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Friday, September 10, 2010

Rainier Beach High School

There has been some discussion of Rainier Beach High School on the NSAP thread and it has been along the lines of "What can be done to make Rainier Beach a school of choice for the families living in that neighborhood?"

The fact that we are asking this question after three years of the Southeast Education Initiative is conclusive proof that the Initiative was an abject failure. The primary purpose of the project was to make Rainier Beach, Cleveland, and Aki Kurose schools of choice. Neither Rainier Beach nor Aki Kurose are schools of choice and Cleveland is closed. STEM has moved into the building.

Bird asked:
So what would fix Rainier Beach so that families and students would choose to attend it?

What could the district do to make it attractive?

Isn't it to some extent a case of it not being well attended because it's not well attended?
Rabbit wrote:
Since most of the families living in the RBHS attendance area choose not to send their kids to RBHS, the first thing I'd do if I were in charge would be to ask those families what it would take to get them to send their kids there. And then offer what they want (within means).
Which clearly demonstrates the difference between Rabbit and the District. The District never bothered to ask anyone what they wanted. Not at first or ever. Instead, the District decided that people were leaving the neighborhood for other schools because they wanted a strong performing arts program. So they made both Aki Kurose and Rainier Beach into performing arts schools.

The District also increased the number of AP and honors classes available, but I never heard about how many kids enrolled in those classes. They extended the school day at Aki Kurose, but there was never any report on the results of that effort. The school saw real pops in the WASL pass rates for reading and writing in 2009, less so for math. However, the improved pass rates were not sustained in 2010. Pass rates at Rainier Beach steadily fell over the three years of the project. Pass rates at Cleveland were generally flat, with some improvement in science and writing.

For all of the changes, there is no evidence that the schools ever became more popular choices in the community. None. Aki Kurose's enrollment actually shrank until 2009 when Meany closed and Southeast students lost their access to Hamilton. The entire increase in enrollment can be attributed to those changes, not anything at Aki. Even then, the enrollment in 2009 was LESS than the baseline enrollment in 2006.

Enrollment at Rainier Beach stumbled along 457 in 2006, then 361 in 2007, and 453 in 2008, and finally 500 in 2009. So, like Aki, all of the increase came last year and may be attributable to changes at other schools more than changes at Rainier Beach. Let's remember that the building has a functional capacity of 1150.

Rainier Beach has, inexplicably, two principals. At the time of the appointment of the second principal, a press release said:
"Progress has been made over the past several years at Rainier Beach," said Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. "This has been possible due to Dr. Gary’s leadership and to the hard work of students, staff and families working closely together. We are committed to continuing to invest in the success of Rainier Beach High School. Thinking differently about the leadership model at the school will help support the work required to ensure Rainier Beach is an excellent school."
I have no idea what she was talking about. I don't know what progress she meant and I don't know what she meant about the leadership model at the school.

The last update to the Board and the community on the Southeast Education Initiative was in October of 2008. The District never publicly spoke about it again or offered any report on the results or progress.

127 comments:

owlhouse said...

I wonder if it would be useful to twist the question a bit. What if in addition to polling neighbors about the programs, services and opportunities they're looking for, we ask the current population. What would this year's students and staff like to see- what are their ideals for the program? The SE Initiative was aimed at serving the current population, and I would guess that some pieces of it were well received by the RBHS community. But was it what they asked for? Were there programs students had an interest in, programs they wanted participate in? Programs they share a responsibility for?

It seems to me the best way to create confidence in a school, thereby promoting it's growth, is to help the current population thrive. In my experience, students are more likely to engage, commit and follow through with school work when they feel invested. That investment could be to a specific topic, class community, teacher, learning goal... So, how would RBHS like to shape their school?

Of course it's entirely contrary to the standardization push, but some student/staff voice in the direction of the school could be a positive step toward improving student experience/outcome while also helping grow the school.

Not directly related, but this piece from a teacher in Colorado raises the broader question, what's the goal in education?

seattle citizen said...

That is an excellent point, owlhouse. What do the STUDENTS want?

And as per my comment on another thread, I don't think students are looking merely at how a school's overall HSPE scores are doing when the they make decisions about schools, so we shouldn't be looking merely at HSPE scores when we talk about a school's "success."

Melissa Westbrook said...

If the school is slowly dying from lack of students, yes, let's ask the students at RBHS and while we're at it, ask the schools that feed into it.

Charlie you say that they made RBHS into a performing arts school. Hardly. They built a spiffy performing arts hall (your tax dollars at work) and then didn't lift a finger to provide a program. When Broadway Bound came into RBHS to put on a show, they found equipment in the performing arts hall still in plastic (and this is years after it was built). Ridiculous.

As I mentioned elsewhere, there also seems either an inability to compromise and/or so much mistrust within the community that it is difficult to get a consensus. But again, the district could have really made a good faith effort (such as in the TAF effort).

dan dempsey said...

Charlie thanks for the two year old update. Consider this the last sentence:

"Monitor progress through looking at student performance, changes to instructional practice, and an increase in family engagement and community partnerships."

WOW!!! You said the results indicated no improvement despite three years of funding. It looks like if they monitored anything, then their response must have been "duly noted" and nothing else.

wseadawg said...

Y'all are dreaming of real grass roots in a world of astro turf.

SPS may occasionally ask, to humor a group, but they don't listen, ever. You all know this.

The district is run by a CEO wannabe following her vision, not ours. Community input is pesky annoying static to MGJ & Co.

Until the LEV and the turfers wake up and realize a school district is not a business, grass roots will be treated as noxious weeds, not valuable crops.

Sahila said...

Anecdote/analogy for those of you who have the imagination and critical thinking skills to see the connection...

I had a neighbour who offered to mow my lawn IF I made a genuine effort to get rid of the dandelions that were doing a wonderful job flourishing in my grass... he had sowed a new lawn and wanted it to be all spiffy for the once-a-year croquet tournament he put on for friends...

Well, I tried to hold up my end of the deal but my heart wasnt in it (nor did I think it very important and I had other things to do with my time, focus and energy)...

I found it hard to dig up or poison a plant that had nutritional and medicinal value, has been used by indigenous people all over the world for thousands of years ... http://www.leaflady.org/health_benefits_of_dandelions.htm, provides my son with hours of heart-warming fun and a sense of connection as he blows the 'fairies' (seed heads) off the stalks and watches them float on the wind and is a fundamental part of this planet's ecosystem and biodiversity....

My neighbour didnt stop mowing my lawn (maybe he thought that cutting off the dandelion heads with a blade was better than leaving them growing and flowering and seeding)... and while my landlord required me to keep the garden tidy and I appreciated the grass being mowed, I felt bad knowing these plants which are an integral part of life and have so much of value to offer us (if only we were aware of that) had been so cut off/stunted...

Charlie Mas said...

NOW we have a good question (on the NSAP thread). If we consider HSPE pass rates as only one measure of school quality, then what makes an excellent school?

After all, the District wanted the Southeast Initiative to help them fulfill their promise of "Every School a Quality School". So what are the hallmarks of a quality school?

I contend that a quality school is one that provides an appropriate academic opportunity in a safe environment. If I had to reduce it to objective measures I would count these three:

A) Of the students working below grade level, how many received an appropriate intervention?

B) Of the students working beyond grade level, how many received appropriate additional challenge?

C) What is the distribution of responses on the Student Climate Survey to the statement: "I feel safe at my school"?

We don't know the answers to the first two. We don't really know the full answer to the third, although we know that the average at Rainier Beach last year was 2.8, which is not good.

Anonymous said...

No, the only question should be, FROM parents in the area who are leary of these school, TO parents in the area who PURPOSELY choose these schools, WHY they have their kids there. The problem is this-you have two distinct sets of parents, and they are no separated by class. They are separated by color. Just as posters on a certain neighborhood blog in SE Seattle often joke about having the gang members being locked into an arena and shooting it out for our amusement, wishing "those peopel" would all just move to Kent and how funny it would be if the teenage girl punched by the cop got run over while jaywalking (yes really, FUNNY), parents of a lighter hue see nothing of value in these schools-without ever setting foot in them.

So maybe they don't know that Dunlap has an award-winning art teacher whose students win city-wide contests every year. Maybe they don't know that Aki has a state-of-the art computer/video lab. Maybe they don't know that RBHS has been steadily adding AP classes, has state champion level sports and a number of much
sought after dancers. And I'll add Franklin to that mix, beccause therre are plenty of people who think that too, is a "bad" school with "unmotivated kids". Except for the yearly award-winning mock-trial team, a business "academy" that graduates kids into colleges with very selective programs and more.

I live, work, shop and btoh my youngest and I attend classes at the neighborhood community center. Two of my three kids have gone to these schools. Are there problems? Yes. Are they so terrible they should be closed down? No. There are families who have sent all of their children up the ladder through these schools right around the corners from their homes. But...they are the ones certain other people want to "move to Kent". They are the parents of teens certain other people cross the street to avoid. And I don't see that changing.

And without that fundamental change, nothing the DISTRICT does is going to help. Charlie likes to lay all this at MGJ's feet. That's just nonsense. Because, until local parents are willing to do so much as share a dance class with "them" and "those kids", they won't bother with sending their kids to "those schools".

I've said this over and over and over again, and it always gets back to wanting to close these schools or clone another minority school. You can't do that. You absolutely have to get the two populations talking, and in my 10 years down here, I don't see much progress, other than the property values going up, and even that isn't progress in the eyes of the people who have had to move out because they can no longer afford to live here.

Enough. I'm off to hang out with friends with kids in all the SE Initiative schools. Where their kids are getting a good education.

Anonymous said...

Oh and Charlie, it drives me CRAZY that you like to cite the test scores whenever you start in on the terrible South Seattle schools. You've gone so far in the past as to suggest closing them based in part on the test scores. You'd use them to CLOSE schools, but not evaluate teachers. You can't have it both ways.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"those peopel"

Be careful before you cite other people's bad spelling: "leary?"

"...a number of much sought after dancers." What does that mean? Sought after for what? Honestly, what does that have to do with RBHS or any other school being a good school?

I've heard from many people like Agibean and those are good points. The main issue then is how to find compromise and consensus within this community to make these school more attractive to those who live there.

Sahila said...

Melissa - Agibean's use of "leary" was correct.. there are two accepted spellings:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/leary

And I agree with most of what she said... in many respects it correlates with my analogy about dandelions....

seattle citizen said...

