Saturday, July 07, 2018

Saturday Open Thread

In an astonishing ruling, a federal judge said that "Access to literacy"is not a constitutional right.  The ruling, not so ironically, came from Betsy DeVos' home state, Michigan.  From the NY Times:

Do students at poorly performing schools have a constitutional right to a better education?
On Friday, a Federal District Court judge in Michigan decided that they did not when he dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed by students at troubled schools in Detroit.

The suit, filed in September 2016, argued that students at some of the city’s most underperforming schools — serving mostly racial minorities — had been denied “access to literacy” because of underfunding, mismanagement and discrimination.

In his decision on Friday dismissing the suit, Judge Stephen J. Murphy III said that “access to literacy” — which he also referred to as a “minimally adequate education” — was not a fundamental right. And he said the lawsuit had failed to show that the state had practiced overt racial discrimination.

In his decision, Judge Murphy agreed that state officials bore some responsibility for the quality of education in the district. He also agreed that giving students the opportunity to learn to read was “of incalculable importance,” adding that some level of literacy was necessary for voting, applying for a job and securing a place to live.
“But those points do not necessarily make access to literacy a fundamental right,” he said.
From NPR, Virginia passes a law to suppose mental health education in schools.
This week, New York and Virginia become the first two states to require mental health education in public schools. This comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report a 30 percent rise in suicide rates in the U.S. in the past two decades. 
Vashon Island teachers voted to accept a 10% raise from their district.  From the Vashon Beachcomber:
Vashon public school teachers will see their salaries increase an average of 10 percent in the next school year, after union members approved a one-year collective bargaining agreement with the Vashon Island School District.

The previous contract had called for a 4 percent increase next year, but the negotiation process was re-opened to provide for increased money coming from the state through the McCleary funding plan. The negotiation process was not a simple one, district and union leaders agree, and resulted in the salary increase for teachers — deemed important by both sides — as well as cuts to a variety of programs, ranging from supplies to clubs.
One issue, raised in this article, that applies to all districts is figuring out how much each district will receive from the McCleary ruling.
District officials have said they will not have any. The extra money they are receiving from the state is offset by cuts from the federal government and local levy funds, former Superintendent Michael Soltman said. As a result, he said the district is left with a $1.4 million increase over last year’s budget — the amount the district would have received without McCleary money and only enough to cover the previously agreed upon 4 percent increases.

Leaders of the teachers’ union, the Vashon Education Association, disagree. They say because of information they have received from Washington Education Association (WEA), they believe that Vashon is getting more money than district leaders have presented. As a result, it took some time to try to reconcile the different information, understand the complex budgeting process and come to an agreement.
This may be an early warning for what happening during teacher negotiations for Seattle Public Schools.
Now, Soltman said, negotiations, like those on Vashon, are going on throughout the state.
“The big winners are settling easy because they have the money. The losers are going to have very challenging negotiations because they will be forced to reduce staffing and programming to increase compensation, like we were,” he said.

Both he and Macomber said they talked to Vashon’s legislators repeatedly about the regionalization issue, but the situation was not addressed. They will try again in the next legislative sessions, as will island teachers, Granum and Berliner said.
What's on your mind? 


Former Souper said...

Thanks for letting us know about Vashion Island teacher contract. Interesting that they have a ONE year contract.

Given contract negotiations around the state, I suspect SEA is asking for raises between %15%-20%. Teachers are an investment, but other services, counselors, materials etc. need to be funded too. There are reasons why some hold anti-union sentiments.

K Mom said...

I am curious about what determines whether a school offers Jump Start for incoming kindergartners. I have a child who will be starting kindergarten and noticed that the wording on the SPS Jump Start info flier says "most schools" offer it, and there appear to only be a handful of elementary schools not included on the list. The list clarifies which schools will have free snack and lunch provided and includes a split of both, so that seems to answer whether free/reduced lunch percentages would have anything to do with whether a school participates.

Anyone know why schools would not participate in Jump Start?

K Mom said...

The list of participating schools for Jump Start is here: https://www.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=41930939

Outsider said...

What was the remedy sought in the Detroit lawsuit? The state already took over Detroit schools, with limited success, so probably they are done with that as a remedy. Did they have an argument that funding was unfairly low, and want to compel some unspecified amount of taxpayer spending? Or did they want vouchers that would let students escape the Detroit system? As I recall, Michigan is already charter school crazy, so just having access to charter schools regulated by the public system seems not to have helped either.

Probably they wanted money, but it's iffy for a judge to invent abstract rights and compel bottomless amounts of taxpayer money to be spent in a manner overseen by the court. The judge would be usurping the role of both the legislature and the school bureaucracy. Judges have already over-reached way too much in this country, politicizing the judiciary to the point of crack-up and putting democracy at risk. This judge was probably wise to not go there.

