Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Looking for New Leadership for the Seattle Education Assn.

Monday began the voting period for teachers in SPS to elect the leadership of their union the Seattle Education Association (SEA). The RESPECT slate is hoping to win office and I’m hoping they do too.  The voting continues for the next ten days.

The RESPECT platform proposes a new way of collaborating with parents and community members in the interest of unifying the power of those fighting for genuine reform of our public schools. Many of us believe Seattle needs its own research-based vision for the schools our children deserve. Those developed in Chicago, Portland and St. Paul through a collaborative process between teachers, parents and the community became a foundation from which strong alliances blossomed.

With the RESPECT slate leading the SEA I’m confident that we will move forward on creating such a vision that meets the needs of Seattle Schools' students. I also believe the RESPECT slate will help us come closer to achieving the kind of partnership between teachers and parents that other cities have proven is necessary in building the struggle to prevent the deepening toll of corporate education reform on our children.

You may know Jesse Hagopian, RESPECT candidate for SEA president. Jesse is the Black Student Union adviser and teaches history at Garfield High School, where he helped to lead the MAP test boycott that brought together students, parents and teachers in a common struggle for a sane approach to assessment. Jesse was also the recipient of the 2013 national "Secondary Teacher of the Year Award" from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences.

Marian Wagner is running with RESPECT for the vice-president position. She is an elementary science teacher at Salmon Bay. Marian serves on the joint SEA/SPS Professional Growth and Evaluation Working Group to ensure safeguards and processes are in place to improve our evaluation system so it is fair and supportive of developing teacher practice.

Dan Troccoli
is currently teaching language arts at Franklin High School and is the RESPECT candidate for treasurer. Dan is a founding member of the Social Equality Educators, serves as an SEA delegate to the MLK County Labor Council where he works to build solidarity between educators and the rest of the labor movement.

These teachers along with others on the RESPECT slate helped fight the school closures in 2008 and organize last year’s MAP test boycott. They have shown leadership throughout the years and a commitment to defending the kind of public education parents want for their kids.

There is also a fundraiser for the RESPECT slate this Sunday, May 4th at 1:00 pm.  Details here.  Please think about attending.

Urge an educator you know to vote for the RESPECT slate today.

Tuesday Open Thread

SIIF is having a Giant Monsters All-Out Attack week - Godzilla, Mothra, King Kong, and others.

What's on your mind?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Impact Philanthropy (Or, Ed Reform for the Young and the Restless)

You'd think our current Democratic administration would have more to do than host a convention for "100 young philanthropists and heirs to billionaire families" at the White House but apparently not.  From the NY Times:

Their name tags read like a catalog of the country’s wealthiest and most influential clans: Rockefeller, Pritzker, Marriott. They were there for a discreet, invitation-only summit hosted by the Obama administration to find common ground between the public sector and the so-called next-generation philanthropists, many of whom stand to inherit billions in private wealth.

Policy experts and donors recognize that there’s no better time than now to empower young philanthropists. Professionals in the field, citing an Accenture report from 2012, estimate that more than $30 trillion in wealth will pass from baby boomers to younger generations by around 2050. At the same time, the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy (no relation to this reporter) and the nonprofit consulting group 21/64 have concluded in a recent study on philanthropic giving that heirs are becoming involved in family foundations at an earlier age — specifically in their 20s and 30s — and imprinting them with the social values of their generation.

Now interestingly, the article does not mention public education but it's never far from these kinds of conversations.   And what's the one big takeaway:

One topic that seemed to generate intense interest among the wealthy heirs was impact investing, which refers to a socially conscious form of investing that seeks to generate both a social benefit and a meaningful financial return.

After reading that, you'd think that the realization would set in that there is BIG money to be made from public education.  

Here's a good example of investors making money but yet not really getting the job done for kids. 

It's a scathing review of the very popular charter chain that is in California, Rockship.  From Truthout the story is about a new report, Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Gordon Lafer, a political economist and University of Oregon professor:

Lafer's research, commissioned by the Economic Policy Institute to evaluate the school-privatization push in Milwaukee, is a sweeping indictment of the growing private charter school industry -- and other schemes backed by rightwing groups and big business -- that siphon public funds out of public schools and enrich corporate investors at the expense of quality education for poor children.

Kindergarteners - Get with the System

I come to this issue because of two recent stories about kindergarteners.

One was from Oregon where - guess what?  Bad news about testing kindergarteners for "school readiness."  Two state official up the food chain in public education in Oregon called the kindergartener readiness results "sobering."

It is important to have a baseline for each child.  But this pressure of testing and standards - which are not developmentally appropriate for these children - is wrong.  It is unlikely to move the needle and, in fact, is more likely to hurt them.  Every single book or article I have ever read about early childhood  development talks about the learning through play model (which is rapidly disappearing).

So then we come to the story from Elwood, New York about the cancellation of a kindergarten play in the name of  "college and career" readiness goals.

Kindergarten (and even preschool) has increasingly become academic — at the expense of things such as recess and the arts — in this era of standardized test-based school reform. In most states, educators are evaluated in large part on test scores of students (sometimes students they don’t have) and on showing that their students are “college and career ready,” the mantra of the Obama administration’s education initiatives. 

From the letter to parents:

We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools, and, more specifically, to clarify, misperceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind is [sic] that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.
The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, April 29th
Work Session: Board Self-Evaluation/Superintendent Evaluation, 4:30-6:00 pm; Executive Session, 6:00-6:30 pm.

Wednesday, April 30
Work Session: Special Education, 4:00-5:30 pm.  Agenda

Work Session: Capital Projects, 5:30-7:00 pm.  Agenda not yet available.

Friday, May 2nd
Kimball Elementary Art Walk from 3 pm to 6 pm.

Saturday, May 3rd
Community meeting with Director Blanford, Douglass-Truth Library from 10 am to noon.

To note:

The District is still soliciting input from Sped parents via a survey.  Last date for input is May 11th.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Special Education Speaker Monday, April 28th

Seattle SpEd PTSA April Meeting
7 pm Monday, 4/28/2014
Rm 2700, JSCEE 
2445 3rd Ave
Seattle's SODO neighborhood

Dr. Nicole Swedberg will present practical tips and information on:

Friday Open Thread

Good article from Edutopia about helping students evaluate online research.  I think it's written for teachers but I think it might be useful info for parents as well.

We will have to wait and see what happens with the denial of Washington State's NCLB waiver by Sec'y Duncan.  Frankly, I think it is likely to be a ripple rather than a wave of problems.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

TFA: Troubled Waters in Seattle

I had been waiting for this story to come out.  It's just what I thought because it is the reality of TFA in the Puget Sound region.  No real success at all.  Districts?  Just not interested or finding plenty of fully-qualified teachers right here in Washington State. 

From Non-Profit Quarterly:

Maldonado was also feeling the conflict, but also noted that TFA’s national office had stumbled in dealing with the challenges in Seattle. Maldonado said that “TFA just hadn’t done the research” and “national staff came off as ‘arrogant…they were assigning the blame to everyone but themselves.’”

TFA’s original 38 approved applicants had been reduced to just 13, serving ten schools, only three of which addressed the high-needs population, a critical part of TFA’s mission. An official with TFA cited that the issues in Seattle were a “complete aberration” by the organization.

