Sunday, March 30, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, March 31st
The final Strategic Plan Community Meeting from 6:30-8:30 pm in West Seattle at Roxhill Elementary.

Tuesday, April 1st
Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. , JSCEE, Room 2700

Wednesday, April 2nd
School Board meeting starting at 4:15 p.m.  Agenda.

Refusal Movement Growing in New York

FYI, the correct legal term that districts and states use is "refusal" and not "opt-out."

From the Mrs Mom Blog (in case you didn't know what the Supreme Court has to say on this subject):

Until last year, I, along with most parents, did not realize that parents have the right to refuse state testing on behalf of their children. Parents have the right to refuse. There is no provision that allows for the opting out of state assessments, however according to parents’ federal constitutional rights: 

"The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” The Court also declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In recognition of both the right and responsibility of parents to control their children’s education, the Court has stated, “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for the obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder.” (Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158)"

In a nutshell, parents have a say in their child’s education, and the right to refuse state assessments falls under that umbrella. Starting next week, thousands of parents in New York State are doing just that. I am one of them. 

The reason my children will never participate in these assessments again is simple: they are not a useful diagnostic tool that benefit the child in any way. The test is given in April and the scores are received in July.  There is no data or explanation of where the child needs additional help; the score is not sent home with identified areas of weaknesses. At that point, my child’s teacher is no longer my child’s teacher anymore. They are not used to determine promotion or retention of grade levels, nor are they factored into the child’s grade at all. The tests are not used as a learning or teaching tool. Instead, they are used to score and label children a 1-4 and then packed away in a ‘secure location’ for the next few years, never to be seen again. Once the scores are released, the children become statistics.

I’m not sure why society has begun to doubt teachers lately and feel that school districts need to prove that their teachers are actually teaching throughout the school year. If you want proof that children are learning, I can assure you, they are. Some more quickly than others, but that’s what education is. It’s an entire set of variables that are factored together to create a clear picture of that individual child and where that child started the year. Giving children in every school across the state the same test and then expecting to see a clear picture of how school districts and the teachers employed by those districts are performing is flawed. A district with high poverty levels and a large ESL population should not be compared to a suburban affluent district and then ranked and published in an annual school rankings publication. It’s comparing two completely different populations. 

From the NY Times:

About 270 children in the city’s public school system did not sit for the tests, their parents believing that the burdens imposed were hardly offset by the tests’ highly debatable value(Editor's note: it is believed - from other news stories - that not all schools want to report the numbers who have opted out so this number is likely to be low.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Senior Project Going Away?

In something of an irony, a senior doing her senior project did it on...getting rid of the senior proejct.

From the News Tribune:

If Gov. Jay Inslee signs Senate Bill 6552 into law next week, and if school districts decide to use their new option to eliminate the project, seniors in the class of 2015 would be the first to avoid the extra work.

“The bill goes into effect in 2015, so if everything goes right, then next year, this year’s juniors won’t have to do it,” said Stewart, a 17-year-old senior at East Valley High School near Yakima. “I’ve had the juniors and the sophomores and even some of the freshmen come up to me and give me a hug or a high five.”

Don’t celebrate yet, kids.

Districts would have to change their policies. Many are “deeply invested in it,” said Ben Rarick, executive director of the State Board of Education, while others view it “as a compliance hurdle.”

I'll have to ask SPS on Monday what their reaction will be.

There are no statewide standards for projects. Each district sets its own rules.

SPS requires community service hours which is also not a statewide standard.  

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/03/28/3122597/student-hopes-victory-in-legislature.html?sp=/99/296/#storylink=cpy

Downtown Seattle Association Has a Great Idea for Where to Put a School

Update: according to the Times some non-profits are already circling the building but I suspect that if the district got an application together, they might move up that list given they are a public entity.

Apparently, though, (and this is just what I thought the district would say), the Times is reporting Flip Herndon as saying that it would take a lot of work as a school and at what cost.   He's right as the building has asbetos, seismic retrofitting and updating work to be done (the Times cites a figure of $40M).

But honestly, is this looking a gift horse in the mouth?  Of course, nothing is truly free but compared to the costs of finding land and building, this may be the best chance the district has. 

I felt certain the district wouldn't want to divert off its "Strategic Plan" for anything.  They truly need help in looking at the vast facilities and capacity problems - hello, City?

End of update.

I received what I believe is a fairly amazing press release this morning from the Downtown Seattle Association.  They firmly believe a downtown school is needed and have now found a possible location (complete with building) - the former Federal Reserve building, on Second Avenue between Spring and Madison.

The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), Downtown Residents Council, Downtown Seattle Families and other partner organizations have sent a letter to Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Superintendent Jose Banda, to alert district officials about the unique opportunity to acquire, at no cost, a suitable building and land Downtown which could serve as the location for a new Downtown public school.

The federal government is disposing of the former Federal Reserve building, located at 1015 2nd Avenue between Spring and Madison streets. Federal law stipulates that the U.S. government will convey a federally owned building and land for free to a public entity if this property is to be operated for public use, which includes a school district opening a school.

FREE. We like free.

