Sunday, September 30, 2007

High school credit and accountability

Some time ago, I started looking into high school credit for courses taken in middle school. I asked around about it and eventually discovered a state law that requires Districts to award it. At the end of the last school year, in accordance with the state law, I requested high school credit for the Integrated I class my daughter took at Washington.

That's when the fun began. My request bounced around a couple times. I sent it to the student learning committee, who sent it to the Chief Academic Officer, who sent it to the Director of High Schools. Finally, I complained about the run-around and said that if we could not work on this cooperatively and collaboratively, then I would have to move forward unilaterally, and it would become confrontational. On August 7 I got an email from Ms Santorno saying that she would take care of it by the end of September.

Well, September has ended but I haven't heard from her. Not a peep. So I have written to her and made myself very clear. I think we could clear the whole thing up in 15 minutes if we could just get all of the right people into a room together to work it out. I told her that I will contact a lawyer on Monday to schedule an appointment and that she has until the time of that appointment to invite me to that brief meeting where high school credit for classes taken in middle school will be resolved. If I don't hear from her before I meet with the lawyer, then she can tell her story in Superior Court.


Charlie Mas said...

Here's a bit of irony.

This week the Board will introduce proposed changes in the Policies regarding high school credit from alternative and distance learning programs. The revisions are being done to bring the Policies into alignment with current law.

The District could have very easily included a revision to the Policy that prohibits high school credit before high school (which is also in opposition to current law), but - despite the fact that they have been aware of this situation for as long as they have been working on the motion currently before them - they have chosen NOT to update that Policy at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Good for you Charlie for pursuing credit where credit is due!

In Shoreline each year of foreign language taken (and passed) in MS counts as a year of HS foreign language credit. Shoreline is proud of this and advertises it loudly at their parent tours.

In Seattle two years of MS foreign language (combined) equal one year of HS foreign language credit, but nobody tells you about it. You have to ask and figure it out yourself. No telling how many HS students have missed out on credit that they earned in MS. Why?

What else counts as HS credit?

We know about integrated I and II, math and foreign language. Anything else? Music, Art?

Anonymous said...

Hi Charlie,

Have you tried asking a counselor at the high school? I used to be a math teacher at a Seattle High School. When I looked at my students' transcripts, and saw Integrated I under the math section, I thought it counted for credit whether it was taken during high school or middle school. I don't think that anything had to be done to get this to happen, it was simply part of the high school transcript.

This was a few years ago, so the system might have changed, or maybe I misread the transcripts. However, I always thought that getting high school credit for Integrated I was automatic, because it is a high school course. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm just trying to help.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a weird thing: Integrated I and II classes taken at middle school are counted as part of the student's high school transcript, but the classes don't count for credit.

Anonymous said...

Thank you oh so much in advance for wasting my tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

"In Seattle two years of MS foreign language (combined) equal one year of HS foreign language credit, but nobody tells you about it. You have to ask and figure it out yourself."

Actual credit, as in fewer credits are then needed for graduation, or just placement?

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Charlie, are you really willing to hire a lawyer to further stress the district's legal staff? It really sounds more like you are mostly upset with being ignored by Ms. Santurno. What are you hoping to gain for your daughter? Earlier graduation? Was she not recommended from middle school for the course you want her to be in in high school? I suspect there is more going on here than wanting credit.

What is driving you to make this such an issue? What does your daughter want to do that is not going to happen for her if she doesn't get this "credit"?

Anonymous said...

In Charlie's defense, I must say that I am proud of him for fighting what is due his daughter. Someone has to do it.

I don't know that this is about HIS daughter or about the practice of not giving credit to students who have earned it.

I don't know if I would go as far as a law suit, but maybe some media attention would do the trick if he is really hitting a wall with the administration.

I thank you, Charlie, for the path that you are paving for all of the rest of the students who been or would have been deprived of the credit they have earned.

Charlie Mas said...

The goal is not something for me or for my daughter. The goal is a system that works, staffed by people who respect the community.

Right now, the District staff has nothing but contempt for student families. They ignore us, they lie to us, they break their promises to us, they refuse to inform us of decisions, they refuse to consider our input before making decisions about our children's education, they disregard laws intended to protect our interests, and they disparage us as either non-supportive or privileged.

The more the community allows the District staff to treat us like crap, the more they will treat us like crap.

For all of the talk about building confidence in Seattle Public Schools or about promoting family engagement, the District staff does little or nothing in those directions.

