Friday Open Thread

Threads to come - are the school funding numbers a Brad Bernatek kind of issue (meaning, the district has them wrong) or deliberate subterfuge?  What do these midterm elections mean for the state of public education in the U.S.A?

Next major drop of ballot counts for I-1351 is about 4:30 pm today.

OSPI reports that more Washington students are taking the SAT, PSAT and AP tests, across all racial subgroups. 

The state’s student performance remained relatively strong. SAT and PSAT saw a slight downturn in overall scores, but the number of AP scores of at least “3” — the score needed to earn college credit — increased 5.7 percent. 

I haven't watched this but there's a "Conversation with the Superintendent" at the district's channel.  It appears this will be a regular feature and you can submit questions.

Viewers are invited to submit questions for the Superintendent by emailing (please put “Conversation” in the subject line) or tweet @seapubschools #conversation 

Congrats to those filmmakers out at Ballard for their continued success at various film competitions.  

This month, three short films by students from the Ballard High School Digital Filmmaking Program were winners at Fresh Film Northwest. This competitive regional festival is coordinated by the Northwest Film Center in Portland, Oregon. It accepts entries from filmmakers ages 13 to 19 in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Only 10 films were winners at this year’s festival.

This is the tenth year in a row that students from Ballard’s Digital Filmmaking Program have been winners at the event.

Winners include:
- Air Pressure by Coleman Andersen, Leo Pfeifer & Josh Vredevoogd, is about a disaster at the World Balloon Animal Championship.  This film has already won numerous other prizes.
- Clipped Wings by Coleman Andersen, Duncan Gowdy & Leo Pfeifer about the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay scouts/leaders.
- Raven Rock by Rachel Cole, Jaya Flanary & Meagen Tajalle. It concerns a treatment program that pairs survivors of childhood abuse with abused horses for mutual healing. 

Saturday Community Meetings
Director Carr - 8:30-10:00 am at Bethany Community Church
Director McLaren - 11:00 am-12:30 pm at High Point Branch Library

What's on your mind?


David said…
I'm looking at the "Seattle Public Schools Fast Facts & Figures" the District just sent out. Am I wrong that they must be spending less than half their budget on teachers?

It says that there are 3,122 teachers and a budget of $689M. Even if they were paying $100k per teacher, and they are not, that would be less than half the budget going to teachers.

The District usually claims that 70% of budget goes to teachers, which is already too low, but this makes it look like maybe only 45% of budget goes to teachers. What's going on?

This seems to be confirmed by the FTE count, which is 6,436. So, only 3,122 of 6,436 full time employees are teachers, or only 49%.

How could this be correct? Is it really true that less than half of the budget should be going for teachers and less than half of the full time employees should be teachers? Shouldn't most of the budget be for teachers? And what would happen to class sizes, teacher salaries, and educational outcomes if, for example, 80% of the FTE and budget were going to teachers standing in front of a classroom instead of what appears to be below 50%?
sylvia said…
I was looking at that sheet too and noticed the staffing numbers. What interests me is that there are 3314 non-teacher staff. This comes out to 34 non-teacher staff per school (using the 97 schools number on the sheet). Am I reading this right? What is all this non-teacher staff doing? It seems like a large amount of staff per school I think.
K said…
I am thinking about the upcoming Wa. State Supreme court decision regarding I 1240.

Charter school supporters are using the argument that Running Start allows for alternative forms of education. This is true. However, one major difference between Running Start and charter schools is that Running Start does not require college campuses to be turned over to private entities!!!

Eric B said…
David and Syliva, the total cost of a teacher (salary, benefits, taxes, etc.) is in the neighborhood of $100K. I think it's a little lower, but $100K is a nice round number. On the non-teacher staff side, there are a lot of people in schools that aren't teachers: Elementary schools all have a principal, maybe an assistant principal, office staff, custodians, nurse, cafeteria staff, librarian, maybe a counselor, SpEd specialists (these may be teachers, not sure), etc. Once you get to middle and high school, there are attendance staff, student success team staff, and a bunch of other people.

