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Friday, April 26, 2019

Science Adoption Updates Before COW

 Update:  Story from KUOW's Ann Dornfeld.  I think she did a good job.

end of update
COW is Committee of the Whole and the Curriculum & Instruction Committee is having one on Tuesday, April 30th from 4:30-7:00 pm at JSCEE.  No agenda yet available but committee chair Jill Geary stated at this week's meeting that directors should be prepared to have their questions answered and that should be the end of questions (unless, of course, new information comes forward as it might).

I urge you to submit your questions/comments ASAP because the Board will likely need to submit them to staff by the end of today or Monday.  

If you want your comments/questions to go to just the Board - spsdirectors@seattleschools.org.  

If you want your comments/questions to go to the Board AND Superintendent/senior staff - schoolboard@seattleschools.org.

Outstanding issues:

- Receiving free Amplify curriculum.  While Amplify may say they need to keep this donation source anonymous, the district has to quantify the cost for the curriculum delivered because the Board has the right to know that.

But again, what message does this send vendors?  Send free stuff and you, too, get a push from staff to the Board for adoption?

- Also, there appears to be another possible source for the free curriculum and that would be via an NSF grant. As I posted earlier, I have to wonder why several different entities including SPS won't verify if this is true. It's a fairly simple question.  If this is true (and public disclosure results - not documents yet - appear to support my theory), then the district really has a problem.  

- District staff admitted that they did not bring the Instructional Materials Committee to the Board for approval, which means they violated state law. (RCW 28A.320.230 -- see below)
Kyle Kinoshita and others admitted this fact at the April 2 C&I work session.

- Per Board policy which requires all information to be publicly posted on the district website 24 hours in advance of a meeting, all the information for this week's C&I meeting was not available on the website 24 hours before the meeting.  This despite high public interest.

- In one of the BAR docs, it reveals that Amplify has worked in close partnership with SPS since 2016 in 69 schools. Wait, what?  There are only waivers for 20 schools.  It also says that that SPS leadership helped with curriculum redesign with their feedback and "to promote adoption and continuity."  No collusion or favortism at this point is a little hard to swallow.

- Costs?  Where is the REAL accounting of ALL costs including technology?

The BAR says "licensing only" but no materials. 

On technology needed to use Amplify, parents of high schoolers, understand the district was going to start with high schools for 1-1 computer use.  I cannot see how that can happen if the district adopts Amplify and now all the middle school kids need 1-1.  (Unless the district plans to continue on with what is described in the waivers as "tech-lite" with a 2-1 use of technology.)

I'll have some links for some topics soon.

89 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've also emailed the Board. What I sent was that students finish Amplify assignments in 15-20 minutes max. I know this because they interact on my Schoology posts and have time to type and research for my assignments in my History class. The costs are absurd and the lessons are functionally entry tasks. It's bizarrely under powered for a curriculum.

Mr. Theo Moriarty

Stuart J said...

I thought I read somewhere something about special ed and online learning. I can't remember if it was in the comments of this blog, or somewhere else. I think the comment was specific to Amplify but am not 100% sure. I am hoping some parents with these interests can dig into this.

Stuart J said...

screen time: what is the total projected amount of screen time per day/ week for ALL subjects? What is the expected amount for Amplify? At what point is that screen time more than is healthy? This is a hard question to answer, but worth asking. Again I'm hoping someone else has the answer and can share here as well as with the school board.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Moriarty

Thank you for providing useful objective data to the board on this topic. Your presence here and willingness to interact is appreciated.

Fairmount Parent

Janis said...

My daughter transferred to a school using Amplify for 8th grade after two years at a different SPS middle school that is not using Amplify. Completely unsolicited (I have never said a word to her about Amplify), she came home this week and told me how awful it is and how much she hates it. She said it's dumbed down and boring and she isn't learning anything. She also said that she wished they would let her teacher actually teach and stop using Amplify because everyone in the class is bored and hates it. This from a kid who is a good, but not great, student, but has always liked science and done well in science. I asked her if she has written any lab reports this year and she looked at me scornfully. At her old school (a K-8) she started writing lab reports in 4th or 5th grade. She said they have had one assignment all year in Science that involved any writing.

I will share this with the School Board along with my concerns regarding the failure to follow state law and district policy.

suep. said...

The "gift" of materials and services from Amplify Education, Inc to SPS needs to be completely daylighted and accounted for, not just for the Board's information, but also because it was potentially -- likely -- a violation of policy and possibly law.

For starters, Board Policy 6114 states:
Any gift to the district of real property can be accepted only by Board approval. Any gift of any type having a total value (including both the contribution and any district resources required to be contributed) of $250,000 or greater will be subject to Board approval.

Source: https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Schoo l%20Board/Policies/Series%206000/6114.pdf

There is no evidence staff ever brought the Amplify "gift" before the Board for approval. (I was on the Board until mid-Nov 2017 and can vouch that it wasn't brought to the Board during my tenure.)

Staff is telling the public, the Board and the media that the total amount was $100,000, maybe. They're not sure.

First of all, SPS staff have worked closely with Amplify Education Inc. on its science curriculum since 2016. Amplify states this clearly in its documents in the middle school adoption BAR that has been submitted to the Board. (Some SPS staff have had a working relationship with Amplify even longer, as far back as 2014, when they purchased Amplify's controversial mClass Beacon assessment.)

So for staff to claim ignorance on the amount or value of goods and services SPS has received from Amplify for its science curriculum is not plausible. The Board must have clear answers on this, or they cannot move forward.

Secondly, there is ample evidence that the value of the free goods/services from Amplify was much more than $100k.

Amplify's own estimates from a purchase list for one small elementary school outlining the items and costs for what that school would need to use Amplify Science totals $54,000.

If you multiple that by the number of waivers that were submitted, that is $54k x 20 = $1,080,000.

In fact, large middle schools like Mercer and Hamilton, as well as Washington and Aki also used Amplify. So chances are, their costs were a fair bit more than $54,000. That would bring the donation amount closer to $2 million.

But now that we have seen the estimates from Amplify to SPS in the middle school BAR documents which have exorbitant costs of $11-19 million for all of K-8 for 9 years, or $5 million just for professional development for K-5, there's reason to believe that $1-2 million is potentially too low an estimate

And if it is true that Amplify was actually used in 69 SPS schools, that's roughly $3.7 million worth of goods/services right there.

Now it's possible that it was less than that too, depending on what each school was given and how many total schools were included in this mega "pilot" (aka de facto adoption).

But until staff brings forth clear, documented answers to these questions, the Board is left without any facts or assurances on which to base their decision with confidence.

And it's clear that the value of the goods/services from Amplify was certainly over the $250,000 threshold which required Board approval, which was never obtained.

There are also issues with competitive bidding, procurement, and whether the RFP process was followed properly. The fact that SPS was doing business with Amplify throughout 2018, which overlaps with the RFP period during which vendors are forbidden from being in contact with the District except in a very limited manner, indicates that the RFP process was also potentially compromised.

Staff needs to provide complete answers to all of these crucial questions.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Another good question - how come the previous Work Session on the Science adoption, on April 2nd, still has no minutes available? Pretty convenient to keep those out of the public eye.

Anonymous said...

Adding to list of outstanding issues:

Effectiveness. Does Amplify work? If we've been piloting Amplify for the last couple years, the district should be able to produce both process and outcome evaluation results. Did it work logistically (e.g., were teachers able to implement it as planned, did they have proper technology to implement the curriculum, did they have they necessary supplies, were they able to sufficiently train teachers to make it work, did the program allow for differentiation based on student performance, etc.). Did it work in terms of outcomes--at various grade levels, in various subjects, across different sub-populations, etc.? I'd include both satisfaction outcomes (teacher and student), as well as academic ones (test scores).

HF

Anonymous said...

Are the curriculum review criteria (and scoring results) available somewhere? I couldn't find them on the SPS science alignment page.

Thanks,
HF

Anonymous said...

The NSF funded efficacy study of Amplify Science Middle School (ASMS) is being conducted by SRI and Lawrence Hall of Science (and Rand Corporation), independent of Amplify. It was to be designed as a one year randomized control, where some classrooms used ASMS and others operated "business as usual" for the control. Teachers in both conditions were to have received PD on NGSS. Who knows what districts ended up participating.

googling

Melissa Westbrook said...

Googling, I am on this story. It's more complicated than you might think and yet no one - not the district, not Amplify, not the NSF nor the groups carrying out the study will answer one simple question:

Is Seattle Schools involved in any way with this project?

Anonymous said...

Ok, I found the curriculum review criteria, which seems to have been used just for selecting which curricula to field test. But where's the scoring rubric for assessing the field tested curricula? What were the evaluation results--academic outcomes, process/implementation outcomes, satisfaction (teacher, student), etc.?

Are board members supposed to spend all this money on an online program--plus additional vast sums for materials and training--that has unknown results? That's insane. And irresponsible.

