Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A celebration . . .

In this post on April 4th I shared the news that four of our schools had earned Washington School Achievement recognition for 2012.  The chart that I shared identified the area of achievement and the small number of schools being recognized across the state.  Overall, there were 381 schools that achieved this honor.
Today, each school received their banner and trophy in a ceremony at Kentwood High School.  It was an honor to be in attendance and associated with this outstanding group of educators.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Agreement not reached . . .

To no one's surprise the regular legislative session ended at 6:15 p.m. today without reaching agreement on a budget.  Governor Inslee has called them back for a 30 day special session on May 13th to try and accomplish what was not possible in the 105 day regular session.  The Governor's words in this krem.com post capture the difficulty they face in trying to reach agreement on a budget.

Inslee said the parties are not miles apart, but "light years apart."

The focus for the session will be on the budget, transportation, and education.  There is much to accomplish within 30 days considering how far apart they are on budget and policy issues with education proving to be one of the more controversial issues they face.  Will a second special session be needed to bring closure to the gap between the three parties?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some difficult reflections . . .

Even though it is Thursday, a normal post day for me, I have spent the last two hours since I got home pretty much reflecting on two meetings I had today without thinking about a topic for a post.  More specifically, I am replaying them in my mind focusing on the role that I played and the message my behavior gave to the participants.  Given that, I thought I'd share some of my reflections.

The first meeting focused on updating us on the planning for a review process.  I found myself early in the meeting confronted with a ladder of inference I have about work in this area over a period of time.  I was initially able to suspend my assumptions and productively engage in the conversation.  As the conversation continued, however, we shifted into focusing on decisions that had been made, who made them, and who needed to be a part of the process.  I then found myself climbing my negative ladder and being concerned about a process that would result in replicating outcomes that we have experienced in similar processes in the past.  Concern then quickly turned to being upset.  By this time I had lost my ability to be influenced, something that I shared when one of the participants tried to pull me back into the conversation.

Some might ask why is he sharing this, it is certainly nothing to be proud of and is the kind of behavior that he   continually tells us that we need to avoid.  I do so to demonstrate the power our mental models and ladders have over our behavior and how very difficult it is at times to suspend the assumptions leading to them.  As I have shared before, I know this and teach it to others, but still struggle at times resulting in behavior such as mine today.  What I find interesting as I reflect, is that I was fully aware of the transitions I was making throughout the conversation including when I decided to be directive toward the close of the meeting.  Though aware, I still showed my anger, something that I should have not done and that would have been better for all of us in the meeting.  I'd feel better if I could say that I intentionally shared my anger for whatever reason, but that was not the case.

The second meeting with principals and central office staff was at times difficult for some, but I believe will result in positive changes for the system.  Through sharing of mental models, experiences, and private thoughts, we were able to identify some needs in the system and a possible structure to increase the level of collaboration and influence that building administrators have in major system decisions impacting their work. All in the room contributed to this outcome.

So, two opportunities to support our work that leave me with much to consider as I seek to grow in my capacity to engage in reflective conversations while balancing advocacy and inquiry and being open to be influenced.  There is much to learn and much room for me to grow.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Moving in wrong direction . . .

In this Crosscut post we see the State House Education budget going the wrong way before negotiations with the Senate and Governor begin.  Dropping four components of their revenue plan has resulted in a reduction in the House education budget from $1.34 billion to $1.16 billion.  This is in contrast to the Senate budget of about $1 billion.  My sense is that this may also be the result of some back door conversations that have made it clear that the House tax plan is dead on arrival and keeping it will not lead to agreement on a budget.

In the article Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said that no decisions have been made yet on what would be trimmed out of the House's package to start complying with a Washington Supreme Court order.  Where they make these cuts could have a negative impact on state revenue to our system.  In this April 11th post I shared the three budgets and the importance of flexibility.  If they choose to make the cuts in transportation funding or MSOC (Maintenance, Supplies and Operating Costs) and maintain all day Kindergarten and class size reductions it will result in less flexibility for us.  We want them to implement recommendations from the Joint Task Force on Education Spending that made transportation and MSOC the priority for new revenue.

