More on the High School Science Alignment

See Updates at bottom.

From a concerned parent: 
At the community meeting with Director Burke (with a special appearance by Director Mack) the issue of a complete curriculum change for all the high school science offerings got brought up for discussion.  (Editor's note: this was on Sunday.)

This topic appears to have snuck under the radar of the board (other than Director Burke, as the chair of curriculum). The curriculum "alignment"team has been able to move forward with these changes without gaining the attention of the broader board members by re-terming the changes "alignment", so as to not trigger a broader board review.

These proposed changes for the incoming freshman class of '18-19 would dictate a mandatory science curriculum pathway for all high school students. In creating this pathway, the curriculum team will dissolve the majority of SPS student's access to AP chemistry, AP biology, and the wildly popular and successful biotech academy at Ballard High School.

I am working with other parents on organizing a community meeting at Ballard High School on Thursday, January 25th at 7 pm. (Final time TBD based on room availability). 
As things currently stand, there has been minimal piloting of proposed district-wide curriculum changes, no educator training, and minimal reassurance that the changes would meet college pre-requisite standards. Although the district  website reports that revised courses were created as of fall 2017, no details have been provided to the high school teachers tasked with teaching these classes.
Buried in the SPS website are 4 " family science engagement nights". Our goal is to have a parent action plan in place prior to these meetings.
The district's Science Alignment page:

The science department, including school staff, will host four regional community meetings for families to come learn more about the new requirements, the new sequence of courses, and options for students.

January 25, 7-8:30 p.m. Chief Sealth High School, Library
January 30, 6:30-8 p.m. Cleveland High School, Room 1201
February 1, 7-8:30 p.m. Ingraham High School, Library
February 8, 6:30-8 p.m. Garfield High School, Commons

From a science teacher:

(Me): What would be the better way forward for changes to the science curriculum?
  • Don’t destroy a course content and sequence, morph it.
  • Keep the existing sequence of physical science, biology, chemistry and physics…but add to those existing courses missing key NGSS points.
  • Need some physics concepts loaded into sophomore general chemistry…DONE!  Need more advanced physics or earth science loaded into physical science…DONE!   Need chemistry concepts loaded into biology…DONE!
  • If this sounds crazy…why is that what the Bellevue district is doing?  Why is that what the entire state of California is doing?.  If you compare a Bellevue college application (full year of algebra-based chemistry) as a sophomore or junior to one from SPS with 9th grade chemistry…who do you think is going to Dartmouth?  UC Davis?
 One good question that some high school science teachers have: What to tell parents on rapidly upcoming school tours.


Anonymous said…
What-they don’t want to hear from NE parents? Ingraham is not a convenient north location to gather input.

Anonymous said…
I believe there's an overarching implicit basis for this decision:

Wyeth Jessee's goal is "consistency" by reducing "different curricular choices" across schools for "equity". He stated at the Jan. 17th Board Meeting that other urban districts offer a set number of advanced learning courses, while we have differences across our comprehensive schools, and that's one of the things he wants to work on with our stakeholders. He specifically called out math and science as not being consistent.

Underpinning his goal to standardize courses is asking the Board to pass Resolution 10 (eliminating Pathways).

Now, we see how this overarching theme of equity mistakenly being interpreted as homogenized offerings is already negatively impacting the Academies.

For any parent in the district whose student is enrolled in an Academy, this decision may impact you too.

Anonymous said…
Planning for this enormous curriculum adoption apparently failed to consider any aspect of the effect on the specialized science academies within high schools.
Planning apparently failed to consider the expertise and credentialing of existing science teachers. A lot of Biology teachers, for example, are going to be teaching Physical Science, outside their field.
Planning apparently failed to consider the effect on facilities and safety.Some Chemistry classes will be have to be held in classrooms with less access to normal safety equipment.
Planning also apparently failed to involve HC considerations across the district.
Planning also apparently failed to involve Special Education considerations across the district.
Planning also apparently failed to use a (relatively new) Race & Equity tool to evaluate the consequences of this proposal across the district.
Planning also apparently failed to involve or engage or communicate to parents. Parent meetings were scheduled 2 weeks ago, including only 1 north of the Ship Canal, and are simultaneous with the actual student course selection process for next year.
Planning also apparently failed to engage the schools' Instructional Council at Ballard, normally and contractually involved in course decision offerings.
Planning also failed to inform or engage the School Board.

What else was forgotten ?

Down this road again...
Anonymous said…
But if it says they're all the same, on paper, then the district's work is done and equity will have eliminated all forms of isms.

And at that point, what need will there be for teachers or anyone else to provide personalized services of any type or form? No need when every child is equal and no longer unique.

What a noble goal. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
Again, if there is no equal access to special program academies (like biotech), because they truly are based on geographic boundaries and there are no longer choice seats available to others, then we should indeed have consistency across schools.

Maybe it would be possible to have the 3 HCC pathway schools be aligned and the non-HCC pathway schools be aligned. Couldn't Lincoln, Garfield and West Seattle be consistent with each other?
Is this so hard?
Anonymous said…
Will the award-winning Ballard Digital Film pathway also be eliminated? It HAS to be to conform to this logic.

Anonymous said…
What about Hale's Radio Program or Ingraham's Car Repair Program? Will those be wiped out in the name of equity?

We need true open choice seats in all high schools so these unique programs are available to all.

Anonymous said…
Anonymous @ 11:39 am,

Our schools each offer different academies based on stakeholder interest and needs in that community.

Franklin offers Finance, Arts & Humanities, Public Service and CREATE Academies.

Chief Sealth: Finance and Hospitality & Tourism.

Hale: 9th Grade

Ballard: Finance, Biotech, Maritime

There's so little overlap other than Finance, that vanquishing choice serves no one.

As to alignment of AP offerings across potentially 3 HCC Pathways, Wyeth doesn't want Pathways at all. He's referring to AP alignment across all comprehensive schools.

Anonymous said…
@Resist, are you saying that students/stakeholders in the Ballard area need biotech and marine, and students in Franklin area need arts & service and public service?
I disagree with the idea that different offerings are based on needs in that community. That's saying that kids in those communities are different from each other.
The solution seems to be either to get choice seats reinstated or give up on these unique only-one-geographic-community-benefits academies.
Anonymous said…
I too agree with offering open choice seats, but when Director Pinkham asked a question related to that issue at the Jan. 17th Board Meeting, the district employee didn't directly answer - she said something along the lines of we need to develop a comprehensive plan.

