Live Blogging from Curriculum&Instruction Committee

Update 2: My reflections
Director Geary seemed resigned but determined from the beginning that 1) this committee meeting was not enough to get it right to then send this adoption request to the full Board for Intro and 2) she is determined to convene a meeting of the whole Board, listen, ask questions and then...move on.  A vote up or down.  (I don't mean that they would vote at that COW meeting but rather get everything out and then it moves on in the process.)

I suspect the Superintendent and staff will push for an Intro/Action vote but I hope the Board says no to that as well. It needs the full process for this to be a valid adoption.

I believe this process was marred by MaryMargaret Welch and her zeal to get the adoptions done to the outcome she wants.

To note, one reader mentioned a National Science Foundation grant - I kid you  not - to study the efficacy of Amplify Science for Middle School.  I have been investigating this as an option as to where these free materials for middle school for Amplify came from.

What makes me suspicious (and continuing on this path) is the pushback I have gotten.

From staff (no comment because of RFP).  From Amplify (no comment because of RFP)  Both of those "no comments" defy the fact that this has nothing to do with the adoption.

Continuing on.  Pushback from the National Science Foundation.  And finally, obfuscation from the team at WestEd who are doing the work of this study.

When you have that many people who refuse to answer some simple and direct questions, well, it seems quite odd.

Yes, I do have a FOIA with NSF and a public disclosure request to SPS. 

end of update

Update:  The Committee voted to hold off a vote to bring it to the full Board.  They want to have a Committee of the Whole meeting - and soon - to hear answers to final questions.  The Science Committee did not seem happy but that was the decision made.

End of update

1) Many members of the adoption committee are here in force.  So meeting has moved to auditorium.

2) I’ll post the photo of the huge amount of materails.

3) Chair Jill Geary seemed to indicate discouragement of getting anything done today on the Science adoption.  That is what she told me when I came in the door.  We’ll see.

4) President Harris and Director Burke are present.

As we start the meeting, there are no other directors present.  (Harris is sitting in for Scott Pinkham who is another member of the Committee. No explanation made.)

There is an SEA rep here whose name I didn’t catch.

Burke asked (separately) for adoption items to be separated to different meetings. Geary said it should be a COW (Committee of the Whole) meeting, saying this repetition isn’t getting it done in committee..

Superintendent Juneau heard about pulling it from the agenda.  Curriculum adoption is one primary work for the district.  She mentioned going to schools and see the importance of curriculum.  “We don’t know what we don’t know.”  She mentioned students who move around, it can be problematic.
She doesn’t want to wait  - “ it puts us behind the timeline.”  “We are thinking about things that are not curriculum related.  With loud voices about questions asked and answered.  “I get your fiduciary duty but we either do it or not.  I’m fine with COW but we would be stuck with old curriculum.”

Basically, she’s trying to guilt them.

She has Mia Williams, Aki Kurose principal, with her to talk about what it means to a middle school.

Williams said  it’s an equity issue.  Need to give more to the kids “and look at where all the jobs are.”  “We always have the haves and have nots and need a basic level for all kids, a floor to walk on.”  “We have to do better by our students.”

Juneau remarked bysaying she “gets all that” about adoption but she wants to move it forward “in some way” and “parse out politics from curriculum.”  And she mentioned “hearing things on a blog.”  Nothing like being a convenient whipping boy.

Burke - "We have processes to bring student outcomes.  My ask - from day one - how are we identifying student outcomes from this $10M as we RIF teachers, is that going to generate those outcomes?  I test before I use something at work.  I have daughters who are interested in STEM so it is important to me. Is this going to get us to where we want to go?  Most of my questions had been around this as well as sufficient funding and we were told we didn’t have the money.

Many elements are not closed in this loop.  We don’t have the information to make a decision today."

MMW shaking her head, over and over.

Harris:  "Since before being on Board, curriculum adoption has been a priorityfor me. Still have significant concerns about getting results from pilot program.  Do I have faith in our teachers?  Beyond and I appreciate the hard work done thus far.  If at the end of the day, I don't vote for this, it doesn’t mean I don’t have respect for our teachers.  It might mean some of our systems are radically misaligned. We have new leadership and have been handed a baton midway thru.  Transparency is absolutely critical to me and I want to be secure in my vote and above the fray.”

She’s amazed at the volume of mail and input on this issue.  She likes the idea of the COW to be able to talk together.

