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.