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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday Open Thread (Better Late than Never)

Heard that the waitlists were running late - input from Tracy Libros in Enrollment:

Our student information system is currently being replaced, so the most recent update of assignment and waiting list information was in mid-July. New information will be updated as soon as possible, which is likely to be at the end of August or beginning of September.
We understand the importance of waiting list status and information as your family plans for the start of school and apologize for the delay.

Of course, we will move waiting lists as soon as we possibly can. The technology folks are working diligently to get systems up and running as soon as possible. 


That's the reason for the lateness of this information.  I know it must feel frustrating but summer is the best time to work on systems within the district.

Hearing that 8th graders may all be enrolled in algebra (at least at some schools) and about the need for finger-printing for all chaperones for school trips (not sure if this is just for out-of-town trips or day trips).  More info to come.

What's on your mind?

128 comments:

Mother of MS and HS students said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mother of MS and HS students said...

Waiting until after school starts is really hard on families and students. Can they do some of this manually? For example, I bet much of the high school wait list could be addressed via "swaps" wihtout leading to any over enrollment in any school. For example, I know their are kids on the Ingraham wait list who are enrolled at Ballard who could be swapped for kidsn on the Ballard waitlist enrolled at Ingraham

Anonymous said...

I have a friend with children on an elementary wait list. Someone from the group of parents with wait listed kids has been keeping in touch with Tracy. From their account there is no access to know who is on the wait list, let alone position on the wait list.

That would probably rule out any manual process.

-StepJ

Anonymous said...

Transgendered bathrooms In Cali is at the forefront in a lot of blogs

--NEDad

Linh-Co said...

Algebra for all 8th graders is silly. We have 9th graders that are not prepared for algebra. Why would forcing it one year earlier produce better results? I wouldn't be surprised if this is one of Michael Tolley's ideas.

I once heard a high school math teacher say requiring algebra for all 9th graders is like putting all 9th graders in Spanish 3 regardless of abilities.

Anonymous said...

8th grade math at McClure is going to be painful for everyone this year - those who are ready for Algebra and those who are not. All in the name of social equity.

From the letter on their website:

The benefits of this change are multiple:
1. It will allow all 8th grade students to take algebra creating a culture of academic excellence, opportunity and social equity.
2. It will result in classes which more accurately represent our students.
3. It will offer more students the prospect to change the trajectory of and accelerate their academic experience.

To assist struggling students they're going to offer math support class (as an elective) and an in school peer tutoring program.

Kids who aren't ready for algebra would be happier/more engaged if they had a good solid pre-algebra program and the chance to take an elective they are excited about. Ridiculous.

Also from the letter: Beginning with the class of 2015, students will have to pass TWO math EOC exams (algebra 1, geometry and algebra 2 or an equivalent class) to be eligible for a diploma. Isn't that three classes?

Lynn

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

Anon -

As your comment will be deleted, here it is, "Fingerprints for chaperones-- are you serious? A parent wants to come to the zoo with their kid's 2nd grade class, so they have to go down to the JSCEE for fingerprinting (and a $43.50 fee)? Not even SPS could be that stupid."

Please share the link to the $43.50 fee, and also the requirement to go down to JSCEE.

Our family volunteers a lot for such excursions. Is it $43.50 per field trip or a one time fee? As a family we might spring for a one time fee for the year but definitely not per field trip. And also will not take time off from work to go down to JSCEE for fingerprinting.

I can understand the reasoning to be safe, but would also think there could be a central training session for school admins. or designated fingerprint days at local schools. If the requirement is that field trip volunteers (parents) must travel to SODO during their normal work hours then I suspect the majority of schools will be at a loss for parent chaperones for their field trips.

As a parent I have received no such notification. Melissa or other please provide a link for parents to learn more. We'll get it up on the school website ASAP.

-StepJ

Anonymous said...

RE: Fingerprinting

We moved here from California last year. There, if you volunteered for more than 4 hours per week, you had to be fingerprinted. It was policy. It made sense. We thought it was very strange here that we did not have to do that.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Anonymous said...

From the previous thread about Alki's new principal:

"She is committed to the academic initiatives at Alki and we believe she will be a great fit for the Alki community."

One of the "initiatives" is the PTA financed Singapore Math.

Mandating all kids to take Algebra after years of prior inadequate math instruction is not "social equity." In fact, it's the opposite. When administrators read some research (like algebra being the fork in the road that separates later achievement or not), they often seize upon it without any context whatsoever--and make the problems worse.

The fact that only the schools where parents can pay (or Mercer) get decent math is probably this district's biggest disgrace.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

Students need to pass 2 math EOCs to graduate, though I think 2013-14 may be the last year for WA EOCs. Common Core exit exams are scheduled to replace the current EOCs in 2014-15.

Compulsory placement of all 8th graders in Algebra is terribly misguided. Why are schools being allowed to experiment with students like this? Speak up now, parents. There is plenty of emperical evidence showing it can be academically harmful for students to be pushed into Algebra unprepared. Individual principals should not be making decisions like this.

AP

Anonymous said...

Kids are at school to learn math, among other things. They should be pushed reasonably hard and Algebra in 8 th grade is reasonable for lots of kids. A whole school? If it's McMclure, I think it should work. That school should set an example of what can be done under the new equity scheme. Many times I have heard that we shouldn't be closing the achievement gap by holding back smart kids and good students. This puts that conspiracy to rest. It also is supported by research that shows putting all kids on gifted classes gives positive results. I believe the study is out of Duke.

Barry

Anonymous said...

It also keys in with the APP dispersal plan. If one grade above is the norm then APP becomes like Spectrum is, one grade higher than normal. Three years above grade level is already happening at all middle schools with eligible students, as well as two years ahead. So unless for psychosocial reasons a student needs self-contained, why have APP programs?
I think it's great that kids are doing harder work and if they need to miss an elective, welcome to life!

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry,

Really? All middle schools offer language arts, math, social studies and science three years ahead of grade level?

What do you see as the benefit of enrolling all students in algebra in the eighth grade? Would it be even better to teach algebra to all in the 7th grade?

If we're going to enroll every eighth grade student at McClure in algebra, it is only equitable to enroll every 8th grader at Aki in algebra too. How do you feel about that?

Lynn

Anonymous said...

Last year, 2011-2012, OSPI reports 37 students met standard for Algebra 1 at Aki and 70 at McClure. Two students at Aki met OEC for geometry as well. With the trajectory of math at Aki, they will probably be in a position to follow suit.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Yes - that year 39 students at Aki met standard for algebra or geometry. There were 658 students in the school. At McClure, 70 of the 483 students met standard on the algebra EOC.

What is the point of accelerating math instruction in middle school? The most common argument I've heard is that kids who take algebra in 8th grade are more successful in high school. Obviously this is because kids who took algebra in 8th grade are good at math. If you push kids into algebra before they're ready, you're not going to increase their chances of success in high school. I would argue they're going to feel they aren't good at math - and be less likely to succeed at it in the future.

It just seems like such a lazy idea. We have to evaluate kids individually and give them the math instruction they need.

Lynn

Charlie Mas said...

The reason that students who take algebra in 8th grade are more successful in high school isn't because they take algebra. Taking algebra isn't the cause, it is a result. The cause is all of the preparation and motivation the student had leading up to the eighth grade which made the student ready for algebra in the eighth grade. Isn't that obvious?

Why stop at algebra in the eighth grade? Why not have the kids take algebra in the seventh grade and take geometry in the eighth grade? Wouldn't all of the arguments in favor of universal eighth grade algebra also support universal seventh grade algebra?

Why stop there? Why not algebra in the sixth grade, geometry in the seventh grade and algebra 2 in the eighth grade? Wouldn't that be better still?

What does this mean for math placement in the sixth grade? Are they going to continue that or will all of the students have the same math class in the sixth and seventh grades as well?

What does this mean for MTSS? What will they do for the students who are unable to succeed with the Tier I curriculum of 8th grade algebra? Will they still be taking algebra but with alternative texts and instructional strategies? And what will they do when the students can't succeed at algebra even with the alternative texts? Will it result in referrals to special ed?

Charlie Mas said...

The fee for fingerprinting at the King County Courthouse is $5. Go there instead.

Charlie Mas said...

There hasn't been a Friday memo to the Board since June 28.

At the retreat, the Board complained that the Friday memos have become much less informative. The staff replied that they are inhibited by the fact that the memos are now public.

Setting aside, for the moment, curiosity about what the staff was writing that is regarded as unsuitable for public disclosure, it looks to me like the staff has developed other, less official channels, for sharing information with Board Directors. The Friday memo is now stage dressing while the real information is transmitted through other means.

Anonymous said...

To answer Lynn's question:

There are two different requirements that you seem to be conflating. Starting with the class of 2015:

A) All Students must pass three consecutive years of math including Algebra 2 (or approved alternative) to graduate.

