The Entire Board Must Vote No on the Science Adoption

You'll note the use of the word "must" in the headline for this post.  I have gone from "should" to "must" based on new information I received today via public disclosure documents from the district.

I had put in a request weeks ago and received a message that there were over 900 emails between the head of Science, Mary Margaret Welch, and Amplify.   I'm not surprised that there were some but that is quite a volume for less than two years.

However, there were 25 other emails between Welch and several other people that I asked the good folks in the Public Disclosure area to send as soon as they could.  They were kind enough to get them to me yesterday.

They reveal that Welch entered into an agreement in early August 2017 with Lawrence Hall at UC Berkeley (who had a grant from IES - a federal agency, Institute of Education Sciences) and SRI International (who is the entity carrying out the research for the grant).  The grant was to study the efficacy of Amplify Science for first graders around literacy and science. 
If funded, districts would receive the full curriculum package along with teacher professional development and support over the two years of implementation at no cost to the participating districts.  Districts also receive a stipend to partner with us to coordinate and support the successful implementation of the curriculum.  Moreover, all participating teachers will receive stipends for their participation in study activities.
The prep year is this year with the first year of implementation in 2019-2020.  Welch submitted a letter, on SPS letterhead, saying yes.  It includes giving the researchers "learning outcome data."

Update: There are no waivers filed for first grade science. None.  There were only four waivers in elementary (part of the 20 schools that SPS said had waivers):  Decatur, Cascadia, Genessee Hill and Cedar Park. To note, Cedar Park and Decatur had  just opened and so this was purely a principal decision.  This does not negate the fact that Welch and her staff have not revealed this information about their dealings with NSF and Amplify.

end of update

NONE of this has been revealed to the Board by Welch or anyone else.   This kind of deception cannot be allowed.

Amplify, in its proposal, said that they have been working in 69 schools but Ms. Welch hastily said that was just an error and it was far fewer schools with waivers (about 20).   I think Amplify was just being honest as opposed to the dissembling that Welch was doing.

In short, along with Ms. Welch's four varying stories about how Amplify came to be in SPS, she now has this factual issue.  

Additionally, in those public disclosure emails are three curious ones.  They came to Ms. Welch via an NSF maildrop called FastLane about three different "temporary proposals."

Email #1 - October 12, 2017 -  Welch is added as a "co-PI" on a "temporary proposal."  " PI Last Name: Bell.  Co-PI email address;

Email#2 - October 13, 2017 - Welch is added as a "co-PI" on a "temporary proposal."  " PI Last Name: Thompson.  Co-PI email address;

Email #3 - November 7, 2018 - Welch is added as a "co-PI" on a "temporary proposal."  " PI Last Name: Thompson.  Co-PI email address;

What does this mean?  I suspect it's about Amplify Science, given those dates but Welch didn't mention any of this to the Board.  I will be doing further research on this.  

I also expect to receive partial results from my FOIA that I filed with the NSF around a study of Amplify Science Middle School by Monday and I suspect I will find more of the same.

No matter the vote by the Board on Wednesday, I will absolutely be filing a request with the State Auditor's office to investigate this science adoption process.  

 How We Got Here

To note, Ms. Welch did nothing wrong in looking for opportunities for the district to try new curriculum cost-free.

However, she must tell the Board all that she has done when there is a curriculum adoption. And she hasn't.

Of course, the union and the teachers might want Amplify.  They have already been using it AND some of them received stipends for doing so.

Additionally, in Amplify's RFI, they stated that "Seattle Public Schools leadership providing key insight and feedback on future Amplify product and curriculum redesign."  Also, the RFI says that activity will "support to promote adoption."  Very shady.

Again, I state the following:

- The adoption committees have worked very hard and put in huge amounts of time.  None of this is their fault and I'd bet none of them know this.  (Some key staff, however, probably do.)  They are the curriculum experts.

- But it is not the Board's job to be curriculum experts and they should look to the committees for their recommendations.  That said, the Board does NOT, legally or otherwise, have to take any or all of the committees recommendations.  Especially because:

- There is evidence that Board policies were not followed.  Legal counsel, Ronald Boy, says the policies have been followed.  The end of this thread raises more questions and I suspect that if the State Auditor looked into it, they would disagree.

The Board's role in curriculum adoption is to be certain that ALL policies were followed.  The Board has to make sure that each vendor has been treated fairly there was no favoritism shown to any one vendor.

The Board's role is to make sure that there was the ability for parents, staff and the public to examine curriculum materials and give input PER Board policy and not just from some structure set up by staff, (see Board policy 2015 and Superintendent Procedure 2015 SP.B). 

The Board's role is to use a critical eye over all the process.  I'm truly not sure how any rational adult could take the four varying stories that Ms. Welch gave about how Amplify got into our schools in the first place.  That does not speak for the veracity of the process.

The Board's other jobs in this process -  which they did not truly consider, nor was this covered by the committees or staff - is two-fold.  They did not consider the data-gathering that may have gone on by Amplify and what that might mean for adoption of Amplify.  They also did not consider the ramifications of more screen time for students.

(We can have a separate discussion about screen time but the district has some kind of digital learning team and it would be great to understand the vision SPS has for increased screentime BEFORE they adoption curriculum that forces that issue.   I'll just note that many Silicon Valley families choose schools that don't use tech.  Also, the impacts of the costs of the needed technology will set this district on a road where you will see more and more capital dollars diverted for tech (because 85% of tech in SPS comes from BEX/BTA).

Circling back to Amplify, there is also the question of all this "free" stuff from Amplify?  Again, anyone looking at the situation would say, "Tell us everything you got from Amplify, its estimated cost, when you got it and who used it."

Sue Peters, former president of the school board, asked to see numbers for all these freebies from district data.  The spreadsheet she received shows costs of $.01 for 37 units for First Grade Physical Science (which we now know is coming free via the NSF grant).  The last column -for every single item - has the notation, "Still to be invoiced for value." 

It also says that 9,000 subscriptions were purchased in August 2018 for a little over $50K.  Wait, what? We were told those were given to SPS for free.  And, this vendor request falls squarely during the adoption period which would be in conflict with RCW bid rules.

Those basic questions have NOT been answered and, at this point, that is suspicious.  

