STEM Meeting Last Night

I realized we might want a thread on the STEM school meeting last night at Schmitz Park.   So let us know if you went.

According to the West Seattle blog, the place was packed and the district officials were caught off guard (I think happily).

I did see these tweets and updates from our friends at the West Seattle blog from the meeting (note, they have video of the entire event):

Going to be a full house at K5 STEM school info meeting

Design team will be formed for new STEM school. Online survey planned too

Now in comment period. The mentioned concept of 'business partners' has stirred some concern. Boeing, Disney have reportedly reached out.  (Disney?)

Lady concerned about STEM Boren diversity. Looking around, she said, "This room looks like a Dave Matthews concert" (quote of the night)

The consensus on comments seems to be:

Doesn’t anyone have a vision for this school. Wait, wait, wait and see.

With only a few weeks until open enrollment ends.. .how is a parent to make an informed decision.

There was also a desire expressed to prevent an extreme gender imbalance at this school after a student from Highline’s Aviation High School said that school was about 70% male.

I came away both excited about the prospect of the new school, and also concerned that the district is trying to pull this all together at the last minute.  

And another comment about art. A community member asked if the program might consider being STEAM (A stands for art) instead. Aurora said no plans but something design team could discuss. Here’s a link to a site discussing that I found in another forum:

Open enrollment is less than two weeks away, starting February 27; Dr Libros said those who apply for this during open enrollment will find out on April 16th if they got in.

Meet-and-Greet with the new principal on March 13th.

Applications for the design team are due by March 2nd.

One interesting question:

Will this school use rigorous Singapore Math (which would be a departure from the district-wide curriculum)? The Design Team will make the decision, said Lora, and if they want it, “we will support that.”

Wait, all you need to do to get a waiver is open a new school and the design team says they want it?  Should have told us sooner.


Anonymous said…
Another comment on the WS blog:

Perhaps what the district should take away from this heavily attended meeting is that EVERY school should be teaching a more rigorous science and math curriculum.

David said…
Great that they will be using Singapore math.

A good start on what the previous commenter wrote, that "perhaps what the district should take away from this heavily attended meeting is that EVERY school should be teaching a more rigorous science and math curriculum," would be if every school in the district was allowed to use Singapore Math.
Anonymous said…
This is a really informative blog, thanks for all of the insight into SPS.

Can anyone out there answer the question as to the waiver process to use Singapore Math? I attended the meeting last night, and they did make it sound like using
Singapore Math would be no problem. You want Singapore Math? Okay, the Design Team will work on that. However, I was under the impression that obtaining a waiver is no easy task! Does a designated "Option School" have an easier time obtaining waivers? And, if obtaining a waiver was so easy, why aren't other schools going that route?

It just seems that the devil is often in the details, and at the end of the day, is there really a chance to make Singapore Math a reality by fall at this school?

-West Seattle Parent
dan dempsey said…
About Aviation High School, it does not look much like the Highline SD:

Student Demographics
October 2010 Student Count 419
May 2011 Student Count 410
Gender (October 2010)
Male 276 65.9%
Female 143 34.1%

Race/Ethnicity (October 2010)
American Indian/Alaskan Native 5 1.2%
Asian 65 15.5%
Pacific Islander 2 0.5%
Asian/Pacific Islander 67 16.0%
Black 20 4.8%
Hispanic 46 11.0%
White 238 56.8%
Two or More Races 43 10.3%
Special Programs
Free or Reduced-Price Meals (May 2011) 85 20.7%
Special Education (May 2011) 5 1.2%
Transitional Bilingual (May 2011) 7 1.7%

Highline SD:

Race/Ethnicity (October 2010)
American Indian/Alaskan Native 231 1.3%
Asian 2,670 14.9%
Pacific Islander 741 4.1%
Asian/Pacific Islander 3,411 19.0%
Black 1,990 11.1%
Hispanic 6,070 33.8%
White 4,820 26.8%

Free or Reduced-Price Meals (May 2011) 11,921 66.9%
Special Education (May 2011) 2,431 13.6%
Transitional Bilingual (May 2011) 3,764 21.1%
Po3 said…
I am starting to get the sense that more and more schools will move away from EDM using different means and the district will simply turn a blind eye so they won't ever have to admit at their failed K-8 adoption.

Now, about that CMP and Discovery Math materials. Will we see more of the same?
Anonymous said…
I was at the meeting last night and while we are very interested in the school, a few things give me pause. My biggest concern is the very short timeline to make a decision based on very little information. In applying for and being admitted to the stem school, you give up the seat in your attendance school and in our case we won't have an option to get back in especially if boundaries are redrawn in a year or two. I wish the district would get a month or two down the road in the planning process and extend the open enrollment deadline at least through March. I know this probably isn't possible, but would be my wish. If I could attend a meeting of the design committee and meet the principal and maybe a few teachers, I would feel a lot better about signing up.

