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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Grading Policy Reform delayed further

Staff told the Board, at the September 23, 2008 meeting of the Curriculum and Instructional Policy Committee, that integrated grading policy reform would be brought before them in January or February. Then it was delayed to March or April. Then it was supposed to be introduced in May for a vote in June. Now we learn that it has been deferred indefinitely as the District's technology isn't capable of handling the 11 point GPA or whatever.

In the meantime, high school credit for classes taken in middle school has been unecessarily delayed along with the rest of the package.

If the Board does not act soon to update their policy and bring it into compliance with state law, yet another year will pass when students will not get credit for their work.

The state law, RCW 28A.230.090, requires districts to award high school credit to students upon request when their middle school class is similar or equivalent to classes taught in the high schools. In Seattle this is primarily world language and math classes. The Board has knowingly been in violation of that state law for years yet refused to take action to come into compliance. They continue to stand behind their existing policy - based on repealed laws - that says that credit cannot be granted until a student is in high school. The policy speaks to when the credit can be granted, not to when it can be earned.

The staff and the Board all claim that they want to offer the credit. They just can't get out of their own way.

14 comments:

Rose M said...

Some middle school parents are discussing having their kids take high school level math online. They can use a traditional text & get credit.

Charlie Mas said...

Rose, who would award the credit? The online school?

Rose M said...

Friends have had their kids take classes from Stanford EPGY high school & University of Nebraska-Lincoln independent study high school. They award credit. I think Roosevelt treats it like credit from a transfer student. But I am not sure of the details.

BullDogger said...

Having sat through many college admission pitches this year most schools will normalize grades coming out of districts/schools regardless of plus/minus. More important elements of this policy are the credit seat hour requirement and credit in H.S. for M.S. work.

No high school adheres to the present credit hour definition. On average, Garfield and Roosevelt have 9% more class time than the other 8 mainstream high schools (3 weeks more seat time). A policy vacuum allows individual buildings to go heavy on the local professional development and short on the seat time. I know many educators subscribe to the “time doesn’t matter, quality matters” philosophy. Personally I think time AND quality matters. I’ve seen children struggle with classes where a little more time would make a big difference. Also, 8 of the 10 schools are overstating their FTE, the data source for funding. I would think, like middle school credits for high school, some greater priority would exist.

I was at the fall C&I meeting. The impatience of some board members towards staff was evident. I also attended the board work session in April where the same, now tired board seemed to buy into the argument this should become part of a greater holistic change next fall. That’s a mistake. Big packages of policy change give staff way too much influence by not allowing detailed public discussion. If technical issues make plus/minus grades difficult then shelve that issue but address the important items in the policy.

Rose M said...

The Eckstein principal came from Ballard High School. She is not excited about high school credit for middle schoolers because of the class hour & teacher training requirements that will have to be monitored. It sounds like the high schools are not meeting the class hour requirements already.

But soon there will be end of course exams for math. Could those be used to award credit?

BullDogger said...

RoseM...

Class hour requirements are anyone's guess. OSPI essentially delegates enforcement of hours per credit to districts. The district legal staff has been very creative, interpreting in as much wiggle room as possible and keeping proposed policy wording murky. SPS likely offers fewer hours per credit than any 6 period day format district in the state. I don't know if this board will ever speak to the issue and create clear policy but I hope they will.

From the board work session, as I recall, the big hang-ups are having certified teachers (there are many just not for all), appropriate curriculum (with testing?) and the foresight to gather those resources into something that can be communicated to families (the course catalog). Schools like Eckstein I would expect to be able to deliver quite quickly to SOME students. Delivering to ALL students across the district would take time.

The district needs to proceed where they can while letting the constraints get identified and problems worked. All students won't benefit but some will and getting a foreign language or math requirement early is smart educational progress as long as course content is legitimate. If principals are not excited parents will need to push a little harder.

Charlie Mas said...

I find it odd that the District can be so gung-ho on AP classes and the idea of college courses in the high schools and yet so reluctant - actually obstinant - about high school courses in the middle schools.

Actually, they are all for high school courses in the middle schools; they just don't want to award any credit to the students for taking the courses. Moreover, they seem oddly blind to the reasons that any student would want the credit.

Just to be clear:

1) People - all people - deserve credit for their work. That even extends to middle school students.

