Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tuesday Open Thread

I guess Melissa is unavailable today, so here is an Open Thread.  What is on your mind?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Went glamping with my sons; had a good, reflective time.

JvA said...

I loved this two-part This American Life series about segregation in U.S. schools.


mirmac1 said...

The Special Education PTSA offers up an opportunity to partner with Seattle Schools. I believe we will find common ground on many issues, and work towards compromise on others. In the end, we are working towards the same goal. And should work together.

Dear Superintendent Nyland,

As President of the Seattle Special Education PTSA, I have the honor and privilege of representing hundreds, if not thousands of students receiving special education, and their families. The PTSA board has been busy this summer, building our communications and outreach so that we are ready to serve our members and community come start of school. We've also had the opportunity to collaborate with district SpEd Dept staff on matters of low importance yet as our show of good faith. The few arrangements we've discussed may lead to greater trust and understanding of the needs and rights of our students.

In that spirit the PTSA Board offers the attached draft Charter (will be posted shortly) as the model we would hope Seattle Schools would adopt in ALL their school buildings. Please review it and discuss it internally. We would be happy to discuss any particular points - and welcome any edits that would make this document something you would adopt and pass on to your staff. We feel strongly that the school year should start with a firm positive statement of inclusion, equity and full citizenship status for our students.

On a separate matter, the PTSA Board was deeply concerned to hear of a district proposal raised in collective bargaining that would essentially render instructional assistants (IAs) as on-call subs or "floaters" managed by central staff (or some variant of this arrangement). We strongly object to this change for many reasons, including:

1. Reducing the availability or reliability of IA presence in buildings will seriously diminish the support our children and teachers need. Given the district's issues with locating and retaining highly-qualified certificated special educators, reduction of IAs serves at cross-purposes with retaining great teachers.

2. Many of our children are particularly sensitive to change and need predictable classroom staffing. All other students seem to enjoy this privilege. This is not equitable.

3. IAs provide direct service to the district's most vulnerable students at the bargain rate of $17/hour. Over the last year, we have observed a tremendous increase in central staff with high salaries who do NOT provide direct service. Invest in our classrooms.

4. Predictable staffing levels, knowledgeable staff and efficient service should remain as set in the CBA, and established by the IEP team based on students' individual needs. The IEP team is no less a contract than the CBA. As we've seen from recent events at Stevens and B.F. Day, failure to abide by an IEP (and thereby IDEA) harms children and places the district at risk.

5. IAs that move from building to building will never become part of a school community. Building leaders will have a difficult time maintaining a consistent service delivery model and vision in their buildings. It takes a village/school to nurture and educate a child.

6. The PTSA has very real concerns that individuals without deep knowledge of an individual student's needs (e.g. program specialists, administrators) will "gate-keep" the vital, cost-effective services provided by IAs.

Finally, the PTSA Board wants to thank you in advance Dr. Nyland for considering our deep concerns on this matter. We are committed to work with the district on issues like these, in the interests of our children's education.


Cecilia McCormick
Seattle Special Education PTSA

Special Education Area Director
Seattle Council PTSA

mirmac1 said...

Seattle Special Education PTSA CHARTER

The Seattle Special Education PTSA proposes a partnership and charter with Seattle Schools affirming that ALL students with disabilities are general education students first and foremost. Students with disabilities are general education students who also receive special education services. Educating students with disabilities is the responsibility of all school staff, not just special educators. Everyone working in our public schools has the duty to welcome students with disabilities as: full members of their school communities; and, as capable students on the path to becoming successful adult citizens.

The goal of the Seattle Special Education PTSA is to partner with the district and school staff to provide rich and equitable educational opportunities for students with disabilities. The Seattle Special Education PTSA identifies five key, related priorities to consider when educating students with disabilities in schools: Inclusion, Citizenship, Discipline, Individual Goals, and Academic Excellence.

1. Inclusion. All students with disabilities, even those who are primarily educated in self-contained settings, are entitled to a “seat” in regular, general education classrooms. They should participate in general education to the maximum extent appropriate for them as individuals, not the maximum extent that is least troublesome. The WA Supreme Court has ruled that students in special education are entitled to both a general educator and a special educator and are funded accordingly. While goals for students with disabilities may be different than for others (sometimes vastly different), schools should be “ready” for students with disabilities – because students with disabilities are ready for inclusion.

