Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Differentiation Discussion

There was an ask to setup a dedicated thread to talk about differentiation.  Currently the trend in the district is towards in classroom differentiation rather than self contained classrooms for advanced learners. This is most clearly visible in the reworkings of Spectrum. but it also is occurring at the Middle School level as well.  If you look through the official advanced learning policy the phrase "appropriate differentiation, flexible grouping and/or acceleration" often shows up.

Here's some articles I've looked at recently discussing the issue:


"The biggest reason differentiation doesn't work, and never will, is the way students are deployed in most of our nation's classrooms. Toss together several students who struggle to learn, along with a smattering of gifted kids, while adding a few English-language learners and a bunch of academically average students and expect a single teacher to differentiate for each of them. That is a recipe for academic disaster if ever I saw one. Such an admixture of students with varying abilities in one classroom causes even the most experienced and conscientious teachers to flinch, as they know the task of reaching each child is an impossible one."


"Differentiation is a term that is widely used in educational circles these days. There has been a noticeable increase in recent years in staff development offerings on differentiation strategies; schools’ goals and missions often use this concept in their statements; a great variety of educational literature addresses this topic. Yet, effective differentiation for the gifted student remains elusive and in too many cases, nonexistent. This article will explore some of the reasons for the current status of differentiation and offer some solutions as well." 

http://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/12.99.pdf
"IN THE PROCESS OF IMPLEMENTING STANDARDS-BASED reform, it is important to remember that the charge to provide all students with challenging mathematics and science requires consideration of high ability students. Today’s heterogeneous classrooms will include students who have advanced abilities and talents. It is essential that the needs of these gifted students not be overlooked or neglected as teachers strive to help others reach high standards

Key Components of Mathematics Curriculum for the Gifted 
■ Content with greater depth and higher levels of complexity 
■ A discovery approach that encourages students to explore concepts 
■ Focus on solving complex, open-ended problems
■ Opportunities for interdisciplinary connections (Johnson, 1993)

Key Components of Science Curriculum for the Gifted
■ Significant and deep content 
■ Emphasis on understanding concepts rather than memorizing facts 
■ An inquiry approach with students as active investigators 
■ Opportunities for interdisciplinary connections 
■ Investigating real problems and situations 
■ Guiding students toward scientific habits of mind (Van Tassel-Baska, 1994)" 

A quick skim of any of the comments here shows a lot of skepticism about the effectiveness of differentiation. On the other hand those parents who are satisfied with how things are going don't often speak up on the blog.

Questions


So with that introduction:
  • How is differentiation actually working for your student?  (Please include which school you're at)
  • What do you think would improve the implementation?
  • Is this the right strategy for the district to pursue? 

41 comments :

Northender said...

If the new strategy for differentiation is deeper vs more accelerated, we aren't really supporting advanced learners. It's one thing to ensure a child understands a concept and can draw it out/explain their work. But having that be the only extra work they get is a disservice to children ready for their next challenge.
I agree that expecting one teacher to balance the needs of average, below average, above average, ELL and SpEd kids on her own is ridiculous. Ideally all schools should implement a walk to math program with flexibility. Where kids transition between the different levels as needed. This way they can have more focused teaching at their level.
The district cares about equity, but not equality.

Anonymous said...

First off, a lot of the research above mentions differentiation for "gifted" kids. Seattle has the HCC program, which lowers the ceiling for kids in the differentiation mix with gen ed. I think that helps a great deal, and makes differentiation possible, if not ideal.

That said, my kids spent time in both Gen Ed and HCC. I've seen some differentiation work and I've seen it not work or not happen.

Things I've seen work:
walk to math
book discussion groups without grade-level caps
writing/expanding topics/enriching vocabulary/personalized feedback
science groups strategically arranged so that faster groups do extra steps in science kits

Things I've experienced that aren't differentiation, but have been presented as such:
free reading
helping the teacher
teaching other groups
extra math worksheets/workbooks (at grade level)
reading level caps by grade

For differentiation to work, there has to be buy-in across the district from every principal and teacher. At the moment, SPS does not insist on that.

