Thursday, March 31, 2011

Who Is Paying for Teach for America?

Update:    It seems the Seattle Foundation gave TFA $80k in December 2010 to "support general operating expenses of the Seattle program."   Their other generous donations cover a wide range of Puget Sound programs (including intervention programs in Renton, Northshore and Highline schools).  Interesting that they want to help support a non-local program that doesn't even exist here yet.  

As I previously reported, I had this back and forth with Washington STEM over their funding of TFA.  At one point, they had brought in the TFA regional director who told me that they are trying to get recruits with science and math backgrounds.  Clearly, there is no way for them to guarantee who will come but she said 10 recruits with math/science degrees had indicated Puget Sound as their first choice.

Counselors or Coaches - Vote Now

Charlie reported that Robert Boesche, CFO, wants budget ideas so let's give him some.  My thought is inspired by the Kia car commercial with the gangsta hamsters (I cannot say why this commercial so entertains me but it does.)  The tag line is:

You can go with this or you can get with that.

So in that vein, I thought we might put together a list (and feel free to do this at your elementary school).    First up,
School Counselors or Academic Coaches?
This or That?

Which do you think make the most difference at your school?  Which would you be willing to do without for a year or two or three?  (And none of this, "I don't really know" stuff.  You know your school; what do teachers or the principals talk about more?)

What else would make a good "this or that"?

Special Ed Survey (But Anyone Can Take It)

ParentsCare is a group working on issues around Special Education for SPS students with special needs.  They are taking a survey and would like your help, whether you are a parent of a Special Ed student or not.   From their e-mail:

We invite parents of SPS students to participate in a survey for families with students who are assigned to new schools next year, typically the 5th and 8th graders.  We ran a sample survey in our corner of the district and will post a sample of our results is in the Attachments section "2011 SPS Riser Assignment Survey".  It would be nice to see if we get results from across the district.

We are trying to measure family agreement with the New Student Assignment Plan with emphasis on the riser process.  A student "riser" is a student who changes schools or program.  For example, from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school are two riser situations for most students.

If your student is not a riser but you know a family with a student riser, please forward this survey to them.  If you have questions, please let us know.

If you know families with General Education student risers, please share this survey link with them.

Their e-mail ParentsCare@gmail.com

Seattle Council PTSA Meeting Last Night with Enfield and Boesche

The panel last night was Steve Sundquist, Sherry Carr, Pegi McEvoy (COO), Robert Boesche (CFO) and Dr. Enfield.   Peter Maier also attended but was not part of the panel.  Linda Shaw from the Times attended and there were about 30 people in the audience.

The Seattle Council PTSA was very gracious in dispensing with the business part of the meeting and went right to comments from the panel and then questions.  It was an interesting format because you could submit a written question and, at the end, ask a question.  I had printed out all the budget questions I had received from my thread and gave it to the moderator.

Mr. Boesche Wants Your Ideas for Budget Cuts

At the PTSA Q&A event last night I spoke with the interim CFO, Robert Bousche, and he told me that he wanted folks to send him ideas for ways that the District could cut their budget.

Steve Sundquist told me that the Board generally relies on the staff to recommend changes but that they could put in ideas of their own or ideas that they get from the public.

So let's send Mr. Bousche and Mr. Sundquist some ideas.

I can't find an email address for Mr. Bousche, so until we can get it, let's just send the ideas to Communications and to the superintendent and ask them to forward the idea to Mr. Bousche.

Here are a couple ideas that I will be sending in today:

* Stop the spending on the web site upgrade project. Savings: at least $400,000.

* End the NTN contract with STEM a year early at one school (academy). Savings: $200,000.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PTA Sponsored Q & A

I went to the Q & A sponsored by the PTA tonight. Boy am I glad I went.

On the panel were five people, all of them taking on new jobs.
Susan Enfield, the new Superintendent; Robert Boesche, the new CFO; Pegi McEvoy, the new COO; and Sherry Carr and Steve Sundquist who are completely new to providing governance and oversight as Board Directors.

I have to say that every time Dr. Enfield spoke I was more and more pleased with her appointment to the job. She spoke about students instead of schools. She spoke about the connections between teachers and students. She spoke about accountability in ways that came closer to being concrete terms. And when she had to deliver bad news, she did it. She was honest about what could or couldn't be done and she was honest about the way things are. It was wonderful.

Every time that Steve Sundquist spoke it made me try to think of everyone I knew in West Seattle who might be able to run against him. Maria Ramirez, where are you? We need you. He pretty consistently said the wrong things.

Mel took notes and she's the journalist on the team, so I'll let her write another thread with the details, but WOW! Dr. Enfield ran the table. She was great.

Newsy bits: Dr. Enfield wants to add a second Executive Director of Schools to southeast Seattle. I guess she thinks that the Executive Director job is a good place to invest. This way the two of them will have half as many schools to follow as Michael Tolley has now.

Dr. Enfield definitely wants to invest in early intervention. I'm not sure how she is going to pay for it. She definitely wants the District to take a role in assuring that the interventions are provided and she wants the District to take a role in facilitating them.

Dr. Enfield wants to use the MAP the way in was intended to be used: as a formative assessment to lead to more personalized instruction for students. She talked about a MAP report that had the scores on one side and suggestions for differentiation on the other. Not a mandate or a requirement, she was quick to say, just suggestions.

Dr. Enfield expressed, in this one brief meeting, more appreciation and respect for the work of teaching than I heard in three and half years from her predecessor.

There was a lot of vague talk with all of the usual buzz words: accountability, trust, blah blah blah, most of them coming either from Robert Boesche or Steve Sundquist. They weren't so impressive.

Dr. Enfield was really great. She might actually be the honest, caring, hardworking person who could change the culture in the JSCEE. She'll have help from the two people she has hired, from the new General Counsel, and from others. The possibility is now on the menu.

Good for You, Grandma

From the Rainier Valley Post, news that at least one of the suspects in an incident at RBHS on March 10th turned himself in police at the insistence of his grandmother.   The backstory:

On Tues., March 8, several students said they witnessed a shooting right outside the school at about 10 am. Apparently, the incident was not immediately reported to police.

There were no injuries, but two days later, shortly after 10 am on March 10, three men showed up at the school looking for two girls that had witnessed the shooting. The men ignored a security guard who insisted they leave, and instead, pushed by him in their attempts to confront the girls, before eventually being escorted out of the building.

What the cops had to say:

This guy attempted to intimidate a witness in one crime, and now he’s locked-up for another. Although direct witness intimidation attempts are few and far between, that result is actually not uncommon.
People should know that actual incidents of witness intimidation are extremely rare (despite how much it is over-hyped). This guy made himself out to be some super-hardcore tough guy, and in the end his grandmother made him turn himself in. That’s not uncommon either.
Detective Witt added that “the South Precinct works in concert with Seattle Public Schools Security and the Seattle Parks department to ensure incidents like this are averted” by providing a high presence during lunch hours, after school and during special events.

I love that grandma who did the right thing for her grandson.  Tough love works. 

Complaints About Complaints

I enjoy bitter flavors. I like coffee, bitter ale, Italian aperitif wines, and these little red sodas from San Pelligrino called Sanbitter. I also enjoy the bitter tang of irony. There are a few specific ironies that I truly savor. One of them are people in their cars in traffic complaining about traffic. They seem so blissfully unaware that they themselves are part of the very problem they hate. Another irony I enjoy are those who complain about complaints.

Let's be clear. I don't have any problem with a complaint. A good one states the problem, knows its roots, shows the harm it causes, and suggests a viable solution. That's perfectly legitimate. I absolutely loathe whining. Whining has the statement of the problem but rarely knows its roots and never suggests a workable solution. That's the big difference: suggesting a solution. If you offer a solution then you are part of the solution. If you don't, then you're just whining about the problem.

This blog has information and discussion about Seattle Public Schools. The individual schools, for the most part, work pretty well and do a good job providing an academic opportunity to most of the students who arrive prepared to take advantage of that opportunity. The District's central administration, however, is a howling cess pit of dysfunction, incompentency and waste. That's the way it goes. Things don't always work out as you might like.

So what are we to do? Generally we report the facts and then discuss them. The facts about the District's central administration are often sad, and the discussion is often about what is wrong and how it can be fixed. At least that's how it goes when things are working right. When things aren't working right we don't suggest solutions as we should and we end up doing more whining than we should. That's the way it goes. Things don't always work out as you might like.