HF

Anonymous said...

Hi Melissa,

I'm not sure if this helps--you've probably already seen it--but I just came across this in the district's FAQs:

Are teachers creating this on their own?
Science teachers across the district, have been part of professional development opportunities and district-wide curriculum
collaborations funded by grants obtained by the SPS Science Program that support implementation of these pedagogical practices and standards. For example, Biology has been collaborating with Michigan State University through an NSF grant for the past 4 years, and Phys A and Chem A teachers have been working together through a collaborative grant with Seattle Pacific University and Boeing for the past 5 years. Furthermore, each year, SPS science teachers meet for one week in the summer and three release days during the year to understand deeply the shift in pedagogy, new assessments and how to organize the content for alignment.


https://www.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=70170198

HF

Middle Mom said...

Given that Amplify (and maybe some of the other science curricula being considered as well?) is a digital curriculum, I also have this question:

1. What online metrics does the curriculum provider track? Pages 11-14 of this document, for example, say that Amplify is interested in tracking:
a. student productivity metrics such as amount of the student spent reading (measured by words, "pages," or time on task), how many words students wrote, or how much time students spent on a task outside the school day.
b. student engagement metrics such as in-class or online academic contacts among students, between students and teachers, etc.
c. parent involvement metrics like number of click-throughs on status emails, etc to show how robust school-to-home communications are.

Then they want to see how student engagement, student productivity, student disciplinary incident rates, and parent involvement relate to academic achievement and graduation rates. These are educational research goals that might benefit future students, but in SPS they are being measured on our students with no discernible benefit to our current students.

Science is a core subject. Parents can't opt their kids out of science if we object to them being used as laboratory guinea pigs by a private, for-profit company. Naviance does some of these things, too, but we can opt out of that. This is troubling.

Is my 8th grader's reading speed being tracked and recorded under her name? How long do they store that information about her? Who do they share that information with? When they tie discipline issues to graduation rate, do they take a child's ADHD into consideration? What if a child's "disciplinary incident rates" are uncharacteristically high the year after they lived with a new foster family or the year their parents got divorced? Does the for-profit company hold onto that disciplinary data? For how long? Does that become part of the child's science-class-to-prison-pipeline permanent file?

Does SPS have a contract with Amplify (or any other digital curriculum provider) detailing what metrics the company tracks and stores and for how long and whether de-identified? Can parents review it? What if we object to it?

With a textbook these things aren't issues. With a lab kit that's a cardboard box with some batteries, cables, and a light bulb, these things aren't issues. But with a digital curriculum that students are using at school and maybe at home, are they tracking where students log in from, what device they use, how fast they read, how many spelling mistakes they make? A private company should not be profiting from social science research done on our children.

Anonymous said...

The lazy solution to the science problem in Seattle is Amplify. Contrast Amplify, with its sit-on-your-butt computer-based screen shots, to the efficacy of serious project-based learning (deeply rooted in all four STEM domains). Any science teacher worth their weight in potassium chloride knows that NGSS requires students to model understanding of theoretical concepts. For example, heat transfer can be quantified...you can model that through the simple application of Btu mathematical formulas for water and air using data derived from basic fan/pump systems that cost a few bucks. However, will SPS spend a few dollars to teach a major component of NGSS when they can use pretty pictures on a computer screen to simplify (read "dumb down") a vital and inspirational science concept? No! It's a lazy solution that lacks creativity and best practices.

The SPS science department has hung their lab coats on the least creative science methodologies available to inspire future scientists, and perhaps the next generation that may just clean up the mess that my generation created.

Anonymous said...

Melissa: You alluded to there being a "real" reporter digging into this. Is someone from Seattle Times or other planning a story on this? And wondering if it's more focused on the apparent flouting of rules around procurement, procedure, conflicts of interest etc than on the merits of Amplify as a science curricula. Thanks for any heads-up.

Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

Amplify states that it placed Amplify Science Curriculum in 69 SPS Schools, which was used by 1,400 SPS Teachers, and 30,000 SPS Students. As part of a "Partnership" with SPS. District Staff claim that they do not know the value of the Goods and Services that they received from Amplify, as part of this Partnership, with this Company.

First Question for the Board to ask:

"Where is the Contract, or MOU, that you signed to implement this Partnership, to place Amplify Science in 69 SPS Schools?"

Evasive Answers are not an option.

Simple Questions
Simple Answers

kellie said...

This entire process has been an epic case study in “scope creep” and “group think.”

The scope creep is truly amazing. This process started as a relatively minor science alignment in order to manage yet one more “high stakes test.” I say this was a relatively minor alignment because at this point in time, most education professionals understand that high stakes tests are a better measure of demographics than knowledge.

So a relatively minor alignment is now a full on K-12 science adoption. This is scope creep in the purest fashion because while there have a been some small pauses in the process, there was NEVER the full reset that would have been required for an authentic adoption process.

It is important to note that all groups are subject to group think in some fashion or another. This is why the work product of task forces are always subject to an external review. The Core 24 task force brought us the very memorable gem of “we recommend a 3x5 schedule because it sounds like a magical solution, be we haven’t had any time to explore the real work implications but on paper, its’ groovy!” The high school boundaries task force came to the incredible conclusion that they should deliberately exclude language immersion and HCC services at Lincoln, even thought the highest concentration of language immersion and/or HCC students in the city, live less than one mile from Lincoln.

The board has a legal obligation to review these results. And the board has a legal obligation to once again reject these results because the LEGAL PROCESS once again not followed. It is one thing to follow your own policies. We are all used to SPS treating their own policies and procedures and nuisances. It is another thing to flagrantly disregard Washington State Law that was intended to provide accountability for tax payer funded education dollars.

Last year, the argument was made that you have to pay for the alignment because we did the process and students desperately need this. Nope. There is a legal curriculum adoption process and the board can not legal authorize the money when you didn't even pretend to follow this process.

So back to the drawing board was the instructions. But nope, group think took over and the entire process this year was rigged to support one answer and once again, broke the law and did not send materials for board review as required.

Staff is literally asking the board to abrogate their sworn legal duty and subject themselves to the potential of ethical reviews and lawsuits. Seriously? Again??



Melissa Westbrook said...

Concerned Parent, it is a local media source (and a real journalist). I cannot say for certain but given this journalist is getting the same pushback as me, I believe the story will be about the process especially how Amplify got into SPS in the first place. That a bona-fide journalist cannot get all these people to answer a simple question is, again, troubling.


Kellie once again nails it:Board, are you listening?

"Last year, the argument was made that you have to pay for the alignment because we did the process and students desperately need this. Nope. There is a legal curriculum adoption process and the board can not legal authorize the money when you didn't even pretend to follow this process.

So back to the drawing board was the instructions. But nope, group think took over and the entire process this year was rigged to support one answer and once again, broke the law and did not send materials for board review as required.

Staff is literally asking the board to abrogate their sworn legal duty and subject themselves to the potential of ethical reviews and lawsuits."

I am fairly certain that at this point, the other vendors know about these issues and yes, a muddy effort at process may hurt the district.

Josh Hayes said...

From what I can see about the Amplify curriculum approach, it flies completely in the face of what the UW education department has been pushing, the "Ambitious Science Teaching" (AST) approach. We're cautiously embracing this at LWSD, and while there are growing pains, we do seem to see improved buy-in from students (the challenge is covering all the NGSS standards in this style of teaching; right now we're a melange of more traditional simple-hook teaching and the more structured story arcs that AST pushes).

I had the impression that SPS was also pushing for AST approaches, which seem impossible with a canned digital curriculum. Online resources could enrich an AST curriculum, but can't be the main driver of it. Just my $0.05 worth.

Anonymous said...

No Answers = No Contracts

1st Law of RCWs

Anonymous said...

Here’s just an observation and pattern that I’m seeing on these posts. As parents and community members, we all received numerous emails and notifications about ways to be involved in the Science curriculum adoption beginning over a year ago. See below.
Why is it that the loudest opposition (people on this blog including former board member Peters) did not take the time to become involved in a constructive manner when they had so many opportunities? It’s troubling that a process was created for this exact form of critical discourse and that many decided that it was not worth their time. Instead we have last minute blogging, slandering, and obstructionists who had every chance to make an impact through the proper channels. I did not join the committee myself, but I also value and respect the over 60 teachers and community members who volunteered over a year of their time to work towards bettering the Science curriculum for all of our students. I trust these advocates because they took action appropriately instead of waiting until the last minute to become involved. True leadership is demonstrated by those who took the time to become involved in person, not by typing blog responses.

Woke South End Parent

Science Instructional Materials Adoption Committees, Grades K-5 and 6-8 (two committees)
Deadline May 29, 9 a.m.
 
Science Instructional Materials Adoption Committees, comprised of teachers, family and community members, will be formed and begin evaluating instructional materials for K-8 science. This work is to replace elementary instructional materials adopted in 1995 and middle school instructional materials adopted in 2003. Work will begin in June. If approved by the Seattle School Board, the new instructional materials will be ready for implementation by the 2019-20 school year.
 
