Monday, May 21, 2012

Important C & I Committee Meeting Today

The Board's Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee will have a very important meeting today. They will discuss a number of critical issues that they have needed to talk about for some time.

Superintendent Procedure 2163SP, Supports and Interventions. This procedure will be new. It will describe how the superintendent will implement Board Policy 2163, Supports and Interventions. I cannot stress enough the critical role that supports and interventions plays in closing the academic achievement gap. They are also critically important to curricular alignment, providing equitable opportunities to students across the district, and the quality assurance function of the central administration.

Appropriately, the policy only makes general statements about how and when schools and teachers will apply supports and interventions. From the Policy:
The district utilizes the core principles of the Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) process which combines systematic assessment, decision-making and a multi-tiered services delivery model to improve educational and social and emotional behavioral outcomes for all students. Under this model, students receive support through differentiation in core classroom instruction and small group instruction in class or during additional intervention time.
MTSS is the new acronym for what used to be called RTI, Response to Intervention. They are the same thing. I don't know why, but the education business is constantly changing their nomenclature. I keep telling myself that it isn't done specifically to confuse and mystify outsiders, but I don't see what other effect it has.

The policy authorizes the superintendent to develop procedures to implement student interventions. If we are going to see the early and effective interventions needed to help students - all students - work at grade level, and if we are going to see those interventions applied with uniform reliability across the district, we will need a strong procedure from the superintendent.

There is one interesting bit in the Board's policy about involving student families in the intervention:
The district shall inform parents/guardians regarding the use of scientific, research-based interventions, including: a) the state’s policies regarding the amount and nature of student’s performance data collected and the general education services provided; b) strategies used to increase the student’s rate of learning; c) and the parents/guardians’ right to request a special education evaluation.
One of the intriguing questions about MTSS is whether or not every student isn't regarded as working somewhere along that spectrum. It is supposed to be used for students who are working at and beyond grade level as well as for students who are working below grade level. This looks like it could be a ton of work for teachers. While it is work that we would all be delighted to see them do, and work that I'm sure they would be delighted to do, I'm not sure that the teachers will actually be afforded the time and resources needed to do this work or to make the best use of the work product.

Superintendent Procedure 4110SP, Family and Community Advisory and Oversight Committees. This is a wonderful procedure, as written. Unfortunately it has never really been followed. The procedure, for example, requires the superintendent to either implement the recommendations of advisory committees within three months of their delivery or provide a written explanation of why the recommendations have not, cannot, or will not be implemented. This would be amazing and wonderful accountability, but it has never happened. I don't know if the District will continue to make this promise that they cannot (or will not) keep, if they will delete it, or if they will replace it with a promise that they can manage.

Policy 2200, Equitable Access to Services and Programs. This policy is the revised version of Policy C56.00, Program Development and Placement. Yes. That's right. At long last the Board will actually turn their attention to the program placement policy. I'm pretty excited about this, but I'm going to try not to have any expectations for this discussion. We'll just see how it goes.

NWEA Contract. This is the MAP assessment. When the District first bought this test it was done within the context of the Strategic Plan, "Excellence for All", to provide a formative assessment that would be used district-wide. The test was purchased to provide teachers with data about individual student areas of strength and weakness to inform instruction. We got this as a tool for differentiating instruction. Unfortunately it is proving a poor tool for that task. It is administered too infrequently to perform that duty well and the results are proving too difficult for teachers to readily understand and apply. Also, from the day it was purchased, the District has not really talked about that application for it. Instead, the primary application for MAP is now as a Value-Added measure for teachers. I can only hope that the committee's discussion of this contract will include some talk about why we have this thing and how we are using it.

Cost increase for Social Studies adoption. This is an embarrassing little SNAFU. Apparently the district staff miscalculated the number of textbooks they would have to buy for the recent high school social studies instructional materials adoption. My understanding of the story is imperfect; please correct me if I have it wrong. The way I understand it, the folks at the district level saw that the 10th grade class, World History III, is a one-semester classes instead of a year-long class. They reckoned that half of the students would take the class in the first semester and half would take the class in the second semester, so they would only need half as many copies of the textbooks. Unfortunately, they didn't realize that all of the students take the class in first semester. Now they have to buy a lot more copies of the book than they originally included in the Board action and it will cost another $400,000, which requires them to go back to the Board for approval.

Don't look for any current information on this issue on the District's web pages dedicated to it; they are horribly out of date. Instead, look at the Board Action Report from the Board meeting of May 2, 2012 when the adoption was approved.

