Thursday, May 31, 2012

SPS Family Survey to Start June 5th

From SPS Communications:

Hearing from our families, staff, and students is critical to our efforts to improve education for every student. School climate surveys are given each spring to all students, school staff, and families in the district. We are gathering information about learning environments at our elementary, middle and high schools, including student engagement, academic rigor, discipline and safety, and family involvement. Results of these surveys will help inform how we support each students’ academic success and can be found online here http://bit.ly/school_reports.

The family survey will be administered starting June 5 via the district's automated SchoolMessenger system, which will allow families to provide feedback by touch-tone phone response or an online web survey sent by e-mail.

SchoolMessenger Calendar for Family Survey

There will be two opportunities to take the survey by phone. Phone calls at 6 p.m. on:

• June 5 and June 12: Elementary schools families with children in Grades K-5*

• June 6 and June 13: Middle school families with children in Grades 6-8*

• June 7 and June 14: High school families with children in Grades 9-12

(* includes K-8 schools)

Important: Some families may receive more than one phone call. For example, if a family has one child in high school and another child in middle school, they will receive two separate calls.

Follow-up rounds: The District will resend the Web version of the survey to all families that did not respond in the first two rounds by either phone or Web. The final email will be sent on June 15. All surveys close on June 20.

Languages: The family survey will be offered in English, Spanish, Chinese, Somali, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Amharic and Tigrigna.

If you have questions about the family surveys, please contact Nicole VanVoorhis at njvanvoorhis@seattleschools.org.

Guess Who Dumped ALEC?

Well, there are still things to wonder at - it was WalMart.  From the Center for Media and Democracy:

Wal-Mart, a member of ALEC's corporate "Private Enterprise" board and of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force that adopted Florida's "Stand Your Ground" as a "model" bill, announced yesterday that it is "suspending" its ALEC membership.

Wal-Mart, a member of ALEC's corporate "Private Enterprise" board and of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force that adopted Florida's "Stand Your Ground" as a "model" bill, announced yesterday that it is "suspending" its ALEC membership.

Color of Change, along with CMD, Common Cause, People for the American Way, and others are focusing now on asking State Farm, AT&T, and Johnson & Johnson to cut ties with ALEC.

If you have State Farm insurance, encourage them to get out.   I'm with AT&T so I'm going to let them know as well.

(Not at all Devious) Subversive Plan B

If the charter school initiative actually gains the signatures needed to make the ballot, and if it collects a majority of the votes in the election - two pretty big "if"s - it will become the law and we could see up to eight charter schools authorized for Washington State.

We don't know what consequences this charter school law could have for Washington State or for Seattle Public Schools. Maybe some school districts will seek to become authorizers, maybe none, maybe all. It's a wild card that could lead to some seriously uncoordinated charter school authorization. It's pretty likely that some charter school management companies, like KIPP, Green Dot, and RocketShip, will seek to establish charter schools in the state, but there's no telling if they will or not, how many schools they will seek to create, where they will seek to place them, and whether they will seek conversions. The conversion option - making a public school into a charter school - creates all kinds of unknown potential consequences. How could a district manage their capacity if an attendance area school is switched to an option school and the district loses control of the school's capacity? The "parent trigger" and "teacher trigger" element of the conversion feature of the initiative creates all kinds of potential extortion for school districts and, if that extortion fails, the possibility of reprisals. The potential for extortion also creates the possibility that districts could become significantly more responsive to organized communities and teacher corps.
I have put forward a number of possible unexpected outcomes of this law. I have also thought of a way that the WEA could try to subvert it. Let me put forward another idea, this one still subversive in the larger sense, but not necessarily to subvert the law.

In this plan, the union still takes control of the situation and manages it (lest they be managed by it), but manages it with the intention of sincerely working it instead of blocking it.

Fair Funding for NOVA Issue Explained

Folks who watch school board meetings have probably heard students from The NOVA Project speak to the board about how their school is funded. You may wonder what the heck they are talking about. They are NOT talking about the 15% reduction in funding that the state grants to Alternative Learning Experience schools. This has nothing to do with decisions made at the state level. Instead, they are talking about how the District unfairly under-funds NOVA, along with The Center School and South Lake High School. The story is not hard to understand, but it it is tricky because it doesn't make any sense at all.

Nearly every school in the district is funded through the Weighted Staffing Standards. There are, however, a few schools which are not. It might make sense to fund and staff schools like the Homeschool Resource Center, Interagency, and Middle College differently from the way that other schools are funded. They are not organized or structured like other schools. But if you were to go to The Center School, South Lake High School, or The NOVA Project, you would see the familiar structures in place: a principal, teachers in classrooms with students, a class schedule, a library, all of the normal stuff. So why aren't these schools funded as any other school would be funded?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Creative Approach Schools Lawsuit

This guest post is by Jack Whelan.  Please read it and consider adding your support.  (Somehow it got deleted and I am now reposting it.) 

Why We’re Bringing Suit against the Creative Approach Schools MOU

On June 22, there will be a hearing to decide whether the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding Creative Approach Schools between the district and the SEA, the local teachers union, is legal. This MOU grants the superintendent the right to waive any Board policy while approving the transformation of neighborhood schools into Creative Approach Schools. This could include waiving whistle blower policy, conflict of interest policies, academic and financial policies--any policy!  It also removes parents from the process. 

A group of citizens--Rita Green, Carlina Brown, Eric Muhs, Robert Femiano, and I—is bringing a suit against the district because we think this MOU is illegal. The lawsuit does not attack the idea of Creative Approach Schools, but we are concerned about the precedent it sets regarding to whom these schools will be ultimately accountable. We believe that in approving this MOU the board has abdicated its responsibility to represent the broader community’s interests regarding the establishment of Creative Approach Schools.

Here’s some background:

On February 15, 2012, the Seattle School Board voted to approve this MOU despite Director Peaslee’s catching what she believed to be an oversight in the MOU’s wording. She alerted the board and offered a simple amendment that would have fixed it. Director Carr in a January 30 email to SPS staff describes her concerns at the time:

It [the MOU] provides the Superintendent the unlimited authority to waive Board policy. When/where in our policies have we provided the Superintendent that authority? I believe this is a gap. If the thinking truly is that the Superintendent can waive any policy, I will not ever support it. This is simply too much of a blank check. 

Yes, indeed it is. Director Carr goes on to say,

This could include our Ethics policy, our fiscal policies, our affirmative action policies, our audit policies, etc.  I suspect what is really intended is our academic related policies. This area needs to be more bounded and more specific.

Directors McLaren, Smith-Blum, and Patu also acknowledged that there was a real problem here, but when the amendment came to a vote, it lost 5-2, and the unamended MOU passed 5-2, Directors Peaslee and Patu voting in the minority both times.

Director Carr in her January 30 email identifies another aspect to this problem that also concerns us:

The MOU is silent on the role of the parent community in the school. I have to understand the role of the community and how that will factor into any decision related to this process. I don’t know how I would answer to families unhappy with a decision if they challenged me on due process.

In other words, there doesn't have to be any parents on the oversight board, and parents have no real role in shaping or voting for whatever the teachers and administrators propose. A majority of parents could be against their school’s Creative Approach Schools proposal, but it won’t matter, and they won’t have the school board to appeal to because the school board will have no jurisdiction.

