Friday, September 21, 2012

Boycott MSP/HSPE?

By request, a threat to discuss an APP boycott of MSP/HSPE tests (those scores are important in the state's measures of the performance of Seattle Public Schools, so an organized boycott would get attention). This topic has come up a number of times, but there has never been an organized effort to get a significant percentage of APP students to opt out of those tests. Should there be?


Call me crazy said...

Call me crazy, I actually have found the MAP to be quite useful. My kiddo is 2E and the MAP provides data that I found useful. The kid is really good at math, learned a lot last year, and had MAP scores that reflected that growth. The kid was new to APP last year and was moved to a higher math group after the teachers saw the MAP scores. That same kid didn't seem to improve in reading at all last year and the MAP scores reflected that lack of growth. I feel like the test has provided some objective data that will be useful in working with the school this year.

Regarding the MSP, well, that is an open question. We haven't even received the scores yet from last year, so it is difficult to tell how useful they are. However, boycotting the tests seems like more trouble than it is worth. If you choose to boycott them, the instructional time will not be miraculously restored. While other kids take the test, your kid will not be receiving one-on-one tutoring sessions with the teacher. I don't really see the point. I can't imagine that the district will flip out if a bunch of APP kids refuse to take the tests. I'd see them as being more likely to retaliate than to immediately decide to take advanced learning more seriously.

Anonymous said...

If the charter initiative passes, maybe the APP parents should form a charter school as a way to do more than protest.

I'm against the charter initiative and will vote against it - but if it passes and the District won't commit to a permanent location for APP (both elementary and middle school), then maybe we should say goodbye to the district.

I don't know if it's even possible - but it's an interesting thought given the district's continued weasel-like behavior.


Charlie Mas said...

There's no plan or proposal to boycott the MAP, just the MSP.

If I-1240 passes, it could not be used to create an APP charter. Charter schools must enroll every student who applies and, if too many apply, then they must use a lottery to determine which students are assigned. I-1240 would not allow an eligibility test for entry to a charter school.

The MSP is the only negotiating tool that the APP community has. If there's another, please remind me of it.

dw said...

Call Me Crazy seems to be misunderstanding the point.

First, no one is suggesting to boycott the MAP. It's a district tool. It's not very reliable, but at least it provides potentially interesting information for kids who are operating at high levels.

But the MSP is another story. It's important to the district because it's a tool the state uses to measure how well the districts are doing. It's also a completely useless test for almost all APP students because they are required to take the same grade-level test that all students in the district take. It's not an appropriate test at all.

It's also irrelevant what the kids do while others are taking the test. This has nothing to do with attempting to regain instructional time (although it would be nice if that were possible).

The real point is that our kids provide valuable test scores to the district, and the district is slowly dismantling their programs. The balance of power is nearly 100% in the hands of the district, and as Charlie mentioned, the only tool parents have is taking away our kids' test scores.

I'm onboard, but only if others are as well, and if the requests we're making are clearly spelled out and attainable. FWIW, this topic started over here: Keeping north and south together

suep. said...

Meanwhile, another testing experiment appears to be starting involving APP kids. (I mention this on another thread.)

Over at APP Lincoln, Principal G. has just announced that the school is going to pilot some kind of new evaluation/testing system tied to Common Core Standards, and two grades are going to have to take the MAP test 3 times a year.

@dw - Actually, the MAP test is not an effective tool for gifted kids. They tend to hit the ceiling on it and it's of limited use for measuring them. Some of us parents met with the SPS MAP administrators in 2010 (Bernatek and DeBarros, both Broad Foundation trained people like Goodloe-Johnson, both since left the district), and they told us this. They also said MAP is not very reliable for K-2, which is why other districts choose not to use it for those grades, and it obviously is not good or accurate for English language learners.
All in all, MAP is an expensive misuse of time.

Shannon said...

I don't mind boycotting the MSP but I'd need some more co-ordinated input.

If you create a poll or surveymonkey survey which we can complete as signup and report the number in each grade who are willing to plan to skip it, we may overcome the sense of being alone doing a meaningless action.