The article also referenced a vote today in the Senate that would permanently eliminate cost of living wages under I-732 and implement a controversial shift of funds.

In a related matter, the Senate passed a complicated education bill 25-23 Tuesday that would permanently eliminate a frequently suspended cost-of-living raise for teachers under Initiative 732, plus shift $166 million from the "common schools fund" to help pay for the Senate's $1 billion education fix-it plan. Democrats in both chambers argue that money is constitutionally limited to construction, and the shift is unconstitutional. Republicans say the shift is constitutional. One clause appears to envision shifts when construction needs are met. The Washington Attorney General's office has not issued an opinion this matter, and says it wouldn't normally.

This action brings additional complexity and opposing views to an already difficult task to craft a state budget that can be approved by all three parties.  Where is the leverage that will lead to agreement?  How will education in the state and in our school system be impacted as this scenario is played out behind closed doors?  I encourage you to let your legislators know your feelings as they seek to find resolution.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Two more schools . . .

One year ago tomorrow I shared in this post that the Junior High was recognized as one of the inaugural 78 schools honored as a National Green Ribbon school.  Today, we were informed that two of our schools are receiving the same honor this year, Tahoma High School and Glacier Park Elementary.

The award is given by the U.S. Department of Education.  As can be seen on their web page, these are competitive awards and the winners are in a select group of schools across the country.

The schools were confirmed from a pool of candidates voluntarily nominated by 32 state education agencies. The list of selectees includes 54 public schools and 10 private schools. The public schools include seven charter, five magnet and four career and technical schools. The schools serve various grade levels, including 40 elementary, 23 middle and 19 high schools are among them, with several schools having various K-12 configurations, from 29 states and the District of Columbia.

In our state there were four schools and one district, Kent that were recognized this year.  We have two of those four schools in our system.

Congratulations to these schools for this honor and thanks to the Green Team leaders and students for their leadership.  Also, thanks to Nancy and the T&L Department for their curriculum support and to Dawn, Lori, and Kevin for their work to meet the requirements of a very comprehensive application process.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Common Core movement . . .

In case you haven't had a chance to keep up on the latest developments with the Common Core State Standards, this piece by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post tells you everything you need to know.  There have been two recent decisions with the potential to dramatically alter what has thus far been a bipartisan initiative supported by 45 states.  First, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution rejecting the CCSS initiative.
RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee recognizes the CCSS for what it is — an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children so they will conform to a preconceived “normal,” and, be it further . . .
Add http://www.corestandards.org/in-the-statescaption
The second development was Senator Grassley (R-Iowa) last week asking his colleagues to co-sign a letter asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to cut off all future funds that would allow the Obama administration to push states into participating in the Common Core State Standards and it’s assessments.  In an email to colleagues he shared the following five examples of how this has been done.

  • Making adoption of Common Core a pre-requisite for a state even being able to compete for Race to the Top funds.
  • Directly funding the two assessment consortia developing tests aligned to Common Core using Race to the Top funds.
  • Assembling a panel to review the work of the two assessment consortia.
  • Making implementation of Common Core or coordination with Common Core a funding priority for other, unrelated competitive grants administered by the Department of Education.
  • Making participation in Common Core essentially a prerequisite for being awarded a waiver from the Department of requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act.
Our state is one that has signed onto the Common Core as I shared in this post.  Unfortunately, there has been very little support at the state level, leaving us to once again align curriculum, prepare assessments, and ensure that teachers have the knowledge and structures necessary for preparing students for the proposed assessments in 2015.  We need to monitor these recent developments at the national level because they have the potential to significantly change the landscape.  In this Truth In American Education post you can see how the resolution is being used in Alabama.  How many states might follow this example will be important to watch.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The dream continues . . .

