Sunday, March 31, 2013

Seattle Schools This Week

This week starts the community meetings about the Strategic Plan.  I also received this info from a reader:
  • Open Enrollment processing will be completed and information on next year's assigned students downloaded on Friday, April 12th.
  • Information on assignments and waitlist status will be available to families beginning at Noon on Monday, April 15th.  You will be able to access this information on-line or by calling the automated phone line, 206-252-0212.
  • Individualized letters will be mailed the week of April 22nd to anyone who submitted an Open Enrollment application.
Monday, April 1st
Strategic Plan community meeting at Eckstein Middle School from 6:30-8:30 p.m.  (Interpreters available in Spanish, Somali, Vietnamese, Amharic and Tigrigna)

Tuesday, April 2nd
Strategic Plan community meeting at Chief Sealth International High School from 6:30-8:30 p.m.  (Interpreters available in Spanish, Somali, Vietnamese, Chinese, Tagalog, Amharic)

Wednesday, April 3rd
Community meeting with Director McLaren from 9 am-10:30 am at Alki Elementary School.

School Board meeting starting at 4:15 p.m.  Agenda 

Saturday, April 6th 
Strategic Plan community meeting at Garfield High School from 10 am to noon.  (Interpreters available in Spanish, Somali, Vietnamese, Chinese, Tagalog, Amharic and Tigrigna)

College Bound Scholarship Conference
University of Washington
Mary Gates Hall
Check in begins at 8:15 a.m.

All College Bound Scholarship students (and parents) in grades 9-12 are encouraged to attend.

At this event students and parents will:
  • Learn about the steps you need  take to access your College Bound Scholarship.
  • Learn about financial aid, other scholarship opportunities  and the  college admissions process.
  • Explore tables at the college and youth services fair.
Light refreshments will be provided. Giveaways and prizes available for students!

Contact:Krista Rillo
College Bound Scholarship Counselor
(206) 252-0075

Also, just to note - the Seattle Times has now instituted their subscription program.  I am not buying a subscription to the Times and, even if I did, I probably could not provide you with a link to any story if you didn't have a subscription.  I don't know if the Times considered how other news sources drive readers to their webpage.  So, if there's a story in the Times, we are unlikely to be reporting on it here. 

Transportation Changes May Be Coming

In starting this discussion, I will make a point about transportation in SPS that was made at the Work Session on the Budget. 

Overall, SPS transports many more students than the average district does.  My understanding of that meaning is that many other districts do not provide transportation to schools outside of your neighborhood and the amount of transportation available to middle/high school students is far less in other districts.

I understand the concern about limiting transportation especially when so much has been provided in the past.  I also understand that it can be seen as a social justice issue when cutting off transportation makes it harder for some families to access programs.  But this is the way it is in most urban cities and students are still able to access schools via public transportation.  (I know in NYC that many students take the subway or bus - for an hour or more each way - in order to access speciality programs.)

So what is to follow here may seem a shock to the system but really, it's actually being more in line with what other districts do. 

To first understand, SPS is estimated to spend nearly $31M on transportation this school year.  That's a fair chunk of change.  It breaks out to nearly $16M for Gen Ed, $14M for Special Ed and about $970K for homeless students. 

Bob Westgard, the head of Transportation, seems completely serious about trying to rein in these costs and his presentation to the Board reflected that.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Former School Board Director Cheryl Chow Dies

It has been announced that former School Board President and City Councilwoman Cheryl Chow passed away today.  She was 66. 

Chow had been ill with lymphoma since 2011.  She was married to her partner, Sarah Morningstar, on March 16th. They shared a daughter, Liliana who is five years old.

Chow had an relentless concern and commitment to children as evidenced by her decades-long career as an educator and as a basketball coach and Girl Scout leader.

The Times reports a memorial will be held at Town Hall on April 20th but no other details are available yet.

Condolences to her family which includes four brothers. 

Brockman to Leave SPS

From Phil Brockman, Executive Director of K-12 Operations:

Dear colleagues,
After 30 years with Seattle Public Schools, I have decided to move on to a new challenge. I have accepted a position as Superintendent of the Sedro-Wolley School District.  My last day with Seattle Schools is June 30th.
This was not an easy decision, as I am proud of the work we have all accomplished together. I have enjoyed my time in the classroom, as a teacher and principal, and then working in the central office as an Executive Director, supporting the great work we are doing in our schools. I am grateful for the people I have worked with in Seattle and appreciative of the experience I have received as a result of my years here. 
I am looking forward to my new role as a Superintendent, and excited about working with the Sedro-Woolley school community.
Thank you for all you do every day; I wish you the very best.
I have  personally always liked Phil and thought he was a superior principal. I wish him well in his new post but it does leave a void at SPS.

Updates from the Drunk Driving Incident near Eckstein

This story gets even more sad.

The incident occurred on the first day the mother, Karina Ulriksen-Schulte, had ventured out after giving birth via C-section.  (As someone who has had C-sections, I know she must have been moving slowly and carefully.)  She and her in-laws decided to cross NE 75th at 33rd NE and she saw the pickup coming.  She doubled back to help her in-laws and all of them got hit.

Both the grandparents, Judy Schulte and her husband, Dennis, were former educators who just moved from Indiana.

Details of the conditions of the mother and baby from the Times:

Elias, born March 15, was thrown to the pavement and wasn’t breathing when police and medics found him lying next to his unconscious mother, the papers say. He suffered skull fractures and a brain injury and underwent emergency surgery for injuries to his liver and intestines, charging papers say. 

Ulriksen-Schulte suffered a crushed pelvis and later developed blood clots that caused a stroke and led to brain damage, the papers say.

Both mother and son are in comas, the charging papers say.

This just breaks your heart.  The husband's parents are dead and his wife and child are both in serious condition and both have brain injuries. 

The driver blew .22 on a breath-alcohol level (more than three times the legal limit).  He claims the sun was in his eyes.  I live near Eckstein and I drove that route, at the same time with the same sunny conditions, yesterday.  The sun could not have been in his eyes at that time enough to impair his driving.

The Legislature passed a new law for sentencing people for vehicular homicide and assault (how the driver is being charged).    Under the old sentencing, the driver might have faced only 9-12 years but now faces 15-20 years.  Not enough, I know but better than it was before.

UPDATE:  There is a walk planned for Monday, April 1st from 4-5 p.m. from Top Pot Donuts on 35th NE to the accident site at 75th and 33rd.  

Please keep this family in your thoughts, prayers and good wishes this weekend.   It could have been one of Eckstein's students or staff.

Friday Open Thread

 Update:  Free Admission to Washington State Parks this Saturday!  Beautiful weather, beautiful parks - get out there!

West Seattle HS culinary students place 5th in state competition with two students winning scholarships.  Our own Top Chefs in SPS.  Congrats kids!

From the "what do you want him to call it" category, comes this story about an Idaho science teacher who was called out by parents for using the word "vagina" during a unit about...the human body and the reproductive system.   I'd love to know what word they think the teacher should have used for this discussion. 

“I teach straight out of the textbook, I don’t include anything that the textbook doesn’t mention,” McDaniel remarked. “But I give every student the option not attend this class when I teach on the reproductive system if they don’t feel comfortable with the material.”

