Category Archives: Schools

School discipline a hot topic, no quick fix

The Kitsap County Council for Human Rights on Friday hosted a conference tackling the school-to-prison pipeline, a term that encompasses the lower graduation rates and higher incarceration rates of minority, low-income and special-needs students.

Speakers at the conference touched on many of the topics the Kitsap Sun addressed in our February series on evolving thinking about discipline nationwide and locally. Articles and blog posts in the six-day series are collected here.
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Students of color are more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers, according to discipline data shared at the conference by Tim Stensager, director of data governance for the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The same is true of low-income and special-needs students. And the conference touched on the high rates of incarceration, homelessness and suicide among LGBTQ youth.

Big data is being used to identify districts where disproportionate discipline is particularly evident, and the federal government is wielding a hammer over those that show a widespread, persistent or egregious pattern of discrimination.

But the consensus a the conference was that the solutions lie at the local and even personal level. Everyone — school staff, students, parents and perhaps most importantly members of the community at large — needs to chip away at the problem from wherever they stand.

Or as Robert Boddie, who spoke a the conference, put it, “When the train stops at your station, get on it.”
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Kelsey Scott, a Running Start senior at Central Kitsap High School, didn’t need the data to understand that black students are viewed as “different.” Scott has had fellow students question why she speaks “proper” and isn’t “rude.” Scott talked about how the bar for black students is set at once pathetically low, yet impossibly high. She is a hard-working student who avoids parties, yet she feels pressure to avoid any kind of trouble.

“I have to make sure I’m always on my best behavior, because anything I do can get blown out of proportion and it’s crazy,” Scott said. “It’s basic training. When we’re acting out, it not only reflects on how people see you, it reflects on how people see people like you.”

Durell Green, 30, of Bremerton spoke at the conference about his personal experience with the school-to-prison pipeline. A self-described book “nerd,” Green got bored and acted out in elementary school, earning the label of “disruptive,” which dogged him at every turn. First arrested at 14, he was sent to Walla Walla at 18. Today, Green works to pay back the community through work in a mentoring program at his church.

The reasons why kids get in trouble are complex, and, as a recent article in the Seattle Times pointed out, there is no easy or quick fix. But Stensager showed how some districts are defying the odds, achieving high graduation rates despite having high numbers of at-risk students. Stensager and others at the conference said there are “best practices” that have been proven to work. Here’s a summary:

— Teachers must develop relationships with students, especially the troublesome ones, many at the conference agreed. Lack of time is not an excuse, according to retired educator Patricia Moncure Thomas; it’s part of the job.
— Clearly teachers need support. That’s where the value of community mentoring programs come in. The nonprofit Coffee Oasis has been successful with outreach and mentoring of homeless and at-risk youth, said Daniel Frederick of the organization. It’s a daily battle, and it’s not easy but “There’s a story behind every single child.” Partnering for Youth Achievement, the program Green works in, and Our GEMS (Girls Empowered through Mentoring and Service), a program Scott found helpful in her life, are other examples. Boddie, who has led youth mentoring groups in Central Kitsap School District, said such programs must hold students accountable, and instill a sense of pride, respect and integrity.
— Many districts, including Bremerton and Central Kitsap, are training staff in “culturally responsive” teaching methods. Teachers and other school staff who lack understanding of cultural norms and values, may misinterpret students’ behavior or miss opportunities to connect. Boddie said locally Bremerton and CKSD are ahead of the curve in addressing the role of a cultural divide in the school-to-prison pipeline.
— While big data can diagnose the problem, schools and districts with local control are best suited to fix it, according to Joe Davalos, superintendent of education for the Suquamish Tribe. The tribe’s school, open to non-tribal members, has 80 students and weaves cultural knowledge in with academic learning. Expectations are high, defying data on Native American students. At the Suquamish school, 100 percent are expected to graduate, Davalos said.
— Districts locally and nationwide are moving toward discipline that has students take personal responsibility for their behavior and make amends. So called “restorative justice” brings the offender face to face with who he’s harmed; solutions are hashed out in person.

As we continue to cover the issue of student discipline, I’d welcome hearing from you about topics you’d like covered or experiences (positive or negative) you’ve had with local schools. Find me on Facebook, email chenry@kitsapsun.com or call (360) 792-9219. Thanks.