I found this statement funny:

TFA in Seattle has made adjustments following the backlash. Lindsay Hill, the Seattle TFA Director, has eliminated all district fees, stating, “We have to make sure that our vision and our strategy meet our context.”

Meaning, if we don't end fees, we may end up with NO districts hiring because no one is seeing the value of TFA and the bottom line to their budgets.

WA State First State to Lose NCLB Waiver

From Sec'y Duncan:

As you know, Washington’s request for ESEA flexibility was approved based on Washington’s commitments to carry out certain actions in support of key education reforms. In return for those commitments, we granted your State and your local school districts significant flexibility. However, Washington has not been able to keep all of its commitments. Thus, although Washington has benefitted from ESEA flexibility, I regret that Washington’s flexibility will end with the 2013–2014 school year.

I love the last line here:

However, because those efforts were unsuccessful, and your legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until January 2015, I cannot extend Washington’s authority to implement ESEA flexibility, and Washington and its LEAs must resume implementing the requirements of Title I of the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), as well as all other ESEA requirements that were waived under ESEA flexibility, for the 2014–2015 school year. This means that, among other actions that the State and LEAs will have to resume, LEAs in Washington must once again set aside 20 percent of their Title I funds for public school choice and supplemental educational services rather than having the flexibility to use those funds for other activities to improve student achievement in low-achieving schools. Should Washington obtain the requisite authority to resolve its condition, I would be pleased to reconsider Washington’s request to implement ESEA flexibility at any time.

Is that the big stick or the big carrot he is offering?  Washington State should ignore them both.

Superintendent Dorn blames the teachers union for their influence on the Legislature.  And was it all the teachers union?  I doubt it but it makes for a good narrative.

The WEA is saying it was better to stand up to Duncan (and especially given that last sentence I highlighted, I'd agree - that sounds like more big stick talk on the part of Duncan). 

Other comments:

Advanced Learning: Crumbling Faster and Faster

Remember that Leonardo DiCaprio movie, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?  The SPS version is, "What's Going on with Advanced Learning?"  

What appears -to me - to be happening is that Michael Tolley and Shauna Heath are quietly making a lot of decisions behind closed doors and quietly spreading them out through the schools.  Spectrum principals, either on their own or thru Tolley and Heath, seem to be dismantling every single Spectrum program, whether popular and/or working well.

It is now late April and at the time of year that staff loves because the end of the school year is nigh, you parents get distracted and the staff has the entire summer to continue to roll out whatever they are doing.

That much of this is happening all the while the district has not one, but two AL taskforces, both dedicated only to APP makes it quite clear what is happening.  (The Taskforce that Charlie and I served on?  All APP, all the time.)  This district does not care for nor does it want to continue with Spectrum and ALOs.  There is zero evidence to the opposite.

So I have one piece of advice for parents and one for the district.

Parents, there's a lot of hand-wringing.  That will not change anything.   Spectrum parents, especially, you might want to rise up now.  (Of course, we all know that many Spectrum students are eligible for APP and if there is no Spectrum, then APP will only get larger.  I have no idea what the district's plan is if that happens.)

SPS, at least have the common decency to NOT hide behind your taskforces and closed doors and just tell the truth about what you are doing.  If you are so sure you are right (and, given their behavior, staff surely believes its their right to change the program, no matter what) - then explain yourself and do it before the end of the year.

Lastly, don't expect to go to the Superintendent or the Board - Advanced Learning has no champions (maybe save Sue Peters but even she has said little) and never has.

Parents, it's on you to create the change YOU want to see.

Here's the charter for yet the second of the AL Taskforces:

Race to Nowhere Showing at Orca K-8


Dear Community Members,

We are excited to announce a showing of the groundbreaking film, "Race to Nowhere”. The documentary is a call to action for families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.

Join us Friday, April 25th for a screening of the film followed by a discussion that will bring forth community issues and help us create methods for change. This film is rate PG-13 and is not suitable for young children. Childcare available - see details below.

Friday, April 25th, 2014 - 6:45pm (Doors open at 6:30pm)
(Film 6:45-8:15pm followed by ~30 min guided discussion).
Venue: Orca K-8 School, Lunchroom
Address: 5212 46th Ave S, Seattle, Washington
Tickets: Free
Tickets Here

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Duncan Gives No Hint about WA Waiver in Interview

In more in the long line of stuff Arne says comes this interview with Education Week.  But, NCLB waivers ARE brought up and, in specific, Washington State.  But Duncan is both direct and coy.

And he pledged to get one long-awaited initiative done that could also have a far-reaching impact: an overhaul of regulations that govern teacher-preparation programs. "They will get done," he said. "[They are] very important."

So that was the direct message and the one that the Washington legislature chose to ignore.

It's the teacher-evaluation piece of those waivers—tying evaluations to student test scores—that is tripping up a lot of states, and may cost at least one (Washington state) its waiver.

"We've tried to provide some real flexibility," Mr. Duncan said. "I'm interested in finishing at the right point. The path to get there is going to be very different. Some states are two or three years ahead of others, and are in great shape. Some are in the middle and some are further behind.
"We've been pretty agnostic on these things," he said, "and tried to give people the flexibility to figure out what the right answer is in their local context. There's no right or wrong answer."

Agnostic?  Okay but also when you carry a big stick and wave it around, that's not exactly clean hands.

On Washington State:

Mr. Duncan was asked whether Washington state, which is in hot water because its timelines do not match those set by the department, can save its waiver.

"Washington state made some commitments," Mr. Duncan said. "In any agreement, you agree to things on both sides in good faith. ... When we both make an agreement together we both have to live up to our commitments."

Despite having had a phone call with Washington state officials on its waiver just days before the interview, Mr. Duncan said he didn't know the specifics about their waiver predicament.

But he also said: "It takes a little bit more time to get it right; we're finding that. If you're headed in the right direction, that's something we absolutely want to have the conversation about. If the state decides they don't want to do something, that's different."

So there's these phone calls back and forth and still no answer?  I'm being to think that Duncan is quite worried about backlash if suddenly Washington state (and possibly others) have 95% of their schools declared "failing."  No one will buy that and NCLB will look more toothless than it already does.

Testing Issues Nationwide

From Diane Ravitch's blog via the group, FairTest:

Today’s technical problems, which disrupted computerized testing in many Florida districts, are far from unusual. Many other states have experienced similar failures, according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), which monitors standardized exams across the country.

Earlier this month, the statewide testing systems in Kansas and Oklahoma both crashed. Last year, technical problems disrupted computerized exams in Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Oklahoma. In the recent past, new, automated testing programs collapsed in Oregon and Wyoming, requiring administration of replacement, pencil-and-paper versions.

After root cause investigations, both Wyoming and Oklahoma levied multi-million dollar fines against Pearson, the same testing vendor Florida uses. Wyoming labeled the company in “complete default of the contract” and replaced it. Oklahoma let its contract with Pearson expire.

Why might this be happening?

“The reason for so many screw-ups is simple,” explained FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “The technology supporting statewide computerized testing is not ready for prime time.”

Schaeffer continued, “Like many other testing policies, politicians imposed new requirements before systems had been thoroughly developed and beta-tested. There are at least three separate problems. 

