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Friday, November 23, 2007

A Schramie for Caprice

So I'm watching the local news one night and, at the end, there's Ken Schram. He's a newsman (to some degree) and he basically gets to do a semi-rant about whatever politicians/leaders do that bug him. To those he really disagrees with or whose actions he finds ridiculous, he gives out a statue dubbed the Schramie. So who did he give one to this week? None other than our director of Equity and Race Relations , Caprice Hollins.

He was upset about her sending a letter to teachers about Thanksgiving saying it was a time of grieving for some Native Americans and shouldn't be cast in a rosy glow. Okay, first when the first Thanksgiving did occur, there was obviously some outreach between the settlers and the Native Americans. (Before and after we became a country? Obviously, the way Native Americans were treated was a complete disaster on so many levels you'd have to be an idiot not to get that.) It seems like you could take Thanksgiving in the light of which it occurred or you could not. My main issue is that I feel for teachers wondering what the heck they can say about this event especially to elementary schoolchildren.

More to the point, if you go to the Equity and Race Relations website at the SPS website, there's a lot of sharp wording that makes you wonder if her goal is to scold or to help. Here's an example.

On the website under Learn, there's a link to "What is Cultural Awareness?" and, at the end of that, a link to a booklet called "I Can Fix It". That booklet is a coldly aggressive call to action for white people to wake and get themselves out of their white world. (CORRECTION: I erred in my initial post when I said that the booklet "I Can Fix It" contained the next sentence. The respect for teachers sentence was in the main page, called "What is Cultural Competence?" where the link to the booklet is. My apologies and thank you to Johnny C. for pointing this out.) Some of its items -like not expecting students to respect teachers when they first walk in the door - are, to me, flat out wrong. Yes, respect is earned (especially if you have a clueless or mean teacher) but the minute we say to our kids that you don't have to go into a classroom and respect your teacher, well, we are then asking for trouble. I cannot speak for teachers but I know how I would feel in that situation.

It also talks about not getting upset or trying to calm down a person of color who is expressing outrage over racism. I encountered that very situation at the last Board meeting where a guy who speaks about once a month and always, always frames everything through the lens of race and nearly always has something unkind/cruel to say even to members of his own race did it again (and had to be arrested to get him to stop). Everyone in that room wanted him to stop. It was not because we didn't feel he didn't have the right to speak or that he didn't have a point to make. But yelling and calling names is not the way to do it. Great orators don't need those tricks. And there's a difference between yelling and showing great passion.

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of people in this district, this city, this state, this country who do not want to learn about other people and their struggles. Who do not want to face up to what we have done to Native Americans and African-Americans. Who do not get that centuries or decades of wrongful treatment cannot be easily undone. Who do not get what it means to have someone treat you differently on sight.

But I feel Dr. Hollins' is not really helping. I think her aggressive stances are making critics of this district have plenty to talk about. But maybe I'm not understanding what her work is really about or who her work is directed at. That might be the real problem.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am sure everyone is trying real hard at doing something. I am just not sure what it is that is being tried or why.



Caprice wins her Schrammie for good reason. She has put the light of national attention on the SPS's continuing nonsense circus.

As a former teacher on in the Quinault Indian Nation and in inner city LA, let me say what schools need to do. The schools are to provide an excellent educational opportunity for all. This does not necessarily mean the same program for all.

While this school district hires culturally sensitive administrators some of whose only job appears to be increasing the cultural sensitivity of district employees, we see class sizes still too large and extremely poor curricula decisions made with ongoing regularity.

The math achievement gap for Black & Hispanic students grew steadily over the last decade. What has the SPS done in response?

SPS talks about Thanksgiving and continues to adopt ethnically discriminatory math texts (which are generally very poor math preparation for most children). Let us not forget continuing to push learning methodologies like explore and inquire that have shown extremely poor results with those same ethnicities SPS purports to be concerned about.

Our current Supt. Dr. G-J continues this trend by employing Caprice and having her speak on issues that have zero to do with improving academic competencies for
Native Americans or any of our children.
Perhaps Dr. G-J deserves a Schrammie for employing Caprice and others like her.

Caprice's statements simply add to the confusion in the SPS circus. What else is happening at the JSCEE that has nothing to do with the academic preparation of our students?

This district seems focused on driving children, parents, and families who can afford to leave SPS to do so. Many young families move East of the Lake prior to their children entering elementary school.

