Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Struggling with a mental model . . .

daveelf's photostream
 In this post from earlier this month I shared an article about Tennessee's new teacher evaluation model and the problems they are confronting.  Today, I had the opportunity to work with teachers and administrators in our system on our state-mandated teacher evaluation model that must be in place by 2013.  Unfortunately for the others in the room, I struggled to suspend my assumptions based on the Tennessee story and the national trend partly driven by the administration tying grant money to systems using student achievement data in teacher and principal evaluations.  Our state has joined many others in an attempt to align our model with the criteria for a winning grant.

My mental model resulted in an argumentative attitude and counter productive behavior for at least the first hour.  I am struggling with the stated goal being to develop a model to support teacher growth over time with what I believe is a primary intent, rating teachers to find leverage to overcome LIFO, last in first out as shared in this Christian Science Monitor article.  It was another difficult experience that demonstrates how mental models can control behavior.  Through feedback from others such as Amy telling me I interrupted her and focusing on how the model can support teacher and adminstrator conversations, I was able to suspend my assumptions enough to contribute to the work. 

Even after a more positive experience, however, I continue to struggle with this mandate.  Like many things, our system is ahead of many others.  We have a model, Classroom 10, and a system goal already in place.  The state is in year two of the TPEP pilot  and has identified three models for systems to choose from.  We are not a pilot district and we don't want to give up our model, so we find ourselves in the position of aligning Classroom 10 with one of the three choices, the 5D's from the Center for Educational Leadership at the UW.  Using their product is supportive of meeting the mandate, but I question if it is value added to our effort. 

Though I have many questions, the mandate is in place and we must move forward.  We are doing this by working collaboratively with a small team of TEA representatives and administrators.  Today was day two of the work and I hesitate to guess how many more days will be needed to draft the entire document and then turn to developing the mandated principal evaluation model. 

Before closing, let me ask one additional question.  If the intent of the model is to support growth over time, of what value is there in the state reporting by district the number of teachers rated in each of the four mandated categories, Unsatisfactory, Basic, Proficient, and Exemplary?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Successful rally . . .

Scott, John, and other TEA Executive Committee members pulled it off.  I would guess somewhere around 75 to 100 teachers, PSE staff, parents, students, and administrators rallied this afternoon at Four Corners to show our support for public education and against further budget cuts.  Somehow they got KIRO Channel 7 and KOMO Radio to cover the rally and earlier in the day they both interviewed Scott at Shadow Lake.  Unfortunately, I was also asked for an interview by KIRO.  This is not my favorite thing to do, but hopefully they didn't include much in their coverage, at least not anything to cause me or the system any embarrassment.

It was fun and the right thing to do as the legislators began their special session this morning. There were similar gatherings across the state so if they had time to watch the news they saw the concern being expressed for the continuing cuts to "Basic" education. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fate of the superintendent letter . . .

In this post last week I shared with you the tension I was feeling about a possible letter form our ESD superintendents to our area legislators.  At that time I was not able to sign the draft because of the recommendation for a reduced school year, something that the Governor included in her proposed budget.   Over the next three days there were changes made in an attempt to convince at least 2/3 of the superintendents to sign the letter.  Unlike the superintendents in the northern ESD counties, the changes did not result in enough support for the letter to be sent.  

The following portion of the letter with a recommendation for how to make equitable budget cuts created the impasse and lack of 2/3 support.

An example of a funding reduction that could meet the equity principle is to reduce compensation uniformly for all employees, including a freeze or reduction in the salary allocation model. To be equitable, establishing clear legislative intent is essential so that reductions can be applied as intended across the state. Furthermore, all cuts should be made so that school districts can include them in their budget planning, rather than being imposed mid year.

So, how did I respond to the request for support?  Though it will probably result in loss of credibility with some of my readers and colleagues, I indicated that I would support the letter with reservations.  I did not like the inclusion of the recommendation, but I believe that it was more important to send a unified message to the legislators as they begin the special session.  I don't see a scenario where public schools will not be cut.  If I did, I too would hold out  as some of my colleagues did, but for this reason, not the one that was shared by some.  The message from some was that including the example would anger bargaining units in their systems and send the wrong message.  Yes, that is a possibility and for some a probability, and my transparency may result in just that to me in our system.   Given that, I think it is still important for you to know my decision and how I made it.

