Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Concerns/Complaints? Let the Board Know

I noticed that the Tuesday Open Thread is chock-full of concerns and complaints.  Most are around the pending SBAC testing but others are more basic. 

So, as a public service, I'm going to open this thread up for more of those.  And, in a couple of days, I will forward it to the Board.  It would be helpful if you at least identify your region (possibly school?) so that Directors get an idea who's writing in.

I'll start.

1) How come committee agendas don't get posted 48 hours before the meeting?  I have been waiting and waiting to see the Thursday Audit&Finance Committee meeting agenda and it's still not there. 

2) Reader A wrote to me about concerns over the Middle School Social Studies Materials Survey that was sent to parents.  She found several flaws including the fact that only those with internet access will answer the survey.  Another was that she saw no way to take the survey in any other language. 

She also said that question 5 had three technology answers - mobile apps, online texts and online resources - out of six possible answers for "future curriculum."  There was no space for "other" or for any parent feedback on what to look for in curriculum. 

What is really weird is the survey asked parents to rank "font size" and "include graphs" in the curriculum but not things like "accuracy" or "reliability of information" or "citations to source material." 

3) Why is information around SBAC testing so hard to find?  Testing schedules are not at all school websites and parents are getting varying degrees of information include what type of device their child will be using for the test.  There appears to be no SBAC testing listed on the district calendar.

4) Reader Southie says this:
Non-English-speaking families do not have translations of the testing regimen plans.

Non-English speaking families do not know their students do not have to take this test.

Further, the use of the word 'refuse' instead of 'not take' in official district English material is culturally loaded. For many of our South End communities, refusal of the government equates to dire personal safety ramifications.
 5)  Why does BTA IV seem so technology directed when so many schools have building issues?

6)  Reader Ticked asks:
Has anyone noticed how correspondence from SPS switched from "to the parent/guardian of Name, Last Name" to the name of the father?
That seems odd as it is entirely possible for a student to have a guardian who is not their parent.

7) Reader Exasperated asks:
Can someone give a single good reason why we can't have a consistent school calendar from year to year and why it can't be confirmed until almost the end of the school year each year. 

Why does it have to be renegotiated every freaking year (can't they figure out a few years at a time and lock it in)?

Why can't they at least start the process earlier so we can have a calendar out at a reasonable time?


Melissa Westbrook said...

I just looked at the OSPI website about SBAC testing schedules.

For Grade 3 for reading:
March 10-Aril 23, 2015.

For Grade 3 for math:
anytime in the last 12 weeks of the school year - March 10-June 15th

For Grades 4-8, reading/math:
anytime in the last 12 weeks of the school year - March 10-June 15th

For Grade 11, LA/math:
Must be administered within the last 7 weeks of the school year: April 6 ‒ June 15, 2015

And no, there is no notice at the district calendar of these dates.

Stephen said...

I see an announcement on the RHS site for testing April 6 - 9 for 11th graders.

I wonder, will the opted-out 11th graders need to be on campus those four mornings, or can they show up at 9:50am with the other three grades?

Eric B said...

Following up on the calendar item, can the district at least identify the first day of school for the following school year in January or so? Even better would be deciding it with approval of the prior year's calendar.

Many people plan their summers in February/March when they can still reserve campsites and/or cheaper hotel rooms/flights. When Labor Day falls late (like this year), it feels a bit like a crap shoot.

Anonymous said...

The testing dates are simply testing windows. Individual schools should have a testing calendar so they know when students are taking what test. It's not like MSP where all students take it the same week. As a parent, I'd like to know what week (or weeks) my child will be tested. Is that too much to ask?


Linh-Co said...

The first day of school has always been the Wednesday after Labor Day. It's been this way for as long as I can remember.

Anonymous said...

This year the first Wed after labor day is particularly late - so are they still going with that date? Last day of school seems to vary each year. Some years we have a week off in late Feb (maybe even 2 weeks one year, if I recall correctly) but some years it's just a extra day after presidents day - who knows whats it gonna be one year from the next. Why does it change - pick one and stick to it and then everyone knows what to expect and plan for.
At the very least - get it sorted at the start of the school year so it can be confirmed by Jan/Feb when folks are needing to apply for leave, set schedules, make bookings etc.

Blank space

Anonymous said...

I'm an Elementary school parent. Why does the district put portables in some schools when nearby schools are under enrolled and have capacity? West Woodland is bursting, B.F. Day has space. Very close to each other.

- Spacey

Anonymous said...

I've heard several private schools who traditionally start the Tuesday after Labor Day changed their calendar this year due to the late Labor Day (starting August 31st). This prompted me to reach out to SPS and ask if they could confirm with me whether school was planning on starting on the Wednesday after Labor Day as it has every year since my 8th grader started school. They responded that it's the question that everyone is asking, but they can't answer. It's leaving our whole summer in schedule in limbo as a late August vacation would work best for us since we have family visiting from Germany during when we usually go away, but I don't want to book something and then have it conflict with the beginning of school or something with the start of high school for my oldest.

So frustrating!!!! I really don't get why they can't figure this out earlier.

NE Seattle Mom of 3

Anonymous said...

Not to mention childcare/summer camps - do we need to book something for the week of Aug 31st or not. Talk about disengaged from the reality of their students/families that they serve. Other districts have set their schedule already, private schools can do it - why can't SPS?

Blank Space

W. Seattle said...

Please schedule 11th grade SBAC on a Saturday. Eleventh graders can not afford to miss class time for a test that is not needed for graduation and the district must comply with mandated instructional hours. Students recently took SAT for four hours and 8 hours of SBA= loss of 12 instructional hours.

Linh-Co said...

I went to Seattle schools 1st -12th grade starting in 1975. Taught in Seattle for 7 years, had 3 kids in Seattle schools with one being a freshman in college. The first day of school has always been the first Wednesday after Labor Day.