The blog is open to anyone. It isn't moderated and it is almost completely unedited. Look around. The blog for the Alliance for Education isn't like that. The blog for the League of Education Voters isn't like that. If people want to comment on this blog and write about how the District is a paradise filled with butterflys, rainbows and cupcakes, they are free to do that. Not too many folks are taking that opportunity. If people want to write that the District's budget priorities are out of whack and that the central administration is bloated and useless, they are free to do that. Honestly, it is the more popular choice over unicorns and hearts. Is that representative of the community? I don't know. I can't say. This blog gets over 3,000 page views a day and lots of comments and discussion from a lot of different folks. The blog at the Alliance for Education is more positive, but it hasn't had a comment in a long, long time. I guess folks want to talk about their truth more than they want to talk about the version promoted by the Alliance and Strategies 360.

Some may find all of these suggestions for improvement to be negative. I think it is MUCH more positive than the comments I typically read on the Seattle Times web site. I'm not sure what the whiners want us to do about it since they don't really suggest a solution. Are we supposed to just stop noticing the lies and the broken commitments? Are we supposed to just pretend that the hypocrisies and flawed logic don't exist? I suppose we could do that, but I don't think we will. That's the way it goes. Things don't always work out as you might like.

As the District Churns

Just got word that as Lesley Rogers comes in to the district as the new head of Communications, long-time Communications manager Patti Spencer-Watkins is leaving.   Her last day is tomorrow.  

Here is a list, for future reference, of who handles what in Communications:

Paige Hatcher, 206 252 0200, pihatcher@seattleschools.org - general inquiries about communications support

Teresa Wippel, 206 252 0203, tewippel@seattleschools.org - media or communications planning advice; support for principals

Robert Teodosio, 206 252 0104, roteodosio@seattleschools.org - web, publications, logo queries

Bev Shanahan, 206 252 0200, bshanahan@seattleschools.org - principal communicator

What's Your Budgeting Question?

I am going to attend the Seattle Council PTSA meeting tonight that features Dr. Enfield and our new CFO, Robert Boesche.   They will be answering school budgeting questions.  I want to say something to Mr. Boesche but I don't have a burning budgeting question.

Throw out some to me and I'll try to ask as many as I can tonight.

Hiring Committee for Chief Communications Officer

There was some question about who was on the hiring committee for the Chief Communications Officer job. The job went to Lesley Rogers of Strategies 360, a firm that worked for the Alliance, laid down the Our Schools Coalition astroturf, and provided services to the District between Communications Directors.

The press release announcing Ms Rogers' hiring said that "parents" (not very inclusive language) were part of the hiring committee. Some of us wondered who they were.

Here, from Ann Chan, Chief Talent Officer, are the names of those who served on that committee:
Participants for final interview were:

Seattle Public Schools
Marni Campbell, Special Education
Holly Ferguson, Policy & Government Relations
Bree Dusseault, Executive Director
Patti Spencer, Communications
Bernardo Ruiz, Family Partnerships
Paige Hatcher, Communications
Robert Teodosio, Communications
Teresa Wippel, Communications
Cathy Thompson, Curriculum & Instruction
Scott Whitbeck, SIG
Ann Chan, HR
Noel Treat, Legal
Gregory King, Principal

SEA: Jonathan Knapp (Glenn Bafia and Olga Addae were invited to participate but were unable to do so)
PASS: Bi Hoa Caldwell

PTSA and family group leaders:
Lauren McGuire, President, SCPTSA
Vernette Stowers, co-chair, Family Partnership Advisory Committee
Sharon Rodgers, PTSA
Barbara Kelley, PTSA
Jerry Hardin, SCPTSA

External Organizations:
Kimberly Mitchell, GATES Foundation
Sara Morris, Alliance for Education
George Griffin, G3 and past chair, Alliance for Education board
Marc Frazer, Education First

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Parent Perspectives on Standardized Testing

Parent Chris Stewart has organized an evening for parents to discuss standardized testing.  With the changes in the state test and the newness of MAP testing, it is a good time to talk about the issues.  

Issues to explain:
  • parent education
  • goals of testing
  • benefits of testing
  • costs of testing
  • parental rights
  • national perspective
Issues for feedback:
  • are these the best way to meet the district's academic goals?
  • what you might like to see in SPS
  • ideas on testing frequency for different age groups
She will have different speakers on the issues speaking about 10 minutes each and then an hour for discussion with the entire group (no breakout groups).  (Note; there is not going to be discussion of testing for the Advanced Learning program.)

The meeting is Monday, April 4th at Thornton Creek Elementary, from 6-8 p.m.  

Audit Response Log Update

The Audit Response Log has been expanded to include a number of audits and financial reviews - including the Moss Adams review and recommendations.

Top Chef Seattle Schools Style

From SPS:

The West Seattle High School culinary team won the "Best Entree Award" at the 2011 Boyd Coffee ProStart Invitational - beating 17 other teams across Washington. The team members are students are Kirby Davis, Latisha Evans, and Johnny Le. The students received a $500 Scholarship to The Art Institute of Seattle, a Certificate of Achievement and a chef's knife. Kate Ptasnik of Roosevelt High School was named ProStart Student of the Year.

The students attribute their success to two chef mentors; Quinton Stewart, executive chef at Branzino in downtown Seattle, and Robin Leventhal of Stopsky’s Delicatessen on Mercer Island. The Pro Start class is offered at West Seattle High School and is taught by Sarah Orton and Danielle Henry.

Thank you to these two mentor chefs for supporting Seattle's youth.

Any good news from your corner of the district?

Seattle Schools Being Sued for Libel by Local Landlords

The Stranger Slog reports that local Roosevelt landlord jerk, Drake Sisley, is suing the district for an article in the Roosevelt High School paper back in March 2009 that he says is "false, defamatory, libelous, and malicious."   There is much that I could say given where I live and my status at the time but I'll just leave you with the letter I wrote to Noel Treat, district lead counsel, the Superintendent, the Board and Principal Brian Vance.  Here's what I wrote:

Dear Noel,

I just got wind of Drake Sisley's lawsuit against the district over the Roosevelt High School newspaper articles about properties near RHS that he and his brother own.

First up, I live in this neighborhood (just 2 blocks from RHS).

Second, I was co-president at RHS PTSA from 2007-2009.  

Between those two items, I know this issue well.  I have had to talk to the police about this issue (at their request based on my being co-president of the PTSA).

Additionally, my son was the co-editor of the opinion page of the newspaper from 2009-2010. 

It is a painful thing to live in a neighborhood with such great neighbors and be surrounded by such blight.  It is painful to see our beautiful new RHS building fronting blighted buildings.  It is painful to know these landowners want to build a 20-story building in front of RHS. 

I just wanted to let you, the Superintendent, the Board and the district know that I stand ready to help in any way I can for our district.  Do not hesitate to call me if you need help.

Boy, do I hope I can help.

School Budgets Online

Here is a link to the page with the school budgets.

It also has a link to the Weighted Staffing Standards Model.

Open Thread Tuesday

I thought I would open it up in case anyone had attended the Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting yesterday or Dr. Enfield's coffee chat this morning. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Race, Poverty and Public Schools

Bob Herbert of the NY Times wrote an excellent column about race and poverty in learning called Separate and Unequal.   From his column:

Educators know that it is very difficult to get consistently good results in schools characterized by high concentrations of poverty. The best teachers tend to avoid such schools. Expectations regarding student achievement are frequently much lower, and there are lower levels of parental involvement. These, of course, are the very schools in which so many black and Hispanic children are enrolled. 

Court of Appeals Reverses Previous Math Adoption Ruling

The Court of Appeals for Washington State has ruled that the School Board's adoption of Discovery math was not "arbitrary capricious or contrary to law." 

From the ruling:

Those challenging the Board decision bear a heavy burden, particularly because it was based on complex and technical factual matters at the heart of the Board's Arbitrary and capricious agency action is "wilful and unreasoning action, action without consideration and in disregard of the facts and circumstances of the case. Action is not arbitrary or capricious when exercised honestly and upon due consideration where there is room for two opinions, however much it may be believed that an erroneous conclusion was reached.

