Monday, June 30, 2014

The real last . . .

Today was my last contract day as superintendent of our school district.  Once again, I want to thank the many people who attended events and shared with me their appreciation for my contributions to our learning journey over the years.  I leave the position feeling good about what we accomplished and better about those I leave who will continue our journey.  We have a quality school board, strong building leadership teams, and central office leadership led by Rob to support future learning and the many transitions made possible by the new high school.

After 1180 posts and 139,312 total page views I am putting my blog on hold.  At some point I will probably start again as I'm already feeling the tension when I read my RSS feeds.  One goal I didn't make was to reach 100 members falling short by eight.  That tension adds to the possibility of starting again in the future. So, keep me in your feed and watch for a return, probably about legislative time when there will be much to think about.

One last thing is to share my tattoo.  I've had this for a number of years thanks to a birthday present from my son.  It captures how I see myself and what I will always be, Papa Bear!  I am proud to wear it and look forward to having an opportunity next year to support the journey in a small way.  Thanks to Rob and the Board for believing that I still have something to add.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The last week . . .

It was an eventful week that went by in a flash. Tuesday, I had the opportunity to facilitate a meeting bringing together people from city and county government, workforce development, the business community, higher education, and district staff to determine if there was a common aspiration for a continuing conversation related to the development of the property around the new high school.  We shared our aspiration and the city shared their hopes that are completely aligned with ours.  Others in the room did some processing resulting in unanimous support for continuing the conversation.  This is an important, loosely coupled, but growing coalition with great potential for bringing living wage jobs to the community.

On Wednesday I was given the opportunity to speak at the TenTech Conference, something I did at the very first conference were I also taught a blogging class.  I shared my thinking on a variety of topics ending with a challenge to the system to identify and change the mental models that keep us from exploring other delivery models such as blended learning, extended day, and more personalized learning opportunities.  Over time young people and families will be demanding options and more flexibility and we need to get in front of this trend.  I enjoyed the opportunity to share and received some positive feedback.

Yesterday I attended a PBIS conference with a district team and then an E3 Summer evening where I joined others in being recognized for our work on sustainability.  In my case it was supporting people like Nancy and teachers in developing our curriculum, Connie Jo and others who pioneered the building efforts, and Lori, Kevin, and Dawn who got us on the map locally, in the state, and in the nation.  We learned that at the district level we actually outscored the district winner for the Green School award, but could not be recognized because we don't have a high enough free and reduced lunch count. Looks like next year will be the year.

Finally today was one of more tearful good byes, ceremonial disposal of my office chair, and a final gathering at Lori's house for more thanks and good byes.

So much to be thankful for and so many people to thank.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Winding down . . .

For a number of weeks now people have been asking me how many days I have left and I honestly say not keeping count.  Knowing that the 30th is my last day and that today is the 22nd makes it easy and impossible to hide from this being the last week.  I have come to emotionally accept this decision that has been much more difficult than I anticipated.  It is time and I am confident that our transition plan and the leadership that will come from Rob, Board members, Lori as Assistant Superintendent, and his team will carry our school system to places we now only aspire to reach.

Though this final week has three evening meetings, I will be winding down with probably fewer posts as I approach the 30th.  I have decided to mothball Seeking Shared Learning with the possibility to once again post in the future.  I'm going to now spend some time learning about LinkedIn and look for some work to fill some of my days.  Know anyone looking for a leadership journey?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A difficult, but memorable week . . .

Those that know me understand how difficult it is for me to be the focus of praise and thanks.  I would much rather be in the background until it is time to thank those that do the real work of the system. With my retirement now less than two weeks away, this was the week for those events kind of events to take place. It started with the Maple Valley Days Parade where I had the honor of being the Grand Marshall. Though not looking forward to it, I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with the many children on the parade route.

It continued on Monday at an open house where many came to share their appreciation and engage with others that have shared our experiences.  It was a rewarding evening for me as I was showered with thanks and gifts that included an unbelievable trip to Washington DC with tickets to Monday Night Football where the Hawks take on the Redskins.  I was also blessed to have previous board members and mentors from my past attend to congratulate me and share stories.

This was followed on Tuesday with a gift from the Board and then today at the Chamber of Commerce meeting.  I think with school ending today and only one more evening meeting before the 30th these events are behind me.  I can now begin fading into the background as the days count down.

In reflecting, I must admit that each of these events will be memorable for me and I give thanks to the many that attended and to those that planned the events.  Each was at the same time a humbling and rewarding experience.  I think I did OK and know that more pictures were taken of me this week than in the previous 44 years here.  So much to be thankful for and so many to thank.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A waiver request . . .

I was informed today that OSPI will be requesting a waiver of the 14-day Public School Choice Notification letter scheduled to be mailed this August to all parents informing them that we did meet the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements of NCLB.  The same letter will be mailed to almost every parent in the state because the federal education department repealed our ESEA waiver when the legislature failed to require the use of state assessment data in teacher evaluations.

The reason for the request as identified in the letter to be mailed later this week is below.  I was notified because of the requirement to notify public school districts of the request and to provide for a comment period prior to submitting the official request.

