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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Proposed Waiver Policy

Here is the proposed policy 2020, Waiver of Basic Instructional Materials.

The primary thing to like about this policy is its very existence. Finally we have a policy to codify the process and set standards for allowing schools to use alternatives to the board-adopted materials as their basic instructional materials (rather than as supplemental materials).

Beyond that, there isn't much good here at all.



First, the policy sets a higher community engagement and staff engagement standard for the alternative materials used by one school than the standards set for the basic instructional materials used by the whole district.
Indicate how the school staff and community has been involved in making the recommendation to use alternative basic instructional materials, including information on how the school-based decision matrix was used in this process and evidence that staff have agreed to implement the alternative materials fully;
Second, the feedback loop for alternative materials is more demanding than the one for board-adopted materials.  If we set up these protections to prevent the use of sub-standard materials by 300 students, why don't we set up the same protections to prevent the use of sub-standard materials by 30,000 students?
Schools for which a waiver is granted must take all relevant district and state assessments, and must, on average over the 3-year waiver period, meet or exceed the gains demonstrated by peer schools that are using the district-adopted materials for all segments of their population in order to continue using the alternative basic instructional materials.
Approved waivers shall be granted for a 3-year period, after which the school’s data and continued interest in the waiver will be assessed. The Superintendent shall have the final decision about revoking the waiver or continuing it for another 3-year term. If a waiver is revoked the school will be required to return to district-adopted materials.
Third, why three hoops? The principal submits the request to the Executive Director of Schools, who reviews it and makes a recommendation, then it is reviewed by the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching & Learning, who reviews it and makes a recommendation, then it is reviewed by the superintendent, who reviews it and makes a decision. Why not just send it directly to the superintendent for review and decision? What benefit are we expected to get from kibbitzing by the Executive Director and the Assistant Superintendent?
A waiver request must be completed by the Principal of the school and submitted to the Executive Director of Schools (EDS) or equivalent position. The EDS shall review the request and make a recommendation to the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching & Learning. The Assistant Superintendent shall review the request and the recommendation of the EDS and make a recommendation to the Superintendent. The Superintendent shall review all materials and make a decision on the request. The Superintendent’s decision is final.
Fourth, the superintendent's decision is final. There is no appeal. This means that the superintendent can simply choose to reject all waiver requests out of hand. How is that a good practice? Yes, the superintendent is supposed to make a report to the Board about waiver requests and the rationale for her decision, but the superintendent is also required by policy to make a number of other annual reports to the Board and many of them are never made. Why should we think that the superintendent will make this report or make it honestly?
The Superintendent shall annually inform the School Board about the number and type of waivers requested and the disposition, including rationale, of those requests.
Fifth, completely absent from this policy is any mention of how the District as a whole is supposed to benefit from this experimentation. That was supposed to be a significant feature of this type of innovation. It is simply absent. What happened to that idea? Figuring that out was supposedly why this policy took so long to develop, but now that the policy is here there is no mention of it.

31 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Right on all points especially no explanation of why they want to do it.

Also, as I mentioned in my meetings thread, there is no way for parents to be involved. You have to have a principal who will listen, otherwise parents and teachers have nothing to do with the process.

mirmac1 said...

But...how did this get by HMM?

Anonymous said...

If schools can simply use their own materials, and they do, then why is this policy even interesting? It seems like something simply to pacify parents.

-parent

Anonymous said...

I think the message is: don't ask for a waiver.

If a school wants to use alternative materials, you call it "supplementing."

There are also no provisions for programs within schools to request waivers (APP comes to mind) - the waiver process specifies a school-wide rollout.

-FP

Anonymous said...

By what process was Mercer granted a waiver by Enfield? She made the very public point that Smith Blum had been mistaken when quoted in the Times that Mercer had acted under the radar of administration.

This is another example of how Susan Enfield has not been held to transparency by the board, at least not publicly.

The essential problem with this proposed waiver policy is that the district administration is taking more control of schools and classrooms by not giving credit to the professional judgment at those schools.

From the survey, it seems principals fear an unfair playing field, resulting in some schools having the advantage to do better. The message: let's continue to do worse so that I don't become a Martin Floe.

Time to educate through knowledge and data and not fear of the bureaucracy. How about a waiver policy for that?

--enough already

Charlie Mas said...

As parent suggested at 9:35am, there is absolutely no need for this policy. Schools are perfectly free to "supplement" as much as they want with whatever materials they like. No waiver required, no review required, no engagement required and no standards to meet.

They can just say that they are "supplementing" the board-adopted material with Saxon or Singapore or whatever and use the alternative material exclusively.

The utter failure of regulation in the current policy and practice makes the whole waiver process unnecessary.