[Note that while an approved alternative can be used to satisfy graduation requirements, all 4-year colleges and Universities in the state of Washington require Algebra 2 or higher as an entrance requirement, so taking a course with a title like "Financial Algebra" or "Applied Mathematics" to satisfy the requirement so the student can graduate shuts the door to a four year college unless that student enrolls at a community college and takes remedial math courses first.]

B) Students must also pass End of Course (EoC) exams in both Algebra and Geometry, or pass the requirement using an approved alternative--such as Collection of Evidence (CoE), OSPI Grades Comparison, SAT or ACT qualifying score.

[Note that for Students with IEPs there are the also options to use the Developmentally Appropriate Performance Exam (DAPE) or, failing that a Locally Determined Assessment (LDA); however, use of these assessment modes means the student would graduate with a Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA), referred to by some parents as "diploma lite", instead of the more rigorous Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) which is required by 4-year colleges.]

I hope that answered your question!

Math Nerd

mirmac1 said...

The fingerprinting is required for chaperones on overnight trips.

Anonymous said...

As strange as it may sound, some kids actually find Algebra to be easier than math that proceeds Algebra. I know that was the case for me.

HP

mirmac1 said...

Ridiculous. ALL Friday memos are public, even before they were posted on the website. What do they have to hide? It's that mentality that leads to our district stepping in doo doo on a regularly basis.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,
The June 28th memo says "While you are on hiatus, and many staff are taking vacations during this time, we do not plan to send out a Friday Memo again until early August."
Lynn

Anonymous said...

McClure's pass rate for the 2011-12 grade 7 math MSP was 70%. Would you consider the remaining 30% ready to take Algebra in 8th grade? You could say a majority of students were - two classes of students passed the EOC - but does that mean all students should be put on the same trajectory? What was done last year to prepare those students to skip a year of pre-algebra?

Analyis of a NC district's initiative (Clotfelter et al 2013)showed students pushed into Algebra 1 had lower performance on the Algebra EOCs and a decreased likelihood of passing Geometry. "For the median student, and all those below, acceleration appears to be more likely to lead to course repetition than to Calculus." Good intentions. Bad outcomes. The district changed course after a few years. Why not work to improve the 8th grade course and set students up to be more successful in 9th grade Algebra I?

Algebra for 8th Graders North Carolina

More discussion here:

The Case of 8th Grade Algebra I for ALL Students

AP

Anonymous said...

The influential National Mathematics Advisory Panel report (2008) strongly linked future outcomes with Algebra.

http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf

However, it also emphasized the gradual mastery of the necessary precursor skills.

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2008/03/14/education/14mathchart.ready.html

Good intentions, unfortunately, do not require effort and can flounder in ignorance. Too often in SPS (and the educational establishment in general), jargon and superficial understanding of research is the currency for status and promotions.

This district needs to go to bat for all of its students, instead of giving lip service to equity and then setting some kids up for failure--especially when there is such a blatant system of the haves and have nots in math based on parent contributions.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

I am wondering when the math pathway and math placement process describd on the district website will be amended to add "except for at McClure Middle School."

Lynn

Charlie Mas said...

Won't the decision to put all students on track for algebra in the 8th grade at McClure play holy hell with the District's precious curriculum alignment effort?

Anonymous said...

I read the memo on McClure's website to say the change will ALLOW all students to take algebra in 8th grade, not that they all will. There are students out there who are competent at math, that don't test well. Call me optimistic, but I think this is a genuine attempt at equity that should be welcomed.
TS

Anonymous said...

SPS prepares its students poorly to succeed in algebra. The Everyday Math and middle school textbooks are based on the discovery methods, which do not allow enough practice for proficiency. Pushing students earlier into algebra will not fix a fundamentally weak curriculum.

SPS has ignored parents for years about the flaws in its math curriculum. They will waste two more years fumbling around trying to align math to Common Core. More years of math failure for students.

S parent

Anonymous said...

I don't think they're doing anything to put all McClure students on track for Algebra - they're just putting then in Algebra.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

TS,
If you click on "Read Complete Letter" on the website, you'll find that it says "Every McClure 8th grade student will be enrolled in Algebra."

Lynn

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

One seemingly benign but alarming detail that Lynn mentioned and that is escaping notice is the "in school peer tutoring program". The HIMS administration (Conner, at the time, & Carter) were eager to implement that at HIMS a couple years back. They were planning to impose on the goodwill of bored advanced learners while not being willing to offer appropriate high math for them. Parents (when they found out, the proposal was never made public) were rightly vocal that this was not best practice for these students and the plan didn't fly. Who is Connor planning to use for the "in school peer tutors" at McClure? Will anyone get to have a real elective?

open ears

Maureen said...

At least all of the McClure kids will get to skip one year of CMP.

Did anyone ask the middle school math teachers before they implemented this?

Anonymous said...

The usual app parents are complaining that other kids get more advanced learning. However will they keep their kids ahead? Is CMP 8 now suddenly oh so wonderful, that it can't be skipped? It's all spiraling, and has a lot of algebra. If a few kids at McClure wind up repeating Algebra in high school, what will be the harm? And think of the benefit it will offer all those who actually do well and rise to the challenge. Both Ballard HS and McClure offer a math support class to supplement regular math. That sounds great to me. Good to hear positive McClure news!

Another perspective

Anonymous said...

Another perspective,

Do you really think there's no harm in setting some kids up to fail math?

Taking both a math support class and a regular math class might be a good idea for some students. It should be an option though - not a requirement. Kids who are not ready for algebra in the 8th grade shouldn't lose their access to electives. That's not equitable.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

It's not about "other" kids getting more. Skipping 8th grade math, which by WA state standards includes algebra concepts as well as geometry and statistics/probability concepts, is creating gaps that will harm students later. Unless the curriculum was compacted in 6th and 7th grades, skipping to Algebra means skipping concepts that will be needed beyond Algebra. How is this okay? If the problem is weak curriculum in 8th grade, in part because of CMP, then fix the problem rather than bypassing it and creating new problems down the road. What about students that are taking foreign language or other electives that suddenly must take two math classes? How is this equitable?

flipside

Linh-Co said...

Whitman has been putting all 8th graders in algebra for 2 years now. It doesn't work. For 2011-2012, low income 8th graders had a passing rate of 24.7% on the 8th grade MSP. That means 75.3% did not meet standards. These are not good results when you consider cut score for passing to be 56% of the test.

When you look at low income 8th graders passing the EOC1, the rate is much higher with 40.7% passing. This looks like a huge improvement, only the total number of low income students taking the EOC1 is 54 compared with 77 low income students taking the 8th grade math MSP. So 23 of the low income 8th graders either opted out or were not allowed to take the test.

And of those 77 low income students, 36 were at Level 1 on the 8th grade math MSP. How's the support math class working out for those students?

off topic said...

The usual app parents are complaining that other kids get more advanced learning.

McClure doesn't have APP, so, say what? What the heck does this have to do with APP?

Maureen said...

Ok, different topic. I was trolling around LinkedIn and Bree Desseult's name popped up so I checked on what she's doing now. I somehow missed that she is the co-founder of the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

They have quite a bit going on at their web site, including this interesting announcement about Seattle's First Place.

In order to expand their services and community partnerships, the First Place staff and board will submit a plan to become a public charter school.

I hadn't realized that First Place taught school age kids--I thought they only taught preschoolers.

Anonymous said...

Lihn-Coe, your analysis doesn't make sense. Did Whitman offer math support classes as an elective? You didn't say. Why are 8th graders taking the MSP if they're enrolled in Algebra 1? They should be taking the EOC for Algebra 1 at Whitman. That means, no, they weren't enrolled in Algebra 1, or, they were taking the wrong test. We all know that students do worse when tested on the wrong materials. That is why we switched from HSPE to EOCs. How many people would do all that well on the MSP 8, as adults? If the students ALL took Algebra 1, then they took the wrong test (MSP) and did poorly on it, that would be expected.

The main complaint seems to be that desegregation will no longer be in effect to benefit AL students. They'll be sitting in classes with everyone else. At McClure, at least, AL students will no longer get the benefit of the greatly reduced class sizes (which was available at the expense of other students suffering really HUGE class sizes) Oh well.

Another perspective

Po3 said...

If it is equity they are trying to achieve, they need to replace CMP district-wide and allow all students access to the classes they are going to succeed in.

Plopping a bunch of 8th graders at one MS into algebra, using students to tutor struggling students in the name of "equity" is absurd.

Anonymous said...

Off Topic, it is the APP parents now complaining. And, complaining about advanced learning offered to other kids, who normally don't get it. Guess they think it should only be for their kids. How often do we hear complaints from parents that their kids don't have access to slow materials "at the right level" for their kids? I've never seen it.

Another perspective

Linh-Co said...

All 8th graders have to take the 8th grade math MSP. If they are enrolled in algebra, they also have to take the EOC1. And I'm not absolutely certain about the support math class, but Whitman did make students who failed the math MSP take an extra math support class when I subbed at the school for math a few years ago.

