Thursday, March 06, 2008

Best of Luck to All High School Staffs on Monday

Sadly, unbelievably, the first day of WASL testing for 10th graders (and all others taking the test; juniors/seniors who still need to pass portions and freshman going for it) is Monday. And Monday is the first school day after Daylight Savings on Sunday when we move the clocks forward one hour.

This is going to be very difficult getting these kids up an hour earlier than their bodies think it is AND having them take a major test. Not trying to make a big deal out of it but if you have a teenager, you know what I'm talking about.

In addition, at least 5 of the high schools I checked are telling students who aren't taking the WASL to stay home for the first 2 hours (that would be most juniors and freshman but at Roosevelt, seniors will be presenting or working on their senior projects - it's unclear to me what seniors at other schools are doing).

So for all those students, that's losing 2 hours a day for 8 days (for WASL testing in March and April). Two whole school days because other students are taking a test.

Something is wrong here. Students need to be in school and if this test is so overwhelming for schools and their staffs, it needs to be cut back.

28 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Melissa,

Check out the MAP TEST

The MAP is way better than the current WASL. Rich Semler who is running against Dr Bergeson piloted this test along with 6 other districts as a WASL replacement. He testified about it at the legislature one year ago. The MAP is used by Highline. OH yes the SPS use Edu-Soft another expensive disconnection from reality.

Dr Bergeson failed to submit the required paper work to the Feds for a peer-review of the MAP. So we are stuck with the current WASL.

The Feds do a peer-review to see if the test can satisfy the NCLB AYP requirements.

The MAP could change this entire ridiculous mess.

It is cheaper and a computer branching test. It can be given 3 times per year for less time and less $$$ than the WASL. Student AYP could actually be measured as individual achievement over time. That would be called measuring progress - which is unlike what we do now. [ No Billy you are still a level 1 - hey I do not care if you advanced from 295 to 345 you are still a level 1 and it takes a 400 to pass. So you have just wasted another year. Billy drop out now before all the good full time fast food jobs are filled ] - Is this a rational system in any way shape or form? Remember we did not have to take our existing test and transform it into the expensive WASL monstrosity. We could have done this correctly to begin with but that would have lessened the SPI's control of everything.

What a concept each child making Adequate Yearly Progress instead of trying to leap over an artificial bar.

With ideas like this learning might actually break out.

The MAP can also be used as a referenced test so we actually have a connection to a comparison with other states and nations. This would be unlike the current fairy-tale that Dr Bergeson spins for us.

Better product - and cheaper in terms of both time and money - far more useful with instant results and diagnostic.

Definitely time to put a Rich Semler for SPI sign in the yard.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, I knew a teacher who gave his kids extra credit points during a week if they'd sharpen pencils during class.

Did anyone ever figure out how 500 or 800 kids are going to get sharpened pencils, and who is going to spend that time sharpening them?

( By the way, for the clueless, kids who are doing poorly in school are unprepared and off task a lot, therefore, if you don't have pencils for them they won't take the test and they won't care! )

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not pass legilation for any idea until you have figured out what the idea will cost in time and you have funded the time, otherwise print the idea on kleenex, at least the kids can use kleenex.

About all the kids staying home - where are we supposed to put them? It isn't a good idea to give an important test in rooms stuffed with kids, but

someone with 7th grade math skills would have had to thought those details through and paid for those details ---

maybe our math policy and education policies are such a joke because the skills of the policy makers are such a joke?

Anonymous said...

From what I have read about the MAP, I think it may have insufficient ceiling to test high school students appropriately (highest stated grade level is 10th). My impression was that it was vastly more useful in elementary and possibly middle school. I will try to find the information again.

