Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Tuesday Open Thread

Congrats to the Catherine Blaine girls soccer team for winning the K-8 championship for Section 7AA!

Great story from Crosscut about the City's new new youth arts manager, Ashraf Hasham, at the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture (OAC).
He’ll guide programs such as The Creative Advantage, which provides equitable arts education in Seattle schools, and build partnerships with creative industries to encourage youth toward art careers. 

“I love that he graduated from Ballard High School,” OAC Director Randy Engstrom said of Hasham’s hire. “He’s from here, he has deep, lived experience and relationships here over many years.”
"It certainly has with Creative Advantage, the arts education initiative through Seattle Public Schools, which my predecessor Lara Davis established six years ago. It won awards nationally for working with big bureaucracies and tons of community partners to have a collective impact, where you're actually getting arts education to every single young person in Seattle Public Schools. In 2020 we’ll have seen it go through every single school."
You may recall my post about Loyal Heights Elementary parents who were very unhappy with their principal and their gathering of names to ask that she be removed. Well, props to them because the Superintendent announced a new principal.  This is big because 1) elementaries tend to not have the power that high schools do, 2) getting a new principal not even mid-year? hmmm and 3) the original principal? Where did she go?  Also, interesting wording from the Super, story from My Ballard:
“Feedback from LHE staff and community indicated the desire for a leader who listens to their voices and perspectives; a leader who cares, is hardworking and transparent, and one who will be visible,” Juneau wrote to families. “Mr. Berkenwald embodies these characteristics, and his extensive school leadership experience make him a great fit for the LHE community.”
I take that to mean the original principal, Geri Guerrero, was none of those things for that community. Also, I heard many, many Washington Middle School parents express the "desire" for the same things last year and yet, they had their dysfunctional principal for the entire year. 

 SPS still struggling with operations; Exhibit One, from the Board agenda for its meeting tomorrow night.

I move that the School Board authorize the Superintendent to execute a contract amendment with Epi-Use for a total Not-To-Exceed (NTE) amount of $403,200, including taxes, for emergency SAP staff support services with any minor additions, deletions, and modifications deemed necessary by the Superintendent, and to take any necessary actions to implement the amendment.
Our technical expert in SAP Payroll/Benefits has resigned, leaving us with an emergency skills gap. The work associated with this position are critical functions that change throughout the year as a result of changes to school health care benefits (SEBB), Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA), general system maintenance / fixes, and other projects and enhancements. 
So one person leaves and the district is in near-shutdown of these tasks? And $400K - how many psychologists, counselors or nurses could that have paid for?

CBS News reports on a new documentary about Black girls in schools being punished more than others.  It's called Pushout: The criminalization of Black girls in schools.

The FDA has approved a contact lens for kids to slow the progression of nearsightedness in kids.

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

I wonder where Principal Guerrero will be transferred to...

Fed Up

Anonymous said...

An NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) link was provided in an earlier thread as part of a discussion on the percent of SPS students who are HC qualified. Some additional comments:

- It should be understood that states and districts vary in how they define "gifted and talented," and qualification criteria can vary from say 90%ile (or lower) on various measures to 98-99%ile as we have in SPS. A nearby district could just as easily use 95%ile as the threshold (SPS uses 95%ile as the achievement test threshold, and 98%ile as the cognitive test threshold). It's up to the district or state, which makes comparisons between states somewhat more complicated. It's also complicated as not all states mandate services for "gifted" or highly capable.

The table is a summary of "Percentage of public school students enrolled in gifted and talented programs, by sex, race/ethnicity, and state: Selected years, 2004 through 2013-14." Some observations: Vermont had only 0.3% enrolled, while several states were >10%: GA (12.9%), IN (12.1%), MD (16.0%), SC (13.4%), and VA (12.1%). For comparison: CA (7.8%) and TX (7.6%).

These numbers suggest that the 2% discussion put forth in Juneau's opinion piece come off as uninformed and intentionally lacking nuance.

That the district is using Oakland as a model is also concerning - it's a low performing district that the middle class has largely abandoned (unless perhaps they live in the Oakland hills). It was so mismanaged at one point that it was under state control.

random person

Anonymous said...

One person leaves and that person was worth $400,000 in replacement costs? Clearly that person was not being paid $400,000. If they can get that for their wage then why wouldn't they leave? If that one job was not worth $400,000 then what else is being purchased? Sounds like three to four people at greater expense than the one person cost. Perhaps that person was not being supported with extra staff which may have cost just $200,000 or so for two well compensated reports. Now the district pays $400,000 to cover what $300,000 would have paid for at a net loss of cash and massive loss of institutional memory and operational efficiency.

Mr. Theo Moriarty

Anonymous said...

Melissa, this is a great time to say "Thank you" for all you do to keep parents informed about SPS. Your breadth and depth of institutional knowledge is so helpful for new parents and old alike. Without this blog, I never would have found my advocacy side and realised that the voices of parents and kids deserve to be heard. Thank you!
-long road

Watching said...


Thanks so much for your work. You have consistently worked to assure district transparency and accountability. Your blog has documented Seattle Public School's history...like no other.

Another Parent said...


The personal attacks on you above and ongoing, are just ugly. I do have kids in Seattle Public Schools, and because of attacks like those above, I could never do what you do. I don't always agree with your positions, but I believe you perform a tremendous public service and that kids in Seattle are better off because of it. Thank you!

NESeattleMom said...

Without this blog, I wouldn't be as informed as I am about what I care about--my kids' education in SPS. I combine my local education reading on the blog with other news sources, but only with this blog do I get some real unbiased info.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for all the effort you put into researching topics of interest regarding education in our district, statewide and nationally. Delete and ignore the trolls. They seem to be on every social media platform these days.