Policy 2420 (Running Start and Homeschool discussion). This is part of the High School Grade and Credit Marking Policy. This policy needs a lot of serious revision. It includes a lot of out-of-date stuff, such as a 150-hours of planned instruction requirement which is no longer required by state law. This work will be done by the High School Steering Committee, a group which has not earned our trust - or sought it. The committee will not be discussing the whole policy, just parts of it. Look for the staff to ask them to hold off on any action until a comprehensive revision comes out of the High School Steering Committee at some future date. Then look for the steering committee to miss that deadline.


Dorothy Neville said...

The Social Studies adoption SNAFU is bigger than the anecdote you mention. That's just part of it. Other reasons for being $400K over budget is that no one bothered to check for current prices -- the ones the district staff put in the action report were a year old. In that year, several texts were in new editions that required additional spending. In one case, it is electronic teacher editions. In another case, we are now purchasing a license for the electronic edition in addition to paper copies. So kids with internet at home (and no conflict with sharing computer with siblings or parents) can access the text for homework without having to carry the book home. I do not know if that license is required or optional. Additionally, they hadn't calculated to purchase some IB and AP SS texts (even though DeBell pointed out that some AP books were listed in the adoption material) AND they hadn't calculated that RHS uses a different text, since they are the only high school that teaches AP Human Geography. (But I don't think that's true, doesn't Garfield now teach it?) And then of course, there is the reason Charlie listed above, that some of the courses are semester in length, so Kathy Thompson and Co. assumed they could purchase half as many books.

Now the absolutely fascinating thing with that is that Michael DeBell's initial reaction is that Thompson should go to the high schools and insist they change their master schedule so that the students could take the class in either semester. Because of course the district needs to save every penny and this would save what? Maybe $50K to $100K? (and at no time did the board ask what portion of the $400K was caused by this particular bit of stupidity.) Marty MacLaren rightfully pointed out that this would be a huge undertaking with massive numbers of side effects and really not appropriate jurisdiction for board members. Michael even seemed to realize he was micromanaging and pointed out that he was just one board member! But then Carr agreed with Michael that it was worth asking the schools to consider changing the master schedule. So that makes two board members who want Thompson to pursue this.

Note that at no time did they ask what the course was or whether it was even academically sound to provide the course in both semesters. It was all about disrupting multiple high schools' master schedules to save a few one time dollars when the issue was the district staff (and the buck should stop with Thompson on this one) screwed up with their estimates. One would have thought that if the adoption committee authentically had teachers participating, this sort of mistake would not have happened.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The primary purpose of the MAP testing was to get rid of teachers. All educational value and any role it played in "interventions" was secondary. All one has to do is look around the country at all the frauds being perpetrated with the use of standardized test scores and so-called "value added" measures, and it quickly becomes obvious what its purpose is. Look who implemented it, where she came from, what boards she sat on, and the MBA-style rhetoric of "systems, policies, and procedures" which, like "Fitzer Valves" or "widgets" were merely words to describe things that don't actually exist. Sounds good, I guess, but does nothing.


Anonymous said...

Is this the meeting where they will talk about the non existent APP curriculum also?

Just because as another poster said in the other blog it would be time to come up with one that they could use in the different schools they split the program into:
"realist said...
The promise of an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum for APP was an empty promise made so the APP community would accept the completely pointless and irrational split of the program. The District never had any intention of fulfilling that promise; it was a political tool. The fact that we even remember it only shows how effectively it deceived us.

May 17, 2012 7:02 AM"


Anonymous said...

I heard that McLaren thinks MAP is nifty. She needs to hear from teachers.

MAP is lame and $$$

suep. said...

RE: NWEA's MAP® test, Charlie said: "...It is administered too infrequently to perform that duty well..."

I'm afraid I cannot agree with you on this, Charlie. SPS is already administering the MAP® 2-3 times a year to all K-9th graders, stealing as much as 9 weeks or more of teaching, library time and other resources from our kids each year.

Surely you're not suggesting it should be administered more frequently than that.

It's already excessive. And kids in grades 3-8 are given the week-long MSP tests as well as the MAP®, adding up to weeks of standardized testing each year.

MAP® is also being misused, as you said, to evaluate teachers, which even the vendor, NWEA, admits it is not designed for. It is costing our cash-strapped district millions in related expenses, yearly subscription fees, lost class time, and administrative and proctoring costs.

As the "recalibration" debacle earlier this year proved, the test isn't even reliable.

