Tuesday Open Thread

National College Fair this weekend at the Washington State Convention Center:
Friday from 9 am-noon
Saturday from noon to 4 pm

On kids and screentime. From the AP:
The number of young Americans watching online videos every day has more than doubled, according to survey findings released Tuesday. They’re glued to them for nearly an hour a day, twice as long as they were four years ago.

And often, the survey found, they’re seeing the videos on services such as YouTube that are supposedly off-limits to children younger than age 13.
Overall screen time hasn’t changed much in those four years, the survey found. The average tween, ages 8 to 12 for the purposes of this survey, spent four hours and 44 minutes with entertainment media on digital devices each day. For teens, it was seven hours and 22 minutes. That did not include the time using devices for homework, reading books or listening to music.
Also, fyi, NPR has this useful list of questions and answers on "social media wellness." 

Also from NPR, Cultural Appropriation, A Perennial Issue On Halloween
Halloween is around the corner and guess what that means? Someone will metaphorically step in it with an insensitive or straight up racist costume.  

Over the past few years, online campaigns #notyourcostume and #mycultureisnotyourcostume have helped spread awareness. Many college campuses run campaigns on cultural sensitivities during Halloween with best practices to avoid racist tropes and cultural appropriation. 
I note that I have seen several SPS schools send out notices asking parents and students to give consideration to others' feelings when choosing a Halloween costume.

One teacher's thoughts:
In class, they have lessons on identity throughout the year and all the parts of ourselves that go into identity. 

"So having those conversations ahead of time allowed kids to see why somebody else's struggle shouldn't make up someone's Halloween costume," she said. "What's wonderful about children is once you help them see those things they don't ever want to create that situation ... and the kids are so eager to make the right choice, once you sort of show them the problems that exist."
There's also the teal pumpkin idea:
Orange, black — and now teal? Yes, teal. There are teal plastic pumpkins, paint-your-own pumpkin kits, and trick-or-treating buckets. It's all part of a campaign to make the culmination of Halloween festivities, trick-or-treating, more food-allergy friendly.

Having a teal pumpkin on the doorstep (teal being the color of food allergy awareness) is a way to signal to people with food allergies that this is a safe home for trick-or-treating, says Jennifer Norris, president of the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET), which started the project.
What's on your mind?


Stuart J said…
The college fairs are always an interesting and helpful experience for both students and parents. It helps to look at the list of participating colleges ahead of time. Some will not be choices for undergrad, but may be relevant for supplemental credits (especially community colleges), for study abroad, or for a shorter-term enrollment. Example: National Student Exchange programs at WSU, U of Hawaii, and others.

In addition to the fair in Seattle sponsored by the National group, there's also a version in Tacoma on Weds Oct 30 sponsored by the Pacific Northwest group. And this group has some other locations as well around the state, though the others are all done. This link has details.


The timing of these fairs is sometimes unfortunate. This Saturday is SAT test day for some students, and also a lot of colleges have early deadlines of Friday Nov 1 for early decision applications, for some scholarships, and in some cases for fee waivers. But at least PNACAC will also host a fair on April 25.

I really like what the Bellevue School District does: they have a district-wide fair in February that is a great resource for students and parents to get a sense of the next year / two years.

Oh man, this Saturday is an SAT day here? Darn.
Stuart J said…
This page has all dates for the next year.


What's not included is the dates for testing done in schools. Some districts have a Wednesday administration in March, a few days before the Saturday session. So, March 11, 2020.

For good measure, here are ACT dates as well. They had a test date last Saturday.

NSP said…
I like the teal pumpkin idea, but there's such a wide variety of allergies that it might be hard to have it be useful to any particular person. Nuts are obvious, but soy and dairy allergies are also pretty common.
Anonymous said…
@ NSP, that was my fear as well--that it might give kids the sense their candy was allergen-free when it might not be for their specific allergen (adding gluten to you list, in case others are shopping for more allergen-friendly options). But from the article, it sounds like they are providing non-candy treats, which is indeed a nice option.

In addition to handing out candy, houses that display teal pumpkins also have bowls of non-food items such as glow sticks, stickers or Dracula teeth. "We don't want to be the Grinch of Halloween at all," says Norris. "We don't want to take candy away from the people who can have it."

