Wednesday Open Thread

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said…
Pondering if the district separates out oversight for its early elementary curriculum (K-3)

What do you think the presidential push for early childhood ed will mean for Seattle?

Wondering how the Smarter Balanced assessments will further bastardize the early elementary learning experience.

Charlie Mas said…
Jose Banda has been on the job as Seattle Public Schools Superintendent since July 1, 2012. That was a little over seven months ago. In those seven months he has already made a number of commitments.

He has promised a review of assessments for this spring with recommendations delivered in May.

He has promised a Program Placement Framework in April.

He has promised to hire an assistant superintendent for Teaching and Learning by the end of the school year.

He has promised to hire an Executive Director of Special Education by... no specific date. This is a different position from the Director of Special Education. The Director Special Education reports to the Executive Director of Special Education who reports to the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning.

What else has he promised? Can anyone think of any other commitments he has made?
Anonymous said…
Interviews for Ex Director of Sp Ed were yesterday.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Just Asking said…

Why is there always a "gotcha" theme to your posts?

He he "fails" to deliver a review of assessments by May has he failed? Should he be fired? Suspended? His pay docked?

Or should his commitments be seen as aspirational goals. If he makes several aspirational goals and meets none of them, well, that would tell me that there needs to be a change when his contract comes up for renewal.

Teachers at Garfield signed a contract that obligated them to administer that MAP test. They didn't.

Should they be fired?

Sometimes (often?) things are so black white. Other times, things that are black and white should be shaded to gray.

There should be an examination of the entire body of work. Are goals set? How many are met? Are they appropriate and reasonable?

That sort of thing.

Po3 said…
*Worked to help pass the levies.

*Developing a Superintendent Procedure to protect whistleblowers from retaliation.

*Made several appointments and leadership changes specifically to Teaching and Learning.

*MAPS task force.
Charlie Mas said…
@Just Asking

"If he 'fails' to deliver a review of assessments by May has he failed?" In that regard, yes.

"Should he be fired? Suspended? His pay docked?" Not for that alone, no.

"Or should his commitments be seen as aspirational goals." Absolutely not. They should be seen as commitments. If he wants to state aspirational goals, he is free to do so, but he needs to distinguish between the two - in advance, not after the fact.

"If he makes several aspirational goals and meets none of them, well, that would tell me that there needs to be a change when his contract comes up for renewal." I wouldn't think so. No one expects or has a right to demand achievement of aspirational goals.

I don't think the teachers at Garfield who refused to administer the MAP should be fired. That's neither a proportionate consequence nor consistent with their collective bargaining agreement. There should be a proportionate consequence that follows the terms of their employment.

"There should be an examination of the entire body of work. Are goals set? How many are met? Are they appropriate and reasonable?

That sort of thing.

I absolutely agree. Right now I'm just trying to get a grip on the first part of that formula: Are goals set?

There's a lot of talk about accountability but very few examples of it. What would accountability look like? I think that, in part, it would include a list of the commitments made and an accounting of how many and which were kept.
Linh-Co said…
I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Tolley is made permanent Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning.

I think Banda is fond of him.

I also heard Ms. Heath made some presentation about a possible K-8 math adoption at the C&I meeting on Monday. It's about time!
Anonymous said…
Tolley? That would be Banda's first fail in my book. He hasn't done a thing for APP. Didn't do much for SE. Great at hobnobbing in meetings, but what really has he done?

Plus anything left over from Goodloe-Johnson's realm is going to be suspect in a lot of our books.

Anonymous said…
I heard from a parent who attended last night's Bryant PTSA meeting that school's received their 2013/14 budgets late yesterday, with additional cuts to support staff i.e. no potential way to fund a counselor, loss of reading specialist, mixed or blended grade classrooms? Anyone have any details behind the cuts?

Also, a little bit more Bryant-centric, but the Bryant administration is apparently putting in a request for portables to handle their capacity surge? I would assume other district elementary schools may be in this same boat with the latest enrollment numbers. Where do the $'s for unplanned portables come from? Is it linked to the cuts in operational costs or are they separate budgets/funds?

