Saturday, January 07, 2012

Coe Event with Enfield, DeBell and Carlyle

I did want to write up a post about the Coe event as I thought some interesting things were said.    (This is long so get a cup of joe or tea.) 

The panel was President Michael DeBell, Superintendent Susan Enfield and Rep. Reuven Carlyle.  (Director Harium Martin-Morris was in attendance and got included in the panel.)  Executive Director Nancy Coogan was also in attendance. 

I would estimate there were 60 in attendance, mostly from the QA/Magnolia/Ballard area.  One attendee who caught my eye - UW COE Dean Tom Stritikus.   This event was put on by the PTAs in the area. 

Dr. Enfield spoke first and gave out a short handout version of her State of the District speech.  She said that the 4 pillars in her vision but really the top two - great principals and great teachers - were the most important.

She also said the district had been behind in following the growth in the district but were working very hard to catch-up.  I give Dr. Enfield a lot of credit; I have rarely ever heard a superintendent admitting the district overlooked something or made a mistake.

She also said that they expect the state to make more cuts and are preparing for that possibility.  She also said despite some small but steady gains in student achievement, the achievement gap is still stubbornly in place (and she called out the lack of any gains for Native American students).  Again,  she was very honest and that is very commendable. 

She also said one final thing - that SPS is there to serve all children and that includes those at standard level or above.

President DeBell talked about the superintendent search.  He said that they started the process in March of 2011, laying out the process.   He was the first in the line of people to acknowledge Dr. Enfield's "good work."  He stated for the record that he wanted to offer her the contract to be superintendent.  He stated that the Board at that time felt it important to allow the new Board (should any incumbents lose), the opportunity to pick the next superintendent. 

He did make one important-to-know statement - the search committee may be just Board members OR it may include some community members.  

He said they would close the application period by the end of Feb. and bring finalists here at the beginning of March.

Rep. Carlyle said he had 3 children in Seattle Schools (at three different schools) and one in pre-school.

He said he was in a reflective mood since the McCleary case about state funding for schools.  He really spoke with a lot of conviction and passion about needing that funding to come through.  He said there were 295 school districts and how much decentralization in administration existed in our state.  He stated that Washington state was 35th in the nation in state/local taxes.   He was quite pointed in saying that health care costs are really a key issue that is eating up the budget and that he felt it was "out-of-control."

He also stated he was "deeply saddened to be losing Susan."

He also said there was a role for community activists (and yay! bloggers) and people who sit through Board meetings.  He cannot know how much that means for someone in power to make that acknowledgement.

Q&A highlights:

Kate Martin stood and explained that her son had dropped out of community college because he was not doing well and yet had graduated from Roosevelt with As and Bs.  She asked about what could be done about grade inflation and how parents could know how their students are truly doing.

Susan apologized and said that she felt there had been too much local autonomy at schools and they now have district-wide metrics and standards as well as the MAP results.  She was also quite passionate about the district not having a preK-3rd grade department for early learning.

Michael said Kate's concern was one that was widely-held in the recent survey.

A parent from Ingraham asked about who to know if, after six years pass, the state will be fully funding education (per the McCleary  ruling).

Reuven said her sense of frustration was legitimate and the concern universally shared.  He mentioned how I-728 and I-732 had fared and how little outcry came as those initiatives went by the wayside.  He said it was vital for the public to hold the Legislature accountable.   He said he was putting forth a bill that would put an expiration date on ALL exemptions to tax laws.  Good for him.  All those exemptions need to be examined carefully and not just rubber-stamped.

There was a question about the superintendent search.

Harium said that "we are a little late to the party."  I can appreciate that thought but it was Susan's late announcement that got us here.  I would have thought that once she said she would not participate in a search, that would have been their tip-off to pick up the pace rather than believe they would just vote in numbers to give her the contract.

He mentioned that other similiar district were already looking and named Anchorage, Spokane, Omaha and Atlanta.  I did a quick look.  Anchorage had 150 applications and has named two finalists and will select someone by late January.   It actually has a similar size and demographic look as our district (except for a much higher number of Native American students).    Omaha is in the middle of its search process.  According to the NY Times, Atlanta has suspended its search due to its massive cheating scandal (and offered their interim sup a one-year contract). 

Michael also mentioned looking at "Puget Sound talent."

Another parent asked about the top three leadership qualities that the Board was looking for in a superintendent.  Michael said high quality instruction and leadership, the ability to navigate a complex city and to inspire and motivate and have vision.   Harium said the ability to communicate with a diverse community and build releationships as well as be the standard bearer for SPS.

But Michael also said something that really bothered me.  He said we have a "dysfunctional civic culture."  He said it was hard to lead and govern with the expectations that exist.

Here was yet another sign of the backlash from the departure of MGJ, the two incumbent loss during the SB elections and Enfield's departure.   It feels like there is a lot of frustration out there but this time from people higher up the food chain than you or me. 

Do we have a dysfunctional civic culture?  Did Michael mean that for the school district culture or the city in general?  I don't know but I can ask him.

It could be that there is a lot of hyper-focus about what goes on at the district.   We now have people who are actually reading the action reports before the Board meetings and come armed with many questions.   We have a parent community who, by turns, is probably exasperated and exhausted and angered by the last 3+ years.

But can anyone honestly blame us?  How many times should people say it was just one bad actor or one mistake or even worse "an error" as the Times likes to say?  I don't think it's dysfunctional.  I think the community, along with the State Auditor's office, is forcing this district to take stock and do things differently.   I'm sure that many would like parents and community to go back to our schools and let the administration function by itself. 

We already tried that.  More than once.  And look what it got us.

I'm sorry, Michael, but better hypervigiliance than none.  And if the Board won't pay attention - even when warned - then yes, the community must.

Then another parent said that it seemed with the survey that there was overwhelming support for Dr. Enfield to stay (I would charitably say this is this parent's own take on the survey) and wouldn't Dr. Enfield stay?  Michael said he hoped that the next superintendent would continue the good work and that the district didn't not need change or reinventing the wheel.  Harium said he believed that work would be slowed down for a year because of the changeover to a new superintendent.  He said we didn't need a change agent in our next superintendent.

