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Showing posts from November, 2010

Yet Another Deceptive Statistic

Let me just tell you upfront that this deception is MUCH WORSE than the falsehood about "only 17% of graduates meet college entrance requirements". This is much worse than that. There are two numbers on the school reports that do not mean what you think they mean. These numbers do not mean what the District says they mean. These numbers are COMPLETELY misleading. The more I think about them, the more convinced I become that they don't mean anything at all. Yet they are two of the most important numbers on the report and they determine half of the school's overall grade. On the school report, the numbers are labelled " Students making gains on the state reading test " and " Students making gains on the state math test ". Look at the report for Beacon Hill Elementary . You will see that it says that 69% of students made gains on the state reading test and 67% of students made gains on the state math test. That sounds pretty good, doesn't it

Billingual Education

There was a thoughtful column about bilingual education in Sunday's Seattle Times by syndicated columnist, Esther Cepeda. From her column: Education policy has rarely garnered our collective attention as it does now. One aspect that needs more attention, though, is the question of how best to educate students whose native language is not English. It's a politically charged topic that rarely focuses on research and instead pits those who don't want to spend resources on instructing children in any language other than English against those who believe bilingual education is a civil right. Okay so let's stop there because there are a couple of issues. One, should the American public education system be educating children in their native language and two, is it a civil rights issue? Ms. Cepeda argues that it hurts the whole educational system's performance if non-native speakers struggle because of language barriers. The U.S. Department of Education&#

In Praise of Director DeBell

I know that there is a diversity of opinion about many of the Board Directors among the frequent commenters on this blog. I have that diversity of opinion within myself sometimes. They certainly come in for a lot a scolding and criticism from me, but I would like to take this opportunity to write in praise of Board President Michael DeBell. At the Board Retreat, he was the only Board member who recognized the crisis in the Board - the failure to oversee, the successful math textbook appeal, the organized opposition to the levy, the state audits, and the concern about the District's direction among other elected officials. He tried to raise the alarm, but the Gang of Four remained deaf to it. As Board President, Director DeBell has been instrumental in introducing some kind of oversight. He has led the effort to re-set the budget schedule and the budget priorities. I first met with Mr. DeBell when he was a candidate. He struck me as an honest, intelligent, and well-intentioned

KUOW's Discussion About Rote Learning

KUOW's The Conversation had an interesting conversation yesterday about rote learning (the show was titled " Drill, Baby, Drill ?". Their guests were Dan Willingham, a cognitive psychology professor at the University of Virginia, and Cathy Thompson, the head of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for SPS. Dr. Willingham wrote a book, " Why Don't Students Like School ?" which, according to the reviews at Amazon is quite good and recommended by the teachers who have read it. From some of the reviews: Willingham's basic theme is that, despite everything you've heard, nothing works to increase student ability like factual learning and practice. In fact, one of his first ideas is to point out that what separates the excellent student (or adult) from those performing less well is their ability to recall facts. The more facts you know about your subject, the more you can understand your subject because of significantly less energy spent on fa

Seattle Times Guest Column by Randy Dorn

Randy Dorn, our state Superintendent of Public Instruction wrote a guest column for the Times. You'll never believe it, but he argued in favor of fully funding public K-12 education.

Reuven Carlyle on 17%

Representative Reuven Carlyle wrote on his blog about the 17% mis-representation.

Director Martin-Morris on Oversight

This transcript comes from the November 17, 2010 Board Meeting. You can watch it for yourself here . Go to 15:50. The discussion is over the annual approval of schools. Essentially, the Board vote is to confirm to the state that there is a Continuous School Improvement Plan for each school. The Board Action Report , dated November 3, 2010, claims that " All CSIPs are also posted online on our district website. " This statement was false at the time it was made. There were at least two CSIPs missing from the web page - one missing a link and one blank report. The missing link and the blank plan were not corrected (to make the statement true) until the afternoon of the Board vote. Had the Board members tried to perform oversight and confirm the existence of the CSIPs, they would have seen that at least two of them were missing. Director Carr spoke to say that, because she was unable to confirm the presence of the CSIPs, she would have to vote against the motion. Then

