Sunday, July 08, 2018

Seattle Schools, Week of July 9-14, 2018

Monday, July 9th
First meeting of the Facilities Master Plan Taskforce from 2-5 pm at JSCEE.  Agenda.

Wednesday, July 11th
School Board meeting, starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda


This Board meeting heralds the arrival of the new superintendent, Denise Juneau. 

The agenda finds a lengthy list of Consent items as well as Action items.  There are no intro items.  Given most of it looks most facilities-based or pro forma, I would think you could speak to the Superintendent and the Board on most any topic.  I know that members of the Native American community will be asking for an explanation to the unilateral decision by the principal at RESMS to end allowing 2 evenings of space for programming that directly supports those students.

The one notable item is this:

Resolution 2017/18-18, Fixing and Adopting the 2018-19 Budget  (A&F, June 11, for consideration) Approval of this item would adopt Resolution 2017/18-18, to fix and adopt the 2018-2019 Budget, the four-year budget plan summary, and the four-year enrollment projections.

Highlights:


- The School Board is being asked to adopt the 2018-2019 Recommended Budget. This adoption includes approval of operating transfers from the Capital Projects Fund to the Debt Service Fund up to the amount of $2,688,325 and transfers up to the amount of $20,696,877 to the General Fund. 
Then this:

The 2018-2019 General Fund Budget is recommended at $955,448,694. General Fund resources are comprised of $ 860,243,231 in non-grant resources and $ 95,205,463 in grant funds. Included in these amounts are capacity reserves of $ 18,139,758 in non-grant capacity and $8,000,000 in grant capacity. The capacity reserves are placeholders for potential spending in the event that new revenues are received or unspent funds from 2017-18 are transferred to 2018-19. 

They seem to have the money they need for the General Fund already-  $955,448,694.   It would appear the district is transferring the money from Capital Projects to hold....for something? 
As well,

The 2018-2019 Capital Fund is recommended at $303,424,622 The Capital Fund revenue is comprised of: $194,058,167 of Building Technology Academics IV and Building Excellence IV levy collections; $12,575,249 of State Assistance Funding; $4,200,000 of E-Rate; $671,923 of investment earnings from Building Technology Academics/ Athletics IV, Building Excellence IV, Building Technology Academics III, Building Excellence III, Building Technology Academics II, and Capital Eligible Projects; $1,410,356 in rentals and leases; $7,616,638 in Capital Grants and $60,000,000 in a cash flow bond, less $2,688,325 million in funding transfers to the Debt Service, and $20,696,877 million in funding transfers to the General Fund. 

I'm confused. Because when I voted for those highlighted items, I didn't realize the district would be holding some part of each to use for investments.  I thought it would be going to those items named in the levy.   I don't care if the "investment" goes to Facilities; I want it to go to what was named in the levy.  What might be helpful is if the district actually put out a very detailed accounting of all the projects and the dollars.  The district damages its credibility to voters on school levies when they do this. 

And take a look at page 2 of the BAR - the chart labelled Four-Year Forecast.  Look at the General Fund.  Total resources for 2018-2019 of over $1B but the next year it drops to $927M.  Meanwhile they show a growth of between 500-1000 kids a year for the district and so expenditures rise.

Friday, July 13th
BEX/BTA Oversight Committee, JSCEE, 8:30-10:30 am. No agenda yet available.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have concerns about the (proposed) Amplify Middle School Science Curriculum again.

I have heard from some parents and others that science teachers participating the Amplify pilot did not allow their kids to participate in the science fair this year as it did not fit within the Amplify curriculum. A school official denies this. If your kid is in an Amplify pilot classroom, could you ask your kid if they did science fair this year and if they did it last year? I will start:

School: Whitman
Amplify pilot: Yes
Science fair 2017: Yes
Science fair 2018: No

-NW

Anonymous said...

Yup, this was the case at McClure as well. We received a communication from the science department that "due to the large amount of content we need to cover this year with our new Amplify Curriculum, the McClure Middle School Science Department has come to the conclusion that we will not be able to host a Science Night this year, nor will we be able to devote any classroom time to develop projects for the District Science Fair." If students still wanted to participate in the district-wide science fair, that was on them.

