10 Seattle Schools win "Great School" awards from Phi Beta Kappa and The Center for Educational Effectiveness

Seattle AS #1 (Pinehurst) K‐8 (an Alternative school)
ESD 121 Seattle Catharine Blaine K‐8
ESD 121 Seattle Daniel Bagley Elementary School (Montessori)
ESD 121 Seattle John Stanford International Elementary (Language Immersion)
ESD 121 Seattle Madison Middle School
ESD 121 Seattle Mercer Middle School
ESD 121 Seattle Orca @ Whitworth (Alternative School)
ESD 121 Seattle The New School at South Shore
ESD 121 Seattle Thornton Creek @ Decatur (Alternative School)
ESD 121 Seattle View Ridge Elementary School

Hello award winning principal! As we indicated in our letter of 9/4/2009 – your school is being recognized as one of the 5% highest improving schools, over a 5 year span of time, in Reading and Math for the state of Washington in 2009 – what an honor! We are very excited for this remarkable progress in student achievement made through hard work and focused efforts in your school and in schools across the state of Washington . Congratulations once again!

Phi Delta Kappa of Washington state and the Center for Educational Effectiveness are co-sponsors of this award using the same methodology as used in 2007 and 2008 to identify the “Schools of Distinction”. The award from this year forward will be called the “Great Schools” award so as not to be confused with an OSPI-sponsored award. Later this fall, Superintendent Dorn will be recognizing schools with a new, more comprehensive award aligned with the State Board of Educations’ accountability index for Reading , Writing, Math and Science. What great news for our schools – they deserve recognition from multiple levels and organizations!

PDK-WA and CEE are honored to support schools and improvement and to say “thank you for all you do for the children of our state!” As stated before, at the PDK-WA luncheon during the “Schools of Distinction Institute” on September 26, we will be recognizing this year’s recipients of the “Great Schools” award. In addition, we will be visiting your district to present you with your certificate and banner:


Megan Mc said…
How silly would the district look if they closed AS#1 last year.
seattle citizen said…
AS#1 at Pinehurst! Your unique and very special program deserves to be recognized, particularly through success on these State tests: Teaching in a highly innovative way evidently produces, as a welcome corollary, successful students in the eyes of the State, and through them the District!
Congratulations to all these schools for achieving great gains on meeting the academic standards of the State of Washington!
Thank you to Phi Delta Kappa of Washington state and the Center for Educational Effectiveness for continuing to mark for distinction schools that are moving forward as measured by these official state standards (via WASL growth reports). I look forward to seeing these schools and more in State recognitions, soon to come, of the many and varied programs that succeed on this important state assessment!
seattle citizen said…
Far from past thoughts of closing the school, I suspect now the District will shower Alternative School #1 with funding and other resources to further grow what is apparently an example of fine education; furthermore, I assume SPS will extend its review, uh, audit so as to gain maximum knowledge of the strategies for its success and needs to improve, thereby having the wherewithal to export these ideas and practices elsewhere in the district.

Duplicate success.

Look to AS#1

Educate successfully!
TechyMom said…
I find it very interesting that 6 of the 10 are non-traditional schools of one form or another (I'm including New School). I'm pretty sure that SPS isn't 60% non-traditional. These schools are very highly overrepresented in the "great schools" awards. Hello SPS. This stuff works.
Anonymous said…
TechyMom, I don't think this story is telling us that these are the best schools in the district, just that they have made the greatest improvement in some measure of outcome in the last 5 years. To that end, the name of the award seems a little misleading. If you think about the math, it's easier for a low-performing school to mathematically show a significant gain than it is for a high-performing school to show a gain. I'm not saying these schools aren't good, I'm just saying this article really doesn't tell us anything about these schools current level of performance versus other schools.
Megan Mc said…
lak367, the description of the study is really long so I am trying to find a link to it on line. In the mean time, here is the blurb on how/what they measured:

Defining a way to view Improvement
NCLB and the AYP calculations use year-to-year results for the “percentage of students meeting standard” and “safe harbor”. Since 2004, CEE has used an alternative model based on the Reading and Math Level Indices (RLI and MLI). The RLI and MLI definition dates back to Washington’s Commission on Student Learning and the A+ Commission. Used to determine growth targets before NCLB, the strength of these indices is that they represent the performance of “all students” in the building, not simply those “meeting standard”.