And don't forget how we got the MAP® in the first place -- thanks to former Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson who was on the board of directors of Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the company that makes and sells the MAP® test, at the time the district purchased it (in a no-bid contract). It took the state auditor to inform Goodloe-Johnson and our former school board that this was an ethics violation, and only then was she forced to step down from the NWEA board.

Our district is looking to cut costs in all the wrong places -- RIFing teachers, making ridiculous proposals for multi-tiered bus services, cutting counselors.

Instead, the district should cut what our kids truly do not need -- all the excessive, costly and unnecessary standardized testing.

It's time to can the MAP®.

15 Reasons Why the Seattle School District Should Shelve the MAP® Test—ASAP

Dorothy Neville said...

Sue, I think Charlie agrees with you. The fact that MAP is not given often enough to actually help guide instruction is one of the reasons why it is pointless to pursue this as a means of guiding instruction. It is much better to have weekly (or more often) short classroom based assessments to guide instruction. Certainly when I taught high school math, the weekly short quizzes were for that very purpose. Did the students actually learn what I thought they had learned? Seems like every account of high poverty school excelling that I have read about shares the behavior of constantly assessing kids to immediately guide instruction. And that's not fancy expensive disruptive MAP, but quick short assessments. The point being to not let any kid fall through the cracks, not let any kid sit through classes completely lost and getting farther behind. But of course you know that, I am just expounding for general folk to understand what I mean and how it is very different from the top-down decision to use MAP.

Anonymous said...

re: Dorothy Neville's account of the SNAFU:

First DeBell and Carr micromanaged staff to upset the bus schedules of thousands of kids to (possibly) save $1 mil. Now they are proposing upending difficult scheduling for hundreds of kids and staff at the building level to correct for staff budgeting stupidity?

1: Two Micromanagement Strikes for DeBell and Carr.

2: Two Bigger Strikes for ineptness from Transportation and Curriculum + Instruction management.

3: These clowns, by which I mean both board and downtown management, will not be getting my vote for operations or building $$ next year. Let the system suffer through a lost levy vote or two. SPS needs a complete remake downtown. Tear it down and start over. A revolt at the polls is the only signal left to send, in my book.

Horrified Taxpaying Parent

Charlie Mas said...

My statement about the infrequency of the MAP test was intended as Dorothy wrote.

Anonymous said...

I am guessing that MTSS is being implemented because RTI is a federally funded mandate which is a part of the 2004 IDEA reautorization. As part of that law, students who are already receiving special education services may not also be given additional intervention services via RTI if it is being funded with Early Intervention Services (EIS) funding. Maybe the district is implementing a similar policy, but calling it something else to get around the insane funding restrictions and rules that are coupled with IDEA. It will allow them more freedom and autonomy over who is helped with what funding. Just my guess though?

I probably just lost half of you. Special Education law is incredibly complicated. This link is helpful.

Teacher Sally

SeattleSped said...

Teacher Sally,

This concerns me. I really don't want to give our district administrators a means to get around funding restrictions because they have demonstrated that they will play fast and loose with money, if given the chance.

Jan said...

I would LOVE to see them get rid of the NWEA contract (there is your extra money for SS books -- right there -- with change to spare). But we have been so busy at "whack-a-mole," and the non-MAP arguments become so political if and when we add to the debate their (mis-)use for teacher evaluations -- I don't hold out much hope. I think the BEST we might hope for, until parents and teachers get organized enough to mount a really educational campaign -- is to continue to chip away at the cost and intrusiveness. I think it would be great (and cost less) if they were administered only to grades 3 through 8. That alone cuts the damage down to less than half of the total kids (assuming equal numbers per grade -- which probably isn't a safe assumption, now that I think of it). Then, I think that teachers and families need to start working on normative assessments that DO work (the kind Dorothy describes and Charlie was thinking of) -- and implement those. When it becomes obvious that all that is left is use for teacher evaluation -- in less than half of all grades, maybe the powers that be will see their way to getting rid of MAP in favor of less expensive, more reliable options to evaluate kids.

Disgusted said...

Thanks, Dorothy. DeBell uses the "micromanage" theme to silence and control his colleagues. He conveniently pulls out the "micromanage theme" when he is pushing his agenda.

Personally, I don't think there is anything wrong with the board offering suggesions..particularily since we'll be getting a new superintendent that will not have historical knowledge. But, it is another thing to talk out of both sides of your mouth.

Charlie Mas said...