You can tell me MAP is useless and unreliable with my kid but I still like the data it gives me. You can tell me I shouldn't rely on it but (as as social researcher I am simply reporting my feelings here) I LIKE it. It reflects what I know of my kid. It gives me info on the gaps. Those are things we know are gaps but its helped.

I am interested to see his scores each year because it is my kid and they seem granular and particular in a way other tests fail to be.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear someone finds value in the MAP results, because I sure don't. One kid hit the math ceiling early, so we saw the same score every time. The other seems to lose a little ground each year--higher score, but slight drop in percentile ranking--as some of the other kids catch up. The results are just a reminder to us that neither kid is really learning all that much in school at this point. Depressing.


Anonymous said...

Last spring's MSP results are on the Source. One of my kids' test score dropped lower than it was 2 years ago. How reliable are the MSP tests?

Anonymous said...

Was the MSP different this past year - all on the computer with typed in answers, vs a booklet with handwritten responses?

Anonymous said...

The Move to Online State Testing

Online testing in Washington began in spring 2010. The Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) was offered in grades 6-8 in reading and math. In spring 2011, reading and math was added in grades 4 and 5, and science in grades 5 and 8. In spring 2012, students in grade 3 will be able to take reading and math via computer...By spring 2012, it’s expected a majority of students in grades 4-8 will take the MSP online instead of the traditional paper-and-pencil format.

Anonymous said...

I like Shannon's suggestion regarding a poll or survey to help us gauge the numbers of those willing to opt out. I plan to opt out (mainly because I don't see the usefulness of the scores for my family, but wouldn't mind being included in boycott numbers).

I also have a question about the exams. I have an 8th grader who is taking biology. Would she have to take the science msp as well as the biology eoc exam? Seems like that would be ridiculous, but very little surprises me these days.

--In need of a consistent signature

Edited to add: these captchas are really frustrating. I can't figure out the words!

Anonymous said...

Somehow, nowhere in this discussion does anyone explain what the MSP is or what the pros or cons of not taking the test. I think all the standardized testing of students is of marginal use for the most part. (Certainly I never took tests like this when I was in elementary school.)

I have an interest in the APP program and I would like it to succeed. But when I scan this message board, it seems like the parents keep themselves in permanent crisis/confrontation mode.

word said...

I have never seen an MSP score on the Source - only MAP. While the MAP scores have been quite useful to me in developing extracurricular materials when we encounter an inexperienced or poor teacher (which was fortunately rare in elementary school but when it happened was immediately reflected in the MAP percentile scores). One (of many) arguments against using these scores to assess teachers is that when the scores shot up again it was a reflection of MY input, not an improvement on the part of the teacher.

However, if I (as a parent) cannot view the MSP scores in a simple and comprehensive manner - I do not see the point of them.

Anonymous said...


I am not sure why you don't see the MSP scores. My kids' scores are clearly posted under "view state assessments." The most recent ones just appeared on Sunday.

I would call the district if you don't have any scores posted.

Grade level assessments aren't helpful for kids working two years ahead.

-APP parent

word said...

Oops - yeah, there they are. Dang these similar acronyms.

Thanks for the help.

dw said...

This is what's happened the past couple times the topic of MSP boycott has come up. There's some discussion, a few people think it's a good idea, but then it peters out because there's no momentum or way to determine if enough people think it's a good idea.

Shannon's idea of a poll/survey seems like a good idea. Anyone up for putting one together? It would just be preliminary-thinktank, and I think it should be anon at this stage, but might help give some idea of what people's general thinking is if a little thought went into it.

We could brainstorm here if anyone's actually interested in doing this.

I agree with the other thread that any "demands" would need to be limited and specific. Perhaps a poll could not only determine interest, but the 2-3 things that are unacceptable to APP (or perhaps all of Advanced Learning) right now? If the interest was there, but not enough overall numbers of APP parents were onboard, then consider reaching out to Spectrum families as well. They definitely have some very specific issues to deal with, seeing as their programs are being dismantled right now.

dw said...

I guess history has repeated itself. Again.
This discussion seems to have petered out.

Anonymous said...

