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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Coffee with the Superintendent - Part 2

Questions and Answers - NSAP

Q: Jane Addams only has a 3-year commitment as a K-8. There is concern that we won't be able to attract parents in January if they don't believe the program will continue.
A: Dr. Goodloe-Johnson initially seemed confused (even though it was a pretty clear question, maybe she forgot where she was or the circumstances in the new JA creation). Anyway she said there were 3 factors to consider. One, the comprehensive school report. Two, enrollment at JA. Three, we are going into year 2 of the NSAP. Geographic zones are going to be drawn for option schools. There may be a boundary issues for Garfield. Between November and January we should know.

(So the enrollment number analysis plus the geographic zones created should give us the answers to what tweaks may occur for the NSAP. This would be a good time to stay tuned in and not zone out during the holidays.)

Q: Will boundaries for neighborhoods be redrawn?
A: That's always a question mark. "The School Board could redraw the boundaries." It's an option.

I have to point out here that the Board does NOT draw the boundaries. I noticed she did this a couple of times at this meeting, trying to put the Board in the conversation. That's fine but the Board gives direction and policy to the Superintendent who then develops the plan to carry out those things. The Board then approves/tweaks/says start over/abandons the plan and the staff carry out what they voted on. The Board doesn't create any plan or draw any boundaries.

Q: The NE schools are packed - Bryant, Wedgwood, Laurelhurst, Thorton Creek - all over capacity. You added Sand Point to relieve this but the boundaries for it are small. In addition, you put the special programs there and there is going to be more transitional housing nearby. Is it time to talk about Jane Addams becoming an attendance area middle school (or regular K-8) to take the pressure off Eckstein that will come from all these overpacked schools?
A: That could be part of the conversation.

One parent pointed out that between John Rodgers and Sacajawea there are 50 empty seats (but that really doesn't help in the NE but in the North). I'm pretty sure Olympic Hills and Northgate have some as well.

Q: MAP. 10 weeks of the year we lose use of our library plus the librarian time.
A: It's not a district-wide issue but a school by school issue. (Let me pause here to say that if you read this blog and go out into the community, this seems to be a big issue everywhere.)

Then she said this: How can we free up time at school sites? We could see how children do and maybe just do it 2 times a year at some sites or maybe just have specific groups of children take it all 3 times. (This is absolutely what I heard. If someone heard differently, please say so. I was so surprised. What!?!)

Q: I asked if we had a teacher shortage in Seattle?
A: No, not that I'm aware.
Q: So why would we consider bringing Teach for America to SPS if there's no shortage and there is a cost to us (beyond salaries)?
A: We wouldn't have to pay that cost. Another entity/group? would pay for it.
Q: But long-term who would pay/
A: Melissa, I don't know about the future but we have something now. I would be one more way to have a wider access of teachers.
Q: So you would seriously have a just-out-of-college grad with 5 weeks training and no experience teach a middle school special-ed class?
A: I don't understand your question. (I thought it was pretty clear myself.) I think that the training TFA teachers get is better than some our teachers get. (Again, yes, this is what I wrote down that she said.) These teachers are just the same as all the other teachers. (And that's why you have to write an MOU with TFA and the SEA. This from Michael DeBell; they are bringing in 25 teachers which seems like a lot for a program like this.)

Another parent commented that TFA had a good longitudinal study about its work and I pointed out there had been many studies of TFA, with many differing answers about it.

Q: How to make Sand Point more of a draw?
A: She said that the first year was a time for the SP parent community to talk about what they want for the school. (One, both McDonald and SP communities DID talk about what they wanted before the schools started. If the district had put anything in place, I know both schools would have better numbers. Two, I just don't believe that what the parents want for their school is what they are going to see. I can't think of the last time a program got placed somewhere because a community asked for it.)

One parent pointed out that she could see the benefit of something like Teach for America. She said she was a pre-school teacher but that it was very expensive to get her teaching certificate and that hands-on teaching is valid as well as having a certificate. "It brings a richness to our school." Again, we need another thread on TFA but I will say that no TFA teacher comes into a school with hands-on experience. TFA gives them on-the-job training when they are placed into a classroom. It would not be my first pick (and if I had my special ed child in a class like that, we would have gone private).

23 comments:

wsnorth said...

Did she mention what they are planning to do with the TFA teachers? How are they planning to use them?

StepJ said...

Just want to say I know the parent that spoke up as to the possible benefits of TFA. She is not a newbie undergrad. - so no bashing.

Because I know her I would trust her with my kids. On the flip -- I also understand she is not the norm for TFA. She has a graduate degree and was a successful lawyer - but did not find it to be her life calling.

She does have a connection with kids and has education and life experience to back her up.

