Friday, November 29, 2019

Friday Open Thread

The last Friday Open Thread (for now).  Here's hoping you all had a satisfying Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Two stories on school funding have crossed my desk.

 First up, Baltimore via their local FOX station:
Baltimore City Schools has a $1.3 billion budget. Per pupil, it’s the third most-funded large school system in America, according to the U.S. Census.

Much of that $1.3 billion is going directly to parents. In just one year, a Project Baltimore investigation has found that City Schools, and other districts, paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements for failing to educate students with disabilities.
Attorney Wayne Steedman specializes in disability law. He says he gets about 40 calls a month from parents like Gray whose children are not getting the educational services they need, even though schools must provide those services by law.
“It comes down to the money. It's a budgetary issue. And principals, they want to keep their jobs. So, they're being told from central office, this is what your budget is. Don't exceed your budget. If you exceed your budget, you may not be a principal anymore,” Steedman tells Project Baltimore.
But as schools try to stay on budget, it’s costing taxpayers. A Project Baltimore investigation found, just last year, North Avenue paid out $363,603.32 in 111 settlements to resolve disability complaints. That’s more than two settlements a week.
This week the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, signed legislation to provide more funding for public schools.
Massachusetts’ public schools will receive their largest influx of new money since the state first established its school funding formula in 1993, under a bill signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 63 years, it’s that talent is evenly distributed,” Baker said after signing the bill. “What’s not evenly distributed is opportunity. There’s a reason why this is the Student Opportunity Act, because this legislation is about making sure that every kid in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, regardless of where they live, where they go to school, where they’re from, has the opportunity to get the education they need to be great.”

The education funding overhaul will provide $1.5 billion more in funding annually for the state’s public education system, compared to funding today, once it is fully phased in seven years from now. The districts slated to receive the most money are those with high concentrations of poor students and those with a large number of students learning English.
Traveling this holiday season with a child or adult that has a hidden disability?  News from SeaTac airport:
Sea-Tac Airport is now the first in North America to offer a way to do just that. Since October, it has stocked green lanyards printed with yellow sunflowers at its customer service desks that are available by request to anyone traveling with a "hidden disability" — a condition that may not be readily obvious — including autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, hearing loss, anxiety or dementia.
The lanyards don’t grant wearers special security clearance or the ability to skip lines, says Perry Cooper, a Sea-Tac spokesman. But airport workers have been trained to recognize the lanyards as a signal that a traveler might need extra assistance, patience or simply a bit of kindness to make the journey easier for them and for everyone in their orbit. 
“We’re trying to become the most accessible airport in the country,” says Cooper. Airport helpers dressed in teal called Pathfinders are also able to hand out the lanyards, he says, and travelers can fill out this form (with advanced notice) if they’d like to schedule an "airport dress rehearsal" to prepare for future travel.
Don't know if most of you have ever seen this page at the SPS website but they have one on commonly used acronyms and abbreviations in the district as well as a district glossary page.
I'm still hoping they add "suspend your privilege" and "hoarding opportunities" so all parents know what the district specifically means when using those terms.

The district has a notice about the elementary progress reports; they will now include SEL (Social- Emotional Learning.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) helps children manage emotions, set and achieve goals, express empathy, establish positive relationships, and make decisions. These skills are important for learning in school communities. SEL skills are part of all subject areas, so students learn and practice them through the school day. 

Teachers emphasize and evaluate these skills on elementary student progress reports:
  • identifying strengths, feelings and needs
  • seeking to understand others
  • building cooperative relationships
  • critical thinking
  • decision making
  • following safety standards and
  • working through challenges
Teachers use the words Strength (S), Developing (D), and Emerging (E) to describe students’ SEL growth.
  • Strength: consistently uses skills across subjects and settings
  • Developing: uses skills in most subjects and settings
  • Emerging: beginning to use skills in some subjects and settings 
The temps in Seattle for the next couple of nights is going below 32 degrees; maybe a dusting of snow? 

