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Friday, August 30, 2019

Friday Open Thread

Last summer weekend before school starts. As a kid, I always felt melancholy about that.  What do you remember?


Reminders from SPS:
Wed., Sept. 4 is the first day of school for grades 1-12; Mon., Sept. 9 is the first day of kindergarten.

Waitlists from School Choice dissolve tomorrow, Saturday, August 31st.

A few funnies from The Onion:

Timeline of the American Public Education System

Does the new SPS dress code cover this possibility?

What's on  your mind?

38 comments:

Patrick said...

cap and gown... $68
diploma... free
unsubscribe from District email lists... priceless.

Thank you Melissa for your many years of watching over the District!
I'll still read the forum, just not the mass emails from the District.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks,Patrick and best of luck for you and your child.

D7 parent said...

Melissa- can you please delete the last comment on the youth forum post? It's straight up racist.

Melissa Westbrook said...

D7, thank you for letting me know. I thought I had cut off the comments sooner.

Question said...

Is there a board policy that addresses whether staff can work with community members to coordinate an attack on individuals with dissenting opinions?

Anonymous said...

Waitlists dissolve today - how many students were actually moved offed waitlists this year?

wondering

Anonymous said...

@Question can you please elaborate what you mean by “coordinate an attack?” That’s very strong language.

-Answer

Question said...

I'm referring to the "Call-Out" culture. I'm talking about the kind of abuse that Melissa is suffering for being, in their mind, a conservative.

There are two different thoughts regarding the call out culture. Some believe this type of culture is toxic. Others believe Call-Out cultures a necessary part of our society.

TCG is surrounded by radicals. There are discussions amongst serious left and justice activists about political strategy, goals and tactics that do raise questions and critiques of call out culture. The "Call-Out" culture will be used to push controversial initiatives.






Question said...

TCG used the "Call-Out" culture to advocate for the board to adopt Amplify science. Anyone that offered a critical analysis of Amplify and did not support Amplify science was branded a racist.

Anonymous said...

@Question, got it. I doubt there’s a policy, and weighing in on an issue and getting the Board to agree by using social influence, I don’t think that qualifies as an “attack.” It’s how decisions get made. I do see a lot of people, often white people, using “equity” as an instrument to push an agenda or win influence. It’s unfortunate how twisted that issue got, Amplify got special consideration and the backing of SJWs, but it’s a terrible and expensive curriculum.

Answer

Melissa Westbrook said...

Question, do you believe that staff pushed this attack on me because of Amplify?

Hmm, well, I know MMW was doing everything she could to push this thru (and it's not truly over given the lawsuit). But I don't think she had a hand in this attack by TCG. I'm sure she supports it but had nothing to do with it.

That opposing Amplify was framed as racism is just, well, weird. And, in that framing, should be totally ignored by the Board. What Amplify provides to kids of color is the ability to access science curriculum in a difference way BUT perhaps without a truly qualified teacher. I don't support that trade-off.

Question said...

No. I do not think MMW was involved in efforts to call Amplify dissenters racists.

Anonymous said...

I don't find it so strange that opposing Amplify was framed as racism. Amplify supporters partly saw it as a way to slow down and restrict the learning of those at higher performing schools, which also tend to have higher white populations. Reports that some kids found the lessons simplistic and boring, or that they finished lessons in 15 minutes and then spent the rest of class doing whatever—but not learning science—were probably music to their ears. I see it as analogous to the push to eliminate or reduce HC services. Anything to ration rigor at the high end is viewed as a good thing by some of our “educators.”

Lower Bar

Anonymous said...

MMWelch most definitely did coordinate efforts to attack or intimidate those who didn't support or questioned Amplify. She used equity as an excuse.

Amplify has never really been about equity. It's all about $$$ and student data.

Reject Amplify

Anonymous said...

I know this has been covered on this blog previously but can somebody update on Naviance, the pros and cons, including whether the disability status of a student is protected (e.g. whether the student has an IEP or 504 plan) and the FRL status of a student whether that is protected. It seems like colleges have access to a whole lot of "pre-thinking" of our students and it is more than a portal for managing teacher recommendations for college.

reader

Unknown said...