2) CORE 24 is predicated, in part, on the presumption that college-prep students will come to high school with some credit already earned.

3) State law requires the district to award the credit.

4) Coming to high school with the credit already earned allows the students greater freedom in scheduling. It allows them to take more advanced courses in grades 11 and 12 because they don't have to fill their schedule with credits for graduation. I also allows them the freedom to take no courses other than, say, four AP classes as a senior.

Any one of those reasons, by itself, should suffice.

The only reason that Seattle Public Schools continues to be out of compliance with the state law on this is that the district level staff are irrationally opposed to it.

anonymous said...

Why? Why are district staff opposed? Have they given any rational reason?

I mean, really, it's not rocket science, so what's the problem?

Shoreline gives credit to middle school students for HS math and all foreign language (if the parent requests it). Simple.

Perhaps we should try to recruit the Shoreline Supt, Sue Walker, next time we need a new leader. Shoreline continually gets things right, without all of the drama.

hschinske said...

My daughters took some EPGY math in grade school, and the school was not at all inclined to think that credit from Stanford or Johns Hopkins (the girls were enrolled in courses from both at different times) meant anything at all. For one thing, there was no proof that I hadn't helped them unduly.

It was a pretty bitter pill, particularly since almost the only reason we'd gone with an expensive course like EPGY (rather than just supplementing on our own with Singapore or something) was to get outside verification and credit for their accomplishments.

Helen Schinske

SP said...

http://www.sbe.wa.gov/SBE%20Transcript%20Study%202008_FINAL.pdf

In this report by the BERC Group, you'll see that in WA state,
over 25% of kids get HS credit for math before entering 9th grade, 6% in foreign languages. This means that alot of other districts are awarding HS credits in MS, but not in Seattle, the largest school district in WA.

At the April 29th Seattle School Board work session on HS credits & grading, one of the major roadblocks that the district & board discussed was equity- if not all middle schools have equal # of teachers with HS credentials, then it would not be fair to those MS students who had already chosen their MS without being told in advance that some MS's could offer HS credits in math or WL but not others.

There never will be a guarantee of this in any MS throughout the 3 years that a student attends. With that attitude & that excuse, HS credit in MS policy will never be approved.

The main findings in the same BERC report commissioned by the WA State Board of Ed in the midst of the CORE 24 discussions, are even more interesting: "Findings indicate that higher credit requirements did not ensure students completed the specific courses necessary for college admittance, such as advanced math, laboratory science, or literature."

Basically, you can require 24 credits, but that alone will not get more kids ready for college. The report states, "Thus, requiring a higher number of math or science credits without specifying the levels of classes does not ensure students are ready for college."

The State Board of Ed had already endorsed the CORE 24 before the BERC report (that they commissioned) was presented to them- Our tax $ at work!

Charlie Mas said...

Other Districts in Washington allow high school credit for classes taken in middle school because state law requires it. Seattle Public Schools is essentially in violation of state law. They are getting away with it because no one is going to sue for the credit. It's too expensive, it's too much trouble, and the District, although completely in the wrong, may be able to wriggle out of it.

Charlie Mas said...

I have an email from Michael Tolley:

"Mr. Mas,

The direction that we continue to receive from the School Board is to make changes to the grading policy in a comprehensive manner. Implementation of grading policy changes, upon approval, would begin during the 2010 - 2011 school year.
"

So there you have it. High School credit for classes taken in middle school has been pushed back another year.

That is, unless the Board changes their "direction"

SP said...

Charlie,
That decision to postpone all the D46.01 policy updates was made during the April 29th Board Work session by both the district & board members.

There are too many different pieces to that policy, and I doubt they will ever get it together to agree on them all at the same time. Really, it should be broken down into atleast two (grading and HS credits) if not more policies.

And yes, our kids are the ones paying the price. They do not recognize that it takes 2 years of a MS Spanish or French class to qualify for one HS credit according to WA state. So our now 6th graders will miss the boat for 7th & 8th grade credit or our 7th graders will miss advanced math credit for 8th grade HS credit, just because they want a "comprehensive" update to the whole policy and not piecemeal. We could wait forever until the computers can do a 11-point grading system!

Sorry kids, your work doesn't count.

SP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.