Schools, such as Mercer, decided that they just wouldn't bother with it. They decided that they would just do the exact same thing under the title "supplemental materials" instead of under the title of "alternative basic materials". The effect is the same.

Charlie Mas said...

I know that mirmac1's question was sarcastic, but it is worth noting - for those who have not attended Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meetings for the past four years - the role that Director Martin-Morris has played in this.

While Director Martin-Morris has just been a waste of space on most issues simply by failing to contribute anything positive, he has, on this issue, actually been a a negative contributor. He has actively delayed the efforts to create and bring forward a waiver policy.

The Board as a whole decided at their retreat that they wanted the waiver policy brought forward promptly. Consequently it was discussed in the C & I Committee in October. At the end of that discussion, Director Martin-Morris, acting unilaterally as the chair of the C & I Committee, gave the superintendent until June to bring forward a draft policy. If Director DeBell - who is not a member of the C & I Committee - had not been sitting in on that meeting, that would have been the timetable for this policy.

Director DeBell went over Director Martin-Morris' head and, acting in the Executive Committee, made the waiver policy an element of the superintendent's mid-year review, so it had to be complete by January.

Director Martin-Morris abused his authority to try to delay this policy but failed.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie asked .... so what about the 30,000 using substandard materials?

Good Question.

A school’s decision to implement alternative
instructional material
is different from the use of supplementary material
(covered by Superintendent Procedure C 21.01 SP) and is intended to fully
replace the Board-adopted basic instructional material
as part of a coherent,
building-based curriculum plan.


By looking at annual OSPI testing results, the District for mathematics lacks an effective coherent k-12 curriculum plan. ... State Standards for math 2008 but using ZERO in the way of OSPI recommended materials = NOT WORKING.

The Board and Superintendent remain in denial. Policy 2020 is proposed so it could be a feel good moment. The fact 2020 is nearly worthless as written is definitely part of the ongoing feel bad situation.
--------------

What should be done for math NOW has little to do with innovation or waivers:
#1.. Admit that EDM and Discovering produce incredibly poor results on OSPI testing.

#2.. Act on that data by beginning a major overhaul of District Math direction.

2b ... Question Cathy Thompson about what she is doing in regard to #1 and #2.

=========
So what is policy 2020 for?

My guess at this point is CYA.

Anonymous said...

The real issue here is the parents. Some just can't get over the fact that a school might use material that they don't like, don't believe in, or didn't do as a kid. Evidently, that is why we have to have a policy - and one that can never really amount to anything. Who really wants to wait around for years and years while a request goes through 3 levels of approval? By that time, your kid won't even be in the same school.

-parent

dan dempsey said...

FP wrote:

I think the message is: don't ask for a waiver.

If a school wants to use alternative materials, you call it "supplementing."

=================

A perfect CYA ... see the instructional materials that were initially adopted "do work" (as they are being supplemented NOT replaced). The money was not wasted on those math adoptions. The materials can produce better results.

dan dempsey said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I'm okay with my kids using different materials and methods, as long as they still get a solid understanding of the material, and the state standards are being covered. So far, this hasn't happened with SPS chosen math materials. We've had to supplement heavily at home to make sure the material is covered, and covered properly.

So, yeah, I don't like the SPS materials, nor do I believe in them, because they simply haven't worked for my kids.

If they applied the same standards to the district adopted materials that they are requiring of waiver materials, perhaps we would have stronger texts in the schools (of course for those supplementing at home, the MSP/MAP scores don't reflect the deficiencies).

As Dan said, the Board and Superintendent remain in denial.

The waiver policy is a big disappointment because it amounts to nothing. It is written to discourage waivers, which will most likely encourage under the radar "supplementing." Doesn't it bring us back to the anything goes days before the standardization?

signed, disappointed

Choose to remain anonymous said...

"It is written to discourage waivers, which will most likely encourage under the radar "supplementing." Doesn't it bring us back to the anything goes days before the standardization?"

Absolutely correct. Fortunately, my child's teacher has almost entirely veered off of EDM. The teacher has a Masters Degree in C&I, and I trust him/her completely; this is not the case with district adm. Glad I'm not trotting off to Kumon again.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that a schoolwide requirement is what you want for a good waiver policy. Good teachers will always supplement as necessary, but if you want a curriculum to really get implemented in a thorough and thoughtful way then you have to have all the teachers on board. Parents might want something, or a principal might see a need, but nothing sustainable will happen at the instructional level unless teachers throughout a building are on board. This policy might set the bar high, but it's a good bar to shoot for.

Emile

Anonymous said...

You know, if a principal is loyal to Disctict demands, it isn't that easy for a teacher to "veer off" EDM. Also, time is so limited that sometimes you are left with little time to really supplement properly. All math is process as well as product. It is like adding another hour to your day. Literacy has been the focus to the detriment of math. Speaking for elementary here. And one who has a principal who is not comfortable veering off the reservation.

northender

Charlie Mas said...