Recall that the WASL sub-test results are reported in 4 levels of performance: Below Basic (Level-1), Basic (Level-2), Proficient (Level-3 = “met standard”), and Advanced (Level-4).
Consider two buildings’ Reading results:
• Building A: 50% of students at Level-1 (Below Basic) and 50% Level-3 (Proficient)
• Building B: 50% of students at Level-2 (Basic) and 50% Level-4 (Advanced)
Both of these buildings would show 50% meeting standard, yet clearly Building B has higher performing students (with no students at Level-1).
The Reading Learning Index and Math Learning Index are calculated as:
RLI or MLI := (1 * % at Level-1) + (2 * % at Level-2) + (3 * % at Level-3) + (4 * % at Level-4)
While the two buildings listed above have identical “% Meeting Standard” at 50%, their Reading Learning Indices would be:
• School A: 2.0 = (1 * .50) + (3 * .50)
• School B: 3.0 = (2 * .50) + (4 * .50)
If you only looked at “% meeting standard” you would say that these two schools have identical performance – but as we see above, this is not the case. The Reading Learning Index shows a more accurate picture of performance in these two schools’ performance—with School B’s students demonstrating higher performance than School A.
CEE has recognized the need for a view of performance that utilizes the Learning Indices, and since 2004 has combined the Reading and Math Indices into a single Reading / Math Learning Index (RMLI). RMLI is defined as the average of the two indices (RMLI= (RLI+MLI) /2). This combined index helps us achieve several of the design objectives: 1.) an accurate and valid way to look at the spectrum of student performance, 2.) across both Reading and Math, 3.) in a way that is based on easily accessible data.
Change between the baseline and 2008 is then used as the definition of “improvement”. Using the RMLI, a 0.10 change represents that 10% of the students moved up one performance level in both Reading and Math. Likewise, a 0.75 improvement could be accurately interpreted as 75% of the students have improved by one level.
Copyright © The Center for Educational Effectiveness, 2007. www.effectiveness.org
Reprint rights granted for non-commercial use to support school and district improvement
Megan Mc said…
here is another piece of the methodology for selection:

Design Objectives
The design objectives for this project centered on several factors that were integral measuring improvement:
• Recognizing that schools have a variety of challenges, opportunities and radically different starting points in
terms of student performance-- the intention was to recognize growth across the spectrum of performance–
not simply getting students to “meeting standard”.
• Recognize improvement over at least a 5 year period of time.
• Develop a methodology that combines the two foundational skills— literacy and numeracy (Reading and Math) in order to identify and recognize growth in both areas
• Create a model which adds value for stakeholders— as additional information, not a replacement for AYP determination.
• Use publicly available data to ensure transparency and openness
• Meaningful: recognize a small number of schools who have demonstrated exceptional improvement in a Reading and Math Learning Index. All award winners must have at least “adequate performance” in both Reading and Math.
Copyright © The Center for Educational Effectiveness, 2007. www.effectiveness.org
Reprint rights granted for non-commercial use to support school and district improvement
dan dempsey said…
I just took a quick look at WASL math and reading passing scores for grade 4.

The new School does not have 5 years worth of scores (only 3 at grade 4). So how did they qualify?

Here is the approximate grade 4 Reading and Math improvement and the White and Black enrollment percentages.
SPS overall is:
43.4% White; 21.1% Black

AS#1 R=+17.5 M=+5.1 60w 15b
Blaine R=+11.1 M=+2.0 74w 5b
Sanford R=+7.1 M=+21.5 53w 5b
Orca R=+48.7 M=+17.4 47w 29b
Thornton R=+25.8 M=+31.2 81w 4b
View Ridge R=+3.7 M=+10.6 76w 2b

{Orca & Thornton Creek had huge improvement}

The free and reduced meals % is as follows:
SPS district average 41.3%
AS#1 44.9%
Blaine 17.0%
Sanford 16.1%
Orca 33.5%
Thornton 7.7%
View Ridge 2.9%

Hooray for AS#1!!!!
Hooray for Orca.
Congrats to all the winning schools.

Any questions about how well the SPS serves Low Income and educationally disadvantaged learners should be directed to the School Board or maybe someone who cares.
zb said…
These lists always trouble me somehow, 'cause they're inevitably interpreted the way that TechyMom did, on a skim-reading, that they're a list of "best schools." (or "great schools") But, they rarely even purport to be that. This one is looking at some kind of improvement index. A worthwhile index, but not "best schools."

I was surprised to see View Ridge on the list, because it's always been a good school. I suspect the list doesn't mean much to me, and thus, I'm not going to try to understand complicated methodology. I'm happy that the folks at AS1 who think that the school is doing a good job for their children have another weapon in their arsenal, but am wary of giving any index too much value, even when it gets nice results.
BettyR said…
I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade here, but the reason that AS#1 is on this list is simply because more students now take the standardized testing. Eight years ago when my daughter started at AS#1, fewer than 10 students per year took the WASL, so there were no reportable scores, in the last 5 years, that number has risen steadily and I now think that most of the students take the test (my belief is they are pressured to take it, but that's another story).
It's ironic to me that AS#1 went unrecognized by most for many years when it was a great school, but is now receiving attention as it becomes just another watered down traditional program within the district.
Are you saying that by adding more kids' scores to the test average, it will automatically increase the performance average?
If so, I'm not sure I agree, but I'm also not sure how to suss that out of the data. Megan?

