Spotlight on Aki Kurose

The Alliance for Education, by giving Mia Williams the Thomas B. Foster Award for Excellence, has put a spotlight on Aki Kurose. Let's take a look.

Aki Kurose was in Step 5 of No Child Left Behind when Ms Williams was installed as the principal there for the 2008-2009 school year. In Step 5 schools are supposed to either be closed (then re-invented and re-opened) or be "transformed". This transformation must include, at a minimum, the replacement of the principal. It can include replacement of all of the staff. It must, at a minimum, consists of a radical change in the school's operation. The only thing changed at Aki Kurose was the appointment of Ms Williams as principal and the extension of the school day by about fifteen minutes.

So how is that transformation coming along? It's not.

Here are the pass rates for Aki Kurose 8th graders on the state proficiency tests since Ms Williams became principal:

2008-09 WASL63.7%38.6%34.6%
2009-10 MSP51.7%34.8%30.7%
2010-11 MSP55.9%36.4%49.1%
2011-12 MSP47.4%29.3%36.3%

Is this a record that deserves an award? I don't think so. Aki Kurose, under Ms Williams' leadership, has seen the pass rate on the 8th grade reading test fall from 63.7% to 47.4%. The pass rate on the 8th grade math test has fallen from 38.6% to 29.3%. The pass rate on the 8th grade science test has gone nowhere. The school has gone on to fail to make AYP for another four years. It has yet to leave Step 5. If it doesn't make AYP this year it will have the distinction of having made Step 5 twice over. I guess that would make it due for another transformation. This merits an award of excellence? Where's the excellence? I'm not seeing it.

Let's look deeper. Maybe the improvement is nuanced.

Nope. If there is any nuance, it only shows that the situation is even worse than it appears. While only 29.3% of Aki Kurose 8th graders got a passing score on the MSP in 2012, 51.6% - more than half - scored in Level 1, well below standard. Of course, that didn't prevent the school district from reckoning that 90% of them are ready for high school math. Makes you wonder how they get reach that conclusion, doesn't it?

So what has Ms Williams done that has earned this award? She has hired Teach for America corps members as teachers - even if she had to violate all kinds of hiring rules to do it. She has embraced a number of other ineffective Education Reform ideas. That's the achievement that the Alliance is awarding - her commitment to their political perspective.


Anonymous said…
The Foster Award should only be given out when there is a deserving principal not simply on a yearly basis. There have been a number of questionable recipients in the last few years.

Seattle Resident
I was kind of surprised at Ms. Williams as well because I had heard from little - from either the district or parents at that school - about her.

The district's press release says this:

"She is known for working tirelessly, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year."

I know many dedicated teachers and administrators and staff but I think that's a very over-the-top statement (and I wonder if Ms. Williams would even agreed with it).

"Test scores have consistently improved under her leadership."

Well, either Charlie is wrong or this press release is wrong. Charlie provided the data so what's the disconnect?

I was quite surprise as well to learn that Franklin had the highest waitlist of all the comprehensives but I would suspect that - sadly - that is because of Rainier Beach-area students who try to go there.
Anonymous said…
Where did you get the data on the test scores. According to this document-
the scores are different and the school is demonstrating growth in scores.
Southend Family
Po3 said…
Pretty sure Charlies numbers are coming from the OSPI Report Card - which is the best source to track scores.

If you look closely at the school report (which have been known to have errors) you will see that the 8th grade science scores tie out with Charlie's data.

The problem is that the school report lumpd 6th, 7th an 8th graders together for reading and math making it impossible to tell how students are really doing.

What I suspect is happening is 6th graders come in at level, then as they go through the middle school (CMP/Writers workshop) curriculum more and more start to fall behind.

Sadly, the way the school report displays data it appears that everything is fine and dandy.

It's not!
Maureen said…
At the Seattle Math Coalition meeting on Saturday, Rick Burke showed a graphic that indicated that Franklin has an exceptionally high pass rate on the algebra EOC exam for 9th graders who qualify for FRL. It may be that this is related to the changes at Mercer Middle School (Saxon math), but it seems like Franklin is, at least, maintaining that improvement.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for the explaination. I did not realize the district's reports were skewed and I now see the missing data that was on ospi's school report cards and that data matches Charlie's data exactly.
Southend Family
Anonymous said…

Could you provide a summary of the Seattle Math Coalition mtg? And would you mind posting dates of future meetings as they are planned? As a parent that is frustrated with math in SPS (we teach "real" math at home), I'd like to be informed about ways parents can support changes in SPS math.

from 9/3/12 post:

Mercer Middle continues to be an outlier in math performance.

