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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). 

11 comments:

anonymous said...

Hale has an academic intervention specialist too. From what I understand, her primary responsibility is to track kids performance on standardized tests, and offers assistance and support to kids who do not do well.

Eric B said...

Loyal Heights still tracks volunteer hours. For some projects (eg grounds cleanup), having a good history of volunteer turnout improves chances of getting support from District HQ. In some cases, I think volunteer hours can count towards matching grants.

Anonymous said...

I don;t know, Melissa, would it bother you if the speaker series was about special ed? Or the college application process? Or navigating the tween years, or any other topic that directly impacted a large population of the families in the district? The actual title of this diversity talk is "“When Caring People Hurt: Racial Micro-Aggression and How Allies Can Help”". Since the majority of the student population in the district ARE people of color, maybe this is an on-pont topic.

It seems to really bother you that this series (three lectures this year, not too many) even exists. Yet in my search for information about it I saw reference to other speaker series, including one in the performing arts. I haven't seen you complain about THAT one.

I really have to wonder about your motives when you single out something aimed at people of color-are you just unaware that kids of color have a historically harder time school or are you hypersensitive about the topic because of the recent financial scandal? When you start complaining about OTHER speakers and events in the same "puzzled" way, I'll feel a lot better.

--Not Puzzled--

Melissa Westbrook said...

Look, I can't track every single thing in the district; it is not physically possible.

But yes, I would question almost ANY speaker series that is for the general public because we are district with little money and a lot of problems. As I said, I support professional development for staff but if this is just a general audience talk, I have to wonder about the money spent on any topic. If these speakers are free,great. I doubt it, though.

But as a person who is part-Latina I know something about the issues of people of color. I grew up right on the Arizona-Mexico border and my town was largely Mexican.

In the end, we have no money or so we are told. When you are poor, every dollar counts. I'd rather see it for help in the classroom. That is my focus and right now, that is my mantra.

Jet City mom said...

Since the majority of the student population in the district ARE people of color, maybe this is an on-pont topic.

I'd vote for a speaker to address the issues of assuming white kids are coming from educated & wealthy backgrounds even though they are actually falling between the cracks that we would see if we bothered to look close enough.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Micheal Tolley isn't the high school director anymore. All of the high schools are split two to a region, but Phil Brockman seems to have become the go-to director on high school issues.

"Academic Intervention Specialist" may not mean the same thing at every school. Each school used to have a Pathways Dean, who was a quasi-administrator. The funding for that got cut, and then the position changed because SEA objected to folks who didn't have adim credentials being in a leadership role. The Board funded a position with the Academic Intervention Specialist title instead. Each school gets to decide what that looks like. Four high schools get FEL money to target interventions at the ninth grade. The buildings can choose to use descretionary money or if they have it grant money to fully fund an AIC position. What that looks like varies among the schools. Chief Sealth still has an academic dean, and Ms. Whiton, who teaches remedial classes and runs an academic achievement center along with a social worker.

AIEC

KG said...

That is correct, every dollar counts for the classroom. But in Central it is overburdened and they hurt the less fortunate students with this and will cut the counselors.

The District should do a survey on coaches verse counselors.

As for Michael Tolley he is a joke.

Unknown said...

Hooray for Debbie Passi! She totally deserves the award.

Anonymous said...

re: Academic Intervention Specialist positions
Each high school has one 1.0 FTE for AIS position in their 2011-12 School Allocations sheet (under Counseling). It's been funded at 0.5 FTE for two years before that, since the Pathways Dean position was cut (as well as all of the Pathways teachers cut also).

Franklin, Sealth & WSHS also have had the Seattle Levy funds to help target their struggling 9th graders (for the past 3 years or so). Cleveland & RBHS had all of the extra SE Initiative funds at that time, so the city chose those other three schools as most needing the extra program help for the Levy, so there's extra support also.

SP (the blog ate my log in again)

Anonymous said...

did a quick search, the bush school has same speaker on the 27th of april. Bush also calls their Program "Diversity Speakers Series", and is co-sponsered by the ACLU. this might be the same for SPS.

jpr

sandi said...

First, thanks! It was an honor to be selected. I was nominated by a former student from Seattle Prep, but it was based on my work at Sealth as well.

As stated, I am funded by the FEL grant that is at Sealth in order to target all of our 9th graders. Studies have shown that if a student doesn't move up on time from 9th to 10th grade, they have under a 30% chance of graduating from high school. With this in mind, we've created a program that treats all incoming 9's as "at risk" students. My job is to provide differentiated academic interventions for all of our students, from Saturday Study Halls (extended weeks) to study groups for students in our honors classes.

My class isn't really a remedial class, per se. Instead, we've targeted students who have high risk indicators but who are capable of academic achievement. We, my social worker partner and I, do some enrichment work in positive high school behaviors, and I administer a separate grant that provides 18 tutors in the building via SPU, so we have tutoring 2 days a week. We also have partnered with SYVPI to provide "group" type work with our classes. Further, I meet with every student individually twice a week to go over their grades, discuss issues, and to contact his or her parent if need be to assign them to study hall. We have these classes divided by gender, which, again, has worked well.

We've had incredible success with our program. When I was hired from Prep 2 years ago, at mid semester, Sealth only had 65% of its students passing all core classes. This year, we're at 88. Additionally, we only had about 70%considered "on time" for graduation because they recieved 2.5 credits or more, and this year, we were at 94.4%.

I also run the MAP testing program for our school. We do have another AIS in the building who is largely in charge of HSPE testing. The AIS at Hale runs a class similar to mine as well as testing, as do most of the other AIS's that are not levy funded.

There are a TON of incredible things that are going on in Seattle Schools right now. I'm glad to see that y'all are focusing on that as well!

Cheers!