Monday, March 11, 2019

Science Updates for Seattle Schools

At the Board meeting, Director Jill Geary, head of the Curriculum and Instruction committee, said that she would welcome questions from parents/staff about the Science adoption.  She said knowing the questions would allow her to pass them along to staff.

End of update

Once again, I have to shake my head.  (At this rate, Linda Blair will have nothing on me and many days, I do feel like my head is going to go around and around, trying to take in all that this district's dysfunction has to offer.)

(Yes, I just said the district is dysfunctional which is something I have denied for a long time.  No more.  And this thread is just the start.)

Updates on the ongoing Science adoptions:

Apparently at Ballard High, students are "piloting" this curriculum, Physics Thru Reasoning.

A teacher who retired had been asked to come back to Ballard to fill in for the new teacher who was unexpectedly yanked from the class under not-great-circumstances (I know no details but it was not because the teacher could not teach.)

The returning teacher, to get up to speed, asked the students about what they were being taught (nothing to do with the new teacher).  Their answers are telling.  The students were asked about what they did the first 100 days in class - take data, make graphs on Excel, test/engineer a device you made, using curve-fitting or slope analysis to analyze data and find patterns, etc. Thirty-eight students gave answers.  Most of these students are in AP Calc.

Also to note is that there is this push to get aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and yet, if you read the students' comments, there's not much alignment with this physics curriculum. 

- The material is easy and we don't do experiments.
- Over and over, "not challenging" "boring" 
- I don't think this material adequately prepares me for a college-level class.
- The majority of the students said they finished the classwork with more than half of the class time left.
- "No math in this class."  "The math in this class doesn't come close to what I know how to do."
- Are you still excited about physics?  Not so much but I'm hopeful. 
- Would you recommend this class to a sibling?  "I wouldn't recommend it to my worst enemy." "Yes, because it would be an easy A."
- "It wasn't as hands-on as I thought it would be."
- "I learned this vocabulary in middle school."

The two statements that made me laugh (boy, I love high school kids so much):
-  I'm a math god. 
- I try not to pass out in class.

Note to Mary Margaret Welch on Physics Thru Reasoning - that would be a hard no. 
  • At community meeting on Saturday with Directors Burke and DeWolf, apparently there was a discussion about the Amplify curriculum. Somehow, thru many waivers, it has, become the de facto SPS science curriculum at middle schools (I believe Eckstein may be the only one NOT using it.) The Board voted NOT to endorse Amplify and yet somehow, it is being widely used.
  • Former director Sue Peters had a white paper from Amplify used to support sales of Amplify, which,  contained within it quotes from Mary Margaret Welch, head of Science for SPS,  about how great Amplify is.  Kind of odd given Amplify isn't an district-wide approved curriculum.
  • As well, Peters reported SPS received a large donation from “ an anonymous billionaire” to purchase Amplify stuff. Amplify is now owned by the Steve Jobs' widow, Lauren Powell Jobs.  
Again, write to the Board and tell them to pull rank - their role is to approve curriculum.  If they need to change the policy to reflect that there can't be over a certain percentage of schools that get waivers to use other curriculum, so be it.  spsdirectors@seattleschools.org

Update: members of the C&I Committee; Director Geary is now Chair.



Robyn said...

My 6th grader at Whitman has science first period. Every SINGLE day he begs not to go to school until after science is over. He hates it. He can articulate why he hates science and compares it (without prompting) with how much better it was in elementary school "cuz we actually got to do stuff". He also says they have half the class period free when they are done watching the videos.

My 8th grader at REMS is taking Biology. I didn't even know until a few weeks ago that they are piloting a curriculum. Hmmm, maybe it's called Carbon Time or something, but I am not completely sure. She has the exact same comments....It's SOOOOOO boring. We just watch people do experiments. We don't get to do anything. The tests have nothing to do with the unit we just learned (AKA watched).

One of my bigger issues is with kids having to pilot these curriculum. So, the kids at Ballard are forced to pilot this possibly crappy curriculum, have a possibly much worse science education and possibly fare much worse on SATs or AP exams because they were the unfortunate ones to be in a class piloting this curriculum? When my now 8th grader was in 2nd grade, she piloted 2 math curriculum in 1 year. She had different curriculum in K and 1st so 4 different curriculum in 3 years. I couldn't care less about standardized test scores, but her scores never waivered until that year when the math score dropped 10 points.

I remember a Bill Gates interview possibly on PBS about 10 years ago. He said class sizes could be 45 kids with one "facilitator" because the kids could all sit and watch videos going at their own pace. Sounds great in theory. However, both my kids love getting help and positive feedback from a human teacher. It makes them proud. A video making a little music because they were successful doesn't have any impact whatsoever. They also want hands-on experiments...not watching a video of someone doing the experiment.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is doing "Carbon Time" right now in 10th grade at Ingraham High School. She is very bored... in part because she has already done biology, and would not have chosen this as her science, but it's all that was offered to her. I am really starting to hate Seattle Public Schools because they have killed her interest in math, science, and programming, and a lot of it seems to be the curriculum and the repetition (and she's in HCC).