“It is highly unlikely it would end with his dismissal,” the superintendent mused. “Maybe a letter of reprimand from the school board.”

But McDaniel pointed out that even a letter of reprimand would be unfair.

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” he insisted. “I told them I won’t sign it.”

The students are standing up for their teacher by creating a Facebook page to protect him.

Not a Friday funny but a Friday think - a YouTube video of a 9-year-old whose grasp of science and philosophy far exceed his years. 

What's on your mind?

No Surprise-Burgess Would Consider Taking Over Seattle Schools as Mayor

From Crosscut, an interview with mayoral candidate, Tim Burgess.  Key item:

Burgess, his wife, Jolene, and their three children are products of Seattle Public Schools, so it's no surprise he considers it another of his priorities. "I graduated in 1967 and the adults then were talking about North End schools vs. South End schools," he said. "And they are talking about it today. That's a tragedy."

It's important, he argued, for the city and the school system to align their resources and efforts for education. One such example: the city's agreement to let its ethics office handle questions for the Seattle school district.  (Note: that did happen with McGinn who didn't need to take over the district to get it done.)

Would he push for a mayoral takeover of the school system? Burgess pointed to a recent Center for American Progress study that showed mixed educational results in cities that control of school systems, but said the report is a good source for best practices if a city does choose that approach.

Here's what I wrote in the comments section:

"Burgess also emphasized the need for changes to the school system, including the possibility of the city taking over Seattle Public Schools."

Well, this is NO surprise to any of us who follow public education in Seattle. Councilman Burgess had a fundraiser recently that was attended by the who's who of ed reform in Seattle including three Seattle School Board members.

From the Center for American Progress study cited in this article;

"Often, though not always, mayors are given the power to appoint members who will replace some or all members of the elected school board."

No, no and no. We then would have the entire of our elected official oversight by one person - the Mayor. That will not work for Seattle (and the results from other cities doing this is mixed to terrible - see Rahm Emanuel in Chicago).

To note, he would have to go the Legislature (many of whom, like Rodney Tom, hate Seattle anyway) and ask for permission to do this.

What would be great - and I asked him about this on Wednesday at a community meeting - would be if the City would do its job of creating safe communities for schools to exist in. Rainier Beach HS comes to mind. It's the district's job to make a safe school building but it is the City's job to make the surrounding community safer. He named a couple of things that should have been done (more commerce around the light rail station) and policing differently. Nothing stopped him from advocating for this as councilman and yet it didn't happen.

Also to note, Councilman Burgess steadfastly refused to state his position on charter schools all through the 1240 campaign. He dodged, he hedged and to remind everyone, Seattle said no to charters. I think the Councilman underestimates the depth of caring and concern in our city for our public schools to think that anyone who is advocating takeover of the public schools will be elected mayor. (I know McGinn stated this when he first ran but in my discussions with him at the time, his position is quite nuanced as opposed to Burgess'.)

But that's what will make for an interesting (and energetic) race.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Budget Work Session

I attended the Budget Work Session on Wednesday.  It was pretty sobering.  Key facts:
  • There is a projected deficit of $18.4M.  I would love to explain it all to you (and I will try to at least get the PowerPoint up by tomorrow) but frankly, I look down at the paper version and I don't know what half of it is.  Imagine my happiness (and surprise) to hear Board Directors say, "Now, what is this?" because they don't know either.  I don't know if it is the Budget office trying to use smoke and mirrors or just too much jargon but if the people who will make the final decisions don't know what you are talking about, you're doing something wrong.
  • By April 10th, we will have the Governor's budget, the House budget and the Senate budget.  We were told that is when "the rubber meets the road."  The Governor released his budget today and it seems quite favorable to K-12 ed (if not quite the amount everyone would want).  He seems to be finding the money through closing many tax loopholes.
  • KEY FACT: transportation may be cut back and big, big changes in the future for times and service.  Between the boundary changes and the transportation changes, parents expect a seismic shift.
  • Sequestration issues have not hit the district yet and it may be a year before the district feels it..
What are some solutions?  The solutions presented could close the gap to $6.1M.  Again, I do not know what these all mean and they were not gone thru one by one in order to allow maximum time to talk about transportation. 
  • one-time use of Unassigned Fund Balance
  • one-time use of Assigned Fund Balance - Pension
  • increase in Full Day K rate from $272 to $311 per month  (that would be about 15% which one reader commented was about what they said would happen)
  • Capital Transfer for Software Costs under BEX IV
  • Maximize Current Year Underspend (hiring/spending freeze)
  • Charge Stipends to TIF
  • Transportation Saving - EEU (this one surprised me.  This is talking about transportation for the UW EEU school program for ALL students.  I had thought they only transported Special Ed children but apparently not.)  
Other Potential Solutions that would cut the deficit to $1.9M (partial and most have a question mark for how much they might save):
  • withdraw 20% non-staff hold back from schools - apparently the district holds back 20% of a school's projected budget until October counts but could just withhold it longer.  Apparently other districts don't allow this.
  • savings through bargaining (I'm guessing they mean the teachers contract, good luck with that).
  • Central Adm reductions (very funny - "eliminate second SE Ex Director")
Then they came to "Potential Additions for 2013-2014" which was totally mystifying to me and the Directors had questions as well.  This list may mean spending they really want to do but can't until they close the gap (and find more money in the couch?  I don't know).
  • Hamilton staffing capacity costs - apparently Hamilton may need more teachers for capacity management.  
  • Int'l School Certificated Staff and Middle School Recovery - totally not explained but it was stated that at Beacon Hill and McDonald they may have a building situation where they have Japanese and Spanish classes together.  I find this odd because it was not mentioned at ALL at the Board meeting where they were talking about funding staff.  Hmmm.  (The middle school recovery part is to pay for long-term suspended/expelled students to continue middle school reentry and get behavior modification counseling.)
  • TIF Grant backfill - Ah, yes,  districts love to take grant money but oh, is the devil in the details.  Every grant has its costs to a district.  Well, for TIF, our district may have to now pay for some TIF positions.  Kay asked if they knew about this from the beginning and the answer was yes.  So we took this grant knowing that, down the road, we would have a sort of "balloon" payment to come.
  • Professional Development - at a whopping $5.9M
  • Elementary math adoption
  • Assessment changes (this has a question mark and you have to wonder if anything can change with MAP because there may be no money to make changes)
  • Retrofit Crew Project (no idea)
  • Elementary Counselors (looks like they would like to bring them back but it's $6.3M)
  • International Schools - at $700k and I wonder what this is.  No idea as we have been repeatedly told that the international schools get no extra money and I haven't heard of any new ones opening up.
  • Wallace Foundation Arts Grant Match - this is not happening because we didn't get the grant
  • HS College&Career Specialists - again, it looks like they want to bring these back but where to find the dollars?
  • City Year Proposal - I love City Year but I don't know exactly what this is for.
  • United Way Parent Child Home Program
  • IB programs - this one has a question mark for its dollar figure.  Betty Patu worried over this one and her concern was acknowledged.  
The upshot is that it is very unclear how this gap will get closed in full AND how to fund any of the above items.

