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Thursday, May 09, 2019

All Good Things Must...Change

I believe change IS coming to Seattle Public Schools.  This change for me has been a long time coming and I have talked about it with family, friends and colleagues for a couple of years now.
For now, I will simply state that I no longer want to cover what this district is doing except as part of the larger picture (or, as an example) of public education. 
I'll see this current school year thru but, starting in July, I won't be writing about Seattle Public Schools.  The blog will have its regular Tuesday/Friday open threads for any topics you like.  Yes, I will still be moderating to keep it civil.  (And I may have to think up a snappy new name.)


What I will be covering are topics like charter schools, personalized learning (which seems to be coming like a freight train - your child's school experience is going to look less and less like your own) and student privacy.  I mention those because I think that those subjects will become ones that directly impact SPS.  Of course, I welcome guest posts and any suggestions for topics.  (Write to me at sss.westbrook@gmail.com.)

 And, I plan to throw the bulk of my energy in getting the current denizen in the White House out in November 2020.   No matter who you support for president, I think we all know next year is going to be a long, unpleasant slog to November.
  
I'll write about what I think see coming for SPS in Part Two of this thread. 
Background

It's been about 15 years of writing this blog.  I am proud of the work that Charlie Mas and I did here and the work that I have continued since he left about six years ago.

Today, though, I'm announcing that the blog will go on.  But it will change its focus.

I have tried mightily to support this district from within and out.  Meaning, within as a parent and after that, as a public education advocate.  I have nudged, cajoled, harangued, fussed and fought for a better district.  I've been on talk programs on tv and the radio, done newspaper and magazine interviews, testified to the Board, the City Council and legislative committees.  As recently as two weeks ago, testifying before a City Council committee about committing FEPP dollars to charter schools, I pointed out that the Mayor's plan said there were 2,000 homeless students in SPS and I told them that had that wrong - it's more like 3,000.  It's painful to see elected folks who can't even get the basics right about SPS.  

For a long time, what I told every single new superintendent is that my belief was that Seattle could be the best public urban district in the country.  Seattle has a smart populace who supports public education even as it has one of the smallest child populations for a major city in the nation.  When was the last time a school levy failed in Seattle? It's been decades.  And today, we have a booming economy in Seattle.

I told candidates running for School Board the same thing.  And I also told them the same thing, election cycle after election cycle, yes, you are coming into a district that has been operationally challenged and has provided unevenness in services throughout the district and has continual budget challenges.  Most of the people I supported for School Board got elected.  It certainly wasn't just me that got anyone elected but the profile of this blog and the readers it has seemed to certainly help multiple candidates.

I also told candidates for School Board another thing.  I would never, ever tell them to do something.  I would never, ever ask them to do something.  What I said I would do is ask them to consider a viewpoint, some data, or "if, then" scenarios and then, use their own best judgment.

I have held out hope for a better district via new superintendents and/or Board members.  But it just has not panned out and I see no hope on the horizon.  Not that Superintendent Juneau and the current Board don't care or don't have good intent.  They do.  But I think that, once again, it appears that they are working at cross-purposes and that - just - won't - work. 

When the district had a major financial scandal in former superintendent, Joe Olchefske, (to the tune of $32M which was never fully accounted for), the district brought in a local group, Moss Adams, to do an overall assessment of the district.  What a masterpiece of work that was; department after department assessed with recommendations (high/middle/low) and timeframe (now, months, years) and costs (high/medium/low.)

But a phrase that has rung in my years for all these years was this:

Unless you change the culture of a bureaucracy, you can change little.

There is such a culture at JSCEE so deep that it's embedded in the paint in the walls.

 A decade or so ago, JSCEE staff just seem to regard the Board as an impediment, not a partner.  As "volunteers" who staff tried, for a long time, to sweet-talk or baffle with bullshit and then staff would pretty much go off and do as they wanted as the "experts."  Some of that has changed but, for some, that attitude still remains.

And yet, through all those years and all those experts at JSCEE, we still see operations struggle (and I'm not buying that it's all about underfunding by the state - senior staff made choices in all those years and some were bad).  We have seen a lot of Capital building (great) with no real commitment to maintain those shiny new buildings (bad).  We have seen a lot of hand-wringing as though staff at JSCEE has no idea why the district stagnates as it has when they were the ones making the decisions.

