This is What I'm Talking About

At the Board meeting of 11/3/2010 there was a discussion, prompted by Director Smith-Blum, that arose during the talk about fairly innocuous motion about cleaning up some obsolete enrollment policies. Her concern was that the District should do assessments of incoming students to determine their academic needs. The superintendent quickly jumped up to twist that by saying that it sounded to her like tracking and discrimination, but Director Smith-Blum made it clear that was not what she meant.

Here's the critical part. Both the superintendent and Dr. Enfield spoke of assessing students' abilities and providing interventions where necessary as a core function of schools. But then Dr. Enfield said that the District's effort along those lines was Response to Intervention and that they were actively seeking outside funding to "take that to scale".

Stop right there. This work is core to the district's mission, but we don't do it and we don't budget for it, and we're seeking outside funding for it.

Right now, when the district perceives a struggling student they send support to the student's teacher - not to the student, to the teacher.

Want to know what's wrong with Seattle Public Schools? Look no further.


hschinske said…
We don't assess students' academic needs? What the heck is the MAP for?

Helen Schinske
Patrick said…
I've heard from a couple of teachers that MAP is not useful for student placement. As far as I can see, it's mainly useful as a way of transferring tax money to NWEA.
Charlie is absolutely, positively correct on this point. You get the intervention to the student. Look at the Everett example. They made huge strides by focusing on students who were failing one class and/or missing school and found them early and intervened.

It can be done but not when the Super and the CAO are more focused on other things.
Maureen said…
The DRA is no longer required in K-1. I wonder how many teachers are still doing it because they find it more useful than MAP?

Kay Smith Blum is a light in the darkness.
cascade said…
I can't believe we have to wait another year to end this nonsense and to get more practical thinkers on the board like KSB. That will be the end of this sort of eduspeak nonsense from our superintendent.

Pushback for assessing incoming students and immediately providing them with necessary supports? Puh-lease. You can take funding away from every single one of those teacher coaches and half the data coaches and BAM there's your funding.

Anyone with two minutes of volunteer experience, parenting experience or teaching experience can tell you whether consistent, adequate funding of student assessment married to student intervention (focus on individual student) would be a better funding priority than consistent, adequate funding of teacher coaches and data assessment minions.

Apparently only our district administrators don't understand this.

This blog is not the right place but I really wish someone would start a digital clock, something like the Olympic Countdown Clock idea, counting the minutes toward moving our superintendent out of here. I used to be be mad but I am becoming outraged by the eduspeak nonsense, the begrudging - at best - willingness to include parent and teacher opinions, and worst by far...evidence from the very same tests that our Administration looooooooveesss that our students are NOT faring better in academic learnings than they were when she came in.
Anonymous said…
Well put Charlie and kudos to Director Smith-Blum for looking at this. You have stated so clearly why so many of the district's intervention and efforts don't achieve their targets or goals. It takes time to turn around kids who are struggling and no 2 or 3 year quick fix intiative is going to do that. You need continual support, evaluation, and adjustment to get it right. That needs to be the core work (with $$ to guarantee it) of the student, the teacher, and the district.

It is terrible to say this because we know there are people in the district who really cares (but often are afraid to do much), but the way this district treats our kids, it feels like they are guinea pigs in this giant educational experiment of the latest "it" idea. When we look for help for a specific kid, we get passed from one department/ program personnel, (and we are told to refer to a website which of course does not answer our specific question) to another.

For those of us with children left in this system, we hope the movers and shakers listen and pay attention to what is going on at Rainier Beach high school. Those parents are working hard to be heard and have their concerns and proposals listened to. They are not whining or hand wringing, but are making real effort to engage the district.

We hope our Board members will listen, learn about their issues, and speak up for these parents and their students. Otherwise, you will loose more students and no MAP, SE Intiative, TFAs, and the latest education gimmick will fix it.

Moving On.
Kathy said…
It would be difficult for any HS teacher to address elementary level reading and math skills, while moving forward with High School content.

To me, feels like student intervention is needed.

Doesn't feel like Rocket Science.

What would be the District's response?
dan dempsey said…
Right on!!! Charlie
Right on!!! KS-B

This is a prime example of the chaotic approach to so many things in the Goodloe-Johnson administration.

The core work of education is an after thought for these administrators.

Find out more here:

Lessons in Chaos by MGJ
dan dempsey said…
MGJ’s quotation at time mark 57:25 of part III of 11/3/2010 Board meeting:-

"Assessing every student and placing them according to ability sounds like tracking and discrimination…and we’ve moved light years away from that."

Mike wrote:
She’s unwittingly put her finger on one of the major dysfunctions in public education today.

There exists such a pervasive, intractable, myopic allegiance to a Utopian vision of social justice that the players, and the system as a whole, willingly ignore data that is pertinent to the academic progress and ultimately social welfare of the children. Such narrow-minded zealotry actually perpetuates the very social inequities it purports to alleviate.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is the classic example of a person who is committed to making things work the way she philosophically believes they should work. She is completely detached from reality. Her plans do not work, but she refuses to make any adjustments because of reality. Reality is not going to get in the way of her ideology ... ever. Valid Data reports are never used.

