Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Open Thread

First up , Thank You for your support of the No On 1240 Money Blast!  It  was a great success and will allow more outreach to voters. 

Next, will you look at this?  After only 17 months in Chicago, yet-another ex-Broadie bites the education dust.  This would be Chicago Schools' "CEO" Jean-Claude Brizard. 

Also, two Director Community Meetings tomorrow:

Carr - 8:30-10 am at Bethany Community Church, 8023 Green Lake Dr. (access at N 81st by playground)

Martin-Morris - 9:30 am -11:30 am at Diva Espresso at 80th and Lake City Way

And will you look at that?  It's wet stuff on the ground.  Perfect time to go see a movie.  If you have teens (well, actually there is nothing really objectionable to this movie but teens might like it best) or like a story of the triumph of the human spirit, go see the documentary, Searching for Sugar Man at the Varsity.  (I'm going to see the lead play tonight at the Showbox.)

It's the story of a guy who, in the late '60s, cut two rock albums that were critically acclaimed and yet went nowhere.  He went back to working construction in Detroit and that was it. 

Or was it? 

I don't want to give away the secret of what happens but the focus of the story, Sixto Rodriguez, is about the most zen, generous person you will ever meet on a screen.  His ability to transcend his circumstances and his quiet dignity is a lesson for us all.  Uplifting and amazing.  I predict an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary (and probably the win).


Anonymous said...

Why not buy back the lease for the Lakecity school property, about $3 million, remodel it, and get the playground back from the city, and move Jane Addams k-8 there? That should be our quid-pro-quo. "City, Mike, you want /demand a downtown school from SPS, then sell us the property back for a new - and desperately needed- lake city school".

Moving JA to that would work and would leave Pinehurst unperturbed (for now).

If I was JA, I would POUND the mayor, I mean, I would organize shift to sleep outside his office starting yesterday, and get that property back ASAP.

You'd be doing the SPS a huge favor, because they need that property back anyway, they just lack the foresight (shock!) to grab it a few months ago when their lease came calling to dump it.

Get the playground back and you are golden. Yes, the community enjoys the park and wants to put a skate park there, but ' imminent domain' ( not legally, just colloquially) must carry that day here. This invokes pretty much ALL children east of the I-5 and north of the ship canal: Eckstein gets relief, olympic Hills, Olympic View, etc, gets a middle school ( sorry to offend or shock people about which elementaries are going to have their feeding pattern altered away from Eckstein, but that is geography....), Jane Addams program and community survived in a great location (way better than John Marshall!), Pinehurst survives, and there are more home rooms added into the system for elementary right where they are needed (there will be growth in enrollment here, think of the acres ro be developed right there, all 14 of them!).

This isn't the easiest solution, unlike canabalizing Pinehurtst, and it may not be the preferred solution from Jsne Addams' perspective (just leave us in our building!). But, it really is the optimal solution for the 5,900 k-8 school children who live in the Eckstein middle school feeder area.

Jane Addams, if you get this to happen, you deserve a massive debt of gratitude from everybody. Sorry this falls to you, but who else is going to carry the torch? You guys are the ones in the cross hairs. If you decide to lobby for this solution, nonJsne Addamites should/will also get in the tents in front of city hall. And while you're at it, talk to Norm Rice, because he wants to be a savior of sorts for education. Give him credit for the idea, politicians do love the credit. Me, I just love to see communities respected and school children thrive.

Signed, I know this is next to impossible but it really can work!!!

Dora said...

It's a good day all around particularly with the news that the school board Executive Committee voted to pass through a resolution saying "No on I 1240".

Speaking of which, I know that Melissa has versed everyone who reads this blog on I 1240 but I wanted to add my two cents.

I posted
Why Initiative 1240 won’t work for Washington State: The abbreviated version

to be used in soundbites or op-ed's. Use as you see fit.

mirmac1 said...


I urge you to take your student to see Bully, The Movie, showing at the Admiral Twin Theaters in WS from 10/12-10/18 as part of National Bullying Prevention Month. Take note, the movie is rated PG-13 and is emotionally evocative. The message is SO important however, as we read today that a Vancouver B.C. teen took her own life due to cyberbullying.

Melissa Westbrook said...

...Lakecity school property.."