The SPS plan=

Expensively close schools, adopt math curricula almost universally opposed by parents that does not properly prepare students for an academic future, push for greater standardization when there is little evidence this is advisable, cherry-pick data, sabotage alternative education. Insult West Seattle High Admin & staff with the six-period day mandate. In short insult the intelligence of your clients & employees at most every opportunity.

Caprice's comments fit the plan.
Will the district support busing out of this district for students whose families can not afford private schools or afford moving outside Seattle?

Anonymous said...

EVer wonder if she does stunts like this on purpose to get a reaction to prove that her job is necessary?

Jana said...

I enjoy this blog, thank you for your work. Kudos to Dan Dempsey for his comments, to which I can add nothing. Well, there is this: my friends sniff and roll their eyes when I voice my intention to homeschool until I can get out of this district. They're not paying attention.

Anonymous said...

I wondered why my elementary age child did not come home with any Thanksgiving projects this year?? Usually they make card expressing what they are thankful for, or cut out turkeys, or something....
Nothing this year. I didn't know about the letter Ms. Hollins sent out.

I am generally shocked at the lack of holiday acknowledgement at Christmas/Chanuka/Kwanza time. It is odd to walk through the hallway of a school and see no decorations, no class projects or anything else to do with the holidays. No Christmas tree. No Channuka decorations. Nothing. It's sad really, that we have taken all celebrations away from our children.

I guess it's not just schools, I think of the rabbi last year that made SEATAC take down their Christmas tree. How very sad.

Thank you Caprice, for taking Thanksgiving too.

Anonymous said...

You can find a link to Ken Schram's commentary on Caprice Hollins here.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to Dr. Hollins, I think we should consider her words as she wrote them. This is from the cover letter she sent out to the district:

Seattle Public Schools Staff,

For the last two years this department has sent out a letter regarding how difficult Thanksgiving can be for many of our Native American students, staff and families. Some of you are new to the District and others would appreciate a reminder. We received a lot of positive comments regarding this letter and the information and so wanted to make it available to you again. Included is a Web site along with a quiz that was developed by the Hamilton M.S. 7th Grade Team that you might find helpful.

Respectfully,

Caprice D. Hollins, Psy.D.
Director of Equity, Race & Learning Support

"We must merge our traditional sense of schooling with the real world. What we do in school must not insult the child's past but must build upon his past and encourage future learning. –Sigmund Boloz"

***

Dr. Hollins attached three documents, two of which were assignments based on the information provided on a website referenced in the third document. Here is the letter in the third attached document:

November 8, 2007

Dear Seattle Public Schools Staff:

We recognize the amount of work that educators and staff have to do in order to fulfill our mission to successfully educate all students. It’s never as simple as preparing and delivering a lesson. Students bring with them a host of complexities including cultural, linguistic and social economic diversity. In addition they can also bring challenges related to their social, emotional and physical well being. One of our departments’ goals is to support you by suggesting ways to assist you in removing barriers to learning by promoting respect and honoring the diversity of our students, staff and families.

With so many holidays approaching we want to again remind you that Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult time for many of our Native students. This website http://www.oyate.org/resources/shortthanks.html offers suggestions on ways to be sensitive of diverse experiences and perspectives and still make the holiday meaningful for all students. Here you will discover ways to help you and your students think critically, and find resources where you can learn about Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective. Eleven myths are identified about Thanksgiving, take a look at #11 and begin your own deconstruction.

Myth #11: Thanksgiving is a happy time
Fact: For many Indian people, “Thanksgiving” is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation. As currently celebrated in this country, “Thanksgiving” is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship.

It is our goal as a District to strive towards being inclusive and aware of the needs of all our students by respecting and honoring the many cultural experiences of our students, staff and families. This does not mean that schools and staff have to avoid recognizing Thanksgiving, but rather calls upon each of us to be sensitive and mindful of every child in our classroom.

We appreciate your willingness to struggle with these complex issues by considering the impact on many of our Native students when teaching about Thanksgiving in traditional ways. If you have any questions or need assistance planning or preparing for any holiday, please feel free to contact the Department of Equity, Race and Learning Support at 252-0138.

Respectfully,

Caprice D. Hollins, Psy.D.
Director of Equity, Race & Learning Support

Willard Bill, Jr., Program Manager
Huchoosedah Office of Native American Educ.