NSP said...

The morals of the SAP story are (a) have a backup for every position and (b) paying consultants to do the work of full-time employees is extremely expensive.

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

Thank you for providing heads up about what is happening in our schools, and sufficient information to go out and find the primary sources of information. This site serves as a great aggregator of information relevant to our local education issues.

Anonymous said...

For more than a decade this blog and its readers have pushed for and accomplished more community-district conversations - and results that have reflected the community's will - than all the rest of our traditional media and social media combined. Our political landscape and leader encourage hate speech. Full stop. Trolls are becoming more ubiquitous online because our president spends his days trolling. It's tragic. But change will eventually come.

Criticisms and critiques are sorely needed in this school district. Ignore the troll personal attacks and carry on. Thank you for your work.


Anonymous said...


I’m an Autistic lawyer and mom and a big fan of your blog. I find information here that simply isn’t available elsewhere. Please keep up the good work.

I don’t know or care whether you are Autistic, but the idea that there is something wrong with Autistic people choosing to passionately participate in civic life is deeply offensive. I hope the poster will consider how hurtful their comments were.

Anonymous said...

@get treatment

why do you spend your time attacking Melissa?

You should know that many of us who do have kids and participate in SPS greatly appreciate this resource and the time that Melissa takes to provide information and a forum about the district and education matters that we might not otherwise have access to.

If you don't appreciate this blog or Melissa's insights, then it's quite simple - don't read it. Slandering Melissa by making insinuations about her employment history, her dead husband, and mental state suggest to me that you are the one who needs mental help.

pot meet kettle

Anonymous said...

I think by using "pot meets kettle" that you're implying that both the blogger and the commentator are of the same basic material because that's is the analogy or the meaning of that colloquial.

In it then you're suggesting that both the blogger and commentator "needs mental help".

Perhaps you should slow down and have a better understanding of the words you use.


Jet City mom said...

So tomorrow the board is voting on moving Licton Springs to Ballard?


What does the community want?

Anonymous said...

Yes @owler my bad - I didn't mean to imply Melissa has mental issues

I should have used the moniker

glass houses

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jet City Mom,,, yes, I guess they are. The Board seems to have rolled over for it without discussion or input. But they did listen to Loyal Heights parents and change the principal.

We all have mental issues; I just don’t like people armchairing psych when they don’t even know me.

That goes for all others; cease and desist. And most of all, don’t tell me what to do with this blog.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Melissa. We have three kids in SPS, and I am very appreciative of how much you and this blog have taught me about how to navigate our district. I'm a better advocate for education in Seattle because of the information you produce and the forum you have created. Thank you.

You are a person of good character, and we're lucky you're around.

With Gratitude

Anonymous said...

SPS has no business running SAP, they have spent millions supporting SAP, yet still their administration head count grows.

Every single accounting or property reconciliation can be accomplished using a spreadsheet.

SPS needs a outside entity to take over the districts funds, the amount of money these people waste is outrageous.

BTW the person who is assgnied to SPS for SAP administration will not be paid more than $80k, but the contractor will be paid $400,000 +.

Nice work

Anonymous said...

Thank you!!!!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Hey Owler, I will be at the Board meeting tomorrow night. Why don’t you come down and just tell me all your thoughts?

But I’m not turning off comments because you tell me to.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your sentiments, but aren't you putting up a straw man? Who here isn't in favor of the State stepping up efforts to help kids?

It's the means, not the goal, people are suspicious of and skeptical about.

Granted it takes a lot of skill to make a truly objective survey, but the pro- Ed Reform slant of this one is pretty apparent. Nice that they've already answered for us and merely ask us to rank them.

Where's the opposing view represented?


Anonymous said...

AL class will often have more involved parents who a) steered student into AL, and/or b) provided enrichment, including "proper" ways to engage in a classroom setting. Students might, therefore, a) be under the parental eye a bit more, and b) act more manageable even if they are experiencing trouble.
And because of limited resources and limited abilities to meet EVERY level or need, schools might (if they're lucky) have, say, two "levels" of class: Gen Ed and Honors, for instance. Gen Ed will include many more diverse abilities than an Honors class. Yes, AL can have a wide range as well (let's say, at 9th grade, 9-12 with many 10-11) but typically it won't be as wide as Gen Ed (at 9th grade, 4-10, with many at all levels)
But the main factor is the behavior I mentioned at the start. AL classes are just more tuned in, as a whole, and less likely to disrupt.
Of course, as Techy Mom points out, students aren't a "level" - they are each unique with individual aptitudes and deficits in different things. So this is all gross generalization. But operationally, these factors pertain. So whether schools are fully funded or not, those who would benefit most from smaller classes would be Gen Ed. Of course ALL students would benefit from 10/1 student/teacher ratio, but in the real world we can't do that, so we have to decide how to allocate. Those who are at the 4th grade level in 9th grade NEED smaller class sizes more than those at the 11th grade level in 9th grade.

Anonymous said...

How on earth can you accurately measure a child's actual potential, much less a percentage of their potential? Are you suggesting more tests? I don't believe that is possible or really desirable. Every student deserves the chance to learn at school, and the middle has a curriculum designed for them, which is pretty nice. Kids who have a different zone of proximal development should get material for that zone.

I have heard that spectrum classes are better self mangers, but that classrooms of hc students are worse than gen Ed. I think it's equally likely that there is something about the groups of bc kids(wider levels than in gen Ed) as it is selection bias- spectrum classes are kids whose family chose a program in a school, while hc families left their entire school and neighborhood(so something really must not have been working).

