Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday Open Thread

I'm off to the BEX Oversight Committee meeting this morning - I haven't been in quite awhile but I saw this notation on the agenda:

BEX V Capital Levy Update (Flip Herndon/Richard Best)
Build another high school or expand the present schools?
How should SPS determine to renovate or replace existing schools?

I believe this discussion is in advance of the upcoming Board Work Session on May 1st - Capital Projects Semi-Annual Report, Annual Enrollment Report and Capacity Evaluation.  

I'll let you know what I learn.

(To note, somewhere along the line, staff renamed the Committee, the BEX/BTA Oversight Committee.)

Upcoming threads - principals, Facebook and student data privacy issues, and integration in our schools.

Did your child sign this agreement when taking the PSAT:

  ”if your school provided information about you to the college board, the college board may retain that information to provide educational services related to the test such as score reporting in scholarship eligibility and opportunities.”
And is that all they will use that information for?  Hmmm.  Can a minor sign such a document and it's binding?

And another thing that makes you go "hmmm", on the City's Families and Education levy, no minutes or agendas from either the City's Levy Oversight Committee (created this year and comprised solely of City Council members) OR the levy's Advisory Committee for the last couple of months.  It doesn't instill faith to the public when there is no way to read what the discussion has been for the renewal of the levy for the last several months.  I'm attempting to find out why this documentation isn't available.

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

If we have schools that need to be renovated or replaced, we need somewhere for those kids to go in the meantime. Do we have that extra capacity? If not, we need to build additional school(s) first. Our capacity needs some

wiggle room

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wiggle Room, it used to be SPS practice to move entire schools off-site in order to renovate. They had interim buildings to do that. Not so much anymore.

This is not the norm in other districts where they do it section by section (as they did at Hale). Takes longer but then again, everyone is going to the site in their area and not busing across town (ask Loyal Heights if this has been fun for them).

So, from here on out, it'll have to be done on-site because the only true interim left is John Marshall and that's going to go away. (Of course, if they do buy back the Lake City building lease, they'd have that but only for elementary.)

Anonymous said...

I am confused about the levy committees. The Levy Oversight Committee (LOC) does not seem to be comprised solely of City Council members as mentioned above. The committee's web page lists its membership here, who are mostly not elected officials:


I have also been connecting with staff about the missing materials and minutes on the LOC's web page. I received word on Friday 4/6 that this would be a priority to deal with ASAP this week, but the materials are still not there, so I just sent another email.

According to the web page, the next LOC meeting is next Tuesday 4/17. I think I got this info wrong in a previous comment. The meetings are "generally" on 2nd Tuesdays which would have been this past Tuesday, but this month it is on the 3rd Tuesday.

I did some searching but I could not find any info about the levy's separate Advisory Committee mentioned by Melissa, except news articles referring to its past actions. Is there a web link to info on the Advisory Committee? Or maybe the name got changed from Advisory to Oversight? Thanks in advance if anyone can provide info.

Jonathan Mark

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jonathan, there are two committees. One is the LOC (Levy Oversight Committee) that does have various people including Betty Patu and Superintendent Nyland. (I note that some people from the community have been on the committee way too long; they need to circulate people out.) Their page doesn't reflect any agendas or minutes for the entire year. I have asked for them. They are to have a meeting on April 17th.


However, in Feb., the City Council set up this committee:Select Committee on 2018 Education Levy.

"With the Families and Education Levy (2011) and the Seattle Pre-School Levy (2014), both expiring in 2018, the City of Seattle looks to renew our commitments and investments to support quality learning that is centered on closing the opportunity gap and expanding access to learning for Seattle's children and their families.

The Committee will consider the Executive’s proposal for a ballot measure to fund the renewal of the Families and Education Levy and the Seattle Preschool Program Levy."

Co-Chairs are Gonzalez and Johnson and the other members are the City Council CMs.

Next meeting: April 23, 2018, 10:30 a.m., Select Committee on Education Levy Council Chambers,City Hall

Ballard Resident said...

Campers have taken over the entrance to Whitman Middle School during spring break. My husband submitted a Find It Fix It on Tuesday, but it was “transferred to another department.” The vagrants are still there today.

It seems to me that the city should not allow this type of activity on school grounds.