Obviously one size doesn't fit all for Halloween treats, even if SPS thinks it does for education!

Anonymous said…
When we did it one year, we had Archie McPhee alternative toys available. We still only had 4 trick-or-treaters, so we decided to not bother again. The Seattle hills are treacherous!

I'm intrigued by the blue pumpkin debate. I fall on the no blue pumpkin side (no one with autism should feel the need to announce their diagnosis), but wonder what others think about it?

And I feel I must make a pitch for allowing teens to trick-or-treat! We are all so concerned about drugs and drinking and 'partying' why would you ever refuse or look down upon or make a child feel awkward about a candy bar? Let's enjoy their childhood and let them do so too!

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Why Rhode Island’s Governor Is Taking Over Providence’s Public Schools

The city’s schools have been failing for decades. The state believes it can fix them by stepping in.

Adam Harris Oct 29, 2019

Public schools in Rhode Island are a mess. The situation in the state is considered so extreme by activists, elected officials, students, and parents that last year they filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that Rhode Island had deprived the students of the literacy skills necessary to participate in a democracy. Things in Providence are particularly dire. When Johns Hopkins released a report about the state capital’s public schools this summer, each line was more damning than the last. Teachers felt demoralized and unsupported. The English learning programs were in violation of the Equal Education Opportunities Act. Parents felt isolated from their children’s education. The report went so far as to say there was “little visible student learning” happening in classrooms at all. The buildings were deteriorating to the point of being health hazards. Some of the Johns Hopkins researchers found themselves walking out of buildings and crying; one researcher reported feeling physically ill after seeing the conditions of one building.

When Governor Gina Raimondo assumed office in 2015, “I knew that the Providence public schools weren’t where they needed to be,” she told me in a recent interview. The Johns Hopkins report made clear the extent to which that is an understatement. “We do have a crisis on our hands,” Raimondo said.

Now Raimondo, alongside her education commissioner, AngĂ©lica Infante-Green, is taking a dramatic step: Taking over Providence’s public schools. The state will assume control of the district for at least five years, beginning November 1. Infante-Green will oversee the district’s budget, personnel, and programming. “Because of the magnitude of our problem here, everything has to be on the table,” Raimondo told me. “We have to go big here. These kids have been left behind too far for too long.”

After Infante-Green started as the education commissioner in April, she held nine public sessions and more than a dozen focus groups just in Providence to hear comments from parents, teachers, students, and advocates about their community schools in her first four months on the job. “The community feels like they have been let down, and now their kids are being let down,” Infante-Green told me. Several teachers told her that their students could not read. One student told her they had 11 English teachers in one 10-month school year. And then there was the question of diversity in the system: 98 percent of the teachers in the district are white, she told me, and 91 percent of the students are people of color.

In late July, armed with the results of her public outreach and the report from Johns Hopkins, Infante-Green went to the governor and requested the takeover. In her final takeover order, Infante-Green reasoned that the state and federal government had substantially increased funding for the public schools in Providence since 2011—a year after a new funding formula was implemented; and in the past five years, the state appropriation to the school district had increased by $40 million, and yet the district continued to chronically underperform. (Though critics argue that the formula short-changes English-language learners.) The solution, state officials argue, has to be more than funding.

This isn’t the first time serious issues have been identified in Providence’s public schools. When Domingo Morel’s family moved to Providence from Union City, New Jersey—which had narrowly avoided a state takeover of its own—in 1993, another bombshell report on the poor state of the city’s schools had just been released. “Providence Blueprint for Education” detailed concerns similar to today’s: a lack of school safety, questions of equity, problems with the English learning programs. Morel, who was in high school at the time, remembers the schools being in rough shape.
Anonymous said…
The 1993 report, which took a year to prepare, was meant to be a nudge—“a message of encouragement, not despair.” The business leaders and educators involved in putting it together wanted to be “perceptively honest” about the schools in Providence, and work to fix them. But when I asked Morel, who is now an assistant political-science professor at Rutgers who assisted the Johns Hopkins team with this year’s report, about what had changed between then and now, his response was simple: “There’s really no difference.”

