Showing posts from August, 2012

Maybe I should quit

I have been an education activist for over eleven years. Over those years I have devoted thousands and thousands of hours to efforts to get Seattle Public Schools to fulfill its commitments. I have never asked the District to do anything more than what the District promised to do. I have worked for community engagement, for transparency, and, more than anything else, for the District to keep its commitments to students and families. I have worked really hard at it for a really long time, and I must admit that I have not had any effect at all. Frankly, I'm getting tired of it. At what point is it appropriate for me to stop? At what point should I determine that Seattle Public Schools is irreparably corrupt and incapable of reform? When should I quit? And what then? Work to establish some alternative structure, like charter schools? Work to dismantle the district and make every school independent? Work for a City or County takeover of the schools? Just stop working on public educ

A Crossroads for PTA

PTA used to be the wholesome, all-American group.  Parents and teachers united in schools across the country to create better communities of learning and fellowship for children and adults. Now, I don't know what is happening. First, the National PTA just revised its rules on charter schools.  It's astonishing and also troubling.   While their previous policy supported the idea of charters as long as they had parent engagement AND local oversight, the new policy (from Ed Week): .. .supports giving entities other than local school boards the right to approve charter schools, a new position the group argues will increase its ability to shape policy within the diverse and growing sector of independent public schools. What they don't seem to get is that by losing local control, the PTA WILL lose the ability to shape policy.   And why would PTA be welcome in charters?  Parents don't have a real role in most charters - you can see this by how easily students ca

Friday Open Thread

In our house there's a bit of a rush to complete summer assignments. School is starting VERY SOON. What's on your mind?

Charter schools are for quitters

Charter schools represent resignation all across the board. To advocate for charter schools is to see the challenges in public education, to see the hard work needed, and to run away. Charter schools are for quitters. They are for the cowardly and weak.

Mercer Makes List of "High-Progress 'Reward Schools'"

From SPS Communications:  Asa Mercer Middle School has been classified as a “high progress” Reward School – making the prestigious list of the top-performing, most - improved Title 1 schools in the state.  The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction on Aug . 27 named Mercer as one of 58 schools around the state with the Reward School designation.  “Congratulations to the students, staff and parents of Mercer Middle School and the community members who supported the school,” said José Banda, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. “We are proud that Mercer Middle School is part of this distinguished group of Reward Schools and ha s been acknowledged for all its efforts and hard work.” As a high - progress Reward School, Mercer scored in the top 10 percent of Title I schools in reading and math (combined) on state assessments for its “all students” group. This designation acknowledges a school’s performance and improvement in reading and math duri

Ed News Round-Up

Interesting (and lengthly) essay from a student teacher that carefully outlines her concerns with TFA .  The ones about the link between TFA and charter schools is especially timely for Washington State.  (Also a good story here on that link from the National Journal.) From Education Week, a very good comparison of what Romney and Obama have in mind for public education. From Education Week, a review of a new book about the most selective public high schools in the country. For each of the 11 schools that Finn or Hockett personally visited, the book describes the climate for learning. Here's how they summed it up: By and large, all the schools we visited were serious, purposeful places: competitive but supportive, energized yet calm. Behavior problems (save for cheating and plagiarism) were minimal, and students attended regularly. The kids wanted to be there, and were motivated to succeed. Most classrooms they observed were "alive, engaged places,"

Tuesday Open Thread

Forgot to mention (but I've sure you've seen), Seattle Public libraries are closed this week as a cost-cutting measure.  A sure sign of back-to-school when the public library has to close.  Free backpacks (while they last) at the district's enrollment day today before the furlough day tomorrow (the district will be closed Wednesday, August 29th).   No district or Board activities this week as they gear up for the opening of school next week. What's on your mind?

Stop Making (Non) Sense

The hot weather is gone so I can't imagine what it is affecting the brains of the editorial board at the Seattle Times.  Their latest editorial about the State starting negotiations with the Washington Federation of Sate Employees soon.  They give recent history: Twice now they have done this. In September 2008, they agreed to pay raises in the two-year contract. In the midst of the worst financial crisis in 75 years, Gregoire approved them and within weeks the state's Office of Financial Management (OFM) said the contracts were impossible. The state had to go back and ask that the raises be canceled. The union sued, lost, and agreed to cancel the raises. In 2010, deals were reached in October; a month later the Office of Financial Management declared them to be infeasible. Gregoire asked that the employee share of health-insurance premiums, set in the contract at 12 percent, be increased to 26 percent, which was the average for family coverage among private

