Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Celebrity Gossip, Part 2

What school district seems to have been dragging their feet on releasing a long-awaited investigation report on a personnel issue at an elementary school?  It has taken months for this thing (never a good signal) and it's still not out.   It was supposed to be released a couple of weeks ago, a week ago, a day ago.  What gives?

What's interesting is first the principal of the school takes a new job - in the middle of the year - in another district.  That new district then finds out about the pending investigation report and rescinds the job offer.  Principal goes back to old job and says he loves his school. 

And, the superintendent of the first district is all the while looking for a new job.  Just as she's about ready to sign-off on a new job, well, the report is due out.  But it gets delayed - day after day.

Makes you wonder.   Sometimes it seems like adults get more protection than students. 

Celebrity Gossip

Gee, a lot of local education news seems to be about specific individuals these days, like our own People magazine.

We have Representative Eric Pettigrew (D-37) making yet more news for placing $3 million for Seattle Schools into the state house budget. There are a number of interesting bits about this story. First there is the obvious conclusion that he (and his backers) hope this will save his political future in the 37th District. Kind of like a celebrity donating to charity to save his reputation after getting caught in a scandal. Second is the characterization of the funding as a "gift" by the Seattle Times. Later today I'm going to present my children with the "gift" of food, clothing and shelter. Third is the lack of interest in the similar state funding for small, rural high schools. Isn't that also a "gift"? Will this money for southeast Seattle schools restore Mr. Pettigrew to the good graces of his local party supporters? How will the District spend it? What accountability comes with this money? Stay tuned.

We also have our own version of The Bachelorette starring Dr. Enfield accepting the position of superintendent of Highline Schools. Lots of interesting celebrity-style gossip here as well. Why Highline instead of Bellevue? How did Highline steal her away from Bellevue? Was Bellevue too slow? Why will her husband now move to the area when the he didn't move here after she got the Seattle CAO job? How little confidence did she have in that job and why does she have confidence in this one? Will she introduce Highline to Teach for America, Discovery Math, Fidelity of Implementation expectations, and merit pay for teachers? Will Southwest Seattle families choose Highline schools in greater numbers - or fewer? Stay tuned!

Finally there is the story with real star power - the celebrity gossip around Nick Hanauer's famous tantrum and all of the responses to it from WEA President Mary Lindquist and others. You absolutely have to read the response from WWU professor Bill Lyne. It currently tops my list of "Things that I wish I had written". Of course, there are those who have sided with Mr. Hanauer, including Jon Bridge, Jabe Blumenthal, Paul Brainerd, the Seattle Times and all of the Gates Foundation finger puppet organizations. They remind me of the question "If you're so smart, how come you ain't rich?" and the traditional response: "If you're so rich, how come you ain't smart?". There are the 99% who think Mr. Hanauer has exposed himself as a thoughtless, childish, self-important, entitled prat, but who cares about them - they aren't celebrities. This story is getting a lot of oxygen right now because we have no use for celebrities who behave themselves. We want them to explode spectacularly like Charlie Sheen and Tom Cruise.

Is it me, or do these stories read more like celebrity gossip than anything else?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Open Thread

What's on your mind?

Teachers - Saving Lives Daily

For the second time this month a teacher has stepped up to save lives.

We learn this morning that a third student has died from yesterday's high school shootings in Ohio. What a tragedy.

But it probably would have been worse if not for the fearless, selfless actions of a teacher/coach, Frank Hall, who chased the shooter out of the building. (When I heard this I thought, why would the shooter, who has the gun, run from the coach? But old habits die hard and the shooter probably could only think to run from the adult.)

Bless Coach Hall his courage and the caring he showed for his students.

We all know that many a teacher has motivated a life or encouraged a life in the classroom. That now we find them literally saving lives should not surprise any of us.

Interesting article on why the US has more school shootings.

I urge you to TALK to your older children. Ask them about what's happening at school. Ask them if it makes them feel safe to have fire drills and safety drills. Ask them if they worry about any child (either out of fear or concern).

Enfield Chooses Highline

From the Times, it has been announced that Dr. Enfield has taken the superintendent's job offered by Highline School district.

From the story:

“I will not let this community down,” said Enfield, the interim chief of Seattle schools. “I will work tirelessly on behalf of the students and staff here.”

The job at the 18,000-student district would start July 1, the day after Enfield’s position in Seattle ends – a commitment she plans to keep, Enfield said. The contract would be for three years; salary terms have not yet been finalized.

In choosing Highline, Enfield spurned advances from Bellevue School District officials, who were exploring an accelerated interview process with her for their superintendent vacancy.

Enfield said she was impressed by Highline’s staff and school board. She made the decision after spending Friday interviewing at the district, she said.

“I don’t think it’s so much what Highline has that Bellevue doesn’t,” she said. “I just thought the fit (was better).”

Enfield said she plans to relocate her family to Highline. Her husband currently lives in Portland. “We can’t wait,” she said.

A couple of comments.

This seems like an interesting choice for Dr. Enfield; I wish her wish.

I would also tell Highline to get ready for the full-court press for TFA because it is coming.

Also, I have no idea why Dr. Enfield was in SPS so long and yet her husband never moved here. Odd, given that now she has another job in the same area and now he's moving.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Where Will Enfield Go? We'll Know Soon

The Times is reporting that Dr. Enfield has been offered the superintendent job in Highline. The Bellevue School Board is scheduled to meet tonight to decide whether to skip a search and offer the job to Enfield.

She may have two offers in hand by the end of the day tomorrow and will likely need to make a decision by week's end.

SPS Calendar Update

There had been two conflicting SPS meetings on Wednesday but things have shifted.

There is a Work Session on the budget from 4-5:30 p.m.

Immediately after that there is an Executive Session on "labor negotiations/potential litigation" from5:30-6:00 pm. Members of the public are not allowed in executive sessions.

Then there is another Work Session update on the Families and Education Levy from
6:15-7:00 pm.

National Day of Action for Education - March 1

From the Occupy Seattle Public Education Working Group, and reprinted without edits:

March 1 National Day of Action for Education:  Full Public Funding and Full Public Control!

On Thursday, March 1, Seattle will join cities across the country taking action to support Public Education.

The Seattle events will start with a rally at Westlake Center at 2:45 p.m., followed by a 3:30 p.m. march to the Gates Foundation to support a ‘Grade-In’ conducted by teachers from the Seattle Education Association and a teach-In about charters by UW Professor Wayne Au.  At 4:30 p.m.,  members of the group plan to challenge Gates Foundation policy analysts to a “Policy Throwdown” -- a General Assembly style open discussion of education and charter issues facilitated by Jesse Hagopian.

The purpose of the action is to oppose charter school legislation being pushed by the Gates Foundation and other wealthy individuals against the wishes of voters.  We believe that schools should be fully funded by public dollars and school policy should be fully governed by public representatives - not manipulated in secret by the 1%.

The Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled that the State is out of compliance with its “paramount constitutional duty” to fully fund education. K-12 education's share of the state budget has been in decline since 1981. Since the "Great Recession", Washington State has cut $10 billion from public education and social services, with over $3 billion slashed from K-12 funding alone. Washington State now ranks 42nd in the nation in per-pupil spending and has the 3rd highest class sizes in the country. State universities have raised tuition by over 47% in the last three years.