Kyle Kinoshita said it is a big decision that will have an impact for 9 years.

DBacker - “We don’t really know what we’re teaching in science. I know teachers know but as a Board, keep that in mind as well. Was the process, way back when, done as preferred?” - “Does our district deserved a approved curriculum in Science? Take back to COW, be specific of ask for us as staff in order to say yes or no, either way.”

“We have answered questions over and over and over, maybe not as thoroughly. In some manner or another."

"As I think about our district and attract and retain teachers, if they have a choice, may say I’ll choose somewhere else so I know what I’m teaching."

Geary thank you for your comments. "We can’t move forward today if I call for a vote and I don’t want to have two conversations. We need one period of accountability and to ask our questions in advance. Staff then responds and we are called to a vote."

Move to COW soon.



Tired Mom said…
Thank you for attending, Melissa.
Anonymous said…
Wow, I am really not impressed with Juneau and her seeming unwillingness to listen to parents and her insulting comments. Yes, I am a parent of an SPS student. I am not “noise” and she has little understanding of the history and importance of this blog bringing serious SPS issues to light.

Since I have zero confidence in SPS and the consideration of the education of all students count us out of here too. That’s a shame that SPS does not care to try to retain this once avid public school supporter. Shame on you Juneau.

NW Parent
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Reposting two anonymous comments but, in the future, read and abide by the comments rules.

Anonymous said...
It must me nice to have the resources to move your children out of the district. Mocking equity when it is painfully obvious what the demographic of this blog and its followers are. This blog is like “info wars” for privileged white parents.
4/23/19, 6:29 PM

No one is "mocking equity" but that's a dog whistle to shut down a conversation (see, I know my "info wars" memes, too.)

Anonymous said...

What are you taking about, ask the people moving out of the district ARE low SES families. And they're moving to suburban districts that are MORE diverse than Seattle many with 100% FRL schools and most of which are doing better at teaching students, and certainly better at AL and SPED. You would know that if you read this blog but jeez I mean read a newspaper or something some time.

4/23/19, 6:45 PM Delete said…
Thank you for attending and reporting on this. My daughter is in 6th grade at a middle school that's using Amplify. She used to want to be an astronaut and has talked about it for years She's completely bored and is now talking about a career in art instead. As someone who personally has a science based profession, it's really pretty upsetting seeing her passion for science wither.
Anonymous said…
To the anonymous person seeming to accuse me of being a "privileged white parent": You know nothing about me or my circumstances but believe me I am fare removed from your description of me. There are other options for Seattle students besides moving or enrolling in private schools. And again, show me the proof that Amplify increases equity. And I did say educate ALL students.

NW Parent
Anonymous said…
Wondering whether there was any discussion about Policy 2024, re online credits and whether the committee voted to send that back to the Board again for introduction and/or approval. I've previously posted and written to the Board about a number of concerns regarding that new proposed policy.


Anonymous said…
I am also really disappointed in Juneau's comments. I think that she is demeaning to parents. Someone up-thread used the term "insulting." I experienced her when she came to a meeting of the special education group. It was similar - impatience, you don't see the bigger picture (to families), etc. I also have a student who could have been highly engaged by science and is so bored by the repetitiveness of Amplify. Above all, the lack of transparency. Anonymous donors. Seriously? This is why people are cynical and mistrustful.

Anonymous said…
This is why we email the board. Every email I sent the board I also sent to Supt. Juneau, the Asst. Supt., and the CAO. At least the board takes the time to read the emails from parents and reflect upon their messages. Thank you School Board for all your hard work and for the apparently thankless jobs of taking the students' experiences and parents' opinions into account when making decisions about our schools. We appreciate your work.

Anonymous said…
"...What are you taking about, ask the people moving out of the district ARE low SES families." To put some numbers behind anon's comment, consider the %FRL of SPS (per OSPI):

2017-18 - 31.8%
2016-17 - 33.9%
2015-16 - 36.0%
2014-15 - 37.6%
2013-14 - 39.9%
2012-13 - 41.6%
2011-12 - 43.2%

Anonymous said…
Am I misreading it, or did Amplify (or some partner on their behalf) seriously put their fingers on the scale here, providing the curriculum for free for a couple years so it could be nicely embedded and thus preferred by some of the (less experienced?) science teachers and administrators (because who really wants to learn another new curriculum and go through more trainings)? That was an ingenious strategy, though probably also against SPS policy, ethics, RFP procedures, etc. What if we had piloted other curricula for a couple years, and did a side-by-side comparison? What if SPS had used some other teachers’ “teacher-developed” curricula as other comparisons, instead of the single unit they did?

