Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Open Thread

New internal audits at Seattle Schools available here.
I saw a document letting neighbors in the Ravenna/Roosevelt area know that the Roosevelt Reservoir is NOT going to be lidded.  The City seems to have decided they may need it in an emergency. 

From ProPublica, an interactive report on districts around the country and racial inequality issues.  You can drill down by school as well.   

Saturday events:
 Seattle Public Schools Science Instructional Materials Adoption Committee Meeting
(K-5 and 6-8 combined committees)
Sat., Oct. 20, 2018, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence (JSCEE), 3rd Floor Commons

Director Community meeting with President Leslie Harris at Seattle Public Library - Delridge Branch, from 3-5 pm.

On Sunday, Oct. 21st, I'm excited to hear from the students leading the March for our Lives movement sponsored by Town Hall.  
Since the tragedies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the March For Our Lives movement has taken a stand against senseless gun violence. The Parkland students work together with young leaders of all backgrounds from across the country to hold politicians accountable and combat the normalization of gun violence.

March For Our Lives brings Jammal Levy, Alex Wind, and David Hogg, all survivors of the Parkland shooting, to Town Hall’s stage to share Glimmer of Hope, a book that tells the story of how a group of teenagers raced to channel their rage and sorrow into action—and went on to create one of the largest youth-led movements in global history. Joined by actor and activist Sophia Bush, these students bring their urgent conversation to Seattle to offer us a chance to come together and take action and work to create a safe and compassionate nation for our youth.
What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

I have seen some negative media reports on pre-k. I know Boston is the gold standard, but there appears to be no positive effects and some negative effects in Tennessee's program.


Anyone know what to make of this? I am supportive of pre-k funding (but not the City's current proposal). Does anyone know why Tennessee's program got such poor results? How can we make sure that our local programs do it right?


MonikerMom said...

My daughter loves science and this year she has gotten Amplify in Grade 6 at Hamilton, She hates it! she says it is super boring, extremely scripted, and usually they finish the lesson very early and then just sit around. I hope the science adoption people hear this. She also says it is too easy. the teacher seems to just read the script and is not using those MTSS skills we hear about to increase the scope for those who want to go deeper.

Anonymous said...

I am happy to report that busses for both XC teams showed up yesterday to transport athletes to the District meet.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Ballard High Principal Wynkoop who was named Principal of the Year! https://www.seattleschools.org/district/calendars/news/what_s_new/ballard_principal_receives_award

Ballard Mom

Grouchy Parent said...

In the audit for "Hiring Practices" above, I note:
We noted the following weaknesses related to the PASS [Principal Association of Seattle Schools] and management employees hiring process:
• Screening documents were not on file for the management category candidates. We could not determine if the applicant screening techniques were consistent with the required qualifications.
• We noted instances where confidentiality statements, necessary signatures, and scoring sheets were not present on files.
• The hiring guidelines for PASS employees do not include any requirements related to the composition of the hiring team.

These items result in:
• Non-compliance with the District’s hiring procedures.
• Inconsistencies that can pose a reputational risk for the District.
• A risk that not all the categories of employees, students, and parents will have a fair representation in the hiring of building

Whoops! So there was no way to tell for some of the principal candidates whether they were screened in a way that was consistent with the job qualifications. Great.

Pre K said...

Seattle's prek program is part of a research project. The city never explained this aspect to voters. As I recall, these students will be followed until they are 21 years old. FERPA now allows for discipline records to be shared with third paries.

The city is responsible for curriculum- not an elected board. K is now what first grade used to be. I"ve been concerned that the city is pushing academics further and further down the developmental scale. The city has never provided a sufficient answer to whether they are using appropriate curriculum.

The previously mentioned are only two reasons why I am voting NO.

I don't know anything about Tennessee and if there is any correlation to the city's prek program.

The city keeps saying "quality" over and over again, but they have yet to answer tough questions regarding curriculum and the research aspect of their program.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the reason when pre-K programs don't seem to be effective as in Tennessee is because they're too academic. Hear me out.

