Friday Open Thread

Candidate Forum for State Superintendent hosted by Southeast Seattle Education Coalition, Equity in Education Coalition, and Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees & Communities of Color,
Tuesday, July 19, 2016 from 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM
New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave. S

How one principal turned around a "persistently failing school" in Longview.  Strong leaders build relationships.

The Kids Are Alright - so says this editorial from The Columbian about teen behavior in the U.S.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court had two rulings that could affect public education.

One was the second round of a Texas case where a white woman had filed a lawsuit over the University of Texas' use of an affirmative action in their enrollment policy that included the use of race.  The Justices ruled, 4-3, that a very narrow use of race as part of an enrollment policy was legal.  (I note that this is similar to what they ruled in our district's former use of race in enrollment.  The district's policy was not tailored narrowly enough and the Court overturned it.)

The second case blocked President Obama's executive action to protect almost five million undocumented people from deportation and would permit them to work legally in the U.S.  Naturally, within that group, there are children. This ruling was a 4-4 tie which means it goes back to the original appeals court.  This being an election year, it is doubtful that court will review it before the election.

What's on your mind?


seattle citizen said…
Happy last day of school, Seattle!
Is anyone aware of a teacher survey regarding their thoughts on central admin and principals?. It was mentioned in a thread last week but no link/details.
Anonymous said…
I've been trying to get clear information about boundary changes in the next several years and whether grandfathering will be available for children who started at their assigned school, but experience a boundary change. This will impact my family in 2017-18 when my child is entering 2nd grade. I do not want my child to switch schools, as I anticipate it will be pretty disruptive to his education. I also do not want to be in the position of applying to his current assigned school as a choice school, as our experience with this entering kindergarten was very negative with the school district changing the tiebreaker rules after open enrollment and as a family with all parents working we had to register for and pay non-refundable deposits to 2 before/after school programs because we did not know where our child was attending school. We ended up at our assigned school and the thought of needing to switch schools after my child has formed relationships with school staff and peers is really frustrating. I have written the school board, and cannot seem to find any clear information on this. At the time we were signing up for kindergarten, this is what the website said about the boundary changes: "Students who are impacted by a boundary change that would otherwise place them in a new attendance area school for the following year may be Grandfathered to remain at their current school with a continuing assignment as long as the student remains enrolled at the current school." Now it is just unclear what will happen to kids who live in these "limbo" zones. If anyone can shed some light, that would be great.

Lynn said…

You can't find the information now because the decision hasn't been made. When the district changed to a neighborhood assignment plan, children were allowed to stay at their school until they'd completed the 5th, 8th or 12th grade. When Jane Addams Middle School opened, kids were pulled out of their middle schools to fill the new building. Fairmount Park was filled one grade at at time - with only kindergarteners and new residents assigned to the school in year one.

I've heard that they're considering the impact of grandfathering students in third, fourth and fifth grades at their current schools.

I'm sorry - I know this is awful.
Maureen said…
Interesting ST article about Garfield Principal Ted Howard

Maybe should be its own thread?

So much of the discussion of inequality in Seattle seems to focus on race, as opposed to socioeconomics. Is that common in other major cities or is a direct consequence of the relatively small percentage of African American families here and the history of redlining? And is it the reality on the street, or is it just the way it is presented in the media?
Fremonster said…
The construct or race is omnipresent in our society and our city and is not limited to socioeconomics. It is a day to day reality in disproportionate policing and the way our flawed traditional public education system has been structured. This article highlights it in our context, and Nicole Hannah-Jones has done an amazing job reporting on the impact of race in education in other cities. We cannot discuss education without discussing race.
Fremonster said…
*construct of race

I absolutely think the article deserves its own thread.
Anonymous said…
The dismantling of AL continues, with principals, not AL, deciding the delivery of AL services.
Anonymous said…
Is he eliminating varsity basketball? Are kids headed for the NBA going to play with kids who can barely dribble? The jazz kids who go to Ellington, will they be in beginning band? Kids who are fluent in Spanish, will they need to sit in Spanish 1 as 9th graders? So how does it help a struggling reader to be in class with the kid who reads and writes at a college level? I fail to believe that the faculty is driving this. How can you focus your instruction where kids need it?

open ears
I put up a thread on the Garfield story which I found troubling in many ways, not the least of which is the Times careful campaign to undermine the district.
Anonymous said…
Did anyone attend the Lincoln HS planning meeting last Thursday evening?

Anonymous said…
The Times "campaign to undermine the district?" The district seems to be doing a good job all on their own.
z said…
I fail to believe that the faculty is driving this. How can you focus your instruction where kids need it?