Here are the simple facts:

1. There is a state law that REQUIRES the District to award the credit.

2. The District is refusing to award the credit.

3. The District is in violation of the law.

I'm not doing this to them - they are doing it to themselves and to the students. Is it a waste of tax dollars to call the police when someone is breaking the law? Do you accuse people of stressing a mugger's legal staff when you call the cops on them?

Some of us respect the law. Some folks seem to think that they can pick and choose which laws they will follow and which they will not.

The District is breaking the law. I'm holding them accountable - just like they say they want people to do.

I have been waiting for three months for them to take this action on their own. They haven't done it. I have been civil and courteous and patient. That method hasn't worked. Now I will insist that they comply with the law and I will enlist the help of the Court if that's what it takes.

What is to be gained from walking away from this?

Charlie Mas said...

I haven't mentioned this before, but I should do so now.

If your child took a high school level course in middle school, you can request credit for the class. You should direct your request to Ms Santorno, as she is the contact person for this topic.

In addition to Integrated math classes, you might also request credit for world language classes and anything else that you believe exceeded the grade level expectations for seventh and eighth grade.

Anonymous said...

The law does not say what you think it says. It requires that a school board first determine that a middle school course is “similar or equivalent to a course offered at a high school in the district.”
Has that happened?

Charlie Mas said...

Yes, that has happened.

The District clearly regards the Integrated I and Integrated II math classes given at the middle schools to be equivalent to the courses of the same name given at the high schools. Aside from the fact that they are the same courses with the same names, the proof is in the fact that these classes are accepted as the pre-requisites to Integrated II and Integrated III in high school. By that evidence, the District regards them to be similar or equivalent.

Anonymous said...

Again, Charlie. What is your point?
Do you really feel this credit thing is equivalent to a mugging?

Two of my children have come through the same program your daughter is in. Both had Integrated 2 and two years of foreign language at Washington. I did not feel it was necessary to make a federal case out of the credit thing. The courses show up on their transcripts. They served as prerequisites for the classes they wanted.

Let's be honest. The courses are different in middle school, even to the point that different texts are being used. I just don't think this rises to the level you are trying to take it to. Do you ever give the district a break?

Rather than just saying it's the law, would you please give a concrete reason for why this is such an important issue for you and your daughter.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually, it is important and I'll write about it in another thread. Why it may have importance is because of the new WASL alternatives available. I have only done a cursory look and it is a very complicated situation that needs a lot of study. (I suspect the alternatives are more complicated by design because, in the end, OSPI wants students to take and pass the WASL.)

This situation of getting credit on the transcript plays into it.

Anonymous said...

Go, go, go, Charlie! Fight for your rights! Spend 30 or 40 thousand on lawyers for something as important as getting HS credits for middle school work! We know it costs a lot to really win. Everyone needs to realize that "Yes, the smart kids ARE smart and entitled to ALL they're due." We need some big picture thinkers like you!

Anonymous said...

I take it you have a Board Action or Resolution in hand that says that the Seattle School Board finds that the Integrated Math courses offered a Eckstien Middle School are equivalent to a course offered at a high school in the district?

Because what I see is a Board Policy that says no high school credit will be granted for courses taken in middle school. Unless you have a Board Action or Resolution, I would appreciate you not wasting my tax dollars filing a frivolous lawsuit that is going to get tossed out of court just like the closure lawsuits.

Charlie Mas said...

Snarky, snarky.

Hey, if you don't want to request the credit for your child, then don't. I'm not trying to dictate to you; don't try to dictate to me.

There is no federal case here - it would be heard in King County Superior Court. Ha Ha! Actually, I don't imagine for a minute that the District would be so obstinant as to let this thing go to Court. They'll act before then, but they won't act until someone lights a fire under them.

Do I ever give the District a break? Lord, yes. All the time. In fact, I have given them every single break that they have ever asked for. I even gave them breaks on this matter. I originally requested the credit in June. I got a run-around for a week - the Board passed it to the CAO who passed it to the High School Ed Director, who passed it back to the Board who passed it back to the CAO. For all of that time, I remained pleasant and patient. On August 7, I got an email from Ms Santorno asking me to "give [her] until the end of September to take care of it". I waited until the end of September without saying a single word about it.

You may not know this, but Ms Santorno specifically asked me, in a one-on-one meeting soon after she took the CAO job, to hold her accountable. How shall I do that? How do I hold her accountable for meeting the deadline she set for herself? How is it possible for anyone outside the organization to hold a member of the organization accountable?

