Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday Open Thread

A lot to catch up on so here we go.

The latest interactive map on our geographically challenged city is out from Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management. Check your home, office and especially, your child's school.   This is not a scare tactic but to get people to think about and get prepared for a natural disaster in our area.

Uh oh, the Times is reporting that Washington is one of 12 states whose test-participation rate was lower than 95% and the state could face federal sanctions because of it.  Washington had about a 91% test rate, mostly because of high school juniors (grades 3-8 were fine.)  Among the sanctions, schools and districts have to prove a plan on how they will get those rates up.

One of the districts with a high refusal rate was Seattle Public Schools, where 43 percent of juniors opted out of the English-language arts test, and 44 percent opted out of the math test. Other nearby districts had even higher rates — preliminary data showed more than three-quarters of juniors in the Bainbridge Island, Issaquah, Enumclaw and Snoqualmie Valley school districts refused to take the tests.

First Lady Michelle Obama has launched a college resource website called BetterMakeRoom.org.  From ABC News:

BetterMakeRoom.org will be a place for students ages 14-19 to get information on such matters as signing up for the SAT and ACT exams, filling out federal financial aid forms and applying to college, aides said. Students will also be able to share stories about their goals, their progress and what’s inspiring them to go to college.

From Diverse - Issues in Higher Education - comes word of a "scorecard" for U.S. cities for working to improve education and life outcomes for black men and boys.   Oakland, Detroit and Washington, D.C. come out on top.  Seattle is in the bottom third.

Seattle's Red Tricycle blog has several ideas for New Year's Eve activities with kids.  Speaking of, here are "28 Pictures that prove 2015 wasn't a completely terrible year."  Very heart-warming - show the kids.

One other idea for a peaceful, clearing-of-the-mind activity for the new year - walk the Labyrinth at St. Mark's.  I've done this and it's quite the beautiful experience.  (I do not recommend this for kids unless they are able to be extra quiet and mindful of their surroundings and what other participants are trying to achieve.)

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

What's on my mind is this article from the NYT http://tinyurl.com/jzx7qyu "As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short". Most interesting is the comment section, where long time teachers and college professors bemoan the "dumbing down" of education. Part by drive for equity, part by perverse incentives from NCLB, it seems that many HS teachers are under intense pressure to pass everyone no matter the degree of effort or understanding displayed by the student.

Relevant to me because my own student is not challenged and is learning little in 8th grade at SPS. She's bright but not a prodigy. I think the close the gap goal is truly inspiring a hold the top down attitude. I think about the many kids in her class who could be learning so much more. I don't know the solution but the problem seems serious, nationwide. For us, we supplement at home and are seriously considering moving to private for HS, although MS was probably the better place to have done that.

If you have to take your kid private to get a good education, public schools are sunk. That will pose some serious equity problems...only those who can afford it will get good educations. Although in the comment section of the article above, some parents in private education are demanding better grades for their kids, after all, they are paying for it. Sheesh.


Anonymous said...

Relevant to me because my own student is not challenged and is learning little in 8th grade at SPS.

...could say the same thing for 6th, 7th, and 8th...wish we had gone private for MS. We are hoping high school will provide more challenge, yet worry middle school has left some serious skill and content knowledge gaps. It's almost like some teachers are intentionally not teaching anything. Playing part time teacher to make up for deficiencies has gotten old.


Melissa Westbrook said...

ASDF, you read my mind. I was going to put up that article, along with another NY Times one on ed, this week.

I agree with you on the supplemental work at home. Sometimes, in the early years especially with the younger child, I felt like the homework was not too difficult but too much in volume/detail for my child. So I had to monitor it and I resented that.

But I was around to do that and my husband worked on math a lot with both sons to bolster what they were doing in class. Not everyone has that time or ability so what about kids who struggle?

Wondering said...

There is a facebook group called Paramount Duty. Their goal is to prod the legislature into funding education. Wonderful.

Other than being cheerleaders for educational funding, I'm having a hard time figuring out this group. The issues regarding educational funding will revolve around charter school legislation and a levy swap. Yet, the Paramount Duty group is unwilling to take a position on either charter schools or a levy swap.

Other than being cheerleaders for educational funding, I'm having a hard time figuring out where this group is going and what they stand for- or against.

Wondering said...

I don't want to be connected to Paramount Duty because I don't know what they stand for or against. I don't want to put my name to something with an uncertain direction. I am concerned that if I sign onto this group, my name would be used to support a levy swap or a charter school fix.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wondering, I know the leaders at Washington's Paramount Duty (I wrote about this group awhile back.) I think they are trying to be diplomatic and try to work with/convince legislators to fund McCleary. Given the lack of real feedback from some legislators, I think they may need to draw a line in the sand at some point.

Here's their website: http://paramountduty.com/

Po3 said...

Will be interesting to see how the state tries to force the 11th graders to sit for any SBAC testing since many passed this test in 10th grade and the "college incentive" pretty much fell flat on its face.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Po3, I'll have to post the Oregon letter that parents get. It may be the example of what is coming - some brow-beating and shaming in there.

Anonymous said...

"Testing opponents furious about Oregon's opt-out notice for parents"



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

In middle school, there is some benefit to allowing retakes. You want students to master the material so their chances of success in high school are improved. In reality, though, I think students use it as an excuse to not do their best the first time around, which is behavior that creates poor performance in high school. While the intentions may be good, I think standards based grading unintentionally encourages poor work habits. I tutored in a math class that used standards based assessments and each problem was labeled "meets standard" or "above standard." I can't tell you how many students didn't even attempt the "above standard" questions. They said they didn't need to do the "above standard" problems because they only needed to meet standard! Talk about lowered expectations. At the other end of the spectrum, you have teachers that think "above standard" is absolute perfection. If there is white out or a stray pencil mark on a poster, it doesn't get a "4." I kid you not.

Standards-based grading: good intentions, bad implementation, or just generally a bad idea?


Lynn said...

I like standards based grading because it places the focus on learning - the grade tells you if a student has mastered the material/skills taught in the class. I think it can only be properly implemented in a system where each standard is reported separately. An overall 2/3/4 grade doesn't provide any more useful information than a B on a report card does.