And yet two weeks after raising these concerns, Director Carr voted for the unamended MOU anyway. She apparently thought it could be fixed later. Director McLaren, who also acknowledged the problem, voted for the unamended MOU saying that she trusted everybody to do the right thing. Director Smith-Blum, acknowledged the problem and said that she would have voted for slightly different wording to the amendment. I take them at their word, but the citizens of Seattle have learned time and again that they have no reason to expect fixes or to trust district officials to do the right thing. Even if there is nothing to fear in the short run, we don’t know how this MOU could be misused in the long run.

And we must ask: Why was it so important to rush this through rather than get it right from the start? Why would it have been a problem simply to fix the bug by approving the amendment and then have it brought back to SEA members for another vote? Was there good reason to believe that SEA members would object to School Board oversight in this matter? Maybe leadership has reason to object, but not the rank and file.

There is reason to believe that cutting the school board out of the conversation wasn’t a bug but a feature. And this cannot be understood in isolation from a larger nationwide push by certain interests in this country to wrest control of public schools from school boards. These interests want to remake public schools in their own image and want as little community “obstruction” as possible from democratically elected school boards. Charter Schools and mayoral control are tools used in other states to advance this agenda, and the recent Seattle-Times-approved attack by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the dysfunctionality of the Seattle School board cannot be understood except in this light.

Whether or not it was the board’s conscious intent, there is good reason to be concerned that there are parties who will exploit the weaknesses in this MOU. As citizens and community members who care about the future of public school education in our city, we feel compelled to demand that the board not weaken itself in this way.

And so we sue. The district knows it requires attorneys to fight their actions in court, and they seem to count on citizens not having the financial resources to challenge them. This may explain why, even after the Board was handed the opinion of our attorney--that this MOU would likely violate state law if passed--they approved it anyway. Too much is at stake here, and now is the time to stand up. The hearing is on June 22; the legal bill is already near $5000 and will probably wind up north of $10,000. We need your help.

On June 8 from 5pm-10pm Kate Martin will be sponsoring a fundraiser to help us raise the money we need to successfully prosecute this suit. Kate’s house is located at 412 NW 73rd St in the Greenwood neighborhood. There will be good food and good company, and a chance to talk about this issue and others that concern all of us who care so deeply about the future of Seattle Public Schools.

If you cannot make the fundraiser, but would like to donate, write a check payable to Newman DuWors Attorneys and send it to ‘MOU c/o Kate Martin, 412 NW 73rd St., Seattle, WA 98117.

Or donate online by going to this link.

Shooting Updates

Word via Twitter is that the suspect from Roosevelt has shot himself over in West Seattle. Early word is that this is the Roosevelt suspect. If so, it may be true that the Roosevelt and downtown shooter are one and the same. (It would seem odd that if there were two shooters who both fled to West Seattle. There also appeared to be police action around 50th and Roosevelt with police going into a house.

Update on McDonald Issue

From Duggan Harmon: "I have just confirmed that there is no district funding going to the Graham Hill Montessori pre-school program for 2012-13. This is consistent with the information shared with the board earlier and the message communicated to the Graham Hill community back on March 15th." I have no word on McDonald yet. To me the point is not whether this is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do. It's about being open and transparent in how the district spends money and why they make the choices that they do. I understand the need at McDonald and they have had to take on a lot and very quickly. So when I hear something, I'll let you know.  

Later Start Times for High School Meeting Tonight

Start School Later Seattle will meet at the Wayward Coffee House at 5 pm on Wed 5/30.  The coffee house is at 65th and Roosevelt, parking is off the alley just west of Roosevelt Court. 

Downtown Shooter Likely in West Seattle

Be alert and aware.  

The car the downtown shooter car-jacked has been found in West Seattle, reportedly at 30th and Genesee.

The woman he shot downtown has died from her injuries.

Police are advising residents to stay in their homes or businesses.

Brian Rosenthal at the Times says police are saying, especially to Roosevelt parents, do NOT come and get your children.  They are safe and it would complicate matters.

There is nothing at the SPS website yet and no media update so I have nothing to report from the district.

Shooting in Roosevelt Area; Gunman Still at Large

 Update at 1:30 p.m. 
Spoke with Phil Brockman over at RHS.  They have moved to a "shelter in place" mode (a notch down from complete lockdown).  Students are to be released at regular time when school ends today per police belief that area is clear.  I did see two cop cars race up 15th Ave NE next to the school at a very high rate of speed but an officer on the scene said they are going to every reported sighting they have as quickly as possible. 
end of update

There has been a shooting in the Roosevelt area by NE 65th near the freeway.   KING-5 is reporting two people dead, another injured.  The gunman, a white man, is still at large.

Roosevelt High School is on lock-down and so is Green Lake Elementary.  No word if Bagley or Bryant are as well.

I just drove through the area not a half-hour before this happened.  This violence has got to stop.

Update:  there was also a shooting in downtown Seattle at 8th and Seneca.  A woman was shot as she got car-jacked.  They found the car in West Seattle, 30th and Genessee.  If you live in that area, the police are telling people to stay in their homes/businesses if possible.  The shooter is a white male with blond hair, maybe wearing a hat.

The shooting in the Roosevelt area is further south than previously reported.  It happened at a cafe on Roosevelt at 58th.

Judge Rules Two-Thirds Vote Req'mt Unconstitutional

From the Times:

King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller has ruled the voter-approved requirement that two-thirds of the Legislature approve tax increases is unconstitutional.

The judge's order issued Wednesday morning says the "supermajority vote requirement violates the simple majority provision" of the state Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed last year by two statewide education groups and a dozen Democratic state lawmakers seeking to overturn the two-thirds requirement.

I would assume Mr. Eyman will go to the State Supreme Court but this is a big win (and hopefully, for education funding).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

McDonald School - Extra Funding for IAs?

 (I know this is going to make many angry.  I'm sure the McDonald parents will be quite angry and I even know some of them.  My intent it to explain and to report on budgeting in the district.  If the Board is making decisions to benefit one program at the expense of others, then that deserves discussion.)

Background:  When our district created John Stanford International School, there was big excitement.  This was to honor a fallen superintendent and it was a modern step forward for our district.   And, it was a huge success and a highly sought-after school.

But there were a couple of big issues and one secret.  The issues were the creation of more of these popular schools AND where do the elementary students go after K-5?  I guess when they started JSIS, that seemed far away.

But like all issues, the chickens came home to roost and there was a push for more schools and they were created.  And, they finally had Hamilton become the first feeder middle school.  That then put pressure on what high school would take these students (middle school is only three years, remember?).

So what's the secret?  The secret is that these schools cost more in order to have their program.  HR has to work hard to find the right teachers, schools have to work hard to find the right teachers (with some Chinese teachers coming from China and entering and exiting each year), the IAs cost extra money and there are start-up costs.  Except for the latter, these are on-going costs.

Now each school is somewhat different.  A previous thread explains this but in terms of costs, Beacon Hill and Concord fund IAs through federal funds because of their high level of native speakers.  My understanding is that JSIS and McDonald have to fund their own IAs.  But JSIS has been around a lot longer than McDonald and have a reserve to draw off of so that they don't have as big a fundraising challenge.