It is an office complex now so beyond buying out the lease, you'd have to do some kind of remodeling.

But I applaud your out-of-the-box thinking which the district too easily rejects.

Mirmac, I heard good things about that film as well. Documentaries can be good movies for kids.

Patrick said...

Wikipedia says the Lake City School property is also now a landmark, so there would be only internal remodeling possible. Are there spaces suitable for a cafeteria, gym, science labs in there?

Anonymous said...

Here's a story that the Times ran and then buried quickly when the Bezos family, Connie Balmer and Stand for Children took a beating by commenters for trying to buy itself a corporate education reform candidate. Worth reading because it shows how badly S4C wants to bulldoze WA voters.


JADad said...

@Patrick - Landmarking doesn't necessarily prohibit expansion of a building, though I don't know the specifics on that. It was discussed when they were trying to figure out if they could cram us into Cedar Park.

If the final facility was big enough to accomodate our program, I think most Jane Addams K-8 families would consider Lake City a good alternative.

Anonymous said...

Looking for other's experiences with this question. My daughter just entered 6th grade in a new school, which is a K-8.

For 6th grade for each class, "effort" is 60% of the grade and "performance" is 40%.

For 7th grade, effort and performance are each 50% of the grade for each class.

For 8th grade, effort is 40% of the grade and performance is 60% of the grade.

Is this the standard middle school grading approach? I am just wondering if this is more of a school by school thing or district wide for middle school.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.


JADad said...

And by the way "I know this is next to impossible but it really can work!!!", that was a pretty great pep talk.

Anonymous said...

Fedmomof2 - my daughter is in 7th grade at HIMS. Her grades are a combination of participation, homework, tests, and assignments. Participation I think is in the 5% - 10% range.

HIMS mom.

Unknown said...

A bit of humor for Friday. When only one word on charter schools will do -- malarkify it! http://bit.ly/Riyves

Charlie Mas said...


Grades are supposed to reflect the students progress towards the grade level expectations for the Standards. Effort isn't supposed to have anything to do with it.

There is a policy regarding high school grade marking but it is almost unintelligible. There is no policy regarding middle school grades. This may be because middle school grades don't matter.

Jan said...

FedMomof2: I cannot speak to the policy -- but let me put in a plug for the concept.

My most successful (of 3) students attended a private middle school (Spectrum kid with no seat available). The school had an honor roll (and a sports participation policy) that was built entirely around turning in homework. All of it. On time. Every day. In the end, what it did was "level the playing field" between the "smart" kids and those who weren't as smart, but who worked hard, kept up their planners, stayed organized (or got help getting organized). When high school hit -- and the grades mattered -- this child was FAR more successful than the older APP sibling who was less organized, more inclined to get by on brilliance rather than hard work, far more likely to procrastinate, etc.

If EVER there is a time for teachers to concentrate on habit training -- it is middle school!

Obviously, none of this means we should overlook grades, pass kids who haven't mastered concepts, etc. It just means that for this school, what got measured got done -- and what they measured (in terms of honor roll -- not grades) was consistently doing the work -- all of it -- all the time, and on time. For my child, this (along with one middle school teacher who loved literature, and literary ideas, with a passion) were the two biggest things, over twelve years, that contributed to his academic success.

Anonymous said...


Comments open....

Public School Parent

Anonymous said...

Grades are supposed to reflect the students progress towards the grade level expectations for the Standards. Effort isn't supposed to have anything to do with it.

You contradict yourself. If there is no policy, then "progress towards standard" isn't what grades are "supposed" to do, necessarily. If there's no policy, then the meaning of grades is undefined, and yes, left up to the school. In point of fact, middle schools do it all sorts of ways.

Furthermore, effort is something necessary to make progress towards standards. So effort may well be a worthwhile thing to measure and base grades upon. "Standards" based grades is essentially grading based on demographics alone. Nobody, anywhere has moved the needle in the demographic linkage between perforance and standards. There are so many standards in every given subject, which one is really being measured for the report card? We already have the MSP/HSPE/EOC for progress towards standards. We also have MAP given 3 times a year. There are many things to factor in when grading that are equally important. Effort, citizenship, behavior, perserverance, creativity, etc. Many of these things are very important success factors in college and life. It's reasonable to use them in grading.


hschinske said...

