Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Garfield Students to Walk Out Today in Protest over State Cuts

From the Occupy Your High School Facebook Group:
We are Garfield High School students, speaking on behalf of and with Seattle Public Schools students tired of the constant cuts to our education. We are the people who have been affected most by these cuts, and we are showing that we care. For too long, this state's budget has been balanced on the backs of its students. Apparently, our representatives in Olympia have forgotten that the constitution says that funding education is this state's paramount duty. This is a student voice reminding our legislature of that fact.
And also of this one: We are this country's future. We will vote. And we will hold them accountable.
We will walk out of Garfield High School on Wednesday the 30th of November at 12:30 PM to march to City Hall and tell the world that we are fed up with the lack of funding for education.
We have two primary goals we hope to accomplish:
We want to stop the constant cuts to education that have hurt our school and other schools in the state.. We want to insert a student voice into the political discourse in issues regarding education.
Following are our grievances, things that have already happened as a result of past cuts:.
Students who want full schedules have been denied them due to a lack of teachers. Many seniors were denied a science class due to a complete lack of state science funding.. Academic courses, such as math classes, have been repeatedly cut from our school.. The removal of summer school and night school has removed resources that allowed many students to graduate on time, therefore effectively increasing the amount the state must spend on those students.
Join the movement (Walk Out), spread the word, get active.

Ultimate Frisbee Unites South End Rivals

Two heartwarming stories about rivals, Aki Kurose and Mercer Middle Schools, and a meeting of the minds (and bodies) over Ultimate Frisbee.  I heard the the KUOW story myself and had to smile and a reader (thanks!) sent me the PI story.   From the PI:

Four years ago, the kids from Aki Kurose and Asa Mercer middle schools – both in Seattle's South End – were bitter rivals. Mercer students would bus to Aki on half days to jump those who lingered after school. Aki students threw rocks at Mercer school buses. Gangs grew out of each middle school, and violence gripped the area.

So Terry and Rex Gaoaen of the Union Gospel Mission decided to take over the fledging ultimate program (at Mercer). Ultimate, they reasoned, was a peaceful sport.

But the North End kids didn't bother them as much as a nearer opponent: Aki Kurose. Tugade said that after losing to Aki in seventh grade, the players wondered, "Why be mad at them? They made good throws and good points. These guys aren't that bad."

By the end of the year, Aki and Mercer students were making each other banners.

By the next year, in 2008, Mercer won the spring league tournament and qualified to play an exposition game at the ultimate world championships in Vancouver, B.C.

When Phan breathlessly recounts that game, play by play, it sounds as though he is describing the plot of a Disney movie. By the time he delivers the punch line – they won the world championship! – his words are tumbling over each other.

Today, about 80 students play for Mercer, and the team has won Seattle's fall league five years in a row. Martin Piccoli, an eighth-grade language arts and literature teacher said that ultimate has created a "momentum of positive energy" within the school. His conversations with ultimate players are productive, he said, because they're willing to take responsibility for their behavior.

From the KUOW story:

Henry and Christian say the whole experience has made them better people. Everything, from playing on a co–ed team with girls to developing confidence, and having friends at high schools all over town.
Henry and Christian are seniors at Franklin High where they co–captain the boys' Ultimate team, and they're assistant coaches at their middle school alma mater, Mercer.

It's a great story and a great sport.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Capacity Management Meeting at Eckstein

FYI, the next FACMAC meeting is this Friday, Dec. 2nd from 10-noon at the Stanford Center, Room 3802. 
 I am sorry to say this but I think there is a lot of confusion still and frankly, this meeting only served to exacerbate it.  That's my impression.

News from Around the District

The district's School Beat newsletter is now available.  Some of the stories:
  • how to find out if school is delayed or canceled this winter
  • Aki Kurose students break world record in 10-minute indoor rowing
  • Jane Addams K-8 had a Science Career day with 19 scientists, professors and engineers. 
  • Roosevelt's Jazz Band will be playing its annual Duke Ellington's Jazz Nutcracker this weekend.
  • Nathan Hale High School is having its annual poinsettias sale to benefit it horticulture program.
  • Remember those defibrillators the district installed through The Heart of Seattle Schools project?  One of them saved a life recently when an employee at South Shore used one on a friend who collapsed while playing basketball at South Shore.   It only took one shock to bring him back and 911 was there on the scene to take him to the hospital. 
  • John Muir Elementary won the Seattle MathFest 2011 Spirit Award and MLK, Jr. Elementary took second-place at the MathFest held on November 3rd.
  • Ten - count 'em - ten short films by Ballard High video production students were named "works of merit" by the young People's Film Festival, a six-state regional festival. 
What good news have you heard?

Tuesday Open Thread

Anyone attend last night's capacity management meeting at Denny?  Any updates?   I plan on attending the Eckstein one tonight.

I attended the C&I committee meeting yesterday; they didn't talk about innovation schools but there is news on graduation requirements and instructional waivers.  I'll try to post a thread by the end of the day.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Teachers in Olympia Today

This in from the Stranger Slog:

Jesse Hagopian, a leader of Social Equality Educators, notes the 2010 ruling in King County Superior Court, that found Washington State is failing to meet its constitutional obligation to fund basic education. 

Just as the gavel struck and the Washington State House of Representatives concluded its opening day of session before the budget committee convenes, nearly three-dozen teachers stood up to protest what they fear will be yet another year of cuts to basic education and state colleges. 

"Mic check!" yelled Jesse Hagopian, wearing a suit. "Mic check," yelled back the teachers in red vests, who unfurled a banner that said: "Citizens aren't the lawbreakers. Lawmakers who cut funding from schools are the lawbreakers." And they chanted:
It is immoral
It is illegal
These cuts will hurt families
These cuts will hurt kids
These cuts will hurt educators
King county Superior Court judge
Ruled that these cuts are constitutionally illegal
The Constitution of Washington state reads it is the paramount duty to fully
Fund education
We therefore issue a citizens arrest of this Washington State Legislature
We call for taxing the rich
We call to fund the schools

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Seattle Schools Week of November 28-Dec. 3,2011

Busy week in SPS.
Monday, November 28th
Curriculum & Instruction Committee meeting - 4 p.m.  Topics include: skills center update, Board policies on hostility/defamation/discrimination and retaliation, waiver policy, and innovation schools' policy.

Capacity Management meeting at Denny at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, November 29th
Work Session on Board policy Series 6000 (which I believe is about fiscal management.)

Capacity Management meeting at Eckstein at 6 p.m.

IB at Rainier Beach High School meeting, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, November 30th
Oath of office for newly elected Board members at 4 p.m.-5 p.m.

Work Sessions
Nutrition and Advertising 5-6 p.m.
Athletics 6:30- 8 p.m.
Nutrition Services 8-9:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 1
Capacity Management meeting at Washington Middle School, 6 p.m.

Saturday, December 3
Board Retreat - NE Branch Library, 6801 35th Ave NE from
11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Now this should be interesting.  New Board members, probably some talk about a superintendent search, goal-setting, etc.

Southeast Community Meeting

Last year, when the District rolled out the School Reports, there were Community Meetings in every region of the City. I don't know if they are doing that again in every region, but there is a meeting of some kind this week in the Southeast. For some reason, it is not on the District calendar.