Janine Tillotson, Consulting Teacher
Huchoosedah Office of Native American Educ.

Anonymous said...

My apologies. The link in the previous post somehow got truncated. It should have an ".html" at the end of the address.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 6:11 PM

Thanks for the clarification.

You quoted Dr. Hollins...."One of our departments’ goals is to support you by suggesting ways to assist you in removing barriers to learning by promoting respect and honoring the diversity of our students, staff and families."

I still stand by my comments at 12:21 PM.

I also agree that cultural sensitivity is important. The fact that it has overwhelmed academic accountability for years in the SPS is a total embarrassment.

This district has continually preached about the Politically Correct closing of the achievement gap, while in fact following actions that widened it.

Little seems to change in the SPS to improve the long term learning situation in the classroom. Leadership continues to pay little heed to parents or teachers or relevant research as these supposed leaders pursue whatever direction they have chosen to go this month or season or year.

Could some one please put together a list of the sustainable long term well researched programs successfully implemented that brought about significant academic gains in the last 10 years?
The number in math over the last decade is zero.

Everyday Math and Connected Math will not be sustainable for continued improvement either. When will the SPS ever see the wisdom of making rational decisions?

If SPS wishes to close the achievement gap it is now 12 years since the conclusion of Project Follow Through read it. SPS could have avoided the last decade of math disaster for minorities, why not start now rather than devoting more effort to Thanksgiving?

The Math Learning Center began by figuring out how to teach math to Native Americans. Make it a better Thanksgiving for Native Americans do some research into effective math practices rather than making McGraw-Hill richer.

I attended best practices in math last year several times at the JSCEE. The presenter said that the Math Learning Center Materials were excellent but unlikely to be used in Seattle.

How about someone "removing barriers to learning" by selecting appropriate curricula?

Also remove a barrier by selecting some competent Math leadership at the JSCEE. Should not the k-12 math program manager have an experience qualification greater than middle school science teacher and at least be certified to teach high school mathematics and be NCLB highly qualified in math. Obviously not as I believe she is 0 for 3 in the previous qualifications. How disappointing it is to watch this irrational circus move to the next arena with the show largely unchanged.

Anonymous said...

"One of our departments’ goals is to support you by suggesting ways to assist you in removing barriers to learning by promoting respect and honoring the diversity of our students, staff and families."

Is this good writing?

Anonymous said...

To the Anonymous at 2:30

GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT! And stop repeating misinformation. No rabbi ever made SeaTac take down their Christmas trees. He merely asked that, since there were Christmas decorations, if the airport, which after all is run by the Port (a government organization) would consider celebrating other holidays as well. The Port then decided to take down the Christmas trees rather than consider his request. I believe the missed a great opportunity to celebrate the multi-culturalism of the Puget Sound area. Here is a direct quote from the port:

“"This has been an unfortunate situation for all of us in Seattle," Port of Seattle Commission President Pat Davis said in a statement. "The rabbi never asked us to remove the trees; it was the Port's decision based on what we knew at the time. We very much appreciate the rabbi's willingness to work with us as we move forward."”

There is an enormous difference between the wintertime religious celebrations (Christmas, Chanukah, Kwaanza, Tet, etc.) and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is an American celebration. While we can use this as a time to discuss the painful parts of our history, we cannot simply ignore that it exists.

My kids get plenty of Christmas, along with every other winter/solstice holiday there is from our community, church, neighbors, family, etc. I love that school is a respite from that.

Anonymous said...

I just looked at the booklet Melissa mentioned in her post. I'm appalled that the district posts part of this on its site or even links to it -- it's offensive to people of all races and it's incredibly divisive.
Caprice has been around for several years now. Maybe it's time someone looked at whether schools are more "equitable", and whether race relations in SPS have improved in that time, or gotten worse. Personally I think she's doing more harm than good.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 924PM, you are the reason that our schools can't celebrate any Christmas, hanukka or anything else. Instead of teaching our kids to be inclusive and celebrate many cultures winter holidays, people like you have reduced our schools, ports and public agencies to be cold, stark places, that have no reminder of the holidays at all. You call it a respite for your children. I call it being selfish. Not all kids are as lucky as yours to be inundated with the holidays at church and in their communities. Some only have school. Sometimes the mighty, righteous, PC, Seattlites goes way way too far. Yuk.

Anonymous said...

