Friday Open Thread

Good News:
Duncan's much anticipated departure finally at hand. He's leaving in December.

Bad News:
Bloomberg reports that John King, former NY Ed chief, will be named as replacement by Obama at 3:30 today!

Meet the new boss, worse than the old boss.

Friday, October 2nd
Community Meeting on Bell Time Analysis at Washington Middle School from 6:30-7:30 pm.

Bikes being recalled.  
Nearly 1.3 million bicycles in the United States are being recalled for a defect that could cause riders to crash. The recall affects 17 different bike brands from 13 companies, with bikes ranging from model years 1998 through 2015, and a price range of $200 to $10,000.

Referendum to overturn tougher vaccination opt-out law in California fails.

Flu shot clinics at SPS high schools.  Free to adults with insurance (or $28 without).

Flu shots are offered to all children (age 18 or younger) free of charge, regardless of insurance coverage.

Got T-Mobile? They got hacked. 

Need communications assistance from the district?  More info here.

I'm going to see Ken Jennings play trivia against a computer today.  I found it hard to compete against humans when I played trivia so I really admire his moxie for going up against a computer.

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said…
Did Coe school discontinue the Coe carnival? My kids used to love that when they were little.
S parent
Anonymous said…
Macaque selfie lawsuit last week and UW has a macaque breeding program to use these fine animals in research. The animals are subjected to intense pain and suffering and the killed, of course. Dogs, cats, bunnies and thousands of mice and rats also die in the name of "research" which is of dubious if any value to actual human health. In fact, if humans ate a vegan diet low in fat and high in whole foods, we wouldn't need much medicine at all.

Anyways, today at 2 pm a march to stop the construction of a new "state of the art" torture and killing facility is starting at Red Square. Lots of passionate folks with lots of cute dogs and a whole lot of police. My kid is home with a slight cold and I'm thinking of making her go. We'll get a bowl at Chipoltle (good vegan food) and try to save some defenseless animals from a fate akin to, really worse than, the Nazi extermination camps.

Sorsha Morava
Anonymous said…
Sorsha Morava-

I can understand disagreeing with animal research, and feeling that the moral cost of the benefits makes it something that should be stopped. Good for you for getting out there to advocate for your beliefs.

I support it, with qualms.

But. Worse than Nazi extermination camps? Um... nope.

Was a disease eradicated/controlled because of the Holocaust? Are there millions of people who had the length and quality of their lives extended because of the Holocaust? Has infant mortality been reduced? Life-saving surgeries perfected? Comparing animal testing to the Holocaust refuses to acknowledge the real benefits we have gained from animal research and cheapens the purposeless, horrific deaths of millions in Holocaust. Please don't go there.

dan dempsey said…
About John King:

John King led New York State's first phase of too much, too fast, too soon Common Core implementation.

I supposed these days, that is a qualification to be US Secretary of Education.

A great argument for ridding the nation of the US Department of Education.

NotInTheKnow said…
In the spirit of a random conversation...

i have no idea when any change to middle school math curriculum is going to take place? We now have Math In Focus for grade school, but what's next for middle school?

Anonymous said…
Read the reader comments at the NY Times on the change from Duncan to King.

Melissa is correct. Obama found someone worse than Duncan.

-- Dan Dempsey
mirmac1 said…
don't those guys need to vetted and approved by Congress? If not, they should!
Anonymous said…
Got SBAC "family report" result today (for elementary student) and despite my misgivings about the test, I have to give credit where it is due. The written 'family report' provides far more information (to me) about my student than I ever got from the MSP.
It gives a numerical score as well as a level (1-4) and compares this to the average numerical score for students in their grade at his school, within SPS, and within WA state. Also give a brief breakdown of performance in the different aspects of each test - eg in ELA - shows how did in reading, listening, writing, and reseach + inquiry sections. So I actually found this really useful info, for both reassurance about how they are doing in relation to peers at the same school and within the district (more useful than comparing to statewide) and any areas that could be weaker.
Obviously the delay in getting the results means can't be useful to teachers but I can see some parents will find the presentation of the results to be informative when they do arrive. I'm not an apologist for SBAC, not a proponent of excessive standardized testing - but to me it seems to be an improvement over MSP levels posted on the Source as in the past.

