Saturday, February 25, 2017

Seattle Schools Update

A couple of items of importance have come up on the district's website as well as the agenda for Wednesday night's Board meeting.

Parents and community members have a week to apply to be on the High School Boundary Task Force.  

Seattle Public Schools is seeking a diverse group of community members to serve on the High School Boundary Task Force, whose purpose is to examine and prepare a set of recommendations regarding Seattle Public Schools high school capacity management and boundary issues.  

The report will include an examination of major capital projects that are affecting high school buildings; an exploration of past, current and possible future high school boundaries.
Open the High School Boundary Task Force Application for family and community membersPDF icon.
Please complete and submit the application by March 3. Applicants will be notified by email, if possible, or by phone by March 10, 2017. 

Please visit our task force webpage for more information.
The district is also holding a meeting for parents of students who may fall into the boundaries of the reopening of Magnolia Elementary School.
An attendance area will have to be established for Magnolia Elementary School to assign students to the new school. This means that the existing boundaries for Catherine Blaine, Coe and Lawton will likely be changed.

Please join SPS Enrollment Planning and the principals of Catherine Blaine, Coe, and Lawton at the upcoming community meeting to learn more about boundary changes and share feedback with district staff. Interpreters will be available.

Magnolia Elementary Community Meetings
Monday, March 13, 2017, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Catharine Blaine K-8, 2550 34th Ave W, Seattle
The Board meets this Wednesday, March 1st, starting at 4:15 pm for its regularly scheduled board meeting Agenda


- the Board is set to approve a resolution asking the Legislature to help our district and others avoid the levy cliff.  It's good the Board is taking this step but I'm fairly certain that bill is never going to make it to the floor of the Senate (by design) so here's hoping for a parachute for those districts.

-the Board is also set to approve more City pre-Ks in SPS (ending up with about 17 after the conversion of at least two Head Start classrooms and all three at South Shore Pre-K).  The new ones would be Olympic Hills (1), Cedar Park (2) and BF Day (1).  I'm a bit baffled about the two at Cedar Park - that space barely has room for incoming students and one bathroom.  Who's paying to put in the one just for pre-K that is required?

The BAR does say:
Staff recognize the District’s capacity challenges and recommend Cedar Park, Olympic Hills and BF Day for potential partnership based on current projections. Facilities staff will continue to monitor enrollment at these sites, projections for capacity and capability for SPP partnership. If there is a significant shift in enrollment projections in these communities, one or more of these sites may not move forward. Should any of these sites become a Seattle Preschool Program, the City is aware that capacity is reviewed on an annual basis.
As well, I see a component in the agreement that should raise concerns for parents.  It's inventory of each child's social-emotional state.  This is yet another new ed reform idea which is a double-edged sword.

Of course, it's important to give teachers as much information as possible about children in their classrooms.

But here's the other side; ed reformers want to try to track children as much as possible from birth to about age 20 including this kind of sensitive data.  Here's what the agreement says:
2. Ages & Stages Questionnaires®: Social - Emotional (ASQ:SE-2). ii. Health Records. The District will maintain current and confidential health files on all enrolled children. Student health files will be kept separately from student education files.
That's really good that they will keep the health files separately from the student education files except that is physical location only.  Meaning, those health files ARE part of the student education files under FERPA.  And, if you recall, former Secretary of Ed, Arne Duncan, changed FERPA to allow many more people and entities to access student data.

It also says this:

Special Populations: The DEEL Coach may approve additional funding (funds requested and reimbursed outside of this agreement) if one classroom has six (6) or more children enrolled with documented evidence of social-emotional, physical, or behavioral health and development challenges.
- The Board is also taking a fairly significant step in amending their policy on "Hiring of Retired School Employees). 

From the BAR:

The District faces critical shortages in teaching positions, some of which are historically hard to fill (Special Education, Language Immersion) and others that are cyclical (Music, Spanish language). Hiring retired teachers is one strategy to addressing this crisis. 

Our current practice is to staff retire / rehire employees for one year only and the decision to hire a retired applicant is made after a vacant position is advertised for an extended period of time (at least 3 weeks) and the best, qualified applicant is a retired applicant. The hiring manager submits rationale for the recommendation of the retired applicant and the position is offered for one year only. The vacant position must be re-advertised each year. 

In light of the current teacher shortage, the State Legislature scaled back restrictions on the hiring of retired teachers during the 2016 legislative session. In order to maximize every opportunity to retain highly qualified staff, we want to align with the state guidelines that no longer require the one-year limitation on employment of retire / rehires, but only a 30-day separation. (This provision of state law sunsets in 2020.) This would promote continuity and stability in both school and program staffing.
In alignment with state law, we would continue to follow current Board Policy No. 5001 to advertise for an extended period of time (at least 3 weeks) to ensure that non retired applicants have an opportunity to apply and be selected.