A comparison of the average MSP pass rates - across 6th, 7th, and 8th grades - vs FRL rates, ranked in order from highest to lowest pass rate (2011-2012):

SCHOOL: Avg MATH pass rate (%FRL)

HIMS: 83.3 (19)
Mercer: 78.4 (75.2)
Eckstein: 77.4 (24.8)
Whitman: 70.9 (30.1)
McClure: 70.7 (32.7)

District: 67.2 (43.2)

Washington: 66.0 (51.7)
Madison: 65.2 (43.4)
Denny: 63.1 (67.1)
Aki: 44.1 (86.5)

Mercer's pass rates on the math MSP rival those of Hamilton (home of North APP) and Eckstein. It is the only traditional middle school in the south end to surpass the district average. A graph of the results is even more compelling. Results for K-8s are not included in the list.

mathy parent
Anonymous said…
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Charlie Mas said…
I took the data from the OSPI.

The data presented on the District's school report card is usually a mix of numbers. I only used the 8th grade numbers as I thought they best reflected the work done at the school.

I suppose we could look at cohort numbers, bearing in mind the amount of transfers in and out.

The pass rates for the 8th grade class of 2009 were:

2007 6th Grade
Reading 49.4% Math 31.1%
2008 7th Grade
Reading 45.5% Math 22.4%
2009 8th Grade
Reading 63.7% Math 38.6%

Modest growth

2008 6th Grade
Reading 47.9% Math 24.1%
2009 7th Grade
Reading 45.8% Math 22.5%
2010 8th Grade
Reading 51.7% Math 34.8%

Modest growth

2009 6th Grade
Reading 61.9% Math 30.8%
2010 7th Grade
Reading 53.3% Math 33.3%
2011 8th Grade
Reading 55.9% Math 36.4%

No growth

2010 6th Grade
Reading 41.8% Math 25.3%
2011 7th Grade
Reading 33.9% Math 26.3%
2012 8th Grade
Reading 47.4% Math 29.3%

Modest growth

This is not a record of excellence.
Charlie Mas said…
I wonder how the Seattle Times can report that Ms Williams received the award for excellent improvement in test scores without even checking the test scores. There is no attempt at critical reasoning. There is no attempt to verify the claims made by the Alliance. There is no journalism here.
Watching said…
Don't forget that Pettigrew brought back $1M for Alki and $1M for Rainier Beach for the 2012-2013school year. This is a significant amount of dollars that would have to be spent within one year. Will these dollars make a difference?
Gina Wickstead said…
Mr. Mas, my name is Gina Wickstead and I have been a teacher for nine years at Aki Kurose. Based on many facts which have been conveniently left out of this blog, Principal Williams is a great school leader who absolutely deserves this award. If you are going to write yet another negative blog about our school, at least have all the facts.

First of all, the district report cards are a much better indicator of growth than OSPI’s report cards. The report cards show passing rates of different cohorts of students. What you chose to put on your blog and the Seattle Times is a comparison of four different cohorts of students. Students are only tested for Science in eighth grade (in middle school), therefore we cannot tell by the State’s data if they have grown or not at Aki. The district’s report cards show actual growth. If a school has a high percentage of students passing, it does not tell the whole story, and it does not tell if students are actually growing. Our report shows our students have made growth in many different areas.

Mr. Mas you also state, “She has hired Teach for America corps members as teachers.” In the past two years we have hired around thirty teachers, of whom three have been from the Teach for America corps. They have been highly effective and one has stayed past her required two years. You also state, “She has embraced a number of other ineffective Education Reform ideas.” To which reforms are your referring? If by “Education Reform ideas” do you mean winning a national competition in which Principal Williams worked tirelessly to raise our attendance rates by ten percent? Maybe you mean that she ensures teachers collaborate for at least two hours every week? You might be referring to the math and reading intervention classes students are carefully assigned to by Principal Williams. Is it that she ensures students have after school programs to attend and get the counseling they need? Could it be for five years she has always had high expectations for students and teachers while exhausting every resource to ensure our school is successful? These are just a few of the improvements Principal Williams has brought to Aki. These are facts, unlike your baseless claims of ineptitude.

Mr. Mas, you state, “That's the achievement that the Alliance is awarding - her commitment to their political perspective.” Whose political perspective are your efforts serving? Why are you always so negative about a school in which you have never set foot? Why do you misconstrue certain numbers to tell a story that is completely false? It is as if you do not want our school to succeed. The people who gave Principal Williams the award have spent a lot of time at Aki and know first-hand about all of the hard work she has done over the nine years she has been there. Principal Williams has and will always be committed to our students and doing whatever is best for them. Your uninformed criticisms only serve to get in the way of efforts to truly improve educational outcomes for our students. You are not part of the solution; you are part of the problem.
Policy Man said…
Perhaps Mr. Mas should limit himself to reading and interpreting the district's policies. He does well cherry picking those and butchering them with his "analysis."

The problem with blogs like this, is that the bloggers don't have to go to the district for their comments or perspective before publishing their posts.