The primary consideration for Board members in deciding whether or not to approve this adoption should be effectiveness—does it work for ALL, and not widen gaps for some. Where are the data demonstrating this to be the case? Isn’t that the whole point of a pilot? If the results are inconclusive, pilot something else, too. Ask the anonymous donor to keep supporting our free trial while a representative group of other schools pilot TCI or whatever else is available. Even if we have to pay a small fee to try TCI, that’s a more responsible investment than going all in on an unproven program. Experienced science teachers can keep doing their thing in the meantime.

And I have a very hard time believing that there were no other good options to try for various subjects and grade levels... Really?

We need a transparent process all around.

Secret Handshake
Anonymous said…
Melissa- I think your reporting raises good questions, but the comments here frequently are just toxic. I think the main reason people at SPS are skeptical of this blog is that the comments here are a breeding ground for conspiracy theorists and trolls. The Seattle Times just updated their comment system to remove trolls, and it seems like it might be a good time to move to a new comment system here too.

We rolled out Disqus on Wallyhood a few years ago and it's helped a lot. It's a free comment system for Blogger and Wordpress and has many features blogger lacks, such as community flagging of negative posts, threaded conversations, and the option to require that posters at least register an openid before posting (saving you from over and over again requiring people to sign their posts). Unlike blogger comments, it's actively maintained and agnostic about google vs microsoft vs facebook, so it's welcoming to everyone.

Please read here for more info on all the features that would be helpful:

-troll control
Anonymous said…
You don't have to engage with those you consider trolls.

self control
Anonymous said…
Well, I'll say it for the 100th time. Transparency. Transparency. Transparency. If Superintendent Juneau is frustrated by parents' inability to see "the big picture" then it is incumbent upon her and her staff to articulate that big picture and the tradeoffs involved in big decisions in front of the district. If they don't want people engaging in conspiracy theories and rumor, they need to present facts and evidence about programs, benefits and the costs involved.

And, of course, if you as a public servant push back and decline to be transparent, then the assumption is that you have something to hide.

This isn't rocket science.

Concerned parent
Anonymous said…
Denise Juneau is heading down a path full of trouble. She seems to be adopting a very top-down mentality in which concerns - even extremely serious ones - brought to her by parents and students and teachers are ignored. If she's dismissing financial, ethical, and legal concerns with the science adoption that is already a red flag.

But her attitude toward WMS, where she is totally unwilling and uninterested to address a genuine crisis, where students are being bullied and harassed by the principal, is going to be her biggest challenge. To simply ignore a bunch of students who repeatedly bring concerns to her is asking for an explosive outcome.

Seattle is not a community where we just sit back and let staff make all the decisions for something like public schools. Every time a superintendent has taken this top down "my way or the highway" approach the result has been massive confrontation with parents who know how to organize, know how to win elections, and eventually, know how to get rid of a Superintendent. If she wants to just dismiss this all as "blog comments" then she really doesn't know what she's dealing with.

Juneau is picking fights where she doesn't need to. She came in with a lot of goodwill and can build on that simply by taking concerns seriously, bringing parents and teachers in, and working out solutions that meet everyone's needs. That's what everyone wants. If she wants a fight, she will get one, and as the history of this district shows, she *will* lose that fight. And with it will go any hope she has of holding any national position in a future Democratic administration.

Save WMS
Anonymous said…
@Save WMS,

Can you provide some detail of what is going on at WMS? How are District Staff failing to address problems there?

What are Juneau's responses?

Concerned Parent
Troll Control, I'll take your comments under advisement.

Concerned Parent, here's a partial list:

- dismantling schedules, both the types of classes and then the actual schedule itself without notification to students, parents and apparently, staff
- restricting bathroom use
- shaming students who misbehave
- refusing to meet with parents to talk about concerns

District staff should be stepping in - based on a large volume of complaints - to bring the parties together. That hasn't happened. (And stop me if I'm wrong but I believe that includes their Executive Director.) DeWolf? AWOL. Juneau? I haven't seen anything that she's said at all and parents have been coming to Board meetings regularly.

