Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Q: How can we build Trust? A: By being trustworthy.

I had this really good meeting with Solynn McCurdy this morning. The more I think about it the better I feel about it.

As we were shaking hands and saying good-bye the last thing we were talking about was the idea of presenting a Strategic Plan Update for the community. The Alliance would sponsor the event and it would present a comprehensive and honest accounting of the current status of every Strategic Plan Project. There would be a comprehensive list of all of the projects. For each project there would be information on the project timeline, current status, costs, and compliance with the Community Engagement Protocols.

To the extent that the projects are moving forward and meeting expectations, there would be appropriate credit given. To the extent that the projects are stalled, behind schedule, over budget, wandered astray, and closed to the public, it would be duly noted as well.

A presentation like this would accomplish a number of necessary goals: 1) inform the community, 2) expose the truth to the media and the board who seem oblivious to it, 3) openly state the truth that the District leadership is trying to hide, 4) provide the Alliance with some needed independence and credibility.

I could easily see the Alliance sponsoring a series of authentic engagements in which both sides of District issues could be discussed substansively in a moderated structure. Among them:

* Curricular Alignment vs. Standardization
* The Plan for Intervention
* Do we have struggling schools or schools full of struggling students?
* Assessing and incenting teacher effectiveness
* The role of teacher effectiveness in student achievement
* The role of principal effectiveness in student achievement
* How will Performance Management really work?
* What autonomy can schools earn? (added 7/2/10)
* How can the City of Seattle support Seattle Public Schools
* Authentic Community Engagement by Seattle Public Schools
* The Board's Role
* Successful inclusive classrooms
* Whither Alternative Schools?
* The Vision for Advanced Learning

As you can see, we have material here for a year of monthly presentations.

I would really, really, really like to see District staff answer tough questions - asked in a respectful tone - from informed citizens. Wouldn't you? Don't you think the Alliance could bring the staff to such a forum? Would sponsoring such events alter your perception of the Alliance? Would this even be appropriate work for the Alliance to do? I envision these events recorded on video and available on YouTube.

Not only do I think that we would need the Alliance - or someone very much like them - to get the District staff there, but I WANT the Alliance - or someone very much like them - to sponsor and moderate. They have a credibility with the establishment that we don't have. I think the Seattle Times or the Seattle Channel could also host. For that matter so could the Rotary, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, or the King County Democrats.

The more I think about this, the more I like it. I wonder if I could pitch it as an idea for a monthly (or more frequent) show on the Seattle Channel?

As usual, all of us are smarter and more creative than any of us. Ideas? Suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Charlie: maybe it is part of the discussion on curricular alignment vs. standardization (or maybe part of alt schools), but is there any chance of adding a session for earned autonomy?

It seems to me that what has happened is that the concept was thrown out to parents, but then completely swallowed by the press for standardization. Part of this may just be that the SAP has something of an inherent "bias" towards standardization. When people complain about inequality of access, etc. between schools -- and you can't tell them to just "up and go there" anymore (you never really could before, I know, but conceptually you could) -- the easiest way to quell the complaints is to have the entire district on the same page of the same book in the same course every day. And the push to "measure" teacher performance has a similar bias (easiest to measure if you keep all variables, including curriculum, materials, etc. the same -- and give a big high stakes test every so often to see how it's all working).
But I think that earned autonomy was really important to some people (I know it was to me) -- and it seems to have no champion at Stanford Center.

Given the pressures aligned against it (and maybe a third is that the Supe and her staff seem to really like a top-down management structure, with consultants/experts dreaming up lesson plans, etc. and delivering them down to schools, rather than teachers/schools/alt programs coming up with their OWN curricula and lesson plans), I see no hope that earned autonomy will survive unless parents and the community remind the board and the District that they promised it -- and then requie follow through.

Anonymous said...

I like standardized curriculum. That is, everyone uses the same books and materials. We've already done the "every school do it's own thing" thing, and it didn't work that well. Plus there are economies of scale to consider with standardization. Sure, in an ideal world, maybe there could be an aligned curriculum without a standard set of materials... but it hardly seems worth the risk, and likely isn't possible. We need to plan for mobility, both of students and staff. We need to be able to move teachers where they're needed and not have to worry about the teacher needing to learn whole new curricula and materials. It is grossly inefficient to continue on with the roll-your-own-at-every-school plan.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for alternative schools, for those who can't hack the standardization. We do need some choices. The whole issue (or non-issue) of standard curricula vs aligned curricula is really completely splitting hairs, and irrelevant. For nearly everyone... the two are identical, because nobody really believes they are effectively different.

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous on 7/1/10 at 12:00AM wrote: "We've already done the "every school do it's own thing" thing, and it didn't work that well."

also: "Sure, in an ideal world, maybe there could be an aligned curriculum without a standard set of materials... but it hardly seems worth the risk, and likely isn't possible."

The problem of unaligned curricula - students being presented with third grade content in a fifth grade classroom - was not caused by the diversity of materials and the standardization of materials won't fix it.

That problem needs to be solved by 1)principals knowing what teachers are teaching 2)principals requiring grade level content and, more than anything else 3)early and effective intervention for students working below grade level to get them up to grade level. It won't help students to present them with grade level lessons if they are not prepared to learn them.

