Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Curriculum Alignment Meetings

There were two Curriculum Alignment meetings this week. If you attended, let us know what you were told and what you thought of them.

There are two more next week:

Monday, Nov. 30th from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Ballard High School
1418 NW 65th St.

Tuesday, Dec. 1 from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Garfield High School
400 23rd Avenue


dan dempsey said...

Curriculum Alignment for math?

Well not aligned to anything that makes sense that is for sure.

On the website can be found under academics math the following:

Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.

This is a narrow flawed definition. This explains why instructional materials do not align with state recommendations nor National Math Advisory Panel recommendations and why the achievement gaps for math are so large.

Recently NCTQ issued a report for Arizona "Arizona's Race to the Top: What Will It Take To Compete?"
which contained the following:

Review math and science curricula. Contract with national experts (from outside the state) such as Achieve or prominent university scholars with experience in K-12 standards (e.g. Stan Metzenberg, Roger Howe, Stephen Wilson, George Andrews, Martha Schwartz, William Schmidt) to review the quality of various mathematics and science curricula and texts

Stephen Wilson reviewed Seattle High School Math texts "Discovering Series" and found them mathematically unsound.
...and the board bought this stuff anyway.

From the same document:
One possibility for a rigorous math curriculum, also discussed in Strategy 7, is Singapore’s approach to elementary mathematics. It first came to the attention of U.S. educators in 1997 with the release of the results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Singapore’s fourth and eighth grade students placed first in mathematics, well ahead of students in the U.S. and other Western countries, and that performance has stayed strong. While countries such as Japan and Korea have also done well in international testing, Singapore is the only Asian country where English is the medium of instruction for all state-approved schools in grades K-12, meaning that their curriculum is written in English.

It is well documented in "Project Follow Through" and in John Hattie's "Visible Learning" that exploration and inquiry is an inferior practice for learning math, when it is the major emphasis of an instructional program.

NMAP specifically states that students struggling to learn math need increased "Explicit Instruction".

Seattle Math leadership is incompetent as they have a program in place based on an incorrect definition of how math is learned and apparently aligned with fairy-tales.

...and the board keeps on rubber-stamping.

owlhouse said...

Can someone (Charlie, Melissa...) start a thread on winter/holiday/fundraising traditions at our schools? Nova would like to invite families to join us for a craft fair 12/8.

seattle citizen said...

I happened to watch a broadcast of the Washington State School Directors Association meeting that occured Nov 18-21 in Seattle.

The speaker I saw was Yong Zhao, a professor at Michigan State who studies eductation, globalization, technology...

Here's his note slides:

He said (to the best of my recall):
The current national "reform" movement (standardization and "accountability" through standardization) was misguided and dangerous to our economy and to our children.
His reasons:
1)The US pruports to want to play catch up to some nations that might be ahead of us in Math and Science. These nations, such as Japan, Korea and China, are actually moving away from standards'based ed and towards "creativity." It is a mistake for us to try and match other countries (particularly when they are, in fact moving away from standards due to thier limiting effect) because we can't compete with them anyway: If we produce engineers, the engineers in India, et al, will still come cheaper, so we can't compete. It is a msitake to produce the same sort of students other countries are producing because they will undercut us anyway.
So other countries have seen this fallacy, and are busy bridging the "achievement gap" of creativity" We use to have creativity, they didn't, they're moving towards it and we're moving away.

2) "acheivement gap": People are all wildly different, and to group children and thus attribue gaps is limiting - it narrows response and does a dis-service to the various skills children have.

3) we need to be fostering critical thinking and entreprenaurial action: The global economy will increasingly reward "niche" business, business that meets various small needs, rather than the large corporations that, increasingly, will outsource anyway (see above) (so why are we listening to MS and other large corporatikons? Don't they want to limit small competitors? Didn't MS squash competition?)

4) standards narrow and make into icons a very limited set of knowledge; they place the state seal of "approval" on very basic and limited education. They do not reward critical thinking, creativity, and the diverse nature of human minds.
4a) education is so much broader than just these basic standards: We want citizens, we want compassionate people, it's not just Read/Write/Math/Science, yet this is all that's valued in these standards.

He thinks a school that, at graduation, has made "passionate, curious and adventurous citizens" has done a good job. A school that has made innumerable copies of basic modes of understanding and thinking has created a dysfuntional society.

He was quite adamant that the country was going down the wrong path.

It seems to me that he was extolling the virtues of what we already have in many of our schools, both traditional and alternative, and that to erase these things and chase these basic standards (and their accompanying "accountability") would be a grave mistake.

Charlie Mas said...

The problem with our educational system is not that it produces too few graduates with critical reasoning skills, entreprenurial skills, or creativity. It isn't that it produces too many graduates who are competent to pass tests. The problem with our educational system is that it produces too few graduates of any kind.

Young people will have creativity or they won't. They will have critical reasoning skills or they won't. They will have entreprenurial skills or they won't. And if these skills aren't evident when they are 18 then they may develop later. I'm not really loooking for our public schools to outfit every child with these.

We can reasonably expect our schools, when functioning properly, to provide each student with sufficient knowledge of the English language, numbers, history, and science to function as a productive member of society. Their graduation should signal the completion of this task.

But our schools are NOT functioning properly. As a consequence a shocking number of students, about 1 in 3, doesn't graduate at all. They do not acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.

By all means, let's support the students who are achieving, but we absolutely need to take some kind of action - immediate and drastic action - to address the education system's inability to meet the needs of the 30% of students who will not graduate.

I wish our system worked so well that the problem was that it produces students with the knowledge and skills to pass the tests. It doesn't. How can we have higher ambitions? How can we disparage this goal when we can't even match it?

Joan NE said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly Charlie. It is not helping society to set the bar so high that 30% of students can't pass. It is also a disservice to society to not give rich educational opportunities within the public school system to the highly motivited students.

Why is it necessary that a high school diploma serves like a QA program at a factory, wherein 95% of all product falls within the limits of a narrow range of attributes? When a graduate goes to get a job, the employer understands that not all graduates are going to perform identically - Even if the bar for graduation is set high, employers would still take other unquantifiable factors into account in a hiring decision.

Part of the problem with standards-based reform is the way "achievement gap" is defined. Setting the bar higher ("tough standards") does help to reduce the achievement gap, but at the expense of graduation rates - fewer students can get a diploma.
What I see is that reformist use artificial means to close the achievement gap, so that they can more easily claim that their reforms have been successful. These artifical means include the following:
1) raising passing percentiles on state standardized tests (few students graduate, but of those that do pass, the mean score is higher!)
2) eliminating or reducing the quality of advanced and accelerated learning opportunities for the highly motivated students.
3) forcing a terrible math curriculum on the entire school system (even the mathematically gifted students are stymied by this terrible curriculum). SES, which is avalible only to students in failing schools, helps to compensate for the bad math curriculum.

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, I think what Zhao was saying is that by focusing too closely on only a few data points or curricular elements, we risk squelching creativity and critical thinking...squelching passion and curiosity. My take would be that the skills needed to graduate, the skills you list (and more...civics, for example) could and would be taught when there is still outlet for creativity and outlet for diverse ways of thinking.

I, for one, am certainly not against teaching certain basics, but to focus on the basics only might both kill the other things and lessen the ability to uptake the basics...

Zhao agrees with you that people will have creativity or they won't, but that it can also be nurtured and tools for it can be taught. Critical thinking he believes can be taught, and I agree. Entreprenurial skills...I believe these can be taught.

Yes, we graduate too few. Yes, teachers are part of teh problem, and a better system could be put in place to evaluate teaching. A better look at what's valued in education, what a diploma is FOR, might also help, as might a look at how education fits into the economy and to citizenship and to life satisfaction...

MathTeacher42 said...

Zhao sounds familiar to me.

I wasn't in k-12 environments between graduating high school in '78 and volunteering to tutor math in Jan. 2003. I had a lot of different jobs in 2 careers, I worked in very different environmens in those careers, and I had a lot of very different bosses.

In the last few years, often I hear edu-policy from people who've spent the last decades in edu-world, and wonder if we've all been on the same planet.

In the anecdotes of my life, Zhao sounds like the senior / policy people in educational bureaucracies who are part of a SMALL subset of workers who've had, relatively, a lot of stability in their lives in the last 30 years. In general, they've had few of the common experiences that are common to many of the appx. 160,000,000 living on 50k a year or less in 2008 money income. Those common experiences are income insecurity, education access insecurity, retraining insecurity, employment insecurity, housing insecurity, health access insecurity, dependent care insecurity ...

For too many of the ed policy bureaucrats and school of ed profs, work is a career, and your career is something you decoded in cafes reading happy happy psycho-babble like 'what color is your parachute'.

There are 1000's of high school kids in Washington state who can't take 4% and correctly put it into a formula, or correctly put into a calculator - and WHAT are they going to make out of a career?

How are these kids going to particpate in a world of 6.whatever billion people who ALL want shoes and food and water and sewage and housing and health care and education and jobs and security ...

How are these kids going to CHANGE a world were few have much of any of that list?

We're all going to be making high level powerpoint presentations, and someone else will cut the onions and fix the cars and give kleenex to kids with runny noses?

If there are 1 billion kids, and 4% are sick and need 1 box of kleenex, and each box of kleenex uses x trees which require y acres ...

well all make powerpoint slides!


justamom said...

Does going to public school really have to be this hard? I am very happy happy to contribute my time and money to the district and school. But really, does it have to be this hard to get decent schools for all?

How much time are we all spending to keep the ship pointed in the right direction let alone move it.

It may be time to put on the life vest and jump ship. it getting very discouraging and my kids are only in elementary school.

Charlie Mas said...

I think it's like a Maslow thing, a hierarchy of needs.

All are good, all are desirable, but there is an order to them.

Yes, we want to nurture creativity, but more basic than that is mastery of the ideas and concept.

Yes, we want mastery of the ideas and concepts, but more basic than that is proficiency with the knowledge and skills.

Yes, we want proficiency with the knowledge and skills, but we can't achieve that if the students are not in school.

Our ambition for each of the students, as individuals, is for them to reach to the next stage. I fully support every student working at the frontier of his or her knowledge and skills.

When I review the faults in our system I see the students who are not challenged adequately. I see the students who are not getting a broader range of study beyond WASL subjects. But I can't help seeing, first and foremost, the 30% of the students who aren't even there.

If we are talking about having the same ambition for ALL students, rather than having specific ambitions for each student, then we have to begin with the one-third of our students who aren't graduating. Those students don't need higher standards. They don't need their creativity nurtured. They need something - something radically different from what they have been getting - that will keep them in school and on pace to meet the Standards - yes, the narrow, low, minimal Standards.

For a long time I have been advocating for early and effective intervention for all students working below Standards in grades K-10. We have a District Policy that says that students working below grade level should not be promoted. But they are being promoted because the experts say that retention doesn't work. Okay, retention doesn't work, but surely promotion isn't working either.

We need something else. And I will tell you right now that curricular alignment is doomed to fail if the students are not ready and able to do grade level work. And about 1/3 of our students are NOT ready and able to do grade level work.

dan dempsey said...


Points out many of the roots of Fairy-Tales.

Much of what we hear in Education as well as the larger local and national political scenes is also based on selling nonsense to potential voters.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the US enjoyed manufacturing dominance (most of the World Manufacturing capacity was destroyed in WWII). The politicians seem to say trust us and we will put that wonderful economic situation back in place. (Never explaining how ... with a detailed plan that will stand-up to scrutiny ... just like the SPS lots of goals and few if any well thought out executable plans.

{Student Assignment Plan is based on "Every School" will be a quality school .... where is either a plan or evidence that can or will happen?}

We've witnessed lots of "Pseudo-successful" gyrations trying to keep it (the past economic success for those in the middle and lower) going. Rise in credit card debt, inflated home prices to borrow against, Cash for Clunkers etc.(while most manufacturing has disappeared in a flat-world competitive environment).

As Mathteacher42 points out education has its own mix of "Edu-Babble" to justify its bizarre abandonment of teaching content and supposedly make our schools superior. Except the "Experts" have little data to provide that shows much of this to be authentic success.

Think about MGJ's bonus. Did improvement happen? or was it just more PR (this time engineered by the school board)?

Curriculum alignment on some scale is a great idea if it is aligned to any reasonable plan that can be executed...... In math the state standards are a starting place for alignment ... but ... the SPS will be using their pathetic math materials and following a flawed math definition while spewing Edu-Babble about aligned (aligned to what?). Aligned to the latest fairytale no doubt.

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, I agree. Yes, creativity is important, No, we don't want to dumb down the system to mere WASL scores.

But there ARE those 30% who are not even "there." There ARE students who can't for the life of them tell you what a percentage is.

You're right: we need a system that is responsive to these kids. Things such as WASL and MAP, et al, while not ncessarily good for those who are "with the program," might, if used correctly, help identify the low-fliers and help target intervention to these students.

In this I think the District has some good ideas (tho' I still worry about the peripheral effects of them):
RtI (response to intervention, tiered respeonse to percieved need)
Some aspects of common currculum, especially the use of similar strategies

There are some potentially helpful tools being brought online to identlify these students who "aren't even there."

But will the interventions come online, too?

Many who don't graduate aren't even PHYSICALLY there; they skip, they're truant, they work...

What can schools do about these students? This is where the community must be rallied around support. Teachers can't go to each home and drag a student in by their ears (there are laws!)

Schools CAN be exciting, interesting, individually tailored to student interest and attention and level and need...

But the external factors must be addressed, too: drug use, work (for those students who, believe it or not, help support families), a culture of learning that is community-wide...

dan dempsey said...

Seattle Citizen,

What the district can do is provide the interventions in grades k-3.

They might also use materials and strategies that have a proven record of success with educationally disadvantaged learners. These are many of the eventual drop-outs.

The information is available to do that .... but the SPS neither provides the interventions nor a plan the uses proven instructional materials and models. Check the WASL Pass rates for Black students in math grade 3-8th & 10th and the board voted 4-3 to buy a high school program that aligns with this. None of those four directors voting "For" mentioned any impact on educationally disadvantaged learners as having anything to do with their decision.

3rd Grade Math
Year District State
2005-06 44.90% 45.60%
2006-07 48.90% 52.30%
2007-08 49.00% 50.30%
2008-09 43.20% 45.90%

4th Grade Math
Year District State
1997-98 14.20% 13.00%
1998-99 12.00% 15.30%
1999-00 17.20% 18.70%
2000-01 15.00% 19.50%
2001-02 22.30% 28.60%
2002-03 31.10% 35.50%
2003-04 36.40% 37.50%
2004-05 33.10% 37.70%
2005-06 31.30% 36.40%
2006-07 32.00% 35.10%
2007-08 27.60% 31.30%
2008-09 29.10% 30.20%

5th Grade Math
Year District State
2005-06 28.60% 32.70%
2006-07 33.10% 38.10%
2007-08 38.50% 39.50%
2008-09 42.30% 42.90%

6th Grade Math
Year District State
2005-06 19.90% 26.00%
2006-07 23.00% 26.40%
2007-08 19.00% 25.90%
2008-09 27.50% 28.70%

7th Grade Math
Year District State
1997-98 2.30% 4.90%
1998-99 4.70% 6.80%
1999-00 6.30% 8.70%
2000-01 5.10% 7.80%
2001-02 6.80% 10.30%
2002-03 7.30% 14.10%
2003-04 15.00% 21.40%
2004-05 17.40% 25.40%
2005-06 17.70% 24.50%
2006-07 24.10% 30.10%
2007-08 24.20% 28.00%
2008-09 23.10% 28.20%

8th Grade Math
Year District State
2005-06 14.90% 22.40%
2006-07 18.10% 24.70%
2007-08 24.30% 28.00%
2008-09 24.20% 26.80%

10th Grade Math
Year District State
1998-99 5.40% 9.50%
1999-00 8.30% 11.70%
2000-01 6.10% 11.90%
2001-02 8.10% 13.00%
2002-03 7.00% 14.20%
2003-04 11.30% 16.10%
2004-05 12.90% 20.40%
2005-06 21.70% 23.20%
2006-07 19.60% 22.50%
2007-08 16.00% 22.20%
2008-09 16.30% 20.90%

Can we stop following Terry Bergeson's plan for math yet?

reader said...

That's a pretty simple notion of hierarchy... first knowledge and skills, then ideas and concepts, and finally at the very top... creativity. I don't buy that at all. If people aren't able to graduate, perhaps their creativity and interests need to be engaged first instead of last (or more likely, never)... so that they will acquire the the desire for knowledge and skills (the thing that is so basic on the list).

It seems pretty unlikely to me that promotion/retention/rediation is the root problem. The problem is that people aren't being engaged in ways they believe meaningful or in ways that are effective for them. We already have tons of basics and remediation.. Title-1 reading programs, Title-1 math programs... mostly 1:1, Sound-Partners reading programs mostly all 1:1, special education... all these fairly universally available. Why do we think that those things we alreadly have are going to start magically working? Retention, intervention, remdiation, special education, and similar measures, are just more harping on the same old same old hasn't been shown effective.

How motivated would you be if you were constantly remediated... the message basically is "You suck at this, so we'll keep doing more of it until you stop sucking. Then, you'll be at the very bottom of acceptable, at the 'skills and knowledge phase' which is far behind most people.". Most people don't excel under that premise.

seattle citizen said...

Reader, I agree that part of the solution is that "creativity and interests need to be engaged first instead of last (or more likely, never)... so that they will acquire the the desire for knowledge and skills"

I also think, however, that remediation and retention are important, and haven't yet been used in the way they might.

There is an onus on both remediation and retention that is hard to quell, but quell it we should. In discussions we've had elsewhere, you indicate a desire for teachers to address multiple levels in a classroom (to show progress) yet with students rising through grades while missing some (or many) key concepts, those teaching higher up will have more levels to try and teach to.

As it is used now, R+R is punitive and difficult, but with properly placed resources it might be effective. Students/parents might have to buy in (or be dragged in) to teh idea that, hey, your child is three years behind in reading comp and needs a boost. Where this is spread equally and equitably (many subjects, even addressing above-level in some break-out remediation) and where it is coupled to the creativity and interesting and relevant instruction, might allow students to succeed even if they're behind, and thus retain some hope for their educational future.

I'm convinced that many of the 30% who seem to tank are tanking because they get behind, they lose their grip on the upward conveyor, and slide into oppositional or lackidasical behaviors. Or they continue to try, but since their levels aren't being adressed, they appear to be working, alert, conversant...but they ain't. This is a notorious behavior, and one that teachers have constantly to assess for: Is the student getting the idea at hand, or merely looking good generally, looking studious in her/his seat or on paper...

I'd like to see the district's proposed (and in effect) Response to Intervention model provide for remediation (and retention, in a changed, non-punitive-sounding model)That is solid, tough, yet also provides interesting and relevant challenges.

I'd also like RtI to have a fourth level: Current levels are:
1) identify/remediate lightly in classroom;
2) remediate more intensely;
3) outside remediations (but inside district) are called upon
I'd like to see
4) community action, with teeth, is called upon, i.e truancy, contracts with parents, and other broader inputs that might keep the student in school (particularly if the remediative ARE just, creative, designed to accelerate learning at the students level...

MathTeacher42 said...

reader at 4:15 and seattle citizen on the next comment -

I know the two of you mean well.

WHERE is the money to pay for any 1 of your ideas? Or, how much time would any 1 of your ideas cost to implement, and, where is the money to implement the idea?

Education policy is filled with people who are highly credentialed and who've been training to be ... 1 of the big 3 at the Yalta conference? Write the George Kennan containment strategy of educaiton policy? They wave their arms and the world scurries? How many more decades can this country survive millions of Yalta managers who couldn't figure out how to make a hot dog stand run, much less an organiztion consisting of thousands serving hundreds of thousands?

For the the last 30 years of credit bubble prosperity, we've managed to 'afford' managements in the public and private sectors who excelled at:

1. deflecting accountability,
2. deflecting repsonsibilty,
3. staying in charge,
4. getting paid a lot better than the bottom 95 or 99%

How much longer can we 'manage' afford this kind of management?

Right now, all the Zhao / Oki / Gates presentations can go on the wall next to the pictures of Yalta.

Finally - sure we need to do our best to make learning engaging, BUT, life is NOT a continuous loop of Seasame Street, Barney and Mr. Rogers shows.

If 6.something billion people are going to have shoes and shoe laces - how much leather do you need if all the shoelaces are leather? or cotton? or poly-oil-whatver? What about bandaids? What about red beans and white beans and soy beans and lentils ?

Shouldn't we be teaching our kids that it takes a LOT of work for 6.something billion to have their needs, nevermind their wants, and a lot of that work is necessary and honorable, but that work isn't going to get you standing next to Taylor and Beyonce on the red carpet ... oh well?

It seems like the current emphasis is getting everyone ready to go to college to learn to make Yalta caliber powerpoints, cuz they're gonna spend their adult life going to conferences and writing memos!

What does an idea cost in time? What does it cost to implement?

I know you mean well.


reader said...

Wonderfully knowledgeable and industrious mathTeacher42... when you ask WHERE is the money to pay for any 1 of your ideas?

What idea are you actually asking aobut? I didn't proffer up any idea specifically, other than a teacher should engage his/her students. What a novel idea. Does that really cost a lot? Does it have to? More than we pay now?
We already have tons and tons of expensive remediation. We already have tons and tons of expensive special education. (adding to the costs to the 6 billion lost souls looking for shoe-laces on the planet.) That isn't working, is it? Why would we want to do more of it? It has nothing to do with the good ole work ethic of yore. If all you want to do is follow the script, you're pretty much doomed to endless, and mindless remediation... that doesn't work in the end.

PS. SC, have you actually seen anybody doing RTI? I've actually asked about it... and all I got was a blank stare of incomprehension... And then, somebody said it was "only at a couple schools", but nobody knew which schools. I'd say that is pretty much power point fodder.

seattle citizen said...

reader (and Mathteacher42...since you seem to believe that we should do something but we can't afford to do something...), it might be power point fodder, but it could be a good idea, no?

The money part would come from upped community responsibility: If students are identified as behind, if they are supported in the district (oaky, this would cost money, too, for varied level classes) yet still need more, than community supports kick in.

Ack. Maybe you're right. Maybe it's all just too expensive, too theoretical...maybe we just forget all that expensive college stuff and stick to the old ways...but aren't people saying the old ways don't work?

Change but don't change? Do better the same way and at no extra cost?

Math42 and Reader, I'm wondering what you would do. Maybe my ideas are pie in the sky, maybe they cost too much...I'm not actually enacting any, just talkin'...

Should we stop talking about any of this, because it's all just theory and money anyway?

seattle citizen said...

Here's my relatively cheap (?!) proposal:

Support innovation and choice through various kinds of schools, particularly at 6-8 level - cost: transportation

Support use of classroom assessments to identify low-fliers, and target support... teacher training in differentiation...
...out of class, perhaps 150-200 developmental/remedial teachers (tho' the number would be less if scheduling were tight enough to "merely" switch FTE from some areas into remedial areas, because kids would be fewer in some classes if they went to a remedial class)

Organize and motivate volunteers better, and make stronger demands on parent/guardians and other stakeholders: cost to the schools? A couple of organizers to do this. Cost to society? Volunteer hours, hours spent woking with kids, theirs and others.

Principal Duties:
Reduce prinicpal workload (charlie's idea) by having others pick up some of the details so principals can serve primarily as instructional leasers (including evaluation) Cost: some extra admin costs in each building to make up for principal's instructional focus

more collaboration across school and across district, in identifying students who are falling out and in using some common strategies to bring them back.

Three hours, paid, per week for home contact, logs to be kept for evaluating principal's perusal


seattle citizen said...

Reader, RtI is actually pretty basic, it's what a good teacher would do anyway (if there is support outside classroom, if there is "level three" support in the school...which there's not a lot of, but there's some.

Teacher tries to work with levels. behaviors. Check

Teacher modifies to further address these. Check

Teacher reports that student is way too far beloew level to get instruction at current level in a given thing, reports this out of classroom to...counselor? Academic Dean? AP? This, I think, is where it partly breaks down, there's not a lot of support, or organized support, outside the classroom. This "level three" (serious remediation in learing or behavior or whatever) is somewhat disjointed, and the remedial services, academically at least, are sporadic.

But I think this sort of intervention strategy could easily work (even if it's somewhat just power-point at this...point...)

mkd said...

Every idea and opinion expressed here has merit. Curriculum alignment is completely useless if it does not prepare our children to attend college. To expect community colleges to re-educate our high schoolers in subjects that could and should be mastered before moving on to higher education is a waste of time, teachers and tax moneys on all levels. After all, if our kids need remedial education in order to catch up, why not just let them enroll in college instead of wasting tax dollars "teaching" things twice. Somehow, what we are teaching in high school does not translate well to college.


Many students who enroll in California's community colleges are not academically prepared to undertake college-level courses that would be counted toward a bachelor's degree at a four-year college. The consequences include: (1) High proportions of students start out in remedial levels of math and reading courses and have limited probability of attempting transfer- level courses at community colleges. (2) The majority of first-time students start out in mathematics and reading courses for which they will not receive credit at a California State University or University of California campus if and when they choose to transfer. (3) One out of every three students in a California community college enrolls in a basic skills class, and many more place into basic skills courses on the basis of assessment results but elect not to enroll in them."

Sadly, I have tutored too many college freshman on the mechanics of a paragraph and how to take that paragraph and build the five-paragraph essay, the necessary components to build a solid thesis, even how to outline and/or brainstorm, definitely skills I learned by the eighth grade when I attended school. Several students I've worked with graduated from high school with A's in English without ever cracking a book (even Spark Notes). Teachers, how many of your students do not know the differences between fact and opinion, stating one without citing facts to lend credibility?

mkd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mkd said...

It is also very disturbing that the district would adopt a math curriculum most math teachers, especially at the college level, appear to have serious objections to. Again, it would have been more productive and less expensive (in the long run) to seek the expertise of successful programs here, in other states and abroad (like Singapore perhaps) before making a long-term commitment to a program that does not, according to many, prepare a student adequately to undertake math at higher levels.

Critical thinking in math or writing begins with the fundamental basics, found in memorizing and repetition, not always fun activities that engage a child's mind. Then again, not all of life is fun and it is important for children to learn that sometimes things have to be done, fun or not.

Finally, I have several suggestions that cost very little and might even save some money, get rid of the television, cancel the cable and outlaw video games until your child is so bored he heads to the library and picks up a book. It took a year, but my kids are now voracious readers. We still have no cable, computers are limited to schoolwork only and one hour of video games are allowed only if schoolwork and chores are complete. Bedtime for my boys (both teens) during the week is 10:00pm and dinner is prepared and eaten as a family. You'd think with the lack of television as well as limited access to computers and video games would make my house unpopular. Yet, I'm always tripping over and feeding a teen or two or three that don't belong to me. The rule at the table is that everything is open for discussion as long as an opinion can be backed with one verifiable and credible source. If the source is a book, even better. Lively discussions will go on for much longer than dinner takes. So what if I get stuck with the cleanup.

My point, I believe that we don't expect enough of our teens. Instead of lowering benchmarks to reach the bottom 30% (at RBHS, the percentages are much much higher), we need to raise the bar and hold our kids to higher standards and benchmarks.

For instance, if we want our kids to be as successful as those in other countries, we might want to implement some of their strategies, like longer school days, school on Saturday, a curricula built around the core subjects of math, science and language (theirs as well as others). Contrary to what some might think, I have friends in Singapore and Japan whose children's school days are much longer than ours. Certainly, there is an emphasis on school, though disciplined, these kids are also creative, drama, dance, music, electronics, art, poetry and sports.

For those bottom 30%, Charlie is right, drastic action is needed. As SPS identifies those high achievers, they also need to intervene early with those who have problems inside and/or outside the school that impedes their learning process. The thing is, school cannot go home with students at night, nor can we expect them to fix the ills of society when what all they are supposed to do is educate our children effectively so they can skip the remedial classes once they graduate.

mkd said...

By the way, to reiterate another poster here, could you start a thread on winter/holiday/fundraising traditions at our schools?

mkd said...

One poster here mentioned managing volunteer hours better. One way high schoolers, especially those in the honors programs, could earn volunteer hours could be a mentor relationship with a younger student having problems in school. Studies have demonstrated that kids respond much better peer-to-peer than adult to child. Besides start up costs (I assume there is some place volunteer hours for students are kept): 0

seattle citizen said...


There's the Becca Bill, but really, how often is truancy tracked and consequences attached? This is where community support and interesting yet targeted remedial programs come in: Sure, we can put a kid into juvie or whatever, haul the parents into court...

But what system do we really have to address truancy?

I don't know the figures, but my guess is that a lot of the "failure" os students to graduate is predicated on a lack of attendance: skipping, missing whole days...

I bet dealing with this would deal with half the problem.

But it would cost money: school would need to pay for dedicated truancy monitors (some already are) and society would have to pay for the concurrent legal aspects and enforcement.

dan dempsey said...


At one time New Mexico had a State boarding school where they sent the perpetually truant.

That reduced truancy a lot as kids realized if the did not attend school regularly .. there were real consequences.

About 15 years ago I had a student with such a bad home life he committed petty crimes so he could be in the juvenile detention facility because it was so much better than home.

Lummi Nation has opened a youth academy for kids who would rather be out of marginal home situations. It is 50 yards from school.

Charlie Mas said...

Meetings tonight and tomorrow night.

Questions to ask:

1) How will we be sure that students get the interventions and support they need to get to grade level and to stay at grade level? What will be different this time? And what recourse will people have if those interventions and supports are not provided?

2) How will we be sure that teachers are teaching the curriculum? What will be different this time? And what recourse will people have if the teachers don't cover the curriculum?

3) How will we sure that the teachers are adequately prepared to do their part - knowing the curriculum, knowing how to differentiate instruction for students below standard, knowing how to differentiate instruction for students beyond standard? What will be different this time? And what recourse will people have if the teachers don't have the knowledge or skills to do the job?

4. How will we be sure that the advanced classes will be available, not only in all of the high schools but in all of the middle schools and elementary schools as well? What will be different this time? And what recourse will people have if there is no access to the classes?

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, I'd add to your #4 ("How will we be sure that the advanced classes will be available")

How will be sure that developmental/remedial classes will be available for students far below level?

Anonymous said...

I've appreciated reading all your comments. On the creativity vs. learning the basics debate...I do remember reading a paper in graduate school by a UW prof in Educational Psychology which presented the argument that WHY students study directly influences HOW they study. I think this is intuitive, but something that is frequently overlooked when designing curriculum. Kids are people, not widgets. Furthermore, inspiring a student is not the same as entertaining them. In fact, quite the opposite. I've witnessed my own children become incredibly industrious when inspired.

Question: Are option schools required to use the same math curriculum as attendance area schools?

Charlie Mas said...

iamrobin2 asked: " Are option schools required to use the same math curriculum as attendance area schools?"

If by "curriculum" you mean the core set of knowledge and skills that students are supposed to acquire, as defined by the Standards and Grade Level Expectations, YES.

If by "curriculum" you mean the materials - the textbooks and such - the default state is that they do, but they are free to apply for a waiver. There are a couple of schools which have applied for and received permission to use other materials.

If by "curriculum" you mean the student-directed, or inquiry-based, or reform pedagogy that is recommended by the math coaches (and is the only pedagogy supported by the district-adopted textbooks), no. Teachers have freedom to choose whatever pedagogy they believe to be effective. That's true at every school - attendance area schools as well as option schools.

When discussing curriculum, materials, content, and pedagogy it is absolutely essential that you use precise language and use it consistently. Shifting meanings lead to confusion and misunderstandings and are exploited by those who wish to deceive.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for my imprecision. I mean the math books that were most recently adopted by SPS and heavily criticized on this site and noted professionals. (My oldest will just be entering kindergarten next year so I am not familiar with all the textbook titles.)

Charlie, I agree that curriculum is a very broad term. I am a former teacher. However, rather than lecture me on the meaning of curriculum, you could have just asked for clarification. Perhaps this was not your intention, but I found your tone incredibly condescending.

Charlie Mas said...

It is not my intention to lecture on the definition of curriculum or to scold people when edu-jargon is bobbled. I do, however, want to emphasize the importance of being very precise in our use of these terms.

The District staff have a long and colorful history of re-defining these words with dizzying frequency. They do it intentionally to deceive the community and to exclude us from involvement in our children's education. I still don't have a meaning for "course of study".

I could have asked for a clarification and, in a day or two it may have come. Then, a day or two later I could have written a response to the question. Instead, I gave the answers immediately to the three most likely meanings.

There are a number of ways that conversation is better than blogging for communication. In a conversation I would have been able to ask for clarification and given the answer and then followed it with a gentle reminder to use the word "materials" or "textbooks" instead of curriculum for that meaning. That's a benefit of true interactivity. Also, in a conversation I would have been able to pitch my tone - and you would have heard my tone - with greater precision and nuance. The tone was flat.

Try reading it again without any tone and you'll get it the way I wrote it.

Really. You'll know when I'm being sardonic or condenscending. There won't be any other possible reading. It will be over the top, a little scary, and kind of embarassing to witness.

Thank you, however, for the reminder to watch my tone and check my writing for unintended chill. I must need these reminders every few months because that's how often I get them. It's funny how I get warned away from sarcasm more often when I don't intend to take that tone than when I do. You wouldn't believe the hell I caught for referring to meat once as "food with a face". You would think I had burned a flag.

Charlie Mas said...

Back to the actual question...

Yes, the alternative schools are expected to use the District-adopted textbooks just as much as the attendance area schools are expected to use them.

It is not, however, an impenetrable wall.

First, schools can request a waiver for permission to use other texts. North Beach is using the Saxon books and an elementary in West Seattle - I think it's Schmitz Park - is using the Singapore math textbooks. I'm not aware of any middle schools who aren't using the CMP2 materials, and NOVA may be the only high school (outside of the service schools) that offers math classes which are not anchored by the District-adopted texts. NOVA also offers math classes that do use the District-adopted texts.

The second potential breach lies in the fact that the District has no way to control HOW the teachers use the books. They are free to use them as paperweights and rely almost entirely on "supplemental" materials. Because this practice is sort of "gray market" (not exactly allowed but not exactly prohibited), there's no telling how often or where it is done. I do recall that even one of the proponents of the reform pedagogy, in his testimony to the Board, said that he used direct instruction for the most critical elements of his class. Since the District-adopted textbooks do not support direct instruction he must also supplement those lessons with outside materials.

I don't think you will get a clear, straight answer if you were to ask a teacher about their use of supplemental materials or their fidelity of implementation.

uxolo said...

(M G-J is jumping in on the trend that is unnecessary in a city with so many wealthy, highly educated families. If only the families would take control from her.)
The Education Week Spotlight on Common Standards brings together a collection of articles hand-picked by our editors including insights on:
the Common Core effort to establish uniform expectations for the nation's students;
the development process of crafting draft standards;
who is involved in deciding what math and language arts skills students will need to know;
the commonality of standards across states;
expert commentary on how national content standards compare to the standards currently in use and related assessment and curriculum issues;
web resources on common academic standards.

LynneC said...

Has anyone been able to attend the district meetings and obtain information about the substance and timing of the alignment efforts?

Aurora said...

reader-- I find your comments indicating that special ed wastes money offensive.

Maureen said...

LynneC I was at last night's meeting at BHS. There were maybe 15 community members there and an equal number of staff (including Dr. G-J, Michael Tolley, Kathy Thompson (sp?) and a guy named David ___ who was described as in charge of the "AP grant."). Kathleen Vasquez did the presentation for the most part.

Instructional Materials Adoption Timeline was slide number 21:
* Math-Completed
* Language Arts-February 2010
* Science_Fall 2010
* Social Studies 4th and 8th-April 2010
* High School Social Studies-Fall 2010
*World Languages-French/Japanese April 2010

Something I didn't know: the idea of standard LA textbooks has been abandoned--now they are proposing literature lists with (I believe) two required books per semester.

There is an LA Adoption Survey for us all to complete on the website, but I believe it ends TODAY (may be extended because of tonight's Garfield meeting), so go now if you are interested.

LynneC said...

It's interesting the focus in so many of these posts on "remediation" when I think that many kids who are not succeeding in school don't necessarily need remediation. Although there are a number of existing supports for kids who are falling behind, and there is special education, many students with subtle but very debilitating learning disabilities fall through the cracks. As a teacher once said to me, these kids, with dyslexia and other language based and memory disabilities don't necessarily need "more", they need "different". They need to be taught differently.

To do this successfully, you need smaller class sizes so that teachers can differentiate.

You need teachers who are trained to identify learning disabilities, because often times these kids are labeled as "not trying" or "acting out" by well-meaning teachers who haven't been educated in identifying these kids.

You need early intervention, because kids with these issues need to be identified and helped in the early grades. Middle school is almost too late for these students.

And you need a different approach to and better funding of special education. Special education is not fully funded by the state. SPS contributes additional funds to support these kids, so there is a built in incentive on the district's part to qualify as few students as possible for special ed. School psychs, who do the testing necessary for such qualification, have a surprising amount of discretion in deciding whether to even do a special ed evaluation. Many kids, particularly those whose families lack the time and resources to advocate for their kid, never get the help they need. Such students fall increasingly behind, and understandably lose confidence in themselves and interest in school. I think those kids make up a huge chunk of that 30%.

The answer to all of this? Better funding for education.

emeraldkity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan NE said...

Every so often - some on this blog says that action is needed. It has happened several times in discussions that I have participated in. As soon as I suggest some ideas for genuine action, the conversation ends. I have only been active on this blog for a few weeks, and this has happened several times now - most recently on this strand:

Why is this happening? It's really frustrating. Are my ideas so bad? If they are, why doesn't anyone call me on them or suggest better ideas? Does this mean I misunderstand the purpose of this blog?

LynneC said...

Maureen, thanks for the info. I'm just seeing your comment now and I can't believe that there was a parent survey on LA adoption that I never knew about, and that is now closed. Arrgh.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, thanks for the clarification. Your answer "Yes, the alternative schools are expected to use the District-adopted textbooks just as much as the attendance area schools are expected to use them" makes me wonder what is optional about an option school. But that is probably a discussion for another thread.

adhoc said...


Alternative schools use the district mandated materials, and teach the districts "core knowledge base", but their teaching styles may vary. Some alts use expeditionary learning, some use project based learning, others use experiential learning, etc.

The alternative school that my kids attended also did a lot in the way of community building...they had A LOT of field trips (one or two per week), had a strong focus on the arts, took 2 camping trips per year, had portfolio nights, talent shows, family math nights, and things like that.

In addition alternative schools use the "alternative school report card", which is a different (though I'm not sure exactky how) than the regular report cards. Assessment can also be more thorough as they not only use the district mandated tools like WASL, but they also use portfolios, student presentations, peer evaluation, teacher narrative assessment instead of straight grades, etc

And, some alternative schools also have themes like social justice (TOPS), Native American Studies (Pathfinder), Expeditionary learning outward bound (Thornton Creek), democratic freeschool (AS1).

I'm sure there are a lot of other things that make alt schools unique, but these are the things I think of off hand.

dan dempsey said...

Here is a great report that gives some real insight into how bad the district plan was to adopt no materials below Algebra I for high school.

Misplaced Students in Algebra
by Tom Loveless
NMAP panelist

Remember about 25% of Seattle students entering grade 9 have been unable to score above WASL level 1 on the grade 8 WASL Math test.

seattle citizen said...

adhco, that was a very good description of alternatives.

Now that SAP has changed, alts and other option schools might do well to self-reflect on what, exactly, makes them unique, then include that reflection in a report that also correlates their work, their unique pedagogies, with district expectations such as WASL (HSPE) MAP and other data-gathering methodologies.

Alts provide unique services, but need to demonstrate what those are and how they fit into the district's overall system.

Charlie Mas said...

One of the reasons that we are all looking forward to the Alternative Audit is for the clearer definition of the mission and operational freedom of Alternative Schools.

It meant one thing in a context of site-based management but it means something else in the context of curricular alignment and more central contral.

Joan NE said...

I understand that Elaine Packard, a long-time (now retired) principal at Nova and alt education advocate is not looking forward to the audit of alt school program. I don't know her reasons, but my impression is that she doesn't think it is going to help the alt school advocacy.

You can find a short bio of Elaine at this url: I don't know her reasons for having reservations.

By the way, it might be constructive to urge the board to create an Advisory and Oversight committee similar to the one described in the URL just cited.

My expectation is that purpose of the audit will be to identify for the district how it can most effectively and efficiently complete its program of converting alt schools to traditional schools.

This is based on a) patterns I have seen in the suite of review reports that have been prepared for the District, b) the wild discrepancy between the District-executive summary of the APP program review as compared to the Exec Sum written by the review authors, and c) the CSIPs for AS#1 and Pathfinder.

Chris said...

I would suggest alternative schools define the "good" version of curricular alignment: if our students can still meet the same standards then we should be able to choose whatever methods and materials we see fit.
The main difficulty would then be assessment of the standard-meeting in schools that choose to use alternative (other than standardized testing) assessments.

And BTW Harium assured the Alt School Coalition that C54 is "alive and well" last night - so we do have some grounds on which to base these kinds of requests.

Joan NE said...

Dan dempsey: near the top of this strand, you supplied data on WASL Pass rates for Black students in math grade 3-8th & 10th.

I didn't understand why you showed this data. To me it says that this district's black students have closed the achievement gap compared to the state-wide averages for black students, and that all of the closing occured after 2005-2006. This seems to suggest that the district-adopted curriculum has helped these students catch up.

So I don't see how this relates to the point you were making within the comment in which the data was embedded.

It could be though, that EDM is better aligned with the WASL than was TERQ, but this is not proof that either EDM or TERQ is a good math curriculum, only that it is aligned.

I have no doubt that geniune math achievement would improve - especially for those students who do not have access to extra math support and who are currently not highly successful in math - if this district used a genuinely sound and strong math curriculum

Joan NE said...

Chris - You make great points.

Harium said last night that has some control over board-review of the C54 policy, so we need to urge him to insist on meaningful cummunity engagement if the board ever contemplates modifying/etc C54.

The fact that the Board is supporting the Sup's decision to not let Thornton creek exercise its right to curricular autonomy (accorded by C54) shows to me that the Board is not doing its job of insisting that the Sup uphold board policy.

In response to my specific concern that the sup violated C54 when denied TC's math waiver request, Harium said to me after the mtg that to let every alt choose its own curriculum has certain problems. Later, after thinking about his answers, I realized that there is a valid counterresponse to every objection he raised. I don't think the Board/District can strongly defend their unwillingness to uphold the autonomy C54 accords to alt schools.

Maybe we should say, "It is your duty, in general, to hold the superintendent accountable for upholding Board Policy, and to write policy that reflects the community's values and priorities. Specifically, we want C54, a very good policy and a popularly supported policy, upheld!"

The danger of course is that the Board will suspend/revoke/alter C54to take away the essential priveleges of alt schools.

Last night at a Curr. Align. engagement mtg, a parent raised the concern the district can err when it chooses a district-wide curriculum, resulting in adverse consequences for every student in the District. The parent went on to say that the District has a poor track record for picking strong curriculum - EDM cited as an example. Dr. Enfield (chief academic officer) countered by saying (effectively, IMO) that she doesn't believe that the math curriculum is widely disliked.

I wish someone had thought to challenge Dr. Enfield to arrange for the district to pay for a disinterested third party to conduct - and then publicize the results of - a well-publicized parent and student survey of "customer satisfaction" with the math curriculum.

The district always claims that the public generally supports whatever it is that the district wants to do. I'd like to see the DATA. The district loves data, but only that data which supports their (Broad Foundation) agenda. This is why the District in general will be strongly opposed to conducting customer satisfaction surveys on any question for which they are not certain they will get strong support.

Joan NE said...

Chris - it is easy to make a research-based case that best practices in assessment is to allow for multiple forms of assessment, and to avoid reliance on student scores on a single standard test as the basis for assessement and critical decisions.

Anyone who says that high stakes testing is valid, reasonable, and best-practice, is either lying or is ignorant.

Joan NE said...

Just want to let you all know that with the help of a former Board member, I am writing up a voters pledge. Please write to me at if you can help with settinp up a website, circulating pledge forms, reviewing the draft pledge, or other small tasks.

you can reach me at

seattle citizen said...

Those who've read my comments over the years might be surprised to hear this, but:

There are many aspects of some of the current changes to the district that I like:
Consider this "package" - Common curriculum, MAP, RtI

This is a big district, some 45000 students, 90 schools...There are certain things that we citizens want students to learn (as codified in policy). Do all classrooms teach what we citizens (Board) want taught? probably not. Is there rhyme or reason to the different content, pedagogies etc? Probably not.

So how do we know what's going on? Trust?

More importantly, there are students behind and ahead who aren't having their needs met or their levels addressed. How do we do THAT?

First, identify need: where is a student at, what do they need? This can be general or specific. So how does the district, our publicly run school district, ascertain need? MAP, HSPE, and classroom assessments. None of these is effective on its own, but each can lend a hand in helping identify where students are.

Many whose children are doing "okay" might not see the need for this - they can SEE their kid is getting a good education: They might talk to the kid, they might have the education themselves to both augment instruction and check progress at home...but many parent/guardians don't have these abilities, so who sees where THEIR kids are at? The district.

Common curriculum: So we have a district that is supposed to teach certain things. How does the district know students are being taught these things, how does district know where students are at on these things....Trust? Is that fair to the student? So MAP, a common assessment around common curricular mandates, helps inform that, and to use that you need some common pieces of curriculum.

I've argued long and hard that it's impossible to use these tools to evaluate a teacher, and I still stand by that to some degree, as it is not precise - students assess differently etc. But a common tool can provide some understanding of student need, and common strategies (not a scripted curriculum, but common tools such as mind maps etc) can help 1) teach things that are expected; 2) allow students to be exposed to these strategies in similar ways over time, in ways that show common understanding and use.

RtI: Finally, this piece takes the information gained from MAP, HSPE, classroom assessments and observation, and addresses student needs on the fly: Student is given higher or lower level lessons (differentiation), student receives in-class support of issues, student then receives out-of-class support, finally, if student is still behind or ahead or whatever, if classroom/building is not enough, some other building might be utilized: Re-entry, another learning environment ("option"..."choice"..."alternative"..."academny...")

So the district becomes more organized, due to some commonalities. It has the responsibility to do this, and for the benefit of students should do some of this (to a degree...we DON"T need scripts)

Whither goest the alts? In this new paridigm, the district supplies transportation to a variety of programs: Maritime Academy, Language Immersion, Altertnative, Music...To meet the identified needs of each student. Students might self-select such a program, or be identified as benefiting from such a program...

Me personally, I'd be happy to do away with "grade level" entirely and change to system that used proficiency levels to advance students: They might take LA9, MA10, SCI12 and HIS08 during any given quarter if that's the level they test into, just like in community colleges. In fact, I'd streamline it INTO comm colleges, so a 15-year-old can take college-level courses when they reach that level

Chris said...

Joan said:
This is why the District in general will be strongly opposed to conducting customer satisfaction surveys on any question for which they are not certain they will get strong support.

LOL: this totally explains the wording of the SAP survey...

EDM satisfaction survey:
1) Do you believe the EDM curriculum has numbers in it?

2) Do you believe the "M" in EDM stands for "math?"

seattle citizen said...

All that said, my point is that various types of programs, including alts, can exist successfully (and offer choice) but it would be helpful if they fit into the larger scheme, and the district taking responsibility for noting where students are, at what level, is part of this scheme: it's the district's job, and students should be served in ways that best suits their level and interest.

Joan NE said...

Seattle Citizen - I absolutely LOVE your suggestion for eliminating grade levels - it's BRILLIANT!

Chris: What does LOL mean? Do you have a link for/copy of the EDM survey?

Joan NE said...

I followed Charlie's suggestion and went to a Curriculm Alighment event. I heard Dr. Enfield speak and field questions. Unlike Charlie, I am not at all re-assured about Curriculum Alignment.
The responses to many comments from parents were alarming. IT was clear to me that many popular core credits (as they currently are embodied)will be eliminated in order to achieve district-wide uniformity.

Dr. Enfield mentioned the "eye" test. this is a pretty close paraphrase: "I have to be able to look parents [especially those contemplating private vs public] in the eye when I assure them that their child will be able to enjoy a certain level of experience regardless of what SPS school their child would be assigned to."

Of course, Dr. E. can't pass the eye test so easily UNLESS the schools are uniform, nor can the resegregating Plan to Eliminate Choice (SAP) be justified if the schools are not all virtually identical.

I doubt, if the parents were surveyed, that they would say they desire this uniformity, at the cost of eliminating the courses that their children have really enjoyed, especially since for many kids the unique courses are a hook to keep the kids interested in school.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Joan NE,

Nice observation on WASL Black math performance but wrong conclusion about the district choice of instructional materials being responsible for anything positive.

Until very recent math adoptions (a year ago) The states schools were over 90% reform math grades k-5. In 6,7,8 65% used Connected Math or Connected Math 2. Seattle's gains I believe were due to increasing instructional time to 75 minutes daily from likely 45 to 50 minutes and NOT the materials.

Take a look at White Black WASL gaps over the last decade for the district and you will better understand my point about poor instructional materials and poor instructional methods.

The Gaps for Math
grades 4, 7, 10

4th Grade Math
Year District Blk District Wh
1997-98 14.20% 52.50%
1998-99 12.00% 55.10%
1999-00 17.20% 62.90%
2000-01 15.00% 65.60%
2001-02 22.30% 70.00%
2002-03 31.10% 71.80%
2003-04 36.40% 78.00%
2004-05 33.10% 79.60%
2005-06 31.30% 76.00%
2006-07 32.00% 79.80%
2007-08 27.60% 73.90%
2008-09 29.10% 78.80%

White-Black GAP
4th Grade Math
1997-98 38.30%
1998-99 43.10%
1999-00 45.70%
2000-01 50.60%
2001-02 47.70%
2002-03 40.70%
2003-04 41.60%
2004-05 46.50%
2005-06 44.70%
2006-07 47.80%
2007-08 46.30%
2008-09 49.70%

dan dempsey said...

7th Grade Math
Year District Blk District Wh
1997-98 2.30% 35.00%
1998-99 4.70% 46.50%
1999-00 6.30% 48.20%
2000-01 5.10% 48.40%
2001-02 6.80% 45.80%
2002-03 7.30% 50.00%
2003-04 15.00% 64.10%
2004-05 17.40% 65.10%
2005-06 17.70% 67.60%
2006-07 24.10% 73.40%
2007-08 24.20% 72.80%
2008-09 23.10% 74.40%

White-Black GAP
7th Grade Math
1997-98 32.70%
1998-99 41.80%
1999-00 41.90%
2000-01 43.30%
2001-02 39.00%
2002-03 42.70%
2003-04 49.10%
2004-05 47.70%
2005-06 49.90%
2006-07 49.30%
2007-08 48.60%
2008-09 51.30%

10th Grade Math
Year District Blk District Wh
1998-99 5.40% 41.30%
1999-00 8.30% 48.50%
2000-01 6.10% 52.70%
2001-02 8.10% 53.80%
2002-03 7.00% 52.50%
2003-04 11.30% 58.70%
2004-05 12.90% 57.10%
2005-06 21.70% 72.20%
2006-07 19.60% 70.80%
2007-08 16.00% 68.30%
2008-09 16.30% 69.90%

White-Black GAP
10th Grade Math
1998-99 35.90%
1999-00 40.20%
2000-01 46.60%
2001-02 45.70%
2002-03 45.50%
2003-04 47.40%
2004-05 44.20%
2005-06 50.50%
2006-07 51.20%
2007-08 52.30%
2008-09 53.60%

Now for Reading

4th Grade Reading
Year District Blk District Wh
1997-98 30.60% 72.30%
1998-99 33.50% 77.00%
1999-00 40.30% 81.40%
2000-01 41.30% 82.30%
2001-02 43.40% 80.60%
2002-03 47.70% 82.60%
2003-04 55.70% 87.50%
2004-05 61.60% 90.90%
2005-06 61.60% 90.50%
2006-07 64.90% 90.20%
2007-08 56.80% 87.80%
2008-09 53.60% 89.80%

4th Grade Reading
1997-98 41.70%
1998-99 43.50%
1999-00 41.10%
2000-01 41.00%
2001-02 37.20%
2002-03 34.90%
2003-04 31.80%
2004-05 29.30%
2005-06 28.90%
2006-07 25.30%
2007-08 31.00%
2008-09 36.20%

7th Grade Reading
Year District Blk District Wh
1997-98 12.20% 53.10%
1998-99 16.70% 62.60%
1999-00 15.40% 58.10%
2000-01 15.90% 57.80%
2001-02 20.10% 63.60%
2002-03 21.40% 66.40%
2003-04 30.50% 73.60%
2004-05 39.30% 78.90%
2005-06 33.80% 78.70%
2006-07 48.90% 82.50%
2007-08 43.60% 78.40%
2008-09 37.30% 76.10%

White-Black GAP
7th Grade Reading
1997-98 40.90%
1998-99 45.90%
1999-00 42.70%
2000-01 41.90%
2001-02 43.50%
2002-03 45.00%
2003-04 43.10%
2004-05 39.60%
2005-06 44.90%
2006-07 33.60%
2007-08 34.80%
2008-09 38.80%

10th Grade Reading
Year District Blk District Wh
1998-99 15.90% 54.70%
1999-00 25.40% 70.50%
2000-01 26.50% 67.70%
2001-02 23.20% 71.20%
2002-03 24.20% 72.50%
2003-04 31.50% 75.40%
2004-05 47.20% 80.30%
2005-06 61.40% 92.90%
2006-07 61.40% 88.00%
2007-08 66.60% 88.30%
2008-09 66.80% 91.30%

White-Black GAP
10th Grade Reading
1998-99 38.80%
1999-00 45.10%
2000-01 41.20%
2001-02 48.00%
2002-03 48.30%
2003-04 43.90%
2004-05 33.10%
2005-06 31.50%
2006-07 26.60%
2007-08 21.70%
2008-09 24.50%

seattle citizen said...

What I find rather strange is that the percent gap between district and Blacks seems to have gone down in every grade and subject until the year before last, when all grades/subjects swung back up.

I wonder why this is: were all lessons less effective that year, in math and reading?


dan dempsey said...

Dear Joan NE,

Thanks for taking a look at the data. The thing I find the most shocking about the school board is that year after year they continually buy into the Central Admin's bogus reasoning and keep going with the Party Line (as spewed forth by UW ED and other marketeers of Nonsense).

Hattie's "Visible Learning" says it all. Education is NOT an evidence based profession. Until the public revolts against this ED NONSENSE we will be stuck with moronic decision making.

Project Follow Through (at a cost of close to 1 billion carried out over 28 years) that specifically looked at the best models for teaching educationally disadvantaged learners in grade k-3 is completely ignored by the SPS. Same goes for the National Math Advisory Panel report "Foundations for Success", which is also strongly data based. SPS could care less. The high school math adoption committee did not even reference NMAP. Only Ms. de la Fuente brought it up in her presentation, with two meaningless quotations from it.

The evidence is there to make good decisions ... but decisions are made to be in the politically in "Club Ed" good graces.

{I believe that Ms. de la Fuente, with a BA in English, is now a PhD. candidate in Math ED at the UW.}

dan dempsey said...

Seattle Citizen,

Nice observation about all the gap increases last year. Perhaps it was just random chance that 6 measurements all got worse.
That is a 2^6 chance. Hey 1 out of 64.

The entire neglectful approach of ignoring "What has been shown to work" in order to continue with "Fairy-tale" projects is my beef.

dan dempsey said...

Seattle Citizen,

I just ran gaps for low income 4th grade students.... you can now extend your observation to 8 for 8.

Low Income Students Gaps for grade 4

4th Grade Math
Year District LI District Wh
2001-02 35.30% 70.00%
2002-03 37.80% 71.80%
2003-04 40.30% 78.00%
2004-05 37.50% 79.60%
2005-06 39.30% 76.00%
2006-07 40.00% 79.80%
2007-08 33.70% 73.90%
2008-09 36.20% 78.80%

White-Low Income GAP
4th Grade Math
2001-02 34.70%
2002-03 34.00%
2003-04 37.70%
2004-05 42.10%
2005-06 36.70%
2006-07 39.80%
2007-08 40.20%
2008-09 42.60%

4th Grade Reading
Year District LI District Wh
2001-02 50.90% 80.60%
2002-03 49.30% 82.60%
2003-04 55.70% 87.50%
2004-05 61.20% 90.90%
2005-06 67.00% 90.50%
2006-07 66.60% 90.20%
2007-08 58.50% 87.80%
2008-09 57.60% 89.80%

White-Low Income GAP
4th Grade Reading
2001-02 29.70%
2002-03 33.30%
2003-04 31.80%
2004-05 29.70%
2005-06 23.50%
2006-07 23.60%
2007-08 29.30%
2008-09 32.20%

dan dempsey said...

On to Court: HERE

Brief Filed in Court Challenge of Seattle High School Math Text Adoption

Joan NE said...

Dan - thanks for responding to my question. Good answer. You and SC make lots of good points and raise many important questions about this data. I think it is very constructive to look at the data very closely as you are.

If you think it would help to prepare graphs of the data (might make it easier to visualize the data and to ascertain the important information contained therein), I can help you with that.

If these reports that you cite are peer reviewed and are compelling, then these reports are really important. They prove the District's rigid commitment to reform math is not justifiable scientifically. (The fact EDM is one of the only curricula that IES What Works Clearinghouse recommends is weak support for this curriculum, since there are many problems with the way IES-WWC assesses curricula.)

Please keep us informed of how the court case progresses.

I just found a Board policy that might be helpful as another route for inducing the District to reconsider its entire K-12 curriculum. This policy allows individual parents to file an Instructional Materials Complaint with their principal, and then appeal all the way to the Board. If many parents do this - especially if simultaneously - the more effective the strategy would be.

The policy is C32.01 "Instructional Materials Complaint Procedure" []

I have children at two different schools. I intend to file complaints at both schools not later than Monday.

If enough people did this, then the PI-online and other local newspapers might carry a story on this.

I am thinking that it might help a lot with both the math curriculum problem and with many other issues in this District, if the Board would adopt a policy that the District and the Board must make a reasonable effort to conduct meaningful community engagement (which in my mind means a number of specific activities, and would entail a strong role for an Advisory and Oversight Committee) and must use the data to inform District and Board decisions, so that the decisions appropriately and to the fullest practical and legal extent reflect the values and preferences of the primary stakeholders (parents and students). I would want teachers (secondary stakeholders) to be given a little less weight, and for tertiary and quartenary stakeholders to have the least influence.

Do you, SC, or anyone think this would be much help?

In my view, we have seen little to no genuine, meaningful community engagement from this administration and Board, nor can any of us have confidence that this administration's and Board's decisions and priorities reflect the values and priorities of the community, much less have confidence that this Superintendent has any idea or even interest in learning and knowing what are this community's values and priorities.

In my view, the District shows almost no accountability to the public, and a new policy along this line could go far to address this problem.

seattle citizen said...

Joan NE,
Wherever you can get community/parent support and assistance in SPS is a good thing. A Board Policy around comunity engagement? There might already be one.

1) to be powerful, "community" must be powerful: numbers, law, research...whatever give the community power to be effective. I don't know that policy creation is in the communities purview, but they might be able to influence it.

2) Collaboration:
Who wants to work with someone who is coming from an oppositional approach? Not to say you, but if any power is to be successfully wielded, it needs either a lot of strength or a lot or collaboration - unless one can MAKE the institution do something, one has to work with it.

So approach it as a collaborative and positive mission. If it's done as a piece of opposition, all those who are OF the institution (and there are thousands) will be either caught in the middle or knee-jerk reactionaries to the challenge.

Yes, I like the idea of board policy around collaboration. Your weighted system strikes me as a good idea, but I wonder which parents will have power and say, and which won't. If the system is heavily influenced by SOME parents, who speaks for the others? I believe that "good" institutions can stand as the voice for the powerless...

Joan NE said...

SC I certainly can use some coaching on how to be more effective. I am pretty new at activism. In this regard, are you referring to my plan to use the instructional materials complaint process to try to get the district to revisit its math adoptions?

I bring up the idea for a commmunity engagement policy because I saw that Board policy is that parents can make suggestions for policy.

Yes, there is already a community engagement policy, and the Superintendent is following it. So you see, the problem is the policy doesn't call for meaningful engagement.

So I am suggesting that a parent -even better a large group of parents - draft a suggestion for a new policy, and ask a Board member to sponsor it. It would be best to find a Board member - perhaps chair of the appropriate committee - to give us some feedback on a draft policy suggestion.

This group would address the problem of finding an appropriate formula and procedure for getting appropriate membership. I am thinking that this could then be a model for membership composition of an ongoing Advisory and Oversight Committee for Meaningful Community Engagement, whose job would be, at minimum, to monitor District compliance with the spirit and the requirements of the community engagement policy.

SPS mom said...

Some good research on K-12 math materials can be found at Laurie Rogers' blog "Betrayed"

Joan NE said...

This is Policy E20.00, entitled "Communication with the Community." This pertains to community engagement. There may be community engagement requirements embedded in other policies. I will post those when I find them.

"It is the policy of the Seattle School Board to provide the public with timely, accurate information and to solicit community input. Because it believes that the strength and success of the schools are tied to the knowledgeable support of the public, the School Board expects staff members to stimulate two-way communications with all District employees and the Seattle community."

dan dempsey said...

Dear Joan NE,

Drop me a line at:

I will hook you up with the local data king, Mr. Orbits, who has "Mined" incredible data for local school districts and produced great graphs and reports.

I sent applicable ones to the board as did Mr. Orbits. Mike DeBell got it but Sundquist, Chow, Maier, Carr decided to live in Admin fairyland instead on the High School math adoption decision.

It will be interesting to see if the Jan 11, 2010 court hearing gets any of the public more involved.