"The school had an honor roll (and a sports participation policy) that was built entirely around turning in homework. All of it. On time. Every day. In the end, what it did was "level the playing field" between the "smart" kids and those who weren't as smart, but who worked hard, kept up their planners, stayed organized (or got help getting organized).

That practice doesn't actually level the playing field at all. It turns it into a completely different playing field, on which different students are handicapped. In fact it's practically guaranteed under such a policy that some of the students with the highest actual achievement would not make honor roll. Continuing to call it "honor roll" under such circumstances seems to me to be blatant anti-intellectualism, and exactly the kind of thing that puts kids' backs up and makes them not WANT to follow the rules.

That said, I have nothing against teaching better executive function skills. I would have been ecstatic for someone to actually do that with my kids, rather than just piling on the work and expecting them to deal. And if they had such an honor without calling it "honor roll," it would be okay with me.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Some of the students with the highest actual achievement would not make honor roll. Continuing to call it "honor roll" under such circumstances seems to me to be blatant anti-intellectualism

Just depends. Are you actually recognizing "acheivement"? Are you saying students should get some "I'm smart award?" That's not my idea of an honor roll either. Because a student may show up already at the honor roll level, and actually having achieved nothing at all in the timeframe the award is for. I see nothing wrong with making such a student demonstrate that they actually did something, learned something, or grew... not that they were simply at a certain level. Having such a requirement isn't anti-intellectual. It's more intellectual actually.

Another parent

Anonymous said...

I think I have described Eckstein's standards-based grading here before. There is an academic grade that solely measures how close you are to standard academically. Then there is an effort grade that includes organization, timeliness, compliance, social skills, etc. It was introduced last year and is making headway among most teachers. There is an emphasis on teaching kids to take responsibility for academic improvement. A bad test score is a message to the child that they need to work more on that topic. They are offered ways to improve then retake the test or rewrite the paper or whatever.

Eckstein Parent

old salt said...

The discussion about grades brings up a discussion that I had recently with a high school teacher. She was upset that middle school sped students were coming to her class expecting modifications. She said that in high school they had to award credit & that meant something specific. She did not elaborate on what that meant.

So I have been trying to figure it out. Credit doesn't mean the child learned a specific amount, because they don't pre-test, some kids may have learned twice as much as others (or nothing at all), but get the same credit.

Credit doesn't represent what they know, because they don't get credit for knowledge they gained outside of school even if their high school awards credit for that subject in a class.

Credit doesn't measure effort by time spent since we know how widely seat time varies.

So I'm asking, What is credit? How is it standard across the district or the state?

Anonymous said...
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hschinske said...

Another parent: no, I don't think students should get awards for being smart. I'm not sold on honor rolls at all, to be honest. I don't think they have a whole lot to do with higher standards or with real learning. When I said "the highest achievement," all I meant was the kind of achievement that people usually expect when they hear the term "honor roll" -- high grades.

And yeah, if students know the material beforehand and can ace the classes without working very hard, it's the school's fault for not challenging them further, not theirs. Excluding them from honor roll for not being able to show their true achievement is valuing hoop-jumping over learning.

What usually happens, though, is that the school makes the class harder to ace by requiring more volume of output. Then it doesn't matter whether you already know the material -- you can't test out. You still have to do all the worksheets, the dioramas, the papers, etc. That's not nothing in terms of effort, no matter how much you already know about algebra or the Thirty Years' War. It's just way duller than getting to do the same stuff with material that's actually teaching you something new along the way.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...


When teachers submit official grades at the end of the semester they are required to give separate grades in three categories - the actual academic grade earned for the course, as well as effort and citizenship. I don't understand how your kid's school gets away with putting %60 effort weight into the grade earned when there's already a designated category for that. Seems fishy.

open ears

Anonymous said...

As a former MS teacher, I often argued with admin about the practice that I was expected to include "effort" in an academic grade as well as assign and "effort" grade at the end of every marking period. The effort grade seemed arbitrary and potentially problematic when a kid might have "tried and worked hard" thereby earning an A for effort, but only earned a C- or D academically. It was like sending home a message of "your kid isn't very bright". It was equally as scathing when a kid didn't work hard and got a B or A- "relying on brilliance" alone, when I would be obligated to award an effort grade of C or D because they didn't meet all the "effort rubric" criteria for earning a higher effort grade. The citizenship grade? Forget about it! Talk about a grade that automatically means "the teacher hates me/likes me" regardless of the criteria it might be based on.
-glad to be out of that nightmare.

