Sunday, June 26, 2016

Garfield and Principal Ted Howard

The Times had a story about the principal at Garfield High School, Ted Howard.  Mr. Howard went to Garfield and his father was also a principal.  Mr. Howard has been principal at Garfield since 2004.

(Fun fact; there are at least three SPS high school principals who graduated from their schools - Howard, Martin Floe at Ingraham and Kevin Wynkoop at Ballard.)  The focus of the piece seemed to be how Principal Howard has a "microcosm" of the city to manage.

To note, it appears to me that the Times is on a careful campaign to try to point out the many ways that SPS is not bridging the opportunity gap.  I'm pretty sure this is in anticipation of figuring out a way - next legislative session - for the Mayor to take over some or all of the district. I'm not kidding.

"Howard has decided that public education was never built for kids with needs like Robert Robinson's."  (Robinson was a former student at Garfield from foster care who was exited from Garfield for cutting classes and detention.  He enrolled at Intergency, then Cleveland and was shot to death last fall on Beacon Hill.)

I would agree with Mr. Howard on that point but I would also point out that is an extreme case.  Most kids in less-than-suitable foster care or who are homeless are likely to create the greatest challenges for any school. 

The Mayor said he plans to end homelessness among Seattle children before the end of the year so let's see him get that done first before he tries anything else.

Upfront I will say, I only know Garfield from the outside.  I have talked with many Garfield parents thru the years, reported on good and bad issues at Garfield but I cannot say that I "know" the school.  Here's what I do know.
Because of its central location, it is diverse. The Times reports it has 1581students (I think only Roosevelt is larger but those numbers go back and forth between the two schools.)  The population is 28% black, 38% white, 8% Latino, 19% Asian, 6% two or more races.  It has 36%F/RL and 6% Sped.  (It is lower/near same than the district average in most categories except number of black and Asian students and number of Sped students.)


It has a storied history, graduating Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrick.  It houses one of two HCC cohorts for high school.  It is one of two SPS high schools with a nationally known jazz band.  It has one of the strongest black student clubs I have ever seen.  Many of the students and teachers are fanatically loyal to the school which, I believe, makes for a stronger school.  I believe that no matter the background, most who go/work at Garfield, are proud to be there. 

SPS Climate Survey toplines (Spring 2015)
57% of student respondents believe that the learning environment is favorable which is the same as the overall SPS score.
64%  of student respondents believe it is a healthy community (caring and positive)
56% of student respondents believe it is a safe environment.  What's interesting here is that more black/Latino students feel this way than white/Asian students.
72% of student respondents believe they have identity and belonging at school.

(But on "district satisfaction" on website/communications, for all respondents, it's 28%. Ouch.  As well, for staff on "instructional practice," they give Garfield 47% while the average is 62%.  In contrast, for "professional culture" for staff, they give Garfield 63%.  I wonder about the difference between instructional practice and professional culture.)  

The Times points out that at Garfield there is a "black balcony" and a "white hallway" above that floor and that issue seems to be the focus of the article really and Mr. Howard's personal struggles to find the best way forward for black students.

He says when he got to Garfield that a white parent told him he was "just a caretaker."  This interesting comment is followed by his statement that "My moral objective as a black man is to protect these kids, but school-district policy, in many cases, is to expel them.  So where does that leave me?"  The article points out that out of 24 students "permanently removed" from Garfield, 21 were black.

I'm not sure what the point was to link the white parent's comment to Mr. Howard but it certainly sets the tone for the article.  Given my experience and knowledge of high school parents, they do tend to let any new principal know that they will be active and involved.  This goes from Rainier Beach to Roosevelt.  I think the parent's comment was presented in a blunt and rude fashion but I'm not sure I would link it to not supporting all kids in the school. 

Coming in, he had thought his main job was to try to maintain "harmony" (or keep the peace).  He first tried a bullhorn in the halls but now walks the school.  The article points out that his interactions with black students "are far more personal" than with white students.  (Hard to know, based on one reporter's walk-thru at the school, if this is totally accurate.)

The article goes on to explain that Mr. Howard had a meeting at Garfield with a presiding judge from King County Superior Court, who wanted to talk to Howard and his assistant principals about the outcomes of strict discipline policies.  Howard had also participated in a principals' trip to Monroe Correctional Facility three years prior.  


Then we get to the hazing problem in 2013 which I wrote about extensively.  Garfield has always had an autumn hazing tradition for freshman.  (To note, hazing is not permitted under SPS policy.)  But, because it was off-campus, there was little that Howard could do.  This particular time there was activity at the Arboretum and Howard was hearing about it from frantic students.  He went, with some school safety officers, to the scene and found drunken freshman who were covered in condiments being hit by seniors.  When Howard tried to stop it, a few of the seniors called him the "n" word and threw eggs.  (Many of the seniors had on masks.) 



"When he attempted to suspend a dozen students, all white, their families threatened legal action."


According to the article, after this incident, Mr. Howard felt very defeated.

And there you have it in a nutshell.  While black families could plead for leniency (even as Howard pointed out district policies on discipline to those students' parents), white parents used the power of legal action to prevent those policies being enforced on their students. 

Howard says he is going to get rid of most out-of-school suspensions and, oddly, cut honors history and English for 9th grade.  The Times says, "chipping away at a system that traditionally tracks gifted middler schoolers - mostly white - into Garfield's Advanced Placement curriculum."  I'm thinking that Howard may be doing this to funnel those dollars towards more tutors/trauma-informed instruction.  But the Times released this article just as school is out and I have no real way to ask Mr. Howard.  (I'll give it a shot, though.)

One false move on his part was to try to form a "de facto academy for African-American boys," by assigning all of them to a black counselor, Ray Willis.  Parents were apparently unhappy and that idea went out the window.  

But I applaud Mr. Howard for seeing one of the clear issues:

"What resources are coming with this?" (the Mayor's ed summit and the district's initiative for African-American boys.) "It's great to get pepole to the table, all fired up, but then it's 'We have no money.' Really? Then why are we having this conversation?"

Interestingly, the article drops this tidbit - that Principal Howard is working with a leadership coach, Dan Kaufman.   It sounds great if Howard is getting benefit from the coaching but I would like to know how much this costs and if all principals are getting this coaching. 

The article does have one sentence that I want to speak to and I hope middle and high school parents listen.
"Before that day, the youth had no significant discipline problems at Garfield.  Nor did his father receive any word that four police officers had been summoned to take him away."
This is a tactic that I have heard about at Garfield but ALSO at many other schools.  Your child gets brought in to talk about a behavior issue and lo and behold, there's a police officer.  Not a school resource officer, but SPD.

Stop for a minute.  You are 15 years old and there's administrators and a cop in the room, staring you down.  You'd be intimidated and scared.

PLEASE, tell your child that if they are confronted with this situation, do NOT talk.  Tell them to ask for parents/guardian and REFUSE to answer any questions. It is their legal right.  (Under 16, no kid should be questioned by a cop without a parent.)  There are no "casual" conversations with police officers.  All can be revealed but with a parent and lawyer present.

149 comments:

Robert Cruickshank said...

The article paints a sympathetic picture of Ted Howard. I know he's been controversial, but it does make him look like someone who is self-reflective and wants to do better - but doesn't have the resources needed to do it.

I saw in the article that they're going to cut honors English and history, which seems like a pretty bad idea. If there's an inequity in who's in these classes, simply abolishing them isn't going to solve the underlying problems. Getting those classes to be more diverse would seem to be the goal.

I agree with Melissa about what the Seattle Times is trying to do here. There's no doubt that there are challenges to face at SPS. But for the ST and others to say that a mayoral takeover will work when it's failed everywhere else, when it's been a cover for charter schools and high stakes tests, when it's caused mass outrage and parent protest in places like Chicago or Philly or Newark (the latter two under state control), and when the city has its own extremely poor record on equity and racial justice...it's just the wrong thing to do.

I'd rather empower the community at Garfield to solve it, rather than impose a solution on them, which is what the ST, the legislature, and mayor - an overwhelmingly white and affluent group - are going to do.

Anonymous said...

Taxpayers, students and parents are tired of the same old sad story of SPS and it seems what some predicted 2 years ago (mayoral control) is a real and growing possibility.


Why not try mayoral control as an alternative to charters.

Just asking

Melissa Westbrook said...

1) Let's keep to the topic.

2) Just Asking, why not? Many reasons. Mayoral control has NOT proven itself in better academic outcomes. In fact, in most cities, it has created more division with the main upshot that parents feel they are even LESS listened to. I think most big city mayors have enough on their plate without trying their hand at public education. And one person is not real public oversight. I'd rather have a school board any day that is publicly elected.

As for mayoral control in Seattle Public Schools becoming real, I say to the Mayor, "Good luck." One this one topic, he truly underestimates what the backlash (and fighting back might be.) And, if he wants to align himself with ed reformers in the Legislature, that will be useful information the next time he runs for office.

Maureen said...

I'm thinking that Howard may be doing this to funnel those dollars towards more tutors/trauma-informed instruction.

Eliminating Honors classes wouldn't save money. The same number of kids will be in front of the same number of teachers for those classes (LA/History are required for graduation.)

Unless Honors classes are under-subscribed, which doesn't seem likely.

Anonymous said...

I'm only a middle school teacher, but so much of this story rings so painfully true. You become a teacher in the hopes of contributing to positive change...and then you realize that you're holding up an inequitable system. Very sobering.

Whether the Times has an agenda in reporting it or not, from where I'm standing in my little corner of SPS, I'm not seeing a whole lot of opportunity-gap-bridging going on. Just this year, I've seen a race & equity PD met with crankiness and skepticism by some of my white colleagues; had one of my students' parents call an African American staff person the n word over the phone; saw the only two African American boys in my homeroom get detention slips delivered to them day after day; and read this heartbreaking perspective from an African American student of mine (shared with permission), written in frustration after an entire school year of being excluded from a quarterly all-school fun activity along with most of the African American boys he knows:

"Only two out of twenty-one African American boys were allowed to go to the [activity]. Only 20% of the students at this school are African American. I think this is disproportionate discipline. They think we’re dumb and they can just mess with us. The truth is, I think this school doesn’t care about black people.

The school should help us more, help us get our grades up instead of picking on us and calling us out and following us. They have the [activity] to make the kids happy and want to come back to school. They call it a reward, but it rewards mostly white people. So that’s why I think we shouldn’t have a [activity]."


So....sorry if that's not precisely on topic. But I couldn't not share this perspecitve. None of this is as simple or logical as it might seem from the outside.

-- LunaLemon

Anonymous said...

Time and time again we see commenters that are quick to point out the color of a disciplined student's skin while failing to articulate the nature of the offense that led to the discipline.

Being black should not be an excuse that equity advocates should use, but it seems it's all they have.

I would say that most people have grown tired of the whole hot mess.

End PC

Watching said...

"To note, it appears to me that the Times is on a careful campaign to try to point out the many ways that SPS is not bridging the opportunity gap. I'm pretty sure this is in anticipation of figuring out a way - next legislative session - for the Mayor to take over some or all of the district. I'm not kidding.'

I am in complete agreement.

