Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Open Thread

Thought I would put this up in case readers attend Director Community meetings and would like to let us know what was said.

Also, from SPS, how feedback from the Strategic Plan Town Halls is to be used (see link for details):

1. Additional translations of District communications. Many families said they want to receive more translated versions of our communications.

2. Improvements to the District website. Families said the District website can be difficult to navigate.

3. Ensuring robust Strategic Plan metrics and accountability. We heard from family and community members alike that we must be more proactive with respect to disaggregating our data and explicitly naming and addressing the opportunity and achievement gaps.

4. Closing the opportunity gap for our African-American students. Seattle Public Schools has an unacceptable achievement gap. We heard that from our families, who also asked what we are doing to close that gap.

5. More Superintendent communications/robocalls. We heard from families they want more regular communications from the District. 

Mark Zuckerberg, this time with his wife, Priscilla Chan, are putting $120M into Bay Area schools.  They now have their own education foundation - Startup:Education.  We'll cross our fingers that they do better than in Newark (which they are dong their darnest to make it sound good but was mostly a windfall for consultants). 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Math Talk in Friday Update

 Update: the Board meeting agenda was finally posted at the end of the day.  There is an amendment to the Math Adoption via President Peaslee and Director Peters. 

We move that the School Board amend the motion for adoption of K-5 Mathematics Materials to include a dual adoption of Math in Focus Singapore Math and enVisionMath Realize for the K-5 curriculum, and that the BAR be amended and updated to read as follows: 

Then a long list of enactments to the plan.

Moreover, we maintain that as a district we have a greater mandate; our greatest obligation is to our students, to provide them with the very best materials to master mathematics, and develop confidence in the subject. 

A dual adoption will offer more equitable opportunities to Seattle Schools by fully funding materials and choice for all schools.

There is, of course, no "staff analysis" yet as staff probably just saw it themselves.  (I do think they had the foresight to see this coming and probably already have some kind of draft.)

The Board's "alternatives" do not indicate that this proposal is not legally feasible.

I do like that they include information about Highline which is where former Superintendent Enfield is.  That her district embraces Math in Focus seems telling.

They back up their arguments even more by including a review done by a local Catholic K-8, St. Joseph's AND Sidwell Friends School (where President Obama's children attend school).  

It's a long and detailed amendment and shows a lot of hard work and thought.

End of update.

As you are probably aware, the Superintendent sends out a Friday update to staff and the Board.

There was this in it today.  It's titled, "3-Year Elementary Math Achievement Data (Schmitz Park)."  I see it as an effort to ward off schools using other math curriculum from arguing against the current recommendation for math adoption.

Okay, but isn't Mercer doing a lot better using a different math curriculum?  And North Beach?  Is the district able to say that for every school using something different, it's making no difference?  Hmm.

Also, the page mentions that McGilvra has been using enVisions since Jan. 2013.  I didn't know that.

Can You Speel? Not Me

All the winning words from the National Spelling Bee since 1925 via Washington Post.  (Surprise the kids this weekend with "Pop quiz!" Then ask them to define the words, just kidding.) 

But I say, with no shame, that from about 1995 on, I'd have to guess what most of those words mean.

The winner was 13-year-old Arvind Mahankali from New York with knaidel, a type of dumpling eaten especially in Jewish households during Passover.  

Among the surprises for winning words on the list:

narcolepsy (1976), staphylococci (1987), psoriasis (1982), eczema (1965),

croissant (1970)

Strange but True
promiscuous (1937),  incisor (1975), gladiolus (1925)

My favorites have to be Chihuahua and insouciant.

Troubling Talk

An article in the Seattle Times today troubled me deeply. Tough Talk (from the left) on race and Seattle Schools described a recent meeting in Columbia City called “Race, Class and Education”. The meeting acknowledged the wide difference in academic performance between affluent White and Asian students and minority students from low-income homes. That fact is troubling in itself. The school district's refusal to address the gap is also troubling, but most troubling were the number of people who think the solution is to discontinue honors classes.

You're going to have to read this thing for yourself, but I would like everyone to keep in mind, what Wayne Au apparently has forgotten: that equity and equality are not the same thing. Ending service for students working beyond grade level will not help students working below grade level.

Math Adoption - You Can Influence the Outcome

We are now at the nth hour for the Math Adoption.  I say that because by Monday, Tuesday - it will be too late.  This is the weekend that any waivering directors will make up their minds. 

There are three Director Community meetings tomorrow morning.  Their e-mail is
schoolboard@seattleschools.org - put "math adoption" in the subject line.

The phone number to leave a message is 252-0040.

By the end of today, the Board agenda will be up and we will see if any directors (so far) are offering amendments to the BAR.

I'll let WSDWG say it:

Everyone: Push for a dual-adoption! At least 3 board members are publicly in favor of it, and what's Ron English going to do? Sue the Board? Get an injunction? Right.

E-mail your school board reps now. Do not wait or let this opportunity go by. Do it.

We have a chance to make a historic and significant improvement in our schools and the daily lives of our kids. DO IT!

E-mail board members NOW and let them know you support a dual-adoption. If any of you watched hour 2 of the 5/21 board meeting, Peters, McLaren and Peaslee were AWESOME in their questioning and advocacy. Give them the support they need! This is HUGE!


My experience is when the district says it "can't" do something, within two years, they turn around and do it (but have different reasoning and the "can't part goes away).

If the Board truly wants choice for schools (and, I believe, better outcomes), they'll go with dual-adoption.

The proof is right before them - years of Everyday Math and unhappiness at both the parent and school level.  Schools who didn't use it?  Mostly better outcomes and happier parents and teachers.  

Of course the Board is very wary of "overstepping" and looking like they don't support the staff.  But you can ask the question - who is the Board elected to "support?"  They are there to support students, parents, teachers, staff and taxpayers.  That's why they get to vote differently from what staff says.  (The Math Adoption Committee's work should also be honored but they weren't given a choice of dual-adoption.)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

All Charter New Orleans raises an interesting question

The Washington Post reports that the New Orleans school district will be all charter next year.

No matter what you think about charter schools, think about this:
What is the role of a school district when it does not actually operate any schools?

In this situation, the district pretty much becomes a charter school authorizer.

The Board could continue in its role as a policy-making body. They can still set curriculum and graduation requirements, but they are freed of their property management work and textbook approvals. This would be a pretty big change for Seattle's Board, who spend more time on property management than anything else and do almost no policy or curriculum work.

What about the central administration staff? In an all charter district their role narrows to policy enforcement and quality assurance. They give up their responsibility for HR, facilities, professional development, and finance. They retain some legal work, I presume, as well as some vestigal accounting and reporting duty, but the entire Teaching and Learning department goes away just like HR and facilities.

I guess you could say that whatever work is left for a school district when the schools are gone is the most essential work of the district. Here's the funny thing: Seattle Public Schools has this responsibility of policy enforcement and quality assurance, but they don't do it. Not at all. All of their other work could be delegated to the schools. This is their only indelegable work, yet they simply neglect it.

I'm not saying that I want Seattle to become an all-charter district. I'm saying that I want Seattle Public Schools to do their policy enforcement and quality assurance work.

Education Funny of the Day - No Cursive for You!

 From an article in Linkara, about different experiences with learning and teachers.