IB @ RB?
Find out about exciting developments at Rainier Beach High School.Southeast Community Meeting with Seattle Public Schools

Tuesday, November 29, 6:00 pm
Rainier Beach High School

Join Executive Directors Brianna Dusseault and Michael Tolley to review the District's vision and work plan for the Southeast, see newly disaggregated 2010-11 student performance data, and learn about the upcoming IB (International Baccalaureate) program at Rainier Beach High School. 

We hope our families and community can join us as we work together to build high-achieving, vibrant schools in our Southeast neighborhood.

The IB opportunityThe International Baccalaureate program at Rainier Beach High School will be an inclusive, challenging, and flexible program that will provide our students in Southeast Seattle with a great opportunity. The IB program provides excellent college preparation and a well-rounded education. The IB program helps students explore their strengths and obtain the academic training they need for success in college.

Rainier Beach High School is a candidate school for the Diploma Program, pursuing authorization as an IB World School. We anticipate IB courses for juniors and seniors will be offered beginning September 2013. Candidate status gives no guarantee that authorization will be granted.

Capacity Management Community Meetings

From Seattle Public Schools:

Seattle Public Schools will host three community meetings, to be held on Nov. 28, 29 and Dec. 1, to share information and ask for feedback about the District’s short-term Capacity Management plan for the 2012-13 school year. The District is experiencing considerable enrollment growth, and with that comes challenges. We are gathering input and working on creating a short-, intermediate- and long-term plan to address our capacity. Our enrollment this year is about 48,500 students. We are using this enrollment information, along with projections and community engagement, to analyze capacity for the 2012-13 school year.

A Facilities and Capacity Management Advisory Committee (FACMAC) was established in October, 2011. This volunteer group of community members represents all regions of the city and has diverse interests in various programs. Technical experts and school representatives are also part of the committee.  The FACMAC is working with staff to identify and help address the short, intermediate and long term facilities challenges. As its first task, the group is focusing on our capacity issues for the 2012-13 school year.
To gather as much feedback as possible, Seattle Public Schools will hold three additional community engagement meetings regarding the proposed capacity management plan: 
  • Monday, Nov. 28, 6-7:30 p.m.
    Denny International Middle School Library
    2601 S.W. Kenyon St.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 29, 6-7:30 p.m.
    Eckstein Middle School Library
    3003 N.E. 75th St.

  • Thursday, Dec. 1, 6-7:30 p.m.
    Washington Middle School Library
    2101 S. Jackson St.
The meetings will include presentations by Seattle Public School Capital Projects and Planning staff members, followed by a question and answer period. Comments from the community will be collected, recorded, considered and included in the District’s Short Term Capacity Management planning process. For information on the District’s capacity management process, visit http://bit.ly/rpx2kn

Saturday, November 26, 2011

From a Teacher

A reader had asked Charlie about his plan to close the achievement gap.  He had replied that he has made suggestions in the past but that is the Superintendent's and Board's jobs to find a plan.  So far what we are doing is not working in any visible way.  I believe that the newly-constituted Board may have some new ideas.

But this teacher also had some other thoughts and I applaud him/her for it because (1) in Finland, they have much more planning and collaboration time among teachers to great results, (2) I have been saying for a long time that no one experiences the kind of constant change at work that teachers do - it must be terribly frustrating and (3) more testing means teachers have less flexibility even as they may know students who may be rushed through curriculum.

Maybe more planning time for teachers instead of the PLC, collaboration, team, staff and God knows what other meetings that we are required to attend.

How about sustaining a curriculum beyond four or five years so that teachers can actually get to the point of teaching them well?

Reduce central admin and get more money out there to the schools. Increases to 116 central admin employees at a time you're cutting teachers' salaries? What's that all about.

Reduce the curriculum at elementary so we can do less better. I rush my kids to get it in.

I'm sorry. I probably don't say it well. We go round and round and really the evidence is there. We know what's wrong. We may not always know how to fix it. But we sure are trying in each and every classroom. There is not a teacher out there - superior or mediocre - who looks at eighteen to thirty kids every day and doesn't want them to succeed.

Saturday Open Thread

Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one.

Looks like a thought machine works in the governor's office in the state of Kansas.  Governor Brownback was speaking at high school as part of a Kansas Youth in Government program.  One senior tweeted something about confronting him and telling him he "sucked".   Here's what happened next From ThinkProgress:

On Tuesday, Sullivan was called to her principal’s office and told that the tweet had been flagged by someone on Brownback’s staff and reported to organizers of the Youth in Government program. [...]
Sullivan said the principal ordered her to write letters of apology to Brownback, the school’s Youth in Government sponsor, the district’s social studies coordinator and others.

Not much for the First Amendment, eh, Governor?  Principal?

Update:  it turns out that the student did not say anything, publicly or privately, to the Governor.  She just was tweeting big and the Governor's entourage picked up on it.  That makes him even a bigger baby than before.   A little high school girl disses you and you make a federal case.

The girl has refused to write an apology to the Governor, so we'll see if she gets suspended or further reprimanded.  If so, look for the ACLU to step in and the district to back off.

What's on your mind?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Temple Grandin to Speak at UW

Dr. Temple Grandin, an noted animal scientist and advocate for those with autism, will speak on Improving Animal Welfare at UW's Hogness Auditorium (A-420), Health Sciences Center, on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 4 p.m.

The even is free and open to the public with a booksigning to follow the talk.

From the Times:

Temple Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism as a child but went on to obtain a Ph.D. in animal science, is noted for her work exploring the similarities between autistic consciousness and the thought processes of animals — research that has led to improvements in livestock handling to reduce animal stress.

Grandin’s research on pictorial thinking shared by animals and autistics alike has resulted in more than 400 scientific and lay publications, 6 books, and numerous awards.

In 2010, TIME Magazine listed Grandin as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Her talk may not be a topic that interests you but if you want to see someone with autism who shows the brilliance that lies within many autistics, go hear her speak.

The absolutely wonderful film of her life, HBO's Temple Grandin, is a great film if you want to understand how the mind of one person with autism works.   It is exceptionally well-made and acted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Advanced Learning Task Force

The new Advanced Learning Task Force (or Steering Committee or Advisory Committee or whatever) has had its first meeting. It's kind of a mess.

Mayor's Office Seeks Candidates for Families&Education Levy Oversight

From the Mayor's Office:

Council and Mayor seeking eight qualified individuals for 
Families and Education Levy Oversight Committee

The City of Seattle is seeking candidates to fill eight citizen positions on the Families and Education Levy Oversight Committee. Approved by Seattle voters on November 8, the $232 million Levy will be effective from 2012 through 2018, providing funding for school readiness and early learning; academic achievement in elementary, middle and high schools; guidance and related support for college and career preparation; and student health services.

The Levy Oversight Committee (LOC) was established by Ordinance 123567 to make recommendations on the design and funding of Levy programs and to monitor the progress of Levy programs in meeting Levy outcomes and goals. In addition to making recommendations on the Levy Implementation and Evaluation Plan and the Partnership Agreement with Seattle Public Schools, the LOC reviews outcomes and indicators of progress, and reviews and advises on program evaluation, program changes, and proposed expenditures and allocations of Levy funds, including the annual Levy budget.

