Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Maybe Being Dual Endorsed in Special Ed Isn't a Good Idea After All

When I was going through college they told us all, "Get a special ed degree if you're at all interested--you are GUARANTEED to have a job." It's true--you can pretty much choose where you want to work, and you're going to survive layoffs better than most--but what's also true is that if you are certified to teach special ed, then you can teach special ed:
The trouble with this recession is that kids may wind up with larger classes and ineffective teachers.

Mass layoffs are reshuffling teachers into grades or subjects they may never have taught, or taught long ago. Administrators are being pushed back into the classroom after years away from teaching.

At Coweeman Middle School in rural Kelso, Wash., one teacher who has taught math for 30 years has been reassigned to special education, principal Randy Heath said. In fact, every teacher who is endorsed to teach special education is being switched to those classes, regardless of whether he or she actually has taught it, he said.

"We're being forced to make decisions that we know are not good for kids," Heath said.
I suspect that a part of the reason this is happening is that the stimulus money provided well for special ed, so jobs are being saved there. I've seen it in my own district, where a PE teacher has been moved into an RTI Coaching position, because that's what the stimulus money makes possible.


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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

....the hell?

Friday, July 24, 2009

KPLU on Layoff by Seniority

It's a pretty good piece that you can listen to and read here; the best reply I can give is a post that I wrote back in March, Layoff By Seniority Really Is the Best Way.

Also of note on the KPLU page is the discussion about the contract negotiations between the Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle EA; they took the month of July off and are getting back after it in August. The contract expires August 31st. I wonder how far apart they are.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

School Birthday Parties Have Gone Too Far

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Today's Tragic Celebrity Death

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wal-Mart's Got a Grant Program Going On....

....but the deadline is Friday, so work fast:

Read more here, if any.

Sex Ed Has Gone Too Far Britain:

The UK National Health Service is telling pupils they have a 'right' to an enjoyable sex life in a leaflet being sent to schools. It encourages them to consider an 'orgasm a day' as a way reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke. And if they can't get sex, the leaflet says children should consider masturbation!
Source material here.

There are about a thousand jokes to tell here, none of them appropriate. Sadly.


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Monday, July 20, 2009

The New Business Item I Considered, But Chickened Out On

Actual photo of a union raid in Scotland
Title: Repealing All Existing No-Raid Agreements

Background: Because of existing no-raid agreements between the WEA and other groups, we have limited our ability to bring new members into the Association.

Cost Implications: None.

WEA Goals and Objectives: Improve the quality of and access to public education for all students. Forge partnerships with parents, business, other unions, and community groups.

Recommendations: That the WEA immediately repeal and hold invalid any so-called "No Raid" agreement between the WEA and other collective representation groups, including but not limited to the PSE; and that any future "No Raid" agreements require the approval of the WEA Representative Assembly to be considered ratified.


Now, the rest of the story:

Last December I had a one-off post wondering why there are no union raids in education in Washington State. It's not really a surprise that the teacher units don't change hands, given the Washington AFT's focus on colleges, but there are at least 3 different groups (SEIU, PSE, and the WEA; maybe the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO as well?) who could represent paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cooks, and the like.

In my district the PSE represents the support staff, and it's not for the best. The representation they get might be good enough, but when you have two units in the same district represented by different unions, there's a tension, especially in times of budget cuts. If we were all WEA we could work together, but when it's WEA v. PSE and jobs are on the line, it can be war. Administrators thrive on that, in a divide-and-conquer sense, and I've seen it happen far too often where admins stoke the fires to try and divert attention from what they're doing.

So I'd love to poach my local PSE, and in conversations with groups around the state I've heard many staff and other local presidents say the same thing. At a dinner in March I talked with a fairly high-level staffer and asked him, "What do you think about the no-raid agreements?"

"I hate them. We all hate them."

"OK. I've been thinking of dropping a new business item at Rep Assembly to override the no-raid agreements we have now. Would that work?"

"Probably. It'd be career suicide, though."


Well then. Career suicide isn't really something I'd like to do, so I thought I'd pull back and think things through some more.

This is a conversation that I'd love to have on a broader basis, though. If you'd like to talk, please drop me an email or hit me up on Facebook.

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Back to School Sales Have Gone Too Far

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I Have Stared Into the Soul of Madness....

....and it's trying to talk policy with the Department of Education.

Here in Washington State we only pay for 1/2 day of kindergarten for students. Some schools are starting to have full-day K added incrementally, but because of our low poverty numbers we're way, way down on that list for additional money from the state.