Washington State seeks a waiver of this provision because:
a.           The majority of schools in Washington (with the exception of a handful of very small schools) will not meet the 100 percent Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirement this year. As a result, nearly every school in every district will be designated as in improvement and required to send a letter to the family of every student notifying them of the status of their school.
b.           The intent of the 14-day notification letter is to provide public school choice to families living within the boundaries of a (Step 1–5) school in order to allow them to move to a school that had met AYP. Public School Choice is now a moot point since there will be an extremely limited number of schools that would be available.

Thanks to Superintendent Dorn and staff for this waiver request.  Though it doesn't remove the onerous requirements of NCLB, if successful, it puts off for a year the need to mail a letter that does not accurately describe the current reality of our schools.  If the federal department does not grant this request, I can only assume that they want to once again punish us for not conforming to their one size fits all reform model.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

State Supreme Court takes next step . . .

In this April post, I shared the legislature's response to the State Supreme Court requirement to demonstrate they have a viable plan to fully fund education by 2017.  We knew with the filing that it would fall short of the Court's expectation and last week it was verified with the Court's response. From this Seattle Times article we learn that there is the possibility for contempt if the Court's demands are not met.

The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday ordered lawmakers to explain why they haven’t followed its orders to fix the way Washington pays for public education.
The court has ordered the state to appear before it on Sept. 3 and show the court how it has followed its orders in the 2012 McCleary decision or face contempt.
We will find out on July 11th when they file their opening brief how the legislature will respond.  From this comment by Rep. Sullivan there may be little new to report since the next session will not convene until next January.  My sense is that the Court will need to take that into consideration when they meet in September, but the message will continue to be clear; full funding by 2017 and a clear funding plan by the end of the 2015 session.  Next year's legislators will face even more difficult decisions than they did this year.
“I don’t know of anyone who likes to be called into court,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington. “I’m disappointed that we are where we are.”
The most recent report to the court, filed at the end of April, acknowledged that the Legislature didn’t make a lot of progress in 2014, but said it had ideas for fixing that situation during the 2015 legislative session.
. . . Sullivan said lawmakers have fully anticipated they would need to solve the problem once the next legislative session begins in January.
“Regardless of what action the court does or doesn’t take, it doesn’t change what we have to do,” he said.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

More important than Gates . . .


I was next going to post about the Gates Foundation recommendation for a two year delay in using Common Core tests for teacher evaluation, but something far more important took place this evening. The Tahoma High School Class of 2014 walked across the stage at the White River Amphitheater and received their diplomas.  I was once again had the privilege of accepting the class and presenting them to the Board and presenting them for recognition by those in attendance.

So many things went through my mind as I experienced graduation this evening from the stage for the last time.  Above all the feelings was one of gratitude and pride.  Gratitude that I had the opportunity to have a small influence on these young people's experience in our schools and pride in their accomplishments individually and collectively.  I thank them and their families for this achievement in their lives and wish them success in their new learning and career experiences.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Interesting day for education . . .

I learned about two different, but somewhat related events that took place today with the potential for significant impact on our profession over time.  The first is the state court decision in the California v. Vergara suit by students and school districts where the court struck down laws protecting teacher tenure and last in first out (LIFO) decisions.  Expecting an appeal, the court ordered a stay on the decision.  The plaintiffs focused on state statutes they believe are in the way of all students receiving the guaranteed education under the state constitution.

 “Plaintiffs claim that the Challenged Statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students. Plaintiffs’ equal protection claims assert that the Challenged Statutes violate their fundamental rights to equality of education by adversely affecting the quality of the education they are afforded by the state.”

You can go anywhere in the education blog world and find articles and commentary.  In this New York Times piece we read about reactions from both sides and get a sense of the court's decision in the words below.

“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court wrote in the ruling. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

In this piece from Andy Smarick at FLYPAPER he shares 10 things to keep in mind as this case proceeds through the court system.  

6.  Like just about every groundbreaking decision, this one includes dramatic language to make its point (and likely help sustain the decision on appeal). “Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

This case will be important to follow as it will open the door for similar suits in other states.  The provisions that were struck down by the court such as teacher tenure and last in first out (LIFO) are protections against what unions see as unfair personnel decisions made by building and district leaders and undoing them will not result in fixing the problems in schools.

“We believe the judge fell victim to the anti-union, anti-teacher rhetoric and one of American’s finest corporate law firms that set out to scapegoat teachers for the real problems that exist in public education,” said Joshua Pechthalt, the president of the California Federation of Teachers. “There are real problems in our schools, but this decision in no way helps us move the ball forward.”

Supporters of the lawsuit disagree and seem ready to help those in other states with a similar belief.

Observers on both sides expect the case to generate dozens more like it in cities and states around the country. David Welch, a Silicon Valley technology magnate who financed the organization that is largely responsible for bringing the Vergara case to court — Students Matter — has indicated that his group is open to funding other similar legal fights, particularly in states with powerful teachers’ unions where legislatures have defeated attempts to change teacher tenure laws.

The second event was an announcement by the Gates Foundation that they are recommending a two-year delay in linking Common Core test scores to teacher evaluation.  I'm wondering how their change in policy that ed to our state's waiver loss aligns with this new belief and whether Secretary Duncan is open to being influenced.  I'll share some thoughts in my next post.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Celebrating success . . .

This evening was one of those occasions that makes it all worth it to me.  We celebrated our Transition Program Graduation at Lake Wilderness Lodge.  Six young people shared their experiences with us as they celebrated this milestone with family, friends, staff, and the many businesses that support their learning and training needs.