Concerned NE Parent
Anonymous said…

If you want goals, look at the Superintendent Evaluation Tool which is normally a public document as it is discussed in one of the board meetings. I believe that is what he will be evaluated on. Whether his promises are in line with what's on that evaluation tool, I don't know.

A friend
Anonymous said…
We need a K-2 language arts adoption more than we need a math adoption. Too many Seattle schools are still using Whole Language, packaged as "balanced literacy" right now and that is unacceptable. Leveled books CAN'T be used to teach systematic and explicit phonics instruction- what ALL the research supports using. To be effective, leveled books MUST be phonetic AND correlated to a child's decoding ability. The books we are currently using are brimming with untaught phonics patterns that are way too advanced for our beginning readers (especially levels A-C). Lacking the tools to decode, students become dependent on guessing and context clues (the two strategies most used by poor readers). It is so hard to undo those poor reading habits, yet in Seattle those strategies are being explicitly taught. It is maddening!!
My child's kindergarten teacher doesn't really understand what phonological awareness even is, let alone its importance. I shudder to think about the number of children being labeled learning disabeled in Seattle schools right now, when in actuality, nobody has never been taught "how" to read.
Jan said…
TS: We need both, I guess -- but I am not willing to put K-8 math behind anything. It has been such a swamp, for so long. With reading, I confess I know way less than you do about what SPS do, but I do understand the issue you describe, and agree with your assessment of needed changes. I also think, though, that many teachers have skills that allow them to "remediate" for bad reading materials and curricular choices, and can better remediate, in a manner that is not true in math. It is very hard to teach a radically different math curriculum along side ED and other discover math materials -- when they explicitly REQUIRE that, to be effectively "discoverish," you NOT teach traditional methods or focus on mastery and fluency.

But if we want new materials -- and better pedagogical approaches -- for both -- I am on board with that.
Benjamin Leis said…
Does anyone have any more info about what was presented wrt a new math curriculum at the board meeting?
Eric B said…
@TS: I was under the impression that research supported using either whole language or phonics, that the teacher's confidence in the method was a better predictor of success than the method used. That was from a few years ago, though. Has that changed?
Anonymous said…
Maybe it wouldn't be popular but I really wish they'd adjust the Bryant-Laurelhurst boundary for this fall. This is a boundary that went back and forth during the last re-draws and it benefits neither school. LH
dan dempsey said…
Eric B wrote:
@TS: I was under the impression that research supported using either whole language or phonics, that the teacher's confidence in the method was a better predictor of success than the method used. That was from a few years ago, though. Has that changed?

YUP .. sure has changed .. data clearly shows that whole language in a failure. (Evergreen State College's teacher prep program has yet to realize this)

Hattie's Visible Learning effect sizes:

0.60 = phonics
0.06 = whole language

Speaking can be acquired without much instruction by small children with exposure to speech. Humans have an evolutionary disposition for speaking...

David C. Geary stated that reading, writing, and mathematics need to be taught as those skills are recent arrivals and humans are not disposed to learning these skills simply environmental exposure.

Linh-Co said…
There was no discussion of curricular materials. That would be decided within the adoption committee which has yet to be formed.

The next step would be to create an adoption committee. There is no date set for this. First thing that needs to be created is a "selection criteria" to evaluate the textbooks. I hope we don't have any fuzzy rubrics. Last round of adoption which resulted in EDM had more focus on multicultural sensitivity than math content.

The reading and writing "programs" in this district disregard everything in the National Reading Panel recommendations. Until we dump Reader's and Writer's workshop and balanced literacy, phonics will not be addressed.
Anonymous said…
I AGREE... the literacy programs in SPS are a MUCH WORSE problem than anything in math.... mostly because reading is a more fundamental skill than math. And science - well, that's the worst of all. Ever look at an elmentary science kit? But, luckily it isn't really as crucial, even through high school.

