Sunday, June 06, 2010

School Board Meeting Updates

I did not attend the Board meeting but did watch some of it from home. (I taped it but naturally got the wrong station for the first 30 minutes.)

I only got the tail end of the public comment period. But there were two interesting comments. One was by Jane Fellner who is a long-time parent advocate in this district. She was telling the Board that Garfield is going to be overloaded next fall. She had looked at the enrollment data and they are getting 200 more students than the functional capacity. She said that Garfield would love to share its program with as many students as possible but that truly, the building does have a capacity. (This got commented on later. See Board member updates below.)

Another was the ever-smart Meg Diaz who, once again, made an impact. (And Meg, help me out here to flesh out what you said.) What really stuck with me is her determination to make the Board understand that Central Administration has not cut back all that much and the data proves her. Her great statement was that that Central Administration has grown even as the district's student population has shrunk AND that John Stanford had more students and fewer Central Administration positions. It was a great line.

So then there was the Superintendent's updates and that's all I'm reported on here. (The rest of the meeting seemed pro forma to me as I skipped through the video but if I missed something, please let us know.)

The first update was from Brian Bernatek, the head of Research, Evaluation and Assessment. Brian is a data wonk and honestly, I say that with respect. Sometimes I see people glazed over when I talk and for people who dive deep, we just sometimes forget not everyone knows the lingo and/or is really that interested. His report was about MAP. From his presentation:
  • this is the first full year of implementation. There are only 10-12 schools not using MAP left.
  • He said that we would be able to compare our scores to other districts as 3-4 million MAP tests are taken each year.
  • Funniest moment - he was talking about RIT scores and one of the Directors asked him what that was. So he goes into this explanation and frankly, he lost me after sentence 3. (I'll post the explanation from the MAP website at the bottom).
  • He said that scores rose in fall, winter and spring but that growth drops off as you get into higher grades. He explained this by saying it takes work to keep the older students engaged and understanding why they are taking this test.
  • He said the achievement gap between whites/Asians and Hispanic/black/Native American is still there.
  • Interestingly, he said we are doing better in math than reading.
Questions from the Board.
  • Steve S. was disappointed to hear that we still have a big challenge in reading as well as math.
  • Brian mentioned that "typical growth may be a low bar to achieve" and that even with a 50% growth, we might not be meeting standards. (Which kind of begs the question of whether MAP is truly telling us what we need to know vis a vis our standards.)
  • Harium asked about the differences between racial groups. Brian said that, to be clear, it is not that they are not all making progress but that whites/Asians continue to make growth faster than other groups.
  • Sherry noted a drop-off in reading scores between 1st and 2nd grade and asked about that. Brian said he would have to look at that.
  • Betty asked about the difference of scores from 1st to 9th grades and Brian said some of that might be explained by the groups themselves changing from 1st to 9th
  • Kay said that she had received some questions from Janet Woodward at Garfield (I assume this is teacher) about MAP results. She asked if Brian would be addressing these issues. Brian said that teachers can get results right away at the MAP website but that the district report, which has more info, is available at the end of the test cycle ( a couple of weeks later). He said this was a stop-gap year with the "academic warehouse" coming online and then they can generate reports on a daily basis. (Again, I'm assuming this academic warehouse is part of the Superintendent's website/technology update.)
  • Kay said that middle and high school teachers feel they are not getting results soon enough to help their students. She said we need to get that piece right for MAP to work.
  • Brian stated that schools have been doing a good job with MAP. He said the first time use has a large learning curve but it has gotten easier.
So the other topic from the Superintendent was the supplemental levy. I am really surprised that they are actually going through with this but apparently many districts are now that the Legislature lifted the levy lid. I just question the wisdom of having 3 school levies in 3 years. Seattle is a generous place but it is going to be a tough sale. (The Families and Education levy that the City runs is scheduled for Fall 2011.) All theses levies are for different things but you wonder if people might think it is just too much. What does everyone else here think?

The levy lid is going from 32.07% to 36.97%. If the levy passed, they could get $48.2M out of it for 2010-2011 to 2013-2014. The district says it would fund (but keep in mind, once they have the money, they can spend it on anything in operations):
  • 9th,11th,12th, science books
  • 9-12 social studies books
  • enhance programs such as K-12 music
  • preserve programs that would be cut due to reduced state and federal funding (no specifics)
  • the ever popular "professional development"
What really bothered me was the claim that there was community engagement on this via the budget meetings. What? It was barely covered and the Roosevelt meeting table discussions, it came out that the majority of parents/community didn't favor the levy. It was also stated they would engage "civic, parent organizations and leaders" and talk to families and staff.