I also want to add that I am concerned about gender imbalance at the school. I have a girl and this issue is definitely concerning for me. On the other hand, I love the idea of her being in an environment that truly nurtures and supports math and science. The kids from Aviation High (including a girl) spoke about how great it was to be in an environment where it was actually cool to be into science. As a scientist myself, I love that.

WS Mama
Anonymous said…
WS Mama, you don't have to make this choice during open enrollment. You could wait until September and, assuming there is room, your child could enroll then. The only thing you lose by waiting for more information is a sense of certainty that there will be room for your child.

The sentiment you express is shared by the majority of people who attended last night. I, for one, will be waiting until I know more. I will be meeting the principal, looking at teacher assignments, and following the design team's focus. If SPS can actually live up to its promises then I will be looking to enroll my daughter there. But, I won't be doing it on their timeline. If I miss the boat, then well, I'm in no worse shape than I was before!

Charlie Mas said…
I know that little about the school has been determined. That's a good thing. That's what it looks like when the community has a role in the decision-making.

You can help make the school the way you want it to be.
Anonymous said…
I like the way you think Stringcheese! We plan to do the same. Wait and see and we also may check out Pathfinder as an alternative to both. It is nice to have options and always important to remember that I have a kindergartner who is thriving and happy and that is what is important.

WS mama
Linh-Co said…
If Boren chooses Singapore Math, I hope the staff will get professional development from Dr. Bisk and not central office math coaches. Singapore is not an easy curriculum to use if you don't have math content knowledge.

Schmitz Park staff did receive some training. They also have complete buy-in from the staff.
Anonymous said…
Charlie, THAT is why I and about 200 others will be submitting applications for the design team. It's an exciting time!

Anonymous said…
How do we even know that Singapore Math will be approved for this school? I know that everyone WANTS this math program at this school, but what's the process for the waiver? And honestly, if it's that easy to change the curriculum from the standard, why isn't it being done at ALL schools already?

-West Seattle Parent
Joy A. said…
I left the school boards meeting early, drove around Schmitz Park for 20 minutes trying to park, and was shocked to see the overflow crowd. It was only dissapointment from there. The District representatives knew the answers to one out of eveey five questions asked. You could cut the frustration with a knife. They could not even tell the crowd how many students they thought would be admitted. That building housed an an entire high school for years, yet they can't decide the enrollment? 350, 500? Class size? Not a clue. I felt compelled to ask them some of the harder questions, such as, "The last time this school was used as an elementary school, as the Cooper kids were housed there, waiting for their new building, there were no portables at Boren. Will the portables be removed so that the children be able to play on the playground again?" They did't know. What about the children who were assigned to schools not in their neighborhood due to the District's school closures? If they try STEM school, and it isn't a good fit, they lose their spot in their current school, and would be forced, due to NSAP, to go to their neighborhood school, which may not have been their original school. 3 schools. With so few details about this new school, why would a parent take that chance? Since there would probably be more boys at this school than girls, would there be an effort to hire more male teachers? What about teachers of color? A study was done, citing that many immigrant children of African descent, scored higher on math tests than other children of color. At Cooper, the children scored higher on the math WASL than the children at Arbor Heights. Yet it did not look like the District made any real effort to.include our sizeable African popluation in this conversation. With as many Somali cab driving PH.D. engineers I have met, this just slays me. I suggested that the District have this meeting at West Seattle Elementary and be aure to have translators. This was hailed as a "good idea" as if it were a.completely new concept to them. Unbelievable.

This meeting really seemed to me to be an lacklustre attempt to appease the parents of North West Seattle on their capacity woes. Unfortunately, I think it may have backfired, due to their incredible lack of information. The Disrtict underestimated parents every time, and they always blow it for the children. Business as usual.
Joy A. said…
Oh, yes. And the big carrot they dangled in front of these parents, was "Apply to be on the design team! Then you can make this school whatever you want!" To a lot of those parents fresh of a stint from one of those control freak PTA's we hear so much about, I am sure this sounded like nirvana... (The paradise, not the band...) I hope that the District makes a concerted effort to build a culturally diverse design team, and listens to the opinions of ALL parents, and even children, from West Seattle. This coukd be a eeally great thing, or a real distater. Only time will tell. The District is at a fork in the road wirh this one. Hope they choose the correct one for a change.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlie Mas said…
West Seattle Parent asked how the district officials could speak so casually about Boren STEM using Singapore Math instead of EDM when it is reputedly so hard to get a waiver for that.

