Showing posts from July, 2010

Friday Open Thread

There was a bit of discussion on this morning's KUOW Weekday news roundup of RTTT. Lynne Varner from the Times was on the panel and said she did not believe that not having charters hurt WA State's application. She said she thought it was probably because it was half-baked and got the union to sign on late. I did call in and say that (1) I agree the lack of charters was not the issue (2) corrected something she said which was that charters are governed by school boards (some may be but it depends on the state's charter legislation and (3) that Arne Duncan said that innovation counts as much as charters which is disingenuous because he knows states get dunned the 40 points for charters no matter how much innovation they have. What's on your mind?

Simple Question

How does the Board enforce policy? It's a simple question, isn't it? The Board Directors, if asked, all claim (rather indignantly) that they DO enforce policy. The state auditor says they don't. I can't find any evidence that indicates that the Board enforces policy. More than that, I can't even think of HOW the Board enforces policy. No Board member alone can speak for the Board. So no Board member, on their own, can direct the superintendent to do anything. So if an individual Board member, such as Director Martin-Morris, were to discover that a policy, such as Policy B61.00 which requires the superintendent to provide annual reports on District programs, wasn't being followed because there is no report on the Spectrum program, what could he do about it? I suppose he could ask the superintendent, pretty please, to provide the report, but what if she didn't? He could not, on his own, compel her compliance with the policy. If the Board, as a group, wanted

$54 Per Person

KING-5 tv did a news story about one finding in the State Auditor's report. This was under the finding about the credit card usage specifically, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's credit card. She charged $3800 on her card for catering a retirement party. The audit singled it out because it was "an inappropriate use of [procurement] cards" and it was over her daily per transaction limit of $1,000. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was aware of these issues as she had signed an MOU acknowledging them before she got the card. Background: David Westberg of Local 609 wrote this to Harium on this subject: In an earlier time of accountability and eyes on the bottom line, the Chief Finance Officer wrote the following to the Senior Leadership Team on March 9, 2004; “As we continue to look for ways to save on costs, expenses on food, muffins, coffee, lunches, and snacks should be curtailed. In tight budget times, we need to save our limited resources to protect services to students, no

The Super Speaks

From an interview with 97.3 KIRO FM: While people are buzzing about the superintendent, she says they're not talking to directly to her. "Did they talk to their principal, did they talk to the executive director, have they emailed me? I would be very curious about how they have posed a question that they feel like hasn't been listened to," she says. As a matter of fact, YES I DID and several times. She has never answered one e-mail or even acknowledged them. I asked her a question while she was sitting with other staff at one of the budget meetings. I asked her why she told staff there they didn't have to listen in at the table discussions (all the Board members present did). (I had asked Holly Ferguson this question and her answer was, "The Superintendent said we didn't have to.") The Superintendent tossed her head and said, "No, Melissa, I didn't say that." I said, "Well, are you going to ask them to?" She

Ballard Lab Closure

I have this message from Gail Longo on the Ballard Lab closure: SAVE THE CHILD DEVELOPMENT LAB AT BALLARD HIGH 1. The Ballard High School (BHS) Child Development Lab is operated by a non-profit Community Learning Partner that serves both high school students and children. Our on-site Lab school provides licensed childcare to families of 20 preschoolers. Teachers are college graduates and Montessori certified. The Lab is housed on campus in a designated childcare facility that was newly constructed in 1999. 2. In 2003, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Office of Community Learning welcomed two new members to the Community Alignment Agreement, The BHS Family and Consumer Sciences Department (a branch of the Career and Technical Education Division of SPS) and the Casa Maria Montessori Lab School Program 3. This partnership gives high school students a direct field- site where they can apply classroom knowledge to real life situations in a meaningful way. High school stud

Thank You, Lynne

So finally, someone at the Times read the tea leaves, the writing on the wall, the liner notes and the Auditor's report. That someone is Lynne Varner and she wrote about it in her editorial column . Her frustration is palpable and I think she hits the right note in saying this is the public's money and the district needs to have a more careful and respectful attitude about it. From her column: The latest state audit of Seattle Public Schools didn't tell me anything I didn't already know: The district is stuck in a culture of lax indifference when it comes to taxpayers' money. Despite the last decade's phalanx of highly paid budget and money managers overseeing the district, few inroads have been made in transforming this culture. Interesting to note: The shoddy reporting and bookkeeping gets worse. Employees charged $250,000 in gas, not necessarily a problem considering the size of the district and the many employees who travel between schools. But

