Saturday, August 31, 2013

Washington State PTA Legislative Survey

Via Survey Monkey, the WSPTA is looking for input on these issues.  Of course, considering they got rid of the legislative lobbyist post, we'll have to see if they are any more effective without a point person in Olympia. 

Survey closes on September 30, 2013.

Do You Need to be a Parent to be a Good Teacher?

That's a simplistic question - clearly - but part of the discussion of this column at Slate by Sara Mosle.

You'll recall that I wrote a thread about an article in the NY Times about the movement of younger teachers in and out of of the classroom, particularly TFA teachers.

So Ms. Mosle, a former TFAer (20 years ago), gives an interesting perspective (bold mine):

The Times article, however, neglects another downside to charters' emphasis on youthful hiring: Many schools launch with few or no adults on staff who know first-hand what it's like to be a parent.

If you aren't a parent, maybe this won't strike you as odd. It wouldn't have struck me that way more than 20 years ago when I joined Teach for America in the program's first year and taught for three years in New York City's public schools. I was single, childless, and clueless about even the most basic aspects of child-rearing. My students' parents seemed like creatures from another planet, remote and distant from the job I thought I was doing. To the extent I understood family dynamics, it was solely from the perspective of the teenager I'd been just a few years before.

Nearly two decades later, I returned to the classroom, this time as a mother, and have become acutely aware of how being a parent has made me a better teacher.

Now when parents approach me with worries or high hopes for the future, I have greater respect for their commingled love and fears. I also have a far stronger sense than I did at 25 that children's lives are not static but instead endlessly fluid. They flow in waves of achievements and setbacks, with their own peculiar weather systems and mysterious currents that can change from week to week and month to year and, in the storms of adolescence, from hour to minute.

I don't believe a teacher has to be a parent to be a great teacher.  But, as one commenter on the story points out, the real issue is not that.  It's the teacher training.  Traditionally trained teachers usually get child development as part of their training.  

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bill Watterson and Some Thoughts for Your Kids

Unfortunately, Blogger is not letting me size this new comic from Calvin and Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson.  But check this link and show your kids.  They may try to test our kids into some square peg but that doesn't mean they will succeed.

Advanced Learning - Why Bother?

I mean, seriously, why does this district bother? 

To explain, it was noted by several readers that the testing schedule for Advanced Learning programs is NOT in the school calendar.  And, by law, they have to supply public notice (at least for APP). 

You'd think the calendar, going to every single family in the district, would be the ideal place. 

You'd think the first-day packets, going to every single family in the district, would be the ideal place.

You'd apparently be wrong.

So I wrote to the Board and the Superintendent:

Special Service Program
Highly Capable Students
WAC 392-170-042
Annual notification.

Annual public notification of parents and students shall be made before any major identification activity. The notice shall be published or announced in multiple ways in appropriate languages to each community in school and district publications or other media, with circulation adequate to notify parents and students throughout the district.

This is a legal obligation (at least for APP). 

I respectfully ask that you send home a sheet with the first-day packets with dates and information about this program (unless the district is planning to not have it or test for it this year).

Here's the reply I received from Stephen Martin, Interim Director for AL/Highly Capable:

Mayor's Arts Awards (free concert for the kids)

From the City of Seattle:

Mayor McGinn will present free Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony Friday, August 30 at 4 p.m.

SEATTLE — The 2013 Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony will take place this Friday, August 30 at 4 p.m. at the North Fountain Lawn of Seattle Center. The honorees include two individuals and four organizations, and represent categories ranging from promoting arts as a means of social change to artistic excellence. The Seattle Arts Commission recommended the recipients from a pool of more than 600 public nominations, a new record. The Mayor’s Arts Awards recognize the contributions of artists, arts and cultural organizations and community members who make Seattle a city of creativity. The ceremony is open and free to the public.

The 2013 categories and honorees are:

· Future Focus: 826 Seattle

· Cultural Ambassador: Barbara Earl Thomas

· Venture Culturalist: Frye Art Museum

· Arts as the How: Pongo Teen Writing Project

· Raising the Bar: Preston Singletary

· Artistic City: Seattle Repertory Theatre

After presenting the arts awards, the stage will be turned over to Superintendent José Banda and Sandra Jackson-Dumont, chair of the arts education committee of the Seattle Arts Commission, who will present the public launch of the arts education initiative, The Creative Advantage, which aims to reinvest in Seattle’s students and our community’s economic and creative future by addressing current inequities in arts access and restoring arts education to all Seattle classrooms.
Following the launch of The Creative Advantage, and in honor of arts education and the positive impact of music on developing youth, School of Rock will take the stage at 5:30 for a free concert. School of Rock teaches guitar, bass, vocals, keyboards, drums and prepares students to take the stage in front of live audiences in an authentic concert setting. The concert also honors the 2013 Bumbershoot lineup.

End of press release

More arts investment for Seattle children - as Martha would say, it's a good thing.  (And Yay! to 826, a great free tutoring and mentoring group.) 

Friday Open Thread

Want to see something pretty unpleasant?  Here's one charter school and their answer to how to encourage kids to get to college.

From The Guardian:  are American universities turning away from "classic" books?

Last year, 309 colleges made such assignments. It's a great tradition, but something curious has happened since my days as a college student. Only eight schools assigned anything published before 1990, and only four assigned books that could by any stretch be considered classics.For American college students, 1990 appears to be a historical cliff beyond which it is rumored some books were once written, though no one is quite sure what. Why have US colleges decided that the best way to introduce their students to higher learning is through comic books, lite lit, and memoirs?

