Tuesday Open Thread

Talk about inspirational - not one but two high school students in two different states who pole-vault and are legally blind.  Next time your student complains about something being too hard, tell them about these young women. 

Tomorrow is Seattle Foundation's Give Big day.  Please, if you donate at any time of the year, please give tomorrow and help these organizations get a bump.  I'll repeat my list of groups that I nominate associated with educational outcomes  (but at the website there are groups of all types):
  • 826 Seattle - a tutoring group that I work with.  A great, great organization that serves students in multiple ways, both at their own site and in schools.
  • ACLU - supports civic freedoms in many ways including defending the rights of students
  • Washington STEM
  • Assistance League of Seattle
  • First Place
  • Community&Parents for Public Schools of Seattle (CPPS)
  • Treehouse (supports foster children)
  • Technology Access Foundation (TAF)
  • Seattle World School Alumni Scholarships
  • Chess Mates Foundation
  • C89.5 KNHC-FM (Nathan Hale radio station)
One last heads up - the Mayor will be making a major announcement today that I believe will make many people very happy within our communities.   I can't wait.
What's on your mind?


Anonymous said…
From the Hale website:

In Memory of Klaus Stern, Survivor and Friend

We have lost a great friend in Mr. Stern. Many years of NHHS ninth graders heard Mr. Stern’s story of Holocaust survival and reunification with his beloved wife. His unflinching manner of speaking and his message of remembrance, dignity and hope will stay with many of our students and staff long into the future.
A longtime member of the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center's Speakers Bureau and one of the Center's founders, Klaus served the Center's mission to inspire teaching and learning for humanity in the schools and communities of this region through study of the Holocaust. Klaus educated students and the community about his experiences during the Holocaust, encouraging generations of young people to speak out for what is right, to respect others, and about the tragic consequences of intolerance.

Tributes can be made to the Klaus Stern Holocaust Education Fund by going to www.wsherc.org or by mail to 2031 Third Avenue, Seattle WA 98121. The fund will support speaker outreach throughout the Pacific Northwest.

More about the life of Klaus Stern can be found here.

Anonymous said…
The mayor is bowing out before the election? If only...

Ever Hopeful
Ever, better him than Burgess any day.
The gang of four have all donated to Burgess, I guess they like his education vision.
Unknown said…
At Crosscut: "One well-connected candidate, Suzanne Dale Estey, has filed to run for the Seattle School Board vacancy created by Michael DeBell's decision not to seek a third-term. Dale Estey's impressive resume includes high-level staff positions with former King County Executive Ron Sims and Gov. Gary Locke."

The piece goes on to say she has also served in the White House during the Clinton administration, and--wait for it--already been endorsed by Peter Maier. The Crosscut writer then goes on to say that for this reason she will likely draw fire from critics of education reform.

I don't know her, does anybody reading here? Does she have an education policy resume?

No sane person is against education reform; the question is who controls the reform agenda and the reform process, and whose interests any given reform policy serves.
Watching said…
The word on the street is that Estey is politically well connected. She claims to have the ability to raise $100-$150K and I believe her.
Jack, I wrote about her previously.

She has good governmental experience but she does not appear to know SPS well at all. (That is not necessarily a ding but there is a steep learning curve to the job.)

She is well-connected to corporate ed reform and seems to believe she will need lots of cash to win. She might be wrong there but so could I.

I hope she has a challenger as I do not like/believe that anyone should just walk into office.
Anonymous said…
If Frank Greer's on her list of supporters, well there you go...

He's the king of Fat Cats and political connections. And a legend in his own mind.

As for cronyism, if Dale Estey worked for Sims and Locke, she's got nose firmly inserted in crack.

Anonymous said…



nw parent
Anonymous said…
Whitman MS announced tonight they are dropping spectrum support..
Rick Burke said…
I had the unique pleasure of sitting on on yesterday's C&I meeting.

Interesting topics:
Updates to Student Rights & Responsibilities: Mostly minor(?) changes. Director Peaslee raised concerns about lack of alternatives to suspensions, which put at-risk kids even further behind. This made for a lively discussion, but no clear alternatives presented.

