Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Tuesday Open Thread

 Update: from a reader, the reader board at Whitman Middle School welcomes a new principal.  But the district has made no announcement so it's unclear when/why this has happened.  Again, this principal movement is like watching a ping-pong match.

Not sure when the principals' association, PASS, has their contract renegotiated but when it is, parents should let the Board know that there has to be a better way on principal selection/assignment.

end of update

In the happiest of news,  the entire Thai boys soccer team and their coach have made it safely out the cave where they were stuck for two weeks.  Huzzah!

Great overview article from The Atlantic on public education in the U.S. and making generalizing statements about it.  I've said for a long time that until we have one national test - that all kids take like other countries - we won't really know as a nation how our kids are doing.  The NAEP is a good snapshot but I'm not sure it provides the fullest picture.
Across that stretch of time, politicians and policy makers have spoken often of the inadequacy of “America’s schools.” In fact, this trope is one of the few things that Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s regulation-averse secretary of education, has in common with her predecessors; she and previous education secretaries have regularly discussed the nation’s schools as a cohesive whole. This phrasing is useful shorthand for a national official, but it obscures the fact that the United States does not actually have a national education system. Many countries do. In France, for example, a centralized ministry of education governs schools directly. But in the U.S., all 50 states maintain authority over public education. And across those 50 states, roughly 13,000 districts shape much, possibly even most, of what happens in local schools.
The issue of principals has again come up.  I previously reported that the World School's principal has resigned with a great deal of pressure coming from students and parents for her to do so.  (Whether she is leaving the district is another issue.)  Crosscut has this recent article, detailing what happened at the school's prom and it's not pretty.
According to two people — a student who was there and who asked to remain anonymous and school staffer Teresita Bazán, a Spanish-speaking facilitator — a confrontation between the principal and the students quickly escalated. While students complained school officials had failed to warn them ahead of time that they would not be allowed in after a certain hour, Britsova, with a microphone in hand, threatened to call the police.

Students panicked. Because Seattle World School caters to immigrants and refugees, many students speak limited English. At prom that night, some students thought the principal had just called immigration.

Last month, the Vietnamese Friendship Association, the Christian nonprofit Urban Impact and others helped students organize a beach-themed prom “redo,” complete with beach balls and a giant, pink flamingo. About 60 students attended the makeup prom at 415 Westlake, an event space in downtown Seattle.
From noted public educator writer/blogger, Mercedes Schneider, news that TFA has been running in the red for the last four years and cutting staff.

Also from Schneider, even as some colleges/universities are not requiring an SAT/ACT score, some elite high schools are phasing out AP classes because some of those higher ed institutions are also not taking AP courses so seriously.
Many colleges apparently no longer consider AP-course completion to be a mark of distinction, or– as the eight elite DC high schools note in their joint announcement– many colleges no longer consider AP course completion as “noteworthy.”
These elite schools don’t like what has become the reality for public education nationwide: namely, the content cram associated with test prep. The eight elite DC schools are “convinced that focusing on a timed standardized test does not promote inquiry or higher-level discussion among students.”
From the message from the high schools:
In truth, with nearly 40% of high school students now taking these courses, the AP designation has become less noteworthy to college admissions officers. Our own survey of almost 150 colleges and universities confirms this. We have been assured by admissions officers that this change will have no adverse impact on our students. The real question for colleges is not whether applicants have taken AP courses, but whether they have availed themselves of their high schools’ most demanding classes.