Transportation thread to come. 

Most Disturbing

I am deeply disturbed by Seattle Times editorials regarding education. It's not because the Times Editorial Board, and Lynne Varner in particular, doesn't share my perspective. I'm okay with that; I have a lot of good relationships with people who disagree with me. I am disturbed by the disingenuous, thoughtless, or deceitful tone of Seattle Times editorials about education which create contradictions.

Assessment Taskforce Update

 Update:  the Superintendent's latest message on MAP.   From his letter:

In the meantime, our spring assessments will be held from April 22 to June 7. Beginning this spring, the District recommends that students enrolled in an Algebra 1 course take the NWEA Algebra End-of-Course (EOC) exam instead of Math 6+ test.

Based on a preliminary review of MAP by staff, we’ve made the following adjustment to our testing policy: For 9th grade, only students below standard based on the state reading assessment will be required to take the MAP reading test. It will be optional for 9th-graders who are at or above standard in reading.

Reader Joan Sias attended Thursday's Assessment Taskforce meeting.  Here are her notes on the meeting.

The new MAP policy for 9th grade was handed out at the meeting. Not a single member of the TF asked what the process was for this policy decision. I am not a TF member, so I could not ask this question.

A handout was given that was a compilation of comments from TF members that had, in the past week, taken one or more MAP tests. TF members took these tests for purpose of learning more about the MAP test.

The comments showed that there are significant problems with this test.

I have heard many anecdotal stories of problems with individual test questions, with scope of questions (especially on the reading test), and on the adaption algorithm.

These are problems that - as far as I know - NWEA has not and will not admit to, and are very hard to document by people outside of NWEA.

This handout is the closest thing we have to cite documentation of the problems with these three aspects of the MAP test.

The TF has only three more meetings. One of these will be taken up with a visit by NWEA. Thus there are at best only two and a half more sessions for developing and finalizing recommendations.

The TF has not yet started a process for arriving a set of final recommendations. The only substantive discussion I have heard at the three meetings I have been two has been on the question of whether NWEA should or should not be invited to make a presentation. It was decided finally that NWEA would not be allowed to give a presentation to the TF, but would come to answer questions that were submitted to them (in advance) by the Task Force (via Eric Anderson).

Even in the most recent meeting, questions and comments from the TF members indicate that they still are not clear about what is the appropriate scope of their recommendations.

From Mirmac 1:

Assessment Task Force comments on MAP
SPS Spring MAP Testing Policy
Taskforce members and minutes
Principal Survey on MAP
Teachers of Tested Subject Survey Results

Thank you to both women for this information.

I will also note that at yesterday's Work Session on the Budget that there was a notation of a cost for implementing any recommendations from the Taskforce.  However, no sum of money was noted and it was in a list of items that they would like to fund but are unlikely to have to the money to fund.  I don't think the district is really serious about changing anything if only for lack of funds.   (More on the Budget in a separate thread.)

Rainer Beach Receives IB Authorization

I am thrilled to announce that Rainier Beach High School, over three years of hard work, yesterday received their official authorization letter to be an International Baccalaureate high school.

From Colin Pierce, the IB Coordinator at RBHS:

We are extremely proud of RBHS's new designation as an IB World School, and it is gratifying that the IB Organization - an organization responsible for setting the international standard for high quality curriculum and assessment - has recognized the hard work we have been doing over the past three years.  Their stamp of approval is an affirmation that we have the staff and systems in place to offer the level of challenge and quality of learning required for an IB education.  Our parents, students, and community are beyond excisted to  engage the opportunity this program presents us with.  

From the district:

International Baccalaureate is a college-preparatory program that includes two years of courses in six subjects. At the end, students take exams, which are scored by representatives appointed by the IB organization, a non-profit education group based in Switzerland.

The IB diploma is recognized by 1,800 universities and students can earn college credit based on the results of end-of-course exams.

“I want to congratulate the entire Rainier Beach community -- staff, students and parents -- on receiving IB accreditation,” Seattle Schools Superintendent José Banda said. “IB is considered one of the most successful and prestigious high school programs in the U.S., and the IB organization grants approval for only a small number of schools nationwide.”

It is the school’s intent to ensure that all students graduating from Rainier Beach will take at least one IB class in their junior and senior years, he (Pierce) added.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SB 5242 - Just Say No

You'd think that our state legislators would have their hands full trying to figure out how to fully fund education per the McCleary ruling. 

Apparently not.  We have the "give every school a letter grade" bill and now we have SB 5242.  It's short and to the point and I agree with the WEA on this one - it's nothing but a distraction and gives principals too much power.  (It also ties the hands of school boards because they have to follow this directive in all collective bargaining agreements.)

From the WEA website:

This misguided and punitive legislation allows school districts to fire teachers without any kind of fair or objective process and regardless of their job performance or experience. Administrators and principals would be allowed to transfer a teacher for any reason, and if no other principals wanted that teacher, she would lose her job.

Under SB 5242, qualifications, experience and evaluations would no longer matter in staffing decisions. SB 5242 eliminates local decision-making and forces every school district to follow the same staffing policy.

SB 5242 passed the Senate and will be heard in the House Education Committee Friday, March 29, at 1:30 p.m. in Olympia. WEA members plan to attend the hearing and voice their opposition to the bill.

WEA claims there is no research to back up this kind of action and I did a cursory search and I didn't find anything as well.

Am I against layoffs based on seniority?  I am.  (Sorry WEA.) 

But do I think every single principal is up to the task to decide, alone, who stays and who goes at their school?  I don't.  And, under this bill, if you have a principal who does not like a teacher, that's like a scarlett letter for that teacher that will follow him or her around and make other principals wary. 

I think that principals do need to be given leeway in their schools IF they have proven themselves.  But I don't believe a single person in a school can make a decision without some kind of due process. 

Please let your representative know about how you feel about this bill. 

Odds and Ends

Rainier Beach is one of three comprehensive high schools to not have a complete renovation.

Chief Sealth has had major work done and got some of it via the fallout of them having to share a campus with Denny.  Ingraham is the other but Ingraham has also had major work done and has been on every single BEX and BTA.   Rainier Beach got a performing arts hall (but no performing arts curriculum or program so it sat, mostly unused for years) and had some building area upgrades but not much else.

According to the Times, the Rainier Beach community isn't going to wait for the district to make their building better.  They would like to make it the greenest high school in the state.  The story in the Times.

The community’s aspirations were announced Tuesday at a news conference where Mayor Mike McGinn and Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation, expressed their support, albeit not the financial kind. 

The Bullitt Foundation doesn’t fund capital projects, Hayes said, but it helped the Rainier Beach community benefit from what the foundation learned in building the Bullitt Center, which may be the world’s greenest office building.

Among the participating organizations are the Rainier Beach High PTSA, the Rainier Beach Foundation and the Rainier Beach Empowerment Coalition.

The first fundraiser is scheduled for May 11 at the Sho­Ware Center in Kent, where some of the nation’s best high-school basketball players are expected to participate in a West Coast all-star game. Current NBA players who graduated from Rainier Beach High also are expected to attend.