But I have always thought walk to math should have different class sizes, and we currently pay for smaller class sizes in high poverty schools because that population makes larger gains than anyone else with those sizes. Those both seem like equity to me.


Anonymous said...

@MW, are you really calling out someone to meet in the parking lot at JSCEE.

Not very smart.


Melissa Westbrook said...

PH, where did I say "meet me in the parking lot?" I didn't. Because this person has so much to say to me, well, I'm at the Board meeting tomorrow night.

And I'm 4'8" and 60 years old? Seriously, I would issue a throwdown to someone? Please.

Actually, many should tune in because I have some fairly interesting things to say.

cloudles said...

It's parent teacher conference season, and I read my son's self evaluation. Apparently he wishes science wasn't so boring. This year is my first experience with Amplify, and although I've heard the story of its unconventional (inappropriate) roll out. I was sad to see that it is affecting my kids enthusiasm for science. As a scientist myself, I observe a growing number of Americans who don't seem to be able to read or interpret science for themselves, and the stories in the news this week about the crazy elevation of flat earthers (literally, people who don't believe in space and think the world is flat) to nearly the mainstream us horrifying. Did you see that 1 in 6 Americans is not sure the world is round???

Amplify sounds like it does not encourage hands on work. You don't learn about designing experiments with controlled variables (just setting people up to be gullible for quack science like these pop up stem cell clinics), and don't focus on data. Amplify is focused on writing and exposition, curiosity, made to help students engage without the pressure of rigor, without needing math (which you need to understand data).

Add I understand it, this was implemented without review. Who can I get in touch with advocate for actually adopting a science curriculum that teaches science?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Cloudles, it was reviewed (kinda) but the district wanted it and did everything they could to get it thru.

There is a lawsuit going already; I'll try to get an address for anyone who wants to donate to help the cause.

I think you should wait for the new Board to be seated and then write to them and tell them about your background and your concerns. They need to hear this, loud and in numbers.


That'smysandwich said...

Melissa, thank you for running this blog--whether I agree or disagree with some of your opinions is of no importance. What is important is your dedication to covering the issues; and the breadth of issues that you post about. The SPS website is worthless--it would be nice to have a very visible rolling list of issues being discussed by the board and the timeframe for which these have been and will continue to be discussed.

This blog has been invaluable for keeping me up-to-date on issues. I wish there were other sources. Thank you again. And thanks to all the commenters; your comments help me see discrepancies in treatment and policy across the schools.


Anonymous said...

Yes. Thank you Melissa for your invaluable work. This blog is a beacon that shines light and clarity on the district's workings. For every thanks and kudos you see posted, know that there are thousands of others who are nodding in silent agreement. And thanks also to posters. Sometimes you expand my viewpoint, and sometimes you solidify my resolve that my perspective is the right one. Either way, you make me smarter for it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blog! There are so many SPS issues we would all never know about without it.


Anonymous said...

Part of what concerns me is that regulators can't really just "make stuff up." Regulations have to derive from what the law allows. Thus, for example -- given that the initiative specifically says that charters cannot be limited to low income kids/areas, I do not think valid regulations could be written if, say, they required that lottery ties be broken in favor of schools serving low income students. Throughout the bill, there are numerous examples where they COULD have signalled accountability and oversight (which would at least have given the regulators a fighting chance) but they did not. Some of these things feed directly into what seem to be constitutional flaws. But in any case, I do not think the absence of language that would make it easier (or possible) to write robust regulations around oversight, community involvement, etc. was an oversight. The folks who brought us this bill do NOT want or like sunlight shining on what they do, or who they pay (or how much) to do it.


Anonymous said...

There are many kids who get spanked, beaten or have things thrown at them at their homes and school is supposed to be a safe and idealistic environment where such things are not allowed by anyone, teacher or student. This teacher should be treated as a student would be and suspended for the same amount of time as a student would be for fighting.
Do we need the DOJ to monitor excessive force in our city's schools as well as in the police department?
There are procedures for dealing with disruptive students and throwing things is not one of them.


Persistent said...

TAF is not on the board agenda. Failure to run TAF through committees (Curriculum and Instruction, Audit and Finance, and Operations) is a failure in board oversight.

Anonymous said...

I'm torn about the PTSA. On the one hand, it's great to have some, formal, "collective voice.". For things like increased school funding, for example, about which the vast majority agree. They get into trouble, as is clear here, when they step into more controversial areas.

But the real issue for me has always been their "nanny-state" mentality. You have to accept their bylaws whole cloth, even their references to the desire "to develop . . . the highest advantages in . . . spiritual education.". Apparently the separation of church and state in public educatioin isn't really that important. This year, we had to amend our bylaws so they could dictate to us when our nominating committee needed to get started and to complete its work! What possible need could there be in uniformity across the state on that one? But the thing that really galls me is that they h ave the right to come in and sweep up your school's PTSA funds if they decide your PTSA isn't paying by the rules. Sure. When I talkmtostate PTSA leaders they tell me they've never even considered doing something like that. I hate even the possibility.


Anonymous said...

According to Director Hersey (listen to comments at the last board meeting), TAF is the gold standard and he laments that they are being held up by "process." Yet "process" is a large part of the board's job!

As an aside, in going back to the sale of the MLK building during MGJ's tenure, it was sold below market rate in part because of some policy that was written to facilitate the purchase. The district sold it to First AME for $2.4M when they initially had an offer from Bush for a $9.7M long-term lease.

(Seattle Times, 6/5/2011)

"The sale of MLK was the first test of a revised School Board policy, one that allowed it to sell an empty school to the low bidder if the bidder agreed to set aside at least 50 percent of the building to support youth education or social services."


Melissa Westbrook said...