2HC

Anonymous said...

Differentiation has been an utter failure so far in my first grader's classroom. Despite test results to the contrary and a Spectrum designation, teacher is convinced that child is not smart. Child finds work repetitive and uninteresting, but his friends around him very stimulating, so directs his attention toward them. His disinterest in books way below his reading level shows teacher that he's not 'up for more challenge.' Cycle continues.

Child got into a private school for next year, and I'm strongly considering making the sacrifice to send him.

-Differ-what?

Anonymous said...

In 3rd at Lincoln they use the 5th grade Math in Focus book. This year the teacher is working straight from the book, which I find a big improvement over last year when they did not appear to work from the book. A remaining issue is that the district has defined a scrambled syllabus that does not follow the sequence of chapters in the book, although I've heard that's being fixed for next year. The kids do the workbook in school and are assigned a subset of pages from the "extra practice book" to do at home, which appears to be of similar difficulty. Based on what I've seen and on comments from our child's teacher it would appear that many students (and parents) are sufficiently challenged by the content.

In our second grade Spectrum child's classroom, I have no idea about the math curriculum. We have the Math in Focus text books at home, but our child says they has never seen them in school and doesn't recognize them. I would have been happy if they would have used the book, because again at least some of the problems are challenging. Our child does all of their math homework without ever requiring any help. I'm not sure where the homework is pulled from because none of it appears to be from the Math In Focus extra practice book.

For those teachers that actually follow the Math in Focus books, I can imagine how in some regular classes in the district, there may be problems that are never assigned, or that are never solved correctly. In other words, differentiation occurs because the bright/motivated kids figure out how to do the work and get it right, and the slower ones never figure out how to solve the harder problems or skip entire pages, and no one follows up because the homework is not graded beyond "done".

For Math In Focus there are "Enrichment" books available from the publisher. There is also a third-party series called "Singapore Math 70 must-know word problems" from a third party publisher. I'm sure there are others supplements.

I would be happy if the teachers followed the Math in Focus books in sequence. If there where then HCC kids in an elementary school Spectrum class for example, they could simply assign extra problems from the "enrichment" book or extra practice book or from other third party publishers. There's appears to be a lot of stuff written about differentiation in the Math in Focus teacher manuals which I haven't read, but clearly this is an issue the publisher has thought through and attempted to address.

Azad













Newbie said...

I have an HCC qualified child in K, and am struggling with the decision to send them to Cascadia vs try out our neighborhood school for 1st grade. They have a spectrum program but who knows what that means anymore. Our K teacher has done a good job trying to keep the advanced kiddos engaged and challenged, although there is a ceiling on how much they are allowed to advance in reading.
Can anyone share their experience?

Anonymous said...

Many of the things 2HC has seen work did NOT work for us:
* walk to math --This doesn't go high enough for those who are significantly advanced.
* book discussion groups without grade-level caps -- The book group discussions we've often seen are student-led, with no adult guidance. How educational are those discussion groups really likely to be, even in middle school? This is especially a concern when the books selected are of questionable age-appropriateness, as is often the case with advanced readers.
*writing/expanding topics/enriching vocabulary/personalized feedback -- I put "personalized feedback" in the same category as "differentiation"--they both sound good in theory, but rarely materialize in reality.
*science groups strategically arranged so that faster groups do extra steps in science kits -- We've never experienced this.

So what HAS worked for us over the years?
1. Teachers who "get it" and help the students carve out their own special work. For example, we had one elementary teacher who let my son and his friend collaborate on developing a book of original poetry, from writing through final layout and professional printing. This was a special project that only they did.
2. Independent study. Teachers who allowed my son to do some of his home-based work in class.
3. Teachers who understand that gifted kids might not always do the really boring work and are willing to let that slide if they've been doing more advanced work instead. Kind of a form of alternate assessment.
4. Teachers who took time to meet with my son after class to expand upon the in-class discussions, move beyond the concept presented and apply it to other constructs, etc. This is where the learning actually happens, and the inspiration.


