Saturday, March 31, 2007

Times opinion piece

Lynne Varner of the Times had a column recently, Grad Requirement Needs Fine Tuning about Seattle School district requiring 3 classes of occupational ed/career and technical education (the state requirement is 2 classes). Her concern is that music can't be part of it. This is a problem because when you have music at nearly all the high schools (with two of them being national powerhouses for their musical programs) and kids are trying to work in 4 years of math/foreign language, AP. etc., you just plain run out of time in the day. One mom went to bat for her daughter, arguing in favor of "cross-crediting" where a subject such as drama or music can be substituted and got a waiver but that's an anomoly. It's interesting because the state is willing to work with the district but the district, acccording to Ms. Varner, seems unwilling to consider it.

Given that research shows that kids who take music do better in some subjects (math comes to mind), should the district be encouraging participation in music or should music just be considered enrichment?


David said...

I don't understand the arguments against including music courses as part of the Occ-Ed requirments. This was interesting:

"Administrators in Seattle aren't keen on this idea. The head counselor at one high school told me that if music becomes a part of Occ-Ed he would abide by the rules. His voice dripped with distaste. Calls to the district's point person on Occ-Ed were turned over to the legal office, where I was given a primer on education rules and the challenge of music as both liberal arts education and occupational training."

Who are these "administrators?"

Has anyone brought up this issue with our current Seattle School Board candidates?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, here's an update just as I was watching the last Board meeting (March 21st). The Board had discussion of an action item which would authorize the Superintendent to
"establish guidelines for course equivalencies in CTE programs toward meeting graduation requirements." There wasn't a lot of discussion but there was no opposition and it passed. CTE and Occ-Ed are different so this was only for CTE. As English teacher pointed out the district administrators aren't excited about doing this so I wonder how much traction Raj, as a lame duck, will have in getting this to happen.

Anonymous said...

The middle school my son attends considers music a full year elective. Because it is considered his "elective", he is unable to participate in any other electives. So as long as he wants to be in band, he can not take any art, language (also and elective), technology or drama elective. That stinks. If he is in band for 3 years, he can not take any other elective. As much as he loves band, the other electives are so appealing that he is considering quitting. Foreign language elective can fulfill a high school language requirement. So now you have to choose between getting a foreign language credit under your belt in middle school, or staying loyal to band. It just doesn't seem right.

Anonymous said...

The english teacher: "administrators" is really just one person, the CTE manger who sees this as a threat, because his department would not get the funding for music as Oc Ed.

As to the state being supportive, check again with Lynne Varner, apparently Rod Duckworth has disavowed the quote she attributed to him.

As far as I can tell from speaking with Carla Santorno, Mary Bass, and Ted Howard, the District support this, but is having to work around the fact that the definition of Oc Ed is currently tied under state law to CTE, and Mr. Duckworth (who heads CTE, therefore has an interest in keeping Oc Ed = CTE in place) has not been recieptive to the idea of expansion.

Charlie Mas said...

I was told by Ruth Medsker that it is against state law for middle school students to earn high school credit for the high school classes they take.

I'm surprised to read from anonymous that "Foreign language elective can fulfill a high school language requirement"

Anonymous said...

Charlie, It is a fact that middle school foreighn language fulfulls high school credit, at least at certain schools. Here are two examples. Two full years of foreign language at Eckstein equal one high school credit. In Shoreline (Kellogg middle school), One year of foreign language at middle school equals one year of foreign language credit at high school. A parent can choose whether or not they want the credit to apply. IE if the child received a low grade, they may not want that on their childs high school transcript.

Anonymous said...

WAC 180-51-061 sets Washington's high school graduation requirements. This is the WAC that defines Oc Ed at minimum, courses that "align with the definition of an exploratory course as proposed or adopted in the career and technical education program standards." That is a document kept on the OSPI CTE website. I know that the District is going to bat with OSPI to allow certain music classes as well as culinary classes to be considered Oc Ed. Melissa's example is only one of many parents that have gotten waivers for music over the years. This whole issue came up not because the district was refusing to allow music in place of CTE as Oc Ed, but because OSPI found out that the district was doing this and told them to stop.

RCW 28A.230.090 addresses credits earned before high school."

"If requested by the student and his or her family, a student who has completed high school courses before attending high school shall be given high school credit which shall be applied to fulfilling high school graduation requirements if:

(a) The course was taken with high school students, if the academic level of the course exceeds the requirements for seventh and eighth grade classes, and the student has successfully passed by completing the same course requirements and examinations as the high school students enrolled in the class; or

(b) The academic level of the course exceeds the requirements for seventh and eighth grade classes and the course would qualify for high school credit, because the course is similar or equivalent to a course offered at a high school in the district as determined by the school district board of directors.

If you go back to WAC 180-51-061, you will see that taking a world/foriegn language is not a graduation requirement for the state. SPS does not have a language requirement right not either (http://www.seattleschools.org/area/gradreq/gradreqmemo.pdf) but if you have listened to Irene Stewart or Brita Butler-Wall at all in the two years, it is something this Board want to see be a requirement.

So, if your seventh or eigth grader is taking a class at a high school, with high school students, you can ask for high school credit. If they are taking an advanced class that the board has determined to be equal to a high school class, they can get high school credit. However, there is no "high school language requirement" - even schools like the Center School who "require" two years of Spanish can't really force students to follow through with that given the current graduation requirements - so it would only count as an elective credit.

Back to WAC 180-51-061, the exception is that for the "Washington state history and government requirement only, the term 'secondary school students' shall mean a student who is in one of the grades seven through twelve." So your eight grader's Wa state history class will automatically count without having to get prior permission first.

For Oc Ed, this is an OSPI problem, not a district problem. Aim the complaints to Rod Duckworth and Shep Siegel, they are the ones who are behind all of the problems.

David said...

This is an interesting and welcome discussion.

The larger problem, it seems to me, is that when teachers and parents float interesting new ideas, the response from the bureaucracy--whether local or state--is too often a list of reasons for why they can't be done.

Doesn't anyone else get tired of the lack of open-mindedness among some education professionals? It doesn't seem, well, very educational.

This is one reason I want to see some tenacity in our School Board members. I don't want members who will take "no" as an answer.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Garfield parent for clarifying "RCW 28A.230.090 addressing credits earned before high school." At Eckstein two years of foreign language must fit into the "advanced" category mentioned, as they equal one year of high school credit. I know that foreign language is not a H.S. graduation requirement, however, to get into a 4 year state univerisity a student needs 2 years of high school foreign language, and to get into an ivy league university they need 4 years of foreign language. So, to be able to eliminate one year in middle school gives you a huge advantage in high school, especially for the child wanting to pursue an ivy league education. So, when you have to choose between band (no high school credit), and foreign language (HS credit), it is difficult. At Eckstein you can take band and foreign language because they still have a 7 period school day. But for many schools like Hamilton, Salmon Bay and Kellogg that have cut back to a 6 period day, if you choose to take band for all three middle school years, you can't take foreign language or any other electives. Does anyone know how integrated math 1 and 2 at middle school affect HS credits. I am a bit fuzzy on this one. Do they count as a HS credit? Or do they just allow the student to skip these classes at 9th grade and move right into the next higher math class?

Anonymous said...

You can ask that the District give a middle schooler HS credit for Integrated Math I & II, as those are offered at the HS level.

Keep in mind that Math is a moving target. Last week the state board "clarified" the state's math requirements. including for this year's graduating class (two months before graduation, nice timing). Of the state mandated 2 math credits i.e. four classes, they have to meet the GLEs for 9th and 10th grade.