Monday, June 1, 2015

June Open Thread

There are only 2+ weeks of school left and probably only half of those will be instructional in nature given all the end of the year events. How did this year go? What were the highlights and are there any things that you wish to improve next year.

Admin Note: I'll try to spawn a new open thread when the number of comments crosses a threshold where its hard to view on a phone. Also I've put up a tracking page for the middle school curriculum at This is mostly for next year but if you're interested in starting now feel free to add some data points.

Also please either use an authenticated identity or at least a consistent pseudonym when posting.


Anonymous said...

I'll start. It was kind of a bummer year for our son at Lincoln (3rd grade), both socially and academically. There are so many kids, and so many classes in some grades, and so many logistical challenges (lunchroom) that I think it's feeling really impersonal. Just not working out for us, to be honest. We find ourselves thinking that keeping him in our neighborhood school would have been best for him in a holistic sense. I have to say that for all the talk of "project-based learning" and other things, it really feels that APP is just elementary school two years advanced. Not particularly interesting or challenging other than (perhaps) the pace. This is our third year there...

- Off Year

O'CLevel said...

That is a bummer, sorry to hear it.
My wife and I are debating sending our son to TM. We love our local school--short walk, great community, etc. but first grade math was too slow for sure. We were thinking that a dip in MAP percentile might be an indication that we needed to make the jump. Does anyone know of any data around MAP scores for HCC (ideally broken out by grade and school)?


Anonymous said...

Last HCC/APP Advisory Committee meeting of the year tonight at Garfield at 6:30 is happening at the same time as an orchestra rehearsal with Mr. Tsutakawa. Pop your head in for a listen.

open ears

PM said...

Off year,

I am also a parent of a 3rd grader at Lincoln and was very unhappy about this year. First grade was challenging, second seemed to have lower expectations, and third was almost completely a waste of time. Things are supposed to improve in 4th and 5th and I hope that's true!

I've never seen breakdown of MAP scores and Lincoln kids didn't even take the MAP this year. I'm not sure if it's helpful, but my kid scored in the 220s for both math and reading by the end of 1st and in the 230s for both by the end of 2nd. I'm not sure how representative these scores are for the grade.

Anonymous said...

Re whether the move was right - remember, you're probably subconsciously comparing 3rd grade now with the K experience years ago. What is 3rd grade now like in the neighborhood school? Are kids there crowded too? Getting no lunch/recess too? Those schools have gotten much more crowded over the last 3 years too - it's not like the neighborhood schools are still some idyll on a hill that has become better and better while Lincoln has just gotten more crowded and less personal.

People aren't still leaving neighborhood schools to the tune of 100 kids/year for Lincoln b/c they're getting what they want/need there.

So yes, I agree there have been changes at Lincoln that make the experience feel less like what it was years ago (we started at Lowell, been around a long time w/multiple kids). But I don't harbor any illusions that the neighborhood school has longer lunches, better differentiation (seen too many kids come from there over the years), better curriculum (HA!), less crowding, etc. Crowding is a fact of life in all of SPS.

I suggest for your peace of mind trying to make a comparison, however you can, between APP and the neighborhood school as it is now, in the higher grades - not between APP and a hypothetical ideal where there actually is a grammar curriculum and a coherent modern science text book and smaller classes -- that doesn't exist. I have to keep reminding myself of that too, but I wouldn't say the grass is greener. I would just say I want more for the whole system - and this is what is here, but I doubt somewhere else has managed to avoid the same problems caused by crowding.

Anonymous said...

I have a student starting HCC at JAMS. He should be in band and (it is hoped) French. Could someone explain (again—sorry; I've read it here, but can't find it) the situation w/ the PE waiver and electives?

Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

JAMS PE waiver policy, as I understand it (and different than HIMS):

If your student is in band and foreign language, both of which are year long electives, they can request a PE waiver (60 hours of organized activity). Students not in 2 year long electives, say foreign language and computer tech, cannot get a PE waiver. Art, drama, and computer tech are semester long electives. You cannot sign up for two semesters of those classes. Foreign language, orchestra, band, and choir are year long electives.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks.

He's *requested* Band and French, but I don't know his chances of getting either.

The PE waiver then needs to be dependent upon another 60 hours of sports activity outside of school? This is the part I'm unclear on.

And if he doesn't get Band and / or French, do they just put him in whatever elective they feel like?

SusanH said...

