Friday Open Thread

How's did these first few days of school go?  (I can always tell when Roosevelt starts up - Bartell's near the school is full of kids buying chips and a soda for lunch.  I wonder how many parents realize that's all their kid is eating for lunch.) 

Interesting first person article on Finland's decline in their student test scores and how they are fighting back.  Hint: it's not charter schools and Common Core.
It is doubling down on many of the things that made its schools great in the first place. Finland’s brand new National Core Curriculum emphasizes a child’s individuality and says “children have the right to learn by playing and experience joy related to learning.” It says they should be encouraged to express their opinions, trust themselves, be open to new solutions, learn to handle unclear and conflicting information, consider things from different viewpoints, seek new information and review the way they think. Teachers are directed to give students daily feedback and measure them against their starting points, not other students.

In a famous episode of Seinfeld, the long-failing George Costanza character achieved spectacular success by doing the total opposite of everything he had done before. Perhaps American public schools should consider following his example.
Shades of Washington state, the latest editorial in the NY Times is about how the direction of public education in Kansas is now a major issue for their Supreme Court elections. 

From the Washington Post, one more cautionary story about sexting - this one about a 7th grade girl.  If you have given your child a cell phone, please have a serious talk with them about this issue.  The pain for this girl in the story is palpable.

A thank-you and sad farewell on the news of children's author Anna Dewdney's passing this week.  Many kids and parents laughed at her "Llama llama" books.  She died at 50 of brain cancer. 

The Board has its retreat tomorrow from 10 am to 3 pm.  After the discussion at yesterday's Executive Committee meeting yesterday about what they will talk about and when, I don't really recommend it as something to do.  Director Peters is having her community meeting on Sunday, the 11th, at Magnolia Library from 1-3 pm.

What's on your mind?


Charlie Mas said…
Board Retreat tomorrow. Here's the agenda.

It's the usual stuff:
- Budget process
- Board priorities
- Superintendent SMART goals
- Eliminating the opportunity gaps
- Use of remaining onetime funds
Anonymous said…
There was a discussion on NextDoor about Eckstein's technology lab being burgled over the summer and the computer being stolen. Anyone else have details?

NECrime, I did inquire. The district is being quite tight-lipped but yes, Eckstein was burgled.
"Multiple Apple “Mac” computers were stolen from Eckstein Middle School. Students will soon (within days) have access to computers on loan to the school. Beyond that information we cannot comment per an ongoing police investigation."

Some parents are reporting that all the Macs were taken (although other types of computers are still available.) I would assume the district has insurance although to order computers and then get them probably will take some time.

I am also surprised this didn't come up at the Ex Ctm meeting yesterday as they were discussing the purchase of some computers for other reasons.
Po3 said…
Too bad the district wants to bury the burglary--there may be people who could help secure donations for new computers.

Off to another great start!

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Garfield High School Assembly?

Does anyone have information about what transpired at Garfield's welcome assembly this week? Apparently at the end, Principal Ted Howard instructed the teachers to return to their classrooms and then addressed the students, first telling the girls that they deserved to be treated with respect. As we heard it, he then addressed the boys and said something like, "As leaders, you have to treat the girls with respect." Since when are the boys school the leaders?

Apparently he was booed by girls and gender nonconforming students.

If this is true, then the principal's remarks reflect gender bias and perpetuate gender stereotypes.

Didn't the school learn anything from the US Dept. of Education, Office for Civil Rights investigation that opened in 2014 for violations of Title IX? The school has a Title IX webpage, but apparently the principal has not been trained.

Gender Equity Ally

Reprinting for Anonymous: "Just received an email announcing that Ms Britsova, principal of Center School, is being transferred to the World School effective 10/3. I'm not a huge fan of Britsova but why couldn't the District have made this change over the summer rather than waiting until the beginning of the school year?"

No anonymous comments, give yourself a name.

Well, this is not helpful and, of course, part and parcel to how the district moves principals around.

