Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Tuesday Open Thread

Interesting six-part series on math in the NY Times, Me, Myself and Math.

Oh those kids! Looks like LA high school students found it quite easy to hack into their new school-issued iPads.

One week after students started receiving their iPads, students attending at least three Los Angeles high schools had figured out how to disarm a built-in security lock that was supposed to limit what they could do with the devices. This freed them to use the iPads to surf the Internet, send tweets, socialize on Facebook, stream music through Pandora, and who knows what else besides homework and school assignments. 

Student access to social networks and tweets will of course invalidate any of the online exams.

All the students had to do to trick the system was to delete their personal profile information and then they were free to use the iPads any way they wanted to. 

Last Growth Boundaries meeting at Ballard tonight.  Anyone going?  

Stephan Blanford, who would represent the Central region and who has a child at Beacon Hill, was not at the Meany meeting last night. Sad because he missed a good opportunity. 

I actually haven't seen Mr. Blanford at many events.  Let me know if anyone sees him at the Ballard event.

What's on your mind?


dj said...

This morning my child's bus is 60 minutes late. As I posted last week, the bus has never been earlier than 13 minutes late, and has been running late enough that my child would be late to school if we waited for it most days. Does anyone have tips or strategies for getting this remedied? I really don't understand how it can be considered "providing a bus" if most mornings using that bus would make my child late to school.

Christina said...

My kid took the Reading MAP yesterday. His results have historically varied from 60 percentile to 93 percentile. Yesterday his Reading MAP result was beyond the K-11 Fall session range. The score isn't up on PowerSchools or The Source or whatever, but my kid relayed to me he saw his computed score (237) at the end of the session.

I have read how teachers are supposed to use the results as guides to appropriate instruction. Do any GenEd or SpEd teachers think Fall session MAP scores not just below or above norms, but beyond the K-11 range are useful for determining instruction level? Do they regard a score like that as "fluke"?

I thought the idea was to show growth throughout the year. The kid is 96% likely to have a lower score if he's tested in the Spring.

He's not "gifted", Spectrum or APP, although he usually takes one ALO class a year (not Language Arts).
I didn't opt out of having him do MAP tests last year because I figure the MAP scores are just junk data or "noise", but that might be my bias because my kid's Reading MAP scores are too scattered to present meaningful data.

The responses that would make most sense to me would be something like "we know inconsistent results are too scattered to present meaningful data, we just teach as we know best" or "we're primarily looking for repeat below-norm scores so the child's skill levels can be identified for appropriate interventions."

The response that would make least sense to me is that those inconsistent scores are being used to evaluate the educator's effectiveness over the course of a year, when the educator has nothing to do with how my child chooses to guess on computerizes, multiple-choice tests or how much time he takes on them. My kid usually goes as fast as possible, but this time he chose to take as much time as he was allowed. I know time each child takes on the test isn't factored into results.

Karen said...

My child is reasonably smart (1st grade boy), but doesn't test well. After a 10 question math test the first week of 1st grade, it was determined that he should be in the 1st grade math class at our school. This one test is the only placement test for all of elementary school. Kids do not move in/out of the walk-to-math class they are placed in after first grade. His homework is a joke - color in boxes to represent the numbers 1-5. He is losing interest due to the non-challenging homework. I am afraid he will become the class clown. He already says, "I'm stupid since I am only in 1st grade math". I saw the 2nd grade math homework and it was 1+2=, etc. etc. Easily something he could do. I e-mailed the teacher asking for the 2nd grade homework packet weekly for us to do at home. I was told to go buy a workbook. Does anyone have any suggestions? The walk-to-math is a joke. There is no transparency in the placement process, there is no movement after grade 1, even though we are an ALO school, I am unable to get more challenging work, and the Principal is incredibly defensive.

Maje said...

I know you've already emailed the teacher, but I'd recommend that you schedule a meeting with the teacher and discuss it in person.

My K kid was given a very short evaluation and placed in a group in which she's already getting bored. I'm going to schedule a meeting to discuss moving her up. I'm still framing my argument because I want it to be about my daughter and what she needs rather than the lameness of the test and how ineffective the evaluation was. I worry the latter would cause the teacher to get defensive while the former would put us all on the same side.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Who is "they," who you are asking about? I generally have my kids take one MAP a year and skip the others, partly for the reason you mention- too much noise, and repeat testing doesn't help. Well, and one of them is so consistent it's not really worth anyone's time to reconfirm three times a year for half a day at a time. We have had a couple teachers (usually young ones) who use the data to determine placement or skills to work on, but I don't think most of our teachers look at the data for most of the class at all. Or if they do, we never hear about it. Can you see the rit spreadsheet online? Does that look like about what your kid can do? If so, I'd say that's about what your kid can do, and that's probably all the meaning you can get. It's hard to show growth along the MAP people's path if your kid is being taught something other than the next skill they have in mind (which he or she probably is).