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

Are the new SEL ratings really that useful to parents? We’ve had those in the past elsewhere, and they seemed to provide little info. Even the lowest grade is framed as positive, so unless you’ve already been worried about that skill you’ll likely dismiss it. The rating process also seems very subjective, and it’s hard to know if teachers really have the time and insight to accurately rate each student on each.

I’d love to hear what some elementary teachers think about this new component of the progress reports.

All types

Anonymous said...

"Much of that $1.3 billion is going directly to parents. In just one year, a Project Baltimore investigation has found that City Schools, and other districts, paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements for failing to educate students with disabilities." Ok hundreds of thousands is not MUCH of 1.3 billion. SPS pays out $12 million on average each year for outside SPED services.

The thing that stops parents in Seattle is the cost to hire a lawyer. I've heard their is some relief coming next year.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

All Types--
A friend of mine who teaches elementary in SPS says she has 77 criteria on every report card to fill out. I think the SEL might be the easiest of them, but nothing on that card is going to be terribly valuable to parents.


Anonymous said...

I agree with OuttaSeattle. Different criteria, but no anymore helpful to parents than the last version of the elementary report card.
SPS Teacher

Anonymous said...

San Francisco ties cold record as Bay Area freezes


--inconvenient untruth

Mike said...

@Melissa I looked at Supt. Juneau's K-12 classroom teaching experience and was struck by how limited it was; just 3 years in two schools with 98% native and 99% native student body. Great Schools website rates both at 1 on its 10-point scale despite extremely low student to teacher ratios of 8 to 1 and 15 to 1. Comparing that to SPS's multicultural student body and radically higher student to teacher ratio doesn't suggest Juneau is qualified to recognize and understand the needs of skilled SPS teachers, let alone guide them as one would expect of a superintendent hired to foster teaching rather than promote a social agenda or focus on keeping administration going for the sake of itself.

I looked at Harvard's many offerings labeled Masters of Ed and am wondering if Juneau took teacher education or one of the administrative or social justice offerings that would title her MEd without being a skilled, broadly experienced classroom teacher. Hmmm. Moving from classroom teaching to administration after three years is the path usually taken by people who find they can't teach well or just don't like teaching. I note, too, that she switched from education to law after doing doctoral work at UNM at Albuquerque in Educational Thought and Social Justice with coursework titled 'Whiteness' and the like.

It's possible I'm way off base but her track closely follows that of Critical Race Theory which began in 1980s Law colleges, was picked up in college departments of English (her BA) and has since migrated to Education, where we find its tenets of all Whites are racists and all POC are being harmed by those whites today. If I'm not off-base, parents of white kids and any children who adopt American culture over Black Slave Culture are going to be short-changed in the race to "educational equity". Heaven help them all without your blog.

Mind you, I'm not saying Juneau is a good or bad person anymore than I could say SPS's Critical Race Theorist, TCG, is a good or bad person. I am saying their personal histories and communications surrounding issues of race, equity, educational justice and the like are too close to Critical Race Theory to be coincidental or anything but harmful to K-12 education.

Perhaps in your next incarnation you'd consider a larger education issue the above touches on? That is, during the past 40 years we've moved from education administration of districts to business administration of districts. With that has come less understanding by administrators and the public of what a teacher is and what great teaching requires. This has set in motion a process which feeds on itself: administrators who don't understand teaching hire a mishmash of employees as 'teachers' then point to failures of the same unskilled "teachers" they hired as evidence that programs chosen and instituted by administrators are necessary to compensate for the shortcomings of teachers. Business administrators always end up putting public image, politics, efficiency and budgetary concerns ahead of learning as the process is slow, individual, not clearly linear, definitely inefficient and not intended to produce a product or service as is the wont of successful business. Anyway, thanks again for your efforts here and best of luck.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good points, Mike. Something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Great comment, Mike. I too will miss Melissa's insight and willingness to take on the JSCEE bureaucrats.

It does sound like you are trying to cast aspersions on Juneau, though.

And what the heck do you mean about "Black Slave Culture" being taught instead of "American Culture"?

That sounds proximate to white supremacist doctrine, a la The Daily Stormer.