Melissa said...
"Some of its items -like not expecting students to respect teachers when they first walk in the door - are, to me, flat out wrong. Yes, respect is earned (especially if you have a clueless or mean teacher) but the minute we say to our kids that you don't have to go into a classroom and respect your teacher, well, we are then asking for trouble. I cannot speak for teachers but I know how I would feel in that situation."

Thank you for pointing out why this district would prefer not to enforce the State Classroom Disruption law
RCW 28A 600.020

This law is clearly incompatible with the level of disrespect this administration expects the employed professional educators to endure.
Denny and Aki Kurose jump immediately to mind.

It appears the inadequacy of SPS central school administration is rivaled by the incompetence of the Seattle Education Association. The tremendous symbiotic collegiality of the SPS and SEA surely make the lives of the high level administrators at both organizations substantially easier. However students, families, and teachers are seriously under-served. It appears that the principal reason for the dollars generated through taxes and union dues related the SPS schools is to pay administrators. Academic improvement should it occur must be viewed as an unexpected by-product.

Anonymous said...

There are many fabulous teachers in the SPS that are undoubtedly contributing greatly to students lives and education. The improvements that they are able to produce are happening in spite of central administration not because of it.

For example:
Witness the tremendous success of AP Calculus at Ballard, an inquiry into how this has occurred will show it had zero to do with mathematics leadership from the JSCEE.

Effective teachers would prefer smaller regular class sizes as would most parents. Instead SPS spends $4.2 million annually on academic coaches for teachers. Little wonder SPS wants to close schools that 4.2 million is the equivalent of 50+ classroom teachers.

When was the last time you saw a survey or study that said more levels of bureaucratic administration were needed to produce academic improvement?

There is no reason to wonder as to why there is considerable turnover in the SPS teaching ranks.

The SPS should surely be a multiple Schramie winner - we can always hope for further awards.

Anonymous said...

Here is the exact quote about respect from the WHAT IS CULTURAL COMPETENCE? website:

"Respect is not assumed. Works to earn respect through demonstrating equitable treatment and holding students accountable to culturally relevant classroom expectations."

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon at 5:53 PM,

Thanks for this.. .."holding students accountable to culturally relevant classroom expectations."

This reminds me of an analysis of West Seattle, when a parent read the mission statement and said: "This mission has nothing to do with academics."

When will these folks at JSCEE realize that schools have a mission beyond making sure everyone can get along?

Wow, I am so old that I remember when school was synonymous with learning content.

Imagine all those foolish other countries that still think schools are for learning content.

Anon at 12:37 PM must be on the right track with:

"Ever wonder if she does stunts like this on purpose to get a reaction to prove that her job is necessary?"

I attended a great deal of cultural sensitivity training in August of 2006. It was exceptionally well done. It probably produces no significant academic effect because the SPS through the JSCEE makes such bizarre counter productive mandates in regard to curricula and practices.

Given the recent output from Dr. Hollins what would a cost benefit analysis show for:

Caprice D. Hollins, Psy.D.
Director of Equity, Race & Learning Support

Willard Bill, Jr., Program Manager
Huchoosedah Office of Native American Educ.

Janine Tillotson, Consulting Teacher
Huchoosedah Office of Native American Educ.

My only contact was with Janine Tillotson and I was very impressed with her cultural sensitivity presentation.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous at 9:42 and I must reply to this statemet:

"You are the reason that our schools can't celebrate any Christmas... people like you have reduced our schools, ports and public agencies to be cold, stark places, that have no reminder of the holidays at all."

My child's school is anything but a cold, stark place. It is beautifully warm and filled with ativities that excite and engage children. They have cultural days every quarter when kids learn in depth about different societies (including food, clothes, schools, and holidays). Is celebrating Christmas the ONLY way that an educational center can avoid being cold?

I wasn't part of the group at my child's school that decided that kids just got enough winter holidays elsewhere, but once it was instituted, I saw how good it was for my kids. Costco had Christams decorations up in September this year. Really, my kids get enough. I strongly believe this needs to be decided on a community basis, but in my community, kids get plenty of Christmas. All the kids. Not every school is like that, I know.

In addition, if you had read my post, you would have known that I fully support the ports celebrating the solstice holidays. I was only angry that someone continued to spread the misinformation that a rabbi forced SeaTac to take down their Christmas tree.

Anonymous said...

Here is The Seattle Times editorial on the subject of the Thanksgiving letter.

