SPS Needs a High School Czar

I'm not kidding.

There are bell time issues, 24-credit fulfillment, reaching more students with advanced learning opportunities, the reopening of Lincoln and the boundary alignment and enrollment issues that will involve.

I had a good conversation recently with a director on many issues and one topic I asked about was who is overseeing all these changes to high schools.  The director said there really wasn't a single person so I asked how parents could be sure that there was alignment of all the details and oversight for the big picture.  Not sure.

I am truly worried about how this will all play out.  High schools are usually big enough entities with strong principals and manage on their own.  But this is a plethora of new issues and some that will not (cannot?) be in control of principals.
I urge you to ask the Board for the district to appoint one staff member to oversee all this change.  

Here's another curve ball for ya.

High school sciences courses are to undergo big change and be rolled out over the next three years.  Those changes come as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are to be enacted in Seattle Schools.

 One key term is "three-dimensional learning." 
The National Research Council's (NRC) Framework describes a vision of what it means to be proficient in science; it rests on a view of science as both a body of knowledge and an evidence-based, model and theory building enterprise that continually extends, refines, and revises knowledge. It presents three dimensions that will be combined to form each standard:

Dimension 1: Practices
Dimension 2: Crosscutting Concepts
Dimension 3: Disciplinary Core Ideas  
Conceptual Framework for NGSS.

Parent guides.

FYI, the point person for sciences in SPS is Mary Margaret Welch.

It's a big lift but here's what the NGSS' website says:
For most teachers, schools, and districts, the NGSS represent a major change from current practice and thesteps required for a successful transition will depend on local context, existing resources, and current and potential capacity. Thanks to generous support from theS.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Achieve has designed resources to help school and district leaders effectively manage their transition to the NGSS.
The timeline appears to be this:

- 2016 starts the "understanding shift in practice and building 3D Assessment"
- 2017 NGSS aligned launch units 1 of 3 per grade (this may be voluntary)
- 2018 MS field-test new NGSS aligned web-based curricula.  (I'm confused as to how curricula can be web-based and 3-D.)  Implement new HS course titles (more on this later in the thread).

It hard to say if science teachers are for or against these changes.  Most of them have, over years, developed their own curriculum so it will be a sea change.

I find some aspects of this disturbing.

1) Why would the district - for something like standards - choose to have schools' HSAT representatives (High School Alignment Team) determine a plan for each school to inform parents and students"?

2) They are renaming courses. I'm being told Physical Science will be renamed Physics 1 or Chem 1. (I need to get verification of this but my source is sound.) What will that mean on transcripts?

3) As far as Earth, Space Sciences and Engineering, it sounds fairly vague.  Nothing should be vague at this point.

District FAQs


What is this pedagogical shift that we keep hearing about?
NGSS’ motto is having students figure it out rather than telling about. The standards are 3 dimensional engaging learners in a practice for every content thread. Cross cutting concepts are the lens through which content is presented and these CCC’s weave through the disciplines. We will engage our HS teams in experiences that will make this shift clear. 

What kind of supports will teachers have?
We hope to have a launch day this spring where all HS teachers will be invited to participate as learners in an NGSS series of lessons. At this meeting we will roll out the timeline and opportunities to dig in and learn about the shifts in practice required by the NGSS. 

How will this be rolled out?
We anticipate that we will begin our work this summer and continue through the next 3 years. The actual course sequence will be adopted in the fall of 2017 and phased in at the HS over the following 2 years. 

How will stakeholders (counselors, principals, etc.) be informed?
The HSAT will present their work to the principals on April 18. We will have an informational meeting and training for counselors no later than January 2018. The HSAT representatives will determine a plan for each school to inform parents and students. 

What will differentiation look like?
This will be work that will be embedded in our alignment work as we develop our NGSS aligned units. 

What about HCC, IB, AP, and IEP kids?
HCC as always will be 2 years ahead. They will enter HS with the first 2 years of science completed and start with the 3rd year of HS science. HCC MS teachers are full participants in the HS alignment work. 

IB and AP pathways will be discussed in the HSAT meeting in May. Likely these students will begin AP/IB work as their third year of HS science.
IEP kids, as always, will receive extra support and differentiated instruction. 

How will teachers get the content knowledge needed to teach Earth and Space Sciences and Engineering?
We will use our internal ESS specialist to help teach their peers. We will also partner with our colleagues at the UW to help with this support. 

How will out of district transfer students navigate our models?
This will be determined as the other districts roll out their plans. From what we see at this time many districts will follow a similar path to SPS.

What has been done in other districts that we can learn from?
Most of the WA districts are in the same place as SPS. MMW continues to represent SPS in State meetings and brings her learnings back to the HSAT for their consideration. 

What about kids who failed a course or two?
With the semester approach, kids would be expected to repeat the one semester that they failed. We intend to promote the passing of the core classes rather than pass students off to non-standards aligned electives that might simply fulfil seat time in a science class. 

Will this mix grade levels in each course?
Perhaps. It depends on the school’s pathway. 

How will these credits transfer to colleges?
Same as they currently transfer. 

Update: I did leave out yet another high school issue - one central to Lincoln.  The district owns the parking facility to the north of the building but it is leased to a non-profit.  The non-profit is one that Speaker Frank Chopp has supported for decades.

 The district was going to allow the continuation of that lease but that was challenged by neighbors.  (You can see how there would be concerned over how Lincoln staff would park for work and what happens in the neighborhood during special event time.)

I'm told that the City hearing examiner told the district they could have the lease BUT that some space should be given over to the school.  (Apparently, the non-profit uses some of the parking space as storage space, showing that they don't utilize all the parking spaces as such.)  Despite the Superintendent having received this ruling, there has been no announcement of what is to be done.