Yes, if you take band and a language, then you have no time for any PE during the school day, so you must make up the state PE requirement outside of school hours. Unfortunately this cannot be just going jogging or hiking with your family; it must be some organized activity that a coach or teacher vouches for (rec soccer, climbing gym, tennis, etc.).

You are talking about 7th grade, right? Then the band & language placement shouldn't be a surprise. You should be guaranteed those classes (although if he doesn't get his first choice of French, he'd get his second choice language). At least that's how it works at Washington. We know which level band we've tested into and which language we've gotten before the end of the previous school year. They'd never just change that randomly to art or tech or something...

Anonymous said...

I bet they are talking about 6th grade, which might explain some of the cluelessness about the system (shared by me.). At JAMS foreign language starts in 6th grade(and had forms out at the ice cream social last night, which I imagine generated some questions!).

I also wonder what the chances are of the electives of their choice the first year. Would doing algebra reduce the chances you get what you want, because there would be fewer classes? Or are music and foreign language common enough that they are easy to work around?

Jaguar Bound

Anonymous said...

My guess is you are likely to get music as requested, as long as it can be scheduled around core classes, simply because they can fit more students in a music class. Classes like art, drama, and computer tech can accommodate fewer students, so they get filled, and it's one of the reasons you can't do two semesters of those electives. They don't have enough space for all the students requesting those electives. JAMS is going to be near capacity this upcoming school year (predicted enrollment around 900, with capacity of 960). Increased enrollment means more sections of classes, so I would think schedule flexibility would only increase in coming years. I think the are also unblocking LA and SS classes, which makes scheduling easier.

Lynn said...

There are some alternatives to organized athletics.

You could look at taking a PE class outside of school. BYU has inexpensive independent study classes - including fitness classes (listed as high school classes but I bet you can take them in middle school.)

You also have the right to provide home-based instruction. Your school office should be able to provide you with the necessary form. If not, I'm sure the Cascade Parent Partnership has them.

There's always the equivalency course of study too. For this, you have to describe what your child will do outside of school and get permission from the principal.

Anonymous said...

Why is there a 1st grade stand-alone class as well as a 1st/2nd grade combo class?

Anonymous said...


Pm said...

They have split classes when there are too many students for the existing number of classes, but not enough to add another full class. We aren't allotted as many teachers as other schools because of the demographics of HCC (low FRL and low special ed), so class sizes tend to be close to the union-mandated maximum class size. However, at Lincoln, they are not anticipating having any split classes next year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Pm!

How are math and reading levels assessed for incoming 1st graders to determine instructional level and grouping?

What is done for students whose ability level exceeds the 2 years advanced curriculum level?

Have the afterschool activities such as Math for Love been an effective means of extending learning for those who need more or do those parents have to afterschool?

I don't expect a perfect educational fit, but I just want to have realistic expectations.

MC said...

As far as I can tell there is nothing done for students who are more than 2 years advanced in the curriculum in math. I was not expecting further acceleration but for those in the highest level of walk-to-math I was hoping for more multi-step word problems, similar to those found in the Singapore Challenging Word Problems books. All I saw coming home were pages of arithmetic problems, to the point where my child was writing "duh" on the top of his papers (yes, I told him this was rude and made him stop). When he asked for harder work he was told that he needed to be getting 100% on every problem first. That's not a mindset I want to develop. Honestly, it was a factor in us returning to homeschooling this year. Not the only factor, but the lack of depth in the curriculum sure made it an easier decision.

I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Math for Love. We did the after school program this year, and the difference in my child's behavior and engagement in their math circle vs. the regular classroom was like night and day. I volunteered with them briefly, and both the topics covered and Paul's teaching style are impressive and engaging. I signed my child up for their summer camp as soon as it became available. If the APP curriculum had been anything like what Math for Love offers we would still be there. Just be aware that it is pure enrichment and more about exploring cool concepts than problem solving and doesn't really address deficiencies in the curriculum.

Anonymous said...


Back to the question about Electives—and yes, this is JAMS 6th grade, transitioning from a small independent school, which is why I have no clue about how all of this works. I believe there was just an ice cream social, but my son and I have been living abroad for the past couple months, and we're still here, so I've missed all of that.

Not sure which level of Band he'll test into—he'll do an audition when we return, but we're guessing senior Band.

Really hope he gets French this year, but it's not the end of the world if he has to wait until 7th. He's been studying Latin for a year or so, so that can keep him busy / interested out of school in case French doesn't pan out for a year.

