Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jam-packed exciting C & I meeting

The C & I meeting on Monday began with a change to the agenda. An update on Advanced Learning was added as an eighth discussion item.

Yearbook Contract. I learned a lot. The staff brought forward the news that they will recommend a one-year extension of the contract with the yearbook publisher at about $400,000 from the ASB budget. This will be the third year of a one-year contract with options for up to four one-year extensions. One company publishes all of the yearbooks for all of the middle and high schools. This recommendation came from the "Yearbook Advisory Committee" - I didn't even know that such a committee exists. I wonder who is on it. This committee apparently sees some virtue in uniformity of yearbooks from school to school. Kathleen Vasquez has recently been assigned central oversight of yearbooks. I didn't realize that yearbooks required any central oversight at the district level. One question was raised and the answer should be available when the motion to extend the contract is introduced: what is the response to the concern expressed by the Rainier Beach High School community about the cost of their yearbooks. Because RBHS has a smaller enrollment and shorter print run, their yearbooks cost more than the yearbooks at larger high schools.

3130 Student Assignment Policy. This discussion was about creating formalized student intake procedures for middle and high schools and standardized process for math placement. In the future, math placement in 6th grade will be guided by student scores on two assessments: their 4th grade MSP and the higher of their fall or winter 5th grade MAP. District policy requires two assessments be used and these are the scores they have. 5th grade MSP and the spring MAP scores aren't available in time for middle schools to write their master schedules. Students and their families always have the option of "opting up" to the next higher math class. That's supposedly available on demand, but many families were not advised of this option. I also heard - though I'm not sure I heard right - that all of the comprehensive middle schools will offer the same suite of math classes.

There was some discussion about whether the 4th grade MSP score actually indicates anything about Algebra readiness. The answer was that the District is thinking of replacing that assessment with the Orleans-Hanna, which is an assessment to determine algebra readiness. Of course all of this is just for one year. In the following year the assessments will be replaced by the new assessments that are aligned with the Common Core.

All 9th graders are assigned to a 9th grade LA class and there is no high school math class lower than Algebra, but assessments will be reviewed at intake to determine if students need a support class.

Aside from all of this, the policy has to be amended to reflect a legal requirement that isn't in the current policy.

Policy 2415 High School Graduation Requirements. This was the return of a discussion to remove the GPA requirement from the high school graduation requirements. Of the 295 school districts in Washington State only two - Seattle and Bellevue - have GPA requirements. Bellevue's is much simpler than ours. The powerful and secretive High School Steering Committee will discuss it and will have a recommendation for the Board in February. With the HSSC running this you can be sure that there won't be any community engagement.

CTE Report. It was a good year for CTE. Yay! Policy calls for an annual report. It will be presented soon.

RTTT 4 grant approval. As part of the Race to the Top grant package there is one for tech that will provide about $1 million worth of hardware, software, support, and professional development to introduce blended learning at 13 elementary schools and one middle school. If the district accepts this contract our obligation will be to pay for the annual software costs. This expense will be paid out of the schools' budgets and the costs are actually less than many of the schools are now paying for the same or similar software. This computer-based math instruction is used as an intervention for students who are struggling with grade level material and would be the Tier II intervention within MTSS.

Program Placement Annual Report. A draft version of the report was available. The final report will be in the Friday memo on 1/31 and presented at the Board meeting on 2/5.

Math Adoption. The task force working to select the finalists for the elementary math materials will put forward their three or four choices on Wednesday the 15th instead of Friday the 10th as originally anticipated. They will meet on Wednesday to determine if they will advance three or four finalists as the fourth place choice finished very close behind the third place choice. The Board members strongly encouraged them to deliver only three per the procedure as this is a very sensitive topic and any change in the procedure invites suspicion.

Program Evaluation and Assessment. The Board wanted to ask the staff why the annual program evaluation report didn't include any program evaluations. The staff claimed that there were all kinds of program evaluation reports offered all year long including school scorecards, annual reports to OSPI, and such. They did acknowledge that a number of programs are not assessed, Spectrum most notably, and they agreed to include references to these reports in future versions of the annual report.

Advanced learning. There is a task force now discussing student identification for APP. They will soon put forward a tentative recommendation. They will be followed by another task force that will discuss and put forward recommendations for service delivery models for APP. Then the two sets of recommendations will be aligned to deliver a coordinated set of recommendations for APP. Recommendations for Spectrum and ALO will somehow tickle down from these, but without any task force or community engagement. The new qualifications will be used in the winter of 2014/2015 and the new service delivery models will be implemented in the fall of 2015.