Yep, discussions between "races" and about "race" need to happen. (Pardon my continued use of quotations, indicating that the word, to me, is suspect, but I often think that it's too easy when talking about race to retreat to the pre-ordained corners of our respective races, which, to me, merely perpetuates the problem)

Both (all? maybe just both, and we know who we are) sides need to act much more forcefully to get together and dialogue about race and its continued impact on civic life, and schools in particular. There is much to learn, much to air publicly and honestly, but I fear we continue to approach the subject either on delicate, hesitant tiptoes or with all guns blazing.

It IS, perhaps, one of the most complicated and difficult conversations our society faces, and it has been for hundreds of years. Yet there is little opportunity for the whole community to participate in such discussion. There are a few events, a few places, a few initiatives, a few people engaged....But the overwhelming majority of the city has little information or does little to take the risks necessary.

What can we do about this? Nary a clue. But, blessedly, in our schools we see students walking beyond race in nany ways, we see more and more "races" in the schools, each with their own cultures and perspectives, and we see more students ignoring skin color and getting together as mere humans.

THAT is our salvation, if we nurture it. It might be inevitable that race, as a construct, disappears one day, but let's not leave it to chance.

Anonymous said...
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reader said...

Well, how can you measure "working below grade level" or, for that matter, "working above grade level" without using the WASL/MSP/MAP/HSPE? If you aren't using the test scores, Charlie's premises of A or B don't count either. Test scores are what define "working at grade level." If you aren't considering test scores, you also can't consider A or B. Now let's examine measure C, climate survey. To me, that's the most irrelevant of all. I don't know anyone who looks at that, or even knows where to find it. Certainly, I've never heard anyone, anywhere say "Wow. That school has a top rated CLIMATE SURVEY, so we're signing up." Does anyone say that? No. So, Charlie has no measure of "excellent school" other than test score. Since he's already said many times there's no way to improve test scores, no way for the district staff to influence them... then, there's no way to ever make a school "excellent"... except to fill it up with the excellent people. And so, there we are. Ranier Beach, full of the non-excellent people, and all of the excellent people avoiding it.

seattle citizen said...

Reader, "test" scores can be any number of things.

There is no such thing as a generalized "grade level" (i.e. "a student is at the fourth grade level."): Students excel at some things at some times, tank at some things at some times. A student who might have excellent grammar might not have much vocabulary. A student who understands mitosis might not understand...ummm, some other biological process, my mind is blanking (see! see!...ok, I'm way beyond 15 and my mind IS blanking...)

Students are certainly not machines that march lockstep together through age level and grade level, each with a similar mind understanding similar things at the same time.

This is why there are formative and summative classroom assessments: They allow teachers, who one would hope we trust (while acknowledging that even TEACHERS aren't universally excellent at instruction, management, and all the other aspects of teaching), to evaluate individual student learning during and after instruction. At the end of the day, at the end of the quarter or year, the teacher weighs the various learnings and effort and overall growth of a student, and (perforce: it's what society demands) assigns that growth an "A" or a "C".

You want it to be scientific? You want it verifiable? Quantifiable? (Not "you," reader, but somebody) Well, just expect every student to be the same, feed them the same instruction, and hold the student accountable for the results, developmental levels and abilities be damned. THAT gives you precision on the teaching end, but what does it say to the students?

There are many tests that can applied to determine "success" on various levels. That we seem to put so much stock in a HSPE score tells me that is all that we value, and that's just sad.

seattle said...

I don't think a schools success or failure can be purely based on test scores, though test scores are certainly one measure.

Besides RBHS having the lowest WASL/HSPE scores in the district:

They also have one of the highest drop out rates.

They have a very high suspension and expulsion rate.

They are grossly under enrolled. They have less than 400 students assigned to a building that holds 1100.

The majority of families living in the RBHS attendance area refuse to sent their kids to the school.

Their climate survey results were abysmal.

There were years, with the choice system, that less than 20 freshman students chose RBHS as their first choice school. In other words most kids assigned to RBHS received a mandatory assignment - they were dumped there because all of the other neighborhood schools were full.

And before anyone brings up race as a factor in RBHS's popularity, lets remember that less than 20 students (of all races and any socio economic status) chose RBHS as their first choice school. Less than 20.

Based on test scores, climate surveys, popularity (number of families that choose the school), drop out rates, suspension/expulsion rates, it appear that RBHS would be, well, low performing, at least compared to many other SPS high school.

seattle citizen said...

suspension/expulsion and dropout rates are, in my opinion, externally derived: They are not a factor of the school's performance, but rather a factor of the students, who bring these attributes in with them and then display them. They are indicative of problems in the city, and not in the school.

As to climate surveys and first-choices, I believe people feel what they have been conditioned to feel: People don't choose it because it has a "reputation"; students in it react to the reputation, and also to the external factors that manifest inside the building.

I'm not saying that every staff member at RB is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I feel that most of the "issues" regarding RB are matters of perception, attitude and external factors, and are not the result of RB's offerings or "quality" etc.

dan dempsey said...

About that testing ...
First of all the lowest scoring ethnic group in the Seattle schools and also the state are Black Students.

RBHS has the highest percentage of Black students of any SPS high school: Oct 2009 RBHS 57% and Cleveland 46%

Given the socio-economic status and ethnicity of RBHS students their scores are not particularly low with the exception of math the last three years and in particular last year with UW help.

RBHS math pass rate 2010 for Black students was 3.9% (all students 14.1%)

seattle said...
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seattle said...

"RBHS math pass rate 2010 for Black students was 3.9%"

That's absolutely abysmal. And there lies part of the problem. If the math pass rate for black students is 3.9% (and RBHS is predominantly black) what parent of a higher performing student (of any color) would choose this school, and this environment for their child? The classroom bar would have to be set pretty low (remedial actually) to reach and teach a group of students whose math WASL failure rate is 96.1%.

seattle citizen said...

Rabbit writes,
"The classroom bar would have to be set pretty low (remedial actually) to reach and teach a group of students whose math WASL failure rate is 96.1%."

Unless a teacher "differentiates." This is the new buzzword, perhaps as budgets constrict and classes are filled with a wider range of abilities.

Ideally we would have, in each school, a wide range (at least three) of classes for each "level" of discipline: Beginning, competent, advanced.

Even better, a wide range of classes that are not grade-level-associated - students take Algebra B, C or A, depending on what they already know.

But as we've seen across the district, teachers are being asked to teach to a wider range of student abilities. Honors options added, remedial students maybe not getting pull-outs...

I fear this is the direction we are headed, not that I would ever think we could fully fund a truly diverse range of separate classrooms for different levels. It's unfortunate, because differentiation is very difficult, and takes a lot of time outside of the classroom. Of course a "quality teacher" might be expected to give it their best shot, but logistically it is a tough nut.

So perhaps schools that lose funding due to lower enrollment will suffer even more because they can't offer range, and then they lose students, and they lose funding...etc ad infinitum

WV thinks this funding problem is teling...

seattle citizen said...

Look at one of the main, published purposes of MAP: Teachers are able to (supposedly able to) get a good fix on the many levels in their class. They are offered, via the attached Descartes program (sources digital material based on student level), the "opportunity" to access a wide range of differentiated curriculum, and expected also to develop and use their own curriculum and instructional approached given the wide range. So teachers, via MAP, as being given the, um, opportunity to diversify their classroom instruction.

All good, right? Not if you don't give the teacher about two more hours per day to plan. $$$

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

"Unless a teacher "differentiates." This is the new buzzword, perhaps as budgets constrict and classes are filled with a wider range of abilities."

Pipe dreams, SC. I doubt any math teacher would find much inspiration, incentive, or time, to differentiate when 96.1% of his/her students were working far below grade level, and failing the WASL.

Why would any parent, any, with a student working at grade level, or above grade level, place their child in an environment like that? And I'm not even addressing the gangs, violence, suspension and expulsion rates, etc?

Why, seriously why, would a family hope that a teacher would "differentiate" at RBHS, when they could be assured of appropriate, grade level, honors, and AP class placement at nearby high schools like STEM, Garfield, NOVA, and even Franklin?

The fact is parents aren't choosing RBHS - why would they? The school continues to limp along, year after year, severely under enrolled, and under performing. Can we at least agree that SOMETHING needs to be done about it?

seattle citizen said...

Rabbit, as I thought I was saying, I myself think a well-varied differentiation of instruction is very difficult, and, unless supported with extra planning time and/or relevant materials supplied by the district, is not to be expected. Some small degree of differentiation is possible, of course, in any classroom, and happens daily.

If 96.3 percent of a class were below level, that class would be a de-facto remedial class, even if it was still being called an "at level" class.

Which brings us to promotion: Why ARE there so many students with low levels of various skills IN at-level classes in the first place? In any school (not just RBHS, believe me)

THERE'S a can of worms.

(The gangs, and violence etc at RB is NOT as bad as you make it out to be. If you can show me a statistical analysis that shows RB to be wildly beyond the norm, district-wide, in these areas, I would be interested. Please back up this assertion or refrain from using it. Maybe I'm ignorant, but I don't know that RB is all that bad regarding gangs and violence.

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

Here is what I found in a quick, minute, google search.

"The possible merger is troubling for some South Seattle parents, who say that disputes between rival gangs at the high schools could escalate with the change" Amy Rolph, PI, Dec 5, 2008

In the Rainier Beach case, the two boys are accused of forcing the girl into a men's bathroom at the school last June. One watched the door while the other sexually assaulted the girl in a stall, according to court documents. " Peggy McEvoy, SPS, Sept 2007

"Putting together two comprehensive high schools [in a plan] that integrates neighborhoods, communities, gangs and rivalries is not recommended," Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson wrote in a recent report on school closures"

"Police are investigating a possible gang incident at Rainier Beach High School, where one student threatened to shoot another last week" Seattle, PI, Jan, 2009

"And then there are the continued reports of misbehavior in the classroom, gangs, violence, two alleged rapes, your drug and alcohol councelor being arrested for selling drugs........" Bella Jan 27, Save Seattle Schools blog post

"Sources are telling the Seattle P-I that the 15-year-old boy killed in South Seattle Tuesday was Pierre K. LaPoint, a known member of the "Down with the Crew" gang, was a student at Rainier Beach HS. Seattle PI, 2008

"Rainier Beach High School sits just east of Rainier Avenue South and South Henderson Street – one of Seattle’s most violent corners. Photo/do communications" Rainier Valley Post, 2010

"Sipepa Faitau and Anita Taulaga are juniors at Rainier Beach High School. They used to be gang members " Highbeam

"Fifteen Rainier Beach HS boys signed up, almost all black and most with past gang involvement. Nearly all lack a father in their lives. These (were) hard-core gangbangers," said Gerald Brown, 17, motioning to several peers in T-shirts and baggy jeans." Seattle Post, 2008

"A high school basketball game Friday night between Franklin and Rainier Beach drew "numerous gang members and affiliates," and one 15-year-old gang member was arrested for trespassing, according to police." Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 27, 2009

Charlie Mas said...