Last evening was the second meeting of the team that will work with DLR, our architects, to create the educational specifications leading to the design of our proposed new regional learning center. The primary focus was to brainstorm and document a day (24 hours) in the life of a high school student twenty years in the future.  Five teams comprised of students, staff, and community members engaged in the work and presented their finished products.  Each team had a mix of humor and progressive thinking that will influence our conversations as the work moves forward.

I heard two themes emerge in the presentations that we must consider as we make decisions on a building design that will need to meet the learning needs of students for the next fifty years.  The first is flexibility and the second is personalized learning.  I look forward to seeing how these themes and others to follow will come alive in the design and to watching this team of dedicated people use their experience, creativity, and vision to support this effort.  We are truly blessed with their commitment to this work.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Innovations in 3D printing . . .

I continue to be fascinated by the rapid advances in 3D printing that I shared here and in this post by our high school robotics teacher about the 3D printer in his classroom.  Since then I continue to see new advancements and projections for how this technology will change lives in the future.  I found a link to the video below in a post by Ian Jukes.

Beyond an initial novelty, 3D printing could have a game-changing impact on consumer culture, copyright and patent law, and even the very concept of scarcity on which our economy is based. From at-home repairs to new businesses, from medical to ecological developments, 3D printing has an undeniably wide range of possibilities which could profoundly change our world.

The video discusses the potential impact that 3D printing will have on the economy, on customization  and on copyright issues.  How about building replacement organs out of living cells or printing your next meal?  The technology is already being used to print concrete for repairing coral reefs and for lab-made rat kidneys.  Technology is changing the way we interact with each other and with the world we share and this one is opening new and potentially disrupting possibilities.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Needing better balance . . .

If you are one of those like me that has been struggling with the influence that large foundations and business have had with education policy makers you will appreciate the link in this Alexander Russo, This Week In Education post.  The link goes to a Los Angeles Times editorial sharing some of Bill Gates latest thinking on the use of student achievement scores in teacher evaluation.  It appears that he has moved from being a staunch advocate to now recommending caution in the overuse of standardized test scores in teacher evaluation.

It is the Gates Foundation that can take a great deal of the credit for this teacher evaluation movement across the country that has influenced the model in our state and that has also led to states basing up to 50% of the evaluation on student test scores.  Much of what we read today about public education is the result of studies done by foundations and the resultant influence on policy makers.  Much of the commentary is negative and much of what is driven by the new accountability movement is questionable.  I like this recommendation from the Times editorial that calls for better balance between studies and policy.

When philanthropists have potentially useful ideas about education, they should by all means try them out, establish pilot programs, put their money where their mouths are. But before government officials incorporate those ideas into policy, they must study them carefully and make sure that what sounds reasonable in theory works in practice.

Though Gates is moving away from his earlier advocacy for test scores, he is not backing away from finding answers to what ails public education.  From this recent study and his comments, student perception surveys have replaced test scores in providing leverage in teacher evaluations.  I don't know that teachers will like this any more than using test scores as measures of their worth in the classroom..

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Last budget proposal . . .

With yesterday's release of the House budget we now have all three proposals for comparison purposes.  The House budget would increase total K-12 funding by $1.3 billion making it the most closely aligned with projections to meet the McCleary directive and on pace for full funding by 2017.  You can see Superintendent Dorn's very positive response to this budget in this statement.  In comparison the Senate budget would increase K-12 funding by $1 billion and the Governor by $1.2 billion.

Though there is some alignment in the three proposal, there are major differences that will make it difficult to reach agreement on a budget.  These differences create the foundation for bargaining that sometimes results in compromise leading to additional reform, more accountability, and less flexibility. This usually happens behind closed doors as the party and caucus leaders search for the keys to bringing the session to a close.  There are also major differences in how to pay for these proposals that you can read about here, here, and here.

The chart below gives a quick comparison of funding in key areas for us.  Before yesterday, I though that the Senate proposal would provide us with the fewest new dollars, but it may that the House budget with a larger increase may actually drive fewer dollars to us and is certainly less flexible because of less revenue for transportation and MSOC.