One question- did he recently start taking the older test? Isn't it third grade when the test changes? I thought generally scores go down once when that happens, but it may also have moved up the ceiling.


Anonymous said...

To answer the question about relevance and validity of standardized reading scores, E.D. Hirsch, Jr., wrote a piece about the fuzziness of value-added scores for reading. He contends that "if students learned science, literature, history, civics, and the arts, they would do very well on the new Common Core reading tests - whatever those tests turned out to be." The point being that performance on reading comprehension tests are more a reflection of cumulative knowledge (hence correlated with parental income and education), not what was learned in class that year. He asks if the results aren't based on what was done that year, is it fair to evaluate teachers using that data?

The Test of the Common Core

The article was related to Common Core, but the same could be asked of MAP scores. MAP tests
are not correlated to specific grade level content as covered by SPS, but are measuring general reading level related to a nationally normed set of peers. That's it. And once the reading MAP score hits 245, your child has hit the ceiling. Sure, students can get higher scores, but the differences are not statistically significant at that point.

We have not found that fall MAP scores have changed the instructional plan for our children. If you want your child to be more challenged in math, go to Math-n-Stuff and buy some Singapore workbooks. Seriously. If your child is not in Spectrum or APP, there are no guarantees of accelerated math. Even if your child is working at grade level, Singapore workbooks will provide more solid math coverage than EDM. There's not much to lose. Just a few pages a night can do wonders. After working with your child at home, perhaps you can go back to the teacher/principal with evidence that another math placement would be appropriate.

good luck

Anonymous said...

Isn't October 1st student counts the magic date for finalizing staffing? At McClure, many classes are very high - i.e. 6th grade sciences classes at 40+kids! We are hoping for additional staff but not sure how the process works. Any thoughts on how to best push this through?

McClure Parent

ben said...

@Karen - We used the Splash math app around first grade for some enrichment. It was a bit repetitive after a while and you have to dip in and check progress and manually adjust to avoid an extra hundred problems of the same type.

I've been trying out khan academy as well. So far this year its working pretty well. We do just 5 minutes or so waiting for the bus and its fairly easy to pick which content to work on. This does require some parent involvement to discuss new concepts. In the recent updates they've added mastery quizzes which makes it easier to "level up" to the appropriate material.

If you're just looking for enrichment I'd also recommend the math4love programs. http://mathforlove.com/

I hope this is useful,

Eric B said...

McClure Parent, you're right that today is the magic count date. If the school rates a few new teachers, then the principal should know now and get authorization to hire in a couple of days. They should start the hiring process right away, but it still takes some time to get the teacher assigned.

The real problem is when there are three sections of a class totaling 90 students, but 45 of them are in one section. That's a scheduling problem that will not get the school a new teacher. If that's the case, working with the counselor/teachers/principal to resolve scheduling is the only hope.

Anonymous said...

My child was willing to do math workbooks at that age, but had zero interest in online apps or videos (could not stand Khan Academy). Just find something that your child is willing to do. If you tell your child that you bought the workbooks because you think math is fun and you think he is capable then he might not feel it is a punishment of sorts. We learned the hard way that you just have to take it upon yourself to challenge your child and maintain their interest, especially if the school has little flexibility. In the end, it's easier than butting heads with the school (not to say you should give up on another placement just yet).

It's concerning that individual schools seem to make up placements - is there no consistent guideline from the district? One test as placement - with no opportunity for changes - seems crazy.

mathy parent

Anonymous said...

The October headcount deadline is not the only reason schools aren't fully staffed. Principals often hold hiring until after the "displaced pool" of Seattle teachers has its "close" date, after which schools are allowed to hire outside of the current system. I never realized how many principals play the game, but turns out the answer is "many".


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

DJ, ask the Board member in your region to come to you with you to the bus. Tell them that you have contacted Transportation (and I assume you have)and you do not know what to do. CC that request to the head of Transportation and Michael Tolley. Let me know how it works out.

Christina, that is quite an interesting story and I believe you should send it to the Board. I honestly don't know what to make of it and frankly, I'd be surprised if ANYONE in the district could give you an accurate idea of what it means. That said, I'll bet your child's teacher could tell you much more just based on schoolwork and classroom participation.