Maureen said...

Another perspective, what APP parents are you talking about? Do you mean Lynn? If so, please address your comments to her. Personally, I am a fan of kids being able to access whatever level of material they need (so dislike the fact that single subject advanced kids can be shut out of higher level classes just because they don't qualify for APP.) I do have an issue with all of the 13 year olds being asked to skip a year of math just to make a school look good. I agree that it is like signing all of the freshmen up for Spanish 3 regardless of their background, I would hate it if a school did that to my kid (Especially if she had to drop Drama to take a remedial Spanish class).

I'll let Linh Co defend her own statement about the math tests. It does make sense.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maureen, I have been keeping track of the Washington State Charter Assn - it's all the usual suspects.

First Place is home to kids up to 6th grade - that's where I tutored in the spring. Great staff, I wish they had a better option than to become a charter but at least they fit the mission that charters in this state are allegedly supposed to under 1240.

I thought the APP parent complaint was their child being used as a tutor. Once in a while, maybe but bright kids are there to learn as well, not teach other kids.

Anonymous said...

Whitman's website says this about math placement:

Whitman's goal is for all general math students to have the opportunity to study Algebra in middle school and the eighth-grade CMP2 curriculum has significant overlap with ninth grade Algebra I. For the first time this year ALL Whitman 8th grade students and 7th grade accelerated math students will take the State End of Course exam (EOC exam) in either Algebra 1 or Geometry. Meeting standard on these exams satisfies a state requirement for graduation from a public high school in Washington. In addition, students may choose to apply for high school credit for the course upon entry to a public high school. Eighth-grade accelerated math students will take the end-of-year Geometry test.

Their Math Path indicates that they're not teaching algebra. 8th grade students take either 8th grade CMP or Geometry. Apparently they're hoping enough of the spiral in 8th grade CMP will cover algebra that students will be able to pass the algebra EOC exam. So those pass rates aren't as bad as you thought - as none of the students were actually taught algebra!

Someone should remove the math pathway info from the district website - it appears to be meaningless.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

Since math class placement is not based on program, students single-subject high math kids who are not in APP or Spectrum have always had access to a higher class if that is their placement. Math is not self-contained. Whether the identifying process is ideal or not is another discussion.

No one here is defending CMP. All voices have been advocating for stronger math for everyone. And yes, everyone takes the same MSP, regardless of your math class placement. It happens in the same month as the Algebra EOC and the spring MAP, so vey little actual continuity in teaching can happen in May. Remember that boycott?

As Linh-Co reports, the effort has not met with success at Whitman (and remember, Whitman has now dismantled their Spectrum program with no input from parents.)

Middle school can be a hard time in life for kids. Take away electives (languages, music, art)so they can be tutored by peers instead of having a math class that is appropriate with quality curriculum?

And Melissa has it right. All students are at school to learn, even advanced learners.

open ears

open ears

Anonymous said...

Here is an article about people actually doing something actually DOING it not TALKING about it

http://prospect.org/article/break-teach-america%E2%80%99s-ranks

Signed,

Bored with all the Talk

Anonymous said...

@ another perspective, you sure do seem to have another perspective! APP parents are complaining about other kids getting access to higher level math??? I see don't see this anywhere in the comments--aside from the multiple times you claimed it's happening, that is. Rather, it seems to me parents are complaining that many kids are being asked to skip a year of math, thus taking a class for which they are ill-prepared. Sure, this will be great for those kids who are ready, but do you really think that's all 8th graders? The data--and common sense--suggest otherwise. Nobody is complaining that kids will have access to Alg 1, just that they may be forced into it even when not ready.

And if what open ears suspects re: peer tutoring is true, that seems pretty nutty to me as well. If you're already so good at Alg 1 that you can be a peer tutor, why should you be spending two periods of your day working on Alg 1--one in the class, and another in the peer support elective?

HIMSmom

Maureen said...

Mel, do you know that Ms. Desseault is actually at the Association? Her name doesn't appear anywhere on their website (the only people listed are the Board members and there is no CEO or Director position on the board.)

I still can't follow Another Perspective's train of thought. (Complaining about peer tutors isn't the same as complaining about kids being assigned to take algebra as 8th graders. I would imagine that very few APP 8th graders will be in algebra, so it won't impact them at all unless they are forced to tutor other kids which seems unlikely.)

Anonymous said...

Do we have any actual parents, whose kids are not appropriately being "held back" to the the lower level math that they deserve? I haven't heard from them
. Instead, we hear about those poor kids being asked to do too much... by a bunch of app parents like Lynne postulating harm to others exposed to more rigor. Sorry, but I'd like to hear that complaint from those who know their kids best, their parents.

I don't know about peer tutors. I doubt this is used to a negative extent, parents have their motives for making those claims. Group work has positive benefits for all participants even though lots of people whine about it. Similarly, explaining things to others deepens the skills and understanding of the explainer, it is actually part of the standards too.

Another Perspective

Anonymous said...

One thing to keep in mind if your
8th grade student is enrolled in Alg I is in the spring they will be slated to take three standardized math tests:

7th grade MSP Math
Alg. I EOC
MAPS math


APP parent

Charlie Mas said...

Here's the letter.

The accusation that APP parents are trying to deny access to advanced learning for other students has no merit.

Mostly because middle school math placement isn't determined by program. Any student believed ready for algebra in the eighth grade has had access to algebra in the eighth grade. The change implemented by McClure is to assign students to algebra who are not ready for it. That's just nuts. And the T.E.A.M. peer tutoring is a poor use of the tutors' time; time that could be spent learning something for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the bigger picture, the District has multiple issues:

- There is no uniform guideline for algebra placement

- CMP (and EDM) is failing many students

- Schools are implementing policies in isolation of district guidelines

- Equity has taken on different meanings for different people

...which leads to the situations being discussed. The "lower level math" to which you refer is at grade level. How is that "holding back?"

MS parent

Jamie said...

When my kid was at Salmon Bay a couple years ago all the 8th graders were automatically enrolled in Algebra. Not sure if they still do it.

Anonymous said...

We are at a K-8 and many of the parents are very interested in having algebra available to their 8th graders so that they can be eligible freshman year to get into the Ballard biotech acacdemy.

I feel like many on this thread. The option should be there for all the kids who are ready. But many kids, including mine, are not going to be ready for it in 8th grade. Instead of working at a reasonable pace, this will force my kid into something that she is not ready for at all. And will force her to take the zero period, parent funded, algebra class, in 8th grade, in addition to regular day. I am waiting to see how this all shakes out at our school, but I do feel we are being forced into jumping forward very quickly (and yes, using the lousy math curriculum too). One size does not fit all.

-Ann

Anonymous said...

Back to wait lists -

I have no doubt as to the depth of the sympathy expressed by the district to those whose families are effected by the delay in moving wait lists. However, I don't accept the attitude that is is an unforeseeable problem that families need to just deal with. Perhaps I am wrong, but Seattle seems to be perennially behind on this and other deadlines, with a range of "unexpected" circumstances to blame. It seems the attitude is just that stuff happens and families need to deal with it. How many years have we been hearing about this data move? What systems were put in place for this eventuality? What is the backup plan? Has there been a year recently where wait lists were moved by this time? What is the record of a date set by the district where the deadline was met? I know this culture of "yeah, we're a big complicated district, and things go wrong and that's too bad" goes back a long time. For example - in the last 30 years, how many times has Seattle hired by the time other districts were hiring?

-Nobody seems accountable

Broadmom said...

My son was in 8th grade math at Whitman last year and they were doing algebra. As far as I could tell, they had only gotten through about half of the standards by the end of the year. Also, his teacher signed off on him taking Geometry next year despite the fact that he was making C's most of the year and had not passed (85% or better) all of the standards. Waiting to get results from the EOC to see where he will be placed. I guess at this point it will be a surprise on the first day of school. I think I may want him the repeat Algebra either way.

Po3 said...

Looking at McClure's stats on the OSPI Report card, roughly 15% of 7th graders are at Level 1 for math. This is roughly 25 students each year, which could be one math class, designed to meet the very specific needs of these students - who clearly are not ready for an accelerated math class.

Instead, these students will face double math, peer tutoring and the likelihood of repeating Alg 1 in 9th grade.

Did McClure give any thought to the psycho-social ramifications for these students?

Equitable does not mean same.

Broadmom said...

Also, does everyone expect a teacher contract to be in place by the start of school? Or, too early to tell?

Maureen said...

Look at this OSPI graph for TOPS and the algebra EOC.

The first year 73% of the kids passed the EOC, the second year 100% did. Hurray!

