Louisa Boren STEM K-8’s Uniform Policy Decision

To STEM K-8 Families:

Uniform policies can provide benefits to students, families, and schools.  Uniforms were adopted at the opening of K-5 STEM because they aligned with the goals of a new school, and pointed towards a new shared identity and focus on STEM learning.  As Louisa Boren STEM K-8 has grown to include a continuum of programs and grades pre K-8th, the outcomes of our uniform policy became more complex. I encourage you to read the email below to understand the final decision regarding uniforms, the issues and discussion involved, and join us in the ongoing collaboration of community, staff, and students that makes Louisa Boren STEM K-8 great!

Summary and Decision

Questions were raised about STEM K-8’s uniform policy regarding equity, body image, identity, gender issues, race, culture, self-expression, and sensory needs. Furthermore, for many staff uniform enforcement negatively affected student relationships and efforts to create a welcoming environment. After student and family input, and a staff vote, STEM K-8 will not have a required uniform next year.  We will follow the standard SPS Dress Code.  Students are welcome to wear uniform attire; staff will not communicate or enforce uniform expectations.  Our school identity is based on exploring shared values, building rigorous STEM skills, and constructing Project Based Learning experiences. STEM K-8’s diverse community will continue to find ways to create shared identity, belonging, and school spirit without the conformity of uniforms.

Background:

STEM K-8 staff spent the last two months of the school year examining the school uniform policy. Students, staff and families were surveyed (results are displayed below).  STEM K-8’s uniform policy was discussed by the Building Leadership Team, at staff meetings, and PTA meetings. A summary of key issues:

  • Staff, students, and families raised concerns about uniform policy implications for youth wrestling with equity, body image, identity, gender, race, culture, self-expression, and sometimes sensory needs. Examples include:
    • communication with challenging students focused on uniform compliance rather than connection;
    • time spent addressing uniforms detracting from instruction or building relationships;
    • uniforms represent “uniformity” and dominant cultural values regarding “professional” or “acceptable;”
    • students with different body types finding STEM uniforms uncomfortable physically and emotionally;
    • girls feeling uniform enforcement represents gender bias;
    • uniform enforcement disproportionately affecting struggling students;
    • a wide variety of challenges lead to inconsistent enforcement;
    • the benefits associated with the STEM’s adoption of uniforms–supporting an academic learning environment, equity, shared identity, and safety—are less clear in middle school grades; and more.
  • The school board has been addressing broader dress code policy issues. A school board action report on 6/24/19 connected to the proposed new SPS Dress Code stated, “School dress codes have a long history in our society and are often over-reaching and biased against the female gender. With this policy, it was the hope to eliminate unnecessary notions regarding such things as clothing length and subjective views of appropriate school attire.”
  • STEM K-8’s uniform surveys asked multiple questions about our uniform policy. In the end the basic question was whether STEM K-8 should change our uniform policy.

STEM K-8  should continue to require uniforms.

  Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly

Disagree

Grade 3-8 Students 13/202 or 6% 2/202 or 1% 18/202 or 9% 23/202 or 11% 146/202 or 72%
Families 112/293 or 38% 70/293 or 24% 28/293 or 10% 41/293 or 14% 42/293 or 14%
Staff 6/47 or 13% 9/47 or 19% 6/47 or 13% 16/47 or 34% 10/47 or  21%

As displayed in the table, clear divisions regarding uniforms emerged among survey respondents.  83% of 3rd-8th grade students oppose a uniform policy, with 72% strongly disagreeing with uniform requirements.  On the other hand, 62% of families support uniforms with 38% strongly agreeing. Amongst staff, 55% were opposed to a uniform policy, with 21% strongly disagreeing. Only 32% of staff supported a uniform policy.

For a uniform policy to be effective, a strong majority of staff and families need to support it.  At STEM K-8, most staff and students are opposed to uniforms, while a majority of families support them.  One reason for the discrepancy are negative outcomes staff and students experience from uniform enforcement, and the equity issues raised.  When those concerns were discussed during PTA meetings, families present understood more clearly the complexity of uniform issues.

Under the new SPS Dress Code scheduled for an adoption vote July 10, implementation guidelines exempt uniform policies adopted with feedback from students and families and a 2/3 staff vote.  During the final months of school, staff participated in multiple uniform discussions, input was solicited from families and students, and two PTA meetings discussed uniforms.  In the formal STEM K-8’s staff vote, 36% supported continuing uniforms, 48% were opposed, and 17% were neutral.  While a 2/3 majority is the baseline for staff approval, only slightly more than 1/3 of staff voted for uniforms.