But rather than devote more funding to providing quality public education, state politicians are putting forward legislation that would open the door to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately controlled. These unaccountable schools are exempt from state standards and union contracts. The Gates Foundation is a leading backer and promoter of charter schools nationwide, despite the fact that their own CREDO study showed that only 17% of charters perform better and 37% performed worse.
This article from the Washington Post, and the leaked secret memo it excerpts, describe the Gates Foundation’s plans to secretly manipulate public opinion by taking advantage of the dire financial condition of the national school districts:

We call on all students, teachers, workers, and parents from all levels of education -- pre-K-12 through higher education -- and all Occupiers, labor unions, and organizations of oppressed communities to mobilize on March 1st to tell those in power: The resources exist for high-quality, publicly-controlled education for all.

We demand:
- Full funding for public education and social services
- Full public control of education policy
- Tax the 1%
- No budget cuts
- No tuition hikes
- No attacks on teacher unions
- No privatization of public education

Students and teachers should not have to pay for the crisis created by the 1%. We refuse to accept the dismantling of our schools and universities, while the banks and corporations make record profits. We refuse to accept budget cuts, educational re-segregation, attacks on teacher unions, rising class sizes, massive tuition increases, outrageous student debt, and increasing privatization and corporate control.

What Do YOU Want from the Next Superintendent?

The ad is out there. People will soon be responding. Then the committees will winnow the list of applicants to a set of semi-finalists and finalists. Seattle Public Schools will have a new superintendent.

What are you looking for in a new Superintendent?

Administrative skills - someone who will get the house in order
Management skills - someone who will motivate the school staff and the JSCEE staff
Fundraising skills - someone who can shake money out of Olympia, the Alliance, local businesses, and national foundations
Communication skills - someone who will listen to the community and respond

Perhaps it isn't skills. Perhaps you would like to see the District led by someone with a certain perspective.

Pragmatism - someone who will put energy behind what works instead of an ideology
Vision - someone who has an ideal and will work to implement it
Centralized control - someone who will enforce District mandates
De-centralized control - someone who will eliminate District mandates

Let's talk about it. What do you want from the new Superintendent?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Education Today - The Battle Rages On

So the on-going battle for the education soul of the Democratic party in Washington State goes on.

Over at Publicola, WEA President Mary Lindquist shot back at heavy Dem donor Nick Hanauer over his e-mail to her. (She is right on one point; he made it sound like every single change put forth in the Legislature has been blocked by the WEA. That's just not true.)

What puzzles me is who gave the e-mail to Publicola? At the end of the e-mail, Hanauer says "share this with the gang." But you'd think he might not have wanted it shared publicly or, just maybe, he did. Maybe he wanted to test the waters of public opinion. The problem is that he wants to make this about the WEA versus ed reformers and that's sure leaves out a lot of other interested parties.

The Times then writes an article that puts this all on display. What's interesting is they have Hanaeur, as well as some other wealthy donors, along with Lisa MacFarlane (holding down the DFER fort all by herself) on one side and the WEA on the other.

Again. Hello? There are other people out here - some of them the actual parents of actual students in public schools - who have plenty to say. Who's asking them? Who represents their interests?

The comments at the Times are either let's all hate the unions OR those rich people whining because they aren't winning the argument. Guess what gets lost? Any real movement forward - together - on better academic outcomes (versus what McKenna would like to do including vouchers).

And Hanauer had a funny line:

He also contends that the Washington Education Association (WEA), the state's largest teachers union, has far too much sway with Democratic leaders and "is literally strangling our public schools to death."

The article states that the WEA has contributed more than $900k to the state Dems since 2002 and more than $300k to various Senate Dem campaigns. Hanauer has donated more than $2.5M sinzel 2001 to Dems campaigns. Hanauer also said:

"The large point is, the leadership of my party is not leading the charge on these issues and in fact is highly resistant to most of them," Hanauer said. "That simply doesn't suit me and most of my progressive friends anymore. Enough is enough."

You know there are many, many people in this country who are frustrated and say enough is enough. Unfortunately, most of us are not Bill Gates or Nick Hanauer.


Jon Bridge, co-chief executive officer and general counsel for Ben Bridge Jeweler, said he opposes charter schools, and is happier with the current teacher-evaluation bill than Hanauer, saying, "half a glass is better than none at all."

And then Rick Santorum, weighs in again on education, this time higher education. He said:

”President Obama wants everybody to go to college. What a snob.”

Hold up your hand if you grew up lower-middle class and/or were first generation in your family do go to college. Do you remember when you told your parents' friends you were going and there was always that person who would say, "Don't let it go to your head" or "Not everyone needs to go to college".

It's snobby to want American kids to go to college? Obama didn't say "has to" or "needs to" or even "should". He expressed that as a want. And maybe that's a want he has for his children. However you can't have people whining about how bad K-12 public education is and then sneer if students who do make the effort to do well end up going to college.

Santorum also said this:

President Obama wants America’s young people to go to college in order to “indoctrinate” students and “remake” them in his image, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum argue on the campaign trail in recent days.

“There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor,” Santorum told a Tea Party rally Saturday in Troy, Mich.

On the one hand, of course not everyone will go to college. Not everyone needs to go to college. But to put down the idea as snobby or wrong, well, then which children do you encourage and which ones do you not encourage to go to college?

As the Washington Post points out, Santorum's criticisms are silly considering his three degrees. He holds a Bachelor's, a law degree and an M.B.A.

I bring up Santorum again as it is clear, if you listen to the Republican debates, that the Department of Education, under any of their administrations, would disappear. They all would throw most of the responsibility back at states and local districts. We can argue the merits of that idea but to me it would then signal, at a federal level, the green light for a free-for-all with states doing just about anything they want.

It's not a great way to educate a nation.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Seattle Schools for the Week of Feb. 27-March 3rd

Monday, Feb. 27th
Open Enrollment for Seattle Public Schools begins. Open Enrollment ends on March 9, 2012.

Wednesday, Feb. 29th

PTA Charter School Forum at Washington Middle School from 6:30-8:30 p.m. moderated by C.R. Douglas of Q13 Fox News.

This should be interesting as it comes almost at the end of the legislative session instead of its original date nearer the beginning. Also, the charter bill(s) are in such limbo, I wondering if there will be any discussion of the bill itself. That would be a pity because the issue should be about this charter bill.

You can have abstract but detailed discussions around charters but it's how charters would play out in our state that matters.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend this event so I hope to see a lot of feedback from those who do.

Also, there are two different Board events, both at the same time on Wednesday.

One is a Work Session on the Budget from 4-5:30 p.m. and the other is an Executive Committee Meeting of the Whole from 4-6 p.m. I'll have to ask about this on Monday. There are no agendas yet available for these meetings.

I also want to note that Marty McLaren is the new Chair of the Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee.

Thursday, March 1st
Rally and March for Public Education. Cities across the U.S. will be taking action to support public education. The Seattle Rally and March is being organized by Occupy Seattle Public Education work group.

Rally at Westlake Center at 2:45 p.m., followed by a march at 3:30 p.m. to the Gates Foundation to support a "Grade-In" conducted by teachers from the SEA and a "Teach-In" about charter schools by UW Professor Wayne Au.

At 4:30 p.m. members of the gorup plan to challenge Gates Foundation policy analysts to a "Policy Throwdown" - a general assembly-style open discussion of public education by Jesse Hagopian.

For more information, contact ospubliceducation@gmail.com.

