Friday, November 30, 2012

Stupid Tweets from Seattle Times Opinion

I subscribe to the Seattle Times Opinion Twitter feed so I get to see every stupid thing they write on it.

Seattle School Board Retreat

There are no Director Community meetings tomorrow as they will all be at the Board retreat.  It is open to the public for observation only.  Agenda.   Their stated "outcomes": Team (working as), Roles (Board roles) and Strategic Plan (affirming Core Beliefs for the development of a strategic plan).

I'm sorry but I thought the policy worked out last December/January DID define Board and Superintendent roles.   A whole day to talk about how to work together and what their core beliefs are to move the district forward and no specifics?  This smacks of the Alliance and I have wonder who came up with this agenda. 

And we wonder why more doesn't get done in our district.

One (slightly) humorous note is that they will be discussing the Senior Leadership Survey.  Many of senior leadership are either brand-new or interim and I'm sure their input could be valuable but again, the most important thing to discuss?  And really, I think all the staff at JSCEE could give some valuable input if asked.

It is from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm at the Talaris Conference Center, Maple Room, 4000 NE 41st Street.

Remember Ballard High Staff

The blog wanted to express our condolences to Ballard High School on the loss of yet another staff member.  Teacher John Nygaard recently passed away.   The school also lost security staff member, Gary Smith, and teacher Megan Vogel earlier this year.   

That's a lot for one community in one year. 

Friday Open Thread

Two events I wanted to highlight that I missed in my news/events thread.

Nova has their annual Winter Craft Fair- with pre-made and make-and-take crafts. Plus fabulous pottery, jewelry, food and more! Fun for all ages.

Thursday, Dec 6; 6-8:30p
@ Nova- 300 20th Ave E; 98112

Green Lake Elementary is having their Annual Tree Sale through December 19th! All proceeds benefit education programs at the school.

Address: 2400 N. 65th on west side of school 4 blocks West of I-5 on 65th.

Monday - Friday 4pm to 8pm
Saturday - 9am - 8pm
Sunday - 10am - 7pm


What's on your mind?

Yeah? What If They Don't?

There's a lot of talk about accountability and why we can't seem to be able to hold anyone accountable in culture of public K-12 education. I think the lack of accountability is built into the system - at every level.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wash Your Hands, Washington

A cute and catchy video (show the kids!) reminding us about good habits during cold and flu season from our friends at the Washington State Department of Health.

It's a School Zone, Folks

Update: I had originally posted the info below because of an incident at Chief Sealth where two girls were struck by a car during school hours.  However, it turns out the woman who hit the girls meant to.

Allegedly there was an altercation over a dog, the woman tried to use a stun gun on one girl, couldn't catch her and then got in her car, circled the block and hit the two girls head-on.   The woman then drove off.  One girl was released from the hospital but the older victim is in critical condition.  The woman turned herself into police, claiming she felt threatened by the girls. 

End of update.

Unbelievable.  From the Times:

Mayor Mike McGinn said he expected traffic cameras near four Seattle schools to catch a lot of speeding drivers when the devices went live Nov. 1.

But almost 6,000 in less than a month?

"We were surprised," McGinn said.

Because there were so many speeders, the warning-citation period that was to end this week has been extended to Monday, Dec. 10, he said. From that day on, the registered owners of vehicles caught driving faster than 20 mph in those school zones while beacons are flashing will receive a $189 ticket in the mail.

Cameras have been installed in front of Broadview-Thomson K-8 School on Greenwood Avenue North, near Thurgood Marshall Elementary on Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, Gatewood Elementary on Fauntleroy Avenue Southwest and Olympic View Elementary on Fifth Avenue Northeast.

Seattle police say the cameras are recording all day, but drivers will be ticketed for speeding only when the school-zone beacons are flashing — times when children are most likely to be walking to and from school. Like red-light cameras at some intersections, the camera shoots a picture of the license plate.

The speed-camera pilot project is scheduled to end June 30, 2013, unless the City Council decides to extend it. Before approving any more cameras, the City Council will release a report by June 7 detailing how effective the cameras have been in improving safety.

Either some people are just driving on auto-pilot or there's a lot of people out there who simply don't care.  Maybe a $200 ticket might get their attention.  

Inslee Names Renton Superintendent as Chief of Staff

From the Times:

Gov.-elect Jay Inslee named Renton Schools Superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel as his chief of staff in a news conference in Seattle on Thursday morning.

Heuschel, one of three co-chairs of Inslee’s transition team, led Renton schools for seven years and last year was a finalist for national superintendent of the year. She also served as deputy superintendent of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for six years.

I personally like Superintendent Heuschel and while I don't always agree with her, find her a thoughtful person.  I think it's a good call but Renton's loss.  

Seattle School Board Meeting Last Night

I couldn't stay long (darn cold) but I did make some remarks and heard other interesting remarks.

First up was Wayne Barnett of the City Ethics department who gave a concise and lively wrap-up of what has been happening with this joint ethics venture between the City and the district.  This is a mid-term report as they are in the middle of the 3-year process.

He said that everyone at JSCEE had been given the ethics training as had all the principals.

In terms of advice, as of now about 80% of the contacts had been via phone or e-mail.  He said they have slightly less active than at the City level but that is to be expected (given the relative sizes of each).

Investigations.  He stated they received their 100th call this week.  He said about a quarter of all calls had launched investigations.  He said about 60% of those calls did not fall under their jurisdiction but that the City had been pleased to act as a liaison between the district and the callers to get the callers to the right people.  He said that Ethics had been acting as a squeaky wheel (of sorts) in order to get answers for many of these people that they could not get on their own.

He said that the issue of worries over retaliation to whistleblowers continues (indeed, he stated that nationally it was 1 in 5 and this has risen since 2007).

Ron English of Legal has a request for the public.  The Board did vote to send the resolutions on the two levies to King County Elections.  However, the district is obliged to find people to write both the Pro and Con sides for each.  He has a Pro and Con for BEX IV and a Pro for the Operations levy but no Con.

If anyone would like to write a Con side for the voters guide, please contact his office at 206-252-0110.

Closing Bad Charters

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers said 900 to 1,300 of the privately run, publicly financed schools should close because they are in the bottom 15 percent of public schools in their states. Here's a link to their press release and a Bloomberg News story that the Seattle Times ran.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Call for Consistency

Check out this guest column in Publicola by former state legislator Brendan Williams: Legislature Should Suspend Unfunded Charter Schools Initiative

School/District News and Events

  • Holiday poinsettias for sale through Nathan Hale horticulture program 
Holiday poinsettias are available for sale through Nathan Hale's horticulture program 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec.1 and 1-5 p.m., Monday, Dec. 3. The school's greenhouse is north of Jane Addams K-8 school at 11051 34th Ave. N.E. Cost is $8.50 per plant or $8 each for 10 or more plants. Contact science and horticulture teacher Jessica Torvik if planning to place a large order of 10 or more.
  • Olympic Hills Pancake Breakfast, Saturday, December 1st 9:00am – 11:00am 
Start your weekend off right this Saturday, Dec. 1st. The Lake City Lions’ Club is sponsoring a Pancake Breakfast  to help raise funds for Olympic Hills Elementary. Money raised directly supports classroom field trips. Entertainment includes:
  • Taiko drummers at 9:30am
  • Intermediate choir at 10:00am
  • Primary choir at 10:15am
Breakfast includes pancakes, eggs, sausages, juice, coffee and the Lions’ unbeatable hospitality. $4 for kids and $6 for adults.  Bring friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, your soccer team…. Breakfast is available from 9:00-11:00am. Come one, come all, for great food and fun!

Lake City Community Center
12531 28th Ave NE
  • The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe - through the Muckleshoot Charity Fund - has generously donated $5,000 to the Seattle Public Schools' Huchoosedah Native Education Title VII Program.