Respectfully,

Ben Ostrom

STEM K-8 Principal

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How We Respond to Hate Speech

 

6-28-19

Dear STEM Families:

On the last day of school we had the horrifying and painful experience at STEM K-8 of one student writing as an awful joke “Kill all Jews” in another student’s yearbook. Although the hate speech was not targeted towards a particular student, such incidents attack all of us, and the community we are trying to build.

As I learned what happened, my initial responses were anger, feeling sick, and disappointment.  Then I turned towards the complex work of responding to incidents of hate.  What steps address the children involved?  Are there individuals that need immediate support? How do we build a community that challenges the larger social context in which bias and hate are so widely spread on the Internet that they appear “permissible” in humor and language?

I am working with the child who wrote hate speech and their family to support accountability for an inexcusable act and experience vital learning.  We will not let children be defined by their worst moments.  I’m working with staff and community to find powerful ways to teach adults and students strategies that address bias in our school and world.  Incidents of hate can foster division and righteous judgement, or fuel determination and commitments to inclusivity and anti-bias education.  I trust our STEM K-8 and West Seattle community to use an awful moment to foster dialogue over division.  Together we will ensure our children learn how to build community and demonstrate values of equity, sustainability, and the whole child.  Mistakes are how humans learn.

Benjamin Ostrom

STEM K-8 Principal

STEM K-8 Uniform Policy Under Consideration

For several weeks STEM K-8 staff and community have been examining the school uniform policy.  Staff and families were surveyed, and we’ll get feedback from 3rd-8th grade students this week.  Uniforms were discussed by the Building Leadership Team and at staff meetings. As noted previously, growing our middle school created more divergence of opinions about uniforms.  Students and adults raised questions about the implications of uniforms for teen agers wrestling with equity issues, body image, identity, gender issues, race, culture, self-expression, and sometimes sensory needs.  Benefits associated with the STEM’s adoption of uniforms–supporting an academic learning environment, equity, shared identity, and safety—are less clear across a broader grade range.  The affects of uniform enforcement on student-staff relationships, creating a welcoming environment for all students, and supporting equitable outcomes are not always positive.  Although family surveys supported our uniform policy, when discussed at the 6/13/19 general PTA meeting, evidence of negative outcomes and equity concerns changed the opinions of many attendees.

At the same time the school board has also been reviewing SPS’ dress code policy.  An Action Report introduced on 6-24-19 (today) states “School dress codes have a long history in our society and are often over-reaching and biased against the female gender. With this policy, it was the hope to eliminate unnecessary notions regarding such things as clothing length and subjective views of appropriate school attire.”  Under the new SPS dress code scheduled for an adoption vote July 10, the proposed Superintendent’s procedure (implementation guidelines) exempts schools with a uniform policy adopted with student and family feedback and a 2/3 staff vote.  After much discussion, family input, and considering student feedback, STEM K-8 staff will vote on the school uniform policy this week.  If a 2/3 majority are not in favor of continuing school uniforms, uniforms will be discontinued at STEM K-8.  I will communicate the outcome of the vote to STEM K-8 families by June 28 so families can prepare for student attire for the coming school year.

We see you. We support you. We stand by you.

Once again the week begins with pain created by hate and violence.  When the deluge of bad news overwhelms our capacity for empathy, it’s east to turn towards alienation and avoidance.  Sometimes we find refuge in revisiting the details of safety plans and trying to rebuild our sense of security.  Those responses are important, but more vital is staying open to the hurt of others and building understanding, solidarity, and community.

Melinda Anderson, an advocate for race and equity, wrote in Teaching Tolerance “The notion of care is the root of racial proficiency. I want to know who you are. You’re not fully caring for kids if you don’t know them. So race is something that we talk about. Culture is something that we talk about. Understanding that difference is an amazing, powerful plus that, if we nurture it, makes us all smarter than we can be separately.”

Whether addressing differences of race, gender identity, religion, culture, ethnicity, or even political belief, we demonstrate care by wanting to know who people are and talking about it.  At STEM K-8 and in Seattle Public Schools we actively reject the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to define gender to exclude trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people.  You’re invited to get involved in with STEM’s GGLOW OWLS (Genderqueer/gender non-conforming, Gay, Lesbian or Whatever), which works to celebrate gender differences and provide resources supporting an inclusive environment (contact Shawna Murphy southernstreetkids@yahoo.com).

To Jewish community members in STEM, Seattle, Pittsburg, and everywhere where else—we notice and share your pain.  We know it occurs within a historical and political context of anti-Semitism.  At STEM K-8 we speak out clearly against the ugliness of hate, bigotry, and violence.  We pledge to continue the hard work necessary to stand in solidarity, and demonstrate care for our students and their amazing differences by recognizing and talking with them.