Charlie's comments make the district look absurd.

Thanks for shedding light on this and bring in some balance.
Anonymous said…
Gina Wickstead,

Thank you so much for speaking up. You showed us a side we never see on this blog. Clearly, as a teacher there, you know more on this issue and I will think twice about accepting what Mr. Mas says on this blog. I've been thinking he's a tad cynical and has been too impacted by his own negative experiences with the district.

-Wiser now
Anonymous said…
The problem with Mr. Mas' comments is that on the one hand he lambasts the "reformers" - mostly because they rely narrowly on test results. Then, he lambasts the school staff - mostly because they don't rely on tests. Which is it? Are the all so important? Or are other things important? Is it possible that students are learning despite not being able to do well on 1 single test? If we wanted to give out awards based on test scores, then that would be pretty easy. The fact is, there are many, many other performance issue to reward, and many other ways to measure performance besides test results. Ms. Wickstead has named several.

And then there's the tired old "ready for high school" cannard, repeatedly touted. Ohhhh so horrible. How can it possibly be that somebody would fail the MSP AND still be ready for high school? Well, maybe the MSP is not a good measure of high school readiness. What if kids have weak English skils? Or weak language skills? They might not be able to pass the MSP, but still be ready for high school.

Ms Wickstead, the district report cards have information taken from OSPI. I don't think you can say for that particular fact that anything was left out.

Charlie did not speak about Aki, he spoke about Ms. Williams performance and that her award seemed a lot about "improved" test scores.

As for TFA "no one stayed longer than two years" - you don't see a revolving door of teachers an issue for students with challenges?

And Charlie did not call her "inept". I see valid criticisms in what you say but do not put words into anyone's mouth.

"Is it possible that students are learning despite not being able to do well on 1 single test?"

And that is precisely what we fight against here. One single test does NOT define a school but don't tell that to ed reformers.

I still believe Aki is very much a target for a charter takeover so keep that on your radar. Ed reformers are probably planning as we speak.
Anonymous said…
Is this a record that deserves an award? I don't think so. ... This merits an award of excellence? Where's the excellence? I'm not seeing it. ... Let's look deeper. Maybe the improvement is nuanced.

Well that sure sounds like Ms. Williams is inept, incompetent, and the school is full of losers that Ms. Williams isn't able to help, inept as she is.

As to the nuanced results? I don't see any nuanced evaluation. Only the same old same old. Just complaints that 1 test, the MSP test score sucks no matter how you slice it. (But no other criteria considered.) Followed by the predictable (and often repeated on this blog) cry that "ready for high school" is certainly a big lie. (The school is full of liars too, it would seem.)

Jet City mom said…
Got it.

Gina Wickstead is a StudentsFirst Teacher Fellow and currently teaches at Aki Kurose Middle School in Seattle where she has been for 8 years. She also serves as a staff developer in her building and site supervisor for student teachers. In addition Gina is working this year with The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession on the New Millenium Initiative to ensure students come first when policies are made in Seattle Schools.
Charlie Mas said…
There is no data anywhere that supports Ms Wickstead's contentions.


All of mine are supported by data.

reader, can you remind me of when I have lambasted reformers for over reliance on test score data? I don't recall doing that. I will say, however, that this award was purportedly based on test score growth. The growth simply is not there.

If I wrote something that isn't true about Aki Kurose here, please point it out.

I've pointed out the errors in Ms Wickstead's claims on the Seattle Times site.
Unknown said…
Well this is an ironic table-turner in several ways. In one corner, we have Charlie, who uncharacteristically is using test scores to make 100% of his evaluation. In the other corner, we have the Alliance for Education, who wants student test scores to count for more in staff evaluations. (Not that the MSP test results were meant to be used as the sole evaluation for a principal or a teacher.) But according the Times, Ms. Williams was cited for her "work to improve test scores and foster partnerships with the community" and the first quality that the Alliance considers is "the schools’ improvements in students’ standardized test scores."

Like Charlie said, the available numbers don't demonstrate any big improvements.

In many ways, Aki Kurose would seem to be a Herculean task for any principal. It has the highest free and reduced lunch percentage, highest percentage of kids not living with both parents, highest rate of limited English proficiency, highest rate of suspensions, highest percentage of students of color, second highest percentage of kids receiving special education and lowest percentage of kids with advanced learning. The school with the next closest set of demographics, however, is Mercer, and that is where the comparison pales. Like Melissa said, if there are going to be charters in Seattle, Aki Kurose is ripe.

It's a real head-scratcher. If there's more meat to the story that the Times or the Alliance has said publicly, I'd like to hear it. Otherwise, the award rings false, despite what Ms. Wickstead says.
Mr. Gates said…
What this debate (especially because of Mr. Mas's reliance on data) is that we really need more data.

