Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cascadia PTSA Round Table with Flip Herndon and Rick Burke

I'm just back from the general PTSA meeting tonight at Lincoln. Very generously, school board member Rick Burke and Flip Herndon the assistant Superintendent in charge of facilities and capacity came out to answer questions and hold a community round table after the general business was completed. For those hoping for new information about all of the impending capacity issues, the short answer is that not much has shifted since the last time I saw Flip in person.  All the key decisions, geo-splits, boundary zones etc. are still up in the air and won't be resolved until next Fall at the earliest.

However, there were a few interesting points raised. During  the principal talk, Rina announced next year's confirmed enrollment for Cascadia is currently at 732 which is actually down from this year although the window to join is still open.  We talked again after it was over and she made a special plea for those families who haven't officially committed to enroll as soon as possible. This will make the staffing and budgeting process easier for the staff.  She also mentioned that she is involved in the K-5 English/Language Arts curriculum adoption process. I hope to look into the materials further at some point and post about it.

I had mentioned here that Flip had three children enrolled in the district. He added on tonight that one of his kids was involved in the HCC qualification process this year. If its any comfort to those of you who also went through the process, the senior staff share your pain: Flip mentioned missed screening deadlines and late status notifications.

On the subject of whether Cascadia will split, there was little new information but his tone made it seem likely.

  • Apparently the district is trying hard to avoid portables on the new site. This was stressed.
  • The new K-3 teacher student ratios have further reduced the capacity of the building absorbing all the flex spaces that were planned.
  • The 660 capacity numbers are the "right size" for the building.
  • If there is a split, the district will try to identify a cohort of  around 150 students. Note: for comparison Fairmount Park has about 164 HCC students.
  • The only possible site that came up by name in his talk was the Decatur Building

There was a brief mention also of the Hamilton Capacity issues for next year. The district is still trying to get permission from the city Landmark Commission for a one year placement of 2 double wide portables on the blacktop. This will be decided hopefully by mid May.

High Schools were talked about as well. Flip mentioned Garfield is projected to reach 2400 students in a few years without adjustments being made. He also said conversations were being had about whether to make Ingraham the default High School placement for the north end rather than an option despite this year's enrollment issues.

Finally, in a brief comment Rick Burke mentioned that the district is 11 curriculum adoptions behind and doesn't have the budget to get those done as quickly as he would like. So any HCC specific materials are very unlikely and that instead the adoptions are being done with an eye towards textbooks that will serve both the gen-ed and advanced learning communities.

One editorial note: If you're planning ahead its best to make peace with the lack of certainty and assume that you will be geo-split. The capacity  and budgetary constraints are only getting more severe.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sixth Grade Math Placement Policy Redux

Recently I had another conversation with the Math Coordinator for the district while looking into the opt-up form and at that point the old policy still was intact. However, events have moved forward and it looks like placement will be a more site based  decision after all.

From Principal  Paula Montgomery at JAMS:
"Since there is no longer the use of MSP and MAP data, we are attempting to create an equitable and clear process to get every student in the most appropriate math course.

Our intent is this:

-          We value 5th grade teachers recommendations but at the same time we want to make sure that students are not overlooked in non-HCC schools and that 5th grade teachers are not over-burdened with recommendations. At JAMS we have a few students from neighborhood schools who are in Algebra and are quite successful. About 1/3 of our HCC population comes from neighborhood schools.
-          We are finding that SBAC scores are coming back to us within a few weeks. Even last summer, we were able to use 5th grade SBAC scores as one of the measures for students requesting a higher math placement.
-          We also want to  respect parent decision to have their students not take the SBAC, but need a consistent measure of the students mastery of specific skills.
-          At JAMS, we believe that all students should have mastery of 7th grade math standards prior to Algebra. We have a small group of students who move from “7th grade math” to Algebra. The above criteria is in-line with the same criteria that we are using for our current students in Math 7.
We have collaborated with Hamilton and Washington so that we are similar in our placement decisions, but I am not sure how completely align/ed we are as all schools are now moving quickly since receiving our 5thgrade information. JAMS is a bit different than both school as we group our students by level and by grade level. For example, we have a 6thgrade only algebra class. Our 6th graders in 8th grade math, have only other  6th graders in their classes. "

I'll see if I can get the equivalent policies from the other Middle School buildings. If anyone has any information please add it on.

