Thursday, September 29, 2011

Instructional Materials Waivers

Trying to finish up on the Curriculum & Instruction Committee meeting minutes, I come to instructional materials waivers.  I can sum it up in one sentence.

Forget anything happening this year.  

Yup, because the committee kicked that can right down the road. 

As I mentioned previously, Steve S. and Michael DeB stayed on with the committee regulars, Betty P., Peter M. and Harium M-M.  So there was quite the discussion but most of it was circular. 

Harium started off by saying that this issue was generated by discussion at the Board's retreat.  (I didn't attend so I can't fill in the story.)  He said they needed to "refine what the true objective is here, what are we trying to fix?"  I'm not sure it's fixing something but rather allowing schools to find the best solution. 

Michael said he wanted all sites to have the opportunity to examine alternative materials and methods of teaching.

Kay S-B had sent in notes saying she thought there needed to be a simplified procedure for schools, that any changes had to show results and explore grant money to pay for changes.

Kathy Thompson, the assistant superintendent for academics, did a very careful bland explanation.  It was clear she doesn't want this at all and you get the feeling she's not really going to lift a finger until directly ordered to do so.  She put forth that she was open to the idea but, as usual, it's about the money.  She said that they purchased consumables for the two schools this year but the schools had funded the materials themselves in the past.  She gave the Board a handout (that I'm still waiting for) that I believe showed the costs between Everyday Math, Saxon and Singapore. 

She then went into a bit of a dizzying array of PD and other costs.  She said they couldn't use district coaches because they weren't trained in other math methods.  (She also said there were only 7 math coaches in the district which I found odd given that we used to have 100+ coaches overall and now we have just 7 math coaches?) 

She said her considerations were 1) the challenge to bargaining 2)not able to give PD and 3) being hard-pressed to see how to get everyone up-to-speed. 

Michael tried to figure out what the handout was saying and, in the end, concluded it wasn't really an apples to apples examination and not that helpful. 

Peter said he had envisioned a goal of flexibility and meeting needs.  He said that the two schools had good results but he'd like to see some more "experimentation."  He said the process should be clear and open and the schools needed to provide rationale and a plan. 

Steve said he imagined a framework like the one Peter described.  He said they would probably have to limit the number of waivers (if you get results, why?)  and it might need to be geographically done.  He said he thought 3 years was enough time to see results.

Michael said they needed a clear policy that delineates goals of Board, pilots some materials and maybe could be in other subjects.  Maybe with parent/faculty input.  (Michael, that's just crazy talk now.) 

Betty seemed doubtful.  She put forth that if they decided on a curriculum and bought the materials, why do this and how do we know it will work?   It would have been nice if someone had brought some data from North Beach and Schmitz Park but no, there was none available. 

Kathy Thompson said something about a principal survey on this but that's all.  Was there one?

Peter then said something amusing along the lines of why not try this at the newly reopened schools?  Not a bad thought but a little late considering that's the kind of idea you put forth BEFORE they open.  Kathy T. said they had already bought materials for those schools. 

Steve said they were just beginning a conversation.

And that's it.  Kathy Thompson is not going to do anything unless ordered.  There was no real firm direction from the Board about what they want to see or when.  And that's sad because all the incumbents running said they thought the math curriculum should change.  There's no evidence of that from this meeting so it would lead you to believe it's a lot of yada, yada, yada.

Complete and through waste of time.


dan dempsey said...

WOW!!! ...
I have an answer to all this utter BS about waivers. .... Call Auburn and see what they did... Auburn got it done and is producing results ..... So what is the SPS excuse this time? (and does anyone even care about more words from an SPS committee)

The committee and those at the meeting were apparently too busy constructing straw-men to look for an answer. {{How many years has this can been kicked down the road?}}

Harium seems to be unaware there is a problem.... perhaps he should have continued blogging.

On the subject of Directors with a blog .... check this =>
Susan Goding's Blog

Susan is a Highline board member always trying to solve problems and often by thinking out of the box. She has this blog that is not well circulated, yet.

Notice a recent blog entry about math wars. I'm not sure where she found the quotes from the new UW Provost, but I thought everyone would be interested to learn how this new influential UW leader thinks about education.

Note that Susan did NOT vote to adopt Discovering Math in Highline.

