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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

High Schools Still Making Their Own Decisions

In a previous thread, there had been a question about a later bell time for Garfield. Then I heard West Seattle was going that way. I had looked into this earlier this year and called the Transportation department. I was told that no other high schools were likely to get to change their start times until the assignment plan was changed. Because of the confusion between what I was told and what I heard here, I e-mailed Michael Tolley, the high school director, about this issue. I'm still waiting to hear back from him.

The issue is not if all the high schools are going to Metro for transportation; they are. (I believe all of them will be by this fall.) However, nearly every school has some form of yellow bus service whether it is for Special Ed, ESL or other students. Because of those yellow buses, it makes it difficult to change to a later start time. I was told Ballard and Hale were able to because they are both right next to alternative schools that they could share yellow buses with (Salmon Bay and Summit, respectively).

So I checked and Garfield's PTSA newsletter says no later start time next year. West Seattle, meanwhile, doesn't look like it is having a later start time but they did announce this:

"West Seattle High School will run two schedules for next school year 2008-09. First semester will be a 6-period rolling schedule with six 55 minute classes on Monday and Friday, and four 85-minute classes Tuesday through Thursday. Second semester will be 6 straight 55-minute classes Monday through Friday. We have determined to run two separate schedules next year to gather authentic and experiential feedback from our staff and students. Our aim is to determine the best schedule for West Seattle High School students, staff members, and program offerings as we transition to a 6-period structure. Start and end times for the school day are being voted on this spring, and we will release final bell schedules by the end of the year."

That should be interesting. The West Seattle PTSA is meeting tonight; apparently, parents weren't asked for their opinion. (It's nice to be asked whether or not your opinion counts in the final outcome.) Some parents perceive this "experiment" to shorten the school day and offer less instructional time.

Also from West Seattle High:
"Due to increased demand, application is now required for admittance to AP LA 11 (Advanced Placement Language Arts, 11th Grade). 87 Students have requested this class and there currently is only room for 60 students in 2 classes. The counseling staff is attempting to reduce the requests for the class by having students apply for placement. Letters were sent home with the effected students on Friday May 16th. Students who want to take this class 1) must have a passing score on the 10th grade WASL Reading and Writing sections, 2) get parent's signature on the letter and 3) get their LA 10 teacher's signature/recommendation on the registration letter."

This is precisely what shouldn't happen. (This used to happen in AP History at Hale and they had some bizarre method of selecting who could be in that class. That's gone, of course, because they don't have AP History anymore.) West Seattle should be jumping up and down that they have 87 students who want to take on this challenge. 87 students would make 3 classes; it's not like they are 10 kids over and can't figure out what to do. But no, instead of a solution that supports all students, they are going to weed kids out by making them apply for placement (letters going home to "effected" students - the irony of this being AP LA not being lost here).

Both these issues are interesting because you hear a lot about more oversight of schools by district administrators. It seems to be one of the keystones of the Strategic Plan and yet these two issues make it look a lot like the same old thing in the district. Where's the oversight?

23 comments:

WS said...

Hi - The West Seattle High PTSA list included this e-mail a few days ago. Sorry for the formatting in the cut-and-paste:

**********************************************************
Instructional Council Votes on Bell Schedule for Next Year
**********************************************************

The attached bell schedule for next year was released on Thursday 5-22.

This is a change from the 2008/2009 bell schedule currently posted on
the web (55 minute & 85 minute classes). The IC's schedule shows
classes of 50 and 80 minutes, with a longer 15-20 minute break and a
15 minute shorter day overall.

Please view the attached schedules provided by the school principal
and see the definitions below.

The Instructional Council (17 staff members) has voted to approve the
attached bell schedule for next year. Other stake holders have not
yet taken part in the decision making process.

Parent input will be received at the WSHS PTSA Meeting on Wednesday May
28th.

The school district is no longer offering yellow bus service for high
school students, beginning in the fall. Metro passes will be
available. Because of this change, many high schools are moving to
later start times. WSHS is moving to a 8:10 start time.

Many families will be affected by transporation issues.
Please investigate alternatives and make necessary plans.

SPSParent said...

The Spec Ed yellow bus arguement makes no sense. Isn't Hamilton near Roosevelt? Why could they not share busses, why does a high school need to be near an alternative school to share busses and move their start time?

And in reading this WS comment it is so clear that SPS is really leaving our kids on the streets to fend for themselves.

Sadly Harium thinks Metro is a great idea, worked for him in Brooklyn as well as for his kids who lived near a direct route.

But not so much for most kids and schools.

I was at a forum earlier this year where the super was asked about the Metro bus issue. Not enough routes, kids standing on the street being passed by full busses, parents not able to select schools far away. She responded, "That issue pre-dates me."

