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!


Robyn said…
Were people allowed to attend the capacity work session? If so, did anyone go? The agenda looked interesting so I am curious.
Disgusted said…
My 9 year old is expected to take reading assessments, unit math tests, MAP 3X/ yr and MSp.


What's good for the President's kid is good for my kid.
Dorothy Neville said…
Yes, Robyn, all meetings (except of course the occasional personnel related meeting) are open to the public and quite a few (more than 10?) members of the public were there.

Have you been following along with the Capacity Management? Do you have specific questions?
Disgusted, on my "to-do" list is a thread on Capacity Management from both the Work Session and the Board meeting.
Anonymous said…
I'd like to hear the District's plans for schools that are already bursting at the seams and expect even more students next year.

All-school assemblies would most likely violate fire code (if they aren't already). Classrooms could potentially be in spaces that don't meet egress requirements.

At what point do they simply have to cap enrollment for a particular building?

-Worried for the kids safety
Robyn said…
Hi Dorothy,

Yes, I've been following it for about a year now (with a daughter in K and a son starting K in 2012). I have a bunch of questions. First, in looking at the time frame proposed on the agenda, I have to say it's a shame how slow they are to react to capacity issues. It seems my daughter's entire elementary career will be in overcrowded schools with huge classes.

My questions specific to my family's situation are highest on my list, though. We sent enrollment paperwork to move our daughter to Lowell for 1st grade in the Fall. We are seriously considering submitting an amended enrollment form to put her back at our neighborhood school (the unknowns about the bus ride and the overcapacity issues are weighing on us).

From what I've gathered, it seems Lowell's enrollment is going to be bigger next year than it is this year, but I thought I saw numbers from the district showing it to be smaller next year. Why they made the assumption that Lowell will be smaller next year is question #1. Did the work session actually make projections for next year that Lowell's enrollment is decreasing in 2011-2012? Question #2 surrounds the possibility of moving the APP program.

I hate to ask my personal questions here, but we only have a week to change our enrollment!

P.S. I just read "worried for the kids safety" and those are my sentiments exactly!
Robyn said…

You should feel bad. I was counting on your report so I didn't have to publicly "out" myself. HA! HA! Just kidding.
Anonymous said…
The Fresno Bee has an article about Obama's standardized testing comments:

Read more:

Some excerpts:

Obama, who is pushing a rewrite of the nation's education law that would ease some of its rigid measurement tools, said policymakers should find a test that "everybody agrees makes sense" and administer it in less pressure-packed atmospheres, potentially every few years instead of annually.

"One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you're not learning about the world, you're not learning about different cultures, you're not learning about science, you're not learning about math," the president said. "All you're learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that's not going to make education interesting."

The president endorsed the occasional administering of standardized tests to determine a "baseline" of student ability. He said his daughters Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, recently took a standardized test that didn't require advance preparation. Instead, he said, it was just used as a tool to diagnose their strengths and weaknesses. The girls attend the private Sidwell Friends School in Washington.

(nice feature on Fresno Bee - when you copy an article, the link is embedded and copied with it)

A reader
Anonymous said…
Hey, do you want to meet the next newest School Board Director?

Meet Michelle Buetow

A voter
mirmac1 said…
Read this incredible story!

Over $4.7 million paid out to District Leadership
- information obtain through public records request
by Debra Kolrud Monroe School Director

Imagine an elected School Director being restricted District information from the very District they are elected to represent and to hold accountable to the public. As a Director, I had made several-I mean several-request for information relating to the District Leadership salaries. In particular was the District statement that District Leadership (Superintendent, Administration and Principals) contract concessions provided $120,000 savings. However, when I asked for supporting documentation of those costs and Salary reports, I was denied the information as a Director and told my requests would need to be approved by the Board President and the Superintendent (see my article on fox guarding the hen house - - I then placed a "public records request" for this information, of which I am now sharing with the public;
Meg said…
This is just based on a preliminary look, but the 2011-12 allocations appear to be seriously out of whack. RHS doesn't have an enrollment projection, but for all but two (Garfield, Ballard, Ingraham, Hale, Franklin, WSHS, Sealth, Nova, Rainier Beach, Center School, and South Lake), projection comes to a whopping 1,024 (ish) less than current HS enrollment. From what I understand, 200 kids = ~$2M in funding. A projection that cuts $5M in staff isn't just conservative allocation, it's resource starvation. Garfield, Ballard, Ingraham and Hale are all projected to have over 100 students less than current enrollment. Depending how much HQ takes off the top, that is probably around a half million dollar budget loss for each of those schools.

Only two high schools have projections above current enrollment (and not by a lot): Cleveland (+13) and SBOC (+12).

I get that there may be a little dissonance here between headcount and FTE; this is a preliminary look.