You may join the K-5 committee or the Grades 6-8 committee.

Dear families, 
The Department of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction is continuing its work to identify new K-8 science instructional materials for adoption and implementation in the 2019-2020 school year. The instructional materials that are under consideration by the K-8 Adoption Committee are available for your review.
We invite you to participate in the review process by coming to the John Stanford Center Professional Library where you will find all the instructional materials for consideration on display.  The materials are available from October 29 –November 30. 
Dear Families,
It is an exciting time for science instruction in our district! We are currently in a Science Curriculum Adoption Process for grades K-12. This process will provide new instructional materials and support for all our classrooms teaching science for the 2019-20 school year. Our last elementary adoption was in 1995, middle school in 2002 and high school various times before 2000; not only has science changed significantly in the last twenty years, but we know so much more about how children learn.
Washington State adopted new science standards in 2013, and it is our obligation to our students to align to these new standards. The biggest shift in science instruction has been from “learning about” to “figuring out” where students work through a series of connected lessons anchored in explaining a compelling science phenomenon. This revolution in science education will provide a rigorous, engaging experience for all our students and will ensure they are college and career ready.
Follow the K-12 Science Adoption process on our website: https://tinyurl.com/SPSScienceAdoption

Anonymous said...

More opportunities that were offered.

Woke South End Parent

Science Instructional Materials Open House
We are hosting two Science Instructional Materials Open Houses where we will give you time to review the candidates being considered for adoption by the district, provide information about the new standards and how science will look different for your child, and answer your questions.
January 2, John Stanford Center, 2445 3rd Ave S. (library, second floor)
9:00-11:00 Elementary
11:00-1:00 Middle School
1:00-3:00 High School
 
January 9, Rainier Beach Community Center, 825 Rainier Ave S.
9:00-11:00 Elementary
11:00-1:00 Middle School
1:00-3:00 High School
K-8 and High School Science Instructional Materials Display
Instructional materials will be on display in the locations listed below from January 15, 2019 – February 28, 2019. We encourage our community to engage in this process by coming to one of these locations and sharing their input. 
K-8 instructional materials will be available in the libraries of the buildings at the following locations during regular school hours:
John Stanford Center, 2445 3rd Ave S
South Shore K-8, 4800 S Henderson St.
Pathfinder K-8, 1901 SW Genesee St.
Salmon Bay K-8, 1810 NW 65th St.
Hazel Wolf K-8, 11530 12th Ave NE
 
High School instructional materials will be available in the libraries of the schools below during regular school hours:
 
Chief Sealth High School, 2600 SW Thistle St.
Garfield High School, 400 23rd Ave.
Ingraham High School, 1810 N 135th St.

Anonymous said...

Hi Woke Parent,

Did you go to the Instructional Materials Display? I did. Pages and pages of printed sheets of paper. Not incredibly helpful when the vast majority of the curriculum is offered on a computer and the major complaint about these curricula was the amount of screen time and the repetitive structure it imposes on even the best of teachers.

Did you check out the rubric? I did. One of the first questions was about how much of the curriculum is on line. When parents wish for less screen time and more teacher interaction for their students and yet this is considered a major plus in the adoption rubric, sometimes "providing feedback" in the manner requested doesn't seem like the best avenue to air one's concerns.

I have also talked with multiple teachers, students and parents about their real-time experience with the middle-school Amplify pilot. I even sat in on a classroom watching a teacher present the curriculum relatively well done- although it did not assuage many of my concerns.

This entire process seems to have a predetermined winner. While not my first experience observing this within my interactions with SPS, it is the most blatent. I admire the students, parents and teachers who speak out about their real-time experiences with the curriculum so the board can make an informed decision about the future of science education within SPS.

-NW

Anonymous said...

Woke South End Parent--To be perfectly frank, I have zero interest in learning about the science curriculum. I am MORE than happy to task that to science teachers and parents with an interest in it. In fact, I don't have a clue if Amplify is a good curriculum or not. Not in my wheelhouse, and something that I am more than happy to delegate to people who have an interest.

My concern is whether 1) Washington law was followed, and 2) whether SPS policy was followed in the curriculum adoption process. If they were not, I can't agree to Amplify.

SPS needs to follow the law, period. Breaking the law to adopt a curriculum, no matter how awesome, is illegal and unethical. It would also be good if SPS followed its own policies, but at minimum, the Board has to do what the legislature tells them to do.

In my opinion, the folks pushing this curriculum need to get out from under this PR disaster with some radical transparency. If they care about Amplify, let parents like me know that Washington law was followed. Explain it! Now! Like, pretty, pretty, please with sugar on top! Don't tell me the curriculum is great. I don't have a clue. But I do know something about the law, and it looks to me that this adoption process doesn't follow it.

If you can't convince me that all relevant RCWs and WACs were followed, I will be one of many people at the Board meeting saying that they can't adopt this curriculum because it would be illegal to do so. Given that the Board president is a very long time litigation paralegal, my guess is that that is an argument that will be listened to.

West Seattle Parent

Anonymous said...

West Seattle Parent - that is a valid concern but I will trust that the board can discern if protocol was followed. I will take that over the conspiracy theories tossed around this blog.

NW - I know that screen time is a huge concern for some parents, but those are parents who have the privilege to offer screen time to their kids at home. We need equity for all of our students, and that includes access to tech and computer screens. Many students will only have this opportunity in our schools. I can't live with the fact that students without privilege and resources would be denied access to technology and skills for 2030 because I couldn't control my kid's screen time at home. The T in STEM is for TECH and the future of science involves computers and screens. We can't go back, only forward.

Woke South End Parent

Anonymous said...

@Woke South End Parent

Let's be careful not to gaslight the issue here. Families and science teachers were engaged on this issue early on. Save Science in Seattle Schools on FB came to be in January 2019, and Seattle Science Alignment on Google was created in January 2018. People were engaged well before those points. There has been steady, non-stop engagement and activism about the science curriculum (originally only an alignment!) for two years. People are upset now because the "alignment" has morphed to a full "adoption" but without following the law. I myself am not even sure when it turned from alignment into adoption, so it's not like the process has been transparent, even thought families have been engaged for two years on this.

Having been through curriculum adoptions in the past, however, I am aware of opportunities to provide feedback any time this comes up, and I did so with the science adoption. I'm neither a teacher nor a scientist, so it's hard to look through materials and provide useful feedback, but I always try my best.

I give this feedback every time a new curriculum is considered, ELA, history, etc., even though my feedback disappears into the ether. I have never seen curriculum feedback presented to the board. My own comments cannot be found in anything easily accessible online. The feedback just doesn't seem to be used, acknowledged, or leveraged.

Secretly, however, I do realize what's going on. The district solicits feedback from parents as a way to "park" that feedback somewhere so they don't need to address concerns all while claiming that community engagement did happen.

I still give the feedback knowing it will be ignored, because I think it's important, if someone digs the feedback up, to be able read this is what parents actually thought. I want the feedback discoverable in the future, but I know perfectly well it will be ignored for now. That is partly what "woke" looks like in this scenario.

The frantic and louder and louder nature of opposition you're noticing isn't because people have been disengaged. It's because legitimate concerns about following rules, policy, and the law have gone unanswered for 2+ years, and we're facing a decade-long adoption from a flawed process. It's also because, for some people like me, this likely illegal adoption process is just one more example of incompetent operations and HR in Seattle Public Schools. The basic day-to-day management of the district is not going well, hiring is broken, and this Amplify business is just another symptom of these things. It's a good thing that families are starting to criticize dysfunction and call for operational excellence whether on science curricula or otherwise.

Cosmoose

Robert Cruickshank said...

If screen time and equity is the subject of the discussion, then we need to understand that the issue is that kids who are farthest from educational justice are also the ones most likely to be parked in front of a screen at school rather than a human being, and that the effect is clear and is devastating. From The New York Times, January 19, 2018: "Online Courses Are Harming the Students Who Need the Most Help," https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/19/business/online-courses-are-harming-the-students-who-need-the-most-help.html

"But in high schools and colleges, there is mounting evidence that the growth of online education is hurting a critical group: the less proficient students who are precisely those most in need of skilled classroom teachers...

Consider a study conducted in the Chicago high schools. Students who had failed algebra were randomly assigned either to online or to face-to-face recovery courses. The results were clear: Students in the online algebra courses learned much less than those who worked with a teacher in a classroom....

The effects are lasting, with online students more likely to drop out of college altogether. Hardest hit are those who entered the online class with low grades. Work by researchers in many other colleges concurs with the DeVry findings: The weakest students are hurt most by the online format."

Anonymous said...

