Friday, April 16, 2010

Math Pathway

Here is the latest innovation from the Math Department, the secondary Math Pathway. It represents yet another step forward in the inexorable march towards Standardization.

There are some very clear problems with this totally unnecessary rigidity.

First, of course, is the fact that it is unnecessary. Who needed this? Who needs to be told that students are expected to progress from 6th Grade Math to 7th Grade Math to 8th Grade Math? Did we really need a document to inform us of that?

Second, of course, the rigidity. It doesn't allow much room for exception, yet there is ample need for exception. There are students who are working more than one grade level ahead (including - but not limited to - most of the students in APP), but this document doesn't appear to allow for that. There are students taking AP Calculus BC, but this document doesn't appear to allow for that. There are students taking math classes through Running Start, but this document doesn't appear to allow for that. Students at STEM are required to take math through to Calculus, but this document doesn't appear to allow for that. There are students who get math credit for their CTE courses, but this document doesn't appear to allow for that.

The document does make a vague reference to "recommendations for students who could benefit from either additional support or a more accelerated math pathway", but it is inexplicably - and probably intentionally - unclear on those topics.

The document is strangely obscure on some other points as well, such as how, exactly, the placement determination will be made and what, exactly, will be the pathway for Special Education and ELL students. Will these be the classes in Service Schools? Will these be the classes at NOVA and STEM? How rigid is this? What is the value of that rigidity? Who benefits? What does it cost? Who would benefit from a more relaxed process and what would that cost? Why the plug for the Microsoft Math Partnership?

Finally, there is the mention that MAP scores will be part of the secret formula for determining placement in a sixth grade math class. There are a number of people who tell me that the District assured the Board and the public that MAP scores would not be used to determine placement. If anyone can cite that, please let us know where and when that assurance was given. Also, there is the question of whether or not it is appropriate to use the MAP, a formative assessment, for placement. Maybe it is. Maybe only summative assessments should be used for placement.


grousefinder said...

Odd...the original and the linked posting have very different opening paragraphs. Gone is the "Microsoft Math Partnership."


Seattle Math Pathway
Supported by the Microsoft Math Partnership, Seattle Schools has developed the Seattle Math Pathway. This pathway, shown in the table below, focuses on preparing all Seattle students for new high school graduation requirements, state exams in Algebra and Geometry, and college and careers.


Update on Secondary Math Courses
Below is the final version of the Seattle Math Pathway, which has been developed with input from K – 12 math coaches, and middle and high school math teacher leaders, counselors, and administrators. This pathway, shown in the table below, focuses on preparing all Seattle students for new high school graduation requirements, state exams in Algebra and Geometry, and college and careers.

Sahila said...

not odd at all, grousefinder...

I think its a response to all our griping about the links with big business... whoever wrote the document didnt realise there was a problem with including the Microsoft reference, might simply have been 'telling it how it is' - a straight factual accounting of what's going on, might even have thought we'd be impressed, that it gave the 'pathway' plan credibility...

someone forgot to tell the authors of the document to keep that part out and the blunder didnt get caught until after it had been published...

SE Mom said...

As I mentioned in an earlier blog topic, this revised document is completely missing a second page that describes a "Placeement Contract" that families must fill out for students to accelerate further on the pathway. This will be possible "If room in the course is available". And, this is to be used in "extremely rare cases" where "the data above (MAP, WASL, grades) may not reflect the best math placement for the student".

So, what happended to the Placement Contract? Is the district intentionally not publicizing it because it only adds to the odd and punitive feeling to the new process? Did they change their minds and some other acceleration process will be utilized? BTW, I received a copy via email from my kids 8th grade math teacher.

ParentofThree said...

My school does not have MAPs. No room for computers. So this means my student will be placed in a 6th or 7th grade math class based on the 4th grade WASL score and current math class.

Will be waiting by the mailbox for my letter.

ParentofThree said...

The contract info is on the verison I looked at on the SPS Web site.

Comment about MAPs. Not in all schools, no year-end data yet to see how the test worked disctrict wide, but has become the high stakes test tool for our children.

Sue said...

What if your school didn't use the MAP this year? How will they be placing sixth graders then?

seattle said...