Patrick said...

I agree about the social studies materials survey. I started to take it and got all the way to the last question, realized they never asked anything important or allowed additional comments, and closed the survey in disgust. Readable font size is something we have to ask for specially, really? Internet as a delivery method doesn't work very well in my experience, even for families that have internet and broadband at home. More time is spent on technical issues than on the actual material. How about books, enough for every student?

I also share the concern about the calendar. UW sets their calendar three years ahead. It shouldn't be that difficult and would benefit everyone -- teachers, staff, students, families.

Anonymous said...

I get it Linh-Co. But in that case why won't SPS just confirm that it's going to be the same as it always is this year?
Instead, when asked they will neither

confirm nor deny

Anonymous said...

SPS is run like a banana republic. Social studies adoption - pathetic questionnaire. All they are interested in is trumping up support for their pet projects, e.g. more technology in the classroom. Hey SPS- how about more teachers in the classroom, heck, how about more classrooms while you're at it.
Nah, they overlook their core constituency, their main/perhaps only raison d'être and run around spending money on their dog and pony shows and schmoozing with the power players in this city, fiddling around with whatever the latest educational fads are while rome (i.e. our actual schools) burns. Forgive all the idioms.

Banana republican

Anonymous said...

The school board should have an effective way (round tables, certificated senate or even surveys) to regularly get input/feedback from teachers. Currently the school board never asks us for any kind of feedback on practices or issues that directly effect our students. It's luke a hospital board not questioning or getting input from the nurses and doctors.
- CT (professional SPS CaringTeacher)

Anonymous said...

Less technology and more teaching please. And please protect our children's data and identity. Help them to avoid screen exposure and security risks that go with internet use. Teachers, texts, curriculum, classrooms, paper, pencils, and simple whiteboards- that's what we need

Anonymous said...

I recently listened to a This American Life, originally aired in November, about the ATF agency and how some of the stings they had done had gone miserably wrong. The way the reporter described the issues at ATF really reminded me of SPS: "The more I talk to folks who have done this kind of work, they said really it comes down to a lack of oversight and people just sort of losing perspective as to what you're there for and what you're trying to do."

I think the above sentence describes exactly what is wrong with SPS - they don't know who they work for or what their jobs are anymore. The SPS employees' jobs are not to support the "work" of the Gates Foundation and it's not to help their co-workers cover up the next scandal. Their jobs are, or should be, to work with families to educate children.

My comment would be: where is the superintendent, and why isn't he fixing this problem?


Anonymous said...

Is the district just sticking with the plan they made to deal with space in the north end? Is there a plan B? What is it? Because it seems like there are too many kids for plan A to work. We left a really crowded school to go to another. Do they have money for more schools?

-Lincoln mom

Anonymous said...

I agree about the loss of focus. The Chief of Police in Seattle is brining in all new leadership. Perhaps SPS could do the same. There clearly is a culture problem within the district staff offices, first and foremost. Only way to fix this is with all new blood.
I also agree we don't need more technology. We need teachers, books, classrooms. My children are in SPS elementary. Each of my 3 have taught themselves how to use the computer. But they cannot teach themselves how to read. My 2nd grader is learning typing in class. This is irrelevant. I can teach him typing for free over the summer. He needs more READING, MATH, WRITING, and SCIENCE. At least give the teachers more time on these subjects so they have freedom to depart from the curriculum, try new things, engage in creative ideas. Utilize teachers for critical topics. SPS, please focus on the important things in your leadership.
Us parents have endless support to give and volunteer IF there was a way for it to make a difference. At the moment, PTA money is the only way to improve a school. This, naturally, leads to increased inequality. Give schools more autonomy so they can actually utilize the diverse resources available in their local communities.

Anonymous said...

Agree 100% re: the social studies survey's uselessness. I had my 6th grader take it with me, and afterward he said "I think they just did it so they could SAY they asked for input."


Anonymous said...

What about middle and high school math adoption? Do the current middle school and high school math curricula really support our new standards? I would like the district to justify sitting on this when the standards have already changed yet our materials have not (and of course the testing as well).

Can the district provide information on how much the technology component will be weighted in the selection of the social studies curriculum?


Anonymous said...

The cut scores for the SBAC are a huge concern in my mind. Political in nature rather than practical.

Gene Glass on the arbitrary nature of cut scores and validity. http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2014/12/mirabile-dictu-state-departments-of.html

The load of gibberish from SBAC http://www.smarterbalanced.org/news/smarter-balanced-states-approve-achievement-level-recommendations/

And one more.

(The usual CT, not the one up above)

Anonymous said...

Ira - thank you for saying much more elegantly what I ranted about earlier.
They have lost their perspective and its not all about protecting and expanding their collective fiefdom.

Banana Republic

Anonymous said...

'now' (instead of not)

banana republic

Watching said...

House Ed Committee this AM (Tuesday, 3/10/15) - Achievement Index; SBAC


Discussion regarding high school cut scores in relation to msp, proficiency and college ready begins at minute 26.

SBAC is intended to align state and federal systems.

State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos counters and calls federal system "dysfunctional". She chooses her words carefully and discusses federal system of "rewards", but fails short of calling out system of federal "punishments".

Very good article regarding SBAC and concerns regarding SBAC. Great quote:

" It is not about the content of the standards, which would be objectionable even if written by Aristotle and refined by Shakespeare. Rather, the point is that, unless stopped now, the federal government will not stop short of finding in Common Core a pretext for becoming a national school board"


For the above reasons, I remain deeply concerned about the agenda behind SBAC and Common Core.

StringCheese said...

For me, the issue around the SBAC is simply that it is a TERRIBLE test. Leaving out any feelings on CCSS, high-stakes testing (in general), and rigor, the government has given millions (billions?) of dollars to a company to produce a test that wouldn't make it past the user experience (UX), user interface (UI), or copy editing departments of ANY company, ANYWHERE else. Yet, somehow this convoluted, clunky, unattractive, overly-complicated computer program is supposed to be usable by 8 year olds?