I know some people want grades to reflect a student's work habits and attitude too. That practice can mask a poor understanding of the material and lead to unexpected failure in later classes (in math in particular.)

Lynn said...

I don't think Oregon's opt out form is any worse than the one SPS created.

SPS Opt-Out form

Lynn said...

Sorry for the multiple posts. I too am curious to see how districts will try to reduce the opt out rates. Taking the tests is not required for promotion and I don't see what else would change a parent's mind.

I'll have two students to opt out this year - at schools where the rates were low last year.

Anonymous said...

@Lynn, is your child in middle school yet? Perhaps standards-based grading is okay in elementary, but come middle school, grades tend to have more meaning for students. I think standards-based grading was supposed to focus on standards, and prevent the grade padding and extra credit, participation points, etc., but in our experience, there is just as much variation in grading with SBG as there was with letter based grades. One teacher will mostly give "3" for doing the work (usually an "A," but with SBG, it's a meeting standard, or 3, which gets put into the grade book as 85%). Another teacher is focused in improvement, so if a student starts out above standard (and is not taught above standard), there is no where to go but down. SBG has been the source of much frustration in our household. And if the focus is only on standards, doesn't that leave out other important learning components? Not all content and skills can be neatly categorized into a specific standard.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, I will reprint your comment but you must use a name (moniker)in the future.

"In Highline there is a lot of pressure from a certain top admin (familiar to Seattle parents) to pass all kids no matter how well they understand the material. One way this is being crammed down people's throats is often called "standards based grading". How this is defined exactly remains unclear, but what is clear is that grading scales now need to start at the passing level so long as something is turned in. Additionally, there is increasingly a mandate that all assignments can be "reassessed". Combine this with an exceptionally lax attendance policy and an a high level of tolerance for students who exhibit seriously unsafe behavior and you have a recipe for disaster -- but on paper it looks good with higher pass rates, graduation rates and lower suspensions. All things this top administrator would want as part of a platform for elective office (eg head of OSPI)."

There looks to be about 4-5 people running for State Superintendent next year. This should be interesting.

FOIA Sez said...

In October 2014, First Place wanted to hire a grant writer. First Place was seeking $200k from the city's Family and Education Levy. The grant writer would be categorized under "professional services" and the individual would not be paid more than $2K.

Good work if you can get it.

Anonymous said...

And a comment from the NY Times article:

Northeast 2 days ago

I am a university professor. I can't believe the number of students in recent years (and it seems to be increasing) who ask if they can retake a test or do extra credit. Sometimes this is even when there are still papers due that they could be working on and doing multiple revisions of in order to make them really good papers and thus raise their grades. But they don't ask for your time to review a draft they're writing. They ask to redo a test or for some extra credit assignment. It's weird.

Hmm...kind of reinforces the point about the bad work habits that SBG can instill.


Anonymous said...

Things that -parent is describing as standards based grading (such as " and each problem was labeled "meets standard" or "above standard.") don't really seem like typical standards based grading.

Also, I don't understand how -parent knows the university professor's students came from SBG schools. In fact, the asking for extra credit suggests they came from schools without SBG.

Here is an article a Michigan teacher of the year wrote about switching to SBG https://www.haikulearning.com/blog/2013/10/gary-abud-teacher-of-the-year/


Anonymous said...

Wow, that article does not win me over to SBG.

* A student's score can go below their numerical average, because "each new assessment replaces the scores of the previous assessment." Aack. Previous high scores can be wiped out by a subsequent low score. Can you imagine this factoring into a high school GPA?

* He cites being more organized in lesson planning and designing as one of the benefits of SBG. Shouldn't this have been happening before SBG as well?

* He doesn't assign homework, in a high school science class (!) because he wants "practice to be done in class together." Aack, again.


Anonymous said...

Been lurking on the Paramount Duty facebook group for a while now. Lots of discussions, but no real direction. Seems like they want to play nice with everybody, which is a sure road to failure and inaction. Their goal is to get the legislature to act, but the legislature won't act until the public forces them to act. There's too much "Seattle nice" going on and not nearly enough strategy, organizing, or understanding of what the real problems are or why the legislature hasn't acted before. They seem to think that if they ask nicely enough, and don't offend anyone, they'll get what they want. But that isn't how politics actually works. Someone has to bring the hammer down, hard, on the legislature. Someday, maybe when my kids are long since graduated, it'll finally happen...

West Seattle Dad

Anonymous said...

Wondering: You said that Washington's Paramount Duty's "goal is to prod the legislature into funding education." However, our group's mission is broader than that--we are working through (1) all three branches of government and (2) the people of the state. Specifically, "[o]ur mission is to compel Washington State to amply fund basic education and swiftly fulfill its paramount duty." http://paramountduty.com/about/

You also mentioned that you are not sure what we are for or against. We are focused on the positive goal: to get the State to fully fund basic education. While we have not taken a position on charter schools, we are very concerned that some legislators have declared that they are prioritizing charter schools and the levy swap proposal, but these same legislators are NOT interested in fully funding the laws the legislature has already enacted regarding basic education: bills 2261 and 2776.

Right now, WPD is lobbying legislators to fully fund basic education (as defined in bills 2261 and 2776) during the upcoming legislative session. If the legislature does invest to fully fund basic education during the 2016 legislative session, we will take this issue to the people of the state and determine a grassroots solution on how to fund education in Washington.

If you have further questions, please contact me and I'll be happy to chat with you.

Summer Stinson
Steering Committee Member, Washington's Paramount Duty

Anonymous said...

If schools were truly doing SBG, they'd do the assessments the beginning of the following year, to see how much actually stuck. Who cares how much you got right on your 10th attempt of an individual standard? If you don't retain it, you didn't learn it. Ding. Same for standardized tests. If we really believe in them, we should be giving them a year after the material was presented.


Anonymous said...

Meant to say: If the legislature does NOT invest to fully fund basic education during the 2016 legislative session, we will take this issue to the people of the state and determine a grassroots solution on how to fund education in Washington.