I agree with both of them.

I asked Rep. Carlyle if he felt he understood enough about charter schools and the effect charter legislation could have on Washington State to vote on it and if he did support them, what would he suggest cutting from the state budget to support them?

He said no, he was not well-enough informed and that most legislators, when faced with a new idea, did need to do a deep-dive to become well-informed.  He said that charters were not on his agenda as there were too many issues with the budget and too many already existing issues to address.  I will note that he did not say he was for or against but that the timing is wrong and he was not ready to address the issue.

In terms of what might come from the state budget, Susan Enfield said that they had not used the money in the supplemental levy for textual materials.  She said they may have to go to community partners for help in sustaining professional growth training for principals and teachers. 

Michael said the Board was slightly dropping the reserve amount (and I thought he said by $2M but I need to recheck that).  He said the staff has been directed to start at the school budget level to build the budget so that any cuts would not come to the schools but to administration.

Reuven said that the Legislature is very sensitive to mid-year cuts and talked about the costs of buying books and how the State could save a great deal of money by buying shareware texts.

There was also a question by a Seattle U professor about finding more teachers, principals, etc. who are people of color to mirror the students in our district.  Harium said he thought the district could do more outreach to historically black colleges than had been done in the past.   I noticed that no one - not Enfield, Martin-Morris or DeBell - mentioned TFA helping in this area.


mirmac1 said...

" Susan Enfield said that they had not used the money in the supplemental levy for textual materials. She said they may have to go to community partners for help in sustaining professional growth training for principals and teachers. "

Would that we could have a good accounting for the additional tax levied by that supplemental levy...

dan dempsey said...

MW wrote:
Do we have a dysfunctional civic culture? Did Michael mean that for the school district culture or the city in general?

As someone who has been a regular reader of School Board Action Reports (SBAR) and an observer of the Superintendents, Central Administrations and the SPS Boards over the last 5 years, I see a great deal of dysfunction at the SPS leadership level.

The SBARs are regularly of very poor quality. Policies were ignored for years. Violations of Law are no big deal.

Michael DeBell with his sorrow over Dr. Enfield's leaving is now a Poster Boy for Dysfunction. WAC 181-79A-231 is very clear on conditional certificates. The Superintendent and six directors approved a plan to violate the law when they entered into the TFA agreement. Then the law was repeatedly violated as the Board illegally authorized the Superintendent to fraudulently apply for Conditional Teaching Certificates for TFA corps members on at least three separate occasions.

The facts are that the leaders of the SPS regularly reject using relevant data to improve the system and reject rational advice from the public while approving SBAR irrational actions. The Board authorized the commission of illegal acts by the Superintendent.

Rather than terminating the TFA agreement so that 2011-2012 is the only year with TFA ... The District's response is "So sue us if you do not like it."

This is similar to the destructive high school math adoption ... except that adoption was just arbitrary and capricious and ignored lots of evidence to adopt defective materials ... This time the Board in addition to rejecting evidence is knowingly repeatedly defying state law ... yet still does not care.

From Wikipedia:
A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often abuse on the part of individual members occur continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions.

Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal. Dysfunctional families are primarily a result of co-dependent adults, and may also be affected by addictions, such as substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, etc.). Other origins include untreated mental illness, and parents emulating or over-correcting from their own dysfunctional parents. In some cases, a "child-like" parent will allow the dominant parent to abuse their children.

Is the power addiction at play? What is the problem with these people? Do they really believe that their vision should trump the law?

The Board President is Dysfunctional .... he need not look to project blame onto other civic organizations until he and the Board perform functionally. .... A baby step in that direction would be to perform legally in the future and take responsibility now for the TFA fiasco.

Anonymous said...

DeBell's "dysfunctional civic culture" is straight out of Crosscut's/Anthony Robinson's bad followers and bad disciples recent article. It's just soooo hard to be a leader here.


Anonymous said...

Michael DeBell needs to be elected president of the Get a Spine club.

He has routinely demonstrated a deer in the headlights look when it comes to leadership. Susan Enfield's pretend-boss-Sarah-Palin routine provided DeBell with a sense of anchoring and comfort. Now, he's feeling the heat called being in charge.

He's blaming a dysfunctional civic culture for his scaredy cat feelings. What a wimp!

--enough already

Eric M said...

I too was shocked by Mr. DeBell's theory that it was hard for Dr. Goodloe-Johnson here in Seattle because of a "dysfunctional civic culture".

As I remember, she presided over some very sketchy criminal business.

I also was impressed by the taking of credit for NOT buying textbooks last year as a hallmark of careful fiscal management.

In fact, textbook purchasing proceeded apace last year, complete with all the top-down mismanagement you'd hope for from SPS, like:

a) you can only select books from these publishers, and not from these others
b) no consideration of open-source or electronic media
c) short review time
d) no serious attempt to solicit teacher input

And that's the way it went, full-steam ahead, up until the moment there was no money.

But that's the high-level approach, turning a trainwreck into a medal of honor.

Eric B said...

I wasn't there, so I didn't see all of the context that went with the dysfunctional civic culture remark. I do think Seattle (and the state) has a dysfunctional culture, partly driven by the initiative process. How many times did we vote on the monorail? How often does Eyman get the voters of the state to shoot ourselves in the foot?

I'm not going to blame that culture for MGJ's departure, though. If anything, I think our special dysfunctions prolonged her stay here.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what Michael DeBell might mean by a "dysfunctional civic culture"--it sounds a little like blaming the citizens for the failures of public servants to be responsive to the public.

In any case, it might be a good topic to bring up at one of his Saturday community meetings.

There is a good body of research that indicates that public institutions are more responsive when citizens are demanding and vigilant. Robert D. Putnam's research, for example, suggests that we haven't been civically active enough over the past decades.