So we thought we'd try the model where we ask parents who are interested to pay a monthly fee for the other half of the day, something we've seen other schools in our area do. We were all set to go forward last year when our financial guy discovered that if we charged for a half day we'd lose our Impact Aid money from the federal government, which is several thousand dollars per student.

Fast forward to this year. We're losing teaching positions, and if I could offer full-day K in my school I'd be able to save some jobs. Plus, I have kids who *need* that full-day experience, and I've got parents who are more than willing to pay--the only problem is the Department of Education.

Tried my state level impact aid coordinator. He turned me down flatly. I explained that the K students would still get their free half day that the state has deemed is the "free and appropriate public education" (FAPE) for K students; that didn't matter. If we charge them for a service that they wouldn't get otherwise, the other half of the day, then we lose our impact aid funding.

I went to the next level above him. This gal said she understood and was very sorry, but there was nothing she could do.

Now I've got Rep. McMorris-Rogers office involved trying to convince the DoE to see things our way. My bottom line is that DoE's ruling is making it so that I can't offer my military kids a service that many other schools can, and that's not fair to them or their families.

Good times.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Measuring Teacher Effectiveness

Something I've been thinking a lot about lately is the idea of linking test scores to teacher evaluation. It's a topic that's everywhere this summer:One of the notions that you often hear during these discussions is, "The good teachers have nothing to be afraid of." Let's talk about that for a bit.

Last year, for one of my Master's classes, I dug into testing data I had on hand for the first grade team in my building. These are real numbers and real averages with real kids behind them; the test in question is the Measures of Academic Progress, from the Northwest Evaluation Association.
Teacher A: In the fall, her class had an average score of 162.5 on the MAP. In the spring the class average rose to 184.3, an average gain of 21.8 points.

Teacher B: Her fall average was 164.7; her spring average, 183.85, for an increase of 19.15 points.

Teacher C: 169.05 in the fall, 189.35 in the spring, so an average gain of 20.3 points.

Teacher D: An average score of 155.30 points in the fall and 174.85 in the spring. Her fall-to-spring gain, then, was 19.55 points.
With this data, then, you could argue the case for two different teachers as the "winners" in the group. If you look at the average gain, Teacher A is your champion:
  1. Teacher A: 21.8 points
  2. Teacher C: 20.3 points
  3. Teacher D: 19.55 points
  4. Teacher B: 19.15 points
But, if you look at the overall class average at the end of the year, Teacher C is far and away your winner:
  1. Teacher C: 189.35
  2. Teacher A: 184.3
  3. Teacher B: 183.85
  4. Teacher D: 174.85
If we went strictly by these numbers from this year, then, you can see who your quality teachers are. If you were judging solely by the numbers, you might also think that you have a problem with Teacher D--her class average trails the class average of everybody else by almost 10 points, which on the MAP is very nearly an entire year's worth of growth.

But we have to dig even deeper before making a statement about teacher quality, because here the raw numbers aren't telling the whole story.

In the fall, the average score for this test is 164 points. In the spring, the average score is 178. Knowing that, here's some new data to chew on.
In Teacher A's room in the fall, 10 kids scored in the below average range. In the spring, 6 kids scored below average.

In Teacher B's room, 7 kids were below average in the fall, while 3 were below average in the spring.

In Teacher C's room, 6 kids were below average in the fall, and 3 in the spring.

In Teacher D's room, 16 kids were below average in the fall, and 6 tested below average in the spring.
With this new information, you can make two new arguments. First, Teacher B is your best teacher because she had more of her kids cross the finish line (the goal score, 178) than the other teachers did. You could also argue that Teacher D is your best teacher because she lowered her percentage of kids who were below standard more than any of the other teachers did.

So, who is your Most Valuable Teacher?

Is it Teacher A, who added the most value to her class over the course of the year?
Is it Teacher B, who had more of her kids meet the year-end goal?
Is it Teacher C, whose class scored the highest in the spring?
Is it Teacher D, who turned around more failing kids than any of the others?

"Value" is a homophone; there's the value signified by the numbers, but there's also the values of the school, the district, and the state which have to be superimposed atop any effort to link the data to the teacher. If the incentive pay/merit pay/whatever pay in this case goes to only one of the four teachers, you're making a statement about the value of the work the other three did, and it's a pretty lousy thing to say to the other three who also made progress that their success didn't matter as much.

