Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Open Thread

Sad news from Ingraham as thieves broke into their auto shop and took four cars that were being worked on.  From KOMO tv:
Each of the high end cars now has to have specialty keys remade.

"It's gonna be a lot of time and a lot of money," von Ravensberg said.

That is money the program doesn't have.  Students fix up the autos and sell them at surplus to fund classes and some of the cars are already spoken for, according to von Ravensberg.
What a terrible thing to do to those hard-working students and adults.
It's the Seafair Milk Carton Derby at Green Lake tomorrow.  (Note: I have found the race times to be highly variable so don't count on them.)

Final word on 1351 for now - State will pay for K-3 class size reduction but puts off reductions for 4-12.

“K-3, we know that is the place we will get the best impact for our children,” said Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup. “It is the place we need to implement first and make sure it’s successful. Then we can decide how to proceed four years from now.”

What will you use to judge if "it's successful?"

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, said he was voting against the measure because he believed the Legislature wrongly considers class sizes a luxury.

“In reality, I think small class sizes are like the pencils, they’re like the chairs in the school,” he said. “They’re an essential element to our children getting a world-class education.”

As well, the use of a biology test for graduation is suspended for at least two years.  

What's on your mind?

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would say a successful rollout, meaning finding classrooms, and building permanent classrooms for K-3, not portables.

2214 and the SBAC graduation acceleration was denied. Island hopping.

-NNNCr

Melissa Westbrook said...

NNNCr, I have no idea what you are saying. Please don't be cryptic.

Anonymous said...

I am fairly certain SPS won't even attempt to lower class sizes with the extra funding. Looking forward to my 29+ 1st graders come Sept. Hopefully I won't be at 32 again.
Big Sigh

Anonymous said...

Sorry for being cryptic. I believe that HB 2214 (from a post on this blog of May 30) was replaced with SB 6145, so the SBAC as a high school graduation requirement does not accelerate to 2016, but stays in place for the class of 2019. Island hopping being a reference to the WW2 battle of the Pacific, and how gains against excessive standard testing must be won one hard step at a time.

-NNNCr

Anonymous said...

Lets say class size is lowered to 24 max. How could it possibly be implemented? You can't build more capacity overnight. How many more classrooms would be needed? How any more teachers? I just can't see it happening anytime soon even with the funding.

What's irritating is the finger pointing and blaming going on. We owe it the the students to work with what we have and do the best we can now. If lower class sizes happen great, but we need to focus on the job at hand.

Mouser

Benjamin Leis said...

I thought about what could be done immediately given a mandate to reduce class sizes and I think one answer would be to add additional teachers or aids into the existing classrooms rather than adding physical rooms. That's expensive obviously and halves
the teacher/student ratios rather than hitting the exact reductions required. You might be able to fit a few more students per room in such a situation but not many more.

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting placing 44 students in one class room and adding an additional teacher. Sure I guess the would satisfy the law(?), but would not benefit students which is the only reason we should be reducing class size.

Is the law for a ratio or true class size?

Mouser

Lynn said...

Initiative 1351 required districts to hire additional staff to receive additional funding. The new budget does not. I'm sure Charles Wright has plans for the money.

If the district wanted to hire more teachers they could hire reading and math specialists to float between rooms working with small groups. Alternatively, the funding could be used to hire counselors for elementary schools. Finally, there are something close to 20 schools with preschool classrooms being used by independent entities. Those rooms could be used for primary classrooms.

Po3 said...

Sad to see this list of RIFS: (names removed).

How it is we have money for standardized tests but not these positions?