The perception that colleges demand AP courses leads many students, perhaps reluctantly, to pass up other classes they might find more intellectually transformative and rewarding. Concurrently, because AP tests loom so large, faculty teaching these courses often feel pressed to sacrifice in-depth inquiry in order to cover all the material likely to be included on the test. This runs counter to the fact that college courses demand critical thinking and rigorous analysis. AP courses, by contrast, often stress speed of assimilation and memorization. While we acknowledge the recent attempts to develop more skill-based AP tests, we are convinced that focusing on a timed standardized test does not promote inquiry or higher-level discussion among students. Moving away from AP courses will allow us to offer a wider variety of courses that are more rigorous and enriching, provide opportunities for authentic engagement with the world, and demonstrate respect for students’ intellectual curiosity and interests.
 What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

However, the eight "elite" high schools already have a stellar reputation. They can afford to phase out AP courses, much like elite private schools in Seattle (Lakeside) who also don't offer AP courses and rely on their stellar reputation.

However, I would still be concerned that the principal of a new public school in Seattle, Lincoln does not want to offer AP. I don't think Lincoln from the get go as a brand new school has the support or track record to instill the confidence that families would want. There is no assurance what they offer in its place will be either adequate or appropriate, especially for the kids who seek more challenge. In contrast neighboring public schools of Ballard & Roosevelt & Ingraham offer either AP or IB as a universal standard that universities can assess.

Anonymous said...

If it hasn't been posted already, the 2018 State Assessment scores have been posted on The Source.

WS Dad

Eric B said...

In the discussion on waitlists, Kellie asked what percentage of the 2400 choice assignments granted so far were needed just to keep option schools open. I went back to the SPS budget book from the spring and counted up numbers for entry grades and places where there was an obvious jump in enrollment. The jumps usually occurred at grades 4 (K-5, K-8) and 6 (K-8). The total came out to 1175 students. I'm probably off a little here and there, but probably not by too much.

Net answer, around half of the choice assignments granted are absolutely needed to keep option schools open.

The more depressing stat from the waitlist document posted last week is that there are a couple dozen at least schools that have waitlists AND have enrollment drops large enough that they will likely lose staff as compared last year. The weirdest of those situations is Franklin, which is currently projected to be 20 students under last year's enrollment (~0.6 FTE). Normally, the reason given for Franklin's waitlist is protecting enrollment at RBHS. RBHS's enrollment is 65 over last year and 80 over projections from earlier this year. Weird.

Anonymous said...

Just to add some context: Most industrialized countries offer students at university-prep high schools school-leaving certificate that serves as a university entrance qualification and graduation diploma. In France, you attend a lycée and earn the baccalauréat, hence the name of the "international bacclaureate," but Germany has its equivalent Abitur, UK A levels, etc. An American high school graduate is often thought to be one to two years behind those with school leaving certificates in other countries. (This is true as a trend, not necessarily for an individual student or school, cf. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/examining-poor-school-performance-in-the-us/520653/ -- but note that Brookings/Tom Loveless have a libertarian bias.) This disparity may be why American universities have students take two years of general education before even starting coursework in the major, whereas university students in other countries generally proceed directly to coursework in the specialization.

American schools of a certain stature can get away with not offering AP or IB coursework since admissions staff at most universities are aware of differences in curriculum and rigor. But there are no public high schools in Washington State that are of that stature, not even Bellevue or Mercer Island. This makes the availability of IB or AP coursework options here extremely important for middle and lower class students.

An international/world city of Seattle's alleged standing should have a school district offering, as a default, this level of education for college-bound students. It's both surprising and depressing that we do not have this already and that we seem to lack the institutional expertise to pull it off.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any info about the UNEA situation at EagleStaff. I don't even understand the basics. How big of big of a program is it and when does it meet and what space constraints are causing the issues?

Anonymous said...

"But there are no public high schools in Washington State that are of that stature, not even Bellevue or Mercer Island. This makes the availability of IB or AP coursework options here extremely important for middle and lower class students."

Yes agree, which is why some parents are concerned about the Lincoln principal's ideas of not offering a full slate of AP courses. The school is ironically also slated to have HC students as a pathway & these kids would otherwise run out of courses to take.


relaying said...

Clear Sky tutoring and cultural program and Native Warrior Athletics

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.

Anonymous said...

