Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cleveland STEM update

I just wanted to bring everyone up to date on the Cleveland STEM program. I could have added this to the existing thread, but it's getting down there and harder for people to monitor.

To recap - our family is interested in Cleveland STEM as a possible high school choice for our daughter, who is now in the 8th grade. I looked for information on the program without much success. Then, on Monday, November 9, I sent a message to the email address for the program, stem@seattleschools.org. I also got the number for the STEM hotline, 252-0046, and left a message there. No response.

On Thursday, November 12, I sent an email to the principal of Cleveland asking for information. No response.

On Sunday, November 15, I sent a follow up message to the STEM email address. No response.

I wrote again on Tuesday, the 17th. I got a response to my message of the 15th from Dick Lee in the "Office of Partnerships" saying that either Princess Shareef or Susan Derse would "respond shorty". I wrote back to Mr. Lee asking him why HE couldn't answer me. What was the point, I asked, of someone who doesn't have the answers responding to the questions?

Three days later, on Friday the 20th, I wrote back to Mr. Lee and asked him if I should have heard from someone by then. I have yet to hear back from him.

I called the Communications department and asked about Cleveland STEM. I told them that no one was answering the email box and that no one was answering the hotline and I asked to speak to someone who had information about the program. I was connected to David Tucker.

I spoke with Mr. Tucker for about 15 minutes. He told me that there will be a community meeting about Cleveland STEM on the morning of Saturday, December 5. He said that there will also be an Open House on January 23rd. He said that there will also be events at the middle schools some time in December or January. He and I compared these community engagement efforts with those described in the presentation to the Board on September 16. The actual efforts will be much less and much later than what was promised. He had no explanation for that. Nor did he have any explanation for the lack of response from the hotline or the email. He said that he would have Susan Derse get in touch with me.

I also sent an email to Princess Shareef describing my difficulty in getting information about Cleveland STEM. She forwarded my message to Susan Derse, Michael Tolley and David Tucker. I got an answer from Ms Derse:

"I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiries about the new STEM High School program at Cleveland. Unfortunately, the high volume of correspondence precludes our being able to answer each question individually."

She also told me about the upcoming community meeting on December 5 and said that there would be a STEM web site posting on Wednesday, November 25. She did not, however, answer any of my questions.

I wrote back to Ms Derse: "If you are not able to answer email messages to the STEM email address and you are not able to answer calls to the STEM hotline, then what is the point of having them? I don't understand. Why invite people to contact you with questions if you have no intention of answering them? Are you trying to make people feel angry and alienated? Who benefits from this system?"

These people are so infuriating that I wonder if there is any point to trying to talk to them at all.

86 comments:

SE Mom said...

On a more positive note, Laura Robb, head of the IB program at Sealth seems to be doing a great job of communicating with prospective families.

Ms. Robb answers email questions promptly. She also sent out via email additional information about their IB program as promised during the open house a few weeks ago.

Sealth is trying to grow it's IB program, with some success as noted in the increased endrollment this fall, and it definately draws my attention.

At this point, I can't really see my family looking seriously at STEM.

ttln said...

Will there be pre req's for STEM applicants? As someone who advises 8th graders, it would be great to know more about the program.

adhoc said...
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Charlie Mas said...

ttln, an excellent question. You can only hope that it will either appear on the FAQ that they claim will soon be posted online or will be asked and answered at the meeting on the 5th. There will be an Open House on January 23. Maybe it can be answered then.

There is little or no information currently available about the STEM program. It is unclear how much progress they have made on developing the program, but there's no doubt that they have not kept to the community engagement timeline. That does not bode well for the rest of the project timeline.

adhoc said...

That is absolutely unbelievable Charlie. Just when I thought that this district couldn't do anything else to shock me, they shocked me.

It's really disgusting and disturbing. I mean you went through the entire chain of command, and nobody responded. And the ones who finally did either passed the buck or "couldn't" answer your questions. It's unbelievable.

To what level of dysfunctionality does this district aspire to? Is nobody accountable? Do they think we are idiots? Are all of their efforts to communicate with the public ingenuine? Do they honestly believe that there is no need to communicate with the public? Do they even care if STEM is succesful? Do they think they will open the doors and families will flock like little blind sheep to a school that has had a bad repution and underperformed for many many years? I really don't get it?

What I really want to know is what is the motivation for ignoring communication with the public? We have heard from an anonymous poster (Goeagles) here on the SSS blog that the STEM design team is hard at work, and that much progress is taking place. Why not communicate that?

How can public officials, paid for by tax dollars, ignore the public, and get away with it?

Our youngest son is in Shoreline this year, and we were planning on trying to get him into Eckstein next year (we are now within their boundaries), but we have changed our minds. I am so fed up with this district and how it operates, that I won't be bringing him back. He will remain in Shoreline where their is some sanity at the district level, where they do care about and communicate with their families, and where there are fantastic schools.

It's really to bad.......

adhoc said...

I was also shocked to hear on another thread that over 100 West Seattle families are sending their kids to Vashon Schools. Imagine how bad it has to be to ferry your kid to school every day (inconvenient and expensive).

Central, S and SE families send their kids to Mercer Island, and a few go to Bellevue.

Northeast families send their kids to Shoreline, and I know a few that go to NorthShore Schools.

Northwest families also send their kids to Shoreline.

Other districts have to accomodate Seattle kids? Isn't that a HUGE red flag?

And that doesn't even count all of the families that opt for private school (we are one of the highest in the nation), and homeschool.

Geez, SPS.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I hate to pile on but here's what I have found out.

So my interest is capital money so I have been pouring over the BTA levy. There is $2.7M in there for STEM to be created. One of the pots of money ($1.1M) is for computers and hardware. This is okay because the engineering portion is going to be under Project Lead the Way. Here's what their website says: (http://www.pltw.org/engineering/Curriculum/Curriculum-high-school.cfm)

"Project Lead The Way (PLTW) offers a dynamic high school program that provides students with real-world learning and hands-on experience. Students interested in engineering, biomechanics, aeronautics, and other applied math and science arenas will discover PLTW is an exciting portal into these industries."

