Monday, April 13, 2009

From SPS Schoolbeat Newsletter

In order to more consistently place exiting fifth-graders into advanced math courses, and to give more students the opportunity to gain access to those courses, a placement test will be administered to current fifth-graders on May 4-8. This placement test is a collaboration between the Advanced Learning department and Mathematics department.
Students to be tested include those who:
• scored 80 percent or higher on the fifth-grade winter benchmark assessment, or
• scored a 4 on the fourth-grade Math WASL, or
• are currently in Spectrum, or
• are recommended by their teacher or principal, or choose to take it (student/parent request).
For more information, contact Anna-Maria de la Fuente, Mathematics Program Manager, at 252-0062, ahdelafuente@seattleschools.org or Robert Vaughan, Ph.D., Manager, Advanced Learning, at 252-0134, rcvaughn@seattleschools.org.

The Pathfinder K-8 PTSA will host Dr. Vern S. Cherewatenko, director of Functional Medicine at the Amen Clinic, Northwest in Tacoma, on April 22. He will talk about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Cherewatenko is a published author, has appeared in numerous national television programs and has been highlighted in various print media. At the April 22 event, he will answer questions, such as: What happens when some parts of the brain are underfunctioning or over-excitable? What happens when a brain is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD or other medical conditions? What do you do and where can you find resources? The presentation is open to families in the greater West Seattle community. Please RSVP to Marvalee Ahlen at (206) 829-8850 or marvalee_ahlen@yahoo.com by April 15.

A.D.D.: Your Attention Please

Wednesday, April 22
7 p.m.
Pathfinder K-8 at Genesee Hill, Cafeteria
5012 S.W. Genesee St.

The 4th annual Boardwalk 5K Run/Walk Fitness Carnival has been scheduled for April 26 at Husky Stadium. The event will help raise funds for the support of physical education programs at Seattle Public Schools. The event has something for everyone and includes a 5K run/walk, Walk of Champions inside Husky Stadium, and a fitness carnival with games and activities. For more information, contact Dick Lee at rjlee@seattleschools.org or (206) 252-0476.

Boardwalk 5K Run/Walk Fitness Carnival
Sunday, April 26
8:30 a.m.
University of Washington
Husky Stadium
Cost: $30 adults, $10 ages 18 and under

Registration is now open for the 3rd annual Healthy Schools Summit 2009. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Gene Carter who served as the executive director and CEO of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development since 1992. The summit will be especially useful for healthy school advocates, school staff, district administrators, PTA/PTSA members and students. The public is also invited. Read more.

Healthy Schools Summit 2009
Thursday and Friday, May 28-29
7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
SeaTac Airport Marriott
3201 176th St.


seattle citizen said...

It's good to see that 5th graders will be able to take a test to determine their placement in MS. What I would like to see are placement tests for rising 9s (incoming 9th graders) so they can be appropriately placed in HS: math, reading, writing...

The 8th grade WASL might serve such a purpose, but I think it's not enough.

This speaks to a larger and deeper pool of data that can be used to assess where students are at, and what their needs are. Of course, such a tool could be misused, leading to tracking students based on either faulty assessments or perjudgements and prejudice...

It also speaks to making sure there are a range of skill levels represented in the coursework in schools: A student should be able to take a developmental course, an at-level course, or an advanced course. Additionally, the stigma surrounding the high and low levels should be mitigated or erased. Students develop at different rates in different subjects, and this should be celebrated and supported.

According to WV, who must be from New England, this variation in students is perfectly namal.

hschinske said...

I hope this test is better designed than the really lousy one cooked up a few years ago (which the district ended up not using the results of because it was so bad).

Helen Schinske

AutismMom said...

I hope students with disabilities will have the opportunity to participate in a broad range of advanced math options... without being hamstrung by a single "placement test" ... or worse yet, recommendation of a teacher in order to even participate in the single "placement test". Their actual abilities need to be considered separately from various performance measure. These sorts of things always fail to consider the unique presentations of students with disabilities, and students with autism in particular.

Dorothy Neville said...

AutismMom, as a former math teacher and a parent of a kid who took that fiasco test Helen refers to (and I used FERPA to see the test, oh dear was that a lousy test, extremely poorly designed), I am very curious and have thought a lot about this sort of placement testing. I am not snarky, I really am earnest. What kind of tools should we use? Are there standard tools that you have in mind? I think math teachers and those placement tests have a tendency to underpredict which kids can succeed in a more challenging class but I don't know how to change things.

