Monday, March 18, 2019

More Science Adoption Updates

Update -At the Curriculum & Instruction meeting this afternoon at JSCEE from 4:30 to 6:30, this may happen:
Staff is proposing to strike an entire paragraph from 2020 that requires district staff to evaluate the efficacy of current materials in use, including those used via waiver, in preparation for a curriculum adoption process.
That means that the Science office would not need to produce data on the past 1-2 year de facto pilot of Amplify science.

What's the point of of all these waivers if not to get precisely that kind of data? 

As well, there is to be discussion of Board policies around surveys and parent/student rights as well as electronic resources and use of the internet.

I wasn't going to go but now I am.

PLEASE write to the Board today about these hurried changes to Board policy without real public input.  spsdirectors@seattleschools.org

From a reader:

This Friday and Saturday, March 22nd and 23rd, the SPS Science Curriculum Adoption Committee will be meeting.  MaryMargaret Welch, head of Science for SPS, will likely call for a vote on adopting Amplify Science.   

MMW has been blocking the Adoption Committee from seeing performance data on Amplify Science in 8 Grade Schools, and 11 Middle Schools, for 2017-2019.   This is contrary to the requirements spelled out in Board Policy 2020, for Waiver Curriculum Materials adoption (new materials being tested).

 Please write to the Board and give them your input.  spsdirectors@seattleschools.org

The Board needs to hear from a large number of parents and teachers, especially those who have been affected by the Amplify Curriculum, which was imposed without Board approval - a distortion of the Waiver Process. 

March 22, 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., JSCEE, 2765, 2750
March 23, 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., JSCEE, Auditorium

I will try to attend some of the Friday meeting; I would suggest that someone go to the Saturday meeting and take notes.


Anonymous said...

What is the mechanism to trigger a police investigation?

The state ethics law, which applies to Margaret, says an employee cannot except more than a $50 gift annually.

I’m not making an accusation, but, it’s unfathomable to me how this individual has done such an arduous workaround to get amplify into schools. It is a fair question, was there a quid pro quo?

Obviously, the boards waiver policy has been severely abused.

If the superintendent doesn’t call a hard hot to all these proceedings now, it’s pretty clear adherence to policy is a nice to have, not a half the house, and JUNOs rai obviously, the board’s waiver policy has been severely abused.

If the superintendent doesn’t call a hard halt to all these proceedings now, it’s pretty clear adherence to policy is a nice to have, not a half the house, in Juneau’s reign. Banda didn’t show up, Nyland aided and abetted multiple destructive ‘pursuits’ by his assistant supers, and now this.

It’s beyond disgusting how the JSCEE silos are running amok.

But, to push the distraction of high school science, by pulling Mas out of chemistry and physics, and by demanding kids sit and look at dumb terminals spewing‘s toddler content videos all day is mind blowing. Does nobody at JSCEE understand that teachers are professionals and they are the heart of education? And OK, real chemistry and physics requires algebra as a prerequisite, you cannot engineer around that.

Amplify is garbage, my kids have had it, it is so utterly watered-down, teachers had to supplement with vocabulary that it’s self was pathetic, things like ‘gravity’ or ‘orbit‘.

The conflict of interest here is not Seattle, Margaret has contravened Blackletter policy by being part of the marketing tools of amplify. On that alone, they must be disqualified from even being considered. That’s what policy says, anyway. So we will see how useless Juneau is. If she’s like the previous old bosses, she’ll be completely feckless. And our children will suffer because of her.
Ethics Law 101

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ethics Law, it's Muhs, not Mas (two great but different guys).

I will have a separate thread on issues that you raise. I concur with most of what you say and it's truly baffling.

Unknown said...

Ethics Law and Melissa,

You're being logical, but I think you have the wrong assumptions.


If a curriculum is too difficult, some students will fail while others succeed.

If too many students who are far from educational justice fail, we have an achievement gap.

Achievement gaps are really opportunity gaps, so if students fail, there's an opportunity gap.

The easiest way to close an opportunity gap is to make the curriculum independent of gaps in prior learning like Algebra or reading proficiency.

