Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tuesday Open Thread

Interesting opinion piece in the NY Times about straight A students.

The evidence is clear: Academic excellence is not a strong predictor of career excellence. Across industries, research shows that the correlation between grades and job performance is modest in the first year after college and trivial within a handful of years. 

Academic grades rarely assess qualities like creativity, leadership and teamwork skills, or social, emotional and political intelligence. Yes, straight-A students master cramming information and regurgitating it on exams. But career success is rarely about finding the right solution to a problem — it’s more about finding the right problem to solve.
The district has a couple of new hires.
We are pleased to announce we have filled the position of director of nutrition services and welcome Aaron Smith to the Seattle Public Schools team! This critical position oversees over 17,250 student lunches and 6,400 breakfasts each day and adheres to the highest level of national nutrition standards and provides many locally sourced fruits, vegetables, and beans daily. 

Aaron is a Le Cordon Bleu chef and joins us from Tennessee where he worked as assistant director of nutrition services for the Hamilton County Department of Education for more than two years. While there, Aaron identified areas to increase efficiency within nutrition services and collaborated with other departments and community organizations in Chattanooga to promote healthy eating.
The district has a Science Materials Review for Instructional Materials Adoption for 9-12 Grades.
You can join this important review by coming to the John Stanford Center Professional Library where you will find all instructional materials on display from Dec. 10 through Dec. 28. The John Stanford Center Professional Library at 2445 3rd Ave. S Seattle, WA 98134. Building hours are 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Saturday by appointment. December 24 and 25 are holidays and the building is not open.
I have to smile because the district has not listened to parents about nearly anything about science (including the apparent unhappiness by many parents and students about Amplify) so why start now?

Uh oh, King County Health found 12 SPS cafeterias wanting.  Story from KUOW:
Eleven cafeterias, serving 12 schools, had “unsatisfactory” ratings on their latest inspections due to one or more "red critical" violations, like food at unsafe holding temperatures, faulty hand-washing stations and workers lacking the proper training or food-handling permits.

West Seattle Elementary School has had violations on seven of its last ten cafeteria inspections. Lowell Elementary School has had violations on nine out of ten inspections.

The central kitchen is also inspected, and it, too, had violations on most of its last 10 inspections, including inadequate hand-washing stations and unsanitary food contact surfaces.
 What's on your mind?


David Westberg said...

The school board has responsibility to properly fund the Nutrition program in Seattle Schools. They don't and there have been no significant steps taken to address the problems pointed out by the Prismatic report from well over two years ago.

They instead busy themselves with the sycophants that surround them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mr. Westberg is the head of local 609. He and I discussed the Prismatic report about Nutrition Servicesa couple of years back. It's a good example of the district spending money on consultants and then doing very little. The report had pretty good things to say about the workforce and mostly lamented that there was not enough backup for the work they do.

Anonymous said...

On the CAO, my friend from Kansas (we moved here from Wichita) sent me this tweet:

LH Mom

Anonymous said...

It looks like the new proposed WSS includes bigger class sizes in 4th and 5th grade and high school class sizes to 30. So frustrating to have much higher property taxes and BIGGER class sizes to show for it!


kellie said...

Shifting the WSS at high school to 30:1 is disastrous and shows how little SPS understands about high school.

Funding for K-8 is class size based. When the WSS changes the class size ratio, you get a change in class size.

But since high school is the master schedule, there NO connection between the ratio and class size. Class size is controlled by the teacher contract. Instead, the ratio is the master schedule ratio. Every 30 students will generate 6 slots on the master schedule.

While the shift from 29 to 30 might seem minimal. its just not.

There are two problems with Core 24.
1) credit retrieval - needing to make up a credit
2) access to ANY credit in the first place.

The 29:1 made it more possible for students to get an appropriate schedule. This represents 2-3 FTE at each of the comprehensive highs schools and removes at least 10 -20 slots off of the schedule. The majority of those classes will be advanced options.

An ideal ratio for Core 24 is approximately 25:1. That ratio creates enough slots that all students should be able to get 24 credits and there is enough for credit retrieval.

29:1 is just the wrong direction on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Larger class sizes in high school means a lower number of classes. Assuming all the basics will still be covered, it's the non-basics that will be cut, such as advanced classes and electives. This will only serve to speed up SPS's steady march toward a one-size-fits-all approach.

