Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Journalism

I'm going to try something I've never done before. I've arranged to meet with Holly Ferguson, Carol Rava-Treat, and David Tucker, to ask them some questions about the Strategic Plan. I will then report back to the blog readers with the results of that interview. It won't exactly be journalism - it will be that "new journalism" as promised by electronic communication; you'll have to consider the credibility of the source as you consider the quality of the content.

Of course, one positive is that I'm open to asking questions suggested by the readers. So what are your questions about the Plan? What would you ask these folks if you got the chance?


anonymous said...

Thank you, Melissa!!

I would like to know if Dr. Goodloe Johnson will explore self elected honors/Spectrum and make advanced learning available to all who are motivated, and not just those who test in.

I'm sure you have read my posts on the subject before, but I will reiterate what Shoreline does, in hopes that you will share this in the meeting. In MS Shoreline offers 4 core honors classes - math, science, social studies and
English. Any student can elect to take these classes. All they need to do is register. No test. No wait list. A student can take 0, 1, 2, 3 or all 4 honors classes. If they desire extra challenge in say, science, they can elect to take only the science honors class. The only requirement is that a student maintain a grade of 75 or higher or they get bumped into the regular class. It is super kid and family friendly.

They do not allow a wait list for honors. They accomodate all kids by shifting teachers around depending on how many kids sign up. If it is a really odd number, the class may be larger than the norm or smaller than the norm, but nobody is turned away.

It really works, and families are very very happy.

dan dempsey said...


I see that the Strategic Plan is going to be committed to Everyday Math and Connected Math. I know your thoughts on those two text series. Find out a bit more about why the SPS thinks these are adequate selections for the task at hand.

SolvayGirl said...

I'd like to know how they plan to serve communities with a wide range of socio-economic brackets (like Rainier Beach or the Central District) and other special needs. What mechanisms will they put in place to assure that kids who want rigor and high expectations will get it and that kids who might need a different approach will also be served? This is especially important once they put the new student assignment plan into affect. Right now, the District doesn't have a very good track record at serving a variety of students needs in one school.

SE Mom said...

I really want to know what the status of the SE Initiative is because that was the big plan to help improve Rainier, Cleveland and Aki Kurose. Is the plan still on the table? What's going on with the funding? How is it being implemented? (Details, not just an overview) How is the District making good on promises made for programming for next year at those schools as listed in the enrollment guide?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ad Hoc, thanks but this was Charlie's post.

Your idea might work for middle/high school but not elementary because of the obvious reason of those students only having one teacher. I don't really have a lot of problems with letting parents/students self-select but again, in elementary that would be problematic. You likely would get 2 classes of these students and that would probably make the principal/teachers unhappy (if experience is any guide). Also, if you had a guideline about staying at a certain level in elementary and then you change a kid because he/she can't keep up, it's harder on a younger child than a middle school student.

To Charlie's question, what I would ask is:

-initiatives come and go; is the district staff willing to commit to seeing this plan through?

-have they read the Moss-Adams report and understand that, at some level at the district headquarters, there has to be a change in mindset about how things are done and not just on paper?

If you do ask them these, feel free to tell them they came from me.

anonymous said...

Melissa, I agree that during elementary school it might not work to have self elected Spectrum. But perhaps there could be a process other than just a "test". And perhaps Spectrum could be offered on a year to year basis, instead of once you're in you're in.

Perhaps a parent could apply based on their child's year long academic performance, submit a portfolio, etc.

Perhaps a teacher could place a student in Spectrum?

Perhaps a school could have a committee to review applications that parents submit and choose from that pool.

I think having a human VS. a test as part of the determining factor of acceptance into Spectrum would be significant. A human knows the motivation of a student. A human knows if the child has had a successful academic year, and maybe just a bad 3 hours on the day of test taking. A human knows if this child is going through a troubling situation at home such as a divorce or an ill parent that could affect his performance. A human knows if this child is brilliant but not a great test taker.

As we know many very intelligent children simply do not test well. The school zone blog has a thread on universities veering away from using SAT scores for this very reason.

My child tested into Spectrum in 2nd grade with an outstanding score (though we didn't take the spot). The next year in 3rd grade we tested him again, and he bombed. How could a child who tested in one year, bomb the next? One theory we have is the way the test is administered. In 2nd grade the test is administered to a child one on one. The proctor came to my son's school and pulled him out of class. She sat down with him, read the questions to him, and asks him to fill in the blank. He stayed on task with the help of the proctor. In 3rd grade the test is given in a large group setting. My son had to be at another school, at 7AM, on a Saturday morning. He who was in a group of about 30 kids, who were given the test at the same time. He was given a booklet, had the rules explained, told his time limit, and then he was left on his own.

Two very different ways of administering the test and two very different outcomes. For the same kid.

To me this scenario shows a clear connection with a child's test taking ability, and perhaps ability to work independently, but not intelligence or ability to work at the Spectrum level.

As far as middle school the slef elected Shoreline model works, and works well. There is NO reason Seattle should not offer a self elected model in MS.

TechyMom said...

What kind of supports are going to be put in place for schools whose demographics change significantly after the new assignment plan? How will neighborhood parents be reassured that a previously "bad" school is now appropriate for their children?

I'm thinking specifically of Madrona, but there are other examples. Madrona is made up mostly of kids from outside the neighborhood, and the neighborhood kids go elsewhere (McGilvra, TOPS and private mostly). The principal has shown a lack of interest in serving the (mostly white, affluent, and working at grade level) neighborhod kids, and instead focuses on bringing WASL 2's up to WASL 3's, with strict rules and uniforms. I know a lot of families in this neighborhood would not accept an assignment to Madrona.

What will be done, before the new assignment plan, and during it's first few years, to improve the program at schools like this, and to reassure parents that their needs will be met? How will the principal be held accountable to serving the needs of these neighborhood students?

hschinske said...

"In 2nd grade the test is administered to a child one on one. The proctor came to my son's school and pulled him out of class."

I don't think most schools do that -- at Whittier even the kindergartners took the CogAT in groups. Is your son old enough to have been given the Woodcock-Johnson achievement test? That was given one-on-one. Not sure the district is using it at all any longer -- if they are, it's only for the youngest kids, for whom they have no other available achievement data.

Helen Schinske

anonymous said...

Helen, I don't remember which which test was administered, but I do know that in 2nd grade it was administered at his school, during the school day, by a proctor - one on one. In 3rd grade he did do the group testing.

BTW this was 5 years ago so things may have changed since then.

reader said...

Charlie, I hope you will cull this blog and Harium MM's blog on all the traffic pertaining to special education. Thanks.

Dorothy Neville said...

Have you had your meeting yet? I keep hesitating to ask my burning question because it is kinda general. But it is burning. And relevant to the Plan.

What exactly is 'rigor' and how do you (ie, the district and administrators) support teachers to increase it?

Charlie Mas said...

I'm having the meeting on Monday afternoon.

While there are plenty of acceptable definitions of rigor available, the question for the Plan is how will they measure it and assure it.