The FAQ sheet includes some strong points. Among them:
Question: When can schools submit a waiver?
• Now. Dr. Nyland signed the revised 2190 SP.
Question: Are changes to Superintendent Procedure 2190 in compliance with state law and Board policy 2190?
It's pretty clear that the superintendent and staff are telling the Board that this is within their authority, that they think it's a good idea, that the community supports it, and that they are doing it. Discussion over.
Good for them. They are right on all of the facts and they make a solid case. Both the FAQs and the "Talking Points" are great - until the very last bit, a bit that they didn't need to write and never should have written. They were doing so well and then, in the very last moment, they screwed the whole thing up.
Here's the last "Talking Point":
"The instruction materials and learning standards for Thurgood Marshall's HCC social studies class will maintain the rigor expected of all HCC services in SPS."
Ooooooh! What a shame! They stumbled at the finish line, smacked their head, and knocked themselves out.
First, they made a reference to the learning standards for Thurgood Marshall's HCC social studies. That's a problem because there are no learning standards for HCC. Remember that the District promised a curriculum (set of learning standards) for HCC when they split the program in 2009, but they never delivered and continue to refuse to deliver a curriculum or set of learning standards for HCC. I'm not a public relations professional, but I'm pretty sure that making reference to a false promise from the past in the context of a new false promise is not the way to earn people's trust.
Second, they promise to maintain the rigor. In order to do that they would have to
a) Have a measure of the current rigor
b) Make a measure of the future rigor, and
c) Take steps to improve the rigor if it has fallen.
If the class were one with a state proficiency test, like language arts or math, we might have some objective measure of the current and future level of "rigor", but there is no state elementary social studies assessment, so the whole suggestion is false. Again, this is no way to earn people's trust.
In truth, they have no assessment of the current rigor and they have no plans to assess the rigor going forward. So this statement is both a lie and a false promise in a second way.
Third, what if the rigor or the learning standards were not maintained? Is there something in the waiver application or the granting of the waiver that governs that contingency? No. This talking point, however, suggests that the experiment will be regarded as a failure and the waiver will be revoked if the blended class doesn't deliver instruction consistent with the (non-existent) learning standards or if the (not happening) assessment of rigor indicates a drop from the (non-existent) baseline. None of that is actually true - it couldn't be given the absence of standards or assessments - so the suggestion is also untrue. Again, a false promise wrapped up in wad of other false promises.
This talking point begs these questions:
- What is are the learning standards for Thurgood Marshall's HCC social studies classes?
- How is it different from the learning standards for Fairmount Park and Cascadia's HCC social studies classes?
- What is the current rigor expected in all HCC services in Seattle Public Schools?
- How will Thurgood Marshall measure the learning standards and rigor to confirm that they have been maintained?
- What is the current measure of the learning standards and rigor in Thurgood Marshall's HCC social studies classes?
- What would be the consequence of a persistent drop in the learning standards and rigor as measured?
It was a foolish thing to say. Not only because it is so obviously packed with lies upon lies and insincere promises on top of insincere promises, but also because it is completely unnecessary.
The easier path would have been to remove social studies from the list of disciplines with accelerated curriculum in HCC in the Superintendent's procedure.
Seattle Public Schools uses verbal and quantitative cognitive ability and reading and math achievement to determine eligibility for HC services. Consequently, the program doesn't have to offer an accelerated curriculum outside those disciplines. HC students don't get accelerated curriculum in art, PE, music, drama, or world languages. There is little reason to presume that they should get accelerated curriculum in social studies. The Board Policy doesn't require it. The policy doesn't require HC services in every discipline, but the old Superintendent's Procedure promised it in "language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science".
It would have been a lot easiest to simply strike the words "social studies" from that list. Then Thurgood Marshall wouldn't need a waiver to blend social studies class, just as they don't need a waiver to blend art, PE, or music.
It would also be a procedure that better reflects the truth - there are no accelerated learning standards for social studies (despite the claims of the "Talking Points"). HC students are not getting social studies "two years ahead". If they were, then HCC students would take the 8th grade Washington State History class in the 6th grade, and HCC students would take the first two years of high school social studies in middle school, and we know that doesn't happen. The very fact that social studies could be blended at Thurgood Marshall is further evidence of the absence of an accelerated curriculum.
I really like the idea of blended social studies at Thurgood Marshall, but it's hard to support the school and the district in their effort when they botch it like this.