MAP contract renewal: High-level conclusions were shared from assessment task force and Supt. Banda's directive. Annual cost budgeted at $425k, down from $439k last year due to reduction in number of students projected to take the test. Negotiated price = $11.50/student. K students to only test in the spring and only 25% of 9th graders are projected to take the MAP. Funding source = BTA3 levy, funding is in place for "several years for some type of assessment" in that budget. Eric Anderson shared an interesting factoid that 1-2% of the kids at the upper grade levels have "maxed out the test" and they can tell from the scores which kids this is occuring with.

The math adoption looks like it's already starting to go sideways. Process kickoff is awaiting budget allocation, and the recommendation from staff is to only run the K-5 adoption process for 2014-5 implementation, and delay 6-8 for another year since there's not enough bucks. Director McLaren shared some "Guiding Principles" at the meeting, which seemed quite good for the purpose of helping keep the adoption process focused and balanced, but the dilution and generalization of this document started immediately before time ran out.

I'm worried about the math adoption process in general, and middle school specifically. For those watching the calendar, OSPI says that the MSP reading, writing, and math assessments will be replaced in 2014-5 with the common core assessment from SBAC. If the 6-8 adoption is delayed, this means that Seattle kids will be tested on content which they don't even have textbooks for!

Interesting times we live in...

Rick Burke
Anonymous said…
anon at 10:34 (who will be deleted w/o a moniker): what does "Whitman MS announced tonight they are dropping spectrum support" mean? do you mean they'll no longer have it? where did you hear that?
Anonymous said…
Regarding Whitman Middle School, at a meeting last night to cover changes to the Language Arts Classes, they announced that they will be changing to a School-wide Cluster Grouping Model for LA for 7th and 8th grade and no longer have Spectrum classrooms in these grades.

Currently, most spectrum students are placed in advanced math, but some drop out and other gen.ed. students moved in based on their math placement test, MAP scores and, I believe recommendation from the teacher.

They said that this model is:
Realistic - because both Spectrum students and gen.ed. students come at different levels of readiness, so all teachers, even Spectrum are teaching to a diverse group learners and different levels.
Efficient - It was said many times that advanced learners don't come with extra money and, with students being guaranteed a Spectrum seat, they were having trouble balancing class sizes. I am aware that Spectrum classes were upwards of 40 students and the school was paying those teachers extra for classes above contracted levels.
Equitable - They feel that all ethnic groups should be better represented as advanced learners and feel this is a way to mixed up the classes more and see improved learning in all students.
Flexible - Allows them to equalize class sizes and also allow students who can do more advanced work to be challenged in classrooms with differentiated teaching.

They presented this all under the premise that Readers and Writers Workshop, for which they have all had training and currently teach, lends itself very strongly towards differentiated teaching and expect that differentiated teaching will be happening in each and every classroom. Additionally, they said it was time for a change now as they see teaching going in this direction and they are being proactive.

Personally, the way that it came across to me, the bottom line was that they had too many Spectrum students and couldn't effectively manage the classroom sizes. They used this big presentation on Readers and Writers workshop as a way to make it sound like they have this great new curriculum that works so well in a differentiated learning environment that this would be the best for all students. They've had this curriculum for a while now, so I'm quite certain, it's really just about balancing the classrooms.

Several parents asked what is in this for the Spectrum students. The answer was, in my own words, they need to mingle more with all types of kids to be prepared for the "real world" and Spectrum students had some serious gaps in their learning which will become more apparent when they are in a mixed classroom. (This comment disturbed me since, as I don't understand why Spectrum students would have "gaps" where other students wouldn't.)

Other people may have different interpretations of the meeting, and I'm interested to hear what others thought.

- whitman parent
Anonymous said…
I wonder how many of the Whitman Spectrum kids will now try to jump to AP. I would be furious if I were a parent and they were telling me this now after open enrollment. I know many parents who if they could afford it, switched to private to get away from this constant jerking around that SPS does to its students and families.

mirmac1 said…
whitman parent,

Makes total sense to me.
Anonymous said…
Whitman parent, I hope this works out OK! It is what I wished McClure would try a number of years ago when we had an appalling gen-ed experience there. The difference between regular and Spectrum LA was huge. You could go in the classroom and see: the Spectrum and gen-ed blocks had read the same book. The gen-ed kids made posters. The spectrum kids wrote essays. This happened throughout the year. It was so sad how little was expected of the gen ed kids -- especially for me since my bright kid was one of them. They were using R/W Workshop. I hope it has changed at McClure. We went private after that experience.
Anonymous said…
@ Mirmac1,
I agree it does make sense on many levels, and if executed well with great teachers, I have no problem with this. The problem is that there a great teachers, there are good teachers and there are teachers that maybe should have chosen a different career path.