    These funds will be used to purchase warm coats and hats for Native American and Alaskan Native students in Seattle Public Schools. These coats will be gifted to students at the Huchoosedah Native Education Title VII Winter Celebration and Mini Pow Wow on Dec. 14 at West Seattle High School.
  • Wendy Weyer, director of Nutrition Services, has been elected chairwoman of the Public Policy and Legislation Committee for the School Nutrition Association. Weyer has been serving as Northwest regional committee member at the association for the last three years. She will serve a two-year term as committee chairwoman.
Any events/news from your school community?

Odds and Ends

  • Tonight's School Board meeting still has lots of speaker slots open.
  • From yesterday's Work Session on Strategic Plan Guiding Principles, a draft document.
It's a lot of the same stuff you'd find anywhere.  I'm not sure what specifics will come out of this document.

Don't like/believe:  Strengthen family engagement through transparent communications and continue to build partnerships with city, business and community leaders that support student achievement. 

Transparent?  As President DeBell has secret meetings (and I'd like to know if the other Board members know this) with Tim Burgess, I'm not sure about that transparency. 

And, check out how they want to "strengthen family engagement"?  See that word "parents" anywhere?  That word is not used a single time in this document.  That's where you stand in the Strategic Planning. 

Like: Implement an information and communication technology infrastructure and environment that
enhance teaching, learning and all aspects of student success while protecting our students, staff,
and their personal information.

Glad to see a directed concern over protecting student and staff personal information.
  • I did not find any document relating to the Work Session on Ethics but there was this one called Program Evaluation & Assessment Annual Report: Development of a Comprehensive Assessment System.  Interesting reading.  (I can't recall how or why I downloaded it but I did find it yesterday.)  
  • Tim Burgess is running for Mayor.  I will do what I did last time, readers.  I'll interview all the candidates (who are willing) and then let you know.  What I can say up-front is that clearly Councilman Burgess cares about public education and that's great.  But he pretty much sticks with the usual suspects especially the downtown crowd.  
He says this from his statement on why he is running:

I will listen to you. I will learn with you. I will lead to get things done for you.

Big words.  I can only say that his office is one of two council offices that I have found to be the least responsive.  Meaning, just answering a question or acknowledging a communication seems to be beyond his office.  Do I think that will get better if he is mayor?  That remains to be seen.

As for listening, I can only say that I tried, repeatedly, to talk to him about 1240 and the last thing he said to me, face-to-face was, "Melissa, I'm not talking about that now.  See you." 

And that was just to get his take on 1240.  If you can't ask an elected official for their stand (or even opinion) on an issue, I have to wonder what a candidate for higher office will do. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Special Ed PTSA General Meeting This Week

Seattle Special Education PTSA
General Meeting

"Meeting Special Education Student Needs in General Education Classrooms"
featuring Dr. Bridget Walker
Assistant Professor in Seattle University's Master in Teaching Program

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2012
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
John Stanford Center, Room 2700
2445 3rd Ave. S., Seattle 98134

We have a fantastic program for you and for your child's teachers. Please invite them, and your friends! "Special Education Students are General Education Students First!" But when the rubber hits the road, with crowded classrooms, funding shortages, limited opportunities for teacher professional development, and parental questions about how to start a conversation with teachers, are our children's learning needs fully being met alongside their typically developing peers?

Dr. Walker, who works with school districts throughout the area on special education issues, offers practical, timely, cost-effective information for parents and teachers in differentiating instruction for the spectrum of student learning needs in general education classrooms. Q&A will follow.

Also scheduled: Updates on state legislation issues of interest to the special education community, as well as an SPS District update on its progress in reshaping the Special Education department.

The meeting will also provide you with an opportunity to renew your PTSA membership. Last year's membership expired at the end of October. Bring cash or a check. General membership fees are $14 and educator memberships are $10. Membership keeps our PTSA robust and enables our PTSA leaders to advocate for your interests.

SPS Group Selected as RTTT Finalist

Race to the Top finalists were announced.  The group that Seattle Schools is part of is one of them.  To note, we are the first place locally that I have seen this announcement posted.

Tuesday Open Thread

The Times has the most popular names for dogs in Seattle.  They had a top 10 and then by breed.  Perusing the list, I saw this:

Shih Tzu & Poodle - Charlie

Sorry, Big Guy.

What's on your mind?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ed News Roundup

First up, this is not directly ed related (although peripherally), a letter from a whiter-than-white (his term) Republican who was mightily unhappy with his party this election.  (Caution: he minces no words so if you are a delicate reader, do not read this section.) 

He does speak to some of what ed reformers on the Dem side like to do; namely, name-call and harangue which to my mind, never works.  

One of the reasons my family is affluent is that my wife and I have a collective fifteen years of university education between us. I have a Masters degree in Science and Technology Policy, and my wife is a physician who holds degrees in medicine as well as cell and molecular biology. We are really quite unimpressed with Congressional representatives such as Todd Akin and Paul Broun who actually serve on the House science committee and who believe, respectively, that rape does not cause pregnancy and that evolution and astrophysics are lies straight from Satan’s butt cheeks. These are, sadly, only two of innumerable assaults that the Republican Party has made against hard science – with nothing to say of logic in general. Please understand the unbearable tension this might create between us and your candidates.

Another fascinating op-ed in the NY Times by Sara Mosle was about what students should be assigned to read in in order to learn to write.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, November 26th
Superintendent Banda's meeting with the Latino community from 6-8 pm at El Centro de la Raza. Feedback, concerns and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, November 27th
Work Session: Strategic Plan Guiding Principles from 4:30-6:30 pm.  No agenda available.

Work Session: Ethics Training from 6:45-7:45 pm.  (I'm not sure who this is for - the Board or staff or both.) No agenda available.

Wednesday, November 28th
School Board meeting starting at 4:15 pm.  Sign up first thing Monday morning if you want to speak. Agenda.

Action items reflect the 2013 Legislative agenda, approval of "superintendent evaluation instrument: the CSIP approvals, voting in a new Policy 1400 about Board meetings.

To note about Policy 1400, it appears the start time is to remain at 4:15 p.m.  It also changes the policy that saying that any changes in the prepared agenda may be requested by the Superintendnetn or a Board member and is approved by majority vote (and redlined out is "of the Board members present."  As you may remember, earlier this year there was a tussle over whether a Board vote was correct because of what constituted a "majority".   So I read this as it has to be a majority of the seven members rather than the majority of who is sitting at any given meeting.

Also (green is new, red is what is out):

All votes on motions and resolutions shall be by oral roll call vote except for a vote on the consent agenda, which shall be by “voice” vote. No action shall be taken by secret ballot at any meeting required to be open to the public. Except as provided in the next paragraph, a majority vote shall determine the outcome of a motion. In that regard, if a Board member abstains, the Board member’s presence counts toward meeting the quorum requirement, but does not count as a vote for or against the motion. The outcome of the vote is determined by the majority of those who voted.

An oral roll call vote of all the members of the Board is required for the election of Board officers, filling a vacancy on the Board, or for the selection of the school district Superintendent, and a majority vote of all the members of the Board is required for any person to be elected or selected as a Board officer, filling a vacancy on the Board, or for the selection of the school district Superintendent for such positions.

Intro items include contracts with labor partners Local No. 79 and No. 117, paying for a new capital program and project management software contract for $649,988 (hope it's worth it), audience participation (allowing 5 more speakers if the list grows to 35+ requests, payment to the district of $275k for a claim relating to the Silas Potter scandal*, and capital payments for Ingraham and the creation of a new elementary at Genesee Hill.  