About the site:
The existing structure contains 90,000 square feet—enough to meet the SPS specification for more than 550 students. The site is ideally situated to take advantage of downtown educational opportunities, such as the Central Library (two blocks away), Soundbridge at Benaroya (only 2.5 blocks away), and the Seattle Art Museum (two blocks away). The existing structure has plenty of roof space (and plenty of capacity under the zoned height limits) to develop a rooftop playground, similar to the successful new space atop the Northwest School’s recent expansion on Capitol Hill. 
The site has good transportation access. Not only is it within walking distance of thousands of downtown homes, but it is well-served by public transit.

And if that weren’t enough, the building even looks like a school. 

This shows people who are doing the heavy-lift of truly looking around and finding possibilities.  It may not be the perfect but it is a start and a wonderful one at that.  There could be state dollars to aid this effort and yes, even dollars from heavy hitters like Amazon and Vulcan.  There's logistics and everything that comes with it but I applaud this group their effort and what they have discovered in support of Seattle Public Schools.

Friday, March 28, 2014

New York has the Most Segregated Schools in the Nation (and guess where it's the worst?)

In a devastating report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, New York State's Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future, the conclusion is that NY State has the segregated schools in the nation, both by race and poverty.  They looked at patterns from 1989 to 2010, both at the state and regional levels.

From Education Writers Association:

The children who most depend on the public schools for any chance in life are concentrated in schools struggling with all the dimensions of family and neighborhood poverty and isolation,” said the project’s co-director, Gary Orfield, according to Al Jazeera America.

According to the report, 19 of the 32 community school districts in New York City had enrollments that were less than 10 percent white in 2010.  

The study also called charter schools in the city “apartheid schools” because 73 percent have less than 1 percent white enrollment. 

Magnet schools were the most multiracial. 

From the study:

Seattle Schools Updates/Good News

From SPS Communications:

Ingraham High hosting Seattle Unified Soccer League kickoff Saturday

On Saturday, March 29, Ingraham High School will host opening ceremonies to officially kick off the 2014 Unified Soccer Seattle season. Unified Soccer is an inclusive sports program for ages 8-21 that combines athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners (those without intellectual disabilities) on the same team for training and competition.

7:30 a.m. – Arrive and team check-in
8:15 a.m. – Spirit Rally in the gymnasium
8:45 a.m. – Opening Ceremonies (see speaker schedule below)
9:20 a.m. – March to the Match on the outdoor field
9:30 a.m. – Warm-ups and youth soccer clinic
9:45 a.m. – Unified Soccer games 

Ingraham High School, 1819 N. 135th, Seattle
(Festivities begin in the gymnasium and move to the outdoor field)

Washington State Mudslide Victims

There are truly sad and tragic stories coming out about all the victims of the recent mudslide in Oso, near Darrington.  The youngest victim, a four-month old baby, was found yesterday.  She had been killed as well as her grandmother who was babysitting her. 

They don't need any more volunteers to show up or need more clothing so probably the best way to help is through:
  • Red Cross - call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 
  • to help those with pets/livestock, the Everett Animal Shelter is taking donations
  • Cascade Hospital has set up the Cascade Hospital Foundation Disaster Fund
Please consider making a donation.  

Seattle Schools and Technology

Someone asked a question in the Friday Open Thread about a Special Ed program and that led to SpedPTA president, Mary Griffin, to say this (and she calls it a rant alert and warning but really, it's a huge district-wide issue):

I am not a fan of data sharing, but I am a fan of useful data collection and accessibility within the district.

The district right now is suffering greatly from the lack of usable, easily accessible data. 

 Not having good data means that the Director of Special Education needs to spend two weeks going through all the student records identifying which students receive Special Education services. 

 Not having good data means they can't get their ducks in a row to even fill out the forms to request $12 million dollars to fund Special Education. 

Not having good data interferes with enrollment predictions for next year and hampers communication about the location of classrooms. 

Not having good data means even though they have a federal investigation staring down their throats, SPS can not produce good data statistics around discipline. 

Particularly galling to me is that even though I spent several weeks of my life writing a position paper on the the disproportionate discipline that has been dished out on students with disabilities and tried to hammer out the point that the collection and dis-aggregation of these statistics to include students with disabilities was one of the most important things that the district needs to do, they aren't going to do it at all for the 2012-2013 school year. Why? BECAUSE IT ISN'T A PRIORITY! 

There is good evidence that providing principals about the use of exclusionary discipline in their buildings will help drive down the use of exclusionary discipline. By not being able to provide them and the public with data, the district is dis-serving students.

Additionally, the Special Education department's new external consultant's plan to improve the delivery of special education services to the district relies heavily on providing data to principals. If the districts infrastructure can not provide the data, I have little hope that the consultant's plan will be effective.

The district needs to make the collection and disaggregration of civil rights and special education data a top priority. It is hampering them and more importantly, it is hampering students. 

My comment:

Friday Open Thread

I have many threads to write - student surveys about teachers, Charter Commission meeting, Work Session on data privacy, transportation and athletics (all had very interesting parts).

It appears that LEV has joined forces with the City for the universal pre-school initiative.  This is fine except that LEV has been tweeting that people should send e-mails to the Board, urging them to support early childhood education.  So it was kind of funny at the Work Session on Families & Education on Wednesday when President Peaslee somewhat peevishly told the City staff that, of course the district supports early childhood learning but that no one has briefed the Board or staff on what a City/district partnership might look like.   She did not seem happy that the Board was getting painted in this fashion by LEV.