There will be attempts to decrease suspensions. I've been advocating for a portion of the $11M to fund support services to deal with decreased suspensions. As the article indicates, with decreased suspensions, teachers and administrators will need help. Our comprehensive high schools and middle schools need support.(!!)

There seems to be a theme around advanced learning, as well. First we had a board meeting and a principal felt the need to call out dual pathways and "boutique" schools, and, now, we have Howard cutting advanced learning classes.

IMO, the article unfairly attempted to place blame on some district policies. Blaming the board?? The article called attention to district policies requiring police intervention for students carrying guns. Staff is NOT equipped to manage incidents that involve guns...nor should staff be required to differentiate between BB guns and other guns.

I'm sure there are plenty of wonderful white families. Sad that the writer of the article chose to paint with a broad brush.

Jet City mom said...

We appreciated that Garfield was like a Venn diagram
My daughter was in ACE support classes ( Canceled by MGJ) with friends who were below grade level for math/english, ( she had never failed a class, but Garfield used testing for placement not transcripts) she was also in honors with the same kids for other subjects and later AP courses after they all took a summer school math class to get them to the level they needed to take chem & physics. I encouraged her & her friends to participate on sports teams as a way to transition to a large comprehensive school.
Sports teams attract kids from all corners and grades and it helped make high school years much easier.

It was as divided as you wanted it to be.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The school should help us more, help us get our grades up instead of picking on us and calling us out and following us."

I would love to know, from a student point of view, what this would look like. What help would be the best to get those grades up.

"It was as divided as you wanted it to be."

I also agree that how you view a school can really be important; that's why I put in the climate survey stats.

Lynn said...

My takeaway from the article was that Ted is exclusively concerned with discipline issues. Garfield is a school. How are students doing academically?

Principals are the instructional leaders of their schools and he announced his intention to reduce the academic offerings available at his school without any mention of considering the academic reason for that or how it will affect students.

Watching said...

The article mentioned that 21 students were expelled. What was the offense?

Anonymous said...

So this is happening??

http://discussapp.blogspot.com/2016/06/garfield-9th-grade-honors-classes.html

Garfield is discontinuing honors classes, possibly to cause HCC kids from continuing to follow this gateway from WMS to Garfield. Seriously?

Please tell me if I'm off-track or misinformed. Otherwise, this is seriously messed up and incompatible with Garfield's mission to be a pathway for HCC kids coming out of WMS. I'm all for equitable treatment of kids at Garfield, but it's not okay for Garfield to stop offering the required courses for HCC kids coming from WMS. Where's the oversight from the board or the district?

-Seattle parent

Lynn said...

Here's a link to a chart listing the standard discipline for exceptional misconduct: http://www.seattleschools.org/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=96422

I'm disturbed to see that a student can't be expelled for sexual assault until they commit their third offense.

Lynn said...

Seattle parent,

Either that's what Ted plans to do or the reporter made a mistake. You should email the Garfield PTSA presidents if you have questions. I understand they're gathering information.

Another Name said...

I have a feeling Seattle parent is correct. The Seattle Times article states"


" ...in response to a push from the faculty, cut honors history and English for ninth grade, CHIPPING AWAY at a system that traditionally tracks gifted middle-schoolers — mostly white — into Garfield’s Advanced Placement curriculum."



Outsider said...

If a student brings a gun to school and the police aren't notified, the district would be facing eight-figure lawsuits if that student ever comes back and kills people. It's surprising to see the Times apparently sympathetic to decriminalizing guns in schools. But perhaps that dovetails with a city takeover, since the city has deeper pockets to pay settlements.

Watching said...

Thanks for the link, Lynn.

Students don't get expelled from school for bringing knives and explosives into school until third offense. The district must put additional supports into the schools to deal with decreased suspensions. Sad the Seattle Times didn't go into detail regarding expulsions.

Greenwoody said...

SPS central staff are trying to help privatize the district. They know that parents of kids in advanced programs would be among the strongest opponents of mass conversion to charters and/or replacing teachers with iPads. So their solution is ingenious - smash the advanced and specialized programs. That'll drive many of those parents to private schools and leave those who remain so angry that they'll take their chance on charters.

That's the only explanation I can see here - unless SPS staff really are that hostile to the children in their schools, which I suppose is possible but I don't want to give up on the inherent decency of humanity that easily.

Anonymous said...


I remember when my kid came home from the 1st day of 9th grade in SPS & told me that there were almost 100 ways to fail each day & not one way to succeed. Because the orientation for each class was a list of things you could do wrong that would cause to you fail for the day. Be late, forget your textbook, sit in the wrong seat, forget your homework, talk, have a water bottle out, chew gum, look around instead of at the teacher, use the wrong kind of paper, and on & on. Any one thing done wrong would cause you to fail that day and there was not one thing in any class counted as an achievement. The rules were easier for kids whose parent could drive them when the bus was late or buy extra textbooks for home. Of course certain kids’ transgressions were noticed more (boys, students of color, students with disabilities, bigger kids) as if teachers wanted to bring them down a peg. My kid spent huge amounts of energy in high school ensuring that none of those things ever happened. And observed how discouraged other students got as they racked up failures. Then some began to self sabotage as a defense, to act out and court the failures. Sometimes it seemed to me that school was trying to put up barriers to prove it was giving a rigorous education.

I volunteer with kids at risk. Some days it is a success if a kid even shows up, like the day they lost their last housing & moved to tent city, or their parent disappeared, or there was nothing to eat the night before, or someone beat them up after school. It is a huge achievement that they even came, even though they don't have their textbook. If we count it as a failure then the chance of getting any other achievement that day disappears. Teenagers are such a bundle of emotions even with little things that the big things some of our kids go through make it impossible to jump through all the hoops each day at school. I think there need to be adults at school who have personal relationships with each student. Adults who know them, who can encourage them, give them kudos for each success, push them when they have the capacity for it & support them when they reach their limit. We need adults who actually like them individually. We must design our school day to meet them where they are and move them toward increasing success, rewarding the things they do right to encourage more of that, not as a gauntlet of expectations that they fail every day until they give up. I think it would help if the school day were more about what they achieved that day, than what they didn't achieve.



-volunteer

Anonymous said...

Seattle Parent, Garfield is (or was) the default pathway for all HCC middle school students, whether they are from HIMS, JAMS, or WMS. Students wanting another assignment, such as their neighborhood school, must request it during open enrollment. IHS is an optional pathway for HCC (created to take pressure off of Garfield), and SPS enrollment controls the number admitted. I suspect SPS will suggest they are not limiting services by eliminating honors classes, but only changing the delivery, just like changes made to Spectrum.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I think it would help if the school day were more about what they achieved that day, than what they didn't achieve."

Volunteer has it right. Relationships are what matter most. Truly. To motivate and support.

This does not mean allowing some kids to get away with behaviors others can't. You set expectations for everyone but remembering how much some have and others don't.

kellie said...

Once again, I will post that the High School Master Schedule is high school and that the Master Schedule is simply NOT FUNDED.

In the same way that Spectrum has been a elementary and middle school capacity casualty. Honor classes in high school are the next capacity casualty.

Historically, Garfield has the most interesting and diverse master schedule. Maintaining that under capacity pressures is not viable. Other high schools are having the same challenges, just with a lot less publicity.

Catherine said...

Volunteer & Melissa - you touch on a concept that I know a number of teachers statewide attended a conference on about a year ago. It's a phrase that I think was coined in gaming - but actually has a fair amount of basis in human learning and cognition. The phrase is "level-up" and it works in a bunch of areas. The teachers I spoke with - I was in Spokane at the time - were super excited about this as a way to turn those "don't" lists around - or a least balance them out.


And I note on a different topic in the article - not once did Seattle Times mention Paramount Duty funding... and how that might impact the Garfield (and any other) schools.

Maureen said...

Kellie, are you agreeing with Melissa that cutting Honors LA and History would save money? I just don't see it. There must be something like 400 freshmen at Garfield. That is something like 8 to 12 sections of freshman LA and History. That's enough to offer one Honors and one not every period of the day, the same teachers can cover either class.

What I would do, is allow kids with a certain reading level to opt in to Honors if they want. Make the Honors classes big -- like 35 students or more and make the non Honors classes small - like 20 students or less. Concentrate on bringing the non Honors students past grade level and then encourage them to sign up for Honors as sophomores. (Make the Honors classes HARD.) It wouldn't cost more--just require flexibility on the part of the teachers (keep their total student load the same but require the Honors teachers to also cover non Honors classes.) HCC kids will get their cohort for peer editing and class discussions that are up to their standards and student who need help will get more attention.

Granted, you can't count on the schedule working out perfectly, but these are big numbers. It would be different if we were talking about supporting three periods of Latin Four or something.

Maureen said...

I did the math wrong in my head! It's actually 12 to 16 sections per day. So clearly this isn't to save money, it is all about the perception of equity.

TechyMom said...

Random idea for how to handle mixed classes and honors, in a fair way.

Grade C: mostly citizenship. Show up and try to learn, be pleasant, turn in 90% of assignments (regardless of quality)

Grade B: the stuff in C, plus complete work to grade-level standard.

Grade A: The stuff in C, plus honors work. Honors work will sometimes replace grade-level work, and sometimes add onto it.

If you're meeting the A or B standards, but not doing the citizenship stuff (you're a pain in the teacher's neck, and you don't have a 504 or extenuating family circumstances) then your grade can be reduced by no more than one full grade, from an A to a B, from a B to a C.

A student who shows up and tries, does the grade level work, and some of the honors work would get a B+ or A-.

I'm probably over-simplifying, but would something along these lines work in a mixed level class?

Maureen said...

TechyMom, Most of the people who want to retain Honors, in my opinion, want to do it to keep their kids sitting in a classroom with what they perceive to be engaged learners who will challenge their child to also be an engaged learner. They think their child will be bored if they have to sit in a classroom with kids who haven't tested at the same level as their kid. (Note references to level of discussion and peer editing.) It's not like the level of the material is significantly different for Honors and non 9th grade LA and History.

So your system is a nonstarter for those people. I get it, my kid sat through a bunch of classes at RHS where a many of the kids weren't engaged and it can be a problem. It's definitely something of a NIMBY thing though--keep those unengaged, unprepared kids away from my kid.

I prefer to think of it as some kids need more support than others (and actually, that could be a 2E or single subject gifted HCC student as well). Those kids should have smaller classes and more direct instruction. The kids who are at the Honors level should be expected to do more self and peer teaching and should thrive with that. (Of course some will say that is the same as extra work sheets-- but I honestly think that it should be ok in HS.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maureen, I perceive that's why Howard would cut Honors but I don't know for sure. I don't support the move.

Fremonster said...

"It's definitely something of a NIMBY thing though--keep those unengaged, unprepared kids away from my kid."

Maureen, I agree with you 110%. Getting students engaged and prepared requires additional supports and super strong teaching. It is possible.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't buy it that the 9th grade honors cuts are due to capacity issues. Ted Howard pretty much said as much in his interview: the push comes from faculty (not the registrar or whoever does the master schedule), and is about trying to place a ceiling on white students. Remember, he said it was about " chipping away at a system that traditionally tracks gifted middle-schoolers — mostly white — into Garfield’s Advanced Placement curriculum."

