Wednesday, July 27, 2011

District One Candidates on KUOW Yesterday

District One Candidates were interviewed on KUOW yesterday on Weekday.  They were interviewed separately and each had different questions.  (I get this for incumbents versus challengers but overall, I'd like to see the answer from all to at least one question that is the same.)

Sharon Peaslee was first up.  She came across to me as strong and confident with ready answers.   She was asked about her assertion that there was too much "top-down" governance and what she would change.  She said she would bring back site councils or strengthen BLTs, put the needs of students and schools first and allow math teachers to use whatever materials they needed to teach math.   She also mentioned replacing MAP testing with another called ALEX(?) which I couldn't find info on so if someone has a link, please let us know.

Peter Maier was next and like all incumbents spoke well (although I felt he mumbled a bit and I was having a hard time understanding what he was saying). 

He said that challengers' assertions over the current Board's lack of rigorous oversight was "inaccurate."  He said voting off the Superintendent and COO was the "ultimate no vote."  (Naturally, I still say and what choice did you really  have?  I'm not seeing this action as real political courage.  If they had voted her out AND challenged her to try to get the rest of her contract salary, that would have been courageous.)

He made the argument that it wasn't that he totally supported the Superintendent with all his yes votes. Rather, he said he works behind the scenes to help craft a vote more to his liking before voting yes.  His example was the early proposal to close Arbor Heights and Center School.  (He also took a dig at Sally Soriano, the previous Board member in his position and said she was "ineffective."  I didn't think this particularly appropriate.)

He also cited the absence policy that recently passed, saying he worked behind the scenes to give sufficient leeway on the issue.  Frankly, all they did was punt it to the principals.  You'll get your child's absence excused depending on what your principal decides.  That's a fair and balanced approach to governance?

The host also asked him about knowing about Silas Potter issues two years before the scandal and didn't act.   Peter said he was "off-handedly" given the report by Fred Stephens and that it was about the Small Business Works and not the Regional Small Business Development program.  He said he read it and asked Fred about it and believed him.  He said he didn't know it was expanded and he would have done more and been more vigilant if he had. 

C'mon Peter, you read a pretty damning report and didn't look into any of it on your own OR alert other Board members? 

He said there were controls to prevent this from happening again with the Internal Auditor and the ethics hotline.  The host said well, where is this Auditor?  Peter said "it will happen shortly and by the time school starts."  He also said the Board is doing quarterly reviews of departments.  (Well, only what the department tells you - I don't recall the Board asking a lot of questions of their own during these reviews.) 

He also, like Sherry and Steve, continue to praise the cuts at Central Adm and even said, when asked about maybe there are still too many people there, said well, we could cut more maintenance and custodians but it could go too deep.  Of all the people he could have thought, he pointed out people at the bottom and not at the top.  Pretty telling.

The host also asked about the NSAP making it more difficult for parents to access alt schools.  Peter said no and the alts are thriving.  He was also asked about the NSAP "resegregrating" SPS.  He said that may be happening and they will monitor it.  (And do what?  Bring back the racial tiebreaker?)

Last, was former teacher, John Cummings.  He came off a bit scattered but very sincere and frank.  He said he felt he was qualified because he has been in the classroom and knows how the district works.  He said maybe trade-offs had to happen to keep staff in schools like postponing textbook buys and asking teachers to give up raises to keep fellow teachers. 

He was asked about more cuts to Central Administration and he laughed and said, "Oh God, yeah."  Pretty upfront on that viewpoint.  He said a good example of the problems at central was the Martin Floe issue and how did the district not know how widely thought of Martin was before they attempted to fire him?

He said said that teaching gave him many skills that are applicable to Board work like listening to input from multiple sources, patience, and being adaptable. 

You'll note how long Peter's interview was versus the challengers. 


Marion said...

It bothered me that Peter's comments regarding the MLK sale made it seem that the property is still in public hands.

dan dempsey said...

I was equally disturbed by Peter's MLK sale remarks.

He made it sound like the State is ponying up $2 million for this sale to AME so it is the Board's responsibility to give away Three or Four times that amount to make it happen.

