Sunday, September 30, 2012

Impact Fees

We have heard school district officials bemoan the fact that the City of Seattle does not collect impact fees (assessments on new development to offset the costs of additional demands on public resources) for schools. They are, as usual, crying crocodile tears. The District is authorized to assess their own impact fees and they simply have not bothered to do it.

Per RCW 43.21C.060, school districts can assess impact fees. The WAC regarding the Growth Management Act also clearly allows school districts to require new developments to set aside land for schools (WAC 365-196). The King County Code (21A.43) also not only allows impact fees for schools, it appears to almost require them.

The school district could assess an impact fee that would require developers to provide a portion of the cost of building new schools. They simply have not bothered to do it. This not only matters with regard to the development downtown, but to the planned development in Lake City and the planned development in the Roosevelt neighborhood and all of the planned developments around the light rail and transit.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stay in School

Seattle Public Schools is exploring new ways to support our students to stay in school and is asking families to join District staff in discussions regarding student truancy, suspension and discipline. The meetings will be held Oct. 4, 8, 11, 17 and 24 at several high schools around the region.

The meetings are being organized by the District Ombudsman, in collaboration with the Disciplinary Appeals/Truancy Office; and the office of School-Family Partnerships/Equity & Race.

The meetings will be held:
  • 5:30-7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 4
    Rainier Beach High School, Library
    8815 Seward Park S.
  • 5:30-7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 8
    Cleveland - STEM, Room 1201
    5511 15th Ave. S.
  • 5:30-7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 11
    Chief Sealth International High School, Library
    2600 S.W. Thistle St.
  • 5:30-7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 17
    Ingraham High School, Library
    1819 N. 135 St.
  • 5:30-7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24
    Nathan Hale High School, Library
    10750 30th Ave. N.E.
For more information, contact the District Ombudsman at (206) 252-0529 or ombudsman@seattleschools.org.

You can download a flier here.

Friday Open Thread

Well, guess who likes unions? Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin who made it his goal to destroy the teachers union in Wisconsin.  Priorities, kids.  When it's something like, well, football, he's all for unions but when it's students and decent education, well, we can bring in the farm team.

Tomorrow is a national Free Admission Day at some museums sponsored by the Smithsonian.  Check their website for ones in our region.

Reminder of Saturday events for SPS:
  • Community Meeting with Director DeBell from 9-11 a.m. at Cafe Appassionato at 4001 21st Ave W.
  • Community Meeting with Director Smith-Blum from 10-11:30 am at the Capitol Hill Library, 425 Harvard Ave. E.
  • See It. Be It. event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Seattle Center, NW Rooms. 
What's on your mind?

Effective Political Action

Warning: This is a rant.

The one-year anniversary of the Occupy movement recently passed.  I think about Occupy quite a bit because it was really a discussion and demonstration about the factors of political efficacy. There are still, remarkably, a lot of people who claim that they don't know what the Occupy protests were about - if anything. These folks, disingenuously I presume, ask "What was their message anyway?"

For me, the message of the Occupy protests was loud and clear:

The wealthiest 1% of our society use their wealth to buy political power then use that power to perpetuate and expand their wealth and to pursue their narrow self-interests.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mayor Buys Downtown School Nonsense

The Seattle Times is reporting that Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wants to offer developers a waiver from height restrictions if they will provide space for a downtown elementary school in South Lake Union.

It's unclear if the offer is good only in South Lake Union or in other parts of downtown.

I don't know who the mayor is talking to, but it isn't anyone who is telling the truth about this.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Meany Challenges

There are a number of challenges around the District's plan for a middle school at Meany. I choose to call them challenges instead of problems in the hope that it will make me sound less pessimistic, but they amount to the same thing.

BEX IV Re-order

I think some of the District's urgency around capacity is real and some is manufactured. They have a real need for additional elementary school capacity in West Seattle and the northeast. They have a real need for middle school capacity in the north. The high school and central region middle school capacity needs aren't all that urgent.

Outside of capacity needs, they do need to take care of the World School without further delay and the renovation to Arbor Heights cannot wait.

Keeping the cash flow in mind, I would make a little re-order of the projects. The chart with the projects and their price tags is a bit misleading since the money isn't actually spent only in the year that the project completes. Still, any changes in timing have to be made with an eye to the cash flow.

The big changes I would make would be to shift Arbor Heights from 2019 to 2015, to swap the order of Schmitz Park and Thornton Creek, and to delay the move from John Marshall to Pacific Middle School for a year.

The smaller recommendations would be to make Fairmount Park an attendance area school and let STEM choose another home, to put half of north-end elementary APP at the new Thornton Creek school, and to put Van Asselt into a renovated Old Van Asselt and Wing Luke into the AAA instead of replacing the Wing Luke building.

Refer to the chart as you follow along.

Seattle in Group for District Race to the Top Money

I had let this fact get past me until I read a recent op-ed in the Times from Mary Alice Hershuel and Kip Herren, the superintendent of Renton public schools and the superintendent of the Auburn School district, respectively. 

We are working to find better ways to spread great practices and create a more permeable system of learning by relying on stronger engagement with parents, communities, businesses and support service organizations, and by making better use of online technology. 

The grant application will emphasize college and career readiness and personalized instruction. Parent involvement will be critical.  

We will also double down on improving science, technology, engineering and math, often called STEM, and make sure kids and families see the enormous career opportunities in our own backyard for young people with STEM skills. Each proposed investment will be viewed as a regional project, and close examination of data will be required.

The district had a press release in late August that said this:

The leaders of seven King County school districts announced today that they are joining forces to compete for up to $40 million in federal Race to the Top grant money.

The superintendents of Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, Seattle and Tukwila have committed to working together and with their communities to complete the grant application, which is due Oct. 30. This is the first time the federal Race to the Top competition has been open to districts; previously, the grants had only been offered to states. Awardees will be announced in December.

The seven districts actively work together as part of the Road Map Project, a region-wide effort to achieve dramatic improvement in student education from cradle to college. The project’s goal is to double the number of students in South Seattle and South King County who are on track to graduate from college or earn a career credential by 2020 and to close achievement gaps for low-income students and children of color.

The Road Map Project is being led by long-time activist and doer, Mary Jean Ryan, and has the blessing of the Gates Foundation.  ( What amazes me is that Gates doesn't do more of this.) 

The districts, which will submit their application under the name “The Road Map District Consortium,” intend to leverage the Road Map Project’s existing framework and action plans to jump-start the application development. The proposal will highlight the region’s partnerships with educators, early learning providers, community colleges, University of Washington, Seattle University, mayors, housing authorities, libraries and many other youth- and parent-serving community-based organizations.  

For more information and updates about the region’s Race to the Top application, go here: http://www.roadmapproject.org/collective-action/race-to-the-top/

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

BEX IV Thread

I would really love to go in-depth on this subject right now but I am running a state-wide campaign against I-1240 (so I have my hands full).

However Facilities has always had a special place in my heart so I digress to put up this post. 

Charlie has pointed out the numerous issues of the lack of clarity in this BEX.  Frankly, I'm not sure the district has a real plan. 

Again, instead of long-range planning and forecasting (could they please just hire Kellie LaRue already), it's triage and putting out fires. 

It is also the wages of sin.  And the biggest sin our district has is to put off what needs to get done.  They started pulling back on basic maintenance in the late '70s and never looked back.  The chickens have come home to roost, folks. 

