Showing posts from August, 2010

Contract Update

Here's what I believe is the latest on the teacher contract from SPS Communications: "We’re very pleased to let you know that SEA and SPS believe that we have reached tentative agreement. We will meet again tomorrow, Tuesday, to confirm final details and will provide information about the tentative agreement at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday." However, there is nothing current at either the SEA website or the SPS website (either in News or the Labor Relations link). I looked at the Seattle Times, nothing. We will have to wait for details but I believe SERVE may not have survived. I have to wonder what may have happened given the district said information at 4:30 p.m. I'll try to listen to the news.

Hot off the Web

Thank you to LA Teacher. From the SEA: "We believe we have a tentative agreement. A subset of the two teams will get together tomorrow to review language and proposals to make sure we are on the same page. If we see that we are both on the same page, we will announce a definite tentative agreement tomorrow afternoon. We are not releasing any details at this time, but details will follow after a tentative agreement has been confirmed."

Blog business update

I'm sure that all of you have noticed the, uh, notice that now appears above the comment box. I hope that clears up the confusion around anonymous comments. Also, by request, I have added a "Search This Blog" function. This is in addition to the tags. Please offer any other suggestions for improving the blog and making it more beneficial for the readers. We're all in this together.

From the Wild and Weird Department of Public Ed in the U.S.

Elsewhere in education (kind of) in the U.S. First up, the ex-drug addict mom who just wants to volunteer. Okay, so Jessica Gianfranco from Rhode Island had two felony convictions in her early twenties for drug possession (she was a heroin addict). Fast forward 6 years. She went through detox, became a mom (apparently right around the time she quit), is in a 12 step-program. Her daughter is in kindergarten. Mom wants to be a PTA volunteer at her daughter's school, helping with events and going on field trips. If you volunteer at any school, you can see where this is going. They ask you to do a background check and the form asks if you have been convicted of a felony. The ACLU is now involved because drug addiction is considered a disability (along with being a prosecutable crime). Now I personally don't see the ACLU on these grounds but more on the issue that a criminal record or drug-related disability isn't a barrier to employment, just to being a volunteer.

Okay, So Can We Slow This Train Down (a bit)?

Major news about a major study from an Economic Policy Institute briefing paper on the study (italics/bold mine): If new laws or policies specifically require that teachers be fired if their students’ test scores do not rise by a certain amount, then more teachers might well be terminated than is now the case . But there is not strong evidence to indicate either that the departing teachers would actually be the weakest teachers, or that the departing teachers would be replaced by more effective ones. There is also little or no evidence for the claim that teachers will be more motivated to improve student learning if teachers are evaluated or monetarily rewarded for student test score gains . I have only skimmed the briefing paper but it looks like good, sober reading. I plan on sending this to the Board, the Times editorial board, my legislators, etc. Please consider doing the same. From the Daily Kos which has links galore: This document has been in the works for sev

Opportunity vs Outcome

We all know that there is no school so bad that a motivated student cannot wrestle an education away from it. We have seen all of the inspiring stories of students who grew up with everything against them: poverty, neglect, substance abuse, etc., yet managed to achieve in high school, win acceptance to a competitive university, and become a shining example of how far hard work, talent, and determination can take you here in the good ol' U.S.A., the land of opportunity. We also know that there is no school so good that it can force an education onto an un-motivated student. We have plenty of examples of this as well. Just the same, it is easier to get an education from a good school than a bad one. Given this knowledge, education activists have worked and sought equity of opportunity. Look through everything that the District has ever said about equity and it has ALL been on the opportunity side. All high schools must offer a minimum number of AP or IB classes. All schools mus

Not Once but Twice

I watched the Emmys tonight (surprisingly entertaining but I had taped it). Not once but twice two of the Emmy winners said thank you to teachers. The first was a director from Glee who said the show was about the arts and he wanted to thank all the arts and music teachers. (Irony, of course, is that at the rate we are going, there might not be room in the day for those things. Think about it. If they want to cut every other Friday to a half-day, what do you think might go?) The second time was another winner (I'm thinking it was an actor) who said thank you to teachers who helped him learn something. I note that in most awards shows after people get thru thanking their agent, their parents, their director and their wives/families, the next people in line tend to be teachers. So thank you, teachers, for inspiring others.