You'd better readjust your beliefs. This has indeed been coming from building staff. The LA dept/teachers have been trying to remove Honors LA for years (it seem to crop up every 2-3 years, repeatedly), but Mr. Howard has supported honors classes and disallowed the change. If this does indeed happen it will be because he has finally relented, not because he has been the one pushing.

You're absolutely right to be concerned about this change, as it will negatively impact ALL kids in those classes. How indeed "can you focus your instruction where kids need it" when now you'll have needs that are 2x or 3x or 4x wider than they were. Even for good teachers that care enough to try, this is 2 or 3 or 4 times the work, so the reality is that it won't happen. It can't.

Honors classes are open to students regardless of any program status. They tend to get filled with HCC kids because those kids want the rigor, but afaik no one has been denied a seat in Honors LA because they weren't in HCC.
Anonymous said…
z said "Honors classes are open to students regardless of any program status."

So why don't they make "Honors" LA the default? So you are required to choose to opt out instead of needing to choose to opt in.

Lynn said…
There really aren't honors classes at Garfield now. There are grade-level classes (labeled honors) and every student who reads at grade level is automatically assigned to them. There are remedial classes (labeled regular) and students reading below grade level are automatically assigned to them. No classes for kids capable of and wanting to work on new skills that exceed the ninth grade standards. How the school gets away with this when it's the pathway school for highly capable students is beyond my understanding. They need a new third level - actual honors.
z said…
LisaG said: "So why don't they make "Honors" LA the default? So you are required to choose to opt out instead of needing to choose to opt in."

Sure, we've all heard this kind of idea before. My response: To what end?

Few people take the effort to opt in or out of anything. Only those with strong or specific motivations. This is well-understood, and it's the reason why companies pay huge sums to be the default search engine on your computer or mobile device or really, the default anything.

So a proposal like this (without substantive additions) is going to end up placing lots of kids that aren't ready for, and/or more importantly, have no interest in, advanced material and demands. Kids who aren't really paying attention to school in general will be placed in these classes, and we've seen time and again where placing kids in inappropriate level classes has been a failure -- for ALL the kids. Sure, a random kid here and there might find themselves helped by this model, but what have you done to everyone else? The kids who are placed into honors classes with less-developed skills and/or zero motivation are going to be swept behind with even less chance to succeed than a standard classroom, and the kids who are ready (or with many HCC kids, MORE than ready) for the additional challenges and workload, in addition to being under-served, will end up bored and mentally check out. We've all seen what happens when very bright kids are bored in class. Especially boys (sorry parents, but you know it's true on average). They act out, disrupting the class, causing more issues for the teachers to deal with, that wouldn't exist if the kids were simply placed in appropriately-leveled classes.

How about this instead?

There is no across-the-board default. All kids are assessed at the end of the year. Frankly, we have enough assessments already that this shouldn't require any additional testing. Those in the bottom 50% are auto-placed into standard classes. There is no shame in standard classes - by definition they should be appropriate for most kids! Our city, hell, our entire country, seems to have this Lake Wobegon mindset that everyone is above average, and it's just not true. The top quartile could be auto-placed into honors classes. And the kids in the middle all get a quick consultation with either a teacher or counselor to decide with each student's input which way to go. Give the motivated kids to show their stuff, and don't harass the others into something they don't want. Then give everyone a chance to either opt-up or opt-down from their auto-assigned classes. Not everyone wants the extra work, and perhaps some kids who didn't test well have something more they'd like to prove. Quartiles might be too strict, some schools might only have 5-10% kids who are ready/wanting more challenge, some might be 50%, but the overall model makes sense.

The problem with the upcoming model is that stuffing everyone into the same class, regardless of what it's called, or its supposed "level" is inappropriate, and doesn't serve any of the kids as well as they deserve.
z said…
Lynn, I don't disagree with your overall sentiment, but there are "honors" classrooms at Garfield where there are very clearly expectations above typical grade-level standards. It's hit or miss though.

Where I'm sure we agree is that taking the (sadly, too many) kids who need remedial help and blending them in with HCC kids isn't going to help anyone. No one gets what they need in that model.

Why the teachers keep pushing for this is beyond me. It makes their jobs harder AND harms the kids, and to what end? So they feel good about some kind of fake equality? I really don't get it.

Teachers: Equity is not the same as Equality!

A model that would work toward real equity would be to adjust class sizes. Instead of 30 kids in every class, push honors classes to 40, remedial classes to 20, and standard classes stay at 30. With that model, teachers could actually focus on what the kids need much better. Even better would be 30-22-15, but that would obviously require more funding than we currently have.

