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Showing posts from 2011

Friday Open Thread

Last one of 2011. Over at The Stranger Slog, they were asking the question, " Will 2012 be a better year than 2011 ?" Poor 2011 is widely perceived as a pretty stinky year.  For my family, I feel blessed and cannot offer a complaint; we are working on our health and my sons have progressed in their education. But oh, what about the rest of the country?  There's a lot of turmoil and suffering out there and it is sad and painful to see.  Out in the world, though, Osama bin Laden is no more and the Egyptian spring led to a great many uprisings that may change the face of the countries in the Persian Gulf.    For better or worse?  That remains to be seen. I fear we are going to have a fairly ugly Presidential race.   I feel like we've already had a long season of presidential campaigning and it's just the Republicans making their choice for a candidate.  It could be a long, hot summer. But folks, we're Americans.  Eternally optimistic and hopeful and wil

Washington State PTSA and Charter Schools

A couple of months back, I received a call from Heidi Bennett, the Region 6 Legislative Chair for the PTSA.  She asked me to participate on a panel about charter schools and Washington State.  I have known Heidi for a long time as someone who cares deeply about public education so I told her I would be glad to participate.  I also told her I had been writing a series on charter issues for the blog and felt reasonably well-informed. I told her it was vital to any discussion to have a basic foundation of knowledge or else people would be confusing each other coming from incorrect information.  It does it all no good to advocate pro or con if we don't know the basics.  I also know Ramona Hattendorf who is the Government Relations Coordinator for the Washington State PTSA.   At the PTSA listserv (that I receive), I noted a LOT of discussion around the charter school legislation plank for the PTSA this year as well as charter schools in general.  I saw some misinformation about char

Charter Schools and Special Education/ELL - Fifth in a Series

In researching Special Education/ELL as it relates to charter schools, it’s a lot of the same issues that you see in traditional public schools - money, service delivery and compliance with the law.   (Note: this part of the series does focus more on Special Education than ELL because there just isn’t as much information out there on ELL and charters.  If anyone has more information, please let me know.)

More Superintendent Talk from the Times

Lynne Varner at the Times once again is chiming in with some very similar words on finding a superintendent.  She speaks of superintendents past. "Each left behind lessons that maybe we're now ready to learn." NOW?! It's only taken our district a decade or more to learn some important lessons?    And when can we expect this learning to take place at the Times?

Tuesday Open Thread

Talked to some friends over holiday dinners and heard an interesting take on Enfield's departure.  I have put forth that I don't believe it was the election results as (a) two of the incumbents were returned and (b)I believe she has a new job and could not have waited for the election results, applied and gotten a new job in a month.  So a friend said that maybe Enfield was able to see raw results from the School Board's survey and it didn't skew her way.   That could be. What's on your mind?

2011 in Review

My, but this was a year of change for Seattle Public Schools. Change at the top. The biggest news of the year was the sudden dismissal of the superintendent, Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson. The Board, which had dragged their feet from June to March in response to the State Auditor's report, acted expeditiously between their receipt of a report from an internal investigation of the Regional Small Business Development Program and their decision to fire the superintendent. We can make all kinds of conjecture about why the Board decided to fire her, but we need to give strong credence to their stated reason: they no longer felt that they could trust her. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson had been losing the Board's trust bit by bit in a number of other incidents over the course of the previous three years. The "Pottergate" scandal was just the last step - a big one - that took her over the line. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was fired "without cause" and took a year's pay (over a qua

Quick Activity Note

Just saw this in the Seattle Times,  it sounds like something fun (and free!) to do with younger kids.  The Seattle Public Library, in partnership with the Children's Film Festival of the Northwest Film Forum, will host a collection of international short films for children from 2-4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle; free, no registration required (206-386-4675 or www.spl.org ).

Happy Holidays (Whatever Your Reason For the Season)

Best wishes for a happy, joyous and safe holiday season (and Festivus for the rest of us).

