Monday, October 24, 2011

Problems with math at Hamilton

Halloween coming up, school board elections soon after. What's on your mind?

This used to be an open thread, but there's an active discussion going on in the comments on problems with math at Hamilton, so I'm going to change it into a thread specific to that.

Trying to summarize, the issue seems to be that students are not allowed to work ahead two years (on algebra, in particular) and, due to this and other issues, some appear to be questioning the Hamilton principal's level of support for APP. Hamilton parents, do you know more?


Greg Linden said...

Let me add a pointer to a post by Charlie Mas, "Advanced Learning Committees - History and Future. Suspect a lot of people here would want to see it if they hadn't already.

Greg Linden said...

Any interest on a new thread on math?

What got me wondering is some notes in the 10/22/2011 APP AC meeting minutes that said that elementary APP is having a hard time staying 2+ years ahead in math ("the APP directive to work two years ahead of grade level doesn't work
so well at the elementary level" and "Lowell kids are probably working 'more like 1 1/2 years ahead' in math").

Thoughts on that?

Anonymous said...

We're hearing about teacher issues in some of the 6th and 7th grade APP classes at Hamilton.

There is also the issue of Hamilton not allowing 6th graders to take Algebra.


Anonymous said...

The only time any of my kids has absolutely for sure worked a full two years ahead in math in elementary is in fourth grade, when they were doing sixth-grade Connected Math booklets. Even then they did only half of them that year. This is not new. Not at all.

I also have a letter somewhere in which one of my kids' teachers APOLOGIZED to the students for how hard the math was going to be that year (supposedly the standards were going up or something). WTF? If there is one thing I wanted out of APP, it was the chance for my kids to AUTOMATICALLY get the appropriate curriculum without anyone making a fuss about it.

Anonymous said...

Is there any movement to get rid of the CMP math books? These are the worst math books I've ever seen. My child transferred to Middle School in 6th grade so I can't speak to why Lowell is having a hard time staying 2 years ahead - but I wonder if the quality of these math books has something to do with it. Pam

Anonymous said...

How can a 7th grade APP student drop down to a lower level of math (repeat the previous year) and still maintain APP status? No illness, no 2e, just not as good at math as other APP students. I don't understand when a review or recommendation to exit APP would ever kick in if not in a case like this. Students maintain the benefits of being in APP (esp preference to Garfield and Ingraham) while not having the skills/"special need" to really require the cohort.

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear more regarding @Jane's post about teacher issues at 6th/7th gr APP Hamilton? What kind of issues? Do you mean with Math specifically? Thanks,


Anonymous said...

I would be interested in hearing more about the issues with math. My understanding is that in the beginning (1st and 2nd grade), APP kids are working just one year ahead. Then in 3rd and 4th grade they are supposed to move through the books faster so that they are working 2 years ahead by 5th grade. Is this not happening?

My child is in 1st grade and is finding the 2nd grade math pretty easy. At this point that's ok because I think it's important to drill some of these basic skills. But I fear he will get bored in the future if he can't move at a faster pace.

Math Lover's Mom

hschinske said...

Math placement in middle school is by exam and teacher recommendation, not by program. "APP math" is a misnomer. There have always been kids in APP who ended up going down a year on entering middle school, just as there have always been some who have ended up going up a year (though Hamilton wants to ignore them these days). It can be due to lopsided talents (being vastly more verbally talented than math-talented, which isn't necessarily 2e, but can affect one's life much the same way), and it can be due to immaturity (some reasonably math-talented kids aren't ready for algebra that early). There are of course also kids who have dual exceptionalities, math phobia, or what have you.

Helen Schinske

Matthai said...

I wanted to match my contribution to SNAPP. When I looked at the match tool at my employer, I got two hits for SNAPP. One of them pointed to "Steve Albertson" and the other to "Tricia Jewell" at the same address as Steve (an apartment on Interlake Ave).
-- Why are there two people, and does it matter which one I contribute to?
-- FYI, as per the match tool, the status of this charity was "on hold" which I hope means that SNAPP applied recently and will soon be kosher.

Sorry if this is the wrong venue for this btw.
ps: Hi, Greg!

Anonymous said...

My math experience at HIMS for 6th grade was interesting. The fall MAPs test clearly showed my student would be able to take on Algebra I, but since that is a no-no the test scores were ignored. At the end of the year, my students scores increased to a RIT expected of a 10th grader. Even surprised the teacher.

What bugs me is that no effort was made to use MAPS to tailor my students math education and the "improvement," despite a fairly medicore teacher (and I am being kind) helps the teacher get a favorable performance

7th grade seems fine, using the Discovery Math ALGEBRA I book, with some supplementing.

But are their really students at other middle schools taking math three years ahead? If so, my annoyed factor just increased exponentially.

Anonymous said...

My child and I are also frustrated with 6th grade Math at Hamilton this year. I think that it is both the CMP books and the teacher which makes the math both hard to understand and boring. If Hamilton is the main point of complaint, then it makes sense that the teacher is a factor. Otherwise Washington would complain just as much. I don't know the history of Ms. Thurick with APP.

math frustration

Anonymous said...

Helen - There used to be a math test, but this year's incoming APP 6th graders did not take a test in 5th grade. Placement seems to have been based on teacher recommendation and MAP scores.

At Hamilton, it is made clear that there is no APP math track. It is based on ability. That's what they say. Yet, 6th graders are being denied placement in Algebra. So ability matters, yet it doesn't.