Anonymous said…
Sadly, the behavior of the principal at WMS, while extreme, mirrors the leadership style favored by executive staff across the district. It is rare to experience principals and district employees acting with transparency, demonstrating a true collaborative spirit, and listening to families' concerns without behaving defensively. I guess parents could mobilize, attend board meetings, and make phone calls and send emails - but my personal experience has not led me to believe that these behaviors make any difference whatsoever.

When principals and district staff are allowed to act with impunity over and over, parents grow weary. This weariness sometimes results in homeschooling or moving one's kids to private school, but the vast majority of Seattle families are stuck with SPS. ALL our families deserve better treatment than this - and their children deserve a more predictable, less tumultuous educational experience. There is so much good teaching and learning going on at the classroom level, but the way schools and the district are being run is really disappointing.

We can do better! Why don't we?

Enervated Educator
This weariness sometimes results in homeschooling or moving one's kids to private school, but the vast majority of Seattle families are stuck with SPS. ALL our families deserve better treatment than this - and their children deserve a more predictable, less tumultuous educational experience. There is so much good teaching and learning going on at the classroom level, but the way schools and the district are being run is really disappointing."

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner. This is the entire situation with the district in a nutshell. And when will it change?
Elsa said…
But the board is dedicated and working hard?

In what way?

If they were, there might be an improvement.
The Board is dedicated and, for most of them, working hard. I'll have more thoughts on this another time.
kellie said…
There is a good reason why this blog is hated by so many downtown, and it is not the conspiracy theories. It is the institutional memory.

Every new person, thinks they are starting with a blank slate. But all organizations have a history and a culture and it is important to learn from your past, not keep repeating it.

This science "adoption" keeps pretending that it is somehow independent of its own history.

This "group" with MMW was started with the mandate to conduct a rather small alignment with the new standards for the PURPOSE of the preparing folks for a new high stakes test. That was where this started.

This group was full of intelligent, hard working, well meaning, talented people. These educators found that the state of science education in SPS was troubling. That's a very reasonable observation.

Then the trouble started. The LEADERSHIP of this group grossly overstepped their mandate repeatedly and they want to distract from this simple observation. This group then set about the process of reinventing science education. That was NEVER their charter. If that had been the charter, there would have been board involvement and public meetings from the onset.

When the groups conclusions were first announced, there was considerable push back. The task force was reasonably upset but ... at no point did the LEADERSHIP deem it worthy to include their constituents (other science teachers and families) in their process and bring them along.

Then there was the push to use the non-existent "building budgets" to pay for this ALIGNMENT. At that point, it became crystal clear, that the over-reaching, had tread into a very hard legal obstacle. The State of Washington has very clear laws about curriculum ADOPTIONS and it was beyond debate that the alignment had turned into an adoption. The board very correctly made this clear and the process needed to start again.

So now, here we are a year later, after the "alignment" went down in flames. And once again, this committee or task force has overstepped its mandate. The criteria for the "adoptions" used as the primary criteria and online learning platform.

These criteria were not publicly vetted, nor did these criteria receive board approval.

And once again, this committee and downtown is SHOCKED, that the public, wants a public process and wants transparency. This process is going to establish the course of science education in this district for the next decade or longer. It need to be done PROPERLY, not orchestrated with a fixed conclusion in mind.

Anonymous said…
I think it's worth repeating something someone said either on this thread or a previous one. That the contract for Amplify is pre-paid for 9 years. This is just for the right to use Amplify (which has tests that we are not allowed to change) for 9 years and at the end of that time we are let with NOTHING. No books, no lab equipment, NOTHING. (Can someone please tell me if this really is true.)

If curriculum adoption in the district is like it was last time, then we could easily go longer than 9 years before we have another adoption. What will teachers do in 10 years when the contract has ended and another adoption hasn't happened? What will they use to teach science?

I'm afraid it will be like it was in 2001 when I came to the district and worked at Meany, where there truly was no curriculum materials at all. Regardless of how up to date you think the kits are, at least they have lab materials that are easy to use.

Teresa Alsept
At the committee meeting, Juneau kind of airly waved off "the process", saying she knew there was one. Almost like it's a bother.

Teresa, here's what Amplify's website says:

The program includes instructional guidance and student materials for a year of instruction, with lessons and activities that keep students engaged every day.

Student Investigation Notebooks with Article Compilations

Available for every unit, the Student Investigation Notebooks contain instructions for student activities and space for students to record data, reflect on ideas from texts and investigations, and construct explanations and arguments. A full compilation of all unit articles are also included."