@Emile, let's be careful about how we use the nomenclature. Let's not confuse materials - textbooks and such - with curriculum - the knowledge and skills that students are expected to acquire.

Learning how to add three-digit figures is a curriculum piece. The textbook and any worksheets are the materials.

We want an aligned curriculum. Not just within a school or a district but across the state. That's why the state has set Standards and Grade Level Expectations. Those are the elements of the curriculum.

To suggest that everyone should use the same materials to teach or learn that curriculum is not only goofy in it's excessive regimentation, it's actually constricting and an impediment. That not only holds true in the state, the district, and the school but in the classroom as well.

The District claims that they need the standardized materials for two reasons: 1) to facilitate professional development and 2) to ease the transition for students changing schools.

The first reason is dreadful. It suggests that they are coaching teachers on how to teach page 54 instead of coaching teachers on how to teach long division. That is not a direction we want to go.

The second reason is just silly.

A) Students change books every year.

B) There are not that many students who change schools during the year. The mobility rate in elementary and middle school for the district is about 11.2% (source: 2011 district summary). That includes students who are moving in and out of the district as well as students who are changing schools within the district. That's actually fewer than the number in Spectrum and APP. Would we have the whole district use textbooks that were best for advanced learners? Of course not. Why would we bend everything for all students to accommodate the needs of such a small minority of the students? Why indeed.

C) If the District were really concerned about students who change schools, then they wouldn't force students to do it. The original Framework for the New Student Assignment Plan was much kinder to students who move than the implemented plan.

D) It's bizarre to think that students who change buildings, change teachers, change classmates, and change cultures will find some safe harbor and relief in having the same textbooks.

E) Is there any data to support this contention?

Anonymous said...

I guess I have to disagree with everything Charlie says. The district gives great reasons for standardization.

Teaching a philosophy, and principles to a particular strategy isn't "teaching page 54". Nearly all materials require PD. Saving costs is a real issue. Students moving or changing schools is a great reason to have consistent texts and methodology, as is teacher mobility.

To counter those reasons for standardization - for the "everybody roll your own" sie, is that it "might be" constricting. There's nothing stopping schools from supplementing standard materials. So really, what is the problem? Only that some people simply don't like the selected texts.

-reader

Kate Martin said...

The varying ability to absorb the cost of buying materials to supplement risks creating a situation where some schools or classrooms can afford to supplement and others can not. For me, that's a problem. I'd like to see some kind of mechanism to level that playing field. Maybe a fund that's made available to each school for supplemental materials? For Mercer, the math outcomes resulting at least partially from their use of supplemental materials has resulted in low income students at Mercer outperforming non-low income district wide numbers by 30%. Black students at Mercer are outperforming black students district wide similarly. This is extremely significant IMO. I don't want it to be unaffordable to get the books to help get those kind of results and I don't want to have policies for instructional material waivers that make it hard to abandon the books that aren't working.

Melissa Westbrook said...

This time it's the word "like" (versus the usual "hate").

"Only that some people simply don't like the selected texts."

It's not a matter of "liking" a textbook; it's a matter of finding materials that work best for your school. That Mercer, North Beach and Schmitz Park are able to but others can't seems wrong.

I think schools should just say "supplement" and do what they want (but that's only if they can afford it).

But don't go making it sound petty.

Anonymous said...

Another person asked this a while back, but we have yet to hear the answer - What was the funding source for Mercer's Saxon texts?

curious

dan dempsey said...

reader wrote:

"There's nothing stopping schools from supplementing standard materials. So really, what is the problem? Only that some people simply don't like the selected texts."

It is not a question of don't like for "Everyday Math" and "Discovering Algebra", it is don't produce positive results. When MSP and Algebra EoC results are examined, it is clear these materials and all the uniform professional development are a big expensive ongoing failure, and especially so for Low Income students .

There's something stopping schools from supplementing standard materials. .... EDM is extremely time consuming and spirals incoherently. "Discovering Algebra" lacks explicit instruction, sufficient examples, and well chosen problems.

Results from Seattle, Highline, Bethel, and Everett on EoC algebra inform us that this Algebra Book is terrible. At least DA has an orderly progression of topics, which is more than can be said for EDM.

The other obstacle to supplementing is "Money for Materials"

Kate Martin said...

It's also problematic that the results of the standardized tests which should be used to inform adjustments to curriculum and materials, are instead used to label students, teachers and schools. Curriculum and materials are hardly mentioned if mentioned at all and significant barriers such as these are put up to making incremental changes in these areas nearly impossible.

Charlie Mas said...

