Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wednesday Open Thread

Good luck to all school districts in the country over the next couple of incredibly cold days.  Here's a hilarious snow day video from two talented administrators in Michigan.  (Thanks to President Harris.)

It was a somewhat tense Work Session last night on the City's Families, Education, Preschool and Promise levy.  Directors Pinkham and DeWolf were not in attendance; all other directors were as was the Superintendent. I'll have a separate post on it but suffice to say the City knows the Board is not happy about the fund-sharing with charter schools.  (I also examined the charter school law and, with the help of the Washington Charter School Commission, I now see the clever loophole that allows this.  Just know, this is a choice, not an obligation, that the City is making.  They do not have to shar the funds.)

Want to help pass the district's levies?  First, vote! And tell a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker; ballots are arriving as we speak.  Here's more ideas from Schools First.   Just to note, not a single tweet from Mayor Durkan or City Council in support of the levies. (I haven't checked all the individual members' Twitter accounts but so far, nothing.)

From the  Northwest Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS):
Hey students! Did you know you can enter your media arts projects for the Student Production Awards? The Call for Entries is live now! Submissions are due February 15th. Click the link for more information.
Applications are now open for RadioActive's Summer 2019 Intro to Radio Journalism Workshop for 15-18-year-olds! Spend your summer at KUOW Public Radio learning skills, making friends, and creating stories and podcasts on topics you choose. Plus you get PAID $1200!

Early application deadline 11:59pm Tuesday, March 5th
Final application deadline 11:59pm Tuesday, April 30th

From the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, a state-by-state ranking on student data privacy - Washington gets a D+.  Boooo.  I know there are a couple of state legislators who are taking on data privacy in general and I hope to sit down and talk with this soon on student data privacy.

School Issues

Washington Middle School parents report receiving an informational letter from their principal that says:

The HCC population will be in “steep decline” starting next year. The principal reports that next year’s 6th grade class will have 50% fewer HCC students. 

What will this do to Whitman's already declining population?

From yet another middle school, Washington, I have heard from parents that the new-this-year principal who had a rocky start has now completely changed the students' schedules (and didn't notify parents).  Apparently the principal is not responding to parents and counselors say it was a solo decision.

I have to say I have seen the principal's letter and the tone is off-putting.  She points out the issues and then dismisses them.  She also seems to imply that if you complain, you are being selfish to the needs of other students.  And apparently, they seem to have staffing problems. 
What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

The situation at WMS is a catastrophe caused by the school district, which has demonstrated two key things: 1) it doesn't care about desegregation and 2) it doesn't care about schools in the CD.

Some history is in order. Back in the 1960s SPS began a voluntary desegregation program. In the 1970s it became mandatory. Initially it began as busing black kids from the CD to schools north of the ship canal. But CD residents pointed out, quite rightly, that this would have the effect of undermining their own community's schools, including Garfield. Folks asked why integration solely meant busing black kids to white neighborhoods. Shouldn't it also mean busing white kids to black neighborhoods?

One result was placing desirable programs in schools in the CD and SE Seattle. This has been totally misunderstood as a way to appease white parents. In reality this was done to ensure that, in a district with citywide choice, schools in those communities would continue to have high enrollment.

(side note: this is why Graham Hill had montessori. did people there forget that SPS nearly closed the entire school in 2006 due to low enrollment? that montessori was a way to keep the school open?)

The ongoing legacy of residential segregation means this is still a problem even as the CD gentrifies. How does one keep enrollment up at these community schools?

There's been a lot of discussion about what's happened at places like WMS and Garfield and Graham Hill where colocating a general ed program and a program like HCC or Montessori feels like a segregated school. Addressing that is smart. But what's happened is that those programs and the kids and parents in them have been blamed for causing the segregation, they and their programs have been labeled as racists, and guess what? They're leaving, which seems to be what the other parents wanted.

But the root even of that is SPS's mismanagement, and it comes in two forms. One is the mismanagement of school assignment. The Supreme Court did *not* tell SPS in 2007 they could not use race in assigning students. What they did say was race couldn't be used as a tiebreaker. The Supreme Court did *not* tell SPS to go back to neighborhood schools. But they did. That was a very bad move by SPS that needs to be reopened. This Court is currently even worse than the 2007 court, but it's a fight worth picking.