I would hope that the district remembers the needs of the district first.

end of update


Anonymous said…
NGSS’ motto is having students figure it out rather than telling about.

Is that an SPS interpretation? SPS tends to embrace "inquiry" yet dismiss the needed content. How does one "figure it out" without some base level knowledge? Part of the NRC’s intent is to better explain and extend what is meant by “inquiry” in science and the range of cognitive, social, and physical practices that it requires. Well, hooray!

NGSS use words and phrases like "explicit," "coherent," "scientifically-based," and "knowledge." Core ideas should be "teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication." All well and good. So why do I not trust SPS to use these standards to improve science instruction?

One question I have: How will they ensure coverage of content during the transition? Will students still have a pathway to cover physics, chemistry, and biology if courses change mid-high school?

Parent, all good questions that should be addressed.
Anonymous said…
The NGSS Standards were already on the mind of my Ballard 9th grader's Physical Science teacher. At parent night, she discussed that these new standard coming and the teachers were guessing as to what would be tested so they are teaching as broad of content as possible. The students are being advised to keep their notebooks as reference for the test they will have to take several years from now.

For students who started HS in Biology, they may be at a disadvantage by NOT having had Physical Science in HS as many of the topics on the NGSS aren't covered in Biology, Chemistry, and other typical science course pathways.

QA Parent

Anonymous said…
Just a little context on the Lincoln parking issue, I believe you're talking about the lot for the Solid Ground building. That building houses Solid Ground, which used to be Fremont Public Association. Frank Chopp was their ED before heading into politics and lives in Wallingford, so of course he supports it. But there's more. The building also houses the neighborhood food bank and family center, FamilyWorks, and also a branch of the Seattle Public Library. There's quite a lot of activity going on there during the weekdays. After hours the lot isn't used as much as most of the building occupants are 8-5ish type operations. Shouldn't be an issue for after-hours events. The lot attached is pretty small, and it is fenced off from the much larger Lincoln parking lot. I don't know why the larger Lincoln lot isn't sufficient for staff parking. It remains in the current plans, doesn't it? It certainly seems bigger than the lot at Roosevelt, which will basically disappear completely next year when more portables are added.

Wallingofordian, I think you are probably right on all counts but the issues is the clarity of what access Lincoln will have to parking. It was noted by the hearing examiner that some parking spots were being used for storage.
Anonymous said…
A high school "Czar"? More SPS administrative overhead? I'd go along with it if we started with a 30% reduction in central administration staffing and then added back in one high school czar. Otherwise, I vote for putting our resources into the schools, not the administrative money pit.

Anonymous said…
Regarding the "test they will have to take several years from now," does this mean HCC students should be saving their 7th grade notebooks for a test they'll take at the end of high school?

Thanks Melissa for bringing up the high school issue. There are many overwhelming issues to contend with now as capacity/equity/contract/state requirements converge. This is one admin position that would be worthwhile.

good fit
No, Priorities, I meant an existing staff member who would be directly responsible for all aspects of high school changes.
Or, there is a point person about high school issues from Enrollment, Transportation, T&L and Capital, all coordinating together.
Anonymous said…
Wow. I know Seattle is behind the times, but really? The state timeline for NGSS alignment is to be fully aligned by this year. The NGSS test is piloting this spring, with full roll out scheduled for '18 (against NSTA recommendations, they wisely want the test to wait until there's been a full k-11 progression by students), to be taken by juniors as core-24 also implements the 3 credit science piece. There were released items for 5th, 8th, and 11th grade made available last year that gave a sense of how the test intends to be integrated and it feels a little more process (CCC's and SEP's, see below) heavy than content, though the content was definitely still rough.

The standards are designed around a series of performance tasks that apply the content knowledge (DCI's), Cross-Cutting Concepts (the CCC's--basic things found in all disciplines such as patterns, equilibrium, etc), and Science and Engineering Principles (SEP's -- models (draw a cell), questioning, using data). It doesn't have to be "student discovery" the way a lot of people wrongly interpret (and implement) inquiry, but it should be student centered, with students formulating questions and leading their own process as much as possible. There are some science and engineering standards that are somewhat stand-alone that are huge overshoots as far as easy implementation, but because Washington was pretty heavily involved in the creation of of the NGSS it's not a huge shift. There are some grade-band shuffles, and a bit of new content around stand-alone Engineering standards (variations on solve a real-world problem, which can bundle with any content), but that's about it.
Presentation is the real shift, not just that students do the investigations, but in how science disciplines and "skills" connect to each other and how it connects to engineering and technology (but engineering skills doesn't mean building bridges, it can be extrapolating from graphs, data analysis, draw a picture model, etc) in order to solve a problem or accomplish a task.

The biggest question is how the test will be written, and how we get students to be able to apply the information in the way that the test is looking for. The preview items went down in flames, and I haven't seen anything since, though I can't say if that's silence on the NGSS side or my district having re-organized. The major concerns I had about the test items were organization on the page (scrolling, remembering where things were, messy presentation), disjointed questions, lack of clarity around note-taking, and that you couldn't go back and check work after leaving a page. It really broke all the rules of test-taking, and was stressful just in understanding the directions. Additionally, questions that were student-answered on one page were correctly answered on subsequent pages (label the axes on the graph, then the same graph used with correct labels), so students will know immediately if they get some questions right or wrong. For my lower-skills lower-tenacity students, or any with test anxiety, they will have a really hard time not completely shutting down if this is kept.

Outta Seattle
Anonymous said…
Poor test design didn't slow down SBA and PARC one bit. These test peddles don't care if children miss items due to test design flaws or knowledge deficits, so long as they get a decent little bell curve in the end. Since no one is allowed to see the tests, they can use all sorts of manipulation in grading to get the scores that they need.


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