Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dr Enfield to Talk with...Senior Citizens?

The Mayor's office announced a coffee hour with Dr. Enfield in May.  Clearly, it's a PR push for the Families & Education levy because seniors vote.  This is all good and well but meanwhile, she's booked up solid to speak to parents and other community (who actually have a slightly more vested interest in schools) till the end of the year.   (Thanks to a reader for this tip.)

This also makes me wonder, for the umpteenth time, what is the working schedule for people at Central Administration?  Do they work full-time during the school year and half-time during the summer (or not at all)?  I honestly don't know except that headquarters is a ghost town during the summer.  Anyone?

The Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens invites older adults to attend a coffee hour with Dr. Susan Enfield, Interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. Learn how Seattle's K-12 schools prepare children and youth for the future, and current opportunities and challenges. For more information, see the online flyer, call (206) 684-0500, or e-mail seniors@seattle.gov.

Saturday Community Meetings

I note that Directors DeBell and Patu have Community meetings this morning.  As well, Dr. Enfield is having a meeting this morning with Fillipino parents and community.

If you attend any of these events, let us know what you hear.

The Board finally gets back on track with Board meetings this coming Wednesday, May 4th.  Here is the agenda.   And, in the category of colliding issues, there will be an appreciation for teachers as it is Teacher Appreciation Week AND they will introduce the motion for RIFing.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Support Learning During the Summer

Seattle Public Schools is hosting several workshops Saturday, May 14 that will provide families with tools and information to support their children's learning during the summer. The "Building Bridges: Workshops Connecting Families and Schools" will run from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Garfield High School.

For more information, please read this news release.

Friday Open Thread

Dr. Enfield on KUOW's Weekday this morning.

Royal wedding.

Whatever you want to discuss.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Education News Roundup

What the word?

First up, the hacked grades story in the Times.  Right now it looks like it's at Chief Sealth, Ballard and Ingraham (all corners of the city).  Apparently some kids are blabbing about this and I'm sure someone is going to get caught.  (I love when kids think they will never get caught and then go tell someone what they did.  Kids, loose lips sink ships.) 

The Times also reported that the City signed a deal with the Space Needle Corp for a  Chihuly glass exhibition hall.  This includes a $1M for a children's playground (yay for kids) and again, some kind of educational tie-in with SPS.

The deal was sweetened with the addition of the playground, as well as arts-education programs at the Chihuly museum in partnership with Seattle Public Schools and other arts organizations.

The New York Times had a story about rigor in high school classes.  This idea is taking on Supreme Court visions akin to what the definition is of pornography  (Justice Potter Stewart famously said he might not be able to define it but "I know it when I see it.")

From the story:

More students are taking ambitious courses. According to a recent Department of Education study, the percentage of high school graduates who signed up for rigorous-sounding classes nearly tripled over the past two decades.

Great, right but wait for it:

But other studies point to a disconnect: Even though students are getting more credits in more advanced courses, they are not scoring any higher on standardized tests.

The reason, according to a growing body of research, is that the content of these courses is not as high-achieving as their names — the course-title equivalent of grade inflation. Algebra II is sometimes just Algebra I. And College Preparatory Biology can be just Biology.

Why do schools do this?  Just as grade inflation is wrong so is course-title inflation.  Colleges and universities figure out this game pretty fast.  They know who really has students who can handle rigorous work because their courses ARE rigorous. 

It is also pointed out in the story that the numbers of low scores on AP exams has gone way up. But administrators all seem to say that it is better to try an AP course and the exam for the experience than to take an easier class.  True?

Turn Your Back for Just a Minute...

I have been out of town (unexpectedly) dealing with elder care issues for my mother.  Can I just offer some advice before I move on to education issues?

1) wondering what field your children can find jobs doing in the future?  Remember The Graduate's word was "plastics"?   The word for this generation is..."geriatrics."  Remember that. 

There will be work in all directions for anyone who wants a job because senior care cannot be outsourced, is very individual and hands-on and is multi-faceted.  From medical to technical to social work to management - you name it, there's a job in geriatrics. And, there's going to be millions of baby boomers who need help AND these are people who are likely to live a long,long time. These are not old people; these are elderly people (and there is a difference).   Tell your child to just figure out all the ins and outs of Medicare and they have a job for life. 

If you think education is confusing, try elder care.

2) Most of you are probably younger than me but really, talk to your parents NOW about wills, health directives and what they want their old age to look like.  You cannot wait until there is a crisis because you will be in a for rude surprise. 

End of sermonizing but seriously, it is a frustrating, sad road to go down (and don't get me started on if you and your siblings don't agree what the "best" thing for Mom or Dad).

Grade Books Hacked

From The Stranger SLOG, Seattle Schools Students Steal Teacher Passwords, Alter Grades.

It appears that some half clever students attached a device, called a keylogger, to teachers' computers. The keylogger, which gets installed between the keyboard and a USB port, records every key stroke on the keyboard. The keylogger can then be read to reveal the key strokes, including IDs and Passwords. Apparently the teachers' ID and Passwords were used to log into the grading system and alter grades.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Future - Professional Teacher Version

Let's just get this straight from the start. All students are capable of learning. Except for the few with cognitive disabilities, all of them are capable of working at grade level, which is regarded as developmentally appropriate. In fact, they are capable of far more.

Some students have been well-prepared for school and some have not. Those who have been well-prepared need to be challenged to meet all of the minimum grade level expectations and then go beyond them. Those who have not been well-prepared need some additional support to allow them to also meet all of the minimum grade level expectations and then go beyond them.

Every student is well-prepared in some ways and to some degree and poorly prepared in other ways to some degree. In short, they are each unique individuals.

Identifying individual student needs and providing those students with the lessons and support they need is the professional work of teachers. Teachers employ their training, their expertise, their talent, their effort, and their creativity in well-prepared improvisational teaching done on the spot in face-to-face contact with students with whom they have a personal relationship. A video recording of a teacher - no matter how well-crafted the lesson - isn't sufficient because regardless of the quality of the instruction there is no relationship and there is no motivation.

Teaching is work that requires a lavish amount of professional labor. It cannot be reduced or leveraged because it can only be done by a professional in direct real contact with a student.

Teaching is a craft and an art. The craft is in designing and delivering an effective lesson, but teachers don't just deliver information like a dump truck. They do not just direct students to information like a road sign. There's more to their work. The art of the work is to motivate the student, which requires them to know the student. Or, more accurately, it is to help the student find his or her motivation. Teachers need to lead the student to find the value and the joy in learning. There is no school so bad that a motivated student cannot wrestle an education away from it. There is no school so good that it can impose an education on an un-motivated student. Motivation alone isn't enough if there are other obstacles to learning, but nothing is possible without it.

This is part of why some folks don't think it is necessary to spend resources on well-prepared and motivated students. They are wrong. They don't realize how brittle and fragile motivation is. It is far, far easier to keep a student motivated than to re-motivate a student who has been de-motivated.

The teacher cannot provide the motivation. They have little more to offer than the joy of learning and the satisfaction of a question answered. Students cannot be motivated by punishments. They cannot be motivated by traditional rewards. They have to find their own motivation, whether it is in the promise of independence or self-improvement or a sense of a higher purpose. That's all pretty intangible stuff. It doesn't come off an assembly line and it is different for each and every student. Helping students to find that motivation is an art; in combination with the craft and science of delivering instruction, it is professional work.

Once you accept the fact that professional teaching is the irreducible and irreplacable element of education, you can build your school around that activity. What would that school look like? It would not be a room with 96 headphoned students working in carrels on tablet computers.

I would offer The NOVA Project as a model for education centered around the student-teacher relationship and ready to provide individualized instruction that sparks the motivation in every student. NOVA has 20 teachers for 330 students. That's a 1:17 ratio. Sounds extravagant, doesn't it? Is it expensive? Yes and no. It has a very flat structure. Other than the teachers, the only other staff at NOVA is the Principal, an administrative assistant, a fiscal specialist, a Family Service Worker (.5 paid by PTSA), and a .5 librarian. No counselors - the teachers do that work. No Assistant Principals, no Registrars, no Intervention Specialists. Next year the school is losing the FSW and the librarian. When it was at the Mann building, NOVA was the least expensive high school in the District for non-academic expenses. By far.

Look at the staff list for Rainier Beach High School. There are five administrators and five administrative support people. Then there are 80 more names. 80. The headcount enrollment at RBHS is 425. The enrollment at NOVA is 332.

Maybe the traditional organizational structure isn't what is best for students. It isn't built around a student-teacher relationship or the goal of helping each student find their motivation. More to the point, maybe the traditional organizational structure isn't the most cost effective.