Informational meeting on K-5 STEM at Boren at Denny Middle Schoool, 2601 SW Kenyon St. from 7-8:30 p.m. To note, this will be an identical presentation to the first meeting held on Feb. 15th. Might they have more answers? STEM at Boren is an option program and will be open to any student in Seattle entering kindergarten or grades 1-5 in September.

To learn more about K-5 STEM at Boren, visit http://bit.ly/K5STEM or send an email to K5STEM@seattleschool.org. Want to help shape the future of STEM? Applications for the Design Team are available at http://bit.ly/K5STEMdesignteam and due by Friday, March 2.

Saturday, March 3rd
School Board retreat from 10 am - 5 p.m. at JSCEE in the Auditorium.

A Window of Opportunity

After pondering the events of my Yogi Berra thread where we learned that something is afoot about the charter school legislation AND that a better kind of "pilot program" bill has been reintroduced, I think there may be an opening here to get a push going this weekend.

My belief is that the original charter bill is dead. I can't find a listing for it to come before the Legislature under any agenda for the next couple of days.

But I also think there may be a truncated version somewhere just waiting to be tucked into a budget bill. I can't find it (and neither could the legislative help desk staff yesterday when I called) but it just might not have made it in yet.

If you do not think charter schools are a good idea for Washington State, I urge you to contact the following legislators this weekend:




Also, consider contacting your own legislators about this issue.

Ask them to say NO to any inclusion of charter school legislation in any budget proposal.

If you agree with HB2799, the newest proposal for pilot schools (low-performing schools paired with colleges of education over five years), include that thought as well. Tell them there are other options to charters such as allowing the two innovation schools laws AND the lighthouse school law passed last year the time to work.

If these legislators get a rush of e-mails this weekend, it may help guide them in these last couple of weeks of the session.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What Was It That Yogi Berra Said?

He did say so many great things but several of them apply to the latest in "As the Charter School Bill Turns" show.

"This is like deja vu all over again."

"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."

But really, in this case, this one fits the best:

"It ain't over till it's over. "

I was unable to hear the discussion on The Conversion today on KUOW about charter schools. Luckily, you can hear the playback any time so I went to kuow.org and took a listen. It was a fairly scattershot kind of show with little bits of things thrown in here and there.

Ross Reynolds cited the Washington Policy Center poll that said 60% of voters in our state want charters (but noting that it would be quite the switch given that voters turned down charters three times at the polls and legislators turned down charter legislation even more times than that.)

Then they had Senator Tom, a sponsor of the Senate bill, stating in a recorded quote, that the bill is still alive but has changed.

Really? How?

He said instead of 50 charters over five years there would be 10. (But it wasn't clear over how long.)

He then said the bill could be more narrowly focused to serve educationally disadvantaged students by requiring the charters to be within several blocks of 57 schools in the state that have been failing over a long period of time (Senator Tom said "generations".)

As you can imagine, this caught my ear. It was interesting because, earlier on the Weekday program, Lynne Varner from the Times actually admitted the bill had issues and that a few amendments would help.

This was also startling because she has never said anything like this in any piece she has written.

So it would seem that either someone woke up and read the bill and/or had a come to Jesus moment. "You mean we might not have charter schools because we wrote an overly-long charter bill that doesn't really do what we say it will? Gee, we should do something about that."

What is also odd is that the locating of charters near the failing schools kind of flies in the face of what is already in the bill - Transformation Zone schools. As you may recall, those would be the lowest performing schools throughout the state being taken over by the State, their staffs fired and a Learning Management organization taking over for at least three years.

Confusing, no?

I called Senator Tom's office. I got a very nice young man who hadn't heard about this and later, called me back to say that was an old comment on KUOW (I checked, and no, it's a new comment that the Senator made today).

I went on and asked a Legislative desk officer who couldn't find any new amendments and he confirmed that any new legislation could be tucked into a budget proposal but that is not a common occurrence.

So either the charter bill is being heavily revamped in hopes it might be more palatable in the last 10 days of the session OR a revamped part is going to get tucked away into a budget bill OR it is DOA.

But, a bill that I had really liked is somehow back on the table. This would be House bill 2799, that would "authorize a five-year pilot project for up to six collaborative schools for innovation and success operated by districts in partnership with colleges of education."

This is the pilot project I can support. From the bill:

The college of education and the school district must develop an innovation and success plan for the school in collaboration with school staff, parents, and community members.

The innovation and success plan must include:
(a) The proposed program for instruction, wraparound support services, resource deployment, and professional development that has been developed based on the comprehensive needs assessment;
(b) A family and community engagement strategy that builds support among students and parents for high achievement for all students culturally appropriate ways;
(c) Professional learning communities among school staff and higher education faculty that are focused on identifying and responding to emergent student learning needs;
(d) Intensive preparation of teacher and principal candidates using research-based practices and a particular focus on skill development to improve learning for English language learners, highly mobile and homeless students, students with disabilities, and other students with special learning needs;
(e) Identification of the metrics that will be used to assess student achievement and skill development, both while the students are enrolled in elementary school and after they continue into middle school, and specific goals for improvement of these outcomes over the term of the pilot project, including but not limited to such metrics as attendance, grade-level retention, student growth, disciplinary incidents, course completion and grades, and performance on classroom-based assessments;

In another section:

Subject to funds appropriated specifically for this purpose, the office of the superintendent of public instruction shall contract with a northwest educational research organization to conduct an evaluation of the collaborative schools for innovation and success pilot project using quantitative and qualitative analysis to identify successful practices in improving student and educator outcomes. The organization shall submit a preliminary evaluation by December 1, 2015, and a final evaluation by September 1, 2018, to the superintendent of public instruction and the professional educator standards board.

Oh, you mean learn from the pilot schools and then disseminate best practices? Great idea.

I sincerely wish that Senator Tom would support this effort first. This is the way to go if you want to pilot this kind of innovation and seek best practices out of that pilot. This will not cost the state (or districts) the money or resources that a charter law would. And, money spent on this effort WOULD go into the classroom and not just for administrative costs.

Program Placement Decisions for 2012-2013

Here is a link to the program placement decisions for 2012-2013.

All of the proposals from staff were accepted.

All of the proposals from the public were rejected.

In violation of the Program Placement policy there is no publicly available description of the process used to make these decisions.

A number of other program placement proposals were made, but they are not discussed in this document.

Dishonest Discussion

The Seattle School Board will soon consider terminating the District's contract with Teach for America. There is disagreement about this on the School Board, so we are likely to hear a discussion of the question with Board directors advocating for each side. This is good and healthy. This is what democracy looks like. I welcome a full discussion regardless of the eventual conclusion. I will, however, be deeply disappointed if the discussion is not honest. We have already seen the start of a dishonest discussion. This dishonest discussion needs to be stopped and it is the other Board directors who need to stop it. They need to stop it by exposing the dishonesty the moment it appears.

When the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee met and decided to advance this motion to the full board, one of the Board directors, Harium Martin-Morris, spoke against the termination of the Teach for America contract. Mr. Martin-Morris made one of the most loathsome and dishonest statements I have ever heard from a school board director. He said that the Board should make data-based decisions and that it was pre-mature to terminate the contract with Teach for America because they did not yet have the results of this experiment. There are so many lies packed into that statement that I'm going to need some time and space to unpack them all.

Charter Schools to be Discussed on KUOW at Noon

KUOW's The Conversation will be having a discussion of charter schools today at noon.

Charter schools are currently not allowed under state law. Supporters say they should be tried in places where the public schools are failing. Opponents say charter schools "poach" funding from the public schools. What do you think? What's your experience with charter schools in other states?