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Mary Margaret Welch also seems to be involved in promoting Carbon Time...

So neither Amplify nor Carbon Time is an official SPS board-approved curriculum, but they are being used all over the district--with SPS professional development support--even though students don't seem to like them? Is this because MMW has something to gain, either financially or in terms of academic research experience when she leaves SPS for greener pastures? This seems like a conflict of interest. Any time an SPS official is promoting a particular curriculum, the board should have to approve it.


robyn said...

Are all high schools moving toward non-math or low-level math based science classes? Now that we have a kid heading to high school, the differences between high schools are becoming very obvious. Some high schools seem to do non-math based physics and others require algebra II or concurrent enrollment. I don't yet fully know what I am talking about, but I think I read some schools have algebra based sciences while others have calculus(?) based. What the heck?

Having experience with HIMS, REMS and Whitman, I am floored by the dramatically different offerings at the middle schools, but the high school situation is staggering (Lincoln, Ingraham and Ballard are our comparisons). I've written to the Board about this MANY times. While I have a kid at a school with little to no choice (Whitman), I don't want offerings taken away from other kids. I don't have any knowledge, but I can imagine how few options there must be in the lower income schools. Certainly, I'd advocate for offerings for higher needs schools before mine. I am just speaking of what I know.

Ingraham mom at 4:10pm, why would they make your daughter retake biology? I thought there was a next in sequence guarantee of sorts.

Anonymous said...

A potential conflict of interest is that the only material being considered for Biology A is CarbonTime in which MaryMargaret Welch is acting as both a purchaser for SPS and a seller in her capacity as a researcher for the CarbonTime team.

CarbonTime has already invested multiple years gathering data on students and teachers, including Seattle Schools, and Welch has co-presented that data at conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals.

Yes, CarbonTime offers free curriculum, but a greater expense may be potential learning opportunity lost if a superior Biology material was never given fair consideration.





(p. 132, CarbonTime costs) https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/16-17agendas/09_10_2016/20160910_Agenda_Retreat_Packet.pdf

Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, the Carbon Time FAQ documents say the curriculum is appropriate for 6th graders. No wonder so many kids are bored to tears. SPS--lowering the bar for every student, every classroom, every day.


Anonymous said...

SCIENCE ‘REALIGNMENT’ or adoption or whatever that heinous BS is called by the siloed Margaret Welch which has foisted upon kids and teachers HAS GOT TO BE STOPPED IN ITS TRACKS IMMEDIATELY.

The legislature has REMOVED the physics/science test that had driven this district to push chemistry and physics courses down from higher grades into into 9th and 10th grade BEFORE the majority of SPS high school students have had algebra 2, meaning, the kids were put into a position of having to take science subjects that they were not mathematically prepared for because those subjects can only be properly learned by those with sufficient math skills and therefore, there is a fundamental misalignment between student & course content. So, Welch’s solution was to drain the math out of the science, breaking it up into A/A and B/B chunks in order to try and buy time for the math courses to move through the kids. Thus, kids are now going to completely waste their time with ‘chemistry lite’ and ‘physics for dummies’. What unearthly purpose does any of this charade serve?!?

Just stop the madness. Science matters. STEM is the critical area for employment growth and future prosperity. To deny kids a proper education only further exacerbated inequity - the very thing education ought to solve.

Further alienating families from SPS, that won’t go well. Hello, Shoreline! Hey, Bellevue! Mercer Island, you are looking good!


Anonymous said...

@Melissa The former Ballard physics teacher to whom you are referring informally surveyed the students in a chemistry class he is covering. My kid is in that class and gave feedback. That is also the class that lost the teacher due to some unfortunate circumstances. The answers quoted by the students I believe may be related to the chemistry class not a physics class.

It may be that he has also somehow spoken to current physics students as well, but I did want to clarify he is currently covering for a chemistry class. He is a super awesome teacher and we really hope he stays through the year.

Ballard Parent

Anonymous said...

Exasperated, the de-linking bill still has to pass the Senate. I'm hopeful but not optimistic.