Eric B said…
The Ingraham Rocket Club is one of 12 middle and high schools nationwide accepted into NASA's Student Launch program this year. The program requires students to design and build a rocket to carry a student-designed and built scientific or engineering payload to 5,280 feet. Along the way, their work will be reviewed by NASA in the same way NASA reviews their own projects. In April, our students will go launch their rocket in Huntsville with staff from the Marshall Space Flight Center.

This is a great honor and an awful lot of work!
seattle citizen said…
Surprised - Did you find the SBAC scores to correlate with your perceptions of your kiddo's abilities? While I agree that such data as you mention would be helpful, I worry that the reliability of the test is still in question, particularly during these first couple years as it is rolled out. If the scores do not accurately reflect your student's abilities, or the abilities of the students in other WA schools (many of which experienced serious problems in administration of the test, in addition to any unreliability of the test itself), then comparisons would be useless and perhaps even damaging: a parent could think, "oh, my child is doing so well, compared to others!" when, due to any unreliability in the test or its administration, that might not be the case.

I worry because many are lulled into believing in these tests, and the test results are used to cause all sorts of havoc in public schools ("our schools are failing! Bring on the charters! Buy new curriculum! Buy more tests!")
Anonymous said…
With our schools parent newsletter came the very welcome news of a revised FERPA form, which allows selecting Option B, but also selecting inclusion in the Yearbook, etc.

Way to go parents!!

Anonymous said…
"the real benefits we have gained from animal research"

Orangina, thanks for responding. I guess the key word in your reply is "have". There have been some life-saving things derived from animal testing in the past but the UW is building a new lab to continue testing for many decades to come. Animal models are not considered reliable, case in point Thalidomide; tested on rodents with no side effects, but we know it was poison to humans. Smallpox vaccine was first tested on humans. Dogs and pigs can be replaced with models for surgery training and cell cultures are far more indicative of drug efficacy on humans. Harvard is losing it's monkey lab. Johns Hopkins is developing alternatives. Our UW refuses to get with the times and it comes down to money.

Animal testing is a huge for profit industry and a tool used by university researchers to further their careers. Do we really to treat other creatures of our planet like this so someone can get their PhD?

The cruelty and indifference and the ability of society at large to ignore the facts is sadly similar to Nazi Germany. Comparing the approximately 100 million animals killed in labs each year to the deaths of millions of humans at the hands of the Nazi regime is not meant to lessen the crimes of that horrible event in our history, but to place in perspective.

Sorsha Morava
Anonymous said…
@seattle citizen- you're right, I don't know how reliable the test is, esp in relation to those problems some schools have experienced or lack of computer expertise in some populations etc. So district/state wide comparisons may be questionable - but they seem in line with what I would expect. In terms of comparison with kiddo's grade at our school - I feel like a lot of those other variables will not apply and so it probably is pretty accurate - and to be honest, that is what I am most interested in - how kid stacks up against his peers of similar demographic/similar teaching conditions etc. The results didn't surprise me as relates to my kid. Of course I don't know if the questions posed in the tesst were reasonable or if they were good indicators of abilities but in terms of how they provided the results, at least, it was impressed and thought it an improvement. The danger is I suppose, that parents might think they are more useful than they really are (and therefore be more favorably disposed toward testing = less inclined to opt out in the future).

Anonymous said…
Not in the Know,
We don't have MIF at elementary. We now have a district developed Scope and Sequence based on the common core. Teacher can use whatever they like to teach it. There are some suggestions on what MIF chapters one can use to teach the materials, but basically it is all reference material. The MIF chapters that are recommended don't follow any logical order. I don't know why the district wasted their money.
I definitely get that the district hates any type of Singapore Math. Do you remember when we first got Everyday Math along with Singapore work books? Those workbooks were never used. Waste of money! Now we get MIF, which is also a Singapore type math curriculum. We were encouraged to use it for one year, but now out it goes. Waste of money!
As long as the teacher teaches the Scope and Sequence you can use whatever materials you want. I have enough experience, I can put together my own curriculum to go along with the Scope and Sequence. I feel for new teachers or teachers who not as good in math. Who know how they are going to come up with something to teach?
Frustrated Math
Anonymous said…
@Sorsha Morava -- Maybe I am simple, but I still don't understand the "perspective" between the Holocaust and animal lab experiments, given that one was basically designed for genocide. Please help me out here.