Hi Melissa and All,

A couple of thoughts about Ethnic Studies and why we can't avoid using the movement as a "personal therapy space."

First, Ethnic Studies is not a curriculum; it's a methodology. I've been to the Ethnic Studies roll-out presentation twice--once with TCG and once with a colleague who went to the training this summer and was chosen by our principal to share her experiences with the staff to try to generate buy in. The colleague's presentation was the exact same PowerPoint, with the exact same slides, same fonts, etc.

Ethnic Studies isn't about: "here's where came from, how they evolved as a group, and why they're thriving in America, what challenges they face, etc." It isn't even: "here's what an ethnic group is, here's how we define an ethnic group, here's how ethnic groups evolve and interact."

Ethnic Studies has four pillars (I may not get their exact words right, but here they are): 1. Identity (and by that they primarily mean race and ethnicity, not any other intersectional aspects of identity), 2. Power and Oppression, 3. Resistance, 4. Action.

This isn't an academic discipline; it's an activist-training discipline, which is all fine and good, but what if a student wants to study their Mormon identity, look at how the Mormons were oppressed in the 19th Century, look at how Mormons resisted the Federal government's attempts to destroy a key part of their religion/identity/family structure by retreating into the Southern Utah mountains, and then wants to start an activism movement in favor of LDS rights?

Do you really think an Ethnic Studies teacher is going to allow that project to go forward?

Secondly, the whole "movement as therapy" tendency is baked into all of this. At all of these race and equity trainings, they tell us to "speak your truth," and they are very, very leery of any claims that try to be general or based on empirical evidence. We are encouraged to only speak in the first person about our experiences.

Then, if we are in a protected group--race, ethnicity, gender/sex, sexuality--then our experiences are not to be questioned, and any racist/sexist/homophobic things we say or do are because we've been brainwashed by a racist/sexist/homophobic society. If we are at the apex of privilege for one or more aspects of our identities, then our experiences and perspectives are horribly warped by our privilege.

Empiricism and data are aspects of Whiteness, so those are out the window. Generalizations are untenable because small exceptions destroy generalizations, as if one exception disproves a thousand instances where the generalization holds.

A lot of this is stalled out because of our fundamental psychological differences. The RET/TCG/Soup crowd wants to make everything an emotional appeal; those who oppose them, or are insufficiently with them, are often people who are more driven by logic and facts than by emotions and narratives.

So we become locked into this dysfunctional loop of each side trying to amplify the strategy that works for it instead of moving to where the other side is and speaking to them in their way of thinking.

Keep up the good work, Melissa. I'm so glad you're here!

SP

Anonymous said...

Thank you SP for your post. I'd like to ask a few questions.

When you say that Ethnic Studies isn't an academic discipline, do you mean that it isn't one as presented in the SPS roll-out? After all, Ethnic Studies is very much an academic discipline at the university level, isn't it?

When you say that there are four pillars to Ethnic Studies, you don't mean to suggest that they're written in stone? For example, to draw from an old San Francisco Public Schools course overview, the key concepts could be:
1. Identity and narrative.
2. Systems and power.
3. Hegemony and counter-hegemony.
4. Humanization and dehumanization.
5. Causality and agency.
6. Transformation and change.

Finally, I don't understand why Ethnic Studies couldn't be a place where philosophy and history meet. Questions of identity and self are very much part of contemporary philosophy. At the same time, questions of identity and self are, through time, related to systems of power and resistance. Isn't there more than one effective way to do Ethnic Studies?

XJT

Science Teacher said...

Speaking your truth sounds a lot like having your own facts or having your beliefs on a subject. Yes, I can related something that happened to me personally, however unless if can be generalized it should be treated as an outlier and not as a fact.

