Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Union Issue: What To Do With Teachers Who Don’t Pass HOUSSE?

I’m vice-president of my local, and in our conversations with our superintendent we’ve had an issue come up that I’m not quite sure how to address. The district office has gone through and done the Highly Qualified paperwork on every teacher in the district, and there are only two who haven’t reached the 100 points required to have met the standard.

This really shouldn’t be a big deal. If they would pass the Praxis, they’d be qualified. If they’d take a class, they’d be qualified. If they’d head a committee, they’d be qualified. They can keep their current positions by developing a plan to get the points they need, and that would be that.

One of them, though, is refusing to do anything. He’s got better than 30 years in, but doesn’t want to retire for a variety of reasons. It sounds like he’s being polite about things, but he’s made his decision: he’s not interested in following any of the avenues to become highly qualified.

As an association, this is putting us in a bind. The district is proposing that he be moved into a position that he is qualified for, which could easily start a ripple effect that would result in 5 people being displaced as we bump around the district.

The more militant wing of my exec board is proposing that we throw the guy under a bus by writing new contract language where teachers who aren’t HQ are RIF’ed until a position that they are qualified for opens. No one expects to actually have to RIF people; the thought is that having the threat out there would be enough to prompt them to do what needs to be done under the law.

For my part, I’m hoping that the Uniserv has language we can use that will make everybody happy. Our current contract is completely silent on the issue; when we had our last negotiation, the rules were so nebulous that it was hard to see what was coming.

So, if you were the union muckity-muck, what would you do? Do you let the not-HQ guy take 5 other people out with him, or do you cut loose a 30-year veteran because of a hole in the law?

Read more here, if any.

From the Classroom

Today’s true conversation that I wish I was clever enough to have made up:

“Z, honey, I need you to stop being ADD for a moment and pay attention to me.”
“But Mr. Rain! I’m not just ADD, I’m A-D-H-D!”

Well then, carry on. Who am I to argue with your diagnosis?


One of my little boys has been out of his mind lately. Couldn’t pay attention to anything, weird behaviors, lashing out at the kids. A phone call to mom was illuminating: his dad was coming back soon from a deployment to Iraq, and that was most likely giving him a ton of anxiety. Not that there’s anything wrong with his dad, mind you—it’s just the process that all of our military families go through with the coming-and-going that is a part of Air Force life. It’s a very real side effect of the war that most people don’t get to see.


“Mr. Rain, can I go to the bathroom?”
“Not in here, honey. That would be gross.”
“Not in here, in the bathroom!”
“Oh. Can you wait until tomorrow?”
(shocked) “No!”
“Well, take the pass with you.”
--kid walks out, shaking head—

Read more here, if any.

I Read WE So You Don’t Have To!

The highlights from this month’s edition of WE Magazine, from the WEA:

  • Charles Hasse leads off by taking some shots at Terry Bergeson, which is either King Kong vs. Godzilla or Dr. Doom vs. Magneto, depending on your point of view.

  • “A voter poll last month found that just 34 percent feel she is doing a good job,” sez Charles. I would be interested to know what the questions bracketing that particular question were, because I’d be awfully surprised if 34% of the voters in Washington could even tell you who Terry Bergeson is.

  • His next quibble with Terry: “She has issued no comprehensive report regarding adequate school funding in the decade she has served.” OK, but the closest we have right now is Washington Learns, which has Bergeson’s fingerprints all over it. Further, it’s telling that neither the WEA nor the group suing the state for increased funding has offered an adequacy number.

  • When that number comes out, I will be taking wagers as to whether it is over or under the cost to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct. Personally, I’d bet the over.

  • “She measured inflation not with the CPI, but with the Implicit Price Deflator, an index specially designed to underestimate price increases.” I have no commentary on that; I just like the phrase “implicit price deflator.

  • Newly elected state senator Chris Marr is pictured in this issue, which I believe is the second consecutive he’s been in. The WEA in general and the Eastern Council in particular worked like demons to get him elected, and if I’d lived in his district I would have voted for him. He seems like a real dynamic guy.

  • 407 more teachers have become National Board Certified. If only it made a difference.

  • In an article about the union dues case that was recently argued before the Supreme Court (ably covered by Jim over at 5/17) it’s pointed out that even if the Court rules against the WEA it means that it will be sent back to the lower court to resolve the “narrower technical issues.” It’s an interesting question: even if the WEA loses, what will the practical effect be?

  • The Network for Excellence in Washington Schools is the group that filed the lawsuit earlier this month, and they have a website.

  • A new round of grant applications is open at the NEA Foundation’s website. Go get yourself some money!

  • Finally, the Rule of 85 is being pushed in the legislature via HB 1199. Were that to become the law I could get my full retirement at age 54. Wonderful theory, but I’m on Plan 3, so that’s not bloody likely.

Read more here, if any.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

An Inconvenient Movie for Washington Schools

A couple of weeks ago the Federal Way Public Schools that were having a fit over An Inconvenient Truth, a situation which is hopefully over now, according to the Seattle Times. Towards the end of the article, though, there's one of those awkward little quotes that shows you they still don't get it:
Board members have said they hope this controversy will start a healthy debate about global warming.