There was discussion around this subject (which I reported on earlier this year) at the C&I Committee.  Director Carr had asked Duggan Harmon about the need for IAs.  He told the Committee that McDonald did NOT have to have the IAs for the program and that they didn't need to fundraise as much as they may have believed they needed to for them.  The district, when they opened the program, did not promise to fund IAs. 

At the time, that seemed to satisfy Carr.  

More Diversity Sought in Media Advocacy

Associated with but not directly to, education, I wanted to put out this information about a media institute for journalists of varying backgrounds.   If you know a journalist or are one yourself, consider applying.  We need more voices, of all kinds, in our media. 

GLAAD announces 2nd Annual National People of Color Media Institute

GLAAD, the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today announced the 2nd Annual National People of Color Media Training Institute as a part of the organization's National People of Color Media Initiative. The Media Training Institute, funded by the ARCUS Foundation and created specifically for people of color who are LGBT or LGBT allies, develops passionate and visible leaders to speak in national media outlets about issues that impact the lives of LGBT people and their families.

“While there have been major strides to increase visibility around the stories and issues LGBT people face, far too often the voices, views and faces of LGBT and allied people of color are underrepresented, if represented at all,” said Herndon Graddick, President of GLAAD. “Our community needs to work together to change this. We are extremely proud to host this program which will help our community elevate more voices and celebrate the rich diversity of the community and our allies."

The Institute will consist of a two-day, training program in New York (August 24-26) and Los Angeles (September 7-9), where GLAAD staff, leading journalists and key media trainers will develop Institute participants with best practices for on-camera and radio interviews.

In its first year, GLAAD worked with 30 LGBT and ally advocates through the National People of Color Media Institute. As a result, their stories and views reached millions through national media outlets including National Public Radio (NPR), Black Enterprise, Ebony, as well as community and ethnic media outlets such as  El Diario, The Afro and New York Amsterdam News. 
Applicants to the Institute are asked to submit an application through GLAAD's website: 
http://www.glaad.org/programs/pocmedia. The program is free of charge and will be limited to 20-25 people, and participants will receive ongoing support, coaching and training from GLAAD staff, including quarterly progress reviews.

What Do We Want?

After Reuven Carlyle's pro-charter blog post over at his blog, Charlie posted to it, asking why Reuven wasn't engaging since it was he who opened the conversation and from his thread, a lively conversation ensued.

Here was his answer:

Charlie: I’ve been reflecting on the issues and ideas. I’d like to ask you and everyone for genuine and sincere suggestions: What legislation would you like to see introduced and supported in Olympia? Seriously, if you could introduce a real piece of legislation–in addition to all of the McClearly work we have going–what would it be that would unite folks? I value your insight, judgement(sic) and counsel.

So there you have it.  What would you like to see the Legislature do?  I'll throw out some ideas (not necessarily mine nor do they have my endorsement):

1) income tax just for K-12 education (iron-clad) to fund at least to the level of the national average
2) legislation to support counselors/career specialists in all high schools
3) legislation to support the kind of direct inventions that are happening in Everett and Tukwila where their graduation rates are going up and up
4) K-3 support for smaller class sizes for at-risk populations
5) grants to help districts provide more in-class help for teachers (rather than more administrators at headquarters)

While I am now wary of Rep. Carlyle (given his flip on charters), I have always said I believe he tries hard to engage than most legislators and he has provided an option forum for discourse.

What would you like to see?

Tuesday Open Thread

Noticed the ads have come up.  I had to smile - one of the first ones was for charter school information.  I've deleted that category.

What's on your mind?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hawthorne Community Does the Hard Work

I visited Hawthorne earlier this year when they opened their Family Support room.  The Times has a story about the energy surging through this school from both parents and staff.  This is how a community retakes and rebuilds its neighborhood school.

The story I was told was that a couple of neighborhood parents, when their kids were preschools, thought, "why wouldn't I go to my neighborhood school?" when neighbors tried to warn them off.  Undeterred, they enrolled their children and had potlucks and neighborhood gatherings to talk about how to support the school and what incredible diversity they would be giving their own children (not to mention being able to walk to school). 

These are real parents making a real difference.  Their principal is totally supportive and works with all groups. 

This is how you do it. 

I am also aware of efforts at Northgate Elementary for parents in that neighborhood who want to have a neighborhood school and will make the effort to do that for that school. 

Hawthorne has a ways to go but it is the fellowship of parents, working together with staff, that creates great schools. 

Devious Subversive Plan A

Okay, let's suppose - for the moment - that the money behind the charter school initiative is successful at both getting it on the ballot and getting it passed. So now Washington State has a charter school law as outlined in this document. I really encourage folks to read this document and learn what the new rules may soon be. You'd be surprised what strategies present themselves once you know the rules. If you know how to look for them, you'll see some holes in this proposal that create opportunities to subvert the whole deal.

Seattle Channel's Discussion on Banda

I participated in a discussion about our new superintendent, Jose Banda, on Seattle Channel's program, City Inside/Out.  

The panel included Chris Eide, ex-TFA teacher (now a sub), Lynne Varner of the Times, and Kim Mustafa, an SPS parent (who I believe is from the south end as that is w-here her children attend school).

Some interesting quotes:

Stephanie Jones of CPPS: "He needs to get to know the many communities in Seattle."

Mariellen Sereno, Independent Citizens Oversight Ctm in Anaheim: "I think he knows what it takes to be looking at that uphill battle and to be looking at those areas that really need attention."

Lynne Varner: He's an extremely good listener.   He reminds me of former Superintendent John Stanford.  Later on, she said in an editorial coming out that he needed to set clear boundaries "or he would not be their employee but their servant." 

Re: the School Board, Ms. Mustafa said that Banda sounded like a puppet and only said what they wanted to hear.

They did touch on charters.

Varner:  Voters are more open now to innovation and the status quo isn't working.  It's not a silver bullet but a solution and there are so many other solutions, we should try them all.  

Uh, because of time and cost and outcomes?  Maybe that's why we have to carefully pick and choose.

Varner:  Charter schools are not going to change education on Queen Anne but will in Eastern Washington and South Seattle and will affect education for thousands of kids in this state.  

I love how all those well-meaning people believe that charters are just for poor or minority kids.  First of all, that is not true throughout the country and ask New Jersey about the shock to their system when they discovered that anyone can open a charter anywhere.   Second, some charters have done well with minority students but very carefully try to make sure they get the most dedicated students (and parents).  It is an easier job when you get to control who is in the school.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Decline To Sign - New Facebook Group

Join my new Facebook group - Decline to Sign - Charter-Free Washington.  

It's pretty simple - when (if) this charter initiative gets out to petitions, just Decline to Sign.  Getting it on the ballot is NOT an invitation to discussion (despite what the Times' says/thinks).  If they want a discussion, the time is NOW, not after it's on the ballot. 

Tell your friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers and fellow PTA members, Decline to Sign.

The way the timeline works out, the coalition that is pushing this may have between 2 weeks to 10 days to get signatures.

I spoke with the Secretary of State's office to make sure I understood the timeline for the pro-charter folks to get this on the ballot.