Personally, I don't care what people believe as long as they don't expect me to also believe it. As a science teacher I reject anything that is not based on facts or evidence which is one of the reasons I am not a fan of Amplify-there are very few opportunities for students to collect and examine their own evidence.

I'm reading a good book right now that discusses how we got to this point, it's called "The Coddling of the American Mind" and I highly recommend it.

Teresa

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your synopsis, SP!

Empiricism and evidence are out the window because whiteness? I would never discount someone’s story because it’s not rooted in statistics, but man, the post-truth world is alive in all corners of the ideological spectrum. We can do better, we’re encouraging critical thinkers of our students after all.

Answer

Anonymous said...

"Do you really think an Ethnic Studies teacher is going to allow that project to go forward?"

I have some of the same questions as well. I had understood Ethnic Studies at a university for example to be broader than the focus of what I have so far heard. Although it is entitled "Ethnic Studies", I had thought this subject was usually focused much more broadly on people who have been historically marginalized by not only race, but religion, gender, sexual orientation etc. I had also thought it included whiteness studies. That studies who was or was not considered white in the US past, is currently considered white, and how and why that evolved in the US over time.

AP

Anonymous said...

According to the SPS Ethnic Studies web page:

March 2018: A group of about 40 teachers from across the district pilot draft ethnic studies core content

Where can one get a copy of the draft (piloted) core content?

June 2018 – August 2020: The Ethnic Studies Working Group begins the process of commissioning educators to write curriculum for secondary social studies in collaboration with work that the Ethnic Studies Task Force and Working group have developed thus far. Small teams write and complete content for existing courses and grade levels. Plans for a quality review of written curriculum, professional development, implementation and potential adoption are developed.

Where to things stand on this? Have educators been commissioned to do this, and if so, which educators? How far along are they in developing "plans for a quality review of written curriculum, professional development, implementation and potential adoption," and if they develop all those plans by Aug 2020 as indicated, what's the timeline for then actually implementing those things?

Oh, and why has nothing been posted since 2017? Has work on this mostly stalled, or are they just not being at all transparent? If they are not being transparent, what are they trying to hide?

When they talk about "potential adoption," are they suggesting that they'll need to try to get it adopted but might fail, or are they suggesting they'll try to work it in without a formal adoption?

The current Board needs to step up their oversight on this issue an get some clarity--fast.

HF

Unknown said...

Hi XJT, HF, and All,

XJT, I can't say what Ethnic Studies is at the university level, and what you're showing me from the SFPS site looks at least a little more descriptive than activism-oriented. Part of why the SPS Ethnic Studies roll out looks so activism-oriented is because the promotional PowerPoint has a picture of Jesse Hagopian and some of the activist kids who are either in the district right now or have recently graduated. As for more than one way to do Ethnic Studies, I can't say there either as that's not my academic specialty; I come from another side of the proverbial campus.

HF, the PD that I went to last week last week included a Google Drive folder with some PDFs of model units and example activities based on the four-pillars framework that formed the first part of that session; they're theme-driven units with a few Common Core standards attached in a few of the Social Studies courses. The ELA stuff didn't have any skills attached to it; it was all a vehicle for Ethnic Studies concepts and points of view. From what I saw in another respondent in this blog, TCG has 2.0FTE to work with but hasn't (or hasn't been allowed to or hasn't been able to) hire anyone.

SP

Anonymous said...

Which and whose stories do we tell regarding Ethnic Studies? This NY times article highlights for example some of those issues.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/us/california-ethnic-studies.html
I have a feeling in SPS curriculum there will be a very narrow focus, as opposed to how this course would be taught at universities, as well as elsewhere in the US.

AP

D7 parent said...

For those of you curious as to the history/timeline of Ethnic Studies in SPS, Tracy has written a blog article: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/us/california-ethnic-studies.html

D7 parent said...

oops. Wrong link. Tracy's article is here: https://teacheractivist.com/2019/09/01/rewhiting/

Board Approval said...

Whether TCG likes it- or not- the board has not approved Ethnic Studies.