Signed, Misguided?
I would ask that this discussion about animal testing and abuse and the Holocaust end now. That is not what this blog is for and I have personally spoken out in the past about using the Holocaust as an example for anything else.
Anonymous said…
Is there a new ferpa form for High school? My kid is adamant about not giving personal info to companies, even if it means no yearbook photo. I keep hoping for some updated option from the district.

HS Parent
Anonymous said…
I use the singapore workbooks more then I used Everyday Math! The older singapore math (NOT math in focus) was actually a usable material. When people were screaming for Singapore math (parents and board) I wonder if they really understood MIF was very different from the singapore math materials we had before. MIF at the lower grades is not developmentally appropriate and boring. Not a good way to introduce our kiddos to how fun and interesting math can be.

Anonymous said…
So sorry.

Sorsha Morava
Watching said…
King is going to make Duncan look like a dream.
Anonymous said…
Eric B wrote:
" The program requires students to design and build a rocket to carry a student-designed and built scientific or engineering payload to 5,280 feet. "

WOW that would be fun to watch. Great job students.

Maybe next year they will be capturing and retrieving Amazon drones using their rockets.

I see "the powers that be" are concerned about the number of consumer drones that may be purchased in the holiday season and the impact on airspace.

It seems that Rocketry and Drones may be a big STEM draw for kids.

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
Speaking of STEM:

On Saturday, a handmade craft rose 78,000 feet to capture the view from the edge of space. The craft, built by two Seattle youngsters, reached speeds of over 100 km/h on its journey over central Washington.

Kimberly and Rebecca Yeung built their spacecraft out of wood and broken arrow shafts, but it flew twice as high as commercial aircraft usually travel. Attached to a weather balloon filled with helium was a flight computer tracking their craft, two GoPro cameras, and a picture of their cat next to a Lego R2-D2. Called the Loki Lego Launcher, the craft was named after that cat and the figurine. (more)

dan dempsey said…
From SLATE on Arne Duncan's leaving

Why Arne Duncan’s Replacement Will Have a Much Tougher Job
By Sarah Carr

... it is clear that Duncan’s successor John King, who is already working as a deputy U.S. education secretary and will hold the secretary position on an acting basis so that President Obama can sidestep the Congressional approval process, will inherit two political schisms that have widened substantially over Duncan’s tenure: one falling along standard party lines, and the second an intraparty divide pitting Democrats against Democrats. Both have huge implications for the future of education policy in America.

... But Obama's major policy priorities, including support for charter schools and the Common Core standards, have, in different ways, stoked the flames of both fires.

Too bad John King can avoid a conformation hearing.

Obama's actions have continually pushed to remove control of schools from local control, in the mistaken belief that centralized control is desirable. (Big Business Ed vendors et al. desire continuation of the Obama Education Thrust).

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said…
Teacher, I'm glad you used the Singapore books at your school; at least somebody did! No one did at my school or any of the schools in our region (at least according to teachers we met at our regional math trainings). I'm a primary school teacher. I'm fine with MIF. I would never say it is a perfect curriculum, but for my grade level (and I have a number of advanced learners)it is pretty easy to tweak to make it challenging. The beginning of the year is a little slow, but then it speeds up. What are you using this year? Are you a fan of the new Scope and Sequence? Are you pretty much coming up with your own curriculum?
Frustrated Math
I have to put up a new thread on all this space travel and SPS students. Great stuff.
n said…
My first graders liked the MIF. I think it is hard for some teachers because it is so different from our process-oriented math. But my class - which is not gifted - really rose to the challenges of MIF. It's focus on numeracy was just easier for some kids - those more mathematical thinkers.

My concern now is that with teachers going back to their own personal choices - whether common core or not - each grade level will be starting from scratch. No built-in reliable supports. A structured program provides the expectation that one level builds on another. To me, this is another example of a district administration that does not understand teaching. And perhaps primary/elementary teachers that do not understand numeracy well.
Anonymous said…
Melissa -

Is it possible to get a separate thread later this week about the elementary math changes and what is occurring.

Seems like it would be important to know before a board election.

