Disqus

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Open Thread

Three times in a decade - yet another Washington State teacher has been named nationally as the Teacher of the Year.  Congrats to Mandy Manning, a teacher at Ferris High School in Spokane.
Manning joins Jeff Charbonneau (2013) and Andrea Peterson (2007) as the third National Teacher of the Year from Washington state in the past decade.

In addition to teaching English and math to refugee and immigrant students, Manning also coaches fastpitch and girls basketball, advises the writing club, and co-advises the Gay-Straight Alliance.

Manning regularly hosts new teaching candidates, district leaders, school board directors, and legislators in her classroom to experience an inclusive environment and her student-first attitude. As a National Board Certified Teacher, Mandy is an ambassador and facilitator who encourages and guides fellow educators to connect with students and to continually improve their practice.
Batter up!  Good news for SPS kids via SPS Communications:
Thanks to a special partnership and gift of new equipment, this spring, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) elementary students will be learning the fundamentals of bat and ball sports and the positive character skills that go along with playing as a team.

The Fun At Bat program will equip all of the district’s K-5 physical education (PE) teachers with a Franklin Sports equipment kit, a pack of Fun At Bat books focused on character development and digital access to standards-based lesson plans co-developed with SHAPE America.

Fun At Bat, a USA Baseball youth initiative which is supported by Major League Baseball, is a bat-and-ball program for all children created for use in elementary school P.E. classes. The overarching goal of this program is to promote fun and active lifestyles for children, while teaching them the fundamental skills of bat-and-ball sports. The program also includes a literacy component and teaches character traits such as leadership, teamwork and fair play.
The Seattle Mariners have invited all of the district’s K-5 PE teachers to Safeco Field for an afternoon of training followed by special activities during the April 18 game against the Houston Astros. The Seattle Mariners are the first MLB club to have created such an opportunity for their local school district.  
Thank you, too, Seattle Mariners!

Hale showed the film, Mostly Likely to Succeed, during mentorship time yesterday.  Mostly Likely to Succeed is a documentary about an unconventional high school that uses what they call "creative problem solving" to teach students. It has had its critics. 

Ted Dintersmith a venture capitalist who bankrolled the movie is problematic.
https://seattleducation.com/2018/04/04/ted-dintersmith-is-not-here-to-save-neighborhood-schools/

I'll have a longer post but the Colorado Democratic state assembly passed an amendment that was basically a kiss-off to DFER Colorado (Democrats for Education Reform).  I'm pushing for the Washington State Dems to follow suit.

The Democratic Party in Colorado just told an influential group of school reformers to pound sand — and went so far as to ask the group to stop using the word “Democrats” in its name.
At their 2018 state assembly last weekend, Colorado Democrats first booed Jennifer Walmer, head of the Colorado chapter of the national Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), an influential political action committee. It is supported heavily by hedge fund managers favoring charter schools, merit pay tied to test scores and restricting the power of teachers unions.
I note that the head of national DFER is scheduled to speak in our area next weekend at a charter conference in Sea-Tac.

There's a GoFundMe for a girls running club at Lowell Elementary.

The district's Annual Family Survey is out; don't forget to take it.

Community Meeting with Director Eden Mack on Saturday at Magnolia Public Library from 11am-1pm.

What's on your mind? 

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do children need to go to school 5 days a week? Lets move education from child care to learning.

New parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Are you always this disrespectful to professionals?

Anonymous said...

Ballard Math teacher pushes for elimination of Discovery Math. I hope they listen to him.

https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/guest-essay-how-the-right-approach-to-math-can-reduce-the-achievement-gap/

HP

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa, I didn't see New Parent's comment as disrespectful to teachers-- I took it as a comment re: the system we've established, not the teachers themselves. There's nothing that says a 5-day school-week is best, just as there's nothing that says 1080 hours per year is best. (Finland is a good example of how less can be more.)

The M-F school week is driven by the typical M-F work week, and in that sense it's partly to serve as convenient childcare. Remember the complaints during the teacher strike? They were primarily from parents who needed to find alternate childcare. Same with opposition to the bell time swapping--parents were mostly fine with the idea that school schedules should align with teen and child sleep schedules, except for when those educational priorities got in the way of their childcare needs.

