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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Community Generated Solutions

Okay, lots of issues that are of concern, create frustration, confusion and general worry.

Okay Community - what are our solutions?  Pick something that really bothers you and say how you believe it could be fixed.  Or what solutions you may have already heard within your community. 

Is it a matter of getting the Board to believe in community solutions? 

Is it a matter of really communicating with Dr. Enfield?  At the recent CPPS event, she said, over and over, "I want to hear from parents."  Okay, then as on last send-off to the school year, get something together, stand in the playground and get some signatures.  Or send it to your community Yahoo group. 

Don't let the school year end without some positive ideas for some of our most serious issues.

21 comments:

seattle citizen said...

One of my concerns, and I think it's common here, is that buildings are being stripped of support staff. This includes counselors, career advisors, IAs (including translators), librarians, lunch staff, custodial...

As has been noted, many here believe that the district is top heavy. (A corollary is the top-down management that is becoming increasingly evident, when everyone knows that the teacher is the educators are the primary focus, the classroom, and everyone else exists to support THEM, but that, perhaps, is a side-issue: It's related, but my focus would be just on staffing levels at this point, in order to keep things simple.)

What to do? Parents, educators, students...everyone could organize to demand that un-necessary expenditures are done away with (particularly in these tight times) and ALL resources focused back into educators and their immediate supporters, IN buildings, not downtown.

This means demanding that experimental frills be done away with and non-building staff be further cut.

The quid pro quo is that while demanding a re-staffing of buildings, parents, educators and students come up with meaningful (and student-centered) strategies for utilizing the staff (and parent/guardians and other supporters...hey, call on A4E and LEV to supply some tutors...) in ways that help individual students get support. This means SLPs, intensive case management, commnunity resources...So each school community commits to rallying all hands on deck. The district re-ups cut staff (funding it by cutting un-necessary frills downtown) and the communities do their part by adding volunteerism and becoming more organized in support of individual struggling students in their buildings (rather than this "failing schools" crap we hear from on high)

David said...

Here are a few:

Budget: Cut central admin deeply, eliminating centralized teaching coaches, curriculum alignment and planning, and much of HR, pushing authority for budget, hiring, and curriculum down to principals. Central office refocused on expanding successful programs and cutting unsuccessful ones.

Make unattractive schools attractive: Stop trying to force parents and students to go to particular schools, instead give all parents the option of a neighborhood school with transportation or regional or city-wide alternative schools without transportation. Attract parents to undercapacity schools by adding popular alternative programs to the school.

Teachers union and seniority: Offer pay and benefit increase to the union, especially for the younger teachers, in exchange for eliminating seniority-based layoffs and giving principals much more control over hiring and firing.

School board oversight: Each school board member should have a budget for hiring staff and consultants. Ideally, also make school board positions paid.

anonymous said...

Concern: Some high schools are not offering grade level classes to their students. For instance only AP LA classes are available for juniors and seniors at Hale. There is no grade level course option. A student who receives a D in 10th grade LA, still has to take a college level AP English class in 11th grade.

Solution: Offer high school students high school level work. In addition offer remedial course work for those that need it. Make AP courses available only to those who choose it. This should be cost neutral. Each student takes a seat in a class but which class shouldn't matter.

Concern: Cutting summer and night school.

Solution: Cut coaches, central admin, and/or the extra ex director and leave summer and night school in place.

Anonymous said...

When people outside the classroom in policy / leadership positions make suggestions / changes in what happens in a school building or a set of buildings, the suggestions / changes should:

- have detailed steps outlined to carry out the suggestion / change,
- have cost estimates of the suggestion / change,
- have the funding to pay for the suggestion / change.

People outside school buildings who are paid to make decisions and who can't figure out the costs of their ideas should be fired.

Time Costs Money

Po3 said...

Reinstate summer school, staffed by the coaches who will be drawing a paycheck but won't have any teachers to coach.

Anonymous said...

Move the wait lists at schools that are currently under the building capacity. In the NE, John Rogers, Laurelhurst and Sandpoint all have room in their buildings AND a waitlist.

McDonald and QA Elementary also have waitlists and room in their buildings to take more students.

With so many schools so severely overcrowded and so many sibling split, there is just not reason to not move families into programs with SPACE as this will help to make some more room at schools that are too full.

- NE parent

Charlie Mas said...

Provide early and effective interventions to students working below grade level. Pay for it with all of the money spent on ineffective interventions such as teacher coaches and additional administrators.

Salander said...

Include parents in that early intervention. Educate parents on how they can help educate their child. Offer some kind of incentives for parents participating such as day care for other siblings while concentrating on one or help to negotiate time away from to be involved with child's education.
Look at all the evidence from top performing countries.
STOP the reform insanity.

SeattleSped said...