Here's a report - Beach Books 2012-2013: What Do Colleges and Universities Want Students to Read Outside Class? from the National Association of Scholar.

Friday funny video (snarky but funny) from the new fight-back group, Badass Teachers.  I find Secretary Duncan's "look" particularly appropriate (at least for his education thinking).

I would ask what's on your mind but I think it's probably about eking out one last summer memory with your children and/or getting ready for school and/or wondering if there will be school next week.  Again, I'm sure school will start and there will be no strike. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Meeting with Michael Tolley and Shauna Heath

Back at the beginning of the summer, when I was being a real nudge, I was invited to a half-hour meeting with Michael Tolley and Shauna Heath scheduled for today. We had that meeting this morning and it consisted entirely of my questions and their answers. They were gracious and relatively candid. Half an hour isn't much time and I wanted to cover a few topics in great depth.

Education News

Some interesting legal rulings have come across my desk.

One is from Ed Week that 529 Plan Savings can be used to pay for college courses taken in high school. 

As long as students are getting college-level credit and are enrolled as students at a college, there is no age requirement about when families can start using savings from their 529 plans, according to Joseph Hurley, founder of Savingforcollege.com in Pittsfield, N.Y. 

"This is an expanding area as parents look for ways to deal with higher college costs," says Hurley.
Dual- or concurrent-enrollment courses are now offered in nearly 48 states (with Maryland and Vermont recently coming on board), and the majority have students pay a portion of the tuition, says Adam Lowe, executive director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Using 529 plan money for dual enrollment can be helpful, as federal financial aid, including Pell Grants and Stafford loans, are not available to students unless they have a high school diploma or equivalency, he adds.

If you are in the Washington State GET program, you might check into this.  There may be penalties for using this money.  More info on this story from US News.

Also from Ed Week, the state of Hawaii lost a case trying to restrict special education to students 20 and younger. 

Nickelsville to move near Washington Middle School?

Update:  I have looked into this - still waiting for district response - but I learned from a Times reporter that the site will have 35 people living there, 24-hour security and a fence.

End of update.

The West Seattle Blog is reporting that the Nickelsville homeless camp will be moving to a site at 20th and Jackson which is near Washington Middle School at 21st and Jackson.

I'll ask the district about this.

Thanks to alert reader Amy.

Executive Committee Meeting Wrap-up

I attended the Executive Committee meeting last week.

The minutes from the previous meeting on June 12th were somewhat telling.  They reflect some discussion of the new Seattle Teacher Residency program.  Michael Tolley noted that it had been assigned to the Audit and Finance Committee and not the Curriculum and Instruction Committee.  That's interesting because I would think training teachers would be C&I but there was not an explanation in the minutes.

As well, Duggan Harman said that "costs have not been finalized."  Remember that for the future because the STR program may well cost much more than we suspect and the money has to come from somewhere.  As well, this item WAS to be on the August 21st Board agenda and the Superintendent pulled it.  I suspect it is because the Board was not going to vote for a program with no budget attached.  Rightly so.

I note that Directors were updated on conditional certifications for TFA teachers and "Directors asked for data on the effectiveness, retention rate and progress" of these teachers and asked that the data review occur at the next C&I meeting.   I was at that next C&II meeting and it wasn't brought forth.  I'll check on this but again, why have the time and resources going into two teaching programs when one of them - TFA - is not popular in SPS at all.

It was also stated in the minutes that there were 260 public disclosure requests made to the district last year, mostly by media sources.

Marni Campbell Leaving Seattle Schools

Marni Campbell, Executive Director for the NW, is leaving to become the Executive Director of Instruction and Innovation in Highline School District for Susan Enfield.  (Oddly, the notice of her hiring just calls her "Executive Director of Schools" which sounds like a far larger post than for just a region.  Probably an oversight.) 

I don't see this as a big loss for SPS as it seemed that she was largely ineffective as the Special Ed director and Executive Director.  I felt she had been an effective principal when I knew her at Eckstein.

But, there's another hole at SPS.  And, Dr. Enfield, knowing the people and the lay of the land at SPS, is carefully picking people off. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

SEA Rally at Eckstein Middle School

Download photo.JPG (147.4 KB)

From the SEA rally outside of Eckstein Middle School this afternoon. It was about 60 teachers and kids. Spoke with SEA head, Jonathan Knapp, who had no new information but said their issues were a "package deal" and "doable."

He also said the teachers could strike but they also could just go to work on September 4th under their old contract and continue negotiations. 

I spoke with a couple of teachers from Greenwood and Pinehurst.  Good spirits but feel that the district just chips away at both their salaries and their class time with students.  They worry that Common Core will continue that because "you teach what you test" and what happens to art, music and PE? 

What was interesting is that both Knapp and the teachers spoke out about how the supporting school staff - the front office staff and the professionals like nurses and speech pathologists - are getting more thrown at them all the time (just as teachers are).  The teachers said they are worried about kids falling through the cracks as everyone is asked to take on more.  When I mentioned that they are the teachers and the other people they are talking about are not, they said that everyone in the school building is part of the process of teaching.

I still feel confident in saying there will be no strike and school will start September 4th, new contract or no new contract.