Paul Hill Guest Column in the Times

Paul Hill, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, Bothell, wrote a guest column for the Seattle Times, Other cities might help Seattle close achievement gaps among black students I've met Dr. Hill and we've had some interesting conversations. He is well-known as a charter school advocate. I strenuously oppose charter schools. So you might be surprised to learn that we actually had gotten along very well - we agree on nearly everything. We share the same set of facts. We both follow them down the same line of reasoning. But then, at the very end, we reach opposite conclusions. In the end, we both see that schools need to change. We agree on many of the needed changes. We both see that the resistance to that change is not in the classroom or even, in most cases, in the principal's office, but primarily in the district offices (and, in some cases, in state laws). His solution is to create schools that are free from the distr

About Looking for a New Superintendent

Just one thing I hope to clear up about a new superintendent.  I hope no one coming in thinks he/she can be one thing on paper or in interviews and another as superintendent.   Anyone who thinks, "Well, I'll just put on my best, most consensus-building game face for the interviews but when I'm superintendent, I'll do what I want."  Anyone who wants to be superintendent should understand that thinking that way would be a big mistake.  This is not that kind of town.  It would be a mistake also on the part of the Alliance or LEV or anyone else thinking they can sneak someone in.   As I have said in the recent past, it is amusing to see these people wring their hands in despair and flail around over the results of the elections.  It is funny to see David Brewster's piece in Crosscut which,was a peek behind the curtain of the thought patterns of the powers that be.  "Well, next time we'll throw more money at the election"  or "Next time,

Seattle School Board Launching Search Process

In a story in the Times today,  we learn that the Executive Committee of the School Board met this week to figure out how to proceed with a superintendent search.   The Board is expecting a report from Elway Research on Jan. 4th, tying together the information from phone surveys and the online survey (no mention of where feedback from the public meetings that were held come into this process).  A follow-up meeting is planned for Jan. 11th. I was quoted in the story as supporting an internal candidate and somewhat to my surprise, so does Seattle Council PTSA President, Lauren McGuire.  What's interesting is that reporter Brian Rosenthal names names. He points out Bob Boesche as a possible example (except that Mr. Boesche got pulled out of retirement for the CFO job and is unlikely to want the superintendent job).  Noel Treat and Phil Brockman are also mentioned.  Another surprise: Brockman said in an interview Wednesday he might be willing if the board offered. But he said i

Reflections on my Schools

I have not really contributed much to this blog so far this school year. Since we are almost finished with first semester, I would like to share some thoughts and observations about Ingraham and Rainier Beach. I can see why there was such outrage at Ingraham last year over the termination of Mr. Floe. He is a very good principal (and in case Mr. Floe reads this, I’m not just saying it because he is my evaluator!!! ) He is a very strong leader, but at the same time gives the staff as much freedom as they need to do what is best to educate the students. He has assembled a very strong faculty who really knows what they are doing. This strength goes beyond the faculty and includes the other administrators and support staff. I am very impressed and I feel very supported. There is calmness to Ingraham that I feel that makes it easy to teach. I have the same schedule that I had last year. I am teaching Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Algebra 2 Honors. My observation about Alg

PTAs and SPS

Reporter Brian Rosenthal from the Times is looking for input: In these days of lean budgets, parents are funneling millions into Seattle schools each year through Parent Teacher Student Associations. That money is paying for everything from computers to music instructors. And of course, the parents in higher-income areas often contribute significantly more money than those in poorer neighborhoods. Many parents also donate their time and elbow grease to ensure their children have a good environment for learning. We're planning a story about these parental efforts, and we'd like to hear your stories. Have you been involved in these funding drives? What kinds of things does your PTSA pay for? What would you like to see done differently? Is this the right approach to paying for public education? Your comments may be used in upcoming stories and it's possible a reporter will try to reach you at the e-mail you registered with. You can also e-mail reporte