Holly Miller of the City's Education Department hastened to say their office did not know why LEV was sending those tweets but, yes, the City does know that the district supports this effort and yes, they will be filling the district/Board in soon on what the City is planning.

Peaslee did go on to say that the City HAS to realize the space crunch that the district is in and there may be very little room to house any additional preschools.  (My sources tell me that Councilman Burgess seems to not understand this issue and continues to think the district has space for multiple preschool classes.)  Again, Ms. Miller said the City does understand and praised SPS staff for "creative" thinking on this issue even if there is not space at schools.

On the heels of that discussion, I have heard from those who have done the deep dig/thinking on the growth of the district and it seems that the district will continue to grow and, apparently, most of that growth is most likely to take place in the lower grades (not kindergarten but 1st/2nd).  It could be that Pay for K is masking people who may show up in bigger numbers in 1st grade and may stretch our district's resources even more. 

Bill Moyers interviews Diane Ravitch on his show on Sunday on KCTS at 6:30 p.m.

Letter that Neil DeGrasse Tyson wrote to Carl Sagan in 1975 when Tyson was a senior in high school.  Tell your kids it never hurts to reach out to people.  Tyson is now doing Sagan's Cosmos series (and it's very good). 

What's on your mind?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wilson-Pacific Meeting

It fell off my radar that there was a meeting at Wilson-Pacific last  night (I believe it was a SEPA meeting).  Did anyone attend and if so, could you describe the discussion?  Reports here.


In a related story, here's what was said at last week's Operations Committee meeting where there was some discussion about Wilson-Pacific.

College Degrees and ROI

Not sure that ROI (return on investment) is really the best way to look at what college/university you pick but for some degrees, it could make a difference.  The Atlantic has a comparison.  Look at where UW is.

It's important to be clear about what this study is telling us and what it's not telling us. The fact that the most valuable colleges here seem so predictable is an interesting data point, because the predictably best colleges tend to get the best students. So what you're seeing here isn't just the quality of the school's education but also the quality of the students it attracts. 

Indeed, that's one reason why it's important to not conflate "highest ROI" with "best" or "smartest."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Internal Communications Specialist required

Seattle Public Schools has an interesting job posting. Here is a Facebook post about it:

Here is a link to the actual job posting.

I particularly like the part about "two-way conversation (not just top-down messaging)"

Bumbershoot Goes Back to Memorial Stadium

From The Slog, news that Memorial Stadium will be used all three-days of Bumbershoot.  Here's hoping between allowing a women's soccer team, Reign FC,  to use the field and Bumbershoot, it's a shot of money that can be used to update that stadium. 

Seattle's annual Labor Day arts festival Bumbershoot is moving its Mainstage from KeyArena to Memorial Stadium. Key had served that function for the last three years. Memorial Stadium's comeback comes with a new configuration.

Seattle Schools' Advanced Learning Updates

Many updates on Advanced Learning via the Superintendent's Friday update (thanks to Mirmac 1 for finding this).  It is a litany of woes about many issues affecting AL (some of their own making and some the district.  One of them, lack of cooperation from schools, needs some attention from someone.)  Emphasis mine:

From Advanced Learning:

The most important update continues to be the changes that occurred in April 2013 to the Washington Administrative Code (WAC 392-170) regarding Highly Capable Learners. After speaking with OSPI and colleagues around the state, most districts are making adjustments to their Highly Capable programs in response to the changes. During this transition year, OSPI is providing some lee-way in their annual consolidated program review to allow the districts to adjust. 

The new WACs regarding Highly Capable Learners requires that changes be made to our current program delivery model. State law now requires additional services be offered and reported for Kindergarten students and grades 9-12. We had not historically provided services to Kindergarten students and our services for students in grades 9 12 had been limited to voluntary participation in AP or IB courses. 

We have two task forces concurrently running that will help Seattle Public Schools as we make changes to address the new WACs:
  1. 1)  A Highly Capable Learner Identification task force that will provide input into how Highly Capable Learners are identified and the systems and processes that would ideally be in place. 

  2. 2)  A Program and Services Delivery Model task force that will provide recommendations for serving the “Most Highly Capable” (state language) students known in Seattle as Accelerated Progress Program (APP). APP students may now participate in the Accelerated Progress Program, Spectrum program and Advanced Learning Opportunity (ALO) services. Changes or revisions to all three programs are possible.
We are nearing the end of the annual Advanced Learning Nomination process. This year we:
  • - Received 4,825 individual student nominations.
  • - Administered 4,008 cognitive achievement tests (CogAT 7 full battery).
  • - Are processing over 300 appeals to decisions made. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Things That Make You Go, Hmmm

When Common Core supporters call Common Core opponents "enemies", I think, hmmm.

This appeared in a NY Times op-ed (that I thought was fairly pedantic) and Ready Washington, a mystery public/private WA state cheerleading group for Common Core, retweeted the link as though it's a good thing to divide people who want a transparent discussion about Common Core.  And really, the op-ed isn't even really about Common Core.

Speaking of Ready Washington, they say at their Facebook page that the discussion has to be "fact-based."  Okay, but who decides what is factual?  Because at their webpage, they have a big whopper in their FAQs on Common Core:

Who developed the Common Core ?
The Common Core was created by states, for states.

Uh, no, that's not true.  Here's what true (and this comes from numerous sources including U.S News&World Report and Wikipedia).