  • Many schools lack the up-to-date computer equipment and other infrastructure needed to mass administer tests. 
  • Large numbers of districts do not have the internet bandwidth to handle the volume. 
  • Some testing company servers do not have the capacity the meet the surge of demand from multiple locations logging on simultaneously.” 
Speaking of FairTest, here's an outline of the issues over testing mania in the U.S.

Here's what the high school tests look like in Finland.

Seattle Schools Special Education Meeting

I did not attend but this is an open thread for any discussion for anyone who did attend. 

This and That

To note for tonight's Board meeting agenda; the Jane Addams Middle School BEX IV construction item has been moved to the May 7th Board meeting by the Superintendent.  No explanation given. 

The Superintendent has also asked to remove the Reduction in Force (RIF) item from the agenda.   I confirmed that this is because there will be no RIFs sent out. 

As well, the bill to fix facade restoration at Franklin is - gulp - nearly $1M (coming from BEX III and good thing the money is there).  (When part of the facade fell, it was great luck no one was standing underneath it.)  Along with the backflow item at Jane Addams that had to be replaced recently (and I'm not sure how much that cost), we see that our buildings have a near-constant need for maintenance and emergencies fixes.  This is why the maintenance budget needs to be upped or we will likely pay more in the long term. 

There are only five people signed up to speak so if you wanted to speak up about, well, anything - Wilson-Pacific, later start times, Advanced Learning, Special Ed, disproportionality in discipline - now's the time to get down there. 

My Northwest is reporting the latest on Northwest Center, currently sited at the Queen Anne building. 

At about 90 days into the crisis, we've been able to identify a couple of options. One of which is a building that we would be interested in purchasing as a permanent home for Northwest Center kids for the next 50 years," said Everill. 

Whether Northwest Center purchases or leases their next home, one thing that hasn't changed is that they need more time. Everill said they've asked the district to give them until November 1 to move out of their north Queen Anne site - a lease extension of four months. 

"The scope of the problem has shrunk considerably, we know Seattle Public Schools needs their building back and we know they have a very complex schedule but we need to work together and, in fact we are. [Banda] reached out to me, we have a meeting scheduled for a week from Monday, on April 28th, to work on the issue, I feel like we're making good progress," said Everill. 

I will be taking a little break this week (but I will put up the Friday Open Thread).  I am pondering this blog and considering its direction after Charlie's departure.   It will not be going away anytime in the near future.  But, I could certainly use help in covering committee meetings as well as other issues.  If you are interested in writing for the blog - either periodically or weekly - let me know your thoughts at



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday Open Thread

Is your 5th grade and up student looking for a great sport that offers individual achievement as well as the benefits of participating on a team?  Seattle Canoe & Kayak Club is having an Open House on Sunday, April 27th and Saturday, May 17th from 10 am -1 pm. 

Come join us at the Small Craft Center on Green Lake at 9:45AM.  Get to see the competitive Junior Team finish their training session, meet the coaches of this exciting sport and then climb into the boats with our team members to get a feel for what it is like to be in an Olympic style Sprint Kayak or Canoe.  You need to bring a parent/guardian to sign the waiver and bring a change of clothes in case you get wet!  Questions?  Contact Tami Oki at 524-1116  or tamaraoki@wonderanimal.com or the Green Lake Small Craft Center at 684-4074. 

Check out the website at http://www.seattlecanoeclub.org/recruiting.  Beginner classes begin in April, the full schedule can be seen at Youth Kayak - Seattle Parks & Recreation https://class.seattle.gov/parks/Start/Start.asp Choose "Programs" then "Boating" then "youth-kayak."

Also the NIFTY film festival is starting this week on Thursday.  

NFFTY (pronounced “Nifty”) stands for “National Film Festival for Talented Youth” and is the largest youth film festival in the world.  But it’s not just for youth. NFFTY occurs each spring in Seattle, Washington and is the premier showcase of the best young directors 22 and younger from around the world. The films of NFFTY represent the voice of this generation, covering all topics and genres, from compelling and provocative, to hilarious and uplifting. NFFTY has the perfect film for a film fan of any age.   (Editor's note: not all films are appropriate for all ages of children.)

What's on your mind?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Big Ed News Roundup

Stories that have come across my computer over the last few weeks on a variety of issues.

Arne Duncan - the things that Arne says.
So first it was those "white suburban moms" thinking their children and their schools were really something.  He said opposition to Common Core came from "fringe" groups.  The Daily News says those against CC are "drunk with right-wing hysteria."  So moms are being hysterical and dramatic?  Almost sounds like a little sexism thrown in there to marginalize any female voice.

Common Core
 Pearson and Common Core
The huge ed gorilla publisher in the room, Pearson, has a nonprofit wing, Pearson Charitable Foundation, which just agreed to pay over $7M to New York state after NY's attorney general determined they had created CC materials to generate money for the Pearson company.  And who figured into that determination?  The Gates Foundation.  (Pearson says it did nothing wrong but admits it could have been clearer and more transparent in its relationship with its foundation.)

According to the settlement, Pearson used its nonprofit foundation to develop Common Core products in order to win an endorsement from a “prominent foundation.” 

The latter entity is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund the creation of the Common Core standards and announced in 2011 that it would work with the Pearson Foundation to create reading and math courses aligned with the new standards. Four of those courses would be offered to the public free of charge, it said. 

According to Schneiderman, Pearson executives believed the Common Core work performed by their nonprofit arm could later be sold by the for-profit organization and generate “tens of millions of dollars” for the company.  
A good overview of states that are pulling back on Common Core from Education Next.

Death and Adultery; More Common Core Homework

Honestly, these things come across my radar on a near-daily basis as schools and districts go the Common Core way.  This from Breitbart(emphasis mine):

Breitbart Texas also covered this type of assignment in the article Orwellian Newspeak Coming to Common Core Classrooms Everywhere. It's a reading and response writing genre popping up in classrooms labeled contemporary realistic fiction.  It is a Common Core style of reading and writing prompt. In Common Core circles it is also known as life problems fiction.

This identical, inappropriate assignment made the rounds many months ago on Stop Common Core affiliated websites and Facebook pages.  It should raise eyebrows that a Common Core assignment that may not be at all aligned to the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) content standards was used in a Texas classroom.

And I note that a story from NY from the AP about parents upset over brand names - Barbie, iPod, Mug Root Beer, Nike and Life Savers - showing up in tests for students grades 3-8.   A very well-known brand consulting firm - Landor Associates - says that "brands are a part of our lives.  To say they don't belong in academia is unrealistic."  Seriously?

So what was this assignment that was passed out to 4th graders in El Paso, Texas?   Because I'm all for realism but this is a bit much. 

InBloom CEO Shuts Down inBloom

Second update:  a reply to inBloom's withdrawal from NY city parents who have been very in the thick of this fight.

Yet the statement issued by inBloom’s CEO reeks of arrogance and condescension, and makes it clear that those in charge still have not learned any lessons from this debacle.  The fervent opposition to inBloom among parents throughout the country did not result from “misunderstandings”,  but inBloom‘s utter inability to provide a convincing rationale that would supercede the huge risks to student security and privacy involved.