Meanwhile, there are increasing numbers of needles being found at Ballard's public library.

The city needs to get out of the education business. They need to focus on public health and safety, and transportation.

Anonymous said...

There was to be a story on KIRO 7 about the tent in the doorway at Whitman at 7 pm, but I suspect it was pre-empted by the air strikes on Syria. There is a story on the KIRO Radio site.

What I don't understand is why the school administration, or parents have not taken action to remove this tent?


TheGoodFight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Transparency Please said...

It has been SEVEN months since the Family and Education Levy Committee posted minutes. The last minutes were posted 9/17.


There was an underspend of $3M (possibly prek).

The city wants to add 200 prek seats.

There will only be 3 months between the city and SPS levy asks.

The city wants to ask voters for $700K- nearly 3/4 billion dollars. Yet, this committee can't provide citizens with updated reports. For this reason, I'm voting NO.

Transparency Please said...

It is not unreasonable to believe that the city is trying to hide information. I've seen this type of thing before.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Melissa for answering my question about the two committees!

As of Saturday morning 4/14, the Levy Oversight Committee's 2018 materials & minutes are still not on the city web site.

Jonathan Mark

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again to note, I have asked both DEEL and CM Gonzalez' office about this. I received the schedule of meetings for the LOC but there are no agendas or minutes.

I am with Transparency Please; it will be interesting to see the City defend this practice of not putting up information on a program that they now have their hand out for again.

Anonymous said...

This cough syrup getting high thing reported at REMS is very disturbing.

Here's what it does and why kids like it.

Here's the products it's in:

Why can't the kids just get some pot if they want to get high? There still remains to be even one death from overdose of weed. The district needs to do a review of its drug education program I think if kids are using drugs like this dextromethorphan.

It's not just REMS either BTW, it's a middle school thing and parents should be alerted and pour out their cough syrup at home.


Anonymous said...

Yes it is disturbing that kids are ODing on cough syrup, but it's more disturbing that REMS and JSCEE chose not to inform parents of the problem.

Full investigation

Melissa Westbrook said...

Perhaps the district is waiting until after Spring break. If not, that's weird.

Anonymous said...

@ StepJ & Ballard Resident. I agree, it is a safety and health issue for the homeless and the public. I had assumed most people who were camping in Seattle were doing so because they did not have enough shelters. However, recent news report challenged that assumption by reporting that a majority of campers are camping because they prefer it and don't want to go to shelters which have rules etc. https://www.kiro7.com/news/local/seattle-homeless-tent-mansion-low-priority-for-city-cleanup/727621918

When you have many people camping, IV drug use, lack of sanitation it breeds disease. There have been some outbreaks of disease in Seattle lately, but I think there won't be action to get everyone into shelters with sanitation etc until there is a major issue. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/infectious-disease-oubreaks-in-seattle-homeless-people-concern-health-officials/

Ballard Resident said...

Be careful if you bring your child to the Ballard library. Here is what is happening:

" Ballard library staff recorded a dozen needle-related incidents, including a man slumped over after shooting up at the library, a needle left unattended in a Pop-Tart box in the lobby, needles found floating in toilets on two different occasions, and an oversized CD case stuffed with needles and empty baggies that had been tossed in the book drop. In one case, an uncapped needle was found lying on the floor in the teen area of the library; in another, a library staffer discovered two needles in the restroom while cleaning up piles of trash and clothes that a patron had left behind."


These ARE public health and safety issues. The city is failing to protect the public from needles that may carry deadly diseases such as Hepatitis C, HIV etc. Don't expect help from Councilmember Mike O'Brien.

Grumpy Parent said...

Interesting article in the Atlantic on reading scores, discussing reading score gaps in the NAEP.

The article says students shouldn't be getting "just right" books that are below grade level. Marilyn Jager Adams, a cognitive and developmental psychologist who is a visiting scholar at Brown University, said: “Giving children easier texts when they’re weaker readers serves to deny them the very language and information they need to catch up and move on.”

Timothy Shanahan, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois and the author or editor of over 200 publications on literacy, says that recent research indicates that students actually learn more from reading texts that are considered too difficult for them—in other words, those with more than a handful of words and concepts a student doesn't understand.


chunga said...