I had a little bit of empathy for Federal Way's case, because there we were talking about what was going on in the classroom. The news out of Yakima, though, seems a bit ridiculous:
Eisenhower High School principal Stacey Locke has halted an after-school screening of Al Gore's Oscar-nominated documentary on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," insisting the decision was based in process, not politics.

The school's Environmental Club's plan to show the film last week seemed to be in line with its mission: "To promote current environmental ideas throughout the school." But when club adviser Nancy Lust mentioned the plan to Locke in passing, the principal hit the brakes.

"That is not how we handle any supplemental materials. That usually goes to committee to determine the educational value," Locke explained this week.

Now, a recommendation on whether the movie will be shown at Eisenhower lies with the school's instructional materials committee, which includes administrative, teacher and parent representatives. Locke, who has not seen the movie yet, has the final say.


"In Federal Way, they were trying to use it in the instructional process in the school day," Locke said. "They (Ike's Environmental Club) were trying to show it after school but under the umbrella of Eisenhower High School. The perception is that they have school support."

Really, is that the perception? I think most teenagers are sophisticated enough to distinguish between an official school message and one that comes from a club within the school. And let's repeat: this is the Environmental Club we're talking about, which takes this next clip into the absurd:

"We have a school board policy that very clearly outlines a process for use of supplemental materials," said Jack Irion, deputy superintendent of Yakima Public Schools.

"We need to have folks review that film and if there is another side, have that presented. If what we are showing is an issue, we need to make sure we are reviewing both sides," he said.

But that means more work for club members if they want to continue their plan to view the movie. After meeting Tuesday morning with Locke, they now have to come up with an opposite view to present -- "So we don't give the audience only one view," said Ike senior José Vazquez, president of the Environmental Club.
Roll that around your head for a minute. The environmental club might be told that, to show An Inconvenient Truth, they also need to present materials opposed to the movie. The Environmental Club could be put in a position where they have to present the case of the polluters.

While I'm having fun with logical fallacies, let's hop on a slippery slope! Should the Religion Club have to show Saved! right along side The Passion of the Christ? The Young Republicans forced into Fahrenheit 9/11 before they can watch tonight's O'Reilly Factor? Can a school work too hard to achieve a neutral mien, and in the process become irrelevant?

Read more here, if any.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

After a thorough investigation, I find myself not guilty!

Down in Texas the state education agency has cleared nearly 600 schools of cheating on the TAKS because....they filled out a survey. From the Dallas Morning News:

Nearly 600 Texas public schools have been cleared of suspicions of cheating, state officials said Thursday, leaving 105 other schools still under investigation.

Texas Education Agency officials cited the clearing of 592 schools as evidence of the integrity of the state's influential testing system.


The investigation stems from a report produced in May by Caveon, a test-security firm. It analyzed schools' scores on the 2005 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and tried to determine which schools had unusual patterns that could suggest cheating.

The report flagged 700 schools for a variety of reasons, including scores that jumped too quickly, answer sheets with too many erasures and students whose answer patterns suggested they might have copied off a classmate.


After some deliberation, state officials decided this fall to investigate the schools. But the schools received different levels of scrutiny. Sixty-five received on-site visits by teams from the agency, in which investigators interviewed educators and other staff about test security.

Instead, the remaining 635 schools were asked to complete a questionnaire asking about a variety of test-security matters. Topics included school policies on cellphone use, the training provided to test monitors, security measures taken to protect test documents, and the straightforward "Did anything out of the ordinary occur that has not previously been reported?"

This seems rather akin to asking the WEA if they're doing a good job with the union dues issue, or asking the EFF how they feel about the schools.

Read more here, if any.


How's this for accountability? From the Chicago Tribune:

The Chicago Public Schools system is proposing a new plan to help "deficient" principals, who will get about a year to improve their performance before facing the ax.

On Wednesday, the Board of Education is set to approve the policy, which creates a system of "support and remediation" for contract principals, who rarely are threatened with dismissal for performance because it is costly to break their four-year contracts.


Of the 18 principals disciplined in 2005-06, three were fired for performance reasons and one retired. Ten principals came off the list, and four still face possible sanctions this school year, district officials said. One new principal was placed on corrective action so far this year.

The principals currently facing corrective action are at Piccolo, Bass, Bond, Reed and Oglesby Elementary Schools, district officials said.

I'll acknowledge that they didn't name names, but what would you think if you opened your newspaper and saw that the principal of your school was a failure?

And it doesn't seem like it's a far step from naming the principals to naming failing teachers, either. That would be.....mind-boggling.

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Read more here, if any.

The Class that Dare Not Speak Its Name

Down in Oregon, they're putting on one of those sex ed classes that make parents scream:
MILWAUKIE -- The North Clackamas School Board has approved a sex-education curriculum that coaches students in refusing sexual advances and includes a lesson for eighth-graders on how to use a condom.

The board also approved a list of sensitive topics last week that teachers can address, including homosexuality, abortion, pornography and some sexual acts. Teachers will not teach lessons about those subjects but can answer questions about them if students ask.

Sex ed is also on the minds of the Seattle P-I:
By requiring sex education standards, the Legislature could help young people stay healthy, prevent pregnancy and act responsibly.