Differentiation adds another level of complexity to a classroom, which great teachers will handle wonderfully. Some teachers will be less skilled at this, and when in a time crunch, the students that get the attention are the ones lagging behind, not the students who are working ahead of the rest of the class. It all depends on which teacher a student gets. By having a Spectrum classroom, any teacher, even a bad one, should be teaching to the appropriate level, so I would rather have a bad teacher for a spectrum class than a mixed class.

Execution is the key. I'm withholding judgment until I hear how it's going next year.

- whitman parent
pessimist said…
Readers and Writers Workshop was meant for K-5, not middle school. It's misguided to use it for middle school, and just as misguided to use it for advanced learners in middle school. It may work as a supplement, but it is inadequate as core curriculum. As long as the district embraces curriculum like EDM, CMP, and RWW, I have little hope for improved outcomes.
mirmac1 said…

I must be in an agreeable mood today.

I absolutely agree with you. Ever since RWW came out my child's writing has suffered! Her once-blossoming creative writing has been torn down by the TEAR rubric and all the other formulaic approaches.

Me Write Pretty One Day.
HP, I absolutely agree - parents should have been told this BEFORE Open Enrollment.

But it's no surprise. The district has absolutely no focus on AL, doesn't really care and, as usual, is allowing each school to do its own thing.
Anonymous said…
Whitman Parent

This is what I have witnessed in Elementary with my 2 spectrum kids (my middle schooler isn't in spectrum). My kids' school doesn't do separate spectrum classes until 3rd grade (except math). This year my first grader's teacher was great at differentiation as are a handful of other excellent teachers our school is blessed to have. My 4th grader has been in a class where the teacher found passion in helping the struggling students which is great for her and those students, but my child spent the year silent reading most of the time other than when he got to exit that class for math.

I really wouldn't have a problem with this with certain teachers, but for some teachers, kids who are ahead academically are robbed of learning and unless there is increased teacher support in the classroom and more teacher training, I would be very angry about this. Even when I was in Middle school in the 80's, we had "enriched" classes, including science, to support those who learn at a faster pace.

NE Mom of 3
Anonymous said…
Makes sense if they are predicting growth for Whitman. With 40 kids in a classroom, tougher to accommodate strong LAs gen Ed kids as well. If they can't bring down class size under 32, not sure if cluster grouping will be effective for real learning and growth. Your strongest and/or most vocal kid will turn into an assistant teacher to lead (model for) groups (not ideal if one or a few kids tend to dominate group talks/project). In practice, there is too much reliance on peer conferencing going on with RW/WW. Tougher for your introvert kids to breakthrough or for minority viewpoint to be expressed. Don't know if teacher, especially in large class size, can monitor and mitigate this well. But the criticism is more about classroom management and the workshop curriculum than about spectrum support.

Interestingly Shoreline use their state highly capable fund at the secondary school level to support honors-level materials and activities.

Anonymous said…
The idea is that if they don't have to keep the Spectrum kids in separate classrooms (the Spectrum classrooms were the only ones at 35-40), the they can balance all of the classrooms at 30-32 students.

The selfish part of me that is only looking out for the best interest of my own children is fairly ticked off right now. The politically correct, "let us look out for the greater good" part of me thinks that this is a reasonable solution. I know some of the Spectrum kids had issues in such large classrooms, and several Spectrum students complained that there were enough distruptive students in their class that didn't even try to do the work that it made it difficult to learn at times.

It really comes down to the fact that the schools are so poorly funded and budgets so tight, the school didn't really have much of a choice. They have to have a seat for all the Spectrum students and, end the end, it means there are "Spectrum" seats for none of them.

In theory, this isn't the end of the world. But in reality, I don't think it will work that well.