This item was not being introduced at this meeting. It will be introduced at the Board meeting on June 16th and acted on at the Board meeting on July 7th. It has to be to the County by August 10th for the November 2010 general election. (Note: some districts are doing this in August but not SPS.) They said the first proceeds would be available by Jan. 2011.

There will be a public hearing on the supplemental levy on June 23 from 6-7 p.m.

Board Members Updates

Sherry: She says she acknowledges the recent State Auditor's report on the district and takes it very seriously. She said the Audit and Finance Committee would be addressing this. She stated that the work from the internal audit on the Native American program was progressing. She noted that June 23rd would also be the date for another public hearing from 4-6 on the district's budget. She said that she and Peter M. had attended the State Board Directors meeting and that they are suggesting an urban district committee and that was agreed to there. She said that at the fall conference they would be presenting a talk about performance management and MAP since about 100 districts in our state use it.

Steve said that he wanted clarification about the Native American program money as during the Public Comment period it sounded like there would be a funding gap. He thought it was being filled by the district. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said she wasn't sure what the speaker had meant but if it was about the number of students that completed the Title 7 paperwork that yes, that gap was being closed. (Yes, but because the district counted wrong, they have to pay back about $153K for two years to the feds.)

Betty asked about the testimony about 200 extra kids at Garfield in the fall. She said it seems to be an issue at Ballard as well. There was dead silence at this. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said something about checking numbers. Luckily, Tracy Libros was in the room. She came forward and said that there are a couple of reasons that a school might be overenrolled. She said that they are working towards a 2015 goal and that there might be more sibs early on. (This totally confused me because any sibs of students in the boundaries would be accounted for and the 10% Open Choice seats would account for that many extra kids.) She also said something that I don't think many teachers would appreciate. She said they could handle extra kids by moving teachers out of their rooms during their planning periods so another teacher could teach a class in that room. Musical rooms anyone? She said functional capacity was not the same as what the building could hold. Okay, but at what point do you say too many kids to serve well and/or hold safely? Also she said that "a lot of kids were assigned to Garfield" but that many end up being no-shows. I would buy that for a regular school but when you talk about one of the most popular, I'll bet it's lower.

Betty expressed thanks to Dr. G-J and Tracy for the movement of the waitlist at Kimball. Kay and Harium also expressed thanks to Tracy and her staff for their work.

Michael mentioned working on energy conservation in our district. He also noted the effects of capacity management on schools (i.e. Thurgood Marshall and the movement of APP to that school and the effects on their Title One funding). He said they need to closely track these effects and make sure needs are being met and that we acknowledge unintended consequences.

(As promised, RIT scores explained.

RIT stands for Rasch Unit, which is a unit of measure that uses individual item difficulty values to estimate student achievement. RIT scores create an equal interval scale. Equal interval means that the difference between scores is the same regardless of whether a student is at the top, bottom or middle of the RUT scale, and it has the same meaning regardless of grade level.

Each student's achievement is unique and no single test can yield a complete profile of a students overall achievement. RIT scores are very accurate estimates of where in the Learning Continuum they are at the time of testing. Students can correctly answer about 50% of the question in their RIT range. One RIT range lower, students can correctly answer about 80% of the questions. One RIT range higher they can answer about 20% of the questions correctly.)

Characteristics of the RIT Scale include:
  • It is an achievement scale.
  • It is an accurate scale.
  • It is an equal interval scale.
  • It helps to measure growth over time.
  • It has the same meaning regardless of grade or age of the student.


ParentofThree said...

Seems to me that GHS is overenrolled by about the same number of APP students that are enrolled. I would guess that the APP students will loose this assignment. And if I had to place bets, I would say the WMS students will go to RBHS and the HIMS will go to either Hale or Ingraham.

Ballard will stay overenrolled, they don't have many options up in that neck of the woods, other than a new high school or putting Lincoln back online.

Unknown said...

It is Brad Bernatek, not Brian.

Michael said...

"She stated that the work from the internal audit on the Native American program was progressing."


dan dempsey said...

