Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Curriculum&Instruction Committee Discussion on Science Adoption

Instructional Materials Update (Science Adoption) 

Head of Science, Mary Margaret Welch, said she wanted to frame the discussion around "gratitudes" to the three committees of 90 people who had given their time to this effort.  She said there would be five BARs - Chemistry, Physics, Elementary, Middle and High School - for the sciences.

She said there was an FAQ on this work but the link appears to be dead.

Mack said that she was wondering if teachers were providing input on all possible curriculum. She said she was speaking to a science teacher in another district who said that she had heard nothing good about Carbon Time from other colleagues.

Welch said that in the field test teachers have a unit of study and report back their thoughts on Survey Monkey. Mack asked about what they are asked about.  Welch said it was asking if this worked on behalf of students and if it is aligned with standards.  Mack persisted, asking, "Do you ask if they like the curriculum and working with it?"  Welsh said that happened in panel discussions.

Burke said that there are not multiple testings in school so how do they do a comparison? Welsh said using a rubric.

Mack said, "That's an up or down vote."

Geary said that "it would be nice to have two but you would have an up or down vote anyway."  She went on, "It may not be the best one that we want but the one that does the job."  I was quite surprised that a director would want a curriculum that just does the job rather than one a teacher can feel enthused about.

Welch got a bit agitated saying that the committee did an analysis of 7-8 programs and that many vendores did not come forward "with materials aligned to the NGSS" and none were "worthy of moving forward."  To note, for high school, there are 5 separate adoption categories being considered and only one of them (CHEM A) has more than one finalist. 

This set off my radar because I find it difficult to believe there could only be one high school science curriculum that met the NGSS.  Here's what Oregon's committee found.    Ms. Welch may have a favorite but that can't mean she gets away with saying there are no other candidates that are viable.

Geary wistfully said she wished there were more vendors.  She also said she was surprised that math wasn't better aligned to standards.   Mack confessed concern over this as well.

Welch then said districts were "on their own" and then went on about the process.

Geary then said that "This is what is before us."

Mack said she was "deeply disturbed" by the process.

Kinoshita said staff just wanted to get thru the process for approval but that the purchase is the real question.  He said vendors were slow to catch up to standards and especially in the higher grades.

Mack said she needed confidence in this and felt like she didn't have the info she needs.

It was mentioned that there would be a Work Session on this issue on April 2nd with a BAR before the Board on April 23rd.

I have also heard that there was a meeting by MMW with heads of science departments in the high schools.   I was told this (but have not been able to verify yet):   

She told them that PEER high school adoption was official and going ahead without funding. As teaching will use school discretionary budget funds, materials and equipment already in schools.


I also hear this:
 Bullying teachers into silence, and retaliating against teachers who do speak out, has been going on for decades in Seattle Public Schools.  

I don't know for sure if it is bullying going on but I know that many teachers simply cannot speak out or comment publicly for fear of retaliation at their schools.   


Anonymous said...

I was just posting on the other thread that the board seems uninterested in its oversight role, but based on this report - I was not present myself - I would say we are starting to see an inkling of proper oversight. Just an inkling. There's room for more.

I don't get what's up with Geary, thogh. She seems to have some version of senioritis where she's all busy with personal passion projects but seems increasingly out of touch with trends in education and with her constituents. It's going to be a rough final year with her.


Melissa Westbrook said...

MTR, I would concur with you on Geary.

I had thought she would be the Special Education champion from both her stated personal and professional background. Not so much.

Given she had a child in HCC, I thought she might bring some of that knowledge to the work around Advanced Learning. Not so much and, in fact, she brought downright hostility.

She has a favorite line "Well, what else can we do?" As if the only solutions are the ones staff present. She is increasingly supportive of staff over other Board members.

Apparently, she has real issues with PTA funding and yet has done nothing to examine this situation and offer solutions.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I had heard that she might be going for the seat on City Council of the departing Rob Johnson.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, since Geary is heading the Curriculum Sub-committee, and it appears from her Facebook post that she's denying there are conflict-of-interest issues with the Science materials procurement, what are the most effective avenues to insure our tax dollars are being responsibly and legally spent?