I find the language a bit confusing. The first paragraph says there are lessons and activities (but are they all online?) The second paragraph says "available" and not "comes with." I'd have to go back to the volume of paper that was put out at the meeting for clarity.

Director Burke was quite clear about the issue of paying a lot for a probably 10-year use of curriculum and wanting to feel sure of his vote.

One issue that has been sidestepped is the cost of tech. The waivers used some form of Amplify "tech-lite" because the students were 2-1 for computer use. (And that "mini-grant" for all those computers? I have a call into head of Tech about that.)

In the ITAC meetings, we have discussed going 1-1, starting in HIGH school. If they approved Amplify, I can't think that it will then be middle school. I think high school needs it more (and I'm fairly sure they can't afford both).

Anonymous said…
@kellie, can you please clarify what you meant when you wrote "the 'alignment' went down in flames"? As far as I can tell, the reorganized scope and sequence for high school classes WAS implemented. In other words, the ChemA/PhysicsA, then BioA/B, then ChemB/PhysB classes are currently what many kids are having to take. Isn't that the realignment? It might not have officially happened, but it has in practice. The kids who aren't doing that are most likely those who are still in a transition period based on what they'd already taken before this was rolled out.

Anonymous said…
I always thought that teachers were masters of the subject matter that they taught. We have heard repeatedly that teachers spend many hours after school and weekends grading papers and putting together lesson plans.

From my point of view, math, reading, writting have not changed in all that much in the last 100 years. The past learning materials used that produced mathematicians, writers, and literariness seemed to worked, so why are districts buying poorly written and designed learning materials? Are these materials for learning or are they for social engineering?

It seems districts should be the experts a status achieved by serving millions of students a year yet they have to rely on 3rd parties to provided them their instructions?

Are teachers now just test prompters? Just activist? Just basic?

Reality check

Anonymous said…
@Melissa, "Science Investigation Notebooks" sound like they are either (a) 1-time-use materials (i.e., workbooks that get thrown away after each term/year, then need to be replaced for each subsequent student--and after each change to the online, theoretically annually updated curriculum), OR (b) your basic dime-a-dozen composition books that students often use as science notebooks now. If it's "a", does the fee include a steady supply of enough workbooks for everyone, or do we have to buy the materials on top of the subscription?

Also if "a," will we ACTUALLY get new copies every year, instead of making students "preserve" materials that were designed to be used up? In the past my kids have had to re-write everything that was in their "workbooks" so that the workbooks could be recycled for others in the future. Not only is that incredibly inefficient--and kids waste a lot of their "learning" time simply re-writing the questions, data, etc.--but also discriminates against kids with dyslexia, dysgraphia, etc., who have a more difficult time copying things down. It's a stupid exercise that distracts from learning, all in the name of saving money. I would bet that any evidence of academic gains attributed to such a curriculum--if they exist at all--are based on using the curriculum as intended, AKA "consuming" the consumables. Has the academic rationale accounted for this?

As well, the consumables aren't physically designed to last as long as real books in the first place, so they would need to be replaced frequently regardless. Has the adoption budget accounted for this?

Anonymous said…
"At the committee meeting, Juneau kind of airly waved off "the process", saying she knew there was one. Almost like it's a bother."

We keep seeing this type of behavior from her. In many contexts. Doesn't she understand that she is supposed to be inspiring our trust, and that demonstrating respect for our concerns about transparency and correct process ... is how leaders lead and earn trust? Gosh this district leadership situation is turning into a bowl of jello.

Anonymous said…
Looks like it's time for a wholesale change of all current school board members up for election.

It's the boards responsibility to keep the Super under control, they are not doing so.

Parents and citizens can only control who sits on the board and indirectly the Super.

It may not be a bad thing to start 2020 with only a combined 4 year of board experience. New people new thoughts new approaches.

--Do it

suep. said…
The Amplify costs are not adding up.

The BAR from staff asking for Amplify for middle schools cites the cost as $1.5 million to cover licensing only for 9 years. There is no mention of any materials or PD.

The BAR from staff recommending Amplify for K-5 cites a total amount of $7.4 million for 9 years, broken down as $2.4 million for a "three year phased in purchase and implementation plan, covering licensing" for 9 years and $5 million for "in-house professional development" (!!!)