Interview with the Governor

Publicola had an interview with Governor Gregoire and she had some interesting things to say about education: PubliCola:  It seems more aggressive than the one you laid out.  [Gregoire announced a reform proposal last week—AP report here — that will put a pilot project of 4-tiered teacher evaluations in play statewide] . It ties teacher evaluations to student test scores, calls for charter schools, and allows the state to step in and take over failing schools. It’s in sync with President Obama’s education reform agenda. The proposal you came out with last week seems like a “lite” version of that to education reformers [because the evaluations aren't tied explicitly to "student academic growth"]. Gregoire:  I don’t really think so. I think what it is is a  Washington  reform. The most recent studies on charter schools come out of Stanford. And there’s no guarantee of anything there. As many as there are doing OK, there are an equal number that are not. …

Open Thread...Wednesday

Sorry, I always lose track of the days around Christmas.  Too much going on. I was reading my Seattle Met magazine last night and guess who was one of their Perfect Party Guests?  Susan Enfield.  Here's what they said: Will the interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools shed her temp stats when the January deadline arrives?  Recent test score bumps should help her case. So I ask you dear readers who do celebrate Christmas, what would you like Santa Claus to put in the district's stocking this year?

Internal, Local, or National

Where should we look for our next superintendent? Internally? Locally? Regionally? Nationally? Who's available? Do we want them? Would they want the job?

David Brewster's Defense of the Establishment

In a Crosscut article published yesterday,  Two big shockers for Seattle schools and cops , Da vid Brewster,  Editor-in-Chief at Crosscut and chair of the board of Crosscut Public Media, revealed his true anti-democratic sentiments. He claimed - in the absence of eviden ce and, in fact, contrary to Dr. Enfield's specific statements - that Dr. Enfield's decision to withdraw herself from consideration as the long-term superintendent for Seattle Public Schools " almost certainly stemmed from the surprising fall election ". He referred to the two new Board members as "insurgents". He suggested that the new board, which he characterized as having a 4-3 anti-reform majority, m ight mean " a descent into bickering, micromanaging by the board " in the absence of any evidence or rationale. Why, exactly, would this Board cross the line into micro-management? What suggests this? He wrote that the take-away lesson from the recent school board races is

What to Do about the Superintendent Situation?

So I have been hearing a lot of different things over the last couple of days.  We are truly in a unique and difficult situation.  But there are two things I would like input on from all of you (between now and the end of next week).  First, there seems to be some hope that Dr. Enfield wants to be wooed.  Many out there wanted her to stay and still hope that might be the case.  She has said she is firm on her decision but who knows?  Is there something that could be done to change her mind?  I know for certain the Alliance is working on it.  There may be others and that's fine.  If you feel that way, write the Board and urge them to get on it. But I am tending to take her at her word so I'm moving on. I am now wrestling with the superintendent search versus an interim superintendent. I would like to see an internal interim superintendent.   It would have to be a person who knows the district and who is trusted by many in the district, both at schools and at headquarte

Gap in Black Student Outcomes

A story in the Seattle Times today ( 'Alarming' new test-score gap discovered in Seattle schools ) reports a significant gap in the pass rates on state-mandated tests for Black students when they are disaggregated by the language spoken in their home. In short, immigrant Black students out-perform African-American students on state tests. 62% of black students who come from homes where Amharic is spoken passed the state math tests while the pass rate for black students from English-speaking homes was only 36%. Even in the Reading tests, those who come from a home where Amharic is spoken passed at a 74% rate while those from English-speaking homes passed at a 56% rate.