Citizen members serve three year terms and may be reappointed. In order to stagger the terms, two members will serve single year terms initially and three will serve two year terms initially. Citizen members should have an interest in education policy and professional, personal or research experience associated with the growth and development of children, including their academic success. The City also seeks candidates who have an understanding of and experience working with new immigrants and refugees, communities of color, Native American tribes, children of different abilities, and others who have historically not been academically successful in traditional education programs.

Applicants should live or work in Seattle. Candidates must disclose if they may have a potential conflict of interest due to a relationship with an entity that receives or competes for funding under the ordinance.

If interested in applying to serve, please send a resume and letter of interest, and a completed potential conflict of interest form, to Holly Miller by e-mail at holly.miller@seattle.gov or by fax at 206-233-5142 before 8:00 a.m., Monday, December 5, 2011.

Conflict of interest form: http://www.seattle.gov/council/burgess/attachments/2011-11disclosure_form.doc

The Mayor and City Council shall each appoint four citizen members. Members appointed by the Mayor shall be confirmed by the City Council.

Charter Schools and Federal Law - Fourth in the Series

 I decided to create a separate thread about the federal law and charter schools.  (I don't mention Special Education here as I will write a new thread on that issue and charter schools.)

To be clear, creation of charter schools is a right given to states.  The federal government has NO say over charter law in each state.

The enactment of State charter school laws is solely a State prerogative, and the definition of a “charter school” under State law is a matter of State policy.

However the feds give out a lot of money, via grants, for charters to plan and start-up.  This has escalated under the Obama administration as Secretary Duncan is a huge fan.

Below is info straight from the US DOE and I am going to print it verbatim.

The Charter Schools Program CSP) was authorized in October 1994, under Title X, Part C of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended, 20 U.S.C. 8061-8067.  The program was amended in October 1998 by the Charter School Expansion Act of 1998 and in January 2001 by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

The program, which provides support for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools, is intended to enhance parent and student choices among public schools and give more students the opportunity to learn to challenging standards. Enhancement of parent and student choices will result in higher student achievement, however, only if sufficiently diverse and high-quality choices, and genuine opportunities to take advantage of those choices, are available to all students. Every student should have an equal opportunity to attend a charter school.

Federal law and charter schools:
  • Comply with the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
  • Meet all applicable Federal, State, and local health and safety requirements
  • As public schools, charter schools must be non-religious in their programs, admissions policies, governance, employment practices and all other operations, and the charter school's curriculum must be completely secular. A charter school may use the facilities of a religious organization to the same exten that other public schools may use these facilities so long as the charter school remains non-religious in all its programs and operations.
  • There is not provision or mechanism in the law that recognizes conversions of private schools into public charter schools.
Lottery requirements:
  •   In addition, a charter school may weight its lottery in favor of students seeking to change schools under the public school choice provisions of ESEA Title I, for the limited purpose of providing greater choice to students covered by those provisions.  For example, a charter school could provide each student seeking a transfer under Title I with two or more chances to win the lottery, while all other students would have only one chance to win.
  • A charter school may not create separate lottery pools for girls and boys, in order to ensure that it has a reasonably equal gender balance.  A school seeking to achieve greater gender balance should do so by targeting additional recruitment efforts toward male or female students.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Charter Law - Third in the Series on Charter Schools

This is probably the most difficult piece of the charter puzzle because (1) there are 41 charter laws and (2) the mission and goals of those laws vary greatly (although the language might be similar).

Tuesday Open Thread

A soggy, windy day. 

What's on your mind?

Technology in Education

There is a lot of talk about the uses of technology in Education. The Seattle Times recently ran an ill-informed and ill-considered editorial about it.

What potential benefits can technology offer students? How should it be used? How should it NOT be used?

Technology offers some tempting opportunities.

Individualized Instruction. We are all struggling to find a means to provide more individualized instruction that provides lessons at the frontier of each student's knowledge and skills. Technology could really help with that by allowing each student to work at his or her own pace on skill-building exercises.

Dispensing Information. In a Google era, the role of the teacher as a dispenser of information is outdated. The teacher needs to focus on other roles. If we accept the truth that electronic media is better as an on-demand source of raw data, and if we delegate that duty to it, then teacher time would be freed. That time could then be used for the roles that the teacher does better than the machine: motivating, providing context, engaging higher order cognitive skills, teaching collaboration skills, and more.

Electronic Media. Let's face it, the dominant medium of our time has shifted. It is now electronic. Preparing students for the future requires preparing them to be conversant as both consumers and producers of electronic media. Printed text and Standard English are not dead - you're reading this and it is little more than an electronic version of printed text written in Standard English. But this blog does have an untapped potential for mixed multi-media. I could insert an image, a sound file, a video file or a data file if I thought it would help me achieve my goal as the creator of the document. Observe how these various media styles are integrated into the Stranger Slog. There are skills to be learned there and we would do our children a dis-service to fail to train them in these skills just as it would be a dis-service to fail to train them in the creation and interpretation of the dominant media of the past (drawing, text, photography, telegraph, radio, television).

Student Data Management. I'm hesitant to include this in the list of benefits. So far, it is only a potential benefit. The problem here isn't the tool but the poor use being made of it. There is a possibility of some elegant uses of student data to suggest needs for teachers and administrators to address. Unfortunately, the current data set and the current administration chooses instead to misuse the tool primarily as a management tool for teacher supervision. This tool is a microscope and they are using it as a hammer.

Potential Cost Savings. This is something of a lie. If you review the best uses of technology in education you will see that they are primarily new efforts, not more efficient versions of existing efforts. Consequently, technology won't save any money, it will just allow us to do additional things more cheaply than we could do them without technology. But it is no more a savings than buying a luxury car on sale when you could have bought an economy car instead.

Technology also has over-reached and, as described above, been mis-applied. There area  number of times when people have looked to technology to do more than it can do well. And technology comes with costs.

I'm not surprised that the Education Reform movement has supported expanded uses of technology in the classroom. There are a number of themes within that movement and technology resonates with all of them. They include:

  • Spending money on stuff sold by the private sector instead of salaries in the public sector
  • Individualized instruction
  • Higher worker productivity through technology
  • Privatization of public education
  • Standardization of public education
  • Training children to sit at computers for extended periods
  • Measuring complex educational outcomes with simple metrics
  • The de-professionalization of teaching

Superintendent Search - Yes or No

I think this discussion is happening on multiple threads, so let's bring the discussion together on one thread.

The School Board will soon have to make a decision about hiring a superintendent. They have two basic options:

  • They could offer a contract (of one to three years) to Dr. Enfield.
  • They could seek (either locally or nationally) other applicants the job.

There are arguments to be made for each option and for variations within each option. There are costs and risks associated with each option.

Those who support offering a contract to Dr. Enfield generally contend that Dr. Enfield's performance has been acceptable and that the costs and risks of seeking other applicants is not justified.

Those who support seeking other applicants for the job generally believe either:

  • Dr. Enfield's work has been unacceptable, and she should not continue in the role, or
  • Dr. Enfield's work has been good enough, but there may be someone better available
These folks contend that the potential upside of opening the position for applicants outweighs the costs and risks.