Suppose that it were true that, with regard to public education, we haven't been civically active enough. Suppose, for example, we're not nearly as active as our Progressive forebears--the ones who started the kindergarten movement and National Congress of Mothers, the forerunner to the PTA. Suppose that our lack of civic engagement left a vacuum that a wealthy political elite have filled with their class-serving privatizing initiatives. Suppose further that in Seattle there has, in recent years, been a resurgence in civic engagement with regard to public schools.

What this scenario might suggest is that what Seattle Public Schools has been experiencing the last few years is sustained public pressure to be more responsive. Perhaps the administrative culture at SPS has long been allowed to be unresponsive because of a lack of civic engagement. What looks like dysfunction to Michael DeBell might look to me like the slow and difficult transition to a more responsive public institution. Change is hard.

Oh, yes, change is hard.


Anonymous said...

Wait a minute-Kate Martin is blaming the TEACHERS for her son's college performance??

I thought teachers were wonders who walk on water, save for a few bad apples. Some of us have known for years that poor teachers aren't just those who can't teach, but those with lowered expectations, and inflating grades is a way of lowering expectations.

But what truly amazes me is that Kate didn't seem to know her kid didn't know the work. You don't have to understand trig or physics or chemistry to ask your kids how the class is going and does he understand it. Good parents get that. I guess Kate didn't and just relied on those wonderful teachers.

I've lost count of how many times on this blog parents are called out as the primary reason kids do not succeed (next to bad math and the debil SPS administration). Stunning that a a school candidate herself missed some pretty major signs in her own child. And boy howdy am I glad she lost.

*More annoyed than usual*

uxolo said...

If you are "More annoyed than usual" then you need to catch up on the recent data that show how many students around the country enter college without having college-readiness skills.

For example - August 2011 abc news:
"Only one in four college-bound high school graduates is adequately prepared for college-level English, reading, math and science, according to report released Wednesday by the ACT college admissions test."

Parents cannot know this - if the high school teacher indicates passing with A's and B's there's NO way to know unless as a parent, one is quizzing one's own children, a ridiculous expectation for parents.

Anonymous said...

With my child, I am currently rereading a novel that I read as a student in high school (American Lit). Not remembering much beyond the basic story, it is interesting reading it now that I have the historical perspective for the story's context. It struck me how important content knowledge becomes in getting the full meaning out of the story.

It made me wonder a few things:

1) Given the lack of attention to content knowledge, and the increased focus on "constructed" knowledge in SPS curriculum adoptions (NSF kits, EDM/CMP/Discovering math, and Readers/Writers Workshop) will my child ever learn the historical content/context in a school setting?

2) When my child comes home with a novel filled with sticky notes (ala Readers Workshop) and notes scribbled here and there (what, no notebook?), it makes me wonder how the LA alignment and the unofficial adoption of Readers/Writers Workshop is really serving students.

What are kids really learning?

I can't blame the teachers as a group (though we've had some disappointing years), because they are somewhat limited by the the District's choices of materials. And as parent, I'm exhausted. I really shouldn't have to keep such close tabs on what they're missing or mislearning.

You can make sure your chld does their homework, keep on top of their grades and still falsely believe they are doing well.

-negative Nellie

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think what Kate was saying is that she believed the grades her son was receiving. He was a Roosevelt, a good school, and probably thought, "okay, he's doing well.". I'm not sure what else she might have done. Many parents do back of in high school, believing that monitoring your child via the Source is a good way to keep track without hovering.

dan dempsey said...

Dear *More annoyed than usual*,

In addition to a lot of research, I taught several subjects at several grade levels and at a variety of locations. I notice:

(1) Grade inflation over the last 50 years at most, if not all locations .

(2) A growth in talking about process and a decline in mastery of content. This occurs with Pro-D, selection of materials, and practices preferred.

(3) A huge increase in General Professional Development but little focus on how teachers can specifically improve student performance accompanied by almost no measuring of content knowledge. Action Research where are you? Southeast Education initiative was designed to do what? Check those SEI goals

(4) A large increase in Spin. Hiring of the PR folks. Increased testing using tools that are without standardized national norms, which makes assessment of students' knowledge of content and actual skills difficult, especially so for members of the public after the PR folks do their thing.

(5) The reform math movement de-emphasized the mastery of content. Many parents got their first indication there was a problem when their "B" student child was placed into "remedial math" at college entrance.

(6) A large portion of the public is being duped by "Education Professionals" .... the UW's Math Education Project is on the forefront of using ineffective practices and calling these helpful.

(7) A continuing shift away from teacher control of the learning situation by increasing administrative dictates in regard to pacing and what "should be happening" in the classroom.

(8) An increase in reliance on Elite Experts .... Consultants & Colleges of Education recommendations & Government Experts ..... which generally have no results to back up their recommendations. .. Note the Race to the Top and the Common Core State Standards are products of the above but have "ZERO" actual data to recommend any of their proposed improvements or policies.

(9) The "System" is designed to fool most everyone. In the past SPS Central Admin has fooled even the school board. The fact that many of the public are fooled into thinking that the current system is working well and that those "B" grades are something of value is too be expected, given the amount of effort Seattle and other districts devote to spin.

(10) The US Department of Education began operating on May 16, 1980. It is now operating way beyond its legal authority.


I am incredibly annoyed at all of the above but most annoyed that the School Board and Superintendent are allowed to violate laws and the public response is disinterest. ..... "Every student achieving and everyone accountable" .... just keep on spinning.

Anonymous said...

If you have a 11th grader in SPS the best advice is this:

Send them to the nearest community college and have them take the English and Math placement test for Running Start.

If they pass at the remedial level you have a problem, but you also have time to get them support.

If they place where you think they should place based on their current classes, you are fine.

If they place above thier current class level, congrads!

PS: The test is free, takes several hours.

SPS Parent.

Dorothy Neville said...

