Seattle Met: The Education Issue

So in advance of the upcoming tours and open houses at both public and private high schools, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine latest issue has several articles about high school education with 78 public and 50 private schools graded. Among the articles:
  • The New School Plan - about the NSAP
  • One Size Fits Some - about the LA alignment
  • Talk Supe - about who else? (We'll have to discuss this one because she flatly denies saying something I heard her say out loud at a meeting.)
  • Geek Boot Camp - about STEM at Cleveland (I'll have to take them to task for this title; no, no, and no.)
  • Smart and Smarter - about a West Seattle mom who worked to get IB at Chief Sealth
  • 6 Ways for Seattle Schools to Score Higher - hey, this one's by me and Charlie
  • Parents as Search Engines - mostly about applying for private school (but boy does the district take a ding here)
  • Private Lives - about a couple of private schools
  • Grading our High Schools - the listing and grades of area high schools
  • School of Knox - yet another article about Amanda Knox (don't get me started) and her supporters at Seattle Prep, the school she attended

I haven't read the entire thing so let me know what strikes you.

P.S. This was in last month's and I still don't get it (but if Eddie Vedder calls, I'm going).


Jet City mom said…
Thanks for the heads up on the education issue- although why they put those out so late ( IMO), I don't know.

I share your affection for Ed, but I think I would be a little distracted for conversation- I have more in common w Stone.
Parent said…
I've read two articles so far and both show that the writers/editors did not understand the difference between AP and APP. "Parents as Search Engines" refers to "non-AP track kids" at Garfield (of course there's no such thing as an AP track) and "Smart and Smarter," about the IB program at Chief Sealth, says, "Seaverns’s sons ended up going to Garfield (having begun the Advanced Placement program in middle school, they were guaranteed admittance)."
Eric M said…
As far as the alignment article "One Size Fits Some", that was me interviewed about the science alignment.

Since the time of the interview, a process for "course validation" was released. The process itself is rather lengthy, and places the documentation burden squarely on the shoulders of the classroom teacher. Preparing the documentation will require several hours, and this work is to be done for free. Now, all the science teachers I work with do A LOT of work "for free". All of us put in 60 hour work weeks, bare minimum. Nobody is afraid of work. This one is, however, a little patronizing...

More troubling, the process insists that, in order for a course to be "valid" (that is, to count for high school SCIENCE graduation credit), the teacher must demonstrate through documentation that it exactly aligns (to the satisfaction of an alignment committee that meets in January, membership undetermined) to one of the valid classes: 9th grade Integrated Science, 10th grade Biology, 11th grade Chemistry, or 12th grade Physics.

So it's been suggested many times to teachers this fall that this is not a problem, just align your Botany class with Biology. Just align your Astronomy class with Physics. Well, no. It's a BOTANY class. Yes, there's some overlap with a Biology curriculum. Some. IMHO, anyone preparing a document showing that a Botany class is the same as a Biology class is involving themselves in some kind of silly self-deception.

Even more troubling, we teachers have been told many times that the science alignment won't create any problems, or have any effect. Hmm.

1) So, big change, and people on the ground are saying, "Wait a minute." You haven't considered all the problems. Dear Blog readers, how many instances like this can you name, off the top of your head, that have rolled out (rolled over ?) us in the last 3 years?
Eric M said…

2) If this alignment business is not going to create change, THEN WHY DO IT? If it is going to create change, with those changes come problems. Problems can be figured out, especially if you talk to people on the ground. But if the response from above is just that there's no problem, that's a HUGE problem. Staffing classes is a zero-sum game. If one class of 9th grade science is added to the schedule, that precisely has to come from Science elective classes. Nowhere else. Parents: want your kids to have choice? I'm a parent of a kid in an SPS high school, and the choice classes are exactly THE ONES THAT KEEP HIM IN SCHOOL!

3) Here's a typical bottleneck. Chemistry at a lot of High Schools is maxed out. Through really clever resource management at my high school, 3 chemistry teachers keep the Chem lab busy every day of the year. You really could not squeeze another Chem class into our campus. It's disingenuous to imagine a 0 or 7th period class- Chem requires a lot of careful prep (it's kinda dangerous), and once the year gets going, there are students in the lab before and after school most days doing makeup work. To add another class would precisely subtract from the success of the present population of students. You want to funnel more students into Chemistry? Perhaps a good idea in theory, but if you can put down the ideology for a moment and look at the resources, it just ain't realistic. Listen to the teachers on the ground. For once.

4) Speaking of ideology, I think we'd all like to see a management decision like "alignment" accompanied by some honest effort to run numbers and MODEL the effects. Not just hand-waving that "everything will be OK." Counselors and teachers could help. Isn't this just basic management 101? I mean, we're not making widgets here, we're working with human beings. Shouldn't we attempt to make some predictions about where students will enroll? Shouldn't we make some attempt to address how many students will fail classes, and how much of our limited resources we ought to devote to them? Shouldn't we ask "How many students are going to need some kind of credit recovery in order to graduate from high school? Where's that going to come from?"