They require just a classroom with computers for all students. I looked at the sample agreement districts have to sign and called and spoke with someone. There is no special classroom required.

The second pot of money says "Curriculum review and any capital work to facilitate STEM school implementation".

Great but ambiguous. The second pot of money is ($1.6M). So I, too, wrote to Mr. Lee, who is listed as the contact, and it got forwarded to the Cleveland principal. Here's what she said in reference to that question:

"The science labs at Cleveland are at code and yes they are more than adequate for the courses we are teaching now and will teach in the coming years. The additional science lab is an engineering lab, required by Project Lead the Way, a strong curricular component of the academy for Engineering and Design. We have one lab already and the plan is to convert one large classroom to the additional engineering lab."

So they are saying they have to convert a classroom so they can put computers in it per Project Lead the Way? That seems weird to me because when they build high schools now, the rooms are wired. I'm not saying that they might not need a little money but they aren't really needing to "convert" much. I'm sure that pot is sort of a "slush" pot to be able to cover what comes up. But it's a lot of unspecified money and that's never a good idea in this district.

I wrote and let her (and others know) about what Project Lead the Way had to say and guess what? No answer back.

Here's what else she had to say about STEM:

"Your e-mail was forwarded on to me by Mr. Lee and as Cleveland's principal I'd like to attempt to answer your questions. In the action report to the board the “STEM Foundation” should be “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.” Several Gates Foundation grants in the past few years have helped shape and amplify the STEM policy consensus, particularly among governors."

(I had asked what the "STEM Foundation" was that I had heard about at BTA meetings. A newer hire in Dr. Enfield's office said this repeatedly. So, no, as I had figured out already there is no STEM Foundation. There are a lot of different kinds of STEM programs but I think they all have pretty high standards. Great that the Gates Foundation is helping to lead the way.)

"Seattle School District is strongly committed to supporting the acceleration of skills necessary to make this STEM high school accessible to all students. For example, start up (2009-2013) costs for the STEM school include the equivalent to a 7-period day, to address the learning needs of students that have not yet achieved standard on normed achievement tests. We want to keep the beautiful diversity we have here at Cleveland while welcoming students from across the city. Thank you for the example of the more appropriate wording of the Delta example."

(This was in answer to me showing them the inclusive wording used at Delta High, a STEM high school over in the Tri-Cities, versus the wording used at SPS which says that STEM isn't for everyone and doesn't seem to encourage all kids to try it if interested.)

goeagles said...

@ttln: there will be NO pre req's for STEM applicants, as Ms. Shareef confirmed for Melissa. Though there may be need to accelerate some students' learning (esp. in math), there are structures budgeted into the school program to provide additional support to students who need it.

dan dempsey said...

Consider the profile of the District:

Ethnicity (October 2008)
American Indian/Alaskan Native 894 1.9%
Asian 10,093 22.0%
Asian/Pacific Islander 10,093 22.0%
Black 9,692 21.1%
Hispanic 5,356 11.7%
White 19,933 43.4%
Special Programs
Free or Reduced-Price Meals 41.3%
Special Education (May 2009) 6,576 14.2%
Transitional Bilingual (May 2009) 5,434 11.7%
Migrant (May 2009) 274 0.6%

Now consider this statement from the district:
We want to keep the beautiful diversity we have here at Cleveland while welcoming students from across the city.
Is this code for poor and non-white?
Does 7 out of 10 on assisted meals and 1 in 20 white students constitute beautiful diversity?
Less than 50% graduate and the Math WASL passing rate increased from 12% to 22% last spring.

I guess beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Is this de facto segregation?

Here is the Cleveland profile:

Ethnicity (October 2008)
American Indian/Alaskan Native 17 2.4%
Asian 198 28.5%
Asian/Pacific Islander 198 28.5%
Black 368 52.9%
Hispanic 75 10.8%
White 37 5.3%
Special Programs
Free or Reduced-Price Meals 70.4%
Special Education (May 2009) 104 16.7%
Transitional Bilingual (May 2009) 87 14.0%
Migrant (May 2009) 2 0.3%
Other Information (more info)
Annual Dropout Rate (2007-08) 101 15.9%
On-Time Graduation Rate (2007-08) 87 44.5%
Extended Graduation Rate (2007-08) 94 48.0%

dan dempsey said...

Will any of these shortcomings about STEM communication have any bearing of the Supe's proposed incentive bonus of $5,280 ???

SPSMom said...

Question: Does the implementation of STEM also depend on a levy getting passed?

Charlie Mas said...

The implementation of the STEM program is not dependent on the levy. It is, however, dependent on the people responsible for it getting their work done. The Board Action that created the program and made Cleveland an Option School made the action contingent on the District completing a list of deliverables. Those deliverables have not, in fact, been delivered. I don't know their deadline, but I presume it is the same as the program placement decision deadline.

adhoc said...

Goeagles perhaps you'd care to comment/share.

Do you know why the district has ignored all avenues of communication regarding STEM, thus far?

Do you know why the progress of the STEM design team, STEM Foundation, and STEM Steering Committee is not available to the public?

Do you know why the community engagement timelines have not been met?

It's to bad that we have to rely on an anonymous poster on this blog to convey relevant information and progress about STEM. Thanks Goeagles for stepphing up.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It's sad. The district has put money into Cleveland via the SE Initiative. They are spending time and money on a STEM program that seems to have as its motto, "Build it and they will come." Well, they won't come if they (the parents) have NO idea what it is, how it will be offered, etc. Telling people right before enrollment won't cut it (or else they simply don't know their audience).

And if it doesn't work? How long do they give it? At least 4 years to allow one graduating class?

Melissa Westbrook said...

One other thing. There is, on the Schools page at SPS, a line about the drop-downs for each school that says (bright blue)"New! STEM opening at Cleveland High School Fall of 2010". Is there a link? No. Is there info at Cleveland's website? None. Are the community meetings about this issue there? No.

It is very hard to take these people seriously.

SPSMom said...

"New! STEM opening at Cleveland High School Fall of 2010"

I pointed out to a district person who commented on the last STEM thread they may want to consider saying "New Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program opening...."