Even though I believe that cuts will emerge from the special session, I will be at tomorrow's rally with my TEA, PSE, and PTA friends showing my support for public education and encouraging our legislators to not make cuts to our public schools.  Read about the rally here and see you at Four Corners tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rally for public education . . .

Below is a description of a rally for education sponsored by TEA. I copied the language from their web page. With legislators facing uncharted waters with the $2 billion gap and the Governor already sharing her recommendations that I posted about here, this will be an opportunity to share our concern with future cuts. I thank TEA for the leadership and planning for this event and look forward to seeing you at Four Corners.  Oh, they are also asking that we wear something red.

On Monday, November the 28th, we are going to rally in Maple Valley! We plan to assemble at Four Corners from 3pm to 5:30pm to deliver the message that our schools cannot take any more funding cuts during the special session in Olympia that begins November 28th.

Our hope is to get the local media out to this event to get the word out that legislators cannot continue to cut funding to our schools. Students only get one schooling opportunity, and it is not right or fair to make cuts to our children's education. It is not right or fair to ask students to learn in overcrowded classrooms that lack basic resources for all students.

We want our voices heard! TEA is hosting this event, so grab a friend and come help us to wave some signs on November 28th!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving . . .

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I wish for all of you an enjoyable day with family, friends, good food, and plenty of football.  I also want to share with you a short video on Teaching Channel of Secretary Duncan sharing his thanks for teachers and the important work that they do.  I think that you will appreciate his sentiment and in this time of budget cuts and teacher bashing it is both timely and rewarding.

On this StoryCorp site you can learn about the National Day of Listening on November 25th where you can join Secretary Duncan and StoryCorps in asking everyone to take a few minutes to say thanks to a favorite teacher on the day after Thanksgiving.  On the site you can also create a video that can be sent to a teacher that had a positive influence on your life.  What a wonderful way to say thank you.  Please consider sharing a message on the 25th with a teacher, one of those people performing one of the most important functions in our society.


Monday, November 21, 2011

The first budget is out . . .

In a news conference today Governor Gregoire presented us with her supplemental budget proposal.  It comes as legislators prepare to begin the special session that she has directed.  As expected, it contains proposed cuts to public schools of $873.5 million out of the $2 billion all cut budget proposal.  You can find a summary of the proposed cuts on the WSSDA web page or on the OFM site here.

Big hits include the expected cut to Local Effort Assistance (LEA); revenue that property poor districts receive in an attempt to make raising local dollars more equitable across the state.  In the Governor's proposal our district would go from receiving about a million dollars this year to zero in a two year period.  The other big cut was a surprise to me.  She did not propose the cut that would have raised class size, but instead proposed a reduction in the school year from 180 to 176 student days, equivalent to about a 2.2% cut in salary for school staff.  I have already shared my disagreement with this proposal and the accompanying loss of learning time.

Saying she had been persuaded by those who talked with her about not increasing class sizes, the governor reluctantly is recommending cutting the school year from 180 days to 176 days, for a savings of nearly $100 million to the state. By cutting days, state funding for school employee salaries would be reduced by 2.2 percent, while transportation and MSOC would be reduced by a proportional amount.

There are many other proposed cuts in her budget that can be found on the sites referenced above.  She also has provided the legislators with revenue ideas including a half-cent raise in the sales tax that could buy back some of the proposed cuts.  Whether they can reach agreement on new revenue measures will become more evident when the session begins. 

For now, the only positive part of the Governor's proposal is that the cuts would not be enacted in this budget year.  Though positive, it does not make the future more promising.  Though I want to say enough is enough, this taste of reality from the Governor makes that more difficult.  Though we may applaud Superintendent Dorn for his response to the Governor's proposal, by taking this stance we may lose capacity to influence the final decisions.