Who, Me? (Yes, You)

I had done a previous thread on Seattle Metropolitan magazine's high school issue. I wanted to point out some hard-to-believe things in the interview with the Superintendent. I'm going to forward the article to the Board - maybe if they see it in print, something will register. First, read the article. She comes off in print as she does in person (which is not the easiest thing to do but she does it). Her answers: crisp, tart and not always on point. Q: Your management style has been described as autocratic, that there's an aloofness, that there's an unwillingness to listen. A. Aloof? I've never been described as aloof. What does that mean and where was that observed? I'm thinking that she either never reads what is written about herself (and I mean by mainstream media, not here) or no one has said it to her face. But then she goes classic Goodloe-Johnson with "what does that mean?" and "where?" I might have to give h

SPS This Week

A Roundup of Meetings and Activities: School Report Community meetings , co-sponsored with the SCPTSA, start this week. The first one is on Monday, Nov. 29th at Roosevelt High School from 7-8:30 p.m. (These are going by region so this is the NE region meeting. You can, of course, attend any of them but your region's school won't be represented by your principal or regional director.) There's also an APP Advisory Council meeting : * Monday, November 29,* *at Garfield High School (in the commons)* *6:30-8:30pm* This will be an opportunity for the APP community to learn about Garfield capacity issues and possible solutions, the proposed APP high school path to Ingraham, and to express all your questions, concerns, and hopes. The next School Report Community meeting is the SE Region on Tuesday, Nov. 30th at South Lake High School from 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 30th is the Board Work Session on the Budget from 4-8:00 p.m. Director Maier has a communit

You Spin Me Right Round

In the P-I from the AP, an article about how great it is that Seattle is 'fessing up and releasing so much useful data. I might have to let this reporter know of this great irony about data in our district. Some choice quotes and see if you get the direction the quotes are pointing to (please, do not read when drinking; you might do a spit take): One of the authors of the report done by the Center for Reinventing Education: "I think the district really deserves some credit for day-lighting their data," said the lead researcher on the report, Christine Campbell. "I really would love for Seattle to use this as a chance to really do something." Really do something? I wonder what CRE can mean given that 90% of their work is around charters. The district: District spokeswoman Patti Spencer said the district has been targeting schools with extra help and guidance throughout this research process and some of the schools exhibiting the most growth we

As we approach year-end

As we approach the end of the year for Seattle Public Schools (there are only 15 school days and one Board meeting remaining), it is time to finish up anything that is due before year-end. PROGRAM PLACEMENT The deadline for Program Placement proposals has already passed. It was November 24. The Board is going to have a work session on Program Placement on December 9. I can't wait to hear that one. Program Placement has been the least transparent, the most political, and the most corrupt process in the District. There is a Program Placement Policy, C56.00 , but the policy was weakly written and is completely un-enforced. The Board, performing oversight, has asked for rationale for program placement decisions, but has accepted explanations such as "We rejected the proposal because we are not recommending it." and "We rejected the proposal to place programs closer to where students live" without any data on where students live. Think of this. Muir, at the far so

Radar Teachers

What are you doing? What is the reaction from your bosses? Your colleagues? Do you have activist parents at your school? What are the MAP/MSP results? What do you think the reaction at your school would be to a testing boycott? (Now that I think of it, a testing boycott could be a parents' vote of no confidence in the Superintendent.) Teachers sound off.

Open Thread Friday

The snow is nearly gone. Time to get moving. What was this truncated week like at your school? Bit o' good news. NYC's Mayor Bloomberg wanted to replace Joel Klein with one of Oprah's best friends, Cathie Black. She is former magazine CEO, probably a bright person but knows next to nothing about education. New York law says she has to have some kind of education background and the state education commissioner who would have to give her a waiver won't do it without a CAO to guide her (and he said even then maybe not). What is frightening is that Bloomberg believes he can appoint her without the waiver. Of an 8-person panel put together to help the commissioner, 6 voted no in an advisory vote.