The American school system is not here to educate us or to encourage us to learn; it’s here to keep us in line and silent. It’s here to keep us from deviating and being our own people and forming our own ideas. Don’t let it win.

There are plenty of amazing teachers who go the extra mile, in public or private schools, but it’s very sad and pretty mentally dangerous when teachers like those mentioned above not only refuse to do so but tamp down creativity in various ways. It sucks :/








My 7 year old son was shot down by his 1st grade teacher

The american public education system in a nutshell tho

My third grade teacher actually had a conversation with my mom that I was reading to well and told her to stop having me read at home

My first grade teacher said that it was problematic that I was reading ahead of the rest of the kids in my grade and asked my parents to stop letting me read Harry Potter.
My fourth grade teacher thought it was wrong for my dad to be teaching me complex math because it fascinated me.
My elementary school music teacher hated the way my piano teacher taught me, and how I was more advanced than many of her students, and so told me, in front of my peers and my mother, that I was not good enough to participate in the state solo festival. She would not give me the form. We had to procure it from the district instead. She also hated how I excelled at reading and playing music for the recorder, and so she refused to give me my “belts” (colored beads to signify our level) and humiliated me in front of the class repeatedly.
My eighth grade algebra teacher used to fail me on take home tests because I didn’t solve problems exactly the way she showed us in class; I used methods that we had learned for other types of problems that also applied to these. She took points off my tests because I didn’t bring a calculator even though I got 100% without it, because I was able to do it by hand. I had to call my father, who is an engineer, down to the school to shout her down and give me back my A in the class.
My 10th grade Spanish teacher yelled at me in front of the class numerous times because she didn’t like the way I took notes; she thought that since I didn’t write every word off the slide, I wasn’t getting it all down. I had to explain to her that people who have taken advanced courses, like AP or IB classes, know that in a fast-paced learning environment you need to take quick shorthand notes that contain the necessary information rather than wasting time writing every word. She almost gave me detention.
My 11th grade English teacher gave me a poor mark on my first short essay because she believed that I was looking up unnecessarily complex words in a thesaurus to try and get better marks. The phrases in question: “laced with expletives” and “bombarded”. She wouldn’t hear any defense from me.
My 11th grade history teacher failed me on an essay about the 1950s because I misread the prompt. Except the prompt wasn’t words; it was a political cartoon. One of the figures was clearly president Eisenhower, but the other I couldn’t place. My teacher would not tell us who it was. I labelled him as the governor of Little Rock Arkansas during the integration period, and wrote an essay about that subject. My teacher said that no, it was Joseph McCarthy, and that there was a small picture of the man in our textbook and therefore I should have recognized him instantly. Half the class, apparently, did not.
The American school system is not here to educate us or to encourage us to learn; it’s here to keep us in line and silent. It’s here to keep us from deviating and being our own people and forming our own ideas. Don’t let it win.

The cursive thing literally happened to me!!!!!! My dad taught me how to write my name in cursive and the teacher made me change it back to print. Wtf.

Before I got to Pre-K, a lot of places called me a prodigy because I learned how to read and understood phonetics incredibly well before the age of 3. My school still wouldn’t accept me as a student until I turned 3, though (my birthday was in December), so I had to wait another year. So I learned addition and subtraction. I got in trouble countless times in Pre-K through 4th grade for “being too smart” before I lost interest a bit and my grades began to drop a little in 5th grade.
When I reached high school, a lot of my friends knew how to play an instrument, or dance ballet, or karate, or do something extra-curricular. My parents couldn’t afford to get me a teacher for any of these things as a child because we were always kind of short on money. My version of my friends’ extra-curriculars was learning and drawing, but school punished me for both of those, so I held myself back.
I still believe to this day that I, and hundreds of other people, would have been more intelligent and excited about life if the education system didn’t demonize learning.

My parents transferred me from the public school on my street to a local catholic school purely because my second grade teacher refused to give me harder work (after my K and 1st grade teachers had done an amazing job of challenging those of us who were smart; my first grade teacher had those of us who could read well start chapter books!). Not only did she cause a huge stink with the principal and mocked me often, a school counselor told my mom that she was too pushy and I would end up anorexic. And I was the one saying I was bored in class.
The catholic school principal was aghast when my parents told her the story and I was placed in classes that challenged me. Hell, my 8th grade teacher got me a separate vocabulary book when I asked for something harder since I had done the one she was teaching already and gave me my own tests for it and everything.
There are plenty of amazing teachers who go the extra mile, in public or private schools, but it’s very sad and pretty mentally dangerous when teachers like those mentioned above not only refuse to do so but tamp down creativity in various ways. It sucks :/

My third grade teacher, during parent teacher conferences, told my parents about how I would often pretend to be an animal, particularly a cat, and how it evidently disrupted the school environment. Her exact words were “his creativity bothers me.”

When my parents asked her if she had asked me to STOP, she replied that she “didn’t want to upset me.”

I only learned this stuff later on, of course, but I’ve had my fill of the education system, frankly. I can tell you stories about the hell that was my middle school. There’s a reason whenever I pass by said Middle School, I always whisper, “Oh look, there’s the hellmouth.”

Although to be fair, the problem with that one was the other students and the administration. The teachers were great.

Except for the speech teacher who turned out to have child porn on his computer. I am frankly quite pleased I didn’t end up joining the lessons of his I had evidently been recommended for.

Now THAT'S What the Court Should Do about McCleary

Kudos to Peter Callaghan at the News Tribune for his column on what the Supreme Court should do to nudge the Legislature along to enact McCleary.  (If you read the column, you'll see I'm being sarcastic about "nudge.") 

Out the gate:

“Do we look stupid? We may have faults individually and collectively, but we’re not stupid. We ruled unanimously in January 2012 that the state is in violation of the rights of its children to an amply funded education. We pointed out the words — again — in the state constitution that say education is the state’s ‘paramount duty.’

No more whining:

Rather than listen to you complain about this court’s order, let us remind you how accommodating we’ve been. We let you decide how to define basic education. We let you determine how much all that costs. We let you create the funding formulas and the timelines. And we gave you six years to do it!

Get it done:

“What follows is what we call a ‘court order.’ That means it isn’t subject to debate or interpretation or you all sitting around over beers contemplating the meaning of life. It just means you do it, OK?

“Before the end of 2014, you are ordered to convene in special session and fix the problem. If it helps motivate you, pretend this is Boeing or the Mariners asking. You can even wear ball caps.

“You will add funding that gets the state two-thirds toward the totals that you – not us – came up with for basic education. You will then present a specific plan on how to find the final one-third by 2018.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/05/29/3217004/what-contempt-for-the-legislature.html?sp=/99/296/331/#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/05/29/3217004/what-contempt-for-the-legislature.html?sp=/99/296/331/#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/05/29/3217004/what-contempt-for-the-legislature.html?sp=/99/296/331/#storylink=cpy

Last Three Days for GET

Washington State's GET program (Guaranteed Education Tuition) is in its three final days for this round of enrollment.  Now, thru the end of May, they will be waiving the $50 enrollment fee.

June 30th is the last date to add to your account if you are already enrolled.

Friday Open Thread

Tomorrow sees three Director Community Meetings - if you want something to change in the math adoption, you might want to drop in on one. 