Of course, I still want this district to succeed.  Tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future, what that success looks like may depend on who's talking (or who has gathered and consolidated the most power).

Actions always speak louder than words.  Smiling faces and virtue signaling will not replace authentic and honest discussion. And when some use virtue signalling as a bully club to tamp down discussion, that's never good.  I do believe some who believe the district is now taking a turn for the better may be, in the end, surprised to see what evolves.

You heard it here first. 

27 comments:

Greg Linden said...

Sorry to see you move away, Melissa, from all your work with Seattle Public Schools, but thank you for so much time and effort over these years. I do think you had a large impact. But moving any large organization is like turning a massive ship -- so much momentum to overcome -- and the impact you have in that case may be diffuse and hard to quantify. I think you should be proud of what you have done.

On your frustration with not being able to do more, I feel that as well. I'm concerned that the only things that will make a large difference are paid full-time board members and more funding for our schools, both of which require difficult legislative action. Within the painful constraints we all have, I think many of us trying to make things better have been able to make some things better.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I have been a parent in this district for as long as you have been blogging. I remember John Stanford well, for example. You have been a key resource and I do not think we would have survived the district administration's many missteps without you.

Thank you for your savvy reporting and insights. I too used to be a cheerleader for the district. And I also believed that SPS could morph into a great urban school district as Seattle grew. However, I do not believe that now. Last levy was the first one I voted against and I will continue to do so. I can't vote for funding for a district whose administrators have vilified parents and threatened students (my experiences, others may vary I suppose). Kudos, however, to the great teachers we have met along the way.

Parent

Watching said...

Thanks for your work, Melissa.

You play an important role. Our public agencies absolutely need watchdogs to assure transparency.

I understand your frustration. For a decade, I've tried -multiple ways- to try and get a steady funding stream for counselors. The district's budget has ballooned to $1B- or 1/26th of the state's annual budget. Despite an $1B budget, we still don't have a steady funding stream for counselors.

Within a few years, the district is expecting an $100M shortfall. I'm not optimistic.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Readers should follow the comment guidelines.

I have taken ha couple of times off previously; this is quite different.

Anonymous said...

SPS is in extremely serious and worsening trouble. A few years ago there was a strong movement pushing for public education, high quality curriculum, and racial justice.

Now what has happened is corporate forces have regrouped. The Amplify science adoption is the critical turning point, where quality instruction led by teachers who reflect their communities will be replaced with low quality instruction done on a screen, created mostly by white men, with teachers cut out of the process. We're about to see screen-based learning widely imposed on the district, despite the fact that kids hate it and it marginalizes teachers, and at great financial cost to the district. Los Angeles schools saw billions go down the drain on technology at the expense of basic student needs and that's coming to SPS as well.

Meanwhile, a bitter and angry clique has seized control of some of the community institutions that parents had organized over the years, and is turning those institutions against the district's critics. Some of these people even say they oppose the corporate ed reform agenda, but are willing to accept it and all its horrible practices and outcomes as long as they can use that agenda to attack and silence their perceived opponents.

We are told this all must happen due to racial equity. But we've heard that all before. It's how we got saddled with high stakes standardized tests, Teach For America, merit pay, school closures, bad math, common core, charter schools, and so on. Worthy and important projects like ethnic studies or Native American schooling will be cast aside once again when it becomes clear those things don't generate profit for Murdoch or Gates. Middle College was the canary in the coal mine.

Still, all this will eventually fade, and once it becomes clear how awful online screen-based learning is, how deeply kids hate it, and how all other student needs will be sacrificed to appease the corporate salesmen behind these apps, the revolt will be thorough and complete. But it's going to be a rough year or two until we get there.

Some of us spent years in the guerrilla opposition to corporate ed reform. We know how to win. We can do it again.

Prachanda

Larry Seaquist said...

Thank you for your many years of careful, thoughtful reporting and analysis of SPS. I look forward to your work in these new directions.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Thank you so much for all your work and dedication. The absence of this blog in following key SPS meetings and initiatives and issues will be stark. We now have one major daily newspaper that does not bother to cover the school district as a watchdog or in the community interest. Without such a watchdog, transparency goes down the toilet. This is a tragedy--and a travesty.