Summer Stinson
Steering Committee Member, Washington's Paramount Duty

Josh Hayes said...

I bombed a job interview a couple of years back when I was asked a question about SBG, essentially, "Don't you think standards-based grading is frickin' AWESOME?", and I pondered a second and answered truthfully.

No. No it's not. The thing that reader (lower-case) pointed out above as absurd: stray marks, erasures, and the like resulting in not getting a 4? That's being implemented correctly. That's what the teacher is SUPPOSED to do. And as others have suggested, maybe there's a place for a more rigidly structured grading system in elementary school, but that begins to go away in middle school and is gone baby gone in high school (IMHO).

Anyone who has glanced through, for instance, the "next generation science standards" will be instantly aware of why SBG can NEVER work in a science class that's taught to those standards. Sure, we should be teaching to a coherent set of ideas, concepts, and applications (otherwise known as "standards"), but lordy, give us some leeway in assessment please. SBG betrays the underlying mechanist philosophy of so many ed reformers, that students are really all alike and should be graded the way we'd grade cuts of beef or parts coming off an assembly line. How horrible. The day administration tells me I have to grade my students that way is the day I walk out the door.

Lynn said...


Can you explain why the idea of a high school science class without homework horrifies you?

As for high school GPA, I'd like to see that dropped. What does a GPA that isn't a 4.0 or a 2.0 tell you about a student?

@Josh Hayes,

Does your current grading method better reflect a student's learning than SBG? Can you share how you calculate a student's final grade?

Josh Hayes said...

Lynn, let me volley that back to you. Have you looked at the NGSS? Glance through the high school life science standards set and think about how you would go about establishing rubrics for each standard that clearly, objectively, and transparently define below, at, and above standard.

In my current school, the entire biology team comes together to write test items for every large-scale unit test. We're free to use or not use whatever we want, but the actual result is that every test is about 80% similar from teacher to teacher, which means that a student who finishes any one of our classes will be well prepared to move on to the next class (often chemistry; sometimes AP chemistry).

Every lab and lab writeup has a rubric which students see ahead of time: they KNOW what's expected of them. I think the main issue here is that the material in high school classes (with the possible exception of math classes) has so many pieces that interlock, the idea that a coherent sequence of standardized pieces makes a curriculum simply does not apply. And how would I measure a student's mastery of, say, cellular respiration?

tl;dr: While the material covered is pretty uniform from school to school, the order and emphasis on different units varies. Biology (as an example: it is my forte) is rich enough to take three years of school easily. Every teacher picks and chooses the pieces he/she regards as core and then works out from there. Standards imposed from without inevitably rub up against the real world classroom in non-productive ways.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Summer, thanks for the input. I think if the legislature does not step up with REAL ideas for fully-funding education, the Supreme Court may beat you to the punch.

Anonymous said...

Philanthrophy actually hurts the world's worst problems

From Truth Out.

In her new book No Such Thing As A Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy Linsey McGoey reasserts this challenge to the legitimacy of philanthropy in today's new era of philanthropic superstars. McGoey's book investigates the Gates Foundation's interventions in US K-12 education and global health, raising serious concerns about the extent to which the massive philanthropic sector depletes funding for traditional social services and prioritizes the agendas of unelected foundation leaders.

As institutions like the Gates Foundation take increasingly leading roles in policymaking and governance, McGoey argues, the line between traditional notions of charity and top-down consolidation of power becomes unclear; and with this largely unchecked influence, philanthro-capitalists, like Bill Gates, have pushed countries across the world to accept market based solutions for crises like education inequity and disease proliferation - despite evidence that these problems are often rooted in actions taken by those philanthro-capitalists themselves.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Josh Hayes wrote "And how would I measure a student's mastery of, say, cellular respiration?"

If you look at the subject at that level of granularity, the task of creating the standards for an entire life science class would be quite daunting. But what if you considered it at the level of mastery of the topic of "Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems" and the skill of "Developing and Using Models"?

Cellular respiration would then be one of about five sub-topics a student would need to be able to explain and model. How many and how completely a sub-topic was explained and modeled would be moving horizontally across your rubric. Whether the class was in middle school or high school would determine whether the student needed to explain inputs/outputs only, or also know the steps involved inside the process.


Anonymous said...

Agreed, Melissa! I hope that the judicial branch--the Supreme Court--will step in if, after the 2016 session, the legislative branch is still in contempt for refusing to fully fund basic education. WPD is planning on filing an amicus brief arguing for further sanctions if the legislature won't invest the funds to purge the contempt order. We're also continuing to try to advocate for full funding with the executive branch. While Governor Inslee's plan to increase teachers' beginning pay is to be applauded, his budget proposal still does not fully fund basic education.

Summer Stinson
Steering Committee Member, Washington's Paramount Duty

Outsider said...

Suspicion of philanthropic foundations has waxed and waned for a century, ever since they first existed. See this on the Ford Foundation from this week:


Also an interesting account of the public school experience of its black current president, Warren Walker.

Seattelite said...

West Seattle Dad,

You wrote about Washington's Paramount Duty. Thank you for your feedback. We are a grassroots organization and our steering committee is made up of busy parents juggling busy lives. We are working to organize ourselves into a 501c4 so that we can become formalized and start fundraising to support broader grassroots advocacy efforts statewide. We are working to pressure all branches of government (see Summer's post after yours). There is a lot happening both behind the scenes including conversations with legislators, and front and center engagement of both sides, as you can see on the Facebook page. We can use your and everyone's help to get organized, build momentum, political pressure and develop that "hammer" that you cite to make full funding a reality.

At the end of the day, we remain nonpartisan as we are working to bring everyone to the table to build common ground and a solution for the students of Washington. If our government is not able to solve this, we will work to build a consensus among the people that the majority of voters will vote for. We will be announcing more in January, including a 3-year-strategy. Again, this is an all hands on deck effort, completely grassroots, and yes, every voice makes a difference.

Tali Rausch
Washington's Paramount Duty Steering Committee Member

Josh Hayes said...