Mr. Mas's arguments hinge on a reliance on the WASL and the more recent HPSE. While his claims are "true," I believe the bulk of commentators to this blog of lambasted the reliance on high stakes tests.

We really need more data to verify whether this principal is, indeed, doing a good or bad job. Data from one test is not enough.
seattle citizen said…
"Reform" is "data-driven," and the data is test scores. Nothing else.
MSP, HSPE, MAP, other similar tests around the country....these are the ONLY tools used to evaluate students and schools (and, increasingly, educators.)

The rub comes when the "data" doesn't support decision-making. Bad decisions are made, based on "data," regardless of what the data might actually suggest.

So people who are not necessarily in favor of all this data ("big data") say, well, why are you making a decision based on this data, they are called out, regularly, by those who LIKE the use of data: They are accused of being two-faced - not liking the use of data yet using the same data to question "data-driven" decision. The Reformers say, well, you say you are against data! How can you question us using the very data you purport to dislike?! But of course a) it is the data that is under question; and b) the question is "why are bad decisions being made using the data? Your own data suggests other avenues - No award for low t4est scores; support individual students where the data shows need instead of closing entire schools - yet using YOUR OWN data you are making bad decisions.

I'm sure there are wonderful things going on everyday at AKI. I'm sure Ms. Williams has inspired students and staff alike in a variety of ways. But the bare metrics that are the be-all and end-all of "data" these days do not support a contention that Aki has made improvement...based on THAT data.

We do need more data, just not more crappy tests and not data used for ulterior motives. REAL data that helps students, not punishes them (and their school and their educators) while rewarding their principal.

I wonder if the dat cited, that supposedly merits a reqard to Ms. Williams, has also been used to ding educators due to lack of growth?
Anonymous said…
Ms.Wickstead, thank you for your comments. My child is a former Aki student and because of this and the area where we live, we know many current students. Of course there are many students who have serious challenges, but I know first-hand that Aki has in fact prepared many MORE of them for high school and even college. Not only that, but your range of after- school programs have been the driving factor in some students' choice of studies in college and career.

Mr. Mas has been calling for the shutdown of Aki for years, and uses it as an example of how you could switch students or teachers with a school like Eckstein or Hamilton and still have failing kids. He's blamed the administration, parents and the students themselves. I don't recall him ever mentioning that he's spoken to any of them.

Keep up the good work.

Aki Mom
Anonymous said…
Well if Charlie's point is if test results are the main reason to give the award to Aki's principal, then he's right. IF the award is more than data and about the other things Principal Williams has done for the school and the Aki community, then the Alliance award is probably appropriate. After all, it's their award. Besides, we are talking about the Seattle Times aren't we? So take all that with a grain of salt when we go looking for reasons and analysis.

I like to think a $50,000 award isn't just about data. This school has great needs and a principal's commitment and advocacy go a long way for these kids.

Maureen said…
I want to point out that no one who above questions why Ms. Williams was recognized by the Alliance is saying she is a bad principal. The issue is that only two principals (out of over 90?) are being recognized for their "excellence" and that the Alliance has generally defined excellence as an improvement in standardized test scores. I believe it is also unprecedented for two principals to share the award.
Charlie Mas said…
The Alliance claimed that they chose Ms Williams for her work to improve test scores, but test scores have not improved.

That's it. I'm not saying anything about Ms Williams' leadership. I'm not saying anything about the work done at Aki Kurose.

I'm saying that the Alliance claimed that Ms Williams was selected for the award based, in part, on improved test scores, but that there are no improved test scores.

Say what you want about me, about the reliance on test scores, or about great work done at Aki Kurose, and it won't change the fact that the test scores at Aki Kurose have not improved.
I would also like to see where Charlie has called for Aki to close. I don't recall ever reading that.

He also said nothing about parents or students.

It's odd that he points out ONE discrepancy about this award and then is told he attacked an entire school community on its existence.

"...I know first-hand that Aki has in fact prepared many MORE of them for high school and even college..."

More than what or who? I'm confused here.
SE Parent said…
Melissa, you are being too judgemental without enough infomration. First off: What was the students scores when they enter Aki? The numbers you are reporting could be showign phenominal growth from where these students started.
What are you doing to help improve the Aki test scores?
HAve you toured the school to see what innovative ideas are occuring which may have contributed to Mia's award?
Just something for you to think about.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
A couple of things I like to see more reporting/accounting on is something another poster mentioned, the $1 million Aki and RBHS each received, thanks to Rep. Pettigrew and WA taxpayers. The money has to be spent this school year.

That's a lot of cash infusion for one year. Along with $50,000 from the Allliance, that's quite a war chest for Aki to make improvements and the main improvement I want as a taxpayer is better academic outcomes.

Anonymous said…
Oh, let me amend that. Latest update, the $1million to each school doesn't have to be used this school year. They have until Aug. 31, 2015.