Rainier Beach expects to make their announcement of fulfilling the lengthy application process for being an International Baccalaureate school in the next couple of days.

There's a new documentary being make about public education called "Going Public."  From the Cool Mom Picks website:

This documentary, with the help of some of the most prominent voices in education like Peter W. Cookson, Diane Ravitch, and Lisa Graves, is exposing the untold story about what's becoming an increasingly corrupt system, as political interests and corporations have systematically privatized public education--something they are succeeding at in scary numbers. Consider it the Inside Job of education; follow the money, and you'll find a wildly compelling case for protecting the right and ability of all children to have the option of an excellent public education.

I sincerely hope you'll check out the Going Public Documentary trailer on Indiegogo, read more about the project and consider making a donation (we have a very ambitious goal!) if this is a cause as near to your heart as it is mine so that the movie can be completed. It's a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, and a darn good cause. Plus, $50 gets you a copy of the film.

From PBS' Frontline, a series of articles/videos about the SAT - its history, its use, admissions and test prep. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ed News Roundup

More stories on the hopeful side.

From Scholastic, a story about the superintendent of what is considered the "best" public school district in the country.  That would be Mooresville Graded School District, outside of Charlotte, NC.  The article is called 10 Lessons From the Best District in the Country.  From the article:

The district undertook a massive “21st Century Digital Conversion” in 2007. Students now frequently work in groups, and they use one of dozens of interactive learning platforms instead of textbooks. Rather than lecturing, teachers act as facilitators, circulating among groups or leading students in interactive lessons.

Results of this transformation are off the charts—the graduation rate for African-American students was 95 percent in 2012, up from 67 percent five years earlier. The overall graduation rate is the third highest in the state, and 88 percent of 2012 graduates are attending college, compared with 74 percent in 2007. Mooresville has accomplished this while keeping spending in check—among the state’s 115 school districts, it ranks 100th in spending per student at $7,463.

In the "no kidding" category, there's the story of the (brave) adults in Rhode Island who accepted the challenge of a student activist group to take the state-required math exam (shortened).  At least 60% of them scored at a level that would have not allowed them to graduate.   

Tuesday Open Thread

A couple of blog issues to bring up. 

I note that there has been some decidedly unpleasant attacks as of late.  Again, no name-calling, no criminal allegations (unless you can prove it), etc. 

Also, please take the time to read what is written.  I'm seeing arguing about words/thoughts that are either not part of the original post or were never said in comments.  I suppose you can say what you believe the writer meant but that doesn't make it so.  Let's not throw a lot of red herrings into a subject. 

What's on your mind?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Car Accident Near Eckstein Kills Two, Injures Two

I don't have many details but a pick-up truck struck four pedestrians near Eckstein, at 33rd Avenue NE and NE 75th at around 4:10 p.m.  (That is right at the northeast corner of the school.)  I have a call into SPS Communications to find out if this involved staff or students.

Two people were apparently killed outright and a 25-year old woman and an infant were in serious condition and taken to the Harborview.

The police are saying the driver may have been under the influence.

This comes on the heels of complaints about pedestrians trying to cross in that area.  For those of you who don't know it, Eckstein sits at the top of a hill so coming over either side of it, you immediately start picking up speed.  There is a crosswalk with a push-to-call light right at Eckstein but no other marked crosswalks are there until you get to 35Ave NE.

Budget Updates for SPS and Washington State

In case you didn't hear, last Wednesday the economic forecast was released for Washington State.  It showed flat growth which was actually good news as it means the Legislature doesn't have to find more cuts (in theory).

Here's what was stated by Duggan Harman who is the Assistant Superintendent of Business & Finance (aka the budget guy) for SPS at last week's Board meeting.

He stated the following:
  • SPS has an $18M shortfall.  Staff has found cuts that would make up for two-thirds of the shortfall but they are one-time cuts.  A couple of thoughts to close the gap - increasing kindergarten tuition (again) and transportation reductions.
  • SPS, along with several other districts including Tacoma, Spokane, Bellevue and Highline, have sent a letter to the Legislature urging them to pass ESB2261 (which is the full-funding measure for Washington State K-12 schools).  It would include fully funding transportation, K-3 high-poverty students would be in classes no larger than 17:1, funding full-day K as well as materials, supplies and operations costs.  April 12th, the superintendents in these districts will travel to Olympia to lobby for passage of the bill.
  • If this bill passes, for SPS alone, the district would get an additional $24.9M and by 2017, $82M.  Eighty-two million dollars more for our district.  Can you imagine?
  • Sequestration would not hit the district this year but next year would be terrible.  Title I would lose $800k, Title II would lose $147k, ELL would lose $55k, etc.  Overall, the dollars lost would be about $1.8M.   Note that this would hit the students who most need those dollars.
  • The Legislative session is to end April 28th.
 Meanwhile, over at Publicola, they have done some great work on education funding stories.

 An essential read is Publicola's Let the Budget Battle Begin piece, featuring State Senator Andy Hill (R-Redmond) and State Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) who are the lead budget writers for their respective chambers.  Also, this interview with Ross Hunter has a lot of interesting ideas about education funding.

Same-Sex Marriage and Public Education

 Update:  new article from Ed Week sheds more light on this subject.

What does one thing have to do with the other?  According to this article in Ed Week, a lot.

It is certainly going to be interesting to see how gingerly districts may have to step in the future to remain "neutral" on this issue.

Here in Washington State, same-sex marriage is now legal and this week, in two separate cases, the United States Supreme Court will consider the issue.   (The two cases are Hollingsworth v Perry that challenges California's limitations on marriage as just for a man and a woman under the equal-protection clause of the Constitution and United States v Windsor that will consider the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 known as DOMA.)

Thoughts what those in public education might have to consider from the Ed Week article:

Answers On Hiring Substitutes for SPS

There are not further details/information on the Hamilton substitute incident that occurred last week as the investigation is on-going.   SPS replied to these basic questions about substitute hiring.

1) Why did the reporter say the sub wasn't employed by the district? Is that right?

We did not tell the reporter that the substitute wasn’t a district employee. We did say that because he isn’t a permanent teacher, he couldn’t be placed on leave. Instead, we would not give him any more assignments until the investigation was completed.

PBS Two-Parter on an American High School

Tonight and tomorrow night, PBS is showing 180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School.  It's a two-part 4-hour special about a "failing" high school in Washington, D.c. where only seven percent of students are deemed proficient in math and only 19 percent in reading.  It was produced by the National Black Programming Consortium.  (Locally, KCTS 9 is showing it on both nights, starting at 9 p.m.)

