Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stritikus Steps Down

Tom Stritikus announced that he is resigning his position as the Dean of the UW College of Education to accept a position with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Here is his message to COE students and staff:

"Do We Really Have a Problem Without a Solution"

(I'm hoping this will be a multi-part thread about public education in this country, where we are, where we are going and what should/could change.)

I come to this thread thinking of two different things that really have nothing (but really everything) to do with public education.

One is a song by the late Waylon Jennings (a great country/western singer) called Luckenbach, Texas.  In it, he is singing to his wife how all material things in the world are not making them happier and are, in fact, holding them back.

Maybe it's time we got back to the basics (of love).

Two is the monolog in the Charlie Brown Christmas special where Charlie, at his wit's end organizing the church play, cries out, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"  and Linus says,'Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about."

He steps forward and calmly recites from the story of the birth of Jesus.

So what does this have to do with public education?  The basics and believing that yes, that is what it's all about.

But the public education discussion today feels like a war.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Public Education News Roundup

In the "wait, what?!" category comes this story from the Washington Post's Answer Sheet - School puts nearly 100 kindergartners in one class in a teaching experiment.  The first sentence in the article says "no, it's not a headline from The Onion." 

This is being tried at the lowest-performing school in Detroit.  There are three teachers in the class.

Incidentally, the lead teacher is 30 years old, another teacher is in her second year and the third is in her first year.

It's from a story in the Detroit Free Press.  It sounds like it works (somewhat) but I honestly do not believe it is what is best for children.

The AP is reporting that Washington state is the only state denied renewal of its NCLB waiver that seems unlikely to get their waiver back (the other three states seem to be doing what Arne Duncan wants).  

Randy Dorn, the WA state superintendent said this:

Seattle Schools Updates

Further Update:  I asked about Seattle School District's request for a district waiver for NCLB.  (Banda did this back in early July.)  I hadn't heard anything and Communications says time is running out for waivers so an answer will likely come in the next week or so.  I doubt if the district will get it but if they did, that would be good news.)


- also Dr Nyland is working this week.  It is unclear to me whether there is any contract in place (despite me asking the question.)

- info on the Source from the district:

SOURCE is normally down during the summer, this is not unique to this year.  SOURCE is taken down because schools are not in session, and work is going on behinds the scenes to 1) complete end of year processing, 2) implement and update student/academic schedules (which change right up until the final day) for FY15, and 3) complete software upgrades to PowerSchool and related applications.  As a result, we take SOURCE down over the summer.   The notice that it will be down for this period of time has been up since before classes ended, and we always try to leave it up for at least 2 weeks after classes end.  

End of Update.

A few quick updates:

- long-time Communications person, Teresa Wippel, is leaving the district on Friday.  I have to say a huge thank-you to her for keeping her sunny disposition and for the patience she has for my many questions throughout the years.

- following up on that departure, with Wippel gone, the person who runs many of the outreach items (calendar, homepage, etc.) is out on medical leave.  So that leaves Communications head, Lesley Rogers and BEX Communications head, Tom Redman, to cover communications.

- I did find out that SPS did sponsor the downtown school meeting on Monday; it just didn't make the calendar.  (To note: there is another downtown school meeting on August 12th from 6-7:30 pm at the Belltown community Center at 415 Bell Street/5th Ave.  It will not include a tour of the Federal Reserve building as did Monday's meeting.) 

- About Dr. Nyland, his salary agreement will be posted with the agenda for the Executive Committee  meeting on August 13th and voted on at the School Board meeting on August 20th.

An Alternative Narrative on Turnover

The Seattle Times likes to peddle this story about how a fractious and meddling Board is the driving reason for the turnover of senior staff, including the superintendent, at Seattle Public Schools.

It's a good yarn, but it doesn't actually fit the facts. It doesn't fit the facts because
  1. The Board isn't all that fractious. Most votes are unanimous or nearly so. And no matter how fractious the Board may be, they all accept the votes and support the majority decision. I will say that Director Blanford violated the Code of Conduct when he called out his colleagues, and that was inappropriate, but he's new and clearly doesn't know what he's doing.
  2. The Board doesn't meddle. Seriously. When was the last time you heard tell of a Board Director stepping over the governance/management line? I don't think it has happened for well over a year.The last one to do it was Michael DeBell when he usurped the superintendent's authority to determine program placement and dictated the APP sites. The Seattle Times has tried to make it seem that the elementary math textbook decision crossed the line, but it didn't. That's a Board decision - by statute. And the Times suggested that the bell time study crossed the line, but the Board sets priorities. That's also part of their job.

So while this narrative is tempting and easy, it simply doesn't work for anyone who thinks about it and has any actual knowledge of the district. I can see why the Seattle Times editorial board likes it.

There is, however, a different narrative that fits the facts better than this one.

  1. Senior staff leave because they cannot reform the dysfunctional culture of the central staff. They either become part of the corruption, or, after struggling valiantly against it, they quit. Who would want the job of managing the unmanageable? Who would want to accept responsibility for routine failures by their staff? The morass that is HR at Seattle Public Schools is comparable only to the VA. There has been a lot of turnover in HR, hasn't there? Teaching and Learning, another dysfunctional department, has seen a lot of turnover as well. I think Wendy London had the job for a weekend.
  2. There are some unthinkably bad separations between responsibility and authority. Why so much turnover in special education? Gee, do you think it could have anything to do with the fact that they didn't really have any authority over their people? Their teachers report to principals instead of to them, and no one in special education had any authority over the principals. Actually, no one has any authority over the principals. We went through a string of budget people before we actually gave them some authority and control over the money.
  3. Other school districts in Washington see Seattle as their training ground. It's seen as a real coup if they can hire someone from Seattle. Working in Seattle Public Schools, especially as senior staff, looks pretty good on a resume and other school districts love to hire that. For the career ambitious, Seattle is a stepping stone on the way to something else.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Seattle Times "Story" on Superintendents and School Board

Update: And now the Times editorial board weighs in.  Yawn.  Same old, same old (you'd think they would try a new tack but no.)  The Times absolutely refuses to acknowledge the reasons for the turnover in Seattle superintendents.  What is the Board to do in the fact of not one but two financial scandals?  Keep those superintendents?  C'mon. 

Then they speak of "a curiosity for a change in governance."  I hate to break it to them but that "curiosity" is only Tim Burgess, LEV and the Seattle Times.  Not in progressive Seattle.

And they speak of respect "for staff" as they incessantly berate the Board.  Oh kettle, it's the pot calling.

End of update.

Of all the issues for the Times to cover about Seattle Public Schools, they pick the issue of superintendents working with school boards.

This is an old, tired issue that the Times has covered...repeatedly.  In fact, it seems their go-to, defacto answer to ANY issue in Seattle Schools.  That darned micromanaging School Board.  It seems particularly inappropriate at this time (unless, of course, you were the powers that be in this town trying to send a public message to the Board about how they interact with our new interim superintendent.) 
Did the School Board stand up recently on some issues and flex their elected muscle?  They did and they were within their rights to do so.  Especially on the issue of bell times.  I say that because the staff does NOT set the priorities; the Board does.  The staff then lays out a plan to enact those priorities.