Thanks for the input, LisaG, and that's actually quite applicable. One of the keys of the NGSS, however, is what they identify as "cross-cutting ideas", and the implication is that a large part of what we're supposed to teach these kids, and what they'll need to be able to do in college, is to synthesize a whole host of those threads you talk about into a coherent whole. I'm not convinced that a plug and chug rubric approach captures our success in that endeavor.

When it comes down to it, the argument is really about what grades are FOR, right? Different people seem to have differing ideas about that. I'd love to hear yours, but I don't want to threadjack.

Arne said...

The Paramount group will not allow a robust discussion regarding charter school fraud etc. Discussions must be limited to funding/ charter schools. Individual(s) on the Paramount site have promoted League of Education Voters and LEV's activist training.

I'm happy to push for funding, but I don't want to push for charter schools in the process.

I'll wait for the Paramount group to take a position on charter schools before sending individuals to this group.

Charlie Mas said...

Paramount Duty, like everyone else working for full funding of education, needs to take the time to understand the obstacles to fully funding education. In a lot of cases those obstacles are individual legislators who, to be candid, oppose it.

You can say that you're non-partisan all you want, but to be honest and effective, don't you have to work to replace the legislators who oppose fully funding education?

Anonymous said...

Josh, i have a really radical idea. I think we should give students the grades they need. It's a truly challenging thing to figure out, but it's what should really happen. I'm coming at it from a disabilities perspective, but it could also apply to others. What do SBG mean for students with disabilities? They aren't standard students. My experience has been varied. One teacher, insisted on always giving my student a 1, because he was behind. That seemed dumb, and punitive. The teachers who want to give bad grades, seem to be the least accommodating. Once the teacher gave my student a 1 in math even though he scored a 4 on the WASL. What information does that give me? What motivation does it provide my student? Most seem to simply give him a B-. Students with behavior challenges get Ds. Students need different things. Some need a kick in the pants, and are motivated to learn with a lower grade. Others need support, so a higher grade is needed. The idea that grades are somehow "information" about learning is wrong. They aren't. Nobody truly knows why a student got the grade they did. We have a myriad of tests that provide standardized information on learning. We don't need SBG to replicate that information. Let grades be NONstandard, and personalized.

But, I do love the opportunity for do-overs that SBG seems to enable. Again, this is something that should be individually tailored. Some students, like mine, need more exposure to materials. And, doing test helps him learn. Other students simply develops bad habits by turning in bad initial work. The teacher needs to figure it out.


Eric B said...

Here's an opportunity to get a free (!) ride for an experiment into space: http://www.cubesinspace.com/

Cubes in Space is a NASA program for students age 11-18 to design an experiment and have it launched into space. It appears that both the cube frame and the rocket ride are free. Their estimate is that it takes 12-15 hours of time to complete the students' part of the project.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply, Tali. I'm really heartened to see this organizing happening. That said, I do remain concerned about your approach. You seem to be prioritizing "nonpartisan" and "bringing everyone to the table" over actual success in solving this problem. I don't see any evidence to suggest that such a "Seattle nice" strategy will accomplish anything at all. It certainly won't scare legislators, or motivate other parents around the state to get involved. Instead it's a recipe for spinning our wheels and for your organizing to not be taken seriously. My kids will be in middle school 3 years from now. I don't think we need to wait that long.

I'd rather see Washington's Paramount Duty decide on a solution, or a menu of possible solutions, and then organize to demand that it be adopted, whether in the legislature or by voters. If only one party signs on, so be it. And let's keep in mind that Republicans have been going out of their way to oppose new funding for schools, including Republican legislators' posts in the Facebook group.

I also share the concerns others have raised about charter schools. You guys are walking into a trap here. One big reason that Republicans, and some Democrats, do not want to fully fund our public schools is because they hope to force mass conversion of public schools into charter schools, in part by creating a financial crisis in the public schools. This has been the model used in cities and states all over the country. You don't seem to realize that charter schools aren't a neutral or benign or off-topic thing, but are a fundamental threat to the goal of full funding that you espouse.

It breaks my heart to see such smart, intelligent people make such colossal mistakes and throw away a chance to win, merely because they're afraid of offending people, because they'd rather be nice than be successful.

So I'll still be lurking and waiting. So will my kids. But the clock is ticking fast, and every strategic mistake means more wasted time.

West Seattle Dad

Arne said...

I agree West Seattle Dad.

I became alarmed when an individual suggested the Paramount group go to Nick Hanauer for funding!! OMG. The poster went on to suggest that Hanauer supports both an income tax AND charter schools; a perfect compromise.(!!) I can only hope that the Paramount group doesn't go that route.

In addition, one individual in Paramount's comment thread spoke to a LEV lobbyist . The lobbyist suggested the Paramount group could make a BIG difference. Of course, LEV would have the benefit of a grass root campaign pushing for a bipartisan effort.

We saw a similar effort during the I 1240 campaign. There was a group of PTA pro-charter supporters in Magendanz's district. I need to check, but Megandanz may have been involved. The group pushed for PTSA support and they were quite skilled in doing so. There was a push for the state level PTA to support charter schools.

The individuals within Paramount have spent a lot of time on this issue and I appreciate their efforts. I suspect many that support charters as part of a funding mechanism aren't fully aware of fraud and other issues related to charter schools. Cities throughout the country have seen that charters have only served to weaken the public school structure.

I remain concerned that a bipartisan effort will help force charters into Washington I will wait to see Paramount's direction before recommending this group.

Arne said...

I would rather individuals take a position against charter schools and let the Supreme Court do their job.

Anonymous said...

Charlie suggests that the proposed WPD 501(c)(4) be used to run campaigns "to replace the legislators who oppose fully funding education."

For lack of a better way to identify these legislators who oppose fully funding basic education, let's use the list of legislators who have not signed the WPD resolution. This list would include the leadership of the majority parties in both the House and Senate:

Speaker of the House Frank Chopp
Majority Leader Pat Sullivan
Majority Caucus Chair Eric Pettigrew
Majority Whip Kevin Van De Wege
Majority Floor Leader Kristine Lytton
House Education Committee Chair Sharon Tomiko Santos

Majority Leader Mark Schoesler
Majority Caucus Chair Linda Evans Parlette
Majority Whip Ann Rivers
Majority Leader Joe Fain
Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee Chair Steve Litzow

This WPD PAC better get a big war chest to pull this off. I'm sure WEA and SEIU will do their best to fund it but I doubt they're going to want to knock some of these folks off.