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun education reporter

Does hip hop count as PE?

Anyone who’s met Debbie Lindgren is likely familiar with her bottomless exuberance. Lindgren, physical education teacher at Naval Avenue Early Learning Center, is a die hard advocate for giving kids more chances to be active in each day.

Lindgren is quoted in a story I did for today about the importance of recess for students’ bodies and brains.

She tries every which way to get youngsters moving. In one example, she brings recess to the classroom with “brain breaks” like full-body rock-paper-scissors students can do beside their desks. Teachers at Naval Avenue are now trained to lead their students in short bursts of activity that stimulate circulation and give kids a breather.

Lindgren’s latest get-moving scheme involves hip hop dancers, lots of them. Lindgren arranged for all first through third graders to learn a dance choreographed by Erica Robinson, a co-owner with her husband Ashley of the Kitsap Admirals basketball team. The students performed the dance en masse at the Admiral’s game Saturday.
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Lindgren got the idea for a school-wide hip hop dance because of her sense that some families, in particular African American families, feel a disconnect from the school.

“At first it was just, ‘What can I do to make sure we are inclusive of every culture at our school?'” Lindgren said.

Dance seemed a good place to start.

“It appears to me that our African American kids have more opportunity, perhaps, outside of school to dance within their family structure, because they come into this with better background in dance than the majority of Caucasian students,” Lindgren said. “In PE classes when the music turns on, our African American kids, the majority of them, their movement patterns are exceptional. … I thought, what can I do to celebrate their dances, their movement, their creativity?”
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Robinson is a member of the Admirals dance team the Flight Chixx. She grew up on Soul Train and affirms Lindgren’s gut feeling.

“If you think about African Americans in this culture, you think about hip hop, you think about break dancing,” Robinson said. “Some of the greatest dancers in the country have been African American.

“I think music and dance is just the way you connect,” she said.

Think of the choirs in African American churches. Music is everywhere in black culture and always has been, Robinson said.

“If you look throughout history, you see that music has really resonated with the African American community,” she said. “Music is something that has helped us through the hard times.”

Robinson appreciates Lindgren’s impulse to shine a spotlight on the hip hop genre.

“Coming from the East Coast, we had a lot of things that celebrated black culture, Puerto Rican culture,” she said. “In Kitsap here, we don’t find a lot of that celebrated culture. There’s a lot of quieting and shunning. In celebration, if we take the time to embrace each culture, we’ll find that as a human body, we’re all the same.”

Teaching several classrooms’ worth of students a single dance was no small feat.

“You just kind of teach it in pieces,” Robinson said. “The kids pick it up a lot easier than you think. … They wanted it.”

The performance was a hit with parents.

“We had a great turnout of kiddos. It was awesome, great support,” Lindgren said.

It was so much fun. They were so cute,” Robinson said.
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And although a few beats were missed here and there, what shone through was “the joy they had as group.”

Kurt DeVoe, photographer for the Kitsap Admirals, shared these photos with the Kitsap Sun. Lindgren’s husband was the videographer.

Student bullied for speech impediment takes a stand

State schools Superintendent Randy Dorn on Wednesday used the Marysville shooting as a cautionary tale about the role of social media in young people’s lives. Kids today live in two simultaneous worlds, one real, one virtual, both intertwined.

“Social media is all around them, and many young people feel safer and are more open with Twitter and Tumblr and other channels,” Dorn said.

That’s not all bad, but it can go south quickly when rumors or compromising photos and videos get spread online.

Dorn called out cyberbullying as a potential trigger for real-life violence in schools, and he offered a tip sheet (below) for parents and school staff to help them recognize warning signs of distress or conflict online.

These are uneasy times for schools. Sadly, lockdowns are becoming part of the routine for students, precautions against the unthinkable.

On Oct. 23, the day before the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting, a threat by a Central Kitsap High School student put that school on lockdown. The threat against another student wasn’t made on campus (and it’s not clear whether cyberbullying was part of it), but school officials were taking no chances.

On Oct. 29, a man’s hostile text messages to his estranged wife, a Poulsbo Elementary School employee, led to a lockdown at that school and at Poulsbo Middle School.