Anonymous said...

"Great comment, Mike...That sounds proximate to white supremacist doctrine, a la The Daily Stormer."

Say what?

cloudles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

How, exactly, is SPS is "just tearing things down" for students far from educational justice? Why are you calling people names, as in SJW?

Why is that derogatory name calling continued to be allowed here when it violates blog rules?


Anonymous said...

Washington state is nascent charter state.

With SPS constant uncertainty, & what many *perceive* as open hostility to students and communities (remarks like repeating ‘slave ship’ for example), plus an abysmal attitude or flat out refusal to engage in evidence-based best practices, the enticement to bring a new charter school to Seattle that would proudly welcome with open arms gifted students who seek and thrive with demanding rigor is mounting.

Exploratory committee is next stop. No need to reinvent the wheel. Gifted charters exist...
To provide the children of the Woodland Hills School District with a free high quality education, addressing the unique special needs of gifted students. Because we believe that gifted students are an underserved segment of the student population, we have determined to establish a charter elementary school offering them an opportunity for an appropriate education that begins in Kindergarten.

Churchill Charter is thus intended to serve as an alternative to the present model in which identified students participate in a gifted learning environment for a limited number of hours each week. It is our conviction that this model does not do enough for the gifted learners, whose needs are clearly special.

In fact, we believe that gifted students are gifted 100% of the time; and at present, with the responsibility for providing gifted education falling primarily on regular classroom teachers, it is the gifted students who pay the price in that those teachers may be insufficiently trained, short on time, and more focused on the overall accountability strategies of bringing lower-achieving students up to a minimum standard.

It is therefore our premise that gifted students deserve a full-time developmentally appropriate learning environment, the opportunity to interact with their intellectual peers, and to have specially trained teachers to teach them in a way in which each of them will be able to realize his or her potential contribution to self and society.

Charter schools were introduced, in part, to stimulate innovation in the public school system. We believe that in success, such an innovative concept as Churchill Charter will enable all the communities of the Woodland Hills School District to become those in which families will want to take advantage of an excellent opportunity with increased strength and educational pride for all.

Finally, we want everyone to know that Churchill Charter will be a non-profit public school, open to all regardless of race, creed, color, gender, sex, gender-identification, national origin, or ancestry.

scared & scarred

Anonymous said...

The SPS resource FB group has posts from "both sides" and there are a handful of commenters that are extreme on their own beliefs. For the most part people are civil with each other. I don't follow close enough to criticize the admin.
I have found some good info on Seattle Council PTSA FB page - events, news, links, etc, but not a lot of commenting there.
Regarding the SWJ label, rather than telling you it is offensive or appropriate, I am really curious to know if you would say that to someone in a real life conversation or signing your name as opposed to typing away behind a moniker.
Juneau and Durkan talk. They meet. But I don't know the nature of their relationship and what they talk about.

Fed Up

Mike said...

@Charlie re: " And what the heck do you mean about "Black Slave Culture" being taught instead of "American Culture"?"

I wrote and meant "adopt", as in make a personal choice, not "taught" as you misread.

Short of a considerable essay, any explanation from me would likely be construed according to the reader's biases or be skewed from lack of knowledge regarding how people from many African cultures were ripped out of those cultures and forced into a contrived culture designed (generally) to make the men appear 'other', dangerous, and less than human while women were basically bodies and breeders to sustain the men.(Not really much different than life for most women up to the recent present.) That every one of those souls was always fully human with a species-bent toward taking control of their life, led to development of social mores to help them survive the physical and mental horror of slavery. Still, in short, the culture which developed from that situation was antithetical to American culture and remains so despite both cultures having evolved a bit. This is a problem for society, not K-12 administrators, to solve. Yet well-intentioned crusaders like TCG and (I'm guessing) Juneau, want to take limited resources from education to address this societal problem.