Patu - 10 am - noon, Cafe Vitta
McLaren - 10 am - noon, SW Branch Public Library
Peters - 11 am - 12:30 pm - Queen Anne library, first hour for students (according to SPS website)

I was unable to attend the DPD meeting for Wilson-Pacific last night but I hear it was, well, "crazy."  Many upset neighbors and they couldn't get to a vote on the district's desire for several zoning waivers so there will be a third meeting.  Stay tuned. 

Word of the week for parents to consider talking to their children - son or daughter - about - misogyny.  From the Stranger Slog:

Men should care enough about the women in our lives—our mothers, sisters, aunts, and nieces; our female friends, partners, coworkers, and neighbors—to recognize that misogyny is dangerous.  This issue of speaking of women as sluts, whores, bitches and brushing off rape - it's not so much the guy who does these things; it's the guy who remains silent as other guys act that way.  We need to teach our children to speak up against universal putdowns of the other sex. 

Love art?  Here's the Met's collection of 394,885 records. 

Also, LeVar Burton is trying Kickstarter to bring back Reading Rainbow online.  I'm in - my kids loved that show and so did I.  It could be a valuable item to use at home and in-class. 

What's on your mind?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Washington State Democrats' Platform on Education has Changed (in a big way)

I have been made aware that the Washington State Democratic platform for 2014 - at least in the education section - has seen some major changes. 

The last platform's education area is quite different from 2012's platform.  There is no mention of ELL students, class size, full inclusion of all students, counselors/nurses/librarians, career training, music and fine arts, foreign language, civics, parent engagement, or a stable funding source for public schools.

In fact, the Education section is one of the shorter sections in the platform.

Omitted is past opposition to:
  • public funding for charters and vouchers
  • commercial exploitation of students
  • linking military recruitment to educational funding
  • organized prayer in schools
  • No Child Left Behind
  •  basing teacher pay solely on student test scores
  • all "so-called reforms that are not based upon sound and objective information, that are disguised attempts to blame teachers for the problems in public education, to weaken teachers unions, or to privatize our public education system for profit
  • escalation of tuition at institutions of higher education
In this platform, they are supporting:
  • that the WA state Legislature fully fund education
  • McCleary and I-732
  • some very nice but vague wording on "public education"
They are recommending passage of these (among others- these are education issues):
  • gifted and Special Education to be fully funded
  • keep control of education at state and district levels
  • moving towards universal preschool
  • support for teachers in Washington State
  • reducing the interest on student loans
  • encouraging locally grown food in schools
To comment on this platform, link here.  Note: deadline is tomorrow, May 29th.

I have a call in to ask why some things - a lot of things - have been dropped/omitted.

Follow Ups

Still waiting for information on the Math Summative Assessment.  The questions I posed on this mystery assessment were not that hard so I'm puzzled as to why it is taking so long to answer them.

As you may recall, the Superintendent recently promoted/created positions within SPS.  I had wondered (as did a few of you) what the salaries for these positions are:

Barbara Robbins, Director of Project Management, $136,612
Guillermo Echeverria, Director of Continuous Improvement, $133,325
Cari Campbell, Director School and Community Partnerships, (will not start this position until end of May), $112,154
Eric McCurdy, Executive Director Athletics, $139,628.

I will gently say that I believe those to be fairly healthy salaries for public jobs.

Also, there is a FAQ being worked up for the Math Adoption.  That's great but given that the vote is a week from today, a little tardy.  Hopefully, they will be available by Friday so that parents who want to go talk to Board members will have them in hand.

Seattle Schools Math Adoption: Apples to Apples?

A reader who is deeply concerned about the math adoption conducted a public records request to SPS for e-mail about the math adoption.  She got about 237 pages of e-mails.  I have not yet read all of them but the ones I have read do concern me about both the process and the outcomes.

We all realize that, in our jobs, when we are asked to help formulate decisions on what direction to go or products to use for a job, we need to do a couple of things.

 One, making sure we cast the net far enough so that we are doing a thorough job, both for quality of product and cost of product. 

Two, that there's a fair comparison - the "apples to apples" comparison - both to allow the end user/buyer to accurately compare items and to do due diligence for each product/company we are considering.

(As we saw from the recent Board meeting with the Network Wireless upgrade, when the district changes the rules, repeatedly, during the RFP period (no matter the explanation), companies feel confused and some feel duped.  That this particular process saw three different RPF periods and multiple challenges to those decisions should tell you something.

My take on that wireless issue - frankly - was that someone wanted a particular outcome and wasn't getting it and so tweaked the RFP until they got it.  I say that because I found the actual explanation to be somewhat tortured.) 

Well, I'm getting a whiff of a feeling that there was a particular outcome desired by staff  for the math adoption and now they have it. Don't get me wrong; those who are doing the work are bound to see a favorite rise to the top but how it gets there and stays there is something else. 

Advanced Learning Taskforce Update

There is a joint meeting of the Advanced Learning Taskforces tomorrow, Thursday the 29th from 4-8 pm in the JSCEE auditorium.  They will be discussing their recommendations with an eye to presenting a combined recommendation plan to the Superintendent and Board in the future.  The public is invited to attend but no questions or feedback will be happening as this is purely a meeting for the committees. 

There's a very interesting report of "recommendations" that is a compilation of various members of the Taskforce at the Advanced Learning Taskforce page.  However, this is NOT official.  (What is interesting is apparently the first eight-and-a-half pages are from two students at Ingraham.)

It makes for tough reading as it is a large volume of very specific ideas.   You find yourself trying to figure out, "if this, then that? or "what would happen with X,Y,Z."

I think it great that these people have put forth a plethora of ideas because it helps to see options.  Some suggestions - like a decent ALO in every school - well, that hasn't happened and I can't see why writing it down as policy would make it happen.

There's also an FAQ from Stephen Martin, director of AL, dated April 2014 that also makes for good reading.  

The pages are not numbered but the middle section, by Karen B. Rogers, Ph.D., has interesting comparisons of what does and does not work for grouping of advanced learning students.

The end pages are Martin's recommendations for the program. It's worth reading. 

This and That

The Times is reporting that the City will be installing speed cameras at five more school zones this summer.  They are Roxhill Elementary (WS), Dearborn Park Elementary (Beacon Hill), Bailey-Gatzert Elementary (Central) and Eckstein Middle (NE).  They will be used starting Sep. 2nd.  For the first 30 days, you'll get a warning and then the ticket is $189.  They will be used one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon most of the time.

The Times is also reporting that the Bellingham School district is installing a panic button in every school office in their district using a grant from OSPI.  (As I previously reported, SPS also received money from this grant but I am unsure what it will be used for in our district.)

The UW's Computer Science and Engineering Department recently honored 57 teachers in our region for being "Inspirational" teachers.  They include Assegid Derseh from Chief Sealth International High School and John Boucher from Ingraham High School.

The West Seattle blog reports on Denny International Middle School's week of college prep that included an LA lesson at the college level, presentations from City Year, financing college lesson and a field trip to either Seattle Central CC, South Seattle CC or UW.  Good for Denny.

Fun fact I learned from the Times; in 2012 the enrollment of school-aged children in private schools in Seattle was 22%.  That's lower than San Francisco's at 28% but higher than Portland/Minneapolis/Boston/Denver (all around 12%).  So for all those who bandy about these wild figures of 30, 40% - it's not true.  And, that number has been steady for many years.  