I rather wish TFA applicants would be used as aides in our, "class size doesn't matter" classrooms vs. taking the unaided helm all by themselves.

Make it a requirement to have your teaching credentials before you can lead a classroom on your own. In the interim, accept help from those willing to give teaching a test. Folks that are uncertain can certainly make a determination as an aide vs. the person in control.

But, just plain displacing teachers to save monies vs. filling in for unfillable vacancies is not good.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, she did not. I'm going to follow up fast as this seems full speed ahead.

Chris S. said...

That woman that pointed out that certification was expensive had the best argument I've heard so far in favor of TFA -- not that I'm convinced. She is limited by living in a very expensive city. What I wonder is if TFA would have her. Do they do us older folk or are the exclusively interested in the young & impressionable?

Jesse Hagopian was a TFA alum (and not a fan) who went on to masters degree in Ed. He said he did have some time in classroom as part of the boot camp. No idea how much or if it's standard.

I'm also confused, do TFA completers get some sort of special cert after their two years? Is there a functional distinction between TFA newbie, TFA alum, and regularly certified teacher. If you're a newbie, you have to go to an "underserved" school, right? But after the two years you can teach anywhere, right? Or just anywhere that accepts TFA? I'll be looking forward to whatever you dig up, Melissa.

Chris S. said...

Oh yeah, you quoted her correctly and she also said "she wished our teachers had access to the training the TFA does." OUCH!

Melissa Westbrook said...

StepJ, I wish they were aides as well. Not the program, not going to happen.

I think the program is only for the young and the restless but again, still doing the research.

Aunty Broad said...

Wait, wait, Melissa. You're a little murky to me when you mention a MOU about TFA with SEA. Does such a memorandum already exist, to your knowledge?

Charlie Mas said...

Teach for America teachers DO have a certificate, but they go through an alternative certification process. The legislature approved the alternative certfication process in their last session in a package of changes needed to chase Race to the Top money.

We didn't get the money but we are left permanently with the changes made to pursue it, including a law on the books that allows for an alternative teacher certification process.

Anonymous said...

The only empty seats in the Eckstein service area for elementary attendance area schools are 29 seats at Olympic Hills and 8 seats at John Rogers and seats at Sand Point. The number of empty seats is based on functional capacity numbers for the schools put out by SPS in Jan 2009 and Oct. 1 2010 enrollment.

Northgate is over capacity by 21.

NE parent

Jet City mom said...

I really don't understand the statement about the preparedness of the TFA compared to an education degree/certification.

So my D is in a full time teaching position ( team teaching with a mentor) for two years. At the same time she is taking university courses, some of which are held off site ( from her workplace), but some are held on site. She will be working combined school/university more than 40 hours a week for two years-
How can a 5 week program POSSIBLY be better than full time X at least 80 weeks?

Do we want medical staff who trained in a month long program? Howabout engineers?

Guess we can get rid of all those admin staffers at the Stanford center who insist on being called "Dr.", since we know now that those with less education are more skilled
( well that could be true)...



I doubt if TFA gets people any sort of certification, because in our state there is a protocol to obtaining certification- that was the sticking point with all the science and math types who were working as district/school consultants and had post -doc work in their field but couldn't be allowed in the classroom.

Teachers in public schools in Washington State are required to hold a valid teaching certificate. The basic requirements for teacher certification are:

Degree. A minimum of a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college/university
Preparation Program. Completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program at a regionally accredited college/university OR completion of an alternative pathway to certification, hold certification in another state and taught 3 years at the P-12 level.
Teacher Testing. Teachers must pass a basic skills test and (for each endorsement) an endorsement test. See Teacher Assessments.

Bird said...

Anyone see this...

http://voices.washingtonpost.com
/dcschools/2010/08
/michelle_rhee_first-year_teach.html

Apparently, Michelle Rhee, who was a TFA teacher, told and "amusing" anecdote about how her classroom management skills were so bad that she put tape on all her kids mouths to keep them quiet. Seriously.

There's even a link to the actual audio for this.

http://www.washingtonpost.com
/wp-dyn/content/video/2010/08
/13/VI2010081305444.html

We don't need TFA. It'll only put similarly incompetent teachers in the classroom.

I don't want my kid to have a TFA teacher. I suspect, however, they wouldn't put such a teacher in my kid's class. The parents might kick up a fuss.

No, I expect they'll put TFA teachers in the neediest class rooms, exactly the last place they should be.

Melissa Westbrook said...

What DeBell said about TFA was that "the SPS administration is in talks with TFA and SEA on an MOU to bring about 25 teachers into the system."

So there must be a draft MOU somewhere. You can Google TFA at the district's website and find one thing. This has really been under the radar.

