District Scorecard: 1 out of 23 goals met for 2013

The new district scorecard is available. Here’s the link. While the district made more gains than losses, it fell short of its own goals, particularly when it came to achievement among low income students. On state reading tests, 62 percent of students with free and reduced price lunches were proficient. This is a gain of 4 percent over last year, but falls far short of the district’s goal of 83 percent. On state math tests, 53 percent of students with free and reduced price lunches were proficient, another gain of 4 percent in a year, but far short of the goal of 69 percent.

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Attendance improvement brings sweet rewards

Aki Kurose Middle School was honored last week for its improved attendance record. As part of the Be Here Get There campaign, schools vied for prizes by improving their attendance as compared to the previous year. Aki Kurose Middle School increased attendance by 3.67 percent and was rewarded with Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream scooped by ten Seattle firefighters who donated their time.

According to Get Schooled, Aki Kurose won their reward through teamwork. The whole school acted as a team focused on a core issue – getting every child to school every day. Teachers stood in the lunchroom with megaphones, speaking to everyone about attendance. Staff made calls to parents to encourage them to encourage their students to come to school. Students who missed school received home visits and encouragement from staff to be in school. Classrooms posted their attendance rates. All of these efforts combined with a keenness for competition led them to success.

The students were congratulated by former Sounders player Taylor Graham, who told them “Whether it’s on the field or in the classroom, you have to show up to succeed. Students here at Aki Kurose made the commitment to succeed in school.”

The “Be Here Get There” attendance campaign launched in October and is a collaboration between the City of Seattle, Seattle Public Schools, the Alliance for Education, and Get Schooled, which aims to make schools engaging and attractive to students by rewarding students for having excellent attendance.

Read more here.

Watch an interview with superintendent candidate Steven Enoch

The West Seattle Blog has posted a video from one of the three 15 minute press interviews with Seattle superintendent candidate Steven Enoch.

In the interview, Enoch spoke about his experience as a teacher, principal and superintendent. He talked about the advantages of leading a small district saying, “When you’re in a smaller district you actually gain experience in just about every operation, which at least educates you enough to know what kind of questions to ask.”

His interest in Seattle comes from its successes, he said. “One of the reasons I’m interested in Seattle is it really by urban standards is a very successful school district and I don’t want us to lose that perspective, and I think that it’s a shame that the community loses that perspective. With that said, there are clearly achievement gaps, there are areas that need improvement and I come in with my eyes wide open in relationship to that.” Other issues he would tackle as superintendent include dealing with the city’s North-South divide, managing growth, and building public confidence and pride in Seattle’s schools.

In response to comments that described him as “forceful” or “hierarchical,” he said “The truth is in the eye of the beholder, but I think that I have been very collaborative in my work. I work well with the community and parents, I work well with the Board of Education. I think what I am, though, is that I’m a transparent person and I’m authentic. I think people need to hear honestly what I’m believing, what someone is believing is best for kids and what’s best for the school district.”

To learn more about Enoch, there are profiles on him in the Seattle Times and on King5.

Watch Superintendent canidate José Banda’s interview

The West Seattle Blog has posted a portion of one of Seattle Superintendent Candidate José Banda’s interview.

In the interview, Banda touts his work with students of color and  ELL students. He also conducted part of the interview in Spanish, in which he is fluent.

When asked about going from Anaheim’s PreK-6th grade district to Seattle’s K-12 district, Banda, who was once a high school principal, responded, “I’ve spent half of my career in secondary education… For me now, being in an elementary school district, a K-6, and the largest one in Orange County, I think it’s given me that focus on that early foundation of education.” He also added that doesn’t mean that all of his efforts will be in early learning and that each grade level is important and needs attention.

Banda also discussed the various meetings he’s had in Seattle stating, “What comes through loud and clear in this sense of commitment…the fact that people are genuinely concerned about the education system here. I think it will only be an asset to strengthening that public school system and improving the structure for children.”

Along the course of the video, Banda addresses several issues facing Seattle schools including high management turnover, parental engagement, standards based instruction, issues facing ELL families and much more.

Check out the video below:

Seattle Times: Seattle superintendent search process raises concern

This article originally appeared in the Seattle Times on April 3.

In about a month, the Seattle School Board will choose the next leader of the city’s public schools.

You will not meet this person before he or she is chosen.

That’s because, unlike in previous superintendent searches, the board has decided not to let members of the public directly question the finalists at a public meeting.