1) Their initiative is now being reviewed by the Code Reviser's office.  That could be up to a week (although the person I spoke to said the language was already well-written).  May 21-May 25

2) Then it goes back to the pro-charter people for any revisions.  I'm sure they will turn it around quickly like in a day or so.  May 29-30th

3)Then it goes to the AG's office for a title.  That could take up to a week.  May 31, June 1, 4, 5, 6

4) Then it goes to the court in Thurston County and anyone can challenge the title.  I suggest multiple challenges.  The court only takes motions on Fridays.  June 7, 8, 11, 12, 13

5) The judge could take a week to decide, June 14, 15, 18, 29, 20

 Naturally, this is just my extrapolation of the timeline.   

It looks like the pro-charter side could have roughly two weeks to get the signatures and one of those days is the 4th of July (a holiday).  The deadline is July 6th.

Understand that there will be many, many paid signature gatherers who will likely say anything to get signatures (Costco paid big bonuses for signatures and I suspect the Gates Foundation will do the same.)  When the time comes, be prepared to hang out and listen and challenge what they say to members of the public.

I spoke with a reporter at the Washington Wire and he said this timeframe is about what Costco had and they got it done.  Enough money and you can get anything done.

But the shorter the timeframe, the harder it becomes.

Support Decline to Sign.

RTTT - District-Style

Secretary Arne Duncan and the Department of Education recently announced RTTT grants that allow districts, not just states, to apply for funds.  From the Ed Week article:

The department anticipates giving out about 15 to 20 four-year grants, of up to $25 million each. Districts will be able to apply for the funds individually, or as part of consortia with other districts, even those in other states. And charter schools—as well as other organizations that are defined as a "local education agency" by their states—can compete, too.

Yes, you can be a single charter school and apply.  That sure makes it a whole lot easier than it would for a full-fledged district like say, Detroit or LA.   Because, yes, charters get to be LEAs all by themselves.  The caveat here is that they have to serve at least 2500 students and there aren't as many single charters with that population but there's always KIPP, Green Dot, etc. 

And, it goes on to note that even if your state is giving you funding via a state-won RTTT grant, districts can still get money on their own.   Nothing like spreading the wealth.

The draft regulations will be open for comment through June 8 on the department's website. The final applications will be available in mid-July, and districts will apply in October. The money itself has to go out the door by the end of December.

"The application process will occur over the summer, a timeline that runs counter to a very common school calendar," Ellerson said in an email. "This operational reality is further complicated for districts trying to apply in consortia."

In order for a plan to be considered, the district superintendent, the local school board, and the local union president (in districts that have unions) must sign off.

But state chiefs won't have veto power over the applications. Instead, they must be given at least five days to examine and comment—or decide not to comment—on the districts' plans. The same goes for local government officials, including the mayor or town administrator.

This last one is interesting because a district in a town or city could attempt to use the money and go around what the state is mandating. 

Seattle Schools Week of March 29-June 1

Wednesday, May 30th
Work Session: Special Education from 4-5:30 p.m. at JSCEE - no agenda available yet.

Thursday has two great events on solutions, yes solutions, that education experts are going to be presenting to parents and communities.  I have a feeling that this discussion will not be around charters, testing and TFA so if you want to hear different expert voices, attend one of these meetings.

Thursday, May 31st
Community &  Parents for Public Schools (CPPS) Annual Meeting from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at JSCEE

Agenda: CPPS Highlights for Year, Parents' Bill of Rights Overview, Guest Speakers, Board Election. 
"Building Quality Neighborhood Public Schools: What Can We Do?"
Speakers:  Dr. Margery B. Ginsberg, Associate Professor of Education at UW and co-director of the AIM Center at Cleveland High School
Dr. Joshua Garcia, Federal Way Public Schools' Assistant Superintendent of Teaching for Learning. 
More info: cppsofseattle.org

Parents Across America-Seattle
"Moving Forward in Public Education: Ideas That Work"
WHAT: What does work in education? What do at-risk kids need from their schools?
What do educators working in our classrooms need in order to be successful?
What are some of the greatest obstacles to educating our children in public
schools? What are some of the success stories? 

Panelists include:
• Dr. Margit McGuire, Professor and Director, Seattle Universityʼs Teacher
Education Program
• Sharon Okamoto, Principal, Seattle Urban Academy
• Rita Green, parent and PTA vice-president, Rainier Beach High School
• Marquita Prinzing, teacher, Sanislo Elementary School 

WHERE:   Rainier Beach High School Auditorium 
8815 Seward Park Ave. S. Seattle, WA 98118 

WHEN:  Thursday, May 31st at 6:30 PM 

SPONSOR: Sponsored by Parents Across America-Seattle in conjunction with
  Save Our Schools Northwest 
Saturday, June 2nd
School Board Retreat from 10 am - 5 p.m. - no agenda available yet.
Superintendent Banda indicated that he will be attending this retreat.  Retreats are open to the public.  

News Roundup

Of possible interest to our readers:
  • From Education Week - an article about "a new breed of national education advocacy organizations" and the debate "about whether they can play a grassroots 'ground game' comparable to that of labor.
  • Another article on these groups, this one from Education Next, about Fight Club for ERAOs (Education reform advocacy organizations) in D.C.  You remember the first rule of Fight Club?  There is NO Fight Club.  Why this emergence of these groups?  This article links it to charter operation frustration.  This is possibly the best article I have read in summing up these groups, how they interact and their growing influence.
Many of the groups talk to one another frequently,, through a regular conference call organized by the Education Trust, at meetings organized by funders such as the Walton Family Foundation, and at conferences convened by groups such as the NewSchools Venture Fund.  

The 34 organizations in the network operate in 23 states and Washington, D.C. Network members include affiliates of Stand for Children and 50CAN, business groups like the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition, and Colorado Succeeds, and civic groups like Advance Illinois and the League of Education Voters (Washington). The PIE Network is also supported by five “policy partners,” which span the ideological spectrum but agree on the network’s reform commitments: Center for American Progress, Center on Reinventing Public Education, Education Sector, National Council on Teacher Quality, and Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Like many ERAOs, PIE Network is funded by the big three (Walton, Gates, and Broad) along with the Joyce and Stuart foundations.
  • Would you pay for your background check to volunteer at school? It's happening in other districts in other states.  From Ed Week, from $9-40 is the new cost (higher if you work one-on-one with students as a tutor).  
  • From the LA Times, a story about 24 high-performing LA schools seeking to be charters.  Why?  More money.  Interestingly, California has a mid-range option for chartering called "affiliated" or "dependent".  These charters are still bound by some district rules like union contracts.  The odd advantage is that these schools can get a block grant from the state for $385 per student.  More dollars with fewer rules.  
  • From Education Next, an essay about school boards that opens with some tantalizing questions.  Have school boards outlived their usefulness  Are they an anachronism?
  • From Straight Up blog at Ed Week, a spark for a discussion about who likes vouchers and who doesn't (and why).  This is coming on strong in Romney's playbook on education (separate thread to come).
  • TFA story from the Kansas City Starr where 32 TFA teachers are not returning for their second year of teaching out of a class of 141.  
According to Teach for America’s Kansas City office, of the 160 teachers brought in during TFA’s first three years here, 65 remain in education in Kansas City — though only 13 in the Kansas City Public Schools.

Everything You Need to Know about Charters

I got a tweet from Stand for Children - Washington:

Everything you need to know about non-profit public charter schools.
with a link to this page.

Poetry Reading

All of you with an interest in social justice, special education and poetry are invited to hear poet and educator Dennis J. Bernstein read from his new collection of poems, Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.