Anonymous said…
First the USTI funds are currently a one year grant...true. But the intention was to be a 3 year grant and this is being corrected. The ammendment is in the Senate awaiting approval. Please come to the schools and see how little 1 million covers when you have nothing in the beginning to offer. RBHS has had to struggle just to get the programs it has and every year advocate to keep them. Reform takes years and lots of hard work.

Second...have any of you critics of Mia Williams and or Aki Kurose gone into the school and toured what work is being done? Have you sat with the children and worked with them? Turn in some volunteer hours in a school in the South End and then have something to talk about.

How many of you critics have your child at these schools? Have you invested your skill, knowledge and energy to helping these schools? Nope you sit behind the screen and critique. Get in the fire and rescue these students if you have something to offer. If not then congratulate the ones who are doing the work. CONGRATULATIONS MIA! Keep your head up and keep going!
SE Committed Volunteer
Anonymous said…

Many MORE beyond those with struggles. And Mr. Mas has mentioned several times that Aki should be closed-when the AAA was closing he suggested making that a middle school and closing Aki. He has commented on the Step 5 status more than once and in at least one instance suggested Aki close because of that.

I believe he also called for Rainier Beach to close as well at some point. I can't provide you a link but I remember because these are the schools my children have attended.

But really, I'd like to hear from him whether he's EVER spoken to parents, teachers, admin or students there. I don't recall him ever saying THAT. Talking about how poorly they do yes, but not talking to them.
Aki Mom
Anonymous said…

re: your comment -

As for TFA "no one stayed longer than two years" - you don't see a revolving door of teachers an issue for students with challenges?

Ms. Wickstead actually said:
"They have been highly effective and one has stayed past her required two years."

One actually stayed. Maybe that person liked what they were seeing at Aki.

I've got no data for this, but Charlie's original take on Aki did sound pretty negative. And I agree with the poster who suggested more of a problem solver approach.

just sayin
Anonymous said…
Thanks SE Committed Volunteer. Yes, some of us have kids in these schools or the kids will be in them and are committed to the community. However, I also want accountability. And $1 million is a LOT of money for one school to get even if it's spread out over 3 years. It's no more than I would ask if the same dollars were given to other schools. Like I said, that's a large war chest for a school to do a lot of good. I want that return in better academic outcomes. And like Principal Williams, I have high expectations.

SE folks, I don't just sit behind a computer and type. I have tutored even as my own students have graduated. (In fact, I'm doing a six-week stint at a school for homeless kids working with 4-6th graders on a remake of A Midsummer's Night Dream.)

I know many of the readers here at the blog and yes, they volunteer as well at their own schools.

That Step 5 status of Aki would make it, under a bill currently being pushed by ed reformers in the Legislature, ripe for being taken over by the state. And that would be based JUST on test scores.

That's not a judgment, that would be a fact. Is that what you want?

Charlie wrote on a single point that both the Alliance and the Times pointed out about Aki. Not the entire school. That point seems to be entirely lost.
Just saying said…
Don't worry about more data, Seattle Citizen. SPS has signed an agreement with a research organization to track our children's personal and identifiable information until 2020:

Section 3.1 will allow the research company to ask for almost anything they want to know about our children. HIPPA provides protection against health information being distributed.

The district signed away our children's privacy for Race To The Top Dollars. FERPA laws have been relaxed to allow sharing of student information. Google Bill Gates, $100M data, InBillion and Race to the Top.
Anonymous said…
I am glad to hear that the Alliance for Education is evaluating administrators based on things other than test scores. Evidently this award was based on dedication to students, hard work and encouraging teacher collaboration. I think it is great the Aki has a principal who is hard working, dedicated to students & to teacher collaboration. (Actually I don't think this is so rare.)

I thought the Alliance has been saying that only test scores tell whether a teacher is dedicated & hard working.

I am not a huge proponent of using test scores to evaluate teachers & I'm glad to see the A4E is changing their tune.

-northend volunteer
mirmac1 said…
Actually, Wickstead's comment is incorrect. The initial class of TFA was 2011-2012. They have not completed their second year yet.
Unknown said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said…

Aki Kurose has had a Teach for America grad since at least 2008, also a StudentsFirst "Fellow." He didn't start teaching as a TFAer at Aki Kurose, he started teaching in Atlanta. There must be one more like that, based on Ms. Wickstead's comments, since Ms. Wickstead referred to "her." But otherwise,you are correct, new TFA hires haven't been there long enough to make any statements about whether they will stay or not.
Linh-Co said…
Grade level tests are testing minimum standards. The cut score for 7th and 8th grade MSP math tests is 22 out of 40. This means students only have to get 55% of the items on a minimumum grade level standards test in order to pass. Passing is level 3. When a large portion of students are at level 1, it shows they can answer less than 40% of grade level appropriate questions correctly.

