Updates and Board Meeting on Wednesday

From the SPS website, there is this notice:

May 28: Update on 5th Grade Math Letters
Letters recommending math placement for students entering sixth grade in 2010-11 were due to be mailed on May 26. Unfortunately, the letters were not sent out. This is due to a production issue at the external printing and mailing service that is handling the letters. We apologize to our families, and we will get the letters to you the week of May 31.

So look for that letter in this week's mail.

There is a Board meeting on Wednesday night. Sign up tomorrow in the AM to speak.

The agenda isn't long but has a few interesting items.
  • The CAO update from Dr. Enfield will be about preliminary MAP scores
  • On the Action Item agenda is approval of an online learning policy prompted by a new WA State law, RCW 28A.250.050, which requires that by August 31, 2010, all school districts shall develop a policy and procedures around online learning.
  • On the Introduction Items is one that is surprising to me but we employ 9 full-time athletic trainers in our district and the cost is $270,000 a year (through Children's Hospital). From the item:
The proposed cost of the fixed fee of $270,000 will not only include 9 full-time certified athletic trainers, but will also cover their benefits and the administrative cost of the manager of Children’s Hospital and a stipend for the medical director of the program.

Some of what is done is work I would have assumed that the coaches/high school athletic director/PE teachers would do like advising the school what to buy for their program, providing conditioning and flexibility training suggestions, increasing the quality of the training rooms. I get the need to someone to be there to maintain records for injuries, for treating injuries at games and practices, etc. I guess $270K is not that much for 9 schools but I am surprised to learn about these positions.

The item that really surprised me was the repeal of a Board policy on
Community Schools. Not that they are repealing it but that apparently, there have been some meetings on this (and darn, I missed them). Here's the PowerPoint from the Board Work Session on this issue. I missed this meeting and this PP isn't all that informative. It doesn't give an estimate of the number of volunteers or volunteer hours given in the district.

The PP estimates that 5-15% of the schools need the "Community Schools" model of a longer day and overarching use of programs and opportunities to help kids at those schools. They estimate 15-25% need mid-need services and 100% of the schools should have partnership elements.

Then they ask the million dollar question:
How will governance be differentiated between Board policy, district staff and school based decisions?

Oh you mean, like how do we get parents to volunteer if it's not something they were asked about at a school meeting? Yes, now that you want our help, we are now part of "school-based decisions"?

Apparently there was a key stakeholders meeting on May 26 (which I'm not sure was advertised or did I just miss it?). This effort does involved the City's Families and Education levy, Alliance for Education, Gates Foundation and others.

There also seems to be the creation of another Central Office staff position, Manager of School-Community Partnerships. I, for one, want to see a real plan and how to see real outcomes if we are taking on yet another CA position.

The Board has a retreat the weekend of June 4-5 so there are no Board member Community meetings that weekend.


Sahila said…
PLEASE, if you're unhappy with the state of public education in Seattle, and you think the Superintendent is largely responsible for that, JOIN US ON A MARCH TO, AND RALLY AT, THE 2ND JUNE BOARD MEETING...

Seattle parents, teachers, students and community members call on the Seattle School Board:

* not to renew Superintendent Marie Goodloe Johnson's contract;
* not to award her a pay rise and bonus, and
* to consider firing her, with cause, for incompetence.

All sectors of the Seattle Public School community - Spec Ed, native ed, APP, ESL, alternative ed, general ed, low income and minority groups, teachers - have a long list of complaints regarding the Superintendent, her tenure and her failings.

Those complaints have been expressed, to no apparent avail, at numerous Board meetings, via lawsuits, the media, public surveys and just recently through a no confidence vote by Ballard High School teachers.

This march and rally on WEDNESDAY, JUNE 2, hopes to make an impression on the Seattle School Board members, as they complete their annual evaluation of the Superintendent...

Details are:

* At 4.15PM, an initial group will gather at the JSCEE front lawn, S Lander St

* At 4:25 PM driver leaves with Marcher(s) to point A on Map, 1st Ave S and Edgar Martinez Drive

* March begins at 1st Ave S & Edgar Martinez Drive

* Walk south along 1st Ave S to S Lander St,

* Then east to JSCEE.