Bills from Rep. Shay Schual-Berke and Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen would require medically accurate information be taught in districts that choose to offer sex education. The measures, HB 1297 and SB 5297, also would forbid teaching abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Given the state's view of itself as relatively enlightened, it might be assumed that districts already would be following such sound practices. They all have access to clear guidelines developed by the state Department of Health and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

But a recent survey of school districts by an advocacy group, Healthy Youth Alliance, found that one-fifth teach abstinence without other strategies. And teachers in nearly one-third of the responding districts are forbidden to discuss condoms or contraception in sex education classes, which aren't required by the state. (AIDS education is required.) Roughly a quarter also had rules against discussions of abortion and homosexuality, according to an Associated Press report on the survey.

Pregnancy rates among young people in this country run higher than in most industrialized countries. Better information is part of developing healthier, more responsible behavior.

I know that this is one of those things that parents are supposed to teach their kids, but personally I wanted nothing NOTHING at all to do with hearing this from Mom and Dad. At least I had faith that the teacher was a fairly neutral party, and didn't live in my house.

Read more here, if any.

Monday, January 22, 2007


After the math WASL passed away in November, it was only a matter of time. From the Olympian:

Some lawmakers are floating the idea of delaying the Washington Assessment of Student Learning reading and writing high-school graduation requirements, piggybacking off a proposal to delay the math requirement.

Current state law requires members of the high school Class of 2008 to pass all three sections of the WASL in order to graduate.

Only 58 percent of the state's juniors have passed the 10th grade WASL math exam. There are measures pending in the Legislature, supported by Gov. Chris Gregoire and state schools superintendent Terry Bergeson, that would postpone the math requirement until 2011.

Students did better in reading and writing than math, with 87 percent having passed the reading exam and 86 percent having passed the writing exam.

But Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, chairwoman of the Senate education committee, and her House counterpart, Rep. Dave Quall, D-Mount Vernon, said they're open to the possibility of delaying those requirements also.

"We can't just do math and not think about the kids who failed the other subjects," McAuliffe said, noting that there are still 16,472 of the state's juniors who haven't passed the reading portion and 17,444 who haven't passed the writing exam.

Many of those are minority, disabled and disadvantaged students, she said.

"What do we say to them?" she said. "We have to really answer to those kids who are struggling."

What do you tell them? In some cases you tell them to get to summer school, take advantage of the tutoring options that are available, that you're going to take the second math class instead of the second PE class. To others you say that they're going to take a different version of the WASL, because that's what their IEP calls for. To still others you offer the WAAS.

And to others, who don't try, don't show up, and expect a diploma just because, you say you're sorry but that's not how the system works any longer. You do it with empathy and you show them a way, but you do it because it's the right thing to do.

Rainy Prediction: The reading and writing sections will continue to be graduation requirements, but look for the Science WASL to go the way of math sometime soon. After four years of the math WASL 38.9% of the kids were meeting standard--it's only 35.0% on science so far, so the situation is worse.

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Read more here, if any.

The Seattle Papers on School Funding

The Seattle Times:

Washington's 296 school districts are not adequately supported by the state. Strapped districts cobble together local resources such as levies to create a funding level that is neither stable nor enough.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, is not overreaching. It requests a court order requiring the state to affirm its constitutional obligation, cost it out and pay it.


We don't like budgeting by lawsuit. But the sorry state of education funding cries out for the force of law to fix it.

The Seattle P-I:
School districts and a host of supporters have finally gone to court with a long-obvious problem. The state is defying its own constitution by refusing to fund public education at anywhere close to levels adequate to meet the needs of all students.


While it is regrettable that public dollars will need to be spent on lawyers, experts and depositions, it is more important that words in our state constitution have real meaning. The state can't win this suit. One way to limit legal expenses would be to negotiate a settlement that honors the words and intentions of the state's founders.

There is a certain bitter irony to the notion that taxpayer dollars (vis-a-vis the schools) will be used to pay the lawyers to sue the state for more taxpayer dollars, which will defend itself by hiring lawyers with taxpayer dollars. It's almost enough to make me vote Rossi in 2008.

Read more here, if any.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Inflexibility....MAKE HULK MAD!!!

I feel for my friends on the westside, I really do. Here in Spokane we had some snow that never went away, but over there they've gotten dumped on again, and again, and again. The end result is that some school districts are up to two weeks behind, and that's going to impact the WASL. From the Seattle Times:

Area school districts soon will decide how to make up as many as 10 inclement-weather days this year — and whether students need that time in the classroom before the Washington Assessment of Student Learning this spring.


The state requires students to attend school for 180 days. Districts make up inclement-weather days by using teacher in-service days, adding days at the end of the school year, or enacting other scheduling changes.

The WASL, however, is locked in.

"It's unfortunate that we've had so many unusually challenging winter-weather days that students have had to miss more school than usual, but the testing window won't be moved," said Molly O'Connor, assessment communications manager for OSPI. The WASL schedule is set several years in advance and planned around religious holidays and other extracurricular activities, such as sports, she said.

State Sen. Jim Clements, R-Selah, on Wednesday proposed a bill that would allow school districts not to have to make up days missed "due to unforeseen natural events or mechanical failures."