Except, if you actually look at the data, 56 kids (basically the whole class) took the test the first year (41 passed) and only 45 (75% of the class) took it the second year (all 45 passed.) TOPS only offers one math class per grade level, everyone in 8th grade is signed up for algebra. I'm hoping there are some structures in place to assure that the 15 kids who didn't take the test are ready to succeed in Algebra in 9th grade. My kid passed that EOC and took Geometry in 9th, so I can't speak for the parents of those 15 kids.

Anonymous said...

I would not consider level 2 students ready for an accelerated class either - roughly 60 McClure students did not pass the 8th grade MSP in 2011-12. That's two classes of students. You also can't assume that passing the grade level test means a student is ready for acceleration. It means they met the grade level standards.

From another perspective: Similarly, explaining things to others deepens the skills and understanding of the explainer, it is actually part of the standards too. Explaining to others is not the same as teaching. Peer tutors, those that have just learned the concepts themselves, are not necessarily the best for teaching concepts. So, so different.

-unconvinced

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maureen, I don't know that Ms. Dussault is working at the charter org but I would not be surprised.

Another, you said this:

"I doubt this is used to a negative extent, parents have their motives for making those claims. Group work has positive benefits for all participants even though lots of people whine about it. Similarly, explaining things to others deepens the skills and understanding of the explainer, it is actually part of the standards too."

I, too, doubt the intent is negative but the outcome surely could be. Tutoring is not group work; totally different. Explaining things can help deepen your knowledge or it could also be a waste of time for student who already knows the material.

Students are not free tutors to help teachers. Go ask a principal if this is really what students should be doing in an on-going manner. (Once in awhile and if the tutor student says okay but not as a going thing.)

Nobody, you are quite right that SPS marches to its own drummer. Late calendar, late waitlist, it's pretty baffling.

Michael Rice said...

Broadmom said...
My son was in 8th grade math at Whitman last year and they were doing algebra. As far as I could tell, they had only gotten through about half of the standards by the end of the year. Also, his teacher signed off on him taking Geometry next year despite the fact that he was making C's most of the year and had not passed (85% or better) all of the standards. Waiting to get results from the EOC to see where he will be placed. I guess at this point it will be a surprise on the first day of school. I think I may want him the repeat Algebra either way.

If your child is going to Ingraham, we will insist that they take Algebra 1. We do this because your child really has not mastered the subject and by not taking again, we are setting your child up to really struggle in Algebra 2. We really work hard to make sure that your child is in the proper math class for their ability. We want to challenge every child, but at the same time, we want to make sure that every child can succeed.

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mirmac1 said...

"take the zero period, parent funded, algebra class, in 8th grade"

WT?! How is that equitable when it is Pay to Play?!

Fact is, this push to put 8th graders into algebra, whether they're ready or not, fits perfectly into the latest Gates mantra: "Start Strong, STEM Strong, Stay Strong". Catchy, huh. How about start math, progress steadily in math, master math? One of Road Map's goals (that they want to collect your child's data on to prove how effective they are) is Region-wide Commitment: Double Completion of Algebra or Higher by 8th Grade. (pg 16)

"Across the Road Map region, only 36% of students take algebra or beyond in middle school. The Consortium commits to doubling the number of students taking algebra or higher in the eighth grade by the end of the grant period, targeting eighth grade students in high-need middle schools first. Effective implementation of this commitment will be supported by increasing teacher capacity in
algebra instruction through Project 1: Invest in Teaching and Leading and our regional Commitment to Common Core State Standards implementation."

Note: I see nothing in their 600 pg RTTT grant app that says how they will measure their "effectiveness" on this particular initiative. Best I can tell, they will measure their success by sheer body count (Pg 162). In exchange for closing this "opportunity gap", CCER/Gates only asks for ten years of your students educational records, including personally identifiable information.

Anonymous said...

---All eighth graders in Algebra at some schools

--------------------
This is the kind of nonsense coming from folks who actually believe that students will rise to meet the level of expectation. BULLETIN - without proper preparation and ongoing support those far below grade level will not be able to meet increased expectations in mathematics.

CHECK the DATA... from Tacoma

Tacoma has been trying the all 8th graders in Algebra for sometime.... the result is that the percentage of kids scoring at level 1 on the MSP in grade 7 remains pretty much the same in grade 8.... so what are these students being placed in Algebra in grade 8? It certainly is not for the students benefit. Perhaps it is for the Superintendent's benefit.

Cohort scores on MSP for level 1
year tested: Tacoma and State; difference : grade level

COHORT 1
2010 : 36.8% ; 23.6% ; 13.2 => 6th grade
2011 : 40.3% ; 23.2% ; 17.1 => 7th grade
2012 : 37.3% ; 23.8% ; 13.5 => 8th grade

COHORT 2
2010 : 43.4% ; 24.3% ; 19.1 => 7th grade
2011 : 39.2% : 25.6% ; 13.6 => 8th grade

==========
So in 8th grade over 1/3 of students tested at level 1 far below standard in Tacoma schools.... Why were most of these students in an Algebra 1 class in 8th grade?

=======
Who is responsible for decisions like all 8th graders will take algebra I?

What is the justification for this action?

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Show us the data.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

@Michael Rice.. do you know if repeating Algebra 1 freshman year is pretty standard for other high schools too? Or is repeating Algebra 1 dependent on the EOC test results? (meaning if the student passed w/ a high score, will that student repeat as well, or just kids who score below a certain threshhold?) I'm curious if the Algebra 1 taking McClure 8th graders will have to (get to?) repeat it regardless once they get to HS. I'm just curious.

@Another perspective - "AL students will no longer get the benefit of the greatly reduced class sizes (which was available at the expense of other students suffering really HUGE class sizes) Oh well" We have had very different experiences I guess, since my AL student at McClure hasn't hade 'greatly reduced class size' - rather big-to-standard class size in math and LA, and other classes too (except an elective or two.)

Mentioned elsewhere up-thread, math placement is done regardless of the AL designation at McClure. Students enter 'above grade level' math via teacher or parent recommendation, opting in, spectrum designation, test scores etc. Any student who wanted to, and was capable of doing above grade level math was allowed to enroll.

My sense is the math dept and former principal looked at the numbers and saw that enough kids enrolled (and entering) McClure would be able for 8th grade algebra and that they have a plan for those who need extra help.

I'm not for it or against Algebra at 8th grade aside from making it compulsory (which makes me think of a one sized fits all approach when students are not one size fits all) and no process by which parents and students can opt out, and no exit strategy for kids who struggle even w/ the extra supports. (they may have an exit strategy that hasn't been communicated though...)

-maverick mom

Maureen said...

You know, I might be for it if the plan is to have the kids who didn't meet the MSP standard take double prealgebra in the fall and then double algebra in the spring in their own, smaller class size, classrooms. Is the plan anything like that? But even then, it seems like they would have to take double math in 7th grade too. And extend the school day for those kids so they could take electives too.

Melissa Westbrook said...

FYI, I have a query into the district on both the 8th grade Algebra questions and the fingerprinting question. I'll let you know when I hear back from them.

Anonymous said...

Maverick mom makes a good point, there is no doubt an option for kids who for whatever reason can't cut Algebra 1 next year. It seems that there will be a push to get kids ramped up however. Is it wrong to make kids work extra hard, to take a semester of remedial math so the can go into High school ready for an academy or just feeling positive because they are in honors math?
If a kid is failing grade level math, I hope there is an option, but if they are just skating and can do the harder work, maybe with some help, it sounds empowering. As for missing electives, I would guess kids who are in Spanish and band are going to be able to make it in Algebra without a remedial class but if they do, I guess they miss some Spanish or get tutored before or after school. Math is an opt in or test in, but many parents don't want to push young Billy, he's got soccer or he skis or the parents don't know or care about opting. Those kids deserve the same challenge as the others.
I too detect a bit of the gifted kids' parents hostility to making gifted the norm. They have busted their butts to get their kids into HIMS or Washington and to realize they coulda stayed put and maybe have a happier child... well, AL is and has been a crap shoot. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don't.
I really think that all this talk about hurting kids with Algebra is rubbish and the comments about putting kids in Algebra in kindergarten or whatever are just plain silly.
This has been done many places, many times and it will no doubt be standard in the future. Kids need math skills and they need to put in the time to acquire them. It sounds like the time will be taken to do it right.
As far as peer tutoring, middle school is a great time and place to teach and learn compassion, sharing, helping, and tutoring breaks down the walls between the brainy ones and the not so brainy in math. Kids get to see each other as kids not as classrooms of regulars or Spectrum or honors. They can learn to see beyond an ability to do math into other qualities. Don't schools have the good athletes help the not so athletic in gym class? The better musicians lead sections in band and orchestra? Work together on book projects?

Barry

Anonymous said...

Right on Barry. It would be one thing if 8th grade standards and 8th grade curriculum were somehow a true prerequisite for algebra. No, they aren't. Failing the MSP doesn't doom a student to fail Algebra as the naysayers contend. Do you really have to know a bunch of different statistical terminologies, to do Algebra? Not really. It doesn't have to be a linear progression. In some districts, Renton for example, you take Algebra 2 after Algebra 1. Will the sky fall if you don't have geometry first? Not so far.