There are students taking math three years ahead (at a nearby middle school), but I'm not sure of the arrangement.

Teacher issues go beyond math and would probably best be discussed offline.

equally frustrated

Anonymous said...

Add me to the frustrated list. 6th grade math is a travesty at Hamilton. Helen, the other commentator is correct: there is no longer a math placement test at the end of 5th grade. It is MAP only, and you can either get H or HH math. No more algebra. We've got a wasted year ahead of us. Please contact Bob Vaughan and anyone else you know at the district to help improve things for those kids coming up behind us. APP kids should have algebra as an option in 6th, and appropriate subsequent math in 7th and 8th. It is a shameful situation for all our kids. They are at a disadvantage compared to kids from other neighboring districts and even other middle schools in the district.
- Beyond frustrated.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the issues are not just with math. The 6th and 7th grade LA/World Cultures are having some difficulties. It's very teacher specific.


hschinske said...

If Hamilton is the main point of complaint, then it makes sense that the teacher is a factor.

It's the administration blocking the third-year math, as far as I am aware. It sure isn't Pounder, who taught third-year high school math many, many times at Washington.

It's not uncommon for APP kids to be nearly maxing out the MAP at that point. My kid hit a RIT score in the 11th-grade range at the end of 6th despite not, in my opinion, being in the category where he'd benefit from being another year advanced -- he's now in 8th and currently pulling an A-minus in geometry. I don't personally think the MAP has anything like enough ceiling to make such a decision on, nor is it consistent enough.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

The thread has some background on the math situation.

Helen Schinske

parent said...

The Hamilton APP math teacher was known to be a terrible teacher (ineffective, boring, and an enthusiastic supporter of Discovery Math - ie "discover yr answer 'cause I'm not going to bother explaining the concept") before being moved to 6th gr APP 2 yrs ago. She continues with that reputation this yr. Indeed we have also heard there are other significant teacher problems at Hamilton APP. although also some very good teachers. Why is this best discussed offline (per poster "equally frustrated")? There seems to be difficulty finding a forum for exchanging information about these teacher issues and possibly coming up with some potential solutions. I understand this blog to be a forum for APP-focused issues, and it would be helpful to hear more about other parents' experience with Hamilton APP teachers, as well as WMS. If there is a systemic problem at HIMS APP, is the APP-AC aware of that?

Anonymous said...

Have those with complaints brought them to the attention of the principal or asked for a parent meeting to be held at Hamilton?

What can the APP-AC actually do when the issue is around particular teachers? Isn't that more of a personnnel issue that the principal ahould be handling?

-parent too

parent said...

That is true, I think in general a single teacher problem, it would be a principal issue. I think the APP-AC might want to hear about this if there is a systemic problem of appointing difficult or ill-suited teachers to APP at Hamilton. Yes apparently many parents have talked to/emailed the principal, including myself, this is going on 2 yrs however and the principal has not moved to make a change. I feel he is not acknowledging there is a problem, but I speak for myself and it's hard to say what the majority is thinking, since the school is so much bigger than our Elementary was, and I don't know that many parents. So I would like some feedback from other MS parents - since students are moving among 5 - 6 teachers a day, is this a typical Middle School issue? how can we get the Principal to support our APP program w/better teachers?

hims parent said...

re: HIMS teacher issues

how can we get the Principal to support our APP program w/better teachers?

This is a loaded/dangerous comment, but it also speaks to the crux of the matter. Carter does NOT want APP to get the "best" teachers. Either real, or perceived.

If it was that simple, one could understand his point, to be fair to all students one should not favor one program over another. What he fails to understand (and after 3 years, there is really no excuse anymore) is that there are different skills, both natural and acquired, to effectively teach highly gifted classes/kids. I don't know how to get this point across to him, because people have tried.

In any case, his way of making his point is by mixing the teachers up so there are very few APP-only teachers now. It's foolish, but another good reason why we need gifted-ed credentials in WA state.

hims parent said...

Also, FWIW, Bob Vaughan at the last APP AC meeting said that he is (finally!) aware of other middle schools offering math levels above the standard offerings in their buildings. He also suggested that he was in favor of letting APP 6th graders take Algebra I, but Carter is opposed to allowing it. Scheduling concerns were mentioned, but several other classes already cause scheduling hassles, it's just a way of life in middle and high school.

I can assure people this is what was said, but please do your own verification to make sure. Perhaps it's time for parents to start stepping up the pressure again? If HIMS is the only middle school that totally blocks kids from taking the most appropriate math classes, that makes the building look bad in comparison to the others.

Anonymous said...

"how can we get the Principal to support our APP program w/better teachers?"

See this is my beef with MAPS, I now see that this teacher was not performing up to snuff, probably had a lot of complaints from parents so she was moved to APP. Now the MAPS scores she gets show that she is a "good" teacher.

Systemwide opting out is the only way to get the attention of the principal, who LOVES his test scores. Problem is, once a cohort starts to opt out enmass, they make the test "required" to continue in the program.

Hands our tied!

Anonymous said...

oops, meant to say Our Hand Are Tied! too early.

I also want to be very clear, I believe ALL students deserve good teachers. What I believe the HIMS principal is doing is taking weak/poorly performing teachers and placing them in APP.

I know last year we had a very bad SS teacher, who (thankfully) retired mid-year. Students spent the semester copying terms from the blackboard. The Source was empty.