Meg's Testimony is HERE

seattle citizen said...

oops, posted this on the newer thread...that's what you get when you read, then go eat, then come back and comment!

Brad Bernetek knows his stuff. His talk about MAP was fascinating, until the diversion to the meaning of "RIT", then I was lost, too.

I see the value of this sort of data, this ongoing series of snapshots. It might serve to allow a slight indicator of which students are tanking, maybe catch them early...

But isn't this what educators are supposed to be doing in their day-to-day teaching? Noticing and acting on evidence of student tankiness?

And it's all so quantitative and statistical: As I watched Mr. Bernetek (it's Brad, not Brian) I was fascinated by the data yet repuled by its distance from the actual students. We were shown line graphs representing all students in the district and I wondered, is this simple line meaningful? What is measured, what is not...

Perhaps MAP, with its adjunct "Descartes" library and resource bank, might serve to address the many nuances. Or it might diminish students even further to number-hood.

There's still the nagging concern that the Supe is on the Board of NWEA...

dan dempsey said...

Brad B. said:
"He said that we would be able to compare our scores to other districts as 3-4 million MAP tests are taken each year."

How can this be??? I thought that the MAP test was designed to be a formative assessment to be given three times a year to aid Seattle teachers in assessing student performance on Washington Math standards.

Then again Brad B. was a "Broad" intern when he cherry-picked the data that got Seattle Everyday Math in May 2007. Brad B. is now a three-year Spin-Master from Eli Broad that the district has on board at full fare (director of data spin).

The Superintendent sits on the boards of both the Broad Foundation and NWEA that produces the MAP test. It should come as no surprise that Brad B. likes this stuff that pushes the "Broad" agenda.

SPS bought MAP as a formative assessment check out what a farce that claim has become HERE.

Why didn't Brad B. Analyze the New Tech Schools' performance before we began that incredible next disaster Cleveland STEM?

Of course the "Super" was for Cleveland STEM NTN so no questions allowed, and approved (4-3) by Sundquist, Carr, Maier, Martin- Morris.

Same four directors that were in favor of the appeal of the Spector math decision.

dan dempsey said...

I realize that NWEA MAP tests more than math. I am very familiar with the WA math standards and that is why I confined my comments to the MAP v. WA Standards and 4 million tests claim.

dan dempsey said...

my testimony is HERE.

dan dempsey said...

For the MAP .... Where is the graph for low income v. non-low income?

dan dempsey said...

About that Garfield crowding... I taught at WSHS in 2006-2007 with 1367 enrolled it was beyond true capacity for running an efficient effective educational program.

Yes the district can pack lots of bodies into Garfield but is it advisable?

Remember Peter Maier talked about how Cleveland was going to need to have a 1000 student enrollment in 2015 and that there needed to be a draw of around 80 students from Ballard etc. to make the New Student Assignment Plan function.

Garfield say hello to "NOT WELL THOUGHT OUT" but done in a rush. Pretty typical of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and crew.

ttln said...

dan- I have asked for the same low-income/ not data several times. There is a problem with the level of specificity of the data. All reports can be disaggregated down to the individual kid. FRL is a confidentiality issue. Not even admin. is permitted to see which kid are on it. Until they can program the report to maintain confidentiality, we are unlikely to see it.

Meg said...

I was there mostly to try and persuade the board to take action to protect the general ed kids at Thurgood Marshall, since those kids stand to lose funding and resources not because of the financial climate, but because of board actions. Beyond the issues at Thurgood Marshall, this a closer look at what I tried, very briefly, to touch on when I spoke.

In 1998-99, the district had 267 FTEs in central admin. John Stanford died in the fall of that year - you could argue, I suppose, that 1998-99 doesn’t really count as “his.” As it happens, the previous year, there were 278 FTEs. And after that, enrollment went into about a 10-year slide. Central admin FTEs? Climbed and climbed, until, under the current Superintendent, central admin FTEs hit a 12-year high: 395 FTEs for 2008-09.

We could all trot out the “but coaches don’t count and therefore these numbers don’t represent central administration costs” argument, and in some cases, that argument appears to be relatively valid, and in others (like the MAP data coaches), you gotta be kidding me. A good rule of thumb is likely: if a school elects (not “elects” because of pressure from downtown) to hire a coach, that coach is probably not central admin. However, the district said coaches don’t count… except, somehow, in counting up the 90 “central” reductions, guess what the district padded the count with (besides laborers, people who’d retired, the ed directors they’re rehiring after “re-imagining” their positions” and vacant positions that they decided not to fill)? That’s right: coaches.