Eric B said…
Thanks, Dan. I appreciate the update.
Anonymous said…
Jan, I'm all for both!! But I have to strongly disagree that teachers can easily supplement early reading instruction. The science behind teaching reading shows it must be taught in a VERY systematic and explicit way, and to do that you need a LOT of materials that support each and every developmental stage of reading. The literacy stages represented in a typical 1st grade classroom span from "Doesn't know letters" to "Reading at a 5th grade level". We can't expect any teacher to pull together and make-up that much curriculum (and books). There are many quality reading programs out there that can do just that.
And as Dan highlighted, our teaching training programs have been very slow to acknowledge and train their teachers using science based methodologies. A great number of our teachers don't even know what they're not teaching. (I used to be one of them).
And yes, our math program is weak and needs to be improved, but our reading program is actually causing massive delays in a great number of our students, and it is reading delays that dramatically increase your odds of being incarcerated. This may be dramatic to say, but our current, (15 years out of date) reading program is a public health issue.
suep. said…
(Re-posted from another thread; this seems a better place for it.)

Hi everyone,

I'm on the Strategic Plan Stakeholder's Taskforce which met for the first time last week.

Melissa and Charlie -- would you be willing to start a new thread to discuss the SPS community's 'wish list' for the next strategic plan?

I'd love to hear everyone's ideas, thoughts and concerns and bring them into the task force discussions.


Anonymous said…
Why not a new K-12 Math adoption instead of just K-8? The high school math is just a continuation of the slippery K-8 math.

The result? The majority of Seattle HS students taking the Community College Compass test (for either Running Start or for entry college courses) fail the basic math test.

This is flat out unacceptable!
not buying it
mirmac1 said…

Please give me the grace of your forgiveness.

: )
Nick Esparza said…
will the Seattle teachers go on out on strike in ?
Nick Esparza said…
will any Seattle Public Schools go Charter? I've heard talk of Pathfinder K-8 ?
TechyMom said…
Sorry, put this on the wrong thread...
Does anyone know what's happening with the plan for NOVA to have middle-schoolers? When this might start? And is it really only 7th and 8th grades, but not 6th?
dw said…
@mirmac1: From the other thread? Sure, I just tacked a comment there at the end. We're good. I hope! :-)
Anonymous said…
Pathfinder/charter? What kind of egregious rumor mongering is that? Teacher's strike? Having a bad day you need to share with others?

Get a life
Anonymous said…
Teachers who have been bullied, harassed and forced out by the use of some administrators' immoral and unethical tactics are helping KUOW research a story on this subject. Please refer teachers who fit this category to
Thank you

mirmac1 said…

I know some teachers who fit that category. Frankly, I would like to compile a list of principals and APs who abuse their power over teachers and families alike. I'll start some data gathering on my end.

On a different note, your ballot has barely been counted and here we have Pegi McEvoy ready to hand that downtown school gift off to Burgess, McGinn and the Chamber/DSA.
Anonymous said…
I looked at the new source this morning. I was very surprised that it does not show the number/percentage grade, only the letter grade. For high schoolers, knowing if you are close to rising or falling to a different letter makes a difference. With the new Source that information is not available.

It also looks like grade weighting is not reflected in the grade. So it averages all grades entered equally even if the teacher gives more weight for tests or projects than for homework. The letter grade shown is not necessarily the grade a child has.

I foresee lots of extra work for teachers as kids try to keep track of this.

Am I missing something? Is there a reason for this?

High school parent
Anonymous said…
I also am confused by the "new source." why less info in a data driven district. One of my students needs to maintain an 85% or better in math to be recommended for alg II next year. how on earth will we know if the B is an 80% or 88%. Also, in HS you don't earn a 4.0 until your grade is about 92 or 93% so an A isn't an A at 90% as far as GPA is concerned.

I am hoping this is simply a mistake.

Also, everytime you click a link a new page opens. Poor web design!