Conflicting views on choice and how it impacts equity is central to the underlying conflict in this district.

Anonymous said…
Is This So Hard?,

I'm confused by your question. What's your proof that Franklin didn't choose their Academy focus?

Anonymous said…
@Resist, I'm not saying Franklin didn't ask for it, and it is likely quite popular. But to think that that topic area is relevant only to kids in the Franklin boundary area is crazy. Why spend all the extra funds allowing variations from general curriculum if they're only accessible to kids within that boundary area? If we're going to do this, there has to be choice seats (and transport, I suppose) available.
Anonymous said…
The issue of science teachers not being able stick with their area of specialty is very concerning, as is the possibility of not having enough qualified science teachers. Also, what are schools (and the district) doing about IB? Both the 8 period schedule and the science "alignment" conflict with IB. Will IB schools get a waiver or will they eliminate IB?

tired parent
SPS mom said…
Of note, this will severely limit almost all SPS student's access to any AP science curriculum. (Chemistry and biology). It also unlinks math curriculum from science curriculum. In order to advance in science you need to have appropriate math skills. This new plan completely disregards the interdependence of these fields.
Anonymous said…
The Ballard maritime academy does serve the local neighborhood. There are still local fishing families living in Ballard although many have fled to Shoreline and are free of the SPS drama. There is access to a Maritime training academy in Ballard which the students are able to tour.

The Ballard film program is a draw for students outside the school. The problem is that these programs arise from dedicated teachers with specialized skills. They often start out as clubs and become so successful that they become part of the curriculum. I know of several Ballard graduates who have gone on to film school.

However, I believe, from personal experience, that the principle concern of the district office is to guard against lawsuits - that comes first and foremost before providing educational opportunities for students and professional appreciation and opportunities for teachers.

Outsider said…
"If you make huge changes, be absolutely certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt that college application acceptance officers NATIONWIDE will buy into it."

That person might be mistaking a feature for a bug.

In Charlie's post, it was noted that these changes are aimed at diversifying STEM fields. Which means we need to prevent a significant number of pale and privileged (P&P) students from entering these fields who might otherwise have done so, to create space for marginalized demographics. That is what diversifying means, right?

So here's the plan: force all gen-ed students to take a year of math-free chemistry and physics, whether it makes sense for them or not. Make it difficult or impossible to take AP chemistry and physics by forcing students to take those subjects in split fashion. Yikes, the net effect is to weaken the transcripts of P&P students, giving colleges a reason to pass them over and effectively keeping them out of STEM fields. Marginalized students can be admitted to college with the same transcripts based on traditional affirmative action logic. Mission accomplished. Feature, not bug.

It's obvious why the whole plan was finalized without community input. A lot of P&P parents would have complained non-stop, but the SPS bureaucrats had no intention of listening to them. (The typical Seattle next step would be to divide and conquer parents by exempting HCC and retaining AP chemistry and physics for HCC only.) It's not hard to imagine the ideological rationale for this policy. If you want to break down structures of privilege, how else are you going to do it? What other tool do you have but public education? Who is prepared to argue against the principles involved?

Of course it puts a ton of stress on P&P families, but tough luck.
kellie said…
Yes, this actually is hard. The question of what is high school and how do you build the schedule could be one of the hardest questions in public education.

Most districts in the State of Washington and even across the country have only 1-2 high schools in the district. As such the idea that high school is supposed to do everything is the "norm."

However, large urban districts like Seattle are expected to run a network of high schools. Seattle has 18 high schools with a range from 90% FRL to under 10% FRL. The variation across high school is Seattle is quite exceptional.

How do you manage such system where you need both some minimal consistency across all schools but you also need to provide multiple unique services. If you only have ONE high school the question of "what do you do about auto shop?" is pretty simple. But you simply don't need 19 auto shop program in Seattle. What is the right number?

Something that I think is pretty interesting about this science alignment. Couldn't this be the new middle school science? This sequence of physical and chemistry light could also be a great way to gets kids ready for high school, instead of dismantling high school.

"...pale and privileged (P&P) students"

I find that kind of offensive.

Except Kellie, all the discussion is around high school science.
kellie said…
Sorry Mel, that was probably more clear in my own head.

Seattle has a wide variety of needs. This Science alignment seems deeply flawed because it is focused on the least common denominator. It seems to me that these non-math science classes might be a better fit for middle school than high school.

Anonymous said…
Yes, a non-math intro to physics seems like the definition of middle school physical science. This realignment makes me wonder what is taught in middle school also. Sounds like repetition for everyone.

Anonymous said…
This is my area of interest. Some of us discussed the good and bad of this approach in November on this blog here if people want more background. One thing I discovered then is this is the same sequence Mercer Island already sends its students through. Can't be a coincidence. Something to ask at Seattle Schools meetings is what qualitative and/o rquantitative data they've gotten from MI. Bet they have some. Those of us who know families in that system should also talk to parents there and report back here. Helpful!

As I wrote in November, our family is a big fan of the 9th grade Conceptual Physics sequence, although I don't know the reason -math?- for combining it over frosh and junior years with chemistry. Making it a standalone class would allow for special programs like IB or the Ballard situation.

Physics Fan

These are decisions that require board approval. If staff are using loopholes to sneak around that approval, then I expect our board members to act quickly to close those loopholes.

Once again we see JSCEE staff acting like they run the district. This will continue until we get a school board willing to stand up to the staff and stop them from doing this. I eagerly await the board's action to correct this.

The most important task our school board faces right now is changing the staff culture at the JSCEE. Every other priority, from equity to family engagement to capacity management, will stall and fail without those changes.

What we are also seeing is something I've been warning about for years, but nobody seems to listen: the JSCEE staff are waging war against ALL specialized programs. All of them. Every single one. *This will include the option schools.*

I don't think people grasp this. Fighting back against staff and making it clear to each individual board member that we hold them personally responsible for the fate of these courses and programs is the only way to stop the JSCEE staff from eviscerating our district.
Anonymous said…
What happens to students transferring to or from SPS?? The science sequence is likely to be out of step with the majority of traditional high schools. It seems it would disproportionately impact those students who tend to be the most mobile.