The K-5 costs are expensive and you would assume would be beyond the district's budget. I don’t ever recall such high costs for a curriculum adoption before, nor such expensive PD.

Adding to the inconsistencies, in the RFI (Request for Information) cost estimates submitted to the District on 6/29/18 by Amplify, the vendor offers two options for K-8 adoption:

“Option 1 - With print student investigation notebooks” which totals $18.586,791.13

“Option 2 - Without print student investigation notebooks” costs: $11,256,802.74

That's right -- nearly $19 million or $11 million. These costs are exorbitant!

So how do the much lower prices in the BAR reconcile with these estimates?

Not mentioned in either BAR are the costs of notebooks, text books or any lab materials.

So what does that mean? Amplify will supply no consumables or hands-on lab materials?

Then how will teachers and students get them? With what funds?

If that means that teachers will have to print out work sheets or notebooks themselves, that would be time consuming and costly.

Also, as others have mentioned on this thread, none of these estimates account for the costs of technology required to use these online products. Amplify requires a computer for each student. Currently that doesn’t exist in SPS, nor has the Board directed that to happen. As Ms. Alsept points out, internet access and conditions of computers are not reliable and equal at each school.

The BAR for middle school doesn’t cover the whole costs.
The BAR for elementary school doesn’t either (no mention of materials) yet has a disproportionate expense for professional development.

Meanwhile, in the high school BAR, CarbonTime is described as having no cost because it is "free" online. That is also misleading. CarbonTime is also an online product, so again, there would need to be a huge investment in technology to make it work. And since no materials are being provided, where is the opportunity for hands-on lab work? And again, if no notebooks or text books are provided, that means teachers are going to have to print out endless worksheets, pages etc themselves. That has a cost in time and resources, and passes the publishing part of the cost onto schools and teachers.

Staff needs to explain these numbers to the Board. The Board needs to know the real costs of implementing Amplify or any online curriculum. Right now, the numbers don’t add up.

-Sue Peters
Anonymous said…
"That's right -- nearly $19 million or $11 million. These costs are exorbitant!"

Not to mention 8-15 teachers and staff are simulataneously proposed to be cut from each of the various Tier 3 & 4 high schools.

HS parent
wildcat said…
On top of my kids' hatred for Amplify and Carbon Time, I am wondering about the "alignment" which got rid of full year physics and chemistry. In my day, we took Bio, Physics, Chem. I am in the process of helping my kid pick 9th grade classes. Do 4-year colleges no longer want the old school sequence of science mentioned above (bio, physics, chem)? At our assigned school, it's not actually easy to get that combination of science unless you are HCC (per the online coursebook and my understanding anyway).

Anonymous said…
@wildcat, students should be able to get that same combo, just in a different order (the same will be true for HCC). Kids are supposed to do the first half of chem and physics in 8th grade (GE), then the 2nd half of each in 10th grade. In theory, those 2 halves of each are supposed to combine to be equivalent to a full year of each (with a year of biology in between).

What's the challenge in getting that at your school? Can you share what they're offering instead?

kellie said…

To clarify what I meant when I wrote "the 'alignment' went down in flames"?

At this exact same time frame last year, we had the exact same arguments.

The push for Amplify has been in the works for a long time now. Last year, there was this push to pay for this "alignment" via the non-existent building budgets. When it became clear that this mythical building budget was truly non-existent and that staff would require board authorization to PAY for this alignment because the alignment would cost more than $250,000, the board pushed back.

The exact same arguments were made, one year ago. "Staff has invested a lot of time and it would be disrespectful to not honor their work. It has been a long time and we desperately need a science adoption. This the ONLY way to create equity in the sciences ... etc, etc. etc."

Because it was technically ILLEGAL for the board to approve the funds since the LEGAL PROCESS required by the State of Washington for curriculum adoption was not even nominally followed, everything got pushed out a year.

That is what I meant by "down in flames." The task force was sent back to the drawing board with the instructions that if what they want is an adoption they need to follow the LEGAL guidelines for a curriculum adoption.

So now, one year later, we are in the same place, with the same arguments, and a nominally followed curriculum adoption, that somehow mysteriously, reached the same exact conclusion as the last process. Coincidence?

There is an argument to be made that some "process" was followed. And you could make an argument that this year's "process" was a curriculum adoption process. However, there most certainly was not an open and transparent curriculum adoption with full community and board engagement.