Common Core standards were created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and a non-profit education reform group called Achieve. The NGO is - by their own words - "a public policy organization" and they are a non-profit. They do not have public meetings. CCSSO is also a non-profit with corporate partners like ETS, InBloom, Microsoft and Pearson.

If "states" had created them, then how are the standards copyrighted by NGA and CCSSO? State departments of education have to have a license to use the standards.

Was there input from many people in many states?  Sure, but state-created?  No.

I'm fine if OSPI is working with groups like Stand and LEV and PTA to push Common Core (not to mention Microsoft and the Alliance and Washington Roundtable) but yes, once you involve public (read: taxpayer-funded entities), the cheerleading has to be truthful AND factual. 

Let Stand and LEV tell their tales but OSPI needs to be on the straight and narrow. 

When Director Blanford seems to have to ask an awful lot of questions at a Board committee meeting, causing it to come to a standstill, I think, "Does no one give new directors an informational book before they get on committees?"  I say this out of frustration because when directors are supposed to oversee massive capital spending and yet do not know the basics of building (and don't know the right questions to ask), it's hard to fathom how anyone can say there is oversight.  At least he's honest about what he doesn't know (and it's a lot).  

When the Alliance says, several times at this morning's annual breakfast, that they are involved in education "causes" (rather than education).  Hmmm.

Indiana has pulled out of Common Core.  Will their own standards be Common Core-lite? 

This follows the "rebranding" of Common Core by several states like Arizona (Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards), Iowa (the Iowa Core), and Florida (Next Generation Sunshine State Standards - very cheery).  Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas said, "rebrand it, refocus it, but don't retreat."

Or redirect.  Hmmm.

Let's See If We Can Get the President's Attention

There's a petition going to direct the Department of Education and Congress to remove annual standardized testing mandates of NCLB and RttT. 

It needs 97,350 signatures and needs to get to 100,000 to get attention from the White House.  (Update: I had this backwards previously.)

Meanwhile the Today show on NBC has a Facebook poll going on about testing:

Do you think standardized tests are the best way for kids to learn? Tell us why or why not in the comments below. We’ll tackle the debate on air tomorrow!

It's running about 4,000K+no to 32 yes.

Tuesday Open Thread

Parents, Teens and Sex: The Talk, Part 2
Tuesday, March 25th at the SW Branch Library (9010 35th Ave SW) from 6:00pm- 7:30pm Presented by Katie Acker, MPH, Health Educator with the Neighborcare Health School-Based Health Centers at Chief Sealth and West Seattle High Schools

We will reiterate the critical role parents play in teens’ lives, decision making and health-seeking behaviors.  The presentation will include:

· brief data on the state of sexual health and sexual activity among teens,

· helpful resources for parents,

· role play examples and

· strategies on initiating and continuing “the talk” and taking the topics to the next levels. 

Happened to get a Linkedin e-mail asking me if I wanted to "link" with Suzanne Dale Estey. Turns out she went to work at the Economic Development Council of Seattle/KC and has stepped in as interim CEO.

Among district job openings: Coordinator of Equity and Race Relations for Family Community Engagement

Info graphic courtesy Washington Association of School Administrators
Info graphic - Washington Association of School Administrators
Another voice in the Times asking when our state will fully fund education under McCleary (with a good infographic).

What's on your mind? 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Seattle Schools and "Refusal" to Take Tests

I asked SPS for a comment on what the policies are for parents who want to opt their students out of standardized testing.  (Although MAP is not mentioned, these answers probably apply.)  Here is the reply (and I'm happy to see this district not being punitive):

Currently for the MSP, we do not have “opt out” but rather parent or student refusal. (The language from the Washington State Assessment Coordinators Manual is at the bottom of this email.)

For parents who refuse to have their child tested – they may choose to keep them home in the morning of the test dates or if they come to school, they will be supervised but not have individualized instruction. Supervision could be helping in the library or assistance in K-2 since they do not test MSP. The parent refusal must be initiated by the parent and not a teacher suggestion.

We do not have the “sit and stare” policy.

Because it is parent initiated, they know their child will not be testing. They will not go to the office to be questioned. Once the request has been made by the parent – in writing:
1. It is filed in the student’s permanent record file.
2. The teacher/proctor is made aware that they will not be testing that student.
3. The student can come late on testing days or be supervised somewhere else in the building.

Common Core and What is Coming

I remember from talking to a teacher in Pittsburgh (where coincidentally, this photo was taken), that she told me her school had a "data room" where any teacher in any class could see how every single student was doing AND look up all the data on them - discipline records, F/RL, etc.  This appears to be such a room.  She said the door was not locked and any adult could wander in there.  Would you want other parents seeing this kind of thing? 

 I see a pink highlight on most of the students in the red section and fewer in the green or yellow sections but I don't know what it means. 

From Seattle Education blog, a great video of a 4th-grade mom in Arkansas who uses her three-minutes before her school Board, to explain her deep unhappiness with Common Core.  She even gets the board to interact with her (something you would never see here). 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, March 24th
Seattle Special Education PTSA Meeting, at 7 pm, Rm 2700, JSCEE

Topic is Secondary Transition and plans in SPS to to bring the District into compliance with IDEA on secondary transition. 

