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Showing posts from September, 2010

Waiting for Superman: Judge for Yourself

I said it before, go see Waiting for Superman (or conversely, wait until it comes out on DVD). There are other films on education out there but you might want to judge for yourself since this one has received so much hype. As I said in my review, the film's website says it is an "exhaustive" of public education. Judge for yourself if you walk away understanding the history (total or recent) of public education in this country after you watch this film. Watch the film carefully and see if you see ONE, just one good to great regular public school shown OR even mentioned. It doesn't happen. Listen carefully (and don't blink) or you will see the ONE mention that oh, by the way, charters, overall, don't do better than regular public schools. (This is not a reason to not try them but yes, it's a reason to not believe they are the silver bullet that will cure all public education ills.) As I said in my review, it's interesting to hear Michelle Rhe

Foreign Language and the Arts: Basic Education?

So following up on yesterday's thread, is foreign language instruction and/or arts instruction part of basic education? Kids could live without having either and could be educated without either. But that's not really the point (I know it is for Tea Party people - the "basics" and nothing else). But I would say for 21st century learning, a foreign language is going to be very useful. And not just learning the language, but the learning that comes from finding out where a country is on the globe, its culture, etc. are all part of a 21st century America. Arts. Well, how do we live without them? The world and the school experience would be so much less without music, theater, video production, painting, etc. Arts like sports is something that keeps kids in school. But it's a cost. So should the state help at all?

What Should the State Fund For Education?

So elsewhere a reader said this: I understand the state pushed the responsibility of purchasing books onto the District. Hopefully, we could get a line item for books while trying to get the government to assume responsibility for basic educational needs. (As an aside, I'm looking into this whole textbook replacement issue. It seems that some information told to me was wrong, namely that the state funds textbooks but only every 18 years.) The district is embarking on early discussions about next year's budget so now is a good time to talk. What struck me about the comment above was the term " basic educational needs ." First, how do we define those? Off the top of my head: a clean, safe building qualified teachers/principal textbooks no older than 10 years old (especially for science and/or history/social studies) instructional materials (I don't even know if this still gets funded but paper, pencil, ruler, glue, crayons, stapler, etc) other instructi

Double Shifting Over in Lake Washington School District

From KIRO tv: Eastlake is one of two high schools in the Lake Washington district that will soon be over capacity by hundreds of students. In 2012, Redmond High School will have about 500 kids more than they have room for. Eastlake High will have 340 too many.The Lake Washington School District said it may not have a choice but to split Eastlake and Redmond high schools into two school days each, a format called double shifting.One shift would start about 6:30 a.m. and the other at around 12:30 p.m. I had to do this in junior high while a new building was being built. It was a little weird but I was grateful I had the late shift. From the story: Double shifting is the least expensive option, but the district could bring in more money with a new tax levy. Depending on its size, the money could be used for new portables, permanent classrooms or even a new school. We should have some new numbers for our own district very soon.

Budget Planning Meeting today 4-8

The Board will be meeting this afternoon and evening for a Board Workshop on "Budget Planning and Development". Here is the agenda. It begins with a recap of the budget gap for the coming year. This is to make sure that everyone comes into the meeting with lowered expectations. Next comes "Board developed guiding principals(sic)". I don't think that the Board is actually going to give guidance to principals, I think this was supposed to be "guiding principles". What are the Board's guiding principles? Last year they were to strike a balance between ongoing operations and investments in the Strategic Plan. I say balance, but I don't recall the Board ever saying "no" to any spending on the Plan. The community, I think, would have preferred more spending on current operations and less investment in Strategic Plan items. All of the cuts came in current operations, none that I could see in the Plan. I don't recall anyone in the Di

Pop Quiz on Religion

There was an article in the NY Times about research done by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (independent group) on what Americans know about religion. Very illuminating and also funny - I can hardly wait for the Daily Show and the Colbert Report will say and I was laughing at CBS news' own report. (Meaning, that even in a country that expresses itself so profoundly religious as ours, I would have thought people would do better.) The researchers said that the questionnaire was designed to represent a breadth of knowledge about religion, but was not intended to be regarded as a list of the most essential facts about the subject. Most of the questions were easy, but a few were difficult enough to discern which respondents were highly knowledgeable. They asked 3400 Americans 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous people, etc. Results? On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many f