Escalating the Rhetoric so That ALL Educators are Suspect

Over at the Washington Policy Center, Liv Finne's latest "analysis" is about the Success Academies in NYC, a small charter chain that has big plans to expand throughout NYC.  They do have higher than average test scores but, like other charters, don't serve as many Special Ed students.  And, their operator, Eva Moskowitz, rakes in a big salary and parent voices are not high on her list of priorities.   This analysis would be okay -it's one in a long string of ancedotal stories about good charters.  They exist  but not in numbers that would support the idea that charters can and do make a big difference in any district where they are located.  She then goes on to rail about principals in Washington State: In Seattle, for example, the superintendent of the district bureaucracy selects and oversees the performance of 92 school principals, an unworkable set-up for many reasons.  It doesn’t help that, once in a position, school principals in Washington are prot

Banda Interview

Superintendent Banda was gracious enough to give me a little time last week to talk.  (I note that the office looked quite stern with Dr. Enfield's ducky collection gone.) How's it going? He said he had adjusted quickly and he is enjoying Seattle.  He said that he felt like he got a good grasp of the district and its needs early on. Math is a big issue to many parents and when they see a few schools going off-script (and getting good results), they want to know how their school can do it.  Any plans around that issue? He said it was a challenging area.  He mentioned that Wendy London had resigned (so she is definitely not in the district) and that are working hard to find a new permanent T&L executive director. Could more schools access a new math program through the Creative Approach system?   He said that may be the best way to do it.  He said it could be a resource issue for some schools. Have you read I-1240 or has anyone in the district read it and provided

Thank You, Neil Armstrong

 From the AP: "I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer," he said in February 2000 in one of his rare public appearances. "And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession." Like taking the biggest step in the history of the world?  Those of us that saw this event on TV will never forget it.  I went out and looked into that dark Arizona sky (we didn't have a lot of light so our skies were dark and starry) and wondered if I would go to the moon if I could. Thank you, Neil Armstrong, for your inspiration and courage.

Friday Open Thread

There will be a memorial tomorrow for Ballard High School teacher, Megan Vogel, a Golden Apple award-winner.  From Ballard High School: “She is missed by her family, friends, colleagues and the hundreds of BHS students and graduates that she had a profound impact on. We will join together this Saturday, August 25th from 1-3 pm in the BHS Performing Arts Center for a Celebration of Megan’s life. In lieu of flowers, please bring live plants to remember Ms. Vogel’s connection to the living world.” For more, visit the Facebook page that was created in her memory. I also apologize for not noting the recent passing of Louise McKinney, a longtime educator, in our city.    From the Times: Louise McKinney was a philanthropist, patron of the arts and longtime educator who believed that all children were capable of learning, no matter their station in life. As a teacher and later principal at a number of Seattle schools, she prodded and nudged institutions to do right by kids

Times Keeps Up Its Desperate Efforts to Look Logical

More inane arguments from the Times over charter schools. They try to play the civil rights card and they might want to watch that because there are those in minority groups who do NOT follow that argument. They also say it is "divisive" to talk about loss of funds to schools if we have charters. That's misleading because (1) the charter system WILL cost more money to taxpayers and since we know we have NO new money, that comes out the system, (2) the charter supporters consistently try to make it sound like it's one student transferring from one school to another - it's not, it's a student transferring from an existing school to a NEW school and (3) taxpayers lose money if cash-strapped districts are forced to sell/lease buildings to charters at a loss (as the initiative requires).  Note: districts don't have to sell or lease anything if they don't want to.  But if you are a district and you have available space and let that be known , the distr

Pot Dispensaries Near Schools?

In "news to me", from The Stranger Slog , apparently there are a number of medical marijuana dispensaries around school zones.  The DEA has warned 23 of them that they have to move or ..federal authorizes may raid the properties, seize their assets, and seek federal criminal charges , Agent Barnes adds that the federal government makes no criminal exceptions for marijuana, even it it's " medical ," a word that his letter writes in italics and quotation marks.  This would apply to the business as well as the property owner.  I'll try to find out where these are but I'm sure it's probably something parents have noticed if one is near a school zone. I applaud the DEA for this because public safety around schools is a city/county/state/fed responsibility and if we had more of it, more of our schools would feel safer.

SPS Enrollment Event (Freebies!)