"Math in Focus" - Singapore Math from Houghton Mifflin has been adopted in Highline SD for the elementary grades.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's the thing. At the end of the discussion Director Martin-Morris said that the Board was very interested in this and wanted it to happen and that he wanted to see a draft proposal by the end of the year.

At first I thought he meant by the end of the calendar year - within the next three months. But he didn't. He meant by the end of the school year, in the next NINE months.

All by himself, without consulting with any of his colleagues, without talking to any of the members of the public at the meeting (ha! I know he has never done this, but he said in the Seattle Child questionnaire that he thought it should happen), without asking the staff how long it would take them to do it, all by himself, Director Martin-Morris unilaterally kicked the can nearly a year down the road. There will be no more action on this for a year and we have only Director Martin-Morris to thank for it.

Patrick said...

dizzying array of PD and other costs

What's PD? Thanks!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sorry, professional development for teachers.

seattle citizen said...

...which begs the question of how much PD teachers needs(professional development...not to be confused with PLC, professional learning communities, where teachers and otehr educators meet to discuss all things education, nor to be ocnfused with DT, data teams, where teachers meet to discuss data, no, it's not even PG+E or PGC, two evaluation metrics, tho' DT figures into PGE and PLC and DT are part of PD....All of which orbits around EALRs, or Essesntial Academic Learning Requirements, no scratch that, around CCSS, Common Core State Standards, both of which address, idealistically, MAP, MSP and HSPE. CDB? I CDB, U CDB?)
How much PD (non-teaching) time do teachers need, where is the time for the PD it is determined they need, and who pays for it.

Fruitbat said...

As a North Beach parent, I found it worrisome that the district came in at the very end of the last school year announcing that they would fund Saxon for 2011-12. The PTA has always paid for this expense and had already passed a budget including it. My deep suspicion is that the district will yank the funding as suddenly as they granted it, and the PTA will not have time to once again budget for it.

As for Professional Development, Saxon and Singapore are both much simpler to teach than EM.

Charlie Mas said...

Let me see if I can make this as clear as Melissa did in her original post.

Forget anything happening this year.

Harium Martin-Morris killed it.

dan dempsey said...

The new format Singapore math texts "Math in Focus" from Houghton Mifflin are particularly easy to use for teachers.

Face it Seattle's annual OSPI - MSP math scores continue to be poor with Everyday Math .... so how many more coaching dollars and Professional Development hours and dollars will be flushed?

Remember the citizens of the city are paying for this nonsense.

Po3 said...

Frustrating! Waivers were promised as part of the NSAP due to reduced choice.

Bait and switch, again.

Notice who is at the helm on this one - hint hint, has the title Interim.

Linh-Co said...

Cathy Thompson used the excuse of not offering waivers because their math coach was not trained in other math methods.

I thought the curriculum was the state standards and that we weren't teaching to a specific textbook. Shouldn't 5th grade math be 5th grade math regardless of textbooks? These excuses are crap.

WenD said...

@Dan & Fruitbat: RE: North Beach, when did Niki Hayes retire? Wasn't she the principal who introduced Saxon Math to NB? Didn't achievement rise across the board when she did this? Verifiable in the same way that math learning at Schmitz Park rose with Singapore?

WenD said...

Thanks for the post, Mel. Painful to read. Sounds like every director did their bit of grandstanding, and that was it. Is this a sideways example of what Peter Orzag was talking about when he said the cure for fake bipartisanship is "less democracy?" (He also said that the disabled "need to work more.")

I think you are correct in your conclusion (different thread) that at least two directors are nothing more than obstructions to real progress.

peonypower said...

Cathy Thompson will definitely not lift a finger without being ordered to, and yet she was promoted. I wonder why. I agree with PO3- look further up the food chain for the reason why no action on waivers. Thompson is carrying out orders from above. Ironically, teachers are expected to attack the gaps with an infinite set of teaching strategies but if you actually lobby for doing something different you are told not to. It comes back to the same thing- is it stupidity or evilness. Frankly I can't tell anymore because it all looks the same.

seattle citizen said...

"Ironically, teachers are expected to attack the gaps with an infinite set of teaching strategies but if you actually lobby for doing something different you are told not to."

Ain't THAT the truth! "Differentiate! To these standards! Using these instructional materials only!"
Talk about your basic disconnect.