Cause who the heck knows what STEM means? Typical SPS communications strategy.

SPSMom said...

So in addition to spending money on a nice new building, funneling SE Inititive dollars to CHS they are now in need of several million dollars to start a program that will serve how many students?

Did the board know the cost of the program before they voted on it? Or after?

What did Bio-Tech cost to start at BHS? Anybody know?

SPSMom said...

I have another question. Is the entire school going to be STEM or can you enroll in CHS as a non-STEM student? If the latter, what if only 10 students enroll in STEM next fall and 100 just enroll in the reg. program?

ttln said...
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Dorothy said...

A seven period day would be terrific! But does it apply to everyone or just those not performing at grade level?

I am confused though, why would curriculum review be part of a capital levy?

Project Lead the Way sounds interesting. I am not sure I understand though. It seems to be at the very least, a purchased curriculum. Turn-key: "something that is ready for immediate use, generally used in the sale or supply of goods or services." (wikipedia). It sounds terrific, yet sort of ironic, because it outsources curriculum development in a way we might all like, whereas the district also desires to outsource curriculum in ways we don't. (LA adoption and even reform math adoptions with fidelity of implementation fall here.)

And Dan, I hear you on the beautiful diversity means all but white folk. You should see the chapter in the AP HG textbook on ethnicity. According to that book, white folks don't count either. Ironic? Given that one reason for RHS AP HG was to have a course more relevant to the students. I guess more relevant to all but the 60% white students, who -- according to the text -- have no ethnicity or culture.

ttln said...

i was asking about pre req's in jest, really. i would have been surprised had there been. since there hasn't been verticle alignment of skills and failing math has never (at leaast in the in the years i've been here) meant students retake it until he/she passes and is ready to move on, why would there be -at least in the first year(s)? especially since they would need to fill out their numbers. we (our building) send 3-4 to aviation hs every year. i wonder more so if STEM will compete with that program- again, keeping more of our kids in district.
i have spent time working at CHS. back then, under ted howard, the school was trying to put in a computer/tech magnet program (a gates small school w/in a school). i fear STEM will suffer the same fate- never fully materializing- and 'kill off' CHS.
It would seem to me that if option programs can't fill themselves, the district would use it as a perfect opportunity to close the down. who could argue with them? i see this move to make CHS an option program instead of a neighborhood program like the school wanted to be as a means to an end. it makes me sad.

uxolo said...

Project Lead the Way is a very low level FAR from rigorous program and definitely not designed for fast learners.

Cecilia said...

Let us also remember that the district is assuming that at least 5 % of students from each high school attendance area (including all the north end schools) will choose STEM at Cleveland. I simply don't understand how there can be such poor communication about a new program especially when you want people from all over the city to attend the school. Why should a student assigned to Ballard chose STEM program over Biotech? The district needs to tell us now not in January.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's some information on Project Lead the Way.

Project Lead the Way's web site says that they are already in ten of Seattle's public schools including: Aki Kurose, Ballard High School, Cleveland High School, Franklin High School, Garfield, Ingraham High School, Madison Middle School, Rainier Beach, Roosevelt High School, and The New School.

PLTW offers two curricula: engineering and biomedical sciences.

"•PLTW is a comprehensive, turnkey program with a quick turnaround time and support for smooth and efficient implementation, whether you’re starting up for the first time or introducing new courses.

"•All course materials and equipment are selected by PLTW experts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and are provided for each program.

"PLTW is a true curriculum based on a tried-and-true pedagogy.

"•Offered full year and multi-year for middle and high schools, both the Engineering and Biomedical Sciences tracks dovetail with current class offerings.

"•Curricula include standards, learning outcomes, sequence and schedule, problems, projects, integrated activities, assessments, and support.

"PLTW provides professional development and support.

"•Teachers receive comprehensive training from a PLTW partner university.

"•Training gives teachers full proficiency regardless of previous experience.
"

That sounds turn-key to me. Everything is out-sourced. Of course, you can forget about curricular alignment with the other Seattle high schools.

Also, PLTW apparently provides automatic qualification for Race to the Top money. They will even help your district fill out the application.

PLTW also comes with a set of corporate sponsors and partners.

I don't know how much of Cleveland STEM will be outsourced to these people, but they are already here. Who has experience with their programs?

hschinske said...

How does this compare to the level of communication the district showed when introducing programs that are now successful, such as the biotech program at Ballard? Does anyone remember how that went?

Helen Schinske

goeagles said...

Some responses to some of the specific questions. For those who don't know, I've been anonymously posting about STEM as someone who's been working on the design teams.

SPSMom said...
I have another question. Is the entire school going to be STEM or can you enroll in CHS as a non-STEM student? If the latter, what if only 10 students enroll in STEM next fall and 100 just enroll in the reg. program?

The entire school will eventually be a STEM program. We begin with next year's 9th and 10th grades as officially "STEM" students. Next year's 11th and 12th graders (this year's current 10th and 11th graders) will have automatic assignment to Cleveland, though they can choose another school if they wish. The design teams are planning on many of our "legacy" students staying with us, and directing resources toward them, with a focus on college readiness.

By fall of 2012, all grades of the school will be part of the Cleveland STEM program. Within that program, students will select one of two academies of 400-500 students. Titles aren't final, but one academy will focus on Life Sciences and one on Engineering and Design.

Melissa writes:
No. Is there info at Cleveland's website? None. Are the community meetings about this issue there? No.

On Cleveland's website, under "Academies and Programs" you can find a general FAQ about STEM, and the dates of previous (though, she's right, not any future) community meetings. Here is the link:

http://www.seattleschools.org/schools/cleveland/academicsprograms.html

Dorothy said...
A seven period day would be terrific! But does it apply to everyone or just those not performing at grade level?

We are working to build a spectrum of offerings into that "7th" period--support classes and classes to push higher performers. Partnerships with MESA and higher education are being built for many purposes, including help with providing a variety of offerings to keep everyone's learning accelerated.


uxolo said...
Project Lead the Way is a very low level FAR from rigorous program and definitely not designed for fast learners.