As to the rest of the curriculum issues, I looked at what SPS has on the table and I'm aghast at what they've chosen for Physics and Biology (as a teacher of Earth space and Physical Science at a high school level). Both are generally too easy -- I wouldn't use the PEER stuff fro my conceptual physics class for students in Geometry. And there's no answer key for teachers, at least in my digging in the website.! The Bio one is weird, again way too easy but some lessons ask for super complex understanding of involved graph trends, and the final product is a cause-effect map of 4 boxes that kids could figure out with common sense, instead of a lesson in graph trends (it's in climate and the specifics escape me right now).
The STEMScopes program that is only on the table for Chemistry is actually pretty good--and covers biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/space (standards that aren't represented in the other two) reasonably well. There are math components to each unit, and it does a fair bit of writing. It's based on the 5E model which is time-tested and does a reasonable job of asking kid-accessible questions to get them involved in the units. No curriculum is perfect and applicable across all levels, but for one that could be handed off to a new teacher with no training (which lets face it, is how all new teachers get things), it's really pretty good. Every unit has ideas for remediation (usually vocabulary based, with games somewhat randomly chosen from ELL strategies; I'm not sure chromosphere is the best choice for a charades game, but it's a start), and some acceleration ideas (mostly books but again, a baseline to start from). If Seattle is really looking at any of these and wants an easy one-and-done, STEMScopes gets my vote.
I strongly encourage everyone to go to the seattle page (linked several posts back) and look at these for yourselves. The videos for magnets in PEER will pretty much sum up all of my feelings on it...

Outta Seattle

Anonymous said...

Upon further reflection, actually it's also possible the teacher for whom he is covering also had sections of the new Chem/Physics combined class (in addition to year long chem) that is the new science curriculum. It is probably that class to which he is referring. Science teachers were very upset about the new hybrid science curriculum at Ballard. They felt it very inferior to the full year versions.

Ballard is currently offering 3 classes. The traditional full year chemistry, full Year physics, as well as the new chem/physics hybrid class.

Ballard parent

Ballard Parent

Anonymous said...

Ballard Parent, yes, that's the case. He is subbing for more than one section , and at least one involves the new physics curriculum. He said so at the meeting, and the stack of feedback pages was way more than one class deep.

Science Parent

Anonymous said...

While it's great that Ballard HS offers both hybrid chem/physics and full-year chemistry and physics, only HCC and Biotech cohorts are allowed to skip the hybrid class and take the full year versions instead. Why aren't all Ballard students allowed choose the level of rigor they want, since the full year classes are still being offered? Can someone please explain the logic? What can be done?

Dumbledore's Army

Anonymous said...

Because current non-HCC freshmen are beginning the new pathway. HCC freshmen are on the old pathway, and there were no hybrid classes when they would have taken class 1, physA/chemA, in 7th grade. Don't worry, they'll get theirs, though. The current proposal is to allow everyone *but* HCC students skip the second half (physB/chemB) in favor of actually rigorous options-AP, electives, etc, but HCC students will be required to take it freshman year.

Couldn't tell you about biotech. Maybe a waiver?

Science Parent

Anonymous said...

@Dumbledore’s army - it is because of the math prerequisites required (and needed) in order to do higher level chemistry and physics.
HCC enters 6th grade doing Math 8; when they enter HS as freshmen, they already have 2 years of high school math under their belt. Actually, at JAMS, about 25% of them have completed *3 years* of high school math, and enter high school doing pre calculus course. Of course, math is NOT an HCC course: all entereing middle schoolers are placed into math at 6th grade according to teacher recommendations and math test results. So, to answer your question, it is not logic: it is readiness.
Pushing chem & physics down to freshmen who have not completed algebra means they are being ripped off and not getting real science. And there are those who will feign outrage and pretend the emperor is wearing great clothes, but pretending only goes so far: when kids have to write SATs or ACTs, they won’t be able to do well if they have not been afforded a real education.

math counts

Anonymous said...

Science Parent, worth a try. Thank you.

Would someone be willing to post a link that explains the SPS process for pursuing an academic waiver? I'm coming up empty handed.

Dumbledore's Army

Anonymous said...

math counts,
I agree. I should have asked, if the math prerequisites are met, and the class is being offered, why not have the option to choose?
Dumbledore's Army

Anonymous said...

Oh, I see your point! I agree, anyone who has the math prereq should be able to take the class. The district thinks the new classes are better(at least that is the line), so they don't want to subject kids to them and are just rolling up the last kids on the old pathway. I like your line of thinking better, though.

Science Parent

Anonymous said...

Full-year Chemistry is a prerequisite for AP Chemistry. I wonder if this means we won't see AP Chem much longer.

Dumbledore's Army

Anonymous said...

The reasons against adopting Amplify and now CarbonTime as well seem to be snowballing. We need to be alarmed.

There is well-documented indications that students and teachers don't like this new curriculum and are not learning from it (just read the multiple threads on this blog about Amplify).

There are new explosive charges that there is a significant conflict of interest from within the SPS science dept that is promoting this new curriculum. It is a bit like learning about global warming from scientist paid using petroleum money.

The adoption-through-piloting approach taken with these curriculums is an example of the lawlessness within SPS at its worse. If teachers, parents and the school board all have serious concerns about Amplify, yet SPS finds a way to push it through, we all need to be concerned about what this means for SPS as a whole. And if SPS is accepting outside funding to push through this unwanted curriculum without declaring it, it appears SPS is operating similar to corrupt countries that operate using the bribe economy.