At this late date, that is unacceptable and should be the final dealbreaker.

The Board needs to know the value so that they can ascertain if Washington law - not just their own policies - may have been broken.  Districts cannot accept goods/services over a certain amount without Board approval.  Seattle School Board cannot approve anything if they don't know the dollar amounts.

Because the district does not support teaching and learning as it should by providing materials that are needed, they have allowed some PTSAs to use fundraising dollars to supplement science teaching at their schools.  I know in the case of Hamilton International Middle School that the science teachers directly asked the PTSA to spend funds on science professional development by sending the entire science department to a science conference (where they were trained on Amplify Science).

That is an equity issue but one of the district's own making.  Their central job is teaching and learning; how can it be that so many schools lacked basic materials and professional development?

(I will have a separate thread on the issue of PTSA fundraising and spending but let's just say, the district is willing collaborator who will tell the public how inequitable the disparities among schools is but, behind closed doors at JSCEE, willingly accept PTSA dollars that help support those schools so the district doesn't have to.)

RCW Issues via Robert Femiano
Former SPS teacher and Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, 2002 

Issue #1: Can the District accept gifts from vendors, before or during the competitive bid process?

The District website notes, "In May 2018, Seattle Public Schools initiated an adoption process for instructional materials to support science in grades K through 12". Under the FAQ, it says, “Amplify provided the program subscriptions (the digital portion) for free to SPS.”

(a) Was RCW 39.26.020 (1a) * (Ethics in public contracting) violated when the District solicited via purchase orders and then accepted gifts of Amplify subscriptions or licenses immediately prior to the competitive bid period on 3/7/18 (Open P.O. for license) and again during the adoption review process (7/25/18 for 160 licenses and again on 8/29/18 for 9000 licenses and again on 11/19/18 for 1 license), in violation of RCW 42.52.140 ** (gifts)?

(b) According to the District's SAP spreadsheet showing Amplify purchases from 2015-2019 (presented during public testimony at Board meeting 5/15/19), the licenses in (a) above, totaled $1,610, $25, $50,040 and $3,525, respectively, but each shows $0 under "still to be invoiced". If these purchases are in essence a loan, was RCW 39.26.020 (1a) * (Ethics in public contracting) violated when the District accepted loaned instructional materials, immediately before and again during the adoption process?

Issue #2: Can a bidder change its bid once it is a finalist, and then again after being awarded the contract?

(a) The original April 5th C&I BAR report for middle school shows the licensing cost at $1,503,829 but the May 15th Introduction BAR lists a new licensing fee at $2,069,686 -- over 37% increase! Are bidders allowed to change the price after they are (tentatively) awarded the contract?

(b) Are bidders allowed to renegotiate the contract after being awarded the bid? According to said BAR report, Attachment A: (Amplify Education, Inc. Proposal): “Following the recommendation to purchase AmplifyScience, Seattle Public Schools’ Purchasing Office will request a third round of pricing options from Amplify Education, Inc.” Could the price increase yet again, without public oversight?

Issue #3: Did District Procurement Actions favor Amplify from the start?

District Procurement policy 6220 requires that “District staff shall use sound business and financial practices...and shall promote fair competition...”

(a) According to the Superintendent's May 10 Memo to the Board, the district was responsible for all the costs associated with printing workbooks and assembling kits for the 20 waiver schools. How sound is it to have spent public money and resources on an experimental pilot product and without Board authorization? Could that financial decision have been influenced by an assumption it was an investment in a future adoption?

(b) How financially sound is it for the District to have spent $9600 on 8/15/17 and $10,105 on 9/20/17 on professional development specifically to implement the Amplify pilot program? (Invoices #5106632845 and 5106652610, respectively) Does this early financial commitment make the District more prone to accept a bid from the vendor?

(c) Is it "sound business and financial practice" to use taxpayer money to pay for a company's instructional materials so that the same company may use the pilot data to improve its sales?

Issue #4: Does a long-standing relationship with a vendor preclude engaging with them in competitive bidding?

(a) Since August 2016, the District has been involved in implementing Amplify science program, scaling up the involvement in 2017-2019 through its pilot programs. From material submitted by Amplify during the competitive bid process, it is clear the vendor considers itself in a “partnership” with the District. “Since the 2016-2017 school year, we have partnered with Seattle Public Schools to pilot Amplify Science as a K-8 core curriculum”. Is it ethically acceptable to engage in competitive bidding with a vendor in which you have a current relationship?

(b) According to Amplify bid materials, the intent of the partnership was to influence adoption of the their products. They state: “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.” Once this is known, is it legal/ethical to allow them to remain in the competitive bid process?

Issue #5: Would it violate Competitive Bid ethics if the District had contact with a vendor after submitting its bid to discuss or negotiate financial issues around licenses and/or debt relief?

(a) Is there an pre-existing Agreement outlining each party's financial obligations under their “partnership”? If so, was the Agreement accepted by the Board of Directors?

(b) How would other bidders perceive these actions, if there were discussions?

Given the hidden history and the long-standing "partnership" with Amplify prior to the adoption, along with the above seeming irregularities involving fair bidding rules and the unannounced price increases on the Board Action Report on May 15th, it may make sense at this point to seek individual outside legal advice before proceeding with any Motion to adopt Amplify. Perhaps the State Attorney General's office can be of assistance with their many legal advisers.

* RCW 39.26.020 Ethics in public contracting.

(1)(a) A state officer or employee of an agency who seeks to acquire goods or services or who participates in those contractual matters is subject to the requirements in RCW 42.52.150.

(b) A contractor who contracts with an agency to perform services related to the acquisition of goods and services for or on behalf of the state is subject to the requirements in RCW 42.52.150.

(2) No person or entity who seeks or may seek a contract with a state agency may give, loan, transfer, or deliver to any person something of economic value for which receipt of such item would cause a state officer or employee to be in a violation of RCW 42.52.040, 42.52.110, 42.52.120, 42.52.140, or 42.52.150.

** RCW 42.52.140 Gifts.

No state officer or state employee may receive, accept, take, seek, or solicit, directly or indirectly, any thing of economic value as a gift, gratuity, or favor from a person if it could be reasonably expected that the gift, gratuity, or favor would influence the vote, action, or judgment of the officer or employee, or be considered as part of a reward for action or inaction.
RCW 39.30.020

Contracts requiring competitive bidding or procurement of services—Violations by municipal officer—Penalties.

