Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, March 14th 
Curriculum&Instruction Committee meeting from 4:30-7:30 pm. Agenda

Interesting discussion from the previous meeting about ELA adoption(partial and bold mine:)

Kathleen Vasquez, Literacy & Social Studies Program Manager, spoke about the
upcoming English Language Arts (ELA) K-5 Adoption. The last Reading Adoption took place in 2002. Two Basal Readers text were selected. Three years later, the district adopted a Balanced Literacy Framework in 2005. To support the implementation of the Balanced Literacy Framework, the district purchased classroom libraries for several elementary schools (2005 – 2007). From 2009 – 2013, The Alliance for Education supported the Readers Writers Workshop through the Columbia Teacher’s College. Many teachers believed the district adopted the Readers Writers Workshop, but it is used as supplemental curriculum information. Then the common core standards came about. The district had to think about the instructional shifts – Balancing informational and literary texts, close Reading, and integrating Reading, Writing,
etc. There has not been a common instructional material for K-5 since 2002. This makes it difficult for central office to provide support because there was no commonality. This has been an on-going challenge. The last 6-8 Reading Adoption took place in 1998. 

The estimated cost for K-8 adoption is between $6 - $8 million. The estimated cost for a K-5 adoption is $5 million. Michael Tolley explained it comes down to the School Board making choices. If $8 million is spent on K-8 adoption then the dollars will need to come from someone else. The School Board will need to give some direction. 

The ELA Adoption timeline provided by Kathleen gives a rough outline on what will happen during Round 1, Round 2, Field Test, School Board Introduction/Action and materials implementation.
Shauna Heath explained that the Instructional Materials Committee (IMC) makes the recommendation from the Adoption Committee, and forwards the information to the School Board. Eric Caldwell, Library & Instructional/Technology Services Manager, facilitates this committee.
Well, if it's been back to 1998 for 6-8 and 2002 for K-5 for Reading adoption AND we are using new Common Core standards that will get tested on the state test, the Board probably needs to direct the Superintendent to find the money.  This is basic education and I'm not sure what else could truly be more important.

As well there's the issue of Social Studies (and hoping for the use of the great Civics for All project.)

Kathleen reviewed the Social Studies standards. Civics is one of the components. The last K-5 Social Studies Adoption was in 1998. Kathleen did an audit to look at the standards against the civics plan – How does it align. Kathleen passed out a document that provided information on what is aligned as well as the estimated costs. She supports developing the plan with the support of hiring another person to help with the work.
Director Geary suggested surveying the schools to see if there is any interest for the mock elections. Shauna Heath mentioned that her department can do a quick survey to see if schools are interested in mock elections. She is concerned about funding – It does not exist.
Michael Tolley explained it comes down to choices and where we want to invest dollars. We need to decide what is it that we are going to do. There needs to be prioritization process. The next step is the survey. Michael will talk to Dr. Larry Nyland about this in terms of the budget.

Tuesday, March 15th
Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Council Meeting, JSCEE, Room 2765 from 5:30-7:30 pm

Audit&Finance Committee meeting, JSCEE, 4:30-6:30 pm. Agenda 

Interesting audits of Olympic View and Franklin High.  Again, nothing terrible but a lot of sloppy paperwork that is both not following district policy AND not having the oversight required. Both schools had issues with volunteer/chaperone paperwork.  Not good.  Franklin also had several pre-signed checks laying around.  Also not good (Franklin says they will stop that practice immediately.)

OSPI had a report for Dr. Nyland on Title I, Part A, Learning Assistance Program (LAP) and Consolidated Program Review(CPR.)  OSPI is pretty happy with the district's work on the ELL front especially singling out Amy Valenti's work. 

They are less happy with the district's work on homeless students and meeting the federal McKinney-Vento Act.  They believe that SPS' policies and procedures regarding enrollment "should be reviewed and revised in a manner to effectively remove barriers to the immediate enrollment and participation of homeless students.

They also called out issues of protecting pregnant/parenting students from "discriminatory harassment."  

There were also issues that the district did not set-aside enough money for Title One parent involvement work nor did they push forward unspent set-aside money for PD for this effort.

They also name several teachers from several Title I schools who are supposed to be Highly Qualified Teachers but are not.  Schools include Muir, Rainier Beach, South Shore, and the Seattle World School. 

They also asked for an Action Plan to show that they have an athletic program that "equally accommodates the interests/abilities of male and female students."  

They also call the district for allowing a "vendor" (I believe in the summer school program) to take 60 students on an outing that cost nearly $1,000.  "Entertainment is not an allowable cost with federal funds."