Charlie is correct to point out that these scores would indicate students are far from high school "ready". These grade level standards and test items were created by Washington educators who taught those grades, and the MSP cut scores were established by Washington teachers who took the tests.
That reminds me, I need to check on the renewal of the TFA contract. The district is still in no better position to pay the fees so how long can we count on Seattle Foundation (or whoever is paying) to continue to do so?
mirmac1 said…
While you are at it Melissa, you should look at the much higher fees the district is committing itself to pay for teacher trainees throught the Allianc'es Urban Teacher Residency. By 2016 the grant money goes away and each will be around $40K a pop, in addition to salaries.

I'm sure Aki and Southshore will hire lots of those, to please the Alliance and LEV.
Anonymous said…
This American Life recently did a two part series called Harper High School. Worth listening to; especially at the end of Part 2 where the principal ticks off all the cuts she has to make now that the cash infusion has ended.

Won't matter what "gains" any school make with temporary additonal funding because they will have to cut everything that funding supported.

What we need sustainable funding.

You should listen to TALs episode called Back to School. Very interesting work being done out there!

SPS Parent
Anonymous said…
What is the math curriculum at Aki Kurose? If it is discovery math, then that may be part of the problem with declining test scores in math.

These textbooks rely too much on story problems to learn math. They are particularly bad for students where English is a second language, since a text heavy approach is emphasized.

Math teacher Dan Dempsey did some interesting comparisons of test scores in math for students with more challenged backgrounds. The schools where discovery type textbooks were used did not prepare students adequately for college math.

You would need to look into the type of math used at Aki Kurose and the feeder schools that flow into it. Curricula is never mentioned with the ed reform crowd because it is more complicated to study.

S parent
Anonymous said…
Thanks for speaking up, Ms. Wickstead! Test scores alone can certainly not measure the culture of a school, and it seems like Aki has undergone a major, positive (even award worthy) cultural shift under Ms. Williams' leadership. How wonderful!

As a regular reader, I am frankly appalled at this post. Mr. Mas and Ms. Westbrook often lambast test scores as an insufficient means of measuring a school's success, and now they are doing just that. How hypocritical. It seems like because she hired TFA folks, Ms. Williams could not possibly be doing anything right. And hey, I'm not the biggest TFA fan. But it is also worth noting, Ms. Westbrook, that Ms. Wickstead stated that one member had stayed on LONGER than her required two years.

~disappointed reader
Anonymous said…
Test scores may not tell us everything about the culture of an individual school, but they should count for something.

Mercer Middle School on Beacon Hill showed improvements in test scores when they switched to a better math curriculum. There were other improvements as well, but the change in math curriculum must be noted.

If we continue to reward schools that show declining scores, then we are fooling ourselves. I am not a charter advocate, but they will replace neighborhood schools if best teaching practices and curricula are not emphasized.

S parent
mirmac1 said…
disappointed reader,

None of the three TFA hired by Williams has stayed beyond their two year stint. In fact one did not finish the first year. One of William's prospective TFA hires for this year dropped out when her qualifications to serve special education students was questioned.

Wickstead has every reason to overstate the facts. She is pro-TFA and served on the TFA hires interview teams. We have yet to see if these teachers' "growth" scores were as miraculous as advertised.

I admire the young women that were hired, but they are no more or less dedicated than hundreds and hundreds of other teachers in our district.
suep. said…
Re: Jet City mom's observations:

Ms Wickstead’s affiliations are enterprises that support specifically young teachers and push for them to pursue “leadership” roles in education and “market” their ideas. Sounds very similar to the true objectives of Wendy Kopp’s Teach for America, Inc. (create a “pipeline” of leaders – not highly qualified, longterm classroom teachers). Most if not all of these enterprises are funded (in the millions) by the Gates Foundation.

Some cursory background info:

The New Milliennium Initiative is a creation of the Center on Teaching Quality, Inc. which has received $6 million from Gates in the last three years to "support the development of a high-functioning well-informed, online community of young teacher leaders" and implement Common Core. Apparently Seattle is one of the target cities.

New Millennium Initiative
“So often, decisions about education are made far removed from the classroom, without input from the newest teachers. Our think tank allows teachers – early in their career – an avenue to effect change on a large scale in the education world.”
-Ben Jackson, high school English teacher, New Millennium Denver

