Wednesday, September 16, 2015

First Day of School (At Last)

We're finally starting the year tomorrow 9/17!  I'm excited enough to put this post out one day early.


1. Many activity signups have not changed despite the delay in the starting date. Most important for our purposes: the deadline for Advanced Learning Evaluation is coming up in only a few weeks (10/8)   SPS Advanced Learning.

2. Middle School Curriculum Project.  I have the following page permanently on the top of the blog. Now that middle school is starting, if you're interesting in documenting and improving the curriculum please log what your students are doing there.

3. Million Hits! This one is just for fun. But I've put the counter on the top for the next week or so because we're about to pass the 1 million mark.

So how is the first day going?


new to HCC said...

Is it my imagination or did the HCC requirements change? 98+ on only one CoGAT composite score (instead of two scores)?

In any case, hooray for school starting!!

Anonymous said...

It's not, but I can't figure out how different that is from when my first child got in in 2009-2010. Then you got 3 scores- verbal, nonverbal, and composite, and 2 of the 3 had to be 98+. Obviously if both v and nv were 99 the composite was also 99, but my child got in with a 99 on one, 97, on the other, and 99 composite. I noticed with a later child there were far more scores, and you still needed just 2. This seems higher than that, maybe? Or is it slightly lower, because now you could get two 97's which add up to a 99 composite, so only one 98+ score?

I do notice language about exiting the program. I think that could be very healthy. I hope so.


Anonymous said...

The appeal and teacher recommendation processes also appear to be different (but not explained on the site.)


Anonymous said...

Do the cognitive and achievement tests for Kindergarten age children require writing of any sort? Are there written instructions or are all questions read? How is their attention kept focused?

I'm having trouble imagining my distractible, wiggly, writing-avoidant 5 year old being able to complete this test. I know by previous private tests and personal experience that he clearly has the ability, but a group test could be his downfall at this age.

- Curious Parent

Anonymous said...

Curious Parent -

Private testing. Make your appt now. There used to be a list of SPS approved psychologists on the AL pages at SPS.


Benjamin Leis said...

And we're off to an auspicious start with all the buses arriving as scheduled. I hope everyone else is doing well.

Anonymous said...

I'd encourage parents to read the class syllabi when they come home. I was somewhat surprised by the description of 8th grade LA at JAMS. There was no list of books to be read, but they have a requirement of reading 40 books at their level (and of their choosing? - it's required of all 8th graders). A good amount of class time is to be spent reading independently, while the teacher works with small groups.

Anonymous said...

Not sure about that - 973 arrived as I was leaving after the 1st bell, and didn't arrive at Lincoln to pick up kids until 5:30 tonight!

Anonymous said...

And let's note, it is good citizenship help other parents by sharing details of your route and it's timing, and also to not discourage families from advocating for changes in their route if it is not meeting standards for all on the route (including the first on/last off).

Early bus rider

Anonymous said...

Unless there is more too it, highly unimpressed with syllabus of 8th grade LA at JAMS as outlined above.

HCC parent

Anonymous said...

The LA is baffling. It sounds as though the CCSS are being used as the curriculum, rather than a set of skills to be covered in the context of a planned, content specific curriculum (as emphasized in the CCSS). I would expect 8th grade LA would be more like what many of us had in high school. We covered multiple teacher selected readings as a class. The discussion was richer because all students were reading the same text and the discussions were specific to the text, not based on a generic rubric. And 40 books? If students are supposed to read at their level, that could take some students two or three weeks to cover a meatier, more complex text. 40 books in 36 weeks means students may choose easier reads to meet some arbitrary book count.

Are HIMS and WMS taking a similar approach, or is this specific to JAMS? Could they not agree on and purchase a set of common, appropriate level readings?


Anonymous said...

40 books is ridiculous. Anathema to close, critical reading, writing, discussion. Independent reading through the bulk of class? Also ridiculous. Has JAMS administration signed off on this?

another parent

Anonymous said...

