Thursday, April 28, 2011

Education News Roundup

What the word?

First up, the hacked grades story in the Times.  Right now it looks like it's at Chief Sealth, Ballard and Ingraham (all corners of the city).  Apparently some kids are blabbing about this and I'm sure someone is going to get caught.  (I love when kids think they will never get caught and then go tell someone what they did.  Kids, loose lips sink ships.) 

The Times also reported that the City signed a deal with the Space Needle Corp for a  Chihuly glass exhibition hall.  This includes a $1M for a children's playground (yay for kids) and again, some kind of educational tie-in with SPS.

The deal was sweetened with the addition of the playground, as well as arts-education programs at the Chihuly museum in partnership with Seattle Public Schools and other arts organizations.

The New York Times had a story about rigor in high school classes.  This idea is taking on Supreme Court visions akin to what the definition is of pornography  (Justice Potter Stewart famously said he might not be able to define it but "I know it when I see it.")

From the story:

More students are taking ambitious courses. According to a recent Department of Education study, the percentage of high school graduates who signed up for rigorous-sounding classes nearly tripled over the past two decades.

Great, right but wait for it:

But other studies point to a disconnect: Even though students are getting more credits in more advanced courses, they are not scoring any higher on standardized tests.

The reason, according to a growing body of research, is that the content of these courses is not as high-achieving as their names — the course-title equivalent of grade inflation. Algebra II is sometimes just Algebra I. And College Preparatory Biology can be just Biology.

Why do schools do this?  Just as grade inflation is wrong so is course-title inflation.  Colleges and universities figure out this game pretty fast.  They know who really has students who can handle rigorous work because their courses ARE rigorous. 

It is also pointed out in the story that the numbers of low scores on AP exams has gone way up. But administrators all seem to say that it is better to try an AP course and the exam for the experience than to take an easier class.  True?

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

ex-teach says...

This is much more an admin problem than a teacher problem. Admin's read the highlights of the research summaries and poorly implement based on gross misreadings and overreaches to show they are doing something. Some read the research and said that if we call the class "advanced algebra" then all the students will feel better about it and live up to the higher expectations. Of course, those same admins are opposed to honors classes as "we all know who traditionally does well in those", meaning the white kids.

Remember the whole AP Human Geography course issue (at Ingraham or Roosevelt... which N End school?). The research read there was AP, missing the boat that rigor is what elevates, not the course title. "AP for All" is still a big thing some principals strongly believe in, but it's not fair to the stressed out IEP students who struggle with even basic reading and the truly AP ready students who are held back from truly being able to pass the AP exams in a class going at the necessary pace.

Please don't blame the course-title inflation on teachers... it's usually the principals/admins pushing this. I have known teachers whose class titles were changed against their wishes.

dan dempsey said...

Yup .... Let us consider math.

Over the last 20 years there has been a large increase in numbers of students in college .... more kids taking AP math in high school ......

But the absolute numbers of students enrolled in second year calculus steadily declined over the last 20 years.

======
Rigorous .... has become a marketing term and little else.

dan dempsey said...

"It is also pointed out in the story that the numbers of low scores on AP exams has gone way up. But administrators all seem to say that it is better to try an AP course and the exam for the experience than to take an easier class. True?"

For Math this Sounds like Nonsense ...the same social promotion with no intervention that produced the current Math mess in grades 9 and 10 .... extended to AP.

If a student has inadequate math skills to succeed in Calculus .... I doubt these skills will be best obtained by being clueless in AP Calc class.

This seems to be very similar to the SPS plan to put all students in Algebra or higher .... even if the have grade 4 math skills.

This could be a great use for MAP Math scores ... what are the Math competence levels of all those 9th graders tossed into Discovering Algebra ... and what are the results? End of Course exams .... will those be rigorous?

Salander said...

I teach three sections (about 90 students) in an AP for all class.

There is constant pressure from the admin to make the course rigorous(even beyond the College Board course objectives) AND make sure that ALL students are passing.

These goals are in conflict but the admin can't see that.

In the self selected AP classes- many students who are not congnitively ready sign up and perfom poorly. Since the majority sign up for AP when it is available there are then 2-3 classes on non AP that are comprised of the bottom 10% of the population academically and behaviorly. You can imagine what it is like to teach those classes with admin still pushing for the highest levels of rigor.

Years ago teachers were allowed to be gatekeepers. We required a 3.0 gpa and teacher recommendations to enroll in AP classes.

Since this is not now allowed by admin at the school or District level AP has generally gone to hell in a hand basket in every way cited by this article.

mirmac1 said...

Course-title inflation! What about parent inflation!? I've been all puffed up ever since SPS told me my child should go into AP LA and Honors Math...: )

Surprised the heck outa me.

dj said...

Well, yes, it is better to take an AP exam fir which you are not prepared, if your goal is to increase profits for the company that administers the test.

mirmac1 said...

The really compelling story is in Delaware where the Christina School Board is valiantly beating back the Broad Nazgul and Arne Gollum.