The concerns about mobility are contrived. So long as the lessons are on grade level and from the prescribed content the supporting material won't matter - not to the teacher or the student. Curricula should not be dictated by the materials.

The District is making a terrible mistake by doing material-specific professional development. They should be coaching teachers on how to teach multiplying binomials instead of coaching teachers on how to teach page 113. If the professional development were based on the content instead of the materials then the materials wouldn't matter.

Charlie Mas said...

And for Anonymous on 7/1/10 at 12:05AM (pick a pseudonym, will ya?), alternative schools are not for students who can't "hack" standardization. That is erroneous and derisive.

Let me remind you that the District's only really alternative high school is the NOVA Project, which has some of the highest average SAT scores in the District. Students there are plenty capable. They aren't there because they can't "hack" traditional schools.

Charlie Mas said...

But the comments from Anonymous show the need for a full and substansive discussion of these questions.

Anonymous said...

No, the student mobility issue certainly is NOT contrived. What's third grade material? It's the curriculum (materials and instruction) available in third grade. If every school is doing something different, it's a huge problem when kids move. It also creates inconsistencies across schools. These inconsistencies already exist for sure, but why add to them.... just because you can. The issue is, especially in an era of reduced financing, why take needless risks to do something simple like "alignment" when you can just move to it by standardizing texts?

There are other alternative schools besides NOVA. What about Center School? Yes, high performing and that's great. I'm all for it. How about AS1 or Summit or AAA or Orca? Not so high performing. We offer a few alternative schools for those who would do better with them. (That is what I meant by can't hack.)

I certainly hope the district won't waste its time discussing this with you. I'm fairly certain they will not. They do not need to defend themselves.

Sahila said...

"learning" factories in every neighbourhood, churning out little widgets... end of each day, have every little widget chanting each little piece of data that was inputted that day...and god forbid that the little widget has to move to another factory in another neighbourhood and cant chant the party line along with all the other little widgets... cant have any deviation from the 'norm' now can we, firstly because it costs too much and secondly, it might lead to critical thinking and then individuality and then who knows, rejection and rebellion!!!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, good luck. I know Solynn and yes, he's a nice guy with good intentions. (He also said once that he does NOT work for Dr. G-J but that still leaves the Gates Foundation.)

I would love to see even one forum happen but there is no way staff will agree to this. Maybe on their own terms i.e. their Powerpoint presentation with their own language and no questions/discussions. I don't see this as something the head of the Alliance, Sara Morris, would want to do. But sure, it can't hurt to ask.

I do think a monthly show on Seattle channel would be good. I know some people there; we could put something together and pitch it to them.

And yes, Anonymous maybe you are new here. We don't like non-named posts. It becomes confusing if everyone is "Anonymous". Pick a name.

Sahila said...

I have to say, in all fairness, that though they unfriended me off their Facebook page (couldnt stand the heat of all the questions I was asking in their most public forum), The Alliance (even tho its now moderating its blog after our funny little game there) is still publishing my critical contributions.... maybe that's because they think no one reads their blog now... or maybe its because they are trying to stay a little bit faithful to 1st Amendment rights....

I dont know which, but its a small, pleasant, surprise...

Though I have to say I am filled with doubt about your new-found BFF-relationship with them, Charlie...

I would advise caution... didnt Melissa go down that road with them in another arena, and didnt she get burned?

Rose M said...

Standardization, as instituted by SPS, means that teachers can not adjust instruction to meet the needs of students who are ahead or behind, English language learners, children with processing weaknesses or learning disabilities. There can be no response to student interest in going deeper into topics. There can be no benefit from the special gifts or knowledge of particular teachers. In a standardized classroom a NW Native Indian teacher will be doing a photocopied worksheet about the Wampanoags, instead of holding a class potlatch. A child who aces a pretest will not be offered more advanced material for that lesson because “we all work on the same page at the same time”. A child who cannot manipulate fractions will be failing their way through an algebra book.

There seems to be an idea that if every child gets exactly the same input, then every child will give exactly the same output. This must come from someone who doesn’t have 2 children.

Remember the teachers you had that kept you excited about coming to class. Bet they weren’t the ones handing out the same dittos every day.

Anonymous said...

Rose, the curriculum chosen are supposed to handle the variety of needs in the classroom. And yes, I have more than 1 child. It seems you are objecting to a particular curricula, not the notion of having a standard one. As to what I remember. I remember lots of teachers doing very little. I don't remember any really exciting teachers bringing in anything about potlatches or any other gem from their personal backgrounds. We aren't giving up much. Sure, we could continue to take a risk, and hope we get everybody some good potlatch lessons (but probably wouldn't), or we could standardize.

The good teachers I had? I remember a great calculus teacher, who didn't really know a lot about teaching calculus. We all had to struggle through a standard text and figure it out. It was fun to actually work with the teacher and discover it own our own. She didnt' bring special cultural knowledge, or even knowledge of "what worked". And nearly everyone did well on the final AP exams at the end.

Patrick said...