Yeah — those elite schools are dropping AP in favor of new classes that offer even more rigor than AP because AP is no longer distinctive. I
would expect SPS to try to use this AP dropping as evidence that AP is not needed, but it actually suggests the opposite. It suggests that AP is the new baseline, and more in-depth offerings may be needed to demonstrate rigor in the future.

—SE Mom

Anonymous said...

Perhaps those elite school students are performing poorly on the AP tests and the public schools are doing better. Can’t have that better. Have to find some other immeasurable measure to reinforce status and superiority.

Just say’n

Eric B said...

On further reflection, the number of choice seats assigned because SPS has to in order to keep option schools full is way low. I missed HC choice seats (IBX at Ingraham for example). It's possible that HC students choosing their neighborhood schools is also in that group. Perhaps most importantly, I missed choices assigned where a student leaves an option school and another takes their place. That would be two choice assignments for a single seat at a school.

1175 is therefore a low floor. I'd throw a dart that the real number is more like 1400, maybe 1500 if HC students choosing their neighborhood school is included.

kellie said...

@ Eric,

I concur with your math. 50% of those seats is the absolute bare minimum needed to assign at the entry grades at option schools and make the total number misleading.

My guess is that at least 80% of the seats assigned during open enrollment are for seats that enrollment is required to fill. Those would be empty seats at options schools and seats at option programs, HCC, Language Immersion, Montessori, IBX.

There are really three categories of seats during open enrollment.

* seats that enrollment must fill (option schools and option programs)
* seats that can Not be filled at schools that are already way over capacity.
* Swing seats - seats where there is ample physical capacity at a school but filling those seats would require a staffing adjustment of some sort.

How Enrollment handles category three really determines whether or not they are following policy or doing what they want to do for other reasons that have not been made public.

Outsider said...

AP stands for advanced placement. The original purpose of AP was to let high school students earn advanced standing in college, saving them time and money. AP was not originally intended as a form of educational signalling or a "baseline" in admissions competition.

Elite schools in DC can spike AP courses, because their students have no intention of placing out of any classes at their future elite colleges. AP is not what those students need or want.

AP courses have acquired an over-sized role in public high schools because they are the only courses that equity educators can't dumb down, because they have an external standard. If sanity prevailed, AP courses would be offered specifically for students who want to earn college credit and shorten their college time and reduce debt and save money. Mostly these would be students bound for state colleges, not fancy Ivy League. AP would be viewed as essentially similar to Running Start. Other types of challenging classes would be offered for students whose goal was to prepare to repeat the subject at a rigorous college. But sanity will not prevail. When has it ever?

Anonymous said...

This: "If sanity prevailed, AP courses would be offered specifically for students who want to earn college credit and shorten their college time and reduce debt and save money." For our family, it's about scoring well enough on the AP tests to earn college credits and save money.


Former Souper said...

News from Tukwila:

"The School Board approved the resolution in advance of future collective bargaining negotiations and to provide enough time for the District, its employees and the community to better understand the implications of the 2017-19 Washington State Budget. The new state budget contains changes to how school districts finance and deliver public education (including teacher compensation) to meet the State Supreme Court mandated compliance with its McCleary decision to fully fund public schools. "


kellie said...

I concur with outsider.

There is substantial overlap between junior college and high school. There are a substantial number of students who pay colllege tuition for non credit classes that are deemed high school level (pre-calc, etc). There are also a substantial number of students who are doing college level work in high school.

For better or worse, AP is the generally accepted line between high school level work and college level work.

Running Start and AP courses offer students an opportunity to earn college credit as part of public education. This is a real equity issue. As several posters have noted, families that are focused on private colleges, don’t really care about this because private schools handle AP credits differently from public colleges.

Anonymous said...

Outsider had an excellent take on the subject of AP, which makes a lot of sense to me.

I also heard something from a long-time AP teacher about this topic recently.

This person said that, originally, more well-connected students had the most participation in AP classes. Then, as more students participated, those wealthier students had the highest scores. Once the classes became more widespread, those scores among the wealthier weren't maintained at such high levels and stopped being such a selling point on the college application.