Sometimes it's a wonder I can speak at all when people have put so many words into my mouth.

Can we begin with a consensus that the under-enrollment at Rainier Beach High School is a problem and it should be fixed?

If we are to fix it, then we need to seek the source of the problem. The source of the problem is clear: families in the area do not choose to enroll their children at Rainier Beach High School. We can agree on that as an objective fact, can't we?

Now, why don't they? Since we're talking about the motivations of thousands of people there is just no way that the all share the same rationale. Here are a number of possibilities:

1. My kids went to middle school in the north-end and want to go to the same high school as their friends.

2. Given the academic outcomes for students at Rainier Beach (as measured by standardized tests and drop-out rates), I believe the focus there is on remedial work and, consequently, I don't believe that my child will get an appropriate academic opportunity there.

3. I perceive Rainier Beach High School as unsafe.

4. (from agibean1958) I don't want my children to go to school with unmotivated kids and I perceive Rainier Beach High School to be an undesirable peer group for my children.

5. I perceive Rainier Beach as a "bad" school.

6. There is a specific program that my child wants which is not offered at Rainier Beach.

7. I want my children to go to a school with a lower concentration of African-American students.

I'm sure there are other reasons as well. Some of them good; some of them silly; some of them ghastly.

(continued...)

Charlie Mas said...

(...continued)
The District cannot address all of these reasons. There isn't anything the District can do about numbers 1, 4, or 7. But there are things that the District can do about the others.

By adding AP classes at Rainier Beach, the District sent the signal that Rainier Beach was ready to meet the academic needs of high performing students. The District could send that signal a little stronger and more directly, but they kept their commitment to offer these classes. Yet that belief is still out there, so the District - and the school - needs to do more.

What can the District do to improve the perception of safety at Rainier Beach? I'm not sure, but the students in the school say that they don't feel particularly safe there. That's not the people OUTSIDE the school; that's the students in the school. So there is a possibility that the school really isn't a very safe place. Maybe the way to improve the perception of safety is to improve the safety. Then promote that improved safety in the community.

I'm not sure how the District could alter the perception that Rainier Beach is a "bad" school. I do know that what they have tried so far - doing nothing - hasn't been very successful. The new School Scorecard that will be published about each school is supposed to offer families some sense of School Quality. When we see the Scorecard for Rainier Beach we will see the image it projects. If it projects the image of a good school, that will be a help. If, however, it projects the image of a low quality school, then maybe the way to improve the perception of quality at RBHS is, like with the safety, to improve the actual quality at RBHS.

The quality of the school should be independent of the students who enroll there. It shouldn't be about who enrolls, but what happens for them when they do. I don't know if the School Scorecard will tell that story, but we can hope. The three measures that I offered were the measures that I thought would tell that story.

I have spoken to families and I have asked them "What would it take for you to enroll your child at [perceived undesirable school]?" The answer I got was 1) a safe campus and 2) an appropriate academic opportunity. That was it. When I asked them what they were willing to do to help the school become that way, they stepped back and said that this was a baseline that EVERY school should offer and that while they were happy to contribute their efforts to foster other things (music programs, etc.) they felt - very strongly - that this baseline should be there without any contribution from them.

Finally, before placing the Performing Arts focus at Rainier Beach, the District could have asked people what sort of programs they wanted there. It would not have been hard and it can still be done.

So, no, the District can't address every reason that people chose against Rainier Beach, but they didn't really address any of them. And for that I do blame the District.

seattle citizen said...

Rabbit, the incidents you cite don't tell us anything about the incidence of...incidents in other schools: IS Beach "more unsafe"? I don't know.

Charlie,
Yes, the climate survey tells us that students apparently feel more unsafe at RB. Are they? What is the basis for this feeling? If safety is one of two things (in addition to academics) that parents (and their students) want, we need to find out if the feeling of safety (or lack thereof) is predicated on the school, some of its students, a general feeling based on the years of "it's not safe" spread around the community, or what.

Without knowing why students are, with apparently greater frequency, saying "it's not safe," we have no way of knowing what to do next.

I tend to agree that academics can be more varied to reach a variety of levels, as you mentioned. I think RB is moving in that direction. But we need to address the student concerns about safety.

One thing that can be done, but is politically fraught, is to make sure that ALL schools have a zero-tolerance policy regarding, particularly, violent crimes (physical or psychological) There are policies in place everywhere, but there are also, seemingly, exceptions to the policies everywhere: Schools sometimes seem loathe to, say, suspend a student, preferring to keep the student in school. This makes a certain amount of sense in some ways, but I think it's led to ambiguity, and to students working the system.

That said, it's been widely reported that students, or many of them, feel less and less accountable to their elders as authorities - they have, it seems, less recognition of authority and might tend to blow it off. Not helpful in a school setting.

reader said...

If the math pass rate for black students is 3.9% (and RBHS is predominantly black) what parent of a higher performing student (of any color) would choose this school, and this environment for their child? The classroom bar would have to be set pretty low (remedial actually) to reach and teach a group of students whose math WASL failure rate is 96.1%. If the math pass rate for black students is 3.9% (and RBHS is predominantly black) what parent of a higher performing student (of any color) would choose this school, and this environment for their child? The classroom bar would have to be set pretty low (remedial actually) to reach and teach a group of students whose math WASL failure rate is 96.1%.

... which is to say, you value the test score above all else. That's what "excellent" means to you. And, that is a perfectly reasonable thing to value. And, since we know test scores follow certain groups, and are primarily a function of the background... then, there's NOTIHNG RBHS can do to make you select it. NOTHING. Why should the district do anything, when NOTHING is actually possible? Well, nothing except either force different students in, or force its current students out. There's really nowhere else to send the non-performing students.

Charlie Mas said...

Let me indulge myself here for just a moment to spit out the words stuffed into my mouth.

I don't say that the District made Rainier Beach and Aki Kurose into schools with a performing arts focus, that's what the District says.

Do I blame the superintendent and the District for failing to change the perception of Rainier Beach High School? Not as much as I blame them for failing to even TRY to change the perception of Rainier Beach High School.

I mention the test scores as evidence of the failure of the Southeast Education Initiative, not as a measure of the quality of the school.

I shared my criteria for school quality and it did not reference test scores.

And, despite everyone's desire for it to be otherwise, there is such thing as grade level expectations. There are a lot of different ways to determine if a student is working at, below, or beyond grade level. Assessments are one way, but by no means the only way. The important question isn't whether or not a student is working below grade level; the important question is what does the school do about it.

Just because the Student Climate Survey is obscure doesn't mean it is irrelevent. The knowledge of how an electric light works isn't common either; that doesn't negates its value.

There ARE things that can be done to improve student test scores. Of course there are. The District just isn't doing enough of them and isn't doing any of them in a systematic and reliable way.

That's all I can refute or clarify right now.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

I typed my post with three people in my house vying for my attention. Please forgive my spelling. It's pretty hard for me to type and talk to three people while trying to hear them at all, as I am hard-of-hearing. You have my deepest apologies.

But I've got to ask-of all that I said, THAT'S what you felt the need to highlight? Really?

At least Charlie responded in a very literate and well-reasoned series of posts, even if I don't agree with them all.

As for the "sought-after dancers". They're sought after for performances, for TEACHING dance, for...being decent people. They're kids who aren't scary teens who would make you want to cross the street (or in the words of the local bloggers, "sketchy").

Seattle Citizen, I rarely agree with you, but on this topic you're spot on.

Rabbit-keep in mind "one of Seattle's most violent corners" is the title given it by a blogger with a skewed viewpoint, a blog where folks routinely suggest harm come to certain people of color or that they all "move to Kent".

I know RBHS is the main focus here, but I happened to speak to two parents of middle schoolers today-one black, one white, from nearly the same part of the Rainier Beach area. They're probably neighbors.

One has her daughter enrolled at Aki, on purpose, after seeing the great experience her son had there. Her daughter loves it. When I asked what exactly she loves, the woman said that her child gets all the honors classes she needs, has great friends, and there's a dance team she's on. She lvoes her teachers, she's learning a lot. When I told her that some people think it's a terrible school and want it closed down, she said, "Well, they should come down here and see how good it is!"

The other mother I spoke to lives less than 2 miles from Aki didn't even know where it was. She did know that it was a "bad school" though. Her child is in a private school.

Any guesses as to which parent was which? Anyone?

There you have in a nutshell one of the biggest problems regarding S. Seattle schools. THIS super, the FORMER super and the one before him and the one before him (and so on and so on) can/did make all the changes they want(ed) to these schools, but until everyone recognizes the elephant in the living room, nothing will bring the one set of parents around. And the ones who DO send their kids to the schools and DO support them, will continue to feel marginalized and insulted by those who would leave the district rather than set foot in any of their kids' schools.

dan dempsey said...

I would like to point out that RBHS has not always had such low OSPI math test scores for Black Students. RBHS has had UW NSF funded assistance (the last two school years) and recorded progressively lower test scores for Black students. The "Discovering"textbook adoption was particularly damaging to Black students who were struggling in math.

Four years ago RBHS had the highest pass rate for Black students in the District.

11.80% - 2004
6.30%
22.00%
36.20% - 2007
21.60%
15.60%
3.90% - 2010

Reading scores at RBHS are a lot more acceptable than recent math scores. Much the same could be said for Cleveland about low math scores with UW help over the last three years and better reading scores.

The worst result of all this was at RBHS with Discovering and UW help in 2010 82% of RBHS Black students could not score above level 1.

Aim that one right at the school board and their failure to provide effective interventions and continuing to endorse socially promoting students.

reader said...