The cuts being proposed would be catastrophic to basic education, and amply funding basic education is the state’s paramount duty. Our school year is already too short when compared to our economic competitors. We simply can’t go backward on school days.

From the perspective of the schoolchildren in the state – and that’s my perspective – either voters need to approve more revenue or the state Legislature needs to find another way to avoid these cuts. Cutting basic education simply can’t happen.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Service by Bear Computers . . .

Students from Bear Computers at the high school are working to support students and families who do not have access to a computer at home. They refurbish surplus school district desktop computers and offer them free to families in need. The program will benefit up to 145 families while providing meaningful work for members of the club.

Information about the program can be found online here and registration information can be found here. Thanks to advisor Mike Jackson and the students for their efforts to support those with this need. Please help us share this opportunity with members of our community.

An application can also be obtained by calling Jill Jolk at 425-413-6204.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feeling some tension . . .

It has been a difficult two days as I struggle with whether to support a letter from our ESD superintendents to all local legislators. You may have seen the recent article in the Seattle Times about a similar letter that implied it was from superintendents across the state, but wasn’t. It came from superintendents in Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom Counties. You can read the letter here.

Though I am in agreement with much of the letter from the superintendents in those districts, I would not have been able to sign it. Why? I have two reasons with the first being the recommendation to cut the number of days in the school year from 180 to 175. For me, it is not only about shifting the burden from the state to the local district to bargain a loss of revenue. It is also about lost opportunity to prepare young people for meeting the standards imposed on them by the state and federal government. As an example, last year we moved to end of course assessments in mathematics at the secondary level. Today, end of course means 180 days for learning and for the other activities in a comprehensive school program. I don’t hear, nor am I advocating for, reducing the expectations to align with a 175 day school year. Is maintaining standards while reducing opportunity to learn fair to the students that must take the test or for the educators that make the decisions on what to do and not to do with five fewer days to learn? I don’t believe so. Yes, I know we could argue about being more efficient, focused, and not wasting days for staff development, but we are not going to change the mental model of students, parents, and staff in a short period of time that will transform how we use days.

My other reason is a struggle that I am having with making recommendations on how to do the cuts. When we talk with legislators that is always a question they ask us so sending a letter without answering that question could result in significant loss in capacity to influence. Yet, how do we reach agreement on what those recommendations should be? That is where the superintendents are at in our ESD, we are struggling as a group to find common ground on what we need to say and can support individually and collectively. I struggle because I find myself aligned with those not wanting to suggest fewer days or other specific cuts and we are in the minority.

In reflecting on this and what I am saying in this post I am beginning to realize that my biggest struggle may be with sending a letter signed by superintendents. I don’t really know what influence it would have, if any. If what we recommended aligned with a particular strategy for one or the other party it could become leverage in the debate so that could be a positive outcome. Our problem as superintendents is that our various communities, just like our schools, are diverse systems. Though I believe deeply that if we cannot unite with one voice our capacity to influence is greatly diminished, finding that one voice is proving to be very difficult. These competing beliefs are causing me tension because I want to be a part of that one voice.

Maybe the bottom line for me is that I believe that legislators listen more closely to those that vote in their district and that our ability to influence as superintendents may come more from our lobbyists and our individual efforts than a letter. Perhaps shifting my energy to encouraging those in our school community to communicate directly with their legislators is a way for me to find some resolution to this tension. Oh well, I have until tomorrow to make a final decision on whether to sign or not. I’m hopefully waiting for another revision that more closely aligns with what I believe so that I can sign, though I don’t think that will happen.

Though it is not how I prefer to work, I am moving closer to a position of enough is enough. I urge the legislators to create expectations that are achievable with the resources they choose to provide. Stop placing the burden on local districts to supplement in order to reach the identified standards. This results in increased inequities for students across our state. Our current reality is one of shifting targets as we now begin work to move from state to Common Core standards and shifting resource allocations as we prepare for year two of mid-year cuts. That is not the learning environment that will prepare our young people for success in post high school learning and work or for what our governor and legislators continue to tell us that we must do. We accept the challenge of preparing our youth to fill the jobs of the future and contribute to moving our state out of this economic mess. This high demand must be balanced with high support not shifting targets and budgets. Identify what young people need to know and be able to do and provide us with a stable and reliable funding mechanism designed to meet those expectations. With this in place, you can then hold us accountable to achieving them for all students

Monday, November 14, 2011

A School of Distinction . . .

