Saturday, April 18, 2015

As If DFER Could Not Make Themselves Sound Worse

I was checking in at the DFER website to see if there was any statement walking back the one from the NY state director, bemoaning opt-outs and real estate values and I found none.

But I did find this scathing commentary on opting out and it's from Nicole Brisbane, the director of the NY state DFER.  Apparently she can't help herself.


- they start with their title, by immediately drawing a line in the between them and teachers unions/"affluent parents" - The Opt-Out Movement; whose kids are really at stake?

- What's interesting is they do say several nice things about teachers unions but then:

In this case, they are trying to maintain a status quo that has been inherently unfair to low income and minority students.

Yes, we are still using that tired old line of "status quo."  And again, I don't read/hear from virtually any teachers or parents who don't think some testing is necessary.

-But the reason why this opt-out movement is most offensive is the absolute disregard for the progress our country has made identifying and addressing the achievement gap between low income and affluent students.

Offensive?  Parents expressing their concern over high stakes testing is "offensive?"

 Also, I was unaware that this country didn't realize there was a gap before NCLB.  I would agree that forcing districts to report on every single type of student did reveal how Sped, ELL and other named status of student is doing but I didn't think it was a big mystery to start with.

Friday, April 17, 2015

DFER Clears Up Why Opting Out is Bad, Bad, Bad

You can read the whole article at USA Today about the huge number of opt-outs in New York State.  But this gem of a quote from the state director of Democrats for Education Reform - one Nicole Brisbane - reveals the REAL issue about opt-outs:

"Schools are one of the biggest differentiators of value in the suburbs," she said. "How valuable will a house be in Scarsdale when it isn't clear that Scarsdale schools are doing any better than the rest of Westchester or even the state? Opting out of tests only robs parents of that crucial data."

You can't make this stuff up.

For those of you who may not know, Scarsdale is a fairly upper-crust town in north of NYC.  The median income for a family there is about $290K.

Interestingly, here's what one superintendent in Cold Spring, NU had to say:

"Parents want to have a say in their child's education and this is one way they feel they can be heard," she said.

Want to Understand the Issues over Local Levies and School Funding?

The Washington State Budget and Policy Center does a great job unpacking these issues of why the Legislature would want to reform local school levies.  The article is about the competing bills in the House and Senate over this reform (bold mine).
Local levies – property taxes approved by voters for a specified school district – have become increasingly used to fill gaps left by inadequate state resources. Although local levies are intended to fund “enrichment programs” like extracurricular clubs and advanced learning programs, the funding from them currently supports a multitude of school’s basic needs. Things like teacher salaries and textbooks.

When the State Supreme Court ruled in its 2012 McCleary case that the state had failed to meet its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education, it asserted that this model doesn’t work. The court noted that the state’s reliance on local property taxes to support basic education – instead of broader, statewide taxes – fails to provide the ample funding required by the Constitution.

Heavy reliance on local resources has resulted in an uneven education system, in which wealthier localities are able to raise more money than poorer areas of the state (see graph). To fix this structural problem and safeguard access to basic education for all kids, adequate state funding is needed.
I don't know about you but I got my property tax bill and it is pretty high for local levies.  I can only imagine the burden for those who are less well-off and struggling to keep their homes.

I don't mind be taxed but I do mind the state using those taxes to avoid fully funding education as Constitutionally mandated.  I actually had been meaning to write a thread about the arts because even though I have yet to meet a parent who did not want arts in their child's education, adequate funding never seems to be there.  And yet we have local levies - both school district and City - neither of which truly moves any money towards the arts.

Kid Issues around the Puget Sound

Here's a sad commentary on our country.  (I think Seattle Citizen mentioned this issue elsewhere.)  A baby was shot in the head in a drive-by shooting in Kent.  The baby is likely brain-dead.

Why did this happen?

Police said the shooting stemmed from a road-rage incident when a silver car driven by Malaja’s family and a black sedan turned on Lake Fenwick Road South at the same time.

“There was some sort of exchange, and the next thing we know is the individuals in the black vehicle exchanged gunfire (at the) silver vehicle,” said a police spokeswoman on the scene.

 KIRO tv had a story and this is what the baby's uncle said:

"We need to stop the Seattle violence," the baby's uncle, Edmond "Mackie" McNeil, told KIRO 7.

"The CD [Central District], south end, whoever, wherever. It's over. We're trying to be living for our kids. Everybody needs to live for your kids, now. It's over. You ain't no gangster because you want to carry a gun. That's stupid. Live for your kids. Be a PTA parent. Do something."

Wise words.

The Times is reporting a notable uptick in the number of whooping cough cases.

Whooping cough is on the rise again in Washington State, with more than five times as many cases so far this year as in 2014," the Seattle Times reports. "Vaccination of pregnant women, children and teens is the most effective way to stop the spread, health officials said. As of April, there have been 319 cases of whooping cough, formally known as pertussis, compared with 49 cases for the same period last year, the state Department of Health reported.

In some good health news, it will sunny this weekend AND it's free admission weekend at our national parks including Mount Rainier.

Testing Woes: Will the Feds Have Any Sympathy?

The Department of Education has a message for Nevada, Montana and North Dakota over Common Core assessments - get it done.  Even though, all three of those states experienced - thru no apparent fault of their own - massive vendor problems that led to a shutdown of testing last month and this week.

From the AP:

Seattle Schools Enrollment - Assignments and Waitlist Now Available

From SPS Communications:

If you submitted one of the 5,300 choice applications we received during the Open Enrollment period, you can now view the results. The Assignment and Waitlist link has been updated for the 2015-16 school year.
Use the link to see your student’s 2015-16 assignment and any wait list placements. You will need your student’s identification number and birthdate. 