Anonymous said...

Here is a posting from Charlestown's
Newsless Courier:

http://couriercritic.blogspot.com/2007/11/
city-on-hill-versus-seattle-school.html

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson is slowly sinking into the middle of this fiasco of Political Correctness in Seattle. Those poor people are slowly discovering that G-J is all about status quo not change as she supports Seattle paying for this kind of out-sourced program of self-loathing that is designed to exclude while calling it inclusion.

It's an expensive contracted system of "thought police" that offers little hope for minorities and disadvantaged kids there getting anything more than the same second rate educational services. It's all PC flash and no educational substance in Seattle. They bash and blame the bias of tradition and geography (sounds like our present Super) while still giving poor kids substandard math books and limit access to alternative school choices. Sounds just like Charleston under G-J.

She hasn't changed, but I'm not sure anything has changed here either now that she's gone to Seattle. We're still driving students & their parents away from public education, and our most needy students are falling further behind. I'm more worried about the how we've turned this Thanksgiving into a lie and not so much if the one at Plymouth, Mass., nearly 400 years ago meets the PC test.

Anonymous said...

It would appear that our 2 cities have more in common than differences when it comes to public education. BTW, it hasn't been called "Charlestontown" since 1783 when it was the 4th largest English speaking city in the Western Hemisphere. They changed the spelling to more closely match the way the city's name was pronounced.

Anonymous said...

Correction: “Charlestown”. So much for trying to be a smart-aleck.

Anonymous said...

Dan,
as a former teacher at the Quinault nation, was Thanksgiving a holiday that was looked at in a good light or not so? just interested in hearing from someone who might have first hand knowledge. although the Quinault were 3k miles away from the East coast and the Deeds that were done there by the English. they may not have quite the same feelings as the Eastern Natives.

Anonymous said...

to jana deann;

really dont understand your comment, "homeschool until you can get out of the district". if you choose to homeschool that is fine, but to say you cant wait to get out of a district your children dont even attend, what's the point?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon at 5:18,

Keep in mind these are my recollections from 30 years ago.

Many coastal Indian tribes were historically quite brutal. Thus the word tribalism. In fact there was an Indian student who's ancestors had been slaves of the Quinaults.

Tribes historically took slaves from some certain other tribes.

In the very early 1970s the Evergreen State college began a study of Quinault history. After the early findings the tribe had them stop.

For some families, Thanksgiving was four days off work to be with family. However when alcohol & drugs & unemployment are high four days off means nothing. Thanksgiving concerns were the least of most people's concerns.

The Bolt decision allowed Quinaults greater control of their resources. Clams and Salmon were important jobs on the Res. The BIA still was involved in Timber Harvest schedule and dispersement of $$$$ to families that owned the lands harvested. {BIA historically mismanaged slash tremendously hindering regrowth}

There were several good leaders in the community - they had a lot of important things in which they were involved - health care, jobs, housing, etc. I do not remember them devoting any time to Thanksgiving protests.

As I said earlier, Dr. Hollins could significantly impact students lives if the focus was academic achievement. In my view this district has had a much stronger PC social mission than an academic one.

It is much easier for Dr. Hollins to rail against Thanksgiving than speak about a Math achievement gap that has grown considerably larger over the last decade. That might cause tension with other SPS administrators that could result in policy enforcement and better curricular decision making. Clearly Dr. Hollins realizes her job is not to rock the boat and create academic improvement but to keep everyone at the JSCEE happy.

Remember Large Urban School Districts rarely make much academic progress -- notice that the focus is not really on academic improvement (no surprise).

The politics of education largely negatively impacts improvement. In most industries you seen improvement evolve over time. Automobiles come immediately to mind (forget the 1970s).

In education we often see reversion to ideas that have failed in the past. It has been established that children learn at different rates and in a variety of different ways.
Our district instead of defining what the students should learn at each grade level (existing board policies from the 1980s) and providing positive interventions for those having difficulty, now SPS just ignores the whole idea.

MG-J is all for uniformity, the return of the factory model.

Since Everyday Math performed poorly - the blame is placed on the teachers - the University of Chicago now has a site devoted to Fidelity of Implementation (oddly this is still funded with public NSF dollars at no expense to McGraw-Hill).
If the teachers will please do the same thing uniformly day by day across all classrooms, this stuff will work. Pleezzzeee get real.