Maybe the Board will at least acknowledge that this makes their goal of eliminating HCC pathways in high school even that much less feasible and will continue to delay those efforts until such time as we have adequate funding to provide a wide range of challenging classes at all schools. Whenever that may be.


kellie said...

The other issue with changing the high school funding ratio is that it truly lacks an understanding of cause and effect. When you change the ratio at high school, you DO NOT SAVE ANY MONEY. You just have the appearance of saving money, because you have shifted enrollment in such a way as to create this illusion.

High school funding is based on FTE, not headcount. FTE is Full Time Equivalent. This means that simply enrolling a high school student is not enough. You must give that student 6 classes for the student to be full time. If the student does not receive 6 classes, they are given a fractional FTE.

This is why students are not generally permitted to have an empty slot on the schedule. Empty slots are filled with TA positions if a class can not be found.

When you remove 10-20 slots from the Master Schedule but you have the same number of enrolled students, it looks like you just saved yourself 2-3 FTE. But that's not what actually happens.

What happens is that the students who are unable to access the schedule that they need for college, career or life, make OTHER CHOICES. Some do part time running start, some do online classes, some shift to other CTE courses, etc. Some leave the district entirely, either by dropping out or switching districts.

The easiest way to see this is the reverse. When you add 10 slots onto the master schedule, those slots tend to fill immediately. A full slot then generates the revenue that covers the slot. There is a natural endpoint to this. By the time you have a ratio or 22:1 then you will have a lot of classes that are just not very full and are not funded. But 29:1, 28:1, and even 27:1 are most likely to result in still very full classes, that are funded.

Simply put, at 30:1, you remove 2-3 teacher at every comprehensive high school AND you also remove a similar number of students, but they are removed by fractional FTE. Some of this math is lost in the part that the State of Washington will pay up to 1.2 FTE for students. (Hence, the illusion I mentioned).

The bottom line is that SPS has done a terrible job of tracking the critical metrics for implementing Core 24. This change saves no money and will make it so much more challenging for even the students who are "on track and on time" to meet the more complex requirement of Core 24 without supplementing with outside coursework.

The 15% of students who are behind by the end of 9th grade are going to face even greater challenges with this ratio.

Anonymous said...

Is this the point at which we can talk about a pay cut for teachers next year? The raise is clearly not sustainable. Kids aren't going to be able to graduate if we keep it.

Third Rail

Seattle Citizen said...

Third Rail - Have you written your legislators about fully funding public schools?
Or do you think teachers are making too much now?

Perhaps you will next suggest we reduce the salaries of road maintenance workers to get more potholes filled, cut the pay of police officers to get more police protection...

Anonymous said...

We have the budget we have. Teacher salaries are far and away the largest portion of the budget. We didn't really have the money for the raises we gave this last year, and now the piper has come to call.

Third Rail

Melissa Westbrook said...

Third Rail, (or whoever you are), Stop with the raise issue. The teachers' raise is not going away. Nor are they going to take dollars from Sped. Enough.

Of course, salaries are the biggest part of the budget - it's people that do the work of the district.

David Westberg said...

But the Nutrition budget keeps dwindling.

Go figure.

Eric B said...

NPR has a piece on the effects of later start times in SPS: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/12/12/676118782/sleepless-no-more-in-seattle-later-school-start-time-pays-off-for-teens

Students are getting more sleep per night, are less likely to be tardy or absent, and are getting higher grades. There's a lot to like there.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the person who thinks teachers will "take" SPED dollars. I'm another person, who believes we should consider a pay cut for next year in order to deliver an education to SPS students given our budget. If we have the money I genuinely don't care if teachers are paid millions. But the budget is not there as a jobs program for college grads. It's to educate students, and that's got to come first. We have a terrible tax system, but it's not the children who should pay for that. Private schools manage to deliver excellent educations with far, far lower teacher salaries, instead lowering class sizes. Our class sizes will balloon beyond the point where students can get an education if we keep these raises in place.

Third Rail

Seattle Citizen said...

Third Rail - so you will be taking a cut in pay and give that cut to schools to help fund lower class sizes?

I thought not.

You didn't tell us whether you wrote your legislators about school funding. Can we assume you didn't?

You didn't tell us whether you believe teachers are paid fairly with that raise. Can we assume, since you write that teaching is a "jobs program for college grads" that you don't value teaching?