New Bidding on MLK, Jr. Building

From the Central District News : Some Madison Valley residents were convinced the fix was in . The Seattle School District would wait out the clock, let August pass, and then city permitting rules and remodeling costs would make it financially impossible to turn the old MLK Elementary School into a community center. But according to Seattle Schools spokesperson Teresa Wippel, last month the school district worked out a deal with the city to extend that timeline, with the city agreeing to allow the building to be occupied in early 2011 without having to bring the old building up to current development codes. That change opened up a new window for revised bids from the parties that are vying to purchase or lease the property, which has been empty since the school was closed by the district in 2006. The big surprise from the new bids is a new bidder: the Central Area Development Association has submitted a bid to purchase 33% of the property for $750,000, proposing to crea

Washington State NOT a Finalist for RTTT

From the AP: Washington state is not a finalist for the competitive federal education grant program called Race to the Top. U.S. Education Secretary announced the finalists Tuesday morning. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have a chance to win a share of $3 billion. The states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. Two states, Tennessee and Delaware, were awarded a total of $600 million in the first round of the competition.

Wedgwood Switches Administrators with Eckstein

This from the Wedgwood View blog : Wedgwood Elementary has traded its principal to Eckstein Middle School for its assistant principal. It wasn’t exactly a “trade,” a la a couple of sports team, but sort of worked out that way. Denise Espania, who had been Wedgwood principal for two years, announced at the end of the school year that she would be moving on and looking for a new job that allowed her more time to spend with her family. She’s apparently found that as assistant principal at Eckstein Middle School. She’ll take the job of Chris Cronas, who takes over for Espania as Wedgwood’s principal. From Dr. G-J's letter to parents: "Prior to his assistant principal role, Mr. Cronas was a house administrator, an instruction and curriculum coach, and taught overseas in Japan for four years. He is fluent in Japanese. His professional preparation includes a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and English Education from Ithaca College and Master of Education from t

Turn Over a Rock...

Here's an interesting discovery, courtesy of Dan Dempsey: RCW 42.56.040 . This State law requires local government agencies, such as school districts, to prominently display and make available for inspection any and all rules of procedure. The District must, by state law, provide written statements of the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures and statements of general policy or interpretations of general applicability formulated and adopted by the agency. Think of a District procedure, especially one of those less transparent ones, such as Program Placement. According to state law, the District is required to have a written statement of the procedure and process used to determine program placement. I don't believe they do. I don't know how specific these statements need to be, but I can't imagine that the description currently provided is sufficient. Think of some of other more opaque decisions made by the District. Think of some of their more


Hello In the thread on what is going on in Washington DC, there was some mention on what was going on in the contract talks between SPS and SEA. I received this e-mail from the SEA. I post without comment. SEA Bargaining Update July 23, 2010 SEA and District Far Apart in Negotiations Dear Michael, Your SEA Negotiations Team met with the District team on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. We continue to be far apart on issues that you have told us matter most to you. The district is holding fast to their major proposals on: • tying student growth based on MAP scores, MSP scores, and end-of-course assessments to certificated employees evaluations; • use of evaluations as the lead factor in reduction in force, as opposed to strict seniority. There has been very little to no movement on what you have told us are your two most important issues: • class size/staff ratios/caseloads to give students the attention they need and deserve; • compensation to attract and retain high quality

Slash and Burn

So our second favorite superintendent (chancellor), Michelle Rhee, of D.C., has dismissed 241 teachers (5% of the teachers) evaluated under a new system and found lacking. This article appeared in the NY Times. A few were dismissed for not having the right qualifications under NCLB (which would beg the question, who's fault is it for hiring them?). Ms. Rhee says: “Every child in a District of Columbia public school has a right to a highly effective teacher — in every classroom, of every school, of every neighborhood, of every ward, in this city,” the chancellor said in a statement. “That is our commitment.” In addition there were other employees from librarians to counselors to custodians who were dismissed. What is interesting is that there seems to be no administrators on that list. Every single principal in D.C. is doing a great job and the teachers are the problem? Hmmm. And, 737 employees were put on notice that they were in the second tier from the bottom so

Open Thread Friday

Discuss anything.

Recall Story in the Times

The Seattle Times ran a story this morning on the Board recall effort. The story has few quotes and none from the Board members, the District, or anyone in opposition to the recall. The story says that it is now up to a King County Superior Court to determine whether the charges against the Board members are true and, if they are true, if they constitute a violation of the Board members' oath of office. The oath of office binds the Directors to support the constitutions of the United States and the State of Washington and to faithfully discharge the duties of the office according to the best of the Director’s ability. I think the breakdown comes in the area of faithfully discharging the duties of the office. The recently released report from the State Auditor makes it very clear that the Directors have NOT been doing their duty. Since the District concurred with the auditor's findings, I'm not sure what story they will tell the Court in the Director's defense. Proba

What Does a Superintendent Make?