Thanks for that update NE parent. A parent at the coffee said there were seats at Sacajawea.

Kathy said...

Melissa, What is a MOU?

tg said...

TFA teachers do in-classroom training before their assignments, at least a few years ago that was the path when several of my friends did it. And I think often TFA people pursue a masters in Ed while doing TFA- that's the route my friend took and TFA helped make it affordable for her to do it. She got great teaching experience in a challenging school district (Watts), but still felt like she made great progress with students, and is now a teacher in Seattle. And yeah, she did work alot of extra hours while teaching as a TFA teacher. I think that's common, what they may lack in experience, they compensate for and do the overtime to make sure they still do a good job in the classroom.
I'd be all for SPS getting class sizes down in some of our neediest schools by bringing in TFA as a subsidized aid to our schools. Might even keep me from being lured to move or go private.
-parent of a toddler in South Seattle

Maureen said...

Kathy, MOU is "memorandum of understanding." I believe SPS has to negotiate them when out of the ordinary relationships are established. For example, the New School Foundation has an MOU with SPS regarding the New School at South Shore since they have so many exceptions to basic SPS rules/policies. I'm not sure why alternative schools don't (can't?)have MOUs. Does anyone know?

cascade said...

tq. good information. but to be clear there is absolutely no plan by central administration to use TFA to bring down class size. they will be here to compete with other teachers for the privilege of those 28-29-30 elementary school sizes classes.

again. tfa does NOT equal class size reduction.

nor is tfa in seattle a done deal yet.

Charlie Mas said...

MOUs fulfill essentially the same role as a contract, but they are between government entities or non-profits or between a government entity and a non-profit.

They require the same elements as a contract, including "consideration" - money.

So the New School Foundation's MOU with the District deliniates the parties' rights and responsibilities regarding the NSF's generous grant.

If another school community wanted an MOU they would need to have a non-profit, such as the PTSA, make the deal with the District (not the school), and it would have to include some benefit that the non-profit were providing the District, such as cash or volunteer hours.

Any group is free to try to get one, but I'm not sure with whom you'd have to negotiate. I presume it would be the Grants Manager. Isn't that Duggan Harman?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I'd be all for SPS getting class sizes down in some of our neediest schools by bringing in TFA as a subsidized aid to our schools."

Please folks, you can like TFA for any number of reasons but no, it will NOT bring class size down and no, they will not be aides to regular teachers. They are not hiring TFA teachers in ADDITION to teachers but as teachers.

seattle citizen said...

""I'd be all for SPS getting class sizes down in some of our neediest schools by bringing in TFA as a subsidized aid to our schools."

How 'bout getting classes down for some of our neediest students and their teachers, instead? Schools aren't needy: People are. Why should only some buildings get attention? Shouldn't a struggling student at ANY school get attention?

And if TFA is good enough for some supposed "neediest school," they're good enough for ALL schools, right? Why would be only put TFA in a "needy school"? If they're such wonderful deals (cheap!) why wouldn't we just go ahead and replace ALL teachers with TFA? If they're some sort of emergency band-aide for "needy schools," does that mean they're not the real deal? They're a stop-gap? Why aren't "needy schools" getting the very best teachers? Are they not worthy?

I also agree with Melissa - TFA would not be added FTE to reduce class size, it would be replacing certified teacher FTE.

karyn king said...

"TFA would not be added FTE to reduce class size, it would be replacing certified teacher FTE"

None of us have anything against the indviduals who join TFA. I'm sure most are at least well-intentioned.

But let's call it what is is: scab labor. The deformist admin types are out to get rid of veteran professional teachers and replace them with naive newbies who do not see themselves as union-busters, but as altruistic angels.

Meanwhile,TFA corp. rakes in the dough.

Jet City mom said...

My D has worked with Americorps ( CityYear) and she was assigned to BFDay, I expect she helped to reduce class size there ( it was before college- from her description she was a welcome assistant)
She also worked with TAF students in south Seattle ( this was in 2000)
Seattle schools used Americorps to help staff Read Right , and to offer other after school supports like College Access Now.

Those programs I support- but it does sound like TFA will take us someplace we don't want to go.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Emeraldkity, I'm high on what Americorps does as well and I can't understand not getting more of them in schools since they do a lot of support work for teachers.

another mom said...

From the TFA site:

"For the 2011 year, districts invest at least $4,000 per corps member per year towards the cost of recruitment, selection, training, placement, and ongoing support. These provisions are agreed upon through a Professional Services Agreement between districts and Teach For America, which are signed before a new site opens."

Is this the fee that the Superintendent indicated a private foundation is fronting? Also, who pays for their tuition, books, and other fees associated with getting their Wa State Teaching Certificate?