It is too expensive. A curriculum that is entirely on a computer will require a vast influx of laptops for every science class that will be using it. And laptops are not a onetime cost. They will require maintenance (what happens when a student accidently loads a virus on the computer - or when the computer for some unexplained reason refuses to connect to the internet?) and replacement (the average lifespan of a computer is 3-5 years). Additionally the software and curriculum will no doubt require periodic updates, which will cost additional money beyond the advertised cost of the curriculum. In an era when we are telling our schools we can no longer afford full-time librarians, how can we afford Amplify??

It will further inequity. Contrary to the advertised push to use Amplify, a curriculum that relies so heavily on technology is actually more likely to increase inequity. If the curriculum is entirely on a computer and often online, then any problem that arises with the technology will effectively stop the learning. Schools with more monetary resources and parent volunteers, especially parent volunteers with a technology background will have more resources to fix the technology problems as they arise. Unless every school receives a dedicated IT department with this new science curriculum, schools lacking in resources will just fall even further behind.

It will not prepare our children for jobs in a tech-heavy world. Feedback from almost every student and teacher I have heard about Amplify is that it is boring, repetitive, and unable to be tailored to any student's or classroom's needs or interests. Students come out of the science classroom hating science. There is almost no hands-on experiments (and as a working scientist, I can tell you we still do hands-on experiments!) Any student with a hate of science and a lack of experience with hands on work will not be prepared for college-level science class and unlikely to pursue a science degree. This is unacceptable in today's tech-heavy economy!


Anonymous said...

As a parent at a North end middle school I can tell you that we have almost zero technology and have been told multiple times by SPS that we aren't going to be getting more. Then we are told we can't seek grants to buy at least some of our own because the laptops need to be purchased by the district to be covered by the district maintenance plan.

The idea of considering an online-only science program is laughable if the district can't afford to buy and maintain laptops. The few laptops we have are often gone for months at a time as they await SPS maintenance, which operates on a hefty backlog.

We have teachers. Let's let them teach, please, with a flexible, rigorous curriculum. While this is science, it isn't rocket science.

Concerned parent

Anonymous said...

PEER Physics comments by 11th and 12 grade students

How many times in the first 100 days of physics did you use Excel to make a graph?

0, 0, 0, never, zero, 1, 1, 0, none, 00, 0, 2, 1, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0-1, 5, 3, 2, 5, none, once, 0, 0, 0, 0, once, 0

Was the level of the material appropriate for you personally?

“No, it was low key insulting. Like it ask (sic) me questions as if I was an idiot. So easy.”
“No. I learned the vocab terms in middle school.”
“No, it felt too easy/not very challenging.”
“No, it felt like middle school.”
“No I feel like I could have done it in second grade”
“too easy”
“No, it was so basic it killed my interest”
“No it was made for an early middle schooler.”
“The level of the material was too easy for me.”
“It was lower then I would have liked.”
“No. Waste of time. I feel like I'm being treated like a freshman.”
“No, was super easy.”
“No, it is too easy and there were a lot of tedious worksheets.”
“No, it was easy and simple to the point of tedium.”
“No, I think a 6th grader could've done this class.”
“No. It was not thought provoking at all.”
“No. Math wa easy and everything was repetitive.”
“It was very simple and easy.”
“No, way too easy.”
“Absolutely Not.”
“No. Too easy.”
“No. Too easy.”
“The level felt lower than I would've wanted.”
“No. It was not very challenging.”
“No. Way too easy.”
“It was pretty boring and extremely basic, as it was combined with the slow pace which was not ideal.”
“I felt like too many worksheets and too little experiments.”

From the mouths of students

Anonymous said...

How would you personally compare the math you know with the math you used in physics class?

“The math I know is so far beyond this class.”
“I'm doing middle school math in this class (how it feels)”
“I didn't learn any new math in physics”
“My math capabilities are much higher than what was needed for physics.”
“I'm in AP Calculus BC, so the math used in physics class was significantly easier than the math I know.”
“The math we did felt like busy work.”
“I definitely am not using my full capability w/ the experiments and classwork, I could probably do it in my sleep.”
“Math in physics class was much easier.”
“When we did use math in physics, which was rarely, it was extremely simle algebra. While I am very interested in the stuff we are doing in Pre-Calc, I am bored at the math done in physics.”
“It was about 4 years behind or more.”
“I would be able to do these things in middle school.”
“Super simple algebra.”
“This math would be appropriate for 7th grade.”
“The math in physics was significantly simpler.”
“I used NO math in physics.”
“It was a whole other level of easy”
“I know way more than I used in class.”
“The math in this class doesn't even come close to what I know.”
“Know a little and used none.”
“We didn't use much math.”
“The math in physics is lower than I know.”
“No real math in physics.”
“I would go back to 7th grade for the math we used in physics.”
“I am learning much more difficult math in AP Calc than in physics. I learned the math we use in physics in 8th grade.”