We also have quite a few elderly buildings (over 40-50 years old).  Those buildings are in constant need of repair and maintenance.  I think most of you and most taxpayers would be shocked at the millions and millions that have been poured into mostly small buildings that needed shoring up.  It's something of a fools game but the district doesn't have a choice.

And now they are facing down the mother of all BEXs because it's not just about old buildings jockeying for position.  It's about:

- permanent program placement for groups like NOVA, APP, and the World School

- promises made and not kept like funding like the World School getting $14M in one BEX and it mysteriously drops down to $10-11M (depending on which staff you talk to).  To be clear, every single person sitting on the Board today knows that the original sum was $14M and no one has ever publicly asked why it was reduced. 

I really should go back through my files and contrast what voters were told with what was done with BEX money.  And promises made to schools.  Let us know what promises you heard for your school building and the source of that promise.  

- the inability for our district to forecast - with any accuracy - our enrollment.  Millions wasted on closed and reopening schools.

- pressure from downtown for their elementary school.  There should be NO money set aside for this.  Not because it isn't a good idea and might be needed in the future (it surely is not needed now) but because there are so many other pressing needs.  It has that "let them eat cake" smell about it.   If there is not an organized plan of having an elementary, middle (or K-8) and high school for downtown and WHERE they would go, then they don't need money on this BEX.

- that this BEX was supposed to be the middle school BEX.  Because we have gone through nearly every high school but we do have our largest middle schools that have been quietly waiting for help.  It would appear they will wait longer.  

I am going to try to attend the BEX on Thursday.  I hope to NOT see any video touting the benefits of BEX.  I hope to not see a short Q&A time if there are questions that everyone wants to hear answers to about this capital building cycle.

I don't think the district really has a clue how close they might be to losing this thing.  If you can't get parents on-board, you're in trouble.

Last thing - if I-1240 passes and charters come in - all bets are off for BEX IV.  Because you see, the initiative has the trigger takeover of ANY existing school.  Over at the Washington Policy Center, they are saying they think 37 of the 40 charters WILL be conversion charters.  Since charters are largely an urban issue, where do you think that will happen? 

And then, according to the initiative, those conversion charters get their share of this BEX levy and this operations levy.  The BEX share would likely be about $7-8M per charter.  That would change everything.  (Conversion charters get their share of any levies passed BEFORE they were enacted.  New charters get their share of any levy money of levies passed AFTER they are enacted.)

Are you ready to see your levy money go to a building that may not even need capital money?  Because I can see - and I'll say this outloud - a group coming in to take over South Shore K-8.   I would not be surprised at all if parents or teachers at that school allowed that to happen.  The district then loses a new $73M building that probably doesn't need capital money but yes, they will get it.  And operations money as well. 

Good luck to us all if that happens. 

Tuesday Open Thread

Watch that Packer-Seahawks game?  All fans and players should boycott any more games until they get REAL refs doing the job.  That last play and its ridiculous call was the worst one in the history of the game.  Nothing against the Hawks but this has got to stop or the season is joke.

But tell me, what's on your mind?

Why Don't Washington State Students Go Onto College?

From the Times, a story about Washington State and the low rate of college attendance. 

More than half of Seattle adults 25 and older hold a bachelor's degree, making it one of the most well-schooled cities in the nation.

So it may come as a surprise that only about one in four public-school students from Washington's high-school class of 2009 will finish college by 2015, according to a Seattle Times analysis of recent trends.

While the percentage of high-school graduates who went to college jumped by nine points in the United States over the past two decades, the percentage of college-going high-schoolers in Washington fell.

We were once well above the national average for the percentage of high-school students who go on to a two- or four-year college.

But today, by some measures, we are one of the lowest states in the country.

When they do go to four-year colleges, Washington students do well: The average graduation rate at the state four-year schools is 69 percent, one of the highest in the nation.

One of the reasons?  A K-12 public-education system that scores just above average on many national measures of quality, and in some cases — such as funding — falls below average.

No kidding.  It's a funny thing to see the K-12 system get dinged but we don't even fund to the national average and yet we expect great results.

Who else doesn't get funded?

Some say the Legislature's tendency to treat higher-education money as a rainy-day fund when tax revenues drop has kept Washington higher education chronically underfunded.

I also laughed at another reason - we don't have any "top-tier" private universities like Stanford or MIT.  Most states don't have a Stanford or MIT - elite universities are few and far between.  I'm not sure that's correlates to why we don't have more Washington State students going to college.

What's interesting is that you see an article like this and then the Times recently had another one about an elementary school in Kent that has a college prep focus.

Man, the howls from the comment section about how every child isn't going to college, it's dumb to have this kind of focus in elementary school, etc.

Can't have it both ways. 

What is clear is that vocational ed is coming back in a big way but now has a more direct coupling with the academics needed to graduate.   (On that note, sad news that the bright and energetic head of SPS' CTE program, Shep Siegel, is leaving.  He will be heading the NW division of Project Lead the Way, a provider of STEM curriculum to middle and high schools.  Shep is a really smart, inspiring guy and it's a loss to SPS.) 

No, not every student is going to college but we need to encourage that thinking of "beyond high school."  

Monday, September 24, 2012

BEX IV Meeting tonight at Madison

School District officials bring their BEX IV road show to Madison Middle School in West Seattle tonight. The event begins at 6:30 with introductions and their slide presentation. They also have a handout. Followed by twenty minutes of Q & A from cards, twenty minutes of Q & A from the floor, and twenty minutes of "Individual Time With Staff".

I hope to be there tonight because I have some questions

Seattle Schools Week of Sept. 24-29, 2012

Lots happening this week in SPS.

Monday, Sep 24th
  • BEX IV levy discussion from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Madison Middle School, 3429 45th Ave SW
Tuesday, Sep. 25th
  • Community Meeting with Director McLaren from 1:15-3:15 p.m. at Delridge Library, 5423 Delridge Way SW
Wednesday, Sep. 26th
  • Two- Hour Early Dismissal
  • Work Session on Budget Goals from 4-5:30 p.m.
  • Closed Session on Labor Negotiations (not open to the public but a heads up that the district is now talking with the teachers)
Thursday, Sep. 27th
  • BEX IV levy discussion from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at McClure Middle School, 1915 1st Avenue W
Friday, Sep. 28th
  • Community Meeting with Director Patu from 6-7 p.m. at Cafe Vita, 5028 Wilson Avenue S.
Saturday, Sep. 29th
  • Community Meeting with Director DeBell from 9-11 a.m. at Cafe Appassionato at 4001 21st Ave W.
  • Community Meeting with Director Smith-Blum from 10-11:30 am at the Capitol Hill Library, 425 Harvard Ave. E.
  • See It. Be It. event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Seattle Center, NW Rooms.  
See it. Be It. Explore your Future Career will introduce you to careers you never imagined and give you the opportunity to learn what it takes to succeed in those careers.

Represented economic clusters include:

  • Arts and Design
  • Business IT and Finance
  • Environmental, Science, Technology and Manufacturing
  • Health Sciences and Social Services
  • Construction and Trades.
Career and education resources will also be available.
To note; we are happy to post special events happening at your school so please let us know at sss.westbrook@gmail.com or post them on our Open Threads on Tuesday and Friday. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Education News

On Saturday, September 22nd, at their Fall meeting in Yakima, the Washington State Democratic Party unanimously passed a resolution OPPOSING Initiative 1240. 

Out of nearly 500 delegates voting, not a single delegate from any county in our State voted to support 1240. The vote was 500 to ZERO to oppose Initiative 1240. 

From the NY Times, an important story about the use of epi pens at schools.