From what I know, I would disagree. For those wanting to explore further, here's the engineering curriculum page at PLTW's site.

http://www.pltw.org/engineering/engineering.cfm

Adhoc, you raised questions for me regarding communication and the planning process generally. When I try to draft responses, I run into too many gaps in my own knowledge to feel like I can responsibly share information on this. Not trying to duck this because I don't want to address it, just don't feel like I can address it all with integrity.

I must gently point out, though, that some of your language is a bit hyperbolic. Not *all* requests for information are being ignored, not *all* deadlines are overdue. (BTW, Charlie, there were different deadlines for different deliverables, not all the same as the program placement one). To be clear, Adhoc, I don't defend the places where the process has fallen short, but I would ask two things: let's pause to appreciate that it's a pretty complex project, that involves almost every level of a large system (curriculum, enrollment, HR, technology services, etc.), and with that in mind, let's keep a critical eye on it AND keep the conversation nuanced.

goeagles said...

Responding to the concern about PLTW being the "outsourced" curriculum providers: they will be foundational for the engineering survey and elective courses in the Engineering Academy only. Both academies' curricular foundation will be project-based learning (which is consistent with PLTW's design).

To emphasize: PLTW is an existing resource in the district (thanks for pointing this out, Charlie) that will be a good match for certain courses in the Engineering and Design academy. It is not the grounding for the STEM curriculum, just one part of it.

Dorothy said...

Fascinating. A cursory look at the PLTW website does make it look cool. Uxolo's characterization sounds disappointing. GoEagles disagrees. So which is it?

One thing I can do is find out the particulars of how it is used at Roosevelt. I was unaware that RHS used it, although my son was there for two years. How it is being used, who is using it, well that will give me some answers.

As for fast learners. Well, with a fully written curriculum and a computer per student, couldn't an accelerated learner work at a faster pace? If not, why not?

Aurora said...

I see comments from parents with kids in Shoreline and Mercer Island Schools... how do your kids get to attend assuming you live in Seattle? Info appreciated.

Dorothy said...

OK, so if you look at the RHS course catalog you will find a Technology Department with several classes from PLTW. I just sent email to the chair of the department asking him for more information.

brown206 said...

dan dempsey said...
Consider the profile of the District:

Ethnicity (October 2008)
American Indian/Alaskan Native 894 1.9%
Asian 10,093 22.0%
Asian/Pacific Islander 10,093 22.0%
Black 9,692 21.1%
Hispanic 5,356 11.7%
White 19,933 43.4%
Special Programs
Free or Reduced-Price Meals 41.3%
Special Education (May 2009) 6,576 14.2%
Transitional Bilingual (May 2009) 5,434 11.7%
Migrant (May 2009) 274 0.6%

Now consider this statement from the district:
We want to keep the beautiful diversity we have here at Cleveland while welcoming students from across the city.
Is this code for poor and non-white?
--------------------------------------

Dan (and, to an extent, Dorothy): to be sure, white students should be a part of any conversation about diversity in a school. But if we are breaking the human beings in our schools into two groups, white and "non-white", we are starting from a pretty troubling premise. There is a beautiful diversity at Cleveland, even with white students represented at a disproportionately low rate. Is it a de facto segregated school? In terms of U.S. history and politics, certainly. But let's not write off the incredible variety of cultures, languages, and nationalities represented at Cleveland by dividing the world into "white" and "non-white."

Let's also be sure this critique of Cleveland's demographics is leveled consistently at other similarly segregated schools in our district. Take a look at those stats Dan provided, and then imagine if every school in this district looked like a proportional match to our district's enrollment. What would the reaction be if Roosevelt, for example, which enrolls 61% white students and 9% African-American students, balanced out to the district's ratio: 43% white and 22% African-American? Or consider The Center School, with 72% white students? Imagine, too, if the percentage of students eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch were to be proportional across the district? Isn't there some big tussle going on right now about Sand Point elementary's FRE numbers bumping up by 5% (or some low number)?

Dan, I will have respect for your philosophical consistency if you start a thread expressing your concern for the loss of beautiful diversity in a number of our district's schools; at the moment, I'm a little skeptical about your comments.

Melissa Westbrook said...

GoEagles, I had hit the About Cleveland button thinking it was Academics. So good but that page is pretty vague.

Here's the thing: They tell us to ask questions. It was on a handout at the Roosevelt boundaries meeting complete with Mr. Lee's info. Why put him down if he doesn't answer questions? Why did I have to hunt down Project Lead the Way? If the money is in the BTA levy surely they know what it's for?

Precisely because it's a complex undertaking (and this district is not known for such), it is worrisome. I'm not being a naysayer but it is not a good sign when the message is vague and mixed (or, in some cases, none existent) from the very people who say "contact me".

Aurora, the district enrolls out of district kids if there is room after residents. It's how we keep afloat. Many parents who live on the edges of the city and may work in the city, enroll their children here. It goes in reverse as well.

adhoc said...

Goeagles said "I must gently point out, though, that some of your language is a bit hyperbolic"

OK, maybe you're right Goeagles.

Let me rephrase my questions:

1- What has The Stem Design Team, The Stem Steering Committee, or the Stem Foundation done, beside posting a very basic FAQ on their website, in the way of community engagement or communication?

2-Why didn't the community engagement meetings scheduled for Sept 12 and 14th happen? How come the October community engagement meetings didn't happen (I noticed that they have even been pulled off of the website)?

Since community engagement meetings have not happened, and the district responds to family inquiries by saying "the high volume of correspondence precludes our being able to answer each question individually", how will families learn anything at all about the school?

Pre-registration is already happening in SPS. Families new to the district can register right now for STEM or any other school in the district. How can the district expect families to register for STEM with so little official information, or details, about the program? I find this just absurd.

It is exactly what the district did to Jane Addams last year. Families were expected to go on tours and choose the program without meeting one single teacher, without seeing one single classroom (Summit was still in the building), without knowing any details about the Environmental and math focus (the design team was still working on that), with a bare bones website with almost no information, with no info about after school programs, child care, sports program (for middle school), etc, etc.

