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 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? 


Rufus X said…
Gates Foundation to teacher: "We have different realities."
Mary Griffin said…
At a meeting I attended on Monday night, it was announced that the hiring process for the much aniticpated director of special ed was being put off until December and January for three reasons that Mr. Banda's rep at the meeting (Phil Brockmann) and BiHoa Caldwell felt were important--that any candidate available now might have issues, that anyone who might become available due to moving across the country might be more available at that juncture, and I just can't read what I wrote for the third reason. I asked what was the downside to beginning a hiring process now, and never got a good response to that question. The entire special education community has suffered from the leadership vacuum at the top for the past 6 years. Banda is apparently unaware of the department's current status as a festering open sore.

I plan on signing up to speak at the meeting about the importance of putting the hiring of a Sp ED director on a front burner now. The SpEd leadership situation is untenable at best and is one of the root causes of the number of legal challenges that SPS has been facing lately.

I would encourage other SpEd parents and staff members to do the same.
Mary Griffin said…
When I speak about "the meeting" I meant the school board meeting on Wednesday, with sign up Monday morning at 8 am.

Does anyone know if the testimony time has been pushed back to 5:30?
Anonymous said…
Just read a great article about a great turnaround program for a Michigan school district:

Donors to this program are putting their money in the place where it can do the most good, me thinks.

-Muir mom
mirmac1 said…
Set your alarm for 8am Mary. The TFA lemmings will be out in force to support the lone TFA hire (unless HR and Ron English try to slip a few more unqualified ones and hope no one's looking).

BTW, did ya'll know that Erinn Bennett is the new Manager of Policy & Strategic Research and Theresa Hale is the new Board Office Manager (the latter is Right On!) There was talk at the last Exec Committee that the District still has to hire a Gov't relations type, so will they replace the Holly F/Erinn B/Theresa H. with Person X/Erinn B/Theresa H/Office admin?
Unknown said…
Mary G

I believe the testimony time is still 5pm.
Anonymous said…
OMG. What with these managers? How much are we paying them? Please say it's not with public ed $$.

-SPS is turning me RED
SPS Red, of course we are. They work for the district. I'm a little surprised at Erinn's quick trip up the promotion ladder but then again, she's TFA as well.
Anonymous said…
Hold it right there.
Erin B. is now promoted internally? She was brought on to be an independent resource for the board, so there would be no more 'not tellin' you nothin' Goodloe-Johnson shenanigans.

So now we've got the admin in that job, which means it's less powerful, and Erin is fully Central Bureaucracy? AND they are going to hire another new manager in Government Relations?

This stinks. It circumvents the purpose of the position as set up (board advocate instead of administration glorifier) AND it puts another manager on payroll.

Anonymous said…
Has SPS ever heard of multi-tasking? Like using all your fingers, not just one pinkie to work. Get rid of those expensive govn't relation, not-so strategic chair warmers. Save dollars and get smart phones/PDA (ooh, technology) and focus real hard on the one manager SPS really needs, Spec. Ed! Oh, and I might add, fix the curriculum. But I guess, if SPS is not going to focus on the learning bit, it will need good CYA govn't relation.

mirmac1 said…
They say they will not fill Theresa's old position but, what, she's supposed to be the Board's go-to person for support and analysis, and still take notes and man the phone? I'm pleased for her promotion, if they make it more than name only.
Eric B said…
Poll out on charters schools, showing the good guys losing 52-26. If we're going to win this thing, we need to talk to lots of friends. We need to absolutely kill in Seattle and King County to win statewide.

Please talk to friends. Charter schools on average are not better and they cost us more.
Anonymous said…
CORECTION: Ballard HS has 2 National Merit Semifinalts, not 1.

Center School had 1.

Maureen said…
Thanks for the update re the Board Office Manager job mirmac.

They say they will not fill Theresa's old position interesting since they downgraded the pay level of the manager job (advertised pay range was about $20K higher when Ms. Bennett was in the position). Ms. Hale is great, but it seems that she won't have much time for Policy Analysis. Maybe the Board can get an intern?
Anonymous said…
@Mirmac and Melissa: The point is not about how much you like a person (Teresa Hale?) The point is that the board has dismantled the one positive internal organizational change it made post- Goodloe-Johnson, which was 1-better responsiveness to the community by the administrative position they are now apparently dropping altogether and 2) some independent fact analysis by way of Erin's old position which is now depowered by putting an admin into it and pulling it even more fully into JSCEE administration.