But school nurses in many districts face an agonizing choice if a child without a prescription develops a sudden reaction to an undiagnosed allergy. Should they inject epinephrine and risk losing their nursing license for dispensing it without a prescription, or call 911 and pray the paramedics arrive in time?

study last year in the journal Pediatrics found that about one in 13 children had a food allergy, and nearly 40 percent of those with allergies had severe reactions. A recent surveyin Massachusetts, where schools are permitted to administer epinephrine to any student, found that one-quarter of students who had to be given the drug for a reaction did not know they had an allergy. But in many schools, employees are not allowed to use epinephrine injectors on children who do not have a prescription. (bold mine)

The story goes on to explain that a 7-year old girl in Virginia died from a peanut given to her by a classmate.  The girl's family had made her allergy known to the school but the school had no epi-pen assigned to them by the family.  They could not legally use another child's and the girl died.  The law has since been changed.  

Also from the NY Times, cheating is on the upswing.  

Studies of student behavior and attitudes show that a majority of students violate standards of academic integrity to some degree, and that high achievers are just as likely to do it as others. Moreover, there is evidence that the problem has worsened over the last few decades.
Experts say the reasons are relatively simple: Cheating has become easier and more widely tolerated, and both schools and parents have failed to give students strong, repetitive messages about what is allowed and what is prohibited.
That last part, about parents and schools, should be a big red flag.  
Experts say that along with students, schools and technology, parents are also to blame. They cite surveys, anecdotal impressions and the work of researchers like Jean M. Twenge, author of the book “Generation Me,” to make the case that since the 1960s, parenting has shifted away from emphasizing obedience, honor and respect for authority to promoting children’s happiness while stoking their ambitions for material success.  
Few schools "place any meaningful emphasis on integrity, academic or otherwise, and colleges are even more indifferent than high schools." said Michael Josephson, president of the institute.
The Internet has changed attitudes, as a world of instant downloading, searching, cutting and pasting has loosened some ideas of ownership and authorship. An increased emphasis on having students work in teams may also have played a role.
“Students are surprisingly unclear about what constitutes plagiarism or cheating,” said Mr. Wasieleski, an associate professor of management.
“When you start giving take-home exams and telling kids not to talk about it, or you let them carry smartphones into tests, it’s an invitation to cheating,” he said.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Board Retreat

The School Board is having an all day retreat from 10:30 to 5:30 on Saturday, September 22 at El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill. This is a public meeting. You are welcome to come and watch.

Here is the agenda.

Most of the meeting will be about developing a Strategic Plan. If that work is getting started, then I guess Mr. Banda isn't actually going to take much more time to listen and get to know the community before he decides what big changes are needed.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Open Thread

I was unable to attend the first BEX IV meeting last night at Whitman.  Did anyone attend and have feedback?  I think a separate thread may be in order to suss out this issue.   From my eyes, I don't see a clear plan here and I'm not sure the district is thinking of all the things they could do instead of what they have laid out.

The NAEP writing scores came out with interesting results.  From their website:
  • first NAEP computer-based assessment in writing
  • about 27 percent of students perform at or above the Proficient level at both grades
  • about 80 percent of students perform at or above the Basic level at both grades
  • female students score higher than male students in both grades
The district is having five family discussions around student truancy, suspension and discipline.  The dates are Oct 4, 11, 17, 24.  Here's a link with specifics on where and when. 

What's on your mind?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

No on 1240 Tent vs Yes on 1240 Tent

(End of day updates in red)

Can you spot the difference?

No On 1240
  • Washington State PTA
  • League of Women Voters
  • WASA - Washington Association of School Administrators
  • WSSDA - Washington State School Directors Association Board
  • Washington Education Association
  • Japanese-American Citizens League Board
  • Seattle-King County NAACP
  • El Centro de la Raza
  • Parents and Friends for Tacoma Public Schools
  • Parents Across America - Seattle chapter
  • Educational Service District 113
  •  1st District Democrats
  •  5th District Democrats
  • 11th District Democrats
  • 22nd District Democrats
  • 32nd District Democrats
  • 33rd District Democrats
  • 34th District Democrats
  • 36th District Democrats
  • 37th District Democrats
  • 41st District Democrats
  • 43rd District Democrats
  • 45th District Democrats
  • 46th District Democrats
  • 48th District Democrats
  • King County Democrats
  • Pierce County Democrats
  • Citizens United for Responsible Education
  • Minority Executive Directors Coalition
  • Pierce County Young Democrats
  • Washington Education Association 
  • Washington State Labor Council
  • IUOE Local 609
  • Association of Washington School Principals
  • Northwest Progressive Institute
  • Onion Creek School Board
  • and many more
 Yes on 1240

Stand for Children
Democrats for Ed Reform
Washington State Roundtable
Seattle Chamber of Commerce
Association of Washington Business

Which group represents more parents?  Community members?  Teachers? 

If the Yes group mostly represents ed reformers and business, then who is really pushing this?

George Griffin, a respect local businessman and former chair of the Alliance for Education board, said at the 37th Dems "who wrote this initiative?"  He questioned if it I-1240 was truly being put out there to help at-risk kids and why no one in his community was asked what they wanted or asked to help write it.  Eric Pettigrew, the rep from the 37th, sat mute at the other end of the table. 

Roberts Rules of Order and TFA

I just listened to the KUOW report (not yet available) on the vote of the TFA member to teach Special Ed at Franklin High.  What a mess and yet, interesting.  Here's what I understand happened.

They had six members in attendance (I believe Director Smith-Blum was missing).

Apparently the vote was 3 yeses (Martin-Morris, DeBell and Carr) and 3 abstained votes.  So the Board Manager said it did not pass.

DeBell corrected her and said abstaining votes don't count, they have a quorum and the majority of the quorum said yes.

THEN, Ron English, district counsel stepped up and said he wasn't sure.

Now, as a former PTA president who is supposed to know Robert's Rules of Order (but I don't know them well), I do know there are two issues.

One is what abstaining votes mean and the other is what constitutes a majority vote.

"...Abstentions do not count in tallying the vote; when members abstain, they are in effect only attending the meeting to aid in constituting a quorum..."

On the abstaining votes, DeBell is correct.  They do not count as votes at all.  (I have word out to the directors who did vote this way to ask why they voted this way.)

However, DeBell would seem to me to be wrong on what constitutes a majority.  

Robert's Rules seem to indicate that a majority of ALL ballots (including abstains) must vote Yes for a motion to pass.  They would have needed 4 yes votes to pass the measure and they did not have that.

What would be interesting is to ask Director Smith-Blum what her vote might have been.  Since it seems it did not pass, they may have to wait until she is there and see what that answer might be.

However, there are some differing statements in Robert's like this (and it may depend on which version you are reading):

...While it is the duty of every member who has an opinion on the question to express it by his vote, yet he cannot be compelled to do so. He may prefer to abstain from voting, though he knows the effect is the same as if he voted on the
prevailing side..."
This is NOT saying that the vote is counted as an affirmative (nor a negative), but that by abstaining, it is aiding the cause of the prevailing vote.

"...The basic requirement for adoption of a motion by any
assembly with a quorum is a Majority Vote, except for certain motions as listed below. A Majority is 'more than half' of the votes cast by persons legally entitled to vote, excluding blank votes and abstentions.
Majority does not mean 51%. In a situation with 1000 votes, Majority =501 votes; but 51% = 510 votes.

