Interesting Discussion at the Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee Meeting

I attended this afternoon's committee meeting for the Board's Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee. The attendees were chair, Director Martin-Morris, Director Carr and Director Chow (who was late because Gary Locke is to be Commerce Secretary for the Obama administration and, as Cheryl put it, they needed a Chinese-American to talk to at KOMO) as well as High School Director, Michael Tolley, and CAO, Carla Santorno. The topics to be discussed were changes to the grading policy, promotion/non-promotion and bell times for middle/high schools.

As usual, there was a lot of paperwork passed out. There was:
  • a memo from Carla about the Steering Committee for High School Reform; Proposal to Changes to School Board Policies D46.01 andC15.02 (grading)
  • the survey about these changes
  • a draft of changes to the Board policies (which came from staff)
  • 3 years worth of AP and IB information for the high schools that have it (very interesting but I haven't read it all
(FYI, I erred in thinking this was a Board work session - it wasn't. But it was very useful anyway and seemed less formal.)

Mr. Tolley said that the survey had been done and the Steering Committee created in order to align high school procedures. The district was out of compliance with a state law on attendance and corrected that last fall. The district was also out of compliance with Board policy on failing grades ("E") grades and had been using "N". That, too, has been corrected.

There were 5 recommendations from the Steering Committee. The first was to use an 11-point grading system for high school. (A, A-, B+, B, B-,C+, C, C-, D+, D and E). I'm not going to go through all the reasoning here (and I'll try to find these at the website and post them). The overall idea is that (1) other districts use this and (2) students will work harder for what might be perceived as more attainable grade increments.

One issue with this - and here I almost laughed - is...district technology. Even if it gets voted in, it could take time because our technology isn't up to snuff and priorities would have to be established. (This issue came up in another area of discussion at this meeting.) When are we, as a district, ever going to be able to do something just for academics before cost and/or ability to enact? It just seems sad.

Obviously no A+ or D- but 11-point is the most used scale. Director Carr believes this will help our students have parity with students in other districts.

Second recommendation; eliminate the 2.0 grade point average for graduation. Interestingly, the survey showed students/parents/non-staff against this but the principals/staff were for it. The rationale is "the level of rigor in high schools is strong, and is one the rise, through increased WASL expectations, current development of end-of-course exams and OSPI-developed classroom-based assessments, expansion of AP/IB courses and participation, PSAT testing for all students and other initiatives." Basically, we have the rigor so we don't need an enforced grade point average.
  • No other district in the state has this requirement.
  • The return of the "E" grade contributes to increased rigor.
  • OSPI may raise graduation credit requirements which will increase rigor significantly. (You raise the requirements and this is more rigor? I'd say you'd have to wait and see what areas they raise and what happens in the school before you can blanket statement say it means more rigor.)
The opposition to this measure is that its elimination will water-down the rigor.

They are very worried about the public relations needed should this be done. Cheryl noted that Linda Shaw, education reporter at the Times who was there, shouldn't write that they are "lowering" the bar. I didn't catch Linda's reaction but I'm sure she appreciated being told what to write.

Third recommendation; eliminate the 2.0 GPA for athletes. This one was discussion a lot because if you eliminate it for students who aren't athletes, why have it there for athletes? Interestingly, Carla had been at a meeting with the head of the WIAA (not sure of exact name but it's the Washington state group that oversees high school sports). This guy was saying how great Seattle was for having a GPA for athletes (no other district does) and he wishes other districts would do it! And yet, we're likely to get rid of it.

Harium seems worried about student-athletes not being students first. Sherry said student-athletes could get 4 Ds and an F and still be able to compete and that seemed wrong to her. Cheryl is very much for this rec because athletics helps keeps kids in school. She said it wasn't that many kids (although the chart said between 10-15% of kids participate in high school sports). Again, on the survey students/parents were against but staff was for it.

Fourth recommendation: high school credit for 8th grade course work. Sherry and Harium said this needed to be changed to credit for middle school work as some students start before 8th grade.

Sherry brought up an important point about equity because the requirement includes that the course must be taught by a teacher who is endorsed to teach the course at a high school level. (The other requirements are that the superintendent has to say it is equivalent to the high school course and that students have to formally apply to have the grade and credit placed onto their high school transcript within 5 weeks of their freshman year.) Sherry wondered if that would be true for all middle schools. Carla said the usual, we'll work on it and try to support the teachers as we did for AP courses.

If it were implemented, it would not be retroactive. There was discussion about why students had to apply it towards their high school credits/grades rather than just having it reflected via computer. The idea is that maybe a student may not want it there if they don't like the grade they received.

The 5th rec is about having a weighted grading scale for AP/IB/Honors courses. This had a lot of discussion because basically your GPA would look better but it would last once you applied to higher ed because they would only use a 4-point scale and ignore the add-on points. What is driving this rec is to try to lure more kids to these higher level courses that would be a benefit to their transcript not in the form of a higher GPA but because of the status they carry to colleges/universities (plus the higher-level work the student would be trying).