* At 5:30PM, rally at JSCEE begins
* At 5:40PM, four 3-minute presentations.
* At 5:55PM, marchers will enter the Board Room in a silent, respectful manner with signs visible.

*** Options are to park at the JSCEE and be ferried to join the march, or to park at the march's originating location

We are choosing to be SILENT during the Board meeting because many of us feel we have been talking to/at the Board until we are blue in the face, and they have not taken any notice of us, their constituents. We are hoping our pointed silence will make a more successful impression.

We have undertaken outreach to all the various interest groups within SPS (and the media) and expect representation at this event from them all.

This event is being organized by a loose coalition of public education advocates representing these interest groups. We gather under the banner of Seattle Education 2010 and the Seattle Shadow School Board...

grousefinder said…
Math Placement: Perhaps the serious flaw in the algorithm used by the placement wonks contributed to the math placement letters going out late. Fifth grade winter MAP test scores were used in the decision process. Those same winter scores were, by and large, determined to be invalid and of no use to teachers or administrators.

It's odd that the left hand does not know what the right is doing downtown. One group professes that the scores are invalid and the other uses them for placement decisions. For what are we paying these people?
dan dempsey said…
The Math scores.....
So what are we using NWEA/MAP scores for?????

Clearly it is NOT a formative assessment. But was that NOT what was to be its primary use?
Michael said…
You can still attend Board retreats as they are open to the public (don't let them tell you otherwise - unless they call an executive session ahead of time). So if you are inclined to go, I suggest you do so unless, of course, they hold it at a location that is a god-awful distance away.
seattle citizen said…
Color me suspicious, but this from the powerpoint on community schools on Wednesday agenda:

Groups involved in discussion with SPS:
•The Alliance for Education
• The City Council & Office for Education
– Families & Education Levy
• The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
• The Seattle Foundation
• Community Center for Education Results
• Promise Neighborhoods

Staff, Board members & partners
(Alliance, Gates, City) have been involved with researching models and identifying what can work in Seattle
Unknown said…
Grousefinder - Why were winter MAP scores considered invalid? Do you know how these various scores (MAP, WASL) are weighted and how much of a role teacher recommendation will play? Do you know if they are making room for everyone that quaifies?
Patrick said…
I was wondering why MAP scores dropped from fall to winter... do you know the full story? Is it for sure that it was the winter scores that were invalid?
Lori said…
I too would like some more explanation around winter MAP scores and why some are saying they are invalid. Has the district said this somewhere? Where is this coming from?

All I know from my own experience is that my child's scores did not go up from Fall to Winter, which could have a number of causes, none of which I'm particularly concerned about and won't bore you with here. However, if there was some systematic error with the test or how it was administered, I think parents ought to know.

One thing I did find curious about winter MAP was that my first grader didn't get similar questions as in the fall. For example, in September, she got questions about division, and she was really motivated to get those right in the winter. She came home disappointed in the winter because she hadn't gotten any division questions this time, which seemed weird to me. So maybe something went wrong with the types of questions children got? Maybe they didn't actually adapt up and get harder as they were supposed to? I don't know; just totally guessing here.
seattle citizen said…
Maybe the test adapts from test to test? In other words, the system takes the score from the last test and moves on from their, meaning it will move to another set of questions?

I have no idea, and I went to NWEA.org to see if I could find out.

Here's a good site on NWEA.org to learn some things, but not, evidently, how tests change from test to test.

GreyWatch said…
Wondering where people are hearing/finding this info about math, both in terms of tests for placement (which tests are used), and their validity (or lack thereof).

I don't see much on the district math page http://www.seattleschools.org/area/math/index.xml

I did see a math contract which you can sign to opt out (up or down) of district recommendations (space available of course).
grousefinder said…
Regarding the winter MAP scores...the data gurus know that MAP scores generally go down in the winter. This is a national phenomenon. I sat in a seminar where I was told by SPS wonks that the winter scores are generally not very useful because of this.

The explanation my group received was for the most part incomprehensible on the "whys" of sagging winter scores; their focus was on that...'it happens and we should ignore it.' We were told to focus on fall to spring...to ignore winter.

So when it was reported that winter scores would be used for placement, our antennae went up. Although I have seen no official documentation of this; it appears that the winter scores were factored out of the equation at the end of last week.