The Court found that the Board did not fail to give honest consideration to the "alleged deficiencies of the Discovering series". It went through, item by item, of the plaintiffs issues with the decision. One interesting item:

The challengers believe the supporters of the Discovering series lack credibility. But it is not the role of a reviewing court to weigh the credibility of experts.

A point I find lacking:

They argue that the evidence of declining test scores proves that ample education is not being provided for all students and that racial minorities are disproportionately damaged by inquiry-based math
But article 9, by its express language, places a duty only on the State, not on school districts.

Well, that's a little tortured, no? The districts exist because of the State and its laws about education.
I appreciate the effort that the plantiffs put into this challenge.  The Court points out that there is evidence for both sides that the Discovering math series could hurt or help student achievement in math.  Time will tell.

Coffee Chat with Enfield at the Library is Full

FYI,  I just received a notice that the coffee chat with Dr. Enfield at the Central Library tomorrow is FULL.  They will only be allowing people in who RSVPed.   Do not go if you didn't RSVP or are not on the waiting list. 

I hadn't noticed but this event is being put together by the Alliance for Education. 

ALO versus Differentiated Teaching

A thread was requested about ALOs (Advanced Learning Opportunities, the third tier of the Advanced Learning program) and differentiated teaching.   Differentiated teaching is a teacher knowing his/her students' strengths, challenges and readiness and being able to adjust teaching to the different levels in the classroom.  (This doesn't necessarily mean teaching to every single student's level but rather knowing that there are different abilities in the classroom and trying to meet those needs.)

A Small Double-Standard/Hypocrisy

As we all know, the District has intentionally made language immersion programs at attendance area schools. This works directly against the District's stated goal of equitable access to programs. It's just bad in every way.

It's getting worse. When building the feeder pattern for language immersion programs, the District wants to have two elementary schools feeding into each middle school and, then, into one high school.

If the second elementary school program were placed in a school in another middle school service area, but adjacent to the middle school service area of the language program middle school, then access to the program could be extended to students in another service area. For example, if the second school with language immersion in the north-end were at Green Lake, then students in the Eckstein service area (theoretically) would have access to a language immersion program as well as students in the Hamilton service area.

The District, however, has rejected this idea because it messes with their feeder patterns. Apparently feeder pattern symmetry is more important than equitable access to programs.

BUT - when choosing a high school destination for these students, the District didn't hesitate to name Ingraham - despite the fact that the Ingraham attendance area does not include ANY of the same territory as the language immersion programs that are supposed to feed to it (JSIS, McDonald, and Hamilton).

Hmmm. So it's so critically important that the territory overlap - more important than equitable access to programs - until it isn't.

Look for this to repeat in the Southeast. After the District has built the IB at Rainier Beach, look for them to name Rainier Beach as the high school destination for students coming out of the language immersion programs at Beacon Hill, the Elementary School To Be Name Later, and Mercer, instead of Franklin, the attendance area high school for those students.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's Record in Southeast Seattle

There has been some lively discussion about the steps that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson took to improve schools in Southeast Seattle (if any) and the positive impact of those steps (if any).

Because this discussion came in another thread with another primary topic, I thought it would be useful to bring the discussion out to its own thread where it would have better visibility.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meetings This Week

Monday, March 28th
Board Committee Meeting - Curriculum and Instruction
Agenda topics:  science adoption delay, AP Science and Social Studies, high school social studies adoption committee, middle school language arts adoption committee, K-5 General music adoption commitee, promotion/retention policies, homework policies

Tuesday, March 29th 
  • Superintendent Chat from 8-9 am at the Central library downtown (10th Floor)
  • The Source Informational Night for Latino Families - Campana Quetzal will be hosting this event at 6:30 p.m. in the RBHS library.  Families will learn to use the Source and how to create an e-mail account.  The workshops will be in Spanish.  
  • Superintendent coffee with members of the East African community from 6:30-8:00 p.m. - there is no location given for this; I'll try to find out where.  
  • There is also another diversity speaker lecture.  This one is Brian C. Johnson about framing diversity through modern film.  It is very 6-8 p.m. at headquarters. (My aside; this is all good and well but do we really have the money for this?  Is this considered professional development?)
Wednesday, March 30th
Seattle Council PTSA meeting - This will feature the new CFO, Robert Boesche and Dr. Enfield who will hear feedback on the school budgeting process.   This will be at the headquarters from 7-8:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 31st
Superintendent Coffee with members of the Native American community from 6:30-8:00 p.m.   No location given. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Something to Consider

I get a weekly e-mail from an organization named the Public Education Network. I have no idea what PEN's political leanings are. All I know is that, on Fridays, for the past 7 years, I get a great summary of articles and reports that cover the whole spectrum of education. The e-mail I received yesterday contained this:

Get serious
Writing as a guest on The Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog, Linda Darling-Hammond says that the recent and first-ever International Summit on Teaching, convened in New York City, showed "more clearly than ever that the United States has been pursuing an approach to teaching almost diametrically opposed to that pursued by the highest-achieving nations." The summit gathered government officials and union leaders from 16 nations, and the contrast in attitude toward teaching between international participants and Americans "could not have been more stark." Officials from countries like Finland and Singapore described building a high-performing teaching profession by enabling all teachers to enter high-quality preparation programs, generally at the masters' degree level, where they receive a salary while they prepare. There, teaching students learn research-based strategies and train with experts in model schools attached to their universities. They enter a well-paid profession -- in Singapore earning as much as beginning doctors -- where they are supported by mentor teachers and have 15 or more hours a week to work and learn together. Schools are equitably funded and have the latest in technology and materials. If we are ever to regain our educational standing in the world, writes Darling-Hammond, our leaders must be willing to take a step toward taking teaching seriously.

I hope all of the knowledgeable and thoughtful people who read this blog will read this article and remember it. I found it to be very powerful and thought provoking. Maybe this can be the start of the conversation to make public education in America great again.

It's the Student, Stupid

This isn't really what Dick Lilly over at Crosscut said but it's what went thru my mind reading his recent article.  Here's his premise about "closing the achievement gap":

Among the results of this frustratingly persistent problem is a vast, energetic industry of school reform, headlined in recent years by the involvement of powerful private foundations and the policy directives of the federal government: “No Child Left Behind” in the “Race to the Top.”

Over the years, a variety of structural changes have been proposed and, to one degree or another, tried: small schools, mayoral governance, charter schools, (more) intensive professional development for teachers, (more) leadership training for principals. Testing and more testing, along with the loss of federal funds and wholesale staff changes when schools have failed to improve scores (many states dumbed down their tests to avoid the consequences). And lately, paying teachers based on student test results, along with (more) federal money for states and school districts that promise to do a few favored things from these lists.

As for results, not much has changed.

What needs to change?

What we have is a system in which the progress of an individual child is actually unimportant. (Teachers, bless them, do not view it this way, but beyond the classroom door the system’s focus on averages takes over.)

What’s missing is a real standard — for example, the standard that EACH child will read at grade level by the end of third grade. For EACH child, a school or district should have to answer the question, “Can s/he read?” If for some the answer remains “no,” then the school and district and state have failed. You can’t hide that failure in averages.

It’s ironic, but to “close the achievement gap” we have to stop measuring and praising group gains. Schools have to focus on and deliver services — specifically reading instruction — to each individual child. K-12 educators need to measure not averages, but how many children at each grade level are actually proficient readers. And each child who is not proficient must get additional instruction sufficient to bring them up to grade level. 

Read the whole thing but bravo Dick Lilly.

With Arms like an Octopus, Gates Foundation Reaches in all Directions

From: Bill Williams, Executive Director, Washington State PTSA

I am pleased to announce that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a grant to Washington State PTA in the amount of $191,424.  Among other things, funds from the grant will be used
• to enhance communications with and among our members;
• to strengthen efforts to engage all parents, especially those from communities who have historically been underrepresented; and
• to undertake a public information campaign about the importance of every student graduating ready for college or a career.  

WSPTA is very appreciative of the generosity of the Foundation in supporting our efforts to achieve our vision that every child’s potential becomes a reality.  More information about specific initiatives being funded through the grant will be forthcoming in future issues of the Leadership News.  

I can hear some of you now, "But Melissa this could be a good thing.  It's nice that Gates wants to help with more parent engagement."   Nice is not the operative word here.  
Just to let you know, I've been trying to get an interview with someone, anyone at the Gates Foundation for a couple of months.  (They have a whole division for public relations/communications so it's not like I'm bothering anyone.)  But no, they want me to find all my answers at their website.