UW CSE invites our undergraduates to nominate their most inspirational teachers from middle school, upper school, or community college.  We host these teachers, their partners, and the students who nominated them at a dinner in the spring. - See more at: http://news.cs.washington.edu/2014/05/27/uw-cse-honors-inspirational-teachers/#sthash.OOWBFqph.ubqIaFnG.dpufv
UW CSE invites our undergraduates to nominate their most inspirational teachers from middle school, upper school, or community college.  We host these teachers, their partners, and the students who nominated them at a dinner in the spring. - See more at: http://news.cs.washington.edu/2014/05/27/uw-cse-honors-inspirational-teachers/#sthash.OOWBFqph.ubqIaFnG.dpuf
UW CSE invites our undergraduates to nominate their most inspirational teachers from middle school, upper school, or community college.  We host these teachers, their partners, and the students who nominated them at a dinner in the spring. - See more at: http://news.cs.washington.edu/2014/05/27/uw-cse-honors-inspirational-teachers/#sthash.OOWBFqph.ubqIaFnG.dpuf

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Next Time, Ask Teachers What Will Work

Daily posts from a retired public school teacher who is just looking at the data.
mark zuckerber went on oprah
credit: Fred Klonsky

2012 Public Education Finances, Census of Governments

A new report has just come out called Public Education Finances: 2013 (2012 Census of Governments).  I'm just digging in but it makes for great comparisons to other states (and what it all might mean). 

For example for Public Elementary-Secondary School System Revenue Source by State, we see Washington in the upper middle with California on top and South Dakota at the bottom.   For Public Elementary-Secondary School SystemCurrent Spending by Major Function (instruction, support services, others), Washington is again in the upper middle (and, to the naked eye, the amounts look nearly the same).  You look at New York state and you see most of their dollars going to instruction.

And once again, for our friends at the Washington Policy Center (and others), Washington state does not even fund to the national average of $10,608.  The report has it at $9,637 for Washington with the high being Alaska and District of Columbia at $17,468 and the low being Idaho at $6,659. 

Seattle is the 96th largest school system in the U.S. (but that number is at 49,269  for 2012 and the district will be over 54,000 next year.)  If the district projections of 60k by 2020 hold, Seattle will move to about 67th in the country.  (Note: many districts are large because they are regional/county rather than city.) 

Ed News Roundup

It's been a busy weekend and day for education news (as always).

First, SPS Communications put out a press release about the continued growth in Seattle Schools.  As I reported last week, the district projects to be about 60,000 students by 2020.  School by school projections here.

Seattle Public Schools has released its annual spring enrollment projections for the 2014-15 school year. An estimated 52,400 students are expected to attend school in the district this fall – an increase of 1,300 students over the year ending in June.

This continues the five-year trend of enrollment growth that began in 2009, after a decade of declining enrollment. During the last five years, enrollment grew by more than 5,000 students – from 46,000 in 2009 to 51,000 this year. Next year’s expected enrollment growth of 1,300 students means the district will be serving 6,400 more students next year than in 2009.

Remember ConnectEdu, the company that SPS used to try to help middle/high school students with careers and college (and the district allowed kids to put in data on themselves without telling parents)? As you may recall, despite an infusion of cash (from the Gates Foundation, natch), it went bankrupt earlier this year.

Today, the FTC says that it has sent a letter to the court overseeing that bankruptcy case because of concerns over "the proposed sale of the company's assets, which include student information." (All highlighting mine.)

From the FTC:

In its privacy policy, ConnectEdu promised consumers that prior to any sale of the company, consumers would be notified and have the ability to delete their personally identifiable data. The letter states that the terms of the sale of the company and its subsidiary Academic Management Systems, Inc., in bankruptcy do not provide consumers the notice and choice set forth in the privacy policy and could potentially run afoul of both the FTC Act and the Bankruptcy Code.    

The Commission vote approving the issuance of the letter was 5-0.  The letter was filed in In re ConnectEdu, Inc., No. 14-11238, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York.

To understand, if the FTC had not stepped in, that student data would have been sold to the highest bidder which in this case would be North Atlantic Capital, a venture capital fund. The FTC said they would not have been so concerned if ConnectEdu had given users a heads up on the sale of their personal information and given a chance to remove it/had it destroyed. 

To note, ConnectEdu also owns Datacation,  That company helps districts to figure out how to use data.  (How about Step 1: PROTECT STUDENT DATA.)

Haven't heard much about the so-called parent trigger laws in various areas of the country but now there are two stories out.  As you may recall, the majority of use of the parent trigger (which is very low with an even lower success rate - you can count on one hand) is in California. 

The  Hechinger Report has a story about a group of parents who threatened to use their state's trigger law to take over a school.  Apparently it finally got the attention of their district, Los Angeles Unified, and the district is "to sign a partnership agreement addressing the parents’ top concerns at an elementary school in South Los Angeles." 

Oh, is that what it takes to get the attention of a district?  

The 13-page agreement includes a commitment by the school and district to bolster school behavior and safety plans, improve communication between parents and teachers and provide increased professional development and support for teachers. The document also specifies that $300,000 will be pumped into new positions to help with student discipline and extra support services, including funding a full-time psychologist, a part-time psychiatrist social worker and a full-time attendance officer.

The West Athens partnership agreement explicitly states that a key goal should be resolving any budget shortfalls without turning to teacher layoffs, and includes a commitment to ensuring teachers get more training and resources, especially because they have to implement the new Common Core State Standards.

What's fascinating is that many of these parents don't seem to really want anyone to "take over" their school  but they want adequate resources, improved communications and more safety. 

EdWeek is reporting that the parent trigger fad seems to have waned - at least among state legislators.  Tennessee, which seems to be at the head of the class for ed reform, turned down a law for a parent trigger.  (Another bill that failed?  Allowed for-profit charter school management. But it's in the WA State law.)   No state has enacted a parent trigger law since 2012.

Tuesday Open Thread

From SPS Communications:
Officials of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced the names of two Seattle Public Schools students included in the second group of winners in the annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
The National Merit $2,500 Scholarship winners are:
Anthony L. Bencivengo from Nathan Hale High School, whose probable career field is playwriting; and
• Tara I. Martin-Chen from Garfield High School, who listed her likely career field as international relations.

Several SPS high school theater groups have been nominated for theater awards from the 5th Avenue Theatre to be given out on June 9th at Benaroya Hall.  Congratulations to Ballard High, Ingraham High, Franklin High and Nathan Hale High.  

What's on your mind?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Wednesday, May 28th
 Exit Conference for Financial and Single Federal Audit from 4-5 pm
Given that the Auditor has already released this audit, I don't expect much new information to be revealed. 

- Work Session: Strategic Plan Scorecard & Targets from 5-6 pm
No presentation available.  

Saturday, May 31st
Community Meetings with Board Directors

Director Patu - 10 am - noon at Cafe Vita

Director McLaren - 10 am - noon at SW Branch Library

Director Peters - 11 am- 12:30 pm at Queen Anne Library (Director Peters said at the Board meeting that the first hour was for student questions.  I'm not sure how that will work out, given that I suspect many parents might want to talk to her about the math adoption.)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

You CAN Check into Your Child's Grades This Weekend

I missed this earlier so you can check into The Source, etc.