Wednesday, March 26th
Oversight Work Session on Athletics/Transportation from 4-6 p.m.  I'm assuming from the length of it that these are two sessions in one.  Agenda.

Athletic (sic) Presentation
- among the "strengths" - It is interesting to try to read between the lines.  It almost sounds like this department wants to run more effectively and smoothly but needs help with technology and a clear direction on how to proceed from the top
- among the "weaknesses" - transportation, difficulties in communications and "inability to attract, recruit and maintain quality athletic coaches."  
- "threats/risks" (an unfortunate column name) - "increasing responsibilities for administration of the Unified Special Olympics program within SPS."  They also note that the SPS Unified Sports progra has received national recognition from the Special Olympics program.

And, there was this that I didn't know about: "During recent State Audits there were questions in regards to the Seattle Children's Athletic Trainer Contract.  There is a need for a dedicated staff member to manage this $330K personal services contract for the safety of our student athletes." 

There was also this:

Middle School feeder pattern programs have been receiving a lot of focus from the WIAA recently. This is an area that the district will have to focus on in the near future. 

Transportation Presentation 

One thing I see on page 4 is their list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats/risks. What I don't see is that parents are unhappy. That seems odd to me given the refrain I hear from many corners of the district.

Looking at benchmarking on page 11, I have to wonder about one of these columns and I think the directors should as well. It's "number of FTE" and it ranges wildly from 2.7 in Spokane to 32 in SPS to 126 in Anchorage. I'm having a hard time believing this is an apples to apples comparison.

Work Session on Families & Education Levy Update from 6-7 p.m.  Wondering if there will talk of how important "data" is to all this work.

Thursday, March 27th
Another of the Strategic Plan Community meetings, this one is at Ballard High School from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 29th
Community Meeting with Director Peters from 10-11:30 am at the Ballard Library.

Community Meeting with Director Patu from 10 am to noon at Cafe Vita.

Race in our Public Schools

More news on race and children in America.

I offer this information as news.  I have tried not to editorialize much here but to listen to what others are saying. 

Somewhere in this country, people are suspending preschoolers and most of them are children of color or Special Education students.  (I didn't even know you could suspend a pre-schooler.)  This story from the Huffington Post.  It's a wide-ranging report that goes from preschool thru high school and examines not just discipline but offerings in districts throughout the country. 

A staggering new report released by the Department of Education and the Justice Department on Friday highlights a troubling pattern of zero-tolerance school discipline policies that disproportionately impact minority students in general, but also trickle down to the nation’s youngest students.

While black children represent only 18% of preschool enrollment nationally, they make up 42% of students suspended once and nearly half of students who are suspended more than once, according to the report, an analysis of Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) data for the 2011-2012 school year.

The release is the first comprehensive look at civil rights data in nearly 15 years, including data from all 97,000 of the nation’s public schools, representing 49 million students. According to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the release of this year’s report is the first time in which such detailed information on school data from the state, district and school level has been made available via a searchable database

Minority students have less access to experienced teachers. Most minority students and English language learners are stuck in schools with the most new teachers. Seven percent of black students attend schools where as many as 20 percent of teachers fail to meet license and certification requirements. And one in four school districts pay teachers in less-diverse high schools $5,000 more than teachers in schools with higher black and Latino student enrollment. 

Meanwhile President Obama has launched a new campaign - My Brother's Keeper - an initiative with "leading foundations and businesses" to build "ladders of opportunity" for boys of color.  

We can learn from communities that are partnering with local businesses and foundations to connect these boys and young men to mentoring, support networks, and skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way up into the middle class. And the Administration will do its part by helping to identify and promote programs that work. 

That starts by using proven tools that expand opportunity at key moments in the lives of these young people.  The President believes this includes ensuring access to basic health, nutrition, and to high-quality early education to get these kids reading and ready for school at the youngest age.  But that’s not enough.  We need to partner with communities and police to reduce violence and make our classrooms and streets safer.  And we need to help these young men stay in school and find a good job– so they have the opportunity to reach their full potential, contribute to their communities and build decent lives for themselves and their families.

Over at the New York Times, they have a great feature, Room for Debate,  where they have 5-6 "experts" on any given topic weigh in on what they think of current thinking/action on the topic.  They did this for My Brother's Keeper and it is an interesting conversation.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The White House Wants Your Input on Big Data and Privacy

Please go to this White House site and give the President your opinion on data privacy. 

There is a message from John Podesta, who is aide and counselor to the President, in a short video where he states that he is the Chair of the "Big Data and Privacy Working Group" at the White House.

Here are the two big questions that are being asked by the White House:

1) Which technologies or use of data is most transforming in your day-to-day life?
2) Which technologies or use of data gives you pause?

(Oddly, Mr. Podesta asks both questions but the survey doesn't.  Let them know what gives you pause.) 

I'll simply say - again - that I believe over the next 10 years, the new coin of the realm in our country, for both government and business, will be personal data.   (My other coin of the realm over the next 20+years? Water, not oil.)

We, the people, should be directing where this line is, not Bill Gates or Arne Duncan (for public school children) and not unilateral decisions by the White House.  

Yes, the door has opened ever wider - both by our own hands as citizens as well as by government/business push - but that does NOT mean that privacy doesn't exist or is going away.

You and I may have differing ideas about privacy and certainly our children do. 

But every - single - person has a privacy line.