If the curriculum is independent of gaps in prior learning, then more, if not all, students will succeed.

Then there will be no achievement gap, so there will be no opportunity gap.

Then the district will have achieved its signature objective.


I think that's the logic that you all are reaching for. If you start with the assumption that there is financial malfeasance, your logic works well, but if you start with the more likely assumption--we're in an all-out assault on the opportunity gap--then I think you can make the logic run better.

If you're not a teacher, this may seem absurd to you, but all I hear at every meeting, in every email, in every agenda item is equity--how do we close the outcome gap between our students of color, particularly African-American boys, and our white kids? So I always start with the assumption that what they're doing is designed to close that achievement/opportunity gap.

Mind the gap,

Anonymous said...

@ Unknown/Mind the Gap

If all of that is true, then board policy 2020 can be followed, pilot projects can be done at fewer than 11 out of 13 middle schools schools, data from those pilot projects can be made freely and widely available on an ongoing basis, and the board can formally adopt or not adopt Amplify on the merits.

No quantity of good intentions in closing opportunity and achievement gaps justifies circumventing the legal mandate that the board, an no other body, adopt curriculums, and no quantity of good intentions justifies the cherry-picking of teachers to serve on the committee (or silencing those who have critiques), and no quantity of good intentions justifies an apparent conflict of interest that serves only to jeopardize and not strengthen the adoption of the curriculum. Potential conflicts of interest must be fully disclosed in advance so they can be scrutinized. If there is nothing to them, then the piloting could proceed.

Finally, closing gaps of any sort does not mean lowering the bar, which is what you are prolixly suggesting. We are now in a post-Tolley era in Seattle Public Schools, and that long-espoused theory of closing gaps has been shown not to work; just look at the record Tolley has left behind. Instead, the only way to close gaps is to raise the bottom. Amplify seemingly fails to do this. But we must let the board decide properly.

Raise the Bar

Anonymous said...

@ Mind the Gap,

I agree that's what they are thinking. However, there are a few pieces of the logic train that are alway conveniently left off. In reality, it's more like this:

If a curriculum is too difficult, some students will fail while others succeed.

If too many students who are WHAT WE CALL "far from educational justice" fail, WHICH THEY WILL, SINCE THAT'S HOW WE'RE DEFINING "FAR FROM EDUCATIONAL JUSTICE", we have an achievement gap.


The easiest way to close an opportunity gap--OR REALLY THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP, SINCE WE'RE NOT ADDRESSING OPPORTUNITIES, BUT ACHIEVEMENT GAP IS NOT SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE ANYMORE-- is to make the curriculum independent of gaps in prior learning like Algebra or reading proficiency.

If the curriculum is independent of gaps in prior learning--MEANING THE CURRICULUM IS DESIGNED FOR STUDENTS WORKING BELOW GRADE LEVEL--then more, if not all, students will succeed.





Anonymous said...

And what happens when all the SPS students get to college where they are attending with students from everywhere else, and they experience a very large achievement and opportunity gap? Are they not making any gap even worse by widening the gap to include the entire SPS population in relation to students from elsewhere? Lowering standards and watering down curriculum hurts all students including the ones they will be passing along with an inferior education.


Anonymous said...

I am just flabbergasted at this point at how many rules have been flaunted and continue to be ignored to get Amplify into the classroom. And yet Amplify continues to be taught and no one appears to be investigating SPS Science Department actions. And now we have a science department that refuses to provide data to back up their claims.

It appears to be an exercise at how far someone can go imposing their will on SPS schools before there are any consequences. It would be amusing if it wasn't impacting thousands of kids.

-Just Wow

Stuart J said...

The Seattle Times has a story about rezone possibilities in the Rainier Valley. This could result in a lot more students, depending on configuration of the buildings. Maybe this is a reason why Rainier Beach HS would need to be bigger than current enrollment.

Stuart J said...

My post above should have been on the thread about BEX, not this one.

Anonymous said...

There is no educational justice in foisting a low quality curriculum on students. In fact, it is one of the most unjust things a school can do.

