Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Open Thread

First up, the South Seattle Emerald reports on scholarships won by students at Rainier Beach High School and Mercer Island High School that are named in honor of President Obama's mother.
On May 20, the Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund held its 8th annual awards ceremony at the Northwest African American Museum.

For the first time in its history, the Fund awarded a scholarship to a Rainier Beach High student.
Rainier Beach High graduating senior Emily Au, along with Mercer Island High graduating senior Christine Lee, received $5000 scholarships from the fund.
Tell your driving teens (and yourself) to put that phone down while driving.  Starting Sunday, a new law against cell phone use will see folks getting stopped and warned about the law (it goes into effect in January 2018).


Interesting idea; get rid of algebra for some community college degrees.  From NPR:
Algebra is one of the biggest hurdles to getting a high school or college degree — particularly for students of color and first-generation undergrads.

It is also the single most failed course in community colleges across the country. So if you're not a STEM major (science, technology, engineering, math), why even study algebra?

That's the argument Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California community college system, made today in an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel.
Yet another well-known lead singer of a rock band has killed himself.  That would be Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and this follows the suicide of the lead singer of Soundgarten, Chris Cornell, earlier this year.  If you have never heard Linkin Park's "In the End", you might give it a listen.  It's a great song but if you are a depressed person, you may feel it deeply.

"One thing, I don't know why, it doesn't even matter how hard you try"

"I tried so hard and got so far but in the end,it doesn't even matter"

I urge you to talk to your tweens/teens about suicide.

Did you vote yet?  Get that done this weekend - it matters.  (And, do it in front of your kids.)

Wondering about the school board elections?  Here are my picks for your consideration:
District IV - Eden Mack
District V - (no particular order) - Andre Helmstetter, Zachary DeWolf, Alec Cooper
District VII - Betty Patu

Also, I'm recommending a vote against King County's Prop 1.  I have to say this is a measure very akin to school levies and if you vote against them, well, you are against children having access to the arts.  I'm not but....

1) Another regressive tax? - These do hurt poor people.
2) Voter fatigue is going to set in at some point and I worry that other measure will fail that will have day-to-day real-life consequences.
3) 4Culture has $59M to spend on arts - where is that money?
4) vague language in the measure - I hate that

What's on your mind? 

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand the whole algebra thing... If we have students who can successfully learn it in 6th grade--or even earlier--why is it such a challenge for everyone to at least learn it by the time they graduate from high school, or even in college? Are they suggesting that some people just can't learn basic algebra? Or is it that our teachers and/or curricula are not doing a good job? Writing it off because it's challenging doesn't seem to me to be a great direction...

123

Melissa Westbrook said...

123,I hear you and yet I have known many people who could not pass the course and it was such a stumbling block to getting their diploma/degree. Yes, rethinking how algebra is taught definitely might make sense.

Anonymous said...

When a few people can't learn algebra, its a personal problem. When a really large number of kids can't complete Algebra (and that's the case) then we have a systemic problem that requires some kind of policy change. We have lots of empirical evidence that the current system cannot teach large numbers of kids well esp. at the community college level. It may be fixable by changing how we teach or the subject itself may be too hard for everyone to master. If you start with the assumption Algebra is generally learnable then you have to change the curriculum/class structure. But ultimately, once we start tinkering with the course and the amount of changes required to get everyone through become quite large, its good to step back and ask why are requiring this anyway?

The multiple math pathways approach has a lot of inherent advantages for most students.

456

Anonymous said...

I thought there was a study showing failures of learning Algebra were due to poor pre algebra math skills? We noticed students who received a 4 on the ECO Algebra test where missing important concepts need to advance to AII. There is a huge disconnect at SPS when High school math teachers are not providing timely feedback to middle school math teachers about the holes in the students knowledge. Don't get me started on elementary math failures, yikes!

I thought director Burke was going to fix this systemic problem, I guess not.

Math counts

Anonymous said...

