Inquiring Minds Want to Know (and see if the Board Does Its Oversight Job)

Update Two: I attended the Board meeting.  I pointed out that the Advanced Learning grant application was not attached to the agenda but no problem says the Board as they roll along.  Ms. Heath comes forward to explain there was an "error" in thinking that the AL Taskforce has anything to do with it.  It was the "advisory committee."  I'm thinking it was the APP Advisory Committee as that's the only one that currently exists.

This is fine because the grant only covers APP.

I just don't want anyone thinking that anything has been done on Spectrum or ALOs.

What is interesting - ALERT - is that Director Carr, after listening to the public testimony where a parent said the survey done during the AL Taskforce work could be useful, stated that she thought it might be useful going forward.  (The parent pointed out the high rate of approval for APP - at about 90% - and Spectrum (about 73%) and ALOs (about 65%).

So write her and encourage this thinking.

End of second update.

Update:  Hey, the Alliance announced the roll-out event for the Seattle Teacher Residency and it's tomorrow.  I got this via a press release so I have to wonder if this is a quickly thrown together event or I got this notice late.  It's at the NW African-American Museum from 5-7 p.m.

I also note that it is now 1:20 pm with the Board meeting in about three hours and yet that Highly Capable Grant application is still linked on the agenda.  Odd.  (But neither is the Superintendent's evaluation so there you go.)

End of update.

I recently wrote an e-mail to the Board about two subjects on tonight's Board agenda.

One was the newly-minted Seattle Teacher Residency program.

The other is the Highly Capable Grant application.

Both are on the Intro agenda.  The STR has a number of glaring issues and the Highly Capable Grant application has one (plus a curious reworking of SPS history).

Issues with STR:

- the MOA had been missing two crucial pages.  They are now included and they make for interesting reading.
- more to the point - this, my friends, is a done deal. Without fanfare or real explanation, the district signed the MOA with UW, the Alliance and SEA.  Not good.  I can't believe the district signed up for this without any real notification (no less, asking for input) to parents/taxpayers for a huge new program with real costs that starts this fall.
- will TFA now go away from SPS?  Because if SPS is creating its own home-grown teaching pipeline, they surely do not need the cost/headache/under-trained TFA teachers.
- this Intro item would have the Board "pre-approve"  all these hires.  Before the program has any structure or bones, just pre-approve the hiring of 25 people. 

Issues with the Highly Capable Grant application:

- first, it's STILL not attached to the Intro item.  Not good.
- The Intro item initially said this:

The Highly Capable Student Programs Grant application and the management of programs were discussed with representatives of an Advanced Learning Taskforce.
The taskforce completed their work and made recommendations to the Superintendent in the Spring of 2012.

I told the Board that was NOT true.  I offered that maybe because Ms Heath is new to her position or someone misunderstood Dr. Vaughan, this was written.

But the Taskforce did not review the application nor the management of "programs."

We also didn't "complete our work."

I also said this:

I will not stand by and have SPS history rewritten especially when I was part of it. 

I checked the agenda this morning and saw this part has now been rewritten:

The Highly Capable Student Programs Grant application and the management of programs
were discussed with representatives of an Advanced Learning Taskforce. The
taskforce completed their work and made recommendations to the Superintendent in the Spring of 2012.

The Highly Capable Student Programs Grant application and the management of programs are regularly discussed with representatives of an advisory committee charged by the Superintendent.

The committee includes parents, teachers, and administrators.

New taskforces will be convened in the Fall of 2013.

Each taskforce will consider and make recommendations around one issue related to Highly Capable Services. The initial task force will consider how we qualify Highly Capable students.  The second task force will focus on the specific delivery model.

So great that they changed the info on the Advanced Learning Taskforce.  But, I am not certain what "advisory committee" they are talking about now.  APP?  Because that does NOT cover all of Highly Capable/AL. 

I'm speaking at the Board meeting tonight.


Anonymous said…
On a related note, the APP blog has been reporting that Chris Chronas has been chosen to be the planning principal for Wilson Pacific. He has a reputation for being a hatchet man for advanced learning programs.