HIMS Parent
Maje said…
Sounds like schools have just received their preliminary budgets for next year. Is this data available online?
Anonymous said…
Okay, so it's Thursday, but . . . just a special Valentine's THANK YOU to Melissa and Charlie for keeping Seattle informed.

- Grateful mom
Anonymous said…
So Senator Litzow comes running out of the gate early in the session with is "We're going to take over the failing schools!" bill.

It goes over like a fart in church, and suddenly it turns into "I just want to give more resources to struggling schools, please stop calling me names."

Senator Dammeier has done the same thing with his "Retain ALL the third graders!" bill, which has suddenly turned into "I love early intervention and data gathering, and yeah maybe I'll retain a couple of 4th graders, too."

The Senate K-12 Committee is an absolute joke right now.

dan dempsey said…
From ASCD a link to the MAP Testing Boycott:

What the testing boycott means for teachers
The decision by a group of high-school teachers in Seattle to boycott the Measures of Academic Progress standardized test has opened the door to a worthwhile discussion about testing, writes Celine Coggins, CEO and founder of Teach Plus. In this commentary, Coggins writes that now is the time for teachers to become problem-solvers and advocate for assessments aligned with classroom teaching, a key complaint against the test in Seattle.

In Ed Week the commentary:
An Opportunity to Talk About Testing
By Celine Coggins
Maureen said…
ACT Theater has started selling tickets for their Young Playwrights Festival! March 7-9.

Last year they sold out, so buy your tickets early.

It's a fantastic program that allows over 400 Seattle area middle and high school students to learn the art of play wrighting!
Maureen said…
Maje, Here is a link to School Allocation 2013-14.
Jan said…
TS: Hmm. I concede. I think I am looking at this through personal (anecdotal) glasses. What little I have heard of Readers/Writers workshop, it sounds very deficient. But because I never dealt with kids who struggled to learn with whole language (well -- I did have one, but he was off the charts in terms of learning issues, so I really couldn't blame it on any one approach), I think I have minimized the harmful effects of using (once again) a discredited pedagogy.
Anonymous said…
Hmm Ryan: Maybe those two legislators had a recent visit with Strategies 360 or LEV laundry machine. Sure sounds familiar, in a very Michelle Rhee sort of way.
Anonymous said…
Readers Workshop, Writers Workshop, blech! They are good for about a year, I think. I don't get why we have so much "branding" and "brand loyalty" where we have to buy and subject our kids to one curriculum idea or pathway year after year. I mean, come on, Discovery Math sucks and the results speak loudly for themselves. "Seed Writing" is a cool perspective for a short while, then quickly becomes a confining drag my kids were sick of after several months.

I think we have too little education and too much "schooling" going on. Can we let teachers teach? Or just make them curriculum distributors & hacks.

Lori said…
I went to Olympia yesterday for the House Judiciary Committee hearings on 4 gun safety bills. Because I believe that gun safety is a child safety issue, and I think some of you agree, I thought I would post a slightly modified version of my written remarks here and ask anyone who agrees that these 2 bills should become law to contact all of the members of the House Judiciary Committee today, as well as your own 2 represenatives and your state Senator. (I did support my remarks with references but am not posting those here for length reasons)

I support House Bills 1588 and 1676 because, as a parent, I want to see common-sense safeguards put in place to protect our children from gun violence.

The victims of gun violence are disproportionately young. American children aged 5-14 years are 13 times more likely to die from a firearm homicide and 8 times more likely to die from a firearm suicide relative to their peers in other comparable nations. Yet, there is no evidence that our children are any more violent, suicidal, or careless than those children. Experts have concluded that what differs in the U.S. is the widespread availability of guns. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the fact that gun violence is endemic in our society and that it is killing our children.

I started learning about our lax state gun laws in 2009. It was exactly 4 years ago this month that my sister’s step-daughter committed suicide with a gun that a relative left loaded and unlocked in the room where she studied most days after school. She was 12 years old when she died. It is only recently that I have been able to talk about what happened in my family with other parents, with friends, and with neighbors. And I have found almost universally that my fellow Washingtonians do not know how weak our guns laws are. They do not know that 60% of firearm sales nationally occur without a background check or that Washington state does not have a Child Access Prevention (CAP) law, a law that might have made a difference for my family.