I know some kids without known disabilities don't test well and can succeed in more challenging math than the teacher would expect. In fact, kids who are underchallenged in math may have trouble focusing, staying on task, learning how to pay attention to detail and certainly not look to the teacher like the problem is they need more challenge. I worked with a girl over the summer, then in the fall she completely bombed the placement test to get into honors. I intervened because I knew she could do it. Intervention was successful and she was successful in the Honors class.

Maybe we need to simply allow kids to opt for the honors version as they wish?

anonymous said...

"or worse yet, recommendation of a teacher in order to even participate in the single "placement test"."

A parent can request that their child be tested too. You do not have to rely on a teachers recommendation, or WASL score. But, of course, that doesn't change the fact that a child still has to take the test.

I have mentioned this before, but I will repeat it as it is relevant to this topic. My older son goes to a Shoreline middle school and they offer "opt in" honors. Any kid who wants the challenge can take an honors class. No test. No teacher recommendation. Nothing. The only requirement is that a child maintain a grade of 75 or higher, otherwise they can be bumped into a regular class.

It works wonderfully in three ways.

1- It allows kids that don't test well, but are capable of doing the work access honors classes.

2-It allows access to kids who wouldn't "test in" to Spectrum or honors, but are highly motivated and willing to do the "extra" work to keep up (these kids can be more successful than kids who easily test in to honors but are not very motivated).

3- It allows kids to pick honors classes in the subjects that they excel in. They can take 1, 2, 3 or all 4 honors classes. If they excel in science but not math, English or SS, they can just take honors science. This is very different than Seattle's Spectrum model, which is all or nothing.

The honors "opt in" was one of the prime reasons that we chose Kellogg, in Shoreline, for our son for middle school. It's been fantastic for him. He would not have had access to these rigorous classes in SPS as he didn't "test in" to Spectrum, or APP.

Jet City mom said...

This is the way transition from middle to high school was supposed to work a few years ago.
Middle schools identified the students and their high schools.
The high school counselors gave the middle school counselors course and schedule information for incoming freshmen to look over with their parents.
Shortly after this, high school counselor came to the middle school to meet with students and to take their schedule requests.
( in the meantime- middle school teachers wrote recommendations for placement- but I believe there was also a test involved at least for math)

It doesn't always work well- for instance the middle school counselor forgot all about the high school information to distribute and on top of that, was out of the building the day the high school counselor returned.

I would agree they desperately need not only better math- but science in middle school.
Science was one of the few subjects my daughter really enjoyed and did well in- but it was so rudimentary, it drove her to tears.

Dorothy Neville said...

You know, the more I think about this, rereading the list, I wonder why have a placement test at all? Why, if you already scored high on the WASL, on a placement test for Spectrum, on that winter benchmark, or the teacher thinks you are capable, why then would one have to take another test for placement? Makes me wonder what specific skills they think are important that haven't appeared already on assessments. And makes we wonder what places they will be sending these qualified 6th graders? I mean, is this the chance to get into 6th grade honors or a chance to show you can do 7th grade or even 8th grade honors? Will those be options? Is this all 5th graders, including APP kids?

Charlie Mas said...

APP kids have taken the placement test in the past.

It's a good question, though. If the District is going to be doing all of this work around assessments, then why do they need a placement test? What does the placement test tell them that the MAP data won't reveal? Particularly given the fact that the MAP data is designed to inform individual student instruction - in short, reveal what lesson they are ready for next.

SolvayGirl said...

I prefer an "opt-in" approach. There are plenty of students capable of participating in more challenging classes who do not do well on single, high-stakes tests.

Though it's ancient history, my high school in NY State had two diploma options: Regents (college prep) and Standard. The college prep route assured students they would have met the requirements for 4-year colleges. The level of class work was more rigorous, and the offerings of classes more varied. Students opted for which diploma they wanted to work for. Summer school allowed those who might change their minds mid-stream to make up many of the required courses.

dan dempsey said...

About that math test....
what will the contents be?
Will it contain the 5th grade math performance expectation requiring proficiency in long division with a two-digit divisor and a four-digit dividend?That is one of the math standards listed on the SPS website posted grade level expectations that is never taught as the Everyday Math pacing plan is followed.

The Washington state math standards k-8 would be an interesting source of material for this test. Since these are advanced kids ... maybe selected standards from grades 4 through 8 could be used. Now it is time to get cherry picking the ones that are actually taught in the Seattle Public Schools.

Dorothy Neville said...