How long did they "pilot" this? Is this really what they came up with after all of this time? Was it really that impossible to make calculators that function like actual calculators? Just calling something a "tool" doesn't make it helpful. Nothing could be done about the ELA Performance Task instructions that are so poorly written that they require a separate half hour lecture by the teacher before the test just to make sense of it? Really?

Take the test. See how long it takes before you, an educated adult, get frustrated by the interface, confused by their calculators that don't make sense, and manipulating windows that get in your way as much as they "help". How long would you put up with the task of switching back and forth between four screens to write a simple paragraph? How long would it take to make you scream when you realize that the ability to cut/paste is random, that they are asking you to use 3 different input systems for simple numbers, that for a lot of the answers to the ELA questions, the "best" answer isn't even an option?

Seriously, I feel like this is some secret psychological experiment that has nothing to do with CCSS but is really measuring our children's ability to slog through a load of crap. Sorry, this is not why I send my child to school.

I am all for rigor. I am all for accountability. I am not even really all that concerned about tests.

This is not a test. It is an atrociously expensive piece of software that does nothing but confuse, obfuscate, and frustrate.

Take the test.

StringCheese said...

An amazing article by Steven Rasmussen, from SR Education Associates regarding the math portion of the test. It is long but worth a read in its entirety. If you scroll down to page 26, his summary of the issues around the tests, the test-makers, future implications, and how the impending "failure" will only line the for-profit ed world's pockets is spot on.


BTW, I am from the SW region. Marty, are you listening?

StringCheese said...

Clarification!!! By "take the test" I mean that you, as parents/community members should take it to see what your kids will be facing.

In my opinion, you should absolutely opt out your child.

Sorry for any confusion!

Anonymous said...

Good paper String Cheese. Very clear and detailed. However, you are dealing with righteous people with stupendous titles to lean on who feel they are misunderstood and put upon daily. They don't have time for you, me, and other non believers. We are just a confederacy of dunces you know.


ConcernedSPSParent said...

Why does the legal department consider the amount of money that triggers Board approval when making a settlement?. The two things are not connected and settling for a penny less than the trigger raises concerns about motives.

word said...

Dear FedUpMomof2,

I second your plea for moving forward on Middle School and High School math adoption.

Now that math concepts are getting harder in Middle School the present curriculum requires extreme home supplementation in the form of alternate texts and online resources. Students would have more chance to learn math at school if the curriculum was less fuzzy.

Anonymous said...

I will also add my request for better curricula in math at the middle and high school grades. Too much time is spent solving conceptual story problems instead of mastering math equations. This current text heavy approach is especially difficult for students with ADHD or English language barriers.

My whole problem with SPS is that it spends way too much time on legal challenges, capacity issues, and testing. Instead, they should figure out the best educational practices for students to learn effectively. They never get around to this.

S parent

Lynn said...

Why are principals allowed to schedule (seemingly unlimited)late starts? Seniors at Ballard will miss 4.25 hours of instruction this year due to testing other grades (PSAT.) Seniors at Garfield will miss 36.25 hours for the PSAT/EOCs/HSPEs/ELAs.

How is this equitable? Someone seems to have forgotten that the reason we operate schools is to educate children - and that happens when students are in the classroom with their teachers.

Anonymous said...

This is a 'call to arms' to those parents who (like me) aren't concerned with educational politics, who are fine with CCSS, rigor, and some standardized testing, and normally just 'go with the flow' at there school. Take the time to get informed about SBAC, do practice tests, read about the issues, ask how much class time will be spent on test prep, discuss with other parents, and consider opting your child out of testing. Don't just go with the flow this time!

The problem is not the new, more rigorous curriculum or standardized tests, it is THIS particular test, the SBAC. I am fine with my children being tested to determine whether they have mastered the curriculum CONTENT they have been taught. I want to know - after all, their future educational trajectory, and therefore career opportunities, standard of living etc depends on this to a large extent. However, it seems that the SBAC is not so much (or not only) testing whether students have mastered the content but whether they can master the test interface.

Surely the goal of a standardized test in education is to test for mastery of the curriculum content. In any kind of testing you want to isolate the factor being tested, control for other variables that may affect the results. In educational testing this would mean reducing the impact of variables such as familiarity and expertise using various technological tools, typing ability, language comprehension in a math test etc ( unless those are the specific things you want to test). It is clear that the SBAC results will suffer from significant confounding due to the impact of the poor user interface, novel 'tools' that don't make sense in the context, poorly written instructions etc.

The test should be simple - even if the content being tested is difficult.
The questions can be challenging but the inputting of answers should not be.
The SBAC seems to conflate rigor in a test with complexity of the test interface. It makes use of technology for sake of it - not because it makes it easier or faster for students to 'show what they know'. This (what they know) is what they want to test and the test/interface should be designed with this in mind. It should be simple, intuitive, fast and easy for students to demonstrate their mastery of the content being tested - not an exercise in frustration and resourcefulness. How this fact has escaped all the "great minds" in education who are behind this is beyond me.

When the predicted pass rates are so low, and so much class time is required to prep students to take the test (deciphering the questions, using the technology, keyboarding skills) - isn't it clear that the problem lies not with the students or the teachers, but the test itself.

It is up to us as parents to challenge this experiment. It will end in failure and it will unfairly make so many of our students failures. In some ways it is a civil rights issue because it will disproportionally impact disadvantaged students including minorities, those with learning disabilities. So yeah- it's time for the white soccer mom in Laurelhurst to stand with the single mom on foodstamps in Rainier valley. For HCC and SpEd parents to unite.
If the powers that be won't acknowledge the test is flawed, accept the results will not be fair or accurate, and call it off for now, then we will have do all we can to obstruct and invalidate it until they finally do (I guess you could call it civil disobedience)
Folks like me, we've always gone along with whatever the state/district has required because we believed ultimately it was in best interests of students but NOT THIS TIME, NOT THIS TEST.