This begs the question...why test in the winter at all? And, why are we paying money to test when the winter results are known to be skewed? Whose fat hog are we butchering to pay for this mess?

Isn't this the People's money we are spending?
jp70 said…
I always thought the winter test seemed too soon and not necessary. Seems you should be able to see a difference from beginning of year until end of year and not consume a bunch of classroom time mid-year. If the test scores are expected to drop at that time, I see no reason to take the test mid-year other than to keep the kids reminded about how to take the test so it's not a distraction in spring.

Lori - my first grader also had division in his Fall test, and not in his Winter, but I believe he did get some other new math concept that he asked me about. I believe his scores went up for reading and dropped slightly for math. I was personally surprised that my first grade child scored at mid-third grade level in math in the Fall test, but his scores have been close enough from Fall to winter where I feel something must be right.....
dan dempsey said…
"This begs the question...why test in the winter at all? "

Because some dudes wish to become richer on the public money and our NWEA Superintendent and school board like giving money away...... well that is my guess.

Really look at the Test and what teachers get back..... What Crap.
gavroche said…
grousefinder said... This begs the question...why test in the winter at all? And, why are we paying money to test when the winter results are known to be skewed? Whose fat hog are we butchering to pay for this mess?

Isn't this the People's money we are spending?

Good questions.

Here's what I have heard from a District employee: winter MAP scores dropped District-wide, rendering the 'data' from them invalid.

(So they most certainly should NOT be used for math placement or any other decisions.)

The cause? Possibly the same post-vacation drop that happens to kids after summer vacation as well. So this drop was potentially predictable.

So why even administer the test in winter? Why not just skip the second round altogether?
Because, I've been told, Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the private "nonprofit" company that manufactures and sells MAP (and on whose board sits Supt. Goodloe-Johnson), wants the data for its own purposes.

If that is true, then our kids are basically being used as data fodder for a private company and its product-testing research.

That also means that we are paying NWEA $4.3 million for its product and then giving them free data at the expense of our kids, and their actual class-time, and using our schools' own resources.

Other details: The fall MAP test may be pushed back to October next year to give librarians a chance to open their libraries so kids can check out books (crazy idea, hey?) before the libraries become closed off to all kids for a week at a time to anything but MAP testing.

If that happens, then the winter MAP test becomes even more pointless, because it will be administered only a few months after the first test.

Also, NWEA plans to release an updated version of MAP in the next year or so. Will that update be included in the $4.3 million subscription our District has already paid for it, or will there be an added charge (keep your eyes on this one)? And will the update render previous MAP data irrelevant? Why are they updating it? Are there bugs in it we should know about? Is it even ready for use now?

It's becoming clear to me that MAP is an expensive boondoggle, and the Superintendent has completely compromised her objectivity on the product by accepting a position on NWEA's Board of Directors.

She needs to step down and we need to cancel MAP. It is not the best use of our precious and limited resources.
hschinske said…
The MAP may or may not be a good test, and may or may not be worth the money it costs, but I think some of the complaining about it is rather paranoid. Complaining because a test company wants data to norm its tests better? Complaining because the test is getting updated regularly? What? Isn't that what the company's SUPPOSED to be doing, and what all the money is FOR? I didn't hear half this much complaining when the school district used outdated CogATs for years and years after a new version had come out.

Helen Schinske
seattle citizen said…
My jury is still out on MAP. It does seem like it could (or SOME test could) be helpful in identifying students who are struggling over time.

Formative? I'm not so sure.

Conflict of interest? Absolutely.
gavroche said…
Helen -- do you think our kids and schools should be forced to take time out from actual learning to take a test whose results are useless, just to satisfy the test manufacturer's data-collection demands?

Sorry, I disagree strongly.

I also think that the $4.3 million for MAP could have been much better spent -- in the classrooms, for one place, to create smaller class sizes, to rehire RIFed teachers, buy books for Rainier Beach HS, supplement schools like Thurgood Marshall who have lost Title I funds, more enrichment for the schools in the District whose PTAs aren't able to raise funds to provide this, etc, etc.

Also, that $4.3 million is just one part of the cost -- the subscription to the MAP. Add on to that all the costs of teacher, librarian, proctor time, the training sessions for teachers to understand how to read and use the test results, computers that have been purchased, and all the time lost that could have been spent doing more valuable activities.

