Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday Open Thread

The Times reports on new state standards for Science which sound great (except they left out Computer Science and I think that's a mistake).  But the story really misses one huge thing: Common Core which is likely to come out with its own standards.  What happens then?   Hmm.

No director community meetings for Saturday but there is a candidate debate on Sunday the 6th sponsored by the Rainier Chamber of Commerce and First Thursday at the Ark Lodge Cinemas.  The debate includes one between Sue Peters and Suzanne Dale Estey.  Space is limited so you need to register.  (I note the endorsement of the Times to Dale Estey and Blanchard.  Their reasoning on Dale Estey has changed somewhat since their early one.  (For parents who HAVE been in the district for longer than say, a couple of years, it's kind of puzzling to have the Times say Dale Estey's work in an SPS school is a reason to elect her.)

Congratulations are in order for President Kay Smith-Blum who was awarded the 2013 Nellie Cashman Business Owner of the Year award.  She won the Women Business Owner award. 

What's on your mind?


dan dempsey said...

More test score reporting fakery ..

From WA DC in the WA Post:

Again transparency was lacking and the public held in the dark about what constituted the cut scores etc.

The biggest variation was not in reading but math. (It was reported that the math scores declined from the originally reported 53% proficient to 45.5% proficient.)

From the article:
"Catania said he was happy the “correct scores” were released. “I believe you fix issues by facing them,” he said. “You don’t change the rules when no one’s looking.”

OSSE also kept key education leaders in the dark. Smith said she knew nothing of Noel’s decision until Catania and The Post’s Emma Brown began investigating. Why was a bureaucrat, just a few weeks in his position, allowed to take such significant action without prior approval from the interim state superintendent or the deputy mayor?"

So what do we know about WA State's Algebra End of Course assessment cut score changes from year to year?

This appears to be a nation wide boondoggle and here comes CCSS Smarter Balanced all computer testing with SBAC headed up by Dr. WASL Joe Wilhoft.

dan dempsey said...

I think WA DC still uses Everyday Math in the elementary.

Po3 said...

I spent some time on both Peters and Estey's websites. Peters site is so much more robust. I think that speaks to what Peters would bring to the board over Estey.

I am also concerned about who is funding Estey, she has some pretty heavy hitters backing her and I can't help wonder if there are favors that will need to be returned if she gets the seat on the board.

I also like that Peters has been through middle school and I believe now has a student in high school, you see a lot over the years!

K-3 is still all unicorns and puppy dogs, for the most part.

mirmac1 said...

I agree P03

To even begin to counterbalance the impact these heavy-hitters have, Peters' supporters need to send along any contribution they can. Here is the link to do so.

Support Sue Peters

Anonymous said...

What Peters is lacking is a way to get yard signs! I have donated but haven't been able to buy a yard sign. Where do you get them?


Lynn said...

Notes from the Growth Boundaries meetings are now available online.


Anonymous said...

Dan said:

So what do we know about WA State's Algebra End of Course assessment cut score changes from year to year?

I am not sure what you mean by this? I received my daughter's EOC Algebra results last night at Hale Curriculum night. She did really well though the whole scoring thing was confusing. She was Level 4.


Anonymous said...

OSPI publishes testing statistics for the state tests. You can take the scale score and convert it to a percentile based on performance of all students that took the test for a given year. This years testing statistics have not yet been posted.

Since EOC scores were mentioned, let's use those as an example.


If you click on the "frequency distribution report" (bottom of page), it will take you to a spreadsheet for 2012. Scrolling to the EOC 1 page, you can see a scale score of 443 (cut score for a 4) was obtained by 71.8% of students. 443 out of a possible 675 points. I will leave it to you to decide if that's "good." A scale score around 500, on the otherhand, was around 95th percentile. Only 50 students statewide achieved a perfect score of 675 (2012 statistics).

-number cruncher

joanna said...

The have mistakenly posted the Mercer notes twice, once for Mercer and again under Meany. I will be contacting SPS.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks, Joanna! Helps going into the weekend to get it right.

Patrick said...