On Wednesday, South Kitsap Schools briefly were on modified lockdown, as law enforcement agencies searched for David Michael Kalac, suspect in the murder of a Port Orchard woman. Kalac, believed to have posted pictures of the body online, was later found to have fled the state and was arrested late Wednesday in Oregon.

Speaking of cyberbullying, a student who identifies herself as South Kitsap High School’s “new gossip girl” began last week posting crude and potentially embarrassing posts on Twitter. The girl has gotten some push back from other students. And one parent called her out on the Port Orchard Facebook group, urging students and others to virtually shun her.

On Bainbridge Island, student Otis Doxtater took the fight against bullying (cyber and otherwise) to the next level.

Doxtater, a junior at Eagle Harbor High School, on Oct. 21 organized students from kindergarten through 12th grade to hold a silent procession and demonstration of unity against bullying on the campus of Commodore K-12 Options School, where Eagle Harbor is located.
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The students created a linked chain of paper on which each had written something unique about themselves on one side and what they would do to stand up to bullying on the other. The paper slips were orange for National Unity Day, which was Oct. 22.

Younger in life, Doxtater was painfully familiar with bullying.

“I’ve always had a stutter, so that was always something that would be made fun of,” he said.

And this wasn’t the first time Doxtater had made a public protest against bullying. He has spent hours in the parking lot near McDonald’s on Bainbridge Island with a sign that reads “Love and Equality” on one side and “Stop Bullying” on the other. On Twitter, he uses the hashtag #stopbullying, and he has a YouTube channel, otisdoxtater, demonstrating some of the positive uses for social media.

The response of his schoolmates after the Unity Day demonstration was gratifying.

“As I was walking down the hall, people were walking up to me and said I did an awesome job,” Doxtater said. “It made me feel really good. It made me feel accomplished and proud.”

Doxtater knows he’s putting himself out there, but he’s OK with that.

“I realize I am making myself vulnerable and people are going to criticize me,” Doxtater said. “But I realize it’s something I’m passionate about and I’m willing to get criticized for something that I know is right.”

Maybe Dorn should hire him as a consultant.


NKSD seeks school board member

The North Kitsap School District seeks someone to replace Dan Weedin on the school board. Weedin resigned last week. Here is the announcement.

The North Kitsap School District Board of Directors is seeking qualified applicants and nominations for qualified applicants for a recent vacancy in the Director District 2 position.  Interested registered voters residing in Director District 2 should submit an application and biographical summary to the following address by 12:00 p.m. Monday, November 3, 2014:  Board of Directors, 18360 Caldart Avenue NE, Poulsbo WA  98370.  Materials may also be emailed to khenry@nkschools.org.

 Application, District 2 boundaries, and timeline may be found on our website at www.nkschools.org, or Click HERE.

For additional questions, please contact Korinne Henry at (360) 396-3001 or khenry@nkschools.org.

We encourage you to share this information with anyone who resides in District 2 and who may be interested in serving on the Board of Directors. 

NK’s Page eyes end, but has not set a date

Patty Page, North Kitsap School District superintendent, said on Thursday she will not seek an extension on her contract with the district. That does not mean she is retiring anytime soon.

Page, who started with the district in 2012, signed a three-year contract with the board when she started and has seen one-year extensions each year since. This year she said she doesn’t want one.

Instead, from this point on, as she approaches retirement age she will work with two-year contracts, or go year-to year.

The conversation arose as the board continued conversations about how it will carry out its superintendent evaluation process going forward.

See a real struggle for a school district (not local)

No matter what kind of negative experience you have ever had with a school board, or probably any local government body, I have a hard time imagining it being as difficult as what’s happening in the East Ramapo, New York school district.

This story includes the federal and state governments, side deals and alleged and real racism, all ingredients for contention. And of course, some people get compared to Hitler, this time in a place where that would be an especially inflammatory charge.

The strangest element here though is that the school board is dominated by a group, a Hassidic Jewish community, who would never send their own children to public schools. You can look at the coverage from the Journal News, a Gannett news outfit in the Lower Hudson Valley in New York. That coverage includes amazing video of the district’s attorney actively mocking members of the public. New York Magazine has a comprehensive piece that explains so much of what is motivating the now dominant community.

One thing I think I can say without editorializing on who’s right here; The district needs nicer lawyers.