Anonymous said...

On average, how much time did you have left in class after you completed your work?

“probably over half the class”
“20-30 minutes”
“50 minutes”
“All the time”
“30-40 minutes”
“30-40 minutes.”
“25 minutes usually”
“20 minutes”
“~20 minutes”
“Lots of time.”
“30 minutes, sometimes more.”
“~30 minutes”
“20-30 minutes”
“20-30 minutes”
“40 to 55 minutes”
“30 minutes”
“30-20 minutes”
“Around 25 minutes”
“25 minutes”
“40-45 minutes”
“20-30 minutes”
“30 minutes”
“30+ minutes”
“30 minutes”
“20-25 minutes”
“15 minutes at least”
“20 minutes → used for talking with friends + phone time”
“25-30 minutes”
“20-30 minutes”
“15-20 minutes”
“every day we had like 25-30 minutes”
“20 minutes”
“20 minutes, sometimes 30”
“like 25 minutes daily”

Anonymous said...

How many times in the first 100 days did you build or engineer or test or measure a device you'd made ?
(This is a major emphasis in the Next Generation Science Standards, a major rationale for this new physics curriculum)

3, 2, never, zero, no, not for a grade, never, 00, 0, 0, 3-5, 4, 4, 1, 3-5, 0, 1, 0, 1, none, never, 0, 0, 0, 1, twice, 1 (barely tho, was a very simple contraption), 0, 0, 0, no, 0,0

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I just realized I violated the blog rule about posts without a signature.

Let's use "From the mouths of students", since all those posts are student comments.


From the mouths of students

Anonymous said...

Would you recommend this class, with the same curriculum, to a younger sibling?

“No, it wasn't challenging and iot didn't make physics an exciting class”
“I would absolutely not”
“If you want a boring and easy class”
“I would recommend it to my 12-year old sister”
“I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy”
“If they want an easy science class, without too much critical thinking.”
“Absolutely Not.”
“I would recommend it as an easy A”
“No, except to have the class on your transcript.”
“Absolutely Not.”
“No. Super Boring.”
“Yes, because it would be an easy A”
“For an easy class, easy A: Yes. To Learn: No”
“No I would not.”
“No, the curriculum is very boring. I spent about half of each class working on homework for other classes.”
“No, I would send them to a more advanced version”
“Not at my age, maybe in middle school, probably not”
“If you want an easy A, or want to be babysat for an hour a day, with 30 minutes of 5th grade physics”
“If they wanted an easy A, yes”
“Not with the same curriculum”
“No. I have suggested to friends after taking this curriculum not to take physics”

This, dear friends is "birth control for science". Straight up.


From the mouth of students

Anonymous said...

Argh!!! SPS is actually planning on adopting this @#$%? I am deeply regretting not finding the time to review the science materials, though admittedly, the evaluation rubric seemed written with the piloted materials in mind. Kind of like they chose the materials, then wrote the rubric to match.

(note to poster above - sign FtMoS, or something that is two words or less, less your post gets deleted)

big fail

Anonymous said...

What about the students from Sealth? Franklin? Did they feel the same about the piloted curriculum? Did the Ballard teacher teach it authentically? Is it aligned to NGSS? (Which is state law) BHS has had a history the past several years of refuses to adjust their science teaching to align with state law... I reviewed the curriculum for adoption, and PEER was by far the most NGSS-aligned of the options. Maybe this isn't an SPS thing, but something for the state legislature if Ballard (really, per the alignment and subsequent adoption) and select teachers in some buildings, don't agree with NGSS- but a large number of teacher and schools do. Including Franklin and Sealth - both successful programs.
-South End Teacher

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

@ South End--
Is there some supplemental piece to PEER that ups the difficulty that was only available to pilots or had to be viewed in person? I teach a high school physical science class in another district and went through all the online curriculum; what I saw would have been remediation when I was teaching 7th grade in Seattle. Certainly not something I'd present to my 10/11 class.

Outta Seattle

Anonymous said...