Shoreline also uses a math test to help determine a students middle school math placement. However, and it's a big however, the results are given to parents, to help aid them in choosing an appropriate math placement for their child. Parents can choose to use the test results as a guide, or they can crumple them up, throw them away, and completely ignore them.

Middle school in Shoreline is only 7th and 8th grade. Parents can choose to place their kids in ANY of the following classes no matter their grade :

A) 7th and 8th grade remedial math (small class size, covers grade level math at a slower pace. Aim is to bring kids up to grade level by the end of the year)

For extra support they offer a (voluntary) before school "math club" and a (voluntary) after school "WASL" class for kids working below grade level.

B) standard grade level math (for kids working at grade level)

C) compression math (a 7th grade honors class for advanced students that covers 7th and 8th grade math all in one year)

D) Algebra I (an 8th grade honors class, but open to 7th graders as well)

E) Geometry and Algebra II (8th grade honors classes, open to 7th graders as well, who are ready for it -generally only a handful)

Imagine that. A district that works with parents and trusts them to make decisions about their kids education and class placement......

SPS mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gouda said...

This document (if you're going to have a document) fails to outline what constitutes "success" in the previous year. In accelerated math at Washington M.S., 85% or higher is required or else the child has to take the class again.

Of course, they didn't tell parents that at the beginning of the year. The told us the last week of 3rd quarter, at which point it would be nearly impossible for students below an 85% to move up.

Syd said...

That's odd about not letting you know about the 85% passing grade requirement. Our child started with Int I in 6th grade at Washington, and new from the first week of school that he had to get an 85% passing grade to go on to the next level. He is in 9th grade now, so perhaps the teacher changes at Washington have made things more unclear.

Anyone know how math teams are working at Washington this year? I know I do not have a child there this year, but it just seems a shame what is happening to APP math in middle school with the split. Those teachers, the ability to have an appropriate level class, and the math team socializing made middle school survivable for my child.

Trying not to be negative, but it does seem like a race to mediocrity. Every child has strengths and weaknesses. I wish we could focus on the strengths more.

Syd said...

I wish you could edit your post to correct spelling errors.

SPS mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sahila said...

Not about math, but maybe this is what "curriculum alignment" really means...



TechyMom said...

So, I just spent some time looking at materials from the Microsoft Math Partnership, and, frankly, there's a lot there to like. It does talk some about inquiry and 'connection' but it also talks a lot about learning fewer topics at greater depth. It uses the 'mile wide inch deep' quote (p16). Pages 16-19 of their field guide talk about this at length.

On selecting materials, they have this to say
"• Analyze student achievement data to highlight areas of curriculum most in need of
improvement, and select new materials that address those needs.
• Examine evidence that the materials have improved student learning in other school districts."

If you didn't like the discovering adoption, then you may just have an ally in the Microsoft Math Partnership.

Microsoft employs a fair number of parents with kids in SPS, and a fair number of SPS grads (who also went to college for the most part). While it's true that there are many jobs in software development and marketing that don't require strong math and algorithmic skills, there are also many that do. Microsoft might just be honestly trying to help the schools here, so it can hire local talent and recuit people from elsewhere who have school age kids. Being corporate doesn't make things bad.

Now, as to the rigidity of the pathway. I'm hoping that this is the 80% case document, and that the 20% case will be covered separately, and in more depth than "The data above will also be used to make recommendations for students who could benefit from either additional support or a more accelerated math pathway as they enter middle or high school."

anne said...

"According to an earlier discussion, last year's advanced math placement test was based on CMP, and was not exactly an algebra-readiness test. It was biased against those that hadn't used the CMP materials."

That happened to my son (now in 8th grade at WMS). He completed Honors Pre-Algebra through EPGY and was placed in Pre-algebra at WMS. I had no idea that the placement test was based on CMP curriculum until after the test.

It was an interesting experiment though. I got to compare EPGY vs CMP Pre-algebra. Ugh! CMP covered about 50% of the topics and to about 50% of the depth!

Like the other poster mentioned, the APP split really messed up Math at WMS. I was counting on Mr. Pounder to make up for all the deficiencies in CMP for 6-7th grade, and then he went to Hamilton!

Anonymous said...