SPS kids in grades 4-8 this year did four sessions of testing -- MAP x 3 plus the new MSP. That's a lot of time testing instead of learning.

One head teacher in the District estimates that s/he lost 9 weeks of this year in MAP-related activities (prep, admin, analysis) that would otherwise have been spent working directly with kids.

Lastly, it is not clear that the MAP test is that useful or appropriate for all the kids that it is being given to. Five-year-olds who may not know how to read or write yet? English Language Learners? Advanced Learners who peak out?

There is talk about how incoming 6th graders are going to be placed for math next year. I have heard the District may use the 4th grade WASL (which is outdated) or the winter MAP test (which is considered invalid).

I think the best source of information for how my children are doing in math are my kids' teachers.

I am saying this is too much time and energy focused on testing. And yes, I do question who benefits from MAP -- our kids, or NWEA?
Bird said…
Complaining because a test company wants data to norm its tests better? Complaining because the test is getting updated regularly? What?

I think the objection is not that student test data is being used to improve the test, but that the Winter scores are of little value to students or schools, and the testing only occurs to provide norming data. One would hope eventually that data would yield a test that is useful in Winter. If not, it really is a waste of time and should be stopped.

Our school didn't release Winter scores, but has said you can request them. Is this common? Is it because they don't consider the scores reliable?

I'm not terribly impressed with the MAP test so far. As a parent, my impression is that it takes up way too much time and resources and isn't really yet providing much in the way of return for students or teachers.

If we're going to spend this much money, time, library and computer resources on this, we need to see pretty big returns in my opinion.

I'd love to see more information about what sort of detailed information teachers get from the test. The information a parent gets is mostly useless, other than providing a rough comparison to other kids in broad categories. It won't tell me specifically where my kid is behind or how I can help them catch up.
hschinske said…
Helen -- do you think our kids and schools should be forced to take time out from actual learning to take a test whose results are useless, just to satisfy the test manufacturer's data-collection demands?

Not "just to satisfy the test manufacture," no. But that's a straw man. I do think that if there's a reason for our students to take norm-referenced tests, the tests ought to be as up to date and as well normed as it's possible for them to be. I think our students have suffered from out-of-date norms and fake, cobbled-together "norms" too long. And if the test's results are assumed to be useless, well, that makes it impossible to say that it should be used no matter what, eh? Begging the question.

I'm not saying the MAP is necessarily a well-done test, and I never have. As I've said over and over, I don't have enough data yet to know if it's any good (though I do know of some teachers who like it). It could be terrible. All I'm saying is that I like the design and how it is SUPPOSED to work, and that is what I'm defending.

The fourth grade WASL is worse than outdated -- it's utterly irrelevant to determining which rising sixth-graders are capable of above-level work, and would be even if it were the best possible criterion-referenced test for judging fourth-grade standards. The MAP, on the other hand, IF it works as designed, wouldn't be terrible for that purpose.

From what I've seen, the MAP has wasted a lot less of my kid's time and provided more useful results than the WASL/MSP (though that's not saying much). It was also less unpleasant to take. I'd have much better data if I still had a kid in elementary school, though.

Incidentally, I don't think taking tests is *necessarily* time out from actual learning. Properly handled, the tests themselves can be good learning experiences. And it isn't as if everything my kids have done during ordinary school days or for homework was always an optimal learning experience, either -- even at the worst, bad tests like the old WASL took far less of my kids' time than bad homework did.

Helen Schinske
TechyMom said…
Personally, I'm happy to have regular, nationally-normed data on how my child is doing.

I do wish they'd do the Winter test at the end of January, after winter-break-jetlag has passed and kids are back in the flow of school. I also wonder why the test isn't done on 'portable labs' (laptop carts) in classrooms, rather than tying up the library. These both seem like small implementaiton tweaks, and not major problems with the test.

I also wish the detailed information (descartes or something like that?) was available to parents online, so I could use it to structure supplementation.
Dorothy Neville said…
"even at the worst, bad tests like the old WASL took far less of my kids' time than bad homework did."

Ain't that the truth!
hschinske said…
the data gurus know that MAP scores generally go down in the winter. This is a national phenomenon. I sat in a seminar where I was told by SPS wonks that the winter scores are generally not very useful because of this.