I will have to ask Principal Howard what he said because it's akin to when they had Steve Harvey and he was telling kids similar things.

Anonymous said…
@GEA--I agree and find it odd that teachers were sent to their rooms. Inappropriate way to set a culture.

Not Impressed
Elizabeth W said…
Just heard from a reliable source that Roosevelt's band camp was canceled at the very last minute.
Lynn said…
I learned from the minutes of the August meeting of the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee that the district will decide how to add 20 minutes to the school day next year by the end of this month.

How's that for community engagement? We were not asked if we'd like an additional twenty minutes a day of school - that was decided without any input from parents. The bell times will be changing next September to accommodate this.

How many parents know that next year there will be a weekly late start or early dismissal?
Anonymous said…
@Lynn--I remember word of this after the teachers negotiated a new contract last fall. I have been hoping the time would be used for recess/lunch and to give teachers time to plan/think.

Lynn said…
I knew this was in the contract. I am shocked that the district is not planning any community engagement. A weekly late start or early dismissal will have a huge affect on families.

I too would hope that children will get more recess - but there's no reason to expect that to happen. It's not in the teacher's contract and the district doesn't monitor recess and lunch times and won't step in to require principals to make changes when rules aren't followed.
sacm said…
Band camp email:

"We Are Deeply Sorry
Fall Band Camp has been cancelled.

Thank you to everyone, students, chaperones and Mr. Brown, for your dedication and rock solid preparation for this Fall Band Camp. We learned late this afternoon that we had not met a District requirement, of which we were unaware, and were forced to cancel our Camp.

We are working to find a time and place for field show practice next week and will communicate those details, as well as information about playing at tomorrow's football game as soon as we can.

Thank you all so much."
Anonymous said…
@ Lynne - I am slightly confused with the connection between adding 20 minutes to each day and a weekly late start or early dismissal. I feel like I am missing something. Can you share a bit more information on this connection?
Anonymous said…
Teflon Teddy is well known for bringing the GHS kids together as a captive audience and then haranguing them on puzzling and troubling tangents.

open ears
n said…
At my school we have twenty-minute recesses now and teachers are covering them. All teachers every day. Primary teachers have twenty-five min of planning time and twenty-five min of lunch. Why twenty five? Passing time. We cannot arrive early for PCP or lunch because those locations are being used. We are required to deliver and pick up our children every day.

Yes, from a parent's point of view, teacher monitoring is important. From a teacher's point of view, we need a break. Esp. primary.

I wonder about the extra half hour elementary teachers are now spending on the clock since the school board (at the behest of high school teachers I believe)? I wonder because highs chool teachers have a fifty-minute planning time incorporated in their work day while elementary has a twenty-five (see above) time. High school teachers plan for limited groups in one/two subjects. Elementary plan in no less than four and as many as six subjects each day. Reading, writing, math, social studies, science, health... all on the report card although not all taught due to time constraints. But at my school even health was taught only a few years ago and probably is currently at many schools.

I don't believe all schools have principals who are committed to making the trains run on time but for those of us who do have such principals, life is tough out here. But I guess our parents think it is all just fine. I predict our school scores will go down and I predict the climate at our school will eventually decline to such a degree we will have a difficult time keeping good teachers. One thing I've learned for sure over the last decade is that in the end people really don't care about other people. That is the big change I've noticed in America since Reagan and the decline of our worker-supported and worker-supporting Democratic Party.

We are not Finland nor Canada nor any other first world country anymore.
Anonymous said…
Yes, the Roosevelt Band Camp was cancelled around 5:00 on Friday, when they were scheduled to depart at 6:00 on Friday.

Paperwork was started in June. So the "polite" excuse that a requirement wasn't meant is clearly polite BS.

The district had months and months to look at paperwork and put requirements in place. If there was a requirement that was not met, it was because it was "made up" at the last moment.

If SPS had it their way, they would just eliminate all field trips.

Anonymous said…
Not impressed

Perhaps the teachers were sent to the classrooms because many would be shocked to hear the principal's address. Moreover, we have long passed the days where we can address students as "boys" and "ladies."