Assessments are one way, but by no means the only way. The important question isn't whether or not a student is working below grade level; the important question is what does the school do about it.


Actually, the question is, How is Charlie Mas so sure that other people are not working at grade level? Or that anyone is not working at grade level? Or that he has any idea, how many are "not working at grade level"? Especially, how does he know this without using the published assessments? ????? Surely, a teacher might know this without an assessment, but not a pundit ignoramous. And finally, how does he, Charlie Mas, who doesn't really know the level at which anyone else working... how does he know that those losers' schools are also doing NOTHING about their presumed failure to work at grade level?


If you aren't looking at test scores, then how do you know students "aren't working at grade level"???? You don't. And yet, you lament the state of the district, and the implied accountability, with 0 evidence. Same as the repeated accusations against her's truly, MJG. "Wah, wah, all those fifth graders get third grade lessons. And, by god, they deserve better."

How do you know fifth graders are getting third grade lessons? Were you there? Were you everywhere?

(The reason a "CLIMATE SURVEY is irrelevant, isn't because it runs on priciples like a lightbulb... it's because 1) there's no common scale for almost any question. It's like comparing inches on different maps. And 2) People don't value it or use it widely.)

seattle said...

"And, since we know test scores follow certain groups, and are primarily a function of the background... then, there's NOTIHNG RBHS can do to make you select it. NOTHING. "

Reader, do you really think a 3.9% WASL pass rate is the standard, and acceptable, for black students? It's just what we should expect and accept from this racial group, as there is nothing to be done about it? I find that train of thought warped, and offensive.

seattle citizen said...

Just to throw another log on the fire, I'll repeat my concern about using "groups" and "categories" to make statements about a number of unique and individual students.

What does it mean, what does it tell us, when a student's parent checks "Black" on the district registration form? What does it mean when they check "White"? What are we supposed to make of that, are we supposed to assume common experience?

Sahila said...

the whole thing about groups is stupid...

I'm white - my ancestry is dutch and french... English is my second language though most people cant tell..

I was born in Europe... the history and culture and attitudes of northern Europe run through my veins and DNA...

I grew up in New Zealand - you cant tell by looking at me that I am not a Kiwi... but I dont THINK or approach life like a Kiwi, or an Aussie despite living in Australia for 8 years, or like a Singaporean (of which there are four ethnic groups) were I lived for two years, or like an American - have lived here for 6.5 years now...

So - according to the people who insist on labelling and categorising and putting people into boxes, because I have white skin, I should think, process and act in a certain way - White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) maybe?

But I dont think like an Englishwoman, and Irishwoman, a Scotswoman, a Welshwoman...

Should I think/process/act like a Frenchwoman, an Italian, a Yugoslav, a Spaniard, a Russian? Or should they all think/process/act like me?

Its the same for children of colour... should mexican kids think/process/act like whites?

Should Nigerian kids think/process/act like whites or like African Americans?

Should Chinese kids think/process/act like whites or like Japanese or Vietnamese or Korean kids?

Its all crazy and pointless...

The only way to educate all children well is to stop trying to categorise and standardise, stop trying to scale education - honour and celebrate and cater to the differences - shape the system to the needs of the children, not shape the children to the needs of the system...

reader said...

Well Rabbit, you could send your child RBHS. I'm sure you wouldn't. Desegregation works, but people don't want it. They want APP, IB, montessorri, spectrum, special program xyz... anything to maintain segregation. Anything to keep them out of their neighborhood school.

Charlie accuses people of putting words in his mouth. No, he does that himself, diarrhea of the keyboard. The comment about immutable test scores for certain groups is Charlie's refrain. But let's be careful not to call them the black people, they're ummm, the poor people. It was a reason for not supporting SERVE. ("the teachers can't change anybody's test scores, nobody can") And, since he's ONLY interested in grade levels and "test scores", which are the ONLY published measure of grade level... and since he's already "proven" that schools/teahcers can't effect test scores... by that logic, there's NO improving RBHS. NONE. ZIP. There's nothing the district can do that will fix it, given his premises. (1. Student's aren't performing at grade level as measured by tests. 2. Teachers can't effect tests.) Ergo, there's no fix. Sure, let's go out and ask people. Big deal. That would fix nothing. What you really find, they want programs that insulate their kids from the students attending RBHS whether they spell it out directly or not.

reader said...
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reader said...

One other thing Rabbit, the WASL pass rate in math for black students was 5.4% for the whole district in 1998, the first year with a record. Now it's 12.4%. Sometimes the whole district's pass rate for black students was in the 20% range (2006). Most years in the decade, it's been around 12%. Garfield's black students pass at an 11% rate. Should we close Garfield? 3.9% is within the range of variation of the test given that 12% is the district's average pass rate for black students in 10th grade math. My kids' schools' MSP scores were down more than 10 points this year. Does it mean the school got a lot worse? Nobody I know thinks that. But well, except at RBHS it must mean a calamity. The other point is that the WASL/MSP/HSPE for math isn't required for graduation. Maybe nobody cares about that test since it doesn't count. ???

BTW. The ALL category only passed HSPE Math at a 44% rate, for the entire district.

hschinske said...

The comment about immutable test scores for certain groups is Charlie's refrain.

Sorry, that's totally false. When has Charlie ever said such a thing?

Helen Schinske

seattle said...
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seattle said...

Reader said "Well Rabbit, you could send your child RBHS. I'm sure you wouldn't. Desegregation works, but people don't want it."

Wrong Reader. My kids are bi-racial - the last thing in the world that I want is to segregate them from their own ethnic group. But you are right about one thing - I wouldn't send my kids to RBHS, nor would I send them to any any other school where the math WASL pass rate was 3.9%. Test scores aren't the be all end all, but when a schools test scores drop far below average, into the 3% pass rate, that is more than enough reason for me to be concerned, and avoid the school. Add to the far below average test scores the fact that RBHS is grossly under enrolled, has a very high suspension and expulsion rate, has a climate survey that reveals that students do not feel safe in the building, had a drug and alcohol counselor that was fired for selling drugs during school hours, had a rape that occured on campus that they chose to not report to authorities, and well, it doesn't look encouraging.

I'm sure there are great teachers at RBHS, and I'm sure many families love the school. Michael
Rice has talked on numerous occasions about the positive things going on in the building and in his classroom, and that's exciting. I just don't think the positives outweigh the negatives at this point.

seattle citizen said...

Rabbit, again I ask you to look at other schools and see what happens at those places.

I recall a teacher telling me about two 8th graders having sex in a middle school bathroom - a "good" middle school, "good students"....yes, "consensual," I was told, but at age 13?

Ballard had a drive by a few years ago, and the old Ballard building had two kids drive through the gym wall in a joint suicide pact (one lived)

Drugs and alchohol? Please. They're everywhere.

There are instances all over the city of bad stuff. Your insistence on bringing up incidents at RB is not helpful unless you can place those incidents in context: what happens at other schools?

dan dempsey said...

To clarify a few things about test scores.

(1) In 2005-2006 The District began requiring all students to have sophomore credits to take the WASL and this raised the District's Math WASL pass rate at grade 10 from 40% passing to 55% in one year. Comparing scores before this 2005-2006 year when only two years in attendance mandated taking the 10th grade WASL to OSPI testing later makes little sense if a direct comparison is desired.

(2) Instructional Materials and Instructional practices can make a huge difference in student performance. See this.

Unfortunately when it comes to intelligent decision making about materials and practices the SPS is totally clueless as math scores indicate. Again note RBHS was victimized by UW and SPS math help the last two school years (extensive professional development).

SPS UW math help in grade 9 and then in grade 10 produced the 2010 HSPE Black student pass rate of 3.9% for grade 10 students.

It did not need to be that way .. but this is the math clueless SPS.

Clearly the effective interventions and merited grade level promotion specified in Board's promotion/ non-promotion policies have been ignored k-8 for years. The lack of effective interventions is the real problem.

Check out those Schmitz Park math scores with Singapore yet the Central Admin and the Board make NO ATTEMPT to replicate Singapore Math elsewhere.

If k-4 math is a mess, then 5-12 follows. FIX elementary math materials and practices.

Start by getting rid of this absurd SPS definition:

Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.


The problem is with the student learning of mathematics, which the district perpetually fails to address.

A $45 copy of John Hattie's Visible Learning would trump the hundreds of thousands spent on SPS professional development.

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

Sorry, this is a repost.

Sc, check out the healthy families survey taken by SPS students in all high schools, in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. The survey compares anti social behavior, drugs, and alcohol use in schools across the district.

Here is the link to the results of RBHS's survey on the SPS website.

http://www.seattleschools.org
/area/ctc/survey/rainier_
beach.pdf

30 day use (for drugs and alcohol), 10th grade, 2004, RBHS

Alcohol use - average

Cigarette use- 40% higher than district average

Marijuatna use - 30% higher than dist average

suspension - 60% higher than average

drinking and getting high while at school - 10% higher

stolen a car - 40% higher

arrested - 60% higher

attacked someone with the intent to harm - 50% higher

Carried a handgun - 20% higher

Took a handgun to school - 70% higher

And, yes SC, drugs and alcohol are at every school. But RBHS's drug and alcohol counselor was fired for selling drugs during school hours.

And yes, violence happens in schools all over the district. But it's pretty bad when a special ed student is raped by two older students, in a school bathroom, and the school does not report the rape to the police or any other authorities?

Charlie Mas said...

reader asked: "How is Charlie Mas so sure that other people are not working at grade level? Or that anyone is not working at grade level? Or that he has any idea, how many are 'not working at grade level'?"

I am sure that there are students who are not working at grade level because teachers tell me so. How else would I know? Published test scores are also a very strong indication. I do not, however, have any idea how many are not working at grade level. The number doesn't matter and I never suggested that I knew it.

reader wrote: "Especially, how does he know this without using the published assessments? ????? Surely, a teacher might know this without an assessment, but not a pundit ignoramous."

Which is why I have teachers as a source for this information instead of pundit ignoramuses.

reader asks "And finally, how does he, Charlie Mas, who doesn't really know the level at which anyone else working... how does he know that those losers' schools are also doing NOTHING about their presumed failure to work at grade level?"

I don't know. That's why it is a question I ask and am very interested to have answered.

I don't claim to have any of this information that reader seems to think I claim to have. I only see these as important questions - important questions to ask EVERY school. I am as interested in Roosevelt's answers to these questions as I am interested in Rainier Beach's.

reader continues: "If you aren't looking at test scores, then how do you know students 'aren't working at grade level'???? You don't."