That sounds to me like a reason to either investigate what's going on (with either the test or the instruction or both) or drop the test entirely. Keeping the test but dropping the winter administration makes absolutely no sense to me. If it's invalid in winter, why is it more valid in fall and spring? Just because it's giving you results that are more like what you expected anyway? That doesn't seem like a good reason to mistrust the results offhand: after all, what you want from a new test is DIFFERENT data than you had before, no? Getting something unexpected should be a reason to check it out, not to throw it out.

And is the same thing happening at all levels, or is this a phenomenon that's mostly happening at the top or the bottom of the curve, or mostly in the middle, or what? It makes rather a difference.

If the test is to work as directed to inform instruction, the winter administration is actually crucial: that's where you should, ideally, find out about whether the strategies you tried based on the first administration have been working or not.

Helen Schinske
gavroche said…
Helen, my point about the winter test is not a "straw man" but a fact, and I'd rather you not be so dismissive of my genuine concerns as a parent.

I have also talked to numerous staff members, such as principals and teachers, and they have shared their concerns with me about MAP. What I have expressed here is all I have heard and what I know from my children's own experiences this year.

I would argue that your "bad homework" point is irrelevant. The MAP is done during school hours when the kids are supposed to be benefiting from in-class instruction. That's what's being lost, not homework time.

I also highly value libraries and library time -- these are being seriously curtailed by the MAP in schools that have no dedicated computer labs, but which keep computers as research tools in the library. Even the MAP test administrators at SPS HQ realize this is a problem.

Ask around. I am not the only one with these concerns.

At the very least, elements of MAP, how it is used and administered, need to be adjusted.

But I am concerned that a serious evaluation of MAP and its value to us and our kids will be delayed or avoided altogether by the District, by virtue of the fact that our Superintendent is on the board of directors of NWEA (MAP's manufacturer).
Dorothy Neville said…
I don't read Helen as being dismissive of parents' concern about MAP, I read Helen as saying that IF there's an issue with the Winter test, the solution would not be to simply test with MAP twice a year instead, but to either dump MAP entirely or figure out the Winter "anomaly." Is it really an anomaly? Why?

None of us seem to have enough data to draw a conclusion though. Is there a problem with the winter test? Where did scores go down? Too close to coming back from break is not a good enough explanation for me, because I'd kinda like education that's retained, not just short term. Perhaps the test is saying that two weeks off is enough to eliminate retention of three months of work. Why is that? What's going on? Having the winter scores be unexpected in some fashion could have fascinating reasons.

As for library time, well, I never thought much about it. Sure, upper elementary grades did a wee bit of research in library time, but mostly it was supervised childcare for PCP time. Is the MAP taking more than a week at a time? Not having access to the library for a week at a time doesn't seem to me to be egregious. Not perfect, but could be worked around.

Sure, bad homework is done at home (well sometimes the teacher provides class time for it too) but the point I would make is that bad homework and other activities hurt kids more than taking the WASL. IF a teacher never wastes educational time on BS play work and watching movies (except in very limited cases where it aligns with standards) and then that teacher complains about the waste of time of testing... well, I'll listen. But in my experience, that teacher is as rare as hen's teeth.
hschinske said…
Gavroche, I am sorry if it sounded as though I was dismissing your concerns in general. The straw man and begging the question comments were directed at the *way* you made that particular point, not to say that there wasn't a genuine concern on your part.
seattle said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle said…
There are parents who value test scores and data. I am one of them - though I know it is not "PC". I use test scores, in part, as a way to determine if a school I am interested in sending my kids to is doing well.

Frankly, I would never send my kid to a school with consistently low test scores. In my opinion that would mean one of two things. Either the school is not doing a good job of educating the students in the building, or the school is doing their best work but a majority of the students iun the building are not coming to school prepared to learn (for whatever reasons). In either case I wouldn't want my kids at that school. Sorry.

I'm thankful that in addition to our home grown state test, we finally have a nationally normed test (though I'm not endorsing the MAP as a good nationally normed test as I don't know enough about it yet).

I always thought the ITBS was a pretty decent nationally normed test. I took the ITBS when I was a kid, and my oldest son took it when he was in elementary 8 years ago. Whatever happened to it?.

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