Sunday, March 24, 2019

Curriculum & Instruction Committee Meeting, March 21, 2019

There were many areas of teaching and learning covered but I won't be covering all items on the agenda.  I neglected to request all the documentation for this meeting - as they require anyone to do because for some reason they refuse to attach it to the agenda - so I will request it.

There were many areas of good discussion but I found the Science adoption discussion and the discussion about Policy 3232, Parent and Student Rights in Administration of Surveys, Analysis or Evaluations.  (Editor's note: I'm going to pull out both for a separate thread as I may have new information soon.)

I will also note a curious statement from Kyle Kinoshita because it occurred when speaking of Honors for All (where it didn't fit).  He said that elementary math in SPS is only 40% aligned to standards and that decision "predated him."  What?

Policy 2015 - Selection and Adoption of Instructional Materials and Policy 202, Waiver of Basic Instructional Materials.

Staff says they wanted to edit 2015 "in order to allow for the adoption of expanded categories of instructional materials" and 2020 "in order to remove text not relevant to the waiver process."

Kyle Kinoshita said it was "critical to policy to create a new category of instructional materials" including new curriculum like Ethnic Studies and Time Immemorial (for Native American studies).

Director Rick Burke said he commended the streamlining of the policy.  But he also said some issues in the RCW about curriculum materials was not in this BAR.  He said that the Board and the public "need confidence that important elements will stay intact." 

He said he wanted to start the process for "partial adoptions" of less than $5M to be nimble.  He said this BAR needed to come back with more clarity about policy and procedure.  (I note that the Board's major work IS around policy and procedure.)

He said, "We're just not there yet."  

Director Mack also thanked staff saying it was clearer than before but there may be "formatting issues" that are clouding the meaning of what is being said.

Both Director Jill Geary and Director Scott Pinkham expressed concerns about getting both Ethnic Studies and Time Immemorial done before the end of the year.  Kinoshita said it would be a rush at a difficult time of the year but that it could be done.

Burke countered saying he would be glad to co-sponsor a resolution on Time Immemorial to show the Board meant business but that the process in discussion should not be a hold up to that program. "When we look back historically, things like Writers Workshop and Ethnic Studies are not courses or materials but a wave of awesomeness and cultural change."

Geary tried to push back saying, "It's been hanging around and I want us to look like a Board that actually gets things done."  She pushed for this to go forward to the Board for Intro and use the two weeks from that meeting to the vote at the next meeting for further discussion.

Burke said this was fundamental work that "we have to get right and it isn't there yet."

Director Leslie Harris chimed in that "adoption and curriculum is our job" and that she wanted to make sure there was a way to embed PD required when there is new curriculum.

Then there was a back and forth between Kinoshita and Mack about course catalog work versus schedule of courses.

Somehow Geary equated "getting it right" with the Board trying to take more power.  I concur with Mack, Burke and Harris - this is the Board's fundamental work.

It was (kind of) left that there will likely be a resolution in support of Time Immemorial.

Speaking of TI, Gail Morris, the head of Native American issues, gave a report that they have had trainings on the curriculum but very low turnout of teachers and principals.  She said subs can be provided as well as curriculum materials.

On Ethnic Studies, in December the Board approved an addition of an ethnic studies course code to the high school catalog.  As well, there may be the possibility of cross-crediting an ethnic studies course with one of the high school social studies requirements.  It was quite the list of work so do check it out.

At this point, I did lose track of where we were on the agenda but Director Harris, once again, asked where staff was on a feedback loop on evaluation of Honors for All at Garfield High School.  Jessica Beaver of Research and Evaluation said that they had not forgotten about it, that it was a priority for spring work and that they will be going out to gather data at Garfield.

On Advanced Learning, Wyeth Jessee said that they had heard from families about customer care.  He said one issue for his department is that they have frontline work (directly with families) and behind the scenes work.  He said they have divided up responsibilities and one team will be answering queries, both email and phone calls.  They are also working on issues around 2E students.  He also mentioned home language testing implemented in partnership with the ELL department.

He noted that the Advanced Learning Taskforce meeting was going on at the same time with principals in attendance, asking their concerns around mission/vision and services.

He and Mack discussed who AL was to serve with Jessee saying that the Taskforce felt they needed to serve all students with equitable access to services.  Mack agreed but said there was state law that mandated serving the outliers.

This is a spot where the district and the Board do really need to get straight on what they are talking about.