On the other hand, it would be great if a law was passed defining a right to human development for all children and granting students the right to voucher out when public schools fail them. By that I mean all the way out, beyond the reach of political regulation, not just into a confined universe of crony-capitalist scam schools that managed to wangle charters from the public system. Real vouchers wouldn't be an instant cure, since it would take years to develop a good network of independent schools, and poor families have the fewest resources to drive that process. But fixing the public schools in places like Detroit has taken years already with minimal progress.

Melissa Westbrook said...

K Mom, I don't know for sure. I suspect it's schools that believe their Ks come in ready to go and don't really need it.

Bee Mom said...

Maybe there's others that I missed, but these are schools that don't do Jump Start:
Fairmount Park
Genessee Hill
John Hay
Thornton Creek
View Ridge
West Seattle
West Woodland

Kids come in with quite a varying range of readiness for K. I suppose we'll see that changing now that we're investing so much in preschool?

Anonymous said...

Other schools not offering Jump Start:

Loyal Heights
Rainier View

Fairmount Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

I should ask - maybe it's a principal thing (and if that true, maybe it shouldn't be).

Anonymous said...

Well said, outsider.

Of course literacy is not a right in the US of A! At one point, less than 160 years ago, literacy was a crime for many of the descendants of the less than 2% of Black students in HCC.

Have you heard of the Flynn Effect? Children improve with succeeding generations on IQ tests because such tests are measuring a societally valued set of mental tasks, where the descendants' skills become more refined with time. Guess what happens if you were born on third base as opposed to first base?

The difference between a high and medium CogAT score is about six months. That is why *any* truly valued score is norm based. And that guideline comes from the developer of the test.

How about 400 years in slavery or being one or two generations into literacy?

How valid does that universally scored CogAT test look now?

As a veteran teacher, I am well aware of the political and/or money agendas of those who are attempting to usurp public schools. My MOW has been to teach the student where they arrive and move them as far as I know how to take them. Since I teach young students, perpetuating the systemic evil has been less of an issue since many underserved students progress through the roof. Why? Because their parents may be uneducated but they are far from stupid and Can't wait to work with me.

However, when you use "neighborhoods" or "universally normed cognitive tests" as government sanctioned Sophie's choices for quality of education or "giftedness", and continue to support those inequities while sporting your fading Obama bumper stickers, then you can expect a well-deserved reaction.

The situational outrage and denial on this blog continue to be astounding.


Anonymous said...

Correction: MO Modus Operandi

Not MOW Memorandum of (W)Understanding

Anonymous said...

please the only thing faded is your rhetoric. and here we go with the racial normed testing. that reprieve lasted a mere week. doesn't matter as the only thing to come from the altf is mtss. so no more grand identification plan for al and the elimination of self contained elementary classes for the hcc. but nothing to improve the program for those in it. or to increase the number of black or na kids in the program. it is just going to whisk al away as we know and declare everyone capable of working two grades ahead (tell me teacher do you believe that?) and then teach everyone the same damn thing. butts securely in seats (bsis) plan. now enrollment can jigger the lines however they want every few years and no need to worry about those pesky hcc kids gumming up the works anymore. keep it simple stupid.

no caps

Anonymous said...

K Mom,
At my school the K teachers don’t want to do it. It means losing most of August (setting up your room one week, JumpStart another week, and then the last week of Aug training all teachers attend). We don’t get paid enough to make it worth it. Our teachers like to travel with their families.

Anonymous said...


Is this on anyone's radar?

Successful Native Youth Program Displaced from Robert Eagle Staff School

A Native youth program with a record of boosting graduation rates and cultural enrichment for Seattle students has been cut back by Robert Eagle Staff school, echoing the heartbreak of broken agreements with local Native Americans over centuries. Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA) was given email notice by Eagle Staff School Principal Marni Campbell on May 22nd stating the UNEA ‘Partnership Agreement’ will be reduced (cut in half) for the new school year and this decision is “non-negotiable”.

“This displacement of the Clear Sky tutoring and cultural program and Native Warrior Athletics will impact hundreds of Seattle Public School Native learners, families, volunteers, Robert Eagle Staff/Licton Springs learning community and members of our intertribal urban community”, stated Sarah Sense-Wilson, (Oglala), Urban Native Education Alliance, Chair.

Clear Sky’s youth programming holds an 10 year record of 100% graduation for involved Native youth K-12, and stands as a recognized model for improving Native student academic and personal youth outcomes. Clear Sky served 81 Native youth, 71 volunteers, 64 Native Warrior Athletics student athletes, and over 784 combined community members, volunteers, students and allied programs in the past school year.