Anonymous of 12:23 PM, you seem to be assuming the standard approach carries no risk, and allowing teachers to customize is a risk. I disagree. The standard approach is not standard because it produces better instruction, it's standard because of politics both internal and external to school districts. Not offending the Texas school board remains an important criterion for publishers, not so much for me.

A good teacher has several ways of teaching anything. If one way doesn't work for some students, those students or the class can get the same material another way.

If you don't want teachers to do that, we could save a lot of money by hiring actors to read the script instead of having those expensive degrees and teaching credentials.

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, Patrick, we would only need one actor. If we videotape the lesson then we could just replay it.

I'm not really looking to re-run the discussion about curricular alignment and standardization here in this thread. We have discussed it already in threads that were devoted to it. If there are people who are interested in having that discussion, then that just goes to show the value in the topic of this thread - having a substantive conversation about school district issues, including curricular alignment and standardization.

If Anonymous (is there only one person writing all of these comments?) wants to re-visit the issue, then I will be happy to start another thread in which we can review the virtues of standardization.

Sahila said...

I dont know why we bother messing about on this any longer...

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

We bus Seattle's 47,000 public school kids into Safeco or Qwest stadiums every day, we break them into grade levels, we park huge video screens in front of each grade level and we feed them data via satellite (cos every city in the US is doing it exactly the same)... one actor to read the scripts... one set of text books across the country, basics only, no languages, no art, no music, no PE, no library, no electives...the only variable is time zones... and that's not a problem cos its not live anyway...

All we need are some security guards to marshall them into and out of the stadiums, make sure kids stay sitting still (they can go back to whipping them for not paying attention) and to stop the fights...

Boxed lunches everyday; dont need to waste time on recess...

No pesky teachers and their unions..

Just think of all the money we'd save...

ArchStanton said...

We bus Seattle's 47,000 public school kids into Safeco or Qwest stadiums every day...

If you can keep them off the streets year-round, I think you have a winner!

seattle citizen said...

IF the Alliance was to present a neutral and balanced and coherent venue or panel for presentation of SPS strategies and actions, I'd be a very happy man. It would go along way towards making them actually OF the community, and not just managers for SPS and various foundations.

I would like to see results of data discussed - student data. How are students doing on MAP? Can we see a student (with name redacted), their MAP results (there have been three tests so far, at least), what this tells the district about that student, and what the district is doing to act on the information to help that specific student?

Could we see other data? Portfolios? Grades? What is being done to help individual students.

I'm not so interested in the program or school changes: I'm interested to know what is being done for individual struggling students and how that is working out.

Meanwhile, I'm going on vacation so y'all will be spared my repetitive chanting about Reform, the Reformistas, Reformatories, and other such evil, dastardly things.

WV, can one have slychi? Isn't that an oxymoron, at least in the Taoist sense...

Anonymous said...

You can both customize and use a standard. In fact, it is pretty much a requirement to customize a standard. What's the problem. Not every curriculum (set of materials) requires a rigid delivery.

No, we don't really need a re-post of the old one crying about standardization. To nearly every person who thinks about it, standards are the way to go. But why would you want to waste even 5 minutes discussing it with anyone at the district? I surely hope they wouldn't waste their time with that. (Wasn't that the original suggestion, standardized curricula needed "community engagement" of some sort). Absurd.

gavroche said...

Sorry, the Alliance has basically zero credibility left after stealthily paying politically connected Washington DC-based NCTQ $14,000 to come to Seattle and critique and criticize our teachers in a preconceived "report", and then hiring a political marketing company (DMA Marketing/Strategies 360) for who knows how many more thousands of dollars, to run a push-poll (using potentially illegally obtained private phone numbers of SPS kids and teachers -- which resulted in a bogus petition allegedly sponsored by a fabricated organization ("Our Schools Coalition") that pushed an ed reform agenda (merit pay and the hiring of unqualified, non-union Teach for America 'teachers') -- none of which any of us parents ever asked for or condoned.

The Alliance has its own agenda, and political and financial connections, that ignores the will of SPS families. Why should anyone believe it could host a forum that would feature objective, inclusive discussion of anything we parents are truly concerned about -- especially when one of those concerns is the undemocratic and unchecked influence of the Alliance itself on the direction of the school district?

MathTeacher42 said...

Charlie -
"They should be coaching teachers on how to teach multiplying binomials instead of coaching teachers on how to teach page 113. If the professional development were based on the content instead of the materials then the materials wouldn't matter."

I think you're writing at a kind of ideal level ;)

Assuming that the teacher knows / is familiar with a bunch of ways of presenting multiplying binomials, I WANT to spend time figuring out what the district materials have and don't have on page 113 -

Of the many skills struggling kids lack, 1 skill they lack is using texts like math books.

IF they're taught AND they learn how to multiply binomials then book won't matter - BUT - BUT

lots and lots and lots of learning in life is real imperfect, so it is REAL important to get accustomed to finding resources which work for you ...

and for me to help them develop that skill, we need to go into page 113 pretty well - what is good, what is bad, what works, what makes NO sense, what makes some sense -

and to get into that kind of detail I need to spend some time on page 113.