What do you think would improve the implementation? Smaller classes. Access to more advanced curricula. Teachers who really understand gifted students. An understanding that equity is not the same as equality, and acceptance that truly educating highly capable students may not help close the achievement gap.

Is this the right strategy for the district to pursue? Given the above, no.

Anonymous said...

I think Differ-what expresses my big concern with differentiation. What about the teachers who do not "believe" in giftedness? There was a 1st-grade teacher at my child's elementary who told parents that there was no such thing as giftedness and she would recommend against leaving for HCC and would not recommend kids for it. Does anything think this teacher is going to differentiate? We all know the district is not going to enforce any "rules" that they put into place. They will do what they always do: say schools should do something and then never mention it again.

Newbie- have you talked to your child's teacher about this? Does this teacher believe in giftedness? This teacher should have a good idea of what goes on in the upper grades at the school. Then you should also consider your kid. Do you think they will get angry/frustrated with being given work below their level? My kid was. If it were me, I would completely ignore the word "spectrum," and I would not have it as a factor in my decision. It is completely meaningless in most places and could fully disappear at any moment, without any notice.

We had a K teacher who actually went through the APP program herself, and she told us to go to HCC because kids tend to get more frustrated with boredom the older they get. We moved our kid to HCC several years ago for first grade, and I continue to think it was the right decision for us. I will say that the program was more stable when we started in it. The child's (and parents') ability to cope with change should also be considered.

-oldie

Anonymous said...

9:35 AM, it sounds like your experience with differentiation was probably with an HC kid? I was referring to differentiation in Gen Ed for kids who aren't identified as HC and are therefore stuck there. If the ceiling is 97%ile, then in theory some of these strategies can work. But for sure I wouldn't expect them to work without a ceiling, if we are including HC into the mix.

I don't see this as a "I'm right and you're wrong" situation, but a situation where both of us have a small list of things we've personally seen work. So I find that encouraging. But there has to be across the board buy in from the district so these things happen consistently and predictably. That clearly doesn't happen now, as we both can attest.

2HC

Anonymous said...

HCC doesn't actually lower the ceiling in gen ed classrooms all that much. There are still children with 99th percentile IQ scores and math or reading scores at the 95th percentile or higher in classrooms with children working three or four years below grade level.

Anonymous said...

Related to these last two comments, any thoughts on what an HC label should automatically bring a child that stays in the neighborhood school for social/emotional reasons, especially in the early grades?

Specifically, any suggestions on how to deal with the "prove it" attitude some buildings/teachers take with the HC qualified child, as a means of limiting access to appropriate work? (see Differ-what's comment above). This can be especially difficult when, like Azad wrote above, there is no established curriculum for something like math -- it's a big burden on a young child to continually "prove" mastery when there a 50 different random worksheets on which they are asked to do it.

I've accepted that we won't access the level of challenge or expectation offered at Cascadia as long as we choose our neighborhood school instead, for other non-academic reasons. But it is exhausting to deal with the philosophy that if HC kids make mistakes on grade level things (when that is all they are ever provided or taught), it proves they don't need differentiation.

Exhausted

Anonymous said...

I need advice on what differentiation is most likely to be implemented by the teacher in the younger grades.

The school-based problem is that our child is significantly advanced (beyond 2 years in both reading and math) and asked me to teach at home after school in order to still learn.

MAP scores clearly support the level of work needed, and the teacher came to me to suggest HCC, so there's no issue with not understanding the child's needs.

However, it seems Bryant (alo) seems to think differentiation is solely to be addressed by periodic pull-out groups. Reading groups and math enrichment are offered 1x to 2x per week, but not every week.

Is offering independent learning materials for math that I pre-teach the day before, my child does the worksheets in class and then I review at home with my child the most likely option to work?

- Biding my time until HCC


Anonymous said...

@ Biding,

I think that will only work work if you have teacher--and likely also principal--buy-in. Teachers tend to feel that since they need to give the kid a grade based on the grade-level standards, they need to see that work. They also aren't fans of someone else telling them what to teach.

That said, we made various versions of that work over the years. One year my son did an online math program at home, but took his Algebra textbook to school with him and worked on that homework in the corner while the rest of the class had math. The teacher was cool with it and he didn't need much help, so it worked well...until the principal found out about it at the end of the year. Not allowed.

