Showing posts from December, 2010

Open Thread Friday

Open Thread Friday - last one of the year on the last day of the year. We could do a recap of this year - how did the first year of the NSAP work out? how long will the district pay attention to the audit response? how is curriculum alignment going? three levies down and now one more this year to go? We could prognosticate on what's coming up this year: another audit report at the end of January, the NSAP transition plan for 2011, more alignment (this time for science and social studies), School Board elections. My prediction is that the Superintendent will be gone by this time next year. Probably right after the school year ends. I think the Board has already started to see her as a liability and are getting very frustrated with her responses to their questions and her inability to make this district better (at least with the day-to-day operations). Whether all four of the directors whose seats are up for election in November survive (and if they run again) is a good questi

Virginia - But Why?

So the latest state to distort history (after the fine job Texas is doing) is Virginia. They had a person (I hesitate to say writer) who is not a historian write their Virginia history book. She said she found information about black Confederate soldiers on the Internet. Seriously. From the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog: What she found was the work of members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. That’s a group of male descendants of Confederate soldiers, based in Tennessee, that has long claimed that big numbers of black soldiers fought for the South. Professional historians of the era say this is nonsense. The author, Joy Masoff, has penned other works including " Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty " and " Oh Yikes! History’s Grossest Moments ." She also disputes that slavery was the underlying issue that caused the Civil War. The Masoff textbook was ruled "accurate and unbiased" by a Virginia committee of content specialists a

Sober Thinking for the End of the Year

One of our readers sent me a link to a great article. It was in this publication called City Journal which I had never heard of but now will make a point to read. The article I liked is by William Voegeli called How the Road to Bell Was Paved . Some of you may remember the story that exposed how the leadership of Bell, California (a suburb near LA of 37,000 most minority citizens) was ripping off the city to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars with exaggerated pay for the city manager and other staff. (The city manager was making $787k+ a year.) So Bell has become a poster child for mismanagement in government. But Mr. Voegeli expands this idea out. The abuse of power, after all, is an endemic political problem, one so old that it’s often rendered in Juvenal’s Latin: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guardians themselves? America’s answer to that question made its republic distinctively successful. If ambition could be made to counteract ambition,

Chinese Students: Great Thinkers or Great Memorizers?

I had wanted to put this quote in from the governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, because it made me laugh. He made this remark after the NFL postponed the Sunday football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings (which was played last night and the Vikings won). The NFL called the game off because of the danger of fans getting safely to and from the stadium because of a huge snowstorm. “We’ve become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything,” Rendell added. “If this was in China do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.” The " doing calculus on the way down " made me laugh. But then there was this interesting piece on NPR today about Chinese education. Basically, the point is that they are great at learning and memorizing facts but not very good at analytic, problem-solving t

Message for the Board

I have a message for the Board regarding my ethics complaints. The Board will soon have to make a decision about two ethics complaints that I made about a District employee. This District employee has seats on the boards of two non-profit corporations but did not properly disclose those relationships and, in violation of state law and the District Ethics Policy, participated in the discussion and decision to enter into contracts with those non-profit corporations. The question before the Board will not be one of fact. It is an indisputable fact that the employee has the seats on the non-profit boards. It is an indisputable fact that the employee did not properly disclose those relationships. It is an indisputable fact that the employee did not include them on the annual disclosure and statement of financial interest. It is an indisputable fact that the employee participated in the decision to enter into contracts with these non-profit corporations. In short, there is no question that

So TFA Got Its Way

Apparently the appropriations bill made its way through the Congress with the "highly qualified teacher" part intact. Appalling. It is only good for two years but by then I'm sure Teach for America will have churned out even more minions (more on this at the end). Here's what the bill says: ‘‘SEC. 163. (a) A ‘highly qualified teacher’ includes a teacher who meets the requirements in 34 C.F.R. 15 200.56(a)(2)(ii), as published in the Federal Register on 16 December 2, 2002. ‘‘(b) This provision is effective on the date of enactment of this provision through the end of the 2012–2013 academic year. Here's 34 C.F.R. 15 200.56(a)(2)(ii): (This Rules/Regulations notice has a huge amount of info on what NCLB has to do.) Alternate Certification: The NPRM specified that one of the requirements of being a "highly qualified teacher" is having obtained full State certification as a teacher--which may include certification obtained through alternative