Taking algebra without mastering pre-algebra concepts, such as operations with fractions, makes algebra near impossible. How do you learn algebra without the skills and concepts that should have been learned and solidified over years and years in K-8? Having tutored students, this is what I've seen - more a lack of foundational know how than an inability to grasp algebra.

one perspective

Pat G. said...

Trained experts should be actively looking for students who have dyscalculia (and other learning disabilities) and addressing it. The earlier you spot the kids the less damage they suffer. About 6% of elementary students have the condition. Waiting for them to fall 2 years behind is not the most human way of addressing it. Plus it's a massive waste of teachers' time to pursue strategies with these kids that 1) don't help and 2) are likely harmful to the kids' self esteem.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what will happen when 'white christian' is the minority population in a few years. Will we stop teaching about them? And switch over to only teaching about, ummm, Native Americans or Hispanics? After all, they were here first.

http://www.alternet.org/education/what-will-become-arizonas-mexican-american-studies-program-and-law-bans-it

Advocates are holding their breath over a case that could determine the fate of Mexican American studies in Arizona.

-McClureWatcher

Melissa Westbrook said...

McClure Watcher, I know about this case, being from Arizona. It is a good one to watch. It's interesting because the case only addressed Mexican-American history and not other race histories.

“[A]nd up on the wall, they got a poster of Che Guevara.”

Oh my, so scary.

Herrera said “culturally relevant curriculum” has taken the place of MAS, but that these classes lack the critical focus on race theory and pedagogy that were integral to the original MAS program.

And I think all of this points to the need for sensitivity in how ethnic studies are carried out.

Anonymous said...

@ Pat G

Are you willing to help persuade SPS to use evidence based approaches and curriculum to help students with SLDs? I spent years trying and short of a major law suit I have no confidence that SPS with change for the better when it come to teaching students with SLDs.

SPED Parent

Pat G. said...

@SPED Parent,

Yes, of course! If you and I both tell them, I'm sure they'll listen :-(

In all seriousness, though, they seem to care about graduation rates and it seems like a nobrainer to me that catching SLDs early and addressing them appropriately could easily increase graduation rates as well as decrease mental health problems among students and increasing LEARNING (which you would think they would care about, being a school district and all). I'm sure it would reduce frustration among teachers and parents and students as well. No, where's the suggestion box for this district?

Prop 1 said...

There is an initiative on the ballot which will increase sales tax to support the arts. Private entities are receiving millions of dollars from the state. Here are a few examples:

$1.5 million in renovations to the Asian Art Museum

$400,000 in improvements to the Seattle Aquarium

$65,000 in improvements to the Seattle Opera

$1.5 million for improvements to the Seattle Opera at the Center;

$400,000 in improvements to the Seattle Aquarium;

$698,000 for roof repairs to the Museum of Flight;

I don't see a dime for Seattle's public pools, which are on the brink of privatization.


Hale Mom said...

Melissa,

The post after this one (about Alec Cooper) won't allow a comment and I'm not in District V voter anyway, but I am a regular reader of this blog and as such, I can assure you that you did endorse Cooper. Right here on this blog. A couple of times.

If you look "endorse" up in Merriam-Webster, go to meaning 2a: "to approve openly • endorse an idea; especially: to express support or approval of publicly and definitely • endorse a mayoral candidate"

You can and did endorse more than one school board candidate for district V (you endorsed Andre Helmstetter and Zachary DeWolf as well as Alec Cooper).

You can't really argue that you recommended them but didn't endorse them, because in this context recommend and endorse are synonyms. Meaning 1b for "recommend" in Merriam-Webster is "to endorse as fit, worthy, or competent • recommends her for the position"

It's your blog and you can obviously say anything you want to, but I'm confused by the endorse/recommend thing. They're synonyms. I really appreciate all the work you put in and the effort you went to to interview all the school board candidates so thoughtfully. The schools and families who rely on them definitely benefit from your dedication.