Josh Hayes said...

Since this is an open thread, let me ask this: one of the Pinehurst parents went and talked with Director Carr this morning (Saturday), and the director seems absolutely certain that the capacity at the Pinehurst building, as is, is between 400 and 500. The actual capacity, according to our district contacts, is, right now, about 240. I could see if she thought it was, say, 270, or 300, but how could she be off by a factor of two?

And before you suggest that she meant post-construction capacity, no, she was clear that she meant right now. Hard to imagine how she could make an informed decision when she's been so poorly informed. Has anyone else seen that kind of number out there? I can't find it ANYWHERE in SPS documents, but she must have seen it somewhere.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Director Carr saw these numbers in a document. But it certainly seemed to be implied at the BEX meeting.

At BEX, there was a big push from somewhere to repurpose JA for Sept 2013 and move JA into Pinehurst for Sept 2013. I have gotten over a dozen emails from parents urging me to contact the board to urge them to move JA into Pinehurst immediately to relieve the crowding at Eckstein.

I think the bomb scare at Eckstein has made everyone pretty crazy. Eckstein was way crowded at 1100 at 1300, it is just insane.

- ne parent

Another NE Parent said...

Move JA to Pinehurst immediately? The 2 schools total at over 700 kids. What are we talking here? Triple shifts? Tents? Anti-gravity belts?

Unknown said...

Josh, I'm with you. Long-time observer of facilities and I have never seen Pinehurst above 400. I have no idea where it's coming from.

Another NE parent, if it wasn't so troubling, your words would be very funny.

Anonymous said...

As an Eckstein parent, I think the overcrowding there is unsafe and damages learning opportunities. I do not think that moving JA & AS1 will solve that. It is just displacing other kids into really crowded environments.

This is not new. Eckstein has more than 450 kids in portables. They can not open their lockers between classes because they can not give up the extra 9 inches that takes away from hall traffic. And don't even imagine what that means for the bathrooms, ugh. The district has known for years that it was bad and that is was going to get worse.

Why can't Eckstein's 6th grade be moved into Lincoln? Roosevelt fit there so it must be big enough for LOL & 500 6th graders. And JA could take some portables to add to their middle school. Definitely use anti-gravity belts at AS1 & JA to attract middle schoolers who might otherwise go to Eckstein.

-Eckstein Parent

Anonymous said...

Open the Jane Addams middle school immediately?? As in next fall?

A middle school is more than just kids assigned to an empty building! What are these people thinking?

I understand how terrible the crowding is at Eckstein, but to want to kick kids out of Eckstein without a plan is unbelievably selfish and harsh, not to mention the damage this would do to Jane Addams K-8 and Pinehurst K-8.


-Eckstein Bound (and reconsidering)

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

On a different topic, how are 6th grade parents feeling about APP @ Hamilton this year? We have been surprised at what seem to be moving targets with grading, and some assignments that seem beyond the realm of appropriateness for 6th graders. The science teacher has instituted a new grading policy called 'conjunctive' grading, which is intended to avoid kids 'coasting' for the A at the end of the semester if they have a high average by 'linking' the high and low grades (so that lower grades count disproportionately). For our perfectionistic kid, this has been devastating - one missed homework assignment, and he thinks he's failing. The science teacher announced at curriculum night that he had made a mistake in his formulat that the HIMS math faculty helped him correct (and suddenly everyone's grades went up on the Source), and also announced by email this week that kids could make up work that they missed or done poorly on. The English teacher showed a 10th grade example for what she is expecting in writing, even though these kids are expected to perform at 8th grade level. Our kid has been in APP for several years, but is there something going on here that we're missing? Instructional quality issues or curriculum issues?
--Not so sure about APP

Charlie Mas said...

There is a district document that reports the capacity of Pinehurst.

It's the Capacity Planning and Management Annual Report January 2011.

Pinehurst appears on the report because it is one the "Capacity Challenges". On page 5, at the top, the District Capacity Management Report shows the K-5 capacity of Pinehurst (AS #1) as 175 and the 6-8 capacity as 90. This makes a total capacity of 265.