Contrary to the claims of Iwan Streichenberger and others,  InBloom was  not designed to protect student privacy but the opposite: to facilitate the sharing of children’s personal and very sensitive information with data-mining vendors,  with no attention paid to the need for parental notification or consent, and this is something that parents will not stand for.  In New York, the last state to pull out of inBloom and the only one in which legislation was needed to do so, parents were joined by superintendents and teachers in pointing out that the risks to children’s privacy and safety far outweighed any educational benefits.
End of update

 Update - in the interest of accuracy, no, it was not the Gates Foundation who shut down inBloom (wink, wink).  It was the CEO.  Nothing like $100M down the drain.

End of update

After New York state, as the last state standing in partnership with inBloom, left last month, inBloom  announced today they were shutting down.
This - is - HUGE.  

“I have made the decision to wind down the organization over the coming months,” CEO Iwan Streichenberger said in a letter on the company’s website. “It wasn’t an easy decision, and the unavailability of this technology is a real missed opportunity for teachers and school districts seeking to improve student learning.”

“It is a shame that the progress of this important innovation has been stalled because of generalized public concerns about data misuse, even though inBloom has world-class security and privacy protections that have raised the bar for school districts and the industry as a whole,” the company wrote today.

Oh, "generalized" concerns?  Like millions of children's data, from states around the country, store in one place?  A hacker's dream.  But again, it is not Obama's children, nor Gates, nor Duncan's.

That "raised the bar" issue is right, though.  Most districts are not doing enough and I believe SPS is one of them.  I will have a report soon comparing what the Department of Education says are best practices and what SPS actually does.  That it was reported at the A&F meeting that the district does not have a district-wide procedure on employee data is one glaring issue.

Power to the people, right on.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seattle Schools News Roundup

From SPS:

Seattle Public Schools is starting the process of revising the current School Family Partnerships District Plan. An important part of the review is to engage with our families, staff and community members and gather as much feedback as possible to help revise our school family partnerships efforts over the next three to five years.

A key element to gathering feedback is the formation of a School Family Partnerships Stakeholder Task force. The task force, made up of approximately 40-50 people, will be a diverse group that includes families/guardians, teachers, principals, District staff, community members, city officials and university representatives. Task force members will offer feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the District’s School Family Partnerships Plan, give feedback on the vision, mission, and core beliefs of the District on School Family Partnerships, and make recommendations.

If you are interested in participating as a member of this important Task Force, please send a short essay to Bernardo Ruiz at (206) 252-0693, bjruiz@seattleschools.org, and Chris Ray-Merriweather (206) 250-0996 ckraymerriwe@seattleschools.org by Monday, May 12 stating why you are a good candidate to become a member of this important group.Please include the best phone number and email address to reach you.

On the subject of student surveys of teacher performance, here's an update following a conversation with the head of Teachers United, Chris Eide.   (As you may recall, this came to light when a Garfield parent, John Sandvig, sent out a letter looking for parents to be on a student survey taskforce.)  

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, April 22nd
"Open Mic Night" on Special Education, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Rainier Beach High School, 8815 Seward Park S. 

Families of Seattle Public Schools are invited to join experts from Louisiana State University and the TIERS Group (Teams Intervening Early to Reach all Students) during two Open Microphone Nights to give feedback on Special Education services.

Seattle Public School’s Special Education Department is undergoing a Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan (C-CAP) to help improve results for our students in special education. As part of this plan, the department is working with experts from Louisiana State University and the TIERS Group for consultation on activities related to C-CAP targets. 

They will be visiting the District the week of April 21 to collect data for initial analysis on the Special Education department. Part of their data collection will incorporate family input. Families are invited to give feedback orally or in writing during this meeting. There will be a sign-in sheet for parents and they can leave comments, respond to a paper survey or stay and speak publicly.

The sign-in sheet will be used to determine the order in which people speak. Individuals will be allowed 3 minutes each to speak and any other comments can be written and left with one of the TIERS members.  

Wednesday, April 23rd
 "Open Mic Night" on Special Education, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Nathan Hale High School, 10750 30th Ave N.E.

School Board Meeting, starting at 4:15 pm. Agenda. 
Action Items
- boy, it costs a lot to re-roof a building - the district is paying over $1M to re-roof Gatewood Elementary.  Once again, I am baffled by the flow of money from the various capital funds.  This project has money from BTA III AND BEX IV.  
- I see a capital item for the Columbia building.  Can someone remind me what this building is to be used for? 
- the district is putting money back into Head Start salaries that was cut by sequestration.  I find it odd that there are no supporting documentation for this item.

Intro items
- renaming both Dearborn Park and Asa Mercer to add the word "International" to their school names
- SIG grant for RBHS for $4.3M for use through September 2017
- Wilson-Pacific Ed Specs document - it says, repeatedly, there should be spaces for community (and yet, no auditorium).  This document is longer than it need be with some very odd choices for photographs.  How much did the district have to pay for this kind of documentation (which, could be distilled down to, say, 30 pages instead of 73?  Your capital dollars at work.)

Saturday, April 26th
Community Meeting with Director Patu, 10 am-12pm, Caffe Vita, 5028 Wilson Avenue S

Community Meeting with Director Peters, 11am -12:30 pm, Magnolia Branch Library

Saturday, April 19, 2014

OSPI Thinks Duncan Will Bring Down the NCLB Hammer

According to an article in the Seattle Times, Superintendent Randy Dorn thinks the DOE will lose its waiver from NCLB.  Washington State would be the first state to lose a waiver.  (Other states may also lose their waivers as well by the end of their school years.)

(As usual, the Times makes the link between the teachers union and the Legislature.  Is that really the entire story of why the Legislature said no?  Probably not but it fits the Times' on-going ed reform narrative.)

I spoke with a DOE spokesperson yesterday about when this decision would come and she said that they are still "working" with the State and no decision has been made.  The DOE has said they know they need to let states know soon because of budgeting but they certainly seem to be taking their time.

Is the district "losing" money?  In one way, yes, as they will have to set aside funds to meet NCLB obligations.  Under NCLB,  at schools named as "failing", parents are allowed to leave that school for one that isn't or ask for private tutoring for their child.  According to the WEA, Seattle and Tacoma didn't even spend half the money allotted for tutoring.  And, according to the Times, Tacoma used dollars to fund preschool in six of its buildings. 

If Washington State is denied a waiver, many more schools - probably 95% of SPS - would be declared "failing" under NCLB.  Naturally, this is pretty ridiculous and I can't believe that any rational adult would think it true. 

NCLB feels like a joke at this point.  Congress has not renewed/re-written it in years.  Outcomes?  What outcomes?  I think the only really progress is the enrichment of testing companies.  And yet, Duncan is using it as a threat against states. 

Duncan, in recent days, has shown himself to be stubborn so I'm guessing I am wrong about Washington State getting a slap on the wrist rather than the big hammer. 

More Thoughts about Race

Two thoughtful articles have come across my computer about race and education.

The first is from the blog, The Becoming Radical written by P.L. Thomas, a professor at Furman University.  Professor Thomas' blog subtitle is "A Place for a Pedagogy of Kindness and the article that caught my eye is entitled "Are We (Finally) Ready to Face Teacher Education’s Race Problem?"  

I find this issue has coming up frequently because of the continuing push from TFA.  Despite all of TFA's claims, they have a largely white teaching corps and, in places like, New Orleans, have pushed out many teachers of color. 

The teacher quality and teacher education debates have been absent a fundamental acknowledgement of race in the same way that school quality and education reform have mostly ignored race.

