Thursday, August 19, 2010

Student Growth and the Three R's

When some families with students in the Advanced Learning programs said that they wanted to see their students working one or two years ahead, the District STRONGLY discouraged these families from thinking in those terms. The District was VERY clear that acceleration was only one dimension to the District's Advanced Learning programs and that it was not the most important. They claimed that their focus was on rigor, not Grade Level Expectations. The focus belonged on rigor, they said, because the Three R's of education used to be Readin', Writin', and 'Rithmatic, but today, they claimed, they are Relationships, Rigor, and Relevance.

So if the focus really belongs on Relationships, Rigor, and Relevance, instead of Grade Level Expectations, then how is this focus reflected in the District-defined measure of student progress for the purpose of teacher evaluations?

This strikes me as another one of those disturbing situations in which the District says that our concern isn't important in one context when it suits their purposes for it to be unimportant, but then, the matter becomes critically important in an essentially identical context when it suits their purposes.

8 comments:

dan dempsey said...

The focus needs to be on the un-measurable because then the District can be even more unaccountable.

Relationships, Rigor, and Relevance are just like the District emphasis on Conceptual Understanding in Math.

As long as it is unmeasurable the District will claim to deliver it.

In fact they will claim these un-measurables are far more important than what can be measured.

Can I Super Size this Ed Baloney for you? ... Well I guess I can't.
TEAM MGJ is delivering the maximum possible size.

ArchStanton said...

When some families with students in the Advanced Learning programs said that they wanted to see their students working one or two years ahead, the District STRONGLY discouraged these families from thinking in those terms...

Charlie, can you clarify what you are referencing here? Was this public testimony, a meeting, or what?

Charlie Mas said...

Arch,

There was a time when Advanced Learning programs had strong and effective advocates who compelled the District to engage them. When those people demanded acceleration, the District, in the person of Dr. Colleen Stump, but backed by Carla Santorno, tried to deflect those demands with talk about rigor and Standards.

This is a pattern.

If it is a concern for us - such as annual academic progress of more than one year each year for APP and Spectrum students - the District pooh-poohs it as a meaningless measure. At least until they decide to make it an issue for themselves.

Instructional time is a similar case. The District wants to pooh-pooh instructional time when it a concern for families - they dismiss it as "seat time" - but then they brag about creating an extended instructional day for Aki Kurose and Cleveland.

Here's my point. If they are all about the three R's (Relationship, Rigor, and Relevance), then how and where is that reflected in this teacher evaluation? It's nowhere. Instead, their focus is accelerating student growth measured in academic years. Hypocrites.

Jan said...

ArchStanton: I have no idea what Charlie is referencing, but I can tell you from experience that while some SSD language suggests (or used to suggest) Spectrum kids are/should be working one grade level ahead, when my kid(s) were in or eligible for Spectrum, there was no promise that they would actually work a grade level ahead. The only promise (assuming we could get a spot) was that the curriculum would be "enriched." It would be a "deeper" curriculum, not necessarily an "accelerated" one. Of course, this made all the non-spectrum parents go bananas, as no one (including me) could explain to them why THEIR child did not merit a "deeper, enriched" curriculum -- given that it was not accelerated. I no longer have the District materials, but this language was widespread. It was an odd sort of bait and switch. "Tests indicate that your child is smart enough to have gotten through this course, and could be busy devouring the next one -- but that is a lot of bother for us, so instead, we will just promise to add whipped cream to THIS one -- and that should make you happy. Oops. No room at the (Washington MS/Lafayette/(insert your overly full program name here) table!? Never mind. Forget we said anything at all. Whipped cream is sort of silly and no one really needs it. Bon appetit!"

Meg said...

It is pretty bizarre to be putting forward a teacher evaluation system hinged on student test scores and then insist that advanced learning programs are not about having those kids (who score fantastically on tests) working measurably ahead.

"Relationships and relevance?" I'd love to find out how many families pulled their child from their neighborhood school and placed the kid in Spectrum or APP programs so that they can have better... relationships and relevance. I'm gonna guess that percentage is... low. Very low.

hschinske said...

In my experience, the official language has gone back and forth several times on whether Spectrum and APP meant one or two years ahead respectively or not. At one time (about 2004 I think) the official line was that kindergartners had to score not only 99th percentile in reading achievement but ALSO two years ahead on the grade equivalent score (which at that level was a more stringent requirement than just hitting the 99th percentile) in order to qualify for APP.

Later, there was a big move to get away from the one and two years ahead language, and we started hearing a lot of talk about getting solid at grade level and *then* extending to a grade or two above, *maybe*. For instance, one year report cards at Lowell had a kind of timeline on them that started with grade level and went two years above. Obviously, no one ever got to show a level more than two years ahead, and never, ever would you see a kid being marked two years ahead at the beginning of the year. More recently the one or two years ahead stuff has kind of come back.

In the old old days, of course, the Individual Progress Program (as it was then known) required that students be more like *four* years ahead, not two.

Helen Schinske

Lori said...

Maybe this is a naive view since my child doesn't start the APP program for 2 more weeks and I'm not necessarily well-versed in GLEs and other eduspeak. And although I'd never have strung together the words "relationships, rigor, and relevance" on my own, I can say for sure that those are things that were lacking in our experience at the neighborhood school this past year. And, yes, things that I hope we find at Lowell.

My vision of success for next year will be whether my daughter feels more "at home" in the APP peer group (relationships) and whether she is interested in (relevance) and challenged by (rigor) the work. Whether that means she gets thru the district's GLEs for 4th grade as a 2nd grader is technically less important to me as a mom than are these other issues.

Maybe once I'm more knowledgeable about the program though, I'll have a different opinion.

A Mom said...

In our recent experience, the "one and two years ahead" nomenclature refers to where kids will be at the end of 5th grade in math.

So a second grade APP student does some 2nd and some 3rd grade Everday Math and CMP starts in 4th grade (though not all units are covered). The science kits and Readers/Writers Workshop follow the grade level material.

The "deeper/enriched" curriculum is teacher dependent and varies quite a bit.

2nd grade APP students are not following 4th grade GLEs.

No elementary SSD students are following the newest WA State Learning Standards in science - the science kits don't cover all of the new 2009 standards. And EDM does not completely cover the WA State Math Standards. So the "one and two years ahead" terminology is hard to define in terms of state learning standards.