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Monday, September 20, 2010

Meeting Calendar for Weeks of September 20 and September 27

Monday, September 20 at 6:30 – 8:00pm
Northeast Regional Welcome Back Meeting at Eckstein

Wednesday, September 22 at 10:00-11:30am
Director Maier Community Meeting at Lake City Library

Wednesday, September 22 at 6:30 – 8:00pm
Central Regional Welcome Back Meeting at Bailey Gatzert

Thursday, September 23 at 4:00 – 6:00pm
Audit & Finance Committee Meeting at JSCEE

Thursday, September 23 at 6:30 – 8:00pm
Northwest Regional Welcome Back Meeting at Hamilton

Saturday, September 25 at 10:00-11:30am
Director Smith-Blum Community Meeting at Douglas Truth Library

Saturday, September 25 at 10:00-noon
Director Patu Community Meeting at Tully's Coffee @ Rainier / Genesee

Monday, September 27 at 4:00 – 6:00pm
Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee at JSCEE

Tuesday, September 28 at 6:30 – 8:00pm
Southeast Regional Welcome Back Meeting at Aki Kurose

Wednesday, September 29 at 11:30am-12:30pm
Director Sundquist Community Meeting at Delridge Library

Wednesday, September 29 at 4:00-8:00pm
Board Work Session – Budget Goals at JSCEE

Thursday, September 30 at 6:30 – 8:00pm
West Seattle Regional Welcome Back Meeting at Chief Sealth

36 comments:

Steve said...

Wouldn't it be great to all get together and ask at least one question (the same question) at each of these events, and report back on the answers we receive? I'm betting we'll get different answers depending on the person answering, and the day, and perhaps the weather.

dan dempsey said...

Monday 27
Curriculum & Instruction Policy....

OK is that where they address the ongoing failure to address the Promotion / Non - Promotion policies' and effective interventions?

(State Audit finds Board failing to enforce existing Policy.)

Or is this meeting where they will discuss the extremely disappointing results reported by Mr. Benetek in his 45 minute presentation to the Board of Sept 15?

Or will this be just more pointless blathering as regular as the fall rains?

ttln said...

Promo/nonpromo

You all understand that teachers have no control over this decision, right? It is a SIT or admin level decision made with teacher "input" considered, which can also mean "blown off."

Should the MAP scores of a kid whose previous teachers have reported as needing retention by narrative or by earned grade be tied to the next year's teacher?

Jan said...

Dan and ttln: until someone can come up with any credible evidence that retention actually improves student performance (everything I have read is to the contrary -- though I can't provide any cites right now), I will not be supporting (and will actively oppose) any steps taken to hold kids back. Fix the problems. Give them double math classes the next year, make them go to tutoring, whatever -- but don't make them sit another year in first, second, third grade. I have yet to read any study that shows that that effectively increases student learning.
ttln: your comments with respect to the effect on teacher evaluations is a good one -- but if we take that as the reason to now hold kids back (so the teachers they would have had next year get paid more, or don't get fired), then we are once again letting the worst of the effects of bad policy and bad management fall on the one group here -- kids, especially academically struggling ones -- who have no vote, no voice, no say in all this.

Having said all that -- I would be happy to go to a system that simply progresses children at their own pace -- if you read and write at a level that indicates mastery of the EALRs (or whatever they are) -- then you do 7th grade level English. If you are doing algebra 1 in 6th grade, you go to geometry in 7th and if you finish it in February, you go on to Algebra II. If you are reading at a 3rd grade level in 6th grade, then you continue to work on grade level material until you get to the fourth grade stuff. And to the extent that student achievement counts in teacher evaluations at all (not my idea of a good thing), then they are judged on advancing the ball from wherever it "lies" with each child.

Charlie Mas said...

I agree that holding students back doesn't help them.

I would also say that promoting them without any support doesn't help them either.

There has to be some other option and it has to be an effective intervention. Where is it? Why isn't providing an effective intervention the primary focus at the District level? What other academic need is as urgent or as dire?