I guess I need first to see if he gets French, and then figure out what to do w/ PE. My son is very active and fit—but he's never much wanted to do the team sports thing, and isn't clamoring to do the PE in school. Also, because of the band issue, he does not want to engage in a sport that could risk finger or mouth injury (he plays a wind instrument), so things like soccer, volleyball, basketball, football, are all out. I am not at all averse to finding something outside, but he has an ongoing and unchangeable commitment on Saturdays, so we'd have to work around that.

While I really do support the idea of kids being encouraged to be fit, in the case of our son that's not the issue. It's more of a time thing, and him hoping to get the academic courses he really wants.

In other news, I'm glad to hear that people like Math for Love. My son has had two people who teach w/ Math for Love as independent math mentors, and he's loved them.

Anonymous said...

MC, thank you very much.

I think our best option may be p/t homeschooling with attendance at APP. While the academics can be easily individualized by homeschooling, my son really wants a consistent peer group with the same intensity of interests. Only time will tell if that's better achieved by enrichment activities or school.

What are your thoughts on the APP science curriculum? Science is my son's greatest passion, so I'm also looking for recommendations on enrichment classes if you have any.

Anonymous said...

I have a 6th grader starting at HIMS in the fall-- coming out of gen ed program at our neighborhood elementary. Does anyone know when HIMS provides schedule information? I'm not sure how to address the math placement and our participation in that decision if we don't get that information before summer. Are we supposed to handle it in the fall? Also, would love to know whether he gets into Spanish-- which is not as urgent as there's nothing we can do about it but just curious.

Thanks in advance for your response!

-New in 2015

Anonymous said...

@ New in 2015, unfortunately HIMS schedules don't come out much, if at all, before school starts. This year kids picked up their schedules on the first day of school--as I recall there were some site maintenance or transition issues that prevented earlier access via The Source. I think in prior years, however, they were able to see schedules online a couple days in advance. But they don't send them out directly to families, and I've never known them to be available until fall.

Re: math placement, here's a link to Hamilton's math placement info. This gives an overview of the scores and requirements for each math level, so that parents could indicated their preference on the course selection form. Do you remember doing that? There's also an option to opt up to the next higher level (except Algebra I). Are you concerned that you may have selected the wrong level, or just wondering if your kid will get in?

FYI, there are always mistakes with some schedules and adjustments that need to be done. In our experience these generally get resolved within the first week or two. It can be difficult to just sit tight and go the "wrong" classes for a few days, but it should all get sorted out eventually!


Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on the APP science curriculum? Science is my son's greatest passion, so I'm also looking for recommendations on enrichment classes if you have any.

I don't know if it's any different at the elementary level, but there isn't really an APP science curriculum in middle school--they use the same science curriculum as everyone else, just accelerated a couple years. Unfortunately the acceleration doesn't seem to mean it's any more challenging or interesting--just earlier. My science-loving kid hated nearly every minute of it (for 3 years). The only time he felt like he learned a thing was during a short unit on genetics in Biology. Everything else was presented at such a basic level that he already knew it, or understood it completely after reading it or hearing it once, and didn't need all the repetition and reinforcement. He also said the labs were a waste of time--the results were obvious before you even did them.

My current 6th grader has been similarly uninspired. Science is her least favorite class, as she finds both the teacher and the curriculum exceedingly boring.

Overall, the science curriculum is designed for a gen ed audience, and there does not seem to be any effort whatsoever into modifying it to be more appropriate for HC students. Maybe it's better in elementary school?

Anonymous said...

From what I've heard, Briedenbach here in the south end was a proponent of getting kids the instruction they need for learning and mastery. Last year at Thurgood one kid who was very advanced in math was quietly walked over to the next grades class for HCC math from my kids class. No fuss, the child was just better served getting instruction at that level. The instructor may have been the one who helped organize that transition. I don't know. It was not in any way disruptive, just practical.

I hear that many principals will not allow any advancement beyond those first two years on entry to the program. You know, wouldn't want to allow too much learning in school... There are a lot of kids who are advanced in many areas but have significant holes in learning further back that need work, these kids would suffer if placed based on their most advanced work. As well, they would suffer if placed based on one concept that needs remediation. Placement needs to be balanced and thoughtful, with a plan for remediation of weak skills. I could see parents helping in this process, or being pushy and short sighted. Right now this process doesn't seem to be happening in most places beyond testing in.

West parent

Anonymous said...

Middle school world languages:

Take 2 or 3 years?

When you land at high school, does it matter?

Does it matter if you think you'll go to IBx or Garfeild?