Citizen Kane

Anonymous said...

Preview of some possible Next Generation Science test items at http://www.csai-online.org/spotlight/science-assessment-item-collaborative

They have a feedback option, please take a look! It's a super confusing test and the 5th grade scenario is particular looks really unreasonable and convoluted in the information they are trying to identify. I thought the high school one was bad until I looked at the 5th grade.


Watching said...

Citizen Kane,

Why wouldn't WEA want to knock off LItzow, Fain and Pettigrew?

Anonymous said...

Watching, I said "some of these folks." Obviously there are some who the WEA would love to replace.

Citizen Kane

Anonymous said...

From KM:

I talked with Liztow at his community forum back in the early spring of 2015 -- I was surprised at how ignorant of public education he was (is?). He didn't have any idea about what tests students were taking and how often. I guess when your district includes many billionaires you have to toe the billionaire party line regardless of what you know about it, how poorly it works or the realities of what it is doing to public education.

Watching said...

Thanks, Citizen Kane. It is my pleasure to add Chad Magendanz to the list of legislators that have not signed WPD's resolution....:)

Worth noting that a pro-charter PAC is expected to raise $500K. As expected, they have already contributed to Pettigrew, Hill, Rivers, Fain, Litzow, Dammeier and others that push privatization efforts. The PAC supports the usual Democraps that have turned against their party i.e. Hobbs However, the procharter PAC has extended their generosity to other Democrats such as Christine Rolfes, Mia Gregerson and Judy Clibborn. Perhaps, building -up votes to support a charter "fix", I guess.

Thankfully, WEA supports citizens that oppose privatization efforts.

Anonymous said...

One of the problems with standards based grading/learning is that it seems to often be used to label something which is more like standards based report card with no change to how teaching/learning is approached.

Spedvocate writes " We have a myriad of tests that provide standardized information on learning. We don't need SBG to replicate that information." I agree with this, but I also don't see it as being a criticism of the process of SBG, but more of what SBG is applied to. We do have standardized tests to assess content knowledge. I think classroom grading should focus more on how students can use that knowledge.

SBG should be applied to the student's output in explaining, modeling, gathering relevant information, forming a conclusion, etc. A grading emphasis like this would focus on what cannot be covered by standardized tests. It also has a beneficial side effect of enabling differentiation at the higher end. Once you get all the answers right on a standardized test, there's no room for improvement. But you can always explain something better, make connections with previously learned topics, etc.

One drawback is that, even after the framework has been created, SBG with opportunities for revision and reassessment can take a lot of teacher time. I have seen some teachers require peer feedback/review before a submission. This can both minimize students making every initial submission badly done, and also help students learn through giving feedback.


Anonymous said...

Watching, I don't know why you singled out one particular legislator. My point was that not a single member of the senior leadership of the two majority caucuses is supportive of fully funding basic education. Not a single one.

The legislator you identified is not in a majority caucus.

Citizen Kane

Melissa Westbrook said...

I was just listening to KUOW and they had an Associated Press reporter explaining the upcoming legislative session. She spoke of both McCleary and charters and boy, there were things she left out or didn't know. It's shocking that there are people who are reporters who simply don't get it right and then it's out in the ether.

There are not "many"Dems in the legislature who support charters (certainly not as compared to Reps.)

She seemed to not know there are other issues with the charter law than funding.

She seemed to not know about the ALEs being set up for charter students.

Pretty sad.

Where was Ann Dornfeld?

Watching said...

Citizen Kane,

I don't know why leadership hasn't signed a resolution to fund education. Are we going to see a fight over charter schools and educational funding?

Here is my prediction:

1. There will be 2 charter school bills.
2. There will be an enormous amount of time discussing charter legislation.
3. Charter supporters will continue to put kids in busses and send them
to Olympia. The charter campaign will continue.
4. There will be an attempt to push a charter bill through Olympia. Whether
bill is constitutional...is another issue.
5. We will see additional funds in education, but these funding will come from
a growing economy.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by a fight?

Citizen Kane

Patrick said...

aack, that sounds like my daughter's experience in 9th grade science. No homework, or even the possibility of taking work home to finish because the notebooks must stay in the classroom. No tests all of 1st quarter. No assignments were graded until the week before the end of the quarter, and even then there were only three assignments for the whole quarter. Okay, I know my daughter is not good at group work and apparently some of her friends are able to get the group work done in a satisfactory way. But I think it's pretty poor teaching to teach only to one type of kid that thrives on group work and ignore the kids who do good work at home where there are fewer distractions, or who do better on tests. I have enrolled my daughter in a private academy for science class only. I hope that isn't going to be the way science is taught all four years of high school.

It's also a terrible idea to teach kids that there are unlimited do-overs! Very few things in life work that way. Maybe for students they could allow a limited number of do-overs, but the "nothing is actually due until the end of the quarter" message is a disaster, both for training the kids and probably makes the last week much more hectic for teachers as well.

Anonymous said...

I think we must decide what we are grading.

If we are grading competency in specific skills then I think there should be unlimited do overs. No matter how long it takes a student to become competent at multiplication or writing a transition sentence or choosing a graph to demonstrate their lab outcomes or factoring a quadratic equation, we have to encourage them to keep trying. What else should we do? Just have them give up & leave school? Or move on to more complex work that requires skills they don't have, so they will fail at that? Whenever they get it they have accomplished mastery of a standard. Students need to understand that is the goal.

I don't see the point in grading homework, though I do think they should be correcting their homework, so they know if they are getting it right. But some students need much more practice than other students; each should do the homework that they need to do in order to learn the skills. Some students need different practice. If they do it wrong the first time & then learn it & can do it right, why should their earlier failure be part of their grade? You didn't know you multiplication tables last week, you have them pat now, but you can't pass because we can't replace the earlier grade? Shouldn't the grade really tell us that the student is now ready for division instead of reflecting when the multiplication tables were mastered? And for students who knew it before the unit started or learned it very quickly, why should they have to put lots of effort into practice to earn a grade for competency they already had?