2. Citizenship. Students with disabilities are full members of their schools and communities. They must be afforded equal access to the breadth of offerings at their schools. This includes access to neighborhood schools, extracurricular activities, field trips, camps, sports, arts, enrichment, academic support, leadership training, and activities supporting career and college readiness.

mirmac1 said...

3. Discipline. All students, including those with disabilities should be placed in schools with positive behavioral and emotional supports. The guiding principle in all school discipline is to instruct students in prosocial behavior. Suspensions should be minimized if used at all, and only if they are deemed appropriate by IEP teams. Our students should not be suspended or excluded for “incompliant” behavior. Restraints are never intended as discipline and should only be used for safety. Aversive Intervention Plans have no place in schools.

4. Individual Goals. The “I” in IDEA and the “I” in IEP stands for individual. Students’ individual, unique needs must be addressed by all school programs. Program scope, standards, curricula, testing and other norms must be flexible and accommodate students with a wide variety of needs and interests. When students are clustered together, physically or instructionally, because of their disability or deficits, they are robbed of their individuality and dignity.

5. Academic Excellence. Students with disabilities deserve high academic expectations – with support and accommodations. It is a constant balancing act. Students with disabilities need many opportunities to access and excel at age-appropriate, and standard materials – as well as high quality, research based alternate materials. Special education programs and classrooms should have well-defined curricula available. Like all students, students with disabilities need highly-qualified content area specialists, and certificated teachers – not ever-changing subs.

We look forward to working with Superintendent Nyland and staff on these critically important goals. Thank you for your service and dedication to educating our children. Cecilia McCormick, President

Melissa Westbrook said...

JvA, I only heard the second part and I've got to listen to the first one. I think it important to listen to as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mirmac and Seattle Special Education PTSA!

-Sped Advocate

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the letter to Dr. Nyland. There are other negative SPED proposals at the bargaining table , as well, that all seem to serve as saving money on the backs of our most vulnerable students. I was not surprised about the IA proposal as I saw this coming last year when they were trying to cut one-to-ones, which I think should be an IEP team decision based on student need, and not a district level decision. They are also trying to change caseload levels for some programs, by INCREASING the ratio of students to a teacher, instead of the other way around, which would obviously be better for students. We have an increase in funding this year of about 38K, so we should be seeing this money used to make working conditions, which are our students learning environment, better and not worse. Maybe they have other plans for that money, such as paying the exorbitant salaries of the bloat at the district administration. As a teacher, I see them adding more and more at the top, while seeing less and less at the classroom level. I hope they adopt the charter, as that is a beautiful document that could guide their actions, instead of what I am seeing now, which is basically nothing. I have no idea what those people do because none of it trickles down to me.
SPED Teacher

Anonymous said...

SPED Teacher, you need to look closely at what our board candidates are proposing as FIXES to these issues. You and your follow teachers should back the candidates who are publicly detailing their ideas for changes, which so far I haven't seen anything of substance from anyone.

Looks like another status quo election cycle in Seattle.

Hale parent

Anonymous said...

sped teacher, do tell: what are the ratios proposals? wonder why that info is not coming out.


Anonymous said...

JvA - Great link, thank you.

This case study about TFA in Seattle is worth a read too:


Carol Simmons said...

Excellent charter and letter to the Superintendent. My only revision would be under 3. Discipline. This should be changed from "suspensions should be minimized if used at all" to "suspensions should be eliminated."

The comment from Hale parent is important......what are Board candidates proposing?

IA's should be increased, not decreased. Additionally they should not be placed in a rotating or rolling manner for all of the reasons listed above, plus many more.

Thank you

Melissa Westbrook said...

Parent and Teacher, I worked with the writer of that report, Alexandra Hootnick. She did an exceptionally good job but I will note that TFA is not meeting their quotas as the economy gets better and TFA looks worse.

Anonymous said...

Melissa - You are everywhere, doing everything! Very impressive.
It was a great piece, but I must note that it closes, like every other TFA piece, with the featured TFAer saying "I love teaching! So much so that I want to work for the TFA organization!" Ummmm, if you really loved teaching, wouldn't you....keep teaching?


Anonymous said...

Replace the One-Size Fits-All Diploma

Washington State should replace its current one-size fits all diploma with three diplomas, similar to New York State’s Local, Regents, and Advanced Regents diplomas.