I like to use the example of Justice Potter Stewart when he was considering a pornography case that had come before the Supreme Court.  He was asked what his definition was of pornography. 

He said he couldn't define it but "I know it when I see it."  We all know our own privacy line "when we see it." 

Child identity theft is one of the fastest growing types of identity theft in the country.  Most people get their children a Social Security number as babies in order to access many government services.  You may not know - for years - that your child's identity has been compromised. 

Upload a lot of data - data that may not even be PII (personally identifiable data) - that can be linked together and you have a hacker's dream.

In 2012, a national poll conducted by Consumer Reports found these results:
  • 71 percent of the 1,017 adults polled said they were very concerned that online firms are selling or sharing their personal data without their permission;
  • the survey found almost as much concern among mobile-phone users, with 65 percent saying they worry that apps on their smartphones could access their address books, photos, and other personal information without their permission;
  • A majority of those polled also said they worry that companies are holding on to data about them longer than is needed;
  • that personal data collected while online could be used by employers or loan providers; 
  • and that online firms are collecting data about children.
Now is the time to stand up and be counted.

More on this to come.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seattle Schools and Opting Out

I'll have to ask SPS just what happens if a student opts out of a school-wide test.  But here is what is happening in other parts of the country (and it's just wrong).

From the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet, the policy of "sit and stare."  Districts and schools are allowing students to opt out but only if they sit still for the entire duration of the test.  No reading, no homework, no headphones.  I'm surprised they don't make them just sit in a corner and face the wall.

“Sit and stare” policies are being considered or adopted in schools from New York to California as a reaction to the growing “opt out” movement in which parents have decided that they do not want their children to have to take high-stakes standardized tests. Each state has its own policy about opting out, but they don’t generally provide districts with guidance about how to enforce it, so administrators come up with their own policies.

As the number of parents opting out grows, so do the ways that school administrators are trying to persuade them not to, often out of concern that their schools will be penalized by federal education rules that require annual standardized testing by most of the students who attend each campus.

Friday Open Thread

Seattle Education blog is having a Meetup.  It's An Opt-Out Workshop with Jesse Hagopian (currently running on the SEE slate- Social Equality Educators - for SEA president).

It's Wednesday, March 26th at 6:30 p.m.  RSVP: seattled@icloud.com (you must RSVP to attend as it is being held at a private home.) 

What's on your mind?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Students First? If You Pay Enough

Michelle Rhee's group, Students First, has been trying to get more "likes" at Facebook.  Or rather, buying more "likes." 

From Big Education Ape blog:

 The most popular country for her Students First group is in Bangladesh?  Well, yes because...

Search on Facebook for "We Sell Likes in Bangladesh." You'll see that anyone can buy 1000 likes for about $15 bucks. (Click HERE to go buy likes or fake friends for yourself.) Click HERE to read an article that tells about the dishonest business of buying popularity on social media sites. 

The most popular city for the Alabama Students First?  Istanbul, Turkey. 

Seattle Schools Staff Cuts - Not So Restored

Update:  here is what Superintendent Banda said in a press release on Tuesday:

As a result, each school was given a funding amount based on student population, including weighted discretionary dollars, to make budget decisions that best fit the needs of their school. The goal was to provide as much flexibility to schools to meet the needs of their school population. Subsequently, we have heard from our school staff that this new formula is detrimental to our schools. Please know we listened to your concerns and funding of our classrooms and schools remains our first priority.

As of today, $1.8 million has already been restored to schools and the Executive Directors of Schools are working with school leaders to have the remaining amounts in place this week. We intend to fully restore what was cut during the WSS allocation.

End of update.

In an e-mail that was sent yesterday to SPS principals, Executive Directors and the Superintendent Leadership Team (but not the Board) by Michael Tolley - this was at 3:42 pm, about a half-hour before the Board meeting started, he told the principals a slightly different story than what was previously understood.

He says that the WSS committee had first decided on "the strategy of giving schools as much flexibility as possible...by converting some positions to discretionary dollars, knowing that schools could buy back positions if needed."  Ah, the Sophie's Choice for principals.

He said then they cut $4M from discretionary dollars.

Then he said that in the all-staff letter Tuesday morning they "communicated our intent to fully restore the $4M with....money we received from the State and projected SPS reserves."  Great.

BUT "schools that lost positions will see the restoration of funds as discretionary dollars.  We strongly recommend that this restoration of discretionary funding be used to restore staff positions that may have been cut through the budgeting process."

The point is - if you are missing it - that the staffing positions, as needed parts of a well-run school, are NOT being restored.  Instead the principals are being allowed to make the choice that the BLTs want.  I would assume most BLTs would keep clerical staff but maybe not.   It's hard to know what staff the district believes any given school needs to run but it appears they think it is fewer and fewer people.

Common Core Math _ One Parent's Thoughts

Common Core math problem of the day (and look how cleverly they worked in showing your work...in words).

Scenes from Last Night's Board Meeting

Last night's Board meeting saw the honoring of four (!) SPS basketball championship teams.  (My apologies to Garfield's boys basketball team - I managed to flub my photos of them.)

Ballard High School Beavers -Special Olympics Unified Basketball Team

Cleveland High School Lady Eagles- 3A State Champs
Rainier Beach Vikings - 3A State Champions

The Superintendent in a demonstration of how much a middle school student would have to carry w/o a locker.
Later Start protesters before the meeting

Ballard High Video by Will Erstad, Aurore Bouriot and Side Johnson about needing more sleep.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Seattle Schools' Transportation Costs - If We Fund Charter Students, What Will That Mean?