Child heading to JAMS, and there you are NOT allowed to take 2 half-year electives like art+tech. Must be either art+PE or tech+PE. Eckstien does allow PE waiver to take 2 non-full year electives - so why one school does it one way and another a different way... grumble)

Anyway, trying to figure out will he regret not getting to take 1 'fun' elective in 6th when he graduates, or, of he'll regret not having had 3 years of language when he graduates middle school because it will be a big disadvantage and mess up his high school schedule.

Village elders, please, share detailed thoughts?

Thank you

World Language

Anonymous said...

3 years of world language in middle school is really the equivalent of two years of high school world language. For our child, Spanish 1 was split over 2 years (6th and 7th grade) and Spanish 2 (taken in 8th grade) is supposedly the equivalent of a one year high school Spanish 2 class. For IBX, it is assumed you have had at least the equivalent of Year 1 of a world language (two years of middle school world language), meaning, at a minimum, you take Year 2 of the world language in 9th grade. Of course IBX may be fading away, so it could be a moot point.

I think there was a difference in how Eckstein did world language (students didn't start world language until 7th grade), and I'm not sure how JAMS is doing world language moving forward. This year they had to accommodate students coming from HIMS and Eckstein, who were in different places with world language.

As far as "having" to take PE, my child (not in music) really liked both art and PE. They were some of my child's favorite classes. They did juggling, ultimate Frisbee - I think it was something new every week.

Our child is still in middle school, so I'd be interested in hearing the high school perspective. For those that have taken 3 years in middle school, do students retake Year 2 of language as freshman, or do they jump right into Year 3?

SusanH said...

My child is at Washington, so I'm not sure if my answer is applicable, but at WMS they only take language in 7th and 8th grades, and my understanding is that these two years of language = one year in high school. Thus they would start high school at Year Two of their language. I'm not sure how three years of a language would translate to the high school curriculum. Are the classes robust enough at JAMS to then start high school at Year 3?

Anonymous said...

My child liked 7th grade Physical Science when it was taught by Ms. R. at HIMS. She created worksheets to reinforce the concepts, they typed an "aha" thesis at the end of each unit (good writing practice), and kept a VERY organized workbook/notebook. It was the one good year of science for our child.

The HCC experience is very teacher dependent. As mentioned previously, the curriculum is mostly the gen ed curriculum accelerated a few years. At HIMS and JAMS, LA/SS isn't even accelerated any more. Only if a teacher goes beyond the standard curriculum are you likely to get something more challenging (of course you may be lucky if they even cover the standard curriculum).

Anonymous said...

At HIMS, 3 years of a world language are generally thought to be the equivalent of 2 yrs of HS language, so most students will test into 3rd yr language as freshman. Some of the immersion students, I believe, have been able to skip to level 4, but those may be the exceptions.

One issue to think about is how that impacts one's ability to keep taking the language of interest. My kid wanted to keep his same language every year, but if you get too far ahead in middle school you max out in high school.

Lynn said...

News from my Garfield student is that the choir director has been fired. If teachers decide it's too risky to plan overnight field trips (which I expect will happen eventually) what affect will this have on the school? If the current performing arts opportunities are not available, will HCC students continue to choose the school? I am not suggesting any immediate changes are going to happen, just wondering how much of the appeal of Garfield is based on Jazz Band/Orchestra/Choir and the travel and competition opportunities. I suspect it's a big deal - these are some pretty creative kids.

Anonymous said...

I think that field trips will just be run through the PTSAs or the booster groups, who have their own liability insurance, or through outside companies who currently run field trips for some SPS groups already. Running the trips through the district gets more difficult every year with requirements to use their travel agent & their slow reimbursement process & late-payments on POs, etc.

Anonymous said...

Another anecdotal report on HIMS here. We’ll try to contribute to the data points being collected on the other thread in the future. Since my child entered APP in second grade, I have rarely had much concern about the content or pace of his school program. But that’s changing...

My son is finishing 6th grade at HIMS. Overall, we have been pleased that middle school has started smoothly for him. He didn’t have a lot of homework — and he has been good at managing the homework he had. He’s liked his teachers well enough. The music program is a standout, and he’s definitely inspired and all-in for his duration at HIMS. His social studies class also sounds quite engaging. I have not paid close attention to the academic curriculum, as our son is getting all A’s. I have been a little concerned a few times during the year, as he has been saying that math is quite slow and often unchallenging, but I hoped it was just temporary.