Similarly, can we countenance a system where every one of these teachers is given the bonus money, indicating that they all did a good job? In the eyes of some reformers I could see that being too close to what we do now, where every teacher is assumed to be a good teacher. If a merit pay system is intended to have winners and losers, and to inspire the "less-capable" teachers to emulate the "better" teachers, can we really have a 4-way tie?

These are the questions that have to be answered going forward.

If you'd like to see the raw scores presented in a spreadsheet, you can find them here.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Best Thing the State Could Do Is to Stop Screwing With Certification

Angry Face
In the eyes of the state, I'm not a qualified reading teacher.

I've been teaching 1st grade for 8 years. For the last two years during our walk-to-read time I've taken on the lowest group, those kids needing the most remediation. I've planned before school intervention programs, after school programs, been trained in Read Naturally, DIBELS, and Reading Mastery, and I've got the test results to show that *it has worked.* I love, love, love working with developing readers, and I wouldn't trade for anything the feeling of seeing a kid turn on that light and become a capable, competent reader.

But in the eyes of the state, I'm not a qualified reading teacher.

In May I wandered up to Mead High School and took the WEST-E, which tests your teaching knowledge in a variety of subject areas. Passing is 240; I got a 288. By that measure, then, I'm amply qualified to teach reading.

But still, in the eyes of the state, I'm not a qualified reading teacher.

I can add an endorsement by doing the National Boards, which holds absolutely zero interest for me, enrolling in a program through one of the local colleges, which I don't have the money to do, or pursuing a Pathway II endorsement through one of the local colleges. If I did that, I'd pick Wazzu-Spokane. It'll cost me $1,600.

This is bullshit.

Reading around, one of the things that they say that you should do to make yourself useful to your employer is to have a varied skill set--don't be able to do only one thing, or when that one things goes away you're not needed any more. I've written about this before thinking about school psychologists and music teachers, but it holds true universally.

It used to be that with the Golden Certificate you could teach any subject, any time. That went away because of the stereotype of the ineffective teacher who was qualified in the eyes of the state but in reality sucked at their job.

So we substituted that for the initial/continuing paradigm, and added endorsements into the mix. Now the thought was that forcing teachers into getting continuing credits and clock hours would keep them fresh, keep them vital, keep them "in the game" in a way that would benefit kids.

Turns out, clock hours and continuing credits were often a joke. I've sat in the summer "workshops" filled with very honest, very cynical teachers who were there just so they could get their certificate renewed. So we threw away that system and piled on Professional Certification instead. Now, we'll be performance based! Portfolios! Evidence! Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

By my math, how we "do" ProCert has changed at least 5 times since I was part of the first ProCert group to go through Eastern in 2004. Instead of actually paying attention to their students we have young teachers assembling binder after binder after binder to demonstrate their mastery of a profession that they shouldn't have mastered yet, usually putting out thousands of dollars that they don't have in the process.

The dream of a highly qualified and effective teacher in every classroom is a good one; it's where we should be. The certification process as we're doing it now, though, has become so divorced from that goal as to be totally irrelevent. Because "we" "can't" get rid of "bad teachers", the system has been constructed in such a way that good teachers can't get into positions that they would excel at, and at the same time people are faced with as steep an uphill climb as exists in any profession just to keep their jobs, and that's ridiculous.

What's the solution? Simple, to me: shitcan the whole set-up. Start taking power back from the Professional Educators Standards Board. Say a hearty "Hell no!" to the certification changes that were embodied in HB2261. Stop acting like National Certification is the be-all, end-all of teacher effectiveness, because the Board process was never intended to be for everyone.

There's more than compensation involved in job satisfaction. Want to make a teacher's job easier? Make it easier for them to actually be a teacher, without having to worry about 10 tons of crap falling from on high. The fixes to certification in Washington have broken the system even more--it's time to start over.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dr. Homeslice on Contract Negotiations

I love this post. Good for both sides of the table to read and understand, actually.

At a conference last month I was talking with representatives from ERNN, which supports management during labor negotiations. They were talking about a trend towards shorter contracts (2 years, or sometimes even 1), which is a theory that I've heard espoused in the past from my team--e.g., the more you negotiate, the better the deal you'll eventually get. I think the current economic climate lays waste to that argument--I put better than 1000 hours into last year's negotiation for my teachers and only made minimal gains in a down economy, so I can't imagine what it's like for districts with open contracts this year.

