Tuesday, September 30, 2014

OSPI Says Seattle Schools is "High Risk" for Sped

SPED reported that this letter was sent to Seattle Schools today by OSPI.   As the Seattle Schools SPED Community blog says:

Strong words from OSPI and withholding of $3,000,000.00 should get someone's attention at SPS, maybe the school board should step in and make sure people are doing their jobs.

I note that on item called out by OSPI is the hiring of a consultant to come in and oversee the work. That is on the Board agenda for Wednesday's meeting but it may have come too late for OSPI's comfort.  

The district has thirty days to appeal to OSPI over the withholding of funds.

What is going on?  How did it get this far?  When Sped director after Spec director left, why didn't someone in senior management take control and not allow this to happen?  And meanwhile, it's the students, teachers and parents who suffer.

You can't be mad at any SPED parent who says they can't take the district seriously.  

A summary of OSPI's letter:

California First in the Nation to Eliminate Student Suspension for Minor Behavior

From ACLU of Northern California:

SACRAMENTO, CA  – Today California becomes the first state in the nation to eliminate suspensions for its youngest children, and all expulsions for all students for minor misbehavior such as talking back, failing to have school materials and dress code violations. Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing today of AB 420 caps a landmark year for the movement away from harsh discipline policies and toward positive discipline and accountability approaches that keep children in school.

AB 420 places limits on the use of school discipline for the catch-all category known as “willful defiance,” which also includes minor school disruption. Willful defiance accounts for 43% of suspensions issued to California students, and is the suspension offense category with the most significant racial disparities.  For the next 3.5 years, the law eliminates in-school and out-of-school suspensions for children in grades K-3 for disruptive behavior currently captured in Education Code section 48900(k) and bans all expulsions for this reason. The bill was co-sponsored by Public Counsel, Children Now, Fight Crime Invest in Kids, and the ACLU of California and supported by a statewide coalition of organizations.

Tuesday Open Thread

Parents, the Enterovirus D68 has been documented in 40 states including ours.  There are about 300 cases nationwide, mostly in children.  From the CDC:

CDC is prioritizing testing of specimens from children with severe respiratory illness. There are likely many children affected with milder forms of illness. Of the specimens tested by the CDC lab, about half have tested positive for EV-D68. About one third have tested positive for an enterovirus or rhinovirus other than EV-D68.

All the confirmed cases this year of EV-D68 infection have been among children, except for one adult. Many of the children had asthma or a history of wheezing. So far, no deaths attributed to EV-D68 infection have been documented.

Symptoms of the virus, which can include coughing, fever and runny nose, can appear mild, the number of those infected could be exponentially larger than what has been reported. 

However, this has morphed into limb paralysis in some children in Colorado.  It is unclear what makes it more severe in some children and if all children will recover from that paralysis. From ABC news:

The CDC released a statement today saying nine children in Denver had reported a neurologic illness that led to some limb weakness or paralyzation. All of the children had reported having a kind of respiratory virus before showing symptoms of limb weakness. 

Six of the eight children tested were found to be positive for a rhinovirus or enterovirus and four of those cases were found to be the Enterovirus 68. The other two cases were still pending. 

Medical officials have not determined whether the Enterovirus 68 virus caused the neurological symptoms, but the CDC is asking other medical workers to report any similar cases as the outbreak of the enterovirus 68 continues to spread throughout the U.S.  

Medical officials have not determined whether the Enterovirus 68 virus caused the neurological symptoms, but the CDC is asking other medical workers to report any similar cases as the outbreak of the enterovirus 68 continues to spread throughout the U.S.

What's on your mind?

Seattle Schools and Garfield Field Trip Incident: PTSA meeting

I attended Garfield's PTSA meeting last night.  There were about 65 people in attendance.  It was a bit odd because they chose to have the lights down so as to put the agenda and supporting documents on a big overhead screen.  It was pretty dark and made the remarks even more gloomy.

I was fairly astonished and dismayed at what both Principal Howard and Director Blanford said on the subject of the Garfield field trip incident.  Some of it was contradictory and some was incoherent.  I think they made a confusing situation even more confusing. 

But, as Principal Howard told the crowd, he got himself a lawyer and got advice from that lawyer on what to do.

I can only say that loose lips sink ships and I was more than surprised at the comments from both men.

There were three handouts, two quite interesting.
  • Letter from Principal Ted Howard to Garfield parents
  • Letter from Garfield PTSA to Superintendent Nyland, Michael Tolley, Sarah Pritchett and Richard Staudt (cc'd to Ted Howard)   
Howard's letter (partial):

Our school has been in the media, as many of you know, and Garfield does not step back from scrutiny.  We have stepped into the spotlight and are currently taking a fair amount of criticism for taking the slow and deliberate approach, as we look at what we can do to learn from the past and better prepare for the future.  I want to be clear with you that I take nothing more seriously than the safety and security of the students and faculty here at Garfield.  As you may know, overnight field trips are currently on hold as we await guidance from the District.  I am encouraged by their progress and hope to soon have the items that are necessary to me to approve field trips in 2015.

Garfield "stepped into the spotlight" or was pushed; I guess it depends on how you see the situation.

He also put info on the Sexual Harassment Taskforce in his letter.

What is interesting is that the conciliatory tone in the letter was not the tone he took when he spoke.  He was less-than-positive about the district's work.

The GHS PTSA memo urges the district and the school to work together to "ensure proper policies are in place as soon as possible regarding field trips." (italics theirs)

"Because the latest version of the field trip policy is unclear and leaves principals, teachers and chaperones open to legal action, Principal Howard has made the decision to cancel all overnight field trips until further notice."

(During the Q&A on this issue, one parent said this was the first she had heard that the new district policies would leave staff unprotected.  I had heard this from someone but now this appears to be what is now out there.)

The memo continues:

We support this decision to get district policies in order for the safety of our students and staff.

Cancellation of field trips affects a large percentage of Garfield's nearly 2,000 students, who are involved in the following classes and school activities (then there was a lengthy list).

They also listed issues with the delay/lack of clarity like fundraising and trip planning.  They expressed the sincere desire to have the district/school be in compliance with laws and policies.

But, they also said:

Every day in the life of a high school student is precious and valuable; a missed opportunity for new learning, unique experiences and broadened horizons cannot be recaptured,  As adults, we think nothing of taking a few months or a year to work out an issue.  Keep kids in mind.  Please proceed with speed on this.  

They ask for a written response/plan by Thursday, October 9th.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why the NatureBridge Case Matters

The reported rape on a Garfield High School field trip in November 2012 matters deeply to me. Not only because I care about student safety in general and sexual assault in particular, but because I see this case as a prime example of the central dysfunction in the District. This is a particularly tragic consequence of the District’s culture of lawlessness.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, September 30th
Meet Superintendent Nyland from 6 pm - 7:00 pm at New Holly Community Center,
7054 32nd Ave S

Wednesday, October 1st
Meet Superintendent Nyland from 8:30 am-9:30 am at John Muir Elementary,
3301 S. Horton St.

School Board meeting, starting at 4:15 pm (note: there is to be an Executive Session on Potential Litigation from 8-8:30 pm

On the Consent Agenda are various Board policies that have been revised.  Of note is that the Board will not be posting their agenda three "working" days before the meeting but three days.  Under the old policy, you could see the agenda on Friday (with Friday, Monday and Tuesday being the three "working" days) but under this new policy, you may not see the agenda until Sunday. 