Anonymous said…
N.. I really agree with you about teachers going back to their personal choices. I've now accepted it and I'm cobbling together my own curriculum based on MIF and other resources. We were told that we're not supposed to use MIF, as it was written, because it doesn't follow the district new scope and sequence. (Maybe our school should request a waiver to be allowed to use the district adopted curriculum, hee hee.)I think as a system, it is so dysfunctional. I've never heard of a district not having a district-wide curriculum. I agree with your thoughts on process-oriented math. I think both approaches are important, but the downtown district is definitely process-oriented. It's hard for me to believe that math scores in the district will do anything but go down without a curriculum, but we'll see.
Frustrated Math
Anonymous said…
So what are parents to do when the math they are dropping is causing their little one harm? We have spent $3000 on tutoring because she was struggling in first grade. She tested at 2.2 in July and we thought that she was golden. We just got her first unit test back, and she failed it. Now I see here, on this blog, the materials are not appropriate for early grades? My girl's math self esteem is back in the toilet. What do we do now with the state of math in elementary as it is? It is hurting our kid! We are basing our child's need for tutoring on her failing tests inappropriate for her grade level. Is she okay or not? It makes me angry to see the presence of this problematic curriculum and watch my daughter come home in second grade hanging her head,ashamed because, despite all of her effort and success at tutoring, she is still a failure at school.
-screaming mom
Anonymous said…
I would talk to your teacher. I'm not sure what curriculum your school uses for math. I've never heard anyone at my school say that they thought the MIF curriculum is not developmentally appropriate. I saw Teacher's comment above, but I'm not sure what makes Teacher think that.

I do think that it is incredibly frustrating to spend all that time and money on math and still not have your daughter do well. I would definitely talk to your daughter's teacher and have her show you what you can do at home to support your daughter in math. If your teacher is using MIF, she/he should be able to give you an online link to the reference book on the site which might help. Perhaps you can also encourage your school/PTA to sponsor a Math Night to help parents understand the curriculum that your school is using.

I would encourage you to keep going back to the teacher every time you have a concern. I know that is a pain to have to do, but I do think it is important that your daughter understand the math that she is required to do at school.
Frustrated Math
Anonymous said…

It would be wonderful if the focus was on Maximizing Student Learning
rather than focusing on SBAC scores or alignment with whatever is popular with Ed Elites at the time.

I would like to know about the push from central staff for:

Standards Based Grading

School officials have no business experimenting on the kids without consulting the parents fully and getting parental approval.

Has the Board signed off on Standards Based Grading?
(Is Board concern for a change this large considered micro-management?)

The consultation with the community should include several things:

1.. A full explanation of the nature of the experiment, the research on which it is based, the desired outcomes and goals, and how those outcomes will be assessed.

2.. The opportunity costs involved in adopting the experimental change instead of other alternatives or no change.


I would like to see the expected Return on Investment for the shift to
Standards Based Grading

Without supporting data, this appears to be the latest boondoggle. Invest lots of time and energy for little or no return.

I want improved instruction for students to Maximize Student Learning rather than time and resources wasted on the implementation of the next pipe-dream.

SHOW ME the data.

-- Dan Dempsey

Lynn said…

Have you seen something that indicates central staff are pushing standards based grading? If so, at the middle school level or high school? Can you explain why you think the grading method would affect student learning? I'll say that I like the idea of grading only summative assignments (papers and exams.) Of course, I like it because my kids are much better at those than at completing and turning in homework.
Anonymous said…

Back on Wed Sept 30 Melissa put up the following:

Work Session/Executive Committee Meeting Info
As I had previously posted, there is a Work Session today with the Board. The topic had been "Alternative Calendar" (along with a closed Executive Session) but the topic is now "Closing Opportunity Gaps." The topic part of the Work Session is from 4:30-6:00 pm with the Executive Session after that.

The work session linked to a 42 page .pdf of slides
Agenda Work Session on Closing Opportunity Gaps

From page 14

Mastery of the Core Academic Subjects
• % of students demonstrating proficiency on standards-based
grading (report card) system.

• % of students meeting proficiency in core subjects, based on
state assessments
• % of 8th Grade students completing Algebra 1 and
demonstrating proficiency on state test


I see standards based grading as having zero to do with the actual improvement of instruction. Effort needs to be put into the improvement of instruction to Maximize Student Learning ... instead the SBAC results and revised grading are the focus.

The fact that the Board stated that MiF is the math adoption but most of us have no idea what the "adoption" of MiF actually means in regard to "Scope & Sequence" and materials to be used .... "Waivers??"

Has the Board approved "Standards Based Grading" have the "Stakeholders" been notified? Has this been discussed? Beats me.

I am still trying to figure out what "Differentiated Instruction" really means.