Charlie Mas said...

I hope someone will go to the Northeast Regional Welcome Back meeting tonight and ask some of the questions about Spectrum that were raised by Catherine's story about View Ridge on the "Radical Changes in Spectrum" thread.

wseadawg said...

Where is it, Charlie?

Short Answer: Everett. Where people, not testing, are the chosen remedy.

The kids who aren't getting it at home can't have it replaced by a teacher, no matter how great he or she is. They need a whole system of supports, and it has to start with people, like counselors and other stand-ins to make up for the absence of support at home.

It matters not whether a parent is poor, single, absent, or fantastic. If kids don't get educational support at home, and it isn't somehow provided by people at school, they won't thrive. No matter what our Sup thinks.

SP said...

Jan-
There was a Cohort Presentation to the Board (9/16/09) which had some compelling data about risk factors for not graduating, including from non-promotion/being held back.
CohortPresentation


􀁹 When are students most at risk of dropping out?
􀁹 What events/behaviors increase risk?
􀁹 Taking into account race, gender and free lunch status, risk for students coming from SPS middle schools is:
􀁹 1.5 times higher if student repeated a grade,
􀁹 doubles again with 1+ core course Fs in MS, and
􀁹 doubles again with 6+ unexcused absences in MS.

Jan said...

Charlie -- I totally agree with you that just passing them on without any support is also unhelpful and inappropriate. And, just as I think it is unfair to add a "teacher pay/retention requires that we hold kids back, so as not to unfairly ding the teachers" requirement on the backs of kids, I also think we do a huge disservice to teachers to not design and implement an educational system that provides the time, resources, scheduling, etc. to provide that support. It is wrong to "dump" this problem on teachers without the necessary staffing and support, and equally (actually more) wrong to dump it on the students.

In BOTH cases, the District is failing to step up to its job -- and trying to pass the "accountability" on to the teachers and/or the students.

dan dempsey said...

Jan,

My point is there are written policies that are ignored.

This is ridiculous that policies can be routinely ignored.

The point is the District does not provide the effective interventions that students need .... instead they promote the students.

If the graduation rate is 60% to 70%, clearly the current plan is extremely poor.

I agree that retention followed by more of the same ineffective practices is unlikely to improve student learning.

If a student is unable to learn with effective interventions the policy indicates that retention is to be the normal procedure. I think this would be a sound plan as long as the normally effective interventions were tried and a better well devised plan was in place for the following year.

Unfortunately we shall never know until the District actually begins following their own policies.

Note this might also motivate the district to use instructional materials and practices that were known to be effective.

As things stand now TEAM MGJ blames the teachers for being ineffective because the poorly chosen materials are ineffective.

Mr. Bernetek's report let us know how poorly things are going.... just in case one did not already know.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, I did attend the NE meeting, no I didn't bring up Spectrum (nor did it come up) but it was interesting. I think going to another one of these and asking about Spectrum is a good idea.

spedvocate said...

Why do we assume that "effective interventions" were not tried? Why do we assume that there are always "effective interventions" available for everything? (hint: there aren't) Why would anybody assume that "if interventions were tried, and did not work (by Dan's definition of work)" then the student should be retained? (hint: if you tried everything possible, and it still didn't work... doing it again will somehow work? Gee, that is ridiculous.)

All of these assumptions are invalid and show a deep ignorance of education and diversity. Students continue to learn when presented new materials, and therefore, they should be presented new materials. They should NOT be presented the same stuff again. They should NOT be given lots of ineffective intervention. Lots and lots of students aren't able to demonstrate proficiency in standardized ways... it doesn't mean they aren't progressing.

There are a few basics here. 1) Not everyone learns the same thing when presented the same materials. 2) Not everyone is going to get to standards... no matter how low the standards.... no matter how much the "intervention". 3) Students continue to learn. 4) This is widely accepted for students with recognized disabilities. The fact is, there's really nothing special about a diagnosis or an educational agreement, that makes students with IEPs any different than anyone else.