I missed sharing this honor that Shadow Lake Elementary brought to our school system last month. I know that I have shared it at many district and community events, but I can’t find a blog entry so here it is. It is a significant honor as only 99 schools across the state received it this year. It represents continued improvement over a five year period.  The picture is of Nancy and me presenting Chris and the school with a banner commemorating their honor.

Shadow Lake is our first school to receive the School of Distinction award from The Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE), in partnership with the Association of Educational Service Districts (AESD), the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), Phi Delta Kappa-Washington Chapter (PDK-WA), Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), Washington State ASCD and Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA).

The award is given to the top 5% of schools in our state who have made sustained improvement in reading and math over five years as measured by state assessments. In the Puget Sound ESD region, 38 schools in 18 school districts achieved this honor. You can read about it on the PSESD web page or on the district web page.

Staff from Shadow Lake has been invited to attend an awards ceremony on the evening of December 7th at the ESD. Congratulations to the staff, parents, and students of Shadow Lake Elementary for supporting increased achievement over a period of five years. This award demonstrates commitment to a vision of improvement for all young people. We applaud and thank you for your effort and commitment.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

State board acts . . .

On Thursday, the state board took action to rearrange the state's required graduation credits.  The total stayed at twenty, but they added one additional English credit for a total of four and a half Social Studies credit for a new total of three.  They also made successful completion of Washington State History a non-credit requirement and added a half credit requirement for civics.  These and other changes were passed on a 9 to 3 vote.  I shared some of the process the State Board is using to make all Washington graduates college and work ready in this 2010 post on the essential 20.

You can read about the board's action on their website here where they describe what took place prior to the meeting.  Tahoma was one of the 70 districts sending formal written comments to the board.

SBE staff reported that they had received formal written comments from 70 school districts and other stakeholders over the past two months on the proposed rule-making change. From staff comments, it appeared the majority of school districts that sent formal comments were opposed to changing the requirements at this time.

According to SBE staff, the top reasons for opposing the change at this time were:
  • Fiscal impact of making the changes, including the cost associated with staff mix, materials cost, adding sections, etc.
  • Loss of flexibility and choice by reducing electives
  • Concern from districts that may be meeting requirements now but are using local levy dollars which wouldn’t necessarily still be available with future funding cuts by the state
  • Some questions about how the two-for-one CTE credit requirement would be implemented
Our primary reasons for opposing the change at this time are related to cost and loss of flexibility.  With about 40% of current seniors not meeting the new Social Studies requirement, if the requirement were in place today, it would have a significant impact on our elective program.  This would create staffing concerns for the district and would take away additional flexibility from students and families as they plan for post high school learning and work.  Since the legislation that is driving this change required that there be funding in place prior to implementing any changes, we agree with one of the dissenting board members reason for voting no.

Dal Porto also mentioned his concern about breaking the SBE’s commitment with school districts to push forward no unfunded mandates until funding is provided for the changes.

The changes are required for the class of 2016, the current eighth grade class.  Because there were districts raising concerns, the board decided to compromise by allowing for a two year waiver to extend the requirement to the class of 2018.  We have until June1, 2012 to decide if we want to apply for the waiver.  I'm disappointed that this action was taken.  It is not timely and I am not supportive of requirements that limit additional flexibility as do some who testified at the meeting.

Wood spoke specifically about a concern losing electives and questioned whether the SBE’s preferred “core” subjects really were the most relevant and critical to the success of all students.

“Is a fourth year of English, spent diagramming sentences, or a communications class in public speaking more relevant?” asked Wood.

WSSDA Past President Kevin Laverty (Mukilteo) and Northshore School Director Janet Quinn also spoke in opposition to the changes.