It's the snake oil (oops, that's not civil) it's the carefully considered plan of Reform: "THESE numbers are the standard; THIS curriculum will be your magic bullet to teach to them; THAT book right there is your instructional material; HERE are your pacing guides. But WE in the Reform Movement will reach all children with our standardized package deal (and cheaper, more efficient, too!) All children are different, schools have different needs, teachers have their own styles, but WE have the package that works better!"

Some kinda magic, I tell ya.

WV sesselse.

Anonymous said...

Waivers? Waivers?

To make any sense of this math situation one needs to look at the history of EDM in the SPS.

1: Carla Santorno bought EDM because she got a good deal. Board approved purchase May 30, 2007

2: Early April 2007, Denver's Rocky Mountain News reported that a DPS hired consultants found the Denver Middle Schools were failing to make any math progress... Denver used EDM in elementary schools followed by CMP in middle schools. Carla Santorno came from Denver.

3. The SPS District's premise has been that to make EDM work requires a fidelity of implementation, where all teachers do what the program manual dictates. Thus the need for all the math coaches to provide assistance and "encourage" adherence to the "fidelity" of implementation plan.

4.. Math time increased to 75 minutes per day with the EDM adoption.

5.. Many Teachers were having difficulty completing the EDM lessons with fidelity to the plan in 75 minutes. Some teachers increased instructional time to 90 minutes per day. ... Thus the title of All Day .. Every Day Math seems appropriate.

6.. The CAO and now interim Superintendent has often said.... teachers may supplement EDM as they wish.... but where is the time to do so? Are the Math coaches encouraging the use of supplements? Have they provided a list of possible supplements?

6.b... The Washington Math Standards of 2008 were supposedly the "curriculum for math" in the SPS ... but this was hardly the case ... EDM remained not just the instructional materials but the curriculum as "fidelity of implementation" was still the plan.

7.. Santorno stated that the use of EDM would eliminate the achievement gap within 5 years....
check the 2007 - 2011 data SPS & Auburn during that time.

SPS & Auburn Math 2007-2011

8.. On May 30, 2007 the Board approved EDM and thought they could also approve a Singapore Supplement. The Board approved a Singapore Supplement.. (Sally Soriano thought that full sets of Singapore grade level materials would be available, What was purchased was one extra practice workbook classroom set for each classroom ... or was it each school? ... these materials remained unpacked and unavailable at most schools) .....

BUT the board has no authority to approve materials unless they are submitted through the proper process.

The Board lingered on for at least a year, occasionally wondering why the Singapore supplemental materials were not disseminated and in use. In the first EDM year... Santorno made it known that EDM implementation required a lot of time and Singapore would not be used at most schools.

Then later came the legality that the Board's Singapore action of May 30, 2007 had no legal basis.

Since the sacking of MGJ, there have been statements in support of current math direction from both Board President Sundquist and Susan Enfield.
To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.

-- Dan Dempsey

Chris S. said...

Peter did ask for waivers for new schools last year. Guess asking gets nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Data on the schools is easily obtainable via the OSPI website. It might have taken them 2 minutes to get the achievement scores. Don't they have access to the web at least via their personal phones?
-excuse hater

dan dempsey said...

In answer to WenD at 6:07 on 9/29 above..

Niki Hayes wrote me and said post this=>

We implemented Saxon Math for K-2 in 2001-2002. Grades 3-5 got Saxon in 2002-2003. I left there at the end of 2004 with 4th grade math scores having risen from 66% in 2000 to above 80% that year. In the spring of 2005, the scores hit 91%. VERY LITTLE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WAS NEEDED--2 hours one day. The books explain the problems so well that teachers said they finally understood math.

I don't know why North Beach or Schmitz Park didn't send information for the board meeting, but I do know that at least one new principal at North Beach in recent years has worked to destroy the Saxon Math program. Of course, I was told that I wasn't a "team player" by having Saxon Math at North Beach. Results, therefore, don't matter, so one wonders why anyone would offer data that suggests such outcomes.

Anonymous said...

It's not only math, it's also the non-mandated Writers Workshop.

Teachers and whole schools forced by the admins into using a non-literate curriculum with the focus on "feelings" not grammar or objective thinking.

Kids and teachers are being evaluated by the number of scribbled up pages filled, not on content or clarity or commas.

Even Michael DeBell has admiitted publically that WW is not a good curriculm. Too bad he doesn't seem to care enough to do anything about it.