The chart below from WASA will give you a quick look at the budget proposals as they relate to the Joint Task Force recommendations.  The increased funding for transportation in all three budgets approaches the recommendation, but in all other areas there is a significant gap to close.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Re-energizing through principal conversation . . .

It was one of those days where I spent very little time in the office so I'm doing email and correspondence at home, but my thoughts keep returning to our meeting with elementary principals this afternoon.  Our focus was on the reflection that they have been doing about the purpose of their work and what they and we must do as a system to support their aspiration to perform the functions of instructional leadership.

I started the conversation with six questions designed to place them in a position of being reflective about the current reality of their work and discovering the mental models and assumptions that drive their behavior and influence their capacity for adaptive thinking.  These are important, but difficult conversations because each of the six questions is followed by additional questions to dig deeper in an effort to discover those critical assumptions so powerful in influencing our thinking and behavior.  They shared these very personal reflections with each other and also in a more public way as there were eight others in the room observing the conversation.

I was energized during the meeting, but even more so, I was proud of the sharing, reflection, and suspension of assumptions that took place.  It reinforced my gratitude for the commitment that these principals bring to their instructional leadership journey and to the concern and compassion that they have for the young people and adults in their buildings.  I am blessed to have the opportunity to support their learning and to have a classroom of such dedicated learners.

Today was one for me that results in energy creation as opposed to energy drain.  I thank them for this opportunity and experience and eagerly await our next conversation as we seek those structures that will provide them with the leverage needed to close the gap between their current reality and aspiration to provide support for all teachers to grow in their profession.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

State Board speaks out on funding . . .

I found this post on the Washington State Board of Education site comparing K-12 funding in 1993 to 2013 interesting given the current rhetoric about the increases in dollars spent on K-12 education over time without increased accountability. They make the case that state funding results in the creation of a shaky foundation.  I would also suggest that over this same period of time there have been increases in accountability, but that would be for another post.

The chart above shows staffing formulas in place in 1993 and in 2013 that drive the majority of state funding to school systems in the state. (See the bottom of the post for additional information.)  The authors use the chart to begin the case that funding categories haven't changed much over time.

It turns out that the foundation of the budget, General Apportionment, hasn’t kept pace with the rise in inflation or increase in student enrollment since 1993. 

I believe that this may be misleading.  First, when enrollment goes up we do receive more funding through these apportionment formulas.  More students drive more dollars in each category.  Second, at one time the formula for K-4 CIS (Certified Instructional Staff or teachers) was actually 54 per 1000 full time students.  Over time, however, that number decreased to 53.2 then back to 49 in 2010/11 when legislators faced budget shortfalls.  They were able to make those cuts because increasing the staffing ratio to 54 was an enhancement to the "basic education" formula that was established in statute at 49.

When times were flush legislators recognized the need to staff those grades at a lower class size, but that action was not driven by a deep understanding and commitment.  It was a response to a need that made sense if revenue was available.  Deep commitments do not succumb to revenue shortfalls, those responsible search for adaptive solutions.  It is interesting to watch this now play out once again in Olympia with the focus on all day kindergarten and lowering K-3 class size.  Since these are driven by the new definition of "basic education" it  will be more difficult, once implemented, to take it away.

The post goes on to share comparisons of salaries and benefits and categorical programs over the same period of time.  It goes on to make the case that increases in state funding compared to inflation have not come in staffing or salary, but in these categorical programs.

K-3 CIS - Certified Instructional Staff ( Teachers)
4-12 CIS - Certified Instructional Staff ( Teachers)
K-12 CAS - Certified Administrative Staff
K-12 CS - Classified Staff (Clerical, Maintenance/Custodial)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Another political post . . .