5) Finally, just for your idle pondering on a lovely snow day, if the goal is to provide the best possible science education for every child in the district (Yes, absolutely, I'm totally on board with that), why pour a bucket of ice water on your schools with exemplary programs developed by dedicated teachers over years to match their own expertise with the needs and interests of their student population? IF I were king, I'd be trying to replicate the success of the successful schools.

Have a great holiday.
Eric M said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
An Excellent Teacher said…
Charlie and Melissa:

I read your "6 Ways..." article and don't necessarily disagree with the premise, however, it is my experience that several elements could be added or amended. So, I might rename the article, "6 Ways (and 3 Musts) for Seattle Schools to Score Higher."

Here are the "musts:"

1. Standardize Mathematical Language - Programs like EDM, CMP and Discovery are rooted in the notion that "mathematical dialogue" enhances understanding. Well, for some it may. But, as your article so eloquently points out, "Nearly 129 languages are represented in the district." Thus, a significant portion of the SPS student population will be excluded from this facet of these math programs. There are two programs currently under waiver approval within SPS that allow students to use standard and familiar symbols and terms when doing mathematics. They are Singapore and Saxon Math. There is plenty of evidence nationwide corroborating the assertion that Singapore Math is extremely successful at supporting students with language barriers.

2) Science - "Drop the Mahout" - The mahout is the person who drives an elephant. In Seattle, we have a science department hell-bent on driving the NSF curriculum despite its overwhelming failure to improve test scores. My research has shown that schools developing their own science materials do substantially better than those using the district NSF materials. This is particularly important to elementary and middle school students. High school teachers are generally better at innovation.

3) Expository, Expository, Expository! - The District's misguided emphasis on narrative writing (Writers Workshop) is creating a generation of students whose ability to produce structured essays is next to nil. Beginning in 5th grade, teachers should emphasize summarizing (non-fiction), retelling (fiction), comparing and contrasting, and developing coherent cause and effect explanations. These writing forms are generally structured and can be produced from outlines.

So, to summarize, we need some decent math, hard science, and a writing program that emphasizes structure over stream of consciousness.
Jet City mom said…
My research has shown that schools developing their own science materials do substantially better than those using the district NSF materials.

This is what I am trying to stress in the state ed survey. When the teacher is prepared and supported- that is a better classroom environment than making sure the state and district are marching in lockstep.
An Excellent Teacher said…
Eric M...we have to hook up and talk. I will have Dan D. make the introduction.
Excellent Teacher, fair and correct. I wish it could have been longer.
karyn king said…
Excellent Teacher says "Expository, Expository Expository!"

The problem is that the district's "Literacy team" Thompson and Vasquez know nothing about teaching writing and they could care less. When the LA adoption was in progress,(I won't call it a "text adoption," since it was just novels) some of us begged for a text on writing and rhetoric! We were told "We'll try to find the money for that somewhere..."

So there is NO SUPPORT MATERIAL for the teaching of writing. Yet the standards, which came out 9/16/10, almost a year AFTER the LA adoption committee was done, have clear requirements for grammar, analysis and expository writing. How do you teach to a standard like "Observe conventions of grammar and usage.
a. Use parallel structure in writing.
b. Use various types of phrases
(noun, verb, adjectival, adverbial,
participial, prepositional, absolute)and clauses (independent,
dependent; noun, relative,
adverbial) to add variety and
interest to writing or presentation" without materials, especially since students have had nothing but "Writer's Workshop" in the lower grades?
Sorry LA teachers, you're on your own. How does that increase consistency across the district?

Oh well, the MAP doesn't test writing does it?
Jan said…
Eric -- you are SO right! I sit and worry about what will happen to Genetics, Marine Biology, Environmental Science, etc. at Garfield and could weep. Other than petitioning the school board, is there ANYthing "mere parents" (i.e. -- not teachers, and not scientists) can do to help?
An Excellent Teacher said…
Karyn...I think we all need to have a meet-up. It appears that there are a multitude of stealth teachers out here flying under the radar.

Melissa...perhaps we could start a thread next week for under the radar teachers. Sort of a: What are you doing? What is the reaction from your bosses? What are the MAP/MSP results? Etc.