While the mainstream press and education reform agenda remain distracted by the whitewashed “achievement gap”—a metric not only identified by but created by standardized testing—many critical researchers and educators have called for examining the wider systemic inequities grounded in racism, classism, and sexism that create gaps reflected in and perpetuated by schools.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Open Thread

Princeton University has come to the conclusion that we don't really live in a democracy but that we are basically an oligarchy.  No real surprise there - the rich are getting richer, the poor getting poorer and the people in-between worry about that their children won't even live at the same standard as they do.  Just to be clear:

An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.

Their main conclusion?

As Gilens and Page write, "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.

We see this in public education reform and discussion every single day.  There is endless blathering by any number of Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation or Walton Foundation astro-turf groups created by these foundations about "representing" the public.  They don't.

On another note, I was reading a story at Publicola about Rodney Tom announcing that he is not going to run again for state senate.  Ross Hunter, another roadkill Dem, had considered running for the senate seat vacated by Tom.  But he said this:

"He had feared negative ads from independent expenditure groups (done on his behalf) that would have prevented him from running a "clean" campaign.

He writes:
Outside forces control ever-larger slices of campaign expenditures. I could run a clean campaign, but I cannot imagine that the external forces would agree to do so as well, and they would have probably outspent my campaign by over a million dollars. I was concerned about “wearing” this negative advertising against someone I consider a friend. It’s too bad we are are in a world where campaigns are no longer controlled by the candidate. This specific concern is obviously gone today, but it still a problem in the campaign world in general that I do not know how to solve.
Very troubling.  A candidate wants to run a "clean" campaign but because there are groups who can operate in favor of the candidate but independently of the candidate, candidates don't just worry about opponents but about supporters.

That is a very sorry state of affairs but it's probably true.  I think that if Suzanne Dale Estey had truly run her own campaign, she might not have lost the race to Peters.   In person, she comes off as a lot more of a straight shooter than she did in her campaign.  But while a candidate cannot control what others say and do in their name, they can to do the basic move of distancing themselves from people who try to speak for them and/or disavowing such tactics.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Common Core in Portland - Why So Silent Seattle?

I had been seeing a lot of Twitter buzz around Portland School District and the outspokeness of one Board member but now it's ramping up.

(The Seattle Times put it in their ed news roundup but blandly said, "Portland school board members express concern over Common Core.")

What is fascinating to me is the silence from the district and our own School Board on this issue.  I suspect once CC really hits schools and impacts curriculum, test prep and resources, Seattle Schools parents may wake up.  

Most of the concern of Board members is one of the issues I have raised - where was the preparation for Common Core for schools and teachers?   From The Oregonian:

Despite clashing opinions on a group of controversial state standards, six Portland School Board members appeared united on at least one issue: They all had concerns about the rollout of new state exams aligned with the Common Core state standards.

“Is the state providing sufficient time and resources for professional development, for the transition, for even acquiring the technology and materials that the districts need?” she asked.

Knowles said district officials appeared to be on track, but PPS administrators also noted the district only received money from the state specifically for the transition of the core this year. A state grant gave the district about $496,000 until the summer of 2015.

"That money would have been great to have four years ago," said Goff.

The most outspoken member of their Board is Steve Buell who has crafted a resolution against Common Core standards. 
Highlights of his resolution with emphasis mine (with complete text below these):

What Can Girls Wear?

It's prom season and it's soon to get warmer and that means....dress code issues.  One huge issue: are leggings really pants (my young adult sons say no)?  From the Huffington Post:

Younger girls often wear them as pants with little fuss. But as those same girls approach middle school, leggings have become a clothing accessory that's increasingly controversial — and seemingly, the favorite new target of the school dress code.

Haven Middle School in Evanston, just north of Chicago, took what turned out to be a contentious stand: If you wear leggings, you need to have a shirt or skirt over them that reaches at least down to your fingertips.  In other words, girls need to cover their behinds.

I can't necessarily disagree with this.  Sometimes leggings are made of different materials and, if they are not thick enough, can show underwear.   As I used to tell the boys at Roosevelt who had baggy pants, I'm not interested in seeing your underwear.

But is a distraction factor or an expectation of what students should wear to school?  (I always told prospective Roosevelt students on tours - you don't have to dress as if you are going to church or to see your grandmother but don't dress like you're going to a party.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Seattle Schools Score Well in State's Highest Honor

From OSPI:

A total of 413 schools are 2013 Washington Achievement Award winners. Winners were notified Monday via email from State Superintendent Randy Dorn and State Board of Education Chair Dr. Kristina Mayer. 

The Washington Achievement Award is sponsored by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. Award winners are selected using the state’s Accountability Index and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility Waiver. 

“It is important that we use the revised Achievement Index to not only provide feedback to schools and districts on their progress, but also to identify schools with exemplary student performance,” said Mayer. “These awards shine the light on what is working well in schools across Washington.”
Schools are recognized as top performers in one of six categories:
  • Overall Excellence
  • High Progress
  • Reading Growth
  • Math Growth
  • Extended Graduation Rate (awarded to high and comprehensive schools only)
  • English Language Acquisition
Seattle Schools did well - there were 29 cited:

Charter Schools and "Teacher Appreciation Week"

From Daily Kos, comes a fairly unbelievable story (and yet, they are not The Onion) about a charter school group, run by a for-profit education management org, called Mosaica. 

To note before I get to the main story, Mosaica, run in the Muskegon, Michigan area, was recently in the news as they were not able to meet their own payroll. 

The state is fronting $231,000 to the charter school district in Muskegon Heights so it can pay its employees. Teachers and staff didn’t get paid like they were supposed to on Monday.

The new Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System was set up in June 2012 when the old school district there went broke.

A state-appointed emergency manager created the PSA, which hired Mosaica, a charter school company, to run the school system. Now the new school system is running a deficit of its own.

Right, because private industry does run so much better for all areas.

The unbelievable story is about "Faculty Fun Day" at Mosaica's Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac.  

Faculty Fun Day
WHEN:  Friday, May 2, 2014
WHAT:  Would you like the chance to see how fun your child’s teacher can be?
WHY:  Fundraiser for Teacher Appreciation Week
WHERE:  [name redacted]'s class - Room XXX
COST:  Any monetary amount

The Faculty at ATAP would like to invite our students and parents to help us kick off our Teacher Appreciation Week by donating money to have our teachers do some fun and wild activities.  If you would like to see any faculty member do one of the following activities, you may bring in any amount of money and put it in the box of your choice in [name redacted]'s room by Wednesday, April 30.  Check out our list of fun things and we can’t wait to have fun.  By the way… NO STAFF MEMBER IS EXEMPT…this includes administration!!
MANDIVA – Our 3 favorite male faculty members in heels for an hour
SAVE MY JOB – 3 faculty members will stand in the parking lot during dismissal and hold a sign.
CREAM FACIAL – Students will throw pie in 3 faculty members’ faces during an assembly.
KINDERGARTEN EXTREME MAKEOVER – A kindergarten student will do the hair and makeup of 3 faculty members.
TEACHER SWAP – Teachers will swap roles with office, custodial, and lunch staff for an hour.  We will also send a high school teacher to elementary and vice versa.
LOOK WHAT THE STORK BROUGHT IN!! – 3 faculty members in bonnets, bibs, and pacifiers (just like a baby)
Every staff member has to participate.