Teacher Sally is right. The MTSS (RTI under a new name) is being implemented because its use has been federally mandated under IDEA.

Charlie Mas said...

I attended the meeting and took notes. It will just take me a little while to type them out in a coherent way.

Here is the short version:

MTSS will be piloted in ten schools and rolled out to all schools by 2014. It is required by federal law to reduce SpEd caseloads, but it is the way that schools should operate anyway. The District will use district-wide screening tests for all students (quick ones - not a great burden) to determine which students need diagnostic tests. This will fill the gap left because MAP is too bulky to work well as a formative assessment. They will work on adopting instructional materials for students in Tier II of intervention. There will be a menu of district supported interventions and schools could do others if the data supports it.

Program Placement policy will be renamed Equitable Access to Programs and Services. The staff is trying to eviscerate the policy by removing the transparency requirement. The policy is called equitable access but makes no reference to equitable access.

NWEA contract. The staff all know why the MAP is so wonderful, they just haven't done a good job of explaining it to anyone. It will cost us $481K next year.

The cost increase for the social studies materials is due to a variety of reasons. The committee was invited to make decisions at a level of detail that was unquestionably micro-management. None of them hesitated.

There was a truly brilliant piece of work by Holly Ferguson and Michael Tolley on a policy that will allow some common sense when home-schooled children enter the district in high school. They will be able to have appropriate credit and class standing. It was a really simple and elegant solution and they deserve a lot of credit for it. It will also allow home-schooled students to gain access to Running Start, which had been a problem under the old policy. They not only did a nice job on it, they did it quickly.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is good news.

Charlie, let me ask you something? Do you ever see the school board making rules and regulations prohibiting adults from maneuvering through school channels demanding the interruption of a child's education for a long long time? That is a significant disruption of a young child's education, no? You know, a full on school board discussion about implementing policies and procedures on this topic in order to protect children. So let's say that adults seek to disrupt a child's education for a long long time? A long long time is a long long time? No due process? Isn't due process something that public school children are entitled to? Isn't that demand an attempt at trying to violate a child's civil rights, Charlie? It seems like you want to be on the school board and so I pose this question to you because I would find your answer interesting.I wonder if you would be in favor of a child getting suspended for a LONG LONG time for misdeeds that were taken out of context in the first place to support the demand? Would you, Charlie, hopeful future member of the school board, support these actions and would you sanction the adults who were demanding this of a school district? Just a little food for thought for you.


CT said...

DeBell and Carr get more shortsighted every day. I am looking forward to Superintendent Banda's presence to see how things mix at these meetings. I am hopeful that he will have a better grasp on the big picture - and some longterm goals - than some of the current yokels who are running the show.

Off topic, but oh the cognitive dissonance that occurs for me when seeing Charlie's name and comments and Enfield's picture.

Charlie Mas said...


I'm afraid that what you wrote was too cryptic for me. I have no idea what you're talking about.

Charlie Mas said...

The members of the C & I Committee are Marty McLaren (chair), Sharon Peaslee, and Harium Martin-Morris.

As Kathleen Vasquez was leading them through the additional funding needed for the social studies adoption they were going through each school's request for funding and discussing whether they should pay for that or not. Pay for AP textbooks? Yes. Pay to replace three-year old copies of earlier editions of the same books at two schools? No. That's not policy work. That's not governance. They should have recognized that these were management decisions, offered guidance in terms of a general rule, and backed away.

Anonymous said...

Teacher Sally has it exactly wrong. RTI is not supposed to be another thing that excludes kids with disabilities. That is illegal. Unfortunately, it's what many schools do, including mine. Neither is it supposed to supplant special education funding. RTI is a tiered intervention system. Each tier is cummulative, with special education being the last tier. The idea is that students get the intervention they need BEFORE they are pushed into special education. Students needing the most intervention (those who are in special education) should have access to all tiers of RTI. Each tier is in addition to the tiers below it.

-special education parent

mirmac1 said...

I don't totally agree with you, Charlie. When staff cannot conform to budgets, and when changes exceed a certain threshold ($250K in this case), the board must approve the change and/or purchase.

To do otherwise would make them into rubberstampers. The Committee can go through and make their recommendation on this request by staff. I would prefer they get into the nitty-gritty of what went wrong, instead of shrugging their shoulders and whining "what can we do?" Then a board member may offer up an amendment to the board action to approve. The board can vote yea or nay.

Wouldn't it have been nice if a previous board had taken such an interest in our math materials? These staff get great salarie$ and should be expected to do better. Remember, high expectations!