I urge all Seattle Times subscribers to demand better K-12 coverage: coverage that tells our community what is going on, why it's going on, and what the ramifications are for our school system, teachers, students and families.

I see Crosscut is starting to write some about SPS, but only through the frame of "equity" (which no one ever defines.)

This blog will be sorely missed.

Concerned parent

Anonymous said...

I have admired your hard work on this blog ever since you showed me the link. I have seen you struggle against the system - always on the side of making schools better. I understand how you would feel frustrated at the resistance to change you fought against. But, I think you will see that you will be missed here. You are a wonderful resource for people who care about Seattle Schools. You are a voice for parents and students. You are a resource for administrators and elected leaders to understand all sides on important issues. You will leave a big hole when you go.
I wish you great luck in your next endeavor. But, you don't need luck, you will be wonderful at whatever you try.

Sunflower

Outsider said...

I agree that Amplify is a disaster, and a good case study in where SPS is going wrong. But at the same time, I have always been puzzled by what people say about it. The pro-equity case for Amplify is easy to see, but seems never to have been honestly dealt with by commenters here. Director Geary's facebook post a few weeks back points the way (emphasis mine):

"... how do you suggest that we get a baseline available across our district (not just to the wealthy schools who are able to maintain consistency in educators that have the experience to create their own scope and sequence, and have parent dollars to use in supplementing what worn out curriculum and materials the district provides)?

"My biggest issue is that if we don’t adopt something then we have nothing for our staff to build off of to supplement. This leaves the kids in the underfunded, understaffed classes to continue to be left behind with unexciting, unsupplemented, unaligned curriculum- while we know that our well-heeled kids get the challenging experience that their experienced teachers can provide and their well-heeled parents demand and pay for."

[From another post]

"But here is why I really would advocate against waivers. The children of poverty are a mobile group. And historically those who teach in poorer neighborhoods are as well. It is important to me that when those students and teachers (often substitutes or newer teachers first to be displaced) move they are anchored in a common curriculum. Otherwise, the teachers enter a room not being familiar with the lesson for the day/week. And even worse, a student arrives in a room, and as you well know, the teacher would be hard pressed to stop to figure out where that student is in their individual curriculum - let alone determine what that student had been taught (or not) in his/her former rooms. That student is likely to only fall farther and farther behind - exacerbating the achievement gap - because of a known opportunity gap. It is my goal to eliminate that opportunity gap by creating a basic floor."

In other words, SPS does not believe it can deliver good science teaching in every classroom. Where good science teaching occurs, it will tend to be high SES schools. Where it's missing will tend to be high poverty schools. That's not equity. Therefore, good science teaching needs to be prevented everywhere equally (sorry, no waivers). Everyone involved, including Geary, recognizes that the dismal video curriculum called Amplify is much inferior to good science teaching by an involved teacher. But the latter is not an option. Amplify is a classic case of equity as dropping the ceiling, lowest common denominator. It makes a joke of "equity and excellence" but honestly, who didn't expect that?

That's naturally upsetting to parents and students with good teachers at good schools, but what is your answer to Geary? The basic premise -- that good science teaching can't be delivered to all K-8 classrooms -- has never been examined or challenged here or anywhere I have seen. Can you refute this premise? No one seems to even care that essential information, like the average turnover and experience of middle school science teachers at different schools, the number who are teaching without a science endorsement or with emergency credentials, the number of long-term substitutes, etc. -- is not even on the table.

(on to part 2)

Outsider said...

I must be the slow student in the back of the class, because I have always been puzzled by MW's position on SPS. She is a consistent opponent of charter schools, and a proponent of more types of higher taxes to increase education funding. I followed that part. But I have a hard time understanding or articulating what's behind the dark, foreboding (but vague) assessment of SPS. OK, they make dubious decisions left and right, but always those decisions can be traced to simple, well-known imperatives such as racial percentage at schools, simple economy, and drop-ceiling equity like what Jill Geary described for Amplify. Even as people complain about the downsides of those decisions, no one is willing to contest, or even acknowledge the underlying imperatives.

