Showing posts from 2012

Following Up on 2012

Over at Friend of our Blog, Seattle Education , Dora Taylor has a great thread about the expose by FireDogLake about Cory Booker and the $100M gift to Newark Public Schools from Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Apparently the ACLU had to sue Cory "Superman" Booker for release of e-mails between him and Facebook executives. It started on Oprah. Facebook founder and Winklevii nemesis Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million donation to Newark schools to blunt PR damage from the release of The Social Network help school children. The money would not be going into the struggling city’s budget but would be privately controlled with Newark Mayor Cory Booker providing guidance. Yes, money used to transform Newark public schools would be administered privately and, until recently, in secret from the people of Newark. Booker said there were no e-mails.  The story shows that to be a bald-faced lie.  (And the next anonymous person who gets huffy here over anytime we

End of 2012 - Wrap-up and Hopes and Predictions for 2013

A rosy glow this morning across the horizon - maybe a good sign for things to come. It was a HUGE year for public education - in Seattle, Washington State and the US.  For whatever reason, public education has become a huge issue.  Whether it's trying to break unions (in Wisconsin) or the push for more on-line learning opportunities (whether at school or at home), politicians had a lot to say this year.  Are we focusing on the right things?  I'm not sure we are.  I'm not sure that we won't look back in 10 years at much of the new education spending in this country and wonder if much of it was wasted on the wrong areas.  Or that there was too much effort made in directions that did not pay off.  One of the drivers of this - and it shouldn't be the biggest driver - is the large group of wealthy philanthropists who believe they know enough to try to determine the course of public education over the next 10 years.  And yet, they are not elected, hired or appointed

Friday Open Thread

From Ed Week, a report on international tests (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and how the US fared. Florida came up a big winner on PIRLS, in terms of average scores (more on that in a bit). On TIMSS, Massachusetts, mirroring its strong performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, did very well in both science and math, compared with the United States and other high-performing countries and education systems. However, the good news largely evaporates when you look at the percentages of students that scored "advanced," "high," "intermediate," or "low" on the tests, the formal benchmark names for performance levels. In terms of the share of students scoring at the top level, or advanced, other high-performing countries leave many U.S. states eating dust. Also, of interest, a report on digital education and devices used by children from Ed Week.  

Right Time, Right Book?

The NY Times is having a discussion over the right time for which books i.e. should a 6-year old read Harry Potter?  There are a series of short essays from various people on the subject.  As a former children's bookseller, I would err on the side of waiting for certain books.  You can read almost any book to any child at any time but many themes are possibly too big for some kids as presented in some books. They could read them at 6 and then again at 12 and get something different.  That would be okay (and to be expected) except that if the theme worries the child or causes upset at a younger age, was that worth it?  Those books will always be there; it's not like they go away.  

Education Reading Round-Up

From the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet, an article about D.C.'s county superintendent calling on President Obama and Secretary Duncan to call a moratorium on standardized testing. He also said it was wrong to evaluate teachers based on the scores their students get on standardized tests because the method that is is based on “bad science.” He noted that he had previously worked in the New York City Department of Education, the nation’s largest school system, where was director of school performance and accountability. It became clear, he said, that the formulas used to assess a teacher’s value with the use of test scores had huge margins of error, as much as 55 points. In fact, he said that a good way to create assessments for Common Core-aligned curriculum would be to crowd-source the development and let teachers design them rather than have corporations do it. He criticized policies that help make public education   “a private commodity.” An op-ed fr

Happy Holidays!

Charlie and I will naturally be on a bit of a hiatus through the end of the year.  My computer desktop is flooded with many ed articles and I may throw up a couple of "ed reading" posts.  Otherwise, consider the Interim Plan for capacity management with your friends and be prepared to state your case in early January.  Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday!