@ South End

a) So, a large number of teachers and students in the South End like the curriculum? Sounds like it's already undergoing the same stealth de facto adoption - through - waiver maneuvers that got Amplify into all or nearly all SPS middle schools, in spite of the Board voting very specifically NOT to adopt it. And, are they doing something different or additional that makes it work? How is that not being communicated to other schools and teachers? The kids who wrote these responses have had a crap of an experience. Or is it a problem of "One size does not fit all ?"

b) Prior to this admittedly unscientific survey whose results appear above, Board directors DeWolfe and Burke (who's heading the Curriculum & Instruction committee) admitted they had seen NO student evaluations of the curriculum. None. And this whole business has become so incredibly clique-ish, with hostile camps of adults with unflinching opinions, that it perhaps is no longer very worthwhile for the camps to restate their positions. Let's hear what the students have to say. How do you actually respond to what these students have to say?

c) The urgent rationale for this curriculum was to align with NGSS standards. NGSS standards are not hugely different than the previous 5 sets of standards that have been rolled out over the last 2 decades. Physics, for example, is physics. Newton's Laws is going to be in there. One new emphasis in NGSS is on engineering: designing, building, testing, evaluating, modifying. Note student-reported results below. This piece is obviously missing from student experiences. Is this really the new holy grail?

How many times in the first 100 days did you build or engineer or test or measure a device you'd made ?
(This is a major emphasis in the Next Generation Science Standards, a major rationale for this new physics curriculum)

3, 2, never, zero, no, not for a grade, never, 00, 0, 0, 3-5, 4, 4, 1, 3-5, 0, 1, 0, 1, none, never, 0, 0, 0, 1, twice, 1 (barely tho, was a very simple contraption), 0, 0, 0, no, 0,0

As a person who pays my ever-increasing property taxes, I am

Very Disappointed,

Crapernicus said...

One size can't fit all. Students' math levels matter in many science classes. If SPS is producing students who are going to go on to a variety of professions and careers, we're going to need high school science classes that can prepare a student to be an elementary school teacher, a phlebotomist, a bus driver, an engineer, a patent lawyer, an immunology researcher, a baseball coach, a grocery store manager, etc. Our science curricula have to accommodate students who are pursuing hospitality and also students who are pursuing hospitals as anesthesiologists or whatever. I'm not really seeing why hospitality students need calculus and AP Physics. And I'm not really seeing why future science grad students need amplify video-gamed science. One size fits all is the wrong size. SPS is striving for mediocrity. And the head of science has shown that she should be relieved of that title.

suep. said...

Hi everyone,

Just a couple of clarifications:

The Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee is currently comprised of Jill Geary, Rick Burke and Scott Pinkham. Geary is the current chair. https://www.seattleschools.org/district/school_board/committees/


From the district Web site:
The C&I Policy Committee develops and reviews academic policies and make recommendations on Teaching & Learning Board Action Reports. They meet every once a month on Tuesdays from 4:30-6:30 pm.

Also, the Board has never (yet) voted on the Amplify Science curriculum. Amplify Science was introduced into about 19 SPS middle and K-8 schools via (arguably a misuse of) the waiver process, which does not require Board approval. (Though I would posit that a mass use of the same middle school curricular product by nearly all the district's middle schools amounts to a de facto curriculum adoption and an end run around Board policy and public scrutiny.)

However, when I was still on the Board, we did vote against the proposed expansion of the Amplify MClass Beacon test. There were many problems with it, that teachers, principals and families brought up.

Like the current Amplify Science curriculum situation, the MClass Beacon test was introduced into the District without Board approval. That's because the contract to purchase it fell under the $250,000 cost threshold that requires Board approval. (It was about $244,000.)

The Board will have the opportunity to vote for or against Amplify Science if that becomes the recommendation of staff and the adoption committee. But there are two other options as well -- TCI and HHM.

And once again it seems the Amplify product is problematic.

Anonymous said...

Crapernicus said: "SPS is striving for mediocrity."

No need to strive--we're there!

@suep, thank you for the clarifications. This part really struck me:

"Also, the Board has never (yet) voted on the Amplify Science curriculum. Amplify Science was introduced into about 19 SPS middle and K-8 schools via (arguably a misuse of) the waiver process, which does not require Board approval. (Though I would posit that a mass use of the same middle school curricular product by nearly all the district's middle schools amounts to a de facto curriculum adoption and an end run around Board policy and public scrutiny.)"

That should not be tolerated. The apparent conflict of interest makes it even that much more unacceptable. Supt Juneau needs to be held accountable for this continued culture of lawlessness, and the board should step in and require her to do an investigation of the whole unofficial adoption process. JSCEE does not seem to be acting in good faith.

downward spiral

Anonymous said...

I agree with above. If an SPS employee is flaunting the rules and appears to have a significant conflict of interest - putting into question whether or not she truly has the students' best interests at heart when running an entire department - the board needs to step up and investigate. This is exactly why we elected the board.


Anonymous said...

As a middle school science teacher I have to agree with one of the comments above. NGSS is not all that different from what the Washington Science Standards have been since I've been teaching. Yes, they now include language about Phenomena, modeling, and Engineering practices however any good teacher, with a science background, can easily figure those things out and add them to the existing curriculum. We are not, as was quoted in one of the Amplify documents, "The blind leading the blind".

Science Teacher

Anonymous said...