Karen - all of you - you're killing me. This is all very sad. You don't know how much this relates to my struggles for my son. It is very difficult to send a child to school and have them come home feeling this way. You can, of course, work with him but the real time is at school. If you have spoken to the teacher and the principal, go to the Executive Director. Buy a workbook is not an answer. (I'd also tell you to consider private testing - low-cost if you are F/RL - and get him into a program where they will challenge him.)

McClure, yes Oct 1 is the final count. I don't know that you will get more help; did your principal advocate for more? Not a good situation.

Anonymous, sorry I have to delete your comment. I have actually found these boundary meetings interesting. Not because staff is giving good information and answering questions (please) BUT because of the volume of truly great ideas (and not just me, me. me). Parents are trying to offer suggestions and solutions.

Someone said...

@dj - what school - I might be able to help

Anonymous said...

I agree with Melissa that "go buy a workbook" is not a good answer as an ALO school, yet some teachers will say they are not obligated to teach anything beyond grade level, unless your child has tested into Spectrum or APP. If the testing window has passed, it's another two years before your child could be served in an AL program - test next fall, for placement another year down the road. Two years is a long time...so as a parent, you probably want to start doing something for your child now while you figure out a better academic placement, be it switching schools, advocating for a different walk-to-math placement, or applying for AL opportunities.

*AL forms are due Oct. 3, so there is still time to apply for next year*

good luck

Anonymous said...


The "Walk the Boundaries" project feedback is due by 11 PM today!

This is your last day to submit physical boundary-related comments!

Follow the links to instructions and maps here: http://bit.ly/GrowthBoundaries

- JR Mom

Karen said...

My 1st grade boy won't test into Spectrum or APP. I have another child at Lincoln so I am fairly confident in my assessment. That being said, I am fully aware of what my boy is CAPABLE of learning.

Unfortunately for him, I was unaware of how the walk-to-math placement worked at our neighborhood school. If, like a few parents in the know, I would have drilled him for a half hour/day for a week or so before school started, he would have done better on the 10 question placement test! If I would have mentioned to his teachers how great he was at math, he probably would have gotten in that class. Arrghhhh.

Melissa, you have no idea how bad the "bullying" is with the walk-to-math. A MOM(!) walked up to my kid on curriculum night and asked what class my son was in (I was unaware they had taken a placement test or already determined where the kids were going). He responded, I do walk-to-math. She said, oh, who's your teacher? When he answered, she said, oh, too bad, ****** was hoping he'd have a buddy in his second grade math class. And, on she and her kid went to the next 1st grader to crush their little ego while inflating her own. All the kids ask each other what grade math they are in at recess.

To show how bad this placement method is, on curriculum night, the math specialist told the 3rd grade parents who had kids in the 4th grade math that it was unacceptable that they were counting on their fingers. Um, why are they in that class?!? Meanwhile, there are kids bored to tears in 3rd grade math that can't move up due to lack of space or lack of teacher recommendation that they should be in there.

I always hated sending my other kid to APP. I felt that any kid who wanted to try should be able to and exited if they couldn't keep up with the work. Now, I am happy to be there since there is no bullying related to ability.

I feel so bad for my little guy.

Karen said...

Also, thanks for the suggestions. I think I might go get the Singapore workbook. I just looked at the online assessment test and my kid could do the 1B workbooks easily. Maybe I'll just turn these pages in instead of making him color the blocks.

Anonymous said...

This is really discouraging, especially since I am trying to advocate for walk-to-math at our ALO school and this type of stuff is exactly why they are loathe to do it! Karen, I'm so sorry about your son's experience.

I know walk-to-math works well at some schools. How do those schools handle appropriate placement, esp. in primary grades? This is something I've wondered about.


Anonymous said...

Why do the kids need to know what grade math they are doing?? It should be "math." I am sure eventually they will figure it out, but let's grown ups lead the way and model everyone working on what is best for them right then. And of course they should retest every year, and there should be significant movement, especially in the younger grades. If you do choose to take any of this on with the school, i'd think retesting would be the easiest avenue, most likely to yield results. What a shame the grown ups at your school are mucking up.

I agree (a lot) that buy a workbook isn't a great answer, and we should have better ones. But also it's a lot to ask a family to move schools if all that is wrong is the math placement is one year off (seems like you also have some class A jerk parents, but if you find a school with zero jerks of any stripe...please invite me to visit your fairyland utopia). I do think the Singapore books are excellent, and credit the mathforlove people with turning one of my children's attitude about math 180 degrees.


Anonymous said...

Make sure to get the ones with the solid color covers, not the white ones with blue writing. You can see them in person at math n stuff. I never do them consistently, so I got the "extra practice" ones just to supplement when whatever they were doing in class was too boring (child was a little ahead in math, no walk to math, didn't need to change schools or programs otherwise. Sounds like your son- very solid gen Ed kid, with an area of strength).