Note: the 42 slide show completely omitted any data measuring the "Opportunity Gaps"
It would be nice to see a report rather than a sales presentation.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant date...
This was apparently a "Work Session" working without the relevant data.

-- Dan Dempsey

n said…
It's been a long day. Honestly, I like math. Honestly, I'm more language-oriented - verbal has always been a stregth. Not quantitative. But, I am strongly logical. I always could ace higher level tests because I could logically find the best answer whether I understood it or not. I want more for my kids. I want them to really know the math. I think MIF is the way to do that. Also, I prefer a good curriculum that I can trust and follow. I do not trust myself to put together my own curriculum. I've done well in the past and I know my kids have done well. But they are early childhood. I don't know if they go on to do well in higher-level math. I want to trust a curriculum that promises to do it better and get students ready for real math.

And I'm so tired of common core screwing everything up or being the excuse for the math department screwing everything up. MIF may not be the answer to all our prayers but for heavens sake, let's give it a fair try.
n said…
but not spelling - strength
Anonymous said…
I also prefer standards based grading. Many of my kid's high school teachers gave up to 70% of the grade based on compliance & less of the grade on competence. It makes clear that the primary goal for students is to jump through hoops and that learning is really not so important. I think that is the wrong lesson to teach students.

-HS Parent
Anonymous said…
HS Parent wrote =>
"I also prefer standards based grading. Many of my kid's high school teachers gave up to 70% of the grade based on compliance & less of the grade on competence. It makes clear that the primary goal for students is to jump through hoops and that learning is really not so important. I think that is the wrong lesson to teach students."

The problem above is not due to the current grading scale but rather how it is being used by "Many of your kid's high school teachers". With a "good syllabus" and "online Grade Books" it is easy to show students and parents that learning is important by the weighting of quizzes, tests, homework, and final exam (as well as other stuff - projects etc.)

Standards Based Grading can be more subjective than traditional grading and because it is often so focused on particular standards to be graded, it narrows daily presentations, activities, and work, which can limit presentations of the full connected picture.

Consider the Saxon Math approach in which carefully designed "shuffling" homework encompasses a large number of skills and topics previously presented with the goal of mastery. Standards Based Grading could not be used with a program such as this. Saxon at one point was the only math program that should promise in improving the performance of American Indians in Arizona.

Prior to Common Core the state of California tested students with end of course testing in Algebra, Geometry, and Advanced Algebra, the results of these tests could be weighted into the course grade or not. California with SBAC is now venturing into testing which informs parents, students, and others of much less, when it comes to subject matter knowledge and skills. .... Standards Based Grading may be telling much less as well.

Principals do not like a high number of parent calls. Standards Based Grading could be a way to raise grades. Grade inflation has increased as the State increased required courses for graduation.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said…
Typo above :
"Saxon at one point was the only math program that showed promise in improving the performance of American Indians in Arizona."

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
Standards based grading helps inflate grades for those working below grade level - many middle school teachers provide retake opportunities on quizzes and exams until the standard is met - but it also deflates grades for those students that are typically "A" students. A level "4" is interpreted as working above standard, even if students haven't been taught beyond the standard. That makes it difficult to get 4's (or A's ?), even if a student does the work and meets all standards.

Additionally, the online grade book is numerical, so teachers convert the 1-4 scale to a number grade. Our child's teacher gave 1-4 scores on work, then converted the scale scores to numerical grades. A "3" was an 85%, for example, and always an 85%. No variation within the range. It created some wonky grades. Thank goodness this was middle school, not high school. It just made for meaningless grade reports.

Maybe standards based grading could be good for K-8, but I strongly dislike the way it has been implemented in my children's schools. I absolutely would not want standards based grading in high school. Perhaps I'm not clear on what problem standards based grading is trying to solve.

To contrast with HS Parent's example, my child has high school classes where no credit is given for HW (your grade will reflect whether or not you've done it) and test retakes will get you no higher than 75% (it keeps a student from failing, but rewards those students that got a higher grade on the first try). As with many things, it's so teacher dependent.

Anonymous said…
I actually think there should be only 2 grades. Either you are fluent enough with the material to use it to learn new material or you need to keep working on the material before moving on. So the grades would be, move on or keep trying. No extra credit for cleaning desks and no zeros for having the wrong book out.

-HS parent
Lynn said…
Yes! Use comments on report cards if you really want to report to parents the child's work habits, organizational skills and helpfulness.

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