“We just can’t do it anymore,” said Quinn. “We have a dedicated group of educators who are doing their best, but they just can’t take on one more unfunded mandate. Something has to give.” She also mentioned that electives were sometimes the only thing that kept a student in school.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The frenzy for accountability . . .

Amy Adams sent me a link to this New York Times article about implementation of Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system. As a winner of a Race to the Top federal grant the state made the decision to develop a new model partly based on using student achievement data. Fifty percent of a teacher’s evaluation in Tennessee is based on their students’ state test scores and the model requires the principal to make at least four observations in every teacher’s classroom. The last part makes sense though I don’t see how it is possible in a large school with the additional requirements referred to in the article.

The state is micromanaging principals to a degree never seen before here, and perhaps anywhere. For example, Mr. Shelton is required to have a pre-observation conference with each teacher (which takes 20 minutes), observe the teacher for a period (50 minutes), conduct a post-observation conference (20 minutes), and fill out a rubric with 19 variables and give teachers a score from 1 to 5 (40 minutes).

Mr. Shelton is a middle school principal who used the following words to describe the situation.

“I’ve never seen such nonsense,” he said. “In the five years I’ve been principal here, I’ve never known so little about what’s going on in my own building.” Mr. Shelton has to spend so much time filling out paperwork that he’s stuck in his office for long stretches.

One other component of the model makes even less sense. Since not all teachers teach subjects that administer a state test such as P.E., art, music, K-3, and vocational teachers the decision was made to allow the individual teacher to choose which test they want to be judged on for fifteen percent of their testing evaluation. That has led to comments such as the following.

Several teachers without scores at Oakland Middle School conferred. “The P. E. teacher got information that the writing score was the best to pick,” said Jeff Jennings, the art teacher. “He informed the home ec teacher, who passed it on to me, and I told the career development teacher.”

All of this was done to align with what the federal education department sees as a necessary component of improving public education. For Tennessee, it has resulted in problems and requests to change the model that are currently being discussed. Why should we care? Because there is currently a process underway in our state that could also result in using test data to evaluate teachers and principals. It is the Teacher Principal Evaluation Project that has been in place for a year with some districts in year two of a pilot.

You can find information about the project on their site here and if you go to the TPEP Task Force page you can see that value added and student achievement is a topic of discussion at the meetings. Below are the agendas for the last two meetings.

November 10, 2011 – NEWESD 101 – Spokane, WA

• Agenda
• Common Cores State Standards: A Commitment to Student Success – Greta Bornemann, OSPI
• Developing and Assessing Teacher Effectiveness – Linda Darling-Hammond, Standford University
• Using Value Added for Teacher Accountability: What Could Go Wrong? – Jesse Rothstein, University of California, Berkeley

October 27, 2011 – City University – Renton, WA

• Agenda
• Overview of Student Growth for Non-tested Grades and Subjects – Gretchen Weber, American Institutes for Research
• Presentation and Discussion: How to Use Student Learning Objectives in Educator Evaluation – Joann Taylor, Austin Independent School District

To be in position for future federal grant opportunities the state will need to be using student achievement data to evaluate teachers and principals. I think this is inevitable given the current national trend and focus on teacher quality. My hope is that those engaged in this process do not replicate the problems being experienced in Tennessee. I agree with Alexander Russo in this post about both the situation in Tennessee and Florida. You can read about the Florida problems here.

These examples show just how disconnected teacher evaluation is getting from what teachers do.

I think it is unfortunate that in our state and in states around the country millions of dollars are being spent to create evaluation models whose stated purpose is to support teacher growth over time, but whose intent is to get rid of “bad” teachers. We don’t need a four tier model, required observations, and paper work to focus on instruction and support teacher growth. We need a shared vision of quality instruction and the capacity for principal and teacher leadership to create the cultures where quality is demanded and support is in place to balance this high demand.