I am sorry you are having to deal with this!


Linh-Co said...

Math placement like anything else is a numbers game. If you have two classrooms in each grade level you are going to divide those 2 rooms evenly. Placement is based on a combination of placement test and teacher recommendations. Every school varies with their version of tests and cutoffs. There is no "standard" district wide test for placement. I'm guessing some schools use end-of-course test of whichever curriculum (textbook)that is used school wide. This can be from Everyday Math, Saxon, Singapore, or teacher created. The district does have a kindergarten readiness test but I found the test less than ideal for placement. Questions like having students count with blocks to see if they have one-to-one correspondence or counting to 20 and back down to zero are worthless if the majority of your student population have attended preschool.

The Washington State standards for kindergarten only requires students to recognize and read numbers from 0-31, fluently add up to 5, order numbers from 1-10, and recognizing patterns. These are of course minimum standards but as you can see are not at all rigorous.

As a teacher who taught the advanced math for 1st graders in a school that does Walk-to-Math, I've also noticed that kids who are early readers tend to have a better chance of placement. It may be that the kids are able to read the directions on their own and are perceived as quicker with answers. For better or for worse, reading is king in the primary grades.

RosieReader said...

Karen -- find another family in the 2nd grade math and ask them to share the packet with you. Have your son complete it for a couple of weeks, and then turn it in. If he truly is able to do the work, it will be hard to deny your request.

RosieReader said...

To add to Eric's point, principals also have to take into account overall staffing. perhaps one science class is heavy, but all language arts classes are heavy. Even if a principal has a full FTE available after October 1, they may choose to use it on language-arts certified educator. Sometimes lightening strikes and you can find dual-certified candidates, but certainly not all the time.

The principal should be asked to explain her/his decisions and rationale. Beyond that, be glad that your student is in a class that you want him/her to be in, and be grateful that a bargaining unit employee is willing to have a big class, as opposed to camping those extra kids in another elective.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa - Madrona K-5 kids could go to the reopened TT Minor and to McGilvra. McGilvra was originally slated to grow in this BEX but that plan was dropped early on. Portables could happen at McGilvra and permanent space could be added by realigning BEX funds.

Madrona 6-8 students living on Capitol Hill would go to Washington and Meany. There would be room.

Madrona K-8 is more convenient to mass transit then many realize, as it hugs the east side of the CD, with major arterials nearby. Fine for high school commuting. It also has a history of attracting kids from outside the area. Not too long ago a substantial portion of the population was bused from South Seattle and even Renton.

I want World School to have a permanent great facility. Madrona K-8 is a newer building. TT Minor would get less $$ put into a re-open as it already operated as a grade school. That money would be diverted to Madrona upgrades to host high school classes.

Also, the Central District already has TOPS K8, so the larger area would not be losing that type of school option by converting Madrona K8. Actually,I believe that TOPS already serves many Madrona-area families.

We are all so jammed at the seams, and Madrona K8 has struggled for so long to fill its building - it seems like a win for the community as a whole to consider this. Also, the schools to which current Madrona elementary kids would be reassigned - McGilvra etc., have good reputations so although there is no denying there would be an impact on those students, the option for a strong education, not far from their current school, would remain.

Neighbor Mom

Anonymous said...

Sorry, just posted the above note to the wrong thread. Will repost accordingly.

Neighbor Mom

Karen said...

Linh-co, When I talked to my son's teacher about the math placement, she, too, brought up reading as an important factor in placement. I was with a friend this weekend whose kid had the luck to be in the 2nd grade math class. She told me her kid was getting pulled-out for reading since he was "way behind" grade level. I asked what she meant since how can you be SO FAR behind when you are only in 1st grade.

Sleeper, Thanks for the heads-up on which workbooks to buy. I was confused looking online. Also, I completely agree! Why should the kids and parents know what grade level math they are doing? They should just feel confident their child is in the right class.

H- My friend has great things to say about her kid's walk-to-math program. Kids and parents (although they could probably figure it out) don't know what grade level math they are doing. They instead go to red, orange, purple or green math. Again, I am sure some parents figure it out, but it would be less obvious. Also, this school uses many more data points and retests kids twice a year, every year.

Johnny Calcagno said...

For what it is worth, I saw Stephan Blanford at the Garfield Open House a couple of weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

McClure always has about 17 in the "honors" sections, maybe 20... so that everybody else gets to have 40, or so. Makes the Spectrum parents really happy. Everybody else? Not so much. Not to mention that the autistic kids and behavior disordered students also get dumped into the 40. Makes it really great. McClure parent, just demand Spectrum - no matter what. That's actually the solution.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the protocol, or steps, a family would take to have a high school student take a semester off? Would the student withdraw then re enroll?