We're on a 3-year cycle, so this past year was year 1, next year will be year 2, and the year following (2010-2011) we'll get ready to reopen and start bargaining again. Not that the process ever really ends; we've got some things to discuss in August that we'll hopefully apend on to the agreement with a Letter of Understanding.

For those of you still at the table here in mid-July, I salute you!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I <3 My Commenters

It took me a long time to figure out that <3 is supposed to be a heart. I'm old.

Al left a great comment to my posting about the best schools in the EFF school report card, talking about the APP program in Seattle. He also runs a blog on the program that I'll certainly be following, here.

Also check out that same comment thread to see Piper Scott calling the post "sophomoric treacle." It's nice to have all sides of the argument represented, right?

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Next Out of the Gate With a Hearty, "Democrats? F Those Guys!", it's the Washington State Labor Council

This article and the accompanying comments from the Seattle PI are fascinating because of what they say about the last legislative session and where the state could go in the future. Also check out the source documents from the Washington State Labor Council; their report card is highly interesting reading.

The education angle? Where the WSLC is going sounds quite similar to where the Washington Education Association is starting to tread via New Business Item K from the last Rep Assembly, which is an overhaul of how we look at politics after the spanking education took in the last session. I'm unsure as to what the long-term impact will be, but what you've got is a core constituency making some noise that they've not made before, and that could be fun to watch.

Update: Publicola here; Horse's Ass here.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

The EFF School Report Card: Who Are the Winners?

Previously we've taken an overall look at the EFF school report card, along with the schools that it identified as being the very worst (or, in their words, the losers) in the state. Today I thought it might be fun to take a look at the winners--is there anything that we can learn from them?

For the school year 2007-2008 there were 15 schools that tied with a perfect 10 in the EFF rankings. Of those, 6 have had a perfect 10 in each of the last 5 years. Who are these high achievers?

1) Medina Elementary, Medina, King County. You know who lives in Medina? Bill Gates. Go to their census page and you can read lots of fun information, like how the average family income is well above $100,000, the largest number of families make $200,000+, there wasn't a single "Female Householder, No Husband Present" to be found in the whole town, and 99% of the residents aged 25+ are high school graduates.

I'm going to hazard a guess, but I'm thinking Medina may have it a little bit better that some other places in the state.

2) Lowell Elementary, Seattle, King County. From their website:
Lowell Elementary School is home to two of the Seattle Public School District's all-city-draw programs, the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) and education for Low Incidence Special Education students.
Accelerated Progress Program. I wonder what that is?
APP is a program of accelerated instruction in Seattle Public Schools, generally two years above grade level. It serves intellectually advanced students who meet eligibility criteria and whose learning needs are not fully met in conventional classrooms.
Ah. Take the brightest kids in the state's biggest city, put them all together, and see how they do on the WASL. It's not by chance that this is a succesful school.

3) Libby Center, Spokane, Spokane County. Of the 6 schools that earned a perfect 10 Libby Center has the highest percentage of kids from low-income families: 23.1%. That's a success story, absolutely. The secret to the success?
Tessera is a one day per week program at Libby Center for highly capable students in grades 3 - 6 who represent the top 3% of their norm group. Students are selected on the basis of academic, intellectual, and creative ability.
Yeah, but that's a one-day-a-week thing. Those kids probably take the WASL at their home schools. Where do Libby's WASL scores come from?
The Spokane Public Schools elementary and middle school Odyssey Program is a full day, every day gifted magnet program at Libby Center for fifth through eighth grade students.
Magnet programs: great for gifted kids. Alas, not replicable.

4) Island Park Elementary, Mercer Island, King County: Remarkably, all three of the elementary schools on Mercer Island scored a perfect 10 on the EFF rankings for the 2007-2008 school year. There were 15 schools to get 10.0, and three of them are from the same school district. Why could that be?

  • Could it be the median family income of about $147,000?
  • Or that about 30% of the households bring in $200,000+?
  • Or the median home value of $880,000, which compares well to the national average of $182,000?
  • Or that about 75% of the residents have a Bachelor's degree or higher?
Look, Mercer Island has a well-deserved reputation as a center of wealth in Washington State, where the high school kids drive nicer cars than their teachers do, where you go when you've made it in life. It's no surprise that Mercer Island has great schools, because Mercer Island is a high-achieving community with money to burn. Thta's why comments like this, from Diana Cieslak of the EFF, drive me absolutely insane:

“The reason we chose to do this is to equip parents with the very best info available,” she said.