There are a number of unknowns.
  • Would Dr. Enfield accept the position if it were offered to her?
  • Would Dr. Enfield apply for the position if it were thrown open?
  • Would we attract highly qualified applicants?
  • Would the Board make a sound hiring decision?
  • Could we possibly both lose Dr. Enfield and fail to attract or sign a qualified applicant?
  • How long would it take a new superintendent to gain traction?
Finally, and I just can't resist the delicious irony of this, shouldn't we do a search - if only to broaden the candidate pool? Last I heard, the superintendent and the Board believed that the District and the students are best served by the greatest possible hiring pool. That would suggest that we should open the position to other applicants. The superintendent didn't see anything wrong with expecting teachers who already had a contract with the District to apply for our teaching jobs along side applicants from outside the District. She shouldn't see anything wrong with it when the shoe is on her foot.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Survey on ... the Superintendent VS the Board?

Yet another in the series of odd surveys the district is putting out, here's the latest.   At least, it is short but does require every question to be answered in order for it to register.

It's a all over the map.  Questions about what you think are should be the priorities of the Superintendent and the district, questions about the new leadership and its role, etc.

Here are two of the odder questions:

Since the change in leadership, do you think the Seattle School District is currently headed in the right direction, or the wrong direction?

Which leadership - Superintendent or Board?  That needed to be clear right up front but yet, you are left guessing.  Also, Enfield has been on the job less than a year and the election just happened - it's not a great question to be asking at this point in time. 

As you know, the Superintendent is hired by the School Board, who are (sic) elected by the voters.  There are different ways a Board and Superintendent can operate.  And of course the best model is the Board and Superintendent working together.  But in general - if you had to choose - do you think it is better to:

Have a strong School Board that establishes the direction and sets policy for the district, with the Superintendent responsible for implementing the vision and policies of the Board.

Have a strong Superintendent who brings a clear vision to the job - with the Board primarily in the role of overseeing the Superintendent's performance and holding him or her accountable.

Again, who wrote this thing?  Who is pushing this Board versus Superintendent power struggle?  I don't want one stronger than the other.  They have equal power (with the Board holding a bit more as they are the Superintendent's bosses in term of accountability).

I smell the strong whiff of Strategies 360 here along with the Alliance. 

What is the purpose of this survey?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seattle Schools This Week

A short and truncated week due to parent/teacher conferences and Thanksgiving.

Monday, Nov. 21
Legislative Forum from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. - I'm actually a little unclear on what this is so I'll have to call tomorrow and ask.
Board Work Session on Capacity Management from 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Heads up, next week are the community meetings on capacity management:
 Monday, Nov. 28, 6-7:30 p.m. at Denny International Middle School Library, 2601 S.W. Kenyon St.
Tuesday, Nov. 29, 6-7:30 p.m. at Eckstein Middle School Library, 3003 N.E. 75th St.
Thursday, Dec. 1, 6-7:30 p.m. at Washington Middle School Library, 2101 S. Jackson St.

To note from SPS:

Local NBA stars Brandon Roy, Jamal Crawford, Will Conroy, Isaiah Thomas and Spencer Hawes team up with Councilmember Bruce Harrell and Mayor Mike McGinn to give away 2,000 Thanksgiving dinners to families on the free and reduced lunch program.To sign up, go in person to one of Seattle Parks and Recreation's community centers listed below to reserve for a free Thanksgiving dinner by Monday, November 21st:

Rainier: 4600 38th Avenue South
Van Asselt: 2820 S Myrtle St  
Garfield: 2323 East Cherry St
Yesler: 917 E Yesler Way
Miller: 330 19th Ave E
South Park: 8319 8th Ave S
Delridge: 4501 Delridge Way SW
High Point: 6920 34th Ave SW
Jefferson: 3801 Beacon Ave S
Ballard: 6020 28th Ave NW
Bitter Lake: 13035 Linden Ave N

How About Better Parents?

That's the question that Thomas Friedman asks in the NY Times this week.    The reason he brings it up is a recent study by PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) which is the testing group for 15-years around the world on math, science and reading skills.  It's the testing used to compare countries' education systems.

PISA was encouraged by OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) to go beyond testing and look at what is happening in the home.  They looked at about 20 countries and parents of 5,000 students in those countries.  They then compared that information with test results and published these three findings.
  • “Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all." "On average, the score difference is 25 points, the equivalent of well over half a school year."
  • "The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family’s socioeconomic background."
  • "Parents’ engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA.” 
Schleicher explained to me that “just asking your child how was their school day and showing genuine interest in the learning that they are doing can have the same impact as hours of private tutoring. It is something every parent can do, no matter what their education level or social background.” (bold mine)

The kind of parental involvement matters, as well. “For example,” the PISA study noted, “on average, the score point difference in reading that is associated with parental involvement is largest when parents read a book with their child, when they talk about things they have done during the day, and when they tell stories to their children.” The score point difference is smallest when parental involvement takes the form of simply playing with their children.  

He also references a study by The Center for Public Education that echoes these results (and has some pretty interesting things to say).  I was particularly struck by this:

Survey parents and teachers to understand their perspective on parent involvement. Investigate how parents want to be involved, and how teachers want parents to be involved. 

and this:

Continue to survey or otherwise track the effects of involvement, in order to use schools’ time and resources wisely. In these tight economic times, focus on putting schools’ money and energy into what works best, rather than continuing ineffective programs.

Mr. Friedman ends this way:
To be sure, there is no substitute for a good teacher. There is nothing more valuable than great classroom instruction. But let’s stop putting the whole burden on teachers. We also need better parents. Better parents can make every teacher more effective.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Poking the Hornets Nest

It looks like the Board election has poked, prodded and possibly smashed open the hornets nest that is the education establishment in Seattle.  The initial charge, before the election, was clearly the Seattle Times but they have been largely mute since the election results.

Now the Alliance for Education has decided to really insert itself and frankly, if I were anyone on the Board (current or new and/or a person with a spine), I would not like it.

Chief Sealth Petitions for Portables

The community at Chief Sealth High School is petitioning the superintendent for portables. The overcrowding of the school has put teachers on carts.

From the petition:
We informed the District as our remodel was being designed that the remodeled Sealth would have less space due to the removal of the portables. Our enrollment has increased by 400 students since that time and now we have even less space. Our capacity has been set at 1,200 students and we are now at 1,246. Our remodel did not include any planned work spaces. 

See the petition here.

Perhaps this petition should go, instead, to the FACMAC.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Teachers and Process

From one reader about exiting poorly performing teachers:

What is "the process" and how can parents provide support and documentation? How does a parent know if the process is underway? What timeframe does it involve? What constitutes a "bad" teacher according to the District? 

All good questions.  I don't know the whole process.  It is likely detailed in the teachers' contract. 

What I do know is that the first step is to go to the principal and ask.  He or she should be able to tell you what you, as a parent, need to do and what next steps are.  If he or she is unwilling to do so, document your outreach and go to the Executive Director (and, of course, cc the principal).  

I believe the timeframe is at least 6 months to a year (unless there is gross negligence or abuse) because if the principal believes the action is warranted (again, is this based on the number of parent complaints?  I'm not sure), he has to sit down with the teacher and a union rep and provide a plan of action for the teacher to make corrections.  Then the teacher has a certain amount of time to make good on the plan and then otherwise, more steps. 

