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.

Single Parents by Choice
From the NY Times:

After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.

Among mothers of all ages, a majority — 59 percent in 2009 — are married when they have children. But the surge of births outside marriage among younger women — nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30 — is both a symbol of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change. 

The shift is affecting children’s lives. Researchers have consistently found that children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems.  

Is this about the economy?

What are the ramifications for schools? 

I would venture, after the single parent, schools probably absorb more of the costs and complications that come from more single-parent households.

It is difficult to say more without sounding like I'm making a moral judgment so I'll leave it at that.  I think that the data on this issue speaks for itself. 

Then there was this article in the Times, also from the AP:
Too often it is after the fact that teachers discover their students are worrying less about math and reading and more about where the next meal comes from.

So Doug White, principal of Garfield Elementary School in inner-city Kansas City, was relieved when his school, like many across the country, began offering dinner to students enrolled in after-school child-care or tutoring programs.

With breakfast and lunch already provided for poor students, many children now are getting all their meals at school.
AP Exams
From the NY Times, it looks like federal funding to help low-income students take AP exams has been cut nearly in half.  I don't know what the difference will be in Washington State but in New York, it goes from $10 to $15 for up to three exams per student.  (The exams cost $87 for everyone else.)  Beyond three, the cost would be $53 per exam.
Technology in Schools
This article from the NY Times is one of the better ones I've read on the subject.  
Teaching about Global Warming
In yet another plan by an outside group trying to shape curriculum, an organization called Heartland Institute has been planning a way to undermine teaching about global warming and the role of fossil fuel emissions.  They call it that view "the alarmist perspective."   Documents were leaked that discuss this effort.   The Institute says it believes some of the documents were altered or are forgeries but that the content of the disputed documents does match the other ones.

PTA Dads
The NY Times has a pretty funny article on the rise of fathers active in PTA especially in leadership roles.

As a long-time Board member, I can only say that ALL the PTA Boards I was on did try to encourage men to be active in PTA.  I note that I saw more men active in elementary school than in middle or high school (although many men do serve as high school PTA presidents or co-presidents).

The national PTSA has always had an outreach program to get more fathers active in their children's schools.  One, it's good for the organization but two, it is good for kids to see more men working as volunteers in their schools.  

I had to smile at these two paragraphs from the article:

In the cramped PTA room with the bright pink door at P.S. 75 on West End Avenue in Manhattan, Hector Rios, a co-president, said that being the lone man among eight board members has its downside: “Sometimes I feel like everybody’s husband.”  (Why is the door pink?)

Still, for every admiring story about a father whose PowerPoint presentation revolutionized the Read-a-Thon, there is one about the bossy treasurer whose budget-balancing came with an off-putting tone. Or the president who chose the wrong time to talk school politics. 

And what seems to be a perennial gripe: men going missing when it’s time to do the grunt work. 

“You don’t see many male presidents with the cellophane and the curling ribbon working on the auction baskets,” said Bijou Miller, who lives on the Upper West Side and has sat on a half-dozen school-related boards over the last decade.


dan dempsey said…
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.

What a complete idiotic mess!!!

Because 100% of students are supposed to meet standard by 2014 .... State's need sanctions to avoid punishment.

So let us see if things are more rational with Common Core State Standards ==>

The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education:


February 2012 Volume III, Number 1
by: TOM LOVELESS Senior Fellow, The Brown Center on Education Policy


Despite all the money and effort devoted to developing the Common Core State Standards—not to mention the simmering controversy over their adoption in several states—the study foresees little to no impact on student learning. That conclusion is based on analyzing states’ past experience with standards and examining several years of scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

A final word on what to expect in the next few years as the development of assessments tied to the Common Core unfolds. The debate is sure to grow in intensity. It is about big ideas—curriculum and federalism. Heated controversies about the best approaches to teaching reading and math have sprung up repeatedly over the past century. The proper role of the federal government, states, local districts, and schools in deciding key educational questions, especially in deciding what should be taught, remains a longstanding point of dispute. In addition, as NCLB illustrates, standards with real consequences are most popular when they are first proposed. Their popularity steadily declines from there, reaching a nadir when tests are given and consequences kick in. Just as the glow of consensus surrounding NCLB faded after a few years, cracks are now appearing in the wall of support for the Common Core.

Don’t let the ferocity of the oncoming debate fool you. The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.

Unfortunately both state and federal Legislators fail to use evidence to make decisions. They listen to the same class of "experts" that have produced the last few decades of sub-par performance. .... After all it is so much easier to blame teachers than anyone actually responsible for the chaos.

Meanwhile the State is dumping at least a couple hundred million into Common Core rather than providing the education and services that children need. .....

Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement .... but Randy Dorn pushes this crap anyway.
dan dempsey said…
Correction to above:

Because 100% of students are supposed to meet standard by 2014 .... States need WAIVERS (sanctions) to avoid punishment and sanctions.
Anonymous said…
Oops . . . Speaker Chopp is your representative, not your senator.