*The Release of Claim provides for payment of $275,000 (the amount of the losses recognized by SAO, less the $5,000 deductible under the agreement).  The coverage limits are $500,000. The  WSRMP has stated that the “questioned costs” are not covered under the insurance provisions. The Release of Claim provides that the District will retain the right to seek civil recovery from former employees and any third parties that may be responsible for the losses and questioned costs.  It also provides that if a court directs restitution as a result of any criminal proceeding, the District gets to recover its $5,000 deductible first and thereafter split any recovery, 50% to the District and 50% to WSRMP, up to the amount paid by WSRMP.

The King County Prosecutor has filed charges against three individuals arising from the first report.  Those charges are still pending.  At this time the District has not decided whether to pursue civil action against any of the individuals involved in the RSBDP activities.

Saturday, December 1st
Board Retreat from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm

What Charters Will We See?

The Times has an article in this morning's paper about what we might expect about what charters come in first.

They get it right in the opening paragraphs (with some irony):

The first charter schools in Washington probably won't be run by the nation's best-known charter groups with years of experience and strong reputations.

During the successful campaign for Initiative 1240, which will allow as many as 40 charters to open here over five years, supporters talked about wanting Washington students to have a chance to attend the kind of schools operated by the nation's top charter operators.

But the highest profile chains are in such demand that most won't be looking to expand here anytime soon — if at all.

Some national charter-school experts say the wait-and-see stance of many big charter groups is not surprising.

Of course not.  No high-profile charter group will want to come into an uncertain situation.  It costs them time and money and those are items no group wants to waste.  The one exception seems to be Green Dot out of California. 

So, despite the campaign claims, I wouldn't expect to see these great groups here for years.  And so it becomes the grassroots charters coming in first.  This has an upside and a downside.

Times Editorial - Wrong Again

I don't know why I even bother, but here is another misguided editorial on education from the Seattle Times.

Charter Update in the Times

Linda Shaw, writing for the Seattle Times, reported today on the likely near-term future of charter schools in Washington, Modest start for charter schools expected.

Her predictions and report aligns with our predictions: national charter school chains will hang back, if they come to Washington at all. After all, they didn't have any plans to expand into Washington before the vote and they want to wait and see how the regulations are determined and how the inevitable Court challenges are decided before they spend money on making any plans. They also prefer to work in concert with school districts rather than in antagonistic relationships with them. That's certainly what we were reckoning and it makes sense to anyone who has ever had responsibility for a business. The exception may be Green Dot, which represents a lot of the worst stereotypes about charters. Even Green Dot, however, may defer.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Open Thread

A few updates:

One - with less than 8,000 votes to count statewide, I-1240 appears to have passed.  (I'm sure it's true but I'm not the Secretary of State and in a position to officially call it.)  The margin appears to be 1.36% of the vote which is just under 41,000 votes.  A win for sure but certainly no mandate. 

Two - Thanks to SPS Leaks for some very illuminating reading.  To whit:

Lynne Varner gets it wrong in an Times editorial and SPS gently points this out to her.  I note that Varner says "sources" told her certain things about the departure of Superintendent Enfield.  So, as you see, journalists have sources and they don't reveal them (and sometimes not even by the order of a court) and that's how it goes.  (I, of course, still contend that I am not a journalist but I have sources.  I do get my hand slapped occasionally by readers demanding to know my source.  Not revealing them is how you keep your sources.)

Three, I think most of you know that the Board cannot meet privately, with each other or others, with more than two of them in attendance.  There are people up the food chain who know this and frequently invite one or two in to talk.  This is fine except when you see of pattern of who gets invited.  It would appear that Michael DeBell is quite chummy with those people. 

I often wonder how much each Board member knows of the other Board members communications and meetings.  Like this one.  This is what Councilman Tim Burgess - who may be announcing for Mayor any day now according to Publicola - said to Enfield and DeBell.  (Italics mine.)

Susan and Michael, I want to provide a little update on our idea to convene a small group of 
individuals for a discussion about the downtown elementary school, Memorial Stadium and district headquarters.  

Thank you for agreeing to engage in some creative brainstorming to see if we can identify some reasonable solutions.

Again, it fine to meet and talk but if DeBell then goes back to his colleagues and presents the ideas from these "brainstorming" sessions as his own, then that would be wrong.   (Also, why were they wanting to talk about the headquarters?) 

One thing to point out from these e-mails is how incredibly hard Kay Smith-Blum works to be friendly, positive and yet firm.  The nuance she puts into her replies is amazing.  Very impressive.  Case in point is where she puts on a good face after Chris Larson sends her this:

I have given over $10M to SPS via my funding of the South Shore School via the New School Foundation.  We are reaching the end of our 10-year operating agreement.  I have some big decisions to make going forward regarding what my continued level of support will be.  

I would like to meet with you to get a better understand(sic) of where you and the school board stand on certain educational reform issues.  

A review of the 2009 PDC database shows that my wife and I were the two largest contributors to your last campaign.

So there.  (He's this guy.  He ts on the Board of Directors at New School which is now part of LEV.  Look for Mr. Larson to be on the board of directors for any new charter school located at South Shore.)

Another fairly aggressive e-mail from Sara Morris of the Alliance for Education asks a lot of questions of HR's Paul Apostle about some new CBA language.  This is fine but when Michael DeBell complains about community making too many public disclosure requests, I hope he considers this kind as well.  The information she was requesting was not make via public disclosure (as it likely would have been for anyone else). 

Another e-mail says that the Alliance spent money having the entire Seattle CBA analyzed.   Interesting.

She then writes to Bob Boesche, complaining about the slowness of Apostle's answers.  (Maybe it's really not his top priority.)  She says,

"Candidly, the radio silence presents some reputational risk for the district that is not in anyone's best interest."  "There are a large number of people expecting a clear set of data this Friday (after having expected it since April). 

Give me timely answers or I'll go telling the rest of the playground that you don't play our way.  

Again, NO entity should have more sway, influence or power over the Board or district staff.  NO entity or any person.  The Superintendent and the Board should move to protect district staff and themselves against this kind of muscling. 

What's on your mind?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday Open Thread

I know - kids at home and Thanksgiving dinner to get ready for but I'll ask: what's on your mind?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Alliance for Education Strategic Plan

"On a mission to ensure every child in Seattle Public Schools is prepared for success in college, career and life."

That's what is says at the top of the Alliance for Education home page. With that mission, the Alliance has no business with anything outside Seattle Public Schools. This includes private schools, schools in other districts, and, of course, any charter schools should they appear.

That mission statement is repeated on the web page for their Strategic Plan. C'mon. You had to know that they would have a strategic plan, didn't you? I suggest you read it. It is an illuminating document. This tells what the Alliance sees when it looks at itself in the mirror. It may be a different vision of what you and I see when we look at the Alliance.

Ed News from Around the Country

I'm finally catching up on some backreading on education issues.

Arne Duncan.   According to this article in Ed Week on the first speech Secretary Duncan has made since the re-election of President Obama, it appears he will stay on if asked.  His priorities?

In his first major postelection remarks, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that he will use his second term to continue to leverage education improvement at the state and local levels, with a new emphasis on principal preparation and evaluation. 

And, he made clear that if Congress isn't serious about reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, of which the No Child Left Behind Act is the current version, then his department won't devote a lot of energy to it.

Duncan said, repeatedly, that he did not want reauthorization to happen through a bad bill. "We will lead, we will help, we will push, but Congress has to want to do it," said Duncan, who says he plans on staying in the Obama cabinet for the "long haul. 

 Duncan said there would continue to be a focus on revamping the teaching profession, including improving principal preparation programs—an area he didn't think got enough attention during his first term. Later, in an interview, he said that renewed focus could come via Title II grants, which are used for professional-development-type activities, federal School Improvement Grant dollars, and other programs.

Also mentioned in this article were the SIG grants and I found another article on that topic, also from Education Week.  