Students Who Move

This is a long direct quote from pages 5 and 6 of the New Student Assignment Transition Plan for 2011-2012 , which the Board will vote on in January: E. Students Who Move When students move, they may have the option or be required to get a new school assignment, depending on when and where they move. In general, students must change to their new attendance area schools if: • They are assigned to their attendance area school, are not grandfathered, and they move to a new attendance area. If they move before the school year starts, they must change schools immediately. If they move during the school year, they may finish the year at their current school, but they must change schools the next year. In general, students may change to their new attendance area school if: • They have a grandfathered or choice assignment, are in grades K‐8, and they move outside of their assigned school’s service area. • They have a grandfathered or choice assignment, are in grades 9‐12, and they m

Volunteers Needed for Instructional Materials Adoptions

Seattle Public Schools has committed to a seven-year cycle for instructional materials adoptions. The District wants to review and update all textbook decisions every seven years. The work is divided across the seven-year period so all of the adoptions don't occur at once. This year, the District is looking to adopt materials for these courses: Middle School Language Arts High School Science High School Social Studies K-5 Music French Japanese Each of these adoptions will follow the process set by Policy C21.00 . Part of that process calls for one standing Instructional Materials Committee for all adoptions and a separate Adoption Committee for each adoption. The District is now seeking volunteers to serve on the various Adoption Committees to recommend specific texts for the classes. If you would like to serve on one or more of these committees, you should submit your application without delay. Follow the links or visit the Curriculum Alignment page of the District web si

Oh, So NOW the District is Sending Out the Pay for K Bills

From our Open Thread Sunday. The district seriously sent out huge bills for Pay for K right before Christmas? I just want to say that I got my $828 Pay4K bill on DECEMBER 24!! Really, SPS? I knew it would be coming, although I NEVER once got any information about it before school started - I never got a Welcome to Kindergarten packet from the district, but I have been saving my money while waiting to learn how to Pay4K- but to send them out Christmas week? I just think about all the families that could barely pull Christmas together this year, who are not FRL...makes me sick. Annoyed K Parent

Open Thread Sunday

Missed having an Open Thread Friday so here's an opportunity to speak out. I hope everyone had a great Christmas (if you celebrate it) or Festivus or now Kwanzaa or Boxing Day. (I saw The King's Speech and I highly recommend it. I have to see a few more films but right now my money is on it for Best Picture of the year.) It looks like that lame duck Congress got a bee in their bonnet and got some work done. Maybe we'll see a fire lit under our Board in 2011 and they might get some real progress/accountability going in this district. I see some movement in that direction but I am suspicious over whether it's a election year ploy.

Ach! Yet another conflict of interest!

They are breaking out like a teenager! Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson was, and is, a member of the Board of Directors of the Council of Great City Schools . This relationship has never been disclosed in the minutes of a Board meeting. This relationship did not appear on her annual disclosure statement . The District awarded contracts to the Council of Great City Schools to perform a variety of audits and reviews of District programs and processes. She did not recuse herself from the decision to select the CGCS as the vendor for these contracts. She did not constrain herself from recommending CGCS to decisionmakers about awarding these contracts. These failures individually and together represent violations of RCW 42.23.030 and RC W 42.23.040 and, by violating those laws, they are violations of the District Ethics Policy E11.00 . I have, this evening, made a written complaint to the District Ethics Officer, Noel Treat. I gotta say, this doesn't look good for her.

