Friday, January 23, 2015

Seattle Schools 100-Day Plan for Customer Service

The district has updated its website with a new feature for every department.  It's called the "How Do I...?" for parents/community.  I cannot supply you with a specific link to this story because there is none available.  From the announcement:

We want to help! As part of Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland’s 100-Day Plan for Customer Service, we’ve created a quick and easy list of the most Frequently Asked Questions.
Each department across Seattle Public Schools has identified and provided the answers to your most pressing questions.

Some of the most Frequently Asked Questions include:
  • I’ve just moved into the Seattle School District. How do I sign up my child for school?
  • How do I find out if my child qualifies for gifted education?
  • And, our favorite: What is the process for getting started as a volunteer in Seattle Public Schools?
To view the Most Frequently Asked Questions and learn more about our departments, please visit the new “How Do I… ?” tab at the top of our website. We have also started to add "How do I... ?" buttons to our most frequently visited department pages, with the department's top questions and answers. We will add "How do I... ?" lists to more departments over the coming weeks.

I have only checked a couple of departments and I will say it's a good start.  Given the questions we see here at this blog, I'm not sure that all the FAQs are the most frequently asked.  It doesn't say how to add questions to any given department.

As well, there is an article at the district's homepage on the two district Ombudspersons, Ron McGlone and Margo Siegenthaler.

Friday Open Thread

It appears the Board agreed to bid on the Federal Reserve building.  Interesting thing, though, is that the feds have lower the opening bid from $3M to $1M.

On the one hand, the district could get themselves quite the bargain if no one else bids.  Or, it may go Ebay style and have multiple last minute bidders.  The district is paying for its own appraisal and can go 10% over that amount (with these "capital reserves" that are apparently sitting around).  I'll try to find out what that amount is.  (If the district is successful, look for this project to be number one with a bullet on BEX V.)

The district is looking for members for a taskforce on the new 24-credit graduation requirement.

In January 2015, the Washington State Board of Education approved the district’s request for a two-year waiver of the new requirement, which will increase the number of course credits needed for graduation from 20 to 24. Seattle Public Schools students currently are required to earn 21 credits.

The new rule was due to take effect with the graduating class of 2019, but with the waiver will now take effect for the graduating class of 2021 (current sixth-graders). 

To note (bold mine):

While many of our students do earn 24 credits, the new requirement leaves no room to recover credits for students who may fail a course or want to access additional courses.

The waiver affords the district an opportunity to rethink its systems for high school students, which may include revisions to schedules. Community members, staff or students interested in serving on the task force should send an email expressing interest by Feb. 20, 2015, to Erin Stoen, Director of College & Career Readiness, at

The district has also annnounced that the whole district is now totally wireless.  

Tomorrow there is just one community meeting with Director Peters at the Magnolia Library from
11 am to 1 pm.

What's on your mind?

Friday Open Thread

It's Friday and the our thoughts turn towards the weekend. Or do they?

What are your thoughts turning towards?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pettigrew Files Bill to Allow School Board Appointments by Mayor

Well that didn't take long.  (Thanks to SCPTSA's Eden Mack for the tip on this bill.)  It's House bill 1497.

I'll go into details that I see as problematic (beginning with the why;I have a call out to the Representative's office.)  There is one interesting glaring issue that I didn't know about in the original RCW that I wonder about.  This bill is only four pages long; see if you can spot it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Open Thread

We will hear the President's thoughts in the State of the Union address tonight.

Let's hear your thoughts here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Over Half of Public School Students are Poor

In the United States.

From the NY Times:

In a report released Friday by the Southern Education Foundation, researchers found that 51 percent of children in public schools qualified for the lunches in 2013, which means that most of them come from low-income families. By comparison, 38 percent of public school students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in 2000.

According to the report, which analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics, a majority of students in 21 states are poor. Close to two-thirds of those states are in the South, which has long had a high concentration of poor students. In Mississippi, for example, close to three-fourths of all public school students come from low-income families.

But the West also has a large and growing proportion of low-income students. Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada have high rates of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

What say you to that, ed reformers?  Charters and vouchers and TFA going to solve this equation? 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Huge Happenings In Public Ed Throughout the U.S.

First up, Testing

It appears that most people are in agreement - there is too much testing in this country.  (Sorry, except for Arne Duncan.)  Going to the press conference at the Senator Patty Murray event at Madrona certainly made that clear.  Senator Murray says there needs to be work to reduce the "redundant and unnecessary testing" in our schools.  (No, she wouldn't be more specific than that.)  She also said she had heard from many parents and educators that the current testing does not meet the needs of students especially around progress. 