@Woke South End Parent, you seem to be under the impression that screen time in itself is, in and of itself, a good thing for students who may lack computer access at home. Doesn't the QUALITY of the screen time matter? Doesn't the quality of the curriculum matter? By your argument, plopping them down in front of a computer and letting them play games or surf the web would be just as valuable, as they'd get experience with "tech." Unfortunately, we're not talking about tech classes here--we're talking about science. Tech can be a tool in helping to learn science, but remember that science is the ultimate goal.

I don't know where you got the idea that parents are only now becoming engaged in this process. Why do you think the process was halted a year ago? Because parents were speaking up and complaining that the alignment was morphing into an adoption, which was not appropriate given the lack of transparency. Many of the parents posting here are the same ones who called out the district, who reviewed the curricula, who daylighted issues with the new scope and sequence for different pathways, etc. Personally, I have a ton of email correspondence with the district re: the HS science alignment specifically, going back to January of 2018. Engaged.

Parents who care about science HAVE been engaged all along, and have been vocal--whether or not you noticed. The big issue is that the district usually ignores what parents say anyway. Despite anything Supt Juneau may have said early on, that seems to be one of the constants in SPS.

But here's the thing: even if parents were not engaged before (but they were), we now have another year's worth of pilot data on Amplify. We also have huge budget shortfalls, and apparently no ability to actually provide the equipment and training that would be needed to implement Amplify with fidelity. If it doesn't work well for students (or for many teacher), it's definitely not worth doing--even if we could afford it, and even it went through a fair process (which doesn't appear likely).

There's this false narrative out there that we have to do SOMETHING, because something is better than nothing. The fact is, however, that "nothing" is not the default option or status quo. Teachers CAN still teach science without Amplify. Teachers can also have their students use "tech" without Amplify. Or are you suggesting that science teachers don't know how to do their jobs and need a online lessons to do the work for them? I fully believe there are enough strong teachers out there to compensate for the poor ones, and there's no reason teachers can't share lesson plans to help make sure everything is covered.

HF

suep. said...

@ Woke South End Parent,

Attempts to dismiss the 'messengers,' families and the data do not change the facts. This science curriculum adoption was not conducted properly, in compliance with policy and the law, and there appear to be at least two predetermined outcomes -- recommendations of Amplify Science and CarbonTime -- both of which are not supported by data.

What’s more, both are proving to be detrimental choices for low-income students. This directly contradicts the emphasis the science curriculum staff and adoption committees claim to have placed on equity. And it violates Board policy.

Ms. Welch's own research reveals that CarbonTime is not effective for high poverty students. (From p. 16 of a recent - May 2018 - paper in which Welch is cited as a coauthor):
http://carbontime.bscs.org/sites/default/files/research/articles-book-chapters/51218JRSTRevisionsFINAL.pdf

”Carbon TIME was less successful in higher-poverty schools with fewer organizational resources.The school percentage of free and reduced lunch was negatively associated with class-average learning gain.That is to say, classrooms from schools with higher percent of free and reduced lunch benefit less from implementing Carbon TIME. We discuss this finding in more detail below; we interpret it as evidence that schools with more organizational resources are more successful in implementing Carbon TIME. Previous studies have shown the percent of free and reduced lunch can be a proxy measure for material, social, and human material resources such as students’ access to qualified and experienced teachers (Darling-Hammond, 2004; Rice, 2010)and the overall quality of conditions in which teachers work (Johnson, Kraft & Papay, 2012).”

The results from the 2018 WCAS science test show SPS students whose pass rates declined the most were low-income students using Amplify Science.

How is it equitable to adopt materials that are known to be particularly ineffective or detrimental to low-income students of color? Those facts alone should disqualify both Amplify Science and Carbon Time.

(continued)

Edumom said...

Where did the money for the curriculum trial period come from? The motives of the guy at the end of the bar buying our provisional science curriculum for us matter. Does he expect something from us in return? Did he slip something in our science curriculum? Is he just generous?

How did the science program manager for the whole district not understand that the school buildings didn't have science budgets? How did the same person who tried to make an alignment into an adoption get put in charge of the brand new adoption?

Why are we buying an online curriculum when all middle schools don't have enough devices or good enough wifi for students to use the curriculum. How are we going to pay for the devices?

Since we've been testing it out on actual students, how have those tests gone? Do the students furthest from educational justice do better on the science test with the trial curriculum or a different curriculum?

These are all questions that the district should want answers to. Parents do.

And is it legal? Maybe we'll find out tomorrow?

And if it is important for middle school students to use technology at school, buying them a curriculum that requires device-usage but not the devices with which to access the curriculum is clearly not going to help.

suep. said...

@ Woke South End Parent, As for my involvement in this curriculum adoption, you say I "did not take the time to be involved in a constructive manner." Well let's see, I served on the Board for 4 years, where I belonged to a majority that actively prioritized curriculum adoptions, made them a line item on the budget and fought to fund them when they were threatened multiple times. While on the Board, multiple curriculum adoptions occurred, which I voted for.

When staff brought the request for $1 million worth of computers to the Board at my last meeting (11/15/17), they did not identify AmplifyScience by name as the purpose of the costs, but they did mention an online science curriculum being used at Mercer Middle School. I shared various questions and concerns about online science and the lack of hands-on elements with staff directly then.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHy9kQGIBx8&feature=youtu.be&t=63699

I did not learn about the abuse of the waiver policy to implement a de facto adoption of AmplifyScience until one week before the end of my term on the Board. This was kept from the Board for 7 months (or longer). It can be challenging to give constructive input -- or any input -- when staff is actively avoiding such input from the Board.

As an SPS parent, I have experienced some of the science materials via my own children. I have shared feedback with the District accordingly. But parents/guardians, students and other community members should be able to expect District staff to follow policy and law, without having to serve on every committee themselves. Most people don’t have the availability.

I and others have reached out to the Board and Superintendent Juneau and new CAO Diane DeBacker numerous times since January of this year, with questions and concerns about the process, none of this publicly. I shared what I hoped would be helpful historical information from my experience on the Board, and questions about the process and some of the products under consideration, in the hope that the Board and Superintendent would be able to exercise appropriate oversight on the whole matter.

Only when Superintendent Juneau and staff declared at the April 2 C&I work session that the process was completely beyond reproach, and staff repeatedly declared it “clean,” did it become apparent that good faith efforts to communicate with the Superintendent about legitimate concerns were going disturbingly unheeded.

(continued)

suep. said...

@Woke South End Parent

Meanwhile staff still have not been forthcoming in answering important questions about the process. Still to be answered:

How much in free goods and services did the vendor Amplify give the district? $1 million? $ 2million? More?

Why did staff not report this “gift” to the board? That is a violation of policy (6114) and potentially competitive bidding law.

Why did staff not bring the IMC to the Board for approval? That is a violation of Policy 2015 and state law (RCW 28A.320.230).

Why has staff not produced data from their nearly 3-year “pilot” at Mercer Middle School and 2-year mass waiver use of Amplify in 19 other schools? That is a violation of Policy 2020, which requires data to be collected and presented when non-district materials are used via waivers, especially in the event of a curriculum adoption process. It would also help the Board see if Amplify Science is working for SPS students.

It is clear from Amplify’s own information submitted to the district that it believed its partnership was leading to a curriculum adoption.
Yet staff has said they had “no inkling” that a curriculum adoption might be in the near future, and staff has claim there was no bias in the process.

From Amplify's materials in the current BAR:

Seattle Partnership
Since the 2016-2017 school year, we have partnered with Seattle Public Schools to pilot Amplify Science as a K-8 core curriculum built for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Together with Seattle Public Schools, Amplify has planned and implemented a pilot program across 69 schools in grades K-8, serving over 1400 teachers and 30,000 students. Key aspects of the implementation included continuous collaboration with Seattle Public School leadership and staff on professional development, educator focus groups, and weekly data distribution across all middle schools at the student level. Amplify and Seattle Public Schools have worked in concert especially during the 17-18 school year by providing 10 days of professional development, training of the trainer, and feedback sessions to build capacity in addition to Seattle Public School leadership providing key insights and feedback on future Amplify product and curriculum redesign planning. Over the past two years Seattle and Amplify have built a strong alignment across teams and continue to provide customized professional services for schools and broad service support to promote adoption and continuity.”


More questions for staff: Is it true that during this partnership with Amplify, the SPS central office provided science professional development only for using Amplify? If so, that means for the past 2 years, any K-8 science teachers not using Amplify received no PD.

How can the District justify extensive and exclusive investment in a curriculum product that has never been approved by the Board and has not been adopted?

How can the Board approve a process and outcome that violated policy and law? By law and their oath of office, they can’t.

Here’s another potentially relevant SPS policy & procedure 6220SP) https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Schoo l%20Board/Procedures/Series%206000/6220SP.G.pdf

III. ETHICS AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST All financial and business transactions of the District shall be carried out in conformity with law and consistent with sound business practices. Purchasing decisions shall be made on the basis of objectivity and shall not be influenced by friendships or other personal relationships.