If kids had shorter school days and/or shorter school weeks and less stress and more time for sleep and more time for--and equitable access to--extracurricular and enrichment activities, I think they'd be better educated.

Old parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Over the decades, teachers have constantly been equated to being babysitters. Whether the point was about teaching and learning, it is not right to carry that meme forward in any form.

There were many other reason people didn't like the bell times than childcare.

Anonymous said...

Agree with HP - 11 years ago we were still able to choose our elementary school. We explicitly chose an SPS school that did not use Discovery Math and instead used a curriculum that emphasized instruction and practice. It turned out to be fantastic choice, except when we entered middle school and my kid had to teach math to the rest of the class because no one seemed to have learned any math skills using Discovery. Ted Nutting is a knowledgeable experienced professional whose opinion should be taken seriously.

Also, please don't give the SPS an excuse to teach LESS. Unless you want an extra week day to pay for tutoring (that would be money well spent). Finland has a national curriculum with extensive teacher training and oversight. That is how they do more with less.

SPS has a gift for doing less with more. I've sat through enough Superintendents to believe that little will change. Despite the valiant efforts of Melissa, I believe SPS is poised to become a classic troubled urban public school system as the city of Seattle grows larger.

-Sad&Tired

NNE Mom said...

That was one of the best written articles I've seen come out of Education Lab. A number of their pieces have been really poorly researched lately and written by people who didn't seem to understand the programs they were writing about. But this piece took on the whole topic of math instruction (AND achievement gaps) and dealt with it clearly, factually and constructively. Way to go, Mr. Nutting!

Anonymous said...

Discovery math takes a lot of criticism. I think it's fine as long as teachers supplement with traditional math. Discovery prepares kids for very advanced math concepts used in theoretical physics, while traditional math is for engineering.

sunny

Anonymous said...

The problem with Mr. Nutting's article - and the argument he's made about this over decades - is his description of "discovery math." Yes, it could look like this, when the teacher is not a confident math teacher or is not teaching with standards and objectives in mind, or the curriculum is poorly structured. I teach elementary school, and I've used what he would call a "discovery" curriculum for most of 20 years. Yes, group and paired work is part of the process, but just a small portion. I prefer students to have lots of alone think time. But proving your thinking on fewer problems, and explaining misunderstandings and concepts that you see in other's work are researched based methods for building deep understanding. Yes, kids spend some time using what they do know to build understanding of new ideas - and then they practice, and review, and practice some more. It does not mean all discovering, all the time. It does not mean there is not a focus on what is correct. It does not mean any answer or method goes. You need to build toward efficient algorithms and yes, standard algorithms and methods. Moving from concept to practice to application means better retention, better understanding, and more effective transfer to higher math concepts.
Seattle Lifer

Anonymous said...

Discovery math, as practiced in SPS, is an utter and complete waste of time. It was the most frustrating and humiliating experience for my child and has made my child hate math. Teach kids traditional math - concepts, methods, ,practice, mastery - and only then (if there is time) move on to discovery.
- NP

Anonymous said...

That's funny, @sunny, as how are students to handle advanced physics without rock solid math skills?

The amount of supplementation we provided outside of school was outta control. We dealt with the unfortunate combination of EDM, CMP, and Discovering Algebra/Geometry. I tutored middle school students who had not learned standard algorithms or mastered their math facts. Is it any surprise that some schools are closing the gap by providing explicit instruction? Remember the Mercer miracle? Rainier Scholars is fortunate to have Nutting as a volunteer - your loss, SPS.

soapbox

Anonymous said...

Melissa, do you have to be so rude?

New parent

Anonymous said...

Well, soap, my kid is in pre-calc and concepts she learned way bay in 4th grade math(EDM) are showing up . Matrices and vectors are indeed needed for relativity equations and kids who aren't gobsmacked when they start solving field equations because they see math as more than just a way to build an airplane are ahead of the curve. I did say that teachers should teach traditional math as well. I think the University of Chicago professors who created EDM knew what they were doing.
Is Singapore sending out very many deep probes and creating GPS networks?

sunny

Anonymous said...