You can record your comments anytime this evening at Feedback Line: 206.221.3663.

Tomorrow the Live Call–in number is 206.543.5869

Or you can send email to: conversation@kuow.org
The Conversation tends to truncate stories so this is likely to be a 12-minute segment sometime during the hour.  

Friday Open Thread

First, a huge salute to the third-grade Bremerton teacher who helped to save the life of her student when the student got hit by a bullet from a handgun in another student's bag. Doctors are crediting the teacher with saving that girl long enough to get her to the hospital by stopping her external bleeding.

Second, this news item was in the Times/Seattle's Child and may be of interest:

In honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, The Center for Pediatric Dentistry will offer free dental screenings for children ages 1 through 18 on Saturday, Feb. 25. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the center, which is located at 6222 N.E. 74th St. in Seattle.

All children in attendance will receive a free brief dental screening to identify potential trouble spots in the mouth (no X-rays will be taken). Fun activities will include some of the 3D interactive exhibit “Attack of the S. Mutans,” which showcases virtual tour guide Dentisha battling mouth bacteria, and the Labyrinth i-Pad game. The Tooth Fairy will also be on hand. No reservations are necessary and every family will be seen. To learn more about this event, visit www.thecenterforpediatricdentistry.com.

Lastly, I have a bit of suspicious feeling about how quiet the discussion over charters has gotten. It has died down publicly in the Legislature (can't find it listed on any meetings anywhere) and LEV seems to be avoiding the subject the last couple of days.

I didn't get in to see either Chopp or Murray. I didn't think I would but I had hoped so. But with Chopp as Speaker (and I guess taking it on the chin from Nick Hanauer who Chopp did have time to see) and Murray as head of the Senate Ways and Means committee, I just have to wonder if they will succumb to pressure and sneak it into a budget bill.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Survey Shows Washington State Supports Charter (Just Ask the Questions the Right Way)

I saw that the Washington Policy Center (which is basically a right-wing thinktank) did a poll and they say that 60% of the people surveyed say they support allowing charters and 64% say they support allowing "low-income and minority children in urban neighborhoods" to attend them. They surveyed 400 adults statewide. It doesn't say when the poll was taken.

The idea of changing state law to allow charter public schools found support in all areas of the state – 55% of respondents in Eastern Washington and 61% in Western Washington supported allowing charters, including 58% in King County and a slim majority (51%) in Seattle.

The highest level of opposition was reported in Seattle, where 32% said they strongly or somewhat oppose allowing charter public schools. Opposition in King County as a whole was 25%.

Now they start their press release saying:

Charter public schools are currently banned in Washington.

No, they're not. They are not legally permitted and there's a big difference. There is NO law "banning" charters. There has been legislation about charters that was voted down or rescinded by public vote but no ban. But it's a good word to use if you want to up the ante.

So there were basically two questions. Here's the first one:

1. 41 states & the District of Columbia have charter public schools, independent community- based schools that are tuition-free and take all students...Currently, state law bans such schools in Washington. After hearing this, would you support or oppose changing state law so charter public schools could be opened in Washington State?

I really dislike that "community-based" label because it is not true. Charters do not have to take more community children nor do they have to be based on anything the community wants. They are arguing in other parts of the country over this issue because some communities want a bump for their children to be able to enroll in the school that they can walk to but the charters don't want to change their enrollment procedures to allow that.

Again with the word "ban". Also, they are required to take all students; they do NOT do so much of the time.

Second question:

2. Would you support or oppose allowing charter public schools to open in urban neighborhoods where state officials report traditional schools are failing to adequately educate low-income and minority children?

Well, you can't load up a question better than that. "Do you want poor children to get out of failing schools? Why yes I do.

The other questions were about age, gender and party ID. I wish they had asked about race since they actually put that issue in as part of the question.

What is interesting to me is that in the interview with McKenna on KUOW yesterday, he emphatically said that if the charter legislation got to the floor of both parts of the Legislature, it would have passed. I have no idea how he thinks he knows this; he could be right. What Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos has said is that it would NOT have been voted out of her committee and I think she would know that.

What I think the charter supporters want is for the legislation to become law. Okay but then it WILL go to a vote of the people where it will, yet again, fail. I know this just as surely as McKenna believes it would pass in the Legislature.

Now Senator Tom said it shouldn't get voted on again because that's "gambling" with education. Just like we "gamble" with voting for President.

The crux of this whole issue is education. Not public education but educating the public.

We have never had charter schools in this state. It is clear to me from months of talking to people and doing these forums and going to LD meetings that people really do not know what charters are. I'm pretty sure with the very little (and skewed) description from the WPC's poll, that most of these respondents didn't really know what charters are except "public community-based schools."

Let it go to a vote - I have no problem with that at all.

(Update: I do want to add that there are a several reasons that the pro-charter side would NOT want this to go to a vote.

One, it has already gone to a vote THREE times and I think there are voters who would be mighty irritated it is coming forth again.

Two, we have a HUGE ballot in November. Good luck getting heard in that crowded field.

Three, they could lose and that might be the final nail in the board.

Four, they wouldn't be able to stick everything in a referendum that they can in this bill. Gone would be Transformation Zone schools and the parent trigger.

It's quite the conundrum.)

Second update: realized that if it did go to a vote it would be a referendum, not an initiative. I'm pretty sure with a referendum, it is a vote on the whole law. In an initiative, charter supporters wouldn't be able to have multiple issues in the initiative (as there is in this law). My error.


I have turned off the word verification under Comments as it was driving me (and many of you - I heard you!) nuts. 

However, that means we have no spam filter.  I hope this won't become an issue. 

I also hope to hear from Blogger about this issue.  I did Google the issue and many other blogs are not happy so I hope they choose another way to block spam.

My apologies for the irritation.

Are We Fighting Each Other? (And Why?)

It's becoming apparent that those who fight for charters have their own agenda. I say that because they are not making the argument based just on the merits of charter schools.  And, they are certainly not fighting on the merits of this particular charter bill (on which they all seem strangely silent except to say "tool in the toolbox"  and "let's try them." 

Those who are the leaders in this effort seem to be fighting on two fronts.

One person is Nick Hanauer who believes he speaks for many Dems (and he may be but he offers no evidence). He blames the WEA and he blames Dems for being "stooges".  He says the union has not backed any initiatives or any legislation that would challenge the "status quo."

I know this is not true. What is likely true is that the union did not back the measures HE thought they should.

Now it would seem that people of good faith and in the same party should be able to sit down and find common ground and work towards compromise and consensus and, most importantly, a way forward together.

LEV is another example where leadership might want to work with those who are directly affected by their actions.  LEV is a non-profit group and has their own Board of Directors and they alone determine their course of action. This is fine but again, if you want to make real and lasting change, you need buy-in, not slogans.

Both LEV and Mr. Hanauer are receiving blowback from their recent words and actions. The Times has tried to shore up their positions but I'm not sure who listens to the Times now.  The editorial board there seems to exist in their own little echo chamber.

For those who may have missed the story, LEV put out a flyer in South Seattle telling parents and community members how bad the numbers are for the achievement gap in their region.

Trails Program for Teens over Spring Break

The Washington Trails Association will be having an "Alternative Spring Break" for teenagers.   It can be a day or a week and they earn service learning hours while improving trails.  They also have Saturday once-a-month work parties.  These activities are for students 10 and up. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Two SPS Jazz Bands Win Spots in Essentially Ellington Competition

There are two SPS high schools that will represent at this year's Essentially Ellington competition in NYC in May.  It's not who you might think.