I'm trying hard not to be too snarky on a beautiful sunny Friday afternoon. But I'm really not sure computer science is ready for science standards. Computers aren't really a science -- there are no truths revealed through observation and experiment. At best it's engineering and more often a black art. Any standard we'd set for K-12 teaching would be obsolete by the time the students were using it in the workplace.

Crownhill said...

FYI - there's a rather interesting "ad" up right now - something about a "shocking French video" with a very pretty girl...decided the better part of valor was NOT to find out what's shocking, but wondering if perhaps your ad stream needs some tweaking? ;o)

ConcernedSPSParent said...

I understand Martin-Morris tends to be the one going to various conventions etc. Does anyone know who pays for these trips and what he delivers when returning - I would assume some publicly available trip report;)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Patrick - computer science a "black art"? I'll have to pass that onto my friends. (I am smiling when I say that.) I think the reason I include it is that it is a very basic skill that I personally believe students today should know and understand.

Is it a "real" science? You have me there.

Crownhill, that kind of thing has been driving me crazy and I have tweaked but I will try again.

Concerned, I'm sure the district and/or the Alliance is footing the bill. What value it is to the district, I cannot say.

Anonymous said...


I'd love to see a thread sometime on split classes (2 or more grades in one classroom) in elementary school. What are parents opinions? Do they work? Are they better, and if so what are the advantages? Or- is the teacher having to cover too much ground and are kids missing some content?

With the capacity crunch and the SEA contract on overages, it seems that SPS is putting more pressure on schools to have split classrooms, and I wonder if it's working.

Seeking feedback

Tina said...

I fixed the meeting notes. Thanks for the letting us know Joanna. One more reminder not to multi-task.

Maureen said...

I think Computer Science falls under the math category in the IB curriculum (that makes more sense to me-math and/or logic (philosophy), not science for the reasons Patrick points out.)

Anonymous said...

Regarding split grades in elementary, both my kids had split classes at two different SPS elementary schools. One was in a 3/4 class and found it so/so, but it wasn't particularly bad. It was hard to split the kids for math (according to the teachers), however, and the school tried to avoid split grades if possible.
Our second school had some split grades and my student was in split classes for many years. It worked fine, though sometimes the kid dynamics were harder because developmentally kids were sometimes in different places, so with only half the number of same grade/same gender peers in a classroom, some kids sometimes felt a little lonely; other times it worked great with opportunities to be the older leaders or the younger learners in a split class. Again, math was harder to split, but worked. Also harder to split with required state history year for one grade or other grade specific curriculum requirements.

Anonymous said...

My second grader took the math MAP test this week, and she said it was much harder than in past years because this year the 2nd graders had to read written questions (not listen to spoken words through headphones). She said there were many words she didn't know in either the instructions or the individual questions. One word she was able to read, but didn't know, was symmetry. How many second graders know this word AND can read it? I was really surprised they are having 2nd graders read their own questions, and that the questions would include words that might be hard for some 7-year-olds to read. My child is in spectrum and a relatively strong reader, and she had difficulty. I can only imagine how difficult the test was for kids who are struggling with reading. My child is also much stronger in math than reading (in the past has scored 99th % in math). For others like her, and particularly for others who struggle more with reading that she does, this test is not a true test of their math abilities.

My child's score was still high, albeit 9 points lower than last spring, but it's bothering me on principle.

Any reaction to this? I'm curious what others think. Am I wrong to be bothered by this?

-SPS mom

Anonymous said...

My daughter was in a 2/3 split as a 3rd Grader. The obvious downside to being a child in the higher grade level of a split: social stigma. I know some of the 3rd Graders were teased initially, and I also know (some) other parents thought the 3rd Graders in the class were the "slow learners." In reality the situation was quite different. Most of the 3rd Graders were independent learners, and I assume they were chosen because of this. My kid does well at school (90s in her MAP tests, above grade level for reading, so we were surprised she ended up being in this particular split.) Social stigma is a tough one though, and it took a few months for everyone to adjust. Her teacher was great, and did a very good job of differentiating. It was also a smaller-sized class than others in the school, so that was a huge plus. My daughter ended up having a good year, but I'm still a bigger fan of non-split classes.

Seattle NW Parent

RosieReader said...