Mayor's Conversation series on public education, 4:30-6:00 pm at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Wednesday, March 16th
School Board meeting from 4:15 pm to 8:00 pm.  Agenda

Clearly, the most interesting Action item is the City of Seattle Pre-K program agreement.  Continue? Expand? I'm not happy to see this all rolled up into a single BAR.  I think it should be broken out into "continuing the current 3 classrooms" and then "expanding to four more classrooms."  Putting directors in a tight spot is not the way to do this.  

I wrote to the Board and recommended an amendment splitting this BAR into two questions.

I also note a capital issue on redoing the field at Franklin.  I wish the district could wait a couple of years until the feds decide on the issue of artificial turf fields and the dangers to young athletes.

There's a Superintendent Evaluation timeline Intro item that would change the date from November to June (makes sense to me.)

Mayor's Conversation series on public education, 6-8 pm at El Centro de la Raza

Thursday, March 17th
Operations Committee Meeting from 4:30-6:30 pm Agenda not yet available

Mayor's Conversation series on public education, noon-2 pm at the Rainier Avenue Church

The Board at a retreat on Saturday (I was unable to attend.)  Members of Soup for Teachers did go (and, as usual, brought food for those from SPS who were in attendance.)  The reports of what was said seems to indicate an unhappiness from senior staff about the Board. 

No Saturday community meetings with directors this week. 


Charlie Mas said…
I'm really liking this Board.

They are moving to demand real program evaluations - which no previous Board had ever done despite a policy that required it and despite the fact that it is a critical element to the management of the District.

They are demanding a plan for closing the academic achievement gap - which no previous Board had ever done.

They are asking the critical questions about MTSS that need to be asked.

They are taking back program placement.

They are getting very real with the staff and demanding that the staff get real as well.
Well, apparently at the Board retreat, there was pushback from staff. Soup for Teachers reports:

"Director Geary pushes back on an assertion that directors tax staff and has them putting out fires. She notes that there seems to be insufficient board staff to support directors."

"Deputy Supt says focus needs to be on staying the course. Says there is insufficient capacity to handles these things."
Anonymous said…
Anyone know what Sanders meant at the Dem. Town Hall today when he said he supported "public charter schools"?

- confused
Anonymous said…
I only post here occasionally... one of my recurring topics has been on scheduled curriculum adoption.

The choices being proposed by Michael Tolley are so ridiculous its a miracle he keeps his job. He's been here how many years? And he knew that K-8 Language Arts has not had a curriculum review and new materials purchase in 14-18 years. When did he think would be a good time to bring this up?

How can the district measure successes or failures of their curriculum if they don't provide materials to the schools and support these curriculums?

And how can he just meekly say ... well, its hard to prioritize what to do so we need the board to set direction?

How about this:

Make a schedule. Determine the duration of a curriculum adoption (wear and tear / availability of replacement materials should be a prime consideration). Outline where we are with each major curriculum group in regards to when they are scheduled to be replaced.

Then put a plan in place to get those materials updated over the next five years. It can't happen all at once, the money isn't there. But the district should have a ballpark idea of what new materials will cost, and it can be written into the budget.

Tolley and his department are supposed to be the experts here. How about a real, fact based presentation to the board about what they feel the greatest need for curriculum review this budget year is. Start with answering these questions.
*How many schools are using the approved curriculum?
*What are their test scores?
*What other curriculums are in use?
*What are their test scores?
*Any insights from the above?
*Quantity/condition of materials in use? Shortages and how they are addressed, etc.

This is not that difficult. Then tell the board we need to do curriculum reviews in these five areas, in this order, as soon as possible. And it will cost $xMil per review. If the board feels the priorities identified are correct, then they vote to move the district in that direction. If other areas are felt to be more critical (for instance, Middle School Math) by the board, then just adjust the prioritization order.

But one curriculum per school year (Elementary Math two years ago, MS Social Studies last year, K-5 L/A this year) probably isn't going to get the district on the right track. And when you have curriculums that should sequentially with each other (math, for instance), then that needs to be presented as well.

This district's inability to wrap their arms around these basic operations issues of education children is unreal.

I've pointed out before that an organization that is in chaos can feel unfixable because there are so many issues that need to be addressed. I truly believe that many of the district staff are in this position, so they don't even try. Everything is fixable, it just requires someone to prioritize, follow up, and actually resolve these issues. This district never actually resolves anything, which is why it feels like they're just spinning their tires.

I told someone recently that if this district could get the basics down - operations, capital functions and basic curriculum - this could be one great urban district. Thanks, NW.

Confused, I think Sanders said that because 1) like many people, he is confused about how "public" charter schools are. (He said something about not liking the for-profit ones) or 2) he's trying to hedge his bets.

He and Hillary better figure out their stands.
Anonymous said…
"He and Hilary better figure out their stands."

Or what? We vote Republican or sit the election out Republican? Hello vouchers!

Sorry, Counter-Point, it seems obvious what Republicans want.

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