This year the honor goes to Roosevelt and Ballard.  Garfield, a long-time winner and participant, was not on the list.

Congratulations to both Roosevelt and Ballard.  This is testament to the hard work by students, parents and band directors at both schools.  That we now have a third powerhouse jazz band in our district is great news. 

Deaths in Syria include Journalists, Activists and a Blogger

I want to give notice to the reports from Syria that several journalists were killed yesterday.  Among them:
  • Veteran Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin
  • French photographer Remi Ochlik
  • several journalists including a video blogger, Rami al-Sayed
Syrians who want to flee cannot; there are snipers everywhere. 

From The Guardian:

Ms. Colvin's last report:

"I think the reports of my survival may be exaggerated," she wrote. "In Baba Amr. Sickening, cannot understand how the world can stand by and I should be hardened by now. Watched a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped. Feeling helpless. As well as cold! Will keep trying to get out the information."

Sayed's last posting:

On Tuesday night, Sayed also lodged a final missive. "Baba Amr is being exterminated. Do not tell me our hearts are with you because I know that. We need campaigns everywhere across the world and inside the country. People should protest in front of embassies and everywhere. Because in hours, there will be no more Baba Amr. And I expect this message to be my last."

I had seen Sayed on a couple of national tv news shows.  He was trying to save his country and his people from being destroyed by a dictator intent on retaining power at all costs.

He was a true citizen journalist and an example of how speaking out can inform and create change. 

McKenna Talks Education on The Conversation

At noon, KUOW's The Conversation will have Rob McKenna on to talk education.  Mr. McKenna has huge plans for public education if elected but hasn't quite explained how he would pay for it.  His website reflects four top issues: jobs, education, government reform and higher education.  Under "education":
  • Invest in expanded career skills opportunities for high school students across the state, keying on the high-demand for machinists, electrical workers, and other workers in the skilled trades.
  • Fund more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs like Aviation, Delta, and Marysville Arts & Technology High Schools, as well as International Baccalaureate and other AP/Honors programs.
  • Permit and encourage highly innovative charter schools, drawing on the most successful models from around America such as KIPP, Rocketship and Harlem Success Academy.
  • Provide incentives to state colleges of education to increase admissions standards and raise the average entering student's qualifications to the top one-third of her or his entering college class. We must also explore additional alternative certification routes to allow community members with in-demand skills to enter the profession.
  • Develop and launch the nation's top schools superintendent training academy, drawing applicants from education, academia, non-profit sectors, and the military, with particular emphasis on leadership potential and effectiveness.
  • Revamp training programs for and recruitment of school principals, emphasizing pedagogical expertise, leadership abilities and management skills.
  • Change state law to allow elected school boards in school districts with ten percent or more failing schools to be replaced with a school board appointed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or Governor.
Let's go through that list.

- the state is funding more STEM programs right now but okay, more then.
- again, the charter bill is flawed in the way it picks charter proposals that are supposed to support educationally disadvantaged students
- yes, alternative certification for more community members WOULD be good but they seem more interested in select groups like TFA.
- Washington state should develop a superintendent training academy?  Why?  A complete non-starter.
- again, a program for school principals sounds good but where's the money?
- the last one is a doozy - replace School Boards where the district has 10% or more failing schools and new ones are appointed by the State Superintendent or Governor.   Oh, so you would put all the blame on the School Board but not the superintendent.

He supports fully funding schools according to recommendations from the Quality Education Council.

One thing I don't quite know how it would work legally with CBAs:

Change the state salary schedule so effectiveness, not just seniority and credentialing, are factors in teacher pay.

Another point in his plank is this:

Train educators at underperforming schools with effective strategies for teaching struggling students, students of color and students from low-income families.

I would say okay if this was your first job teaching or teaching at a struggling school.  But I'm pretty sure most teachers at those schools DO know what to do but aren't given the supports.  Giving them training without supports isn't going to change much.

He says he would fund all-day kindergarten state-wide.

He would fund a longer school year.  

But...where would he get the money?  This is an unbelievable amount of money and what is he going to cut?  He does mention the issues of consolidating teachers' health care programs (an issue currently before the Legislature).

A lot of this sounds great and you can see how ed reformers might like him (like Nick Hanauer).

One interesting thing - vouchers have been taken out.  I know it was there the first time I went to his website and now it has been taken out.  It may not be there but I'm pretty sure if he is elected, we will hear voucher talk.

Add Another One to the No on Charters Column

Last night, the 43rd LD Democrats passed a resolution against charter schools.  It passed overwhelmingly with just a couple of nays. 

The 43rd, the district that Michelle Buetow and I both live in, is the district that Speaker Frank Chopp, Senator Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen represent.  I'm sure the leadership in the 43rd will let them know about passage of this resolution.  I do hope they will take into consideration in these last weeks of the legislative session.

Odds and Ends (Spoiler Alert for a Movie)

A reader asked about the Arbor Heights Elementary charter forum last week.  It went well.  There were about 35 people there, mostly from Arbor Heights but some from other surrounding schools.  The principal, Christy Collins, was there along with several of their teachers.  (What was really nice is that some of the PTA leaders from Olympic View, who had also put on their own charter forum a couple of weeks back, came to this forum and stayed for a tour of the building.)

It was well-organized (with little Halloween candy packages for all).

As per Olympic View, I was the fact-checker with Beth Sigall, pro side (from the Lake Washington School district) and Kristen King, con side.  Both of them had very good PowerPoints and I think the audience appreciated that. (Note: I did an update as I misspelled Beth's name and got her district wrong in the first version.  My apologies.)

What was somewhat different from the Olympic View charter forum was Beth's emphasis on Eric Pettigrew's advocacy of this bill and yet it wasn't even his district.  Also, Beth's presentation emphasized more of the "big-picture" of charters and not this bill.  I have to say there is almost no one who will stand up to the specifics in this bill and it's troubling.

As I mentioned, after the forum, Principal Collins took several of us on a tour of the building.  I have been through many, many buildings in this district.  This was one of the worst.  I think the PTA leaders from Olympic View were more than a little shocked that this is the state of a public school building.

With all due respect for the good work going on in the building (and with a nod to Bette Davis), what a dump.

Arbor Heights is at the top of the list (along with Meany) for the worst building in the district.  Dingy, cramped, some of the oldest furniture I've seen, heating that does not work 80% of the time, and worst of all, real safety issues.   The kids can't drink the water in the bathrooms and there's a sign saying that but we all know kids.  Arbor Heights has those low kind of windows popular in '60s schools and, in some rooms, the blinds are broken.  As Principal Collins pointed out, when you have a lock-down, the teachers are supposed to draw the blinds so no one can see in.  That is not possible in every room at AH and yes, someone on the outside could walk the perimeter of the building and see in.

Next, guess what subject has been made into a movie?  The parent trigger law in California.  Thanks to one of our readers for this story that appeared in the NY Times.
In a rare mix of hot policy debate and old-fashioned screen drama, 20th Century Fox is preparing a September release for “Won’t Back Down.” The film heads smack into the controversies around so-called parent trigger laws that in California and a handful of other states allow parents to dump bad teachers and overrule administrators in bottom-ranked schools.