SPS craziness
Anonymous said…
There are a couple of accelerated course progression models on the Next Generation Science Standards website. One option is to make the high school courses available in middle school with placement based on a student’s math class. It looks to me like the class SPS has designed for 9th grade is appropriate for Algebra I students so why not start high school science when a student takes Algebra? That would allow non-HCC students to take more advanced courses in high school.

Fairmount Parent
Anonymous said…
I feel that there has to be some chemistry and physics before biology or environmental science if they aRe to go any deeper tHan classifications aND propaganda. The sciences build and are interconnected. It is about time for a re-structuring. Middle school should have freshman sciences available for those who want to study them. All those spectrum,alo and HCC kids should be ready for it.
Anonymous said…
West above
Anonymous said…
@West: Physical Science and Conceptual Physics are not at all the same curriculum. Conceptual Physics might be a unit within a year of physical science but physical science also includes geology, astronomy, chemistry, etc. Think broad but not deep. Conceptual physics goes deeply into the concepts of physics, touching on other branches of science only from a physics perspective. It would not be appropriate for the vast majority of middle schoolers not because of the math, which is algebraic and achievable for some in middle school, but simply because the students need more years of engagement with the world to 'get' the conceptual part of conceptual physics. This is a class that a generation ago was offered as an alternative to 'scary math' senior year physics.

There are a lot of great reasons to make it a standard 9th grade course. *Again I am not advocating ripping up other strong science progressions in Seattle schools. But I am enthusiastic about ripping out traditional barriers to science-related careers. Barriers do include race, SES, gender and those for whom math does not come naturally. But even for kids who take to math like a duck in the water, this is a good course. Take a sample of traditional senior year physics and AP physics kids a decade after high school and you're going to find out the astonishing number who remember nothing about the course except sweating to memorize calculus formulas. That's not deep learning. That's not a springboard to the innovators so craved by our business community. That's learning to get a good grade on a college-bound transcript. Offering conceptual physics early and calc-based physics later is great for STEM kids as well as the many more who are tentative about it.

FWIW what may be good in the long run looks like a disaster for next year. The timing can only make change harder and more bitter for all. A state test that comes online in a couple of years is no reason to do damage to those programs already working well in drawing kids into science and helping them achieve within it.

Physics Fan
Anonymous said…
The new curriculum proposed for freshman sounds like just what you say... intro to physics, intro to chemistry all with astronomy and mixed in freshman year... sounds like physical science to me. I don't know what magical "engagement with the world" happens between 8th and 9th grades. Some kids have more science exposure than others. Seems like this should be an option for all 8th graders.

Anonymous said…
I posed a few questions to the SPS Science Program Manager last week and this is what I heard back, in case others find it useful. I should note that I have not, however, heard back re: my HCC-related follow-up questions. Not sure if that means "oops, we forgot to plan for that" or maybe I'll hear back soon. Overall, it sounds like the roll-out is--and will continue to be--very messy.

Here are my questions and the SPS responses. Bold emphasis added by me.

1. When do the new requirements kick in? They website says it's for the class of 2021, but the class of 2021 is currently already in 9th grade. Are current 9th graders already taking the new Physics A/Chemistry A class? I was under the impression that implementation of the course changes did not already occur and will instead happen next year, so for the class of 2022. Is that inaccurate, or is the website wrong?

You are correct. This is for the class of 2021. And yes they are current freshmen. Ideally this alignment would have been completed before they entered HS. Some of the current 9th graders are indeed on this new path depending if their teacher have been participating in the Physical Science Collaboration which has been in place for the past 5 years preparing for this alignment.
Because not all schools have made the transition, we are working with counselors to help prepare our current 9th graders with some unique pathways like next year a full year of chem and the following a full year of physics. But every school is unique in this transition year so it depends on which schools your child attends.

2. How are the requirements being phased in? Obviously some students are already partway through the old sequence, so how do the new requirements apply to them? For example, if a current 9th grader is taking Physical Science, and they take Biology in 10th, are they going to need to take the Physics/Chem combo class as well, or does the current Physical Science substitute for Physics A/Chem A?

If they are currently in Physical Science we assume they have the basics of ChemA Phys A in most of our schools. Again we need to help our current freshmen in this transition and it depends on their schools.

3. How do the new requirements apply to HCC students? For example, if a current HCC 8th grader is taking Biology, and took Physical Science in 7th grade, are they required to essentially re-take the Physics A/Chem A class (in full or in part) and/or Biology? If not, are they required to take the Physics B/Chemistry B class in 9th grade, or are they entitled to access the 11th grade "Advanced Path" specified below, beginning honors, AP, or IB science classes as freshmen?

The HCC students are 2 years accelerated. Next year those 8th graders will take Chemistry and then physics.

4. Did the HS Science Alignment Team consider HCC middle school science in its work? Will HCC middle school science classes be changed to reflect the new curriculum/sequence? If not, how are HCC middle school science classes going to be treated in terms of high school prerequisites/placement?

For the past 5 years, the MS HCC Science teachers collaborate with the HS Science teachers to ensure that their curriculum is totally aligned to the HS parallel course. Those students essentially enter as a junior level science student and are eligible for the various pathways we have proposed for the third year.

Note that responses to 3 and 4 seem contradictory, no? If they are done with the 9th and 10th grade classes, why would they need to take physics/chem in 9th?

Answer seeker
Anonymous said…

I had sent a follow-up question, still awaiting response:

Re: #3 above, if HCC students are two years ahead, and if the new sequence has advanced students taking honors/AP/IB classes in 11th grade, why are HCC students not taking those classes in 9th? Or to put it differently, if "Physical Science" is presumed to cover the basics of Chem A/Physics A for Gen Ed students (as per your response in #2), why is that not also true for HCC students, who took PS in 7th grade instead of 9th?

I also noted my concern that the new pathway seems to be penalizing HCC students, making them repeat courses that others don't need to.

I also asked them to specifically lay out the new HCC science sequence for grades 7-11, so we can compare it to the posted GE sequence.

Answer seeker
Anonymous said…
Thank you, Answer seeker. I am just trying to get ahold of this topic on top of everything else, in addition to how this impacts my HCC kid's need to repeat or not.