From the director, Jacquie Jones', piece at the Huffington Post:

After receiving this press release, a veteran African American journalist for whom I have the utmost respect, asked me this question in an email: "I looked at the site for this program and I see that the team spent a lot of time in the high school, but what I'm not getting is why this is compelling television. Why should I watch?"
That's a good question. And, as I said to him, my honest answer on whether or not you should watch really depends on how interested you are in the top-down, mostly privately-funded school reform "movement" currently shaping our national education policy and the impact it's having on black and brown and, most especially, poor children. From a purely civic discourse perspective, I find that we hear a lot from "experts" who have very little direct experience with what goes on in a public school and seem not to understand that children, like adults, bring long histories with them that impact everything they do -- from forming relationships to mastering complicated physics principles.
These experts also seem to be strangely unaware of the disparities that go hand-in-hand with the grinding poverty that nearly one in four American children -- and 40 percent of children in DC -- are born into. As the principal of the school once said to me, "If a kid is hiding from the police tonight, trust me, he's not thinking about his Algebra II quiz tomorrow."
I have been to several conferences lately where attendees seem to believe that some magical combination of "accountability," volunteer mentors, longer school days and adaptive learning technology are all that's needed to reverse several generations of ingrained disenfranchisement, chronic displacement, food and housing insecurity and more. It seems to be quite literally a different world to the one in which children are parents, parents are absent and schools are expected to solve not just the problems of "reading, writing and arithmetic," but all of the problems of society as well.
Link to promo.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Precursor to Seattle Schools DOE Investigation

From Ed Week comes this story of a district in Mississippi and the measures they must take for their disciplinary measures for all students. This may end up being what Seattle Schools is told they must do.

Among other things outlined in a consent decree signed Thursday between the district and the DOJ:
  • The district cannot use suspension, alternative school settings, or expulsion for minor misbehavior and has to limit these types of consequences all together.

  • School administrators cannot ask school law enforcement officers to respond in cases where administrators can use the school code of conduct to address behavior problems.

  • School police must be trained in bias-free policing, child and adolescent development and age-appropriate responses, mentoring, and working with school administrators.

  • The district's alternative school has to establish clear entry and exit rules and speed up students' transition back to their regular school.

  • All district schools must adopt Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, an approach that involves teaching students about expected and appropriate behavior.

  • The district must monitor discipline data to identify and respond to racial disparities.

Seattle Schools This Week

Wednesday, March 27th
Work Session on Update on Families & Education Levy from 4-4:45 p.m.

Work Session on the Budget from 4:45-6:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 28th
Community Meeting with Director Peaslee from 6-7:45 p.m. at Lake City Public Library

Saturday, March 30th
Community Meeting with Director Patu from 10 am to noon at Caffe Vita.

Seattle Schools News

First up, some good news from SPS Communications:
  • The McClure Middle School boys team won first place in the Team Relay Heat of Erg Ed’s Indoor Rowing Championship.
In second place were the Pathfinder K-8 girls, and in third place were the Madrona K-8/Broadview-Thomson K-8 team.
Launched in 2010, Erg Ed is a classroom-based indoor rowing education program operating as part of Seattle Public School's physical education curriculum.  In partnership with Seattle Public Schools, Erg Ed is currently provided at 14 middle and K-8 schools across the city. 

  • With more than 800 pledges, Roosevelt High School let it be known loud and clear that they are against texting and driving. And to celebrate this massive turnout for the "Save it Seattle" campaign, Roosevelt welcomed Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to their campus March 22.
The Verizon Wireless "Save It Seattle” contest challenged students at four Seattle high schools to take a pledge against texting and driving. Roosevelt received the highest number of pledges from the four schools who competed to win an appearance by Wilson.  
  • The Seattle Public Schools Media Operations Center announces the broadcast of School Beaton SPS-TV Cable Channel 26. The first episode began airing (and streaming on the Web) on Tuesday, Feb. 19 (schedule below.)
Hosted by KCTS host Enrique Cerna, this monthly interview-format series presents information and profiles about the people and programs of Seattle Public Schools. 

School Beat TV Schedule:
• Tuesdays – 10:30 a.m.
• Wednesdays – 3:30 p.m.
• Fridays – 7:30 p.m.
• Sundays – 5:30 p.m. 

Spotlight on Aki Kurose

The Alliance for Education, by giving Mia Williams the Thomas B. Foster Award for Excellence, has put a spotlight on Aki Kurose. Let's take a look.

Aki Kurose was in Step 5 of No Child Left Behind when Ms Williams was installed as the principal there for the 2008-2009 school year. In Step 5 schools are supposed to either be closed (then re-invented and re-opened) or be "transformed". This transformation must include, at a minimum, the replacement of the principal. It can include replacement of all of the staff. It must, at a minimum, consists of a radical change in the school's operation. The only thing changed at Aki Kurose was the appointment of Ms Williams as principal and the extension of the school day by about fifteen minutes.

So how is that transformation coming along? It's not.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Boys and Girls (Part One)

A number of news stories have crossed my path this month about boys and girls.  This thread is about issues that happen to kids outside of school.

One heads up I wanted to give parents of girls is the movie, Spring Breakers.  Now, you don't have to get too worried because it's rated R so I would hope most of your students could not just go to see it.

Spring Breakers is about a group of college girls who want a spring break, have no money, rob a restaurant and they're off and running.  

However, you should be warned for a couple of reasons.

One, this is NOT a comedy.  It's pretty serious stuff.  Trailer.

Two, it stars some very familiar (to young tweens and teens) actors like Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), Selena Gomez (Disney Channel) and Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars).    I read an article in the NY Times and for most of these young actresses, this is a breaking-away-from-type movie for them and their careers.   (This is fine but you as parents need to know this is tough stuff.) Ms. Hudgens newest song? $$$ex.  Here's what the director of Spring Breakers said in Slate:

This film is hyper-reality,” director Harmony Korine told Salon when discussing his depictions of gun violence. “It’s an aggressive reinterpretation of that culture. It’s a pop poem or a fever dream—like the real world but hyper-poetic and hyper-extreme.”

The reviews are mixed but:

But New York magazine isn’t falling for it, asking in a headline “Is Spring Breakers One of the Perviest Movies Ever Made?” before commenting that it’s “swill,” and that “by the time the movie segues into a bloody shoot-’em-up, with girls in bikinis firing automatic weapons, it has lost its visceral kick.”

Which leads me to this article from the British newspaper, The Telegraph, about teenage girls and the pressures they face especially with boys armed with cellphones.  I've read about a lot of this as well here in the U.S. and I feel very sad for young girls.  I think many women can remember being teenaged girls and feeling various degrees of pressure from boys but boys who will take a picture and send it out everywhere?  That's a whole other level of stress.

Some of the boys at his school have explicit images of up to 30 different girls on their phone. They swap them like we used to swap football cards.

As one teenage girl said after the report came out, sending pictures of your body parts is “the new flirting".

Sexual pressure can cause girls to contemplate suicide, self-harm, develop eating disorders, or try to lose themselves in drugs or alcohol. But does sexting only happen in the most troubled inner-city schools?

Prof Andy Phippen of Plymouth University, who led his own research in Cornwall, Somerset and Devon. “I’ve been into all kinds of schools – including inner city, rural and semi-rural – and I can’t remember a single one where sexting was not an issue,” he says. “It’s not a class thing either. I visit elite schools, and the kids there talk about it just as much.”

However, it is important to say that children may be telling the truth if they insist they have never come across it. Estimates of those affected range from 15 to 40 per cent of pupils, depending on where you are. 

And that brings me to Steubenville, Ohio where this week guilty verdicts were returned against two teenaged boys for sexually abusing a drunk and passed-out teenaged girl.   The boys were sentenced to a juvenile detention center until they are 21 (but are likely to get some time off for time already served).