Caralena, Melanie, Sean, Jordan, Colin, Skylar
We learned of their goals to find employment and of their many accomplishments on that journey. I was honored to be included in the celebration and given the privilege of awarding them their diploma. Thanks to the staff who support these young people and to the community organizations and businesses that provide them with meaningful learning and work opportunities.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Push back from another source . . .

I enjoyed reading this article in about college officials pushing back against the latest federal education initiative to rate colleges based on factors such as how many students graduate, how much debt students carry, and how much money graduates earn.  Welcome to the NCLB accountability club where federal funding is held hostage; conform to the one size fits all federal plan or lose funding.

Others worry about the one-size-fits-all measure, when colleges have different missions. Moreover, certain criteria reveal more about the ideology of those rating the schools than the quality of the schools themselves. For example, those ranking a school based on its graduates' earnings value high salaries over professions such as teaching, social work, or other important, but not lucrative, jobs.

Williams College president Adam Falk decried the rating plan as "oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads."

Wendy Lecker, author of the post, believes enough is enough and challenges college presidents and all of us to fight back.

It is high time for university presidents, good government groups and others to join public school advocates in demanding that the democratic purpose of our public schools be restored, lest no one remain when the profit-seekers come for them.

The article makes me reflect on my beliefs.  I don't believe that I am in complete agreement with Lecker, but with each new federal initiative or mandate I get closer, especially with comments like the one below.

“It’s like rating a blender. This is not so hard to get your mind around.”

This is what  Jamienne Studley, a deputy under secretary at the Education Department, told a group of college presidents who were meeting to talk about President’s Obama’s plan to rate colleges with the apparent aim of driving out of business schools that don’t meet the administration’s definition of success.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sharing our learning . . .

Dawn and I had an opportunity today to share some of our new learning about giving and receiving feedback with the Rock Creek leadership team.  They are beginning a process at the team level to collect data and provide feedback first among themselves and then with their grade level colleagues and had asked for some support.  What would have been a fairly easy presentation using material already developed became a more difficult process because of new learning from a book we are reading, Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.  The book is causing me dissonance so having the opportunity to partner with Dawn and share with Rock Creek was appreciated and helpful.

Over time, our focus has been on the giver of the feedback supporting them through training, role playing, and feedback.  We now know that we need to spend as much time supporting the receiver to be receptive to the feedback even when it feels wrong and misguided.  We know from experience how difficult it can be to receive feedback that makes us question our knowledge and skill so leverage in this process rests with supporting the receiver in maintaining a positive mental model through the process. As we shared in a draft to support their individual and team reflection:

We are learning that we need to focus on the receiver as much as the giver because the receiver is in control of what they do with the feedback, how they make sense of what is being shared, and whether they choose to learn and change.  How can we influence the receiver to recognize and manage the tendency to resist less than “wow” feedback and maintain the capacity to learn and grow even if the feedback seems wrong?

Another change in practice is encouraging a dialogue and not the one way conversation that we sometimes experience in a feedback situation.  The focus of the dialogue is on creating mutual intent and shared understanding of what the data means that results in meaningful feedback and options for growth for the receiver.   Initial feedback from our time together suggests that this approach to providing feedback can lessen the anxiety associated with those beginning the process of giving feedback.  Dawn and Shelly did a great job of modeling this practice and sharing how all of us are increasing our knowledge and skill in this important work.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Varied focus on NCLB . . .

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with Katie Whittier, King County Director, for Senator Patty Murray.  She called and asked for the opportunity following the School Board decision to support the WSSDA Resolution asking our federal legislators to make reauthorization of ESEA a high prioirty.  ESEA is the legislation that gave birth to NCLB that is driving the federal department's one size fits all solution to education reform in our country.
We had a good conversation and learned that Senator Murray tried working with Secretary Duncan to maintain the state's NCLB waiver without success, as he needed to make an example to the remainder of states that they need to follow the department's mandates for reform.  We were assured that reauthorization is a high priority for Senator Murray and that she will try to work in a collaborative effort to replace this broken and overdue legislation.

Also yesterday I read in a Valerie Strauss Answer Sheet post that Oklahoma Governor Fallin has this week to decide if she will support the bill recently passed by both legislative houses to repeal the Common Core.  It will not be an easy decision as she is in a difficult situation.

Fallin is in a complicated position in regards to the Common Core. She is the chair of the National Governors Association, one of the organizations behind the development of the Core. Last December, amid growing concerns among conservatives that the Core constituted a federal takeover of local education, Fallin issued an executive ordersupporting the Common Core standards, which in Oklahoma were being called the Oklahoma State Standards, and saying that there would be no federal intrusion.

Though popular with legislators the decision is not one that others in the state view as a positive step including the teacher quoted in the article.  As with us, it would be difficult to once again be forced to respond to yet another set of standards.  I'll continue to follow this process as I am interested in seeing if moving away from the Common Core Standards will jeopardize Oklahoma's waiver.