-writing is on the wall
Actually, we reported that first but yes, that is what I was told as well. I think your assessment may be right.
Wondering said…
Looks like advanced learning is dead. Yes?
Anonymous said…
I'm having trouble coming up with a person whose appointment I would have opposed more vigorously, had the supposed Wilson Pacific community been consulted in any way. I think he is the specifically most antagonistic person they could have come up with for the job. Which I don't understand, as a choice from the district. Nevermind a person the communities might favor or be energized to work with, why not at least a relatively neutral choice? Are they hoping to have us feeling defensive and protective from the get go?

mirmac1 said…
As for STR, it's been around for a while:

STR's quiet kick-off

TFA is mere stepping stone to UTR in Seattle

This part in particular bothers me:

* Meeting UW admissions requirements

- Meeting endorsement standards as defined by UW transcript review and state required competencies
- Successful completion of West B (prior to acceptance) and West E (Elementary - prior to completion of the Program)
http:/ /
- Successful completion of edTPA

The bar is set very low here. Either the district plans on only hiring elementary teachers (which I seriously doubt) or they'll let teachers get conditional certs by passing the easiest West-E (like most TFAers), but will assign them an "endorsement"/subject area based on their college coursework. Or, if elementary is all we need, then what happened to the shortage of math/science teachers we heard about when TFA was trotted around?

The board is being asked to buy into a program which the SBAR says has no final budget. That is crazy! They will have no choice but to pay whatever is presented to them in September (presumably after SPS has hired some of these Residents). Here is what SPS will be expected to provide after the philanthropists go away:

Resident Support Information:
It is anticipated that STR residents will receive:
* Stipend during the Residency year - $16,500
* Health insurance during residency year
* in-state tuition
* Initial certification + Masters in Teaching from University of Washington
* Teaching position in Seattle Public Schools, beginning in year 2 of the program implementation, subject to SPS hiring approval process.
* Tuition reimbursement (distributed proportionally over 5 year commitment) pending final decision

How will the effectiveness of this costly investment be determined? That is an important question that should be answered before ANY new pie-in-the-sky scheme.

Finally, it is clear that we will be paying the Alliance to administer a program that A4E and their masters wanted in the first place. Again, we subsidize them rather than the other way around.
Anonymous said…
We are deeply torn as a family by the latest developments in the administration's clear efforts to dismantle the advanced learning programs. This district's frequent last minute changes has made planning nearly impossible for us. And the blatant distain for AL students has made us feel very unwelcome. Some of the behavior directed at AL families has been bullying in nature and even overtly hostile on occasions. We chose not to pursue APP but to place our child in a neighborhood Spectrum program, and we deeply regret that decision. For all the talk of "equity" that floats around this city, I have never, ever felt so discriminated against and so marginalized. Equity is apparently for other people's children and not mine. At least the APP families have a community to buffer them from this instability and antagonism. No such buffer exists for Spectrum and ALO families.

We do not want the moon for our child. We just want her to have a chance to learn something new at school, and to be with friends (and staff, sadly) who do not mock her for being different. There is zero indication that these basic needs are even on the radar for district staff. We *ought* to stay and fight for her to get that in a Seattle public school, but we are so, so tired, and so drained as a family, I am just not sure we can do it anymore. We can get most of those simple needs met, and a FAR less hostile environment, by switching to the private school system or to a nearby public school district. We are examining options this summer.

I cannot tell you how incredibly sad this makes me. Public education should be transparent. It should be for all children. It should strive for stability. It should not be this hostile. And I should do my civic duty and stay and fight for access for all children to the education that is appropriate for their needs. But I am so tired and worn down by it all. I just cannot do it anymore.

I wish the people who are so actively antagonistic towards AL would stop for a moment and consider, really consider, just how anti-equity their actions actually are for students like mine. I just want a safe place for my kid to learn new things most days. Really, that is all I want. But the ever-changing programs and the hatred and the vitriol directed at a subset of kids and families with documented special needs has created such a hostile environment that we feel we have to leave just to get her basic educational needs met.

