Sunday, May 15, 2011

Danny Westneat Nails It Again

This Sunday's column by Danny Westneat of the Times is spot on.   He explains how he wasn't really going to talk about the special 3-person Spanish class set up for basketball star, Tony Wroten, and 2 others. 

It was especially niccceeee because Garfield is the most jampacked, overcrowded high school in Seattle. I figured there wasn't much I could add about the sway sports holds in schools and society that wasn't summed up best by that one tweet.

But as he says, last week the class cuts started at Garfield.

"At Garfield, budget cuts are being translated to cuts in Advanced Placement courses and other classes, including the cancellation of AP Calculus BC, reductions in sections of AP Chemistry, and AP Spanish," read a bulletin from a parents' group. (italics his)

Translation: After finding the wherewithal to gin up a three-person Spanish class so the star player can remain eligible to play ball in college, the school now is cutting back on the Spanish classes needed for scores of kids to do academics in college.

So how did Ted Howard, the principal at Garfield, explain the special Spanish class?

The Garfield principal's defense was he created the special Spanish class because he "felt we owed those kids and parents credit and also an education."

I'm sorry.   Did Tony and his friends not have the opportunity to take a regular Spanish class?  Yes.  So why the "special" class?  Is this kind of owed help available to every single student in the school who manages to fail a class?  (I'm sure UW will continue this treatment when Tony gets there as well.)
As Danny says, one other thing got missed:

Speaking of stars, did you see the other news about Garfield? It barely made a blip. It was just announced Garfield had more National Merit scholarship winners than any other public high school in the state.

I've met Mr. Howard and he's a good guy and it's a big school.  But this is unacceptable.  What is the district's response to this?
And yet they fired Martin Floe but Ted Howard is still sitting in his $120M school.  (The irony here is that Martin Floe, in yet another heroic effort, has been through BTA/BEX fix after fix.  He had to wait out neighbors on the decision about whether to cut a grove of trees for a new addition.  And yet, Ingraham will never get the rebuilt that nearly every other high school received because of all the "fixes" done over the years.  It's a strange thing.)

43 comments:

Po3 said...

Mr. Howard does not feel that he owes anything to the nearly 200 students impacted by the cuts?

And wasn't this special class created after the fake class/grade was daylighted?

Sue said...

This was my question as well. I do not have students at Garfield or Ingraham - but I wondered why the principal at Ingraham was fired, and the principal at Garfield was not.

It seems to me that there is clear and admitted evidence of misconduct on the part of the Garfield principal, but he gets to keep his job. Why?

(I also wondered why this kid gets to keep his spot at UW, when so many qualified students who actually worked hard in school, and deserve a spot at UW were denied one. Oh yes, silly me. Because athletes are more important than the rest of us. How could I forget that)

Greg said...

This brings up a question, what reason has the district given for its decisions of what to cut and what not to cut at Garfield? The AP course cuts seem like they were justified by the usual crisis politics -- Emergency! We need to act! No time to discuss it! -- with little discussion of what alternatives there were.

Like Danny Westneat, I would think academics should be the last thing to be cut, protected until the end, only cut after everything else is torn to the bone. Is that not the opinion of the vast majority of parents?

Was there discussion of Garfield cuts before this decision was done? Is Garfield's budget publicly available? I can't seem to find it. Are there any surveys of what parents would prefer to be cut? I can't seem to find that either. I would be very surprised if protecting academics was not the top priority for almost all parents, but perhaps I am missing information?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Howard may seem nice enough, but his primary skill in live is ducking tough choices and then blaming the outcome on others. He has been up to his eyeballs in lying for the Wrotens ever since Tony's grandma moved and they could use her address any more to pretend that they lived in district. Why does he survive? Let's start with how did he get to be an administrator WITHOUT the required teaching time in the first place.

SPS has always had two sets of rules, one for the people who have connections like Mr. Howard (son of a long time SPS principal, brother-in-law of another administrator, and ex-brother in-law of crack dealer/district paralegal Ronnie Bryant) and one for people who don't. Not to say that Martin Floe didn't get a pass on things, his downfall was that his patron Steve Wilson was ousted as CAO.