Action Items (partial)

Race to the Top money for Pre-K-3.  

Parents, we need to have a very serious talk soon about the district's PreK-3 Action Plan.  I did not know this existed until today (and it's in its fourth year of five).  I think I mistook these funds for RttT for K-5.  (To note, the SPS Early Learning Department has quietly changed its name to Pre-K-3 Early Learning.  Almost as if pre-K (except for Sped Pre-k) is a district duty under state law.)

While I do support curriculum alignment as well as access to quality preschool, I'm putting out the warning flare right now. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tacoma School Board Vents Frustration with Charter Schools

Let's start with what raised my antenna - the memo staff gave to the Board about Seattle Schools becoming a charter school authorizer.  

Staffer Clover Codd, who wrote the memo, told the Board:

We have formed a cross- departmental working group to better understand the implications for the district. The working group includes representatives from Budget, Enrollment, Facilities, Legal, DoTS, Policy and Strategic Planning.

So I wrote to the Board this morning after I was cc'ed on an e-mail from Ms. Codd to President Peaslee. Ms Codd wrote:

Just to clarify, the District does NOT intend to submit a LOI by the October 1st deadline. We do have this school year to learn more about the pros/cons of becoming an authorizer. Staff wants to be sure we provide you with all the information you need to make informed decisions.

Seven people in SPS formed a group to work on this? Why, don't they have enough to do with the schools we have? If you read Ms. Codd's e-mail, it seems they will continue working. Why?

Now the concerns that were raised during the 2012 charter school initiative campaign are coming into sharp focus for Tacoma.  From the Tacoma Tribune:

From my e-mail to the Board:

As for her (Ms Codd) assessment about charters, It's mostly accurate. I'll point out a couple of things not in that memo:

1) districts do NOT control their charter destiny. SPS could become an authorizer (and that's a heavy lift and Spokane created a whole department just for charter work) but that doesn't mean that applicants can't apply via the Charter Commission.

The law allows an applicant to apply to only ONE authorizer at a time. So an applicant has to apply to either a district authorizer or the Charter Commission.

So, for example, this idea that you could control exactly where a charter would be geographically is not really true.

2) I think a district might have some control over what types of schools they bring and maybe where BUT if districts put too much emphasis on those issues - meaning, not looking at the overall quality of the application - then a district could find itself in hot water with the Board of Education (which oversees district authorizers).

Here's what is happening in Tacoma:

The opening of three charter schools in Tacoma next fall could cost Tacoma Public Schools as much as $10 million once the charters reach full capacity by draining students and funds from the public school system, according to Tacoma School Board member Karen Vialle.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hoping to See More of This

I attended the Executive Committee meeting of the Whole this week.   It was actually a pleasure to be at the meeting and I hope to see more of what I heard and saw.

It's kind of sad, really, that it was just me, the Board and staff.  (Long-time watchdog Chris Jackins came in briefly but left.)  Because I wish more people could have been there.  And, especially critics like the Times, Crosscut and Joel Connelly, who you virtually never see at any district meeting but they do like to go on at their outlets as if they really seeing the Board and staff in action firsthand.

What did I like?
- I liked how the meeting ran smoothly.
- I liked how the mood seemed relaxed and easy-going.
- I really liked how staff and the Board interacted with respect and kindness.

Maybe this is the influence of Superintendent Nyland or maybe they have all decided the way forward is thru cooperation and honesty. 

What were they discussing?  The agenda was the Superintendent Evaluation 2013-2014 which wasn't really about the superintendent's performance but goal-setting and how staff did in different areas.  Then there was a discussion of the Board's committee structure and calendar.  I had to leave before the last item which was the Board's evaluation.

Friday Open Thread

This has (and continues to be) an interesting week for me as I stump against the two preschool measures.  More on this to come.

From SPS:
Hello West Seattle Families,
Due to potential family scheduling conflicts, Seattle Public Schools is rescheduling the Monday, Sept. 29, Superintendent meet and greet at the Neighborhood House in West Seattle.

We’ve recently learned the Seattle Housing Authority is holding a meeting about its proposal for rent changes at the same date and time at the High Point Community Center and many of our families wish to attend. We are rescheduling out of respect for many of our families’ desires to attend both meetings.

The new date for the Superintendent’s meeting will be in late October to ensure families have time to plan and attend.

Saturday community meeting with Director Patu from 10 am to 11:30 am at Cafe Vita.  I note that the SCPTA has this to say in urging members to go to Patu's meeting:

Have your students been impacted from the lack of school buses this year?  We have been hearing stories of families walking long ways, mothers making choices between their jobs or walking their children safely to school.

We'd like to help by hearing from parents adversely impacted by the lack of school transportation. Many Title I schools have strict mandates on attendance and we want to ensure further funding is not lost.

If you are bilingual please share this email and if not, please share with your bilingual Instructional Assistants. There are many families hard hit, especially families that speak other languages.

Director Martin-Morris also has a meeting at Montlake Library from 11 am to noon. 

Hey, it's Museum Day Live! tomorrow, Saturday the 27th.  That means many museums are FREE.   For our area that includes, Seattle Art Museum, MOHAI, Burke Museum, NW African-American Museum, EMP, Wing Luke Museum and many others.  Here's where you can get your free ticket. 

Hack the CD starts today at Garfield High at 4pm.   From The Stranger:

So last summer, when the Crosscut Community Idea Lab held a competition asking, “How can we use Seattle’s tech boom as an asset to create an equitable and integrated city?”, Harris answered by proposing a “hackathon” in the heart of Seattle. “To hack essentially means to make a product do what it was not originally intended to do,” explains hackathon organizer Zithri Saleem. “We want our children of color to be a part of the growth and change of this area.”

This weekend the community will have a chance to propose new tech-based businesses or ideas that will reshape the CD. “Our goal is to launch at least 10 new businesses in the central area, but most of all we will expose over 100 people to entrepreneurial education.”

Two amazing videos about nature.  One is my Friday funny - frogs and an iPad.   The other is a booya video about a bumble bee and a spider.  Show these to the kids (unless you don't like graphic insect violence and yes, I know spiders are not insects).

What's on your mind?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Seattle Schools Updates

It looks like the NWEA (the company that gives the MAP testing) had a "denial of service" attack today.  This was at about 11 am and they sent a message out about the attack saying, "MAP is currently unavailable.  We apologize for the inconvenience."   Don't know any SPS schools were giving MAP today.

I was doing some research on FERPA and found this clause:

A school must inform eligible students of how it defines the terms "school official" and "legitimate educational interest" in its annual notification of FERPA rights. 

Did anyone read their FERPA form carefully for this info?  Was it included?
As to who on the Board might have requested the staff memo about charters schools, I got a little clarification but it's still a bit unclear.  Apparently someone senior thought the Board should know about the Oct 1 deadline for districts to file a Letter of Intent to become charter authorizers, told the Board and then Director McLaren asked for more info.  The memo was the outcome of that request.  (I thought this odd on staff's part if only because the Board had voted a resolution against charter schools.) 