Its amazing man made it to the moon without EDM. Ancient alien theorist must be correct and was Steelers wheel with "clowns to the left of me, jokers to my right

PacMan

OMG he wrote "man", where's my confort duck!

Another Name said...

One third of 9th graders failed math at our school. This school is considered to be a high performing school, too.

To make matters worse, a committee spent two years revamping science and math alignment. Other districts did not go through such disruptive changes. I'm not confident the district has the dollars to effectively implement this change.

Anonymous said...

Discovery Math did not serve our sons well at all. We supplemented with tutors but it was no substitute for a strong math curriculum.
Ted Nutting has been advocating for better math for years. UW science professor Cliff Mass also sees poorly prepared students when they arrive at the University of Washington. Many cannot go into a chosen field of science because they just do not have the math skills.
Please, new Superintendent, figure out what works with curricula. Stop forcing Discovery Math on students who cannot do advanced math problems until they become advanced math students. If they do not get the basics down, they never get there.

S parent

Anonymous said...

Cliff Mass is an atmospheric sciences professor. He’s not a mathematician. In addition his observations are purely personal. How does he know what kind of math his students have studied prior to the UW and from what school districts they have come. Where is his research to support his opinions? Pretty shoddy coming from a scientist and the kind of mischief that lost him his gig at KUOW.

Research please

Anonymous said...

Parents you all need to relax, I invented the computer to do math so your children can focus on important things like school walkouts.

Ms. Louis

Anonymous said...

@ Research please - I work at UW. We know where students come from and what classes they have taken since it is part of their submitted application materials for admission. In addition, on an anecdotal level, faculty can talk to or survey their students about what classes they took in high school and administer placement tests to check for understanding and placement level.
UWer

Anonymous said...

@UWer

If that is the case, then Cliff Mass should produce the data. Opinion is not enough. Where’s the math in this opinion? Saying it is known what math classes students have taken does not correlate with knowing the methodologies used etc. Anecdotes are insufficient evidence and no credible academic institution would ever stand behind them.

Research please

Anonymous said...

In Feb of 2008 60 faculty members at UW expressed their concerns over declining levels of mastery in math seen with incoming freshmen. Cliff Mass was one of those members. WSU estimated that 30% of state college students were testing into remedial math in college.
Dr. William Hook of the University of Victoria did studies in Calif. school districts some years ago. He noticed stunning performance improvements for students who switched to Saxon math. Significantly, the teachers needed less special training and it worked as well for economically disadvantaged students as it did for high performing ones.
Those were the days of Terry Bergeson, our State Superintendent, who advocated for Everyday Math. We may have replaced those textbooks, but advocates of discovery math live on, to the detriment of our students.

S parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

New Parent, I think you mistake bluntness for rudeness.

Anonymous said...

Right on Research P!

UW is the most selective college in Washington State. It rejects 20,000+ applicants each and every year, from all over US and all over the entire globe. It is completely free to set its standards as high as necessary to get the best possible incoming classes. UW is absolutely free to reject even more students as it has an incredibly crowded campus. It is free to accept even more high paying, highly qualified international students to maintain its standards. After being given the liberty to admit the highest caliber of students, we still find whiny professors like Cliff Mass and UWer. The actual JOB of the faculty at UW includes teaching these high caliber students that the UW had already deemed highly qualified. Evidently these professors are not skilled at teaching, which is part of what they are paid to do. We do not need these prima donnas to whine about students, or malign previous teachers, or make excuses for their own deficits by pointing fingers at K12 education (an area for which they are not qualified). We do not Research from Cliff Mass, we need him to do his real job as a public servant.

Man Up

Anonymous said...

More low-income students and first-generation students are attending college now these days than in previous years. Many have to work full time as they attend classes. They come with backgrounds & experiences other than white-middle to white-upper class, which is where the majority of college faculty comes from. There are always fingers being pointed from the university to K-12 about not preparing students for college. When does the university take responsibility for preparing college for these new types of students? Students are different, and you can't use that same 20-year-old lecture or the same 10-20 year-old math test/teaching techniques and expect the same results and then whine about how the public schools aren't preparing kids. I hear a lot of "these students don't know this and this and this", but never "what do these students know?".