Different scenario - IF someone is attempting to teach multiplying binomials and they haven't much of a clue what it is about ... aside from s/he REALLY needs that book to be solid, s/he will need time getting to know that book, cuz that is about all they have when the bell going "ding" !


seattle citizen said...

"You can both customize and use a standard. In fact, it is pretty much a requirement to customize a standard. What's the problem. Not every curriculum (set of materials) requires a rigid delivery"

Standards are the knowledge and skills we want students to know. Curriculum is the way to try and teach them that (and some will not learn some of the standards, not incidentally)

If one is given a curriculum that is scripted (do this, then do this) and then the students are tested in a system that purports to assess those standards, and purports to assess how well the instruction went, one CANNOT deviate from the curriculum.

So there's a problem: IF a teacher were to read a script (follow a given set of materials to a "T"), THEN some students won't get it: students have different background knowledge, different experiences, different needs, wants, attention spans etc etc etc.

But if one varies from the scripted materials, then one a) might have to skip some other part of the materials; b) some students might already know the material and then will spend some time not learning (gasp!) unless teacher also provides some above-level (non-scripted, most likely, yikes!) materials to the students who are above level...

So the classroom is full of students with different abilities, levels etc. One set of materials won't cut it.

The good teachers work their magic and meet a variety of needs (not all of them) and most students get to "standard," the skills and/or knowledge that the class purports to teach.

Yes, standards. No standardized materials and instruction except where it is expected that there will be divergence from those materials and that instruction.

This is what was expected in the past, this divergence. Unfortunately, the direction we seem to be going is towards scripted classrooms, with less ability by the teacher to improvise, and improvise they must.

That's a problem.

seattle citizen said...

oh, and you can't "customize a standard": a standard is a standard. If it is changed, it's not a standard anymore.

(But Charlie is right: we've had this discussion. I feel like wrote what I wrote above in the same exact words not too long ago...

It's deja vu. It's deja vu. It's deja vu all over agin.

Anonymous said...

SC, have you ever actually set foot in a classroom? Take EDM, do you ever see it being delivered? It isn't scripted (but it is the standard materials), there's room for discussion, there's room for multiple levels. It is the district's standard curriculum, and materials. (perhaps you are splitting hairs over ELRs and materials AND materials... really who cares?) Have you ever seen CPM delivered? Also, not scripted, available at multiple levels in one classroom, and available with class projects. And, it's the district standard curriculum and materials. (I guess we've gotta use this extra verbiage for the thick.) Perhaps you don't like these standard materials, but that's really a different issue. I've been in many, many standard classrooms. I've never seen anything like the "evil scripting" or "acting in Safeco field". This sort of paranoia reduces your credibility, collectively.

Charlie Mas said...

I find it ironic that Anonymous (is it just one person?) is questioning anyone else about who they are and what qualifies them to write comments here.

The cheap word games of shifting definitions (Standards/standardization) isn't fooling anyone. Also the re-definition of words, as in, "Not every curriculum (set of materials) requires a rigid delivery.", is a thin deception. It's not effective either.

Anonymous either has no knowledge of the nature, content, or issues around the Alignment/Standardization discussion or is trying to deliberately misrepresent the issues. Anonymous feigns ignorance of the District's "fidelity of implementation" and "level of use" campaigns.

Finally, Anonymous' insulting and dismissive sneering reveals him/her as a troll. Too bad. An interest in discussion must be sincere on both sides.

The first comment had a good point about how the New Student Assignment Plan suggests less variety among schools and the good suggestion of earned autonomy as a discussion topic - of course, that may have been someone else.

Dorothy said...

I didn't think Anonmous is being a troll. I thought he or she had some perspective that would be worth exploring.

What do we mean by scripted lessons and level of use? What do the various board members mean when they say it, what does Enfield or delaFuente think or a coach or a parent or a teacher or a principal? Or the publishers? Or the earnest folk who designed and wrote the materials?

I thought the idea of having a deeper discussion of this sort of thing, with better sharing of understanding, is a good thing. I think it is complicated and that people aren't always talking about the same thing. Unless and until we get people to define themselves more fully, unless and until we get some actual math coaches to stand up and explain what they do every day, a variety of teachers to share what they do and how successful they feel... Well, until all that, I think the conversation ends in the same old stalemate. You get Director Martin-Morris looking me in the eye and saying he and Ms dela Fuente agree on the distinction between curriculum and materials and have it sound like 180 degrees different from what Ms dela Fuente just presented at a work session.

The district has developed a series of videos for PD. We saw one at the math work session. I have some reservations about the tone and the message of the video (so did some board members) but dela Fuente dismissed the board concerns as it was only one of many videos. Honestly, watching these videos and then having time for open discussion could be illuminating.

Sahila said...

Anonymous: I was being facetious, ironic, satirical, sarcastic about the Qwest Field suggestion.... I guess I am just tired off and frustrated by the ill-informed ideas circulating around improving educational outcomes, such as the issue of "aligning curriculum" which in ed-reform speak is really "standardisation", which as Charlie points out are really two very different things...