Option schools and specialized programs are a tool to help achieve desegregation. We need more of them, not less. And we need to ensure they're inclusive and desegregated themselves, simply placing it at the school isn't enough. SPS needs to provide more resources and support for those schools and programs so that parents across the city as well as in the community want their kids to go to something like WMS. SPS also needs to stop trying to force a single, standardized, universal curriculum on schools and students.

The other aspect of SPS's mismanagement is that WMS's principal is terrible and needs to be fired immediately. So too does the principal at RESMS, but the enrollment crunch in the north end makes it harder for parents to flee RESMS to get away from that authoritarian principal (though they do try). At WMS however there are more exits and they're easier to use.

tl;dr: Fire the WMS principal and move away from a rigid neighborhood assignment plan, embrace options and specialized programs as desegregation tools.

Tum Water

uber said...

Melissa, wrt student privacy, what are your thoughts on Naviance in the manner in which Sps is deploying it? I had though this was a college read tool but I am uncomfortable with it being pushed to the MS level.

@ Tum Water, great summary and I agree that RESMS community needs a different principal. So disappointed at what this school has become; the current leadership is tone deaf to middle achoolers and their parents.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, the above comment is from ..
-long road

Anonymous said...

Middle school capacity seems to be a big issue. West Seattle HCC kids will be feeding into Madison instead of WMS. Madison has portables already, and its feeder schools have increasing enrollments. There is a little room at Denny currently, and its feeder schools (with the exception of Arbor Heights) have decreasing or stable enrollments. Why are putting more HCC kids at a school that has portables and is growing when there are other nearby middle schools with room? Couldn't we leave HCC at WMS or move it to Denny?


Anonymous said...

Segregation? Wow if name calling were allowed I would lay it on you thick!

Alinsky much

Anonymous said...

The city gets to use SPS for free for their preschools. If the city wants to share the levy funds with charters, then they should start paying rent for their preschools.


Anonymous said...

...The school districts have not carried their heavy burden of showing that the interest they seek to achieve justifies the extreme means they have chosen—discriminating among individual students based on race by relying upon racial classifications in making school assignments

...Although remedying the effects of past intentional discrimination is a compelling interest under the strict scrutiny test...that interest is not involved here because the Seattle schools were never segregated by law nor subject to court ordered desegregation

...Even as to race, the plans here employ only a limited notion of diversity, viewing race exclusively in white/nonwhite terms in Seattle...Classifying and assigning schoolchildren according to a binary conception of race is an extreme approach in light of this Court’s precedents and the Nation’s history of using race in public schools, and requires more than such an amorphous end to justify it.

...In design and operation, the plans are directed only to racial balance, an objective this Court has repeatedly condemned as illegitimate.

Best to read the from the actual case.


facts matter

Anonymous said...

Yes, facts do matter. Here's the now-departed Justice Kennedy:

"A compelling interest exists in avoiding racial isolation, an interest that a school district, in its discretion and expertise, may choose to pursue... What the government is not permitted to do, absent a showing of necessity not made here, is to classify every student on the basis of race and to assign each of them to schools based on that classification."

There's a lot more to be said here but sure, selectively quote as you may wish, my guess is you were one of the plaintiffs in that case? Anyhow, SCOTUS didn't say and has never said race cannot be considered in student assignments. And sure, SCOTUS is totally screwed right now. But if SPS were to adopt a new approach, by the time it reached SCOTUS in the '20s, we might see a very different Court majority.

The case decided in 2007 wasn't just about SPS - the other district involved, Jefferson County (Kentucky), didn't go back to neighborhood schools. They instead developed a plan emphasizing socio-economic status, and that's been upheld.

Here in Seattle such a model would get us well down the road toward desegregation. But SPS didn't and hasn't done that. Instead they use the segregation they promote as a weapon against programs they don't like. Curious.

Tum Water

Melissa Westbrook said...

