Sunday, February 16, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Schools are closed.  Is the district?  I would say they are likely technically open.  But I personally know a couple of staff who won't be around much.  It is also my experience that during holiday breaks, JSCEE powers down somewhat.  Call if you'd like, there may be a chance you will catch someone there.

End of updat.e

No Director Community meetings on Saturday, either.

At the Rachel Maddow show, they have a section, This Week in God (which goes with our theme of Seattle Schools this Week) and here's a good one:

Anti-evolution activists have pushed a variety of measures over the last several decades, hoping to either eliminate or water down science-class curricula, though nearly all of the efforts have been struck down in the courts. The efforts nevertheless persist, even now in the 21st century, with state lawmakers weighing new science restrictions in several states.
Missouri, however, is breaking new ground.
A Missouri lawmaker has proposed what ranks among the most anti-evolution legislation in recent years, which would require schools to notify parents if “the theory of evolution by natural selection” was being taught at their child’s school and give them the opportunity to opt out of the class. […]
State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), who sponsored the bill, told a local TV station last week that teaching only evolution in school was “indoctrination.”
There are no parental-notification laws on science classes anywhere in the United States. Brattin’s bill, which may actually be the first of its kind, received its first public hearing on Thursday.
The Missouri Republican added that modern biology is based “as much faith and, you know, just as much pulled out of the air as, say, any religion.”
I feel for the students of Louisiana (where they also have this going on) and Missouri.   What these students will do when they get to college is anyone's guess.

There has also been talk here at the blog about "piloting" or "field testing" different surveys and tests (namely Common Core).  Here's a good piece from The Washington Post's Answer Sheet by guest columnist, Jessie B. Ramey, a visiting scholar at the University of Pittsburgh.  It's called "How 'field testing' turns kids into guinea pigs - without parental permission."
  • So teachers are expected to give a test they did not design, on material they did not teach, to students who will not learn anything from the experience. Those teachers, students, and their parents will never see the results.
  • While students may not benefit from field tests, private corporations sure do. Parents in the grassroots group, Change the Stakes, explain, “Our children are essentially being used as free labor so that test companies can decide which of their experimental test questions are actually suitable to put on actual tests. Typically, parents are not notified when their children are having classroom time taken away for field tests that benefit for-profit test developers.”
  • By imposing these optional field tests on our schools, the PDE is – yet again – reducing actual learning time.
  • Can superintendents, school boards, or individual principals refuse to impose field-testing on students? Certainly parents in other states have started standing up for their children on this issue. For instance, 18 months ago, sparked by dozens of ridiculous questions on a field test designed by Pearson, including one about a talking pineapple, thousands of New York City parents staged a boycott. Last spring, parents in Upper Nyack, NY, pulled over 70% of the fifth-grade students out of scheduled field tests.  And just two weeks ago, students in Providence, Rhode Island swarmed the state capitol dressed as lab rats to protest the experimental use of high-stakes-tests there. [Check out these great photos.}


Anonymous said...

Melissa, are district offices really closed? I thought Advanced Learning, Enrollment Services etc were actually open next week except monday.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sorry, I think "technicallly" they are open but if you really think you can call and get someone, I'd doubt it.

Po3 said...

If staff chooses to take this week off do they put into vacation or are weeks like these freebie?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Po3, I have no idea. All I know is that the district tends to power down.

Anonymous said...

As for the Advanced Learning office, they haven't answered the phone or returned calls and/or emails for the last two weeks, why start now?!?

Still waiting

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I'm curious why you think the Jessie Ramey piece in the Washington Post is a "good piece." It's obvious from reading this piece (and looking into her professional background) that she has little to no understanding of psychometrics or assessment.

The other thing I'm curious about is why you would take issue with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) field testing items for future PSSAs. Isn't one of Diane Ravitch's major issues with Common Core and the CC assessments (Smarter Balanced and PARCC) is that they haven't been field tested? Both of the consortia are field testing this spring. Apparently, PDE has been field testing their items for PSSAs for quite a while. Why do you think this is a bad thing? Field testing is exactly what Diane Ravitch has called for.

The old WASLs as well as the current MSPs, HSPEs, and EOCs include items that were previously field tested HERE IN WASHINGTON with Washington students. Those items like all items were/are written by Washington teachers. FYI - The same is true in Pennsylvania --- field test items and all operational items are written by Pennsylvania teachers (led by the test vendor).

Here in Washington, field test items are "embedded" in the MSPs, HSPEs, and EOCs. In other words, when students are taking the state tests, there are field test items on these tests. They are scored but are not included in the student's score. Good items are kept for use on the operational tests and the bad items are tossed away. Apparently, PDE has decided to use field test items in what is called "stand alone" field testing. Washington uses "embedded" field testing.

These field test items ARE NOT used by the test vendor in other states. All items (field and operational) are owned by Washington and the test vendor is prohibited from using these items in any other state. The same is true in Pennsylvania --- PDE owns the items. The test vendor is not selling these field items and the future operational tests back to the state --- they are part and parcel of the same thing. All item development is part of the whole testing contract. Field testing is a required psychometric component of a testing contract.

If the state and/or local districts do not notify parents of stand-alone field tests and don't provide opportunities to view tests, that is another matter. But field testing in and of itself is not how the author portrays it. She is creating a controversy where none exists. If she and others view standardized testing as inappropriate, that is understandable. Of course she would view field testing as an illegitimate activity since she views all standardized testing as illegitimate.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

Hmm, well, I am first and foremost an advocate for parents. Because everyone else has got someone at their back.

I thought it a "good piece" because it points out this:

"So teachers are expected to give a test they did not design, on material they did not teach, to students who will not learn anything from the experience. Those teachers, students, and their parents will never see the results."

There were a lot of years of parents not seeing WASL questions (or under extreme circumstances) or understanding what their students did or did not do on that test.

More to the point, it seems that nothing is being explained to parents. It appears that at the district, state and national level parents are on what I have always called "a need to know" basis. They'll tell us what THEY think parents need to know...and not one sentence more.

So do I agree with everything said in the article - no, I don't (and I didn't say I did). I just put it up and encouraged parents to read it and consider it.

I got into this "why I stand with parents" in another thread.

But some common sense skepticism is a healthy thing.