"Given the lack of attention to content knowledge, and the increased focus on "constructed" knowledge in SPS curriculum adoptions (NSF kits, EDM/CMP/Discovering math, and Readers/Writers Workshop) will my child ever learn the historical content/context in a school setting?"

YES! Nellie this is exactly the point. The research I have seen (which of course aligns with my confirmation bias) is that one cannot simply teach "critical thinking" but can only be successful in teaching critical thinking in a context. That goes completely against the current fad of context free curriculum. In particular (caution, Dorothy's repeated example ahead)one of my objections to the RHS replacement of AP European History with AP Human Geography was that kids really need the depth of understanding of History in order to make sense of the social science ideas in Human Geography. How can a course like Human Geography be "rigorous" without all the historical knowledge and context. Yet Brian Vance disagreed, saying that content didn't matter, one could have rigor anywhere.

Yet, when my son took AP HG, the tests (written by the publisher of the text) assumed content from European History. So several times the teacher -- after the test -- decided not to grade certain questions because they were unfair, as the kids had not had any Euro history. One such question was about the Black Death. How on earth can one learn in depth about human geography patterns without also knowing about such historical events as the plagues?

dan dempsey said...

In addition to the above "Context" & "Content" discussion......

E.D. Hirsch of "Core Knowledge" states that the knowledge of the context is the best help in comprehending a written passage. Improvement in broad content knowledge will improve reading comprehension.

It seems the current Ed Fads for "process" and "critical thinking" casts "content knowledge" into a Black Hole.

Mr. Vance appears to be one of those instructional leaders that has !00% faith in the current Ed Fads .... which is the only road to Ed Career advancement most places. Perhaps Vance can replace Enfield as he has the correct ideological qualifications.


Negative Nellie was 100% spot on with:
What are kids really learning?

I can't blame the teachers as a group (though we've had some disappointing years), because they are somewhat limited by the the District's choices of materials. And as parent, I'm exhausted. I really shouldn't have to keep such close tabs on what they're missing or mislearning.

You can make sure your child does their homework, keep on top of their grades and still falsely believe they are doing well.

Anonymous said...

To Negative Nellie: As a teacher in a fairly high SES school, I agree with your wonderment about all the sticky notes and the current readers workshop program. This all derives from work done at Teachers College, Columbia University. A prestigious institution. However, it seems as if they work with at-risk kids. If I'm wrong on that, perhaps someone will advise me to the contrary.

To the point: strategies for catching up at-risk kids are different than those for moving high-achieving kids along. But we are all jumping through the same hoops now. That bothers me.


Anonymous said...

As to Dan's #3, the PD teachers get is comical. It is as if we are slow learners ourselves.

I'm sorry. I've been saying this for years: I get more PD staying in my room and truly analyzing what I'm doing right there. DMI was excellent. Looking at research and pedagogy is fine. But the silly PD we get - often from other teachers - is a waste of time.

One thing I'll give MAP, it does stress content. You either know it or you don't. There is some guidance in that piece of work. But it has to be taught the way the test measures it.

I"m writing as I'm reading! Process really is important for primary as well as content because we are trying to teach thinking along with content and neither exists in isolationi. Every elementary teacher understands that "activating prior knowledge" is key.

I hope I don't sound as if I'm contradicting myself. Really, teaching is complex and we are trying to teach too much in too short a time and with too many restrictions. Education has become a top-down bureaucratic highly-paid-at-the-admin-level institution. Thus, like all bureaucracies eventually do, it is out of touch and failing. Just as microsoft (in its heyday) galvanized change to IBM, we need to galvanize change in the existing structure of our educational system.

I hope this doesn't sound self-serving but I have to say it: we need to pay teachers better. Teachers who have been around and are experienced and who have become craftspeople. Our union leader once said that poor teachers should be helped and not terminated. I disagree. Do I don't want a second-tier accountant doing my taxes; I don't want a second-tier surgeon removing my appendica. We need better teachers. We need teachers across the board who are curious learners themselves and can provide content along with process simultaneously. Experts in math may never be good teachers. But good teachers who may not be experts in math will be curious enough and caring enough to get the expertise they need. I was one of those. Turns out I'm pretty good at it. Esp. in elementary where we teach everything. And the high school teacher or middle school teacher who specialized in history is now teaching math or vice verse? Is that still happening?

Education: so complex. And certainly you can't leave out the social safety net which is simply disappearing as we post.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank all of you so much for this great discussion about ACADEMICS.

I am happy to go to these meetings and report back and on this on there was so much discussion around finding a new super. I am thrilled to read this in-depth discussion around academics.

Good job. I am happy for all discussion but this is thought-provoking discussion that I don't think can be found elsewhere.

Kathy said...

Thanks, SPS Parent. I appreciate the advice.

Anonymous said...

I found it odd that Enfield mentioned MAP in response to concerns about high school grade inflation. How useful is MAP at the high school level? Also, MAP is only used for reading and math; not writing, history, science, etc.

My perception of MAP: It is only an estimate of a student's level, not a comprehensive assessment of skills. If a student can answer X, the assumption is they know A, B and C.

Will the score tell a teacher whether or not they have mastered the grade level skills? How do teachers use the info? If all kids are taking a different test, and you can't see the specific questions, how do teachers know what skills are being tested?

As a parent, I haven't yet figured out its usefulness. The reading test ceilings out at a level that some elementary kids have already attained (RIT 245, according to NWEA). The one takeaway from my child's discussion around the test (not school feedback): there isn't enough vocabulary instruction, specifically root word study, which was part of the WA EALRs. Once again, content based instruction that will improve reading and understanding across the board in science, math, etc.

-negative Nellie

RosieReader said...

I, too, was more than a little bewildered at Kate's comments. I figured, though, that she was at a pretty low point given that she learned only that day that her 21 year old had dropped out of comm. College, so tried to cut her some slack. But the essence that I took from her comments was that she somehow blames SPS for his current trajectory. And that, to me, is quite a stretch.

Anonymous said...