In the meantime, I continue my lonely fight to oppose SB 5895, which, in my view, is more dangerous than the charter bill.

Signed, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness
Anonymous said…
Could you post the Loyal Heights resolution? Thanks,

Anonymous said…
Wilderness, articulate the problem, please, with the bill. I'm unfamiliar with the issue.

Anonymous said…
I see it has to do with guaranteeing construction? What does that have to do with schools?
Anonymous said…

SB 5895 is "regarding certificated employee evaluations." It's a bill that will affect every teacher in the state. It requires that student growth data be a substantial factor in evaluating the summative performance of certified classroom teachers. The data can be gathered from state-based, district-based or classroom-based assessments. The bill also allows for student ratings of teachers to be a factor in teacher evaluations.

Here are some of the questions I've asked elsewhere:

How will measures of student growth be developed for teachers of all subjects? In other words, who (and at what expense) will develop measures of student growth for Auto Tech, Theory of Knowledge, Family and Consumer Science, IB Business, and so on? For subjects for which standardized district-based or state-based assessments don't exist, will teachers then have the latitude to develop classroom-based assessments that will figure into their own evaluations? If so, what incentive would anyone have for (1) teaching in a district-based or state-based tested subject, (2) taking on classes of historically low-growth students, (3) teaching, say, three preps instead of one or two, (4) taking on a new course, or (5) working an especially difficult schedule (teaching a 7th or 0 period, working an 1.2 FTE contract, and so on)?

In the absence of funds to develop new measures of student growth, won't most high school assessments be classroom-based? In that case, why would anyone want to teach language arts or math?

Finally, what are the implications of allowing student ratings to figure into part of a teacher's evaluation? How will it change the teacher-student dynamic? What potential is there for blackmail? What potential is there for fostering even more grade inflation?

suep. said…
DWE -- You are not alone in opposing the so-called 'teacher evaluation bill' (even the compromise). I and others oppose it too. Anything that ties teacher evaluations and pay to student test scores will have a stifling effect on learning, will narrow the curriculum, lead to 'teaching to the test' and will potentially reward or punish teachers for test scores that are influenced by factors outside of their control.

Studies have already been done in Texas and elsewhere (by Vanderbilt University and others) that show that "merit pay" schemes like this do not improve learning or teaching.

I also oppose it on the grounds that we already have established local policies for evaluating teachers in Seattle. We don't need any state mandates micromanaging our district.

And lastly, this obsession with teacher evaluations is misplaced. We need to fund our schools, give them more creative autonomy, make class sizes manageable, and offer our kids the best texts books and materials if we want better outcomes in our schools.

We also need to address the income gap. That is the main determining factor of how a child performs in school. Not the teacher.

Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say -- N.Y Times, Feb. 9, 2012
Anonymous said…
Thanks, suep.

Unless I am missing something, SB 5895 is truly an idiotic bill. Really, really stupid. Yet, it's the compromise bill hammered out, as I understand it, by the governor. Her incentive, according to word on the street, was that with this bill Microsoft and Boeing would support her sales tax increase proposal. Now I read that the legislature has decided it doesn't even want the sales tax increase. In the meantime, the alleged Microsoft/Boeing teacher evaluation bill has been passed by the senate and awaits its fate in the House.

Who knows? I'm sure there is a lot going on behind the scenes I don't know about. I do know, however, that SB 5895 was passed by 46 to 3. Mary Lindquist downplayed its importance (if you believe the quote in the Times). The WEA's official response was weak, to put it mildly. And I've yet to find a single legislator or WEA official who can answer my concerns. Did anyone actually think through the consequences of this bill?

This is an interesting moment in Washington State education policy. We are poised to see a truly farcical bill pass into law, and the few of us who are raising serious questions are unheard. I am appalled.

Anonymous said…
Thanks, DWE. Of course, I agree. When I looked up the bill, I neglected to notice the year!

I do know a bit about this and noticed that it was tied to scores. I think I am weary of tackling every isolated problem we are facing. A bunch of mostly men with no teaching experience (most of them) think they know how to direct and evaluate teachers and teaching. I am mostly upset with Gregoire. She should know better. She should be the bully pulpit who puts teaching and teachers and children into perspective. But I hear nothing. We have no advocate with a public microphone.

Teachers are the current scapegoats in a society that is running out of people to blame. Any intelligent citizen would blame the politicians who are supposed to look out for the common good and the well being of children. But the politicians are management. And since they don't understand the product or the market, they blame teachers. And they must honor the hands that feed them: ed reformers and big money.

I guess I don't know how to fight it anymore. You worry about it. So do I. With all the evidence out there to the contrary, they stick to their ignorant beliefs and ideology.

Apart from getting the money out which seems impossible, what's the solution? We have no sponsors to advocate for us. A citizenry which is hurting and is propagandized by constant messaging that teachers are the problem. A governor who fails to speak up for teachers even though her mother was one. A gov who wants to take over education in WA but still won't speak up for the professionals who do it every day to the best of our ability.Must we all pitch tents and occupy Olympia? We simply have no suuport. None.