TAF is pretty great but I'm not sure there's a "gold standard" out there yet to compare to.

Interesting, funny how you brought up selling property. I'm starting to get worried the new Board will be less interested in boring policy and details (except for Mack and maybe Harris and Rivera Smith) when it comes to negotiating with the City about Memorial Stadium. Making a bad deal there will haunt the district forever.

old salt said...

I think that is deliberate on the part of voters. Activists vs Wonks. We chose the activists. I think folks believe that they can depend on the district for all the logistics & business decisions. So they wanted a board that would push the district in 2 areas, dismantle HCC & advance ethnic studies. (As if the district needed prompting on that.)

But I think that when district leadership is focused on those kinds of changes they don't feel it is important to invest time in other types of decision-making. Just like our last reform orgy with MGJ, we can expect another round of shortsighted logistical decisions, (school closures,etc.) that we pay for long after the reforms have been replaced with the newest thing.

Anonymous said...

Another SPS story in the Seattle Times today. They have really got the old the PR machine goinghttps://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/seattle-public-schools-has-a-new-performance-report-the-achievement-gap-isnt-part-of-it/

I notice the comments have now been shut down and a perfectly reasonable comment I made was up for a while and is now deleted. I wonder if it's because I pointed out the absurdity of the move to dismantle HCC and integrate highly capable kids into all classes in order to fix "segregation" when their data shows less than 30% of AA males are even achieving 3rd grade reading and 5th grade math standards. If not even 30% of AA males are even reaching grade level standard, that is the explanation for the low numbers in represented in HCC. And how can a 3rd grade level class be anywhere near appropriate for kids who are achieving 5th grade (and often well beyond) reading levels or a 5th grade math class for those who already reaching 7th/8th grade standards when such a proportion is struggling to reach even grade level standards.

Get the more of those kids to standard and then worry about the numbers who are getting into HCC. It's putting the cart before the horse to blame the low numbers of AA kids in HCC on some pernicious fault of HCC. I wish someone could actually explain what they are going to do, you know, in the actualclassroom, to improve AA male achievement and how getting rid of HCC will help.

SPSuspicious minds

Anonymous said...

Expensive but until you pay for college, pretty manageable and folks who read this blog's children all go college.

As far as two beng better than one, many times not true. Not true in many endeavors including parenting. Some single parents do quite well and enjoy building a support network for their children with other than a live in spouse type person.
As usual money grease the wheels and makes it awhile lot easier. Poverty is what keeps kids from graduating and contrary to popular belief, schools can educate and socialize children despite a dis functional environment outside of school. Schools are the only way to change the wealth imbalance. Educational level is the main division between economic groups and is used to maintain a class separation. When educational outcomes are equal between all students, there will be equal and fair economic opportunities. Outcomes, not just access.


Anonymous said...

There's a lot to consider before throwing out societal value judgement regarding which is better. And why the judgement? Is that helpful? Should that put pressure on couples to stay married instead of divorcing? Or adopt out kids if not married? Or abort? If widowed, get married again for children's sake?(Brings back memories of watching school auction committee seating all the single parents together at one table. Couldn't figure out the point of that, especially for the newly divorced. Awkward and rather mean.)

Finally IF you are going to put a judgement value on this type of thing, just to be kind, shouldn't there be some excuse clause like being widowed, being in an abusive relationship, being abandoned, spouse on 2 year deployment which makes you THE parent, falling in love with someone else and bigamy is still against the law (that one probably is a bit thin), etc. ?


Anonymous said...

Open thread, thinking about this article:

You might be writing your own blog post about it. I am going to limit my own editorializing and instead ask factual questions:

Does anyone know SPS's definition of SE Asian? Alternately, what students who are not White are being left out of the district's "Students of Color" definition.

Also, more and more families are selecting mixed-race as a category. Is that part of All Students? And any mixed-race child (even if presents as a black male but is half Korean, such as my child) is not in the SOC definition?

How is this data collected?

Mixed Up

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

Honestly, if you can’t get things I say right, please do not comment.

Whitesail said...

@WO Very curious to understand what you would perceive to be "equal educational outcomes between all students". Would that mean each student graduates from high school having taken the exact same classes, with the exact same curriculum, from K onwards? If so, then why even have teachers? There could be just one canned curriculum across all school if every students "outcome" was mandated to be "equal". And what about grades? If some students graduate with a "C" average and some with "A"s in all classes, that is not an equal outcome. What about students who are heavy readers and read voraciously outside the school environment? Or whose families supplement heavily outside the school environment? Thus, still would be inequality of opportunity between students upon graduation regardless of whether the student was forced into a mandated "equal educational outcome"...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Right, Whitesail, equity and equality are not the same things.

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

Thank you, Melissa. You will me missed. Best wishes in the next chapter of your life.

longtime reader

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

Big THANK YOU for your efforts and dedication. You will be missed.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Such a pity for two things.

One, that some here have lost the ability to listen. The people I named I said, whether they disagreed with me, treated me with kindness. That's a simple grace as you move thru the world; even if you are in different places, you can be kind.

The other, obviously, is how graceless and unpleasant some are.

Again, just go away.

Anonymous said...

So it appears that Juneau was in favor of an HC cohort in Montana, before she was against it here. Ah, politics.

More Noise Please

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'll be moderating comments here for now.

Bluegreen said...

Melissa, thank you for the hard work you have put in over the years in keeping parents informed. I really hope someone steps up to fill the void that you will leave.

kellie said...

Thank you for providing this forum for so long. it has been a great help to many.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to lose your voice and commitment to all of Seattle’s children as you helped parents, educators (including district staff) and just curious residents more fully understand the educational landscape. It has been an amazing gift of public service and a legacy to be proud of. Few people dedicate so many hours to a cause as you have. Deep gratitude.

