Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Free Zoo Tickets

Via Seattle Public Library.  (Thanks to Leslie Harris for this alert.)

Tuesday Open Thread

Stacie Starr, a veteran Elyria, Ohio, teacher who was chosen as the winner of  the “Live with Kelly and Michael” 2014 Top Teacher Search, announced her retirement on Monday, citing the increasing pressures on students and teachers under the mandated Common Core standards.  The teacher did this on-air.

From Mother Jones, "Sorry, I'm Not Taking this Test."
Kiana talked about this with Mr. Katz, who regularly met with students who needed extra help during his lunch hour and after school. One day during their tutoring session, he mentioned Gandhi. Kiana went to the library and found some of Gandhi's essays. She determined that what it took to make change was someone taking a personal stand.
Next, she researched state education rules and discovered that the end-of-course tests that Florida required in every subject were being used primarily for job evaluations. (She says one teacher told her: "Please take [the test]. My paycheck depends on it.")
The English teacher started passing out the computer tablets used to take the test. He put one on her desk. Kiana raised her hand. "I'm sorry," she said again. "I'm not going to take this test."
The noise dropped abruptly.
"You should wait until you are done with high school before you try to change the world," the teacher said.

A very sad story from the Washington Post about a teen who seemingly pressured her boyfriend into suicide.  Maybe a lesson in here.

More lessons learned - investigator's report on the Marysville High School shootings last October says some adults probably knew the shooter was having issues, this from the Seattle Times.  As well, the victims' lawyer says:

She said the Marysville School District has failed to respond to requests for its policies on bullying and discipline and that failure has raised alarms among the families of the victims. The policies ought to be available to anyone who wants to see them, she said.

The shooter's father is being charged with weapons violations for illegally obtaining a gun 
while under a restraining order.

What's on your mind?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Updates Coming Fast

Update: Renton's union approved their new contract today with over 95% approval.

As well, word is that the Sisley slums on 65th and 15th are coming down tomorrow.  Good news no matter what but 1) I won't be there to see it and 2) not the ones in front of Roosevelt High.

end of update

Ross Hunter (D-Medina and one of the "roadkill" Dems) is leaving the Legislature to become Governor Inslee's Director of Early Learning.  It's a nod to the prominence that early childhood ed is increasingly taking in public education.  That means he is likely to be a point person for the City's Preschool Program.

The district announced that Ron English - on administrative leave since February - has "retired."  I have seen no press announcement but this from a tweet from KPLU's Kyle Stokes.

Latest on the SEA contract negotiations comes from two directions (one a teacher and one Stokes) - there is nothing new.  No movement towards an agreement.  The word from the teacher is that the union can't even understand what the district is offering.

We had one reader suggest that there may be some collusion going on by the district and the union to "create" a crisis in the district.  That would be a fairly venal thing to do but with the leadership at the top of both, I don't discount it entirely.

A strike will do no good and I find it hard to believe - with the McCleary money to both the district and to teachers - that there is not a way forward.

Before School Starts, Think About Student Data Privacy

Update:  here's a very good opt-out form from World Privacy Forum to use to opt your child out of some or all directory information in SPS.  Look for that FERPA form in your first-day packet and include this one as well.  (I am checking on the issue of if not allowing directory information will opt your child out of yearbooks.  I do not believe so.)

end of update.

A good article appeared in yesterday's NY Times that "the email addresses and search queries of the nation’s schoolchildren are a hot commodity."  

States are starting to get hip to this fact - with conservatives and liberals both having concerns, not to mention parents.  Unfortunately, tech companies and companies that make public education technology their business are as well and are rushing to create "Parents Bill of Rights" that basically are a lot of hot air and not much else.

I would like to get such a bill in front of the Washington Legislature but I hesitate because of McCleary.  Will anyone listen?  I know some legislators would sponsor it (on both sides of the aisle) but will anyone be willing to pay attention?  I would prefer a state law over any federal law as the feds would water it down to nothing.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rainier Beach Student Speaks Out

A fine article from a Rainier Beach student, Ifrah Abshir, writing at Occupy.com about issues at RBHS.  Ifrah didn't just write this article to complain but had spent the summer working with Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools at RBHS  to try to address the issues at Beach.