@Robert above, yes I agree on the options. Perhaps SPS thinks they are a small district that would look to consistency in the few schools we have as opposed to the large district with many schools and many different needs. It is certainly small thinking I am seeing here. The question is, how best can we get the board to also look at the larger picture? I honestly feel like we are in one crisis after another in this district.
-Long Road
Anonymous said…
If you want to see what the high school tests might look like, go to and log in. At the bottom of the page there's all the science options, choose the 11th grade one. It's brutal. The looping chem/physics model isn't a bad one if that's how the test will go, although prior release items were biology heavy.

Anonymous said…
Wait, after chemistry, students will just take physics? Don't students typically branch off into various AP options at that point? Definitely small thinking...

Anonymous said…
Answer #3:
The HCC students are 2 years accelerated. Next year those 8th graders will take Chemistry and then physics.

That means no AP science to be offered at Lincoln in Yr 1? And no science options similar to Ballard?

sinking lower
Anonymous said…
@ sinking lower, as I mentioned earlier, there's a discrepancy in what the science program manager reported. On one hand, she said HCC students are two years ahead so would take the typical 11th grade classes, but then in another spot she said they'd take chemistry then physics...but it's unclear if she meant taking those together in one year, and if so, if that would be the A version (which would mean some repetition) or the B versions (which would mean requiring a more basic version than what non-HCC students can take).

Clearly they did not think this all through, and clearly they did not plan for it well. The idea that they've been working on this for 5 years and are only now rolling out what seems to be a half-baked plan is truly mind boggling.

answer seeker
Anonymous said…
Hey, SPS staff--parent engagement is supposed to me about more than just telling people what you've already decided to do. That applies to the science sequence, as well as the 24-credit requirement planning, etc.

Don't just inform us of the 8-period day--ENGAGE us in helping to think it through, daylight potential issues that need to be addressed, etc. It's not that complicated of a concept to engage your stakeholders. (But for god's sake, PLEASE do not use that ridiculous Thought Exchange process again--it was a awful, and you got terrible data that any reasonable person realizes could not be meaningfully interpreted.)

N. Gage
Anonymous said…
The spewing against “central office” is really unfair and misplaced. It isn’t the district who came up with the NGSS or the latest round of high stakes testing. Where was Robert Cruikshank when the state legislature enacted the new standards or the WCAS? Did you write to the governor and ask him not to adopt those standards into law, or ask him to stop the standardized testing?? And absolutely not. The district doesn’t need to engage the public or consult the board to simply follow the law. The public engagement happened when we elected Randy Dorn and governor Inslee. And in point of fact, the new 3 year science readiness high school plan is a big improvement in equitable education. Providing all students 3 years of a basic science and lab classes comes at the cost of premium and elective offerings to some elites. Hard to see how that’s a bad thing. What’s the complaint? HCC students, who haven’t taken the new sequence, are complaining because, the classes they took as middle schoolers have become obsolete? So what. And it’s a bit of a joke to trot out the special ed students and cry a bunch of crocodile tears. Was Ballard High school providing 3 or 4 years of lab science to students with disabilities? Are there lots of students with disabilities in the Biotech Academy? We all know there really aren’t, and that high schools have dragged their feet at every turn in making their specialized offerings available to students with disabilities or to any marginalized groups. So, let’s not trot them out to maintain the status quo now.

Crocodile Tears

Anonymous said…
AP Physics C is the most in depth AP Physics offering, the one sometimes taken by students strongly on a STEM track who also have advanced math knowledge. There is no problem with taking this level in college. But if students take it in high school the college board very much recommends it be taken after a prior full year of physics. AP Physics B fits that bill but guess what else does? The same science sequence SPS is rolling out. Take a look at the Mercer Island sequence to which I referred. Students can't take AP Physics C without that prior year of physics. Why? Because mastering physics topics is more than nailing the calc equations. Students can score well in physics and still be at a loss in college and wash out of engineering-type tracks fast. Because applying formulas is not at all the same thing as deeply understanding physics. I'll stop belaboring the point, but please understand that the new national science standards as well as the exploding physics fields require creative thinkers with a strong foundational understanding. SPS is trying to do the right thing here. I do believe they can do so without destroying legacy well-regarded programs.

And frankly, if I had an SPS kid with an interest in this area, I'd be fighting to get the conceptual course, not trying to prove that an SPS middle school experience covered it. It didn't. Really. Not even in HCC. Page 25 of the Mercer Island course catalog shows one implementation of the proposed SPS progression if anyone cares. They've managed to maintain a biotech focus as one pathway even with the new progression. Side note: They also outsource a bunch of the highest science options to local community colleges. Sound familiar?

Physics Fan

There are a lot of people in this thread making well-reasoned and thoughtful arguments against this proposal. But nobody in the JSCEE cares. They aren't going to listen to you. The staff hold you and your views in contempt, and the board is scared of challenging the staff. Nothing will change at all until the board stands up to the staff, makes it clear this kind of behavior is unacceptable, and collects some heads. I know that board members are reluctant to do this, but if they don't, this staff behavior will continue.

As to Crocodile Tears' points...

"Where was Robert Cruikshank when the state legislature enacted the new standards or the WCAS? Did you write to the governor and ask him not to adopt those standards into law, or ask him to stop the standardized testing?? And absolutely not."

I urged Inslee and legislators to stop the standardized testing on numerous occasions, including here:

"The district doesn’t need to engage the public or consult the board to simply follow the law. The public engagement happened when we elected Randy Dorn and governor Inslee."

That's just plain bullshit. SPS is a democratically governed public institution. Staff must consult and include the public in any major program or curriculum decision. If staff don't like that. then they need to resign and find a new line of work.

"And in point of fact, the new 3 year science readiness high school plan is a big improvement in equitable education. Providing all students 3 years of a basic science and lab classes comes at the cost of premium and elective offerings to some elites."

There's a lot wrong with this, starting with the sudden redefinition of "equity" as "sameness" - which flies in the face of what we've all been shown in recent years. The main problem with this argument is that it assumes that if something isn't equitable, it must be ended.

Guess what? American society itself is inequitable and racist. Should we end the United States of America? Should we end public schooling? Certainly not. If a program or an institution or a society is inequitable, we don't quit and walk away. We figure out how to make that program or institution or society equitable.