Our kids were in split classrooms at Salmon Bay and we loved the experience. The teachers were all very used to the model, and it allowed them to more carefully target instruction to high/medium/low skilled kids in each subject, in ways that avoided clear cut labels. There were certainly challenges from time to time, but no more than I eard from friends with kids in more traditional programs. (I have to admit I am glad we were in a pure-K, not in the K/1 split, since there's such a tremendous behavioral learning curve between those years, but that teacher was pretty unbelievably great and made it work!

Patrick said...

When my daughter was in 1st grade, she was in a K/1 split class. It is more work for the teacher, because more differentiation is needed. It was a good experience for the students, though. The younger ones benefit from having older peers around, and the older ones get the experience of helping to explain to younger kids. There's nothing like explaining a concept to someone else to make sure you understand it thoroughly.
However, the regular teacher went on maternity leave halfway through the year, and the sub we got was okay but inexperienced and maybe a little beyond his comfort level, and the split class made it just that much harder for him.

Anonymous said...

SPS mom, the 2-5 math MAP test doesn't have the headphone ability... it is a different test. However, proctors ARE allowed to read questions and words to kids, just not allowed to define math terms. (as opposed to the reading test, where they are not allowed to read the question). Hopefully the proctor told the kids this.
-Asked Questions

word said...

Off the topic but kids 8-14yo and families interested in Climate Change can participate in a free Planet Academy (two different locations) on Sat. Oct. 26 to raise awareness on climate change and sustainable living. Info and sign-up is here:


Anonymous said...

Our kids took the Algebra and Biology EOC exams at Hamilton last year. We have not heard about their scores, and the new source does not have that info yet.
Anyone know how we can find out what the scores were? I know the high school kids got theirs this week.


Anonymous said...

Since this post referenced the school board candidate debates, I thought it might be interesting to consider the Center for Public Education's list of Eight Characteristics of an effective school board:


1. Effective school boards commit to a vision of high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction and define clear goals toward that vision.

3. Effective school boards are accountability driven, spending less time on operational issues and more time focused on policies to improve student achievement. -

5. Effective school boards are data savvy: they embrace and monitor data, even when the information is negative, and use it to drive continuous improvement.

check the link for the other 5.

Question to all who've been at this a lot longer than I have: Which candidates are going to help this board be more effective?


Anonymous said...

To Eden:
"Question to all who've been at this a lot longer than I have: Which candidates are going to help this board be more effective?"
SUE PETERS in District 4. No question about that.
SPS mom

Anonymous said...

SPS MOM, and others,

please tell me more.

Specifically, how have any of the candidates demonstrated leadership of any/all of those characteristics?


Anonymous said...

SPS mom-- and PS: re MAP, the fact that your child is really good at math is why she got those difficult questions. The more questions you get right, the higher up it goes. So a typical 2nd grader might not get a 4th grade question, but one that is doing very well might. Once the student starts hitting the top of their ability, the test drops back down. If that makes sense? It is trying to find the very top of the test takers abilities if various content areas.
-Asked Questions

Melissa Westbrook said...

Eden, I did talk about this a lot in conjunction with the national school board convention that was here this summer.

One, our Board does a lot of this (and has gotten beaten over the head by the Alliance and others to the point where they have completed stepped back from their accountability authority).

Two, I think it is difficult to say, for certain, who can/will follow all these.

If you believe these are the most important items in a school board member, you might write the candidates and ask. I have not seen any of them say endorse these outloud or on their websites.

I think what you CAN see from the candidates is their backgrounds. Have they worked in collaboration with others on teams? Have they shown actual leadership? Do they know the district? Is what they advocate for aligning with these objectives?

I could go on but after the ballots drop, I'll write more.

dw said...

I saw a post on Marty McLaren's blog that bothered me, and since her blog isn't designed for 2-way conversations I thought I'd bring it up here. Before I even mention it, I like Marty, both personally and professionally (and wish her the very best on whatever health issue has come up!). I don't always agree with her decisions, but I think she puts student first, which I don't always feel is the case with some of the other Directors. Onward to my point.

Her quote: As Dr. Libros has said, a high volume of repeated emails expressing a particular point of view slows the process of reviewing comments; our goal is to be sure that all viewpoints are considered, rather than to tally opinions. So, if you know that your views are in agreement with others already expressed, refraining from commenting will speed up our process of assessing your viewpoints.