From SPS: In an effort to encourage parents to beat the last-minute rush to get their students enrolled for school, Seattle Public Schools is sponsoring an Enrollment and Back-to-School Give-Away event from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28. Families enrolling at this time will receive free sack packs and school supplies donated by the Office Depot Foundation, on a first-come, first-served basis. “It takes time to complete the enrollment paperwork, and the lines in our lobby increase as we get closer to the first day of school,” said Brandon Holst, services manager at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence (JSCEE). “We hope that this special event will encourage families to enroll earlier so that their students will have school assignments before the first day of school.” The enrollment event is scheduled for the day before the JSCEE building will be closed due to a district-mandated unpaid furlough day for all employees. The Wednesday, Aug. 29 fur

Teen Dance

From the City of Seattle: Back by popular demand the All City Teen Dance - Party for Peace 2012 will take place on August 29 from 9pm - 12am at the Showbox SODO, site of the 2009 All City Teen Dance - Party for Peace.  This year, the ticket distribution will occur at all Teen Life Centers and Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club.  In order to receive a ticket youth must complete a pledge form (attached) and get a sponsor (adult mentor, counselor, etc.) to sign off. They will then turn this form in to a Parks Teen Life Center or Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club to receive a ticket.  Participants will not get into the dance if we do not have a pledge form on file and name is on the spreadsheet (even if they have a ticket).   Here is the process for youth: 1.      Pick up Pledge Form from TLC/Late Night/RVBGC or Community Based Agency 2.      Return completed form to a TLC site or RVBGC (including Sponsor signature) 3.      Receive a ticket from the site

Banda's Availability

From SPS: José Banda to attend regional meetings, host monthly open office hours Seattle Public Schools is partnering with the Seattle Council PTSA to sponsor five regional meetings for SPS families and community members to meet Superintendent José Banda in September and October. During the regional meetings, the Superintendent will briefly talk about his vision for the school district, followed by informal conversations with those in attendance. Those meetings are scheduled from 6-7:30 p.m. on the following dates: ·          Monday, Sept. 17 , Mercer Middle School, 1600 S. Columbia Way ·          Tuesday, Sept. 18 , Rainier Beach High School, 8815 Seward Park Ave. S. ·          Monday, Oct. 1 , Bryant Elementary School, 3311 N.E. 60th St. ·          Tuesday, Oct. 2 , Concord International Elementary School, 723 S. Concord St. ·          Monday, Oct. 8 , Hamilton International Middle School, 1610 N. 41st St. “Our schools serve as centers for le

Why do you hate America's children?

Here's a disturbing trend. Charter school advocates trivialize opposition to charters by attributing the root cause of the opposition to irrational emotion. They say it is due to fear, as in "Why do the teacher unions fear competition from charter schools?" They say it is due to baseless dislike: "They just don't like charter schools." Some attribute it to a weird kind of spite: "I get it. You just don't want poor children to have a decent opportunity for a good education." It reminds me very strongly of the way that supporters of President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq would dismiss opposition by saying that they simply hate the president or by asking them "Why do you hate America?" It allowed them to slide past the rational reasons to oppose President Bush's policies and the rational reasons to oppose the war in Iraq. It put the opposition on the defensive and relegated them to a weak and silly position. The equivalent

Meet the Superintendent

From Seattle Public Schools : Seattle Public Schools is partnering with the Seattle Council PTSA to sponsor five regional meetings for SPS families and community members to meet Superintendent José Banda in September and October. During the regional meetings, the Superintendent will briefly talk about his vision for the school district, followed by informal conversations with those in attendance. Those meetings are scheduled 6-7:30 p.m. on the following dates: Monday, Sept. 17 , Mercer Middle School, 1600 S. Columbia Way Tuesday, Sept. 18 , Rainier Beach High School, 8815 Seward Park Ave. S. Monday, Oct. 1 , Bryant Elementary School, 3311 N.E. 60th St. Tuesday, Oct. 2 , Concord International Elementary School, 723 S. Concord St. Monday, Oct. 8 , Hamilton International Middle School, 1610 N. 41st St. “Our schools serve as centers for learning community-wide, and it is critical that we engage families and community members in supporting them,” Banda said. “I am firmly commi