Maybe someone who is a teacher or a union rep could let us know.


Did you know pizza is a vegetableAccording to our Congress it is.

The House of Representatives dealt a blow to childhood obesity warriors on Thursday by passing a bill that abandons proposals that threatened to end the reign of pizza and French fries on federally funded school lunch menus.

The scuttled changes, which would have stripped pizza's status as a vegetable and limited how often French fries could be served, stemmed from a 2010 child nutrition law calling on schools to improve the nutritional quality of lunches served to almost 32 million U.S. school children.

Who got this pushed through?  Why our friends in the AFFI (American Frozen Food Institute) with members like ConAgra, Heinz, General Mills and Kraft. 

The USDA wanted at least one-half cup of tomato paste on a pizza to qualify as a vegetable serving instead of the current two tablespoons. 

Even Italians wouldn't call pizza a vegetable.  Boo to Congress.

Heard back from one person who went to the last Board/PTSA meeting on superintendent qualities/traits.  This seems to have been a different meeting in the south end than the north-end ones. 

The consensus there (about 95%) was FOR a national search.  Carr and McGuire got called on their lament about time and cost by one attendee who said it was as if they were trying to dissuade people instead of just giving them the facts.   The point was made that the district, in early 2011, had an extra $110k for Strategies 360 to do communications work.  If we have that kind of extra money, we have it for a superintendent search. 

So whether or not they do a search, money can't be the issue.  (In fact, if it is, I'LL raise the money for it.) 

I attended the BEX Oversight Committee meeting this morning at Ingraham High School.   The new addition is coming along and looks very nice (if somewhat stark).   It is better but the school still has a piecemeal look to it (given that all Ingraham has ever received is piecemeal work).    Move-in for the new addition will be MLK, Jr. weekend so the students will come back use a new part of their school.

Capital Updates from the meeting:
  • it seems that they have one(!) heat source for both Denny and Chief Sealth.  As I wrote in my notes, "Was that a good idea?"  It seems there are some complaints from teachers about the heat as well as the dawning realization that Sealth didn't get all-new equipment and so some of the old equipment is working as it always has.
  • Garfield's final acceptance of work has been decoupled from the lawsuits by contractors against the district.  There seems to be no end in sight for the lawsuits.
  • The district's lawsuit with the contractors over the floor at South Shore K-8 also has no resolution in sight yet either.
  • They received a dozen applications for four spaces on the Committee.  They hope to make a selection (this is the Board's work) by early December.   Kay Smith-Blum said they were really pleased with the quality of the applicants.
  • There was also mention of capacity management and that the district doesn't want "to publicly catch up again."  No kidding.  
  • The district also hired another "Senior project manager" for capital programs  with an eye to ending the use of the ESD help that they have been contracting for over the last year.  They also discussed hiring a "planner" (versus a demographer) to help with capacity management and BEX IV.   
BEX IV was discussed in draft form (guiding principles).  Basically, the district may go much bigger this time.  BEX III was about $490M and, with inflation factored in, BEX IV could be $560 or go as high as ...$800M.  That is a big chunk of change.  The district needs it but I think that is one scary number (even with the recent passage of the larger Families and Education levy).  They also note "reduce dependency on temporary structures as part of the long-term capital program."

Crosscut Article about Seattle School Board (the new one)

I had an article published in today's Crosscut about the elections and what is on the to-do list for our new Board.

In it I mention the issue of deciding about whether there will be a superintendent search or not.  I have learned today that Dr. Enfield will not apply if the Board does decide to conduct a search.  

I don't quite know what to make of that because it is not a ding against Dr. Enfield to have a search.   If she feels that way, then maybe she isn't the person for the job.  The Board's overriding duty is to make sure we have the best person in place for OUR district. 

She was appointed interim superintendent in the midst of a crisis as the best person at the time but there were surely no guarantees made so I don't know why she would feel if they create a search it hurts her.

My belief is that even as she has put on a more accessible and friendly public face for SPS and calmed the waters after the exit of MGJ, she certainly hasn't had time to prove that she (and she alone) is the best person for the job.  Having Dr. Enfield explain that to the Board doesn't seem to be a big ask on their part.

(FYI, the oath of office for the newly elected/returning Board members is Wednesday, November 30th from 4-5p.m.  It is generally a short affair with a small reception afterwards.  The public is welcome.  Immediately following that is their first Work Session on Nutrition and Advertising Policies followed by a second Work Session on Athletics followed by a third Work Session on Nutrition Services.  Yes, this sounds wacky to me but it's what's up on the website.)

A Conversation with Lynne Varner

I am repeating my offer to Lynne Varner. I invite her to join me in a reasonable and respectful conversation about public education.

This thread is for that conversation. It will be for just her and me. I will delete comments from anyone else, so don't bother posting them.

Here is her invitation, posted to the comments of her most recent column:

Ms Varner, if you want a calm, nuanced, reasoned and reality-based conversation about Education Reform, I will be delighted to give you one. I'll host.

You can meet me at the saveseattleschools blog. I will make a space for you there. Don't be afraid; it will be just you and me. We can cover any topic you like: testing, charters, unions, the Gates Foundation, Teach for America, the Seattle School Board, math curricula, the opportunity gap, whatever you like. More, I will honor your wish to keep away from any topic you don't want to discuss.

No cheap shots. No debating points. No gotcha. I will show you courtesy and respect and expect the same in return. Just two people who share an interest in improving public education but appear to disagree about how to foster that improvement.

Ms Varner, you have now written two columns about how you pine for a reasonable conversation about education reform. I am offerring you exactly that.
Let's see if she shows up.

Open Thread Friday

What an interesting week. 

From the district:  the State of the District speech will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on Saturday the 19th on cable channel 26 (Comcast).  This is the speech the Superintendent gave on Wednesday. 

Also this weekend is the College Application Help: Dream Project Admissions Workshop at UW from 8:00 am to 4:00 p.m. for seniors working on college applications.  There are parent information session from 8:30-10:00 am in Kane Hall.  Breakfast, lunch and snacks will be provided as well as computers, printing and in-person advice from college admission counselors. 

Contact your high school counselor or
uwdreamproject@uw.edu or
Lily Ly

And for middle school and high school students there is See it. Be it:Explore Your Future Career.
This is at Seattle Center, Rainier Room from 10 am to 2 pm.  Sessions include STEM, Arts and Design, Service sector, Sports and Wellness, Trades and Business and Entrepreneurship. 