Folks asked why integration solely meant busing black kids to white neighborhoods. Shouldn't it also mean busing white kids to black neighborhoods?"

I don't believe this is so (see this Stranger article - https://www.thestranger.com/features/2016/04/13/23945368/how-seattle-gave-up-on-busing-and-allowed-its-public-schools-to-become-alarmingly-resegregated)

"SPS also needs to stop trying to force a single, standardized, universal curriculum on schools and students."

I somewhat agree. But letting every school go willy-nilly its own way is a recipe for disaster.

Unknown, I have written about Naviance and I don't like it. I'm willing to bet it won't end up helping that many students for the cost.

HP, I've raised that issue about the City paying for space and got this weird answer about how it's already dedicated space to pre-k so no charge. The district could change their policies any time they want to make the City pay (as I think they should). The City is becoming less and less a friend. I think the district should watch its back.

Facts Matter, when the case was in Court, I did read the opinion. Tum Water is right; the Court did not say you can never use race. You can't use it alone. You can use it as part of a package of solutions.

Anonymous said...

Seattle's race-based assignment plan was ruled unconstitutional. "Race-based" vs "race-conscious." Race-conscious is okay, race-based is not. There is also a discussion of "racial imbalance" vs "segregation."

"Racial imbalance is the failure of a school district’s individual schools to match or approximate the demographic makeup of the student population at large...Racial imbalance is not segregation....racial imbalance without intentional state action to separate the races does not amount to segregation. To raise the specter of resegregation to defend these programs is to ignore the meaning of the word and the nature of the cases before us."

"Unlike de jure segregation, there is no ultimate remedy for racial imbalance. Individual schools will fall in and out of balance in the natural course, and the appropriate balance itself will shift with a school district’s changing demographics. Thus, racial balancing will have to take place on an indefinite basis—a continuous process with no identifiable culpable party and no discernable end point. In part for those reasons, the Court has never permitted outright racial balancing solely for the purpose of achieving a particular racial balance."

(The case is from 2007. It's now 2019. It's unlikely the original plaintiffs have children in SPS. My guess is they've moved on, TW.)

words matter

Anonymous said...

I went to school in the South, where desegregation is still a federal issue. I was a white kid bussed to a majority-black school. Later, I attended a mostly-white high school in my neighborhood, with black kids from my middle school being bussed in. Either way, everyone hated bussing. It was miserable, it felt isolating when you were one of the few neighborhoods bussed in, people missed their neighborhood friends who were assigned to other schools. And whether you were black or white, it was always the poorest neighborhoods who traveled the farthest and were bussed to similarly poor (in economic and educational senses) schools.

In Seattle, separate from everything else, bussing seems like the wrong direction to be heading with traffic being what it is.

-Pragmatic Xennial

JLardizabal said...

Washington MS is in free fall. Students are confused and anxious about getting all new class schedules (and in many cases new teachers) in the middle of the school year. Group projects (science fair, book clubs) are up in the air because group members are no longer in the same class. Random kids have been pulled out of the music program. Teacher morale is low. Not a single teacher or counselor could explain the drastic changes. One popular teacher was seen crying after classes on Wednesday. The Principal does not accept telephone calls or return messages, and her email is set to auto reply. District staff do not return telephone calls or emails. We are at a loss.

Anonymous said...

The new schedules at WMS came out of nowhere! My eighth grader has a new SS teacher mid-year? Who cares about the lessons that were in progress with the previous teacher, right? Why did this happen? Who knows.

The letter from the principal was one of the worst excuses for parent communication I have ever read. It even had the wrong address for the school! It's like some kind of cruel joke.

If anyone at the John Stanford Center is reading this - Please, get rid of this principal ASAP. She is doing lasting damage to the community. This is a school with an excellent and hardworking faculty dedicated to educating one of the most diverse student populations in the city. We deserve BETTER.

Students will be demonstrating at school tomorrow morning. Press attention seems likely.


Anonymous said...

Continuity is important for student success!! Major changes at the semester are NOT common practice here, with the exception of semester only classes, and even then, they are typically scheduled for the SAME period (1st semester art/2nd semester PE, for example).