Follow up with other Board members?

Report to SPS Ethics Officer?

Report to State Auditor?


Anonymous said...

We've all been to those choreographed "community meetings" and we've all seen those "rubrics". We're done with that garbage. We actually want to share OUR comments. Parents who have taken the time to be involved, do our research, and care about the education of children are done playing your games. Your whole theology of education is off base, and your rubrics show it, to use them is an abdication of voice. We will email. You need to change your selection criteria, they are deeply flawed.

Amplify can simply be rejected. We all know there are hundreds of available science curricula to choose from. When a few more are presented with a more neutral selection criteria, then we can have a discussion about choosing something new.

In the meantime, our professional science teachers can handle the teaching. They can develop appropriate lesson plans to meet changing standards. They always have. We just need to avoid cutting professional teachers from the budget.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps we can cut Welsh from the budget. She has wasted a huge amount of district time and resources.

Selection Criteria

Anonymous said...

I have been watching the rise against Amplify curriculum and see the coherent voices from parents and teachers of anger and frustration against the curriculum, MMW, and the department pushing this forward.

And yet nothing is set to change. MMW still has a firm control of the science adoption committee and Amplify is still the only option being presented to move forward.

Has SPS become completely unresponsive to the needs of children and the voices of their parents? Is there anything that can be done to change anything that is happening at SPS? Or do the admins downtown have absolute power?

-So Frustrated

Anonymous said...

SPS seems to operate in a bubble when it is surrounded by other school systems, many of them much better regarded than Seattle. Can anyone say what Lake Washington School District is using for high school science curricula? Shoreline? Edmonds? Bellevue? Clearly there is more out there than just Amplify. And to allocate our scarce funds to a program doomed to fail due to lack of teacher support for it is educational (and fiscal) malpractice.

Concerned parent

Anonymous said...

Bellevue School District for one has already approved and implemented Amplify.


Anonymous said...

Yes, but they had a much different, longer, and more credible pilot phase and evaluation phase without conflicts of interest:


Anonymous said...

Edmonds has recommended Amplify for 6-8.


Anonymous said...

Edmonds has not just recommended, but purchased Amplify for 6-8. The process for high school is just starting (rubric development, but no screening yet). What has been used to this point is either old purchased curriculum or teacher-developed.


teach said...

After really examining all the curriculum options, as a science teacher, I can assure that the other curricula offered, TCI, is heads and shoulders above amplify. It offers hands-on science , a great lesson format and has simulations. It meets NGSS standards better than Amplify. For example amplify spends 4 weeks on the idea of taking pictures of moon phases , but neglects the reason for the seasons and the uneven heating of the earth (it tries to cover the whole phenomena with a one page article). It averages 3 hands on activities in 2 months and those activities are ridiculously minimal (blowing pepper on water or hitting an object with a spring). It is a joke and MMW should be embarrassed. She lauds herself as a scientist, and yet she skewed the data in this failed experiment. Seriously, we need demand better .... it is out there.

and ps I have tried to speak out and have been disciplined for it. And yet, I will continue to push for what is best for our students.

Anonymous said...

@teach I appreciate you advocating for what is best for the students in what sounds like is a hostile climate for those who speak out. Thank you so much.

A Parent

Anonymous said...

Unbiased Adoption of Amplify Science? This is MaryMargaret Welch in 2017, promoting NGSS Standards, at the same time she was imposing Amplify Science on 19 SPS Schools. Did the Teaching Channel make this promotional video? Realize that MMW had outside help in imposing Amplify Science as a pilot curriculum in Seattle Public Schools. Reports/testimonies of SPS teachers being bullied into using Amplify Science, CarbonTime, and other curriculum materials must be taken seriously.

Seattle Parent

Tom said...