Techy said...


Do you have the RTT contract? If so, please post.

Anonymous said...

It's good to hear they are making the 6th grade math placement criteria more consistent, and that it's a matrix of scores, rather than a single MAP score...but 4th grade MSP? I understand it's a score they have, but is this going to be the policy for next year's 6th graders? Students will be learning after the fact that 4th grade (!) MSP scores matter for 6th grade placement.

As always, thanks for the info, Charlie.

-a parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie probably doesn't have the RTTT contract but I'm sure you can contact the district and ask for it.

Lynn said...

I'm curious about the implementation of the changes in identification of and service delivery to highly capable students. The district is required to develop a Highly Capable Plan; this plan must be fully implemented and serving students from grades K-12 at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. The plan must include procedures for identification at each grade level (K-12).

Issues I have identified are:

1. The current task force is evaluating the tests we use to identify highly capable students. Will these tests be appropriate for use by students in grades 9-12?

2. While the district intends to implement new service delivery models in the fall of 2015, they must be prepared to provide services to identified high school students in the fall of 2014. What will these services look like?

Anonymous said...

In terms of anticipated changes in the AL delivery model, I would expect a change to the way students are served in middle school. For the past few years, the math pathway has been ability based, so a qualified student can take a higher level math class regardless of Spectrum or APP designation. I anticipate LA going the same route, meaning middle school students can be single subject qualified for advanced course work in either LA or math. Based on JAMS community meetings, they are likely to implement such a model next year. It is possible that non-APP students will be able to access APP level LA classes at JAMS.


Lynn said...

That is possible - but not likely for next year. We'll know in the next couple of months if there will be changes in the identification process to be used next year - that will tell us if it's possible to qualify in a single subject. I believe that a change to a non self-contained model would be a decision made at the district level.

The JAMS website says: JAMS is committed to provide rigorous accelerated opportunities for students who are highly qualified in literacy and science but who may not have the APP designation. They could provide this opportunity with separate honors classes.

Linh-Co said...

I heard the grant from the RTT will provide some schools with ST math.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Lynn. That quote from the JAMS website sounds suspiciously like ALO, which IS considered a service delivery model for highly capable, isn't it? Would JAMS really have APP language arts AND separate honors classes?


Charlie Mas said...

Yes, Lihn-Co. The software that the schools will get is ST Math.

Lynn said...


Every middle school is required to have a Spectrum program. I think this is an indication that they might serve Spectrum students with honors classes that are open to other students with high test scores and/or grades. If I had a student who would be attending JAMS next year, I'd email the principal with that question.

Charlie Mas said...

Don't make me write again about what is wrong with our current, acceleration only version of advanced learning. I'm sure I wrote that so recently that it would be inappropriate to write it again already.

ben said...

@skeptical - There's quite a bit of difference between being in an elementary school classroom with an ALO and having a middle school honor's LA class with admission based on some performance metric.

Personally, I think it sounds reasonable depending on implementation. However, the last I heard the actual model has not been decided on yet and there could also end up being 3 levels of offerings.


Charlie Mas said...

Here is my advanced learning question:

If 8th grade Spectrum students are getting instruction that is "one year ahead" in Language Arts and Social Studies, then they are being taught to the standards for 9th grade in these classes. Shouldn't they, therefore, be eligible for high school credit for these classes?

The relevent policy is 2420, High School Grade & Credit Marking Policy, which reads:

"Students enrolled in middle school may earn high school credit for:

"Courses taken at a District middle school that meets or exceeds the requirements for the same high school course and which are on the Seattle Public Schools approved course list.

For APP students, who are purportedly being taught content that is TWO years ahead, shouldn't they get high school credit for their 7th and 8th grade language arts and social studies classes?

Lynn said...

What they really need is access to something other than 9th and 10th grade honors English classes once they get to high school.

I'm hoping to see the follow up to the October discussion on the student identification, I want to hear what you think about service delivery methods for elementary, middle and high school students.

Anonymous said...

Several comments:

1) A middle school APP assignment may slap a 9-12 CCSS standard at the top of the rubric, but that does not mean they are actually teaching the equivalent of a high school class.