At best, Ted Howard should be fired for being wasteful. A small amount of digging (i.e. a public records request for any email he has ever sent or recieved about Tony Wroten or the AD who is taking the fall for him) will probably uncover that he should be fired for dishonesty. And it should reveal who else has been covering up the backroom deals at Garfield (like Ammon McWashington).

-Just Sayin

basically said...

The injustice of this entire situation makes me sick. I have nothing more eloquent to say than that. The mind boggles.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Where is the money from the Supplemental Levy that we were told by Lisa McFarlane of LEV and Sharon Rodgers of the SCPTSA and Peter Maier that would be used to protect cuts from the classroom?

I'd be willing to be none of it.

dan dempsey said...

My level of confidence in the SPS has not improved in spite of all the spinning done by Enfield and Sundquist.... as the facts keep getting in the way.

Syd said...

My GHS student has two math credits (or rather will have in June). He needs three to graduate (required for class of 2013). This year (10th grade) he took Calculus AB. If the school does not offer another year of math, he cannot graduate unless he takes off campus classes.

Here is my question. Can the school require kids to take classes off campus (with attendant costs - books, fees) in order to take classes required for graduation? Is this legal?

Maureen said...

Syd, I'm guessing they would say he can take Statistics to earn his graduation credit. (Not that I think that is right.)

Anonymous said...

My understanding is there is not room in the statistics AP class for the 60+ students affected by the calculus BC cut. There is also not enough room in the other AP classes offered at Garfield to offset the calculus cut

Laura

Dorothy Neville said...

So, does this show that if kids had gotten HS credit for advanced math taken in high school, the school could claim that this 11th grader already has three math credits to graduate and therefor there is no reason they must offer them a math course?

Isn't running start free for kids? Books and fees are probably not covered though. But my kid at Roosevelt had books to purchase and other fees for classes, so not unheard of within the district.

I am in the same boat as others, I do not see how this saves money if kids are still able to take 6 credits at school.

Syd said...

I am just gathering info for this week's GHS PTSA meeting. I think you are right - one could say statistics (AP or or non AP version - both fill the requirement). The recommendation if AP statistics if a student has H precalculus or above, but I don't think it is mandatory to take the AP version. I suppose they could offer that he take Geometry again to fill the requirement.

peonypower said...

Yes, running start class fees are paid, but books and a registration fee are not. Books run about 130 per class and the reg.fee is 30 dollars. In addition students must get themselves back and forth to the campus (and if you don't have a bus pass there is another chunk of change.)$160 to take one class seems not insignificant to me. Also the logistics of finding a class that will mesh with your classes at the high school to allow for travel time is not without challeges. Running start is an option but it should not be viewed as the answer for kids to meet their requirements.

Bruce Taylor said...

I may be completely out of the loop / behind the curve / whatever, but are these cuts due to underestimation of Garfield's enrollment for next year? In the capacity management process, weren't Garfield and Rainier Beach lowballed, so as to RIF teachers, so as to create openings for TFA recruits?

I haven't followed capacity management as closely as I should, so maybe I'm completely wrong. But it would be a shame if these kids are being threatened in order to create a fake emergency that gets TFA into the schools.

G said...

While I fully support all kids being given a full schedule accomodating their level of ability in high school, and would hope our highest achievers would be encouraged and allowed to take the most challenging courses available, the budget cuts have forced schools to look at bare bones graduation requirements. Since Washington voters will not even tax soda pop, much less agree to an income tax, our kids are suffering across the board.

The APP kids at Garfield are coming into high school with credit for 2 years of science in middle school. If they have taken the alegebra sequence and geometry at WMS or HIMS, do theses classes also count as high school credit? Looking at it from a strictly graduation requirement angle might explain why calc b/c could be cut if the kids who have had precalc and calc a/b as 9th and 10th graders have completed 4 years of high school math credit with the middle school credits included.