Agreed. The 40 books thing is absurd, and I hope JAMS parents--and students--push back loudly. If you're only supposed to have 20 min or so of homework per night for each class, how can you possibly read what should be high-school level books in that time? It would have to be at the exclusion of all other LA work (writing, anyone?), and how much would the kids get out of it if there's no group discussion and analysis? Was this JAMS' attempt to provide more rigor? If so, epic fail.

OTOH, great new for teachers--no assignments to ever grade!

Anonymous said...

8th grade LA at JAMS: They will focus on "skills," not a set curriculum. All 8th graders are to read 40 books. They will keep a reading log and spend most of class reading independently.

So the skill 8th grade HCC students will be learning is how to read??? But if they are supposed to be spending class time doing it independently, they must already know how to read, right?

What exactly will the teacher TEACH them? And how is this part of the "Significantly Accelerated curriculum in reading, math, science, & social studies" SPS claims? Everyone should email Stephen Martin in the Advanced Learning office and have him explain.

Anonymous said...

Complaining that our kids are being forced to read 40 books in a year?

Remember when the massive complaint last year was that our kids were not really held to read any books in LA at JAMS?

Then, the complaint went something like: "don't they know our APP kids can read a book in a day? Assigning a book and letting them have 2 weeks to read it is ridiculous! They can hardly remember it by the time the book discussion rolls around. They can read that in a single day, in fact, they can read 3 meaty novels in a week...". And, "JAMS doesn't know APP kids, this is proof! Only a few books for the whole year, and then, only the requirement to draw a picture about the book, 2 weeks later?!" Anyone else remember that? Or the complaint that the APP kids didn't even have to read 'whole books', just excerpts, and how nutty that was?

So, that was last year. Now they get our kids, yes? Hence, the 40 books. Which should not be a problem. It is APP/HCC.

40 books for 8th grade HCC LA is no problem as far as I'm concerned, with some provisos. Is there a mechanism to ensure some sort of quality selection? In other words, Harry Potter or Diary of a Wimpy Kid for HCC students don't 'count'?

Is the mechanism for the 40 book selection balanced between being structured but being flexible? I.e., the requirement might be something like read 8 biographies, here is a list of 50 to choose from? Or, read at least 4 non fiction books, one of which should be a political history, etc.?

I would rather they read than have to do a 'group think' exercise. Or, more Columbia Readers and Writers workshop!!! Reading is a nice break in the middle of the day. Look at the Lincoln reading room and see how many love to curl up with a book. Reading time is a happy place. In a middle schooler's day, with whatever else they may be going through, reading might be the antidote for a turbulent day. Or not. We can agree to disagree. Obviously, there is a sweet spot. Nothing but reading would be a waste. Why have a teacher, then? But, some reading is ok.

old dragon (continued below)

Anonymous said...

My wondering about LA is about teaching WRITING!

Many APP kids are voracious readers; inhaling books is what they do, or what they should be capable of. However, writing is an entirely other matter. Giftedness and dysgraphia seem to go hand in hand in many cases.

Teaching writing occurs by direct instruction, a lot of it, and then, a lot of trying and practice on the part of the students, with a lot of individual feedback. Students' writing can only get better by doing the actual writing, there is no way around that. The more you do, the better you can get.

Many of our APP kids are gifted writers. Walk the halls of Lincoln and see their 3rd grade literary essays on the walls. 55% of them are precocious. 20% of them are strong. 10% are grade level, obviously needing to be supported so that their writing improves to match their intellectual strength, but, there are about 5% of them that are weak and need some serious support.

Grammar isn't taught, sentence structure is not explicitly taught, and what is written (science notebooks, history essays, or that 'write for 10 minutes' homework)is NOT corrected (so, how can they get better?). That is the obvious hole in the program. A gaping hole!

Thurgood Marshall identified this last year, and they are working to support HCC elementary students with intensive writing with grammar. Washington has in the past further improved these students so that by the time they hit Garfield, there was an obvious difference between Hamilton students and Washington students, so much so that World History AP for incoming APP Freshmen got yanked!

So, enter JAMS. Last year they were working to get their program off the ground. They have done a lot right: they pitched the poor math texts, hired amazing teachers and counselors, got a great orchestra going. They truly are focused on the well being of each and every Jaguar! That is amazing.

