Times Story about West Seattle Elementary

The Time ran another story about West Seattle Elementary this morning.
High poverty but high hopes: West Seattle Elementary School making progress

Much of the story focuses on the work of the elementary school counselor. The story makes no reference to the District's efforts to eliminate the position at schools across the district.


This is a story of how hard it is to make change for high poverty students. It's great that the staff is so dedicated.

But a few things go left out.

West Seattle Elementary should be congratulated for making gains because that's a key marker for progress. However, it would be useful to see where their overall score places them among other Seattle elementaries.

What's also missing is the fact that the district plans to eliminate nearly ALL the elementary school counselors (unless the school figures out how to keep a counselor and lose another position) from the budget next year.

Why there is NO mention of this seems to follow the Times wanting to prop up SPS's vision of how to achieve change without explaining how it hurts schools.

The district has over 100 teacher coaches - from data coaches to math to language arts - who work ONLY with teachers, not kids. Why is it so much important to keep that many coaches and yet the elementary counselor position profiled in this story is disposable?

The Times needs to be asking these questions as well.
Anonymous said…
This story is a great example of poor news reporting on education. The article gives a good highlight of the efforts of the staff to have an impact at a historically low achieving school. But I have issues with the reporting of the story.

First, this program has not proven any lasting impact. This is the first year of the program. The real proof will be if they can they maintain the levels of energy and test score changes. Learning is a long run, not a short sprint. The supt on KUOW said the teachrs are exhausted. Remember Hawthorne Elementary, the flagship southend school started by John Morfield. The hand picked the staff, had some impact, but as teachers burned out eventually these great teachers left. The administration should leave this school alone and let the teachers do their work.

Second, the article failed to mentioned that the principal at this school, handpicked by her highness MGJ, has resigned and is leaving. One year, really!

Third, every teacher that reads the article is probably saying I use those same strategies. As is usual for educational reporters they present the strategies as if they are some new idea used for the first time. Sounds like WSE is incorporating some of the same strategies that many others schools are using.

Again, congrats to a WSE teaching staff that are working hard and making a difference for their students, just like all the the others schools in Seattle! I hope you can make a lasting impact on your students lives. But this article represents another attempt by the media to trumpet "reform" before the school has had a chance to realize its impact. Maybe it would help if a someone with classroom experience explain the situation.
seattle citizen said…
Off topic, but another article about schools. This is in today's NY Times, about the 10% of students who didn't get their high school choices. Makes me wonder how we here in Seattle will solve the dilemna: No choice, but "every school great"; or choice and "winners and losers" as some students don't get the school they want...

Lost in the School Choice Maze
seattle citizen said…
And here's Danny Westneat on the potential damage students cause themselves by tweeting, twittering, twaddling and trumpeting on Facebook, Twitter, Twaddle.com and via their own particular trumpets: A gr8 kid's tweets not exactly LOL
It's not pretty: He was going to write a story about a refugee who was "making it" in school, but then checked the student's twitter feed and found
"most of it can't be printed in the newspaper. It isn't only foul language. It's racial cracks, boasts about getting high, jokes — or maybe not jokes — about cheating on tests and skipping school. All there for anyone to read."

Teach your children well....to think before they post.
KG said…

Aren't the coaches considered in the Central admin. line item?

The Board did not learn much from the Goodloe-fiasco. Transparency?

I do not think we will see it from the regime either.

These continue to be sad days for the school children as the board is continuing to try snd take away the very jobs that serve a very needy populas.
Unknown said…
From another thread on this blog, we learn that fabulous Chrissie Coxon, TfA super-teacher at West Seattle Elementary, is leaving!

You can read about how fabulous she is (self-reported) here at Reuven Carlyle's blog, look in the comments: http://reuvencarlyle36.com/2010/09/20/time-for-teach-for-america/)

Or here

Or here

2 years and OUTTAHERE!
Seems a shame, actually, because she does actually seem like a good young teacher.

But there's a real disconnect between all the TfA generated hype and packing up after 2 years.

Interesting that her name didn't come up in this second article in 6 months.

Why is she leaving? Where is she going? Did TfA offer her a fancy job at twice the salary? Is she going to be a hedge fund manager?

This is the part about TfA that really rings hollow to a lot of us that care about the long-term learning of students and the long-term health of public education.

TfA triggers the fraud receptors in my brain.
Anonymous said…
W Seattle Herald

..."I want to transform this school," Sacco said, "into a school excellence and the pride of the community, where student achievement is in the top ten percent of Title One Schools in the nation. We talked about that today and that's our vision we're creating as we come together as a school."