Some parents can supplement a bad science curriculum. They can find ways around it. But when a district like SPS only offers a crappy curriculum that does not teach students science, or teaches students to hate science, it is the kids furthest from educational justice who will be hurt the most - because they have no other option. They need the school to offer them a great and inspiring education, especially in the sciences. Amplify science reinforces inequities. It's clear as day that's what is happening.

That's a major reason why it needs to be taken out of our schools ASAP.


Anonymous said...

Sadly yes, if SPS adopts Amplify and other online-based science curriculum, I am considering homeschooling science. It has come to this.

-Absolutely Devastated

Anonymous said...

As a teacher who now refuses to teach Amplify.... I implore you to stand up and insist that it not be adopted. I am one of those who have been silenced and bullied by MMW. It is important to stand up and realize the curriculum is crap. TCI is better. Advocate before it is too late!

Anonymous said...

Any curriculum adoption should use the best data possible. If we're considering adopting curricula that are new to us, we should use information from outside studies, other districts, SPS stakeholder reviews, etc. If we're considering adopting curricula that are NOT new to us--because we are currently using them in some schools, either via official waivers or through our anything goes approach--we should ALSO use local data. There's NO EXCUSE to not include both a process evaluation (e.g., implementation, fidelity, support, materials) AND an outcomes evaluation (e.g., student performance, teacher satisfaction) of any currently used materials that are up for consideration in a curriculum adoption process.

This science adoption process is sounding more and more like a rigged election with a predetermined outcome. The Board needs to step up and see things for what they are. If we have been using both Amplify and Carbon Time for some period of time now, we should take NO further steps to lock these in place until we know more. We need to hear from teachers (ideally breaking down the analysis by new vs. established teachers), parents, and students. We also need to look at data on how well students are doing.

If these two curricula are not currently the law of the land in SPS, there must be schools not using them. How do those schools do compared to those using the new stuff? We would essentially have a lot of little experiments going on simultaneously, so we could look at a lot of things. For example, if there's an end of course biology exam, how have scores changed pre-post (i.e., change from when using the old curriculum to when using the new), and how do scores compare across schools using different curricula (i.e., schools using new curriculum vs. those using alternate Curriculum X).

Another nifty comparison could be to have all students in a particular subject take BOTH end-of-course exams (i.e., have students using the new curriculum also take the old EOC exam, and vice versa). If it turns out that students using the new curriculum do ok on the curriculum-specific exam but not-so-good on the old EOC, that suggests there are things they aren't learning. If it turned out that students using the new curriculum were doing well on the old EOC but ALSO did well on the new exam, that would suggest the old class covers more and/or gives student a deeper understanding of the subject.

It's also important that the data be broken down by HC-identification status. Since state law says that "for highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education." If HC students demonstrate higher levels of boredom and lack of challenge and wasted class time due to finishing quickly, that indicates they are being denied access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction.

The Board really needs to step up and shut this nonsense down. Our students are not MMW's guinea pigs and/or stepping stones.


Anonymous said...


The science teacher at Madison’s open house who said Amplify is their science curriculum also told us the best thing about it is that “they gave us laptops for free so we could use Amplify”. Who gave Madison those laptops and does the board know about it?

Fairmount Parent

Science for Drop-Outs said...

The students furthest from educational justice are the 18% who don't graduate, right? Here are the numbers of dropouts percentages by race for 2016:
African American (female 9%/male 15%)
Asian (female 9%/male 9%)
Hispanic (female 19%/male 22%)
Multiracial (female 11%/male 14%)
Native American (female 17%/male 13%)
Pacific Islander (female 30%/male 25%)
White (female 9%/male 10%)

So, are we designing the science curriculum for the whole city for these students? That’s an insane approach to public education.