Eckstein Music Program Concerns

We had a comment in the "One Last Survey: Middle School LA" thread that I have pulled out for discussion here. I'll just copy and paste it. Stand Up! said... Can anyone hear how bad the music at Eckstein sounds? I have hope, However, the idea that no one in the the Seattle area is outraged by Eckstein, the flagship of a horribly mismanaged and segregated school district, is anathema to me. Both Eckstein and Washington have failing music programs by national public standards. These standards are defined first by inclusion and ethical practice, not by showboating and the extolation of a few privilaged kids - much less trophy accumulation. Exclusion, segregation and remunerative practices mark the poor and cheating programs of the Seattle Public Schools. The presentation of a facade of accomplishment is foisted upon the public by an incopetent administration and a horribly mismanged district. This district goes so far as to give "jazz" instructors cred

Over the Line?

By now, I think that we are all aware of the rules around conflicts of interest for school district officials. There are other prohibited activities as well. A question has arisen about whether Dr. Goodloe-Johnson encouraged other education folks, in this case the Council of Great City Schools, to use the MAP test as a measure of academic achievement in a study they were commissioned to do by the Gates Foundation. Did she try to sell MAP to CGCS on behalf of NWEA? There's no problem with that in general, but she shouldn't use her Seattle Public Schools email account to do it. More deeply concerning, some folks think her email contained a hint of quid pro quo in which CGCS would use NWEA's MAP for their study and Seattle Public Schools would, reciprocally, use CGCS to do the Alternative Education Review. There is also a lot of reason to dismiss those concerns. Nothing is spelled out that clearly. In fact, the pitch that she made to Mike Casserly at CGCS wasn't much o

One Last Survey: Middle School LA

The Middle School Language Arts Instructional Materials Adoption page has links for a staff/student/family survey as well as info on applying for the Adoption Committee. Again, the end date on the surveys and due date for committee applications is Jan. 6th.

One More Survey: Parent/Teacher Conferences

From the SPS website: Seattle Public Schools is inviting families to comment on the parent/teacher conference schedule for the 2011-13 school years. The survey is available at until 4 p.m., Monday, Jan. 3 . This survey will take between one and five minutes to complete. Responses will be summarized, shared with School Board members and posted on the SPS website. SPS is applying to the state Board of Education for a waiver to allow the three full-day parent-teacher conference schedule to continue. The three-day model replaces the prior model of seven half-day/early dismissals.

High School Social Studies Surveys

The Social Studies Instructional Materials Adoption page has links to parent/community and staff surveys. Oddly, although the science adoption has a survey for students, social studies does not. They are also looking for 2 parent/community representatives to survey on the high school social studies adoption committee. Applications are due by Jan. 6th and you will be notified by Jan. 10th. Here's some more info: We are asking that prospective applicants bring an open mind, with passion about student learning in Social Studies, and avoiding approaching the process with a specific textbook or set of materials in mind. Time commitment will be approximately 60 hours between January and April, 2011 . We expect to hold five day-time meetings (8:00 AM – 3:00 PM), and four after-school or evening meetings. The committee will determine its schedule at the first session on Thursday, January 20th, 2011. (3 PM – 6 PM).

HIgh School Science Adoption Survey

The High School Science Instructional Materials Adoption page has links to surveys for staff, students and community/family members. That they are asking for student input is great so encourage your student to take the survey. The surveys close on Jan. 6th . They are also looking for members of the Science Instructional Materials Adoption Committee. The application period closes on Jan. 6th and you will be notified by January 14th.

K-5 Music Surveys

There's a survey for parents, staff and family members for K-5 Music Instructional Materials Adoption. They are looking for input on music curriculum standardization. The survey ends on Jan 6th. There is also a link to an application to be on a K-5 General Music Adoption Committee . Applications are taken until Jan 6th. The K-5 Music Instructional Materials Adoption page has links to all these items. Thank you to SPS parent for this info (I had seen it but it dropped off my radar).