Now the trigger laws have connected with a movie culture whose new preoccupation with timeliness lends urgency and risk to reality-inspired dramas that in the past were usually set safely in the past.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Smartest Guy in the Room

Over at Publicola, the jousting goes on.  Firing back at the letter that WEA President, Mary Lindquist, wrote yesterday, Knight-in-Shining Armor, Nick Hanauer writes a long reply.

What is somewhat funny is he agrees with her on nearly all the reasons why as a "lifelong Democrat and committed progressive" he shouldn't want Rob McKenna as governor.  But then, speaking of education, he says that "McKenna is on the right track and we are not."  Keep in mind, McKenna is not on the ed reform train - he looks like he could be the engineer.  Vouchers, anyone?

Alert! New ed reform talking point, speak of Washington State:

We may be headed in the right direction, but we aren’t in the right lane.


It is not classroom teachers who are afraid of change and innovation—it is their union.

But, clearly the union is backed by its members so the union IS the teachers.

Then Hanauer does what so many do,  "I'm not a teacher but...",  and regales us with his vast work experience which means his advice is to run schools like businesses and all will be well.  Nope.  (Although I will say they should be well-managed but not the same thing.)

And uh oh:

As I write, the new Seattle School Board—which WEA money championed—appears to be in the process of terminating the contract with Teach For America, a nationally acclaimed program that brings a very diverse group of the nation’s most talented college graduates to teach in low performing schools. This sort of behavior is irrational, self-destructive, and it undermines the cause that unions work to further.

 I'm thinking he doesn't know that TFA costs districts extra money.  Or that they have less than 6 weeks of training.  Or that our site-based hiring teams just didn't see the quality or the experience.  Or that, in the entire Puget Sound region, only 11 got hired.  Or that they are certainly not a diverse group in this region.

Then he gets into data on south Seattle students.  I would take what he says with a grain of salt given that LEV created a flyer to support charter schools that called out Rainier Beach High School AND used incorrect data.   That's a whole other thread but clearly, LEV and Hanauer think they know what's best for those communities.  A bit paternalistic but Hanaeur is another in a long line of wealthy white guys who say they know education well and if only people would listen to them.

He has a lot to say on charters and he singles out KIPP without noting that the charter bill he is touting could kick KIPP out in a lottery system if there were too many charter proposals approved for educationally disadvantaged students.  I'm thinking he didn't read the whole bill.

Then he criticizes the WEA for getting their membership out in force and working to defeat charters in our last election over it.  Really?  Like the wealthy people who own Costco did?  You work to get members in a group to work to win an election.  Stop the presses.   Oh wait, they were union people; well, that's different.

He says at the end that he's a "committed Democrat."  People committed to a party don't threaten to take their toys and walk if they disagree on a single issue.  He would take his most valuable possession as a citizen - his vote - and give it away on a single issue.  Or, maybe it's just a way to stomp his foot and get attention.

On my title for this thread - I meant that I'll bet he runs for School Board or gives a huge amount of money in the next School Board election.

FYI Teachers

SEA Candidates Coffee Chats:

Friday, Feb 24th, 9:30 am to 11 am
Neighborhood: Capitol Hill: Cafe Presse -1117 12th Avenue

 Saturday, Feb 25th, 9:30 am to11am
Neighborhood: Georgetown: All City Coffee, 1205 S Vale St (between S Corson Ave & S 12th Ave)

Sunday Feb 26th, 9:30 am -11am 
Cafe Fiore, 5405 Leary Avenue Northwest

 More info: Eric Muhs, ericmuhs@comcast.net or www.socialequalityeducators.org

Tuesday Open Thread

FirstThursday Seattle, an advocacy group for black and small businesses, is having a Town Hall meeting on charter schools on Thursday, March 1st at noon.  (I know, that's not an easy time to make if you are working.)

It's at the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club, 4520 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way S.  Bring your own brown bag lunch.  There will be drinks made available by the FirstThursday Board of Director. 

RSVP at: info@firstThursdayseattle.org. For more information go to the FirstThursday Seattle web site: www.firstthursdayseattle.org or call the FirstThursday Seattle office: (206) 280-9941.

What's on your mind?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Rick, Rick, Rick - What Century Are You Living In?

We have a presidential election coming up (if you haven't noticed). President Obama is running for the Democratics and the Republicans, well - they'll pick someone, eventually.

My biased take is that I hope the Republicans tear each other to shreds and that someone staggers out of the Republican convention, dazed and bleeding.

Why? Well, if you care about public education, you'd wonder would happen to public education if any of these candidates are elected President.

We know what would happen with Santorum who likes to lecture people on why parents should all be homeschooling. Really? He loves the idea of the "one-room schoolhouse".

He says it's "weird" for kids of the same age to all be in the same classroom.

Actually, I like Montessori teaching which DOES encourage multi-age learning. But a classroom where all the students are related and taught by a relative (usually their mom) is better than a classroom with trained teachers? And learning how to get along in an environment with different kids of people? In a building where you don't have your home bathroom? (I never realized what a big deal this was until one son told me he tried - across his entire K-12 experience to NOT use the bathroom at school. Maybe it's a boy thing, I don't know.)

I pulled my son out of an LA class at Eckstein because he and I were so unhappy with what he was being taught (or not taught). I had ONE class to teach my 13-year old child.

It was hard, really, really hard. I had to make lesson plans, get him to sit down and listen and, yes, teach. (I went very old-school and we had spelling lessons, Greek and Roman mythology and grammar lessons.) But what a job and it was one lousy class.

So is it likely that in every single family in the U.S., there's someone who can teach many children across several grade levels? And, do it well? I have my doubts. It's just not plausible.

I'm not sure Rick Santorum has set foot in a public school. He doesn't talk like he has. It's pretty disrespectful to discount the entire public school system.

On the upside, though, I don't think he would push charters.

Updates From Publicola

Over at Publicola, they report that WEA president, Mary Lindquist, wrote an open letter based on what Nick Hanauer had to say about public education in the state of Washington.

You can read the whole thing there but she says several things I find I can agree with her on:

And yet, in a single email, he has managed to align himself with a politician who is antithetical to all of those progressive values.

First, it must be clearly understood that it is the voters of Washington – not the WEA – that have rejected charter schools on three separate occasions in recent years. 

Voters know that for charter schools to be imposed, advocates like Hanauer would need to poach funding from local neighborhood schools and districts.

In the 2010 legislative session, WEA pushed the adoption of SB 6696. Now we are engaged in a collaborative process with districts across the state to pilot new evaluation systems. We see signs this system will make a real difference for students. We look forward to a fair and lasting process that improves instruction and enhances student learning.

We continue to ask our teachers and school employees to work longer hours, for less pay and lower benefits, in the 3rd most crowded classrooms in the nation.

In another story, looks like Stand for Children's Executive Director, Shannon Campion, is moving on.  Publicola's take?

And speaking of the civil war that’s brewing in the Democratic Party over ed reform: Campion’s announcement follows Lisa Macfarlane’s announcement late last year that she’s leaving her job as executive director of the League of Education Voters—a compatriot of Stand for Children—and starting  the Washington chapter of a similar education reform group, Democrats for Education Reform, which finds itself in the center of a civil war trying to nudge Democrats out of the union camp.

Checking over at Stand's website, I don't see a notice about Ms. Campion's exit.  But they do talk about the various education bills, calling both the teacher evaluation bill and charter bill, "our bills."

Assessing Teachers; What are We Really Doing?