This is all about politics.
Our leaders follow others. Rational thought or data analysis rarely enters this game, except when some numbers show SPS is correct.

The next wave of numbers will be from NYC schools winner of the Broad prize that MG-J wants Seattle to win. NYC adopted EM so we adopted EM. After all EM is most aligned with WA state defective Math GLEs.

NYC showed major gains in math on the NAEP grade four math in 2007. This will be mentioned.

What won't be mentioned is that NYC had the highest accommodation rate 25% on this test of any urban school district and NYC more than doubled their accommodation rate from the previous year.

[accommodation means the kids get special assistance during the test that is unavailable to others]

Instead the view will be that teachers as decision makers are incompetent and that if we have true fidelity of implementation everything will be peachy.

Parents and the public are bright enough to know that one-size does not fit all - So the term will be Fidelity of Implementation.
Those three words have been mentioned by Mike DeBell, Rosalind Wise, and Carla Santorno at School Board meetings. You should now be hearing those three words a lot more in the future.

Now lets all get back to worrying about Thanksgiving -- anything to keep the public eye off the ball.

Anonymous said...

Dan,

I'm not a fan of the one size fits all curricular approach. The standardization of public education, so to speak. But I do have concerns over the great disparity between teachers. Some are greater than great, and some are just down right terrible. Without standardization, you can have a year full of amazing progress, or you can have a flat (or worse) year where an inexperienced, burned out, or just plain incompetent teacher can't get the job done. At least standardization will provide some consistency. Even a terrible teacher can get through an Everyday math worksheet. Knowing how difficult it is to get rid of an incompetent teacher, I have to wonder what is worse of the two evils. Rolling the dice and getting getting a really great teacher who soars with the class vs getting a terrible teacher and having a terrible year. Or, accepting standardization, and settle with the fact that we will have a mediocre, less imaginative, but standard year every year?

Anonymous said...

Dan, give it a rest. Those of us who read this blog regularly do get tired of your perceived need to control the conversation. Are you at all interested in other people's thoughts?

You think of yourself as a crusader for better math instruction. Caprice is doing what she perceives herself to have been hired to do, a couple of superintendents ago...
give her some credit for working for change within a difficult system.

Charlie Mas said...

It's odd that this Thanksgiving thing suddenly gets a frenzy of media attention in the third year.

Anonymous said...

Daer Anon at 11:31 AM,

You said...

Dan, give it a rest.

The SPS has been resting for most of the last decade.

Caprice is doing what she perceives herself to have been hired to do, a couple of superintendents ago...

What was she hired to do? Has it produced any academic achievement? or does it just help us all to get along better?

give her some credit for working for change within a difficult system.

What change has she worked for?
Is it measurable? has it happened?



The SPS plan=

Expensively close schools, adopt math curricula almost universally opposed by parents that does not properly prepare students for an academic future, push for greater standardization when there is little evidence this is advisable, cherry-pick data, sabotage alternative education. Insult West Seattle High Admin & staff with the six-period day mandate. In short insult the intelligence of your clients & employees at most every opportunity.

NO Sorry, I don't think a rest is warranted given the performance of this outfit.

You certainly are free to not read any of my posts - I put my name at the beginning of each one so you can skip reading them.

It appears you would rather attack posters than discuss the substance of the issues.

Anonymous said...

Dear 1964 at 8:31 AM,

You said:
"..Without standardization, you can have a year full of amazing progress, or you can have a flat (or worse) year where an inexperienced, burned out, or just plain incompetent teacher can't get the job done. At least standardization will provide some consistency."


That certainly is a problem that needs to be addressed. I do not think that MG-J's standardization of what happens each day in each classroom in any way effectively addresses your concerns.

What I would like to see are the defined necessary skills that a child is expected to learn in each subject at each grade level as mandated in board policy.

Since the SPS do not do this they enable the poor situations you describe.

A pacing plan that covers too much material in a disjointed fashion is not a solution to this situation.

SPS cannot hold teachers accountable, when SPS fails to tell the teachers what the children are expected to know.

Teachers are unable to target specific interventions because the district fails to inform anyone what is important and required at each grade level.

Anonymous said...

What are EALR's Dan???
Don't they let teachers know what the expectations are at each grade level?? I'm not a teacher, is there something that I am missing??

Anonymous said...