But no worries - the kids won't be able to write coherent letters of outrage.


CCM said...

I have to say that I agree re: Writer's Workshop as far as teaching kids how to write correctly. It doesn't.

My kid has worked with Writer's Workshop since K. We lived in a different part of the country at that time and our district used it. I was fairly happy with it when he was younger, just getting him to write was impressive to me - although not everything that he wrote was impressive.

Now however, I can see the huge gaps in 8th grade. His 8th grade LA teacher has broken out an ancient grammar and punctuation book and is filling in those holes. Thank goodness - as I actually wasn't aware of how much he didn't know up to this point.

Common Sense is that you have to supplement in order to cover all bases. Teachers know this - we just need to let them do their job (by approving waivers when necessary when mandated curriculum isn't cutting it).

Anonymous said...

Using Writers Workshop K-8 feels criminal. It is meant as a K-5 curriculum. It is stealing hours of my child's time that could be spent actually learning. My child's writing skills have regressed while spelling and grammar take a back seat to feelings and personal moments (that aren't quite personal, because they get read aloud).

venting parent

Anonymous said...

We are homeschooling our 8th grader in language arts this year due to dissatisfaction with the Readers/Writers Workshop model.

Our daughter first asked to homeschool in LA a couple of months into her 6th grade year, after becoming frustrated by receiving such minimal feedback on her writing and not having opportunities to discuss literature in class. My daughter explained to me that this was all part of some "new program." When I met with her teacher, I was dismayed to find out that, in addition to the issues my daughter had mentioned, the R/W Workshop curriculum does not provide any formal instruction in vocabulary or grammar. My daughter liked her teacher but even she knew that she wasn't being challenged. We supplemented heavily for the next two years.

My daughter's grown tired of supplementing at home and, in her words, "just wasting time" at school. We agreed that she wouldn't have to take LA at school this year. Initially, we tried dually enrolling in the Washington Virtual Academy but found out that the district had made a last minute decision to discontinue dual enrollment (any public engagement? not that I heard about). We then tried to take advantage of the board's 2010 policy on online learning (C57.00). Our request was declined, so we are simply homeschooling. The more traditional approach we're using at home is a much better fit for our daughter.

I agree that the workshop model can be beneficial for younger kids (and for older kids who are struggling), but I think it's a step in the wrong direction for many middle schoolers.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 7:08 post signed "tired of RW"

Anonymous said...

Agree completely with above posters' about using Reader's and Writer's workshop and the Discovery Math curriculum in MS. Does anyone know if there are alternative middle schools that don't use the Workshop and Discovery Math series? We find supplementing on top of school load too much for our middleschooler.

-another parent

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I love Writer's Workshop. I don't think I got one lick of benefit from parsing sentences, vocabulary/spelling tests, punctionation drills, grammar instruction, or any of the stuff we did when I was a kid. I do believe the claim that these old-style techniques didn't yeild much. Writer's Workshop doesn't keep a teacher from delivering any content. The main premise of WW is that you learn to write by writing, and writing a lot. And, at my kids' middle school they've gotten plenty of opportunity to write on a variety of topics, in a variety of styles.

Why do we think a bunch of parents are curriculum experts? That is what we pay these people to do.

-like WW

Maureen said...

like WW, is your experience with R&WW in K-5 or middle school?

another parent, TOPS doesn't use R/WW in MS (generally does in 1-5). Does use District curriculum, CMP for 6-7 and Discovering Algebra in 8th, for Math (EDM is only K-5 from what I understand.)

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

"Agree completely with above posters' about using Reader's and Writer's workshop and the Discovery Math curriculum in MS."

Just FYI, MS math is CMP. Only HS math (9-12th grade) is Discovery.

"I don't think I got one lick of benefit from parsing sentences, vocabulary/spelling tests, punctionation drills, grammar instruction, or any of the stuff we did when I was a kid. "

Maybe you didn't get much out spelling, sentence structure, etc., after all it is certainly not "fun" and it's pretty rote. But at least you were exposed to it, and taught it. Our children are not even being exposed, formally, to grammar, punctuation, writing fluency, sentence structure, or literary elements. Quite frankly, they are being robbed of basic LA instruction. And it's sad.

just sayin'