"Assessing every student and placing them according to ability sounds like tracking and discrimination…and we’ve moved light years away from that."

Light years away from positive results for many students despite greatly increased spending on a Strategic Plan that does not work.

When will reality ever bite through this edu-speak crap.

KSB gets it
but the "Fab-Four" are just pathetic.
If assessment indicates intervention for a kid in my room, can my building get money for the tutor? Not pay someone to coach me on how to provide individuated instruction? I do this already. Get the kid a blinkin' tutor! Isn't that what the LAP dollars are for?
Anonymous said…
Wanda Billingsley(nee Brown) is now the Director of Systemic Intervention for the district, and Dr. Barbara Casey is also working in that department. I think this is what the RTI project has morphed into this year, but I can't say for sure.

Much of what was the Support, Prevention, and Intervention department has been placed under the direction of Pegi McEvoy (Safety and Security).

I could not find any updated info about these changes on the district's website, though.

-- NBS
Vitamincee said…
If a student is not on an RTI list but need help they can't get it unless another student if moved off the list. And at many schools ther's no funding to help students on the list!!!
Anonymous said…
What would some sample interventions be for, say, an entering high school student reading and computing well below grade level?

Anonymous said…
Teachers track all the time. The MAP test is used for placement in Math 6, 6a or 7, or 8 after 5th grade. The MAP math test is the only data point that is used for placement at Madison Middle School. A student can get a high level 4 score or even a perfect score on the MSP, but if the MAP score is below the cut line the student is moved to a lower math group.

So why does MGJ say teachers don't track students? It's her policy designed by the head data wonk downtown.

Is tracking just for affluent neighborhoods?

Concerned West Seattle Parent
Lori said…
Tracking is not the same as ability grouping. Wikipedia has, from what I can tell, a fairly good description of what tracking is, how it was misused in the past, and why it's such an offensive idea today.

The Supt clearly was using the word as a pejorative, with all of the associated baggage. I was glad to see Charlie's post because I had watched this part of the meeting on TV and found the entire exchange very odd. Director KSB was clearly not talking about tracking students into immutable pathways that would affect their future job prospects. It seemed to me like KSB was making a good and valid point, and the Supt tried to take away some of her credibility by pretending to hear a request to return to the days of racially discriminatory tracking. It seemed quite a leap to me, unless of course one is trying to discredit someone by conflating their ideas with something more sinister.

And I agree with Charlie that the whole thing was troubling because there was an admission that providing what each student needs when they need it is a core function of the district, yet seconds later, was the admission that we aren't doing it and have no real plan for how to do it. It seemed a little surreal.
Charlie Mas said…
I hear contradictions like this all the time from District officials, but I sometimes feel like I am the only one who heard them. They fly right past other folks - such as every member of the Board in this case. It makes me wonder if I haven't gone mad. It's like a world through the looking glass where nothing makes sense.

Deeply troubling. Really.
Dorothy Neville said…
It's always called tracking when they don't want to do it and want to disparage it.

Case in point. The RHS 10th graders used to be able to choose for themselves whether to take a challenging AP Euro class, a year long history class or a semester long history class (both of which were called world history, but unlike 9th grade world history, included Europe.) In order to force all kids to take a different social science class (that isn't even history) they called that self selection tracking and therefore evil. Their new plan, of everyone taking the same thing (AP Human Geography) was considered equity.

Consider that tracking is putting someone in a classroom based on external decisions and not offering ability to move to a more suitable classroom. Tracking has multi-year consequences. Making everyone take the same course therefore IS tracking. Heck, we track students by their birthday all the time.
Tim said…
What resources for the classroom teachre or classroom? 50% of my kids in my "regular" ed middle school classroom have IEP's. (And I will be referring more for testing) No support enters the doors of my room. The kids do not have a scheduled time to get support anywhere, just a time in some classes where there might also be an IEP teacher in the room. I liken it to putting a book under your pillow and calling it studying. IEP support by osmosis. Apparently it isn't our building "model" of delivery to send an IA after these kids, or have pullouts, or study-skills classes. What if we relied on data to tell us the model instead of consensus within each building?
seattle citizen said…
Charlie, you wrote about the "tracking" issue that "It's like a world through the looking glass where nothing makes sense.

Deeply troubling. Really."

This is how I felt, deeply troubled, when I wrote "down the rabbit hole" after considering the district's argument that it can allow conditional certs in Phase III hiring because a conditional cert is a cert.

Of course, WAC and common sense understand the conditions for a conditional cert: Shortage or unusual skill. Conditional certs can utilized, if called for, AFTER attempts have been made to hire a real cert, which would be Phase III, when positions are opened to all certificed applicants. So after no applicants are hired after Phase III, one would go looking for a conditional cert, right? Wrong. Conditional certs can apply alongside real certs during Phase III because conditional certs are certs.

Down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass, hop up onto the mushroom, we're not in Kansas anymore, it's a Catch-22: The conditional certs are not conditional because they are certificates of equal merit with certificates which are more than conditional certificates because they are not conditional.

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