Solution? Devalue the significance of AP.

True? I have no idea. But it came from someone who has been around the block a few times.


Anonymous said...

From the Atlantic article, which shows how backward SPS continues to be in terms of student assignment via "neighborhood" schools" in this "progressive" city:

"Many districts, however, allow families to attend any school within the district—a policy that can promote integration if coupled with mechanisms for promoting school diversity. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, for instance, the district uses a “controlled choice” system designed to maintain a balanced mix of students at all schools; in essence, parents can choose any school in the district, with enrollment preferences given to families who help bring the school’s demographics closer in line with the city’s."


Anonymous said...

The return to the neighborhood assignment system is the reason for the turnaround in Seattle Public Schools. Any change that introduces uncertainty in that process will drive families from the district.

Fairmount Parent

Anonymous said...

" In Cambridge, Massachusetts, for instance, the district uses a “controlled choice” system designed to maintain a balanced mix of students at all schools; in essence, parents can choose any school in the district, with enrollment preferences given to families who help bring the school’s demographics closer in line with the city’s."

There is a huge difference between the school districts on the East coast. They are small. For example Cambridge has only 6000 students, as compared to Seattle's 53,000. Our traffic is also nuts here and I can't imagine kids trying to get around this city at rush hour anymore by buses. Many East coast school districts are also funding their schools via taxes at rates 3 times what we fund here in Seattle. Our per pupil funding is really low IMO and our classes are huge in size, at least double where I grew up on the east coast.


Anonymous said...

Interesting thread about AP/IB. This is not about rigor. It’s about standards wars, testing, and selling products. More and more and more products. The colleges themselves are to blame. They are the ones driving this industry because of their admissions practices. And, they don’t care so much about AP or IB credits. They want your kid in their institution and paying for all of it. Btw. The SAT and ACT aren’t the end of it. There are the zillions of SAT IIs to be taken. Students now take the SAT, the SAT 2, the APs (or IBs) its a lot. And a lot of prep and prep materials. Mostly sold by the “College Board”. Most selective colleges also give tremendous breaks to first gens.


SAP Boundaries said...

According to"Research on the Academic Benefits of the Advanced Placement Program, Taking Stock and Looking Forward" (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244016682996):

As AP tests have grown in popularity, passing rates for most tests have dropped (Tai, 2008; Warne & Anderson, 2015), possibly indicating that the AP program is reaching a saturation point and that most new populations of AP students are not well prepared for AP exams (Lichten, 2010). Large numbers of unqualified students enrolling in AP are an inefficient use of time and school resources.

So, the author asks, what variables (including non-cognitive variables) should be considered when permitting a student to enroll in an AP course or take an AP test?

Apparently also, in states with generous AP fee subsidies, the AP program is not cost-effective for taxpayers (Dendy et al., 2006; Klopfenstein, 2010; Sikes et al., 2009).

The author goes on to say that suburban and middle- and upper-socioeconomic class students generally have the most access to AP courses nationally.

I personally received enough AP credits to enter a (competitive) state university essentially as a sophomore. That was a good use of what felt like a lot of money at the time (for the AP exams) as it allowed me the flexibility in college to try courses I might not have tried otherwise and still graduate in 4 years. I eventually changed my major as a result.

The problem in Seattle is that some students have access to a lot of AP classes and some students have access to very few depending on which block your parents happen to live on the year you want to take the AP classes. And something tells me that when the author asked, "what variables (including non-cognitive variables) should be considered when permitting a student to enroll in an AP course or take an AP test?" I'm pretty skeptical that living a couple of blocks in one direction or the other as a high school junior or senior is really what anyone in the education world would think of as a good way to decide if an AP class is right for you.

Anonymous said...