It's no doubt concerning that people without homes are setting up tents at Whitman and people suffering from addition are forced to use libraries as a place to use and dispose of dangerous needles. The thecisforcrank article that Ballard Resident shared provides some valuable reporting of this issue (as she has done for years), but what Ballard Resident left out from that article is this, "As long as the city fails to adequately fund housing and treatment, and delays building safe consumption spaces for people living with active addiction, as a county task force unanimously recommended a year and a half ago, our libraries are going to continue to be de facto safe consumption spaces, crisis clinics, and emergency waiting rooms."

I'll note that CM Mike O'Brien has been a strong long time supporter of both providing more housing and shelter for people without homes and for safe consumption sites and other treatment services for those suffering from addition.

I'd also suggest that rather than badmouthing these people facing hardship, we set a good example for our kids and show compassion and re-double our efforts to help these people. Pushing for the head-tax on large businesses would be a good next step to providing more funds for affordable housing.

Anonymous said...

Let me clear-er.

REMS staff knew well before the group OD last week of the problem with dextromethorphan. REMS and JSCEE staff chose not to warm parents which possibly would have prevented last week's incident.

Full investigation

Anonymous said...

I don't see people "badmouthing" people but rather people voicing concerns and opposition to the homeless's personal behavior. Dropping used needles in parks, spreading human waste, littering, theft and vandalism are not behaviors that should be rewarded. We as tax payers have no obligation to fund those behaviors and or provide free homes. People are free to open their homes to street people and so far I've only seen people demanding that I pay for services and free homes for street people.

I suggest those of you who support "re-double our efforts" first open your homes and wallets before pushing your strong-arm tactics on tax payers!

Just facts

Ballard Resident said...

Children should not be subjected to Hepatitis C and HIV from needles. The city is responsible for the health and safety of those living in the cities. No bad mouthing, here.

Anonymous said...

re: Atlantic article..."recent research indicates that students actually learn more from reading texts that are considered too difficult for them"

That is what the teachers at Garfield have been advocating in Honors for All. They knew/know that dumbing down the language and texts keeps the students from progressing.

Looks like the research proves them correct.

Good Job

Anonymous said...

Are the general ed classes at Garfield still operating at an elementary school level? Because that is what we saw when we toured Garfield and that was the main reason we didn't attend there. If the teachers know that dumbing down class material keeps students from progressing why do they do it? I think the teaching staff at Garfield have a lot to answer for - especially in the science classes. You can challenge students in any class without giving it a hokey name.

More Work

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would agree with More Work; what was ever stopping teachers at any school from providing more rigor? It's a mystery that we never get a clear answer about from anyone.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ballard resident. In addition, there are people camping who prefer to camp, and do not want to move to a shelter if given the option according to recent news reports. That is an issue. Can the city force people into a low barrier shelter with services & sanitation, if they prefer to camp? Other cities may not make it an option. https://www.kiro7.com/news/local/seattle-homeless-tent-mansion-low-priority-for-city-cleanup/727621918

Anonymous said...

I agree with more work and want to see HCC-level math, science, ELA offered at every single middle school. No reason to ration learning. A few other middle schools offer math up to two years ahead, the science should follow. Don’t make students leave their friends and neighborhood to access those classes. There ARE enough students to fill those classes and you don’t have to be a math genius ready for three years ahead to take a challenging science class in middle school. I hope the new superintendent looks at this first as a way to increase equitable access to education across the district. Geary tried with her attempt to unravel HC pathways at the high school level, but I challenge our district leaders to take a serious look at the differences in rigor between middles schools and WITHIN middle schools. This is the platform from which students take off in high school; we need to do better for our students before it’s too late. Curious why the NW area has so many HC students? Look at the rigor and class offerings at McClure. It’s not hard to unravel the fact the parents are dodging that middle school because they don’t believe it will prepare their students for success in challenging high school coursework.


Anonymous said...

@ Good Job, it's not the same situation at all. First, that Atlantic article was specific to learning how to read. Second, the article talks about providing grade-level texts instead of lower-than-grade-level texts that seem to be more at struggling students' reading levels (whereas honors-level courses should use above-grade-level texts and/or require above-grade-level work). Third, if one were to apply this idea more broadly like you are doing, wouldn't the same apply to students already working above grade level--that they'd need more challenging texts, too? How do you challenge everyone with the same texts if you have some students reading at the 4th grade level (per Principal Howard) and others at college level? Does one size really fit all?