School: McClure
Amplify pilot: Yes
Science fair 2017: Yes
Science fair 2018: No

No fan

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just sent these two comments to the Board and the Superintendent to let them know that there are issues for both middle and high school science programs.

Anonymous said...

Amplify is crap. My kid basically said there was no hands on Science this year. Thanks Middle School for making my girl really dislike Science.
-Not Blinded

Anonymous said...

I looked at the Amplify curriculum and it looked terrible. The quantity of amazing science you can learn in a period of time is much greater with conventional teaching. I think there is this idea among non-scientist educators that we scientists figure things out in the lab from first principles. If that were the case we'd be in the Victorian era science-wise (maybe medieval). Instead hypotheses are developed by weighing a vast amount of acquired information, by reading (Oh My!!). Actual experimentation and testing is QUITE incremental. You can't learn very much science in a set portion of time by this phenomenon-based approach. For kids who are really interested in science - it is way too slow, mind numbingly so. For those that are not interested in science, they just wont be learning much. Any good science teacher can connect what is in the textbook to phenomenon in the real world. You don't need an entirely new and expensive curriculum and a fist full of pipe cleaners to do that.

Scientist&Educator

Anonymous said...

One advantage the Amplify has over other curricula sussed out by the Bellevue School district is that, relative to other curricula, Amplify provides no support for advanced learners. This fits well with the SPS vision. Huzzah!

Scientist&Educator

Anonymous said...

Right on ScientistEdu! Amplify is awesome for the normals, but we gifted types need more. Blowing bubbles is cup to observe swirls is fine for them, and online tests all the way. Let’s at least have something great for great minds.

Wee Gifted

Anonymous said...

So glad families will be spared the burden of stupid science fair projects. Most were significantly shepherded by parents and necessitated costly materials purchases etc. For lone parents and families with stretched budgets and limited leisure time, this created additional and unwanted burdens and a negative connection to the science classroom.

Please be sure my remarks are also forwarded to the board.

Amplify please

Recess Mom said...

Thank you for following the money side of things. It doesn't seem right that they have money to put solar panels on the roofs of a new school building but not to hire recess monitors or copier paper or pencils or science books from this millennium. And it definitely doesn't seem right that voters vote for funds for one thing and find the funds popping up in other places being used for totally different things. We can only hope that when they say they're investing the money they mean in Amazon stock or in Seattle real estate. And yet in a district known to hire grifters, I'm not holding my breath.

Anonymous said...

Note that *I* do not feel that Amplify "awesome for the normals" (what an idiotic misinterpretation), Bellevue school district felt that lack of provision for advanced learning was OK. They, in fact, chose to adopt Amplify. I think that all students will learn very little cool science using this program. I suspect that they will be disappointed with the performance of Amplify in the long run.

Amplify, in fact, does operate as one extended science project. That is the foundation of the phenomenon-based approach. And I completely agree with you "Amplify please" that this is a very poor way to teach science. Please educate yourself a bit more before you shoot yourself in the foot by aligning with the corporate-approved curricula.

Scientist&Educator

Anonymous said...

Districts simply don’t have the money to develop wide scale instructional materials in house. It’s why they purchase from vendors. So, yes, corporate, but they have also fielded the risks and costs of development.

The classroom experience is changing. We have opportunity to do so much more now. Embedding the technology in the learning process is essential. This also levels the learning field with everyone having equal access to the same sophisticated experience and materials.

What’s not to like?

Amplify please


NanoDad said...

It sounds like discovery math for science.

Having equal access to the same sophisticated experience (like watching a video) and materials (like baking soda and a measuring spoon)? Good thing they sell refill kits.

Their marketing materials look slick and they mention NGSS in the first sentence. Great marketing materials.

This article is 3 years old now, but... hmm.
https://www.zdnet.com/article/news-corp-s-amplify-education-experiment-what-went-wrong/
They don't sound as noble or interested in education when you look at them as a business. With the millions of public school students and phenomenal research universities and science corporations in the U.S., it's weird that we can't get a quality science curriculum that's less slick advertising intensive and more focused on teaching and science.