But, I digress.

The upshot remains that central admin costs appear to be well out of whack, and that actual central administration costs appear to be getting shuffled into other spending categories, making them harder to follow.

Charlie Mas said...


The District who claimed that the coaches were not central administration staff when counting the size of the central administration staff are counting the coaches as central administration staff when counting the reduction to central administration staff?

Won't that lead to non-sensical statements such as "We had 275 central administration staff people. Then we eliminated 60 central administration staff positions. Now we have only 260 central administration staff people."

dan dempsey said...

ttln .. pretty interesting

WASL is big on Low Income v. non-low income so somehow the district is coding that info. into what goes to OSPI...

Look HERE.

or HERE for a bit of Everyday math damage in two years of use.

Meg said...

Charlie- wording has been about central "office" reductions, not central administration reductions. In the Audit & Finance committee meeting which listed all the positions that had been cut, there was no mention of where the spending for that position was allocated, nor of how that changed the total central administration FTE staffing.

And given that new pedagogy coaches are planned for next year, you wouldn't really want to highlight the actual change in total FTEs and total administrative spending, would you? Although from a spending perspective, the expenses for the new coaches will probably be buried in teaching.

Unknown said...

Budget Question-- Is there available somewhere a full copy of the district's budget broken down by current departments? The OSPI one, which I've seen, is apples and oranges since we don't organize in th same way, and different pots are aggregated in different ways for OSPI that are not aggregated in practice at the disctrict level.

ttln said...

I know, Dan. But the data at the state maintains confidentiality of individual students. FRL is a federal application and is what title I is based on. Someone does know whothese kids are and where they are (the lunch lady knows). My school's data on the FRL/non for eighth grade reading is troubling. Too bad I can't use MAPs to better get a handle on the problem.

seattle citizen said...

FRL is THE better predictor, and there needs to be a way to use it.

Race categories are amorphous and unreliable, as they often don't link to any specific attribute - anybody can check a box (this is true for FRL, to a lesser degree, because some parent/guardians choose not to apply. But those who DO apply need to document need, so those that DO apply are, indeed, most likely poor or low income.)

Does anyone know what the "test" is, if any, for a student who claims to be White, Black, Asian etc?

The use of race leads to crazy things such as grouping immigrant Africans in with generational African Americans...you see the problem.

seattle citizen said...

I wonder if there have been studies that look at the similarities and differences between using race and using FRL as a statistical tool.

I suspect that most of what we call "the acheivement gap" is predicated on poverty rather than race.

hschinske said...

There is an achievement gap even at matched income levels, I believe (though of course even at matched income levels there may not be real parity of wealth). See http://www.shearonforschools.com/Blacks_Battle_Achievement_Gap.htm for a summary.

Helen Schinske

seattle citizen said...

That's interesting, Helen. The web address didn't copy completely on your post, though, so I couldn't go there.

hschinske said...

That's odd. The full URL shows up on my end. It's not clickable, but it's cut-and-paste-able. It's www dot shearonforschools dot com slash Blacks underscore Battle underscore Achievement underscore Gap dot htm. It's case-sensitive.

Here's an attempt at making it clickable: Achievement Gap

Helen Schinske

seattle citizen said...

Interesting stuff, Helen. It appears from the numerous studies (or academic commenters) that there might be numerous causes for the achievement gap beyond simply "how much money do you have at the moment?"

One that I think would have a big impact is generational poverty or affluence: Newly "wealthy" does not mean that the family support network is generationally connected to enrichment, etc, and that would, I'd think, pertain.

Also the culture of expectations: Teachers who, consciously or unconsciously, believe some kids are only capable of so much, or beleive some kids are naturally trouble or whatever...I bet that's a bigger part than we admit.

ttln said...

Do you think teachers understand what "low expectations" looks or sounds like? I am curious because I sat in a meeting the other day and argued with a teacher about what lessons were teachable or appropriate for kids in our classes. She made a statement along the lines of "Well, maybe you can do that with your kids. But I have kids in my class who read at a third grade level."

Is this a statement that reveals a conscious or unconsious expectation of what her kids can and cannot do?

If we were to ask this teacher directly what she believes, what would she say? Is she aware of how the statement would belie the belief she might hold that her kids can learn?