It is not right. I hope that the classes will be reinstated with some creative shuffling of classes and budget. High school students should not have to go to college. Running Start should be a choice, not a requirement. But the writing has been on the wall all year regarding the state budget, and we have all watched Gregoire make difficult cuts across the board. Garfield hopefully can work around this, and the uproar will probably help get at least some of these classes back into the schedule, but the budget and Washington voters have to own some of the blame for the situation schools find themselves in.

Syd said...

The kids don't actually get HS credit for classes taken in middle school unless they apply during the first few weeks of the 9th grade. We did not do this because we thought he would be taking 4 more years of math.

I just can't get over the cutting of math and science classes in preference to other options. Core subjects are those required for graduation. It does not make sense to cut core classes.
My student informs me that non-AP statistics has been cut for next year. There is not room in the AP statistics. That leaves no math for him and about 60 other kids.

Howard said...

As to Running Start...at last fall's back-to-school night, I recall a Garfield counselor telling us that it is logistically difficult, if not impossible, to take a mix of Running Start and "regular" GHS classes. The suggested Running Start alternative to Calculus BC seems to provide a pretty good illustration of the issues:

Seattle Central Community College will offer Calculus 1 at the following times next fall:
- Daily at 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, and 12 PM (50 minutes)
- Tuesday and Thursday from 6-8:30 PM

Students would have to allow at least 30-40 minutes each way to get from Garfield to SCCC by Metro, so the daytime sections would force them to miss all or part of three class periods at GHS. That leaves the evening section as perhaps the only viable option for students that still want to do most of their coursework at Garfield. If that is in fact the case, I'd expect the 32 seats available those evenings to fill pretty quickly :-(

As to the larger question... I don't get it either. If the district and GHS are committed to providing six classes to every high school student that wants it, then it shouldn't cost any more to provide additional full sections of Calculus BC, AP Spanish and/or Spanish 4 in place of the classes those students would otherwise be forced to take. If the district and/or GHS are NOT committed to provide every student an opportunity to take a full course load, I'd like to hear them say so explicitly and justify it.

I too am wondering if we are seeing the results of the clash between low-ball enrollment projections out of the central administration and actual course registrations submitted by real, live, current and incoming students. Are we going to see a repeat of this year's fiasco, with kids sitting around for the first month of school, waiting for Garfield to hire teachers to meet the "unexpected" demand? Or will the central admin projections become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as families flee the mess that has been created?

Syd said...

I am not sure about those science credits. I think the APP kids are allowed to start at biology, but I don't think they have any credits. At least my child did not. He started HS with no HS credits.

Syd said...

How do we know that there will be room for 60 kids in the calculus class at the community college? That is a big group, and the community college probably has budget cuts as well.

Also, we have been told that the community college will not accept the AB calculus for placement. They will have to take that first year over again.

dan dempsey said...

Syd,

AB calculus is not the equivalent of a year of college calculus.... at best it is a semester ... or perhaps one quarter depending on the school.

The premiere Science and Engineering School on the West Coast... Harvey Mudd (SAT MATH average of those accepted is 790) will only allow students to start above beginning Calculus if they score a "5" on the "BC Calc" exam ... and then do well on the Harvey Mudd placement exam.

Please notice that as the number of students attending college has risen over the last 20 years and the percentage of students entering college with AP Calculus credit has increased ..... The absolute number of students enrolled in second year calculus has dropped and the absolute number of engineering graduates has dropped .... and we best not even think about native born USA students in second year calculus.

Anonymous said...

Five National Merit scholars is not that great, actually. For the kids it is and congratulations to them. For Garfield, however, that is a pretty low number.
Yes, the shine is ebbing.


GHS

Anonymous said...

Is Garfield cutting these kids back to a 4 or 5 period day because they don't want to offer so many AP classes? If they are continuing to offer them a 6 period day, then I do not see how this saves money. They are going to pay some teacher to teach a class that period.

high school parent

Syd said...

GHS had, I believe, 18 National Merit Scholar semifinalists. Of that 5 became National Merit Scholars. That is pretty amazing and is comparable to other years.