I do agree that if we are using SBG then a 4 doesn't make sense. You have mastered it or you need to keep trying. If you have mastered the standard & need to move on to something else, then you are working on mastering a different standard.

- HS Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching, it is unlikely there will be additional funds. I would love to see two competing charter bills but a short session is not enough time to review two new bills on this important issue.

Anonymous said...

A short session is plenty of time to pass a charter school bill. Plenty of policy bills get passed in the short session.

Citizen Kane

Seattelite said...

West Seattle Dad,

I think you missed the bulk of my response to your critique of WPD. Please don't be heartbroken for us, we are very aware of what we are doing and making sure we use our energy as efficiently as possible to push for full funding (knowing how little political will there is to do anything for McLeary this session, we are not putting in a lot of political chips to lobby, but we are planning to build awareness statewide and ramp up for a rallying cry if there is truly nothing done this session).

Furthermore, we do not see nonpartisanship and success as an either-or proposal. Being nonpartisan doesn't mean that we will support everyone, we will only support legislators who prioritize and propose solutions and work towards full funding. We are currently working to develop a more coherent response to the lack of action happening in the legislature. We are considering filing an amicus brief, developing an initiative, and more (unfortunately, these ideas take time to deliver, thus the 3-year plan, although I completely appreciate your frustration).

We refuse to allow charters to outshine funding for public education, and yet we will not allow it to become a wedge issue. Our mission is to fund public school education, and we recognize the need to be politically savvy within this political climate. Rather than lurking and lobbing criticisms, feel free to propose solutions that we can rally around, we are all ears.

Tali Rausch
Washington's Paramount Duty Steering Committee

Anonymous said...

I would love more detail on the report cards... How well does my kid understand cellular respiration? Can he recite the chemical changes flawlessly, or does he have an understanding of the basic concept, or does he just ask "what's that"? This is the information I need to help with remediation.

Anonymous said...

SPS' opt out form is hideous,

I wrote up a simple "I opt my student out of the SBAC." letter and delivered it to the school.

It worked.

Roosevelt Dad

Anonymous said...

RE: Washington's Paramount Duty
Thanks all for your thoughts. It is truly wonderful that folks are talking about what WPD needs to do and be. A few thoughts in response…

WPD is only a few months old, while the State has been failing our children for decades. The small group of us that decided to launch WPD are doing so in between parenting and jobs and all sorts of other responsibilities. The next step will be to become a recognized non-profit organization, and we’ll need board members, staff, supporters, and $$’s. And yes, we ARE working on the specific plans for exactly HOW we will compel the State to meet the Paramount Duty (which include some of the ideas above, BTW).

WPD doesn’t exist without your voices and energy. “McCleary” doesn’t get solved unless you ALL join us in this effort. Sitting on the sidelines doesn’t help. What does help is asking your legislator to sign the Paramount Duty resolution, or better yet, offer to get more involved in the workings of WPD or join the conversation (civilly and productively) at on the WPD FB group. We need you to be part of the solution.

(Seriously, email us at waparamountduty@gmail.com if you want to do something other than watch...nudge nudge, West Seattle Dad)

And, WPD steering committee has purposefully NOT aligned ourselves with any existing organizations (just yet) because we believe that we need to get everyone who wants to be at the table and focused on the WPD mission, at the table. Of course not everyone will choose to come, but despite the criticism that we are being “Seattle nice” this is strategic decision.

To clarify again, we are neither “the Union” or part of the charter school movement. WPD is solely focused on funding basic education for all of the 1.1 million students in WA. It is time for legislators to focus on their paramount duty NOW.

To Charlie’s point that, “Paramount Duty… needs to take the time to understand the obstacles to fully funding education.” He’s right. We (the steering committee) have put some thought into this. Besides the obstacle of the elected officials themselves, we see these:

Obstacle A: We (everyone) needs to acknowledge the size of the big pink elephant in the room. How much is the State short and for what? What exactly is the State’s responsibility? How much $$’s? Even most legislators don’t understand the size of the problem, or they don’t want to look at it, or they want to go back and re-define basic education. We can’t solve a problem we don’t acknowledge, and we certainly can’t convince anyone to raise revenue without a solid explanation of what it is for.

Obstacle B: Distractions (AKA it isn’t a priority). The priority SHOULD be funding education, per our constitution. But every single legislator and the Governor (and everyone else) gets easily distracted. How much time are you putting into local fund raising efforts instead of organizing to compel the State? How much time have we allowed legislators to focus on finding a “charter school fix” for a mere 1000 students when our 1.1 million students have been shortchanged for decades?

Of course, nothing is free in this world, and we can’t do everything with a few active volunteers. We need you, your ideas, your time, your energy and your political will to solve this. Please join us.

Lots of in depth conversation at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ParamountDuty/ and general information about WPD at paramountduty.org

Eden Mack

Melissa Westbrook said...

"...we recognize the need to be politically savvy within this political climate."

That's kind of where you lose me a bit. I understand working the system, playing the game, being constructive and nice, etc.

But my experience is that most legislators know exactly what they are going to vote for going into a session.

Now there may be a few on the fence so sure, try to find them and convince them.

There may be some for whom promises of loss of support in the next election might work (probably not unless you are prepared to fully follow thru.)

There are some who might be stick up a finger waiting for the proverbial wind to see if charters are just too touchy a subject and/or actually fear what the Supreme Court might do if the legislature puts out a one-pager on what's next for McCleary.

Me? It's McCleary FIRST and it must be more than a "timetable." Show - me - the - money and not with some reshuffling of levy dollars or robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I am not willing - after waiting years now for real funding reform for public education - to allow any kind of highjacking of the real work in the legislature for public education.

And that's McCleary, not charter schools.

I note that apparently the WSCSA is sending buses of kids down to Olympia with cookies after the session starts. I would suggest buying apples - lots of lots of apples - and attaching a tag as many names of kids in every district in this state. And then roll those apples into every single legislator's office. Bet those apples would outnumber those cookies.