And look at what happened. Less than 100 kids enrolled in the entire middle school. And only a handful of families chose the school for elementary - most that were assigned to the school got mandatory assignment.

Did the distict learn anything from this experience?

adhoc said...

Aurora, If you live in Seattle and want to go to a Shoreline school you just go into the Shoreline school that you want to send your child to, and fill out an enrollment form. If there is space your child is enrolled instantly. You then go down to SPS and get a release that allows the state to send funding to Shoreline instead of Seattle.

That's it!

Not sure how other districts handle enrollemnt.

Maureen said...

I wonder if Charlie's difficulty in getting answers is related to Melissa's (as outlined in her Person Non Grata post)? Are staff members purposely NOT answering the two of them? I ask because I sent an email about STEM to Michael Tolley on Nov 10th, his office forwarded it to Susan Derse' at 8:24 a.m. on the 12th and she answered it at 9:27 a.m. on the same day!

I may have asked more softball questions. I posted Ms. Derse's response on the 13th on the old STEM thread.

Renee said...

This STEM program is similar to what they did to Garfield in the 70s - it was like Cleveland at the time. It took a long time, but the school changed, mostly due to dedication of teachers (who are still keeping the program going despite no funding of the District - it was only funded for 2 years). That program (along with the music magnet and APP) completely changed Garfield. I hope that Cleveland is able to keep quality teachers there - they will be the ones continuing the program when the funding dries up. I believe the District is trying to do something similar here - attracting other families than would have traditionally gone there.

Spedvocate said...

Aurora, the "just go and sign up" for those other districts doesn't apply if you're in special education, as I believe you've indicated you are. In that case you're stuck in Seattle. And, since they've changed special education in Seattle... you won't be getting a special education teacher either, you'll be plopped into a resource room with a reading specialist, maybe with an aide if your neighbors are also getting dumped in the same school. If you're really unlucky, there aren't enough other kids like your kid that signed up for your school and they will reduce resources. At some schools, they've dropped autistic kids into the resource room and then cut the resource room teacher to half time... oh yeah, no aide either. I guess you should tell your disabled kid to knock it off with the disabled crap half time in that case. The new idea in Seattle's special education is to hire special education coaches and some aides instead of teachers.. and hope nobody notices. Anybody can teach, right? Why hire a teacher?

A few people with special education needs have gotten transfers to Shoreline though... but only if they've got a lawyer and are really willing to take them to the mat.

adhoc said...

Yes, Spedvoacate is right. I know because a neighbor of ours who had an ADD child (classified sped) tried to get a spot in a Shoreline school and they wouldn't take him. Spec Ed students cost the district more money, and they don't receive enough funding to compensate for it. So, Spec ed kids are considered a financial drain on the system. It is a real shame, and a very sad situation.

adhoc said...

Shoreline Schools also won't accept an SPS student who has been expelled from their current school, or who has documented behavior problems, or poor attendance.

And once they accept you they reserve the right to revoke your enrollment anytime if you develop behavior issues or have attendance issues. And they let you know this up front. If you attend a school that is out of your district they are taking you as a courtesy, not out of obligation, and they expect you to be a responsible student.

anne said...

goeagles,

thank you for giving your input.

my bigest question is how will they support both already advanced learners and students that need remediation at the same time?

Will they offer advanced classes in all core subjects and separate remedial classes? Is the program interested in attracting already advanced students, for instance APP students from GHS, or is that not the intended audience? If they are an intended audience, what will it offer in the way of advanced courses as compared to the math/science at GHS?

Spedvocate said...

I do know disabled students who've transferred to Shoreline from Seattle. It isn't really legal to treat disabled students differently than other students. That sort of discrimination violates ADA, and a number of WACs... that don't necessarily apply to other groups like suspended students or others. The family had to take them to the mat though. The Shoreline district had taken their other children, but just wasn't too keen on taking the disabled sibling. The Shoreline district did eventually relent and accept the kid though. So it does happen. And the bit about it costing too much to educate the disabled kid doesn't really hold water either. Shoreline district receives twice the funding for the student with the disability as the typical kid.... so, in the case of an ADD student on an IEP.... Shoreline would probably be actually making money on the ADD kid.

Charlie Mas said...

anne asked: "my bigest question is how will they support both already advanced learners and students that need remediation at the same time?"

The solution to this lies in the project-based learning. Unlike the industrial model of education in which all students in a class are all working on the same thing at the same time, in project-based learning each student (or small group of students) is working on their own project at their own pace to their own appropriate level of challenge.

Charlie Mas said...

If I didn't get a response because it was me, notorious me, asking, they couldn't have chosen a worse path. I'm the guy who knows all of the email addresses of all the important people and I'm the guy with a proven track record of making trouble. I'm the last guy in the world that you would want to ignore and irritate.

If the Cleveland STEM design team doesn't have all of their deliverables together by the end of the year, I'm going to be contacting the Board and reminding them that their motion requires these things to be in place and complete before the superintendent makes the final decision to create the program. I'm going to be all over them to direct her to delay the program for a year - because that's what their motion requires.

goeagles said...

anne said...my bigest question is how will they support both already advanced learners and students that need remediation at the same time?

Will they offer advanced classes in all core subjects and separate remedial classes? Is the program interested in attracting already advanced students, for instance APP students from GHS, or is that not the intended audience? If they are an intended audience, what will it offer in the way of advanced courses as compared to the math/science at GHS?

Charlie Mas said...
anne asked: "my bigest question is how will they support both already advanced learners and students that need remediation at the same time?"

The solution to this lies in the project-based learning. Unlike the industrial model of education in which all students in a class are all working on the same thing at the same time, in project-based learning each student (or small group of students) is working on their own project at their own pace to their own appropriate level of challenge.

---------------------------------------

Anne, I would largely agree with Charlie's response. And I'll add on a bit.