Many us in South End schools have few to no resources. We have low department budgets (less than $2000) to serve 1000-1500 kids. We have no textbooks for decades, limited equipment, and amazing kids who want to learn, and teachers who want to support their students. The Science Curriculum Adoption, supports all students, staff, and schools. It's not just about Ballard, or Roosevelt, or already privelage HCC kids. Many of us have already been using the curriculum up for adoption, because we don't have other curriculum. And because it's good. There's a reason MM Welch has been named a national leader in science education. She has brought together amazing teachers to work together and become better, and found curriculum partners - frequently university researchers - to make a good curriculum great for the kids in our classes.


(Scroll down)

-South End Teacher

Anonymous said...

None of us have department budgets. We all have a couple hundred dollars to serve thousands of kids. But also our tech could never support watching all these videos, and even if it could, the physics curriculum has almost no higher math and no hands on component. It's not good. It keeps kids quiet. That's not learning science. My peers who like the other curricula throw out big parts of it and add on tons. You did have the old curriculum, the same as we all did. It was better, and the updating it needed did not involve taking all the hands on elements out of physics.

Another Title One Teacher

Anonymous said...

Science teacher here who uses Carbon Time in my HS Bio classes. I had to severely add to the curriculum. Nothing comes perfect in education, and if you teach it 'as is' it is boring. My dept has collaborated to find interesting and challenging things to add to it. Students are now for sure challenged by it and asking deep questions, and the purpose of any repetitive parts is to 1) create structure unit to unit, 2) layer the learning from small atomic scale to large global scale.
Just one perspective ... :)
I assume for my specific school and community, any 'dumbed down' or math-lacking science curriculum needs to always be added to and ramped up. Our jobs are never done, and for those who know how to adapt to their students and love this job, we keep going.

Anonymous said...

Thank you genuine Science Teachers.

To south end - BS. You are not an actual Science Teacher. 1. Try spell check before you post next to improve your credibility as an actual educator. 2. Watching videos of science (if the computers and network are functioning) followed by watching a movie or doing homework for other classes is not science. Your trolling is subpar.


Anonymous said...

Not trolling, but grammar was sub-par. A long day, with great kids and colleagues.

In any case, focusing on my typos and grammar is only a way to distract from the point of my comment: that the curriculum adoption is moving science education forward in many SPS schools AND that this is being led by a person who has just been recognized as a national leader in science education.

South End Teacher

Anonymous said...

@Science Teacher
Worth noting that the offensive quote about teachers is from the School District's Science Program Manager Mary Margaret Welch.

“We need to help teachers understand the importance of this shift in practice and what it looks and feels like every day. For that, you need consistent professional learning—opportunities for teachers to have meaningful conversations with colleagues, under the direction of people who know what the shift looks like. I do have teachers come together to do sense-making themselves, but often it’s the blind leading the blind. We need resources provided by people who have a lot more time than classroom teachers. You can’t pull this off, or keep it up, without giving teachers a learning space.”—MaryMargaret Welch, science program manager for Seattle Public Schools

From this Amplify marketing whitepaper


@South End Science Teacher
I followed the link you provided. That bogus award is from an organization which is sponsored by - guess who? - Amplify.

Looks like alot of backscratching going on.

The award description of Welch is pure puffery and fiction. It doesn't come close to matching the reality of her record in SPS and how she has treated teachers ("the blind leading the blind"!), parents, Board Directors and the SPS community.

"Ms. Welch’s clear explanations and advocacy to parents, Board members and the community is improving K-12 science education in all Seattle Schools. One example of her outstanding work is at the middle school level where Ms. Welch provided a 3-year professional development program for all middle school science teachers on implementation of NGSS with a lens on model-based instruction, embedding discourse strategies for sense-making, and 3D formative assessments funded by a Math-Science Partnership Grant."

Since when is it okay for a district employee who is overseeing a curriculum adoption to help market one of the contenders and accept awards from them?

Is that what "national leaders" do?

- Reject Amplify

Eric M said...

Let's stipulate that these student responses are appalling. Classroom time has been utterly squandered.

These responses reveal an utter failure of leadership. If all curriculums need to grown and supplemented by teachers (and I agree with that), where were the mechanisms to support this during a so-called "pilot", when the holes in the curriculum would be most obvious, and most urgent to repair before next year's roll-out ?

This new physics "curriculum" at Ballard deliberately pushed aside a curriculum that I'd developed, over a 30 year career (and it pushed me out, too - I resigned in June after 32 years teaching, and walked away rather than teach under this regime). I worked on a neutrino detector at the South Pole. My students & I built experiments that flew aboard the Space Shuttle, a NASA high-altitude balloon, and NASA's zero-gravity airplane. All of these things found their way into my classroom. It was already a thematic, project-based approach . My students engineered clocks, rockets, trebuchets, musical instruments and cameras. During the 9 years I was at Ballard, physics enrollment grew from 2 and a half classes to 6.