Discipline & Truancy Truancy Intervention Specialist 1.00 06/30/2015
Family Support Workers Family Support Worker 1.00 06/30/2015
Discipline & Truancy Truancy Intervention Specialist 1.00 06/30/2015
McDonald International Language Immersion Instr Asst 0.50 06/30/2015
Family Support Workers Family Support Worker 1.00 06/30/2015
Family Support Workers Family Support Worker 1.00 06/30/2015
Discipline & Truancy Truancy Intervention Specialist 1.00 06/30/2015
Discipline & Truancy Truancy Intervention Specialist 1.00 06/30/2015
Cleveland High School Work Based Learning Prgm. 1.00 09/01/2015
Discipline & Truancy Truancy Intervention Specialist 1.00 06/30/2015
Discipline & Truancy Truancy Intervention Specialist 1.00 06/30/2015
Discipline & Truancy Truancy Intervention Specialist 1.00 06/30/2015
Cleveland High School Work Based Learning Prgm. 1.00 09/01/2015
Discipline & Truancy Truancy Intervention Specialist 1.00 06/30/2015
Washington Middle School Re-entry/Int. Stdt Asst. Spec. 1.00 06/30/2015
Prevention & Intervention Communities That Care (CTC) 1.00 06/30/2015
Family Support Workers Family Support Worker 1.00 06/30/2015
Prevention & Intervention Drug & Alchl Interv Res Spec CD 1.00 06/30/2015

Anonymous said...

I think it's sadder that they would need those positions. What's happened to our children?

Blink

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

What does that have to do with anything, anon @ 2:38?

Kelso

Melissa Westbrook said...

Benjamin, I say that all the time as well - about an extra person in the classroom - and get blowback that "it won't work." They do it a lot in other countries; it's possible for sure.

Anonymous said...

Po3 - do you a link to that list of RIF'd positions ???

The way the district jerks around 'support' staff is disgusting. Diary after diary on this blog just proves how the people running the district care 1st, last and always about their empires and their fat paychecks.

17 classified positions actually helping kids at ... ? 50k ? 60k? each = around a million = 4 more downtown parasites riding the 'how to have useful meetings' junket.

Blink - huh? Turn off "Leave It To Beaver." Our communities are a mess, and the messes wash into the doors of those of us actually working in the schools, hour by hour, day

ByDay

Po3 said...

Blink - Children need safety nets to help them achieve, despite situations that are beyond their control. But you know that, right?

Po3 said...

ByDay -

http://sps.ss8.sharpschool.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/14-15agendas/070115agenda/20150701_PersonnelReport.pdf

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying the positions are not needed. I'm saying it's sad that the conditions exist that require the positions and that schools have to deal with the issues.

Blink

David said...

So don't they often RIF positions only to hire them again later? Do you think this might be the case here, or no...

All those family support workers, sad.

Anonymous said...

How about something fun?

Don't forget to go see some of our local high school talent this week-end at Ballard High school. http://www.blacktieproductions-mt.com/current-production.html

Anthony

Anonymous said...

"I think it's sadder that they would need those positions. What's happened to our children?

Blink"

Well, you start with Daniel Patrick Moynihan's report from 1965 on the state of the Black Family and the updates made in 2013

Quote:

"“We are not going to have an effective solution to the growing inequality and poverty in the U.S. unless we can do something about family structure,” Haskins said. "

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/was-the-moynihan-report-right-sobering-findings-after-1965-study-is-revisited/2013/06/13/80eac980-d432-11e2-b05f-3ea3f0e7bb5a_story.html

http://www.urban.org/research/publication/moynihan-report-revisited

StrongerFamilies

Maureen said...

Hey Anthony, maybe I'll see you there!

SUPER IRON COOKING CHEF

When May, a bright young chef, is finally cast in television’s newest cooking show, Super Iron Cooking Chef, she’s sure that her life is about to change forever. But her quirky, passionate, and bizarre co-contestants aren’t quite what she was expecting. Who will become the next Super Iron Cooking Chef? Who will fall in love? And are the rumors true that Barrack Obama is a guest judge? Find out in Black Tie Productions’ newest original musical, Super Iron Cooking Chef!