I will again say - NO one with 5 weeks of training should be teaching any Special Ed student.  I don't care how enthused or caring a person they are.  These are students with special needs (hence the "special" in education). TFA teachers have no training for these students and it is likely 
illegal and definitely wrong to put them in front of these students.  I have a 
special needs child and if they had tried this with me, I would have 
gotten my child out of that class and possibly sued the district.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is There Real Ed Change Happening in Washington State?

Yes, I believe there is.

It's interesting because LEV and Stand for Children and DFER will all tell you Washington State is a backwater. We're "laggards" in education reform. You'd think we were Alabama or Louisiana. We're not.

Let me start by saying - NO one is saying change doesn't need to happen or that we don't need to do better. No one. Moving on.

I know that this admission that I believe change is happening might surprise some. (See Nina Shapiro over at Seattle Weekly and her article about me explaining how I do believe things are moving forward in Washington State.)

How could I be such a big critic and yet say that things are changing? As I told Nina because education has become such a focal point, both statewide and nationally, there is no just viewing public education with blinders on only for our district. Those days are over. As well, in working on the No On 1240 campaign, I heard, "okay, I know what your campaign is against but what else can be done?" That is one of my favorite questions because here's what's happening in Washington State:

  • The Legislature passed two Innovation school laws in the last two years. The Yes side is trying to portray these schools as "white and suburban". The last time I looked Sumner, Highline, Marysville and Monroe did not fit that description but please, check out the list. Also, keep in mind this is just the OSPI list; there are many other schools that fit this description.
  • A new teacher assessment system is to come online this year. Seattle already has one.
  • The Legislature passed a Lighthouse School law to provide more STEM.
  • Mercer Middle School, a diverse school, tried a new math curriculum and now has some of the highest math test scores in the city.
  • Tacoma’s Lincoln Center is a high school within a high school just for at-risk kids that is showing great progress. These students attend an extended day, from 7:35 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays, attend a summer school program which begins in August, and several days of Saturday school each month. From KCTS' blurb when Lincoln Center won their Golden Apple award - After three years, Lincoln High School beats the district average for GPA across all student backgrounds, has outscored the other schools on the district math assessment, statistically eliminated the achievement gap at Lincoln Center and increased parental involvement compared to the rest of the school.
  • The Rainier Scholars program is showing outstanding success and support for at-risk students.
  • The Roadmap for Education project for at-risk students in southeast Seattle and south King County is getting tremendous support including the Gates Foundation.
  • Seattle schools has been a leader, for over 20 years, of parent-driven alternative schools.
  • Talbot Hill Elementary, a Title One school in Renton, was just named by Scholastic Magazine, one of the Coolest Schools for its student government system that works throughout the building and the school day.
  • Everett School District started an outreach program to struggling students and has brought its graduation rate up from 53% to over 80%. Ditto on Tukwila.
And, at Rainier Beach High School, a determined PTA has worked hard to bring great change to its school so much so that their PTA president was just at the White House accepting only 1 of 12 Champions of Change awards presented by President Obama. And, over at Publicola, in an op-ed by State Rep Tim Probst (D-17), I learned of yet another initiative:

What if I told you a single education reform could increase graduation and degree attainment by 42% in just four years? The Student Achievement Initiative has done just that. It was created by Washington’s Community and Technical Colleges, and is now considered a model for replication across the nation.  I believe we should ask our high schools and universities to implement similar models, as well. It works. Let’s get it done.

He also says this:

We also need to recognize that the foundation of our economy is the work ethic, education, and job skills of our people. Currently, our education debates are polarized between charter school proponents and detractors. But there is a lot more to education reform than charter schools, including much we can all agree on.

Amen, brother.  There is a lot that is being done and that can be done and change does not just come at the hands of charter schools and Teach for America.  That needs to be recognized and a new dialog started.  

Tuesday Open Thread

The Seattle City Council recognized Cheryl Chow's service yesterday.  It was very sad to see Cheryl in a wheelchair with her black hair now gray and clipped close to her skull.  She came with her daughter and partner, Sarah Morningstar.   From Publicola:

Chow also clarified what she meant when she told KING 5 that her life had been “wasted” because she hadn’t come out sooner. “When I said I wasted 66 years, I didn’t mean because I was in the closet,” Chow said. “What I meant was, I could have helped so many more people and kids from committing suicide and feeling bad about themselves.”

Courage at any time is still courage, Cheryl. 

Hey reader Maureen G from TOPS, could you shoot me an e-mail at sss.westbrook@gmail.com?  I need to touch base with you on something.  Thanks.

What's on your mind?

Banda Road Show Empty Talk?

I attended the first community meeting for Superintendent Banda at Mercer Middle School last night. I think this is the first time that he has actually been exposed to Q & A from the community.
It was a grave disappointment. I don't know what I was expecting -  a little candor would have been nice - but all of his answers were empty talk that sounded reassuring without actually giving any reassurance. It was political to an extreme, so slick you'd think the guy had been dipped in teflon.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Potter Scandal Grows in scope

From today's Seattle Times: $1.3M more might be misspent in Seattle schools scandal

The hits just keep coming.

SPS News and Updates

This story from the Times on Roosevelt's Ruben Van Kempen, drama teacher and director extraordinaire who will be inducted into the Educational Theatre Association's Hall of Fame in San Diego this week.  One interesting item that most don't know - RHS offers the only full-time theater program in SPS with multiple classes.   His legacy (but he's not going anywhere) - this from a student:

"He instilled a belief in me, a belief in following my passions and dreams. Whether I'd gone on to be an engineer or a teacher or anything else, I'd appreciate what he gave me at a really important time."

An accomplished stage director as well as an innovative teacher, Van Kempen has trained and inspired dozens of theater professionals, working from here to Broadway.

They include Chad Kimball, a recent Tony Award nominee in the Broadway musical "Memphis," as well as Noah Racey, a busy performer-choreographer who'll be the lead in the 5th Avenue Theatre's new production of "The Music Man," and Ryah Nixon (who has starred at Village Theatre and ACT Theatre), among others.

Big shout out to Seattle Public Libraries for their support of Seattle Schools libraries.  From their newsletter:

Since 2009, Friends of The Seattle Public Library has given away ofver 20,000 books to teachers from Seattle public schools through its Books for Teachers program.  This year, the Friends has taken book giveaways a step further, partnering with Discover Books and PCC Natural Markets to facilitate the giveaway of 9,000 books to Seattle's schools.

In May and June, Sanislo, Rainier View, and Thurgood Marshall elementary schools received books.  During the upcoming school year, one elementary school per month will receive at least 2,000 books. 

Friends indeed; thanks to all those generous donors!

SPS This Week

Monday, September 17th - Community Meeting with Superintendent Banda at Mercer Middle School from 6-7:30 pm.

Tuesday, September 18th - Community Meeting with Superintendent Banda at Rainier Beach High School from 6-7:30 pm.

Wednesday, September 19th - School Board meeting at 4:15 pm with public testimony at 5:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 20th
  • Operations Committee Meeting from 4-6 pm, no agenda yet available.
  • BEX IV Community Meeting from 6:30-8:00 pm at Whitman Middle School
Saturday, September 22nd
Board retreat from 10:30 am - 5:30 p.m. at El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Avenue S.  The retreat is open to the public but only for watching with no public input taken. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Times Makes Me Dizzy

Over at the Times, they have written an editorial supporting Ref 74, protecting gay marriage rights. I personally say, Yay! I will have been married 29 years tomorrow and I want all people who want to get married to have the joys, pain (sometimes more like irritation/annoyance) and slogging that marriage brings to have that right. They deserve the legal protections, without carrying some card around, that marriage brings.
That said, the Times used to be against gay marriage. Hmm.