Anonymous said...

This is the sixth straight year we've had a student at WMS and are so grateful for excellent teaching we have seen there. Currently there are inspiring and idealistic veterans as well as a new generation of teachers in Language Arts and Social Studies who have already been serving both the GenEd and HCC populations. As far as we can tell, the principal's sudden and dramatic schedule changes are intended to move these LA/SS teachers out of their HCC classes while again messing with music schedules, which the principal has directly said are too well-used by HCC students.

By again pitting one school cohort against another, Ms Butler Ginolfi has justified this shock treatment by saying she can't wait another minute to improve teaching and learning for low performing students, and unhappy parents and students should get over this inconvenience. She has ludicrously claimed these kinds of substantive changes are common to middle schools. And keep in mind that students, parents and it appears teachers only learned the full picture on Tuesday, the final day of the semester. Teachers have been warned not to criticize the plan.

So entire schedules were flipped. My son and many if not all students have new LA and SS teachers as of today, Jan 31, and one of the SS teachers hasn't even been teaching that subject. Is this good educational practice? What about a teacher's lesson plans, classroom and student momentum? And were these sudden changes and (lack of) communication approach approved by Sarah Pritchett, the Exec Dir for principals in South Seattle?

Looking ahead, the district must consider more intently how and where to maintain HCC in South Seattle, which is an engine of population growth with so many young families. In north Seattle HCC is expanding rapidly with new schools (mixed success but still). With the available evidence, the principal at South Seattle's HCC magnet middle school is quite determined to snuff it out.

Cap Hill mom

Anonymous said...

This Tacoma charter is closing. The public schools will undoubtedly need to accommodate all of these students next year. This is unfair to the kids and Tacoma public schools:



Anonymous said...

Meanwhile at Lakeside, they are re-imagining their middle school schedule, and provided this communication to families and students. https://www.lakesideschool.org/news-details/~post/test-driving-a-new-schedule-20181219?fbclid=IwAR0KBiW0S-7acKzhtkM9xKj23rM0AuoHGW0m4ZZfwA7Y2YV9TI24aRIOXDc

It's amazing. They state why they are investigating the pros and cons of a new schedule and share their research findings. They are giving advance notice of a pilot of the new schedule. They are inviting feedback TO A PERSON. There is no reason why public schools can't provide this same level of service to Seattle families. There is no reason why decisions made for public school kids shouldn't be as well-reasoned and communicated with similar respect. I would die of shock if I got something like this from our MS principal.

Dose Wallips

JAN 3 2019 9:10 AM
Test driving a new schedule
by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director

Starting last year, the Middle School has been exploring the exciting idea of adopting a new daily class schedule. We have been motivated by two things. First, it has been ten years since we reviewed our schedule to determine whether it is meeting the needs of our students and program. Second, we were urged to do so by the team from Challenge Success, a research-based organization associated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Their research has shown that one of the most significant mechanisms for mitigating stress while retaining academic rigor is to carefully and intentionally manage time. The way a school distributes minutes in the day can either exacerbate or mitigate stress.


Anonymous said...

Last year, in meetings and through surveys, the Middle School faculty examined the strengths and weaknesses of our current schedule. From that input we developed a set of priorities and formed a committee that researched options and designed alternative schedules that met our identified needs and priorities. We read articles and looked at schedules for over 25 schools across the country. Committee members included faculty and staff from every department and discipline: Heather Butler, Nancy Canino, David Carrington, Jennifer Evans, Suzanne Granger, Matt Huston, Andrew Krus, Jamie Monkkonen, Meg Wolfe, and myself.

Our priorities included:

Maintaining all aspects of our current program including all classes, advisor time, frees, study halls, lunch, and community time.
Supporting student well-being through a less frenetic pace (which translates to longer periods with fewer transitions per day).
Supporting student learning through more consistent class time week-to-week (which translates to mitigating or eliminating the impact of short weeks and special schedules for things like speakers or outdoor trip prep meetings).
The committee designed two potential schedules and vetted them with the faculty this fall. We took their feedback and created a schedule that we believe has the potential to meet all the priorities; improve the experience of students and families; and maintain the excellence and rigor of our academic program. (con't)

Dose Wallips

Anonymous said...