It would also be one thing if the 8th grade math was so wonderful, that people would actually be missing something. It's notable that TOPs already has Algebra for all, and only 1 class. I say this as a high school parent of a kid who actually took plain old 8th grade math. My child would have benefitted from a universal Algebra requirement. And also, people who say anybody who wants to can "just sign up" for Algebra in middle school. No, this is most definitely not allowed for everybody - for a whole host of reasons. Especially at McClure. Yes, you could probably make a federal case to get it to happen, but that isn't a road everyone wants to take. It's really a matter of making the adults, the staff, accountable for making that option widely available. If all teachers are required to actually do the work to make this happen, then it will happen. If not, they will sink to the lowest level - just like the students.

-Another Perspective

Anonymous said...

PS. As to the "horror" of peer tutoring. McClure has had classroom TAs for YEARS. So have lots of other middle schools. Salmon Bay has them. Nathan Hale advertises "peer tutoring" as an awesome way to improve performance at its open house. Not one single person got up and complained about how their uber-student at Hale was being abused by peer tutoring. Nor have I ever heard any Hale parent complain. Lowell APP LOVED helping severely disabled kids and gushed about it at all opportunities. No complaints about "wasting time" tutoring, then. No "my kid is here to learn" speeches either.

Kinda weird that the only time you hear a lot of whining about peer tutoring, a widespread practice at secondary schools, widely regarded for mutually benefitting students, is when some students are getting a very modest opportunity at advanced learning.

Tutoring isn't teaching btw. That's why there are 2 different words for it.

-AP

Anonymous said...

It sounds pretty lazy for parents, staff, and admin to shrug and say if some 8th graders can't cut algebra, just have them retake the class again next year. If adults already don't seem to think it matters if students are ready or not or how they'll do, just put them in the class anyway, are students going to be motivated?

What is the rush? Were there efforts last year to prepare 6th and 7th graders for this? If not, then this sink or swim math pathway seems pretty mean. Electives are opportunities for students to explore their interests and may very well be the thing to keep some kids interested in learning and staying in school. These students aren't stupid and they'll know if you are setting them up for punishment (2 math classes, losing elective choice, and possibly a repeat the next year).

grinder


Anonymous said...

To effectively promote greater success in algebra for 8th grade students will require much better kindergarten thru grade 7 math instruction. The SPS has yet to address its abysmal math materials at any grade level in an organised way. The continued use of Everyday Math k-5 and Connected Math in middle schools shows an absolute disinterest in properly preparing most students for math success in higher math topics.

Try a google search for Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark's "Why Minimally Guided Instruction Does Not Work" and look at John Hattie's "Visible Learning" to see instructional practices that work and those that are ineffective.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

I can say from experience, that I was terrible in math proceeding Algebra. It was boring and repetitive. Once I switched to pre-algebra in 7th grade and then algebra in 8th grade my grades went from C's to A's. They almost didn't let me take pre-algebra but thank goodness they did. Suddenly math became interesting and fun. It was like a puzzle to solve instead of memorizing stuff or doing calculations done much better on a calculator. I went on to geometry my freshman year and finally took calculus my senior year.

I don't see anything wrong with letting kids try algebra and offering the support if needed.

And yes Hale does do peer to peer tutoring/help. The students get leadership points for it and it can help with the overall grade. My child tutored in math and in Japanese.

HP

Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of Susan Sontag's book, Illness as Metaphor, as I read the comments.

Eight Grade Algebra as Metaphor for:

--a horribly ass-backward attempt at equity
--whether or not schools are performing well enough for the reform crowd (Road Map)
--parents who are always terrified of lowered instructional rigor for their own child, who is always ready for more, if the masses infiltrate the class

Like Dan Dempsey states, decent math materials is the key. It would be great if all the commenters and readers sent an email to the district and board about how some parents are getting to pay for a decent curriculum for their own kids, and most of the others can't. Then, the effort being put into this thread in the name of equity will truly be about equity.

--enough already

Michael Rice said...

Maverik Mom asked if other schools make students repeat Algebra 1 if they don't master the subject in 8th grade and my response is I don't know. I would suggest contacting the math department of the high school your child will be attending and ask, if you have not already done so.

Dan Dempsey makes a very good point about the lack of quality math materials in grade school and middle school. The programs in place do not do any sort of job preparing students for the rigors of Algebra, Geometry and beyond. The adults who made these decisons have sentenced a whole generation of students to struggle and failure in mathematics by these poor choices.

Anonymous said...

HP, difference is you were prepared and it was your choice. If you were already struggling in pre-algebra and the school policy is for you take algebra a year ahead while offering an extra class of remedial math to be taken concurrently, how would you feel?

Who's fooling whom? Some may think it's setting high standards and rigor for students. But it's BS. It's really setting low standard for teachers and adults. Where's the responsibility for adults to make sure kids are prepared along the way? This is the best way to teach and for kids to learn?

Does this philosophy extends to the teachers and admin? Why not have LAs teachers step in and teach algebra while providing concurrent training at the same time? Or have a principal who'd never taught math teach algebra for a year? Remember their eval still counts and ties in to how their students fare. What can go wrong? Can even have fellow math teachers help with peer tutoring as fellow math teachers with 150 students will have time plus it'll look good on their evaluation. Think of the flexibility this plan allows. I can just see the enthusiasm and everybody would feel good knowing we've raised the high expectation bar!

grinder

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have no problem with voluntary peer tutoring. It's a great idea to share skills and get to know other students you might not have in class.

But, I'm not for teachers telling kids they will be tutoring other kids.

Also, no gym class I was ever in had "good" athletes helping other students. Maybe on a team sport but not in gym class. And leading a music section is not tutoring.

This comment:

"They have busted their butts to get their kids into HIMS or Washington and to realize they coulda stayed put and maybe have a happier child."

Unworthy. If you want to criticize another person's parenting, sign your name. Otherwise, don't do it because to me, as a moderator, it's as bad as name calling.

Anonymous said...

Re: Peer tutoring, my kid loves teaching other kids how to do math. Math is her thing. She's shy so it gives her a structured way to get to know other students. It reinforces her learning. It helps others. All good.

The only way I'd object is if she got put into a math class where she's already mastered the material and instead of learning new things she spends her entire year tutoring other kids. If it's a voluntary TA thing or after school or during lunch, I'd guess she'd love it.

Mathy Mom

Anonymous said...

You don't need to bust your butt to get into Hamilton or Washington. You take the test, you qualify, you enroll.

There is a misconception that the majority are there on appeal or have done outside tutoring to be ready for the test.

Most APP kids learn differently from the majority, this is well documented. Gen ed teachers usually want them out of class and refer them to APP because they are out of step with the rest of the kids. Again, no butt-busting needed. The child would not have been happier staying in the gen ed class, either. They are bored out of their minds with EDM & Writer's Workshop.

Washington State recognizes gifted ed as basic ed and appropriate for advanced learners.

The school day should not include tutoring other students at the expense of electives or because you have an empty period since your school won't offer the math class you and your peers need (HIMS under Carter).

open ears

Anonymous said...

Gifted and advanced learners are two very different categories.

The research regarding the needs of truly gifted students cannot be applied to advanced learners. In fact, some gifted children are not advanced learners but are extreme underachievers.

How the district selects and educates students in APP does not follow best practices for gifted education. Many students in APP would not meet the research based criterion for gifted.

By the way, MOST students would probably state boredom and dissatisfaction with EDM and Writers' Workshop.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

Oh geez, can we leave APP or even AL out of this? This is about learning math. If the goal is to have students taking algebra in 8th grade, fine, change the curriculum and pacing, find better texts, and start it right from the beginning in elementary schools. Don't keep passing kids up through these lower grades weak in basic math and then expect them to take the leap. That's not equity. That's laziness.

grinder

Anonymous said...

Peer tutoring does not break down barriers and foster friendships. Study groups might do this - but not relationships where one child is always the one with the answers.

What exactly does this busting of butts to get into Hamilton or Washington look like? Open ears is right - in my experience, teachers don't want to keep APP kids in their classrooms. Either they are obviously miserable (and good teachers don't like to see this) or they are bored and creating their own excitement in the classroom (too much trouble to deal with).

Advanced math placement should be something schools offer to kids who are ready for it - and parents should have the option to accept it or turn it down. McClure could have offered tutoring over the summer to kids who want to take algebra but are not ready yet. That would have been an intelligent way to increase the number of kids enrolled in algebra. (Still haven't heard why that is a goal for every kid.)

Lynn

Anonymous said...

RE: kids being prepared for Algebra, studies show that when kids have mastered addition, multiplication, subtraction and division, and know and work easily with fractions and decimals, they can learn Algebra easily.