In yet another whiplash moment, here's a headline from the Times:
The Overselling of Charter Schools

It's from 2001. The Times then did like some form of charters and said:

But charter schools running willy-nilly with too few restrictions and too little oversight is a recipe for troubles showing up Arizona, Texas and Michigan.

The Texas House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for a two-year moratorium on new charter schools. Several schools have shut down after their leaders ran out of money or left town.

While many charters in Arizona and Michigan are working well, the problems at other charter schools cry out for more oversight and control, U.S. News & World Report reported in an exhaustive, stinging review of charters schools.

Many charter schools don't have labs and libraries. Basic classroom supplies are lacking. Too often, enrollment numbers submitted to claim state funds differ dramatically from real attendance.

Next time a bill or an initiative surfaces in Washington, and one will, backers have to be painfully honest. Charter schools are a lot like other public schools. Some work, some don't.
Well Times, the Yes folks - and you - are NOT being "painfully honest". In fact, at the 37th Rep Eric Pettigrew ran as fast and as far away as he could from any specific details of 1240.

(He left that to former City Attorney Tim Ceis who got some details wrong. Mr. Ceis claimed that charter teachers can join SEA or any other union or create their own. Wrong. They can ONLY create a union at their school. I took the relevant section of the initiative to him and he promptly said I misheard him. I told him no, he said that. He got very upset and said I was wrong. A teacher who also heard him say that asked him about it and he said she was wrong. Well, there was someone videotaping the event and we'll put that up soon to keep everyone honest.)

But back to the Times:

"Charter schools should always be accountable to school boards, and the system should build in a reasonable amount of oversight."

Well, that's odd because I-1240 does NOT have accountability to school boards. I wonder what happened to that idea.

Sometimes it is hard to take the Times Editorial Board seriously.

School Board meeting agenda for 9/19/12

Here's the agenda for the Seattle School Board Meeting of September 19, 2012.

Not every meeting has a theme, but this one features some interesting timing decisions. Or perhaps the theme is evading public discussion.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Charter Open Thread

So one reader, Rachel, had posted a link to an interesting article out of Philadelphia (from the parent blog, The Notebook) about a very exclusive charter where you can only pick up their application form one time a year and that's usually at their open house, held either at a private golf club or country club.  

Interested families couldn't find Green Woods’ application online. They couldn't request a copy in the mail. In fact, they couldn't even pick up a copy at the school.

Instead, Green Woods made its application available only one day each year. Even then, the application was only given to families who attended the school’s open house – which most recently has been held at a private golf club in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Is this just an isolated incident there?

But this spring, that very office found that Green Woods and 17 other charters seeking renewal imposed “significant barriers to entry” on families. Some, like Green Woods, went to extraordinary lengths to limit access to applications. Others, like Eastern University Academy in East Falls, made onerous and sometimes illegal requests from applicants for everything from typed book reports to proof of U.S. citizenship.

The findings are detailed in previously unreleased district documents obtained by Pennsylvania’s Education Law Center (ELC) under the state Right to Know law. At best, said ELC senior staff attorney Jennifer Lowman, the barriers found by the district violate the spirit of Pennsylvania’s 1997 charter law, designed to give families more high-quality school options.

“Unfortunately, some of these extensive application requirements flip that choice on its head,” Lowman said. “It becomes the school that chooses, not the family.”

So I got to thinking that although the No on 1240 campaign has a very large FAQ list at its website (www.no1240.org), that maybe there are more questions.  

This issue of applications might be one of them.

So to answer that question, there is nothing in 1240 that bar an application process to get into a charter school .  Now you can argue that  some magnet schools have applications but that's usually around ability (arts, for example).  No, these are multi-page applications that, as a parent, you better be equipped to handle.  

And it's not just for more exclusive charters as this article seems to describe.  As I mentioned, I visited the acclaimed Preuss school on the campus of UCSD.  It is a high-performing 6-12 school just for poor students (free-reduced lunch and first generation college) - they have quite a long and extensive application process.  I could see this easily weeding out the students (and parents) who didn't have the wherewithal to understand what they wanted.  It tends to get you to the most motivated and able parents.  

This is an interesting thing about high-performing charters - they tend to have very involved parents.  Coincidentally, it's the same thing for high-performing traditional schools.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Open Thread

From SPS, 23 of our high school students have placed as Semifinalists in the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Corporation competition.   Garfield had 13 students and led the field.  Roosevelt had two as did Ingraham, Hale/Ballard/Center each had one and there was one student from the "Cascade Parent Partnership Program."

Good work to all these students!

One Board community meeting tomorrow with Director Martin-Morris at Diva Espresso at 80th and Lake City Way from 9:30-11:30 am.

 Heads up - the first of Superintendent Banda's community meetings is Monday the 17th at Mercer Middle School from 6-7:30 p.m.  There's also one on Tuesday the 18th at RBHS at the same time as the Monday event.

There is a School Board meeting next Wednesday the 19th but the agenda is not yet available.  Sign-ups to speak start Monday morning at 8 am (either boardagenda@seattlesschools.org or 252-0040 to leave a message).  This might be a good time to pressure Banda on math concerns or the Board on BEX IV or any other issue that you feel needs to be daylighted.

What's on your mind? 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Education Leadership Team meets tomorrow

We saw some emails or meeting notes about an Education Leadership Team formed by the mayor. It looked like some kind of dark cabal. I wrote to Jerry DeGrieck about it and asked him what the deal was.

Jerry is a great guy who has been working for the city on early education for at least ten years and probably longer. I see him from time to time at education events and I know that he's a straight shooter. He wrote back to me answering all of my questions about the group.

"Education Leadership Team (ELT) is an informal leadership group convened by Mayor Mike McGinn. It has no official functions or duties and was not established by City ordinance or resolution. The broad goal of the ELT is to improve education and student outcomes; the team is focused on early learning, K-12, and higher education, which includes universities, community and technical colleges, and apprenticeship programs.

The idea for the ELT came out of a Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce Leadership retreat in October 2010. Mayor McGinn, along with then Chamber President Phil Bussey, and Seattle Community College District Chancellor Dr. Jill Wakefield invited other leaders to form an Education Leadership Team. Current ELT members:
  • Mayor McGinn
  • Superintendent José Banda – Seattle Public Schools
  • Maud Daudon – Chamber of Commerce
  • David Bley – Gates Foundation
  • Brad Smith, represented by Jane Broom – Microsoft
  • Norm Rice – The Seattle Foundation
  • David Frieboth, M.L. King Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • Jon Fine – United Way of King County
  • David Rolf – SEIU 775
  • UW President Michael Young represented byTom Stritikus – UW College of Education
  • Jill Wakefield – Seattle Community College District
  • City Councilmember Tim Burgess
People were asked to be on the ELT because they either fund education or have influence on education. No specific criteria were used in their selection. Membership is based on invitation by the Mayor. The ELT meets quarterly. The next two meetings are scheduled for Friday, September 14 and the main agenda item will be the Reading by Grade Level Campaign. The following meeting is scheduled for December 14."

The group next meets tomorrow, Friday, September 14, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m., City Hall, 7th Floor, in the Norman B. Rice Conference Room. So far as I know, anyone who wants to sit in on the meeting will not be excluded.