In addition to any other remedies or penalties contained in any law, municipal charter, ordinance, resolution or other enactment, any municipal officer by or through whom or under whose supervision, in whole or in part, any contract is made in willful and intentional violation of any law, municipal charter, ordinance, resolution or other enactment requiring competitive bidding or procurement procedures for consulting, architectural, engineering, or other services, upon such contract shall be held liable to a civil penalty of not less than three hundred dollars and may be held liable, jointly and severally with any other such municipal officer, for all consequential damages to the municipal corporation. If, as a result of a criminal action, the violation is found to have been intentional, the municipal officer shall immediately forfeit his or her office. For purposes of this section, "municipal officer" means an "officer" or "municipal officer" as those terms are defined in RCW 42.23.020(2).


Michael Rice said…
Melissa - this is really great work on your part. Thank you.
kellie said…
Ditto to Michaels' comment. Thank you for the in depth research.

Anonymous said…
EVERY kind of deception that can be allowed has been allowed AND ENCOURAGED at SSD since Charlie came up with the phrase "Culture of Lawlessness".

Wake up and take a whiff.

How many texts did you get?
Anonymous said…
I’m impressed by your work, Melissa! THANK YOU.

Now, the spotlight shifts to the board . . .

- Let’s Talk

Anonymous said…
"Co-PI" must mean co-principal investigator (on the study)? Is she a principal investigator on the study in question and didn't disclose it?

suep. said…
Hi Melissa,
Thanks for this info.
One important correction: R Femiano did not compile that Excel spreadsheet.

I received it from the district's legal Dept/public records office in response to my PRA request earlier this year.

I asked for all purchase orders, receipts invoices etc relating to Amplify and SPS from 2015 to 2019.

That is one of the docs they sent me.
So that is a *district* document. It is their own data. It was not simply created by a member of the public.

And it contradicts many of the stories staff have told the Board and the public.

— Sue Peters
Tired Mom said…
Thank you, Melissa!
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
suep. said…
But Robert Femiano presented the spreadsheet to the board at the 5/15/19 board meeting with a powerful public statement, and some very troubling questions. Namely: Does the district owe money to Amplify Education, Inc? And how was it legal and proper for the district to be conducting transactions *during* the RFP and adoption process with a vendor that was competing for district contracts?
Schmanparency, I assume "co-PI" means co-principal investigator. I'll have to ask.
SP Mom said…
Wow! So "stipend" = "kickback"

So, now Amplify Corp. knows our kids' reading level by name and age and school AND how fast they learn? Hello, any advertisers interested in this info?
suep. said…
Also, I would posit that vendors never give school district anything for “free.” There are always strings attached.

There is a quid pro quo.

Most often districts pays vendors with a valuable currency: student data.

And that leads to another giant problem with Amplify— it has been gathering and using SPS student data since 2015. Have parents ever been notified or asked for consent?

Who agreed to that? What safeguards are in place to protect student data and privacy?

There is no evidence that SPS and Amplify followed board Research policy that would govern how student data is gathered and used.

UW has also been conducting research on SPS students using Amplify. Two of the PI’s in those documents Melissa received are UW researchers — Jessica Thomson and Phillip Bell. Both were selected to be on the HS science curriculum adoption committee. Dr Thomson testified before the board in support of NGSS and showed a video of an elementary student doing a science lesson that was probably Amplify. Does she have a potential vested interest in the district adopting and paying for Amplify so she can contnue her research?

I have been told by the district that there is currently no contract between Amplify and SPS. If so, then what is governing the use of student data? I was told the terms of the Amplify purchase order would be the governing document. That means *Amplify* is deciding how our students’ info will be used, shared, protected — or not.

This is reckless beyond measure. And it violates policy and law.
Anonymous said…
The NSF grant for Amplify Science Middle School research is using CA and WA middle schools, so we'll see if this is the second solely recommended adoption material in which MMW is a co-PI. Melissa, did you FOIA NSF for the list of co-PI's for this study? They're not listed on the the application.

"The recruiting target is a sample of 48 middle schools within up to 6 medium to large districts in California and/or Washington. The researchers will attempt to recruit all middle schools and all 7th grade."

Non, yes, I should be getting full information on that NSF grant which I suspect may be the source of Amplify middle school science curriculum.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, thank you for sharing this information. Great work!
There seems to be a deliberate vagueness from MMW about interactions/agreements/purchases between Amplify and SPS....likely because there are violations of policy and law.

Re-start process
Anonymous said…
"...Of course, the union and the teachers might want Amplify..."

Has the union shown support for Amplify? If so, how?

"....And that leads to another giant problem with Amplify— it has been gathering and using SPS student data since 2015. ..."

I have been told that every middle school student's name in Seattle was input into the Amplify database. Even at schools, like Eckstein, that didn't do Amplify. However, this is something I was told and I do not know for sure if it's true.

For Shame said…
Uh, remove MMW and her paid MMWites, and *then* restart process. Also, please, please, please put someone in charge of looking into science curriculum equity for students furthest away from educational justice (SFAFEJ) who ISN'T trying to sell all the kids private information to outside corporations and ISN'T using Seattle's SFAFEJ as guinea pigs to improve their incredibly profitable pedagogy product.
Watching said…
The district and Amplify should have signed a data sharing agreement. Was the agreement signed? If so, that document should be available to the board.

The board must see actual grant agreement. These agreements contain a lot of information.
Anonymous said…
The Board Needs to Deliberate on Science Adoptions, School Budget Cuts, and Teacher Layoffs.
The three are strongly connected.

The SPS Board is currently getting hit with too much information for the Directors to process carefully.
The District Staff are jamming way too many decisions at them, right at the end of the School Year.

Parents and Teachers are now reeling from the Budget Cuts, which are being thrown at their Schools.
And the Board has not even had a chance to deal with this year's new Budget, being provided by Olympia.

The Board should definitely postpone a vote on the Science Curriculum BARs, scheduled for next week. No doubt about it.
Use next week's Board Meeting to hear 40-50 speakers instead.

