Saturday, March 28, 2015

Once More on Pressure in High School

This is a guest editorial from Palo Alto On-line,from a junior at a high-pressure high school who has much to say about the nature of public education.  And yes, I know if you read this, you might roll your eyes and think, "white people problems."  But despite Palo Alto being a wealthy area, talking about teen stress and pressure is important no matter where a student lives.

It is about what we are doing to kids, their joy of learning and the nature of learning.

My stress began in elementary school, where students were segregated into separate class meetings as "early" and "late" readers. Although we were just elementary schoolers, we perceived this as a differentiation between the less and more advanced students and either felt superior due to our intellect or shamed for a "lack" thereof. 

Middle school didn't get any better. At the end of sixth grade, we were placed into either Pre-Algebra or Pre-Algebra Advanced, though nobody referred to the classes as such. Any math class without the word advanced in it was referred to as the "dumb" math lane (a label that has followed into high school math courses as well). I like to think of this as the reason I lost my enthusiasm and confidence for math so early -- how could I possibly feel intelligent when the class I was in was considered dumb?  

Very good points.  She goes on to describe the pressures of high school and then says this:

I want students in this district to be content, enjoy their lives, and view our schools as places where they can come and receive legitimate support for any of their problems. And, let me make clear, I understand that not all problems relating to suicide and depression are directly correlated to school.

We are not teenagers. We are lifeless bodies in a system that breeds competition, hatred, and discourages teamwork and genuine learning. We lack sincere passion. We are sick. 

We, as a community, have completely lost sight of what it means to learn and receive an education. 

Why is that not getting through to this community? Why does this insanity that is our school district continue?

Friday, March 27, 2015

How Would You Like $5,000 to Spend on Your Child's Education?

Wait for it.

A late dropping bill that missed my notice is SB 6079 by Senator Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane).  It would allow families to choice to get $5K of the average $7400 in state dollars per student.  Then you could use the money for "educational services" at public or private schools.

This bill is listed as first coming into the Senate on March 9th and, as of today, was referred to the Early Learning &E-12 Education Committee.   Apparently, there it sits.

This voucher nonsense is happening in a number of states mostly around special ed or ELL students.  Naturally the hope is to expand this crazy quilt idea for all K-12 children.  You could either get a voucher (and go shopping), a tax-credit scholarship, or get an individual tax credit. 

It's all about choice, right?

Hoping this one will die a quiet death.

"How SPS gets enrollment predictions so close to the mark"

Yes, that is the title of a story at the district's homepage.  I will try to stifle a smile as this has not - to terrible effect - always been the case.

Here's the link to the entire story.

I note that the brag in the story is how close they get.  What's puzzling is that at the Work Session on the budget this week, there were repeated references to the projections for this year being off.  Not sure how to reconcile the two thoughts.

Friday Open Thread

 Update:  I have attempted to get rid of the annoying CAPTCHA feature.  I'm hoping it works but that we don't see a lot of spam because of it.  I know if I found it annoying so did my readers.  Let me know how it goes.

Update on SBAC from SPS Communications:  our assessment folks have communicated to principals that they may use the form or accept any signed refusal. 

End of update 
 
I will have a follow-up to the SBAC opt-out form.  I sought clarity from the district, got it partially and am now awaiting a response.

The House budget will come out today but the hearing has been moved to Monday.

Healthy Student Survey results - I haven't had time to read it in-depth yet.  

The Charter Commission is having a special phone-in meeting today.  It's an interesting thing - they will go into Executive Session to discuss a "legal matter" with no final action taken.  Then, they will go back to having a public meeting if there are any "action items" from the Executive Session.  I will venture to guess this is about First Place and whether they have done what the Commission wanted them to in order to remain open as a charter school.  My guess is no.  I believe if the Commission is to close the school, they would have to take a vote in an open meeting.

Interesting map of the opt-outs in Ohio for the PARCC testing.

Have you played the latest parlor game? keeping count of how many editorials/op-eds the Seattle Times prints about how important it is to get the NCLB waiver back, how its loss is hurting kids and, oh, by the way, it's "just closing a loophole" according to Rep Chad Magendanz at Facebook and the authors of the latest op-ed, Senator Mark Mullet and Senator Jamie Pedersen, say the changes would be "modest" and make it sound like simple wordsmithing.

The Senators say that $1M in Seattle funds has been spent on private tutors in an "uneven way"  (fewer than 500 kids received private tutoring out of an eligible 20K).  Well, who's fault is that?  I'd guess the district didn't bend over backwards to tell parents.  But, as Superintendent Nyland DID say at the last Board meeting, it was a good thing for those parents who did get tutoring for their children.

(They also said the districts would have to "scramble" to spend the rest of the money not used for children who changed schools and/or received private tutoring.  I have great confidence Seattle School district will figure out how to spend extra dollars.)

Sadly, not one word in this opt-ed about McCleary.  Priorities,kids. 

Friday funny for your tweens and teens: a cover of 'Uptown Funk' by Voldemort.

Also for the kids, Science! How to unleash Lucifer's Squid

Thursday, March 26, 2015

If You Want to Opt Out, Be Sure You Know How in Seattle Public Schools

It has come to my attention that just submitting a signed, date form requesting your child to opt out of SBAC testing may not suffice at some schools.