But LA seemed to be lackluster. So, they got the message. Now, 40 books. That's fine, but the essential skill LA should be focused on is writing.

As far as LA goes, "Its the writing, dummy!" IMHO.

I am glad they are engaging the HCC cohort with books! I fervently hope JAMS and HIMS and WMS Language Arts classes are equally preparing all middle school students, including HCC students, for excellence in written communication. Because writing is the key foundational life-long skill that will be the crucial tool our kids need to chart their course in life, whether writing a compelling grant, having their college entrance essay stand out, expressing their thoughts in an Op Ed, preparing a brief for the Supreme Court, etc.

Write On!
old dragon

Anonymous said...

@ old dragon,

While true that many HCC students are voracious readers, it's not all of them, by any means. Not all gifted children are fast readers, and not all gifted children actually enjoy reading and want to spend their afternoons and evenings behind a book. (Sorry, but your assertion that "inhaling books is what they do, or what they should be capable of" is incorrect.) As well, those who are voracious readers in primary school often become less so in middle school and beyond.

I agree that the quality and variety of the books is important. But they should be reading books that challenge their thinking and analytical skills, and they really need guidance and discussion to progress in that area. If one of the goals of the standards is to be able to identify passages of text that support your thesis, you need to learn how to do careful reading. It's not just about whipping through the pages.

Reading in class isn't a problem in and of itself. However, a 40-book requirement, coupled with a homework policy that limits the number of minutes per class, suggests that independent reading would need to be the only class activity. So much for that writing instruction you want!

The notion that more than a book a week is appropriate assignment for this kids is a misguided attempt to bring rigor to the program. That a school would go from requiring very little reading to suddenly requiring 40 books is hard to believe. To be honest, it sounds pretty Seattle passive-aggressive to me. "You said your kids need more reading, HCC parents. Fine. We'll require 40 books--Hah!"

Now, I'm with you on writing. This needs more focus. While it may be true that "many of our APP kids are gifted writers" as you say, I suspect that it's more the case that they are good at this a lot earlier than their peers. They tend to have read a lot more, and tend to pick things up quickly, so they're more likely to be ahead when it comes to spelling, grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, etc. They also often have wild imaginations and can be very expressive; can be good at thinking logically; etc. But without training, I doubt that "gifted writer" label will stick for most of them.

My HCC kids learned very little writing in their middle school HCC LA classes, and I've heard likewise from many parents. I have a friend whose kid transferred to private school in 9th grade, and despite coming from APP was behind the others in writing. Two years ahead, yeah right! I don't think that's unusual, and I know a number of middle school age kids--"A" students in HCC LA--who have sought outside writing instruction. My own HCC student took an intensive summer writing class for gifted students and not only learned a tremendous amount about writing and analysis, but actually learned to enjoy the process and feel god about the results. It was a 180-degree turnaround from the middle school HCC LA experience.

So yes, write on! And continue to read on, too--but with intentionality, analysis, instruction, and numbers within reason.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous on 9/19 at 6:32, can you please share the details of the intensive summer writing class your child took? Where was it offered? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The 40 book requirement is for all JAMS 8th graders, not just HCC students. The focus for 8th graders should go beyond reading practice (as a 40 book requirement would suggest) and extend to deep, teacher guided analysis of challenging texts. Quality over quantity. A more formalized, sequenced plan for writing is also greatly needed, for all middle school students. My child does enough peer to peer editing to tell you writing skills are all over the place. Why should parents resort to getting instruction outside of school? Encouraging additional reading is all well and good, but what is the HCC curriculum? If they are covering grade level standards, what makes the class HCC?

(As a side note, my child gets grammar instruction on the fly in world language class. Not ideal. You have to know the meaning of direct object, indirect object, parts of speech, etc., to learn a world language.)

Anonymous said...

old dragon said, So, that was last year. Now they get our kids, yes? Hence, the 40 books. Which should not be a problem. It is APP/HCC.

I don't see evidence of "getting" advanced learners. From my perspective they are still off the mark, just in a different direction. There is plenty of focus on CCSS, but little to indicate an appropriate curriculum to serve advanced learners.

Anonymous said...

Old Dragon no doubt many of our kids inhale books although many also do not. Voracious reading is certainly not the sole or even necessary sign of an advanced student. Some of the brightest kids I know are not passionate readers. Don't make assumptions.

Beyond that, the 40 book load is wasted academic time for even the accelerated book-loving students. Sure they can read fast, but from many hours spent with these kids I can tell you that the majority cannot discuss themes, references, cross-literature comparisons in a cogent manner. At all. It's the in-depth analysis of a book, with multiple viewpoints from teacher and peers, that stimulates growth. A 40-book goal with breakouts in small groups sounds like study hall time. I expect more. I know 8th grades at non-HCC schools certainly do more.

Another parent

Anonymous said...

I don't know which writing class the poster's child went to, but I will guess that it was the summer program offered by the Robinson Center at the UW. My child has done a few camps there (they love them), but they have not done the writing one. I have a friend whose child did the writing camp a couple of summers ago and really liked it.

My kid is out of APP middle school and now into a private high school (we couldn't take it anymore). HIMS was awful and didn't provide much rigor during the time we were there. We are not finding that our kid is behind, but our child has some great teachers in APP elementary (no longer there, of course), so they likely had a good base from before HIMS.

-another old APP

Anonymous said...

Another old APP is correct - I was referring to the UW Robinson Center's "Summer Stretch" program, specifically the "Essay Writing" class.

They have multiple sections, but my child's instructor was great. He picked a variety of challenging but interesting readings, facilitated good in-class discussion, taught them about different types of writing and strategies, took them on a few fieldtrips that inspired writing assignments, etc. They did some peer editing, but the caliber was much higher than in HCC LA--and there were lots of instructor comments to go with it. Overall, my kid felt like he learned more in those five weeks than all three years of middle school HCC put together.

It's not for the faint of heart, though. There's a significant amount of homework. They have to do a lot of careful reading, a lot of short writing exercises, and four or five larger papers. My kid works slowly, but ended up working every evening, every day off, and most of the weekend for the duration. It was definitely a summer STRETCH, but also provided a nice sense of accomplishment. But you have to be committed.

Oh, and though it's for grades 7-9, my kid was one of youngest. It seems that most (in his class of 16 or so, at least) were high school students. It's probably helpful to have a good amount of self-confidence if you take the class on the young side. But for a kid who's ready for more than what middle school can offer, it's pretty cool to spend part of your summer hanging out on the UW campus.

Maureen said...

For MS and HS students who want more practice or an outlet and guidance for creative writing, I highly recommend the Young Playwrights Program at ACT and Hugo House's teen programs.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of AL testing, the state SBAC score distributions are odd - they are truncated on the top end, with a spike of high scores at what looks like the 95-99th percentile range. There's no tail on the right end of the distribution. Is this the ceiling of the test, and many students got perfect scores, or are they not showing the full distribution? As an example, 5th grade math SBAC score distribution (statewide):

WA State 5th grade math SBAC

What does this mean for the appropriateness of SBAC for AL qualification?

Anonymous said...

WA SBAC scale score ranges

The upper values in the score distribution graphs are consistent with the score ranges in the tables above, so it does seem to be a ceiling.

Anonymous said...

That is certainly a ceiling! Thanks for posting. My student did say that the test didn't get any harder, so the adaptive nature seems to be very much more limited than the MAP.

Where are the individual results. This is getting ridiculous.


Anonymous said...

Yes, the scale score ranges OSPI has posted for each test look like they are consistent with those spikes being maximum scores.

For some subject-grade combos, it looks like you'd need to have nearly a perfect score in able to achieve at the 95th percentile among Seattle students. But since our AL qualification levels are based on statewide data, there's more wiggle room. Statewide, a perfect score seems to be more like 98th-99th percentile. So while this test clearly doesn't do a good job of telling us how far ahead these advanced learners are, it does seem like it can identify those who are in the top 5 percent statewide. It'll be everyone with perfect score, plus some additional number of slightly lower scores.

It seems the real challenge will be in documenting student growth. If you get a perfect score one year but miss a point the next, have you declined? If you get perfect one year and perfect the next, have grown? The AL office is planning to use scores in their program evaluation this year, so it'll be interesting. My suspicion is they'll say something like "93% of current HCC students scored in the 95th percentile on SBAC, so that's evidence of program success"--even though it's not.

Anonymous said...

Feeling very much a middle school newbie. The many comments about the general lack of rigor in HCC LA are concerning. How is 6th grade HCC LA structured/taught differently from Gen-Ed? From the syllabus my child brought home from JAMS today, it didn't seem to make a distinction. All you parents of older HCC kids, feel free to have a good chuckle at my lost innocence here...


Benjamin Leis said...

@Curious - if you have the time can you add the curriculum for the 6th grade LA class to the curriculum page

Anonymous said...

Curious asked: "How is 6th grade HCC LA structured/taught differently from Gen-Ed?"

At curriculum night last year, I asked my child's 6th grade LA/SS teacher how HCC LA/SS differed from Spectrum LA/SS or Gen Ed LA/SS. The response? "I don't know. I don't know what they teach in those classes. The LA/SS HCC teachers only collaborate with each other."

I caught the teacher afterward and followed up with something along the lines of "how do you know it's more advanced, or accelerated, or deeper, or more appropriate if you don't know whether, or how, it's actually any different?" The teacher didn't really have an answer and turned to the next person in line with a question.

I've asked the same questions of the AL office for several years now with no success there, either.

Welcome to middle school HCC (Highly Capable Crapshoot?)!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how 6th grade Math placement works in the post-MAP era? 6th grade Algebra used to be restricted to kids with a MAP/RIT >= 250. What's the criteria now?

5th Grader Parent

Anonymous said...

Last year at Lincoln, at least, the 5th graders all took winter math MAP specifically for math placement, and I have no reason to think that has changed. They also used 4th grade msp scores (so now they would use sbac), and then if you qualified on one but not the other, you could take an algebra readiness test to qualify.

5 days in, I would add that my kid reports there are several kids who have been quite vocal that they do not want to be there and that their parents made them do this, and they are having a very hard time. It is going to be a lot of work- in a great, exciting way if your kid really loves math, but in a truly terrible way if they do not.

Math parent

Lynn said...

Math placement guidelines:

Anonymous said...

Why does the 2015-2016 math placement matrix use 4th MSP scores. Is this for last years 5th graders entering middle school in 2015-16 rather than this years 5th graders (who did SBAC in 4th grade). So what will be the matrix used to place this years current 5th graders? Knowing SPS it will be decided ad hoc and announced in June.


Anonymous said...

Yes, that matrix is for the class you will be taking in 2015-2016. This year's 5th graders will use a matrix for 2016-2017. I think the best guess is 4th grade SBAC scores and a winter MAP, but you are also right that it is SPS, so it is something of a mystery. My second best guess is that they will throw up their hands and leave it up to individual middle schools.

Math parent

APP Dad said...

I found this interesting for the amount of non=takers and the low pass rates. Glad I am done with entrance and then math placement stress.

11th Grade Math
Percent Multiplier Result
Not Tested 52.90 x 0 = 0.00
Level 1 21.60 x 1 = 21.60
Level 2 11.70 x 2 = 23.40
Level 3 8.70 x 3 = 26.10
Level 4 4.90 x 4 = 19.60

app dad said...

11th Grade Math
Percent Multiplier Result
Not Tested 52.90 x 0 = 0.00
Level 1 21.60 x 1 = 21.60
Level 2 11.70 x 2 = 23.40
Level 3 8.70 x 3 = 26.10
Level 4 4.90 x 4 = 19.60

I find this intersting because of the high number of non-takers and because of the low scores for those that did.

Does anyone know if GHS is going to have a curriculum night?

Anonymous said...

@app dad, it's hard to make anything out of those scores. Given the the high-opt rate; the fact that many 11th graders had already passed their required graduation tests and didn't need these (possibly skewing the results toward those still hoping for a pass); and the talk of some students taking but intentionally taking the tests, I'd say the score distribution is pretty meaningless.