Confusing Jargon

There sure are a lot of words used at Seattle Public Schools that have a special or specific meaning within the context of public K-12 education. The jargon of education. The professionals often use this jargon among themselves to speak precisely. At Seattle Public Schools the professionals often use this jargon to confuse or intimidate the public. The staff of Seattle Public Schools particularly like to MIS-use this jargon to confuse the public, or to tempt the public into mis-using the jargon to make them appear ignorant. Of late, this trick has been practiced more by Dr. Cathy Thompson and Kathleen Vasquez than any other member of the staff. Consider this example: Middle School Language Arts Curriculum Adoption . The District is not really adopting a curriculum; the District is adopting instructional materials. But it serves the interests of the District staff to confuse the public (and the Board, who are merely glorified members of the public) about the definitions of the words

Strategic Plan Work Session Notes

Sorry this took so long. As I stated previously, I did not stay for the budget portion of the Work Session so this is only about the Strategic Plan. Here is a link to the presentation . Betty Patu was not there and so they recorded the meeting (both audio and video) so it should be available somewhere. Michael DeBell stated that this was to listen to the information but not to set any priorities. What ended up happening was that there were 88 slides to cover and yet for some reason they let the Family Engagement section go on for about 35 minutes. It was interesting info from each of the schools with a FEAT team (Family Engagement Action Team) but I didn't feel it was the right time to present it. So by the time Dr. Goodloe-Johnson got started, she really whipped through the slides. (I've stated in the past that I think the staff presentations are too long and I still believe that is true.) I stepped out as they went into 2010-2011 Governance Priorities starting on slide

Summing Up 2010 (From the Super's Viewpoint)

Thank you to our reader, Kathy, who pointed this out. KIRO's Linda Thomas prints Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's year in review letter and comments on it. Nothing like accentuating the positive (if only she could eliminate the negative but maybe if you don't write about it no one will know). This was my personal favorite from her letter: Personally, I will continue to focus on Listening, Learning and Responding. I'm not sure the Superintendent is capable of any of those in reference to parents. I would say at least half the time her answer is "I don't know, I'll have staff get back to you" but no one ever does. And we know how great her credibility is at this point. When we get closer to the new year, we'll do our own Year in Review and predictions. (By the way, Dora Taylor was right. Brad Bernatek is on his way out. He let them know back in October but I think it's being kept quiet so that it doesn't look like he's leaving over th

They're At It Again

From Joan Sias, word that the "highly qualified teachers" item that was inserted in a Senate appropriations bill to allow teachers such as TFA recruits to be considered "highly qualified" for NCLB is back in the bill. Here's a link to the Washington Post blog, The Answer Sheet, with info on this story. This is complete nonsense. On the one hand they want better teachers and want to direct districts to tell parents their student has a teacher who is "highly qualified" and that means a bachelor's and 5 weeks training? Look, if you want to put these student teachers into difficult to fill posts, fine. But to argue that they are highly qualified is wrong. If you think so, please contact Senator Murray's office The phone numbers are there. To get directly to her aide who focuses on education, call Sarah Bolton in her DC office - 202-224-2621. I would also contact Senator Cantwell as well.

Principals' Contract Near Completion

It was written in the presentation, although not verbally noted, at the Strategic Plan Work Session, that the principals' contract was not completed. It seems that our friends at the Alliance and their Our Schools coalition has been interacting in this process (to what degree is unclear but I think they are in the loop). Apparently the district is near to closing the deal with principals (it sounds like they've resolved school issue details but now they are talking about salaries). It will be interesting to see the principals' contract versus the teachers' contract.

Broad Wants to Know (And Maybe We Should Tell Them)

Apparently the Broad Foundation has a concern. They are hiring Public Agenda to do research to figure out the following: "Understanding Community Opposition to Taking Bold Action on Failing Schools" In communities across the country, leadership reform efforts face serious opposition when they aim to implement bold actions to turn around failing schools. Public Agenda, with the support of the Broad Foundation, is embarking on a research project to explore why so many of these well-intentioned efforts misfire. We hope to learn more about what could be done to improve communication and build more trust and confidence between school leaders committed to reform and communities afflicted with persistently low-performing schools. Public Agenda is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is widely respected for its public policy research. Part of the Broad Foundation’s mission is to transform K–12 urban public education through better governance, management,