The problem in Seattle is that AP/IB classes are a substitute for rigor, which is hard to get otherwise. A strong or academically gifted student would be miserable taking all GE or “honors” classes throughout four years of high school, or even two (if they did Running Start). Some students want and/ or need to be challenged. The AP credits that may or may not be given by colleges are often not the point.

Many students use AP/IB credit not to graduate college early, but to obtain appropriate placement in college, too—avoiding those boring intro classes that are way too easy and a waste of time and money?

That said, AP classes are not all they’re cracked up to be. They are often not really “college level”— they are often more of a bridge between high school and college classes. They are inconsistently implemented across schools and teachers. Students who do well in “AP-labeled” classes often can’t pass the associated AP exam, even with the low bar for passing, suggesting grade inflation by teachers who maybe don’t really understand what’s required.

I’ve also heard it argued that the breadth of material to be covered in AP courses makes deep learning impossible, but I disagree. I’ve seen deep and long-lasting learning come out of AP classes. Not at SPS, as our experience was elsewhere. It can be done. That’s also why many students from private schools take AP exams withou taking the classes—learn the material, then take the class. Maybe you have to do little extra studying, but that should be expected wit “college-level” classes.

AP rambler

SAP Boundaries said...

There's not really one thing that is AP exams. There are 34 different AP tests, but there's nothing to suggest that AP French and AP Physics and AP Biology are similarly difficult or similarly "college" level. Lumping data from all AP courses together hides how each individual course functions and oversimplifies the nature of AP. In a way it may be inaccurate to talk about “the AP program” at all.

For example, in 2014, the least popular AP test was the AP Japanese Language and Culture exam, with 1,942 examinees. The most popular test was the AP English Language and Composition exam, taken by 497,416 people.

In 2014, the lowest passing rate was for the AP Environmental Science test (47.2%), and the highest passing rate was for the AP Chinese Language & Culture test (93.4%).

Then there's the question of who takes the tests. It's totally not random.
1. School has to decide to offer an AP course
2. Student has to choose to enroll in that course
3. Student has to choose to take that AP exam
Without studying it, there's no way to know if the AP course or exam helped the student or if there was something else about the student or his/her courses that caused a student's success.

Some variables are better predictors of college success than others; the mean AP score seems to have a strong correlation with college performance measures (Ackerman et al., 2013; Patterson et al., 2011). However, the number of AP courses that a student takes seems unrelated to college performance, indicating that college admissions committees should give preference to students with AP exam scores over students who merely enrolled in a course (Ackerman et al., 2013; Geiser & Santelices, 2004).

APs aren't just one thing to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to. There are actually a lot of variables at play.

Anonymous said...

@ SAP Boundaries, that’s true. That’s one reason I find it so disappointing when school district’s tout their big increases in AP enrollment and class passage rates as success, when small percentages actually pass the corresponding AP exams. Wasn’t there a big story about how “great” Highline (or some other nearby district) was doing when that was the case?

AP classes, like all classes, are also teacher-dependent. Sure, some AP classes/exams are more popular, and yes, passage rates vary. But I think it’s still valuable to talk about AP classes in general—whether or not a school offers them, whether or not they offer rigorous alternatives, etc. Anf for kids who feel shortchanged because their school doesn’t offer many/any, they can always self-study to cover any subtopics not covered by their AP alternative class and still take the exam if they want to be able to show colleges AP exam scores in lieu of classes.

AP rambler

Anonymous said...

Regarding the UNEA issue, there are two pieces of writing that seem useful to read to me.

Press-release from UNEA:

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.


Anonymous said...

The other UNEA letter worth taking the time to read - notice it takes an opposing viewpoint on the issue.