Here's my takeaway from what Kate said: when this blog and others talk about failing students, it's put on the parents and on disinterested or unmotivated students. Isn't one of Charlie's oft-repeated catch phrases, "There are no failing schools, just failing students"?

But when the failing student is from a "good family" with an "involved" parent at a "good school" it's the district's and the teachers' fault. That just doesn't wash for me. Either parents and the kids are the reason they fail or the teachers bear a lot of the responsibility regarding ALL students, not just the ones who fit a profile.

I've got a kid who flamed out in her first try at college. She was an average student so I can't say that grade inflation was responsible. It was before Discovery Math, so I can't blame that. Her teachers were pretty good overall, so I can't blame them. I CAN, however, look myself in the mirror and say I didn't do enough to dissuade her from picking a major she wasn't cut out for in a school she wasn't right for too far from a support system. It's on me. That said, now at the RIGHT school with the RIGHT major and a closer support system, she's excelling, and that's all her doing. Her teachers in high school had very little to do with it.

Just a mom

dan dempsey said...

She also said despite some small but steady gains in student achievement, the achievement gap is still stubbornly in place (and she called out the lack of any gains for Native American students). Again, she was very honest and that is very commendable.

..... hummmm ... lack of any gains ... that is a terrific understatement.

40 .... 9th grade American Indian Students results on Algebra EoC

5 @ Level 4
5 @ Level 4
9 @ Level 2
21 @ Level 1

52.5% Algebra Clueless and 25% passing ... that is hardly no gain It's a disaster.

3rd grade reading OSPI Statewide Indians post highest score ever of 55.8% passing and Seattle's Indians post lowest score ever of 50% passing.

For years Seattle's grade 3 indians scored from 9 to 18% above state average in math but no more.

On the 4th grade MSP both reading and math scores declined by 10% from around 40% passing to around 30% passing for math and for reading around 50% down to 40%. Writing scores dropped 13%.

6th grade was the only grade that could be considered a bright spot ... 7th grade was a total reading and math disaster dropping from 50% passing to 35% passing.

8th grade reading improved Hurrah ... but math pass rates dropped 54% to 44%.

THIS WAS A situation of huge drops to say no gains is deceptive.

I have yet to hear Dr. Enfield be very honest about Algebra EoC results or her TFA fiasco complete with legal violations ... too bad since Dean Stritikus was there he did not explain the TFA conditional certificate application process for us all.

David said...

the achievement gap is still stubbornly in place

The achievement gap requires long-term solutions to fix. Short-term attempts, like several recent attempts to pay high school students to get better grades, have surprisingly poor results (e.g. http://www.edlabs.harvard.edu/pdf/studentincentives.pdf) Much more successful are increased hours and eliminating summer vacation (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_learning_loss), but those require intervening in elementary school and years of investment to pay off.

If the Board and superintendent keep looking for short-term solutions to the achievement gap, they are going to keep failing. There are no quick fixes. Solutions require prolonged long-term investment in the success of our schools and our children.

David said...

Those links are hard to use. Here are easier to use versions.

Financial Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from Randomized Trials

Wikipedia article on summer learning loss

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

"I found it odd that Enfield mentioned MAP in response to concerns about high school grade inflation."

Actually what Enfield said was that they had "district wide" measures and standards as well as the MAP test.

District wide measures would include the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE), a standardized, proctored test that all districts in WA state must administer to test whether students meet state standards in reading and writing. The grades for this test can not be inflated.

In addition to the HSPE, WA state requires students to take and pas the end of Course (EOC) exams in Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. This is also a standardized test that all high school students must pass to graduate.

In the spring of this year, the state will implement an EOC in Biology as well. Again, students must pass this standardized test to graduate.

I'm not a fan of high stakes testing at all, however I do think these types of tests would deter grade inflation. It would be difficult for a teacher or school to explain how a student with an A in Algebra couldn't pass the Algera EOC.

And I can also say that after having two kids in SPS high schools, there is no way they were the victims of grade inflation. If anything, we had the opposite experience. They had to work very hard for every good grade they received. And when they slacked, or "forgot" to do their homework, or were absent for a test we saw their grades drop almost immediately. To this day my youngest is scared to stay home from school when he's sick for fear he will fall behind and not be able to catch up.

There are a lot of reasons a kid might drop out of college. To suggest it is due to grade inflation without providing any kind of data, examples, or documentation to back it up doesn't IMO warrant much attention.

Every ready

Jet City mom said...

If you have a 11th grader in SPS the best advice is this:

Send them to the nearest community college and have them take the English and Math placement test for Running Start.

If they pass at the remedial level you have a problem, but you also have time to get them support.

If they place where you think they should place based on their current classes, you are fine.

If they place above thier current class level, congrads!

PS: The test is free, takes several hours.

This is good advice. I used to be an advisor at a Seattle community college & it was very frustrating to be counseling students who had 3.5 GPA in high school, but couldn't pass a college level placement test for English/Math.

It can be impossible to get them support within district if they are " doing well" in their classes, but at least you have a better idea of how they stack up with community college students.

Anonymous said...

Do high schools report SAT/ACT scores anymore? Didn't we use to have that info from SPS? Wouldn't that be helpful info to have if we are going the way of standardized tests to measure and weigh how we do things.


WV: says pighway

jack Whelan said...

MW reported in response to Kate's question: "Susan apologized and said that she felt there had been too much local autonomy at schools and they now have district-wide metrics and standards as well as the MAP results. She was also quite passionate about the district not having a preK-3rd grade department for early learning."

We must not let the problem of low standards be equated with a lack of standardization, as the "too much local autonomy" remark seems to suggest.

I'm all for the use of metrics that give students and parents real-world information about whether they are on track to succeed at the next level, but buyers beware when bureaucrats start complaining about not having enough control.

Anonymous said...

Where's The Math offers this page with links to free assessments parents can use at home with their kids of all ages.


It's also useful for comparing skills expected at each grade level in other states and countries, with what is being taught in your child's math classroom.