The Lemon Dance is what needs to be called out.

Mercermom said...

Re m.s. math: As I understand the current philosophy, APP offers the opportunity for two-years advancement, and the current m.s. math placement is consistent with that. With the split, the numbers of kids who would be ready for Algebra II by 8th grade might not be large enough to justify a class, which is a likely motivator. On some level, it seems like if you're child needs more than two years of acceleration, perhaps looking outside the public schools makes sense. (E.g., doing EPGY for math).

Re why can APP kids be placed in Spectrum math (one year acceleration) and still be APP: I think a more interesting question at m.s. is why kids who are single-subject "gifted" can accelerate up to two years in math, but not in LA/SS. While I think it's a shame the District offers nothing to kids who are at the 98th percentile in math or reading, but not both, I can see why it creates challenge at the elementary level. But at m.s., where you're already switching classes by subject, why wouldn't you let a child who tested at the APP level in reading be in APP LA/SS?

Anonymous said...


Agreed on the point about acceleration in LA/SS.

As to your point about not enough kids for a class, that was the old argument, and no longer applicable. When there were 1, 2 or 3 classes of APP kids in 6th grade, there were only 8-10 kids qualified for algebra some years. Now that we are busting at the seams with 5 very full APP classes, there are more than enough kids to fill one full class of algebra in 6th grade, which could roll on up to 8th. Think of it this way: HIMS already has to pay the teacher to teach all five of those classes. Why can't one of them be algebra? We're not asking for an additional class. We have to pay the teachers to teach the 8th graders too - why not have them teach the appropriate level for this group rather than one below? I don't get the scheduling argument. Scheduling is always an issue. It IS hard (if not impossible) to change it mid-year - but it should be built into the master schedule in the summer, just like band, Spanish, and all the other classes. So if we're screwed for this year, so be it, but why can't we fix this for next year's 6th graders?

Beyond frustrated

hschinske said...

This was all foreseen before the split, and a specific promise was made that three-years-advanced math would be offered at both Washington and Hamilton (parents were concerned there wouldn't be a quorum at either school). That promise was broken.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I'm running through the options in my head: I get that the teacher may not be suited to gifted education, but I also see the argument of fairness to other programs in not reassigning a teacher that is unpopular. So, from a teaching profession standpoint, improving this teacher's performance so that she is more effective for students would help the situation for all. As teacher evaluations start being used for mentoring needs, I plan to advocate that parent and student evaluations count for something. It definitely shouldn't be just test scores. I may also opt out of MAP this year to make a point where it might count.

wanting to help

Mercermom said...

As I understand it, there are no credentials required to be an APP teacher. Our experience at WMS has been that the APP teachers have been, overall, very good. This doesn't seem like an APP issue; it's the issue all parents face in terms of dissatisfaction with a particular teacher and what, if any, action you can expect when the teacher has just-cause protection.

Anonymous said...

Re the teacher issues at HIMS, it should be noted (if its not already clear) that the issues with all of these teachers don't seem specific to teaching an APP population, this is not just a "rigor in the classrm" issue (although that coulld be another thread): they are by all accounts teachers who have a long history of poor reputation with parents/kids: ineffective as teachers; erratic, difficult behavior which has included wildly inappropriate material discussed in class; contentious attitude towards parents and kids including selecting out kids for humiliating treatment in class, or others as favorites. There appears to be 1 -2 teachers in each grade of HIMS APP that fall far short of being a decent teacher. Since there are only 4 APP teachers per grade (Science, LA/SS, Math), that's a hefty percentage. Not advocating to move these teachers out of APP to GenEd at Hamilton -- ideally they would be moved out of the bldg! THough i realize that's a challenging process. However not talking about one difficult teacher that you have to "live with" for a year --currently there are too many recurring problems in the short 3-yr span at this pt in HIMS APP program. I have no idea if this is the case in the other programs at Hamilton, or WMS and other SPS middle schools as well. I can't believe that there's no recourse for dealing with a principal who continues to support all these problem teachers - in any program. We should be working WITH him to make the school as great as it can be - and it does have that potential I think.

Anonymous said...

When you say "just-cause protection" are your referring to union representation in general?

Where it becomes an APP issue is around the content and delivery of the curriculum. It is a program that sets it itself apart by saying the curriculum is accelerated and adjusted for advanced learners. If the teachers cannot do this, and there is no framework for them to follow, they are left to flounder.

What's happening at Hamilton is exacerbated by the lack of coherent and specific curriculum and materials for some of the APP classes. If the curriculum is tied to the teacher, and the teacher leaves, what is the curriculum that should be followed?


Anonymous said...

I would like to know more about the report of wildly inappropriate subject matter taught last year so that I know what questions to ask or what to be observing.

Thanks for info

Anonymous said...

The "wildly inappropriate" article was taught THIS year.

We are not yet at Hamilton, but I have heard far too many stories from Hamilton parents of problem teachers. I am very concerned.

I hope parents that are directly affected are contacting everyone that can think of about this. Who is the regional director for Hamilton? Also cc the school board, especially KSB. I keep hearing that Enfield fully supports APP - have her prove it.

-parent soon to be at Hamilton

Anonymous said...

The "wildly inappropriate" article was a chapter from a college level reader. Part of it described sexual relations of an African tribe. Students read it aloud to partners during a 6th grade class. It was explained as a copy mistake.


NLM said...