From the RESMS facebook today, (Which is a letter to the board and so, I presume, public):

Dear Seattle School Board:
What do you do when your enemy no longer exists? I’m a fighter. I’ve had to be. I’m Native, grew up on a reservation with a single mother, had a childhood full of abuse, addiction and trauma, one of three women in my family to go to college (the only one in my generation), the list goes on. I am not unique in my experiences. Countless Natives have had to fight for what is right, what is good, what is fair. So seldom do we achieve any significant change without rattling the cages. And cages have been rattled in Seattle Public Schools. And miracle of miracles, they are listening. They are trying to do what is right, what is good, what is fair.
For example,
• Huchoosedah, SPS’s Title VI Native Education Program serves more than 400 Native students and that number has risen dramatically over the past five years.
• About 430 SPS teachers and librarians have been trained in the state required Since Time Immemorial tribal sovereignty curriculum. This was on the district’s dime. And more training for all high school teachers begins this fall. No other district that I know of has this record.
• In 2017, SPS provided a permanent classroom at Meany Middle School exclusively for Huchoosedah, native students, programs, a library, and professional development.
• SPS improved its Native student identification system so “multiracial” Native students can be identified and served.
• SPS now employs three fulltime teachers devoted to teaching and supporting the success of Native Students. Two of the teachers run Šǝqačib, a high school native leadership program, one at Sealth and one at Nathan Hale.
• There are 11 fulltime Huchoosedah staff. This is a 400% staffing increase in five years.
• The total district budget for Native Education has reached seven figures. When I first was elected to the PAC, our budget was about $60,000.
• Huchoosedah implements a summer K – 5 Cultural literacy program for Native students.
• Huchoosedah works directly with seniors in all high schools on credit retrieval and graduation success.
• In the past five years, Native student graduation rates have increased significantly and dropout rates have reduced significantly as well.
• There are more Native HCC and Spectrum students today than in the past five years.
• Huchoosedah collaborates and partners with, school buildings, Visual Arts, Department of Race and Equity, McKinney Vento, Family Support Workers, Title III, Title I, Advanced Placement, Special Education, Native Community Based Organizations, and local Tribes.
• Huchoosedah Director (pending) Gail Morris has created a Native library and has employed a librarian to facilitate the cataloging and loan of thousands of Native authored and focused books materials to all SPS classroom teachers, beginning this fall. The two battling sides have found common ground and in my opinion SPS is making more than a good faith effort to redress its deficiencies and begin building bridges with Native families and learners, as it should. The new challenge is to identify mutual interests and coalesce efforts to close the opportunity gap. And it is closing. It ain’t perfect, but what relationship is?

(Cont. in another comment: it is too long.)

Anonymous said...

Shana Brown writing:

So, back to my question. If all you have ever known is fighting, what happens when there is no one left to fight? What is to become of you? It certainly must be a terrifying place to be if fighting has been the singular identifying factor of your existence. How do you change? How do you accept that former foes are becoming worthy of your trust? As I see it you have two choices: move forward as allies or go looking for another fight. And, as history and literature have demonstrated for millennia, if you look hard enough you will find—or create—whatever it takes to keep the conflict alive. This appears to be the case between the Urban Native Education Alliance and Seattle Public Schools. It’s been troubling to me over the past few years that only one Native voice has really been given credence in our city, in our school district, and even in our School Board. But I’ve had enough of bullies, and I’ve been a fighter long enough to know when it’s time to set things right. A lot of untruths, name-calling, and mean-spirited and unfounded accusations have been slung around, but it’s typically been at “The Man,” the Seattle Public Schools institution, and so I’ve pretty much stayed silent. But now it’s gotten personal, and it’s about my school, my principal, my students, my colleagues, and my Native community. For those of you late to the party, Robert Eagle Staff Middle School principal Marni Campbell agreed to house the Urban Native Education Alliance’s Clear Sky student program free of charge, two nights a week in our commons / performance space for the 2017-18 school year. Marni exercised her authority as principal and offered one night a week for next year. UNEA rejected her rationale, launched a nasty social media campaign, and plans to protest the district’s support of Principal Campbell’s decision at the upcoming School Board meeting, July 11. Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, named for the influential and inspirational Lakota principal of Indian Heritage School, is built on Indian Heritage’s former site and on Licton Springs, an ancestral site sacred to local tribes as a place of ceremony and healing. At its height, Indian Heritage had a population of 120 middle and high school students, many of whom found validation and success there. A July 22, 1996 Seattle Times article cites a 100% senior graduation rate in the four years prior to Robert Eagle Staff’s death. Indian Heritage served as a haven from a system that neglected, discounted, dismantled, and dismissed them. For a long time, Seattle was the enemy. They seemed to subscribe to the belief that, “If only those Indian kids could just listen more, look and act like us, value what we do, then everything would be fine.” I don’t think there is one among us who would deny that combatting such a damaging colonial narrative was a fight worth fighting. Warriors like Willard Bill, Sr. (Muckleshoot), Kay Fiddler (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), Richard Basch (Clatsop-Nehalem), Bob Eagle Staff (Lakota), Jeanne Halliday (Muckleshoot), Jackie Swanson (Muckleshoot) forced SPS to listen. Over the years successes ebbed and flowed, but ultimately Indian Heritage faded, then was gone. Some blamed SPS, others blamed building leadership, or waning rigor in the school’s academic program. Regardless, the fact remained that it remained vacant until ten years ago when it came to house Clear Sky. My children attended a few times; they made friends, learned to bead, and were warmly welcomed. I thank UNEA for that.


