Sunday, November 23, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week and Good News

Good News
3-D Lego making at Cleveland High's STEM program.

Chief Sealth wins gold in the Youth Division for their video, Riffing on a Dream at the Social Justice Film Festival.

In the film, inspired by a project called Question Bridge, 13 students sat down in front of a camera and gave their unscripted answers to questions from classmates to prompt racial dialogue within their school.

The SPS story does not name the young filmmakers but you know their names, please let me know. 

Monday, Nov. 24th
No school for elementary and K-8 for parent/teacher conferences.

Work Session two-parter from 4:30pm-8:30 pm
Part One - Evaluation of the Superintendent (open session) - 1 hour
Part Two - Evaluation of a public employee (closed session) - 3 hours 

I would urge you to write to the the Board at schoolboard@seattleschools.org with the subject line "Superintendent review" and let the Board know what you think.  I think Nyland is an experienced administrator but it would appear, is being directed by others. His signature on the Gates grant for the preschool at Bailey Gatzert two months before it came before the Board shows that. It also shows that he apparently does not know Board policy or does not plan to respect it.  (Of course, why should he? Senior staff in general don't.)

Tuesday, Nov. 26th
No school for elementary and K-8 for parent/teacher conferences.

Executive Committee meeting of the Whole (COW) from 4:30-7:00 pm, no agenda yet available.  

No Director community meetings this Saturday.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Seattle Schools Data Breach: All the Latest

I have a huge amount of news that all came nearly at the same time. 

I am still gathering information about how you can directly complain to various agencies including OSPI, DOE and the Washington Bar Association.  I hope to get that thread info by Monday.

First, the district has created a webpage on the issue, Student Information Protection.

It has the Superintendent's latest letter to the entire SPS community which includes this:

More Than a Score: Review of a New Book by SPS Teacher

Garfield teacher (and activist) Jesse Hagopian has edited a new book on student testing called More Than a Score: the New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing (with a foreword by Diane Ravitch). 

The book is a call to action but more than that, a good book for those who want to action but wonder if they can really make a difference.  The answer is, you can.  Hagopian calls those willing to stand up for opting out, testdefyers. 

More Than a Score brings together stories of the fight, poems and interviews with leaders about what testing does to students and how to fight for the right assessments and testing. What I really liked were the voices of students because like most of us when we are young, we don't know enough to be scared. 

Proposed Advanced Learning Policy

Let's give the proposed Advanced Learning policy some thought and see where it leads us. Schools had better start thinking about it and right quick because School Board policies become effective immediately upon approval by a majority vote of the Board. That means that any services promised in the Advanced Learning policy will have to be delivered immediately after the vote on December 3. Those services are supposed to be provided in every school and they will be required to be in place on December 4. The Kindergarten services will have to be in place at the start of the second semester, Monday, February 2. Has anyone asked if the schools are ready to deliver?

Friday Open Thread

Guess the percentage of cable news educations guests who are actually educators?  From the Washington Post.

Send this to your legislative reps when they ask, "Where will we find the money for McCleary and 1351?"  From the Puget Sound Business Journal, "Boeing CEO Makes More than his Company Pays in Federal Taxes."  

Well, that didn't take long.  Buried in the Seattle Times Ed Lab comes news that our new City pre-k program WON'T pay for transportation.  And, since our City is largely segregated that will make having the mix of socio-economic backgrounds even more difficult.

They also report that the levy has capital dollars that could help SPS "should the district become a classroom provider for the program."  What's odd is that this isn't new; those capital dollars were already embedded in the levy.  Of course, the City is trying to dangle as much bait as possible in front of the district.  How do capital dollars for preschool classrooms - at this point in time - mean anything to the district when there - is - no - space?

When Library Time Means Screen Time, from the NY Times Motherlode blog.   Is this a problem at your local library?  I can say (as a fairly old person) that libraries are definitely not as quiet as they used to be.  I'm confused why any library allows sound for computer games. 

Inside the World of the Upper East Side Girl Scouts? CNN Money reports.