Melissa Westbrook said...

But the budget is not there as a jobs program for college grads."


We pay people - new or experienced - to teach our children. It's no "jobs program" except for TFA and there are not TFA teachers in Seattle Schools.

Anonymous said...

@Eric B Thanks goodness for later start times for high school. Some private high schools start early. Combined with the increase in our traffic, we decided to stay at the neighborhood high school instead of opting for public or private schools across town. It has REALLY been a huge benefit and also enabled my child to participate in school clubs etc. It seems like everyone else had the same idea and the 9th grade has tons of peers from HC program from middle school.
A Parent

kellie said...

This is not the first or the last time someone is going to blame the financial crisis of the moment on teachers. It is just as painful a distraction as blaming the financial crisis on parents, or students or transportation.

Quality education means quality teachers. Period.

Anonymous said...

Study after study shows that beyond a student's socioeconomic status (which is beyond school control), teacher quality is THE factor with the biggest impact on student outcomes. As a community, we need to make sure our scarce dollars are used to hire and retain the best possible teachers possible. That means SPS has to stop being LATE on hiring relative to other districts (and help facilitate hiring of excellent teachers rather than bog down the process), pay excellent teachers a living wage, and stop shuffling ineffective teachers and principals from school to school.

Concerned parent

Anonymous said...

Of course I've written my legislators and gone to Olympia to advocate. My legislators aren't the problem. It's the ones in Eastern WA who are uninterested in hearing from me. I see study after study showing lower class size matters a lot more than teacher, and that quality is not really related to pay.

How many students' lives are you willing to ruin to maintain these raises, Seattle Citizen? How many students will you deny the chance to graduate high school to maintain them?

Third Rail

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'd like to see those studies, Third Rail, because my research shows fewer studies support smaller class sizes.

I smell the whiff of someone who doesn't like unions.

Anonymous said...

Wow, amazing that that NYT article gets away with citing ONE paper and stating "The evidence is clear....". Good grief - I just got done reading 5 solid studies that stated the exact opposite.


Ann S. said...


What Studies said...

I wish people who refer to studies would link to or at least reference them. I’ve grown weary of the references to studies. I’m tired of waiting for beaurocratic improvement.

I know it’s a tough pill to swallow, but Ayn Rand was probably more right than Bernie Sanders or whichever other “leader” we are looking to for leadership.

Things don’t really change.

Voting no on all levies now.

SEA Swipe said...

I'm glad there is another person looking at SEA. SEA will renegotiate another contract next year.

Keep your eyes on new state dollars!

Anonymous said...


Seattle new bell times is increasing the amount of sleep teenagers get.


Anonymous said...

@ Cynic, yeah, that NY Times "article" is just an opinion piece, mostly full of fluff and some twisting-of-evidence to fit the author's viewpoint. It reads like he's trying to come to terms with the fact that he didn't get a 4.0 as he'd hoped, so now he's trying to make it sound like his results were actually the more favored results. The classic "I meant to do that" excuse.

I agree with the general premise that people should be encouraged to try new things in college, branching out into classes and extracurriculars that interest them but that might be a challenge--academically and/or in terms of free time. A well-rounded education is generally a good thing. That said, the idea that those who get all A's are spending all their time in the library and missing out on other experiences while, presumably, those who get lower grades are having all the fun is a bit of an oversimplification. At any college you can also find 4.0 students who DO participate in a lot of extracurriculars and/or take courses outside "their lane," just as you can also find 3.0 students who have to focus and study very hard to achieve at that level. The idea that grades/GPAs are simply a reflection of the number of hours studied is absurd, IMHO.

The piece's conclusion, however, stood out to me as useful advice for SPS. It said:

So universities: Make it easier for students to take some intellectual risks.

SPS schools--at all levels--should do the same. Make it easier for all students to take classes that really challenge them. Whether this means encouraging (and providing support for) low-performing students to stretch themselves and try an honors class, or working with families to develop strategies to support the unique needs of exceptionally gifted students who aren't well-served even in HCC, we need an approach that sees intellectual stimulation as the goal. For all.

all types

Seattle Citizen said...

You're off the rails, Third Rail. Your railing about how I want to keep students from graduating "ruin their lives," because I don't want teachers to take a cut in a pay to balance the budget is disingenuous, to say the least.


