Friday Open Thread

As we all suspected, the district/schools are phasing out self-contained Spectrum.  The latest? Lafayette.  I have no idea if this decision was made with teachers and community.  Also, if I were a parent, I would not really appreciate the edu-jargon - the principal could have used much easier-to-grasp language.  He also makes it sound like previously, some students were benefiting more than others at Lafayette.

Wow. The Snoqualmie Valley School District is spending (gulp) $208M on a new high school.  (They are spending about $188M combining with state matching funds.)  It is a huge project with completely new buildings including an auditorium, gym, football field with lights, baseball/softball fields, parking to fit about 2300 students.    There will also be a freshman building that is separate from the main building.

Over in Spokane, the former Special Education director has filed a federal civil rights complaint with the Department of Education. From the Spokesman-Review:
Laura Pieper, the former director of special education, is alleging districtwide discrimination against special education students. Pieper was put on paid administrative leave in late May, and then left the district late last year.

Pieper’s complaint covers a number of issues, but the most important, she said, is a policy that treats special education students differently than general education students in how they’re assigned to classes. 
In Fresno, California, boys wore dresses to high school to protest the school's dress code that they believe is unfair.  Boys cannot have long hair and wear earrings nor wear dresses or skirts.  Apparently the ACLU has gone to court with this district over their dress code in the past.  Interesting that this seems more directed at boys than girls (whereas many dress codes seem more punative against girls.)  From the Sacramento Bee:
In a surprise vote last week, trustees went against recommendations that would have allowed boys to wear long hair and earrings and removed language that says dresses and skirts are for girls. The decades-old policy directly violates state education code, according to the ACLU.

A student petition urging the board to approve a gender-neutral dress code had garnered nearly 2,500 signatures by Monday.

“When today’s youths don’t have a way to express who they are, they may just become another statistic in suicide rates,” Smart said. “CUSD can’t stop people from expressing themselves.”
Will you look at that?  Colorado offered free birth control and abortions fell by 42%.  From Vox:
The program, known as the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, provides intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants at little to no cost for low-income women at family planning clinics in Colorado. It contributed to a 40 percent drop in Colorado's teen birth rate and a 42 percent drop in the state's teen abortion rate between 2009 and 2013, according to state data.
Colorado's drop in teen births is part of a nationwide decline in the teen birth rate. There are multiple theories for this decline, ranging from greater use of long-acting reversible contraceptives to lead abatement programs.
To note, Washington's teen birth rate, from 2008-2013, dropped by more than 40%.  The overall U.S. drop during that period is about 36%.

Hey, it's the Lunar New Year and the Seattle Asian Art Museum is having a bevy of activities tomorrow from 11 am - 2 pm.  It's free but RSVPs are requested.  It's the Year of the Monkey.

Director Sue Peters is having a community meeting tomorrow at the Uptown Espresso meeting room, 500 Westlake Ave N, 8:30-10:00 am.

What's on your mind?

Read more here:


Unknown said…
The issue regarding the weighting of Special Education students in placement decisions is interesting. I believe that SPS uses a similar, if not even more, discriminatory practice with open enrollment. According to Michaela Clancy, who disclosed this placement policy at the Seattle Special Education PTSA meeting in January, students who receive special education services are only placed in choice schools if there is both a general education seat as well as a special education seat available if their name comes up in a lottery. This means they basically have to "win" two lotteries, whereas a gen ed student only has to win one lottery to receive a seat in a choice school.
mirmac1 said…
Alliance apparently thinks it can hock its wares down south where those smaller districts can surely cough up the dough for "teacher residents"

Seattle teacher-training program to expand to four more districts
Anonymous said…
"Over in Spokane, the former Special Education director has filed a federal civil rights complaint with the Department of Education. From the Spokesman-Review:

Laura Pieper, the former director of special education, is alleging districtwide discrimination against special education students. Pieper was put on paid administrative leave in late May, and then left the district late last year.

Pieper’s complaint covers a number of issues, but the most important, she said, is a policy that treats special education students differently than general education students in how they’re assigned to classes. "

Unfortunately for Ms. Pieper the district X office of OCR is completely dysfunctional.

There is currently an ongoing investigation into a the former OCR district X lead investigator who worked a deal with the Seattle schools district in exchange for a JOB. I guess these folks think they are above the law, but they always get cocky and forget to delete the evidence.

District X is delinquent on determinations for over a dozen cases, with more back log building. This backlog includes several new cases against the Seattle school district.

It's a shame neither OSPI or the USDE OCR will do their respective jobs. Remind me why I pay taxes again.

SPED Parent
Anonymous said…
At least the Lafayette principal sent a letter explaining the decision and the new approach to replace self-contained Spectrum. At Whittier, the principal made the announcement in the fall, but there has been virtually no information about what she intends to do and how the school will serve the needs of the Spectrum kids, many of whom are also HCC qualified.