Two-thirds of chronically underperforming schools that tapped into a big new infusion of cash under the federal School Improvement Grant program made gains in math or reading, but another third saw student achievement decline in their first academic year, according to an
analysis by the U.S. Department of Education.

Who is Paying in Washington State?

Following up on Charlie's post about Crosscut's article on how business says it cares about public education, here's more input from The Stranger Slog.  David Goldstein has been laying out the case against the levy swap for our school districts and the supplied graphic says it all.

King County, with roughly 29 percent of the state population, produced 42 percent of state tax revenues, yet it received back less than 26 percent of state benefits. That's a return of only 62 cents on the dollar for our state's Democratic stronghold.

Compare that to the generous $3.16 return on each dollar enjoyed by taxpayers in hard Republican Ferry County in deep northeastern Washington. All in all, only six counties qualified as "net donors" to the rest of the state—San Juan, King, Skagit, Kittitas, Whatcom, and Snohomish—while the remaining 33 counties enjoyed an average return on investment of over $1.40 on every tax dollar sent to Olympia.

If King County's school districts were funded proportionate to what King County taxpayers put into state coffers, our schools would receive an additional one billion dollars a year from the state. Local readers should remember this the next time our local newspaper advocates for a school levy swap that would shift even more of the burden of state K-12 funding onto the shoulders of King County homeowners, while providing zero additional dollars for own schools.

Brilliant Story on Education Hypocrisy

An absolutely brilliant story appears on Crosscut, Business support for education: Just big talk? by Dick Nelson.

This story shines a bright light on the hypocrisy of Washington State business groups who decry the state of public education in Washington State - preK to college - but also adamantly refuse to pay any of the cost of improving it. It reveals them for the whiny babies they are. A few business organizations in particular are taken to task.

The whole story is written with a flat, Joe Friday, "Just the facts, ma'am" sort of tone. It's calm, rational, and devastating. I highly recommend it. I can't wait to see if there is any reaction.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Just Wondering

It is always my intention to learn so I read whatever is handy.  So I was in a business office this past week and there was the Puget Sound Business Journal (which I don't regularly read).   So I'm reading this article about how the EMP wants a break on its rent.  (Apparently Paul Allen might not subsidize it forever.) 

EMP agreed with the City that there would be rent increases every five years from the time it opened in 2000.  But now EMP is saying they are a non-profit (albeit fronted by one of the wealthiest men in the world) and they say they do lots of "cultural education" to local schoolchildren.

 It is also mentioned in the artilce that EMP has an exclusive liquor license that means no new potential restaurants or bars at Seattle Center can serve liquor.  (Talk about a benefit.)  So the City did offer them a rent break in exchange for giving up that exclusivity but EMP said no.   (To which I would say, then sink or swim on your own.) 

But in terms of our district, here was the interesting part:

EMP pays about $6.46 a square foot for space.  The Seattle Children's Museum pays about $5.85 a foot.  Chilhuly Garden and Glass pays about $3.41 a foot (what a deal!).  Seattle Schools (and I assume this is for the space for Center School)?  $6.09 a square foot.

How is it that a government entity, a school,  pays more than non-profit entities especially new ones like the Chilhuly Garden and Glass Museum?  I have no idea.

Then, I read an article in Crosscut about the redo of Seattle Center and see this:

A new $1 million children’s art playground is in the works (part of the Chihuly deal).

So maybe in exchange for low rent, the Chihuly Museum gave over some space for this children' playground?

There was also this:

By the end of the year, Nellams hopes to have the legal framework in place for the redevelopment of Memorial Stadium — which includes the creation of an adjacent public green space and parking lot — something that’s been on the to-do list for 50 years.  

(Robert Nellams is the head of Seattle Center.) 

On the one hand, Seattle Center did (does) need to be revitalized.  But I have to wonder - with all that is on the district's plate in terms of capital issues, where do they find the time to work out details for Memorial Stadium and the land swap?  I think it important but with the staggering capacity management issues, I'm surprised they have the time down at JSCEE.

 (The district owns 9 acres of Seattle Center including Memorial Stadium and its parking lot.  The last I heard, the district and the City were to do a land swap of 4-5 acres including the parking lot for a City parking lot over on Mercer which the district could then develop itself.   Memorial Stadium would continue to be owned and operated by the district.  It has to be because it is well-used by the district and was owned by the district for many years previous to Seattle Center even being created.) 

Keeping track of the capital and facilities issues in our district is a dizzying proposition.

Seattle Schools Week of Nov. 19-23

A short week due to the Thanksgiving holiday.   No school for elementary and K-8 students for Parent-Teacher conferences (really? three whole days). 

Enrollment Services close at noon on Wednesday and one-hour early dismissal on Wednesday for all students.  

Community meeting with Director Patu on Saturday the 24th from 10 am to noon at Caffe Vita, 5028 Wilson Avenue S.

I missed this but the district received in October- via the UW Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity - a new Upward Bound Math-Science grant from the DOE. 

The five-year, $1.25 million grant is designed to help low-income and first-generation students succeed in high school and pursue post-secondary degrees, especially in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

UBMS will serve 65 students at Seattle’s Chief Sealth, Cleveland and Franklin high schools and is a sister program to OMA&D’s existing Upward Bound program that assists nearly 80 students at the same schools. Over two-thirds of the students at these schools qualify for free or reduced lunch, almost a quarter higher than the rest of the city and state.

UBMS will include a six-week Summer Academy on the UW campus that simulates college and provides an integrated curriculum. A college-level STEM lecture course will be taught by UW faculty and supported by quiz sections and hands-on lab activities. Students will gain research experience working with scientists and researchers, and learn to analyze and communicate their findings. The curriculum will be enhanced by collaboration with UW departments and other partners including the Microsoft IT Academy.

During the school year, students will have weekly one-to-one contact with UBMS staff. Each student will undertake comprehensive needs assessment and career interest inventories that form the basis of Individual Student Learning Plans. Students also have continuous access to online resources and the ability to track their progress and communicate with UW UBMS staff via a secure learning environment.

Tutoring and academic support services are provided, including assistance in meeting graduation requirements, test preparation workshops and course selection for college admission into STEM majors. Seniors receive help in choosing and applying to colleges, financial literacy, and applying for financial aid and scholarships. Students also attend career exploration workshops, field trips and cultural activities.

I'm a little surprised Rainier Beach wasn't included in this group of schools especially when Cleveland already has a STEM program for its students.

Correcting the Times

Correcting the Times gets tiresome but they just don't seem to want to get it right and/or be truthful.

Today there is a wag-of-the finger editorial to Inslee, et al. about the passage of 1240.   The Times should not be telling Inslee what to do given how roundly they denounced him as a candidate.  That said, I-1240 does put quite the rush on the State Board of Education to get its work done under 1240 as well as Inslee, Chopp and Lt. Governor Brad Owen to get their work done (selecting the Charter Commission members).

Lynne Varner starts off by saying people will be "watching" who Inslee, Chopp and Owen pick and she's right there.  LOTS of people will be watching as well as asking questions.  We will be able to know who every single person who applies is.  

Here are my comments on the editorial:

First, many, many people will be watching and asking Chopp, Inslee and Owens about their process for picking the Charter Commission. But you need a BALANCE in the Commission and that means some objectivity, not just charter cheerleaders.

Second, Gates and his pals put up $11M to win (not to mention the money he spent getting it on the ballot). Those are long odds for any group of parents and community to fight off. (And The Times loves to say it was all the WEA and it categorically was not. I guess she easily discounts the NAACP, El Centro de la Raza, the League of Women Voters and the Washington State PTA. The rest of us do not.)

Also, the State Board of Education CANNOT authorize public schools to convert. They can only authorize school boards to become authorizers. Details are important but in Varner's rush to charters, she overlooks those details.