Social promotion isn't a crime, it's best practice. We know retention is grossly ineffective and harmful. And it is grossly ineffective, no matter how much support is available in the next grade up. (that is irrelevant) Of course, we want teachers to teach our students as much as possible, and to try lots of different ways to reach students, but it isn't always possible to get everybody to a hypothetical standard. It also isn't possible that everybody demonstrate learning in the same way.

Until your child has been subjected to scads of pointless intervention, don't presume to recommend it for others. SIT and/or IEP teams are exactly the right people to decide retention. And they do just that on an individual basis. And, students are indeed retained when it is beneficial to them. Teachers and parents both have input here. Sorry if it isn't unilateral to a bunch of other people who know nothing about it. Any policy that states something about retention, is in fact, contrary to IDEA. The school board would be breaking federal law were it to follow such a policy. The requirement is that a student make "progress" on his/her own expectations.... not on those of a "policy".

spedvocate said...

Why do we assume that teachers don't try intervention? Why do we assume that there are always effective interventions available that will get everyone to every standard? Why do we assume that a known bad practice (retention) would be better than an imperfect alternatve (moving to a grade without some magical "support")? Why do we assume that people who aren't at standard aren't learning anything? And, why would you ever assume that if you tried a lot of interventions, and they didn't work... then you'd really want to "retain" somebody? (that's the most ridiculous thing... if it hurts really bad, do it some more!)

All of these assumptions show a deep lack of understanding for education and diversity. Here are a few things to consider. 1) Interventions often don't work. 2) Students continue to learn, even when they didn't meet expectations imposed by the state. 3) Students gain different things from any given teaching situation. 4) Students aren't always able to demonstrate what they have learned. 5) Students continue to learn when they are presented new materials. Therefore, students should be presented new materials. 6) Some students will never be able to meet some standards... no matter how low the standard, no matter how much the "intervention".

This is all common knowledge for students with disabilities. But, students with a diagnosis and/or educational plan aren't really special in this regard. SIT and/or IEP teams are exactly the right people to make a retention decision... and indeed they do. Both parents and teachers have input into the decision.

Any policy which categorically prescribes retention is contrary to IDEA. Students are required to make educational progress, not meet somebody else's standard. Until your child has been subjected to scads of intervention... or retention, you shouldn't prescribe it to anyone.

Charlie Mas said...

Why do we assume that teachers don't try intervention?

We don't.

Why do we assume that there are always effective interventions available that will get everyone to every standard?

We don't.

Why do we assume that a known bad practice (retention) would be better than an imperfect alternatve (moving to a grade without some magical "support")?

We don't.

Why do we assume that people who aren't at standard aren't learning anything?

We don't.

And, why would you ever assume that if you tried a lot of interventions, and they didn't work... then you'd really want to "retain" somebody? (that's the most ridiculous thing... if it hurts really bad, do it some more!)

Again, we don't.

All of these assumptions show a deep lack of understanding for education and diversity.

Then it is a good thing that no one here made any of those assumptions.

Any policy which categorically prescribes retention is contrary to IDEA.

Gee, then I guess any students with IEPs wouldn't be subject to any such policy. More than that, I don't think anyone has proposed a policy that categorically prescribes retention.

Expectations for academic progress for students with IEPs are found in their IEP, not the state Standards and GLEs.

spedvocate said...

Look Charlie, you said:

I would also say that promoting them without any support doesn't help them either.



That is wrong. And a wrong assumption. Yes it does help them. It gets them new material and access to education. That "helps" them. And, it surely helps them a heck of a lot more than "retaining" them, or endlessly "intervening" with them. Access to education means different things to different people. Who are you to judge what "helps" them?

Dan said:
If a student is unable to learn with effective interventions the policy indicates that retention is to be the normal procedure. I think this would be a sound plan ...

That is wrong. If a student is unable to learn with effective interventions, retention is unlikely to be of benefit either. That plan is anything BUT sound and has been shown ineffective by tons of research.

Charlie said:
Gee, then I guess any students with IEPs wouldn't be subject to any such policy.