The Oklahoman newspaper quoted Steven Crawford, executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, as predicting that “chaos” would ensue if the Core is rescinded. One middle school math teacher, Heather Sparks, Oklahoma’s 2009 Teacher of the Year, was quoted as saying:
“For next year, we’ve already written our curriculum map and the pacing guides for the Common Core standards. It’s kind of disheartening. If these are repealed, we’ll have to go backward.”
I'll end this post with a section from an opinion in the LA Times focused on school reform and NCLB that resonates for me.
In other words, right now the nation is operating under a hodgepodge of federal rules that seem to change state by state and depending on the political winds. The Obama administration hasn't done a particularly good job, but the bulk of the blame rests with lawmakers for leaving No Child Left Behind on the books.
School reform shouldn't be this hard. States should be allowed to set up their own improvement programs, as long as those programs meet certain parameters for ensuring steady progress for a broad spectrum of students, especially disadvantaged and minority students. The measurement of those improvements should include more than test scores. The U.S. government should get out of the business of micromanaging schools, using its authority instead to ensure that it is receiving good value for the dollars it spends on public education.

Difficult day . . .

Today was my last Educational Leadership Team (ELT) meeting as superintendent.  It is the monthly meeting of administrators in our district and one of three opportunities I have each month with these individuals with formal leadership responsibility in our system.  As I shared with them, losing these opportunities to share learning and support growth will be one of the most difficult losses in retirement.  It will rank up there with the respect, appreciation, and sense of accomplishment that I get from working with our school board.

We have a quality leadership team and I take pride in having had some small influence on their capacity to create, implement, and sustain the adaptive changes necessary to meet the accountability measures imposed by federal and state mandates.  More importantly, they have the capacity to continue our "Future Ready" initiative to ensure that all Tahoma graduates are prepared for success in post high school learning and work. We are positioned for continuing success as Rob transitions seamlessly into the superintendency.  I am excited with the combination of commitment to what we do well and adaptive thinking that he is bringing to the work and to following our progress over time.

It will be no surprise to those that know me that my last message was about leadership.  It was about passion, beliefs, collaboration, collective capacity, transparency, humility, learning, and our purpose for being our YOUNG PEOPLE.  I chose to use the quotes on the slide below to end my short presentation, just before I got emotional and embarrassed..

The day ended, however, on an upside as it was the annual Board meeting to honor retirees and those with 20, 25, 30, and 35 years in the district.  Board President Mary Jane, made it easy for me by allowing me to sit while the kind words were said.  It was fun to honor the other eighteen retirees and multiple Years of Service Award recipients.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

More high school talent . . .

Last week Ken Riggs, high school music teacher, shared information with us on how well the high school choirs did this year with a focus on a recent Chamber Choir performance.  Below, are his words and a link to the performance.  I watched videos of four of their songs, well worth the time. Can't wait until the day our young people share their talent on a performance center stage at the new Tahoma High School.

It has been a great year for the THS choirs!  Each group received the highest scores of any choir at their region contests, one of our singers won the state solo contest, and we gave many wonderful concerts, not to mention all of the great learning and musical growth that has been taking place in the classroom, but without a doubt the highlight was our Chamber Choir’s performance at the Northwest Division Convention of the American Choral Directors’ Association.

I did not see all of the performances at the convention, but of the ones I did see - a great middle school choir, as well as high school, university, and adult professional choirs - we were the ONLY ONE that received a standing ovation from the audience of nearly 600 choral professionals from throughout the northwest.  These experienced musicians are not easily impressed, and do not give this kind of accolade without good cause.

You can access the videos of their performance here:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Senior Awards . . .

This evening was one of celebration as we honored Tahoma High School Seniors for their academic achievements and awarded scholarships.  I once again had the honor of introducing and honoring the Valedictorian and Salutatorian and those individuals receiving recognition for their achievements as National Merit Commended Scholars.  These are truly exceptional young people. They and all those honored this evening for academic achievements, character, and community service deserve our thanks and deep appreciation for their commitment to learning and our hopes for continued success as they transition to a new chapter in their lives.

Also, thank you to the many community organizations that awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships to thankful recipients and their proud parents.  Collectively, Tahoma seniors earned greater than $1.8 million in scholarships.

Oh, in case you are wondering, this is a BIG LAST for me as it is the door to the end of the school year and my last as a member of this exceptional team of educators that supported these young people's journey.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

High School plans progressing . . .

At last night's meeting. the School Board took action to accept the schematic design for the new high school. This completes the first phase of the design process that provides us with a footprint of how the building and fields will be positioned on the site and location of rooms in the building.  The next phase of the design process will look more closely at what will go into the rooms, equipment, materials, colors, and systems. This will be followed by actual construction scheduled to begin early next year.

We need to thank DLR Architiects, OAC Services, and SKANSKA Construction for their efforts in bringing this vision to reality for us.  We also need to acknowledge King County and the City of Maple Valley for collaborating with us on the purchase of county property, the  partnership on the use of city property, and pushing through the many bureaucratic hurdles that must be overcome on a project of this size.

For more detail on the design and room location please click on the link below.

Monday, May 26, 2014

National assessment update . . .

Yesterday, I blogged about the status of the Common Core and today I'll share an article by Catherine Gewertz and Andrew Ujifusa in Education Week that updates the status of the Common Core assessments scheduled for the spring of 2014-15.  Just a few years ago 45 states had signed on to one of the two national consortia supported with federal money.  Today that number is down to 26 plus the District of Columbia with the potential for further reductions.  Our state is pat of the Smarter Balanced and plans to use their assessments next year.

There have been many more states changing their minds about the assessments than the commitment to the standards themselves as other options have become available in this difficult political environment with push back on both right and left.  The vision of many being able to make state-to-state comparisons is also diminished by these changes.  It will be interesting to follow this changing landscape and how it may influence state commitments to the standards.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Adding blue . . .