Your question is a really important one, I think, because part of the ambition of the Cleveland STEM design is to create a school where both advanced and struggling learners can succeed, and not by being tracked away from each other (or at least, not often so), but by developing teachers' abilities to design rigorous projects and also scaffold support for all students to meet the learning goals. Skillful differentiation by teachers will be crucial to do both. And this is ambitious, but I do have some faith that it can happen. And I would say this: if you are a parent who believes that the presence of a struggling learner in the same classroom with an advanced learner automatically means the advanced learner is not being served, you should not consider this program for your child.

More specifically, yes, there may be a class period where a group of students who all share, say, the same LA class, may travel to two different math classes, one more advanced in content than another. But they would probably see each other again in social studies (or whatever). Specific examples of advanced coursework under consideration by the design teams:

*Accelerated math for all four years such that students in both academies will reach calculus as seniors.
*AP Biology, Chemistry, and Physics (two of which are currently offered at Cleveland, btw).
*In the Life Sciences Academy: Social Epidemiology, probably linked with an AP Statistics course.
*In the Engineering and Design Academy, some possible electives might include Computer Integrated Manufacturing or Civic Architecture (using CAD software, I believe).

Hope this helps.

dan dempsey said...

Melissa said:
"These people are so infuriating that I wonder if there is any point to trying to talk to them at all." ... Amen

About "project based learning and math" this assumes a good level of basic competence to make it happen. Those in need of a lot of remediation will need more than project based learning to become proficient.

I would like to see some studies of successful project based learning that serves a wide spectrum of students successfully. I do not have my copy of Hattie's "Visible Learning" at hand but I do not believe that Project Based learning had a very large effect-size. While it might work well with a select population like "Aviation High" extending that to what the district will fumble together for Cleveland seems a bizarre reach.

This seems like a "Hail Mary" response to the districts pathetic k-8 math program as "Discovery" is the text for Cleveland as well as the rest of the district. YUP there is a k-12 vertical alignment = uniformly sub-standard.

Bullwinkle J. Moose: "Watch me pull a rabbit out of the hat."

TechyMom said...

Goeagles, thank you for all the info. As you might guess from my handle, girls in tech is a particular interest of mine. I'm curious about whether the design team at CHS has spent any time thinking about getting girls interested in STEM? If you haven't already talked to them, it might be valuable to meet with someone from Seattle Girls School. SGS is a private, all-girls STEM middle school in the Central District, and does a good job on recruiting a diverse population (especially for a private school). I also expect their 7th and 8th graders are watching Cleveland closely. Digigirlz(sp?) is another org that does good work in this area.

GirlMom said...

Seattle Girls Academy, dedicated to developing all girls in math, science, and technology... is completely project based... including project based math. No entrance exam either, as they want a diversity of learners in the classroom. Too bad so many people just can't imagine anything beyond ability segregated classrooms. Girls exit at a high level, going on to rigorous high school math and science programs. If they can do it, why not STEM? Projects and hands on learning seems to work well there.

adhoc said...

While I thank Goeagles tremendously for sharing STEM updates and info with this community, and I hope that he/she will continue doing so, it is irritating to me that our only source of information comes from an anonymous poster on a blog. First of all this blog community is a limited community, so families district wide may never see it. Second, the information and updates provided by Goeagles can't be verified as it comes from an anonymous poster, and the district is not answering emailed questions.

I am truly puzzled as to how the district drops the community engagement ball time, and time, and time again. It's very frustrating

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dan, that last quote you used was Charlie's.

TechyMom and GirlMom, both good questions to ask at the community meetings (none of which I can attend so Charlie take notes).

WenG said...
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WenG said...

@goeagles: In the absence of identifying yourself, your posts sound like trolling. Your comments might be helpful, but how can Charlie or anyone else confirm the accuracy of your information?

Maybe some have guessed who you are, but this is about a public school district. If you want parents and students to trust SPS, and a major rework of a school, why hide behind an anonymous handle?

Without transparency, I can't believe anything you say. If SPS is honestly committed to excellence, there's no need for anonymity. You're asking for levy money. Start reaching out and fully disclose what's going on. (Why doesn't the PM start a blog? They'd have a huge following.)

GirlMom: Thank you for reminding me about your school. We'll look into it for next year.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Goeagles—I am curious about how Cleveland will handle disruption in the classroom. We have heard on this blog about major disruptive incidents in Rainier Beach classrooms and I have heard from friends about similar situations in the lower grades at Sealth (before the kids split off into IB and non-IB—but even in 9th grade Honors classes).

It seems to me that if project-based teaching in a classroom of students with a broad range of skill levels is going to work, there would need to be a certain degree of buy-in from the students that they will work quietly while the teacher may be focusing on another student/group. Since it is an option school, would there be a way to ask a student to return to their neighborhood school if they repeatedly cannot follow whatever classroom conduct rules are in place.

And concerning SGS's ability to differentiate: I cannot see how you can even consider comparing a 16-student classroom of high-achieving students (who may not have had to take an entrance exam, but were hand-picked from 50+ applicants) to the academically diverse class that might be found at Cleveland once the STEM program opens. You cannot compare anything a private school does to a public school since the privates have hand-picked their students and made sure they are a good fit witht he school's approach to education.

WV: malized — how I feel the more I read these blog entries.

Maureen said...

Girlmom, do you know if anyone from STEM has talked to your school counselor? TOPS K-8 also graduates very capable math/science students, many of whom are from the south end. The TOPS counselor had been given NO information about STEM as of November 10th (that may have changed by now).

Have any of your 8th graders received a promised postcard about STEM?

Goeagles, I really appreciate your posts and don't necessarily expect you to identify yourself, but it would be nice to have official verifying info. I had been told that the STEM website would be up and running by Friday the 20th, but it looks like that has been delayed?

Maureen said...

Project based learning can only solve the issue of a broad range of skill levels if students are placed in groups according to those skill levels. That has not been our experience in general in SPS. Groups have either been self selected (so kids who don't friends in the class end up in 'leftover' groups together) or chosen by teachers to balance kids with skills across groups to help the lower skilled students.

Will STEM have an explicit policy about how project groups are formed?

hschinske said...