But to me these projections cross the line of being careful with resources and head deeply into the territory of starving schools of resources. What do other people think?

Robyn- check what the feeling is on the APP discussion blod (; a number of parents there are Lowell parents and may have some insight for you.
Robyn said…

Thanks, your response sums up my real question. Did they really use projected enrollment numbers at the work session that are less than this year's actual enrollment?

I was looking at our current school's projected enrollment figures and it seemed strange to me that they lose 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders, but gain a bunch of 4th graders with a net increase of only 8 kids to the school. I am new and know nothing about how transitory elementary school kids are, but that seems odd.

Do schools get more money for kids in k-3 than they do for kids in 4th & 5th grade?

Also, Meg, I have a follow-up question to your post. If the district funds the school based on these enrollment projections and lots more kids show-up, doesn't the district have to give them more money based on actual head count, or are they only funded based on projections?
Dorothy Neville said…
The issue of projected figures for next year seeming out of whack and too low is a HUGE one! And one with real repercussions, since RIF and rehire cycles destroy morale, destroy teams and programs.

This was discussed, but the answer from Enrollment and demographer just seemed lame. Perhaps Melissa who was taking notes can explain better. You do expect some enrollment projections to be off, that's par for the course with predicting the future. But the district seems uniformly to predict downward and therefore RIF way too many people and, as Meg puts it, starve schools of resources to budget.

Yes, Robyn, when kids show up in September, more money comes with them. But what this district is really really good at is waiting until then, waiting until an emergency situation to scramble up some new hires to fill those spots. So the teachers RIFed? Many are no longer looking for work -- having found a job in a more sane district.

The staff CLAIMS that they get better updated enrollment information in June. But there is no evidence that they use that updated information to update school budgets until September. And since RIFs must be performed by May 15th, it is too late to stop that process. But now that we are off the VAX, shouldn't enrollment figures come faster? Yes, there is also the issue of kids enrolling then not showing up in September, but are we overestimating that? And with attendance area guarantees, haven't we been seeing the opposite? More kids showing up in September?

Some board members -- like our fearless president --- adamantly think that this is a reasonable thing. That is it much better for schools to bear the disruption and chaos and churn of having to budget for less and then get more in September than to have the reverse, overstaff and then have to cut staff in October.

I think it stinks. I think that Meg is correct in that it seems systematically like resource starvation. It just stinks.

However, there is some pushback from some of the board. At the very end of Wednesday's meeting, after almost everyone had left, they introduced the resolution for RIF. And HR doesn't really have the data to argue for this yet, but they need to introduce it anyway so that it can be voted on May 4th, in time for the May 15th RIF deadline. So she is planning to provide the presentation details at the next Operations committee meeting (next Thursday, same time as the Audit and Finance meeting). But Michael, Kay, Betty and Sherry are VERY dubious of RIFfing willy-nilly and will insist on better data to support the need for RIFs. Stay tuned, they may create a worksession to show this presentation to the entire board. Will they or won't they justify RIFs in a district where enrollment is projected up and up, although each individual school's enrollment is projected down?
Unknown said…
Comment for "a voter." When I start to evaluate candidates this time around I'm going to be looking specifically for governance/board oversight experience in any candidate. Because one of the biggest lessons I've learned from all the scandals is that the entire board seems to have needed to learn this skill. They're all political animals, not governance/oversight animals.

So while it's nice to know that we'd have a current parent, and she's from an alternative schools background, what does she know about serving on a finance committee? Or an audit committee? Can she read a balance sheet? A P&L? Has she ever served on a corporate board? Can she get out of the weeds and be truly strategic when need be? What's her philosophy of governance and oversight?

Maybe I'm a outlier here, but at least for me, this is the info I will need to make a decision.
Lori said…
Hi Robyn,

for whatever it's worth, we moved a kid to Lowell this school year, and I can confirm that they underestimated enrollment pretty badly last year too. They said there'd be 40 APP 2nd graders, but when open enrollment was over, there were 75 slated to come in the fall - nearly twice as many! Lowell eventually got permission to hire over the summer, and my child's teacher was hired one week before school started. I don't know all the machinations of the hiring process, but I can say that they hired a wonderful teacher for the position, despite the later summer date. My daughter is having a fantastic year.

There is a coffee chat next week at Lowell (Thursday AM), and I'm sure capacity and planning for potential new classrooms will be on the agenda. For us, we left a crazy-crowded neighborhood school that won't even have a dedicated art room next year, and possibly not even a music room. So, it was going from one crowded building to another. Lowell still has an art room, and I believe it's not on the chopping block. The library does get used for MAP, which is unfortunate.