From SPS:

Due to new upgrade issues discovered this week, the PowerSchool Upgrade that was planned for Memorial Day Weekend has been cancelled. PowerSchool, PowerTeacher and the Source are all available on their regular schedules.

Thank you.
Department of Technology Services

Common Core Continues to Be on the Run

No matter how many tweets that DFER or ReadyWashington or any other group that supports Common Core send out saying that it's here to stay, the evidence is mounting that it may survive but not in exactly the way its end game was pictured.

Update on CC across the country:

Indiana has already bowed out of Common Core but only to replace it with their "own" standards which appear to be a cut-and-paste of CC.  Minnesota adopted the LA standards but kept their own math standards saying they are "more rigorous" than CC. 

The Oklahoma state legislature, both houses, approved a bill to exit their state from Common Core standards.  It is going to their governor's desk soon.  Rep. T.W. Shannon had this to say:

The federal government sold Common Core with the promise of increased standards, but instead gave us an inflexible curriculum that does not equip our children for college,” said Shannon. “The federal government has disregarded parental rights, over-regulated teachers, and over-tested our kids. Parents, local governments and teachers are better equipped to meet the needs of their students than the federal government. Parents and teachers are the best leaders for quality education in Oklahoma communities—not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”

From Senators Josh Brecheen and Anothony Sykes:
With this bill, we’re pressing the pause button and guaranteeing to teachers that next year they will be able to teach the same math and English content they taught this year, until new standards are established in 2016. Those new standards will have to be approved by the Legislature thus bringing representative government into the process to ensure they won’t be a ‘copy and paste’ version of common core under a new name.”

The statement that Shannon made - about CC not equipping children for college - is partially true (and even the creators of CC admit this).  The "standards" are only good enough for community college or a very basic university but not the ones with higher standards of admission.

Important Reading #1 on Common Core
It's funny because CC supporters want to paint CC opponents as "hysterical" or "Tea Partiers" when  most opponents are neither.

Diane Ravitch takes this on, telling people how absolutely ridiculous Glenn Beck's statements on CC are (he has a new book), but then she calmly explains how to fix the problem.  THAT's opposing something BUT finding solutions.   It's solid advice. 

This is crazy stuff, and it makes it difficult if not impossible to have a reasonable discussion about the pros and cons of the Common Core. The Common Core is not wicked, evil, or dangerous, nor are those who wrote it.

Perhaps my critique of Common Core is too sophisticated for those who want simplistic answers. I don't condemn those who want to use Common Core. I don't they are wrong or un-American. If they like it, they should use it. 

My advice to states that want to use it, who think it is better than what they do now, is this: 

Have we seen this movie before? Did it star Shirley Jones and Robert Preston?

Please forgive me, but I'm old, and old people like to natter on about the past. It's just what we do. We like to imagine that our experience has value. We see things and we think "Hey, I've seen this before!" That's bad enough, but then we feel compelled to tell you about it.

Back in 2000 Seattle Public Schools was on fire with a revolutionary idea. It was a change in perspective that would reform public education. We were going to become a Standards-Based Learning System. Once implemented, Standards would fix all our woes. It would get all struggling students to learn at grade level. It would support advanced learners without those politically disturbing self-contained programs. It would integrate our students with disabilities and our English Language Learners. Once we became a Standards-based Learning System we would enter a new education paradise. The District headquarters spoke of little else. They did pilot projects with big announcements and then made big announcements about the implementation. Everyone got a daruma to remind them of the goal. I was at the Board meeting when Joseph Olchefske announced that the district had done it. We had completed the goal, he filled in the other eye of the daruma, and announced that the District was now a Standards-Based Learning System. The daruma sits on the window sill in the Board room for anyone who wants to see it. It is one expensive ball of papier mâché.

Only the district didn't really fully convert to a Standards-Based Learning System - not in the textbook definition - and the promised benefits never appeared. Of course, that didn't keep the district from removing the supports that had been in place for students - the supports that they promised would be unnecessary once the district converted, the supports that students continued to need because the promises went unfulfilled.

That was the failed education revolution of 1999-2001.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

To Note about Asperger's Syndrome and Violent Behavior

Asperger's Syndrome is a higher-functioning form of Autism.  In 2012 it was reclassified in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) under the umbrella term "autism spectrum disorder.  Some have called it "autism lite" but the change may signal issues in how children receive services for this condition. 

Autistic author and activist Temple Grandin expressed a similar fear. 
“It is my opinion that social communication disorder is part of the social impairment continuum of the autism spectrum.  I fear that many Aspies will be switched into this diagnosis when school districts get short on funding," she wrote on her website.

Most of us know people with Asperger's (whether we know they for certain that is diagnostically true) because we have all met people who seem socially awkward, unable to make those connections - intuitive to most of us - that make relationships and who have difficulty with focus and follow-thru. Many adults are figuring out now that Asperger's is more widely known, that they may have this condition.  Some believe that many very bright/gifted people like Bill Gates may have Asperger's.

I bring this up because there are now two terrible crimes that have been committed by young men with Asperger's. One was Sandy Hook Elementary and now in Santa Barbara.  In the latest crime, the young man stabbed three people in his home before shooting six and then was killed himself (it is unclear if he died because of police fire or on his own).  Nine people were killed and 13 injured in the crime spree. 

Important Reading on Teaching and Outcomes

The first comes from an interview in the American Psychological Association with psychologist Daniel Willingham, PhD who has a new book coming out called, "Raising Readers in the Age of Distraction."

The interview, though, was about education and teachers and what works.  I do not think that anything he says will come as ANY surprise to teachers. I find it all basic, reasonable and, as he says, common sense. 

The truth is that most teachers in my experience really have a lot of common sense. There are ideas that are peddled to them that are wrong, but most teachers are pretty skeptical of them. They're in the classroom every day, so they have a sense of what works and what doesn't work with kids.

On evidence-based techniques for the classroom:
One reason is that what works in the lab doesn't always work in the classroom. In the laboratory, we're typically looking at one or two variables at a time, whereas in the classroom, there are lots of variables, all of which can affect learning simultaneously.

Another big piece of the problem is that in education, there is no one who is translating what the research really means for the classroom. If you're a physician, for example, there are institutions that publish reliable, periodic summaries about what's new in medicine. In education, we don't have that at all. Teachers and administrators have to fend for themselves and judge whether or not something that claims to be research-based really is.

In consequence, it's kind of a free-for-all right now. People are selling books, professional development, curricula and instructional materials, claiming that they are backed by science and it's up to teachers and administrators to figure out whether or not there's legitimacy to these claims. Who has the time?

What Matters in the Classroom?
 The big piece is that curriculum matters a lot. You have to have a curriculum that challenges kids and is sequenced in a sensible way.

Saturday News

KING-5 did a report on our growing district.  (And, if you hadn't heard, Seattle is apparently the fastest growing big city in the country.  It is the 21st biggest city in the country.)  KING reported that the district expects to have 60,000 students by 2020.  That's just five-and-a-half years away. 

In a very sad story from The Charlotte Observer, a charter school in Charlotte, NC, is closing immediately for financial reasons and now the 300+ students have to find somewhere else to finish the school year.