We are the scapegoats. If we can't fix everything society hands us, then rip up our certificates. Isn't that the meme? Isn't that the rationale? It used to be politicians who were supposed to do the job of fixing community problems. Well, they passed the buck to the teachers. Unfortunately, we are the end of the line.

Of course, I'll notify my legislators.

And Dan, dumping money is what they know how to do. Down that big black hole which never seems to get filled.

Anonymous said…
One more thing, Dan: I think we should be honoring Common Core Stds. I've always believed in national standards. Why does it have to cost money?

Where's the expense? I'm ignorant on that part of the equation and I'm googled out for today.

dan dempsey said…
n... wrote:
"I think we should be honoring Common Core Stds." ....

.... Huh?? Why???

I suggest you read up on the less than stellar quality of Common Core Standards. ... These standards are hardly internationally benchmarked. The CCSS has now become about a lot more than standards ... it is about pedagogy and testing. It will be an expensive step backward into more WASL type nonsense in math for WA State.

(1) from CATO

(2) from EducationNext ... Ze'ev and Steve Wilson

(3) The Jay Greene's followup to (2)

Common Core Quality Debated
dan dempsey said…
n ....

About the Expense for the WA adoption of CCSS. Randy Dorn calculated $183 million for the first 5-years... $165 million to come from local school district funds.

This is a low ball cost estimate when really examined for total costs.

See Mathematically Sound Foundations HERE
Kathy said…

I won't be honoring the Common Core Standards. Our middle school principal claims they are less rigorous.
Is this session almost over? said…

You are not alone. Thanks for calling this to my attention. I"ll blast off a few e-mails.
dan dempsey said…
Jay Greene's latest on Common Core....

Common Core Chickens

It seems Jay was unable to find anyone to actually defend Common Core..... guess Randy Dorn and Arne Duncan were NOT available.
Anonymous said…
I'm laughing. Is seems to be little agreement on just anything in education even among aducators.

I'm am only slightly familiar with the common core stds. Our school is moving towards them and during PD teachers at our school (who have taken recent classes/workshops) return with the information that the these classes are supporting common core stds which, they say, align pretty well with WA State EALRS.

Whether or not the common core standards are great or less than great, I still agree with national standards. I believe we should be aiming for the same target from sea to shining sea.

Do I want high standards? Of course. But I also want realistic standards. I think what we have put in place sounds good on paper but overshoots and most of us are trying very hard to get it done. But, if you look at our achievement over the course of time, while it is getting better, we certainly aren't there yet. Perhaps setting the target just a little lower might enable all of us to do a better job and give the kids a chance to experience actual process and engagement over "getting there."

I probably haven't made myself clear. I am for high standards and I have a reputation to setting a high bar. The bar should be set in the classroom with reasonable expectations for individual populations of kids.

Having standards that everyone can meet is important. Creating standards that look good on paper or make the appearance of superior intent does nothing to actually achieve that intent. If Washington State teachers can go further, we should. If Mississippi is struggling to meet even middling (as you say) common core standards, I wish them luck.

Demanding more and more on paper doesn't get it done. But, if you are at a school where expectations really should be higher, then do it.

Anonymous said…
(Ew, that first paragraph on my last post!)

I just skimmed the article, Dan. It basically says what I think: standards are contrived targets which do not guarantee success. Wouldn't it be nice if our legislators attended to more pressing needs that correlate with their experience and expertise instead of pretending that they are experts in education? And all the teachers that participated. I've seen teachers work in groups. They become listmakers. They stop thinking and become bursts of ideas that become undoable lists of expectations that leave the field of reality and enter some twilight zone of rocket science.

Dan, you present a lot of statistics and at the same time you know that stats can lie.

We need somebody to take us off this train of guilt and to expect reasonable results given our challenges. Teachers aren't the problem and more lists of expectations won't help. By even arguing who's got the best list doesn't solve the problem.

We teach more today than ever before and with each year, we are being asked to accelerate and expand what we teach. There are some easy fixes: longer school day; longer year; better primary teachers who excel in math and literacy; probably better school configurations (I like k-8; larger classes with higher achieving kids; small class size for kids at risk and for schools that serve entire populations where kids are at risk . . .)

We all get caught up in the traps set for us by the reformers and the rich who by virtue of money think they have all the answers and it all comes down to numbers and lists for them. And blame.

(I hope I didn't read it too fast!)
Anonymous said…
Re common core: we must have national agreement on basic expectations. No one is stopping anyone from doing it better.

N, great assessment (at least from me as a non-educator).

What is interesting in terms of this discussion is that a Creative Approach school might veer off the alignment path. So you have alignment and common core curriculum and I just have to ask, what's a teacher to do?

"Wouldn't it be nice if our legislators attended to more pressing needs that correlate with their experience and expertise instead of pretending that they are experts in education?"

Amen, and wouldn't it be nice if the wealthy white guys in this country who want to dictate how public education should be run, actually ask parents and teachers what THEY think?

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