And she fails to point out the really terrible part about conversion charters - a small group of people can upend any EXISTING school, failing or not.

Also, if she had read the initiative, Dorn DOES have authority over charters in deciding on money allocations.

But Dorn is absolutely within his rights - as is any elected official whose role under the Constitution is challenged or changed by an initiative - to seek clarity in the courts.

Another falsehood -

"The commission will be under the governor’s office and will be held publicly accountable."

Nope, the Commission's STAFF will be housed in the governor's office but the Commission members are accountable to NO one, elected or otherwise. There is no mechanism to remove a low-performer. Read the initiative.

And the artwork accompanying this editorial is apt - it looks like a kidnapping note which is precisely what is happening to public education today.

Friday, November 16, 2012

KUOW Story on Teacher Evaluations

Ann Dornfeld of KUOW reports on Seattle teacher evaluations based, in part, on student test scores.

Go Roosevelt Rough Riders!

I had heard Roosevelt's football team was doing well this season but I had no idea they were playing for the quarterfinals today against the #1 team in the state, Skyline, current state champions.   The game is at 7 pm tonight at Memorial Stadium. 

It is the first time since 1195 that Roosevelt has been in the playoffs.  They were a powerhouse in the '60s. 

One issue is that Roosevelt, Garfield and Franklin joined KingCo league which are full of powerhouse teams that start playing in middle school. 

Friday Open Thread

twere evenAs a reminder, Director Carr and Director DeBell have community meetings tomorrow morning (see Seattle Schools This Week thread for details).

Also the district is having an event, co-sponsored with WSU on Sunday, the 19th at Garfield from noon-4:30 p.m. 

Imagine U @ College! is a unique program that educates people on the benefits of a college education, how to apply for admission and pay tuition, and how to be successful in college.

For the first time, WSU is partnering with Seattle Public Schools to make the program available to all students and families in the District. The program is free and lunch will be provided to the first 500 attendees.  

A second Seattle Imagine U @ College! Program will take place the following day, Nov. 19, at Garfield High School. This one will provide similar workshops for all Garfield High School students. This program includes a family night at Garfield beginning at 6 p.m.

or more information about Imagine U @ College!, visit www.imagineu.wsu.edu.


Samantha Hege, Imagine U @ College! Program Coordinator, 509-335-6805, shege@wsu.edu.

Steve Nakata, Manager of Communications, WSU Student Affairs & Enrollment, 509-335-1774, nakata@wsu.edu.   

This is good but I'm a little surprised that this would be at Garfield who tends to have many college visits.  Why is this not at Chief Sealth or Rainier Beach or West Seattle High? 

It also appears that the Alliance - who previously said they had no stand on charters - is going out of its way to have a big discussion on charters with those who DO support them.

There is to be an event - by invite only and alas, I have no received mine yet - that features Robin Lake of the Center for Reinventing Public Education (a charter think tank).  It's billed as "2012 Election Re-Cap and Social Hour" at the "Alliance Living Room".  It is hosted by Alliance CEO Sara Morris and other "passionate public education supporters" for appetizers, wine and conversation. 

Topics?  "What happens next on charter schools?  Who will be on the Charter Commission?  When might the first school open?"

So this is what the Alliance spends their donations on - private discussions about ed reform.  If I were a PTA, I would walk away from the Alliance.  I wonder which Board members might show up.  Or even were invited. 

What's on your mind?

School Segmentation Explained

Seattle Public Schools has this School Segmentation thing. It's a bit unclear how this segmentation is done, so  I'll direct your attention to the appropriate document and try to offer some of the missing transparency.

Educational and Racial Equity

When the Board adopted policy 0030, Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity, there was a bit of a stir because, at one point, the word "Racial" had been removed from the policy title. I guess some folks were concerned that if there was no reference to race in the title of the policy, there would be no focus on race in the implementation of the policy. The content of the policy was not in question, just the title.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Open Thread

Better late than never.

What's on your mind?

Legal Issues for I-1240

Interesting article/op-ed from The Sun Break about just some of the legal issues that may arise from I-1240. 

Another question is whether charter schools are in fact "common schools" (i.e., public schools), as required by the Washington State constitutionif they are to receive public funds:The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. The public school system shall include common schools, and such high schools, normal schools, and technical schools as may hereafter be established. But the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools. 

I-1240 simply states that charter schools are public schools. But that’s precisely what’s at issue with the debate over charter schools versus public schools. Are they? Is it still a “general and uniform system” if charter schools are granted the freedom with curriculum they’ve been granted, and are overseen by non-elected school boards? University of Washington law professor Hugh Spitzer argues that the State Supreme Court has already set a precedent in how common schools are defined–they must be under the control of voters in a school district, which charter schools are not.

Their op-ed raises some interesting questions about different votes and repeats what I have said; when you have scarce education dollars, you spend them on what you know has the best chance for better outcomes.  We don't vote on a wish and a hope.

There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to square the entrepreneurial drive behind charter schools with the requirements of uniformity mandated in the constitution. When 37 percent of charter schools nationally perform worse than "virtual twin" public schools, that's a lot of young lives being given over to experiment. You don’t get a refund for not having learned anything that year, or three.

Contrast this with the fact that 56 percent of Washington voters upheld a prohibition regarding "investment of public monies of the University of Washington and Washington State University in private stocks and bonds." Presumably, it seemed too risky to gamble with education monies when it was clear that that was what was happening. Yet charter schools represent a bet not just with education monies, but a bet with the education of students too young to vote. In the competitive, private-enterprise model that charters adopt, the non-performing are supposed to fail. But they fail the students in them most. That’s perhaps not something graduates of Lakeside know about.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Executive/Operations Agenda This Week

As previously noted, there is an Executive Committee meeting tomorrow morning.  Here is the agenda.   These agenda seem to be quite terse with topics like "government relations", "community engagement" and you have no idea what the specifics of that discussion might be.

They are going to be talking about audience participation at Board meetings so if you don't like either the new Board meeting start time and/or 2-minute limit, you might want to let Board members know this. (schoolboard@seattleschools.org)

There is to be an Executive Session of the Committee at the end of the meeting on "real estate matters".

The Operations Committee also has their agenda available.  Looks like they will be looking at:

- some capital issues including Genesee Hill. 
- Tracy Libros from Enrollment will be speaking on enrollment, child custody and district attendance area transfers as well as the student assignment plan for 2013-14. 
- short-term and intermediate term capacity management
- transportation service standards

More Speed Cameras Around Some Schools

From the Times:

Starting Monday, Nov. 26, $189 tickets will be automatically mailed to registered owners of vehicles caught speeding past cameras installed in four Seattle school zones. Those zones are near Broadview-Thomson K-8 School, Thurgood Marshall Elementary, Olympic View Elementary and Gatewood Elementary.

Before setting up the new speed cameras, the department coordinated with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) last year to analyze which school zones could benefit most, Doss said. Despite the installation of more than 50 sets of flashing yellow beacons in school zones across the city, speeding was a persistent problem around several schools. Eventually four areas were chosen for the speed cameras.

School principals were contacted about the pilot program and supportive of it, according to police spokesman Jeff Kappel.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I-1240 Passes

According to the Associated Press. 

Apparently, charter supporters are hoping for some as early as next fall (and I wouldn't be surprised unless there are lawsuits which might give some charter operators pause). 

According to the Times:

Some charter-school groups have already expressed interest in coming here, and the superintendent of Spokane Public Schools is interested in having a charter in her district, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Interestingly, only one member of the Spokane School Board came out against I-1240 so maybe so.  Unfortunately, the Times leads readers to believe that only the Charter Commission will be okaying charters but if a school board gets vetted by the DOE, they, too, can approve charters.  