Wow that 'wildly inappropriate' sounds eerily familiar. My 6th grade LA teacher read an edited copy of Daddy Was A Number Runner aloud as part of his year-long emphasis on inner strength and didn't think a class full of gifted kids would figure out what was being omitted. When our parents learned we'd obtained library copies and were reading (and passing around) unedited wasn't good. It makes for a good laugh today, though!!

a frustrated parent said...

we are not at the laughing stage yet. The problem is, the inappropriate reading material was only one issue - the teacher ignored students objecting to reading the material with their partner, being quite embarrassed but apparently forced to continue working with it, in every class. I think the problem is this teacher ( Chacon) has no idea when she is crossing the line - it's easier to be ineffective and not supply challenging material than it is to constantly say or do things in class or assign materials that have parents complaining. She is definitely not taking the easy way out. Unlike the 6th gr Math teacher.......Parents are indeed continuing to complain to Mr Carter this yr, as they didlast yr, I think going beyond that we need to have some kind of critical mass or there is fear (of retribution?) about taking it to the next level on one's own.

Anonymous said...

Greg --

It looks like you should cross out the words "with math" from your headline too....!

I can also attest to many of the accounts here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Matthai - please email me directly about your matching question for SNAPP. Steve is the PTA Treasurer, and I handle the match verifications for Annual Fund. The address listed is a PO Box, not an apartment.

-Tricia Jewell

Anonymous said...

I confirmed with my 7th grader that there was LA material that made students uncomfortable last year, especially when they had to act it out.

So, not sure I am buying the "copy mistake" line.

I also know there is an APP LA curriculum and that the 6th LA APP teacher refuses to use it. And that of course is sanctioned by the the principal.

Alignment? Right only when it suits them to align.

I also had bad experiences with the math teacher. And can agree with much that has been said here. My student also talked about her having favorites and suspected that grades were messed with. She lost A LOT of work, blamed it on the student, tanked their grades. Then she told them how badly they were doing, compared them with the other APP class.


Anonymous said...

I'm totally confused by this situation - parents are posting pretty damning information and say they voiced complaints, yet the problems persist. That signals a breakdown on many levels.

What did parents do last year? Did everyone just suffer in silence? What's the worst that could happen by speaking out?

-not afraid to speak up for my kid (but sure not going to post my name)

Anonymous said...

After having had a less than satisfactory conversation about this with Mr. Carter, I have taken the issue of the LA/SS teacher to the executive director, Marni Campbell. I hope others do, too.

Very Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

Anonymous@ 10:52AM - you are confused? I am confused by yr response! You ask if parents are afraid to speak out, what's the worst that could happen, sign "Not Afraid To Speak Up for My Kid- but sure not going to post my name?" I dont understand that at all. In response, please know that parents did speak up last yr (6th gr), are speaking to the teachers and Mr Carter this yr (both 6th and 7th at least) - but he is continuing to stand by the teachers in question. No changes have been made this yr, however Mr Carter did support the "retirement" of a difficult LA teacher last yr. So far the discussions w/Mr Carter this yr are ineffective. I believe that most parents are afraid to speak up, they do not want to call attention to their kids and risk further problems w/the teachers in question. ALso a large percentage may be unaware of what's happening, this is not like Elem -- kids have 6 or more teachers a day and they dont always tell you whats going on. I will be following the lead of poster Concerned Parent, by documenting all discussions w/Mr Carter to the Exec Dir and anyone else that might have a vested interest insuring that Hamilton parents are happy, that the school is as strong as can be. There are a lot of good things happening at Hamilton, I think in all the programs incl APP, and these few teachers threaten to drag down the experience and perhaps Hamilton's reputation. They need to either get them some Prof Dev or at the least insure they are being watched. Unfortunately by putting them in the classes w/kids who usually test high for MAP, it appears on paper that these teachers are doing a great job. I believe that is Mr Carter's strategy in moving them from GenEd (where they were known problem teachers) to APP.
- Joyce

Anonymous said...

One teacher in question has singled out students when the parents speak up on their kids behalf, so I wouldn't question the lack of names. Anyone can read this blog.

Unfortunately by putting them in the classes w/kids who usually test high for MAP, it appears on paper that these teachers are doing a great job.

A staff member at Hamilton said the math teacher had increased the MAP scores of her class more than other classes and she was considered a great teacher.

Anonymous said...

how can we get the Principal to support our APP program w/better teachers?

I would frame the question differently:

How can we get the Principal to support students with competent teachers?

It is a matter of basic teacher competency and respect for students. It wouldn't matter if we were speaking about an APP class or gen ed class.

equally frustrated

Anonymous said...

@NLM: There was no 'leaving things out' in this incident. Start with page 121 and keep going:

It continues on to the content that's on page 124, which Google excludes.

-- not even going to use my usual pseudonym

parent said...

I agree with the above poster and sorry I didnt make that clear initially: the teacher issues at Hamilton are indeed problems that would apply to all students, and they should be dealt with as they would for any program incl GenEd. I only called it out as "having the Principal support our APP program w/better teachers" because: 1- this is APP forum, 2 - the Principal made a decision to move these particular teachers, who had a reputation as "difficult" , from GenEd to APP. So is this really a teacher(s) issue or at the larger level, a Principal issue? I can't confirm there is some larger plan at work here re Principal Carter's intentions for APP, but he does not seem to respond to parent's concerns about these teaachers. I would like to know if there are other problem teachers at Hamilton GenEd or SPectrum. Also, I see this thread is specifically about Hamilton, but it would be interesting to hear if WMS parents have/are experiencing similar problems: when you have 6+ teachers for each student, not every one is going to be a gem. That's not what we're asking for.