I know what people might say. The NOVA population is different from the RBHS population. The NOVA students are predominantly White (73%) and only 19% FRE while Rainier Beach is 9% White and 65% FRE. Okay, but ask yourself these two questions:

1) Which model is most likely to motivate students or, more accurately, help students find their motivation?


2) Which students are in the greatest need of motivation?

People say that NOVA students are self-directed and self-motivated, but they don't necessarily come to the school that way. A lot of them come to NOVA after having done very badly at traditional schools. The structure of NOVA helps them to find their motivation. After that, it might be enough to just get out of their way, but NOVA supports them as far as they are willing to go. Yes, I'm a fan, but I'm a fan because it works.

So what would it be like if our middle and high schools were arranged in close communities no bigger than about 400 students (or arranged in houses no bigger than that), had super flat structures in which students had a teacher mentor with whom they met regularly, in which the instruction was project-based and the students followed their passion to design their own projects (rather than an outside vendor at a cost of $400,000 per year), and in which the grading was based directly on demonstrated proficiency with the content.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Follow Up Update

Over four months ago the staff promised quick changes to the School Reports. The changes have not been made and no one talks about them anymore. The Board has yet to ask about them.

The interim superintendent and the Board have been promising more transparency and engagement since the change in leadership on March 2. Since that day not one action brought before the Board has had any community engagement. The new superintendent uses a new Board Action Report template that doesn't have a community engagement section. There's no noticable increase in transparency either.

The projected enrollments at schools used for budget purposes is significantly smaller than the projected enrollment at schools for the capacity management and enrollment planning purposes. The difference has not been explained.

There has been no report to the Board of program placement decisions for 2011-2012. It is long overdue. I know the decisions were made, but they were never reported to the Board as the policy requires.

Board meeting minutes now highlight the items for follow up. Is anyone following up on the assigned follow ups?

The Future - Education Reform Version

It seems to me that the goals of Education Reform are primarily to bring the increases in productivity (and cost reductions) seen in other industries to the education industry. The greatest obstacle to the effort to cut the cost of education is teacher salaries. The cost of education cannot be cut until the cost of teaching is cut. The Education Reform movement seeks paths to cutting the cost of teaching.

While technology has allowed for amazing radical increases in productivity in nearly every other industry, teaching is still, for the most part, done exactly as it was done in pre-industrial times: face-to-face with a personal relationship between a professional teacher and a limited number of students. For there to be any improvement in productivity (and reduction in cost), this model must be broken.

Education Reform is pursuing four paths to increase productivity (and thereby reduce costs).

1. The de-professionalization of teaching. Teachers are professionals. They are expected to work with minimal supervision and direction. They are expected to use their expertise, judgement, and talent to respond improvisationally to student needs. In the Education Reform model, however, teachers are expected to deliver standardized lessons prepared centrally. They can make some small prescribed variations within a prescribed range. The best model for this is how professional bankers have been replaced by non-professionals, sitting in cube farms, wearing headsets, and completing loan application forms by working through a script on a computer screen. The script includes what to say if the customer says this or if the customer says that. Based on this model it isn't hard to imagine non-professionals in front of a classroom delivering a scripted lesson with scripted responses to expected student questions.

A trained and experienced professional teacher wouldn't be needed for this task. I bet it could be done by any college graduate with a five-week crash course and plenty of mentoring and support. Of course, all of that mentoring and support would really make for a long work day, so this would be a job for a young person and they would burn out after just a couple years. Education Reform's support for Teach for America has some very clear purpose. It's a pilot program for how they want to see all teacher training done.

This doesn't actually increase productivity, but it does reduce costs. A novice teacher is paid significantly less than an experienced one. Moreover, there would be no need to offer higher salaries for experienced teachers. All of the teachers - regardless of experience - would be paid the new teacher salaries. Without the promise of a career with a growing salary, no one would enter teaching as a career. It would just be a job that people took for a year or two between college and their real career. Or is could be a temp job for older workers between jobs.

2. Online Education. It is a short hop from non-professionals delivering scripted lessons to lessons on video-on-demand. I suspect they will sell the clear benefit: individualized instruction. Students get exactly the lessons they need exactly when they need them. The students take a pre-test, then the appropriate curriculum is provided with a quiz at the end of each section. Fail the quiz and the curriculum is queued up again. Pass the quiz and move on to the next section. There could even be greater depth and challenge available (click here to learn more about the causes of the War of 1812).

This would represent a HUGE step forward in productivity. With video-on-demand or other forms of recorded instruction, the ratio of students to teachers can explode from 150:1 to nearly infinite. Think of it. Every single student in the state of Washington could have the same Algebra teacher. With Common Core Standards, every single student in the whole country could have the same Algebra teacher. Every other Algebra teacher could be fired. Even the one giving the lesson could be fired after that first year. That's a strong argument for Common Core Standards, isn't it?

Students could, of course, get additional support through a call center or through online chat. The "teachers" they connect with that way aren't professionals either. They will just work through a script just like any other call center worker. There will need to be a professional teacher or two somewhere in the building for those calls that cannot be resolved by the call center staff working off the script, but no more than a handful to take care of thousands and thousands of students.

3. Investment. It's going to cost a lot of money to make these steps forward in productivity in education. There are hardware costs. There will have to be work station computers that allow each student to access the online instruction. There will have to servers to store and deliver the instruction. There will have to be phone lines and call centers. Even more investment will be needed in content and software. All of the lessons will have to be written and performed. All of the variations too - every content path that could result from the student clicking on the "I don't get it" button or the "Tell me more" button. Don't worry. There are lots of corporations who are ready to provide the hardware, the software, and the content - for a slice of that sweet, sweet government pie.

4. Centralization. All of the lessons are stored on a central server. All of the variations, too. All of the support questions go to call center. All of the results from the pre-tests, quizes, and final assessments go to the central server also. Everything is controlled from the center and all of the data is collected by the center. The center has all of the authority and all of the expertise. There is no one to question the central authority - temp workers do not challenge the corporation.

The End of Education
Imagine the future of teaching if we follow the Education Reform path. Students enter the school building and sit at their desks. There can be dozens of desks in a single room. The students don headphones and start their lessons. There is a proctor in the room, mostly to keep order but also to provide minor tech support. The students access their individualized instruction modules and grind away for 90 minutes at their video-on-demand lessons. Then they all work on some project together for an hour or so (we still need those "21st Century skills"). The proctors facilitate and organize the group project exercises, but the students are expected to work things out for themselves and not rely on the proctor for support. The results of the projects are all virtual and are transmitted to the central site. Then it is back to video instruction for 90 minutes, then lunch, then a final 90-minute video instruction period and that's the end of the day. A half-hour of P.E. could be stuck in there somewhere. At any moment of the day students in a single room could be working on reading, writing, math, science, world languages, or social studies. They could all be working at a variety of grade levels.

Some classes, of course, would have to be actual hands-on instruction. I'm thinking of the Career and Technical Education courses, the science labs (probably - at least until the technology improves), the arts (music, fine art, dance, etc.), and perhaps a couple others. Not many.

I know that you're thinking that surely there is some need for the traditional style of instruction. There needs to be some open discussion of big ideas among the students and lead by the teacher. Nope. The virtual teacher can cover that ground. If students need to be brought together, it can be done virtually in an online chat room. They don't have to be in the same room - they don't have to be in the same school. With State Standards they don't have to be in the same District and with Common Core Standards they don't even have to be in the same state.

There is, of course, a need for students to have some adult in the school who is interested in them as people, follows up on their academic progress, and has a relationship with them. I know that the proctor shares space with them for much of the day and is sure to have a relationship with the students in the room, but the proctor isn't a professional expected to perform professional services. So let's add relationship managers to the school staffs - one for every 96 students. If each student meets with their relationship manager for a half-hour, then the manager can meet with twelve students a day. That means that the manager can meet with each student every 8 days - twice a month. That's a pretty close relationship, wouldn't you say? Garfield High School would need about 20 relationship managers.

With the lowered cost of this style of instruction there's no reason that school could not be year-round.

Since so much of the work is done online, it would be easy for students to work from home on days when they are sick or to work from home to make up missed assignments.

What would a school like this cost to run? After the fixed costs of the technology, I think it would be the same or less than schools now cost. The proctors would earn about $30,000 and the relationship managers would earn about $60,000 - and that's for year-round school. The call center staff would earn as much as call center staff in any other business, about $25,000. It's very possible that this sort of instruction would be just as effective as schools are now.