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

My child had WW beginning mid way through elementary school and all through MS. When she got to HS she struggled through her LA class- and she ultimately failed the course. She was totally unprepared for HS English - despite taking honors English all through MS. Since SPS did not offer summer or night school this year she took an online English course (from a highly respected institution) to make up the credit- and boy was it an eye opener. The course covered, equally: spelling, reading comprehension, writing and literary elements, grammar, and punctuation. And we found out just how far behind she actually was. She never learned proper sentence structure, how to use literary elements, grammar, or punctuation. And she struggled with spelling. All the creative writing, and the many socratic seminars that her MS English classes did (while I loved them) could not possibly fill in for a teacher not teaching basic writing fluency. Further, my daughter had never been exposed to any classical novels, or other genres of writing (in school). Her classes always read "cool" books that her teachers thought would interest the kids.

If it were up to me I'd ditch WW, and go back to a more traditional approach - especially in middle elementary. I know it's not "fun" but kids need to learn how to write fluently, grammar rules, spelling, etc. No matter how creative they are, or how much they love to write, if they can't form a coherent story, or argument, or essay, and can't punctuate it, they are going to flop on their faces in HS, and college. It will catch up with them eventually.


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

The main premise of WW is that you learn to write by writing, and writing a lot.

What's the old saw? Not practice makes perfect, but practice makes permanent.

After a couple years of grade school, I pointed out to my kid that they were consistently writing a letter in their name backwards. Upon writing it the correct way, my kid informed me, "No, that doesn't look right."

Yeah, I bet it doesn't, not after writing it backwards for two straight years without correction in class.

Interestingly, my kid's Japanese teachers don't take the "don't stifle them with instruction" approach. They can't. No one's going to pick up the slack at home.

I swear the crappy math and WW coast along on the fact that many parents will fill in the details. I pity the kids who don't have parents who do.

Linh-Co said...

Readers/Writers workshop is a joke. When are we going to move beyond "small moments"? It might be appropriate for K-2 and that's about it.

My 10th grader in the pre IB program told me only one kid in their entire class passed the grammar test. Her teacher at Open House told us the test was at a 4th grade level. What have the kids been doing all these years?

I wish this district would get some common sense and teach some basic skills. What is wrong with central office and why are they so enamored with all the garbage curriculum?

Anonymous said...

It's discussions like these that make me long for a Core Knowledge type of school...and you don't need to have charters to start one.

It's sad when I'm nearly in tears with gratitude for teachers that somehow manage to squeeze in some vocabulary and grammar instruction. It's just so basic.

And grammar's not just for writing skills; how can one understand a foreign language without knowing their own?

venting parent

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"It's sad when I'm nearly in tears with gratitude for teachers that somehow manage to squeeze in some vocabulary and grammar instruction."

Give these exceptional teachers all the fierce support you can. Write the Board of Directors, Dr. Enfield, Ed Directors, principals, etc.

Teachers I know who have tried to teach LA basics, even behind closed doors, have been sanctioned, scolded, retaliated against, moved from teaching LA at all, even harrassed out of teaching all together.

Also, concerning drills - that's how one learns most things- soccer kicks to videogames to boiling an egg. It may not be a laugh a minute but it works.


Anonymous said...

It's ok. In India, they are still teaching the Queen's English. We can outsource our writing and editing over there like we do more and more of our radiology and legal work. I have no idea what our kids will be able to do once they get their US college degree here.


dan dempsey said...

--like WW said:

Why do we think a bunch of parents are curriculum experts? That is what we pay these people to do.

News Bulletin:
The quality of education research in America is extraordinarily low.

Viewing "these people that we pay as curriculum experts" is naive.

Look at the current remediation rates for both Language Arts and Math at the collegiate level for recent high school graduates.

There is little evidence that the 110+ academic coaches for teachers improved anything. The requirement to be an expert in the SPS is the ability to whistle the politically correct song.

The current required allegiance to District political tribalism should not lead us to the view that these folks are curriculum experts simply because they are paid and all agree with each other. Results do matter.

Jan said...

Well said, Dan. The "curriculum experts" have a long, glorious history of chasing academic fads and ignoring factual data.

Their careers are "invested" in convincing people to pay them lots of money to make reasonably straightforward, common sense concepts as obtuse and confusing as possible. (This is why it takes dozens of "math coaches" to help qualified, professional teachers teach CMP, ED, and Discovery, and almost NO coaches to help teachers teach Singapore and Saxon -- which yield much better results.