Those last two paragraphs strike me as ridiculous, for different reasons. We can work the WASL around the sports schedule (read: state basketball and Springfest), but we can't work around the weather? My guess is that this has everything to do with the amount of time it takes to get the tests scored and returned for AYP-accounting purposes and nothing to do with what's in the best interest of the kids or schools, which is profoundly wrong.

Then there's the idea of not having to make up snow days. This I'm guessing is a matter of parental convenience, because spring break travel plans are usually made far in advance and Johnny's going to go to Mazatlan whether it fits into the school schedule or not, but that still doesn't make it the right thing to do.

Read more here, if any.

LASER? I hardly knows ‘er!

LASER stands for Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform, one of those public-private partnerships aimed at improving the sad state of science here in the Evergreen State. The genesis of it I don’t know, but my district started getting on board last year by sending teachers to trainings on the kits (from FOSS, IIRC) that would replace the kits we currently had. The kits would no longer be stored on-site, we were told; instead, the local ESD would bring them to us and restock them as needed. Sounded good.

The execution, though, has been bungled completely. Take my team of four 1st grade teachers. Two of us have had the training on the weather kit, two haven’t. You wouldn’t think that would be a big deal, but the two who know aren’t allowed to show us who don’t how to use the kit—you have to have attended the 18 hours (3 days!) of training before the ESD will send it to you. The result is that half of the 1st graders will get one science kit and half the other, which makes everything we’ve been told about a “cohesive curriculum” seem like so much crap.

Consider, too, that there are three kits we’re going to learn in 1st grade. I haven’t attended any of the trainings yet, and I’m not on the schedule to go to any this year. My principal told me that each of the three kits requires three days of training, so there’s 9 days. I asked my principal if that meant I was looking at 9 days of training NEXT YEAR out of 180 and he said no, they would be spaced out over the next three years. That turns our adoption of LASER into a 5-year process before we can teach the new kits, but we’ll still be responsible for the old kits, and that’s a giant bone of contention.

I know what we’re going to hear from the administration is, “Have the teachers who have been trained teach the kits to the classes of the teachers who haven’t been trained!” It’s a nice theory, but the reality of working around everyone’s prep times is insurmountable. If there are even 15 lessons associated with each kit that would be 45 days that we’d have to find, and as our schedule stands now that’s not possible in the confines of a 6.5 hour day.

The other thing that’s driving teachers in my district nuts is that the surrounding districts are doing it so much better than we are. They’re sending their entire grade-level teams to the training in one fell swoop instead of parceling it out a teacher a shot the way mine is. Our teachers go to these trainings and are told by the facilitator that he thinks our district is “screwing up royally,” and that’s the attitude they bring back. The result is that LASER is very nearly DOA before we’ve even gotten started, and that’s a damn shame.

So, if YOUR district is thinking of taking this on, here’s some thoughts from someone who’s there right now:

  1. Send the entire team to each training. If they have to attend to teach the kit, then you might as well get it out of the way.
  2. Even better, get yourself a good Science Coach who can attend the Train the Trainers workshop and then show all your teachers how to do the kits. Sub costs being how they are, it seems like that would actually save money in the long run.
  3. Know what you’re getting into with this, and figure some of these things out before you sign your district up:
    • Which grade levels will do which kits from their two-year band?
    • How will we get all of our teachers through the trainings?
    • If a grade level is assigned three kits, in what time span will I be able to get them all the training they need? Sit down and write out a schedule and try to stick to it—that peace of mind means a lot.
    • What can I do to get my teachers in on the ground floor so that they feel like they’re a part of the process, instead of having this be done to them?
    • What are you going to do if a teacher changes grades? Will they have to have the 9 days of training all over again, only for different kits?
    • How much is this going to cost? Do I have the money?

  4. Have the conversation with your teachers about why this is a good thing. Some of the stress going on in my district right now is because the administration didn’t do a traditional curriculum adoption for this science curriculum, the way we have in the past for the other academic subjects. There was born the mistrust, from which contempt quickly followed.

If you’re a Washington teacher, is your district involved? If so, how’s it going? The Governor is committed, asking for 6 million a year over the next two year in her budget request, so it looks like this is where we’re going to be for some time to come.

Read more here, if any.

The International Reading Association on Literacy Coaches

There’s a new website for literacy coaches at It’s a joint project between the IRA and the National Council of Teachers of English, and the brief peek I took was promising. It could become quite popular around here if the Washington Learns recommendations on providing coaches in every school come to fruition.

Read more here, if any.


From the Tri-City Herald:

Tia Pingel thinks she did well on a high-stakes state math test last summer, but because of a shipping mistake she may have to take it again.

The 17-year-old junior at Kiona-Benton City High School retook part of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning in August. So did 19 of her classmates and some teens from another district.

But Ki-Be's exams never made it to the Iowa company hired by the state to score them because they were lost in the mail. Despite pleas from Principal Rick Linehan, the state may require the juniors to retake the retake in order to graduate on time.

"It bothers me that I took the time to do this. We took the time and they lose our scores and we have to retake it," Pingel said. "It was all that for nothing."

The class of 2008 is the first required to pass the WASL in reading, writing and math to earn a diploma. Nearly 11,700 juniors statewide sat for the August testing, which was for students who missed or failed to pass sections the spring before.