I do think the general concept of MAP testing sounds very promising in general.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Why is my foreign exchange student (11th grade, on a J-1 visa) who has only been in Washinton schools for a little over a month being told by our school counselor that he is required to take the WASL? Does anyone have the answer to this? I don't see the benefit to the student, schools, taxpayers or anyone involved. Is the WASL now considered a cultural experience?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous 6:54, it's just one of those crazy WASL things. It also contributes to the drop-out rate because your student will go home but it will register as a drop-out. You could keep him home for the first two hours; what can they do?

About the kids staying home, my point is that the test should not be that big an interference with the running of the school. Kids should not be losing educational time because some kids are taking a test.

I don't blame the schools; I blame OSPI and the WASL.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Melissa- I have a freshman, and it is RIDICULOUS that he/she has late start all next week. And again in April. This is at Ballard High School.


I also have an elementary student, and am SO FRUSTRATED that they never seem to be in school. Yes, I am yelling, I am sick of it.

Lets not forget, they just finished mid-winter break, had early dismissal/late start yesterday, have another "professional Development day" on Mar 21, and the SPRING BREAK March 31-April 4. Lets also not forget the two weeks of early dismissals at conference time either.

If anyone on the school board or at the Stanford Center is listening, this is what is causing your achievement gap folks - they are simply NEVER in school!

I know kids at the neighborhood catholic school, and let me tell you, the are in school every day, they go more than the 180 days a year, and they are in a longer school day than the public school.

Why do we put up with this? Is it the teacher's union? The school board? What is the deal?

Frankie said...

You are right on, anon above!!!! I have thought this for years. When are they in school with all of the breaks?? My kid went to Salmon Bay for 6th grade and on top of all the district breaks they were out of school nearly every single Friday (the entire day), all year long (Skiing 6 Fridays, school dances during the school day 2 Fridays, camping 1 Friday, roller skating 1 Friday, field trips 1 Friday), these in addition to the districts multitude of schools out days!!!

Does anyone know if kids today receive as much in classroom time as we did when we were kids??? We didn't get winter break and tons of in service days off, late start etc, but we did have a longer summer (I think??)

Anonymous said...

Law is 180 days of instruction. Staff also has some extra days built into contract for development, etc ("TRI" days). I don't know what happens with half-days, whether the district has to consider two half days a day missed, and so make it up to reach 180. A long look at the school calendar would answer this.
As for ski days, etc, most younger educators, nowadays, get it that anything we do has to be tied to curriculum. While there are still movies in classrooms, it is becoming less common. I used to teach at a school that did Friday ski days, and there was much discussion about the educational value, and, additionally, about equity and money, how to allow ALL students the opportunity. I could make a great curricular opportunity out of a ski day: nature studies, physics, history, energy consumption etc...But does this really happen around ski days? Probably not. It should. Students SHOULD get up into the wondrous nature of snowy mountains; it's half the reason I ski, personally...But it MUST be tied to learning. Can we tie it to GLEs? Probably.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that as long as you stay for lunch, early release days can count as a full day of instruction. This is what I understood when our school had to apply for a waiver to have Thanksgiving week off to do conferences rather than do a crazy amount of early release days.

As for Catholic Schools, they have quite a few early release days, get out of school a week earlier than SPS, plus though they start school a half hour earlier they have one day a week where they get out of school really early so I think it cancels it out. That is my understanding anyway, my guess is there wouldn't be a significant difference. They didn't have a mid-winter break, but did have a 4 day weekend so 3 day difference there...

Anonymous said...