In my experience, kids born into families without sufficient intellectual, emotional, economic or social resources tend to be dazzled by the shiny objects (cash money, latest fashions, newest music, fancy alcohol, newest clubs, flashiest rides) that advertising would have us believe are everyone's goals but, in what I've labelled Black Slave Culture, don't require the hard work of K-12 education, let alone wasting time in college. Of course kids of any stripe can be caught up in this. But, as an artifact of slavery, genocide, racism and religious prejudice, kids from black, brown and native families seem especially prone to bedazzlement. For SPS, those who become bedazzled will eschew K-12 no matter how easy we try to make the school experience or what "alternative measures of education" we use in the name of "educational equity". I prefer to see SPS's limited budget used for education rather than social service society at large is responsible to budget and staff.

As to casting aspersions on Supt. Juneau, did I not say I don't know if she is a good or bad person? Perhaps you meant to wonder if I was questioning the applicability of her credentials to the facilitation of teaching rather than administration? I was.

Anonymous said...

Washington State has some code provisions that would make it difficult to have a gifted charter school.

"RCW 28A.710.020 provides that a charter school is a public school open to all children free of charge. A charter school may not limit admission on any basis other than age group, grade level, or capacity and must enroll all students who apply within these bases."

Churchill Charter is in Pittsburgh, PA.

an fyi

Melissa Westbrook said...

Inquires, until someone give uber-social justice folks a name, SJW it is. I was using it before others decided it was bad and I got dinged for calling them fanatics.

S&S, yes, I've said that before - open a charter school for gifted kids and you'd be overenrolled very quickly. And a charter school could play by their own rules so no appeals maybe and they would still fill up.

FYI, that may be true but I think if a charter was trying to fulfill a state mandate like highly capable, they might get some leeway.

"The SPS resource FB group has posts from "both sides"

Please. The attack dogs come in fast if you differ from their agenda in the slightest.

I'd bet Juneau and Durkan talk all the time. They seem pretty cozy in public.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's any reason a charter couldn't have 2 tracks--a regular GE track, and a gifted track--or any reason it couldn't provide learning opportunities based on one's current abilities and/or intellectual capabilities. There could be IQ or similar testing required to move into the gifted track. You could also require that GE students pass the GE level requirements in order to move to the next grade (so no more of that SPS "9th graders who only read at the 4th grade level" nonsense. Gifted students could skip grades (or grade levels of certain subjects) if appropriate, and GE students who were not keeping up could repeat grades. If the school were clearly focused on high level achievement, and a fast-moving learning pace and teaching style better-suited to gifted students, I suspect they'd get more gifted students than GE applying. Not many parents want to put their student in a school that is going to be too challenging for them, one in which they may fall behind their peers and take longer to graduate.

Just as SPS technically serves all types of students but is in reality moving to limit opportunities for acceleration, a charter could be open to all but use a model that is better suited to highly gifted students. A small, more remedial program for students who aren't a good fit for the gifted approach could be available for other students.

thinking aloud

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

I still never get past how some will speak demeaningly of children. I won't miss that much.

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

Oh My, you said "their precious children" - that is a sneer against children. Go away.

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

"In my experience, kids born into families without sufficient intellectual, emotional, economic or social resources tend to be dazzled by the shiny objects (cash money, latest fashions, newest music, fancy alcohol, newest clubs, flashiest rides) that advertising would have us believe are everyone's goals but, in what I've labelled Black Slave Culture, don't require the hard work of K-12 education, let alone wasting time in college. Of course kids of any stripe can be caught up in this. But, as an artifact of slavery, genocide, racism and religious prejudice, kids from black, brown and native families seem especially prone to bedazzlement."

@ Mike - I had a discussion with a Puerto Rican education professor who discussed this, but as it applied towards a more expansive group of low income and working class kids in general. For your own information the discussion applied not only to groups you mentioned but Hispanic/Latinx and white low income ethnic groups historically, such as S Italians. He was very familiar having lived in areas where he was knowledgeable of the culture & history of multiple ethnic and racial groups within our educational system. One example, lower income and working class teens might not take out money for a loan for school, but they will on new expensive cars.

Elephant in Room

Melissa Westbrook said...

"And poof you delete it."

