Showing posts from May, 2010

Updates and Board Meeting on Wednesday

From the SPS website, there is this notice: May 28: Update on 5th Grade Math Letters Letters recommending math placement for students entering sixth grade in 2010-11 were due to be mailed on May 26. Unfortunately, the letters were not sent out. This is due to a production issue at the external printing and mailing service that is handling the letters. We apologize to our families, and we will get the letters to you the week of May 31. So look for that letter in this week's mail. There is a Board meeting on Wednesday night . Sign up tomorrow in the AM to speak. The agenda isn't long but has a few interesting items. The CAO update from Dr. Enfield will be about preliminary MAP scores On the Action Item agenda is approval of an online learning policy prompted by a new WA State law, RCW 28A.250.050, which requires that by August 31, 2010, all school districts shall develop a policy and procedures around online learning. On the Introduction Items is one that is sur

Ballard Teachers Vote No Confidence in Superintendent

I had heard about this happening but was waiting to post it. On Wednesday, the Ballard High School SEA had a straw vote of no confidence in Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's leadership. The count went as follows: 35 voted no confidence 1 against the vote of no confidence 2 abstained I would think that once this gets out among the general membership of the SEA that more votes may take place at other schools. I have to applaud the teachers of Ballard for their courage to even get together and discuss a vote, no less taking one. But there comes a time when people have to stand up and be counted. We did this with the two community surveys on the Superintendent and now the teachers are chiming in. In some ways, it is more serious that teachers are unhappy as they work for the district and yet don't have faith in the direction/leadership of the district. You don't get the best out of people who are not inspired, feel unheard and not supported. Question is, will the Board listen?

News Round-Up

A couple of stories caught my eye this weekend. One is a story about a woman who lived very, very frugally in Long Beach, OR. She died May 10th at the age of 98 and left behind $4.5M. She left behind no living relatives. From the story: She donated $500,000 to a public-school endowment and another $500,000 to a foundation to be used for student scholarships and grants to teachers. The rest she left to the city of Long Beach to build an indoor swimming pool. Bob Andrew, mayor of Long Beach, agreed it will take some study before the city accepts Oller's money. "It's a very generous offer, and we don't know in a small community what it takes to build the pool," he said. "We have to explore the process and talk to our citizenry. It's a wonderful surprise that someone felt that strongly about the community." What a wonderful woman. What a gift to the public schools in Oregon and to the town of Long Beach. The second story was fro

Open Thread Friday (Plus Friday Funny)

Many of you have probably seen this before but here's a link to funny answers by kids to test questions. Open Thread - what's on your mind?

Garfield Rebuild: The Never Ending Story

Even though the Seattle Times doesn't seem to be particularly interested in doing actual reporting on K-12 education in Seattle, there is reporting happening elsewhere. The Central District News alerted us to this story in the Garfield Messenger about problems with the Garfield rebuild.

South Shore Report Out

You know you really have to look carefully at the SPS home page. Things change but with no notation so you try to check every time you visit it. So under What's News! there is a South Shore Update and a Family Survey story. I'll go with the Family Survey since its shorter. The opening line, very entertaining: Hearing from our families, staff, and students is critical to our efforts to improve education for every student. They say they have "redesigned" the school climate survey which is given to all students, school staff and families. Summary results will be in the annual district and school reports next fall. Surveys were to start on Monday via phone or web survey. Did anyone get an elementary or middle school one yet? I have a call into Research and Evaluation (run by one of our very own former Broad residents) to ask why this kind of info wasn't part of the survey. It's nice to know what it is for before you participate. Onto S

Shocker from the U.K. (Hope It's Not True Here)

From the Telegraph newspaper , this headline, "Children more likely to own a mobile phone than a book." A study by the National Literacy Trust of 17,000 schoolchildren from 7-16 found that almost 9 in 10 have a cell phone (or to go Brit "mobile") than have their own books in the home. The Trust also had some research saying that 80% of children with better than expected reading skills had their own books compared with 58% below the level expected for their age group. Research by Nevada University in the U.S. found that "children coming from a “bookish home” remained in education for around three years longer than young people born into families with empty bookshelves, irrespective of parents’ own education, occupation and social class." Very sobering. What's interesting is that you see more kids texting than actually talking on the phone but does that make it any better? I'd think it's probably true in the States as well.