These injustices are the reasons why I decided to apply for an internship with Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools this summer at Rainier Beach. CDF Freedom Schools is a national movement that empowers young scholars to make a difference for themselves, their families, their communities and their world. Rooted in literacy, the books we read at Freedom Schools flipped the standard U.S. education curriculum so that it fit our personal multicultural narratives. Books like "The Rock And The River" by Kekla Magoon tell the story of characters of color with struggles that black and brown students can relate to, an experience they don't often have in the U.S. school system.
On July 31, near the conclusion of the six-week CDF Freedom School program, we participated in a National Day of Social Action. All CDF Freedom Schools across the country came up with individual ways to make an impact in their community. Being a CDF Freedom school site hosted at Rainier Beach High, we decided to take on some of the aforementioned injustices Rainier Beach students face: transportation and conditions of the school building.
- See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/fighting-inequality-seattle-students-lead-protests-change-school-and-transit-policies#sthash.NYC4gJcM.dpuf
The main thrust of this article was on middle and high school walk zones and how far they are (and hard on kids who may not get an ORCA card and also not have any access to a car ride).  On July 31st, there was a march from JSEE to City Hall which, as Ifrah points out, is about 1.7 miles which is less than the high school walk zone and yet took 40 minutes.

Mayor Murray came out and heard their demands (for Beach) which are ORCA cards and a new school building.  Apparently, the crowd of students took what he said with a grain of salt.  The article goes onto states that "a representative of the school board" came and said "the district had heard them loud and clear."  I'm thinking it wasn't a Board member but perhaps someone from Communications.  But the rep told them that they needed to go thru the City and the Mayor said the district was in charge of these decisions.

(I'm thinking that the Board rep meant bus routes are the City's job and the Mayor meant walk zones are the district's job.)
These injustices are the reasons why I decided to apply for an internship with Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools this summer at Rainier Beach. CDF Freedom Schools is a national movement that empowers young scholars to make a difference for themselves, their families, their communities and their world. Rooted in literacy, the books we read at Freedom Schools flipped the standard U.S. education curriculum so that it fit our personal multicultural narratives. Books like "The Rock And The River" by Kekla Magoon tell the story of characters of color with struggles that black and brown students can relate to, an experience they don't often have in the U.S. school system.
On July 31, near the conclusion of the six-week CDF Freedom School program, we participated in a National Day of Social Action. All CDF Freedom Schools across the country came up with individual ways to make an impact in their community. Being a CDF Freedom school site hosted at Rainier Beach High, we decided to take on some of the aforementioned injustices Rainier Beach students face: transportation and conditions of the school building.
- See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/fighting-inequality-seattle-students-lead-protests-change-school-and-transit-policies#sthash.NYC4gJcM.dpuf

"Help Keep Your School ALL American"

Superman Poster from 1950s.  Worth showing your kids.

Public Education in 2015-2016 - What Will Happen?

I believe that this year is to be a pivotal one in public education - for our district, our state and nationally.
I'll go in reverse order.

Nationally, that issue of opting out over Common Core testing/overtesting is not going away.  No amount about saber-rattling, shaming or finger-wagging is going to change that.

In 2016 we will elect a new president and I can only say if you believe in "choice" via charters and voucher, vote Republican.  Because that is exactly what will happen.  There is not a single Republican I would trust on public education issues (and that's a sad thing to say given how many of them there are).  Trump is the only one with no clear views but I'm thinking the first thing he would do for public education is to make mandatory citizenship reviews of every single student in public schools a reality. 

But with a Republican president, along with vouchers and massive charterization of public schools,  we would probably see a big pullback on federal reach into public education.  Common Core might be weakened by this move. 

But Clinton, Sanders and the other Dems are not-so-stellar either on public education issues so I'm (again) likely to be disappointed for public education, no matter who wins.

For Washington State, we will go into Jan. 2016 seeing the Legislature continue to tie itself into knots over school funding and ignoring I-1351 about class size.  It's going to take some real leadership and public will to create a change that will mean a fundamental change in how we fund our STATE and Not just public education.  I said this to the Governor but I'm not sure he's the guy to get it done. 

As well, we continue to wait for the Supreme Court to finish its now-into-the-eighth-month of consideration over ruling on the charter law case. 

In 2016 elections for state office, we will see the post of Superintendent of Public Instruction come up.  Superintendent Dorn has said he may not run for re-election and there are already several candidates who are running or considering a run.

There are also the largest number of charter schools opening ever in this state this fall with more coming on-line in fall 2016.  It will be interesting to see how Tacoma School District fares with four charters opening in its district.  As well, Seattle will see a couple of top players in charters - Summit and Green Dot - opening schools here.