Anonymous said...

Here's my main problem with Amplify: half the time it doesn't work. If there are connectivity problems or hardware problems, students are sitting around doing nothing (or having fun trying to hack their assigned laptop). People love to talk about how technology is essential in the classroom, but what they don't realize is 1) the necessity of having an excellent teacher to shepherd students through the curriculum and 2) the high likelihood that the technology will not work as promised or planned.

My child did not have access to #1, and #2 was a perpetual problem. He basically lost a year of science, along with every other "normal," struggling, or advanced learner in the class. ALL students missed out.

And to top it off, students who enjoy science fair projects and wanted the opportunity to do hands-on independent learning were told "sorry, not this year." Yes, many parents probably breathed a sigh of relief. But I don't think it was for the right reasons.

No fan

Anonymous said...

@ Amplify pleasw, how does Amplfy “level the learning field with everyone having equal access to the same sophisticated experience and materials”?

If some schools have better tech or IT support/resources than others, classyime access may be an even bigger issue than before. If teachers give HW that requires online access, this will create even greater disparities. So your “equal access” claim? Suspect.

Then there’s the issue of “equal” access vs “equitable.” Isn’t SPS all about equity? Students don’t come in only one flavor, and the idea that all students benefit from the same basic curriculum is wishful thinking. Or perhaps the real idea is that they won’t? That advanced learners will be intentionally stymied to level the playing field? That’s not how equity is supposed to work.

Finally, what’s this “sophisticated experience” to which you referred? Surely you don’t mean just because itt uses computers, so I’m curious to hear more about this supposed sophistication.

All types

Anonymous said...

Any others schools cancel their science fair this year as a result of Amplify?

Nw

Melissa Westbrook said...

This is all helpful to me as a member of the Technology Advisory Board. I'll be bringing up the issue of downtime when the technology doesn't work. Maybe a survey of schools is in order.

Anonymous said...

Another notable item on the Board agenda: a complete rewrite of Policy 2090.

Out is language about annual program review and assessments, including "Parents who wish to examine any assessment materials may do so by contacting the Superintendent or his or her designee." Instead the Board will be presented with "The Plan," more specifically an annual "District Educational Research and Evaluation Plan."

parent

Anonymous said...

It should be noted Policy 2080, dated July 5, 2017, deals with assessment.

parent

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree that the issue of downtime, connectivity failure is a risk with Amplify. The software and hardware model they have designed may prove to not have been the right choice- or it may. Time will tell. I also agree that this is not an improvement on its own, without energetic and creative teachers. Teachers need to be leading this Enterprise, and they are. Teachers want a different experience for their students and they want it to be much more interactive, contemporary and appealing. Like science itself and not something from a mausoleum. If it makes for a better classroom experience, students will be more engaged, hopeful and easier to manage. Win win all round.

Teachers, scientists, science museum designers and planners have all been part of building Ampify. It has been vetted by countless other school districts around the country.

Science has been poorly taught for eons, perhaps partly on account of boring materials that fail to hold student interest. It has also suffered from hierarchical classroom modeling. Amplify is an attempt to move the experience of the typical science classroom into a more experiential and technologically relevant direction. How we teach and learn must be reflective of how we live in the world. It must be contemporary, progressive and not conservative with a rigid disdain for change.

Amplify please

Anonymous said...

Amplify was designed to operate on a one to one platform; they promised to modify it for SPS to work two-to-one (computers to kids) but didn't really change anything.

And hey, while you are looking at funding - maybe suggest to your board members that they buy classroom tech with the money designated for that in the levy, instead of debating whether we should even have tech in classrooms and refusing to approve purchases. I am not talking about MORE tech, but ANY tech. There has been reluctance to even replace out of date technology.

Seattlelifer

Anonymous said...

How is it that science has been poorly taught for eons, and yet the US produces more PhDs in STEM then any other country in the world (https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/science-and-technology/oecd-science-technology-and-innovation-outlook-2016_sti_in_outlook-2016-en#page150)?