"So..." prompts Alyssa Moeder, a private wealth adviser at Merrill Lynch by day and the troop's leader at their monthly meetings, "when you buy a stock, you want to buy..." 

"Low!" shout all 14 of the Girl Scouts in unison. The 14-year-olds, clad in a mix of plaid skirts, cable knit and shades of blue nail polish, attend the elite all-girl private school Chapin on East 84th Street in Manhattan, where tuition cost $39,300 this year. 

From Quote/Counterquote, "He remembered poor Scott Fitzgerald and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, ‘The very rich are different from you and me.’ And how someone had said to Scott, Yes, they have more money." Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Killmanjaro.


What's on your mind?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Preschool or Pre-K; There is a Difference

It's too late for 1A but from The Atlantic comes a great story of this issue of why "pre-k" and what it means.

Background (partial)

"Pre-k" and "preschool" are often used interchangeably in education circles and by the news media.  After all, the two can mean the same thing: schooling that happens prior to kindergarten. But rarely do politicians who’ve declared early education a top priority say they want to expand access to preschool. 

Pre-k is seen as a solution to those problems. Preschool, on the other hand, connotes nursery school. And when people imagine nursery school, they think of daycare. A babysitting arrangement.

 It’s all about the single year that precedes kindergarten: pre-k.  In edu-speak, pre-k typically refers to a specific category of early learning that focuses on ensuring kids are prepared for kindergarten.  

Framing the final year of preschool as pre-k, some say, implies that it’s an essential building block in a child’s educational experience. The benefits of early education aside, critics question the accuracy of that message, particularly because pre-k isn’t considered compulsory. After all, few states even mandate kindergarten.

It also highlights the growing emphasis placed on the quality and accountability of early education programs and the widespread belief that access to early learning should be a basic government function—something to which every child is entitled. And this is deliberate.


But Steven Barnett, director of NIEER, says there’s a societal value to thinking of preschool as pre-k because it promotes equality. Rather than treating early education as a private service to which only wealthy kids have access, thinking of preschool as pre-k makes it a learning experience that is—or should be—available to every child, rich or poor. The preschool-prekindergarten dichotomy, in contrast, creates a two-tiered education system. 

Remember this Date: It's the Day We Lost Control of our District

November 19, 2014.  Mark it on your calendar or in your journal.  Because today, to my mind and experience, marks the beginning of the reform movement of our district.  (I say "our" district meaning the parents and taxpayers of Seattle.  I leave out staff because they have unions and contracts to protect them.)

In a couple of days, if you watch the meeting online, you might be puzzled.  Sure, it's a packed house (and very few who came to the meeting actually got to speak about their issue) and sure enough, droning reports from staff, so what's so different?

The difference is - as Charlie points out - that lawlessness has taken our district.  The manipulation of district processes are now being controlled but surely not by the Board.

The Board had to vote - under Board policy 6114 and 1620 - on the Gates Foundation Preschool grant.  That Action Item, so lovingly written as to make it sound like the district had to fire this shot against the injustice over the lack of aligned preschool spaces in Seattle.  And, if the Board didn't do this NOW, the money might go away.  From the Gates Foundation.  Please.

All this testifying and commenting was just a show.  

Because it was a done deal.  (See the grant agreement.)

The Superintendent signed the agreement two months ago.  Two months.  Before the Board vote.  In fact, according to the grant, they got $250K sometime in October.  The Board vote?  No real meaning.

Once you cut out the Board on these deals, despite Board policy to the contrary, AND the Board knows it and still votes yes, we're done as a democratically-driven district.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Crazy Board Meeting

No, not the crowd but the people on the dais.  Who are they?

To bring you up-to-speed:
- big crowd of Garfield/RHS students in support of Latin
- big crowd of Hay/Coe parents against placement of Interagency
- big crowd of Native American parents/community
- Director Martin-Morris on phone from somewhere

Then, the Superintendent (and staff) went off on a looong tangent about "Program Evaluation and Assessment Annual Report.

1) no program reports - not one.  Did School Board speak up?  Nope.