AND they are hiring a government relatmions person? Fiscally irresponsible.

It is a horrid operations move, no doubt promoted by DeBell. After all, this move undermines board independence, and DeBell does not like the current board makeup.

mirmac1 said…
Well, I can like a person....

District Watcher, I don't disagree, but once Bennett became Fergie's protege, the position was essentially dismantled. The two were the Doublemint twins when tag-teaming on DeBell's 1620BP manifesto.

Meanwhile, DeBell is running amok. Seriously, he bullies in meetings, squelches discussion, has Ron English acting like his personal lawyer to push whatever interpretation of the law favors his pet positions. DeBell smears his colleagues on a regular basis in the media.

In fact, after that last attempted hatchetjob, I think the same commission that ruled KIRO and Chris Halsne out of line, should take a close look at Varner, Shaw and the Seattle Times/Rupert Murdoch enterprise.
Anonymous said…
One more time. The board set those 2 positions up as autonomous. Now they are not. That means JSCEE has more managers on its books and the board has no independent input. Which means the community has nothing. That is crap, it is not what was intended in setting up those positions, and DeBell and Co. -- Carr, Martin-Morris --need to be called out on it.

Where are our board community advocates on this? Peaslee? Patu? Smith-Blum? McClaren?

Carol Lee said…
Very timely dues the recent events currently happening in Chicago. back to school scholarships topics will help neutralize the saturated the whole Chicago-teacher-protest-thing.
Eric B said…
I'm not saying charters will win. I am saying that if we are to beat charters, we have to move public opinion about 15-20 points in the next 8 weeks. That will take a lot of work.
suep. said…
What is going on with Michael DeBell? And how, by the way, did he end up as board president for a second time? After Sundquist was ousted by the voters, I thought I'd heard the presidency would go to Kay Smith-Blum? What happened?
mirmac1 said…
Well, he was sane there for awhile and was elected president of the board 12/7/11. Then Enfield announced she was miffed and leaving, and then the batsh*t hit the fan. By the third week of December, DeBell began crafting his 1620BP or Only Governance, Dammit manifesto (with the help of Fergie, Erinn B and the Alliance of course). When he figured out he wasn't going to get his Susan or his board procedure, he began using Crosscut and his correspondence secretary Lynne Varner to smear his colleagues. Frankly, he's been the biggest contributor to any image of "dysfunction" in our kids' school district. ('scuse the spouting)
Anonymous said…
SPED definitely needs a director, or at least more powerful consulting teachers. Principals cannot be trusted to do right by sped students. They need to be trained in Sped law as well as IEP rules and regs. This should not be the responsibility of school staff and parents. The most obnoxious IEP meetings have been the result of uninformed principals who think they know it all, and think they can breeze in and out of meetings upending the IEP teams recommendations. Sadly, at this point, there is no one to turn to when this happens. Someone needs to hold their (the principals) feet to the fire. Unilateral decisions are not appropriate.

Sup't Banda!!!!! Get a Sped Director ASAP! Or, alternatively, make principals accountable to SPED consulting teachers. Doing nothing is wrong, inappropriate, and unprofessional. Doing nothing harms all the students. Harm is happening NOW.

SPED staffer
Anonymous said…
High school transportation issue: curious if this is a similar experience for anyone? SPS says that our daughter who attends an Option high school lives too close to receive an Orca pass and too far to receive a yellow bus? What can we do? It seems absurd that they will not supply Amy form of transportation? I don't know what to do!

-option school high school parent
Anonymous said…
Sped desperately needs a director with knowledge of IDEA/ADA & best practices as well as experience with successful district models. This person needs to educate administrators in the district & have enforcement power.

Currently SPED in SPS is a disaster and often non-compliant.

It should be a top priority.

-high school parent
Anonymous said…
Option high school parent -

We have a high school student that lives 2.1 miles from his assignment school - and we had to buy an Orca pass and pay for Metro everyday.