Do I have it wrong? Have I misread the goals of Education Reform? I honestly think this is the Education Reform dream come true. While we might find it sedentary, sterile and isolating, it does sound like it could be effective. And steps are taken to mitigate those downsides: daily P.E., daily group project time, and the twice-monthly meeting with the relationship manager.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Meetings for Week of April 25-29, 2011

Back to school, kids.

Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting from 4-6 p.m.  The agenda includes:
  • SEA tentative agreement on calendar (this may be about the shortened Mid-Winter break)
  • textual materials adoption for high school science, social studies, middle school LA and elementary music
  • anti-harassment policy and procedure
  • promotion/retention policies
  • homework policies
  • credit/retrieval/summer opportunities
Latino College Night, a workshop to prepare students for college, 6-8:30 p.m., Rainier Beach High School.  Dinner is provided.  Workshop topics include: high school graduation requirements vs. college entrance requirements; post-secondary options; and funding post-secondary education.

Two School Board Work Sessions
4-5:30 p.m. - Budget
7-7:30 p.m. - Governance Policies

April Executive Committee Meeting

The information comes from the April 13th meeting of the Executive Committee.  The three Committee members - DeBell, Sundquist and Smith-Blum -  were in attendance.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Daring and Thought-Provoking Senior Project

As you are probably aware, all Seattle seniors have to complete a year-long senior project as one of SPS' graduation requirements.  One young woman in Toppenish took a decided risk and went for broke on hers - she pretended to be pregnant for 6 months.

Right there, makes you think, right? 

Gaby Rodriguez is a 17 year-old honors student at Toppenish High School.  She told her mother, her boyfriend and her principal but didn't tell teachers and other students, 6 of her 7 sibs nor her boyfriend's parents about her social experiment.  She revealed the secret in an all-school assembly.

From the story in the Seattle Times:

The topic of her presentation: "Stereotypes, rumors and statistics."

"Teenagers tend to live in the shadows of these elements," she says.

Before removing her fake belly in front of the entire student body, she told her audience: "Many things were said about me. Many ... traveled all the way back to me."

Then, she asked several students and teachers to read statements from 3x5 cards, quotes people actually said about her in the past months.

So she lied but it was an social experiment that required her to basically give up a regular senior year for it. She had to learn things about herself and about how people were reacting to her new "condition." 

It's worked out for her.

At least one college recruiter called the Herald-Republic in an effort to speak with Rodriguez. So did a local business owner who was so impressed with her story that she wanted to offer her a scholarship.

Greene (her principal) said he was caught off-guard by the reaction, but added that it likely will lead to an overall positive experience for Rodriguez, who has a grade-point average of 3.8.

I had to wonder about some of the comments from the Times' article complaining that she tricked her boyfriend's parents into believing they would have a grandson.  I'd think most parents would be thrilled that their son wasn't becoming a father at 20.  

When I was growing up, we wouldn't have had a pregnant girl at school, sad to say. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Garfield High Athletic Director Fired

Athletics at Garfield hasn't been going very well this year.

First there was an investigation into the football coaches playing ineligible players and the outcomes from that.  Now comes word via a Seattle Times story that the Athletic Director, Jim Valiere, has been fired after a long investigation.

From the Times:

The action was taken because of "inappropriate and unprofessional behavior" and "violation of district policies," according to an April 11 termination letter to Valiere from Susan Enfield, Seattle Public Schools interim superintendent. The letter was obtained by The Seattle Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

In addition to being blamed for allowing ineligible student-athletes to play, the letter said Valiere misused district funds, disregarded policy and provided grades students didn't earn.

The investigation also alleged that Valiere misled the KingCo Conference and Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) by underreporting the number of ineligible Garfield football players who participated against Sammamish. It also alleged that Valiere hired a club soccer coach as a boys assistant in violation of WIAA rules.

Mr. Valiere has requested an open hearing about the matter.  He is quite popular at Garfield and I have to wonder if this is a ploy to get many supporters in the room (most personnel matters are closed door by request of both sides).

Pay for play is part of this as Valiere is alleged to have provided 19 Garfield athletes with what are being called "secret waivers" that allowed them to play without paying.  The district says this is improper use of funds.   He is also alleged to have given two students grades which they did not earn for a Spanish class.

Open Thread Friday

There are no School Board community meetings tomorrow.  

Have a Hoppy Easter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Just Say No, Newark

Thank you to Dora Taylor for the heads up.  Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is one of two finalists for the superintendent job in Newark, New Jersey (the other is a TFA person).  The story is at NJ.com.

Apparently Dr. Goodloe-Johnson wouldn't go on record with the press about what happened here in Seattle but the recorded interview captured this:

"The board terminated my contract without cause," she told the group, immediately bringing up the finance issue "They decided, I think, based on a lot of things — I think politics, reform, union pushback."

Her Broad pal, flack Tom Payzant, says she's one of the best urban superintendents in the country.  The proof of that is nowhere to be seen but apparently he thinks if he says it enough, it will be true.

You know, Maria, it's not a good idea to misrepresent the past but like I say, we all need one good rationalization to get us through the day.  Yours seems to be that you are blameless in everything. Interesting that she didn't even cop to being the person at the top and the buck should stop with her.

As Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman to the snobby Beverly Hills saleswomen - big mistake. 

Crosscut Education Op-Eds

There were a couple of new op-eds in Crosscut this week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Some Good News From the District (But Also Puzzling)

First up, congratulations to Green Lake secretary, Debbie Passi, the Washington Education Association's Educational Support Professional of the Year. 

Also, congratulations to Sandi Whiton, the Academic Intervention Specialist at Chief Sealth High School who received an award from the private college, Whitman.  Her award is called the Distinguished Elementary/Secondary Teacher Award and is given at their commencement exercises to honor an outstanding teacher who contributes significantly to the intellectual development of students. 

My puzzlement comes from two places.  One, Ms. Whiton is an academic intervention specialist and what does that mean?  This is something every middle and high school should have.   As I mentioned previously, at the Alliance Breakfast they showed a Denny Middle School video that mentioned an "early incident specialist" who works there.  So obviously these intervention employees exist at some schools but which ones and how do the schools pay for it?  

I'm sure like most districts, there's a hodge-podge of services.  Some schools may have more tutors than other depending on their poverty level (City Year) or parent participation (PTA).   I know at Eckstein they used to want volunteers to sign in and put their hours down and for what so that the school would know these kinds of stats.  I have no idea if this gets done elsewhere (or even if Eckstein still does this).  I remember a Garfield PTSA co-president telling me a couple of years ago that she was talking with the principal about a volunteer organization in the school that he didn't even realize was there. 

I think the district hopes that volunteer organizations like Nela and CAN fill in at the higher poverty high schools for college services, parents do a lot of tutoring (along with other various volunteer groups), neighbors may pitch in for gardening and playground help but honestly, who knows what services are available at any given school?  I'm not even sure I know the district tracks what services are available throughout the district.  It would be a good question for high school director, Michael Tolley.  

The other puzzling thing is that there is yet another diversity speaker next week at the headquarters.  I understand professional development and developing cultural competency but this is just a general lecture open to the public.  Do we really have the money to spend in this district on a speakers' series on diversity?  I'll have to find out if it's sponsored (but it doesn't say it is). 

New Superintendent, New Hagiography from the Times

You knew it was coming, and it arrived today: the Seattle Times hagiography of the new superintendent of Seattle Public Schools:

For interim Seattle school chief, a moment to shine

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pay for K? Meet Pay for Play

When we last left Pay for K in November, the district hadn't been able to figure out what money had come in or even who was supposed to be paying.   At a later Audit and Finance Committee meeting, it appeared more under control but the handout still didn't explain if they had fully implemented it and were receiving all the money due to the district.

On the heels of that comes another snafu, this time with Pay for Play which is for students who want to participate in competitive athletics in high school.  (This is not for PE or intramural sports.)  

The old fee was $50 for the first sport and $25 for the second sport (with a cap at $75 for 3+ sports).  The Board approved raising the fee for this year.   I believe that the new fee was $100 for the first sport and $30 for the second (again, with a cap at $130 for 3+).  (Still checking on this because the new website has old data and no one answers at the School Board office but it was raised.) All students also have to pay an ASB fee of $50.   I don't believe that there is a F/RL fee but I know most schools have a scholarship fund for that purpose.

At the Audit and Finance Committee meeting last Thursday (this one focusing on Finance), it came out that a Board-approved increase for Pay for Play never got implemented.  Money that the district had been expecting to come in because of the increase, of course, didn't.   And, they did not tell the Board until now even though they knew sooner (it's unclear if they knew at the beginning of the year or just figured it out).  Duggan Harmon was the one to give them the bad news.