Anonymous said...

For readers who perhaps don't yet have a child at Hamilton and want to hear different perspectives:

We have a 6th grader who has the math teacher in question and really enjoys this class. Feels really proud of the work and despite not coming from Lowell is doing super in the class, receives clear explanations.

Our child's APP LA / SS class is fabulous and all the kids seem to love the teacher (not the one named in the post above).

Friends have kids at different MS and it seems to me, comparing notes, that HIMS does a great job with community-building and affirming kids in ways that both connect and challenge them. This may be the biggest, most important piece of MS, more important by far than what level of math a child completes by end of 8th grade.

Keep Clam

Anonymous said...

Keep Clam-

You say you are new to APP? I am hearing from Hamilton APP parents (that I knew from Lowell) that the math isn't challenging and is very repetitive for kids who did 5th grade APP. If your child is new to APP, this may explain a bit of the difference of opinion.

I have also been told there's one LA/SS who is great and the other is not so much.

-soon to be at hamilton

Anonymous said...

My oldest started 6th at Hamilton this year. She was at Lowell from 2nd until now. My younger two are at Lowell @ Lincoln presently. So, we are dealing with both the elementary and middle school APP.

I agree with the many folks who have pointed out Thurik's inability to teach. My 6th grader is not fond of math in the first place - she is stronger in language arts. However, she has mentioned she is repeating material from last year. Between that and the awfulness of the teacher, I am concerned she will mentally check out of math for the duration of this school year, leaving her a year behind anyone who actually manages to learn something despite the poor instruction.

My daughter also has Chacon for LA and I agree with the prior comments regarding that teacher as well. I personally sense from Chacon that she is not a fan of gifted education. I realize some educators hold to the philosophy that all children are equally capable of learning, and thus do not believe in differentiated education. If that is the case for Ms. Chacon, I think it odd someone decided to assign her to teaching highly gifted kids. My daughter is both bored and confused in her class. Questions appear to be strongly discouraged.

With respect to taking action, I see several barriers. First, we have not yet received a directory for HIMS, so I have no one's contact info. Second, my husband and I both work full time and have almost no first hand knowledge of what goes on at HIMS. We did not realize our daughter's complaints regarding those two teachers were justified until curriculum night. Third, teachers unions have extensive clout, so the potential for getting poor teachers eliminated seems nil. Finally, place yourself in the position of school administrators: If you were in charge of X number of known-to-be-awful teachers and you had to assign those teachers to instruct some group of kids, would you choose to assign those teachers to APP kids who might manage to learn most of the material despite the poor teaching, or to general ed kids who actually need good teaching in order to grasp the concepts at issue? I am not saying that is a desired outcome, only that it does present a certain logic. Particularly to people obsessed with making sure that numbers demonstrate all kids are testing at or above grade level. It is certainly true that test scores for APP kids will stay relatively high notwithstanding poor instruction.

-another anonymous commentator

Anonymous said...

would you choose to assign those teachers to APP kids who might manage to learn most of the material despite the poor teaching

The problem with LA/World Cultures class is that there are no texts being used (except for vocabulary). The instruction is based on teacher created handouts that don't come home. Does that seem odd? It's the end of the first quarter and there have been no formal assessments in World Cultures. Don't you find that odd?

Ask your child what they have learned this year. You may be surprised by the answer. Ask your child to show you their tests.

If you were formally at Lowell, ask your child to name some Lowell classmates in their current class and start calling parents from last year's directory.

Identify yourself as parents of someone in that teacher's class and ask if they want to talk.


Anonymous said...

another anonymous - have you had a chance to read the post from Oct 28, 12:09 pm? You may want to start there. It's a link to an article used in your child's class (not sure who posted it, but it tells me there are other concerned parents).

Anonymous said...

Principals like to say their hands are tied by the teacher's union, but that's a cop-out. A diligent principal would follow the process to exit teachers who have a history of being mediocre or unprofessional. Don't let the principal off the hook by blaming the HIMS situation on the teacher's union. This is a leadership problem.

--another HIMS parent

Anonymous said...

I think Principal Carter is just not the best fit for Hamilton under the NSAP. He was hired to help fix the African American Academy. I think he has dedicated his career to closing the achievement gap. He was moved to Hamilton when AAA was closed.

The old Hamilton was the most diverse school in the district, not any longer. It is now full of APP and students from other high achieving schools - Laurelhurst, JSIS, West Woodland.

I think the staff is trying to close the achievement gap between APP and Gen ed. :)

- trying to be a little funny here, but I think there is a point there.

Anonymous said...

it seems like if you're child needs more than two years of acceleration, perhaps looking outside the public schools makes sense

...except that the APP program has traditionally served students that are ready to take Algebra 1 in 6th grade. It's a small cohort, but there is precedence for them being served and it was a promise of the APP split.

Also, the math books used for middle school in SPS are considered remedial texts in CA. They don't meet their state standards and aren't approved as primary texts. So, the material in a sixth grade CMP text covers content that other texts may cover in 5th grade.

CA adopted math texts

Anonymous said...

Scheduling problems is a legitimate answer to the question of why it isn't easy to offer the class. It is not an excuse to not offer it.