Interesting reading over at Education Week. It seems that our Superintendent is not the only well-paid superintendent in the country. New Jersey's governor makes less than 75% of New Jersey's local superintendents. New York's governor makes less than the NYC superintendent (by almost half). What struck me is that both the superintendents of the LA Unified school district AND the superintendent of NYC make less than Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, by a lot (NYC, $250k/LA, $250K). Folks, we are an urban district but we are small and manageable district by comparison to Detroit, Chicago, LA or NYC. From the article: In some states, you could certainly argue that being a school superintendent is a more difficult job worthy of more compensation, though I don't think that is the case currently in California and New York, where both governors have found it next to impossible to govern much of anything lately. Also from the article: Intuitively, it seems completel

Can the State Help?

I had this idea this morning. The State Auditor had an extraordinary number of findings in his audit of Seattle Public Schools. More, the findings were significant and disturbing, reflecting notable deriliction of duty. We also have some folks in town looking to recall some Board members. The audit bolsters their cause. The State is VERY interested in beefing up the "accountability" in our public schools. They have added even more accountability for teachers and, in the last session, passed a law that applies only to Seattle Public Schools that made it incrementally easier for the District to fire principals. I believe that accountability should be applied from the top down, instead of from the bottom up (as it has been done in Washington State public education). After all of the talk about holding schools and districts accountable, the first people who faced consequences were the students - the people with the least power in the whole system. The next people being held acc

Math Curricula

I know that I'm inviting trouble with this, but something that Reader wrote in a comment on another thread piqued my interest. I would like to discuss only a narrow question. Please don't expand the discussion. Writing about Everyday Math and Singapore, Reader wrote: " The fact is, the newer curricula stress more problem solving and discovery. That is, it's doing more than a lot of older curricula. " Here's my question: can problem-solving be taught? I mean this in the nicest possible way and I don't have an answer myself. I'm not sure, I'm asking. Can people be taught or trained in problem-solving techniques or is it a talent that some people just natively have more than others? Problem solving requires a certain amount of creativity, doesn't it? It can require a flexibility of perspective, curiosity, persistence, and pattern recognition. Can these things be taught or trained? I suppose anyone can be taught to play a musical instrument, bu

School Quality Model and Management

Seattle Public Schools has a number of slogans. Among them is "Every School a Quality School". The District claims to be working towards this goal, but the District has no definition of a Quality School, so those claims lack credibility. Rather than clucking at the District for not having a definition of a Quality School, our time would be more productively used helping them to find one. What is a Quality School? We need to be clear that we separate the idea of a Quality School from the students in the school. If we were to rely on student achievement, for example, as our definition of a Quality School, then we might conclude that Bryant is good school and that Hawthorne is a struggling school. But does anyone believe that if the Hawthorne students were all transferred to Bryant and if the Bryant students were all transferred to Hawthorne that the outcomes for the students would be much different? Would the Hawthorne students suddenly start to achieve because they are now at

Professional Development for Teachers

There's an op-ed in the Seattle Times in support of professional development for teachers by Patricia Wasley, dean and professor of Education at UW and Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of the National Staff Development Council. From the op-ed: Unfortunately, under the recently adopted Washington state budget, the Legislature appears to have ignored this fact by eliminating all state funding for professional learning. Local districts will have to scale back or eliminate entirely their professional-learning budgets, actions that will harm the quality of teaching and learning. They contrast the old professional development of in-service days/workshops to the "new" approach of the following: Seattle - specially prepared teacher leaders help their peers implement the new district math curriculum. To improve student performance in science, the district uses up-to-date performance data to identify specific learning needs at every school and provides corresponding

Pop Quiz

How much is the Superintendent's salary? Just off the top of your head (and no peeking if you have the data). Because I thought I knew and then got a copy of how much everyone in the district gets paid and I was surprised. Bonus points if you know who the second highest paid person in the district is (but go ahead and guess). Extra bonus points if you know the gap between that person and the Superintendent. Put your guesses in and I'll let you know at the end of the afternoon.