Most of the 20 Benton City students prepared with five weeks of summer classes through Educational Service District 123 in Pasco. The WASL exams were administered there, then shipped per state instructions, said Mark Muxen, executive director of instructional support at the Pasco agency.

Ki-Be's exams are the only ones statewide to have been lost in shipping, said Molly O'Connor, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which is in charge of the WASL.

The word on the street is that this may have been the first action by a militant fringe of Mothers Against WASL to take their fight to a grander scale. I believe it's going to be the central premise of Season 7 of 24.

Read more here, if any.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The American School Board Journal on School Closures

In a case of “you get the publicity you earn even when it’s not the publicity you want,” the ASBJ has a great article on the pain associated with closing schools in their December issue, as part of a bigger special report on urban education. Their lead is the Seattle situation:

Seattle Public Schools’ enrollment had dropped steadily for years—decades, in fact. But it never caused a great deal of alarm among its administrators or board. Maybe the decline happened to slowly to notice. Maybe large reserves masked the subsequent slide in student aid. Maybe frequent turnover prevented anyone from grasping the big picture.

It’s hard to say how the school system operated so long without having to make major adjustments. But everything changed in late 2001, when the district’s budget managers discovered a $24 million shortfall. And that deficit was projected to rise to $35 million by the following year.

The article goes on to describe how Raj Manhas homed in on closing schools as a way to deal with the shortfall. He talks about how buildings are fixed cost, and that not taking care of those costs essentially was “robbing the classroom.” Some numbers that make the point:

As the district’s chief of operations, Manhas already was familiar with Seattle’s problems when he became superintenent. Enrollment has steadily declined from a high of nearly 100,000 students in 1968 to about 46,000 today. Yet its inventory of buildings remains virtually the same.

When you lose half your kids, you also have to lose some buildings in the process. That’s just common sense, which makes the following so frustrating:

(Regarding Manhas’ push to close schools) Board members Mary Bass and Sally Soriano rejected the recommendations, then weeks later displayed their dissent in a most unusual fashion. At a press conference in front of the soon-to-be-closed Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, a community group announced it was suing the school district for discriminating against minority and poor students. Among those attending were Bass and Soriano, who openly supported the groups claim. Soriano even provided a statement in the complaint.

“Well, that’ll help!” The Rain said sarcastically. Sure, the lawsuit was dismissed because it didn't get filed in time, but I can't see how it would have solved anything had it gone on.

Read more here, if any.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Federal Way and Opposing Viewpoints

The Seattle PI runs one of those articles that make me scream:

This week in Federal Way schools, it got a lot more inconvenient to show one of the top-grossing documentaries in U.S. history, the global-warming alert "An Inconvenient Truth."

After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film. The movie consists largely of a computer presentation by former Vice President Al Gore recounting scientists' findings.

"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."

Oh, but it gets better when you get down to the school board's reaction:

School Board members adopted a three-point policy that says teachers who want to show the movie must ensure that a "credible, legitimate opposing view will be presented," that they must get the OK of the principal and the superintendent, and that any teachers who have shown the film must now present an "opposing view."

The requirement to represent another side follows district policy to represent both sides of a controversial issue, board President Ed Barney said.

"What is purported in this movie is, 'This is what is happening. Period. That is fact,' " Barney said.

Students should hear the perspective of global-warming skeptics and then make up their minds, he said. After they do, "if they think driving around in cars is going to kill us all, that's fine, that's their choice."

This seems absolutely nonsensical to me. Of course, this is the same school board that bans novels about censorship and jumped the gun on suing the state for more money.

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Read more here, if any.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Is this the year the supermajority goes away?

Here in the Evergreen State school levies have to pass by a 60% margin to be considered approved, a tradition that goes back nearly 75 years. With the Dems having a supermajority of their own in the state house and senate, though, it's looking like this could be the year that they send a constitutional amendment to the voters asking them to overturn the requirement.

The state's newspapers are all over the topic. The Vancouver Columbian ran an article on Saturday and followed up with an editorial today. A part that resonated:
The issue is partisan, with Democrats mostly against the supermajority requirement and Republicans mostly in support of it. That, too, is ironic, given how much Republican lawmakers complain about assaults by Democrats on voter-approved tax limitations. Apparently they believe that if residents vote to limit taxes, they know what they are doing, but if a majority of voters wants to boost school taxes temporarily, they don't know what they're doing.

The Longview Daily News had an editorial, the Everett Herald had an article and the editorial, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called it one of their top issues for the legislature this session, and the Walla-Walla Union Bulletin ran an editorial Tuesday.

All that said, I'm not convinced that a supermajority repeal would pass. The WEA has been pounding that drum for years (justifiably so, IMO), but this is still a state where Tim Eyman has some cache and it wouldn't be a slam dunk, especially with the WEA spending so much time on their Take the Lead project.

When the legislation comes out it will be interesting to see both who the sponsors are are the exact wording that is used. I'm not versed enough in the process to understand all the wrinkles involved (are you out there, JL?), but I'll give you my thoughts as they come along.

Read more here, if any.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The 101st Edition of the Carnival of Education!