NW Parent
Anonymous said…
My child is a former Whittier student (now a 7th Grader at Whitman). I've also heard self-contained Spectrum is going away at Whittier. These are my observations, I'm sure many will agree or disagree based on personal experiences :-)

--More children will always test in than can be accommodated (my child never made it off the wait list, sometimes there were 20 plus kids on the list). Kids don't come in neat packages of 28.
--A general feeling at the school (even if it's just perceived), that the kids in Spectrum are getting something "extra."
--Many children at the school scoring very highly on state tests etc. but aren't in Spectrum.
--Children excelling in a single subject such as math who need to work a year ahead but aren't in Spectrum (which is why I’m a fan of walk-to-math)
--Since Whittier is the only Spectrum school for the cluster, this leads to children outside of Whittier's usual attendance area getting into the school = overcrowding. School is already bursting at the seams.

Former Wildcat
current wildcat said…
Hey former Wildcat, What are your thoughts on Whitman? We are doing the MS school tours now.
Mirmac 1, the STR was discussed at the Ex Ctm meeting. I don't see the district as wildly enthused. Yes, teachers are staying but they have to (or they lose money.) The program is a good idea but given that we don't have full funding of McCleary, no formal relationship (besides this MOU) with the Alliance and our schools are struggling with costs, I don't see this as a must for the district.

Anonymous said…
Does anyone know anything about the new SpEd complaint at Stevens? My son started kindergarten this year but he had behavior issues and we ended up pulling him out before pulling the special ed trigger; we'd like to come back if we can get him to a more stable place but it sounds like there are ongoing issues with the school.

Former Stevens
Anonymous said…
I don't know about new Stevens complaints, but I did see a email someone posted from a Stevens administrator to the SPED gang at JSCEE, it was about the systemic SPED failures. I would post a link, but I can't find the post any longer

You can contact OSPI and ask for copies of all complaints against SPS or just Stevens. I've seen a couple of new civil rights complaints cross Nyland's desk, but nothing yet from OSPI about Stevens.

JSCEE is very tight lipped about the problems at Stevens and OSPI are fools to believe SPS has fixed any of the systemic issues at Steven or for that matter, the district as a whole. Maybe give Ms. Schmidt (student civil rights office) a call, she might confess.

SPED Parent
Anonymous said…
Whitman has been pretty good so far (not amazing, not terrible...but it is middle school after all, and is a hormonal mine field). My kid is getting good grades, has great friends, and enjoys school, and doesn't complain too much. She's had some really good teachers, and a few not so great ones.
Former Wildcat.
Whitman Wildcat said…
Both my children attend(ed) Whitman and I find Whitman to be a good school.

The administrators and teachers at Whitman are wonderful. They strive to meet the needs of a diverse community. They serve 60 homeless students and work to assure students are sent home with food.

As in SPS, science tends to be weak. Great opportunities for students to participate in band and orchestra, and, IMO, one of the best math teachers in the city works at Whitman.

Outsider said…
Unfortunate, the changes at Lafayette, but typical.

"We want all of our students to receive instruction at their 'just right' levels." No they don't. This is just a lie.

"Teaching Deeper vs. Teaching Up a Grade Level"

Teaching deeper seems to be the new edu-speak for what we used to call "busy work". Other kids add two plus three, but because you're so clever, you get to devise five strategies for adding two plus three. It's almost like a punishment. You're bored with 3 + 5, are you? Do it again then, only this time deeper. A kid breezes through the usual work because it's too easy and offers no challenge, so here are some extra worksheets, with no help from the teacher to understand them; no explanation why they are valuable or what the point is; and no indication that the teacher cares if you do them or throw them away. It's what you would do if your intention was to discourage bright kids and turn them off school. I think it works.

If you have a child in SPS who is affected by this broad change in philosophy, or just happen to think the direction of the schools is not right, starve the beast and vote no on the levies.
Anonymous said…
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Lynn said…
There's an oversight work session next week on Math in Focus. From page 41 of the Presentation

Our Plan

To improve consistency for students and accessibility for teachers, we propose to rework our Scope and Sequence by fall 2016 to return to the chronological order of the text, with supplements and scaffolds to meet standards.

Interesting. Neither my walk to math or child's regular classroom teacher are using math in focus text book this year. The flip flopping makes everyone hard. Guess next year we will be back to bar models and number bonds. Wish we had just stuck with it if that's the case.
Anonymous said…
Lynn -

Thanks for the link to the work session presentation on Math in Focus.

The really incredible thing is the immediate previous slides have all kinds of statements about how great the "scope and sequence" curriculum has been this year. Teachers love it, kids are learning, its awesome.

And then ...

The statement you quoted about returning to the chronological sequence of the text.

Is anyone in the district capable of admitting to a mistake? If these guys worked for me I would absolutely lambast them for making a presentation where the conclusion (need to go back to chronological sequencing) does not align with the previous statements (scope and sequence is a success!).