Sadly, it is hard to blame anyone because the two people who should have done the implementation, Al Hairston and Ammon McWashington,  the Athletic Coordinator and  (I believe) the inter-district Sports Coordinator respectively, both retired last year.  That this was passed by the Board and yet didn't seem to be on Accounting's radar makes you wonder what happens to issues of finance that get passed by the Board.  Is there a chain of where a finance item goes after it passes?  Is Accounting notified or is that the duty of whatever department manager the item fall under?

Apparently, Sherry Carr had steam coming out her ears.  I think she was very upset this kind of error had happened again.  She asked Michael De Bell if he knew anything about it and he said no.  Michael told Duggan that he wanted a "lessons learned" report about his incident.  I don't know what the financial loss is to the district or whether the athletic budget had been based around the fee increases. 

When I heard about this, my response was that I hoped this was the end of the long but fading smoke trail of "things we don't tell the Board."  It is deeply troubling but again, I hope for a new day in SPS and I believe that Mr. Boesche and Dr. Enfield are going to have to be the ones to show staff that is the case.

City Year

Do you know about City Year?  I had vaguely heard of it and, of course, if you see a City Year member, you see a young person in a bright red varsity jacket and khakis.   They were particularly noticeable at the recent forum on SPS put on by Seattle Channel.  I recently sat down and interviewed the head of City Year Seattle, Simon Amiel, about who City Year is and what they do in SPS.

After talking with Simon, I was very impressed and I want to raise awareness and support for City Year.  The reason I feel strongly about this is because in our high-need schools,  they are doing exactly what I would like to see happen throughout the district.  They are:
  • in schools all day
  • tutoring students
  • building relationships with students and staff and community
  • being role models to students
This is the kind of intimate and direct intervention that many of these students need.

First, from their website, a little background information:

Twenty years ago, City Year was founded by Michael Brown and Alan Khazei, then-roommates at Harvard Law School, who felt strongly that young people in service could be a powerful resource for addressing our nation's most pressing issues.

The name “City Year” reflects the idea that just as young people enroll in a freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year at school, so too should they be challenged to dedicate themselves to a “city year” of full-time service, idealism, civic engagement, and leadership development.

City Year unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, giving them the skills and opportunities to change the world.  As tutors, mentors and role models, these diverse young leaders help children stay in school and on track, and transform schools and communities across the United States, as well as through international affiliates in Johannesburg, South Africa and London, England. Just as important, during their year of service corps members develop civic leadership skills they can use throughout a lifetime of community service.

City Year has a 9-1 applicant ratio.  They take young people from ages 17-24.   You don't have to have a college degree but given that it is a competitive application process, it doesn't hurt.  They have taken applicants with just a high school diploma.

They have varied funding with one-third from the feds and two-thirds their own fundraising.  (They are endorsed by Secretary Duncan.)  They have been working in Seattle since nearly the inception of City Year.

In Seattle there are about 65 members and they hope to build to 240 by 2015.  Their members work in 3 elementary schools and 3 of middle schools.   If the Families and Education levy passes, they would apply to work in at least 4 high schools, again, with direct intervention and tutoring and the 21 elementary, K-8s and middle schools. 

I'll be frank.  As I was researching City Year, I was struck by the some of the similarities to Teach for America.  Both are about the same age.  Both have core values of service to K-12 students in high need schools as well as developing civic engagement in young people.  It is interesting how both also have similar rates of endorsement by principals (although teachers endorse City Year far more than they endorse TFA but I would think you might expect that). 

What I liked about the teacher endorsements for City Year were that teachers felt CY members helped "foster a positive environment for learning" AND "helped students feel more motivated to learn."  Both of these numbers were over 85%. 

If City Year is in your school, give us some feedback on their work.

Board Testimony for May

I'm working on my testimony for the board meeting coming up in May. I will be talking about the approval of the minutes of the previous meeting. In that meeting there were twelve motions brought and not one of them had any community engagement. The board pitched a twelve inning shut-out. That calls for recognition. I'm thinking of making up these really nice certificates for the Board members in honor of their special achievement in suppressing public input.

The certificates will be nice enough to hang on the wall, or they could show them to the Alliance for Education as a sign of good faith and their sincerity after the Board had the bad taste to fire Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.

Given that the new Board Action Report template has dropped the community engagement section and with the summer is coming up, I think the Board is capable of breaking Hershiser's record. I think they could shut out the public for sixty consequetive motions. They are certainly capable of it. We'll see if any of the motions on the May agenda include community engagement.

Seattle Schools Story in Crosscut

Crosscut publishes a lot of thoughtful pieces on Seattle Public Schools, mostly by Dick Lilly. They recently published one by Melissa Westbrook.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Echos from Chicago

Rahm Emanuel, the mayor-elect of Chicago, just appointed a new head of schools.  Jean-Claude Brizard comes from Rochester, NY schools and is a Broad superintendent.   From the Huffington Post:

Brizard, a native of Haiti, embodies two types of urban superintendents. On the one hand, he’s a former principal with masters' degrees in school administration and science education. He’s a product of the classroom who went on to follow a traditional path of school management, serving as a regional superintendent of New York City schools.

On the other hand, he’s a graduate of the Broad Foundation’s Superintendents Academy -- a program that stresses the corporate-tinged, charter-school championing policies emphasized by the Obama administration -- that is much maligned by teachers unions.

His tenure saw improved graduation rates and higher test scores in math and English, but was also marked by clashes with teachers' unions over a push for increased charter schools and merit pay. An overwhelming 95 percent of teachers voted "no confidence" in Brizard, in an unprecedented vote taken by the Rochester Teachers Association. 

Sound familiar?  Here's what the comments say:

I do not envy you, Chicago. Brizard earned himself a 95% no-confidence vote from teachers, a 5% college-re­adiness in graduates (of which are only 46% of students), unsafe schools and cut programs. Rochester is not sad to see him go, but I am sad to see that he still managed to get another superinten­dent job. Business men think the business model can apply to anything, sadly. 

One of my favorites is that he virtually eliminated suspensions.....what Jean Claude leaves out is that he took suspension rights away from principals­. Do not kid yourselves­, the Rochester City Schools are no safer and behavior is no better....­if anything it is worse. Now students get to come to school and be afraid of the students they are around. Additional­ly, he did not meet with teachers on any regular schedule and most certainly refused to answer emails from teachers or even look at teachers when they were speaking at board meetings. Instead, he typically would be texting on his cell phone while teachers, parents and students would try and express their thoughts to him.

He also signed his new contract with a guaranteed raise each year without tying that raise to any signs of student success yet he refuses to commit to any teacher contract unless their salary is tied to student success...yet he has yet to define how he would measure that success.

The story also said that Providence, Detroit, Newark, Atlanta, Broward County, FL and Montgomery, Maryland are looking for new supers.  I guess the question is how fast can the Broad Academy churn them out?

TFA's Wendy Kopp on KUOW Today

The 10 am hour of Weekday on KUOW 94.9 FM will feature the head of TFA, Wendy Kopp. 

This is interesting that Ms. Kopp does not appear to be here on a book event and she was here just last month.  I'm thinking this is about setting up shop (with money from the Gates Foundation) and firing up the troops.

I predict a huge call-in.  Call 543-KUOW or e-mail  weekday@kuow.org.

We'll talk after the show.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Audit and Finance Committee Meeting Tuesday

I was only able to hit two of the four Board committee meetings last week (and not the work session either but Charlie covered that one). 

I went the the Audit portion of the Audit and Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday.  This was a good meeting and especially so because of the arrival of the A&F's two new volunteer public advisors (looking for one but got two and that's even better).

News Roundup

One article is about the growing number of colleges and universities that are admitting students but not right away; the student has to wait for a semester or even a year.  The admission is gauged on the student going to another college or university and maintaining a certain GPA.

What Would Make You Happy?

In the Org Chart thread, Reader suggested that I'm impossible to please and that there is nothing that the District could do that would make me happy.

I responded with a list of 11 things the District could do that would make me happy. They are all things that the District has said that they would do but have not done. Therefore I don't consider them unreasonable expectations.

I'm not the only grumpy gus on this blog, however, so let's see other folks answer that question: What would could the District do that would make you happy?

New Org Chart - New Titles - New People - Same Old Problems

Dr. Enfield has re-arranged the org chart at the JSCEE.
Here is the new org chart.

She has also changed some of the job titles.

None of this really changes anything. It appears pointless.