It seemed like the Board members would support all of these except for the 2.0 GPA for athletes. There was some discussion of tying athletic participation to attendance as another way to keep athletes in class (Cheryl also suggested citizenship points. Good luck with that one.)


Anonymous said…
What happened to the discussion about the new proposed Start Times??

Did it get squeezed out due to time constraints, or did you have to leave early?

From your post on Saturday:
Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee Meeting
February 23, 2009
4:30 - 6:00 pm

1. Grading Policy
2. Promotion/Non-Promotion Policy
3. Transportation/Bell Times
dan dempsey said…
What happened to the discussion about ............
Melissa said: "The topics to be discussed were changes to the grading policy, promotion/non-promotion"

So what happened to the promotion / non-promotion policies ????

Thanks for the Report.
Dorothy Neville said…
Thanks for these notes.

I pointed out on the survey completed that IF we adopt an 11 point scale, then we would have even more reason NOT muck with the 2.0 requirements. It would be easier for a student to get higher than a 2.0 in that case, because every C+ would bump them up. Seems fair and reasonable to me and maintains a minimum amount of accountability and integrity.

As for their reasons to pat themselves on the back regarding rigor? Puleeeze. I just read it off to my son and he agreed. Total BS.

Increased participation in AP? Yes, at Roosevelt it is a mandatory participation in an AP class that is "rigorous" and "honors" and "college level" in name only. The mandatory participation in AP-Lite meant that the 50% of the class (about 175 kids per year) who WANTED more rigor with a real honest to goodness fast paced challenging AP class are denied that opportunity.

Higher WASL expectations? Sure, and 65,000 WASL booklets just got shredded the other day because they couldn't afford to administer and grade them and we are shredding the whole WASL thing next year anyway.

PSAT? Not aligned with state standards and not something that increases or ensures rigor. Where'd they get that idea? Are they planning to require a minimum PSAT score? Or what?

OSPI's CBAs? Puleeze. Has any teacher anywhere adopted these? My son's first grade teacher used these, I have never seen one since. And just because a teacher might give this to the class, what's it mean? Couldn't the kids all turn them into paper airplanes? But the teacher and principal could say "yay! we gave classroom based assessments! ain't we got rigor."

Sure, they are talking about end of year exams. Someone, somewhere in OSPI is discussing the creation of such exams. That's enough to say it's a done deal and we have rigor now?
Dorothy Neville said…
I am under the impression --- please correct me --- that there are two sorts of endorsements in Washington, elementary and middle/high school. So wouldn't most if not all middle school teachers already have their high school credentials? I don't see how that could be that big an issue in the high school credit for courses taken in middle school debate.
What I understood from yesterday is that the endorsement is elementary/middle and then high school. Teachers?

I am writing a separate piece on the bell times; I was tired last night and I didn't want the post to be extra long.

Dan, Carla had some handout that didn't get passed out on promotion/non-promotion. She waved it off because the meeting was running late and they spent most of the time on the 5 recommendations and Harium wanted to talk about the bell times. I got the feeling the discussion on promotion/non-promotion was just starting.
Jet City mom said…
They don't necessarily need to wait grades- Both my kids were admitted to all the colleges they applied without weighted grades.

One - unweighted grades are noted in report to colleges on school.
Some classes ( marine biology for example) are equally rigourous to honors/AP.
Students who are working their a$$es off, in regular classes, deserve to be recognized as much as students who glide through AP's.

Garfield is very proud of the sports teams and my daughters coaches have stressed academics come first.
The football coach requires all players to take the SAT as well.
If they take GPA requirement away, who has their back?
I realize it is not optimal but having a GPA requirement does motivate some athletes to pay more attention to classwork.

( Melissa- yes endorsements are from K-8 or subject)

Defining Quality

Generally speaking, teachers are considered highly qualified in Washington State if they can meet one of six qualifications, from holding an endorsement for K-8 or a degree in a core academic subject (English, reading, language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics, government, economics, geography, history or art); to passing the PRAXIS II; to being evaluated as satisfactory by a supervisor.
hschinske said…
I like the PSAT being given in 9th and 10th grade, but I don't see it being used to increase rigor at all. In fact I don't really see it being used for anything except college counseling (and advertising -- my kids are getting college ads, college summer camp ads, etc., every day now -- yes, thank you, I *would* like to send my kids to Oxford or Brown for the summer, who's paying for it? Me? Sorry). I think it's definitely a "weighing the pig doesn't make it any fatter" phenomenon.

Helen Schinske
"Students who are working their a$$es off, in regular classes, deserve to be recognized as much as students who glide through AP's."

Look, can we not disparage any student's efforts? I know plenty of kids, including my own, who find AP very challenging and work very hard in their classes. I know very few kids who "glide" through AP.

I will gently say that the effort made in the classes does matter but as I have posted elsewhere, that issue would need to be communicated when a student applies for college. Because colleges and universities look for students who take on the higher level classes (if available). They would weigh a B in an AP class higher than an A in a regular class (core). That's just how they roll.