Washington Education News Roundup

To repeat, Senator Rodney Tom, noted turncoat for the Dems, is not going to run again after all (citing health concerns for himself and his elderly father).  The Times ran a blathering editorial about how great he was but you really can't take them seriously when they start with, "But this time you might wonder, what will become of the Legislature without him?"

Seriously?  Not, "how will the Legislature operate like without him?" but "what will become of it?"  Well, like most of life, the Legislature will carry on just fine without him.  He isolated himself with his choices and I think he realized it was going to backfire on him in the election. 

The Washington State Charter School Commission released its 2014 request for proposals yesterday.  According to their press release, last year they received 19 completed proposals.  I'll be interested to see how many letters of intent (which was about 25ish last year) that they receive. 

To understand, they will fill eight spots for Fall 2015. That means that in addition to the applications approved in 2014 for schools opening in 2015 (that would be seven), another eight can be approved for schools to open in 2015.  As they state, "Spots not filled one year are carried to subsequent years."  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Open Thread

Now, for the second year in a row, the most objected to book in libraries is...Captain Underpants.   Do these boys "defy" authority and do silly things?  Yes.  Do I think it needs a warning label, "Kids, don't try this at school?"  Not really.  (I even have a tiny Captain Underpants toy in my car who serves as my parking diviner.  Works 95% of the time.)

You've probably all heard but Senator Rodney Tom is NOT running for re-election, citing health concerns for himself and his elderly father.  Whatever the reason, he has been more of an obstructionist than a leadership (not to mention betraying his party).  As I mentioned elsewhere, Superintendent Dorn told me I would never get a student data privacy bill passed with the current Senate leadership. Well, that now becomes less of an issue.

Here's an interesting feature by National Geographic on what the U.S. population will look like in 2050. 

The U.S. Census Bureau let respondents check more than one race for the first time in 2000, and 6.8 million people did so. By 2010 that figure had increased to nearly 9 million, a spike of about 32%.

What's on your mind?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Common Core Roundup (with trends and memes)

 Update: Finally! An thoughtful piece about why Common Core is failing (and likely will be weakened).  It's by Jay P. Greene at Education Next and he has it right. 

Supporters of Common Core have made some of the same political mistakes that opponents of gay marriage did.  They figured if they could get the US Department of Education, DC-based organizations, and state school chiefs on board, they would have a direct and definitive victory.  And at first blush it looked like they had achieved it, with about 45 states committing to adopt the new set of standards and federally-sponsored standardized tests aligned to those standards.  Like opponents of gay marriage, the Common Core victory seemed so overwhelming that they hardly felt the need to engage in debates to defend it.

But in the rush to a clear and total victory, supporters of Common Core failed to consider how the more than 10,000 school districts, more than 3 million teachers, and the parents of almost 50 million students would react.  For standards to actually change practice, you need a lot of these folks on board.  Otherwise Common Core, like most past standards, will just be a bunch of empty words in a document.

It’s not as if local officials, educators, and parents are unaware of the existence of informational texts or just waiting to be told by national elites about when they should start teaching Algebra.  They have interests and values that drove them to the arrangements that were in place prior to Common Core.

Having the Secretary of Education, state boards, and a bunch of DC advocacy groups declare a particular approach to be best and cram it into place in the middle of a financial crisis with virtually no public debate or input from educators or parents did not convince local officials, educators, and parents to change their minds.  These are the folks who need to be on board to make the implementation of Common Core real.  And these are the folks who are organizing a political backlash that will undo or neuter Common Core.  

A direct path to victory by Common Core supporters sowed the seeds of  its own defeat.

To which I say:

Too many of our public education reforms are coming from people who have what I call, "I'm the smartest person in the room" syndrome.

Keep the "public" in public education or your outcomes will NOT be what you think they will be.

And lastly:

Power to the people (right on).

End of update.

I'd been meaning to do this for awhile but every single day - in multiple news outlets - there are stories about Common Core.  I occasionally see some "good news" ones but frankly, those mostly come from Gates Foundation funded groups (or more often than not, seriously, in Forbes magazine).

Let's be clear - this is not some small-scale, scattered uprising.  It is happening everywhere in this country and there are those with a lot to lose.  The loss is time, effort, resources and, of course, revenues.

Never, ever doubt the will of people who have a lot of money to lose.

Problem is, you can never, ever doubt the will of parents to protect their children.  And voters to protect constitutional guarantees.

Quite the deathmatch, no?

Here' the latest one that caught my eye.  This weekend was the "New Hampshire Freedom Summit" co-sponsored by no other than the Koch brothers and their "Americans for Prosperity" group.  (I know I make Bill Gates sound like a problem - these brothers are magnitudes of scale much worse and more dangerous to public education and this country.  I'm not kidding.)

This story was in service to the idea that the Bushes as a political family are going to have a fight on their hands if they push Jeb Bush (but I'm going out on a limb - right now in 2014 - to say the next Bush with a real chance is Jeb's son. He's also - God help us - another George Bush.  Young, smart and part Hispanic.)

So the "summit" was a round-up of likely conservative candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.  And a more hilarious bunch you cannot find - Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, etc.  (Honestly, I think the next election will be more fun than a chameleon in a bag of Skittles.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Basically, it's Spring Break week so no meetings.

Saturday, April 19th
Director Blanford finally has a community meeting.  It's from 10-11am at the Douglass-Truth library.

I attended both Director Carr and Director Martin-Morris' community meetings yesterday.

Seattle Times editorial on Initiative 1351

The Seattle Times wrote an editorial to discourage people from signing petitions to put Initiative 1351, Class Size Reduction, on the ballot. The editorial was, of course, full of lies, misrepresentations, and unprincipled statements.

I don't know where other people stand on initiatives. Lots of states don't have an initiative process. They are certainly open to abuse. We have seen Costco use the initiative process to buy themselves the law that allows them to sell liquor. We have seen a dozen millionaires and billionaires use the initiative process to buy a charter school law. Tim Eyman writes frivilous initiatives to provide himself an income as the manager of the campaign. There was a time when Tim Eyman was the de facto political leader of this state - it was a time when there was no leadership coming from Olympia.

A number of Mr. Eyman's initiatives, though successful at the ballot box, were reversed by the Court because they failed to meet constitutional requirements. A number of other initiatives which won approval were also revealed to be badly written law. Right now there is a legal case being argued about the constitutionality of I-1240, the Charter School initiative. It is also undergoing some legislative corrections and refinements to fix some of the bad drafting.

Initiatives have also created a number of unfunded mandates. They have to. The law requires that an initiative be about just one thing. If it included a funding source then it would be about two things - the spending and the revenue. So all initiatives, by design, are unfunded mandates.

Despite all of this, there is also a proper role for initiatives. They can allow the state to take necessary action when the political leadership in Olympia is frozen, broken, or going wrong. That pretty much describes the current status when it comes to public education. The Court has ruled, but the legislature is clearly incapable of taking the necessary action. Now comes this initiative to direct immediate action on at least some of the work. When the leaders fail to lead, then the People need to take the lead. That's what we're seeing here.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Goodbye, Charlie

This is likely to be one of the most difficult posts I ever write because how do you say goodbye to someone who has been a constant in your life over the last six+ years?