“We feel that the ranking system gives them a useful conclusion that allows them to see how their schools are doing compared to others in the state.”

When asked why Mercer Island performed so well in the study, Cieslak suggested that parents should go and find out the answer themselves.

“That is our goal,” she said. “The school will have the answers.”
Absolutely, on its face, ridiculous. It's the myth of replicability that I've talked about before--a school is successful here, so a school can be successful there, too--and Ms. Cieslak pushes that myth to the most ridiculous edge.

5) Challenge, Mountlake Terrace, Snohomish County: If you're a terrible cynic you're probably going, "Feh! I bet it's a magnet program in some well-to-do school district! Feh!"

Sometimes, the cynics are right. Challenge is a special magnet program for gifted kids in the Edmonds School District, admission based on referrals and testing.

6) Cedar Wood Elementary, Bothell, King/Snohomish County: A school that's proud to be mentioned in the EFF's report card, they trumpet their high ranking right off of their home page. Mind you, they don't mention the EFF by name (they call them "an educational research foundation">, nor do they link to the EFF's web page, or to the report itself, but why would I want to read anything into that unless I was being snarky, right?

Anyhow, this looks to be an actual public school, in the Everett School District! I know, right? Weird! Going off of their school report card they have 6.2% of the kids taking free or reduced price lunch, about 15% in special education, and 100% fans of locally connected band Death Cab for Cutie.

Congratulations to Cedar Wood for what they've accomplished.

So, to review: 3 magnet programs, 2 of the richest elementary schools in the state, and Cedar Wood of Bothell.

There's a quote that I thought was Molly Ivins, but Google attributes to Ann Richards, referring to George Bush: "He's a guy who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." What the top of the EFF report card is showing us is not a collection of schools that have had to struggle to get their success, but that are maintaining the successes that the kids showed up with in kindergarten.

Another phrase that's been put out is "Cinderella Schools"; those schools that have socio-economic factors lined against them but that are still succeeding, like Pateros. I'm still mining the report to pick those out (personal and confidential to the EFF and Fraser Institute: spreadsheets would be nice), and that will be the next post to come.

Hopefully that's where the value will be, because there hasn't been a whole lot to learn from looking at the extremes.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

I Wanted to Get Gay Married, But the WEA Changed Their Mind :-(

The very last item taken up at this year's Representative Assembly was an interesting motion regarding gay marriage/civil unions/the fall of civilization, depending on your viewpoint. It seemed fairly tame to me, an add on to an already existing continuing resolution about civil and human rights:

The Association further supports efforts by its members to reflect upon the hardships and legal uncertainties that occur when these factors are used to deny two individuals the ability to enter into a legally recognized domestic partnership, civil union, or gay marriage.

The Association further supports efforts by its members and society at large to engage in thoughtful and respectful conversations about marriage equality; the beliefs, values, and legal practicalities associated with it; and how it affects many of our memebrs and students and their respective families, loved ones, and friends.
It's not an endorsement of gay marriage, or even civil unions--it's a call to have a "respectful conversation" about the issue, which really shouldn't be that big a deal for a group of educators.

But oh boy, did this one go on for a long while. Very passionate, very articulate speeches on both sides of the issue, including memorable floor time from a member of WEA-Retired talking about her own life partner and the struggles they have regarding health care and travel. There were also conservative and Christian members (yes, there really is diversity of thought in the WEA) who spoke against, and they did it well.

First vote, too close to call. Then there was a rising vote, where people stand--again, too close to call. The doors to the hall were closed for yet another rising vote, again too close to call. Then each council voted individually and turned in their results to the chair, WEA President Mary Lindquist, at which point the motion was declared "Passed" by about a 30 point margin. Given that there were about 700 people in the hall at the time, that's close.

But wait, there's more! After RA let out they went back over the results, and one council's votes had been transposed. Turns out, the motion failed after all. I expect we'll see it again at the 2010 RA.

It's been expressed before that the WEA, and unions in general, really shouldn't get involved in issues like this--after all, the line of reasoning goes, what does something like civil unions have to do with education? The always-erudite Dr. Pezz expressed it better than I in a post from RA. I'm sensitive to that line of thought, especially when it relates to the PAC (as Dr. Pezz points out); the struggle that I have is that I think of the families that are in this situation, and how things are harder on them than need be.