SPS grad/parent

Andrea Leigh Ptak said...

My child is now 24, and our family left SPS when they were in middle school for a variety of reasons—not the least of which was having experienced an elementary school that saw NINE principals over a six-year span and successfully fought off a school closure (after our PTA had just raised the funds and volunteer hours to install a gorgeous new playground). Our family was fed up with the instability and, at times, the insanity of SPS. It was about that time that this blog got its start and I became a reader and occasional commenter.

Melissa, Charlie, and others who contributed on a regular basis helped me stay informed about SPS. I still care deeply about public education and our neighborhood schools and appreciate the knowledge and insight this blog has given me about issues in K–12 education and SPS as a whole. I have no idea how I will make decisions about school board elections from here out.

Thank you, Melissa, for putting your heart and soul into this often thankless job. I know how much work it has been. I hope that your new path leads you to something rewarding and relaxing!

aka SolvayGirl

Anonymous said...

Wishing you well and good luck in your new endeavors. Very sad for all of us who rely on you. Your voice was (is) a beacon. I do hope someone takes up your mantle.

Thank you Melissa. You will be missed!


Zella917 said...

Thanks so much for running this blog, and all your work on SPS issues through the years. You’ve been a guide to me through most of my kids” years in the district, starting with the first HCC splits when my oldest daughter (now graduated) was in 3rd grade. You will be deeply missed.

Anonymous said...

The thing about Juneau, she does not hide that she is basically a political appointee. At last night's meeting with the Seattle Special Education PTSA, she could not even answer a basic question about what her vision is for students with disabilities in Seattle Public Schools. She said the good news is that that is why I have technical people to turn to. So nobody really knows what they are being held accountable to in a concrete way (for instance, to our students have equitable access to their neighborhood schools, are our students included in extracurricular activities, what about snow routes on days when the rest of the students in SPS get to count on snow routes to get them to school. Juneau is completely detached from any of this, that means she is not setting the vision or holding people accountable.


Carol Simmons said...

Dear Melissa,

Thank you does not fairly express my sincere gratitude to you. Your posts have been so important to so many. Your Community Forum has been the "go to"place for information in this District. Your tenacity and dedication in fighting for public education, equity and success for all of our students was always obvious. Your willingness to take on the most controversial of issues was unsurpassed. You will be sorely missed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your dedication and service and helping me navigate my children through this system for over a decade now. I hope your new chapter is full of joy, and you find just the right outlet for your immense talents and strong principles.

Longtime Reader

Anonymous said...

I wish someone could actually explain what they are going to do, you know, in the actual classroom, to improve AA male achievement and how getting rid of HCC will help.

Your kid will be in the classroom and will raise the classroom average level of instruction which will benefit 3rd grade performer. Maybe less than optimal for your kid who will likely be above average. But better for that AAM student who will benefit from a higher average instruction level. Pretty simple really. Isn’t that why we like HCC? Because we don’t believe that classes can address many levels, and we all really know the teacher teaches to the average? Dismantling HCC improves the ge average. Enlarging it diminishes ge averages.


Anonymous said...

Melissa Thank you so much for providing this forum and your dedication. It has been immensely helpful for so many of us parents. I wish you luck in your new home.


Anonymous said...

Melissa Thank you so much for providing this forum and your dedication. It has been immensely helpful for so many of us parents. I wish you luck in your new home.


NESeattleMom said...

Did you speak at the board meeting? Hope you like your next home. I wonder how we will know what's going on in SPS now. The news we get from other sources is slanted (SPS and Seattle Times).

Anonymous said...


I hope your move brings you closer to family and friends.

Thank you for your many years of watching and reporting the movements of SPS for the enlightenment of us parents, and the benefit of all students.

Your absence will be a loss to all of us trying to navigate the seemingly endless muddy waters of SPS.


Anonymous said...

@Reader who said "she could not even answer a basic question about what her vision is for students with disabilities in Seattle Public Schools. She said the good news is that that is why I have technical people to turn to."

The strategic plan in which she is focused has a very narrow objective, and it does not include subsequent specific goals for special education as well as all students and that is IMO the issue.


Anonymous said...

I want to add my thanks to Melissa for the invaluable service she's provided to all of us over the years. I have been following and occasionally commenting here since my oldest, now a college sophomore, was in third grade.

I have not always agreed with Melissa's perspective and she has disagreed with mine as well, but I've *always* turned here first to inform myself about SPS and Board goings-on. Much of the time, it's been the only source of information.

I can only hope the Seattle Times, Crosscut, KNKX, KUOW, and other local outlets are ready to fill the void the loss of this blog will create. Honestly, I'm not optimistic.

Best wishes in your future endeavors, Melissa, you deserve it.


Anonymous said...

@ Kashama you responded to my question with "Your kid will be in the classroom and will raise the classroom average level of instruction which will benefit 3rd grade performer. Maybe less than optimal for your kid who will likely be above average. But better for that AAM student who will benefit from a higher average instruction level. Pretty simple really. Isn’t that why we like HCC? Because we don’t believe that classes can address many levels, and we all really know the teacher teaches to the average? Dismantling HCC improves the ge average. Enlarging it diminishes ge averages."