Charlie Mas is something of an enigma.  Even to me.  He's brash, outspoken and yet, a big softie.

At times some people thought that Charlie and I were one person.

Or that we were joined at the hip in our thoughts.

Or that we confabbed on every post.

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

It makes me smile because Charlie and I also never consulted on who wrote what.  We had our own reasons and our own interests.  I think the most important concern for Charlie is (and always was) accountability, no more, no less.

I have sometimes groaned at his words, cheered at his words but always admired his ability to cut thru the bullshit to the core of the matter.  That it may have upset others was no matter to him (or me) because the cleansing light of day is what this district has needed (whether they believe it or not).

But we recognized in each other, as did Beth Bakeman who started this blog, a recognition of the relentlessness of our thought and our desire for better for public education in this city.  I know that some may not have always (or almost never) agreed with us but gave us grudging acceptance for our longevity and our refusal to give up when others might have.

If nothing else, Charlie has taught me to stand by my words and not be afraid of what others might say.   
I would almost call it a "To Sir with Love" moment except that I'm older than Charlie and it is admiration and deep regard,  not love.

His mind is quick, his focus clear and his devotion to his beautiful daughters always his mission.
But my favorite thing about Charlie is his love for, and use of, sarcasm.  So many in Seattle shy away from tough talk and sarcasm - there are a lot of seemingly delicate ears in this town.   (And I'm sure there are those that just think it isn't "nice.") 

Fine.  But for the rest of us there is Charlie and all the Brits who seem to make a sport out of being sarcastic. (See Countess Violet on Downtown Abbey "We can't have him assassinated. I suppose.")

Some thoughts on the joy of Charlie (and sarcasm):

I'm not so good with the advice... Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?
Chandler Bing

“It’s a sad state of affairs when I’m the one bringing sanity to the equation”
M.A. George

“I can be quite sarcastic when I'm in the mood.”
Holen Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

Goodbye, good luck and keep in touch, Charlie.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Open Thread

Did your senior write a great college essay?  Here's a link to an award for $5,000 through Medium.com.  The deadline is May 19.  (Great judges like Anna Quindlen, Wally Lamb, and Mary Roach.) 

This is not "new" news but the Gates Foundation invests in a private prison company as well as a company with 19 juvenile detention facilities in the U.S.  This from Mother Jones.  A Gates spokesperson attempted to, according to The Slog, "philanthro-splained" "The trust invests in a lot of things to make sure we have the most money we can have to do that job."  Oh.

Nothing like creating - via your work and your investments - your own school to prison pipeline.

A horrible week for students in two high schools.  First, the stabbings at a high school in Murraysville, Pennsylvania where 20 were stabbed with one in critical condition on a breathing machine.  Second, the news this morning that bus with seniors from LA/Fresno going to visit Humboldt State when a Fed Ex truck crossed a median and slammed head-on into one of three buses.  Both drivers died as well as 5 students and 3 chaperones. 

Could you please keep these students, their schools and their families in your thoughts this weekend?

What's on your mind?

Special Ed Open Mic nights

Families are invited to give feedback on Special Education services at Seattle Public Schools during two “Open Mic Night” meetings

Families of Seattle Public Schools are invited to join experts from Louisiana State University and the TIERS Group (Teams Intervening Early to Reach all Students) during two Open Microphone Nights to give feedback on Special Education Services.
Join us:
  • Tuesday, April 22 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Rainier Beach High School, 8815 Seward Park S., Seattle Washington 98118
  • Wednesday, April 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Nathan Hale High School, 10750 30th Ave NE, Seattle
Seattle Public School’s Special Education Department is undergoing a Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan (C-CAP) to help improve results for our students in special education. As part of this plan, the department is working with experts from Louisiana State University and the TIERS Group for consultation on activities related to C-CAP targets.
They will be visiting the district the week of April 21 to collect data for initial analysis on the special education department. Part of their data collection will incorporate family input. Families and community members are invited to give feedback verbally or in writing during this meeting. There will be a sign-in sheet for parents and they can leave comments, respond to a paper survey or stay and speak publicly.
The sign in sheet will be used to determine the order in which people speak.  Individuals will be allowed three minutes each to speak and any other comments can be written and left with one of the TIERS team members.

Interpreters will be provided for Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese and Cantonese. If you need an American Sign Language interpreter please contact Mary Perrigo at mmperrigo@seattleschools.org for arrangements.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Required Reading on Common Core

One of the most calm, well-thought out op-eds on Common Core that I have read from Elizabeth Phillips, principal in NYC's PS 321.  Read the entire thing but here are highlights:

So teachers watched hundreds of thousands of children in grades 3 to 8 sit for between 70 and 180 minutes per day for three days taking a state English Language Arts exam that does a poor job of testing reading comprehension, and yet we’re not allowed to point out what the problems were.

We want to be clear: We were not protesting testing; we were not protesting the Common Core standards. We were protesting the fact that we had just witnessed children being asked to answer questions that had little bearing on their reading ability and yet had huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools.  We were protesting the fact that it is our word against the state’s, since we cannot reveal the content of the passages or the questions that were asked.

In general terms, the tests were confusing, developmentally inappropriate and not well aligned with the Common Core standards.  And the tests were too long; none of us can figure out why we need to test for three days to determine how well a child reads and writes.

Center on Reinventing Public Education; All Charters, All the Time

It used to be that you could give CPRE a little credit for caring about other education issues than just charters schools.  It would appear that time has passed. 

I'm on their listserv and if you go just by that, it's all charters, all the time.  What is worrying is that if they feel this way about charter schools in other states, I can't wait to see what they think should happen in Washington State.

For example, you may have heard that newly-elected NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio came into office with a willingness to stop giving favors to charters in NYC and quit forced co-locations.  This has turned in to quite the epic battle with one charter operator (and quite a big mover and shaker in NYC), closing her schools and requiring parents and students to march in a rally.  (Try closing a real public school for this kind of thing - not going to happen.)

The issue really was that the former mayor was not charging state-mandated rents to charters and the new mayor was going to charge the charters.

CRPE frames this in a larger way as a "governance" problem.  (They are all about taking governance away from school boards.) 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Charter Schools - What is Really Happening

The first thing to understand is that Congress is considering a bill to support and expand charter schools.  

The other, a charter school bill, is aimed at growing more high-quality charters and encouraging them to better serve students with disabilities and English-language learners. That bill also won swift approval, but not before a number of committee Democrats lambasted charter schools for siphoning off resources from other public schools—before voting for the legislation anyway. The bill passed 36 to 3.

Wait, what? 

It would combine two main federal programs for charters, meshing together grants to help charter school developers open new schools, with money to help charters find and fix up facilities. And the bill would make it easier for charter organizations with a track record of success to open more schools. 

Oh, but what about the bad charters?  The mediocre ones?  Those that are taking public dollars and were suppose to be successful and innovative? 

I have to shake my head that it takes an ACT of CONGRESS to try to get charters to better serve students with disabilities and ELL students.

What's new this time around: The bill would allow districts to give students with disabilities, English-learners, and other disadvantaged groups a leg up in charter lotteries. 

Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., bemoaned the fact that the bill doesn't require charter schools to hold open meetings, a criticism also levied by the National Education Association.

But the American Association of School Administrators came out against the bill. "We have this crazy idea that all entities receiving public dollars should face the same accountability, flexibility and transparency requirements," the group wrote on its website.   