Cender Equity Ally.
Lynn said…
@ Mark - This is from the current SEA contract:

K-12 Collaboration Time. Beginning in 2017-18, the District will schedule one sixty (60) minute late arrival or early dismissal per week for the purpose of providing professional collaborative time, common planning time, and technological proficiency. Late arrival or early dismissal will be determined by SPS with input from SEA Executive Board.

It may actually be unrelated to the longer school day but they were presented as related issues during the strike.

From the district FAQ on increased instructional time:

What will the additional elementary school time be used for?
During the additional 30 minutes of instruction on a typical school day, students will be with certificated teachers who are endorsed to teach elementary school students. Students will be with their homeroom teacher or content specialists and will primarily be studying core academic content (e.g. English, math, science, and social studies).
Anonymous said…
For those of us who organize field trips, can you tell us which gate caused the stumble for Roosevelt Band, so that we are forewarned with other trips this year?

-HS Parent
Anonymous said…
@Gender Equity: my freshman confirms the Garfield comments, but didn't think anyone booed... This is something I'd like to follow up on--horrifying.

Leadless Lady
The sexting article was quite powerful and shows some very real issues that we as a society need to deal with. Though I don't think teens—especially those in middle school—should be charged as sex offenders, there has to be some consequences for the one who betrayed the other's trust.

I'm 62, and there were always problems who kissed and told, or worse fabricated or exaggerated romantic liaisons, but the ease of sexting ratchets it up a dozen notches. All teens need to be aware that anything can happen with "private" photos and to resist taking the chance.
Anonymous said…
Staff morale and support of the principal at Washington is very low. Quite a few teachers are saying they plan to leave if she is back next year. Unspoken but understood discipline policy at Washington: suspend as many white kids as possible, suspend as few students of color as possible.
-WMS parent
Anonymous said…
It appears that the pta at Queen Anne elementary has hired two childcare providers to provide onsite aftercare. They will watch kids from 2 to 5:30 until the after school clubs like Lego and Spanish start, then they will provide care after the club ends until 5:30. They are calling this a "mini club". Wondering how this is allowed given they would not allow the current onsite care provider kids co to increase capacity. Wondering if this is something other schools are doing?
Lynn said…
That's interesting information about Susan Follmer.
Anonymous said…
I doubt the above reporting on Washington Middle School. It seems a little early in the year to be making statements about future teacher defection. Also teachers who believe in and value the benefits for all of program integration fully support Principal Follmer and are eager to work with her. If there are teachers who are uncomfortable with the progressive spirit at Washington Middle School then it's probably for the best that they not continue to teach there.

Anonymous said…
I'm curious about WMS also. How many white kids have been suspended in the first two days of school?


Jet City mom said…
Susan Enfield has her hands full.

I am so shallow that the first thing I notice is that she hasnt changed her hair.

Anonymous said…
From the Times article:

"By way of example, she told the story of a seventh-grader who had cursed her teacher, pulled a hood over her head and refused to speak — all of it behavior that once would have resulted in a home suspension for defiance.

“What’s going on?” an assistant principal asked, after the girl was sent to the office.

For 20 minutes, the teen made no sound. Then a few tears dribbled down her face. She had been raped by her stepfather that morning, Enfield later learned.

“What if it was three years ago and we had sent her home — back to that hell?” said the superintendent, tearing up herself. “I’d act out too if I was 13 and that was happening to me.”"


Anonymous said…
Read Lynn's link. That's how it is. There is much umbrage at WMS.

open ears
Anonymous said…
Things have been building to a tipping point at WMS and the comment by WMS parent is likely not just referring to the situation over the past 3 days but past several years.
Anonymous said…
Not sure which of the stories shared in this open thread is worse: Ted Howard engaging in some appalling sexism; WMS being led by a Principal known for being a control freak who does not support her teachers; SPS canceling a field trip at the last minute for no clear reason; or SPS adding 20 minutes to the day and not involving parents in the process of deciding how that time will be used.