To become change agents, teacher leaders must connect empirical evidence and teaching experience to a vision of student learning – and then engage colleagues, union leaders, administrators, and policymakers to advance new policies and practices.
In fall 2009, CTQ launched the New Millennium Initiative (NMI). Drawing on our virtual network experience, we will engage and develop a growing community of young teachers and connect them to researchers, reformers, administrators and union leaders. We will work with local and national partners to support teachers as they market their ideas to policymakers, fellow teachers, and other educational stakeholders, including members of their own communities. We will also help interested participants develop their knowledge, skills and relationships to become the next generation of teacher leaders.
We have initial funding over the next year to launch our work in Denver area schools, a statewide network in Illinois, the Bay area in California and the Seattle metro area in Washington. Current support for the work comes from the the Rose Community Foundation (Denver), the Joyce Foundation (Illinois) and the Stuart Foundation (California and Washington). We begin with a small, select group of young teachers leaders who have the interest and prowess to begin advancing teaching effectiveness reforms and the level of commitment necessary to expand their network over time. Working both virtually and face-to-face, these teacher cadres will systematically deepen their knowledge of the research evidence on teaching and learning and partner with administrators and union leaders to transform policies and practices in their communities. The New Millennium Initiative will start with a network of approximately 70 teachers and grow to 2000 in eight communities.

suep. said…
(cont'd from previous post)

As the New Millennium Initiative grows in the future, we plan to:
• Target one to two communities where New Millennium teachers will lead deep-down efforts to advance teaching effectiveness reforms;
• Promote a variety of hybrid roles in these target communities so that New Millennium teachers have the time and administrative support to advocate for policy reforms on behalf of students;
• Work closely with local education funds (and other community-based organizations) as community anchors to mobilize New Millennium teachers and connect their ideas to administrators and colleagues as well as community leaders, parents, and families;
• Create and implement a strategic communications plan that promotes the “big ideas” of New Millennium teacher leaders in multimedia “TeacherSolutions toolkits” — which will include an interactive website, policy briefs, blogs, podcasts, and mini-documentaries that engage educators, policymakers, and the public with the work and progress of the teacher cadres; and
• Advance our efforts to help New Millennium teachers develop the skills and policy savvy to serve in a wide variety of leadership roles, including efforts to advance union efforts to focus more intently on teaching effectiveness and student learning reforms.
The teachers of the New Millennium offer a fresh vision for education reform, driven by their classroom knowledge and insights and their commitment to engage stakeholders to create a student-centered profession. Our initiative will equip emerging teacher leaders with the tools they need to be effective both in the classroom and as voices for change.
suep. said…
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suep. said…
And of course, Students First is controversial former DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee's anti-teacher, anti-union, political enterprise, underwritten by the usual ed reform billionaires (and probably Rupert Murdoch).

Anonymous said…
Well some of you have lost me on this thread. I really thought this was about the Alliance award and its good judgement. (Note: Principals Williams and Wiley are the recipients and the money goes to their schools.) There are a lot of assumptions based on Ms. Wickstead's comments and brief googling of her background. She's first and foremost a SPS teacher, at least of 9 years at Aki, so I do weigh her words carefully. As to the rest of the connection all the way to Wendy Koop, Michelle Rhee, Gates, and Murdoch, that is just completely over my head. She defended her principal and her school. You can agree or not. Fair enough, but I don't like the undermining of her credential and weaving this kind of tangled web unless you truly know her and her opinions.

Unknown said…
I find it really interesting that you all have so much time to committ to blog posting what with all of the time you spend "Volunteering." Just a question, when dedicated people like Mrs. Willams, Ms. Wickstead, TFA teachers among many others work so vigilently on behalf of OUR kids, why is it that you excert so much energy trying to tear them down? How much time have you spent at Aki or the neigborhood? and I'm not talking about your pat yourself on the back volunteering to "Save Us" Our kids need people who generally care about their education and well being not people who post blogs that detract from those things. If you are not doing something worthwhile to change the circumstances for our kids you really have no place to talk, and I am not talking about worthless blog posting or yelling about this or that. Stop talking and do something.
Caine Lowery
Caine, I cannot speak for others but Charlie was not tearing anyone down. I find it hard to believe that one single thread about actual scores leads to this kind of defensiveness.

I also take umbrage at the idea that anyone's volunteer efforts are lesser to anyone else's. EVERYONE who volunteers in any school deserves a pat on the back.
Anonymous said…
I find it really interesting that you all have so much time to committ to blog posting what with all of the time you spend "Volunteering."

We're multi-tasking; posting between helping students with homework, posting on the bus, etc.

If you are not doing something worthwhile to change the circumstances for our kids you really have no place to talk, and I am not talking about worthless blog posting or yelling about this or that. Stop talking and do something.

Pot, meet kettle.

-Yeah, I went there.
seattle citizen said…
Ms. Lowery,
I very much appreciate your efforts as a teacher at Aki. That you haved have moved on from your TFA experience and actually stayed in the classroom is worthy in itself, as most TFAers don't.

It takes ten minutes to review current postings on this blog and contribute, as you well know. So why would you equate that with abrogation of time necessary for volunteering?

Many people write and comment on this blog. I know quite a few of them. Of the ones I know, most either work in schools or have volunteered extensively in them and many of them have spent conutless hours in committees and other policy forums, adding their knowledge and informed critique to important discussion lest policy be bought by the likes of Kopp and Gates.