Why can a philosophy, principles and a particular strategy only be taught from a single text?

I agree that nearly all materials require PD, but that PD doesn't have to be provided by the central office, does it?

Saving costs? Is that the real issue? Really? I don't think so because there are a lot of materials that are cheaper than Everyday Math and CMP2 with their workbooks and consumables.

Students moving or changing schools is a great reason to have consistent texts. Really? Why? Does anyone have any data to support that contention? 100% of the students have to use the same materials so gain an incremental advantage for 10% of the students? Really? When will we cater to the 14% of students with IEPs this way? When will we cater to the 14% of 1-8 advanced learners this way? When will we cater to ELL students this way?

Kate Martin said...

I agree with you, Charlie. That is the trouble with alignment or at least the version of alignment that SPS seems to have bought into hook line a sinker. Same trouble as teaching to the bottom middle. Who is really served by that? Less than 10% for sure. Alignment looks tidy, but it's really messy in this way. Also, when you make a mistake, it's an across the board disaster. General standards alignment (a la Finland's 10 page doc instead of CCSS' tax code), sure. Alignment in curricula, probably. Alignment in one text, no. It's like a plant monoculture - very dangerous because before you know it the whole forest is suffering from the same disease. As far as professional development, we likely have a problem with a low bar for actual math mastery in K-5 faculty. I don't imagine any amount of PD will overcome that. I don't think it's the district's responsibility to develop those kind of skills in a teacher, but we find ourselves doing that because somebody along the line thought it unimportant that that level of teacher have the math skills we need taught to students. Certainly, they could go back and use Khan Academy to learn a basic foundation of skills mastery which the kids should just do until such time as we stop doing damage with instruction.

StopTFA said...

Kate, let the PESB know that their strategic plan and goals should focus less on eliminating the hurdles for TFA BA/BS grads, and more on raising the bar for teacher prep programs (particularly elementary education). Approved programs do have options for focii on science or math Ed but, as it seems, this remains our weak point. Focus on that! How are the legislators gonna argue with that use of $$$?! Why spend our limited tax dollars on this?!

peonypower said...

I feel like I am having deja vu with this policy. Looks so much like the "validation" process that the science alignment proposed last year for non-core (district's term) classes. Basically make the task so onerous and so paper heavy that no one will do it. It looks like lip service that can be held up to say- why yes we do allow schools to have other curriculum when in reality almost no school will go through the process. I have to wonder if the "creative schools" approach will be the same thing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching the comments to the Board tonight, I note that one parent said that if the Superintendent had final say, that every waiver decision should be made public and why it was turned down (and not just an annual report to the Board).

I agree. How can communities understand what will work for a waiver appeal if they don't know why other schools got turned down?

Patrick said...

We have tremendous success at Mercer. A healthy organization would be trying to duplicate that success at other schools, not go into bureaucratic circle-the-wagons mode desperately trying to save face over an obviously wrong decision.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Exactly Patrick.

This happened years ago with - I search my memory, Maple? - when they decided to put all their funds towards teaching all kids at a Spectrum level. They had fantastic results but needed district support. Didn't get it and their experiment was not tried elsewhere.

Why tout how great things are going when schools break out of the box and then there is no follow-up?

Anonymous said...

"It suggests that they are coaching teachers on how to teach page 54 instead of coaching teachers on how to teach long division. "

Well put!

"EDM is extremely time consuming and spirals incoherently" (Dan)

Truer words were never spoken. And the spiraling prevents mastery. It is just a bizarro program. Even the vocab is off and several of the questions either ambiguous or debatable.

"we likely have a problem with a low bar for actual math mastery in K-5 faculty." (Kate Martin)

Well, it always comes to this. We've gotten to the "blaming each other" level. That's pretty low. I had to take a pretty strenuous math test to get into the program. Once I passed that test, I guess they didn't think they had to reteach me.

The PD I've had in math is comical. They get the expensive program to support (or not?) PD that puts examples lessons in front of teachers and talks about solutions. Come on! The only good and best PD I've had came through the DMI PD and then it was the leadership strand that made the difference. The leadership strand treated me with respect and increased my understanding of the pedagogy. I loved that class and it changed my teaching of math.

Until we leave behind isolated skills math and take on problem-solving, thinking, and higher-level math with our kids, we will fail. Even our lowest kids - especially our lowest kids - need to learn to think.

Playing devil's advocate here: when Vaughan used to allow Spectrum programs to diversity and differ, parents complained that there was no parity or alignment from program to program. Damned if he did and damned if he didn't. His preference was to diversify programs because that allowed a certain amount of parental choice, respect for teacher style, and respect for the collective group of children. Too much complaining by parents. So, now we have alignment in Spectrum.

The burden of public education: trying to please everyone.

northender

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