My concern is SPS' plan to hire Teach For America interns to fill special education EBD positions in our district. Frankly, if you read the WAC (181-79A-231), it appears that this is not permitted for those teaching under conditional certificates, particularly since:

(v) The applicant for a conditional teaching certificate in special education shall hold a bachelor's degree or higher from a regionally accredited college/university.

(vi) The issuance of a conditional certificate to a special education teacher after July 1, 2003, is contingent upon the individual being enrolled in an approved teacher preparation program resulting in a residency teacher certificate endorsed in special education. The conditional certificate is valid for up to two years and may be reissued once for one year upon verification by the college/university that the individual is completing satisfactory progress in the residency teacher certificate program.

(vii) An individual with full certification and endorsed in special education shall be assigned as a mentor to the special education teacher serving on a conditional certificate for the duration of the conditional certificate.

And Alternative Route 4 calls for:

Alternative Route 4 teacher preparation programs uphold entry requirements for candidates that include:

1. A baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education. The individual's grade point average may be considered as a selection factor;
2. Successful completion of the WEST-E subject matter assessment required by RCW 28A.410.220 (3); (in this case special education)
3. External validation of qualifications, including demonstrated successful experience with students or children, such as reference letters and letters of support from previous employers;
4. Meeting the age, good moral character, and personal fitness requirements adopted by rule for teachers; and
5. Successful passage of the WEST-B statewide basic skills exam

Anonymous said...

Move north end APP to the north end. If Spectrum gets more and more diluted, the demand for APP is only going to grow.

Only a truly large building can house both APP and another gen ed program. If the district is only going to colocate programs, then the only buildings that could even potentially hold APP and a gen ed program are former middle school buildings and there are three in the north end - John Marshall, Jane Addams and Broadview Thompson.

700 students in the Lowell building is simply not safe. It is incredibly not safe for the medically fragile community.

- very anxious mom

Anonymous said...

1 - overcrowding is the top concern with all teachers I speak with - hire teachers not admins who can't spell and do nothing coaches

2 - support staff - McClure has had two fires in the past few years - one due to overcrowding and the other due to maintenance cuts - I would think this would get a heads up from firefighters and cops

3 - academic curriculum - dump discover math and writers workshop

4 - dump testing and add more academics - this is school after all - teach kids how to think and create not 'how to push buttons' training - languages, science, civics, history (or is the Palin/Revere gaff really funny?)

-JC

WenD said...
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WenD said...
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WenD said...

Reposting Dismayed Teacher's comment from the Two Executive Director's thread. (Dismayed's list is my list.)

http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2011/06/two-executive-directors-in-southeast.html

"My response to the Superintendent's email. I hope I don't get fired.

"Dear Dr. Enfield,

"First, I'd like to express my sincere appreciation for your willingness to listen to teachers, parents, and other stakeholders. It feels a little risky writing directly to you, but I'd like to reiterate an important point about increasing student achievement.

"If we want our students to grow academically, we need to focus on them. I sincerely believe that adding more administration and oversight is the exact opposite of what works.

"These are the things that are proven to improve student achievement:

"Decreased class size in the primary grades.

"Targeted individualized support for struggling students.

"Additional staff like intervention specialists, instructional assistants, and tutors to allow the implementation of RTI and other intervention programs at schools.

"Counselors and family support workers to help students with issues outside of school that impact their ability to learn at school.

"Math and reading specialists who work directly with students.

"Well-stocked school and classroom libraries and good librarians.

"Full time nurses.

"All of these provide DIRECT service to students and produce positive outcomes, yet staffing and funding for these things is being drastically cut while large sums of money are spent on staff to supervise the staff who supervise the staff who work directly with students, consultants, research, testing, and data analysis. Large sums of money that should be spent on things that directly impact student learning.

"In short, I think our funding priorities are wrong. Instead of focusing on systems, we need to focus on students. After all, the students are the reason the school exist. They should be our highest priority.

"Thank you for taking the time to consider these ideas.

"Sincerely, Dismayed Teacher

WenD said...

And I'll second Seattle Citizen's comment to Dismayed, please let us know Enfield's response.

Salander said...

Teachers spend way too much time proctoring. This year at high school is is the HSPE followed by the EOC. The entire teaching staff spent two half days of "development time" evaluating senior projects. Another half day will be spent evaluating senior project proposals. Classes are canceled to do these things. Why not have all those administrators and coaches proctor and evaluate so we don't have to cancel classes so many times each year?

Jan said...

Salander: here is an even better suggestion -- eliminate the Senior Project! If you want to have a "class," titled "Independent Research" -- fine. Let kids who want to do a big project sign up, find a faculty sponsor (who is then on the hook to be the advisor, the judge, etc. Let the student be responsible for "convening" a panel of adults at the end to "judge" the project (that task would be part of the requirements of the course). The District adds so many silly things (volunteer hours, senior projects, health, occ ed, etc -- none of these things are bad per se, but it prevents kids from making the highest and best use of their individual time.