Firstly, this doesn't affect my kid so my question is not coming from self-interest. It is coming from a genuine concern that SPS is destined to once again fail it its goal to raise AA male achievement, as it has every other time it has set out to do this. I am concerned because I haven't heard any specific actions they intend to take to make this happen. I'm talking about things that we might expect to see in the classroom or school - things that will actually touch the students on a personal level such as smaller class sizes, more in-class support from paraeducators, more reading or math specialists, using a different pedagogy, mentoring, intensive tutoring interventions, school-home partnerships, more attention to basic needs (breakfast, school supplies, health), preK interventions etc. All I have heard is "differentiation" and "dismantle HCC" and "embed ethnic studies in all subjects". None of these things will make any measurable difference unless accompanied by significant changes in at least some of the areas I mentioned above. Doing the same thing (even if you call it something different) and expecting different results is jokingly described as insanity. Putting HCC kids into a general ed class to "raise the average level of instruction" is not going to help kids who are struggling to meet the existing grade level standards. The kids themselves do not raise the level of instruction by - that comes from the teacher. The problem is not that that AA males are not being given instruction at a high enough level - the problem is that even the grade level material is too challenging. They need more support, more intensive instruction and scaffolding at this level - not harder material. And teachers are not going to raise their level of instruction if they know this will leave behind most kids, this theory only works if the majority of the class are HCC-qualified, and even then many teacher won't do it. If only 60- ish% of white kids and 30-ish % of AA males are achieving the reading standard in 3rd grade, then increasing the rigor of 3rd grade material to that of 4th or 5th grade without changing a lot of other things in the classroom and school, will result in more kids of all races failing to meet the standards. People like HCC because in an HCC classrooms, all of the kids are working on the same 2 grades ahead curriculum - the level of instruction, the class work, discussions, projects and faster pace of lessons etc, are at that level, which is appropriate for kids who have demonstrated the are ahead of their grade level peers academically. But this would not be appropriate or a recipe for success for all kids. Sure you can improve the gen ed averages by putting HCC kids in them (they currently help push up the school-wide scores at several schools) but that is not going to help lift the scores of any individual students who are below grade level. It's just numbers and optics. I wish people could see that.

When SPS describes what individual schools and teaching staff will be doing on a day to day basis that is different from current practice, and the additional resources given to tackle this (along with an accounting of the costs and plan for monitoring outcomes) then I will be less suspicious that this is just political point scoring for the Sup.

SPSuspicious minds

Anonymous said...

It's sad that some cannot refrain from getting in one last jab.

Thank you, again, MW, for keeping this forum alive for so long. There are sure to be voices who are rejoicing, as local news outlets will not come close to the focused, open forum that you provided. And to all those who contributed to the conversation and kept us informed - thank you.

(one of many) longtime readers

CYA Situation said...

The district paid Strategies 360 $55K. Strategies 360 is a communications consulting firm.

The firm was hired to "...assist the District in communicating budget issues and scenarios, as well as delivering messaging to the community regarding our Strategic Plan and helping smooth start of school for students and parents. We anticipate this work would begin in July 2019 and be completed in November 2019."

It certainly appears that the district spent $55K (enough to hire an IA, part-time counselor etc.) to manage low enrollment projections and subsequent budget issues (which community members predicted) and communication to dismantle HCC. $55K doesn't even scratch the surface when it comes to breaking HCC.

So, reader, I'm sorry the district didn't spend $55K on direct student supports.

Anonymous said...

As many have already echoed here, I didn't always agree with every word, but I am so thankful for the level of awareness-raising that has come from this blog. I wish you the best of luck, Melissa, and thank you!

SE mama

CYA Situation said...

It appears that we have a district that manipulates budget and enrollment numbers, and hires a consulting firm to smooth-over budget tricks.

Am I the only concerned individual?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Maybe less than optimal for your kid who will likely be above average. But better for that AAM student who will benefit from a higher average instruction level. Pretty simple really."

But that's not simple. The district is responsible to meet EVERY kid where they are. If they want to teach to some baseline - which others have pointed out may be a challenge for those kids that are not even close to proficient - that will be a huge change. And the district has not said this goal is related to resources. If not, then they need to make the effort to reach all kids.

This really smacks of a line I have heard since forever about highly capable students - "they'll be okay."

Lastly, just understand - as was stated by a highly capable professional at last night's Board meeting - that there is a legal definition of these services. No, they don't include separate classes but the district can't just throw some extra reading and math to those kids and say, "All done." That will not meet the state standard.

I will have a separate post on HCC as there are some developments, one of which I spoke of at last night's Board meeting.

Anonymous said...

Also, thank you to outgoing Board members. Your service and commitment is appreciated. Their farewells at the Board meeting were pretty heartfelt.

(one of many) longtime readers

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good point, Long Time, about thanking the outgoing Board members. But it was interesting what the Superintendent said about them (and her speaking of each one seemed odd; I would have expected it to be President Harris who worked far longer with them).

Juneau thanked Rick Burke for his work especially on CTE. She announced that there was/will be? a CTE partners forum from that work and that she would like businesses to step up to help with more internships for SPS students. (Director Burke will provide some info on that forum as it becomes available.)

Juneau thanked Scott Pinkham for his leadership and hard work especially around cultural issues. It seemed a little weak to me.

Then Juneau thanked Jill Geary and I found this one weird. She said that staff had told her about "your growth" but didn't reference anything. I think it may mean about moving towards more of a social justice focus, I don't know. Then Juneau referenced the "anti-racist" policy that Geary was writing and said "with community." I have NO idea who Geary is working with except Chandra Hampson but there has been no public outreach on this topic. I have asked and Geary said she would. But unless she does that - the week of Thanksgiving - there isn't any.

But Hampson helped Geary while she was running for office? That will of interest to find out because you'd have to ask if Geary ask/allowed any other candidate to help. Maybe one last public disclosure drop.

Anonymous said...