Question: If those who were gifted middle schoolers aren't part of the target audience for AP courses, who is?

And how exactly does eliminating access to 9th grade honors classes prevent those mostly white gifted middle schoolers from accessing AP classes later anyway? The GHS course catalog for next year lists two versions of World History for 9th graders: regular, and honors. Access to AP World History in 10th currently has a prerequisite of an A or B in the 9th grade World History HONORS version. If they get rid of the honors class, they'll obviously need to change that prerequisite as well, only requiring basic World History, not honors. But darn, those pesky gifted students will still be able to get into the AP version in 10th grade!

It appears the real issue for Mr. Howard isn't that some students are tracked INTO later AP courses, but that students who do NOT take the honors version in 9th are then tracked OUT of AP options later. If you want to make it so that students who take only the basic version can still access the AP version later, all you have to do is eliminate the prerequisite. You don't have to get rid of the honors class itself. But realistically, are there many Garfield students who don't qualify for the honors version in 9th grade (i.e., not reading/writing at grade level) but who are then suddenly ready for college-level coursework in 10th grade? I doubt it.

Academically, this doesn't seem to accomplish anything. Rather, it seems that this is all a spiteful effort to "take those smarty pants white kids down a notch."

DisAPPointed

Anonymous said...

These issues have been around, and probably will continue to be around, forever, basically.

The schools didn't create poverty, homelessness, opportunity gap, etc., but they show up at a publicly funded institution, so that's where the public and news organizations can focus their frustration. Public Schools are an open target.

An easy target for inequality is advanced placement programs. Why not focus on more support for the general education classrooms who need lower class ratios and more tutors? Stop complaining about academically oriented children, and start focusing on what we can do to help lower achieving children.

-Stop blaming HCC

Anonymous said...

Some other high schools eliminated the first semester of honors freshman LA and SS over a decade ago.

The feeling was that honors 9th graders were identified by MS Spectrum status and occasionally 8th grade teacher recommendations. High school teachers did not trust that this was a valid method to identify those students, and wanted everyone in Gen Ed for at least the first semester, where the high school teachers could identify who should be in honors or not. Those honors students were then tracked in the AP classes starting in the 10th grade.

Nothing new...

northwesterner

Carol Simmons said...

I served as Assistant Principal at Garfield High School. It was then, and continues to be a vibrant, extremely educationally and socially impressive, school where progress continues to be made.
At the 2016 Awards Assembly I again noticed the dramatic improvement of awarding recognition to students of all ethnic groups, special needs groups and transgender students. Back in the Day, awards and scholarships were only awarded to certain groups of students.
Principal Howard and Garfield staff members are responsible for the progress made at Garfield and continue to work on integrating certain classes.
Mr. Howard is totally dedicated to Garfield students, staff and parents. District policies are often too punitive and not inclusive and push students out of school. These policies must be changed and alternatives provided to out of school suspensions. This is not always easy as many parents support these policies (sanctions) for their own children.
Garfield is extremely fortunate to have Mr. Howard as Principal at Garfield.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I can't believe we've gotten to the point where wanting classes to be appropriately challenging is considered a NIMBY issue. So sad.

My child complained for years that his classes were so boring they caused him physical pain--and these were the advanced classes. I seriously don't think I could have made him go to school if he had to slog through a bunch of general ed classes.

There is nothing in the current GHS setup that prevents kids who do not come from HCC from taking AP classes. They are not "tracked out." You do not have to take Honors World History to be eligible for AP World History. The proposed "solution" does nothing to better prepare other students to take AP classes. It is solely intended to prepare the most advanced students less well.

Has anyone called OSPI yet to see how they feel about the prospect of SPS denying HC services to identified highly capable 9th graders?

HF

Anonymous said...

""take those smarty pants white kids down a notch."

DisAPPointed"

Disgraceful interpretation and exactly why HCC kids need to be in classes with kids unlike themselves. If this is what they hear at home...

bunny rabbit

Anonymous said...

@ bunny rabbit, when the principal says the intent of the change is to disrupt the pathway of "mostly white" gifted middle schoolers into AP classes, I fail to see how my interpretation is "disgraceful" rather than spot on.

DisAPPointed

Greenwoody said...

The problem here is that the conversation devolves as usual into assuming there are two options: either have HCC classes that don't match the SES of the district, or throw all kids into the same classroom for the sake of equity even if doing so does nothing to help any of those kids, whether advanced learners or kids who are behind, actually get what they need.

There are other options, but SPS and the corporate education reform movement only believe the second one is possible, because it suits their ideological and financial purposes. And so parents are fighting each other because they don't understand that doing so is exactly what SPS staff wants to happen. SPS staff don't care about your child's education, and until there are mass firings at the JSCEE, they never will.

That's the only way out of this conundrum. Otherwise we'll have diverse classrooms where no child is getting what they need. I fail to see how that helps anyone.

Maureen said...

HF Honest question: What is the difference between the Gen Ed and Honors curriculum and materials in 9th grade LA and History at Garfield? (I don't know the answer to that for my own studen'ts schools.)

Separately: Above, note that DisAPPointed says: Access to AP World History in 10th currently has a prerequisite of an A or B in the 9th grade World History HONORS version. So it does seem that there has been some gate keeping.

Maureen said...

I basically agree with Greenwoody here. But it does seem like this particular change is coming from the school level and not being pushed by JSCEE (unless Ted Howard and the Seattle Times are just choosing to spin it that way.)

Charlie Mas said...

The gatekeeping, such as it is, has been done by Garfield, not by the District. All Garfield needs to do to end the gatekeeping is to change the prerequisite for access to AP World History in 10th grade - which is exactly what DisAPPointed wrote.

It is disingenuous for Mr. Howard to complain about gatekeeping when he has been the gatekeeper.

Anonymous said...

I really hope it was the Seattle Times and NOT the GHS principal who put the gloss that the "The School's advanced track classes are mostly white, as is ... its annual crop of National Merit Scholars."

A lack of representation of African-Americans does NOT necessarily mean the award recipients are white. There are other groups of non-Caucasian students, after all. Readers and SPS JSCEE know that right? That there are students who are neither Caucasian nor African American, but who still count?

But NOT ONCE when I have seen people moan and kvetch about the lack of diversity in HCC does anyone ever mention that the group is not just whites excluding others. There are a heck of a lot of Asian-Americans in HCC too (and news flash - they're not 'white'). But as usual the Asian-American students have been completely erased from the picture of HCC and Garfield given by this article.

I looked up the Garfield Natl Merit Scholars in the Seattle Time Article. Twelve kids.

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/lakeside-school-tops-listof-national-merit-semifinalists/

At least four appear to be Asian-American students. The three family names that appear to be from Asian background, and Alexia Fite, based on a photo in a different news article. I didn't take the time to check every single kid's name of the twelve - but you can see that AT LEAST 1/3 (four out of twelve) of them are of Asian heritage.

YES - I agree that there is a huge achievement and opportunity gap and that needs to be addressed and African American achievement is held back by a host of systemic problems - I agree that artificial barriers to success are absolutely in place. I agree with all of that. The data is clear - incredibly clear. And tragic.

However - no true solution can be found or achieved if the problem isn't looked at accurately - and deciding ahead of time on a view, and ignoring the facts that are actually on the ground, isn't going to solve any problems. Sorry, but if someone says "most Merit Scholars at Garfield are white" and then conveniently overlooks that 1/3 of them are Asian-American - which is roughly statistically accurate for representation in the city - well, then I have to think that the speaker isn't making decisions based on facts and data, but instead based on wishes and biases.

So yes I want a heck of a lot of change in opportunity for African American students in this district. But I want that change to come from real meaningful assessments of what works and what doesn't, and of actual data, not perceptions. White students and parents are not conspiring to hold others back. So let's figure out what the sources are - and what works - based on real data. And let's not erase ANYONE from the picture.

-- Math Counts.

Anonymous said...


Lower the ceiling on HC students does nothing to solve this problem. And I have a real issue with the equity issue being framed around race when all intensive purposes it is about socioeconomic status. The high percentage of failing kids also come from households with a lot less resources than the average Seattle home. I understand the AL department actually takes FRL into consideration for HCC applicants. This is the right thing to do. And they should never look at race for inclusion. Many of my friends are African American and I view them and their kids no differently than my other friends because we are roughly the same SES. Including more high IQ FRL and ELL students (with lowered threshold for achievement scores) would add greatly to the diversity of the program and insure the right type of education is being offered to those who have challenges outside their control.

-SPS Parent

Watching said...

" chipping away at a system that traditionally tracks gifted middle-schoolers — mostly white — into Garfield’s Advanced Placement curriculum."

The state funds advanced learning and it appears GHS staff is trying to dismantle an advanced learning pathway. The board just passed a policy regarding program placement. It would appear- given the Seattle Times quote- that the board has jurisdiction over this matter.

I see no benefit in dismantling advanced learning opportunities. I agree with Greenwoody, there seems to be an attempt to standardize education.

Lynn said...

The plan to blend all students in 9th grade English and history classes is dependent on differentiation in the classroom for success. Garfield's teachers aren't prepared for that. In last spring's staff climate survey, only 28% of Garfield teachers reported that they receive the support they need to differentiate and modify instruction for their students. Increasing the range of academic skills in their classrooms is a recipe for failure.

Link to school climate surveys: https://secure.panoramaed.com/seattle/understand

hschinske said...

When my daughters were in 9th grade at Garfield (some time ago now), the "honors" language arts was merely "non-remedial." The only other option was a class for those who read below an 8th grade level. Dunno if that's changed.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

On its face, this change makes no sense to me. But if the teachers are pushing for it, then I really want to pause and try to understand their reasons. The teachers often have good ideas - they are the ones who spend all day, every day in the school, after all.

What Does the Teacher Say

NESeattleMom said...

When my daughter was in 9th grade at GHS, 9th grade Honors LA was not just HCC. Actually, HCC kids are not separated at GHS. Any class can be taken by anyone, but prerequisites make a difference in tracking.

Anonymous said...

@ hschinske, I don't think that's changed. According to the catalog, the "honors" classes are for those reading and writing at grade level or above. The suggests the non-honors classes are remedial.

New Garfield High School motto: Remediation for All!

Go team

Anonymous said...

Any class can be taken by anyone, but prerequisites make a difference in tracking.

Then it's not really tracking.

What's next? Eliminating prerequisites?


HF

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lynn, good catch. That's why I included the climate survey in my piece; the teachers seem to support Howard's school leadership but not his academic leadership. That's pretty important.

Anonymous said...

My head is spinning from all the racism in the name of anti-racism.


BLMS

Anonymous said...

Melissa asked, in response to my student's essay: "I would love to know, from a student point of view, what this would look like. What help would be the best to get those grades up."

My students would probably say less homework and/or time during the school day to work on assignments (many of them take care of younger siblings after school and/or don't have an adult to help them at home), an easier-to-read Washington State History textbook, easier-to-understand instructions on assignments, alternate ways to demonstrate their learning besides writing, and -- even though they'd be ashamed to admit it -- they really do need more 1:1 help from teachers than the current class sizes are able to afford them. My students would also agree with the parent who posted here about the "100 ways to do something wrong." We need a strong and solid implementation of PBIS instead of detention-detention-detention all the time.