Yeah, call me crazy as well.

And the charter school bill is slated to be on the floor the week of May 5, which just happens to be National Charter School week, a Cantor spokeswoman said. 

You might want to consider contacting your House rep or Senators Murray or Cantwell and asking them to say no to this bill.

What else is happening in NYC? Here's the NY Times editorial titled, "Charter School Refugees":

LAST week, the New York State Legislature struck a deal ensuring that charter schools in New York City would have access to space, either in already crowded public school buildings or in rented spaces largely paid for by the city. Over the next few years, charters are expected to serve an increasing proportion of city students — perhaps as much as 10 percent. Which brings up the question: Is there a point at which fostering charter schools undermines traditional public schools and the children they serve?

Washington State Waiting for Washington, D.C. on Waiver

From Education Week:

All eyes have been on Washington state since lawmakers there adjourned last month without making a key change to their teacher-evaluation system that would have enabled the state to hang on to its flexibility from the mandates of the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act.

And now, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is on the verge of yanking Washington state's waiver, several sources say. An official decision is likely by the end of month—and if the waiver is pulled, as expected, the move would make the Evergreen State the first to lose its flexibility.

Duncan called Randy Dorn, the state schools chief, Tuesday to discuss the waiver situation, but the state didn't get official word during that conversation that the flexibility would be pulled, Nathan Olson, a spokesman for Dorn, told my colleague Andrew Ujifusa.

"We'd hoped this phone call would yield a simple yes-or-no answer to the question about whether we'd continue the waiver," said Olson. "We did not get that answer [Tuesday]." In the meantime, the state is proceeding on the assumption that it will lose its flexibility.

Updated at 4:44pm EST, from the DOE:

"We are in touch with Washington officials on the state's request to extend Elementary and Secondary Education Act flexibility. Washington has made us aware that they are unable to meet the state's commitment to create a teacher- and principal-evaluation and -support system with multiple measures, including student growth based on state assessments and other measures of professional practice. The Department has not issued a final decision yet, but we recognize that the state needs to know soon as officials prepare local budgets for next school year."

Superintendent Randy Dorn spoke before the Charter Commission recently.  Here's two choice things he said (these are my tweets):

WA Super Dorn says 95% of districts would send "failing" scl letters 2 parents but says public won't want to fund McCleary b/c of letters ?  He thinks that the general public will not wonder why 95%(!) of schools are labelled "failing" and say, "See, don't fund McCleary because it's not worth it."  I do not follow this logic at all.

In this tweet, I was perplexed that Dorn thought that the public, upon hearing that 95% of Washington state schools got "failing" letters, might not think, "Hmm, that can't be true.  That's a lot of schools to be named as "failing."  Meaning, I don't think the public would take it all that seriously.  Or, at least not to the point of say, all the schools are failing, therefore McCleary shouldn't be fulfilled.

WA State Super Dorn admits to Charter Cmmn that districts don't "lose" NCLB money, $$$ just set-aside from district budgets. Oh.  And that's what the WEA pointed out but no one wanted to hear it.  He also admitted that any money not used from the set aside (and districts generally don't use even half their NCLB slated dollars), those dollars go right back into the General Fund.

I note that it was pointed out that both SPS and Tacoma didn't use more than one-third of their NCLB dollars in the last few years.  

Dorn does think that Duncan will smack down Washington State (that's my term, not his). 

 I'm betting on a lesser punishment but we'll just have to see.

Puget Sound Education Meetings of Interest

Meeting on Wilson-Pacific on May 13th

From the district:

To address growing enrollment and capacity needs, Seattle voters passed the 2013 Seattle Public Schools Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) Capital Levy. As a result, a new middle school and new elementary school are scheduled to open in time for the 2017-18 school year.
A newly renovated play field will be located between the two new buildings on the site at 1330 North 90th Street.  

The project is now in the design and permitting phase and thereafter, the existing structure will be demolished.

A School Design and Advisory Team (SDAT) composed of community members, professionals, Mahlum Architects and Seattle Public Schools Capital Projects staff have worked to create the design of the two school buildings and the entire 16.8-acre school site.

The comprehensive neighborhood middle school will be constructed to house 1,000 students, including students from the Pinehurst K-8/Indian Heritage program (They will soon have a new name), while the elementary school will house up to 650 students, including the north end elementary Advanced Placement Program.

The design of each school is intended to create a quality learning environment to prepare our graduates for college, career and live and to fulfill the three major goals of Seattle Public Schools:

• ensure educational excellence and equity for every student;
• improve systems District-wide to support academics outcomes and meet students’ needs; and
• strengthen school, family and community engagement.

You are invited to attend a community meeting on Tuesday, May 13, 6:30 p.m., at the Wilson-Pacific building’s SeaMat Center where information will be shared about the project and the schools’ designs.

Contact: Tom Redman, Facilities Coordinator,  Phone: (206) 252-0655    

Okay, this is all good and well but (1) a very late date (and I suspect by design) for any changes to the building plan and (2) "information will be shared" but they don't want input and it's likely a pro forma information presentation and a little venting session.  Without specifics and because it's in a month, then I have to see this as a CYA by Capital staff and not authentic engagement.

From the Road Map Project:

Registration is now open for the next Road Map Project Education Results Network (ERN) meeting! 

ERN meetings are open to anyone who wants to improve education in our region and participate in the Road Map Project. Those who attend an ERN meeting can expect to hear the latest updates on the Road Map Project and provide input on key elements of the work. Lunch will be provided and there is no cost to attend.

Road Map Project
Education Results Network meeting 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Renton Pavilion
233 Burnett Avenue South
Renton, WA 98055


We hope you can join us on May 8th! Agenda information will be included in future Road Map Project newsletters. Email info@ccedresults.org with questions. 

This could be interesting as several SPS schools are involved.

Something is Well and Truly Screwed Up in Special Education

I want to fill in some details about the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting on Monday. Three members of the Special Education staff, including the chief of that department, Ms McWilliams, presented the Board with the program placements for Special Ed for 2014-2015. At that time they described the status of the implementation of the new Special Education system. Their presentation and conversation was almost impossible to follow. It was filled with meaningless jargon and self contradictions. For example, they would say that there are no more Special Education programs anymore, and then, in the same breath, talk about Special Education programs. Then, in the next breath, they would say how important it is to use the right words for things. In fact, for all of their talk about creating systemic change in Special Education, the only examples of change that they gave were changes to the names of the programs, because words are so important, and there are no programs any more, and here are the new names and sites for those programs. It made my head spin - I'm glad it didn't explode.

In this confusing swirl it didn't dawn on me until just now that they have determined the program placements in April. Aren't those decisions supposed to be made before Open Enrollment? Yes, they are. Aren't they important facts that BLTs should have when setting a school budget? Yes, they are. Aren't they critical bits of information necessary when trying to create a master schedule? Yes again. No one bothered to mention or ask about that during the Committee meeting. These decisions are a bit late and they are going to create chaos.

I'll tell what was asked at the meeting. The Board Directors directly asked Ms McWilliams and her colleagues about community engagement. They were told that the community - both the Advisory Committe and the Special Education PTA - were completely informed and onboard with the plan and that they were, in fact, active participants in it. Funny thing: it turns out this was a total lie.