This is mostly about financial aid & other structural changes to help students graduate, but it does talk about the differences in students now vs earlier years.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/our-college-students-are-changing-why-arent-our-higher-education-policies/2017/06/06/1fc0e37c-3678-11e7-b412-62beef8121f7_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.6dd7dace3122

CT

Anonymous said...

Man Up, yes UW is very selective. If those students cannot do math, than what does that say about less selective colleges?

Cliff Mass is not a whiny professor. He is someone who has seen too many students unable to progress in science careers. They do not have sufficient math skills to be successful.

The last few decades have seen a rush to fad math — the discovery approach so popular with many educators. Those of us whose children suffered through it did not find it effective. Solid math teachers like Ted Nutting are professionals we should listen to.

I remember when former UW President Mark Emmert said we were importing outsiders for the best technical jobs in Washington State and our grads would be washing their cars. Unfortunately, Emmert and many educators did not fix the structural problems with our math curricula. We are still waiting.

S parent

Michael Rice said...

I won't speak for Prof. Mass, but I know in his Intro class he gives a math quiz on the first or second day of class, where, without a calculator you are asked to solve some basic algebra problems. I recall seeing the results on his blog one time, though that was several years ago. I believe he also asked the question about where you went to high school, though I am not sure. So he has the data.

Anonymous said...

Michael, I recall he used these math quizzes as a multiyear chart, showing how student proficiency in math had dropped over the last decade or so. It corresponded with the rise of discovery math.

When my son started at Ballard High School some years ago, his math teacher said there were much better textbooks than what they were using. The more I learned about math practices, the less confidence I had in the central office at SPS. I do have confidence in current Director Rick Burke, who gets math.

It would be great if the new superintendent studies which textbooks work best in the numerous schools in the district. Why don’t they do this?

She should also talk to people like Cliff Mass and Ted Nutting. They have much to share.

S parent

Anonymous said...

Math wars have raged for millennia not decades. But the fact remains, highly intelligent students with the true desire to learn science or math ( like those at UW) will figure it out in whatever way works for them, be it constructivist, discovery, or any other method. This is a highly selective university. If Cliff Mass isn’t attracting students capable of learning atmospheric science, that’s on him. He should up his game so that he attracts those highly accomplished students. Most scientific departments at UW have indeed figured that out. Do we hear about computer science students at UW unable to do arithmetic or exhibiting an inability to do the math? No we don’t. It’s a number 1 ranked department full of top notch professors. We hear exactly the opposite, they have to turn away scads of very qualified students. If Mass can’t attract such students, then he has to teach the ones he has, not the ones he wishes for with whatever they need. I actually don’t care about his supposed data about which schools are producing dud students. That’s an issue to take to the admissions committee, not to a dis on high schools.
Not sure the point of the bit about “underrepresented” minorities. African Americans are barely represented on the UW campus, so pretty hard to make a generalization about a special diversity pedagogy. And Asians seem to be doing great in the sciences. I don’t see a need for a prescriptive pedagogy driven by UW.

Man Up

Anonymous said...

I tend just to use Siri for math. Hey Siri whats the formula for standard deviation?

Blah Blah Blah.

This gives me more time for walkouts and tending to my comfort duck.

Sweet Pea

Anonymous said...

Man Up, I am not worried about the most highly talented students at the UW, who will do fine in any profession they pick. I am worried about the thousands of regular students in Washington State who will not be prepared for college, trade schools or any bright future they look forward to. To dismiss them as dud students is nasty.

For example, my husband was in the machine tool industry for years. Many young workers cannot do basic math and are unable to get these jobs. It is the K-12 math curricula that holds them back. Students who have English as a second language or students with ADHD are especially stumped with discovery math and its reliance on word oriented English problems. It is a complex and stupid way to learn math.

Saying math wars have raged for decades is a cop out. Give students the best way to succeed. The school district has a responsibility to examine the curricula, and they have fallen down on this for years.

S parent

Anonymous said...