-Math Mom

Anonymous said...

So. If you are a teacher and are being evaluated by a reformer principal you are stuck with those values. The most profound of which is that no matter how much information you present that their method (which replaced your successful one)is not working-you must continue as directed or lose your job. Speaking from personal experience.

A Teacher

Kate Martin said...

The "dysfunctional civic culture" comment by Michael DeBell was very disappointing. He indicated that we should be positive. I actually think critical input is essential to improving the system. There's a time and place for cheerleading. Susan Enfield referred to herself as chief cheerleader at the League of Women Voters forum in Oct. Maybe there's a role confusion happening. I don't personally believe that the role of super is chief cheerleader. I see it as more the coach of the team.

Reuven said that he is "open to the concept philosophically" in response to Melissa's charter question. My follow up question would be why is he open to the concept philosophically.

As far as report card grade inflation, I do recommend that folks not take the grades seriously as an indicator of how their kids are doing. My older son did test into college level courses at the community college, but he was totally unprepared for college level work. He was accepted at University of Montana, but we could not afford it after the economy slipped as I am in a construction related industry. We found out quite late in the game that he could not get the college loans in his name and we could not take on that debt. ($200/mo first year, $400/mo second year, $600/mo third year and $800/mo 4th year for 10 years - and that's after we saved 2 years of UW equivalent with GET. He enrolled at North, but did not have the reading, writing or math skills to keep up with the classes.

My younger son is on his 5th quarter of remedial math at Seattle Central. Luckily the first 3 quarters were as a running start senior (which cost us $1800 in tuition and books since it was remedial), so maybe by next year he can take a college level math class.

My issue is that the gen ed classrooms are dumbed-down and being the kid getting decent grades in them likely just means you're doing well relative to other kids in the class which I realize now is now saying terribly much. I'd like parents to know that.

I don't believe that more standardized tests and standardization - as Susan indicated - are the answer. Classes that prep kids for standardized tests are not very interesting to many kids or many teachers.

One of my friend's kids just moved from Blanchet to Seattle Academy. He's never been a great student. He found his classes at Blanchet boring. I saw him at dinner over the weekend and he told me that none of his classes are boring at Seattle Academy. None of them. I like that. Seems we could be doing more of that and outcomes would improve. We'd have to move away from bubble test prep curriculum to do that. I hope we do.

dan dempsey said...

Dear A Teacher,

You wrote: So. If you are a teacher and are being evaluated by a reformer principal you are stuck with those values. The most profound of which is that no matter how much information you present that their method (which replaced your successful one)is not working-you must continue as directed or lose your job.

Check Jay Greene's latest analysis of a $45 million Gates Foundation project .... after Jay removed the Gates spin and actually looked at the data ....

He found that: The most straightforward reading of the Gates results is that classroom observations appear to be an expensive and ineffective dud.

Jay Greene (1) How the Gates Foundation Spins its Research

and (2) Anticipating Responses from Gates

But the inability to use the classroom observations to tell teachers the “right” way of teaching is another way of saying that the classroom observations are not able to be used for diagnostic purposes. The most straightforward reading of the Gates results is that classroom observations appear to be an expensive and ineffective dud. But it’s hard for an organization that spends $45 million on a project to scientifically validate classroom observations to admit that it failed. It’s hard enough for a third-party evaluator to say that, let alone an in-house study about a key aspect of the Gates policy agenda.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

On the other hand Kate, two of my kids friends took the Compass test at Community College this year and both did very well. Both placed into college level math and LA classes. They both report back that the classes are very challenging for them, and fast paced, but that they are keeping up just fine. And this is from 11th graders that attend a HS not as well know for rigorous academics as Roosevelt.

Kate maybe you can research and gather data on how college bound SPS kids do in college as a whole? I know the district used to keep that data along with SAT and ACT scores. Maybe the district still has that data (just doesn't post it on the website any longer)? Or maybe each school keeps their own records? It's easy to blame the school or district for a child failing at college but in this case some evidence and data would be appreciated, and prudent.

Every ready

Anonymous said...

"You can make sure your chld does their homework, keep on top of their grades and still falsely believe they are doing well. "

THIS. This is a big reason I favor some kind of standardized testing, with regularity. You can at least get some sort of relative and objective measure of where your child stands. Maybe MAP is not the best one to use, but I am so glad there is something.

SPS mom

Anonymous said...

@Kate Martin

Whenever I hear from a parent that a student is "bored" (and it's an isolated case), it is typically student-code for "having to work hard and not wanting to do so."

The student who is "no longer bored" at his new high school may be very unequipped for college or career, when he is also likely to feel "bored." What's he going to do then? Have his parent help him switch colleges or jobs?

Teach the kid how to cope. Otherwise, you'll have a pattern of dropping out. Time to quit blaming the messengers and join the
new world, where Chinese and Indian students are putting these whiners in the toaster.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

My issue is that the gen ed classrooms are dumbed-down and being the kid getting decent grades in them likely just means you're doing well relative to other kids in the class which I realize now is not saying terribly much.

Wow. What a terrible attitude. So your kid is in general ed, with all the other "dummies" who perform like him? And that makes the class "dumbed-down"? It sounds like he is/was unable to handle more, or he would have done better in college. Does that make him "dumb" or the class "dumbed down"? The high schools have many options: advanced classes, AP classes, running start, etc. It's all there for the taking. Why denigrate those who simply haven't taken them by refering to the learning they have done as "dumbed down"?

If you want to know how your kid is doing according to standards, - don't we already have plenty of information? We've got MSP, HSPE, and MAP after MAP after MAP. Parents already have that information - repeatedly, and from many different sources.


Anonymous said...

My child graduated from Ingraham last year (IB) and did extremely well in all of his classes (including calculus)at an Ivy league school. I can't speak for all of our high schools, but he left Ingraham very well prepared, and we are very pleased.