The map below from Education Week shows Indiana, the first state to pull back from the Common Core State Standards in blue.  In the article it identifies two additional states, Missouri and South Carolina as the next states to possibly join Indiana.  What wasn't shared was the possibility of Oklahoma becoming the next state which happened on Friday when lawmakers sent a bill to the governor repealing the standards.  

If the governor signs there will then be two states with others seriously considering the same action. Just how blue will this map get and what will it mean to the federal education department's drive for common standards and common assessments?

I found the following statement from a co-sponsor of the bill interesting.

But instead, said Shannon, with Common Core "the federal government has disregarded parental rights, over-regulated teachers, and over-tested our kids. Parents, local governments and teachers are better equipped to meet the needs of their students than the federal government. Parents and teachers are the best leaders for quality education in Oklahoma communities — not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C."

It appears that their legislature is also moving forward on repealing the Next Generation Science Standards.

Sykes, meanwhile, said he and Breechen also succeeded in amending another bill to repeal Next Generation Science Standards, which "heavily promote global warming alarmism and do not prepare students for work in STEM fields.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

NEWS responds . . .

As the plaintiff in the McCleary case, the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS) filed their brief with the State Supreme Court in response to the what they see as the legislatures failure to meet the Court's demands by April 30 for a detailed basic education budget plan.  It is no surprise to any of us that they are not pleased with the legislative response and are asking the Court to hold the legislature in contempt once again ratcheting up the potential for major conflict between the two bodies.

(2) submit a “complete plan for fully implementing its program of basic education for each school year between now and the 2017-18 school year” – including “a phase in schedule for fully funding each of the components of basic education” identified in ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776.

January 2014 Order at p.8 (underline added).
That was an Order.
Not a suggestion.

As the following pages explain, however, the State’s 2014 filing did not comply with that Order.
Instead, the State did what it had been ordered to not do. It offered promises about trying to submit a plan and take significant action next year – along with excuses for why the State’s ongoing violation of kids’ constitutional rights and court orders should be excused this year. Plaintiffs18 respectfully submit that this Court should not condone the State’s violation of court orders or constitutional rights. Plaintiffs accordingly request that this Court take immediate, concrete action to compel compliance with the court orders and constitutional rights that the State continues to violate in this case.

In the brief NEWS is basically asking the Court if court orders really matter.

This Court must decide whether court orders really matter. The defendant in this case understood the January 2014 Order’s complete phase-in-plan requirement. But it did not comply. Just like it did not comply with the similar mandate in this Court’s December 2012 Order. A defendant’s violating court orders is perfectly fine if court orders don’t really matter in our State. But plaintiffs respectfully submit that court orders do matter, and that all defendants – even the government – must obey court orders.

They go on to make the following request of the Court.

Plaintiffs’ respectfully submit that the school children of our State need this Court to create that urgency by following through and firmly enforcing its rulings in this case. Strike one was bad. Strike two was worse. But strike three is completely unacceptable if court orders or constitutional rights matter in this State. Plaintiffs submit that at the very least, this Court should accordingly:

 Hold the legislature in contempt of court at least until the State fully complies with the Court Orders in this case.
 Enjoin the State from digging the unconstitutional underfunding hole deeper by imposing any more unfunded or underfunded mandates on its schools.149
 Declare that if the State does not fully comply with this Court’s January 2014 Order by December 31, 2014, this Court will in January 2015 issue strong judicial enforcement orders (such as those by other courts noted above) in order to compel the State to comply with this Court’s Orders and with Washington childrens’ positive constitutional right to an amply funded education.

Strong language and a challenge to the Court.  Now we wait to see how the Court will respond.  The response will have a significant impact on the 2015 legislative session and long term status of public education in our state.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Validating belief . . .

In this Seattle Times Education Lab Blog post, Claudia Rowe interviews Matt Chaltain author of  “Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice.”  I haven't seen the book and don't see myself reading it, but the question and answer below caught my attention.

Q: What’s common to good schools — whether publicly or privately funded?
A: The truth is most schools are pretty good. Very few are truly great. But among those you see again and again that they create a culture among the adults that is collaborative, transparent and empowering. Kids pass through. Adults are the keepers of the culture. The way that you make lasting change is by valuing and supporting the adults, the educators. We may give lip service to this, but we lack sufficient examples of how to do it well. The reality is, we’re still more likely to be persuaded by the illusory hardness of the quantitative proof — test scores — even though there is an overwhelming consensus that reading and math scores are not enough.

So much of what I believe is embedded in this answer to what makes schools good.  It is at the heart of our consensus decision making in two Association agreements.  It captures the importance of the focus on culture and my belief in the need for transparency in our work.  It shares our belief in the need for teacher voice in major decisions impacting classrooms when the doors close and it demands capacity for adults to sustain conversations on difficult and emotional issues driving the need for our foundation of communication knowledge and skills.  I would say that we are good and are on the organizational learning journey to the great that Chaltain refers to in his answer.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Consider joining us . . .

This evening I was on a conference call with other board members of E3 Washington.  If you know me well, you know that I am not a joiner especially at the board level, but when asked I found myself saying yes.  On the phone call this evening, I found myself asking why as I am the budget representative and we are experiencing, as many non-profits are, significant budget issues. As I now reflect, I know why and it is in the focus of the work which is on sustainability and our aspiration to work at the state and regional level to bring other organizations and individuals together to promote sustainable communities and education for sustainability.  I believe that there is no other organization in our state positioned to perform this important clearinghouse role.