Why yes, I am a liberal. How'd you tell? ;-)

All that said, my speaking request related to the motion didn't come up before debate was closed. I had a motion of my own: to table the main motion. That would have closed off debate and given Mary the power to close the RA, making no one happy, but sometimes when no one is happy you know you've accomplished something.

Later on, I'll tell you how I voted. A fun summer project might be to check out the list of continuing resolutions on the WEA website; it's a neat document with 1000 different stories behind it.

Do you think unions have a role in these kinds of societal discussions?


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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Senator Eric Oemig: Small School Districts are PARASITES!

Why won't Dixie, Damman, and Stehekin stand up for Kirkland, Lake Washington, and Redmond?  WHY NOT, HUH?
Last week the annual WASA/AWSP Conference was here in Spokane, and since I'm still an intern member I headed down to learn some more, check out the exhibits, and see what was shaking.

In the afternoon there was a legislative town hall meeting about education, which was both an unexpected surprise and right up my alley. From the Senate came Curtis King, K-12 Education chair Rosemary McAuliffe, and vice-chair Eric Oemig. The House was represented by their education chair, Dave Quall, and committee member Tim Probst.

The first 20 minute or so were nothing special. Rep. Quall gave shout-outs to some friends in the audience, Senator McAuliffe talked about.....stuff. I struggle with the good Senator sometimes, but such is life.

It's about 23 minutes in that things got interesting, when a question came from the audience about levy equalization (LEA) and how important it is for small school districts. Senator King (who is out of the Yakima area, mind you, so he knows his small schools), offers that he's glad that bill died, while Rep. Probst says that saving LEA was almost "an accident" of the legislative process and talks about the importance of skills centers and career education.

Then there's Senator Oemig:

"I want to take a stab at this LEA question, too, just because I'm a money numbers guy, I'm a fiscal conservative. And there's a lot of energy around that issue. And I was just talking to my school board, and they were talking about how this is so important, levy equalization. Not because they receive any--they don't. This subsidy goes out to smaller districts. And the problem that I see is that we see large districts that are subsidizing small districts advocating for that equity.

"But we're not seeing a symbiotic relationship. It's actually kind of parasitic."

"I don't hear small districts saying hey, raise those levies in those larger districts where they're able to collect the money. We've got to figure out how to solve the funding of education and get revenue where it can be gotten."

"I think we've got to equalize, then, that money statewide. And there's nobody that I've met in the legislature that doesn't think levy equalization is important. But we have to understand the dual role that we see with levies in the districts that are raising them--we have to let them raise those, and we have to equalize them."

"I really want you to think about that after this--that's something that I want you to take away from here."
Being in the room I can tell you his comments caused quite a bit of tut-tutting; the first speaker after him pointed out that levy equalization isn't about big and small, it's about rich and poor--that's why Spokane and Evergreen of Vancouver, two of the largest districts in the state, are also two power-consumers of LEA dollars.

The heart of Senator Oemig's strawman argument, though, is that small school districts aren't advocating hard enough for large school districts, and that's an argument that sort of beggars imagination. The reason people on my side of the state were so against HB1776 was because of the cut to levy equalization--it had nothing at all to do with the fact that it also would have raised the levy lid for affluent school districts. If they get more money, good for them--just leave my damn budget alone.

Remember, too, that back in April Senator McAuliffe was defending LEA cuts because she felt that the stimulus money coming in was an equitable replacement.

It's going to be a big issue in the coming session. If you're in a district that receives LEA money, start prepping NOW. A parent or a teacher? Start talking to your school board and central office admins about the State School Directors Association Legislative Conference in September. WEA members, talk with your Uniserv leadership and your WEA board members and let them know what you think. Legislative Assembly Days are in Olympia in October, and that'll be a good chance to talk with your Representatives about this issue, or any other.

Man the ramparts, folks. It's needed.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Governor Gregoire Announces All State Government to Move to Mississippi

If going South is good enough for Boeing, then it's good enough for Government, too.

Add this one to the "Why I Worry" list.

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The EFF School Report Card: The Worst Schools in the State

(Second in a look at the 2009 Elementary School Report Card from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. For the first installment, including links to the report, go here.)

The School Report Card sorts out the elementary schools here in Washington from #1 to a four-way tie for #1,127. The Simon Fraser Institute, which carried out the research for the study, says that it identifies the winners and losers, so let's look at the biggest loser schools in Washington State. These are the four that were called out by name in the media.