I first heard about this on the This American Life episode that aired locally here on KUOW on Saturday. I think it does a good job of being fair and it encapsulates the entire story well.

‘No Child’ waiver loss might be a blessing

This week’s North Kitsap School Board three-day retreat agenda includes discussion of what impact Washington’s loss of a No Child Left Behind waiver will have on the district. This is a conversation every district will be having.

While the additional allowances each school district in the state will have to make does make for extra work, there are some in educational circles who argue it is better than the alternative, evaluating teachers based on student scores on standardized testing.

The waiver loss does not mean a loss of funds. It means less flexibility with using those funds, about $40 million across the state. While the No Child law is being reworked states were given some flexibility in applying some of its standards, but the U.S. Department of Education held firm that states had to have a workable teacher evaluation system that relied at least in part on student test scores. Washington, in the end, declined to create a system and the feds tightened the screws on how money is spent.

What we’re talking about is Title I funding, money aimed at disadvantaged students. For North Kitsap Title 1 funding equals about $562,000. Under the existing law about 30 percent of that, about $168,000, will be directed to other purposes, said Patty Page, district superintendent.

Of that $168,000 about $56,000 is to be spent on professional development. The rest would go to transportation for parents who want to take their children out of schools deemed not meeting No Child adequate yearly progress standards. In North Kitsap that is Suquamish Elementary, Wolfle Elementary and Kingston Middle School.

Page said there are still a few questions left unanswered. One is whether the district’s application to provide special tutoring within the district will be granted. Another is whether transportation to other schools means schools outside of the school district. Answers to those questions and others are supposed to come soon.

The retreat is Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night, with each meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. and scheduled to last three hours. The meetings are in the district offices.

The No Child waiver is fifth on the three-day agenda, following the 2014-15 budget, open government training, strategic plans and board goals. Page didn’t expect the No Child waiver discussion to happen in the first night’s work, which could mean Page will by then have more answers on some lingering questions.

One story in an education publication suggests some states would tell Washington to accept the waiver loss with a happy face and move on. That’s the case made in a story in Education Week. Losing the flexibility over a few dollars might be an easy price to pay for the flexibility you get elsewhere. From the story:

For instance, he (Richard Zeiger, the chief deputy superintendent in California) said, there have been political benefits. The state’s teachers’ unions were a huge driving force in helping to enact a new funding formula that gives a heavy weight to students in poverty. It would have been a lot harder to gin up union support for the change if the state education agency had been tusseling with them over teacher evaluation, Zeiger said.

Maybe even more importantly, he said, the shift to new standards has been relatively painless for California. “We’ve had very little contention around the common core and the shift to the new testing system” in part because it’s happened separately from the types of teacher-evaluation changes called for in the waivers, Zeiger said. “The comments we’ve gotten on common core are: This is how I always wanted to teach.”

Other states say the waiver is working, the case made in an AP story this week. The story goes into some explanation as to what’s happening here in this state.

A brief NPR story goes a little bit into what is happening in Oregon and Idaho.

Is your child ready for kindergarten?

As a follow-up to our story today on efforts to promote learning among preschool children, I share with you here the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills. This state-endorsed list (attached below) shows 22 skills that children should have mostly under their belts by the time they finish kindergarten.

Children are assessed in the fall (by October 31) through observation and looking at samples of students’ work. Schools that receive state funding for all-day kindergarten are required to to the WaKIDS assessment, which is used by teachers to figure out where individual students need help and by state and local policy makers, who study the aggregate data. Other schools can voluntarily participate in WaKIDS.

The state is phasing in fully-funded, all-day kindergarten, starting with the most impoverished schools. Because there are more schools added each year, you can’t compare data from one year to the next.

The assessment used by WaKIDS evaluates proficiency in 22 skills in six areas of learning: social and emotional, physical, language and cognitive development, literacy and math. Under social-emotional, for example, one question asks if the student “regulates own emotions and behaviors.” Under mathematics, you’ll find, “explores and describes spatial relationships and shapes.” Problem solving, the ability to carry on a conversation, identify letters, sounds and words … there’s a lot on the list. And, experts say, children entering kindergarten should have been working on these skills long before they’re enrolled in public school.