This is one of the worst articles on this issue that the Times has published.

In it, it is revealed that Banda sent an e-mail to the board about treatment of staff about the elementary math adoption process.  I had heard about this but that Banda released the e-mail - as he goes out the door - is very bad form on his part.  But I suppose he felt the need to protect the staff from that bad, bad School Board.


Tuesday Open Thread

 (Not about education but I wanted to get this out there as so many of us have loved ones with cancer.  A high school friend of mine does cancer research at Tulane University and they just found out that even low levels of light while sleeping may inhibit breast cancer drugs from working.  He also let me know this:

"The Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium has special sleep masks that we will mail to you for a modest donation of $25 that will help support our development of this work and a clinical trial.")

Are you raising "nice" kids?  I like to think I did.  

“Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers write.

Last, I hope you can share this with your children (from Rebelle Society - "creatively maladjusted") = Creative Manifesto.  It's a list of thoughts about how you live your life fully and creatively.  My favorite one:

Hey Frodo, it’s a lonely battle, and we need help taking the ring to Mordor. In this lifehouse, we collaborate, we share and e-hug daily. We can’t do this (or anything) alone. We need each other badly.

The only possible form of existence is co-existence. Beyond our own, unscripted individual stories, we’re part of a bigger, universal story to which we add every day with our thoughts and actions. We are responsible for the course of events and desperate status of our world.

When it comes to technology and communication, we’re at a place of synergy and synchronicity like never before. It is imperative that we make a mindful, heartfelt use of it.

What's on your mind?

The Anti-Board Advocacy of the Seattle Times

Once again the Seattle Times is whipping up anti-School Board animus.

This is an old and discredited lie. And the "news" story is full of misrepresentations and omissions. I'll amend this post when I have time to list them all.

Aspiring athletes, take note of changes to NCAA eligibility

Prep athletes with aspirations to play in college and their families need to be aware of changes to NCAA eligibility requirements. They are stricter than they used to be and they are stricter than the district's requirements.

See this story on the Seattle Times web site for more information.

Monday, July 28, 2014

National PTA Sponsoring Common Core Ads on Facebook

Photo: Looks like PTA needs higher standards! This Common Core Facebook paid advertisement is missing an important verb. I would guess if you are a PTA member and on Facebook, these PTA-sponsored ads will pop up on your Facebook page.

Would be nice if someone had proofread it first. 

Disappointing that National PTA is going this direction rather than having a real conversation about the issue and parents' concerns.

Where's the problem?

Over and over again we see that the problem is not inadequate policies or procedures but the absence of any enforcement and the absence of any accountability for those who violate the policies and procedures.

And who has the job of enforcing policy and holding staff accountable? The Board.

Garfield Field Trip Assault: Continuing Questions

Update: So all I was trying to find out - from the FBI and National Park Service - is what was the date that  SPS asked them for their investigation report?  And what was the date that the district filed their FOIA request when the FBI/National Park Service said no to that request?

Those two groups now want me to file a FOIA to find out when SPS filed their FOIA. 

Kind of funny.  (I would ask the district but I'd like direct verification myself.)

end of update

1) There is a lengthy account at the Facebook page associated with the family of the student assaulted.  I do have a few questions but I'll wait and see if the family contacts me.  It is fairly well-fleshed out so they were clearly documenting as they went along (a very good thing for all parents to do should any type of school situation arise - document everything).

2) I called the Seattle office of the FBI.  The press officer sent me a statement; they aren't answering any questions.

The FBI and the National Park Service (NPS) investigated the allegations for possible violations of federal law. When we conduct an investigation we take all actions appropriate to the matter, such as interviewing witnesses, gathering evidence, and, if appropriate, referring the case to prosecutors at either the state or federal level. So, while we can’t give further details on the review of this victim’s claims, we can assure you that the FBI and the NPS have investigated the matter and pursued all appropriate actions.

Here is the page describing the process for FOIA requests: http://www.fbi.gov/foia

Thanks for your understanding about the limited scope of what FBI policy determines is appropriate to say on this matter.

3) I received a correction today from SPS Communications:

The District asked for both the FBI and National Parks reports. They said we had to file via Freedom of Information. We did, and were denied access. We know the family received a copy of the report and we asked them for a copy, but that was not provided.

I find this puzzling, not so much that the FBI and Parks wouldn't give SPS the report but that it took this long to explain the connection between SPS and the FBI.  (I did follow-up with the FBI just to ask if they could give me the date that SPS requested their investigation.)  

I have a call into the National Parks service.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Downtown School; Maybe Something Deeper Happening

There is nothing on the Seattle Schools calendar for this week.  Well, there is one meeting happening and yet strangely, it does not appear on the district calendar.  It's almost as if this meeting is really for one purpose or group. 

It's the meeting at the Downtown Library about SPS taking over the Federal Reserve building. (The meeting is at 6 pm in the "Microsoft" auditorium with a walk-thru of the Federal Reserve building around 7:15 pm.)  Again, this is billed as a "conversational" meeting so I will have to see what form that conversation takes.

I also see, at the notice at the district webpage, NO mention of how to pay for these renovations.  According to the Times, it would be something on the order of $53M (up from Flip Herndon's ballpark $40M) AND they would be seeking levies funds to pay for it.  No mention either of downtown businesses or foundations willing to help this effort for a school they all seem to so deeply need/want.

I hope all of you know that Charlie and I could never have this blog without you.  And not just as readers.  So many of you send me alerts, messages, info - truly, thank you.

Something Horrible Under Every Rock

People frequently ask me "What fuels your activist energy?" and I tell them "Outrage." "But how," they ask,"can you stay outraged for fourteen years?" "I can't." I tell them. "I'm newly outraged every couple days. And you would be too if you watched the District closely. There is something new that crops up - generally twice a week - that is a source of new outrage."

This story, of the rape on a Garfield field trip in November of 2012, is setting off outrage like a string of firecrackers. The more I look into it, the more horrible it is. As I follow up on every statement and review every action, there is source of outrage. Seriously. I know that if I turn over some rocks I will find bad things, but in this case every single rock I flip over reveals something horrible. Every time I look into any aspect of this case I am outraged anew.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Seattle School Board Speaks Out on Garfield Field Trip Incident

Update:  Both KIRO-7 tv and KING-5 tv have done stories on this issue.  I think that the story has legs and that they may continue on (especially now that the Title IX and the Department of Education has gotten involved.) 

I note that the KING-5 piece says that the district couldn't get access to the FBI investigation and that the parents of the girl refused to allow the district to talk to her.  (This because the girl had been out-of-state at a residential facility to help her.)  Therefore, the district "did not have the evidence to fully support her claims."  This seems to be a different story than below but I find the wording suspect below so I would need a timeline to decide.

end of update.

From President Peaslee:

Blather from Blethen

Sorry to pick on the Times but their publisher (and fearless leader), Frank Blethen, put up a speech that he gave recently to a Rotary Club. 

He makes a lot of claims without backing up his stats or explaining his thinking.

To whit, 

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Volume is Going up on the Garfield Rape Case

The Stranger has a very pointed article - with questions posed just as Charlie has - on the topic of the Garfield field trip rape incident.