I'll add that many of my students did not get the right reading interventions early enough in their lives to make a significant enough impact (in part because SPS still uses the IQ discrepancy method to qualify students for services, also known as the "wait to fail" method). Sadly, by the time I get them in middle school they tend to have a lot of baggage around school...a lot of shame, a lot of fixed mindset/negative self-perception, and sometimes hostility. I often find myself wishing I'd gotten to them earlier in their lives, but we do what we can.

- LunaLemon



Maureen said...

Thank you LunaLemon, I know I find this kind of feedback really helpful. Gotta say, one of the things that is nice about this site in the summer is that the teachers have more time to weigh in!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Agreed, Maureen. Thank you LunaLemon. I'll try to pass this along to the Board.

Anonymous said...

I think SPS could do alot to improve the achievement gap by concentrating on improvement of boys achievement and methods for helping boys learn.
NW Mom.

kellie said...

@ Maureen,

To clarify, high school is the Master Schedule. From a capacity point of view, a master schedule does not operate at all, like a homeroom based funding model.

Simply put, high school enrollment has been suspiciously flat, despite dramatic growth at every other grade level AND dramatic growth of the 9th grade cohort. That suspiciously flat enrollment has been generated by a huge increase in part time enrollment at the upper grades. So why is that important?

On a homeroom based model, there is no difference between any full class, because the entirety of the funding is loaded into that homeroom. As such, it is easy to presume for high school, that a full class of 30 with an honor class does not cost any more or less than any other class on a master schedule. However, this is simply NOT true.

The easiest way to think about the high school funding model is that the total number of classes are funding. Period. In other words, specific classes are NOT funded. Slots on the master schedule are funded.

Therefore, the real issue is that any specific class "X" means that some other class "Y" is not on the schedule. And when you have a high school like Garfield, Ingraham, Sealth, etc with multiple programs, there is a lot of competition for those slots.

Now you may say, more kids drive more slots, but that is also not true. As high school is only funded by participation, if a student can't get their classes, they are "pushed out" to either running start or online classes. As it is easier for students at the top of range to get those other options, high schools district wide are needing to add more basic classes and limit advanced classes.

So we now have a vicious cycle of the master schedule pushing students out and then the fact that they leave means there are not any additional teachers added and slots added.

This effectively means that whatever the allocation in the Spring is, the students adapt to fit that schedule and only extreme enrollment changes, cause any other change.


kellie said...

That is the issue that the Core 24 task force completely failed to comprehend.

The current budgeting practice is what is keeping students from getting 24 credits. The current budgeting practice is what is limiting options on the master schedule.

The current practice of refusing to fund, the inefficiencies that are created when you have multiple programs competing on one schedule ... beyond words.

As if all that were not problematic enough, then you need to take into account that the State of Washington only funds approximately 95% of high school enrollment. The State of Washington only funds the AVERAGE enrollment. Therefore, every high school struggles to provide enough classes.

As far as I can tell, other districts use significant levy money to backfill this horrific funding model. Seattle just copies the State of Washington model without any significant additional backfill.

Anonymous said...

Kellie is correct. A lot of kids were pushed out of Physics at Hale because there weren't enough spaces. There are not enough AP classes available at Hale so kids wanting more challenge and college credit go to Running Start which starts the vicious cycle.

HP

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU Kellie for the clear explanation of what is really happening with high school funding. This needs to be more widely understood, especially in district administration. Even the principal of one of the big high schools recently mentioned that he was surprised when he examined his school's schedule through this lens with an eye to equity - he had not realized which students were experiencing less access to resources which were redirected to other students with also-reasonable needs.

I have seen cases in which a struggling student was denied enrollment in ANY language arts class and ANY math class because "All of the classes at your grade level are full and we need those spots for students who will succeed, so we can't give a spot to a student who doesn't always show up every day." I am shocked and appalled that a counselor actually said that to any student in any school anywhere. I am also appalled that the school somehow did not find the capacity to provide basic language arts and math for every single student in the school. If a student who has been skipping class starts to show interest in attending school there is no good excuse for excluding the student from basic education.

Irene

Lynn said...

I'm curious about kellie's comment about online classes. Which high schools offer credit for them - and how do parents find their school's policy? As far as I can tell Garfield only allows online health and credit retrieval (classes previously failed.)

Maureen said...

So this is true for classes that are actually required to graduate? A High School can choose not to offer enough sections of 9th grade LA to cover all of their 9th graders and force them to take it online or in a different year? I just don't see how a principal would allow this. I don't think it happens at Ingraham, I really don't. I think there they look to see what classes the students need/request and then build the schedule. If they need to add a section of French then one of the LA teachers who is double qualified drops a section of upper level LA and they add French and double up the kids in the LA class with the remaining teachers. Sometimes classes have close to forty students in them and sometimes really small classes do get cancelled. Kids do have to take study halls or RA slots, and lots go to Running Start (like with HP's case), but I don't think they let some sort of Platonic ideal of a master schedule determine how many sections of core classes are offered.

I totally understand how HS scheduling and funding is fundamentally different from K-5, and I implicitly trust Kellie's understanding of the system, but I don't see how a principal could create a master schedule that didn't have enough room for every 9th grader to have a seat in a class that is required to graduate. So I don't see how changing the labels on those classes would save any money. ---- Unless, lowering the standard means that fewer kids fail and have to retake the required class? So maybe that's why they won't offer Honors to everyone? And they feel like everyone has to take the same class?

I'm obviously missing something here.

Anonymous said...

@ maureen, in response to your earlier question, I don't know the difference between the Gen Ed and Honors curriculum and materials in 9th grade LA and History at Garfield either. My assumption was that, consistent with how most LA and SS seems to be done in this district, it's primarily a free-for-all and there aren't really official curricula that teachers are reliably using. In that case, I'd expect that the honors classes use more challenging reading materials than the remedial classes, that they move at a faster pace, that they involve more complex discussion and analysis, and that the writing assignments are more extensive and more challenging. At least, that would seem to make sense for courses designated as "honors" level.

But your question brings up an interesting issue, and I suppose it's just as likely that the honors courses really aren't that different after all--that they have been "honors" in name only. We're seeing something similar at Thurgood Marshall Elem, where the HCC and GE will be blended for SS, and decision that is justified partly by the fact that--for some inexplicable reason--the curriculum was the same between HCC and GE already. But I suppose if the differentiation that is supposed to be there between general ed and HCC or honors classes isn't really there in the first place, there's no point to separate classes. I don't know if that was the case at GHS or not.

HF

Anonymous said...

According to Superintendent Procedure 2024SP, approved in 2011, schools may permit students to enroll in online learning for credit under various circumstances. A maximum of 8 credits toward high school graduation may be allowed. Depending on circumstances the online courses may be during the school day or outside the school day. The district, the school, or the family pay for the online courses according to circumstances and available funds. In all cases the school must provide the student with a local online learning support team; if the school does not have such a team available, it will not be able to permit online learning.

@maureen, the cases to which I referred occurred in a large high school during years when more students than expected showed up in September. My guess is that, rather than figuring out some way to reorganize the schedule at the last minute to provide enough sections of the basic required classes, the problem was dealt with by allowing some students to fall through the cracks, apparently on the theory that they were unlikely to succeed in any event - at least that message was clearly conveyed to the students. At the start of every year at every school there are some students whose schedules are a complete mess, and the counselors have to find a way to deal with it, and presumably make an acceptable schedule for each student. In these cases they dealt with it by essentially telling the students that they need not bother to come to school. This sort of result of school bureaucracy is horrifying.

Irene

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just an optimist, but I don't see anything truly frightening about, say, the fact that the elementary social studies or even the 9th grade LA curriculums might be the same in gen Ed and honors.

To use a made-up example, let's say all 8th graders have to read Romeo and Juliet. Maybe one class spends their time just making sure the class fully understands the text and "gets" the humor. Maybe another class does that and also considers life in Elizabethan England - what an actual theater experience would be like then. Maybe another class discusses why the plays are still studied today, or why their popularity might have waxed and waned over the years, tying it into world events.

It seems like on these blogs I often see parents stressing that acceleration isn't the only issue; its depth and breadth. So why, on the surface, is a similar curriculum so abhorrent?

Another point: while I'm as skeptical of differentiation as anyone else, consider this scenario: a teacher plans on this extra enrichment, but the class winds up having a hard time getting through the text so she dials it back a bit (I'm sure these tiny adjustments happen all the time). Part of the trouble is the reading aloud. But now the class is combined with more adept readers. The average pace is increased, they can get through the text a little faster and then get to the extra breadth and depth - which benefits everyone.

-Pollyanna

TechyMom said...

Do they still read aloud in high school classes? Ugh. That is boring for all students, and anxiety-producing for many. It wastes everyone's time, subjects all students to bad performances of text, puts kids on the spot, and discourages completing reading assignments at home. Getting rid of that practice would make differentiation easier. For Shakespeare and other plays, watch a quality movie production, and use the book for reference. For books, read at home and make audiobooks available to any student who requests them. Then you can use class time for discussion and feedback on writing about the books.

Anonymous said...

In regards to how high schools adjust schedule to meet demand, if what I've seen so far this year is any indication, principals are not at all prepared for increased HC numbers in their own schools.

Even Martin Floe was completely unprepared for the numbers at the IHS info night this winter. Brian Vance at RHS was too, and hadn't planned for HC interest-there was no HC student rep present for the evening, and he didn't answer my question about whether there were enough AP seats to meet demand for increased HC. At Garfield's info night, when asked about the rising numbers, the response was surprise and disbelief, as though it was the first the speaker (not Ted Howard) had heard of it. Meanwhile Ted Howard has made comments about shrinking the program sooner than later, and how great GHS will be when it's small. Wynkoop rails against "boutique schools" without acknowledging that those schools are keeping his to a barely manageable size. The WSHS principal is the 3x5 advocate who thinks AP and IB are too stressful for kids. And NHHS has it built into their schedule that HC kids would need to repeat coursework already covered in middle school.

So I fear what Irene described is going to be the way things go for awhile. Counselors pushing students away from appropriate classes as a reactionary measure, instead of schools being given the resources they need to plan ahead.

2HC

Anonymous said...

Pollyanna, the differentiation issue is not about whether the classes study the same topic (ie Romeo and Juliet). It's about having in one 9th grade classroom students reading at a 5th grade level and struggling to even read the play as well as students reading on a college level who zoom through the play and then wax eloquent about Elizabethan culture which they've read about on their own, as well as many students in between. Remember that some of the kids will have learning disabilities (including the ones at high reading levels), some may have mental illnesses, some may have family crises and some will have behavior disorders or just not function well in a classroom.
There may be a few prodigy teachers who can handle all that and help all the kids learn throughout the year, but I think it's an unreasonable expectation. Also, I don't think it is helpful to kids who are struggling to read to be in the same class with many kids who have been reading fluently since early elementary - it would be demoralizing for the kids who are struggling.
Momof2

Anonymous said...