An event that we sponsor is the E3 Summer Evening Experience where we honor individuals and organizations in the following categories; Informal Educator, Tribal Leader, Diversity in Action, Government, and Student Leader.   The information for the evening is below.  Please consider attending and supporting our work, tickets are $30 for an evening of celebration, networking, learning, and food and beverages.  If you are interested in sponsoring the event please let me know.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Some personal sharing . . .

It has been quite some time since I last posted about a "last", but they keep occurring as my retirement date is right around the corner.  What Bruce shared with me last year has proven to be true, with each passing month the time seems to accelerate.  The next few weeks will be filled with them; last work study session, last board meeting, last ELT meeting, last office barbecue, last TEA bargain, last Director breakfast, last . . .  They just keep coming.

As the day gets closer I find myself becoming more comfortable and accepting of my decision.  With the leadership in our system supporting the Board and Rob, our learning journey will continue.  The bond passage has presented us with unprecedented opportunities for adaptive changes to create learning experiences for young people and adults that meet the external demands placed on the system and those embedded in our Future Ready initiative.   I am proud of who we are and what we have created and know that over time Tahoma will be an even better place for young people and adults to share learning experiences.

Yet, there will be much that I will miss especially the interactions and opportunities to support growth with my colleagues.  There will also be many hours in the day that must be filled.  I keep being told not to worry because there will be "things" to occupy my time, my worry is that they may not be as rewarding and energizing.  I guess I'm looking forward to when I feel as good about a "first time" as I do about going to work every morning.   I know that day will come and hope for it to be soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Competing with the best . . .

The results of last month's We the People competition in Washington D.C. were released this week and we have much to be proud of and thankful for.  Though our team didn't reach their goal of finishing in the top 10, they won the Western Regional Award as the top finisher in the west for only the second time in our We the People history.  With release of the national scores we now know that we finished 11th, one point away from the coveted 10th place and 25 points better than the 12th place team.  Sad, but also affirming as this shows that our team can consistently compete with the best in the nation.

You may be wondering why the focus on finishing in the top 10 instead of being number one.  After two days of competition, the top 10 teams are then invited to compete on Sunday where the championship and other places are determined.  You can't win without making the top 10 cut and competing in the last round.

Way to go Tahoma!  I'm so very proud of you and continue to be in awe of the commitment and expertise that our unbelievable coach, Gretchen Wulfing brings to this year-round program and to our kids.  We are very fortunate to have this competent and caring individual providing leadership for this program.  I'm sure she is already thinking about what needs to be done for next year's top 10 finish.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We may have company . . .

I thought you might like to know that Wyoming may be joining Washington in losing their NCLB waiver.  According to this report from Education week they are in jeopardy because the state's accountability model does not meet federal expectations and they have taken the position that no changes will be made to the state plan to meet the requirements of the federal department.

The letter also quotes this statement from the education policy adviser to Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead: "[A]bsolutely no change to the Wyoming accountability model may be undertaken in order to satisfy the feds in exchange for a (sic) NCLB waiver."

We know from experience that if you push back with the wrong button you get slapped with a waiver loss.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out in Wyoming.  in a previous post I shared how Indiana's waiver is also in trouble.  If both states were to join us that would be thousands more letters to parents about "failing schools" that might be enough to force action at the federal level to limit the department's reach and finally reauthorize ESEA the driver behind NCLB.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Growing respect . . .

As I join with our principals in preparing summary evaluations, I find the respect I have gained over the year for their commitment to TPEP growing.  Through observations and conversations with all principals and one assistant, I have seen and heard the commitment they have made to be in classrooms and collect evidence to support their judgments.  This has been a year of new learning for all of us as we try new structures to support prioritizing time to be in classrooms and use new forms to collect and share data.

Because we are about a year behind with implementing the principal evaluation I have only two comprehensive, the fewest of the administrators in the system.  The range for others is four to twelve and may even be thirteen in one case.  I also have an added advantage with the principal model in not being required to rate each of the individual elements, it requires only a criterion rating.  I am learning, however, that rating each element may be a better approach that leads to a more accurate overall rating. Given my experience and time commitment with only two comprehensive my respect for our principals is growing as I learn about the time it is taking for each of the summary evaluations.  I am also pleased with our effort to maintain a focus on supporting teacher growth over time while being faced with the requirement of the summative evaluation.  Though we have much yet to learn, we approach the task with positive intent and continued commitment to supporting growth.

I would be remiss if I didn't also share my appreciation and respect for teachers on comprehensive who are giving of their time to provide evidence and the increased feedback conversations that accompany multiple classroom observations.  Thank you for your commitment and support of our learning as we find ways to make this required process part of our collaborative culture.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Growing push back . . .

Last week I shared a letter from David Iseminger to Secretary Duncan sharing his thinking about the loss of our state's NCLB waiver with his message basically saying it isn't worth it.  Then later in the week Danny Westneat in his Seattle Times column told Duncan to take "No Child" school testing and shove it.  As with Iseminger's letter, I find myself agreeing with Westneat's position.

I’m writing because the other day you announced that my state, alone among the 50, had run afoul of your desired standardized-testing regimen. So we’re going to be subjected to all the penalties and punishments of that 2001 law.