I understand that HS and college calculus pacing is not exactly comparable: AB and BC calculus (2 years) is accepted as equivalent to 3 semesters of calculus for most colleges. So, the HS students get one more semester to get through the work. I still think the high school students should at least get to take a test to place into the appropriate semester of calculus, and not have to automatically start at the beginning again.

Syd said...

The more I think about it, the more I think cutting the science and math sections offered is related to getting TFA staff into the school. The district has estimated GHS to have lower enrollment next year than this year, something that is almost impossible to believe. As well, TFA did say they were hoping to place science and math graduates in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

APP students do not necessarily have HS credit if they've taken HS level classes in middle school (Physical Science, Biology, Algebra I and Geometry).

It's my understanding that they get placed in higher level classes starting in 9th grade, but only have credit if they've requested it. As we're seeing with the class cutbacks, it may actually harm students to take the HS credit for middle school classes.

-parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Syd, we still have the question of who is paying for TFA recruits if they are not math/science degree-based?

I mean, really, I know the answer - Gates will funnel it through one entity or another. But it seems odd to have this dragged out this long. Why the mystery?

Or will the district actually show some spine and ONLY hire TFA math/science recruits?

dj said...

Maybe Bill Gates can fund BC calculus at Garfield.

Po3 said...

"But it would be a shame if these kids are being threatened in order to create a fake emergency that gets TFA into the schools."


RIFs are out, how many at GHS?

Dorothy Neville said...

"I understand that HS and college calculus pacing is not exactly comparable: AB and BC calculus (2 years) is accepted as equivalent to 3 semesters of calculus for most colleges."

I would be surprised if a school counted AB+BC as three semesters. AT UW it is two quarters. That means students who are used to the slower high school pace, who might have taken BC Calc as an 11th grader, start at UW in third quarter calculus, multivariable calculus and it can and does kick their butts.

Stu said...

To repeat a question asked here a couple of times . . .

If all students must take the same number of classes at GHS, how is cutting the AP class saving money? Don't those students have to be in another classroom with another teacher?

Am I missing something?

stu

Anonymous said...

I note that Dr. Susan Enfield is appearing at the CPPS annual meeting (6:30-8:30 on Tues, May 24, at Lincoln H.S. libary), where the topic is parent engagement and the opportunity to make a difference in the schools. Perhaps this would be a forum to ask questions about how parents can effectively advocate for the District providing appropriate course offerings for all students.

Maureen said...

Stu, I'm just speculating, but maybe it's related to the indivisibility of capacity: They have a certain number of Math teachers who have to teach math (but not necessarily AP Calc B/C), too many kids 9th-12th want/need to take math. They want to keep their graduation rate up, so they have to make sure kids close to the edge get first crack at the given math teachers. They Could hire more math teachers to cover the advanced kids, but they also have a bunch of (I don't know) basket weaving teachers whose classes aren't 100% full. They can't make those teachers cover Calc, and they can't fire them and hire math teachers because quite a few students do want (or even need) to take basket weaving.

They blow off the advanced classes because they figure the kids registered for them will graduate one way or another (either they do Running Start, or they sign up for basket weaving.)

If we as a society valued education more (income tax anyone?), then all of our kids could get an appropriate education. As is, we are left to do triage and balance one kid's (perceived) wants over another's needs. (Given that their goal is graduation, not having every kid reach their potential.)

Some facts said...

Who someone's related to has nothing to do with the fiction of a school. GHS used to be a two tiered school. Top floor where APP students had majority of their classes and sometimes teachers paid for br PTSA for APP students' classes, a predominately white program. There was no public outcry about that injustice. Ted Howard changed that while many of his predecessors did not! Derse, Chow, McWashington and Roberts. Many comments seem biased in that people don't like his change of just serving the APP families and what they want.

While the Wroten situation is an issue, surely the district would have had to pay a lot inpersonal damages to the three students that the Athletic Director gave grades to if it had prevented any of them from an education at the next level, regardless of whether or not they were to only attend one year of college. In athletic terms that would have been a "slam dunk" legal win. A student should not be done harm regardless of who they are or what we feel about them because adults made a mistake. That's the unwritten oath educators take.

thinking of the underdogs. said...