A couple years later at a different school the teacher--with the principal's ok--allowed my son to do a similar thing, but only after first taking the pre-test for each unit she was teaching. That way she could give him a grade for math skills, while not requiring him to do all the work. Basically, she let him test out of each unit then do his own thing.

One other note: if you have a kid who is already significantly advanced and really wants to learn and is asking to be taught after school (and maybe even summers), your child is likely to progress a lot faster than other kids. Be prepared that the gap may widen over time, further limiting your options. Independent study may become the only possibility in the end, and that has its pros/cons.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

Thanks, HIMSmom!

- Biding

Ingraham IBx Student said...

I entered HCC in the third grade after years in a GenEd classroom. Really, the decision over whether to go to HCC or remain in neighborhood or Spectrum schools depends of the student - my younger brother was HCC-eligible, and was perfectly happy in a Spectrum school for years. But for me personally, there was no question.

My second grade year, I was more of a TA than a student. I was in a class where most of the students were reading on a kindergarten level, and "advanced math" was a hardly-touched advanced textbook in my desk. I would go around assisting all the other kids with their work for an hour, after finishing my own in minutes. HCC was a lifesaver. I actually had work that was somewhere near my level, and, more importantly, a cohort where being smart wasn't a crime, and I fit in. If nothing else, HCC provides advanced students with a supportive group of peers, where they're not afraid to be their brilliant selves. And that's my two cents on differentiation.

Ken said...

It seems like there is a lack of even attempting differentiation. When I was in 3rd grade, before I was placed in GATE, I did math at my own pace. I read the lesson, did the exercises, gave them to the teacher then started the next lesson. This was how the class worked. The teacher's job was to assist when students needed help. Everyone worked at their own pace. I finished about 3 years worth of math in one year. Others finished a year -- others I'm sure less.

I realize at K-1 or so this is tougher to implement (harder for kids to understand lessons). But at least starting in 3rd grade and beyond -- I'd love a school to give my child that level of control. And it seems like it would be easier for the teacher. And also gives the child to do as much homework as they want. Some nights I did none, sometimes I'd 20 pages on a car trip with my parents.

This may not be so easy with other subjects, but few other subjects are so differentiated either -- so it seems like a good place to start.

Anonymous said...

Between my two kids, I've had 15 school-years of SPS, and while there have been good years and bad years, differentiation is something that is always promised but never delivered. I'll agree with the analysis above, that walk to math is effective for some and should continue, is not enough for some kids, and age-level reading groups that are led by students are better than nothing but not much. One teacher handed my kid math work that was challenging but gave no instruction to go along with it. I taught it at home and the kid ate it up, but given my level of involvement, I'd call that extracurricular, not differentiation.

My younger kid is in private school now, and my current theory is that you can't expect a teacher to differentiate to a class 25 students, some of whom are behaviorally difficult and others who are lacking the foundation, ability, and/or home support to do the current year's classwork. A kid living in a car or shelter has got physical and emotional stresses that play out in the classroom. Many, many parents are hearing "I'm not worried about your kid", not because teachers don't care about your kid but because your kid is not the one who is keeping the teacher awake at night with worry. Our younger kid is now getting a real education. At a cost to us. Smaller class size and teachers who fully buy-in to the school's premise and who want to be there and truly care about the kids. The school has a large financial aid fund and does not screen out kids who need help. But the class size and student support department make a big difference. This is middle school.

Older, HCC kid is at a Spectrum MS that promises with every other sentence to differentiate, but does not. Principal is anti-HCC, anti-"labelling", pro-equity. (Equity defined as every kid gets the same thing at the same time, rather than every kid gets a chance to learn.) Kid tells me kid has, among all 6 classes, 1 class worth of learning each day. Essentially no homework. Despite there being a few really good teachers there. Same LA teacher as was quite good last year teaching an honors LA class, which have been disbanded in favor of differentiation. LA teacher tries great stuff, too many kids don't respond, don't show up with homework done, etc. I get the problem, BTW. We have friends at the school whose kids DO care and DO want to learn, and yet weren't in the honors class, and were not getting the quality of classroom discussions, etc., that my kid was getting. I agree that that is unfair. So the school spreads the kids who don't care around a bit more, and in theory it raises the level a bit for all but the honors kids, who are "going to be fine anyway". I see the problem but I don't see a good solution for the school. I honestly don't know what I would do differently, given the resources and objectives.