Ballard HS Security Issue Today

Not sure what happened but Ballard HS didn't have their scheduled Winter Sports Assembly due to some kind of security concern.  SPD was called in but apparently nothing happened and nothing was found.  I have no other details as the district is now closed for the winter break.  Maybe they will issue a statement. Update on security from Superintendent Banda and President Smith-Blum: Superintendent José Banda and School Board President Kay Smith-Blum are releasing a joint statement on the NRA's proposal to have armed guards in schools.  The safety of our students and schools is of utmost importance to us. Our schools have a zero-tolerance policy on weapons on school grounds. We do not believe adding guns to our schools will accomplish the goal of keeping our students safer.  We agree with Governor Gregoire and President Obama calling for action, including a ban on assault weapons. Further, as a community, we must have deeper conversations about the availabi

SPS To Pay Out to Teacher Over Health Issues at Hale

From the Times (and thanks to a reader tip!): A former Seattle teacher has reached a $750,000 settlement from the public-school district that fired her seven years ago for not returning to work in a school building she said was harmful to her health. The teacher, 14-year drama and language instructor Denise Frisino, sued Seattle Public Schools after the district fired her from Nathan Hale High School in 2005, according to court documents. The lawsuit was initially thrown out by a King County judge, but an appeals court overturned that decision and the two parties settled on the eve of a scheduled new trial this fall. The settlement, finalized this week, did not constitute an admission of guilt, according to attorneys on both sides. What to think? Well, I know there were definitely mold issues at Hale and these were documented and affected students as well. Sometimes I wish the district would know when to fight and when to not fight.  The lawyers fees on this case a

Hey Wayne - You are Disingenious, Wrong and an Idiot

 Update: statement from SPS on the NRA statement. We are forming a joint working group with the Seattle Police Department to study all recommendations for improving our school safety, and this effort will begin early in 2013. Together, we will formulate sustainable plans for implementing improved safety measures across the District. The security of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we look forward to working with our staff and community partners to implement improved safety measures across the District. End of update. I rarely call people names here.  Not useful and there are better ways to say you disagree with people. But head of NRA, Wayne LaPierre - an idiot.  Here's what he is saying in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings:   "How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?"   Wayne, your group doesn't even support an activ
Let's see; - dark and dreary, check - one week since one of the most horrific days in American public education, check - NOT the end of the world day (but some still don't get that) Time for the holiday break.  Great.  Let's ALL take a break, a breath and count our blessings .

Schools First Release Press Release on 2013 Levies

From Schools First (the group that works to support SPS levies): Seattle (December 17) – Schools First, the grassroots, volunteer-led campaign organization that convenes every three years to build support among Seattle voters for renewing the Seattle Schools operating and capital levies, announced today that it has begun its work to pass the 2013 levies, which will be on the ballot on February 12. The Operations Levy provides more than a quarter of the funds needed to operate the Seattle Public Schools, including funding for day-to-day teaching and instructional programs such as a sixth period for high school. The Capital Levy (BEX IV) will provide essential funding to maintain and improve Seattle’s aging existing schools, provide earthquake safety upgrades at 37 schools, and build and renovate schools in growing communities across the city. These levies replace the expiring operating and capital levies. “It is important to note that both of these critica

Seattle Schools Updates

Dear families, The Seattle School District is reviewing whether it should apply to the State Board of Education for a waiver, to allow the three full-day parent teacher conference schedule to continue for elementary and K-8 schools. The waiver also seeks one day for middle and high schools. Your input is valuable to us as we consider this decision. Parent-teacher conferences are important to ensuring direct communications between classroom teachers and families, and we want to make sure that we gather input from as many families as possible about these meetings. We have prepared a brief survey that should take 5-10 minutes to complete. The survey will close on Friday, January 11th at 5:00 p.m.  The survey is available at:   We appreciate you taking the time to provide us with your feedback. Sincerely, Michael Tolley Interim Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning Seattle Public Sch

New Interim Principal at Lafayette Elementary

From the West Seattle Blog: Seattle Public Schools just announced that another elementary principal from West Seattle is being promoted to management downtown – this time Lafayette’s newest principal Shauna Heath , after just a few months. From the district: Today I’m announcing a leadership change at Lafayette. Your principal, Shauna Heath, has been appointed Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction. In her new role, Ms. Heath will oversee Early Learning, College and Career Readiness and core content areas. I know Lafayette staff and families went through a principal search process last summer, and I understand it is a hardship to have a leadership change mid-year. But we need Ms. Heath’s leadership to help all of our nearly 50,000 students. Congratulations to Ms. Heath, and I know she will be missed at Lafayette. Birgit McShane has been appointed interim principal. This is effective Jan. 7, and Ms. Heath will be available to ensure a smooth transitio

WA State Supreme Court Ruling to Leg - Get Busy

From the Times : The Washington Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the state Legislature isn't making enough progress toward finding more money for K-12 education in answer to the court's decision in the McCleary school funding lawsuit. The high court told lawmakers they must have something better to report after they finish their work in spring 2013. "Steady progress requires forward movement. Slowing the pace of funding cuts is necessary, but it does not equate to forward progress," wrote Chief Justice Barbara Madsen in the order filed Thursday. So there.