There is also this from Monisha Harrell:

I’m an Alum of Garfield High School, and until yesterday I sang “I’m So Glad I go to Garfield High” with pride.  Please read the attached petition to understand why I believe we as a community need to push for new leadership.  We are giving the adults who were supposed to provide a safe environment a pass because we don’t want to be too harsh, but what should the penalty be for a lax school culture that encourages additional assaults through inaction?  When do we decide to stand up for our young people?

I’m asking you to draw a line in the sand, and send a message. We must have new leadership at Garfield High School.

On-line petition for a New Garfield Principal for 2014-2015.

Dr. Nyland has his work cut out for him.

Director Martin-Morris Community Meeting

Director Martin-Morris is hosting a community meeting tomorrow on August 9 at 10:00 at the Northeast Branch Library, 6801 35th Ave. N.E.

You should go.

You should go and ask the Director about seriously he takes the issue of sexual harassment. Never mind what he says; let's take a look at what he has done.

Help for Parents Navigating the School System

I've been corraling stories about how to help parents make informed choices about schools and how to judgm how their child's school is doing.

Need help figuring out schools?   A handy "cheat sheet" of what to ask from the Huffington Post.

More questions you should ask your school/district especially around student data privacy.  This is a truly great and comprehensive list. 

A great idea for parents that teachers/administrators use - "learning walks."  From Edutopia:

It is an invitation to parents to come to the school for a set period of time (an hour or two), to go on a guided tour of the school/classrooms during the school day. Not to look at the decor - but to learn more about the learning happening or explore other topics revolving around education and the school

Each tour/learning walk, would have a topic or theme to guide the discussion and help with selection of which classrooms to visit. The thought is more about giving parents an opportunity to witness what a “real” lesson looks like and not a “dog and pony show” lesson. These are also not about a parent sitting in on and observing THEIR child...but to learn more about a topic or the school through observing in them in action. Following the Learning Walk, the group would sit down to talk more in depth about what they've observed and answer questions.

Last, not to discourage anyone, but this is a list of the "worst" college majors (they lumped Liberal Arts into one category). 

I find myself in a struggle over this issue of what a young person should choose to major in especially if the jobs available don't match what either what their strong points are and/or they have little interest in pursuing.  But it's a competitive economy and hard to know what the best road to take may be.

Ed News Roundup

There are so many truly "must-read" stories I'm going to group them into different threads.

This one?  The "everything but the kitchen sink one."

First up, in New London, Connecticut, the school board has postpone the hiring of one Terrence P. Carter as superintendent.  Why?  Because apparently the search firm they hired managed to miss that he had been using "PhD" and "Dr." for at least five years with no accredited degree.  (He lied about going to Stanford and getting his degree when he never even attended it.  What's weird is that he is completing a Ph.D. from a university and will be awarded it in August.  So why lie?)

Friday Open Thread

What does Rand Paul, a possible candidate for the Republican nomination for President, think should happen in education?

“If you have one person in the country who is, like, the best at explaining calculus, that person maybe should teach every calculus class in the country,” the senator said. “You’d still have local teachers to reinforce and try to explain and help the kids, but you’d have some of these extraordinary teachers teaching millions of people in the classroom.

“The mantra has always been, ‘Oh, we need 10 people in the classroom for everybody to learn,’” Paul continued. “Well, no, maybe actually you need the opposite: You need 2 million people in the classroom, and having a teacher that can communicate with all of them.”

I smile when I remember how courses on tv were going to change everything but, not so much.  I think the Internet will continue to be a useful (and growing) tool for public education.  But tool, not teacher.

I'm seeing more and more articles questioning the power of Secretary Arne Duncan to use NCLB as a stick over states.  Here's the latest one from the Fordham Institute by Michael J. Petrilli (who I normally do not agree with).  At the end, he throws out an interesting idea:

What we need today is a state (perhaps Washington?) willing to argue in federal court that its waiver was been denied (or rescinded) for reasons not allowed under the law. I am confident that some of the courts, at least, will ask Duncan to point to the “plain language” of ESEA that gives him the authority to mandate statewide teacher-evaluation systems, particularly for states that want waivers on school accountability. 

Pianos in the Park?  Only in Seattle.  I love the Viking one. Get out there and play.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don't tell us - show us

The School Board has a new form letter response:

"Thank you for contacting the School Board Office. Please be assured that we take the issue of sexual assault seriously and are continuing to work with all parties involved -- including state and federal agencies and the family -- to address the concerns that have been raised and ensure that the appropriate legal process is followed. The family has filed complaints with several oversight agencies, and we trust that resolution of those actions will be fair and equitable. 
Kind Regards,"
The Board wants us to be assured that they take the issue of sexual assault seriously? Really? Telling us that they care about it isn't convincing at all. They need to show us.

Here are seven things that the Board can - and should - do to assure us that they take the issue of sexual assault seriously.

Seattle Public Schools - Dr. Nyland Can't Get Here Soon Enough

Between the issue of the Pre-K mission study junket and the appalling action (or lack thereof) on the issue of the Garfield field trip rape case, it's hard not to feel very angry. 

As you may recall, in the e-mails about the Pre-K mission study, there was a lot of back and forth over where the money - about $2700 per person - was going to come from to pay for the trip. 

Well, I found out where the "temporary" money came from.  I say temporary because there were funds used from one pot that will now have to be paid back to that pot by finding another pot of money.

Here's how it breaks down (from SPS Public Disclosure):

Budget codes that were charged
Charles (Wright) - baseline funds (meaning not grant-funded) from the Office of Strategic Planning

Keisha (Scarlett) - South Shore funds (Title I, I believe), “borrowed” due to the time crunch to get good flight prices, meant to be paid back

Laurie (Morrison )– ditto

Cashel (Toner) – Teaching and Learning, “bridge fund” until another source of funding could be found

Flip (Herndon) – Capital Projects (originally, XXXXXA was identified, but it didn’t have enough $ to cover, so they changed to a different one)

Conference costs and flights for each person were billed to the funds specified above. 

We did not receive a refund for Charles’ costs. 

Apparently there was a bit of a time crunch to book tickets before prices went up, so “bridge funds” were used until proper funding could be located. I have not located any records that indicate that funds were paid back, although it sounds like Accounts Payable staff are working on it right now.

So Title One funds were used.  Baseline funding was used.  Not even sure which "Capital" funds were used.  

And we still don't know where the final funds will come from.  Will the district - as Finance head Ken Gotsch suggested - raise the deficit for this junket? 

It's a disgrace.  There is/was NO good reason for this kind of ridiculous use of staff time and district funds.  

Arbor Heights Rebuild Stalled

From the West Seattle Blog:

Three years ago, demolition of the old Denny International Middle School was well under way within a month of the end of the school year. This year, though a month has passed since the last class at Arbor Heights Elementary School, the backhoes aren’t even onsite yet. That’s because the permits haven’t been finalized, since another appeal is awaiting a hearing. 

This is separate from the appeal that was argued and rejected in May, challenging the decision that a full environmental review wasn’t needed. This time, the appeal is for the land-use permit itself, and the fact that the demolition permit was approved in the same action. In all, the appeal statement by four area residents and district watchdog Chris Jackinssee it here – lists eight points.