Hello, education fans! It's my pleasure to host the 101st edition of the Carnival of Education here at I Thought at Think, a great power which also carries with it a great responsibility: what would a good theme be? I badly wanted to go with 101 Dalmations (for the 101st carnival, natch!), but beyond a rather forced comparison between Cruella De Vil and NCLB I couldn't make it work. That being how it is I grouped the entries this month more or less by theme and put a cute dalmation puppy at the top of the screen--on with the show!

From the Classroom

EdWonk, the founder and patron saint of the Carnival of Education, leads us off with this pressing question: is wetting your pants an arrestable offense?

Over in Mrs. Bluebird's classroom she hears the happy click of the AVID binders opening as she teaches her students the joy of cleaning house.

NYC Educator reminds me of why I'm not a high school teacher as one of his kids spends her time Getting Ready for the Weekend. It doesn't sound like she has sleeping on her mind. Also from the Big Apple, Rocking the School System in NYC had an enlightening discussion with her students about why the Regent's Exam is considered hard for some schools, but easy for others.

In a similar vein, Sage over at Persephone's Box is counting down the days 'til the semester's end, when she can bid a fond farewell to the kid who staples his pants to his legs for fun.

From the ridiculous to the profane, HorseSense and NonSense is all over the story of a teacher who was driven from the profession by unforgivable student bullying. The kicker is the judge in her case, who apparently thinks that it's OK to abuse the teacher because that's what kids do. In a related story Ms. Teacher gives her approval for holding kids accountable for their actions, even if that means they can't use the public library or the school grounds after hours. Joanne Jacobs has more context about the library story here.

Ms. Cornelius puts voice to what many of us have wondered: Is a teacher's work ever done? See the also intriguing Part I for the genesis of the idea, and 3σ → for a funny and pointed post on the joys (?) of parent involvement.

At Florida Citizens for Science they're thinking about one of the pressing questions in education today: what should we do to help middle schoolers succeed? They're also looking at the new majors initiative wherein Florida freshmen will choose a cluster to follow during their high school career.

Mister Teacher gets a surprise visit from a former student in The Pop-In. It's neat when they come back. Meanwhile, Mr. Meyer shares his strategy for getting papers graded at the coffee shop.

Muse at Me-Ander is getting her seniors ready for the "Bagrut" exams. Tests--something teenagers world-wide can complain about together.

Education Policy

Practical Theory starts the policy parade off with his look at School 2.0, a thoughtful post at looking beyond the computers to how the actual pedagogy itself needs to change.

One of the neat things I'm finding about doing the Carnival is that you find a variety of blogs that you wouldn't have otherwise, with this post from Dirty Mechanism being a prime example. They go against the conventional wisdom in praising the industrial model for education, but the reasoning is excellent.

Matt Johnston over at Going to the Mat is also thinking about how to improve schools, this time the DC Catholic Schools and how their accomplishments relate to NCLB. Darren of Right on the Left Coast casts a similar eye at a new report on the California School System (the unions won't be happy!), while Michelle over at Texas Ed takes to task yet another report calling for less teacher tenure and more administrative power.

At The DeHavilland Blog they thinking about accountability with a headline that jumps off the screen at you:Accountable....Like Ken Lay?

Also on the report ripping front, Polski's View From Here has his way with the Skills Commission report while asking some hard but crucial questions about student motivation. An exerpt:
Lets look at China and India. Both have huge populations. AFAIK, people in these countries lack the sense of entitlement found in too many people in the US. These people know that a life of manual labor in their medieval agricultural systems or long hours in a factory for little pay and living in a crowded, filthy hovel are among the choices for the uneducated. Therefore, when presented with the opportunity, many families in China and India jump at the chance for their children to attend school. Motivation and purpose; a better education means a better life. Period.

The good folks over at This Week in Education are also talking about motivation as it relates to the school that Oprah is building in South Africa. There's also an excellent follow-up post linking to a column by Clarence Page that addresses the same theme.

EdSpresso argues that NCLB has jumped the shark, along with a cool picture of the Fonz and some thoughts from a Mike Petrilli article. As a regular listener of the Education Gadfly Podcast, I think that linking the two is wholly appropriate.

Right Wing Prof pops up at Kitchen Table Math talking about his experience tutoring in math. If you care about the math wars or have an opinion about math curriculum, this is a critical post.

Finally, Mr. Lawrence of Get Lost, Mr. Chips finds a real-world example of how grades have gone down over the years. I guess there is a good reason to keep all those grading books after all....

Great Thinkers and Their Thoughts

Aquiram of Teaching in the 21st Century asks an important question about the place of professionalism in the blogosphere, if any, while Dan over at A History Teacher gives a fascinating account on how he teachers the Just War Theory in his classroom.

At Life Without School Marjorie talks about an experience at her local library and asks an important question: how much say should parents have in the education of their children?

Phil at Phil For Humanity scratches that math itch with this question: what does infinity divided by infinity equal? If you think it's 1, Phil says you're wrong! He's also got some things to say about selecting a college major.

In a pair of grading-related posts, Rightwing Prof talks about weighted vs. relative GPAs while the good folks over at The Psychology of Education look into the trend of sending home Body Mass Index report cards.

At Sharpbrains they talk about ways to keep your mental accuity, and Getting Green has advice on how to keep more money in your wallet. Important if you're on a defined contribution retirement plan, like your unfortunate carnival host.