1) There should be rigor available in every school for every student who seeks it.   There should be PD so that teachers can easily differentiate either the curriculum or teaching so that students can get more rigor.  Many parents would be perfectly happy leaving their child in their neighborhood school if they felt the rigor was embedded in a visible fashion.  There should be a commitment from principals at all schools because this kind of work could possibly involve the entire school.

2) There should be teaching and learning available to students who are working in the top 1-2%.  If that means separate classes and/or schools, so be it.  That is very much what other districts do.  This is not simply adding rigor to the curriculum, this is working at a depth and speed beyond the ability of most students.

This is how I see it.

EOG work
Dr. Brent Jones had a large packet of work to talk about to the committee.  One problem I have is trying to discern if some of this work is a one-off type of situation versus on-going work.

He had an interesting example of behavior reports (this one from Arbor Heights Elementary).  It included minutes lost due to incidents, time lost by grade (double in 5th grade), day of the week (Tuesday? was the worst day for lost time), at AH white children had the most number of incidents by far (but white children are 60% of the population), more Sped students than any other group.  One stat I found striking was that most of the incidents happened during classtime in class.  I would have thought it in some other place like lunch or recess.  But the chart on "perceived motivation" showed the main reason for behavior issues was either "avoid tasks/activities" or "obtain peer attention" so maybe the classroom isn't surprising for behavior incidents.

24 Credits and Secondary Revisioning
Dr. Caleb Perkins, Director of College and Career Readiness, said that they had allocated $2M (originally it was going to be $11M) for this work.  Schools are supposed to use the money for more FTE for academic intervention specialists, counselors, tutoring services, extra teaching time for zero period, afterschool or summer school or FTE to offer more than six credit earning opportunities during the school day.

It was noted that middle schools are using Naviance in 7th and 8th grades but that even though schools said they delivered the grade level lessons, the completion rates did not reflect it.  It seems that students don't understand/aren't following the steps needed to get that in the Naviance database.

As well, there was detailed updates on CTE work.

 (I note that I am starting to see various people who may be running for School Board at Board and committee meetings who are generally not there otherwise. It always makes me smile that some candidates think that a sudden interest in the business of the district makes them more viable as candidates.)


Anonymous said...

This is a spot where the district and the Board do really need to get straight on what they are talking about.

1) There should be rigor available in every school for every student who seeks it...

2) There should be teaching and learning available to students who are working in the top 1-2%. If that means separate classes and/or schools, so be it. That is very much what other districts do. This is not simply adding rigor to the curriculum, this is working at a depth and speed beyond the ability of most students.

Amen, Melissa. Amen.


Anonymous said...

Having been recently sent the materials that exist for the Ethnic Studies class I judge it to be about 10% done. It's got woeful world gaps and could really use some additions from AP World, AP Human Geo, and AP European History to deal in depth rather than in vitriolic fits.

Has the board adopted it as a curriculum? I asked and was told that it was but it looks like the materials are still being created so how can it possibly be finished and adopted?

Mr. Theo Moriarty

Anonymous said...

Will the materials go through a formal adoption, with time for community members to review? I was under the impression that the curriculum was being incorporated into K-12 coursework - are they now creating a stand alone class? How would that work? Is it then optional?

not clear

Anonymous said...

That's a dig at Math in Focus by Kinoshita. C&I hasn't gotten over being overruled. The focus on standards is a particular red herring given that test scores have gone up since the adoption and where MiF gets dinged is on having more than the req standards. Also 40% is just a bogus number.


Anonymous said...

Writers Workshop was a "wave of awesomeness?"


Anonymous said...

Miffed, you are assuming the SBAC is well aligned to standards. It has appeared to me like the interpretation of the standards by textbook writers and SBAC question authors are often different then the examples given in actual Common Core materials. I am not surprised about the poor alignment. It's one reason Math In Focus was not a committee choice.

I know many teachers using the Time Immemorial materials. Elementaries really need social studies curriculum period - civics, economics, history - not just Ethnic Studies and Time Immemorial.

And if all the kids presently being served in HCC are operating at a "depth and speed beyond the ability of most students" I would be shocked. All we are presently doing from middle school on is offering the regular curriculum sooner, then piling every kid into it that would get an A in a regular class. It should be a truly deep, fast dive for the very few highly gifted students and a strong rigorous curriculum for most.


Anonymous said...

Math In Focus had been a godsend for my previous struggler in math. I can't believe it wasn't the districts first choice but kudos to the board for picking it!


Anonymous said...