It is, however, consistent with her stated priorities for the remainder of the year. She said that she would focus on:
3. Creating a central office that serves and supports schools
• Reorganizing departments across finance, operations, and teaching and learning with a clear focus on being a results-driven organization.
The only part of it that strikes me as even interesting - not necessarily significant, but interesting - are these two elements:

1. The Executive Directors of the Schools report to the Superintendent, not to the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. Since the principals report to the Executive Directors for Schools and the teachers report to the principals, there aren't any school-based staff who report to Dr. Thompson. She is not the boss of them. She cannot tell them what to do. That is interesting.

2. The Internal Auditor and the General Counsel report both to the Superintendent and directly to the Board. That's also vaguely interesting. I don't know if this gives the Board hiring and firing authority over them, but I think it is supposed to afford them some independence from the superintendent.

As for the title changes, they are meaningless. The jobs are the same. Look at the titles of the folks who report to Dr. Thompson. Among them we find three Executive Directors, three Directors, three Managers, and a Coordinator.

It's unclear why Early Learning is separate from Head Start and why Early Learning, Career and Technical Education, and Advanced Learning aren't included under Curriculum, Instruction and Support along with Head Start and Native American Education. Why is Athletics under Health and Safety instead of part of Curriculum, Instruction and Support? Isn't it an extension of P.E.? Then again, maybe Career and Technical Education should be included under College and Career Readiness. Why isn't the Executive Director of Merit and School Improvement Grants a part of the Performance Management System under the Research Evaluation Assessment and Development group? Where will Scott Whitbeck and School Improvement (and District Improvement) appear on this org chart? Why is Payroll part of Accounting instead of HR?

Cordell Carter is gone and his direct reports have been parcelled out. Whatever. It doesn't matter.

I don't think it makes any difference at all who reports to whom or how the structure is organized so long as the culture of the District remains as it is. And you might think that changing all of the people - particularly all of the people at the top would change the culture, but I don't think it will. The dysfunctional culture of Seattle Public Schools is not unique to this District. It is the same dysfunctional culture endemic throughout all of American public K-12 education. Some of it is endemic thoughout all bureaucratic systems in the world. We can bring in people from outside, but if they have been working in public K-12 education - or any large bureaucracy - they will likely perpetuate the problem.

As it is, there is no one in a leadership role at the District with more history than Michael DeBell, and he only has five years. There is no institutional memory. No one is around to say "We tried that; it didn't work." or to say "You can't do that; we promised those people that we wouldn't do that to them."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Open Thread Friday

 Update (via reader Salander) - The head of HR, Ann Chan, just five months into her job has resigned.   Now interim CFO, Robert Boesche, is in charge. 

I think the question is - who IS in charge down there? 

So we lost the head of Facilities.   (At least in that position - I have a feeling they may keep Mr. Martin on temporarily to guide the BEX III projects which was his previous position.  But at some point, he needs to go permanently.)

Also, today is the last day for Open Enrollment which closes at 4:00 p.m.
Community meetings on Saturday

Director Martin-Morris - at Diva Espresso (Lake City) from 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Director Maier
- at Bethany Community Church (across from Bagley Elementary) from 10:30-noon.

TFA News and Facts

I'm not sure if some of these facts have yet been spelled out on the blog. Maybe they have; maybe they haven't. Even if they have, they merit repetition.

1. Seattle Public Schools has hired a recruiter who is a former Teach for America corps member. There is reason to believe that this person views TfA favorably and may promote TfA corps members to schools making hiring decisions. I'm not entirely sure what a recruiter's job is, but it may include filtering the hiring pool and rejecting some applicants before the hiring committees at the schools get to see them. I am tempted to apply for a teaching job, just to see if I am rejected out of hand due to my lack of a teaching certificate. If I am, then I wonder why Teach for America corps members would not also be rejected out of hand on the same basis.

2. We have been told that Teach for America corps members will only be considered during the Tier 3 hiring period, after transferring and RIFed teachers have already been considered. This is a convenient bit of misinformation. The TfA corps members are only interested in teaching at Level 1 and Level 2 schools. Those schools go directly to Tier 3 for hiring. They don't have a Tier 1 or Tier 2 hiring period. Consequently, the restriction of TfA candidates to Tier 3 is no restriction at all. The Board didn't seem to be aware of this and the District staff didn't seem to feel any need to remind them of it.

3. There is a cost to the District for hiring TfA candidates, or any candidate who does not already have a conventional certification. The District, in hiring them, commits to providing them with a variety of assistance in obtaining their certification and the District commits to providing them with a variety of support and mentoring. These costs are not covered by the $4,000 the District would have to pay to TfA.

4. The District was not to hire any TfA candidates unless a private donor provided the money for the $4,000 fee for TfA. A private donor has stepped forward; Washington STEM will be acting as the Gates Foundation hand puppet to pass the cash directly from the Gates Foundation to the District. Washington STEM, however, will only make the payment for secondary school teachers for math and science or primary school teachers who have a math or science degree. There is no donor identified for any other candidates.

5. Even as the RIF notices are set to go out on May 15, some schools will also begin their hiring around that time. Does this strike anyone else as odd?

6. The District has intentionally low-balled the projected enrollment at schools for budget purposes. This has forced the schools to lay-off teachers. When the ridiculously low projected enrollment figures prove false, the schools will then have to re-hire. The teachers they laid off may have already found other teaching positions at other schools - they aren't going to sit around and wait for Seattle to hire them back. If the teachers don't get called back or don't answer the call then the District will have to hire quickly in September or October to fill positions. Traditionally certificated teachers may have found other positions by then, enhancing the opportunity for TfA corps members to find available positions. I know that one seems like a stretch - a real Rube Goldberg set of cause and effect, but the cause is the low-balled projected enrollments for the schools and the effect is more opportunity for Teach for America corps members to find a job at Seattle Public Schools.

7. The District DID NOT low-ball the projected enrollments at Level 1 and Level 2 schools as much as they did at Level 4 and Level 5 schools. Of the 11 Level 1 elementary schools, only 1 has a projected enrollment less than the current enrollment. The District expects a net increase of 237 students in Level 1 elementary schools. That means hiring about 11 new teachers into these schools. In Level 2 elementary schools the District expects a net increase of 96 students, that's another 5 teachers. Only two are not expected to grow and they are projected to lose only a total of 10 students between them. 715 of the 904 new students expected in Seattle elementary schools are expected to appear at the either newly opened schools or Level 1 or Level 2 schools. That's 24 schools accounting for the bulk of the increased enrollment.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Head of Facilities Ousted

As I mentioned in a previous thread, another high level manager has left the district.  The story is in the Seattle Times.

A top-level executive who took over the Seattle Public School's facilities department after it was rocked by scandal that led to the superintendent's ouster is losing his job in what the district describes as a management reorganization.

William "Bill" Martin, who was promoted into the $142,000-a-year job of executive director only three months ago, acknowledged that his management style is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the district.

What does this all mean?  No head of Facilities?  Ongoing investigation of a "management" style?  But, he might remain with the district.  Okay, so too rough for the head of the department, just right somewhere else.   Boy, does Pegi McEvoy now have a lot on her plate - COO and now Facilities. 

And -

Martin's promotion during the scandal had some scratching their heads. Before joining the district, he was involved in his own contracting scandal at the Seattle Department of Transportation, where he was deputy director of capital projects.

In February 2006, Martin paid a $2,500 fine for giving an $80,000 no-bid contract to a former colleague and friend who had been living with him. At the time, the fine was among the largest levied by Seattle's Ethics and Elections Commission, said Wayne Barnett, the commission's executive director.

The city's ethics code prohibits employees from engaging in activities that are or could be construed as a conflict of interest.

Mr. Martin says settling the case without challenging the facts was a mistake on his part.    

Martin was named in two internal civil-rights complaints filed by city employees.
A civil suit filed by a worker also alleged that the division under his leadership discriminated against her because of a medical condition.

The city paid more than $233,000 to settle the three claims. Martin said he was surprised his name appeared in any complaints because he didn't directly supervise the employees who filed them.

Did the district know about this stuff?

Martin said he was not asked about and did not disclose the ethics fine during his interview with the school district. But, he said, he discussed it within weeks of being hired with Stephens and the department's lawyer for facilities. He broached the subject again when the district promoted him to facilities chief.

The fine was reported by The Seattle Times in 2006, although a record of it apparently never made it into Martin's personnel file: The city said there are no "negative findings" in his file.

Let's send up that bat signal to the City's Ethics group.  We need help, stat.  