And how does removing any hands-on science experiments and demos make kids more excited about science? I heard that Amplify only allows for two hands-on experiments (as opposed to computer-simulated demos) per year. As a scientist I can tell you the moments in class that made me most excited about science were the labs. What 12 year old can forget their first dissection of a sheep's eye?

Not all science in performed on a computer. There is no need to limit a middle-schooler to computer simulations and computer assessments in the name of misguided "progress."

-NW

Anonymous said...

Labs are great. Love labs. But they are not doing them now. Very little hands on science is currently being taught. Good luck finding that supply of sheep eyes.

Those PhDs are being granted to a very small percentage of the population and many to non Americans. The growth of the American university system after the Second World War accounts for America’s lead in granted doctorates, but other countries are catching up, and they don’t leave the selection of school materials to amateur school boards.

Amplify please

Anonymous said...

Eckstein teaches dissection. I am sure other SPS schools do too, but I know for sure Eckstein has two dissections per year.

NW

Melissa Westbrook said...

"There has been reluctance to even replace out of date technology."

I can tell you that the head of Tech is pushing very hard to change this.

Anonymous said...

Is Amplify being used for middle school only and is SPS still using the hands on science kits for elementary? Crates for each unit were delivered to schools, then returned, restocked by SPS staff and reused. Students maintained science journals (intentional writing component), had interactive class discussions, and engaged in exercises beyond pipe cleaners and baking soda. They grew plants, learned about soils, rocks and minerals, rolled balls down ramps, made musical instruments, etc. No computers needed.

Based on the parent feedback here, Amplify sounds like a high cost program with little return for the investment. Or difficult to implement well with limited resources. It's unclear.

olden days

Anonymous said...

Aki Kurose was part of the Amplify pilot starting in 2017-18, which included support form UW, Lawrence Hall of Science, and Amplify. So how's it going?

Through this collaborative partnership, our school will participate in a field-test of the AmplifyScience program using laptops provided by the district. Science teachers in our building who are participating in the field-test will not use the current middle schools science curriculum kits and will instead the AmplifyScience units.

A robust evaluation system will be implemented to assess the effectiveness of this technology-based program The University of Washington School of Education will serve as partners in the data collection.

...AmplifyScience and Lawrence Hall will support teachers with detailed instructions for each lesson. Ongoing, personalized support and will be provided by AmplifyScience.


curious

Anonymous said...

Amplify is cumbersome from the teacher's perspective and boring from the student's perspective. Getting the tech part to fly for all kids at the same time is an absolute stumbling block every day. Melissa, have you seen it? I'd be happy to show you.

sidneyd

STEM PhDs said...

54,904 doctorates were awarded in the U.S. in 2016. 75% of all doctorates awarded in 2016 were in science and engineering. In 2016, temporary visa holders earned the majority of doctorates awarded in engineering and in mathematics and computer sciences. The majority of the temporary visa holders were from India, China and South Korea.

https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2018/nsf18304/report/about-this-report.cfm

Anonymous said...

@STEM PhDs: I checked your source - you have your numbers wrong.

The number of US citizens earning PhDs in STEM fields has been increasing - from 20K to 25K per year over the past 20 years. And "the proportion of S&E doctorate recipients with temporary visas has held steady at around 36% since 2011."

I am beginning to wonder what the motive behind all this fear-mongering is. Is the current US public school science curriculum perfect? No. Does it need to be thrown out and rewritten from scratch? Absolutely not.

-NW

Anonymous said...

There were not enough computers to go around at Hamilton. Teachers copied all the Amplify materials and put in notebooks for kids to write their answers. So the computer Technology that was supposed to allow students to submit assignments online was useless. My son’s six grade class did almost no labs the entire year. Labs that were done we’re conducted as demonstrations by the teacher rather than hands on by the students. His teacher sat behind the desk all year and had students go through the material by themselves with little or no input or teaching. The year was a waste in terms of science learning, and now my son hates science. Not a fan of Amplify. No science fair option that I heard about.

Bad science

Anonymous said...