If the test designed to measure CC alignment is not aligned to CC, as Seattlelifer alludes, then Washington state should opt out of the alignment altogether - as there is no way to evaluate its effectiveness. My experience, similar to Miffed, is the that the Seattle Public Schools often use the bugaboo of "Common Core Alignment" to railroad in their preferred curriculum choices in opposition to the board. Thus, it sounds immensely suspicious to me to say that if SBAC scores go up, the curriculum must be bad because the test is not aligned. If scores had gone down then, undoubtedly, the SBAC would be touted as a good measure of alignment.


Anonymous said...

Of course the staff did not choose Math in Focus. It is antithetical to the educational philosophy of the staff. Besides always choosing the curriculum that gives the most money to large publishers, technology companies, and IT staff, they also always choose the curriculum that is a "Child-Centered-Discovery" curriculum.

We have Writer's workshop because it does not teach grammar, spelling, phonics, or any thing really. It relies on children discovering literacy and writing. Their math choice was the same, (no teaching number theory or arithmetic), because children should "discover" math on their own...with none of this old fashioned "teaching". The science choice is the same- it's lacking in foundational concepts and information, because children should "discover" science on their own (by watching a video?).

The thing is that "Discovery" takes more time than one childhood and never gets very far for any individual. Look how long it took human societies to discover the concept of 0... and now we are expecting kindergarteners to "discover" this in the span of a "lesson" or school day, or even a year. Sure, give our kids 10,000 years or more and they will be able to discover all sorts of truths. Life doesn't work this way.

We can look to Asia now and see the superiority in knowledge accumulation and international testing when children are provided with direct instruction. We live in a world economy that is more connected than ever before. Not that economies have ever truly been isolated...

Let's look at how many economies and governments crashed and burned in the Middle Ages, in large part to the forgotten knowledge of symbolic numerals with place value. It was lost with the fall of Rome. The Jews were the only ones who kept basic knowledge of numbers alive in their religious schools despite their diasporas. They were repeatedly courted and imported to kingdoms in Western Europe whenever a system for accounting and money-lending was desired... because they had the ability to align numerals in account logs. Why didn't Western European children just "Discover" the numeracy needed to keep columns of numbers for so many generations? Perhaps teaching and instruction is needed to carry knowledge forward to the next generation.

Nothing has changed about the human mind and capacity to learn, and our school staff is leading Seattle into a new dark age. Those who want their children to be actually TAUGHT anything, and can see the entrenched "anti-teaching" philosophy of Seattle Schools, turn to private (30%), or home school, or out-of district, or charters. Parents who look at the larger picture run fast.

We need an elected board to review and choose curriculum because staff have educational biases that prevent teaching. They write their evaluation rubrics to match their philosophies, so nothing will change until they are helped to find and educational environment more suited to their dogmas, like Montessori.


Anonymous said...

I was really disappointed with a post Jill Geary made to her Facebook page yesterday. It was a response she had sent to one of the many people getting in touch with her about Amplify. She basically said her focus is on racial equity to the exclusion of all other considerations. I might buy that except she left the racial equity tool unused on the mission statement project, and she had to because the mission statement ignores the fact Latinxs have a lower graduation rate than do African Americans. So her commitment to racial equity must be taken with a grain of salt. Focus on AA boys is a fine top priority, don't get me wrong, but one has to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. In her post, she also sounded really deferential to staff, saying there was no conflict of interest from Welch, and saying she would rather go with Amplify because it is fully standards-aligned and staff have already vetted it - with a dig against Melissa - and she doesn't think the board should be listening to a "letter writing campaign" over staff.

The person has lost sight of her duty as an elected official. We need a system where staff have a true check and balance from the board, our lack of critical thinking from board members leave us with this dysfunctional district. She doesn't seem to understand her role on the board, and evidently doesn't care. We're in for a rough final year with her, and long-term damage enabled by her, if it goes on like this.

Letter Writer

Anonymous said...

Conceptual understanding and ability to apply is far more important than simplistic mimicry. It’s also more difficult to master and requires more sophisticated teaching. Our district teachers and administrators know this. They also know that it’s a political challenge when many prefer to adhere to the familiar and traditional and insist on retaining the kind of mundane instructional materials that reassure them of their own educational legitimacy. For some, hierarchical structures implicit in the materials, offer additional ballast to their own hierarchical views of learning and society, which they quaintly regard as meritorious.