See Support Stand

RULER: The Mood Meter

 

Last week I shared some information about STEM’s implementation of RULER, an evidence-based socio-emotional curriculum that teaches vital self-regulation, empathy, and social skills.  Last week I wrote about the Charter, an agreement made in each classroom that reflects how students want to feel in class, what needs to happen to support those feelings, and guidelines for handling conflict.  This week I want to highlight the Mood Meter, a tool for recognizing and labeling feelings. By the end of October, all of our STEM students should have been introduced to the Mood Meter. Some of you may remember information about the Mood Meter from last year, when we began use it as a teaching tool with students for the first time.  You can click on to the SPS Family Ruler Website to learn more about other RULER strategies. Below is information about the Mood Meter.

The Mood Meter is a tool used to recognize and understand our own and other peoples’ emotions. It’s divided into four color quadrants – red, blue, green, and yellow – each representing a different set of feelings. Feelings are grouped together on the mood meter based on their pleasantness and energy level.

Mood Meter

Red feelings: High in energy and more unpleasant (e.g., angry, scared, and anxious)
Blue feelings: Low in energy and more unpleasant (e.g., sad, disappointed, and lonely)
Green feelings: Low in energy and more pleasant (e.g., calm, tranquil, and relaxed)
Yellow feelings: High in energy and  more pleasant (e.g., happy, excited, and curious)

Here’s a Mood Meter Introduction Video to learn more.

Why recognize feelings?

Helping students recognize feelings helps them understand how feelings impact decisions and behaviors. It’s also the first step in helping students develop empathy, the ability to understand the feelings of another person.

Once the Mood Meter is understood, it can be used as a guide through the

RULER skills, by asking:

o Recognize: What are you feeling? How pleasant? How much energy do

you have? Where would you plot yourself?

o Understand: What caused you to feel that way?

o Label: What word best describes where you plotted yourself?

o Express: How are you expressing that feeling? Is your expression

appropriate to the context in which you are?

o Regulate: Is where you are on the Mood Meter the place you want to be?

If so, what strategies will you use to stay there? If you would like to shift,

what strategies will you use?

Below is a list of family activities to put the Mood Meter into practice at home!

Don’t forget to support the STEM K-8 Direct Give if like me you’ve been too busy. It’s easy and convenient to submit submit a donation online.  Any size contribution is appreciated! Direct Give supports enriched STEM learning experiences and materials.

 

 

RULER Update and More

Please take a few moments to support the STEM K-8 Direct Give!.  You can donate via the form sent home with students or submit a payment online.  Direct Give contributions support STEM learning experiences. Books, additional tools and materials, Project Based Learning, staff training, and field experiences are all supported by Direct  Give funds.  Any size donation is appreciated!

A minor modification to STEM’s uniform policy was made for Middle School students.  Spirit Wear Friday’s were established for Middle School students to support STEM extra-curricular activities. On Friday’s Middle School students can wear Spirit Wear, STEM team shirts, and Spirit Wear sweat shirts.  For preK-5 Spirit Wear Friday’s remain the last Friday of the month.  There are some privileges that come with age and experience!

The parents/guardians of students who receive (or are seeking) Special Education or 504 services at STEM are invited to a parent meeting on Thursday, October 18 from 6:30-8:00 in the STEM library.  The purpose of the meeting is for families to be able to connect with one another and identify ways for STEM K-8 to better support and respond to their experiences.

STEM K-8 is entering it ’s second year of RULER implementation.  RULER is an evidence-based socio-emotional curriculum that teaches vital self-regulation, empathy, and social skills.  It is designed to teach the skills detailed below and provide opportunities for students and teachers, administrators, and family members to help them apply these skills.  I will continue to communicate information about RULER.  We want families to know the important skills being taught and also the key RULER tools.

RULER teaches five emotional intelligence skills:

  • Recognizing – Identifying emotion in oneself and others by interpreting facial expressions, body language, vocal tones and physiological reactions.
  • Understanding – Knowing the causes and consequences of emotions, including the influence of different emotions on thinking, learning, decisions, and behavior
  • Labeling – Using a wide range of emotion words, developing a rich feeling word vocabulary.
  • Expressing – Knowing how and when to express emotions with different people and in multiple contexts (nonverbal, written, and spoken)
  • Regulating – Developing strategies that help us manage our emotions to support healthy relationships and achieve goals.

RULER is comprised of four Anchor Tools that will be rolled out over the first four months of school.  At this point all classrooms should have developed Charters (detailed below), and many will have introduced Mood Meters.

Ruler Anchor Tools:

  • Charter Each classroom will create a Charter that describes how they want to feel in class, what needs to happen to support those feelings and guidelines for handling conflict.
  • Mood Meter A tool for recognizing and labeling one’s feelings.
  • Meta Moments A 6 step process that teaches self-regulation strategies and how to handle stressful situations.
  • Blueprint A problem-solving tool for navigating conflicts in which students consider each other’s feelings and identify effective solutions.