"So, what happended to the Placement Contract? Is the district intentionally not publicizing it because it only adds to the odd and punitive feeling to the new process? Did they change their minds and some other acceleration process will be utilized?" (SE Mom)

This is a very good question. What happened? Is there still going to be a contract? There are definitely a few questions that need to be answered before we can understand the full impact of this document/policy.

Personally, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask parents to agree to some rational and equitable conditions if they choose to disregard the district's recommended placement. For example: we're not going to provide extra tutoring to prop up your student if they're not keeping up. i.e. a "we told you so" provision. That's fair. If the student is not successful with a parent-initiated advanced placement, they can be put back in the recommended course. That's fair too, right? Previously, at least in some schools and programs (APP, for example), there was no option for parents to have any input whatsoever to their child's math placement. So this is an improvement.

On the other hand, if this document is trying to solidify the case for not providing the highest math classes for the top achievers (mostly due to the APP split), that's baaaad. Over the next couple months some decisions need to be made because there are a number of 7th graders currently in geometry that need some kind of appropriate math class for this fall. Hopefully the district won't just abandon them.

Yes, this document leaves a lot of questions, but IMO it's better than what was in place previously, which was nothing. If I'm understanding things correctly, incoming 6th graders will now know their placement in the spring, rather than having it a closely-guarded secret until the first day of school. What was that about?? This aspect is a HUGE improvement. For kids who are perhaps on-the-edge between levels it would give them an opportunity to bone up over the summer -- if they felt it was important. If a placement seemed horribly out of whack for some reason it would give time to figure things out in advance instead of a mad scramble during the first weeks of school when the staff have a zillion other things to deal with, leaving the kids languishing.


Anonymous said...


Another very good thing in both the old and new versions was this statement: "Last year there was a 6th grade placement test; this test will not be used this year."

Thankfully this test is gone. The 2nd test was flawed. Which isn't terrible by itself, or even surprising, since it was new. But because the district refused to consider any other data whatsoever, a bunch of kids/families had to take it upon themselves to find appropriate courses and teach math to their kids outside school. So when this document says that recommendations will be based on multiple data points, including WASL and MAP scores, you need to understand that it's a big improvement. If your kids have typical math skills for their grade you probably won't have any reason to care about any of this, but if not, be thankful for this.

Back to SE Mom's comment, it would be great to find out why the Placement Contract language was removed. The full text of the original version I saw on the 2nd page said (bold as on original): "Placement Contract

Skipping any one course in the Math Pathway can negatively impact a student’s success in future classes, and is highly discouraged. However, in extremely rare cases, the data above may not reflect the best math placement for the student. In that unusual situation, a parent/guardian and student may choose to opt up one course level, if room in the course is available, through a Placement Contract. In all other situations, students will take the course that follows the district recommendation.

The contract will outline the expectations of the course, explain that the family is choosing a course not recommended by the data, and remind the family that the school will not provide remediation if the student is not prepared for the course. Schools will have the option to move a student back to the district-recommended class if he/she is not succeeding. Contracts will be made available to schools and families in late April."

ParentofThree said...

Huh, they did remove it. I found another version that said, "Final Math pathways" with the contract info. No Microsoft info.

Another great example sending out info before they actually finalized the program.

With that said, don't know anything about last years placement test, just know that basing my students math placement on a 4th grade WASL score and current math class does not seem like a a great measure. My school does not have MAPs.

dan dempsey said...

TechyMom said:

"If you didn't like the discovering adoption, then you may just have an ally in the Microsoft Math Partnership."

All depends on which side of the Microsoft mouth you listen to.....

They brought in Steve Leinwand to tell district Admin if they were using reform math in k-8 that "Discovering" is a good choice for high school.....

Note: Seattle, Highline, Issaquah, Bellevue are among the Microsoft Math Science partners.

Note also Gates Foundation and New Technology Network connections

grousefinder said...

Last year's 5th to 6th Grade Placement Exam was a doozy. It tested real math skills and had no fuzzy (inquiry style) problems. It was well written and fair. AND, it did not present a moving target like the MAP test.

Bob Vaughn dumped this exam (or someone told him to dump it) for all Advanced Math district-wide placement decisions. I think the old exam was a better test than MAP because it would weed out the Spectrum students who will get a free-ride next year into the accelerated math program, without having to test-in like the rest of SPS students.