The SBAC page at SPS says this:
Families who refuse to allow their children to participate in assessments, including Smarter Balanced, must submit the refusal in writing, signed and dated, to go in the student's permanent record file. Parents or guardians must submit this refusal annually. Families may use THIS FORM or submit a clear written and signed document.
That's rather interesting wording in red as I might perceive they mean it has to be hand-written, not typed.  Why that would be, I don't know.

Here's the SBAC page at SPS.   I note that when you hit the spot for the form to refuse, it does NOT take you to the form.  It takes you to yet another page.  Here's the link to the SBAC form.

In the SBAC form, I'm supposing they want you to realize, in humiliating detail, how you are failing your child.  I also have to laugh at stating "my reason" - honestly, it's not SBAC or SPS' business.

I will ask if the SBAC form is the only one being taken by schools or are principals allowed to make anything up that they want. 


Great Variety of Thought Over School Spending

On the eve of the first budget coming from the House is the latest NY Times Room for Debate section on "Is Improving Schools All About Money?"

I'll just simply say - after sitting through the Board Work Session yesterday that included next year's budget - yes it does.

But it matters HOW the money is spent (and SPS is a baffling example).  Naturally, as we wait for enactment of McCleary, it is also about fully funding basic education (which is not happening in our state). 

My favorite in the NY Times bunch is Lisa Delpit "Can we put the money to better use?" and her analogy of a gym membership.

Near Child Abuse Over Common Core Testing

Update: totally related to this story - will SPS be able to give the SBAC as well as give Sped students the time they need to finish?  From Sped Special Ed listserv:
Last night at the SPED PTSA meeting, the SPED Dept leadership said that SBACs cannot trump the law in regards to our students' SDI, that is, whatever the time crunch of SBACs, students' SDI still needs to be delivered per IEPs. 
The SPED Dept leadership stated that they'd reached out to principals to ensure that master schedules are being created to ensure that no student's SDI lapses during the SBACs. 
Teachers I've spoken with totally roll their eyes about this, that there is no way they can attend to SDI responsibilities fully while meeting students' needs on the SBACs. (Not to mention the kids who opt out. They need their SDI too.) 
In any case, I think the bigger issue here is what is the info/comms plan for families on this matter -- did the SPED Dept indicate to buildings what they s/b telling families and when? It's otherwise asking a lot of families to go in and ask ...
end of update

Well, that's what me and many others are calling what is happening to one 6th grader in Libertyville, IL.

A single sixth-grader, Sam Morgan,  at a middle school there opted out of the PARCC test.  Here's what the principal did (this from the Chicago Tribune):

On the first exam day, he had to sit in the testing room with his peers but do nothing. He couldn't read, draw or do anything for at least two hours and 40 minutes, double the time of the 80-minute math test.

Why did he have to sit double the time?

By law, Sam is allowed extra time to complete some school tasks, such as standardized tests, because of his academic challenges. The school reasoned that had the boy taken the PARCC exam, he would have been given an extra 80 minutes to finish, and therefore he sat for the length of the test plus the additional time.

Speaking of the Legislature: House Budget to Be Released Tomorrow

The House will be releasing its budget tomorrow with a public hearing on it also that day.

Naturally, this is a greatly anticipated moment for public education because the question is: what's in there for McCleary (and how are they paying for it)?  

What is vitally important to let legislators know is that McCleary is about several things.
  • fully-funding K-12 public education
  • fully-funding to whatever they are defining as "basic education"
  • remembering that class size IS part of McCleary (especially at K-3) and any attempt to say that they can't fund 1351 would not be true (given the first part of my statement).   
 You cannot divorce class size from McCleary. 

What was clear from the Town Hall at Hale on Saturday is that even the biggest legislative supporters of public education have no time/stomach for figuring out funding for 1351. 

However, none of them want to ignore the will of the people, either.  (They all said they would not vote for trying to overturn 1351 in the Legislature.)

The Class Size Matters folks are encouraging people to attend the hearing tomorrow, Friday, March 27th at 1:30 pm in the O'Brien House Office building, Room A.  

Roundup of Ed Bills Still Alive at the Legislature

I'll put a notation by each of these; please consider contacting your legislative reps for your support or rejection of each bill.

From the Seattle Times:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Laugh of the Day from the Times and Stand for Children

Honestly, I think sometimes the Times does not think much of its readers.  For many of their education stories, they always manage to leave out very basic information.  Almost as if they wanted to slant a story.

The latest laugher comes via Washington Stand for Children and their "petition" to the Legislature over voting to link test scores to teacher evaluations.  The House will have a public hearing on their bill on Monday.

Along with supporting this bill, Stand for Children, one branch of a national advocacy group, has also lobbied for stricter teacher evaluations and more school choice.

The group collected the 20,658 signatures mostly online over the past year, said spokeswoman Jeanette Lewis. It vetted the signatures by deleting those with duplicate or invalid email addresses.


What's missing - from a reporting standpoint - is not truly explaining who Stand is and who funds them (Gates).  I note the Times uses the cagey "nation advocacy group" and NOT "parent advocacy group."  Why?  Because it's not.

Update from a reader via the Gates Foundation

Date: October 2014
Purpose: to support Common Core implementation and teacher effectiveness programs 
Amount: $2,551,388
Term: 13
Topic: College-Ready
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Portland, Oregon
Grantee Website: http://stand.org/

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database/Grants/2014/10/OPP1117471

End of update