I applaud those who stay and fight and those who are actively seeking to establish real dialog with the anti-AL crowd. I will continue to support those efforts. And I have no illusions that we will be missed, or that administration really cares that yet another family has been driven out of Seattle's public schools. But we are too tired to fight this battle anymore, and there are other far more welcoming options available to us. We surrender.

-Time To Join the 28.6%
Benjamin Leis said…
@Time To Join

I empathize with your dilemma. Hopefully you'll get your daughter's needs met via outside the system. Before you go, I'd send one last email to your representative board member with this same message. They need visibility into the consequences of various policies.
Anonymous said…
@Time to Join 28.6%

Before you leave, could you let the Board and Mr. Banda know, and cc the Mayor's office?

I would think the Mayor, during this time of civic elections, would care that families with advanced learners have perceptions like yours based on the actions (and inactions) taken by SSD over the last several years.

Seattle has to compete, yes, actually compete with Bellevue for its 'fair share' of relocating families who are moving for high tech jobs in Seattle. Quality public schools matter, and, if Seattle wants to take apart Spectrum, it is more than just your child(ren) who loses out, it is a City who won't be able to attract those incoming families to actually live in Seattle.

To be clear, I am NOT saying that Advanced Learning is the ONLY thing that makes public schools great, it is not, but, it IS a component of what makes public schools great, and, to delete it from the menu, in effect, means that those families who need it for their children will simply go elsewhere. A robust public school system is dependent on mass buy-in from the public it is suppose to be serving, and, that includes advanced learners.

Tell the Mayor our relatively 'childless city', and, our extraordinarily high rates of private school attendance, might have something to due with SSD choosing to not meet the needs of children whose families have means and therefore go elsewhere, literally. Perhaps then the Mayor will have a chat with Mr. Banda and ask him if the new AL plan, whatever it is (because it is a complete secret)is really going to be accepted by the constituency, as opposed to being a defendable internally-consistent rhetoric that actually delivers nothing but more exiting families.

Remember the time the levies failed? I am saying you can only mess around with people for so long before they finally withdraw support.

-send the letter
Thanks for those documents, Mirmac. They answer some questions. Also, you need a chart to track who pays for what and when.

Wondering, AL isn't dead. It's in complete flux. I think Charlie is dead-on in what it will look like but that they are planning without parents (and probably teachers) is wrong.

I concur with the wish that if anyone leaves, TELL the Board, the Superintendent and the Mayor. They need to hear this.
Anonymous said…
Yes, let's all get out the kleenex. Our schools are so empty that it's a crying shame when somebody leaves. Ohhhhh the inequity! How aweful for your daughter not to be able to learn a single thing at school! How unfair! Defintely, write the board, your congressperson, the city council.

Patrick said…
Equity, just... wow. You think the schools should just not bother to teach anyone ahead of grade level anything?
Anonymous said…
Once we know where we'll move our child, we'll send a letter to the board, the superintendent, and the mayor. Moving to a new public school district requires that we sell our house and rent or buy another, and the private schools have a long application process plus a huge cost that will require a lot of sacrifice. This is obviously not a decision we make lightly, and it will require upheaval at a time that we could really use some consistency. But we feel things are so opaque and so hostile in SPS that the trade off will be worth it. We'll finally gain some peace and stability once we settle in to our new locale, and I am certain our child will blossom without the swirl of passive-aggressive hostility around her.

In the meantime we feel we have to fly under the radar, so as not to make her life at school any more difficult than it already is.

-Time To Join the 28.6%
Anonymous said…

Please describe what equity looks like in an elementary classroom. Is everyone learning or everyone doing the same thing at the same time?

Maybe we assess reading ability, then start at the lowest level in the room and only teach that child until he/she catches up to the next student and eveyone sits patiently at their desks until the class moves up to their level? You know what would be fun? Maybe we alternate week by week teaching at the lowest and highest level necessary in that classroom. Or maybe just teach at the highest level and let them 'bring up the bottom.'

Also - if you don't have any empathy for other people's problems, maybe you could just move along?

