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May 15, 2013 at 7:15 PM
Former Seattle School Board member Peter Maier is the newest member of the Washington State Board of Education. The board members selected Maier from a group of six finalists, one of whom was current Seattle School Board President Kay Smith-Blum.
Smith-Blum said she withdrew her candidacy at the end of her interview last week, saying she was committed to finishing her four-year term in Seattle.
The State Board has 14 voting members, a mix of gubernatorial appointees, members selected by school board members across the state, one private school representative and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The state board’s responsibilities include setting state graduation requirements, creating and administering a school-performance index, and overseeing some charter-school policies.
Mara Childs, a sophomore at Shorecrest High in Shoreline, has also been appointed as a nonvoting, student member of the board.
May 15, 2013 at 7:05 PM
Supporters of Indian Heritage Middle College today urged Seattle school leaders to revitalize the alternative high-school program, and not move it to leased space at Northgate Mall.
The program almost closed last year, but after Jose Banda became superintendent, he delayed the closure, and is forming an advisory committee to help determine the program’s future. But he also recently announced the program will move from the Wilson-Pacific building, where it has been since 1989. As part of the district’s construction plans, the buildings at Wilson-Pacific will be torn down, and a new elementary and middle school will be constructed at the site.
The supporters, who held a rally outside district headquarters, said district administrators have let the Indian Heritage program deteriorate, and moving it to Northgate Mall, where another district program already is located, would hurt it further. They would like Indian Heritage to be moved to a school site instead and, eventually, for it to return to the new Wilson-Pacific campus. They also want the program to have Native instructors and Native-focused curriculum, and they urged the district to preserve the murals that nationally known artist Andrew Morrison has painted on buildings at Wilson-Pacific.
May 14, 2013 at 4:15 PM
The city of Seattle is donating an additional $500,000 to Seattle Public Schools so that students in the city’s Central District will receive at least two hours of arts education each week.
In an announcement today, Mayor Mike McGinn said the money will come from higher-than-expected revenue from admissions taxes, and will also be used to purchase instruments and art supplies for classrooms.
Two yeras ago, the city and school district received $1 million from the Wallace Foundation to create a comprehensive arts-education plan for the city’s public schools. The district applied for a second Wallace grant to carry out the plan, which was completed in March, but did not receive it.
The city grant announced today, to be dispersed over two years, will help. By 2020, the plan calls for ensuring that all students in Seattle Public Schools receive two hours of arts education instruction each week. As it stands now, some students do, but many do not, including many students in low-income areas.
May 13, 2013 at 2:37 PM
High schools in Seattle won’t have to give the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests starting next fall, the latest development in the testing controversy that has drawn national attention after starting in January at Garfield High School.
After Garfield teachers sparked a protest that spread to six other schools locally, the school district scaled back the number of ninth-graders who must take MAP reading and math tests. In an announcement today, Superintendent Jose Banda said high schools won’t have to give the MAP at all.
If high schools don’t use the MAP, however, Banda will require them to come up with an alternative way to monitor the progress of students who don’t pass the state’s once-a-year reading and math exams.
Banda’s decision closely follows a recommendations made by a 29-member committee of parents, teachers, administrators and other community members. The district appointed that committee to look closely at the MAP and help Banda decide whether to continue using it and, if so, how.
The task force recommended dropping the MAP in high school, where most ninth-graders had been taking MAP reading and math tests two to three times a year. But it backed continued use of the MAP in elementary and middle schools, as does Banda, saying the tests provide data that the district needs to help its most vulnerable students.
“Overwhelmingly, I heard from elementary school teachers that they use the MAP and it serves a great purpose for them in supporting student learning,” Banda said.
Banda’s decision probably won’t satisfy hundreds of teachers who are boycotting the MAP tests, refusing to help administer them in their schools. Most are from high schools, but some are from two elementary schools – ORCA K-8 and Thornton Creek Elementary.
The protesting teachers say the MAP tests have little value for them or their students, monopolize school libraries and computer labs for weeks, and aren’t closely tied to what they’re supposed to be teaching. They stress that they’re not against testing per se, just the MAP.
This winter, parents joined the protest, too, and 600 students did not take the MAP because they or their parents asked that they be excused. Spring testing is still underway.
Despite the protest, schools are still giving the tests by using administrators or parents or others to proctor the exams.
Banda’s decision covers the upcoming 2013-14 school year. He plans to appoint a new task force to help him decide what to do after that. That task force, he said, will look closely at some of the new tests that are now under development.