They need more support, more intensive instruction and scaffolding at this level - not harder material. And teachers are not going to raise their level of instruction if they know this will leave behind most kids, this theory only works if the majority of the class are HCC-qualified,

The “they” in this case is the hypothetical AAM reading at the 3rd grade level. Are you a teacher? We often presume what others will benefit from, more intensity, more remediation, etc. But the district’s presumption is quite different apparently. Maybe they do actually need harder materials instead of recycling the old stuff, there are a number of studies suggesting this. In fact, this represents the opportunity in the “opportunity hoarding” phrase. Eg. The notion that some people get the opportunity to learn the 3rd grade materials repeatedly, for many years without any exposure to more, while we have mastered all the grade level curriculum and deserve more. The district is assuming the targeted students will benefit from classrooms and instruction at a higher average. That appears to be the extent of the plan.

True, the district is to meet everyone’s needs. But who is to prove that they aren’t?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Kashama, your points were made by the highly capable expert who spoke at last night's Board meeting about type of acceleration and depth needed for HCC students. She said it was NOT about "enrichment" materials which she stated that ALL students should be getting.

She made an important point that I made elsewhere - there are legal definitions about highly capable. Some senior staff seem to be using the words - in conversations about AL - "highly capable" and "gifted" in a different manner than in the legal definitions. So that could have ramifications if some parents believe they understand what staff is talking about at one point, only to find out later that was not a true and correct use.

Fed Up, please cease and desist. You had a nasty comment last night and here you are again this morning. Just stop.

old salt said...


I can't imagine how my family would have made it through SPS without you, Charlie & Beth.

I most appreciate the hours of district meetings that you reported on & live blogged. Often there is no other way to get this information.

I also have greatly appreciated a place to debate contentious issues in the district. I appreciate hearing from parents & staff with different experiences and opinions. I think that has been helpful in foreseeing & addressing pitfalls in various policies changes.

I have appreciated your blog as a place for those data wonks like Meg, Kelly & Eric to disseminate analyses that has helped draw attention when district focus (and dollars) start to move away from students toward the administrative morass at the JSCEE.

I appreciate that your blog has also been a place for parents to exchange information and ask questions. Where we could find out everything from school recess policies, to SIT meeting protocols, to difference between AP/IB, to who to call with bus problems.

Also I appreciate that your blog has been a place where we come to learn how to make a difference in our community whether volunteering in schools, or advocating with our legislators, attending district meetings, meeting with board members. Here we have found information about, when meetings are, emerging crises in schools, who are decision-makers that we can contact, and to learn relevant district history that might inform our own opinions & actions.

I appreciate that you remained so committed to us, your blog followers, after your children graduated and after your family tragedy.

I am sure there are those at JSCEE who are thrilled that all those exchanges of information I mention above will no longer happen. But I am so sorry for parents just starting in the district who won't have this forum. Other social media forums, like facebook groups, invite administrator retaliation against posters who can not be anonymous.

Thank you Melissa and best of luck in your new place.

Anonymous said...

You can call it opportunity hoarding or whatever you like - but it is just basic common sense applicable to almost any endeavor - academic and otherwise. Once you have mastered the skills or material at one level - you move on to the next level. Its not a matter of 'deserving more' - those are loaded words.
If someone hasn't mastered the material at one level - they need (you could say deserve) something, I don't know, maybe repetition, more practice, more individualized help, a different approach to teaching it, or some sort of evaluation to see what the barrier is. Not "exposure to more" (presumably higher level materials). What is to be gained by assigning middle school reading material and goals to students who have not reached 3rd grade reading standards? All that does it set them up for failure, give them the sense that they don't belong or can't succeed in the class. It's demoralizing and it's hardly the way to make the target students feel motivated and engaged. It's not equal opportunity if you haven't done anything to facilitate the student being able actually do something to make the most of the opportunity. It's like giving every kid a bike but half of them don't know how to ride. The bike is not going to help those kids reach their destination unless you teach them to ride first! Give them training wheels or whatever. Some will need training wheels for longer and some will be slower and some will fall off a lot. But with the right support they will be able to get to the destination faster than without one. What you are proposing is that the faster or fitter or more experienced bike riders should ride round and round in circles on the spot waiting for the others to get up to speed.
Yes differentiation is possible and can be successful, but its conditional on a lot of other things that are not present currently in SPS schools. And how will the new differentiation differ from the differentiation that we supposedly have in almost every school right now?

SPSuspicious Minds

suep. said...

Yes, thank you very much, Melissa, for your tireless tenacity and generosity with your time and energy all these years. Who is going to go to all those meetings and report back to the community now?

Without better education reporting in this town, and without this blog, the families in SPS will be much less well-informed about the school district. Frankly, that's very troubling.

Watchdogs and journalists are critical to the transparent and honest functioning of public institutions. Thank you for helping to keep families informed and the school district more honest -- or at least on its toes.

I also appreciated your informative and moving testimony at last night's Board meeting.

For those who are interested, it can be found here:

Part 1, starts at 1:31.00

I wish you the best in your next adventure.


Sue Peters

Anonymous said...


"Opportunity hoarding" implies that parents are doing something to keep deny others of an appropriate education. What you referred to as opportunity hoarding is not that at all. You suggest that struggling students may need exposure to materials ABOVE their level in order to learn. Fine, maybe that would work, I don't know. But here's the thing:

1. They are already exposed to material above their level. A student reading a year or two or however many years below grade level is probably already exposed to grade-level materials, since that's the grade they are in. Curricula and standards and state testing are based on grade level materials.

2. If teachers are teaching "down" below grade level because most of their students are performing below grade level, that's on the teachers and/or administrators, not parents. Blame the schools for "rationing" educational challenge--not parents. Parents aren't hoarding anything in that case.