Seattle Times Live Chat Flops

The Seattle Times Opinion page hosted a live chat today on Education and their latest brainstorm slogan "3to23". How nice to have another slogan.

The live event was at noon on a Thursday, a time that makes it difficult for working people to participate. Teachers, in particular, had no real opportunity to be part of the big event.

You can read the transcript on the Times web site, but it's hard to follow. Things seem to come out of order and people seem to be answering questions before the questions are asked. The moderator asks one person to answer but someone else does instead. There's one participant who just keeps typing "Lynne" and nothing more.

It took me a while to figure it all out, but it boils down to this. The only participation the Times got from the public came from two trolls, "Coffee Joe" and "taxedtoomuch". In the absence of any other participants, the panel had to discuss the trolls' questions. Awkward. The thing was complete flop.

I think this utter failure accurately reflects the credibility of the Seattle Times editorial board when it comes to education issues. I hope they take the hint.

PTA Wants to Hear From You

SurveyMonkey survey from the Washington State PTA.  Might be good to weigh in.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Missing TFA Corps Member Found... in Renton

Remember that Teach for America corps member who was maybe hired to teach a special ed class at Aki Kurose but then wasn't because she wouldn't return the District's calls? Turns out that she's just fine. She got a teaching job in Renton.

Think about that. When fully trained, experienced teachers can't find a job, this Teach for America corps member found two!

Ann Dornfeld tells the story on KUOW.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No On 1240 Campaign

In the "tag you're it" section, I looked around a couple of months ago and realized that no one seemed to mounting a campaign against charter schools.  So I'm the head of the No On 1240 campaign.  I have a great steering committee (all parents) and great supporters down in Tacoma and we have a starting list of volunteers.

I put a link to our campaign on the blog to the right of the threads.  It is chock-full of information (unlike the Yes side - they have 4 FAQs, we have about 25).  We also have a Facebook page and we're at Twitter (No_On_1240).

No, we don't have the incredibly deep pockets of the Yes side.  But then, that didn't win it in 2000 or 2004.  The Yes campaign is at about $4m with about $3M of it coming from six families either associated with Microsoft or Amazon.  President Obama recently said that he would rather have thousands of grassroots supporters than one guy writing a $10M check.  I agree.

It was amusing to hear Tim Ceis of the Yes campaign at the 37th Dems last night - they voted to endorse a No vote - tell the crowd "Who do Washington voters think they are not having charters like the other 41 states?"  Well, I guess we're people who don't vote like lemmings, that's who we are.

We stand in alliance with the other No campaign, People for Our Public Schools.   We believe it is a good thing to have as many groups, parents and citizens as possible working against this initiative.

I want to state this upfront - I would not be doing this if I did not believe this initiative is wrong for Washington State. 

More importantly - I believe public education in Washington State is turning around.

BEX IV Updates From District

Link to BEX IV Work Session presentation scheduled for tomorrow from 4-6 p.m. at JSCEE.
Dear Seattle Public School families, staff and community:

We opened our doors to about 49,500 students last week and had a great start to our 2012-13 school year.  We spent time in several schools and it was wonderful to see our students already engaged in learning.

Seattle Public Schools is growing!
Anticipating approximately 1,000 new students this year, we have been working hard to address our enrollment growth challenges. Projections show continued year-to-year increases in our enrollment for the next five years and beyond. We estimate an enrollment of more than 57,000 students by the 2021-22 school year, if current trends continue.

Part of our long-term solution to meet the demands of this growing enrollment is the continuation of our capital levies, including the Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) Capital Levy, to be submitted to Seattle voters in February 2013. This levy would provide capital funding for six years (2014-2019) and would help with necessary remodeling and replacement of existing buildings, along with new/expanded school facilities.

This status report provides you with our updated BEX IV project list. We want your feedback on this latest proposal, and will be sharing the list at three upcoming community meetings. The School Board is expected to vote on the final BEX IV list in early November.

What are we doing to plan for this growth?
During the summer, we have been doing in-depth work reviewing a variety of potential capital projects, all of which were screened using four important criteria established by the School Board.  These criteria require that proposed projects address issues surrounding:

1) safety and security                    2) meeting capacity needs
3) building condition                     4) maximizing flexibility for programs and services

In putting together a proposed Building Excellence plan, our staff is continuing an extensive review process. During the past spring and summer, we have:

·Conducted community engagement in April to receive ideas and feedback from the public.

·Solicited input from school principals, the Facilities and Capacity Management Advisory Committee (FACMAC), District program staff and our School Board.

·Analyzed new enrollment projections and demographic data from several different sources.

·Updated project cost estimates from construction estimators, architects and engineers.

·Continued to analyze and update school building capacity numbers.

What is the latest proposal for BEX IV projects?
Based on the variety of suggestions we received last spring and the resulting analysis of data, estimates and projections this summer, the district has revised and refined the proposed list of potential BEX IV projects.  It's important to note the project list shown below is not final.  We will continue to take into consideration future feedback and input from our staff, advisory committee and community before the final recommendation is sent to the Board for consideration and approval this fall.  The following is a summary of currently proposed projects under consideration for BEX IV:

· Arbor Heights Elementary:
  Replace existing building with new/expanded facility by 2019.  (Seriously?  Seven more years of the crappiest building the district?)

·Fairmount Park: Open this existing building with necessary upgrades, add classrooms and a lunchroom by 2014 (They are opening Boren and yet they need this by 2014?  Is this where K5 STEM is going?)
·Lincoln building: Modernize and open as a new high school by 2019

·Mann building: Modernize and construct a new addition for NOVA by 2014

·Meany Middle School: Reconfigure for a comprehensive central region middle school by 2017

·Mercer Middle School: Build an addition to meet enrollment projections by 2019

·North Beach Elementary: Replace the existing building and add capacity by 2018

·Northeast Seattle elementary school: To meet growing capacity, add K-5 school on Thornton Creek site.  (Why another school?  Why not just expand Thorton Creek?  And how come Laurelhurst is underenrolled?)
·Olympic Hills K-5: Replace existing building with a new/expanded facility by 2017 (So no K-8 now?)

·Queen Anne Elementary: Build classroom and gym addition to the building by 2019

·Schmitz Park: Replace existing Genesee Hill building with a new/expanded facility on the Genesee Hill site; relocate Schmitz Park to the new facility by 2015 (Either Fairmount Park or Schmitz Park but both before Arbor Heights?)
· Wilson-Pacific: Replace building with a new elementary and middle school for additional capacity by 2017

·Wing Luke Elementary: Replace existing building with a new/expanded facility by 2020

·World School:  Determine a permanent location in the Central area by mid-September 2012 (Odd, they have clearly been talking about TT Minor but want to keep their cards close to their vest.)
During the construction period, we will house students at interim sites, including Boren, Columbia, the original Van Asselt building, Lincoln and John Marshall. In addition, this plan builds flexibility for housing instructional programs such as Accelerated Placement Program (APP).   (Okay, I'll bite.  Where is APP at Lincoln going?)
The following two schools were on the list of possible projects last spring, but are not currently being recommended:

Jane Addams K-8:  Will not move to Cedar Park

·Daniel Bagley Elementary:  Because of revised enrollment forecasts, it has been determined that additional capacity is not needed to the degree originally projected.
What other possible BEX IV projects are under consideration?

·Technology improvements: Wireless in every school and needed hardware upgrades.

·Seismic Improvements: A total of 67 schools would receive seismic upgrades.

·Lunchroom and core facilities: Currently planning lunchrooms at Green Lake and McGilvra elementary schools.