This is separate from the appeal that was argued and rejected in May, challenging the decision that a full environmental review wasn’t needed. This time, the appeal is for the land-use permit itself, and the fact that the demolition permit was approved in the same action. In all, the appeal statement by four area residents and district watchdog Chris Jackinssee it here – lists eight points.

A Thoughtful Post about Native American Students by Our New Superintendent

I was just browsing the web, looking up Larry Nyland's background.  His LinkedIn page has a very long list of accomplishments and awards.  Impressive.

At the state level I have had the opportunity to serve as:
- Superintendent representative on the Washington State Educational Coordinating Council.
- Representative on the State Board of Education Math Panel.
- Past-president of WASA (Washington Association of School Administrators).
- Past-president of WABS (Washington Alliance of Better Schools).
- Past-president of WCEAP (Washington Coalition of Educational Administration Programs).
- Developer of the Seattle Pacific University superintendent preparation program.
- Participant in the development of the Washington State Leadership Academy.
- Contributor to the development and evaluation of Success at the Core.
- Interim director for the Washington Commission on Student Learning.
- Key participant in legislation regarding: school reform, ELL, math PD, and phantom levy lid.
- Washington State Superintendent of the year.

Then I found this post he wrote for a group, KFLA (Kellogg Fellowship Leadership Alliance), called "Building Bridges and Hope and Understanding."  It was written almost a year ago today and it's about working with Native American students and community members. 

Again, impressive.

(He also speaks Swedish, Norwegian and French.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Seattle Downtown School - Is the Fix In?

I make no secret of the fact that I had been pushing for the district to consider applying to take over the empty Federal Reserve building downtown.  I believed it was worth looking into (and still do).  However, that is now tempered by this rather large push for the building.  Who's pushing?  All the forces that have decided that, for SPS, preschool is the cause de jour (de annee, as well). 

I think this is very much about the City's preschool push and, without that, the district would not be acting as it now is.

When I talked to Facilities' Flip Herndon at the community meeting where all the staff showed up to talk to the public, he could not have been less interested.  He practically said that they were just too busy with BEX to consider it.  And now? Well, here's the press release from the district:

Seattle Public Schools is inviting the public to attend a conversational meeting regarding the possibility of creating a K-5 elementary school in downtown Seattle. After the meeting, at about 7:15 p.m., attendees can take a tour of the nearby Federal Reserve Bank building, a potential location for a downtown school.

When: 6 p.m., Monday, July 28

Where: Seattle Central Library in the Microsoft Auditorium, 1000 4th Avenue, Seattle

: A short presentation on what a downtown school might entail, followed by an informal Q&A with Seattle Public Schools staff.

Seattle Public Schools enrollment is growing, with an additional 10,000 students expected over the next decade. The District has seen an increase of families in the Downtown area, and voters in 2013 approved the Building Excellence (BEX) capital levy, which included $5 million to begin planning for a downtown school. The District is awaiting information regarding the Federal Reserve Building as a possible location for a downtown school.

A tour?  This is an unusual step for the district.  (Also, I have never heard the district say they expected to keep up the 1,000/per year rate of growth before.) 

A "conversational" meeting?  That involves talking so I would expect the majority of the meeting to be a conversation and not a presentation. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Big Day for Special Education in Seattle Public Schools

The district has released the report from Accelify Consulting on the state of Special Education in Seattle Schools.  It will officially be released at a family meeting tonight.  The name of the report is Foundation for a Brighter Future: Essential Needed Improvements in Special Education in Seattle.

Special Education Community Meeting
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
6:30 - 8:30 pm
2445 3rd Avenue South - Auditorium

A family meeting hosted by Seattle Public Schools and the TIERS Group to hear the results of an evaluation of special education services, recommendations and the revised comprehensive corrective action plan.  See here for the flyer with additional information.

Report from Accelify Consulting (TIERS)


I do not believe I know enough about the current state/needs of the SPS Special Education system to give a lot of comments on this report.  I invite parents/teachers who DO know more to please weigh in.

What is fascinating is how many of the issues/recommendations are around core functions that affect ALL areas of the district: operations, communication, leadership, basic systems of reporting and accessing data.

 It is troubling that our district continuing to expand its work while still not getting the basics right.  I hope our new superintendent gets this message - we need the district to function well on the basic before any new initiatives get rolled out/enacted.

Why this hasn't sunk in at JSCEE after multiple reports, I don't know.

Tuesday Open Thread

The 2014 Band Jam event will take place at 6:30 pm this Friday July 25, 2014 at the Southwest Athletic Complex – 2601 SW Thistle St. (across the street from Chief Sealth International High School.)

Band Jam is an annual band showcase intended to highlight what we all know to be the best part of the summer parade season – the bands. In addition to featuring some of the youth ensembles participating in this year’s Seafair Torchlight Parade, we will also be treated to performances by some talented adult music ensembles, as a reminder to students that music can be a lifelong pursuit and a great way to connect with fellow performers and the community.

This is a non-competitive event sponsored by the Seattle Schools All-City Band. Admission is free.  Food concessions will be sold on site.

The 2014 lineup includes:
The Junior All-City Marching Band www.DennySealthMusic.org
The Pacific Northwest Drumline
The Ten Man Brass Band www.facebook.com/tenmanbrass
The Sumner High School Marching Band http://www.sumnerband.com/
The Chaotic Noise Marching Corps www.facebook.com/chaoticnoisemarchingcorps
The Seattle Sounders F.C. Soundwave  http://www.soundersfc.com/matchday/the-band
The Seattle Schools All-City Marching Band www.allcityband.org

In other musical (and fun things), it's Pianos in the Parks. 

Also to note, the State was refused by the feds in its bid to NOT have to send out letters to parents telling them their child's school is failing under NCLB.  I think Superintendent Dorn's request was not unreasonable given (1) the costs for districts to send the mailings and (2) the ridiculousness of saying that 98% of all schools in any given district are failing (under NCLB), causing confusion for parents.  As well, the letter is to say that parents can move their child to a school that isn't failing but that is not truly a reality.

Dorn apparently sent the letter because he was asked to by legislators but now says that he is likely to lobby the Legislature to make the change in the teacher evaluation wording (from "can" to "must" in using test scores).  And, if that happens, all will probably be forgiven by the DOE (and Arne Duncan) and Washington State will get a new waiver. 

How about getting rid of a fairly stupid law?  (I note that Superintendent Banda sent out his own letter on behalf of the district but I haven't heard any news back on that one.)

What's on your mind? 

A Tragic Story

Here is an example of where the culture of lawlessness can lead.

No one bothered with the rules for field trip. No one bothered with the rules for chaperones. After the crime no one bothered with the rules for investigation or response. Instead of stepping up and doing the right thing, everything was routed to the general counsel's office where they were committed to a cover-up and suppressing the victim's rights. The Title IX officer, who should have taken charge instead took no action at all. And still hasn't.

This has been a story on college campuses, but it's a story in high schools as well.

Addendum: You can visit this Facebook page for more information about the District's response.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Seattle Schools' Pre-K "Mission Study" - Day-by-Day Timeline

I will do my best to get this in a linear order but the e-mails were not always provided in that manner.