I'm a big fan of What It's Like on the Inside, a beautifully written blog with some great thinking going on. I'm betting you'll be a fan, too, after reading her post The Clockwork Classroom.

At The Campus Grotto they've got some advice for how to survive your first year of college. As a personal aside: watch what you eat, because the Freshman 15 can be a terrible reality if you let it.

Finally, Mamacita at Scheiss Weekly absolutely unloads on the things that annoy her in a post she called "A Litany of Whines."


At Learn Chinese Today they have the 8 common mistakes made when trying to learn Chinese.

Online University Lowdown discusses a new online initiative being spearheaded by MIT that can bring some of the worlds great courses right to you!

Let's Talk Babies! is looking at the problem of overscheduled kids. The picture at the top of the post is guaranteed to make you smile.

The new Hillary Swank teacher flick is on the mind of the Colossus of Rhodey as he thinks fondly of some of his favorite movies about the profession.

The Median Sibling looks back at her Favorite 13 posts from 2006. It's like a mini Carnival!

The age-old Nigerian money scam is the topic over at Evolution Blog. That was one of the first emails I got when I opened my first internet account in 1994.

Our final post this carnival is a test of the power of the internet. Elementary History Teacher is looking for a painting, which was used for a White House Christmas card years ago but has now gone missing. Read her great post for the full story, then get up in your attic and start looking!


Thank you for visiting this week's carnival! Next week's midway will be hosted by my good union buddy Dr. Homeslice. Submissions can be directly emailed to him at drhomeslice [at] hotmail [dot] com by 9:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, January 16th. There's also always the handy submission form! You can also spend some time browsing the past editions of the Carnival at the archives.

Update: This post was edited 8:00 a.m. PST 1-11-06 to add the posts from This Week in Education, and to make Polski a dude. Sorry about the pronoun confusion, Brother Teacher!

Read more here, if any.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Terry Bergeson’s State of Education Address

In a rare example of the OSPI website actually being both timely and useful, they posted the full transcript of Dr. Bergeson’s State of Education speech that she gave to the State School Directors’ Association in Spokane last month. It has a certain irony to it, given the events that have transpired since:

(Regarding the standards) The difference this year is that one obstacle—getting all students to standard in math—has assumed crisis proportions for the class of 2008.

Well, we know how that turned out: near complete retreat.

Later, she talks about what the world was like in 1993 when the standards movement took hold in Washington:

We are not talking about going from education reform version 1.0 to 2.0. We are talking about a new operating system for education. Before 1993 – before we had clear standards and assessments – you could think of our operating system as being DOS.

Remember DOS?

Not everyone does, because it was so clunky and difficult to use. It make a lot of people like me avoid computers and then miss the potential power technology could give us.

It’s time to move into Vista – Microsoft’s newest operating system. In fact, like Microsoft, we are late getting to Vista.

Vista links the tools and applications we use in a much more powerful way – a way that is seamless, transparent, user-friendly, and interoperable. It lets us focus more effectively on our core work instead of the stuff that gets in the way.

Later in the speech Dr. B compared education reform to the cool, refreshing taste of Coke with Lime, said that we needed to work every bit as hard as the good men and women of Costco, and announced her intent to streamline operations at OSPI so that it worked, “as efficiently as the 2007 Honda Prius, available from Dave Smith Motors, the #1 Honda dealer in the Pacific Northwest!” She also sold her naming rights to Safeco and became the official Superintendent of the Seattle Sonics.

(Just kidding, Terry! I kid because I love!)

And hey, what was wrong with DOS anyways? My first computer was a Tandy 1000-HX, and DOS was my first love. My first angry, codependent love. Kids today with their GUIs and fancy operating systems have no appreciation for the past!

On math:

At OSPI, we are reviewing our math standards, comparing them to the “Focal Points” document of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and to those of key international performers.

Computational fluency taught with understanding clearly needs to be a higher priority in the elementary grades, and we must simplify and prioritize our standards where appropriate.

To this I say, Bravo! The biggest complaint I hear from teachers in the upper grades is that their kids still haven’t mastered the most basic facts with fluency, which kills them when they have to move into more difficult operations like 2-digit multiplication and the like.

I really like the Focal Points. It’s a good guideline, and I commend the NCTM for putting it out.

There’s a lot more in the full document. It’s a good sneak peek at where the school funding debate might go in the next legislature, beginning this week!

Read more here, if any.

What Obligation Does a State Have to Gifted Students?

In California a judge ruled that the state does not have to pay the college tuition of a gifted 13-year old student, says Education Week ($) in an article from the December 6th edition:
California is not required to pay for the tuition of an extremely gifted 13-year-old student who is enrolled in college, a state appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal, in Sacramento, unanimously dismissed an appeal by Leila J. Levi, the mother of Levy M. Clancy, who is now 16.

According to court papers, the boy began taking college courses at age 7, passed the state’s high school exit exam at 9, and started attending the University of California, Los Angeles, at 13.

Ms. Levi sued the state department of education in 2004, seeking to force it to pay for her son’s college tuition. She argued in her suit that he was entitled to a state-funded college education because the state’s compulsory-education law required him to attend school until age 16, but her son “cannot attend a traditional K-12 school because the schools operated by [the California Department of Education] and Clancy’s local district are ill-equipped and unsuitable for highly gifted children and will actually cause more harm to him than if he simply did not attend.”

