Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Waivers List

The Board's Curriculum&Instruction Committee met today; here's the agenda.  I chose not to attend but I did want to post a couple of items from the agenda.

One is the Annual Report to the Board on curriculum waivers. Kyle Kinoshita, head of Curriculum, was kind enough to send it to me when it was left off the documentation.

There is an Annual Reports page in case you are interested in other issues that the Superintendent is required to report to the Board.

The other item on the agenda is a report from Caleb Perkins on the 24 Credit/Secondary Revisioning.  I did smile at the Naviance portion of the report as he seems to be straining to say it's working.  He doesn't give all the numbers so it's hard to gauge how many students are actually using it.  It is interesting to see the different in the number of times it was accessed at Ingraham versus at Franklin.
Here it is in its entirety.

To: Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee 
From: Dr. Caleb Perkins, Director of College and Career Readiness cbperkins@seattleschools.org

Date: December 11, 2018
RE: Update on 24 Credits and Secondary Re-visioning

Dear Committee Members,

I am writing to share an update on the progress that we are making with regards to secondary re-visioning and the 24 credit high school graduation requirement. Principals, educators, and central team members are all engaging in this work, with the goal of improving teaching and learning across our high schools, so that all of our students graduate ready for college, career pathways, civic engagement, and life. The following captures the major areas of work we have done since our last update.

High School Course Offerings: In preparation for the start of 2019-20 course pre-registration, the Department of College and Career Readiness is collaborating with content area managers to refine an updated list of recommended courses by subject area for grades 6-12. We will share these updated recommendations with high school principals at the December 4th LLD and request their feedback. 
We will also include in these updates any new course offerings, including ones recently approved by the Board per Superintendent Procedure 2026 Per the latter, we are greatly appreciative of the Board’s approval of the large number of courses on October 30th. Given that vetting process and per SP 2026, we do not anticipate the need to bring the same volume and types of courses to the Board for approval in going forward (e.g., competency courses for new world languages will likely not require additional review).

Finally, we will incorporate updated guidance on the process for requesting waivers for particular courses (e.g., Ph
ysical Education). When all of this guidance is finalized, it will be added to the graduation bulletin posted to the Seattle Public Schools website, and communicated to students, families, and schools. The intent of this work is to build a coherent and comprehensive picture of our district expectations for coursework in middle school and high school.

Naviance: Students in grades 6 and 7 are scheduled to have access to Naviance at the start of second semester, January 31, 2019, of the current school year.

Opt-Out Window: There will be an opportunity for families to make a decision for their 6th and 7th grade students to use or not use Naviance from Friday, January 4, 2019 through Friday, January 25, 2019. Once the opt-out window opens, parents and guardians can opt out their 6th-7th grade students from using Naviance by updating their application preferences in the Source or by contacting the College and Career Readiness team directly. Communications will go out to families of students in grades 6 and 7 the week of December 10th to notify them about the January 2019 opt out window.

There are several benefits to providing these students with access to Naviance. 6th and 7th graders will have the opportunity to utilize Road Trip Nation, Career Key and the Learning Styles Inventory to explore their interests, career options, and learn about their strengths. Students will also have access to the Naviance curriculum where they will learn about study habits, growth mindset, financial planning, goal setting, time management, future planning, college knowledge and more.

Usage metrics: Within under three months of usage, more students are starting to use Naviance every day. PowerPoint presentations aligned to the Naviance high school and beyond plan lessons have been created and loaded to Schoology for counselor use. Also, Naviance offers Tuesday webinars to support counselors with Naviance implementation. The following are some sample statistics we have on Naviance usage:

  • Seniors at all of our comprehensive high schools have logged into Naviance. They have logged in 6700 times in total.
  • Ingraham High School seniors have logged into Naviance 3362 times. 
  • Franklin High School seniors have logged into Naviance 776 times. 
  • West Seattle High School seniors have logged into Naviance 728 times. 
  • 787 seniors have added colleges to their application list in Naviance (this is up 10% from November 5th) 
  • At Roosevelt HS, 53% of 9th graders have taken the Learning Style Inventory to understand their learning preferences. Over 20% of 10th graders at Interagency SW and Roosevelt have learned more about their personality via the Do What You Are survey.
CTE Plans

The College and Career Readiness team continues to support the roll out of the approved CTE plan and its seven strategies. As a next step, we are scheduling meetings with principals to discuss the offering of new course pathways, including Health Care and Medical Careers in high school and STEM innovation labs/design courses in middle school, starting in the 2019-20 school year. In addition, data collected from our Career Connected Learning Coordinators indicates an increase in career exploration activities (e.g., field trips to work sites) across a number of our high schools.

Supporting Students with “24 Credits”

We appreciate the opportunity to talk with the Board at the November 27th work session on secondary re-visioning and the plan to help students in 2019-20 earn 24 credits, meet graduation requirements, and graduate ready for postsecondary success. In addition to other items we will have discussed, we will have previewed the draft logic model (see below) that we have developed with Eric Anderson’s team to track schools’ progress in their efforts to help students earn 24 credits, meet graduation requirements, and graduate ready for postsecondary success. We will continue to meet with principals to refine this model and ensure that we are learning from our work this year so that our supports for students will continue to improve.

I look forward to seeing you and providing more details on these topics at the C&I Policy Committee Meeting on December 4th.


Robert Cruickshank said...

This suggests that Amplify web-based science is allowed due to a waiver that lasts through 2020 - am I reading that correctly? Many students and parents have raised serious concerns about this curriculum and it would seem to me that the board should weigh in during the current school year in order to determine whether it should be continued. SPS should not be using web-based curriculum that takes the place of in-person teaching, yet the reports from the classrooms are that this Amplify middle school science is doing exactly that.

Anonymous said...

I'd be willing to take this to the board if we could get a crowd. Anyone else?


Anonymous said...

@NW Start with Rick Burke who leads the Curriculum and Instruction Committee. And the board should be aware of this long running discussion and if they are not, they are not listening. I don't think you need a crowd, but I will support any efforts here.
-long road

Anonymous said...

@Long Road
Thanks. I have emailed Rick Burke, Mary Margaret and the rest of the board. In fact Mary Margaret (head of the science department) and I have had a long conversation about the curriculum - with the entire board copied in every email. I am happy to share the conversation with anyone interested. Rick, as an engineer, is concerned about this as well.

In the past, though, I have seen a big difference between the school board being aware and concerned about an issue and a school board acting on an issue. It usually takes a large group of people showing up at school board meetings before there is enough impetus for action.


Melissa Westbrook said...

NW, I agree with Long Road. Go to Director Burke and the committee. I think you do need a crowd because staff will not listen so the Board needs that backup.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I want to add that I heard from a science teacher recently that Welch said that if you, as a teacher, weren't on her committee, she wasn't really interested in teacher input. Dumbfounding.

Anonymous said...

I have heard that teachers have been uninvited to training sessions by Welch based on negative input they made in the past. The official line was that the science committee only needs one representative from every school. And when the teachers showed up regardless, they were subject to receiving an official letter of warning in their file.

Negative input is definitely not encouraged


Anonymous said...

I too, was dismayed to see the number of schools with Amplify waivers. I looked over the Amplify middle school curriculum and in my judgement it appears very superficial. It is not going to provide a good science foundation for students. Additionally, web-based instruction will completely distort students' understanding of how real science is done. I see this as a cost cutting move to de-professionalize teaching science. I think, by moving to Amplify-style science instruction we are going to lose a large segment of the student population to scientific inquiry. In this day, with the increase in false information wars and the corporate and political distortion of the scientific record we can ill afford to drive students out of science. I have welcomed local high school students into my lab for internships and, to be frank, they seem way less comfortable in the lab and less scientifically savvy than my high school cohort was back in the 70's. In both middle school and high school we "hung out" in the science teacher's classroom and worked with the equipment hands on - sometimes working as TAs for the teacher and helping to set up lab practicals and dissections. I would hate to see students that are interested in science lose out on this opportunity in favor of a computer screen.


Anonymous said...

What's the problem with Amplify? Prior to Amplify, the last STEM curricula for middle school students was from 1995. Think about that - 1995! If there's problems implementing it in the schools, it's because there's not enough money for the PD sessions required to do this new type of teaching - one in which teachers utilize online curricula to lead and supplement their own instruction alongside students.

I'd take an online STEM curriculum that's updated over one that's over 20 years old any day.

Anonymous said...

There is a foundation of knowledge that is still perfectly up to date even from 1995. Really, it isn't until graduate school - think about that - graduate school(!), that you need to update your scientific knowledge base on a yearly basis. I think you are drinking the kool-aid of publishers to think that 1995 science is too out of date for middle schoolers. The Amplify curriculum provides little kits - composed mostly of pipecleaners - that they are using to teach biology and chemistry. This is an outrageous way to expose students to the realities of scientific inquiry and the natural sciences.


suep. said...

There are a number of problematic issues with this waivers list, and specifically the use of Amplify Science.

First off, the waivers list reveals that science curriculum waivers have been granted to 19 schools (including what looks like all the District's middle schools) and to all use the same curricular materials -- Amplify Science.

That amounts to a de facto curriculum adoption.

Yet, Amplify Science never came before the School Board for approval or even review.

Secondly, if Amplify Science is under consideration for the current Science curriculum adoption that is in progress, this gives the Amplify product and vendor an unfair advantage over other materials and vendors that may not have had the benefit of this waiver and de facto pilot process.

Rightly or wrongly, this looks like another end-run around the Board; an attempt to quietly bring in and embed a new product before the official adoption process (as prescribed by Board policy) has even been conducted, and to give one product an unfair advantage.

Another problematic element of this issue is that there have been many complaints about Amplify’s Science curriculum, last year when I was still on the Board, and since: Not enough hands-on experiential components, lack of engaging material, too reliant on impersonal online direction (rather than interaction with an actual teacher)-- adding up to a lost year in science for some students.

And then there’s the provenance of the product and its vendor. Originally owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Company, Amplify was sold in 2015 to a group of investors, and Joel Klein and Larry Berger. (https://newscorp.com/2015/09/30/news-corp-completes-sale-of-amplify-digital-education-businesses/ & https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/10/07/news-corp-sells-amplify-to-joel-klein.html)

When the product was first brought to the Seattle School District, it was an assessment -- Amplify mCLASS Beacon -- which was controversial and flawed. Various teachers and principals complained about it. Parents said that the test results were being kept from them. The district’s own survey revealed the mixed responses from school staff about the product. (https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/14-15agendas/061715agenda/20150617_Amplify_Survey.pdf)

Another issue -- Amplify’s assessment product was first purchased by the District without Board approval. The price of the Amplify test just happened to be just under the $250,000 threshold required for Board approval. I believe it was something like $249,000 (I have a copy of the contract somewhere). Despite all the issues, staff sought to expand the use of the Amplify tests throughout the district. So about a year later, they were obligated to bring the contract renewal to the Board because the cost to expand it had surpassed the $250,000 mark. Based on the negative responses from schools, the Board voted it down.

That was the last time those of us on the Board had heard of Amplify until it was revealed to the Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee in mid-2017 or so that it had re-emerged as a Science curriculum that was being used by nearly 20 schools via the waiver process. (Directors were duly alarmed by this belated news.)

This looks like an abuse of the waiver process, and intentionally or not, these actions come across an effort to bypass Board oversight (and policy) and public scrutiny.

Directors were right to be alarmed and demand oversight. The Superintendent should also step in and require her staff to follow policy. And this may impact the current science curriculum adoption.

-- Sue Peters