I do. Teachers tell me so. I regard them as reliable sources. But now I'm confused. Does reader believe the test scores are reliable evidence of students' progress or not?

"And yet, you lament the state of the district, and the implied accountability, with 0 evidence."

I don't really know what this means. I never really saw myself as lamenting. I'm really not sure what statement I have made without evidence.

"Same as the repeated accusations against her's truly, MJG. 'Wah, wah, all those fifth graders get third grade lessons. And, by god, they deserve better.'""

They do. Also, I don't recall writing "Wah, wah".

"How do you know fifth graders are getting third grade lessons? Were you there? Were you everywhere?"

Thank you for asking. I know this because their teachers have told me so. I was not there, but I regard the teachers as reliable sources. I'm not everywhere - but I don't really have to refute that one, do I?

Thank you, reader, for explaining why you disregard the Student Climate Survey. It is a measure of students' perception, but perception is what I wanted measured.

Charlie Mas said...

reader wrote: "The comment about immutable test scores for certain groups is Charlie's refrain."

It's odd, then, that this refrain is so unfamiliar to me. When did I write this? Please remind me.

reader has this quote from me: "the teachers can't change anybody's test scores, nobody can"

Can reader remind me of when I wrote that?

reader writes: "And, since he's ONLY interested in grade levels and 'test scores', which are the ONLY published measure of grade level... and since he's already 'proven' that schools/teahcers can't effect test scores... by that logic, there's NO improving RBHS. NONE. ZIP."

Wow! So much here for me to spit out.

* I am, by no means, only interested in grade levels and test scores. I'm interested in lots of other stuff as I'm sure my body of work will attest.

* Test scores are NOT the only published measure of grade level. Let's recall that in elementary schools the progress reports are all based on grade level. I regard those as MUCH better indicators than test scores and have said so a number of times.

* I certainly haven't proven that schools and teachers cannot effect test scores. On the contrary. I have written a number of times about how Maple has done so and how Van Asselt, and Dearborn Park have also done so. I have also written, on a number of occassions, about the heroic work that teachers have done which has improved student learning, which was then reflected in student test scores.

* I have not said that there is nothing that can be done to improve RBHS; I have written that the District didn't do the right things to make it into a school of choice. The evidence for that in the objective fact that few people choose it.

I must be a really bad writer if my intent has been so poorly communicated.

reader is convinced that people don't choose Rainier Beach High School because "they want programs that insulate their kids from the students attending RBHS whether they spell it out directly or not."

I don't ask reader to meet the same standard of evidence that reader asks of me. reader has this from people who chose against Rainier Beach with whom reader has spoken - whether they spell it out directly or not because reader is such an excellent judge of what people mean - regardless of what they say.

Charlie Mas said...

Let me be very clear.

I have no opinion about whether Rainier Beach High School is a good school or a bad school. I have no basis for forming any such opinion. I have been very clear about how I would judge school quality, and I think I have been equally clear that those data points are not available. Consequently, I have no basis for making a statement either way - and I have not made a statement either way.

Furthermore, the method I would use to judge school quality is my own. It was not passed down at Sinai. Other folks are free to determine their own measures of school quality and their determinants may be as valid for them as mine are for me. I'm happy to discuss the relative validity of these determinants and, if someone wants to find fault with my choice I'm happy to substitute better choices.

The statements I have made about Rainier Beach High School are that it is under-enrolled, that the students there rated it low in safety, that the WASL and HSPE pass rates are low, and that the Southeast Education Initiative has failed to improve any of these measures. These are all incontrovertable facts.

Finally, even if other folks were to decide that Rainier Beach High School is not a good choice for their child, that doesn't mean that it couldn't be a good choice for your child. In the end, whether a school or a teacher rates well or poorly on anyone else's quality scale doesn't mean that the school or teacher would be either a good or a poor match for your child.

Charlie Mas said...

I have made a review of everything I could quickly find that I have written about Rainier Beach High School, particularly what I have written on this thread, and I was not able to find anything to support the assertions made by reader about my beliefs or positions.

I invite those who wonder to re-read the original post and my first two comments in this thread and consider the merit of reader's claims.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, I have been told in the past to "read between the lines" so apparently you are to read between the lines of what YOU write and what your critics write. To me that is a bit akin to being a mind reader which I'm not.

Sahila said...

we are guilty of killing our kids....

http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html

gavroche said...

reader said...

Well Rabbit, you could send your child RBHS. I'm sure you wouldn't. Desegregation works, but people don't want it. They want APP, IB, montessorri, spectrum, special program xyz... anything to maintain segregation. Anything to keep them out of their neighborhood school.


reader, and agibean1958 (in an earlier post about RBHS): To insinuate or claim that parents/families in SPS who choose a specific, rigorous or alternative program for their child, or choose not to send their kids to RBHS -- do so because of they don't want their kids going to school with kids of other races, is itself a racist accusation on your respective parts.

It's the very kind of sweeping statement and perpetuation of stereotype that you accuse other SPS parents of making.

As mentioned in this thread, there are various issues that affect parents'/guardians' choice of schools for their kids, including safety and academic rigor, or appropriateness of program for their child's needs.

You want to know who or what is re-segregating our schools? The new student assignment plan, for one thing.

Take TOPS, for example. Racial and socioeconomic diversity is one of the strengths and appealing traits of that school. But the District is discontinuing transportation that allowed a diverse group of kids to go there. The school community (including white parents) protested, but the District ignored them.

You want to know what else is re-segregating our schools? Ed reform -- namely, charter schools. Which kids are being channeled into those militaristic charter franchises? Poor kids of color. See: "Report Explains that Charter Schools' Political Success is a Civil Rights Failure"

The families I know who want or are in these other programs also want and value a diverse learning environment for their children.

For either of you to deign to read the minds and speak for other families, and claim to know and judge their motivations in choosing a school is arrogant, offensive and highly hypocritical.

reader said...

Wow. So CHarlie's spoken to ALL the teachers in the district. And they ALL tell you that fifth grade teachers are delivering "third grade" lessons? (Something you've stated is sooooo unfair to somebody.) That's ridiculous. How about asking those fifth grade teachers teaching third grade lessons to just quit... or better yet, to shoot themselves for being so incompetent. All you have is anectdotal evidence, from a few people you contact which you then offer up as fact. It isn't. Sure we've got report cards. As near as I can tell, they do their best to make them match the WASL/MSP.. and they are largely based on another test, the "classroom based assessment". In fact, my teacher told me she was honor-bound to make her grades solely based on "classroom based assesment". It's the same as the WASL!

Yes Charlie. You have typed up storm. It's hard to back down from your positions when you leave such a trail.

Yes Melissa, people do draw conclusions. Sorry about that.

And Dan. Every year the tests change. Are we not to look at them? There are new requirements. This year, they're trying to make it computerizable. No 9th graders allowed. So what? Since you love to spout the data, especially for minority students. 1998 black students passed math at a rate of 5%. That is the testing we have, and that was the score. Now they pass at a rate of 12%. It doesn't seem like any appreciable change one way or the other, and it seems bad.

reader said...

Yes Charlie. You laud Maple based on test scores. Why? The Asian students have high test scores. The blacks and hispanics have horrible scores. The school is mostly Asian, and so it does mostly good. Why is that good? Isn't that just the status quo? Isn't that just exactly what you'd expect based on stereotype? It's bucked no trend at all.

reader said...

Oh please Gavroche. The assignment plan will not resegregate our schools. The schools were already plagued with white-flight, while the neighborhoods are integrated. White students flocked to QA/Mag to escape the black kids in the south end when that was part of the preference in the choice system. Seattle liberals are oh so happy to live in integrated neighborhoods... so long as they don't have to go to school with any. And, if they do have to go to school with some, they don't want to be in the same class.

gavroche said...

"Oh please," right back at you, reader. The NSAP no longer provides transportation to out of cluster kids. Consequently, south-end kids of all backgrounds are no longer able to attend north-end schools. That will result -- already has -- in less racial diversity in north-end schools. You seem to think that only white kids went north for school. Not true.

Anonymous said...

Gavroche,

The NSAP is a direct answer to the parent-brought lawsuit of a decade ago to end race-based tie-breakers. The district fought that, all the way to the Supreme Court, and lost. Neighborhood schools, that's what people wanted.

As for the generalizations you think I'm making, well, they might be if I hadn't heard parents talking about "those people" and "the minorities have won" and my biracial child hadn't heard from any number of kids about how she didn't belong where she was. I wouldn't think this way if I hadn't talked to teachers and principals of heavily minority schools who can't get white parents to even consider visiting the school when assigned there, preferring to enroll elsewhere without a second glance.

Reader is right-read any of the blogs in gentrified neighborhoods. Read about the "sketchy" people, the alleged "unsafe" areas, the "crappy" restaurants and on and on and it become real clear that the white folks moving in want the low-cost houses but not the people in the neighborhood. And that includes schools.

Jan said...

agibean: Why do you say the SAP is the result of the race based tiebreaker system? They could have preserved the system they had (choice with sibling/geographical proximity) tiebreakers just fine. I know of nothing that supports your statement.
My impression is that they changed because the old system cost a lot in transportation $$s, and there was a belief that neighborhood schools would cut down that cost (will it? -- we'll see). Also, the old tiebreaker system created circles around each school -- cookies cut out of a citywide dough. IF your house fell out of a cookie -- you were sort of at the mercy of the popular/unpopular school issue -- and there was no certainty, year by year, of how big the "cookies" around Roosevelt, Ballard, GHS, Sealth, might be. Didn't seem particularly fair to families not fortunate to live fairly close to a school. Coupling the fairness issue with the idea that money might be saved by putting kids in schools that didn't require as many buses (and throwing in the idea that more families would participate in schools if they were closer to them), the idea of switching to the SAP was born -- or at least that is how I thought the thinking went.
Less racial diversity -- which was bluntly predicted by the charts last spring that estimated enrollment in various categories --was just a side effect of the bigger plan, and not one that they needed to fix, since they had already ensured "excellence for all" by doing nothing (except standardizing curriculum and adopting Discovery math, and hiring 100+ coaches to coach teachers).

Charlie Mas said...

