Thursday, February 11, 2016

Middle School Families - You Need to Agitate for McCleary

You need to agitate for McCleary because it was the legislature who mandated the 24-credit graduation requirement...with no funding to back it up.

From SPS:

Dear SPS middle school family,

We are sharing information with you about a change that is likely to affect your middle school student when he or she is in high school – and we are encouraging your input.

The state has increased the number of credits students need to graduate from 20 to 24. In Seattle Public Schools, students currently are required to earn 21. In Seattle, the new 24-credit requirement will take effect with the graduating class of 2021, this year’s seventh-graders. 

The requirement creates challenges for Seattle Public Schools because most of our high schools offer a six-period school day. That means students with typical schedules may earn a maximum of 24 credits over four years. While many of our students do earn 24 credits, the new requirement leaves no room to recover credit for students who may fail a course or want to access additional courses.

We are working now to examine our high school schedules and other systems to determine how best to serve our students. Potential changes could impact all current middle schoolers during their high school years.

How you may participate:
  1. Request to join the 24-Credit Task Force. Direct participation on the task force allows you to help determine and shape the best approaches for students. You may remember that we invited parents/guardians to join this task force last year, but we are seeking more parent/guardian volunteers in the final stages. To request to join, please click here to complete our form.
    The task force has two meetings currently scheduled (3-8 p.m. Feb. 23 and March 1), and will likely meet a couple times more in March.  
  2. Provide feedback on options. When the task force has narrowed the
  3. preliminary recommendations, likely in March, we will provide an online tool for family feedback, and we anticipate holding regional community meetings. We will follow up with specifics in a later email.
Thank you for your interest.

Shauna Heath
Executive Director for Curriculum, Assessment & Instruction
Seattle Public Schools

37 comments:

Owler said...

Can someone offer some high school background information or point me to some links with some history about the short day? I'm an elementary school parent who went to high school in another state. My high school (a small math/science school with few frills) had a seven 50minute period day—8am-3pm—and an optional 8th period at 3-3:50pm. We had no use for a course catalog, as your path through math/science/history was fairly straightforward, and we didn't have many optional art/music options. We were on a college campus so some students advanced by taking college courses.

How did Seattle end up with a short, six period day? What do high school students do with the remaining time? I don't mean that in a negative way; I'm really curious. Are they staying on campus studying or doing after school activities? Jobs? Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Unless I'm missing something, it looks like the 24-credit requirement will not only increases the number of credits required, but will also increase the Arts requirement from 1 yr to 2. This potentially impacts those students looking to take the most competitive 4-yr college prep schedule, as it makes it harder to take 4 yrs of science, math, SS and a world language.

Here are the new requirements, with the impact of a more challenging schedule noted in parentheses):

English - 4
Math – 3 (Taking 4 uses 1.0 elective)
Science – 4 (Taking 4 uses 1.0 elective)
Social Studies – 4 (Taking 4 uses 1.0 elective)
Career and Technical Ed - 1
Health and Fitness - 2
Arts - 2
Electives - 4
World Language – 2 (Taking 4 uses 2.0 electives)

As you can see, trying to take 4 yrs of math, science, SS and a world language puts you at 25 credits, which isn't possible. It seems that only way to squeeze those classes in is if you have PE waivers and/or fulfill some of the requirements outside of school (e.g., community college, online class, summer program).

While more art can be valuable for some, it seems like this reduced flexibility will be a real bummer for others. If your kid is set on 4 yrs of all those classes, you'll want to make sure they have a plan for creating that space in their schedule!

HIMSmom

Lynn said...

Owler,

Maybe the question is when and how your high school ended up with such a long day. School days in this country are unnecessarily long. I hate to use Finland as an example for everything - but here is an article anyway: http://fillingmymap.com/2015/04/15/11-ways-finlands-education-system-shows-us-that-less-is-more/

With a shorter school day and less homework, kids could pursue academic and arts interests outside of school, exercise, participate in family activities, help out around the house, get a part time job or volunteer in the community. I believe we'd see improved teen mental health if they had more free time.