Really we're discussing the difference between 180 days and, say, 190 or 170. The bigger question, and to wrap it back around to the WASL start of this thread, is
a) how best to use school time to teach children, and
b) how much school time should there be?
Many would argue that more is better, and certainly it would be possible to add days to get more. How many working days are there in a year? 250? So we could add thirty school days and still have 40 days fewer than a work schedule, which should be plenty for out-of-school enrichment, in the form of family time, camp, etc (for those who have families arond, or can afford camp...This is another issue: Wealthier families, and/or those with two adults, can better schedule things for their children. I've known students who actually dread holidays because there is nothing at home, nothing to do, and they have a richer life in school...)
So a thread might be: Add days to school.
The other thread is how best to use the time. I think there is unanimous agreement that WASL does little for the education of the children. While the standards it supports are congruent and perhaps good (tho' this could be argued in some cases), the means used to get to those goals is questionable. We do see huge amounts of time "teaching to the test", more so in lower class schools and classrooms, where students don't have enriching home lives. So students frmo poor families and families that are disengaged for whatever reason are shown to be behind in the WASL, and those students get WASL prep INSTEAD of rich, deep, inquiry-based educations found in higher income schools. This is a crime.
Further, the WASL does not have an effective feedback loop: It's not formative in the sense of influencing day-to-day teaching, it doesn't inform a teacher in a continuing manner how litte Johhny or Ahmed is doing. This, as has been said, is a waste of the student's time and does not help the teacher.
So what do we do in the classroom?
a) teach, assess, reteach.
b) hold teachers accountable for individual progress (not WASL scores)as measured by classroom measures and taking into account mitigating factors.
We need more teaching, and more accountability for teachers, but measuring students and teachers via the WASL is just plain dumb.

Frankie said...

I love nature too, and I love skiing, buuuuuuut, not during school hours. There was absolutely no GLE tied into the Friday ski days, they were just fun, community building days, which was nice, but not educational at all. And, I'd like to see them tie GLE's into school dances that happened during school hours?? How about roller skating Friday?? Camping???

I support field trips 100% when they are tied to the curriculum and are educational. I also support a camping experience such as our son has at Bryant, where as part of a right of passage, 5th graders go to Island Wood camp for a week. Island Wood is an eco-camp, with an outdoor learning center and a great program. It is truly a week of learning about your environment through lectures, programs, and hands on fun!

But roller skating? dances that happen during the school day?? And, then on top of that the early release days, winter break, spring break, conference break.....It just doesn't seem right

Anonymous said...

In response to the question of lost instructional time, several schools, including Nathan Hale, have worked out schedules such that no classroom time is lost.

And with regard to pencils, I happen to know for a fact that Hale's principal Marni Campbell is taking it upon herself to sharpen over 200 pencils for her students to use. Way to go Marni!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous 5:24, what is Hale doing? I looked at their website and it seems as that if students aren't taking the WASL, they stay home. Was something sent home? I'd love to know so I can suggest it for Roosevelt.

Anonymous said...

anon at 5:24 PM

- the principal is sharpening pencils ?

that is better than kids losing time or teachers losing time with kids,

BUT

it is freaking ridiculous.

principals cost the district a lot of money,

(and I do NOT want the job or begrudge them their well deserved checks)

s/he should be doing more important things than sharpening pencils.

I suppose if some Inept-O-Crat had figured out how much time it would take to sharpen 2 pencils for 75,000 10th graders and paid for someone to spend ... a month? a year? sharpening pencils:

1. they wouldn't be an Inept-O-Crat,

2. this idiocy would have never happened?

Anonymous said...

And let ME say again, never mind the Daylight Saving Time factor, middle and high school schedules just start too early. Period. End of story. My kid was a happier camper in elementary when he wasn't even out of bed at 7:40 am, the time when he now is expected to have his rump in a classroom chair and his brain at full attention. Bleh.

Anonymous said...

SPS Instruction Schedule:

Sept - Oct: No instruction, school is "scheduling" classes and doing various "baseline assesments". Students are getting used to their buildings.

Nov - mid Feb: pretty good pace, but about 30% downtime due Thanksgiving, Winter, break, break, break

mid Feb - mid April: WASL prep, WASL taking - no instruction, just WASL or WASL prep.

May - June: WASL over = school over. March in place until summer. Field day is fun.

I'm seeing about 2 to 3 months of instruction. Sheesh.

Hale parent said...