Happy (Thankful) Thanksgiving

So amidst all the chopping and timetables (how can two trains get in at the same time?) and snow, I want to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. No matter your eating persuasion or family ties or travel plans, have a good time. We should be thankful for the country we live in, our family, our friends, our neighbors and our communities. This blog is a community and I appreciate the fellowship with people who care about public education (whether we all agree on how we get there). Nobody gets through life alone. So I am thankful for the continued good health in my family, my sons coming home back to the family fold and for the 14 years we had with our cat, Woody (he passed away unexpectedly at the vet's on Monday). We all will miss him especially his sister, Sofina.

Education Reform Survey

(Update: spoke to OSPI. The survey is live only thru tomorrow (Thanksgiving). Apparently it was live for a couple of weeks but strange that Charlie or I didn't see it elsewhere sooner. Still waiting to see who wrote it and who paid for it. Apparently this is in response to RTTT.) Thanks to an alert reader, we bring you this story from the Seattle P-I which will lead you to a survey from the OSPI on Education Reform. Here is your chance to answer: Great idea or Greatest idea?

Seattle Met: The Education Issue

So in advance of the upcoming tours and open houses at both public and private high schools, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine latest issue has several articles about high school education with 78 public and 50 private schools graded. Among the articles: The New School Plan - about the NSAP One Size Fits Some - about the LA alignment Talk Supe - about who else? (We'll have to discuss this one because she flatly denies saying something I heard her say out loud at a meeting.) Geek Boot Camp - about STEM at Cleveland (I'll have to take them to task for this title; no, no, and no.) Smart and Smarter - about a West Seattle mom who worked to get IB at Chief Sealth 6 Ways for Seattle Schools to Score Higher - hey, this one's by me and Charlie Parents as Search Engines - mostly about applying for private school (but boy does the district take a ding here) Private Lives - about a couple of private schools Grading our High Schools - the listing and grades of area high school

It's Snow Quiet

Ever notice in Seattle how quiet it gets when it snows especially within a neighborhood? Few cars and just the sound of your feet stomping through the snow? I really like that. But see, there's also another kind of quiet. The calm before the storm. I recognize this void, this lack of sound. I recognize this because, deja vu, I've been through it before. Does anyone remember Joseph Olchefske? He was full of hot air (although admittedly he could be charming). He had a Board that was wrapped around his little finger with the notable exception of Mary Bass. They were an upright Board, professionals and solid citizens. They didn't listen to Mary and even ostracized Mary on the Board. It was painful to watch but the powers that be just tisk-tisked about how Mary didn't "work" with the rest of the Board. And indeed, she voted no on Olchefske's last budget even though she couldn't quite explain what the problem was. (It was buried.) But i

Snow Day Tomorrow as Well

Seattle Schools will be closed tomorrow. Tuesday, November 23rd As well, the John Stanford Center is also closed (the better to fend off unpleasant phone calls).

Just Two Days Left for Program Placement Proposals

Finish them up today and send them in tomorrow! The deadline is November 24 .

Yet Another Broken Promise

The District has been promising/threatening an Alternative School audit/review/inventory since the start of the Strategic Plan. Since that time, and in the absence of any audit or review, the District has Closed two alternative schools - The African-American Academy - Summit K-12 Moved three alternative schools - The NOVA Project - The Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center - Pathfinder Created three alternative schools - Queen Anne Elementary - Jane Addams K-8 - STEM at Cleveland Determined that special programs are not alternative - language immersion - Montessori Suspended the Alternative Education Policy C54.00 And is threatening to close two more alternative schools: - AS #1 - Middle College A whole lot of decisions about alternative education have already moved forward in the absence of the data that would come from this review. More decisions are pending. The Alternative Education Review was supposed to happen last year but didn't. When it was s

Truthiness from Seattle Times: Big Surprise, the District Got College Readiness Wrong