What makes this story doubly sad is that state officials knew this charter was off-track financially almost from the start of the school year.   North Carolina charter supporters pushed to get their charter cap lifted and this was one of the first of 23 schools opened that year. 

The state Office of Charter Schools sent staff to inspect the school in March. The team reported concerns with the instruction and the support for students with disabilities, said Director Joel Medley.

Bill Anderson of MeckEd, a nonprofit advocacy group that works closely with CMS, said the StudentFirst collapse shows the need for better oversight and the hazards of a rush to authorize more schools. 

“I think we should all be concerned as more charter schools come online,” he said. “At the end of the day, is this what’s best for the children?” 

More dress code news, this time for France.  Made me smile.   You go, boys.

Well, you can't accuse them of skirting the issue; last Friday, to protest sexism, male students in the western French city of Nantes turned up to school in skirts.

Hundreds of boys across 27 schools in the city took part in the "Lift the Skirt" campaign, which was thought up by the students and backed by the education ministry. Students who didn't feel like baring their legs showed support by wearing stickers that read, "I am fighting against sexism, are you?" The initiative was born to "take action to promote awareness and change perceptions," amid a "feeling of daily discrimination" against female students. 

The campaign follows a report from France's education ministry, published last summer, which found that teachers treat boys "in a preferential manner while remaining convinced they are being totally fair," paying less academic attention to girls and assigning them caretaking roles in class.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/04/03/4814539/studentfirst-charter-school-to.html#.U4DDZsdKv-n#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/04/03/4814539/studentfirst-charter-school-to.html#.U4DDZsdKv-n#storylink=cpy

Friday, May 23, 2014

Science Fairs: Yay or Nay?

Friday Open Thread

cool-Art-Design-College-discover-peacockNaturally, in Seattle, the first "summer" holiday and it's raining. 

At the Columbus College of Art and Design, two anonymous students create art for all to enjoy. Something to show the artist in your home.

New names to look for in, say 2019, in SPS classrooms:
And once again, Game of Thrones rules. There were 1135 Aryas, 241 Khaleesis and 67 Daeneryses born in 2013.  

As well, for girls there is Vanellope, Pistol, Prim, Rarity (from My Little Pony?), Charlemagne and Rebelle.  (Editor's note; because "Rebel" is just too tough for a girl's name? I assume she'll be a feminist rebel.)

Brand new boy's names included Rydder, Jceion, Hatch, Tuf, Lloyal, Xzaiden, Charger, Kyndle, Power, Warrior, Kaptain, Subaru, and Vice.  (That second one - Jceion - I believe is a new way to spell Jason.)

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is awarding nearly $7 million this week to 80 school districts to help them install emergency response systems. These new systems will decrease the time it takes for police and other first responders to arrive and react to incidents at schools. 

SPS is receiving $845,310 to cover 95 schools. 

The Board approved the school calendar for 2014-2015.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Public Education in the News

First up, from The Columbian (via Associated Press) which is reporting that the lead attorney for the McCleary case, Thomas Ahearne, told the Washington State Supreme Court that they should hold the Legislature in contempt for not complying with their orders.

“We’re asking the court to at least hold the Legislature in contempt, to prohibit any more unfunded or underfunded mandates on our schools, and to impose even more serious sanctions if the Legislature does not reconvene and obey the court’s orders by Dec. 31 of this year,” Ahearne wrote.

In his written response to the Legislature’s report to the Supreme Court, Ahearne said lawmakers do not seem to understand that the Supreme Court was issuing an order, not making a suggestion. 

“The State did what it had been ordered to not do. It offered promises about trying to submit a plan and take significant action next year — along with excuses for why the State’s ongoing violation of kids’ constitutional rights and court orders should be excused this year,” he wrote.

He also believes that the Court compelling the Legislature to act would not violate the separate of powers.

Two stories from the LA Times.

Guest Post by Ballard High Student on Dress Codes

Tian Qing Yen, a senior at Ballard High School, submitted an op-ed,  "My Clothing Does Not Define Me" to this blog:

In the past few weeks, the Ballard administration has sent more girls home because of the way they dress than ever before. During class elections, the administration went around to all the students and explained that in order to avoid harassment students must pay attention to the way they dress.

This commentary by the administration, along with the recent and seemingly arbitrary enforcement of an undefined dress code, angered many students at Ballard, boys and girls alike. In response, Ballard students decided to organize a protest to raise awareness about the inappropriate way in which our administration was discussing issues of dress code.

Word got out about plans for the protest, and our principal sent out an email to all parents in order to bring attention to the importance of maintaining a dress code during the approach of summer. The email included the addition of three new rules not mentioned in the student handbook, which are as follows:

Shorts/Skirts must reach the mid-thigh/be finger tip length,
Up to 2" of midriff is allowed and
The chest cannot be overly revealing.
This list is not exhaustive, but it includes the majority of the issues that we face when the sun comes out.

The issue here is not that a dress code exists, but about how it has become an unfair expression of power and gender discrimination in schools. All three of the aforementioned rules, though written to encompass the entire student body, are actually targeted at girls. Furthermore, many girls reported feeling uncomfortable by comments made by the administration about their choice in clothes; many others have been sent home in the past few weeks, or forced to wear baggy gym shorts over their short skirts/shorts. Despite the fact that many boys have walked the halls with shorts that are too short (i.e. track shorts), none of them have been harassed in the same way.

A senior girl at Ballard recalled her experience with slut shaming in an interview*:
“I was walking back from lunch with a few of my friends,” she says, “and was approaching [an administrator], who turned to me and said ‘I think you should get your money back.’ And I asked why, and he said ‘They only sold you half a shirt.’ I told him that made me feel uncomfortable, and I swear to god, word for word, he said ‘It’s just my job, trying to shame people into dressing more conservatively.’”

These examples highlight a bigger problem that exists within society: victim blaming. A dress code, though necessary, establishes “inappropriate” clothing as the problem. Allowing clothing to define the wearer places responsibility for any related injustices on the individual wearing the clothes. In the email, our principal explained how “Being distracted from learning is an involuntary process that students cannot fully stop on their own, where as students are FULLY responsible for [the way they dress].” Again, this statement emphasizes the inability for students (namely, boys) to control their distraction due to the way students (which really means girls) dress. No one should feel inferior or degraded because of what they wear; and no one should feel as though they must cover up in order to go through their daily lives. After all, my clothing does not define me.

*Interview conducted by Annie Vizenor via. Facebook on April 8, 2014.

State Releases Audit of Seattle Schools' Federal Programs

State Auditor Troy Keller released his office's report on SPS's "financial statements and compliance with federal laws and regulations."

It's a lengthy report but that is because it contains page after page of district financial reports.  It makes for interesting reading if you have the time.   Page 49 has the investments that the City puts into SPS.

There were no major issues with financial statements or internal controls over major programs.  The programs reviewed were:
  • Child Nutrition - School Breakfast program
  • Child Nutrition - National School Lunch program
  • Title I, Part A Cluster - Title I grants to local educational agencies
  • High school graduation initiative
  • ARRA School Improvement Grants
  • Head Start

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Map of Testing Across the Country

Embedded image permalink
Testing Landscape via Education Week

Portable Usage in Oregon and Washington State

Earthfix and Investigate West had an excellent series, with data and graphics, on the use of school portables in Oregon and Washington State.