The school has "about 40" people on the faculty and more than half the staff are new. "I have a teacher from the Bronx [Chrissie Coxon], (...) I have a reading coach that was recruited from California, my school business officer is from Las Vegas."...

Sup Enfield, Phd, said on Steve Scher that West Seattle had 2 admins, "an Operations Mgr and an Educational Leader.." According to Enfield this allowed the Principal, Vicki Sacco, to focus entirely on the classrooms and had made a significant positive impact on student learning. A constant complaint from Principals is that they're pulled in diametrically opposite directions: the heavy pressure of getting it right on the operations side conflicting with their responsibility to be the educational leader. Wouldn't it be nice if every elementary had an operations mgr and Educational leader?

Also, Enfield, Phd, assserts on the KUOW show that SIG elementaries, WSE & Hawthorne, have been making "double the growth" compared to other "struggling schools." I'm curious about the evidence she uses to back up that assertion.

ken berry
Anonymous said…
Opps, I was mistaken, it is the super teacher, not the principal who is leaving.
Anonymous said…
From the article:

Test scores are up, especially in math, where the school's overall improvement from last spring to this winter was greater than at any other elementary in the city.

This makes it sound as though the improvement was based on MAP scores, not MSP. So the hope would be that the improvements would then be reflected in this year's MSP.

Based on the OSPI report card, 3rd and 4th grade pass rates did show modest improvement in the last two years, yet 5th grade pass rates have dropped.

The change in 5th grade pass rates (2008-09 to 2009-10):

5th grade math: 36% to 6%
5th grade reading: 52% to 32%
5th grade science: 21% to 3%

My guess is that 5th grade will show improvement this year...there's lots of room for growth.

Another reader
Charlie Mas said…
Any growth in student achievement at West Seattle Elementary that has been measured already must have been measured by the MAP or by some classroom-based assessments.

If it is the MAP, then the growth was between the fall and the winter. Not only is that a pretty brief period, but it is a period in which (we have been told) scores often drop rather than rise.

Also, I notice that the growth is always expressed in relative terms - compared to other Title I schools.

Here's an interesting note. The MSP pass rates at WSE dropped last year. The reading pass rate (3rd to 5th grade) was down five percentage points and the math pass rate (3rd to 5th grade) was down four percentage points. When the school segmentation calculation is made, the District uses the past two years of data, so that drop will be part of what determines if WSE will continue to be a Level 1 school.

Here are a few other interesting data points from the WSE School Report:
Students: 332, Teachers: 26, Other staff: 16. Average Class Size: 25
Who the heck are all of the other staff?!?

Average daily attendance: 93.0%. That doesn't sound like they had a truancy problem last year.

Advanced learners: 8%

For comparison purposes here are are the numbers for Adams Elementary, selected because it is first alphabetically:
Students: 413, Teachers: 26, Other staff: 10, Average class size: 24

How is it that Adams has 24% more students, the exact same number of teachers, and yet slightly smaller average class size??? And Adams did it with a third fewer "other staff".

Also, you'll note that Adams had 94.9% attendance. The WSE attendance was less than two percentage points less.
Po3 said…
Not real sure why this was a front page story on a Sunday.
Maureen said…
So weird that the story doesn't mention Ms. Coxon at all. She was THE subject of the November article on WSE.

There seems to be an assumption here that she is leaving (or has left?). Is there evidence for that?

There are, of course, many reasons why a dedicated teacher might need to leave after a year, but continuity for vulnerable kids is so important. Younger teachers (TfA or not) are just at points in their lives where they are more likely to move or quit. I hope that principals at Level 1 schools take this into account when they are choosing between older established teachers and shiny new ones.
dan dempsey said…

Great points about the need for teacher continuity. Unfortunately the need for continuity is largely ignored these days, in favor of "Disruptive Innovation".

Check the four Race to the Top models used to "Turnaround" failing schools. These are continuity destroyers.
Julie said…
Another weird thing about this story: "One mom was so intent on fulfilling her attendance contract that she called the police when her son refused to go to school."

This rings false to me in the way that "spring spheres" rang false to me. Just another meaningless little piece of BS in a story about the school district. Not a big deal, just a lazy little throwaway.

In reality, if a Seattle parent "called the police" on their kid for not going to school, they'd either have to dial 911, which would be a reprehensible use of the emergency response system, or they'd have to leave a message on the non-emergency line, which isn't staffed and therefore wouldn't help them get their kid to school. It just doesn't make any sense.

Again, not a big deal, but it would be cooler if the Times reported facts instead of repeating silly stories.

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