Monday, April 18, 2016

2016-2017 Ingraham IBX Admissions

I'm setting up a separate thread for discussing admissions to next year's ninth grade class at Ingraham.
What I know so far:

  • At least 30 families were waitlisted and assigned to their neighborhood reference school rather than Garfield.
  • Some other number may  have been just assigned to their neighborhood school.
  • The official district policy on the website which has always been followed up until now:
The IBX (Accelerated International Baccalaureate) program at Ingraham High School is currently available to all students identified as HC. Eligible students who wish to exercise this option, need to complete a school choice form during Open Enrollment, but not later than May 31st. Students who apply during Open Enrollment, are guaranteed seats. They may also apply after Open Enrollment; however, in this case, assignment would depend on space availablility. If a student applies for this program and is not assigned, the student’s default assignment will still be in effect (unless they apply for and are assigned to another school)."

  • Enrollment is a district function, so the people to  possibly contact are:
  1. Enrollment
  2. Advanced Learning
  3. The district ombudsman.
  4.  Board Members.

I've sent out a few inquiries of my own. Please add any information that you discover and if anyone is organizing any group action. In addition if you are not on the waitlist I'd like to know just to get an idea of the total # of people affected.  I'm  still hopeful that this will be amicably resolved since no procedure was followed to alter any of the policies. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

SBAC Testing Season

Spring SBAC testing is starting fairly soon for most students.  Based on the data last year most HCC students did not opt out despite some  more vocal statements of opposition. (See: 2015 Testing Results).  As this is a subject that I'm very concerned about I thought we should have a thread on it. Here's a sample of the two poles of opinion on the subject.

Opt Out

"Want to end the obsession with standardized testing? Opt your children out of the state tests. Ignore the threats from state and federal officials. The tests today have taken over too much of the school year. Teachers should prepare and give tests that cover what they taught.

What if all students opted out of testing? That’s democracy in action. The elected officials who mandate these tests would take notice. They might even discover that no high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year.

The tests today are pointless and meaningless."

This one's from local educator Jesse Hagopian:

"Parents and teachers across the country have united to demand an education system that recognizes children’s needs aren’t satisfied by filling in bubbles on an exam. So, before we throw our schools into the deep end, let’s demand authentic assessment now!"

Opt In

"Before ESSA, a No Child Left Behind provision required all students to take the same tests. As it was interpreted by both the Bush and Obama administrations, the provision also barred material from those tests that was significantly above or below grade level. As a consequence, most current assessments do a lousy job of measuring academic growth by pupils who are well above grade level. They just don’t contain enough “hard” questions to allow reliable measurement of achievement growth at the high end. In other words, the ceiling on those tests is so low that most advanced students can pass them even before the school year starts. 
Thankfully, ESSA allows computer-adaptive tests (CATs)—such as those developed by the Smarter Balanced consortium—to be structured and administered in ways that measure growth at every level, without overburdening any student with a ridiculously long paper-and-pencil test. And if combined with a real academic growth accountability model—one that holds schools to account for ensuring that all their students make progress over the course of the school year—this can finally create incentives for schools to attend to the further learning of their high-achievers. Making sure that every state allows for above-grade-level testing is critically important as we implement ESSA."

Some Facts:
  • Advanced learning had initially publicized that starting next year you will need to take the standardized tests in order to qualify but not to maintain eligibility in AL programs.  Even that seems to have been rolled back.
  • If you want to opt-out the usual procedure is to email your teacher and sometimes building coordinator or principal.
  • 5th grade SBAC data is being used by some Middle Schools for math placement although there are alternatives.

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Open Thread

Open issues I'm monitoring

  • The tail end of the testing season.
  • Capacity decisions related to Hamilton, Cascadia and Garfield.
  • The West Seattle HCC Pathway
  • SBAC Testing season.