If you did not request a different assignment during Open Enrollment and have not submitted at change to your home address, your student’s assignment hasn't changed.
Printed assignment letters will be mailed to home addresses the week of April 27.  

Second applications for choice enrollment will be accepted beginning May 1, 2015. The choice forms remain posted on the Admissions main page. 

If you have questions about school assignments for the 2015-16 school year, please call the Service Center at (206) 252-0760.

But not until Monday.

Friday Open Thread

Update: forgot to include this fascinating piece of news.

Sarah Morningstar, the late Cheryl Chow's partner, applied for Sally Clark's soon to be vacant City Council seat.  Morningstar mentions her work as a school administrator in Seattle Schools in her application.  Morningstar is currently assistant principal at TOPS.

The City Council will announce the finalists on Monday at 2 pm.  There will be 3-minute presentations from the finalists on Friday, the 24th with an announcement of the winner on Monday, April 27th.  Good luck, Ms. Morningstar.

end of update

In news about First Place Scholars, it's good news.  Apparently, they have shown enough progress for their turnaround for the Charter Commission's Executive Director, Joshua Halsey, to say that things are looking good.  They just need to turn in their documentation on Special Education to meet what the CC asked for in changes at FPS.

Did you get a robo-call from Ready Washington (brought to you by OSPI and the Gates Foundation) about SBAC? From Seattle Education:

People around the state are receiving robo-calls from a (Gates backed Teachers United) teacher who was declared “Teacher of the Year” by The Office of the State Superintendent (OSPI) which is headed by the State Superintendent Randy Dorn. Mr. Dorn is also on the board of CCSSO which is an organization receiving $84M from Bill Gates to promote the Common Core Standards.

Interested in civil rights data collection?  Here's a place to search. 

Robert Kennedy, Jr. continues his ranting over vaccines and autism.  Recently, he had to walk back this statement:

This is a Holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

Here's a test question from Singapore that seems to stump everyone - When is Cheryl's Birthday?

From KUOW, a entirely outdoor preschool here in Seattle.  Wonder if they would qualify for the City's program? Nah.

Time for your science lesson - Finding the Speed of Light with Peeps

Coloring Books - they're not just for kids.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Common Core Testing Promoters Circling the Wagons

Seattle Schools has now finished just one part of the state testing cycle.  According to the schedule at OPSI, the 3rd grade reading is done.  That leaves plenty more to do before the June 15th cutoff date.  (I'm thinking the district will be done a lot sooner than that.)

CPPS and the Equity in Education Coalition are having an "informative community conversation on the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessments" on April 27th at the African American Museum.  It includes Eric Anderson, the head of assessment for SPS.  The panel also includes two people from OSPI, a teacher from Kent and someone from the Office of Education.

But this appears to be by invitation only, sorry.

The invitation ends by saying:

We hope this will be an ongoing dialogue and the first of many community conversations on Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

It's great that CPPS and the Equity in Education Coalition are trying to create an opportunity for dialog around this issue.  I wish our own district had wanted to do this in any meaningful way. 

I mean a roll-out of new standards AND new assessments over two+ years and there hasn't been much in the way of community discussion (not to mention information) on Common Core and its assessments?  Why not?

As well, today Bill Gates weighed in on the latest drag on Common Core.  And boy, did he huff and puff out some doozy quotes.  From the Huffington Post:

Reading the Friday Memos

The last Superintendent's Friday Memo on April 3, 2015 says this:

Rainier Beach:
The recent recognition of the Rainier Beach International Baccalaureate program is well deserved. Rainier Beach has benefitted from the state School Improvement Grants, Race to the Top grants, and support from many community partners. The district has supported the IB program as we do for all schools during the first five years. That funding will continue for the next two years. And we are certainly hopeful that added state support will make longer term funding possible. As a result of community complaints, the Office of Civil Rights has opened a file on inequitable funding for Rainier Beach (furniture, curriculum, staffing). Our responses to OCR will show that we are funding Rainier Beach as well or (in some cases) better than other similar schools in the district. 

I feel like there's something a little backhanded in that reply.  Maybe that's just me.

I know that IB schools get something like $50K extra.  I also know that you need to have an IB adviser and that would eat up the $50K right there (or leave you with very little).  I'm not sure how the district doesn't know this from the time they started the program.   

Change Starts with Each of Us

A couple of items came across my desk in the last 24 hours related to women, stereotypes and sexual assault. 

One is a powerful video  from Tumwater High School, part of the No More campaign.  As Tumwater's counselor, Todd Caffey, explains, they used national statistics to extrapolate to THS' female student population as "actual data on THS is not available."  Meaning, the district either isn't keeping these stats (which I know cannot be true) or would not give them to Mr. Caffey. 

That in itself is quite powerful - the district has to report these stats to the state and feds.  I know - from research I was doing just yesterday - that this data also goes to the federal Office of Civil Rights.

The video is quite simple; there are boys, one-by-one, who hold up a sheet with a number and explain the number of girls in each class in the high school who will likely be sexually assaulted.

One thing they leave out in their list of who these girls are - they mention friends, girlfriends, students and classmates - is relatives.  I know many high school boys who have sisters or cousins going to the same high school.  That makes it very personal.

The other item comes from the This is Not a Pattern blog, Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist.  The thread comes from a place of explaining how men are sexist in tech circles but most of it could apply to everyday life.  The writer, Kat Hagan, explains how a tweet from a guy got her started:
Dear lazyweb, looking for blog posts on "common things men in tech do that are sexist without being intentionally so."