"APP kids have taken the placement test in the past."

APP kids have taken A placement test in the past. Not necessarily this one. APP test is designed and graded by WMS math department. I also looked at that one (bless FERPA) and while the test was much better than the Roger Daniel's fiasco, I didn't think it was an appropriately used instrument. It was too much a gatekeeper to advanced standings.

Also, the APP placement test comes with the assumption that kids could end up in any of 3 or more classes. What are the possible outcomes of this new district-wide vehicle? I ask because Eckstein in the last couple years backed off of placing qualified 6th graders in 7th or 8th grade math, but said that instead they were going to beef up their honors classes. So the only possible math placements for incoming 6th graders was 6th grade regular or 6th grade Honors (I don't know about remedial).

So, is this new test replacing the WMS APP math placement test? And what are the possible placements for the students? And why make someone who scored 80%+ on an benchmark and a 4 on the WASL take yet another exam to prove they ought to be in Honors?

southmom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

Dorothy writes:
"why make someone who scored 80%+ on an benchmark and a 4 on the WASL take yet another exam to prove they ought to be in Honors?"

I might suggest that these two indictors would best be merely added to a wider body of accumulated knowledge about any given student. As has been mentioned, some students don't test well, and hence might be unfairly pidgeon-holed as remedial. Well, some students might have some sorta luck or whatever and be scored higher on the WASL than their actual ability. True, this might might be rare, but another reason for using a wider portfolio is to ensure equity: If we want to guard against a student being somewhat arbitrarily assigned a remedial class due to one or two indicators, perhaps we want to develop a wider portfolio for EVERY student to ensure equitable assessment of every student's needs.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if we want to avoid sending a student to a lower class merely on the basis of one score, we might also want to avoid sending a student up the ladder based on one score. A larger and deeper portfolio of information could make decisions more fair and more accurate.

anonymous said...

Regarding Eckstein, Dorothy said "So the only possible math placements for incoming 6th graders was 6th grade regular or 6th grade Honors"

So who takes the INT I, II and III classes that Eckstein offers?

Dorothy Neville said...

Regarding Eckstein, Dorothy said "So the only possible math placements for incoming 6th graders was 6th grade regular or 6th grade Honors"

So who takes the INT I, II and III classes that Eckstein offers?
I do not know what actually happened. Two years ago, there were no 7th graders in Int2, so there wasn't going to be an Int3 last year. This was approximately when the decision was made to keep kids in grade level math classes, with a beefed up Honors course. How that's been working, I do not know. Historically, some kids moved up because they took math in summer school, UW Summer Stretch or perhaps on-line. So even with placing all 6th graders into 6 or 6H, there may be some older kids ready for more. I don't know how it actually worked.

And 8H is Integrated 1.

seattle citizen said...

Speaking of online coursework...I know certain people will call me a hypocrite for finding these intriguing, but I think there's merit to them, if they can used in accordance with public school tenets and not merely contracted out.

There are quite a few online offerings, from single-person programs offered by ex-teachers, etc, to large-scale corporate, state, or combined offerings.

I'm intrigued by the possibilities of these online course, but also worry that they supplant real instruction, or contribute to dismantling of public schools by farming off digital "charters."

The advantages I see might be the following:

Student A is behind. Can't keep up. Student A goes to Computer Lab, where there are 30 other students sitting at computers. Student A logs on, and joins an on-line class, or an on-line tutorial, in his/her specific area of need. The other 30 students are all likewise online in individualized settings; none are doing the same work, but each is in a "class" or tutorial with 30 other students in the ethernet.

The cert in the room is merely a technologist and a classroom manager, facilitating access and maintaining order, etc, perhaps helping with some aspects of instruction.

Or...Student B is above level, and his/her school doesn't offer the advanced coursework. Student B goes to the same lab and logs on...Now they're doing college level work with an online class.

So a school that needs remedial and advanced coursework could meet thirty different individual needs in one class period, with one cert.

Students could also access these courses on their own time, after school if necessary, making more complete use of the computer labs that sit empty at 3:00pm

Adults, too, could access these programs in schools after hours.

As long as the the coursework is "merely" remedial or advanced, and is used IN ADDITION to regular-ed classes (so a student get the variety and depth these real-world classes offer, in addition to the real-world contact and interaction impossible online), then the students could individualize globally.

Why would I be a hyprocrite for liking such a system? Because I've argued long and hard for real schools, real teachers, unions, accountability withIN a district...Digital learning is sort of like charter schools...There are lots of private companies licking their chops, and I don't believe they always have the best interest of students in mind. If digital learning could organized and conducted by public entities, I'd be very happy!

anonymous said...