Tickets available at the door (cash or check) Students $10, Adults $15 or online (link in Anthony's post above)

Friday, July 10th at 7:00
Saturday, July 11th at 7:00
Sunday, July 12th at 7:00
Friday, July 17th at 7:00
Saturday, July 18th at 7:00
Sunday, July 19th at 2:00

Performing Arts Center, Ballard High School
1418 NW 65th St
Seattle, WA 98117

This is the last major production before Black Tie's founder heads off to Boston for college. The cast, orchestra and crew is made up of students from several area High Schools including Ingraham, Ballard and Holy Names. Come see what a group of creative and hard working teens can pull off!

Maureen said...

Preaching to the choir here, I know, but:

The Walking Dead in the New Yorker.

Schools with healthier start times, on the other hand, see an increase in attendance, test scores, G.P.A.s, and health. In one study in which an intervention pushed start times later, it wasn’t just academic outcomes that improved; car crashes went down by as much as seventy per cent, and self-reported depression rates fell. Even a delay of as little as half an hour, Owens has found, improves outcomes. “It should be about the health and well-being of the students,” she told me, “and not the convenience of adults.”

Anonymous said...

You must be kidding with this =>

“It should be about the health and well-being of the students,” she told me, “and not the convenience of adults.”

This would inconvenience sports teams that practice outdoors during darker months.
Remember school is about sports first.

-- Dan Dempsey

Josh Hayes said...

First off, the news from Ingraham about the break-in at the auto shop is incredibly sad - my classroom at IHS was immediately next door to the auto shop, and Chris, and the students there, are an amazing bunch, learning a set of extremely useful skills. It's a real blow to a very valuable program. My heart goes out to them.

Also, the "temporarily doing away with the Biology EOC requirement" was discussed yesterday on the KUOW weekly round-up show, and nobody on the show had a clue what it was about. Sadly, I only heard the re-broadcast at 7 last night, so I couldn't call in to set them straight. One panelist said that the SBAC science test was too hard, so they didn't administer it this year. Yeah, I thought, it's so hard that it doesn't even exist yet. Hard to take a fictional test.

I have to admit it's a little irritating that I made a bunch of kids jump through the hoops to get credit for passing the Biology/Science requirement last year, so they could graduate, only to have that requirement waived for the next two years. It's yet another example of how churn at the top drizzles down to the classroom in the form of confusion: what IS required this year? What can this year's sophomores expect to be required in THREE years, when they graduate - or fail to, because the ground has shifted beneath their feet?

Anonymous said...

Really??? I thought the discussion on the Biology EOC was excellent. And, I say this as the parent of a student with a significant disability who was dragged through the Biology EOC this year. They explained how the suspension of the EOC requirement happened - as a compromise for the Republican testing zealots. And the basic weirdness of the existing test. I don't know if my student passed or not - but it's good to know that it doesn't matter. (My student is going to be junior, maybe somebody can confirm that.) Otherwise, we'll be sweating away at either taking it again, maybe retaking Biology, taking a LDA (locally determined assessment) or some other inane hoop. All very costly for the district, and my student. Also the fact is, I believe these are either the first or second seniors who would have to pass this. And, why should every kid have to know "biology" in particular? What's so special about biology? Why not physical science, chemistry, or physics, or horticulture, or food science? Everybody has a different idea of which science class is important to them. No real reason for Biology in particular - except for the fact that the testing zealots can only produce so many tests, and students and staff only have time to give administer them. And that really is a weak reason. If we want to cut back on testing, as many do - Biology EOC is the one to cut, and the weakest point in the chain. (It also has the most failures.) It's the first chink in the testing armor. One of the commentators had a great point. For all these years of required graduation standardized testing - they've never figured out what to do with those who fail the test. She noted that when she graduated - there was the exact same issue - what you do with kids who fail the standardized graduation requirement, but have met every other requirement.

KPLU listener

Anonymous said...

And right. The EOC blurb rightly noted. Even if you love the idea of standardized tests - the legislature has come up with so many tests, so many changing standards, so many changing testing requirements, in the past 15 years or so - there's no way for students to really be expected to pass anything. Every single subject has been bombarded with shifting standards. Makes testing pretty meaningless. I thought that was another excellent point in the discussion.