A raft of School Board community meetings:

DeBell - 9-11 am at Cafe Appasionato
Carr - 8:30-10 am at Bethany Community Church
Patu - 10 am-noon at Tully's at Rainier Ave South/Genesee
Smith-Blum - 10-11:30 am, Capitol Hill library
Sundquist - 3-4:30 p.m.  at High Point Library

What's on your mind?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Good News

From our friends at the West Seattle blog, news I had to print from Roxhill Elementary:
Last Thursday, November 10th, Roxhill fourth graders were treated to a Living Voices performance of Native Vision. Lisa Gladstone, a Blackfoot Indian from Browning, Montana did a remarkable job of engaging our students in the story of Alice, a Navajo girl sent to a government run boarding school in the 30’s and 40’s. Alice became a nurse in the Pacific during World War ll, struggling to keep true to her native culture in a changing world. Before the performance, Roxhill students had read about and discussed how native children fared in the boarding schools and had also learned about the contributions of the Navajo Code Talkers. Their rapt attention during the performance and perceptive questions afterward spoke to how valuable this performance was in enhancing their knowledge of a very complex subject.
I am writing to you because this performance was a gift to Roxhill, a gift from the PTSA of a neighboring West Seattle school, Schmitz Park. With more than 80% of our students on free and reduced lunch, Roxhill does not have the resources to pay for performances of this type. The Schmitz Park PTSA paid for the Living Voices performance at their school and gifted us with an additional performance. We at Roxhill would like to acknowledge this generous gift and applaud the Schmitz Park PTSA members for their dedication to the educational welfare of Seattle children who live beyond the boundaries of their own school.
We are deeply appreciative,
Pat Bliquez
Roxhill Teacher/Librarian

Carmela Dellino
Roxhill Principal
Thank you to Schmitz Park PTSA who stepped up for a neighbor school.  It was one event for one day but what a difference it probably made in the lessons being taught in class by bringing it alive.  And, the lesson we learn about the kindness of strangers. 

Need Some Updates

I am planning on attending the meeting tonight at South Shore K-8 about desired traits/values in a superintendent. 

Has anyone attended any of the other meetings?  Any feedback or impressions?

Also, I hear there was some unhappiness expressed at the Board meeting last night over the release of information about TFA recruits.  I don't think the video is up yet; anyone want to weigh in on that one? 

Also, the BEX Oversight Committee meeting tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. is at Ingraham High School and not the headquarters as I had previously posted (thank you to Theresa Wippel at SPS Communications for the update).

Peaslee Vote Count Still Advancing

As of last night, the vote count in the District 1 School Board race is as follows:

Peaslee - 50.88%  (7,1373)
Maier   - 49.56%  (7,0631)

The difference between them is 742 votes which, at this point, would clear the election from a recount.  Of course, the issue is that there are still votes out there to be counted so nothing is done.

Please, do check to make sure your ballot has been received AND signature verified.  It's surprising the number of ballots that get there and the signature gets challenged.   To check, go to this link at KC Elections.

(Update from the Stranger Slog:

Kim van Ekstrom, an elections spokeswoman, says that as of last night there are approximately 13,000 ballots with signature problems that aren't being counted. Roughly half had no signature and the other half have a disputed signature. And if there's problem with the signature, elections workers can't even open up the envelope to count the vote.

If King County Elections has contacted you—but check, because they reportedly haven't contacted everyone—you have until November 28 to verify your signature and have your vote counted.)

Also, in the remaining races, the trend towards the challengers continues.  It is too late for Buetow or Martin to catch their incumbents but all the challengers are increasing their numbers.

This is a huge trend to look for in other races in the future as we try to discern what an all mail-in ballot system will mean for future elections.  In this one, it means  that there were those who made up their minds early and those who hung on to their ballots until the end.

The question is - who is in each group and how much of a difference can those late votes mean to an election?

What Does a New Board Mean?

There will be a new School Board at the next Board meeting as Sharon Peaslee takes over for Peter Maier in the District I seat and Marty McLaren takes over for Steve Sundquist in the District VI seat.

What does this mean for the way the Board works as a team? Will the Board become contentious or will they be able to reach consensus on critical issues? Will the Board become bogged down in debate? in process? in community engagement? in attempts to micro-manage the district?

What would it be like if the Board started doing its job? Will members of the community once again be invited to participate in committee meetings? Will the Board set and keep a calendar of oversight reviews? Will the Board Directors start more of their sentences with the words "My constituents want..."? Will we see the Board start to enforce policy? Will the Board require the staff to keep their commitments to students and families?

What will this mean for the direction of the District? The old majority is broken; what new majority will form and what direction will they take the Board and the District? Is this the end of Teach for America in Seattle? Is the end for MAP, the data warehouse, standardization, and a host of other ill-conceived Education Reform boondoggles? What new directions might we see? Will we see a focus on targeted interventions? On efforts to bridge the opportunity gap? Will we see something really visionary like a new focus on student motivation, on tech-based individualized instruction for skill-building? I'm pretty sure that we will see more opportunity for alternative math texts.

What does this mean for interim Superintendent Enfield? Did she lose her shot at the permanent job in this election? Did she lose even her interim assignment? Will she become, as Raj Manhas did, a dissident within the District working to thwart the new Board's efforts, or could she adapt to the new majority and stay on?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

School Reports

The new school reports - for the school year 2010-2011 - have been released.

They can be found here.

This year's School Reports are different from last years in only two ways. The changes are the two corrections that were promised in December of last year. They are long overdue, but better now than later still.

Last year, the measure of student academic growth was grossly mislabeled "Students making gains on the state reading test" but was actually a derived relative measure. This year the student academic growth gets a label like "4th and 5th graders who met or exceeded typical growth on the state reading test" and it is a new measure. From the glossary:
This measure shows how students are growing compared to other students in the same grade, with the same test score throughout the state. It is the percentage of students whose growth was above average (50th to 99th percentile) on the state test from one year to the next. Students are compared to other students across the state that scored the same on the state test and were in the same grade level.
This is a more honest measure (and a more honest label) than the one used last year, but it is still a poor choice. It is still a relative measure when we should focus on absolute measures. It doesn't tell us if the school did well with students working below, at, or beyond grade level.

Also, they corrected the Student Demographic information by choosing to show the number of students enrolled in APP/Spectrum category instead of the number eligible for those programs. So we have no sense how many students at Bryant, for example, are Spectrum-eligible. This is not quite the fix that was promised last year - we were supposed to get a count of the advanced learners at each school.

I'll make reference to some funny statistical anomolies in the comments.

Good News in Seattle Schools

From the district website:

Ed Lee, a 1970 graduate of Franklin High School, won San Francisco's mayoral race Nov. 8, becoming the city’s first elected mayor of Chinese descent, as well as the first Asian-American elected to the office. Lee was born in 1952 in the Beacon Hill neighborhood and attended Beacon Hill Elementary and Asa Mercer Middle School.

Seattle Sounders FC presents America SCORES Seattle’s 9th Annual Poetry Slam! on Friday, November 18th. The Poetry Slam!, the culminating event of the SCORES Fall Season curriculum - The Power of Poetry, will feature more than 160 elementary school students from Seattle’s underserved neighborhoods performing their own original works of poetry. For many of our children, reciting their original poetry on a public stage is the first time in their lives they have been publicly celebrated for their accomplishments. The event will feature poets from Bailey Gatzert, Dunlap, Highland Park, Maple and Roxhill Elementary Schools.  Town Hall at Eighth and Seneca at 5:30 p.m.

KCTS-9's 20th Annual Golden Apple awards in education were recently announced.   Congratulations to Franklin High School Principal Jennifer Wiley, Denny and Chief Sealth High School Music Director Marcus Pimpleton, Hamilton Middle School teacher Lary Barilleau and Garfield High school for their awards for excellence.

They will receive their awards in February 2012 in a ceremony honoring their achievements.