Cheryl Chow is Dying of Brain Cancer

In sad news yesterday, former Seattle Board Director (and President), Cheryl Chow revealed that she has brain cancer and not much time.  Chow is 66. She also revealed that she is gay.  From the KING 5 report: Parents and kids, don't be afraid of saying that you're gay. I was afraid for over 60 years and those 60 years were wasted,” she said. Chow, 66, says she feared the reaction of the Chinese community and her mother, restaurateur and King County Councilmember, Ruby Chow, whom she wanted to please. She said her mother, in fact, was one of the first owners in town to welcome gay organizations to her restaurant. “However, that didn't mean that she wanted me to be gay,” said Chow. Chow has been a public servant, both on the Seattle City Council and the School Board.  For nearly her entire adult life she coached the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill team and  told them to feel good about who they are. She showed her typical humor in this exchange: Aske

The Latest from Liv Finne

Liv Finne has written a blog piece about the WSPTA's vote in opposition to I-1240. The article appears on the W ashington Policy Center blog and also on Crosscut . Her premise is that the PTA Legislative Assembly voted to support charter schools, but the WSPTA Board, in a fit of anti-democratic elitism, negated that vote by deciding to voice opposition to I-1240, thereby going against the will of their constituents. It's an effective bit of rhetoric that will be convincing - for folks who don't know anything about the issue other than what Ms Finne has told them. It is also, of course, completely false.

Seattle Schools' Calendars, 2012-2013

From SPS Communications: Families, staff and community members should receive the calendar the first week of September Seattle Public Schools would like to thank those organizations and businesses that sponsored the District’s 2012-13 wall calendar and family guide, which will be mailed soon to Seattle Public Schools students, families and staff.  Sponsors include KOMO, Allstate, Camp Fire, City of Seattle, Comcast, Every Block, PiPlus, the NW Network, Seattle Committee to Save Schools, Stevens Pass and Swerve driving school and Defensive Driving.  “We are thrilled to partner with these businesses and organizations to ensure our families have access to this important information,” said SPS Chief Communications Officer Lesley Rogers. “Without these sponsors, the district would eventually have to stop publishing the calendar, which our families and staff rely on for news and information throughout the year.” The calendar, which features photos and quotes fr

Tuesday Open Thread

Interesting SPS news from the Times - the new Student Assignment Plan is slowly showing the changing demographics in SPS.  Alki, Arbor Heights, McClure, Sacajawea and Gatewood are more white and McGilvra, Leschi and North Beach have become more diverse.  Interesting but not surprising. Heads up - the Seattle Public Libraries are shut down next week to cut costs.  That's Monday, August 27th to Sunday, Sep. 2nd. SPS staff take an unpaid furlough day on Wednesday, August 29th. From SPS: - Christopher King, a media literacy/TV production teacher at Whitman Middle School, has won a screenwriting award for the third year in a row in the 2012 Pacific Northwest Writers Association's Literary Contest.   Congrats, Mr. King! - Cathi Rodgveller, a career counselor at Seattle Public Schools and founder of IGNITE (Inspiring Girls Now in Technology Evolution) won the Anita Borg Social Impact Award in August for her accomplishments and contributions to women in technology

How Are Those New/Reopened Schools Doing?

So we see the progress being made in preparation for the new K-5 STEM at Boren but it got me wondering; how are the other new schools doing? Sand Point? Queen Anne Elementary? Viewlands? Rainier View? McDonald? Did I leave anyone out? I seem to hear more about McDonald and Queen Anne so I'd love to hear from Sand Point, Viewlands or Rainier View parents but I'm sure we would like updates from all.

Why do I even read the Times Editorials?

A new editorial from the Seattle Times encourages the Washington State PTA to reconsider their opposition to initiative I-1240,  State PTA should rethink opposition to charter-school initiative . It is ironic for the Times to ask the PTA to think twice about it because the Times has yet to think even once about it. The WSPTA's opposition to the initiative is thoughtful, nuanced, supported by facts, and aligned with their principles. The Seattle Times' support for the initiative is reflexive, in denial about the facts, and completely without principle. The Times is getting skewered in the comments, but I don't know if many folks read the comments. They sure aren't read by the folks who read the print edition. When will the Seattle Times have an open discussion of education issues? Never.

Obama Says Class Size Matters; Bill G, Are You Listening?