KUOW listener (I meant)

n said...

Our legislators are list-makers. Have you ever noticed when you put left-brains in a room together they come up with lists? And each person is trying to out-do the other person's list. We need more right-brains in the legislature. They need to play with manipulatives, color or paint, build with Legos, and get a dose of creativity in their lives. Or am I being too hard on them?

Melissa Westbrook said...

So while I do love KUOW, the pundits they have rarely ever know what they are talking about. (Their ed reporter, Ann Dorenfeld, is a sharp cookie but they never invite her in when they are dissecting ed news.)

Anonymous said...

If you can pass a biology class but not a standardized biology test, what does it mean? Is the class ineffective? Is the test bad? Or is it something else?

It would seem to me that figuring out what's going on here is an important step.

HF

Anonymous said...

More coverage of Massachusetts and possible exit from CCSS testing.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

HF wrote:

"If you can pass a biology class but not a standardized biology test, what does it mean? Is the class ineffective? Is the test bad? Or is it something else? "

Because this Biology class was required for graduation every student needed to take it and pass it, even those with zero interest in Biology. As a result class grades may not have been indicative of the actual level of Biology knowledge acquired.

When California began requiring Geometry for high school graduation the academic quality of Geometry classes declined somewhat.

A thought -- make the score on the EoC test 10% of course grade and stop requiring Biology for graduation. I think that will produce a better test score to class grade correspondence. This obsession with state testing and Biology for all seems a bit bizarre.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

@ Dan Dempsey, so are you saying that because biology is a required course teachers have, forgive the expression, dumbed it down? So essentially that's a "yes" to one of my earlier questions: either the class is ineffective (teachers are not covering the standards), or the test is bad (unrealistically hard). A "Biology Lite" class doesn't prepare kids well for a more traditional Biology exam.

If the class the kids are receiving is not aligned with what they need to know to pass the test, that's a problem. While one solution would be to just drop the requirement, I'd be much more in favor of strengthening the class instead. Or even better, strengthen the class, but also add other science EOCs and give the kids options. Require that they pass one science EOC, their choice. That way they can demonstrate a basic proficiency in science, but they aren't locked into biology.

HF

Anonymous said...

No HF. The solution is not to add more EOCs. That's going the wrong way. Let the teachers teach, and set the standards. Let the students decide what science they want to take. And let's have variety. Let the course materials and focus change, as the times change. Science is a living thing - not a hurdle to be jumped. Standardizing more coursework isn't strengthening anything, it's weakening the system.

Dan, How can the EOC be part of a grade? It takes the whole summer to grade it. You are obviously a very arrogant person. There are many, many reasons a person might pass a biology class but fail the EOC. If teachers "dumb down" classes, that's on them. They can modify materials, they can differentiate content areas. Let's think about why a student might fail the biology EOC.

1) All science classes have potentially a huge breadth. Especially introductory courses. If the course materials and focus don't align to the test, the student could fail the EOC, but pass their class.

2) The language of the test may be different than the language of the student. Test-talk is different than normal speech. The student could have a different native language. Failure to understand the language of the test could be a reason to fail the EOC.

3) The student may be a poor reader and can't read the test. The EOC isn't supposed to be a reading test (we already have SBAC for that). Student may fail the EOC because they can't read well, but pass their class. (Students with disabilities can have the test read to them. Mine did. Imagine the pain in that. Teacher, reading every single thing on the EOC, potentially many times. And then, what if they take 2 or 3 times. Painful, expensive, costly, pointless.)

4) The focus of the student's class may have been on lab-work, not test prep. A student may have learned more lab skills than test taking skills. That is a reason a student could fail the EOC.

5) Students may not have good test taking skills. They may pass their class, but fail the EOC.

6) Students have a disability. Students with disabilities may not be able to learn all the materials, or reach the standards, or have the language skill and comprehension. The can pass the course with modifications, but modifications aren't available on the EOC (dumb). And, EOC is still a requirement for students with disabilities. Therefore - students with disabilities might pass the modified class, but fail the EOC.