The Times has what they call "The Truth Needle" and Linda Shaw, their education reporter, filed a report this morning. Let me allow her to tell you: The claim: Starting in 2008, Seattle Public Schools reported that a meager 17 percent of its high-school graduates met the entrance requirements for four-year colleges. The district quietly quit using that number then recently revised it, without comment, to 46 percent. "... revised it, without comment ..." classic SPS. This is why, when you read a contract or a hard number, you should bookmark that page or print it out. It might just disappear and you'll feel like you got gaslighted (how old am I to use that reference). Now that 17% is out there in ether and even though many of us were left scratching our heads (how did all those seniors at Roosevelt get into college?), what can you do? This 17% number has been used by LEV, Seattle Foundation and many other "community" groups. What the T

MIddle/High Schools Close at 12:35 p.m. Today

Update: C&I Policy Meeting has been canceled . NW Regional Meeting at Ingraham tonight has been canceled . Be careful out there. Congrats to all the elementary kids: Snow Day!

The Garfield Option Not Discussed

As we have discussed the steps that the District might take to reduce the overcrowding at Garfield, there is an option that hasn't gotten as much discussion as relocating some or all of APP: boundary changes. I think most of us presumed that any boundary change to right-size the Garfield attendance area would involve only the southern boundary, shifting some kids from Garfield to Franklin. But that's not the way the District saw it. The District version has the northern and western boundaries shifting as well, moving Montlake kids into the Roosevelt attendance area and some downtown families moving into the Ballard attendance area. Montlake families should know that this option is on the table and they should voice their needs and preferences.

Let's Have a Serious and Difficult Discussion

There's been some articles/opinion pieces I've read over the last couple of days, combined with some discussions with other people, that lead me to believe we need to have some very serious discussions about parenting for educational success and how that is viewed (or not) within different communities. Some of this is spurred by the call of political correctness over Brave New World (over at the Stranger Slog several people referred to whiny victimhood). I'm also reading a good book my son recommended to me that he read in his high school social studies class called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn in which a gorilla attempts to teach a young man how to view the world. It's very well done and very thought provoking. I don't pretend to know all the answers nor can I say I understand the complexities of every group. I don't believe for a minute that we all live in equality and/or equity in this country. I do believe this country does represent the best chance

We Now Have an Ethics Officer

In response to a recent audit the District has appointed an Ethics Officer, Mr. Treat. This is a new position. The District did not have an Ethics Officer before. Now that there is an Ethics Officer, people can use Board Procedure F11.01 , including this part: C. Investigation of Alleged Violations 1. Any person may submit a written complaint to the Ethics Officer specifying one or more violations of these Guidelines. Complaints should be signed by the person or persons submitting them, but unsigned complaints will be accepted. If requested, complainant’s privacy will be observed where possible. 2. The Ethics Officer (or his or her appointee) shall be authorized to do any or all of the following: interview the complainant; provide an overview of the complaint to the subject of the complaint; interview and obtain a statement of facts from the subject of the complaint; identify and gather relevant documents; and identify other persons who might have relevant knowledge of the alleg

What is this Issue of Brave New World Really About?

What this situation in Seattle Public Schools and its use of Brave New World is NOT about is banning a book. That one word is so loaded and has been used over and over and it's just not true. It is not used in any of the supporting materials submitted by the district in this case. I just want to relate how troubling this can be by the reaction on KUOW yesterday morning during their weekly news roundup. This week they had as guest pundits; Joni Balter, editorial writer at the Times, Eli Sanders from the Stranger and Knute Berger from Crosscut. These are people who I know to be professionals and not particularly hysterical people. I was listening at that time (I always like to check in on the news roundup to see news items make it) and they were discussing the Brave New World book situation. I called in NOT to give my opinion but because I had attended the hearing, read the supporting materials and have spoken with this mother, Sarah Sense-Wilson, in the past. (She's

The Story isn't the Story

This past week we saw something I had never seen before, a complaint about Board-adopted materials, Brave New World as a 10th grade Language Arts text. Dorothy, Mel and I were in the auditorium and heard the presentation by both sides, the Board's questions and the answers. Phyllis Fletcher from KUOW was also there. I had gone over to Ms Fletcher when she entered the room and congratulated/thanked her for her story on the matter from that morning. The story described the problem at the root of the matter and fairly and accurately represented the perspectives of each side. That contrasts starkly with other stories written about the situation. The story in the Times didn't misrepresent the situation, but didn't explain it either. Consequently there were 207 comments about PC or totalitarian efforts to "ban" the book before I posted a comment that stated the actual situation. The story in the P-I , however, was just plain wrong. The headline read: "

High School Credit Victory!