Consider this scenario:

Spectrum Student RIT Score (MAP - Math) at Grade 5 = 223
This student gets a free ride into Honors or Accelerated Math.

Average Joe Student RIT Score (MAP - Math) at Grade 5 = 227
This student must wait to see if there is space available AFTER the Spectrum Students get the free ride into Honors Math.

Does anyone see a problem with this?

With limited seats available, students who perform at the highest RIT levels (as the Supt. says) deserve the accelerated math program seats (IMHO).

Charlie Mas said...

It is possible that BOTH students should be in the Advanced Math class. The problem is a school that refuses to make the size of the class elastic to accomodate all of the students who belong in it, rather than arbitrarily capping the size of the class.

grousefinder said...

Charlie: This was clearly explained to parents at a recent Spectrum meeting. Spectrum students get free Honors Math seats regardless of ability (MAP scores). After they fill the available Honors seats everyone else gets to line up based on MAP scores. It appears this will also be the case for ALO designated students. So if a child was Spectrum due to a test in Kindergarten, but scores a 218 in Math, he/she gets a free seat ahead of a child that scores a 230 (but not in Spectrum). The system is rife with inequity.

If the District wants to make MAP the final arbiter for placement, then all students must be held to the same standard.

GreyWatch said...

@ grousefinder - what spectrum meeting was that? I thought they got rid of automatically placing spectrum students into honors math last year. Did they bring it back?

Wondering if they also addressed the space available issue, e.g., even if you should be in the class you can't be as there is no room. To me that is the biggest concern, particularly with the new assignment plan.

hschinske said...

Grousefinder, do you mean last year's test (for placement in fall of 2009), or the one from the year before? I thought you had protested last year's test earlier, but perhaps I'm confusing you with another poster.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

The central problem here, which is the central problem the District creates in a number of other matters, is that operational preferences are coming before academic priorities.

Since it is hard to create classes the right size for the number of students who should be in them, the schools and the District pre-determine the number of seats available in each class. Then they fill the available spaces. Then they cut off access.

That's totally back-asswards. They should first identify the students who want or need the class and then set the size of the class to match.

Washington Middle School has a hard cap of 180 students in the Spectrum program there - 60 per grade. What will happen when there are more than 60 incoming sixth grade students from the Washington Service Area? What will the District or the school do? What should they do?

Snoop said...

That's because they're trying to get rid of Spectrum. Duh. People don't like the fact that being 1 year ahead, and with spiralling curriculum... isn't an entitlement to anything... and rather than listening to all the whiners, the district creates the class and then limits the access as a bone of appeasement.

seattle said...

"That's totally back-asswards. They should first identify the students who want or need the class and then set the size of the class to match."

Charlie, you are exactly right about this, and I know it can be done, because that is how Shoreline does it.

Shoreline has self selected honors classes and they have a policy of not turning any student away who wants them.

Here is how it works: Kellogg MS knows that they will be serving 340 7th grade students - so they know how many teachers and classes they will need. They wait, however, until after they receive all of the student class requests before they determine class configuration. Based on the students class requests they determine how many honors vs. regular classes they will need.

It works beautifully, and they have never had a waitlist for as long as we have been there (3 years now with two kids).

grousefinder said...

Yes Helen...you are confusing me with another poster. The honors placement tests have always been in late spring, not fall. Last year's was tough and fair, as was the one the year before. This spring there will be no honors placement test...just the MAP and old WASL data.

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

grousefinder says: Spectrum students get free Honors Math seats regardless of ability....So if a child was Spectrum due to a test in Kindergarten, but scores a 218 in Math, he/she gets a free seat ahead of a child that scores a 230 (but not in Spectrum). The system is rife with inequity.

This is exactly what has been true of APP for years--if a kid tests in when they are five, they hold a spot for twelve years, regardless of their subsequent performance. Kids are not able to access the APP cohort if they are not tested by 7th grade. No attempt is made to retest the APP students or to assure that they are functioning at a sustained high level. If the cohort is valuable to students who tested in when they were five, it is valuable to those who could test in in 8th grade, but those students are not admitted. If the issue is capacity, then all students should be (re)tested in 8th grade and HS spots should be allocated to the top 2% at that time.

dan dempsey said...