Bill Gates,like so many ed reformers, is a prideful person.   He is so certain of the way, of his stands and he surrounds himself with yes men. No media, no peer, virtually no will stand up to him and say, "Have you considered any alternatives?  Did you learn anything from your foundation's failure at small high schools?"  And, of course, his foundation is not going to take any questions on those issues even from a lowly blogger.  

I probably never said this outloud before but job #1 for me in 2011 was to get rid of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.   I believed that it was at a point that she was hurting our district in real and meaningful ways.  (That I didn't even have to work that hard and she did it mostly all by herself was pretty helpful.)  

One of her biggest failures?  Being prideful.  I doubt if Mr. Gates ever looks too far below his elevated status but it's a long fall down. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

High School Open Choice Seats for 2011-2012

The District has quietly announced the number of open choice seats available at attendance area high schools in the fall. Nice transparency.

This represents a clear failure to keep the commitment of maintaining choice by reserving seats for out-of-area students at every high school.

Here's a link to the table.

High School Open Choice Seats for 2011‐12
School. . . .Grade. . . Seats. . .%
Ballard. . . . 9. . . . . 21 . . . 5%
Ballard. . . .10. . . . . 41 . . .10%

Franklin . . . 9. . . . . 38 . . .10%
Franklin . . .10. . . . . 21 . . . 6%

Garfield . . . 9. . . . . 0. . . . 0%
Garfield . . .10. . . . . 0. . . . 0%

Ingraham . . . 9. . . . . 32 . . .10%
Ingraham . . .10. . . . . 32 . . .10%

Nathan Hale. . 9. . . . . 32 . . .10%
Nathan Hale. .10. . . . . 6 . . . 2%

Rainier Beach. 9. . . . . 31 . . .10%
Rainier Beach.10. . . . . 31 . . .10%

Roosevelt. . . 9. . . . . 43 . . .10%
Roosevelt. . .10. . . . . 21 . . . 5%

Chief Sealth . 9. . . . . 0 . . . 0%
Chief Sealth .10. . . . . 13 . . . 4%

West Seattle . 9. . . . . 28 . . .10%
West Seattle .10. . . . . 28 . . .10%
See Appendix B in the 'New Student Assignment Plan Transition Plan for 2011‐12' for the methodology used to calculate Open Choice seats.

The number of Open Choice seats shown is a minimum. More Open Choice seats will be added if actual attendance area enrollment is less than projected, or if more attendance area residents go to another high school.

The open choice seats for 10th grade are additional seats for new assignments, and do not include any current 9th graders assigned by choice who will be continuing into 10th grade.

There are no established minimum numbers of Open Choice seats for 11th and 12th grades, but students may still apply for any available space.


Points of interest:

Garfield has no open choice seats available. This is a clear violation of the commitment the District made when introducing the New Student Assignment Plan. Someone needs to be held accountable for this failure. I'm thinking the Board. More than an apology, they need to fix it immediately.

Chief Sealth has no open choice seats available for incoming 9th graders. This is a clear violation of the commitment the District made when introducing the New Student Assignment Plan. Someone needs to be held accountable for this failure. I'm thinking the Board. More than an apology, they need to fix it immediately. This zero marks the end of Steve Sundquist's re-election hopes.

It is particularly sharp that the two schools without Open Choice seats available are Garfield and Chief Sealth as these are the two high schools with the greatest amount of out-of-area interest. These are the two high schools that were particularly promised to have seats available for out-of-area students.

Does it strike anyone else as odd that 10% of Rainier Beach enrollment (31) is more than 10% of the enrollment at West Seattle and about equal to 10% of the enrollment at Nathan Hale and Ingraham. How can that be when we know that Rainier Beach has less than half of the enrollment of these other schools?

Program Placement for 2011-2012

Apparently when no one was looking the District announced program placement decisions for the coming school year. The document is dated 3/17/2011, one day after the last Board meeting.

Nice start on the transparency effort.

Every single proposal that came from staff was approved. The staff must have all of the good ideas because all ten of the program placement proposals submitted by members of the public were rejected. Among them:

Relocate elementary Spectrum for the Washington Service Area from John Muir to Madrona K‐8; could also provide additional Spectrum capacity for grades 6‐8. Rejected because an ALO is being added at Madrona, which will increase access to advanced learning programs rather than just shifting services from one school to another. This same proposal was rejected last year for a different rationale, that the program should be located close to the students' homes. So the rationale changes from year to year.

Change Van Asselt from a K‐5 school to a K‐8 school. Rejected there is not excess capacity in the building sufficient to support such a change. Let's remember that Van Asselt is now located in the former AAA.

Locate a language immersion program at Sand Point. Locate a language immersion program at Wing Luke. Rejected because the Board has been clear that the current focus is on completing the three designated K‐12 pathways. Review of feeder patterns and service areas would be required. The Board, apparently, has been clear that they don't want students in the Eckstein or Aki Kurose service areas to have access to language immersion programs.

Change language immersion programs from attendance area schools to option schools. Change Montessori programs from attendance area schools to option schools. Rejected because it would require extensive boundary changes as well as review of feeder patterns and service areas. The District simply isn't interested in doing that much work just for the sake of equitable access to programs and services.

A new autism inclusion program at Schmitz Park Elementary. Rejected because capacity not needed in this area.

Some of the proposals were not outright rejected, they just weren't approved. It's a distinction without a difference.

Relocate elementary APP for north end students to a north end location and close a Washington Service Area school. The superintendent says that she will consider this in conjunction with capacity management work.

Other proposals that will be considered in conjunction with capacity management work are:
1. Place an attendance area middle school at Wilson‐Pacific
2. Reopen Fairmount Park with a language immersion program
3. Duplicate Thornton Creek at Rainier View, Roxhill, or Van Asselt
4. Duplicate TOPS at Rainier View, Viewlands, Roxhill, or Van Asselt

More Silas Potter Connections

Publicola did some digging and found that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) had a contract with the Urban League (who also had contracts with SPS).    From the article:

In response to a public disclosure request, WSDOT revealed that it has contracted out support for disadvantaged and minority businesses through the Regional Small Business Development Program (RSBDP), the Seattle Public Schools division headed up by program manager Silas Potter, the man in charge of the SPS program at the center of the $1.8 million scandal, as first reported by the Seattle Times.

According to quarterly and annual reports on WSDOT’s Support Services for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), Potter’s RSBDP offered business competitiveness courses to companies with the goal of helping them bid more successfully for WSDOT contracts.

The low level of DBE attendance and the lack of any growth in enrollment at RSBDP classes suggests a similar pattern to that described in the state auditors report on the SPS program.

An odd footnote: While Nnambi told us for our original story that WSDOT was happy with the Urban League’s work because the “program has provided assistance to a number of businesses that have gotten WSDOT contracts,” a look through email correspondence between WSDOT and the Urban League found that WSDOT contacted the Urban League and requested a list of the DBEs served through the Urban League’s Pathways Program one day after our story ran.

Dr. Enfield's Priorities for the Next Three Months

We now have a document from Dr. Enfield, Earning Public Confidence in Seattle Public Schools: Every Student Known, Challenged, Cared For, that lays out her priorities for the rest of the school year and her plan for restoring trust.

In this document she writes: "I know public confidence is earned through strong leadership". In that case she knows something I don't. I know that public confidence is earned through telling the truth and fulfilling commitments. She does go on - quite a bit - about transparency, openness, and collaboration. I appreciate the words, but I won't believe them until I see it happen. I won't dis-believe them - I'll just remain neutral.

One thing I really, really like about this document is right up front, her top priority:
1. Focusing on our core mission: providing every student with an excellent education

• Continuing our commitment to Excellence for All, our five-year strategic plan, with an eye to making adjustments in light of budget constraints.

• Supporting struggling students by involving principals and teachers in creating a comprehensive plan for increasing student achievement through high-quality instruction and interventions.

• Moving towards becoming a standards-based system that ensures high expectations and common outcomes for all students.
I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see someone at the district level talk about supporting struggling students. In addition, I like the talk about ensuring high expectations for all students. That should be the district's job - providing a quality assurance check on the schools.

I'm not that crazy about her commitment to MAP, but she seems to want it to be a useful tool for teachers rather than a revenue stream for NWEA.