“Displacing and dispossessing our Native learners is an intentional effort to eliminate our presence and visibility at a school we successfully campaigned for naming Robert Eagle Staff”, said Amadanyo Oguara (Colville ), Clear Sky Alumni. Robert Eagle Staff School is located on culturally significant sacred land (Licton Springs). This site is where both Seattle Clear Sky and UNEA birthed as grassroots community driven organization. Our connection to this land transcends time and is a sacred relationship. It is ironic district officials accepted traditional star quilts, Eagle Staff Sculpture and other items of cultural importance in ceremony, as an exchange in good faith to honor the legacy Robert Eagle Staff and in tribute to the urban Native community’s ties and connection with this sacred site. UNEA requested the reversal of the decision, which remains in place for the fall school year despite its opposition to Seattle School’s Educational and Racial Equity Policy #0030, and SPS strategic Plan for eliminating Achievement gap, and its Racial Equity Analysis Tool to ensure equitable access.

“This decision resonates painfully with Seattle Schools history of broken promises,” said Sarah Sense-Wilson , “Our Native student’s access and opportunities for needed services are being truncated and again our partnership is dishonored. We are asking the district to rescind their decision for the benefit of the entire Seattle community. “

Jon Halfaker, Seattle Public Schools Area Executive Director, noted that alternative spaces may be offered at adjacent Licton Springs or Cascadia school. However, UNEA finds these spaces are insufficient for their basketball, fitness, health, tutoring and cultural programming. Please contact Seattle Superintendent at superintendent@seattleschools.org and Seattle School Board schoolboard@seattleschools.org to express support for our efforts to re-establish our original partnership with SPS. District Public Testimony is on Wednesday July 11th 5:00pm, call -in (206) 252- 0040 (must call on Monday July 9th, 2018 @ 8:00am). Please feel free to email us for more information at markseattl3@aol.com and www.urbannativeeducation.org

open ears

Anonymous said...

yeah please do. this is a must-stop-option. getting rid of successful programs has been sps mo for too long. i would urge all the past board meeting hogs to sit this one out too. sheesh.

no caps

Melissa Westbrook said...

FWIW/DeletEUd, I'm not sure the two things are in alignment but you can certainly believe that.

Open Ears, I have written about this twice. It's one more example of 1) principals as kings/queens of their schools and 2) the district wanting partnerships and then acting against those partnerships.

It's an odd thing given that the new PTA president is Native American, we have two Native American Board members and the new superintendent is Native American. You know who I think will win out? The principal.

Anonymous said...

@FWIW And history is not all "black and white". It's not only the descendants of blacks that have histories of illiteracy that may not go very far back. It may be more recent than many think for other groups as well. For example, my own grandparents who were immigrants had only an elementary school education and my grandmother worked in a sweatshop in NYC to support her family after elementary school. My great grandparents came to the US literally with zero education and could not read or write. They came here as immigrants from a place that was incredibly impoverished, oppressed where they had zero opportunity to attend school. They were not considered "white" when they came over (& were subject to Jim crow in the south), and in are a mix of middle eastern & n african as well as European ancestry in heritage, but now their mediterranean ethnic group of "Italian" is considered white in America.

Anonymous said...

Article on the principal at the World School:



Anonymous said...

@ FWIW, do you put "giftedness" in quotes because you don't think it exists?

You say that since you "teach young students, perpetuating the systemic evil has been less of an issue since many underserved students progress through the roof." Great. But what happens to the gifted students in your classroom who don't fall within the group you consider to be underserved? Do you bother to teach them at an appropriate depth and pace as well, or do you hold them back to minimize disparities in outcomes and not perpetuate the evilness that surely lies behind their abilities--thereby underserving them? If you serve them well, do they advance more quickly, exacerbating disparities--or do you find a way to slow them down?


City Living said...

Proposed increased utility costs and increases in the Family and Education Levy will eventually cost households an additional $500 per year over six years:


FWIW Q/A said...


You write, "Since I teach young students, perpetuating the systemic evil has been less of an issue since many underserved students progress through the roof. Why? Because their parents may be uneducated but they are far from stupid and Can't wait to work with me."

And this raises an important question: Why do only "many" of your underserved students progress through the roof under your non-evil-perpetuating tutelage? Why don't they all progress through the roof? You have carefully assessed them as far from stupid, they can't wait to work with you (lucky them!) and you seem very passionate. So, why are you having such different results with the different students?

When you allow some of them to progress through the roof and others to just meet standards or maybe not quite meet standards, you are perpetuating the very systemic evil you claim to care about defeating. Why aren't all your students benefiting from the same stellar outcomes as the ones who are progressing through the roof?