It's a skill, not magic. EDM does not give sufficient practice to become really super proficient (muscle memory) at those things. So anyone who wants to get *their* kid ready for Algebra should be doing regular practice at home. A small amount, every day, for years before Algebra. Most kids will sail through with this small investment of time on your and their part.

Anyone interested in getting *all* kids ready for Algebra need to be working in their schools and working with the Where's the Math people to change the curriculum, and the way math is taught (in some cases).

Mathy Mom

Anonymous said...

The more I see equity being used as the excuse, the more I see red! Why? Hello, why TOPS, McClure, and Whitman? Why not Aki and other middle schools? I don't think 8th grade algebra is too early IF students have been well prepared and there is consistent, quality instruction and evaluation being done along with remediation should students need it. If equity is truly the goal, then it should bloody well be the goal for the entire district!

grinder

Anonymous said...

Force them all into Algebra 1 in 8th grade, and for those who don't do well, just repeat the class. No biggie.

How is this in any way a wise use of anyone's time and precious resources?
We've had solid math assessment and placement tools for decades, and this is what rises to the top as best practices for SPS? Stunning.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

There is a current district-wide rule that in order for 6th graders to enroll in Alg 1, they need to have gotten a score of 250 on the winter map in 5th grade.

If this a reasonable predictor for Alg 1 success for 6th graders, why don't they use it for the 8th graders as well? Out of curiousity, I wonder how many would meet this requirement.

Alg 1 is not a reward, it is a next step in a multi-year process. There is nothing wrong with not being ready in 8th grade, especially with our atrocious curriculum..

-pickle

Anonymous said...

Why not Aki and other middle schools? (on equity and Algebra 1 as an 8th grade requirement)

Hello! Decentralized decision making. Why do people continue to complain about "district policy" and "aligned curriculum"? Really, it is always about the principal, and always has been. Principals have wide latitude over what's taught in their schools and how. The only thing strange about this - is that it's at McClure. Why now? Why send out something from Sarah Pritchett, as she's walking out the door? She always has told parents that their kids don't need Algebra 1 in 8th grade. She even once suggested that kids could double up math in high school if they were all that interested in getting ahead in math. So, it's a bit of surprise to hear that this is at McClure.

-Once a Maverick

Anonymous said...

@Once a maverick, if you want to make this about Ms. Pritchett, that's your pole to climb.

You can have good decentralized decision making and still make sure kids gain competency in basic math through the grades, before taking on algebra. Principals and teachers cannot be allowed to abrogate that responsibility. That's what this is all about, regardless of what grade or for that matter, what subject. That's why we have grade standard expectations, right? Why are we making students take so many tests if we don't use these assessments to help them?

grinder

Anonymous said...

Grinder, give it a rest. I'm not "making it about Pritchett". And it's no "pole to climb." It seems like a good decision, but not one I would have expected her to make. Especially considering she won't be there to implement it. She does believe in righting inequity. So, that much I believe.

-Once a Maverick

Anonymous said...

This is happening at Blaine too. So Blaine, McClure, Whitman, all in the same high school feeder. We were told that Ballard Biotech Academy entrance as a freshman required passing the Algebra 1 EOC in 8th grade. A lot of parents wanted this option for their kids, but there are also parents who are not thrilled at all with the one size fits all approach, the lousy preparation for this, and the incredibly BAD, BAD, BAD curriculum.

--Ann

Anonymous said...

So who originated this idea at McClure? Did this come from the principal, the math teachers, the exec director, the district? Are the math teachers on board with this, or have they expressed concerns? Were they even allowed to express concerns without jeopardizing their jobs?

At this point, I would really like to know who made this decision, and why.

Parent

Anonymous said...

Dear McClure Parents,

I am writing you to tell you about a systemic change in McClure Middle School’s math offering for all 8th grade students. In the past our 8th grade students were either enrolled in 8th grade math (CMP) or were designated for honors math (high school algebra). Sarah Pritchett, the past principal and I decided prior to her promotion to Executive Director, Central Region, that
McClure should offer algebra for all 8th grade students. The epitome of our decision was the
issue of equity for all 8th grade students. I enthusiastically agreed to this challenge citing that the change was necessary and just. Every McClure 8th grade student will be enrolled in algebra. They will be challenged, develop a deeper set of critical thinking skills, have the dual opportunity to receive high school math credit and pass the End of Course (EOC)algebra test administered in June 2014.

... the rest of it ...

Best Regards,
James M. Johnson
McClure Algebra/Geometry Instructor and Department Co-Chair


Mr. Johnson is well respected by everyone. This sounds as if the idea is his, which is entirely appropriate.

-Once a Maverick

Anonymous said...

So you want to tell me to give it a rest because this is the solution to right an inequity where kids who are struggling in pre-algebra math are now going to be placed in 8th grade algebra, a year in advance? How much prep were these kids given prior to this policy? They are expected to "elect" a remedial math class at the same time, losing an elective choice, and if they don't cut it, oh well? There's always a repeat next year. That's equity? If McClure has many more students who show they have the solid foundation to take on algebra, then expand that pathway option. Why make such a big deal and mandate such a sweeping policy?

What is this really about? If the goal is to have 8th graders take algebra. Fine. Let's make the changes district wide and do it right fom 1st grade onward. That means teachers and principals should be clamoring for the curricula changes as parents have been. Crickets.....

If you're defining an equity issue because not all 8th graders are taking algebra, then what about all those 9th graders at Ballard who aren't in biotech or taking calculus by 11th or 12th grade or in AP chemistry?

I'm sorry I'm not going to give it a rest. This isn't about equity. If it was, we would be talking about the whole district and how students are being passed through the grades without meeting grade subject standards. Trying to address this at 8th grade in a few select schools with mandatory algebra class knowing full well you have students who aren't prepared for this and adults ok with that is not going to right this "inequity" problem.

grinder

Anonymous said...

What grinder said.

This sounds as if the idea is his, which is entirely appropriate. How is it appropriate? How is it okay for a teacher or principal to single-handedly make decisions like this for an entire school? These type of changes should be vetted at the district level, and if it's good for one school, it should be good for all. But it's not, is it? Would they do this at Eckstein, one of the largest middle schools in the state? Probably not.

So is the change being driven by a desire for students to pass the Algebra EOC for entry to Ballard? Is that the real driver in all of this? Is that the "inequity" they are trying to right? The letter promises "They will have the requisite skills to pass the EOC." Okay...that's a pretty low bar. What about promising they will have the skills to be successful in future math courses? Hmm...it's hard to promise that since data has shown these types of policies actually decrease performance in future math classes (for low to mid performing students).

It feels like the wild, wild west the way principals are allowed to make major programmatic changes without evidence to support their plan. As others have said, if we want to see equity, there should be a push for better math for all students, starting in K.

Anonymous said...

You can enter the Biotech Academy as a sophomore too - there's an application available online.

If this is about competition for a limited number of seats in a popular program - once again - why not offer more spaces in the academy?

Lynn

Anonymous said...

Mr. Johnson says that he agreed to the changes, not that he instigated them.

I would still like to know who pushed for this -- admin or math teachers -- how much buy-in was obtained beforehand and if there is any opposition (or if it was silenced), and why this is being done. Sounds likes this is happening in many, if not all, of the Ballard feeder schools.

Parent

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I'm not going to give it a rest. This isn't about equity. If it was

Ok grinder. First you're mad that some students might take Algebra1 at McClure. Then you're mad because you thought somebody made it "about Sarah Pritchett", then you're mad because it's about equity. (from the mail) Then you're mad because people notice it's app parents complaining when it doesn't effect them. Next it's because principals are deciding what gets taught and "breaking the sacred rules", that were invented, what? a year ago? Next the teachers are just being lazy... somehow by teaching more they must be lazy. Obviously right. You don't want to give it a rest.

I give up. If it isn't about equity, then what is it about? And why don't you leave it to the "harmed" parents to find recourse. I'm sure they can if they want to.

-Once a Maverick

Anonymous said...

I responded to your post, once a maverick, not "someone" else. If I disagree with your post, it isn't out of anger, but because you haven't made your case. This sweeping policy has real impact on students, especially those who are struggling with pre-algebra already. Try to put yourself in their shoes. It's not good enough to say if they fail, they can repeat algebra next year in HS. Why the rush? Why not spend 8th grade and work with these students so they are prepared to succeed in 9th grade algebra? That is still SPS traditional math track.

If you can answer the questions, please do so. If SPS wants 8th grade algebra to be the new math standard, then do so systematically by redoing its curriculum, alignment, and instruction district wide. We have good data out there on what works, why not use it? Then start from the beginning, K or 1st grade onward.