Here’s one more RCW everyone should be aware of:
RCW 9A.76.175

Making a false or misleading statement to a public servant.
A person who knowingly makes a false or misleading material statement to a public servant is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. "Material statement" means a written or oral statement reasonably likely to be relied upon by a public servant in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties. [ 2001 c 308 § 2. Prior: 1995 c 285 § 32.]


-- Sue Peters

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

@Woke SE Parent
You think there are middle schoolers without screen time?I volunteer at Mary’s Place, children embedded in homeless single parent families have smart phones. Or use their mothers’.

NOTHING about this adoption is good:

State law may have been broken.

Seattle public school policies have been broken.

And if you think the public engagement was real, that was nothing but a show, a theater of the absurd.

If they wanted feedback, they could have surveyed the students. They’ve been scathing. Amplify curriculum is superficial & dumb, & I have also seen the juvenile vocabulary boosters that one school developed to mitigate the horrendous Amplify gaps.

My kid was forced into this pilot, (where’s the equity in that?) & so she hasn’t gotten real science education for 2 years.

Screen time & equity: as a parent of a sped student, this is been a disaster. She learned nothing parked in front of a screen. Luckily, her teacher who sees the profound gaps & shortcoming of both the Amplify material & its online delivery, gave his kids a real textbook.

Sci foundations are essential for STEM careers - you suggest Amplify gives kids a leg up because it’s got “T” for tech just because it’s online... that is ridiculous. With that kind of logic, you may as well give them credit for computer sci.

For Welch to say in Amplify’s marketing materials that by doing it online the kids are getting digital literacy- that’s insane. Digital literacy has to do with being able to surf the web and identify & discriminate sources into bogus & authentic, that’s the critical thinking. How disturbing is it that Welch doesn’t even understand being spoonfed pablum has nothing to do with inculcating digital literacy or critical thinking? How disturbing is it that Welch thinks it’s good to not have any books because they “date” so quickly? How idiotic is it that the department head for science Welch thinks not doing actual labs but instead having simulations online is a great pedagogy?

And lastly, how *surreal* is it that the board is being forced to consider a curriculum when the true total cost isn’t even before them? The fact that Juneau is so out of control she can’t even demand that her people supply the bare minimum of info to her board ( i.e. the price tag) shows just how bad of a fit that lady is for this enterprise. A real leader would put on the brakes to identify the significant concerns, tell staff to satisfy her that they’ve got answers for those, and then proceed. And if Juneau can’t get the answers, then she should dump this & staff should get fired for insubordination.

To paint those of us concerned/dismayed/outraged by this debacle as Johnny-come-lately’s or clueless is a disservice to our children. If you want equity, then you want excellent curricular materials and superb laboratory science for all kids in every building. Amplify and carbon time are not excellent. There’s nothing good about them.

http://s3.amazonaws.com/amplify-assets/pdf/science/AmplifyScience_NGSSLessonsLearnedGuide.pdf

Welch says books are outdated:

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

Elementary & middle school science is not moving fast. Books will do nicely for providing a solid grounding.

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


Debauched

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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suep. said...

@Anonymous, your comment is probably going to be deleted, but let me say this:

If staff had come to the Board and said we need new science curricula, the Board I belonged to and the current Board, I'm confident, would have been fully supportive.

But staff never came to us. Why not?

Every step of the way, they avoided Board oversight and transparency. Why?

They never told us about the "gift" from Amplify. They didn't tell us about the 20 waivers until Nov 2017, 7+ months after they were submitted. They did not bring the Instructional Materials Committee (IMC) to the current Board for approval. They didn't bring data from the waiver schools to the adoption committee or Supt or Board. Why?

Secondly, I don't think there's been much of a discussion here about the Next Generation Science Standards, and you are assuming that it is something worth leading on. In fact, there are issues with NGSS, just as there are issues with Common Core. I have never supported leading something I don't believe in.

Neither sets of standards have been proven to be effective or better than existing standards. And curiously, some of the biggest proponents of such standards never subject their own children to them (Bill Gates comes to mind).

But even if we believed in NGSS, the existing data indicates that Amplify Science does not prepare SPS students to succeed on the NGSS test, as the April 2018 results demonstrate.

Melissa Westbrook said...

We do not allow anonymous comments; please give yourself a name/moniker.

I have been blogging on this issue - including highlighting opportunities for parents and the public - for a long time. No gaslighting or revisionist history. That many people are pushing hard, either way, now that the final decision is near is good.

On the issue of available tech, who gets one to one first - high school or middle school? I think it should be high school.

Naturally, I will be at the COW tomorriw and boy, am I hoping someone on the Board will ask about an NSF grant as the source of all this Amplify largess.

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

It’s just short of tragic that some just can’t read the comment policy and adhere to it.

Also sad, people who don’t know the difference between slander and libel nor do they explain why they believe the Superintendent/staff have been libeled.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when Carbon Time was first used in SPS? Not sure if this is related, but about 5 years ago, my child complained about the curriculum in their biology class. Their was some newish curriculum the teacher was supposedly was trying out, and my child complained about learning very little. Their was no text that I remember.

hazy memory

Anonymous said...

I think the KUOW piece is the end of Amplify.

What SPS staff seems to forget is that to persuade people, you need the old trio of ethos, logos, and pathos. When you look shady, and people don't trust your ethos, it doesn't matter if you got the logos and pathos. When people point out the problems in ethos regarding the curriculum adoption, defenders jump to logos ("Amplify is excellent!") and to pathos ("It will help the underserved!"). Despite repeatedly asking on this blog for the ethos question, namely, was the legal process and policy followed, there is radio silence from the Amplify crowd.

SPS staff: if you really believe in Amplify, get some ethos. RADICAL TRANSPARENCY. Follow the law. Disclose the money trail. Otherwise, you won't get this curriculum adoption nor basically anything else you recommend, because people can't trust you.

WS Parent

Anonymous said...

@WestSeattleParent The chair of the C/I Committee Jill Geary is a lawyer and former judge. The legal arguments (RCWs and policy not followed) will probably concern her too.

https://ballotpedia.org/Jill_Geary

hope springs

Anonymous said...

Had forgotten that Amplify started as a Murdoch moneymaking venture. That alone disqualifies it in my book.
But then it was passed to Jobs' wife? The one who is a full-steam-ahead Charter pusher and offers contests to "innovate" public high school? Let me just guess where the money came from to push Amplify into our classrooms. Las Vegas odds on Laurene Jobs or her cronies, educational high tech diletantes, greasing the skids to get Amplify into Seattle so that our district could be Amplify's marketing case study.

No. Sorry.

DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

What is mystifying is the way the SPS continually jumps at these "free offers" of sexy sounding curricula ("its MODERN!!") without any due diligence whatsoever. As has been noted before, we seem to be paying for administrators that are unable to exercise judgement commensurate with their increased salaries and supposed experience. I suspect that in many cases administrators want to say "I implemented this cutting edge curriculum" as a stepping stone to a new job. Meanwhile teachers and students in the district are left to struggle with the fallout.

-Cynic

Anonymous said...

I call BS on district spokesperson Tim Robinson.

From the KUOW article:

“It would be premature to respond to the effectiveness of any curricula and inappropriate in the middle of an adoption process,” district spokesman Robinson wrote in an email.

Premature, he said, because the district switched standardized science tests in 2018, from the Measurement of Student Progress to the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science, which covers different learning standards and question types, and is administered on computers.

When you're in the middle of an adoption process, isn't that arguably the MOST appropriate time to consider the effectiveness of curricula? Sheesh. It's like saying when you're in the process of buying a car for your new teenage driver it's not really the time to inquire about safety features.

As or test results, you absolutely CAN still look at test results in the year after a test changed. Just look at trends and comparable schools. For example, how did schools using Amplify do on the new test compared to the old, and how did schools NOT using Amplify do on the new compared to the old? If both groups saw drops but the non-Amplify group had smaller drops than the Amplify group, that suggests Amplify might not address what's on the new test as well as hoped. However, it could also mean the non-Amplify and Amplify schools are really different in other ways (e.g., demographics, resources). If that's the concern, look at a subset of similar schools using Amplify vs. not, and see how those compare--in the current test years, as well as their trend over time.

If Amplify STILL isn't faring well in any of those comparison, I'm sure the pro-Amplify folks would say it's because teachers are still learning how to use it (a year or more later), and that they would expect things to get better over time. Ok, then wait another year and see. If Amplify really wants our business, I'm sure they'd be willing to spot us another year for free or at a reduced rate. Then we can have a another year's worth of data to see if the promises bear out.

sci ops

Teacher Voices? said...

Where's the teachers' union on all this? I feel like I mostly hear either 1) teachers saying they devoted a lot of time to the failed "alignment" process or 2) teachers leaving SPS because they don't approve of what's going on.