Times Article Announces State Audit Findings

The Times had an article about the State Auditor's findings on several budgeting issues at SPS. I thought it had the basic facts but did kind of leave out what is most troubling, namely, that the district has been told about these issues before. Also, that the district seems to not be doing its own oversight but rather, waiting for the State Auditor to come in. I did like the opening sentence: If Seattle Public Schools didn't have enough financial problems already, it now has a few of its own making. It makes it very hard for parents (and the public) to believe the district's cries of "we're poor" when we know they are not making financial oversight job one. When you don't have money, watching the money is the first thing on your radar. The district's statement to the Times was, as you would expect, muted. They said: District officials called the errors unacceptable and pledged to fix them, while at the same time saying that it brought

High School Survey

Did you get your e-mail or phone call yet from the district? Apparently (and without any notice), the district is surveying parents of high school students. (There is nothing at the district website announcing it nor at my own school's website.) It's a 15-question survey that I don't find particularly useful. (I feel bad saying that because I'm happy someone is asking something but it's frustrating when it's not the survey it should be.) I accidentally hit send before I wrote all the questions down. Basically, it was things like: does your child feel safe at school do you get notification of academic issues do you get notification of meetings are there opportunities to volunteer do you find the principal effective do adults in the building "care" about your child is the school well-rounded in activities provided do you feel the teachers are effective do you feel welcome coming into the building They didn't ask for your zip code or school so t

Teachers: Need Part-time Work This Summer?

Stand For Children has part-time work for teachers this summer. They are looking for teacher ambassadors who believe in the work that Stand does and are willing to talk to other teachers about it. (This is not an endorsement of Stand but rather, just a notice for teachers who read the blog and may be interested.)

Seattle Times editorial board chimes in again

Another day, another Seattle Times editorial on public K-12 education. This one in praise of state grants to districts that will pilot new teacher and principal evaluations. Lots of room for discussion here. 1) These things start out with talk about multilayered and textured systems, but they end with student scores on standardized tests and a form on a clipboard with checkboxes for principals to fill in. It has to be dumbed down for the managers to use. The same managers who are being trusted to design the system. Big hint: the people who design the system will design it to make their own jobs easier. 2) The Times now says that effective teachers and principals are the most important factors in student learning outside of the students' homes. So why, earlier this week, did they try to give the superintendent credit for increased student achievement? That credit should have gone to teachers and principals. 3) The Times seems blind to the fact that the very people they are rely

Superintendent Review Update

Nina Shapiro over at Seattle Weekly has a piece about the Superintendent's review. It has a few illuminating statements that bear updating you on. From the article: Both board president Michael DeBell and district spokesperson Patti Spencer-Watkins dismiss the surveys as "unscientific," as did a Friday Seattle Times editorial that leapt to the superintendent's defense. Spencer-Watkins points to a different survey, released by the non-profit Alliance for Education last month, one she portrays as more credible because it was done by a marketing firm. What I would say to that statement is that the Alliance's survey did have a credible number of respondents from various groups in multiple parts of the city (although the CPPS survey had more respondents overall). The questions for the phone survey were a far cry from the earlier on-line attempt but, to my eyes, somewhat tailored for the answers the Alliance wanted. The main point is that the two surveys

Director Carr Would Like Input on Budget Issues

I had written to the Board about the lack of engagement during this budget cycle. I had mentioned how Bellevue seemed eager to ask parents for help in guiding difficult budgeting choices. I heard back from Director Sherry Carr. She said that Bellevue had modeled Lake Washington and that they are both a best practices model. (She also noted that Bellevue had started its reform/improvement work over a decade ago and so is in a different place than Seattle.) June 10th is the next meeting for the Audit and Finance Committee. At that meeting they will be discussing improvements for the 2011-2012 budget cycle and it must include improved community engagement. She is interested in hearing from parents and community on how these improvements might work. Here are some suggested questions to help guide your answers: What about the process worked? What didn't work? What changes would you recommend? Would the process that Bellevue used work? Anything else? Here is a link for a