The entire notion that the primary requirement for this current "adoption" was a criteria that effectively removed all other options and that as far as I can tell, this new "adoption committee" is the same committee.

If the spirit of the law was being followed, there would have a completely different process and downtown would have started the process afresh and advertised for new committee members to start a new process. But instead, it looks fraudulent. It may or may not be fraudulent. But the epic failures in transparency and community engagement, make this look deeply suspect.

If it is not suspect, it would only take, a modicum of transparency to correct this. But instead ... we have "the process was followed, give us the money and STFU."

Kellie about sums it up but there is other information to be viewed from the BAR for this request. I'll try to get that up soon.
Anonymous said…
@wildcat That is the pathway as I know it, but as kids come in with different sciences and math it can vary. I am not sure what school you are referencing, but at Ballard High and I think most other schools its the level of math (not whether HC) that determines which science they can take at that school. In middle all HC kids are accelerated two years in science, but when they get to high school they cannot all enter two year ahead science as math level plays a factor. This is due to the fact that (traditionally) the chemistry & physics were year long math based courses that required an algebra math competency.

We know for example 9th grade HC kids who were 1 year ahead in math who could not take chem or physics, but as they had already taken Bio in HC middle took a different science such as botany instead. The various levels of math for all kids, combined with different science classes in middle, make placement much more varied so its good that they do offer a variety of science classes to meet various kids needs. We also know some kids skipping physics or chem for an AP science class if they have the math.

BH parent
suep. said…
@kellie, Yes, the plan to adopt Amplify in SPS has been in the works since at least 2016. Amplify admits that in their documents. Consequently, the process that was used to reach this preordained decision did not follow policy and law, and there's bias embedded throughout.

Some examples:

13 of the 15 staff members on the middle school curriculum adoption committee were from schools already using Amplify. Why wasn't it a 50-50 split with teachers from schools not using Amplify (like TOPS, ORCA and Pathfinder)?

For all of the staff (and some committee members) talk about equity, the committees did not reflect the diversity of the district. All three committees were 65-75% white. The district is currently comprised of 47% white students. This is a violation of Board Policy 2015 that requires adoption committees to reflect the diversity of the district. (One exception was the 3 students on the high school committee who were all students of color.)

Two members of the high school committee have direct connections to Amplify research (via the UW research project with SPS & Amplify) Jessica Thomson and Philip Bell.

A member of the middle school committee is featured in marketing materials for Amplify (Emily Elasky).

The head of the whole adoption is also featured in marketing materials for Amplify (MaryMargaret Welch).

The rubric that the committees used to judge the materials was created in conjunction with an entity called EdReports which is a nonscientific enterprise that uses anonymous volunteers who evaluate curricular materials for their alignment to NGSS.
EdReports has come under criticism in the past for questionable methodology. It has no proven credibility. It's also significantly (entirely?) funded by the Gates Foundation -- $15 million since 2015.

How Gates Foundation’s push for ‘high-quality’ curriculum will stifle teaching

Review of Math Programs Comes Under Fire

One of the top criteria that the rubric the adoption committees used prioritized computer "simulations." Hands-on lab work was ranked less of a priority. (!) Guess what Amplify's top feature is? --Computer simulated labs, which they call "sims." The Board never approved this focus for curricular materials.

Because every SPS middle school but one, and many K-8s, were all "piloting" Amplify since 2017, when it came time to field test the 3 finalists for MS science in Jan/Feb this year, all but Eckstein were essentially comparing one of the three finalists (TCI, Amplify or HMH) to Amplify. And two schools that "field tested" Amplify were already using Amplify (Hamilton and Madison). So what knowledge was to be gained from comparing Amplify to Amplify?

@wildcat -- Director Mack also brought up the new SPS science scope and sequence at the 4/2 C&I work session meeting. She asked staff whether the District did any research into what other districts were doing -- benchmarking. She mentioned TAF – the Technology Access Foundation school – which she said is still doing a full year of chemistry and physics -- unlike SPS which now breaks the two subjects in parts A and B and teaches them together. TAF also uses a different curriculum from SPS. This is a school known for getting good results. So why is SPS diverging from what has proven to work? Staff did not appear to have much of an answer for that.
Anonymous said…
In reference to the MS/HS sequencing of science, how does it work for students coming from others districts (where they are likely to have had a more traditional sequence of year long physical science, biology, chemistry, and physics)?