Our new school board has now had 9 months to get settled into place. Their honeymoon is over and it's now up to them to step in and fix these problems - and hold district leadership accountable for doing so. We're not going to give the board any more of a grace period.

Old Coug
Jet City mom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Another school year packed full of drama.


Okay, first of all, please do not write about principals without their names. Most readers don't know who all the principals are.

Second, I have an article on restorative justice and ramping down of suspensions that is both good and eye-opening. There are reasons why everyone acts out as they do; you have to temper justice with mercy. But I also think that students and teachers also need to be in classroom where work can get done without fearing students. For me, I have less of a problem with acting out by kids if you get to the root of the problem, figure out what you can and cannot do (the district cannot investigate a student's claim of rape by a stepfather, they can only report it to CPS) and that once the student understands that acting out is not appropriate in class, that he/she apologizes to the teacher. I think that many kids will continue behaviors (like swearing) if it is not made clear it's not acceptable.

Old Coug, you run for school board and see if you can clear up/flip an entire district in 9 months. This Board IS making a difference but sometimes things happen behind the scenes. And you primarily talking about personnel issues which is one area the Board doesn't have much power over.
Jet City mom said…
Andy, I did read the article, but as a former teen, I also know how easy it is to read adults and manipulate them into not punishing you.
I probably should be embarrased about taking advantage of the adults good intentions, but they were so easily led.

So unless there is an arrest and placement of the girl in a safer environment, Im afraid I am too jaded to believe every story.

It's fairly unusual for experienced teachers to leave a district, and it's certainly unusual for so many to leave at a time (200 is 20% of 1000 not 10%)
It does a real diservice to the students who want to learn, to have disruptive students in class. Just one student can cause havoc, and I agree with the student quoted in the article, weekly fighting should not be the normal.
Watching said…
Superintendent Susan Enfield is having trouble in Highline School District. She put forth a policy for limiting suspensions, but failed to provide appropriate supports. 200 teachers have left Highline.

Susan Enfield is the darling of the Gates Foundation. With the support of Seattle's business community, Enfield brought us Teach for America. TfA corp receive 5 weeks training and are placed in classrooms with high need students. Thanks to the community members that fought this issue.
NO 1240 said…
The Supreme Court declared I 1240 unconstitutional and Enfield/board signed an Inter-local agreement with the Mary Walker school district to allow the flow of public funds into Rainier Prep charter school. Community members hired a lawyer to fight this effort, but they were unsuccessful.

Glad SPS Administration would not sign onto Dorn's nit wit idea, which would have subverted our highest court ruling.

Anonymous said…
Interesting theory , Jet City Mom. Perhaps the girl was lying, or maybe Enfield just made up the whole story to justify her policy.

By law, `the district would have had to inform police, and the police would have had to investigate and the step-dad would have been charged and jailed.

Did the Times reporter follow up? Was the reporter bamboozled as well?

Did you really pull the same stunt when you got in trouble in high school? Hilarious!

Anonymous said…
That's pretty cynical. DPS and the police would have been contacted and if the girl lied she would be in more trouble, with the law this time.

Anonymous said…
Yeah, I don't think this string is funny. Even if she was lying, something serious is going on for her to lie about something like that. Always believe women and girls who say they have been violated, meet them with compassion and respect, and never ignore small signals or comments. Speaking from experience, tears can come from a deep and terrible place, or just a crazy Highschool hormone rush--either way they shouldn't be ignored.

No MeansNo
Anonymous said…
I'm a Garfield parent - 9th grader. My kid was HCC, now in Honors for All. So far, hard to tell what the experience is going to be. From reading the syllabus it seems like a class that will be taught from/graded from the high middle. Kudos to the teachers for at least using Schoology - only teachers to do so. We'll see if they can keep the rest of their commitments.