Of course, there's no reason 3 years of a basic science education has to come at the cost of elective offerings. But that is what staff at the JSCEE want you to think - and what the school board, scared and cowed, is unwilling to challenge. Thank you though for proving my point that JSCEE staff are out to smash every specialized program in the district, including the option schools. You've been warned.
“Providing all students 3 years of a basic science and lab classes comes at the cost of premium and elective offerings to some elites. Hard to see how that’s a bad thing. “

I think someone said this seemed to be the end game for SPS. But, as Robert points out, why not both? How can we churn out all the tech workers with just a basic education?
Anonymous said…
@ Crocodile Tears, that's a crock.

(1) Regardless of new state science, it's the district that botched the rollout. The requirements don't determine the classes, the sequence, the logistics, the messaging, any of that. Remember, Ballard HS was working to revise their current classes to make sure all the new standards were incorporated, so clearly there were multiple approaches. I'm not saying one way is better than the other, but I AM saying the district blew this big time re: how they "planned" for it, how they "engaged" families, how they considered the MULTIPLE sequences that are in operation, etc.

(2) "The district doesn’t need to engage the public or consult the board to simply follow the law." That depends. If they are adopting a new curriculum, they DO need to engage the board. Their argument is that they are just reorganizing the existing curriculum so it's not necessary...but if they are just reorganizing the existing curriculum, they need to develop transitional classes that fill in the gaps for those who are already partly through the existing curriculum. If they are saying the new curriculum covers things that weren't covered in the existing curriculum, that's new and needs approval.

(3) This is NOT "a big improvement in equitable education." Your suggestion that "elites" are opposed to it because requiring 3 years of science deprives them electives is absurd. Those elites you are referring to were already taking three years of science, so they aren't losing electives. How does this new sequence increase equity? Students who already took strong science sequences will continue to do so, taking the "advanced" options in 11th and possibly 12 grades. Students who were unlikely to take much science will have to take another year of it--a good thing, and due to the state graduation requirements change, not the new standards--but they are more likely to take the basic Physics B/Chem B class as juniors, not the advanced options. They are also likely to have more challenges in passing the new science test in 11th grade--and then they won't have much time to make it up. What sort of options will be available for 12th grade to help them pass it then? Maybe nothing? I predict an increase in the number who are unable to graduate due to not meeting the requirements.

(4) Your perception of the HCC issue is incorrect. If the classes that HCC students took as middle school students are obsolete, that means that the classes that current 9th and 10th graders are taking are also obsolete. Do you tell them "so what" too? If Physical Science taken by 9th graders last year fulfills one of the new requirements, there's no justifiable reason that the Physical Science taken by 7th grade HCC students doesn't do the same.

Anonymous said…
If they knew this was coming and they have been working on this new sequence for upwards of 5 years, why weren't HCC middle school science classes adjusted to reflect this several years ago? It would have been a prime opportunity to pilot the new Chemistry A/Physics A intro class (in 7th grade), give the new Bio A/Bio B class in 8th (if it's any different than the old version).

If the requirement is that al students get 3 years of a "basic" science education, then what's with the "advanced" track for 11th graders? If advanced 11th graders can skip Chemistry B/Physics B in favor of a more advanced science class in year 3, why shouldn't HCC students be able to do the same after taking the first two years of "basic" science classes?

Is the problem that the district didn't bother to plan for HCC students, so now this first group caught up in the mess has a year of physical science under their belt but doesn't have all the PhysA/ChemA material fully covered? Well, hopefully they'll manage to pick up whatever they missed by taking more advanced physics and chemistry classes in high school. And as the district science manager stated, "If they are currently in Physical Science we assume they have the basics of ChemA Phys A in most of our schools." If Physical Science can serve as a replacement for Chem A Phys A for some students, why not for HCC students, too? I'm sure they'll pick up most of the other concepts they need through other advanced science classes in 9th-11th grades.

SPS really needs to show a side-by-side comparison of the sequences for GE and HCC students, including any transitional sequences and/or adapted/fill-in classes that will be provided during the next couple years while everyone gets on board. Isn't that part of what "alignment" is all about--figuring out HOW to align everyone, not just saying what it should be in the end?

answer seeker
Anonymous said…
Look Cruikshank. A great number of students are currently offered 2 science classes. For example, most students with disabilities are allowed a maximum of 2 science courses, with a significant minority offered 0 science classes. Notably, most science staff find no obligation whatsoever to provide modified, differentiated, or accommodated science to students with disabilities, preventing them from taking the science that you think is just freely available to everyone. Then, there’s many many other students who are discouraged or not encouraged nor supported in taking anything more than the 2 basic science classes required, as a minimum for graduation . So yes, increasing the basic graduation requirements by 50% means that the science staff, a finite resource, will have to actually teach a lot more science to all the students that they have so far ... not been teaching. And that means, fundamentally, that those staff will not be available for teaching premium electives. The BHS open letter to the board spelled that out rather plainly. And that is almost the definition of equity. We all get 3 science classes.... with a possible 4th year elective science for some. As opposed to the previous: 2 for the Unfortunates and 4 premium offerings for the P&P (pale and privileged). Expanded requirements do have a cost. It’s also noteworthy that it’s the most privileged people who scoff at the notion of equity as sameness. It’s actually just sharing the wealth, and yes it’s painful.

Congratulations. You advocated about testing and evaluations. I agree with you. That’s not the issue. The issue is standardization itself. For better or worse, increasing standardization of education has been a legislative prerogative. The “curriculum” is codified in the EALRs which are actually binding.


Anonymous said…
As I read the proposal and the answers a district person gave to the questioner above, there's no contradiction, and no big deal for HCC kids. Next year's 9th graders would be in 11th-grade science, which is physics B and chemistry B, as shown here Then they'd be on to AP/IB science, as the pathway on the link above shows. If I'm wrong, please explain.
Anonymous said…
(Repeating because I forgot to sign comment)
As I read the proposal and the answers a district person gave to Answer Seeker, there's no contradiction, and no big deal for HCC kids. Next year's 9th graders would be in 11th-grade science, which is physics B and chemistry B, as shown here Then they'd be on to AP/IB science, as the pathway on the link above shows. If I'm wrong, please explain.
Ballard parent
Anonymous said…
@ Physics Fan, I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you saying that the Phys A/Chem A plus (2 years later) the Phys B/ Chem B is a good foundation for AP Physics C, and that this is somehow a better foundation than, say, taking a full year of physics at once, or a full year of Honors Physics? On one hand you are saying the district is doing the RIGHT thing by requiring the new series, but the new series allows kids to skip Chem B and Physics B in favor of AP classes, so they are actually NOT requiring that year of foundational physics.