What Other People Say

The NY Times has had several articles on teacher evaluation. One was "Formula to Grade Teachers' Skill Gains Acceptance, and Critics" about using value-added data. The letters to the editor on this story were quite interesting and I thought I'd put some snips in and see what you think. (All italics and bold mine.) First a few quotes from the story. Arne Duncan on the LA Times teacher assessment project: Education Secretary Arne Duncan weighed in to support the newspaper’s work, calling it an exercise in healthy transparency. In a speech last week, though, he qualified that support, noting that he had never released to news media similar information on teachers when he was the Chicago schools superintendent. On The Los Angeles Times’s publication of the teacher data, he added, “I don’t advocate that approach for other districts.” Arne? Yes or no? About value-added itself: William L. Sanders, a senior research manager for a North Carolina compan

Quick Report from Curriculum and Instruction

I caught the very end of the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting yesterday just as discussion of the waiver process was wrapping up. At the end of the last meeting Director Martin-Morris said that he would come to this meeting with a draft process or policy or something, but he spaced it and didn't do the work. The Committee did get things done on the matter at this meeting, thanks, in significant part, to the presence of Director DeBell. The Board members, along with Dr. Enfield, discussed the elements of a waiver policy/process and want her to come back to their next meeting with a sort of bulletpointed outline of the main topics to be considered (equity, purpose, duration, professional development, revocation, etc.) and some thoughts on each. One of the ideas to promote equity came from Director DeBell. He noted that the District didn't have to buy Board-adopted materials for schools with a waiver and that savings - such as the money that was not spent to

Meeting calendar for the next two weeks

Here's a list of upcoming meetings: Wednesday, September 29 District VI Community Meeting (Sundquist) 11:00am - 12:30pm at the Delridge Branch - Seattle Public Library Board Workshop re Budget Goals 4:00pm - 8:00pm at the JSCEE Thursday, September 30 "Welcome Back" Regional Meeting – West Seattle 6:30 - 8:00pm at Chief Sealth International High School Wednesday, October 6 Board Works Session re School Reports 4:00pm - 5:30pm at the JSCEE Regular School Board Meeting 6:00pm at the JSCEE Thursday, October 7 Superintendent "Coffee Chat" 6:00 - 7:00pm at the SBOC Saturday, October 9 District II - Community Meeting (Carr) 8:30am - 10:00am at the Greenwood Neighborhood Service Center District I Community Meeting (Maier) 10:30am - 12:00pm at Bethany Community Church District VI Community Meeting (Sundquist) 11:00am - 12:30pm at the High Point Branch - Seattle Public Library

MacArthur Genuis Awards: What's a Public School Teacher Doing There?

I had heard on NPR that one of the winners of this year's MacArthur Genuis Awards was a public school teacher who had created a robotics program at his high school. I wanted to say, "Yay for public school teachers!" (Want to be simultaneously depressed AND inspired? Read through all the winners. Amazing people.) So here's what the MacArthur Foundation has to say about the teacher, Amir Abo-Shaeer , who works at a non-charter public high school in Santa Barbara called Dos Pueblos High School. Amir Abo-Shaeer is a physics teacher who is inspiring and preparing public high school students for careers in science and mathematics. Recognizing the potential for programs at the secondary level to encourage students to pursue science and engineering degrees, Abo-Shaeer left a career in industry to become a teacher at Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, California. In 2002, he created the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy (DPEA), a school within a school with

Audit Committee Meeting Last Week

I missed Part 1 of the responses to the State Audit by the staff at the last Audit and Finance Committee meeting. Each issue has a number. They started at A5.16 (if you are keeping up). I am disappointed to have missed their explanation on a couple of the previous ones like: A3.1 - District staff was not aware of state law on the use of capital project money or the guidance provided in the Schools Accounting Manual . Staff in Accounting, Budget and Payroll attended a one-day workshop in July. Training for other staff started in August, 2010. The district will have to pay back $1.2M from the General Fund to the Capital Fund. Well, if the words " staff was not aware of state law on the use of capital project money " doesn't scare you, I don't have much left until Halloween. These are the people spending your tax dollars on our school buildings. Also, this is not some obscure area of capital spending. I'll have to try to get the minutes fro

Ask the President

NBC news is doing a weeklong series dedicated to public education. Tomorrow night, Matt Lauer will interview President Obama about education. It will be at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. our time). From the Education Nation website : The interview will kick off the two-day Education Nation Summit that will bring together some of the country's greatest thinkers to discuss topics such as how prepared our children are for the workforce, developing great teachers, technology and innovation in our schools and more. The panel discussions will be carried on MSNBC and streamed online, live and on demand, at EducationNation.com and at msnbc.com. You can also submit a question to the President here .