It is my belief that this State needs three different diplomas to radically improve the current system for all students. The current requirements for a diploma are inadequate because they contribute to a system operating largely as a one-size fits-all system instead of respecting the vast diversity in the student population. It fails to provide an appropriate educational opportunity that meets each student’s needs.

Politicians like aspirational goals that are strong on rhetoric and weak on contact with reality. No Child Left Behind was going to have 100% of students proficient by 2014. Our state legislators want “internationally competitive standards” achieved by all. The current plan of one-diploma with high stakes testing and college ready courses, when universally applied to all students as a graduation requirement, has no chance of success because it makes no sense.

On August 5, the State Board of Education lowered the cut score on the SBAC testing for passing to below the “standard score for proficient”. Then explained that this was done to ease the transition for our system and demonstrate fairness to students. This statement was needed to maintain the dual illusions of fairness and quality in this unfair one-diploma system.

This current system is incredibly weak on fairness to students. If the current monolithic graduation requirements were rigorously applied it would be a “school to unemployment pipeline” for a significant number of pupils. Thus we find fakery and dishonesty in place of rigor. The current system results in teachers fudging the passing requirements for many courses as well as the lowering of cut scores on state assessments.

For several years, 25% of 8th grade students have been scoring at far below basic on the MSP Math assessment. The SBE’s expectations for high school students avoid reality and harm many students. We must offer appropriate remedial courses and revise the diploma situation to move forward with a system that provides appropriate instruction for all and maximizes the educational opportunity for each student regardless of ability.

For the betterment of all students we should put in place three levels of diplomas and the instruction to support students in attaining these diplomas:

(1) The Academic Diploma with current graduation requirements in place in regard to credits in required courses and measures of proficiency.

(2) An Advanced Academic Diploma (similar to NY State’s Advanced Regents Diploma) that requires ACT or International Baccalaureate proficiency in at least four subject areas as well as Math credits through Pre-Calculus, a foreign language and meets all other current course requirements for graduation.

(3) The General Diploma, which would require math through Algebra and the passing of an End of Year Algebra assessment similar to the current Math 1 EoC as well as other realistic graduation requirements. (See NY State’s local diploma.)

-- Dan Dempsey

dan dempsey said...

Nevada picks new test vendor after online Common Core Testing Debacle

dan dempsey said...

Remember Jeb Bush's pushing of Common Core and then an apparent reversal in the Fox News Republican debate.

Well here is the rest of the story from the National Review online. It provides an excellent synopsis of the whole sordid Common Core history.

Jeb's misleading Common Core talk.

Jeb’s Common Core answer was well-practiced, yet profoundly misleading. The whole trick of Common Core is to make an end-run around the legal and constitutional barriers to a national curriculum, even as you deny that you’re doing it. Bush and his Common Core-supporting allies have been pretending to favor local control for years. Yet Jeb has repeatedly backed the most controversial Obama administration moves to consolidate what amounts to a national curriculum. A careful look at Bush’s record makes his actual views all-too-clear.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dan dempsey said...


Above is a link to my blog that contains the same "Replace the One-Size Fits-All Diploma" piece printed at 10:46 PM.

dan dempsey said...

Reader, How recently have you taught high school?

If you think that currently all students are receiving appropriate instruction to maximize their learning and meet their needs, I would like to know how you arrived at that position. It certainly is not apparent from your comment at 1:07 AM.

Read up on the Zone of Proximal Development.

The zone of proximal development, often abbreviated as ZPD, is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. It is a concept introduced, yet not fully developed, by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934) during the last ten years of his life. Vygotsky stated that a child follows an adult's example and gradually develops the ability to do certain tasks without help. Vygotsky and some other educators believe that the role of education is to give children experiences that are within their zones of proximal development, thereby encouraging and advancing their individual learning.

Effective learning takes place with great efficiency in the ZPD.

"Get over yourself. High school just isn't that big of a deal."

So I suppose learning effectively and efficiently in high school isn't that big a deal either.

Sorry I am not buying your line as kids deserve better.

n said...

Dan, kids get the same menial and higher work with a GED as they do with any diploma. I'm sort of inclined to agree with Reader. And college is open to all pretty much starting with community colleges even without degrees I believe. It's never too late to achieve once your determined to do so. Having three diplomas seems like it raises the competition level and places even more pressure on kids. I want to encourage students to love learning for its own sake.

Anonymous said...