Well, it’s the end of the year and he is now articulating on his own — without any prompting — that though he is taking math a class that is 2 years ahead, it is clearly not accelerated. He’s getting concerned that the pace of learning in 7th and 8th grades may again be frustrating. We decided to have him go into CMP 3 in 6th grade, rather than push for Algebra (he is generally strong at math, but his Algebra eligibility scores were borderline). In retrospect, he now feels that anything he learned in CMP 3, he could have learned last summer and then gone into Algebra for 6th. In his CMP 3 class (which has a mix of 6th and 7th graders) information is reviewed and practiced repeatedly, either because that is just the pace set or because others in the class (especially kids in older grades) need more time to master the concepts.

Science has also been somewhat disappointing. He feels that he learned some in science and that it moved fairly quickly but that there were not a lot of concepts introduced that were new to him. He gets most animated talking about all the time spent “learning” about how the earth orbits the sun and about why there are seasons — concepts he has understood for many years and feels his classmates generally did too. He believes that it doesn’t reflect on the teacher but on the curriculum the teacher is obligated to follow.

I don’t think my son is an outlier in APP (HCC). I withheld judgment before, but I now give more credence to the concerns about rigor and acceleration at HIMS.

Is my son correct in his belief that the math and science teachers are following a standard 8th grade curriculum and not adapting the pace or approach for 6th grade APP (HCC) students? For kids that grasp new concepts more quickly, and for kids who have been voracious readers (true of many kids in APP), adapting a math or science class’s pace and depth seems like a no brainer.

Hoping for more in science and math.

Anonymous said...

My freshman student at IHS is doing well and challenged in a good way in Spanish 3 after 3 years of Spanish at HIMS. It is our understanding that there will be classes available at IHS to continue her studies for the next 3 years too.

IHS--so far so good

Anonymous said...

To the Anon poster above - Everyone please use a name so posts can be responded to.

Math is not part of HCC. All kids are placed based on scores and that's it. You won't get an accelerated curriculum in SPS.

We left HIMS after one year because it was so bad and my child was bored to tears. My child started in APP in 1st grade and 6th grade was the first year my kid was bored day in and day out. As said above, music is great at HIMS and is the exception.

APP/HCC middle school has lost its way and I don't believe anyone at JSCEE (educational excellence - ha) cares. It's much easier to have the same curricula for everyone.


Anonymous said...

radish - Did you go private after 6th grade? Wondering how that transition was.

For the benefit of those headed to HIMS, I will say that my child has overall had a nice year in a very good school environment. Lots to be happy about at HIMS and, for us, it would feel risky to move and lose all that is good, including friends. But each kid is different, of course. At this point, I'm just hoping that my son's academic concerns don't because more serious in the coming two years. But if they do...?

-Hoping for more in science and math

Anonymous said...


Private schools can be hard to get into for 7th, but we felt like we had no choice because of our experience at HIMS. We didn't see any signs that things were going to improve in the later grades, and we were lucky to get into a school so that we could move. We know less than thrilled parents who are still there, so I know we made the right choice. We moved to a private school that is not "advanced" but the smaller class sizes helps as does a good curricula (they did do advanced math placement). My kid is happy they moved because they really didn't like being bored all day. Enjoying school is more important to them than being with their school friends. They see old friends outside of school, and they made new ones.

We did move to a rigorous private high school when the time came.


Benjamin Leis said...

Re: differentiation for an incoming first grader.

The way I look at the curriculum is that it ranges from just enriched to 2 years accelerated by subject. For the most part, its one size fits all and if you're an outlier that might mean looking into outside opportunities. Language arts follows the readers/writers workshop model. So just as in a neighbor school that means assessing a child's level and assigning books to them at that level while hopefully clustering them with a group of kids of similar achievement. Writing expectations have never I believe been advertised as more than 1 year ahead but there is a lot of emphasis on writing across all the subjects. For us this has been the strong point of the school. Math is actually 2 years accelerated. In first grade (I'm pretty sure but more certain for 2nd/3rd), there is also walk to math but not to a different curriculum. So in practice, extra curriculars like Math 4 Love are highly recommended if that's not enough. This is the only subject I have anecdotal evidence of folks partially home schooling in. Science mostly follows the district kits for the year with a few notable exceptions for some units. However, they do a nice job with the units and here I would argue that you want to enrich outside school if that's not enough for your child.

I hope that helps

Anonymous said...

Re: differentiation for an incoming first grader

Thank you for your help, Benjamin.

"Math is actually 2 years accelerated. In first grade (I'm pretty sure but more certain for 2nd/3rd), there is also walk to math but not to a different curriculum."