There is a lot going on in Olympia with the Senate approving a budget that some tout as "bipartisan", but others see as simply preserving the opportunity for influence at a later date as shared in this Seattle Times article.  The layers of complexity in the Senate show in the vote where the Democrats were needed to pass the measure as one Republican was absent and another voted no.

“I want to make it very clear this is not a bipartisan budget,” said Democratic Sen. Sharon Nelson, of Maury Island. “We will need more revenue, for (education) ... and please, for the safety net. The poor are hurt in this budget and it’s painful for all of us.”

The Governor has also caused problems with Republicans and others with his changed position on the Senate's grading schools bill.  He campaigned for an accountability system where schools would be graded in a manner that was easy for parents to understand, but does not like all components of the Senate bill.  This Times article's title captures it all.

Even with all these goings on Crosscut article about the unrealistic expectations for a 105 day legislative session may be the most interesting.  With only twenty-three days left there is zero possibility for the session to end on time as the third and final budget has yet to be unveiled.  it provides a nice summary of how we end up in this situation on a regular basis.

Bottom line; The two chambers have just about three weeks to fight over complicated accounting moves, budget cuts, possible tax increases, which Peter to rob to pay which Paul, and behind-the-scenes bragging rights over who are the most bad-ass groups of legislators and lobbyists.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

More recognition for our schools . . .

Yesterday, OSPI announced the recipients of the state's highest honor, being recognized for a Washington Achievement Award for 2012.  There were 381 schools identified for this honor and four of them come from our school system.  This is elite company when you consider the number of schools in our state.  Please join me in recognizing and thanking the learning communities of Lake Wilderness Elementary, Rock Creek Elementary, Glacier Park Elementary, and Tahoma High School for this honor.  This is the first year for Lake Wilderness and our High School, the second time for Rock Creek, and Glacier Park has received the honor in each of the four years it has been presented.  Below is a description of the process form the OSPI web site and here is a link to all 381 schools that are being recognized for this achievement.

Washington’s School Achievement Index rates all schools according to specific outcomes and indicators from 2010 to 2012. The five outcomes are student performance in statewide assessments in reading, writing, math and science tests, as well as the school’s extended graduation rate, which includes those students who took longer than four years to graduate.
Those outcomes are each measured using four indicators:
  1. achievement of students who are not from low-income families;
  2. achievement of students who are from low-income families;
  3. achievement of a school when compared to “peers” (schools with similar student characteristics, such as the percentage of students who have a disability, are learning English, are designated as gifted, come from low-income families, and are mobile); and
  4. improvement in the achievement of all students combined from the previous year.
The average of the resulting 20 measures comprises the overall index. 

From the chart below, you can see two of our schools receiving honors in two categories and the total number receiving recognition in each category.  I also included (thanks to Dawn) the number of schools eligible for recognition in each category to show that these awards are truly an honor.

More negative reactions . . .

My post yesterday sharing good news about the Senate's proposed budget was based on a very narrow focus around revenue with flexibility.  With a day for review and analysis, we are beginning to see additional  negative responses.  I also had a chance this morning to speak with a member of the House who shared significant issues she has with this budget proposal.  Here is one negative reaction from Superintendent Dorn  sharing the following areas of concern.

  • It does not improve early learning. 
  • It eliminates dropout prevention and other student support programs. 
  • It changes testing requirements, which will lead to fewer graduates. 
  • It effectively eliminates state funded Career and Technical Education. 
  • It is not sustainable, responsible budgeting. 

Here is one from the League of Education Voters sharing what they consider significant omissions.  This post also shares that the budget contains only $760 million in new money to meet the McCleary ruling and not the $1 billion identified yesterday.

  • limited funding for full-day kindergarten (details below);
  • no funding for K-3 class size reduction;
  • no increases in instructional hours or support for a college- and career-ready diploma–components of the 2009 legislation (HB2261) referred to in the McCleary v. Washington decision ordering the legislature to fully fund basic education by 2018;
  • no support for Common Core implementation; and

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Some good news . . .