Questions to the Board and District

One of our readers (I'm sorry I've forgotten who) suggested a link for a list of questions that you yourself have submitted to either the Board or district staff. If you have sent a question in the last months or so, please send it to me ( sss.westbrook@gmail.com ). I'll start a list at the "links" section on the right-hand side of the SSS page. Also, if you got an answer, please put that with your question (even if it is vague or didn't answer your question fully). The idea is to keep track of what has been asked to staff and what we hear back. Thanks.

Community Meetings/Work Sessions

Did anyone attend either Director Smith-Blum's meeting or Director Patu's meeting yesterday? I heard from one attendee to Smith-Blum's that there were about 40 people (including KIRO tv, interesting). Tracy Libros from Enrollment and Nancy Coogan the Central Regional Executive Director were also there. Two-thirds of the discussion was around issues at Garfield. Kay and Tracy apparently said there could be some future redrawing of boundaries. Why aren't their comparable quality AP classes at all high schools? (Interesting question but I'm not sure what they mean? Better teachers? Better AP course topics?) Teacher from Schmitz Park came and noted how well they were doing using Singapore math and that he felt all elementaries should be free to choose their materials. Good for him. Science curriculum at Garfield was also a topic (and needs a separate thread). Lack of college counseling at Garfield (Kay said she had to work with her own kids.) Nancy Coogan spo

Just Throwing This Out For Discussion

Elsewhere, in a discussion about the NW Regional meeting, a couple of commenters wondered aloud why Dr. Goodloe-Johnson isn't challenged more. I thought I would dive in with some thoughts and then see what others think. First, we don't know if privately Board members take her aside and express their concerns to her. We don't know if they ever do that as a group or individually. I would suspect out of all the Board members that Michael DeBell would. Michael has a quiet, non-threatening way of saying things. However, that great ability also sometimes undercuts the seriousness of what he says. That the Board has always supported the Superintendent's actions publicly or in their votes seems to me to say they don't call her out privately. Second, she does feel powerful and large and in charge. She's got the Alliance right in her pocket. (I smile now because an Alliance staffer once said at a meeting that the Alliance doesn't "work" for her. I

Open Thread Friday

To note for Saturday: Director Smith-Blum Community meeting 10-11:30 am - Douglas Truth Public Library, 2300 Yesler Way at 23rd Director Patu Community meeting 10-noon - 4400 Rainier Ave. S at Genesee The district is claiming, in their bid for the TIF grant, that 3 years ago our district was ".. .a collection of independent schools operating with little direction and no accountability..." I wrote to the Board asking them if they support that view. Ponder that and tell me if you think that was our district 3 years ago. (I have to say that stating there was no accountability 3 years ago as if there is accountability now is just the height of chutzpah.) What's on your mind?

Superman and the Seattle Times

An editorial in today's Seattle Times buys into Waiting for Superman. As usual from Times editorials, it is a bit difficult to cut away the meaningless language and try to determine what the Times is trying to say. In this case, the message seems to be "Don't get complacent about education just because your school and teachers are okay - there are parts of the city where children are not doing well and it is up to you to fix that for them." However Ms Varner doesn't offer us any means for helping these students. Aside from that message of your responsibility to the less fortunate in your community, Ms Varner insinuates that the villian in this melodrama is the teachers' union - " the ills of public education's bloated bureaucracy: the high dropout rates, the widening achievement gap and powerful teachers unions that keep the conversation about adults rather than children " Where does she live? What color is the sky on her planet? Ms Varn

Our District

I got a little irritated this morning because I got an e-mail saying I was nit-picking over the language used by the district for the federal grant for teacher evaluation. Here was my reply (and my frustration) because honestly, what more evidence to people want? Does anyone really, truly believe that things aren't "that" bad? And now, with apologies to Sarah Palin, my e-mail: "Linda Shaw from the Times called me last night for my reaction on the grant. I told her it was good news and free money for something that both the district and union were working together on. I had good things to say. I think it worth saying that what the district said to the feds about SPS and what they said in the press release are different. Want to know what they said about our district? Over the last three years, Seattle has moved from a collection of independent schools operating with little direction and no accountability, to one with clear system-wide perfo

THe District Wins Big (What Does It Mean for the Levy)?