InvestigateWest sent a survey to the 20 largest school districts in Oregon and Washington about its portable classroom use, policies and perspective. The survey asked each district how many portable classrooms it has and what percent of its total classrooms are portables. The survey also asked how many portable classrooms were newer than five years, how many were older than 20 years, and how many had been retrofitted with new heating, ventilation and air conditioning units, as well as a full inventory of all portable units. All districts responded but with varying levels of detail. Numbers are estimates in some cases.

Part One: The Price of a Quick Fix - environmental and health costs
Part Two: The System
Part Three: Rethinking Classrooms

There's also a link to this report - Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol; Criteria for High Performance Schools, 2010 edition.

Some interesting quotes from the series:

Math Adoption: Food for Thought

The Tampa Bay Times published this article in March 2014 about math textbooks not aligning to Common Core standards.

As with much of Common Core, the issue is - what's the rush?  Meaning, many of these textbooks do not fully (or even by half) align with CCSS because they had to rush into production in order to get them out for consideration.  A lot of this "alignment" is WILL have to happen at the school/district level.

To understand, there is no "CC seal of approval" - any publisher can say their books are aligned and unless a researcher or school district official thoroughly checks, there's no one to check publishers' claims.

Now, there's concern that a darker unreality is on the cover of textbooks in order to sell the books to adults: seals that say the texts are aligned to the new Common Core standards.

According to a study by a University of Southern California researcher, textbooks marketed as being in step with the Common Core and currently used in Tampa Bay classrooms fail to capture key concepts of the higher-level standards that have been adopted by Florida and most other states.

Key findings:

Math Adoption Threatens Math Waiver Schools Experiencing Success

A letter from the Schmitz Park PTA was sent this week to the Board, the Superintendent and other district officials:

Dear Seattle Public School Board Directors and District Staff,

On behalf of the Schmitz Park PTA, we write this letter in opposition to the Math Adoption Committee’s recommendation to implement the enVision Math Program as the new math curriculum for all elementary schools in September 2014. Schmitz Park is in an advanced, and deliberate, position as one of six schools across the district currently using a Singapore Math-based curriculum to teach math and a transition to enVision will be a step backwards for our students.

As part of our opposition to the recommendation, the Schmitz Park PTA states that:

Wilson-Pacific; DPD Comments due Today

The City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development deadline for receiving comments is today, May 21st on the Wilson-Pacific project about zoning requests from SPS.  Consider writing to them about any issue of concern: traffic impacts, loss of open space, and/or height.

Here's a link to comment via e-mail, include the project #3015479, the address 1330 N. 90th and your mailing address.

The DPD's advisory committee will be meeting on May 28th to consider these requests for code departures.  You are allowed to testify at this meeting. The meeting is at Wilson-Pacific at 6:30 p.m.

What's going on at Highland Park?

Highland Park is an elementary school at the south end of West Seattle. The attendance area, between Roxhill's and Concord's, is bordered by Highway 509 on the east, by White Center on the south, and by Delridge on the west. The school report says that the school population is 78% FRL, 27% ELL, and 14% SpEd. Only 33% of the third graders passed the state reading proficiency test last year. You know what they say about the prospects of students who aren't reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Student academic growth, as measured by year-over-year test scores for the same students, is below average. While test scores are rising all across the district, the test scores at Highland Park are falling. Highland Park is one of the few Segment 1 schools in the District's School Segmentation scheme. It is one of the two or three lowest performing schools in the district if not the lowest performer. Among the lowest in scores and the lowest of those for growth. Highland Park is, of course, in Step 5 of No Child Left Behind and should, therefore (per federal law) be subject to some kind of radical change - close the school, replace the principal and staff, or "transformation". The District, of course, chose "transformation" and the transformation plan is the CSIP. Like all of the district's other transformation plans, it pretty much calls for more of what the district has already been doing. Or has there been a change?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday Open Thread


From SPS:
The Source will be unavailable on Friday, May 23rd from 5:00pm - Tuesday, May 27th 6:00am for maintenance. This planned outage is required to upgrade PowerSchool to a newer version and improve performance and reliability. We apologize for any inconvenience.

What field are incoming UW freshmen picking when they pick Engineering?  Number one (hugely) is Computer Science.  

What's on your mind?

Spectrum is Dead

A reader sent in this letter - from View Ridge's principal, Terri Skjei - and frankly, it's all I need to believe that Spectrum is dead.

But the letter also makes me wonder about this slow death. What is the point?

A few thoughts on the contents:

1) quite calm and thoughtful, almost the epitome of "we want your input" except that there really is no need to give any. The fix is in.

2) The principal is either misleading families or has been mislead herself because in the third paragraph she states, "With the support of Shauna Health (sic), the Ex Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and direction of task forces specifically working on recommendations for Advanced Learning..."

No, none of those task forces worked on "AL" - they all worked on APP and only APP. In fact the charge of the last two did not include Spectrum or ALOs.

The district should disabuse any principal of this thought so that they do NOT pass it along to parents. It's simply not true.

3) It's hard to believe that the numbers aren't there at View Ridge for Spectrum as it was created. It seems to me a creative fiction to say so.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Seattle Schools Leadership Update

I'll print this in its entirety.  From Superintendent Banda:

Today we are announcing several leadership changes that will improve our ability to support our schools and students.

Our Strategic Plan outlines a series of goals we must achieve over the next five years to improve academic success for our students. To meet the objectives outlined in the Every Student. Every Classroom. Every Day. strategic plan, we will need to accomplish several complex projects and develop a way to support and guide this work. We recently made two key hires that will help us strengthen our ability to provide better service to schools, students and families.

Barbara Robbins will now serve as the Director of Project Management and Guillermo “Bill” Echeverria has been hired as Director of Continuous Improvement. These are new positions for Seattle Public Schools and they bring a much-needed skill set to the work we are doing. Together, they will help us improve the coordination, sequencing, and execution of our work as a system. In turn, this will help us improve service to our schools and families.

Here is a little more information about what Barb and Bill will bring to our schools and staff in their roles.

Words Have Meaning (Redux)

On this blog you cannot (partial):

- swear (beyond the occasional BS because we seem to have some readers with delicate sensibilities)
- name call
- leave racist, sexist, homophobic or likewise undeserved or irrational personal comments
- make statements that you cannot back up unless you state it as an OPINION and/or use the words "it is alleged" or "it is my belief" when making comments about someone especially SPS staff

It's allowed to comment on someone's job performance.  In public jobs, it's part of what comes with the job. 

(And before anyone jumps down my throat, of course, I myself have erred here and there.)

Example of what NOT to say:  Staff X is stupid and dumb.

Example of how you could say it: I have found that Staff X's job performance is not competent or of low quality. 

Make your point about the work/outcomes, not the person.  

One person made a point recently about getting sued for statements you make here and that it is possible to track IP addresses.  (I suppose the point was you can comment anonymously but someone could figure out your IP address.)

I'm sure someone could track your IP address from this blog but Charlie and I are the administrators and you would have to go thru us.  I only have a vague idea how to do it.  As well, I think Google would have to be subpoenaed for that info as they provide the blogging platform.

But, on the other hand, I see the point about throwing rhetoric around.  I personally know how things can be taken out of context and blown up into a lot of nonsense.  See Andaiye Qaasim (and I note that she is leaving LEV to go work for the South King County College Access Network - good luck to them).  SKCCAN is part of the Road Map Project.