Not this test

S said...

@not this test,
You have stated brilliantly just about every point that I have tried to make to anyone who will listen.

This West Seattle mom stands with you.

I hope you don't mind if I quote some of your post in emails I send to friends...

Anonymous said...

Opted my 8th grader out of the SBAC yesterday.


Anonymous said...

I generally agree with Not this test, except for one important thing--the test does not make students failures. The SBAC's cut points and levels don't mean much, and are not what will be used for meeting high school proficiency requirements anyway (those levels are TBD by the State Bd of Ed). And at grades 3-8, are we really going to call kids who are not meeting standards "failures"? I have a hard time with that.


StringCheese said...

It doesn't make the students failures, but it will call them failures. Families will receive these results and kids will see a score showing they have not passed. If you are in 3rd grade, a "failing" score in ELA will automatically force you to attend a parent/teacher conference before the end of the school year. This is why the 3rd grade ELA is happening first in most schools.

Anonymous said...

Do kids automatically see their scores and levels? My kids never saw their MSP scores or levels, and I can't see any reason why a 3rd grader needs to know they got a 2, or that a 3 was needed to met some arbitrary level. A parent-teacher conference isn't such a bad thing, though, and likely will reveal that the kid performed about like everyone else in the class and that the teacher thinks they are doing great and on track. But if there are in fact issues to discuss or problems to address, then great.


Anonymous said...

Yes- I should have said "unfairly LABEL so many of our students failures." But words/labels are powerful things. And, it won’t just be other people kids who are 'failing' – it might be your smart, sensitive, enthusiastic kid. What will that mean to them? To you?

I'm all for rigor, I'm all for early identification and remediation for lagging skills but the roll out of this test is what troubles me. The test is 'not ready for primetime' and our kids aren't ready for it.
Think about the time that's being spent in class trying to make our kids ready for it. This is wasted instructional time that could have been spent on the curriculum, on actually educating our kids.
It's the test that needs to be made ready for students. Instead of trying to train our kids to overcome the poorly designed and poorly executed test - just fix the freaking test! Make it simple, intuitive, fair, fast, and easy for students to demonstrate their mastery of the content being tested. It's not that hard - it just needs political will.

Until then, parents of all kinds of students, from all kinds of backgrounds and schools need to stand together on this and say ...

Not this test

Anonymous said...

@ Not this test,

For the record, I agree wholeheartedly re: opting out. It's a bad test, and the implementation takes too much away from regular instruction. The rollout has sucked. We're opting out.

But to be clear, the test will not label kids failures either. It says the four levels of achievement may also be described qualitatively in terms such as “novice, developing, proficient, advanced” or others. A kid scoring in level 2, or "developing", is not a failure, and the test will not label them so. In fact, isn't that how our current SPS report cards work? I seem to recall seeing a lot of "developing" on past report cards--and really, it didn't bother me a bit. Being labeled "novice" is not the same as "failure" either. Or do you think it is?

What about the 25% or so of kids who have been getting MSP reports indicating they are not proficient? Have they also been labeled failures? And is the current concern because as the percentage not attaining proficiency grows, it starts to impact "our" kids instead of just others?

As to what it would mean to me or my kid if the test report actually said he was a "failure," I'd be outraged! But it won't say that. If/when my kids does take the test--probably in 10th grade, to meet the HS grad reqt, assuming that's still around--if the score report comes back showing "developing" we'll just know we need to work on some stuff to hopefully pass it in 11th. Or maybe my kid will decide to roll the dice and bank on obtaining future SAT or AP scores or something that can be used instead (allowing time for the approval process, too). What I will NOT do, however, is think of my kid as a failure in that case. I'll instead think the same thing I think whenever I see a low score on a test or report card now--either my kid didn't pay attention, or the teacher/test did a bad job at assessment, or some other explanation. I'll also be sure to convey to my kid that these BS "college readiness" levels were made up by an organization that wanted to make its test seem more important than it is, and that the state only requires a score in the x zone (possibly high level 1) to be considered proficient and "pass" the requirement, so not to worry.


Anonymous said...


10th graders cannot opt out as they have to take the test to meet their reading and writing requirements to earn a diploma.

Those students who will not pass - and there will many of them - will be students who have failed to met the standard to graduate.

-Concerned 10th grade parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

"confederacy of dunces" - smile of the day.

Yes, now would would any department try to avoid the Board's knowledge of spending in such an obvious way? Clearly, they don't want the Board to know and, oh say, ask for some accountability?

Lynn, interestingly, I saw a bill in the Legislature that would limit late starts but I have no idea what happened to it.

"The test should be simple - even if the content being tested is difficult.
The questions can be challenging but the inputting of answers should not be. "

Bravo (I may tweet some of that).

Anonymous said...

Concerned 10th grade parent:
If 10th grader students opt out (sorry, refuse!!!) or fail the SBAC this year, can't they redo it next year, in 11th grade?
- Another 10th grade parent

Anonymous said...

HIMs Mom- you make some good points here and also on a previous thread about failure and how we perceive/label it and what these test results will really mean.

Maybe part of this concern about failure is a media/political construct to get us all worried about our education system and we parents are falling for it.

However, my concern is the rates of kids who fail or don't achieve proficiency (or what ever you want to call it) will be inflated, at least in part, due to the test itself. The test sets kids up to perform poorly - especially those who are not tech savvy, younger grades, SpED, slow typists etc. The results can't be relied on to truly show what the kids know. It's not fair. It's not an accurate assessment. it's wrong to use it as a measure of performance for schools/districts.