I am a regular reader of this blog, because it's the only source of information about SPS. For that, MW deserves thanks and a medal. But beyond providing the information, this blog has always seemed limited, in the same way that Seattle culture as a whole is limited. PC catch-phrases act like kryptonite, causing people to go limp and shrink from any discussion of the real underlying dynamics, the key facts that go unmentioned, the linkages that no one wants to see, the 58 elephants in the room, etc. Here is my free advice to MW: if the information content of the blog is dropped regarding SPS, and readers are still wanted, it might help to talk more courageously about the elephants.

Anonymous said...

4/26/19, 9:10 AM
Thank you, Ms. Westbrook for providing all with this “town square” meeting place to discuss education.

It is vital and necessary and would not exist but for your tireless efforts and untold hours of uncompensated, thankless toil. You do all children and our city a tremendous service.

In the midst of so much going so wrong, it is important to thank those who are part of the solution, not agents of destruction. By fostering spreading of information, be it SPS meeting times and places, budget proposals, legislature initiatives, you commit multiple acts of good.

You and this blog are deeply appreciated by the silent majority, even when the ‘news’ is bad or ugly or painful. We know not to shoot the messenger.

Gratitude


Thank you for years of dedicated service. The work you do is important and has made a difference. You ask critical questions and bring light to dark corners.

Can I beg you to stay?

This district is turning to a very very dark epoch. Those with the power have appropriated the word equity as a battle cry and they may even think they’re doing things to enhance children’s lives, but they’re having the opposite effect. The writing is on the wall. They are hurting children. All children. And children furthest from educational justice are unquestionably being hurt the worst. The more wrongheaded interventions they deploy, the more damage is done to our kids.

We once had a school district with 100,000 children in it, however policy ended up creating family flight, and the system crashed down to 30,000. Levies failed. Looking back, did any of that affect positive change for children of color? Was there progress in measurable outcomes, graduation rates, disciplinary rates, achievement scores etc? No.

But the current SPS group, led by Juneau, is so smug and self-assured they are ardently, gleefully dismantling education thinking that that is the magic ticket help children. It’s crazy, like war is peace crazy, but it is their fixation. I cannot imagine the self-delusion involved - or the tragedy of the fact that this lot is being used by corporate Ed to simply sell, sell, sell.

Amplify is tip of the iceberg. Because now if we have perfect mini videos on simple iPads that young children can operate, do you really need a teacher in the classroom?

This board is being snowed and I have no clue why they can’t simply find their spines and their common sense.

So much of this is the leftover garbage from Tolley and Nyland, but there are minions in JSCEE who gleefully are happy to carry-on that legacy of destruction. Spectrum died, HCC is next (rigor is being sapped bit by bit), and now Welch is hell bent on bringing in a garbage curriculum that is truly antithetical to how children learn (they learn from caring adults, a.k.a. teachers, and hands-on experience, i.e. kinesthetic, investigative project-based learning NOT from isolated screen time with lame simulations).

Tolley and Herndon purposely starved Whitman and overstuffed Eagle Staff so that they could engineer crisis to further take down learning a notch. It’s going to be a sh*tshow. They similarly positioned West Seattle for a massive problem, there simply isn’t enough space in the high schools to take in the lower grade cohorts as they matriculate. But watch how WMS and Garfield are both going to be shrinking. It’s infuriating.

So for you shift now, right when we need you most, of course I’m terribly sad. You are so needed.

Gratitude

kellie said...

@ Mel,

Thank you for all you have done to keep this platform alive over so many years and so many controversies. After all this time, I am always amazed at how much true collaboration on important topics happens here.

@ Outsider,

Naturally, Mel has her own point over view, that has been colored by two decades of covering this district. Speaking only for myself, I can say, it is really hard to maintain a neutral point of view, when you are in so many deja vu meetings where all the words are the same, but the faces are different. The lack of institutional memory and institutional learning can be utterly heartbreaking at times.

I can really appreciate all of the issues you raise about Amplify and the underlying operational dysfunction that somehow Amplify will ameliorate. That said, I keep having flashback to the EDM adoption where all the exact same issues were cited. All the exact same words were spoken by Carla Santorno and Maria Goodlow Johnson. Did EDM help with any of those issues? Nope. In fact, the spiraling curriculum that was supposed to solve the teacher stability and teacher quality issue in poorer schools only made it harder to learn math.