Speaking with a couple of directors, I think the memo may have solidified their belief that the district has no money or bandwidth to become a charter authorizer (Spokane created a whole new department just to cover the work).

And speaking of Spokane School District, they just authorized the second charter in their district.  The Spokesman Review pointed this out:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Garfield Cancels all Field Trips for the School Year

Principal Ted Howard II and the Garfield PTSA sent out this message today. It's confusing because he says there will be no field trips "for the current school year" (which would be 2014-2015) but then says it may change in Jan. 2015, depending on the recommendations of the taskforce.  Apparently he didn't check the link to the taskforce because they won't have recs until Oct. 2015.   Maybe he meant January 2016. 

I have already heard from parents who have had students go on successful trips in the past.  Will he actually say no if the Garfield Jazz Band is again invited to the Essentially Ellington competition? 

I find some of the "suggestions" for future field trips both surprising and sad, mainly because I can't believe they weren't in place already.

Superintendent Nyland Meets the Public

If you haven't met Superintendent Nyland, here's your chance.  I think it worth your time especially as he is considering whether to apply to be the permanent superintendent.

From SPS Communications:

Dr. Larry Nyland, who was appointed by the School Board in June to serve as Interim Superintendent, has outlined several opportunities this fall to meet with community members.

These informal gatherings will include a few short remarks from Dr. Nyland, followed by time for an open question and answer period.

Eckstein Building Meeting

That was interesting.  I'm going to flesh this out because I think a lot of these questions asked about Eckstein might ring true for your school building.

I was a little confused at first as there were very few parents (even at 5:45 pm) and no handout.  It was in the Eckstein auditorium (about 1/3 ish full by the time it started.) The organizers were smart; Eckstein's curriculum night followed at 7 pm.  (although what a parking nightmare).

The district was represented by Flip Herndon, Richard Best, Bruce Skowyra.  The meeting was videotaped (by I don't know by whom). Principal Sherry Kokx was there as was Executive Director, Kim Whitworth.  Elected officials included Rep. Gerry Pollet and Rep. David Frockt.  I saw no School Board members.

Dr. Herndon said he would answer some questions already submitted and then take questions.   It's pretty easy - as the parents/staff circled back to the same questions - what the issue is.

The district has a commitment to getting work done.  I do truly believe that BUT there are many schools with many needs and it takes time and money.  And, our district does NOT have a commitment to maintenance.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

As if Seattle Schools Didn't Have Enough on the Plate...

...both mandated and non-mandated, along comes charter schools.

Yes, some mysterious Board member (I'm taking bets but remember I will win) asked staff about the district becoming a charter authorizer.

Now when some Board members ask staff for analysis, staff waffles, balks or just ignores their requests.  Or, Charles Wright, Deputy Superintendent, will call them out in public for making "too many requests."

That's if they don't like the topic asked about and/or the volume of work it might take to get answers.

But ask about charter schools and well, staff has lots of time.

The timeline on all this is a bit confusing but somewhere during the summer (while Banda was still here?) some Board member asked for info on the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a charter authorizer.

So staff, at least from this memo of August 7, 2014 , sprung into action.  Because:

As you are aware, staff has been asked to understand and communicate the implications of charter schools on Seattle Public Schools. We have formed a cross- departmental working group to better understand the implications for the district. The working group includes representatives from Budget, Enrollment, Facilities, Legal, DoTS, Policy and Strategic Planning. Staff is not a making recommendation in this memo, but is simply outlining the information and current understandings. 
But to review:
  • The district cannot get capacity management under their control.
  • The district does not have the funds to maintain their buildings (although they just crossed their fingers and told the State that they did).  
  • The district is likely to NOT be fully ready to give the Smarter Balanced assessments because of the technology needed to be bought and installed.
  • The district does not even have a head of Enrollment currently.
  • The district pushed back and back and back against the Bell Times work.
And yet, at least seven people at SPS did this work on charter schools.  

Priorities, kids, priorities.  (Or, what memo did the Gates Foundation send this week?)

Mayoral Takeover of Seattle Schools

Update: I checked with OSPI about one reader's claim that there was a grand plan from OSPI and the feds to take over the district.

From OSPI:

There are no laws that allow for OSPI to take over a district. We can, in some circumstances (see Question 5), withhold funds from districts. But we can’t simply take over the district’s day-to-day duties. That’s what local control is all about.

On whether OSPI would be part of any legislative action to take over the district:

State Superintendent Dorn would have his position to influence legislators to vote one way or another.

Has OSPI been supporting/advocating for this direction for SPS?

No one that I know of at OSPI is doing that kind of work. If someone is doing that work, it’s not been sanctioned by State Superintendent Dorn.

Would you know under what circumstances OSPI can withhold funds from a district? 

Noncompliance of state law (RCWs) or agency regulations (WACs). Audit findings also can result in a district repaying money.

Generally speaking, OSPI prefers to be the benevolent older sibling in its relationships with districts: We prefer to assist and aid, rather than cajole or threaten.

I'm not even going to ask the Feds because the whole idea is ridiculous.

End of update.

Something in the water?  The start of Fall?  Who knows but there was Joel Connelly this morning in the PI with a column about Mayor Murray's budget:

Murray is creating a cabinet-level Department of Education and Early Learning to work with “our diverse communities” and Seattle Public Schools to “close our city’s opportunity gap.” It will have the ability to go around the not-very-functional Seattle School Board and widely disliked bureaucracy of the school district.Someone help me out - I think I missed the part that said if the Mayor's plan for the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) gets created that it can "go around" the Board and the district. 

(Update:  I DID ask the Mayor's office and they said, "the Mayor characterized the new Department as one that will work with, not around, SPS."  Thank you, Mr. Mayor.)

I'll ask the Mayor's office but no, I don't think that's true.  What I DO think is true is that the powers that be have decided that now is the time and the memo went out.  (Naturally, these people are a little smarter than that so it's more like smoke signals or the secret handshake.)

Here's what I wrote to the Board:

Tuesday Open Thread

Update: just missed my e-mail letting me know that SPS has just released its "Facility Condition Assessment Report for 2014."  This should make for interesting reading.  

The district will engage the community over the next 13 months and ask for input and feedback with regard to projects to be included in the BTA IV capital levy.

I know something - don't use it like BEX to build/renovate (like $100M downtown high school and $53M to renovate the Federal Reserve building.)  If those are on there, I'm voting no.

Is there no end to the number of people in government who suddenly want to invest in early childhood programs?  It's almost as if they all got a memo.  Or something.

The latest one is KC Executive Dow Constantine who plans to ask voters for a new levy for early childhood programs by next fall.  The Times reports that he calls it "Best Starts for Kids." 

In yet another curious item, the PI's Joel Connelly, in reviewing the Mayor's budget, says this:

Murray is creating a cabinet-level Department of Education and Early Learning to work with “our diverse communities” and Seattle Public Schools to “close our city’s opportunity gap.” It will have the ability to go around the not-very-functional Seattle School Board and widely disliked bureaucracy of the school district.

Really?  Did yet ANOTHER memo go out about taking over Seattle Schools?  Because, of course, the idea that the Mayor would create a new department and be able to go around the Board and the district is complete nonsense.  The City certainly can decide on how to spend the F&E levy dollars; it's their tax-payer voted on dough.  But no, a new department is not going to allow any city official to go around the district.  But I'll ask (just to be sure).