Good teaching and learning to me means you have to take individual student learning needs into account. Equity doesn't mean equal treatment. Another word, what is being proposed is equal treatment as it requires all 8th graders to take algebra. But it doesn't mean it's equitable. Equitable means you need to take individual needs into consideration to get the same outcome. So if your outcome is to get students to achieve algebra competency,I.e. passing EOC, and understand algebra, you may have to apply different methods to get them there (at different pace too).

grinder

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

I'm reposting this anonymous comment in support of grinder. I support what I hear grinder saying as well. (Anonymous, pick an alias or you get deleted here.)

Anonymous said...
What grinder said.

This sounds as if the idea is his, which is entirely appropriate. How is it appropriate? How is it okay for a teacher or principal to single-handedly make decisions like this for an entire school? These type of changes should be vetted at the district level, and if it's good for one school, it should be good for all. But it's not, is it? Would they do this at Eckstein, one of the largest middle schools in the state? Probably not.

So is the change being driven by a desire for students to pass the Algebra EOC for entry to Ballard? Is that the real driver in all of this? Is that the "inequity" they are trying to right? The letter promises "They will have the requisite skills to pass the EOC." Okay...that's a pretty low bar. What about promising they will have the skills to be successful in future math courses? Hmm...it's hard to promise that since data has shown these types of policies actually decrease performance in future math classes (for low to mid performing students).

It feels like the wild, wild west the way principals are allowed to make major programmatic changes without evidence to support their plan. As others have said, if we want to see equity, there should be a push for better math for all students, starting in K.


8/15/13, 3:04 PM

Maureen said...

Does anyone here know Mr. Johnson well enough to email him and ask him to address the concerns expressed here?

In particular, I would like to know if the McClure 8th graders who have not met standard on the MSP and/or scored 250 on the MAP will be placed together in smaller classes (and with the perceived "best teachers") or if they will be mixed in with the students who would be identified as ready for algebra at other Seattle schools.

I understand why small schools like TOPS, Salmon Bay and Blaine might choose to teach algebra to all 8th graders (about 75% of TOPS kids benefited from it), but I thought one of the advantages of a comprehensive MS is that pretty much all of the kids could be met where they are at. (That's why I am resisting this decision.)

Anonymous said...

A couple of good articles with different POVs presented about 8th grade algebra standard. There is an interesting discussion referencing common core as well and how this may influence standard.

http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/its-final-state-board-shifts-policy-on-eighth-grade-algebra/25672#.Ug2Uvsu9KK0

http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_22833123/early-algebra-californias-new-common-core-math-standards

For me, this topic is complex. I like the idea of an 8th grade algebra standard, but if you want this, then you need to make the resources available from the beginning, the early grades, to make sure students will have the knowledge and skillset to build on and be successful. Be sure what your goals are. Is it to have all students take 8th grade algebra vs. achieving algebra competency and understanding? Can we do both? California has been trying the last 15 years....

grinder

Anonymous said...

Maureen,

I asked him if students would be ability grouped for algebra and he responded that they will not be placed by "ability."

Apparently ability is an imaginary concept. Silly me.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

Mr. Johnson is it. McClure is a small school with 1 math teacher per grade. (Actually, 4 for 3 grades.) This year there was a part time remedial math class taught by a part timer. Traditionally, honors classes also have reduced class sizes at McClure - oh the irony of that one! Undoubtedly, that is a factor in the equity in the decision. If we were really being equitable, we'd have reduced class size for students who haven't yet been able to learn standards. When my kid was there the LA honors had 17 to 22. Regular LA was up to 40, and a minimum of 35. Honors math sections were as low as 16. Regular math around 30. If that's not an equity problem, I don't know what is. Yeah I know some people think that their honors class was mid-sized when it had 22 or 25 kids. Uh. No it isn't. Capacity is 32, and overloaded is more than that.

-Once a Mav

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

Once a Mav, that's interesting because when I attend Board Ctm meetings, I hear a lot of supports for struggling students and yet it sounds like they are not always available.

I should try to find out what the supports look like throughout the system because I agree. You need a smaller class size (or pull-out or something more downsized) to help struggling students.

Anonymous said...

My APP qualified kid is entering McClure this fall. I have a couple of thoughts about this change.

I like the high expectations, high support approach. I've spoken to Mr. Johnson and he seems like a teacher who really understands kids, and loves and knows how to teach math. People think highly of him. So perhaps we should give some credit to the person implementing this, that he cares enough and has the skills to keep refining it where needed to make it work.

I ran into one of the 5th grade math teachers in a feeder school, already a great teacher, BTW, and she brought up the new challenge this will present to her and she's already thinking hard about how to get the kids ready. I'm counting on the professionalism of the teachers in the younger classes figuring out how to get the kids ready for her class, and so on down the line. I know there has been a lot of communication between McClure and the feeder elementariness in the past year. My daughter's 5th grade teacher covered a fair amount of 6th grade material last year...maybe he knew what was coming or maybe he always does, I don't know.

Many commenters believe it would be best if the curriculum were changed and kids were prepared from K up, then make this change, but maybe that's like waiting for Godot. Someone took action and just maybe it will feed backward through the system.

I don't know all the ins and outs of the issue, but I'm willing to see how it all works and at least someone is doing something to raise the bar in math. I'm also willing to give Mr. Johnson the benefit of the doubt that he's got a plan for the kids that just aren't going to be ready. But advertise the "out" up front, and a lot of kids who can do it would probably bail.

Here's Hoping

Maureen said...

This is becoming a little clearer. It sounds to me like the real equity issue is that objective measures and opt-in result in too small a class size for algebra and too large for the other math classes (483 in the school is plenty big enough to offer at least two different math classes per grade level.) The teachers/and or admin don't want to be responsible for drawing an arbitrary line through the students and saying you will take algebra (even though your MAP scores are below 250), and you won't. They are probably also aware that tracking a subgroup in one subject makes it more likely that those kids will have other schedule overlaps and don't want parents complaining that their kids are always in classes with 'those' other kids.

I do hope they have enough supports in place for the kids who will need them.

Anonymous said...

Yes Melissa, there are a lot of "supports" but that doesn't make them accessible or effective. One thing was the MTS program - which turned out to be an afterschool thing, another was a special afterschool math class for African Americans (boys only I think). Not sure if they had it this last year. Doing more afterschool is hardly ideal, especially in a pointedly segregated system, and "more of the same" just doesn't seem good either. Both of these did nothing notable. Remediation and tracking is no substitute for good regular classes, high expectations, and in-class support.

I don't know if this Algebra 1 thing is a great idea, but I don't think the downside is so awful either because 1) there are already some number of failures so this is unlikely to make it worse and 2) the CMP 8 isn't really that great, certainly not worth defending to the hilt.

-Once a Mav

Linh-Co said...

Nobody is defending CMP2, but putting everyone in algebra in 8th grade is not the solution.

Anonymous said...

After school programs only accessible to African American boys? Was the class held at McClure?

Lynn

Anonymous said...

Algebra and Geometry are not difficult. I took both in 6th grade and I am in no means a math genius, just proficient. Most Asian countries, and many boarding schools in Europe teach Algebra and Geometry in 6th grade. I think the kids will do okay if we do not tell them that they are not capable of it.

CCA

Charlie Mas said...

Last year, and in all previous years at McClure, the school made a determination about which students were ready for Algebra and which were not.

That determination was made by teachers who really understand kids, and love and know how to teach math. People think highly of these teachers. So perhaps we should give some credit to the person who implemented the previous procedure, that they cared enough and had the skills to make the right decision.

As a result of that process, which regarded each student individually and made an individualized determination for each of them, these teachers - with skill, expertise, and love - concluded that a large number of their 8th grade students were not ready to succeed with algebra.

That process has now been rejected as inequitable. In its place is a blanket decision that every 8th grade student will be enrolled in algebra.

This is a radical change. It is reasonable to ask if the previous process was faulty - from an academic perspective. It is reasonable to wonder if every previous determination that a student wasn't ready for algebra was wrong.

More likely, the change is predicated on the confidence the school has in the Math Support class. The support class is the only other big difference. The school seems to be saying that all of those students who aren't ready for algebra on their own will be ready for algebra if they have the proper support, and that they will get the proper support in the Math Support class. The support class is described in the letter as an elective, but I have to believe that a number of students will be required to take it.

It is unclear from the letter how the Math Support class will operate.

Let's remember that the Math Support class is not a district-approved course. It has no board-adopted instructional materials, no standards, no state-mandated curriculum. We can hope that in this class students will get exactly the help they need at the time they need it. They will get instruction in fundamental math facts if they are missing them. They will get time to practice skills. This class should also allow the Algebra class to go faster and lean a bit more towards concepts instead of skill practice.

Perhaps they also have a lot of confidence in their implementation of MTSS, or the peer tutoring (T.E.A.M.) or in the online support web site IXL.

Cleveland STEM was able to accelerate the math pathway for all students through the use of a Math Support class, so maybe that technique of double math for struggling students is an effective one. It's reasonable to me that it would be.

I'm starting to come around on this idea. It could work and it could work well. The implementation, of course, will determine the outcome. Whether we think this is a good idea or not, I'm sure that we all wish them all good luck and success.

