Friday, December 01, 2017

Ed Specs for High Schools

As requested, a thread on educational specifications as laid out in this SPS document posted by Seattle Citizen. 

May 2016 report on Seattle Public Schools - Educational Specifications For High Schools.

This looong document lays out all the details, from structure to curricula, for future high schools in the city.

It seems to want to integrate disciplines, such as ELA and SS, and using the new NGSS Standards, yet here we find they're forcing Physics into 9th grade without doing a whole systems revamp as integration would require. So there doesn't appear to be commensurate connection to Math, nor are other disciplines bring similarly rejiggered.

Additionally, this drastic change is coming concurrently with the 24 credit requirement and its schedule changes, making even more of a mess and adding even more to teachers' workloads.
From reader Physics Fan on moving physics (of a sort) to 9th grade:

Here's an old article but another good starting point and it talks about the equity part.

From reader Kellie:
It seems like high school is about to become a train wreck with all of various moving part and various initiatives that require substantial coordination.

* 24 credit requirement for graduation
* “non-negotiable” new schedules and teaching loads for high school teachers
* teacher contract up for re-negotiation
* More credit earning opportunties for high schools students - the fact and fiction versions
* dismantling or re-distribution of high school HCC
* zero transparency regarding the impact of running start
* the increase in cohort size for the 2018 high school freshman class (one of the largest cohorts in the system)
* new boundaries for high school that have zero consideration for walkability
* the entire question of high school option schools and whether or not these are just going away.

I think there are even more moving parts. 


Anonymous said...

Here is another part of the high school mess and how they are re-distributing HCC to give more opportunities.


- crazy time

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any insight as to whether or not SPS will need to do something out-of-the-norm to accommodate the large 9th grade class in the year prior to Lincoln's opening? Or will they just cram everyone in?


Anonymous said...

They will likely just keep forcing juniors and seniors out into Running Start. Next year’s freshman and sophomores will have to have two years of a world language in order to graduate so I expect there will be fewer sections of third and fourth year classes available.

Fairmount Parent

kellie said...

Opening a new high school is an incredibly expensive endeavor. For many districts, it is the single most expensive thing that a district can do.

This project represents well over $100M in capital costs, multiple years of planning and an ongoing substantial increase in operations costs. Typically managing a project like this requires a tremendous amount of focus and a deep commitment to limiting the scope creep so there is enough focus on providing solid academics so that families are enrolled to participate in the new school.

The greatest management risk, is that a project of this scope is poorly managed and the families the project is intended to serve, avoid the school and make other choices. The bottom line is that SPS is now accountable for paying the costs to open and run this school. However, families are not accountable for enrolling. Ultimately, families can move or make other choices.

Because of this dynamic, districts tend to invest heavily in communications and outreach so that families are just as committed to the new school as the district is acountable.

Once again, I can’t believe that I need to type out the basics of how projects like this are managed. Just take a peek at how Northshore managed the opening of their new high school. They did an exquisite job with this project.

Instead of focusing on the basics and opening Lincoln in a way to ensure a successful launch, SPS seems to be adding everything, including the kitchen sink, to this project. They are re-inventing boundary priorities, advanced learning, science sequence, option school status, schedules and a whole bunch of other things.

Is anyone accountable for the successful launch of Lincoln? Is there any reason for families to enroll at this school? The current plan is simply not functional. The current plan already guarantees that over 33% of the future Lincoln attendance area will be able to select a different school and the vast majority of those families are the ones in walking distance.

Anonymous said...

I heard from a friend who works downtown that the reason they don't want to put LI and HCC at Lincoln is because they don't want to do anything at Lincoln that will require mitigation dollars. How is that going to inspire confidence in families?

If you go to Hamilton and you were expecting to go to Lincoln, which most Hamilton families have been expecting, then suddenly the already existing instruction at Hamilton is now too expensive for Lincoln? I just don't understand this process at all.

- confused in Wallingford

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kellie, the Lincoln principal has supreme confidence about how great Lincoln will be so I’d guess we could hold her and Michael Tilley responsible.

kellie said...

@ Mel,

That is a great point. Having seen Ruth Medsker in meetings over the years, I also have confidence that she will make Lincoln a "success." That said, I suspect that she is defining success as the ability to recruit and retain excellent teachers. That is absolutely a cornerstone of success at any school at any grade level. Great teachers make a school.

But there are many ways to define success and hiring great staff is only one of them. Your comment reminded me of the old Southeast Education Initiative. This initiative invested several million dollars over and above the staffing formula into three schools - Rainier Beach, Cleveland and Aki, over multiple years. There were many "opinions" on the success of this initiative. I happen to have attended a board meeting, where this initiative was being lauded as a profound success by the finance and budget people.

The initiative was based on the notion that uncertainty about programs and staffing was preventing these three schools from effectively attracting and retaining families. The inability to stabilize enrollment meant the schools were unable to stabilize staffing and it was a vicious downward spiral.

The "plan" was to guarantee staffing at these schools based on an enrollment target. These schools were promised X dollars based on Y enrollment and they were guaranteed that money for the subsequent school year, regardless of the enrollment. As comprehensive schools are expensive, you really need a minimum amount of enrollment to make them work.

The results presented in the meeting was that the subsequent year, the enrollment target was reached and then SPS was able to once again forward invest in a more aggressive enrollment target. Success was defined by the ability of the school to stabilize their enrollment. The presentation was about either year 3 or year 4 of the initiative so there was a clear ability to demonstrate that the money was essentially a one-time investment that was being re-invested annually and was a very efficient use of dollars.