I recall there being a lot of weird waivering mayhem with the Math in Focus adoption. Did the teachers/schools all independently decide, "hey, let's get a waiver and field test Amplify"? Was there some kind of coordinated effort? Where did that coordinated effort come from? What incentive was there for all the individual waiver requesters to actually request the waivers? With Math in Focus it seemed like teachers really didn't want to plunge into a whole new curriculum with a whole new way of doing things. So, why were teachers reluctant to go for the new math curriculum but eager to go for the new science curriculum. Doesn't a new curriculum mean a bunch of extra work and trainings for teachers?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Teacher Voices, you ask a lot of great questions. I suspect when I get back both public disclosure docs and FOIA docs, the picture will become clearer.

Anonymous said...


Interesting. Under the "Instructional Materials" section of this SPS science web page
(https://www.seattleschools.org/academics/curriculum/science) it says:

"Our curriculum is based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that were adopted by Washington state in 2013." This seems to be acknowledgement that SPS science staff consider that we HAVE in fact "adopted" a new curriculum since then. Unofficially, of course.

It also says: "Our courses [Note: the link to these courses is not working or the page it links to has been removed...] are researched, field-tested, and evaluated in classrooms by small teams of expert teachers, university science educators, and scientists. Teachers are trained on using the appropriate curricula through year-round professional development.
In addition, the curricula represent a shift in pedagogy towards three-dimensional learning described in the NGSS." That all sounds a lot like what they've been saying about Amplify specifically.

To any teachers out there: the sidebar of that same page has a link for teachers to log in and access instructional materials, pacing guides, etc. If you log in, what do you find as "our curriculum"?

HF

Anonymous said...

Lots of people in tech, including myself, paid a lot of money for our kids to go to a school with no tech use until 7th grade. Our kids also had no screen use (except grandma's house) until they were older. No TV, no movies, no computer, no phone. Both of my kids are now tech whizzes as are most of their old classmates. They learned by doing. Not by watching a video or clicking on boxes on a computer screen. I don't see this curriculum doing anything to help low income kids get ahead in the tech world.

HP

Anonymous said...

@hazy memory- Carbon time was first tried out about 5 years ago.
@ Teacher Voice
Teachers are not chiming in because of the threat of union grievances, discipline letters in your file, or having your personal reputation trashed for daring to question the proposed changes. (All of these have happened last year as a result of the alignment).

It is not safe to voice your opinion. The same union that represents the head of science also represents the teachers. I can assure you that many teachers are frustrated, and they are handcuffed. Keep the pressure up community members because the teachers can't.

sign me
science forever

Anonymous said...

Now there are district staff calling anyone who reads and comments on this blog racist simply for questioning or daring to oppose Amplify Science. This is getting totally out of hand. It's a bad curriculum, it shouldn't be adopted, it's that simple - and the district is now desperately slinging mud to attack its critics. KUOW must have struck a nerve.

Scientitian

Melissa Westbrook said...

Scientitian, I'll have a post on this since, well, that employee calls everyone here "racist."

Science Teacher said...

About the KUOW article

First off, I was glad to see this information getting out to a wider audience. However, there are a few things that I remember differently.

“….In an interview with KUOW, however, Welch said she had told Amplify that the district had approved the waivers, but couldn’t afford the curriculum, and the company said it would look for a donor…”

I remember it backwards from this. We were told there was a donor who would fund 10 schools (I think) and if we wanted to try out Amplify, then we should submit a waiver.

“…Welch said it’s been 26 years since the district overhauled its middle school science curriculum…”

This is incorrect. The district adopted Carolina and Foss curriculum in 2002. The adoption of the curriculum, which was kit based, was a total overhaul of middle school science curriculum and a bit controversial at this time as some teachers did not like the idea of using kit materials.


“In the past, a lot of science has been memorization of facts and vocabulary,” Welch said…”

Maybe in the very distant past, but not in Seattle for the last 17 years. The Carolina and Foss curriculum are actually a little short on facts and most teachers supplement in this area. Also, there is no or very little memorization of vocabulary at all (again something some teachers supplement.)

Teresa Alsept

Anonymous said...

There is an enormous amount of bullying going on around this science adoption. Science teachers have been bullied into silence. Some tried to bully KUOW into not running their story. Board members are being bullied into approving the adoption. Parents who have kids who hate Amplify Science and just want their kids to have a good science education are being bullied for speaking up for their kids. This is sick and unacceptable. Amplify Science is bad curriculum, it's obvious to everyone, and SPS needs to reject it.

While it will be bad if Amplify Science is adopted, what's even more disturbing is the precedent this sets - that SPS will bully any opponent into silence while they wreck education in our city.

No bullies

kellie said...

Amplify has a done a wonderful job of positioning itself as the "great equalizer." But it is always important to remember that equity and equal are not synonyms.

Amplify and it is "fidelity of implementation" does ensure that every school in the district is literally working on the exact same page, in every classroom, every day. This equalization is a very attractive feature for many people.

I have been around long enough, that this entire process is causing serious deja vu regarding the Every Day Math implementation. If you just replace EDM with Amplify, it is the exact same conversation, and the exact same meetings.

Everyone who "opposed" EDM was racist. EDM was proven to close the achievement gap, as long as you followed the "fidelity of implementation." Interestingly, in the deep footnotes for EDM was a provision for there to be two adults in the math class. If you have two adults a math class, the curriculum is irrelevant, you will close the achievement gap.

Over and over again, we have the same conversation. There is no free lunch in curriculum. There is no magic bullet that by adopting this, that or the other thing, suddenly there will be equity. Equity comes by putting more adults in the places where there is more need.

Seattle has over 110 school buildings with very diverse needs. What fidelity of implementation and discovery style curriculums have done in the past 15 years is send "those with means" to Kumon and the gaps persist because those who can supplement bad curriculum will supplement bad curriculum or just leave the district all together.

I don't know what the right answer is. But I do know that EDM, Discovery Math and Writers Workshop were all adopted for the purpose of equity. Opposition to all of those curriculum adoptions were labeled as "racist." And all of those choices widened gaps.





Anonymous said...

It sounds to me like the “opposition to Amplify is racist” argument is based on either (1) a sense that higher non-white schools don’t currently have much in the way of science capacity (e.g., materials, resources, and expertise); and/or (2) a desire for a curriculum that is uniformly slow and limited, which could theoretically (but unlikely in practice, as Kellie mentioned) reduce gaps by lowering the ceiling for many who are currently receiving better science education than, apparently, those at lower resource/capacity schools.

Am I missing something? If it’s B, that’s fundamentally wrong. If it’s A, provide the schools in need with the dang resources they need.

HF

Anonymous said...

It feels to me that Amplify Science is being used as a tool to solve other problems than the ones for which it was designed to solve. And on top of that, it's a terrible tool - it's really clear students hate it, online curriculum has a terrible track record especially when it comes to equity, and there are a ton of red flags about the adoption process.

The arguments "for" Amplify Science aren't actually about Amplify Science, as HF notes. They're about classroom resources, they're about they're about a need for a new curriculum, they're about updated standards. Those are important items to address, but we're not going to get there by forcing everyone to accept a curriculum students hate. There are plenty of curricula out there that aren't screen-based, aren't loathed by numerous teachers and students, that could address all those problems. But the district insists on this one alone and is surely watching with glee as parents and teachers attack each other.

The defense of Amplify Science now seems to be "yeah it sucks and everyone hates it but it's racist to oppose it so we have to have it." If that's where we've all landed as a community then something has gone very wrong here. There's no need to jam this through. We can restart the adoption process in a better way, one rooted in bringing people together to solve common problems, and if there are any schools that truly want Amplify Science and weren't just following orders in using it, they can apply for waivers and use it for another year while a proper and compliant adoption process is followed.

Simple Answer

Anonymous said...

I worry, as Kellie does, that the MS Amlpify curriculum will INCREASE inequity. While initially the instruction may be leveled, this curriculum is incredibly dependent on having access to functioning laptops and internet.

Laptops have an expected lifetime of three years. Last I heard, there was nothing in the adoption proposal about the budget to maintain and replace these laptops. When the laptops start malfunctioning, whose job will it be to fix them? Replace them? In the exciting world of SPS budgeting, who can guarantee a steady stream of dollars to this? In a world of librarians living under constant threat of their hours being reduced, who will be in charge of the maintenance?

And has anyone calculated the cost of tech component of the Amplify curriculum and compared it to the cost of paying MS lab fees? Of updating the current tub of elementary school experiments? I have a hard time believing laptops are cheaper.

And don't take my word for it? Here is the editorial of a former Microsoft employee who once thought computers were the answer:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/06/04/technology-wont-fix-americas-neediest-schools-it-makes-bad-education-worse/?utm_term=.097a723451c9

-NW
(concerned about ALL students and a fan of this blog)

Melissa Westbrook said...

So I will have a post on yesterday's COW as it was something of a humdinger.

I also want to note that the story that MMW told at the April 2nd work session on the adoption about the Amplify pilot is different from the story told to Ann Dornfeld at KUOW. That's troubling.