The rest of you know me... I went off and Googled the words "scripted lessons education reform US" and here's some of what came up:

What Is Authentic Educational Reform?
Pushing Against the Compassionate Conservative Agenda
Edited by Helen L. Johnson, Arthur Salz

"In response to the nationwide attacks on education in the name of educational reform packaged in No Child Left Behind, general analyses and local accounts of these attacks, as well as arguments on behalf of 'authentic educational reform' are badly needed…. This volume offers a useful combination of specific case studies, theory, and policy."

- Gerald Coles, educational psychologist, US

Challenging the compassionate conservative agenda for educational reform -- an agenda which seeks to improve American education through a business model focused on scripted lessons, lock-step approaches to teaching, high stakes-testing, and rigid accountability measures -- this book critiques the assumptions of this agenda, examines the problems that have riddled its implementation in schools, and suggests constructive alternatives. Educational theorists and researchers including Joel Spring, Sonia Nieto, Bill Ayers, and Susan Ohanian, classroom teachers, and parents, offer a mix of perspectives on:

* the social and political contexts of current educational reform initiatives;
* the impact of the compassionate conservative agenda on educational policies and practices;
* the ways in which children and teachers are affected by this agenda and its policies; and
* approaches that hold out hope for implementing authentic education reform.

Intended for education professionals, students, and scholars, What Is Authentic Educational Reform? poses more questions than it answers, but taken together, these questions constitute a foundation for a more informed and thoughtful public conversation about how to refocus reform efforts in a direction that will truly strengthen American public education for all children and their families.

Spruce said...

"Take EDM, do you ever see it being delivered? It isn't scripted (but it is the standard materials), there's room for discussion, there's room for multiple levels"

At the end of each of my sons parent/teacher conferences in elementary school, I would ask the teachers questions about the new curriculum (EDM). The district switched to EDM when my son began 4th grade. Both his 4th and 5th grade teachers said they liked it. Said it was much better than the last materials (Terk), and they were confident using it. And BTW my son had some pretty amazing teachers, that I very much trusted.

In MS, I began asking the same questions about CMP. Same response. From each of the 3 math teachers my son had in MS.

This year I asked his HS math teacher what he thought of the newly adopted Discovering and his answer was the same. He said it was a huge improvement over Integrated, and was completely comfortable and confident using it.

I'm no expert, so I defer to those who are - the classroom teachers. That's how I judge the new materials. It is their opinions who I value far above the district, OSPI, UW school of ed, or a group of unhappy parents. And without fail, not one of my kids teachers have had a problem with the new materials.

I think a good teacher (and my kids have been fortunate to have had many) can take just about any materials and set of standards and make magic happen with them.

Anonymous said...

Look Charlie, your attitude explains exactly why you never get elected. 10 adoring bloggers aren't enough to do it. I know plenty about the standardization issue. Only YOU seem to be caught up in the "standards" vs "curriculum" terminology hairsplitting. How many times have you chided people for not knowing the difference (only perceived by you)? They don't understand it, because only YOU hold that opinion. Further, the district doesn't owe you any more time wasted on this.

Since you seem to require that hairs be split, I'm splitting them for your convenience. There is no other motivation. EG. The school district means "We're using the same materials, as provided by chosen vendors, with the same teaching methods as directed by the vendors, and standardizing on that" when they say "Curriculum" and/or "Standard". That is what most school districts actually do. Best practice. Don't reinvent the wheel hundreds of times when you don't have to. Basic. Have some alternative schools for students whom those standard curricula and standard delivery doesn't work. Fallback plan.

Again. Let's look at what really exists, and compare them to the whining:

CMP, EDM: standard math curricula. Not scripted, able to differentiate, teach students at a variety of levels.

Writer's/Reader's Workshop: Not scripted, highly flexible, and likely to be district standard curriculum (meeting state standard GLE's etc). Plenty of room for teachers to provide their own experiences, should they wish.

Science Kits from NSF. A bunch of kits, standard across the district. Not scripted, plenty of discussion available, at many levels.

How do I know these are all used, non-rote, differentiable? I SEE THEM USED.. in the classroom. Most of these comments assume things that simply aren't true in the classroom. They are fearmongering, and pointless. The only truly scripted curricula I know of (and have actually seen firsthand) is "Reading Mastery". True scripting to the nines. It isn't really used anywhere in the district these days is it?

BTW. What's the problem with anonymous? It's now a choice on the comment publication. What's a troll? Somebody you don't agree with or don't understand? Using a name like X24 is somehow non-trollish, or non-anonymous? Maybe Charlie, you should use a dictionary more often.

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Sahila said...

scripted lessons, standardised curricula contd:
here's what seems to be an even-handed recounting of the history of scripted lessons in reading, with summaries of both the (perceived) pros and cons...

It closes with these comments:

As scripted curriculum materials become more and more commonplace, certain concerns must be addressed. The diverse ethnic and cultural makeup of today's classrooms makes it unlikely that one single curriculum will meet the needs and interests of all students. Curriculum must be flexible so that teachers are able to construct lessons that will be of high interest to their unique group of students, and actively engage them in creating knowledge. Reading aloud scripted lessons that have been created for a generic group is unlikely to accomplish this goal.

Another concern is whether scripted curriculum challenges gifted learners as well as supports those who are struggling. A typical classroom consists of students with a wide spectrum of learning strengths and needs. Classroom teachers are in the best position to identify individual strengths and needs and adjust a curriculum to address them. Again, reading aloud scripted lessons that have been created for a generic group is unlikely to accomplish this goal.