Northshore is using TCI Bring Science Alive for K-5 and Carolina’s Science and Technology Concepts for 6-8. In general, Northshore has shown itself to be an innovative district not afraid to buck trends, even if it means complying with standards like NGSS out of annual sequence, so long as it's good for students. I'd give more stock to a district like that than Edmonds or Bellevue. I don't know anything about the TCI or Carolina curriculums though.


The one exception to Northshore's tendencies lately is they hired Michael Tolley, although he's only "East Region Assistant Superintendent," a clear demotion from his previous post:


My guess is he needed a job to reach retirement pension requirements, so he's biding his time until retirement. I can't imagine Michelle Reid (superintendent) wants a lot of his baggage, so here's hoping she can keep his "innovations" in check.

Anonymous said...

So, did SPS even consider TCI? And teach, have you spoken to other teachers who have spoken out against Amplify and been reprimanded? If so, I would think it would behoove you to go to the union and file a formal grievance/complaint with others. It's easy for SPS to ignore individual teachers: Less easy for them to ignore a critical mass with a legal counsel behind them.

Concerned Parent

teach said...

Yes, I have spoken with other teachers who have also been intimidated (one other issued a letter of warning) and we did go to the union, unfortunately MMW is on a teacher contract with a stipend. We share the same union, so the union can not do anything. We have thought about filling a HIB charge (we just need to continue gathering more evidence)

It is the experienced teachers, who were once leaders in the district, who have been cut out of the process, spoken down to and intimidated. In the past, the district use to offer training and professional development to support newer teachers on how to best teach the curriculum to meet new standards. In the last 3 years the only training have been on how to teach Amplify. Tens of thousands dollars of training. The majority of the adoption committee are teachers who have been teaching middle school science less than 5 years and only teaching Amplify. Skewing any true data.

Also, TCI was one of the programs offered and from what I have heard from a few pilot teachers they feel it to be a far superior program.

Anonymous said...

Case Study 2. Mary Margaret Welch, Amplify, and Seattle Public Schools:


Head Shaking

Anonymous said...

Bellevue unanimously rejected Amplify Science for k thru 5. FOSS was the winner. Teachers and kids didn't like Amplify. Criticisms are similar to what teachers and students have said in Seattle. Boring. Not enough hands on experiences, etc, etc. Bellevue did a real pilot which gave both curricula a fair test.

Reject Amplify

Anonymous said...

Teach, don't get your hopes up about a hib - our school staff has been waiting 6 months for a response to a well documented hib and it is clear the district will just ignore it. And as far as silencing teachers, yes, that is a habit. I'm afraid to comment on here and sign something the same way twice. Retaliation is ever present.

-sad seattlite

Anonymous said...

The Board needs to question Mary Margaret Welch's Supervisors about reports that District Staff have bullied SPS teachers into accepting certain Science Curriculum materials. Education Justice does not exist in a District for anyone when this occurs.

Seattle Parent

Alsept Teresa said...

MMW is in our union so the union cannot or won’t do anything

Anonymous said...

Based on all that was said in this thread, I have escalated my complaints of MMW's unethical behavior as seen within an unfair adoption process, a bullying attitude towards teachers, and as appearing on promotional material for a curriculum not yet adopted by SPS - further indication of a biased approach, if not more, to the entire process.

I sent emails to the superintendent, asst. superintendent and the CAO, demanding they look into her behavior.

I do not know how responsive they will be - but this is no longer simply a disagreement about curriculum. This is indicative of a deeply flawed and possibly corrupt department that needs to be thoroughly investigated.

-Just WOW

Science Teacher said...

I imagine that at this point there is very little that can be done. MMW has been guiding this process for a long time- beginning with the Alignment Team. That whole process was guided and directed to lead us only to a spiraling curriculum and then to Amplify. I was one of the few who spoke publicly questioning what was happening. Most of the other teachers seem to be those who dislike teaching hands-on labs or they were afraid to speak out publicly against the process.