My kid is also in a math class with no teacher designated - only a sub that doesn't seem qualified to teach the subject. No syllabus, no homework, kids can't bring their math books home. Asked the school about it and they said they are working to hire a teacher. Note that they were down a math teacher all of last year. NO proactive communication from school, NO proposed interim plans - kids are sitting in a class and doing worksheets. I'm sure the PTSA would be more than happy to fund a qualified tutor for a few weeks - PRincipal said "If I need any help I will ask for it".

We have a fundamental accountability/professionalism issue with Seattle public schools as pointed out many times in this blog. Many/all of us would be fired for some of the things that are being covered here.

Cap Hill
Anonymous said…
If she was lying it would have been found out as soon as the police got involved. So either Enfield is lying or the story is true. If Enfield lied about the story, wouldn't someone in Highline SD call her on it? The police maybe?

As far the teacher who blogged from Thailand about the discipline problems, she sounds pretty entitled, living the life of luxury in the third world. Maybe she just wants to make money off her blog and live the life of permanent vacation.

Ms. Spock
Anonymous said…
Is the Thailand teacher angling to get disability pay to continue her beach life?

Anonymous said…
The girl's step father would have been arrested, no question about it. I think Jetcitymom is way out of line to insinuate the girl lied. She would charged with giving false statements.

Anonymous said…
Anyone else bothered that the incident with a Highline student was discussed publicly by a school employee, with a newspaper reporter(!)?

Anonymous said…
I would be if any identifying information had been revealed, FERPA and all that.

How's it a problem?


Anonymous said…
The rape case at Garfield had extensive coverage in the press as well as the choir molestation case, also at Garfield. The Highline High story in no way id's the student and shows the problem with suspension, one of them anyways. Let's not forget the horrible murder-suicide of the Aki girl and her rapist grandpa a couple years back.

These things need daylight and as long as students are not identifiable, it doesn't violate the law.

It may take some time to adapt to the new policy and Dr. Enfield admits there have been some bumps, but kicking students out is akin to punishing kids by withholding recess or going to the end of year fairs.

Anybody find out the Roosevelt band camp issue?

whole foods

I suspect the band camp issue was probably someone not getting forms done on time, either at the school or the district. Maybe parents were slow in getting forms back. But if the event was to happen, parents and students should have been given strict cut-off dates if documentation wasn't being returned in a timely manner.
Anonymous said…
All of these issues are personnel issues. If the board can't get a handle on that, then either we need yet another new round of board members, or we're going to have to revisit the way this district is governed. I'm well aware of the downsides of both paths, especially with Ed Murray still sniffing around. So the current board has to step up.

Anyone looking at this district will see a failure of leadership at the management level. The board's job is to step in and fix those problems when they occur, even if it is difficult to do so, even if they still don't have their feet fully underneath them. 9 months in office isn't a lot, but it's enough. Time for them to start delivering real results when it comes to ending a dysfunctional management culture.

Old Coug
Anonymous said…
A surprising (horrifying?) percent of kids are dealing with serious trauma. Who knows if the girl cited was lying, but studies suggest that 20-30% of kids are dealing with serious abuse (sexual, physical, verbal) and/or neglect, as well as abandonment, parental substance abuse, absent parents, family stress of insecure housing, etc. Those kids are highly concentrated in communities of poverty...not because poverty causes these things but because these things correlate with poverty. And trauma leads to serious outcomes: those kids are more likely to end up in prisons, addicted, or deeply depressed.

I have worked a bit with adults who were victims of the most horrible trauma. In recovery, you see the real, and very hurt, person inside the outwardly homeless, addicted, or mentally ill person that you see at first glance.

I don't know what the answer is, but it seems like a huge societal problem that presents in schools so that's where we expect it to be solved. But for every kid that admits to a counsellor what's going on, there are many more struggling and under the radar. Or on the radar as a problem. Seriously, where do you think all the incredibly dysfunctional people living on the streets or in jail come from? Happy, functional families?