-No HS Transport provided
Anonymous said…
Sped Staffer, where have you been?At a district meeting, sped community members were told that SPS would begin the search for a new director - oh uh - about January. Never mind that they've been looking for years already. No point in looking now, nobody wants a job at this point in the year. Actually, come to think of it, there is really no point in ever looking for a sped director because it's going so swelly as is without one. That's evidently what Banda's been told. And a real leader, national caliber, is what is needed if we are to replace Xyz Nobody.

Snarky Sped
Anonymous said…
Option parent, we have two kids at different assignment schools (middle school and high school). Neither receives transportation of any kind. We are just over "the transportation line" from either school. We drive our kids to school in the morning on our way into work and they bike or bus home using an Orca card we purchase. You are in this boat with many, many other families.

I notice a yellow bus to the middle school does stop about a block from our house. I'm actually happy to have my kid bike, but I wonder if it would be possible to get her on that bus since the route already exists near our house.
Anonymous said…
Anybody notice that Lakeside had 40 National Merit Semi-finalists? Wow. Almost twice what the entire SPS got. It seems SPS, and Garfield used to do much better. Also, Interlake in Bellevue did amazingly well. Congrats to all winners though.

Pm said…

National Merit Semifinalists are 1% of high school seniors. To me, the total number in SPS sounds low, but I am not sure about the total number of eligible students.
Anonymous said…
At this point, it would make more sense for any of the SEACC families that have worked for some many years on these issues to be the interim director. I bet that would change this conversation - a lot.

Maybe the special ed ptsa needs to just do their own search and find a candidate and gift wrap it for the district. Even the proposal of that should change things.

Jet City mom said…
Qualifying for National Merit depends on PSAT scores taken in 11th grade. Some schools are offering practice SATs earlier, which may help students. I've never taken a college admission exam, but I know many students including my daughter did better on the ACT than she did on the SAT- and much better than she did on PSAT.

But I agree- SPS has had many more NMSF in the past, often Garfield/Roosevelt rivaled Lakeside in numbers.
In '08 for example, Garfield had 6 finalists, Roosevelt 2, Ingraham 1, Lakeside 1.
Anonymous said…

You should be able to get at least the middle school kid on that yellow bus near your home on a "space available" basis. I know a family doing exactly that for an option school. You have to call transportation and they will put you on a list. Once it's clear that they have space on the bus in question, you will get a letter giving the all clear to use the bus. You would have to reapply each year.

In the know
Anonymous said…
Snarky Sped asked, "Where have you been sped staffer...?"

Unfortunately, I have been at IEP meetings with unprincipled principals who ride roughshod over IEP team recommendations, actually stating: "I can do what I want, I am the principal." My guess is they are playing fast and loose because they are answerable to no one. No one that is except the few parents who file Citizens Complaints. Is that what the sped staffers option is? Prompt parents in that direction since there is nobody at the helm?

Someone in this thread suggested a parent from the Sped PTSA nominate themselves. Since some of them seem to be expert at Sped rules and regs, I totally support that suggestion. Somebody has to turn this ship around!

Sped Staffer
Anonymous said…
Charter schools in Pennsylvania acting deliberately impeding access to poor/minority/low-performing students...who'dathunkit?

hschinske said…
"In '08 for example, Garfield had 6 finalists, Roosevelt 2, Ingraham 1, Lakeside 1."

I can't believe those low numbers from Garfield and Lakeside -- are you sure that's not from a story about National Merit Scholars rather than finalists? The kind of figures I remember from the years when Garfield and Lakeside have been neck-and-neck were more like 20+ each.
Anonymous said…
Re buses, you absolutely can get your middle school child on an existing route at an existing stop on a "space available basis". This is true for many, who live too close, but are near an existing route. If the bus is too full, then it might not work, but those buses are rarely full. Call transportation. If you know the bus route number or stop location, even better. You can also use a "green card" to use that stop just once in a while.
--Transit Answers
pm said…

You're absolutely right. Here's the 2008 list of semifinalists.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Correction - it should say Semifinalists, not Finalists.

Anonymous said…
National Merit Semifinalists are given out to percentage in each state. Cuttoff for the recognition vary from state to state. No matter what - the Seattle area is always going to get a lot of them.

In 2008, Garfield had 20, Lakeside had 30. SPS seems to be dropping though, SPS only getting 23 citywide. Several schools on the eastside get around the same number as the entire SPS. Newport HS, Interlake HS.