That is wrong. Students with IEPs are general education students first and formost, and all such policies apply to ALL students. The implication here is that the policy is wrong. No doubt, that is why it isn't being followed. It would be ridiculous to have one set of policies for non-disabled students, which held them back... and a totally different set which promoted students with disabiliites but the same profile. And, it would be highly inequitable. Why wouldn't all non-disabled, but held-back students simply be placed in special ed and then promoted? It's all the same kids. If a student has had intervention, but is still behind, then nearly all schools would simply put them in special ed in the first place. Then, it would promote them. So what's the difference? In any case, the class will be full of the same kids, at the same place against standards, requiring the same instruction and differentiated instruction, by the same teacher. Are you seeing a pattern?

Charlie said:
Expectations for academic progress for students with IEPs are found in their IEP, not the state Standards and GLEs.

That too is misleading and off topic. We are talking about placement decisions which includes a retention or promotion placement decision. A placement need only show growth, any growth, in order to be an appropriate one. Students with IEPs do get the exact same report cards and have the same graduation requirements as others, which do include all of the GLE's and EALRs. However, placement is an IEP team decision based on individualized growth.

dan dempsey said...

Three of my four sons were retained at either grade 1 or kindergarten level. They were not progressing adequately. They suffered from dyslexia to varying degrees.

This gave them an opportunity to get the skills they were lacking before moving forward.

One is in his second year of graduate school. The other two have attained AA degrees.

I have a friend who has a masters, he was retained in grade 8. Another graduated from Notre Dame and is a practicing lawyer, retained in grade 2.

I think you can find that retention prior to grade 5 has produced positive effects in many situations.

Granted the bizarre way that TEAM MGJ's SPS handles instruction hardly guarantees that much will be done correctly.

The retention of grade 3 students in NYC had a positive effect school wide I believe. I have not seen the data.

spedvocate said...

Right. Retention can be a good choice. That's what IEP (and SIT) teams are for, to decide such issues. That is exactly why you don't want it to be a policy decision. Social growth is also something to consider. Does retention aide or impede social growth? That would be huge factor in making such a decision, and no SPS policy could replace that judgement.

Sahila said...

We wouldnt be having this discussion if we didnt suffer from a 'must have a one size fits all policy' mentality...

for crying out loud - what is wrong with deciding what is best for each individual child in each individual circumstance????

Why must we have a policy carved in stone that doesnt meet the needs of children? We are not manufacturing widgets...

seattle said...

Don't we automatically retain kids in HS? If a kid doesn't pass Algebra one, he doesn't go on to Geometry. If he doesn't pass Geometry, he doesn't go on to Algebra II. If a kid doesn't have enough credits to graduate in his senior year, he has to take night school, summer school, or come back to his high school the following school year.

WV, that's not so "scirie" to me

SP said...

Thant's right for high school credits, Rabbit. But it's more than just a credit-by-credit situation. If a kid doesn't earn basically a full 5 credits per grade level, they are acually "reclassified" automatically the next year in the same grade level again, with lots of repurcussions attached.

Policy D 15.00
4. Promotion and Retention
High school grade level standing is determined by credit attainment, not chronology. After each semester, standing will be updated according to the following table:

(ie 5 credits per grade)
Note- no link in policy to the procedures manual referred to in the policy)

Chris S. said...

Great discussion on promotion, but I'd like to get back on-topic - I'm curious about reactions to the first welcome-back meeting last night.

My synopsis: goal 1 is to explain and introduce the new regional ed directors. Principal attendance seemed near-mandatory, too. What with 3 board members and plenty of extra district people, the ratio of parent/community to employees was about 1:1. I totally understand this, but I still find it a bit embarassing, for both sides.

Goal 2 was the rollout of the new friendly (but still late) MGJ, who told a story about her daughter and said she wanted to meet each of us personally. That was a bit surreal. Like if I suddenly showed up wearing loads of makeup you'd say "who are you and what did you do with Chris?"