What about the long-term success of students who are read aloud scripted lessons? If the focus of curriculum is on test-driven instruction and rote memorization will critical-thinking skills and comprehension be overlooked? Students learn when curriculum is relevant to their lives, when it is of personal interest to them, and when they are actively engaged in the pursuit of knowledge.

What about time? If it takes between two to three hours to deliver a script, will science, social studies, art, music, and physical education be eliminated? All of these subject areas contribute to children's overall learning, and their elimination would result in a watered-down educational experience.

What about the teacher? Will teachers be willing to spend their days reading from a script, rather than planning and facilitating lessons that further their students' construction of knowledge? Perhaps teachers with the most experience and education would transfer to school districts that do not use a scripted curriculum, leaving the least experienced teachers to read the script to students with the greatest needs.

These concerns must be addressed in order to determine whether or not the use of a scripted curriculum is truly a prescription for success or a one-size-fits-all approach that does not reflect sound pedagogical practice."

and this paper is interesting reading... it focuses on the issue of social promotion but has a great deal of information on effective teaching strategies and learning environments....

Sahila said...

and finally (life calls!) here's a book that addresses in part the idea that the natural phenomenon (and learnign strategy) of adolescent risk taking is negatively impacted by standardisation of curriculum/scripted lessons:

"My students found the information in Chapter 3, Risk Taking and Creativity, to be particularly helpful in understanding their students. However, no information is presented on the biological explanation of risk-taking, which I supplemented with a separate reading on adolescent brain development, since risk taking in adolescence is essentially biological in nature (Price, 2005). Lively discussion followed the reading of that chapter, understandably so because these teachers were able to consider how they might construct activities involving appropriate risk-taking related to their specific curricula. Moreover, the notion that creativity is a form of risk-taking that can be used in high school classrooms can be interpreted as statement against the “standardized testing as educational reform” movement embodied by No Child Left Behind. In this chapter the authors also integrate the work of Piaget, Vygotsky, and Parks, allowing for a full picture of how adolescent reasoning abilities interact with the need for risk-taking and make a strong case for a constructivist approach to teaching in high school classrooms. This is a welcome change to the scripted lessons suggested by many school districts in an attempt to “teach to the test” and raise test scores. Teachers have told me that they find ways to circumvent the “scripted lessons” policy of their schools so that their students can think more critically in their classrooms and still perform well on standardized tests. Further, Noguera (2007) notes that students themselves may feel cheated by the strong focus on standardized test performance to the detriment of other achievement or skills. Thus, Nikkula and Tosahlis offer better ideas, methods, and “fresh” attempts to deal with the more advanced cognitive abilities of students at the high school level."

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, the non-anonymous thing is two-fold so here goes. One, if everyone posted as anonymous, it is VERY hard to follow who said what. Not so hard to figure out. Two, this blog has a few rules and that's one of them. If you continue, then you'll be moderated. (We also moderate anyone who goes off-topic too often as we are trying to keep the various threads "clean" for anyone who is searching for a certain topic.)

Charlie didn't get elected because he didn't run his campaign properly (he knows this so I'm not hurting his feelings). I have no doubt if he had run it better he would have won.

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Charlie Mas said...

A troll is someone who writes insulting or outrageous posts to a comment thread with the intent of provoking an angry or emotional response.

I am not the only one caught up in the terminology around Standards, curriculum, materials, content, and pedagogy. The definitions of these words and their proper usage have been the topic of discussion by the Board and the District leadership. It is not a matter of hairsplitting at all.

When Ms delaFuente spends an extended amount of time making the distinction between them during the Board's discussion of the adoption of high school math materials, we know that the distinction is important.

The district staff have, for years, used liquid definitions for jargon as a tool to confuse the community, to misinform the community, and to dismiss the community's input. I won't tolerate it.

It is not a waste of time for people to be clear in their communication - unless they regard communicating clearly as a waste of time. I happen to believe that the school district owes it to the community to communicate clearly. It is also a matter of district policy. Some may not think that the district owes the public any explanations, and much of the public doesn't particularly want any explanations, but those explanations are due and they are necessary to keep the district accountable.

Anonymous writes: "The school district means "We're using the same materials, as provided by chosen vendors, with the same teaching methods as directed by the vendors, and standardizing on that" when they say "Curriculum" and/or "Standard"."

I agree. I think that is was the district is doing. The problem is that the district denies doing this. The district claims that they do not dictate methods to teachers. Again, this comes straight from what Ms delaFuente told the Board - and the public - when the high school math materials were adopted. She told them, over and over again, that teaching strategies, instructional methods, pedagogy, whatever you want to call it, were not dictated by the text or by the District and that teachers had freedom to teach in the method they thought best suited them and their students.

By the way, these same materials and teaching methods are also imposed on the alternative schools.

Was this the same Anonymous who wrote: "You can both customize and use a standard. In fact, it is pretty much a requirement to customize a standard. What's the problem. Not every curriculum (set of materials) requires a rigid delivery." or is this a different one?