Moving On After Enfield's Announcement

I saw an interview that Dr. Enfield did with KING-5 news yesterday.  She was quite cheerful and said: - Might she leave the door open, if the board were to make her a good offer?  “This work is too important and I have too much respect for this community to play games like that, this was a genuine and as I said, much deliberated decision on my part that I made for reasons that are right for me and the time is right for me to move on,” Enfield says. - She " will be a superintendent " at another district.   - She also said the Board elections had nothing to do with her decision. - She declined to give her reasoning, either from the professional side or personal side. So we move on.  Speculation is moot at this point.  What's next? The Board will have to decide - in the next couple of weeks - what kind of search to launch.  Given that so many people are concerned, I wouldn't be surprised if some entity (the Alliance, donors, etc), gave them money for the s

Washington State Wins RTTT for Early Childhood Learning

 From the Times : Washington has won a major federal education competition and will receive up to $60 million during the next four years to improve private preschool programs across the state. In Washington, the money will go to support two initiatives: free training for preschool providers , and a standardized assessment that kindergarten teachers will use at the beginning of the school year to determine the skill level of the incoming class. About 175,000 children are served by 7,400 private child-care programs throughout the state, said Betty Hyde, director of the state's Department of Early Learning, an agency created five years ago by Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Legislature to improve early education. Another 8,000 children attend ECEAP, and about 14,000 are in the federally-funded Head Start program. The grant will pay for the providers in those programs to get the latest training in early learning. The other major initiative, the kindergarten assessm

Letter fron Dr. Enfield

I just received this e-mail: Dear Seattle Public Schools staff, families and community: In March, when I was appointed Interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, the District was in crisis. I was tasked with assembling the very best team of professionals to help lead this District, create transparency, improve communication and restore trust between families, the community and Seattle Public Schools. I am incredibly proud of the work our students, teachers, principals and staff have accomplished over the past 10 months. Seattle is fortunate to have such a team of dedicated educational professionals. The progress we have made is significant: · Seattle Public Schools students outperformed the state average in every tested subject in grades 3-8 · Our four-year graduation rate is up from 67 percent to 73 percent in the last year · Our overall school performance is increasing, with 27 schools increasing their overall performance level during 2010-2011 · Enrollment is on the rise

Friday Open Thread

Silas Potter was arraigned (welcome back, Mr. Potter) and put in a plea of... not guilty.  Yes, I know that's what you do while trying to get a deal but it strikes me as funny anyway. What's on your mind?

NCLB; Can We Just Kill It Now?

From the Seattle Times : (bold mine) Nearly half of America's public schools didn't meet federal achievement standards this year, marking the largest failure rate since the much-criticized No Child Left Behind Law took effect a decade ago, according to a national report released Thursday. The Center on Education Policy report shows more than 43,000 schools - or 48 percent - did not make "adequate yearly progress" this year. The failure rates range from a low of 11 percent in Wisconsin to a high of 89 percent in Florida. State's scores varied wildly. For example, in Georgia, 27 percent of schools did not meet targets, compared to 81 percent in Massachusetts and 16 percent in Kansas. That's because some states have harder tests or have high numbers of immigrant and low-income children, center officials said. It's also because the law requires states to raise the bar each year for how many children must pass the test, and some states put o

Short Term Capacity Management Proposals

The Board and the public got our first look at what is very likely to be the set of solutions to capacity management problems for the coming year. Here is the presentation made to a Board Operations Committee of the Whole last night. This presentation lays out the need for additional capacity - school by school - and the solution for each school. I'll give you the short answer: portables.

Lowell Lockdown Incident Raises Some Questions

Earlier today this happened (this from SPS Office of Public Affairs): Today, a group of fourth-grade students from Lowell Elementary on Capitol Hill went on a field trip that involved walking to and from Cal Anderson Park, where they went ice skating. T he students were accompanied by teachers and parents. As the group was returning from the field trip, at approximately 3 p.m., Lowell staff learned that one of the parents might be a criminal suspect wanted by police. A teacher at the school called 9-1-1. When the students returned from the field trip, they were escorted inside the school and the Lowell Elementary principal placed the school on lockdown to ensure the safety of all Lowell students. The suspect did not enter the school. When police arrived, the suspect fled the scene. Students were allowed to leave the school after being escorted onto buses, or if they were picked up by their parents, but the remaining students stayed at the school under lockdown until po