These poems are about the kids who were Bernstein's students when he taught in the New York City public schools, before embarking on a career as an internationally known investigative journalist. For these kids, switchblades, police cars and hunger are more instructive than textbooks.

Bernstein is currently the producer and co-host of the news program, Flashpoints, KPFA Pacifica Radio. This will be his first speaking engagement in Seattle.

He will be speaking at the University Temple United Methodist Church, 1415 NE 43rd Street, Seattle, on Saturday, June 9 from 5:00pm - 7:00pm.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

How Meta is this?

I have reserved the previous thread for the conversation with the Seattle Times, but I know that people will want to comment on that conversation (whether the Times shows up for it or not). So here is a thread for public comments on that thread.

Too meta?

The Seattle Times Wants a Conversation

In an editorial published today, "A worthwhile conversation about charter schools", the Seattle Times calls for a conversation on charter schools. Maybe this time they mean it.

So, once again, I have reserved a space on the blog for the Seattle Times to engage in that conversation.

This space is just for the Seattle Times. All other comments will be deleted. I am ready to have an honest discussion about charter schools. Are they? I sure hope so, since they are the ones calling for the conversation.

Here is the space for the conversation they wanted. Let's see if they have the courage and conviction to show up.

UPDATE: The Seattle Times, it turns out, does NOT want a conversation about charter schools.

Tweet from Lynne Varner:
charlie_mas Sorry Charlie, I'm already in a convo w/ tens of thousands thru . Works fine. You follow my every utterance.
Of course, the Seattle Times Opinion page is not a conversation at all. Lynne Varner doesn't want a conversation because she isn't interested in what anyone else has to say.

Once again, the Seattle Times refuses to participate in any kind of discussion in which other people get to talk.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Heads Up for Blog Changes

After six years, Charlie and I have decided to monetize the blog.

 It'll be a slow-go with Google's own AdSense.  There will not be any flashing ads and no pop-up ads.  We are not so interested in making a profit as maybe just paying for gas to go all over the city. 

It will start sometime over the weekend and we'll see how it goes. 

City of Seattle-Protect Neighborhoods Where Our Schools Sit

I can't tell you how many times you hear the Mayor or the City Council members lament that they want to do more for Seattle Schools.

They don't have governance of the schools.  But while the district is responsible for what goes on inside and on the grounds of every school, it is the CITY'S job to protect the areas around the schools.

The Rainier Beach High School area (which also includes South Shore and Dunlap nearby) has had a huge amount of violence and shootings incidents.  RBHS suffers as a result of it and is that their fault?  It is not.

And now we have an innocent father killed while driving his children and his own father, right by Garfield High School. He  got caught in the crossfire of two thugs shooting at each other.  This story from the Times.

This is completely crazy and needs to stop.  

No more of the "no snitching" mantra.

 I don't care what people feel about the police themselves (clearly the Feds don't think a lot of the current management of SPD).  But we are allowing thugs and criminals to act with impunity in these neighborhoods and it has to stop.  Firing a gun in broad daylight near a school and a university?  You don't get more confident than that in terms of believing you won't get caught.

Anyone with information about either homicide or who may know the identity or whereabouts of the shooters is asked to call 911 or the Seattle police homicide tip line at 206-233-5000.

Friday Open Thread - Oh What a Beautiful Morning

Do we not live in a beautiful place or what?

 I told Superintendent Banda that I was from Arizona so I know the kind of getting used to that Seattle can take.  But, I also said that when the sun is out, it's not just nice but dazzling to live here with the mountains and water all around.

There is one community meeting tomorrow with Director Patu at Cafe Vita, 5028 Wilson Avenue S, from 10 am - noon.

And finally, some answers to a long and drawn out mystery - RIP sweet Etan Patz.  

Why It's Hard to Find Middle Ground

In case anyone didn't already know it, I sometimes meet and talk with people who are often cast as villains on this blog. I've met with Kelly Munn of LEV, Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center, the former Executive Director of the Alliance for Education (not the current one), a lot of the staff at the Alliance for Education, and, recently, with Robin Lake of the Center on Reinventing Public Education. It has always been nice. In addition to these folks, I have good relationships with a lot of people at the school district - after we meet and they get to know me. I used to have friendly relationships with Lynne Varner and Bruce Ramsey on the Times editorial board. Those relationships may not be as friendly as they once were. However I may appear in print, I'm actually a pretty easy-going guy who works to see the other person's perspective. It's good for people to meet me in person and see that I don't have horns or a pointy tail.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lafayette Principal Announced

From Dr. Enfield, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Shauna Heath as your new principal, effective July 1. Ms. Heath comes to Lafayette from the Kent School District, where she served as principal of Sunrise Elementary for the past two years. Ms. Heath is not only a great educator, but she lives in West Seattle and will be an excellent fit for the Lafayette community. Ms. Heath started her career as a special education teacher in King Salmon, Alaska and then as a special education teacher for the Shelton School District in Washington. She was the assistant principal for Tillicum Middle School in Bellevue from 1998-2002, served as an elementary school principal in Clinton, Tennessee, and was a middle school principal in Riverdale, Georgia. Before moving back to Washington state, she was the pre-kindergarten through 5th Grade Instructional Services Director for City Schools of Decatur, Georgia. Ms. Heath holds a Washington State Administrative Certification from the University of Puget Sound, and a Master of Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts from Evergreen State College. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in K-12 Leadership through Walden University.

The Appeal of Charters

I can certainly see the appeal of this charter school initiative.

We have all come to see that district-level rules and bureaucrats are the real impediment to reforming our schools so they serve students better. Charter schools go around that impediment by working outside those structures. Isn't that a good thing? I think it is. Sure, I'd like to fix the problem instead of working around it, but I'm not very optimistic about fixing the problem in my lifetime. The temptation to just bypass it is pretty strong.

Advanced Learning Update (to come)

Today the Advanced Learning Programs Task Force is having a meeting (from 4:15-6:15 pm at JSCEE, room 3802 - yes, you can attend).   Our long-awaited decision on a draft recommendation for a location for APP elementary north will be coming out (and wordsmithed). 

Frankly, things have been slow and not-so-steady.  I am hoping that with a new facilitator (the last one left us), we will get more done.  I was a little surprised to see on the agenda an item for "introduction of new participants" so I look forward to finding out what that means. 

I believe this will be the last meeting to include Cathy Thompson, head of Teaching and Learning, as she is leaving the district. 

Updates to come after the meeting.

Facebook "Brawl" at Whitman

This from the Times:

A fight yesterday morning between students, siblings and parents at Whitman Middle School in Crown Hill apparently started as a result of Facebook messages related to a student’s sexual preference, according to police.

One participant was arrested, according to a Seattle Police Department report. Two others suffered minor injuries.

The brawl started at about 7:45 a.m., as parents were dropping off their children for school, according to the report.

One parent told police she was there because she heard her daughter was going to be attacked by other students who had threatened her on Facebook. Another participant said she was dropping off her little sister when she was approached.

An argument broke out, which led to shoving and then a full melee, according to the report.
At least five people were involved.

It ended when Whitman Principal Sue Kleitsch got tangled up in the melee, according to the report.
Police, called to the scene, helped break up the fight and interviewed those involved. 

What a mess.   It would be interesting to know what interchange could set off a fight like this.