No, reader, of course I didn't speak to every teacher just as you didn't speak to every family that chose a school other than Rainier Beach or Aki Kurose. I never said that I spoke to every one of them. I did, however, hear from enough of them to know that it is a widespread practice. Moreover, the District has said that it is a widespread practice - it is one of the driving reasons behind the curricular alignment effort.

That's something more than anectdotal evidence, which, by the way, is all you have to support your contention.

And no, the teachers shouldn't quit or be fired. They are teaching two years below grade level because those are the lessons that their students are prepared to learn. The students come into their classrooms two years behind.

Who is the "they" in the statement "As near as I can tell, they do their best to make them [grades] match the WASL/MSP" Is it teachers? So now reader, you not only know what I mean - regardless of what I write - but you also know the proper grade for every elementary student - regardless of the grade that their teacher awards them? Wow! You are really impressive.

reader writes: "Yes Charlie. You laud Maple based on test scores. Why? The Asian students have high test scores. The blacks and hispanics have horrible scores"

Gee. Racist much?

Also, which side of this are you arguing, that schools can do things to improve student pass rates or that they can't? You seem angry at me for making such statements (which I have not made), yet you make them yourself. It's confusing.

Also, the WASL pass rates for Black and Hispanic students at Maple are not horrible. In 2009, 50% of Black 5th graders and 42% of Hispanic 5th graders demonstrated proficiency on the assessment. That's not "horrible". Horrible is the 16% of Black students at Rainier Beach High School who passed the math portion of the WASL in 2009.

Just stop it, reader. You're wrong about me and my views and I'd appreciate it if you would just speak for yourself instead of trying to mis-speak for me. If you disagree with my conclusions - my actual conclusions, not the ones you invent for me - then offer some real reason for your disagreement. And, in future, please try to support your statements with facts and logic, something you have failed to do on this thread.

Jan said...

Agibean: I also don't think that the "blogs" in "gentrified" neighborhoods are an oracle of truth as to people's sentiments. When I read the comments on the Seattle Times ones, I would conclude that most people think that people who commit crimes (at any age) should just be strung up and shot at the moment they are apprehended (unless that would be a waste of bullets or insufficiently painful) -- and if they are kids, their [add negative adjective of your choice] parents should be jailed/shot/etc. as well -- but only after all their assets have been confiscated and their other children turned over to CPS. I don't for a minute believe that represents the sentiment of most Seattlites, or of most Seattle Times readers.
I know lots of parents who were concerned about the negative segregation effects of the SAP. I know lots of parents (including me) who are extremely happy that Garfield has lots of kids of lots of ethnicities and economic backgrounds. I don't know whether going to school with my kids has enriched the lives of all the "other" kids my kids go to school with, but going to school with lots of different kids has been hugely beneficial to my kids.
Lots of kids, of lots of backgrounds and ethnicities have had reasons, and have found ways, to avoid RBHS. What, so it is "racist" if white kids do that, but not if black or Hispanic kids do?
Rainier Beach is unpopular (based on its attendance) for many reasons. Part is probably perception (and some of that would seem unfair, based on Michael Rice's posts), part is probably reality (based solely on numbers --some things that some families want aren't going to be available in a school of less than 400). And the posts from the parent last year who described RBHS kids openly talking on cell phones in class, and standing on desks, making simulated sex noises, etc. were pretty horrifying. GHS has a lot of kids, from a lot of different backgrounds, and yes kids get mugged outside the Community Center, etc. -- but that kind of behavior doesn't happen in ANY class, to my knowledge). But the District was supposed to address and at least start to fix the problem, through the Southeast Initiative -- BEFORE implementing the SAP. They didn't. Maybe it's such a hard job that it can't be done, but I can hardly see that anything was even attempted (maybe this year -- with 2 principals? -- but isn't this kinda late to be showing up for the SAP?

wseadawg said...

Agibean: All the Supreme Court case said was that SPS couldn't use a race-based tie-breaker as THE ULTIMATE factor in determining admission to a school that deprived a neighborhood kid of a spot in his local school. And SPS's use of that tie-breaker was a flagrant, defiant, thumbing of the district's nose at State Law, passed by Initiative, barring race-based affirmative action. To extrapolate todays NSAP is quite a leap from that case, where CJ Roberts said, "the only way to stop discrimination based on race, is to stop discriminating based on race."

What goes missing from people's references to that opinion is that the Supreme Court didn't frown on diversity, but said SPS's plan made a mockery of it by using simple quotas to give the appearance of genuine diversity in the actual absence of it.

In reality, the same kids who suffered under the choice plan, will, if this plan doesn't take hold in the SE, suffer even worse under this plan, because assignments are now mandatory and more difficult to change.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Amazing what will come out of some people's mouths when no one knows who they are. Just amazing. Now some here seem to think Charlie is mouthing off or I'm not doing my homework (or vice versa). But still, every day we sign our names.

FYI Reader, reading between the lines is NOT the same as drawing a conclusion.

The NSAP was not an answer to the Supreme Court case entirely. Yes, many families wanted to go back to a neighborhood system. BUT the central problem was that QA/Magnolia had no high school to call "their" high school. And they would get consistently shut out of the closest high school to them, Ballard. The racial tie-breaker being used angered them but really it was a red herring to get the district to focus on accessibility.

Anonymous said...

Although other things were also in play, the NSAP begain its trip to reality in large part because of that lawsuit. As is mentioned here, the lawsuit was itself tied to I-200.

If anyone really believes that racism played no part in either of these, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

Neighborhood schools for all is the sly little way racists go about trying to get schools full of people who look like them. Unfortunately, it doesn't work too well when they end up in gentrified neighborhoods where they've got to share stores and schools and community centers with "those people". So they flee to private schools. And sure, the quality of the schools come into play, but believe me, there's often a racial component.

I'm not going to explain and explain, because I know I'm not going to change anyone's mind or convince anybody.

I also know many blog comments are over the top (not HERE, of course), but there's a lot of real belief behind them. Does anyone here REALLY think that someone who says "they" should all move to Kent or that it would be "funny" if a black teen got run over hasn't got a racist bone in his body?

I figure that on some level, they mean it. And when someone looks at my kid and tells her she belongs at a different school because of her skin color, I figure they mean THAT too. If it was really all about quality, we wouldn't hear or read comments like that.

You all keep thinking what you think. I'll keep the knowledge that in all of these so-called terrible schools with "horrifying" classrooms, there are also good teachers, good students and good class options that go ignored by people who won't even bother to learn about them because of who is in the schools.

seattle citizen said...

Reader, I hate to pile on, but you wrote:
"Sure we've got report cards....[ ummm, yes, so...I don't see the connection to the sentence above, or the ones that follow...]"
"As near as I can tell, they [who, Reader, who is they? Teachers?]do their best to make them match the WASL/MSP.. [Teachers do their best to make the report cards match "WASL/MSP"? How?! What?! Not incidentally, it's "HSPE/MSP]and they are largely based on another test, the "classroom based assessment" [The HSPE/MSP is largely based on another test, some "classroom-based assessment" somewhere? What?!] In fact, my teacher [Your child's?]told me she was honor-bound to make her grades solely based on "classroom based assesment". It's the same as the WASL!"
What?! Your teacher told you she makes students grades "solely based on '[THE, see above]classroom-based assessment," an assessment that somehow is "the same" as WASL [MSP/HSPE] scores?

WHAT classroom based assessment are you referring too? MAP?

MAP is NOT the same as MSP/HSPE.

Niether of these assessments (which differ from each other) should be used alone to determine a student's grade on a report card!

You will need to be much, much clearer about this. Please explain your knowledge of the various types of assessments available to a teacher, a school, a district, a state, a country, and a world.

seattle said...

"And when someone looks at my kid and tells her she belongs at a different school because of her skin color, I figure they mean THAT too."

Wow, how sad.

I can thankfully say that my (bi-racial) children have never experienced anything like that. We live in the north end, and my kids have attended elementary schools, middle schools, and now a high school that is primarily white, and they have never been the target of a racist act of any kind. In fact their experience has been the opposite, their race has never presented an issue of any kind.

Bird said...

Once again, I don't know jack about high schools, but just looking at the SPS numbers, it doesn't really look like RBHS problems are fundamentally because racist families won't send their kids there.

This is not to say there aren't families that fit that description. It's just that looking at the numbers I notice that the other nearby high schools have demographics that are not that dissimilar to RBHS and yet they manage to attract a substantial student body.

Why the difference?

Was there one thing that drove RBHS into the hole? Or has it just been a slow slide that feeds on itself -- no one goes, so no one wants to go?

Seems like a really sad waste of resources to operate the school at a fraction of its capacity.

seattle citizen said...

If I can hazard a guess, the teacher Reader cites as considering it herself "honor-bound to make her grades solely based on 'classroom based assesment'" has fallen under the spell of some of her higher-ups, particularly those of a Broad bent. In that vernacular, ALL assessments in a classroom would be "standards-based; ALL such assessments would be mini-versions of standards-based, school-wide assessments, all THOSE assessments would be mirror images of the district-wide (yes, standards-based) assessments, all those district-wide assessments would be just like the state assesments, and, eventually, those would be based on federal standards.

That IS the Broad agenda, brought to its extreme.

It's unfortunate that Reader's teacher has fallen under the spell, and is now grading on report cards in some manner that supposedly matches these variously-levelled assessments that she (and Reader?) evidently believe are all lock-step versions of each other.

But the reality on the ground, as it should be, is that WASL is not MAP is not classroom-based assessments. Luckily, classroom-based assessments are a multitude of types of assessments that acutally assess what's going on in the classroom on a given day or week, not some universally used tool that is just like MAP. Which is not like HSPE: MAP is formative, HSPE summative; MAP is adaptive, HSPE is not; MAP is computer-based, HSPE is not (yet); MAP is the product of the superintendent's NWEA; HSPE is not, unfortunately for her.

Now, if we continue towards standardization (as opposed to alignment) we might see some future dystopia where all those tests align, curriculum is rigid, and children are crammed tighter into little boxes (to be marked by a check).

But I think people are wising up.

SP said...

From our kid's middle school math teacher:
"Grading Policy- We will be using a standards based grading system this year. Rather than receiving a grade that is an average of test and assignment scores, students' grades will be based on the extent to which they have mastered the Washington standards."

Unbelievable- and the kids love it as they have already figured out homework and classwork doesn't matter!

Dorothy Neville said...