Josh Hayes said...

This discussion of grading is really helpful to me, and I hope, to other parents and educators as well. I think all approaches to grading circle back to the same essential question: what sort of progress has this student made in understanding and internalizing this set of ideas or concepts? That, at least, is what I want my grades to reflect. But it's sort of a "Rashomon" kind of thing: once that grade leaves my, um, gradebook, it becomes a story that each kid interprets, that their parents interpret, that other teachers (who can look at this stuff) interpret, and so on. Are we all getting the "right" story out of it? Who knows?

One of the allures of SBG is that it purports to provide an objective, repeatable measure that eliminates that messy interpretation part. In theory, that might be a good thing. In practice, I have yet to see it done well.

The type of assessment enters into it as well, I think -- I recently tested on genetics, and while there were some multiple-choice items on the test, much of it was working genetics problems. I want to know if they've put the pieces together, and if they (say) do a Punnett Square and show that 3 out of 16 offspring have a particular phenotype but they miscount and write down FOUR out of 16, I give them close to full marks for that -- they did the problem right, they just made a silly error at the end. Since the standards don't even require facility with dihybrid crosses, they're already working above standard to even get THAT close; shouldn't that be a 4 regardless? If not, why not?

Patrick said...

HS Parent, wouldn't it be nice if the kids not meeting standard in some aspect of the class actually had more work on that subject to help them master it and catch up? As far as I can see, the class just moves merrily along at the pace of the slightly below average student and the students who didn't meet standard on times tables just get their grade lowered and try to figure it out on their own by the time they have to factor polynomials.

Arne said...

There is a barrage of dollars going into a pro- charter school campaign, PACs and organizations. In my mind, we don't need another group supporting charter schools. I'll rely on the Washington State Supreme Court and NEWS to meet the funding needs of students in this state.

Years ago, I agreed to receive LEV's newsletters because I supported educational funding. Later, I found out that I was considered one of their "supporters" and was considered to be a charter school supporters. Never again.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is a post for the Friday Open Thread - I notice there are no references to the EEU contract in agenda for the Jan 6 board meeting. Why is that? As I understand it, the decision to revoke funding has been PROPOSED, not finalized. When would it come up for Board action?


Anonymous said...

I agree Patrick. I have seen classes where a student could pass without knowing the material & fail even being fluent in the material because grades were based on compliance instead of competency. The number one goal should be mastery & assigned work should be structured so that students have the practice they need to reach it. Perhaps if they were graded on that they would put more effort into learning. My kid had a college professor who told them at the beginning of the class exactly what they had to learn. They practiced as much as they wanted to, and knew what was on the test. They were allowed to repeat the test. The only goal was to master the material they were to be tested on. He wanted everyone to pass, everyone to learn the material. And they did.

Josh, I am not familiar with the biology standards. I know some science teachers who give a 4 for students who can take the skills they learned & apply them to analyze new material. But in a math analogy, if a student is doing long division would they get a 4 in multiplication because they have progressed beyond it or would they get a 'pass' in long division? Are they really an advanced multiplier or just working on another standard, division? How can you assess whether a student has skills or knowledge beyond the standard. Perhaps a student can also multiply exponents, but how would the teacher know that to give that student a 4? How do you assess for any possible skills or knowledge beyond the standard without giving an achievement test? I am not what a 4 really means.

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

oops, I am not sure what a 4 really means.

HS Parent

OMG said...

Nick Hanauer is one of the major individuals responsible for I 1240. More on Hanauer:


Hanauer is on Washington Paramount Duty facebook page. I'm seeing other corporate reformers. Washington Paramount Duty is a bipartisan group and won't take a position against charter schools. OMG, what are we in for???

OMG said...

Yea, let's have Washington Paramount grop kiss up to Nick Hanauer. Let's get Hanauer to help fund a state wide initiative and sell our public school system to the privatizers.

Plenty of those that support and work for privatization are on Washington's Paramount Duty page, too. Let's not have a conversation about charter schools beyond funding. OMG.

Hanauer is a deceptive beast and will stop at nothing to get what he wants:


What is Washington Paramount Duty group doing?????? Yea, let's be polite..bipartisan and all. I'm SO disappointed in some of those people.

n said...

Honestly, condemnation by association. I give the benefit of the doubt to Enid Black and her group. I think they make sense in their efforts. Whether you all think they are going to succeed in their efforts or not, they are activists and they have clearly put forth their goal: adequate funding for schools. I accept that. Why all the judging? Nick can be for full funding and charters. I'd take any help at all if we could get to full funding. Charters are another matter. I can separate them.

I see a lot of comments on standards. I have a difficult time holding kids at elementary to standards based grading only because what they seem to know one week they've the next. One of our teachers gets a quick exit ticket from his kids in math to show "they know it." We only have time to review although I'm trying to make homework more of a review component. "Mastery" is a skittish notion in elementary!

n said...

"they've forgotten the next. (sorry)

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have truly enjoyed the discussion around grading;thank you readers for taking it up.

N, why is mastery a "skittish notion" in elementary?

I would not be too hard on WPD; they are being open in who posts on their Facebook page. I had not seen Hanauer post; which thread is that in?

One thing to keep in mind; know the other side. Always useful.

n said...

"skittish" - now you see it, now you don't. Moves a lot. It's there - it's not there. Perhaps wrong term. Long-term memory is developmental. Give students a few weeks and you have to reteach. Review and reteach are part of our toolkit but you can't really call it mastery when the learning has to be reviewed and retaught. A lot of posters seem to be high school teachers. Big difference developmentally.

My best example? Analog time. Two anecdotes: I'm visited frequently by previous students. Just this September I asked one of them - a fifth grader - if she could tell time on the analog clock. She asked what "analog" meant and then "are you kidding, of course not." She has a digital watch. Two years ago I was conferencing with two parents who were also teachers. The analog topic came up and I commented that all kids will be able to read analog clocks when they are ready. (At that time I thought we placed way too much emphasis on clocks at early elementary.) They both teach middle school - one English and the other math - and both replied that their kids couldn't read analog clocks. I was actually surprised. I assumed by that time it would be second nature. But no, apparently the middle school kids they teach cannot tell time without a digital timepiece.