I may have misspoken on my point about the PSAT. The district looks as it as a WAY to find kids who could use more rigor, not that it is adding anything (unless you count the experience of taking a higher level test).
dan dempsey said…
Rigor ?? would we know it if we saw it?

Another useless undefined term.

Classroom based assessments might measure rigor but to assume that they all are rigorous is naive.

The WA schools exist in "lala" land as there are no nationally normed tests given across the state to all children at any grade level.

It was said: "PSAT? Not aligned with state standards and not something that increases or ensures rigor. Where'd they get that idea? Are they planning to require a minimum PSAT score? Or what?"

At least the PSAT (as given recently in the SPS) would give us a rough idea of where our kids stand on some nationally normed test. Well if the district ever decided to let us know it would. The PSAT results were out in January for Students. Perhaps March would not be too early for public notification of group results.

Correct the PSAT will not raise rigor or increase student academic acomplishment but it would give us a rough idea of where our students stand on a broad national assessment. Currently we know ZERO in that regard.
Jet City mom said…
"Students who are working their a$$es off, in regular classes, deserve to be recognized as much as students who glide through AP's."

I don't really think I was disparging anyones effort. I was simply showing a contrast in ease of doing academic work. I certainly know there are students who work very hard at AP classes- I have mentioned , many, many times, my own daughter who was in aremedial course at the same time as an AP- as well as quite a few of her classmates.

However- while she took one, or at most two AP courses at a time, there are also students who take 4 or more, starting in 9th grade. I imagine unless they are real gluttons for punishment, they find it more managable than students who struggle with one.
( and of course there are students who take the test and get a 4 or 5, without taking the class)

My point was actually- I don't think grades need to be weighted, I believe that contributes to grade inflation.
MathTeacher42 said…
Thank you very much for the summary of the meeting.

I do NOT favor weighting grades for honors or ap or whatever, ... unless you are tying the class grade to some national standard - such as an SAT math score or an AP Calc score.

I know many parents and many teachers would disagree with me.


Bob Murphy
Charlie Mas said…
Did no one on the Board object to the five-week time limit for requesting credit for high school courses taken in middle school? What purpose does that limit serve?

Did no one on the Board object to the prohibition against students requesting credit for classes taken before next year? What purpose does that prohibition serve?

I have requested credit for work my daughter has done and had that credit refused for no good reason. Two different Board members have told me that I could re-submit the request after they update the Policy, but with these prohibitions in place there would be no point to it.
Charlie, they did ask why anyone had to apply for the credit (and it wasn't given as part of the middle school transcript). Carla said that some kids don't want that grade they received in middle school on their high school transcript and the Board members seemed to accept it. (I think it should be the reverse; if you take a high school course in middle school, it shows up on your high school transcript unless you say otherwise).

When the issue of when this should be enacted came up, they all shook their heads over it being retroactive. There wasn't discussion so I can't say for sure why but I think it's because of the work it would involve.
h2o girl said…
Charlie, honestly when I read that term limit I had the thought it was designed in response to your case. I'm probably just seeing a conspiracy when there really isn't one, but I'm sorry your daughter is the Lily Leadbetter of SPS right now.
hschinske said…
I think high school credit for middle school classes should work the same way as college credit for AP classes: credit and placement, but no grade.

Helen Schinske
Charlie Mas said…
I suspect that that people have to request the credit because that is the way that the law is written - not that people have to request it, but that the District has to award it upon request.

There is no legitimate reason to require that the request come within five weeks of starting high school. It just serves no purpose.

There is no legitimate reason to disallow credit for classes taken before next year. They can put the burden of proof onto the applicant if they think it's too much work to research classes before next year.
dan dempsey said…
Interesting that agenda:
1. Grading Policy
2. Promotion/Non-Promotion Policy
3. Transportation/Bell Times
So the Curriculum&Instruction Policy meeting never made it to item #2.

Does anyone have any idea when the next meeting will take place?
SP said…
Charlie, you might find this of interest:

"This analysis focused on whether students earned high school credits in math or world language prior to entering 9th grade.
Results showed that 26.1% and 6.3% of high school graduates earned credits
in math or foreign language, respectively, prior to entering 9th grade (see Figure 13)."

This is a report by the BERC group last year of all the WA high schools and their graduation transcripts. It was presented to the state Board of Ed. Those figures are much higher than I would expect- I wonder what Seattle's are? Why so different?
hschinske said…
That 26% in math is about in line with various figures I've heard for the percentage of kids taking algebra in eighth grade. It is odd that so many get credit for it.

Helen Schinske
Charlie Mas said…
In Seattle the numbers are easy. Here, 0% and 0% earn credit in math or foreign language prior to entering 9th grade. Seattle Public Schools - in violation of state law - refuses to grant credit for high school level work done prior to entering high school.
dan dempsey said…

Perhaps we should begin a list of the state laws ignored by the SPS?

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