Surely you're giving them all the same high quality education. Why aren't they all benefiting from it equally?

Anonymous said...

Sorry for not making the idiom more clear.

"Through the roof" to me means 2+ years of valued added teaching per teacher.

I don't consider 1 1/2 to 2 years gain in one year "through the roof."

I'm not sure why you're asking me why all students don't benefit equally. That makes no sense if you know children.

The systemic evil is the system that has enslaved people for 400 years, followed by Jim Crow for 80 years, which is still resulting in Black people getting the phone called on them for doing things like swimming. The percentage of Black students in sub-par schools in this country right now is through the roof. Segregated schools are increasing.

The Native American systemic evil plays out in real time every day, and is currently on full display in SPS.

The systemic evil that would allow brown children to be separated from their parents at our border is undeniable. Do you really think this would have happened if the children were white?

These systemic realities play out in all institutions, including Seattle Public Schools, which has strict "neighborhood" schools, highly impacted schools, and HCC numbers of black, brown and Native Americans, which are so low that they are disgraceful.

I'm in teaching trying to do something about it and have, thankfully, been highly effective for many years.

Whatever you are trying to do in your "gotcha" post, it doesn't change these facts.


Anonymous said...


"literacy was a crime for many of the FOREBEARS of the less than 2% of Black students in HCC"


Melissa Westbrook said...

FWIW, when you say “highly impacted” schools, what do you mean? Title One?

FWIW Q/A said...

What I'm saying, FWIW, is that even though you provide the same great, caring instruction to all your students, the students' outcomes vary. Same input, different outcomes. When different students have different outcomes, it's not all due to systemic evil and racism. Siblings, for example, who might experience the same racism (and family background and SES, etc.) often have different educational outcomes from each other. Even when they go to the same schools and have the same teachers.

It seems like you're saying that the SPS elementary schools that have the most "black, brown and Native American" and "highly impacted" students are the most sub-par. How are you measuring how sub-par a school is?

I don't understand what you mean when you say:
"Through the roof" to me means 2+ years of valued added teaching per teacher.
I don't consider 1 1/2 to 2 years gain in one year "through the roof."

Students aren't empty bowls that teachers fill with X number of years' worth of knowledge. The students are involved in the learning. When a student fits "2+ years" of learning into one school year that does not necessarily mean that the teacher was fabulous. It means the estimate for how much that student could learn in one year was horrifically, catastrophically off.

Anonymous said...

@ FWIW, do gifted white or Asian students who enter classroom a year or two ahead also grow by 2+ years? Do you have curricula available to teach 3 and 4 years ahead?

Do students who enter your classroom at grade level also grow two years? If so, you should be considered the single secret to eliminating HCC disparities since a year with you should let all qualify.

Or is it only those who enter below grade level who soar? If so, what happens to the rest—do they sit idly by and wait for the others to catch up?

Assuming you get all types of students and are teaching each to their ability, outcomes disparities are likely to persist even after you’ve worked your magic. You may be able to close the gap a little, but if you’re closing it a lot you’re likely not serving one group well.

All types

Anonymous said...

To repeat from above:

"My MO has been to teach the student where they arrive and move them as far as I know how to take them."

Why would I let some kids sit "idly" by? That makes no sense.

I am not "doing magic" or being "fabulous." I am doing my job, like many teachers who work in the system and refuse to be limited by the system. The narrative that teachers teach to the ceiling of grade level standards is not true for all teachers. I strongly believe students should be taken as far as they are capable of learning and believe this should be a basis of any classroom.

My initial point remains: All students are capable of significant growth and most parents, no matter their educational background, are eager to work with their child's teacher to ensure their child's potential can be reached.

Melissa, here's an example of a highly impacted school in SPS (from OSPI):

Bailey Gatzert Elementary School

Race/Ethnicity (October 2016)
Hispanic / Latino of any race(s) 65 20.5%
Asian 38 12.0%
Black / African American 166 52.4%
White 18 5.7%
Two or More Races 30 9.5%

Special Programs
Free or Reduced-Price Meals (May 2017) 242 74.5%
Special Education (May 2017) 76 23.4%
Transitional Bilingual (May 2017) 126 38.8%


Anonymous said...

Btw, I supplement materials to the curriculum where/when needed, which can be often.

Elementary teaching isn't really rocket science.


FWIW Q/A said...

FWIW, I think it's great that you work to see that all of your students are able to experience growth at school to the best of their and your abilities. In this way, the students in your class are truly privileged within SPS. Because all teachers (or principals? as a parent it's hard to know who's calling the shots) do not share this philosophy. To the detriment of children's educational needs, which should be met regardless of their race, SES, home language, parents' level of education, neighborhood they live in, etc.