I remember 2001. Those were the days of you’re either with us or against us. So it’s fitting that your edict means that unless 100 percent of our students pass math and reading tests this year, all our schools will be dubbed “failing.” You’re either above average or you’re failures!

With all respect, doesn’t that seem a tad stupid? A few years ago, you yourself pronounced this top-down, testing-fueled mania to be simple-minded and broken.

“By mandating and prescribing one-size-fits-all solutions, No Child Left Behind took away the ability of local and state educators to tailor solutions to the unique needs of their students,” you told Congress, adding that the law is “fundamentally flawed.”

In a Chicago Post-Tribune article we find that Indiana may be the next state to lose a waiver as they have been asked by Duncan for updates on their teacher evaluation system and are also potentially in trouble for dumping Common Core standards and national tests.  If they were to also lose a waiver it would mean many more "failing school" letters this fall that will contribute to the push back against the federal education department's encroachment into public education and mandate for standards and testing.  Duncan may want to consider Westneat's words below.  As he flexes the federal muscle it may appear like accountability to many, but for others it may be the flame fanning the fire that consumes the department's one size fits all reform model.

I’ll close by saying I think you’re messing with the wrong state. You should try to change this “fundamentally flawed” law, rather than impose it on us out of pique. A prediction: We like to do our own thing out here anyway, and your action will only fuel more boycotts of these tests, as well as suspicion of the entire education-reform industry.

Signed, NCLB Dad in Seattle

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Focusing on the future . . .

Last night we had our second Future Ready Cafe attended by over 100 people including students, parents, community members, business owners, teachers, support staff, Board members, and administrators. The focus of the evening was on our Future Ready initiative and how the system's Outcomes and Indicators are part of the foundation of this work.  In the first Cafe, we received feedback and suggestions for changes to the Outcomes and Indicators to ensure that they aligned with what we are learning are critical work related attributes necessary to ensure that all students experience success in post high school learning and work. Yesterday we shared the revised document driven by that feedback and suggestions and asked the participants for additional feedback and guidance.

The recommended changes can be seen in the picture below.  The proposal is to change the name of Collaborative Worker to Collaborative Teammate to focus on the school experience and to add Conscientious Worker to capture the attributes that we want in our schools and that employers are also seeking.  In addition, we added an outcome, Responsible Decision Maker, to reflect the need for a focus on making sound decisions related to media, technology, money, and health.

The work on Outcomes and Indicators has been and will continue to be an ongoing process engaging diverse groups of people.  The goal is to bring the revised Outcomes to the Board for approval before the end of this school year.  Last night we brought the Outcomes below for feedback and will now use that information to identify any additional changes that may be necessary.  The work on the Indicators will take place next year and involve multiple prototypes across the grades beginning at the high school level.  This will look at taking the revised Indicator language and working with students, parents, and teachers to identify the language in grade level bands that clarify the expectations of each Outcome.  Today, the majority of the revised language comes from what we have learned and what has been captured in the work of other organizations.  The result from the prototyping will be Indicators with Tahoma language.

I'll share an additional slide used last night to capture parts of our current reality and our responsibility to take this big opportunity we now have to create and implement structures and strategies to ensure success for all students in post high school learning and work.  It was for me a rewarding and energizing evening demonstrating our commitment to supporting success for ALL.  Look forward to comments from others that might have attended.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A somewhat late thank you . . .

Today is, was National Teacher Appreciation Day.  I'm a little late, but want to share my appreciation, respect, and admiration for what our teachers do everyday.  As I reflect on the day that was spent in bargaining with our teachers I am upset with myself for not acknowledging the significance of the day by openly sharing my appreciation with them. I ask myself how could that happen?  Though I have no excuses, I believe that it was partly due to being caught up in the process of working to maintain a collaborative effort while discussing sometimes difficult issues.

I feel good about the day, but find myself going back to a comment on a blog post last week from Jonathan where he shared his hope for the district bargaining team during these negotiations.

My sincere hope is that the district bargaining committee will recognize our efforts and put forth a contract offer that recognizes and respects our hard work and dedication to the Tahoma way 

As we work to complete this process it is my hope that our language, behavior, and response to issues conveys our appreciation for the work that our teachers do.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Promoting student voice . . .

The Board met this evening in a work study session with the newly elected members of the High School ASB Executive Board and adviser, Dave Peters.  It was an opportunity for the Board to share their commitment to increasing opportunities for student voice in decisions that impact their school experience and for the students to provide input, feedback, and hopes or the future.  We talked about many things with a focus on school culture, their current reality, and how a shared aspiration can become the catalyst for change.  I believe that they left feeling some tension around a couple of issues in their current reality that they would like to see change.

These are committed young people wanting to support change in their school that results in a positive experience for their peers and for their teachers.  As adults, we need to reflect on our practice and create structures that identify when the student voice is value added and how that student voice will become a part of these decisions.  It was an energizing evening with both groups deciding to continue the conversation in August and then again following Homecoming.  I am pleased to have played a small role in this transition as I believe that these young people have much to offer in changing our practice as adults from what can we do to them to what can we accomplish together.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Not worth it . . .

