Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Best Practices’ Category

WA Teaching Standards Earn C- From Ed Reform Group

by Matt Rosenberg February 11th, 2014

In a January 30 report evaluating all 50 states on the sufficiency of their K-12 teaching profession laws, rules and regulations, a national education reform group funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other ed reform interests gives Washington State an overall grade of C- including a D+ for “delivering well-prepared teachers.” The C- for Washington includes four more sub-section grades: three of C- for policies to identify, retain and “exit” ineffective teachers, and a C+ for “expanding the teaching pool.” The information comes in the Washington detail section of the “2013 State Teacher Policy Yearbook” report by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

State: Full-Day-K Packs No Sustained Punch, Academically

by Matt Rosenberg January 29th, 2014

Washington state legislators seven years ago set a goal to fund all-day kindergarten in all public schools here by the 2017-18 school year but a new report they commissioned says the practice can’t now be called cost-effective because the academic achievement gains associated with it usually fade fast and any social and emotional learning benefits to children from it can’t be adequately documented.

The new report to lawmakers from the government-funded non-partisan Washington State Institute for Public Policy reviewed the research literature and based on 10 rigorous studies that included control groups, found that compared to the half-day alternative, “the benefits of investing in full-day kindergarten are unlikely to outweigh the costs because the initial test score gains are not usually sustained.” However, if stakeholders can figure out how to sustain the initial test score gains then the investment “has the potential to be cost-beneficial with relatively low risk,” the report added.

Fraud Report: Timesheet Padding Cost Harborview $16K

by Matt Rosenberg August 29th, 2013

A new fraud investigation report from Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley finds that an “electroneurodiagnostic technician” at Harborview Medical Center – which is owned by King County and operated by the University of Washington – between January 2010 and the end of October, 2012 received pay for 628 hours she didn’t work, valued at $16,286. It is the third time since April 2012 that state investigations have concluded a Harborview worker committed fraud. Another auditor’s report in 2010 found fault with cash handling practices at Harborview.

Crime charges in WA courts at 12-year low; recidivism holds

by Matt Rosenberg August 20th, 2013

Total cases filed by prosecutors in Washington state’s criminal courts reached a new low in 2012 compared to the 11 years prior, but the rate at which charged individuals released to the community experience “recidivism” – or being criminally charged again within three years – has continued to hold steady since 2001. It’s been about 50 percent for individuals with domestic violence or “DV” charges classified as current; and about 40 percent for those with older charges of DV or other crimes. The findings come in a new report from the government-funded Washington State Institute for Public Policy. The study explains that charges rather than convictions are used as a leading indicator of recidivism in the comparison groups because in instances of alleged domestic violence, victims often decide not to press the case even if the crime may very likely have occurred.

From Recidivism Trends of Domestic Violence Offenders in Washington State, WSIPP, Aug. 2013

A related WSIPP report issued earlier this year which surveyed the current scientific literature reaffirmed there is no lowering of DV recidivism rates resulting from state’s mandated emphasis on treating DV offenders through the so-called “Duluth model.” That approach accents the causative roles of gender, and social and historical constructs. WSIPP did find research showing that other practices which cut recidivism in the general offender population may also help Washington DV offenders avoid new charges, but that focused in-state tests are needed to better document potential.

Criminal charges at 12-year low
The new report starts out by accenting that total misdemeanor and felony criminal cases filed in Washington local and county courts numbered just 181,985 in 2012 – less than the 2001 low of 187,222 within the 12-year period covered. Nearly four-fifths, or 78 percent of the criminal cases filed in 2012 were misdemeanors, the rest felonies. That divide has held steady since at least 2001.

The per capita rate of non-domestic violence criminal cases filed per 1,000 residents has dropped from just under 35 in 2001 to just under 30 in 2011 while the rate of domestic violence cases filed has held relatively steady over that time at between seven and eight per 1,000.

DV offenders charged more often; and at higher risk for violence
Compared to those actually convicted of non-domestic violence felonies or misdemeanors, current or prior domestic violence offenders in the 2008 cohort were charged with crimes more than twice as often. By a factor of four they were more likely to have earned a high risk classification for violence, according to the WSIPP report.

2001 to 2008 recidivism trends in WA
Charge-based recidivism rates have held relatively steady since 2001. A graph in the report (below, left) shows that from 2001 through 2008 steadily half of individuals with a current DV charge have had some sort of criminal charge filed against them again with three years, versus more than 40 percent for those with older charges of DV or other crimes. When subsequent convictions within three years of a charge are used as the recidivism measure, the rates tend to drop six to eight points based on 2008 data in the WSIPP study.

Domestic violence is defined as “acts or threats of physical harm, sexual assault, or stalking by one household or family member against another…” Because it takes three years to assess whether a released offender will be charged again with a criminal offense, for the purpose of calculating recidivism rates, there is a lag in the data. The most recent year for which the rates are reported in the WSIPP study is 2008, which includes charges filed through 2011 against offenders released in 2008.