The Senate budget was released today and it had for me a surprising element of good news.  First, it included about $1 billion for K-12 in the first year, short of what many see as meeting the intent of the court in the McCleary decision, but more than many expected.  Second and very important to us, is the decision to first fund the new transportation formula and Materials, Supplies, and Operating Costs (MSOC) followed in later budgets with all day kindergarten and lowering K-3 class sizes.  This is the flexibility we were asking for and needing.  Thanks to those of you that contacted your Senators, they heard as we learn in this Washington State School Directors Association release.

In response to a question from the media, Hargrove said they chose to fund transportation and MSOC because school districts said it needed to be funded first and, without that initial investment, districts might not have the capacity to decrease class sizes. But he said smaller classes for lower grades will probably be part of the larger conversation.

The budget was not greeted positively by all however, as can be seen in this Seattle Times article.  It included cuts in some social services and did not include new revenue or continuation of taxes that are in the Governor's budget priorities.

“In addition to being unsustainable, some of their decisions seem downright cruel,” House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said of the Senate proposal.

Inslee criticized the budget as well, saying in a statement, “This proposal is deeply flawed. It’s the same old game that relies on short-term fixes and budget tricks, and it results in policy choices that would take our state backward.”

We now wait to hear from the House with their budget expected next week.  This will be followed by the real "game" in Olympia as the budget power brokers then get together to fashion a compromise.  Our work is not complete.  It will be important for us to review each of the three budgets and make our thoughts known to our legislators on what we see as the budget components that best support our journey.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A different report card . . .

One of the words we continue to hear from Olympia is accountability, especially from the Senate and echoed in multiple Seattle Times editorials such as yesterday's focused on Governor Inslee's budget.  Though the title suggests alignment between the Governor and the editorial board there is some concern that new money is not tied to increased accountability.

New money for education ought to rest on a solid foundation of accountability. The state Senate has passed thoughtful reforms that help the money make a difference.

In this March 5th editorial one of those reforms, SB 5328 is identified as a positive step forward.  The focus of the bill is to assign letter grades to individual schools based upon the state's achievement index. In the spirit of accountability I thought I would share a different accountability measure.  This one is from the League of Education Voters and is the Citizens' Report Card on Washington State Education.  This one doesn't grade individual schools, it grades progress on 32 indicators across five categories and the results are not good.  In four of the five categories the grades are lower than the last report card two years ago and in the fifth the grade is the same.

This report card deserves the same exposure as that of the proposed Senate reforms since it is also a measure of how well the policy makers have or have not done to support attainment of these five categories. The Funding and Accountability grade is certainly one that is at the door step of the legislature.  Once again, it is time to fund and support the reforms already in place not add new reforms and additional accountability. We need support and flexibility, not one size fits all solutions driven by systems not experiencing the same level of success that we and many others are achieving.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Hobbling around . . .

If you follow my blog you know that one of my usual days for a post is Sunday and that I missed it yesterday.  The day started out great.  Church was followed with the whole family having brunch at the Bellevue Hilton.  I did my usual at brunch, overeating with multiple trips including two to the dessert table.  This was followed by a lot of laying around and groaning.

So, why no post?  At around 7:00 p.m., I decided to join the basketball game with my son, his fiancee and my grandson.  It started with me passing to my grandson, then I started to rebound and check my son.  Before long I was sweating and really into the game.  I should have quit, but it was fun and I was doing pretty well.  I made the mistake of saying pretty good for an old man and then it happened.  I went up (which isn't very far at my age) came down and something happened to my calf.  What followed was hobbling into the house with an ache and a burning sensation for the remainder of the night.  Blogging was not high on the priority list after this, I guess I should have realized that it would catch up to me at my age.

I have no idea what I did, but I think it is better this morning except for the hobbling around.  Walking this way makes one compensate in other parts of the body so now the lower back and hips are aching.  I need my mind to catch up to my body the next time I decide to "compete" with these younger guys.  Mind and body out of alignment results in pain as one grows older.