Give standards based grading an open mind. It might not be what you think. I have been following some of the work on standards based grading and think it shows promise.

In some ways, it's just what we might like. Grading based on how well kids master the material. More objective, more ownership from the student and more opportunities to succeed. With regular grading, kids can do poorly enough that they figure it's hopeless for the rest of the quarter or semester or year. But with standards based grading, that punitive aspect is gone and kids always have an incentive to improve.

Hmmm, from my limited knowledge of Nova, it seems their philosophy is pretty much along the lines of standards based grading.

I don't know how it will play out in your kids' classrooms of course, but there is a growing movement towards this and done well, it can be effective. I will be interested to hear how you feel it works out over the year.

Oh, and homework doesn't matter? Well, mastering the standards takes some effort, practice and time. Perhaps homework will be more meaningful....

Charlie Mas said...

Teachers could not get their grades to match the HSPE scores because the HSPE scores - and the MSP scores - are not released during that school year. When the teachers award their grades in June, they can't know the scores the students will get on the state-mandated tests; those scores aren't released until the following September.

Bird said...

Give standards based grading an open mind. It might not be what you think. I have been following some of the work on standards based grading and think it shows promise.

And what of a kid who comes to school already working two years ahead of the standard?

What does this offer them?

Dorothy Neville said...

And what of a kid who comes to school already working two years ahead of the standard?

What does this offer them?
.


Well, what would the old system have offered them? A chance to be bored and a grade based on maintaining good behavior while reviewing things they already know for an entire year? Is that better?

With standards based grading, you have more clout, more objective clout, to get the student moved to a course where they belong. At least, in theory. In practice, in cannot possibly be worse than the inappropriate gate-keeping middle school app math teachers have long done. (and perhaps why those students did not qualify for that parent contract to advance thing)

Dorothy Neville said...

OR you have objective clout for differentiation in the classroom. Either way, it could be a step in providing more power to students and parents to get an appropriate learning environment. As I said, I have been reading about this for several years and I think the idea holds promise.

And way too often my son was graded on arbitrary crap like having a pencil vs pen or the right kind of folder or dinged for being absent even though legitimately sick or following idiosyncratic BS from control freak teachers. IF the teachers had been required to assess students on actual standards, they would have had harder time justifying and maintaining their demotivating behavior.

hschinske said...

I agree with Dorothy. Sure, nothing can keep the teacher from grading the kid up or down on a whim, but nothing could before, so you're no worse off there.

The elementary school grades have supposedly been standards-based for a long time.

Helen Schinske

reader said...

Seattle Citizen, you're out to lunch. There is yet another set of standardized tests that your child is FORCED to take, at unknown intervals, each and every year... in each and every subject. In fact, more often than every year. That is their grade. It's just like the WASL/MSP. And, as Helen points out, it's been there for ages and it has nothing to do with Broad.

In fact, I happened to be in the school one day... and discovered my child in the hallway during an "art" period. Guess what he was doing? The ART classroom based assessemnt, standardized from the state of Washington... and it was beyond stupid. I asked about it... the art teacher said, "I'm required by law to give that."

And yes Charlie, they know how it will go on the MSPs for the most part. Sure there are a few surprises.

spedvocate said...

The set of "classroom based assessments" are printed on all IEPs in the section that says: How Will Your Child Be Assessed. Something called, "Classroom Based Assessments" is actually printed on the IEP. I believe they are from OSPI, and are like a miniMSP. You can list accommodations etc. your child needs. Presumably, you could also opt out. Grading, at least at the elementary level, has nothing to do with the work your child has done. Not the effort, not the homework, not the classroom participation, not the spelling tests or other non-standard tests. Your report card is based on where you are relative to GLEs. The "Classroom based Assessment" is supposed to measure that. This is unfortunate for special education students. Lots of them simply have all 1's forever.

Maureen said...

Am I strange in that I actually WANT my kids to be graded, at least in part, on effort and participation and (for lack of a better word) citizenship? Sure, I want to know that they learned the material that the state expects a kid their age to know, but if they had a complete handle on those facts and techniques on the first day of school I would still expect them to do their best on the assignments and to participate in class.

If standards-based grading makes it more likely that they get placed in a class that teaches them exactly at their level, that would be great, but I don't see how that is really possible for every kid. Maybe at the very largest Middle Schools (where a 6th grader COULD conceivably be taught 5th grade reading and 9th grade math) but it seems logistically impossible at smaller MSs and K-8s (let alone K-5). Unless you are talking about that elusive cure-all differentiation. And if that mythical thing exists then why would having standards based grading matter one way or the other?

(I'm willing to be persuaded, but would like to understand how it could improve what we get in the real world.)

hschinske said...

as Helen points out

Please do not put words in my mouth. I said nothing whatsoever about classroom-based assessments, pro or con. Teachers can and do use a wide variety of data to put together a standards-based grade. (Including, as I *did* point out, whim.)

Helen Schinske

reader said...

Helen, you stated that classroom grades have been standards based for years. Correct. I'll restate you any time I choose. If you don't like it, don't type.

Dorothy Neville said...

Elementary school grades have been standards based for years. This was instituted before OSPI had actually created many CBAs. One can grade on standards with or without OSPI generated CBAs.

Maureen, if a child already knows everything taught in the class, then how do you grade them on effort? Keeping a pleasant demeanor even though all the work is repetitive and meaningless? How often has your child been graded on effort for something that really did not take much effort? I am not trying to be snide, really. And if a child has been graded highly for effort for years -- and actually never had to muster up any effort -- then how will that student do in the future when learning *will* take effort? The current system rewards kids who have compliant personalities and penalizes kids who don't regardless of their knowledge and learning.

There's a teacher my son has had who grades so arbitrarily and harshly, that it's not uncommon for a student who otherwise does well in school to realize 3/4 the way through the semester that there is nothing they can do to get an A or even a B or even a C in that class. Result? Give up and increase resentment of school and authority. Unfortunately I have seen it happen too often.

All these questions are good and worthy of discussion. As it appears middle school and high schools are moving towards standard based grading, one would expect to have more conversations like this. I suspect there will be more information forthcoming from the teachers and at curriculum nights.

spedvocate said...

Right on Maureen. I think we want our children rewarded for effort, effective learning, learning to learn, participation, preparation, citizenship, cooperation, etc. And people here seem to somehow think the "report cards" is that motivating tool, and that they are some sort of "reward". That isn't at all what they are, or what they're meant to be these days. They are simply information to parents on where your child stands compared to standards. That's it. Sure, sometimes working hard maps into meeting standards. But often the two aren't correlated. Parents and students shouldn't completely motivate their children with "report cards".

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I'll restate you any time I choose. If you don't like it, don't type."

Okay so just so everyone is clear. Reader is going to read between the lines, summarize and restate anything you write any time he/she (but I'm betting she) wants.

I am all about choosing the right words to convey meaning. And, sometimes, the choice of words might imply a tone. But saying you can rephrase anyone anytime you like...?

This is about the time we should, as a group, ignore everything Reader says. It's ridiculous to include someone in a discussion who is going to take anything you say and twist it to suit their opinions.

seattle said...
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seattle said...

Maureen said "Am I strange in that I actually WANT my kids to be graded, at least in part, on effort and participation and (for lack of a better word) citizenship?"

No, you are not strange. I agree with you 100%. There is more to life than just mastering skills. I believe ones attitude, respect, consideration, preparation, patience, and effort (doing your best even when bored, challenged, tired, frustrated, etc) is just as important as mastering academic skills.

Dorothy said "Maureen, if a child already knows everything taught in the class, then how do you grade them on effort? Keeping a pleasant demeanor even though all the work is repetitive and meaningless? "

Yes, Dorothy, my kids demeanor in class is important to me and I don't mind them being graded on it. Of course I don't want them to be bored in class, however, when and if they do find themselves in that position I want them to have the skills to deal with their boredom in a way that is not offensive or obtrusive to others (IE a pleasant demeanor). In fact, I'll go a step further by saying that I think it is important for kids to experience these types of situations just so they can learn how to deal with them in civilized and acceptable ways. I find these lessons to be as valuable as any academic instruction that they receive in school. And I am happy to have my kids grade to be based, in part, on their attitude, effort, participation, preparation, and demeanor. I get bored at work sometimes (my work can be mundane), I am bored in church whenever I have to go, I get bored when waiting in line, or on hold, etc. But I am able to maintain a pleasant demeanor, if I didn't there would be repercussions. Pleasant demeanor, even under less than ideal circumstances = good life lesson!

Charlie Mas said...

Demeanor in class is one of those 21st century skills that the District is so hyped up about.

I've never really understood why they are called 21st century skills when they are people skills that are literally thousands of years old.

Jan said...

I, on the other hand, am with those who are tired of having kids lose a grade because they were sick, or didn't return a parent signature (that has nothing to do with whether they know science), etc. As it stands, teachers need/want a bunch of stuff out of kids -- quietness, homework in on time, pencils in hand, etc. Unless kids have already decided to be cooperative and prepared because it is the decent, mature thing to do, the ONLY hammer the teacher has is the grade. So, for example, in my child's Spanish 2 class, you lost 10 points per day if you didn't participate in class -- no matter why not -- even if you were out sick. (This was so unfair there was a "list" of possible things you could do to earn some back through extra credit -- but all were VERY time consuming (she didn't want to give kids an easy way out). Why? Because she wanted kids to practice talking in Spanish, and couldn't get compliance without the threat. My child (out for 7 days in late May for swine flu, forbidden by the school nurse to return even with no fever, and lacking time to do much extra credit, due to finals in other classes and the end of the year) dropped from a B to a C -- and then was told, with a perfectly straight face, that he was not eligible to take Spanish 3 (B average in Spanish required) -- "because if he was only doing "C work," he wouldn't be able to hack it. Well -- we called them on it, and won, but this is silly. He easily knew enough Spanish to continue -- and they all knew it. The problem is that there is only ONE hammer -- the grade -- so it has to stand in for too many things, -- knowledge, behavior, effort, attendance, organizational skills, etc.
We work hard at our house keeping contempt for grades down to a dull roar (to be distinguished from "contempt for hard work," or "contempt for learning" -- neither of those are problems.) Unfortunately, contempt for grades lives in a neighborhood dangerously close to "contempt for the teacher whose grades are subject to caprice and whim.")