Anonymous said...

Ballard HS, and maybe others, have exactly the same scenario for 9th graders. There are many options to choose from: Algebra 1, Algebra 1 honors, Algebra 1 double blocked (Algebra 1 + math support), Geometry, Geometry honors, Algebra 2, Algebra 2 honors. All the same arguments for offering lower math, also exist in high school.

I don't know if there's some "district approved" for "support" classes, but they are common. Who cares if something is "district approved" or not? Are people looking for some sort of Goodhousekeepers Seal of Approval? How ridiculous. And at McClure, there's already two "support"/remediation classes.

-reader

Anonymous said...

There is a wealth of information available about requiring all eighth graders to take algebra. The webpage called The Algebra Problem at
http://wheresthemath.com/curriculum-reviews/the-algebra-problem/
provides a lot of information as well as links to other info sources related to this issue.

I have been in a lot of middle school and high school math classes in districts where every eighth grader is placed in an algebra class ready or not. It is a disservice to all of the students. Those who are ready do not get the experience they should because of the number of students in the classes who aren't adequately prepared to be successful. High school algebra 1 classes are not much better as a result of the number of students who have to take algebra 1 again.
SoundMath

n said...

I've passed this along many times - even to Seattle math coaches - to no avail. There is nothing new under the sun and we should be teaching higher level math to our kids much earlier. We still mostly teach arithmetic.

Thirds graders in Lebanon, Oregon do high school algebra. It is a thinking math over rote and it is taught early.

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/12/math_education.html

http://suite101.com/article/algebra-taught-in-first-grade-a87424

Ted Nutting said...

I teach math at Ballard. I agree with most of the comments about mandating algebra in 8th grade, especially those of Charlie Mas and "Mathy Mom."

Ballard puts all students in Algebra 1 or higher. This makes no sense to me, and doing it in 8th grade is even worse.

I taught Algebra 1 during the 2011-2012 school year. Some of my students didn't know their addition tables. Many didn't know their times tables, and many couldn't handle signed numbers. Few could add fractions, and very, very few could divide a multi-digit number by a single digit number. In short, almost all were weak in arithmetic. I thought that students should be able to do simple arithmetic, so my solution was to concentrate on problems that used small numbers and to insist that students do those without a calculator. I hardly used the Discovering textbook at all; it typically used larger numbers that just invited students to take out their calculators as the first step in doing the math.

Generally, the ability of my students to comprehend algebra parallelled their ability to do arithmetic. Quite a few dropped the course, either transferring to the class that included a support class, dropping math entirely to take Algebra 1 the next year, or occasionally shifting to a class with another teacher. Some stayed in the course and did not pass it. Over 90% of the students who remained in the class passed the Algebra 1 EOC test (but let's remember that the EOC is pretty weak and does not even test much of the material contained in the Algebra 1 state standards).

Several comments in this thread have encouraged our schools to emphasize PREPARING students for 8th grade algebra starting in kindergarten and to avoid placing students in Algebra 1 before they can do the work. Of course they are right. I'm convinced that almost everyone has the intelligence to be ready for algebra by 8th grade, but they have to be ready. Our schools are not doing a good job of making them ready.

James M. Johnson said...

James Johnson, McClure Co-Chair & algebra/geometry teacher states:

A parent directed me to this blog. I appreciate all the opinions and passion expressed by all regarding McClure's decision to enroll all 8th grade students in algebra.

What a wonderful country we live in where we can express our opinions in an open forum. As with any decision there will be proponents and opponents. I was asked to sign up for the responsibility to teach all 8th grade students algebra. Based on my philosophy of education, self-efficacy and belief in the power of young people I accepted the challenge.

Due to other obligations I don't have time to engage in a research based granular analysis to address both sides of this topic.

I have taught math for 11 years; 7 at the high school level and am well aware of the math deficits our education system permits students to retain as they matriculate to middle school and beyond. This year marks the beginning of my 3rd full year at McClure. Every year my "honors" classes are composed of students with a range of abilities and deficits. Regardless of the math subject or what the class is called this year will be no different.

I am confident that I have the requisite math pedagogical abilities and McClure has the support mechanisms in place to teach "all students" for the singular purpose of increasing their math achievement. For those who are in a state of consternation about McClure enrolling all 8th graders in my algebra class I would suggest you survey my past students. They will bear testimony to my ability to reach and teach all students.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

M.J. McDermott said...

I tutor in 9th grade Algebra 1 classes at Ingraham High School. I think it's ridiculous that the lowest math class available in high school is Algebra 1. Some parents actually put their kids in Running Start so that they can take "lower" math than Algebra at North Seattle Community College.

The idea of making Algebra 1 mandatory for 8th graders will be a huge challenge for a school district where many students cannot multiply, divide or even add and subtract without a calculator, cannot manipulate fractions with confidence, and have an aversion to working through a problem because they will have endured almost a decade of "feel good" math where they were never drilled in skills that would make them really ready for Algebra 1. Pity the teachers who have to teach Algebra 1 to unprepared 8th graders. Pity the parents who have to endure the pushback from their adolescents and then see the report card.

A better idea would be for the Seattle School District to adopt good math curricula that teaches excellent math skills and truly prepares students for Algebra, whatever grade the students actually get there.

By the way, it would be a good idea to make sure that all of the TEACHERS and ADMINISTRATORS in the Seattle School District can do Algebra.

Finally, politicians and School District officials who want to pat themselves on the back and declare that all of their 8th graders are in Algebra 1: Math is not a race.

James M. Johnson said...

McClure's feeder elementary schools do a wonderful job preparing our students for middle school math. Most are curious to learn and work hard. In my past three years as the singular algebra instructor this did not preclude many of my algebra students from disliking fractions, disliking ambiguity, not understanding how to calculate percentages, thinking that the singular goal of math class is to come an answer, possessing an extremely poor math vocabulary, and thinking they are genius level scholars who are suppose to get an A in every subject in every class.

There are a multitude of reasons for the lack of preparedness of our students with respect to math entering middle school and high school.Current math education research clearly indicates several essential root causes:

1.The least favorite subject of many elementary school teachers is math thus more PD is required to continue to lift their instructional practices to reach and teach “all students”
2.Most elementary schools do not have robust math intervention programs
3.The majority of school districts and teachers do not craft standards based formative/summative assessments
4.The vast majority of school instructional leaders and teachers are not driven by data and thus do not know how to analyze assessment data or prescribe corrective interventions for the purpose of informing their instruction to lift the achievement of “all students”. Standards (and objectives) are meaningless until you define how to assess them.
5. Our assessments are autopsy reports vs. real time corrective action assessments.

Because of this, assessments are the starting point for instruction, not the end.

Additionally, most of assessments to determine academic math preparedness are constructed with multiple choice questions. In a multiple choice question, the options define the rigor. In an open-ended question, the rubric defines the rigor.

A quality math program should consist of an iterative loop based on:

•Assessment (Formative & Summative)
•Analysis & Reflection Questions
•Corrective Action
•Instructional activities
•Assessment (Formative & Summative)

Sample Analysis & Reflection Questions:

•How well did the class do as a whole?
(The analysis should be detailed and specific to each standard)
•What are the class/student strengths and weaknesses in each standard: where do we need to work the most?
•How did the class do on old vs. new standards? Are they forgetting or improving on old material?
•How were the results in the different question types (multiple choice vs. open-ended, reading vs. writing)?
•Etc.

I don't believe I have "the answers" to solving the problem of math achievement but as an educator I take responsibility for doing my part and commit to keep trying to assist our children get stronger and instill greater passion and curiosity for the subject.

Anonymous said...

"I was asked to sign up for the responsibility to teach all 8th grade students algebra."

Mr. Johnson, who asked you to do this?

Parent

Anonymous said...

Back to the waitlist situation, I am curious if there are any children who were already, in the spring, given a choice assignment to an attendance area elementary school that is not their own attendance area. Were all children who sought open enrollment in another attendance area put on wait lists? And did anyone experience any movement on the wait prior to the July shutdown?

My child is #3 on the waitlist for her grade in her elementary school. If she were say #20, I would assume it wasn't going to work and move on. But at #3, it seems like we should have a shot, but it also seems like the district doesn't care even a teeny tiny bit about letting us know. I guess no reason why anyone other than us should care, really.

-- Sick of Waiting

James M. Johnson said...

Dear Anonymous you asked:

Mr. Johnson, who asked you to do this?

My decision was made in collaboration with the McClure administrative team.
I enthusiastically agreed to teach algebra to all 8th grade students. I asked for the opportunity after I reflected on my experience at McClure and analyzed student data for the past three years. To be sure some students will struggle yet they will become more confident students and competent mathematicians. With respect to students who are strong mathematicians . . . they will be pushed and become stronger. A formal or informal survey of my past students will verify my declaration.