So I think HS must make their own decisions since the district is doing nothing to help our children get to and from school safely and in a timely manner.

They are going to make some good decisions, like a later start for Metro kids and some bad decisions, like excluding AP students.

But what else can they do?

Jet City mom said...

Don't the schools with a late start, have their special education students start at the earlier time?

Some principals have expressed a desire not to have a two tiered system with " special ed students" arriving & leaving at a different time than the bulk of the school.

Since the district has decided that they can't figure out transportation for yellow buses with a late start- those high schools have remained on the early schedule, despite the problems of metro bus transportation in the early morning hours.

dan dempsey said...

Let us not forget that WSHS has an arbitration hearing to go through involving the union and the fact that the teachers do have contract language supporting staying with the four period day at West Seattle. I believe this is scheduled for late June.

Anyone else know more about this?

Charlie Mas said...

Am I reading the West Seattle notice correctly? Does it really say "We have already made the decision without discussing it with any stakeholders, your opportunity for input on the decision will be tonight."

Charlie Mas said...

The decision to restrict AP to two sections, even when they have demand for three sections, completely baffles me. Why not adjust the schedule to meet the demand? Why not offer a third section? How is this decision consistent with any direction towards more rigor as described in the Strategic Plan?

Has anyone contacted Mr. Tolley about this decision?

anonymous said...

""Due to increased demand, application is now required for admittance to AP LA 11 (Advanced Placement Language Arts, 11th Grade). 87 Students have requested this class and there currently is only room for 60 students in 2 classes. The counseling staff is attempting to reduce the requests for the class by having students apply for placement."

This is the saddest thing I have heard in a long time. What I don't understand is that the school is still serving the same number of students, so why not just shift teachers around to meet the AP demand? Why would the discourage students to take an AP class? Why are they trying to figure out ways to restrict and limit students access. It makes everything Dr. G-J talks about regarding increasing rigor sound like a sham.

anonymous said...

Just to continue on my above comment. It sounds like WS has applicants for AP English and only 60 spots. That leaves 27 denied access. Isn't that enough students to add another AP class? I bet they could even recruit a few more kids if families knew there was plenty of space. Why don't they just move one teacher from an 11th grade English class to an AP English class? Is there something I'm missing?

Also I'm very curious about the "application". Why would applying discourage kids? Is it a test?

Melissa Westbrook said...

1) Yes, I have contacted Mr. Tolley as well as Harium Martin-Morris and Sherry Carr (only because I know them best; in hindsight I should have included all of them including Steve Sundquist whose region includes WSHS).

2)Class of '75, you're right about the two-tier system but somehow it is working at Ballard and Hale. I believe it is (was)being discussed at Ingraham but they were getting pushback from parents of students who would still come at the early.

3) Charlie, what I think I understand (and WS let me know if I am wrong) is that WSHS didn't ask parents their opinion of the scheduling changes (different class lengths for different semester) but that the PTSA decided to have a meeting last night to discuss it anyway.

4)Why would any school try to make it more difficult to take an AP class? Good question. I think the "application" is a way to weed out kids. They have to have a parent's signature (and if you're a kid who misses this info, you're out), you have to have passed the WASL and you need a teacher's rec. Well, if the word goes out among the teachers to lower the numbers of kids eligible for the class, I'd think teachers would feel pressure to tell kids AP probably isn't for them and not sign the form.

We've had a little of this at Roosevelt over the AP Human Geography. The PTSA expressed that we wanted the option of a one-semester course (as it was originally designed) or the year-round course so that students who did want to move at the faster pace would have that option. We were told yes and then I start getting feedback from parents that counselors/teachers are trying to discourage kids from taking the semester version.

I hope Dr. G-J or Carla Santorno step in. If not, then we're hearing a lot of talk that is not being backed up by action. And once they let one thing go, then all the other high schools will call foul if, later down the line, they are called to heel for a similar action.

dan dempsey said...

Historical president for WSHS decision.

Consider this....

Garfield H.S. East Los Angeles,
Jamie Escalante most successful AP program in US Education history was well supported by his principal in both the seven years prior to the first AP Calc class at Garfield as well as during the phenomenal run Garfield demonstrated.

Escalante regularly had class sizes in excess of the union limit for class size. No one complained.

The the principal left for a year to complete PhD. He had hoped to return to Garfield. When he returned LAUSD visionaries put him in charge of Asbestos abatement removal processes.

Back at Garfield with 55 students per section for two sections. The principal would not allow this scheduling to happen because it was in excess of union contract (which no one had ever cared to enforce since the only impact apparently was on Escalante).

Escalante's suggestion do arithmetic ... 110/3 equals 37 kids per class section which is less than 40.

Principal's response NO WAY am I scheduling 3 sections of AP Calc.