But make sure that Parents and Teachers affected by the proposed School Budget Cuts are given a chance to speak, before the Board makes a final decision on Science Curriculum Adoption. Put "Budget Cuts" as a priority on the Speakers List.

At the last SPS Board Meeting, several Directors clearly expressed an interest in getting key questions answered before moving forward with a Vote on Science Curriculum Adoptions.

Issues raised on this Blog, as well as distributing new information about the Science Adoption Process, are good reasons for the Board to move forward carefully, on Budgets, Curriculum Adoptions, and Teacher Layoffs.

Penny Wise

Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
This reflects badly on the the NSF. We NIH funded researchers have to disclose and guard against financial conflicts of interest like this. I would advise concerned parties to directly contact the NSF Program Officer for this grant. Do it by phone.

LInh-Co said…
NSF has pushed some horrendous curriculum and has destroyed an entire generation of students. They were responsible for CMP2, TERC Investigations, etc.
Anonymous said…
If MMW is a temporary Co-PI on multiple NSF Grants to study Amplify in SPS Schools,
where are the Parental Informed Consent forms for MMW's studies these Schools?

There must be Waivers as well. How could research studies on Amplify be conducted in SPS Elementary Schools without Waivers and Informed Consent forms?

Fed Up2
Anonymous said…
On the three emails from FastLane: FastLane is the NSF portal used to apply for a grant. A “temporary proposal” email to a “Co-PI” is what you get when the principal investigator creates an account to start uploading all the information for a proposal that lists you as a collaborator. Being “Co-PI” on a “temporary proposal” means you are co-principal investigator (i.e. working with one or more others) applying for money from the NSF for your project. It does not mean that you got funded or even that you actually submitted the proposal, though when you create a “temporary proposal” that is what you hope will happen.

What this looks like to me is that MMW is trying to get NSF funding to support using SPS students as human subjects on a project investigating use of Amplify. Applying in both Fall 2017 and Fall 2018 implies that she didn’t get funded in the first round. Since everything at NSF stopped during the government shutdown, decisions on proposals this year are running later that normal, so they may not have heard yet on this year’s application.

Supported scientist
Has the union shown support for Amplify? If so, how?"

Yes, the union has had teachers show up to Board meetings in their red union shirts. (One person who was seated in that area at the last Board meeting said she was offered a sign but told that teacher that she was against the adoption. She asked the teacher why she supported it and the teachers said she didn't teach science but was told it was good.)

And, at the Executive Ctm meeting (where A LOT of important things were said that I need to report out on), SEA leaders said they support the committees' decisions AND that they wanted the amendment dropped. Interestingly, they singled out Director Burke, even though it was Burke AND Pinkham who brought it forth. Burke, who was at the meeting on the phone from China, acknowledged the request but said nothing else. Director Harris said that Pinkham wasn't there and she would pass it along.

I do see this meme of trying to make it look like Burke is acting alone. He isn't.

Fed Up2, I have an update on your questions; see the thread.

Thank you, Supported Scientist, that's helpful. Of course, why she didn't tell the Board this, during an adoption, is the main question.
Anonymous said…
The Multi racial Task Force continues to question the Amplify curriculum implementation. There has not been enough information with regard to learning styles, teaching styles, seat time, computer access, professional development, and a clear concern about and response to the question, why is there priority funding for this adoption before Ethnic Studies and Native American curriculum are implemented in all schools with dedicated professional development and adequate funding in place.
Carol Simmons said…
Sorry, this was my post.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, you may want to FOIA SPS for any MOUs with WestEd, Amplify and Michigan State University. They're informational gold mines.

I found an MOU between Davis USD and WestEd for the Amplify Middle School Science study you're researching that reveals the level of student data collected:

"The District shall:

D. Provide students with regular access to Internet-enabled computers in order to complete study activities

E. Provide prior 6th grade CAASPP scores for math and language arts for all participating 7th grade students; provide follow-up 8th grade student CAST achievement data for these same students

F. Provide student demographic data (gender, race/ethnicity, Individualized Education Program (IEP) status, free-and-reduced-price lunch status, English language learner status)"

Taxpayers foot the bill for computer purchases so researchers can collect student data violating FERPA in the name of "improving outcomes" for students YET none of that disaggregated efficacy data and resultant learnings for diverse learners is returned back to the schools to positively impact outcomes and share with community stakeholders. Instead districts essentially sell student data in exchange for "free" curriculum and materials without parent consent or IRB approval.

NN, I (probably wrongly) assumed if there were MOUs, MMW and/or the Superintendent would have stated it. I'll do that.
Anonymous said…
Teachers being Fired to Buy Computer-Based Curriculum Materials

Next Wed, the School Board will vote to approve a $10M Science Curriculum package, loaded with unneeded computers.

10 SPS Teachers will lose their jobs, because of this irresponsible $10M Purchase.

Over 45 SPS High School teachers, at last count, are losing their jobs across the District, because of Budget Cuts.

Parents, email your Board Members. Urge them to save Teacher jobs. Make Balance their Budget Shortfalls somewhere else.

Don't Re-Elect Irresponsible Board Members who vote to sack Teachers next week.

This School Board doesn't even know how much of a Budget Hole they are digging for the Next School Board to handle.

Save Teachers

Save Teachers, here's what doesn't make sense. The district's budget office says they don't have the money to pay for the adoption of the Amplify curriculum. (Tech DOES have the money to buy the computers needed and that's yet another story).

So how come this is that urgent to not get it right?

And I note the absence of any defense of what I have brought to light.
z said…
Teresa said: "I have been told that every middle school student's name in Seattle was input into the Amplify database. Even at schools, like Eckstein, that didn't do Amplify. However, this is something I was told and I do not know for sure if it's true."

Sue/Melissa, is there any way to verify if this is true?

Also, the point about having a DSA (data sharing agreement) in place is really key. It seems like district legal or DoT should have that information readily available. If not, that's perhaps the biggest red flag of all.

Related, if student information is being used for any kind of research at all, it probably falls under the category of Human Subjects Research, and is subject to a slew of legal constraints, including Informed Consent. I don't believe there's any way around that, short of hiding the entire process and hoping that it doesn't get discovered.
Anonymous said…

I don't think this Board listens at all to Parent Voices about this Curriculum Adoption.