NE Middle School Options

Here is the Excel sheet for the options for the NE middle school situation.  My understanding is it is a combo of ideas from staff and FACMAC.  During the Work Session the discussion went as follows: - They were first discussing what appeared in the presentation and what FACMAC was recommending. FACMAC was recommending an Eckstein split - North and South Annexes.   Director Peaslee clarified that this was really a split and not a temporary annexation.  The answer was yes. - There was also this discussion about Jane Addams and beefing up its middle school offerings to fill the school.   (They called this "mitigation.")  But, as Director DeBell pointed out, how long could that go on and how could the district afford it?  (And, if they did this for JA, why not all K-8s?) - One interesting thing is how the district seems very committed to making sure that Eckstein North would have the same things as Eckstein South.  Phil Brockman spoke of the great music at Eckstein now

Waiting Until the Nth Hour

Despite the weather, several of us came to last night's Work Session believing we would see some real progress in what the interim plan for capacity management might be for 2013-2104.  I left at 7:45 p.m. shaking my head. Once AGAIN, the district is a day late and a dollar short.  I know staff works hard.  I know they want to get input via the public both formal (FACMAC) and informal (community meetings).  But it's December 20th (and neigh the end of the world upon us) and NOW they have new ideas?  Even as they heard, for MONTHS, that they were not addressing the north end middle school issues? I guess I could say congratulations to all the NE parents who stood up and said, "You need to solve this."  But school starts up on Jan 7th with a "plan" to be presented at the Board meeting on Jan. 9th.   Once parents look at these new ideas (and there are five of them), how will the Board and staff know which one(s) parents believe will work best?  What school

Odds and Ends

Olympic Hills Capacity Mtg on Monday night Packed house, I was almost surprised they had it such a small school but it was cozy.  Attendees - SPS staff, Directors Peaslee and Carr (but oddly, not Martin-Morris as one of the central issues was Eckstein that sits in his district) and FACMAC co-chairs and other members of the Committee.  Rep. Gerry Pollet also was in attendance.  The room was packed full. I liked the way this meeting went.  There was just a brief presentation, then principal Zoe Jenkins did a roll call of sorts of what schools were there.  She listed them on a blackboard, plus a spot for community input.  She then handed out a card for each school to anyone who wanted to speak.  In that way, we had input from all schools plus a rotation of speakers.   There were about 12 schools represented. What I did hear firmly: - Pinehurst is to stay in place.  No mention of exactly what that would then mean for Jane Addams.  That's it. The testimony, while sometimes

Ed Jobs at City Year

City Year, one of my favorite groups that helps SPS students, has two ed-related job openings that I thought I would pass on. CITY YEAR: CORPORATE AND FOUNDATION DEVELOPMENT MANAGER.   We need an all-star development manager to drive City Year’s corporate and foundation development strategy – someone who is highly detail and goal oriented, has excellent writing skills, super personable and runs towards a challenge.  Job description link is here: DIPLOMAS NOW: SCHOOL BASED TRANSFORMATION FACILITATOR.  The Diplomas Now Collaborative at Denny Middle School needs a transformation facilitator responsible for effective staff leadership and organizational, instructional, and curricular changes within the school that result in an improved climate and culture.  The STF works closely with City Year, Communities in Schools and Denny MS.  The link to the position is here: http://www.diplo

Update on Applying/Nominating for Charter Commission

As promised, here's the info for applying via Speaker Frank Chopp (one of the three people to select the Charter Commission). It's basically the same as the Lt. Governor's office - write/e-mail them to self-nominate or to nominate someone.  If you are self-nominating, give full details about your background (both personal and professional that might be pertinent) as well as your resume.  If you are nominating someone else, maybe be sure that they want to be nominated so that they can send in their resume if asked for one. 339C Legislative Building PO Box 40600 Olympia, WA 98504-0600