FTE-wise, I'd guess that it's 8-10 non-teacher staff in elementary schools, 10-20 in middle schools and 30-40 in high school. That may be high but probably not low.
Meg said…
I think there's a mistake in the enrollment numbers. The headcount presented to the board in Friday memos not only doesn't match the headcount filed with OSPI, but indicates that enrollment dropped between September and October, which not only has never happened, but... isn't what the numbers filed with OSPI say. Using the limited amount of enrollment data that's been made publicly available, there are a number of other oddities (the 1251 reports on OSPI indicate that 9th grade enrollment dropped by 500 students between September and October?!?!?) that indicate an error has been made. Enrollment numbers drive funding at the school and district level, so getting it right is really, really important. But JSCEE staff has been secretive with enrollment data and unwilling to discuss the strangeness of some of the numbers.

On teaching staff: the number of teachers responsible for direct instruction may be even lower.

Several years ago, professional development staff were classified as part of central administration (because they are). When substantial central administration costs were pointed out, district leadership reclassified professional development staff as teachers, using the rationale that since most PD staff have a teaching certification, they are therefore all teachers. As far as I know, PD staff continues to be classified as teaching staff.
Patrick said…
One of my child's middle school teacher has been made a star mentor teacher. I'm happy for the honor this is for the teacher, but really sad that it means she leaves 1/3 of the way through the year and we get a substitute for probably the rest of the year. I don't see why they can't hire their mentor teachers for the end of a school year.
Just Saying said…
"I think there's a mistake in the enrollment numbers. The headcount presented to the board in Friday memos not only doesn't match the headcount filed with OSPI, but indicates that enrollment dropped between September and October, which not only has never happened, but... isn't what the numbers filed with OSPI say. Using the limited amount of enrollment data that's been made publicly available, there are a number of other oddities (the 1251 reports on OSPI indicate that 9th grade enrollment dropped by 500 students between September and October?!?!?) that indicate an error has been made"

Wow. that is amazing. 500 students X 6000k per student= $3M

This is a serious mistake. Thanks for checking the numbers, Meg.
Jane said…
I hope administration isn't playing games with numbers to fund administrative staff.
Anonymous said…
David I think that is right. Less than half the budget on people who face kids. And worse, I think a lot of those counted as teachers need see kids at all. We spend an atrociously high amount on administration and consultants.

As an aside I have wondered if this was part of the messaging problem for I-1351. I know that class sizes are not great in many parts of the state, but for many districts(not just wealthy ones- poorer suburbs or small cities)they are really not that bad. My relatives blanch at the numbers my kids have. Other districts just don't allow these shiny strategy PowerPoint making consultants to use up all their teacher budgets, so they have reasonable class sizes (and full time math and reading specialists in every building, nurses, counselors...)

Patrick that's terrible. There is no way whatever good that teacher is going to do for the next 2/3rds of the year outweighs the disruption to the kids at school. We already have lost so many good teachers to "mentoring" positions, the same way we lose good principals to district region director/consultant positions (leaving a much poorer pool to pick from). If he or she really wanted to leave the school and this is when a job opened up they could take, I guess that's one thing, but if this is district MO, blech.

Anonymous said…
Meg -

PLEASE send your concerns to the Super and the Board.


Signed - Math Counts
Anonymous said…
Meg -

Although I can see how 9th grade enrollment might "drop" but only if 10th grade went up: if, for instance, the 9th graders from last year who didn't have enough credits to advance in the computer system for this year suddenly either had the credits to advance, or submitted some type of waiver, or had done summer credits and those credits were all suddenly processed at once - so I could understand a big drop in 9th grade, but only via reclassification as 10th graders.

Did the numbers for 10th go up a somewhat similar amount?

Signed - Math Counts
Anonymous said…
Washington Post celebrates that Seattle voted to tax itself for preschool for the poor.

Um, choosing to tax ourselves for preschool is nothing new!!! We have already been taxing ourselves for preschool for many years through a myriad of programs. We have supported head start and ECEAP, and it is the f-ing legislators who are in the back pocket of the 1% that refused to fully fund the successful programs that already exist.

What is new is that this is the Mayor and right wing dems disguising themselves as liberals. They are simultaneously stealing space and resources in our already overcrowded schools, starving our k-12 schools for the past 10 years while giving huge tax preferences to the uber wealthy, and building a whole new and expensive administration to drill and test those poor little black kids and call it quality preschool. Oh, and then there is the whole underlying strategy to privatize our public schools with mayoral control.