P.S. - Psst, Garfield. How about those evaluation data on how well HFA is working? How many of last year's minority and/or struggling students decided to take honors or AP classes in 10th grade, and how are they doing? How many of this year's 9th graders are signing up for Honors or AP classes next year. How do students feel the classes are--too easy, too hard, just right? With all data broken down by race, income, and HC-identification status, of course. Additionally, a side-by-side comparison of the new curricula vs. the old should also be done.

P.P.S - Psst, Seattle School Board members. Why aren't you stepping in and asking questions, requiring a meaningful evaluation, etc? If more and more SPS high schools are going to the HFA model, isn't that curricular change within your purview? Is HFA really honors level work? How do the curricula and work requirements compare to prior GE vs. honors versions of LA and SS?
How do the new HFA versions compare to comparable honors courses in nearby districts? If this is a widescale change, maybe you need to hire an evaluator to quickly look into it.

all types

Transparency Please said...

Thanks for rattling the city's cage, Melissa.

Minutes from the Family and Education Committee have been updated. Previous to you, the city failed to update minutes for the past SEVEN months.


Grumpy Parent said...

This Atlantic article does not say that educational science has determined that you wait until 9th grade and THEN give students access to grade-level material. Ha ha ha! If only that worked! Well, good point: if only that worked, Garfield would be able to show us that it worked. Did it work, Garfield?

I think the Atlantic article means not just in 9th grade language arts classes, but the whole way through school. Like, for all the students who are being given "just right" books at Fountas and Pinnell levels BELOW grade level. Giving students who are reading at a lower than target reading level access to engineered readers where all the hard words have been taken out (while kids at grade level get the same books with the hard words left in and kids reading above grade level get the same books with an extra helping of hard words scattered back in throughout the book) is HURTING the low-level readers. It is depriving them of the very education that they would have had access to if they hadn't been given only the dumbed down books that very well intentioned but misguided (and institutionally racist) adults gave them.

So SPS is trying to fix this in 9th grade only, at one high school only? How's that going for us? If that works for Garfield, maybe we can try family support workers only for 9th graders at Garfield, too? Hmmm. And how is that working, again?

Seems like we ought to fix this for all students who learn to read in the district. At all grade levels.

Anonymous said...

Another important point made in the Atlantic article: CONTENT KNOWLEDGE matters. By not teaching more history, science, literature, and arts, students aren't building the vocabulary and background knowledge that build good readers. Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham "explained that whether or not readers understand a text depends far more on how much background knowledge and vocabulary they have relating to the topic than on how much they've practiced comprehension skills."

The article discusses the link between income and reading gaps - children from higher income families will have had more knowledge boosting activities outside of school. All the more reason to boost content knowledge at school (think Core Knowledge approach) through more intentional reading.

In our experience, SPS tends to focus on skills over content. It's not just the reading level of texts that's important, but the content as well.

CK fan

Anonymous said...

I am a current Garfield parent with a freshman in Honors For All Lang Arts and History right now, with a slate otherwise full of Honors/HCC cohort classes. The HFA classes have been the two most demanding classes my child has had this year - reading and writing intensive in explicit preparation for taking advanced coursework beyond. My child moved from an elite private school and is an exceedingly strong student, will be taking AP exams next month as a freshman with encouragement from our counselor. Contrary to the predictions we read on this blog prior to our arrival (albeit by posters having no experience at Garfield, I realize now), HFA has been no cakewalk.


Anonymous said...

@ FNH, your perception seems to differ from that of many parents and students who came from middle school HCC. Many private schools, even "elite" ones, still expect grade level work, whereas HCC students should have been doing above grade level work in MS.

I'm also wondering how struggling students are managing to keep up if your strong student from an elite private school is finding the classes so demanding.

If the Garfield teachers have indeed managed to crack the code and are able to provide all of he support struggling students need while also providing all the challenge advanced students need, they should share the evaluation findings publicly, and with the education world as a whole. Your account makes it sound like they are doing the impossible!

All types

Anonymous said...