Kids with more-developed skills and/or motivation don't need as much 1-on-1 time with the teachers as kids who are struggling to meet basic standards. Kids who are struggling really do need that extra attention - let's try to figure out how to give it to them instead of making it worse!
Anonymous said…
Maybe Language Arts at Garfield is very different from what I've experienced at other schools, but my experience has been that 9th grade LA is not so much about reading as it is about learning about/discussing character, plot development, theme, etc.

One of my kids read _Lord of the Flies_ for 9th grade LA. I just looked it up, and _Lord of the Flies_ has a Lexile level of 770 which puts it at a 5th grade reading level. That would make it accessible to kids reading below grade level, and kids from different backgrounds might have different connections to the book which would make class discussions more interesting for all students.

Lynn said…
When APP students were allowed to take AP World History in the 9th grade they were assigned Guns, Germs and Steel as a summer reading assignment to prepare for the class. The book's Lexile level is 1,440 - appropriate for a student who is 18+ years old. Lord of the Flies is a book these students should read in the fifth grade - and many do. The academic skills gap is too large to design assignments that are appropriate for all students.

There are no more summer reading assignments for LA or SS classes at Garfield. Struggling students would not do the work, would not be prepared to take part in the discussions and would be set up to start the year with a failure.
Anonymous said…
Hale has a summer reading list and I believe a few other high schools do too.

Hale has read Lord of the Flies, I believe in 10th grade, in the past. It is used in conjunction with Biology (Darwin theory etc.) and also used for a mock trial, is Jack responsible for Piggy's death, nurture vs. nature. I think they used a different text this year.

Anonymous said…
Lynn wrote about how _Guns,Germs and Steel_ has a Lexile level of 1440. But that's an apples to orange comparison; non-fiction often has much higher Lexile levels which is one reason that Common Core tries to emphasize non-fiction.

I don't think the fact that some kids read _Lord of the Flies_ when they're in 5th grade means that it is an inappropriate book for writing papers about symbolism, word choice, or whatever else a teacher assigns. Obviously, some papers will be better argued and better written, but I don't see why that means classes should be separated into thin strata by reading ability.

By Lynn's argument, James Joyce's _Ulysses_ would be beneath the attention of 9th grade honors students even though academics continue to churn out scholarly analysis of it.

z said…
Maybe Language Arts at Garfield is very different from what I've experienced at other schools, but my experience has been that 9th grade LA is not so much about reading as it is about learning about/discussing character, plot development, theme, etc.

Sure, LA is about reading, writing and discussion/group analysis. Inclusive.

The problem with force-mixing all kids from high to low isn't that Lord of the Flies couldn't be a reasonable book to discuss symbolism or whatever at many levels, but that half the kids will have already done it, years earlier -- at the same level as the other half is only ready for now. The types of discussions progress through years of experience and reading history. It's impossible for the less-developed kids to work at a higher-developed level, so guess what happens? Seriously, there's no guessing. The kids who have already discussed and analyzed several layers deeper are doomed to repeat it again, at a less-deep level. This is not only developmentally inappropriate, but boring, boring, boring.

If you haven't seen kids bored out of their wits in person, coming home complaining, even crying, you really can't understand. The worst part is that the problem is compounded when it happens year after year.

This issue exists in small ways in every school, in every classroom. There will always be differences in kids' abilities. The problem with doing this kind of forced mixing at a school like Garfield is that you have an incredibly wide span, by design; way, way more than most schools. Many of the HCC kids have been reading at high school level AND ready for serious literary analysis since elementary school. Some even in early elementary. Again, if you haven't spent time one-on-one with a group of these kids you really have no idea. Garfield also has a very different set of students, who are many years behind. They BOTH deserve to have rich and appropriately-leveled discussions about appropriately-level material. That is essentially impossible if they are all mixed in the same classrooms. Would you want to see mixed classrooms, but where the students are separated into high/low groups for discussion?! Me neither. Talk about rubbing salt in a wound.

For the same reasons we have A, B and C level Jazz/Orchestra/Sports, there need to be honors level (and AP) classes. The alternatives just don't make sense.
Anonymous said…
z said a lot of things, some of them assumptions about me, some of them assumptions about students.

I have seen a kid bored out of his wits, coming home complaining, even crying. That's why I homeschooled one of my sons for years. My other 2e son went to school and was bored and sometimes complaining, but not crying, so he stayed in school. He used to exasperate other students and some teachers who would say things like "How come you can do trig, but not tie your shoes?"