All the north end middle schools and high school are having serious challenges with the master schedules due to enrollment growth and capacity constraints. I would hate to be in charge of the master schedule at Garfield.

But it's hard so we are skipping it should not be the answer. Who sets the schedule? Is there ant input from the PTA, parents or app advisory? Or does the principal have complete control?

- another app parent

suep. said...

Anyone who is not happy with the quality and integrity of APP at Hamilton and feels APP has suffered since the splits of 2009 should remember who on the school board voted to splinter our kids' schools and programs this way (and ignored the objections and concerns of our community).

Three of them are running for reelection right now: Steve Sundquist, Peter Maier and Sherry Carr. Do we want four more years of their poor judgment and damaging policy?

I recommend voting for new leadership for our school board: Sharon Peaslee (v. Maier), Marty McLaren (v. Sundquist), Michelle Buetow (v. Martin-Morris*) and Kate Martin (v. Carr).

(*While Martin-Morris did not vote for the closures and splits, he did vote for: pay raises and contract extensions for since-fired Supt. Goodloe-Johnson; for allowing inexperienced Teach for America Inc. novices with only 5-weeks of training to teach in Seattle schools (and at an extra cost); found no conflict of interest in the fact that Goodloe-Johnson was on the board of directors of the vendor of the MAP test (Northwest Evaluation Association, NWEA) at the time the district purchased the MAP product from NWEA in a no-bid contract (and she failed to disclose this fact). He and Maier also had information about the $1.8 mil. Pottergate fraud scandal long before their board colleagues did and failed to act on it. The list goes on.

More info here: A Concise Post about Why You Should Vote for the Challengers

Some thoughts from earlier in the year:

Do Seattle’s School Board directors deserve to be reelected?

And here are some reminders of Goodloe-Johnson's legacy, which was enabled by the school board incumbents, who pretty much rubber-stamped her entire agenda:

Ten + Reasons Why the Seattle Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Marie Goodloe-Johnson, Should Be Fired With Cause

protected static said...

@suep - Unfortunately, in the case of Sherry Carr, Kate Martin's no fan of APP, either... While she's explained away her previous statements to the satisfaction of many who want to see Carr out (and trust me, I want her out as well), Martin has expressed hostility towards APP too often A.) for it to be an accident and B.) for me to be comfortable with her on the Board.

I may not vote on that particular race.

Anonymous said...

Hi All. I haven't posted before. I need to vent a bit about Thurik. My son loves math and as far as I can tell is quite good at it. But Thurik is deflating all of his excitement and there is all sorts of tension between the two because he is so uninterested in what she is "teaching" (which seems primarily to be that his name needs to be written in a specific place on his assignments).

Question for you all: Can someone, say a parent, observe her class for a day? The goal would be to gather information. What is really going on in that classroom anyway? I fear that something needs to be done about this or our kids will suffer greatly.

Anonymous said...

There was an APP AC meeting last night and the whole last section (more than an hour) was about the different issues at HIMS. Dr Robert Vaughan suggested to everyone involved to write a complaint to him and Mr Carter with the description of the specifics. The more letters are the better.

Anonymous said...

Parents can request to sit in on a class. Simply ask permission from the principal and give at least 24 hr notice.

The first step in dealing with teacher issues should be meeting with the teacher. Parents can also forward information to the principal, as well as Dr. Vaughan. Some examples of documentation that can be used to support complaints include: copies of class work, graded tests, class handouts, or anecdotal information of class incidents.

As the previous poster said, the more letters from more parents, the better.

Anonymous said...

Would there be interest from parents to meet and discuss issues they may be having? Saturday morning at Diva Espresso? This is where Harium has his monthly coffee chats. It may be helpful for parents to support each other in working on solutions.


Anonymous said...

Is anyone else concerned that Thurik doesn't seem to do any quizes or tests? How does she know if the students are understanding the material or where they need extra help?

protected static said...

Looking at The Source for our child, Ms Thurik administered one test or quiz on October 21st. Otherwise, the grades she has entered are:

9 entries under 'classwork'
5 entries under 'homework'
3 entries under 'performance'

Not exactly confidence inspiring.

suep. said...

protected static -- I had the same concerns, so I contacted Kate earlier this year and asked her to explain her views. I also sent her some information about APP and gifted ed in general and attempted to explain what the program is for and who these kids are, etc.

She was receptive and has admitted that she spoke in ignorance in the past. I have communicated and met with her, and will stay in touch if she gets elected. She can be outspoken at times, but frankly, I wouldn't mind a bit more tenacity on the board right now. I'm really tired of all the mindless rubber-stamping that the board incumbents have done these past four years, approving so many costly and bad decisions.

I don't expect to always agree with all the new board members if elected, but I am confident that they will listen to the community, apply their own intelligence to their analysis of issues before them, and make thoughtful voting decisions -- all of which has been sorely missing from the current board majority.

Anonymous said...

I suggest the the Ed Director is copied on any emails to Principal Carter.

SanMom said...

Anonymous at Nov. 2, 7:28:

I have sat in on an APP class at Hamilton, and received permission just by emailing the teacher (Ms. Shadow) directly and asking if I could. I approached it from an inquiry basis, wanting to see the interactions in the class and experience the teaching.

She welcomed me to do so, and we arranged a day convenient to me.