IMO, there are come radical individuals leading this effort. An individual that wrote a Marxist Approach to Education was involved with the summer institute. Activists and this individual may have some merit, but perspectives should be subjected to peer review analysis before our children are exposed to this pedagogy.

Given the language of TCG, and some of her followers, I've not seen cultural sensitivity to those with biracial identities.

D7 parent said...

In regards to the NYT article, and with the information out there currently about the intent of Ethnic Studies in SPS, I doesn't appear to be significantly different than Ethnic Studies other places or in university, with the understanding that Ethnic Studies is still an evolving discipline.
American Studies (depending on the university and personal choice of course of study) usually contains explorations of white ethnic groups and their histories and experiences within the US.

Anonymous said...

@Science Teacher gets to the crux of it: "Personally, I don't care what people believe as long as they don't expect me to also believe it."

In several SPS classes, our children experienced a very dogmatic approach to discussing race, gender, and identity, which was in line with @unknown's description of ethnic studies. More time seemed spent on inculcating students than teaching and learning the complexities of historical record.

The methodology seems taken from Courageous Conversations, which teaches that "whiteness" is "the component of each and everyone of ourselves that expects assimilation to the dominant culture."

And woe be the student or parent that challenges the methodology (look to the Greenberg/Center School case and how the student was vilified).

stunted conversations

Board Approval said...

I want to extend a thank you to both Melissa and SP. I appreciate SP's comments. I also appreciate Melissa's strength.

I need to reiterate my thoughts related to Summer Institute content and the need for this content to be subjected to peer review.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I had seen the article about Ethnic Studies in California and am going to write a separate thread on it.

"In several SPS classes, our children experienced a very dogmatic approach to discussing race, gender, and identity, which was in line with @unknown's description of ethnic studies. More time seemed spent on inculcating students than teaching and learning the complexities of historical record."

I have heard this before and if you ever read the Seattle Times' comments on any story about public education, there are a lot of people who think the entire system is indoctrination.

I would think if the focus is more on white privilege than, as Stunted says, "learning the complexities of historical record", you'll see some parent pushback.

It is vital that today's students be presented with the good, the bad and the ugly of American History in order to change racism and institutional racism. But how that is done is just as important.

Anonymous said...

@D7 Parent- Not so- "Ethnic studies, in the United States, is the interdisciplinary study of difference—chiefly race, ethnicity, and nation, but also sexuality, gender, and other such markings—and power, as expressed by the state, by civil society, and by individuals."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_studies

In university classrooms (which may vary regionally)whiteness studies that may also include discussing experiences of Jewish, Italian, Greek, Armenian, various middle eastern and other white ethnic groups may also be discussed within curriculum of Ethnic Studies courses. The NY times article also discusses various white ethnic groups and California curriculum.

JK

Anonymous said...

All of this is why we need transparency.

@ SP, if, as you said, "the ELA stuff didn't have any skills attached to it; it was all a vehicle for Ethnic Studies concepts and points of view," does that mean the "ethnic studies" content--whatever it is--will replace some of the SS content? As it is, we've found that SS teachers rarely get through the SS content as it is. My kids have a lot of holes in their SS and history knowledge due to teachers only covering about 2/3 of the material before the next year's class starts in somewhere else.

You also said you went to a PD on this last week... While you said the SPS website info about this "looks at least a little more descriptive than activism-oriented," and that "part of why the SPS Ethnic Studies roll out looks so activism-oriented is because the promotional PowerPoint has a picture of Jesse Hagopian and some of the activist kids who are either in the district right now or have recently graduated," are you saying the actual PD did't seem activism oriented? The four pillars someone mentioned above sound pretty activism-oriented (Identity; Power and Oppression; Resistance; and Action), and you said those were the basis for the PD and lessons.

Given this, it all sounds somewhat contradictory. Yes, what's on the website might sound like it aligns more closely with what one might expect a traditional ethnic studies class (or in our case, an apparently interwoven approach to teaching it across grade levels?). However, given all we've seen thus far, it sounds like the reality might be significantly different from what those on the outside are expecting. If radical or activist staff are the ones creating the curriculum or approach.