Randy Dorn, the elected head of the state's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, believes that the state Constitution requires all public schools to be under his department's jurisdiction. Charter supporters say they're confident he is wrong, but Dorn has asked the state attorney general's office for advice on what his legal options might be.

Now that the vote (for the most part) is done, I'll have an interesting story to tell about the fight against it.  

Coming of Age with Autism; New KUOW Series

KUOW is launching a series of stories about young adults/teens coming of age who have autism. 

 It debuts Tuesday, November 13 with a call-in at 9:30 am (543-5869) or e-mail comments, weekday@kuow.org.

It's an inspiring series and one that hits close to home for me.  I think as the number of people who are on the autism spectrum grows that it's important to learn about their challenges and help them find acceptance in our society.  

Finnish Ed Leader In Seattle

From the Times:

Pasi Sahlberg, who heads the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture, will be in Seattle this week to talk about how his country achieved its success without standardized tests, teacher merit pay, school choice, or many of the other trends in American public education.

Sahlberg, who started his career as a teacher, has written a book about that subject, titled “Finnish Lessons.”

Sahlberg will speak at a luncheon Wednesday at the Rainier Club at 820 Fourth Ave.  The luncheon starts at 11:45 a.m., costs $27 and requires an RSVP.  He also will give a free public lecture at  7 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall,  Room 210.

Race and Education

We are just coming off a presidential election where, to some degree, race mattered.  Governor Romney lost because the GOP seems to be tone-deaf to the fact that what they allowed various GOP officials, including Romney, to say about Hispanics and women really DID matter.  The GOP can continue this at their own risk but the numbers are against them (and so is history and common decency).
The NY Times had two articles about students and race and its impacts that I thought worthy of posting.  Both are about Asian-Americans.

One article is about Asian-Americans in college.  This is a large and diverse group of students with varying outcomes.  By the numbers, Chinese, Japanese and Korean-American students tend to do fairly well in school.  Pacific Islanders, Samoans, Vietnamese-Americans tend to do less well.   Add into those groups Pakistani, Indian, Filipinos, and Cambodians and you get a lot of people under one umbrella who are wildly different in their attitudes and outcomes about K-12 public education.   The article is referencing college students in Texas against the backdrop of a US Supreme Court case over the use of race in college admissions.

Asian-Americans, who make up 5 percent of the population, are the fastest growing racial group, with three-quarters of adults born abroad, according to the Pew Research Center. And they are tangled up in the affirmative action issue in complicated ways. For Asian-Americans across the country, the Fisher case is a source of ambivalence. While most people think of blacks and Latinos when they think of victims of past discrimination, Asian immigrants, who first came to build railways in the late 19th century, were also mistreated. Asians have often been grouped under the rubric of “model minority,” meaning they make few political demands and keep their head down.

“Asian-Americans are brought up not to upset the apple cart,” noted Martha Jee Wong, a retired Republican state legislator from Houston. “Our parents taught us that whatever we do, we should honor our family name. So you find ways to make top grades and not rock the boat.”

 (The mean SAT score of Asian-Americans is now 63 points higher than that of whites.)

 In his presentation of some of the Supreme Court legal briefs to the political identity class, Khai Pham, a junior who is Vietnamese, said he didn’t like the use of race in college admissions — and nobody other than the instructor, Lesley Varghese, disagreed with him. Said one classmate: “You can’t make up for what went wrong in the past by helping people today.” Another added: “Maybe affirmative action was necessary at one point in time, but it is outdated today and we need a new formula.” And Anna Akhtar, a sophomore who is half Pakistani, said of her high school classmates: “I had white friends who were struggling and minority friends who were doing just fine.”

Charters in Washington State

I am collecting names for those that would like to continue watching over the charter school issue.  Contact me at charterfreewashington@gmail.com and include your area of interest (watchdog, legal, etc.) and your phone number. 

Odds and Ends

 There's a sinkhole problem in West Seattle directly on the route that buses to Pathfinder take.  This story from our friends at the West Seattle Blog.

Thought-provoking story this morning on NPR about how Eastern and Western parents view their children and their ability to learn.  (I have often thought that persistence, resilience, and encouragement are more important than what intellectual capacities you are born with.) 

Interesting article from the Huffington Post about who serves special needs children especially those with more severe disabilities. 

The high cost of educating students with special needs is disproportionately falling on traditional public schools as other students increasingly opt for alternatives that aren't always readily open to those requiring special education. 

The issue is particularly acute in districts where enrollment has declined due to demographic changes such as low birth rates and population shifts combined with an influx of charter schools and voucher programs that have siphoned off students.
School district officials say all schools that receive public funds should share the cost of special education.
"It raises an ethical responsibility question," said Eric Gordon, chief executive officer of Cleveland Metropolitan School District. "We welcome our students with special needs, but the most expensive programming is on public districts."

In Florida, they are setting new goals for student performance....based on race.  The story from the Orlando Sentinel.
The new targets approved by the State Board of Education on Tuesday set loftier for Asian and white youngsters and lower ones for black and Hispanic children.

By 2018, 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanic students and 74 percent of black students are to be reading on grade level.

Similar race-based achievement targets sparked controversy in Virginia and Washington, D.C., this summer, with critics calling them a way to legalize low expectations for some students.

Oddly, several of the State Board of Education members, before the vote, asked if this was the right thing to do.  

Florida officials, however, said the targets are not meant to set lower expectations for some kids but to acknowledge current performance and outline a path for improvement. The board approved them after agreeing that an explanation for the race-based numbers be included with the new targets.

So the explanation is that all groups will improve and improvement is what matters.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Documentary about Public Schools: Brooklyn Castle

In case you missed it, The Daily Show interviewed Brooklyn Castle He meant chess, but could have been talking about a lot of arts programs. The clip is here: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-november-8-2012/katie-dellamaggiore---pobo-efekoro

Should Student Tweets Be Revealed?

Here's a dilemma (or maybe not). 

Over at the Jezebel blog, they found that there were a number of teens who, after the reelection of President Obama, sent out very hateful and racist tweets.  Jezebel looked these teens up and where they went to school, checked their school's code of conduct, and then contacted their respective administrations.  In many cases, either the school code of conduct and/or student athletic code of conduct was violate.

Jezebel says:

We contacted their school's administrators with the hope that, if their educators were made aware of their students' ignorance, perhaps they could teach them about racial sensitivity. Or they could let them know that while the First Amendment protects their freedom of speech, it doesn't protect them from the consequences that might result from expressing their opinions. 

Additionally, several of the teens use imagery of their high schools' sports teams on their Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. If nothing else, it's reasonable to alert administrators to the behavior of the students who are publicly representing their schools.

Jezebel then put up their names, their schools (some of them private), and some screen shots of their Tweets.  They also got back (surprisingly) a number of replies from schools saying the appropriate things about guiding their students on these issues.

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, November 12th
SPS closed to honor our veterans, both past and present.   I want to thank my father, Sam, and his brothers, Jack, Pat and Bill, all who served in WWII.  I want to thank my mother's cousin, Charles Oles, who served in WWII and died in the Bataan death march.  I would like to thank Harry M. Ravenna, the soldier in Vietnam whose name I carried on a metal bracelet on my wrist in junior high.  I found out decades later that he was killed in action.  Thank you to all who served and are serving.

Community Meeting with Director Peaslee at Lake City Library from 6:30-8:00 pm

Tuesday, November 13th
Road Map to College event.  One of a series, this one at Rainier Beach High School from 3-6 p.m.

Krista Rillo, College Bound Scholarship Counselor, klrillo@seattleschools.org, (206) 252-0075

Superintendent Meeting with Native American Community at Wilson-Pacific from 6-8 p.m.

Wednesday, November 14th
Executive Committee Meeting from 8:45 am-10:45 am.  Agenda not yet available.