I agree that the timing is unfortunate, in that it would have been nice to get this recognition in AS1's heyday.
Sahila said…
I agree with Beth's analysis...

If you have a school moving from low scores because the zeros from the non-test taking kids are averaged in, to having higher scores because more kids do take the test, then of course its going to look like performance has gone up...
BettyR said…
to TS;
The way I understand it, if fewer than 10 kids take the test, no results are recorded for that school. Above that number and the kids who do test get scored, and the ones who don't get zeros.
I'm guessing that whoever is using the WASL scores to determine AS#1's "greatness" isn't separating the scores from test takers, from the zeros of non test takers.

So, no. Increasing the number of kids who take the test doesn't increase the average score, but as more kids take the test, and fewer kids are getting zeros for not taking the test WILL increase scores.
seattle citizen said…

The reason I huzzahed the news is that the WASL is such a huge determinant of so many things. Not that I agree with the test, the way its numbers or used or any of that, but simply that it IS used, and now these schools can use the data, as published, to deny some of the flak they get, flak usually driven by reports generated from WASL scores.

I'm sure all these schools have their very own kinds of "success" and serve (or not) each kid in a unique way...I'm just heartened that the WASL scores, so often used as a bludgeon, are also capable of being used as a compliment.

The state and the district sometimes use these scores to tear something down: I hope they will be as eager to use them to build something up.
Sahila said…
Maybe you want to check this out, for some thinking on where education is going re 'reform' and high stakes testing, and closing the 'achievement gap':


Its a paper presented by David Berliner at the International Conference on Redesigning Pedagogy, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, June 1, 2009.

It talks about what education is meant to be and what is lost when we teach to the test... it has some interesting quotes in it from John Adams and from Dewey, as well as 'real life' anecdotes/studies of how children respond to the current model of learning we inflict on them...

If you think this isnt happening in your schools, think again - AS#1 for example, has taken recess away from middle schoolers and its experiential learning approach has been watered down severely across the board....

For more information and other useful links, I'd suggest you go to:

Sahila said…
Referring back to David Berliner's paper, there are references in it to school lunch times being cut shorter and shorter in duration with the food provided being reduced to high calorie, high fat, low nutrition (faster to eat) snacks, recess being abolished and kindergarteners no longer being allowed/able to nap, as a way of cramming in more 'academic' time....

What do we have served up in our school cafeterias? Not fresh, appetising, satisfying, nutritionally valuable meals, but high fat, high calorie, processed, pre-packaged, microwaved snacks.

The AS#1 community was sent the minutes of the school's last BLT meeting, during which meeting comments were made that middle schoolers were not adjusting well to having had their recess taken away, and that children were taking too long to eat lunch...

(Sarcasm here) Gee, I wonder why antsy pre-teens are mad that they have had free, move around, talk/socialise time taken away!

And taking too long to eat lunch??? Too long for whom, too long for what? Too long for a shortened lunch hour, so that they get less time to be free and more time to having to sit still and learn?
Megan Mc said…
I agree that it would have been good to get the recognition BEFORE more students started taking the WASL, but since the district used our NCLB status to try and close us last year, I think its great that we have more ammo on our side. Its like saying, SEE we told you our kids were learning and we didn't need a standardized test to tell us that.

The data also shows that the school has raised the reading and math scores of kids who were taking the test to begin with and doing poorly. From an equity perspective, I think its important to point out that a lot of kids from families without educated parents were being left behind with regard to their reading and math schools and the school has come a long way in closing the gap for those kids. I've heard that many families left the school because of this shift in focus.

My personal belief is that the school's culture has changed more as a result of a shift in demographics and the retirement of founding teachers than a concerted, covert effort to "traditionalize" the school.

I hope the district looks at our model of supporting all kids regardless of IEP status and full inclusion for all students with disabilities. We can use this award to preserve the things that make us unique - fieldtrips, multi-age classes, electives, forum, child-centered education.

And in response to Sahila's post about the BLT minutes - the staff requested that we change the time of the meetings to accommodate working parents (right now I am the one who has an issue with getting there), Roy wants student representation on the BLT so that they can bring up the issues that are important to them (recess, elective choices, etc.) Bringing the issues up at BLT is the first step toward addressing the problems not an indictment against the school for having them.
Sahila said…
2.40pm on a week day is a good time for working parents to come to school to participate in a BLT meeting??? I would think not... Factoring in travel time to get from wherever to school, I dont know many working parents who can leave their jobs basically in the middle of the afternoon. Though it is a good time for teachers because they can just change rooms when the final bell rings for the day... none of that pesky hassle of having to go home and come back, or hang around and do extra prep or whatever...
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