To note, the trip was March 3-6th so clearly, getting started in early Feb was difficult on staff.  I wonder how the City thought the district had so much travel money to try to send 5+ people to three cities.  

Key staffers involved:
Cashel Toner - head of SPS Early Learning, seemingly the lead on this effort - went on trip
Flip Herndon - head of Facilities, pushed to go on the trip by Toner - went on trip, provided an overview of his impressions vis a vis Seattle (I'll put this up separately as it gives some insights as to what the district's current thinking is.  I have no idea what the Board thinks but Blanford wanted to go on this trip.)
Patricia Stambor - in HR, oversee Strategic Partnerships - had the biggest lift of anyone involved and seems like a good foot soldier in all this.  I note that at the end of all the work Toner thanks everyone but Stambor.  (Public disclosure: Stambor and I know each other personally although we do not see each other on a regular basis.  She's a smart, savvy person.)
Clover Codd -  seemed to be looking for dollars for this effort
Michael Tolley  - seemed to be the guy who was going to provide "bridge funds" to pay for the airline tickets until another source was found (and his funds reimbursed back to his department)
Laura Morrison - principal of Graham Hill and went on the trip (and was eager to go).
Keisha Scarlett - principal of South Shore Pre-K-8 and went on the trip (she got the funding for she and Morrison from LEV)

The e-mails show the following:

- the cost of the trip appears to be about $13,500K for four SPS staff (not including Stephan Blanford).   Again, it is unclear whether Charles Wright's costs (after he backed out of going) were recovered. 
- as late as the second week of February, Patricia Stambor in HR worries that they cannot find a "cost center" nor did anyone have "permission" to go but they were still working on it.  (Superintendent Banda approved it on or about Feb. 18th.) 

- page 308 of the e-mails on Feb. 6th- Cashel Toner writes to Charles Wright about the trip saying, "It is critical that Seattle Public Schools join this effort and influence the formation of these programs." "We will need to take responsibility financially which will build esteem and credibility to this partnership."  Money seems to be a key for SPS to be part of this Pre-K effort.   

Seattle Schools' Pre-K "Mission Study"

This will be Part One of a thread about the Pre-K "mission trip" that several Seattle schools' employees took as well as one Board director.

Part One will be the Narrative of what happened.  Part Two will be the day-by-day planning for this trip. 

Mirmac1 got e-mails via public disclosure and they paint a very damning picture.  Because of my concerns over this troubling incident, I wrote a full report to the State Auditor.  I can only say that I believe there may have been some illegalities in what happened but that's not my call.

I DO think whether or not funds were misused, some of it feels unethical and it is clear there is a heavy push - from outside the district - on those inside the district for more and more pre-K in Seattle Schools.

There are a couple of SPS individuals who are either myopic or simply do not care about how their push for pre-K could affect/impact other programs and that money is scarce.  There was very much of a "just find me the money for this trip" attitude. 

I want to make clear this is not a judgment on where we go in this district about Pre-K. I believe in preschool and I think it could be key to creating a better beginning for students coming into public schools  I still have to write up an interview I did with the City's Office of Education about this issue.

 However, I am getting a strong whiff that the City and the City Council are quietly making many plans, likely with the district, about how to roll this out that they are NOT making public.  My belief is they want to get the money and THEN tell us the plan.  

Personally, I don't like that.  It feels like a "yes" vote for the City's Pre-K plan will give those pushing it a mandate to implement it however they want and be able to say "voters wanted this."  (What was it Hall & Oates said?  "I can't go for that - no can do."  That's how I feel.)


Back Story

The state-funded primary mission of Seattle Public Schools is K-12 education.  There is no mandate for the district to provide pre-K (except for Special Education preschool).   The district does supply preschool - in about 32 schools -  through other entities like Head Start, but it is not the main focus for SPS.  When the state has been taken to court over funding for K-12 education and found wanting (see the State Supreme Court's McCleary decision), it is hard to fathom the district spending so much time and so many resources on Pre-K.  But, for some reason, this has become a primary concern of the district to the point that it is now included in their Strategic Plan.

Stand for Children's Petition - Don't Sign It

Stand has this "education" petition going around. Consider not signing it.

First, note the source.  That should tell you all you need to know right there.  (What's funny is they want one word changed and claim it will "free" Washington from NCLB.  There's no way they can know that for sure. 

Next, it is a GOOD thing that Washington State stood up to the feds on No Child Left Behind.

Our districts lost the ability to decide how to use the money (and hey, that may mean they have to use it for the most direct services.)

We should be telling our state legislators that while teachers and principals need to be evaluated, test scores should not be the main criteria.  All this talk about "personalizing" teaching to the student should be reflect in how teachers are evaluated. 

If this crosses your desk, think about just deleting that e-mail and moving on.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Seattle School Board Appoints Larry Nyland as Interim Super

The Board seems in agreement of the appointment of Dr. Larry Nyland, former superintendent in Marysville (and a former Superintendent of the Year) to be the interim superintendent.

More to come.  Board seems enthused.

- Carr and Martin-Morris were out-of-town but were on speaker phone.  All the Board spoke highly of Dr. Nyland.  The vote was 7-0.
- Nyland's motto - "Listen, learn and lead." He wants to learn more and touch base with all groups/district leadership and set priorities.

Feds Change Medicaid Coverage to Help Kids with Autism

From Disability Scoop:

In what advocates are calling a major win, federal officials are for the first time telling states that Medicaid coverage must include treatments like applied behavior analysis for children with autism.
Medicaid programs nationwide must offer “medically necessary diagnostic and treatment services” to kids with autism, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told states in a bulletin this month. 

That includes everything from speech and occupational therapy to personal care services and medical equipment, the agency said.

The services must be included in what’s known as the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment program, or EPSDT, a package of offerings that every state is required to provide children under age 21 who qualify for Medicaid.

Medicaid coverage for kids with autism has traditionally varied from state to state. Establishing national requirements will have a huge impact, advocates said.

Friday Open Thread

It looks to be a busy day in Seattle Public Schools.  Banda is now officially going to Sacramento (and boy, that lack of enthusiasm from the Sacramento Bee) and we await the discussion/announcement today of an interim who is likely to be in place for the next 6-9 months. 

I have found out some interesting things about one of the potential interim candidates that I will post in a separate thread.  I can only say that anyone chosen needs to devote their entire attention to this district and not other outside work.  That's the least an interim can do. 

There are no Board community meetings tomorrow.

I'll put in a plug for a great (and free) outing for the family, namely, the Olympic Sculpture Park.  They have summer events on Thursday evenings and Saturdays.  We went last night and it was fun to look at the huge sculptures, lots of room for kids to run and play, live music, food trucks and art projects for the kids.  (Only the food trucks cost money but you could also bring a picnic.)  Stellar views as well.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Big Drop in Charter School Applications for Washington State

From the Washington State Charter Commission:

The Charter School Commission (the Commission) announced today that four (4) non-profit organizations have submitted proposals in the second round of applications to open high-quality public charter schools in the state of Washington. Each applicant was asked to put forth a comprehensive and rigorous plan to meet the needs of the student population they wish to serve. Proposals were due by 5:00 PM on July 15th

The Commission has received proposals from the following organizations (organization, school name, location):
  • Bilingual Charter Academy, Bilingual Charter Academy, Clark County
  • Charter Schools of Sunnyside, Sunnyside Charter Academy, Sunnyside
  • The Ducere Group, The Village Academy, Pierce County
  • Green Dot Public Schools Washington State, Seattle Charter School, South Seattle

Another Seattle Principal Change

I received word today that Principal Pat Hunter at Maple Elementary is stepping down today.  She is retiring.  Apparently, she was well-liked.  No word on who will fill her shoes.