Peter is just plain irresponsible with public money.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Steve did the same thing almost as if they were required to make the sale that way. It's wrong to try to lead people to that conclusion.

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said...

Thanks for covering the interviews Melissa.

A couple of things.

I think the original absence proposal was harsh and inflexible to families. The compromise of a Principal being allowed to excuse your child's absence, while not the outcome I wanted, is certainly better than the original proposal. In that sense, it's possible that Peter did work behind the scenes to make this policy less harsh and more bearable for families.

About the NSAP making choice schools harder to access you have to look at the schools. The choice schools are as full as they ever were, so there are no less children being served. Maybe different kids are getting in, but not less kids.

As for the NSAP segregating Seattle, well, we, the families, asked for a neighborhood school assignment plan. We wanted it. We got it. And, yes, a neighborhood school assignment plan is going to naturally segregate. But lets also remember that before the NSAP families that lived outside the immediate neighborhood of popular traditional schools weren't getting in either. The high performing schools like Montlake, McGilvra, Bryant, View Ridge, Wedgewood, North Beach, Laurelhurst, Eckstein, and many others were no more diverse before the NSAP than they are after it. A better question for Peter might have been why all high schools did not offer the 10% choice seats this year, and what, moving forward, the board will do to make sure that promise is kept.

dan dempsey said...

Sharon Peaslee mentioned "ALEKS".

ALEKS materials say:
Obtain individually targeted instruction with ALEKS course products correlated to all 50 states' standards. Implemented as a core or supplement, ALEKS improves learning outcomes.

ALEKS is hopefully closer to the "Targeted interventions that are so urgently needed by struggling students".

I have some familiarity with ALEKS in math from several years ago. This would be worth investigating.

Note NWEA/MAP needs to go. It was purchased by MGJ to evaluate teachers... under the ruse of being helpful to students. Like many of the purchases approved by the SPS Board.... NWEA/MAP was a tool to implement the big plan.... of which TfA is a part.

ALEKS is aimed at assisting students to learn.

Like many of these products "ALEKS" success is likely highly correlated to its implementation.

Most of these type of products ... are hardly a sure thing. I think ALEKS would likely work very well in some situations.

Try this for a hoot. The What Works Clearinghouse

You will notice that most of the evidence is small "for almost everything". Unless you examine the actual research ... ya won't know much.

As far as I know there is no WWC record for ALEKS.

About Everyday Math research.

Seventy-two studies reviewed by the WWC investigated the effects of Everyday Mathematics® on elementary students. One study (Waite, 2000) is a quasi-experimental design that meets WWC evidence standards with reservations. The remaining 71 studies do not meet either WWC evidence standards or eligibility screens.

Connected Math Project ....

Research findings

The Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) is a mathematics curriculum designed for students in grades 6–8. Each grade level of the curriculum is a full-year program and covers numbers, algebra, geometry/measurement, probability, and statistics. The curriculum uses an investigative approach, and students utilize interactive problems and everyday situations to learn math concepts.


No studies of CMP meet What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards, and one study meets WWC evidence standards with reservations. The one study included more than 12,000 students from grades 6–8 in Texas.

Based on this study, the WWC considers the extent of evidence for CMP to be small for math achievement.


CMP was found to have no discernible effects on math achievement.

Sharon Peaslee said...

I proposed replacing MAP with ALEKS. It's an online teaching program that continuously assesses what each student is learning and charts it on a pie chart. It's a great way to differentiate instruction, support remediation and acceleration, and assess students accurately without failure or intimidation. It would also address the deficiencies in all our math curricula and could be used in conjuntion with them until we can afford to replace them. Cost is $35/student/yr with 10% discount for 1,000+ students. So it's more than MAP, but doesn't require a data center. If the district had gone in that direction, as 600+ schools and districts in WA have they could have saved $4mil on that expense. Plus the fact that it addresses math deficiencies and remediation/acceleration/differentiation needs justifies the expense. The website is ALEKS.com.

Anonymous said...

ALEKS may work for some, but not all. We took advantage of a free trial offer and my kids abandoned it after a week. They found it made math tedious and it really was more review than instruction.