You don't solve operational challenges with curriculum, you solve them with better operations. The primary reason that I have focused on capacity issues for so long is that you will never have teacher stability without effective capacity management. I have argued for many years that the best way to stabilize teacher instruction is to simply use the annual underspend on teaching and learning (because of so many unfilled teacher and sub positions each year. this year the underspend was $22M) and create a staffing stabilization fund. That one change would bring more stability to South End schools than this poor curriculum.

FWIW, I agree with you about the PC kryptonite culture in Seattle and for better or worse, and this blog is not immune, but there are also regular and meaningful exchanges on this blog. I have no idea who "number looker" is, but wow do I love that analysis. I appreciate that I can add some historical context and then someone else is crunching the numbers and together better conversations happen.

For that, we all have Mel to thank.



Melissa Westbrook said...

...drop-ceiling equity like what Jill Geary described for Amplify." I like that, thanks.

"Even as people complain about the downsides of those decisions, no one is willing to contest, or even acknowledge the underlying imperatives."

So I don't make assumptions, could you please flesh out those underlying imperatives?

Thank you, Gratitude (you bring up some of what I will be talking about in Part 2).

What is depressing is that, through the years, we have had so many parents with background and talents like marketing (could have helped not allow the private school attendance rate to rise/continue), people like Kellie with an analyst background, Meg Diaz, the whiz with numbers, and so on. Not just muscle to build a new playground somewhere but real professional talents. Mostly, they go to waste because JSCEE is full of experts and yet somehow the district struggles and struggles.

It's a real pity.

Anonymous said...

@ Outsider, if you "agree that Amplify is a disaster" how is the "pro-equity case for Amplify...easy to see"?

Even by Geary's somewhat warped comments, the argument has always been that more well-off schools shouldn't worry about the lameness of Amplify because they can supplement and go deeper and do more with their own funds...In other words, they are almost encouraged to provide an inequitable curricular experience to those so-called "well-heeled" (gag) kids. How is it a pro-equity case to give everyone the disaster curriculum knowing full well that the schools with the capacity to do so will circumvent the disaster, leaving the disaster for only the needy schools?

From the Geary comments you posted:

"... how do you suggest that we get a baseline available across our district (not just to the wealthy schools who are able to maintain consistency in educators that have the experience to create their own scope and sequence, and have parent dollars to use in supplementing what worn out curriculum and materials the district provides)?

If parent dollars have been supplementing worn out science materials in some schools because the district doesn't provide them, isn't an obvious solution for the district to provide sufficient materials? That has to be a lot cheaper than this ridiculously priced software rental, which also comes with a lot of hidden costs for materials, laptops, tech maintenance and replacement, teacher training, etc.)

Of is the real problem that some of the less desirable schools (for teachers) have trouble attracting and maintaining qualified and experienced science teachers? If that's the case, how does Amplify solve that. Remember, one of the arguments was that even an inexperienced substitute could handle Amplify. Who needs qualified or experienced teachers?!

"My biggest issue is that if we don’t adopt something then we have nothing for our staff to build off of to supplement. This leaves the kids in the underfunded, understaffed classes to continue to be left behind with unexciting, unsupplemented, unaligned curriculum- while we know that our well-heeled kids get the challenging experience that their experienced teachers can provide and their well-heeled parents demand and pay for."

If there are "underfunded, understaffed" classes as Geary said, that's on her, the Board, and SPS. Amplify doesn't solve that. If
she's worried about unexciting, unsupplemented science, Amplify doesn't seem to solve that, either. The "Amplify or nothing" argument is simply not true. We HAVE a current science adoption. Staff can build off that. The district can provide additional resources to schools that need it. If some staff are too unqualified to do so, the science department should be able to work with experienced teachers. Geary's whole argument seems to be that rich kids have high-quality science teachers who know how to supplement, but everyone else has crappy science teachers who just can't figure it out. That's a pretty obnoxious and simplistic view, and again, Amplify wouldn't change that if true. (And that "well-heeled" comment was obnoxious. Be best, Dir. Geary.)

sci ops




Anonymous said...