Following Up on Board Agenda Items

I went back and looked at some of the items on the Board agenda for Wednesday. Before the meeting, they are having a Work Session on maintenance. I'll just have to make the effort to go because, on the one hand, they allowed the head of Maintenance to buy some new software and hire a couple of temporary(?) people to organize all the backlogged maintenance. (Yes, I know; it's 2010 and our district really has no idea how much needs to be done, where, and in order of need.) There was this idea that we would have one or two zone crews to go out and get one school's needs done in one shot. On the other hand, the district has just laid off 7 of the 14 maintenance workers (a pretty big hit for any department). So that backlogged maintenance? Either we are going to contract it out or there's going to be a lot of waiting. Now contracting it out has problems. First, the volume of work is such that it makes sense to have your own in-house people. Second, you can cert

Sinner or Saint, There Still Needs to Be Fairness

( Update: I had originally filed this thread with a timeline but it ended up seeming long so I went back and omitted it. It is in the appeal document.) I found the appeal document about the sexual harassment case that the district has now lost on appeal. I read through it and I think I understand why the district lost their appeal (it's a technical reading of the RCW). What I think is most important in the reading is tracking how this assistant principal, from about the moment she made her complaint, was bounced around the district. Glenda Williams' initial assertions were found valid by the District. They disciplined the principal and moved her and from there it must have seemed like a trip down the rabbit hole to her. That multiple principals and staffs felt compelled to think the worst about her (when they knew nothing about why she was transferred) is kind of sickening. She had good years at Ballard before the incidents began and managed to have 3 good years a

September 1 Board meeting

Lots of fun, interesting stuff on the agenda for the September 1 Board meeting. It begins with a work session on the Strategic Infrastructure and Maintenance Initiative. Give it a big fancy name like that and it creates the illusion that something's happening. Nothing is happening. Just as they do with students working below grade level, the District counts and tracks backlogged maintenance, but they don't actually do much about it. They will, however, produce a glorious powerpoint and lots of matrices and spreadsheets about the problem with no solution in sight. The Legislative meeting opens with Public Testimony. It will probably be dominated, again, with people talking about the teachers' contract negotiation. Of course, since that contract isn't on the agenda, everyone who wants to talk about it can get bumped by people who want to talk about agenda items. If you can put together a group of 20 people who will sign up to speak to agenda items then you can freeze

There Goes More Money

OMG. I will write a complete round-up of the upcoming Board meeting but I can tell you the Board will set the fastest record for taking a vote in the history of Board meetings. How do I know? Because they have to vote to spend (gulp!) $997,610.40 to satisfy a judgment (that lost in the jury trial and lost in appeals) to a plaintiff (one Glenda Williams) in a sexual harassment case. Now I'm sure the district has some kind of insurance but do I know if it covers all this judgment? Probably not as the district is on the hook for costs and lawyer fees (although the plaintiff has agreed if they pay by September 10, they will be a reduction in attorney fees). I'll have go down and read through the transcript on this one. I have to wonder why the district fought back on this one and didn't settle (maybe they tried but that will be hard to find out). But good to know we can loan out our legal counsel to teach business practice classes for the capital side when we have

Open Thread Friday

( Update: the first comment here is about the teacher negotiations so I wanted to put it front and center so that as we go into this final weekend of negotiations, you have the latest news. Thanks to LA Teacher for the update.) From the SEA: After spending fifteen hours bargaining on Thursday, the teams worked together for another seven hours on Friday. On Saturday, your SEA team will meet again to work on specific language and strategy. Both teams will come back together on Sunday, August 29th at noon and fully intend to continue working until they are able to reach a tentative agreement (TA) for all three bargaining units (Certificated, SAEOP and Paraprofessionals). There are still a number of issues on the table that need to be resolved, including teacher evaluation. Another issue has arisen regarding the mention of a self-imposed deadline of August 31 by both teams. As long as there is active negotiations taking place, the current contract will continue to be in

Open Friday

I had an epiphany today. I suddenly realized why the Education Reform movement is so focused on the teacher contract. Their Vision for education is a highly commodified product with a standardized delivery. They want to reduce teaching from an art to a craft - no, a skill. All signs point here: to the super-industrialization of public education. Let's start with the teachers - just like the Reformers. Instead of people who are responding to the unique set of factors presented by each student with an improvisation based in knowledge, experience, expertise, art, and passion, the Reformers want functionaries who will deliver the lesson as planned and written by the central administration with fidelity of implementation. Since no real art is required, the training can be radically shortened to the crash course provided to Teach for America volunteers. Also, since no experience is needed (or desired), and since senior employees would expect higher salaries, the Reform agenda is to r