From Recidivism Trends of Domestic Violence Offenders in Washington State, WSIPP, Aug. 2013

“Duluth” treatments in WA ineffective
In a related study published in January of this year, WSIPP synthesized the literature of domestic violence or “DV” prevention and surveyed treatments used in other states. The institute reaffirmed earlier findings that Washington’s “Duluth model” for treatment – which emphasizes the crime category is “a gender-specific behavior which is socially and historically constructed” – has no effect on recidivism.

Other approaches show promise
The January 2013 WSIPP study did identify several other approaches to treating domestic violence that in earlier targeted studies cut DV recidivism by an average of one-third but the methods. These included relationship counseling, “cognitive behavioral therapy,” couples therapy and drug and alcohol treatment. Such approaches would have to be tested specifically in Washington State to assess impacts on DV recidivism, WSIPP cautioned.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Ethics board hits ex-DNR buyer with $7.5K fine

by Matt Rosenberg July 22nd, 2013

A former vehicle parts buyer for the Washington Department of Natural Resources used his position to exchange special favors with suppliers and has agreed to pay a fine to a state oversight board of $7,500 for violating state ethics laws, according to an agreement he signed that was approved July 12. Longtime DNR employee Randy Sweet worked as a parts specialist for the state agency since 1991, in later years at the Tumwater compound just south of the Olympia Airport where he shared responsibilities for buying, billing and taking delivery of materials and parts used to keep running DNR’s boats, heavy equipment, cars and trucks. But during 2007 and 2008 he skirted purchasing guidelines meant to save taxpayer monies, to instead fatten the wallets of or to favor certain suppliers and was rewarded in return with cut rate deals on personal merchandise or other favors. This according to the findings of fact in the Washington Executive Ethics Board agreement, or “stipulation” document he signed to settle the case and which the board approved just 10 days ago.

A 2010 state audit which led to the ethics board probe noted two others at the facility were fired along with Sweet, one resigned, and eight more were reprimanded. The agency then said it put new safeguards in place. There were no criminal prosecutions. The ethics board is still investigating the role of two men above Sweet who may also face civil sanctions. The problems were first identified in a 2001 state audit.

State audit: Seattle Schools facility rentals program in disarray

by Matt Rosenberg June 25th, 2013

A new report from Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley suggests the Seattle Public Schools have left uncollected potentially several million dollars of revenues for facility rentals and related costs in recent years, much of it since last September. In addition to 9,000 hours of un-billed rentals, the district is also failing to monitor and collect on past due bills it has issued for facilities rentals; has disguised outside rentals as internal events, causing more revenue loss; has failed to follow insurance documentation requirements for outside events; and hasn’t trained many staff as needed on a new rentals record-keeping system.

According to the new accountability audit, the district failed to collect rental fees for about 9,000 hours worth of use of its facilities by outside at 2,432 special events on premises from last September through this April. District rental rates vary from $8.00 per hour to $88.90 per hour. Additional hourly fees are often charged for utilities, cleaning and security, ranging from $47 to $73.85. Combined rates thus could range from $56 per hour at the low end to as high as $162.75 per hour at the high end. The report says the amount of lost revenue can’t be quantified but that auditors believe it is “substantial.”

If all of the roughly 9,000 un-billed hours hours were charged at the minimum combined rental and services rate the revenue would have been $504,000; if all were billed at the highest combined rental and services rate – something that is unlikely – the recovered revenues would have been $1.46 million.

Public Data Ferret’s Seattle+Management archive

In addition the audit reports that the school district estimates it has left another $400,000 to $820,000 uncollected from the City of Seattle Parks and Recreation Department in shared 2006-2011 revenues related to adult usage of facilities and lighting fees. The school district failed to invoice Parks and lacks supporting documentation so cannot recover the monies it believes it is due.

The audit also says that of $223,213 in rental fees charged in from last September through this April, $102,913 remains uncollected and those payments are an average of 115 days overdue. The report adds, “The rentals office is not monitoring these past due accounts, nor is it sending delinquent accounts to collections.” Any additional past due amounts before last September can’t be calculated due to lack of records, the audit says.

In three cases, district staff disguised outside events as internal and lost $45,000 in the process, the audit also finds. Further, rentals overseers aren’t documenting insurance and concussion policy compliance, which could increase liability upon a death during an outside event, the audit states. A third of schools tested in the audit were’t using the district’s new online system for scheduling outside events.

The audit recommends the Seattle School District train staff to follow facilities usage guidelines; train staff who are assigned to do scheduling and event approvals in the new online system; follow-up on past due bills; and reconcile shared revenues from Parks with its own calculations of its share.

In a response in the audit the District says it concurs with the findings and will take the recommended corrective steps.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.