They don't seem to care about (a) the impact of this purchase has on the Budget, (b) whether Amplify, CarbonTime, etc. actually work (i.e. produce better student test scores) in SPS Schools, (c) Parent voices on this Blog, (d) Dissenting Teachers, or (e) the shocking numbers of Student Complaints about this Curriculum. It's now up to the Board to face reality on its lack of funding.

I worry about the 10 SPS Teachers who are going to lose their jobs over this Science Curriculum Adoption debacle.

It is Irresponsible for the District to be buying $10M of Curriculum Materials, while the District is currently in a yawning Budget Hole.

Hit the Pause Button, Board Directors. Define some Values and Funding Priorities. Give each High School a couple of Teacher Positions back, at next the Board Meeting. After you listen to Parents during Public Testimony. Do something right.

Put "Teacher Cuts" first on the Agenda for Discussion, and Public Testimony. Allow some Parents to speak at the Board Meeting, on behalf of their Schools, and their Teachers (who are getting fired). Before making a Decision to spend $10M the District doesn't currently have.

District Staff are pushing a Computers, not Teachers, Agenda.

Save Teachers

Teresa, see my thread on the Amplify assessments - I suspect that every student's name IS in the Amplify database.
Anonymous said…
I talked to someone else today and they also said all middle school students names were added at the same time.
suep. said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
suep. said…

This is reminiscent of the ConnectEDU incident. It was a product bought by the District back in 2012 or so, similar to Naviance, I believe -- to help students with college planning, but which required a lot of student data to be inputted. I believe every SPS middle school student (and possibly high school) had their info automatically transferred into the ConnectEDU platform.

ConnectEDU went bankrupt, filed for Chapter 11. The District told the company to delete all SPS student data. It refused. It wanted to hold onto the data as an asset that would make the company marketable to a prospective buyer.

If ever there was an example of our student's data being a marketable asset, this was it. In the end, we were told the SPS student data was deleted by the company that bought ConnectEDU, Graduation Alliance.


Millions of Student Records Sold in Bankruptcy Case

Here's an excerpt (Seattle is specifically referenced in the article):

By Michele Molnar
December 9, 2014

When the education technology company ConnectEDU Inc. sought protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy law earlier this year, 20 million student records hung in the balance, raising many questions for educators and parents alike.

What would happen to the data the company had amassed in its college- and career-ready technology platform for students from middle school through college? Who would own the records? How would they be secured?

Because of the bankruptcy court proceedings, the action played out on a public stage, revealing a transfer that usually goes on in a more private way when one company purchases another and data change hands. Ultimately, the sale of ConnectEDU occurred without the company abiding strictly to its privacy policy, creating a cautionary tale for school districts, and a complex challenge for the ed-tech industry.

Founded in 2002, ConnectEDU had amassed millions of records from school districts, as well as individual students and their parents. Depending on what a district or individual specified, a record could include a student's test scores, grade point average, learning disability, email and home addresses, phone number, and date of birth—among other information. The contracts with various education entities and a trove of individual student records were a substantial part of the company's remaining value as it dissolved.

The "company sale" portion of ConnectEDU's privacy policy opened with: "Information collected through our website is considered a trade secret of ours." In that same policy, ConnectEDU had promised its users that they could delete their personally identifiable records before any sale.

(...) "This is a significant red flag for the treatment of student information by education technology companies," said Joel R. Reidenberg, a law professor at Fordham and Princeton universities. ...

It was a cautionary tale that we referred to often in the District (Board and staff) as a case study on what to avoid in the future. I believe it led to better safeguards of student data in district contracts with vendors.

The problem right now with the "pilot" of AmplifyScience in SPS, though, is apparently there is no contract between Amplify Education, Inc. and SPS. So what is governing how Amplify is using, sharing, protecting (or not) our students data? I've been told the purchase orders with Amplify are the governing documents. In other words, Amplify itself is determining how and if our students' info is shared and protected.

If this is accurate, this is alarming and potentially violates District policy. I would urge Directors to get solid answers about this.

All the supposed "free" goods and services from Amplify in fact likely cost our students their privacy and data.
Anonymous said…
Once again, District Staff have violated FERPA, HIPA, RCWs, and School Board Policies.

This time Student and Teacher Data Privacy.

District Staff trading access to Student Data for Free Curriculum Materials?!!

No, School Board. You don't get a pass this time. No Contracts? No MOUs?
No knowledge of where SPS Student and Teacher Data went to. Or how it was used.

You will probably be called into Court for not doing your jobs on this one.

What does it take for you to stand up for Student and Teacher Rights?

Get Real

Dick Schreck said…
Melissa.. how did SPS people respond when you asked them to explain these materials you obtained?
Anonymous said…
Mr Schreck,
In previous threads, you’ve offered a vigorous defense of the adoption committee’s work and supported their recommendation of AmplifyScience.
Given these latest revelations of malfeasance, have you changed your opinion?

Re-start needed
Dick, the district itself will give no comment because of the adoption process. I have not heard directly from Board members but I believe that a couple on the fence now may have decided. It appears Director Geary’s belief is “ we have to do something” no matter how convoluted the situation. Since she’s a lawyer, I find that odd.
Dick Schreck said…
Melissa.. let me be more specific. Did you ask MMW or anyone representing her or her superiors to explain these specific materials that you have recently posted? And did they say no comment because of the adoption process?

It makes a difference to me because of the seriousness of some of your allegations.
Anonymous said…
Information from last SPS Board Meeting. Issues and Open Questions.

Seattle School Board Meeting, May 15, 2019: Part 3


Where's the Data?
Is Amplify helping the Kids?


1:33 Trust at Stake

1:34 Transparency. Retaliation against Teachers. Speaking Truths.

1:35 Costs

1:36 Anonymous Donor. Chronology. Debts.

1:39 Invoices. Costs of Computers.

1:41 Debts. Costs. Apples to Apples Competitive Bid. Existing Obligations to Vendor.
(no mention of existing Partnership with Vendor)

1:43 Get a Legal Letter put together on these Issues

1:47 Yes, some Waivers were given. Most were for Brand New Schools.