So does this mean that a 1st grader that needs 3+ years math acceleration would "Walk to Math" to the 2nd grade classroom(which is really operating at a 4th grade level)?


Benjamin Leis said...

@NEM - unfortunately not. This just means the 1st grader would walk to another 1st grade room.
That's what I meant by not walking to a different curriculum. So your hypothetical first grader who is doing 4th or 5th grade math would need to concentrate on outside of regular school enrichment.

Anonymous said...

The JAMS assistant principal apparently is headed for TOPS as a one-year fill-in. What does this mean for JAMS next year?

Anonymous said...

I suppose it depends on the replacement....

Anonymous said...

@ 9:15, I meant that geez, we've only been in operation a year and isn't stability of leadership one of the keys to building a strong school? So why is our second in command administrator being moved? Why does SPS always seem to play principal musical chairs and why do they have to add one more challenge to building a new school? With more kids projected here next year and some clear challenges in offering strong class experiences, why mess with administration?

Anonymous said...

Has there been a formal announcement of this change?

Anonymous said...

@ 12:55 Not here at JAMS, but yes at TOPS. Official letter from Supe.

You'd think there would be a concurrent announcement at JAMS but apparently too much to ask of school or HQ.

So again what does this mean for JAMS?

Maureen said...

I heard that Amy Schwentor was going to TOPS from RHS. Has she actually been at JAMS or are you talking about someone else? It helps to actually name names. (Why wouldn't you in this case?)

Benjamin Leis said...

re: Garfield Choir

There's a new thread on the other blog at:

I'm not sure if this is of HCC specific interest or not. If you'd like a new thread for this please email me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Amy Schwentor has been the AP at JAMS this year and is going to be the interim principal at TOPS. From what I heard, she is going to be the interim since it's a quick placement and the community has not had input on the placement.


Anonymous said...

If you are a HC/AP parent thinking project-based learning would be a better alternative for your kid, think again.

In Kindergarten at K-5 STEM, my son tested into Spectrum, just shy of HC/AP, because reading scores were a bit low (math 99th + and cog 99th+ - 141 FSIQ). We decided not to go to a Spectrum program, and stay at K-5 STEM instead, because he liked the projects. In Fall 1st grade, he tested at 99th percentile math for 2nd grade, and his reading scores went up a bit (from all the work we did over the summer).

Fast forward 1 1/2 years later. We are now at the last day of 2nd grade. His math scores have STAYED THE SAME since Fall of 1st grade (meaning he has learned nothing). Despite the fact that he finished 2nd grade math in first grade, he had to repeat it this year. And, his reading scores have gotten worse - they have plummeted from the 80th percentile to the 38th percentile!

I find this school is hit-or miss when it comes to teaching. They concentrate on the students who are behind academically, and ignore the students who have the ability to excel. Because of this school, my student now qualifies for reading tutoring over the summer and no longer even qualifies for Spectrum.

I'm pissed.


Anonymous said...

Hmm...unfortunately, PBL seems to be the thing, even in HCC. During a presentation of the middle school HCC LA/SS curriculum rewrite, they showed a screenshot of the brainstorming session. You know what was suggested? More project based learning. Why, I thought to myself, why? Some PBL is fine, but it takes time. Lots of time. So there's a lot of content that doesn't get covered. Some students may be having fun, but are they still learning what they need to learn? From our children's experiences these last few years (middle school), I'd say no. For us, more PBL means more learning is shifted to home.

MC said...

Thanks for bringing up the topic of Project Based Learning, and for reaffirming my skepticism. I'm sure it can be done well, but as the previous commenter mentioned I suspect it is very time consuming and doesn't always reflect real learning. Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham in his book "Why Students Don't Like School" (an excellent read btw), uses an example of a teacher who did an underground railroad simulation that included students baking biscuits to eat. The problem he points out, is students spent hours in the kitchen, and only 10 minutes really discussing the plight of runaway slaves. A lot of learning took place but it was about flour and baking powder and mixing, NOT history. When faced with project examples I now immediately question "Is this relevant or is it biscuit baking?" I have friends who are leaving for PBL schools in droves, and feel a little old fashioned for saying that I have a kid who learns quite well through reading high quality texts and engaging discussion, with just a few hands on activities to demonstrate key principles.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm worried about PBL. Our son is slated to begin 1st grade in the Spectrum program at HW K-8 STEM. Anyone have experience with whether their kids scores dropped at HW too? Is it mostly PBL?