My experience is consistent with the results of a recent statewide poll of registered voters conducted by Washington CeaseFire. They found that 68% of voters mistakenly believe that Washington State already requires background checks on all gun sales in the state, including those at gun shows. This finding may explain why so many people were surprised to see the spontaneous gun show that broke out recently on the streets of Seattle during the city’s gun buy-back program. That event certainly opened our fellow citizens’ eyes.

Finally, I know it can be difficult for those of us fighting for stronger gun laws to have our voices heard over those of the well-financed, highly organized gun industry and their lobbyists. Fortunately, we are getting educated and organized after Newtown, and we are educating and organizing our fellow citizens too. And we are beginning to demand real change, which starts now, with these two bills:

• We demand that private gun sellers take responsibility for their weapons sales by performing simple background checks on all potential buyers, just like Federal firearms dealers do, and
• We demand that gun owners take responsibility and store their weapons safely, particularly when there are children in the home.

For all of these reasons, I urge you to support HB 1588 and HB 1676.
Watching said…

The bills you mention come from ALEC templates. Twenty low performing schools would be run by a non-profit "learning management company". I'm not sure what a non profit learning management company is.

Maureen said…
Lori, Thank you for sharing your experience, and for testifying.
Lori said…
Thanks, Maureen.

I should have mentioned that it's an uphill climb to get either of these bills thru the House and Senate this session.

The House Judiciary Committee will be voting within the next 1-2 weeks, hence the need to contact them. If they pass, they go to the full House for a vote.

The Senate may be even tougher now that's it in Republican hands, so people who want common-sense gun laws really need to make themselves heard to their Senators.

It was interesting yesterday to see the NRA lobbyist there, making inaccurate statement after inaccurate statement in his testimony. The NRA has targeted these bills for defeat and has the means to keep a lobbyist in Olympia all session, a tough match for the grassroots. Notably, universal background checks are polling at nearly 90% support nationally and 87% support here in Washington. Yet our representatives are, so far, mostly hearing from the "No" camp thru phone calls and emails.

mirmac1 said…

Absolutely! Who'da thunk that my Ivy League degree couldn't figure out how the heck we're supposed to read and write!!?? DOH!
Just saying said…

Keep an eye on HB1128. This bill aims to limit public disclosure requests.
Anonymous said…
The new Source is awful. Not sure what the issue was with the old but the new one is no improvement. There is even less information than before. Also, 1st semester grades have dissappeared for some subjects. Lastly, it would be nice if teachers were required to fill report at least every 2 weeks to the source. My daughter's grade dropped from the last time source was updated, mid December to the final grade given at the end of January. Between that time she had no feedback from the teacher on what she was lacking. She is a freshman in high school not college. Why no feedback? Plus, we can't even look at the scores to see where she dropped. Oh and this particular teacher had an assistant who could have been updating the source.

Jan said…
I agree, WSDWG: we need to stop being so slavishly dazzled by the latest shiny new curriculum toy -- and to stop requiring that teachers all jump in line! When I was in school (ages ago, I know), my teachers (once we got past the basal readers) all pretty much had carte blanche to figure out what books we read, how to use them to deliver the curriculum, etc. Some years were great, others not quite as much. High school under this regime was a delight! But I didn't have to endure year after year of the same stunted, unimaginative dreck from some for-profit curriculum seller whose intelligence and imagination was far lower than that of the teachers who taught me.

If we have teachers who can't figure out how to teach (and by the way, I do NOT think this is the problem), then we should get new teachers (NOT new curriculum specialists!)
Anonymous said…
Well, HP thanks to your teacher's union - no teacher has to report a thing on the source. They couldn't put it into the contract. Nope. That would be too much trouble. They don't have to use it at all. They'd want more money for that huge job. Communicating to parents. Not their job.


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