Anonymous said...

(End of letter:)

Now, Robert Eagle Staff Middle School has become the site of quite a drama fantastique, a literary and cinematic genre where science fiction, horror, and fantasy converge. Using this metaphor is the only way I can adequately describe the scenario that prompts me to write this letter. First, the science fiction: According to a July 9, 2018 UNEA press release, “Our Native student’s access and opportunities for needed services are being truncated and again our partnership is dishonored.” How? UNEA refuses to use Licton Springs—a school housed within Robert Eagle Staff Middle school at the insistence of UNEA—because it is “insufficient for their basketball, fitness, health, tutoring and cultural
programming,” even though UNEA basketball practices have never been at Robert Eagle Staff. Even though there is no reduction in the time they requested. Even though they would still meet twice a week on the Robert Eagle Staff Campus. Lastly, their responses to the district suggest that they are affiliated with Seattle Public Schools and Huchoosedah. They are an independent, community based non-profit organization. To suggest otherwise misleads and confuses our parents, teachers, and families into believing that if the district denies a UNEA request, that they somehow violate legal provisions and policies. Next comes the horror: First, UNEA accused Principal Campbell of betraying Robert Eagle Staff’s legacy and local tribal connection to Licton Springs by not doing exactly as they say. Next, UNEA began personal attacks on social media. In one of their Facebook attacks UNEA claimed that they “are still stuck with principals like Martin Flow (sic) and Marni Campbell.” Stuck with a principal who provided more than what was required of her? They go on to claim that Principal Campbell violated the district’s racial equity policy and that her actions “displace and dispossess” Native learners. And at last, the fantasy: UNEA’s goal is creating a new Indian Heritage School at Eagle Staff, the school named in honor of their director’s late brother-in-law. UNEA claims that the efforts of SPS are “an intentional effort to eliminate [their] presence and visibility at a school [they] successfully campaigned for naming Robert Eagle Staff.” UNEA now apparently gets to claim public school space permanently because they supported the district’s name choice? I just do not see their claim supported, considering Principal Campbell’s very generous offer and clear evidence of the district’s commitment to closing the Native American student opportunity gap and promoting identity safety by training all its teachers, providing classrooms, a library, leadership programs, summer literacy, etc. Education—and the commitment and dedication to meet the needs of all learners—is not and cannot be a winner take all proposition. When someone insists on picking and winning fights rather than teaming and collaborating, everyone loses, especially the most vulnerable. Bullies pick fights; warriors end them.
Sincerely, Shana Brown
Shana Brown is a teacher at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, a parent of an RESMS student, a Yakama descendant, and a member of the Title VI Native Parent Advisory Committee that advises the district on issues of educating our Native Youth.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Anonymous, you didn't sign a name/moniker and now I have to delete it all. I'm pondering whether I need to make the effort to reprint or not.