- proud mom

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but if a student needs *5* quarters of REMEDIAL math, then I think the issue is beyond the school(s) of origin. I wonder if there's a learning disability that somehow went unnoticed. Apparently this student ALSO has issues with reading and writing, which makes me think even more about learning issues. What on earth were his WASL/MSP/MSP scores?? How did he get PASSING numbers on them, and if he DIDN'T then why on earth didn't he get help SOONER??

Students from Roosevelt as well as other high schools across the city (including my own kids) have graduated to go onto college math without needing 5 quarters of extra math just to get up to speed. These aren't advanced learners or math whizzes, they are just average kids in average math classes. You know, the "dumbed down" ones.

But it comes back to Kate blaming everyone but herself. First it was grade inflation, now it's math for dummies in the regular classrooms. It's not her kids and it wasn't that she and her husband missed signs of failure.

"Mind Boggled"

Maureen said...

Every ready, Here's some data on college enrollment and persistence by High School (and ethnic group and FRL status), put together by the BERC group.

I do wonder why SPS never published the PSAT score data that Boeing paid for a few years ago. It would have been interesting to compare HSs since every kid took the test (unlike the SAT.)

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dan dempsey said...

Maureen, the SPS made a concerted effort to hide those PSAT scores .... to expect these to be published ... is unrealistic for this crew.

Also in regard to what constitutes a Stardardized Test there is some confusion. If one accepts this definition:
A standardized test is a test that is administered and scored in a consistent, or "standard", manner. Standardized tests are designed in such a way that the questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent and are administered and scored in a predetermined, standard manner.

Then WASL, MSP, HSPE, and likely EoCs are NOT Standardized Tests.

The scoring is not predetermined. OSPI is often messing with cut scores after the tests are taken but before scores are released.

In 2000-2005 WASL was given at grades 4, 7, 10 ..... and a true Standardized test the Iowa tests were given at grades 3, 6, 9.

Results showed a very large increase in reading scores on WASL testing especially at grade 7.

Iowa tests showed a small increase in reading performance at grade 3.... grades 6 and 9 were virtually flat. The WASL was a multi-million dollar tool to make OSPI look good and little else.

The WASL was expanded to include all grades from 3 to 8 .... in Spring of 2006 and the Iowa test was eliminated. This left OSPI in total control of the message.

Check the 10th grade reading and writing score increases in 2006. Passing WASL at grade 10 = Graduation requirement... (well sort of passing or other alt. considerations)

Notice that OSPI never could get 10th grade Math on track. Those "Exemplary and Promising" math programs pushed by OSPI and the US Department of Ed just did not work.

OSPI was expecting a big bump up in math scores when passing WASL Math became a graduation requirement... The bump never happened and in 2007 OSPI began putting off the you must pass WASL math to graduate.

So Lots of Big Dollars spent by OSPI Olympia .... and little to show for it.

Next up is the Common Core State Standards fiasco .... complete with NO End of Course testing.

anonymous said...

reposted because I forgot to include my name

Thanks Maureen! So interesting. According to this data of the 72% (+/-) students who graduated from Roosevelt and went directly to college between 2004 and 2009 93.5% (+/-) of them successfully completed college - and that number includes the 56% (+/-) that went to 4 year colleges and the 16% that went to Community College. So it appears that SPS did a good enough job preparing 93.5% of Roosevelt students to succeed in college.

Note* I did not include 2010 data because the rates on the chart were not complete at the time the data was released.

Every Ready

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

The data compares kids at Roosevelt that went directly to college after graduation, anon. Pretty straight forward.

This data shows that Kate's son was in a very small minority, 6.5% of college bound students at Roosevelt, that did not succeed in college.

It frustrates me when people make accusatory statements such as the one Kate made against Roosevelt regarding grade inflation causing her son's lack of success in a college setting without one ounce of data to back it up. I find that to be very irresponsible.

Every Ready.

Dorothy Neville said...

Actually, Every Ready, you aren't reading the data correctly. Persistent rate is simply the percent of students who enroll in a second year of college. Look at the graduation rates. You will see that fr 2004 RHS graduates, 71% enrolled in college, persistence rate was 92% but in 2011, less than half of those HS graduates have completed a college degree.

This pattern is repeated in other high schools. The majority of kids who graduate RHS ready for a four year college eventually graduate, but the vast majority of kids who graduated RHS and enroll in 2 year college do not get a degree. 17% of the Class of 2004 enrolled in a two year college and less than 5% got a degree.

This data, to me, exposes the biggest sin of the 17% ready for college lie. Reality is that for schools like Roosevelt, the kids that graduate ready for four year college are pretty much on track to succeed, but the kids who are not ready for that, who attempt two year college, they are for the most part not successful.

The 17% lie pushed policy changes that negatively affect kids who are already doing OK (standardization of courses) but masked the real issue and did nothing to help them -- which wuld have meant providing the kids marginally ready for college the proper tools to succeed.

Jet City mom said...

Dorothy- the graduation stats aren't much better for the suburbs- even in Bellevue which going by AP test rates supposedly has greater number of students prepared for college.

Lori said...

Can I ask a naive question? How would grade inflation occur in a subject like high school math anyway?

I understand grade inflation to mean that, for comparable work, the grade given today is higher than the grade given in the past. Math seems to me to be something that gets graded objectively (ie, the answer is right or the answer is wrong). As such, how would one inflate a grade when there are clear answers, unlike say, in reading comprehension or writing, where the grading is more subjective?

I'm wondering if the issue being discussed isn't grade inflation per se but rather a lack of rigor and challenge that allows some students to breeze through high school math and end up unprepared and without the needed study skills to tackle a more challenging college-level curriculum.

That to me is a different issue. Hopefully kids who are working really hard for A's are able to succeed in college. But it wouldn't suprise me that kids who are coasting by but still getting A's have a rude awakening in college.

Anonymous said...

The Roosevelt grades may not mean what you think they mean. They reflect whether your child was on time for class, whether their homework was on time, whether their essay was double-spaced, whether they had a waterbottle on their desk, whether they could control their project group, whether they were allowed to leave class to copy missing textbook pages, et cetera. Their grades are really not very reflective of what academics they actually learned.

