Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving; this blog is thankful for all our readers.

Two fun things, one for vegetarians and one from Ellen for the hope that is education. 

Kids really are little sponges.  "My little brain just remembers." 

Good News in Seattle Public Schools

A wonderful story from KING-5 news - Franklin High School was the surprise receipt of $17K worth of new band instruments via Stub Hub/Mr Holland's Opus Foundation.  Music teacher Geoff Ogle made it happen and, looking at the faces of his students, they are happy he did. 

Orca K-8 put in a new playground.  According to district Communications:
The project is the culmination of a handful of funding partners including Orca PTSA, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, King County, the Norcliffe Foundation, Windermere, Microsoft and hundreds of volunteers who helped put it all together.
 Good work to all those parents and community members who made this happen.

Big shout-out to Garfield High's football coach, Derek Sparks, an award from Angels in Sports,  for his hard work in supporting student athletes.  Angels in Sports is a non-profit org for "high striving underprivileged youth applicants that require assistance in achieving their athletic and academic goals." 

Middle School Ultimate Frisbee news:

- Aki Kurose, A pool champions
- Madison, the A2 pool champions
- South Shore K-8, the B pool champions
- Hamilton, 6thA champions
- Hazel Wolf K-8, 6th B champions
- Salmon Bay and Washington, Co-Spirit champions

Aerial shot of the work for the Hazel Wolf K-8 building from NAC Architecture

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Equity vs Equality

We keep dipping into this discussion, so let's dive into it.

I hear and read people using the words "Equitable" or "Equity" as if they were synonymous with "Equal" and "Equality". I continue to see these words used as if they were interchangeable. They are not synonyms. They are not interchangeable. They are, in fact, opposites.

Equality means providing each with the same.

Equity is providing each with what they need or deserve.

Since everyone needs or deserves something different, equity means providing each with something different, which is the opposite of providing each with the same.

Sometimes our goal is equality and sometimes our goal is equity. It is important that we know which we are working towards. Equal is an appropriate goal when things are standardized. Equity is the appropriate goal when we are presented with a diverse set of circumstances.

Sometimes it's a matter of perception. When you mow the lawn you cut a different amount off of each blade of grass (equity in the amount cut) to make them all the same height (equality in the amount left). Here's another example: All workers get paid $10 for each widget they produce. That's equal. Worker A produces 20 widgets and is paid $200. Worker B produces 30 widgets and is paid $300. That's equitable.

Since education is such a personal thing and student needs are driven by such a mind-boggling array of different influences, there is almost no way that, when it comes to education, equal will ever be equitable or, in many cases, desirable.

When students with disabilities are in class sizes of six while their typically developing peers are in class sizes of thirty, that is certainly not equal, but it may be equitable.

When students working beyond Standards get lessons that include elements from the grade level above their current grade level, and this instruction is not offered to their age peers working at grade level, that is not equal, but it is equitable.

Until we come to a shared perspective on the difference between equality and equity we cannot come together and advocate for each other. Until then we are each on our own and must struggle against each other for a share of a finite resource.

I think it's easy for people to see what their child needs and advocate for it. For that advocacy to have moral standing, however, it is necessary to also advocate for what other children need. This advocacy for other children must extend to include services which are not only different from what your child needs but might, at some time and in some way, require a compromise in meeting your child's needs completely.

Finally, even if we were to desire it, we simply can never achieve equality in education. Schools offer different programs, so schools will never be equal. Teachers are all different, so classrooms will never be equal. Teachers do not allocate their time with students with a stopwatch, so each child's experience can never be equal. Not only is equality not a desirable goal, it is not an attainable goal.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Fight is On for McCleary (using blackmail for leverage)

Over at Representative Chad Magendanz' Facebook page, there's quite the discussion over fulfilling McCleary and also what to do about charter schools.  He has much to say on both topics.
He starts with this:

Our bipartisan group working on the charter fix remains firmly committed to addressing the issues identified in the Supreme Court’s ruling and keeping our charter school doors open. The Senate committee testimony Thursday really highlighted the need for these innovative schools that serve our most impoverished areas, and the timing of the Court’s press release was particularly cruel to the students who travelled down to Olympia to show their support.