And it would be a tragic disservice to the vast majority of students of all races who do graduate every year. Here's the percentages by race for 2016 of students who did graduate:
African American (female 91%/male 85%)
Asian (female 91%/male 91%)
Hispanic (female 81%/male 78%)
Multiracial (female 89%/male 86%)
Native American (female 83%/male 87%)
Pacific Islander (female 70%/male 75%)
White (female 91%/male 90%)

46% of them go on to graduate from a 4-year university. They need rigorous science education that will allow them to compete with the rest of the world who could afford to not go to SPS, because that’s where they’ll be competing for jobs: the real world.

Drop-out track science for all is not the right choice for our state’s largest public school district. We are one of the most diverse districts in the state. We need to make it possible for our diverse students to compete in the world if they can and if they want to. Because so many of them do.

kellie said...

Science for drop outs has a great point. Seattle School is the state's largest public school district and is larger by orders of magnitude over all the surrounding districts.

Seattle has unique challenges due to the size and diversity of the district. Moreover, because of Seattle's complicated history of red-lining, Seattle's diversity translates more to "micro-climates" than diversity.

The range in Seattle Schools population is truly extraordinary. There are over 100 spoken languages. There is substantial and significant numbers of homeless students, alongside extreme wealth. Seattle is one of the most educated cities in the US and there is a good chance that a student has parents who were high school drop outs, or multiple PhDs.

Seattle has a great challenge in that there is huge criticism in the range of offering between schools from Rainier Beach to Ballard. As such, there is tremendous pressure for standardization. But yet, Seattle is the very definition of one-size-does-not-fit-all.

The traditional answer has been to provide as little funding as possible to wealthier schools and as much funding as possible to poorer schools. But this does little to manage the optics.

46% of students NEED a science education that will be sufficient for college. That's about half. That is so the Seattle story. Half need this but the other half need something else.

Anonymous said...

Does any state-level inspector general office have jurisdiction over this to look into the Amplify connections of senior staff for impropriety?

Where are the education advocacy groups in crying foul on the usurping of the elected school board's checks and balances on district officials and staff?

Where is our local newspaper or Crosscut or NPR affiliates in covering ANY of this???

Concerned parent

Anonymous said...


Everyone needs science. Otherwise we find ourselves in a society that cannot understand climate change, evolution or the ingredients in their soap! But not everyone needs calculus-level science. Just like we all need math.

Science IS for everyone

Anonymous said...

I won't out the school, but I am 90% certain SPS will lose another science teacher if Amplify becomes mandatory. This at a time when the district is short teachers and further has an historical shortage of strong science teachers in the pre-high-school years. This particular teacher is responsible for turning many 'I hate science' students into enthusiastic high school, college and then professional science success stories. This teacher has maintained strong success rates with minority and non-minority students, and with struggling as well as advanced learning students. These kids score higher on the state science tests than those with the teach-by-the-book classrooms. This teacher has never taught SPS curriculum because the lessons in the teacher's classroom are far more challenging and interesting than anything SPS dictates every 10 years on some curriculum endorsement dictate from downtown. This teacher is hands down the favorite teacher in the school year after year.

So why can't I name the teacher? Because SPS wouldn't celebrate the success. They'd mow it down. SPS wants a mandated curriculum to substitute for strong science teachers. Hasn't worked in the past, won't work in the future.

Amplify? Wrong for kids, wrong for the budget, pathetic workaround for strong hiring and professional development of teacher efforts.


Anonymous said...

Melissa, this 2/27/19 article from QA/Magnolia News says MMW and teachers are creating their OWN science curriculum instead of purchasing from a vendor, and that the science adoption is now on hold due to budget issues per JoLynn Berge! Is this true??

"The curriculum was created solely by teachers and education leaders in Seattle, instead of being pulled from an education vendor or an outside program."

"Welch said field-testing and results should be ready by May. According to Welch’s timeline, the board will hopefully choose to adopt the curriculum for the 2019-20 school year.

But due to a gap in the budget, Welch’s curriculum might have to wait a bit longer.

Seattle Public Schools CFO JoLynn Berge said the district is looking at making $40 million in budget cuts for the 2019-20 school year due to a lack of funding.

“We don’t have enough to balance our budget for 2019-20 with the current amount we are authorized to collect,” Berge said.