That is the official capacity of Pinehurst according to the the District's own annual Capacity Management Report.

Charlie Mas said...

To -Not so sure about APP

Gee, it sounds like what we need is an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum for APP. You know, like the one that we were promised would be implemented concurrent with the split. Like the one that the APP Review said we absolutely need. Like the one that we still don't have.

Anonymous said...

Old Salt says: She [the teacher] was upset that middle school sped students were coming to her class expecting modifications.

Students with disabilities have modified grades on their IEPs. They have the right to modified content. They also have modified HSPEs. And, they may be getting a certificate of individual accomplishment. Where has this teacher been all these years? She's a bit of a bonehead if she doesn't know that by now. She needs to get with the IEP team and decide what standards the kid is supposed to be working at.

-sped parent

Anonymous said...

Helen, material in any class can ALWAYS be accessed at many different levels. So what does it really mean to "Ace" the material and get on the honor roll? If you demonstrate some level of "achievement" that required nothing from you, just because it's in some standard's book, that really shouldn't earn you anything special, except maybe a "pass" since you do actually need the credit at the high school level.

I don't really think it's the school's fault for "not challenging" the student either as you put it. Students often elect the classes they take, and elect the level of depth they choose to take the subject. If schools decide to assign meaningless hoop-jumping for grades, yes, that's on the school. But, they don't have to do it that way.

Another Parent

old salt said...

Thank you Sped Parent,

I didn't have the experience to rebut the teacher's claim about modifications, though I know that sped students could get modifications in curriculum elementary & middle school.

Does modification to high school curriculum mean that they have a modified diploma or are the credits somehow marked at modified? I was surprised to hear the concern about credit & modifications because I never understood 'credit' to have any standard meaning. So if credit means different things in different classes or different schools or between different students, how could modifying the curriculum be a problem?

Any further enlightenment would be welcome.

Anonymous said...

@Not so sure about APP - 6th grade APP at HIMS had many issues last year. One of the complaints was age inappropriate material in 6th grade LA/SS (one class in particular), so the issues were around both curriculum and instructional quality. If you have concerns, speak up now with staff at HIMS. The science teacher is different than last year's 6th grade teacher.

You will find some teachers believe adding "challenge" to a class means going beyond what is age appropriate both content wise and work load wise. Some believe kids need to experience failure, even if it means imposing unrealistic expectations. These attitudes have most often come from teachers with little to no gifted ed training.

hschinske said...

'conjunctive' grading, which is intended to avoid kids 'coasting' for the A at the end of the semester if they have a high average

If it's possible to "coast" at the end of the class, then either there isn't much vital being done at that time, or the grade weighting hitherto hasn't accurately reflected what proportion of the material the kids are supposed to have finished. Neither one is the kid's fault.

In any case, a conscientious student won't usually coast, at least not to the point of doing their work any harm, because (a) they're in the habit of doing their work regularly, and (b) they may well actually care about learning something. Neither of those qualities is something you can put into a kid by means of ever more punitive grading. Punitive grading actually promotes practices like coasting, because it teaches kids to pay attention to the minutiae of their grades and look for loopholes.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

The 6th grade APP science experience at Hamilton has been a joke thus far. The teacher spends an inordinate amount of time showing youtube videos and having the kids watch him look up vocabulary definitions on wikipedia. I won't even get into the silly science experiments they are doing that would be more appropriate to a 2nd grade class.

Then there's the whole grading craziness. First it was that no kid can ever improve their grade from their lowest test score (this was supposedly done to prevent the previously mentioned end of quarter "coasting"). Then the grades from the first test were "adjusted." Then on curriculum night we heard that grades were "corrected" again after the teacher spoke with other teachers. Hamilton is switching over to "standards based grading" and I don't think this teacher understands it. My child is not having the same grading issues with other teachers using this same system.

Are other middle schools switching to this new grading system?

-annoyed HIMS parent

Anonymous said...