Schmitz Park is really screwing up this entire thing. They actually use levels to teach students mathematics. Think low, medium, and high......

except when Schmitz Park kids are tested it comes out more like high, higher, and astronomically high.

This creates problems at Madison for entering grade 6 kids expecting their previous elite status to just be awarded to them, without any competition. If testing on Math using a valid accurate measure of current mathematical knowledge and skills is used, non-Schmitz Park kids are severely handicapped as they used the pathetic TERC followed by the equally pathetic Everyday Math.

I doubt the district wants a fair evaluation of student skills in math as this again shows how incredibly how far off the tracks the SPS k-12 math program has wandered.

Look here for the latest on Saxon and Connected at Middle school from WWC:

Saxon at grades 6, 7, 8 April 2010

Connected Math at grade 6, 7, 8 January 2010

Check the TERC results v. Saxon
HERE January 2010

The Superintendent is appealing the district's pathetic math choice of "Discovering" Puh-lease spare me and us more nonsense.

As Charlie has pointed out the Administration is filled with folks highly skilled at political infighting with little knowledge of how to improve anything from an educational vantage point. They have the record to prove this.

Anna-Maria said...

Hi all,
Opting up to a higher course by contract (one course level higher – such as 6th Grade Math to 7th Grade Math) is most definitely still an option for families of students entering sixth and ninth grade. This was left out on the shorter blurb that went out in School Beat only due to space – my apologies. I also noticed today that the math website does not include the contract info, so I will add it on Monday. Thanks for the heads up. (The Microsoft Math Partnership was definitely a key partner in our math pathway work, and again, that information was left out of some communications only due to space limitations.)
Taking a more advanced pathway also remains an option for students. For example, a student who took Geometry as an 8th grader will begin high school with Algebra 2, and will take AP Calculus BC (or IB Math at Sealth and Ingraham) his/her senior year. Likewise, a 5th grader currently enrolled in 7th Grade Math will begin middle school with 8th Grade Math, then Algebra, then Geometry as an 8th grader. The Math Pathway table includes the two pathways that most of our students will pursue as they progress through middle and high school.
I have had some great phone and email conversations with parents, guardians, and students over the past few days, as letters for 8th graders have arrived. (Fifth grade math letters will go out by May 15.) Please encourage anyone with questions about their own child’s math course recommendation or options to call me at 252-0062 or email me at ahdelafuente@seattleschools.org. Thanks.
Anna-Maria de la Fuente (Seattle Math Manager)

Anonymous said...

What a welcome surprise! It's not often that our district administrators leave "official" (i.e. under their own name) comments here on the blog. If this were more common, I expect there would be a lot less misunderstandings.

Thank you Anna-Maria for the information and clarification. I look forward to seeing the updated contract info online early next week.

ParentofThree said...

" I also noticed today that the math website does not include the contract info, so I will add it on Monday.'

I checked today (Friday) and still not up, how can all parents access this information w/o having to email you directly?

Anonymous said...

"I checked today (Friday) and still not up, how can all parents access this information w/o having to email you directly?"

Yeah, I noticed that just now as well. But rather than post the question here (what are the odds she'll see it soon?), why not call her tomorrow and reference her note here on this thread? She did list her phone #. And let us know what you hear!

ParentofThree said...

So, yes I can call, get all the info I need for MY student. My point is why isn't the info available for ALL families, especially after the staff specifically said it would be corrected a week ago?

This system in place where parents are directed to call/email for information or clarification creates an inequity. You have the informed parent with all the info they need to navigate the system so that their student accesses the best opportunities and the uninformed parent whose student lose out on opportunities because they didn't know about the opportunity.

For example, last week parents had the opportunity to sign a contract to excel their 8th student in math. But ONLY those students who parents knew this contract existed where able to do this. All the students were forced to take their math placement.

How is that “Excellence for All?”

Anonymous said...

Haha - I can see how you misinterpreted my comment!

What I was trying to suggest was to call her to remind her that she said she would put the contract up on the web site (or emailing her would work as well). Because it's unlikely that she'll run across a comment here on an old thread, even if she does read this blog sometimes. Of course now between our 4 comments here we could have both called her 2-3 times each ;-)