Banda defended the MAP, noting that a survey done by the city’s teachers union showed a majority of the 2,126 respondents find the MAP effective or somewhat effective in identifying students who need extra help, and in measuring students’ academic growth.
But the survey also showed that fewer than 30 percent of the respondents thought that the MAP’s benefits were worth the time it takes to give the tests.
Taken on computer, MAP tests are designed to measure academic skills independent of grade level. The idea, in other words, is to find where students’ skills lie rather than determine whether a fourth-grader can pass a fourth-grade test.
In a letter to staff Monday, Banda also said MAP testing will be required in the fall and spring, not winter and spring, as was the case this school year.
He also stressed that MAP tests should never be the sole factor in determining whether students are eligible for any particular program or class. Banda acknowledged that the MAP had been used that way in the past, although he declined to give details.
“The bottom line: We just don’t want it to be the sole thing to determine student placement,” he said.
He also said teachers will receive more training in how to use the MAP, and the district will work to make sure schools have the necessary technology.
May 8, 2013 at 10:51 AM
Seattle School Board President Kay Smith-Blum said Wednesday that she has withdrawn her application for an open seat on the Washington State Board of Education.
Smith-Blum was one of six finalists for an open seat on that 16-member board, which is a statewide advocacy and policy body.
If she had been selected, Smith-Blum would have had to cut short her term on the school board, which otherwise wouldn’t end until November. On Monday, she said she hadn’t yet decided whether to seek a second four-year term on the school board. She also has said she is interested in applying for other State Board posts that will be open in January.
If Smith-Blum doesn’t seek a second term on the Seattle school board, two seats in the fall election will be up for grabs, without an incumbent in the race. Michael DeBell, the board’s most-senior member, announced this week that he won’t seek a third term.
DeBell has served as the board’s president or vice president for five of his eight years in that post. He said he is proud of the work he’s been able to achieve on the board, including working to keep the board focused on policy and oversight without getting involved in district management. He intends to continue in public life in some role, just a new one.
Betty Patu, who also is up for reelection, has announced she will seek a second term.
The filing period opens next week.
May 6, 2013 at 4:33 PM
Just a few months after she was elected president of the Seattle School Board, Kay Smith-Blum may be leaving to join the Washington State Board of Education.
Smith-Blum said she submitted an application for a vacant state board position about a week ago, largely because she is interested in being considered for some future Board of Education posts that will open in January. But she has been named one of six finalists for the current open position. She said she was surprised but pleased that she is a finalist and she will be interviewed tomorrow. She said she hasn’t decided what to do if she is offered the position.
If she is selected for the State Board position and accepts it, Smith-Blum would resign from her position on the Seattle School Board.
One factor in her decision, she said, is time. The clothing store she owns with her husband, Butch Blum, has some new opportunities that they may want to pursue.
Smith-Blum said she sees a seat on the State Board as a possible way ”to stay in the education conversation without having to make the volume of time commitment that I would have to make to the Seattle School Board.”
Even if she doesn’t get or accept the State Board post, Smith-Blum also is weighing whether to seek re-election to the Seattle School Board later this year.
“I have a lot going on,” she said, “and I’ve been very reflective about whether or not I can commit another four years at the level of commitment that I have been happy to make these last four years.”
Smith-Blum joined the Seattle School Board in 2009 representing the district that includes the Central Area, Capitol Hill and part of downtown. Last year, she served as the board’s vice president and was recently elected president.
May 6, 2013 at 2:54 PM
Once again, several high schools in the Bellevue School District along with the International Community School in the Lake Washington School District have been ranked among the nation’s best.
Most recently, the International School and Newport High in Bellevue were among the top 100 on the list compiled by Newsweek magazine, along with Lake Washington’s International Community School. Two other Bellevue schools — Interlake High and Bellevue High — were ranked among the top 250.
On the U.S. News list, Bellevue’s International School was ranked ninth in the nation, followed by Lake Washington’s International Community School at 22nd and Bellevue’s Newport High at 91st place.
On the Washington Post’s Challenge Index, which focuses almost exclusively on how many students take Advanced Placement and other college-level exams, three Bellevue schools were in the top 100: Interlake High at 35th, the International School at 56th and Sammamish High at 99th.
Newsweek focuses on on-time graduation rate, percent of graduates accepted to college, and the number of Advanced Placement and other college-level exams that students take. U.S. News and World Report recognizes schools based on test scores, the performance of low-income and minority students, plus student participation in college-level tests.