Here is the big news: We will pilot this new schedule Jan. 23-Feb. 15, 2019. Running a pilot will enable us to make a truly informed decision about which schedule to use in 2019-2020 and beyond. This pilot will have no impact on the material covered during the course. During the pilot, class rosters will stay the same and students will still have their same teachers; the times when classes and advisor group meets will be different.

At the end of the pilot, we will gather feedback from all the students, all the faculty and staff, and the PGA Middle School class reps. After reviewing this feedback, the schedule committee and the Middle School department heads will make a recommendation to me and Head of School Bernie Noe; he and I will make a final decision about the schedule that will go into effect in the 2019-2020 school year. It is important to state that this decision has not yet been made. We are hopeful that the new schedule will better serve our students and our school, but we won't know until we try!

Features of the new schedule include:

45-minute lunches every day.
50-minute classes (current schedule classes are 40 or 45 minutes).
"Advisory/Community Time" every day. This will include advisory (at least 60 minutes per week), community meeting, time for speakers, performances, grade-level meetings and other student activities).
A three-day rotation rather than a Monday-Friday orientation. We will run an A day, then a B day, followed by a C day, then back to an A day, regardless of day of the week. A link to the calendar of ABC days during the pilot is here.
Students will be told about this new schedule and the upcoming pilot on Wednesday, Jan. 9 in advisory, followed by a community meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10. Students will receive their pilot schedules on Friday, Jan. 18, and the pilot will begin the next week, on Wednesday, Jan. 23 (school is closed that Monday and Tuesday). During the pilot, we will communicate clearly, through every possible means, what "day" it is (A, B, or C). Tutors and music teachers have been informed about the pilot and are reworking their schedules so that these commitments can continue with as little disruption as possible.

We want to be sure that parents and guardians have their questions about the pilot and test schedule answered. Do not hesitate to email me directly with your thoughts or questions. There will also be two open Q&A sessions for parents and guardians: Tuesday, Jan. 15 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. and Monday, Jan. 28 from 9-10 a.m. Both take place in the Middle School Dining Room.

This is a big event in the life of the school! Thanks for your questions and your feedback!

Dose Wallips

Anonymous said...

The situation at Washington Middle School is heartbreaking. Between capacity planning and the low caliber of the principal hire, Washington is clearly in a "death spiral," to borrow a term of health insurance markets. Far fewer kids will return next year than that principal realizes, she will show zero gains in her underperforming students, and I would expect further loss of faculty by summer, and she's going to have a heck of a time hiring new teachers. The students most harmed in all of this uproar? The minority students the principal purports to want to help, at the expense of all others.

I think Eagle Staff is in a similar boat, though not yet quite as dire.

Situations like this are exactly why the ideas of charters taking root and of a city takeover of the school district no longer seem far-fetched. These principals who are out of control could not have been a bigger help to charter schools and Ed Reformers without being an actual mole for them.

What is going on this district?

Anonymous said...

Is the district generally supportive of the WMS changes? Do they think the issue is just about communication? Based on the info posted, the changes sound needlessly disruptive for both students and teachers. As a teacher, I can't imagine abandoning lesson plans, starting over midyear and reestablishing classroom functioning. It's a recipe for burnout. It's encouraging to hear the student body is pushing back and local media were present for this morning's demonstration.

what's up

Anonymous said...

Yikes, Roosevelt on the cover of the Times and not in a good way.



Anonymous said...

According to Reddit, the artist of the Roosevelt illustration is a POC and a member of Roosevelt's Black Students Union so I don't think this issue is as simple as it appears to the Times.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

According to this story from KIRO7, a student protestor said the WMS schedule changes were due to budget cuts?

Are school budgets adjusted in the middle of the school year - ever?



Anonymous said...

Could someone post the letter from the WMS principal? I'd like to write to the school board and Sarah Pritchett, but being able to cite the letter would be helpful. Thanks!