Quick Notes and a Promise for Longer Threads

Are you slammed with things to do? Me, too.   But meanwhile, lots of things are happening.  So a quick round-up of thoughts that settle in my brain as I try to go to sleep (if only there was an on/off switch for our brain at bedtime). 1) Just attended a land use committee meeting. They voted 5-3 to allow 6-story buildings across from Roosevelt High School .  The final vote will come on January 17th.  I'll write further about this but there was some crowing about all the new kids to the neighborhood who will be able to walk to Roosevelt.  Do we need a new high school?  Yup. 2) On capacity management, I am really, really worried.  There is so many moving targets and so much that could go wrong with the wrong choices.  I hope FACMA, if in their guts they feel it, will put up a fight against any position the staff has that they worry about seeing go through. We CANNOT make any more facilities mistakes. Those capital dollars have got to be stretched and that means a clear acco

Petition for Superintendent Search

Kate Martin started a petition for a superintendent search. You can find it here. http://www.change.org/petitions/seattle-school-board-directors-we-urge-you-to-conduct-a-search-for-a-permanent-superintendent

Tuesday Open Thread

News of the albatross that is the district headquarters, funding high school activities versus junk food and this right-on op-ed about education and poverty from the NY Times. So why do presumably well-intentioned policy makers ignore, or deny, the correlations of family background and student achievement? Some honestly believe that schools are capable of offsetting the effects of poverty. Others want to avoid the impression that they set lower expectations for some groups of students for fear that those expectations will be self-fulfilling. In both cases, simply wanting something to be true does not make it so. Another rationale for denial is to note that some schools, like the Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools, have managed to “beat the odds.” If some schools can succeed, the argument goes, then it is reasonable to expect all schools to. But close scrutiny of charter school performance has shown that many of the success stories have been limited to particular grades o

School District in the News

There have been a couple of stories about the school district appearing in the Seattle Times of late. Among them: Schools face $50M in 'glass palace' debt about the money owed on the purchase and construction of the JSCEE - a scheme that was doomed from the start. School board may ease ban on junk food about proposed changes in the district's policy on vending machine food. This was followed by a weird and misguided editorial (as all Times editorials about Seattle Public Schools are weird and misguided), The Seattle School Board has the budget munchies .

Work Session on Capacity Management Transition Plan

Prior to last week's Board meeting, there was a Board Work Session on the 2012-2013 Student Assignment Plan (vis a vis capacity management).  Highlights: they will be trying to link schools with fewer ELL services to those with more to provide more access to students who need those services they will be starting the new " World School " for SBOC at Meany.  I'm not sure exactly what this entails for Special Ed , they are going to try to do the same linking idea as for ELL students.  for Advanced Learning , they want to try to figure out what is a "real" ALO and what guidelines are given for schools that want ALOs.  Good question but you'd think AL would be able to answer that one right now.  Kay said she wants to see consistency in ALOs.  Tracy said the IB process at RBHS is moving along well. for International Education , they have feeder patterns set up except for needed two more elementaries for Denny.  The Superintendent said these would be ma

Friday Open Thread

Two things: A reporter for the Nathan Hale Sentinel, Ryan Lenea, wrote to me asking for help on an article he is writing about MAP.  He is looking for the following info: I am currently writing about the MAP testing administered in Seattle Public Schools; what it is, why we do it, how much it costs etc.  Also, could you please refer me to anyone else you think is knowledgeable on this topic, or who has a strong opinion on it? I am not a deep-dive on MAP so I asked him if I could ask my readers and he said yes.  If you are knowledgeable about MAP (uses, costs, etc), could you drop him a line today ?  Also, if you have strong feelings, yay or nay, could you do that?  He is on a deadline.  He's at ryanlenea@gmail.com .   Thanks. Also, Sunday the 11th is the last day to take the Board's survey .   It may not be a focused and/or well-written survey but it's all we have.  If you or your spouse/partner have not taken it, I urge you to do so and put in the comments your t