Amazon Quits ALEC

Breaking news from our friends at the Stranger Slog.

Protesters invaded Amazon's shareholder meeting in large numbers.   One key issue was Amazon's association with ALEC, the secretive group that uses money and legislators to enact their agenda.

Goldy from the Slog reports that he got a text message saying Amazon has announced they are not renewing their membership in ALEC.

Good move, Amazon.

Nightmare Charter School Scenarios

The more I think about this charter school thing, the more my imagination runs wild.

Competency Based Systems

Seattle Public Schools, in fact all Washington state school districts, are working, more like blindly groping, towards awarding credit based on competency. We already have a policy for this, and the credit policy is due for revision over the summer and fall to allow students at Cleveland to earn full credit for less than 150 hours of planned instruction. If they don't update the policy in time, then Cleveland will have to be an Alternative Learning Experience school and the state will only pay 85% of the usual funding.

I think that the District should be more ambitious and should re-write their credit policy so that all of our ALEs will be able to award regular credits and get more funding.

Either way, competency based credit is coming and I think we should all learn a little something about how that works. Here is an article about it. 10 Elements Towards Eliminating the Batch-Print System by Tom Vander Ark was originally published on CompetencyWorks.

Please, let's not get worked up about the author and his associations. Instead, let's just read the article for its content. It's just an introduction to the idea. This is coming and it is good that it is coming. We should know about it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Charter Initiative; LEV, Why So Quiet?

If you were a prominent education advocacy group and you joined a coalition of groups for a major initiative to be put on the ballot in November, don't you think you might actually have some information on your website?  I mean given your address is the address of record and your chief of staff is the public info contact for the initiative. 

Not LEV.  Odd.

So the News Tribune has a good story with both press releases from the coalition group and the WEA.  I had to smile at Rep. Pettigrew's statement:

“This initiative will finally bring Washington into the 21st century in terms of educational opportunities for public school students,”

Charter schools are the most cutting edge thing you can do in education today?  If that's true, we're in real trouble.

What I didn't realize (and this is useful) is how tight the timing is to get the signatures (so that means spending a heck of a lot of money just to get on the ballot):

Supporters acknowledge they won’t be able to start gathering signatures for about a month, giving them just a couple weeks to canvass. That’s not much time, unless supporters are willing to spend money at Costco-like levels.

Read more here: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/politics/2012/05/22/charter-school-advocates-make-last-minute-attempt-to-reach-2012-ballot/#storylink=cpy

Fleshed out at the Secretary of State's office, it sounds like this:

It takes several weeks to process an initiative and for the Attorney General’s Office to prepare a ballot title. Challengers then would have one week to ask Thurston County Superior Court for changes in the ballot title.  After that, sponsors would be able to print petitions sheets and circulate them. 

So they probably won't be able to start the petition going until maybe, late June and the deadline is July 6th.  I can say with certainty that there will be that one week lost where a challenger will step up for changes in the ballot title.


Read more here: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/politics/2012/05/22/charter-school-advocates-make-last-minute-attempt-to-reach-2012-ballot/#storylink=cpy

My Note to KUOW about the Charter Initiative

Just listened to Shannon Champion from Stand for Children talking about the charter school initiative on The Conversation.  A couple of things:

- go back and listen to the tape.  She didn't answer virtually any of the actual questions that Ross asked.  You might want to keep that in mind going forward on this issue.  You won't get a straight, precise answer to questions like his question "can anyone open a charter school?" and the answer is "yes, anyone who follows the application process and has the background to open one."  She dodged that one.

- I have gone thru the initiative (versus the charter bill legislation which is its template) - some interesting changes/additions/deletions but plenty for folks to have concerns with including the very controversial parent/teacher "trigger".

- There will be organized opposition to this measure should it qualify for the ballot and it will NOT just be the union (or union supporters).  There are enough of us - statewide - that have no association with the WEA and are going to fight this on the merits of what it means to parents, students, school districts and taxpayers. 

I note that Ross tried to get her to talk about costs and she dodged that question as well.  This initiative will open a new commission of 9 people (that will sit in the Governor's office and costs for them paid out of the Governor's budget- a nice surprise for Inslee or McKenna).  Then there are the costs for processing the applications (which can be sub-contracted out by the Commission - that was estimated with the charter school bill legislation at around $1M a year). 

Big Money Rolling in for Charter Initiative

Well that didn't take long.

Crosscut is reporting that the initiative is receiving a $4M boost from the Gates Foundation and $1M from Nick Hanauer (and I suspect the rest is from Stand or some other booster).

Oddly, LEV has nothing on its site about sponsoring this bill.

Bad news for Dem candidates:

Speaking of Jay Inslee, if the charter initiative does go forward, watch for the anti-charters Washington Education Association, the teachers' union, to match the charter camp in spending, which will drain a traditional source of money away from the Democrats in the governor's race.

I think this assessment is true but that's what happens when people in political parties split over a single issue.

I wonder if people will have a reaction to that kind of money being spent on an education measure (either way).  

I have read through the initiative which uses the charter legislation bill as a template.

There is some definite tweaking which I will have to ponder for possible outcomes.  They did do some good things to make this a better bill/initiative but left in a lot to argue against.  I will probably not say much at this point as I'm not going to help the other side out with their campaign. 

There are some groups around the state joining together to fight this initiative.  The WEA can fight it on their turf but it seems to be common wisdom that it will be the pro-charter folks against the teachers union.  That might make for a good story but it will not be the case.  There will be lots of others who have no association and nothing to do with the union.

Sign Your Name to Posts? Or Else?

From our friends over at the Stranger Slog,
Did you hear the one about the New York state lawmakers who forgot about the First Amendment in the name of combating cyberbullying and "baseless political attacks"?
Proposed legislation in both chambers would require New York-based websites, such as blogs and newspapers, to "remove any comments posted on his or her website by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post."
From the story at Gizmodo:

The Senate and Assembly measures, which are identical, cover messages on social networks, blogs, message boards or "any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages."

The bills also demand those sites to have a contact number or e-mail address posted for "such removal requests, clearly visible in any sections where comments are posted."

Oddly, the bill has no identification requirement for those who request the takedown of anonymous content.

The NY Legislature seems to have forgotten about the First Amendment (or does that not cover anonymous comments?). 

Here's hoping our Legislature doesn't try this.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lafayette Investigation; Missing Some Pieces?

A very carefully worded investigation "report" from Paul Apostle to Susan Enfield about the Lafayette incident  and investigation report from Safety and Security was released today.  Also, a letter was sent to parents, also carefully worded, from Ex Director, Aurora Lora.  (I can't seem to create a link but I will get it up as soon as I can.) 

 A story is also in the Times and it, too, is carefully written and leaves out a lot.  No link to the investigation at all.  You have to wonder why all this tiptoeing is happening.  (And thanks to the Times for leaving out that we here broke the story - something to keep in mind in the future.) 

Clearly, this is story many people don't want to tell.

The Times leaves out that while the investigation didn't violate school district policy (i.e. Board policy), it left out the Superintendent's own procedures which are very clear on what is to happen if there is a sexual complaint.  Mum's the word on those both in the Times and the HR document.

 All that is said is that what the principal did, behind closed doors and alone with each child, wasn't "best practice when interviewing students about sensitive matters.  Best practice would also recommend that all of the students' parents be informed of the interviews."  Oh.

