Yes, the public schools do need fixing

If you want to work for the betterment of public education, you get used to a certain amount of smack talk.  But when the sniping goes so far as to deny that we do have profound problems and inequities in our schools, then it goes too far.

Let’s go into this step by step, using one example: third grade reading.

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Seattle student growth by the bubbles

Earlier this week, the office of the superintendent of public instruction released a big bundle of data on student improvement in Math and Reading MSP and in Algebra. The way they measure it, creating a figure called Student Growth Percentile, is a bit involved. Here’s a handy video explaining it.

Here is an overview of the results for Seattle Public Schools. For bigger charts with more data – including the names of the schools the hot pink dots represent — you need to go here, and do the following:

  1. click on “Static Data Files” (a blue box on the right hand side),
  2. in the “Select a Subject Area” menu on the right hand side, click on “Assessment.”
  3. Click on “SGP District (All Schools Bubble Plots.)
  4. Scroll down to find the Seattle Public Schools file.


Here are the growth results for reading, for math, and for Algebra 1. The hot pink dots are Seattle schools. The pale pink dots are other schools in Washington.









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School’s out, so check out the library.

School doors will be closed, but the libraries will stay open through most of the break . At Stanislo Elementary, they’re encouraging kids to make use of that. The school is having an event at the Delridge Branch’s meeting room from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. They’ll have snacks, board games, and a computer on hand, so that families can learn about the public library’s electronic resources. They’ll also give away free books, said Stanislo teacher-librarian Craig Seasholes. The Seattle Public Library’s branches are open regular hours through most of the break, closing on Dec. 24, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1, and closing at 6 p.m. on Dec. 31. And while they are open they are hosting a variety of free events for school-aged kids, including movies, craft sessions, and something called Lego Mania! (The exclamation point is part of the name.) Lego Mania has been running at the Northgate Branch of the Seattle Public Library every Monday after from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. since August. (It’ll stop for a while starting in January, because someone else is using the room.) The librarians put out three plastic tubs of legos, play some music, and let the kids create. It’s been very popular, says Northgate Branch children’s librarian Claire Scott. During the second week of the break, the event will go to three other branches. Lego fits with the library’s mission because it is a very educational toy, promoting math and engineering skills, Scott says. “It all connects to the learning goals we have as a library,” she says. Scott enjoys watching how different kinds of kids work with Legos. For some, it’s a social activity, and they work together. For others it is a chance to retreat into the world of building. “Different kids have different things they need.” Stops for the Lego Mania! Tour: Dec. 31 South Park Branch from 2 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. Jan. 2 Columbia Branch from 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. Jan. 3 Lake City Branch from 1:30 p.m. until 3 p.m. -By Fiona Cohen

Smack talk in Seattle

I’ve been mulling over this analysis of national education politics for a while. A lot of it is bang on, and, if you add a heaping cup of Seattle self-righteousness, it’s pretty good at describing the rather combative tone of our education politics of late.

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Speaking of donating to classrooms

The folks at Teachers United have their own open-source funding project, called Build Your Vision. They are raising money for a project by Louise Wong, who teaches biology and physical science at Rainier Beach high school.

Wong wants to equip her class with eight ipads, and eight cameras that connect microscopes to ipad screens.

Here are some examples of what new worlds Wong’s students will be able to explore.

“Just a few examples of how these tools can be immediately used by students:

  • Therapeutic uses of liposomes (microscopic sacs made of phospholipid protein) – Students will be challenged to design a protocol to make the liposomes small enough to carry as cell membrane protein that can target cancer cells, using the cameras and software for sizing and modeling.
  • Time-lapse photographs of cells intaking water – Students will be pushed to use their knowledge of osmosis and solvent concentrations to determine the environment that will cause their cells to gain the highest percent of water and defend their arguments using the photographic evidence.
  • Investigative models – Students will create animations of a cell’s transformation as it goes through mitosis by stitching together images taken by the cameras.”Louise with her students on a field expedition on the Elwah River

Students will also put the equipment to use during field research on the Elwha River. Here’s a picture of Ms. Wong and some students on site.


by Fiona Cohen

Highlights from Donors Choose

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s our monthly sampling of projects that Seattle Public School teachers are seeking to fund through Donors Choose.

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Road Map by the Numbers.

By Fiona Cohen

The Education Results Network met on Thursday to report on the progress of the Road Map Project, a massive effort to double the number of students from South King County and South Seattle who are on track to graduate from college or get a career credential by 2020.

Here’s some numbers from that meeting:

20,000: Estimated number of “opportunity youth” – that is, Americans aged 16 to 24 who are disconnected from education and work – in the road map area. The Education Results Network this year received a grant from the Aspen Institute to work with these youth.

180,000: Estimated number of residents of the Road Map area without health insurance who will qualify for free or low cost health insurance starting Jan. 1 2014, thanks to Obamacare. King County Public health is reaching out to these people, encouraging them to enroll.

1,279: Number of Road Map area seniors who participated in College Application Completion Events in 2012. This is out of about 8,000 from that meeting.

94 percent: percentage of eligible 8th graders in Road Map schools who signed up for the College Bound Scholarship by the June 30 deadline.

And here’s a date.

Oct 16. Discover U.

This “will be a day for all students in 275 schools across Seattle and South King County to explore their interests and think about their futures.  As part of DiscoverU, schools will be working to build excitement around college and career for students in kindergarten through high school.” To set the mood, adults around the schools will wear gear from their colleges.

West Seattle Parents Talk Future Boundaries

By Fiona Cohen

Seattle Public Schools brought three interpreters to Wednesday night’s meeting in West Seattle High School, the third in a series of five community meetings about the proposed changes to school boundaries, which would take place over the next seven years, as student population grows and new schools are built.

The Vietnamese-language interpreter and the Spanish-language interpreter had little to do other than to show people to the sign-up sheets.

Most of the 95 people signed in were white and spoke English as a first language.

But there were other voices heard from. The Somali-language interpreter read a letter from a mother of six who lives in the High Point neighborhood. She wrote to express her opposition to a boundary shift that would change the elementary school, middle school and high school her kids would go to. Instead of going to West Seattle Elementary, which is in High Point, they would go to a new school called Fairmount Park, across 35th Ave. Instead of going to Denny International Middle School, they would go to Madison, twice as far away, and instead of going to Chief Sealth, they would go to West Seattle.

A woman who works with families at High Point said she was sad to see the meeting going on without them represented.

“I look around and I see a lot of concerned parents, but not a lot of the people I work with,” she said. She invited school district staff to come and have another meeting at High Point’s neighborhood house. She didn’t get an answer at the meeting – staff were there to make the presentation and listen to feedback. I hope she gets an answer, and I hope it’s ‘yes.’ [Read more…]

Our Schools Coalition – Community Voice in Seattle Public Schools

We are fellow Seattle Public School parents, local employers, community volunteers and taxpayers. Above all we are passionate supporters of public education. Our diverse group of nearly 40 citywide organizations and community leaders united to express the community’s voice in teacher contract negotiations, to advocate for our children, and to support teachers as professionals.

Learn more. Get involved. Join us.

Seattle Public Schools Wins National Award for Family Engagement Program.

It won the 2013 Partnership District Award for family and community engagement, a  prize awarded by  Johns Hopkins University.

KPLU has a story.