I have also met high school students who were reading at 6th grade level, but were very astute at pointing out all the things that happened in the first ten chapters of a book that came around again in slightly altered form in the last ten chapters. Not everyone develops at equal rates across all skill levels.

I happen to be re-reading _Pride and Prejudice_ right now. There are things that strike me as very interesting now, that I didn't particularly notice when I read it at twenty. And when I read it at twenty, it seemed a completely different book than when I read it at eleven. It's not because my reading ability changed in between readings, but because my life experience changed. Students from different backgrounds are likely to have different experiences which might lead to richer class discussions.

And I think the reason we have different levels for music and sports is because the top levels go and compete with other groups/teams at other schools. Is there a Metro area literary analysis division I haven't heard about?

"So why don't they make "Honors" LA the default? So you are required to choose to opt out instead of needing to choose to opt in?"

So why don't you go ask the district?

"Lord of the Flies is a book these students should read in the fifth grade - and many do."

Really? Whether a kid is competent to read the book and grasp its themes, I'm not sure developmentally they are all ready.

"He used to exasperate other students and some teachers who would say things like "How come you can do trig, but not tie your shoes?"

Wow, that is just inappropriate to say to any kid.

There are academic competitions; really odd that some people haven't heard this. Maybe it's because the music and athletics gets more press.
Maureen said…
I think i agree more with LisaG than with z. Lord of the Flies was a pretty standard TOPS 6th grade reading group book. And the kids could read it. That doesn't mean they could discuss it with any depth. I'm sure some of them could, but I think that had more to do with their emotional maturity than their reading level. From my personal experience, HCC qualified kids aren't necessarily more emotionally mature than Gen Ed kids.

(What happened to poster zb ? I find myself missing them.)
z said…
Perhaps zb graduated and moved on?

Clearly I didn't do a good job of explaining above. Maureen made that very clear, since I almost always agree with her! ;-)

My point isn't that kids can't delve deeper with more maturity, because they can, and in fact most of us could do this over the course of our entire lives. A 60 year old has a lot more life experience than a 30 year old.

But the relevant part to this discussion is that without honors classes the kids are at hugely disparate levels in their ability to analyze these texts, and it robs the more advanced kids of the opportunity to have the kinds of discussions they should be having. Instead, the discussions will end up being at a similar level as the ones they had 3 or 4 or 5 years earlier. The flavor of the discussions might be slightly different, but overall, it's growth-stunting for half the kids.

It isn't that each group isn't maturing along the way, but the reason the HCC exists is to group a very unusual set of kids together because they truly think and absorb differently. Most have been reading and analyzing texts since they were very young, gaining and improving those skills along the way every year. That SPS has allowed the HCC to grow unreasonably is not an excuse to stop serving the kids who need specialized services.

To acknowledge Lynn's earlier point, it's bad enough in some of the current "honors" classes, I can't imagine how terrible this will be if there isn't some kind of attempt to level the classrooms.

And yes, I've seen these mixed classrooms in practice and heard about it from my kids, multiple schools, different programs, different mixes. The only constant throughout is that as soon as the classes are mixed, the kids who are advanced get held back. It's not only frustrating for the kids, but with all the talk of equity, how can anyone see this as equitable? Some kids are getting an appropriate education, others are not! It shouldn't matter which group of kids is getting ripped off, they should ALL be getting the best fit education possible, within reasonable constraints.

If a small city has a single high school, and only, say, 20 students per grade, then it's not feasible to group into separate classrooms. What I saw in those situations myself was a lot more ability-grouping within the classrooms, which is essentially the same idea as honors classrooms, it's just more in-your-face to the students. That's not the case at Garfield, there are more than enough students to allow leveling -- including opting-up for kids who are motivated, able and want to do so. It should not act as a barrier, but simply as a way to optimize learning environments for everyone.

z said…
LisaG said: I have seen a kid bored out of his wits, coming home complaining, even crying. That's why I homeschooled one of my sons for years. My other 2e son went to school and was bored and sometimes complaining, but not crying, so he stayed in school.

I'm happy to throw some of my previous assumptions out the window.

It sounds like you've experienced what many of us in HCC have experienced - an inappropriate and unresponsive "standardized" education. You took the HUGE step of homeschooling, and many of us have done that at different levels as well, from partial to complete un-enrollment, moving to other schools/districts, supplementing on the side, basically whatever it took.

Our school district has (had) a program which gives many of our kids at least a reasonable shot at staying in school with a cohort of kids and teachers that makes school tolerable. At least it works well enough for many to keep them in school. Isn't that a better option than the nuclear option of full-time home schooling?! Most families don't have the ability to do that in any case.