I'm curious about her reference to "Building partnerships between central office and school staff to better meet the needs of all students." I'm not sure what she envisions. Perhaps more "consulting teacher" or "teacher coach" type work, perhaps not.

She writes about a "culture of transparency and accountability" and she provides a couple examples but I don't think that either of them actually speak to transparency or accountability. Certainly not accountability.

Her Listening and Engagement Plan says: "As Interim Superintendent, I vow to be honest and transparent with our budget, our policies and our programs." She "vows"? That's probably not a good idea. She shouldn't raise the stakes like that because she's not going to keep that vow. Maybe should should just "hope" to be honest or "intend" to be transparent with the programs. It would be a shame for her to break a vow when she didn't really mean it. Maybe I just take that word too seriously.

I can't help thinking that she is going to regret this document when she isn't able to live up to the high ideals expressed here.

Open Thread Friday

Reminders for Saturday:
  • Community Meetings - Patu and Smith-Blum, 
  • Seattle Spring College Fair at Seattle University
  • Pinehurst K-8 Festival

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Get GET While the Getting is Good

According to the Times, the terms of GET (Guaranteed Educaton Tuition)  - the state's program for pre-paid tuition rates - may change soon under a bill in the Legislature.  This program has been and now, with looming changes, even more popular.  From the article:

The program is bringing in $1 million to $2 million daily and adding about 200 new families each day, on pace to be at or above the biggest year for the program.

Tuition is going up so fast the state may have problems paying out everyone in full.  There seems to be mixed messages on whether this will really happen or not.

The increase in GET purchases helps buoy the program financially, Lochner said, because it gives the state more money to invest. GET contains about $1.4 billion in assets, and the money is invested in stocks, bonds and other investments, much like a pension fund. There are nearly 129,000 GET accounts; a student can have more than one account.

Although the deadline for creating an account this year is March 31, investors have another month — until April 30 — to purchase credits at the current price of $117 apiece. One hundred GET units are currently worth the cost of one year of tuition and fees at the most expensive school in the state, which alternates between the University of Washington or Washington State University. This year, it's WSU, and each credit is worth $85.92.

State legislators are considering a bill, Substitute Senate Bill 5749, that would change the terms of the payouts. The legislation would not affect GET credits purchased before Aug. 1.  
Good advice:
Robin Tan, a certified financial planner in Kirkland, said investors need to be aware that buying GET credits today means paying a premium on current tuition prices. Because a GET credit purchased today for $117 is only worth $85.92 at today's valuation, an investor is, in effect, paying a 36 percent premium on today's tuition price and betting that tuition will rise beyond that point when his or her children are ready to go to college.

"The cost today is pretty high," Tan said. "There are not many investments where you put out 36 percent before you make a return."

For that reason, GET makes the most sense for families of very young children, Tan said. GET might not be the best bet if the student for whom the credits are being purchased is going to college in five or six years. "The older your child is, the less of a deal it is," he said.

For that reason alone, he does not deserve re-election

In an earlier thread, skeptical wrote about Director Sundquist:
Sundquist also opened the last, hardest, of this year's budget sessions by making a sweeping statement that staff's board recommendations should be baseline accepted as the starting point of discussion.

For that reason alone, he does not deserve re-election.
Which actions or statements by Board Directors make them un-deserving of re-election?

I'll provide the second one.

At the Board meeting of November 17, 2010, Director Martin-Morris scolded his Board colleagues for trying to verify a statement made by Dr. Enfield. He lectured them that they should just accept her statements as true and not insult her by verifying them. For that reason alone, he does not deserve re-election. The statement in question proved false, a fact he knew when chastizing his fellow Directors, but that didn't slow him down one bit.

Strategic Plan Refresh

The District is preparing a "Strategic Plan Refresh". They will review the Strategic Plan and decide which projects to continue, alter, defer, or remove. The refresh will have to include goals, timelines, status, and budgets for each of the projects.

I spoke with Mark Teoh last night and asked if he could include two items in the Refresh program:

1) A record of the various projects in the Strategic Plan, including those that were originally in it, those that were added, those that were completed, and those that were simply dropped without notice. Remember how there was supposed to be an APP Review in the plan? Remember how there was going to be an alternative education review? These projects just silently faded away. At the same time, Capacity Management and World Language curricular alignment, which were not part of the original plan, have been added.

2) A review of the community engagement protocols and some table that shows which of the projects are meeting the requirements of the protocol (it's easy - none of them).

What would you like to see in the Strategic Plan Refresh?

Board Update

When they first took office in 2007, the four school board directors elected that year didn't seem to know what to do. None of them had been very active at the District level before the election. None of them had regularly attended Board meetings. None of them knew much about the District outside of some single area of interest. They were unfamiliar with the District's personnel, structure, and workings. They were unfamiliar with the board job. I don't mean any insult; that's par for the course for new Board Directors.

These new Board members took their lead from Directors Chow and DeBell and from the staff. I think they were getting a lot of whispers from the Broad Foundation, WSSDA, and the Alliance as well. That was too bad. It created a Board that did no oversight.

Director Chow disbelieved in the Board's role. Near the end of her term she became very candid. She scolded her board colleagues for even asking questions of the staff. She told them that by the time a motion reached the Board for action it had already been vetted a couple of times by experts and that the Board Directors - amatuers that they were - had no business second-guessing the decisions of education professionals. From her perspective, the Board was there to fulfill a strictly legal and administrative function: to vote to approve whatever was put before them and to do it without asking any troublesome questions or causing any delay. This is not the person you want training your Board.

Director DeBell, while he didn't share that belief, was in over his head for the first couple years of his term - as most Board members are. He is a thoughtful, mild person by temperment and his default position was to trust the staff when they told him something. His maturation (read: growing skepticism) was at the normal pace or a little slower thanks to Director Chow's influence and the change of superintendents. It usually takes about three years for most Board members to figure out which way is up, so in 2008 he couldn't be expected carry the banner for oversight.

The staff certainly wasn't going to encourage the Board to exercise a lot of oversight.

WSSDA, the Broad Foundation and the Alliance wanted the Board to push forward with the Reform agenda and didn't want them thinking critically about anything much at all. They all discourage boards from practicing oversight.

So from December 2007 until about June of 2010 we had King Log as our Board. The four new members, along with Director Chow for two years and Director DeBell for another year, formed a majority that either resolutely refused to perform any oversight or simply didn't realize that they were supposed to.

This month the Board fired the superintendent and the CFOO, so it's clear that we do not have King Log anymore. What happened? It was a combination of things including: the normal maturation of the Board members, the audit, and the astonishing managerial incompetence of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson

First among them was the natural maturation of the Board Directors. It just takes about three years before Board Directors figure this stuff out.

Director DeBell had a two-year head start on his colleagues so he got there first. Director DeBell, as he collected evidence, became increasingly distrustful of the staff. It happens after you've been on the Board for a while. Let's face it, the first time that the Transportation Department comes before you with their annual passion play (they know that their plan stinks but the Board has to approve it now because they are up against a terrible deadline and inaction will result in a disaster of biblical proportions but they totally swear to do lots of work and come back next year with an excellent plan and plenty of time for Board review) you might believe them. But the third time you see that exact same act it starts to wear thin. So we saw Director DeBell start to take an interest in oversight a year or so before his Board colleagues. That explains his sharper questions and his vote against the high school math textbook adoption.

Then there was the audit. The audit didn't immediately make an impact on the Board. Yeah, they were caught off-guard and un-prepared for the exit interview, but they didn't take it seriously at first. Director DeBell was the only one who understood the gravity of the situation. Fortunately he was Board President at the time so he had Don McAdams present on the Board's Duty of Oversight at a Board Retreat in September. At that retreat I could see that the four directors elected in 2007 just didn't get it. They saw it as a public relations problem more than anything else, and not much of a P.R. problem at that. After all, other than those troublesome wonks who infest Board meetings, who cares about these audits?

Director Carr, however, had to take charge of the P.R. response to the audit, which was to make a big show of addressing the audit concerns. When she started doing that - presiding over Audit and Finance Committee meetings that actually had to oversee specific action - she finally peered into the heart of darkness which is the SPS bureaucracy. She became activated. Director Carr is now alive, alert, awake and enthusiastic. She now knows to ask for specific actions and for timetables. She now knows better than to accept assurances that things will be done or to accept assurances that things were done. She has discovered the need for oversight - at least within the District's finances. With time she may even come to see how broad the need is - how it extends beyond the budget. The confirming evidence that she is interested in oversight came when she voted against the annual approval of schools because she couldn't independently confirm the CSIPs. That vote represented a huge shift.