So, that, pushed aside... for THIS?

Anybody in SPS who thinks there's a reasonable excuse for these student responses maybe ought to read them out loud, while imagining that's YOUR kid whose educational opportunity was pissed away.

Eric Muhs (ret)
National Board Certified Teacher
AAPT Washington State Physics Teacher of the Year 2013

Anonymous said...

@Eric M, thanks for your years of service. It sounds like you taught great classes--I wish I could have taken one. Have you considered a post-retirement career teaching physics classes to adults who love learning? :)

@ South End Teacher, your clarification sounds carefully written... You said" the curriculum adoption is moving science education forward in many SPS schools." Would you acknowledge, then, that it may have moved science education BACKWARDS in many other SPS schools? If so, do you think that is ok? Does equity mean stifling the educational growth of some--intentionally limiting their learning in the name of "equity"? Is it ok for students to sit in classes with nothing to do, or working on things they could have done--or did do!--years ago?

If the official new SPS approach is going to be "we teach to the bottom; everyone else can just sit there and tune out for years until the others catch up," then parents and students need to be told--so they can shop around. There are plenty of schools and districts that are focused on helping students actually learn.

downward spiral

Anonymous said...

When you have highly passionate, committed, expert science teachers like Eric leaving due to the one-size-fits-all standardization mindset of administrators, and that same science administrator is still in place despite flagrant conflicts of interest in materials procurement, then why would families with choice stay?

Silence of leadership denotes approval.

We’ve “heard” you loud and clear, and we’ll vote with our feet.


Anonymous said...

True. When a kid comes home day after day complaining about how boring school is, and explains to you what they are "learning" (which you know they already know), the natural and logical response is to look at other options. For some that means private, or charters, or choice or option schools. For others, it may mean supplementation at home, or partial homeschooling, or outside classes. For others, unfortunately, it may mean nothing. But don't blame the parents, or the kids. The fault lies squarely on the district, which fails to provide the appropriate level of challenge for many, and the appropriate level of support for many others. The idea that all kids are at the same point in their learning, or that all students have the same capacity for learning in all subjects, is ridiculous. And yet, SPS insists on moving closer and closer to a one-size-fits-all model, which will drive many more away.

many sizes

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well said, Many Sizes; I might have to reprint it elsewhere.

kellie said...

@ Eric M,

Thank you for service and for daylighting the real world consequences of this science adoption. The science adoption is actually the primary reason, why I was uncertain about whether next year's high school projections were accurate or not.

The district is projecting a greater than 15% decrease in high school enrollment. While in general the number should be ludicrous on its face, the science adoption has been so disruptive, that it makes such a severe enrollment drop, plausible.

If the science adoption is driving veteran and senior teachers, such as yourself, out of the district, it is also likely driving families to other options.

Anonymous said...

I have looked at the Amplify curriculum in my field of molecular biology/biotech and it is very poor. Shockingly so. But more importantly, I believe the district's idea (espoused by South End Teacher) that reluctant science learners require this dumbed down curriculum is criminal. This perspective underscores decades of lack of service by the district to struggling students. Instead, the district has used the advanced learning (AL) students (carting them around like a team of trick ponies) to artificially raise test scores instead of addressing the real educational/academic needs of underperforming schools. Subsequently, when it became politically expedient - the district administrators and many principals and teachers vilified the AL students as if THEY were the source of the district's failure to serve all students. Another criminal act by the district against students in my opinion. Struggling students need more live teachers not video babysitting. Instead, the district is content to set these students on a path toward future failure by underserving them with Amplify. Furthermore, I believe there is a fiscal conflict of interest in the district's support for this curriculum - as evidenced by the Amplify funded award to Mary Margaret Welch. This type of corruption has occurred previously in the Seattle Public Schools and contributed, in part, to the firing of Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson (Juneau should take note). Finally, Eric M is not the only teacher I know who was driven out of the district for advocating for challenging curricula for all students. Supporting talented teachers is anathema to the Seattle Public Schools.


Mom said...

Does sps have a conflict of interest policy? Maybe Melissa/ some readers know...

Anonymous said...

a. Taking money from an "Anonymous Donor", to place Amplify Science in Seattle Middle Schools.
Without Public knowledge, or Board approval.
b. Ignoring numerous complaints about Amplify Science Curriculum from Middle School parents, students, and teachers.
c. Exporting student and teacher data from the District.
d. Insulting SPS Teachers ("blind leading the blind") while making positive marketing statements for Amplify Science.

This is Mary Margaret Welch, Science Director of the Seattle Public Schools.
Whose actions are facilitated by a School Board, which has failed in its basic oversight, and due diligence, duties.

Seattle School Board, what is the name of the "Anonymous Donor" who paid for Amplify Science, to be imposed in our Schools??!

Seattle Parent