A high level analysis of the outcomes for students where tracking is more prevalent.
"The second section investigates whether tracking in eighth grade is related to Advanced Placement (AP) outcomes in high school. Tracking, the practice of grouping students into different classes based on ability or prior achievement, is a controversial topic. Critics argue that tracking creates or reinforces social inequities. Middle school is when students first experience tracking, typically in mathematics. In eighth grade, the tracking question currently boils down to whether high achieving students who are ready for a formal algebra course will get one—or whether all students will take the same general math course.
Is middle school tracking related to either AP participation or test scores? State-level tracking data from 2009 and AP data from 2013 are used to tackle the question. States that had a larger percentage of eighth grade students in tracked math classes produced a larger percentage of high-scoring AP students four years later. The heightened AP performance held across racial subgroups—white, black, and Hispanic. There was no relationship between tracking and AP participation. Taken together, these findings suggest the heightened performance was not a result of increased selectivity into AP.  "

Update on Robert Eagle Staff Middle School:

As work continues on the new Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, we are excited to announce that Marni Campbell has been appointed as the new principal who will lead the final year of planning and the opening of the school in September 2017. Since this new school will draw students from multiple programs throughout the Seattle Public Schools northwest region, as well as a few schools in the northeast region, we are sending this announcement to families in both regions.
Throughout the coming year, Ms. Campbell will work with students, families, community and staff to build a vision for the new middle school, hire the core administrative and instructional team, meet with students and families of the schools feeding into the new middle school to ensure a smooth transition, and closely monitor all aspects of the construction and opening of the new building.
Ms. Campbell is returning to Seattle Public Schools, having served as the executive director of instruction and innovation for Highline Public Schools since 2013. During her time with Seattle Public Schools, she served as an assistant principal for Mercer Middle School, principal for Eckstein Middle School and Nathan Hale High School, and as an executive director and assistant superintendent supporting the Teaching and Learning and Special Education Departments.
A current doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, Ms. Campbell holds a master’s in teaching and learning from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, a master’s in English literature and a bachelor’s in English from Brigham Young University.
Ms. Campbell brings a constant emphasis on equity to her work. She has a clear understanding and dedicated focus on Special Education, English Language Learners (ELL) and Advanced Learning programs. Ms. Campbell’s attention is on all students, not just some students. She has a strong desire to connect the students, school and community to the legacy of Robert Eagle Staff and the lands the school will occupy.
We will set up opportunities for building staff, students and families to meet your new principal. Thank you for the high expectations you set for every student, and for all you do.
Please join me in welcoming Ms. Campbell to Seattle Public Schools and the McDonald International Elementary community.

Stephen Nielsen, Deputy Superintendent
Seattle Public Schools

Teaching and Learning Oversight meeting

The slides for the upcoming teaching and learning board meeting have quite a few Advanced Learning pieces

Opportunities Slide:
  • Increase efficiency in eligibility identification process
  • Increase program and process accessibility 
  • Meaningful services that meet the academic needs of Highly Capable students available at all attendance area schools 
  • Opportunity to identify and serve students who are Highly Capable in a single domain 
  • Streamline and condense the eligibility testing window
  • Facilitate secured parent/guardian access to student information and progression through identification process 
  • Increase equity and diversity through the approval of the proposed modifications in 2190 SP
Risks Slide:
  • Continuing dependence on outdated, antiquated and unsustainable data systems
  • Inconsistent achievement data collection
  • Turn-around and accuracy of score reports from testing provider
  • Equity and diversity initiatives hampered by inability to update 2190SP
  • Existence of Spectrum identification diverts energy from Highly Capable identification and services
  • Time and resources used to address, often repeatedly, misinformation disseminated throughout the community
  • Potential Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act violations
I will comment that after this years events in my opinion the departments inability to understand and follow regular procedures for updating policy are the real block to making any changes to 2190SP.  Likewise, poor communication on their part is the primary reason for most discrepancies or misinformation. 

What's on your minds?