Budgets have been cut at all the schools. With all schools making cuts that directly affect students (thanks Olchefske). As painful as it may be APP, should GHS cut classes for students who need additional help (not star athletes) to save a class students can take in college?

Oh, and if the school board 6-7 years ago hadn't kicked pop machines and snacks out of SP high schools, totalling roughly 30-40K per year, while students at the high schools go off campus and buy the stuff right near their schools EVERYDAY, that revenue would be able to help pay for athletics and activities.

dj said...

Thinking of the underdogs, that is a false choice, a red herring, and a cynical ploy. Is Garfield offering things (sports, extracurricular activites, elective courses that are non-academic) that it pays for still? If so, it is not APP vs. remedial education.

Thinking of the underdogs said...

DJ,

athletics and activities are funded through ASB and directly from the district Athletic office. THE ARE NOT FUNDED as part of a buildings academic budget.

If you believe that to not be true call the district athletic office or any high school.

So again. APP funded classes vs. The rest of the regular or sped population? Sounds like a catch 22!

Thinking of the underdogs said...

Correction."THEY" are not funded. (athletics and Activities.

Anonymous said...

No - it not a choice between core classes(APP or remedial). At worst it is a false choice based on unrealistic enrollment nubers. At best it is a choice between core classes at any level and noncore classes - photography, drama, art. I hate to put anything that gets kids involed in school on the chopping block. But if push comes to shove, noncore class, classes needed for graduation or going to the college of your choice for anyone (athlete, scholar, artist, etc...) should be cut first.

Parent

StepJ said...

First thought when I read that AP classes were being cut at Garfield was that it was a cloaked move to make the school less desireable to a segment of the students attending and drive down enrollment.

Other than Ingrahm have any other HSs in the city upped their AP offerings?

Anonymous said...

What a pathetic city this is. We claim to be a world class city but we can't even offer our best public high school students the same opportunities that thousands of podunk towns across America do. Obviously most of the blame lies with Tim Eyman and the voters of this state who won't raise the funds for decent schools and with an administration that wastes so much $ on central admin bs. But beyond that we all need to assess our values. If times really are this tight, why are we spending a single cent on athletics or bands or pep events or field trips without first ensuring that there are appropriate math courses available for all students. As my kids get older, jobs in the states that still value education are going to look more and more enticing.

--Newish to Seattle and already out of patience

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

Newish to Seattle said: Tim Eyman and the voters of this state who won't raise the funds for decent schools

I'm not sure I agree with you about the voters and Tim Eyman. The voters of Seattle have been asked, time and time again, to tax themselves for schools and, time and time again, we have thrown hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers. In addition, hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised by PTAs each year, to fund things that haven't been funded.

That said, I think the administration has squandered millions in the way they run the district. A million here for an unproven "Stem" program, instead of building your own, a million or two there to pay for things that have nothing to do with our children (Pottergate), teacher coaches instead of classroom teachers, more administration than any other district . . . yes, the whole country is going through some tough financial times. But that's when you want people who are fiscally responsible and no one on this board has shown any strength.

The very first thing you fund are the classes and teachers. If you have to start cutting, you cut AWAY from the classrooms first. If you want to make an argument that a class that only attracts 3 students, say a remedial spanish class for a star athlete, should never have been funded, especially when you're cutting programs that attract hundreds of kids, that's one thing. But cutting AP courses at one of the premiere high schools in the state without even offering the students left twisting alternatives?

Vote out the four . . . cut administration costs . . . build on successful programs . . . reward creativity in teaching and funding.

The people of Seattle pay A LOT OF TAXES towards the schools; how 'bout rewarding them by listening to some of their suggestions?

stu

Anonymous said...

Mr. Howard is a scumbag he is known to be a big liar. I know first hand that he will lie to cover himself, and Ammon McWashingtn will back him know matter what. Just like him not admitting that he okayed for the AD to teach the 3-person spanish class that's a lie because Howard has his hand in every decision that is made at Garfield. The school district need to fire the scumbag there has been to many incidents with sports at Garfield and everytime he lie to cover himself..