@ Outsider, to continue, you seem to have fallen for the "Amplify or nothing argument," and suggest that nobody here has bothered to address the underlying issues and concerns. That's simply not true. What is my answer (suggestion) to Geary? To find and provide a GOOD CURRICULUM to everyone, not something that people recognize is deficient. It would be better to wait a year and find something good than lock us into a sub-par and expensive agreement for the next decade. The idea that these are our only options is absurd. If we have such great science teachers in some schools, and they have developed such great curricula, why not tap into that? Have them help the newer teachers, by providing lesson outlines, supplemental materials, collaborating, etc. We can pay them all small stipends to support that, which would be much cheaper than Amplify, and which would help build capacity at the same time. If high FRL schools lack sufficient supplies, fund the dang supplies. It's not rocket science.

"The basic premise -- that good science teaching can't be delivered to all K-8 classrooms -- has never been examined or challenged here or anywhere I have seen. " Shouldn't the district and board primarily be the ones examining and challenging this premise? They seem to have given up these teachers, and seem to have decided that they just can't afford supplies for schools who need them, either. Parents opposed to Amplify, however, HAVE suggested ways to improve science at these schools while looking for a decent replacement curriculum.

I'm with Melissa--what exactly are these "underlying imperatives" and ignored "elephants." If one imperative is to provide a baseline foundation of good science to all students, I would agree--that's why I'm opposed to Amplify. If the imperative is to address the lack of teacher capacity at high FRL schools, that's another reason to oppose Amplify. If the imperative is to provide an equitable science experience, given the reality that there will be Amplify avoidance and/or supplementation at schools with higher science capacity, that's yet another reason to oppose Amplify. As I see it, the imperatives do NOT support Amplify.

sci ops

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will have a thread on Director Burke’s community meeting last week but I urge parents - write to the Board NOW - with these thoughts. I hear some say they have few opposition emails.

Of course when the Science Adoption committee ignore any input from parents/teachers on the possible choice if they didn’t come thru “official” channels, sure they didn’t hear. (And that official channel nonsense violates a Board policy.)

Spsdirectors@seattleschools.org

Outsider said...

@sci ops, as I understand, the virtue of amplify is that it's easy to deliver. Just tell students to watch the video and do whatever computer-based exercise that follows. An inexperienced teacher can do that, or a substitute, or one who knows little about science, or one who is struggling just to maintain control of the classroom. No need for a presentation by the teacher. No messy experiment with actual stuff. They don't want to delay Amplify, because there isn't likely to be a better curriculum by this definition of better. What you consider a better curriculum is hard to deliver, and requires an orderly classroom with capable teacher who knows science. They have given up thinking they can supply that to all students.

The imperative in this matter is equity: prevent "well-heeled" students from getting better science instruction than poor students. The elephant in the room is that they are constrained by inability to recruit and retain good science teachers in high poverty schools. That elephant is best buddies with some other ones, including school discipline.

I wonder what you think "Amplify avoidance" looks like. Presumably they mean to make it mandatory, and any teacher who refuses to use it will be fired. So teachers must put their students through the video and exercise. Reportedly a lot of students finish early, so there would be some time afterward to supplement a bit. To that extent, "well-heeled" students will get a bit more if they have a good teacher. But still, mandatory use of Amplify will clearly diminish the quality of instruction in classrooms that currently do hands-on science with good teachers and friendly, interested students. That promotes drop-ceiling equity. Maybe it won't be perfect equity, but it will be more equal than now.

I wish you luck in stopping this disaster, but you need to be clear-eyed about what you are up against.

Anonymous said...

