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Friday, April 05, 2013

Friday Open Thread

 Update:  City Hall will be open to the public tomorrow from 10 am to 2 pm.  They will have performances (acrobats, dance crew) as well as food trucks and adoptable dogs/cats.  You can tour the Mayor's office as well as the City Council offices.  It's a fun activity for kids and you get a little face time with the Mayor and City Council members.

The Times has a couple of interesting headlines.  One is a feature story about Governor Inslee stating that while he likes the concept of "grading" schools, he thinks it needs further study.  Apparently the Republicans had been counting on his early comments of support for the concept as support for their bill.  I talked to the Governor's office weeks ago and they very clearly told me he did NOT support Senate Bill 5328 and, in fact, were not happy that some media outlets were linking that support to the bill.

I am pretty happy at his up-front stance because I don't believe a one-letter grade represents any school.

As well, Lynne Varner is again prattling on about how bad the WEA is and how great the struggling TFA-led Teachers United is.  Do I think the WEA wants its members to toe the union line?  Sure.  Do I think they won't listen to new ideas?  I don't know, maybe WEA members will weigh in.  One thing is for sure - finger-wagging, over and over as the Times does with the WEA - is not going to change anything.

The Walton Foundation - they of the WalMart fortune - announced their Ed Reformers to Watch for the first quarter of 2013.  Who's on their list?  Lisa Macfarlane.  Not a big surprise but it really cements her place as probably the top ed reformer in the state.  Their announcement also says that she will be using a $10k grant to Ed Reform Now to push that agenda.  Their Board of Directors?  All investment managers.

No Board Director community meetings tomorrow but there is a Strategic Plan community meeting at Garfield at 10 am.  (I'll write a thread on the one I attended.  In a nutshell, I felt like it was a waste of time and filling out the survey online is the best option for input.)  

What's on your mind?

28 comments:

Unknown said...

There's an ad for k12 online school on your blog.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I can't control every ad. I allow ed ads because, well, it's an education blog.

I'll just say that every ad that pops up does not indicate support from anyone at the blog.

Anonymous said...

Did I miss the news that the attendance area elementary on the Decatur site is no longer being planned? Is it true that the new building will hold an expanded version of the current Thornton Creek option school, and thus have no new attendance area drawn around it? And the site will retain the fields?

-TC

Watching said...

Rodney Tom is asking for $90K to be deposited into U of W's Center For Reinventing Education to come-up with a scale for merit-pay.

mirmac1 said...

Rodney Tom, pissing away taxpayer money on ed-reform garbage.

word said...

Wow with funding from such meager sources as:

-The Annie E. Casey Foundation
-The Broad Foundations
-The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
-Carnegie Corporation of New York
-Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
-Fund for Educational Excellence
-The Joyce Foundation
-Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
-National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
-Rodel Charitable Foundation
-The Seattle Foundation
-US Department of Education
-Walton Family Foundation

I can see why they need a large chunk of taxpayer money as well.

StringCheese said...

I meant to post this last week but I wanted to make sure to give props to the new K-5 STEM Elementary for representing the district so very well during the 3/28 visit from Governor Inslee. He was blown away by the level of science discourse and vocabulary being used by even the youngest students. Despite a consistent feeling of apathy from the Board, STEM has come a long way in the past six month. The tireless efforts of the amazing staff and families is clearly paying off. TVW was also there last week and produced a wonderful piece on teaching STEM subjects to the youngest students. Take a look:

http://www.tvw.org/index.php?option=com_tvwplayer&eventID=2013040017#start=361&stop=624

Also, here is a story about Inslee's visit from the West Seattle Herald:

http://www.westseattleherald.com/2013/03/28/news/governor-inslee-tours-k-5-stem-school-west-seattl

And the West Seattle Blog:

http://westseattleblog.com/2013/03/happening-now-gov-inslee-visits-west-seattles-k-5-stem

Heck, if Region 6 Director McLaren refuses to advocate and sing the praises of this amazing school in her area, we, the families will do it for her!

- StringCheese

Patrick said...

Did I miss the news that the attendance area elementary on the Decatur site is no longer being planned? Is it true that the new building will hold an expanded version of the current Thornton Creek option school, and thus have no new attendance area drawn around it? And the site will retain the fields?

Really? Where did you hear this?

Anonymous said...

There was an e-mail sent out on Wednesday. It really feels like the money won against the interests of school children. None of the proposed plans add as many seats as the second school would have. 2 of them double the size of the Thornton Creek program- effectively killing it- and the other plan puts wings on already extremely overburdened schools (like Bryant- so there would be what, 4 square feet left for a playground?). They're all much, much worse than adding a neighborhood school there- which certainly had its drawbacks, but at least did not kill a program and/or make mutant mega schools out of the surrounding elementaries.