For parents of bright kids, I think you've got to go extracurricular or private. No, it shouldn't be this way, and feel free to keep banging your head on that brick wall of change, but time flies and your kid is growing up. Our experience with one child in private this year has caused us to tighten our belts and put the other in this fall.

Canary

Anonymous said...

Canary, it sounds like you have found a very supportive and open private MS. Are you willing to share which school it is?

--- HCC parents thinking about middle school

Anonymous said...

@HCC parents thinking about middle school,

Lake Washington Girls Middle School

Canary

Anonymous said...

Canary, thanks for this. I've heard LWMS is a terrific school.

--- HCC parents

Anonymous said...

I have heard that too, but that it is terrible for HCC kids. I wonder if things have changed(seems possible), or if the situation at your previous non HCC middle school was just that bad. Am I correct in reading that you have never tried an HCC program with your HCC kid(s)?

Middle School Curious

Anonymous said...

My LW student is Spectrum designated. We didn't put our HCC kid there b/c they didn't have the option for Algebra in 6th and she could take that at McClure. She didn't want to go to HIMS and with the pending split and lukewarm reviews and a very unimpressive open house night we agreed and sent her to McClure. In hindsight, I think we should have put her at LW. It is a very well rounded school that really helps the whole child develop. Discovering Algebra is so weak I don't think it matters when you get it...it will not prepare you for rigorous math later. (We went extracurricular with our HCC kid, who is very mathy.) The LW social studies curriculum is very social justice focussed, looking at history through a more realistic (IMHO) lens, which is actually pretty tough but gets the girls thinking. Two math levels per grade, and one level gets Algebra in 7th grade. They have a Girls Studies class that looks at how society sees and influences girls. They have a super arts curriculum, and very strong STEAM. Small school so the teachers collaborate, thus what they are doing in STEAM relates to what is going on in their other courses. Excellent teacher role models. Teachers are strong, and they know and care about each student. A very diverse student body (not only demographically diverse, but I'd say attitudinally diverse---there is no LW "type", that I can see). Every girl is in one major musical production a year, and they have to audition for it. There is specific focus on study skills under the guidance of the Student Services teachers. They teach the girls to approach their teachers directly with issues and to advocate for themselves. They have semi-weekly service projects as part of the school day. I don't think it would have pushed my HCC kid cognitively, but it definitely would have challenged her thinking and helped her find her voice, as well as exposing her to a very diverse and interesting group of girls from all over the city. At LW, she would have been appreciated and known and supported, just as each kid is, and not have flown under the radar as is her typical mode. I will say that she has found a few great teachers at McClure who have supported and appreciated her. But at LW that kind of support is in the school's DNA.

Canary

Bryant-Cascadia Mom said...

Also have a kid at Bryant (5th) and at Cascadia (3rd). Bryant overall is ok, but inconsistent in terms of differentiation. Everything depends on the teacher. I'm not clear on where the principal stands philosophically except to support what teachers want (and he is a huge improvement over the previous principal a few years ago). Walk to math was introduced into 5th grade this year and kids are pre-tested for each unit. The walk to math groupings shift slightly depending on pre-test results. It's the best effort I've seen at Bryant in all these years. I like that it's "merit-based" and linked to pre-tests. However, I believe I was told that the average math MAP score at Bryant is around 85% so we are dealing with a bell curve that is probably tighter/higher than in other places where there are kids 4-6 years apart on either extreme of performance scores. I suspect based on working with the kids over the years that there is probably a 2 (and maybe 3) year delta between highest and lowest performers at Bryant which makes differentiation easier. What's interesting to me is to see my 3rd grader's math homework (like another Cascadia parent said is Math in Focus 5th grade) and compare it to what his sister is doing at Bryant (in highest level of math grouping for walk to math and is HCC qualified). I would say that while technically 5th grade at Bryant is what 3rd grade at Cascadia is supposed to be, in reality the differentiation being used at Bryant is effective in that she is probably at least a year ahead of 5th grade math, both in breadth and depth of problems and challenges. Had this walk to math been in place at Bryant all along, she would be at the Cascadia level (2 years ahead). Bryant is the right culture for her so overall I'm happy with our decision to keep her at neighborhood school.

Anonymous said...

Bryant-Cascadia Mom,

Thanks for those comparisons.

Isn't there also WTM for your Cascadia third grader?
We've felt that the "highest level" of math at Cascadia WTM is very rigorous for the grade level it covers (so 5th grade Math in Focus for a 3rd grader).

Also, is your Bryant fifth grader using the Math in Focus text book this year for WTM?

Did you ever supplement your daughter's math over the years at Bryant?

Anonymous said...

We have a 2nd grader at Bryant. They started doing two new things this year at that grade.

1. There was some experimentation with online programs including DreamBox.
2. There is a walk to math once a week.

So far that's better from last year but not as significant as a true walk to math where you'd go up a grade level every day.

Our experience with Cascadia's Walk to Math is that it was not a significant improvement over a mixed classroom. The main practical effect was the upper level hit the whole curriculum and the lowest ones didn't cover everything. We did not see much greater depth.

-- walked-to-math

Bryant-Cascadia Mom said...

@anonymous March 22, 2016 at 11:28 AM

yes my 3rd grader does walk to math in 3rd grade (there are 7 teachers in 3rd grade) and this is a simple 2 teacher walk to math arrangement. he also did it last year in 2nd grade (two teachers dividing their kids into 2 levels). I was told he's in the higher of the two groups. frankly he could be pushed more, as it seems to come easily to him for the most part, but it's challenging enough where he's not bored and loves his walk to math teacher (as well as his regular teacher).

5th grade at Bryant is using Math in Focus and getting her head around bar modeling (i'm loving it). Teacher in this case has very high expectations across the board which is ultimately a key to successful walk to math program.

Supplemented my Bryant kid's math quite a bit in earlier years -- to try to make up for lack of walk to math, but hit resistance along the way :) . This year, hardly any supplementation at all, Walk to Math is doing the trick.

H said...

We have this same combination -- kids (both now HC) at Bryant and Cascadia.
Walked-to-math, what do you think of those changes to 2nd grade math at Bryant? How is once-a-week walk-to-math working? Because of the district Scope and Sequence, the 1st grade curriculum seems to come from all kinds of different sources this year. I’m hoping they will use the MiF curriculum next year. Any idea?
(Bryant/Cascadia mom, I also loved the bar models! – after initially finding them weird :) This was with my Lincoln kid, but that’s part of the reason I wish they hadn’t taken a year off from MiF at Bryant in some grades.)

Anonymous said...

For the parents whose children attend both Bryant and Cascadia:

Is Bryant planning to keep walk-to-math 1x per week or expand it to everyday next year?

Is Cascadia walk-to-math everyday?

- Considering

H said...

Can't speak to the other grades, but in 3rd at Lincoln last year, walk-to-math was every day. With our student's teacher, Fridays were sometimes used for Math for Love-type games and enrichment.

Haven't experienced any walk-to-math yet at Bryant.

CD said...

Any feedback about Wedgwood? We applied to their Spectrum program for open enrollment, and wondered how the Walk to Math or differentiation is going on there.

Bryant-Cascadia Mom said...

@Considering

I don't know what's happening at Bryant next year. 5th grade was every day, but as other commenters have noted that is not the norm. I don't think that there is a top down mandate from the principal which leads me to believe that he is not a believer and yet, unlike his predecessor, he is not stopping teacher either. So I suspect it will be a grade by grade thing.

The 5th grade teacher told parents that walk to math was not universally embraced by all parents either and that there were some who were complaining privately -- most likely because they didn't like the labeling aspect of it all. However it was managed well and I'd be curious as to those same parents perceptions now. There are a ton of parents who have been asking for this for years and who were glad the 5th grade teachers banded together to do this.

Cascadia, at least in our experience last year (2nd grade) and now 3rd grade is a daily walk to math. But it's a modified program as they seem to only do it between two teachers--so two levels. Not sure about other grades?

Anonymous said...

It probably depends on the size of the grade level cohort at Cascadia. That is a big grade at the current third grade and it was already big last year in second. In our grade it has been at least three levels of math (3.5 when there was a split in second).

seattlemama said...

Three of the third grade teachers at Cascadia (those on the northwest corner of the 4th floor) do 3 Walk to Math groups everyday. It seems to work well.

WedgwoodMom said...

Wedgwood has been doing walk to math every day for several years. Spectrum math is a separate class. My understanding is that for all other subjects, students stay in the same home room. My daughter is in 5th grade and part of a new system this year where all three 5th grade classes move around all day. My HCC qualified kid loves it! She travels around with a cohort between 3 teachers; Math, Science and Social Studies. I admire what the Principal and the teachers are doing there.

Anonymous said...

Question related to differentiation in math--For schools that do either WTM or small pullouts for a few "advanced" kids, what do you, as a parent, expect to see in terms of the data that helps them group the kids? If kids are in flexible groupings that vary by unit, do you ever see the pre-test or end of unit assessment? For schools that do one assessment for WTM at the beginning of the year, do you ever get to see how your child did on that assessment? Do you expect to, or do you think it's reasonable to take it on faith in the teacher's professional jugdment? As an extension of that question, is asking to even see the data questioning the teacher's professional judgment?

seattlemama said...

When my HCC daughter, who is now at Cascadia, was at our neighborhood school, there was zero transparency in the placement process. I absolutely think it is fair for parents to be told how the placements are determined and to be very specific about it. If MAP scores are used, parents should be told what the cut offs were for each math class. If another assessment was done, parents should get to see the results of that assessment and be told what the cut off scores are.
My daughter was not placed in the highest WTM group. I found this odd as she was HCC qualified. When I asked what criteria was used to determine placement I was told MAP scores, teacher recommendation, and a beginning of the year assessment. The math teacher would not tell me what scores were needed to be in the top class, and would not let me see a copy of my daughter's beginning of the year assessment. Zero transparency. Needless to say, she is now at Cascadia, doing great, working two years ahead. At our neighborhood school the highest group was working about a half year ahead.

seattlemama said...

Oh, and by the way, the math teacher was very offended that I was questioning my daughter's placement and asking to see the data that determined it.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, seattlemama. I don't understand why parents aren't allowed to see these assessments?

Anonymous said...

Just look at the testing thread - over 400 comments on testing and appeals. Imagine if teachers had to deal with the equivalent of appeals on every math placement parents did not agree with. Undoubtedly private testing would come into play. Not only is their professional judgement being questioned but the amount of time and effort that would go into proving both sides are right would be unreasonable. And the parents would win in most cases by pulling out this or that math score on this or that test. And voila, more parents challenge and most kids are in the highest math group.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, most kids need the highest math group. Do you have a problem with that?

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 6:53p:

Most people in professional positions are required to provide evidence-based reasons for decisions. If I became indignant that a client or colleague asked for the data supporting my decisions, I wouldn't have a job. I would neither respect nor trust anyone who couldn't explain their reasons. It's remarkable that in the higher stakes arena of our child's education, a teacher would have the arrogance to refuse a discussion.

No one here said anything about "appealing" a math placement, but an open discussion with supporting data about placement is a reasonable expectation.

- Considering

Anonymous said...

At HIMS, everyone knows exactly what assessments are used to determine math placement, what scores are needed to get into each math class. The process is transparent and it works just fine.

There are not hundreds of appeals. This is not too much to ask.

Trusting a teacher's judgement is fine if you are lucky enough to have a competent teacher who realizes that many gifted kids are not perfectionists. They don't necessarily score perfectly on assessments, their work may be sloppy, they may rush through things.

-tired