It's a good question.

The first answer is that Boren STEM is an option school. As an option school it is likely to be a Creative Approach School. As a Creative Approach School it is unbound by any District Policies, including the one that demands the use of Board-adopted basic instructional materials.

The second answer is that the District is really, really focused on capacity management right now. It is trumping everything else. One of the biggest capacity crunches in West Seattle is the overcrowding at Schmitz Park. Families want to enroll their children at Schmitz Park for the Singapore Math like they want to enroll their children at JSIS for the language immersion. The solution to the over-crowding at Schmitz Park is to create another Singapore Math school. In Seattle Public Schools, the operations tail wags the academic dog. As much as the folks in Teaching and Learning hate, Hate, HATE granting a waiver from the Board-adopted instructional materials, they are over-ruled by Facilities and Enrollment Planning.
Anonymous said…
"You can help make the school the way you want it to be."

Oh puhleeze, that's the ONE argument a district that has no CLUE what they're doing will pull. Et tu, Charlie?

Remember that if Boren and any other self-respecting school, "creative" or not, wants Singapore, it's gotta come outa bake sale money. All those ED math books will be gathering dust in the JSCEE warehouse, along with half of the staff in that building.

Mr Ed
Anonymous said…
STEM schools becomes STEAM schools become another regular school. How many reinventions of the schoolhouse have we seen over the last fifty years?

We can honestly do it all if we get rid of the top-heavy hierarchy and go back to good old renaissance teaching which should include twenty-first century math. And hire teachers who are as math-ready in elementary as they are literacy-ready.

I think that's our biggest STEM problem.


PS: we must dump EDM. I keep trying . . First grade algebra
Anonymous said…
Let's try that link again: first-grade algebra

Lebanon, which educates 4,000 students in eight schools, is pushing algebra on students as early as first grade. And the kids are getting it.

More than 80 percent of Lebanon eighth-graders passed the state math test, compared with 66 percent at schools with similar demographics. No other large or medium-size Oregon district outdid its peers by 15 percentage points.

Still, Lebanon leaders say they expect better results this school year and next, as more teachers adopt early algebra and pupils who've been solving for x since primary school advance into higher grades and take state tests.
Betsy Hammond, The OregonianTop: Third-graders Mya Corbett (left) and Lori Haley puzzle out an algebra equation to describe the numeric pattern they see. Students at Riverview Elementary and in the rest of the Lebanon school district learn algebra as early as first grade under an innovative teaching approach that has led to strong math achievement among elementary and middle school students in a district where about half the students come from low-income families. Bottom: Third-graders Alan Carver (left) and Casey McEuen observe the algebraic relationship between the number of triangles they add to their row and how many edges are exposed. Both boys say working on hard math problems is fun.

They also acknowledge that their successes in elementary and middle schools are not matched at Lebanon High, which posts some of the worst math scores in Oregon. Math coach Joe Vore and others say they expect that will turn around as students who got a solid grounding in math during the early grades reach high school and as district efforts to improve math teaching shift to the high school.

Anonymous said…
One more thing: the District did supplement EDM with Singapore several years ago. But, it was not consumable because they would not replace workbooks.

Singapore came in paperback everything. It isn't the multi-million dollar marketed curriculum that EDM and others are. At least, not the one we got. Other countries do not spend nearly as much on the programs we do. Paperback is fine. Fewer bells and whistles is fine. Our school is overflowing with over-priced manipulatives. With every new program comes a new bin of pattern blocks, cubes, chain links, geoblocks, number cards . . . Some of us suprlus the old stuff. There's only so much room... Other teachers cram it into every open space they can find whether in their rooms or shared hallways. It becomes a problem for everyone.

I have texts from Romania and England. Nice, simple probably government-issue paperback texts. Only in America must we educate kids for the purpose of providing profits to marketers. And education is one of the last industries to be exploited. Boy, are we being exploited. Enfield and Thompson apparently love marketers. The latest, the Danielson rubric, is nothing more than common sense and old teaching models with a price tag. That's what you get when you hire inexperienced teachers - dare I say "special ed" - for administrative positions.


(I'm venting today.)
Anonymous said…
To Joy A,

You've given WS parents and students a wake up call. Form a genuine coalition and make this school one that all can be proud of. Count on this district for nothing except CYA. They count on keeping parents divided. The experienced parent voices can make time to help others add their voices. That and any political backing you can muster. You'll need it. This is your chance to do what LEV claims to do but never does. Make this school truly diverse and a place that serves all students.

Interests genuinely committed to serving all students will help you. Those who have another agenda won't. You know what to do.

Let the students and families of W Seattle collect on the huge debt they are owed by this district.

Mr. White

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