Seattle Schools This Week

To note: SPS has just announced the start of a K-5 English Language Arts (ELA) instructional materials adoption.  The district is pretty fa  behind on putting current, standards-aligned instructional materials into classrooms district-wide.  The last formal ELA adoptions for elementary schools were basal readers in 2002 and Balanced Literacy in 2004.

Individuals (families/community/teachers/administrators) interested in serving on the adoption committee should visit the adoption website at and submit an application.  Note that the applications are due by 9:00 AM on Wednesday, March 2nd.
Also of interest about the district, two articles.  
Ed Week, Seattle School District Grapples With Plans for Major Schedule Change
Capitol Hill Seattle Blog - Starting from scratch, Capitol Hill’s middle school set to re-open in 2017
Catchment areas have long been a top concern for parents when it comes to Meany. For most families, students from Stevens and Lowell would join those from Gatzert, Madrona (K-8), McGilvra, and Montlake in the new school. (UPDATE: “Montlake, Leschi, Stevens, Lowell, and McGilvra. Madrona K-8 middle school-aged students will be included if the Seattle School Board approves that boundary in May or September,” Jensen clarified in comments, below).
The article says that 100(!) people have applied to be the new principal.

Wednesday, March 2nd
Board meeting, starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda. 

Big item to note is that, starting April 6th,  the Board is doing a pilot of moving the time for public testimony from 5 pm to 5:30 pm in an effort to help parents and the public get to the meeting at a more convenient time.

Action Items
Two BTA items and an intro/action item - Resolution Opposing Charter Schools and Charter School Legislation.  The latter comes from the Executive Committee.

Basically, this new Board is reaffirming a resolution that a previous Board took (in light of what has happened since that previous resolution i.e. overturning of charter law AND no real progress on McCleary.)

Intro Items (partial)
- agreement with Local 609
- Pre-K agreement with City of Seattle to continue operating the three existing City pre-Ks in SPS plus an option to open 3-4 more.
 - funding from the Nesholm Family Foundation (ongoing for support at high-risk schools) and from PTAs at John Stanford and McDonald for instructional assistants
- multiple BTA/BEX contracts

One item to point out is the BEX IV/BTA III award of construction contract along with a transfer of $2M for that program from the Program Contingency Fund.
 Staff tries to say that it's because:"Seattle construction climate" Meaning it's very busy right now. 
"Size of project"  We have a Goldilocks problem (apparently) where this is not a really big project but bigger than most small projects.
"Moderization projects" - apparently these are not as "attractive" to the "construction community" as new or demolition/new.  

None of this really explains to me why they need $2M more - what, to sweeten the pot?  Four companies bid on this project so I'm not getting the need to up the budget.  

Thursday, March 3rd
Executive Committee meeting, from 8:30-10:30 am

Saturday, March 5th
College Bound Scholarship Conference at the University of Washington for middle/high school students and their families.

Sunday, March 6th Sunday, March 13th
Community Meeting with Director Peters at Magnolia Library from 1-2 pm.


Elsa said…
Wonder what the story is behind that "Settlement Agreement".
Anonymous said…
Back channeled again. See you on the 13th.

Anonymous said…
Do executive committee meetings get posted agendas?

- B
Lynn said…
B - yes but usually not until the day before the meeting.
Anonymous said…
Many commenters here have agitated for a new K-5 Language Arts curriculum to replace Readers/Writers Workshop.

I've pointed out here before that these curriculum reviews come haphazardly. No one knows whats up next, or when it will happen.

Still waiting for someone to put all these different curriculums on a schedule, so they can be done on a rotating basis.

Outsider said…
I have never noticed anyone agitating against Readers & Writers Workshop, at least not in the last six months. What is thought to be wrong with it?
Lynn said…
Outsider - this is the best article I could find quickly that lays out the problems with the workshop model:
Anonymous said…
Outsider, the main issue I have with Writer's workshop (other people may have other objections) is that it relies heavily on peer review,at an age when the kids do not yet have a sufficient grasp of spelling, grammar or organizational layout to actually provide any useful feedback. Peer review in middle school or high school makes sense, as the kids will pick up at least some of the spelling or punctuation errors, paragraphs where something isn't clearly explained or stated, etc. - they can actually make comments that will help the writer improve the paper. In 2nd grade, not so much.
I can also say that my oldest child is kind of a private person, and she HATED always having to let the other kids read everything she wrote - Writers Workshop is really big on this whole touchy-feely "sharing" and "celebrating" thing. It was really stressful to her being forced to write poetry and "personal small moments" when she know that most of the class would end up reading them. Now that she is in middle school and she knows it is only the teacher and maybe one or two students who will see her work she has stopped dreading English so much and her writing has improved drastically.