An "Encore" Presentation of the State of the District Address by the Superintendent from 6:30-7:00 p.m. at JSCEE.  I heard the original and it was a lot longer than a half-hour so it is also an abbreviated presentation.  ALL the public is invited to this one. 

Thursday, November 15th
Road Map to College event.  One of a series, this one at Garfield High School from 2:45-7 p.m.

Operations Committee Meeting from 4-6 pm, agenda not yet available.

Saturday, November 17th
Community Meeting with Director Carr from 8:30-10 am at Bethany Community Church (enter on east side of Stone Ave N)

Community Meeting with Director DeBell from 9-11am at Caffe Appassionato, next to Fisherman's Wharf.  

I believe there may be a Special Ed PTA meeting this week but it is not on their website calendar or the district's calendar. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Yes on 1240 Declares Victory

Update at 4:40 pm:  I still think the trend is not enough to say No to 1240 but it will end up being as close as it can be.  At this time the Yes has dropped to 50.78% and No is at 49.22%, a difference of 1.56% and less than 42K.  

From their press release:

After comprehensively reviewing ballot returns to date, The YES on 1240
Coalition announced today that Initiative 1240, the Washington Public Charter Schools
Initiative, will be approved by a majority of Washington voters. With over 2.6 million votes
counted, Initiative 1240 is leading with 51% of the vote. 

According to Washington state law, election results will be officially certified and Initiative 1240
will take effect on December 6th.  The initiative calls for members of the Washington State
Charter School Commission to be appointed within 90 days of the effective date of the law. 

This is to be expected.  What is really troubling is the "FAQ" they published (and let me just state that their previous FAQ on 1240 had 4 FAQs and no real info on 1240 so it's fascinating they wait until AFTER the election to publish any real info).

From this we glean:

The State Board of Education’s (SBE) role is to authorize school boards wishing to authorize quality public charter schools in their districts.

The SBE is also responsible for, among other things, overseeing the performance and effectiveness of the authorizers it approves; establishing the annual statewide timeline for charter school application submission and approval or denial; establishing an annual application and approval process and timelines for school boards seeking to become charter school authorizers; specifying the annual report timeline, content and format; and conducting special reviews where there is evidence of persistently unsatisfactory performance on the part of the authorizer.

The State Board of Education must develop, allow for public comment on, and adopt rules governing its role concerning public charter school implementation.

Did you see the Charter Commission in here anywhere?  Of course you didn't.

How long does the State Board of Education have to develop and adopt its rules?
By March 6, 2013 — 90 days from the election certification date of Dec. 6, 2012.

But here's the really big stuff:

The founding members of the Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools are the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform and the Partnership for Learning/Washington Roundtable. These founding Coalition members are convening a small implementation working group; bringing in national experts to discuss – with the founding Coalition members, the Commission, stakeholders from low-income communities and communities of color, and the State Board of Education – implementation lessons and technical assistance; engaging in discussions with state and national funders interested in supporting implementation; and leading ongoing advocacy and communication efforts.

What is disturbing here is that they are including the Commission.  Why would the Commission listen to any group more than any other group including taxpayers and parents?  And, it's okay to develop a coalition but read this thing - it does sound like people who believe they are now large and in charge.  They are NOT. 

Consideration is also being given to setting up a charter school incubator to help guide development and recruitment of charter school providers; provide technical assistance to potential applicants; build local supply of charter school leaders, educators, and boards; share parental engagement and involvement strategies; provide guidance and support to ensure charter-district collaboration; and provide best-practice information, resources and contacts to interested parties.  

That last paragraph?  Here's what they meant to say:

The Gates Foundation will be funding help to those charter groups that THEY want to come into the state.  

Yes, this is the beginning of the takeover of public education in Washington State.  Those last two paragraphs from the FAQs prove it.

No one on not on that list will be allowed in and most of those on the list are there as window-dressing. 

I plan on writing my state reps and telling them that this is not right.

Eckstein Burglars Wanted...Musical Instruments?

In yet another odd police report for SPS this week.  From SPD:

Three juvenile burglars arrested.  This morning at approximately 1:30 a.m., officers responded to Eckstein Middle School at 3003 NE 75th St to an alarm.

Officers arrived and contained the area.  Three suspects were observed inside with flashlights attempting to steal musical instruments.  All three suspects dropped the equipment and fled out of an exit door.

The suspects were taken into custody without incident.  They were fingerprinted and photographed.  All three juveniles were later interviewed and released to their parents.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Teacher Versus Student; All's Well That Ends Well

Very interesting story from our friends at The Stranger Slog:

According to the police report, a female student at Nathan Hale High School walked into the classroom "asking for some note cards" when she was allegedly struck with a 500-page copy of Homer's The Odyssey around 9:00 a.m. on November 1. By way of explanation, the teacher reportedly told police, "I was in a dramatic moment of teaching and when I was interrupt[ed], I wanted to show the students how important that moment was." 

It's unclear who called the cops—most likely an employee of the school. When police arrived, the girl told them that after interrupting the man's class, "he yelled at her to get out of his classroom." According to the police report, she "thought the [teacher] was joking at first and again asked for some note cards." The teacher "again yelled for her to get out," at which point, the girl "realized the [teacher] was not joking and asked him why he was being so rude."

This pissed him off even more, according to the girl. He reportedly yelled, "Get out!" and then allegedly threw the 500-page book at her, "striking her in the hand," the report states. In his defense, the teacher told police that he wasn't mad when he threw the book—and he didn't mean to strike her, just to throw it in her general direction for "dramatic effect." According to the police report, the teacher said that his kids know that "this is the way I am." The good news is the girl's hand wasn't injured by The Odyssey.

The report states that the two apologized to each other later that same day, with the girl admitting that "she should have known better than to interrupt the [teacher]'s class." 

This teacher was wrong, wrong, wrong to throw the book (with intention to hit her or not).


I have been in classrooms where kids think it's okay to roam around and completely disregard what the teacher is saying.  This girl could have done this before and it was his last straw.   And, to tell him that HE was being rude when she interrupted the class is hard to fathom.  Who tells their teacher that he/she is being rude?

I don't believe him when he says "I wasn't mad" with the yelling, etc. - he was mad.

I suspect I know which teacher this is and yes, he takes his teaching seriously.  

Friday Open Thread

It is to be a good weekend, weatherwise.

We are coming off an exhausting campaign season that saw us retain a President that others thought might be easily defeated.  The power of numbers (and Nate Silver's ability to use them - go math!).

Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor Ed at Stanford University and a star in education nationally, is in town and speaking this morning at a UW event.  I have not been able to find out if it is open to the public.  A source tells me that she is meeting with some members of the School Board at some point.  I hope they listen.

What's on your mind?

Updates on 1240

1240 - Still 600K votes still to count and it's down by just under 46K.  So doable but the number crunching from the top counties where each side leads just don't support a win unless there is some big turn towards No.  

Ditto on the race for Governor.  The numbers are just not trending McKenna's way so I believe Inslee will take it.  Frankly, I think that even though Inslee has been somewhat vague on funding issues, he is far less rigid than McKenna on education issues.  And, the Legislature is going to have to do a lot of the heavy lifting of figuring out how to fund and enact the McCleary decision.

I do go on record here.  Whether you like charters or not, McCleary should have been figured out and enacted BEFORE any vote on charters.  We only muddy the waters by bringing them in at this point and that will be just one more issue that makes this a difficult process.

Good article from the Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro about the conversion portion of I-1240. 

Hilariously the Yes side says the confusion comes from the movie, Won't Back Down.  No, it doesn't because NO ONE saw that thing (and the box office numbers prove it).