And how does the new sequence fit with things like Honors Chem and Honors Physics--are those classes now obsolete? In the past students would often take either the basic version of them or the honors version, but if everyone is going to be forces to take the "accessible" versions, the Honors versions seem like they are not needed. If would look repetitive to take Phys A, then Phys B, and then Honors Physics, or Chem A, Chem B, and Honors Chem. For it to look reasonable on a transcript you'd need to move from the A/B sequence to an AP class. This feels like yet another ratcheting down of rigor.

I'm not arguing that the middle school version of Physical Science covered all the material of what is supposed to be in Phys A/Chem B, but I am arguing that it covered it just as well as the version of Physical Science provided to 9th graders this year and last, which ARE considered to meet the new requirement. If it counts for one group, it should count for all. And they should fix the middle school versions so they align with new HS classes NOW. Current 7th grade HCC students in Physical Science should be getting the PhysA/ChemA content NOW so they don't need to repeat classes in high school.

answer seeker
Anonymous said…
@ Ballard parent, here's how you're wrong.

If you read more closely on that page you referenced, the next line says "11th Grade: Advanced Path: HC, AP or IB science." Since HCC students are pretty much the definition of "advanced path"--and state law requires access to advanced/accelerated coursework for HC students--by the new sequence they should have access to AP and/or IB science (or whatever HC science is, although I think that's probably a typo). Allowing non-HCC students to skip Physics B and Chemistry B before moving to more advanced classes but requiring HCC students to take them doesn't make any sense.

answer seeker
Anonymous said…
If we compare the proposal to what non-HC students are currently able to access in terms of advanced science offerings, the new alignment has the effect of restricting advanced options. If this is their idea of "increasing access to AL," it kinda stinks. If I'm understanding correctly, only HC students who were accelerated 2 years in MS can skip the Chem B/Physics B sequence and move on to AP/IB coursework, but even then, only after physics. First, what physics (there's been no new adoption that says this is Conceptual Physics by Hewitt, which is actually used by some area private schools, and the same author of the SPS middle school text that spends more time on the shelf than in student hands, but I digress...)? Second, only HC students can skip the Yr 3? One, students generally need a full year of high school level chemistry, physics, or biology to be successful in the AP/IB equivalent, so it's not the best plan for students, HC or not. And two, forcing the Yr 3 sequence on everyone else, while suggesting only HC students can skip ahead seems to fly in the face of all the equity talk.

What I'm not seeing in the new "alignment" is a plan that maintains flexibility for students to explore their own science focus - you know, not just meet basic requirements, but actually think about a career. Want to focus on biology and environmental science? Or maybe you're thinking of going into nursing, and want to maximize the amount of advanced biology and chemistry taken, etc.

This plan seems to move toward less flexibility and less choice. It may provide a better pathway for those needing 3 years and only 3 years of science, but this district serves a wide range of learners, many of whom want to go beyond the 3 yr requirement. If the new "alignment" eliminates those options for students, options that are currently available, how is that better for students?

Anonymous said…
Good questions, all. Here's the emails of the folks with answers:

Larry Nyland, Superintendent -
Steve Nielsen, Deputy Superintendent -
Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent, Teaching &Learning -
Kyle Kinoshita, Chief of Curriculum & Instruction -
Mary Margaret Welch, Science Program Manager –

Let's Engage!
more info said…
In talking with my child's 8th grade Biology teacher, she told me my student would take Chemistry in 9th grade. She assured me that along with the Physical Science & Biology class already taken she would then be done with the new 3 class sequence and then could move on to take a Science elective in 10th. It sounds like the new concepts were incorporated into her classes. Not sure why they don't just lay these things out and actually inform the public - would make their jobs a lot easier. It seems like right now they should have an info page for incoming High School families outlining all the changes & implications(boundaries, pathways, 8 periods, science pathway)...if they provided answers(if they have them) and info there would be a lot less uncertainty and panic.
And I'm sorry the answer to what science class will my child take next shouldn't be "it depends on what school they are at".
Anonymous said…
Let's think through the schedule implications: The district has reworked the science sequence in a way that 9th grade HC would take a full year of chemistry, but there would also be 9th grade Chemistry A, 11th grade Chemistry B, some students who would have had Physical Science in 8th and be ready for Biology in 9th - so who else is taking the chemistry with 9th grade HC students? Are 10th graders going to be able to access the same chemistry class taken by 9th graders? Will they have that option? Will there be enough teachers to cover the range of classes to be offered or will some students be left in limbo? What about HC students not at Garfield?

kellie said…
The last time that there was a big science alignment, the alignment also included a "promise" to add physical science to all middle schools and biology to most middle schools. At that time the idea was that middle school science placement could be made alongside the math placement.

With all this current focus on providing more AL at high school, it would seem that putting these classes into the middle schools would be a way to actually create rigor for more students.
Anonymous said…
@ confusing, where does it say 9th grade HC would take a full year of Chemistry? MaryMargaret (district science program mgr) had said they would take "chemistry then physics", but it's unclear if that means a year of each (in which case 7th grade physical science was a throwaway, and if so, then why wouldn't they just take the new ChemA/physicsA class one yr and then the ChemB/PhysicsB class the next?), or perhaps she meant a semester of each--the B portions, assuming 7th grade Physical Science covers the A portions. (And they ARE assuming that for some students who have recently taken Physical Science, so why not for all?)

But yes, rolling these changes out now, with all the pending changes to pathways and credits adds significantly to the complexity. If schools are going to have to treat students differently based on where they took their different science classes in 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grades, and if students are entering high schools from a range of AA and pathway middle schools and being geosplit from a range of high schools, it seems like a lot of case-by-case situations. All because they didn't plan for the changes, didn't foresee the need to change HCC science classes first? What a mess. This is why early community engagement is important.

Answer seeker
Anonymous said…
When it's suggested HC students will take chemistry, then physics, they mean Chemistry B/Physics B in 9th and not a pathway that covers a year of chemistry or physics? If so, wouldn't it follow that HC students would need AP coursework in 10th? It's very unclear what the "plan" actually is.

Anonymous said…
The rollout rush and messiness = driven by the new state test coming down the pike for 11th graders.

The test is driving the rollout. Cue cart driving horse. It ain't just an SPS problem but after a decade of watching do we always have to be the poster child?