@All types

What do you actually know about Honor's for All? Apparently, nothing.

No kid in the classes, no actual knowledge of it.

Yet, you're going to contradict a first-hand account by a current parent with a child coming from a highly rigorous background.

All we hear on the blogs is how middle school is the HC weak link, but suddenly it's way better than a challenging international school. Yeah, right!

Anything to preserve the status quo...anything. Even made up information.

One type

Anonymous said...

Please remove these ridiculous labels, honors, AP, HCC, IBX are all designed to create distinctions. I thought all the liberals were against Race labels, gender labels, origination labels, etc. How about simplifying the whole issue by just numbering classes like math 101 math 202 math 303 etc.

Just stop being elitist.


Grumpy Parent said...

Yes! Remove the labels and just move kids along at whatever rate they master the material!!! That would be ideal. Offer a challenge test for students ready to move to the next level. I completely agree that the labels are the problem. It makes NO sense to call all 9th graders "9th graders" when they're reading anywhere between a 4th grade and college level. Just put them in the reading class for their level, whatever it is. Call it whatever you want to call it. Reading 23, whatever. When they're ready for the challenge test, give it to them and if they pass, move them to Reading 24. This would completely get rid of the need for any of these silly labels. I am all for it!

Melissa Westbrook said...

One Type, c'mon - one parent's account is just one person's. And, you can write anything you want about yourself and how do we know it is true and not "made up?"

Boom, aren't you clever? You do know that when you relabel it's not like parents and students don't figure it out.

Anonymous said...

As predictable as night follows day:

Westbrook only questions the validity of a poster when it calls into question the HCC program or somesuch.

She accused the same parent of fronting for something at one time, too. LOL.

Amazon Cards

Anonymous said...

Above grade level work in middle school HCC LA/SS was curtailed when the decision was made to align it with grade level standards, then to top it off SPS did not adopt any advanced texts for the middle school SS adoption. Teaching above grade level became the exception rather than the rule. Teachers can do pretty much what they want regardless - the adopted texts can sit on the shelf collecting dust while they supplement or supplant. They can cover the standards, or not. Who's checking? As there is little consistency within SPS, even at the school level, it's difficult to make statements about the level of rigor at the program level (in both MS and HS). A class taught by an exceptional teacher one year may be taught by their polar opposite the next. It can be like night and day. They may have been assigned a class they have no interest in teaching or simply aren't qualified to teach.

it happens

Anonymous said...

@Middleweight I would guess the NW area has so many HCC students because they also might have more public school students enrolled overall, as compared to other areas. More affluent areas (like QA) are likely sending more of their kids to private school. There just also might be more students in NW & NE overall. Most kids in NW are middle class and not affluent and most we know attend public school.
NW parent

Anonymous said...

@ One type, parents can have many different perceptions and degrees of insight into how challenging the same class is, and given the lack of standardization across classes in SPS, one parent's opinion is only that--one parent's opinion. That's why we need an evaluation of how well this is working--for struggling students, for average students, for high-achieving students, and for those identified to be highly capable.

Remember, per WAC, "for highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education." Does a class really provide "accelerated learning" if it's a class that any student can handle, even those reading or writing at elementary school levels? I'm skeptical that the answer is yes, but if it is, GHS should definitely share that information because there are a lot of schools and districts and states that would love to know how to effectively differentiate with wide ranges in abilities and very limited resources.

@ Boom, the labels aren't the issue. It's the abilities. If you eliminate all labels, it doesn't change the fact that some students will be ready for more advanced classes than others. If you're actually talking about eliminating the levels--e.g., no more honors or AP or IB classes--you're talking about a one-size-fits-all approach, and I'd like to see evidence of why a student reading at the 12th grade level in 2nd grade should be reading 2nd grade texts, or why a student ready for algebra in 6th grade should have to wait until high school to take it.

I'm with Grumpy Parent. I don't care one iota about the labels themselves, as long as sufficiently rigorous classes are available to all who want them. All students should be able go to class each day with the expectation that they will likely learn something.

all types

Anonymous said...

Teacher in PA likely to be fired for making pancakes for his students taking the state's required test.



Anonymous said...

Does anybody know the status of the principal hire at Washington Middle School?

Concerned Citizen