Stuart Jenner said...

to HIMS mom: many students waive Career Technical, for example a year of science like Computer programming will count towards it. But most colleges say three years of language or even four is preferred.

Bellevue and Fed Way have 7 subjects in high school. Highline, Kent, Tukwila, Vashon, and many others only have six. It is very hard: ideal schedule would be English, Math, LA, SS, Science and Foreign Language each at 4 full years. But then there's no room for art / music, PE/ health, or CTE. PE/ Health can be met outside of school in a lot of districts by playing on a school team or through private lessons / activity. At Aviation HS, a lot of kids take an online health class through BYU, the tests are proctored at the school which frees up a semester.

Eric B said...

Along the road to how we got a short day is school funding. The state only pays for a 5-period high school day. How they sleep at night doing that when that doesn't even meet state university entrance requirements is a bit beyond me, but there's your McCleary decision argument. Local funding covers the 6th period. I don't know if OSPI or others have requirements for the length of a period, though.

Anonymous said...

I think I like the idea of a longer school day. With a seven-period day, kids could earn a maximum of 28 credits. That gives them a "free period" every year to follow their interests, whether it's another elective, or volunteering in the community or retaking a failed class or any of the other things Lynn mentioned above. It's a way to guide kids through one hour a day of sort-of-free-but-not-really-free time. No doubt some kids would pile on the stress and academic work during that hour, but I do like the flexibility it gives, and the potential for breathing room in the day for those who need it.

But I am just one person and that's my opinion today. I do see this becoming a divisive issue, shorter day vs longer day vs zero period option vs who knows what else. But in the big picture, Melissa is right. However this plays out, it will cost money, and regardless of where we stand on the issue we should all unite and put pressure on the legislature to pay for it.

free time

Anonymous said...

@ free time. Great that you support a longer day. There is no money for it. Eric B spelled it out above. Thank Olympia.

DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

District Watcher, did you read through my post to the last sentence? "However this plays out, it will cost money, and regardless of where we stand on the issue we should all unite and put pressure on the legislature to pay for it."

24 credits will cost us money, no matter what. The problem with throwing up our hands and saying "there's no money for X, Y or Z" is that we currently have some leverage to ASK for that money with a united voice. So we should! Not necessarily money for a longer day, but money to pay for 24 credits. We are going to be stuck footing a bill here, and I think what Melissa is suggesting, and I agree with, is we should insist that Olympia pay their fair share.

free time

Anonymous said...

@ free time. Applaud your passion. Agree with you and want seven periods. But I am not willing to have Seattle parents rally in favor of this as a solution. It won't happen. We get funding for FIVE periods right now. It will take every inch of advocacy to get funding in place for six periods to meet Core 24. Have you watched this legislative session and the utter lack of progress? Have you dealt with SPS administration and seen their inadequate lobby efforts and their questionable ability to manage the funds they have? I have and if you think 7 periods are a viable solution in the next year or two I've got that proverbial plot of Florida land to sell you. We don't need rah rah. We need to get real. Real fast.

DistrictWatcher

Lynn said...

I don't consider a seventh period class which is limited to the options offered by your particular school, has assigned homework and for which the student receives a grade to be free time. Teens need more self-directed free time and less (non-optional) organized activities.

Some classes are cross-credited - you can choose to use them to fulfill either art or CTE requirements. For example, beginning photography is an art class but advanced photography could be art or CTE. If a student could fulfill both requirements with one class it would help.

PE waiver policies should be standardized across the district - and any kid who wants to take a full academic course load should be allowed a waiver. Kids who are taking four years each of English, math, history, science and a world language should be allowed to waive the CTE requirement. That allows one period every semester for art or music or theatre (or PE or CTE for kids who prefer those,)

NW mom said...