Regarding Hale's WASL schedule, I understand it as follows:

They have revamped the schedule for the day to be 2-3-4-1-lunch-5-6 during the WASL testing. This is because the sophomores are blocked into their integrated studies classes during periods 2-3-4. Sophomores take the test in their 2nd period classroom, and will remain there until the 3 periods are over. If they need more time, they will move to the library. Students from other grades taking the WASL are taking it in the library, I think. That way students in other grades who are not taking the WASL have their regular classes, although in an unusual order.

Anonymous said...

To the person who used the word "inept-o-crat":

if nobody thinks ahead of time to provide materials like pencils for students to take a test, what's wrong with the principal doing it? A high school principal taking a few hours on a Friday evening to sharpen pencils sounds like a committed and thoughtful educator, not a waste of money.

Anonymous said...

Seems like work a secretary or AA could do??? Maybe even a student that is working in the office answering phones and filing could do it in their spare time, but.....the principal??? That is like Bill Gates offering to make photo copies for employees during crunch time. Just doesn't make sense. Certainly not a good use of taxpayer $$$$$. We don't pay principals to sharpen pencils, though like others have mentioned it is a good gesture, and a nice effort, but surely someone else on staff could have been asked to do this.

Anonymous said...

While I understand the criticism of having a highly paid administrator sharpen pencils, doesn't it beg the bigger question of whether or not this test even matters. It will be a relic of Bush World. Laws that say they'll bring equity, but in reality bring a higher drop out rate. It's like everything Bush has enacted, opposite intentions. Get all sides at one another's throats while a select few rake in the profits.

If seating a test forces students to stay home, have them take it throughout the day in a proctored setting, online maybe? Bus out to Bill's Place in Redmond? WenG

Anonymous said...

I love the WASL. It will prove how great some kids are (mine), and how lazy and incompetent the other kids are by comparison. Isn't that only fair? Don't we all want to provably differentiate ourselves from those who are lazy and/or inferior? I can't think of a better way to make this case than denying them a high school diploma (which they don't deserve).

Anonymous said...

to anon at 9:10 PM

"To the person who used the word "inept-o-crat":

if nobody thinks ahead of time to provide materials like pencils for students to take a test, what's wrong with the principal doing it?"

What?

IF people can't figure out BASIC operation requirements for their great idea,

AND they don't pay for the BASIC operation requirements,

then they should be fired / NOT involved in decision making.

due to our post WW2 empire, where 4% +/- of the world's population gets to use 20%+ of the world's resources,

we can obviously pay people as incompetent decision makers even those those people are only competent at accumulating 'advanced' degrees in fluff.

sun anon

Anonymous said...

Principals aren't paid by the hour, so who cares? There is plenty of merit in simply doing what needs to be done. I sharpened hundreds of pencils at my kids' school. Big deal!

Charlie Mas said...

All labor is honorable, and there is nothing wrong with the principal doing the work of sharpening pencils.

That said, it is reasonable to ask if this is the highest and best value available for the principal's time. Perhaps a volunteer could sharpen the pencils and the principal could spend those hours providing instructional leadership.

Anonymous said...

... then all the whiners should go sign up to volunteer. I'm sure your principal will appreciate it. Perhaps they shouldn't open car doors in the mornings at elementary schools either.

Anonymous said...

Ummm, I think it is the principals job to delegate. IE Ask for volunteers. I'm sure she would get an outpouring of help, and she could focus on running the school...perhaps even returning a few calls to parents in a timely manner.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I was unclear on the pencil issue.

The principal in question sharpened her students' pencils on a Friday evening, well after the staff and students had left the building. She did it on her own time, when no other principal duties were needed. Yes, a secretary or office staffer could have done it, but she chose to get it done early, after work.

Is that okay with everyone?

Anonymous said...

More power to the Hale principal! I have seldom seen people praise their principals. Tomorrow morning try thanking your principal in person for anything they do that you value. These people on the whole work incredibly hard for no acclaim-- just a bunch of whining from parents about why their kids should get special treatment . . .