There certainly is some kind of drumbeat going on out there.   

Our new Washington State Teacher of the Year, Lyon Terry from Lawton Elementary, sits on the district committee that is aligning reading and writing curricula to CCSS.  

The public meetings for the newest charter school applications (all four of them) have been going on.  The one in Sunnyside from a group that received good marks in its first application (except in financials) has reapplied again.  They would run a K-8 that will be a mix of in-class and online instruction (sounds like Rocketship).  The Superintendent in Sunnyside spoke out against the charter, saying that his district was doing well with an over 80% graduation rate (above the state and national average).

Have an anxious child?  Some pretty good tips on being a good parent in that situation from the Huffington Post Education blog.

From Disability Scoop, a story about the feds spending money for several research projects on how to help kids with autism nearly from birth to high school to job searching.

What's on your mind?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Seattle Schools and the Search for a Superintendent

Update: search firms and candidates - you're welcome.
end of update.

The Board had a meeting of the entire group (without Carr) to discuss how to look for a superintendent.  It was a lot of logistics talk about finding the right search firm.

(I will try to get a electronic copy of the document they were working off of from Erin Bennett.)

They will be putting out an RFP around October 3rd and will decide on a firm by early December.  There was no firm date for the applications to go out for superintendent.  

Seattle Schools Updates

Teacher of the year (hint: from SPS), what's in the Mayor's budget for public education, breakfast on the go and the bell times taskforce.

Great news - the Washington State Teacher of the Year is Lawton's Lyon Terry.  From OSPI:

Lyon is a National Board Certified Teacher. He has taught at Lawton since 2005 in 2nd, 3rd and multi-age classrooms, where he focuses on creating confident, hard-working and compassionate learners. Lyon wants his students to learn how to be both kind and smart.

During his time a Lawton, 4th-grade writing proficiency rates on the MSP have risen over 10 percentage points.  

Lyon has served in numerous leadership roles in his school and district, most often in the areas of writing and literacy, and also as a union representative.

The Mayor announced his budget today.  I was particularly interested in the new Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL). 

Public Ed Stories (with a tie-in to our discussions)

One story is absolutely horrifying and appalling and ties right into the situation around the Garfield field trip incident. 

The other story is about how treating more kids as "gifted" makes them perform better.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Update: so the 2.5 hour Executive Committee meeting of the Whole on Wednesday from 4:30-7:00 pm now has an agenda.

The first 2 hours will be devoted to discussing the Superintendent evaluation, Board Committee Structure and Calendar and Board evaluation.

The last half-hour is a closed session on the "performance of a public employee."

end of update

Update: a great conference is happening this week at the University of Puget Sound.  It's the 2014 Race and Pedagogy Conference.  Speakers include Henry Louis Gates and Angela Davis.

The theme for the 2014 Race & Pedagogy National Conference is “What NOW is the Work of Education and Justice?: Mapping a New Critical Conscience.” In asking “What Now?” the conference challenges us to align concepts of education and justice in ways that call for conscience, critique, and change.

end of update.

I'm going to add in some events about public education as well this week.

This week is, once again, Banned Books Week.  How many have you read?

Tuesday, September 23rd
Mayor Murray will be releasing his budget for the our city.  It might be interesting to see how much money he is allocating for the new department of Early Learning and Education.

There also appears to be a meeting - not a district one but one requested by parents - about the condition of Eckstein's building at 6pm at Eckstein.  I believe this is thru the group that calls itself "the Voice of NE Seattle schools." ( I find that charmingly funny as this blog doesn't even claim itself to be the voice of any school or group.)

Does Seattle Public Schools have a Broken Governance Model?

At every Board Retreat the Board discusses their governance model. They don't have a formally stated model, but they are loosely working towards using a sort of Carver Policy Governance Model in which the Board sets expectations (the ends) - both for outcomes and for limitations on methods - and the superintendent is given a relatively free hand in decided how those ends will be met (the means) and is evaluated on the accomplishment of the goals.

It's not a bad model but it isn't working for Seattle Public Schools.

It isn't working for three primary reasons:

  1. The Board isn't doing it's job of setting expectations.
  2. The Board isn't doing it's job of staying focused on policy.
  3. The Board isn't enforcing the policies that limit the means
and three secondary reasons:
  1. The Board isn't evaluating the superintendent properly.
  2. A lot of the Board policies are not consistent with this model.
  3. The Board often abdicates their policy duty to the staff.
So what can be done to fix these flaws and make the district governance model work? All of the problems, as you can see, are Board-based, so only the Board can implement the fixes. Can a board director do it alone? Can the Board do it if they act in unity? How would they do it?

Friday, September 19, 2014

West Seattle Schools Were on Shelter-in-Place

From SPS Communications (tweeted 25 minutes ago):

West Seattle schools were in shelter-in-place after dismissal because of shooting in the High Point. Parents can now pick up students.

From comments at the West Seattle Blog:

4:32 pm - All the fall athletes (soccer, cross country, swimming…) are at school still sheltering in place. 

4:52 pm - I just rushed to meet my kids at 29th and High Point. They walk along Sylvan/High Point on the way home from Denny/Sealth. They had just walked past the police tape off area. They won’t be walking anymore…

4:55 pm - Pathfinder K-8 at Cooper has been shelter in placing for about an hour. Students are allowed to leave the childcare and school with an adult and must go directly to their cars.

Seattle Schools Odds and Ends

I plan on writing a thread this weekend that is an overview of how I see the Seattle School Board today.  There are certainly some interesting things being said by directors and frankly, I'm not sure I see them working as a unified body (but not the same people who usually get called out for having special interests).   I listened to the Board comments and more and more, I find them quite telling.

- Update: forgot this one piece of info.  You may have heard that some school districts around the country have accepted various "items" from the Armed Forces.  One in San Diego accepted a tank.  Seriously.  I had a chance to ask Ass't Superintendent Pegi McEvoy this question yesterday.  She said the only things that SPS accepted from the military were blankets, cots and MREs.  Sounds good to me.

- the district appears to have solved its website problems.  However, apparently the 46th Dems were to have an Endorsement meeting last night at some school site.  The 46th had reserved a room and confirmed the reservation verbally but got a call - after 5 pm - telling them the district's software had not been able to accept the reservation so it was cancelled.

- Director Peters has the only community meeting tomorrow, Sat. the 20th, from 11am to 1 pm at Magnolia library.

- Flu Shot clinics will be provided for all SPS families with medical insurance.  Patient consent forms are available at the link or at each clinic.  This will be at different high school locations from September 30th-October 20th.

- it appears that Africatown is operating some kind of family connections class for SPS.  The district has a "Family Connectors University" with three sites and Africatown is operating out of Columbia Annex.  I have some questions into the district on this subject.  

From the Board Comments and Board Testimony on Wednesday, Sept. 17th

Friday Open Thread

What's going on this weekend? What happened this week that we missed?

Now is the time and place to tell about it - Friday Open Thread.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Operations/Executive Committee of the Whole

Update:  the Discipline Appeals Council has been set with a couple of issues.