Around 5,000 students with disabilities failed the bio EOC, around 23,000 students without disabilities failed it. So then what?

KUOW listener

Anonymous said...

When my kid was in Biology at Hale, the teacher told us that they prepare the kids for the EOC and that Hale had a good pass rate on the EOC. I never saw the pass rate for Hale so I can't confirm that but I can say that my science hating kid passed the Biology EOC with flying colors.

HP

Anonymous said...

@ KUOW listener,

I have to disagree with you on that first paragraph. Or maybe you misunderstood what I wrote and actually agree with me? You said to "let the students decide what science they want to take. And let's have variety." I suggested giving the option to take different science EOCs instead of just biology. Require them to pass one, but let them pick the science test that best works for them. In other words, "let the students decide" and "variety." Why is adding more EOCs the "wrong way" if it doesn't increase the number of requirements but increases the ability of students to pick a science class that makes sense for them?

I understand there are many reasons why someone may pass class but not pass a test. But that doesn't necessarily mean we should get rid of tests. In response to your points to Dan:

1. Intro science courses, regardless of the field, should be expected to cover some core topics. EOCs should only address those core topics, and any class on that topic should align appropriately with those. There can still be room for teachers to cover additional topics of interest, but your concern that science changes so quickly and so we should let "the course materials and focus change, as the times change" seems unrealistic to me. Most of our science teachers are not on the cutting edge of their discipline, and they are not likely to obtain course materials that are, either. Some level of standardization in what is covered in intro classes IS necessary. Do you really think that if every teacher comes up with his/her own curriculum we're going to end up with everyone getting a comprehensive foundation? There will be tremendous gaps in coverage, I assure you.

2. Do they not take tests in classes, too? Why is language only an issue for EOCs? If students are understanding the material in class, and managing classroom tests, but can't manage the EOC, then one alternative might be some sort of language accommodation.

3. If a student can't read well due to disability, they should be allowed an accommodation for the EOC. But the idea that it's unfair for a non-reading test to involve reading is silly. The class should have involved reading, too, right? If the learning is restricted to what a student is told in class, no wonder kids aren't passing the EOC. If there's a good reason for the kid not being able to read well, or quickly, or whatever, there should be accommodations. Yes, it would be costly and would take additional time, but that should be happening all along with such kids, shouldn't it? If a kid can't read well, they need support way before the EOC.

(continued)

Anonymous said...

(continued)

4. It's either lab work or test prep? Really? Learning the basics may prepare someone for a test, but that doesn't mean it's just test prep. Heck, learning the basics is also...lab prep! If you haven't learned the basics, you're not going to get much out of labs. And the idea that SPS science classes are so lab-centric doesn't seem accurate to me. My kids have not done a lot of labs. Unfortunately, the labs they have done have also not been all that interesting or educational, so maybe that's part of the problem, too. Lab work for the sake of lab work is a waste of resources if kids aren't learning the basics.

5. Sure, some kids aren't good at tests. So we should get rid of tests? As you mentioned earlier, some kids aren't good at English, either. Others aren't good at math. Or history. You name it. Should we get rid of all of those? There's also a difference between being a "good" test taker and being able to "pass" a test, isn't there? I don't mean to sound sarcastic here, but I'm really curious about this idea that because some kids aren't good at something we shouldn't require it. Please elaborate!

6. Agreed. It's a problem if students with disabilities can get modifications on the biology class but not the EOC. That should be changed. It goes back to that alignment of course and exam issue...

HF

Anonymous said...

HF. Not every teacher is going to be "at the cutting edge of science". But neither are the test creators, and test creation and standardization is a burdensome and slow process - almost guaranteed to be obsolete by the time their tests (and standards)hit the street. I trust the teachers more than I trust the test creators to be flexible, on top of their fields, in tune with student need, in tune with community resources for instruction. None of those things will be considered if we go to a system with MORE EOCs. Sure there's going to be a few dud teachers along the way. It's part of the lesson. With EOCs, you're guaranteed pain for nothing. The will is turning on EOCs. They are ALL going the way of the dodo. ALL of them are currently scheduled for obsolescence, just a few years after they are introduced. It would be dumb to create more. What? We want more SBAC? That too is a non-starter. The tide is turning back.

