Thursday, March 05, 2015

Common Core Testing Nationwide

A lot of this uproar is about technology, I'll admit that.  But it further confirms that schools and districts are - not - ready.  I have no idea is SPS is truly ready.

It's funny because at last night's Board meeting, Director McLaren asked what kind of message it would send to kids to entertain discussion about SBAC.  (She also said kids would be "proud" to have taken the test.  Are kids supposed to feel proud of getting thru a slogfest of a test?)

But if I were a kid, siting and waiting and sitting and waiting, I think my range of emotions probably would not add a lot to the actual taking of the test.  If I were a teacher, I would feel a lot of frustration and some despair for my students.  And, as a parent, I would just not take any test result seriously.

Maybe SBAC will do better than PARCC.  

So let's see what's happening around the nation.  (all bold mine)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Superintendent Nyland's Message on Smarter Balanced Assessments

 Update:  I heard from one staff person who challenges some of the statements by Nyland:

Nyland:  This year, the state is replacing the MSP/HSPE assessments with a new assessment called Smarter Balanced, which is aligned to our new College and Career Readiness Standards (Common Core).

Staffer: The Smarter Balanced Assessments are NOT replacements for the MSP/HSPE. The HSPE was only required once in High School, at the 10th grade, and only in literacy. The Smarter Balanced Assessments are for more subjects and in more grades. The claim that the Smarter Balanced Assessments are a replacement is ill-informed at best and an intentional deception at worst. 

Nyland: As a tool for educators, Smarter Balanced Assessments are an improvement.  They are designed to better measure student growth from year to year.  They are adaptive to students' skill level and will adjust questions (easier/harder) based upon previous answers, an approach that does a better job of assessing learning of students both above and below grade-level standards.  This assessment will provide diagnostics to help educators close opportunity gaps for students.

Are they summative assessments, a formative assessment, or a diagnostic assessment? He seems to be suggesting that they are all three. Is this credible? And what does the Smarter Balanced Assessment tell us about the quality of instruction? Will it be used for teacher evaluation as well? What is it? A Swiss Army knife?
Nyland: Smarter Balanced Assessments reflect a higher level of rigor. The new assessments measure the more rigorous work happening in our classrooms at each grade level, and at the high school level expectations increase from 10th grade to 12th grade standards, reflecting our college-ready goals. 

 Why should the assessment be more rigorous? Shouldn’t the instruction be more rigorous and the assessment be standardized? Why must everyone be college ready?

End of update

Below is Superintendent Nyland's directive to school staff on Smarter Balanced assessments.  What troubles me:

- no real direction on refusals, just directing parents to a web page.  Seems like that would be a bit awkward if teachers and principals had nothing else to say to parents but "check the district's webpage."

- He talks a lot about being prepared but doesn't say one thing about technological challenges.  As well, he assumes that all the preparation has been enough for teachers/principals.  Not sure that is what I am hearing.  (I'm thinking that a separate message has gone out, just for principals.  I can't believe that anyone thinks it will all be smooth sailing.)

Seattle School Board and Smarter Balanced Question

At Board meeting, Director Peters brought forth her motion for discussion of the use of the Smarter Balanced assessment, saying the discussion needed to be done "honestly, openly and immediately."  She said she asked about having it come before the Curriculum &Instruction meeting but was told their agenda was set.

 (I looked and they haven't even posted the agenda for the next C&I committee meeting so if it is set, then it should be available for public viewing.  Since it's not, I would assume the agenda is not set. Hmm.)

President Carr asked for comments on the motion itself - to add it - but not to discuss the content of the motion.

Martin-Morris says he is "not opposed to having a conversation and it's important to have" but his real concern is timing.  Policy that lays out how "we do things" and this would seemingly be an exception. Brought up the code phrase of "good governance."  (I confess I do not know Board policy on this but I have seen things added to the agenda in the same way so I'm wondering why this cannot happen.)

He brings up Code of Conduct being voted on containing a "no surprises" clause and feels notification of this is too late.  He said, "I can't support this kind of behavior."

Director McLaren had a prewritten statement.  Understands anxiety over this test and glad that people are speaking out by e-mailing and testifying especially teachers.  She said "community is demanding that we have meaningful dialog about testing in schools."  But she says they don't need to suspend SBAC testing to do so.

(Again, they both miss that this motion IS to have a dialog and would not suspend anything.)

Carr interrupted to say that they didn't need to discuss the content but wanted to stay on track with real motion.  But McLaren wanted to continue on.  She has two disagreements with adding this to agenda.  Says there is "no emergency" and that suspending SBAC testing is the answer (even as she says there are "many teachers who feel woefully unprepared to administer this test.")

She then said, "I know our students can take the test and be proud that they have done so."  What does that mean really?  I'm not sure.  She goes on and says once the tests are completed, "we will have information that we need,rather than mere speculation."  And that the district can "gauge" the results and define changes.

No, the district won't be able to change ANYTHING on this test, no matter the results.

She also asked "what kind of message would we - the adults - be sending if we fear our students won't do well after we have spent years preparing for them?"

She wants to have the conversation AFTER the testing.  Then she went on with some blather about what she thinks testing should be like.  I just don't get her.

 I do know that I'm tired of hearing Director McLaren saying she supports parents and teachers but then finding reasons not to do so.  I really think she needs a challenger this fall to defend this cycle of inaction on her part.

So, with her statement, we all know that this motion will fail because Carr, Martin-Morris and Blanford will vote that way as well.

