Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Open Thread

Update:  Forgot to mention this book event at Olympic View Elementary.

Come find current, popular books or good-old favorites in good-condition for children and grown ups -- choose from baby board-books, chapter books, picture books, best-selling fiction, a range of non-fiction including parenting books, cook books, craft books, as well as books on tape. There is something for everyone!

Make a day of it! Enjoy readings by local celebrities including UW gymnast Kylie Sharp and meet Geronimo Stilton. Win prizes at the raffle, including the chance to win an Amazon e-reader, Kindle Fire, baskets of new books, gift certificates and event passes. There will be food, drinks, crafts and cozy places to read. The public is welcome!

Friday, May 31st 4 pm - 7 pm
Saturday, June 1st 10 am - 4 pm
Olympic View Auditorium

504 NE 95th Street
Reminder: tomorrow is the Board retreat from 10:30 am to 5 pm.  You are welcome to come and observe but the public does not participate.  It is being held at City University, 521 Wall Street, Edmonton Room.

The agenda reflects a lot of discussion around the new Strategic Plan.  As one reader points out, it appears they are creating an Office of Strategic Planning.   The agenda states what the Superintendent and staff needs/expectations might be but then says "What Directors need to be effective and support staff."  As a voter I would think the "needs/expectations" and "be effective and support" would go both ways (but maybe the Alliance doesn't see it that way).

Friday semi-funny from Education Week- Apparently a man in Oregon carried a pressure cooker into the office of the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission over outside signage that had dropped a "d" from the word "and."  He saw it as a decline in teaching standards.

He also complained about spelling errors in the instructions he downloaded on making a bomb—who woulda thought?—and suggested they should also be of concern to the employees of the Teacher Standards office.

Oddly, the police only arrested him for disorderly conduct (as the pressure cooker wasn't a bomb).  Not sure if that is a relief to the people who work there.  

What's on your mind?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Washington State Charter Schools - the Beat Goes On

I do plan on doing a thread on the latest Charter Commission meeting but there is some other charter news.

From the Everett Herald, there's a story about Jim Spady and his efforts, over the last 20 years, to bring charters to Washington State.  As an activist, I can only admire their drive and tenacity (even if I don't really support the outcome).   The article does bring up two issues I had wanted to call out.

One, the lawsuit against 1240 is very much alive, according to Rich Wood of the WEA.  According to the article, it's "in the works" but the WEA is concentrating on McCleary first.  (Good call.)

Two, Mr. Spady is to be part of the new Washington State Charter School Association.  This association is a line-up of the usual suspects. 

Funded by Gates Foundation ($800k)?  Check. 
Chris Korsmo of LEV, spokesperson for the group? Check (but let's hope they make her more camera-ready than she has been in the past). 
More LEV people?  Check. 
Business types (Steve Mullin of the Washington Roundtable)?  Check. 
Calls for the 40-schools-over-5-years cap to be lifted?  Check and mate.

The association is going to give support/information to those who want to open charters, especially for at-risk populations.  (And that definition of "at-risk" came up at the Charter Commission meeting with some surprising findings.) 

First goal?  A five-charter "leadership cohort."

The Association is identifying the inaugural cohort of five leaders who plan to open the first public charter schools in Washington. Cohort members will receive coaching on writing a charter school application and board member recruitment. Cohort leaders will participate in trips to observe high performing charter schools and receive a planning stipend.

Also, note to new groups like WSCSA.  It's really not a blog if you don't take comments.  That would be a news feed, not a blog.  If you can't take the heat, don't call it a blog.

Seattle Schools' Professional Development Study

Update:  Yesterday, I said this about the "study" 

Despite my suspicions about how this study came about, there is some solid information here and is worth a read. 
As you can see, I changed my mind.  

Why don't I believe this is a serious study?

I am unsure who Ms. Liu  talked to and when and what data she looked at to conduct and then write the report on the study.  There is a lot of vagueness in the report on this point. 

She mentions talking to staff in Teaching and Learning, HR, and Business and Finance.  She says she spoke to: 

Senior-level professionals in Central Office at SPS and assistance from many more.

So who did she talk to and when and for how long?  Who authorized her to talk to all these people and why?  