Oh, and even further, the taxes actually hurt the poor and middle class even further, and who really benefits? Where is all that money going?

This is why you've got all the Tea Part-ier calling for smaller government. It's the war on the 99% and they killing us.

eyeswide opennow
The 17% number Brad came up with was not 'wrong' as in it was a simple mistake - it was crafted by him carefully.
Meg said…
Enrollment is usually at its highest in October, for the district as a whole and for all grade bands.

Typically, all grade bands also have an increase between September and October.

High school school enrollment consistently increases between September and October (at least based on records available, which go back to 1997-98) by an average of 476 headcount or 418 FTE (okay, I only averaged it back to 2001-02).

At the high school level, there's only been a grade level drop once, in 2006-07, when the 12th grade decreased by 3 students. Which makes a 500 student drop at a grade level really stand out.

So, did 10th grade increase to compensate?


10th grade had a 232 student jump between September and October, which falls in the range of normal.

Adding to the weirdness, at the high school level, the HS increase between Sept and Oct is higher for FTEs than headcount - a reported 404.8FTE increase but only a 203 actual student increase. Which seems... weird.

And yes, I've been in touch with staff and board members about this.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
Since it's doubtful Meg is wrong - what would be the benefit to SPS to "fudge" the numbers? The ability to spend more at admin? Seems like if you need fewer teaching staff because you have fewer students...then wouldn't you need fewer people in admin to oversee??

Something smells mighty rotten in the state of Denmark... or someone goofed big time. Either way, its deeply concerning. Basic enrollment counts seem like something that shouldn't be problematic.

mirmac1 said…
I get the feeling the Budget and Finance office isn't happy about the kerfuffle caused by the Dep Superintendent and his process improvement methods... And, yes, I'll bet he wants more for his smorgasbord of Strategic Plan projects.
Anonymous said…
reposting, because I spotted this bogus numbers and no one really got it

The way SSD is funded from the State for 'body count' is one thing, the way SSD then mashes this info into facilities for capital planning is another. By 'hiding' students that were NOT hidden before, they make the 'numbers' less bad for capacity purposes, but, they still get the dough for each kid from the State. Really, that is what they are doing. They've recast certain types of students and then erasing them from counts so that the facilities situation, i.e., Garfield, and, all high schools north, don't look so bad. I call that cooking the books.


10/31/14, 4:34 PM
@Meg, Kellie

They, SPS are just having fun cooking the books! Heck, math is hard! Counting is difficult...

SPS clearly didn't like what the numbers were telling them, so presto change-O, they reclassified different kinds of kids into different buckets and then didn't count them. Neat trick!!

But it doesn't solve the problem for anybody. It actually makes it worse. If you can't see the bad news, you certainly aren't going to be planning for it. (Not that planning is something SPS typically does anyway even with good information).

The principle of Garfield told everybody at the PTSA meeting enrollment was 1,688. Say what you will about Mr. Howard, but I have a lot more faith that he knows how many kids are in his building then Natasha might. He is the one who's got to have a master schedule to get them credits to graduate.

Maybe the folks in the district spent too many years with every day math, so the diffuse and confuse methodology is all they really can cope with.

If Meg can't reconcile the numbers, it is because they are irreconcilable. That should be a GIGANTIC red flag.

Or maybe they could put a preschool in Garfield with all that extra space

10/31/14, 4:34 PM
Anonymous said…
Patrick, I had never heard of that program, but what you are saying is simply appalling. How can the district think that the best thing to do with a great teacher is pull him/her out of the classroom?

Former SPSParent
cmj said…
According to the district's website, they have approximately 9000 employees total, including approximately 3100 teachers (3122 for 2014-2015). I could understand if the page were merely out of date, but the page was also updated recently to reflect the 2014-2015 numbers. Either the editor forgot to update the bit about 9000 employees, or there are about 2500 more employees in addition to the 6436 FTE.
Anonymous said…
Oh look. The Seattle Times Education Lab is running out of rhetoric and recycled fake research to print, so now they're heading to Shoreline.

Watching said…

Do you know for certain that the Deputy Superintendent was involved?