The Yes side can say until the cows come home that "just" a petition can't convert a school.  No one on the No side EVER said that, in writing or in public.  It's part of the application process but there is nothing in 1240 that says that an authorizer can do to challenge it or reject it just on the basis on it being a conversion charter. 

Meaning, if the petition is there, it's just one more thing on the authorizer checklist to check off.

Lisa Macfarlane also falsely claims that "It all happens in the light of day."  No, it doesn't.

Neither the authorizer nor the charter group has to notify the school, the union, parents or the district in any way shape or form.There is to be one public hearing for a charter and if you have been to any of the district's, then you know it can be as short as 15 minutes.  They do NOT have to state if they are converting a school (and if you aren't savvy enough to ask the question, good luck).  

I-1240 does NOT state what a charter group has to say (or not say) at a public hearing.

And that is why every single charter application will need to be tracked.  You don't want to be blindsided if they come after an SPS school (especially if it is YOUR school). 

Shapiro asks a lot of good questions:

But it certainly seems within the realm of possibility that a narrow majority of parents or teachers might initiate a charter conversion plan and get it approved. And then what happens to the, say, 49 percent of parents who don't want to send their children to a charter? Where will their kids go? To neighboring schools that are already maxed out? 

What about future years? Where will upcoming kindergarteners in the charter school's neighborhood be assigned given that the initiative says that students can't be assigned to a charter, they must apply?

McFarlane says she has a hard time getting her "head around" all the hypotheticals. We understand. So do we. That's why we're more than a little queasy that 1240 might win without a general understanding of all the ramifications. 

Wait a minute.  Macfarlane is the one who told me that I wasn't reading the initiative correctly, probably because I didn't understand "legal" terms (and I can confidently state that the overwhelming majority of people in the room were not, like me, lawyers) and she can't wrap her head around the possible outcomes of I-1240?

Thursday, November 08, 2012

1240 - It Battles On

Over at the No On 1240 Facebook page, I had unofficially said I thought this was done. 

To understand, nearly all the counties were trending the same as they had since Tuesday night and it did not seem possible to overtake that slight Yes lead. 

Today, I realized that the Yes on R74  campaign  had crunched the numbers (even as their lead had been as slim as the Yes on 1240 lead Tuesday night) and said they won. 

So, I thought, if Yes on 1240 has all this money, why haven't they crunched the numbers and announced THEIR win?  Or did they but they really can't be sure?

All I know is the latest numbers from the Washington Secretary of State yesterday were these:

Yes 51.11%
No  48.89%

As of 4:45 p.m.

Yes 50.9%
No  49.02%

The difference is about 43K votes. 

There are three large counties to drop new numbers (and they hadn't since Tuesday night) at 5 p.m. - Spokane, Snohomish and Skagit. 

Again, the trending is not there for a win but I do love that Bill Gates couldn't just take this right off his "to-do" checklist Tuesday night. 

Wednesday Open Thread

Gee, Tuesday got away from me.  I wonder why.

Hoping to parse through the BEX IV vote and ask you to consider what happens now.  There is a lot of vagueness in this BEX so it's hard to gauge what will be done and when.  Also, probably a year back now, Director Carr said at a Work Session that there would have to be a heck of a good narrative to sell this to voters.

Okay, I'll ask you - what is the narrative that will sell this to Seattle voters?  Keep in mind, you are selling over $1B of levies. 

On another subject, Superintendent Banda.  I am still feeling good about him.   I find him quietly assured (but not in an Olchefske-type way).  But, what would make you feel assured?  What one thing, that's within the realm of possibility, could he do to make you feel like he's on the right track?  Or is there a signal you would look for that would make you believe he can't/won't be co-opted by the powers that be?

What's on your mind?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Public Education Election Updates

There are still one million ballots to count in Washington State so I-1240 is still in flux at about 51-49%.

According to KUOW, the Yes group was very confident last night until the first numbers came in.  (I do find it funny that they kept their "guests" from the media at their event.  I don't get that.)  Apparently a LEV spokesperson said their campaign kept things  "factual".   Factual?  That's a stretch.

It's wrong to not tell the truth.  But after not telling truth, telling half-truths is next in line and that's precisely what the Yes side did.

In Georgia, voters passed a constitutional amendment embed a charter commission into their Constitution.   It mirrored the race in Washington State in terms of the big money put into it.  The vote turned out to be 58% to 42%.   The issue was that event though 9 out of 10 charters that applied to school boards did get passed, it wasn't enough.  So they have create a state charter commission to be able to allow even more charters to be enacted (without local oversight).  Sounds familiar.

In Indiana a major blow to ed reform as Glenda Ritz, a Democratic challenger and a public school teacher, turned out Republican and ed reformer Tony Bennett as the Indiana superintendent of public instruction.  Bennett had a nearly 5-1 campaign war chest against Ritz.  This election was a great example of grassroots and social media.

Those teachers sent out about 100,000 post cards with hand-written messages to family and friends across the state, pleading with them to support Ritz. A group of teachers in heavily Republican Boone County launched a “Republicans for Ritz” site on Facebook, calling on party faithful to split their ticket and vote for the Democrat Ritz.

Ritz kept up the fight all the way through Election Day when she held a series of press availabilities around Central Indiana, while Bennett declined all media interview requests Tuesday.

Ritz’s campaign was decidedly anti-Bennett, portraying him as a heavy-handed advocate of top-down decisions that forced federal and state decisions on local schools.

What was Bennett pushing?

Yet nationally, the contest has been the radar screen of supporters and opponents alike of the massive education overhaul that Bennett championed with the backing of Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and the GOP-controlled legislature. Those sweeping changes included the rapid expansion of charter schools, creation of the nation’s largest school voucher program, a merit pay system that ties teacher pay and tenure to student performance, more high-stakes testing for grade promotion and graduation and a controversial to A-to-F evaluation system of the state’s schools.

Bennett’s campaign for his second term focused on those changes as cutting-edge reforms that make Indiana the model for the nation, and he promised more to come.

Student Walk Out over BEX IV Plan

This story in the Seattle Times, Rainier Beach students protest lack of remodel plans for their school, about students demanding a remodel of their school building.

Page 96 of this building condition report rates Rainier Beach as a 2.9 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the best condition and 5 being the worst. It was marked down some for having an enrollment far under capacity. From the report:
"Rainier Beach is housed in a middle aged facility that has worn very well (with some good maintenance) The current enrollment is very low, resulting in many unused spaces in the school. The traditional layout is a rigid grid, but its efficiency and logic tie programs together fairly well. Most classrooms and program spaces are traditional size and configuration. The performing arts center is one of the District's finest."
This building condition report (see page 136) gives Rainier Beach a rating of 3.3 and says:
"Rainier Beach High School was constructed in 1961 as a single 2 - story concrete building. In 1967 a single story Vocational Shop building and a single story Auto Shop building were added. These two buildings are currently hardly used. In 1998 an Auditorium was added to the main building. While the main building is generally in good condition, it could use an up-date to it's electrical systems, a modern HVAC system, replacement of the galvanized water pipe, replacement of VAT floor tile and new energy efficient exterior windows."
And this about the building's seismic retrofit needs:

"Seismic Mitigation $2,555,742
Typically, we observed no signs of significant structural distress, structural deterioration or differential settlement. At each side of the main entry, at the end of the wing walls, the exterior masonry has spalled exposing the reinforcing which is already rusting excessively. At the Southwest corner of the building, where the overhead wires are attached to the building, there is a full height crack in the veneer that is adjacent to the window. At the foundation wall on the Northeast side of the Performing Arts Center, there are minor temperature and shrinkage cracks in the concrete."

On the whole, Rainier Beach High School does not appear to belong anywhere near the front of the line for remodel, but maybe the students know something that doesn't appear in the reports.

BEX IV does include seismic improvements for Rainier Beach High School.