I got a letter yesterday from Chief Academic Officer Susan Enfield advising me that my daughter will be awarded 0.5 high school credits for the French class she took in the eighth grade last year. From her letter: It was the intention of staff and at least some Board members that the policies approved in October 2009 were not to go into effect until fall of 2010, allowing the technical changes and review of courses to be in place before credit could be received. However, after further review of the Board Action Report for this item, it seems clear that it was stated that the policies would go into effect immediately upon approval. High school level classes taken in middle school during the 2009-2010 school year are eligible for high school credit. The student does have to petition the Board for the credit and does have to wait until they are enrolled in a Seattle School District high school to make the petition, but the credit will be awarded if it meets the criteria. Maybe it isn&

West Seattle High School Changes Lunch Time

( Update : the WSB has a story with input from the rep from the union, Dave Westberg. According to Dave, the issue at Cleveland, 1 lunch/900 kids/113 fit in lunchroom, is on-going. Also to note, there was a story in the Seattle Times about some Ingraham students who decided to break into a house during their lunch hour because they needed money. An alert neighbor saw them and called the police. They were arrested. The more kids who leave campus, the more opportunities to find trouble. It's also hard on a neighborhood -I know not to go near 65th and 12th NE during Roosevelt's lunch hour.) The West Seattle Blog scooped me on a story I had on the backburner. (Actually the story is written by Simone Machmiller for the WSHS newspaper, The Chinook.) West Seattle High had one lunch hour and a short "breakfast break." They will now have two lunch hours and no breakfast break (similar to what some other high schools have). Of course, change doesn't come ea

Open Thread Friday

To note: if you are writing the Board about the NSAP and the transition plan, do try to use this address: schoolboard@seattleschools.org Apparently, those e-mails with the message line "NSAP" get more easily forwarded to Tracy Libros who is trying to get as wide a range of comments as possible. This doesn't mean that any comment you sent to an individual Board member won't get to her (the Board is trying to make sure she sees what they see) but the best way is to use the address above. This Saturday sees 3 community meetings: Carr - 8:30-10 am DeBell - 9-11:30 am Patu - 10 am -noon

Important to Note on TFA

I'm reprinting what Charlie has state (and is true) and, that staff could have, but not clearly delineate to the Board (especially during KSB questioning about hiring). "The District staff said, on several occasions, that the Teach for America corps members will only be in the Phase III hiring pool. They won't be in Phase I or Phase II. No. They won't. But not because of the contract and not because the District won't allow them into the Phase I and Phase II pool, but because there won't be a Phase I or a Phase II hiring period at any of the schools where they want to teach. One of the elements of the District's Performance Management System dictates that Level 1 and Level 2 schools - those which are under-performing - will go straight to Phase III hiring. Let's remember that Teach for America corps members are only interested in working in low-income communities, which are the schools south of I-90 and the schools in the far north. Thes

Brave New World Indeed

There was a student at Hale who went to her parent with concerns over a book being used in her child's LA class. The book was Brave New World written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley. The parent and student are Native Americans. (Just to interject here; I mistakenly thought there was no Board policy attached to this review and I simply erred in not scrolling down the page. My apologies.) Basically if a parent or guardian has an issue with instructional materials they are to go to the principal and staff member first. If that fails, any party at step 1 may request the administrator in Charge of Curriculum and Instruction meet with those involved to resolve the issue. After step 2, the principal shall furnish the party not in agreement with a copy of the "Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Materials" form. When that is received, a "Reconsideration Commitee, is formed to reconsider the material. (The committee is made up of a parent of a child at the gr