Students is special education can get a regular diploma with a modified "certificate" if the content is significantly modified or they take the HSPE under modification. In that case, they get a certificate of individual acheivement and not a certificate of academic acheivement. So far, that hasn't been a huge limitation for students wishing to go on. Ever notice how some students pass the HSPE with a 2 - that is a modified special education standard. Special ed students needing only accommodations can get a regular certificate. Sometimes the line is fuzzy as to defining what's an accommodation and what's a modification. An accommodation might mean retaking the tests, having questions rephrased etc... I guess it could be a judgement call as to when the accommodation becomes a modification to the actual standard.

-Sped Parent

hschinske said...

"Helen, material in any class can ALWAYS be accessed at many different levels. So what does it really mean to "Ace" the material and get on the honor roll?"

As much as high grades ever mean. As I said, I don't personally put a lot of stock in honor rolls. But the whole attitude that you shouldn't get credit for already knowing something kind of frosts me. After all, you did whatever work it took to learn that in the first place. You read a book or thought about things or talked to people. Just because it wasn't in this year's class doesn't make you a lazy bum or your knowledge less valuable.

When I was a sophomore in high school, we had to read Macbeth, a play I had already seen, become obsessed with, and read over and over. I still enjoyed the class discussions and learned a lot, but I probably spent less than a quarter as much time on the homework as everyone else, because I already knew the play and was just skimming to refresh my memory. I got top marks and praise from my teacher AND I DESERVED THEM. Plus I had more time to work on classes that were more difficult for me, or hell, just chill. Not a sin.

It's considered an ideal result of education to be a curious lifelong learner -- to have that quality sneered at and related to laziness by the very people who are supposed to be fostering intellectual curiosity is quite damning.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

"having the kids watch him look up vocabulary definitions on wikipedia"

I suggest figuring out which vocab he's likely to look up next and changing the Wikipedia entries right before class.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

If the teacher is following the prescribed district curriculum, which is light on content and full of simplistic demonstrations and experiments, that could explain some of the complaints. Despite having a well liked teacher last year, the actual science materials the teacher had to work with were not the greatest. There was no book that came home, and the teacher supplemented with weekly definitions he had typed up for the students.


Anonymous said...

It's considered an ideal result of education to be a curious lifelong learner -- to have that quality sneered at

Wow. Asking students to actually do something when they get into a classroom really isn't the same thing as "sneering" at them. ??? And resting on your laurels isn't really evidence of "lifelong learning". I agree that students should get credit for having already learned something, but I'm not certain that they deserve to "ace" a class, as you put it, with no effort or evidence of work.

-Another Parent

Anonymous said...

I think formal education should fundamentally be about learning and fostering what actually helps people reach their potential and live meaningful lives. In the service of that, penalizing for a lack of "effort" seems incredibly counterproductive. In thinking about what will work for best for my children, I like to look at what has worked educationally for people over the long haul. My best firsthand example is my grandfather, who went from growing up in a small town in the south to getting a PHD in Mathematics and teaching at an Ivy League school. His passion for his subject was profound, and he also spent a great deal of time delighting in learning all kinds of other things until the day he died. He was a person who knew what his calling was from a very early age. One the stories that defined his early education was from early high school: two weeks after the beginning of the term he brought his teacher a stack of papers with every problem from his math text solved, including everything assigned in the syllabus and all the supplementary work, and placed it neatly on her desk. At the time, this delighted the teacher. Obviously, this work came vary easily to him. In an effort-focused system, what should a student like this be made to do for the rest of the term? In a perfect world, they'd be moved on to something harder--and back when my grandparents were young, this seemed to be how schools responded. In a paradigm that fixates on effort or the consistency with which that effort is exerted, they're made to keep practicing a bunch of stuff they already know until they get really frustrated. It doesn't level the playing field, it just rewards a certain kind of "because we say so" diligence. When I was in school, the result of putting too heavy a weight on busywork and attendance was catastrophic for my education--if a 13- 14- or 15- year-old is being made to practice what they've already mastered, their school is failing them and it can spiral quickly. It is not the student's fault, and not all material can be accessed on a higher level--frequently it's very limited in scope and efforts to overshoot that mark are met with irritation. Now I have a high schooler in SPS--she's bright and generally hardworking and takes the most challenging classes available to her. She is, however, a little flaky. In recently looking at her grades, her test scores are solid, her homework is solid--nearly universally the one element that drags her grade down is the stuff that is trivially easy--remembering to get parents to sign things, filing out progress logs, etc. Giving a kid whose understanding of the material is good Ds for bringing signed papers back late is not accurately reflecting that student's achievement--while it is true that life is filled with things you need to do "just because," school should be about learning. Students who are giving their best effort to less than stellar results should probably be acknowledged for the value of their hard work--because it does have value--but the opposite should not be penalized. If things come easily to you in one arena, it's not a school's job to try and counter that. My grandfather also joked about his grades in Latin: for each of the 4 terms he took it his grade went down a step--A, B, C and finally D. Let students be supported to soar where they can, and know that life will take care of teaching them that not everything comes so easily.
--D is for Dropout