Kate (Belltown) said...

Hale Mom,

I have friends in dist. V and sent MW's postings to them. They found the information very helpful, though didn't take the postings as an "endorsement" of Cooper. I'm a (retired) editor, and pay close attention to words and their meanings. I do think that given standard usage, and as understood by most recipients of that mailing, Cooper sending out a mailing claiming that MW "endorsed" her is disingenuous. Your point may be technically correct, but if so, then he should have noted that she also "endorsed" two other candidates.

As always, thanks to MW for this forum!

Anonymous said...

The use of words like "endorse" in politics is different then in regular, everyday speech and interactions. I would have assumed that if someone were putting together a political mailing they would have specifically checked with the people/organizations they claimed were endorsing them. For example, if the 43rd Dems endorse someone, I assume they have taken a vote and formally approved that candidate. I think Alec should have checked with Melissa.
-NP

Melissa Westbrook said...

Hale Mom is technically right but NP is on the nose. I meant recommend vs endorse in the light of an election. And it would seem a bit silly to endorse three people and that's why I used recommend.

I have been pondering that race and I will announce an "endorsement" tomorrow.

Eric B said...

I have seen flyers say something like Endorsements: XXX, YYY (joint), ZZZ, presumably where organization YYY endorsed several candidates. I think that kind of listing would have been totally appropriate for this situation. Checking with MW first would have been better.

Anonymous said...

Re Prop 1,

When you say 'Private entities' I just want to point out that these are not-for-profit organizations.

And Prop 1 will provide $14 million for a Public Access Program providing bus transportation and field trip field trip fees, cultural education plans and coordinators, and in-school programs in all 19 King Country public school districts.

-Mark

Prop 1 said...

I am not impressed with the non-profit argument. Non -profit organizations do not pay taxes. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a non-profit organization.

There are existing funds for arts. A vote for Prop 1 is a vote for another regressive tax. Seattle's poor people can pay these taxes on top of their recently increased property taxes and car tabs.

Prop 1 will bring in $500M. The 20 percent allocation to schools is a mere drop in the bucket.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm just going to point out that the Human Services levy will be on the November ballot and be doubled. I have long been a supporter of the arts in schools but at this place and time in our city, I cannot vote for both. I'm voting for Human Services, not Prop 1.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Math Counts and 456 above. My limited experience tutoring math indicates that students who don't understand algebra actually have a problem with pre-algebra. And kids who DO get pre-algebra can manage algebra quite well. So accepting the elimination of algebra because it is too difficult is really, in essence, accepting that a kid who cannot work with fractions, decimals and order of operations is qualified for a HS diploma and ready for the world. I just don't agree. I think a HS diploma should indicate some level of competence, and the inability to work with fractions and decimals would be disqualifying.

teach it better

Jet City mom said...

I agree with teach it better.
Algebra is necessary, just as cursive and long division are ( mention these because they seem to have been dropped years ago)
My oldest who had a disability that affected lower level math skills but not her ability to under stand more complex concepts had algebra in 1st grade.

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/12/math_education.html

Anonymous said...

Another 'I can't breathe'...

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/07/24/middle-school-suicides-double-common-core-testing-intensifies

The suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds doubled between 2007 and 2014 – the same period in which states have increasingly adopted Common Core standards and new, more rigorous high stakes tests....

In fact, student anxiety is so common on test day that most federally mandated tests include official guidelines specifically outlining how to deal with kids vomiting on their test booklets....

We should cherish and nurture our children even if other nations sacrifice theirs on the altar of competition and statistics.

-McClureWatcher

Ms206 said...

I'm all in favor of eliminating the algebra requirement if it is not an essential part of the degree program. In other words, if the degree program does not require the student to use algebra, don't require the student to take algebra. Instead, require students to take a math class that actually will be useful, such as a class that involves doing percentages, learning about calculating interest, financial literacy, or those sorts of topics.