2) lengthy report from Tolley, Heath and others that was more like a Work Session.  I could not believe how long it went on.  Tolley said 10th and 11th graders  are taking Smarter Balance test and 10th grade counts for graduation.  I will have to ask how they can make 11th graders do this.

McLaren spoke up and said how great Common Core is ("there are quibbles") and it's already approved.  I could not believe my ears.

3) Superintendent had remarks about City preschool program, again praising voters and noting he was with Mayor today and there is a "committee" being started with district leaders on it (unclear who).  He said that the district needs to help "all our students." News flash: preschoolers that are not Sped are NOT SPS' responsibility.  Get State dollars for that and we can talk.

4) He also said parents of students affected by data breach were being contacted "as best we can" electronically.  WHAT?  They need to send a letter to every single family.

I have also been told that Marty McLaren told SCPTSA should would be voting Yes on the Gates Foundation grant for preschool.  I am astonished.

The real beneficiary of an approval of the grant is the City.  Not SPS.  I can only hope that other Board members vote on fiscal and prudent grounds i.e. get a partnership agreement FIRST.

The biggest shocker?  I had read all the attachments for the Gates Foundation grant action item. But somehow I missed (and it was pointed out to me) that Superintendent Nyland signed it...on September 26, 2014.

How this happened and why, I don't know.  I think this very wrong.

Just starting Speakers List now.


Contempt for Policy - Annual 2090 Edition

There is a school board policy, 2090, titled "Program Evaluation & Assessment". It is, of course, about program evaluation. I encourage you to read it - it's only one page long and written in fairly simple language.

The policy requires an annual report. Here is the actual policy language:
"The Superintendent shall prepare an annual report which reflects the degree to which district goals and objectives related to the instructional program have been accomplished."
Pretty straightforward - evaluate the instructional programs to determine if they are accomplishing their goals. Instructional programs include each school's general education program, each option school, language immersion programs, International Education programs, Special Education programs, Spectrum, APP, A.L.O.s, the Skills Center, bilingual education, Biligual Orientation Centers, and anything else that you could identify as an instructional program.

Each year the staff puts together their report, as required by the policy, and each year it utterly fails to even address the instructional programs. Instead, the annual report is all about assessments. Here is this year's annual report to be presented at tonight's board meeting. The policy does not require an annual report on assessments; it requires an annual report on programs. You would think that the Board - or at least one Board member - would ask for the report required in the policy but, shock, not one of them ever does.

This is yet another example of how everyone in the District Leadership conspires to ignore policy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Seattle School Board Meeting - Will the Board Say No to Gates?

Update:  I spoke with the Board office and they are likely to take five more people from the Speaker waitlist.  I believe President Peaslee may have some discretion in this area but that remains to be seen.

Also to note, it appears that the Mayor and the Superintendent will be appearing at Rainier Beach Boys & Girls Club this morning.  I have not been able to find out why nor does this appear on the Mayor's published schedule.  I have another meeting so I cannot attend. 

end of update

Looking at the Speaker roster, it appears that the topic is "P-5 Schools Aligned with Seattle Preschool Program."  Out of 30 spots, all are on this topic, except for 4 of them for the 2015 State Legislative Agenda and on on Lunch/Recess Times.  (I have one spot about the preschool issue.)

Then, there is quite a large waitlist of 30 people.  This may signal the Board may hear 10 more speakers as they tend to open it up if this many people are coming.  Those speakers are mostly wishing to speak on the Garfield staffing reduction/Latin program, a couple about Interagency location, and various other topics.

I had thought the speaker list would be more varied especially because of the data breach, Garfield staffing/enrollment numbers, and the Interagency issue.  But somehow all these people who wanted to talk about the Gates grant got there first.  

I find the main speaker list interesting as many of these names are new (which, of course, is a good thing) but I wonder if perhaps people are being asked to speak (rather than coming on their own accord).  We'll see.

I'll say here what I will tell the Board on the topic of the Gates Foundation grant in support of a preschool at Bailey-Gatzert under the City's new preschool plan.