West Seattle HS Parents Take On 4-Period Day

I had heard about this issue from a West Seattle parent (who had contacted me about Roosevelt's late-start days which West Seattle, Franklin, Roosevelt and Hale were having under a DOE grant that ended this year).

This week's West Seattle Herald features a story and an editorial about this issue. The editorial argues for changing from a 4 to a 6 period day which is what most high schools have in SPS.

What is striking is how differently the parents and the district see the issue. One point that should be closely watched is what the Board's charge to the Steering Committee was versus a new "clarification" letter that Carla Santorno sent them. You cannot change, midstream, a basic charge and, if what the parents say is true based on what they were given by the Board and by Carla, this needs some clarification from the Board.

It is true that there is a certain number of seat hours a student has to have in order to get their high school credits. WSHS has been getting a waiver for this and it bothers the parents that their children are in class less time than other high school students.

Here's a very interesting point in the story:

"Comparing West Seattle's 2006 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning scores with other high schools in the district, Lorensen concluded West Seattle pass rates for all three subjects were the lowest in the district when adjusted for poverty.

But staff and district officials contend that West Seattle is doing well with the four-period day. It's among the top three high schools in the district in terms of improving state test scores in the past five years, based on a district review last year.

The district's analysis looked at reading and math scores, while the parents' survey studied results for all three core subjects. But one major difference is that the district's analysis was based on multiple factors, including socioeconomic aspects, while the parent's study focused on low-income students, said Bernatek."

The district used only two WASL scores to say that WSHS was in the top 3 high schools in the district in improvement over the last five years. The parents say if you throw in all three and adjust for poverty, WSHS is more towards the bottom. And, in using poverty, the parents used free/reduced lunch numbers while the district used multiple socioeconomic factors. And, to this end, they have wildly differing opinions on the scores.

Why not just use free/reduced lunch? I haven't seen many other measures used and I have to wonder why they did in this case. Charlie, have you seen this before?

This was sad to read,

"But one parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said some teachers do disapprove of the block schedule but are afraid of being ostracized by co-workers. Parents also worry that teachers might treat their children differently if their names were linked to opposing the schedule. "We are very hesitant to give our names and speak out," said one parent. "But parents are becoming more frustrated and finally just saying, 'what the heck, we've got to put our face out there.'""

Parents and teachers should not be afraid to speak out for fear of consequences. The editorial makes it clear that parents should be part of these discussions and that their voices should count. I have mentioned before my concern over the late-start days at Roosevelt and the inability to be able to get a discussion with teachers/administrators over how many there will be and what is being done with the time. Just as an example, that issue affects parents' time and so of course parents should have the right to be involved in discussions about their lives and schedules.

The West Seattle parents also have a right to expect the district to be a buffer and mediator in this issue and not try to hold them at arm's length.


Charlie Mas said…
I have never seen the District use any measure other than FRE when discussing student economic status. If they are doing so now, it makes the statistic suspect - as if someone were trying to manipulate it.

The data offered in support of the four-period day, the improvement in scores, is not a credible measure. The four-period day was in effect during the time of the earlier low scores and therefore could not be responsible for the improvement. Moreover, improvement rates, as a statistic, are often suspect. If the pass rate goes from 2% to 4% then there was a 100% improvement. If the pass rate at another school goes from 50% to 75% that is only a 50% improvement, but is clearly a superior result.

Similarly, the use of two scores instead of all three suggests that some cherry-picking is going on.

The best thing would be to just look at the raw data. And the first bit of raw data to check would be the number of minutes of instruction. The next would be the availablity of classes - can the kids get the classes they need when they need them?

As for the teachers contention that the switch to a six-period day would require laying off five teachers, that's a positive, isn't it? Wouldn't that indicate greater efficiency and a cost savings?

The effort of the CAO to alter the charge given to the committee by the Board is creepy. Who is the CAO to alter the charge to a Board-appointed committee anyway?

Worst of all, of course, was the fear of retribution. That is always creepy and sad.
Charlie Mas said…
Here is the WASL data for West Seattle High School:

Pass rates for 2006:
Math: 44.6%
Reading: 82.1%
Writing: 77.8%

All of these numbers are under the District averages of 58.1%, 84.6% and 82.2%. The school with the closest numbers to WSHS is Franklin with 44.1%, 82.3% and 81.4%. West Seattle has 1367 students, Franklin has 1438.

The risk factor numbers at West Seattle are very close to the District averages for high schools:
FRE WSHS:32.3%, SPS: 32.2%
Single Parent WSHS: 41.4%, SPS: 41.8%
ELL WSHS: 12.1%, SPS: 10.8%

Franklin's numbers are 47.1% FRE, 48.7% single parent, and 14.0% ELL.

This is, of course, just the data from a single year and is represents only the limited information available from WASL pass rates. The 2006 pass rates are additionally suspect because the District re-classified about 900 low-performing students from 10th grade to 9th grade that year to hold them out of the WASL.

I can't emphasize this enough:

WSHS has 74 Certificated staff for 1367 students, 18.47:1

The District comprehensive high school average is 12,099/675 is 17.92:1, so the class sizes at West Seattle are about one student greater than the average.

These are the AP classes available at West Seattle: two language arts (11 and 12), two math classes (Calculus AB and Statistics), US History, American Govt, French, and Spanish. No science, no European History (in fact, the only non-US History classes available at the school are the required world history courses for freshmen and sophomores). Between 2003 and 2005, a total of 87 AP classes were taken in Calculus AB, Language Arts 11 and 12, Spanish and US History.

For comparison, Franklin offered all of these except the Statistics class, and also offered Calculus BC, Biology, and Art. A total of 324 AP classes were taken at Franklin between 2003 and 2005.
Anonymous said…
My daughter went to Ingraham years ago when they had the 4 period day.
She found that many of the teachers taught for an hour and then the kids worked on homework. The teachers like the 4 period day because they have less kids to teach. If a student was in orchestra or band, it was difficult for them to take a foreign language as well.

West Seattle is a comprehensive high school that needs to be competitive with the other comprehensive high schools. It is not an alternative high school. If the students have a 6 period day, they will have access to more electives, which is what they want and need. West Seattle needs more AP quality classes as well.

West Seattle was once a great high school and can be again with a desireable and challenging curriculum and dynamic leadership.
This beautiful "new" building deserves to be academically respected again.

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