(only 4 Elementary Schools were given Curriculum Waivers in 2017. Amplify Bid says it put Curriculum Materials in 69 Schools, affecting 1,400 Teachers, and 36,000 Students. In which 69 SPS Schools did Amplify Pilot its Curriculum?)

1:49 Yes, there is a Need to Collect Data, to judge Curriculum Effectiveness.
Curriculum Materials need to have Assessment Tools Embedded in Them.

(But Staff does not provide Performance Data from Amplify Pilot-Project to Board Directors.
Staff does not provide information about the Vendor's Embedded Assessment Materials. Staff does not discuss Data Collection, Data Uses, or Data Sharing).

(SPS Staff do not address Student Data Privacy Issues,
or existing Vendor Contracts and/or Partnerships involving collected Student Data)

1:50 Changing Budget Numbers in the BARs. BARs do not track to Vendor Materials.

Seattle Parent
Dick, I did not on this particular issue because it was made quite clear to me when I did submit questions to MMW via the Communications person I have to go thru that they would not be answering any questions. I have passed this on to a real journalist who may be able to follow-up in ways I cannot.

But again, I cannot believe any thinking adult who is thinking objectively can look at all the unknowns (see Seattle Parent's accounting of the minute by minute at the Board meeting) and say, "Sure, this is all accounted for and we should process."

I can guarantee - as I step away from this district - that this will all end up be a costly and cautionary story.
Anonymous said…
So many questions...

Do formal pilot tests need to be approved by the Board?
Do MOUs with companies need to be approved by the Board?
Do data sharing agreements need to be approved by the Board?
Does an SPS Institutional Review Board or similar body need to review data sharing agreements first, to make sure the Board has the information they need?
Does sharing of student-level data need to be disclosed to parents, and do parents need to agree and/or sign an informed consent to such release?
Does SPS legal need to review and approve any MOUs, data sharing agreements, parent notifications of student data disclosure, etc.?
Is it acceptable under board policy for the district to be engaged in an extensive pilot project with a single curriculum provider prior to, during, and extending beyond the curriculum adoption process, and/or does this taint the process and open the district to possible lawsuits from other curriculum providers who were harmed by the obvious favoritism given to one of the "applicants"?

I simply cannot believe that everything is "clean" with respect to this process.

Another question: Are Board members potentially PERSONALLY LIABLE for not enforcing policies--especially when they have clearly been made aware of public concerns and the potential harm to the district and students prior to their votes?

Answers Needed
Answers Needed, the Board is not personally liable for their votes (unless it is something truly criminal like voting to help a relative get a position). You can, of course, always vote them out.

I perceive that a "no" vote could hurt more than a "yes" vote because the directors who appear to lean "yes" are going along with the notion that the work has been done and the district needs to process as well as it argument that this adoption will help students of color the most.

Which brings me to Director Harris. As she is the last one standing for a vote, this particular vote could help or hurt her. The SEA is very pro-adoption, going so far as to ask that Burke and Pinkham withdraw their amendment. (I doubt that will happen.) I would think SEA the union would hold it against her if she voted no.

On the other hand, people who like policies to be followed and enforced might find her stand brave and vote to retain her.

Of course Harris could vote yes on adoption; I have no idea which way she will vote but it seems that lines are being drawn.
Dick Schreck said…
Melissa.. thank you for clarifying. There are always two sides to a story and I would like to hear the first person account of these emails before spreading unknowns around.

Seattle Parent.. I attended the May15 meeting through the questions and came away with my own opinion. That is that Amplify Science was selected and is preferred to HMH for K5 based on the committee rcomendation, the cost is lower than HMH, and HMH has more student-computer interactions (something that many find undesirable). Plus it came out that HMH is not ADA compliant. Burke and Pinkham signaled that they inserted the amendment in response to pressure from others that they could not answer, and as a result of adding up the committee scores in a way not used by the committee. I am only guess where this outside pressure comes from. It was a very informative last part of the meeting.
Dick Schreck said…
Restart needed...sorry I didn’t respond directly to your question sooner, my mistake.

Like I posted, there are always two sides and I want to hear them before taking a position on tha appropriateness of these emails. It really hasn’t changed my opinion on the best selection for adoption.

I also stand by what I posted about the problem with negativity within this blog community about the SPS. It is natural for people, when they feel under attack, to get defensive and less open. We can do better.
Dick, if you can get a "first person account", good luck with that. You go call MMW and ask.

As for the cost of Amplify, the district has not given a good faith cost which includes schools being responsible for all printing costs which is a big hit for any school. Plus all the tech costs beyond just buying the computers needed.

What also came out? That HMH made it clear they are working on the ADA issue and I have to wonder if the district followed up to find out if that has changed. I know! I'll call HMH on Tuesday and see what I can find out. But that's not really my job; that's MMW's job.

Burke and Pinkham, reviewing the rubric that is in the BAR that the committee used, and saw that HMH came in first. One speaker tried to say that no, that was the wrong rubric. It's just exhausting trying to keep up with the stories being told. I cannot fault Burke and Pinkham for going with the info given to them by staff.

I'm not negative; I'm pointing out the obvious. If MMW feels defensive, perhaps she might start by not dissembling so much. She can do better.
Dick Schreck said… have a lot of power to do good. May I throw two ideas at you?

First, in looking at the agenda for the May 29 board meeting, they are considering a total of millions of dollars to approve spending for this or that service or construction or purchase. Most of them have 10% for sales tax!

We pay taxes, we give the money to schools, and then the state takes back 10% for tax! I propose that the state amend the sales tax rules so that schools do not pay sales tax on this type of spending on goods and services for our districts. This would be a small but not insignificant help to our budget challenged schools.

Second, there is an issue with rich schools that receive PTSA support that cannot be duplicated in poor schools. I heard this at the board meeting several times. Some rich schools are already donating to poor schools on their own. Let’s make this a little more organized. Not mandated, but more organized, like United Way. Let it be known that there is a suggested formula, and set up fund to fairly accomplis this help. Maybe even partner schools together from two areas of the city, share money, and share goals.

What are your thoughts?
Anonymous said…
Dick Shreck,

Are you seriously suggesting that Melissa should take on these projects? Why don’t you get right on them yourself?

It’s hard to believe there are still men out there who think the ladies just need a little guidance on how to use their time.