The third cause of the shift was Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's shocking incompetence. Her hubris and her dishonesty certainly played a role, but the big gap between her masterful ability to make plans and her total lack of capacity for implementing them was the key.

I suspect that she knows this about herself. That may be why she was always touting a plan and always deferring the day when implementation could be expected. When she first arrived in Seattle she promised an entry plan which, on the day that it was due, was scrapped for the promise of a Strategic Plan. She spent months (and thousands) on the Strategic Plan with dozens of disparate elements, none of which was expected to be implemented for about a year and none of which were expected to yield any results for three to five years. Every single job she was given and every single job she took on was deferred and deferred and deferred. She was a master of the illusion of action - hence all of the inaction verbs in her action plans. But it isn't a sustainable model. Eventually people expect you to deliver something.

Director Maier has been the surprise for me. Here is a guy who never voted against a staff recommendation and hardly ever even asked questions about them. He was a pussycat. Now, all of a sudden, he's growling like a tiger. The first sign I saw of his newfound interest in oversight came with the Capacity Management report - or, rather, the absence of a capacity management report. Peter Maier came to the Board from leadership of Schools First, the PAC that represented BEX III. He is really interested in facilities and capacity. He was a champion of the Capacity Management project (closures) and spent some political capital on it. The Capacity Management report provided the rational underpinning for the closures and he needed it to validate his political gamble. After a year of waiting for this document he was really expecting a big, juicy T-bone. Instead, he got Salisbury Steak TV dinner. The gap between the plan and the implementation is what woke him up.

That leaves two other members of the class of 2007.

I remember when the Board was voting on the Chief Sealth / Denny co-location, about six months into the new Board's term, Director Sundquist said that after six months on the Board he was not yet cynical enough to disbelieve the staff's promises. He actually said that. I wish that now, after three years on the Board, he is skeptical enough to want to verify staff claims - he should be. Unfortunately, I don't think he is. Despite personal humiliations (claiming that no letter was mailed to teachers when a letter had, in fact, been mailed to teachers, the mea culpa tour for Pottergate, etc.) he still doesn't get it. He still feels no duty to verify statements by staff and feels no duty to ask for timetables. I think we have waited long enough for Director Sundquist to recognize his oversight responsbilities. If he hasn't done it by now - and he hasn't - then he probably never will. Let's just hope he doesn't run for re-election, because he will lose.

Most disappointing, however, is Director Martin-Morris. He started so well and is finishing so poorly. He was ambivalent about dismissing the superintendent. He hasn't spoken once in favor of oversight - he worked to weaken the language of the Governance and Oversight Policy the Board is now drafting. He has stalled the policy revision in the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee. Worst of all, in November, he scolded his Board colleagues for trying to verify a statement by Dr. Enfield. He told them that if she said something they should just accept it as true without checking it. More, he said, they shouldn't check it - it is inappropriate for them to check it he said. He shut down his blog and now he has made it inaccessible. He is actively opposing Board oversight and he needs to be replaced on the Board as soon as possible.

It doesn't matter. We don't need those two. With DeBell, Carr, Maier, Smith-Blum and Patu we have a super-majority in favor of oversight.

Just in case you're wondering if public outcry had anything to do with waking up the Board, I don't think it did. Public outcry might be irritating, but it doesn't merit a response. Sort of like a buzzing fly that you don't even bother to brush away.

HR Oversight Work Session

This was an interesting Work Session not least of all because of its topic - HR.  (And no one said anything about "human capital.")  Much of my interest was in how the Board acted.  They acted like people who had questions and wanted answers, polite but firm.

Sherry started off by explaining that Don McAdams, who is guiding the Board on governance issues, encouraged them to do overviews of all the departments.  They just happened to start with HR. 

Ann Chan, who is the new head of HR, started out by explaining HR's focus which is ensuring every classroom has a qualified teacher, supporting teachers and providing timely staffing and evaluation data and support to principals, executive directors and central office managers. 

Michael pointed out that 40% of SPS employees were not in the classroom.  He said the recent issues that "reflected badly" on the district occurred in Central office functions.   He was following up on a comment Sherry made about "tracking and training" employees and said the employees need to be screened carefully.   The Board all seemed to agree with Susan Enfield and Ann Chan that it needs to start with good teachers but that all positions are important.

Ann did say one unintentionally funny thing (at least to some of us in the audience).  She said that most teachers don't hit their stride for 3-5 years.  Maybe I'll send her an e-mail telling her to tell principals to keep that in mind when they are looking at TFA recruits.  

There seems to be an issue about managers returning evaluations.  Sherry ask how the completions were tracks and if they knew the names of the managers who hadn't returned their evaluations.  She said, "Where I work you won't stay a manager if you don't get this done."  Wow.

Ann followed up by saying she was new and there had been no consequences to getting these done but she would makes sure the end of the year evaluations did get completed.  Sherry said it really wasn't Ann's job but leadership's job and Susan agreed.   DeBell followed up saying that "the previous superintendent" (I guess we're going the Voldemort route with MGJ) promised data on performance measures and we are still waiting.  Steve even kept making sure that Theresa, the Board manager, was tracking follow-ups. 

Astonishing.  Sherry asking if Chan specifically knew who hadn't done their evaluations and Michael complaining about the length of time for data.  In public.  Steve compiling a list of follow-ups.  A new day in SPS.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quarterly Strategic Plan Update

I attended the quarterly Strategic Plan update this evening. It was, far and away, the best one ever. Credit for the clearer and more informative format goes to Mark Teoh, the new person in charge of the Strategic Plan. He said it was easy to present the information clearly. He didn't say that was true once the goal became to share information rather than horde it.

The Board, except for Director Martin-Morris - who was silent throughout the presentation, was engaged and asked some good questions.

The Powerpoint speaks for itself, so I'll just make a couple notes...

On slide 8, Special Education, the District doesn't yet keep IEPs as electronic records, so it is extraordinarily difficult to measure or track the work. They are transitioning to an electronic format. It was noted that two schools experiencing a lot of progress and success, West Seattle Elementary and Highland Park Elementary, are using a "workshop" model in the classroom which allows the teacher to provide more individualized support and instruction.

On slide 9, ELL, the typical growth measure is based on the median (or mean?) growth in year-over-year MAP scores nationally for test history peers. So that 65% growth goal isn't an automatic one from the Colorado Growth Model. 65% of students exceeding the typical growth is actually a pretty ambitious goal.

The District's goal for the ALO's (slide 10) is a bit soft - it is to get 100% of Spectrum- and APP-eligible students in the five targeted schools to "participate" in the ALO. I just don't know what that means. It could be good. It could be meaningless. I have no idea how many students we're talking about.

Slide 11 is about math and it needs some explanation. First, you'll notice that every other goal is measured in student outcomes. The District is counting students. In math, however, they count schools. The Milestone target is listed as "100% of schools" and the Actual outcome says "90% of students". This is a typo. It should have read "90% of schools". Apparently the District cannot track students from year to year. I know that it appears that they do so in a number of other cases, but they claim that they cannot do it in this case. I spoke with Ms delaFuente and she showed me the raw data. Of the students in the Level 1 and Level 2 schools, 61% saw their test scores rise as much or more than the average for their test history peers. That's not bad, but we don't know which students that is. Some schools, notably West Seattle Elementary and Dearborn Park made exceptional growth.

On slide 14, the one about curriculum alignment, Director Carr asked about the accuracy of the self-survey. Kathleen Vasquez told her that there will be coaches in the schools who can corroborate the data.

Finally, I want to direct everyone's attention to April 13 when the Strategic Plan Refresh is due. We can look forward to some clear information about what is in the Plan, what progress has been made, what it is costing us, and which parts will be continued, altered, deferred, added, or dropped.

News Roundup

From the New York Times:
  • an op-ed about asking students what THEY want in a high school.  The author, Susan Engel, followed a group of 8 high school students as they "designed and ran their own school within a school."  Interesting reading.  Here's a connecting lesson plan.  A couple of thoughtful parts:
An Independence Project student who had once considered dropping out of school found he couldn’t bear to stop focusing on his current history question but didn’t want to miss out on exploring a new one. When he asked the group if it would be O.K. to pursue both, another student answered, “Yeah, I think that’s what they call learning.” 