Why should our kids have to slog through it and why should our teachers have to spend time in the classroom compensating for the poorly worded questions, bad user interface, unintuitive use of tools etc. Our teachers time and our kids actual education are the collateral costs of a bad corporate product.

I don't understand how it has got this far - the tests should have been sent back to the developers to iron out the kinks, reword the questions etc long ago. It's not like standardized tests are anything new.

Not this test

Anonymous said...

Not this test, you have every reason to be concerned about the test construction, estimated performance of students, time for test prep, etc. I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise --- as if I could anyway.

There is some information, however, that I would like to bring to light.

(1) The practice test released by Smarter Balanced and made available by OSPI and its vendor is a poor product. Smarter Balanced should not have released such a tool. It was developed under a different contract than those awarded to develop the real or "operational" test questions that will appear on the test this spring and those in the future. All of the test questions used this spring were field tested last year and approved as "appropriate" for use on the test. None of the sample test questions on the practice test were field tested and were developed under a too-short timeline. Smarter Balanced should have known better but...

(2) Test questions/items on the real or "operational" tests go through a rigorous vetting process and those that don't perform as expected are tossed. Again, none of the sample practice test questions/items went through any such process. Normally, practice tests are created from test questions/items that were field tested and used on an operational test. Once these items are used, they can be released as sample tests since they won't be used on an operational test again. The practice test released by Smarter Balanced could not have been developed from released items since there hasn't been an operational administration prior to this spring.

(3) OSPI chose not to use the Smarter Balanced test platform, which is what the practice test is based upon. OSPI has chosen to use a different test platform to administer the Smarter Balanced tests and will not be using the open-source test system made available through Smarter Balanced. OSPI chose to use a test platform from AIR, it's new test vendor.

This is a long way of saying that what you're seeing in the practice test may likely be quite different than what students may see this spring, both in form of the quality of test questions/items and the user interface.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

SWK, I'm not banking on that last statement of yours (and I don't think anyone else should either).

Anonymous said...

The district is telling test coordinators not to use the term "opt out" when talking to parents about their decision to not have their children take the SBAC. They want them to use the term "refuse." The idea is to suggest that parents really don't have an option here; rather, if their children don't take the assessment, then they are refusing a state requirement.

Unless the district intends to issue edicts on the question of free will, parents really do have options in their choice of actions. Thus, "opt out" is a perfect serviceable term. I find the district's attempt to control people's use of language to be Orwellian.

David Edelman

Anonymous said...

Melissa, neither you nor anyone else should bank on that statement. Be skeptical. Ask your teacher, school test coordinator, principal, at al what they know about this. Ask the district test director or even OSPI.

I didn't intend my statement to be definitive. That's why I said "may likely."

I'm certainly not trying to ramp down opt-outs. As I've said previously, parents have that right and they should use it if it fits their family needs.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the information you provide on these assessments. I don't always agree with it - and honestly some of it goes over my head - but I'm glad to learn more about it. Thank you.

I'm puzzled though by your recent comment (3/11 at 4:47). SPS is telling parents to go to smarterbalanced.org to show practice tests to our kids. Why do that if they are flawed in the way you describe. Or so very different. Wouldn't that be setting our kids up for potentially MORE frustration, failure etc.?

I took the practice tests - couldn't get through the LA one. I thought the questions were poorly written, the interface wasn't particularly intuitive and I feel there were instances where the questions intentionally were written in a way to make it confusing. I am college educated and work all day on a computer, in various databases and platforms and am in my 40's. If I got tired, bored and frustrated by the practice test I can only imagine how kids would feel.

Also, I did get through the math one and it didn't give me any score so I have no idea how I did. That was frustrating too.

I'm not impressed w the SBAC. I'm not wild about assessments in general but this seems very rushed and contrived to me and I'm leaning to opting out.

I really want to discuss it with my childrens teachers (ie can you really learn something from this assessment about my child that you can't/ don't already know from being in class with him/her every day?) but evidently it is verboten to do so. If I can't determine this will actually help guide instruction and get my kid to where he/she needs to be, why have them take it.

All SPS schools are failing per NCLB anyway so that isn't a disincentive.

-SPS momof2

Anonymous said...

I can confirm that teachers are being told they MUST use REFUSE in discussing the tests. More than one of the trusted teachers have told me so, off the record.

I love my kids teachers. I hate this district.

My kids aren't taking the test specifically to spit at a district that can't have an honest conversation with its families.

Opting out

Anonymous said...

SPS momof2, I imagine SPS is directing parents to the Smarter Balanced practice test because that might be all there is to show parents at this point. Maybe the thinking is that showing them that is better than nothing. Or maybe they don't share my belief that this is a poor product. I can't really explain their motives.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

... if their children don't take the assessment, then they are refusing a state requirement."

No, they are not. The state requires the DISTRICT to give the test. Students do not have to take the test (unless you are in 10th grade and you want to graduate.)

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I asked this before:
"If 10th grader students opt out (sorry, refuse!!!) or fail the SBAC this year, can't they redo it next year, in 11th grade?"

There are always retests for 11th graders if they fail any tests needing for their graduation. Is SBAC the exception?

Also, I have to agree with David Edelman on the Orwellian scene/language...

- Another 10th grade parent

StringCheese said...

Hate to burst your bubble swk, but the current practice tests are through AIR. The practice tests can be accessed through the website also called the Washington Comprehensive Assessment Program (WCAP):



This IS the horrendous practice test to which we have all been referring.

Anonymous said...

StringCheese, AIR was the testing vendor who also developed the Smarter Balanced test system. They have their own system, which OSPI contracted for, and they developed one for SBAC. They are not the same, although they could be similar. I don't know. However, they are different enough that OSPI chose the proprietary one over the open-source one.