I'm a Seattle native, but I live in Philadelphia, PA. My husband was attending the Community College of Philadelphia for a culinary arts program 2 years ago. He could not pass the algebra class, so he could not continue in the program. It's stupid for him to have to take algrebra because he'll never have to use it in his job. I'm an elementary special education teacher, I have a master's degree in education, and I don't use algebra, I would have a hard time passing the algebra class that he was taking. It's different when a student is in middle or high school because these young people typically don't have to work full time during the school year. A lot of students attending community colleges may have to work a lot of hours or may have families to support. So if algebra is not necessary in order to continue in a particular degree program, don't make students take algebra.

Anonymous said...

@Ms206,

But by your logic, shouldn't we also eliminate biology, chemistry, physics, and all science for that matter, if the student will not be using those skills post graduation? I have liberal arts undergraduate and graduate degrees...should I have skipped all math and science in high school? And how are kids in 9th grade, the standard year for taking algebra, expected to really know what their degree program will be? What can we agree is the meaning of a high school diploma? I don't believe that HS is for teaching only the skills a specific individual thinks he or she will need in their job. And I know that if we teach math better, kids without a bona fide learning disability will be able to learn algebra.

Teach it better

Jet City mom said...

Maybe we should do a better job grouping kids by socioeconomic class in the early grades?
Have one group steered into a vocational track while the rest take the courses they need for college entrance.
Afterall, who will be providing our child care and blow our leaves, if we educate everyone to continue their edcation after high school?

Of course that means that we will not have as many first gen college students, but perhaps talk of education as a way to broaden opportunity was just talk.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jet City Mom, funny you say that because I just had an argument on Twitter over why kids should not be tracked into a job/vocation in middle school. Great to provide options but tracking like that? No.

Jet City mom said...

I dont even think they should be tracked in college.

Not that I have ever attended a 4 yr college, but life experience has taught me that engineering, education and business degrees are best saved for graduate school.
The courses needed to get an undergrad in business, education or engineering, preclude taking courses just because you are interested, even though they would give a stronger base for future specialization.
Trump is an extreme example of someone in need of a broader based education, imho.
We can't really predict what skills and insights will be needed from todays students 50 yrs from now, so we need to insure they have the building blocks to go on.

Anonymous said...

@Jet City Mom-- You have hit upon a very controversial topic in our family. A family member from my husband's side (working class) is from a small rural community in the mid west. Generations are far back as you can trace began having a family in their teens. However, they used to have a large manufacturing employer that no longer exists that provided jobs. Town used to be more working class/blue collar which has turned to higher poverty, and majority of kids drop out of high school.
She feels we need to offer these kids a vocational track or ability to lean a trade in high school. She thinks tracking is a good idea actually if they will eventually earn a living wage. Very few if any at all leave the town (their community) and go to college. Many are like my nephews and nieces very poor, teen parents, work at a convenience store etc.

But what about all the things colleges teaches? Learning how to read the paper/listen to news critically etc etc? Society as a whole needs an informed public. Trump! But these kids do not go to college....and generational poverty.
-JK

Anonymous said...

The courses needed to get an undergrad in business, education or engineering, preclude taking courses just because you are interested, even though they would give a stronger base for future specialization.

I don't think that's true. There's usually a lot of room for electives. If it's possible for people to "double major," it should be possible to squeeze in some in classes of interest in addition to one's primary major.

...life experience has taught me that engineering, education and business degrees are best saved for graduate school.
I disagree, and think it would be a bad idea to make grad school a requirement to get into engineering. Plenty of people do very well with undergrad engineering degrees, and many of these people have/had no interest in a broad, liberal arts type education. Could some of them benefit from stronger skills in a few other areas? Sure--but that's true of students who take a more diverse courseload, too, and of people who don't go to college. (It would also likely still be true of many of those engineering students even if they got that broad undergrad degree and waited until grad school for engineering!)

123