SGS has an average class size of 15. They can also kick out girls who don't keep up with the work. It's a heck of a lot easier to handle differentiated learning in that size environment.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

One thing that Cleveland STEM will have going for it is the fact that every student in the program will have chosen the program. They won't be there because the geographic lottery put them in the Cleveland attendance area or because the District computer put them there. They will be there because they are somehow motivated to be there. That's a big advantage. So, even if they are not working at grade level, they are motivated to do the work, which is a much bigger factor to academic success than preparation.

I do have one question - why a seven period day? The Reform movement tells us that seat time isn't important, so why spend money on additional seat time? It's not going to help - is it? I think it's odd that the people who advocate more seat time for under-prepared students at Cleveland are the same people who say that seat time doesn't matter at Rainier Beach.

Maureen said...

But it does matter at Madrona and Aki. What are you looking for: internal logical consistency? Ha!

A seven period day would be lovely, for all of the kids.

dj said...

What I find amazing is that with all of the various emphases on private-sector-style management, benchmarking, etc., the district appears to have missed one very basic message from the private sector -- marketing.

TechyMom said...

I wasn't saying that SGS was comparable, only that they had some experience recruiting girls into a STEM program, and might be interesting to talk to about that particular aspect of diversity. That, and I expect some of their graduates would be interested in Cleveland STEM, assuming it's a quality program, and able to provide classes appropriate for kids who've been in a STEM middle school.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

TechyMom: I think both Helen and I were responding to comments made by GirlMom (immediately following your post) about how well SGS can differentiate in their classrooms.

TechyMom said...

Ah, that makes sense. Thanks.

Charlie Mas said...

The excuse Mr. Tucker gave for the failure to provide the scheduled Community Meetings for the Cleveland STEM program was that everyone was so busy with the new Student Assignment Plan.

That's bogus.

First of all, the people working on the STEM program and the people working on the new Student Assignment Plan are two separate sets of people.

Second, surely they knew, when making the schedule, how busy they would be with other work.

SPSMom said...

Goeagles,

It appears that STEM will use the standardized curriculum for math and science and simply adding the tag line, "project-based" to the program. It does not appear that you will be increasing the graduation requirements to match the Avaition High School program.
(3 years math, science, social studies.)

Also, you are very behind in your milestones, cancelled community meetings etc.

Finally, we all saw what happened at the JA K-8 last year, promises of Spectrum, a science/math focused school...then the reality of a program using the same ole math and science curriculum and not enough students to make a Spectrum class.

So, please tell me why I should enroll my student in this program?

goeagles said...

Adhoc said,
1- What has The Stem Design Team, The Stem Steering Committee, or the Stem Foundation done, beside posting a very basic FAQ on their website, in the way of community engagement or communication?

2-Why didn't the community engagement meetings scheduled for Sept 12 and 14th happen? How come the October community engagement meetings didn't happen (I noticed that they have even been pulled off of the website)?

The meetings on the 12th and 14th did happen. They were small scale, aimed primarily at Cleveland families, to talk with them and gather feedback about the re-design of the program.

We've also had a parent serving on the design team, as well as higher ed and industry partners. There was an evening meeting in October of STEM field experts who shared their thoughts on the skills needed for success in STEM majors and fields. We've met with South Seattle Community College and Aviation High School. Folks from the district consulted with the folks at TAF (as detailed in another post). And Boeing had some involvement in helping design team members get out to visit other school sites (High Tech High, etc.). It sounds like some people are getting questions answered when they contact the district, but, unfortunately, not everyone is having the same experience. I wouldn't say it's enough community engagement, but it's some.

It's certainly true that larger scale community meetings kept getting pushed back throughout October and November, and I can't offer much explanation of this. However, I did just receive tonight a cc on an email that was forwarded to all middle schools counselors and principals, which included a .pdf attachment of the long-awaited postcard. The two dates on the postcard are a community meeting on December 5th, 9:00 to 10:30 am, at Cleveland, and an Open House/Recruiting Fair January 23rd, 10:00am - 12:00 pm, also at Cleveland.

Most of us know this already, but as a reminder, because of the new SAP, open enrollment this year will be later than usual--throughout the month of March.

goeagles said...

Oops, one addendum--one of the September meetings was not a STEM-specific meeting, it was our regular Open House; we just made some time on the agenda to talk about STEM. So it shouldn't really count as a "community meeting," though it was a good opportunity for engaging Cleveland families and there was some good Q & A. But it would be an unfair representation to call it a STEM community meeting.

adhoc said...
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adhoc said...
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Charlie Mas said...

I will be at the STEM Community Meeting on December 5. That meeting, by the way, does not appear on Cleveland's Calendar of Events. At that meeting I will expect to see and review all of the documents that, according to the timeline, are supposed to be complete:
Program Model
Project Budget
Professional Development Plan
Implementation Plan
Communication Plan
Instrutional Skill Set
Assessment Plan
Readiness Plan for class of 2013
Plan for Sustainable Program

I will also expect some explanation for the failure to fulfill the communications plan in October and November.

Charlie Mas said...

I sent a somewhat sneaky email to Susan Enfield today. I asked her if the Superintendent had made a final decision on opening the STEM program at Cleveland.

Let's see if she writes back at all, and, if she does, if she says that the decision is final.

Maureen said...

So is the Dec 5th meeting the "PTSA Council" meeting that Susan Derse' referred to in her email to me? I assumed that that would be sponsored by the Seattle PTSA leadership (Our school doesn't have a PTSA so I figured that wsa why I haven't heard anything else about it.)? Or is it the CLeveland PTSA?

I'm happy to hear that counselors were emailed. K-8 too?

Charlie Mas said...

I just got a seriously weird phone call from Susan Derse. She apologized for the lack of response to the email address and the hotline. She offered me a meeting to ask my questions and get answers. I declined saying that I would ask my questions at the December 5 event.

She told me that they are going to partner with New Tech Network for a lot of the elements of the STEM program - materials, professional development, technology, etc. I don't know how this will mesh with the curricular alignment project.

December 5 is plenty soon enough for me. I can wait until then to get answers to my questions.

Charlie Mas said...

To recap:

The Cleveland STEM web page is not up. It was supposed to be up today.