The WCAP website is leads to the same practice test that is accessed via smarterbalanced.org. They are one in the same.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Washington State Senate just voted to tie teacher evals to this lovely test. Bipartisan, no less.
So, for those teachers who don't teach in a tested area, will they be evaluated based on students they don't teach, like in Florida? Or will it be an unfair evaluation model where only some teachers are punished by test scores? How fair is it to put even more stress on a kid (your teacher's job depends on your score), or more stress on a teacher (do you really think middle school kids give a rip about this test)? How fair is it to reduce teaching and learning to teaching to the test for the whole year rather than the couple of months it is now? How fair is it to low-income schools/districts to have your staff members jobs depend on the test scores of a test where the cut scores are deliberately set too high, and where the majority of your students are coming to school hungry?
So much for critical thinking and research in the Washington State Senate. It's all about the money and privatization, not the kids.


Anonymous said...

Another 10th grade parent, state law --- RCW 28A.655.061 --- requires that students be able to retake the high school assessment necessary for high school graduation. They must also have access to the alternative assessments once they take the high school graduation assessment at least once.

Since the SBAC 11th grade test, offered to 10th graders for graduation purposes, is now the high school assessment, all of this state law applies.

--- swk

Watching said...


I just posted on another thread. The Seattle Democrats that voted in- favor of linking test scores to teacher evaluations are:


Anonymous said...

Thanks Watching. I probably meant to post this in the other thread and would have seen yours then. I’ve got so many pages open right now reading legislation, various tech manuals, and numerous blogs that I probably better pay more attention before I post something completely off the wall.

Can’t wait to hear why some of these Seattle “Dems” voted for test-based teacher evals and narrowing the curriculum even more. How do you justify that? Here was their opportunity to show backbone and demand that the Federal Gov’t fix/replace NCLB with educational policy that has a sound basis in research rather than 5 pillars of market-based ideology. Instead they just gave Arne Duncan credibility and the perception of more power. Now we wait to see what the House does.


Greenwoody said...

So disappointing to see three Seattle Dems in the State Senate vote to make schools and teachers teach to the test. Their justification holds no water, by the way. Congress is in the process of revising NCLB. By this summer there will likely be a new law, and the federal government will no longer be handing out waivers at all.

There was no reason - none whatsoever - to pass this bill. Unless you think schools should be about test prep rather than about real education.

Anonymous said...

I'm taking this as another reason to opt out of the SBAC. I'd rather have the school take a zero than have my kid's teacher be penalized for how students perform on a test that so few kids are predicted to pass.

I'm really disappointed in Senator Frockt.

-46th Mom

mirmac1 said...

Interesting, today's odd "Work Session" on Board Section 1000 policies (rewritten and adopted fairly recently under the old DeBell/Sundquist regime). It appears to be an effort on Carr's part to subtly stifle any thoughts on directors minds to take a strong lead on the testing matter. When the time came for questions regarding the Board taking a position on tests in the interests of students, Carr offered up her "opinion" that directors took an oath to uphold the law and that if they want to consider directing the district to break the law then they should be prepared to be recalled.

Well, she should know given that she has been threatened with recall on a number of occasions. And didn't she vote to push through the flawed Creative Schools initiative (another flop) that broke the law? Short term memory loss.

Greenwoody said...

Numerous boards of education across the country, including Portland's, have taken a position on SBAC/PARCC. It is not against the law to advocate that parents or teachers or entire schools opt out. Sherry Carr is being misleading and dishonest.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Some of the stands that I have seen Carr and Martin-Morris take lately make me believe they will not be running to retain their office in the fall. Rather, they want to try to lay down a viewpoint for people who come after them.

Anonymous said...

Greenwoody, it is not federal law that requires school districts to administer the state assessments but rather Washington state law that requires school districts to administer the state assessments.

RCW 28A.655.070 is explicit.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

My concerns: Student data privacy. Good article about the issue in todays NYT

I'd like to know….
What sort of software programs are used in SPS classrooms for teaching and for testing?
Is there any central oversight or policy regarding individual school or teachers use of educational software apps in the classroom?
What specific kinds of information each collected from students?
What kind of security protocols were being used to secure students’ personal information?

Protective parent

Anonymous said...

Sen. Annette Cleveland, Vancouver

• Sen. Mark Mullet, Issaquah

• Sen. Jamie Pedersen, Seattle

• Sen. David Frockt, Seattle

• Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Seattle

• Sen. Steve Hobbs, Lake Stevens

• Sen. Cyrus Habib, Bellev

All voted for the bill. Completely absurd- all research supports tying these kind of tests to teacher evaluations has no positive effect on student outcomes. You will get fewer teachers teaching in schools with low scores (don't forget the extreme bias of racial, economic, etc factors). Look at WEAs website for more info.


Anonymous said...

Refusing the tests is easy. But what about all the practice time? Can you opt out of that, too, so that your kid can read or work on homework anytime the class takes practice tests or training tests? It doesn't make sense to sit through all that if you aren't taking the tests.


Anonymous said...

I know. Those Amplify tests have sent more than just my student home in tears. If I were a teacher whose students were that upset by a test my bosses were making me give, I would find out what the heck was up with the test and start raising Cain about it every chance I got. I would not stand for that kind of nonsense.

-Hale NO!

Anonymous said...

that's insane to opt out of little bits of the day like test prep. just homeschool for goddess's sake. a private school would ask you to leave if you were so demanding. all this boycotting and refusing is so annoying,comparing it to Rosa Parks, etc.Shame!
Get the law changed, no one is denying your due process, right to petition your government or vote.


Anonymous said...

We tell our children to do their best on the state tests, and results are used to help the schools and teachers improve instruction for everyone, not to penalize students that do poorly.

When students come home worried about failing the state test, is that coming from teachers and schools? How do they know that 60% or some number are expected to fail? If this is coming from school, it needs to stop.