-TC parent

Anonymous said...

Here's the text of the letter we got:
Dear Thornton Creek families:
As you know, enrollment at Seattle Public Schools is increasing, including in the Thornton Creek area. We need to build more capacity in the northeast region in order to ensure all of our students have a safe environment for learning.
The intent is to build a school on the Thornton Creek site to meet the growing enrollment. Previous review of the enrollment data indicated that we should build a neighborhood school. However, more recent analysis suggests that enlarging our school to 650 students may be a viable option.
Therefore, the district is proposing that our school move into a new building in September of 2016, which will give us new space and reduce reliance of portables. We will be working with the Teaching and Learning department, architects and construction managers to ensure that we can continue to optimize the school program and environment, as well as the current open space on our site.
At tonight’s School Board Meeting, the Board will vote on awarding a construction management services contract to build a new elementary school at Thornton Creek. The School Board Action Report is at http://bit.ly/BoardReport04032013
Our staff will work closely with the District and construction crews to ensure our school site remains a safe environment for students during the construction. As soon as we get an updated timeline, we will communicate this to our community.
For more information and to view additional documents related to this item, please visit http://bit.ly/SPSCapitalProjects.
I will continue to keep you informed as developments occur.

I love TC, but there is no way I would send my children to a 650 kid version of it. Then you get all the drawbacks of a traditional neighborhood school, with none of the benefits.

TC parent

Anonymous said...

I can provide this link, but I do not know what was discussed/decided at the meeting.

http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?sessionid=51bba0b5a4a9844bb19f2ea2247bda29&pageid=211190&sessionid=51bba0b5a4a9844bb19f2ea2247bda29

I actually like option #3. Having a new attendance boundary at the area would have been insane. The Thornton Creek program always turns away students. And now it gets a new building rather than watching a mega school go up in its face.

-TC

Anonymous said...

Why are you so quick to discount TC's benefits just because of a population increase? It is only different because it is small?

-TC

Anonymous said...

It is different for lots of reasons, but it only can offer some benefits over a neighborhood school as a smaller program. If it doubled in size, it would only retain the drawbacks (which are plentiful too, much as we love it), and still not have the benefits of a neighborhood school. Replicate it if it's so great.

Tc parent

Maureen said...

So 650 is just for elementary? (Not K-8). That means about 4 classes per grade level. How does that compare to what Salmon Bay is now? (TOPS has just two classes per grade level but is K-8, so about 500 kids total) They've been adding portables to TC like crazy. How many classes are they up to in the lower grades already?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Then you get all the drawbacks of a traditional neighborhood school, with none of the benefits."

How is that? I don't understand.

Thanks for daylighting this because I missed it. I have to wonder why it wasn't more widely announced as it is a significant change.

Anonymous said...

@TC

During Wednesday's School Board meeting, the Board approved the building of a 650-seat school at the Thornton Creek site, with the intention of growing the Thornton Creek option program to fill the building. TC students would be housed in their current building until the new building is ready. They intend to demo the old building.

To make up the capacity shortfall of having only one building on the TC/Decatur site, they plan to open up Cedar Park School. The Cedar Park building is small, and is landmarked. It can provide only 11 permanent classrooms, so they plan to place 4 double portables on the site to add 7 classrooms and library space. With the portables, the estimated capacity of Cedar Park would be 400 students. From what I understand, Cedar Park is slated to be used as an interim site for Olympic Hills, before housing a permanent K-5 school.

Feasibility studies were performed for Cedar Park as well as Lake City School. Lake City School would yield more classrooms (20 permanent), but was estimated to be a more expensive renovation. Staff recommended opening Cedar Park, and the Board approved this recommendation.

-North End Mom

Anonymous said...

I wish they would make Thornton Creek K-8 like Salmon Bay so the 6-8 group wouldn't have to schlep over to Salmon Bay to continue their program.

HP

Anonymous said...

This strikes me as a very sane plan. Thank goodness.

WW mom

Anonymous said...

With respect, TC parent, TC needs to breathe a sigh of relief here and move on. Honestly, it should have stepped up to grow physically a few years ago, so that it could chart its own course. Understood that growth is not perfectly optimal for the school, but the school is part of a larger system, which MUST physically grow in the NE.

Making TC bigger allows it to exist, with its current educational program/philosophy. Otherwise, it was endangered. Not because of program quality. Because of huge general ed capacity needs. And that would have been an awful reason for a wonderful school to disappear.