Friday Open Thread

Our spring surprise - snow.  But thank goodness it is not going to stick and make Friday traffic even worse.

Heart-warming news for Arbor Heights via the West Seattle Herald.

Kind of a Friday Funny.  I was at the Board meeting this week and the Salmon Bay Marimba band played (very well and with great energy).  But, of course, the Pledge of Allegiance  is always said before anything else and everyone was asked to stand.  I looked over at the kids and they looked panic-stricken.  One mom with them whispered to them, "Do you know it?" and they shook their heads.  I smiled, thinking they were joking.  Nope, most of them were not saying it with the rest of the crowd.  There's a generation gap for you.  (I make no judgments here as I don't care whether they know it or not.)

What's on your mind?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How big is the policy book?

In a discussion about the 12th grade humanities class at The Center School, commenter parent wrote:
"They've got so many procedures and policies, it's impossible to follow them." I have heard Director Martin-Morris describe them as a long shelf stuffed with binders. That's not accurate.

I hear this sort of thing all the time. I also observe the reaction I get from people when my knowledge of School Board policies is displayed. They are generally surprised. That's not appropriate.

Here's the truth: You could probably read all of the policies in a single sitting in a single afternoon.
There aren't that many policies and most of them are pretty brief. You, too, could become a policy expert between school and dinner. Here they are.

You will find that most of them are meaningless and un-enforceable mush. Not's a shame, but not surprising.

What to know what surprises me? The fact that the board and the superintendent appear ignorant of the policies. I'm surprised that so few members of the district leadership appear to know the policies - including the policies that govern their daily work.

There doesn't appear to be anyone with the duty of enforcing the policies. It's the Board's job, but they refuse to do it. They try to delegate that work to the superintendent but a large number of the policies govern the superintendent, and he can't very well police himself, can he? Not only is that bad governance and bad management, it's absurd.

Alliance for Education Community Breakfast

There’s still time to RSVP to join the Alliance for Education and hundreds of other supporters of public education in celebrating the students, teachers, and principals of Seattle Public Schools at the Alliance for Education's 11th annual Community Breakfast on Thursday, March 28.

This year’s keynote speaker, John Danner, co-founder and former CEO of Rocketship Education is currently working as the founder of a newly established online education software development company. He will share lessons he has learned in advancing blended and personalized K-12 learning through technological innovation.

The event will take place on Thursday, March 28, 2013 at The Westin Seattle, 1900 Fifth Avenue 98101. Doors will open at 7:00am, the breakfast program begins at 7:30am, and the program is scheduled to conclude at 8:45am.

Are the Vetting Measures in Seattle Schools HR Adequate?

It would seem something is amiss.

From Q-13 News:

The 12-year-old special education student at Hamilton International Middle School reported the alleged incident Wednesday to school officials, who called police.

The substitute teacher isn’t employed by the school district, but a spokesperson said he won’t get any other assignments in the district until the police investigation is complete.

The boy, who is not being identified since he is underage, said the alleged incident happened between classes while he was alone in a bathroom with the substitute teacher.

The details are troubling and thank goodness this student said "stop" to the teacher and went and told other adults.  Those adults rightly called the police but it is unclear from this report if the teacher was arrested.  Oddly, the district says the sub wasn't employed by the district.  I'm not sure what to make of that.

But an HIMS parent reports that this same teacher was in her child's 8th grade class and is alleged to have done this:

Apparently, this man made inappropriate and suggestive comments to some of the girls, made reference (and invitation?) to his beach house, commented on one girl's looks, gave one girl a lollipop, compared one girl to his wife, and told inappropriate stories of a sexual nature.

All this follows on the heels of a hire at Roosevelt for a girls softball coach who, just days into the job, had girls on the team scouting for a "girlfriend" for him.  He was let go.

So here are some questions from this parent (maybe you know, I'll ask in HR):

1. Does the district do a background check on everyone who applies to be a substitute in SPS? If not, why not?  (I'd guess yes.) 

2. How does Seattle Public Schools screen substitute teachers for aberrant and inappropriate behavior?

3. Who is responsible for vetting substitute teachers?

4. What does it take to become a substitute in Seattle Public Schools?

5. Also, why are adults permitted to use the students' restrooms? I believe Hamilton has a staff restroom. Is there no district policy that mandates adults use separate facilities instead? If not, why not?  (Again, I'm thinking the answer is no, particularly for staff.) 

Want to be Depressed? Let's See What's Happening to Higher Ed Funding

From The Atlantic, an article on higher education funding in all 50 states.  Very depressing with all this talk of "we need more trained workers."  As the costs soaring, the funding drops.   See Washington?  We're up towards the top.  And, the correlation is there between higher cuts to funding and rising costs. 


It's Time to Turn the Page on Math in Seattle Schools

Guest Post by Rick Burke

Days are getting longer, the weather is warmer.  The smell of spring is in the air.  But if you inhale deeply down by JSCEE, there’s another smell.  It’s the smell of math.  After years of sideways movement, the stars are aligned for systemic changes to math instruction in Seattle Public Schools.

When you look at Seattle kids’ math achievement against other urban districts, Seattle might seem to be doing OK.  As a district-level statistic, we’re not too bad.  But closer inspection of disaggregated data and the view from inside the system prompt a cry for help.  Seattle still has a large number of struggling students and a persistent achievement gap which we can’t shake.  Outside tutoring has become commonplace, with math as the most frequent remediation subject.  However, recent national and state developments have identified common ground and outcome-proven methods which can serve as a model for Seattle.

This brings us around to a community support initiative for math education.  Seattle has a math-focused School Board, and Seattle’s new superintendent, Jose Banda, came to Seattle from proven math success with a diverse student population in Anaheim.  Recent news reports are that staff at JSCEE are planning a K-8 math instructional materials adoption soon.  Examples of success are scattered through Seattle classrooms and it's time for those successes to take root across the district. 

A passionate and dedicated group of Seattle citizens has formed the Seattle Math Coalition (SeaMaCo) to advocate for action, proven policies, and no excuses.  If you are a parent, teacher, tutor, school administrator, or proponent of sound math education, please join our effort by coming to one of our Welcome Meetings and the kickoff of our 2013 initiatives. 
MARK YOUR CALENDAR - The community meetings will feature an informative presentation followed by a Q+A opportunity.   

North End Morning Session:
March 23, 10am – 11:30 pm  Greenwood Branch Library
8016 Greenwood Ave N

South End Afternoon Session:
March 23, 4:30pm - 5:45pm Douglas Truth Branch Library
2300 Yesler Way

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Assessment Task Force Update

I mentioned previously that I had attended the Assessment Taskforce meeting on Feb. 21st. 