She could not have been more clear, "NCLB is broken" and it's "no secret" that it is not working.  She said there was no disagreement about this in Congress.  

But she did say a couple of disturbing things.  One, they need "data."  Data is what is going to tell us everything we need to know about student progress.  Two, I asked her about student data privacy being included in any reworking of NCLB and she said, yes, there were many issues in education and this is one of them.  She said it is a growing concern but only seemed concerned in a general way.

Stories about the rising up against testing.

Seattle Schools: What's the Plan?

A bit of a slow week at SPS, probably because of the MLK, Jr. day off.  It's a good day to reflect on issues around race relations and our district, our city, our state and our country.  Maybe a good day to go see Selma.  (I read that one student - at a sponsored viewing of the movie - had said thank you to the producers for making it because he finally learned what "MLK" stood for - meaning, the actual letters, not the man. Amazing.)

Looking over the Board agenda for the school board meeting on Wednesday, I found a compare and contrast moment.  The Times had a good story about the Creative Advance Initiative - arts in the schools program - and it's highly successful launch. 

The Creative Advantage Initiative, a program paid for by the city of Seattle, Seattle Public Schools and the private Seattle Foundation, this school year helped 1,659 students in about 12 schools — mostly in the central part of the city — who wouldn’t otherwise have received regular music instruction.

Next year, the group will help 10 more schools offer arts and music classes. In general, schools in the program are able to hire more arts teachers and buy supplies, but they also get about $7,500 a year to hire artists or connect with organizations from the community, like the symphony or ballet.

On Thursday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said the arts program will help end those inequities and that the city would spend $525,000 on the program over the next two years. To date, the city has spent $450,000 and the school district has paid $600,000, said Calandra Childers of the city’s office of arts and culture.

So those sums of $450K and $600K jumped out at me because the Board agenda reflects Intro items on McDonald Elementary and John Stanford for $502,000 and $450,000 for their PTAs to spend for Language Immersion Instructional Assistants.

Of course, I am not criticizing those schools (far from it).  But those are nearly the amounts that the City and the district put in for all those schools to have art. Can you imagine if those two schools got to raise that money for art or other enrichment?  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Open Thread

Off to the Murray/Nyland press conference this morning at Madrona K-8.

And speaking of Madrona, there is to be a meeting next Wed, the 21st for "future families" for the to-be-reopened Meany Middle School at the Miller Community Center at 7 p.m.

Meany Middle School will house both general education and Spectrum programs. ALL students who live within the reference areas of Montlake, Stevens, Lowell, McGilvra, Madrona, Leschi and John Muir Elementary schools (including those in 7th and 8th grades) will be assigned to attend Meany in 2017. This means that current 5th graders will start at Meany in 8th grade. When it opens, Meany will have around 700 students, and it is projected that Meany will eventually house up to 850 students, allowing the school district to be able to serve the increasing number of school-age children in central Seattle and alleviating the current overcrowding at Washington Middle School.

For questions contact Jennifer Emrich (Montlake & Garfield parent),

Event next week not to be missed - Thursday, Jan. 22nd at 7 pm in the Quincy Jones Auditorium at Garfield High, 1968 Olympic bronze medalist, John Carlos, will be speaking on a community panel about the current Black Lives Matter movement.  The panel also includes Garfield teacher/activist, Jesse Hagopian. 

Arizona has become the first state in the country to require students to pass part of the U.S. Citizenship test on civics in order to graduate.  Their law requires students to get 60 (out of 100) questions right.  I'm not sure passing this test will make anyone a better citizen but we need better informed citizens. 

 What's on your mind?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Senator Murray to Join Super Nyland to talk NCLB

From SPS Communications:

Press Conference Friday: U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Seattle Public Schools Superintendent to discuss “No Child Left Behind” Law
What:             U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland, will discuss the “No Child Left Behind” law tomorrow morning at Madrona K-8 school. Murray will address her ongoing efforts to fix and improve the legislation and Nyland will talk about NCLB challenges from an administrator’s perspective.

Murray will read to a 1st grade class, followed by the press conference.

Who:               Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
                        Larry Nyland, Superintendent, Seattle Public Schools
                        Rachelle Moore, 1st grade teacher at Madrona Elementary
                        Madrona K-8 parents
                        Madrona K-8 Principal Mary McDaniel                          

When:             Friday, January 16, 2015                                                                               
                        10:30-11:30 a.m.

End of SPS Communication

Great article from PoliticoPro on this subject about how the Republican power base in Congress see NCLB.

Republicans are hatching an ambitious plan to rewrite No Child Left Behind this year — one that could end up dramatically rolling back the federal role in education and trigger national blowouts over standardized tests and teacher training.