This is just anecdotal, but my high school was 8:30-3:00, and had 7 periods, of which you needed to take 6. Your 7th period was a study hall. Lots of kids finagled their schedules to have study hall either 1st or 7th period so they could arrive late or leave early. Other kids like myself elected to take 7 classes - some loaded up on academic classes, or some like me used it for more electives - I took two music classes. It seemed to work well. But I'm sure it would be expensive.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please clarify the statements that we only get funding for a five-period school day? Doesn't the state fund based on the length of the school day, not the number of periods (e.g., length of teacher day assumed to be 6.0 hrs in middle/high school, plus 1 hr of planning time)?

According to the SBE, the 150-hr requirement for a "credit" was eliminated in 2011, allowing districts more flexibility in how to structure the school day. It seems the intent was to allow for shorter periods, so that more could be squeezed in. The SBE FAQs say that a district can offer a credit for classes shorter than the “traditional” class period of 45-55 minutes. Doesn't this mean we could theoretically shorten all the classes by 10 minutes and squeeze in another one, thus providing plenty of opportunities to meet the 24-credit requirement and take plenty of electives?

I don't think shorter classes are the answer and I'm not advocating for that, but just trying to understand the issue better...

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

District Watcher, you're not understanding me correctly. I am suggesting that first and foremost Seattle parents rally to advocate for funding, nothing more. I don't take "There's no money for it" as a legitimate excuse for not even trying to ask for that money. It isn't idealistic to expect the legislature to pay for their project. And yes, I've watched this session and dealt with the district plenty. It's been awfully fun being at the front of the bubble. My kid's cohort has had to get real since day one of SPS.

As for the second issue, what do we do to solve this current 24 credit problem, well a longer day is one way to solve it. PE waivers are a great idea too. And shorter classes. I hate to shut down a creative brainstorm when it's just getting started by saying "there's no money for it."

free time

Anonymous said...

This is incredibly similar to what I grew up with in Florida - 6 periods, 24 credits, 50-minute classes. Making everything work was a pain, especially when fitting in AP classes (I knew someone who, for example, had to choose between taking AP German and AP European History). I was in band, so that was one elective per year that was automatically taken up. Still, by only taking the required two years of foreign language, I was able to fit in a few interesting "fun" courses, like Humanities, Drama and even a Sci-fi course.

The most common solution in our district was taking our PE credits over the summer. 2 and a half credits were required to graduate, so you'd take them spread out over a few years. In fact, they encouraged incoming freshmen to take the common basic PE course in the summer between 8th and 9th grades.

Other ways of sneaking in credits in 8th grade: those who were interested could take a foreign language at the high school, in 8th grade. High school started almost two hours earlier than middle school so you could go to the first period. I didn't do this myself so I don't know exactly how it worked. I think you still had to take two years in high school, but you'd be able to get to Spanish III or whatever as a sophomore.

Also, in middle school, if you seemed to have the aptitude, you could take pre-algebra in 7th grade and Algebra I in 8th. Again, three years were still required in high school but this could give you a bump. This was not part of the 'gifted' program; it was just based on teacher recommendation, I think.

Again, this was Florida, not exactly known for its stellar education. But I'm shaking my head at the myriad of options we had.

-New Mom

Anonymous said...

Why would one join this taskforce? The record of district taskforces is abysmal. No doubt Heath and Co. have a preferred solution and they are looking to put a community veneer on it. Or perhaps they are SOL and are looking for political cover from parents. Or perhaps they want input now but if they are in disagreement with the taskforce will bury the recommendation later. Core 24 is bigger than Seattle and there is no reason to believe an SPS sponsored taskforce is a way to address the issue.

FACMAC-wise

Anonymous said...

@ New Mom,

Taking classes at the high school while you're still in middle school doesn't work here because our high schools are overcrowded already and HS students often can't get the classes they need. Plus, the start times are similar anyway.

As well, getting a jump on high school level courses doesn't do you much good unless you're planning to graduate early (which means you'd also be taking a lot of classes outside of high school). Students who take more advanced math in middle school are probably those most likely to be preparing for a 4-yr university, so will probably still need 4 yrs of math in high school.

Melissa Westbrook said...

New Mom, you can take a foreign language - for two years - in middle school and get it as a credit for high school.

Anonymous said...