Couple of SPS Updates

I think there may be an announcement soon of another top-level management person leaving the district.  My sources tell me this is pending.  I don't see any announcement yet at the SPS website.   I'll keep you updated. 
Also, there was this somewhat curious announcement at the website:

Seattle Schools' policy on religious holiday celebrations:
Seattle Public Schools has been receiving numerous questions regarding the District's policy on the celebration of religious holidays. We have a "Religion and Religious Accommodation" policy, approved by the School Board in 1983, stating that "no religious belief or non-belief should be promoted by the School District or its employees, and none should be disparaged."

There are no new District policies on religion or holiday observance guidelines. For more information,
Not sure why the district felt the need to be announcing this but someone (some group) must have been asking for something.

Let's Not Forget Why We Don't Have Education Dollars

So this thread is a bit of mind-wandering on my part but maybe you can tease out something to comment on.  It came from a couple of places.  One was this that a friend wrote on his Facebook page:

"Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes?

Yeah, me neither."

State Balances Budget on the Backs of Teachers

Here's the story from the Seattle Times: Senate's school cuts get low grades from Gregoire, educators.

I like the way that the Governor thinks she can save her reputation by acting upset, pouting, and stamping her little feet - but without actually taking any meaningful action to prevent the cuts to education. She's not fooling anyone. I don't mind that she's ineffectual, but I'm insulted that she thinks we will confuse this act with actual opposition.

Who are the legislators who are looking to make cuts to education while preserving special tax breaks for favored industries and businesses? Oh, right, all of them.

Strategic Plan Refresh

I attended the first half-hour of the Strategic Plan Refresh work session yesterday before I had to leave.

I don't think I missed anything. The meeting was an utter waste. The staff trotted out a bunch of meaningless jargon and the Board acted like bobbleheads. There was nothing to decide and damn little to even talk about. There was no serious discussion of what is in the Strategic Plan, how it is working, what it costs, or whether we should continue it.

The District staff still refuses to provide a comprehensive list of the projects and initiatives in the Strategic Plan.

The list of projects and initiatives continues to be in flux. New efforts magically appear while others sink out of sight. The Audit Response, for example, is now a Strategic Plan project, but STEM and capacity management have slipped off the list.

This is really frustrating. I don't understand how the Board tolerates it.

I want to see what I was promised:

The final words of the Strategic Plan, say:
With the School Board’s adoption of this plan on June 4, 2008, the work will begin. During summer 2008, we will develop more detailed work plans for each of the foundational strategies, seeking community input as we do so, and being careful to link our work to overall District needs and goals.

Each strategy will be developed with a detailed timeline that will include milestones and performance measurements so that we can assess our success.

We will schedule regular School Board reviews of our progress.

To honor our commitment to transparency, all materials will be posted on the SPS Web site.
All I want is what they promised.

I want to see a table with every project and initiative that has ever been part of the Plan with the date that it was added or removed.

I want to see the detailed timelines with milestones and performance measures for each project.

I want to see the budget for each project.

I want to see all of this posted on the District web site.

Supposedly all of these documents already exist. Supposedly Mr. Teoh has them all. It would only be a matter of mouse clicks for him to post them online. He should do it within the coming week. He should have done it already.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Campaign on Behalf of Elementary Counselors

From a reader:

We are organizing a letter-writing campaign on the counselors issue, since we have limited opportunities for public comment before the RIF. Basically, we are asking people to write letters to Dr. Enfield, cc'd to the Board, with two basic sentences:

Our counselor has helped our child by ____. To pay for elementary counselors, I think we should cut ____.

Please join the fray and forward to other parents who would be interested!

Dr Enfield - saenfield@seattleschools.org
School Board - schoolboard@seattleschools.org

Out There Working in the Community

I have a couple of items to note about work I'm doing around Seattle public education.

Dr. Enfield Answers Questions on Questionland Today

Today is the day that Dr. Enfield will be answering questions posted for her on Questionland. She will reportedly answer at least ten questions.

It's not too late to add questions or vote for your favorites.

State Sentate Passes Education Reform Bill

The State Sentate yesterday passed a sort of omnibus Education Reform bill, HB 1443.

The bill puts teachers with unsatisfactory ratings at the head of the line for layoffs. Principals, too, although I cannot remember a time when the District ever had to RIF principals.

But the bill doesn't stop there. It's a regular Christmas tree of Education Reform bullet points:
* It adopts the Common Core Standards
* It reforms the requirements for high school credit
* It requires the use of a kindergarten readiness assessment
* It includes some meaningless stuff about drop-out prevention
* It includes some even less meaningful stuff about fully funding education

If this monster passes the house - and they started it - there will be a whole lot of stuff that the State dictates schools and districts must do, right down to spending on facilities maintenance per student.

The bill now goes back to the House for approval of the amendments.

Here is an AP story about it that appeared in the Seattle Times.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

School Board Meeting Recap

I'm behind on this one and I forgot about something happening today - it's National Library Week and today a picture is going to be taken in every Washington state library.  I hope the schools put this word out and got kids in their school library for the photo.  My apologies.

Proposed Bus Arrival Times

The district has put out the bus arrival/departure times for next year.    It doesn't say preliminary or draft at the top but I don't think this has been signed off on yet.  I believe the final decision will come in early May. 

Note:  the bell times will be somewhat variable as the listed times are for BUSES, not bell times.  The schedule says that "morning start times are generally 15 minutes after bus arrival.  Afternoon end times are generally 5-10 minutes prior to the bus departure.)

I don't see a lot of change at the high school level (although it seems that Cleveland has a slightly longer day than other schools starting at the same time.)  I note that West Seattle used to start at 8:10 am and it appears they will start around 7:50 am.

All of the K-8s start around 9:10 am with middle schools starting around 7:50 am (except for Jane Addams at 8:20 am and Denny with a TBD designation).    The outliers are Pinehurst which ends 10 minutes earlier than the other K-8s and Aki Kurose which gets out nearly an hour later than the other middle schools (but starts at the same time). 

It looks like elementaries start either around 8:30 am or 9:00 am.  There are a few outliers (Hawthorne and West Seattle but they already operate on a longer day/longer year schedule). 

I'm a little confused because I thought they going to go towards later start times for high school and middle school.  Maybe that's next year?

Gregiore signs end-of-course test graduation requirement

Here is the story from the Seattle Times:
Gregoire signs end-of-course math assessment change

The test/graduation requirement pathways are so chopped up now that I don't think anyone can recite them. It's something different for every graduating class from now for the next six years.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tell Your Search for K-12 School on KUOW

From KUOW's The Conversation producer, David Hyde:

We’re doing a show tomorrow that’s tentatively titled, “what are you doing to get your kid into K-12 school? (public or private).” 

I’m looking for people who can tell us their personal stories on the air sometime between 12:40 and 1 pm tomorrow.  If you know anyone with an interesting story to tell please pass this on, and I can call in the morning to discuss it (between 9 and 10:30 am).  I would need two numbers:  the 12:40 and 1 pm number (land line).  And the morning / backup cell number.

Or if any of your blog readers is interested, they can call our feedback line and leave a message (with contact information) @ 206 221 3663. 

Who Are We Really Waiting For?

Timothy Hacsi, an assistant professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, wrote an timely op-ed on districts and their leadership.  Entitled, "Stop Waiting for a Savior,"  I think this is its most cogent point:

The problem is all the time we spend talking about how the last leader failed, how the current leader is struggling, how the next leader must succeed. 

Reminders and Good News

Just to remind you that Open Enrollment ends this Friday, the 15th at 
4 p.m.  Postmarks do NOT count.  Here's a link to the enrollment page for more info.

Also, know an outstanding educator or education volunteer?  KCTS Channel 9 is accepting nominations for their Golden Apple Award

Any person contributing time or services in Washington state schools from pre-K through grade 12 can be nominated.

Nominations can be made online at
KCTS9.org/goldenapple or you can request a nomination form by calling (800) 766-0900. Nomination forms must be postmarked by April 30. 

 The Good News - Washington Middle School student, Deanta Kelly, won the Regional Spelling Bee for King and Snohomish Counties and will advance to the Nationals (it appears there isn't a state championship).  It looks grueling with 3 rounds over 2 days in Washington, D.C. in June.   Deanta won on the word "obfuscatory."

I can't spell well at all so I am always very impressed with great spelling.  Go Deanta!

Education Bloggers Get Attention from the White House

Following up on the reports of President Obama's remarks about standardized test comes an article in the NY Times about what some bloggers wrote and the White House reaction.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Meetings This Week

Audit and Finance Committee Mtg, 4-6 p.m.   This meeting will focus on Audit issues.  There are several debriefings like IA meetings with the City, discussion with Don McAdams (a district consultant), salary benchmarks and internal audit manager posting. 

