Teachers should end boycott of MAP assessment test

THE few Seattle Public Schools teachers refusing to administer the Measures of Academic Progress test have chosen the wrong topic and timing to make a point about teacher evaluations.

Those teachers have every right to question whether MAP accurately measures student progress or fairly judges teacher performance.

Many Seattle teachers view the MAP as a valuable, if imperfect, assessment tool. Schools have until Feb. 22 to administer the test; 87 schools out of 95 have already begun.

The MAP boycott is puzzling, coming as the district, and presumably teachers, are hoping voters agree to raise their taxes to provide a total of $1.2 billion in levies for Seattle schools in the Feb. 12 election.

Moreover, the Seattle Education Association agreed in the current teachers contract to use assessments, which could include the MAP, as one factor in evaluating teacher performance. If the union has changed its mind, a ripe opportunity to raise the issue is spring contract negotiations.

All of this may be just union flexing. One union official encouraged teachers to support the boycott to show district leadership the union is united and ready to be a powerful force in the upcoming contract negotiations.

Fine. But the spirit of solidarity has its limitations. Using students to advance workplace issues is dishonest.

An objective measure of student and teacher performance is critical. Student portfolios and peer reviews plus student-parent surveys are among the many ways to assess teachers. All of those ideas should be examined by the new assessment task force and the district’s own review of its assessment tools.

Superintendent José Banda hopes by May to have a sense of the district’s assessment needs and where MAP fits.

It is worth remembering that the idea of a local test to measure Seattle students came from one of Seattle’s most beloved education figures, former Superintendent John Stanford. Stanford did not choose the MAP, but he eloquently argued for a local assessment. Teachers should work with the district in keeping one.

Rapper Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis top the BIllboard hot 100

In their 16th week on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Seattle rapper Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis have reached the top of the prestigious chart with the single “Thrift Shop,” a triumphant  achievement for the fast-rising local duo.

“Thrift Shop” (featuring Wanz) also knocks Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” out of the No. 1 spot after six weeks.

“The Heist,” the duo’s independently released album, has been on a roll since entering the Billboard 200 chart at No. 2 on the week of Oct. 27.

According to a story by Gary Trust in Billboard.biz, “Thrift” is the first debut to reach No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart since Wiz Khalifa’s “Black & Yellow” in February 2011.

And here’s another interesting factoid from Billboard.biz: Macklemore and Ryan are the first duo to top the Hot 100 with its first record since. Los Del Rio’s 14-week reign with “Macarena” in 1996!


Seattle Rep reaches out to youths to instill love of theater

Are you a teen with a passion for theater? Or are you a teacher with an interest in bringing theater to your classroom? If so, Seattle is just the place to be. The Seattle Repertory Theatre is one of many that offer many education outreach programs for youths and their teachers to explore the world of theater.

“We try to introduce students at all age ranges to a variety of ways they can become involved in theater,” said Sarah Meals, public relations manager at Seattle Rep. “They tackle it in different ways, depending on what they’re interested in.”

Most of Seattle Rep’s youth-outreach programs last the entire school year. Meals said a countless number of students participate.

“We have programs that come and go throughout the years — that we’ll do for just one year and then will go away. And we have programs that have been there for several years,” she said. “We’re continually in a learning process to see which programs are really working and, if they are, trying to replicate that formula year-to-year.”

However, the benefits students reap from the programs are big, no matter which program.

“There are a couple different goals,” she said. “One is to supplement what students are getting or not getting in the public schools with funding being cut back in the schools. The larger issue, though, is we want to contact these kids when they’re young so they think of the arts growing up. It’s important to develop an appreciation early.”

But it’s also important for students find their own voice, Meals said: “Most of our projects are aimed at students telling their own stories. We really try to avoid pushing out information; we want them to become part of the arts. The point of all programs is engagement — not, ‘Here is the art, go home and think about it.’”


Speaking up

Frances Kao, another public relations manager at Seattle Rep, said students are exposed to elements in theater that they would not have known otherwise, especially in the Y-WE Speak program.

“There is a lot of access to what’s going on behind the scenes,” she said. “We’ve often heard, ‘I didn’t realize there were so many jobs in theater!’ Until they see things up close and speak to professional designers and craftsmen, it doesn’t quite register there’s an army you don’t see just on stage.”

The Y-WE Speak program (Young Women Empowered) offers young women age 14 to 18 from diverse backgrounds mentorship and access to creative programs aimed to empower them to acquire confidence, resilience and leadership skills. It uses theater to tackle issues such as race, gender identity and social pressure.

During the season’s residency, participants play a part in eight generative workshops with Seattle Rep teaching artists to gather and co-create an original theater piece based on their life experiences. Y-WE participants will attend six Seattle Rep productions.

“The program also includes a lot of access to performance discussions with community talk-back sessions,” Kao said. “Students are astounded there are so many stages of writing. It’s exciting to learn that writing/playwriting is a collaborative effort with a community of artists. The audience is often unaware of all the back-and-forth that happens.”