Grade Level Expectations (the mass of small-print verbiage on your child's progress report) are the nitty-gritty detail of the broader, vaguer Essential Academic Learning Requirements. Given that the GLEs are incredibly vague, repetitive, and ill-written, the EALRs are even cloudier and less informative.

For instance, under the fourth-grade GLE for "Problem Solving," it states "Select a tool to solve a problem; recognize when it is unproductive and try a new one; solve the problem." What about that process looks like a "fourth grade" kind of skill to you? It could be argued that babies do it. It could be argued that many adults do not do it. (Incidentally, the parallel GLEs for fifth and sixth grade do not include "solve the problem." Perhaps fourth grade is the last year in which one is actually expected to get that far?)

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

charlie:> the media have nothing better to do with their time that is why they are focusing on this letter, as you have said, this letter has been around a while. I think the media in this city is all about creating negative feelings towards the District. Sure there are problems in the district, but when the media has a choice between a positive and a negative they most always choose the later. Good news doesn’t sell!

Anonymous said...

Are you really suggesting that SPS has no standards at all? The GLE's and EALR's are not effective? Teachers and schools can just teach whatever they want (or don't want), whenever they want to?? Are there no standards? No benchmarks?

I disagree. There are benchmarks on the report cards. There are GLE's and EALR's on the district website. Some are vague and some are very clear.

Why do you think that you can go into almost any 3rd grade class across the district and find the class working on cursive writing? Or a 4th grade class working on mastering multiplication and division? Why is there a spelling list for each grade? Why do all schools get to the same things about the same time?

Give the district SOME credit, please.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon at 6:33 AM

Excellent question.

EALRs and GLEs what are they?


They are supposed to tell us what children should be learning at each grade level.

Now go and try reading them. Most are so vague and non-specific they mean next to nothing.

In math they are pathetic. When the SBE consultants "Strategic Teaching" gave their report to the SBE reviewing the WA MATH STANDARDS and making recommendations. The two Ph.D mathematicians that reviewed the high school standards found them so vague they said at least 50% were meaningless and totally unclear unless viewed with accompanying examples.

Read the EARLs and Grade Level Expectations in math for grade 3. Then see if you can make a list of specifically what a child would need to know and do to be able to satisfy these.

A favorite EALR word is understand; how does one measure that?

What precisely demonstrates understanding - that is never addressed. Hopefully it will be in the next set of Washington Math Standards.

In 11 years Terry Bereson has produced a nebulous mess in which 40 to 45% of high school students are failing to take and pass a math test that is at a 7th or 8th grade level. When the Algebra on the WASL was examined over 80% of the Algebra Questions were found to be pre-Algebra. [perhaps if it was more math and less reading things might be better]

Again we have abysmal remediation rates at the collegiate level in Math. Things have gotten worse during Terry Bergeson's tenure.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon at 8:22 PM,

You said "...Why do you think that you can go into almost any 3rd grade class across the district.. .Or a 4th grade class working on mastering multiplication and division?

........Give the district SOME credit, please."


If you think that the SPS is requiring mastery of division at Grade 4 and if this mastery is not attained that there are interventions taking place to correct student short comings, you are in a different end of the SPS than I saw.

Many been asking the SPS for the last 6 months about this. Ms. Wise refused to provide a list of grade level necessary skills in math.
As far as I know the SPS is too confused in math to fulfill their responsibility to the students. They have decided to wait for the state.

I thought education of our children was primarily a local responsibility. Surely the SPS has more than enough administrators at present to carry out this task. SPS is spending $4.2 million on academic math & literacy coaches for teachers this school year. Unfortunately SPS never took the time to come up with required necessary math skills. The best these folks could do was to follow the publishers math pacing guide in lock step fashion while chanting "Fidelity of Implementation".

If these folks eventually do something creditable in math I will be happy to give them credit, but so far it has not happened.

Anonymous said...

"Are you really suggesting that SPS has no standards at all? The GLE's and EALR's are not effective? Teachers and schools can just teach whatever they want (or don't want), whenever they want to?? Are there no standards? No benchmarks?"

Most teachers have common sense. Most schools have curriculum they've been using a long while. There is a huge amount of tradition about what's taught in which grade. If you had to start a new school tomorrow, with none of that experience and inertia on your side, with nothing but the EALRs and GLEs to guide you, you would not get far. Nor, if you entered a school that had very poor compliance with standards, would you find much ammunition in the EALRs and GLEs for changing things.

Helen Schinske