The Charter is designed to support a positive culture and climate. Unlike “rules” of conduct, an Emotional Intelligence Charter represents agreed-upon norms for how everyone will be treated, including (1) how teachers, and students want to feel in school, (2) what everyone needs to do to feel that way consistently, and (3) guidelines for how to handle uncomfortable feelings.

The process of creating a Charter involves responding to three questions:

  • How do we want to feel in school each day? Everyone is asked to think about what these feelings will look like in school in terms of specific, measurable, observable behaviors. In other words, what will the group need to do each day to ensure everyone experiences these feelings?
  • What will we do to have these feelings consistently and create a positive learning environment? The class first discusses (A) the uncomfortable feelings and unwanted behaviors they would like to avoid experiencing in school and then (B) how these feelings and behaviors will be handled and how conflict will be prevented and managed, including what happens when the Charter is breached.
  • How will we prevent and manage conflict and unwanted feelings?

Once all three questions are answered, the Charter is written or typed up, signed by everyone in the group, and posted somewhere visible so it can be referred to and revisited for amendments as needed. The Charter is a living, growing Ruler tool used in all STEM K-8 homerooms.

 

 

 

 

 

PBL at STEM K-8

The STEM K-8 PTA Direct Give Campaign has begun!  These contributions make it possible for the PTA to support exceptional learning experiences for STEM students.  The Direct Give provides hundreds of STEM books, additional technology, tools, construction materials, scientific instruments, software and supports vital parts of our program such as Project Based Learning.  Funds are used to provide staff with additional planning, training, classroom resources, and support. Please donate to the STEM K-8 Direct Give at whatever level you are able.

Thanks to all of you who were able to join us for the Middle School Open House last week.  It’s an important opportunity to meet teachers, get information on how our middle school classes work, and figure out how to support your children.

One important component STEM K-8’s programs at every grade level is Project Based Learning We began this year with an extra whole staff professional development day focused on common definitions and practices for PBL.  In conjunction with our work with PBL Consulting©, STEM K-8 is using the PBL definition below:

Project Based learning is a methodology of teaching and learning in which students respond to real-world challenges, problems, controversies, scenarios, and simulations through a process of focused, student-influenced inquiry with the goals of:

  1. Genuine student engagement
  2. Mastery of academic learning outcomes
  3. Development of 21st century competencies
  4. Production of tangible outcomes

We agreed that high quality PBL contains the following characteristics:

  1. Academic Learning Outcomes

The implementation of the project is modeled off of a method of inquiry used in the adult world such as the scientific method, the historical method, design thinking, the engineering design process, a process for problem solving, etc.

  1. 21st Century Competencies

Projects are initiated and focused with either an “essential question” that promotes enduring understandings and/or by a “driving question” – an open-ended, concrete, and easily understandable question that is motivating to students and answered by students at the end of the project through their tangible outcomes. Teachers and/or students can write focusing question(s).

  1. Tangible Outcomes

The project is grounded in a problem, controversy, scenario, simulation, current event, challenge or issue that is authentic, engaging and/or meaningful to students.

  1. Focused Inquiry

The implementation of the project is modeled off of a method of inquiry used in the adult world such as the scientific method, the historical method, design thinking, the engineering design process, a process for problem solving, etc.

  1. Driving Question

Projects are initiated and focused with either an “essential question” that promotes enduring understandings and/or by a “driving question” – an open-ended, concrete, and easily understandable question that is motivating to students and answered by students at the end of the project through their tangible outcomes. Teachers and/or students can write focusing question(s).

  1. Engaging Context

The project is grounded in a problem, controversy, scenario, simulation, current event, challenge or issue that is authentic, engaging and/or meaningful to students.

  1. Student Voice and Choice

Students are given opportunities (depending on age and experience with PBL) to express (1) voice – their opinion, perspective, idea or answer in the distinctive style or tone of their choosing and (2) choice – selecting between two or more product options or making key decisions about how, when, where and with whom they will conduct project work.

  1. Drafting and Critique

Throughout the project, students are given multiple opportunities to draft, revise, improve and refine their tangible outcomes with the use of structured opportunities for critique from multiple sources – self, peers, teacher and adults.

  1. Adult World Connections

Students connect with the adult world through fieldwork, authentic documents and data and/or work with organizations, experts, stakeholders and professionals.\

STEM staff are committed to growing staff and student effectiveness in implementing PBL.  We also agreed to make our Winter and Spring PBL exhibitions an opportunity to display PBL in-process rather than simply a display of final products.  We’re looking forward to partnering with parents to support to the continued development of PBL at STEM.