Previous board members, at the last minute, upended a fair and deliberative process that would have brought a comprehensively standards aligned math curriculum to our primary tranche. The materials they imposed were not properly vetted and the concern about the lack of alignment was overruled. Amateur hour is fun in the pub but not on the dais. We either have a system where the professional curriculum selection process is respected, or we simply abandon it and have individual board members put forward their preferences without any professional input. That is what happened with the last math adoption and it resulted in the resignation of Superintendent Banda. Superintendents don’t stay when board members pull a fast one and overrule professional recommendations that have been publicly vetted. Destabilizing the district should not be the modus operandi for any board member.


Anonymous said...

@West summed up it well. SPS curriculum choices, which reflect their preference for guide-on-the-side (good, according to SPS) vs the sage-on-the-stage (bad, according to SPS), seem to be holding many students back academically.

And SPS wonders how they can reduce the achievement gap?? It seems their curriculum choices are contributing to that gap, as argued by those who challenged the 2009 adoption of the Discovering Algebra texts. Can you believe students are still using texts that the state reviewed as "mathematically unsound?" And who could forget EDM? Parents flocked to Kumon. Or the "Mercer Miracle?" Mercer supplanted CMP with more direct instruction, and then led the district in math achievement.

It's painful to watch it all over again with science.

Choices like these contribute not just to families leaving SPS, but to losing qualified teachers who refuse to lower their standards.

almost out

Anonymous said...


It's nice that you have such a rich, sophisticated, political process. I know that you want respect. I can tell because you use big vocabulary to defend illiteracy and innumeracy. You are not the only one who can read. Get out of your self-righteous bubble, and pull down your toga because your dogma is showing. Socrates was condemned for a reason. Please spare our little ones from your holier-than-though-question-everything philosophy. Really, there is nothing novel about a "discovery" approach, it just is simply INEFFECTIVE in almost every case without a solid base of knowledge.

I know it seems mundane, but familiar and traditional TEACHING is still effective. That's why it is familiar, and traditional, because it has been used FOREVER, EFFECTIVELY.


Anonymous said...

So... staff want to edit the policy "to allow for the adoption of expanded categories of instructional materials" and "Kyle Kinoshita said it was 'critical to policy to create a new category of instructional materials' including new curriculum like Ethnic Studies and Time Immemorial (for Native American studies)," and Rick Burke "commended the streamlining of the policy" and indicated he wanted a "nimble" process for "partial adoptions."

Am I interpreting this correctly that basically staff (and the Board?) are looking for a way to "officially" adopt locally developed or home-brewed curricula, without having to deal with the rigamarole of pesky public review and comment?

I get the need to adopt Since Time Immemorial if we haven't already--but that's OSPI-approved and we are required to do something, so that doesn't seem like a big problem to implement and put into policy.

HOWEVER, when we start talking about other things that could be cheap and considered "partial" adoptions, such as cute little adoptions like the hastily developed--and apparently woefully incomplete--Ethnic Studies curriculum, that's a whole other thing. We absolutely need a review period for teachers and parents, and the curriculum needs to be viewed through not only a racial equity lens, but also a basic education lens (i.e., will it support a "basic education" for all students, which, for highly capable students, means opportunities for acceleration and enhanced instruction). If the draft curriculum is inadequate due to content gaps, lack of differentiation opportunities, insufficient materials, obvious biases, etc., it needs to be fixed prior to implementation. But the only way we're going to know it needs fixing is if it goes through a formal review process. Additionally, specific to the ethnic studies curriculum, we need clarity as to how and when the material will be delivered (e.g., stand-alone class(es), woven throughout certain grades, incorporated into specific existing classes, other). Downtown has repeatedly demonstrated that they don't always get it right when it comes to pushing out curricular reorganizations...

Are we also looking at a potential adoption (a "partial adoption"?) of Mary Margaret Welch's "Carbon Time" biology curriculum, which she developed with some outside researchers? If so, same goes. It needs a formal curriculum review, if it hasn't been done. Staff can't just be developing curricula and sliding them through the back door.

There also need to be guidelines around the minimum number of options that are presented to curriculum review committees. I'd say they must have at least three viable options for review. If there really aren't three, staff need to write a convincing justification, and that justification needs to be presented and approved before the review moves forward. I seem to recall Carbon Time was the ONLY option presented for adoption re: biology. You can't tell the committee to "recommend one from this list of one options." Or, at least, you shouldn't be able to.