Anonymous said…
Sped Staffer, thank you for your care and service to sped students. The best thing you can do is to always remind parents of ALL their procedural safeguards - including due process, OSPI complaints, OCR complaints. And always provide "prior written notice" that clearly and honestly documents the decisions made at the IEP meetings. The law requires both of those - notification of procedural safeguards, and prior written notice of decisions and describes the considerations in the decision, what was and was not decided. Mostly - nobody does it, or they use a form letter which documents nothing.

So, if a principal makes some mandate, and requires something inappropriate to be in the IEP - then write up the decision and the considerations: Podunk High School has a policy that all sped students will take folding-the-laundry instead of math, therefore SuzieQ will take folding-the-laundry. SuzieQ's parents wanted her in a math class. Podunk high considered it, but since there is a school policy that disabled students take laudry-folding, SuzieQ was placed in laundry-folding instead of math. (as an example of something that happens frequently!) Accurate prior written notice is already something you're supposed to provide. Mostly teachers don't provide it.

Anyway, if parents have the truth in writing - then it is much easier for them to get traction on special education service. It won't matter for most decisions, but honesty does make improvements in service possible. Spell it out!

Snarky sped.
lassen said…
Hate to break it to you folks --

I was a National Merit Finalist and it really doesn't mean much!! And it means nothing at all about the quality of your high school. It means you did well on the PSAT in your junior year because you started reading at a young age because maybe your mom taught you to read before you entered school, as did mine.

The College Board itself states that the results should NEVER BE USED TO COMPARE SCHOOLS as this is an INVALID application of the test. But you all are doing it anyway -- great. .. .

Get a grip and don't buy the hype -- there is WAY more to true intelligence and the quality of ones high school education than doing well on a two hour bubble test in your junior year.... Spoken as one who could claim fame as a National Merit Scholar but doesn't because it would be embarrassing to do so -- it truly means so little. ... In fact, it is so embarrassing when I meet people and they drop that tag line -- I say in my head, "Wow, way back in 11th grade of high school, you did well on a test, and I'm so embarrassed for you for telling me that I'm not even going to burst your bubble by saying 'me, too!' so I'll pretend to be impressed. Big deal -- what have you done lately?"

So this talk about the number of National Merit Semifinalists per school just exposes the superficiality and flawed use of those measures and feeds into the College Board test-hype "non-profit" (yeah, right) machine. Rise above it, people! Use your critical thinking skills! You do know better than this, don't you? Or maybe you don't, because you obviously weren't "National Merit Scholars," right? . . .
Pm said…

I actually won a National Merit Scholarship that paid me a lousy $750/year. No, it doesn't mean much. However, the low number of National Merit Scholars in combination with the high proportion of students needing remedial help in college makes me a little anxious for my kids' futures.
Anonymous said…
Right Lassen, and they also said don't judge a student based on their WASL score, it's about the school. And yet, that's exactly what we do! And now we use it to judge the teachers too. Tests are judgemental, no way around it. If you DO use the PSAT to judge the students (but not the school), you could at least say that SPS has lower caliber students than it has before.

Anonymous said…
I love hearing from possibly truly gifted people, instead of parents who confuse recognition with raw material. I realize that is the opposite of what you are actually saying, lassen and pm, but your insight into the value of the test indicates you are thinking a few steps beyond most.

Thanks for the reality check, lassen and pm.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
Let's see. We should listen some people, who we know are smart and right since they were National Merit Scholars, when they tell us the test is meaningless. And, we should also listen to people who tell us how they never tell anyone about that particular accomplishment - except for right now when they ARE telling us about it. ????

-NeverWonIt I. Swear.
lassen said…
NeverWonIt I.Swear
Weak argument. If I ever meet you in person, I won't be telling you how I did on that test in 11th grade -- guaranteed. So my divulging it here, anonymously, obviously brings no gain to me. Rather, it allows me to comment on the topic without someone saying, "Oh, that's just sour grapes because you aren't one of them." The whole thing is meaningless -- that's my point. Yeah, that's really bragging, isn't it?
Anonymous said…
lassen, pm:
Did the scholarship seem meaningless for you at 11th grade also? Then why did you do it?
Because I think, there are lot of things in life that look meaningless if you look back, but at that point, when you did it, it had a (big) value. If not more, maybe only that you could put in on your resume when you applied for a college.
- Curious
lassen said…
Of course I liked the money. The point is that the money was based on a meaningless qualifier --- a test -- and yes, even at the time, I knew there were people smarter than I who didn't get that money because on that one day, I took the test better than they did.