On the Kitsap Sun’s Facebook link to our story, “Districts start early to ready students for kindergarten,” there was a debate among readers about whether this push for early acquisition of skills is positive for children or just too much pressure.

While current policy on early childhood education (including the value of all-day kindergarten) remains open to debate, the importance of a richly stimulating environment during each developmental stage has been well documented, including by the Children’s Reading Foundation, a Kennewick organization that hosts the national Ready! for Kindergarten program. The program, in which South Kitsap, Bremerton and Central Kitsap take part, educates parents on ways to foster intellectual and social growth from birth on up.

The WaKIDS data from the 2013-2014 school year shows that 80 percent of the 38,443 kindergartners assessed already had physical skills that are “widely expected” by the end of kindergarten. In literacy, too, roughly 80 percent already had a good grasp. Social-emotional confidence and cognitive skills had been mostly mastered by about 75 percent. About 70 percent had good proficiency in language skills, but only 50 percent were end-of-kindergarten skilled in math.

One school official I talked to said kindergarten teachers must address the needs of children with a wide range of skills, from those who are able to do some things typical of an 8-year-old, while others are struggling at a 3-year-old level.

Let me repeat that these are skills tested on children at the beginning of the school year that experts say they should have fully mastered by the end of kindergarten.

If you are the parent of a child entering kindergarten, you may want to take a look at this list (below). The big take-away that I heard from teachers and early childhood experts while researching the story is that “each child develops at his or her own pace,” so don’t panic if they’re not hitting it out of the park in all categories. Read “Leo the Late Bloomer,” for a pick-me-up, if this is the case.

Finally, I’d love to hear how you take advantage of opportunities to foster learning in your preschooler, toddler or infant… what they call those “teachable moments.”
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P.S. This is a picture of my son Alex, who turns 30 on Friday, proof that time flies. This photo is not available for copying or reproduction. Thank you.

WaKIDS Assessment

For your education edification

Once in a while I come across a few stories I think some of you education-minded readers would appreciate. Usually I sit on them, because it seems like a lot to offer commentary on all of them. So this time I’m just the links with brief explanations.

The first is from someone who believes we should get rid of middle school. That piques my interest a bit, because my own memories of junior high school was of two years in a high school waiting room. Looking back it was the least satisfying two years of my educational experience during K-12, though some of my teachers in the other schools might differ. What the writer seems to be proposing is a Klahowya model.

The next story posits that one reason poorer schools will never do well on standardized tests is they can’t afford the updated materials needed to know what’s going to be on the tests. Test makers are also book publishers.

The third story shows that long before the youngsters learn to talk the brain activity shows they are working on figuring out how. Awesome picture in there, too.

The final story is one I read a couple weeks ago, one that suggests that even pre-kindergarten is too late. Good education starts way earlier.

Summer Education Opp: Tough Love

We’ve written a lot about the Washington Youth Academy, a publicly funded residential high school intervention program for students who have dropped out or been expelled.

We heard from the Bremerton branch of the academy, which is a statewide program, when we asked for “Summer Education opportunities” for children and teens.

We did not include the listing in our Summer Ed Opps list, because the upcoming session, in which students/cadets can earn up to eight credits toward high school graduation, runs July 19 through Dec. 20. I call it to your attention here, because it is a great opportunity for youth who need help getting their lives in order and who need academic credit recovery.

Note the deadline to apply is June 20.

Washington Youth Academy
Ages: 16-18
Where: 1207 Carver Street, Bremerton
Description: At-risk youth can earn up to eight credits toward a high school diploma in five-and-a-half weeks. Next session runs July 19 through Dec. 20; applications are due by June 20.
Eligibility criteria: Students must be a high school dropout or expellee, a U.S. citizen and resident of Washington State, never convicted of a felony and have no legal action pending, free of illegal drugs at time of enrollment, and physically and mentally able to complete the program.
Program incorporates a highly structured quasi-military format emphasizing self-discipline, personal responsibility and positive motivation.
Cost: No cost for qualified candidates. The program is run through a cooperative agreement between the National Guard Bureau and Washington State.
Contact Kasie Roach at Kassondra.roach@mil.wa.gov or 360-473-2629, http://mil.wa.gov/WYA/, https://www.facebook.com/pages/NGYCP-Washington-Youth-Academy/71515853230.