The statement that "...it was the legislature who mandated the 24-credit graduation requirement...with no funding to back it up" is inherently false.

The state FY 2013-15 operating budget included $97 million specifically appropriated to account for the 24-credit graduation requirement and the increase from 1000 instructional hours to 1080 instructional hours necessary to implement the 24-credit graduation requirement.

The FY 2015-17 budget included MSOC enhancements specifically for the prototypical high school model to make up for any shortfalls.

While you might suggest that these appropriations were/are insufficient (or not ample) is another matter, but to suggest that there was "no funding to back it up" is just plain false.

But once again, SPS has allocated those increases and enhancements for purposes other than those for which they were intended --- in this case, to address the needs of high schools and their ability to accommodate a 24-credit credit requirement. And now they're crying wolf. Typical SPS.

--- aka

Melissa Westbrook said...

AKA, I stand corrected but I don't think it's enough.

I will ask SPS what amount they received and if it is enough to implement a 24-credit diploma.

Anonymous said...

It was a tough choice, but we have decided to do online middle school and only use the school for sports and music. There is some concern about getting too far ahead of other ninth graders, but if running start is still around in 2021 then that might be an option.

Jack B.

Anonymous said...

@ Jack B,
Would you be willing to share the online middle school resource you are using? My middle schooler needs something like that, what we've got now simply isn't working.

SW Mom

Lynn said...

SW Mom,

Are you at Denny or Madison? If so, can you share what you're experiencing?

Anonymous said...

I don't want to be as cynical as FACMAC-wise but I admit my first thought on seeing that task force invitation went to similar lines. I'm not clear that SPS administration is the best way to confront this. I think a parent group might have more sway with whatever advocacy we have to do in Olympia or even within Seattle schools. Like moving school starts later. It took parents outside the system to force the district to do the right thing within the system. Sure there was a district task force but let's remember that SPS did not create it until under duress and once formed Seattle schools did not accept the task force's full recommendation and only partially recanted when outside voices got loud.

I am also not clear on the best CORE 24 solution (IMHO) without more research, but although again I wish I wasn't going down the cynical path, I can't help but worry what I might believe is best for students academically may not be the first choice of Seattle schools managers because they have multiple agendas.

SavvyVoter

kellie said...

I have been following the high school budget issues for a few years now and here are a few details.

The legislature did implement Core 24 without any additional funding. They have since started to allocate funding. This is 100% typical. The legislature seems to first work on a new standard and then work on the money (or not) later.

Funding for Core 24 is specifically listed in the Operations Levy as such, between the new State money and the Levy fund, there is no excuse for high school to not be funded to Core 24.

The WSS does NOT fund Core 24. Even worse, the WSS formula looks-like, it would fund Core 24 but does not really do this. The WSS for high school is based on a formula, that says ONE teacher for every 150 students, with some extra allocation for PCP time, which looks-like six classes for every student. .

HOWEVER, that formula does NOT create six classes per student. This is because the Master Schedule at High School is incredibly INEFFICIENT and the formula only works in a scenario with 100% efficiency.

The bottom line is that BAND is the ONLY thing that is holding high school together. What students can reasonably expect is 5 classes, plus band. This is because band will take significantly more than 150 students and that "extra efficiency" trickles into the rest of the schedule.

As all of the high schools become over-crowded the efficiency of the master schedule drops even more. This is how you get the situation at Garfield with 100 students not receiving a sixth class, but administration trying to pull a teacher.

Parents need to lobby the BOARD to put the funding that is designated for High School into High School.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I'm concerned about credit retrieval for kids who had a bad semester, illness, etc...

Is summer school offered anywhere in SPS? I know that Middle College HS Northgate offers online classes, with regular check-ins with a MCHS teacher, but I believe that in order to access those classes the student must be enrolled in MCHS. Some kids need to make up just one or two courses, and it doesn't seem like they should have to withdraw from their current high school, enroll in MCHS, then go through the enrollment process again to return to their original high school. Doing this could mess up their electives/schedule, etc...