Anonymous said…
And why is "middle school math curriculum" not on the list of remaining SPS math challenges (slide 43)? Or is "We need a more coherent pathway to Calculus" intended to get at curricula?

Similarly, slide 44 re: what "outlier" schools are doing (and presumably she means the SUCCESSFUL outlier schools), why isn't curriculum mentioned there? Aren't the schools that are doing better in math using something better?

Anonymous said…
I wish we could get a survey and see what all the different classes and school are using. My kids math teacher uses MyMath and classroom teacher is using something else not math in focus.
I'd love to see how many students actually use math in focus textbooks.
Anonymous said…
Schmitz uses MIF as intended, not the scope and sequence.

-makes sense
Anonymous said…
We are using Envision. I hate it. There is not enough time spent on practicing basic math skills and too much focus on deciphering story problems. Our PTA is paying for it and I am not happy about that either.

Hating Envision
Charlie Mas said…
From the Lafayette letter:

"Teaching Deeper vs. Teaching Up a Grade Level
In designing instruction for Advanced Learning/Spectrum students, the recommendation is to “go
deeper” into grade level standards.
"the recommendation is"? Who made this recommendation? To whom did they make it? The use of passive voice here is done intentionally to hide the agent. I want to know who the agent is.

From Board Policy 2190:
"Programs for Advanced Learners
Advanced Learning instructional programs will include differentiation, content
, and deeper learning opportunities. Delivery mechanisms may
include: differentiated instruction, groupings of Advanced Learning students to
work together in subjects or on projects, self-contained classrooms, or
accelerated pacing..

So I don't know or care who made the recommendation to drop acceleration, but the Board Policy says that there WILL BE acceleration.

Could someone please bring this fact to the attention of the Lafayette Principal.
Lynn said…

I believe this is coming from teaching and learning. The enrollment planning department knew last October that no schools would have self-contained Spectrum classes after this school year. It was not a school-based decision.

Teaching and Learning staff have chosen to ignore many parts of both the policy and the procedures this year. I'll be writing to the C&I committee with a list of these items and to ask them to direct the Superintendent to enforce policy and procedures.
Anonymous said…
Schools cannot have self-contained Spectrum because these students are general education students by definition. Separating them into self-contained classrooms creates
a violation of LRE for students who have IEPs, since Spectrum has a much lower percentage of students with IEPs. It also creates a learning situation similar to charter schools.

This has been stated before many times. It needs to be reiterated.

--about time
Lynn said…
The north end language immersion schools have quite low IEP rates. Should we be anticipating seeing those programs disbanded? Rainier Beach High School has too many students with IEPs. Will the district be requiring students who opted out of RBHS to attend their neighborhood school to even things up?

I wonder why my child's self-contained advanced learning classroom has a full time instructional aide? Can't be related to the students with IEPs - right? I think you have a vision of a Spectrum or HCC classroom filled with cheerful, compliant kids who are eager to learn and face no challenges. In my experience, this is not the case. What are you basing your opinion on?
Anonymous said…

I believe you already know the following information, but I will restate the facts.

Separating students from general education in a building that
leaves the other class(es) with a disproportionate number of students
with IEPs is clearly in violation of federal law since Spectrum students are general education students. Students with IEPs exist in both Spectrum and HCC who have IEPs. The fact is that there are far fewer proportionally than in general education.

It is also illegal that HCC is a self-contained cohort only, since
state law requires that there be a continuum of services that reflect the
demographics of the district. HCC currently does neither. Therefore, HCC
is violating LRE for students with IEPs by creating a disproportionate number
of students with IEPs in the remaining local general education numbers.

Many of you on this blog continued to defend Spectrum for years, but it took state and federal law to get this district to disband Spectrum. HCC. as-is,is also on borrowed time since a much smaller proportion of HCC students should be in self-contained and the rest should be receiving a continuum of services.

The fact that Seattle chooses to use strictly neighborhood schools, which creates
schools with high numbers of FRL students, and the fact that research is clear about the negative outcomes of these types of schools, is a moral and ethical issue.

Using that to excuse the blatant illegality of Spectrum is sad. Fortunately, there are lots of new parents in this district who are looking at equity systematically. They are agents of change for the better, along with the new state laws.

--about time

Anonymous said…
You have absolutely no way of knowing which students should and should not be in self contained. It is true that there is so little advanced learning in this district outside of HCC that a higher proportion than I think should have to can only have their needs met in HCC. Most parents who come to HCC have tried already to get their home schools to do something, anything so that advanced students could learn something during the year, and were rebuffed, usually with the same elitism charges you level.

So I agree there should be more services for a continuum. Not that the program is illegal, or that that had anything to do with spectrum's demise. Spectrum's demise was benign neglect and capacity fixing. Nothing more.

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Anonymous said…
Surprised to hear Dr. Gregory King has been back in Washington State since 2014 as Executive Director of STEAM in the Tukwila School District.

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