-stressed parent

Anonymous said...

Project Based Learning done well is fantastic, but I can see how it could be terrible if not a well-developed strategy in capable teaching hands. For what it's worth, my middle school student did exactly ONE project all year long, excluding the endless making of comic books and posters. The rest was worksheets, one after another. So please be careful and thoughtful with your advocacy! My kid would love some really good, creative work.


Anonymous said...

Re: Garfield recent news outbreak. this story is so outrageous that it just sounds
to me this type of activity has gone on before and it is only this time that
someone had the courage to speak up and report it.
They should have responsible leaders and chaperones in charge otherwise don't have the field trips. I have a middle schooler that will be going to Garfield and I am very concerned about the behavior of the folks that are in charge.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous - the curent Garfield Choir incident is covered extensively in multiple, separate blog posts on the Seattle Schools blog. That blog also has a lot of coverage on the Garfield Nature Bridge sexual assault. You could consult the stop sexual assault in our high schools facebook page too. I am concerned about the leadership at GHS and chose to send my child elsewhere. - CHP

Anonymous said...

I have a student entering 6th grade HCC at HIMS next year. My child loves science and has been very strong in math, coming from an ALO school. My child was also admitted to Lakeside (which had a great science program) and we chose the APP program due to the expense of tuition (even with FA), as well as keeping her in the neighborhood.

I am feeling a bit apprehensive about Hamilton as I have read that many parents seem unhappy with science curriculum and/or also some instructors at HIMS.
I am wondering if there are students out there who have had positive experiences with math and science teachers for all grades? If yes, who were the teachers?
- Apprehensive

Anonymous said...

The requests for spreadsheets compairing report card scores by teacher and score are off the rails. Please, parents, why do you say you don't want to compare, and then seek out comparisons? If your child gets threes and you wish he or she had fours, ask your teacher what it took to get a four. Ask your teacher how many fours she handed out. But ask yourself if your own parents would have spent time on this and if you would have benefited as a child if they had.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this is the kind of thing that APP parents can be a little nutty about. But I also see valid questions arising from the discussion. I wonder about how teachers grade walk-to-math in the grades that have it, which I know is at least second grade. Are students in each group graded on the same content? Would a three in the more advanced group be equal to a 4 in another group or does it not even track like that? Should kids in the upper groups be getting 4s if they are completing the assessments with top marks?


Anonymous said...

@ Apprehensive- Kristen Ryan for 7th grade Physical Science (@ HIMS) was a rock star. She wrote the curriculum with some high school teachers so it's solid. Sorry to say she's the only HIMS math or science teacher I can recommend--we switched to JAMS for 8th grade and had great math and science teachers.


Anonymous said...

Elementary grade reports are next to useless. Accept it and spend your energy elsewhere. There is too much subjectivity in the grading and like someone else suggested, I think teachers hold back from giving 4s in the beginning in order to show growth at the end of the year. Middle school grades are marginally more meaningful, but you get into the issue of group projects and group grades (could bring your child's scores up or down depending on your child and the group).

In elementary and middle school, we've learned it's more useful to focus on what's happening in class, and the quality the assignments, rather than being falsely assured by grades, or getting upset over low grades when the grading may have been somewhat subjective or the assignment was something of questionable value.

-another perspective

Anonymous said...

I'm a little surprised anyone would have the chutzpah to even ask about everyone else's grades (and I can't imagine its going any farther than the silly post). All of which misses the point - its not relative grades that matter its the work each kid is doing. You need to look at the writing samples and work sheets that are coming home and talk about them with your kids. Oh and if you're really worried about keeping up with the cohort - directly ask the teacher if they are prepared for next year and staying in sync.

Anonymous said...

Oh and if you're really worried about keeping up with the cohort - directly ask the teacher if they are prepared for next year and staying in sync.

I agree with the previous post, but would caution that that directly talking with the teacher may only be useful if the teacher has high expectations and truly knows what a student needs in order to be prepared for the following year. With some classes, like math, it's more straightforward, but for other classes we certainly had much higher expectations than the teacher. We were concerned that the entire cohort was being left behind, not just our child.

Anonymous said...

...we certainly had much higher expectations than the teacher. We were concerned that the entire cohort was being left behind, not just our child.


Anonymous said...

To Apprehensive-
I am sorry to report that HIMS has very little positive to offer. Music is a standout, and I hope that it stays great. A great math teacher has just retired, and science has not been good (aside from 7th, as mentioned above). Science is poor not only because of the teachers, but also the curriculum. My child learned very little.