One big one is that they did not get any volunteers to represent Sped.  It was stated they asked internally but it was unclear to me if any Sped parent organizations were contacted.  They would like a Sped teacher.  Peaslee wants SPed in there.  Peters said SPed is important because of disproportionality and Sped issues in discipline cases.

Two is that Director Carr is on this council.  I was confused when I saw the name as she is listed as "community."  I asked and according to the policy, she can be on the committee as a community member.

I personally think it is strange that a sitting board member could be on this council (or even want to).

Also, Memorial Stadium got new turf and Richard Best, head of Capital Projects, casually said that they are considering putting a new high school there AND it could be on BTA IV (which is becoming quite large just with this project and below, the downtown school).

End of update

Well, I hadn't thought the Operations Committee would be so interesting vis a vis the agenda but now I'm glad I came.

-one update - the district appears to be going to go ahead with applying to takeover the former Federal Reserve building for a downtown school.  They have a lengthy review of  three other schools - Bailey-Gatzert, Lowell and John Hay that might be considered for expansion for this purpose.  They have quite a list of consultants so it appears they have done their due diligence.

Hey, no surprise, they appear to think it makes the MOST sense to get the Federal Reserve building.

How to fund this?  Either through non-voted bonds (which I thought Director Carr said absolutely no) or put it in with BTA IV.  That means that at least $48M (of the likely $50-53M) in BTA IV would be for one new building.

I have said before and I'll say it again - BTA was NEVER created for new buildings.  This blurring of lines, mixing of capital dollars is wrong and I cannot believe it is now going to continue on.

Apparently so.

Update on downtown school.  No time to put in the complete conversation but President Peaslee is pressing on hard on the "need" and costs.  Joe Wolf explained that the entire north section of the district is worse off than Central and that really, they need more high school space.

Peaslee, again pushing hard, is asking questions on funding this downtown school.  Staff says there BTA IV is too far out so they likely would have to get a loan for the funds and pay it back via the BTA IV.

Peaslee thinks this sounds pretty unfocused and wanted to know about the BTA IV planning.

So a $100M for a new high school plus $53M for the Federal Reserve bldg- there's $150M and the last BTA was $270M.   (It was noted that the Education Department was asked if the Fed Reserve building could be used for any type of school, K-5, K-8 or 6-12.

Seattle Schools having issues with websites

I see this at 2:51 pm but I don't know how long this has been going on.  I'll let you know if anything changes.  You can see the homepage for SPS but I assume they mean school websites.

Student Data Privacy: Where's Your Line?

From Marketplace:

Meet the most measured, monitored and data-mined students in the history of education. 

Your children.

How about this district in California, tracking every kid who uses social media.  From Tech Dirt:

The Glendale School District in California is facing some backlash from the recent news that it has retained the services of Geo Listening to track its students' social media activity.

After collecting information from students' posts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, Geo Listening will provide Glendale school officials with a daily report that categorizes posts by their frequency and how they relate to cyber-bullying, harm, hate, despair, substance abuse, vandalism and truancy.

As the article states, the district was starting to use this service at the end of the year but waited until the start of THIS year to tell parents.


The company's About Us page is, as the article says, pretty overwrought:
Your students are crying for help. We have heard these cries of despair, and for help and attention, loud and clear from students themselves via their public postings on social networks. Many feel as though no one is listening, and they are falling away from societal connections. This trend can be reversed with more timely information that we can provide to the appropriate school staff.​
What Geo Listening appears to do is nothing more than aggregate public social media posts linked to either the students or school district. Geo Listening repeatedly points out that it doesn't "monitor email, SMS, MMS, phone calls, voicemails or unlock any privacy setting of a social network user." 

So what do they do?

Geo Listening is a social media monitoring system that allows school districts to locate and process publicly available social media content.   It includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others.

Then there's the question about how it searches for offending posts. 
- Does it only run current students through its digital sifter or does it include anyone who lists a Glendale school on their profile? 
-  Does this dragnet also capture comments, tweets, etc. from non-students who interact with Glendale students? 
- If a student interacts with a non-student's post that falls afoul of the guidelines, can they be punished? 

These are just a few of the many questions this monitoring service raises. 

They note that kids can "opt-out" by not having public posts.  Which would fly in the face of what most students actually do (and they know this).

Most users below the age of 25 do not utilize the available privacy settings because they are seeking to be recognized for their respective posts. They have chosen to post in the public domain in exchange for popularity and a decreasing ability to communicate effectively face to face.

Kids/parents/teachers/administrators can also out students with a handy "report" button app.

Marketplace has been having a whole series on student data including "A Day in the Life of a Data-Mined Kid." 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's Constitution Day

Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognizing all who, are born in the U.S. or by naturalization, have become citizens.

Our Constitution still stands as our country's guide.   I don't think that it's some kind of "in stone" document.  I believe our founding fathers meant for it to be a living, breathing document.  That we have some strict Constitutionalists on the U.S. Supreme Court is a pity.

In honor of our Constitution, it's pop quiz time from the Washington Post's Answer Sheet.

Also, don't forget about Civics for All, our local home-grown initiative.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Seattle Schools' Meetings Update

Tonight is the regularly scheduled Seattle School Board meeting starting at 4:15 pm at JSCEE.

A few updates.

One, there are only five people signed up to give testimony.  If you have anything you might want to convey to the Board, this would be a good time.

Two, at the end of the Board meeting, there will be a closed Executive Session for "potential litigation."  

This closed session will begin at the conclusion of the regular Board meeting and last approximately 30 minutes.  The legislative session will not reconvene after the executive session, and mo action will be taken as a result of the executive session.

Is this about the Sped Director?

Three, the Operations Committee meeting on Thursday will only be an hour, from 4:30-5:30 pm.  The agenda is still not available for this meeting.

Four, the Executive Committee meeting of the Whole, on Thursday the 18th starting at 5:30 pm, is indeed about the Superintendent Search.

Public Education Updates

Get a cup of coffee/tea - there are a lot of them (and big news items at that).

Good News

The governor of Tennessee just signed into law that every single high school grad gets a free ride for two years at a community college.  From Yes!:

The bill provides two years of tuition at a community college or college of applied technology for any high school graduate who agrees to work with a mentor, complete eight hours of community service, and maintain at least a C average. High school graduates will start to reap these benefits in fall 2015.

Oregon Sen. Mark Hass is selling the idea to his state, too. He sponsored a bill that passed earlier this year to study whether a similar system in Oregon would work. The results should be out later this year.

Education Satire

Hey, you 3-year old slackers!

It has come to our attention that your older brothers and sisters have been showing up to Kindergarten completely unprepared for the requirements of a rigorous education. It is time to nip this indolent behavior in the bud. You probably don't even know what 'indolent" means, do you? Dammit -- this is exactly why Estonia and Singapore are challenging the U.S. for world domination!

My Take on Preschool Measures for Publicola


Consider attending/viewing a debate on this issue at a Town Hall presented by Seattle Channel, Town Hall Seattle and Seattle CityClub.  It's next Wednesday, the 24th at 7 pm.  It's cable channel 21 (or HD 321).  They will be having polling during the event.  It's free but you have to register.  (I am not on the panel but did a pre-recorded interview with host Brian Callanan that will be shown.)