There's an article in today's NY Times entitled, "States Try to Fix Quirks in Teacher Evaluations."  I invite you to peruse the article - I'm not sure anyone would call them "quirks".

It opens with a scene probably familiar to all - a high-school LA teacher explaining what irony means.  The principal was there to assess this veteran teacher's abilities.  He says it was a "good lesson."  BUT he had to give her a 1 (lowest score out of 1-5) because she didn't break the students into groups.  He had seen her do it in the past but in her professional wisdom, she didn't feel the need to do it for this lesson.  But the principal had to follow the rubric guidelines.  He said:

“It’s not an accurate reflection of her as a teacher,” Mr. Ball said.

That's just one assessment of what sounds like a perfectly fine teacher.  And yet, she got dinged.  But it's not just the teachers:

Principals in rural Chester County, Tenn., are staying late and working weekends to complete reviews with more than 100 reference points. In Nashville, teachers are redesigning lessons to meet the myriad criteria — regardless of whether they think that is the best way to teach. And at Bearden High School in Knoxville, Tenn., physical education teachers are scrambling to incorporate math and writing into activities, since 50 percent of their evaluations will be based on standardized tests, not basketball victories.

And that last point is important because the SEA and the district just sent out an e-mail to high school teachers reminding them that:

Beginning in 2011-12 all teachers of tested subjects and grade levels will have student achievement data collected for the purpose of meeting the CBA requirements for student growth.  It is essential to accurately link all students to the teacher(s) who provided their instruction so that teacher’s student growth ratings will be accurate. The designed process includes staff verification of student rosters for classes taught (Article XI Section G, p. 104).

After you return from mid-winter break, we will be asking you to review your first semester student rosters and confirm the students that received mathematics or reading instruction from you.  You will be able to review these rosters and make any corrections you feel are necessary if you did not provide the instruction in one or both of these areas.  Instructions for how to review and complete your roster verification will be provided when the rosters are available to review.

We targeted this data collection time to coincide with the end of the first semester.   We recognize this may be an inconvenience, and want to thank you for your time and effort in completing this important task.

This is part of the CBA but it does point out the issues in assessment.  Do science teachers teach math as part of their teaching?   Should they submit their students' names or just math and LA teachers?  It's a lot of time on the teachers' part as well as whoever has to collate all that information.  (According to the note above, the teachers won't know how or who to review until they get their rosters.  It seems like that doesn't give them the ability to do some of this work in advance of getting the rosters and will have to do it all at once.)

No matter how much we want to make sure who is doing good work in the classroom, there seems to be a lot of measuring to the nth degree and possible soul-searching on the part of those who do the assessing in order to be fair to a teacher.

And, is everyone good at everything?  Do you do every part of your job well?

It's a brave new world and you have to wonder how many young people might reject this job because of the difficulties of understanding how they will be assessed for the work they do.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Superintendent Search

It appears that the district is running on the old habit of "a need to know basis" with parents.  That is, they'll let you know what they think you need to know when they think you should hear it.  

So it is with the Superintendent Search.  The information has been sketchy and confusing.  

Here is the webpage.  Let's compare that with Highline's or Spokane's or Bellevue's.   (Also, as an update, Bellevue's says they will decide, by Feb. 27th, on what their final process is to be.  I think this means they have decided on Enfield, they will stop their process.)  Spokane had multiple focus groups with teachers, support staff, parents, community members and students.  

Here's what happens in Spokane after they pick their finalists:
The three finalists will each spend a full day in Spokane for meetings with staff, interview/feedback groups and a community open forum.

Here's what happens in Highline:
The forums will also be streamed live on the internet, and viewers will be able to send in questions to the candidate via email or Twitter. Participants will have an opportunity to share their feedback via an online survey after the forums.

Now I get that those districts are further along than SPS.  But our timeline does NOT even once mention community input or forums.  There is nothing.   

The Board now has three committees in the mix.  

As you may recall, there is the Search Committee which is a group of 12 people including the Board and various labor reps.  The only outside group on the committee is PTSA.

Then there was an advisory committee which included those 12 plus two teachers, two students, the interim superintendent, deputy superintendent, and assistant superintendents, one person from Special Education PTSA, someone from the Alliance, someone from the Our Schools Coalition and one person from the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition.  (More than one person showed up from the Alliance and the Our Schools Coalition.)
This would have been okay except for the fact that the Board didn't follow their own Board policy for advisory groups and there is no explanation about this group at the superintendent search webpage.  

So now we are in Phase II which DeBell says is the confidential process so we won't be hearing from the search committee for a couple of months.  

The timeline shows the application deadline is March 23rd.  

They will interview candidates between April 13-14.

Then around April 23rd, the finalists will be announced (between 3-5).  Then the "focus group" advisory committee meets with them (and I believe this is without the search committee).   This meeting is closed to the public.  Why, I don't know because this group is supposed to be the "community" group.  Why couldn't people just sit in and listen as if at a work session?

From the webpage:

If you would like to apply to be a member of the focus group, please email tlhale@seattleschools.org with the following information: Name, contact information, organization affiliation (if any), and a maximum of one paragraph explaining your interest in being part of the focus group. The deadline for applications is 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 7, 2012.

Early-to-mid May is when the announcement is to be made of who is getting an offer.

Again, no dates or mention of any PUBLIC engagement.  I really don't know if anyone not on the committees (or up the food chain like the Mayor) will get to hear these people speak. 

Open and transparent?  Not so much.

Community Meetings on Saturday the 18th

I attended Michael DeBell's community meeting.  Did anyone attend Sharon Peaslee's?  If so, let us know about the discussion.

DeBell's meeting was interesting with the majority of participants from McClure Middle School.  They had a variety of concerns including less-than-stellar science program, loss of students from "good" elementaries like Coe, John Hay, etc. from elementary to middle school (thus creating funding issues for McClure) and issues around discipline at the school.  (You may recall that I mentioned in the SB meeting wrap-up that a mother from McClure had expressed some concerns around discipline as well.)

DeBell gave the group an update on the SB meeting.  He said the MOU that passed had been an addendum to the collective bargaining agreement.  He said that 15 schools had expressed interest in the idea.  He was fairly blase about it so I mentioned that the vote took oversight away from the Board and left it all in the hands of the Superintendent and SEA.

Michael shook his head somewhat wearily.  I think he feels this is an area that is not understood.  He said they didn't give up oversight - they can look at the applications and give input and, of course, let the Superintendent know if there are issues at the quarterly evaluation meeting for the superintendent.

I actually do see his point.  I don't want the Board doing the application assessment - that rightly should be in the hands of the Super and the SEA.  What I want is for the Board (or Board committee) to have REVIEW oversight.  One last set of eyes to look at the applications.   I have a feeling that 95% of them would pass that review easily especially if the CSA Oversight Committee passed them through first. 

Michael is also kind of where Charlie is on these early stages - thinking nothing that dramatic will happen.  This process will likely shore up some of our alternative schools.  He thinks that the bar is set so high at 80% of teacher approval and the Superintendent's approval that there won't be any askew changes. 

But I then said, what about parents?  They are not part of this process of approval at all.  Michael said they would give input during the design process and that's true but, at the end of it all, parents really have no say in the direction their school will go.  I asked Michael to at least direct the Superintendent to please tell principals to make this decision known to parents.  He said, "We try to do that."