@ Pollyanna, a similar curriculum isn't abhorrent, if there are really curricular extensions and supplements to allow for that broader and deeper learning. In your hypothetical example, there's a core text, then presumably additional materials necessary to provide a foundation for that additional work. Sounds great! But it also doesn't sound like that can all be done in one mixed classroom--that's why your example had them separated out. I suppose if you combined them you could require the more advanced students to do additional reading at home, but you wouldn't really be able to have those additional discussions since class time would be primarily spent on helping students read and understand the foundational text.

And please tell me that your example re: more advanced students being used to help increase the average reading speed of a class so they are more likely to be able to get through the basic material is something you made up, and not something you've heard is part of the plan.

Anonymous said...

Pollyanna, I can agree with you for very specific curriculum choices (like, say, all students read Romeo and Juliet- or even back up to two Shakespeare plays. Or all students study the Peloponnesian war.) If there was site based management, maybe department chairs set the curriculum for the school. But in practice in sps with standardization and much more strict curricular mandates, without a different curriculum, the honors option (or hcc, at middle schools) is inappropriately easy. And you are required to do the inappropriately easy stuff before you get to the right level stuff, which requires herculean motivation we would never require of an on level or below student.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Guess it would be impossible for a teacher to teach my child with a learning disability & experience of performing major roles in every Shakespeare play on the SPS reading list. Perhaps cut the kid in half.

-shocked

kellie said...

@ Maureen,

I doubt my answer will be satisfactory to you. I attempt to illuminate the complexity of the capacity problem and how that complexity impacts the problem. I am attempting to illuminate the competition for the slot itself and how the competition for that slot is not a part of the conversation, and it should be.

I strongly believe that every principal and high school counselor in the district is strongly committed to the greatest number of students getting what they need. So that is not the problem. If my presumption is correct, then the question becomes, Why are honors classes the last thing to go onto the schedule, when the school is committed to kids getting what they need to graduate?

You are trying to use some basic A=B logic, where 30 students in slot A, should be equal to 30 students in slot B. Your logic is sound and it seems reasonable that a 9th grade honors class and a regular class have the same priority and scheduling access.

However, the folks on the ground at all the high schools are reporting that it is more challenging, or even impossible to get self contained honors and AP classes on the master schedule.

When I examine capacity issues, I try to take all the data at face value and then see what answer emerges after you hold ALL the seeming contradictory data at the same time.

* Good people trying to do the right thing
* AP and Honors classes are harder to access and being dropped from the master schedule, at high school and middle school district wide.
* SPS claims that one teacher is allocated for every 30 students, therefore any class with 30 students is equal to all the other classes with 30 students.

When the district was hyper focused on removing a teacher from Garfield because Garfield was over-staffed but yet Garfield reported that there were 87 students who wanted a 6th class and could not receive a class due to constraints of the master schedule and that if a teacher was removed, that number would potentially climb to nearly 200 as there was NOT space in the master schedule for the displaced students. I puzzled over this same conundrum.

That is when I realized that the most basic graduation requirements need to take priority over anything else in the master schedule. As such, while it seems reasonable that enriched classes are no different, enriched classes get scheduled LAST, after all the basics are done.

And that is the issue.







kellie said...

If I had it all my way, every high school would start to report, all the things that they can't do.

* students who couldn't get the classes they need and the reason.

* the number of students in running start because that was their first choice and the number that are there because they have NO CHOICE.

* the number of students who are TAs for classes instead of being in a class.

* the number of students in the Inappropriate class. I know many students who are in the a different language class, simply because the master schedule did not accommodate them. ie. Japanese 2, and self studying for Japanese 3 or Spanish 3 instead of Spanish 2.

If we could illuminate all the compromises being made, we could at least change the conversation about funding high school and the limitations of the master schedule.

Anonymous said...

@ kellie, you said: That is when I realized that the most basic graduation requirements need to take priority over anything else in the master schedule. As such, while it seems reasonable that enriched classes are no different, enriched classes get scheduled LAST, after all the basics are done.

But access to enriched classes IS different. According to state law, for highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education (RCW 28A.185.020). Whether Garfield remains the HCC pathway school or becomes a simple neighborhood school serving neighborhood HC students, they need to provide access to accelerated learning, and they need to provide it at every grade level. Are you suggesting they've already gotten rid of most of the elective classes and still can't find a way to fit in honors or AP classes? I can't imagine that's the case.

HF

Maureen said...

Thank you kellie.

That is when I realized that the most basic graduation requirements need to take priority over anything else in the master schedule. As such, while it seems reasonable that enriched classes are no different, enriched classes get scheduled LAST, after all the basics are done.

Ok, I think I am beginning to understand.

This may sound like a non sequitur for those of you who haven't been around as long as I have but: Can we blame the VAX?

Translate this to 2016: Is this a software problem? Does whatever software the schools are using to create schedules drive this result? Does it prioritize truly "required" classes (e.g., 9th grade LA) over "optional" classes (e.g., 9th grade Honors LA) because they have different course titles or numbers or something?

I would love to have a High School counselor or principal respond to this (please?) anonymously or not.

Lynn said...

I think the master schedule is created manually. I recall seeing handwritten poster-size sheets of paper mapping out classes and conflicts on the wall in a conference room at Garfield.

I still don't see how Honors LA 9 would be booted for LA 9 - they both fulfill basic graduation requirements.

kellie said...

It is not a "vax issue" Thanks for the memories!

It is a funding issues. There are simply not enough teachers assigned at schools with multiple programs. So this is a true double whammy to IB. So not only is the fundamental contractual requirement of IB not funded (an IB coordinator). But also the additional schedule complexity is also not funded. Garfield has the same issue because of the diversity and number of AP classes.

The master schedule is efficient to the extent that the needs of a school population are homogenous. The schedule is inefficient in direct proportion to the diversity at the school.

The bottom line is that the WSS does not fund even the basics at high school. If you were run some funding comparisons between the current WSS and the old Weighted STUDENT formula where each student brought a certain number of dollars based on their need, the gap would be terrifying.

kellie said...

@ HF, Lynn

Once again, I am not trying to debate access to highly capable or basic logic. I am simply illuminating that capacity challenges are complex and that there is a bigger system issue that is creating tremendous pressure on the master schedule. When there is a lot pressure, crazy things happen.

If high school were adequately funded, I have no doubt that access to honors classes would no longer be an issue. These classes would simply be included in the master schedule.

In the meantime, more and more students are taking other options, because they have no other choice.


Anonymous said...

For the record, my daughter is in HCC at WMS and she is not white. Seems silly to say that, but given the comments in the article and some here about how HCC is "mostly" white which leads some to think it's all white, some clarification seems to be in order.

-- WMS/HCC Mom

Anonymous said...

The Japanese language classes at Hale messed up my kids schedule several times. My kid took PE classes that didn't need to be taken and TA'd at least 3 times due to holes in schedule. My kid did not want to do Running Start.

HP

Lynn said...

How did that work with Hale's higher number of credits required for graduation?

Anonymous said...

You still get credit for TA'ing and for PE. I think TA'ing counts for OE? Occumpational Education credits? They have to have so many of those.

On page 13 of the handbook for this past year details out what is needed for 2016 graduation.

http://halehs.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_3849/File/Student%20activities/Nathan%20Hale%20handbook%202015%202016.pdf

HP

NESeattleMom said...

If your kid is getting an academic PE waiver, they can't have a TA period, and need a full schedule.

Maureen said...

For that year, right? So an IBx kid could have three years of waivers, get their IB diploma and then TA (or study hall) senior year and not have to do PE, correct? Because they have met the graduation requirements.

Lynn said...

Maureen, I believe you're correct. Once your child had an IB diploma there is no need for a PE waiver. At Garfield, PE waivers are allowed if a student has taken six classes on campus every semester. This allows for four years of music and a world language. Principals make the decisions about PE waivers for their schools. It seems inequitable to me. The rules should be the same district-wide.

NESeattleMom said...

The statewide rules call for 1/2 credit of health and 1 1/2 credits of PE. The law says it can be waived for many reasons including "other". Principals decide, but they are supposed to be standard, or always do the same thing . I B is an exception like Garfield academic. Timing is crucial for gradustion. If your kid misses the deadline they don't graduate

Anonymous said...

If a student completes all the requirements for IB (six courses with examinations, extended essay, TOK, and CAS) then the state does not require PE/health and there is NO PE waiver required in any of the years. This is different from situations in which schools may waive the state PE/health requirement for academic, disability, or other reasons.

Many IB students decide to request waivers in order to keep open the possibility that they may choose to complete only a portion of the IB requirements.

If a student completes all the requirements for IB, they may graduate at the end of that semester or any later semester in which they enroll, and there are no further academic requirements.

There is a lot of variation in the handling of PE waivers at different high schools, and so far the school board has been OK with that.

Irene

Anonymous said...

At Hale, you can receive a waiver for PE if you participate in a Hale sport. 1.5 credits of PE are required and up to 1 credit can be waived so you have to take at least one semester of PE. Each season of a sport can count as 0.5 credits. So my kid did a winter sport all four years and received a 0.5 credit two times. My kid had to take on PE class for a semester for the last 0.5 credit. Due to scheduling conflicts with Japanese, my kid ended up taking more PE because it was the only class available. 3rd period always seemed to be the issue so instead of taking more PE, my kid did TA'ing which ended up being a study hall more or less. Some of it also had to do with interest. The other classes offered during 3rd period were things like radio which my kid had no interest in.

HP

Melissa Westbrook said...

Let's all support Kellie and Eric B. to run for School Board.

One thing I can say that I recall from my son's days at Roosevelt was that the counselors had about 400 kids each. (Which is complete nonsense, in and of itself.) There were so many scheduling changes to address, that at least 65% of their time was doing that. It's ridiculous. (And I recall trying to ask if we might put PTA money towards a half-time person that all he/she did was scheduling but I got voted down.)

Because the counselors don't get to do much college/career counseling with that kind of pressure to do one single task.

Anonymous said...

I am the outgoing PTSA President at Garfield. I am not speaking for the PTSA here. This is what I can share about the 9th grade honors issue.

1. This is unrelated to funding. This is a teacher-led initiative that is aimed at closing the achievement gap and integrating the classrooms (their words, not mine).
2. Their proposal is to fully integrate remedial, core and honors in the same sections for all 9th grade LA and SS students beginning this fall.
3. They believe that they can effectively differentiate in a 30+ student class across that spectrum and deliver better educational outcomes from the start

We have met with them twice, and they have provided no more detail to us than I have provided here. We have asked them many questions about curriculum, standards, readiness/professional development and gotten nothing more specific. There are no specific goals on student achievement and the school's documented improvement plan makes no mention of this as a strategy. As far as I can tell, there is no communication plan for families. It is unclear whether the district has approved this but I also understand the Garfield master schedule has already been constructed around this, prior to any communication.

Most importantly, this is a huge change. Every parent has the right to hear what they are proposing, ask questions and provide feedback in advance. All families have the right to understand the school's approach before choosing schools and classes. Parents and teachers should be given the opportunity to be prepared for the changes this brings. This affects all families. Particularly in highly diverse environments, process enables participation and buy-in. This was a massive process miss.