Anonymous said…
... and Equity chimes in to prove my point. I hear this exact tone *every single week* around my child's school, and every single time anything even vaguely related to advanced learning comes up in conversation. And not even whispered behind my back. It is usually stated directly to my face, and even said to my child on occasion. I can only imagine what is said when the AL parents are out of earshot. I have never seen or heard anything like it.

-Time To Join the 28.6%
Anonymous said…
Time to Join-you do not need to move to go to another district. Many, many kids take ferries to Vashon and Bainbridge Island, drive to Bellevue and Mercer Island, and beyond. SPS simply has to sign off on this on a one-page form as to why you're leaving (so funds will follow your kid to the new district). It's very easy, so long as there is space where you want to go. That's how we did it, although in a different market we'd probably sell and move.

It wasn't AL that was the reason we left, but we're in a better place now for many reasons.

School commuters
Anonymous said…
Equal Educational Opportunity

(as defined by Albuquerque Public Schools in their gifted handbook)

The concept of equal educational opportunity should extend to all children, including those identified as gifted, and provisions should be made to enable each child to reach his/her highest potential. Equal educational opportunity does not mean providing the same education for every child but does require providing opportunities through which every child can maximize his or her individual potential. True equality is providing equal opportunity to benefit from education according to ability. To use the same methods and materials for all children is not providing equal educational opportunity. Setting expectations too high may frustrate some students and create an environment for failure. The same is true for a student with high ability who will not reach his/her potential if required to perform at exactly the same level as all other students.

In the present social, political, and educational systems based upon democratic principles, the refusal to provide gifted children the right to an educational opportunity appropriate to their level of development is not acceptable. To assume that one level of educational opportunity meets the needs of all students is unfair. A variety of learning opportunities at many different levels must be provided for all children.

-tired of the vitriol
Anonymous said…
@Time to Join...

You wrote:
"Moving to a new public school district requires that we sell our house and rent or buy another, and the private schools have a long application process plus a huge cost that will require a lot of sacrifice."

Have you looked into Intradistrict Transfers? I believe that all school districts in Washington admit non-residents via intradistrict transfers, if there is space available. You do not need to sell your current home, or rent (or buy) a house in the new school district to receive an intradistrict transfer.

Intradistrict transfers to Shoreline Schools were quite popular back when north-end kids were excluded from their closest comprehensive middle school (Eckstein). Many north-end families chose nearby Kellogg Jr High, in Shoreline, over their SPS assignment, for their middle school-aged students, and they usually transferred any younger siblings to Shoreline, as well. State money follows the student, so it was advantageous for Shoreline to fill their schools with former SPS students.

-North End Mom
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
We were not aware of intradistrict transfers. That may be a more viable option for us. I'll begin investigating that as well. Any pointers to information would be helpful. Thank you very much.

And thank you for the quote, tired. That is all we want as well. This is not about the delivery mechanisms for learning, it is about consistency, accessibility, and acceptance. We have not found any of these three qualities in the last 7 years in SPS, to our deep regret.

-Time To Join the 28.6%
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirmac1 said…
The Supreme Court has ruled that students with special needs do not merit a Cadillac education. In Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the Court set a precedent affecting districts nationwide. Substitute "gifted" for "handicapped" below.

The Supreme Court relied upon the text and legislative history of the statute to find that Congressional intent was only
to provide a "basic floor of opportunity" to students with disabilities by providing them access to public education, as opposed to addressing the quality of education received once in school. The Court stated:

By passing the Act, Congress sought primarily to make public education available to handicapped children. But in seeking to provide such access to public education, Congress did not impose upon the States any greater substantive educational standard than would be necessary to make such access meaningful …

Thus, the intent of the Act was more to open the door of public education to handicapped children on appropriate terms than to guarantee any particular level of education once inside.

Subsequent court decisions interpreted Rowley to mean that the IDEA does not require schools to provide students with the best or optimal education, nor to ensure that students receive services to enable them to maximize their potential. Instead, schools are obligated only to offer services that provide students with "some educational benefit." Courts sometimes refer to this as the Cadillac versus Chevrolet argument, with the student entitled to a serviceable Chevrolet, not a Cadillac.