Marcus Pimpleton is a passionate force for music education in Seattle schools. In multiple positions—with middle school, high school and university students and the All-City Band—he builds bridges and creates innovative opportunities for his students to learn about life, leadership, volunteering and community through music and performance

Jennifer Wiley believes in education as a tool to provide any individual access to a level playing field and the opportunity to prosper. As principal for eight years of a public high school serving the country’s most diverse zip code, she’s worked with staff to support “a campus free of second-class citizenship.” 
Lary Barilleau knows that a student who is active in the arts is a happy student.  Over the last seven years he’s directed more than 30 cultural performances, brought more than two dozen resident artists from around the globe to Hamilton, and reflected his students’ own diverse cultures through presentations and performances

Seattle's Garfield High School is like no other high school in Washington State. Its central location, diverse student population, academic opportunities and expectations, clubs and student-centered focus make it not only a unique academic institution, but a top choice among students year after year

Seattle Mariners and Nikon representatives named Arbor Heights Elementary school last month as the winner of its first-ever Mariners-Nikon Earth Day Program. Arbor Heights was recognized for the school’s “green initiatives” relating to its recycling and waste reduction program.  Two other schools: Lawton Elementary and Viewlands Elementary were named finalists. Lawton was honored for its water conservation and quality program, and Viewlands Elementary was recognized for its planting and campus greening program.

What good news have you heard lately at your school?

What Changes Do You Want to See on the Board?

From a comment by WSDWG:
I don't think anybody wants a dysfunctional board. In fact, I'd venture the vote here would be 100% against. This board got along incredibly well, but overreached and pushed too hard to impose their "vision" on the community, instead of responding to a variety of diverse needs. Does middle ground mean less testing & standardization? More accountability & asserting itself into staff matters? Or how about this: Requiring actual, real follow-up to questions asked of staff who answer: "I'll get back to you on that" - which has come to mean (realistically) - "That's all I'm saying on the subject. Adios!" 
Maybe instead of discussing middle ground, I should ask a simpler question: "What changes do people see with Marty apparently coming onto the Board?"
For me, I want a board more actively engaged, and engaging of the community, in curriculum & instruction decisions.

I would like a Board that actually stands up for community engagement and rejects motions that lack it.

I would like a Board with a healthy skepticism and critical reasoning skills so they ask meaningful questions about proposals.

I would like a Board that knows the policies and enforces them.

I would like a Board that does their job - it should not take six months to write a management overview calendar and two years to begin to implement it.

I would like a Board that sets deadlines for their requests and remembers those deadlines.

I would like a Board that insists that the staff keep their commitments to students and families.

I would like a Board that represents the community to the District at least as much as it represents the District to the community.

How about you all?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Peaslee Takes the Lead

Latest Results
As of 11/15/2011 4:17:11 PM

Director District No. 1
Peter Maier. . . . . . . . . . 67294. . . . . . .  49.80%
Sharon Peaslee. . . . . . 67385. . . . . . .  49.87%
Write-in. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  452. . . . . . . . .0.33%

Tuesday Open Thread

Today brings us the Town Hall meeting at Denny where the Seattle School Board, in partnership with the Seattle Council PTSA, invites the public to help decide whether to conduct a national search for a Superintendent or whether to appoint Interim Superintendent Dr. Susan Enfield.

Also today, both the Operations Committee and the Audit and Finance Committee will be meeting at 4:00. Operations will meet in the auditorium and Audit in the Board room.

The Stuff that Drives Me Mad

There are a number of things that the District leadership does that simply drives me mad. It's what fuels my energy to do this work. There's something nearly every day. Here's a recent sample:

School Board President Steve Sundquist, speaking about the policy revisions that the Board is zooming through carelessly: "It's in everyone's interest that we move quickly," he said. "Time is of the essence." Really? What's the urgency? There is none. This is a false urgency used as a cover for sloppy work.

From the Friday Update of November 4, Teaching and Learning Update: "High School Physical Science – This course is defined by the district-wide objectives in the form of Washington State Standards; however, a current challenge to implementing this course effectively is the lack of instructional materials due to the hold on curricular adoptions." This from the same people who tell us that the materials do not dictate the course. Now they say that they cannot teach the course without standardized materials.

The Program Placement policy was totally ignored. First by the superintendent who chose to violate every part of it. Second by the Board, who chose to allow the policy to be violated. The policy requires transparency, but the superintendent and the Board - who blather on and on about their commitment to transparency - will not support it. And now the District leadership are preparing to totally ignore the policy again this year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sundquist Concedes; Maier Still Squeaking By

I was told today that Steve Sundquist called and conceded to Marty McLaren.  

The counts in the two close races, as of today, are as follows (with 40.54% of the vote tallied);

Maier -        50.66%  (down from the initial count of 51.47%)
Peaslee -     49.00% (up from initial 48.17%)

McLaren  -  52.81% (up from the initial 51.92%)
Sundquist  - 46.74% (down from the initial count of 47.62%)

It seems that the McLaren race is a done deal.

According to KC elections, they are expecting 52% of the vote to come in.  That would leave 12% left to come in/be counted. There are 1,947 votes separating Maier and Peaslee.  I don't have my hopes up (because to my mind, if it didn't happen today, it isn't likely to happen).  But it's still a pretty close race so it's always possible the unexpected could happen.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shorter School Year Coming?

From the Everett Herald comes a story about superintendents around the state coming together in agreement about having fewer school days for all districts rather than the Governor's idea of getting rid of levy equalization which favors districts able to pass levies versus those that can't.

The superintendents are saying that while it may end up being detrimental to students in the long run, they want the cuts to be equal across the state and feel this may stop the steady downward trend of school budgets. 

Washington is not the first to consider this path. California, for example, dropped from 180 days to 175 days in 2009, then decided earlier this year to let financially challenged districts teach as few as 168 days. Other states, such as Oregon, allowed districts to go to a four-day school week. Students wind up with the same number of hours of instruction, but districts save money by closing campuses an additional day each week.

The story doesn't explain it but I'm supposing they add the time lost by the cut days into the remaining days.  So you get the same amount of time but in fewer days with school doors open. 


Gov. Chris Gregoire, in her outline of ideas for erasing the shortfall, listed $365 million in cuts to elementary and secondary education. She didn't include a shorter school year, which could save $125 million, but did endorse slashing $150 million in levy equalization payments to property-poor school districts.
Superintendents oppose her approach because it doesn't hit districts equally. Those in wealthier urban areas will be unscathed as they don't receive a subsidy. A shorter school year, on the other hand, would affect each of the state's 295 school districts.

There are obstacles. Changing the law prescribing a 180-day school year is necessary. It also may run afoul of the state constitution's requirement to ensure every student in Washington receives a 'basic education.

The constitution doesn't define what is the minimum number of days for a basic education, but it's generally believed that cutting five days could trigger a legal challenge to answer that question.
There is opposition from Gregoire, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and the Washington Education Association, the statewide teachers union.

This could end up being quite the fight and for good reasons on all sides.  I personally would oppose this idea for two reasons. 

One, we need to draw a line somewhere.  Kids need to be in school.  That extra week leaves the districts' pockets and hits parents' pockets because those kids have to be somewhere.   The districts may end up with less savings anyway due to snow days that will have to be made up.  What then?