Peaslee doesn't like how it got to agenda but will vote for the discussion.

Motion fails, 4-3.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Peters and Patu Offer Motion to Suspend Smarter Balanced Assessment

Directors Patu and Peters are offering a motion tomorrow night at their Board meeting to suspend Smarter Balanced testing. I support this motion if only for discussion purposes.

I absolutely concur that on a technical level, I do not believe most third-graders are ready for this kind of testing on a computer.  I think it has a degree of motor skill AND computer skills that many third-graders are unlikely to have.  And, if your household does not have a computer, even more so.

It's tentative because they have to get four votes to support it going forward to committee and then coming back to the full Board for a vote.

*PLEASE, write to the Board and ask that they vote for this motion if ONLY to have a real discussion.  Please put SBAC in your subject line.

Seattle Schools Explains Smarter Balanced Testing

The district has quite a bit of information for parents on the new Smarter Balanced testing on this page.

It's great that the district has put up this information (I'm not sure how long it has been up - I saw this on Facebook via a reader).  But, there's a lot of ed lingo in there and I really wonder many parents will truly understand it all.   There is also a lot of language that is somewhat but not totally true.

For example:

Tuesday Open Thread

As I previously reported, Chicago Public Schools had not wanted to give the PARCC (Common Core) assessment to all their students, saying they were not ready.  Arne Duncan twisted their arm and they rescinded that announcement.

Here's a fairly amazing notice from one elementary PTA in Chicago where they say (as if it were a fundraiser):

The Blaine PTA would like to achieve a 100% PARCC opt out so our students can get back 10 hours of vital classroom instruction!

FYI, the Mayor unveiled a new 10-year city transportation plan, Move Seattle, yesterday.  I think it will come to us in the form of a levy this fall.   I read it with an eye to how it might help SPS.  The word "school(s)" is mentioned nine times in relation to:

- fewer high school students getting a drivers license (from 1996 to 2010, from 85% to 73%)
- one 10-year goal is to "Improve safety in school zones"
- "make the 27% of the city without sidewalks more walkable - through constructing up to 30 new blocks of sidewalks"
- partner with SPS for 12 more school zone cameras
- improve school walk zones at up to 12 locations

(They note that the revenue from the school zone cameras would pay for the safety improvements around schools.)

As well, also in the plan, increasing biking access/safety (which would help students who bike to school.)

What's on your mind?

Monday, March 02, 2015

Read Across America Day, Yay!

Embedded image permalink

SPS hosts Regional Sped Meetings

Update: in other Special Education news, The Olympian is reporting that in the Legislature that the House passed this bill:

New rules would govern how school employees can restrain or isolate special-education students under a bill that passed the state House Monday.

Under House Bill 1240, restraint and isolation could no longer be part of a school’s pre-established plan for responding to misbehavior by a student with a disability. Instead, such methods would be “permitted only when reasonably necessary to control spontaneous behavior that poses an imminent likelihood of serious harm.”

HB 1240 passed the House on a 68-29 vote Monday. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would also require school districts to report annually to the state how often their employees restrain or isolate students. 

Additionally, school districts would need to adopt policies to reduce their use of restraint or isolation.

Read more here:

Read more here:
Once again, Rep. Gerry Pollet was a champion for this bill.

end of update

Somehow I missed this but the district is having regional meetings on Special Education with the first one tonight.  
  • Southeast, March 2, 6-7 pm. Aki Kurose MS
  • Northeast, March 16, 6-7 pm. Roosevelt HS
  • Central, April 6, 6-7 p.m. Washington MS
  • West Seattle, April 20. West Seattle HS
  • Northwest, May 11, 6-7 pm. Ballard HS

Latest on Opt-Out: Is it Legal?

EdWeek has a good round-up of test season news (with links to stories at the NY Times and others). 

Even as assessment pushback grows, however, the state of the law on the right to boycott tests isn't as clear as you'd expect. The Education Commission of the States, a research group based in Denver, took on the thorny question of what's permitted, and found a confusing assortment of laws and policies, and a whole lot of even-more-confusing silence on the question on opting out.

In a new white paper, the ECS found that only a handful of states have clear laws one way or the other on whether parents can keep their children out of state-mandated tests. But in most states, there is no law on the subject, or the law isn't clear. In such murky terrain, some state departments of education have clarified their policies on opt-outs, but others "are often silent on the issue," the ECS says.

From the report on what happens in Washington State:

According to the Department of Education, a parent may refuse to have his/her child take state tests. However, high school students must to pass certain state assessments before graduating. 
Meanwhile Chicago has caved to Arne Duncan's pressure and will be giving the PARCC assessment.  This after Chicago Public Schools said their schools were not ready to give the test and they would only test 10%of students.   Diane Ravitch explains.

Seattle Schools This Week

The last of the "Technology Vision Town Halls" will be tonight, starting at 6 pm at West Seattle High School.  Has anyone attended one?  Any thoughts?  Was student data privacy mentioned?

Also to note, Friday, March 6th is the LAST day of Open Enrollment.  So hop to it if you haven't enrolled your student yet. 

There is also an Operations Ctm meeting on Tuesday, the 3rd.  Agenda here.  It is likely to be a truncated meeting as Director Patu, the chair, is not available due to the death of her husband.  The agenda appears to be just capital matters.

Then, Wednesday, there's Board meeting.  Agenda available here.

One Action item (total) and that's the 2015 Board Code of Conduct.  Here's the redlined one and there are changes both good and puzzling.