( NOTE: I updated this thread a couple of hours later to reflect other info I saw in the news release.) It was announced today that the district has won a $12.5M Teacher Incentive Grant. This is money to be used for staffing at 34 high-need schools over 5 years. There are a lot of interesting things in both the feds' press release and the district's. Let's start with the district's PR. The five- year TIF program seeks to strengthen the education profession by rewarding excellence, attracting teachers and principals to high-need and hard to staff areas, and providing all teachers and principals with the feedback and support they need to succeed. “I want to thank our teachers and leaders for their work to reach this historic agreement, which was a key factor that evaluators considered when they awarded this grant to our district.” (Dr. Goodloe-Johnson) Glenn Bafia, Seattle Education Association’s (SEA) Executive Director, said that “SEA is excited that por

Who is ready for some astonishing news?

Here is the agenda (posted today) for today's meeting of the Audit & Finance Committee: Thursday Sept. 23, 2010 ~~~ 4:00 – 6:00 pm Audit Issues Agenda 1. Call to Order - a. Board members present - b. Approval of agenda - c. Approval of 8/26 meeting minutes 2. Committee Discussion 60 min - a. Review of audit response (starting with A5.16) 15 min - b. Review finance policy work plan H. Ferguson 05 min - c. Discuss Board Resolution regarding audit responses H. Ferguson 15 min - d. Update outlining changes from last A&F Committee Mtg. D. Harman 15 min - e. Update on CGCS Conf. to include learning regarding key indicators and internal controls D. Kennedy - f. RFP for external audit firm 10 min- g. Discuss addition of public member to Audit Committee S. Carr If I right leave now, I might get there in time to witness this last discussion item with my own eyes.

Central Region Welcome Back Meeting report

I attended the Central Region Welcome Back Meeting last night at Bailey Gatzert. A lot of folks were there, Michael DeBell and Kay Smith-Blum from the School Board, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, Susan Enfield, Nancy Coogan and most of the principals from the region, also Bernardo Ruiz and Patty Spencer from the District, and a number of familiar community faces including Solyn McCurdy from the Alliance, Kerry Cooley-Stroum from CPPS and SchoolsFirst!, Ramona Hatterdorf from the SCPTA, Chris Jackins, and Jane Fellner - among others, and about 30 citizens whom I hadn't met. Bernardo Ruiz welcomed us and introduced Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson. She spoke of the District's mission to create the kinds of classrooms we all want for our sons and daughters, that the Strategic Plan represented a moral belief and a commitment to provide excellence for all, that the curricular alignment was about assuring access to grade level instruction, quality materials, acceleration where appropriate and

Legal Roundup

From the Times : A former drug-and-alcohol-intervention specialist at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School was convicted Wednesday of one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, four counts of distribution of oxycodone and one count of possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute, according to the U.S Attorney's Office. None of the drug sales involved students. On one occasion, Smith allegedly left Rainier High School during school hours to meet the informant two blocks away to make a drug deal, according to the indictment. Smith faces up to 20 years in prison for each count when he is sentenced on Jan. 6. From the Times : A paralegal for Seattle Public Schools is expected to be charged this week for allegedly selling crack cocaine to an informant working for Seattle police. It appears that the transactions occurred away from any school district building. The police report did not say whether Bryant is believed to have been selling drugs to students. Au

Passing of a Great Activist

I want to note the passing of Roberto Maestas, a civil rights leader in Seattle. He helped found El Centro de La Raza which serves the Mexican-American community. He was 72. He was a former SPS teacher at Franklin High School. He was part of a loose gang of 4 called the Four Amigos with King County Councilman Larry Gossett, the late Native American leader Bernie Whitebear and Bob Santos, a voice in the Asian-American community. Mr. Gossett said of him: "No one has been more on the front lines of every significant movement for social change in the Northwest than Roberto." It's funny because I knew who he was, our paths crossed numerous times at many meetings and yet somehow we never met. But his presence loomed large at any meeting and he was a great speaker. "In lieu of flowers, Mr. Maestas' family asks that contributions be made in his name to El Centro de la Raza, with the funds to be used to establish a college fund for Latino students."

Various Small Notes

Here are some nuggets from my email inbox that I thought might be of interest. Strategies 360 is hiring an Education Communications Manager . You could be the flak for Education Reform in Seattle - if you have what it takes. A fellow wrote to the Board and the Superintendent with this question: I would like to see the district's analysis of why the Schmitz Park Elementary has such a fantastic standard Math pass rate . I'm sure the district has noticed this and determined the reasons why such a success cannot be replicated. To which Dr. Goodloe-Johnson replied: Thank you for your question [name deleted]. The district has had conversations around success and areas of improvement. We have targeted schools to analyze and learn from, we will share publically when we are finished. I think both the question and the answer were disingenuous. The person writing pretended not to know about Singapore and so did the Superintendent. Hee-larious. Diane Ravitch, education historian and

Does Merit Pay Work (Redux)?