The students in the Independent Project are remarkable but not because they are exceptionally motivated or unusually talented. They are remarkable because they demonstrate the kinds of learning and personal growth that are possible when teenagers feel ownership of their high school experience, when they learn things that matter to them and when they learn together. In such a setting, school capitalizes on rather than thwarts the intensity and engagement that teenagers usually reserve for sports, protest or friendship. 

I'm wondering if this kind of learning mirrors what happens at Nova High School.

The Most Popular Girl in SPS

From Dr. Enfield's office:

As you can imagine, Dr. Enfield’s calendar quickly filled after that letter went out. And given that ‘Open Office Hours’ are only on Thursdays, 4:00 -5:30 pm (15 minutes per guest or group), it didn’t take long.  Unfortunately at this time, I am unable to schedule any additional appointments.  With the great demand of her time following this invitation, we filled her calendar through June in a matter of days. We are currently looking for additional scheduling opportunities on her calendar to create more openings.  Once identified, I will get back to you.

Thanks to Jaane for the update.

Don't Hold Your Breath II

On January 11, I wrote this blog post called Don't Hold Your Breath about my doubts that the district staff would follow up on commitments to make corrections to the school reports. The blog post also expressed my dismay at a Board that appears completely unfamiliar with the whole idea of following up. They actually accepted promises of future action from a staff person that they knew was leaving the District. Incredible.

It has now been over three months since the changes were promised (and promised promptly), yet we still have not seen any of the promised action.

I wrote to a couple of Board members asking about it. One of them forwarded my concern to the superintendent. She wrote back on Thursday the 17th that the changes would be made on Friday, March 18. The changes were not made. I wrote back to the Board member to make her aware of that fact.

No response.

This sort of stuff does not restore public trust in the District.

I recognize that this sort of thing may appear petty, but this is the stuff that determines the level of trust in the District. Do they tell the truth? Do they get their numbers right? Do they keep their commitments? Do they follow through as promised?

Seattle Schools Budget Information Posted

The district has posted a spreadsheet document for the budget.   It is quite large and very detailed and I have not plowed through it myself.

One thing that did jump out at me was the amount of money we pay to private schools (roughly $300k).  I know there's a reason the district has to pay for students to attend them but it eludes me right now.  Can anyone jog my memory?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm Speechless (Me?)

Lynne Varner of the Times wrote what is probably one of the least clear editorial columns I have ever read I just don't know what to make of it so I leave it to you to decipher it.  (She does use her fav phrase "Sturm und Drang" which I never thought of as all-purpose but okay.) Hint: I think it's about ethics.

Here's one of the weirder lines:
Wow, is city government so clean Barnett has time to police the educational equivalent of Libya?

I'm a pretty big critic of the district but I do not believe it is the educational equivalent of Libya.

Criticize Privately, Praise Publicly

At the recent School Board Retreat, the Board discussed a Governance and Oversight Policy that would define the Board's job.

On page 18 of this 21 page document, is a section titled "Board-Superintendent Communications". Under this section is this set of guidelines for communication between the Board and the superintendent:
Communications between the Board and the Superintendent will be governed by the following practices:
a. Exercise honesty in all written and interpersonal interaction, avoiding misleading information
b. Demonstrate respect for the opinions and comments of each other
c. Focus on issues rather than on personalities
d. Maintain focus on common goals
e. Communicate with each other in a timely manner to avoid surprises
f. Criticize privately, praise publicly
g. Maintain appropriate confidentiality
h. Openly share personal concerns, information knowledge and agendas
i. Make every reasonable effort to protect the integrity and promote the positive image of the district and each other
j. Respond in a timely manner to request and inquired from each other

Nestled in there, among all of the talk about honesty, openness, and respect, is the direction to "criticize privately, praise publicly". This practice would, of course, be intentionally deceptive to the public, and intentionally opposed to honesty and openness, and intentionally disrespectful to the public. This practice would create an alliance between the Board and the superintendent against the public. This practice would hide from the public the Board's work to hold the superintendent accountable for performance and require, instead, a constant stream of happy talk at Board meetings, work sessions, and oversight reviews. Imagine how those oversight review sessions will go if the Board is prohibited from publicly criticizing the staff's work. They will have to claim that everything is rainbows and lollipops all the time.

The practice is re-inforced further down the list where the Board and the superintendent are directed to "Make every reasonable effort to protect the integrity and promote the positive image of the district and each other" It is not the Board's job to promote the superintendent's positive image. It is not the Board's job to protect the superintendent's integrity - whatever that means. It is the superintendent's job to earn a positive image and to protect his or her own integrity (as if someone else can damage a person's integrity).

Why and how is it okay for the Board to advocate for a policy of deceiving the public?

Revisionist History at Work

Students Need Stable District Leadership is an article at the website, District Administration, about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.  It was written by Tom Payzant, a professor "of practice" at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and the former head of Boston Public Schools and he is apparently someone who likes to talk about things he isn't well-versed in or he just likes to leave things out.

Education Laughs

First up, Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.  The show had taken a week break and left the news of the day at Charlie Sheen and teachers in Wisconsin.  As Jon pointed out, Japan was rocked by an earthquake AND tsunami and a coalition of the willing are trying to knock some sense into Khaddafi.   He played clips of various politicians saying the U.S. is basically broke.  Then he said:

"How is it possible to fire Tomahawk missiles AND fire teachers?"  Good question.

Then, from Washington Post's The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss, comes news of the next edition of tv's "Survivor."  Here's how it starts:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Bill Gates will be dropped in an elementary school classroom for one school year.

Each will be provided with a copy of his/her school district’s curriculum and a class of 20 to 25 students.
Each class will have a minimum of five learning-disabled children — three with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, one labeled gifted and two who speak limited English. Three other students will be labeled with severe behavior problems.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Feel Strongly about the Benefits of Testing?

A group is organizing a forum on parent perspectives about standardized testing.  They are looking for a couple of people (teachers and parents) who support standardized testing in SPS, namely MAP and HSPE.  They are looking for authentic dialog on this important issue. 

What benefits have you seen for your child?  How has it guided your thinking as a parent in how your child is doing in school?  Happy about the feedback from your child's teacher?

If you might be interested in being part of a panel that is supportive of the testing currently offered (thanks but they have plenty of the other side of the coin), please contact Chris Stewart, (stewcc@hotmail.com).

Also, if you have opted your child out of testing, that would be an interesting experience to share as well.  (I did opt my sons out of most of the WASL but that is years back now.)

Reminder: Let Your State Legislators Know that K-12 Ed Matters

I am again reminding you to please, during this Legislative session, let your state representatives and senators know you care about K-12 education.  Doesn't have to be in support of any particular bill but "I'm a parent, a taxpayer and this matter to me.  Oh, and I vote."  

K-12 education is the state's paramount duty and should be always in the minds of our legislators.

Here is the link to the Washington State Legislature.   If you know your legislator, find them in the House and write to him or her.  The e-mail will automatically ask you if you want the e-mail sent to your other legislator and senator so you only have to do it once.

Don't know who yours is?  Here's the link to Find Your Legislator. 

It takes 5 minutes and they need to hear from parents that you care about public education.

More on Teach For America

Just as spring heralds the arrival of new growth, it is sometimes difficult to tell the flowers from the weeds (and to figure out how some things just keep growing).

As previously announced, the money for the TFA recruit fees ($4k per teacher per year for SPS and $3k per teacher per year for Federal Way) will come from a grant from the Washington STEM organization.  This would be okay except in trying to figure out how this large grant ($475k) brings more math and science to either district, it gets murky.

At the Washington STEM website, the media kit on the grants explains they will "over-recruit" for TFA recruits with a math or science degree.  I asked what this meant and couldn't quite get an answer.  (They don't have their own PR people and the question got farmed out to their PR person.)  As per TFA, I eventually had to go through the TFA regional person, Janis Ortega.  (This happens a great deal of the time.  Try to contact a former TFAer and you'll suddenly find yourself with an e-mail from her.  Weird.)

Here was my basic question:

Is TFA saying they guarantee that SPS will be getting TFA recruits who had a math or science major based on this STEM grant?