The Seattle Times indicates that SEA might contract with the city's prek program.
Jonathan Mark said…
The UW has surveyed legislative candidates on 4 questions of interest. One of the questions is:

"Do you support expanding the definition of 'basic education' in Washington to include higher ed & early learning?"

It seems that the UW wants to get its fingers in the McCleary pie.

2014 Candidate Survey Results
Anonymous said…
Apparently the culture of "lawlessness" extends to other school districts.. we have a Fayetville/Sayetville here in two districts.

First up this prize in Hoquiam

Then this news out of Lake Washington District

Gee you think there is a bigger issue here.

- just asking
Joe Wolf said…
I lived in Minneapolis for awhile and have many friends there. Here, an amazing piece by Minneapolis Public Schools kindergarten teacher Greta Callahan. Greta teaches at Bethune Elementary, which serves one of the most impoverished parts of the city.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
Congratulations to the School of Distinction winners; the award goes to schools representing the top 5% in the state in terms of improvement:

Seattle 2014 School of Distinction winners

Catharine Blaine K-8 School*
Cleveland High School*
Franklin High School
Greenwood Elementary School*
Hamilton International Middle School*
Ingraham High School
Maple Elementary School
McDonald International Elementary School
Mercer International Middle School*
Pathfinder K-8 School
Wing Luke Elementary School*

*denotes schools that have won in previous years

apparent said…


when you get the chance, maybe you could add a definition of HCC or Highly Capable Cohort to your excellent right-hand column of education acronyms. This is the new SPS term for what was until recently the APP or Accelerated Progress Program, but HCC seems also to include those identified students who stay at their neighborhood schools. Thanks for your valuable blog.
Pseudonymous, fyi, I covered this a week ago. It's fine to reprint but we did discuss this.
Transparency Please said…
Let's remember that the city's prek initiative will be overseen by the Family and Education Committee and 4 mayoral appointments. We can not point to a SINGLE ELECTED official that can/will take responsibility for the committee's recommendation.

Who will take responsibility? The Chair of the Ed. Committee- Burgess? Will the mayor take responsibility for the oversight committee? Or, will Burgess and Murray point fingers at each other? Or, perhaps no one is responsible for the Oversight Committee.

I reject the "skin in the game" argument.

Unfortunately, we have a city that supports "feel good" initiatives, but voters fail to understand complexities of initiatives.
Transparency Please said…
In essence, the Family and Education Oversight Committee has NO responsibility to the voters.

This will be very convenient for Burgess and Murray.
Transparency Please said…
Lastly, let's look at the fact that the city's prek initiative will involve FOUR levels of government...the feds, state, city and school district.

TP, also 1B repeatedly, in comments and at their website, said there was an "oversight committee" for 1B when it is just the addition of 4 people to the F&E levy oversight committee.

Also, I need to make it clear to the Board - as Burgess did not at a Work Session - that the district has NO guaranteed seat as part of 1B. They have seats on the F&E oversight committee but no new seats via 1B.
Transparency Please said…
NO ONE on the Oversight Committee can or will be voted out of office. Very big difference compared to an elected board or elected position.

Really makes me wonder.....
Lynn said…
Those high school numbers do look,very odd. Has anyone seen the school by school September numbers?
Maureen said…
Meg, how likely is it that the spring numbers were off? I believe that Ingraham was told to expect well over 400 freshmen, but ended up with fewer (can't recall the actual numbers - not enough to add up t0 500 across all of the HSs.) Are the September numbers actually just the spring numbers plus anyone new who registered over the summer, or are they an actual head count?
Meg said…
The September numbers are from enrollment numbers filed with OSPI. They're actual enrollment numbers for that month.

On the OSPI site, choose Seattle from the drop-down menu. The reports I looked at are the 1251 forms, available as FTE or headcount.
dw said…
Joe, thank you for posting the link to that story. It's not only touching, but it really spells out in specific, real-world ways, why the current push to make teachers accountable for standardized test results is BS. It makes some other good, but less obvious points as well, and I'm disappointed in the lack of comments here. I wonder if others read it and didn't comment, or maybe it simply needs more promotion?

Here's the link, in clickable form: Walk A Mile In My Teaching Shoes. It's written by a kindergarten teacher in a very, very impoverished area. Really worth reading. I feel like I've heard/read/seen a lot, but this managed to push the boundaries.

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