I find it slightly off-putting that you assume that people who contribute to this blog don't volunteer - why would you assume that? While some writers and commenters probably don't volunteer (lazy, know, other life responsibilities? Other volunteer efforts?) it is insulting to portray us as a mere chorus of armchair quarterbacks.

This blog is an ADDITIONAL and necessary part of "volunteering" for Seattle Public Schools: While TFA might have taught you that "the reform model" is unquestionably good and right, many of us are a bit more hesitant to allow Wendy Kopp and the Gates Foundation unfettered and well-financed access to our children. For longer than you have been teaching, this blog has existed to look at issues large and small, to parse, to share information...While Gates, Kopp, Rhee, the Seattle Times et al manipulate pubic opinion and buy their way into classrooms, blogs like this serve as an alternative source of information.

Not only is volunteerism necessary in schools, it's necessary in a free and open discussion of important issues surrounding our children. In your view, apparently, one can ONLT contribute by going into a school - any other sort of contribution, say to criticizing privatization and undemocratic manipulation of public schools by private interests, is somehow verboten and to be attacked.

Me thinks thou dost protst too much.
Rick Burke said…
This is a bit late on the thread and slightly off-topic, but in reply to mathy parent and anybody else who missed the Seattle Math Coalition meetings on Saturday, here's the elevator-speech synopsis:

We held 2 public meetings on Saturday, one at Greenwood library and one at Douglass-Truth library. ~35 attendees between the two meetings with a mixture of information, discussion, and outreach at both meetings. Key topics discussed included:
- Some background info on math education, challenges faced, and a bit of history
- A few math success stories were shared, including Mercer, Franklin, and Highline SD
- 5-6 Sample math lessons were briefly presented from several K-8 programs, including EDM, CMP2, Singapore, and Saxon.
- Lively discussions ensued about important characteristics of math instructional materials
- The three platforms of the SeaMaCo were shared and described in more detail:
1) Put effective instructional materials in the classrooms
2) Reinforce math content expertise for K-8 teachers
3) Focus on effective student placement and interventions
- Information was shared about the proposed upcoming K-8 math adoption, which is in the planning stages at JSCEE. Tentative kickoff is April-ish, with board vote to take place in late-Oct 2013 and materials in the schools for Fall 2014. Funding availability for full K-8 is still uncertain.

After a lot of math dialogue, we ran out of time and got kicked out of both libraries.

Future meetings haven't yet been booked, but if you want to get updates/meeting invites, you can go to and sign up for the newsletter. Any mathie-types can also contact me at
Unknown said…
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Unknown said…
In between blogging today, getting my nails done and following the exploits of Kim Khardasian in People magazine, I went to Olympia to testify in front of the Senate Early Learning and and K-12 committee. Interestingly, Substitute House Bill 1812, which was read in the same committee today, concerned $2 million which was allocated to Aki Kurose and Rainier Beach High School from last year's budget as the "Urban School Turn Around Initiative" grant. This bill was sponsored by Eric Pettigrew. This money was to be spent on intensive supplemental instruction, services, and materials in the two selected schools. Only $250,000 of the money was spent. Unfortunately for these schools, if the money wasn't spent, typically the money is lost. The bill read today would rectify that situation by continuing that funding through 2015 or until it is spent by the two schools. I don't know why the two schools haven't spent the money yet. Perhaps they were in a planning phase. Let's hope they are planning to use the money wisely in closing the opportunity gap!
What I understood, from the get go, about the money was that it had to be spent in one year. That's a lot of money to burn through.

So what did they spend the $250K on? And they get an extension? Very confusing.
Unknown said…

Here is all I know from Eric Pettigrew's website: "A few miles away at Aki Kurose, they have hired additional staff people to increase student achievement. They are providing extra time to teachers so they can analyze student data and make necessary adjustments to the curriculum. They’ve also created a professional development calendar that provides training to staff on pertinent subjects.

“These dollars have provided our students with the additional supports needed to assist with the acceleration of their learning” said Aki Kurose Principal Mia Williams."
Anonymous said…
Hey Charlie Mas,
I just stumbled onto this blog today.
You said "test scores have not improved".
I've taught the majority of 8th graders in science at Aki since '06. When I started, their test scores reflected what they scored in 5th grade: 15%. The next year, 19%. Ms Williams came in and they went up into the 30's. Before I took a one year leave of absence, they went to 49%. Last year they went to 53%. This year, we project even higher, even though their 5th grade scores have not increased the same rate, if at all. So I assume you weren't talking about science. In addition, it's important to compare how the same students have done in the past rather than comparing how different students do each consecutive year. Example: John's 6th grade score compared with his 8th grade score, instead of John's 8th grade score with how Tracy did last year in 8th grade.
Todd Vandermeulen

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