Many of those on the Alignment Team told me that they had never opened the Carolina kits that we have. Instead they would say things like "We have no curriculum". When I pointed out that we did have curriculum, they would say things like "That is old school or a traditional teaching" They would say it, like that was a bad thing. As one who teaches that way, I will proudly say I'm a traditional science teacher. I think middle school students learn best by DOING not by READING. MMW would also say things like that-in district paid trainings which is why some teachers were afraid to speak out.

Yes, we did delve a little into IQWEST because the people at the University of Washington loved it. However, it wasn't very good, so no one was excited about it. Then in the last hour, of the last day that the Alignment Team met, Amplify was brought up. We didn't really talk about it, we were just told "We have this great opportunity" and that was it. Schools decided then whether to sign on to Amplify or not. Eckstein, where I work, was one of the only ones who did not. This is because as experienced science teachers, we do not think that having students on computers or using hand outs (which has happened because the district cannot give schools computers for every student) is the best way to get our students excited about science. We have paid the price by becoming outcasts in the district middle school science.

I have decided to go out on a limb here and just sign my name. I would like to publicly state that these are my views and not those of my department.

Teresa Alsept
Eckstein Middle School
Department Chair.

Anonymous said...

Teresa - Thank you for being so bold as to share your experience and opinions publicly. My HC-qualified student toured JAMS and Eckstein and is excited and inspired by your commitment to hands-on science instruction. He took a scientific approach to his evaluation of both schools :-) and is excited to join the Eckstein community in part-thanks to you. If you are reprimanded for speaking out, and/or forced to tow the line using Amplify thereby limiting the learning opportunities of students in your classes, I will do my best to advocate on your behalf and on behalf of the students being screwed over by this pending decision. I can only do so much considering the dishonest admins ruling the roost downtown and the apathetic opinions of the board member running the curriculum committee, but I wanted you to know there are some parent (and student) advocates in your corner. Keep up the good work and thank you.

Grateful Parent

Anonymous said...

Teresa Alsept, along with the rest of the amazing science teaching staff at Eckstein, is why my 3 very differently-abled children prioritized science all the way to college, and why my returning students name science as one of their favorite classes in middle school. Thank you for posting. The adversarial relationship between central administration and their own schools, often in the name of equity, is tearing the district apart. Why is the district not looking to its strongest and most dedicated teachers and programs district wide and figuring out how to build on that for all kids, rather then harass and condemn those same people and programs? Equity is not a new idea, and though it has not been achieved, is often an ongoing goal of these same teachers.


suep. said...

OSPI data shows that the middle schools that used Amplify Science fared worse on the state's new (2018) Next Generation Science Standards test -- WCAS -- than the schools that did not use Amplify.

Furthermore, the students who fared the very worst with Amplify were low-income students.

One outlier was Eckstein Middle School (a non-Amplify school), where low-income student pass rates actually improved on the new WCAS Next Gen Test over the previous year's test.

In contrast, in South end schools like Mercer Intl Middle School that used Amplify Science, pass rates dropped significantly overall and were especially pronounced among its low-income students.

Based on this data, Amplify is not delivering what was promised by MaryMargaret Welch, the vendor and others who lobbied for it and used this rationale to justify the mass (ab)use of waivers in SPS middle schools to use Amplify. There is no evidence that Amplify is preparing students for the Next Generation Science Standards after all.

Existing district curriculum and what teachers are doing in the non-Amplify schools, by and large, is proving to be more effective.

This science curriculum decision will be a real test of how "data driven" the district is and how truly committed it is to equity.

If the district adopts a weak and controversial curriculum like Amplify, the data shows that the students who will suffer the most are the ones the superintendent and board just made a targeted commitment to serve in their Strategic Plan.

It comes as no surprise to many parents like myself that an engaging, hands-on science curriculum presented by engaging, conscientious teachers will inspire students of all backgrounds.

The Seattle School District would save itself and its students a lot of grief and expense if it were to simply look at what's already working in the district, and replicate it.