Books for SE Libraries

I thought that all schools would have the same size libraries (in terms of books) but live and learn. Many elementaries don't have as many books as others. I do recall that there was money spent so that each K-2 (or 3rd) would have a small class library in each classroom. Here's a plea from SPS Parent. From Rainier Valley Post: “I think we have a LOT of challenges, and with the economic situation being what it is, some problems seem hard to solve,” said Graham Hill parent volunteer Anna McCartney in an email to the community. But she added that there is at least one idea that strikes her as fairly simple, and that’s collecting as many new and gently-used books as possible for the budding readers at Graham Hill and other schools. In her plea to the community, McCartney underscored the importance of every classroom having a wide array of interesting books at a variety of levels so students are challenged without being bored or frustrated. She asked community members

So Much News - Here's a Round-Up

A big shout-out to all of you who first posted about these items. I thought them important enough to start a news thread. A lawsuit has been filed against the district and Board directors over the Teach for America contract. Here's a story from KOMO-news. Steve Sundquist certainly clear about the fact that TFA recruits are getting certification at the SAME time they are first-year teachers. He doesn't give a single reason to be doing this and claims there is no "obligation" to hire TFA recruits. (Yes, the claim is true but we didn't go to this trouble and cost to NOT hire them.) Then, from the Huffington Post, a story by the lawyer, John Affeldt, representing the plaintiffs in the California case in the 9th Circuit over this issue. He found that in a Senate appropriations bill, there had been an amendment slipped in to allow novice teachers to be called "highly qualified" and to concentrate their numbers in poor, minority schools. It is unkno

What Other Districts are Doing (And Look for the Common Theme)

I started this to go over my notes from the Work Session but got lost in this slide about what other districts we would like to emulate are doing. I took the time to look these districts up because I want to know what it is that that they do that the Superintendent thinks we should be doing. It's a mixed bag without further input from her. There was a slide (#6) from the Work Session handout referencing other districts making changes but no discussion about it. So let's review them: Gwinnett County, GA - right on their home page - winner of the 2010 $1M Broad prize. (It goes to the urban school district that has the strongest student achievement and improvement narrowing of the achievement gap. The money goes for high school seniors for college scholarships.) That said, a pretty impressive district. They have some mighty small high school class sizes. Good for them but how do they do it? This district has about 161,000 students. Boston - what's interesting

Heads Up: New SPS Website Preview

Just saw this but haven't explored. FYI.

Open Thread Friday

So no more meetings for awhile. Time for me to do some serious reading and writing (not that what I write here isn't serious). However, I am going to be writing to an audience of elected folks and you know you have to get it right for them to listen. I tell people that a blog is a beast that has to be fed to keep people interested. So we can talk about what we read, about what is coming and ideas for the new year. Shout out to Cleveland: They are having a student poetry reading tonight at Cleveland at 6 p.m. with food and drink to be served. The title is " A Better Tomorrow Today: Our Revolution ." What's on your mind?

Giving Credit When Credit is Due

Every so often someone suggests that we criticize the Board, the superintendent, and the District staff when they do something wrong - and, yes, we do - but that we don't give them enough credit when they do something right. I don't know about that. I don't think we're particularly bad about giving praise when it has been earned, but I also think that's the reason for the criticism. We give praise when it has been earned. Not before. By this I mean that I am very happy to praise work when it is done, but the District culture is to praise work when it is planned. There is a difference in timing. Take, for example, the false data issue. On Wednesday Mr. Bernatek came before the Board and announced a number of actions to address concerns. He said that the staff would take the following steps: Redact the original college readiness measures from reports on the district website including the strategic plan. Actually, I wish they would not do this. The documents

Local Education News

First up, Bridget Chandler, the head of Communications for SPS, has resigned to take over as CEO of the Central Puget Sound Council Campfire group. This is effective Jan 3. 2011. Bridget always struck me as pretty smart so naturally I had to wonder how much she could take at SPS. (I'm thinking the next 6 months could see many central administration figures leave.) Second, guess who was in town today (and shhh, was it state secret or something)? Michelle Rhee. Yes, over at LEV, they mention she visited and... Rhee spoke to a diverse audience of parents, teachers, principals and other education advocates about a new initiative she founded to drive reforms and improve student achievement in education. Rhee will continue her listening tour tonight in Seattle with students and parents. Really? I wonder who those teachers and principals could be given it was a school day. Or who she is talking to tonight. Weird how LEV heavily promotes every event and yet this one comes up