Garfield has one of the lowest family engagement satisfaction scores in the district climate study as you point out. I found out that Garfield was making this change next year from the Seattle Times reporter who was asking me for comment for her story - and I was the PTSA President.

Maureen said...

PTSA President, to me, leaving the PTSA to read about this change in the paper implies a profound lack of respect for the parent community from the GHS administration. The fact that Ted Howard felt the need to share the parent's "caretaker" statement to him from twelve years ago is also telling.

I will say, one plus of GHS' "Honors for all" in 9th grade LA/SS is that it might help identify more students who are capable of AP class level work (in LA and SS at least). This is a more proactive approach, I think, than just requiring every sophomore (RHS) or junior (CSIHS and RBHS) to take an AP or IB class.

Anonymous said...

Maureen,

If a teacher can differentiate 30 kids they should be able to do that in a gen ed class and have those kids go into honors and AP path the next year right?

This all about optics and Howard is not helping his school...

-sps parent

Maureen said...

sps parent,

I think part of it is the way kids limit themselves. Even if they do very well in a Gen Ed class, they still might not believe that they are prepared to go into an Honors or AP class the next year. (it also takes one more year to get there.) If the default is for them to be in the classroom with all sorts of students they can judge their chances based on experience not self stereotypes. People keep talking about those kids being "demoralized" by having to be in the same class as the HCC students, but it may be that they find out that they are perfectly able to compete with those kids.

There is also the issue of smart kids from certain backgrounds who wouldn't volunteer to take an Honors course because of (negative) peer pressure, even though they are perfectly capable. Being forced to gets rid of that stigma and might get more kids through that awkward age where their peers are everything with their future options intact.

I get that this is frustrating for the HCC parents especially since SPS keeps pretending like they offer some sort of program for the kids who test in, but I do think it's a better option than just signing up every sophomore at GHS for AP Human Geography and every junior for AP Lit. Seems like that would be even more frustrating.

I do wish the teachers would weigh in with more background and be explicit about how they plan to differentiate.

Anonymous said...

Well, Maureen, apparently a Garfield English teacher did weigh in (on Facebook and reposted by a parent on the APP blog). The excerpt referenced "APP appartheid [intentionally misspelled to emphasize APP?]" and "obnoxious elitist unconscious racists [parents?]."

-no words

z said...

I totally agree with Kellie's wish for transparency (aggregate reports) on student schedules. All the points you made in your post above. I agree that it would highlight funding issues, and these reports are something that the Board could require, if they were inclined. But...

Kellie said: If high school were adequately funded, I have no doubt that access to honors classes would no longer be an issue. These classes would simply be included in the master schedule.

While your analysis of the scheduling difficulties (and many other things, not just this thread) are spot on, I'm afraid on this one particular point you are mistaken.

As mentioned by the outgoing PTSA president, this is driven by the LA dept, and it's not funding-driven, but ideology-driven. You haven't been at Garfield as long as some of us, so perhaps you're unaware that the LA staff have proposed this over and over for many years, badgering Mr. Howard repeatedly. For those of you above who have been complaining about the principal, please note that he has been the one who has repeatedly overrode their (misguided) wishes over the years and kept the honors classes. I don't know what has happened this year to change his mind, but he does have a very big say in the matter, and clearly one of the point-people to contact - though the School Board does carry a lot of weight as well.

I also agree with some of the other commenters above that there might possibly be legal (WA State) issue with regards to: HC access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education (RCW 28A.185.020). This can be a long and difficult path to pursue, but for those inclined to use the legal system, it might help. The potentially good thing is that if it's successful it could set legal precedent so this fight wouldn't need to happen every 2-3 years.


Maureen said: I do wish the teachers would weigh in with more background and be explicit about how they plan to differentiate.

I think you can answer this yourself. They don't. Not really. Their #1 goal is to integrate the kids rather than make sure they're providing appropriate learning environments.

People should also know that this is an "adult issue". The vast majority of the kids just want to take appropriately-leveled classes, whether they be AP, honors, core or remedial. I very strongly doubt that any of the kids who need remedial help want to be in the same classes with HCC kids, and GenEd kids who want to take honors classes are already allowed to do so. Could the school help push a few more kids who might be capable onto that path? Probably, and that would be a worthwhile cause. Dropping honors classes is a terrible, terrible plan.

z said...

...more...

If there was a real plan to differentiate, the teachers would have made it public for scrutiny. They know this is a big deal to HCC/honors parents, and that they are going to get a lot of pushback.

Even if there was such a (theoretical) plan, no one should believe it, because:

1) There is no funding to support it.
2) It would be several times more work for teachers and fall by the wayside quickly as soon as classroom realities set in. Raise your hand if you've seen this before. (my hand is already up)
3) Teaching HC kids does not align with the priorities of (many) teachers and downtown administrators, whose primary concern is making sure kids pass standardized tests and ultimately graduate.
4) Almost every parent of an HCC student knows that "differentiation in the classroom" is just a euphemism for "not going to teach my kid". It's the main reason why the program exists.

Lynn said...

Maureen,

This is the comment from Facebook:

Hey, everyone, I teach English at Garfield. All of you have misrepresented the new blended ability ninth grade English classes. Please be careful before you poop negativity on ideas you don't know anything about. I have taught AP and other English classes at Garfield for 18 years. Back in the 1990s, we had blended ability ninth grade, and it was no harder to teach than any other English class. Yes, as English teachers we are given more work than we could possibly ever do. Tracked ninth grade classes don't decrease that load--they just increase institutional racism. And it's racist to assume that all of the students not currently enrolled in honors read "at a fifth grade level." Stop assuming that the kids enrolled in honors ninth grade are inherently "better" than the other kids--they are not. Maybe one kid "can't read" another kid's paper because it's shockingly unclear. Yes, we need direct reading instruction programs for the kids reading far below grade level--and good luck getting funding for effective programs. Aside from that, most of the kids should take ninth grade English together. The APP apparatheid (sic) stops when they enter our doors. It won't hurt the fragile products of APP to go to class with their brothers and sisters--who, despite some of your assertions, are equally gifted even if they haven't been in APP. The ninth grade English teachers are working hard and carefully (and far beyond what they get paid) to make this a success. They don't need obnoxious elitist unconscious racists dooming them to failure before they have a chance to begin.

This is not a thoughtfully planned attempt to improve the skills of every student.

Anonymous said...

History of the program at Garfield:

Busing in Seattle: A Well-Intentioned Failure
http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=3939

This program change (and expression of teacher sentiment) may have the effect of more HCC students opting for Ballard, Roosevelt, Ingraham, private, etc. According to recent enrollment numbers, 14% of grades 9-12 HCC students reside in the Garfield attendance area. It will be interesting to see how Ingraham HCC enrollment is handled next year (and how this year's numbers play out).

2015-16 enrollment trends (numbers not HCC specific):

To Garfield from
Garfield - 1256
Franklin - 107
West Seattle - 85
Roosevelt - 66
Ballard - 53
Rainier Beach - 40
Nathan Hale - 24
Chief Sealth - 19
Ingraham - 14

To Ingraham from
Ingraham - 826
Roosevelt - 153
Ballard - 111
Nathan Hale - 84

(see pg 32)
https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Enrollment%20Planning/Reports/Annual%20Enrollment/2015-16/Section%204.pdf

-watching

Anonymous said...

The 14% figure is based on Grades 1-12 HCC enrollment, not just Grades 9-12 (oops).

2015 Grades 1-12 HCC Enrollment by Attendance Area High School
Ballard - 727 (23%)
Franklin - 291 (9%)
Garfield - 463 (14%)
Ingraham - 217 (7%)
Nathan Hale - 261 (8%)
Rainier Beach - 102 (3%)
Roosevelt - 797 (25%)
Sealth - 73 (2%)
West Seattle - 267 (8%)

-watching

Lynn said...

More enrollment information: http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/Friday%20Memos/2015-16/January%2015/20160115_FridayMemo_HC%20DATA%20as%20of%201.4.16_withsource%20(3).pdf

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lynn.

2016 Total number of HCC students enrolled at each area high school (enrolled elsewhere from given school):

Garfield - 518
Ingraham - 299
Roosevelt - 65 (172)
Ballard - 69 (140)
Hale - 18 (70)
Sealth - 10 (23)
West Seattle - 7 (90)
Franklin - 7 (95)
Rainier Beach - 1 (35)
Cleveland - 0 (-)

-watching

Anonymous said...

To summarize the 2016 data, 52% of HCC high school students attend Garfield and 30% attend Ingraham (45% attend either Hale/RHS/BHS/IHS).

-watching

Maureen said...

watching, And those are the identified ones. Not sure if that means they tested in at some point or if they actually enrolled at some point? So 994 identified HCC at the High School level out of a total HS enrollment (from link above) of 13,732 so about 7% of the HS population overall. But that is 31% of the Garfield population (518/1672) and 25% at Ingraham (299/1211).

Anonymous said...

Wait, that's 82% attending Garfield and Ingraham, so only 18% left to attend the others. Right? Not 45%?

-sleeper

kellie said...

Thank you to all of the folks that helped to fill in the details on the academic argument for this change.

And I will once again state that the budget and capacity items that I am illuminating are a critical piece of this puzzle, not the entire puzzle itself. Budget and capacity shortfalls create "pressure" in a system and that pressure needs to be alleviated in some way.

Many times, this pressure can be invisible to some and visible to others. Think about how many times parents have said X about a capacity matter and staff has said, "there is no evidence of X." This happens so consistently because the pressure in the system can only be measured with the proper metrics. Bad metrics make the pressure invisible.

How many people testified about how school were growing, while SPS maintained that the metrics supported closures? It was a case of bad metrics and we are once again in a place of using very bad metrics with regard to high school and capacity and the consequences are increasing.

Both PTSA president and Z point out that this change has been discussed/proposed/considered, etc for many years. To me, that creates the interesting question of why now? If staff makes the same proposal multiple times and the answer is no. The fact that the answer changed to a yes, is the interesting part of the puzzle.

IMHO, the reason that this changed happened this year is because of enormous (but yet not measured) pressure that is being felt on every high school in Seattle.

There are academic arguments to be made on both sides for more diverse vs more focused classrooms and that debate is very complex and unlikely to be resolved. However, the capacity part of the puzzle is very cut and dry. Having only ONE type of 9th grade LA offering, simplifies and improves the efficiency of the entire master schedule.

That is not the entire conversation. However, it is a part of the conversation that is NOT happening, yet.

kellie said...

I also stand by my assertion that if we had ample capacity and high schools were adequately funded, honors classes would be more available district wide.

Since capacity problems have been the norm, advanced learning has born more than its fair share of "capacity solutions." That statement is cut and dry. It is not a statement about whether that is a good decision or a bad decision, just a statement of what has happened in real practice.

It is also not a statement about what students are entitled to under the law. What people are legally entitled to and what actually happens are two different things. Highly Capable does receive special protection, much like IDEA. However, the theory and practice, as every Sped parent knows, have nothing to do with each other.