2) JAMS is committed to provide rigorous accelerated opportunities for students who are highly qualified in literacy and science but who may not have the APP designation. This could be interpreted several ways. I read it with the possibility of Spectrum students (or other single subject qualified students) accessing APP classes. From a scheduling standpoint, this is the most likely. The principal has made it clear that LA/SS will likely be unblocked in part for the ease of scheduling.

3) For math, the delivery model has become a straight two-year ahead acceleration. This is possible for math as material builds on itself and each course is well defined. A student can enter high school and take the next class in the sequence. There are EOCs that provide some level of assurance that students have mastered a base level of Algebra and/Geometry content.

For LA/SS, it's not as straightforward. A straight 2-year ahead acceleration is not appropriate, nor can a student enter any high school and take the equivalent of an 11th grade LA class simply because they've been in APP for 8th grade. They can't get HS credit because classes are not being taught a high school level. They have not comprehensively covered 9th and 10th grade standards.

If APP is only acceleration, and content is not covered differently, then it is nothing more than a two year grade skip, which is not appropriate for many students. 1st graders in APP still have the writing skills of a 1st grader, for example. They don't come in to 1st grade with the coordination of a 3rd grader. If APP is defined as 2 years ahead - nothing more, nothing less - it's a problem.

weighing in

Charlie Mas said...

If 8th grade Spectrum students and 7th grade APP students are being taught to the 9th grade language arts and social studies standards, then that satisfies the requirements of the policy even if the class doesn't have the same name as the high school class and even if they don't get placement when they get to high school.

The truth is that I don't think those LA and SS classes actually ARE taught to the 9th grade standards and I just want the District to admit it. Given that middle school Spectrum is nothing but LA and SS and given that they are not what they claim to be, then the District needs to admit that middle school Spectrum is nothing.

Anonymous said...

Whitman Middle School does not allow parents to "opt-up" for math courses. For 6th grade placement they use MAP Score + a test developed by Whitman Math Department for placement. If the student's MAP score is high enough (238-240ish) AND they score high enough on the Whitman test, they are placed in 7th grade math.

Must be both, no appeals accepted.

N by NW

Linh-Co said...

N by NW that is what we experienced as well at Whitman. My son had a 268 MAP in 5th grade and had finished 7th grade math. They wouldn't allow us to opt into 8th grade math - much less algebra. Hamilton puts 6th graders in algebra with a score of 250 or higher on the winter MAP score in the 5th grade.

Luckily for us, we tested him into APP and moved him to Hamilton in the 7th grade. We opted him out of Whitman math and home-schooled him for 6th grade. He was put back into geometry for 7th grade. The schools and programs are very inconsistent across the district. I can see why people complain about APP getting special treatment. This is not to bad mouth APP but to highlight the discrepancies between different programs and schools. I hope this policy will regulate placement among the schools more fairly.

Linh-Co said...

N by NW that is what we experienced as well at Whitman. My son had a 268 MAP in 5th grade and had finished 7th grade math. They wouldn't allow us to opt into 8th grade math - much less algebra. Hamilton puts 6th graders in algebra with a score of 250 or higher on the winter MAP score in the 5th grade.

Luckily for us, we tested him into APP and moved him to Hamilton in the 7th grade. We opted him out of Whitman math and home-schooled him in math for 6th grade. He was put back into geometry for 7th grade. The schools and programs are very inconsistent across the district. I can see why people complain about APP getting special treatment. This is not to bad mouth APP but to highlight the discrepancies between different programs and schools. I hope this policy will regulate placement among the schools more fairly.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a Whitman issue, and the irony is Hamilton parents had a hard three year slog to have algebra available to capable 6th graders. Hamilton is a pathway school for APP, and prior to middle school APP being split off to Hamilton, algebra was available to APP 6th graders at Washington. The Hamilton administration was resistant to offering algebra to any 6th graders. Eckstein had been offering algebra placement to some 6th graders, yet APP parents had to lobby the school/district for years in order to have the same placement options for students.

I think the intent of the new math placement policy is to end this discrepancy between schools.

I will add that simply having a 250 on MAP is probably not the best predictor for algebra readiness, as MAP is not an algebra readiness test.


Pm said...

Did they name the 4th grade MSP cut-off for Algebra 1?

Anonymous said...

I don't know how they will decide cut-offs, but you can look up your child's MSP scale score and use OSPI's testing statistics to see how your child performed on a percentile rank basis.