I knew when the charter school initiative was being debated that charter schools were not supposed to get as much money for transportation as real public schools.  In fact, one of the main questions in the application was about transport.

So now it turns out that in the recently passed Budget bill there was a section to cut down the transportation funding.  (This comes to us via the Washington Policy Center.)

Section 505(2)(b) of the House Budget Amendment to the Senate Budget bill, SB 6002, would have required transportation funding for charter school students to be calculated based on “total number of students in the district.”

The voter-approved charter school law, however, requires that, “Allocations for pupil transportation must be calculated on a per student basis based on the allocation for the previous school year to the school district in which the charter school is located” (RCW 28A.710.220(3)).

 If you know our charter law, every charter school is its own district and that would not be much money.  (And, you could rightly say, you want autonomy and not be under a district's thumb, this is what comes with that.)

But this apparently got correct in the finally budget:

“Per student allocations for pupil transportation must be calculated using the allocation for the previous year to the school district in which the charter school is located and the number of eligible students in the district, and must be distributed to the charter school based upon the number of eligible students.”  See final version of SB 6002.

What this means to the entire SPS transportation budget, I don't know.  I will mean more transportation costs to the state as they now may be transporting more kids over longer distances (given any child in the region can attend a charter school).

Seattle Schools Parent-Teacher Conferences - What Works?

 From the thread on The Source/Fusion:

Also, maybe this is a thread request, and potentially not relevant, but I am thinking about parent teacher conferences and what the expectations should be.

What do you learn in P/T conferences, and what would you like to learn? Any hints for making the conference time more effective? 

Both from the teacher POV and parent POV, what do you want from a parent/teacher conference?  

The Gap Between Rhetoric and Action

There are a lot of people in Education who say all of the right things, but then, somehow, go ahead and do all of the wrong things. This continues to astound me. We see it all the time from US Secretary of Education, the Governor, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Education Reformers, Board Directors, the Superintendent, and the senior staff. No one, however, shows me a bigger gap between what they say and what they do than the Alliance for Education. They top the list with the biggest gap of all because they always, always, always say the very best things. They not only say the right things, but they state them eloquently and passionately. Then they always, always, always do the very worst things. They do them with extraordinary gusto and grim determination.

It freaks me out every time I witness it. That happened again today when I received an email from the Alliance for Education President Sara Morris.

Wilson-Pacific Meeting

Thought I'd open a thread for anyone who attended that meeting to weigh in.

As I posted elsewhere, I am baffled by the use of Wilson-Pacific fields for Lincoln High.

Why not Woodland Park?  Or, near me, they are going to lid the reservoir near Roosevelt High.  Why not dedicate one of those fields to Lincoln?

I said I think the district is doing the wrong thing on the Genesee Hill Elementary school design.

I think the district is creating a monster problem - from the get-go, no less - with Wilson-Pacific.

No lockers, no auditorium (for two schools!) and shared field?  Not exactly the same middle school experience as other SPS middle schools.  If there is no dedicated space for music in the middle school, I have to wonder what they can even offer.  It will certainly be lesser to Eckstein or Jane Addams.

Just wanted to put up the Operations Committee meeting agenda for Thursday, March 21st from 4:30-6:30 pm.

There are several capital items of interest:

BEX Oversight Committee annual report (John Palewicz, Chair)
BEX IV: Construction contract Green Lake Elementary lunch room addition (M.
BEX IV, Construction contract Jane Addams Middle School repurposing and seismic
improvements, Phase I (L. Morello)
BEX IV: Wilson-Pacific Elementary & Middle School educational specifications (E.
BTA III, Construction contract: Gatewood Elementary School re-roofing (L. Morello)
BTA III, Construction contract: Columbia School modernization Phase II project (E.

a. Policy 6600, Transportation (and procedure); repeal H88.00 and 6605 (B. Westgard)
Committee Updates and Discussion Items
Growth boundaries-capacity management discussion
Annual report: Policy 6882, rental, lease and sale of real property

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SEA Response to SPS Budget Cut Reversal

Dear SEA members,

Congratulations! By acting collectively on behalf of students and schools, and by shining a light on SPS budget practices that have routinely overestimated expenses, we have succeeded in getting the District to reverse the $4 million in school budget cuts!

By Monday night, 40 schools had voted no on their school budgets, with dozens more set to follow suit this week.  Hundreds of members were making plans to come to the school board meeting tomorrow night.  Now that will not be necessary; the school board action is cancelled.

This unprecedented action by SEA members helped District leaders understand the devastating impact the cuts would have, and focused them on SEA’s budget analysis, which showed a pattern of overestimating expenses which has resulted in substantial end of year savings for the last 4 years.

We also commend the many principals, executive directors and central office administrators who worked diligently to understand the cut’s impact on schools, to re-examine their budgets, and to find some money to mitigate the cuts. A late infusion of money from the legislature gave SPS the confidence that it would have enough in its reserves to reverse the cuts. While District resources will be thin for a short period, SEA’s analysis showed, and the District agreed, that as the year goes on reserves will rebound sufficiently.