John Young is a rockstar

Watch his statement:

http://wdel.com/story.php?id=34033

Curious said...

This is a repost from another thread:

Hopefully someone in the know can clarify this: according to the APP AC meeting notes, Garfield will not be offering Biology next year.

The reason given was the high school science alignment - students will not take Biology until 10th grade (so incoming 9th graders won't take it), and rising 10th graders will have already taken it in 9th grade.

I'm finding this news troubling and hope that I'm just misunderstanding the meeting notes.

A comprehensive high school not offering Biology??

-Troubled

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the Hijack:

Enfield will be speaking on KUOW TODAY at 9AM!!!

SG

Anonymous said...

In the Boston Globe Op-Ed, by Junia Yearwood, April 25

A Lesson in Advanced mis-Placement

“What the hell am I doing in AP?’’ Veronica (all students’ names have been changed) cried the next day when the class reconvened...Her eyes blazing red and her face taut with anger, she continued to vent her frustration at her forced retention in an assigned Advanced Placement class despite her repeated requests for a transfer.

...Even though students had marked deficiencies in basic reading and writing skills, and little desire to work hard, and even though they made repeated requests for transfers, the dragooning of students into my AP course persisted.


http://articles.boston.com/2011-04-25/bostonglobe/29472066_1_students-teacher-grade

Lori said...

I have a question about AP exams that perhaps parents with older kids can answer: does our school year (Sept thru June) put our kids at a disadvantage relative to most other states (who go Aug thru May) when it comes to taking AP exams in early May?

I'd never thought about it until recently when some friends with high school age kids were lamenting that there are still 6 or 8 weeks of class left when our kids take those exams, meaning perhaps all the material hasn't been covered yet, while kids in other places have had more time to cover material. This really seems like a legitimate concern if the goal is to do well on the exam and maximize the potential to receive usable college credits.

Just saying said...

Anecdote:

My child's response to an honors certificate= "It's no big deal, all the kids in my class got one."

Truly, the class wasn't challenging. Kids know.

mirmac1 said...

Yes, I'm under no illusions. For my child to succeed (if it is, in fact challenging), I will continue to be sitting with her during homework time. But this is true for many children.

Anonymous said...

"A comprehensive high school not offering Biology??

-Troubled"

It's only temporary for one year. They have to get the course order turned around.

The science HSPE is being replaced with an End-of-course Biology exam next year. If schools continue to offer Bio in the freshman year, students will have a year of rust on their Bio knowledge by the time they take that exam.

Since 9th graders at Garfield are currently taking bio, there will (theoretically) be no 10th graders next year who need it. Since students will no longer take Bio in 9th grade, there will be no 9th graders who need it, either. For one year, and one year only, there will be no need for that particular class at Garfield.

Same thing happened this year with Ingraham's pre-IB course sequence. One year blip, then it settles into the new order.

Dorothy Neville said...

Lori, yes, definitely.

Now AP HG is supposed to be a semester class. RHS kids were promised a semester option for those who were actually ready for the depth and pacing of an actual college level class (which is, after all, what an AP course is supposed to be).

But Fall semester was too far away from May testing and Spring semester starting Feb 1st was way too short given early May testing. So no semester option was ever allowed.

Another place where kids got screwed is GHS this year with the chaos and not hiring enough teachers until the Fall. The AP US History teacher was reassigned to teach all those extra freshmen and the AP kids subs until October. I don't know if the veteran AP teacher went back to those kids or if they newly hired an AP teacher. How many excellent AP history qualified teachers were available to hire in October? The May testing must have been a scary deadline for them.

Anonymous said...

Research shows that students who have taken an AP course in high school are 25% less likely to need remedial courses when they get to college.

It doesn't seem to matter if they pass the test or not, just the fact that they've taken the course and the test seems to yield a drastic correllation.

That correllation appears to have been mistaken by a great many administrators for a causality. I can almost hear the thoughts form:

"If we force them to take AP courses, they'll automatically become more ready for college...and if they're more ready for college their scores will naturally go up...."

Anonymous said...

The lack of a Biololgy course makes little sense to me. Are there no students who are out of sequence or need to retake the class next year?

And isn't this a way to force the new science sequence and prevent 9th graders from opting out of Physical Science? It's like telling advanced middle school students, "tough luck," we're not going to offer a math class at your level. Yeah, we used to, but now we're not, so deal with it.

And at the same time, students are forced to take AP courses whether they're prepared or not.

Why?

Charlie Mas said...

Hey! I think that people who own a BMW are 75% more likely to have a job, so we just need to make every un-employed person buy a beemer.

Charlie Mas said...

The correlation between taking AP classes and college readiness isn't because AP classes prepare students for college but because students who are college-bound choose to take AP classes.

This is so obvious that only an idiot could get it backwards.

Idiots such as those pushing every student into AP.

I'm all for challenging students - even more than they might choose to challenge themselves. But there is no point in putting them in a class if they are not prepared to succeed. In Federal Way they only automatically enroll students in AP if they get strong test scores - it isn't every student.

another mom said...