The Cleveland High School web page has no updated news about STEM since September 12 - ten weeks ago. There may not be any news to update.

The Cleveland High School web page makes no mention of the upcoming event on December 5 - ten days from now.

The Cleveland High School Event calendar doesn't show any activities for December 5.

The postcards announcing the December 5 event have yet to go into the mail - there are six postal delivery days between now and the event.

Some of the community outreach meetings have been rescheduled. Some have not. There is no way that this community engagement effort meets the standards for the "involve" level of community engagement.

Stu said...

She offered me a meeting to ask my questions and get answers

I don't know, Charlie. An offer like that doesn't come around often. Having the ability to sit down with her, with a specific list of questions and a notebook, might go a long way towards getting us some information.

stu

Charlie Mas said...

The information should not be just for me but for everyone. It should not be available only in one-on-one meetings with the project manager but in Community Meetings and online. And it is their responsibility to get that information out, not to co-opt me as their de facto communications tool.

Stu said...

And it is their responsibility to get that information out

True, but at some point, especially with this district, it becomes more important to get the message out there than wait for them to do the right thing. Any meeting where one of us can act as "reporter" and actually get someone, anyone, on the record with information, that's a meeting to take.

You're absolutely right that it's not our job; buy if they're not doing their job . . .

Charlie Mas said...

The morning of November 30:

Still no Cleveland STEM web site.

Still no update about Cleveland STEM on the Cleveland web site.

Still no mention of the Community Meeting on the Cleveland calendar.

Still no mention of the Community Meeting on the District web site outside of the press release.

I have not seen the postcard that they claim they are sending to the homes of 8th grade students.

Still no evidence that this project is on pace to meet its deadlines.

Still no evidence of District support for this program.

adhoc said...

Charlie, honestly, I wouldn't hold out much hope if I were you. I wouldn't expect the district to follow through on any of their promises regarding STEM. Nor would I expect that they meet a single one of their timelines. If I were you I'd continue exploring all of your high school options, sans STEM. Then, if, in the 11th hour, they come through, explore the program. But, really, I wouldn't waste an ounce of energy (or your daughters enthusiasm) on trying to track down info and details on STEM. All the district will do is throw you a few crumbs here and there. Your efforts will be fruitless.

I guess I'm a bit jaded and negative because I went through the same exact experience last year with Jane Addams. All winter long, and then all summer long, I waited for infomation and details about the school and it's offerings that never came, I waited for website updates that never happened, and I waited for the community engagement meetings that were promised but never materialized. I went to the schools open house, but was disappointed because there was so little information available. I couldn't see a classroom because Summit still occupied the building, and I couldn't meet or talk with teachers, because they hadn't been hired yet. The science specialist hadn't been hired yet either, so there was no information available about what the environmental science focus, programming, or classes would look like. I frequently emailed the principal (who was very responsive) and asked many questions but she had very few answers. Two weeks prior to school starting I still had so little little info on the school and there was so much uncertaintly that I decided that I couldn't send my kid there. I was not alone. They had over 100 no shows on the first day of school. The school had almost 500 kids enrolled and opened with 383.

I have no reason to believe that the district will be more responsible with STEM.

adhoc said...

I should also add to my post above, that most of the uncertainties and details regarding JA have been worked out, and I hear the program is doing very well and that parents there this year are generally happy, and satisfied over all.

My post was not a reflection on the outcome of the school, but was focused on the irresponsible and rushed process that the district followed in opening the school, and their lack of communication with the public.

Stu said...

I should also add to my post above, that most of the uncertainties and details regarding JA have been worked out, and I hear the program is doing very well and that parents there this year are generally happy, and satisfied over all

That the school's working out is probably more a testimonial to Debbie Nelson, the principal they threw under the bus when they started this whole thing. She's really good at working with the parents.

That said, I've heard from friends that the school is all right but I haven't heard about their science/math draw ideas, their spectrum programs, sports programs . . . how are all the promised things doing now that the school year is well under way? Also, isn't the commitment to this program only another couple of years?

Lastly, wasn't there an amendment that the district could not assign students to JA? Is that still a go?

stu

PS - I completely agree about the STEM thing. The only advantage of joining a new program in this district is that, even if they break most of the promises -- and they will -- at least you're left with really small class sizes at the start. Of course, then the district will do something to get more students in there, probably through some kind of forced assignment that has nothing to do with the original program, so that'll only last a year or two.

adhoc said...
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adhoc said...

We live across the street from JA and know a few families that go there. I hear pretty consistently that the school is doing OK and that families are generally happy. I haven't heard anything about the Spectrum program, or the MS after school activities program, but I know that they do have some sports teams, and clubs, and a PTSA.

JA will be an option school this coming year. It will be interesting to watch and see how that plays out. Not sure if the school will become wildly popular, or if it will not draw enough kids to justify it's existence?

This year, with Debbie Nelson at the helm, the environmental science specialist hired and theme coming to life, classrooms open, teachers hired, a PTSA formed, sports teams playing, before and after school child care up and running, WASL scores from this year available, and the dust having settled, will go a long way to attract families looking for a K-8 in the NE.

We'll see.....

SE Mom said...

I received the postcard today announcing the STEM program and dates for the community meeting and open house/recruiting fair.

I will likely attend one or both of those events. I suppose I should give it a fair shake and see what my reactions are to the staff and presentations.

Currently - and I never thought I'd being doing this - our family is applying to private high schools that give out financial aid. I can't count on Cleveland or open choice seats to provide us with a viable high school. assignment.

adhoc said...
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Charlie Mas said...

Our STEM postcard arrived today as well. The text on the postcard is identical to the text on the meeting announcement press release.

It does say "For more information about STEM, please visit: www.seattleschools.org/schools/cleveland/academicsprograms.html"

I note that they do not direct people to a STEM web site. There isn't one.

Charlie Mas said...

I contacted Susan Derse by email today and asked her when I should expect to see the Cleveland STEM web site. She wrote back saying that she is working on it and hopes to have it online tomorrow.

SE Mom said...

A friend just forwarded me an announcement about the STEM website being up and running:

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/stem/index.dxml