Arrogance Abounds
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
suep. said…
@Dick Schreck, Your understanding of the 5/15/19 Board meeting differs from mine.

Directors Burke and Pinkham’s amendment proposes adopting the K-5 materials that ranked in first place by the committee’s own measures and process (HMH). Staff’s own BAR supports this calculation. The amendment is legitimate and deserves consideration.

According to the K-5 curriculum adoption committee’s own rubric, HMH Science Dimension scored on top, not Amplify. Yet the committee recommended Amplify. When Directors asked how the second place finisher got bumped up to become the recommendation, Ms. Welch said that the committee took a vote and decided to recommend Amplify anyway, evidently overruling their own rubric and process.

At the 5/15 Board meeting, staff or a committee member appeared to change the story and suggested there was another rubric that wasn’t included in the BAR which put Amplify first. That came across as a very convenient rationalization.

Staff (Kyle Kinoshita and MaryMargaret Welch, if I recall) attempted to diminish HMH’s Science Dimensions with two claims: they said that HMH requires more computer time than Amplify. Their evidence? They said that HMH licenses are for every student, Amplify just for teachers. That alone does not prove how much computer time students spend using each curriculum. The Board needs more information on this and unfortunately cannot rely on staff to provide an objective analysis, as they have failed to do so thus far.

Staff also claimed that HMH is not ADA compliant. But an attachment to the elementary and middle school BARs indicates that HMH is in the process of making the materials compliant. This was back in January of this year. Did anyone check back with them for an update? Will the materials be ready by Sept? HMH is used in other districts and states without compliance issues.

Moreover, here’s an interesting fact that staff did not happen to mention: CarbonTime, their recommendation for high school biology, is also not ADA compliant.This is clearly stated in two attachments to the high school BAR, Attachment AI and Attachment L.

Attachment L shows that CarbonTime is not only not ADA compliant, but the District may offer to help it become compliant, and there will be a cost involved. (The BAR says CarbonTime has no cost.)

If CarbonTime is not compliant, or needs more resources and time to become compliant, why is it being recommended?

If it's okay for CarbonTime to need more time and resources to become ADA compliant, then why is staff not making the same allowances for HMH Science Dimensions?

Why is staff not offering the same assistance to HMH?

This is inconsistent and indicates (again) bias on the part of staff in favor of certain products (here CarbonTime and AmplifyScience) over other products (HMH).

suep. said…
Here are the attachments (referenced above) from the HS BAR:

Attachment A1: Carbon TIME Proposal

Proposal Overview and Revisions
In response to Seattle Public School’s Request for Proposal (RFP) Steps 1 and 2, Michigan State University, the lead organization in the collaborative research partnerships that develop Carbon TIME, submitted the proposal on the following pages. Carbon TIME does not have a cost, as it is a free and open educational resource, constantly improved by educators and university researchers. As such, the proposal submitted by MSU identifies costs for ADA compliance and website maintenance as the only foreseeable financial costs to the District for an Adoption of Carbon TIME.

Attachment L: Consent Decree Compliance
To ensure maximal accessibility of all products purchased by Seattle Public Schools, and to comply with a 2015 Consent Decree relating to all electronic resources purchased by Seattle Public Schools, completion of the most recent version of the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) was required of vendors submitting materials for review by the middle school science textbook adoption committee.
In April 2019, at the request of the science content area and the purchasing office, Angie DeBoo, Seattle Public Schools Information Security Network Analyst, reviewed the response for the finalist product. Below are the results of this review:
VPAT Status
Carbon TIME
Not currently compliant
Michigan State University did not submit a VPAT. Instead, they submitted a statement that if they were selected, they would work with the District to find a vendor to do the work or defer to the District to oversee the work.
The program manager was informed that any vendor product selected must pass the VPAT review to meet WCAG 2.0 AA requirements prior to implementation of their product. This will require the District to oversee an audit of the curriculum and to coordinate with Michigan State University to implement required updates and revisions to the curriculum.
suep. said…
Melissa, Are those you heard complain about the Burke/Pinkham amendment SEA rank and file or just SEA leadership? The two are not the same, as I’m sure you know. In fact, I have been told by multiple sources that numerous teachers do not like Amplify but are unwilling to speak out against it and the actions of Ms. Welch because they have been intimidated into silence and fear retaliation.

Over the years, I have also seen SEA leadership push agendas that were not representative of the general SEA membership. I remember the same current SEA leadership haranguing the Board just a few years ago against a curriculum adoption, and accused the Board of investing in books instead of teachers. So now they support Amplify? Is it because of the $5.5 million staff is requesting for teacher PD? Why are they so eager to support a platform (computerized learning) that could lead to the diminishing of their own profession and the loss of teaching jobs?

Like Mr. Schreck, I also recommend that readers watch the tapes of the 5/15/19 Board meeting. It was riddled with inconsistencies, obfuscations and outright falsehoods. Especially note the rather uncomfortable legal counsel Ronald Boy trying to explain the ever-changing "anonymous donor" story, or Ms. Welch claiming that the orchestration of mass waivers to use Amplify Science with the identical application letter that each of the 20 schools submitted and was clearly written by one person, was entirely the spontaneous idea of individual teachers at each school, not herself or other senior staff at the JSCEE. Former head of Teaching and Learning Michael Tolley's own comments from that year contradict this claim by Ms. Welch, as do committee members who were there at the time.

I don't know how this adoption debacle will end, but the amount of duplicity and bullying and suppression of community feedback and dissent, and the complete disregard for data and facts, policy and law that has marked this process has been astounding. The Board, policy and law have been circumvented by staff, and the Board and the public have been lied to repeatedly throughout this process.
Anonymous said…
@ Dick Schreck, if there's a lot of negativity on this SPS blog, whose fault do you think that is? The parents who are complaining about the BS that SPS routinely doles out? Get real. The district brought this on themselves, and if people complain a lot, it's because there's a lot to complain about.

I've been a parent in other school districts before, and guess what? We didn't need blogs because things went pretty smoothly, or were handled transparently when they didn't.


kellie said…
@ Dick,

I want to thank you for commenting here. I think we get the best information when we have multiple points of view posts with an actual name or moniker so that it's possible to follow along.

IMHO, this "adoption" process has been utterly fraught from the get-go.