I'm usually a sees-the-glass-half-empty person, but I'm surprisingly sanguine about capacity at Lowell next year, at least right now. There are rooms that can be converted to classrooms if needed (can't remember which, unfortunately), and there have been rumors of the preschool program being relocated (making another room available). Hopefully, we'll have a little more concrete information next week, just before open enrollment ends!
Anonymous said…
This is a reminder that there are Architecture 101 spring break classes available for students grades 3 through 8.

Check out the Architecture 101 website for details.
Anonymous said…

A lot of good that "corporate, oversight, and governance" experience got us this last go 'round.

Anonymous said…
re Lori's comment on Lowell capacity: Given the nature of APP admissions, Lowell is more used to stretching and shrinking the classrm/grade structure as needed, compared to most schools. Also I beleive they've come up w/a strategy for MAP testing that doesnt involve shutting down the library - there was something about it in the recent Thursday Note.
dan dempsey said…

After watching the legislature for the last two years and the Seattle School Board for the last 4 years, I see the Paramount requirement to be a school board member is to be concerned about evidence.

The inability to make evidence based decisions has been a continuing disaster in both Olympia and Seattle.

Like Grumpy points out .. how has what we have been doing been working out?

If candidates do not run, there will be no choices. Formal filing is in June but in the past several candidates have begun campaigning in April and

I wonder what the choices will be like this election season?
Anonymous said…
RIFs are not just about enrollment. They also relate to the WSS (Weighted Staffind Standard)formula that decides the staff package that goes to each school. Elementary counselors were listed in the WSS but they are not being funded centrally at all for next fall (and schools have no money). This is regardless of school enrollment. Folks should fight for them to fully fund basic services - the WSS!

Anonymous said…
RE: Lowell enrollment

A 2006-2007 report shows the planning capacity at 484. There are currently around 570 enrolled, with more expected next year.

From an old post on the APP blog:

Oct. 1 counts by year

2005 - 493
2006 - 532
2007 - 496
2008 - 543 (year before split)
2009 - 463

There's a limit to how creative you can get with classroom arrangements.
hschinske said…
He said his daughters Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, recently took a standardized test that didn't require advance preparation. Instead, he said, it was just used as a tool to diagnose their strengths and weaknesses.

Ironically, that could perfectly well have been the MAP. There's nothing in the contract that says it *has* to be used punitively.

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
Isn't this just typical of the Lowell capacity issue for years

and there have been rumors of the preschool program being relocated (making another room available).

Let's just move out the disabled kids so that we can have plenty of room for the ever growing APP program. A better idea would be to stick to the meaning of top 2%, and limit private testing.

sped parent
Anonymous said…
Before you get bent out shape, sped, I don't think that the current APP parents are pushing for the rumored change. Sheesh.

Someone posted the same suggestion on the APP blog and this was the response:

It's a special education preschool and Lowell is set up to accommodate them. No way would I suggest that they move. I don't see that as a solution.
Anonymous said…
For elementary schools >450 projected enrollment, they now get a co-principal in the WSS for next year (per the budget).

So have to wonder, can the school convert that co-principal position to more teacher/ counselor positons instead?

Anonymous said…
Hmm. My child, headed for middle school next year, took the advanced learning test and scored 97 in verbal (98=APP), but much lower in math. So her combined score would not allow her admittance to Spectrum. We appealed; no dice.

Just got a letter that based on her MAP scores she will be admitted to grade 7 math next year (6th grade honors). That would be working 1 year ahead, which = Spectrum. In the subject she did worse in. In the subject she aced and LOVES she will not be allowed to take on extra challenge.

This system sucks in so many ways. Kids who are enthused about school and want more challenge should just get it. Why all the gatekeeping?
Lee Iris said…
Lisa -- Your student will do wonderfully in a "normal" program. I can already tell you're the sort of parents that will supplement yourself as you deem wise.

My girls are also both "normal." I hope we can remember that those of use who were super smart, or average, or below average in middle school and high school have little predictive value for the future.

Personally, I was completely FU'd in high school, and figured it out in college. I'm doing just great now, thank you. My best friend in HS was the kind of kid who did it all then, then fell in love and married way too young. But here we are, 50, and she and her husband are doing quite well now, too.

Keep the long view. It's the only one that matters.
Anonymous said…
The District's delivery of Advanced learning opportunities in middle school and high school really does seem artificially limiting.

I have the same question - why all the gatekeeping? It's middle school. Let them rise to the challenge if they wish.

And, argh, it's frustrating when people suggest you can supplement at home as if that will make up for it. First, there's not enough time in the day. Second, without some level of challenge, your child may learn to stop putting in the effort.

No matter where your child falls on the spectrum, you'd hope they'd be allowed to work to the level of their ability and feel the satisfaction of hard work and the joy of learning.