Welcome to our world.
Anonymous said…
I think most of us are clear on that. I just want the "some educational benefit" part, the next sentence. I think that's what most of the posters here have said too- just for their kids to learn something at school sometimes. I think we all have our own trials (can we at least agree we have a pretty common enemy in bureaucracy and corporate educational greed and a lot of "consultants" and "supervisors" that lead to less learning for our kids no matter what their skill level?), but I admit before I had kids in this school system I would not have dreamed that asking that my kids learn one thing at school over 5 years in math or reading, make any progress, was considered "elitist, asking for a Cadillac" and occasionally proof of personal bigotry. That particular line of vitriol seems reserved for the advanced learners here, and is a big part of my world that luckily is not SpEds, mostly. Other problems, though, I know (my home school has a large SpEd population- not saying that's easy, either, just different. The stability problems do seem similar, for sure.).

Anonymous said…
Time to Join-go to the websites of the districts with schools you're interested in and look under enrollment as a good place to start. Also, check the AL pages if you're planning on getting your child into such a program. You maybe have missed testing deadlines, but I see you've had a child in school for 7 years so at this point you may be looking at middle school. In some districts you can self-select advanced programs such as Pre-IB or Pre-AP.

Keep in mind that enrollment offices will probably only be open for another few weeks before shutting down for a summer break if you need to contact them.

School Commuters
Anonymous said…
Given that advanced learning programs don't cost any more to provide than general education programs, I don't understand why the district wouldn't want to configure those programs to meet student's needs as well as they possibly can.

The good news is that the cost-neutral aspect of Spectrum and APP means they can't be included in the "popular yet expensive programs" that may need to be cancelled to implement the strategic plan!

And yes, I know that is not really the reason they will do it.

Anonymous said…
Funny thing is I have never ever heard a parent complain about the All Star Team members the same way than they complain about the AL Programs. Somehow it is good (or even great) to excel in any sports here but not in the academics.
Wonder why
Wonder Why, also music.

No one has any problem with having to show ability to be on the jazz band or football team.

Anonymous said…
Or that the advanced musicians and beginning musicians should be in different classes, to learn the different things they are working on.

How was the board meeting?

Anonymous said…
Going back to the original point of this thread -- is the Board doing its job? I see myself investing less and less time bringing issues to the attention of Seattle School Board members. Pretty soon, I'll stop investing in bringing issue to the attention of the District let alone the schools my kids attend. There's that little coherence and ability to make changes happen when they need to.
Signed, fool me once ...
Fool Me, and there's the rub (beyond any trust issues): what is their job?

As I said, there is RCW around it but I would venture that most directors in this state go beyond that if only to satisfy their constituents' need for engagement.

The Alliance keeps trying to curtail their role with their "governance" facilitating but luckily, most of the Board are not buying it.

There are others to be asked and I'll do that and report back. (I'm not going to say who I have thought of because of who reads this blog but I'll let you know what I find out.)
Anonymous said…
Time to Join: I sympathize, but we need facts, names, schools, or something beyond your extremely general descriptions that mirror most AL families' experiences in SPS.

How about an example or two, at least? Otherwise, all your comments are unfortunately not very useful. I'd like to help reverse the situation you are experiencing, rather than see you leave the district. But we need something concrete. WSDWG
mirmac1 said…
I got deja vu' all over again in hearing board comments during the STR presentation. How this Work aligns perfectly with goals in the Strategic Plan, this is an investment in serving our neediest students, that these new teachers are specially-trained for SPS' neediest schools yadda yadda. The co$$$t aspect was brushed off until August/September.

Mention was made of the A4E $50K for the first "planning" year - not a word about the $1M expected from the district in following years. It sounds to me that the board will grant the Supt permission to move forward without ANY concept as to the a) irrefutable research proving this approach works; and b) how it will be paid for and what other program/service will be cut.
Charlie Mas said…
Here's the story on the HC grant application:

The OSPI has yet to make the application form available. They were supposed to make the form available on June 1, but did not.