Dorothy, I, too, would like to have a deeper discussion of these things. In fact, that is exactly what I was proposing in the original post. Anonymous isn't offering a deeper discussion. Anonymous is saying that the topic should be regarded as closed and that no community engagement is necessary or desirable.

As for seeing some of these materials, yes, I have experience with them. CPM2 was a freaking disaster for both of my children. It brought them to tears nearly every time they encountered it. They both have turned away from math as a direct result of this material and the top-down mandated instructional practice that came with it. They are not alone. There are a lot of very capable students who were completely frustrated by the bizarre and impractical math instruction they got at Seattle Public Schools.

Anonymous, you are late to this conversation and you want to close it by saying that we don't need to have it, that we aren't entitled to an explanation of the district's instructional practices, and that we are being petty by asking people to be clear in the communication. Sorry, but I'm not buying that line.

Is this really the same Anonymous who wanted a fuller discussion of earned autonomy?

Charlie Mas said...
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Charlie Mas said...
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SPS mom said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

That there seems to be a push from our district towards curricular alignment (which, to me, seems akin to standardization) and yet clearly, from the discussion here, parents do not understand what it means to their student or what it looks like in the classroom points to a failure of communication.

It isn't even a question necessarily if the district/Board believes this is the direction to go but if parents don't understand how it benefits their child AND what it looks like in the classroom, then you engender suspicion (something the district is very good at but you'd think they'd want to try harder).

Maybe I'll e-mail Susan Enfield.

Charlie Mas said...

An addition to the list of possible sponsors of the conversation series: the Board.

Rose M said...

I heard an elementary teacher ask Rosalyn Wise how EDM could be used to differentiate for the kids in her class where there typically were 5 different grade levels of math ability. Ms. Wise responded, "It can't, those kids shouldn't be in there." At other meetings Ms. Wise continually stated to parents that EDM could be used to differentiate instruction for all kids.

I was pleased to be told by Carla Santorno in a community meeting that fidelity of implementation was only expected for the first unit of EDM so that teachers could see how it worked. After that, she said, They can teach anything they want, even using other materials. I was excited to share that with some of the teachers at our school who were nervous about the adoption. They however, had just returned from a district training where they were told not to deviate at all from the EDM text as written, ever.

Parents at our elementary school asked the principal if teachers could put together suggestions of things parents could do at home to fill gaps which teachers were complaining about in EDM, like multiplication practice. The principal told parents that it would violate fidelity of implementation.

So when we have these discussions I would like be assured that staff is telling the teachers the same things they are telling the parents & board.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Now censorship. Delete away Melissa. You can't always kill the messenger. So let's see, Charlie can rant and rave about his rights to "community engagement", and consider everyone he doesn't know as "late to the discussion", but when people do engage and present the possibility that he's wasting effort and resources... you press the delete button. I've been involved in the hair splitting discussion on standardization from the start. Charlie has been off the mark from the start... and still is. I accept that. To bad community engagement doesn't start with him. This is the internet buddy.

And by the way... the next ridiculous proposed topic of engagement: "failing students or failing schools". (oops, I meant struggling, not failing) Everybody knows a failling school is one with a lot of failing students. It's a tautology. I guess you're just going to say that the wonderful school just happens to have all the deadbeats and there's nothing they can do about it. That's a non-starter, and not worth wasting district dollars on that conversation either.

Anonymous said...

Was there any discussion on the scripted lessons? Is that too scary a post to keep? Are there places with scripted lessons... or not?

Anonymous said...

yet clearly, from the discussion here, parents do not understand what it [standardization] means to their student or ...

Yes parents do too know what it means. It means: EDM, CMP, Discovery, NSF kits, Reader/Writer's Workshop... and possibly some AP high school requirements down the pipe. Google them, visit them, you get it.

No mystery.

seattle citizen said...

My guess is that most parents don't know if their student's teacher is actually teaching or just following directions.

Most parent's probably (in an ideal world) hope that a teacher is using their "tool kit," a whole bunch of varied strategies gathered over years of teaching, to teach their child and others in the classroom. Most parents probably don't think their teacher is practicing "fidelity" to a packaged set of instructional methodologies.

It i not a tautology to point out that contrary to "reformers" newspeak, schools don't fail, people do. Reformers want whole schools and programs "turned around," ignoring the students who are successful and ignoring the individual needs of struggling students in favor of mass "transformation."

Sahila said...

I understood alignment to be the case where an agreed set of outcomes is set in place and schools are given a list of (approved/recommended) resources to use to get those goals...

For example... and this is me speaking off the top of my head, remembering my own and my grown children's education... a (national) goal for 8th graders in English (think you call it Language Arts here) might be that they will understand the concept of metaphor by the end of the year and the use of literature over time to comment on personal conflict... and to that effect they will study one Shakespearean play, one Romance-period poem and one contemporary novel and samples of media editorials ...

And the aligned curriculum resources might offer 5 Shakespearean plays to choose from, five poets and five novels as a basis from which to start... and teachers of 8th graders get to choose... and not every LA teacher in the same school needs necessarily to teach from the same text to every 8th grade LA class... and there is no restriction on implementation/delivery and the use of additional teaching aids/methods/resources...