Executive Committee Mtg, 8 am-10am.   Quite a packed agenda.   Materials adoptions for LA, Social Studies and music instruction, academic calendars, consulting services for TIF, ethics agreement with the City and partnering with the City, community engagement, and a raft of discussion items like superintendent evaluation, CFO/COO search process, protocol for following up on public testimony (really?) and much more.  There's also some sort of amendment to a contract at Denny/Sealth to rebuild the previously torn out tennis courts/softball field.  (You remember this one - it's a rebuild of something we paid for under BTA II.)  Looks like more money.

It's a jammed packed two hours and I say, good luck, kids. 

Community Meeting with Director Sundquist from 11 a.m.-12:30 pm. at Delridge Library.

Work Session on Community Partnerships, 4-5:30 p.m.  This is followed by another Work Session from 6-7:30 p.m. entitled Strategic Plan Refresh.

 It appears that they are double-booked for committee meetings as there is both an A&F meeting and Operations meeting at the same time.  Maybe they are having them in different places or if this is just an error.  I'll find out tomorrow.  
Audit and Finance Committee Mtg, 4-6 p.m.  This meeting will focus on Finance issues and the agenda looks pretty standard.  They are going to be discussing fees for 2011-2012 so that may be of interest. 

Physical Science in High School

Note: I pulled this out of one thread because I thought it important for parents to see and let their views be known to someone in SPS in a position to do something about it.  Thank you to Maureen from TOPS for this info.

If anyone thinks their 8th grader is prepared to skip 9th grade Physical Science (Seattle Girls' School? TOPS? Others?), please email the High School PTSA and Science Director, Elaine Woo (ewoo@seattleschools.org), and let them know right now. You can also email me at maureen at germani dot org so we can coordinate.

TOPS grads cover 100% of the 9-12 Physical Science standards and at least 75% of the 9-12 Life Sciences standards. Their teacher is certified K-12. There has never been a reason (or a way?) to make sure they get HS credit for what they cover but I spoke with Elaine Woo yesterday about the possibility of piloting a HS level Physical Science class at TOPS (not that I have to authority to do anything about it).

It makes more sense to allow those kids to access Marine Bio or Genetics next year than to risk permanently negatively impacting their HS science careers. Kids just like tham have been starting with Bio for years. There can't be a huge number of these kids to deal with and the higher level course is being offered (at GHS) anyway.

It might help if APP students could email the PTSA and Ms. Woo and let them know if they have found nonAPP students who enroll in upper level science classes to be well prepared. If they happen to know what middle schools those kids have attended, that information could be useful. TOPS, in particular, sends about 20 kids to GHS every year and from what I understand they do well in advanced science classes.

Capacity Management Work Session, Part 2

As I started this thread, I went to look for the handouts that were available.  Here is the link to the agenda for the handouts.  However, I am very annoyed that I cannot easily locate the one that I thought was the most interesting.  What this means is tomorrow I have to call Tracy and then have someone send me the link because, of course, you can't find a darn thing at the new website.  This also means sending a letter to the Susan Enfield (and the Board)  to request that every single thing staff hand out be posted.   (Sorry to be grumpy but it's tiresome to have to do this multiple times in a week.)  More on the interesting handout at the end of this thread. 

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Community Meetings Today

Anyone attend Sherry or Steve's community meeting today?  Any feedback?

Update on Pottergate

I attended an event on Thursday by a group called First Thursday which is a black community group that supports its community businesses and groups.  Their speaker was King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.  I attended because it was advertised that he would speak about Pottergate.

I Met with Dr. Enfield

I had a half-hour meeting with Dr. Enfield on Friday.

At first I had this long outlined list of topics of concern, but it simply wasn't realistic. Instead, I chose to focus the meeting on a single concern: What is the mission of the academic side of the Central Office?

I'm not usually interested in Mission Statements. In fact, I freakin' hate them because they are useless and typically create unreasonable expectations. Just the same, I think people should know what they are trying to do.

We know the District's mission - to educate Seattle's students. That work is done primarily in the schools. The mission of the schools - to educate students - no different from the District mission. The Central Office has two sides: Operations and Academics. The mission of the Operations side is also clear - to take on all of the non-academic work to free the schools to focus on academics. But what is the mission of the academic side of the Central Office?

What academic tasks are the proper work of the Central Office?

The lack of a clearly defined mission for the Academic side of the Central Office has led to two unacceptable consequences: tasks that the central office should do have been left undone and the central office has squandered resources and irritated colleagues by taking on work they should not be doing.

I suggest that the Central Office has three academic duties:

1. Quality Assurance. Someone needs to follow up on the schools and make sure that they are doing a good job. Someone needs to make sure that they are providing appropriate interventions for students working below grade level. Someone needs to make sure that they are providing appropriate challenge for students working beyond grade level. Someone needs to make sure that they are delivering - at a minimum - the core content in each subject at each grade level. Someone needs to make sure that the teachers understand that the Standards are a floor, not a ceiling. Someone needs to make sure that they are following the IEPs, that they are providing appropriate services to ELL students, that their Advanced Learning program meets the expectations for such programs, and so on. Someone needs to make sure that the schools offer all of the classes and opportunities that they are supposed to offer (music, AP classes, etc.). This work, Academic Assurances, is the District's work. Much of it has not been done. Much of it still is not done.

Along these lines, Dr. Enfield wanted to clarify her "Spectrum is Spectrum is Spectrum" remark, but she didn't really manage it. I will follow up with her.

2. Curricular Support. There is some curricular work that would be more efficiently done centrally and then shared with teachers rather than having each teacher develop their own. This begins with defining the baseline set of knowledge and skills that every student is expected to learn in each subject at each grade ("content" in District jargon). That's a District-level decision. From there it extends to adopting materials that support that content. I am not convinced that it extends, from there, to somehow mandating the use of those materials. It may (or may not) extend to writing pacing guides - it certainly doesn't extend to requiring adherence to pacing guides. I think this work requires a few curriculum area experts to do this work. Not many.

3. Teaching Support. Any support that a teacher needs that cannot be found within their own building is a District level responsibility. This includes facilitating - if not producing - professional development opportunities, coordinating collaboration between and among schools, sharing of best practices, and - on a very limited basis - coaching. The principal's primary duty is to serve as the instructional leader and should be the teacher's primary resource for coaching. However, sometimes the teacher needs expert support in a particular curricular discipline and that expertise can and should be found at the Central Office in the curriculum area experts referenced above. It is important for math teachers to have opportunities to network with other math teachers and language teachers with other language teachers, etc. Again, the curriculum area experts should take on the responsibility for building and maintaining these networks. This networking needs to be both vertical (8th grade teachers talking to 9th grade teachers) and horizontal (8th grade teachers talking to other 8th grade teachers).

I'll say it again. The lack of a clearly defined mission for the Academic side of the Central Office has led to two unacceptable consequences: tasks that the central office should do have been left undone and the central office has squandered resources and irritated colleagues by taking on work they should not be doing. The superintendent should clearly set the Academic duties of the Central Office and then build teams to fulfill those functions while eliminating the departments and dismissing staff members who are doing work outside the limits of that mission.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Capacity Management Work Session, Part 1

Upfront, I want to get a few things off my chest from what I heard at both the Work Session and the Board meeting.  I'm going to write this opinion and then move on to what was said at the Work Session and Board meeting.

Call for Parents/Teachers who Face School Closures

A radio producer for KBCS radio is looking for a parent and/or teacher whose school got closed.  She interested in:

How do they handle that, logistically and emotionally? Did they decide to leave the public school system entirely?

Here's her contact info if you are willing to share your experience.
Heidi Lang
Managing Producer, Voices of Diversity
Community Radio KBCS 91.3FM

What:  Voices of Diversity is a weekly talk show that addresses issues with a panel of guests.The show seeks to tell the untold stories in our community as well as celebrate the diversity of cultural expression found in the Northwest. Guests on Voices of Diversity address issues such as racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as the realities of life for vulnerable populations like immigrants and homeless people. Voices of Diversity seeks to literally give voice to those not often heard on the airwaves and to that end, trains community members in radio skills and independent journalism. 


Couple of quick Olympia updates.

Open Thread Friday

Not a good week for ed reform.  Michelle Rhee's empty suit is slowly unraveling, in NYC Chancellor Cathie Black made a hasty exit and, to the chagrin of the Department of Education,  President Obama went off-script in a speech talking about his daughters' testing.  (Thread to follow)

And, Spring is bustin' out all over!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Missing Child Alert

From the Queen Anne View blog:

A 13-year-old Queen Anne boy has been missing since yesterday, Wednesday, April 6. Brad George, who lives at the McGraw Residential Center, part of the Seattle Children’s Home, was last on Wednesday at 11:40 a.m. seen near the center, at 10th and McGraw, according to his mother Gina Latshaw.