Steve said…
I'm not sure how I feel about elementary schools adopting a "no homework" policy (several articles/news pieces about this in the last week), but I am concerned that the decision about whether to have homework is being left up to each school. If the data is clear and reducing/eliminating homework has no negative impact on learning, why isn't this a district-wide policy? And are there plans to monitor the impact of this big change to ensure that the decision was correct at the school level?

Outsider said…
Steve, the same homework discussion has been going on for years. A couple things to keep in mind:

1) "no negative impact on learning" means the rate of passing standardized tests doesn't go down. That is the only thing they can measure or care about. It doesn't really mean there is "no negative impact on learning."

2) I would guess elementary homework is rarely differentiated, and like most of SPS, it's calibrated at the 30th percentile. So for many students, it will be annoying busywork of little value. The 30th percentile is typically the region of the curve where students might or might not pass the standardized test, so it's the logical place to focus. If they are saying homework for those students doesn't move the test needle, then you could reasonably ask whether it's worth the trouble to teachers and families.
Benjamin Leis said…
Others might find the John Hattie meta-analyses of homework interesting.

The first problem with this type work though is that like much education research, the results are almost never cut and dry and you'll find support for both sides of the issue.

But there is a much larger issue on top of that. Dozens of pedagogical decisions are being made independently in every building. Site based management means there is no general consistency on any best practices, from homework, to recess time, to math curriculum etc. And we don't really analyze much (if any) across buildings for any of these decisions.

Personally, despite everyone's distrust of central staff, I think we've swung too far in the direction of decentralization. I would welcome making many more of these decisions collectively as a district.
Outsider said…
The Highline HS teacher who fled to Thailand and wrote the angry blog post does seem to be a bit hippy-dippy and lacks the toughness to teach very long in a non-rich American high school. She is very angry, for example, that she can't get a student suspended for calling her a "dyke," which is perhaps even ironic. Live by the PC sword, die by the same. But her argument does raise some interesting issues.

1) Supermarket tomatoes are also tough. You can kick them all the way up the highway from California, and they still last three weeks on the supermarket shelf. But how good are supermarket tomatoes? Supt. Enfield seems comfortable with a process by which the middle school and high school staffs in Highline will be transitioned by rapid turnover to a much tougher breed of teacher. And no doubt a lot of those teachers will be very impressive people, able to maintain order and establish relationships with students in combat conditions. But how much content will they be able to teach in the meantime, and how well? Perhaps Highline students will be consigned permanently to "supermarket tomato" quality of education, while the PC crowd complains forever that the best teachers go to rich "organic heirloom farmers' market tomato" schools, and a massive "opportunity gap" persists between schools like highline HS and rich schools. PC warriors like Enfield claim they will remove the opportunity gap, but by letting disruptors rule their schools, they are actually setting the gap in stone.

2) The Thailand-escaping teacher has a keen interest in "societally-appropriate boundaries" and "consequence that is similar to societal expectations." I am not sure where that comes from, or how it rings in the ears of the PC crowd, but it raises an interesting question regarding the trauma-affected students mentioned by asdf. Are trauma-affected students harmed or helped by a clear moral order in schools? Are they actually helped by going to schools where disruptors rule, and teachers are made fools, and the moral order is as unclear and the ground is as unstable as everywhere else in their lives?

Politics is made of false dichotomies, and sometimes the best policy choice might not even be on the menu. Out-of-school suspension, in-school suspension, and require the teacher to just deal with it are not the only policy options. A fourth option is reassignment to an alternative high school, which is what they used to do where I lived long ago in another state. An alternative school provides unlimited time and space to establish relationships with troubled students, and figure out what they want or would accept, and set up academic or training experiences that would actually move their lives in a positive direction, while preserving a positive learning environment for their non-troubled peers back in the main school. I suppose the alternative school system was abolished for PC reasons, but not without consequence.
Anonymous said…
"I think we've swung too far in the direction of decentralization. I would welcome making many more of these decisions collectively as a district. "

This also manifests in the dismantling of Spectrum and ALO at the individual schools. The motto of SPS should be "Half-assing it since whenever"


Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools