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.
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.”
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
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.
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...]
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.
It won the 2013 Partnership District Award for family and community engagement, a prize awarded by Johns Hopkins University.
KPLU has a story.
By Fiona Cohen
Seattle Public Schools won’t have an exact count of students until October, but one thing is clear already: the numbers are up for the seventh year in a row.
District staffers estimate the number of students now surging through school hallways to be around 51,000. That’s last year’s student population plus the number of students in a big, full, comprehensive middle school, such as Hamilton International Middle School, one of many public school buildings stuffed to the max.
The teeming masses of kids aren’t a surprise. They are well within population projections made by the district, as it adjusts to a trend of more families staying in the city instead of moving to the suburbs. But as any 6-year-old trying to make it to the bathroom from a portable classroom can tell you, it creates a strain.
So the district is scrambles to relieve the pressure, dropping clusters of portables, moving programs around, renovating old schools and building new ones. Along the way, it has set off some passionate debates, and for many good reasons. One big one: where a school building makes a huge difference to whether working families can send their kids there. If the district is to close the opportunity gap, it needs to pay close attention to how these decisions affect kids in all zip codes.
Here is one drama:
K-5 STEM at Boren is a year-old elementary option program emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math (the STEM). It is how housed at the former Louisa Boren Junior High School in the mixed-income Delridge Neighborhood of West Seattle. The trouble is, Boren isn’t a permanent home, and the district wants to move the program elsewhere, so they can use the Boren building as housing for other schools having their buildings renovated.
The latest proposal is to leave the program where it is until 2016, and then move it to the Schmitz Park Elementary site, when the extremely overcrowded neighborhood school moves to a bigger building. The trouble is, Schmitz Park is in a very different part of West Seattle, a leafier part with Sound views and bigger houses. The Schmitz Park Elementary School’s demographics reflect that: 13 percent of students last year received free and reduced-price lunches, and 74 percent were white – a contrast to K-5 STEM at Boren, where 34 percent of students received free and reduced price lunches, and 50 percent were white.
Heidi Alessi, the outgoing president of the West Seattle STEM PTA testified at the Aug 21 board meeting that moving the school from mixed-income Delridge to Schmitz Park would likely result in this special program becoming less accessible to many of the families whose kids now go there.
She argued that moving such a good program away from poor kids and toward rich kids undermines the district’s efforts to close the opportunity gap. Even with bus service, having a school outside the neighborhood is harder on families.
“We would like to remain a diverse school: 50 percent student of color and 50 percent white,” Alessi said.
Another controversy: to make way for a re-opened comprehensive middle school in the Meany Building, the district wants to move NOVA, a small creative approach high school that focuses on project based learning, to the Horace Mann Building, next year once it has been renovated. To do construction, they’d need to evict a variety of community groups, including some whose mission is to address the opportunity gap and end the school to prison pipe-line. Superintendent Jose Banda stopped construction and called a task force to meet and find a solution that will benefit everyone. So far, nothing announced. Bryan Cohen (no relation) at the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog has the latest.
There are more dilemmas in the making. At the end of the month the district is holding five community meetings in different parts of the city to talk about changes to elementary and middle school catchment boundaries.
If you care about educational equity pay attention to what goes on there.
The Seattle School District is working on re-writing its plan for improving its Special Education program after the state rejected it, saying that if the problems aren’t address, the district risks losing federal money, reports the Seattle Times.
From the story:
“Last spring, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction gave the district 18 months to fix longstanding problems or risk losing about $11 million a year in federal support.
Doug Gill, the office’s special-education director, said Monday that the district’s latest proposal for fixing those problems, dated Aug. 29, is closer to the mark than the plan submitted in June and rejected later in the summer.
“This particular plan is certainly an improvement in both depth and content from the prior plan,” Gill said. “We just want to be sure that everybody is on the same page in terms of what the requirements and expectations are.”
But in a Sept. 6 letter to the district, Gill told the district it needs to explain more specifically what steps it’s taking to train principals and teachers in individual buildings and ensure their compliance with district-wide special-education policies.
The district aims to respond by Sept. 20.”
The kicker: The district’s special education department, which has had constant turnover of top administrators (it’s on its eighth executive director in five years), is about to lose its second in command, special-education director Stacey McCrath-Smith, who is about to become associate director of special education with the Lake Washington School District.
The Our Schools Coalition, a large and diverse community coalition representing parents, local non-profits, regional employers and community leaders in support of all students, urges Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association to return to the negotiating table in the wake of SEA’s vote to reject the district’s contract proposal tonight.
We speak as taxpayers, parents, citizens of Seattle, passionate supporters of public education, and the school district’s stakeholders. We ask the district and the union to ensure that school begins on time and to problem-solve together the best ways to support students through this contract. We have and will continue to urge the parties to build their contract around the research-based and publicly supported  Our Schools Coalition platform. Public opinion research found overwhelming support for the platform from 89% of Seattle voters and 93% of SPS parents.
50,000 students and their families are ready and excited to start school next week. We urge both sides to act on their behalf.
The complete Our Schools Coalition platform, including public opinion data, can be found here. Highlights include recommendations to:
Expand summer learning opportunities
Implement alternative student discipline policies
Improve professional development
Speed the hiring timeline to ensure Seattle has access to the best teaching talent
Improve ways to recognize, retain and reward exceptional teachers
End the failed policy of “forced placement”
Utilize multiple measures – including student perception surveys – to inform teacher evaluations
This package of proposals is strongly supported by SPS parents and Seattle taxpayers. These improvements would serve students and build on the strides made in the 2010 collective bargaining agreement. As part of that agreement, SPS and SEA took additional steps to co-design the tool that tracks and measures student academic growth. This commitment to collaboration and joint problem-solving should continue.
OSC Members: Partial List as of August 26, 2013
Alliance for Education
Black Education Strategies Roundtable
Bruce Harrell, Seattle City Council Member
Centerstone (formerly CAMP)
Democrats for Education Reform
El Centro de la Raza
Heidi Bennett, Parent Leader
League of Education Voters
Moderate Voice of Parents (MVP)
Mona Bailey, Deputy Superintendent, SPS (Ret.)
Partnership for Learning
Richard Conlin, Seattle City Council Member
Sally Bagshaw, Seattle City Council Member
Sally J. Clark, Seattle City Council President
Schools Out Washington
Seattle Alliance of Black School Educators
Seattle Breakfast Group
Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
Seattle Student Senate
Stand for Children
Steve Sundquist, fmr School Board President
Tim Burgess, Seattle City Council Member
Tom Rasmussen, Seattle City Council Member
Washington Policy Center
Washington Technology Industry Association
For questions please contact Karen Waters at 206-334-0822
 Public opinion data indicates support for the platform from 89 percent of Seattle voters and 93 percent of SPS parents as measured by citywide poll, n=439, January 13-19, 2013. Margin of error 6.9%/200 voters, 6.3%/239 parents.