In our system it is our focus on Classroom 10 and for this year on learning goals and checks for understanding. The conversations between teachers and principals and teachers are productive and are resulting in changed practice across our system. The layering on in two years of a new evaluation model that is aligned with our Classroom 10 goal will complicate the work and make it more difficult to maintain focus on the goal. We don’t need the threat of an evaluation to create changed classroom practice. We are experiencing it through our work and the foundation of that work is a collaborative system with the capacity to engage in difficult and important conversations about what quality learning and instruction look and sound like. This might be a model that reformers should consider.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Student Housing report . . .

Kevin Kalberg and Tanya Donohue
At the board meeting this evening we shared the student housing proposals from the Ad-hoc Citizen Committee that has been studying the issue since June. Over that time the committee met two times a month to understand our current reality and to identify options for the board to consider with the failure of last April’s bond measure. This included options for both short and long term housing needs.

It has been an interesting process as the group struggled to understand how we could be in the current situation and sharing their frustrations with our struggle in educating the voters about the need. They did accomplish the goal they were given and you can see the report on the district web page here. The board has some difficult decisions that will need to be made and the report will assist them in this process.

The committee was made up of nineteen citizens committed to our school system and determined to identify options that maintain the quality program currently in place and planned for the future. To a person, they volunteered to continue to support the board throughout the process and I believe will be there to support the final decisions made by the board. We owe them a huge thank you for their commitment to our school system and for sharing their time and thinking with us.

Committee members: Jett Thompson, Marcy Rice, Kaethe Long, Craig Mahoney, Chad Wall,
Michael Crowe, Megan Sheridan, Sean Cassidy, Christina Delia, Kartha Heinz, Kari LaBree, Kevin
Kalberg, Jill Saldivar, Joy Stramer, Kari Thomas, Catie Larsen, Tanya Donohue, Jim Flynn, and Dick

In addition to the citizens, there were two school board representatives; Tami Henkel, and Didem Pierson.

Support for the committee’s work was provided by staff members Mike Maryanski, Rob Morrow, Bruce Zahradnik, Fritz Gere, Robert Talbert, Terry Duty, and Kevin Patterson.

John Schuster represented teachers and Barbara Roessler represented classified staff.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

State champions . . .

Congratulations to our girl's cross country team who ran to a state title on Saturday at Pasco.  Coaches Connor and Brady have built a quality program that experiences success from year-to-year and this year they made it all the way.  Seeing that almost all the girls will be back, I would say that next year should also be successful.

Not only did the girls win, the boys finished in eighth place.  Again, this shows the dedication of these young men and women and of the coaches that support them in this sport.

Not liking it . . .

Google recently changed their RSS feeder page, something that I had become comfortable with over time.  Not being very techie, I didn't take notice when they shared with users the information on the change to the page and further changes in the future.  After reading some blog posts I guess it has something to do with integrating Reader into the new Google+. 

What I do know is that I don't like the change and there are others who share my sentiment including Iranian youth.  It seems that for some technical reason the Iranian government can't block Reader in the country so it has become a way to share uncensored news.  The recent revisions to Reader may change this.

As explained by Amir on, Google Reader is not a separate domain (i.e., it’s available at and it’s available behind a secure URL beginning https. This setup makes it hard for the government to directly block and filter Reader, even though many other social services, including Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Tumblr, Flickr and Picasa, are routinely banned in Iran, a country that’s ranked as the world’s worst oppressor of online freedoms.

In Iran, Reader is able to serve as a hidden social outlet. It even has super-users like activist VahidOnline, a user with more than 7500 followers. These folks help share and spread news through Reader with posts that become online discussion boards for a network of Iranian users.

I'm in agreement with Stephen at Stephen's Web that it is now more difficult to use and with these comments from a former Google product manager.  I find it much slower to use.   Is anyone else having trouble with the change?
Reader is a product built to consume information, quickly. We designed it to be very good at that one thing. G+ is an experience built around browsing (similar to Facebook) and socializing. Taking the UI paradigm for G+ and mashing it onto Reader without any apparent regard for the underlying function is awful and it shows.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sorry, more budget news . . .

Though not planned, once again I'm focusing on the Governor’s proposed budget cuts because today the possible loss of state support for transportation made the news. KOMO dropped by a bus stop in Normandy Park to get parent reaction to the cut which is on the Governor’s list of potential items to reduce the $2 billion gap.