Yet another study, this one from Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives (boy that's specific) in the Times . The study released Tuesday by Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives researchers found that students in classrooms where teachers received bonuses saw the same gains as the classes where educators got no incentive. "I think most people agree today that the current way in which we compensate teachers is broken," said Matthew Springer, executive director of the Vanderbilt center and lead researcher on the study. "But we don't know what the better way is yet. They state that 5-8th grade teachers in Nashville public schools over 3 years from 2007-2009 could make between $5k-$15K annually, depending on how their students tested. A bit issue here as in a study in Florida is that you are talking about individual bonuses which tend to pit teachers against each other. Maybe merit pay would be

NE Regional Meeting

There were about 30-40 parents in attendance at the meeting along with a plethora of staff; Dr. Goodloe-Johnson (who came about 7 p.m.), Dr. Enfield, all the NE principals, Bernardo Ruiz of Family Engagement and Directors Maier, Carr and Martin-Morris. A couple of heads up for anyone attending the other meetings. One, for some reason they had the sign-in sheets in the auditorium instead of when you head in. So look for those if the building you are in is using an auditorium. Also, they had two tables at Eckstein and different handouts at each so check if you want to make sure you get everything. Two, get those questions ready because they took any and all questions. I was surprised to see a table of Starbucks coffee, bottled water and granola bars for the audience. It's a nicety but I thought we were a poor district. I asked Dr. Enfield and she said she didn't know what budget this came out of. Apparently I hit a nerve because Dr. Goodloe-Johnson later said the distr

Question about NSAP

Lots to report from the Regional meeting last night but that's for later. Right now, I have a question about the NSAP that I wanted to put out there before I write to Tracy in Enrollment. I was talking with some parents and was told, by two of them, that they got their child's assignment to Roosevelt just before school started. They both said they got in on the 10% set-aside seats, not waitlist movement. I was a bit startled because I would have thought the 10% set-aside lottery happened months ago. Does anyone have anything they know about the NSAP to explain this? Why would the lottery be held in the last few days before school?

Really, Final Warning

Despite having explained that this blog doesn't accept Anonymous comments, there are still some coming up. Sometimes I can tell that it's someone new to the blog so I give them a one-day pass. But our policy is stated right at " Leave Your Comment " so no more. To be clear, if you write something Anonymously, sooner or later, it will be deleted. Probably sooner. Also, while I don't particularly like signing at the END of the comment, I'll let it go. At least people reading comments will be able to refer back to your comment. Also, hijacking threads. We have also provided for a way for you to let us know about interesting articles or thoughts. The first way is to e-mail me at sss.westbrook@gmail.com . As you may have noticed, I do put up other people's ideas. Sometimes it takes a day or so but I check that address every day in case something burning is in there. The second way is at Open Thread Friday . (Of course, if there is breaking

Seattle Times Truth Needle

For the upcoming elections, the Seattle Times is running a feature called The Truth Needle . The Seattle Times political team investigates the claims of candidates and campaigns and renders an opinion on whether the claims are true or false. I have submitted the claims, by SchoolsFirst! , that the supplemental levy is needed to restore cuts to the District budget resulting from reduced support from the State. While I am fairly confident that any comparison between the budget cuts and the planned spending for the levy revenue will disprove the claim, I am much less confident that the Seattle Times will choose to examine the claim. I think it would be helpful if a number of other people also suggested that the Truth Needle review this claim by SchoolsFirst! (and other levy supporters). You can submit a claim for review from the Truth Needle web page.

One More to Add

Garfield is having a General PTSA meeting tonight and guess what the topic is: The adverse impact the new enrollment plan has had on our building is significant and compounding. Some of the issues include: *Overcrowding (no authority to set capacity limits) *Lack of teachers, counselors, security, maintenance, and administrative staff. *Reduced choices for course of study for students *Impact on school culture and success Tonight. 7pm in the Commons just inside the main entrance). District leaders who care want to hear your experience and concerns about this issue. Special guests at tonight's PTSA General Meeting include: SeattleSchool Board Director, Kay Smith-Blum Executive Director of Schools, Nancy Coogan Director of Planning and Enrollment, Tracy Libros