Register at www.seattlecityclub.org or call (206) 682-7395. Doors open at 6 p.m. with audience instructions at 6:30 p.m. and the live televised program at 7 p.m.

End of update.

My concerns are outlined - for both preschool propositions - at Publicola.   I flesh out those concerns in detail there but broadly:

- did the City and the unions really try to find unity?  Because I believe a joint-measure would have passed easily.  Instead, we have two nearly completely difference measures.  What happens if one side wins?  Will we see complete unity from the other side (for example, if the unions' measure - Prop 1A - wins, will the City fund it?)

- why didn't the City do the groundwork to find out how many preschools there are in Seattle and who they serve?  They admit they don't have any idea in their early documentation.  How do they know where to start if they don't know where the starting line is?

- and, of course, my concerns for Seattle Schools in the City's Prop 1B (as the unions' plan does not include the district).

As for voting, here's how the City Attorney explains it:

City Attorney’s Explanatory Statement

Tuesday Open Thread

Yesterday, Google and Mayor Murray surprised Highland Park Elementary with a major announcement about their request via DonorsChoose.org. Google "flash-funded" classroom requests from every teacher in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties who had made a request at DonorsChoose.  From Seattle.gov:

Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students. - See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/google-highland-park/#sthash.5JaQd8iB.OIwpVLVw.dpuf
Mayor Murray joined representatives from Google today to announce that the company has fully funded classroom requests from every teacher in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties on the education crowd funding site DonorsChoose.org. Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students.
“There’s no better way to start off the school year than with this surprise funding for our local teachers. This generous donation to our classrooms is greatly appreciated,” said Murray, who made the surprise announcement in front of teachers at Highland Park Elementary School.
- See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/google-highland-park/#sthash.5JaQd8iB.OIwpVLVw.dpuf
Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students.
Mayor Murray joined representatives from Google today to announce that the company has fully funded classroom requests from every teacher in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties on the education crowd funding site DonorsChoose.org. Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students.
“There’s no better way to start off the school year than with this surprise funding for our local teachers. This generous donation to our classrooms is greatly appreciated,” said Murray, who made the surprise announcement in front of teachers at Highland Park Elementary School.
- See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/google-highland-park/#sthash.5JaQd8iB.OIwpVLVw.dpuf
Mayor Murray joined representatives from Google today to announce that the company has fully funded classroom requests from every teacher in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties on the education crowd funding site DonorsChoose.org. Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students.
“There’s no better way to start off the school year than with this surprise funding for our local teachers. This generous donation to our classrooms is greatly appreciated,” said Murray, who made the surprise announcement in front of teachers at Highland Park Elementary School.
- See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/google-highland-park/#sthash.5JaQd8iB.OIwpVLVw.dpuf
Mayor Murray joined representatives from Google today to announce that the company has fully funded classroom requests from every teacher in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties on the education crowd funding site DonorsChoose.org. Google donated $338,000 for 388 projects resulting in 295 teachers receiving materials for over 36,000 students.
“There’s no better way to start off the school year than with this surprise funding for our local teachers. This generous donation to our classrooms is greatly appreciated,” said Murray, who made the surprise announcement in front of teachers at Highland Park Elementary School.
- See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/google-highland-park/#sthash.5JaQd8iB.OIwpVLVw.dpuf

FYI, from CNN:

Travelers who passed through the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport earlier this month may have been exposed to the highly contagious measles virus, local health officials say.

The King County Department of Public Health in Washington state is investigating "a confirmed case of measles infection" in a traveler who was at the airport while he or she was contagious. The traveler was in the airport's North Satellite Terminal, on the interterminal train and at baggage claim between 8:10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on September 6.

"If you were at either of these locations during the times listed above and are not immune to measles, the most likely time you would become sick is between September 13th and September 27th," the health department said in a statement.

CPPS has a good overview of discipline rates in Seattle Schools (taken from OSPI data).   Not good - the majority of students were from low-income families, half were African-American, and "dozens" were K-1 students.  What I find odd was this stat:

Statewide, most suspensions and expulsions were for “other behavior” — not for fighting, bullying, weapons, or drug use.

Teachers, what would fall into "other behavior?"  Swearing? Oppositional behavior? Threatening behavior?  

What's on your mind?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Director McLaren Op-Ed

Recently I learned that Director Marty McLaren had written an op-ed for the Seattle Times about the good things and hard work happening in Seattle Schools. According to McLaren, the Times encouraged her to edit her op-ed and resubmit it (which she did) but then the Times declined to print it.

They then published the editorial about SPS and its leadership (and egging on the Mayor and the City Council to try to take control of the Board).

I find this quite troubling because frankly, it seems like the Times is hell-bent on doing everything they can to undermine the Board to the point of undermining the entire district.  It is hard to get the message out about the myriad of good things in this district if media only wants to write about the problems and/or bang out the same tired stories about the Board and district leadership.

But the Times' loss is our gain.   Here's what Director McLaren has to say.

Seattle Public Schools are Thriving
August 29, 2014 

This week many Seattle Public Schools families received a “failing school” letter, required by law, because our state’s schools did not receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. Seattle Public Schools applied for a waiver, but as of this writing, the district not been notified whether our unique teacher contract qualifies SPS for it.

We who participate in the District’s work know our schools are not failing. In fact, most of our schools are flourishing and showing more improvement each year. Our teachers are teaching and getting results. Seattle Public School students keep doing better and better, despite the frequent turnover of district leaders, and severely inadequate funding. Why? The answer tells an important story about an extraordinary community of educators, support staff, volunteers, and families – all becoming more expert at meeting the challenges of urban public education. The heart of this tale is that incredibly vibrant leadership abounds within Seattle’s community of educators and their allies.

Seattle Schools This Week

Update: A&F Tuesday meeting agenda.    

The minutes from the previous meeting reveal that the next district audit will include Ballard High and Special Education.  (The previous audit included Garfield and guess what?  They were found to have several volunteers not screened or had no application at all. )

Also, the Internal Auditor, Andrew Medina, said this:

Mr. Medina spoke about an additional finding for personal service contracts (PSC). He noted that there have been instances where work started before the PSC is approved, as well as sole-source contracts that lack adequate supporting justification. Mr. Medina also noted a lack of administrative procedures, an employee handbook, and clear channels of communication. The audit also cited that the District lacks procedures covering the delegation of purchase approvals to administrative staff. 

Ms. Technow listed some of the forms, contracts and checkout lists currently in place, noting it is typically the same departments allowing work to begin before contracts are finalized. 

For anyone new to the district, understand these are concerns that have been going on for years.  Why do they continue?  Because staff knows no one will hold them accountable.  I can remember this issue of personal service contracts (shades of Silas Potter) coming up several times.    And, per Technow's remarks, they even know which departments start work before contracts are approved/finalized.  

Directors noted their disappointment that previously chronicled internal audit findings are recurring. Directors asked about corrective action for individuals and departments not in compliance. 

Really?  They're disappointed?  And, will they actually do anything about that disappointment?  Nope.

On data security:

Mr. Dizon thanked Directors for their recommendation to better protect staff privacy by having restrictions on access to and storage of sensitive information. Directors noted incidences where laptops have been stolen from cars leading to personal identifiable information being compromised. They asked that work be done with the Department of Technology to develop indestructible controls to ensure data cannot be shared or stolen. Directors spoke about systems and controls to protect data and employee training. 