IIRC, the numbers are overall were pretty modest. Rainier Beach and Cleveland were stabilized around 400 students, and prior to the initiative they were in the low 200's. But the point was very clear. Enrollment and Staffing are deeply intertwined and if parents don't have confidences in a school, that school becomes very expensive to operate.

If I had any input into this plan, I would love to see something similar for Lincoln. I would love to see a GUARANTEED budget for year 1 (9-10), year 2 (9-11) and year 3 (9-12). If there was a GUARANTEED budget, I think this conversation would change dramatically.

Right now, the planning for Lincoln is based the idea that families will be forced to attend and that NOTHING needs to be done to create buy-in or confidence with families. If there was a guaranteed minimum budget, then I believe, we would see a stronger push to make sensible program and boundary decisions. I define sensible as boundaries that optimize walkability and reflect the needs of the students in the immediate area.

Anonymous said...

Anybody have an idea what this statement from the district’s curriculum webpage means?

As part of a system-wide effort to increase the number of Seattle Public School students who graduate from high school prepared for college and the 21st century workforce, Seattle Public Schools has committed to aligning curriculum in core academic subjects across all high schools.

I hope it means that schools will offer a standard range of classes, including separate opt-in honors and AP or IB courses. It could affect the academies at Ballard.

Fairmount Parent

Anonymous said...

@ Fairmount Parent, it sounds like an effort to provide more uniformity of offerings across schools, but the big question is whether they will do that by providing MORE options at schools that haven't had as many, or FEWER options at those that traditionally have. Unfortunately, the district tends to try to close gaps by lowering the ceiling rather than raising the floor, so I'm not feeling particularly optimistic. Maybe this time SPS will

Surprise Me

Anonymous said...

You tell em Surprise Me,
Unfortunately parents prefer that they INCREASE gaps by providing MORE for their kids than other kids. Eg. That’s what “raising the ceiling” is a euphemism for. Go SPS.
Surprise Me2

Anonymous said...

@ Surprise me2, you should read more carefully. I never suggested raising the ceiling--just not lowering it. I suggested raising the floor. Are you really against that? Are you also against raising the ceiling at schools that have had fewer opportunities? You think adding honors and AP classes schools that don't have many is a bad idea, and that instead SPS should get rid of most of them everywhere to make things more equitable (and more mediocre)? That's a pretty bleak perspective.

Surprise Me

Anonymous said...

I just skimmed the link that "crazy time" posted above. It says that RHS currently offers AP Bio, which is NOT true. The only AP science course offered at RHS is Physics. Would love to see AP Bio, but it does not currently exist and this fall my child was told by his counselor in no uncertain terms that the school has NO plans to increase science offerings.

-get facts straight

kellie said...

Fairmont Park askes a great questions that brings us to yet another deja vu moment.

The last serious attempt at high school curriculum alignment was in about 2011, the last year of Goodlow-Johnson's tenure. Thankfully, the push collapsed when she was fired. I would love it if anyone that remembers details from that attempt could share them as none of those documents are on the website any longer and can only be secured by the archivist.

While this alignment started well, it began to fall apart when the plan was to make every unique offering at each high school only eligible for elective credit and not graduation requirements. That was how alignment was defined - graduation requirements would be identical at every school.

There was a massive push back from teachers when the reality of this plan settled in and the consequences was the termination of the LA program at Roosevelt and the Ballard academies, the dismantling of Oceanography at Garfield and multiple Hale programs, including the radio program.

For SPS, alignment tends to mean standardization and the removal of all unique programs. It certainly would be easier to just unilaterally dismantle the Ballard academies, than to manage a geo-split of students enrolled in those academies.

Anonymous said...

For SPS, alignment tends to mean standardization and the removal of all unique programs [and courses]

This is what families should understand. The range of AP offerings is likely to be reduced at all schools in the name is increasing access. They may decide only certain AP courses will be offered at each school, even if it means reducing what has been offered for years and years at a particular school. Any course offered at Garfield (or Roosevelt or Ballard...) that is not offered elsewhere could be on the chopping block. Latin? AP Econ? AP Physics C? AP Calc BC? If they are offered as single section classes, they are unlikely to survive in the Lincoln shuffle.


Anonymous said...

And you base this on what facts, Forewarned? Or is that just your impression of history?


Anonymous said...

If they attempt to standardize all of the AP courses, will they have enough qualified teachers to teach all of their offerings? If, for example, they decide all schools should only teach AP Physics and AP Biology, what do they do with all of those AP Chem and AP Computer Science teachers? Most are not qualified to switch subjects like that. And how do they find all those extra AP Physics teachers? It is my understanding they are often hard to find.

Just thinking out loud.

-NW Mom

kellie said...

Forewarned raises valid concerns.

During the 2011 alignment, I did not have high schools students and I knew relatively little about high school operations. The testimony from Teachers (not parents) during this process was very eye opening. Teachers testified at board meetings and reported at school board office hours on the process. There was a teacher from Roosevelt who was very passionate and persuasive who testified about the “Shakespeare” class at Roosevelt and how much staff time had been invested in creating grade level, but thematic LA offerings and how they were being instructed to replace these unique classes with a district book list.

I had no idea course offerings were so varied district wide. At the time, I thought a little alignment might be a good idea. But like many folks, i thought alignment was more about taking unique classes like Shakespeare and Oceanography and unique concepts like Biotech and expanding these powerful and successful classes. But that plan is expensive.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Surprise Me2 said this

"Unfortunately parents prefer that they INCREASE gaps by providing MORE for their kids than other kids."

Normally, I would ask "what do you base this inflammatory sentence on?" but honestly, there's no proof of this. It's just one person's opinion based on??

But it's really unpleasant to say unkind things about other parents based on just your experience.

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