(Helen, thank you for your perspective both here and on the APP blog--it's been very valuable to me.)

Josh Hayes said...

Thanks for the info, Charlie; I suspect the 240-ish number we've been given from the district involves taking that 265 capacity and subtracting off room for the developmental preschools. That seems about right.

But it still doesn't explain why Director Carr is so certain our current capacity is 400-500 kids. Puzzling indeed.

hschinske said...

Wow. Asking students to actually do something when they get into a classroom really isn't the same thing as "sneering" at them.

Okay, look. This is not just theoretical here. Look at all the kids at Hamilton who have had to take math classes a year or more below where they belong. Should they really not be able to get A's in math just because it's easy for them to do so? What the heck kind of sense would that make?

This is their year to get credit for algebra or geometry. They know their stuff, they come to class, they do their homework, they ace the tests. That's not no work. That's a lot of hours that they're putting in. It's not their fault the administration wouldn't let the teachers have a third year of high school math.

I don't know how to make this any clearer. You're the one who postulated "a student [who] may show up already at the honor roll level, and actually having achieved nothing at all in the timeframe the award is for." That's a straw man. And yes, it's sneering to suggest that it's the student's fault when there was no class at their level for them to even sign up for, or they were forbidden to sign up for it -- as did happen at Hamilton.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

Thanks for your kind words, D.

Helen Schinske

Jan said...

Helen -- your thoughts are wonderful, as always. This thread is old -- but if you are still reading, let me elaborate on my earlier post. In my child's school, there were no "entrance exams" -- no PSEE, or whatever is used, though there was an "interview." There was a huge range of abilities, and the school was so small they could not do "ability grouping." Thus kids (like mine) who could have easily worked a full year ahead in math had no opportunity to do so (clearly, not a place you would send an APP kid to in most cases, but plenty of spectrum types, all the way down to some pretty involved SPED issues).

The grades in classes reflected achievement. But the "honor roll" was pure effort. ANY kid could get on it, as long as they were willing to master a planner, and just do all the work. The school backed it up in two ways:
(a) by NOT giving "stupid" homework. There were no "dioramas," no "construct a civil war building and write a report to go with it." Arguably, some of the math homework my kid did was stuff he already knew -- but really, most of it was good for him, and all of it was reasonable. To keep him challenged in math -- we just did more of it at home; and
(b) valuing and celebrating hard work. This meant that all the "smart" kids could be (and many were) also on the honor roll -- but anyone could get his/her name on the list by just committing to hard work.
AND -- none of this applied to the stuff like "getting signatures in," etc. -- the stuff that "counted for grades" in high school merely to make the teachers' administrative tasks easier.

It was one of the most intellectual schools any of my kids attended -- because love of learning and hard work, rather than gaming the system for grades, formed the basis of the community's value system.

I don't mean to denigrate giftedness here; and I deplore the "gamey" sorts of grading systems that people have discussed above. I think that sometimes there is far too little thought put into what values are taught by our evaluation systems, and how to actually inspire kids (as opposed to annoying and discouraging them).

To me, the "heart" of the system that worked for my kids was the intentional teaching that came from the faculty -- "we care about character; we care about helping you form strong habits to succeed in high school; we care less about exactly where you ARE in terms of what you know, than what you are doing to move forward. We honor your hard work and effort, even if the grade on the paper is a "C." As I am writing this, I am realizing -- maybe it worked so well not because the actual system was so good -- but because the incredible faculty that put it into place was of one mind on the joy and value of learning (and working hard to do so).

hschinske said...

Jan, thanks for your eloquent clarification. I still have a problem with the way they used the name "honor roll," but it does sound as though the school did pretty well with the practice otherwise.

Helen Schinske