Dan, re: your 3 diploma options:

#1 - Already have it
#2 - Don't need it. These kids will be off to college, and colleges know how to interpret transcripts. College degrees and/or experience will then be what matters.
#3 - So a lowering of the bar, in order to increase graduation rates? Some might call that fakery! Why not focus instead on trying to make sure kids a good enough foundation that they CAN pass the basic requirements? The requirements do not seem unreasonable--it's just that we have not done a good job getting kids ready to meet them. I would favor more intensive efforts to bring kids up to standard, as opposed to just saying it's too hard and we should just expect less.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, no name calling allowed. You can repost without calling Dan names, please.

Anonymous said...

Received an email on this today:

Nathan Hale is currently seeking applicants to fill the open teaching positions of Jazz Band, Vocal Jazz and Choir. The position could be filled by a single person or split between 2 people depending on the qualifications and interest of the applicants. The position is posted online at: http://sps.ss8.sharpschool.com/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=16489). It is open for applications until August 18th. Please spread the word to any qualified applicants or people who may know of qualified applicants.

So it looks like Hale's teacher is not returning after the incident in Reno.


Melissa Westbrook said...

HP, that's interesting because the person who had been the Orchestra teacher had to leave because the position got cut back. And now Hale might have a full FTE or two half FTE? Confusing.

dan dempsey said...

n and HF,

I appreciate the thoughts.

#1 Pearson now controls the GED in most states. It is entirely different and GED pass rates have collapsed. SEE THIS

#2 In theory getting students better prepared sounds great but it is not happening. Some of that might be placed on kids but the level of mis-education provided is an ongoing problem.

#3 I spent two years teaching a one period course to prepare students to pass the Nevada High School Proficiency Math exam. Kids needed to know a variety of different math topics including Algebra and Geometry but none of it unreasonably difficult and with an appropriate cut score for passing. (I know the cut was appropriate by looking at kids scores and their skills). A good knowledge of topics presented in a rigorous 8th grade math course would be sufficient to pass. I am fine with this .... but this is not where testing is headed. In NV passing an End of Course test at the end of Algebra Class and at the End of Geometry Class is now happening and will likely be graduation requirements for all students. .... The School to Unemployment pipeline.

#4 In the light of many high schools teaching NO CLASSES below Algebra I, consider
Math proficiency of entering 9th grade students from grade 8 MSP testing in Math in Spring 2013.

Statewide Results grade 8 math, percentage of students scoring at far below basic:
25.7% - All Students
37.4% - Low Income Students
20.8% - White Students
45.3% - Black/ African American Students
38.7% - Hispanic Students
14.7% - Asian/ Pacific Islander Students
48.7% - American Indian / Alaska Native Students

Cuts in funding and increases in school funding have been shown to have a much greater impact on the achievement of disadvantaged learners than students without such challenges.

#5. The SBE is pretending to make sense out of nonsense by calling it fairness.

dan dempsey said...


I wrote: "For the betterment of all students we should put in place three levels of diplomas and the instruction to support students in attaining these diplomas:"

and you wrote:
"I would favor more intensive efforts to bring kids up to standard, as opposed to just saying it's too hard and we should just expect less."

Are we not saying nearly the same thing?

Is there a problem with a more challenging standard for those who choose it?

dan dempsey said...

Of 14 adult members on the State Board of Education, 5 have at least some k-12 teaching experience.

Anonymous said...

The really ridiculous thing is the following assumption: "If everyone gets a super education - then they will all have better, higher paying jobs."

This is the claim without evidence. (Sorry to use CCSS edubabble. I've gotten so used to it, it's hard to avoid!) We will still need "menial" labor when everyone who applies shows up with a Ph.D. They won't be better workers, and they won't make more money. In that case, we'll have people loaded down with student debt who are still making basically minimum wage. This is the case now. Wages are driven by availability of work - not smartness of workers. If we want people to make more money - we should raise minimum wages so that they do. Sending everyone to "college" is an economic investment bubble - not unlike the housing bubble. I agree with you - we need lower "standards", but more opportunities for real personal development. Our current idea that education is pipeline to wealth - is simply outdated. Education is a pipeline employment as an industrial employee. Unfortunately, the thing we need is creativity and entrepreneurship. Risk taking. CCSS - is the opposite. No risk there. Just write CER papers - and call it good.