Mom of 4
Lynn said…
Peer review is only helpful when the person reviewing your paper is an academic peer. In heterogenous classrooms, we have not seen teachers taking this into account.

I hear you on the privacy issue. Children should not be required to expose their feelings to their classmates. It's fine to encourage that - but the student should allowed to choose not to do it. A child's right to privacy should be respected.
Po3 said…
Peer review in middle school is BRUTAL. Hate it...
Anonymous said…
As an elementary teacher of primary students, I would first like to say that the adoption process is geared towards finally adopting a literacy curriculum. While many schools do use Readers and Writers Workshop, Seattle does not currently have an "officially adopted" curriculum in place - SPS will need to pay for implementation across the district when curriculum is finally adopted. I see this adoption and upcoming implementation as well overdue.

I also believe that there are sometimes misconceptions regarding the structures and goals of Readers and Writers Workshop and hope to provide some clarification and pieces for conversation based on this thread. One of the most powerful things a teacher can do is create a community where risk taking is encouraged - in primary classrooms, Writers Workshop contributes to the "heart" of a classroom community. Each writer is an author. Authors ALL have stories to tell. This creates a culture where writing is embraced as a powerful means of communication - isn't that something we want all of our children to believe? In Writers Workshop, perfection isn't what we emphasize. Writers Workshop also isn't a crash course in conventions. While conventions are most definitely taught in the Writers Workshop, we don't want these things to limit a writer's confidence. The goal is to encourage kids as writers who fearlessly fill their pages with their thoughts. This may sound cliche - but it's true, and something that so many of my colleagues believe in.

The point of Writers Workshop is to live like a writer. In the real writing world, all writers need editors. I have yet to meet a young writer who doesn't want his or her writing read - that being said, if a student doesn't want to share, they don't have to. This is far different than a first grader marking a peer's paper with a red pen. In our writing partnerships, I often overhear students making compliments such as "I loved how you showed how you felt in your writing" and making suggestions such as "I wonder how you could make this part stronger? What strategy could you try here?" These partnerships motivate students to write for a respectful audience, and they know they'll receive compliments and suggestions that will make their writing even stronger. If these writing partnerships are cultivated at a young age as they are in the Writers Workshop model, I strongly believe that writers will enter middle school and high school ready for constructive criticism and perseverance that will contribute to success and growth even outside of the world of literacy.

To be continued...

Anonymous said…
Continued from above post...

Back to the topic of the upcoming adoption. It's exciting that SPS is finally initiation an adoption process. It's ALL of our responsibility to engage ourselves with it as much as possible. When potential texts/instructional materials are available for community feedback this spring, please take advantage of this. I would also encourage families to ask your teachers about what they think - we're the ones on the front lines every day. Myself and my colleagues take our responsibility of cultivating empowered and confident readers and writers very seriously. Ask your teachers. Facilitate dialogue. What do they want in a curriculum?

Finally, ask your children what they enjoy most about reading and writing. Do the potential curriculum options include those things? My students come in daily and ask what we are doing in Writers Workshop - their enthusiasm is contagious. Right now, they are working on the opinion genre of writing. Each student has a small collection of items at school - think toy cars, small stuffed animals, bracelets, and even some coveted rock collections. We're writing to persuade others about which objects are the best in our collections. We're expressing opinions and forming arguments about all that matters in their young lives. Their coveted possessions matter, and so do the words they write. They need to know that.

Talk to your teachers. Talk to your kids. Engage yourself in the process - it's an important one.

Anonymous said…
Readers and writers workshop is an embarrassment. Lazy, sloppy, poorly constructed hogwash. It takes years to undo the damage from WRWS lack of structure.

No Friend
Anonymous said…
No friend,
Then what do you propose? And why do you think it is poorly structured? Have you taught workshop before? Have you asked others about it before? Do you have experience with your own children experiencing readers and writers? Please elaborate.

Anonymous said…
Friendoflucy and Friendofafriend,
Something that will rock both of your worlds is learning about dyslexia. 1 in 5 kids have it which means that they need to be systematically taught all the sounds of our language (not in relation to letters, just each other) and then they need to be systematically taught how these sounds are represented by letters. I am not aware of the Workshop curricula covering these in any way which means that these children are left behind.

Also crucial for these kids is that they need to be asked to read aloud. Every day. Otherwise they guess and skip words and try to put the missing pieces together with their frontal lobe rather than the sound center of the brain. This is an incredibly taxing strategy and one that needs intervention. The earlier the better, and its never too late. My understanding is that Readers Workshop emphasizes silent reading, doesn't it?

Read Shaywitz's _Overcoming Dyslexia_ and you will learn the basics of what almost 20% of your students need and most of your students would benefit from. This should be required reading for any elementary teacher, and I promise you will enjoy it.

Teach Everyone

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