Interestingly, MMW said something to effect of wanting to move past discussing the process and talking about science. But really, that's NOT what the Board should be doing. The Board should leave curriculum discussions to teachers and staff (while allowing parents/public to view materials and weigh in especially if their child has used a material in their school).

No, the Board is doing its job which is to track the process as outlined by their own policies. And that seems to be making many uncomfortable.

As to the costs, again, I'll post about that but I was quite startled to see that the PD is more expensive - by far - than the licensing of the curriculum. Teachers, is that normally the case?

Anonymous said...

There are three critical questions for this and all adoptions:

1. Is it good? Will it support teachers as they instruct all children? Really, IS IT GOOD?

2. It is affordable/have all the costs associated with the adoption been properly, truthfully scoped and costed?

3. Was process followed faithfully? If not, the result is suspect.



For Amplify, the answer to all three questions is NO NO NO.



1. Amplify is BAD. Bad at teaching science, bad at interesting kids, bad at closing achievement gaps.

2. The costs are unknown and have not been fully costed. In order to execute, unlike a text book, staff must cost in technology acquisition AND critically technology maintenance (yet, they are cutting librarians?). Has even sufficient professional development been truly wrapped in the cost? (NO!). AND, most critically, unlike a text book,say math for 7th grade (where math doesn't really change), at the end of this 9 year term, our software license EXPIRES SO WE ARE LEFT WITH NOTHING. IF this cycle ends up being 18 years, have they costed that in too? A text book, we will still have. Beat up, perhaps (and text books these days come with typically free licenses to log on and see the online version of the text book). But, once the license is dead, it is dead. You can imagine in this district at the end of year 8, with yet another new board, new super, new budget crisis, someone will say, "oops, we are about to loose science texts that are all on line..."

3. Process was violated in multiple ways: the vendor gifted their way into our schools, WITHOUT VETTING OR BOARD APPROVAL, in order to get access to our kids and to our public funds (Amplify cleverly thought they'd have a leg up when it came time to adoption if they had already woven themselves in and had Welch in their corner and in their marketing materials - she works for our kids, yet she seems to have been co-opted by them). For a clean process, in the minimum, shouldn't all text books have been given the same consideration and piloting so that the process was not unfairly manipulated? Has the state ethic law, RCW chapter 42, been broken? Can a deep pocketed, savvy text book publisher gift 'text books' for 20 schools for 2 years and then bid on a contract? Did Welch receive gifts/consideration beyond $50 a year (did they take her out to lunch, buy coffee, etc - they rules are strict and clear). This is a question that needs to be asked and answered in this process because of the extraordinary relationship between the SPS employee and the outside vendor. Did she help strategize to 're-engineer' the 'gift' so that it could be pushed out of board purview? (it still is in the board's role as it is still a gift beyond $250K limit)

That is why Amplify must be halted and why the Board needs to check the performance of their Super to ensure she has deep connection to process and policy. It doesn't matter if she inherited this mess and this science department: they are hers now. She is where the buck stops.


AND... IF the legislature has done away with the high stakes test that drove the splitting of year long physics and of year long chemistry, please god can the board put that to the super and tell her it needs to be walked back then to all year teaching/teachers? That follows an appropriate math prerequisite course(s). One high preforming high school has refused to break the science and they will continue to do full year course in chemistry. Don't all children deserve good sense and access to education too?

debauched

AC said...

A MS Science Teacher told me they were expecting to be paid about $3000 this summer to attend training for Amplify. Perhaps that number is off, but the fact is teachers get paid to attend training. Add in the cost for the trainers, and account for all of the teachers that need to be trained, and the professional development cost for Amplify, or likely any science adoption, could be quite high and exceed the materials costs.

Melissa Westbrook said...

PD does exceed material/licensing costs; that was stated yesterday at the COW meeting.

AC said...

As I recall with the math adoption, the projected PD cost was also very high. But, I think the district axed a lot of it.

Personally, I don't really like the idea of paying $3000(?) to a teacher to train on a new curriculum. Teachers with more credit hours already get paid more by the district. So, basically, the district is paying teachers to take credit hours, so the district can then pay them a higher salary.

What about the teacher that starts 2 years from now? Will they be paid to train?

How about a new elementary teacher starting this year? Are they being paid to train on the math curriculum, the ELA curriculum, and the science curriculum? I believe past experience indicates new teachers are not paid to train on any curriculum and are instead just expected to pick it up.

If a science teacher has been teaching science for 10 or 20 years, it just seems like they should be able to figure out the new curriculum. Of course, if there is extra money, then let's spend it, but otherwise, spending on PD shouldn't be the barrier to getting new materials.

Anonymous said...

I have been following the blog for the last week. I was directed to it because I have had numerous encounters with the Amplify in other states. This is not the first time they have used the foundation as a screen to donate and get adoptions in districts. It happen in Chicago when they won that district adoption by leaving all the hardware used during the review process as a donation. Which was against the terms and policy in that district. They also are going into Los Angeles offering free pilots during a time that is consider closed according to the guidelines established by LAUSD.
The many comments about screen time is research based. Also the comments about the fact that no formal data has been collected after two years is very valid. As a former Science Director it was part of the job to have any new product put into the classroom be validated with data to show evidence of it improving student performance.
It is refreshing that so many parent and community members have taken an interest in what is happening in the Seattle schools.
As for me I am sending the link to this blog and the KUOW article to as many of my science friends and colleagues so they are aware of the tactics Amplify is using to get districts business.

Retired Sciteach

Anonymous said...

This process has been ridiculous. That we need a new curriculum for equity is undeniable. That we're using the equity argument for Amplify when the adoption process has been blatantly biased and without any evidence that it's any good.

Looking at the adoption website, no meeting notes have been posted since December when the curriculum to field test decisions were made (MONTHS, maybe over a year after Amplify was adopted in many schools using curriculum waivers). No updates from the community showings, no updates on how field testing went, no evidence of performance. There are people speaking out for it, but I haven't heard a single person say it's better than anything else they trialed, only that it's better than nothing. And wow. In a country where educational sales are so big, there really wasn't anything else to give a fair chance against? Perhaps our selection criteria is too limiting?

Additionally, there's no transparent list of what is actually included and the full costs. Are we just buying licenses, or are we getting the "investigative notebooks" and any kits so kids actually get some hands on science? Or we continue to perpetuate inequity with only higher income schools getting access to hands on projects through PTA fundraising and class fees? How much are all of these computers going to cost? I don't doubt that Amplify is better in many schools than 20 year old textbooks and extremely limited funds for supplies. However, is it better than the other options? What is the plan to get kids hands on science? What happens in 9 years when we have absolutely nothing left - no textbooks to limp along for another decade? What happens if the next levy means we need to scale back tech and we can't afford the replacement cost? Who is maintaining all of these laptops and what happens when they break out of the planned refreshment cycle?

NE Parent

kellie said...

At this week's board meeting on Wednesday, the pro-Amplify folks arranged for extensive testimony in advance of this upcoming vote.

There were many pro-Amplify speakers and zero opposed. Most likely because the pro-Amplify folks are very organized and the against folks are disparate voices.

Amplify will be introduced officially at the next board meeting and then the board will vote two weeks later. For anyone who has serious concerns about this "adoption" the timeline is very short.

I have to state once again, that I have never seen an "adoption process" that had ONLY ONE curriculum to move forward. The entire point of an adoption process is to evaluate multiple options against a rubric and the present the board with your findings. The current process is being framed as Amplify or Nothing.

That is simply not true. It is much more important to do this right, than to do this quickly. The adoption as proposed creates a 10 year fixed path with very high costs. Amplify might be the right answer, but it needs to be done correctly, in a manner that inspires confidence.



Anonymous said...

Parents - If your kids are not learning from Amplify, their voices should be the ones heard. Can you organize your voices and present testimony. Can someone organize and invite people so we know where to go and when?

Anonymous said...

Wow, no kidding. The speaker list was half science adoption comments, with MMW #25, and another 20 on the waitlist.

get organized

Anonymous said...

I thank the people who sat through the (rigged) adoption process, they are good people and they gave up Saturdays to do the process and now they are entrenched in adopting a curriculum which checked the boxes but will not be good for students learning science. The adoption committee states Amplify scored highest on all the questions they asked... BUT that is because they asked the wrong questions.

Which had the better simulations? (Amplify’ s simulations are awesome, but the content is lacking)
What is easier out of the box? (Amplify is a curriculum a substitute or any person off the street can run, it is simply watching kids log onto the computer and checking to see what step they are on)
What curriculum can be monitored to make sure everybody is getting the same (numbing) lesson daily? Again amplify, it can be / will be data mined to ensure compliance – no waivers will be granted.

Amplify is a canned curriculum with a contrived, irrelevant question driving the units. It sorely glosses over many of the standards only to beat one standard to death, it has uneven in content AND process delivery.