We reached an agreement last night with the District to set aside budget votes while schools assess how their budget picture may change. Some schools had already received substantial mitigation dollars and may not see much change in their budgets. Others will see positive changes in their allocation, regardless of whether they voted yes, no, or hadn’t voted yet. Building mediations in the 40 schools that voted “no” are cancelled. If a building votes “no” on their new budget, a new mediation will be scheduled, just as in past years.

We have asked the District to make clear that with the cuts reversed, there is no longer any District recommendation to cut FTEs as was called for by the Weighted Staffing Standards (WSS) in the first allocation. However, bear in mind that enrollment changes and reductions in federal Title I money may have an FTE impact in some buildings.

As public educators, we are called on not just to do great things in our classrooms, offices and worksites, but also to be skilled and energetic advocates for public education itself. Again, congratulations to all SEA members!

In solidarity,

Jonathan Knapp                               Phyllis Campano
President                                           Vice-President

KOMO Helicopter Crash; Please Stay Away from Area

Mayor Murray and SPD are asking people to please stay away from the Seattle Center area in the wake of this morning's crash of a KOMO helicopter that killed the two people onboard and seriously injured a driver in a car where the crash occurred.

EMP and the Monorail are closed.  It is likely that any school activities that may have been scheduled for that area (like Science Center) are cancelled.  You might want to check with your school if any outings were scheduled in that area for this week.

It's a sad day for all reporters and journalists.  It makes me think of two things.

One was the day of the Cafe Racer shootings when no one knew where the shooter had gone.  I went over to Roosevelt High School that was in lock-down and surrounded by school security staff and SPD.  I ran into Times' reporter, Brian Rosenthal, and remarked that I couldn't believe he and I were standing around looking for news when there could be a shooter nearby.  He, in his 23-year old wisdom, looked at me and said, "That's how you know you're a reporter."

It was reported today that one person who was also nearby the helicopter crash just left the scene and no one knew why.  I think I might have an idea why he did that.

I can recall a day, decades ago, when I was at the University of Arizona.  It was a bright, sunny day and my class had ended early.  I was walking the main drive area up the center of school to get some lunch.  There is a nearby Air Force base and they always practiced over the skies of Tucson.

I heard a plane overhead and then, I didn't.  Its engine noise stopped and several of us looked up right away.  The plane came drifting down, without sound, but in a seemingly controlled manner.  I saw it come over a line of U of A buildings down to the street (the buildings blocked my view of the street)  and then a huge BOOM! and fire and smoke.  The impact was like an earthquake under our feet.

The pilot ejected safely but the plane landed on two girls in a car who were killed instantly.

Many people ran to see what had happened but I just walked away.  I couldn't look.

It remains one of the most unworldly things I ever experienced - a plane just dropping down out of the sky.

Tuesday Open Thread

A six-year-old calls Hasbro out on its Guess Who game (with 19 men and only 5 women on the game board).  They write back with a silly answer and her mom weighs in.

A bipartisan bill has been introduced into the House of Representatives to cut down on high-stakes testing. 

In the on-going debate about discipline, zero-tolerance discipline and how to keep a classroom orderly (while NOT suspending kids), an interesting article from Education Next.  One report, Discipline Disparities, has a lot of good info and says this:

One oft-repeated justification for frequent suspensions is that schools must be able to remove the “bad” students so that “good” students can learn. There is no research to support this popular theory. To the contrary, when schools serving similar populations were compared across the state of Indiana, and poverty was controlled for, those schools with relatively low suspension rates had higher, not lower test scores.

But two other studies find that students who were disruptive did have a "negative impact on the achievement of other students in the class."

It's compelling reading and makes for a big challenge for teachers and administrators.

What's on your mind?

The bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to change the number of federally mandated standardized tests state would be required to administer under the current law, eliminating annual testing and replacing it with grade-span testing (or testing once over a certain span of grades.)
Read more at http://thejournal.com/articles/2014/03/11/reforming-reform-bill-aims-to-curb-high-stakes-testing-mandates.aspx?m=2#jgLVIfvW0ODkKCYp.99
The bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to change the number of federally mandated standardized tests state would be required to administer under the current law, eliminating annual testing and replacing it with grade-span testing (or testing once over a certain span of grades.)
Read more at http://thejournal.com/articles/2014/03/11/reforming-reform-bill-aims-to-curb-high-stakes-testing-mandates.aspx?m=2#jgLVIfvW0ODkKCYp.99
The bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to change the number of federally mandated standardized tests state would be required to administer under the current law, eliminating annual testing and replacing it with grade-span testing (or testing once over a certain span of grades.)
Read more at http://thejournal.com/articles/2014/03/11/reforming-reform-bill-aims-to-curb-high-stakes-testing-mandates.aspx?m=2#jgLVIfvW0ODkKCYp.99

Monday, March 17, 2014

Seattle Schools Backs Off on School Cuts

I have received word of the following:

The district is to recind the budget cuts to schools and add $1.8M to the budget to cover these cuts.

The union is urging members to still attend the School Board meeting on Wednesday to support later start times.

I'll be checking in with both groups tomorrow.

Update:  Banda's letter to school staff (which I find wordy and not entirely clear).   But, the upshot is that $1.8M will be "restored" to schools and "We intend to fully restore what was cut during the WSS allocation."  It is unclear to me when that might happen (meaning, is this aspirational or doable?)