Again, as if the Court has time to tell their staff to keep them updated on what groups come to Olympia to speak to legislators.  That's just not plausible.   Also, that "bipartisan group" - I think their one Dem might be Seattle's Rep. Eric Pettigrew who seems to make it his life's work to just sign up for these groups.

So I asked, based on what Magendanz had written at the GOP Washington legislative page about McCleary and the state budget:

Teacher/Substitute Shortage a Strain in Washington State

OSPI has released their survey and its subsequent findings about teacher shortages in Washington State.

The survey

The findings.

From the survey:

Tuesday Open Thread

My colleagues in student data privacy are warning against anyone taking this so-called "most used word" Facebook quiz.  Read this article and see if you agree; if so, warn your kids.

Ever wanted to know more about school emergency and safety programs.  I found this great page at OSPI chock-full of good info.

The Times has a lot to say over a couple of days.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Closing Opportunity Gaps

I want to be sure that everyone has seen this. It's important.

An Action Plan for Accelerating Achievement
for African American Males
and Other Students of Color

In this document, the District commits to some very specific benchmarks:
  1. Every student will achieve proficiency in Reading and Mathematics by end of Grade 2.
  2. Every student will have a personal learning plan and an advocate/mentor to keep him on track to high school graduation and successful post-secondary transition.
  3. Every student will meet standards of performance in Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and Science at the end of key transition grades.
  4. Every student will receive fair and equitable treatment regarding discipline and access to rigorous instructional programs.
  5. Every student will graduate from high school prepared for success in college or career.
Whenever I see commitments of this kind from the School District, I always want to ask "What if it doesn't go like that?"

Who Has the Best Coverage of McCleary Decision? Boston

Or rather, the Boston Globe.  I had many people send me links to this story that appeared in the Globe on Saturday, Nov. 21st.  It's part of their "Divided Nation" series and I hope to read more of the articles ( they cover a number of topics, not just public education.)
Here was a self-described progressive state with a Democratic governor and House, an electorate that last year voted to improve school funding, and many cash-flush corporations famished for qualified graduates. If a solution to gridlock couldn’t be found here, how could other states — or the other Washington, the nation’s capital — break out of their political stalemates?

"I Take It Personally" - A Teacher's Response to a Governor

From The Washington Post's The Answer Sheet, a story about Indiana governor, Mike Pence,   remark that teachers "shouldn't take it personally" when their students' scores plummet because of a new state test.  One teacher, Donna Roof, a 30-year veteran teacher, answered back.  (In Indiana, teacher evaluations do use test scores although the Governor says that, given the test is new, they get a one-year reprieve.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Guest Post: Rep Gerry Pollet Meets with Charter School Parents and Students

By Representative Gerry Pollet, 46th District:

Thursday offered a “learning moment” for students in charter schools, parents and legislators.

Blue-shirted charter school students and parents came to the state capital to urge that legislators “save” their schools. Ironically, the Supreme Court released its opinion the same day reaffirming its prior unanimous opinion that charter schools were not “common schools” and its majority opinion striking down the entire charter school initiative as unconstitutional.
A group of 8 or 9 Summit Sierra Charter HS 9th graders and two parents were leaving my office as I returned from committee hearings. Although I had a large group waiting for their scheduled appointment with me, I didn’t want to disappoint high school students who had made the trek – and, were eager to tell me about the “unique” learning experience offered by their school.

So, I stopped to engage them. It was a learning moment for me, and I hope for the students as well – as students and I found some pre-established notions challenged by thought provoking questions. There are questions which legislators should be asking – and, they have surprising answers.