Yes, standardized test scores are available on the Source, but students would need to click through a few links to see their scores. They are not front and center every time you log on to the Source. I don't think my children check anything but grades, because that's what matters to them.

I don't have an issue with standardized tests in general. Our children have always taken the state tests. But somehow this year seems different. The focus of the classroom feels off. My child is doing generic assignments that focus on "cite your evidence," and there is less focus on the intrinsic value of a piece of literature. It's as if one assignment is no different than another. Bleck.

When someone suggests "change the law," I'm not sure the law is the problem.

SBAC bleck

Anonymous said...

Hey -CT @3/11. 10:41pm

I've been signing off as CT for quite awhile on here. Please use something else.


Anonymous said...

Now who thinks there's a sliver of difference between Democrats and Republicans when they're all chasing the dollar? What more evidence need we be shown?

I'd vote for an entire slate of Reagan Republicans right now, compared to the spineless Democratic sellouts in Olympia. At least the RR's were clear about what they stood for.

You bet they'd be tying teacher evaluations to test scores. Absolutely. But they'd do it because they believe in it, as wrong-headed as it may be. The Dem traitors who voted for it? They know better, but sold the teachers, our kids, and us out anyways.

A pox on their houses.


Anonymous said...

PBS NewsHour on Opt Out movement:



Melissa Westbrook said...

Hippie, I myself have not hear anyone here comparing opting out to Rosa Parks.

Change NCLB (which is the nexus of the problem). That's being done as we speak but the average person has a snowball's chance in hell to influence it. I always urge people to try, though.

Anonymous said...

Let our state legislators and governor know that California has suspended the use of test scores to evaluate school quality.
- hope?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Melissa for collecting questions/concerns. Here are some of mine.

I understand that the SBAC is a state requirement, but I would like to hear from our teachers if they think that the SBAC is a useful test. Are teachers free to discuss SBAC test with parents? Various posters have indicated that teachers are not free to discuss SBAC with parents.

Have all teachers taken the practice test on the exact configuration that their students will take the test on? Another poster indicated that taking the test on laptop with no mouse was difficult for middle school students. I think that our 3rd grader is also scheduled to take the test on a laptop with no mouse. Would it be possible to get a mouse if the students have a hard time with all the drag-and-drops, drawing lines and moving around between screens?

Why not schedule conferences for all students in all grades that score level 1 and 2 in both Math and ELA?

Why didn't all the Amplify test scores get back to parents? Could you please send all the Amplify test scores to parents? It would be helpful for parents to know what their child is being tested on.


Anonymous said...

Will the SBAC will be used for 6th grade math placement into Algebra 1 class?


Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant to use "or" instead of "and". Here is the corrected question.

Why not schedule conferences for all students that score level 1 or 2 in Math or ELA?



Anonymous said...

The 6th grade math placement matrix was based in part on 4th grade MSP scores (a 525 is equivalent to maybe a 97-98th percentile score, or missing just a couple of problems). I'm told they looked at the 4th grade MSP scores of middle school students who were successful in Algebra 1.

They can't do this with the SBAC, since there is no historical data. Students won't be taking the EOCs either. They don't even have MAP scores for many students. There will be limited data, and SBAC results could be all over the place. So what will happen for next year? Will they continue to allow that level of acceleration (it took years to get it in place). How are those students doing in Algebra 2 this year as 8th graders?

I doubt the district has worked out the details, but it's an excellent question for the head of the district math department.

-no answers

Linh-Co said...

Don't expect Anna Box to come out with anything intelligent for math placement.

Anonymous said...

Great questions Nisha, I second those.

FWIW I did email Anna Box regarding 6th grade math placement - which will be an issue for current 4th graders and below (current 5th graders will have placement on basis of 4th grade MSP and 5th grade MAP).

Her response was "I am planning to work with both our internal assessment partners, teachers, principals, and parents over the next 6 - 8 months to be prepared for this transition." and she asked if I would like to be included in the conversations. I am not a math person and don't think I have anything to contribute in this regard but perhaps those of you who are interested in participating in this decision-making process should contact her.


Anonymous said...

I just checked 6 different school districts in WA including Bellevue, Issaquah, Lynnwood and Federal Way (random picks) and they all had 2015-16 calendars on their website. Why is Seattle Public Schools different? Is the board the best place for me to inquire? I am frustrated beyond belief right now and want to start formally complaining/inquiring.

NE Seattle Mom of 3

Anonymous said...

Here's my comment after having quietly read this blog for 4 years. Every month seems to bring a new crisis which overshadows the previous crisis.....and nothing changes. SPS seems to embody crisis with the crisis management plan of "ignore." I had high hopes that some of the new blood on the Board would help but I don't see that as a reality anymore. One or two directors can't change anything. I saw on some other thread somewhere that parents need to rally around a couple top issues and keep on it with the Board and SPS. But I really don't know how we can identify the top 3-5 issues because SPS literally does nothing to address any of them sufficiently. Capacity? Curriculum? Ed Reform? Funding? Student Data and Privacy? Testing? AL? SPED? Bell Times? Charters? I mean, the list goes on and on. I see little leadership and frankly, a majority Board that knuckles under and doesn't do their basic job-oversight of policy. Did all of you forget that your number one priority is education of children? It is disheartening to watch this district FAIL at the administrative level which does not equate to the teachers and admin on the ground, in the buildings that work within the confines of this stupidity every day to negate the effects of all of the above. Our family is roughly half way through our SPS experience. As a parent, I DREAD what is coming up for my youngest in terms of stability, location, curriculum, and the overall educational experience. I am not a hand waver but I am hearing this more and more from parents like me who have supported the building we are in, volunteered at our building and other schools, joined the PTA, met with teachers, really been involved. Hey Larry Nyland and Board-is this your intended outcome? Is this how you think you are satisfying your customers? If you were working on the private sector, you would all be fired.
-SPS Tired

Anonymous said...