My visit was time well spent. I had been disappointed that the class was not doing as much writing as my other child's class (Spectrum), but came away knowing that my APP child was absolutely in the best place for him, and that Ms. Shadow's teaching provided so many other benefits such as thinking, teamwork, and debating skills. And the whole class functioned beautifully and respectfully. I decided not to worry about my child being behind in writing skills.

I don't know if I broke any protocol in going to the teacher directly to request a visit.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I broke any protocol in going to the teacher directly to request a visit.

Not to my knowledge. Most teachers would prefer to be contacted first, rather than have you go over their heads, and it seems to me I've heard over and over from lots of different teachers that they welcome parents to come and sit in (it doesn't happen that much in middle school).

Ms. Shadow is one of the best teachers my kids have had, for two very different kids. I hope she's doing better (I heard on curriculum night that she was in the hospital recently).

Anonymous said...

The class visit was brought up as a suggestion for parents having issues with the teacher. There are a few teachers that do not seem to welcome parent feedback, kids are brought to tears in class, and parents want to know what in the world is going on. In this case, you'd probably want to go over the teacher's head and make the request directly with the principal.

A few years back , there was an issue with a teacher at my child's elementary school (our child wasn't in the class). Parents were concerned about how this new teacher was disciplining and treating kids. When a parent sat in the class to observe, one of the kids came home and said it was so much better because someone's parent was visiting. In other words, the behavior stopped when the teacher knew an adult was watching. Something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Ms. Shadow is out sick and she won't be back for sure until the beginning of the next calendar year. Since she is not in the school that is when everything seemed to go downhill. Her long term LA/SS sub (an unexperienced young teacher with some humanity background) had a lot of problems in the beginning to concentrate on the curriculum. So those classes he is the teacher in suffered a lot already this year. And since there is no leader of the APP program right now at HIMS they are doing a team work instead, according to the principal.

Anonymous said...

"they are doing a team work instead, according to the principal."

Can you elaborate on what you mean by team work?

Anonymous said...

These were the principal's words on Curriculum Night: "We are doing a teamwork" (instead of Ms. Shadow leading the APP program). I was wondering about what he meant by this also at that time. But since Curriculum Night I heard that the APP teachers at HIMS working together with the APP teachers at WMS and the district, so maybe that is what he meant. But this wouldn't change the fact that there are many APP teachers at HIMS with no APP education and / or practice at all.

SanMom said...

I should have clarified that my visit with Ms. Shadow's class was over a year ago. I agree that she is a fantastic teacher who genuinely cares for and enjoys her students and really hope she recovers soon.

APPalled said...

A couple previous posters have mentioned that the district has an APP LA curriculum, but that the HIMS 6th grade APP LA/SS teacher refuses to use it (and has Principal support in this decision). Can anyone provide further information on what the approved curriculum is, where to find it, etc.? Is there also an official APP curriculum for SS?

On a similar note, does anyone know if there are district criteria around conditions that must be met if an alternate curriculum is used instead? There “must” be some sort of quality checks to ensure that the alternate curriculum is content-appropriate, at the correct level, effective, etc., right? From what I can tell, my child’s 6th grade APP LA/SS is BY NO MEANS qualified to develop her own curriculum. Are teachers really allowed to just develop their own curricula, regardless of their level of competency? Is the APP Advisory Committee aware that this is happening, and if so, what do they say?

Any assistance in answering these questions is much appreciated! I'm going to Mr. Carter soon--not that I think it'll do any good.


Anonymous said...


You are not alone in your concerns. Mr. Carter needs to hear your concerns. Dr. Vaughan and Marni Campbell should hear them also.

Anonymous said...

From the Washington Middle School PTA website:

The Accelerated Progress Program has a different curriculum and approach from that of the Regular and Spectrum programs. They cover the Ancient and Medieval worlds. Instructors rely on curriculum they have created.

The 6th grade year is spent looking at the “Cradles of Civilization” (Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China). By the end of 7th grade students will have completed work on Greece and Rome, the Middle Ages, and the Age of Exploration.

Timelines, charts and graphs, geography, vocabulary, research, note taking, projects, presentations, and written reports are all emphasized in the APP program.

The 8th grade has a similar split emphasis as noted in the Regular and Spectrum programs. World Geography is considered concurrently with United States history. In addition to the regular texts and readings, this course uses Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States as an alternative text. The course moves at a rapid pace, covering the early peoples of the Americas through the early 20th century. Integrated into this instruction is the curriculum for Washington State History. The key areas covered in the Spectrum and Regular programs are also developed in the APP curriculum for Washington State History. Research, organization, writing, vocabulary, presentation, mapping and geography skills are also strongly developed in this course.

Anonymous said...

General APP course info (from Washington) can be found here:

Anonymous said...

We have established that there are real concerns regarding the 6th gr APP Math teacher and one 6th gr LA/SS teacher at Hamilton, as well as the 7th gr LA/SS sub. Are there any other Hamilton OR WMS teachers that are evoking concerns - either that parents are experiencing or have heard about? Does anyone have feedback on the non-APP teachers at Hamilton? What about other schools? eg, I heard they were able to replace a problem Math teacher at McClure recently. I'm asking so we can form a pt of reference and hopefully elevate this from interesting discussion to effective action.
- Robin

Anonymous said...

Is anyone attending math night at Hamilton this Thursday, Nov. 10?

Robin Forman said...