Many other Washington schools were also recognized in all three rankings, although did not rank as highly as the Bellevue schools.
Bellevue officials credit their success to the fact that Advanced Placement classes are open to all students in their high schools, and 91 percent of all graduates complete one or more courses that are either Advanced Placement or part of the rigorous International Baccalaureate program.
May 6, 2013 at 10:59 AM
Michael DeBell, who has served on the Seattle School Board for the past eight years, has decided not to seek a third term, saying he’s interested in doing something new.
DeBell’s board seat is one of three that will be on the ballot this year, along with the ones now held by Board President Kay Smith-Blum and Vice President Betty Patu. Both are in their first terms. Patu has said she plans to run for re-election. Smith-Blum has not made an announcement yet. The filing period for candidates begins next week.
DeBell spent five of his eight years on the board as its president or vice president. In his tenure, he has worked with four superintendents and 15 different colleagues. He has been on the board through two rounds of school closures, the decision to return to a more neighborhood-based system of assigning students to schools, the financial scandal involving the district’s small business program, and layoffs that stemmed from reductions in state funding. During his tenure, the district also passed several school levies by big margins, and negotiated new systems of evaluating teachers and principals.
DeBell said he is proudest of the move to the new neighborhood assignment system which he credits, in part, with the enrollment boom that the district is experiencing.
He said he doesn’t know what he might do next, but hopes to continue to be in public life in some capacity.
April 29, 2013 at 7:18 PM
A team from Tahoma Senior High School placed seventh in a national competition that focuses on students’ knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Tahoma High participated as Washington state’s champion in the contest known as “We the People: The Citizen and The Constitution.”
It competed against teams from 45 other states and the District of Columbia. The teams participate in simulated congressional hearings, in which the judges test the students’ knowledge of subjects such as how the values and principles in the Constitution have shaped American institutions and practices.
Grant High School from Portland, Oregon, placed first.
Tahoma High, located in Covington, has won the Washington state title many times. The school has also placed in the national competition several times, including 10th in 2012.
April 29, 2013 at 6:47 PM
Teachers at two more Seattle schools have joined the boycott of the exams known as the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), a protest that started this winter at Garfield High and resumed last week with the beginning of the spring testing period.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, the protesting teachers announced that some of their colleagues at Ingraham High and Thornton Creek Elementary also will be boycotting the MAP this spring. At Thornton Creek, all the teachers are participating in the boycott. At Ingraham, the exact number was unclear Monday, but representatives from that school said it would include at least all of the school’s language arts teachers.
In the winter testing period, nearly all the teaching staff at Garfield refused to give the exams, and so did a majority of the staff at Sealth High and ORCA K-8. Half the teachers at Ballard High and many at Center School also joined the winter protest, but only after those schools’ ninth-graders had finished or had nearly finished taking the exams.
Many other teachers, although they haven’t joined the boycott per se, have sent letters of support. The protest also has gained support across the nation, and the world.
Jesse Hagopian, one of the protesting teachers at Garfield, also said that Franklin High teachers will boycott next year if the district renews the contract with the organization that produces the MAP.
“This test hasn’t changed,” Hagopian said. “This is the same flawed test.”
Teachers who refused to give the tests this winter were told they could face discipline, but thus far no teacher has been punished. For the winter tests, Superintendent José Banda said that was because none of the protesting teachers were responsible for giving the MAP. In many cases, that’s because administrators or parents were found to proctor the tests for them or they taught subjects that aren’t covered by MAP exams.
Students and parents joined the protest as well, by using their right to opt students out of taking the test. In the winter period, the district reported that nearly 600 students who were supposed to take the MAP exams did not do so. At the news conference, teachers said they expected at least that many this spring, based on what they are hearing from parents.
“We have to get the MAP test behind us, and find a test that everybody can get behind,” said Phil Sherburne, president of Garfield’s PTSA.
The protesting teachers would like the district to stop using the MAP exams, which the district started giving about five years ago as a way to monitor student progress more frequently than the state tests allow. Students from kindergarten through grade nine have been taking the MAP reading and math exams two to three times a year, along with state tests that students also take each spring. The protesting teachers say they value assessments, but want exams that they feel are useful to students, parents and teachers, which they say the MAP is not.
In the wake of the protest, Banda appointed a task force of teachers, principals, parents and other community members to recommend whether the district should continue to give the MAP next year. That task force is scheduled to meet for its final time on Thursday. The district also scaled back the number of ninth-graders who must take the tests.
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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