I keep hearing about this happening more and more, with principals giving a wink and a nod.
karyn king said…
Good idea, Excellent. Is this possible Mellisa?
dan dempsey said…
Count me in for an actual stealth (teachers) meeting.
peonypower said…
Excellent post Eric on the science alignment. The crazy idea I have is that rather than having a courses "align" to the big 4- why not just have what standards are covered in the particular course and by the end of high school all students will have had exposure to all the "necessary standards." Now I am not a fan of once again copying and pasting standards, but if it manages to stop this raging elephant from trampling science offerings- then I will happily cut and paste. DeBell was furious over the presentation on alignment that was given at the last board meeting and particularly over the science issue. I do not get the sense that the board is going to let this get steamrolled, and it will take suggestions from teachers on the ground to the board to redirect this alignment. The C& I meeting was supposed to be on Monday so I am sure it will be rescheduled. There is a big meeting with the honchos on December 6th.

under the radar teachers- yes- we need to meet, and discuss and plan. There are many more of us than there are orcs.
An Excellent Teacher said…
Peonypower! Orcs! That imagery is just too good!

Orcs vs. Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves, and Humans.

Can I be an elf? The physics of archery is one of my home-brew lessons for the kids.

Relax's a holiday. Looking forward to more next week.
Anonymous said…
writers workshop does all that-if a building is willing to go there. stopping at narrative is easy. doing in depth work is hard. the theoretical foundations of rhetoric and its structures is not required for k-8 teacher cert. as a 4-12 LA cert at the MS level, i have the background and knowledge to do the work and guide the workshop site developer's work with our building. the model for deliverymis a good one. it's the content (scope and sequence) of the model that needs more explicit fleshing out to make sure the writing instruction provides our students with what they need for success across content areas.
-ww pilot teacher who sees the limited way a good program is being used, but still believes in its (potential) effectiveness.
karyn king said…
Anonymous wrote:
"writers workshop does all that-if a building is willing to go there.-

All well and good for the model, but if it isn't being taught at middle school and there are no resources for teaching it at HS (beyond those we develop as individuals) then the district is being derelict in its duty. Don't you think so?
dan dempsey said…
The change in annual OSPI writing scores at grades 4, 7, and 10 should generate great concern.

Looks like a lot of other things advanced by the District.....

Well theoretically it is just super duper but unfortunately is has not worked.

The District still believes in Reform Math in spite of results.

How any more dollars and How much more training will be needed to turn Writers' Workshop from Sow's Ear into a Silk Purse?
Anonymous said…
I agree with Anonymous @ 9:41 am. WW is a very good model but Karyn is right, it focuses too much on narrative writing.

The 6-8 LA teachers at my school recently completed a curriculum map and noticed that we had holes. All of us spent too much time on narrative and fiction and very little on expository and persuasive. This is certainly a result of our WW training which is heavily weighted towards narrative.

I get the emphasis. Narrative writing is more engaging at many levels and helps students develop their volume and stamina as writers. The key is to use that as a stepping stone to the kinds of academic writing they really need. Anonymous is correct that we don't really get that kind of training and unless we have the background or push for the training, most teachers aren't going to be very effective.

Having said that, the Teachers College's training is the only good professional development in writing I have received. The NYC trainers are great. The district trainers are worthless.

Our solution was to revise our writing units to add more informational and persuasive units. I cut out my fiction unit all together and replaced it with literary essay. Our next move is to ask our NY trainer to help us develop these new units. She will and they will be great.

The key point here is that we are getting what we need directly from the Teachers College. If we had to rely on a district coach, we wouldn't ask for help and would just figure it out ourselves. That is the unfortunate truth.

Dismayed Teacher
peonypower said…
@ an excellent teacher-
Of course you can be an Elf. I am a hobbitt- (short big funny feet.) Rereading LOR for about the 11th time and it inspires me to continue on despite the looming dark.
The good thing about your information is that it is explicit enough for students to grasp. Thanks for your efforts in spreading academic knowledge.
Anonymous said…
OMG. YES, YES, YES!!!! I wish some of the teachers that posted here would go out and multiply right now. We have been at the brick wall for 6 years at our school. We are so sick of dumb, observational, and inaccurate science. Sick of I am, I feel, I , I, I..... writing. Sick of kiddies reviewing each other's writing as awesome, grotesquetimost, bad ass, etc. Sick of lattice, partial sum, mode, range, median, maximum and minimum spiralling to everyday dumb nuts.

Want to get better
Bird said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bird said…
I briefly thought the Talk-Supe article was a parody. It's not, but it is comical.

Actual excerpt...

Your management style has been described as autocratic, that there's an aloofness, that there's an unwillingness to listen.

Aloof? I've never been described as aloof. What does that mean, and where was that observed? I listen to people all the time, in various settings. I've done teacher chats since I've been here. I'm at community events. I'm at PTAs There's a very clear difference between not liking what I say or disagreeing with what I say and calling me aloof. So it would be interesting to know what that example is.

They say you spend more time using your BlackBerry during school board meetings than engaging the public.

I use my BlackBerry all the time. I had one person who was offended that I use my BlackBerry. Okay, so I won't use my BlackBerry. How is that interacting with people?

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

Weirdness in Seattle Public Schools Abounds and Astounds