-curious parent

Lynn said...

curious parent,

That's an interesting questuon. Is the student enrolled in their attendance area school? Would the student be home-schooled during that time?

Melissa Westbrook said...

CP, contact your school counselor. It depends on what they might be doing and if it includes district contact.

Anonymous said...

X McClure.
If you're ex then you are not there this year, correct? Maybe more?

The school has experienced a nice growth spurt and there are no 17 student classes, Spectrum or otherwise. Many (most?) classes are quite full and we're looking forward to getting more staff.

I'm not sure how long you've been gone, or what the circumstances were surrounding your departure, but your info isn't accurate and comes off as sour grapes.

-current Maverick

Anonymous said...

The Artwood Studios at Cedar Park is featured in a story about the coming changes with the district taking the building back.

Artwood way of life to end as school’s back in


Ann D.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ann, I think taking back CP and spending millions on it is one of the biggest mistakes of BEX IV.

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand the Cedar Park shuffle, but I am alarmed that we aren't really getting ahead of our capacity issues with any or most of the BEX IV projects.


Here is a brief piece from CIO magazine regarding the LA USD iPad brouhaha:

What's Behind the iPad Hack at Los Angeles High Schools?

Ann D.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ann, I'm glad you heard FACMAC on the issue that BEX IV won't solve our capacity problems (even if we had a bond rather than a levy and could go at it full-force).

Before there was a capacity issue, there was ALWAYS the issue of too many old buildings (and I mean more than 50 years old) AND too little maintenance (especially preventative).

All the hand-wringing from various superintendents and Boards over this and now - coupled with the capacity issues - the chickens have come home to roost. (with very little space to do so)

NW mom said...

Don't we need even more space than we already have? I keep reading this. In that light shouldn't we keep the old Thornton Creek bldg open and also open Cedar Park?

Anonymous said...


All the classes at McClure are around 30 this year - including Spectrum (my child is already in those classes). The enrollment has jumped quite a bit more than expected so staffing was short.

Hoping to hear soon about more staff to alleviate the issue.

McClure Parent

Anonymous said...

John Muir has a rather large hole in the ceiling of the cafeteria, large enough that a portion of the room is restricted area (if the descriptions from a first grader can be believed) I don't know if it is a roof problem or plumbing or what.

-Muir Mom

Maureen said...

From the Garfield thread:

Melissa Westbrook said...
And that is a good and positive note with which to end this discussion.

I'll let you know what the police report says and any updates.

10/2/13, 2:17 PM

So this is the policy now? Comments are closed down whenever you decide we're done? ( <- Sincere question.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, Charlie and I will talk and create a thread about the blog and its policies. I felt that we were getting to a circular argument point and yes, I used my judgment as moderator.

I'm sure we will return to this subject. President Smith-Blum spoke about it at tonight's Board meeting.

Maureen said...

Ok, just checking since it has happened a couple of times recently.

Anonymous said...

SPS is looking for volunteers for a new Math Task Force. Oh please, let's get the math heads on this commission and stack the deck in favor of common sense: Dan Dempsy, Lingho (sorry, not sure of your name- my apologies), Cliff Mass... WE NEED YOU!

Please apply, then let us know you did via this blog and citizens, parents, etc., can write to district to tell them we both expect AND demand you three are on it if the task force's findings are to have legitimacy.

Thank you for stepping up. I, we, are grateful.

Signed: PLEASE

Lynn said...

The Africatown Education Summit will reconvene Saturday from noon to 4:00. I believe it's open to the public.

If you want to attend, I recommend you confirm the location with Wyking Garrett. (The district notified the task force members that they were required to vacate the building by September 27th.)


Linh-Co said...

Dan Dempsey is teaching middle school in Nevada but I will definitely apply to the committee. I've also put the word out to elementary teachers I respect.

Anonymous said...

McClure Parent,

Secondary schools are funded at 1:32 ratio. Gen-ed classes at McClure usually run around 40, and yes, there are classes of around 40 still. If the average is 30, then there won't be a lot of new teachers coming your way. The last principal made the problem much worse by scheduling teachers for things that are questionable as middle school classes: yearbook, ASB, WEB. (those things should be MOST offerings, esp in a small school) In that case, the teacher's contract required an extra prep period with 0 students. Get a few extra periods with 0 students, and you really have to jack up the class size somewhere. That all was completely an administrative decision - hopefully it will be a lot better with a new leadership.