I'm glad there are discussions around finding some alternatives for MAP as well as supplementation or leeway in the use of the District materials (wasn't Singapore supposed to be the supplement???), but I wouldn't run a campaign pushing ALEKS. It is pricier than some alternatives (First in Math is a less expensive and possibly more engaging alternative - it's $8 or less per student).


Charlie Mas said...

Let's remember that "working behind the scenes" means working in a secretively. Why couldn't Director Maeir do his work in an open, transparent way?

Anonymous said...

First in Math link:



Sharon Peaslee said...

On the subject of MLK: It and 4 other schools were sold far below market value to tennants that were already serving the communities. We didn't need to sell these schools at a huge loss to the district to help the communities. Plus they were all generating revenue. If there was an urgent need to sell real estate to fill a budget gap why didn't they unload vacant buildings that are falling apart and sell them to the highest bidders?

Sharon Peaslee said...

I've had experience with ALEKS, but First in Math looks good too. We could have a menu of options for students and teachers to pick from. ALEKS is the placement test used in all WA universities. So that alignment could be useful.

I'm wondering if the free trial simply didn't give Anonymous' student a complete enough assessment to place them at the right level. Also, I don't think ALEKS is great as a stand alone, but could be really good as a classroom option along with other online programs. In any case, I'm not selling ALEKS but proposing a comprehenisve alternative to MAP that solves the math curriculum problems plus all the others I mentioned.

Kathy said...

At the beginning of the budget cycle, M. DeBell asked the district to make $12M reduction in Central Administration/ Offices.

Peter claims he wants the administration running "lean". However, when the district proposed an $8M HQ reduction, Peter IMMEDIATELY accepted this proposal while eliminating funding for elementary school counselors and per pupil funding. I suspect Peter defines "lean" differently than schools needing support.

Peter likes to talk about firing the Superintendent. Yet, Peter fails to mention MGJ"S contract EXTENSION despite a damning report that showed increasing fiscal and operational incompetence. Peter's action caused the district an additonal $0.36M in severance package. To me, extending of contract is reflective of incredible poor judgement.

Peter is Chair of Operations. Try asking about the district's Fairmont Property. Try asking about the expired permit. Then, you'll find the district will need to spend $12M opening this property. Had the property's permit NOT expired- cost of opening the school would have been around $2M.

NESeattleMom said...

Interesting that Steve Sher is the one who interviewed the school board candidates and one of the crucial topics is Math. This is a hot topic for those who are into math. Steve Sher of KUOW used to have Cliff Mass (also employed by UW) very regularly to talk about the weather. Apparently, Cliff wanted to also talk about math instruction in SPS and the selection of the math curriculum. That was such a touchy subject, that Cliff is off the air. I heard one replacement weather man, who didn't seem to have the same interesting style as Cliff. Math instruction is like politics, very divisive. What is right? And math assessment--what is right? Depends on the student. I think more than ever, it also counts on having a teacher who can assess the student's progress on a daily/weekly/quarterly basis. But while the teacher is assessing a student, there is a lot going on in the classroom, so that job is tough.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, I don't know if I think it's secretive if Peter worked behind the scenes but if that's true, why has he never mentioned this before in three and a half years when people asked him about his votes? This is first I have ever heard him say about it.

Anonymous said...

When we consider Sher's role in the Cliff affair, when we consider Math and Weather in the context of courses offered at the University of Washington Department of Atmospheric Sciences**, and when we consider Sher interviewing School Board candidates where math is a hot topic, Sher is an embarrassment to the old quaint antiquated ideals of Public Radio.

Either Public Radio should just give up and start selling ads for stuff like Britney Spears, or, Sher should work for organizations peddling Spears.


Basic equations governing atmospheric motions and their elementary applications; circulation and vorticity; basic dynamics of midlatitude disturbances. Prerequisite: AMATH 353 or MATH 309; MATH 324.


Anonymous said...

My favorite part of the Maier interview was when he was asked about all his yes votes. About the first thing out of his mouth was his defense that he'd voted yes on terminating the superintendent's contract, which was a pretty big "no." Ha!