SPS should commission successful and respected teachers to create curricula for the district -- instead of spending millions on commercial, pre-packaged, expensive, often untested (or else tested on SPS kids without consent, for someone's research project) and often, tech-dependent curricula like Amplify, which has already cost the district at least $1 million, even though it has never been authorized by the Board.

The answers to Seattle's needs are right here. We have brilliant, creative and committed teachers. They should be encouraged, supported and given the opportunity to create curricula, not shunned and bullied.

-- Sue Peters

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ms Alsept, thank you so much for speaking out publicly. I know how much courage it takes for teachers to speak up.

"One outlier was Eckstein Middle School (a non-Amplify school), where low-income student pass rates actually improved on the new WCAS Next Gen Test over the previous year's test."

Sue Peters zeros in on one key issue in adoption - what works? New and shiny (and tech-based) mean little if the district is not going to get better outcomes. Amplify is piloting at a number of schools and..? I hope the Board says no if the outcomes are not better especially for kids in low-performing schools.

Anonymous said...

"The answers to Seattle's needs are right here. We have brilliant, creative and committed teachers. They should be encouraged, supported and given the opportunity to create curricula, not shunned and bullied."

This would require all of the overpaid bureaucrats to admit they aren't the real experts in the district. Don't hold your breath. Their very existence depends on the facade of being the smartest person in the room. Admitting that the actual teachers doing the teaching are the real experts would eliminate their need to have such jobs/high salaries.

Also, this ties into the Melissa's retort about "loving teachers" but not always loving the union.

You can't have it both ways. Unions, with their obvious flaws, are why teachers like Teresa can speak out and still have a job next week.

Making continual jabs at the union are destructive in the long run. MW has a history of doing this.

Teresa UGoGirl

Melissa Westbrook said...

Teresa UGoGirl, I agree about the bureaucrats somewhat. They tend to believe because they in the district, getting paid, they know best. And most of them never visit schools or talk to teachers and administrators.

As for the union, I support unions. Always have, always will. My father was in a union.
And yes, teachers are the union.

Except when you take the union as an entity, well, the picture gets muddied. So many teachers over the years have told me that votes were scheduled before materials were ready to be read/not enough time to read and discuss. So many teachers have said, "Well, they head the union but I don't know them or why they say the things they do."

And, when unions, especially ones in the public good like police and teachers, protect ineffective members, yes, I do have a problem with that. It's fine to have a process to allow those teachers to regain their abilities/train them to be better but there must be a full-proof way to exit those who should not be in the profession.

People who are professionals know it is folly to protect those that hurt the profession.

Anonymous said...


We all know the shortcomings of unions. Many parents of people over 50 were in unions because there were many unions then. Not now, as we all know. Union busting has been happening for decades. Many people who had parents in unions were part of dismantling them, in fact. My point: Your background as a child of a union member doesn't give you a pass for your present practice of disparaging the teacher's union.

There's one thing worse than a union, and that's no union.

Protecting someone by giving them due process is part of the union's job. No one who is a teacher wants ineffective colleagues. However, most teachers I know (including myself) want due process. Keeps an outspoken master teacher from being canned when speaking out (you go, girl). Keeps this type of teacher from being on the chopping block when a district's finances go south and a new hire would be cheaper.

The "ineffective members protected by the union" meme was, and continues to be, a big part of the Charter School movement. They throw that one around like holy water.

Making regular stabs jabs at the union has consequences. You can't "love teachers" in public schools, then be against Charters vehemently, and then keep making cutting comments against the union all in one mouthful.

Doesn't pass the smell test. Doesn't help teachers.

Teresa UGoGirl

Melissa Westbrook said...

"because there were unions then."

There are unions now. (And good luck to any presidential candidate who forgets that.)

I said I want due process but somehow you missed that.

You clearly don't know my work because if you did, you'd know I ran one of the No on 1240 campaigns. I go to the WA Charter Commission meetings. I'm one of the few in the public who does.

As for not helping teachers, you can certainly have your opinion. But go back in this blog and see how many times I have stood up for teachers, over and over and over.