Wishful parent
Anonymous said…
Agree wishful parent. You think that would be the mission of school. But hey it's either let's not worry about it, good kids will turn out fine no matter what kind of schooling they get or let's pour billions of dollars to fix our educational problem. Which is it?

- From a student who had an amazing 7th grade teacher who taught me T.S. Eliot and to dare to eat a peach and walk upon the beach.... to hear the mermaids sing each to each.
seattle citizen said…
Fascinating article on a public school in NYC Magazine that struggles yet succeeds, partly in spite of "competition" from charter schools.

The Fragile Success of School Reform in the Bronx
Anonymous said…
Just saw that the principal at John Stanford International School has won a Milken Educator Award:

SEATTLE - A Seattle school principal has received a prestigious award.

Kelly Aramaki learned this week he won a Milken Educator Award, which comes with a $25,000 prize.

Aramaki is the principal of John Stanford International School in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood.

Aramaki is one of 55 educators to receive a Milken award this year.

He's a Bellevue native and graduate of the University of Washington

Megan Mc said…
Curious, your BLT would have to submit a request to trade the Co-Principal with extra teaching staff. I'm not sure if the district is allowing it these days but they used to allow school BLTs to alter the allocation of the WSS handed down by the budget office. I'm not on BLT this year so I dont know when the school budgets are due or if they've already been submitted. Ask your BLT rep where they are in the process.
Maureen said…
Re trading admins for teachers. I asked a similar question at the SCPTSA budget forum (in February?) and I was told that you can't trade staff across WSS categories. I'm not sure how a 'head teacher' fits into that (since they obviously do exist) I would guess that they show up as a part time teacher and a part time administrator. I'm not sure who exactly answered the question, but Duggan Harmann was there along with Sherry Carr and Susan Enfield and about three other panelists.
Anonymous said…
Wishful parent, I agree completely!

I wish I could feel confident my daughter will do well in a "normal" classroom ... but the district's own tests recommend that an advanced classroom would be a better fit. It's just that the artificial gatekeeping device of counting both subjects when only one is relevant keeps her out. And my older child, who didn't remotely test into anything but is just a reasonably bright kid who likes school ... he tanked in the "normal" MS classroom because it was so boring. Every teacher/class is different, but experience makes me wary.

I never needed to supplement at home for "normal" elementary, and call me lazy, but it was great!
Someone said…
Seattle made the news elsewhere with it's "Spring Spheres" (you and I might know them as Easter eggs).

The original article is from My Northwest:
Greg Linden said…
Charlie and Melissa, is this article worth a new thread?

The Test Generation

What happens in the classroom when a state begins to evaluate all teachers, at every grade level, based on how well they "grow" their students' test scores? Colorado is about to find out.
seattle citizen said…
man, Someone, did you see the comments on that Spring Spheres piece you linked?

Talk about flame....Lesson learned: Never, ever, never-ever, call an egg-shaped object a sphere. Especially if you're a teacher. You'll get eaten alive, and held up as an example of all the ills of public education. The comment thread, towards the end, goes towards home-schooling (to get away, I guess, from the ignorant, ignorant teacher who called an egg-shaped object a "sphere.")

Maureen said…
Greg, Thanks for that link--very interesting!
StepJ said…
No brown bag lunches at this Chicago school.

Eat the school lunch or go hungry.

Oh my.
Anonymous said…
StepJ, my daughter reports many chips'n'soda lunches brought from home among her 5th grade peers. This is in the Greenlake area, a relatively affluent community. Even allowing for "everyone does it" exaggeration, I think she must really see this fairly frequently. Perhaps the kids have some nutritious food packed in with the chips and soda, but they don't bother getting out the healthy stuff they have no plans to actually eat.
seattle citizen said…
Lisa, it may be that kids are packin' some crappy lunches (or their parent/guardian is...) but to mandate the student eat the school's chosen foods seems a bit...big-brotherish.

I doubt it would stand a court test. I mean, how COULD it?

Now, if a school wanted to ban certain food (and drink) items from being consumed at school, that might be within their sphere (or ovoid) of influence...Maybe.
DemocracyMom said…
Regarding the projected enrollment and RIFs - didn't they do this same darn thing last year? And didn't they do the same thing when they closed schools based on projections that left out the fact that new families were moving into Seattle? I'm glad to hear four board members were skeptical, hope they do the right thing. And not lay off qualified teachers now and then hire inexperienced TFA recruits.
Charlie Mas said…
I'm sure that the school will also allow exceptions for religious dietary laws as well as medical reasons.

I don't think it can be done unless the school lunch is free to every student, as it often is when there is a high concentration of FRE students in the school.
Bird said…
The McDonald PTA website has some interesting information and debate about how ( and whether ) the new language immersion program can adequately accomodate kids with disabilities.

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