For several years now, SPS has been attacking and dismantling APP/HCC until there is very little left. Now it looks like they will remove honors-level classes in 9th and 10th grades, leaving almost nothing even remotely appropriate for these kids. I'm sure the administration's goal is to say that each and every teacher in each and every school can teach all manner of students in each and every classroom. This is a huge lie! It makes it easy from a enrollment and scheduling standpoint, but sucks for all of the students.

He used to exasperate other students and some teachers who would say things like "How come you can do trig, but not tie your shoes?"

Wow, how inappropriate. I hope you had a discussion with those teachers -- and with the administration to make sure word was spread to all the other teachers.

And I really, really hope they weren't saying those things with malice in their voice and/or heart. That's potentially damaging. I do believe it's possible with some student/teacher/friend relationships that statements like those could be made (and taken) in fun, but it completely depends on the relationship, and frankly if I was an administrator I'd just tell my teachers to not go there at all.

And I think the reason we have different levels for music and sports is because the top levels go and compete with other groups/teams at other schools. Is there a Metro area literary analysis division I haven't heard about?

Totally disagree with this. Some school bands and orchestras do indeed compete, but many do not. There are multiple reasons for grouping kids by level, not the least of which is appropriate level of instruction. You don't want your virtuoso violinist listening to the teacher talk about the difference between quarter and eighth notes. Not only will they get bored and check out, but they may very well stop caring and practicing, limiting their own musical path.

z said…

It also provides a path for kids to progress. Because of numbers, some small schools have only a single band or orchestra, filled with everyone from freshmen beginners to advanced seniors. In those schools, there is no progression for the students. They may get better individually, but the overall band or orchestra will be roughly the same every year. The same thing would happen if you had enough bodies for 2 bands, but you mixed all the kids up equally throughout. Not only would there be no progression, but the end product would suffer as well. Kids want to hear themselves improving as a group, and hopefully sounding great after all the time and effort of practice and rehearsals. Different levels provide that.

In both music and sports, you need to be around other kids at roughly your own level to improve. Both from a motivational standpoint and also based on skills. You can't work on sophisticated offensive basketball schemes with 3 experienced seniors and 2 freshman newbies who are just learning to control their dribble. Especially at higher levels, most people need someone pushing them at or just above their skill level for motivation. Too low or too high and there's no motivation.

I could go on, but hopefully I don't need to.
Anonymous said…
z wrote ... a lot of stuff...

You probably don't need to go on, but I still remain puzzled why you think the problem is the kids in the class rather than the lack of open-ended assignments.

In middle school my son had a test that ended with "Write about three things you learned in chapter 6." My son said he couldn't answer because he hadn't learned anything from reading chapter 6. The prompt was modified to "Write about three things related to the information in chapter 6." He then wrote pages, including a long section on how he thought the textbook misrepresented the influence of the Eastern Orthodox church on trade.

Differentiation by output is not always as hard as is sometimes claimed.

Lynn said…
Possibly z was thinking about the emphasis on in-class discussion, group projects and peer review in high school classes? These are some of the reasons I think the skill level of the kids in the class is important.

Also, I don't want my child to be required to read chapter six if there's nothing he can learn from it. We send our children to school to learn.
z said…
What Lynn said.

Better yet, let me quote you: my experience has been that 9th grade LA is not so much about reading as it is about learning about/discussing character, plot development, theme, etc.

One of my kids experienced a mixed LA classroom recently and again it was a disaster. The discussions were constantly interrupted by kids who couldn't follow and didn't understand very basic vocabulary. When it takes 10 minutes to discuss simple vocab -- repeatedly, how can one even hope to have a meaningful discussion about even moderately complex topics? You can't. The bottom line was that very little meaningful discussion happened during the entire year. The teacher had good intentions at the beginning of the year, but eventually more or less gave up trying to teach the HCC kids and focused on trying to help the kids who needed help to master necessary grade-level skills.

I don't even really blame the teacher, who was frustrated as well, but there are only so many minutes in a week, and you need to pick your battles. This was not a highly experienced teacher, but not a rookie either.

Multiply this over and over across the city to understand why HCC exists and why parents are fighting to keep the small remaining flame alive. It's not just HC, it's HC-C. I think many of us who have been involved with the program for 10, 12, 15 years would agree that the Cohort itself might even be the most important aspect of the program. Until recently it's been the only thing that's reasonably consistent, and now even that is being ripped apart.

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

Weirdness in Seattle Public Schools Abounds and Astounds