Caphill Parent

Anonymous said...

Caphill Parent, I believe it's on the HCC discussion blog.


Anonymous said...

If you liked the Lakeside scheduling, imagine what it would be like if our high schools had any college counselors who ever worked in college admissions. Or did anything at all. Or knew about APs. From Lakeside:

The truth about Advanced Placement exams (APs) – and why we're cutting back
by Ari Worthman, director of college counseling

Parents and guardians often ask, "How important are APs in the college application process?" The answer is they're not!

No U.S. colleges require AP exams in the application process. Students who earn high scores can earn credit or place out of introductory classes at some colleges, but not all.

Most high schools that administer AP testing also offer the corresponding Advancement Placement course. The tests are scaled from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Tests, which are administered by the College Board, are like final exams: culminating assessments of what students learned throughout the year. When colleges review applications from schools with which they are unfamiliar, strong AP results can validate the strength of curriculum. When I was invited to observe Duke University's admissions committee a few years ago, I heard a conversation about an applicant from rural Texas. The committee was impressed by his grades but unsure about the school's quality and whether, despite the student's strong performance, he was prepared for the rigor of Duke. However, when they saw his strong AP results, their concerns were assuaged.

For years, Lakeside has not offered AP classes, choosing instead to develop our own challenging and in-depth coursework that our teachers believe better prepares students for college. Lakeside regularly hosts college reps, giving them a close-up view of our rigorous academics and the strong character and capabilities of our student body. Our college counselors travel across the country and globe to visit schools, network with college admission officers, learn of new opportunities, and advocate for Lakeside students. Finally, colleges see our alumni's strong performances on their campuses; they do not need AP results to verify that Lakeside students are well prepared for college.

There are some Lakeside classes where the content overlaps significantly with the AP curriculum. But in most cases, it does not. Students who take APs in these areas are, essentially, taking a final exam for a class they have not taken. Even if students study on their own, it can be difficult to sufficiently prepare while also balancing their classes and activities.


All 11th graders will benefit from this change. Reducing the number of APs will allow them to work with their college counselor on what is most important this coming semester: brainstorming college essay topics, selecting teacher recommenders, and preparing for the summer – all of which occur during the AP exam period.

To recap: As parents and guardians help their students consider the pros and cons of APs, they should:

Remember that APs are unimportant in the U.S. college application process. Students are better served devoting time to prepping for the ACT or SAT (and SAT Subject tests in some cases). If you'd like a recap of standardized test options, check out my Sept. 27 article, "Getting smart about standardized tests."

Keep in mind that colleges understand the strong caliber of Lakeside. Our students do not need AP results to verify they are prepared for college.
Encourage your student to talk with their teachers and advisor (and college counselor, if in 11th or 12th grade) about whether APs are right for them.
Lakeside will offer the following AP tests in May 2019. ...


Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that colleges understand the strong caliber of Lakeside. Our students do not need AP results to verify they are prepared for college.

That's the key point, isn't it? Lakeside (and any other comparably challenging private school known by college admissions) does not need AP as a confirmation of a student's academic preparedness. Students from public schools, however, are MORE reliant on AP/IB and standardized tests as part of the application process. It's much more than just having college counselors, @reader, it's about having strong academics that make AP superfluous. Some Lakeside students still take AP exams, but have the added pressure of self studying topics not covered (not too different from some students in SPS).


Anonymous said...

I can tell you for sure. My kid never had any college counseling close to that. It would have been amazing. That was actually my point. But also true about AP reliance, as you note.


Anonymous said...

Please not another "poor HCC students" thread.


Anonymous said...

Yep, the whole point of that letter from Lakeside is that they don’t need AP classes because their school has a reputation. They’re probably right about that. When I attended a brand-new high school with zero reputation, I was told that AP classes were an asset, just like the rural kid applying to Duke. I imagine kids going to newly-opened Lincoln might benefit from AP classes for the same reason.

But yes, I think the point the upthread poster was making was that they wanted counselors who would even know if their school had a reputation.

-Pragmatic Xennial

Anonymous said...
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