Seattle Schools Interim Superintendent to be Announced Tomorrow

Update: The Modesto Bee reports that Jose Banda has been named that  district's new superintendent.  It was a 6-1 vote, with one trustee "dissenting."  Superintendent Banda will be making $290K per year.  He is expected to start on August 1st. 

I wish him luck but am disappointed he walked away in less than two years.  Maybe the kitchen was just too hot for him.  I think a smart leader, who knows how to work with different groups, would find Seattle a good place to be.

end of update.

Heard from SPS Communications: 

The Seattle School Board will hold a special meeting at 4:15 p.m. on Friday, July 18 to select an interim Superintendent to lead the District for the next year, as Superintendent José Banda is expected to be appointed as the next Superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District tonight. 
The meeting will be televised live on Cable Channel 26 and streamed live on the Internet. Visit http://bit.ly/WatchSchoolBoard

I did verify that the Board will be debating candidates, choosing one tomorrow and, as well, may vote in a contract for that candidate at the meeting.

This is an open public meeting.  I will be sitting in on the press conference that is to follow at 5 pm.

Any burning questions I should ask? 

Special Education in our Country - One View

I haven't seen this education writer before but all I can say is she's good (and a great advocate for Special Education students and their parents.)  Thank you, Dr. Nancy Bailey.  As she says:

Let’s take back reform and revive, rally, and recover public schools.

Here she takes on Arne Duncan (red mine):

The fact is there has been a concerted effort for years to get rid of special education. It did not start with Arne Duncan and it probably won’t end with him either.

Consider IDEA 1997 and IDEA 2004. Why did they come up with those reauthorizations? If you think throwing all kids into regular classes, in the name of inclusion, and curbing parental rights for legal representation is a gift, think again.

The sad fact is the ed. reformers know special ed. requires credentialed, well-prepared teachers and good programming and they don’t want to pay for it. Charter schools don’t know how to serve these children…or they don’t want to pay for it. And it is tough to implement good special education with Teach for America.

You also can’t sell Common Core State Standards. Special education is a great indicator to show the importance of differences. You can’t put everyone on the same page, with any of the standards really, if students require an Individual Educational Plan. See here.

But it's not all bad news, not by a long shot.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Homeless Students? How best to help them

This fall we see the opening of First Place School as a charter school serving mobile, high-risk students (mostly homeless).  The Times had a story about how homeless students are served in schools in Washington state with an interesting question to it.

The Times reports that there are about 30,000 homeless kids in our state today (and that number has steadily risen over the last decade). School can be the one constant in their lives (for as long as they may be in any given school).  

There's a federal law protecting these students - the McKinney-Vento Act - and it allows students to stay enrolled in a school even if they move.  Districts have to pay to transport them to that school, no matter the distance.

The feds give money for these transportation costs but naturally, it doesn't cover them all.  Seattle SD spends over $1M a year in costs (out of a state budget for transportation of all homeless WA state students of less than $1M a year).

One thought is that maybe Seattle SD might be better off putting those transportation dollars towards a housing subsidy that would keep kids nearer their schools.

I could see how this might provide better outcomes but I also think it could be a headache for districts to try to figure out how to do this (a bill is likely to come up in the next legislative session).

Transportation costs are fairly high in our own district.  But maybe this is an idea worth looking into to bring those down.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Another Department for Seattle Public Schools

I can see where the district might want to run their own internal investigations after the generous help from the City (and the ever-professional and helpful Wayne Barnett in the City's own office of ethics) but a whole department? 

Banda is certainly churning out the work as he exits.  I hope there will be no last-minute surprises.  

From SPS:

In order to improve accountability and transparency in Seattle Public Schools, Superintendent José Banda on Tuesday announced that Seattle Public Schools is establishing its own Office of Internal Audit and Ethics, reporting directly to the Seattle School Board.

Tuesday Open Thread

Interesting discussion at the NY Times; Should books for children be political?

Speaking of books for kids, I love this one - My First Kafka (which would be Runaways, Rodents, and Giant Bugs).

Recess - it IS for learning.  Great article from The Atlantic on one teacher's research. 

The arguing continues in the Seattle Pre-K discussion.  The other initiative - not the City's - Seattle Initiative 107, has filed an ethics complaint with the City, charging that there were meetings with City Council members that violate the ethics rules. 

As I previously reported, the Sacramento School Board will be meeting this Thursday to vote on whether to appoint Superintendent Banda as their new superintendent.  As well, they will also vote to approve his contract.  There has not been a start date set but I think he would likely leave SPS by the end of the July.  

What's on your mind?

Who Was Using What Math (and how did Principals feel about the Math Adoption)?

I'm not sure this information will answer all questions, but I did put in a public disclosure request from SPS on the issue of what schools had been using enVision.  Here's the feedback I received on June 23rd.  (It is not complete as they are still trying to see if there were any MOU/agreements with the company.)

Graham Hill – no records located. According to principal Laurie Morrison, Graham Hill did not pay any money for their materials or for professional development, although staff did attend two professional development trainings at South Shore for enVision.

Hazelwood K-8
– no records located. According to principal Debbie Nelson, enVision was used only this last year. They received the materials free from an enVision representative and wanted to try it out, given that a new curriculum adoption was around the corner. They did not do any professional development.

Queen Anne – no records located. According to principal David Elliott, enVision was implemented only for the 3rd grade after they received the materials for free from an enVision representative. They only used parts of the enVision curriculum sporadically over the last year and a half.

Lafayette – no records located.

I was also sent the principal survey which I uploaded to Scribed. Total respondents, I believe, is around 36 (but the responses page only shows 25 responses).  The Board requested the survey and it was written by the math department and vetted through a Board member.

This survey was sent out May 14, 2014 by Anna Box, head of math, at the request of the C&I Committee.  Some of the phrasing in the e-mail to principals asking them to take the survey was interesting:

The School Board is expected to approve enVision, which was the adoption committee choice, as the primary adoption.  However, the Board may vote to also make Math in Focus available to schools that want it. 
There were three questions plus room for comments.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Seattle Schools Principal Assignments

From SPS:

Dear Catharine Blaine K–8 Community,
I am pleased to announce … Ms. Heather Johnson (formerly Swanson) will return to serve as your new principal. Your current principal, Ms. Julie Cox, will be Principal at North Beach Elementary next year.

What is Teaching Time Really About (and how is it counted)?

ST Reader alerted me to a story in the Times about Seattle Schools doing a pilot for a new company run by a UW professor, Zoran Popovic who directs the Center for Game Science at UW. 