Please don't be disappointed. People are really busy these days with their own daily life.
Concerned people just have to live with the fact: "one swallow doesn't make a summer"
The sad part: by the time everybody wakes up, it is going to be too late.

Shannon said...

Okay, I may not boycott MSP but I write surveys.

First draft survey (no checking for accuracy by me yet).

Our kids take two tests, Measures of Student Progress (MSP) a STATE test, done twice a year and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) done twice a year for the District. Parents have proposed a boycott of the State MSP in protest against the District failing to provide concrete plans for the short and medium term success of the program [that is vague. Someone needs to come up with a positive vision for what we WANT and why boycott.]

This survey is to test support for a boycott of the MSP among parents of APP students.

Q2 If you learned of a boycott of the MSP among APP families, how likely are you to have your child boycott the MSP.

Q2. Why or why not
(code with open end for comments)

Q3. What would you be worried about if you were asked to have your child refuse to take the test?

Q4. What outcome would you want from a boycott.

D1 Which APP School(s) do your children attend.
D2 What grade.
D3 ???

dw said...

Hi Shannon, this seems like a good start to at least get a discussion going. The important thing is to know exactly what to ask for, make it reasonable and achievable. In other words, your Q4.

The thing is, there are ongoing problems and then there are destructive proposals that seem to pop up maybe every other year. For the latter the ground work for something like this needs to be in place ahead of time, otherwise there just isn't time to make it happen.

I'd suggest that the biggest thing facing APP right now is to make sure a definite plan is in place for north APP that is acceptable to that community. In all likelihood, that means a single facility, with some plan to ensure the program doesn't continue to grow itself into dissolution. What I mean by "definite" would likely include some type of MOU or even contract, with consequences if things fall through. This can actually happen (McGilvra portables). Even with an MOU, promises can be broken at that drop of a hat, remember SBOC? If people don't think this is possible, watch what happens when 3 or 4 hundred APP families start opting their kids out of state mandated testing. Yes, I think middle school and maybe even high schoolers will be sympathetic to the cause. But this type of thing takes time to set up and get in place. The details will be complex.

So what are the current big issues?

1) Home and plans for north elementary (and middle school?) APP.
2) Math. Both the textbooks/curriculum and the methods for assigning classes in 6th grade.
3) Growth in the program and how to contain it (?)
4) Lack of gifted credential requirements for teachers (?) (out of scope for SPS?)
4) ?

Seriously, the first conversations need to be centered around knowing exactly what the one or two big issues facing the program are right now and clearly spelling them out. It would be great to include support for Spectrum in this package, but that would necessarily mean bringing Spectrum families into the effort. Maybe that's a good thing, but it would add even more complexities.

Maybe the first survey is to understand: what are the biggest problems the program is facing right now, and what are the potential big problems on the immediate horizon. It's possible families are content with things as they are, but I don't get that feeling.

Anonymous said...

DW -- Boy are you off-target on citing the history of the McGilvra portables as an example of how contracts or MOUs with the district can work. I suggest you do your homework to find out how that worked out. The district exercised its option to retract the portable agreement without even notifying mcgilvra families before the start of the school year, and after the PTA paid salaries for teachers to bring down class size. Suddenly school started a couple of years ago and families discovered class sizes were the district norm -- more like 28 instead of 21. Whatever you think about McGilvra spending PTA money to buy portables and buy down class size, the school is still reeling from the district suddenly reneging on its MOU with no notice. The district's position was that it was implementing a new district policy with the NSAP, and it could no longer give some schools like McGilvra special exceptions or treatment. And why should APP north be given a special contract? Math curriculum is a perfect example. Why do youseem insist that APP kids have some greater need for a decent math curriculum than every other kid in the district?
-- good luck with that MOU idea

Anonymous said...

My guess is you will have about as much luck coming up with an agreed-upon list of demands as the Occupy Movement. We are a year out on the occupy movement, and many people feel that something is fundamentally wrong with the structure of our society and its divisions between the haves and have nots. Yet, by its very nature, the Occupy Movement has never been able to come up with a list of demands or even a consensus on the nature of the problem. The APP community is filled with people who have strong and often conflicting opinions about goals for the program, let alone how to achieve those goals.