Economy's impact on public schools

Hey all, I was contacted by a reporter working on a story for Gannett News Service about the economy and its impact on public schools. At my kids' former school (AS#1) we got hit with the triple whammies of the budget cuts, drop in enrollment, and a decline in parent involvement, so I feel that my experience isn't exactly typical. I thought this blog would be a great place to get a broad response. Here is a modified version of the email the reporter sent me (edited to fit a public forum). If you'd rather contact the reporter directly to give a quotable account of your experience, you can email me at Here's the story overview: Help for schools. The economy is better but far from out of the woods, and school districts are still strapped for basics so there are plenty of ways parents are tapped to give money for supplies, uniforms or other projects. What other things are schools doing to raise money or get the supplies and equipment they need? A

A Couple of Things

So I like to check in regularly with other blogs. I look at LEV's blog, the Alliance's blog and Harium's blog. One interesting thing I've noticed is that, when challenged or asked about information on their threads, you can rarely get an answer. Charlie asks a lot of pertinent questions in a respectful, albeit blunt, manner and rarely gets an answer. Harium does occasionally but most of his replies are that he supports the staff. I noticed that when Charlie started asking questions at LEV, there stopped being replies. So what are these people afraid of? I can get Harium being busy and not able to reply to everything (but then, why have a blog?). But LEV and the Alliance say they want to engage and talk and yet there's silence. I think there are two issues. One, they confuse lively discussion with arguing. If someone disagrees with you, there's no need for shouting, swearing, name-calling or snarkiness. But you can say, look here's why I have

Open Thread Friday

The sun finally came out. Anything new?

Latest BEX Oversight Committee Meeting

This month's BEX Oversight Committee meeting was held at Hamilton Middle School where we all got to go on a tour before the meeting. It was very interesting. The building looks pretty great. It has an old-school with new stuff kind of feel. Lots of cherry-stained wood which gives it a warm glow. From my tour notes: The building was originally designed for 725 but now can take up to 900 students (and up to 100 of those being Special Education students but they don't know how many will be assigned there). The building administration moved in just this week on Wednesday. Because of that anyone who wants to see their area of the building is to be allowed in. So if you want a look at that part (the south side) of the building, you can go in. It is designed with class "clusters around a general area where there is a sink to wash your hands (if you don't want to go into the bathroom), water fountain, etc. The Special Ed area can be fully self-contained (and the

Has Director Martin-Morris Changed?

Remember how delighted you were when you discovered that school board director Harium Martin-Morris had a blog? Remember how delighted you were when you saw that he responded to comments on his blog? Remember how delighted you were when he understood people's concerns and wrote that he would take action? Have you noticed that he doesn't do that anymore? He often goes weeks without responding to posts. He no longer sees the public's perspective. Instead of representing the public to the District, he now represents the District to the public. What changed? I think he has become discouraged. He may have tried to take some of the actions that he said he would take, but nothing ever came of it. He didn't write the White Paper on the influence of national foundations. He didn't get answers to the long list of commitments. He didn't get a Transportation Report. Maybe he became discouraged when he saw that nothing he tried to do ever worked. Am I alone in thinking

Breaking News - Head of Facilities Leaving

Fred Stephens, long-time director of district facilities, is leaving the district by the end of the month. I will be kind of sad to see Mr. Stephens go because I always felt he cared about the district even if he was not always able to see the buildings get the care they needed. It was not announced where he is going or what he will be doing. Bill Martin who is currently the head of BEX projects will be interim director. There is a bit of mystery about this resignation. Just last week Mr. Stephens had an argument in the district headquarters parking lot with an employee in his department. The police had to be called to escort the employee from the premises. The mystery is that this employee was overseeing the program that the recent state audit called out (the Small Business Development program). (To review, the district, based on Board policy, has a program to help small business owners make bids on district capital projects. This is in conjunction with other public e

What is the Revolution really all about?

The League of Education Voters is trying to co-opt dissent by creating a campaign called Education Revolution and using a lot of incendiary language and images, but not taking any action. It got me thinking about what the Revolution really is or should be. Help me clarify my thinking on this. I think that the Revolution is about re-defining and re-purposing the District's central functions and responsibilities. The change will come when the role of the central administration is defined. What do we want the District’s central administration to do? And what DON’T we want them to do? Ideally, the District's headquarters will take responsibility for everything that isn't better decided at the school building level. They should relieve the school staff of those duties. They should: 1) Provide centralized services when those services are commodities and can achieve economies of scale. For example, HR functions, facilities maintenance, data warehousing, contracting, food servi

What is the Nature of the District's Relationship with the Alliance?

