Friday, October 31, 2008

The Races I Care the Most About Tomorrow

1. Chris Gregoire vs. Dino Rossi for Governor of Washington. Big for teachers. Governor Gregoire has been great on making sure teachers get their COLA and working on K-3 class size; both of those are almost certain to go away in a Rossi administration. Frankly, COLA is almost certain to disappear next year anyways, given the economics of the times, but I've more confidence in Gregoire to work hard to restore it than I do Senator Rossi.

It's going to be close, damnably so, but I think Gregoire is declared a winner on November 10th.

2. Barack Obama v. John McCain. Obvious reasons. I wish this was the McCain of 2000. I wish he hadn't chosen Sarah Palin. C'est la vis. Obama wins.

3. Don Barlowe v. Kevin Parker, Washington State House. Purely back-yard interest here, but local Spokane guy like Don Barlowe is the vice-chair of the House Education committee and nice to have around. That said, Don's not the most aggressive campaigner, and Parker is. If Obama has long coat tails, it could benefit Barlowe.

4. Shelly Short v. Sue Lani Madsen, Washington State House. I've written about this race before, where Shelly got her name in the paper in a pretty embarrassing way right before the primary election. The latest can be found in this rather biased piece from the Spokesman-Review, but if that article does indeed reflect the reality of the situation you've got to kind of wonder.

5. Al Franken v. Norm Coleman, US Senate in Minnesota. I like Al. Liked him on TV, liked his books, liked his radio show went I saw it live here in Spokane a couple of years ago. He's said some stupid things, but I see a little Wellstone in him, and that's encouraging.

6. Carol Gregory v. Skip Priest, Washington State House. This is an interesting one to me. Carol Gregory is a former president of the Washington Education Association and would probably be good for teachers, but Skip Priest (the Republican incumbent in the race) isn't that bad. Hell, I was pulling for him to run for OSPI, because he's shown that he's a reasonable guy who is pretty thoroughly versed on the issues. This is the sort of Republican we should treasure.

7. Terry Bergeson v. Randy Dorn, Superintendent of Public Instruction. At one point this looked like it could be white hot, but the intensity of the Governor's race has taken some of the shine off. It's a referendum on the WASL, essentially, and if Dorn has tapped into enough anti-WASL sentiment he could win. On the other hand, Bergeson's got a ton of name recognition.

(This is also low on the list for me because I've come to believe that the legislature makes far more of a difference than OSPI does in setting and carrying out school policy. Having an SPI we can respect is nice, but not essential.)

It'll be a fun day.


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Friday, October 24, 2008

But not enough, apparently

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not Change Anyone Will Believe In

Did you hear the one about the principal who disbanded the PTA via e-mail?

Date: Tuesday, October 7, 2008, 8:03 AM
Dear Steve,
As the administrator of Tilden, I am selecting NOT to have
a PTA this year. I have established another group that will be
working towards fundraising and community engagement.


Rachelle Sallee
Tilden Elementary School
Oakland Unified School District
(510) 879-1560
In the wannabe-admin classes I've taken, this would go down as absolutely terrible communication from the principal to the parents. It sounds like the PTA was doing good things, too, which makes this a change that looks ridiculous from the outset. Even if the move is well-intentioned, there's already a large strike on the score card.

(h/t to Alex Russo)

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Most Recent Podcasting Liberally is Quite Good

....especially towards the end, where Joel Connelly and David Goldstein get heated over Darcy Burner and Dave Reichert.

(confidential to Joel: OK, Eisenhower said "callyoumnist". We get it. Thanks for the anecdote.)

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Washington Monthly on the Federal Role in Education

A good, quick read by Nicholas Lemann in Washington Monthly on where NCLB could go and why we need national academic standards instead of the state-by-state piecemeal we have now. The take-home paragraph:

As it took Richard Nixon to open diplomatic relations with China, it took George W. Bush to make the federal government a real presence in every public school. Now that the government is there, it should use its leverage mainly to create meaningful standards and a national curriculum. Right now it uses its leverage mainly to require tests. To change that, and to fulfill what Congress in 2001 took to be the promise of No Child Left Behind, would be a presidential achievement commensurate with civil rights, Medicare, and Social Security. Let’s hope the next president sees it that way.
All that said, education is very likely to be far down the list of priorities given the financial dire straits we're in.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dino Rossi and the Children's Administration

Interesting post by Adam Wilson of The Olympian on a proposal from Dino Rossi to separate out Children's Services from the Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS) and make it its own "cabinet level" department.

Sounds nice enough. But where's the money going to come from?

Wilson also cites Rossi as saying that there were "200 deaths" of children in state care in the past four years, which sounds ridiculous on the face of it and is further proven so by checking the child fatality reports at the DSHS website.

Murder by abuse happens, horribly so. Trying to pin that on Christine Gregoire because she didn't allocate a million dollars for DSHS to be nationally accredited is foolish, even more so when you consider the costs that are involved in getting to that point.

It's nice to talk about protecting our most vulnerable--my daughter is one of them--but beyond a good talking point, what are the specifics on how Senator Rossi intends to make that happen?

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Fake News Friday--18 Days 'Til the Election Edition

WIAA Drops Cougars, Huskies to 4A

(Renton) The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) today took the unprecedented step of ordering the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars to immediately suspend their seasons and join their closest 4A football league, said WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese at a news conference from his group's Renton headquarters.

"My number one concern is for the student athletes of those two schools, and they are clearly in it over their heads," said Colbrese. "The Cougars have lost three quarterbacks and are reduced to open tryouts for backups, and the Huskies have the depth of Paris Hilton. It's in their best interest to drop down for a few years and regroup, and that's what this allows them."