Now, standardisation, as I understand it, means exactly that... each LA 8th grade class across the district/state/nation will study exactly the same texts/material, with no deviation, no discretion on the part of the teachers to make choices as to what might be the most appropriate material for their particular students and what might be the most appropriate method of delivery...

We already have the beginnings of standardisation happening in Seattle I think...

I remember Melissa reporting about dissatisfaction at Roosevelt because the District is restricting and narrowing LA offerings/materials at the school...

And I had a conversation with a school board member a couple of months ago, and that person told me that the Board is concerned with what's happening with "alignment"... a lot of money has been spent to put the narrow prescriptions in place, but there are no text books and "no scripted lesson plans for the teachers" available yet to enforce that "alignment"...

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous, you are late to the discussion because it started long ago and you're just speaking up now. You claim to have been part of the conversation from the start, but there is no record of your participation then.

I am completely open to the idea that there is no point to having a discussion of the pros and cons of curricular alignment. I will start a thread for it and Anonymous can make the case that student families and the public should not have anything to say about it.

If Anonymous doesn't like the way that this blog operates, then Anonymous is free to start one and run it any way he or she likes. This is the internet, buddy.

Apparently not everybody knows a failing school is one with a lot of failing students. I don't know that, nor do I know that it is tautology. Are we to understand that Brighton is a failing school, and Bryant is a successful one, but if they swapped students - keeping everything else the same - then Bryant would be the failing school and Brighton would be the successful one? So saying that a school is failing or successful is not in any way a reflection of the teaching and learning that happens in it? That's an interesting definition of failure and success. That reduces it to there ability to recruit successful students.

Having a conversation about that means that you have to explain and support your conclusions. Simply stating them as if they were handed down at Sinai isn't enough.

Regarding scripted lessons, it was at a Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting a while back (good thing Anonymous has been part of this discussion from the start) when Kathleen Vasquez told the Board members that it was necessary to reduce the number of books used in high school language arts because they could not write lessons for all of the different books that the teachers were using. She made it very clear that she was scripting lessons.

I'm glad that Anonymous is well-informed about the details and consequences of standardization, but I would not jump to the conclusion that many other student family members are as informed. Yes, it means EDM and CMP2, but those are the textbooks. Standardization also reaches into fidelity of implementation and teachers being intimidated away from teaching methods that they know will work. And yes, I have heard teachers say that they would like to offer some direct instruction but that they are "not allowed".

Charlie Mas said...
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Jan said...

Dear Charlie (and others):
Ack. What did I do? I was the first Anonymous -- and that was my only post (until this one). I apologize for posting anonymously, but I couldn't for the life of me remember my password, and I had to leave quickly -- and I only wanted to get the thought out quickly -- but it sure made things confusing. Anyway, while I know it is permitted and others may have good reasons for using -- I have sworn off anonymity. ALL the other anonymous posts (except the first) were by one or more others preferring to use the Anonymous moniker.
WV says nomedit -- which must be its Euro-styled way of telling me to edit my "nom" in future posts to cut down on confusion.

Jan said...

And now that I am "Jan" and not posting anonymously, I wholeheartedly concur with Charlie's comment: "Again, this comes straight from what Ms delaFuente told the Board - and the public - when the high school math materials were adopted. She told them, over and over again, that teaching strategies, instructional methods, pedagogy, whatever you want to call it, were not dictated by the text or by the District and that teachers had freedom to teach in the method they thought best suited them and their students.
By the way, these same materials and teaching methods are also imposed on the alternative schools."

Much like the idea of "earned autonomy" -- which was thrown out as what now looks like a "sop" to concerned parents - but isn't followed -- Ms. delaFuente told the board and the public one thing for public consumption, but I have seen repeated comments on this blog to the effect that what the district tells the teachers/principals is entirely different. And the fact that alt schools, some of which were developed specifically to give kids with alternate learning styles a "choice" without having to go private, are being forced into specific texts and "fidelity of implementation" guides distresses me even more. So - here is where I end up:
1. I am concerned (and confused by) the use and misuse of terms.
2. I am angered by what appears to be either dishonesty (if Ms. delaFuente is telling the public/board one thing, when she knows that staff are being ordered to do something else) or incompetence (if her intent is to allow teachers autonomy in determining how to meet grade standards -- and this policy has not been communicated to the "enforcers" at the building levels).
3. If our goal is that all children learn, we simply cannot have a single "method," and we should not have standardized texts, as it destroys the ability of our best teachers to customize lessons to student needs, teacher strengths, and community resources.
4. And the idea that we should have a couple of alts hanging around for kids "who can't hack the standardized texts" bugs me too. Good schools needs to be aiming a lot higher than pitching a standardized text to every kid who can "hack" it, while letting those who "fail" at choking it down dribble off to a few alt safety schools.
What is "the best" we can afford to do?
What are the trade-offs of standardization vs non standardization?
Since we don't hold kids back (a policy I agree with), how do we help kids "behind" the grade standards "catch up?"

hschinske said...

Okay, I guess it is possible. Either I imagined the change before, or it got changed back.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I just didn't get there soon enough. I will delete every anonymous comment as I see it.