The larger problem here - the one that I think you are really complaining about - is that the District is so non-responsive that people have to jump and scream and wave their arms to be heard. The District is subjected to litigation and bad press because they won't respond to anything less drastic. I always start out friendly and easy-going. I always begin with polite, respectful requests. I would love it if playing by the rules, following the protocol, waiting in line, waiting my turn, and filling out the forms worked. It doesn't. Strident works. Getting confrontational works. Making yourself obnoxious works.

If the District wants people to be less strident confrontational and obnoxious, all they have to do is respond before the people get that way.

High school credit for classes taken in middle school is not all that important an issue, not unless you are committed to Standards based reform, or you're really passionate about government agencies complying with the law, or you've got some devotion to the idea that people should get credit for their work, or you are dedicated to developing a culture of accountability at Seattle Public Schools. I guess the various anonymous writers aren't very ramped up about any of these. I happen to have moderate to strong feelings about all of them.

It's always difficult for some people to understand the passions of others. I, for my part, totally don't get collecting stamps or autographs. But I don't disparage the people who do. I don't try to make fun of them - particularly on blogs that discuss their hobby.

What is the alternative here? To just let it go? Is that what you do when people break the law and reneg on their promises to you? If that's the case, can I borrow some money from you?

Perhaps you're thinking that I could follow a less intense path. Perhaps you think that I should ask them to meet with me to discuss the trouble they are having with this request. You'll be pleased to know that I did that. There was no response to my request for a meeting.

I am happy to follow another effective path. What is the other effective path that you are trying to recommend to me? I'm sure that you've included it in your constructive criticism, but I can't find it.

Keep barking, anonymous. You're trying to hide, but you're revealing more than you know.

Anonymous said...

Which anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes you can't just roll over.
Sometimes you have to fight for what is right. Sometimes you can't give up.

It's not about Charlies's daughter. It's about the district not doing what they are supposed to do. Why should they get a "break". Why shouldn't a child (any child, not just Charlie's daughter) not get the credit that they worked hard to earn?

What does that teach our children?

How can anyone justify just letting this very important issue go????????????

Kick their behinds, Charlie!!!

Charlie Mas said...

Last night I used three minutes of public testimony to ask the Board to include a revision to Policy D46.01 in the package of Policy changes regarding high school credit to align the policies with the state law.

I was very nice and very positive. I didn't even hint about any confrontation past or present.

Unfortunately I had to leave soon thereafter (math homework support) and was not able to stay and see if any of the Board members did, in fact, move to amend the motion to include D46.01.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Charlie, one of the attorneys presented the policy, and she smoked you. She was actually the most articulate speaker of the night, explained the law, why that law doesn't mesh with the regulations that go with the policy, and why your request is contrary to an existing policy and not in line with the law you are relying upon.

If you sue the district, watch out, I think she will get you cased tossed in about two seconds.

Charlie Mas said...

Really? Wow. Can you repeat her explanation?

It's funny, you know. No one at the District has yet to communicate any of that to me. I'm ready to believe that I'm wrong if someone will explain it to me, but they just don't do that.

Dan Dempsey said...


Shortly after Dr. G-J arrived she promised increased communication.

Why don't you send her an email and wait for a response?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Here's the broadcast schedule on Channel 26 for the School Board meetings rebroadcast:

Taped broadcasts:
Thursday 7:00 a.m.
8:00 p.m. (first taped showing)
(1st & 3rd Thursday only)
Friday 8:00 p.m.
Saturday 1:00 p.m.
Sunday 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday 8:00 p.m.

Charlie Mas said...

I just watched the discussion on the Seattle Channel video on demand, and Ms McMinimee didn't do any of the things that anonymous at 7:38 said.

She didn't explain the law.
She didn't say why that law doesn't mesh with the regulations that go with the policy.
She didn't say why my request is contrary to an existing policy or in line with the law I referenced.

All she said was that it didn't have anything to do with the law or the policy being addressed in the motion before the Board.

In fact, she said that work was already underway to do as I requested. I presume she didn't know that my requests were driving that work.

What she said was that my request would have to be resolved with a change to D46.01, not the Alternative Learning policy they discussing that evening. Of course, that's what I had said as well. I was asking for a change to D46.01, not inclusion of classes taken in middle school to the Alternative Learning policy.

Clearly she hadn't heard my testimony because she seemed to think that I was asking for something other than what I was asking for.