I wanted to make note of several things I noticed:

- Organized - very much appreciated
- Good facilitator who kept things on track
- The group is going to be able to look at the MAP test.  I think this is great because as members of this Taskforce, they need what they are talking about when it comes to this discussion.
- Two principals - from Mercer and Denny - came in to talk about what was happening at their schools.  A little bit of cheerleading there for MAP but I think the Taskforce took it with a grain of salt.  The only odd thing was the Denny principal saying they had a data wall with kids' scores on it.  I hope not. 
- As in any group, there are a few people who speak often and the rest listen.  I hope that the listeners don't allow the discussion to always follow what the speakers want it to be.  That's a facilitator's job.
- The head of Curriculum and Instruction, Shauna Heath, says there is nothing out there like MAP for "validity and reliability."  Hmm.
- Kris McBride from Garfield was a calm and firm voice about how MAP does not work for their students.  She did not question its use for other grade levels but said it was not helping for the high school level.

The good, best thing at that meeting?  

They had Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University, a very noted and well-respected education expert, call in.  Dr. Darling-Hammond (unbelievably) listened to the entire meeting before her own section started.  I was surprised she had the time but I think she wanted to know what was being discussed.

She brought forth the following from the paper she co-wrote with Frank Adamson, Beyond Basic Skills: The Role of Performance Assessment in Achieving 21st Century Standards of Learning.

I urge you to read this paper.  I found it incredibly useful.  I recommend pages 17-22 where she talks about what other states are doing.  From the preface:

Immigrant Populations: Seattle versus the Eastside

Great article in Crosscut about what is happening over on the Eastside with immigrant populations. 

What draws immigrants to the Eastside and keeps them there, even when, like Tushara, they go to work in Seattle? Lee could be speaking for all of them when he answers, emphatically, with a single word: “School! I needed to raise kids, and Bellevue’s the place to do it.”

It wasn’t just the Bellevue schools’ celebrated instructional quality (its average test scores place it among the top 10 districts statewide in math and science and the top 30 in reading and writing) or their ample tax base, which includes the wealthy lakeshore municipalities of Medina, Clyde Hill and the Points.

It was the counter-intuitively congenial social environment of what was then an upscale, predominately white, monocultural community. In Bellevue and Newport, Pham found, he didn’t have to worry about his three kids being bullied or sticking with their own kind for protection. The friction, suspicion and resentment that can arise when struggling minorities jostle against each were absent. “There’s more tension poor to poor,” he explains. “Eastside people are very friendly and generous.”

“We find common denominators instead of looking for differences,” says Lee. “It’s not like Los Angeles, where you’re all competing. If everyone’s fighting for the same dollar, it’s difficult. But wealth takes the pressure off. Instead of fighting, we continue to look to our success, so we can attract more opportunity, more business growth.”

Stats from the story:

By 2010, 22 percent of the Eastside’s population was foreign-born, a figure that has surely grown since. More than 30 percent of Bellevue and Redmond’s populations were immigrants, up from just 13 percent in 1990 — a larger share than Seattle’s 17 percent, and more than in any other King County municipality save Tukwila and Seatac.

Many immigrants to those two cities (and to Kent, the largest in South King County) come from different countries than those on the Eastside, and under very different circumstances. Relatively inexpensive housing has made them prime resettlement sites for refugees from such countries as Myanmar, Somalia, Bhutan and Burundi, who, in past decades, would have settled in South Seattle. 

By contrast, nearly two-thirds of Bellevue’s immigrants are from Asia; about a third of those came from China, a quarter from India and 12 percent from Korea. They tend to land with a leg up on the mobility ladder, bringing more education and, in many cases, capital to start businesses. 

Second Civil Rights Investigation by Feds

The Times updates the civil rights investigation by the DOE in SPS by noting there is now a second investigation into ELL students and school closures. 

From 2009 through the end of last year, the civil-rights office has launched about 100 civil-rights investigations involving at least one school district in nearly every state. 

Those investigations, known as compliance reviews, are just part of the office’s caseload, most of which stems from complaints filed by parents or community members. 

The department’s proactive efforts have won praise from those who say there was a drought of education civil-rights cases under the previous administration.

About ELL students:

In Seattle, the review of services for students learning English appears to have started in 2009.

A spokeswoman said that information she received from the education department also indicated that federal officials are looking at whether the district discriminated against some students when it closed several schools a number of years ago. The department seemed to have concerns about minority students and those learning English.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Making Sense of Funding Foreign Language Immersion

To start, I think that foreign language teaching is great and should be started in every elementary school. I would advocate for foreign language several times a week in every elementary versus what we have now which are four foreign language immersion elementary schools that are ONLY open to neighborhood children.

I did a previous post on this subject that covers some of the history. JSIS started as a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland "hey kids, let's open a foreign language school to honor a beloved superintendent." But, where was the discussion about funding, where those kids go AFTER elementary and how to expand the program? Nowhere.

Guess what? John Stanford International School was a wild success and left other parents clamoring for more.

It took the district nearly eight years to bring a couple more schools on-line and then McDonald in the last couple of years. (They did also finally get around to figuring out a pathway to middle and high school although those paths are not immersion.)

Next, I have absolutely nothing against the parents in the JSIS or McDonald schools. They didn't create their schools or how people get assigned there. (JSIS/McDonald are more closely matched than Concord and Beacon Hill.)

But I will also say that most people believe these programs should be Option schools. Plain and simple.

So from the start here, I am going to advocate for that change. I'm sure Tracy Libros in Enrollment will NOT be happy and say it can't be done but folks, they are changing the boundaries wholesale by the end of the year. If not now, when? I cannot see it happening if those changes don't come now.

Of course, you can leave the situation as is but, as I am going to tell the Board tomorrow night, let's all be clear that our Board and our district are okay with a totally inequitable program that exists in our district. As long as we say that out loud and everyone knows this, fine. And, that the district and the Board are voting to continue that inequity.

Here are some facts about the funding for these schools:

Two Washington School Districts Apply to Be Charter Authorizers

From the AP:

The State Board of Education says two Washington school districts have formally expressed interest in applying to be charter school authorizers.

Those districts are Eastmont in East Wenatchee and the Highline school district south of Seattle.
Any school district that wants to authorize charter schools during the next year are required to tell the State Board of Education by April 1 that they plan to apply.

The News Tribune also has reported that the Tacoma School District will discuss the idea of joining that list at its March 28 meeting.

It will be interesting to see if any other school districts file by April 1.  Otherwise that will truly leave the Charter Commission as the place to go (as districts can only okay charters that open in their own districts).

Let Your House Rep Know What You Think

The nonsense that is SB 5328 - the bill for letter grades for schools - passed the Senate.  Please, please let your House representatives know that you do not support this.

On the face of it, why?  If this is so important, why not grade ALL public institutions, starting with the Legislature and the elected officials there?  Even Stand says that "schools are already being graded by the Achievement Index" so exactly why do we need this?  In fact, the Achievement Index would be what the grade is based on.  I note that the Index does not account for Special Education and ELL students within a school which could weigh on a ranking.

I spoke to Superintendent Dorn's office and he does not support it.  Why?  Because OSPI was charged with an adjustment to the Achievement Index anyway by the Legislature (I believe for rollout this fall).  

While you're at it, let the Governor know your feelings as well.  What is interesting is that while the Governor supports the idea of grading schools in theory, he has not come out with support for this bill.  One key issue is embedded in his own education policy brief:

In order to spur more parent engagement in their child’s school, every parent will receive their child’s annual school report card, which includes multiple measures of school and district success based on a statewide standard developed with stakeholder input.