"It's not punishment for being lousy football teams, far from it," Colbrese continued. "Rather, they should look at it as an opportunity for growth."

Emotions were mixed among the schools' fan base. Staff at the Tyee Club in Seattle reported "intense" closed door meetings, punctuated only by shouted curses that echoed across Lake Union, while in Pullman the mood was decidedly more upbeat.

"I hope that we get to play in the Greater Spokane League," offered Cougars' Head Coach Paul Wulff. "You put us up against Ferris or Rogers, and I think we have a good shot, I really do."

"Remember, we want to be in the GSL. I want nothing to do with the Big 9. Have you seen Richland play? Jeez...."

Meanwhile, in Seattle, the KingCo and the WesCo leagues were locked in a bitter argument over which would have to take on the Huskies, particularly after their embarrassing loss to Bye last weekend.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Random Thoughts from the Last Few Days

The tops of clouds fascinate me. I've seen the bottoms of clouds many times, but I see the tops so rarely. I guess I really don't know all....

"My Friends Tigger and Pooh" is anti-intellectual pap because it doesn't have Owl. And since when does Tigger get top billing? And weren't Heffalumps better when they were unseen protagonists in league with the Woozles?

I've often been tempted to stop at the massage bar at Sea-Tac and see if they could get some stress out. Then I worry that Mrs. would find out I spent that sort of money on that sort of thing, and that would be a whole different kind of stress.

I think I'm really going to like my work with the WEA-PAC management board. It should be educational, and it's an awesome group of people to spend time with.

Vote Gregoire.

I feel a bit like a moron, but I only recently discovered the song "Joey" by Concrete Blonde. That's good music.

We had our field trip the other day, up to Green Bluff. The kids got to see how apple cider is made and pick a pumpkin out of the pumpkin patch, which absolutely made their day.

Recently reconnected with some old high school friends on my Facebook page. Mrs. thinks that I should do one for MySpace, too, but I think I'll leave that one to her.

I don't know if I'm going to go out on Election Night to a party, or just get the results here at home as they come in. The thought of wild revelry with 1,000 other Evil Liberals rather warms the cockles of my heart. Maybe I should have a union party....

It cost me $43 dollars to take a cab from Sea-Tac to Federal Way. $2.50 a mile. That should be my milage rate too, I think.

The thought increasingly seems true to me that, if you're not tired, you're not doing a good job as Union president. I've also heard it expressed that union presidents are like diapers--they should be changed regularly. I'm thinking a two-year run as president would be plenty.

(Yes, I also know the other half of that union president/diaper joke: not only should they be changed regularly, they're also both full of crap. I will not dispute that.)

24 days until the election. After November 5th I'll have a lot less to think about.

I wish McCain 2000 was running. That guy was pretty good.

Energy drinks are swell. A nice chilled Red Bull, a Monster in the green can....that's my coffee, right there. The only downside is that I can't make fun of what the latte drinkers spend when I'm chugging a $2.50 heart attack in a can, but it's worth it.

Took a personal leave day on Tuesday to go up to Republic and see how the parent's cabin is coming along. Beautiful country up there that I'm looking forward to exploring more.


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Monday, October 06, 2008

Eduwonkette on the DC Merit Pay Proposal

Probably the most important post you can read today is this piece from Eduwonkette on the merit pay proposal that Michelle Rhee is working on in Washington D.C. It really gets to both sides of the argument, particularly if you read the entire comments section, and it matters on the micro- level for what could be in the works here in Washington State.

I've got a post percolating on what the administrator's contract in my district says regarding "merit pay"; I'll try and share that soon.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

This Is Why Political Gamesmanship Sucks

"At the very same time as they're dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into those less than gracious "Don't Know Dino" ads. Those aren't my values." -- Dino Rossi, from the Yakima Governor's Debate
Heaven forfend. Dino, a gracious man, would never countenance a mailer from the Republican Governor's Association that pretty much links Christine Gregoire to your child getting sexually assaulted by a pervert.

On Her Watch and Don't Know Dino are equivalent. To pretend otherwise is either willfully ignorant or just another campaign tactic.

You're not above the fray, Senator Rossi. You're in the middle of it.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Why Does This Child Need a Grade?

This year one of my students is a brain cancer survivor. She's had plenty of surgeries, she's got a shunt in her head that you can feel through her hair, and there's a real potential that the cancer could come back at any time. She's been through hell, and she's only six.

The neat thing is that she's also about the happiest little girl that you could ever hope to meet. Her parents are also the salt of the earth, folks who are just happy that their little girl is alive. Academically she's a mess--her kindergarten year was a long series of surgeries and treatments--but her spirit has come through unscathed, and that's a beautiful thing to see.

(Aside: One day she asks me to walk her to the bathroom. "K," I say, "you've been to the bathroom plenty of times. You can get there by yourself." "Mr. Grant," she replies, "my memory's not very good--the doctors had to cut my brain during the surgery!")

A problem I'm running into, though, is that she doesn't have either an IEP or a 504 plan, which means that I'm going to have to grade her against the "normal" first grade standards. Given that she missed a ton of kindergarten and came to me in first grade with a significant skills deficit, that means that she'll be at the very bottom of our scale in every area:

4--Exceeds Standards
3--Meets Standards
2--Working Towards Standards
1--Well Below Standard

....and that doesn't seem very fair. I can work towards getting her IEP'd as an "Other Health Impairment", and she should have no problem getting the label, but as the special ed teacher pointed out, is specially designed instruction really going to do a whole lot for her? My understanding of her situation is that the brain may eventually heal to a point that she can be a competent learned, but it'll be a process to be able to get there.

I'm just kind of feeling like the Grinch when I ponder filling out her first trimester report card next month, and that's not a happy feeling.

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