As with others on the list, there is disagreement as to whether transportation would fall under the protection of the state constitution as a part of basic education. Superintendent Dorn believes that transportation is a part of basic education and thus could not be cut.

Washington's state schools chief, Randy Dorn, says there's one more consideration here: the state Constitution requires the state government to amply pay the costs of basic education, as defined by the state Legislature. Student transportation is part of the definition of basic education and although it's been a long time since the state has paid the entire cost of busing kids to school, that doesn't mean it shouldn't even try, he said.

A staff member form the Office of Financial Management believes otherwise.

Jim Crawford, an education number cruncher in the state Office of Financial Management, said the definition of basic education is open for debate.

"Because it's basic ed, doesn't mean it can't ever be touched under any circumstances," Crawford said, adding that the Legislature would have to adjust the definition to make way for many of the governor's ideas for cutting the state education budget.

Representative Hunter also weighs in on the issue with the words below. As Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, he will have influence on the choices that are made to reduce the budget gap.

Jim Crawford, an education number cruncher in the state Office of Financial Management, said the definition of basic education is open for debate.

"Because it's basic ed, doesn't mean it can't ever be touched under any circumstances," Crawford said, adding that the Legislature would have to adjust the definition to make way for many of the governor's ideas for cutting the state education budget.

I find it hard to believe that cutting transportation funding is a viable option for consideration, but I’ve been surprised before. Since I last posted about this topic, we have received more detailed information on what the Governor’s proposed cuts would mean to our school system. Below are the two big dollar items and one I have not yet identified.

Increase Class Size: The proposal is to reduce revenue for students in grades 4 -12 that would have the potential to raise class size in grades 4-6 from 27 to 29; grades 7-8 from 28.53 to 30.53; and grades 9-12 from 28.74 to 30.74. Vocational class sizes would also go up by 2 students. The potential revenue loss to our system would be $1,226,310.

Levy Equalization Reduction: In our system this is projected to be $787,621.

One of the potential cuts I have not talked about is reducing the monthly state allocation for health benefits from $768 to $745. This would amount to a revenue loss of $157,386 in our system and a cost that would be assumed directly by staff members.

You can find these and other impacts from the Governor’s proposed cuts on the state’s Office of Financial Management web page.

In closing this post, remember the importance of letting your legislators know how you feel about these potential reductions to our revenue the remainder of this year and next.  We are being told that the majority of calls legislators are getting come from those concerned with cuts to social service agencies that provide support to the young, the elderly, and the poor.  Other than WEA, they are not hearing from voters concerned with additional cuts to public education.  If they only hear from the associations that represent us, it will be much easier for them to balance the budget gap with cuts to our revenue.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Continued recognition . . .

We continue to receive recognition from outside our school system.  On Tuesday Tahoma High School was recognized by the College Board, the agency that administers the Advanced Placement program.  The school was recognized as one of 367 earning a placement on  the second annual College Board Honor Roll.  You can read more about the honor on our web page and soon in the local papers.  There were only 14 schools earning this honor in Washington.

School districts earn a place on the AP Honor Roll by simultaneously increasing access to Advanced Placement coursework while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP exams.

We need to thank Principal Duty for supporting and encouraging this program, the Teaching and Learning Department for their support and guidance, and Brooke Dillon for her day-to-day leadership and nurturing growth of the offerings and participation.  Finally, we need to thank the teachers for the learning opportunities and the students for their commitment to taking these college level courses.

On the same day Rock Creek Elementary was featured on Channel 5 for their food composting program.  Any of our schools could have been featured because as I shared in a previous post, all of our schools have this program.  You can see the piece here.  It does a nice job of showcasing students while also sharing our problem with over crowded schools.  

These are two additional indicators of our success in two diverse areas.  Once again, we can be proud of our school system; the commitment of the adults to creating quality learning environments and the  achievement of our young people.  I'm sure that I am missing many other areas of achievement and would welcome comments from readers sharing them.