It gets worse. For younger kids, you can teach something in September and it's gone by February. So, have they reached mastery or even proficiency? Well, for the period of time we're teaching it, yes, they have. But if you ask them a month or several later, you never know what you're going to hear. Thus, test 'em quick and move on. Besides, over the course of their elementary years, everything gets taught again and again. That's when mastery sets in.

Anonymous said...

I do not have any cohesive understanding of mastery, but I have some thoughts. I do not think we can maintain any skill without using/practicing it. When we teach sight words, children continue using them daily even as they read more & more complex writing. As adults they are still practicing those sight words. What if they didn't? My father does not remember his first language. When he moved to this country his, family desperately wanted the kids to learn English & stopped using their first language even at home. He had mastered that language. But not hearing it or using it and it disappeared. My kids had analog watches in school, so they never forgot how to tell time with analog.

I think that we should be shooting for a competence with the standard that becomes mastery with continued use. That is, that enough practice has taken place so students can still use the skill when they next meet it, with enough ability that they can rely on that skill the way they do sight words and it won't take attention away from the next challenge they are attempting. Hopefully they are using these skills often enough that it is continually practiced.

I remember being surprised to learn that Kumon math students can spend a year on only multiplication. That is 20 minutes a day, 7 days a week, for 12 months. It was so different than the shorter units we saw in elementary. It seems to me that students probably need more practice or more skill use than we are giving them if they forget the skills & have to relearn them later instead of just using them to go further. and I wonder why they are not using the skills they learn? Is it because they don't need those skills, like the analog clocks or cursive writing, or because we haven't included those skills continually in their work as they progress?

What if we treated learning an academic skill they way we treat learning an instrument or athletic skill? Would that look different?

just thoughts

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

HS Parent, the lack of mastery of skills is a huge problem in math. For years educators emphasized inquiry-based math, which was big on solving conceptual problems instead of practice and mastery. Drill and kill was the hated expression for math equations and practice. Long, lengthy word stories with a math problem in there somewhere became the preferred approach to teaching math. Unfortunately, many students found these word problems confusing and those without a firm command of English or who had ADHD were sunk. They needed to first master the skills before they could think conceptually about math.

Students need more practice to become proficient. Examples in textbooks would also help. Confusing story based textbooks like Everyday Math were finally replaced by Math in Focus. Unfortunately, that new curricula has been replaced by Scope and Sequence, which was not authorized by the SPS Board.

Unless we get math instruction right there will be plenty of remedial classes for students, who deserve much better. Kumon classes will thrive on the neglect we give students in math.

S parent

Anonymous said...

N and Melisa, thanks for the words of support for WPD. WPD's mission truly is focused on our 1.1 million students and fulfilling the Paramount Duty. We are certainly NOT advocating for privatization of public education. We want public education to be funded.

And no, I don't believe that Nick Hanauer has posted or commented in our Facebook group at all. There are thousands of people in the group and just like this blog where lots of people post with varying perspectives that may or may not align with Melissa/Charlie, so goes the WPD face book group. Not every comment or thought is in alignment with the WPD steering committee, nor should you expect it to be. But we do hope that everyone who is in the FB group shares in our mission.

OMG-I'm sorry that you've felt burned by LEV's change in focus over the years, and that you are assuming that WPD is going to follow the same path. LEV did originate many years ago with the focus on class size and funding, and more recently appear to be more focused on charters than on fully funding McCleary.

And, WPD is a totally separate effort started by a core group of parents (you can find our names and a picture of us on http://paramountduty.org) and we are very much aware of how important it is for WPD to stay focused on funding. We have a very clearly stated mission (also on the website) and that is what we are working on. We are VERY conscientious about staying focused on that mission.


OMG said...

Perhaps WPD should take their eyes off funding, for a moment, and look at the stench that surrounds charter schools. I look forward to see whether WPD is willing to take funding from privatizers.

Privatizers have a goal: Expand charter schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will also add that those who get big money funding feel a lot more empowered in what they say and how they take on issues. LEV, like the Alliance, used to be more of one thing and morphed into something else. I think there were more than a few surprised early supporters. I think many big-money supported orgs are more interested in using muscle than hustle to get what they want.

OMG said...

The League of Education Voters is a "bipartisan" group which was co-founded by Mr Charter School- Nick Hanauer. The legislature is under a court order to fund education and there need not be a compromise to include charter schools in funding solutions.

Public education is being both starved and attacked. IMO, starvation of public funds is a mechanism to force the issue of charter schools. The legislature will starve the beast until individuals are willing to support charter schools in funding solution or take their children out of an underfunded public schools and look towards charter schools for relief.

I hope WPD changes their position

Joe Wolf said...

Good piece on NPR today (Saturday 01.02.16) on the difficulty in finding - and retaining - SpEd teachers.


OMG said...

Marcie Maxwell is one of Washington Paramount's organizers. She is pushing Cradle through College and wants signatures. The initiative is supported by Democrats for Education Reform, League of Education Voters and STAND FOR CHILDREN and other Gates funded organizations.

I think we are looking at a front group that is pushing to fund education and push the corporate model of education.

The liberals would get cradle through career funding and the privatizers get charter schools and other corporate backed initiatives funded in the name of compromise.

Anonymous said...

OMG, Marcie Maxwell is NOT one of Washington's Paramount Duty organizers. The organizers (and Steering Committee) are Eden Mack, Summer Stinson, Tali Rausch, and John Freeman. You can see a picture of them at the top of the FB page.

Marcie is simply a member of the group like the other 1,000+ people.

Citizen Kane

OMG said...

Citizen Kane, I see the photo of WPD members sitting around the table. However, WPD is supported by individuals that are politically connected and have incredible organizing skills- including Maxwell. Where do you draw the line between Steering Committee, organizers and supporters? I'm not confident WPD will not push for corporate backed initiatives.

I will continue to withhold support.