Wednesday, April 20, 2016

This and That

 This from SPS Communications on the upcoming closure of the Viaduct and traffic issues:
School bus transportation and commute times for nearly all schools will be affected by the closure.

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will close the Alaskan Way Viaduct for approximately two weeks beginning Friday, April 29, as Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, excavates beneath the structure. 
  • SPS bus drivers will begin their days earlier than usual to ensure buses get to stops on time.
  • Travel time will be added to bus routes directly effected by the closure.
  • Families will be notified directly by a phone call and individual letter if your student’s pick up and or drop off times will shift.
In addition, families can keep up to date on this project by checking our district home page as well as updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages
According to the Seattle Times, the district and UW's Experimental Education Unit (EEU) are in discussions to expand the proven program to other early learning programs in SPS classrooms.
If approved, the agreement would formalize the tentative one, and keep the EEU’s kindergarten program running. It would provide education services for 18 kindergarten students with disabilities and up to 48 preschool students. There are 20 students in this year’s kindergarten program.

The agreement also would fund support and training so that EEU services can be replicated in other early-learning classrooms, though the agreement doesn’t specify how many classrooms will be involved.

And the agreement, which totals $1.19 million, would provide those services for special-education students ages 3 to 6. 
In another story from the Times, immigrant parents of SPS students say the district isn't trying hard enough to make sure they understand the SPS system and its services/programs.  

Federal law requires that all critical communication between schools and families be conducted in English and a student’s home language so that parents can play a meaningful role in their children’s education.
But many immigrant parents in Seattle and several South King County school districts say such services are inconsistent, inadequate and mired in bureaucracy.
I haven't actually read the law surrounding this issue but I wonder if the phrase "critical communication" has a real definition.  The story said it is especially hard for parents of Special Education students because the translator may not even know all the technical terms used well enough to explain it to the parents of the student.
A new group of parents organized by OneAmerica, a statewide immigrant-rights group, are calling on local school boards to pass policies making improved language services and bilingual education a priority.

Parents have already spoken out at recent board meetings in the Federal Way and Highline school districts, and they plan to speak Wednesday to the Seattle School Board.
The state knows about this issue:
The governor’s education ombudsman’s office confirmed many of the parents’ concerns last year in a 229-page report that found that interpretation is often provided by untrained district staff when it’s provided at all, and sometimes districts are so desperate they rely on the children to interpret for their parents.
The number of comments calling these parents "whiners" was quite large and some referenced Donald Trump.  One teacher said this:
I've been a teacher for about 20 years and have taught at several locations...  Even in the "less diverse" schools in which I've taught in the Seattle area, there have been at least 20 different native languages spoken in the homes.  In more diverse settings, the number can top 80.  

I would suggest that it is absolutely insane to attempt to send all important school notices home in 80 plus languages.  Finding adequate personnel to handle the massive amount of required translating and interpreting alone is a beyond daunting task.  

Yes, we should be reaching out to families and working hard to communicate with them. I have, many times, used my second language to communicate difficult issues to families.  However, there has to be a limit lest we bankrupt the system and/or find ourselves spending so much time digging through language barriers that we never actually have time to teach.

Instead, I'd like to see these advocacy groups focus on a couple of things - such as finding interpreters withing the community to help and pushing hard for folks to learn English.


Anonymous said...

Is it true that girls(and only girls) are being called out of class at Madison Middle School today for wearing shorts, and made to change into pants?


Melissa Westbrook said...

I have heard of some issues of girls at Madison being called out for wearing shorts but I don't know all the details.

As I said on Facebook, nearly every single school has a dresscode. Parents should check for this. Whether it is enforced or not is another question.

I don't have a problem with a dresscode but it should be evenly applied. And, no one should be embarrassed in front of classmates.

I think you run into difficulties more with girls with shorts than boys because the style is for boys to wear longer shorts and girls wear shorter shorts. The latitude on short shorts is in the hands of the principals.

(To note, I felt the pain of a dresscode my last day of 8th grade when I got sent home for wearing shorts. In May. In Arizona.)

But, as I used to tell kids on tour at Roosevelt, you don't have to come to school dressed as if you are going to church or to see Grandma but you should not dress as if you going to a party or lounging around the house.

Anonymous said...

IMO, one example of a "critical communication" piece would be school boundary changes, especially those involving geo-splits/reassignments, but since all boundary changes are essentially geo-splits if the family can't provide private transportation to their kids new "neighborhood" school, communication of all boundary changes should be viewed as critical.

For instance, SPS doesn't seem to be going out of their way to engage families in the immigrant neighborhoods in Lake City and Northgate who will be impacted by the boundary changes planned for John Rogers, Olympic Hills, Sacajawea, Olympic View, and Northgate elementary schools. They have posted online meeting notices for regional meetings (with translators provided), but I don't believe these notices have been sent home in students' home languages (please correct me if I am wrong about this).

As far as I know, at Olympic Hills and John Rogers, where large numbers of ELL and FRL students and their families will be impacted by the planned geo-split to Cedar Park (2017), it has been largely up to the school's staff, PTA and other parent advocates to get the word out about boundary-related community meetings with SPS staff, and how to give input on the upcoming boundary changes. PTAs and schools, for the most part, do not have the band-width or resources to provide translated materials to their families.

SPS should have addresses and home language information for all its ELL students, and they should be notifying these families DIRECTLY that their child's attendance area school will be changing, and that, in the case of the planned geo-split, their child will be reassigned to a different school in 2017. In the case of boundary changes with "grandfathering," SPS should notify them NOW that they will be losing transportation to their current school, and that if they would like to provide feedback, they need to do so NOW. IMO, putting this information on a power point slide, in English, and buried in the SPS "Growth Boundaries" web page is not sufficient notice for immigrant families.

I'm sure there are dozens, if not 100s, of families who have no clue that their child may not be able to remain at the school he/she entered as a kindergartner (and, in some cases, as a preschool student). They may not realize what has happened until the first day of school in September 2017, when their child is turned away from what had been their "neighborhood" school.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

The article about the EEU is interesting and vague. Or the proposal is vague, apparently. From ending a program to expanding it in a few volatile months. No kidding. Are there any specifics or will there be before this is voted on? When is the vote on including this in the budget? Does this entail additional physical classrooms? As far as SPS staff attending workshops and observations at the EEU, there is nothing earth-shattering or new here. Been going on forever.

Just curious.