Anyway, the plan was for speakers (Enfield, Brockman, Goodloe-Johnson) then "mingling" for questions and concerns. The crowd (if you can call it that) opted not to break up until almost the end, and they let that happen. Good questions, typical answers. I'm going to be generous and say maybe the new MGJ is different from the status quo because she almost acknowledged unsatisfactory performance a time or two and they seemed to be jumping on actionable items (Dr. E writing them down.) But still, a lot of answers that contained lots of words and little content. We shall see.

SP said...

Thanks, Chris for the meeting update.

A heads up for future workshop meeting planned & now online:

October 13, 2010
Work session on special education

October 27, 2010
Work session on graduation requirements

December 1, 2010
Workshop on student assignment plan, capacity management, geographic zones

December 15, 2010
Workshop on strategic plan, budget

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Melissa Westbrook said...

"It gets them new material and access to education."

And you know this for sure? Any student held back will get a new curriculum? I'm just asking because I don't know but I find it odd to think that just because a student gets held back, he/she would get all new materials and "access to education."

Bird said...

I'm thinking about going to one of these meetings and asking about decreased rigor for kids with advanced math skills in middle school.

I don't have a kid in middle school, however, so could someone sanity check my understanding of the current situation.

SPS came out with a Math Pathways document last year and that said that students would be placed upon entering middle school in either 6th grade math or 7th grade math depending on their performance on the MAP test.

Parents can request that their child be placed in 7th grade math even if their kid doesn't meet the MAP threshold, but *no one* can request their kid be placed higher than 7th grade math on entering middle school.

Is this right?

I'm interested in this topic because it seems unnecessarily restrictive. If a few kids can handle math two or three years ahead, why would the district work so hard to deny them that rigor.

What problem was the Math Pathways document meant to solve? I really don't understand the motivation, so I thought it might be a good question for the admin folk.

Am I missing any essential details?

Charlie Mas said...

The Math Pathways document was very poorly written. It appears to be restrictive, but everyone associated with the document swears it wasn't supposed to be. By not mentioning a lot of perfectly valid paths that students could choose it appeared to dismiss those paths as invalid. Among the valid but ignored paths was a highly accelerated one, three years ahead.'

Students CAN choose this path. They can take Algebra in the sixth grade - the class is taught in the middle schools. They could then take Geometry in the seventh grade - the class is taught in a many of the middle schools. If the class isn't available in their school they can either take it online or try to arrange to take the class at a high school. While none of the middle schools now offers Advanced Algebra, students still have the option to take it online or at a high school.

This is a valid path despite the fact that the Math Pathways document makes no reference to it.

The Math Pathways document also neglects to mention the possibility of doubling up on math classes in high school, taking courses for credit or placement over the summer, taking courses for credit or placement online, and taking CTE courses for math credit, all of which are perfectly valid pathways.

It's just a badly written document that miscommunicates dreadfully. There is no plan to revise it.

Check out the last few comments on this thread of Harium Martin-Morris' blog.

Bird said...

Thanks for the clarification, Charlie.

The districts Math Placement Contract states in bold that "Students may not skip two course levels" and it has bold with underlining that even one level is on a "space available basis".

Everything online about this seems designed to discourage people from seeking rigor. It might be the result of imcompetence, but it looks like its meant to be an intential message -- this is what you get, don't ask for more.

Maybe in practice they don't follow their documents, but I think I'll still ask what the purpose of having them out there is. What was the point of this? It looks like the point is wave off folks.

I'm glad to hear that kids are getting more reasonable support than the online information presents, but I do have to ask where the equity if only those in the know or folks pushy enough to question their strongly worded documents get the accomodations they need for their kids.

Charlie Mas said...

If the George W. Bush administration or the current Seattle Public Schools administration have taught us anything it is that there are no rules, there's only what you can get away with. If the people who are supposed to hold you accountable or are supposed to provide a check on your authority or are supposed to enforce the rules, choose not to do it, then you are free to act as you wish.