The benefits of school takeovers are always uncertain—there have been more than 100 state takeovers since New Jersey first took over Jersey City schools in 1989—and any number of things can derail the path to success: The state could misdiagnose the city’s problems, set impractical deadlines, or look to the wrong experts. But one of the biggest potential pitfalls for a state takeover is the failure to involve the community in the plan. Although Raimondo is, according to one poll, the least popular governor in the country, when it comes to the Providence takeover, she has received significant support from political leaders and top educators. The mayor of Providence announced that he supported the takeover; so did the city council, the school board, and the district superintendent. In his book on school takeovers, Morel calls these kinds of situations “cohesive state-local regimes,” where there is a strong relationship between the governor and the mayor of the city being taken over. Typically, these leaders are members of the same party. “The signals that are sent to the community [by this type of agreement] are that this is not going to be the same type of intervention that we’ve seen in other places,” Morel told me.

But students, parents, and advocates in Providence still have concerns that they may not have a formal role in the process. That disconnect between the community and those conducting a takeover, the ever-present danger of an us versus them mentality, can quickly hamper the effort. In Little Rock, Arkansas, for example, that sort of divide between state officials and the community over a recent school takeover has resulted in tense, passionate meetings and protests. The community doesn’t seem to have many objections to the takeover itself in Providence—so much attention has been paid to the state of the schools that most agree something needs to be done—but citizens do want some say in how the takeover will be conducted.

“Nothing about us, without us, is for us,” Elliot Rivera, the executive director of Youth In Action, a student advocacy organization, told me. The students who were a part of the organization, he said, had been vocal about the issues in the school system for years, and with the announcement of the takeover, the government was naming those same things as problems it wanted to fix. It was an opportune time: “Let’s work together to come up with solutions that feel equitable for all of us.

So in September, a group of organizations, including Youth in Action, filed a petition for a formal role in the creation of the takeover plan. The state ultimately denied the petition, but Infante-Green stressed to me that community members would have “official roles” in the plan, though it’s not yet clear exactly how. Last week, Infante-Green released the details of her takeover plan. She has selected a superintendent to lead the turnaround effort, but she wrote that she will “afford students and parents sufficient opportunity to measure the progress of the plan, [and] afford relevant stakeholders, including students and parents, sufficient mechanisms to express their opinion on material decisions.”

When I spoke with Governor Raimondo, she wanted to stress that community involvement will be paramount to the success of the takeover. “If we come up with some turnaround plan from on high and try to impose it on the community, that won’t work,” she told me. “That’s true of most things. Everything I’ve done as governor that’s been successful has been very bottom-up.”

Anonymous said…
Anyone go to the Garfield PTSA meeting last night about budget and teacher allocation? Can you share?

Concerned parent
Anonymous said…
@ Concerned Parent,

It was exactly what you would have expected. Berge defended the budget and declared that they were very close and that everything is normal.

She declared that it is only a small handful of parents who are complaining.

She also explained that the Garfield registrar was also wrong about the numbers and that a teacher who presented information on overloaded classes was also incorrect.

My summary may be blunt but that is mostly because all this chaos was created by Berge over numbers that everyone knew were incorrect but yet, nobody can stop downtown from playing games.

- angry bulldog
Anonymous said…
I was typing this while angry bulldog above commented. I also attended the Garfield PTSA meeting with JoLynn Berge last night. I appreciated that she came. Mr Howard did not attend, which was disappointing to say the least.

Ms Berge explained that the budget/enrollment for the school was based on assumptions that 1) more students would be doing Running Start; 2) more students would opt for Lincoln; 3) fewer families with children are moving into Seattle; and 4) enrollment projections were intentionally conservative. Assumptions 1 and 2 proved wrong, 3 proved wrong but may yet bear out as a longer term trend, and 4 was simply a bias choice.

There was much disparity and confusion over stated and printed numbers bouncing between headcount and AAFTE number, and at various points in time. Garfield's registrar said the current headcount is 1805, which seemed to surprise Ms Berge. Using either metric (AAFTE or headcount) the projected number of students used for budgeting in the spring was ~300 students too low. The District pushed out 4.0 (or 4.5?) FTE to Garfield in early October.