There simply is no mileage in more levels of high school diplomas. It doesn't make the smart, capable students - any smarter. And for them - the high school diploma, on its own, is pretty worthless. Nobody cares about it. Nobody cares that you were awesome in high school. Truly nobody. Your first few employers care that you went to college - and where. After that, even the college diploma value fades. So why should schools invest in a complex scheme - which increases inequity?

For low achievers, strugglers, students with disabilities - "fakery" is simply disrespectful. Teachers do what they must to get students over the hump. And believe me I have direct, up to date experience with this. Yes. Schools could be more efficient. Teach more. If they were better. No. More levels of diplomas isn't it though. Fewer high school requirements would be a bonus to these students. They could focus on talents they do actually have - instead of slogging through material that doesn't benefit them. It's the learning - not the words on the diploma paper.

And finally - there's probably some low achievers - who could be high achievers. Would shooting at a "better diploma" be the thing that motivates them? I don't see that. There are already "better diplomas" available: IB. It's available for all students. There are AP classes for which you can get college credit. And many schools have special whiz bang diploma enhancers and programs. Biotech Academy, etc.

Don't need more diploma levels. Not to worry. It won't happen, no matter how many times you write it on a blog.


dan dempsey said...


You wrote "The really ridiculous thing is the following assumption: "If everyone gets a super education - then they will all have better, higher paying jobs." ... To which I am in complete agreement.

My proposal for three diplomas is entirely focused on improving the opportunity for each student to receive an education that effectively and efficiently meets that student's needs and interests.

Your words above that "For low achievers, strugglers, students with disabilities - .... Fewer high school requirements would be a bonus to these students. They could focus on talents they do actually have - instead of slogging through material that doesn't benefit them. It's the learning - not the words on the diploma paper." in fact support the need to replace the one-size fits-all diploma.

The 24 credit graduation requirement is likely on the way for all in the current monolithic system.

For the betterment of all students we should put in place three levels of diplomas and the instruction to support students in attaining these three diplomas and more importantly providing appropriate courses and instruction.

In regard to struggling students, the current system is not meeting their needs and the situation appears headed for even worse in the future. There is a need for programs of instruction to support these students. That is just one reason I recommend the General Diploma.

dan dempsey said...


Wrote: "Schools could be more efficient. Teach more. If they were better. No. More levels of diplomas isn't it though. Fewer high school requirements would be a bonus to these students. They could focus on talents they do actually have - instead of slogging through material that doesn't benefit them. It's the learning - not the words on the diploma paper."

Exactly it is the learning. School Admins are driven by requirements and often "top-down" requirements. Program offerings will continue to suffer under the current system. Three levels of diplomas will improve the system by releasing students, teachers, and administrators from some of the current uniform mandated nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Dan, the only thing that makes sense - is fewer requirements. Not different hoops. 3 Diplomas fixes nothing really. Ever changing. People changing their minds. Stigmas. Etc. Get rid of the requirements... and btw, the standards. That's essentially what reducing the cut score is... and killing Bio EOC. Unfortunately - everyone had to suffer through it all - only to find out they didn't actually matter - or even count towards graduation. I think the kids did learn at least something in the process though. But man o man - the pain.


Anonymous said...


There is no way with 24 credits for graduation a possibility that the one-size diploma will have fewer requirements. The only way I see to improve the situation is the three diplomas with a focus on supporting students.

If someone has a better idea that has a chance for legislative approval let's hear it. Until then I will push for 3 diplomas.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

No way with 24 credits, that the 3 diploma thing will fly either. If you slog through the 24 credits, being lifted over ever obstacle, you're gonna want the real diploma, eg, the highest one. How not? Since students with disabilities typically take at least 1 iep/study -skills/learning lab class, how will they ever have room in their schedules to take 24 credits? Most high schools require that. Guess that guarantees that students with disabilities will all require at least 5 years, and possibly 6. Ka-Ching. At least now there will be a transition plan... simply finishing high school.


dan dempsey said...


If 24 credits are required for an Advanced Diploma the is no reason the 21 credits could not be the requirement for the General diploma.

If 24 credits are required of all in our one-size fits-all system look for:

1) Credit recovery options (likely online that will be bogus) to make up failed classes

2) The percentage of students not completing high school to rise.

3) An increase in students with 504s that need an exemption from this 24 credit rule due to special circumstance.

YUP NO DOUBT ABOUT IT, without a three diploma system, the system will become even more convoluted than currently and even less likely to present opportunities for an education that meets students needs.

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