A boycott requires a clearly stated demand

Shannon said...

I quite agree that we need a focused reason engage in action which is why I asked the question.

In almost every thread where something startling or disappointing occurs with the district's vision and custody of APP someone starts to lobby for a boycott. I am not the lobbyist.

I am just pointing out what I would need to join a boycott. Change requires one to define a problem and imagine a solution.

Charlie Mas said...

Here are some possible demands:

1. A suitable permanent home for each element of APP including:
north-end elementary
north-end middle school
south-end elementary

2. A written, aligned, taught and tested curriculum as promised at the time of the split.

3. A written response to the APP Review.

4. Implementation of all recommendations in the APP Review.

5. Some systematic method of quality assurance for all advanced learning programs.

6. Some enforceable adherence to a well-defined set of standards for all advanced learning programs.

Anonymous said...

Why do you seem [to] insist that APP kids have some greater need for a decent math curriculum than every other kid in the district?

And this is why I'd only support a MSP boycott that demands better math for all of SPS, not just APP. The school by school waiver process is ridiculous and just increases the disparities among schools.

dw said...

good luck said: Boy are you off-target on citing the history of the McGilvra portables as an example of how contracts or MOUs with the district can work. I suggest you do your homework to find out how that worked out.

Panties in a bunch today?

I carefully and intentionally posted a link with copious details about the McGilvra portables so people could make their own decisions about such things. And I clearly said "promises can be broken at that drop of a hat" as well. Sure it ended very poorly at McGilvra, but the community got more than a decade of "special benefit" to their building. That's better than almost anyone else in SPS has ever seen. Would it be worthwhile for another community to shoot for a benefit that might be taken away at a future date? That's up to the community at large, not me or you. Also, remember that we can all learn from the mistakes and missteps of those before us.

and Why do youseem insist that APP kids have some greater need for a decent math curriculum than every other kid in the district?

Again, so quick to judge and accuse. Did I say that? Nope. In fact, most APP kids can probably trudge through the crappy math textbooks/curricula with less difficulties than struggling kids. Especially non-native speakers. The push for better math could be district-wide, APP-wide, or a single school; whatever people decide is best AND MOST ACHIEVABLE. A district-wide change of math textbooks is unlikely to happen immediately, but could easily happen in a couple buildings. It already is. The more individual buildings that change, the more momentum there will be to push for a district-wide change. Frankly, I'd even support a movement where APP families pushed for a change in math materials in some random non-APP building. It would certainly make a point. Anything to make progress getting rid of EDM/CMP2/Disc.

FWIW, this should be brainstorming time, not idea-slamming time.

Anon at 2:02pm points out a fact that I didn't spell out as well as I would have liked earlier. It may be difficult to come to a consensus agreement within the APP community about the priorities, and which, if any, are worth a potential boycott. That's life, we're all different. But the one attitude that is consistent in this program is that we all care about education. Virtually every APP kid has at least one, if not two, very involved parents. These discussions are worth having.

dw said...

Charlie lays out a list of ideas, many of which he has brought up before, and all of which have general merit.

However, something we need to consider if this is to gain any traction at all, is that the scope needs to be very tight. A boycott isn't something that a group can threaten every year when something doesn't go their way. It should be something critical, easily defined, and with lasting value for at least several years. As a counter-example, #3, the district can easily assign someone to write a response to the APP Review. They could pen something in a day or two and in all likelihood it would be meaningless dribble. It wouldn't help the program in any meaningful way other than we would have a specific document to complain about again regarding the district's inadequate responses to important issues.

#4 is a great goal in general, but the APP Review was so huge and encompassing that it's infeasible to suggest the district implement ALL recommendations in any timely way. I counted 47 "Recommendations for Action", and that doesn't even count the "meat" in the: Design | Benefits | Considerations report, which has a lot of good info, but tons of wiggle room. Some specific recommendations could be contentious at this point. Remember "it is ill-advised to situate this in a low-performing or other divisive school setting as this only stands to further the divide between the APP students and parents and general education students and families." Would that suggest reconfiguring existing placement of APP programs like TM? Not a good idea.