Berge said voters approved the two recently proposed levies in February but because of a spending cap created by the Washington Legislature, the district cannot collect the full amount to make up for the gap. Berge said the district is hoping the Legislature will create additional state funding or raise the cap during the current session, but choices about the budgets have to be decided and approved by the end of February.

“Moving forward science adoption is on hold,” Berge said."



Anonymous said...

We know the issue.
This program is canned and boring and will not be good for any of our students. But what is the solution? How do we stop it?
I think it would be good for the school board to hear it from the mouth of babes. Have them write the school board a letter about how they feel sitting watching Amplify. Have many of them do it... but do it soon, so they can be heard.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Fairmount Parent, I need to see if I can find out what some anonymous donor gave to SPS. It may have been laptops.

Interesting What? because the language used by MMW in that article reflects Amplify. I have never heard they created their own but sure, it could be put on hold because of funding. However, the senior staff could continue their waylaying of the Board process and okay Amplify.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I've been looking into the issue and found a couple of interesting things:
- MMW was working in Mercer Island High in 2008 and was running for school board there but then pulled out. So higher aspirations there.
- I found an article from 2017 by UW stating that SPS Science was in a partnership with UW College of Education and the Teaching Channel. First I heard about that (that I can recall).

Anonymous said...

OMG I was wondering how long it would take for one of your readers to drag CH (AKA global warming) into this.


Rick Burke said...

Thanks all for the feedback. It's great to be hearing feedback about work currently at the committee level, before Board intro & action. This gives us more time and space to get it right.
Just as a point of clarification, the paragraph under discussion that was struck from policy should have been a "move" not a "delete". The content was supposed to move from policy 2020 (Materials Waivers) to policy 2015 (Materials Adoption), since it refers to using waiver program data to inform the adoption process.
I do not support ANY rolling back of program evaluation requirements for either policy 2020 or policy 2015, and do not believe this is ready to move out of committee.


Anonymous said...

Currently, the graduating classes of 2021+ will need to pass the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS) in order to graduate. As described by a school counselor it will be a test taken as a Junior and will cover all three previous years of science learning.

My kids have already figured out that the science videos and watching "The Martian" (to learn about the concepts of gravity and orbit) will not impart enough learning to pass the test.

We'll be supplementing with tutors and test prep. What about the families that are not able to provide this outside support to their children?


Robert Cruickshank said...

It is important to email the board about this. I'm putting together my own message now (had to write something else on board policy 2015). We will need to demonstrate that the board was made aware of the problems of Amplify science before a decision is made on it. SPS has been hauled into court before over curriculum adoptions that were made in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

Anonymous said...


Then file your ethics complaint already and stop posting about it here.

Please post again only when your ethics complaint moves forward.

Tin Hats

Anonymous said...

That article that Melissa alluded to is quite depressing to read if you are a scientist. It is Discovery Math all over again. https://education.uw.edu/news/partnership-brings-‘next-generation’-science-seattle-classrooms

Particularly concerning - and an explanation for the extreme push from the SPS is this statement:
"The UW-Seattle Public Schools-Teaching Channel partnership aims to meet that challenge, not only locally, but also to prototype a model for high quality science teaching and professional learning that districts across the country can use."
Wheeek wheeek wheek - give your kids a carrot because they are the guinea pigs in a grand experiment designed, more than anything else, to further the career of MMW.

First they came for the math - but I was not a math teacher so I said nothing. Then they came for the science......
Knowledge (ie content) spawns questions - not the other way around. This is the big misconception in all these curricula designed by non-scientists to teach kids how "to engage in deep scientific reasoning".


Anonymous said...

Remember to go down and talk to the board about Amplify before it is too late. Also, demand they do a survey of our current students using the program to judge whether they like the program and if it has changed the way they view science.

Anonymous said...

More importantly, look at the OSPI website (Schools Report Card data). See how our students are actually performing under the Amplify Curriculum.
This is the most important criteria for using a given set of Curriculum Materials. Do students actually learn better. Under Amplify, they don't.

Concerned Seattle Parent