But there are no "indestructible controls" that I know of.  What's odd is that the Work Session on Technology made it sound all under control and Board members didn't do much challenging on that issue.  It's very confusing.

There's also a fascinating section of the A&F minutes about private schools and input from them on Special Ed students they serve. 

End of update. 

Tuesday, September 16th
Audit&Finance Committee Quarterly Audit Meeting, 4:30-6:30 pm.  Agenda not yet available.
As Charlie noted elsewhere, this is the meeting where staff has to report back on various issues raised.  I am hoping to see Director Carr hold some feet to the fire but we'll just have to see.

Wednesday, September 17th
School Board Meeting starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda

Title IX Work List from SPS

Here's a link to the current status of Title IX work as presented to the Board Audit and Finance Committee on August 19.

A number of the action items on this list are familiar to those of us who have read lists of action items before. Of course the expected completion dates have all been pushed out later. I can't help noticing that a number of the "next action" dates fall before the meeting where this table was reviewed.

Editorial comments after the jump...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Monday! Let Senator Murray know you value Student Data Privacy

The Senate HELP (Health Education Labor and Pensions committee) is negotiating over the re-authorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act.  We were told that there are Democrats on the committee who are pushing for relaxing limits on access to personal student data, and are saying that researchers should be able to obtain open-ended access to complete student data sets– and that they shouldn’t have to even specify which specific student level data they want for what purposes.

Please call Senator Patty Murray, who is a senior member of the HELP committee, and let her know strong controls and oversight of student data are important to you.

It is especially important that parents/advocates who live in the states represented by Dems below call on Monday.

Senator Murray's D.C. office:  (toll-free) 866-481-9186

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Seattle Schools Updates

Tweet from the district about priorities for 2014-2015:

During a retreat today, the School Board picked its top governance priorities for the 2014-15 school year: bell times analysis, multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), special education and stewardship of resources/internal controls.

First, shouldn't these "priorities" have been set at the end of the school year (so that everyone comes to the first day of school with those in mind)?

Second, someone would have to define the last priority, "stewardship of resources/internal controls."  If it means getting on the good foot for operations and watching over the dollars (like not spending them on pre-K junkets), great news.  

In other news:

On district-given assessments:

Pre School discussion event

Join the conversation
Should Seattle invest in prekindergarten education? Join Seattle Channel, Seattle CityClub and Town Hall Seattle for a live, televised community forum about the future of early childhood learning and hear from the supporters of two competing ballot measures—a city-backed plan to make high-quality preschool accessible and affordable and a union proposal seeking better pay and training for child-care workers.
Wednesday, September 24
6 p.m. doors|6:30 p.m. audience prep | 7 p.m. live show
Watch live on Seattle Channel 21 or SeattleChannel.org.

Admission is free, but seating is limited.
Sign up at SeattleCityClub.org or 206-682-7395.

Weigh in
Follow the conversation #SeattleSpeaks | Take the pre-show poll!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Open Thread

Update:  there is one Director Community meeting tomorrow - with Director Carr - from 8:30-10 am at Bethany Community Church with  a hard stop at 10 am as the Board also has its Board retreat tomorrow from 10:30-3:00 pm at JSCEE.  I would put up the agenda but it is not available.  Why it isn't available is always a mystery (although here's the Board agenda for the next school board meeting). I'll lay odds there will be discussion of preschool (which staff does want to do) and bell times (which staff doesn't want to do).  Good luck, Board members.

End of update.
(No, I am not officially back but I feel for Charlie.)  I see a lot has been happening.

It appears that the district IS creating a taskforce on Prevention and Response to Sexual Harassment (PRSH), apply by September 26th.

The district also wants public comments on the new 21-page Superintendent's Procedure on Sexual Harassment.

I also note that there is a district narrative of the "Garfield High School Field Trip."  I'm not sure I believe it is correct but that's their story and they are sticking to it.  (That may change if any legal action happens against the district.)

The big smackdown from the Supreme Court over McCleary did not happen as the Supreme Court allowed the Legislature this session to get - this - done.   But I can only say that I recall being much more worried about my mother when she was angry and quiet than angry and loud.

Besides getting McCleary done, it would be unwise for any legislator - or group of legislators - to believe that you can pit public education against social services.  If only it would be that easy but no, the Legislature is actually going to have to do some real work - rescinding tax breaks, cutting pet programs or gasp! maybe even an income tax.

From the "With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies" file comes a video that I suppose is in support of Common Core. It is by turns offensive, vague and just plain useless.  Apparently this marketing firm, Six One Seven Studios, did this all by itself (out of the goodness of their hearts).

From Politico:
Too many of the pro-Common Core videos were PowerPoints and talking heads,” Roberts said. “So we put out this video to help folks see the power of telling a fun but simple story with real people.”  I don't believe this story is simple (although Grandpa comes off like a simpleton) or those were "real" people.

Their website says they do "innovative, engaging and authentic" work.  If this is a good example of their work, they should worry.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Proposed Advanced Learning Policy

I now have a copy of the Advanced Learning policy brought forward by staff. It is essentially identical to the proposed policy that was roundly rejected by the Board about a year ago. It hasn't gotten better with time. The proposed policy is little different from the WSSDA model policy, which is crap.

The policy fails to fulfill the minimum requirements in that it does not say what kind of students HC services are for, it does not say why they need HC services, and it does not address the requirements of policy 2090:
The Board requires efficiency and effectiveness in all facets of its operations. In order to achieve this goal, the Board shall provide:
A. A clear statement of expectations for the district's instructional programs,
B. Staff, resources and support to achieve the stated expectations; and
C. A plan for evaluating instructional programs and services to determine how well expectations are being met.
 The full text of the proposed policy is after the jump.

The District's Real Response

This is good news.

It's beginning to look like Seattle Public Schools is finally going to take real action in response to the reported rape of November, 2012 and how that case exposed district failures in both prevention and response to sexual assault and harassment complaints. The real action from the District now includes improvements to both prevention and response. There had been nothing but talk so far, but now we're starting to see signs of real action - and, of course, the usual amount of forming a committee to make a plan to talk about proposing changes.

This real action includes:

Still remaining are:
  • Revisions to the Sexual Harassment Policy (the task force will take a year)
  • Training of Title IX Officers (no promises)
  • Staff training (Coming soon.)
  • Posting of required Title IX notices (Coming soon!)
  • Issuance of required written notifications of Title IX rights (referenced in revised procedure)
And, of course:
  • Actual compliance
Regrettably, the actual compliance may never come. Better rules don't help if people don't follow them, and Seattle Public Schools has a very poor record when it comes to following rules, enforcing rules, or holding people accountable for violating rules.

But let's give credit where credit is due. The credit should go first to those who did the hard work to shame the District in the national and local press which has caused them to take action. They would never have taken action without that. Credit should also go to those within the District who are now shuffling towards action and those few within the District who are driving that movement against the natural resistance.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

City of Seattle Pre-K Initiative

Here's a thread to discuss the City of Seattle's pre-k ambitions and their co-ordination, or lack thereof, with Seattle Public Schools.