Children should have minimally structured to unstructured creative play time from age 3 onward with almost no academic work, or none, until about age 6. This seems counterintuitive, but the unstructured play time is the actual basis that all kids need for later learning. This article contains links to a variety of studies about this phenomenon: https://qz.com/1217146/child-development-kids-that-play-more-often-are-better-prepared-for-employment/

American pre-K programs tend to shift 1st grade work to pre-K level. This is done because people want to feel like they're "getting their money's worth" paying fees or taxes to support pre-K programs. However, this developmentally inappropriate and probably neutral to harmful for long-term academic success, as in the Tennessee case.

It's frustrating how slow American education policy elites have been to detect this phenomenon, which is well-known outside the United States.


Anonymous said...

In regard to Prop. 1. There does seem to be a widespread misconception that the monies will be going to SPS, vs. the City of Seattle. The mailer that arrived today had rainbow colored children's hands reaching towards the sky with the predicable slogan of "Yes for Seattle Kids."

With a $15 an hour minimum wage it would be very easy to work part time and easily pay for Community College.

I hope voters will not choose to bloat city government at the expense of the kids attending public school.

The monies would be better spent providing grants to families to attend pre-school or even providing grants to start pre-schools in need areas vs. funding a whole new bureaucratic arm of the city of Seattle. Please choose to fund kids vs. bureaucracy and vote no on Prop. 1.

A Voter

Tammi said...

Both Center School and Rainier Beach were found to have some trouble with how they keep student records. Mostly stuff like keeping restraining orders or homelessness information or 504 documents in a student's cumulative files when they're supposed to be filed separately to preserve student privacy. Especially bad, though, since at both schools, "Students serving as teacher’s assistants are allowed to file documents in student files."

Unknown said...

Moniker mom we are having the same experience with Hamilton 6th grade science. Amplify. When my son came home at the start of the year with the science syllabus showing amplify I contacted the principal to see if there were other classes he could move into. No luck. For a trial curriculum it sure is showing up in a lot of schools. The curriculum guy assured me that amplify is not yet adopted. Right .

Another mom of 2

Anonymous said...

As a scientist at the University of Washington, I am very disappointed that the district is moving forward with Amplify. I looked at the curriculum when I first heard about it and I found it to be shallow, canned and boring. Science really does not have to be taught this way. I am worried that science will lose engaged students thanks to this curriculum. Please tell your kids (as I have told mine) to sit tight - great science education is right around the corner just get through the SPS "experiment" and read on your own. I have been disappointed over the years at how often we have had to supplement the SPS's poor curriculum choices in math and science.


Anonymous said...

I have a question about the Families and Education Levy.

If it fails, will the city introduce a new levy? Presumably for fewer dollars?

Just Curious

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ballard Mom, that's fantastic about Principal Wynkoop!

I urge concerned parents to write to the Board and the Superintendent about the science curriculum.

Just Curious, I would think the City would reintroduce the levy. (I had one person say they might cut out K-12 just to be mean. Huh?)

They could reintroduce it as soon as April 2019. There is $12M underspend in the F&E levy and $1M in the pre-k levy so no programs will go away.

I would assume the City and the Council would take the loss as a message about property taxes (not so much what is trying to be accomplished). That said, I would suggest that the pre-k program needs to dial back on its expectations (given it has not met its own goals for enrollment), listen to others (like the UW education grad student who wrote at Crosscut)and perhaps just offer one year of community to all public school grads.

And, of course, put in explicit language that the K-12 dollars are only for Seattle school district.

Outsider said...

Regarding Amplify science, I would raise again the question I mentioned last week -- has SPS chosen an online curriculum because they think it's the best way to teach science, or have they resorted to it because of a shortage of qualified science teachers?

Policy changes since the turn of the century force more students to take more science, sweeping up a lot of students who don't want to be there. Combine that with the discipline-lite trend in middle school and high school, and you get a lot of science courses that are tough to teach. To survive in that environment, a teacher must have buffalo hide and outstanding classroom management skills. Perhaps the problem is: SPS can't consistently find enough teachers with both the classroom management skills and the content knowledge for science. So their fallback option is to hire capable classroom managers and leave the content to the computer. That would explain why "the teacher seems to just read the script."