State Audit Reveals Issues With District Compliance

The Washington State Auditor's office released a report yesterday on the district's compliance with federal grant funding. What pops into my head constantly when this kind of thing appears is "We're in 2010 and we still have these issues." We have Moss-Adams report, the CAICEE report and now the State Auditor's report (again) and yet, it still happens. That it happens this regularly makes you wonder. From the audit: In our 2004 and 2007 audits, we notified District management of these requirements, and in our audit of fiscal year 2008 we reported noncompliance with federal procurement requirements. These conditions have not been resolved. These are grants for Special Education, Native American programs, and others. Some of the issue is that the district is not going out and getting bids or proposals from multiple vendors as is required and don't have records to support claims of doing so. From the audit: Special Education: We examined

Superintendent Performance Evaluation

The annual Board review of the superintendent's performance is coming up. We're seeing signs of it, calendar items on the Board calendar, hagiographies in the Seattle Times, etc. By what criteria should the superintendent's performance be judged and, by those criteria, how has she performed. We could look to Policy B61.00 for some clues. We could also look to any statement of the District's annual priorities . Here 's the tool used last year. I think her performance should be measured in a number of ways including: Overall satisfaction with the District as expressed on the District's student family surveys Overall academic achievement by all students Improvement in academic achievement by under-performing students Graduation rates Closing the Academic Achievement Gap Effective management of the budget Capital projects completed on time and on budget Compliance with Board Policy Progress on the Strategic Plan Effective management of her staff Labor

Hard to Believe

Checking the Times today, I found that the Times editorial on Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's tenure has certainly taken it on the chin. Several people did write in more than once. Here's part of what Charlie said in his second post: There are now 63 comments in response to this editorial. (Note: After Charlie posted this, one lone kindergarten parent weighed in to say she was happy.) Not one of the 63 comments agrees with the Times. The vast majority of them are civil and on topic. Most of them reflect better reasoning, better research, better data, and better writing than the Times editorial. At what point does the Times editorial board begin to question their perspective? Or don't you ever? Perhaps you think that you are courageous for holding an unpopular view and sticking with it? If so, please consider another possibility: you are completely wrong. Your dismissal of the CPPS poll compared to your fawning over the Our Schools Coalition poll reflects a deep bia

Reminders and Open Thread

A couple of meeting reminders: Monday the 24th - Joint City Council Environment Committee/School Board Operations Committee meeting from 6-8 p.m. at Eckstein Middle School, 3003 NE 75th St. (By the way, this one doesn't even rate a notice in the News and Calendar section of the SPS website. I wonder why not.) Thursday the 27th, Community meeting with Steve Sundquist at SW Library, 9010 35th Ave SW from 10-11:30 am Saturday the 29th, Community meeting with Betty Patu from 10 am - noon at Tully's, 4400 Rainier Avenue South (at Genesee) Did anyone attend DeBell or Sundquist's Community meetings this past Saturday? Open Thread for anything on your mind.

Saturday Morning Laugh

Oh those kids at the Times! What a bunch of jokers. They have this wonderful and silly editorial today about how great Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is doing and guess what? It's all based on their opinion. Now, other peoples' opinions, those are suspect but the wise ones at the Times', well, they know all. I'm not even going to print their nonsense here but here's what I wrote in the comments section. My name is Melissa Westbrook and I am both a long-time SPS parent and education activist in our City. I write for the education blog Save Seattle Schools. With no arrogance, I would say I know this district far better than the entire editorial board of the Times put together. So I feel confident in pointing out the errors both in thinking and in the Times' final judgment on Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and her tenure at SPS. This editorial is full of half-truths and stretches of the imagination. -First, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson IS the public face for the district a

Newest Survey Results

Below is information about the results of the Superintendent Survey from last week (after the CPPS survey). There ended up being about 180 people surveyed which is far less than the CPPS survey. However, this survey was only published here and in a shorter timeframe. Again, not scientifically valid but a bookend to the CPPS results. Here is a link to the survey with comments. This Superintendent Performance Survey was produced by a group of Seattle community members who regularly interface with SPS District staff individually, through school groups and in business. Because of the sensitivity of their position in relation to positive or negative criticism for the superintendent, they chose to circulate the survey anonymously, with the hope of adding an additional discussion point during the current superintendent evaluation. Some hard copy surveys circulated through the community. The same version of the survey was posted, again by anonymous request, via one location only:

Updates on Enrollment

I taped the Board meeting Wednesday to listen to public comment and see what the Superintendent might have to say this time around. I'll go in reverse order on these two. The Superintendent herself didn't speak much for her updates. She had Tracy Libros, from Enrollment Services, talk about how this enrollment season had gone, early data and what to expect before school starts in September. Highlights: during Early Registration, 84% of those registering were kindergarten students Enrollment processed 7,038 forms, 5,780 were for choice seats Notification of waiting list movement should start soon (but again, it depends on the school) there are 8 schools that have 6-10 K sibs on their waiting list, 6 that have 6-10, 3 with 11-15 and 2 with 16-20 Enrollment will be collaborating with principals to see if they can revise their enrollment to put in more kindergarten students (okay, but what does collaborating mean? Arm-twisting or promises for more resources? It's hard

Parents Doing Good for Their Schools

So I received this joint press release from SPS and SSIA (Successful Schools in Action, a local non-profit created to support public schools in the QA/Magnolia area) about what sounds like a wonderful event. From the press release: Successful Schools in Action (SSIA), which runs Seattle’s only elementary school debate program, announced the date for their spring debate tournament. It will take place Saturday, May 22, at Catharine Blaine K-8 from 9 a.m.-noon. Close to 40 fourth- and fifth-grade students from four Seattle public schools – Coe, John Hay, Lawton, and Catharine Blaine, currently participate in this highly successful program. The debate topic is: Seattle Public Schools should change to a year-round schedule. The SSIA debate program is unique in Seattle, and remains one of the only elementary programs in the country. Now in its fifth year, it continues to receive extraordinary accolades. Coe principal David Elliott said, “I have seen the profound and transformative impac

Movie Time

I'm a big supporter of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIIF). It's a great 3 weeks of films you may never see anywhere else and there is truly something for everyone. Here is a link to their website. They do have a Films4Families program with some great movies that kids and adults can enjoy. There are some live action as well as animated films this year including what looks like an "awww" film about a white lion cub called White Lion . (The info for these films is on page 20 of the schedule.) Additionally of interest, there is a Grease Sing-along which could be big fun for those of you with musically inclined children. Another musical offering is the 1916 classic of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with ensemble music including the mighty Paramount Theater organ AND author Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) on the accordion. The other Paramount Theater film is the 1925 silent film Riders of the Purple Sage with music by The Maldives (NW country ro

CPPS Survey Results In

Stephanie Jones, the head of Communities and Parents for Public Schools (CPPS), released the results of the recent survey on the performance of our superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. From their results: In just over a week, they received 662 responses. More than half included optional written comments 273 (41%) included an email address (this is a great sign of standing up and being counted) Submissions came from 37 different zip codes, covering all regions of the city As you would expect, the anonymous responses were more negative but the non-anonymous ones were still "solidly" negative. One absolutely great thing that the folks at CPPS did was to include every single comment. There are pages of them so it takes awhile to read. But it is valuable reading because you start seeing a theme to them even as each one differs somewhat in its issue. What did people say? If I had to sum it up, it would be two things. One, there is almost zero feeling that Dr. Goodloe-J

Teachers' Unions' Last Stand?

Central Mom gave us the heads up on this fascinating (and long, she wasn't kidding) article in the NY Times Magazine coming out this Sunday. Entitled "The Teachers' Unions' Last Stand", it is basically about New York state's application for Race to the Top funds. But really, it takes a national view of what is happening (and coming) in education reform. Highlights: Finding out that there is yet another Broad-type academy for leaders, this one run by Jon Schnur, of the New Leaders for New Schools group. Interestingly, they place leaders but don't pay their salaries (Broad pays half), nor do they expect their leaders to get hired after residency. The Times points out about these self-styled reformers: They have been building in strength and numbers over the last two decades and now seem to be planted everywhere that counts. They are working in key positions in school districts and charter-school networks, legislating in state capitals, staffin