One teacher presented data showing that GHS still has ~240* (I heard 236 but can't be certain - angry bulldog, do you know?) students in excess of the 150 students/teacher limit. Ms Berge pushed back on that, saying her numbers do not agree.

Ms Berge claimed that Garfield had zero classes with more than 40 students, but later acknowledged (after parent pushback) that her assertion was based on most recent class counts made after adding teachers in October. Oddly, in defending class sizes she pointed to other classes having fewer than 20 students as if they cancel out overcrowded classrooms.

Honestly this was the running theme - Ms Berge is clearly focused on abstract numbers for the district as a whole while parents are focused on students and teachers inside the school. That may be understandable for a CFO but these are children, teachers and families not widgets. People. Parents urged Ms Berge or another district representative to visit a classroom to get a real life sense of what >40 students means for learning.


Anonymous said…

Parents also questioned why the District RIFs in the spring then rehires (if it even can) in the fall, vs RIFing in October. RIFing in the spring creates much greater and potentially longer-lasting harm and to proportionally more people (many students per one teacher, going weeks without one) than RIFing in the fall (shuffling fewer teachers and students, numbers are better known). Ms Berge pointed to the public outcry in the past over RIFing in the fall at Garfield and elsewhere.

Parents offered suggestions for improving enrollment projections such as: SPS could ask parents directly in the spring whether they plan to attend in fall or not; linking siblings could improve enrollment predictions by school; schools could host in-person registration events to personalize the connection and ask questions. The tone of the meeting was constructive in my view - how to improve the enrollment projection process to ensure this doesn't happen again. Ms Berge took notes and said all she could do was pass along suggestions to the Enrollment person. (Conzi? sp.)

One thing we learned was that students completing Running Start paperwork as a hedge for not getting into classes in the fall can be self-defeating as the district views that as intention to enter RS. An easy fix for this would be for students to be able to indicate whether RS is their first or last choice.

Toward the end Ms Berge made an unfortunate comment that although other schools also experienced enrollment problems, as usual it is the "white HCC parents at Garfield" raising a fuss. I feel that the parents and especially PTSA co-presidents (both women of color) pushed back on that with grace, pointing out that the concerns raised at this meeting were unrelated to HCC and impacted every student at Garfield, and the discussion centered on how to improve enrollment predictions moving forward to provide every student in Seattle with adequate resources. Ms Berge said she will be addressing the Rainier Beach community next, somewhat contradicting her previous observation.

"...more students would be doing Running Start; "

And they assumed this because...?

"Oddly, in defending class sizes she pointed to other classes having fewer than 20 students as if they cancel out overcrowded classrooms."

That's just BS to say that.

Parents have said - for years - "Ask us" if we are staying, leaving, where, why. The district never does. They'll do surveys for everything else.

Wow, she said that about HCC. I mean,it's clear the fix is in but to demonize parents is wrong.
Anonymous said…
Toward the end Ms Berge made an unfortunate comment that although other schools also experienced enrollment problems, as usual it is the "white HCC parents at Garfield" raising a fuss.

If that is in fact the case--and knowing SPS's propensity to blame HCC for anything and everything, I'm not banking on its truth--is it perhaps because advanced classes that are most appropriate for HC students are the first to be cut due to Ms. Berge's failed projections?

Typical SPS. Don't admit your own mistakes when can blame someone else.

Shameless, I so like this phrasing; I might just borrow it.

"Don't admit your own mistakes when can blame someone else."
kellie said…
I wasn't at the Garfield meeting. I was however, at the May 2019 Budget and Capacity work session where Chief Berge vigorously defended the budget and staffing projections, so I can guess exactly how this meeting played out.

At the May Budget work session, the board pushed back really hard on "unrealistic enrollment projections" that were driving RIFs. During the meeting Berge claimed that there simply was not enough staff in the budget department to update the budget projections with historically, much more accurate post-open enrollment information.

Instead a portion of the work session was dedicated to proving how "inaccurate" post open enrollment information actually is and how much more accurate the February projections would be. And therefore it was mission critical to RIF staff in June.