Also, the porn incident - it happened and the student's internet privileges were suspended for the rest of the year.  Not made up, folks.

After the incident in the line, "According to staff#1, Student #1( the boy in question) admitted that the claims were true and apologized to students after a discussion about appropriate behavior between classmates."  Staff #1 is, I believe, the child's teacher.


"Principal Lute-Ervin stated the culture at Lafayette Elementary has been that teachers tend to deal with Student misconduct at the classroom level and do not properly report misconduct to administrators." 

Really?  I wonder who they learned that from.

Lute-Ervin is now claiming that the parent who wanted to sit in on the meeting with her child was a person she didn't know and had a different last name from the child, so she said no.  (Raise your hand if you have a different last name than your child's?   I rest my case.)  She also claims that the parent did not identify herself as the student's mother.  (I'm going to assume she said this to the investigator with a straight face because what parent wouldn't have said, "I'm his/her mother" when making the request?)

Also with a straight face, she denies telling the children not to tell anyone about the interview.  Really?  So all these kids went to their separate homes and told their parents the same thing and ALL of them made it up?  So it's the principal's word against the kids.  Principal trumps kids.

There were "gaps in communication." 

Aurora Lora's statement (partial):

To ensure a positive learning environment is maintained between now and the end of the school year, on Monday, Bob Boesche and Paul Apostle and I visited Lafayette and on Tuesday, spoke to the entire staff.  To help finish the school year, the school district is providing Principal Jo Lute-Ervin with additional administrative assistance."

You mean someone is babysitting the principal.

And now I am hearing reports that this child acted out physically against another child yesterday.

I hope the district understands that this will all be evidence in any lawsuit if this child hurts someone.

And so with this investigation, we close the books on yet another incident that was pretty much brushed off.  The district never learns. 

Charter Schools Ballot Initiative Filed

From the Times:

A coalition of education advocacy groups filed an initiative this afternoon to ask voters once again to allow charter schools in Washington state.

If the groups can collect nearly 250,000 signatures by the July 6 deadline, the issue will go on the November ballot, joining a slew of other high-profile questions.

Well, given that Stand for Children (and who knows who else) will be funded the signature drive, I have no doubt they will get the signatures.

This initiative would cap the number of charter schools at 40, to be established and approved by the state over a five-year period. Priority would be given to charters that serve at-risk students or students from low-performing public schools.

“It’s very unusual to be filing in May,” said Dave Ammons, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office. “Time is very short.”

The initiative was filed by Tania de Sa Campos, the chief of staff of the League of Education Voters. She could not immediately be reached for comment.

While I have no problem with the vote, I have to wonder about the gamble it is. 

1) Voters have voted on this issue three times.  I have to believe for some, it is going to be a major irritation to see it on the ballot again when there is no decent evidence charters work in sustainable numbers.

2) It's a big gamble if it loses.  A fourth loss at the ballot box will stamp "loser" on charters in this state for a long time.  I doubt if any legislator would dare bring them up again anytime soon.

3) Very crowded ballot.  President, Governor, gay marriage.  This could be a plus (people might get fooled by the "help the poor kids" line or they might overlook it.   Again, a gamble.

4) The length and wording of the initiative.  I'll go over that in detail but I suspect it's more of the same.

Proposed Policy 2220

As the Board considers revisions to Policy C56.00, the program placement policy, they should think about what they want this policy to do. I will link to a copy of the draft proposal as soon as one is available.

Tuesday Open Thread

To note; there is a rally outside the Seattle Art Museum this Thursday at 8:30 am where Amazon is having its annual shareholders meeting.  I had mentioned this previously as a way to let Amazon know it should get out of ALEC.  I have learned that this will be a fairly large rally as the Occupy Seattle folks will also be there.  If you are planning to attend, know it is likely to be large and noisy (as it should be). 

What's on your mind?

That Divide Among Democrats on Education? Widening.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle has come out on his blog with a post that firmly aligns him in the ed reform camp.  This is his choice to make but it is not what I have heard from him in the past.   He also says some very unfair things and uses straight-out-of-the-book ed reform jargon.  (Seems he's starting getting the daily faxes from Stand on talking points.)

I predict this divide is going to really be sharply felt next legislative session.  I think it is going to make for some really hard feelings (and hard choices) for many Democrats, both voters and elected officials.  But frankly, so be it.  I just wish that the ed reform side had the courage and courtesy to make some real acknowledgments about the other side - the "there are plenty of other things we can do" side.

But I just want to go through Carlyle's piece and point out a few things:

He completely echoes Nick Haneur on many points and I suspect these are the new talking points that are being passed around.  The "old" Democrat guard is out of touch and hunkered down and has no vision.  Sounds just aged and tired, no? But wait, here is the fresh-faced "new" Dems with all the answers (although they like to demure on those answers.)

Today, I must acknowledge that I fear that when it comes to the issue of public education the Democratic Party has lost our ability to hear the silence as well as the noise. We have lost our intellectual interest in challenging the institutional grip of the status quo relative to experimenting with new ideas, new approaches, new policies, new possibilities.  

For the last time - there is NO one that wants the status quo.  That is a ridiculous point to keep saying over and over but yes, valuable in making it look like the other side is just being stubborn.

Perhaps, instead, the yellow canaries in the coal mines of public education are calling out for help to modernize and update our 200-year old approach to education?

Sorry Reuven, that's another piece of nonsense.  We no longer have the one-room schoolhouse.  There is nothing remotely like what we were doing 200 years ago but again, keep up that "old and tired" theme.

Even the old idea that a high school degree is somehow a tool of educational empowerment is stale and disconnected from today’s reality. Some sort of post secondary education is essential to economic survival, and yet we see young people saddled with unimaginable debt and few options for careers. 

A high school degree, especially with new CTE offerings, does not have to be stale and disconnected, not if we don't want it to be.  And, few options for careers?  I have no idea what he is talking about.

One of his main premises is that Washington State is standing idly by, doing nothing.  That is not true but he wants everyone to think so.  Does he think so little of the work by other legislators who wrote and passed the Innovation Schools laws?  The Lighthouse School law?  The Creative Approach initiative in SPS?  The teachers' contract in SPS?

We lose credibility when we pretend that an Educational Industrial Complex does not exist that often prioritizes adult financial interests over childens’ educational interests.

Yes, it DOES exist and if you need it all laid out for you, just give me a call.  Do NOT pretend like there aren't armies of people trying to co-opt education for their own purposes (some for good reasons but many who are out to make a buck and gain power over how our children are taught and by whom).

Seattle’s inability to attract and retain great leaders is not an accident, it is a reflection of our unwillingness to own the hard work together of improving our schools and openly dealing with seemingly intractable academic challenges. 

BS.  In Seattle, our problem is the inability for us to have a well-managed and well-run district.  We don't have a whole lot of time that gets devoted to thoughts on how to have better academics.

Then he rails over how people don't want TFA and how people get angrier over that than the graduation rate? Maybe that should tell how badly TFA comes off to people.  Saying it over and over or louder is not going to make them look better.  As for the graduation rate,  look to Everett and Tukwila, Representative, they're getting it done.  But see, if you say that out loud it undercuts the "we need ed reform", right?