@ SP, can you give us more details about the PD? What will students be learning?

HF

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just read that blog post by Castro-Gill. My impressions were as follows:

1. She is completely ill-suited for the job. She seems to not know how to work effectively within the SPS system to get the job done. Her approach, based on her own words, is confrontation and counterproductive, and her own timeline of events documents her many failures and the apparent recognition by others that her approach is too toxic for this to succeed.

2. What the "this" is still not clear. Her post still does not make it clear what exactly she hopes to teach students.

3. She clearly thinks she's the best thing since sliced bread. It'a all about her and how awesome she is, and anyone who disagrees with her approach is racist and/or wrong and/or obstructionist. I can't imagine working with someone like that.

To be clear, I don't know her. I'm just commenting on what comes through to me via her blog post. While I'm open to the possibility that the teachers who did attend the training liked it, without context re: who attended, and with the suspicion that Castro-Gill would not hesitate to misrepresent information in order to once again try to make herself look good, I'm not ready to buy that yet.

This is truly bizarre. And 100% unprofessional.

HF

Anonymous said...

HF, did you catch in her blog post that this is a $500k program? Not anything close to enough needed for institutional transformation, but enough to make the school experience better for the City’s Title I schools. Think how many field trips, school supplies, or snacks that could buy. I’ll be interested in hearing more justification for the opportunity cost of the program.

Answer

Anonymous said...

I think she meant the blog post to be self-vindicating, but it comes off as merely self-involved. For example: "I have committed to making this year about me. . . ."

For the sake of the Ethnic Studies program, she should resign. She is not the inspiring leader the program needs.

XJT

SP said...

reader asked I know this has been covered on this blog previously but can somebody update on Naviance, the pros and cons, including whether the disability status of a student is protected (e.g. whether the student has an IEP or 504 plan) and the FRL status of a student whether that is protected. It seems like colleges have access to a whole lot of "pre-thinking" of our students and it is more than a portal for managing teacher recommendations for college.

Originally there were supposed to be only 4 pieces of student data required to be sent to Naviance. There was even pushback on not sending gender, because it shouldn't be necessary. Ha.

Shortly thereafter it increased to:

* Student Information
* Proxy-ID
* Student first name
* Student last name
* School
* Grade level
* School information
* Teacher information
* Sections/Classes information
* Student classes
* School admin information

By around the time the Board actually voted, the complete list of data being sent to Naviance was as follows:

* Student Information
* Proxy-ID
* Student first name
* Student last name
* School
* Grade level
* School information
* Teacher information
* Sections/Classes information
* Student classes
* School admin information
* Date of Birth
* Transcripts
* Graduation Date
* All Student Courses
* GPA
* Student’s official GPA [how does this differ from GPA?]
* ACT/SAT Scores
* Ethnicity
* Gender
* College Bound flag
* SPED flag
* ELL flag
* Running Start flag
* Parent first name
* Parent last name
* Parent email

Yes, look at those last 3 items and ask yourself if, as a parent, you're okay with the district sending your information to a data mining company without your permission. What kind of possible need is there for that?

It's possible that the final list has changed slightly, I haven't kept up. But THIS IS ONLY THE DATA OUR DISTRICT SENDS TO HOBSONS! Once the students start using the system, there are various personality profiling surveys and such that allow Hobsons to ultimately act as an informational gatekeeper. Colleges subscribe to other products that Hobsons sells that allow them to filter out students based on the data above and personality profiles. A lot of it is about being able to report high student retention rates. That's just another way of saying you don't want to take risks on students that don't fit your "successful student" profile.

Half Mill said...

TCG writes, "remember, I have >$500,000 currently sitting in an account dedicated to ethnic studies." Yeah, right. That's not really how school district money works, is it?

NSP said...

@Half Mill, I believe that some SPS budgets can roll over from year to year. Some projects definitely have accounts that they can spend from.