Anonymous said…
Are there any other students besides the poor, underserved HCC? Who have it so unbelievably bad?

Curious, most of the comments have been general but the district has a state legal mandate to serve HCC students and basic science education will not be enough.
Anonymous said…
They have mostly been about HCC. People can count.


Anonymous said…
@ Seriosly, it's because the district laid out the new sequence for GE, but did not bother do the same for HCC. If you exclude a group of people from your communications, they will logically have more questions. Instead of complaining about the parents looking for info, why don't you complain to the district for only doing half the job re: messaging?

N. Gage
SPS mom said…
I have plain old "regular" kids, and this new science curriculum leaves me feeling very uneasy too - it's not just a HCC concern.

- there isn't enough lab space in the schools for this curriculum
- there aren't enough science teachers to teach both this required series and any additional science enrichment (AP courses or focused classes i.e. Oceanography)
- the curriculum has not been tested or validated (other than a small pilot cohort that has been trying phys A/ chem A that the district has been absolutely mum about)
- there is no plan, communicated to the teachers or to the parents, on teacher training
- there is no documented gaurantee that this series of classes will meet college admission requirements of 1 year of HS chemistry
-no one is addressing the lack of math prerecs to study these fields of science (physics without algebra or calculus?!?)

- how will this standardization fit into IB Or Academy studies

And those are just the concerns off the top of my head. Wait until I actually get to learn about the courses.
Anonymous said…
@N. Gage,

Pointing out the obvious isn't "complaining" but, instead, keeping reality in check.
FYI, there's a blog called HCC that is devoted to this sub-group.

Instead, this blog has become a subsidiary of that one, with lots of cross-referencing. The district is doing a lot of poor messaging and follow-through for every single sub-group in Seattle.

Seriously, you are seriously wrong. Scroll thru the stories. Very few are directly about HCC.

The DISTRICT has made the high school boundaries/pathways the central thing. Not parents. Why that may be is a grand mystery.

But no matter - there are kids who take advanced science courses who are NOT HCC. There are always kids who excel in single subjects and not having advanced classes in science, in math, in social studies, in LA, leaves them just as left out of the HCC students.

A rising tide lifts all boats.
Anonymous said…
Warning: This post mentions HCC.

Can we please stay on topic, instead of whining about posts that mention HCC (thereby increasing posts about HCC!)??

Anonymous said…
@ Seriously, if it's "obvious," you don't need to point it out. Doing so also doesn't "keep reality in check." In fact, it's the parents who are pointing out the the problems and communication gaps who are trying to put a check on reality, potentially influencing the real rollout in ways that will best serve students.

N. Gage
Anonymous said…
For the new, proposed curriculum, does it matter which sequence Physics A / Chem A and Physics B / Chem B are taken?

If half the kids take Physics A one semester, while the other half take Chem A, and then they swap, from a facilities and teacher perspective, this might be doable.

But if everyone has to take Chem A first semester of 9th grade, and Physics A second semester, this is an operational trainwreck.

Somewhere, on one of these threads, the setup at Ballard High School is mentioned.

The district's older high schools have multiple, dedicated chemistry labs, where class is held every day in the lab, whether you are actually doing lab work or just sitting in lecture.

But Ballard was built with one chemistry lab, with two *small* class rooms, one on each side of the lab with direct access into the lab. The idea was that chemistry labs aren't in use every day, and that two teachers can teach chemistry simultaneously, using their classrooms adjacent to the lab, and then they can work out the lab days amongst themselves.

This setup worked okay (years ago, in a much less stuffed to the gills BHS) but obviously is unworkable if you're having to teach Chem A to all 9th graders at the same time.

Anonymous said…
First there was integrated social studies. Then there was Honors-for-All. And now we’re getting Science-for-All! What will be next? Jobs-for-All? It’s ridiculous and we should put our feet down. Students tracked for the service industry don’t need all that science.

Anonymous said…
I'm confused by some of this.

There are changes coming to SPS high school science. And there is concern this is a curriculum adoption, but have resources been purchased? Aren't some schools already teaching (piloting) the new courses? I don't understand how that can be an adoption and why some schools are changing and others aren't. When was the last high school curriculum adoption? Do schools teaching new AP/IB science courses get funding for those? Aren't those adoptions too?

Also, most of the objections I have read are about Ballard and HCC. What about all the other schools? Since some are already teaching the new courses, I assume they are supporting or at least acquiescing to the changes? Don't there schools have teachers that have to adjust as well? Didn't all schools have a voice in this? Don't other schools also have expert teachers with significant experience who are working towards change? Should they resist change? And I assume that HCC will simply take a 2-yr accelerated version of the sequence, as has been done in the past.

Lastly, I'm confused as to why people think high schools other than BHS would be willing to reduce/limit/restrict AP and IB offerings for this. That doesn't seems like a good choice for students and
parents. Yet it seems like some schools have started to address this if they are already working towards these changes. How is this happening? Has Ballard reached out to other schools about this?

And maritime and biotech academies? What are the purposes of those programs? Do kids get jobs out of these programs in there fields with the diploma they receive at Ballard? Do other schools have similar offerings? How are they adjusting? And if they don't/aren't, why not?

Clarifications please?
Anonymous said…
Seriously Clarifcation. The bottom line is that about 30% more kids will be taking science in 11th grade that weren’t taking it before. Where will those teachers come from? There aren’t more teachers, or more science certified teachers. Obviously teachers who are currently teaching science electives will need to teach science requirements. Whether 9th grade is physical science or a physics/chem mashup is moot. All 9th graders took science before, and still will. That’s not more resources, it’s just a slightly different offering. The real issue is the extra class, and that problem was always going to erupt with Core 24. That day is now. Yes there’s also problem with books, labs, etc. I’m sure that can all be glossed over with typical mediocrity.

NEmom said…
FYI I received this response when I asked about some of the concerns mentioned on this blog:

Thank you for communicating your concern and your numerous questions. First, I want to dispel the notion that our department is in any way trying to pressure Ballard to drop its Bio-Tech Academy. In the science alignment process, we have found that the only high school program that seemed to be in question in Seattle high schools was the Ballard Bio-Tech academy. We have no intention of asking Ballard to end the program, which engages student interest in the sciences; instead we're trying to assist it to ensure that all students who attend it can access the requisite chemistry and physics courses that help prepare students for college if they choose, and are a part of the new Washington State requirement that students take a third year of science (instead of the previously required two) to graduate.