This sort of silliness is imposed because the decision-makers (downtown staff, board, state legislators, etc.) don't value teacher time and don't value student time. They "waste" other people's time just like they "waste" other people's money.

Jan said...

My idea is to institute a system that will, in fact, "cut" downtown staff to 5% Wait -- why not 6%? -- we use 6% because it seems to have been established as the accepted "norm" among other, better run Districts. But these are not ordinary times. These are extremely UNordinary times, from a budgetary point of view. So I think that, in keeping with the desire to concentrate remaining assets at the school level, the "amount" be cut to 5%. Hard cuts? Probably. But there are already hard cuts happening at schools all over town.

Unfortunately, we have seen how the District weasels, hides staff in the school budgets, fudges numbers, hires in the face of a "hiring freeze," etc. I say, we give each principal, at each school, a budget -- based on WSS, allocated Spec Ed $$ for those kids, etc. He or she should be directed to allocate no more than 5% of it to "downtown" expenses. Obviously, everyone needs to be allocated a "share" of certain downtown expenses (the superintendent's salary, legal, facilities, -- and those amounts should be "set" at something that adds up to LESS than 5% -- maybe 4.5%. Want to spend more? Want your school to have a 1/6th interest in a SECOND executive director? Well, maybe you use your extra .5% for that. Or wait, maybe you would rather "buy" a district-level math coach with that money. Want to go over 5%? Fine -- explain to your PTSA/faculty/parents/students why it is a better deal for you to "buy" further off-site resources from the district (more coaches, more "professional development, more consultants, etc.) rather than spending that money on additional teachers, aides, intensive academic intervention, etc.

We would find out pretty quickly what "resources" schools and teachers (and families) really want, and which ones are now larded into the budget on the theory that Stanford Center "wants us to want them" -- which is not the same thing.

If each school is only required to pay X for curriculum development, then maybe this will stop things like $700K consulting contracts that deliver a book list, science alignment that trashes kids' ability to create competitive school transcripts, etc.

Let the principals and teachers decide if and when the "downtown" guys can actually do something (like devise a curriculum) better than the teachers themselves. If they think it is cost effective -- they can ask the principal to "buy" that service from downtown. But maybe they would rather keep their librarian, or their counselor, or have a custodian more often.

Hm. And maybe, if they want, say, a software platform for facilitating project based learning, they can ask the folks at NOVA, instead of spending $700K on one that has proved to be of little use.

The way it works now, it is like QFC decides what groceries I want, they deliver them, and then I have to pay for them (and figure out how to make meals from them, or throw away the wasted stuff), whether I wanted them or not.

Anonymous said...

Jan,

That is a brilliant idea!

I haven't heard back from the Superintendent yet, but I will share her response should I ever receive one.

-Dismayed Teacher

TerrenceMenage for Board of Directors position 2 said...

Greetings,

I have filed my candidacy for the Seattle Schools Board of Directors position 2 and as this will be truly a grassroots campaign I wanted to provide public notice to the vital community blog for our public schools. As has been evident by the majority of postings on this site, as well as in the Times every so often, our public schools face serious challenges. It will require the sustained efforts of many people in our community to address the problems and resolve the long simmering issues that have plagued district administration for years.

I served as a classroom teacher, assistant administrator, Head Teacher of a district wide program for years in the Seattle Schools; during the course of my career I have also served as a senior faculty member for a master's in teaching program, an assistant principal and principal, in addition to serving as a consultant to a range of schools and programs and presenting at various educational conferences. Throughout my career I have consistently been a strong advocate for learners and learning as well as teachers and teaching and I anticipate continuing this work for as long as I live.

The mismanagement of our public schools that has produced multimillion dollar scandals on a consistent basis as well as decisions and policies that are counter-productive, all harm the children in the end. I wish to be clear that I support the reasonable call for a forensic audit of district headquarters operations.

For the sake of the children and the proper stewardship of taxpayer money and resources, we must bring an end to business as usual at headquarters. The Board of Directors needs to actually set policy for the district and see to it that the policies are adhered to and they need to adequately supervise the superintendent. As the current members of the board have failed in this, their paramount duty, it appears that a new board of directors must be elected to restore function and order to the district.

I am asking people to encourage and support concerned members of our community to oppose the incumbent members of the board. Considering the most recent scandals and debacles in decision-making, it is hard to believe each incumbent will not face strong opposition to maintaining the status quo. The time to act is now and the need to truly change how our public schools operate has never been more clear.

Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

Terrence J. Menage, Ed.D.

TerrenceMenage for Board of Directors position 2 said...

N.B.

The King County Elections website will be correcting my contact phone number when they update today.