This began the demise of AP calc at Garfield High in East LA.

In light of this total lack of administrative support, eventually Escalante moved to teach in Sacramento. He was already 60 and rebuilding the foundations of Garfield success (which were 7 years in the making prior to his first AP class) could not possibly happen for that reason.

Eventually he retired to his wife's home town in Bolivia.

Escalante was a harsh critic of NSF reform math as it prepared students for neither Algebra or Calculus.

He had recruited many of the teachers for the 7,8,9 Junior Highs that fed Garfield as well as Math teachers for Garfield.

It only took one block head principal to bring a life's work to a crashing end.

In WA State we have the NSF reform Math advocate Dr Terry Bergeson bringing the life work of many to a crashing end. See any corruption HERE?


So there you have it.
The goal at both the state and local level is to have the students and the teachers fit the administrative mandates...NO MATTER what.

WSHS AP English situation is just one more example that neither data nor logical thought processes drive SPS decisions.

Hey this is public education.... are you expecting logical decisions to be made based on the intelligent applications of relevant data? ....and why? ... do you see evidence of that often? ... so why expect it?

This AP English scheduling decision is just one more example.

anonymous said...

Is it possible that Carla Santorno and Dr. G-J don't even know that the AP space at WSHS is limited, and that they are turning away 27 kids? Do they know the situation at Roosevelt with AP Human Geography?

Is it possible that this all slips under their radar? Should we be alerting them? Or, do they know and are they turning the other cheek?

BullDogger said...

The issue of schedule is a sensitive one for WSHS as they just come out of the 4 period day format. I understand the 50/80 proposal comes out of the IC and Principal without any review or approval by the BLT. The PTSA reacted with last night’s meeting as a rejection of the process. The IC is a who’s who of those teachers militantly against the move to 6 periods and I’m surprised they chose to shorten classes as much as possible in the transition given their previous support for long class periods.

There is a bigger issue here that extends beyond West Seattle. WSHS’s offering delivers only 148.25 hours of planned instruction per year per credit once you factor in all the district late starts, holidays, professional development and WASL testing (lower if they have site PD). The state mandates 150 hours minimum per WAC 180-51-050. WSHS is not the only Seattle HS below 150. Even though the SEA contract gives a great deal of control to sites with regard to schedule all parties need to follow the law.

The district can and should put an end to these 50 minute based schedules. Up until now, it just hasn’t been a priority. Kids at Garfield, Roosevelt and most SPS high schools will get 10% more instruction from their schedules. Good for them and bad for kids going to high schools that cut them short (like WSHS). Not very equitable. Site based management, even when the process is followed, has limits. The district needs to take some responsibility by communicating the legal limits and ensuring those limits be followed by the sites.

BTW Dan D… a parent requested district documents pertaining to the 1st and 2nd level grievance and then passed them to me. This grievance will go nowhere and even if it did the board has no time, and likely will not support, the necessary waivers. 4PD at WSHS is over so let’s move on to other issues.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ad Hoc, it's possible that Dr. G-J, Carla Santorno and Mike Tolley (high school director) might not know. It's hard to track everything.

BUT if Dr. G-J or Carla had sent out a memo saying "We want to see how your school provides rigor in the form of honors, ALO, IB or AP and how students can access it. We want to create more AP in any school for 4 or fewer AP courses offered. We want to know of ANY changes as to how you offer AP or Honors and how students access these courses. Rigor should be accessible to all students with as few barriers as possible. If you are having problems doing this, please come to us for help. This is part of our laser focus with our Strategic Plan."

Being proactive and laying out clear expectations and goals would allow them to know what is happening without having to track it or ask.

depthofspring said...

The AP application is ridiculous. I don't know how involved the district was in the AP Human Geo decision at Roosevelt, but I do know that the principal's main argument was that they didn't want students being "tracked." And while I'm completely against the APHG decision, I'm also completely against this tracking. The kids who haven't passed the WASL, but want to take AP classes, show a lot of strength and I think that's important to recognize. They should be given the same opportunity as everyone else. An application for a class is beyond me and it will probably get very sticky...elitism, racism, and equal opportunity. Very hypocritical, very interesting.

Dorothy Neville said...

The thing with the RHS APHG class, when I took it up the chain to the district, they had Susan Derse reply that all they were doing was just what successful Bellevue was doing. That's what the SSD wants to do, model Bellevue.

However, I sincerely doubt Bellevue takes a semester college level class, adds "enrichment" and spread it out over a year and then requires everyone to take it. But Derse (and therefore the rest of the powers that be?) refuse to see that. So much for the critical thinking skills of those who are supposed to be teaching such.

I doubt that Bellevue would tell a third of the interested kids that there's no room for them in AP either.

anonymous said...