Via NYC Parents blog: Parent leaders throughout the nation thank President Obama for recognizing the importance of class size in his weekly address, and for releasing a report that shows how the elimination of 60,000 teaching positions since 2009 is not only unprecedented in US postwar history, but has led to class size increases that are severely damaging the quality of our public schools. Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, said: “The  President’s speech  yesterday and the new White House report,  Investing in our Future , make it crystal clear that the class size increases across the nation represent a crisis that is severely undermining our children’s opportunity to learn.  As the White House report makes clear, class size reduction has been strongly linked to higher achievement, higher levels of engagement, and higher rates of attending college.  Yet here in New York City, our youngest students are suffering from the largest classes in 13 years, despite

Answering the "For-Profit" Charter Question

I always get this question (and seemingly by people who are smart and savvy): How could anyone make money off charter schools?   Below is just one explanation of the tip of this iceberg but it's a good one. This column from the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss and her blog, The Answer Sheet, really says it all.  She posts an interview with the head of Entertainment Properties Trust which is: “a specialty real estate investment trust (REIT) that invests in properties in select categories which require unique industry knowledge, and offer stable and attractive returns.” And the website also says this: “Our investment portfolio of nearly $3 billion includes megaplex movie theatres and adjacent retail, public charter schools, and other destination recreational and specialty investments. This portfolio includes over 160 locations spread across 34 states with over 200 tenants. The head of Entertainment Properties Trust, David Brain, did an jaw-dropping interview w

Ed Reform Talk

This summer, Rep. Eric Pettigrew went to a talk by Jeb Bush, a champion of the worst of ed reform (just look at Florida).  Now, in yet another disturbing trend, Pettigrew (who says he's a Dem), is going to accept an award from the Washington Policy Center for his "courage" in standing up for charters.  If I were in the 37th, I'd be suspicious of someone who is so cozy with partisans from the other party. The WPC, which calls itself non-partisan, is nothing of the sort. Here's WPC's  idea for what would be good for Washington State - Eight Ways to Improve Public Schools: -Put the principal in charge -Give parents choice among public schools -Let teachers teach -Double teacher pay -Replace current state tests with the Iowa Test of Basic Skills -Create no-excuses schools -Transparency: Put school budgets and teacher qualifications online, and rate schools based on their ability to educate children -Make the Superintendent of Public Instruction an ap

Friday Open Thread

 A gentle reminder; please do not post information/links to stories not related to the thread topic unless it is breaking news.  We do have two Open Threads per week and there is the opportunity to request a thread on a specific topic.  Thanks. Public Square website article from Ed Week about parent engagement. Earlier this month, Palm Beach County School District lost its coveted "A" mark on its annual report card for the first time in eight years. The district's drop to a 'B' rating was mainly blamed on the state making the scoring system much tougher. Still, we wonder: What could parents have done to prevent this drop in the rating? To advance discussion of parental involvement, an "Issue Panel" was created, involving 11 people interested in the subject, including a representative of the Florida House of Representatives, a college associate dean of education, an educational consultant, a PTA president, a high school student, and the leader of a ho

Eckstein Principal Announced

Dear Eckstein Middle School community,   I am excited today to announce the appointment of Sherri Kokx as your new principal, effective Aug. 20. Ms. Kokx comes to Eckstein from Eisenhower Middle School in Everett, where she has been the principal since 2009. Ms. Kokx brings strong experience as a middle school principal and she will be a great fit for the Eckstein community. Ms. Kokx also served as an Assistant Principal for two years at North Middle School in Everett and was a middle school teacher for 10 years in the Everett School District. She said she is looking forward to championing the great work of the Eckstein staff and to supporting students and families during this time of emotional, social and academic growth. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in biology and general sciences from Michigan State University and a Master’s of Education in Educational Administration from Western Washington University. She also holds Washington State Administrative C

Stay Calm and Carry On (the Heat Won't Kill You)

I was listening to the news and I heard it's going to be "dangerously hot."  Very hot, yes, but it's only dangerous if you do dumb things. So a little advice from an Arizona girl: - absolutely number one - stay hydrated.   Don't wait until you are thirsty.  Ditto for the kids.  Water is your friend. - do NOT exercise or allow your kids to play outside in the heat of the day.  That would be from about noon-6 p.m.  The temperature rises and gets the hottest about 3 p.m. and will not cool down until much later.  I see these people running at 4 p.m. and think, "mad dogs and Englishmen."  It will not be a better workout and more sweat is not better.  It can leave you feel sick, not healthy.  - hats with brims are also your friends.  Encourage your children to wear them as well. - Sunglasses not only look chic/bad-ass/cool but cut glare and make it feel less oppressive.   - sunscreen - use it and reapply if you are sweaty.  The spray-on ones