For 2013 testing, for example, a 4th grade scale score of 508 (out of 575) is in the 95.0 percentile rank. A 547 is in the 98.7 PR.

-a parent

Linh-Co said...

I completely agree that a 250 MAP score is completely arbitrary and does not guarantee algebra ready.

The 4th grade MSP is also a low level test which measures a floor level mastery level of 4th grade topics. Those topics measure a shallow understanding of fractions, multi-digit multiplication, and division with single digit divisor. It has nothing to do with algebra. Also, a score of 28 out of 34 possible points (82%) gets you a level 4 score.

ben said...

@Charlie - (This question is meant in earnest) What problem are you trying to solve w.r.t. these classes?

I can interpret your response in 3 ways.

1. We should offer high school credits for middle school work so kids can graduate early. This doesn't seem like a real goal for most kids even in Spectrum/APP.

2. We should increase the rigor of the middle school classes. I could buy this but I haven't seen much evidence of what this would mean or if kids need this or not. Particularly in LA, in my view these years are about sampling literature and practicing writing and more about accumulating experience than anything else.

3. We're inflating our estimate of kids abilities and calling them accelerated when they are really are doing grade level work in a more in-depth manner. In which case we should do ...?

I suppose a fourth conclusion would be that we need a more general curriculum definition for advanced classes across more subjects. But even if that was the case what do you think on the ground and in concrete terms should shift?


Anonymous said...

Well, it's Thursday now. The Math Adoption Committee was supposed to share the top three selections by Monday. Then they changed it to Wednesday. Now it is Thursday. What is going on? The change in timeline is starting to feel like the usual SPS crap.

-Current Math Stinks

Anonymous said...


Based on my experience, getting HS credit for classes taken in middle school is important to ensure the student is not forced to sit thru a very similar class again. Also, short of graduating early, extra credits give you more flexibility in getting an elective you might want.

Chris S.

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Charlie Mas said...

I used to get this question years ago when I was working to get the District to award credit for high school classes taken in middle school. Right now I believe that they only offer credit for math classes, science classes, and world languages.

There are a number of rationale:

1. People should get credit for their work. I know this is a really old fashioned idea, but I still believe it. This principle, by itself, should be enough.

2. Students get high school credit for high school classes taken at other schools. How much sense does it make for the exception to be if the other school was one of our middle schools?

3. Students who enter high school with credits can have more flexibility in their schedule. It can allow them to take more electives or it could allow them to focus on four AP classes in their senior year without taking two other classes as well.

4. Students who take 9th grade language arts and social studies in middle school, just like those who take high school math and science classes in middle school, can reach more advanced classes in high school.

5. We don't hesitate to encourage students to take AP, IB, or Running Start classes - college level classes for college credit - while in high school. Why would we hesitate to encourage the exact same analogous thing in middle school?

Aside from these principles, there is something more. The District will suddenly get very serious about what they teach and how they teach it in these middle school classes if the students can request high school credit for them. I don't know why, but the District isn't very serious about it without the high school credit. So, yes, this could lead to a more structured and legitimately advanced academic experience for these students in middle school.

Charlie Mas said...

I have written to Shauna Heath and asked her if students can request credit for these classes. I'll share her answer if she responds.

Anonymous said...

You need to be careful to not calculate MSP scores as percents, but instead compare their percentile ranks. For 2013 4th grade math, a scale score of 508 out of 575 would be 88%, but comparing the scale score to all others that took the test that year, it is a 95th percentile rank. They're not the same. MAP scores are reported similarly - the reported percents are percentile ranks against a norm group.

-a parent

pm said...

Yes, but what's the cut-off? 95%, 98%, 99%??

Anonymous said...

- the current 4th graders have not yet taken the math MSP test YET, right? They do MSP in the spring, correct? They should be told this is now a high-stakes test because it will determine math placement in two years from now.

-what if you opt your kid out of MSP test, but, they still take the map, and the map score is above 250? They would qualify on one test, but they would be missing that second test.

-what is the cutoff for the MSP?


Charlie Mas said...

What if you opt your child out of both tests?

When my daughter started high school there was no data to use as the basis for her math placement. Not only had she opted out of the MAP and the MSP, but she was home-schooled in algebra for 8th grade math.

Without hesitation they placed her in a geometry class for the 9th grade. That was based entirely on her claim that I had taught her algebra during her 8th grade year when she took no math at school.