Who are these teachers using Amplify? Are they qualified in science? Do these teachers like using Amplify?

In the dark ages of inequity, middle school science and high school chemistry and physics would have been electives populated by students with a genuine interest in the subject or a pressing need for their college track. Fewer classrooms would be needed, and the classes would be relatively easy to teach. Filling every one with a qualified live teacher would have been possible. Perhaps the switch to online science is not so much a choice as a side-effect of having a lot more mandatory inclusive science classes relative to the number of teachers who could handle them. Is that the real reason?

If so, and if it happens in high school as well as middle school, the contrast will get more and more awkward between AP science courses (with strong curriculum and live teachers) and computer-based regular science.

Anonymous said...

You can’t teach middle school or high school science without a science endorsement as per Washington state law. So your theory of placing teachers in science classes with good management skills but no background in science doesn’t work.

We are using Amplify for elementary and I think it’s 100 times better than the 20 year old science kits that I’ve been teaching and hating for years. . Amplify aligns to NGSS and is phenomenon based. It’s a mix of hands on science, reading appropriate grade level text and some online components. My students LOVED science last year.


Anonymous said...

SPS is requiring qualified, experienced science teachers to use the Amplify curriculum. It is a canned curriculum with no deviation allowed. Done well, it is ok, although very inflexible. Done poorly, it is painfully boring. Done in the name of equity, it teaches students to hate science equally.


Anonymous said...

My student had Amplify for 6th grade last year, which involved a very boring online curriculum every single day with technology that sometimes worked, and sometimes did not. He did say that the kids who just like to goof off preferred it because they had way more time to sit around and do nothing and futz on their phones. My older student had those old kits, which I'm sure could have been improved but were worlds better than this at least. The questions the units posed were broader and more interesting; it was much much less scripted. We have to get this out of schools. It is toxic.

Science Matters

Anonymous said...

I feel like a lot of this scince talk is plain old heresay. Have you spoken with the teacher? What do you mean you can’t deviate? Of course you can! The old kits were/are terrible and actually did have a script at one point.There is nothing wrong with using the prescribed questions when you are getting to know and understand a curriculum. Then, you can start to deviate! Many of you have seemed to have not spoken with teachers or principals regarding this “toxic” curriculum. Also, kids futzing around on their phones has nothing to do with curriculum, that’s a classroom management issue.


Anonymous said...

I have absolutely spoken with teachers. The middle school teacher I spoke to said the kids loved it because the kids "plug and play," that she gives it to them and then doesn't have to do anything else. It was not encouraging. My elementary student has only had new teachers during his pilot who never taught the old curriculum. I know they appreciate the script, but I got out my oldest student's same year curriculum night presentation, and the science curriculum was plainly deeper and more interesting before.

Not to mention, the experience the students have is actually relevant to the worth of a curriculum.

Science Matters

MonikerMom said...

Here's some hearsay: My kid LOVES SCIENCE. Has been her favorite class every year since K. This year, she tells me it is her worst class, she hates it, and it is SUPER BORING. She says you can get the point of a lesson in about 4 minutes and the whole rest of the class is just wasted time.

And, where is the MTSS? this is supposed to be an HCC science class, but they just follow the script and finish early every day. Kids are BORED OUT OF THEIR MINDS.

I certainly understand that some classrooms have issues with behavior or ability, this is not the case here. (Although if it continues being this slow and boring, then there will be behavior issues soon).

It is super sad. Brains are a-wasting in that room every day. every teacher I have spoken to about it says "that's amplify."

NE Parent said...

I have three data points on Amplify:

* Spoke with an HCC 7th grader that goes to school in Bellevue. Hates Amplify Science. Thinks its very boring.

* Spoke with a Seattle Middle School Science Teacher. Hates Amplify. The school does not have enough working computers. Computer work instead of hands-on experiments is very boring. Many parents were angry last year. The old curriculum was much better.

* Spoke with an HCC 6th Grader at different Seattle Middle School: "Amplify is fine; we do lots of experiments."

I have seen one of the old 5th-grade science kits. There were supplies missing. And it referenced using books from the school library that didn't exist.

My perception is that some schools had developed there own science curriculums that included many experiments that were very good. But this was inconsistent across the district. Perhaps some schools / teachers are integrating their old well-developed curriulumns with Amplify and have sufficient computers, so things work well. Perhaps other schools have fewer computers and are trying to just use Amplify, so it's a disaster. And there is probably a range in between.

Anonymous said...

Why is everyone here just assuming we have no choice but to let our kids lose precious years in science classes with a crappy online curriculum? Did the board approve using this in the classrooms? If not, then it needs to be withdrawn immediately as it violates policy. If the board did approve it, they need to reverse it. Simply sitting here and assuming our kids have to suffer through this is not an acceptable response.

We all need to take ownership over our children's education and of what happens in schools. I'm willing to go to the next board meeting and demand the end of Amplify in science classes. Will any of you join me?

MC Hawking

Anonymous said...

The Amplify dissatisfaction has me wondering about MTSS, and where things stand re: the supposed differentiation for advanced or HC students...

Prior drafts of materials and/or early implementation phases of MTSS always focused on students below level, but there was always this supposed idea and vague reassurance that MTSS would also be used to appropriately serve students above grade level. Are there any updated documents that reflect this? What are the criteria for intervention at the different tiers, and what strategies are to be used? Is ANY school actually using MTSS tier 2 or 3 for highly capable students, and if so, how?

MTSS is also supposed to involve a lot of assessment to see how things are working in real time, including a lot of pre-assessment. Does Amplify science involve pre-assessment, and if so, are teachers looking at how classes do before the lesson--and whether there's even much opportunity for growth? What are the average pre-post assessment changes, and how do these look for HCC vs. other classes? Surely Amplify data also so show how long students were working on their assignments and assessments, so how do these look? Are many/most students finishing significantly early? If so, that's pretty clear evidence they either need more help (if finishing early but doing poorly) or need more challenge (if doing well).

Basic classroom instruction using the regular curriculum (e.g., Amplify science) is MTSS tier 1. For MTSS to exist, there needs to be assessment of tier 1 implementation and outcomes--that's how you know whether or not to move to tier 2. What is tier 2 Amplify science, and what assessment takes place to see if tier 3 intervention is needed instead?

These seem like important questions for Michael Tolley, Supt. Juneau, the Board, and the AL office to answer.


Another Name said...

The latest round of teacher negotiations left Tacoma School District with a deficit of $23M. The district has begun cutting administrative positions. Americans with Disabilities Coordinator tops the list:


When will SPS begin talking about their deficit?

SEA will negotiate their contract again next year.

NESeattleMom said...

A year of lost learning by using Amplify is not a good choice for the school board. Are you reading the information, School Board?

Melissa Westbrook said...

? Did the board approve using this in the classrooms? If not, then it needs to be withdrawn immediately as it violates policy."

No, the Board didn't approve it because it fell under the Superitendent's purview. However, from an email I published, it is clear that the Science team at JSCEE really doesn't know what it is doing and Amplify is just one issue.

So even if the Board didn't vote for these changes, they darn well know it's an on-going issue.

And yet, here we are.

Marmauset said...

One more data point. My child is in General Education 6th grade at Hamilton. Amplify is boring. They watch online videos and complete packets. He says he is learning new things but he wishes they did actual experiments. That would make the experience much more interesting.


Anonymous said...

Rick Burke is the school board member on the curriculum adoption committee. He is also an engineer and as such sympathetic to Amplify concerns. Please write him with all of these additional data points. He needs to know the truth - and from what I have heard, the science team at JSCEE are only sharing a small portion of the truth about this curriculum.



Anonymous said...

Are parents allowed to show up and observe middle school science classes? If so, does it need to be your own student's class, or can you observe any class at any school?

science curious

Melissa Westbrook said...

Science Curious, you should be able to request to see any science class. They probably won't like you being there the entire period but you should be able to view the class for at least 30 minutes.