Streamlining processes can be good, but let's not over-streamline. The Board needs to maintain the requirement for public review of these home-grown curricula. While Director Burke may have proposed a <$5M figure as a criterion for streamlined review, I'd argue that the $ cost of a curriculum is NOT the most important factor in whether or not it needs a full public review. In fact, some of these "cheaper" curricula may need MORE review, because they are less likely to have been extensively reviewed elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

As to standards alignment on a year-by-year basis, I don't see why we even care. That's just teaching to the test, and seems like a potential hindrance to actual learning. Is there any evidence that the standards are the gold standard of learning? Shouldn't the goal be to cover everything kids need to know whenever it makes sense? If one curriculum teaches X in 4th grade instead of 5th, then covers Y in 5th instead of 4th, so what? The test scores may be a little lower, but if they're covering them both in an order that is logical within the overall curriculum, to exclude that curriculum from consideration because it's not standards-aligned is


Anonymous said...

@ Salut,

"Conceptual understanding and ability to apply is...also more difficult to master and requires more sophisticated teaching."

And there's the rub, right? If we had all the time in the world, the best teachers in the world, all the supplies we need, and very small class sizes so teachers could effectively differentiate, then maybe you'd be onto something.


Anonymous said...

I don’t see that there is any rub in making the case for advanced materials, better teaching, better overall classroom experience and educational opportunity. This is an argument for investing in the best, with the highest expectations. Why would we do anything less? Other countries have already made those investments. They laugh at the provincialism undergirding educational decisions here that shortchange the student body and allow others to succeed.

We need progress not outmoded tradition, which is really conservatism designed to intimidate advancements the conservative are uncomfortable with.


Katie and Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I appreciate the philosophical pondering of those who support the shift to technology-based curriculum, but as an actual scientist, I prefer to base my decisions on actual data. Amplify has been used for two years now across SPS middle schools. Has there been a survey of the teachers? Of the students? Any examination of test scores? If this data exists, why has it not been shared? If not, is it because you are afraid of the results?

Here is the experience of someone who worked for several years to introduce technology into under-served schools.


Anonymous said...

What A Gem!

"Conceptual understanding and ability to apply is far more important than simplistic mimicry. It’s also more difficult to master and requires more sophisticated teaching. Our district teachers and administrators know this. They also know that it’s a political challenge when many prefer to adhere to the familiar and traditional and insist on retaining the kind of mundane instructional materials that reassure them of their own educational legitimacy. For some, hierarchical structures implicit in the materials, offer additional ballast to their own hierarchical views of learning and society, which they quaintly regard as meritorious."

From my decade+ of actual teaching actual kids, after a few decades out in that vicious rat race of the job market, maybe someday we'll have sociologists who study this 'privilege' thing from the lens of counting the $1,000 family supplements to one's Noble Existence.

'Privilege' analysis from the perspective of MONEY would show that too many of edu-policy world come from households of the top 10 and 20% of household income. Those making over $100,000 a year who come from those kinds of backgrounds get to live in What-Color-Is-Your-Parachute Bubble$ of affluence, where work is a dirty word for life full filling ... higher order ... hand waving power point making careers!

Making anything actually work is just lowly, dirty finger nail, non-creative cla$$ drudgery - and since some other does that drudgery, who needs any kind of skills to actually make anything work? We'll ALL be Noble Higher Order Thinkers, and, we will ALL be in the top 10%, and we will ALL spend our daze in a noble haze of seminars, talks, and Deep Thoughts.

Yup ... you are really breaking down


Melissa Westbrook said...

I was really disappointed with a post Jill Geary made to her Facebook page yesterday.

Could you tell me what Facebook page that is? I saw an email she had sent. I can appreciate she doesn't want to believe what is said here or by me. I'm just the person who goes to many of the district's meetings that no other parents go to. I'm just the person that has this kind of responsible discussion that I hear in every science curriculum thread I post.

So parents aren't supposed to weigh in? Why have open houses then?

And now I hear, from a distant source, that she's considering throwing her hat in for the District 4 City Council seat that Rob Johnson is vacating. You might recall she tried for an open leg seat and that didn't work out. But it shows that she will jump ship if there's something better.

TheHigherarchy, if I thought I understood your point, I'd say something. I don't completely understand what you are saying but you are certainly being sarcastic.

Anonymous said...


It's this post:

Letter Writer

Anonymous said...

Dropping PISA with "discovery" teaching:




for that last one be sure to search for the results...

TIMSS... Look at the countries that did better than us. What is the national curriculum like in those countries? Are ANY "guide on the side" countries? https://nces.ed.gov/timss/timss2015/findings.asp


Melissa Westbrook said...