Education Reform Roundup in the Seattle Times

For the past couple weeks it seems that the Seattle Times editorial page has been given over to discussion of Education Reform. Lots of "guest columns" and editorials, most on the side of Reform (but without every saying how these reform-inspired changes will actually improve student outcomes), but some trying to bring the focus back to the real work. Here's a recap: Time for Seattle Public Schools and teachers to partner in steps toward reform This is just dreadful. The District and the union had partnered on an evaluation - then the District threw it out. They are not good partners. Seattle, speak up for children as Seattle Public Schools contract negotiations go on by Norm Rice. He doesn't say, however, to whom people should speak up. He is also really focused on the teachers' contract and pays no mind to how students are taught or even the principals' contract. Definitely pro-reform, and pretty thoughtless. Mr. Rice writes: " What's at st

Teams of Teachers Helping Each Other

Interesting article in the New York Times about what's happening in K-12 education in Massachusetts. It kind of gives me hope for teachers even in a time of turmoil. From the article: Earlier this year Massachusetts enacted a law that allowed districts to remove at least half the teachers and the principal at their lowest-performing schools. The school turnaround legislation aligned the state with the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program incentives and a chance to collect a piece of the $3.4 billion in federal grant money. From Washington this makes abundant good sense, a way to galvanize rapid and substantial change in schools for children who need it most. In practice, on the ground, it is messy for the people most necessary for turning a school around — the teachers — and not always fair. They point out that principals often make the decision and when you have a new principal, he or she may not know the staff well or their dynamics. This also gets poi

Winners for Round Two of RTTT

The winners of the second round of Race to the Top were announced. They are; the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island. (Washington State was 32 out of 36. Ouch.) From ABC news online: Common threads among the 10 winners announced today include their bold approaches to turning around low-performing schools and their teacher evaluations systems. All of the winners also adopted common academic standards. The 10 winners were decided based on the scores they received from peer-review panels. All the winners received a score of more than 440 out of a possible 500. In the first phase of the competition, only the two winners, Delaware and Tennessee scored above 440. I was watching this on the national news and Colorado's governor was complaining that no state west of Tennessee won except Hawaii. He seemed to think there was some bias in there. From ABC news online: Education expert

Interesting Stuff Over at the LEV Blog

Update: I just popped back over to LEV's blog to double-check something and noted that they had another thread about the documentary, Waiting for Superman. But more telling is the "comments closed" tag on a thread just started today. No matter what you think of this blog or Charlie or me, unlike the Alliance blog or the LEV blog, we don't cut off comments (unless they are anonymous and hey, that might even change). Why do they have a blog if they treat it like an online newsletter? LEV has an interesting thread about a new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, "America's Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform: Attracting Entrepreneurs and Change Agents." I have not read the entire report but I did read the Seattle portion. I'll have see what is said about other cities. First, this report has a definite slant. Look at the title - is ed reform about attracting entrepreneurs? Or is that really the only way (via charters) for chang

Interesting Column from Danny Westneat

Here's Danny Westneat's column from the Times. He puts a very human face to the discussion about teacher evaluation. I'm not saying Seattle's grade-the-graders proposal is worthless. There have to be ways to reward the stars and shed the lemons. Seattle is right to confront these issues. But across town, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is in the midst of a study of whether it's even possible to reliably score teacher effectiveness. And, if so, what things — experience? test scores? knowledge? teaching style? — are the best measures of a great teacher. They don't know yet (the results aren't due for a year and half.) My hunch: Teaching — especially good teaching — is far more art than science. And he ends with: No matter what teacher-testing tools they come up with, they should inform, but not replace, people. In the end a principal should do what managers must do in countless other workplaces: decide who gets promoted and who gets fir

Is the Times in the Pocket of the Alliance? Seemingly, They Are.

So lately, it seems like an awful lot of cheerleading in one direction is happening in what should be a discussion (not a foregone conclusion) about ed reform. Norm Rice seemed to feel that way in his op-ed piece and made it sound like you're for it or get out of the way. The latest salvo, to me at least, is Sara Morris of the Alliance for Education trilling about two "terrific" Times' op-eds coming out. Once op-eds are accepted (but not necessarily published), the author(s) can tell whoever they like about them. What strikes me is that Ms. Morris knows of not one but two being published and seemingly what direction they will take. (Boy, the Alliance has woken up and decided they want to be a player and is throwing a lot of effort at this. One thing I have said and will continue to say is that the Alliance does NOT represent parents and any suggestion that they do would be wrong. The biggest entity representing parents would be the PTA followed by CPPS.