And in math, their grades are much more dependent on whether they can use a graphing calculator than whether they have mastered math skills. In fact, on a tour one year a Roosevelt math teacher told parents that UW calculus students are not allowed to use a graphing calculator, but that Roosevelt students wouldn't be able to do the calculations without one. So it seems possible that a parent might think an A or B student is prepared for college level work, when the student really isn't.

Eckstein set a goal this year to separate out grades that reflect individual academic mastery from grades measuring other things. I would be interested to hear how that is going.

Roosevelt parent

Dorothy Neville said...

Roosevelt Parent is spot on.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with Michael DeBell a while ago. I brought up my ongoing frustration with Roosevelt and their lack of rigor, challenge, their reluctance to admit that they have some students able to meet higher demands. Instead, they adopt an "honors for all" philosophy which translates into honors for no one. I brought this up because a RHS parent had recently told me that she expressed concerns to the Science Chair about what she perceived was weaknesses in the curriculum. His reply had included the comment "all our classes are honors." I was dismayed to find that the science department had drunk the kool-aid that the LA and SS departments shilled.

DeBell's reply was illuminating. He said that he had been against the RHS AP HG move for this very sort of reason. While RHS has moved towards a philosophy of blending every student in the same courses -- thinking that will reduce the achievement gap, Ballard has done the opposite, embracing honors and challenging classes for those who are willing and able while also providing non-honors paths for those who need or desire that. Well, now with the district report cards, the jury is in. Ballard is showing MORE success with reducing the achievement gap.

dan dempsey said...

Lori wrote:

Math seems to me to be something that gets graded objectively (ie, the answer is right or the answer is wrong). .... Wow Lori you are so old school.

Check out the OSPI annual Math scores for all students at IB school Sealth:
Grade 10
2009 WASL Math passing 38.2%
Well below Standard 42.5%

2010 HSPE Math passing 39.5%
Well below Standard 35.8%
No Score 6.4%

Check out the Sealth Algebra EoC scores for Grade 9 students that took algebra in 2010-2011 school year.
Passing => 33.5%
Level 4 = 7.3%
Level 3 = 26.2%
Level 2 = 27.4%
Level 1 = 39.0%

So what did math course grades look like at Sealth during those years?
....maybe not so objective ....

Anonymous said...

Re grade inflation in math:

What one Roosevelt parent said about grades is true in other schools and districts as well. The grade isn't just based on test scores, but "citizenship," HW completion, extra credit, etc. If a child is weak academically, their grade can be inflated with the soft grades for meeting nonacademic criteria.

One high school math teacher (not in Seattle) has told me he was at odds with his principal because he wouldn't pad the grades with nonacademic criteria. The teacher wanted the grades to reflect a student's knowledge and math ability, and considered it a disservice to pass students without the requisite skills.

Also, having seen the middle school math tests my children have taken (CMP curriculum), the test questions can be simplistic and contrived and an A doesn't necessarily reflect solid math skills.


Anonymous said...

Dorothy- I am curious about your statements in pratical terms.
It used to be that students had to test into honors and AP and gather teacher recommendations. That is no longer the case under the philosophy that "all students should have access to rigorous classes". Even though students are counseled against taking classes above their skill level they still do. When they don't succeed there are no spaces in classes that may be more appropriate. If 80% of students at Roosevelt enroll in AP US history who comprises that "non honors path"? The answer is all the students with habits or disabilities that make not only learning but also teaching a challenge. So. A two tier system in which no one WANTS or NEEDS to be in 32 student classes filled with students with challenges. Now if those non AP classes could be cut to say 12 students and those AP classes could balance that out by having 60 students we might get somewhere near equalization in teaching and learning. I appreciate that parents want their students to have rigorous classes occupied only by students who are equally capable. I just don't think structure and economics make that possible. If you were the parent of a child with significant challenges would you want your student to spend every period of every day in classes with 32 others who also have challenges. What would your child learn in that enviroment--no matter the teacher's experience or expectations. That is the reality of a two tier system.

A Teacher

Dorothy Neville said...

Teacher, my point is that at Ballard, a school where students can elect more challenging classes and there aren't Faux honors-for-all classes, Michael DeBell claimed that the achievement gap went down. At Roosevelt, where it isn't simply an issue of not gatekeeping Honors classes but making all classes "honors", achievement gap did not go down. So, which model is better serving kids?

Sounds like you are saying that kids ready for above grade level material and depth are easy to teach and the ones who struggle with grade level work (ie, the ones who are actually supposed to being served by grade level challenges) are too challenging to teach.

If I had a child struggling in math, would I want that child in a class full of kids years above them in math, who get the concepts fast and are impatient to progress or in a group with similar academic needs? Seems to me that a teacher might actually meet my child's needs if the rest of the class is at a similar level.

You are conflating academics and behavior issues and assuming that the behavior and motivation issues are all in one group. If that is really the case, simply diluting the behavior and motivation challenges by blending all students in every class doesn't meet any of their academic needs very well, does it?

dan dempsey said...

So what I see from this ==>
"DeBell's reply was illuminating. He said that he had been against the RHS AP HG move for this very sort of reason. "

Is that the one size fits all "differentiated instruction" push from Central Admin is 100% BUNK.

I wonder if these folks have something against .... actually taking the time to read the valid rigorous research studies before pushing the nonsense.

Too often the nation's students must suffer through a couple decades of total crap ideas. The self-esteem push is a perfect example. .... It was thought that increasing student self-esteem was a big key to improving student performance and school climate and yet .......

When 15,000 academic journal articles were studied only 200 were "controlled well enough" to be of value..... and these showed the exact opposite of what had been believed and pushed for 20 years. ..... Ready yourself for 20 years of poppycock from Race to the Top and Common Core State Standards...... Evidence is apparently neither used nor wanted by politicians making decisions. (Don't get me started on whole language)