That's interesting Letter Writer. She wrote something slightly different elsewhere.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just don't get what her "well, what else can we do?" and her claim that schools that raise more money pay for science teachers or materials (I know some schools have a lab fee but I've never seen a school that pays for a science teacher).

But her rule seems to be "if everyone isn't getting the same thing - at some level - then no one gets anything."

Anonymous said...

"Given that we have new science standards coming out, and haven’t adopted any district wide science curriculum for many years... My biggest issue is that if we don’t adopt something then we have nothing for our staff to build off of to supplement.

Nothing to build on? Didn't she just say we adopted a district wide science curriculum many years ago? Is so much of it wrong that we're teaching a bunch of rubbish? Can teachers not supplement the "old" curriculum with new information where appropriate? I seriously doubt that foundational science concepts have changed that much.

Or is she saying that our teachers don't have the ability to do that sort of supplementation and updating? That they need a canned curriculum because they can't actually teach science unless a computer does it for them? If there are some gaps in the old curriculum, can't the science dept at JSCEE develop and circulate some additional lesson plans, materials, and project ideas to fill in for a while? I'm assuming that teachers are smart enough to learn a bit of new material if given a little guidance. Does Geary not assume the same?

Or is she saying that teachers aren't using the old curriculum now, and they at least need "something"? If there's no fidelity of implementation with the old curriculum, what makes her think it would be there with the new--especially if many people find it too easy and boring and slow-moving?

More likely she is saying this: At lower performing schools, whatever is happening re: science isn't working--teachers don't have the training/expertise/support re: the science, schools don't have the materials for some reason, kids find traditional learning boring and would rather "play" science on a computer. At higher performing schools, the adoption will be irrelevant, because most teachers will ignore the new curriculum and/or heavily supplement it, because they and their students want and deserve more. (This is not to imply that I think teachers and students at other schools don't also want/deserve more; I'm simply trying to make sense of Geary's potential thinking.) If it's the case that the Amplify adoption would be to try to raise the bar for the lowest performing schools while recognizing that other schools will likely go rogue and teach to a higher bar, that sounds like inequity to me. Similarly, requiring all schools to use Amplify if it means a lowering of their current bar would also be inequitable, if students are capable of learning at that level.

The Board needs to go back to the drawing board on this one.


Anonymous said...

From Geary: "I will never be able to create an equally exciting educational opportunity for kids across our district, but I should be able to make sure they have access to 'basic.' (And let’s face it, most north-of-the-ship-canal parents want nothing of basic - and many SE parents may not know what it looks like - that is the level of disparity we have in Seattle).

Hey, Director Geary, you might want to read this:

WAC 392-170-012
For highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education.

Instead of taking a swipe a well-meaning parents, Geary should focus on serving the wide range of students in this district. Isn't that her job?

all types

Anonymous said...

Geary's rhetoric is very divisive and her Facebooks post generalizes insulting attributes to whole swaths of humanity based on geography (north of ship canal = "well-heeled" parents who "demand" challenge while SE parents don't even know what "basic" is).

To justify her decision on Amplify, Geary posted on Facebook that "Lawrence Lab review of NGSS aligned science material that put Amplify squarely on the "do use" list".

What Geary doesn't realize is that Lawrence Lab recommended Amplify, because Lawrence Lab IS.THE.AUTHOR. of Amplify!

Of course they recommend their own product.



Anonymous said...

"...if we don’t adopt something then we have nothing for our staff to build off of to supplement. This leaves the kids in the underfunded, understaffed classes to continue to be left behind with unexciting, unsupplemented, unaligned curriculum- while we know that our well-heeled kids get the challenging experience that their experienced teachers can provide and their well-heeled parents demand and pay for."

Wow. What a loaded commentary. Yes, competent teachers, both new and old, who KNOW their subject matter, can create better learning experiences for students even if the materials are lacking (and sometimes seemingly with little funding). But why would we want to create that situation in perpetuity, by adopting overly simplistic materials that REQUIRE supplementation?

"Which source of information would you find most reliable and credible and likely to lead to equitable outcomes ["voices of the blogosphere" or adoption committee]?"

Frankly, voices of the blogosphere!

good grief

Melissa Westbrook said...

Read and that is my fault. I sent the Board an email about the science adoption. I sent the link to Lawrence not to encourage Amplify but to show that there were indeed other ways to get to standards aligned curriculum. Geary seems to be using just that example when I sent her one from the state of Oregon where Amplify wasn't even on their "not recommended" list.