Thank you for posting about Hamilton Math Night! If yr really concerned/interested in what yr child is or will be learning in Math, you should attend this event! TOMORROW Thurs 11/10 @ 6 - 7:30pm: math games in the Commons; attend a mini-lesson w/yr kid's teacher, and there is also a Q&A session so for those who have been posting here, a good time to get some direct feedback from Ms Thurik.ALso a great opportunity to meet the other HIMS Math teachers. There will also be practice MAP tests and info on the SPS Math trajectory w/HIMS administrators and Math specialists. And there will be snacks! ALSO - if you can help out w/setup, during the event, or cleanup, plz contact me ASAP, thnx!
Robin Forman, Hamilton Volunteer Coordinator

Anonymous said...

Of course we are going, and don't expect a big crowd (at least last year there were only a few of us there)...
It is a really good opportunity to talk to your child's math teacher with no rush after the presentation.

Anonymous said...

If 6th grade parents are really unhappy with Math and LA; opt out of MAPS in December. That should get the attention needed to be heard.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am not sure what happened with all those APP math concerned parents. Not many showed up tonight at the Math Night at HIMS, for sure. Ms. Thurik was not there though, so I can understand the 6th grade parents (just FYI she missed it last year also...). But, in the 7th grade APP class there were 2 parents and one student in the first session (beween 6 and 6 30pm) and 4 parents and 3 students in the 2nd session (6 30-7 pm). And the whole building seemed like totally empty, maybe there were 50-60 people the most. What is going on in here?

Anonymous said...

We went and found it very interesting - a very good time to talk to the math teachers. I also wonder why more people didn't go - it really was a perfect forum for this discussion....

- HIMS parent

Anonymous said...

Math Night is not the forum to express concerns, it is to play math games, (which does not interest my student.)

In addition, they always hold this event when there is no school the next day, which probably also impacts attendence.

Anonymous said...

The 6HH teacher was absent, but it gave us a chance to visit a couple of the 7th grade Algebra classes. It was a good opportunity to see what's in store for next year.

It was interesting to take a sample MAP test and experience how it adapts to right and wrong answers. The adaptive nature of the test can make it mentally exhausting. Unlike paper tests where you can skip around and come back to the harder questions, you have kind of a slow uphill climb with the MAP. Your reward for getting answers right is a series of harder and harder questions. I can see how a student might reach an end point and just start guessing. There were 50 some test items and it makes for a long test.

Thanks to all the volunteers and staff that put on the event.

Anonymous said...

Math Nt at HIMS is unique because it is NOT just about Math games - its specifically geared towards parents who want to learn more about the Math curriculum and interact with teachers. Its not a time to discuss yr child's performance, but it IS a perfect time to get to know the teachers and inquire about curriculum specifics. So parents who have posted here with concerns about HIMS Math should've gone - this was a real opportunity. The event was likely not well attended because it was not well promoted; the teacher who managed it did not have enough parent volunteers to help set it up; a flyer should've gone out and it did not. An email went out but currently the email database contains only about 25% of families. Also unfortunately Thurik was not there as she just had Lasik. I think we all need to remember that until 2 - 3 yrs ago when MS APP split and then the NSAP kicked in, the Hamilton PTA was not very active. So we are really building from the ground up in terms of communication, events, fundraising, etc. There are some very dedicated teachers and parents at Hamilton, but it will take parents' time and $ to make this school as good as it can be.

Anonymous said...

"So parents who have posted here with concerns about HIMS Math should've gone."

I disagree, if you read through the comments, the math curriculum is not the concern; it's staffing issues and an unresponsive principal. And this was not the forum to bring these issues up.

However, there is a parent meeting tomorrow night (11/16)to discuss the staffing issues in APP 7th grade SS/LA. (due to illness)

Dr. Vaughen and the education director will be attending.

If you have ANY concerns about APP staffing, this seems like a good meeting to attend.

Anonymous said...

Any information on when/where that meeting is?

Anonymous said...

HIMs Library, 11/16 6-7pm

Anonymous said...

Wow, have you seen the Hamilton school report yet? It is very interesting in many way.

protected static said...

Wow... That's quite the decline in attitude on the staff survey.

data watcher said...

Wow, have you seen the Hamilton school report yet?

I think the climate survey is much more telling:

HIMS Climate Survey

Let me call attention to a few changes from '09-10 to '10-11 on the Staff Survey

Conflict among the staff is resolved in a timely and effective manner:

Went from 24% (bad enough) to 11% !

The staff has an effective process for making group decisions and solving problems:

Went from 37% to 12% !

We implement a clear plan of action when a student struggles socially:

Went from 55% to 24% !

The principal sets high standards for teaching practice:

Went from 75% to 43% !

The principal encourages and supports open communication:

Went from 61% to 33% ! Lest anyone think this is just typical, the district average on this one is 64% satisfaction.

There is more, go take a look. Often the staff are the first ones to see things falling apart, and their opinions are very telling. HIMS is NOT working well right now. The vast majority of the problems here land squarely on Chris Carter's shoulders.

If only the district would have assigned someone like Julie Breidenbach to HIMS. Wishful thinking, I know...

Anonymous said...

Latest news from HIMS: Ms. Shadow is not coming back in January, there is going to be another (5th?) long term sub for the 7th grade LA/SS classes. Plus: still no APP leader at HIMS.

Anonymous said...

What percent of those currently teaching APP classes at Hamilton have experience with the program pre-split?

Anonymous said...

I think it is less than 50%, only those teachers had APP experience who came from WMS.