In Feb. 2016, we will have the Seattle School District's Operations levy and Capital levy (BTA IV).  They have fierce competition in November 2015 from both a levy from the Mayor on transportation ($900M+) and King County (about $400M).  The district's own two levies combined are likely to top $900M.  Are voters going to support all of those levies?  I have my doubts.

And, these will be the first school levies where, if they pass, Seattle Schools will have share dollars from both levies with charter schools - First Place Scholars (if they survive) and Summit.  It is still unclear how those dollars will be figured and a timetable for payment (levy money comes into the district in pieces so it is likely that's how it would go out to charters). 

The district will be holding Community Meetings in September to talk about what gets on the BTA IV levy.  I'll post that schedule soon. 

As for Seattle Schools itself, there's nothing on the district calendar this week so I'm thinking the top "get it done" item on the checklist is "sign a contract with the teachers."  Both the Seattle and Spokane teachers unions are threatening to strike if they cannot find mutual agreement on a contract with their respective districts. 

Over at the Washington Policy Center, they seem obsessed with the fact that teachers - both in Seattle and Spokane - make more than the median household income.  I would venture to say that there are many businesses and government offices where workers make more than the median.   I'm not sure I understand what the issue is (beyond "it's a 10 month work salary" and to that I say, most district employees do not work a full year either so why single out teachers?).  Here's a funny statement from WPC:

As one comparison, average worker income in Washington is $52,540 for a 12-month year.  Most working families do not know whether they will receive a raise this year, let alone what they might receive over two years.

Yes, and teachers haven't gotten a raise in seven years.   

WPC says that because teachers make more than average, they should not strike.  That's up for debate. 

Because of the threat of a strike in the Pasco School District, the Pasco School Board has already adopted a resolution authorizing a request for an injunction if a teacher strike occurs. The Spokane School District and Spokane School Board (sic)members could seek the same thing.

I believe they meant "Seattle School Board." 

The Seattle School Board would have to call an emergency executive session to authorize that request and I see nothing on the district's calendar for that to happen.

But after the contract (which I believe will get done), what's the state of Seattle Schools going into this year?  My take is...

Confusion, frustration and uncertainty.

New York Superintendent Starts the Year Supporting Teachers




This superintendent seems to understand teachers.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Inspiration of the Day (For Better Things for Kids)

Got this from Facebook (via Leslie Harris) about kids and the arts via a guy named Darryl A. Chamberlain:

We must always remember the importance of giving our best to our kids. Here is the Monti's Czardas played by The Kanneh-Mason kids. This is what happens when you are willing to get music lessons for your kids.

I always tell anyone who will listen - but especially elected officials - that after class size, the arts seem to be the most important thing to parents for their children.   Mr. Chamberlain speaks of getting music lessons for your kids which may be difficult for many parents (time, cost, getting your child there) but if we had more arts in our schools, that would be something most parents would be overjoyed to see.

Not to start a fight but we were having a discussion on another thread about sports in schools.  Which would you rather see funded and finding the time for - sports or arts?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Uh Oh, What Got Said on KUOW?

I like to listen to KUOW's Friday morning round-up of news.  It's generally lively and interesting.

I only caught part of this morning's but the part I caught really bothered me because of what I heard.

The discussion was about the alleged cheating by the Bellevue High football staff who were running a "diploma mill" for students they recruited for the football team.  It is alleged that those students were attending a private school that was being paid for by team boosters or someone else.  It does not appear the students went to real classes or even had teachers all the time.  Bellevue has had a winning football program for many years with, at one time, a 67-game winning streak.

The pundits were asked about what should happen to the Bellevue program, given that Bellevue had won games with these students playing. ( I note KUOW also had the H.G. Bissinger, noted author of Friday Night Lights, about Texas high school football). 

So in jumps Joni Balter who gives a pretty strange analogy and manages to (I think) to disparage someone.  (Balter used to be at the Times but does a variety of writing/advising, mostly on politics.)

She first said that you need high school sports because kids don't get enough PE/exercise and we have an obesity program in our country.  (That's true but I would point out that the kids who want to participate in sports are generally those that would exercise even if there were no school sports.  All kids need PE.)

She then goes onto this comparison between the Bellevue football situation and the Garfield choir field trip situation.  She said that the Garfield teacher needed to go because of her actions but not the entire Garfield music program and that the Bellevue football staff/coach needed to be disciplined, not the entire football program.