#1127 Wa He Lut, Olympia, Thurston County. An Indian school in the most basic sense of the word, Wa He Lut isn't a public school at all--it's managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the federal government, and you must be a member of a federally recognized tribe to even attend. Consider, too, that Wa He Lut's low score is based off of one year's scores--they only have WASL results for 2008.

I remember being at an OSPI Summer Institute a couple of years ago where Terry Bergeson talked about the crisis in education surrounding our Native American students statewide, and she was right--less than half graduate from high school. I think it's a problem that needs to be viewed through a different lens than the school reform movement writ large, though.

Here is an example of where I question the methodology of the report--how can Wa Le Hut be called a "loser" school based off of one year's results, when it's not even really a public school at all?

#1127.2: Virgie Robinson Elementary, Pasco, Franklin County: 96.5% low income and 95.8% Hispanic, a fun school where Chicago White Sox jerseys and Ben Davis uniforms are banned because of gang affiliations. Where 75% are in the transitional bilingual program, 1-in-6 are identified special education students, and more than 20% are migrant. It's also 3 times larger than the Pateros School District, which will be important because of something I'll be posting later.

#1127.3: Muckleshoot Tribal School, Auburn, Pierce County: Not really part of the Auburn School District, not really a public school (it's 100% Native American). They're getting a nice new building, which is good for them. They're also at the bottom of the list based on one year's scores-2008-because that's the only year they have scores reported for. My guess is that's because they only have 83 students.

That's right, you 30 or so kids in grades 3 through 5. Mmm-hmm. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

#1127.4: Lummi Tribal School, Bellingham, Whatcom County: The very worst school in the state, says the report. The only school to receive a cumulative 0.0 score for the past five years, which means that in no year, ever, did they score even a fraction of a point in the EFF's system. This article from 2001 seems rather humorous in light of what hasn't happened--academic renaissance--but the humor dies quite quickly when you recognize that this has been an ongoing problem for several generations now.

"But Ryan," I'm hearing someone say, "Ben Chavis. Skooled. It can happen. Soft bigotry, low expectations, et cetera."

And that's fine. What I'm finding ridiculous here is the belief put forward by the report that some how, some way, it's competition that is going to make these schools better.

There are systemic reasons that some schools fail. It's these schools, the outliers, that prove that more than any other. The affirming-the-consequent conceit is to argue that if some schools succeed, then any school can succeed, and since Pateros is doing well, these schools should be too.

But conceit and rankings aren't going to help.

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Why Teachers are Wary of Charter Schools

NYC Educator nails it.

If one of the points of the charter movement is to free the schools from onerous regulations, why not do that for *every* school, not just a select few?

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Newest Member of the PEAB for Eastern Washington University.... me!

I've been thinking a lot lately about the interplay between the schools of education and the K-12 system writ large, so I'm excited to be a part of this process.

Should be fun!

(What's a PEAB? This is a PEAB.)

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The League of "Education" Voters, the Bellevue Teacher's Strike, and School Librarians

Bellevue fired the cat, too.

Noted a press release put out recently saying that two Bellevue parents have joined the Board of Directors of the League of "Education" Voters.

Noted, too, that the Bellevue School District cut High School Librarians last month in order to save money. The school board says that the principals know best, and that every one of the principals wants to cut library.

Further noted that one of the reasons the L"E"V put forward to support HB2261, the Basic Ed Finance Reform Bill, was that it would protect school libraries. And librarians.

It's pretty obvious that the L"E"V is more interested in the theory of change than they are in the effects of the change. Instead of protesting the library cuts, they almost seem to praise them as "finding savings in creative ways." There's an open letter to all school librarians in the state: The L"E"V is on your side, until the going gets tough.

The final note: Bellevue is either represented by or close to the legislative districts of Representative Ross Hunter and Senator Fred Jarrett, two of the leading voices that guided the final work that came out of the Basic Ed Finance Task Force. The hotbed of ed reform in the state right now, for better or worse, is Bellevue. And the L"E"V won't even stand up for their librarians.


Updated 7/8 10:00 PM: I got a message on Facebook from a reader who didn't understand the whole "finding savings in creative ways" criticism from up above; if you follow the link, it now reads "Cutting the basics" instead. Thanks to the miracle of Google's cache, though, you can still see the original, and here's a screen shot to prove it:

I'm glad they've acknowledged that librarians are basic education again. Just wish they had done it the first time.