So if the board is incommunicado so-to-speak and the administration isn't doing its job, why are so many of you disinclined to diminish their turf and divide the district in half?

I teach. I can't even get answers from anybody. Do you know that when we look at an inside directory, there are many departments including math that even teachers can't reach anymore. One of my co-teachers got locked out of Math In Focus and he called the tech people who said he had to search the website for information. Then he tried to call the math dept. but there was no number or contact info listed in the directory. Then he emailed a name he found on the outside District website - don't remember who - and got no response. So he did finally go to the website of the publisher and got an email address and it took another day but he finally got his password unlocked and back into the math site.

This district is too big. It is corrupt, complacent, too big to fail, and totally non-responsive to anyone.

Smaller admin, smaller paychecks, fewer people closer to their clients. That's what Seattle needs. I haven't seen one reason on this blog that reflects why you want to keep the district as is. Lots of people seem to want to keep it as is but no one puts forth a reasonable argument why it should stay the same. I'm open. Tell me your evidence that keeping what we have is best.

Also, the calendar is negotiated by the District and the union. It is set with each new SEA contract for the term of the contract. If there's a three year contract, the calendars are available three years ahead. I think we are going into new negotiations for 2015-16 . . . I may be incorrect on all this but that is my understanding right now.

And it really isn't all that different from year to year. Honestly, it has always started the Wednesday after Labor Day. Some years are early Sept. starts and some years a later start. It has been the same for as long as I've lived in this city.

just sayin'(again)

cmj said...

just sayin' wrote "This district is too big. It is corrupt, complacent, too big to fail, and totally non-responsive to anyone.

Smaller admin, smaller paychecks, fewer people closer to their clients"

SPS is definitely corrupt, complacent, non-responsive, but I don't think splitting the district would fix the problem. I don't believe that SPS is so dysfunctional because of the way that the organization is structured -- but rather because of the organization culture.

Splitting the district probably wouldn't decrease the number of admin. Rather, it would increase it. With certain positions, you'd have to double the number of positions (such as two district heads of SPED, two Ron English's, two superintendents). Even if you get rid of their assistants and half their underlings, it wouldn't even out salary-wise, because a department head costs more than an assistance department head.

Most of the people from SPS would transition into a similar role in either of the two new districts because replacing all of your staff in a short time is impossible. And these people wouldn't be willing to see their large paychecks cut in half just because their student population was cut in half. What's more, most of the JSCEE admin would probably be in charge of transitioning from one district to two and doing all the reorganization and hiring. They wouldn't give themselves smaller salaries.

I'd like to see compensation for district admin tied to results. For example, the Board voted against tying Nyland's salary to his performance because they were so afraid that he might not take the position. That strikes me as a horrible management process.

I'd also like to see more decentralization for schools that are doing well -- give good principals more power over their schools -- with a clearer path for parents to appeal to the district. Good principals would have more freedom to choose curriculum and manage their staff, but it would be easier for parents to appeal to HQ (and HQ would be more responsive) if the principal were ignoring the child's 504. Ideally.

Lynn said...

I think giving principals more power is a bad idea unless they're at an option school.

Students should have guaranteed access at every attendance area school to the same:

amount of recess and lunch time
PE waiver policy
dress code
set of courses
graduation requirements and
acceleration policies.

Anonymous said...

I agree that separating the district might not reduce overall expenses greatly but it would absolutely reduce salary expenses somewhat. Lesser power, lesser pay. More accountability. Less empire. Perhaps a little more humility. And the trade off would be more closely monitored accountability to clients. I don't agree that money is the primary reason to separate. I think it has to do with quality.

If you like what you've got, keep at big and unaccountable. Think about banks: Which serves the customer better and cheaper? Small banks and credit unions - which, btw, I've been a member of for thirty years - or Citi-bank, Chase, etc.? My little credit serves me just fine.

Think quality instead of finance. And good luck trying to change the culture of a monolithic organization. Sometimes you have to start over.

just sayin'

Anonymous said...

The problem with SPS isn't that it is too big. Many countries have centralized systems that work extremely well. The problem with our educational (and other) systems is our individualism and so-called exceptionalism. We are super special and we want what we want NOW, others be damned! So SPS (and politicians) listen to the loudest/most connected/most moneyed/most demanding. When people don't get exactly what they want, they get angry and vindictive against others (just think of the venom on this blog against Hazel Wolf and severely autistic children who have to be sent to specialized schools that cost a lot of money!) All is justified by "we have the rights to advocate for our own children".
Until Americans learn to think of ourselves as a whole and believe in the rising tide lifting all boats, instead of acting like homesteaders demanding our piece and defending our own only, SPS will continue to be haphazard, inequitable and inconsistent. They'll please no one while trying to please everyone. The staff at SPS are not orcs. They're just doing what everyone is doing, looking out for their own, exclusively.
Should they be better? Yes. Will they be better? Doubtful. Unless we all change, be thankful that it's not worse (yet). They could be the House of Representatives!
Staff appreciation week coming, thank your teachers for the incredible job they're doing for our children with so little money and no respect from anyone, not even the kids.


Anonymous said...

Just like with Climate Change, don't like what's happening and what's coming? Demand change, first from yourself. For whom does the bell toll? For all of us.


Anonymous said...

Well, then. Keep what you've got and good luck.

just sayin'

Anonymous said...

CCA, re: SPS you saidThey'll please no one while trying to please everyone.... They're just doing what everyone is doing, looking out for their own, exclusively.

A bit of a contradiction, don't you think? And I haven't seen any evidence that SPS is trying to please everyone. Rather, it seems the folks downtown wish we'd all shut up and go away, no?

Anonymous said...

Would someone who received mail directed at "father's last name" please send a copy to publicaffairs@seattleschools.org?

I asked about it. The communications team would like to follow up.