No, I said math wars have existed for thousands of years. We aren’t going to solve it. Luckily, that isn’t a cop out. Spoon feeding algorithms reductively has an appeal, but it doesn’t provide stimulus, motivation, or problem solving. Which means it serves as the lowest bar. Discovery math may prove challenging for the unmotivated students or be unsuitable for classrooms who generally don’t accept discoveries other than what’s in the playbook. But, there’s never been more resources available for students who really want to learn math and many are completely free. Khan Academy, Ixl. and tons more ... leave no room for excuses not to learn at any level. Currently colleges and their prima donnas, have always used math as a weed out tool. Not because so much advanced math is actually necessary for scientific progress, but because it nicely maintains the status quo. Plenty has been written about this phenomenon. Google it. Also free.

Man Up

Anonymous said...

@michael rice

What you describe as the “data,” Cliff Mass has, is not a peer reviewed and approved study. Nor does it have any relevancy to the math instructional philosophies students have experienced. Claiming that Cliff Mass has data available is disingenuous and neither he nor any other professional instructor should be giving it credence. For all we know the students taking his tests have had traditional skills and drills and infinitum. In addition if Cliff Mass is profiling students based on their high schools, then aspects of personal bias raise their head and warrant investigation.

Research please

Anonymous said...

The district has decided to purchase the enVision Math curriculum for middle school students. After three years of using enVision as the primary curriculum in my child’s elementary school, the program’s effectiveness is best described by this note in the school’s CSIP.

Approximately 25% of students in our school have been identified as needing Tier 2 intervention support during core math instruction.

This is a high percentage of struggling students in any school, but particularly so for a school where more than half the children in grades 3-5 are HCC or Spectrum students.

What is the intervention plan for struggling students in SPS elementary schools? At our school, there is none.

Without any math intervention support staff, we must ensure that our core instructional practices are consistent across the building and maximize student growth opportunities.

Fairmount Parent

Anonymous said...

@ Man Up, you said "Do we hear about computer science students at UW unable to do arithmetic or exhibiting an inability to do the math? No we don’t."

Yeah, because as a UW student you have to complete a certain number of high level math to even apply for that major.

You know what we also don't hear about? All the students who WANTED to apply for that major--or any other that requires higher level math--but who were unable to apply or get into their desired major. Or any of their desired majors. Because they lacked the math skills and had to settle for something else.

If we required good grades in high level math for all UW majors, we'd probably have a lot more drop-outs.

Also, UW is not really all that selective. The bar is not as high as you think--especially for WA residents. Part of the reason for the high rejection rate is that our state university system is too small for our population. Oh, and as our flagship university, UW does need to accept a large percent of in-state applicants--even if that means many don't have the necessary math skills yet.

Adds Up

Anonymous said...

UW is indeed pretty selective for all the high powered science and engineering majors I know of. Right! Getting into most science majors is highly selective, and there’s not enough seats for all who want it, which is exactly the point. If students don’t do the work to get the background, they won’t get in. Of course! But there are more than enough qualified candidates to fill up the good majors and the required classes. It’s not a problem that UW fills up with great students, mostly from in state. It’s also not a problem that less ambitious applicants are denied. That’s life! True. Not selective likean Ivey. But that’s a good thing isn’t it? Personally, all the UW students I’ve been in contact with are all pretty amazing. You can’t have it both ways. Eg. One the one hand the UW sucks because it’s really not that great, and on the other hand say that students are all turned away because they’re not good enough. The truth is we’ve got a great university with many top science departments which are filled with highly motivated and qualified students. Good for us! Leave the math gloom and doom at the door!

Man Up

Anonymous said...

Can anyone help with a Ballard High course-selection question? Ds (HCC student) is in 8th grade at Hamilton this year, taking Algebra instead of Geometry (he started middle school in 7th-grade math because of SBAC scores). So he's taking Biology this year with other HCC kids, but he's a year behind most of them in math. Is retaking Biology his only science option for 9th grade at Ballard since Geometry is a prereq of Chemistry? Botany and Oceanography are just for 10th grade and up, right (or do they make an exception for HCC kids)?
--Future Beaver Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

"To dismiss them as dud students is nasty."

We do NOT name call here. If that's your flavor, go elsewhere.

FYI, UW is building a new computer science building right across the street from the "old" new CSE building. UW is listening to the demand for more computer science classes.

Anonymous said...

New Parent, I think you mistake bluntness for rudeness.



I go with smugness over either. Its the Seattle way!


-Very Seattle

Anonymous said...