He founded a non-profit called Enlearn with money from (who else) the Gates Foundation.  But the Times notes:

Enlearn is developing a commercial application for the interactive technology aimed at the global K-12 market.

Of course. 

It's supposed to a personalized learning/differentiation service for students wherein the students play the "games" on tablets, data goes to the teacher:

"...providing a moment-by-moment progress report on how each student is faring and whether the class as a whole is ready to move on or needs a better explanation." 

"The platform, in real time, provides the key misunderstandings and misconceptions for every individual student, which directly informs the teacher about what to do next at that instant," Popovic said.

In other word, turbocharged differentiation.

The Times notes that this was "tested" in 9 sixth grade classrooms at 3 SPS schools.  These were 5-day trials. 

Sigh.  Many questions and thoughts.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Young Teen Writer? Crosscut Looking for Student Voices

Crosscut has a new project called the Student Voice, aimed at finding out what young people think.  They are looking for solutions and opinions.

Every Wednesday, we’ll pose a “Question of the Week” on Crosscut.com and social media and in our Student Voice mailing list. (Sign up here.) All you students out there, from high school on up, are invited to respond. (Just two paragraphs, please.) Our editorial team will review your submissions, select the best ones (most creative, insightful, well-written, funny is always good, etc.) and publish them on Crosscut.com.

The first Question of the Week is: What issue isn't getting enough coverage in the news? Why is this issue important? Submit your fabulous answer here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Seattle Schools To Hold Community Meeting on Special Education

From SPS Communications:

When:  Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Time:  6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m.

Where:  Seattle Public John Stanford Center Auditorium, 2445 3rd Avenue South

What:  A family meeting hosted by Seattle Public Schools and the TIERS Group (Teams Intervening Early to Reach all Students) to hear about the results of an evaluation of special education services, recommendations and the revised comprehensive correction plan. 

Seattle Schools Superintendent Update

Dear Seattle Public Schools community,

I am writing to update you on the Superintendent process. 

U.S. School Districts and Funding

From the Center for American Progress, a fascinating (and sobering) look at districts across the country.  The name of the study is Parallel Lives, Different Outcomes: A Twin Study of Academic Productivity in U.S. School Districts. (It's not light summer reading, to be sure.)

For this report, “twin districts” have very similar sizes and they have the following in common:
  • The proportion of students who are from low-income families
  • The proportion of students who have limited English proficiency or are English language learners
  • The proportion of students who receive instruction through individualized educational programs
Our twin districts, however, differ in terms of per-pupil spending and revenues.

Friday Open Thread

There's a teenaged-boy with autism missing in our are. Please take a look at this photo in case you see him.

In one big difference between Seattle and Spokane school districts (in addition to Spokane being a charter authorizer), apparently they don't feel the need to expand at the administrative level nor give raises.  From The Spokesman-Review:

As Redinger (Spokane's superintendent) said in Friday’s Spokesman-Review article, “It used to be you moved to the district office for the pay increases. We’ve shifted that. We have changed how the principals operate within the district; they move in and out of the district office to do work.”

Principals now have input on curriculum decisions. And their pay is increasing 1.5 percent without setting off a chain reaction of increases at the central office.

When she was hired, Redinger was touted as an energetic change agent, and she’s followed through. She’s thinned the bureaucratic layers, even though a state audit showed the district spent less on administration than comparable districts in the state.

Lines from The Princess Bride that teachers could use when grading high school/college freshman student essays.

Only community meeting tomorrow is with Director Blanford from 10 am to noon at the Douglass-Truth library. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Civics Matters - Tell Seattle Public Schools

Pass it on.  This is a great initiative and great effort on the part of civics teacher, Web Hutchins.

On March 17, 2014 the Seattle City Council and King County Council passed tandem “Resolutions of Support for the Civics for All Initiative.”  As the embodiment of local, direct democracy and the representative voices for millions of voters, the 9-0, 9-0 unanimous votes of these Councils signifies a tremendous affirmation of support for the Seattle School District to adopt Civics for All in our city’s schools.

Sign this petition to make sure civics stays in our public schools.  Please spread the word. 

Seattle Schools and the Search for a Superintendent

A week from today, the Sacramento School Board (they call their members "trustees") will vote on Jose Banda as their new superintendent.  (I am waiting to hear back from their Communications person on details.)

I suspect they will vote to offer Banda the contract and that he will accept.  I'm also fairly certain he would start almost immediately.

That then opens the door for two things to happen.

One, the Board needs to appoint an interim superintendent.

Two, they need to decide on a process for finding a new superintendent.  I'll offer some suggestions and then some thoughts about a former superintendent.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

New Glitch in Downtown School in old Federal Reserve Building

From Publicola (partial):

Last month, federal agencies rejected an application from a coalition of homeless advocates to convert the old Federal Reserve building at 1015 2nd Ave. in downtown Seattle into a comprehensive homeless services center. But homeless advocates like Tristia Bauman "believe that the application was denied…in contravention of federal law” and are calling on the agencies to reconsider the fast-track rejection.

Banda asks Duncan to allow SPS Waiver

From Superintendent Banda:

Dear Seattle Public Schools community,

Over the last several years we have made great strides in ensuring our students graduate ready for success in college, career and life. However, much work remains to ensure that each and every student has the academic and community supports they need to be successful learners in school and beyond.

In order to best serve our students and families, Seattle Public Schools is asking the U.S. Department of Education for a Local Educational Agency (LEA) waiver from several provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Awkward and Odd; Green Dot Comes to Town

Update: I asked the Washington State Charter Commission staff about the letter of intent as I had gone back, read the WAC and realized that anything in it was "nonbinding" (including the fact that the letter of intent doesn't mean anyone has to follow-thru).  Here was their reply:

The purpose of the Notice of Intent (NOI) is two-fold:
First, they help us as staff plan for the upcoming application cycle.
Second, per WAC 108-20-010 (1) a NOI is a requirement of the application process.  As you pointed out, the NOI is nonbinding.  Information submitted on an NOI does not prevent an applicant from submitting a different application from what is suggested in the NOI.

End of update.

As I previously reported, Green Dot has submitted a letter of intent to the Charter Commission to open their second Puget Sound region charter school this time in "south Seattle."  A couple of readers alerted me that Green Dot had two open houses this week, one in the SW and one in the SE, to meet parents.  I attended the SE one held at the Boys and Girls Club on MLK, Jr. Way tonight.

Washington State Charter School Updates

There are three letters of intent for new charter authorizers districts- Tacoma, Highline and West Valley in Yakima.

 In 2013, there had been 13 school districts from around the state that submitted a notice of intent to become authorizers.  Only Spokane followed thru.  Tacoma was in that first group but not Highline or West Valley.

Spokane School district has three letters of intent.
Moose Project (Magic of Oral and Signing Education for near-deaf/deaf students but all students may enroll) is one of them but I am working on finding out who the others are.

Update:  the other two applicants for authorization by Spokane are iLEAD (K-8),opening in 2015, and Spokane International Academy, also a K-8.  Their letter of intent does not say when they want to open. iLead has two other charter schools in California. End of update

(There is some irony about these charters starting up in Washington state because I'll outline in another thread how charters are falling apart in other states.)  