And the adoption committee cannot possibly be all voices. I was told - by two different science teachers - that if you weren't on the committee, your input was rejected even though you are a science teacher. That seems weird.

Anonymous said...

Again Melissa, you are wrong. No one's opinion was rejected if you participated in giving feedback per board policy 2015. This means at open houses, at schools that hosted the public displays in their librarys for many months of the field test candidates, as well as at JSC, and though the SPS website. Emails are not part of policy 2015, but these other venues had appropriate methods - including evaluation rubrics - to complete. This was possible. Some of us did submit our feedback this way. And this feedback must be considered by the committee according to board policy.
-South End Teacher

Anonymous said...

@South End Teacher

FYI those "public feedback" avenues are perfunctory and have not actually been taken into consideration during curriculum evaluations, historically, despite your claim that the board "must" consider it. It's merely a way of parking criticism without having to respond to it or act on it. The feedback is presented to the board in a selective or filtered way intended to keep the board from seeing broad themes and overall criticisms. Email to the board is about the only way to override this problem.
-Teacher Also

Melissa Westbrook said...

"District administrators, educators, parents, families and community members are encouraged to communicate their concerns and suggestions to the Adoption Coordinator and to be aware of the materials review period."

I see nothing that says "no email."

Anonymous said...

To Geary’s credit, she is straightforward about her aims, provides ample opportunity for community members to talk to her, and she clearly communicates, in writing, how her actions support her goals. I don’t think any other Board member comes close to providing this level of transparency.

Unfortunately, I completely disagree with her philosophy. She seems to want to reduce the achievement gap across the city by eliminating access to challenge and rigor in curriculum and instruction for students performing above grade level. I would take the exact opposite approach — I would figure out how to expand access to challenge and rigor for all students across all the city’s zip codes. I would establish a minimum curriculum, such as a minimum set of AP classes, that all students could have guaranteed access to, regardless of where their parents could afford to live, and regardless of how many other students at that school signed up to take it. I know that’s a much harder path, but I believe all kids deserve to learn at school, even the ones who have already mastered the basics.

—SE Mom

Anonymous said...

Again, the response by Melissa here is disingenuous. Isolated sentences can easily be taken out of context.

"The Adoption Coordinator shall develop a written communication strategy for
public notification regarding the adoption, adoption timeline, and review
opportunities. Such strategy shall be developed under the guidelines outlined in
the superintendents procedures connected to this policy.

The adoption timeline will be posted on the Curriculum & Instruction website,
and through any other method defined in the communication strategy. District
administrators, educators, parents, families and community members are
encouraged to communicate their concerns and suggestions to the Adoption
Coordinator and to be aware of the materials review period."

This paragraph is about the timeline and communication strategies, not the curriculum itself. There were months of public review time, many SPS emails, etc. It also states that these stakeholders should be aware of the materials review period. Which should follow the associated superintendent procedures - communication strategies and timeline - which was approved by the IMC.

-South End Teacher

Melissa Westbrook said...

...provides ample opportunity for community members to talk to her, ...

Tuesday mornings only, that's "ample opportunity"? But yes, better than DeWolf.

I would say Rick Burke and Eden Mack and Leslie Harris are just as transparent.

"I would establish a minimum curriculum, such as a minimum set of AP classes, that all students could have guaranteed access to, regardless of where their parents could afford to live, and regardless of how many other students at that school signed up to take it."

I think that's basically true. The district did finally get around to making sure every single comprehensive high school had AP or IB.

South-End, you said this:

Emails are not part of policy 2015, but these other venues had appropriate methods - including evaluation rubrics - to complete."

Nowhere in 2015 does it say no emails. Is says "communicate concerns and suggestions." Not sure how much clearer it could be.

Good luck with that.

kellie said...

South end teacher seems to be of the opinion that since there was a "process" everyone should just just be OK.

Yes, there was as process. But many times processes are flawed. SPS has on too many occasions to be named sufficiently or expediently, started a process and then gone into such a profound state of "group think" that the RESULT of the process truly needs to be questioned.

On Sunday, the NYT published this lovely piece about how "human contact is now a luxury good."

This would be very classic SPS that as soon as the evidence that online platforms, and screen time has some tragically deep gaps, particular for those "furthest from educational justice" is about the same time that SPS adopts a platform that is screen time based and turns human contact into a luxury good, all in the name of equity.

People rarely enjoy having the results of committee questioned. But in SPS this is all too common and critically important.