Amplify was a beta-version Product when MaryMargaret Welch and Kyle Kinoshita imposed it on 20 SPS Schools in 2017. The beta-Product lacked "hands-on" materials, according to those involved in its testing. Amplify refers to the testing of Amplify Science in Seattle Public Schools as a "Field-Test". Later as a "Pilot-Program". Even now, SPS teachers complain that Amplify's post-unit assessments (i.e. tests) are inadequate. Yet, MMW pushes this product forward for K-5, and 6-8. From 2016-2019, MMW and her Staff issued over $400K worth of Purchase Requests for Amplify goods and services. The financing for these Amplify goods and services has not been adequately explained to the Public. Perhaps not even to the SPS Board. How can the Board continue to operate like this? The Audit and Finance Committee needs to examine the financing of the Amplify Field-Test/Pilot-Program very carefully. Have the Purchase Requests for Amplify goods and services been paid for? Is there an outstanding debt to Amplify, perhaps as large as $400K, in the form of unpaid Invoices? Where is the documentation that Amplify, or an outside Donor, actually gave SPS a gift of over $400K in goods and services? How can the Board ask the Public to comment on financial obligations, or agreements, that are undocumented, and/or hidden from Public view? Where is the Audit and Finance Committee's financial report on the Amplify Pilot-Program? The Amplify Pllot-Program costs (and possibly debts) pertain to the costs of the proposed Amplify Curriculum, which the SPS Board is supposed to adopt, and purchase, in several weeks time.

Missing Docs

Melissa Westbrook said...

Uh, they are voting on Wednesday. Tell the Board what you just wrote.

Anonymous said...

I will miss this blog. It's the only place I know to go to see issues daylighted. Obviously MW has her perspective - her blog, her point of view, her right to have one! But it has been an essential window into an opaque system.

Especially troubling has been the rise I perceive in shutting down the voice of teachers. We are threatened if we openly criticize the district in any forum, not just about Amplify but about anything, and sometimes even if we ask questions or advocate in any way. I was interested to note the number of teachers who went to Rick Burke's community meeting, described 5/10. In my region it has been made quite clear that speaking to a board member is inappropriate and insubordinate. Additionally staff has been told not offer thoughts or opinions about the district or education to, or around, the parent community. Another challenge has been experienced staff being silenced in favor of new, younger staff members who are using the right acronyms and buzz words, regardless of the depth of content underneath them.

I can't discern if these trends are rising from JSCEE staff who are protecting their jobs with a new administrator, or from the new administration. I guess we'll see. But after 5 decades interacting with this district, as a student, volunteer, and teacher, I've never felt as pessimistic about this district as I do right now.

-Seattlelifer

Anonymous said...

I still remember the tearful Board testimony of a North Beach math teacher who spoke about her treatment under the MGJ(?)/EDM days. My memory is that she was essentially forced out for being outspoken in her support of Saxon and more sound math in general. Strangely similar to the Amplify adoption.

Families used Kumon, hired tutors, part-time homeschooled, etc. Math-n-Stuff had a good customer base with Seattle families seeking supplementation. So much for equity, huh?

depressing

Anonymous said...

It always amazed me how SPS educators dug in on discovery math and science. It is almost a religion with staff members who loved story problems for math and now screen time for science. Never mattered if these techniques were less effective or confused students. Never mattered if students kept testing into remedial math in college. SPS staff always knew better.

I will miss Melissa’s direct commentary on what goes on behind the scenes. I will also miss Rick Burke if he decides not to run again. He is the one board member who really understood math curricula and is now standing up for better science.

The superintendents always seem weak. The staff at SPS run the show and will continue to keep our schools far less effective than they should be.

S parent

Anonymous said...

You are being generous. Initially, I thought she was either week and mildly incompetent, or like Banda, and really didn’t care. She figured she be her ~3 years then move on, so hey, so what....

BUT

She knows EXACTLY what she is choosing. The ‘work’ may have happened before she got her, but she IS here NOW, and from her comments, she absolutely WANTS this: she’s a Broadie - she buys into that garbage agenda. She is neither student friendly or teacher friendly. She IS distant and condescending. What I’ve heard her say out of her mouth is worse than Banda. And more aggressive than Nyland. She WILL take this district down, what’s left of it post-Tolley. BE WARNED.

All in the name of equity, yet it’s the very kids who have it the hardest two are going to be screwed the worst. Stupidity, arrogance, and paternalism all in one lady. SPS is going down.

And yet, good liberal folks of Seattle, either childless or sending their own kids to private school, will continue to vote for the levies like Pavlovian dogs.



sorry, move

Eli said...

Melissa, thanks for all the work and passion you've given to SPS through the years. You've been an institution around here. If SPS is an immovable object, I can certainly see the argument that you'll have more impact working on broader issues. All the best wishes on those.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, thank you so much for all you've done! I wish you the best in this new direction you're taking.