The College Board has done a masterful job of promoting itself with these scholarships. I have a piece of advice for ACT -- start offering money for the highest scores and pretty soon, the National Merit trademark (yes, it's a trademark) will have less press because it won't be the only game in town.

And the larger point is that it is MOST meaningless to compare HIGH SCHOOLS by the number of Merit Scholars. That is how this discussion began.

I repeat -- the test-makers themselves, the College Board, state that the scores should NOT be used to compare schools, but people, including on this blog, continue to do so. That, to me, is dangerous, but all too typical of our society's propensity to rely on easily digestible "data points" without examining the information behind data points.

I've said all I can say, which I'm sure is a relief to most. All y'all can just go back to listing how many scholars are at each school and therefore how good or bad that school is.
Mary Griffin said…
Okay, here's a little levity on the meaning of the PSAT/NMSQT in our family (admittedly a fairly small sample size.)

I came from a family of nine children. Four of us won National Merit Scholarships. My father never graduated from high school and was a mechanic for a chocolate factory. He was also the union president. My mother went to school, in order to obtain a nursing degree. We were dirt poor. There was one thing my father took great joy in. It was his version of "sticking it to the man." Every year, like clockwork, the management ended up taking my dad and one of his offspring out to dinner to celebrate them winning the company's sponsored National Merit Scholarship.

Perhaps winning a National Merit Scholarship does not predict how well you will do in college, I can't say. I can tell you that there was lots of energy in my family around winning scholarships. It was seen as the only way out of a bleak economic outlook. And for us, it worked well. I would imagine that for others, it also worked well.
Anonymous said…
Well there you go. How much does a label mean? For some it's just a mean to get them to where they need to go. If being a merit scholar gets you in a college you want or open up some choices for bigger scholarships than $750, then it has value. In the end, it comes down to the go get 'em attitude. For some kids they take it, use it, and move on to bigger and better things. I think for folks like that the motivation is what makes them successful in life, merit scholarship or not.

If a school can draw and KEEP kids like that in school and provide enough learning opportunities to furthur (nuture would be better) them along, then for me, that's something to value in a school.

Anonymous said…
I think the Sped Consulting Teachers are the people holding the sped. dept. together. I know them all and they work 10-12 hrs a day to help the children in Seattle. They coach, mind compliance (don't know one who would not buck a principal who acts like a bully), help parents, work with kids, take data, --they work really hard. It is hard on them to not have a leader, makes me think that the new Sup. does not think that 13% of Seattle Students are very important.

Another Sped Staffer
Anonymous said…
You gotta be kidding me another sped staffer. Yes many sped CT's do work hard. Probably do often think of the best interest of students if they can. But go to bat against a principal? Take actual data?Never happens.

Anonymous said…
PS. You're right though. To pass up all of the central staff for promotion to "sped directorship" position, for years on end, is a total slap in the face. You've gotta wonder how they stand for it. The district would rather promote a principal, whose only experience with special education is: "yes, I heard I had some of that in my building", or go on a fruitless national search rather than look to people already working there. It's gotta be demoralizing.

SeattleSped said…
I am in accord with everything said here with regards to the unconsionable lack of true Leadership in the special education department. So far Banda has exhibited the wrong mindset.
Anonymous said…
Really good article from Joanne Barkan regarding the Chicago Teachers Strike and Ed Reform. Follow her link to the University of Chicago analysis of 3 eras of public school reform in Chicago.

Anonymous said…
On the National Merit Semifinalist issue - Garfield is the SPS High School that many or most APP students have chosen to attend. (That may be changing with more IB programs available.) Lakeside is a very selective private high school. Since those two schools are magnets for the kind of students who are more likely to score well on these types of tests, it isn't a good use of the data to compare the scores of those two populations with the rest of SPS or the private school world. It seems like an expected outcome to me...

For what it's worth.

Anonymous said…
Neighboring districts

Public School Parent

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