At the moment there is a committee that reviews the budget and the WSS allocations. This committee is made up of PRINCIPALS who have to actually do the hard work or hiring and RIF'ing staff.

However, there is NO COMMITTEE that reviews enrollment and enrollment projections. Enrollment projections are completely under the domain of Chief Berge. Chief Berge and Superintendent Juneau DELIBERATELY MANIPULATED the budget and did it in a manner that was outside of any oversight.

So yeah, I can guess how the meeting went. Some variations of ... it's not as bad as you think, you don't really understand that you are actually widgets that we can move in any way we see fit. And if you don't understand that you really are a widget, it is because of your privelege. So stop that.

OK, Chief Berge can keep on removing 1700 actually enrolled high school student from the budget allocation, because apparently, neither the board, nor the union can stop this. The chaos that is caused by this budget practice... is now NORMAL and a privilege and can be blamed on the new department.

Anonymous said…
I think this NPR article published today has relevance to what people are experiencing with TCG, as well as Kamala Harris's perception (& attack) of Biden's attitude on bussing from 30 years ago.

I really respect Obama, think him quite wise and these are some thoughts he is sharing. I particularly like the " The world is messy, there are ambiguities" line. I completely agree. Our country, and conversations seem at times to be filled with cookie cutter thinking. It lacks any sort of depth and/or people unless you are 100% towing the line, have fear about raising any other ideas for fear of being labeled as "the enemy". In academia I am guessing there are debates often among people who share many similar values. This is healthy IMO and the foundation of a democracy.

"A former aide to Barack Obama said that concerns the former president raised about ideological "purity" were aimed at explaining that governing requires having conversations that include people whose values you may not share.

Speaking Tuesday at an Obama Foundation summit in Chicago, Obama said that he worries that some in the Democratic Party's left flank are too worried about ideological "purity" among their fellow Democrats.

"This idea of purity, and you're never compromised, and you're always politically woke, and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly," Obama said. "The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws."

Anonymous said…
Sorry I forgot to include the link


Anonymous said…
"is it perhaps because advanced classes that are most appropriate for HC students are the first to be cut due to Ms. Berge's failed projections?"

Likely. According to the enrollment video they cut much much more from some schools than others due to "equity". But it is not defined how they make those decisions. It is also unclear where there money went as to date it does not seem like it went to lower income schools in any transparent way. There is also no baseline of equity. Those schools then have to make decisions (such as Garfield) in turn which classes and staff to cut. Are they goin to cut AP courses or basic education courses? Of course we know the answer. Likely kids who needed AP courses for their path of study were affected much more disproportionately. Same for Roosevelt HS and others.

Anonymous said…
More from Obama:

"Obama did not explicitly endorse either path in his remarks on Tuesday. But he also seemed to target the so-called "callout culture" of social media.

"Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn't do something right or used the wrong verb ... then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself. Because man, you see how woke I was," Obama said. "You know, that's not activism. That's not bringing about change."

While Obama has remained on the sidelines of the Democratic presidential primary, he has previously raised issues about "rigidity" among some liberal Democrats. In April, he told attendees of an Obama Foundation town hall in Berlin that Democrats occasionally create "what's called a 'circular firing squad' where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues."

Anonymous said…
"Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who worked on Hillary Clinton's campaign, described the remarks as "vintage Obama," saying that the former president's political gift has been "his ability to balance idealism and pragmatism."

I am afraid our culture has been moving further away from this kind of thinking and tribalism is getting more severe, perhaps being propelled by social media.

Anonymous said…
Reflecting upon discourse on social media, it brings to mind a memory from a fantastic UW Anthropology-Linguistics professor who left for a position at Columbia University. As we know social media based communication was in its infancy at the time. He mentioned to a few of us that there was something odd about how people were communicating that is different than other forms of communication. People seem to be more impulsive. They say things they would never in other formats.

I am out of the loop, but fairly certain this has been studied intensively by now and much written. Most of us have an understanding that social media is changing our communication landscape. What is on my mind? I am thinking about how this applies to the comments from Wayne Au on a recent post, in which he called that parent a name when he felt defensive. Likely not something that would have occurred in another communication format.


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