So just how high stakes are we willing to let the WASL become?

You have to pass it to graduate.

You have to pass it to get into APP.

Now you have to pass it to take advantage of a higher learning class like AP.

Standardized testing has never been used for these purposes. The WASL has become a monster.

huh? said...

The WSHS PTSA was asked a month ago for their opinion on a start time for WSHS in the 08-09 school year. 8:10 was the suggested start time, based primarily on Metro bus schedules. The assumption was that WSHS would have a 6 1/2 hour school day like everyone else. At no time was there a suggestion or discussion of having a shorter school day than any other high school in the district. What a shock to find out that the new schedule had been set, with no input from parents or the community, for the shortest day of any high school in the district. Gone were the 55-minute and 85-minute periods that had been advertised on the web site for the last six months. Attendees at the PTSA meeting on Wednesday were told that the new schedule had already been approved by district administrators. Oh well, it's good to know that the students will be able to have an additional 15-20 minute Safeway break during the day, and they don't have to change sport start times despite starting school 30 minutes later than last year.

SP said...

Schedules and classroom hours- Does your high school meet the state minimum?
The question has come up in this strand and elsewhere- do our Seattle High Schools offer enough instructional hours per credit (per class), as required by state law? Are our students being shortchanged in the classroom? (Washington state law defines one high school credit as a minimum of 150 hours of planned instruction).

It’s easy to estimate using the district calendar. 177 days of a 55 minute class yields 165.2 hours of planned instruction. But when adjusted for WASL days, early dismissals for the district professional development impacts, planned instruction hours drop to 158 (within the 150 hour state mandate).

The problem lies with schools offering less than 55 minute periods. A 50 minute class yields 147.5 hours, and after adjustments drops to only 143.5 hours, well below state minimums! Nathen Hale students receive only 136 hours of planned instruction per credit (and only 131 hours after adjustments). Several other high schools are in similar situations and these numbers get even worse if you factor in multiple days for site based profession development. The problem comes from using the normal class length (rather than the average) in calculating planned instruction.

Clearly, many of our students are being shortchanged. They deserve more, not less than the minimum 150 hours in the classroom per credit, as per state law. Within the 6-1/2 hour school day in Seattle, there should be more equity between all our high schools.

How many hours does your student have per class?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I looked into this a couple of years back and got the schedules from every school in the district. That was interesting reading because we all assume every school in its division (elementary, middle and high) are roughly start the same times, have the same amount of lunch time (they don't) and class time. Naturally, the most variation is in high school. I was told that some schools get a "temporary" pass for some kind of special schedule but this was very vague.

I can only say that some pressure was applied at Roosevelt over the number of late start days and it went down to about 12 this year.

I never did the math but I think John Q. Public would be quite surprised the amount of time kids aren't in school with late start days, early release days, one day holidays, vacations and WASL days.

ms ws said...

Melissa, I think the big issue here is that the district is not holding the schools accountable for providing the 150 hours of instruction per credit for the students.
The district need to follow the law and all student should have equitable instruction. The public needs to pressure the SSD to follow the law and provide the hours of instruction for all students not just those at Garfield.

eliza.e.campbell said...

Let's clear up this misconception one more time - Hale does in fact have AP History. There are inclusion history classes that all 11th graders share, and AP students do outside work and special assignments to prepare for the test.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Eliza, no one said Hale didn't have AP History; they ended having a separate AP History class. The way AP is presented at Hale is very different and presents many challenges to both teachers and students.

This will likely be a concern when we change the assignment plan.

APParent said...

"Eliza, no one said Hale didn't have AP History; they ended having a separate AP History class. The way AP is presented at Hale is very different and presents many challenges to both teachers and students."

"No one said"? Apparently Melissa you did when you said,

"(This used to happen in AP History at Hale and they had some bizarre method of selecting who could be in that class. That's gone, of course, because they don't have AP History anymore.)"


You are clearly misrepresenting the Hale model here... again.
I am going to take a wild guess here and say that you know nothing about the challenges to both teachers and student as you have not been a part of that community for a number of years and it is doubtful that they would have consulted you in any case and are merely reflecting bitterly on having lost your argument, as you have blogged over and over again, over AP at Hale many years ago. Hale went to their current model so that there would be no limit to the number of students who could pursue a real, rigorous AP experience. In point of fact, the number of students involved in AP at Hale has gone up since the new model has been used and the scores on the AP tests are about the same if not a point or two higher. As a parent I am tired of your incessant criticism of a good program.
the 30+ kids who took it this year certainly think they had an AP history experience so I would appreciate you either getting the facts straight or simply not commenting on a subject of which you do not know the reality. It is insulting to hard working students, not to mention hard working teachers.