Sure, because today is the last day of the blog and I no interest in anyone's opinion about me or the blog. Go to the "SPS Resource" Facebook page and tell them all about it.

I will say, yes, I think some of these comments could be construed as vaguely racist. Because we all have racial biases.

However, to ignore research and behavior patterns within communities is valid. All people in any given community do not act in unison but yes, there are patterns. If you want to find solutions, you study them. And the most important question is why? What is a pattern within a community that may have come about because of decades of discrimination? Cultural norms? Lack of access to amenities that other groups have?

If you have read Lewis Mumford or Georg Simmel, you can see the intersection of race and society.

Anonymous said...

"Deficit thinking refers to the notion that students (particularly low income, minority students) fail in school because such students and their families experience deficiencies that obstruct the learning process (e.g. limited intelligence, lack of motivation and inadequate home socialization). The authors of this text argue that deficit thinking is a pseudo-science founded on racial and class bias. They trace the evolution of deficit thinking from the American colonial period to the present, critiquing the model and offering more plausible explanations of why students fail."


Even Charlie called this talk of "Black Slave Culture" out as something that "sounds proximate to white supremacist doctrine, a la The Daily Stormer."


Anonymous said...

@ Mike Also, using the term "Black Slave Culture" to describe low income students with aspirations of material wealth over college is offensive IMO. It is also inaccurate. I believe you are attributing what are likely class related decisions to race. We also live in a world of intense marketing where we are consumers before citizens, easy credit, as well as predatory lending that did not exist in the past. This is wreaking havoc, especially on working class and low income people in the US.

Elephant in Room

Anonymous said...

Well, as you often say, it's your blog. I was responding to Mike's response to me. It seems reasonable to allow the thread to continue regarding Mike's post, as it is offensive to me and others, but I won't respond if you insist.

Good luck on your future endeavors.


Anonymous said...

Hi Melissa, as just one parent whose 2 kids were in SPS for the past several years, I want to thank you for serving the broader community through this blog. Your focus on holding the district to account made a difference and kept us all informed.

Best of luck in the next phase of your life.

Cap Hill mom

Anonymous said...

Good luck Melissa. I will really miss your posts and I appreciate the work you have put into this unique forum. We all view the world from our own unique lens. I have truly appreciated your thoughtful and insightful comments. I know you took alot of abusive bullying at times, especially recently, from those who did not share your opinions. I never doubted your intentions having students best interests in mind. I wish you the best.

Elephant in Room

Anonymous said...

A charter school for highly capable children would not be allowed to use test scores in the admission process. They could however, provide a rigorous, accelerated curriculum to every student and require a student to pass those classes and exams in order to progress to the next grade. The Basis Charter Schools do this and are able to provide opportunities to take AP exams beginning in the 8th grade. I think a school like this would be wildly popular in Seattle. The 5th - 8th grade format would be a bonus.

Madison Parent

Mike said...

@Charlie and @Elephant As I said, a much longer essay would be needed to address concerns such as you've raised. I'm advocating for each kid to choose his or her own path rather than have you assume, as you seem to, that the only success in life is gained through college. Beyond forcing opportunities to attend school and be exposed to basic maths, reading and writing skills I don't demand any kid succeed on anything but his/her own terms by his/her own definition. If a kid has decided to be a singer, actor, artist, you tube influencer, for example, pumping them full of STEM in the name of equity is all but criminal. I didn't denigrate anyone for being bedazzled or choosing one or another culture whether for a moment or a lifetime. And I especially admire those who have been smart enough to consciously choose a lifestyle. What I don't like is kids as individuals being left out of or made an innocuous part of education decisions. And please carefully note I'm saying kids need to be treated as individuals whereas most of the SJWs arbitrarily lump kids into groups.

Anonymous said...

A gifted charter school. In anti-charter Seattle??? It’s very well for the liberals to reject charters for other people’s kids, but as soon as “gifted” enters the picture, watch them change their tune, to the detriment of real public schools.

Hypocrisy Now

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, while there might be interest, charters aren't exactly burning up the town so I think it's a pipe dream.