Lori, SPS press release regarding AP and pass rate is here:

http://district.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?&pageid=222147&sessionid=c73b24b6adc91fb361c7fdb112bff3d3

Even with a school year that begins in September, most seem prepared to take the test in May. Would there be a better pass rate, if the school year began in late August? I dunno.

Salander said...

Charlie-
Those who are requiring students to take AP classes are administrators.

Educational administration has no requirement to be intelligent, produce measurable results in meaningful areas, be an effective leader, learn and progress through data. All it takes is a certificate and one is set up to be an administrator for life. When was the last time you heard of administration evaulation and accountability to someone who is not another administrator?

Maureen said...

Re Garfield not offering Bio next year. That will have to change now (i.e., Bio will be offered) because (as of 4/26) Cathy Thompson is allowing incoming non APP 9th graders who covered HS level Physical Science in Middle School to test out of 9th grade Physical Science at GHS. Biology will have to be offered for those kids. Though it's bound to be a scheduling headache since it will probably only be a few sections. On the other hand, every kid in it will feel like they had good science prep, so maybe they will be able to go faster and deeper than usual.

See the Physical Science Thread for a summary of the 4/26 meeting where that was announced and for ongoing discussion. (Go down to the bottom of the thread.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lori, my experience is that it is an issue. There's a lot to cover and our students have to cover it in a shorter period of time.

It would be interesting to ask College Review if they have stats on districts that start earlier and have less time versus those who have the whole school year.

Maureen said...

At the 4/26 GHS meeting about alignment (see Physical Science thread for a summary) several speakers questioned whether AP courses are necessarily the best way to challenge students. The incoming ASB president (I didn't absorb his name) spoke on the topic (he's choosing to take Honors Physics instead of AP Chem because he thinks it will be more interesting and challenging) as did APPAC GHS parent rep Mary Ann Gwinn, who spoke of all of the emphasis on AP as an 'arms race.'

MathTeacher42 said...

News from the Lobster & Fenway Park side of I-90 - the url is messed up so I'll put in a quote:

"Discord in Harvard’s education school
Protesters want more focus on social issues

By Tracy Jan
Globe Staff / April 29, 2011

The recent denial of tenure to a prominent Harvard scholar whose work focuses on grass-roots organizing has sparked student protests over the direction of one of the nation’s most influential education schools.

More than 50 doctoral students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education are demanding that the 91-year-old school redirect its mission. Over the last decade, they say, it has veered away from social justice issues in education toward more results-driven management and policy concerns. The students, who are groomed to be national leaders in education, said they fear the shift will hamper their professional development and tarnish the school’s reputation."

MY COMMENT - later in the article they mention 294 doctoral candidates at Harvard, out of 900 students.

Ummmmm... remember that front page piece about College Access Now helping all kinds of kids 2 Sundays ago in the Seattle Times?

Well, I work down the hall from that office, and there are several 20 somethings doing something useful for scores of OUR kids.

My kids at Franklin do NOT need a bunch of tome making power point wizards pretending they're Roosevelt, Churchill or Stalin at Yalta - my kids at Franklin, and all OUR kids in this state, need help in THEIR LIVES, ON SITE.

Harvard is going to give us 294 MORE high level paper pushers!

Between the bandits of Bechtel, Haliburton & Goldman and high level paper pushers, is it any wonder that our health "care" systems, our transportation systems, our senior care systems, out finance and banking systems, our education systems ... seem to little more than employment agencies for aspiring princes, lords, chieftains, and $ome pig$ who are more equal than other pig$?

Harvard is going to give us 294 MORE high level paper pushers! Why don't they just focus on preparing Prince Legacy Bumpington XXVI for his job lording over us serfs at the manor?

BM

Just saying.. said...

Math 42,

Don't forget about the hundreds of millions Broad and Gates donate to Harvard.

Michael H said...

An interesting article. Not saying whether I agree or disagree. Just interesting.

http://www.city-journal.org/2011/21_2_catholic-schools.html

dan dempsey said...

Michael H,

Thanks for the interesting link.

Jan said...

Michael H: one thing it highlights is something that has been running through the back of my head for awhile -- and that is that as we jack up pay scales (I am not really talking teachers here -- because we know ed reform doesn't want to pay THEM anything anyhow -- but they intend to solve the problem by churn and burn), we attract to the profession huge numbers of "profit" oriented folks whose real goal is just to figure out how to make a lot of money. Hence, all the ridiculously high contracts, for MAP, for the Cleveland Stem contract, for annual truckloads of consumables -- none of these folks have kids' best interests at heart, or they would look for ways to provide better value for less money, so that the other dollars could be diverted into the classes, instead of $300K plus administrator's pockets.

By destroying the (pretty darn) reasonable pay arrangements for professional teachers who want to make a career out of helping kids learn, in favor of huge raises for high level administrators (CEOs) and consulting contracts -- they can destroy what we currently have that is valuable -- and then replace it with -- whatever they want! (and you can bet that what they "want" is lots of money at the TOP, and very little for teachers or for kids).