What's the Math Summative Assessment?

I had no idea yet another test was happening in SPS but apparently it is true.  It's a two-day test called the Math Summative Assessment.

The window for testing started May 12th and is to finish May 23rd.

From SPS (partial to first and second grade teachers):

Seattle Public Schools will administer a summative mathematics assessment this spring to all first and second graders.  The purpose of this assessment is to measure the annual progress of primary grade students toward (sic) meeting Common Core State Standards.  

These new summative assessments were developed by a team of SPS teachers and members of the mathematics department with support from an independent testing consultants.  The components of the assessment were field tested in the spring of 2013 and winter of 2014.

Were you notified?  Because the parent who told me said her child's teacher mentioned it in a weekly update otherwise she would not have known.

I kind of doubt parents were told because, well, they then might opt out.  This way, the child takes the test, the district gets the data and hey, it's just one more test, that's all.

But honestly, it's not clear WHO gets this data.  Is the testing consultant getting it (and how much did that consultant cost the district)?  How will it get presented to the 2nd and 3rd grade teachers (as the letter also states)?

Was your child part of the field testing?

Ask your child or your child's teacher if you have a first or second grader.  Ask about why the test is two days.  If you weren't notified, ask why not.  Whether it works or not, I would send a letter, for each of my children, to have on file that states I want to be notified of any testing, individual or class, that my child is to be a part of for the district/school.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Stats on People Who Push Making Money Off Public Schools

From Diane Ravitch:  The trade journal Alpha recently reported that the hedge fund industry’s top 25 earners collected $21.15 billion, a whopping 50 percent over their total the year before.

A hedge fund manager in 2013 needed to take in $300 million just to make the top 25. Ten years ago, in 2004, an aspiring hedge fund kingpin only had to grab $30 million to enter the industry’s top 25 elite.

But the real enormity of America’s annual hedge fund jackpots only comes into focus when we contrast these windfalls with the rewards that go to ordinary Americans. Kindergarten teachers, for instance.

The 157,800 teachers of America’s little people, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us, together make about $8.34 billion a year.  

Hedge fund America’s top four earners alone last year grabbed $10.4 billion.

From Moyers & Company's Sam Pizzigati:

Hedge fund billionaires are indeed investing colossal millions in charters, educational entities — often tied closely to for-profits — that take in public tax dollars but operate independently of local school board oversight.

Hedge fund manager cash has gone both to individual charter schools directly and into political war chests to support candidates who want to see charter networks expanded. Thanks to this cash, charters have become a major fact of American educational life, with a “market share” that rivals traditional public schools in many big cities.

Also in that landscape: plenty of high-return investment opportunities for hedge fund managers. A federal tax break known as the “New Markets” tax credit lets hedge funds that invest in charters double their money in seven years. Charters have become, notes one education analyst, “just another investor playground for easy money passed from taxpayers to the wealthy.”

The final indignity? The families of those kindergarten teachers who make less in a year than the average top 25 hedge fund manager makes in 15 minutes pay a greater share of their incomes in taxes than hedge fund moguls pay on theirs, thanks largely to a notorious tax code loophole — known as carried interest — that Congress has not yet seen fit to plug. 

It's also important to note that our Legislature gives many tax breaks to huge companies like Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon.  So those companies don't pay their fair share of state taxes. 

As well, some don't get taxed by the City of Seattle for impact fees from their expansion.  (Impact fees would likely allow a downtown school to coming into being much faster.) 

And yet, you still hear Gates and Bezos complain about Washington state's public education system.

More Ed Reform, Same Pattern - Direction, Down

A fairly amazing week in national ed reform news. 

Common Core.

- the Chicago Teachers Union issued a resolution against Common Core that was brilliant.
- in NY state, a former Regent spoke out against Common Core, mostly because of the work that had gone into developing NY State standards (only to see them tossed aside).  
- from the right, came Peggy Noonan (formerly President Reagan's speechwriter) with a piece in the Wall Street Journal.  It's a good piece that didn't come from Tea Party people but true conservatives. 

That law exists because the people who pushed for it fell in love with an abstract notion and gave not a thought to what the law would actually do and how it would work.

- yet another prominent, non-Tea Party conservative, George Will, broke down CC in under two minutes.  

From Diane Ravitch: Pearson, the British publisher, plans to launch a new PR offensive to push back against the anti-testing and anti-Common Core groundswell. Pearson has been steadily buying up every aspect of American education: 
  • it recently won the contract to administer the Common Core test called PARCC, which is worth at least $1 billion; 
  • states using Pearson tests buy Pearson textbooks; 
  • Pearson bought the GED; 
  • Pearson owns the online EdTPA, to evaluate teachers as they finish their training; 
  • Pearson owns virtual charter schools called Connections Academy; 
  • Pearson owns a curriculum aligned with Common Core. 
From an article in Politico, the CEO, John Fallon, says they will pump up their social media presence and make "more of an effort to talk to teachers unions and parents" and be "very transparent about what we are doing and why.."  "We are willing to be accountable."  

What?  A business is accountable to its stockholders/owners.  How would the public - especially parents and teachers - hold Pearson accountable? 

Despite millions poured into the Newark mayor's race by DFER (and other ed reformers), their candidate lost and Ras Baraka, a Newark school principal, won.   It was seen as something of a slap to former mayor, Cory Booker (now a U.S. senator). 

One television spot featured a clip of Mr. Christie declaring: “I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”

School Road Safety Public Input Workshops

From the City of Seattle:

Simply THE most important road safety meetings you can attend this year @SeattleDOT School Road Safety.

Why? Starting in 2015, the School Road Safety Plan will prioritize millions in safety improvements every year around our schools.

**Tuesday, May 20 at 6 PM to 7:30 PM SW Southwest Branch Seattle Public Library, 9010 35th Ave SW

**Tuesday, May 27 at 6 PM to 7:30 PM Northeast Branch Seattle Public Library, 6801 35th Ave NE

**Thursday, May 29 at 6 PM to 7:30 PM Garfield Community Center, 2323 E Cherry St

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) invites you to a design workshop where we’ll examine how to improve traffic safety near Seattle schools. The workshops will include a presentation and discussion on road design treatments and a “walk about” intended to provide examples of traffic barriers and potential opportunities.

These workshops are part of an effort to improve safety near schools through a combination of street improvements, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation; and builds on work already being done through the City of Seattle’s Safe Routes to School program.

SDOT is hosting three School Road Safety Design Workshops in May. PLEASE JOIN US!

CONTACT: Jim Curtin, Seattle Department
of Transportation
RSVP: jim.curtin@seattle.gov or (206) 684-8874

I note that, earlier this month, there was a Lake City walk around the reopening Cedar Park Elementary.  It was lead by Katie Sheehy of DPD and included a high school volunteer for Feet First, some parents from various area elementaries.  For portion of the walk, it also included Rep. Gerry Pollet and School Board President Sharon Peaslee.  

Apparently Peaslee seems under the impression that it's the City's job to make routes safe (and that they need to put in sidewalks).  Pollet seemed very surprised that any portion of the walk could be consider to be safe for children.   

I have done a stairwalk in that area and I, too, was shocked at how difficult it would be to safely walk to Cedar Park.