test and put it directly where the problem is every year. Use that money to give those kids more class time: pre-K, longer days, summer enrichment.

I heard a dude from KIPP on KUOW talk about improving schools. The focus was, as always, on the teachers. He did, however, mention how much more time kids spend in school in KIPP programs, it added up to a whole extra year of instruction every year. That sounds far more useful than anything else.

Meg said...

The district has restored some of Thurgood Marshall's funding. I have my own frustrations with the district on finances and spending priorities, but... in the case of Thurgood Marshall, when it was pointed out (okay, repeatedly) that needy kids were about to take it in the teeth because of a district-level decision, the folks downtown appear to have listened.

Now... do the general ed kids at Thurgood Marshall still need some more money to hang onto some of their much-needed academic supports? Yes. They do. But it appears that this is a case where the district is giving the situation serious thought and consideration.

And, no, I didn't get paid off a gift certificate for some insanely awesome shoes so that I would say such nice things. Although, it would be tempting to accept a pay-off if the shoes were really wacko-fabulous.

Anonymous said...

One correction.

Joe Swaja is a teacher at Nova. I would like to add that he is a great teacher who, as I said in previous testimony, works long hours raising money so that his students can go to Guatemala during a school break and work and learn alongside others. It is a tremendous experience for all of his students. But, he is one of many great teachers at Nova. Go Nova!

Also, there were three Nova students who testified about curriculum alignment Wednesday night and how it doesn't fit the successful program that defines Nova.

Anonymous said...

Meg, I'm glad to hear that Thurgood Marshall will receive additional funding. What the district did was so thoughtless. Listening to your testimony, my heart went out to those children.

Yes, at least the district did listen but it gets so tiring to have to deal with these issues after these types of decisions are made, after the fact, after so many people had tried to point out these potential problems.

What happened at Thurgood Marshall should have never happened. It's this kind of situation that makes me think that the board should not renew GJ's contract.

lendlees said...

Anecdotal MAP comment:

The school librarian and I got into a discussion about the MAP test and she relayed her favorite story about the test-- a second grader was asked the following question: "What is the symbolism of the rose in The Scarlet Letter". Give you pause, eh?

Stu said...

Meg,

TM funding was restored because of you. That's it!

You and your charts, to the dismay of the board and MGJ, are getting more and more attention and people know that, regardless of their feelings on a particular topic, your numbers are reliable. The TM funding insanity would have been just a rumble in the community, with lots of yelling parents and vague promises, except you managed to publicize it so much that even the Seattle Times was going to have to start writing about it.

It's you! If I owned a shoe store, I'd have an after-hours "Meg Can Take What She Wants" sale.

stu

TechyMom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TechyMom said...

My phone munged that last comment...

Lendlees,
That sounds like a test where it's pretty unlikely to hit the ceiling, so we can get an accurate picture of the skills and growth of kids at the far right of the bell curve. I think that's fabulous.

Whether teachers should be evaluated based whether on the kid who gets that and similar questions right moves to the next level is a matter for debate. Maybe teachers in APP should be evaluated on that. Maybe a teacher in a general Ed class shouldn't. I think it's great that we'll find out about advanced kids, even when their parents don't sign them up for the cogat. That can allow the school to provide more challenge, or even recommend gifted testing.

I just don't see the problem. Can you explain why this bothers you? I'm not being snarky. I just don't get it.

SPS mom said...

While the MAP does reveal some more differentiation of those scoring in the 95-99% range, I would argue that some are still reaching the ceiling. This shows up as scatter in the results from test to test - a few points up, a few points down, and little discernable difference in a year's time.

When a second grader gets a question about the Scarlet Letter,
I would say they are hitting the ceiling.

So when this child doesn't show "growth" according to the next MAP test, does this mean he has an ineffective teacher? Does it mean he should be reading War and Peace?

On one hand, all indications are that MAP results will be used to evaluate teachers. On the other hand, there is no stated promise of MAP results being used to provide extra challenge for those above grade level. Throw in the Math Pathway fiasco, and it's just hard to tell what implications individual MAP scores may have.

lendlees said...

TechyMom--

SPS mom got where I was going with my comment. a) It is not appropriate to expect a second grader to have read The Scarlet Letter; b) This student will show no improvement on MAP, but yet their teacher could be evaluated on the non-improvement; c) makes me wonder what is on the test if they are being that specific--if you are testing whether a student understands symbolism (a fairly complex topic for elementary school) why does it have to be tied to a specific book?

Now I do have to add the disclaimer that this happened at an APP school, so this student is already receiving the most acceleration that can happen. Second disclaimer, my child's winter MAP score went down, making me very skeptical about the appropriateness of testing multiple times in a year, and/or testing students who hit the ceiling during the fall.

And don't get me started on how much we are paying for this (time and $$)...

Bird said...

So when this child doesn't show "growth" according to the next MAP test, does this mean he has an ineffective teacher? Does it mean he should be reading War and Peace?

I too am a bit doubtful about the ability of the MAP test to provide a meaningful evaluation of instruction for kids on the super high end.

It's not just that kids on the advanced end of the academic spectrum can just move up through the curriculum in the exact same way the average kid does.

A seven year old who can read at the level of a 12th grader probably shouldn't be reading the same books as a high school senior. There are other ways to provide them enrichment and instruction that is more meaningful and appropriate for them.

I spoke with one of the first grade teachers at Lowell about the MAP test during a tour this year. She said she had kids all over the range, but didn't think it was necessarily informative for instruction. She said she had a kid who tested somewhere in the middler schooler range for reading, and so she sat down with that kid with some material from that reading level, and found it really wasn't a good fit for them. Her take was that the MAP test mainly told her that the kids are very, very good at taking tests, which you'd probably expect since that is the way a kid ends up in that class.

Chris S. said...

Interesting. Here's a timely link from our librarian
http://www.multcolib.org/kids/booklists/readingup.html
(books for younger strong readers) so your second grader doesn't have to read "Twilight"...

On the other hand of a related note, I've been reading "Dear Dumb Diary" to my kids aged 5 & 11, and we all love them, including me. Very, very funny in a middle-school sort of way. Anyway, they make me wonder if they are written for middle-schoolers reading below grade level.

So many books, so little time. Not too many books make me laugh out loud, but DD does, and so does "The River Why," which I just started.

SolvayGirl said...

Chris: Hope you got to see Book-It's production of The River Why. It was delightful. Enjoy the book.