But the real question for me is why the district decided to open the door to an non-educational outside entity line OSC who used just one researcher.  Because I can think of many other groups who might like to have this kind of access to top leaders in the district.

Did the district not consider this when they said yes to this study or did they (unwittingly) trust the OSC to hire someone who knows public education issues?

Also, if Ms. Liu, after one year in public education is now an education consultant, well, then I am more than ready to put out my education consultant shingle.  It amazes me how little it takes today to profess expertise in public education.

End of update.

Our friends over at the "Our" Schools Coalition commissioned a study from on professional development in Seattle Schools. 

This study is preliminary work to what appears to be an on-going interest from the OSC.  They've chosen to start at the top with Central SPS staff.  (Only SEA and Central staff were interviewed, not teachers.)

I found some of the statements in the study to be:
  • amazing (the district spends $44M on PD - who would have guessed it?), 
  • depressing (Central Office staff appear to lack a clear and shared vision of what PD should be accomplishing) and 
  • troubling (PD resources are available but are not always widely or equitably distributed) and (The language in the CBA is at times ambiguous).    
 As well,
An SPS Strategic Plan and other key strategic documents exist, but they were not referred to consistently, if at all, nor do they seem to be driving the everyday work of individual program managers.

(I pause here to note who did the work.  It says "University of Washington" but the author does not work for them.  It also does not specify what department at UW which I find a bit odd.  I have some calls in to find out.

The author is a "consultant on education policy issues" named Amy Liu.  Ms. Liu has an interesting path to public education.

She got her law degree and worked in law offices about 2 years.  Then, she went to work for Freddie Mac for over five years.  Then, she worked in DC public schools for about a year as the Acting Director of the Office of Secondary School Transformation.  This would be in the last year of Michelle Rhee's tenure in D. C.  Then Liu became - based on that vast educational experience - a PK-12 education consultant which she has done for the last two years.  The City actually hired her for a brief time to work on the Families and Education work.  

Oh, and she just started working for LEV as policy director  in Feb. but that got left off her resume in this report.  LEV is part of Our Schools so nothing like having someone who works for one of the groups in your coalition do the writing for the study your coalition commissioned.

 I honestly would not have thought anything about it but something about that bio looked odd.)

Boundaries Work Session

I'll try to hit the major points I heard along with quotes (and color commentary).

Just upfront, it was discouraging.  It's now 2013 and so many questions - Special Ed, Advanced Learning, K-8s and others - lack clarity and definition.  What was troubling is the number of "exceptions" to current policies that are out there.  

There was also the issue of the so-called Program Placement Framework?  Where is this and should this be guiding the decisions made?

As well, the presentation used excerpted quotes from various policies - Board or Superintendent or WAC - to justify their work.  But it seemed somewhat random.

Growth Boundaries link.  To find it on your own, go to the district website.  Look for "enrollment" under the Schools tab.  Halfway down the menu on the right side is the Planning for the future: Growth Boundaries. 

Are We Really This Bad/Mediocre?

Thanks to reader, Greg Linden, for this link to GeekWire and their assessment that yes, Washington State does suck when it comes to K-12 and higher ed public education. 

Technology Alliance Chair, Cheryl Vedoe - “It seems you can grow an innovation economy by largely relying on imported talent. And that’s what we are doing — relying on imported talent. The question for us to consider is as a state: Is that really what we want to do? Don’t we want those children who grow up here in Washington, our own citizens, to have a fair shot at the jobs that we are creating here?”

Meanwhile this is what Zillow co-founder, Rich Barton, has to say (GeekWire points out that he likes charter schools and supports a state income tax.) We are a high-tech state. We are a wealthy state, and I can’t believe that’s going on. And I don’t really understand why,” said Barton, referencing some of the charts shown during Vedoe’s presentation. “Many of the people in this room probably send their kids to private school, and that’s part of the problem. I do too. It’s bad. I am the product of great public schools in Connecticut. And I wish we had public schools here that could compete.”

Now, of course, if Mr. Barton knew anything about Washington State public education, he might know more.  But I'd lay odds he's been told that our schools are bad and it's not true.  It's a very mixed and underfunded bag.  That he believes in a state income tax should tell him that.