Seattle Schools Capacity Management Work Sesson Recs

The presentation for this Board Work Session tomorrow has been posted.  It's quite interesting.  I note at last night's Capacity meeting for the NE, it was stated that FACMAC would have their recs tomorrow. It's odd because one page is labeled "Development of Recommended Options" and lists input from FACMAC but clearly FACMAC's recommendations are not part of this presentation because they aren't even out yet. Okay, wait a minute.  Page 8 DOES have  FACMAC recommendations.  Confusing.  I do not see any link to the complete FACMAC recommendations. Under Community Feedback : mixed support for repurposing PCP spaces portables?  A surprising amount of support move grade cohorts?  largely not supported maintaining transportation grandfathering?  Mostly supported but I think this is a complete sell job to the Board and public without full information on numbers of students at each school and costs. For SW and Central Regions, FACMAC recs: prov

Asperger's Syndrome

Update: great op-ed about this subject.  Thanks to reader, Reader, for the tip. The Newtown shooter was said to have Asperger's Syndrome which is on the spectrum of autism.  These people are considered the high-functioning end of that spectrum (even as they face very real and distinct challenges.) One thing to make clear - Asperger's is NOT mental illness.  It is a neurobiological condition.  While some mental illness, like schziophrenia, does have a biological basis, Asperger's is not defined in that category. After saying that, based on my own personal experience with Asperger's, I suspect the shooter DID have mental health issues in addition to his Asperger's.  It may have been depression, anxiety or bio-polar. From news reports, it seems clear that he was did have a diagnosis of Asperger's and his high school knew about it.  His mother had to come to the school sometimes if he was having issues.  But all reports were that he kept to himself, that st

District Focus for Remaining School Year

From Superintendent Banda's Office: As we head into the winter break, I want to take a moment to thank you all for your hard work and dedication. In the six months since I’ve been here, I’ve been proud to work alongside you. We have much to be thankful for at Seattle Public Schools – our enrollment is growing, our graduation rate has increased and our students are showing improved academic achievement. I’m grateful for the time staff has spent helping me get to know this wonderful community, including the many evening meetings with our families, community members, staff and students. In the New Year, I look forward to meeting with more of you. Our principals, teachers and staff are the heart of Seattle Public Schools, and I am eager to hear your ideas for ensuring that we are meeting the needs of every student. In light of the tragedy in Connecticut last week, we are strengthening our focus on school safety. Our security team will be meeting with princ

Tuesday Open Thread

Boy, it's dark outside.  Maybe that's just the time of year or maybe it's just a dark cloud over our psyches.  Threads to come: - capacity meeting at Olympic View last night (don't worry, all was calm and supportive but no real answers) - BEX IV and Schools First (the levy passage group) - their website says nothing about the capacity issues.  Is this how they plan to sell a $1B package of levies? - Ed News Roundup What's on your mind?

End of the Honeymoon, Start of the Plan?

Over at Crosscut, they've written an article about the end of the so-called six month honeymoon since Jose Banda became SPS superintendent.  As we have all come to realize, Superintendent Banda is a careful person.  Not a big talker, a quieter person, he doesn't do a lot to draw attention to himself.  Some might be anxious or annoyed with the pace of what he is doing but I like to think he knows just what he is doing.  The article lays out several pressing issues for him: Money and the Legislature (and the levies) Capacity Teachers and testing (and contract renewal) Vacancies in district leadership Academics There was one early comment that caught my eye: At this point, the most important question to pose to the superintendent is to articulate his overall vision for the district and specifically how he plans to accomplish it. The achievement gap must be bridged and the graduation rate increased. Control and leadership must be exhibited. Jon B

I've Said It, Now Stats Prove It

Parents, you REALLY are giving to your schools. From Education Week (bold mine) : It turns out that schools are hotbeds of civic volunteerism, and parents are the lifeblood of that activity. So says a study released recently by the Corporation for National and Community Service , in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship . The study showed that volunteerism in America is at a five-year high , and parents of school-aged children volunteer at a higher rate than the overall population . These parents contributed more than 2.5 billion hours of their time to volunteer efforts in 2011, most of it to school-based projects. The rate of parents volunteering in 2011 was 33.7 percent. While this was a nearly negligible increase (0.1 percentage point) from the prior year, it certainly does add up. Some 22.7 million parents volunteered, and if the hours they devoted to their work were paid, it would be valued at $54 billion , the group calculates. I have n

Want to Apply to Be On the Charter Commission?