Under our assignment plan, general education gets first bite at the apple. It is that simple.

In practice what seems to be happening, is general education first, special education second and then honors last.

Spectrum worked well for a long time and it died with the new assignment plan, because there simply was not enough capacity to protect it. Honors and AP classes at high are the next casualty, because the capacity crisis at high school is here, now.


Anonymous said...

45% = IHS + BHS + RHS + Hale

In other words, 45% staying in or choosing North end high schools.

-watching

kellie said...

To say this one more way ....

Starting in 2003, Kindergarten cohorts began to increase in size, each year. Because of some elements of the choice system. Most of the growth during those years was restricted to K, 6 and 9th grades. In other words, the three largest grades were always K, 6 and 9 and all the other grades had attrition.

This year, the last spectrum classroom was dissolved. Spectrum died a slow death as the larger sized cohorts moved through the system. This year, those 2003 K students graduated. That "bubble" is now in all K-12 grades.

in 2009, 6 years after those K students entered, we needed to open new elementary schools. Three years later, middle school capacity got tight and then another four years after that, high school choice began to end.

IMHO, it is absolutely no surprise at all, that honors classes are vanishing at high school. I fully expect this trend to continue for a few years and be hidden from view by the academic arguments.

Anonymous said...

Ah! Including Ingraham. So 30% in Ingraham, 15% in neighborhood, non HCC pathway schools. ~55% at Garfield.

I suppose that will change now, though I would have thought it would this year. There is no way I will send my HCC middle schooler to Garfield if I can help it.

-sleeper

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, that comment from whatever Facebook page from a Garfield teacher is very disheartening. I can appreciate that he/she may believe there is some kind of favored status for HCC kids at Garfield but her words, her scathing words, make me shiver. I would not want a teacher like that for my child.

Maureen said...

So, since this is all about capacity and since parents seem to believe that classroom management is easy in Honors classes, what if SPS announces that from now on Honors classes in HS will all have 40 or more students in them and Gen Ed classes will be regular size (so 30 ish). HSs are already working to push more students into electives like Orchestra and Drama and PE that can be 60 or more students. Why not just take advantage of demand for Honors and crank up the class size? Teachers may have to design the class so that a chunk of the students spend part of each class period in the library, or Skype in (because the classrooms aren't generally built for 40+) but I'm sure they can make it work. Honors eligible kids will be fine with that because they can all peer edit Google Docs just fine and will be focused on what the teacher says even when they are at home in front of their laptops.

(AP and IB classes can have 60 students)

There we go, capacity problem and Honors issue is solved.

Anonymous said...

@sleeper, those numbers are from this school year. Enrollment numbers for the 2016-17 school have not yet been released.

-watching

Anonymous said...

The facebook rant from the GHS LA teacher seems like a matter for the personnel department. She should not be teaching at Garfield, or maybe anywhere, feeling that kind of resentment and anger toward nearly a third of that school's population and their parents. It borders on threatening. And to think she is an LA teacher, without the skill or commonsense about how to write a persuasive essay. Maybe she is losing her marbles? At any rate, it should be brought to Mr Howard's attention, and further up if no acceptable action is taken. She should not be teaching these students.

PW

Lynn said...

The post-open enrollment projections are here: http://sps.ss8.sharpschool.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Enrollment%20Planning/Projections/2016-17%20School%20Enrollment%20Projections.pdf

We know that the 127 highly capable seniors of 2016 will be replaced by 335 highly capable freshman. There will be 432 freshman in 2017 and in the following year, 447.

Ted Howard has been saying for quite some time that Garfield should have 1,500 students - which is about the number living in the attendance area. I can see that happening if they're allowed to reduce the advanced learning opportunities they provide. I wonder if he'd be able to retain the 150 or so highly capable students in the neighborhood under those conditions. What changes would we see at Garfield then?

Melissa Westbrook said...

PW, it was on a Facebook page with that teacher's name so I'm thinking some parent may let Principal Howard know what this teacher's thinking is on students at the school.

Anonymous said...

Maureen's prediction of very large class sizes is interesting. One of the many things that was not discussed with respect to the 3 x 5 proposal is the extent to which the current master schedules for high schools depend on large music classes to keep other class sizes down. With only 5 periods a day, many students would need to take LA/SS/math/science/language and there would be fewer students taking those large band and orchestra classes all year long. Combined with each teacher needing 1/5 of the day for prep instead of 1/6 of the day, the result would be a need for considerably more teachers to cover the same number of students in every school, making the 3 x 5 schedule quite expensive - unless class sizes increase dramatically. If the district had that amount of additional money, maybe it could afford to do a 2 x 7 schedule instead.

Irene

Anonymous said...

@z said

"I think you can answer this yourself. They don't. Not really. Their #1 goal is to integrate the kids rather than make sure they're providing appropriate learning environments."

INTEGRATION IS THE APPROPRIATE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. PERIOD. (See Brown vs. Board of Ed). Since the GHS teachers have been trying to do this for years, I am glad they will finally be able to integrate 9th grade LA and provide education for all. I find that FB post to be simply honest and I don't find it offensive. - Capitol Hill Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The APP apparatheid (sic) stops when they enter our doors."

Not offensive? These are students and their parents accessing a district program and this is what the teacher thinks of them. (Plus an LA teacher who can't spell - great.)

"It won't hurt the fragile products of APP to go to class with their brothers and sisters--who, despite some of your assertions, are equally gifted even if they haven't been in APP."

Calling them "fragile" seems to be criticizing the parents. Does she criticize all other parents as well?

"The ninth grade English teachers are working hard and carefully (and far beyond what they get paid) to make this a success. They don't need obnoxious elitist unconscious racists dooming them to failure before they have a chance to begin."

That's pretty damn offensive and I'm pretty sure you would not like your child being referenced in this manner.

(Apparently this has been taken down at the Soup for Teachers Facebook page but I was sent a screenshot. )

Anonymous said...

SPS Staff Communications Responsibilities

-friendly reminder

Anonymous said...

Yes. That's why we don't have grade level classes anymore - because integration is the appropriate learning environment. Grouping students by interest or skill level is not equivalent to segregating them by race.

Like it or not, and clearly the staff does not, Garfield has to deal with a large group of students who are academically exceptional. For those students homogenous grouping is the appropriate learning environment. Sorry that makes their teachers uncomfortable. They should possibly be looking for a school with a population that is a better fit for this ideology.

Alternatively the district can choose another high school for the HCC pathway. Garfield would lose 1/3 of its teachers and we know they'd be the ones who teach the most rigorous classes. No more opportunities to excel for neighborhood students. No more obnoxious PTSA parents and the programs they raise funds to support - Read Right, Y Scholars, College Access Now, Restorative Justice, homework center, library materials and homework center.

Maybe you don't find it offensive because it's not your children she's disparaging.

Academics Matter

Anonymous said...


This teacher's disrespectful hate speech seems to roll off her lips quite comfortably. I would guess she doesn't even recognize that she is completely wrong and that she has shared such views with others in the building without rebuke. Is this what Howard is basing his policy change on? To be clear IMHO HCC is not representative of SPS or Seattle because of a lower percentage of FRL or ELL students. AL gives preferential treatment to these groups which makes sense and I applaud it as I would any way to add more inclusion of any high achieving/ high IQ kids in. But to diminishing HCC course work to end "appartheid" is ignorant malpractice and both Howard and this teacher have made serious errors here. And underpaid? She is making 10k a month with a pension I hardly think she is offering that much value to GHS.

-sps parent

Maureen said...

They don't need obnoxious elitist unconscious racists dooming them to failure before they have a chance to begin."

That's pretty damn offensive and I'm pretty sure you would not like your child being referenced in this manner.


Melissa, it seems to me she is disparaging the parents posting here and at the HCC blog (and maybe on Facebook, although I saw quite a few positive responses there), not the students. Granted, she did refer to the HCC students as "fragile" but I read that as the parents believing their kids are fragile (a version of the Special Snowflake stereotype.)

I'd like to know what the students at GHS (HCC and not, Honors and not) are saying about this change.

z said...

Capitol Hill Parent said: INTEGRATION IS THE APPROPRIATE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. PERIOD.

No, CLASSROOMS WHERE KIDS CAN *LEARN* EVERY DAY ARE THE APPROPRIATE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. PERIOD.

Look, I can use all caps, say "period", and be just as obnoxious. When I say "learn", I mean the subject matter that the school has promised and is contracted to teach. In this case, Language Arts. Why is it that some people here don't seem to understand that is the primary and necessary reason schools exist?

The thing is, neither of us are "right". Your statement above is not an absolute, and neither is mine. They are opinions. If they weren't, none of us would be involved in this long, drawn out debate, which by the way, won't be solved here on this thread because it's deeply embedded in our society and cultures, not just at one local high school.

I'm pretty sure that you and I would agree on the following statement: "The ideal goal is to have racially-balanced, SES-balanced classrooms where everyone can be appropriately challenged and learning every day." Yes? What a wonderful world that would be.

Where we disagree is that you are willing to give up "appropriately challenged and learning every day" and I'm not. If I have to give up "racially-balanced", I will reluctantly do so, because my (and my kids') top priority for school is academics. Until we figure out how to fix our societal and cultural opportunity gaps, this will continue to be the reality at many schools; Garfield just stands out because of the choice to place the highest achievers in a low-SES neighborhood. That was a conscious decision by SPS, and the reality is that it has turned Garfield into a diverse school with lots of opportunities for most kids, but it hasn't (and can never) erase the overarching opportunity gaps in our society.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maureen, the Facebook page was on the Times' story about Garfield. I have no idea if she reads either blog. She made her remarks in the context of that story, not this one.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I've written to the teacher to ask her if she made those comments and if so, does she stand by them. I'll let you know if she answers my query.

Anonymous said...

I think the teacher is being honest about what s/he (I don't know who it is as I am not on Soup) sees as happening at GHS and in her/his classes. This person isn't disparaging the kids in her class - she is saying that "They (GHS LA faculty) don't need obnoxious elitist unconscious racists dooming them to failure before they have a chance to begin." That is a true statement and I don't take offense at the truth. Attitudes like the one described above do destroy the learning atmosphere in a classroom. - Capitol Hill Parent

Anonymous said...

Just as a point of clarification, in her next post she said some kids do have "white fragility." So no, she meant the students, not their parents. She says she loves them anyway, so that's great, I guess.

-sleeper

Melissa Westbrook said...

"..obnoxious elitist unconscious racists"

I don't want to beat a dead horse but name-calling is what this teacher did. And yes, better at the parents than at kids but still not right.

But it's probably better for Principal Howard to deal with this teacher.

Anonymous said...

The teacher likely could loose her job based on her unconscious racism. There is no systematic racism in HCC like there is for other programs like Rainier Scholars where they make placement on the pigment color of one's skin. I hope like HCC they make allowances for SES or ELL. Having two programs with disparity in SES will likely always look bad regardless of the value of the reasons the programs were separated. Look at Thurgood. And knowing what I do about the value of real HCC education this idea blows and will like other attempts to educate HC kids. And as a progressive race neutral parent I am offended by every word that women wrote and will seek to have her removed from SPS.