Meanwhile, at the Times They Get Norm Rice to Chime In

Will it ever end? Norm Rice says his piece at the Times. I guess the Times is going with the old adage of saying it enough times (and tapping your heels together three times) will make it come true. As a community, we need to determine if Seattle will be an early adopter or a laggard in education reform. And there's nothing in-between like careful consideration of what we do and the people in charge of enacting it (as the State Auditor questions their commitment to rules and regulations and oversight)? But he does say: The union and the school district need to come together and agree on what can be done now — controllable, deliberate steps we can take to improve education. Okay, Norm, so can you allow the union a chance to think about what they are asking members to do? Research shows that outside of parents, an effective teacher is the most important factor in determining whether children will succeed in school. Yay, Norm. More than just a factor in compensati

Thoughts about using student tests to judge teachers

Let me begin by saying that I would absolutely love to be able to use some objective measure of student academic growth as a measure of teacher effectiveness. I sincerely would. I am open to hearing about such a measure that can isolate the growth of student learning that is attributable to the teacher. I'm dying to hear about it. I just haven't heard it yet. I won't pretend that the proposed measure is the student's cumulative acheivement. I will grant folks who want to use student test results as a measure of teacher effectiveness the sophistication that they are using a measure of change. I'll even grant them an additional level of sophistication that acknowledges the smaller potential for growth among students who are already near the top of the measure. The five point change from 45 to 50 is easier to coach than the five point change from 85 to 90. Just the same, the data and the conclusions have grave faults. I review data for a living, so I have some famili

Busy Busy Week for the Board

Here is the calendar for the School Boad for this week: Monday, August 23 - 4:30pm - 6:00pm Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee Agenda Tuesday, August 24 - 3:30pm - 5:30pm Audit and Finance Committee Meeting (focus on finance) Agenda Wednesday, August 25 - 4:00pm - 6:00pm Board Workshop re FEL goals Thursday, August 26 - 3:30pm - 5:30pm Audit and Finance Committee Meeting (focus on audit) Friday, August 27 - 4:00pm - 6:00pm Executive Session re Negotiations

Tim Burgess in Crosscut

Tim Burgess has followed up on his guest column in the Times with another ill-informed and ill-advised piece in Crosscut . Won't somebody either set him straight or stop him?

Talk on Gifted Education and Black Youth

Here is info on a talk mentioned by LEV (I'm correcting this because they are not sponsoring it): This Tuesday, the 24th at Highline Community College and LEV calls it: Public Presentation on Gifted Education but Highline calls it Black Youth and Gifted/Accelerated Education The speaker is Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman of the University of North Carolina and the moderator is Dr. Stephanie Wood-Garnett of UW. Here's a link with info at the Washington State Commission on African-American Affairs. There's a free dinner at 6 p.m. and an extended Q&A but seating is limited. They want you to register for this talk. Dr. Coleman gave a presentation to OSPI's Highly Capable Technical Working Group which is working on recommendations about gifted education in Washington state. There's some interesting reading at this link. What I find odd is that LEV makes it sound like this is about general gifted education and the Highline link makes it sound like it's more

A Plethora of Reading

So most of you may have heard that the LA Times is doing a huge multi-part story about teacher evaluation. One of the biggest parts is a listing of every single public school teacher and their classroom test scores (and the teachers are called out by name). From the article: Though the government spends billions of dollars every year on education, relatively little of the money has gone to figuring out which teachers are effective and why. Seeking to shed light on the problem, The Times obtained seven years of math and English test scores from the Los Angeles Unified School District and used the information to estimate the effectiveness of L.A. teachers — something the district could do but has not. The Times used a statistical approach known as value-added analysis, which rates teachers based on their students' progress on standardized tests from year to year. Each student's performance is compared with his or her own in past years, which largely controls for


Let's say it's an early dismissal day or there's a substitute. Know what that means? Movies! My high school owned a 16mm print of Mutiny on the Bounty (with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton) that I must have seen ten times. Here are some that I could watch over and over. Meg Diaz on 3/17/10 Superintendent arrives AFTER public testimony concludes A quick talk from Daniel Pink on incentives Why Teacher Merit Pay is Tricky Has anyone made other clips? These are fabulous.

District web site redesign

Here it is folks. We paid about three-quarters of a million bucks for it, so you might as well participate. Help design the new District web site .

Hey, It's Friday Open Thread

Winding down on the dog days of summer here. Question to get you started: do you support the upcoming supplemental levy? Why or why not? Need more info?