Plopping a 2nd, gen ed, school on the TC fields, just because it was the only property available to SPS, was the height of bad program planning. It would have meant the eventual end of TC anyhow, because at some future point someone would have had the bright idea to "annex" TC for gen ed needs. Anyone who has watched SPS for a while knows this is what would have ultimately happened. And before that happened, redrawing attendance boundaries in the area would have been a political disaster. And then there was the issue of the neighbors mounting a fight against the district for putting an ill-thought-out facility on the last "open" green space in the area.

The plan was a boondoggle start to finish.

Do not mistake me - the Cedar Park "fix" is bad too. Very bad. But not quite as bad as the original property plan.

Should the district have publicized this in a more methodical and widespread manner? Of course. But look at this BEX process start to finish and there is no surprise here, either. It is the nature of the beast. Not to mention that the District can legally do anything it wants with BEX money now that it has it. No obligation to stick to previous plans.

Capacity Wonk

Anonymous said...

It really doesn't though. The philosophy requires whole grade work, whole grade collaboration, and significant effort to buy in to the community. The grades currently at 3-up experience significant attrition, I think because they get the drawbacks- no differentiation, harder to manage "quirky kid" classrooms, but not the community buy in project based positives. Capacity wonk, I am pretty sure I know you in real life, and your other half and I were discussing this Wednesday night. Happy to talk more offline, but if the school is going to come up with a response, they probably don't want me muddying the waters when we have only just learned about this. -tc parent

NW parent said...

I wish people would stop saying that Salmon Bay continues TC's program. It really really does not. Perhaps it did 20 years ago but not anymore.

NW families deserve more access to the one alternative school in their neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

After reading this blog's post about the OSPI Achievement Awards I decided to look up my neighborhood school -- Green Lake.

I was surprised by the results. For 3 years in a row our scores were in the 4.5 range (aka good). But last year our overall achievement score dropped to 2.6 (aka fair, but just .2 above struggling). We got 1s in every category for Writing and Science.

https://eds.ospi.k12.wa.us/WAI/IndexReport/schoolcode

Last year our principal implemented a new multi-age program (all classes except kindergarten are splits...every class is a 1/2 or a 3/4/5 combo). These scores make me wonder if the switch to this program was the right choice.

Does anyone here know if anyone at SPS looks at these results...particularly for schools that are ranked at the bottom rather than the top? Given the switch to multi-age I'm particularly concerned about the large drop in our school's scores. I think this is at least an orange flag and hope it is not going completly unnoticed by those charged with overseeing our school.

Concerned Mom

kellie said...

@ Capacity Wonk,

I essentially agree with you on your points. The TC plan was untenable to start and the Cedar Park "solution" is mythical. I simply can't imagine how they will get 8 portables on a landmarked site.

However, TC has "stepped up" and grown significantly over the last few years, just like every school in the NE. Historically, the school held under 300 students as it is a tiny building. They have added 5 homerooms in the last few years and they will be adding more portables next year.

The "issue" the school has raised is having so much of the school capacity in portables. The building was originally a K-2 and has minimal core facilities.

As for annexing them for "gen ed" needs. That has effectively happened. With the geo-zone in place, effectively only students from the geo-zone (Wedgwood and View Ridge) are enrolled. This makes TC now just as much of a neighborhood school as all the other schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Concerned Mom, well, yes it is someone's job to be tracking these scores year to year.

Your best bet is to talk with your principal about what you noticed and ask if he/she has any concerns. After that, I would also talk to your region's Ex Director and cc your district's Board Director.

Then, it's on everyone's radar and no one can say they missed it.

Watching said...

Rodney Tom voted AGAINST an ammendment to fund teacher evaluations.

Anonymous said...

Eckstein is holding its annual band rummage sale fundraiser today, Saturday 4/6....now until 4pm.

-Eckstein parent

Anonymous said...

NW Parent: Salmon Bay provides the closest thing to program continuation for Thornton Creek. I have known several families whose kids make the trek from the Wedgwood area to Salmon Bay for 6-8 grade after attending Thornton Creek. I wish Thornton Creek would become a K-8 so that kids wouldn't make the trek to Salmon Bay and it would also allow Salmon Bay to serve more families in the NW area of Seattle.

HP

NW parent said...

HP - I know that. My kid went to Salmon Bay and there were all sorts of kids from the NE there. It's just that the middle school at SB does not follow the Expeditionary Learning program that TC has in any way. And it's not really fair for those kids to get preference over NW kids when there have been two other alt/option middle schools in the NE. Sorry - this has just bothered me for several years. I know the history w/COHO/NOMS etc but with the new neighborhood assignment plan that really should've gone away.