What is the nature of the District's relationship with the Alliance for Education? The Superintendent serves on the Alliance for Education Board of Directors, yet that position is not listed on her disclosure statement . In the Board Action Report on the NWEA contract the disclosure statement is described like this: " On January 6, 2010, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson provided to the Board of Directors at its public meeting the disclosure of her appointments and the appointments of her husband, Bruce Johnson, to any non-profit boards (attached). " The disclosure statement is supposed to list her participation on ANY non-profit boards. In the disclosure statement the list is described this way: " Appointment of you or your spouse as a non-salaried officer of a nonprofit corporation. ". The statement concludes with this assertion: " These lists are complete to the best of my knowledge as of the date of my signing this disclosure statement. " When asked about

How Bellevue's Superintendent Works

Interesting article in last week's Times about the Superintendent over in Bellevue. First, she's never been a superintendent before; Bellevue got to her come from her consulting business in California. Two, she says she's doing this one gig and then going back to consulting. (She was allowed to still keep that job as president something that seems to bother some. The State Auditor found no issue with her hiring of a colleague to work as an education consultant.) What makes her most interesting is this: The first-time superintendent is engaged in a bold move to change the teaching culture in a district that has already gained a reputation for excellence, with all five of its high schools regularly winning national acclaim. But it's that very reputation, the school board believes, that has masked an important failure: reaching students at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in a district that's far more diverse than many may realize. Cudeiro believes

Gates Speech

To finish up with the AFT convention, I attended Bill Gates' speech. There were a few protesters outside the entrance to the hall calling Gates a Trojan horse. I asked the AFT press area folks if leadership had said anything to members about the speech. They said that Randi Weingarten had said that AFT had a tradition of looking for speakers with different views. She also asked them to be respectful during the speech. I sat through several discussions/votes on various resolutions (I missed the one they passed about teacher evalutions). It was pretty interesting and it felt very democratic. (There was quite the interesting discussion about whether children of illegal immigrants should have access to scholarships and loans.) But finally, the lights went down and Randi was introducing Gates. She was very appreciative of him being there and pointed out that his foundation had given money for the AFT's Innovation project. She talked about teacher evaluations and "no

LEV Fundraising Letter

I got a fundraising letter in the mail from the League of Education Voters that just pissed me off. The letter, signed by the League's executive director, Chris Korsmo, is about their Education Revolution campaign . Most of the language in the letter is on the web page. In short, the League is calling for a REVOLUTION. They write: Let's create schools and districts that value transparency, accountability, authentic parent engagement, not to mention a shared commitment to programs and systems of learning that enable high student achievement and an ever diminishing achievement gap. Let's call "bull" on system-wide excuses for under performance and keep our kids' futures at the center of our work. Let's join arms, voices, and resources to demand improvement from those who are far too comfortable with the status quo. Wow. Strong talk. Where have I heard stuff like this before? Oh yeah, I remember. Here. Everyday. And where has the League of Education Voter

Listening to Arne

What I thought was going to be just some speeches and small talk on the Obama administration's plan for education turned out to be something different. This event, featuring Arne Duncan, and Senator Patty Murray was more a cheerleading exercise for Aviation High school. (Funny how the tallest cabinet member and the shortest senator were side-by-side.) This 400-student school in the Highline district is based on an aviation model but is most a STEM school. We all met in a very hot gym with bad microphones. (Honestly, that's the undoing of so many meetings - school board, this one and even in the Convention Center on Saturday with Bill Gates when the microphone on the stage died just a few minutes before he came out.) I had expected the room to be packed but all the seats were not filled. Secretary Duncan and Senator Murray toured the room, going to the back to meet students and look at robotics exhibits (Patty Murray scored a goal before Arne Duncan. I'm pretty sure

Day One of AFT

Day One of the AFT convention. Randi Weingarten is one good speaker (but so is the head of the NAACP, Ben Jealous ). She gave a fairly long speech but she had some pretty good lines that are worth repeating. ... a growing pundit class that has engaged in the browbeating of unionized teachers and public schools - in other words, affixing blame rather than fixing schools. “As much as we wish it weren’t true, these factors matter—whether it’s poverty, or stressful experiences like a death in the family, or losing one’s home, or a parent losing a job,” Weingarten said. Yet, when we point them out, she continued, “It’s more likely that people confront us rather than join us in confronting the problem.” True educational success isn't just a test score, just as economic success isn't just GDP growth. Teacher evaluations should include measures of student learning, but “there’s a huge difference between using multiple indicators of student learning as part of a teacher’s eval