Anonymous said...

Shana Brown writing: is that the posters name? could that suffice?

no caps

Anonymous said...

Just goes to show the importance of multiple voices. Shana Brown being a person of Native heritage herself writing the piece gives it credibility and facts. If the facts were written by someone other than a person of Native heritage, I think people would question it. Why? Because as humans people are so much more inclined to assimilate only information that can fit an existing "schema" in this case the schema of racism because that's a dominant narrative. We should all strive to be more critical in our thinking to always understand there are always many voices.

Anonymous said...


I would ask that you allow this to stay since it is a reprint of press releases. The poster didn't really comment on either. They just presented the two sides.


Melissa Westbrook said...

SS, she is also a teacher at RESMS so that may play into the issue. My take is that there is, of course, no one group that could possibly represent all points of view in the Native American community (especially when there are different tribes).

HP, I probably will BUT when readers make work for me, I don't appreciate it. And since the person who wrote this overheated rhetoric signed her name at Facebook, why not here? Unless someone else reprinted.

Anonymous said...

It's not work for you, Melissa. It's actually NOT work since you don't have to push the delete button. Reprinting for unsigned posters or overlooking a lack of signature when you agree is nothing new here. Moving right along...

I am writing from another continent so I'm outta the loop in terms of the truths of this particular issue.

One thing that struck me in the face: Why do you think SPS has made all of the recent progress that the REMS teacher acknowledged? Do you think it came out of thin air?

While the teacher likely has all kinds of correct points, Sense-Wilson (and others like Carol Simmons) have learned that SPS has proven that they have their feet held to the fire in order to do the right thing, especially for those without power. These long-suffering advocates have done the hard work of speaking at board meetings, applying political pressure, etc. for years and years.

Does the teacher who wrote the post have any idea of why some Native people may be suspicious of SPS?

The progress at SPS "sounds great" but it hasn't occurred without sustained pressure, and history has proven that it won't continue without pressure.

Even if the REMS teacher is right about the points here, it doesn't mean that Sense-Wilson and allies are wrong about being highly skeptical of SPS whenever there is an issue that isn't passing the smell test.


Anonymous said...

Btw, I'm so outta the loop that I didn't know that RESMS is the latest abbreviation for Robert Eagle Staff Middle School until I more carefully read Melissa's post.

I have been around since the day of this man. I want to honor him, even when not honoring him by using an abbreviation.

"RESMS" it is!!


Melissa Westbrook said...

It IS work for me because normally for good comments that are anonymous, I have to save them, then reprint them (and this one is especially long). I actually don't have time to do this daily.

FWIW, you just think you are the smartest person in shoe leather. It's breathtaking. I can only wonder what your colleagues think.

Anonymous said...

how is the weather over there in narnia, fwiw? enjoy.

no caps

Anonymous said...

Regarding the UNEA info:

1. I did not understand the moniker rule. Mine will be Licton Springs Resident.
2. I apologize for not being more clear about what was shared. In response to a query for more light on the UNEA controversy I posted two sides to an argument. NEITHER WAS MINE. One was a press release from UNEA, and the other was a letter from a teacher that was posted on a public site and sent to the school board. Perhaps it was a stretch to assume it could be re-posted, but, it is in the public forum else where. I further apologize if you feel this was out of line. However, I thought it contained information that is hard to come by elsewhere and was worthwhile.
3. If Melissa wants to delete all this she should feel welcome.

There have been active calls for people outside the affected community to get involved and pressure the district and the board to behave in a certain way. I make no commentary on which side you may prefer to argue for, but I believe it is important to understand that there are two sides of the issue. If you choose to get in the debate it is always worth understanding the counter-argument.

I am sorry for the uproar and confusion.
-- Licton Springs Resident