I strongly disagree with this advice. I think both SPS administration and the Board needs to hear from everyone about these issues. Otherwise a loud minority sounds just the same as a quiet majority, and it's easy for the district to make whatever decisions they want (often based on mysterious or flawed logic) since there will always be opinions on both sides of any issue. This doesn't mean "mob rules" is okay, where the 70% majority can tell the 30% minority to go to hell (Wedgwood Spectrum comes to mind), but it really is important to know whether there are 7 angry parents bitching about a relatively small problem, or 400 parents with a widespread cause for concern.

As just one example, I think there is some momentum around changing Wilson Pacific from elementary and middle to middle and high, particularly to get needed high school seat online earlier. There are certainly pluses and minuses to both plans, but if those affected are 80% in favor of this it's a lot different than if only 20% are in favor. None of us know what the real #s are, nor are we ever likely to without a public survey. Even if the district publishes results of their feedback (which happens sometimes), it's not realistic data if they're discouraging duplicate feedback.


Anonymous said...

That's confusing - at the community meeting we were given the impression that feedback was important and it felt that majority opinions could sway the next iteration. Our school can't publicly take a stand because there are conflicting scenarios. What's best for one group may not be best for another. We were encouraged to send individual feedback. The District needs to know that schools aren't necessarily unified in their approval or disapproval of the plan.

If there are workings behind the scenes from vocal parents, and I don't know what messages are going out, all I can do is submit individual feedback.

with DW

Ursula said...

Matt Griffin is throwing more money into a PAC to support Estey and Strategies 360 is funding Estey.

Sue Peters has been endorsed by Seattle Education Association.

Disgusted said...


Peters will be able to work with the current school board.

A central theme in Estey's campaign is board "dysfunction" and Estey is the savior that will bring everyone together.

It is against board policy to speak negatively about staff or colleagues in public. Considering Estey has used her campaign to bash her potential colleagues, repeatedly, it is counter-intuitive that Estey will have the ability to work in a collaborative fashion.

Common sense, please.

Anonymous said...

Eden, you (and anybody who is interested) will have an opportunity to talk to both of the candidates and ask your questions this Sunday:

SPS mom

mirmac1 said...

Well, I'm glad to hear one of the largest constituencies with a direct interest in the school board race has decided to make an endorsement. I am anxious to see what they intend to do to show that support. Hope it's not too little too late, like with the I-1240 campaign.

We've already seen what Matt Griffin will do to support his choice. BTW, he was the most outspoken millionaire in support of Teach for America in our city of well-trained, committed teachers.

Just Saying said...

Hey Dan Dempsey,

Great to see you!

ConcernedSPSParent said...

Good old Matt Griffin, strong supporter of the gang of four and last go around he and his wife provided 15% of Carr's total campaign donations and 19% of Martin-Morris'. Won't be voting for any candidate he hopes will support his special interests (TFA for one).

Hmmmm said...

Did anyone see the video of Estey telling citizens that she doesn't know her top 5 contributors?

Are we to believe that Estey is unaware that Steve Ballmer and the CFO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed to her campaign?

Sure, Estey likes data, but she also likes tracking personal student information and student discipline records.

If you're looking for transparency, you better look beyond Estey.

LG said...

I emailed the address on Sue Peter's campaign website and someone dropped off a yard sign a couple days later.

Anonymous said...

Huh. Uploaded link, saw it on the site, then the comment disappeared. Apologies if it shows up later and I have double posted.

For those concerned about student data privacy, there is a HUGE front page story in the NYT today on the subject.

FWIW, I do think SPS needs to think long term about its own standards on data sharing, which it does right now. An opt-out option seems a simple solution, but I also don't want the district to offer that promise, but not be able to manage its technology and operations in such a way that the promise becomes a source of broken promises and liability.

The best place to start is a community discussion coupled with technology assessment.

Federal law on this issue does not do much to protect families who want data privacy, so this would need to be a question of our own community's standards and resources.


Melissa Westbrook said...

EdVoter, the issue of student data privacy is one that several of us are working on and have several irons in the fire.

Not turning back on this one.

Stay tuned.