The IB program has a great science curriculum - very similar to what I see in universities. It does not rely on "wide scale instructional materials" but one really excellent textbook - of which there are many to choose from - and some dynamic teaching. I tend agree with NW. There is some fear-mongering going around which really serves these tech publishers well....all the way to the bank.

-Scientist&Educator

Anonymous said...

The IB program unfortunately has not had great luck with science teachers at Ingraham. Science was a weak area, but no school is perfect.
-Former Ingraham

Anonymous said...

Generally speaking, good curriculum is somewhat meaningless it is poorly delivered, poorly taught, and poorly resourced. Students shouldn't need to largely self teach in order to be successful in a particular course. Talk about stressful. Bottom line - class quality is very teacher dependent and some staff are simply not equipped to teach some of the more advanced courses.

generally speaking

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Former Ingraham. When I instructed my Ingraham student to ignore the teacher and focus on the book all was well. In this case - I believe the text really carried the class. And there are a lot of great science texts out there. There is no need to invent everything from first principles - at great expense.

In this sense, based on personal experience as a parent in SPS, I completely disagree with "generally speaking". Instead, I believe what is more common is that poor SPS curriculum is sometimes delivered by great teachers, so it treads water. If the teacher is inexperienced then the curriculum is horrible. This was our experience with Discovery Math for example..

-Scientist&Educator

Anonymous said...

I do agree with you "generally" that students shouldn't have to self teach. But, at the high school level, it can been good preparation for college. As long as it doesn't happen very often. We ran into three teachers in Middle and High school whose incompetence (I hate to use that word because so many SPS teachers are so talented) was so extreme we had to find ways to self-teach, find a tutor or (thankfully) restrict ourselves to the excellent text. So I also agree with you that we have run into some staff very unprepared to teach their subject matter. Maybe recruiting better teachers and teacher training would be a better place to spend money than the newest curricula - which often come with complications that exacerbate staff weaknesses.

-Scientist&Educator

Anonymous said...

A good textbook is key, and hopefully serves as a good foundation to support an equally good teacher. In the event of a poor teacher, at least the textbook is a good fallback. A good textbook also makes it easier for motivated students to go deeper and/or go ahead, since there are often parts not covered in class.

When the curriculum is poor and a good experience is dependent upon a good teacher who has enough time to seek out better resources to supplement (in breadth and/or depth) and/or replace what's in the curriculum, that's asking a lot of already overburdened teachers and is a lot less likely to happen.

If Amplify does not inspire both students and teachers, it's not gonna work in terms of strong science learning. However, it may be effective in furthering the what seems to be SPS's primary goal--equity (rather than learning)--if students and teachers across the board are equally turned off.

amplify mediocrity?

Anonymous said...

And if there is no good textbook (poorly resourced = no good textbook or even no text at all)?

That has been an ongoing issue with SPS. We have been stuck with discovery style math for what, over 10 years now? Readers and Writers Workshop does not explicitly teach grammar and vocabulary - it's somehow supposed to be "caught." SPS only recently adopted new K-5 math and LA materials. Even then, the district tried to do an end run around the adopted math materials. Science? High school level science may have been the first time my children came home with texts. Unfortunately, some of them were out of date or too basic for honors level courses.

When SPS does a poor job of selecting materials (are texts now considered "old school?"), or simply fails to keep up to date with adoptions, and material purchases come out of a school's limited budget, you get a situation where schools might be more inclined to go it on their own. They sometimes skimp when it comes to texts and materials. Others are incredibly resourceful and purchase alternate texts, perhaps used, but maybe better quality content wise than SPS chosen texts.

Where is the happy medium? An imposed curriculum may end up unused, yet leaving it up to individual schools and teachers leads to a mishmash of experiences for students.

just rambling

Anonymous said...

If they select good curricula, fund their purchase, sufficiently train teachers to use them, and provide supplemental materials for students who need differentiation, maybe they'll be more widely used. They'd also be in a much better position to require that teachers use them, too.

For elementary school students, maybe more flexibility makes sense. By the time you get to middle and high school, however, solid texts should be standard. Not only is it a matter of education, it's also a matter of equity.

amplify mediocrity?

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