@Future Beaver Parent, The course progression & pre-req's are the same for HCC at Garfield, Roosevelt, Ballard & W Seattle regarding science. Pre-req's are all listed as required at those schools, as a certain level of math is needed prior to taking Chemistry. Contact the principal at BHS to learn science options for HCC who took Bio, your child definitely will not have to repeat any courses.
KL

Anonymous said...

@Future Beaver Parent, Also there are sometimes teacher waivers available for pre-req's listed. Example, my child waived a pre-req listed in the catalog as needed for an Intro to Computer Science course, it was granted by the teacher. For science though talk to the principal, my assumption is that your child will be able to access the other science courses in which the level of math is not needed a pre-req.
KL

Anonymous said...

Math wars have not existed for thousands of years. Teaching math used to be fairly straight forward and students learned how to do computations. Now it is overly complicated with wordy, lengthy problems that simply confuse students in lower grades. Debate over curricula intensified when discovery math became trendy a few decades ago.

Discovery math techniques may work for graduate students who have already mastered fundamental math skills. It is a recipe for disaster in K-12. Students deserve to learn during the school day without having to rely on outside math tutors or online programs. Neither is a substitute for effective training while they are sitting in classrooms.

Dismissing students as duds ignores the real struggles they face with inadequate instruction. If enVision math is not effective then the school district should determine a better curriculum. They should also ask UW professors like Cliff Mass and others what skills are lacking so they can include this instruction at appropriate age levels.

S parent

ELL Equity said...

The group work/(language-reliant) discovery aspect puts students who are non-native speakers of English at a disadvantage. In general math should be a subject that non-native speakers of English have just as much access to as everyone else.

Melissa Westbrook said...

ELL Equity, I agree. When we had the WASL, the math portion was more about reading/writing than math putting ELL students at a disadvantage. Many students see the math "language" and can do the work.

Anonymous said...

English is the language of science everywhere in the world and not requiring a basic level of English when learning maths is putting ELL kids at a permanent disadvantage. Ell kids don't need to be super literate in English to be great scientists and engineers, but without some basic English skills learned early they are set up to fail.

We hear a lot about helping get ELL kids into the AL programs yet we don't want them to learn English with their maths? Non Sequitur.


Wigner

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Linguistically rich math curriculum enhance the learning experience, promote conceptual understanding and nourish dialogue. Denying the linguistic aspect of math is to short change the totality of the learning experience. This is a way to expand the student experience, rather than narrowing it. The multiplier effect also ensures that other areas of study benefit from the language gains made from the sophisticated language acquired and practiced while discovering mathematics.

Research please

Anonymous said...

Math is already a computational language in itself. Students would be better served to learn that language rather than translate it into english. If you were learning Italian, you would not translate it into english to learn it.

Foolish article in the ST today IMO. Undoubtedly added by the ST to promulgate a math controversy against Ted Nutting's article. Its a shame that the media can't be about solving problems and conveying information but is instead about stirring up gladiator games for entertainment. In this article a software designer peddling her "math learning" games (COI) states bluntly that "Math is not computation." Next time you step on an airplane, please take a moment to appreciate how much computation went into the design and building at that aircraft. Feel free to wonder why the original home city of Boeing cannot educate its own kids in math.

I believe S parent hit the nail on the head that inadequate instruction is a key issue. Often non-math proficient teachers are corralled into teaching math. Stripping the math of its computational core can make it easier for non-proficient teacher to deliver the material. My kids' math learning and performance was very teacher specific as they came up through the SPS. When placed with an inexperienced math teacher their MAPs scores plummeted 40 points. That recovered when they lucked into a highly proficient teacher.

BasicTools

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, many SPS students do not have a strong command of the language, so they fall behind in math as well.

I read one study some years ago from a state that evaluated several types of math textbooks. They found that even accelerated students were at a disadvantage with discovery math since it took so long to complete the problems. They enjoyed the classes more, but they could do less math.

Please teach math in math class.

S parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

I wish each school had a dedicated math specialist.

Anonymous said...

My child needed:

1. more emphasis on math facts
2. more repetition/practice
3. less group work
4. less writing about math solutions
5. less reliance on calculators

Old-School Math