I must once again post about our state's loss of the NCLB waiver to share the letter below written by a Lake Steven's School Board member, David Iseminger, to Secretary Duncan.   I came across it in an article by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post.  He does an excellent job of letting the Secretary know what he and many of us feel about the recent decision to pull the waiver.  I applaud him and welcome the conversation that comes from his letter around how we will respond in August to the requirement to send the "failure" letter required in the NCLB sanctions.  Perhaps it is time to once again push back. Would the Secretary take the step to withhold funding if districts didn't send the letter required by legislation that the he has called flawed?

Many thanks for Iseminger's leadership with this letter and for setting the stage for how we should respond to the bullying from Washington D.C.  His conclusion that the waiver is not worth it is one that should be echoed by all of us as we join WSSDA in pushing our legislators in Washington D.C. to replace this broken legislation with a model that supports learning and growth and one that can support achievement gains for all students.

Though not the norm for me, I will share the entire letter as Strauss did in her article.

April 29, 2014
Dear Secretary Duncan,
Last week you revoked Washington State’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver, resulting in nearly every school in Washington being considered failing by your Department of Education. This summer, as a School Board Director in Lake Stevens, WA, you’re requiring I send a “failure letter” to parents of any school that receives your funding.
Your reason for revoking our waiver: we didn’t pass legislation you wanted. More precisely, we passed legislation, but it didn’t have the wording (actually, one specific word) you wanted.
Since you’re so distant from us – nearly 3,000 miles by one measure – let me tell you about this other Washington: We have strong leadership in our board rooms, schools, and classrooms; we have professional and effective educators; and our students are capable, confident, and work extremely hard. But don’t take my word for it – our SAT scores, among other measures, speak for us.
When NCLB was passed twelve years ago, it focused America’s resolve to elevate our children and our future. It was about accountability, about setting lofty and worthwhile goals, but it was also about believing in our educators, leaders, parents, and students. It was about what we would strive for, work toward. It was aspirational.
Today, NCLB has been subverted into a name-calling, label-applying bully pulpit. It languished in Congress, now six years stale, until failure according to its antiquated yardstick has become a certainty.
We tried to help. With input and work from many education advocates, Congress was provided an extensive list of fixes that would make NCLB workable and forward-thinking, and keep us all accountable. I was there too – as a member of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Federal Relations Network (FRN), I made the trek to Washington D.C. multiple times to ask our members to reauthorize, year after year. While there, many of us from Washington also met with people from your Department of Education, in your building, trying to create relationships and press for a change in policy and tone: stop telling our students and educators they’re failing, I said.
In Lake Stevens — and in school districts across America — we lead by example. We create confidence, capacity, knowledge, and opportunity for everyone in our community. There is a palpable and ubiquitous culture of excellence in Lake Stevens, where it’s common knowledge that each individual is supported, challenged, engaged, and empowered. Such things don’t appear overnight, they’re not accidental, and I have no intention of having our work undermined by distant labels and bracketed explanations.
The schools you’d have us call “failing” are anything but: we have Schools of Distinction (one of them four years running), we have Washington Achievement Awards schools, and we have a Reward School.
The leaders whom you also assert are failing – me included – are not. Our school board has won the national Magna Award and is a recognized Board of Distinction. I am an elected member to the Board of Directors for our state-level Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA), and my fellow Lake Stevens Board Director is President of WSSDA.
It’s not that I don’t understand your NCLB numbers or metrics. I work in the Business Intelligence group at Microsoft, part of the Cloud + Enterprise Division, so data and analytics is what I do.
And I’ve done the analysis. I’ve weighed the cost of your revoked waiver and considered its benefits, and the conclusion is clear: it’s not worth it.
You can keep the waiver. And regarding your failure letter – I have little interest in using our Lake Stevens letterhead to tell our students and educators they’re failures, because they are not. That letter is the topic of much discussion in our state – including whether we send it at all.
Our school leaders are strong, our educators are exceptional, and our students are dedicated. Fourteen days before school, what they will hear from leaders in Lake Stevens is this: the bar this year is raised again, we believe in you, and you must continue to strive for excellence. They will hear that we are behind them, and that we believe in them without reservation, or caveat.
If you pull our funding, you’ll be forsaking Washington’s most needy students – the very students for whom the original ESEA legislation was passed 50 years ago. You’ll be abandoning those students, but we won’t. In Lake Stevens – and in everydistrict across America – we’ll do whatever we must to ensure no child is left behind, waiver or not.
The irony is not lost on me: you revoked our waiver because we didn’t pass a law that you wanted. If you’re not sure what to do with our education-related failure letter, I know 536 folks in Washington, D.C. who seem pretty deserving right now.
David Iseminger
School Director, Lake Stevens School Board, Washington State

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Something to get behind . . .

Mari Taylor, Washington State School Director Association (WSSDA) President, today distributed a resolution from her organization asking Congress to prioritize passage of a revision to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Doing so would replace NCLB, a law that Secretary Duncan in 2011 said was broken.

“No Child Left Behind is broken and we need to fix it now,” said Duncan during testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“This law has created dozens of ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed. We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk,” Duncan continued.

Three years later the law is still in place and has led to the Secretary having the power to cancel our state's waiver from a law that he called broken.  This WSSDA effort makes complete sense to me and I welcome the opportunity to share it with our School Board.  This is an effort that I support, can get behind, and I thank WSSDA for taking the initiative to start this process.  The law has been in place for twelve years and should have been revised many years ago.  The time is now before other states suffer a similar fate for pushing back against a one size fits all model to school reform.