Your move! West Seattle Chess Tournament ahead for youth

Student chess player in the house? Don’t miss the chance to sign up for the West Seattle Chess Tournament, just announced for February 23rd at Schmitz Park Elementary, presented by the Chess Mates Foundation. Full details and registration link ahead:


Format: K, 1-4, 5-8, 5-round Swiss. NWSRS rated, state qualifier.

Entry Fee: $14/player for Chess Mates schools; $20/player general. Add $5 late fee after 2/15/2013. Scholarships available for students qualifying for free/reduced lunch, coaches apply by e-mail.

Registration: Advance registration only, no day of tournament registration. The tournament is limited to 200 players; Chess Mates schools have 100 priority spots. Each school has a limit of 16 players.

Register online at www.chessplayer.com/SignUp.php Register by mail with the 2013 Registration Form.

Contact: For registration info: Georgi Orlov (206) 387-1253 / chessmates@earthlink.net or for tournament info: Jeremy Higgins (206) 933-9966 / dangerscience@gmail.com

Awards: Team (top 4), individual, and grade trophies. First Round: 10:15 a.m. Pairings are posted at 10 a.m.

Schmitz Park Elementary is located at 5000 SW Spokane. Concessions 9:30–4, offered by the Schmitz Park Chess Club.Image

Lady Gaga takes youth foundation on the road


Lady Gaga is taking her Born This Way Foundation on the road.

The singer announced Thursday that the Born Brave Bus Tour will tailgate outside her upcoming U.S. concerts and provide a space for 13- to 25-year-olds to learn more about local resources on anti-bullying, suicide prevention and mental health services.

Her foundation focuses on youth empowerment and self-confidence.

Organizations like The Trevor Project, Campus Pride and the National Association of School Psychologists will assist on the bus. Participants will not need a ticket to the show to partake.

The Born Brave Bus will be open ahead of each Gaga concert for several hours. The U.S. leg of the Born This Way Ball Tour kicks off Jan. 14 in Tacoma, Wash.Image

Southwest Seattle Super String Saturday: Free event January 26

Three weeks from today, on January 26th, you are invited to Southwest Super String Saturday – a free event celebrating students, families, and music teachers from Roxhill,Arbor HeightsGatewoodSanisloConcordHighland Park, and West Seattle Elementary Schools, plus Denny International Middle School. It’s presented by Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras (SYSO, a WSB sponsor), which explains:

This event showcases the efforts of students, professional music coaches and Seattle Public School music teachers who are part of the SYSO in the Schools program. SYSO in the Schools provides free small-group lessons during the school day and out-of-school time to young musicians who have historically had inequitable access to music education. This program has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of students in orchestral music playing at higher levels of musicianship. Students have also gained self-confidence, built their skills in self-discipline, concentration and collaboration, and have had higher levels of academic achievement and school engagement.

As Carmela Dellino, former Roxhill Elementary principal and current SPS Executive Director for West Seattle Schools, explains: “We are so pleased to have SYSO’s continued support of the young string musicians in our Southwest Seattle schools. The free coaching provided by SYSO gives these students access to high quality, individualized music lessons that families in this area might not otherwise be able to afford. When I was principal at Roxhill Elementary, I saw students who, because the SYSO coaches were there to nurture their musical skills, not only persevered in their instrument playing, but brought that same focus to other areas of study. These skills prepare students, even at the elementary level, for college and career.”

Activities at Southwest Seattle Super String Saturday include: a mini-concert by the Youth Symphony Orchestra performing Emmanuel Charbrier’s España and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in d minor, Op. 47.; violin, viola, cello and bass master classes led by Youth Symphony musicians; chamber ensemble demonstrations; parent education sessions; and information from SYSO partner the West Seattle Community Orchestras. All students attending Super String Saturday are eligible for a full or partial scholarship to SYSO’s Marrowstone-in-the City summer program.

For more information about Southwest Seattle Super String Saturday, please contact Kathleen Allen, SYSO Director of Education, Communications and Partnerships at kathleen@syso.org or 206-362-2300. To learn more about SYSO and all of its programs supporting young musicians visit syso.org

On January 26th, you’ll find this all happening 10 am-1 pm at the Chief Sealth International High School auditorium (2600 SW Thistle).

High School Students Rapping

It seems like now a days you hear about teenagers wanting to become rap stars. They are starting to write down how they are feeling and connecting it to a beat they have made, then sooner or later they book some studio time and are recording, putting their songs on Youtube or their Facebook pages. That’s were it all starts. Their friends on Facebook start to share their songs/raps and then all of a sudden they get a call from a studio and that studio wants them to come in and record for them. That’s how it all starts, with a goal, pen, and some paper. If you have a dream, go for it because you never know who notices what you have done or who hears what you produced. What ever that goal may be, never give up, everyone is able to succeed if they put the effort into it.

Lady Gaga at Tacoma Dome

26- year old, Lady Gaga performed a great show last night at the Tacoma Dome. All of her fans were there supporting her and her music. Lady Gaga put on a fantastic performance that many will remember. Using her unique costume’s, she encouraged fans to be themselves, and not be afraid of what other people think. Last nights showing was a time where people became who they truly were, the dressed how they wanted without being judged. Overall, this performance Lady Gaga delivered will always be remembered and is one of the top concerts of the year.