Instead, each of the three finalists will interview with the board and a 25-person focus group, visit a school and hold a 45-minute news conference.

The reason, in part, is that board members are worried that the candidates would be scared off by overly negative questioning at public meetings. Members also said they think they’ll get more useful feedback from the focus group.

Read the whole article here.

Editorial: Keep the superintendent search as open as possible

This editorial originally appeared in the Seattle Times on March 27

Community engagement on Seattle’s biggest hire — the next superintendent of the Seattle Public Schools — is critical. The School Board should modify a search plan to include more interaction between finalists and the public.

A group of 25 community leaders and school parents has been selected by the board to interview candidates. A news conference with the finalists is good, for journalists.

But the public has a stake in this and rightly wants to be heard.

Read the full editorial here.

Article: ‘Creative Approach Schools’ advances in Seattle despite issues

This article originally appeared in the Seattle Times on March 26.

In the spring of 2010, leaders of Seattle’s teachers union began seeing signs that reform-minded forces would soon make another big push to bring charter schools into Washington state, which the union has long opposed.

Huddled together in their Georgetown office, the leaders came up with a possible pre-emptive strike against a key argument in support of charter schools — that their use of unique methods allows them to help some students who don’t succeed in normal schools.

“We wanted to be able to say that there’s no reason to have charters in Seattle,” union Vice President Jonathan Knapp said. “Because the thing that they always say is that charters provide flexibility. Well, we can have flexibility in public schools, too.”

And so, with agreement from the Seattle Public Schools administration, the concept of a “Creative Approach School” was born.

Read the full article here

Column: Program bridges learning gap

Jerry Large, a columnist for The Seattle Times, wrote this week about the success of the Rainier Scholars program at Aki Kurose Middle School.

It made me happy to see a group of 11- and 12-year-olds sitting together smiling and laughing. It was Saturday morning, around 8:30, and they were starting school. When the questions began, their hands went up eagerly.

This happens every weekend for a diverse group of students who attend different schools but come together for classes at Aki Kurose Middle School in Seattle’s South End.

I don’t doubt that some of them might want to be doing something else, but once they are there, they are engaged.

The students who meet at Aki are part of the Rainier Scholars program, which helps children from minority, usually low-income families achieve in school and beyond. Dropout rates for children in their demographic groups tend to be high, but these kids are going to finish school and go to college.

Read the full column here.

Tim Burgess: Seattle is Leading on Education Reform

This op-ed was originally published in Publicola on Monday, March 5th

There has been lots of discussion lately about the best path forward on public school reform. There has even been a public airing of the frustration some Democrats feel over the slow pace of reform and their belief that teachers’ unions are dragging their feet and resisting substantive changes to the status quo.

While these debates continue, Seattle is purposefully moving forward with an initiative predicated on a fundamental tenet of education reform—that we should measure student academic performance and adjust our strategies when performance lags. This initiative, the Families and Education Levy, is backed by a broad coalition of teachers, parents, education leaders, community organizations, and by the local teachers union, the Seattle Education Association.

Later today, the City Council will vote on legislation establishing the implementation and evaluation plan for the Levy. Seattle voters approved this measure by a 64% margin last November, agreeing to tax themselves $232 million over the next seven years to fund special interventions to help the city’s most academically at risk students and schools.


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Opinion: Seattle is a leader in education reform

This op-ed was originally published on Publicola on Monday, March 5th

There has been lots of discussion lately about the best path forward on public school reform. There has even been a public airing of the frustration some Democrats feel over the slow pace of reform and their belief that teachers’ unions are dragging their feet and resisting substantive changes to the status quo.

While these debates continue, Seattle is purposefully moving forward with an initiative predicated on a fundamental tenet of education reform—that we should measure student academic performance and adjust our strategies when performance lags. This initiative, the Families and Education Levy, is backed by a broad coalition of teachers, parents, education leaders, community organizations, and by the local teachers union, the Seattle Education Association.

Later today, the City Council will vote on legislation establishing the implementation and evaluation plan for the Levy. Seattle voters approved this measure by a 64% margin last November, agreeing to tax themselves $232 million over the next seven years to fund special interventions to help the city’s most academically at risk students and schools.

Frankly, the Levy is a radical departure from the status quo in public education. While the argument about linking teacher evaluations to student performance continues, the Levy takes the step of linking funding of our partners (schools and nonprofit organizations) to student performance. The focus is on student academic achievement, not the good intentions of the adults or school administration. At the same time, it does honor the crucial importance of effective teachers, strong principals and family engagement.

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