The Core 24 committee camp up with the fabulous 3x5 schedule. The high school boundary committee wanted to remove Cleveland's option status and NOT serve the language immersion students who all live in the natural boundaries of Lincoln. The committee that brought us everyday math, noted that the results were in large part based on having TWO ADULTS in the classroom during math time. Oops.

Not every time, but many times, a well meaning committee reaches a recommendation that is completely out of touch with the reality experienced by the boots on the ground.

I am always amazed by how many people hate this blog and feel completely free to attack Melissa. That is because this blog one of the very few places where people from all corners of the city can share what is happening on the ground. And it is very clear that there is lots and lots of negative feedback regarding Amplify.

Anonymous said...

It seems very disingenuous to pilot a program then only accept feedback over a couple of months if that feedback was submitted at a handful of exhibition schools in the form of a rubric.

The unfortunate reality is that now teachers, students and their parents have experienced Amplify and have real-time opinions about the good, the bad and the ugly. The opinions and experience of the administrators holed up downtown and the kind folk paid to sell Amplify only go so far.

I would think that if anyone was truly concerned about providing the best possible curriculum for the school district, he or she would welcome the experience of those who have piloted the curriculum for the past two years. Anything else seems like pure hubris at best, with a touch of corruption thrown in at worse.


Anonymous said...

The whole point of running a pilot is to learn from it. SPS is morally, fiscally and pedagogically obligated to solicit and duly weigh input from TEACHERS who have piloted the curriculum. Pick any study in education and it comes to the same conclusion: Initiatives, programs, curricula that has BUY IN from teachers is more successful than those that lack such buy-in. Adopting a curriculum that the majority of teachers do not trust is a recipe for failure for our students.

ALL students deserve rigor and creativity and hands-on science. Closing the achievement gap by lowering the top is also a recipe for failure and is hugely inequitable for ALL students--those who live both north and south of the ship canal.

Concerned parent

Anonymous said...

"That is because this blog one of the very few places where people from all corners of the city can share what is happening on the ground."

Unless Melissa doesn't like your opinion and deletes it.

Fess Up

Anonymous said...

Right on concerned parent. Except in this case, we aren’t raising or lowering the top. We are simply lowering the bottom. The top will get all the supplementation and enrichments it has become accustomed to. The parents will truck in the science and Merry Margaret won’t be able to stop them. The bottom will get something way way worse than what it has now. So no worries. This is a nuisance to top flyers but ok. It is a fatal blow for science for those who are already underprivileged. The equity lens somehow got screwed on backwards. Jill, what are we going to do about you?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Fess Up, that's not true. We've been over this. That I'm not going to be abused by anonymous people at my blog is fair.

I do not delete on opinion (unless, of course, you like DeVos, et al; those are grounds for deletion).

Reader, yes, I think the district - via the long work of Tolley who is now gone - is sliding down. Some on its own decisions and some because they just don't care. WA Middle School is a good example.

Anonymous said...


Did any school board members push back on Welch and ask her to (1) disclose and explain her Amplify connections and (2) add other reputable science programs (such as those highly rated in Oregon) that teachers support?

Welch may be convinced Amplify is the one and only answer. But if the majority of science teachers don't agree with her, it's not the adults in the room who carry the consequences--it's the students. If experienced, well regarded science teachers jump ship from SPS, again, it's the students who pay.

What can parents do at this point? Is anyone in our local media covering ANY of this???

concerned parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Concerned Parent, no members asked Welch about her connections to Amplify and they were not brought up. (I was just watching per protocol so I couldn't tell them to ask.)

I think another issue - one that I think trouble Mack but not Geary - is how much technology is taking over budget issues. I think Technology might be the second largest budget item after salaries. And it's only growing larger.

As Director Burke says, when you invest in technology, you do invest in a constant cycle of buying, purging and replenishing. When you get more and more curriculum invested in technology, that will happen even more.

Why isn't local media covering it? Well, over at the Times they want to talk about "specialized learning." And meanwhile, over at the district, well, Rome burns.

I will have more to say soon but I believe there is a calculated push to drive the district down further and further.

And, unless the Board gains some control of it, nothing will change.

teach said...

@ bogus

Well said ... I think it is true all students deserve the best a teacher has to offer. In the higher functioning classrooms, the ones whose teachers would try to ignore the adoption of Amplify (because it is crap) and still continue to teach their heart out to do what is best for students learning science. Which would be ideal, the only problem is the district might mandate all of us do exactly the SAME thing and DATA MINE your students data to monitor we all comply.

Rondy6 said...

agree with you guys, students deserve the best teachers