M. Lee said...

So, classrooms with children enrolled who have "documented evidence of social-emotional, physical, or behavioral health and development challenges" should totally get extra funding. That could be put to really good use and would also reflect the fact that some kids are harder to manage in a classroom setting than others. However, making the school concentrate these students into challenge-heavy classrooms is creepy. Some classes may already happen to have six or more kids with challenges in them. And then it's great that they get more funding. But, let's be honest, if the system is set up to encourage schools to concentrate these kids into classrooms, schools will do that to get the extra money. Why not dole out the money per kid? If there are kids with "documented evidence of social-emotional, physical, or behavioral health and development challenges," why not reimburse the school at a higher rate for these children? Not in batches of six, but on a student-by-student basis? Just give out a lower amount per child. I'm just a parent, but one child with significant challenges in a classroom can really throw a wrench into the works. All the students deserve a good education regardless of their challenges, but I don't see the wisdom of encouraging schools to make sure there are six "documented challenge" students in the same classroom.

Also, the 30%± of general education students who need access to advanced learning curricula can easily appear to have socio-emotional, physical, behavioral health or developmental challenges just from being bored out of their minds day in and day out all year. When my current 9th grader was in kindergarten, she was so bored that she misbehaved in class a lot, talked over the teacher, really became a class clown in a really disruptive way. She also started biting her own fingernails to an extent that wasn't healthy and playing around with toileting issues as a way to entertain herself. She started HCC the following year and all the problems went away. But she is far from the only child for whom the school's inappropriate curriculum and pacing actually CAUSE the kind of problems they want to give schools extra money to address. If they would just meet the needs of advanced learners, some of these problems would go away without any extra money. And it would be a lot healthier for the students and their classmates.

Unknown said...

Be aware of this legislation going through the State House, WA State House Bill 1518: “The Summer Step-Up Act” re: Social Emotional Learning: Why are we experimenting on low income four-year old’s?

Salvador said...

@Carolyn Leith,

SPS spends a lot of money on crazy things, but the money spent on the RULER program is not one of them. The program is on the up and up and has made a huge difference in the three Seattle elementary schools I've worked in.

Many children attending Seattle public schools today do not have access to as many siblings to practice their social skills on as children had in the past. In the 2010 census, the average family size for households in Seattle was 2.87. Nor are children allowed to hang out unattended at the local park or playground to play with neighborhood kids. The state of Washington actually recommends that children not be left home alone until sometime between the ages of 10 to 12 and not if there are younger children that need to be looked after.

The result of this is that only certain children in Seattle have routine access to other young children to practice their social skills. Perhaps they live in a housing development with multiple families with young children, or they attend a preschool or daycare program. But many of the better preschool programs (the kinds that would be more likely to really focus on teaching social and emotional skills) cost more than a college education, so only some children have access to those.

Over the years schools have also dramatically cut down on the amount of recess and lunch time children have to play at school. When many of Seattle's schools were built, kids still walked home to have lunch (one reason many of our cafeterias are overcrowded). Children do not have that freedom anymore. First of all, who would be home for them when they got there?

Social Emotional Learning is absolutely not an experiment. It is a right that all children should have. The right to learn to regulate their own emotions and interact with their peers constructively. Teaching children to self-regulate is not only kind and the right thing to do, it is of crucial importance in rearing them to be fully self-actualized social beings who can navigate the world comfortably.

If city children can't access this type of learning outside of school, it needs to happen at school.

Richard said...

I agree wholeheartedly that the RULER program is incredibly useful and valuable, with solid science behind it. We had a student move from a program without and with RULER, and the program with RULER has been far more effective in addressing social/emotional development and teaching kids self-awareness, how to self-regulate, how to read social/emotional cues from others, etc. It works so well the old school that had not been using RULER switched to it and has seen similar positive outcomes. You need to see it in action over a couple of years to appreciate how useful and important it is and how well it works. This is extremely well-spent money.

Cap hill said...

"Seattle Public Schools is seeking a diverse group of community members to serve on the High School Boundary Task Force, whose purpose is to examine and prepare a set of recommendations regarding Seattle Public Schools high school capacity management and boundary issues."

Hmm, seems like a hard problem...and the only criteria is that the group be diverse? Not diverse and have some level of expertise, or diverse and committed or diverse and (insert qualifier here).

It would seem to me that that would be a great way to get an answer that reflects diversity to some extent, but not necessarily a good answer, an answer that works etc. Too much of SPS thinking is exactly along these lines.

Cap Hill

Anonymous said...

The proposed boundary changes from Coe Elementary are posted. This is being driven by capacity issues at Coe and the opening of Magnolia Elementary. See the attached link to a PDF, starting page 10. There are four proposed scenarios for Coe boundaries.


These are drastic changes to the Queen Anne community. West Queen Anne families could cut from Coe and bused to Magnolia Elementary. North Queen Anne families could be cut and bused to Lawton Elementary. Magnolia-area kids could be shuffled from Lawton Elementary to Catherine Blaine to make room for new Coe kids. None of this makes any sense.

Can anyone tell me the requirements of SPS in opening Magnolia Elementary for programs? If my child is being cut from Coe which has PE, Music, Art, and Tech, is SPS required to open a comparable school with these same programs?

Thank you. I am new to these boundary issues.

Queen Anne Mom, also a gardener.