But thanks for arguing to the legislature, and I agree that E.Wa legislators are screwing us over. I'm just not prepared to blame it on teachers getting an equitable paycheck, as you apparently are. Your reasoning is bizarre, to say the least.

I'll ask again: do you believe the current pay is fair or not?

Anonymous said...

@ Seattle Citizen, can you expound your comment about teachers getting an "equitable" paycheck? I'm always interested in how people see equity.

As I understand it, average teacher pay is pretty decent compared to many other professional jobs. That's not to say teachers (or at least some teachers) don't deserve more--but I believe many non-teachers deserve more as well. Many professionals find it difficult to live (up to their standards) in Seattle, as do many others working full-time (or multiple) non-professional jobs. Teachers do an important job, but they are surely not the only ones. Teachers also benefit from having union protection, with good benefits and summers off (during which time they can earn additional money if they so choose). I don't know what the research shows re: which is more important--small class sizes or better teachers--but I don't think we have the financial resources for the former and I'm not sure that salary is the best way to ensure the latter.

I realize we're not likely to reverse the unsustainable raises that were given, but are you saying the higher salaries are resulting in better teaching--better enough to offset any negatives associated with increasing class sizes? As the district moves more and more toward MTSS and its (supposed) differentiation, smaller class sizes and/or more teachers seem to be ever more necessary. At the same time, MTSS also seems to require better teachers, too.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Conundrum, it would be great if everyone made a decent wage with health benefits and the ability to build a 401k or pension.

I'm not sure why you have decided to single out teachers.

As for "summers off", you clearly haven't hung with teachers in the summer. And, oh joy! go find a 6 week job so that you can earn more money. Any thoughts on how easy that is?

I agree that we don't pay teachers more in hopes for better outcomes. But I've seen several studies where teachers said as long as they had a decent wage, they would forego more money for needed resources and supports. If I could guess, I think that would make the difference.

I agree that the district should not have given raises that they could not afford and said it at the time. However, you can't take the raise back.

What would help if the folks at JSCEE were more transparent about where all the dollars go. We are in a situation now where 85% of the Technology budget comes from BEX. That's craziness to me.

We don't spend enough on maintenance and yet the district has no problem asking taxpayers for ever more capital dollars (and seemingly spending more on buildings than surrounding districts). Honesty would go a long way to clearing the air.

Seattle Citizen said...

Teachers have been notoriously underpaid for years. Many consider the raise a step towards bringing them up to a living wage.
Arguing that their increased pay should bring increased "productivity" misses the point: they, for the most part, already ARE "productive" and should be paid for it. I asked TR, and would ask you, if you think they are paid too much? If so, then lobby to pay them less. Just don't balance the budget on their backs.

As you write, many others deserve equitable (read "living") wages, as well, that are commensurate with their skill and schooling.
Perhaps they should join unions.

The raises aren't "unsustainable" if the state and the district and the taxpayers that make these up have the will and the way to sustain them. If they don't, well, perhaps educators should find jobs that DO pay commensurately, and leave the teaching jobs to cheap TFA warm bodies, digital learning, and whatever other penny-pinching labor-saving devices can be designed.

Heck, with a digital economy in a digital city, just make children stare at screens all day. That's "sustainable."

SEA Swipe said...

Teachers needed and deserved a raise. The state infused $1B into education last year. Unions across the state opened contract negotiations and received 10%-20% raises. Fine.

I object to the fact that the same unions that received 10%-20% raises will reopen their contracts AGAIN next year. IMO, they will swipe as much money and benefits they can achieve.

At what point are unions doing a disservice to students? Funding for smaller K-3 classes were put into a protected category. The state will fund special education this year. I now believe those dollars should be put into a protected category.

There are rumblings about levy funding that will precipitate McCleary 2.
Talks of layoffs have begun.

SEA Swipe said...

Across the state, teachers received raises of 10%-20% last year. Am I the only person that thinks unions should have waited another 3 years to re-open contract negotiations?

SEA Swipe said...

The last round of teacher contracts means the state needs to come-up with $3.5B to fund teacher retirements. No one is talking about these expenditures- or how they will be funded.

Just Saying said...

Digital learning has begun.

Taxpayer said...

Whether or not teachers are needed a raise is open to debate.