If there's any chance of bringing lots of people on board with this idea, I think the "demand(s)" need to be so simple as to be explainable in one or two sentences. Something non-wonks can digest in 1 or 2 minutes. For example, keeping north elementary APP intact, no more splits. And with that, a policy that will discourage or disallow more splits (i.e. no more arbitrary "growth", which, left unabated, will kill APP). Remember Policy D12.00? Ever wonder why a Board would write such a policy?

New, fresh ideas are great, but this isn't about trying to generate angst in the APP community, it should be about addressing serious problems that either exist today or are imminent if we don't take action.

All this aside, I'm glad Charlie is bringing up ideas, it helps move the discussion forward.

Anonymous said...

DW - Your proposed easily digestible demand -- keeping APP north intact, no more splits, is highly controversial within the APP, as you know. It has huge repercussions for all of APP, including those at thurgood Marshall. What you are asking for is a model that is very different from the south end model. A huge all-APP elementary site with no co-housing and a promise of no splits no matter the size will be a very different school from Thurgood Marshall. Consider how the demands you are framing may be inherently divisive within the APP community. Are you proposing a boycott for north end elementary APP only? Consider how your proposal may create enemies instead of allies. Advocating for changes in math curriculum across the district, for example, will get you many more allies.
-- look for common ground

dw said...

Your proposed easily digestible demand -- keeping APP north intact, no more splits, is highly controversial within the APP, as you know.

There is very little controversy in the north end. There is never 100% agreement on anything, but the vast majority are in favor of keeping the cohort together. The dissent has come from elsewhere, and that's sad.

It has huge repercussions for all of APP, including those at thurgood Marshall.

NO IT DOESN'T! Or more accurately, that needn't be the case.

The only way it has any repercussions at all for TM is if that community or the district tries to force the two programs to be configured exactly the same as each other, and that's impossible. There is nowhere in the north end with the same demographics, size, staff, space or even teaching models anymore. (PBL north and "real math" south).

What you are asking for is a model that is very different from the south end model.

Duh. Sorry, but seriously, everyone needs to just wake up and acknowledge that it's already far too late to stitch up this frankenstein and pretend that the programs are the same. They are not the same in any way, shape or form except that the kids tested into the program by similar means. Just like Ingraham IBX and Garfield are completely different programs, but the kids still qualify in by (nearly) the same means. Are you also advocating that IBX stop what they're doing and attempt to model Garfield? <-- If you reply, please answer this question!

By continuing to push this fictional "need" for identical programs, you risk losing what you've worked hard to create, which is a configuration that's working for you right now. Don't assume that you can bend the will of another (much larger) group of parents just as determined as you are to advocate for their kids. One that has just as much right to choose their path as you have to choose yours.

Consider how the demands you are framing may be inherently divisive within the APP community.

Please consider the same thing for your comments. It really does work both ways.

Folks, this ship has already sailed. For better or worse, the programs are on separate paths. We need to at least try to do what's best for as many kids as possible given the situation, not shoehorn things in an attempt to look the same.

dw said...

In spite of the above rant, I'm not advocating for anything specifically with regard to a possible MSP boycott. I think there are important things to consider, but it's up to the whole community or communities to decide.

I will say that from the lack of ongoing interest here in this thread, it looks like there isn't a huge level of support. A survey still might be useful, but is there even enough interest to decide on the top 2 or 3 burning issues facing APP at this time? That would be the first step.

Maybe just gathering up any and all ideas and throwing them into a survey to get a read on what people are concerned about right now. And an option for "Not concerned about anything". Seems like that would be useful in general, not just with regard to a boycott.

dw said...

Looks like this died a quiet death. Again. I guess that speaks to the lack of urgency in the community about the program in general. (?)

I do think that (if anyone is still reading here) at some point when there aren't fires in the process of being put out or inflamed, that we should have a thread/poll to let families talk about and prioritize concerns with the program. Big ones, not immediate or transitory ones like the staffing problem at L@L right now. The APP AC might possibly be a channel to do that, but I'm not sure what the flavor of that group is going to be this year.