CH=MC

Anonymous said...

similar attempts to educate HC kids in gen ed classes, fail.

-Opps

z said...

"..obnoxious elitist unconscious racists"

I don't want to beat a dead horse but name-calling is what this teacher did. And yes, better at the parents than at kids but still not right.


Indeed. This was over-the-top. The teacher should be reprimanded. There are guidelines for what teachers can and cannot say. Here's what just recently happened in Rhode Island:

Teachers Insulted Students in "Private" Slack Chats

Who believes they "resigned" of their own volition?


But it's probably better for Principal Howard to deal with this teacher.

I suspect he and/or someone downtown has already had a word or two with this teacher. Word gets around fairly quickly, and her post has been removed already (far too late!).

Think about this: we can all see how bitter she is, and how toxic her language is IN PUBLIC. Can you imagine how she talks in private? This teacher is going to be teaching hundreds of our students over the coming years. ALL of our students. Really?

Anonymous said...

While it's conceivable that all abilities could successfully learn in the same classroom, it's highly unlikely. For one, class sizes are large. Two, most people who move to HCC do so because their child's learning needs were NOT being addressed in the gen ed classroom. But perhaps most importantly, the Garfield staff doesn't seem to have an intent to do so. Why do I say that? Look at the teacher's own words:

I have taught AP and other English classes at Garfield for 18 years. Back in the 1990s, we had blended ability ninth grade, and it was no harder to teach than any other English class. Yes, as English teachers we are given more work than we could possibly ever do. Tracked ninth grade classes don't decrease that load--they just increase institutional racism.

The point of tracking is to allow a teacher to better teach to the level of the students, right? If tracked classes don't decrease the load over non-tracked classes, it's because teachers in those non-tracked classes aren't targeting their instruction to the wide range of levels in the class. It's no more work to have highly capable kids in your class if you ignore their needs, right? And as the teacher said, they already have more work than they could possibly do, so why would we expect them to also direct some of their attention to those high performing kids?

The big question is, how will they know whether or not this is working? According to the teacher, "the ninth grade English teachers are working hard and carefully (and far beyond what they get paid) to make this a success." Great--so maybe they can enlighten us as to how they will define success. That the classes aren't any harder to teach? That the classrooms are more integrated? That non-white, non-Asian, non-HC students feel better and/or move on to honors level classes at higher levels? Or will they actually look at academic outcomes, and if so, what sort of outcomes would they use to measure the academic growth of HC students who are already capable of working significantly above grade level?

If you want people to get on board, present a viable plan. Calling people racist for wanting their kids to be taught at their level and then saying "just trust us" that we want the best for all kids doesn't really cut it.

Stunned

Stunned Too said...

Applause for Stunned. Couldn't have put it better myself. Is there a movement to put together a lawsuit together over this? Can anyone share contact information for it?

Also, if the district forces 9th grade HCC families to seek outside supplementation for appropriate instruction in Language Arts and History that they fail to provide, can anyone share good resources for tutoring, outside classes, and the like? It would be tragic to let these kids down in their first year of high school, with so much at stake for their educational futures.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me exactly what is "at stake for their educational futures"? Will they not be able to get into AP? Into good colleges?

-Confused

Anonymous said...

How convenient that the UW Robinson Center is starting online classes:

https://robinsoncenter.uw.edu/programs/online-courses/

Anonymous said...

Yeah confused lower SAT scores, bored with school in general those are a couple of effects of HC kids in gen ed classes. Hence the State mandate to insist on a reasonable plan to teach HC kids and that is what SPS continues to be negligent in doing. And even when some aspects are in place things like this pop up because of mismanagement of EDs and defiant principals and racist teachers Some schools HCC gets lip service or no service at all.

On a side note I have spoken with Ted Howard enough to know his heart is in the right place. But perhaps he is just too jaded to do the job anymore because I believe this policy is misguided at best.

-ouch

Anonymous said...

Ouch, it just seems that some students are apparently already bored. So it's not clear how this change would make it all that much worse. Do you have studies to cite that indicate detracking results in lower SAT scores? How would that even be a possibility if the students are so far above their peers in the first place?

-Confused

Anonymous said...

My APP kid was in gen ed 9th grade LA at Roosevelt.

SAT is not testing at an advanced level. It is high school level material. So having a gen ed 9th grade English class is unlikely to impact your scores. You can get a practice book if you are worried about it. Also unlikely to impact which colleges accept the student. Colleges want to see that student has taken the challenging courses available at their school. If it is not available, colleges don't expect it.

Sitting in a class for a year learning very little is a shame. But tracking doesn't mean they won't be bored & inclusion doesn't mean they will. My kid found the AP Language Arts & AP American History classes pure drudgery & learned almost nothing, but was very challenged in the non-tracked Speech class & Women's Lit. Challenge was more dependent on the instructor than the tracking.

My kid's favorite though, was the honors projects that were available each semester from each LA teacher. Any student could choose a project from any teacher, so it gave them opportunity to pursue their interests and they could take it as far as they wanted for their own challenge. Much more flexible than even a tracked honors LA class. Those kinds of experiences could be built into a gen ed class & serve every student.

What my kid wanted was to get written work returned weekly with lots of comments & editing & suggestions to take it to the next level for that student. Instead of just, 'nice work'. No LA teacher can do that when they have 150 students, tracked or not. College is a big improvement on that.

-tried it

Po3 said...

What is missing from this proposal are the plans to support students in LA/SS. Just removing the honors options and tracking doesn't magically improve academic outcomes for any student.

What is needed is for the district to quit dilly daddling around with Writers Workshop in middle school and get back to basics (ahem spelling and grammar) to ensure students can write a coherent paragraph to demonstrate their grasp on the subject matter.

What is needed are tutors to provide support in K-8 to improve academic skills. (Seattle has no shortage of universities and colleges, why don't we have more college students in our schools providing support? Why don't we have more opportunities for high school students to tutor elem and MS students?)

What is needed are more high school counselors to reduce the student ratio so they can spend time with incoming 9th-graders to find out what they think their strengths and weaknesses are, encourage students on the cusp to push a bit harder and try out an honors class and set up supports for students still struggling. You could call this "personalized academic planning."

I think we know by now that generic, one size fits all, academics don't improve academic outcomes so GHS needs to address is how their plan is different.

Anonymous said...

This Times article creates a narrative of a black/white racial divide, avoiding in my opinion the real conversation about poverty and a middle/working class divide in this city and our country. In addition, although the statistics demonstrate Asians also predominate in AP classes relative to representative population, they are strategically ommitted in this narrative. Racism is real. But I feel the author is intentionally creating a black/white divide in this article.

In addition, who decides what "white" means? It is assumed all share a common socio & ethnic background. Can Ted Howard or the author really understand someone's ethnicity or socio background from looking at them? Is "white" those of Northern European heritage exclusively or does it include others such as those from N Africa, the Mediterranean such as malta, Syria, Greece, Sicily, Turkey etc ? The term has been a moving target & my grandparents fleeing intense poverty were not considered white in the US at the time they immigrated a generation ago. Although my HCC daughter looks white & checks white on the forms, we have very mixed ethnic heritage that includes hispanic, middle eastern, maltese, Greek & n African roots. Some but not all of our relatives are darker skinned, but check white on the forms. We don't all fit neatly into a "white" box as middle class Anglo American Protestant Whites with the same shared history, socioeconomic status and access to opportunity in this country. In addition, there are many "whites" with kids at Garfield that are not affluent either.
-JT

Anonymous said...

Has anyone contacted SPS (Advanced Learning? Curriculum and Instruction?) to see how the district will ensure HC services for 9th grade students next year, as required by law?

HF

Anonymous said...

If this is how it's going to be, I like the comments of Tried it and PO3. I hope the school will incorporate these strategies with the change. It's doable if teachers and students have support. The only other wish is for the adults around to calm down and let the students settle in to give it a chance.

wishful



Anonymous said...

HF, the delivery of HC services seems pretty flexible in recognition of limitations for smaller districts. "Differentiation" could be the service provided. Expect "bright flight" from schools that are weakening services for AL students (or have teachers that are expressing outright disdain for HC students and parents).

Anonymous said...

JT. you know this would be the topic an LA/SS class can incorporate into the studies. Self realization, changing identity, the pressure to conform, rebel, change, stay true.... make for good critical analysis in our ever changing, dynamic society. I often wish the study of intelligence, vs. IQ vs. IQ testing is incorporate into statistics/SS/ math. If people bother to educate themselves, they might be in for a surprise. I remember reading an interview of Janes Flynn (of the Flynn effect) and how relevant understanding about this topic means in real life/death situation when he testified in a death penalty case in Texas and how little even the wisest of our judicial minds understand about intelligence.

wishful

Anonymous said...
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Worst Case said...

Or ... being realistic you could have this situation:

There are many bright, high achieving non-HCC students at Garfield. My child has obviously taken classes with them as there are no HCC-only classes. My child has also taken electives with students who talk loudly about what they plan to shoplift to get money for the weekend's pot purchase, who were removed from class for stealing the teacher's wallet, who curled up and slept on the floor during class, and who were loud and disruptive and made learning impossible.

The majority of students in blended classrooms won't behave like this but if three or four do, your child won't be engaged or learning or happy.

Anonymous said...

And if the school drives out high achieving students, whether they are HC identified or not, will the school still have the same offerings to which students can advance?

-another scenario

Anonymous said...

So it is fine for gen ed students to be in class with 3 or 4 disruptive students where they won't be 'engaged or learning or happy', but honors classes give other students a chance to escape this disruption? And you believe that high achievers aren't smoking pot or sleeping during class? Do you know any college students?

-Really?

z said...

Worst Case said:The majority of students in blended classrooms won't behave like this but if three or four do, your child won't be engaged or learning or happy.

You're right, but I'm not sure you're on a constructive path, and I have to agree more with "Really?" below your comment. Disruptive students are not okay in any classroom.

So let's step back and wonder if we're making it better, worse or neither, by lumping kids of all ability and achievement levels in the same classrooms.

Some kids will be well-behaved in almost any environment, and others are more inclined to be disruptive. But most kids are most likely to be engaged, and therefore less disruptive, if the material they are studying is appropriately challenging. Not way out of reach, nor repeated for the Nth time. Isn't the mostly likely outcome of this plan that we are going to increase disruption across the board?!

Anonymous said...

"My child has also taken electives with students who talk loudly about what they plan to shoplift to get money for the weekend's pot purchase, who were removed from class for stealing the teacher's wallet, who curled up and slept on the floor during class, and who were loud and disruptive and made learning impossible."

This has also been the experience of my child, who has taken honors as well as regular classes during his time at Garfield. Some of the stories he told of what went on in those classes were far worse than described above – disruptions of all kinds and at all times. And it did not seem to be a race issue, as many of the offenders were white students. He barely made it through those classes, and it took every ounce of his energy just to keep listening to what the teacher was saying.

I also think that if only a few of those students were in a blended classroom, that would no longer be a classroom he'd want to be in. And if honors classes were no longer an option at Garfield, I don't think he'd even want to be there.

GHS parent