The question the adoption committee and the school board should ask is… which curriculum is better for kids to learn and love science? Which is more engaging? Which is more memorable? Which meets kids where they are and can be used as a tool to get them to where they need to be? Which one engages in real hands on science, that allows ALL the students experience science, not only the privileged few whose parents can supplement. ALGORHYTHMS ARE NOT SCIENCE.

If they had asked those questions, I believe
The Better curriculum is TCI.... It has the fully covers concepts and has activities that are engaging and interesting to the kids. As for having a driving question covering the unit, any recent graduate to experience science teacher knows how to design a relevant phenomenon,

Any new science curriculum will take professional development, but it should be at teaching science not how to fix a computer and how not to copy and paste or gloss over the questions with pushing the skip button….

WE need to have the adoption committee go back to the drawing board, do a fair adoption (more time with each curricula) and have one of the major questions be directed at kids …. Which way of learning was most engaging.

Have your kids testify

Anonymous said...

It appears those speaking on the science adoption were ALL part of, or recruited by (and prompted by), the adoption committee - students, teachers, and community members. The common talking points were about "rigor and integrity of the adoption process," "equity," and should we adopt Amplify, or one "written in the 90's...which is mostly on paper." VERY common theme - textbooks are bad (on a related note, the actual carbon footprint of paper vs online texts may not be as different as some might think).

Note to students, from Geary: "Keep it up...Come and talk to us...tell us about your experiences."

Agree with another that this feels similar to the EDM adoption. "Adopt this curriculum that will take us into the 21st Century." Digital or text is almost a diversion at this point. You know how we taught our kids math after the EDM (and CMP and Discovering) adoption(s)? With books from the 90s.

the irony

Dick Schreck said...

The Bellevue schools site indicates they adopted Amplify in 2017. Can we agree that this is an excellent school system.

Dick Schreck said...

Redmond Oregon:Linda Seeberg, executive director of academic achievement; Chris Morton, director of school improvement; and elementary instructional coach Stephanie Wilcox urged the board at its meeting last week to adopt Amplify, as the district hasn’t updated its elementary science curriculum since the 2011-12 school year.

“If you ask any elementary teacher in our district, they’d say we desperately need new science materials,” Seeberg said.

According to the trio, the district tried three new K-5 science curricula starting two years ago. Morton said one program was focused almost exclusively on hands-on experimentation, and the second was too textbook-heavy, but Amplify bridged the gap between the two extremes, while including lots of digital integration.

Dick Schreck said...

Hillsboro OR:November 27, 2017 - In the spring of this year, HSD completed a three-year K-8 science materials adoption process, which culminated in the School Board’s approval of Amplify Science. Amplify Science materials are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which will be tested in the spring of 2019, are hands-on, and integrate other disciplines like language arts and math. This means the units are not only relevant, but are engaging students by tapping into their natural curiosity and spurring higher-level thinking.

“It’s exciting to see how teachers and students are responding to Amplify,” explains Science and STEAM Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Sandie Grinnell. Seeing how science integrates with other subject areas provides that meaning and purpose that engages students.”

Dick Schreck said...

Edmonds: Following the Edmonds School District’s Science Adoption process implemented from November 2017-May 2018, the Materials Review Committee, Pilot Committee, Student Learning Team, with the support of parents, families, community members, and students of Edmonds School District formally recommend adopting the Amplify Science instructional materials for grades 6,7,8.

Dick Schreck said...


Education Week, Curriculum Matters,
http://www.edweek.org/ew/contributors/stephen.sawchuk.html
Four of the series—Discovery's Science Techbook, Carolina Biological Supply Company's Science and Technology Concepts, and two versions of Teachers' Curriculum Institute's Bring Science Alive!—were deemed insufficiently aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. One series, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Science Dimensions, was considered partially aligned. Only one series, Amplify's Amplify Science, got top marks for alignment, coherence, and usability, according to the nonprofit EdReports, which conducted the reviews.

Dick Schreck said...

Corvallis Or
Current CSD adopted textbooks by subject area

Math (grades 6-8): Shannon McCaw, Core Focus on Math
Math (grades 9-12): multiple
English Language Arts (grades 6-8): McGraw Hill, Study Sync
English Language Arts (grades 9-12): multiple
Health: Healthy Sexuality, adopted 2012 and Health Kits from CIMC
Social Sciences: multiple
Science (grades 6-8): Amplify
Science (grades 9-12): multiple

Anonymous said...

Sorry Dick. Unless state law and district policy were followed in this process, the quality of any particular curriculum is irrelevant.

Fairmount Parent

Alsept Teresa said...

So five districts have adopted Amplify. I wonder if their process ( of free materials being given) was similar to what we have seen in Seattle? As for people liking it. Well if you’ve just bought it, I’m sure you’re going to praise it. The time to ask is in 9 years when the contract is up and they have no materials or curriculum left.
Teresa

Dick Schreck said...

My point is that Many school districts have evaluated curriculum and chosen Amplify because it was the best offering. These are smart people dedicated to science education. I respect their judgements and I respect the same decision that was validly made by SPS community.

Melissa Westbrook said...

How Do We Get Middle School Students Excited About Science? Make It Hands-On https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/53331/how-do-we-get-middle-school-students-excited-about-science-make-it-hands-on

FOSS adapted to NGSS; what a concept.

But to note, there are still outstanding questions about how Amplify came to SPS. The answers may point to why Amplify gets rejected.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Do you even live in Seattle, Mr. Schreck?

As to your last point, believing teachers and those on the adoption committee, I agree. In fact, DeWolf made that point at the COW in a rather cloying manner.

However, the Board is charged with a different kind of oversight. They are not expected to be curriculum experts. But they darn well have to follow the law and their own policies and that hasn't happened. Fidelity counts and staff can't ignore that.

As for Ronald Boy and his legal assertions that every thing was done properly, this is the same guy who told me the Check Yourself screener was not being used in violation of the federal regulation, PPRA, protecting student rights. Not two weeks later, the Department of Education let him know he was mistaken and he admitted that.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Retired Sciteach
"This is not the first time they have used the foundation as a screen to donate and get adoptions in districts."

What foundation? NSF?

Dick Schreck said...

Yes I live here and I pay property taxes here. I also believe it is unethical to deprive SPS students of a good curriculum when we know one is available and we raise conspiracies to stop the process. I am convinced the adoption process was done by SPS policy and the law and I have attended board meetings where SPS legal explained the details of the process and their legality.

Anonymous said...

@ Dick, how did they all evaluate and determine it was the best? They used specific criteria. If I recall, Seattle’s committee started with criteria that were developed externally, the maybe did some tweaks. Other districts may have done the same. We’re these the best criteria? Did the criteria consider the materials (digital and print) that would be available throughout the adoption (e.g., if we have 1-to-1 access to x, y and z for every year it looks good, but if we don’t have all components it doesn’t)? Did the criteria fully address the needs of different types of learners? Did they test the differentiation levels? Did the criteria address equity via an analysis of outcomes for different sub-populations? Did the criteria over-emphasize the importance of alignment to NGSS at the expense of other aspects of science learning? And so on.

If the criteria by which curricula were scored were biased in favor of ease of implementation (without considering feasibility, e.g., $) and equity (e.g., saying all the right words, without data to back them up) and alignment (just for the sake of alignment, and did NOT include things like real-world implementation fidelity, differentiation, pilot results, equity of outcomes, etc., then who cares what the results say? Bad evaluative criteria result in bad outcomes. You don’t buy a new car base on color, shape, and marketing materials only, right? You also want to see how it handles, what safety features are included, how it does re: eliabity and maintenance costs,, etc.

Do kids like Amplify? If, is it because it’s rngaging, or because it’s easy and gives them time to do other things besides science? Does this differ by student demographics? What do teachers think? If some like and others don’t, what’s the split, and why? After piloting this for at least a year, any decisions should definitely consider implementation and outcome data as well.

Oh, and clear and ethical processes, too.

Bad Criteria

Alsept Teresa said...

Dick
I wonder how you know the people from other districts are “ smart people”. I’m not saying they aren’t, I’m simply wondering how you would know that.
I personally know people that have used the curriculum and don’t think it’s that good.

As a science teacher for 24 years I do not think that any curriculum that is 2/3rd reading( either online or from printed out readings) and discussion is the best way for middle school students to learn and no so called “expert” could convince me without good data.

Dick Schreck said...

The criteria were developed based on SPS policy and took account of many factors as explained to the school board be staff at the board meeting ( I think April 2nd). The criteria sought the best curriculum that supports NGSS.
Young students testified about their experience with Amplify at the May 1 meeting, they loved it. You would be able to find students with good and bad experiences with any curriculum, but I have searched for and found stats showing Amplifys advantage from other districts as well as the field test is SPS. I believe neither students or teachers are lazy, they are excited to learn and teach.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I sent the Board all the comments that parents and teachers here, including those who signed their names, who don’t like Amplify. Not everyone can go to a Board meeting.