New Report by the NCTQ

The National Council on Teacher Quality, an Ed Reform organization posing as a think tank, has issued another report on Seattle. This one explores the proposals discussed in the negotiations over the teachers' contract. I have reviewed their report and found it to be a mixed bag. I agree with the District and the NCTQ regarding teacher assignment. I, too, would like to see principals have more authority to determine who works in their schools. I support the District proposal to eliminate super-seniority privileges and the forced placement of any teacher in any school. I also support mutual consent hiring for all teachers regardless of the reason a teacher is transferring schools or when the position is being filled. Under such a system, excessed teachers would be able to remain in the displaced pool for a limited amount of time while they search for a new position: 12 months for teachers on a continuing contract; 6 months for teachers on a provisional contract. After this perio

Does Your Student Use Facebook or My Space? Inquiring District Minds Want to Know

Well, not really but it might come to that. Boy, I missed this but here's a report from KOMO-tv about a new policy passed by the Board last night. From the article: What Seattle school students post on public sites such as Facebook or MySpace could get them in trouble -- even if done at home on their private computers, according to a new policy going into effect for the coming school year. For example, if you were to write, "I'm going to kick your butt" on another student's page and the school principal hears about it, they can do something about it, even if you wrote it from your iPhone miles away from campus. Apparently the district itself won't be monitoring the sites but if a parent or a student "alerts" them to something written online, they'll look into it. What if a over-zealous principal or counselor monitors the sites? Is that acceptable or only reports from outside the district? The reporter asks, "What about if a

Latest Update from the SEA

Thanks to Another Mom for this alert. (Please note: italics mine.) "Earlier this week, we noted that district negotiators said they would seriously consider the latest SEA proposal, which attempted to address our mutual interests in quality teaching while not misusing student test data to fire teachers. District negotiators returned Thursday and did indeed engage in a serious conversation with SEA to explore our proposal. The session concluded without any tentative agreements being reached over adopting the jointly developed Professional Growth & Evaluation process, but the district did choose to add an extra day of negotiations on Monday. The bargaining teams had not planned to resume contract talks until Tuesday. SEA supports moving forward with the historic progress already achieved through the jointly negotiated Professional Growth and Evaluation plan. SEA's proposal on Tuesday suggested carving out middle ground by recognizing the district's inte

Yet Another Ed Reform Editorial in the Times

Yawn. Here's another . It's pretty insulting as it reduces education to being about training workers.

Student Growth and the Three R's

When some families with students in the Advanced Learning programs said that they wanted to see their students working one or two years ahead, the District STRONGLY discouraged these families from thinking in those terms. The District was VERY clear that acceleration was only one dimension to the District's Advanced Learning programs and that it was not the most important. They claimed that their focus was on rigor, not Grade Level Expectations. The focus belonged on rigor, they said, because the Three R's of education used to be Readin', Writin', and 'Rithmatic, but today, they claimed, they are Relationships, Rigor, and Relevance. So if the focus really belongs on Relationships, Rigor, and Relevance, instead of Grade Level Expectations, then how is this focus reflected in the District-defined measure of student progress for the purpose of teacher evaluations? This strikes me as another one of those disturbing situations in which the District says that our concer

School Board Testimony

I testified at last night's packed Board meeting (along with several other people who read this blog - I couldn't stay the whole evening). I was asked to post what I said but I decided to cut it back a little for length. I initially spoke on an Intro item, the School Technology Equity Plan, pointing out that there were 2 attachments to the item. One was a blank page and the other was the contract but the bulk of it was in 10 attachments which had no links. (I'll have to view my taping of the meeting to see if any Board member even asked about this.) I also want to note that I have documentation from the district about the retirement dinner. The only thing I'm not totally sure about is whether there were any other retirees at the dinner. One interesting note is that none of the current Board was invited according to the invitation list. "On the issue of oversight, let’s talk about the recent State Audit report. Virtually none of you have said anything even

Using Student Growth Data in Teacher Evaluations

The District wants to include measures of student growth as part of the annual teacher performance evaluation. That seems reasonable. In fact, I don't think there is anyone who would be opposed to a fair and thoughtful use of student outcomes as part of the teacher evaluation. How will the District measure student growth for the purposes of teacher evaluation? That's not entirely clear, but we do have some hints: From the letter to teachers dated 8/3/10 Student learning and growth will be based in both teacher-determined and District-determined data and measures, and will account for the fact that not all children are the same. The District measure will be based on the overall growth of a teacher's students relative to students of similar demographics who have performed like them in previous assessments, and will be calculated as a two-year rolling average on at least two student assessments. I'm not sure what this means. A. " the overall growth of a teacher