Also, I don't believe MCHS currently offers a summer session. Maybe this is something that could change, in order to better accommodate Core24, but like everything else it would need funding.

-North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

This is all tied to capacity as well. More students require more teachers. And as Kellie pointed out, more credits require more teachers. We need to stay on top of things to make sure SPS is staffing to fill BOTH imminent needs, not just one or the other.

Good Fit

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

@anonymous at 2:27pm

Are you saying teachers should add 30 more students to their work load (without compensation?), and that student instruction time per subject should be reduced? Hmm...do you work in the Central Office?

-reality check

kellie said...

@anonymous at 2:27pm (please repost with a name or signature or you will be deleted)

What I mean is precisely what I wrote (and yes, I know everything about the budget is crazy confusing :) Meg and I spent a few months really digging into the high school WSS and well ... my rule of thumb is that if something requires both Meg and I to take it apart, in order for it to any sense at all, it is just too darn confusing. So here goes ...

We all know there is a big distinction between theory and practice and this gap shows up at high school in a big way.

The Budget is based on Theory, not real world practice. Weighted STAFFING Formula provides ONE high school teacher for every 150 students, plus Staffing for PCP times.

So that looks-like on paper that there are teachers, allocated at high school for 5 classes of 30 students each, with another teacher who then teaches 30 students during the prep time. This looks-like there are then a total of SIX classes of 30 students, just ready and waiting for ALL students.

On paper, High School looks-like it is funded for Core 24. In theory, this staffing level for six classes of 30 students per day, looks like a student could get 6 credits per year with a full schedule.

However in practice, this is just not the case and many students have real problems even getting the 21 credits needed to graduate. The most important thing to understand about high school and the budget is that High School IS the Master Schedule. The Master Schedule determines EVERYTHING at high school. How that schedule is built determines what classes a student can actually access.

This is the reason for the huge increase in Running Start enrollment. For many students, Running Start is the ONLY place they can get the credits they need to graduate because they can't get them during the school day, due to the constraints of the Master Schedule.


kellie said...

More Credits does require more teachers. There are minimum requirements for instructional days and instructional hours to comprise a credit.

You can't just shorten the instructional time and still call it a credit.

More importantly, there is a huge difference for a teacher to have to grade 120 papers, 150 papers or 180 papers. The total number of students a teacher is accountable for, has a huge impact on instruction.


Lynn said...

kellie,

The definition of a high school credit is no longer time-based.
http://www.sbe.wa.gov/faq/highschoolcredits.php#two

Anonymous said...

kellie,

I mentioned something about this earlier in the thread. I was curious about this "credits" issue, and according to the SBE's FAQs they have seriously relaxed the minimum requirements for instructional hours to comprise a credit. And by seriously relaxed, I mean eliminated. Could that be right???

In #3 they say "a non-time-based policy would...allow districts more flexibility to meet the increased credit requirements." To me that basically sounds like they're saying, hey, we know there's not enough money to pay for actually providing the extra credits, so feel free to just modify what you call a credit so that you can get more of them in. If I'm reading that correctly, it feels like a scam.

In #4 they essentially say district's can define what constitutes a credit.

Then in #11 they say classes can be shockingly short--less than 45 minutes is ok. Okay for what, I wonder...

We have minimum requirements for instructional days, yes, and for total instructional hours. But instructional hours per credit? Looks like maybe not. More students would definitely be more work, though!

HIMSmom

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Anonymous said...

What if instead of making the classes shorter, they just met less frequently? You probably wouldn't want to do it with academic core classes (or Band). But a period that two days a week was PE and three days an elective might work.

LisaG

Ann D said...

My high school was well-funded and we did have a 7-period day. Freshman had required study hall which was optional after that. AP classes switched the scheduling requirements so that we had a double period if we took them once a week for more of a lab setting.

Not every teacher has to grade 150 papers with the course offering, but yeah ensuring maximum teaching reqs seems to be imperative.

What a mess.

Could they give classes 1.5 credits so they can get taken sooner? It probably doesn't help that colleges have specific benchmarks they are looking at but is this master schedule what it needs to be?