We were pretty happy overall with elementary APP/HCC, but HIMS was a disappointment and we found most classes to be missing rigor. LA/SS were also disappointing. I am really sorry the district has allowed the program to fall to such a lowly level.

Some of the classes (ie alg 1) are taught by more than one teacher, but you don't get to choose the teacher. Schedules are designed around classes like language or music first, and you get the math class based on when your child can fit it in.

Here's hopping HS is better.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, my child did not find 7th grade science to be a great learning opportunity, either. The curriculum was too basic for a science-loving kid who already had a decent foundation. Maybe it's better for kids who haven't done any independent reading on related topics. Kids who love science, however, tend to explore these topics on their own--and will likely be bored by the lack of depth all the HIMS HCC science classes present. Until there is a curriculum tailored to the needs of HCC kids, that's not likely to change.

Anonymous said...

Hi Benjamin,
I think you might see more response to the Middle School Curriculum topic if you made it it's own separate thread not embedded in the June topic.

Benjamin Leis said...

@Sue - I don't plan to emphasize the middle school curriculum page over the summer (Its there for those who have observations they'd like to record now). When fall comes around and folks have new and hopefully specific data I'll push it more.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else thinking it might not be a done deal that Cascadia ends up being entirely APP?

? said...

Cascadia serves a broad range of kids most wouldn't make it in "APP." If you mean 2E + $ perhaps? Why would you suggest that?

I know the sped community have found Cascadia as a catch gap against poor policy for kids with high IQ and 2E/sped spectrum issues.

More please?

Anonymous said...

Cascadia is the new name for the elementary school being built at the Wilson Pacific site, not to be confused with Cascade Parent Partnership, formerly the Homeschool Resource Center, which was recently moved from the Wilson Pacific site.

? said...

Ohh! I was confused. Thanks! In that case APP is not ever going to take over WP 1-5 program. Perhaps a portion but not 700+ kids especially since it only holds 660.

Here is how I see it going down.

TM - S
Lowell - Central + QA / Mag
? NE

ALL will be combined with gen ed/sped and include an ALO component

L@L parent said...

Self contained goes away with L@L. You can't bus kids past a school to go to another based on ability. Just won't fly in seattle unless the school is much less desirable.

Anonymous said...

I smell troll.

Anonymous said...

So where would they put the NE kids?

NE Parent

Anonymous said...

That is the million dollar question.

There are so many kids from the NE. I don't see how they can all fit into the TC building. And when it's located that close to home, even more kids are going to want to go.

Anonymous said...

And I do think "?" is a troll but sadly he or she may not be far off with the predictions. I think it is going to be all too easy to split and integrate Lincoln kids into an ALO-type system when the natural break of leaving Lincoln occurs.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 2:06, - It would be so much easier if people would use a name. It is hard to respond so innumerable anon posts.

I think you said exactly what will happen. WA State law says that HC kids need to have their needs met, but it doesn't say how and it doesn't say it needs to be self-contained.

The district will never give HCC an entire brand new school to themselves.


Anonymous said...

I am sure the district would love to do that, and I know some have tried to run the capacity numbers to make it work. They can't- there is no where near enough space to send them back. Especially for the NE, self contained is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Hard numbers

Anonymous said...

Hard Numbers-

If (I know, a HUGE if) there is room for all the kids in the north once the new school is built, they could re-draw school boundaries to do what they'd like, especially if they get rid of self-contained.

The district is going to make some number of the community angry, and it will all come down to who the district wants to appease.

I don't see HCC getting a new building.


Anonymous said...

I can see why you would think that. I don't trust the district either. However the number of students who come from some of the more densely populated areas- Bryant, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, and Wedgwood- would mean redrawing to include the returning students would, for example, push the students who live right across the street from Bryant to another school. Laurelhurst would be filled and have its boundary shrunk, so Bryant would be filled entirely with students south of 60th, possibly 55th, and mostly east of 35th, since View Ridge would also have its boundary shrunk. You can't draw the boundaries so that you reinclude the HCC students unless you send everybody more than a third of a mile away up to John Rogers (which is also bursting, and only getting moreso, but the south NE is several orders of magnitude more dense- they used to have heat maps of where students live, and it is striking). It really does only work right now if they ship students out, and the only way I think parents will agree to that is self contained. Maybe if they built two more schools in the south NE, they could put them back. I'll just wait while they do that...

Hard numbers

Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant self contained programs. Not class rooms.