- whittier parent
Anonymous said…
Why not use the same model as they do for math? Have honors LAs classrooms for kids who are ID by their teachers, along with use of MAP, MSP, and AL designation and/or kid opting to take honors. That way you accomodate capable gen ed kids and AL kids by having more honors classes than trying to squeeze lots of kids in a few "sel-contained" spectrum classes.

Anonymous said…
@ uneven,
I absolutely agree and have always thought honors classes would be more appropriate at middle school than Spectrum. There was a mention at the meeting of the perception of "the have and the have-nots" and I am thinking the school doesn't want to get into the business of defending who is in an honors class and who isn't or having parents think these kids are somehow getting a better education than others.

Of course the argument for that is an honors class would work at a higher level for kids who are ready for it and a bad teacher teaching at a higher level is still a bad teacher, so they aren't assured a better learning experience. I'm sure APP parents can attest to the fact that their students are not automatically given the best teacher and the same is true for Spectrum at Whitman. But honors classes would prevent students working above grade level from sitting through discussions and lectures on topics they have already mastered or waiting for the rest of the class to move on.

I am still quite conflicted about this.

- whitman parent
SMS said…
It really is upsetting that Whitman Middle School couldn't communicate this change to the entire school sooner. And that Seattle Public Schools also didn't communicate this to anyone until yesterday. I get so little communication from the school and what's going on there. This change should have been introduced to everyone and talked about when the decision was made. At this point in the year it almost seems like they didn't decide on this until recently and it makes me worried that the planning won't be done well because there won't be time to do it.
Not happy said…
Will Whitman's advanced math be taken down, too? There are very capable kids that to into HS Whitman.

I'm heading to Whitman and I'm NOT happy that this information wasn't disclosed BEFORE open enrollment. My older child went to Whitman and general ed. classes are watered down. I suspect classes will be watered down.
Whitman bound said…
Did the district make an announcement regarding Whitman's plans. If so, where can I find the information?
Anonymous said…
Margit Moore (a Garfield vice principal) is on administration leave. Does anyone know what that means?

Also Princess Shareef (Cleveland's principal) is retiring at the end of this year. Any news on her replacement?

Anonymous said…
On another note, does anyone know about the process for converting a neighborhood school to an option school, and what are the pros and cons of doing so? From what I understand, gaining option school status might mean more control over your school's size and makeup, such as by capping the number of K classes each year, rather than having to deal with the uncertainty of neighborhood enrollement. Are there other benefits? And what about possible risks in becoming an option school, if you are already a successful school with a strong wait list?

I know there are a lot of wider district and community issues that would also need to be considered in such a discussion--e.g., loss of the only neighborhood school and impact on surrounding school boundaries, increased transportation costs, whether "like" schools should all be same status, etc.--but I'm wondering first about potential benefits and risks to an individual school that's considering its options...


Anonymous said…
Margit Moore has been "separated" from the district. She has been gone since some time in March. In my opinion, she should have been gone long before that. She should not be working with the public. Brad Westering, who was filling in for an AP in the fall who was on maternity leave, is subbing in Moore's position til the end of the year. The kids like him, and he seems like a good addition to the GHS administration.

Garfield parent
The principal at Cleveland is retiring? Hmm. Maybe from Seattle Schools but I doubt from being a principal.

MM, there is no "process" to convert to an Option school. Only the district/Board can make that decision.

Option schools don't decide their size nor who gets in. No one has to enroll in them either so that always makes figuring out what their population will be tricky (except for the ones that are popular).

Anonymous said…
And the McGilvra principal is leaving too. Any word on that? That school has had a revolving door of principals. They just keep pickin em.

Anonymous said…
JSIS had a PTA meeting last night, which Sherry Carr attended, where the possibility of switching from a neighborhood school to an option program was discussed.
Anonymous said…

I absolutely agree with you! Kids who want the challenge should be able to opt for honors classes!

Our daughter (who attends Whitman) is a very gifted Language Arts/Social Studies student, and a very average Math student. Because of her Math test scores, she is not in Spectrum (kids need to test at a certain level in both Math and LA to be eligible for Spectrum).

So this year she's been placed in the correct Math level (this is great!), but even though she tests in the 99th percentile in Reading and loves to do the work, she wasn't eligible for Spectrum Language Arts/Social Studies. To place students in LA/SS classes (or to deny them seats in certain LA/SS classes) based on Math scores sure seems crazy to me!