Brad is 5’1”, 128 pounds, a medium build with blue eyes, dark brown hair and light complexion. He was last seen wearing black shorts,  a teal thermal shirt and purple Converse shoes.

Brad is prone to seizures, and takes daily anticonvulsants medication. Without his medication Brad’s caregivers warn that he may become confused or have unusual episodes.

If you have seen Brad, or have any information about his whereabouts, please call Seattle Police at 206-683-8917, or call 911 and reference PD Case Number 11-109938.

His parents must be worried sick.  Please keep an eye out for a boy with this description and let others know about him as well. 

There's a photo and pdf flyer at the link.

Heads Up for Friday and Saturday Meetings

 Update: the BEX Oversight Committee meeting for tomorrow has been CANCELED.   (Not enough for a quorum so I guess they really need those new members.)

In case anyone is interested and available, the next BEX Oversight Committee meeting is tomorrow morning (Friday, 4/8) from 8:30 am-10:30 am at headquarters upstairs in room 2750.  (Sign in at the front desk and they give you a code for access to upstairs.  Take a left after you exit the stairwell or elevator.  Sit along the side of the room.  Agendas and minutes are on the table.  Coffee is for the members.)

One of the issues that will be discussed is bringing in some new members to the Committee.  I will report back on that issue and I hope some of you consider applying.  They need a broader view.  Also, it was interesting because the head of Facilities, Bill Martin, at the last meeting, seemed to think that staff would pick these new members.  A little amusing that he would think he could appoint people to oversee his own work.

Also I note that the Board is having an Executive Session tomorrow morning called "evaluation of the qualifications of an applicant for public employment."  Someone challenged the qualifications necessary for a job or if they had the right ones?  Interesting.

Director Carr Community Meeting - 8:30-10 am at Bethany Community Church
Director Sundquist Community Meeting - 11:00 am-12:30 p.m. at High Point Library

Genius, Absolute Genius

Thanks to a reader for a tip-off to this well-written and hilarious piece by Gene Lyons of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette which came via Salon.  I needed a laugh and this delivered.  It is entitled Michelle Rhee; Education Reform Huckster.

That Was Fast

From Crain's, Cathleen Black, the newly installed Chancellor of Schools in NYC, has resigned.    No big surprise because:

Ms. Black ascended to the city's top education post last fall amid heavy criticism that she was not a suitable choice. She had no professional background in education and no direct experience with the city's public school system, having sent her children to boarding school in Connecticut. 

Critics said her only qualification was that she traveled in the same high-powered Manhattan circuit as Mr. Bloomberg. It was only after the Bloomberg administration struck a deal with the state Board of Regents that Ms. Black was granted a waiver (for not having the required education experience) that she was allowed to become chancellor. 

In that deal, a largely unknown former principal and education administrator was appointed to the newly created post of chief academic officer. It was hoped that Shael Polakow-Suransky would silence critics and allow Ms. Black to learn the ropes and move forward. 

I guess having a CAO educator wasn't enough.  

Reflections on Standardized Testing Forum

I attended the forum on standardized testing on Monday night at Thornton Creek Elementary.  There were about 40 people there including parents and teachers.  I sure wish more people had attended as it was a great discussion.  I wish someone from the district could have been there to see that this is how you have a public discussion.  Kudos and thanks to Chris Stewart for putting this on (and her speakers as well).

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Voting for What Enfield Will Answer

So I guess you guys (and others) sent in a lot of questions to the upcoming Stranger Slog Questionland featuring Dr. Enfield on April 13th.  She has committed to answering 10 questions (and so far there are 35).  Vote for which ones she will be answering.    There are lots of good questions (and you can still submit one as well). 

Two Education Opinion Pieces in the Times

First, there is another education column by Lynne Varner. Class size matters — but some things matter more She tries to take a reasoned, moderate position but swings and misses.

Then, a guest column by two state legislators, Rodney Tom and Joseph Zarelli. This was probably actually written by a flak at one of the various education reform organizations, but they get the byline.

They tout a bill in the legislature SB5914, which, they say,
would require reductions in force to be based on teacher performance, not seniority; allow principals to approve teacher placements in the lowest-performing schools; and allow administrators to initiate due process to remove ineffective teachers in a timely manner.

It also would link National Board Certification bonuses to teacher evaluations after the first two years; phase in performance bonuses by adjusting salaries to reflect the latest research on improving student performance; and eliminate district salary enhancements benefiting only 12 of our state's 295 school districts.
Of course, every part of this is stupid.

* There is no valid measure of teacher performance, so we cannot use it to create layoff lists.

* There are no "low performing schools" (just some schools with a lot of under-prepared students) and, if there were, we should not grant more authority to principals who are running them.

* Administrators already have the authority to remove ineffective teachers. The problem is that the adminstrators are often the ineffective elements.

* Board Certification bonuses have proved ineffective (despite the Senators' claim that these solutions are "proven" and "research-based".

* Incentive bonuses for teachers don't work (again, not proven or research-based)

* And there is no benefit - other than savings - for eliminating salary enhancements. How does that improve student outcomes?

This column, the bill, and the Senators are simply wrong. They have identified the problem, but they have the exact wrong solution.

They could do a lot more for Washington students if they would comply with the requirements of the state constitution and fully fund education.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

News Flash - TIF Consultant Contract Action Deferred

I just had a call from the School Board office. Action on the TIF consultant contract has been deferred to the May 4 meeting.

Here is a link to the updated agenda for the April 6 meeting.

This is a positive sign for the Board and their effectiveness as a governance and oversight body.

District Administration Magazine - That's Their Story and They're Sticking To It

When we last left the discussion of District Administration magazine, they had published an article by former Boston schools' superintendent, Tom Payzant, about how urban superintendents are not being given a long enough tenure to see real results.  Professor Payzant used our district as an example and wrote a revisionist history of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's stay here in Seattle.  (And mind you, there are more than a few Board members who agreed that the article was off the mark.  They, too, do not want to see themselves painted as being bullied and weak.) 

Charlie and I (and at least a few other readers) wrote to the editor to complain.  One of our main complaints was that Professor Payzant did not disclose in his article that (1) he knows Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, (2) was brought out to conduct her Board evaluation and (3) that he and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson are both professionally affiliated with the Broad Foundation.  That might have given some readers pause had they known those facts.  The editor, Angela Pascopella, in her e-mails to me seemed to have not known these facts and had suggested they might have some letters to the editor in next month's issue.

Discussion of UW Admissions on KUOW

The Conversation on KUOW this afternoon (that's NOW 12:06 p.m.) is going to be about UW's admissions.  It looks like it will be on after 12:30 p.m. (they do about 12 minutes per segment).

Tough Luck, Kid

For all of the passion and strong opinion expressed on this blog - and I hear complaints about it - there is a broader spectrum of opinion expressed elsewhere. I read education stories in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Weekly, the Stranger, Crosscut and on other online sources and I read and participate in the reader comments that follow the articles.

Some of the folks who comment on these sites give voice to some absolutely shocking sentiments. There are some who oppose the very idea of publicly funded education. There are others who are okay with the government funding education but don't think the government should be providing it. I read a lot of bumper-sticker thinking - folks who think the whole education failure can be solved by vouchers, charters, abolishing the teachers' union, or school choice. Only none of these solutions is actually workable and none of them will really make any difference. Scratch the surface of any of these solutions and you will find them to be without merit.

As thoughtless as those folks are, I'm most disturbed by the folks who think that some children should be excluded from access to education. These folks believe that there are reasons - none of which are the child's fault (as if children can be blamed for anything) - that some children should be left without an eduation. These beasts who appear human will write off children with unsupportive families, with disabilities, who are members of families that came to this country through illegal means, with poor families, with single parents, with family members with chemical addictions, who are experiencing violence at home, with family members in prison, with negligent families, and more. I have read a stunning array of excuses for failing to do our duty to educate children. They all disgust me.

And we do have a duty to educate children. Title IX of the Washington State Constitution makes it clear:
It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.
We have a duty to educate these children and we are honor bound to fulfill that duty. It is the law. It is the right thing to do. We must not shirk that duty.

Some children are very inexpensive to educate because they are largely educated at home. Most children cost more. Some children cost much, much more. Averages are meaningless. It doesn't matter anyway - we choose to teach them all. Universal public education is a moral issue as well as a legal one. It should not, however, be a political one. We cannot fail it.

Sorry to subject you all to this post but I just had my fill of horror after reading this sort of sewage.