Two, it may be time for some hard choices in smaller districts that have trouble passing levies.  Some of the problem is that there are people not voting for levies because they favor Tea Party politics.  That cannot be the problem for districts who don't have that issue.  While Seattle is indeed a wealthier district, ALL our citizens end up paying for our levies, not just the wealthy.  It might be time for districts to be responsible for their own costs. 

Seattle Schools Week of November 14-18, 2011

A fairly busy week after election day.

First up, the community engagement meetings have been announced for Intermediate Capacity Management.

  • Monday, Nov. 28, 6-7:30 p.m. at Denny International Middle School Library, 2601 S.W. Kenyon St.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 29, 6-7:30 p.m. at Eckstein Middle School Library, 3003 N.E. 75th St.
  • Thursday, Dec. 1, 6-7:30 p.m. at Washington Middle School Library, 2101 S. Jackson St.
The meetings will include presentations by Seattle Public School Capital Projects and Planning staff members, followed by a question and answer period. Comments from the community will be collected, recorded, considered and included in the District’s Short Term Capacity Management planning process. For information on the District’s capacity management process, please visit http://seattleschools.cmail3.com/t/y/l/wiyyhy/uypdjkrr/r/
For further information, please contact Tom Redman, Capital Communications,
Email: tlredman@seattleschools.org. Phone: 206-252-0655

Joint Town Hall of SCPTSA and Seattle Schools from 7-8:30p.m. at district headquarters???  This is listed on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday - must be an error and I can't find anything about it at SCPTSA's website. 

School Board and SCPTSA community meeting on desired traits in our next permanent superintendent  from 7-8:30 p.m   Roosevelt High School, 1410 N.E. 66th St.

Community Meeting with Director Sundquist from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Delridge Library,
5423 Delridge Way SW

Audit&Finance Committee meeting (Finance) from 4-6 p.m. in the School Board conference room.  Agenda.  It appears we may finally get a full update on the district funds in reserve as well as a look at the 6000 series Board policies.

Operations Committee meeting from 4-6 pm. - This is an unusual situation for two committee meetings to be at the same time; I'll check on this one.  No agenda available yet.

School Board and SCPTSA community meeting on desired traits in our next permanent superintendent  from 7-8:30 p.m at Denny Int'l Middle School, 2601 S.W. Kenyon St.
Annual State of the District speech by Dr. Enfield from 11 am - 1 p.m. at a luncheon sponsored by the Alliance for Education at the Wing Luke Museum, 719 South King Street.  Seating is limited, RSVP to marleen@alliance4ed.org.  The program will be recorded and shown on Channel 26.

State of the district/district scorecard/Operations Data Dashboard meeting from 4-5:30 p.m.  I assume this is a more brief state of the district presentation from the one presented in the morning. 

Community Conversations with ELL and Special Education Directors from 6-7:30 p.m. at Concord International School, 723 S Concord St

School Board Meeting from 6-9 p.m.  Agenda.
A lot of "to do" things here;
  • Legislative priorities,
  • approval of the MAP contract,
Here's something curious in the new contract:

Whereas, the Agreement has been extended since that time, and the parties desire to extend it for an additional year; and

Whereas, execution of Amendment No. 1 on behalf of the District was by an individual who lacked authority to do so under District procedures; and

Did I miss something?  (I must be blanking because I don't remember this issue.
  • approval of CSIPs approval of the ALE plans for Cleveland, Interagency, Homeschool  Resource Center and NOVA, 
  • approval of Readers/Writers Workshop, 
  • allowing Cleveland a waiver from the OSPI ALE recs (and again, no community engagement though the district tries to make that sound like it happened). 
I see one red flag in this agenda which is a continuation of a contract with a state Educational Services District for help in capital planning.  There seems to be some discussion around whether this is a "new" contract or a "continuation" and which way staff should treat it in relation to the Board.  (The Board has to give approval to any contract over $250k.)  Charlie (somebody) read the Background and tell me if you don't get a whiff of worry over the language there.

School Board and SCPTSA community meeting on desired traits in our next permanent superintendent from 7-8:30 p.m at South Shore K-8, 4800 S. Henderson St

BEX Oversight Committee meeting from 8:30 am-10:30 am in Room 2750 at headquarters

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Lines are Clearly Drawn

I've been off-line a bit but have kept up a bit.  I am a bit astonished at the reception by the Times and LEV over Marty McLaren's victory over School Board President, Steve Sundquist. 

The Times said that Steve got along with City Hall officials and legislators but didn't every mention that Steve received a vote of no-confidence from the teachers union.  Maybe Steve should have worked on the relationships with parents and teachers. 

They state that maybe Steve lost because of the things that happened over the last year (try 3 years).  But then they go on to say but the other three got reelected "handily."  (Apparently they haven't been keeping up on the numbers in the Maier/Peasless race.)   And, they don't explain exactly why they think Sundquist lost until the end of their editorial.

It was the teachers union support.  Then they go on to petulantly whine over the campaign contributions issue.  A union contribution - which generally is a large group of people who work together on specific views/issues - is not like getting money from a small and select group of wealthy people, some of whom don't even live in Seattle.

Then the Times says something odd.

The teachers union's hard work on McLaren's behalf is confusing. Its parent organization, the National Education Association, touts innovative reforms in Seattle that were launched on Sundquist's watch — including new teacher evaluations and schools extending the learning day.

No explanation.  Does that mean they believe the NEA is more progressive and the SEA supported someone they think will support their (less progressive) views?  Who knows (and obviously, the Times could have made it clear but chose to be obtuse).

They end this way:

McLaren is a retired teacher. A new member joins the School Board. The focus remains on students and a better-run district.

Again, what is that? 

Then, over at LEV, there's this from head Chris Korsmo in her "news roundup":

A little hiccup happened on the way to Seattle managing to keep its election-night act together. After passing the Families and Education Levy, and managing to re-elect three of the four incumbents running for school board, the Emerald City rudely cast out School Board President, Steve Sundquist. In an upset, Seattle elected a retired substitute math teacher – a result that has some casting about for answers and left to wonder, what happened? Teachers’ union contributions happened. And likely a whole lot of other stuff. But without the benefit of exit polling, we’ll likely never know, exactly.

Rudely? You mean it was rude to use the electorial process to elect the School Board? 

"A retired substitute teacher."  You mean Marty McLaren - someone who taught pre-school, co-created a program for homeless children, who taught middle and high school math as a full-time teacher and was a substitute (part of the time at South Lake High School, a reentry school for high-needs students).  And, a former PTSA president. 
There is no honor or substance in being a retired teacher?

And again, there's the singling out of the union.  Boy, if they were that powerful, how come all the incumbents didn't flip?  If they were that powerful, why did they agree to changes in their teacher evaluations?

No, we don't know exactly why some education voices in this city want to speak in bitter and unkind tones about these outcomes rather than acknowledging that Marty McLaren won this race by appealing to more voters than Steve Sundquist. 
Maybe it's a little bit of fear that now the Board will be more balanced and nuanced and maybe, just maybe, the outcomes from every vote might not always be a foregone conclusion.

In a bit of irony, just as MGJ gets a job doing something in the state education system in Michigan, the Detroit School Board President was ousted by...a retired teacher. Must be something in the water.