Did you see that last couple of words?  "Stakeholder input."  I haven't read thru the bill with a fine-tooth comb but I didn't see HOW this grading would happen.   I'm with the Governor - if schools are to be graded, some stakeholder input is needed.  

As well, I told the Governor's office that groups like Stand for Children were linking the Senate bill with the Governor's support for more information for parents about schools.  They said they were aware of this and have had conversations with several groups (but did not name them) about not doing this.  This linkage, without clarification of the Governor's true stance, is wrong.

Education News Roundup

Common Core and assessments and a new group, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

More on assessments from The New Yorker; its story covers the Garfield assessment boycott.

As the author and relapsed educator Garret Keizer observed in his return to teaching, of which he writes in the September 2011 issue of Harper’s, “No student I meet seems to believe that the universe formed in six days but a disturbing number insist that an essay is always formed in five paragraphs.”

Charter Schools

The group that 1240 is following for authorizing guideline, The National Association of Charter School Authorizers, released a 12-step "Index of Essential Practices" for charter school authorizers. Looking over them, it does not appear that 1240 meets them but then:
The report found that only a small percentage of those who responded have all 12 practices in place, but the majority are using at least nine.
Also from Ed Week, a study about the early years of new charter schools:

There is currently an assumption within the charter sector that even if "the first few years are rocky" at a school, charters can eventually rise to higher performance over time, the authors say. But the study casts doubt on that assumption.

Charter schools' academic success or failure during their first year is a strong predictor of whether they will excel or struggle in later years, a new, far-reaching study finds.

The study, released Wednesday by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, which has conducted extensive research on charters across the nation, also concludes that significant improvements in charter school performance over time is rare among middle and high schools, though it occurs more often in elementary schools.

The vast majority of schools, 80 percent of them in the lowest quintiles of performance, remained low-performers through their fifth year in operation.

Charter fight in New Jersey suburbs. I've talked about this before and it could come here (much to the discomfort of Mercer Island, Bellevue and other higher-performing districts).

A primary point of contention concerns the accomplishments of Riverbank itself, where 100 percent of its third graders passed the state’s achievement tests last year. The district maintains that the charter has fewer special-needs and at-risk students than the comparable Florence enrollment. Kelley said that’s not so, and its skewed by the small number of her students overall.

But Kelley kept coming back to the argument that suburban communities have every right to have alternatives as do any other. “Not every school is a perfect fit for every student,” she said. “This is an alternative, a free public choice for parents.”

So the public school district is doing what is charged to do - make sure students meet state standards - but charter supporters want specialty schools so parents will have choice. That's a pretty costly choice to districts and taxpayers. They used to be called private schools.

TFA - an alumni says it's time to dissolve it. From the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet:

TFA has changed the education world for the better, focused energy and concern around low-income communities, and harnessed the idealism of a generation of college graduates. In other words, TFA has had a good run, but today – for the good of those it hopes to help – it is time to retire.
From Diane Ravitch's blog, another story about the growing numbers of TFA alumni that are not toeing the party line.

Tuesday Open Thread

Really interesting photography series on children and their toys.  Might be interesting to ask your child if you were taking the picture with them in it, what toys would surround them?

Update: I just learned that Superintendent Banda had a death in the family and is out on bereavement leave until Friday.  Naturally this means he will not be at Wednesday's Board meeting.  Our sympathies to the Superintendent and his family.

Also new, from the West Seattle blog comes the notion that because we had no snow days this school year, the last day of school is likely to be June 14th.  That's one of the earliest end dates I can remember in a long time.

What's on your mind?

Monday, March 18, 2013

STEM Expands in Washington State

From GeekWire:

The UW Board of Regents officially approved the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) last week. It’s the first school in the state to combine all of the STEM fields into one academic unit.

The school of STEM will bring together two existing programs — computing and software systems, and science and technology — and house them under one school.

The creation of the school was also due to the increased interest in STEM-related degrees — enrollment in the computing and software systems has doubled in the past 15 years.
The school, which now serves more than 600 students, will offer seven undergraduate and two graduate degrees, with three more (Chemistry, Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering) coming in fall of 2014:

  • Applied Computing (BA)
  • Biology (BS)
  • Climate Science & Policy (BS)
  • Computer Science and Software Engineering (BS and MS)
  • Cyber Security Engineering 
  • (MS – begins fall 2013)
  • Electrical Engineering (BSEE)Interactive Media Design (BS) Mathematics (BS – begins fall 2013)
In other STEM news from GeekWire:

In overwhelming fashion last week, the Washington State House voted 95-3 to pass a new bill in the Washington State Legislature that may allow computer science classes to count as a math or science requirement toward high school graduation. The bill now moves onto the Senate.

The Anti-Stand Group - The Network for Public Education

Diane Ravitch and other noted public education activists have joined together to form a national group, The Network for Public Education.

Here's what they are:

We created the Network for Public Education as a way of connecting groups and individuals around the country who are devoted to preserving public education. This is no small task. We're up against a well-funded corporate reform movement that's waging a slick PR campaign based on misleading information and junk science. But while they may have the billionaires, we have something far more powerful: the authentic voices of teachers, parents and students who understand that public education is a pillar of our democracy.

The NPE website will be at the very center of our efforts. In a matter of weeks, an all-volunteer team has begun to create a site that can function as a clearing house for public education advocates. With the help of our network of academic experts, we're pulling together reliable, easy-to-use fact sheets on all of today's essential education issues. With regular news alerts, we'll make sure you stay up-to-date on the latest developments. We're also drawing upon the experience of grassroots activists across the country to create toolkits that you can use in your own communities. Want to know how to dig for essential information using public records? Need helpsetting up a grassroots organization?

Our hope is that the website becomes a hub, bringing together public education supporters wherever they are. Organizations that affiliate with NFPE, along with education bloggers across the country, will appear on a map so that you can easily connect with advocates near you. We're also creating a network of regional correspondents: people just like you who are reporting on what's happening to public education in their communities-and what they're doing to fight back. If you would like to be a regional correspondent, send an email describing what you would like to report on to this address: allies@networkforpubliceducation.org.

We can't do any of this without you. Our movement is entirely people-powered. We are working teachers and professors, students with full course loads, parents taking care of our children, and concerned citizens navigating our way through a changing world. We need your enthusiasm, your stories and your expertise.Our webmaster is a teacher in Rhode Island, Rob Perry, and the team includes the inimitable Edushyster and Jonathan Pelto. See you at www.networkforpubliceducation.org!

So, to understand, they are not going to have state units. They are trying to be the unifier for various education groups and individuals throughout the country. This could be good and bad depending on what you are trying to accomplish but, I believe that it will be worth saying to elected officials and others, "My group is part of The Network for Public Education."

Here's their first newsletter.

I urge you to become a member.

You do not have to start a group yourself but let your voice be heard through their work. Donate to their work.  Everyone on their board is a volunteer including Diane. So the money donated will go to the work and, from their website, that includes:

We will support candidates who work for evidence-based reforms that will improve our schools and the education of our nation’s children.

Talk money and candidates listen.

This is a clarion call to action to fight off ed reform that is not working for public education in any real, large-scale and sustainable manner.