3. Your complain that "some people get the opportunity to learn the 3rd grade materials repeatedly, for many years without any exposure to more, while [others] have mastered all the grade level curriculum and deserve more" is another example of the district/schools/teachers/etc. rationing rigor, NOT parents hoarding opportunity.

4. Your argument seems to be that you think the district should, and that it intentionally plans to, provide even more challenging materials to students working below grade level--that the current grade level materials (which may already be a year, two years, five years above their level) aren't sufficiently advanced, and that a possible small bump in the average classroom ability level when adding some HC students back in will provide that extra bump that will change things. Really? And which classrooms will get that magic bump--those with high FRL and minority (minus Asian!) populations that don't have many HC students returning, or those in more well-off and lower minority schools?

all types

Anonymous said...

I think that the district has said they are dismantling HCC because it is racist. They said it is racist because students in the program do not reflect the ratios of students in the district by race. Given that I wonder how HCC participation rates by race compare to district AP participation rates by race. Will AP classes also be disbanded for the same reason?

I remember RHS teachers frantically trying to ward off displacement of their Language Arts themed-choice classes by the district-mandated AP classes. So it seems like it's about time for the district to force through a chaotic, time-consuming reversal.

-Mulberry Bush

Sacred Land said...

Thanks to Carol and Jim Simmons for their tireless advocacy.

"The decisions of the Seattle administration have succeeded in removing the very last of the Native programs and students from the Licton Springs site, which is sacred to their history,” said Jimmie Simmons, who testified at the School Board meeting on Wednesday."


Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, Carol and Jim did such a great job last night in advocating for Licton Springs K-8 and Urban Native Education Alliance. Their quiet authority made a great impact on me but the Super and Board? I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Sue Peters. You're well positioned to take up Melissa's mantle. It would be great if you would consider it!


Friday Update. said...

1.The district will create another Advanced Learning Committee called "Highly Capable Racial Equity Services Committee.

2. Juneau discussing TAF with Mayor Durkan. Why?

owler said...

I am so sad to lose your reporting on Seattle public schools. We have all benefitted from your dogged focus on getting to the truth. MW, I wish you well in your move and the next stage of your life. You deserve a break, but we will all miss your work and willingness to publicly speak out on the SPS wrongs.

Anonymous said...


I've appreciated the information here since my older child was in first grade. She's about to graduate. Our kids have done so much better since leaving SPS when the older was heading to HS and the younger to MS.

Our kids will go to state colleges because that's our budget, but we do not regret our decision to invest in their education. SPS was failing to deliver. I have come to believe you get what you pay for. "Free" public education did not begin to help our kids learn what they ended up learning.

Thanks, Melissa, for a place to learn so much. I still care about public education, even though our kids are

Beyond SPS

BobBr said...

About childhood nearsightedness -

From personal experience (although at a later age) I'd recommend getting a pair of prescription reading glasses for a child, instead of these new contact lenses.

Your optometrist can add +2 diopters to an existing normal eyeglass prescription, to let the focusing muscles remain at rest while reading, just as when gazing at infinity outdoors.

Otherwise, the eye's focusing muscles will remain in a close focusing position for extended periods, often many hours a day while reading or doing close-up work. Over time, this constant muscle pull tends to gradually stretch (elongate) the shape of the eyeball a little, which will also affect distance vision. Voila, nearsightedness.

So with proper reading glasses, needing to strengthen the child's eyeglass prescription each year or two to counteract increasing nearsightedness should be much less of a problem.

Note: +2 diopters is equivalent to a focus at 0.50 meter or 19.7 inches.

Unknown said...

You provided such a steady source of info for so many of us over the years. Thank you for everything.
Michael George

Anonymous said...

All types, it’s not “my suggestion”. I’m simply answering the question posed by Suspicious Minds. How will the education be delivered? How will it help “struggling students “? The district’s plan is to level the playing field of at a higher level of instructional delivery. No coincidence that it is also the most basic and cheapest thing to implement. Removing the opportunity gap is easy. The next gap will be the achievement gap. That will probably be a lot harder.

Another point missed in the whole discussion is the assumption of “mastered the curriculum”. A grade or school is more than a curriculum or a test prep course. Just because someone has done well or poorly on one particular instrument, doesn’t mean they learned everything, or mastered anything other than the test, or have nothing left to learn. A failing test score doesn’t imply they’re a total failure or learned nothing. Remediation, repetition, intensive instruction hasn’t worked so far, why would we expect it to start working now? Holding students back from harder materials, just means they’ll have fewer future opportunities. We’re eager to allow 2e students access to advanced materials despite test scores that don’t indicate mastery. Why the deep suspicion of offering it to others?


Anonymous said...

@Kashama. The higher level of instruction will only be true if a large enough group of advanced students is returned to each classroom thereby raising the “middle”. That will most likely not be the case for most classrooms in the district, particularly south end schools. Also, if your logic is correct about exposing children to harder material than why don’t we do that now? Why not teach second graders third grade curriculum?

Comments in the Honors for All report seems to suggest that many advanced learners found the classes not challenging and teacher comments said that they spent a lot of extra time trying to bring struggling students to course grade level. How is that helpful for anyone? I definitely believe that all children should be challenged, but what you are suggesting seems frustrating to everyone.
SPS Teacher

Anonymous said...

Melissa, thanks so much for your blog. I’ve been reading it for years and will miss hearing what’s going on and people’s different perspectives.
SPS Teacher

Melissa Westbrook said...

I so appreciate the kind words. Very uplifting.

I feel sad for those who have to tear others down behind a closed door in a dark room because they don't dare let another know who they truly are inside.