It's worked out for us this year, though, because she has a stellar LA/SS teacher. I do understand the frustration that Spectrum parents might feel with not getting this info in time to base their choices on it. However, I think it's a real shame to exclude kids from higher level classes (if that is how the schedule is set up) when they want and are able to take on the challenge.

Before I heard about this change, I told my daughter that once she got to high school at Ingraham, she would be able to opt for IB Language Arts and History classes.

-- Another Perspective
Anonymous said…
Melissa, re: my earlier option school conversion question--

So I understand it's a board decision, but I'm sure there can be lobbying by staff/parents to try to make that happen, right? Were the current option schools created as option schools initially, or did the board switch them later? If the latter, is that typically a board-led process (e.g., based on capacity issues), or based on parent/staff lobbying?

If a school were to be converted to option school status, what might be the pros/cons for that school? You said they don't decide their own size, but I imagine to some extent they are protected from annual variation, no? For example, if the district decides the school capacity is 500, can the school say, "Ok, that means we only have room for 2 K classes this year" then get only that many assigned by the district, whereas if it were a neighborhood school it would be forced to take 3 classes worth if that's who showed up? Similarly, could an option school reserve a set number of spaces for a particular category of students, say ELL students--and is this any different than if it had neighborhood school status?

Aside from enrollment issues, would a school become less vulnerable to district tampering and whims if it became an option school? Or perhaps more so? Does a strong wait list help offer protections?

Just trying to understand how things may play out...


Anonymous said…
Another Perspective--my kids is the exact same way, very ahead in reading and writing, and pretty average in math. She will attend Whitman in a couple of years. (Funnily enough, she did qualify for Spectrum twice, but the class was full both times, I'm glad I won't have to get her tested again in 5th Grade).

NW Parent.
Angry said…
Whitman Parents, Please be careful of the school's messaging. I get the feeling that Spectrum will be at the school, but it just means your children will have the opportunity to do additional work! It is all very vague.

How is that for bait and switch?!!!
Disgusted said…
Another perspective,

Advanced placement LA is not determined by math assessments. Advanced LA placement at Whitman is based on MAP.
Po3 said…
Spectrum in middle school has been DOA for a long time.

Middle schools need to move to an Honors class model and even consider IB 6-8th in MS that funnel students into high schools with IB programs.

What Whitman has done is not a solution and will impact APP enrollment next year since more APP qualified students will select HIMS, which is out of room.

It's too bad that they just throw mud at the wall instead of a creating a AL pathway that challenges as many students who need to be challenged in their reference schools.
Anonymous said…

You are incorrect. Placement in the Spectrum program in our school district is determined by quantitative AND verbal testing. A child needs a certain score on each to be entitled to a Spectrum seat. (If it were based on Reading MAP, my daughter would clearly be in-- this absurdity is my whole point!)

Interestingly, because of math placement at Whitman at least, this does not work in reverse; Spectrum kids aren't automatically in high level math classes, so we know many kids who are in Spectrum LA/SS classes but not in advanced math.

Which comes back to my crazy point that a kid needs to test high in verbal and quantitative for LA, but not Math, Spectrum placement. Ah, the wisdom...

-- Another Perspective
Disgusted said…
Another perspective,

Whitman DOES consider MAP for placement into advanced LA. Students that score high are considered for Spectrum. That said, it doesn't meant that there is room in the Spectrum program.

I think MAP was sold partially on allowing kids into Spectrum that didn't test into advanced placement in previous years. Again, open seats is another issue.
Anonymous said…
Hi Disgusted,

This has not been our experience. Even with 99th percentile Reading MAP scores and prior teacher recommendation, we were told very clearly by the Whitman principal that only Spectrum students could be placed in Spectrum LA/SS. (That is probably due to lack of space, but it's the de facto policy regardless.)

Another Perspective
Anonymous said…
The change to an honors, opt-in style LA/SS class could be a positive change - but that's not how Spectrum is defined, nor is that how the change is being described. It sounds as though they are simply getting rid of Spectrum with no guarantee that the level of the differentiation will be appropriate. If the district is changing how services are to be delivered in middle school, then that's one thing, and the change should be made clear to parents district-wide. But, for a school to announce this late that they are essentially dropping Spectrum? First, how can a school make such decisions, when Spectrum is a district defined service? Second, why is AL allowing it?