Here's how via the three possibilities - Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House.  Each office gets to pick three Charter Commission members.  Governor  Governor Gregoire's office is taking the applications via their regular commissions form .  They are then going to pass them along to Governor-elect Inslee's office and he will make the decisions.   I was told both offices have received calls of interest about applying. Lt. Governor Brad Owen His office is taking nominations via e-mail and snail mail.   You do not have to fill out an application and you can self-nominate OR any other person or group may nominate you.  (Apparently Stand for Children has been sending in their nominations.)   If you are nominated in any way, their office will give that due consideration. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen Office of the Lt. Governor PO Box 40400 Olympia, WA 98504-0400  Speaker Frank Chopp I am still finding out how to apply via his office and will be a

What To Say Today

Back to school for the last week of the 2012 year.  What did you tell your children?  What do you hope your child's teacher does (or does not) say to your child?  Should they say anything or is that your job as parent? What about older students?  Is gun control an issue that high school students should consider in their history or civics classes? What do you think about what Sandy Hook Elementary had in place (which, sadly, did not work).  Namely, locking all the doors after a certain point and people had to be buzzed into the building. What about arming every principal?  That was one suggestion I read (although it would make the office and the principal a first target for anyone thinking of attacking a school).   Here's a good article from the NY Times on this subject. From SPS communications on talking with your children.

Seattle Schools for the Week of Dec. 17-23

Monday, December 17th Capacity Management meeting for the NE area from 6:30-8 p.m. at Olympic Hills cafeteria, 13018 20th Avenue Tuesday, December 18th Audit&Finance Quarterly Audit Meeting from 4-7 p.m.  Agenda .  Much of this is the higher-level work of this committee - internal audit, external audit, risk management.  The last hour of this committee is just for committee members to discuss labor negotiations. Superintendent Meeting with Pacific Islander Community from 6-8 p.m. at RBHS Wednesday, December 19th Enrollment Services close at noon. Board Work Session on International Education/Wallace Grant update from 4-5:30 p.m.  (The Wallace Grant is an arts grant that the district worked very hard to get.  I believe it's in its second year.  I'll check but I think it was a planning grant and not an implemented one.)  Here's what we had at the blog in April 2012 when this grant was first announced: Seattle Public Schools was recently awarded a $1 milli

What would you have to say to the superintendent?

I don't make a habit of asking the staff to do things so much as asking them for information. That's because they don't work for me and they aren't accountable to me. I don't hesitate to offer suggestions for action to the Board because they are accountable to the public and they are supposed to represent the public. So if I had the opportunity to speak with the superintendent, I wouldn't so much have suggestions for him as questions. They are big questions and perhaps some of them will be answered in the Strategic Plan. Perhaps not. The previous Strategic Plan was a management plan more than an academic plan. Is that what it's supposed to be? The new Strategic Plan is shaping up to be more of an academic plan.

Oddities in BEX IV

Perusing the BEX IV presentation and then what was presented to the Mayor's Educational Leadership Team yesterday, I see some things that I don't understand. BTA has been about major maintenance like roofs and yet there are five roofs to be replaced under BEX IV.  That is troubling because BEX is about renovations and yet there are roofs and other "major preventative maintenance" under BEX IV.  What is really troubling is the "major preventative maintenance" at $18M has no list of projects.  Basically, it looks like a fund for something.   Those five schools with roof replacements scheduled are Eckstein, Franklin, Gatewood, Laurelhurst and Whitman.  However, checking the BTA work from previous years shows that Laurelhurst received a new roof in 2002, Whitman in 2006, and Eckstein in 2010.  This is district data at their website.  How could this be wrong?  Or, how could these almost new roofs need replacement? I note - just as an observation - that Ingra