The District's Title IX PR Effort

Seattle Public Schools has a real problem with Title IX compliance. They knew about this problem for years and took no action. Recently, these problems were exposed in the press. When the District started getting bad press about their Title IX problems they began to respond - to the PR problem.

I have long said that the School District only responds to three stimuli: litigation (or the threat of litigation), money, and bad press - especially bad national press. The District's senior leadership had no trouble with their Title IX failures until they were reported in the national media, in Al Jazeera America. Then they became a PR problem, and the District has responded to them as a PR problem.

Here is the heart of the District's PR response: a brand new district web page on Title IX.  This page can be found by clicking on Title IX on the Districts Departments page. I was not aware that the District had a Title IX department, but, apparently, the web managers think they do.

This page is still very new and its going through a lot of revision. It contains links to a number of interesting documents.

After some boilerplate language about how Seattle Public Schools does not discriminate, a description of Title IX, and a little blurb about sexual harassment, the announcements begin. As usual with Seattle Public Schools, their announcements are less interesting in what they say as they are in what they don't say.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tuesday Open Thread -NOT- on Wednesday

Ack! Melissa usually does this. Sorry I muffed it.

Here is your Tuesday open thread just one day late.

Did anyone attend the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting? Can we get a report? Has anyone seen the draft policy for Advanced Learning?

What else is going on?

Somehow, when I first created this thread I thought it was Wednesday. What a goob.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

So What Have They Done?

Since the sexual assault complaint that arose on a Garfield High School field trip to NatureBridge in November of 2012, we have heard from the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors and senior management about how seriously they regard it and how committed they are to tightening up procedures, policy, and compliance. But what have they actually done? Shockingly little. And let's remember that they have had almost two years since that day. Almost two years and they haven't really done anything.

We got the lip service. We got the crocodile tears. What we didn't get was any real movement towards improved policies, procedures, or practices. Nor have we seen any movement to hold anyone accountable for failures to follow the policy or procedures. Instead, we've seen the Board and the senior management close ranks to not only excuse the non-compliance, not only condone the non-compliance, but actually defend the non-compliance. I'm sorry, but how tragic do the outcomes have to be before anyone will take this seriously? Does someone have to die?

Oh, but they will claim that they have done so much. Really? What have they done?

Open Thread: Waitlists and Assignments

By request.  Discuss among yourselves.

CPPS: Tapping the Power of Parents

 From Community & Parents for Public Schools, Seattle (CPPS):

SEATTLE: Students win when families and schools work together, but not all parents engage equally. So Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle is bringing an acclaimed program to the city that strengthens ties to public schools by recruiting, placing and mentoring volunteers who might not otherwise participate.

NOW National PTA Wants Your Opinion on Common Core

Kind of late but okay.  Cast your vote.  Currently it's 89% against (38K+ votes) and 11% for (4600+votes).  PTA tweeted this yesterday:

Have your voice heard on ! Poll in advance of Sept @IQ2US debate wants to know if u "Embrace the " http://ow.ly/AveEH 

The link in the tweet takes you to a poll which is tied to an upcoming debate. The event will be live streamed here on September 9th at 6:45pm EST.

Where Do You Stand?

Seattle Schools This Week

 I will be taking a hiatus this week to do other things.  Charlie may or may not be able to provide the Open Threads for this week.

Monday, September 8th
Curriculum & Instruction Committee meeting from 4:30pm - 6:30 pm.  Agenda

Director Peaslee's Community Meeting Today Canceled

I receive a brief request to put up that Director Peaslee's Community meeting today at Northgate Branch Library has been canceled. No explanation. Also, the Northgate branch was kind enough to also let me know.

What's wrong with the District's narrative on NatureBridge?

Seattle Public Schools, and Board President Peaslee in particular, have been pushing a narrative about the November 2012 sexual assault that has been making a lot of people mad. Just in case you, or someone you know, has read the District's account and cannot see why people are angry about it, I will offer an explanation.

Here is the District's narrative.

Here's what's wrong with it:

Friday, September 05, 2014

Seattle Times, This One's For You

Guess what?  According to a new Brookings study, teachers matter. Principals matter.

Superintendents?  Not so much.


Items of Interest - Smarter Balanced/NCLB Waiver

The WEA did a survey of schools that field tested the Smarter Balanced assessments

The highest score - on a 1-4 scale - was "alignment with Common Core."  That came in at 2.65.

The lowest was a 1.72 for "Overall Impact of SBAC Practice and Administration on the School Day."

50% (!) of member respondents said it 11-20+ hours for student to take the test.

Also SB had an estimate of how long it would take students to complete tests in various subjects.  Most respondents said it was about one hour more than estimated.  (Learning curve?)

But when asked what were challenges to students in taking the LA test, the biggest one was
"keyboarding skills" followed by "test screen - split screen, navigation, scrolling."

For math, the biggest student issues were "test tools - fractions, calculator, graphs, formulas), followed by "difficult, above grade level."

The biggest concern for teachers was "Schedule disruptions, loss of instructional time."

About Washington's loss of its NCLB waiver:

Friday Open Thread

Two Community meetings with Board directors tomorrow, Sat. the 6th (I note that Blanford's was likely added in the last couple of days.)  They are so spaced out, you could conceivable go to both.

Director Blanford, 10 am-11:30 am, Capital Hill Branch Library

Director Peaslee, 3:30-4:30 pm, Northgate Branch Library

A student at a Seattle public school in Wallingford was hit by a car this morning after the car ran a red light.  The boy was taken to Harborview with a cut to the head.  SPS is providing counseling at his school as several other students were with the victim at the time.

According to the Times, the state's GET plan (for parents to save money for their child's college education) is doing well and is "fully solvent" according to the State's Actuary, Matt Smith.  He's saying the uptick from the recession combined with a freeze on state tuition rates made it happen.  The program had not been expected to be solvent until 2021

The price now, per unit, is $172; this is the same rate as the last two years.  Enrollment opens in November.

Pre-k in NYC?  Not going so well. 

What's on your mind?

Seattle Schools Updates


In my original thread, I mentioned that "several" staffers are to go on a trip to Toronto for an Asian American Alliance.  Now I get a press release - again, on info from the earlier thread - about who is going to the White House to represent SPS for a discussion about SPS' PE programs.  It's Superintendent Nyland.

It seems the invitation was just for superintendents from districts who have programs that are working well to share ideas (SPS' being PE).  I'm sure that despite the Superintendent being so new that staff will have him well-prepped for questions and, of course, he may come back with many good ideas from other districts.

As well, on the story of a student getting hit by a car in Wallingford today:
- it is a 7th grader
- he was being treated and would be released today

From SPS Communications:

There were also new flashing lights installed within the past week on 43rd/Stone as another safe crossing option for students. This came at the request of parents. This (incident) is on the other side of the schools, opposite of the accident intersection. 

End of updates

From last Friday's "Friday Memo" from the Superintendent

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Seattle School Board Comments from Last Night's Meeting

I only watched the Board comments and a bit more of the meeting.  (They moved at lightening speed and I think may have adjourned by 6:30 pm.)  This is NOT coverage of all their comments but just the issue-specific ones that they made.

I wish I had heard one Board member say that he or she was committed to following thru on every stated commitment and accountability measure that staff has said.  No one did.