Stuart J said…
I found the online version of an Amplify guide to Nexgen Science Standards "best practices" with comments about lessons learned from what they describe as 'district and school partners' . See pages 10 and 12 in particular.

The link to this white paper was sent out to various audiences, including the New Jersey PTSA.
Anonymous said…
Thanks, Stuart. It’s always best to go to primary source documents & books. Speaking of which, Miss Welch says books are outdated, per page 10:

You can’t have quality education without quality products,” says MaryMargaret Welch of Seattle Public Schools, adding that today, there’s a certain quality that only digital-forward products, like Amplify’s, can provide. “These days, books are old as soon as they’re published. Kids need digital literacy as well. Digital also provides so many wonderful opportunities to help kids visualize things that are invisible.”) That’s why Amplify Science combines the expert NGSS-aligned content and pedagogy authored by U.C. Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science with today’s best practices in digital learning and design.

Elementary and middle school science is not moving fast. Foundational knowledge about topics such as magnetism, plants, ecology, electricity are all examples of the basics that must be understood before moving on to nanotechnology or epigenetics which I would agree are topics moving fast, but not deep dives taught to 12-year-olds. Books will do nicely for providing a grounding robust science.

More frightening is page 11, where the geniuses of amplified decided that science should be kind of like a cliffhanger that you never actually resolve. I’d like to see Amplify’s claim evidence reasoning for that pedagogy: “let’s tell kids or have them hear about on a video that there’s magnetism but never explain what it is or how it works! We’re not going to give them a big reveal, no way! Discovery science, haps these kids will then be forced to discover gravitational waves of for themselves too! We’re really supporting Einsteins this way!”

Classrooms “figure out” at different paces. “Before, when students were challenged to answer a question or solve a problem, there was always a big day with the REVEAL. Now we never actually tell them the answer. If a given class is not there yet, we keep giving them more pieces of information until they do. Right now, that’s the biggest thing: navigating and keeping track of where each class is in understanding so that each day we pick up where that particular class left off,” says Emily Elasky, who teaches eighth-grade science and STEM at Seattle’s Asa Mercer International Middle School.

I’m not making this up, it’s straight from Amplify source documents - it is not taken out of context.

I am not a Luddite, my career is based on bleeding edge technology, and I hope the kids in our schools now will go onto engineer even more breathtaking technology in multiple fields, but most of the would-be scientists forced to endure amplify will lose their wonder and turn their backs on Science, Technical, and engineering fields.

Razor and razor blades: I wonder if Amplify is the razor and the computers and routers are the razor blades. And amplify really isn’t about science, but rather about turning the school system into a technology addict dependent on laptops such that hardware makers get a reliable revenue stream backed by the public purse.

Teachers and books and hands-on labs, NOT videos and computers and simulated simulations.

This debacle is a new low, and that’s really saying something given that it’s Seattle Public Schools we’re talking about, who seem to be driven and committed to be ineffective and feckless at pretty much everything it touches.

Anonymous said…
A Crosscut Piece on how SPS is Planning on Cutting 24 Librarians, because of the $40M Hole in its Operating Budget:

Only 8 full-time Librarians will be left next year.

Hello, District Staff and SPS School Board.
Who do you think is going to provide the IT support necessary to keep all of these tech-heavy curricula, computers, running in our Schools, when you fire Librarians?

Is the School Board going to dig a Deeper Hole into the Operating Budget, in order to buy an expensive online-Curriculum, with no textbooks?

80%-85% of a School District's Operating Budget goes to salaries. The only way to balance your operating budget, when you are in major deficit, is to cut teachers and staff. Buying expensive Curricula at this point in time, means more SPS jobs lost.
At least one Board Member seems to understand and articulate this linkage.

Question: Does a $40M Deficit in the Operating Budget mean fewer Science Teachers, or more Part-Time Science Teachers?

How many Teachers are going to be fired, just to purchase Amplify?

Librarians are the most important staff to help Homeless Students. (see the Crosscut piece above).
Yet Librarians are being cut.

We all need to address budget priorities through the "Educational Justice Lens".
Buying more ineffective EdTech, at the expense of Teachers and Librarians, is not the answer. Not now.

Anonymous said…
So Welch thinks books are outdated. Perhaps she is not aware of schools going back to books because online materials isn't all that it's cracked up to be as outlined in this recent article:

NW Parent

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