Frankly, I was a little surprised in a roomful of parents that he didn't say something like "Yes, we should make sure that parents on tours know of this decision because what they tour now might be different by October or December."  I feel like a Lorax - who speaks for the parents? 

David Edelman, a teacher at Ingraham, said he hadn't been following this much and that it had been in the CBA.  He did say that you don't have to be a Creative Approach school to be creative or innovative.  He's right and the district will have to be careful in the future about marketing our district.  With foreign language immersion, STEM or CAS, other schools might look bland to parents but having a solid academic program and a warm inviting school is a good thing as well.

DeBell also explained that the curriculum instruction waivers vote was postponed.  He said there was a debate about funding at the schools.  Director Peaslee had put forth an amendment stating that because of inequities of fundraising from school to school, the district should be paying for the materials pertinent to the new curriculum.

De Bell explained that they will compromise this way (as I understand it) - take the average cost of adoption and figure out a per-pupil average cost and that amount goes to a school that adopts this new curriculum.  He said it looked like $10 per student and would be fiscally neutral.  He said Singapore is relatively inexpensive while Saxon was more expensive.

Then he got into the superintendent search which, again, has taken a new twist.  Here's the updated webpage.  You can now apply for what they are calling "a 25-member focus group."  So they have a search committee, then another committee that includes those members but some others who somehow got invited to talk with the search consultants and now, another group that does NOT include the search committee who will interview the finalists.  I STILL do not know who was in the second group or how they were chosen. 

A separate thread on this process is coming up soon.

Mr. Edelman gave DeBell a few thoughts on enrollment at Ingraham.  He said he was right in his assessment about growth last year.  He said that he thought the district's estimate that Ingraham would grow by only 30 students was too low. 

The McClure parents expressed their concern over some discipline issues and Michael mentioned that he had heard some similar concerns over the last several years.

One issue is about talking to students about discipline issues (serious matters, not running in the halls) without a parent being notified.  Now one parent said the police couldn't get away with that but I think he may be wrong.  I am going to ask a couple of people tomorrow about this but I did Google it and it appears a police officer and/or school official can speak to your child without you being present.  (I'd like to be wrong on this but I don't think so.)

So going back to the discussion about the ACLU, here's what I was told and what I told my own children.  If your child get accused of something serious by a school official, the mantra is, "I want my parents called.  I want them here while I talk to you."  If your child gets questioned by a police officer, it's "I want my parents or a lawyer."  That protect your child because he/she has just asserted their civil rights.

Many school officials find it a useful tactic to bring a child in a room with a couple of adults and start questioning them.  Very infrequently, but sometimes, a child might be threatened (you'll be suspended, you'll go to juvenile court, etc).  Think of a kid who might be 12 or 13 and how frightening that is.

Tell your child to always ask for a parent to be notified.  Even if a parent can't be found (or get there), your child has protected himself and will be able to say later that on that he or she did not want to talk without a parent present.

There was also a latecomer to the meeting, also a McClure parent, who wanted to talk about Special Education issues.  She said that the program had been undergoing changes and parents were frustrated.  She said that it appeared that at the school level, funding was getting stripped from Special Ed.  She said it looked like some schools were hiring dual-certificated teachers rather just a Special Education teacher .  She said this type of hiring takes some pressure off of General Ed teachers but puts more on Special Ed teachers. 

DeBell said the district had two mandates; to provide the least restrictive environment and to integrate and meet individual needs.  He said Special Ed funding keeps going up. 

It seems like everyone is frustrated with Special Ed.  I wish I had the answers.

Odds and Ends

No district meetings this week because of the Mid-Winter Break.  (At Michael DeBell's community meeting, he noted this is the last long one SPS will have as it goes to a shorten one starting next year.)

Charter Legislation
One meeting to put out there: the 43rd Dems will be considering on a resolution to oppose charter schools at their meeting this Tuesday night that starts a 7:00 p.m. (this resolution is at the end of the meeting).

That makes the 34th, 36th, 37th,46th, King County Dems and Washington State Dems have passed resolutions against charter schools.  And, adding to PTAs that have passed resolutions against this charter legislation, is the Loyal Heights PTA Board.  They crafted a beautifully-written and detailed letter to Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles as well as Frank Chopp, Speaker of the House.

Speaking of Chopp, he's MY rep, and I hope to be meeting with him soon to discuss the charter legislation.  As I pointed out to his staff, I am a constituent and if the Speaker has time to talk with non-constituent Nick Hanauer about this issue (and that Mr. Hanauer then talked about how he reamed out the Speaker in that now-infamous e-mail published at Publicola), maybe the Speaker has time for me.

According to the Associated Press, Washington State is going apply for a waiver to the requirements of NCLB.  Washington State is near the reading goal but nowhere near for math.

Friday, February 17, 2012

NO 37th District Town Hall on Saturday

I received messages from staff from Sharon Tomiko-Santos and Eric Pettigrew stating that there is NO Town Hall for the 37th LD tomorrow at Garfield.  

I received this information via the Washington State PTSA and I made the mistake of not independently verifying it.  My apologies.

Just a Reminder - Director Community Meetings Tomorrow

DeBell Community Meeting from 9-11 am at Cafe Appasionato
Peaslee Community Meeting from 10:30 am to noon at the Lake City Library

I am torn about going to talk to DeBell and ask him why he continues to feed conflict on the Board.  I understand that during the discussion about the CAS, he said some on the Board wanted "control."

It's not about control; it's about oversight.  I never in my life thought I would quote Ronald Reagan but their role is "trust but verify" to voters.   They gave it away with this MOU.

Also, I still have not heard from him about why the superintendent search seems to be a mystery.  There is finally a webpage on the search but it has the vaguest of timelines (with no mention of public input or ability to meet the finalists) and no mention of the the two committees. 

Where's that transparency? 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Open Thread Friday - Have a Good Time

Watch this video and see what looks like a community of happy kids and dedicated staff.  Inspirational.

Green Lake Elementary Rocks!

Motion to Cancel TFA Contract

This evening the Board Curriculum and Instruction Committee met as a committee of the whole. Five board members were in attendance. A majority of them want a motion to terminate the district's contract with Teach for America. The motion will appear as an introduction item at the March 7 board meeting and as an action item at the March 21 board meeting. The deadline for terminating the contract for next year is April 1.

Program Placement - the reality

The District's program placement practice used to be something of a mystery. A committee, the Program Placement Committee, used to meet, discuss the program placement proposals, and make recommendations to the superintendent. Then the superintendent would decide which proposals to accept, which to reject, and which to amend. We didn't know who was on the committee, when they met, or what they discussed. I once requested committee meeting minutes as a public document and they stopped keeping minutes after that. In short, the entire process was secretive, corrupt, and political.

In 2007 the district wanted to split middle school APP. The decision, however, was a clear violation of the Highly Capable Student Program policy D12.00. The policy prohibits the creation of additional sites. The Board gave the policy an interpretation that was VERY sympathetic to the district administration and determined that the split could go forward after Board review. The Board delegated the Student Learning Committee (now call Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee) to do the review. It was supposed to be a quick rubber-stamp approval of the decision. But that's not how it went.

The district staff could not produce a single scrap of data to support their decision to split the program. Not only couldn't the staff justify the split, it was clear that they never considered any alternative solutions to their pretend problem, including a few really obvious ones that would have been much less disruptive. The board, upon seeing the political and arbitrary way that the district staff made program placement decisions, drafted and adopted the program placement policy, C56.00. It was one of the final acts of the Bass/Butler-Wall board.