Sure, language, reading, test taking skills are valuable skills and things that people should work on. Reality is though - students often don't have all the skills. But, in a content class - those things can be isolated from the content. Teachers can isolate those issues and factor it in. That is a reason that students can pass a course, and fail a standardized test. And that was your original question.

Listener

Jan said...

HF: I am not sure I can add anything to what Listener has already said -- but as someone who was GREAT at test-taking -- who then became the parent of a bright but language disabled child who is really AWFUL at test-taking, let me take a stab at your point No 5. You said:

5. Sure, some kids aren't good at tests. So we should get rid of tests? As you mentioned earlier, some kids aren't good at English, either. Others aren't good at math. Or history. You name it. Should we get rid of all of those? There's also a difference between being a "good" test taker and being able to "pass" a test, isn't there? I don't mean to sound sarcastic here, but I'm really curious about this idea that because some kids aren't good at something we shouldn't require it. Please elaborate!

If "test taking" -- per se -- is the skill or learned behavior that you are trying to measure -- then, you are right! Have at it! We should have a test taking class -- and an EOC that measures how well kids do in test taking.

That, however, has never been articulated as the goal (nor is it a particularly useful skill in adult life for the millions of us whose last tests were in college, or to qualify for graduate school. Thus, to your last sentence, if kids aren't good at something, and that "something" is not the end goal anyway -- then no! We shouldn't require it. We shouldn't require it because -- it is not the skill that we are trying to get kids to learn.

The problem is -- for those who do badly on tests (language disabilities, anxiety issues, ELL status, etc.), tests DO tend to measure facility in test taking, and not (or not well) the underlying knowledge supposedly being tested. The language, test formats, timing issues, etc. tend to mask the measurement of true ability. Understand, too -- many of these folks have MUCH better uses for their school time than trying to figure out how to get around the testing issues. My child reads slowly (seriously slowly) -- but deeply and has an incredible memory. Faced with the competing demands in school of AP courses with heavy reading loads -- it was not possible to peel my kid off for lots of "practice" trying to figure out how to take, and pass, the WASL (failed the math WASL, by the way -- but passed the HSPE the following year with no problem -- and had taken no math for most of the interim year -- it was SOLELY a difference in the test format).

Allow me to digress a moment into "accommodations." There were times when this child was supposed to receive accommodations -- but just "didn't" -- they just weren't there (which the parent finds out after the fact -- oops!). Once, we received a letter telling us to drive the child to Stanford for a test so the extra accommodations there -- the letter arrived after the test had occurred.

continued --

Jan said...

The bottom line -- for me -- is this: people's time and energy is valuable. And kids are people! Yet in schools, we treat kids' and teachers' time like it is meaningless. We fritter and squander time, energy, and goodwill on this test (and the prep for it) one year, and a different set of tests the next -- and yet different ones three years later -- all the while spouting how "critical" they all are, when the truth is -- the ONLY thing that is critical in any school is whether, and what, a kid learns. If we:
1. hire good teachers (and don't hound them out of the schools with unbearable demands and unreasonable working conditions);
2. fund the schools even minimally adequately -- so that kids have books, musical instruments, an auditorium, science materials and lab space, etc., and
3. create communities that value learning -- we can do this.

But all the gloss and hoopla of EOCs and SBACs, test prep, VAM, fidelity of implementation -- etc. etc. etc. -- NONE of it adds anything to student learning -- and NONE of it is necessary if school districts just do 1 through 3 above. The entire testing myth comes out of the corporate foundations and faux policy organizations seeking to figure out how their associated for-profit friends can make money from tax dollars earmarked for education. Frequent high stakes testing of kids is a big easy piece of low hanging fruit, nothing more.