The OSPI's deadline for districts to submit the completed application form is July 1. Yeah, I know.

So here we are, about ten days before the application is due, and the form isn't even available yet.

Of course, that July 1 deadline is pretty meaningless. The District has never met the "deadline" in the past and it has never mattered.

Once the application form is available, the District will complete it and will put the completed grant application form online for people to see.
Thanks Charlie; that did not come across in what Ms. Heath said last night. (And, it could have been noted on the agenda online.)
Anonymous said…
Actually Melissa, people do complain all the time about not getting access to sports or music programs or extra curricular activities. Again. The disabilities community. Routinely denied access to music and/or sports. All those old Lowell APP parents, who just loved those cute disabled students in "their" building - didn't love them enough to take them on their trips to Washington DC. I guess love only goes so far. The DOE has sent a memorandum clarifying the obligations of schools to provide equal access alongside peers without disabilities to athletics and all extra curricular activities. Here's the actual text of that clarification of existing obligations. And right. Sports teams are discriminatory. People just care about them less, not more, than academics.

-sped parent
Anonymous said…
WSDWG - I do not want to say where our school is at this point, because my child is still there, and very likely will still need to interact with the teachers and staff next year. Nearly every situation that we have encountered has been reported, either directly or something similar, on these boards by someone. We do not feel singled out as a family, but we do feel targeted as members of the larger AL community.

I can say that some of the teachers and staff at her school have said, sometimes in public meetings, that the AL students just have pushy elitist parents, are coached on placement tests, are no different academically, are seeking special treatment, are snobbier than the other children, and they would be just fine in the classroom if their parents would stop making them "perform like trained monkeys" (yes, I actually heard that exact phrase). One teacher even told me that she did not think it was that terrible for a student not to learn anything academically for a year since elementary school was more about getting along socially. The parents who are anti-AL make similar comments as well, and some simply refuse to talk with parents who have kids in a program. I have had grown adults refuse to meet my eye and turn away from me when I ask a question about school related activities.

I know this may seem "par for the course" for many other AL families, but I was not prepared for such a reaction from teachers and staff, or from other parents who profess to be progressive and inclusive. We are not originally from Seattle, and we also self-identify as progressive, but there is this weird us-vs-them dynamic that the anti-AL folks seem very attached to.

I originally thought this tension was due to flaws in the SPS process for allocating spaces for or identifying kids who needed AL services, something we also agree is broken in SPS. I thought rational discourse would find some common ground here, particularly on the student identification and the self-contained classroom issues (we can live without self-contained). But it quickly became clear that, at least at our school, the real argument being made by the anti-AL crowd is that they do not recognize that any (or nearly any) kid would ever want or need AL services at all, ever.

It is this wholesale denying of the documented needs these kids, not only by other parents but by their own teachers and staff, that is finally pushing us out of the district. We cannot wait, again, for another round where services are dismantled and the program is thrown in flux again. We have no faith that the powers-that-be believe in AL programs at all, or that they will do anything to put together a stable program. To us, it seems that program decisions are largely based on the latest narrow philosophical or possibly political winds, and that parents are being deliberately cut out of the process.

I wish the fighters a great deal of luck and strength. Lord knows we need people like you on the front lines. But not all of us are up to the task when we also have other family issues to manage, and other educational options that are frankly less antagonistic towards our children. My AL child is growing up, and we just can't wait any longer for SPS to figure out what it wants to do.

Time to Join the 28.6%
Anonymous said…
sped parent

Thank you for your passionate advocacy of children, but why do you direct your ire at the district's failure to serve kids with special needs toward the APP program? You set up a straw man in order to make one group look bad. I went on years of Lowell field trips with the WHOLE school.

Because of liability rules, the trip to DC or Ms. Moon's sea turtle research trips were explicitly *not* school sponsored trips. All meetings and scholarship fundraising had to happen off-site. Did you go to the meetings and try to sign up with your child? Then stop with the fallacious example. At WMS, APP founder Marcy Shadow took kids to China several times and she was a wheelchair user herself.


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