The process started with a group that was charged with a relatively minor curriculum alignment for a high stakes test, about 4 years ago. That original group immediately identified challenges with science education and an epic case study in scope-creep began.

So much has changed that the high stakes test no longer exists. But yet, we have a "solution" that is deeply entrenched into the world of high stakes testing and corporate ed reform.

I think the amplify adoption is likely to go forward for the simple reason that many people who are fundamentally opposed to high stakes testing for equity reasons are un-ironically pushing this "solution" in the name of equity.

I'm an engineer at heart and I always ask the question ... "What is the problem you are trying to solve?" That is the only way you can get a reliable answer to evaluate the solution on the table.

IMHO, the real problem is that the question of "What problem?" has a simply shifted way too many times for any work product to be valid.

kellie said…
Any notions that people have that this "adoption" is simply a floor and won't do anything to impede good instruction is plain folly.

Amplify has made their intentions clear that this curriculum is a "live" research project and they are intending to adapt the curriculum based on "consumer behavior."

One of the first tenants of any research project is "fidelity of implementation." Every day math was "guaranteed" to close gaps, as long as the strict rules of "fidelity of implementation" were followed. SPS set up spot checks to ensure that teachers across the district were teaching on the same page, every day.

It may take a year or two, but once amplify is adopted "fidelity of implementation will follow."

kellie said…
@ Dick,

Your suggestions were directed to Melissa, but I will share my thoughts.

1) "Sales tax exemption". Good luck with that. As you know Washington has an incredibly regressive tax system and over the last decade sales tax exemptions have shrunk. The good folks at Washington's Paramount Duty have done an excellent job lobbying on tax issues with education funding.

2) PTSA fundraising. IMHO, this topic is the biggest distraction in the district at the moment. This topic gets a lot of attention and it gets used politically regularly. This entire science adoption has deeply leveraged that narrative that the "schools that can afford".

A big part of this adoption has been that it will provide computers for the "schools that can't afford to have PTAs purchase them." The technology audit conclusively disproved this myth, but yet ... it keeps getting repeated.

This blog does a fantastic job of what it was intended to do. This blog was started during the school closures and it was created as place to "shine a light" on some pretty terrible decision making (fastest growing city in the US, but we are closing schools!) and to be a place where people who might never meet in real life could share important data.

No one person can follow every important issue in this district but this is a place where many of the issues get illuminated. The only way that I have been able to advocate for so long is that I generally restrict my involvement to issues of capacity and budget. I post regularly on these topics and I rarely ever meet the people who respond to my comments, IRL.

Anonymous said…
Performance Data for AmplifyScience in Seattle Public Schools (OSPI Science-Test Pass Rates)

are being posted on the following thread:

Low-Income vs Non Low-Income Student Pass Rates

for Elementary Schools, and Middle Schools, in each SPS District (before and after AmplifyScience Curriculum was implemented)
Anonymous said…
I'm reposting this because I must have clicked Anonymous last time by mistake.

".. SEA rank and file or just SEA leadership? The two are not the same, as I’m sure you know. In fact, I have been told by multiple sources that numerous teachers do not like Amplify but are unwilling to speak out against it and the actions of Ms. Welch because they have been intimidated into silence and fear retaliation. ...

I know for a fact that the union is aware of these complaints and the fact that not all teachers are on board for the adoption. I intend to find out if they are in fact supporting this process and if so voice my disapproval.

Dick, my thoughts on your thoughts.

I have expressed what I will be working on in the future at this blog; charter schools, so-called "personalized learning" and student data privacy. I'm not really interested in taking on more.

I would agree that the sales tax issue seems circular but,as others have offered, you have state reps. Call them and tell them your idea.

As for PTSA funds, we have talked about that here but the real work is for the SCPTSA. I will put up a thread soon on this issue as they have expressed some thoughts about fundraising sharing. I did find their statements a bit tepid, given how many social justice warriors they have on their Board. But I think they wisely understand that the carrot is better than the stick and may be trying to get to sharing based on consensus (rather than a hard push that would likely alienate many parents). Heck, the president of the SCPTSA is running for school board; maybe she's waiting to get on the Board. The district's lack of effort on this is fairly hypocritical but I'll explain when I write that thread.

Sue, I hope to get to the thread on the Ex Ctm meeting today but my belief from that meeting is that it is union leadership pushing the science adoption, not the rank and file. SEA head Phyllis Campano said she had only heard of one person complaining about bullying on this issue which I find very hard to believe after speaking with several science teachers.

REprinting for Anonymous (next time give yourself a name or moniker):

".. SEA rank and file or just SEA leadership? The two are not the same, as I’m sure you know. In fact, I have been told by multiple sources that numerous teachers do not like Amplify but are unwilling to speak out against it and the actions of Ms. Welch because they have been intimidated into silence and fear retaliation. ...

I know for a fact that the union is aware of these complaints and the fact that not all teachers are on board for the adoption. I intend to find out if they are in fact supporting this process and if so voice my disapproval.

5/26/19, 8:44 AM"

Thank you for your kind words, Kellie.
I wanted to post this notice for speakers against the Science adoption at the Board meeting on Wednesday from the Native American group, UNEA (Urban Native Education Alliance).
Amplify is a huge "Data Collection Machine". Data is Gold. In Spokane, every elementary child's name was entered into their system. They took assessments in ELA & Math. At the time, I was the Data Coach in an elementary school. As I had to coordinate all the testing in my high poverty school, my concerns grew. When the District Assessment Coordinator came to my building to train us, he had a full school's data on screen. He could click on any student in the neighboring school and a full profile was brought up. I didn't know these children but could see much about them. So I started to dig into Amplify and its history.

Here is my compilation:
Yes. I believe this to be so. Every elementary student 3-6 was in Amplify's Data Base in Spokane... before we got rid of its assessment system in ELA/Math. There were no waivers given to any parents. No permission was asked for. It was just done.
Anonymous said…
Little[very] late to the party, but this post made me wonder about MMW salary. She has mentioned in meetings that her salary has been paid by grants in the past [but not this year, maybe? It was a while ago and I do not remember perfectly]. Is that why she gets involved in these shady dealings? To find ways to pay her own salary? It certainly thickens the plot.

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