She contended that the schools could not meet “his specific psychosocial and academic needs,” and that he had already completed a standard K-12 education.

In a Nov. 7 ruling, the appeals court held that the education department was not required under the state constitution or state statutes, or as a matter of public policy, to pay the costs of Mr. Clancy’s college education. The California Constitution’s guarantee of free schooling only encompasses grades K-12 and does not include the state’s colleges and universities, Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye wrote for the court.

The court also ruled that neither the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act nor other public-policy considerations could force the state to provide a college education. Extreme giftedness is not listed among the disabilities encompassed by the IDEA, so the child was neither covered by the law nor has “exceptional needs” as defined by the state’s education laws.

Nor could the judge find any provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, or California’s plan to implement that federal law, “that requires K-12 public education to meet every student’s particularized educational needs.”

Justice Cantil-Sakauye noted that the court was not addressing whether the state should attempt to meet the academic needs of every student in the K-12 system.

“We are aware there is significant debate in the field of education regarding the educational needs of gifted and highly gifted children,” but those matters are properly addressed by the legislature or the electorate, the judge said.

A couple of thoughts:

  • An article I read a couple of months ago brought up the idea of an IEP for every student, and this is a direction that I would love to see us go towards for those extremely gifted kids. If we’re going to acknowledge exceptionality on one end of the spectrum with specially designed instruction, why not the other end as well?
  • If you could IEP a gifted student, their least restrictive environment (LRE) may well be the local college campus, as for the boy above. That would be a sea change that could make a big difference for kids around the country.
  • On the brighter side, the judge did encourage the California legislature to develop a remedy for situations like this, which goes against the usual stereotype of the activist judge forcing schools to spend more money.

In the Picus and Odden report that Washington Learns ignored there’s a great section on what the state does to support gifted education. The funding mechanism is rather eye-opening:
Current code (RCW 28A.185) governs school districts' provision of appropriate programs for gifted and talented, or "highly capable" students. For each district with a gifted student program, the state provides $353 per student for 2 percent of total district enrollment, which equals about $7.06 for all students. The statuatory goal is to provide funding to 3 percent of total enrollment.

In a district my size, that works out to about $15,000.

Read more here, if any.

Great Googly Moogly!

So I wander in, fire up the laptop, and get my email. 37 new emails from over the weekend, and better than 20 of them are for this week's edition of the Carnival of Education, which should be up right here on Wednesday!

You can send your submissions in via the handy submission form, or by emailing them directly to me: rgrant [at] mlsd [dot] org.

This will be an adventure!

Read more here, if any.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Mentoring: It's a Good Thing

I'm a graduate of Rochester High School, so it was neat to see them get a mention in the Seattle Times:
For decades, the small, rural Rochester School District had a hard time keeping new teachers through their first five years.

But by participating in the New Teacher Project beginning last fall, the Thurston County district hopes to retain 85 percent of this year's 20 incoming instructors, said Assistant Superintendent Kim Fry. Rochester is one of seven school districts, along with two educational service districts, to join in the New Teacher Project. Spearheaded by the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP) with a four-year, $3 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the program aims to draw attention to mentoring and other ways that Washington's public schools can keep more of their beginning teachers.

The mentoring program they're moving away from sounds a lot like the one my district has now. Our mentor is a great lady with a ton of experience, but she's spread between 6 schools and doesn't live in the community, so it's hard to make a real connection.

If your district has a mentoring program, do you think it makes a difference?

Read more here, if any.

An ethical question

Fascinating article in the Seattle Times yesterday about a profoundly disabled child being treated at Children's Hospital in Seattle.

This is about Ashley's dignity. Everybody examining her case seems to agree at least about that.

Ashley is a 9-year-old girl who has static encephalopathy, a severe brain impairment. She cannot walk or talk. She cannot keep her head up, roll over, or sit up by herself. She is fed with a tube. Her parents call her "Pillow Angel," since she stays where they place her, usually on a pillow.

Her parents say they feared their angel would become too big one day — too big to lift, too big to move, too big to take along on a family outing.

So they decided to keep her small.

In an unusual case that is stirring ethical debate in the medical community and elsewhere, doctors at Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center in Seattle and the parents involved are describing how Ashley has received treatment over the past few years designed to radically stunt her growth.

The easy reaction is outrage--"How dare they do this to their daughter!"--but I'm not sure. My wife's cousin has severe CP, and it's become nearly impossible for her family to handle her because she's now in her late twenties and is a big, big girl. Trying to move her from wheel chair to bed or vice-versa is physically demanding, and everyone in that family has the aches, pains, and bruises to prove it. If the treatment does no other harm, then maybe this isn't a bad thing.

There's more here from the Scientific American magazine, the parent's blog, and the London Guardian.

Read more here, if any.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The 100th Carnival of Education is Up!

A very nice job of hosting by the good folks over at Teaching in the 21st Century, which I should add to my blogroll.

Next week's carnival will be hosted by yours truly here at I Thought a Think! It's tempting to go with the 101 Dalmations theme (for the 101st Carnival), but I will resist......

Read more here, if any.