Kids should not be forced to sit through classes when they already know the stuff. It makes for horrible study and attention habits, and wastes their time (which is valuable, no matter what the teachers think). And they should also not be made to sit through classes 2 years ahead of where they are -- an equal waste of a child's time, and equally bad for attention, study habits, etc.

seattle said...
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seattle said...

Jan said "I, on the other hand, am with those who are tired of having kids lose a grade because they were sick, or didn't return a parent signature (that has nothing to do with whether they know science), etc."

1- When a child is sick the school has to by law let a child make up the work. If your school is not doing this talk to an administrator.

2- No, getting a parent signature doesn't show what your child knows in science, but it is teaching a child how to follow directions, and be responsible. It also teaches them that when they do not follow directions there is a consequence. Those skills are as valuable to me as the mastery of the science materials.

Then Jan said "As it stands, teachers need/want a bunch of stuff out of kids -- quietness, homework in on time, pencils in hand, etc"

Is this new? I had to be quiet, come to class prepared, and turn my work in on time when I was a kid too. Actually, I can't imagine a classroom that didn't have these very basic expectations. And what would a classroom look like without these expectations? Kids talking, whispering, interrupting, whenever? No homework or deadlines? Kids coming to class unprepared, without even the basic responsibility of bringing a pencil?

I do agree with Jan though, in that grades/points should not be the single and/or final determining factor in whether a student moves forward or not. A teacher who has worked with a student all year long, and who should be keenly aware of that child's ability level should be able to look over grades, consider all of the other factors that come into play, and look at extenuating circumstances to determine if a student is ready to move from Spanish 2 to Spanish 3.

Jan said...

Rabbit: it is not that I don't think that kids should behave in a manner that advances the objective (having pencils, returning stuff, etc.). I think it is essential, when there are 1500 kids in a school, and classes of 25 to 30. It is just that the "grade" -- which I think should measure what you know, and not "deportment" is the only (and the easiest) stick teachers have -- so that it is rendered meaningless as an academic indicator (or its meaning cannot be determined) due to all the arbitrary "stuff" that affects it. Does an A mean a child actually has full mastery of Algebra II, or does it mean he did B- or C work, but worked his tail off on every possible scrap of extra credit? Does a D mean a child needs to repeat Chemistry, or that he got all As and Bs on quizzes and tests, but lost the lab notebook (after having done a decent job on all the labs too) that had to be turned in at the end of the term -- and of course, the lab notes and writeups are irreplaceable and the labs cannot be repeated?

And for the Spanish? The teacher was leaving town immediately after finals. I would have had to appeal the teachers decision, the grade policy on participation, the incomplete policy (how long an incomplete can stay open), find someone else willing to grade the extra credit work and change her grade -- and a bunch of other stuff. I work. I daily tutor this child in math and language stuff that the SPED folks at his school don't touch. I have limited time. I chose to use it instead working to restore my child's respect for school bureaucracy in the face of sheer stupidity and arbitrariness (his counselor and other teachers were good counterpoints to the Spanish teacher -- whom he would probably have had again the next year, if we had continued with Spanish 3).
But this was absurd, and I suspect far from an isolated case. I think this mind numbing, enthusiasm/cooperation-destroying, transcript-wrecking stuff goes on with grading policies ALL THE TIME. I think we would do our kids a favor if grades reflected knowledge/academic achievement, and we dealt with demeanor, personality (shyness, etc.), organizational skills, rudeness, random chance, diligence, etc. all that other stuff -- some OTHER way.

seattle said...
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seattle said...

"it is not that I don't think that kids should behave in a manner that advances the objective (having pencils, returning stuff, etc.). I think it is essential, when there are 1500 kids in a school, and classes of 25 to 30. It is just that the "grade" -- which I think should measure what you know, and not "deportment" is the only (and the easiest) stick teachers have"

I'm OK with a grade. What's the alternative? How would a teacher hold a student accountable? I suppose teachers could go back to putting kids in a corner with a dunce cap on, keep them in from recess, or make them write "I will not forget my pencil" on the white board a hundred times. Or they could always go back to paddling. Me, I'll take the grade.

Jan said...

Aah. You have called my bluff -- and I fold. Rabbit, I really don't know (and certainly don't want to return to dunce caps, etc. -- or the high school equivalent). My kids generally try hard. They do their homework. They bring their stuff to class -- and not because they are forced to. They generally want to be part of a group moving forward through the material. One had trouble in middle school (private) and it was handled VERY effectively when his teachers refused to sign the every-two-week permission form that permitted him to participate in basketball. He never missed an assignment again -- and his grades weren't affected -- but homework in that school was a BIG deal, and they were very effective about instilling the homework habit (again, without affecting grades). I just think that we get pulled into these bad systems -- where ALL kids end up in a punitive, stick-based system, in order to effect compliance by a few. When you think of it -- the WASL was the same way. It was explicitly NOT supposed to be used as a high stakes test for individual performance . . . but . . . they couldn't get kids to try hard unless they punished them for failure -- so voila! Graduation requirement!

Betty Page said...

I work in these schools. I dread many if not most of them. RBHS is one such school. I will not go there this year and Aki Kurose I will never set foot in again.

Until you know what it is like on a daily basis you should not presume to "know" anything about the school, the students, the teachers, etc.

Volunteer there. Daily. Go to tutor and find out. See it for yourself. Most of you won't make it.

Go to South Lake Alternative or even the "beloved" South Shore. The are nightmares. Is it because I am racist or because the climate there makes anyone feel like that because you have expectations and standards. And somehow that makes you 'racist' I would assume actually having differentiated ones would do that but maybe I am wrong.

gavroche said...

agibean1958 said...
Gavroche, The NSAP is a direct answer to the parent-brought lawsuit of a decade ago to end race-based tie-breakers. The district fought that, all the way to the Supreme Court, and lost. Neighborhood schools, that's what people wanted.


I can understand why most people prefer to send their kids to the local school -- that's how many people choose which neighborhood to settle in.

But you are implying that wanting to send one's kid to the neighborhood school is the same as wanting segregation and I don't buy that.

For one thing, I think the NSAP is as much an effort by SPS to correct the historic wrong of forced busing. Seattle was one of only a few cities in the nation to do this and it didn't work out, even though the objective was a valid one -- integration of the schools.

As for the Supreme Court case, if memory serves, it involved a white family from Magnolia that couldn't get into the local high school (Ballard).

This tied back to a poor SPS decision to close and sell off the only high school in that cluster, Queen Anne HS, leaving a bunch of kids with no neighborhood high school, a problem that remains today.

This poor planning converged with a Republican-majority appointed Supreme Court that was anti-Affirmative Action, and the District's policy of using race as a tie-breaker for school admissions (again, with the legitimate objective of making our schools more integrated) came under fire.

The District lost (and paid its settlement to the Alliance for Education, btw, but that's a suspect story for another thread.)

Was the Magnolia family trying to re-segregate Seattle's schools? That may be your interpretation, but it's not mine. My guess is that they simply wanted their kid to go to the nearby, good school.

As for your other points, I don't doubt you have heard some pretty ignorant and ugly comments from some people.

But you tend to extrapolate from that that ALL (white? non-black?) people think that way. And I'm saying that is itself a prejudiced statement.

Look, I agree that the elephant in the room of many SPS-related discussion is race, but I don't agree that all families who choose not to send their kids to RBHS, Aki, or Cleveland, are making this decision simply because of the color of other kids in the school.

(continued)

hschinske said...

I'm OK with a grade. What's the alternative? How would a teacher hold a student accountable?

Well, how do we handle this anywhere else where particular behavior is expected (like, um, the rest of the world)? Do parents hand out grades to children? Do bus drivers hand out grades to passengers? Do dentists hand out grades to patients? No. And would it work if they did? Hell, no.

Helen Schinske

gavroche said...

(continued)

In fact, I know various families who actively seek diversity in the schools they choose for their kids.

I think that it is understandable for parents of any race to want their kids to be in a school where their child is not in a tiny minority. So I think some parents shy away from schools that don't have a racially balanced mix of kids.

Safety is another issue that influences parents' choice of schools. If a school has a reputation for violence, regardless of how wonderful their video labs or performing arts facilities may be, many parents will understandably avoid those schools.

Overall, I believe that there is a general lack of communication in SPS about ALL the schools and programs. None of us know all there is to know about the positives and negatives of all 97 or so schools in SPS. We are all influenced, unfortunately, by hearsay.

That's one of the reasons this blog is so useful. We can get first-hand info from parents and teachers at the schools that can help correct any misperceptions. I realize that you are trying to bring such information to this blog. But I also think you risk oversimplifying the issue by implying that white people won't choose schools that African-American kids attend.

seattle said...

"Well, how do we handle this anywhere else where particular behavior is expected (like, um, the rest of the world)? Do parents hand out grades to children? Do bus drivers hand out grades to passengers? Do dentists hand out grades to patients? No. And would it work if they did? Hell, no."

So, Helen, I'll ask again. What is a teachers alternative to a grade? How can they hold a student responsible? I like Jan's idea of not being able to play a school sport, but that only applies to MS and HS kids that play a sport. What about the rest of the kids? What would you do if you were a teacher, and a kid came into school unprepared, didn't do homework, didn't follow the classroom behavior rules, et.?

I'm not challenging you, I am really curious as to what alternatives a teacher has. When setting classroom expectations, reminders, calls home, etc. don't work, what is a teacher to do?

hschinske said...

Well, for instance, one of my kids' teachers will lend students pencils -- if they surrender a shoe for the duration of the class period. No one loses those pencils or forgets to hand them back. The "punishment" isn't the equivalent of a dunce cap -- it's goofy, but not hideously embarrassing. Plus, and I think this is a huge point, something like forgetting a pencil is not treated as a moral fault or a failure of intelligence, nor is it treated as something that you don't deserve any help with.

Helen Schinske

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

"Well, for instance, one of my kids' teachers will lend students pencils -- if they surrender a shoe for the duration of the class period"

OK, I like that Helen! Collateral works! And it's creative and playful.

But what about situations where collateral isn't appropriate? Like when a kid does not do their homework? Or is being disruptive in class? Or doesn't bring back those forms that were supposed to be signed?

If I had a decent list of ideas, I'd forward them to my sons school councilor to share with the teachers.

I'm not tied to grades at all, but I do believe that teachers should provide students with consequences for inappropriate or irresponsible behavior.

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