Here's Ms. Ortega's reply: Thanks for reaching out.  To answer your question, we typically can’t guarantee an exact number of math/science corps members we’d bring to a particular school district.  At this point, we have been able to forecast that at least 10 of our incoming Seattle-Tacoma corps members could be placed as math and science teachers, based on numbers of Teach For America candidates with math and science degrees who have indicated the Puget Sound as their preferred placement region.

I believe that the number of TFA recruits they hoped to bring to the Puget Sound area was about 25.  So out of those 25, 10 have math/science degree.  Let's say 7 of them pick/get assigned our area.  Let's say Federal Way gets 3 and SPS gets 4.

The Washington STEM group thought it this important to get (maybe) 7+ TFA recruits with a math/science degree.  They gave one of their biggest grants for this few recruits.  I wrote to the head of the Washington STEM organization and the Chair of the Board of Directors to ask them about this issue.  No comment yet.

Meanwhile, as I posted from Michael's meeting, Cleveland, the one and only STEM-based school in SPS, is struggling with funding for science materials to the point where the science teachers will give up funding for a department head and divvy that work up among themselves so they can buy science materials.

You have wonder why TFA is getting so much push for what appears to be so little. 

Events This Week

Monday the 21st
Reminder of the lecture on water tonight at by Robert Glennon for the Chief Sealth Int'l High School World Water Week.  Doors open at 6:15 for music and refreshments with the lecture at 7 p.m.  Robert Glennon is the author of "Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It."

There is a discussion at Jane Addams about serving their advanced learners.  

This meeting is a Jane Addams school community discussion around how best to serve their advanced learners. Current Jane Addams families, and families considering the school are welcome to join the conversation.  It runs from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the library.  Please note this is school event (not district) with the discussion about Jane Addams only.

Oversight Work Session on Human Resources Department from 4-5:30 p.m.  This should be interesting as I haven't seen a work session on human resources previously. 

Then there is an half-hour break and another Work Session on the Strategic Plan Quarterly Update.  This also could be interesting as staff may be revealing how and where they might be pulling back because of budget issues.  This is scheduled to run from 6-7:00 p.m.

Board Community meetings
Smith-Blum - Douglass-Truth Library, 10-11:30 am
Patu - Tully's at Rainier and Genesee from 10-noon

Also, there is a Spring College Fair at Seattle University from noon to 3 p.m.  This is sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Association for College Admission Counseling.  It is free and open to the public.   For more information, contact Matt Bishop, (206) 296-6971, bishopm@seattleu.edu

Also, Pinehurst K-8 is having a festival this weekend with food, music, bouncies, vendors and a silent auction.  I don't have the timeframe for this event but I know someone will let us know.  Here's a link for tickets: 

Trust Update

So how are we doing on the whole Trust thing?

On the positive...

1. The District has out-sourced Ethics Compliance to the City of Seattle.

2. The District says that they will revise their Ethics Policy to make it more effective.

3. The District continues its plan to address Audit findings.

4. The Board is working on Governance and Oversight.

5. The "Graduates Who Qualify for College Entrance" statistic was updated again.

6. The new web site continues to be built out.

7. The Superintendent will hold weekly Open Office Hours on Thursday evenings.

On the negative...

1. The District had to admit that they couldn't be relied upon to do Ethics Compliance in-house.

2. The District says that they will revise their Ethics Policy, but the District doesn't have a good record of doing the things that they say they are going to do.

3. The District's plan to address Audit findings is an INaction plan. They are mostly deferring action rather than taking it.

4. The Board's work on Governance and Oversight is making almost no real progress. As with the Audit findings, they have an INaction plan, not an action plan. They are mostly deferring action rather than taking it.

5. The Board's draft Governance Policy calls upon the Board members to praise publicly and criticize privately. This is an intentional effort to deceive the public written into their policy. That's no way to build trust. If we never see the Board hold the superintendent accountable, then why should we believe that they are doing it? And it is their job to hold the superintendent accountable. So the Board will never provide us with evidence that they are doing this part of their job. In addition, if they only praise the superintendent's work in public then they will give the public the false impression that they are only delighted with all of the superintendent's work. It is the antithesis of being open and honest.

6. The "Graduates Who Qualify for College Entrance" statistic is still wrong. It includes students who did not take the SAT or ACT and it should not. It includes students who fulfilled their World Language requirement in middle school and it should not.

7. The District staff have not fulfilled their commitment to correct the other mis-stated data in the School Reports. The count of Advanced Learners in the schools is still wrong. The percentage of "Students Making Gains on State Tests" is still wrong. The description of the "Students Making Gains..." statistic has not be revised as promised.

8. The new web site is dreadful. It is harder to find data and documents and many of them are simply missing. We are paying $700,000 for this while we don't provide struggling students with the support they need because we lack the funds to pay for it.

9. The superintendent's weekly Open Office Hours are by appointment and each appointment is 15 minutes long. It gives the word "Open" an interesting twist. I'm not sure what sort of discussion can occur in 15 minutes.

On the whole, the District is making progress, but very little. What tiny improvements we can see are only in contrast to the deplorable starting point.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Anyone Attend a Director Community Meeting Yesterday?

I attended DeBell's (crowded) meeting yesterday.  I'll post about it later but would like to hear from others.

Update:  Michael DeBell's meeting had about 13-15 people (at various points).  I like how Michael has people introduce themselves and then he writes down their topic and tries to get to everyone's topic.   There were several teachers and staff as well as Ramona Hattendorf from the Washington State PTSA.

Finally - the Third Leg to the Crisis Stool

The Times has a revealing article about Fred Stephens, former head of Facilities and Silas Potter's enabler/friend/supporter.  I was wondering when someone in the mainstream media might want to examine his record.  The Times does a fairly good job but does miss/leave out a few parts.

For me, it jogs my memory back to several Board meetings.  (I keep most of the Board agenda's at meetings where I have spoken and so I can recall testimony from other speakers.)  The article starts off with African-American activists wanting more access/opportunities to bid on SPS construction contracts.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Principal Assignments

The Superintendent announced these principal assignments today:


* Kelly Aramaki to Beacon Hill International School (Susie Murphy is retiring)

* Anitra Pinchback-Jones to Rainier View, which opens this fall

* Lisa Escobar to Viewlands, which opens this fall

* Dr. Robert Gary to Principal-on-special-assignment at
Interagency Academy, joining Kaaren Andrews

Note: Pinchback-Jones has been at Bagley Elementary, Lisa Escobar and Robert Gary have been at RBHS.  Also, the word is that Bryant will either have an assistant principal or head teacher and not continue having two principals.

The following individuals have served in an Interim role this year and are officially being appointed as principal. In each case the ExecutiveDirector of Schools gathered feedback from staff, families and communitybefore making these recommendations:

* Keven Wynkoop at Ballard

* Kelley Archer at Stevens

* Keisha Scarlett at South Shore

* Chris Cronas at Wedgwood

* Ruth Medsker at West Seattle High School
Positions currently open - an interview process will be conducted:

* John Stanford International

* Bagley

* Rainier Beach

Community Meetings Tomorrow

Directors' Community Meetings on Saturday, the 19th:

DeBell, from 9-11:00 am, Caffe Appassionato, 4001 21st Ave W.
Martin-Morris, from 9:30-11:30 am, Diva's Espresso, 8014 Lake City Way NE
Maier, from 10:30 am-noon,  Bethany Community Church, Brick Room,
    8023 Green Lake Dr. N.

Events early next week:

Chief Sealth is doing quite a great week-long event next week called World Water Week to promote global water conservation and awareness.  It is being organized by a senior, Molly Freed, and teacher Noah Zeichner, and a group of 50 other Sealth students and teachers.  Freed and Zeichner were selected last summer as Bezos Scholars (2 of 24 across the nation) to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival.

From the SPS news release:

Monday, March 21: A free public lecture by Robert Glennon at 7 p.m. accompanied by a special video message from Alexandra Cousteau. The event will kick off with a water resource fair at 6:15 p.m. and follow with introductions by Congressman Jay Inslee and members of the Duwamish Tribe.
Robert Glennon,  is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Unquenchable" and a University of Arizona Professor of Law and Public Policy.


"Jane Addams Spectrum and Advanced Learners Forum"
Tuesday, March 22nd
6:30-7:30 PM
In the Library  at Jane Addams, 11051 34th Ave NE

Thank you to North End Mom for this info.