As far as credentialing, we have not heard that high schools have an issue with teachers not having endorsements to their certificates to teach a variety of sciences. Nor have high schools raised the issue of the lack of science rooms, as most use the same science rooms for the various courses offered. The new sequence does not impact HCC students’ ability to take advanced science offerings as they begin high school; this remains the same. As far as special education students, they would receive the same supports and accommodations that are contained in their Individual Education Plans as before as well. While the sequence of the courses is different, and organized to ensure that all students will be ready for a newly-required third year of science, it is not substantially new content; it has just been re-aligned. So students with IEPs would participate as they have before.

A rearrangement of existing curriculum objectives does not require Board approval. However, we have informed the Board of the extensive work to get input from teachers.

The process to re-arrange science courses was done over several years to ensure that they helped students meet new science standards adopted in 2013, and in the last two years, ensure that students would be successful in the newly-required third year of science. A committee of 70+ science teachers (including a few from Ballard) from high schools all across Seattle, developed the plan, and tried it out with students. The teachers informed parents as well as they taught their science courses. Over 10 university science faculty participated on the committee to ensure that the new course sequence prepared students for college-level science coursework.

The re-alignment of science coursework for graduation can be a district-wide decision. However, this was not done without a large amount of input from science departments from every high school. The fact that buildings can also propose new courses does not preclude the district from doing the same, and there is no teacher contractual provision that speaks to these issues.

Regarding the use of the equity tool, the new course sequence is intended to ensure that all students will be prepared to succeed in a third year of science, as well as the science assessment that is required for graduation beginning with this year’s ninth graders.

We encourage you to attend one of our family science engagement nights to learn more, have your questions answered and give feedback.

•January 25, Chief Sealth HS 7:00-8:30​

•January 30, Cleveland HS 6:30-8:00​

•February 1, Ingraham HS 7:00-8:30​

•February 8, Garfield HS 6:30-8:00 ​

Mary-Margaret Welch

Science Program Manager

Seattle Public Schools

Dr. Kyle Kinoshita

Chief of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction

Seattle Public Schools

(206) 252-0050

Anonymous said…
@reader, I disagree with your assessment that:

Whether 9th grade is physical science or a physics/chem mashup is moot. All 9th graders took science before, and still will. That’s not more resources, it’s just a slightly different offering.

What happens to honors Chen and honors physics under this plan? In the past, kids who took a year of Chen or physics could choose regular or honors versions, before moving on to AP versions if so inclined. Now, however, they are supposed to take two years of the mashilup version, getting their year of cgem and year of physics as disjointed, non-honors versions for all. It would not seem to make any sense to later take an honors version of a class you'd already taken, so that suggests Honors Chen and Honors Physics wii go the way of the dinosaur. So much for increasing access to advanced classes.

Answer seeker
Anonymous said…
The new sequence does not impact HCC students’ [substitute any student wanting to maximize AP offerings, this does not just impact HC] ability to take advanced science offerings as they begin high school; this remains the same.

Um, okay, only "As they begin high school?" What about through their entire high school experience?

Perhaps SPS needs to evaluate and rework their curriculum adoption process so as not to bypass Board approval and public review. If it's only based on materials (and when was the last time HS science materials were adopted?), and they are not updating materials (really??), there is little oversight or recourse for families. Everything will then fall under "supplemental" materials, even though the primary adopted materials may be out of date and no longer in use.

Anonymous said…
At Ingraham 9th & 10th grade students (gen ed, as well as HCC) pre-IB take the honor version science classes. I assume with this change the honors classes will dissolve and there will be a single mashup (1/2 year of each subject) science class offered for 9th and 10th. Is this in alignment with the IB science HL/SL courses they will take in 11th & 12th? or as some people state will be a watered down version of courses, example Chemistry no longer full year and algebra based etc.
Future Ingraham
One question to ask is why teachers were not told that the person from their school on the committee was the sole vote for all of them. I was told by one department that they had never been told this and had expected a full vote.
Anonymous said…
@Future Ingraham, IBX students take a full year of honors designated chemistry in 9th, then take IB science (IB Biology, IB Chemistry, IB Physics, and/or IB ESS) 10th-12th. The honors designated physics is a new offering as they push, or encourage, more HC students to follow the traditional IB pathway. If they were to do a Yr 3 chemistry/physics "mashup" for 9th they would need to offer IB science for 10th grade, yet they don't allow students to take IB courses until 11th, or 10th if doing IBX. It's unclear how IHS will move forward, and the teacher on the committee is/was not teaching IB coursework. Between the science "alignment" and the 8 period schedule, it is very unclear what's on the horizon for IB.

no answers
James Wagar said…
Hi everyone,

Magnolia for Ballard High School (Magnolia4BHS), the advocacy group formed to influence the high school boundary discussion, is rebranding as Magnolia for Better High Schools and out next issue is fighting the science curriculum "alignment" and preventing any negative impact on existing programs and academies.

Through our work on boundaries and most recently Resolution 10, we have met many families from all areas of the city with whom our interests are closely aligned.

I invite anyone who holds common concerns to join with us to coordinate and amplify your efforts.

We are reachable via our Facebook page at


Anonymous said…
"If they were to do a Yr 3 chemistry/physics "mashup" for 9th they would need to offer IB science for 10th grade, yet they don't allow students to take IB courses until 11th, or 10th if doing IBX."

Yes so if I understand it seems the full year chem & physics "honors" science courses they currently offer for pre-IB 9th and 10th (HCC and gen ed) will disappear with this "mashup" plan. Then there is not an option to take one IB science course in 10th, unlike at an AP school where they could begin taking AP courses. That's an issue. Basically also there would be no option for science acceleration either for 9th and 10th at Ingraham in this plan.
Future Ingraham
N by NW said…
I'm wondering what math level ties in with the new science sequence?

To be successful in Chemistry A / Physics A a student should have taken (???) math class?
To be successful in Chemistry B / Physics B a student should have taken (???) math class?

The students at BHS are all abuzz about these changes. My daughter is worried she won't have taken the math level needed in order to pass the new sequence classes at the time students are "supposed" to take them.

What happens if a student is struggling with math?

N by NW
Anonymous said…

James Wagar said…

Okay, "changing its name and broadening its focus..."

Let us know how we can help.



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