·Major preventive maintenance and infrastructure improvements.

·Interim downtown school: dependent upon external partnership funding.  (No kidding and good call.  Again, get Amazon or Vulcan to roll it out year by year in one of their new buildings and once we know there is land to build it, they can do it first thing in BEX V.)
·Capacity flexibility:  Building stronger core facilities to provide for expansion and including academic program placement and services close to where families live.  (No idea what they are talking about.)

The latest BEX IV list of possible projects totals about $650 million. Additional information is online at http://bit.ly/SPSBEX

In addition to meetings with staff, FACMAC and the School Board, we will have another important round of community meetings later in September to present updated information and ask for feedback. You are invited to attend one of these meetings:

· Thursday, Sept. 20, 6:30-8 p.m. at Whitman Middle School

· Monday,   Sept. 24, 6:30- 8 p.m. at Madison Middle School

· Thursday, Sept. 27, 6:30-8 p.m. at McClure Middle School

In the meantime, we continue to collect, record and review all input. Send comments to capacity@seattleschools.org.

José Banda                                                           
Pegi McEvoy, Assistant Superintendent for Operations

Keep in mind that if I-1240 passes and a conversion charter occurs, all bets are off.
In this initiative, an approved charter can take over ANY existing school, failing or not, with a simple majority of signatures from parents OR teachers.

For example, an elementary school could have 18 teachers. Only 10 would have to sign a petition to flip the entire school community.

And then, for ANY levies approved while they were a district school – including BEX IV – an equal portion will go to them.

So if BEX IV is about $650M and we have say, 95 schools, divided those and that conversion charter would get a check, straight up, for $6.8M. That would really change what could be done. Probably wireless upgrades would go, maybe even the upgrades to Fairmont Park.

Worth considering as you cast your vote in November. I-1240 WILL impact our district in ways, big and small and, as well, send ripples throughout the district.

Question:  Which BEX IV meeting will you be attending? 

Tuesday Open Thread

From KUOW, a story on high school "froshing" which is basically hazing freshman (whether general population or via groups like sports teams) in SPS. 

This, of course, is outlawed in SPS and there is a very strongly worded statement in the student handbook about not doing this and the severe outcomes that follow. 

"Harassment and hazing constitute exceptional misconduct and are in fact felony offenses. This includes 'initiation' and 'froshing.' Prohibited activities include dunking in the lake, face painting, baby powder, whipped cream, shaving cream, boxing, other forms of initiation, humiliation, or abuse. Consequences include suspension or expulsion, and/or possible criminal charges." 

Listening to the story was not pleasant:

Anna: "We poured condiments on them, we made them do an Easter egg hunt and inside the Easter eggs were gross things. We sprayed them with hoses and stuff."

The freshmen have to dress in costumes and embarrass themselves in public. Sometimes they're even paddled or thrown into Lake Washington.  

What is funny is that this student, Anna, thought it was community-building.  But not so much.
Anna: "It wasn't like this happened to me so I have to make it happen to someone else because it was so horrible. It was more like, someone gave me this and I'm gonna pass it on as a tradition to continue."

I was hazed in high school and I remember being scared at points and very embarrassed at others.  I think there are better ways to build community and I'm glad SPS cracks down on it.

What's on your mind?

WSPTA Legislative Assembly

The Washington State PTA will consider 18 proposals at the Legislative Assembly on October 19 and 20 at the SeaTac Marriott Hotel.

From the WSPTA:

WSPTA’s ADVOCACY PROGRAM: Each fall, Washington State PTA votes on a priority platform; this then guides our legislative advocacy in the state. The process started last June when members submitted 20-some proposals for consideration. Some were merged, others reworked. In July, the legislative committee reviewed and forwarded to the board of directors those that align with PTA’s body of positions and that advance our work on behalf of all children.
Last night, the board made its final decisions; in all, it will forward 18 issues for delegates to consider Oct. 19 and 20 at WSPTA’s annual Legislative Assembly.

This year we are starting a new 2-year cycle with all-new issues. Delegates will first vote on whether to place an issue on the platform; then delegates will vote on a Top 5. More staff time and resources go to Top 5 priorities.

SURVEY SOON: Our annual issues survey will be sent out shortly; members whose email addresses have been registered with the state office will receive a link to the online survey directly. Local PTAs, PTSAs and councils will also want share the online survey with members, particularly newly enrolled ones. The survey is intended to gather feedback for delegates and spread awareness of the issues. It is not a voting mechanism and it is not a poll.

NEW THIS YEAR - BLOG: We have created a Legislative Assembly blog where members can find policy papers on each of the issues as well as general news about Legislative Assembly.http://wsptalegassembly.blogspot.com/. As with Grassroots Connection, members can share posts via Facebook, websites and via email. Our hope is to spread awareness of the proposed issues, make the process more interactive, and get more members engaged in the process of turning great ideas into great policies and practices that support all Washington children.
Budget and Funding
Fund Education FirstComplete Solution for K-12 FundingRevenue for Kids
Equity and Access
Access, Opportunity and Equity for Special EducationClosing the Opportunity GapsAccess to Algebra in Middle School
Instructional Support
Universal Access to Fully Prepared, Effective TeachersInstructional Support for English Language LearnersTraining to Support Highly Capable LearnersScreening and Instruction of Struggling Readers
Safety Issues
School Zone SignageNeighborhood Safe Speeds
Positive learning environments
Positive Behavior Interventions and SupportSocial Emotional Learning: Don’t SEL Our Kids Short
System Changes
Advance Basic Education ReformsAccess to Quality Early LearningGreat Family Engagement in Every SchoolStandards-Based Grading
Washington State PTA – made up of every local PTA and PTSA in the state as well as regional councils – was established as an advocacy organization more than 100 years ago. Our vision is that every child’s potential becomes a reality. Our mission is to make PTA a powerful voice for all children; a relevant resource for families and communities; and an advocate for the well-being and education of all children.

Monday, September 10, 2012

SPS Receives Big Award for Family Engagement

From SPS Communications:

Seattle Public Schools has been awarded a 2012 Partnership District Award from the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS) at Johns Hopkins University.  SPS was honored for making excellent progress in developing its leadership on partnerships and for guiding schools to develop goal-oriented programs of school, family and community partnerships.

“Seattle Public Schools is demonstrating that research-based approaches can be used to make every school a welcoming place and to improve student attendance, behavior, achievement, and high school graduation rates,” said Dr. Joyce L. Epstein, Director of NNPS.

Seattle Public Schools, a member of NNPS, received the award after providing detailed descriptions and evidence of specific strategies for helping schools improve their partnership programs to support school improvement goals.  Essential elements of district leadership on partnerships include teamwork, systemic approach, leadership, and Family Engagement Action Team goal-linked plans for action, innovation, implementation, facilitation, evaluation and network connections.

“Parent and family involvement play a key role in our efforts to ensure that all Seattle Public Schools students succeed in school and life,” said Seattle Public  Schools Superintendent José Banda.  “One of my top priorities is working to build stronger relationships with our families and the greater Seattle community, and this award indicates that we are making significant progress in that effort.”

Bernardo Ruiz, who oversees the District’s School Family Partnerships effort, said: “It is with great honor and humility that we accept the prestigious NNPS 2012 Partnership District Award from Johns Hopkins University. This recognition motivates us to continue improving and innovating our School Family Partnerships program so that we can more meaningfully assist our diverse families and our schools in increasing the academic achievement of our students.”