As for the rule that "Students may not skip two course levels", we know for a fact that this is wrong since nearly every APP students does it. Moreover, we know that you have academic options outside of the classes available at your local school, so the rule is unenforcable.

The District headquarters can make all of the rule they want, but the people in the school buildings, who have to interact with real people face-to-face, are a lot more reasonable.

SP said...

Back to the meetings-

The School Board site has a new spreadsheet with the main committees listed, their agendas & minutes all to be posted where easily accessable. That is great, but it's starting forward now with no archives (were no minutes recorded?).

On the C&I agenda for the 27th (listed early!):

2. Committee Discussion
a. Instructional Minutes at high school Michael - 20
b. Alternative Learning Experience Michael – 30
c. Material Appeals Procedure – C21.01
2nd reading; repeal C32 & C32.01 Holly - 30
d. Instructional Material – Waivers Holly - 30

Charlie Mas said...

The discussion about instructional minutes at high school is a constant source of wonder for me. The law requires 150 hours of planned instructional time for every high school credit. That's state law. The law allows the District to take a very liberal view of what qualifies as "planned instructional time". For example, it includes the few minutes between classes. Still, you might presume that there is no problem accruing 150 hours since a high school class is an hour long (less 5 minutes passing time) and there are 180 school days a year.

Only there are only 177 school days a year (Seattle has a waiver), and there are a lot of early release days when classes are not the full 55 minutes.

Here's the funny thing: the District staff are dismissive of "seat time" and say that what really counts is effective instruction to bring students to mastery. Yeah. Right. If that's the case, then why are they so pleased about providing an extended day at STEM and Aki Kurose and an extended year at Hawthorne and West Seattle? If seat time doesn't matter then there's no point to the extended day. If seat time does matter then we need to meet the legal minimum.

Speaking of not meeting the legal minimum for instructional hours, the Committee will also talk about Alternative Learning Experiences. There are four in Seattle: NOVA, STEM, Middle College, and Homeschool Resource Center. These are governed by a whole separate set of state laws that require a TON of documentation to show that the kids are actually getting taught and that they are actually learning the right stuff. Every student need a written learning plan and they have to have monthly meetings about their progress. There are other documentation requirements as well. I know how NOVA meets them - to the letter. I have confidence that the Middle College and the HRC are meeting these requirements as well. I'm a little curious about STEM.

The District chose to make STEM an ALE primarily to escape the 150 hour instructional time requirement. You can't meet that bar with a six-hour eight period day featuring an hour and a half of math every day. That's not a good reason to choose to be an ALE. STEM isn't much different from Cleveland really (only the students have changed) so the staff there doesn't have a tradition or a culture of doing the ALE paperwork. They are not familiar with it and they may not take it seriously. I sure do hope that they do. I sure do hope that Princess Shareef is making sure it is all getting done.

The Material Appeals Procedure and the repeal of C32 & C32.01 are a slam dunk. I'm kind of surprised that they had to come back. I thought they were settled at the last meeting.

The fun part of the meeting comes at the end, when they will discuss instructional material waivers.

When Susan Enfield visited the committee to talk about this last month there was a lot of consensus around the idea that waivers should be allowed, but they should be purposeful and the purpose should serve the District. Consequently, waivers will be allowed to support innovation and experimentation and the results of those experiments will be monitored closely by the District. They don't want to allow waivers to meet the needs of specific populations because they believe that the Board-adopted materials were chosen to meet the needs of all learners and they believe that every student can learn with the Board-adopted materials. They don't want to allow waivers to schools that simply don't like the Board-adopted materials. They will, however, allow schools to pilot the use of materials that are on the short list of textbooks that the Board might choose in an upcoming adoption.

The waiver process would also include a stop-loss feature that would bring the experiment to an early close if the outcomes were unsatisfactory.

Since alternative schools are supposed to be just that: alternative, and they are "innovation schools", the waiver process for them should be more lax.

Charlie Mas said...

As of 11:00 am on September 23 the agenda for this afternoon's Audit and Finance Committee meeting has not yet been posted.

Jan said...

It is there now (1:36).