Great flowchart from the Commission of how the process works to become a charter in Washington State.

As of June 20, 2014, there are 12 notices of intent from 12 non-profits to open charter schools.  From the Washington State Charter Commission:

Tuesday Open Thread

There two good (among many) good independent bookstores I want to call to your attention.  One is the new Phinney Books.  I haven't visited yet but have heard great things about their ability to help you find the right book.  When it comes to kids, that's a good thing.  The other store is Ada's Technical Books on Capitol Hill.  It's a very cool scientific bookstore with great events.

Is your teen vamping (note: this term has a sexual connotation which is not what I am referring to)?  From the NY Times:

“Kids my age are very occupied,” said Owen, 15, a high school sophomore in Portland, Ore. “We have school all day, and see our friends. We get home and we have to do our homework. Then we eat dinner and go to bed.”

So some nights, mostly weekends, he snuggles under the covers with his laptop, the screen dimmed so his parents won’t see, and watches tutorials on YouTube about how to create hip-hop beats with a drum machine.
From The Stranger Slog
“Sometimes I look up and it’s 3 a.m. and I’m watching a video of a giraffe eating a steak,” he said. “And I wonder, ‘How did I get here?’ ”

How do you do something "like a girl?"  Another good commercial from Dove soap and their campaign of self-acceptance.

Using lines from the Princess Bride (and there are a lot of great ones) as comments on student papers.  Very funny.

Don't know if you heard but today is the day you can legally buy pot in Washington State (but note, not consume it in public).  There is just one store in Seattle opening today and it's at 4th and Lander.  That's just a stone's throw from JSCEE.  

What's on your mind?

The History of Board Priorities

At the most recent Board Retreat, the Deputy Superintendent, Charles Wright, told the Board, in a rather elaborate fashion, that if the Board added a bell time switch to the list of Board priorities, it would have a severe impact on the staff's work. Nearly every department would bear part of the burden and nearly every current initiative would be delayed. The claims were an obvious exaggeration.

I contend that the addition of a bell time switch to the list of Board priorities would, in fact, have no impact because the staff doesn't work on Board priorities. As evidence, I present the Board priorities for the past five years:

Monday, July 07, 2014

Education News Roundup

North Carolina is poised to exit from Common Core.  They also passed a student data privacy law earlier this year (and I'll be working to get one passed in the Washington Legislature). 
North Carolina was one of the first states to embrace Common Core, now in place in more than 40 states. But support among some conservatives for the standards dissolved in recent months as nation-wide opposition mounted from activists who argued it infringed on state sovereignty.
Others complained about age-inappropriate teaching material and more testing.

To note, the NC legislature may be picking from CCSS to beef up their own existing ones.  It looks like several states want this ability to "hybrid" standards.  (Under CC, states can only change up to 15% of the standards which seems to be a sticking point for some states.)  

What Oklahoma's governor, Mary Fallin, says seems to be ringing true for many states:

“Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core. President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards,” Fallin said upon signing the measure.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Seattle Pre-K for All: Letter to the Board

Dear Directors,

I am asking you - as a Board - to put forth clarification on this issue of the City's PreK for All and Seattle Public Schools.

I spent the afternoon reviewing what the City has at their website and I found a lot of it deeply troubling.

Of course, like many things, pre-K for all IS a good idea.  (I will quibble whether Pre-K is the same as preschool as the former seems more school-like and the latter seems more play-based learning with a shorter day.)  But the devil is in the details.  And there are many details that are troubling with this plan but I'll just address the issues for SPS.

Seattle Schools This Week

Friday, July 11
BEX Oversight Committee meeting, 8:30 am-10:30 am.
Unfortunately, whoever runs this group does not put up the agenda nor past minutes in a timely manner so I can't tell you what will be discussed.  I've asked if that could happen and told it would but it doesn't. 

The last minutes are from the meeting in April and have some curious notations.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Seattle School Board Meeting Updates

Shockingly, I neither attended nor watched the School Board meeting.  But I did hear about it from other sources so here is some of what went on (plus some input from a careful reading of agenda items on the docket).   Apparently it was a love fest for Banda and some tension on the Board.  Here's the information I received from the organizing group for later starts where the tension comes in.
  • Later start times analysis passed, 6-1, with Director Blanford the sole no.  Apparently, though, both Carr and Martin-Morris claimed they felt staff was  "bullied" by others on the Board.  I'm suspecting they mean President Peaslee who can be quite strong-willed.  Is she a bully?  I have never seen evidence of it but I'm not sitting with her behind closed doors.  From the Later Start group e-mail message:
We WON!  Bell time analysis was passed 6-1 with only Blanford voting against. Cautions were made about not overworking staff, particularly by Carr and Martin-Morris.  They say the board will take some other work away from staff since they have now voted for them to do later start time analysis and community engagement work.

 Interestingly, Rainier Beach will now have a later start as the board voted yes on a Student Improvement Grant (SIG) that required the district to foot the bill for four SPED buses at 56,000 each.  This will put RBHS on tier 2 with an 8:40 (or so) start time.

(Thursday) Open Thread

Going with a Thursday Open Thread due to the holiday tomorrow. 

From The Atlantic, a somewhat troubling story about a study finding that kids care more about "achievement and happiness" than caring for others and that teachers are aware of this issue.  The study is from the Making Caring Common project at Harvard and is called The Children We Mean to Raise: the Real Messages Adults are Sending about Values.

In the study, “The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults are Sending About Values,” the authors point to a “rhetoric/reality gap,” an incongruity between what adults tell children they should value and the messages we grown-ups actually send through our behavior. We may pay lip service to character education and empathy, but our children report hearing a very different message.

Surveyed students were three times as likely to agree as disagree with the statement “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my class than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

I have mixed feelings on this because, of course, getting good grades does not preclude being an empathic or kind person.  But kids themselves may not always make that connection and put less effort into friendships and kindness if they are not worried what parents think.

 Don't know if you missed it but, Rhode Island put a three-year ban on all high stakes testing. 

Wishing everyone a happy (and safe) (and warm) 4th. 

What's on your mind?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Common Core and Homework

There have been many stories about parents - famous (like Louis C.K., a certified public school parent in NYC who spoke about Common Core homework NOT in a routine but as a parent) and not-so-famous - and their struggle to help their children with their CC homework, particularly in math.

The latest article comes from the NY Times.  Some of the comments are off discussing whether CCSS are valid, implementation, etc. and miss the main point.  (I have to laugh at the number of comments saying "go look up on YouTube how to do it."  Really?  And what parent has time for that?  And all parents have computer access at how and can understand it themselves?)

Kids come to parents for help with their homework.  When the homework, especially in math, is significantly different than how the parent learned, and the student needs help at home, then it is up to the school, the system to give parents that help.

I've seen one article telling parents to quit helping their students.  That is complete nonsense.  Kids will always go to parents and, while parents should offer minimal help (i.e. not do the homework and guide the kids to do it themselves), it is unreasonable to expect parents to say no to a kid who asks for help.

Where is this support for parents in their efforts to support what is going on in the classroom and to support their own child's learning?  The silence from, well, anyone is strange.

From the article: