Sunday, February 21, 2010

Legislatively Speaking

I attended Harium's Community meeting and the 43rd Dems meeting (partial) yesterday. Here are some updates (add on if you attended either or Michael DeBell's meeting).

We covered a fair amount of ground with Harium but a lot on the math ruling/outcomes. Here's what he said:
  • the Board will decide what will happen from the math ruling. I asked Harium about who would be doing what because of how the phrasing the district used in their press release - "In addition to any action the School Board may take, the district expects to appeal this decision." It made it sound like the district (1) might do something different from the Board and (2) the district had already decided what they would do. Harium said they misspoke and it was probably the heat of the moment.
  • He seems to feel the judge erred. He said they did follow the WAC rules which is what she should have been ruling on but didn't. I probably should go back and look at the complete ruling but it seems like not going by the WAC would open her decision up to be reversed so why would she have done it? He said the issue was that there are statewide consequences to this ruling and that Issaquah and Bellevue (or Lake Washington?) are doing math adoptions and this ruling is troubling. I gently let Harium know that the Board needs to follow the law, needs to be transparent in their decision-making and the district needs to have balanced adoption committees or else this could happen again. No matter how the district or the Board feel, the judge did not throw out the case, did not rule against the plaintiffs but found for them. The ball is in the Board's court and they need to consider this going forward with other decisions.
  • He stated that the Board had met in Executive Session on the issue and would make an announcement on Tuesday or Wednesday as to what they would do. I asked if this would be a joint decision with the district and he was a bit vague and said it was a Board decision. So look for that. He did say they would NOT be reviewing all the math materials. The judge's ruling has no force except for a review and I believe that is all they will do. What form it will take will probably be in the announcement. As one person there pointed out (I'm sorry I forgot your name), they shouldn't waste the money appealing if all they have to do to satisfy the ruling is do a review.
  • He said they could (1) appeal to the Supreme Court on finding of fact or (2)not appeal and just do the review. But I'm wondering if the Board/district feel like they should appeal in order to try to ward off any future lawsuits. I'm thinking there's going to be an appeal.
  • He was asked about the appearance of a "stacked" math adoption committee but he waved that off. I'm not sure everyone at the table was happy with that.
  • Also about math, apparently at least some schools are NOT doing 6th grade math placement tests for 5th graders. No reason has been given yet. It's odd because in middle school you are placed according to your ability so that even kids not in Spectrum or APP can take higher level math if appropriate. Anyone heard anything? I heard it was Hamilton not giving the tests so far.
  • Also, there was a bit of talk about math waivers. Schmitz Park has one to use Singapore and North Beach has one for Saxon. Apparently, Thorton Creek wants one to use...TERC? Harium thinks the old waivers will stay but new waivers might be more problematic. However, someone from North Beach did go to the last Board meeting worried about the waiver continuing (it has to be renewed year to year). I'd be worried too.
  • There was some discussion over perhaps having TWO math adoptions and schools can choose. (This came from Harium himself.) Like this idea? Tell your Director. Also, it seems there are supplemental materials for parents/students use at home (both hard copy and online) but many parents don't know this is available and some schools haven't communicated this well to parents.
  • He also mentioned that they would be continuing to update their curriculum policies and the next one was C.21 which I haven't looked up yet.
  • I asked Harium if any of the directors had ever visited a STEM school. He said he had but that he didn't know if anyone else had.
  • On the budget, the order is to keep the cuts away from the classroom. I pointed out that they have continued to hire (filling empty posts not new ones but still) and that I know of travel plans right now for one school's administrators. He said that sometimes travel funding comes out of grants. I told him that transparency on that issue would help so that it wouldn't be confusing. He said he had paid for a plane ticket himself because he didn't want to use grant money.
  • There was some discussion about the unevenness of Spectrum. This lead to a discussion of a possible Spectrum at Sand Point since BF Day is the only Spectrum in that area (and it's just starting). However, there is also Spectrum at nearby View Ridge and Wedgwood. (I say who cares if there are eligible students?) Then that led to a discussion of why not foreign language immersion at Sand Point? What I understand is that the area around Sand Point will have a large number of ELL students with multiple languages. One person thought it was mostly Spanish-speaking students so immersion would be good. If it were just one language, I could see it but if you have kids coming in who don't know English or Spanish, it could be a problem.
  • Harium said he really liked the principal selected for Sand Point and had great faith the school would get a good start. He said as well that many parents seemed committment and excited about starting a new schoool. He said that for the positions available at the new schools, they would be posted internally ahead of all other available positions.
43rd District Meeting

I had asked Harium about the possibility of advocating for the money from the expiring stadium tax (expiring next year) going to education (but naturally leaving the portion currently going to the arts to stay in place). He said he hadn't thought about it but wouldn't be against it. So I brought it up at the 43rd Dems meeting as well as the issue of lifting the levy lid. (This was a pretty well-attended meeting for a beautiful Saturday but many organizations that support low-income people are very worried about cuts.)

The reply from Rep. Petersen was that the stadium tax money,when the levy ends, would roll back into the General Fund and that it would be better accessed for education that way. He also said he understood my point about that raising the levy lid wouldn't help small districts and would likely deepen the financial divide between districts but that it was the best short-term solution.

I see what he is saying about letting that stadium tax money roll back into the General Fund but I also see every other program with its hand out. He said the education funding should go back to 50% (as it was in previous years) from 48% which it is now. Do I think it will happen? Maybe but not without a fight. I'd rather see the levy continue and the money earmarked for education. Levy lid? Okay, but things that "short-term" tend to just stay and I have to wonder how much, overall, it will help districts.

21 comments:

Chris said...

Melissa, after you left Mark-the-Math-guy showed up and he had more up-to-date info: the principal who said they are are NOT doing 6th grade math placement tests for 5th graders was misinformed. No reason at this point to think they are doing anything different this year.

dan dempsey said...

Here is another piece that misses the entire point:

"He seems to feel the judge erred. He said they did follow the WAC rules which is what she should have been ruling on but didn't. I probably should go back and look at the complete ruling but it seems like not going by the WAC would open her decision up to be reversed so why would she have done it?"

The Judge Remanded the approval of Discovering.

The board did not use all the evidence available as they should have in making their approval decision.

Appeal was filed on June 5, 2009 by RCW the board has 20 days to send in all the materials on which they based their decision. They sent in 1100 pages of material that included ZERO as in "0" pages from the public.

The plaintiffs upon review of the 1100 pages, then provided the court with NMAP which they felt should be included since Sundquist referenced NMAP as a basis for his decision and might have read it.

The plaintiffs also included over 200+ pages of letters and testimony sent or presented to the board.

If you look up the legal definition of remand here, you will be seriously concerned about why there is any difficulty with Judge Spector's ruling.

Look: If the appellate court decides that the evidence should have been admitted and that the exclusion of the evidence was prejudicial to the party offering it, the appellate court would likely remand the case for new trial and order the evidence introduced.

Let me get this straight.

#1.. Board excludes evidence
#2.. Judge orders Board to deliberate again using all the evidence.
#3 District does not wish to do this. (So much for community engagement, public testimony and writing to the board).

Just super to know that the Superintendent, her staff, and the school board are thinking that excluding evidence provided by the public might be a great course of action.


I think they are just not happy that Judge Spector gave them a heads up that No reasonable director looking at all the evidence could have made an approval decision.

That is a think ahead (heads up) for the district and thinking ahead has never been a strong point for the SPS and TEAM MGJ.

This outfit has been violating Article IX for years. The Plaintiffs made that part of their case.

Take a look here and see.

WOW!!! what ever are these folks thinking. Can Harium or MGJ explain this one?

Well now it all makes perfect sense the message is clear:

"We Don't Care and We think we will never ever need to care about public input unless we choose to."

Folks NEWS FLASH !!! for MGJ

The USA is a republic and citizens even the kids have rights under the constitutions like WA Const. Article IX. Even the oligarchical SPS can not violate them when someone or ones decide to put in thousands of hours and $13,140 in legal fees to protect the rights of the children from the oligarchy.

Appeal away let the broader public know more about The Super.. the Staff .. and the Board.

Hey is could be time to make a donation here.

or think about a T-Shirt here.
=================

Looking for role models for "Arbitrary and Capricious" visit Seattle. We know we have some we are just not sure how many.

dan dempsey said...

The following is truly unbelievable as I had no idea that:
"He stated that the Board had met in Executive Session on the issue and would make an announcement on Tuesday or Wednesday as to what they would do."

Because I was at DeBell's meeting on Saturday from 9 AM to 11 AM and he had very little understanding of what the judge's ruling entailed.

What goes on in an executive session?

Harium does not understand the ruling, DeBell does not understand the ruling.... who presents the board with what is happening .. Howdy Doody?

Unbelievable .. They get a one sentence order and they can't figure it out.

ORDER ... IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:

The decision of the Board to adopt the Discovering Series is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Dated this 4th day of February, 2010.

How difficult is this to figure out?

Try deliberating about the approval again using all the evidence and re-vote. (probably a first time event in recent board history having each and every director using all the evidence).

Article IX: It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

The district is still trying to win this with "correct form" trumps "outcome". It is a logical extension of the math programs the SPS adopts:

Write a bunch of stuff down and don't worry the answer does not count.

When your answer violates article IX, which it clearly does then you lose.

And if you don't lose a whole lot of children will be losing for even more years.

GreyWatch said...

Regarding 6th grade math placement, I recall getting something from either our elementary school (or maybe it was at the Hamilton middle school tour) along the lines of "things will be different this year, but we can't tell you how."

We were told it wouldn't be the same test as last year, but there would be some combination of yet to be determined testing/score evaluation to determine 6th grade math placement. I assumed they want to use MAP scores but don't have it entirely figured out yet.

Also interesting, even though math is no longer part of middle school spectrum (it's just SS/LA), math WASL scores are still part of the criteria for admission to the program.

grousefinder said...

Melissa, I know the answer to this:

"Also about math, apparently at least some schools are NOT doing 6th grade math placement tests for 5th graders."

Some middle schools are going to use the MAP scores. This is contrary to the MGJ's explicit statement that the MAP would not be used for placement. The score for honors placement will likely be 230 (8th grade on a nationally-normed scale).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah, I see.

A teacher told me recently that his/her second grader had to do a math problem about one billion. One billion. He/She said, "I was really startled because my kids are at hundreds and I couldn't understand what she was to do." He/She said that there is a lot of guessing going on with MAP. Needless to say, this teacher is not feeling that the feedback from MAP is helping.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah, I see.

A teacher told me recently that his/her second grader had to do a math problem about one billion. One billion. He/She said, "I was really startled because my kids are at hundreds and I couldn't understand what she was to do." He/She said that there is a lot of guessing going on with MAP. Needless to say, this teacher is not feeling that the feedback from MAP is helping.

udubgrad said...

"He said the issue was that there are statewide consequences to this ruling and that Issaquah and Bellevue (or Lake Washington?) are doing math adoptions and this ruling is troubling."
What? He was elected by Seattle voters to serve students in Seattle. What does other districts have to do with it? Does this give the impression that people, entities outside of Seattle are influencing our board? I'm seeing red flags here.

Charlie Mas said...

There appear to be a number of instances now when the "official truth" is diverging from the actual truth.

The "official truth" is that the District and the Board seriously consider public input. The actual truth is that they do not. The question for Harium - and the other Board Directors - is why no public input was included in the package provided to the Court that contained everything the Board considered when making their decision.

The "official truth" is that MAP will not be used for placement. The actual truth is that it will.

The "official truth" is that middle school students can qualify for Language Arts Spectrum without qualifying for Math Spectrum. Apparently the actual truth is that they cannot.

Someone needs to answer for and reconcile each of these gaps between the "official truth" and the actual truth.

grousefinder said...

Melissa, Here is the real irony about the MAP Test. It is primarily a skills test that students trained in the EDM program are not likely to do well on, given the emphasis on group work, manipulatives, etc. I have seen the 5th grade test administered (even found errors) and noted that the exam is basically an old-fashioned "plug and chug" math exam...up pop the equations or word problems...then solve with standard algorithms. It is really not designed to test an EDM student, which would explain the dismal district-wide scores. The more MAP is used, the worse EDM will look.

If the exam is ever used to evaluate teachers, then they can easily teach old-fasioned problem solving skills after the first test to demonstrate significant growth between Fall and Spring.

I believe that the MAP test could possibly be the undoing of EDM in Seattle.

On a final note...the MAP test pushes above-grade-level mathematical problems at test takers. Of course this promotes guess work, which is counter to all best practices. A teacher examines only that which has been taught or expected. A teacher never puts a test in front of a student that is beyond his/her skill level and tells them to "guess." And yet, SPS asks students to do exactly that three times per year.

StepJ said...

Overall, it doesn't make sense.

You have Board Directors with some very impressive professional success (as in you could not succeed without some smarts) that claim bafflement at the ruling of the Judge.

The ruling seems pretty straight to the point that more personal whim than data was considered in making the decision. It can not be compared to Bellevue that has taken nearly a year of testing texts with a sample of their student population or Issaquah that has taken nearly the same period of time to do inquiry and comparison. The same case would be difficult to show that they have been arbitrary or capricious in their decision.

So what is the truth of a seemingly intelligent and professionally successful BOD not understanding the Discovry ruling?

Chris said...

Hey, I was going to post the chance for seattle to learn a great new word, REMAND but I see Dan beat me to it.

I can add that Harium's was the third community meeting I have attended since the math verdict, and that he was the first to actually answer some questions about the case. Carr and Maier (yes, professional legal expertise) simply refused to discuss it. This probably has less to do with Harium's bravery (or his original no vote on Discovery, which BTW he CLEARLY backed away from) than the occurrence of the executive session in which they were undoubtedly given their talking points.

OOOOHH, WV: repideny
...we followed the process...
...we followed the process...
...we followed the process...

Chris said...

Another reason not to appeal: set a good example for the children.

DO YER BLEEPIN' HOMEWORK!

dan dempsey said...

StepJ ... try this thought....

The board does not wish to re-vote and consider all the evidence with the public watching. Last year 2009 the combined math achievement gaps for 4, 7, 10th grade Black students averaged 51.5% a new high. If they vote again how can anyone fake it this time, with the entire city watching for who will cast the 4th vote to shoot this sorry proposal down?

How many will vote for a high school program that is said to be vertically aligned with the k-8 program that helped produce the largest average math gap for Black students ever at 51.5% ...?

CHECK Scores for Seattle and Bethel
both adopted EDM in 2007, both use Connected for middle school but Bethel started using Discovering in 2006 for High school.

The solution for the board seems to be come-up with the latest fairy-tale reason not to vote.

GreyWatch said...

Charlie - the "official truth" is you can't qualify for language arts spectrum unless your math scores (both on the WASL and SPS administered advanced placement test) are also spectrum level.

They are clear on this policy. Whether you think it makes sense or not is an entirely different question.

wseadawg said...

Does Harium read his own blog for God's sake?

The anti EDM/Discovery comments are like 99% to 1%. Anything possible to toss that crap is what he should be embracing if he truly cares about the needs and desires of the people he supposedly represents.

But, maybe he's an insider now, has learned the ropes, and likes the privileges of incumbancy, so he'll go along with the Board more often. Sure seems like he's becoming more like the others instead of the other way around. Sad.

none1111 said...

grousefinder said: "If the exam is ever used to evaluate teachers, then they can easily teach old-fasioned problem solving skills after the first test to demonstrate significant growth between Fall and Spring.

I believe that the MAP test could possibly be the undoing of EDM in Seattle."


Interesting analysis. I certainly would not advocate for evaluating teachers based solely on test scores, but anything that might encourage teachers to use better materials and methods than EDM might not be all bad. Of course most teachers are not willing or even capable of veering far from the official path (and might be strongly discouraged from doing so), which would leave us with a similar state of haves and have nots that exists now. But over time, I agree that it could help poke (more) holes in EDM.



grousefinder contined "On a final note...the MAP test pushes above-grade-level mathematical problems at test takers. Of course this promotes guess work, which is counter to all best practices. A teacher examines only that which has been taught or expected. A teacher never puts a test in front of a student that is beyond his/her skill level and tells them to "guess." And yet, SPS asks students to do exactly that three times per year."

It seems like you're missing the entire point of this type of test. Whether or not a topic topic has been covered in class, you cannot presume that students are guessing. There are lots of students, especially in a sequential topic like math, who are far ahead and far behind the others. And this is crucial information.

To accurately understand kids' true achievement levels, and following directly from that, whether or not they are learning anything in class, you need to use a norm-referenced assessment like the MAP. Criterion-referenced assessments, like the WASL are useless for this.

seattle citizen said...

none1111, you write that
"Whether or not a topic topic has been covered in class, you cannot presume that students are guessing. "
But we can't know if they guessed. They have a one-in-four chance of getting ir correct.
A high MAP score might indicate high levels (less chance of guess work leading to high score) but a low MAP score tells us little or nothing - student could have just hit keys.

dan dempsey said...

Wseadawg,

Here is the latest

on Harium's Blog

READ THIS.

Chris said...

To extend my homework analogy - a little more thoughtfully:

The judge did not say "you got the wrong answer." What she said was that they should read the whole question and show their work to get credit.

hschinske said...

"A teacher never puts a test in front of a student that is beyond his/her skill level and tells them to "guess." And yet, SPS asks students to do exactly that three times per year."

Because MAP is not a classroom-based assessment. Anyway, it's not as if it had *nothing* except beyond-level material. The MAP contains below-level, on-level, and above-level material. Students who aren't doing well won't even *see* the above-level stuff for more than a few questions! The only students who get a lot of above-level questions are those who have already answered most of the on-level ones correctly, and answer quite a lot of the above-level ones right as well. What in heaven's name is wrong with that? And why are you not equally upset that students who do poorly are assessed chiefly on material that was taught in previous years, rather than what is being taught them this year?

Helen Schinske