Things To Do With the Kids Over the Break

The City has had a long-time practice of giving away trees for planting to Seattle residents to help keep Seattle green. They have all now been spoken for EXCEPT now some were not claimed. Want a tree? The digging won't be that bad because the ground is so soaked. Info here . (Note: this is only for yard trees, not street trees, as you need an SDOT permit and that takes a week to get.) Here's a great list of things to do during the holidays with kids but I pulled out the freebies. Something fun for the kids: a free cookie decorating class , Tuesday, Dec. 21st. Seattle Center is having their annual Winterfest with a plethora of fun and free stuff to do and see. They will be having ice sculpting this Saturday from noon- 2p.m. Celebrate the Winter Solstice, Dec. 22-23 at Seattle Center, 3:45 p.m. (With the actual Solstice being Tuesday the 21st at 3:38 p.m.). Also, if you are downtown, the Seattle Sheraton's chefs build fantastic gingerbread houses you can view f

Michael DeBell has to cancel his community meeting this week

Michael DeBell has to cancel his community meeting this week. He asked me to post it on the blog.

District Fined by Labor and Industries

Seattle Public Schools was fined $6,000 for a persistent unsafe condition in the food prep area of the John Stanford Center. Ice built up on the floor of the freezer creating a serious risk for people to slip and fall. They should have fixed it, but they didn't. Now they have to fix the problem and pay a fine to the state. That's not an efficient use of District resources.

No One Could Have Seen This Coming

( Update: from the LA Times : the California State Board of Education is asking the Attorney General to investigate parent complaints of misconduct over the petition drive at McKinley Elementary in Compton. Boy, this is one to sort out and really hurts Parent Revolution. Thank you to Phyllis Fletcher at KUOW for this heads up.) Okay, so we have the Parent Revolution . This is a group grown out passage of a law called the Parent Trigger in California that allows 51% of parents at a school (that is under certain criteria) to force a district to transform a school under a turnaround strategy that the parents choose. This sounds good, right? (What's interesting is that a school that is ID'ed as a "persistently lowest achieving school" is NOT eligible but only ones eligible for certain corrective actions.) The parents have five interesting choices: charter conversion, turnaround, closure, transformation and bargaining power. There is nuance to each but basical

Strategic Plan Work Session - And Away We Go

Thanks to a West Seattle reader for notification of the link for today's Work Session presentation on the Strategic Plan. It is 88 PowerPoint pages that someone at SPS believes they will go thru, explain where needed and answer questions in an hour and a half. Raise your hand if you think this possible. Anyone? Naturally, I haven't read the whole tome but here's part of their page 5; Changing an entire system takes time. Over the last 2 ½ years, we have built a foundation for the work. Yes, they have built the foundation for the work...on a bog. Where is the solid foundation for how this district operates? There is virtually none. I have to wonder how long they think this can go on. Also, on page 6 they list this: We know from national experience that deliberate long term plans to improve student learning take time to show results. Districts who are successfully doing the work include Boston, Long Beach, Denver, Gwinnett County, GA, and Garden Grove, CA I really hav

Road Map Conference

I attended the Community Center for Education Results' (CCER) Road Map for Education Results Project Kick-Off Conference last week. It was interesting and a fairly full conference. I saw a lot of usual suspects - people from League of Education Voters, Alliance for Education, at least 6 SPS staff including the Superintendent - as well as elected officials like Councilman Tim Burgess, newly elected Board President Steve Sundquist and speaker King County Executive Dow Constantine. Like most conferences, the workshops were better than the speakers. Mary Jean Ryan, who sat on the State Board of Education and previously ran for Seattle School Board and is the head of CCER, was the leader of the conference. Sincere, nice but not a particularly inspiring speaker. The Keynote Speaker, though, was Amy Wilkins from the Education Trust . She was a good speaker (although I am still waiting for a copy of her Powerpoint which had great data but she told us to listen and not take notes). W