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Thought for the Day

"A human lifespan is less than a thousand months long. You need to make some time to think how to live it." -- AC Graylin, Philosopher



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Monday, July 06, 2009

Squirrels: They're Nuts

It's a few months old, but I still love it:

ANN ARBOR, Mich., April 24 (UPI) -- A Michigan teacher guiding students around the University of Michigan campus was attacked by an irate squirrel when she tried to help one of its young.

The teacher, from Detroit, spotted the squirrels Thursday as she ushered her students through a campus tour, The Ann Arbor News reported Friday. She noticed the young squirrels were not in their nest and a crow was eyeing one that appeared to have been left behind.

The teacher, whose name was not reported, first tried to shoo the crow away from the squirrels and then to draw the mother's attention to the danger. The mother squirrel instead turned on the teacher.
Were this a Michael Bay movie, the teacher would have been killed and eaten by the squirrel. Then the squirrel would explode. Twice.

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The Best Weed in Washington State Can Be Found in the Methow Valley

I think that's the only logical conclusion to be had after reading this:
In the foothills of the North Cascades, where the veil between dimensions is said to be thinnest, inhabitants of this world gather once a year to coexist with fairies in theirs.

About 250 people came to the Methow Valley June 26 through 28 from as far away as Europe and Hawaii to participate in the ninth annual Fairy and Human Relations Congress, an outdoor festival in a secluded mountain meadow called Skalitude.

A giant crop circle depicting a pinwheel-shaped sun had been cut into the high grass. An open-air tent pavilion stood at the lower end of the meadow. Farther up, white peace banners fluttered in a circular array.

"The purpose of the congress is to encourage communication and cooperation of the fairy realm," said Michael "Skeeter" Pilarski, the event's founder and organizer.
This was the above-the-fold, page 1 article in the Sunday Spokesman-Review, and I believe that this is what will save old media. Indeed.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

How Superintendent's Salaries are Determined

The longer the financial crisis drags on, the more pressure there will be on the state to fix the funding formula for school administrators. Right now the school district gets $69,000 for each principal and central office administrator; everything above that number comes out of the school district general fund. In some cases, that's $100,000+.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Post Father's Day Joke

Jesus was making his usual rounds in heaven when he noticed a wizened, white-haired old man sitting in a corner looking very disconsolate.

"See here, old friend," said Jesus kindly, "this is Heaven. The sun is shining, you've got all you could want to eat, all the instruments you might want to play--you're supposed to be blissfully happy! What's wrong?"

"Well," said the old man, "you see, I was a carpenter on earth, and lost my dearly beloved son at an early age. And here in heaven I was hoping more than anything to find him."

Tears sprang to Jesus's eyes. "FATHER!" he cried.

The old man jumped to his feet, bursting into tears, and shouted, "PINOCCHIO!"

(from the brilliant Aristotle and an Aardvark Go To Washington by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, which will make you think of logic and argument in an entirely new way.)

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Friday, July 03, 2009

ProTip: Report Cards are Good Keepsakes, Too

Then again, they'll never forget:
A teacher accidentally put pornography onto a DVD that was meant to be filled with school memories from the past year, and nobody caught the error until after it was sent home, shocking parents and students alike.


The person in the video turned out to be Isabelle Jackson Elementary fifth grade teacher Crystal Defanti.

Lots of comments on Digg, too.

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This Is Not an Appropriate Use of Your Prep Time

A cache of pornographic and sex-related items were found inside the ceiling of a portable classroom at Blakely Elementary School on Thursday, according to Bainbridge police.
(via and via)


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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Photo of the Day

Winston Churchill. Martin Luther King Jr. Frederick Douglass. Glenn Beck?

The Pride of Mount Vernon
Over at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation's Liberty Live blog they have an animated bar at the top with quotes related to liberty, democracy, etc. You've got your MLK Jr., Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, Adam Smith, and a couple of others.

You've also got the EFF hosting a big fundraising event when they bring Glenn Beck to town this September.

On one hand, Frederick Douglas: "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."

On the other, Glenn Beck: "Cindy Sheehan is a tragedy slut."

On one hand, Martin Luther King Jr.: "I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live."

On the other, Glenn Beck: "And when I see a 9-11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, "Oh shut up!" I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining."

On one hand, Winston Churchill: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."

On the other, Glenn Beck (talking about the San Diego wildfires of 2007): "I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today."

Then there's the newest video, where a guest on Glenn's show says that he hopes Osama Bin Laden nukes America, and Glenn doesn't seem to disagree:

But it's OK, because he loves America and freedom. Or something.

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