"So a school that needs remedial and advanced coursework could meet thirty different individual needs in one class period, with one cert."

That's assuming all of the kids can do all of the work without any help, explanation, examples, instruction from the teacher at all. If 30 kids need help, explanation, examples, instruction at all different levels, I don't see how it would work.

Charlie Mas said...

They may all need some help, explanation, examples, and instruction (in addition to the help, explanation, examples, and instruction that is online), just not all at the same time.

The certified person in the room can go from station to station providing the assistance and supplementation as necessary and upon request. Students put their hand up when they need help.

seattle citizen said...

Additionally, these are networked classes: the cert in the room monitors, assists with tech, and might also do some rudimentary instruction and curriculum assistance.

The MAIN instructor is remote: The student is working, in real time, with a remote cert and thirty other similarly leveled students at different locations. If they have a question, they ask it, or the instructor remotes their computer and sees what's up.

seattle citizen said...

As I indicated before, there are all sorts of combinations available digitally: a student could work independently (not during a specific class, and still be able to network with qualified assistance at some other site. Imagine the homework centers, staffed by certs.

Or maybe a cert is assigned a case-load, maybe thirty students, and works with them throughout the day, asnwering whatever questions, working in tandem on split-screen monitors...

Ot a regular "class" at a regular time: the students are all over the country, but they see the instructor on their screen. When a student has a quetion, they speak, and the system shows the speaker to the rest of the class...

Ain't technology wonderful?

But of course this system, while benefiting students, could devalue the profession of educating...a "teacher" wouldn't need to be doing everything a regular teacher would. I see opportunity for mischief: "certs" making ten dollars an hour, working out of India...

AutismMom said...


I have a child who doesn't do well in any class.... by standard measures, that is. He was able to get a 4 on math WASL... but has received many 1's on math report report cards. How can that be???... OSPI sends me a mail saying he's ahead in all areas of math.... teacher says he's years behind. Why? we asked.... the answer always is... well we gave him a test and he didn't do it... or he changed all the questions... or we don't think he understands it because he can't explain anything... or, or, or... it's always something. Sometimes, he simply can't read the questions or doesn't understand the questions. I find a lot of this math is really about language and not about math at all. And sure, it's great to learn that type of language too. But the deal is... that's how he is, no matter what class he's in.

But, the fact remains, he is excellent at math.. and on any psychological test, where they test mathematical abilities and talents... he scores 97% or so. I think that placement decision needs to made at an IEP team meeting after reviewing all the extensive testing that has been done on the student.

So, what class benefits him? My claim is a reasonably advanced class benefits him. Even if doesn't "ace the class". He wouldn't "ace the class" in the math-for-dummies-class either. He will also need to be accommodated and supported, even if he's in the advanced class. That concept seems foreign is Seattle. Their concept is "if you're sped... you should be a sped... no, not in the advanced class".

owlhouse said...

I'm curious about the Healthy Schools summit. I've been through their website, but would love to hear from someone with personal experience. Anyone?

seattle citizen said...

Re Healthy Schools:
The doctor visited all of Seattle Schools (can you imagine? you thought house calls were a thing of the past, but this doctor made school calls!) and determined that the patients were quite ill, but appeared stable.
There are symptoms of degeneration in the vascular systems, the digits, and some of the major organs. Some of the muscles are, due to lack of use, calcifying. The right brain is inert, and the music center of the brain is shrinking due to lack of nourishment.
Prognosis calls for continued morbidity without the infusion of nourishment. This calls for a run of vitamins of various kinds (evidently, the diet has been lately restricted to just three, and maybe four primary sources of nourishment, when a wide variety is prescribed); exercise, in the form of movement through dance, gymnastics, and meditative yoga; increased neural stimulus in the form of arts and inquiry-based learning exercises, and other programs of activity to generally enliven the whole-system.

owlhouse said...

You made my day, SC!

I wonder if we could a special time-release formula for your prescription, something offering such nutrients over say... 13 years?

seattle citizen said...

I believe the doctor said that immediate recuperative efforts must be made. Once the patients are up and around, a time-release packet of vitamins and aother natural supplements might be called for. But in the short term, the patients must get some 24/7 care: exercise, diet and various assists provided by qualified practitioners to get them up and out of bed.
A round of counseling is also suggested, due to apathy, depression, delusional thinking and a severe case of the giggles.