He also gets upset over the lack of support for the charter bill.  That really disappoints me because when he came out in a photo standing shoulder-to-shoulder with sponsor Eric Pettigrew, I called him.  Reuven told me he did it as a friend and colleague and NOT because he supported them.  I guess now he does. 

When Washington State applied for a Race to the Top grant and came in 32 out of 36 states, there was deafening silence in our lack of willingness to make it a teachable moment.

Or, it might mean that people don't care about money that comes with many strings and hoops to jump through.  If he were keeping up, he'd know this is an issue for states that DID get the money.

The learning from thousands of hours of research, task forces, studies, consultant hours, parental meetings, teacher discussions and more were all lost to our fear of an open public discussion about why we scored near the very bottom in the nation. 

Bottom in what?  Washington State is not at the bottom of anything except funding and RTTT money.

Talking about Stand:

The organization is politically aggressive in the context of education reform and the establishment prefers to respond to their proposals with what some might consider patronizing contempt rather than engagement on the merits.

I'm not patronizing them; I'm saying they are not grassroots and are going after legislators by giving or denying them money. 

Stand for Children, a leading advocacy group for children founded with the hands-on support of progressive icon and Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, endorses the top Republican in the state in an open gubernatorial race and the only response is cryptic denial of it’s importance? It is easy to rationalize, justify and excuse the decision as somehow innocuous or irrational or politically driven, but Jay Inslee is unlikely to be the next governor if he personally and the Democratic establishment structurally does not hear the silence of this quiet move.

He says Marian Wright Edelman founded Stand and she didn't; her son, Jonah did.  Odd that Reuven leaves that out except that she's the more famous one.   Who is saying that it doesn't matter that Stand endorsed McKenna?  It matters because Stand has money to throw at races and well, money matters.   Next paragraph.

Leading Seattle entrepreneur Nick Hanauer has argued that the Democratic Party has lost its way on the issue of education. The response to his clarion call to the Democratic Party is less about the moral outrage of an undereducated society in a global economy–and the substance of the issues themselves such as how to bring innovation to public education– and more about an anti-education reform litmus test.

It's not a litmus test - it's a test of being a Democrat.  If you want to leave your party or not support them over one single issue, that's your choice.  Do not make it the litmus test for others.  

The only path forward is a sense of conviction to work together: Teacher’s unions and education reformers, Democrats and Republicans, urban and rural, parents, teachers, students, business leaders and more. More money for public education is vital and essential but it is not the sole answer; the money must be wisely invested into meaningful results. New money cannot be seen simply as a ‘backfill’ for previous cuts, it must be seen by the public as an investment in something new and energetic and invigorating in our schools that gets to the heart of addressing a 73% on time graduation rate.

Great.  Stop saying that people who disagree with you want the status quo.  How about listening to their solutions?  Or even admitting they have other solutions to offer?

But charting a course forward requires us to hear the silence of the children as well as the noise of the grownups. It’s not anti-union to question the inability of a principal to select a teacher for her building. It’s not anti-education reform to ask that teacher evaluations be conducted with dignity and fairness. 

What does "silence of the children" mean?  Baffling.  And we are rapidly moving towards principal selection (and, in fact, principals have a great deal of power about who they hire for their buildings at least in SPS).  And again, I don't know any one who says teachers should not be fairly assessed but the devil is in the details.

I do not understand his unhappiness with anyone who disagrees with him and yet he says, "let's all talk."  You don't get people to listen by saying they aren't listening. 

Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee 5/21/12

The Board's Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee met on Monday, May 21. The meeting started just after the scheduled start time of 4:00. All three committee members, Marty McLaren (chair), Sharon Peaslee, and Harium Martin-Morris, were present. No other board members were in attendance. They quickly approved the agenda without amendments and then approved the minutes from the previous meeting, also without amendments.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Stronger Spam Filter

The spam filter on Blogger is controlled by Google.  Charlie and I have very little control over the spam filter.  I have heard from a few readers that posts are getting eaten and I checked the spam box.   I found just a couple (and hundreds of spam messages) and all of them were anonymous.  It may be that Blogger has upped the filter and didn't tell us but understand that it is more likely for a comment to get eaten if you do not sign a name or moniker (as is our policy).

Also, we are respectfully asking that you do not follow one comment of yours with another.   It is off-putting to readers (and to me).  It's fine to comment more than once, just not one after another. 

BEX Updates

Earlier in the month the Board had a Work Session on BEX IV.  Here are some highlights and commentary.

The beginning of the meeting saw staff go over the input from the BEX IV community meetings.  It was surprisingly thin.  All that was said was that there were 510 oral and written comments and that Option #2 received the most yes votes (although I later saw the numbers and it was close between #2 and #3).   Director Martin-Morris had to ask about how this informs the Board what the community is thinking on this issue.  Pegi McEvoy said that info in was in a Friday update that had been published two weeks prior. 

Here's a link to the webpage on the community meetings for BEX IV.

Head of Capital Building projects, Lucy Morello, said they would be carrying over some major maintenance from BTA III.  This puzzles me.  I thought we had a separation of BEX and BTA precisely so that each has its own discrete area.  This goes to the issue of co-mingling of these funds and projects and never been able to properly account for these monies.

I wish BEX IV would be as pure a capital levy as possible.  I take out any major maintenance and any academics.  There was no academic component in the last BEX.

Important C & I Committee Meeting Today

The Board's Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee will have a very important meeting today. They will discuss a number of critical issues that they have needed to talk about for some time.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, May 21st 
Curriculum&Instruction Policy Committee Mtg from 4-6pm, JSCEE
  • Promise Neighborhoods MOU with Neighborhood House
  • 2163 School Policy, Supports and Interventions
  • 4110 Superintendent procedure, Family and Community Advisory and Oversight Ctms
  • Policy 2200, Equitable Access to Services and Programs
  • Teacher College Contract
  • NWEA Contract
  • Cost increase for Social Studies Adoption
  • Policy 2420, Running Start and Homeschool discussion
2163 -not sure what they want to change here
4110 - as Charlie as pointed out, this one doesn't always get followed so I'll be interested to see what is said here
2200 - must be new as I don't see it under the current policies
2420 - at the Board webpage, this seems to be about grading so I'm confused here 
Promise MOU - this one hadn't been on my radar but it's an agreement with Neighborhood House, Seattle Housing Authority, City of Seattle and SPS to support families and schools in the south end (West Seattle Elementary, Denny Middle and Chief Sealth).  The district kicks in nearly $460k per year to this effort. 

Tuesday, May 22
Public Hearing for Draft Environmental Impacts for BEX IV 
5-6 p.m. at Roxhill Elementary, 9430 30th Avenue SW

Draft SEPA Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement April 2012
There's a lot of interesting reading in this document; worth taking a look at.  

Written comments should be directed to:

Noel Treat, SEPA Responsible Official
John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence
2445 3rd Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98134

or by email to: jawolf@seattleschools.org

Wednesday, May 23
- Public Hearing: Redistricting Director District Boundaries
3:30-4:00 p.m. - JSCEE

- Oversight Work Session: Coordinated Health, Safety and Security 
4-5:30 p.m., JSCEE

- Oversight Work Session: Enrollment
6-7:30 p.m., JSCEE

Saturday, May 26
District VII Community Meeting - Director Patu
10 am - noon - Cafe Vita, 5028 Wilson Avenue S.