 Congrats to all the staff for this award but a huge shout-out to Bernardo Ruiz who works so very hard and always has a smile on his face.  He's one of the unsung heroes of our district.

Show Me How I'm Wrong

When I’m wrong I admit it. I have a pretty good record of doing so. Let’s see who else can do the same. A lot of people think that my snarky comment about the Board's plan for a proclamation for Cheryl Chow was wrong. In particular, a lot of people thought it was anti-gay or homophobic.

First, I would like to thank all of the people who have chided me for name-calling, putting people on the defensive, and using vinegar rather than honey to persuade, then called me names, tried to put me on the defensive, and wrote scathingly about me. Good coaching there. I'm learning a lot from you.

Second, I would like to thank everyone who thinks they know me well enough to make unfounded conjecture about my thoughts and feelings. Since you know me so well you don’t need me to tell you how much I love that.

Apparently people want to talk about this. I'm open to it. Let's see who else is.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

BEX IV - the Battle To Come

Next week is the first of the BEX IV community meetings (Thursday, the 20th at Whitman at 6:30 p.m.).  It now looks like a real battle brewing and the Board will certainly have a decision to make.

For your consideration:

- the Downtown Seattle Association has made the unfortunate decision to continue to pressure the Board/City Council for a downtown school.  To their credit, they took a meeting with me and I outlined why, at this juncture, it was bad timing.  I also gently put forth that if one of the South Lake Union businesses would donate a couple of floors, the district could roll out a K-8 or K-5 one year at a time and, by the time BEX V came, then they would get a real building.  (I mean it's just plain funny to ask for money for a building when there is NO land to build on.)

They also apparently do not understand the severe and pressing needs elsewhere in the city despite my efforts to explain the overcrowding elsewhere AND the number of rundown schools. 

They also say this:

A public school in Downtown could potentially serve not only families who live Downtown, but also Seattle residents who work Downtown.

That's all well and good but if we are building a school downtown, it's for downtown kids, not for the convenience of those who work there.  That would be a great idea if we had the luxury of land, money and time but we do not.  

- the Superintendent told KING-5 that he thought BEX IV should come in around $600M.  That's far lower than earlier estimates and that means a lot of pulling back on projects.

DFER Tries Bullying and Shaming over Charters

So over at the Democrats for Ed Reform site, the one-hand band that is DFER Washington, Lisa Macfarlane, wrote a column about going to the Democratic National Convention.  Coincidentally, I had just watched former President Clinton's barn-burning speech in Charlotte.  It was all about a big tent and working together and, most of all, recognizing differences but remaining unified.

That is not the theme in her column. Frankly, we hear a lot of this nagging and ultimately, bullying from Dems in high places.  Earlier this year, Nick Hanauer (a big Dem donor and co-founder of LEV) threatened to support McKenna over charters.  Macfarlane just goes for the shaming tactic.  What is confusing is this idea that one sub-topic (not the whole topic of education but just charter schools) should be their line in the sand whether you are a good Dem or not.

Gentle Washington State readers know that we have a well-deserved reputation as a laggard when it comes to education reform.

Really?  I guess we can wear that proudly because it's not like we haven't considered ed reform.  In terms of charters, we did it three times already.  That it was not the outcome that she wanted does not make us "laggards".  If she's talking about teacher performance, then she's out of touch because Seattle has a brand-new teacher performance matrix and now, this year, so does the entire state.

In our state, Democrats who support the kind of education reforms championed by President Barack Obama and loads of Democratic governors, mayors, and lawmakers need serious armor. 

That's true but that's loads of non-Washington state governors, mayors and lawmakers.  Education is a local control issue and the only person I know who disagrees with that is Michelle Rhee.

SPS News

Yesterday, Superintendent Banda and Mayor McGinn announced a new partnership called "Evening Community Meetings in School Libraries" that would open every school library for use by community/neighborhood groups.  The cost would be $15 for meetings held after school hours.

From SPS Communications:

Any local community group or nonprofit organization is eligible to sign up, but the libraries are not available for business or commercial uses, nor for events that have admissions or fees. Reservations will be available from 6 – 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday during normal school calendar academic business days. 

Visit http://tinyurl.com/9ltgx4q where you can sign up for a user account, submit a request for space, and read the Seattle Public Schools rules and regulations (including the payment process and insurance requirements).  

The fee is $15 plus any applicable custodial or heating and cooling costs. Rental does not include use of computers in the library. You can find more details about the program in a fact sheet at seattle.gov/media

It does state in the City's fact sheet that:

o There is no community use of school buildings the first two weeks of the school year.
o Community user dates are available on a first-come, first-serve basis after all other priority users have calendared their events (as nonschool related activities, community use dates are 4th in line).
o Attendance is limited to 50 people per reservation.
o No reservations can be made during breaks or on holidays. Uses will be cancelled if the building is
closed for weather or other emergencies.
• All users must provide proof of coverage for Commercial General Liability Insurance with limits of $1,000,000
and SPS named as an additional insured on any policy.
o If a group does not have insurance, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods can help to identify
organizations that could potentially provide umbrella insurance. Visit
www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/districts/ to contact a Neighborhood District Coordinator who
serves your area.

Speaking of libraries, Dearborn Park has a new one sponsored by Target and the Heart of America Foundation.  It has 2,000 new books, furniture, carpet and new iPads.   And, each student received seven new books to take home.

Not-so-good news for John Muir's stalled playground - the story in Danny Westneat's column.

"The issue, which relates to an indemnity requirement based in state law, is in the hands of an attorney from the City Attorney's office and an attorney from Seattle Public Schools," said a statement from the city's Parks Department.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Here you have parents busting their buns to raise money to help their school and the City and SPS can't get it together?  Shame on them and I hope this column spurs some action.

K-12 Arts - from SPS Communications:

The Seattle K-12 Arts Learning Collaborative will share a report on Thursday, September 27th on the progress of a comprehensive K-12 arts plan designed to increase quality learning for all Seattle Public School students.

Seattle City Hall - Bertha Knight Lanes Room from 6:30-8:30 pm, 600 Fourth Avenue, RSVP required, 206-684-7084.

Seattle School Record Gains in Test Scores.  

In 2012, Seattle students met or exceeded standard on the state exams at a higher rate
than the statewide average in every tested subject in grades 3-8, falling behind only in the
high school reading and writing proficiency exams in grade 10 and the new biology end-of-course (EOC) exam.

Compared to 2011 results, Seattle students in 2012 achieved a 12 percentage point
increase in 7th grade reading, following a similar statewide upward trend. Significant
gains were also made in upper elementary reading with a 4.6 percentage point increase in
4th grade and a 2.4 percentage point increase in 5th grade. Proficiency rates for Seattle
students in grades 3-8 exceeded statewide results in every grade level by margins ranging
from 5 to 8 percentage points in math, and from 2 to 5 percentage points in reading
(depending on grade level).

From the Seattle Times, the first new rules for school lunches in 15 years:

Wergeland-Rammage and cafeteria workers across the nation can't just make fruits and vegetables available anymore. As part of the first changes in school-lunch rules in more than 15 years, the federal government this fall began requiring schools to make sure that each student takes the minimum half-cup serving.
At Greenwood Elementary Thursday, the options were apples, peas, raw broccoli, red peppers, kidney beans, carrots and green salad.
Students don't have to actually eat the required food — a fact that has raised concerns that a lot of it may end up in the garbage. As one Florida school nutrition official told Education Week, a newsweekly: "We don't want healthy trash cans."
But the hope is that students will eat what's in front of them.