-What's next?
Anonymous said…
I checked the Seattle Schools website and this is what it says about Spectrum....

The program is guided by four core principles:
1) Provide a rigorous curriculum.
2) Provide an accelerated curriculum that focuses on student proficiency in grade level expectations and one grade level beyond or more in reading and mathematics
3) Bring district-identified students together through self-contained or cluster-grouping strategies to form classroom rosters.
4) Provide instruction by teachers familiar with the needs of students who are academically gifted.

Notice #3... The school district is now considering cluster grouping and a delivery method for Spectrum.

My impression is that the school made this decision on their own, but based on the information above, it looks like the school district supports the cluster grouping model.

- whitman parent
Anonymous said…
If one reads the Whitman website, it states that they want to get away from self contained Spectrum, which is for LA/SS, and go to something different. They also talk about the problem of district placed students failing in advanced math and having to repeat the grade.
MAP has made it possible to get more kids into advanced programs, especially single subject gifted, but also can be overused in math and put unprepared kids in over their heads.
Spectrum is a bit of a blunt tool for placement. It's good for finding capable students in two subjects but fails at finding single subject gifted and high achievers who don't test well or have average IQs.
The goal should be to get all kids who can benefit from accelerated classes in them, but not kids who will flounder.

NW citizen

Whitman Parent, yes, the district may support cluster grouping but it came at the hands of principals who unilaterally enacted it. Dr. Vaughan just shrugged and rewrote the description.

MEM, you ask a lot of questions and I honestly don't have time for a lengthy answer. Here's a brief answer:

Most of the Option schools started out as alternative schools and those were parent-driven. However, that was decades ago and I don't believe it to be anywhere near as possible now.

A few of the newer Option schools were started either by a foundation (South Shore) or were new and parents were asked (QA Elementary). Any Board member would have to have some pretty compelling arguments to try to even as the Superintendent and staff to consider it. I know of no Board policy to switch from a neighborhood to an Option (that's more Charlie's area).

Since it is such an improbable idea, I won't get to pros and cons. I can only say that there is NO school that has less possibility of district "tampering." That said, many schools do try to lay low on any requests to stay off the radar. Harder to do now that there are Ex Directors.

I would just say that the district isn't in the business to back off; they are supposed to oversee all the schools. You might consider becoming a Creative Approach school but that would not control your population size either but might afford more control over hours, curriculum, etc.

It sounds, though, that you want to limit enrollment and at this time and place, that can't be done.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, just to clarify, I'm not at all advocating for a conversion to option school status--rather, I'm trying to better understand some of the arguments currently being made by others in the JSIS community.

As noted above by Anon, there seems to be a group (size unknown) pushing for this. Personally, however, I think overall North End capacity issues need to be resolved first. The loss of Wallingford's only neighborhood school would mean decreased walkability and increased transportation costs, both contrary to SPS goals. Creation of an option school geozone around JSIS would not result in a whole lot of additional diversity of access, either--which is probably why Sherry Carr said there would likely not be a geozone if this were to happen. As you mentioned, this also wouldn't allow for more control over the size of the school population, which is a key argument that had been made by those supporting the conversion.

Overall, the immersion school issue seems to me like something the district needs to address overall, not one school at a time. There are obviously serious sustainability issues, and yes, equitable access issues. At the same time, given the district's adjacent placement of two such schools in the north end, they also need to figure out how to address issues of walkable neighborhood schools for this community, potential impacts on transportation, etc. Addressing it piecemeal seems like a big mistake. Without taking care of overall capacity shortages first, it would just mean more shuffling around of students...

MEM, my apologies. I didn't know you were referring to JSIS.

Well, I support the foreign language immersions schools being Options (but with the Geozone).

It's funny because the district has just not done what they needed to do with this program. They needed to have a long-term visions of what they wanted to do and where and how to make it available to as many students as possible. It needs equity.

And now, we have uneven IA funding and DeBell is saying that more schools need to be created.

Someone needs to pull back and get a grip.

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