For me, the real issue is the way pensions are calculated. Teachers didn’t just get a raise, teachers got a huge retirement bonus. A teacher making 90K with 5 years left before retirement that received a 10% raise, received the equivalent of a $79,300 bonus! The same teacher that received a 20% raise got a $161,000 bonus.

Here is the formula for the defined benefits plan:

2% x service credit years x Average Final Compensation = monthly benefit

So, for example, if a teacher makes $90,000 and gets a 10% raise, they make an extra $9,000 per year. If they’ve worked 30 years (the max for the formula), that equals 30 years x 2% x $9,000 = $5,400 per year extra in retirement, until they die, or $450 per month. The cost to buy a Schwab Annuity that pays $450 a month for life starting today for someone age 65 is $82,000. The extra payroll taxes a teacher would pay during the last 5 years of work would be $9000 * 6% * 5 = $2,700.

In other words, a teacher making $90,000 a year and retiring in 5 years who received a 10% raise, got a bonus of $82,000 (annuity cost) - $2,700 (additional contribution) = $79,300! A teacher with the same salary that received a 20% raise, got a $161,000 bonus!

This is what McCleary was all about, right? Huge, hidden bonuses for our teachers that are costing taxpayers billions.

Seattle Citizen said...

SEA Swipe -
My understanding is that many Districts and unions agreed to a short contract on this round because of uncertainty over funding into the future - that this transitional year(s) from one state funding model to the next (levy reduction) was fraught with pitfalls and the one year contract would allow a reassessment next year regarding how to proceed with uncertain funding frameworks.

Seattle Citizen said...

Taxpayer, you've DOUBLED the formula for teacher retirement benefit: it's 1%, not 2%.
So HALVE those "bonuses" you bemoan.

"1 percent x Average Final Compensation x Service Credit Years x Early Retirement Factor (if applicable) = Monthly Benefit"

WA DRS Retirement Planning FAQ

SEA Swipe said...

Seattle Citizen,

You are absolutely correct in stating that there are levy issues. Unions knew-full well- about levy issues last year.

The upcoming legislative session will be very interesting. Personally, I'm expecting the state to fund special education- only. Some suggest a return to local levy authority- which would create inequality throughout the state. SEA is supporting a capital gains tax.

As previously stated, teachers needed and deserved a raise. Retirement packages benefit our society. I'm having a hard time state wide increased benefit packages (retirement) raises of 10%-20% last year and many state wide contracts being opened within ONE year.

I see tremendous needs in our schools. Our teachers are the cornerstone. At this point, I would like to see funding directed towards student services.

Taxpayer said...

Seattle Citizen,

In my previous post, I argued that last year a teacher with 5 years left to retirement making $90K a year who received a 10% raise, in fact, got the equivalent of a $79,300 retirement bonus, and those receiving a 20% raise got a $161,000 retirement windfall, on top of the raise.

Seattle Citizen commented I was wrong, but I stand by my numbers. Some teachers received over a $161,000 retirement bonus last year because of McCleary raises. This was a money grab and a total betrayal of public trust.

I have a picture advocating with my daughter on the Capitol steps for McCleary, at an event organized by teachers. I don’t remember a single sign advocating for bigger pensions. But billions of dollars in teacher pension bonuses is exactly what we got.

Seattle Citizen argues my numbers are wrong because according to Pension Plan 3, the formula is 1% and not 2% x average last 5-year salary x service years (up to 30). That is true, BUT, Pension Plans 1 and 2, use the 2% number, as I originally stated. Pension Plans 1 and 2 are held by the vast majority of Washington State Teachers, NOT Plan 3. Pension Plan 3 is optional, and it would be foolish for teachers to choose it.

The teacher pension fund was already vastly underfunded because the future investment returns the state is using for its projections are too high, which will mean a huge taxpayer subsidy. And the Teacher’s McCleary money grab added billions of new taxpayers guaranteed pension liabilities.

Perhaps a teacher making $100K a year is on face value underpaid. But name a single private company that still offers a guaranteed 60% of salary pension plan for life?


Melissa Westbrook said...

This is what McCleary was all about, right? Huge, hidden bonuses for our teachers that are costing taxpayers billions."

Complete bullshit. It's not about "bonuses" at all.

And, I don't believe for a minute there's more than one of you and you are using different names. You've made your point so move on.

Thank you, Seattle Citizen. Good comments.